I’ve been over lurking (that’s a southern word for just watching, listening and looking and not really speaking up – yes, I keep my mouth closed sometimes!) over on Sarah Gunn’s blog. And it’s just been so much fun. What I love about it most is how she transforms her ideas into the most stylish of designs. She’s a very stylish lady to start with, and her wardrobe reflects that.
Here’s a little Q & A we did for some more insight into this beautiful lady’s journey into sewing!!!
CK: When was the first time sewing a garment for yourself entered your mind?
SG: During a spring break in college, I was unable to go to the beach with friends due to my upcoming piano recital. While I was home my mother made me five skirts for which I was very grateful 😉
A few months later I had a summer job with a girl who made all of her clothes and they were beautiful. I had learned to sew in my 8th grade home economics class, but wasn’t interested in making clothes until I saw what she could do. She was such an inspiration to me.
CK: Describe your first garment? Were there mistakes? What did you do about them?
SG: I don’t remember my first garment outside of the skirt I made in the eighth grade. My mother helped me and it was perfect 😉
CK: As the idea of sewing for yourself began to grow, what sort of conversation did you have with yourself/others?
SG: The idea about fasting from shopping, sewing and starting a blog came together almost all at once. The original post on my blog describes my frustration of spending so much money on clothes for my daughters and me. I snapped one day and vowed to quit shopping and start sewing. I knew I could do it. After ripping into an old maternity dress, which I refashioned into a skirt, I was excited and ready to go! I was driven. I knew a blog would hold me accountable, but deciding on a blog name was more difficult than making the decision not to shop!
CK: Did you search out for any classes?….lessons?…information online?….what was most helpful?
SG: Discovering the Pattern Review website was enlightening as it introduced me to the online sewing community! While there is nothing better than an in-person class, I’ve taken many online classes which offer many advantages over a single class such as lifetime access to the lessons.
CK: How did you garner more confidence?
SG: One has to believe she can learn to sew. Sewing is a skill not a talent and while it’s true that some people become very talented sewists, anyone can learn to sew. I think people are more uncomfortable with their personal style.
CK: What sort of issues, problems, challenges did you have with the first garment?
SG: When I made the decision not to shop my entire attitude changed about sewing. I was determined to wear the clothes I made.
I had many issues with my early garments, mostly the tops, but determined that sewing would enhance my wardrobe rather than be a waste of time, I vowed to wear everything I made – in public. The added pressure motivated me to strive for excellence. And yes, there were awkward moments, slightly like running into an old boyfriend while wearing old gym clothes and no makeup. My first occurred at a tailgating party when my daughter asked me if I was ok.
“I’m fine, why?”
“Your hand is red and bleeding, Mom.”
“I think that’s just a little Bloody Mary mix.”
“Mom, you are bleeding.”
…And so I was. Not only was the elastic casing on my second silk peasant blouse so tight that it cut off the circulation to my hand, but an open safety pin had been sewn into the casing.
“Where did you get that shirt, Mom? It looks really uncomfortable.”
” I made it.”
“Why would you make a shirt Mom, and why would you wear it here?”
“I made it for 20 dollars and it’s Wofford colors!”
Maybe a few people I had socialized with at the Wofford College football game noticed my bloody red hand, but I quickly concluded a few drops of blood are worth the $2,500 I had saved in four short weeks!
CK: Did you gradually see the progress you were making in creating better-made garments than your first garment?
SG: Practice makes perfect but there is always more to learn. I think the key to working on problems is to build slowly on your successes. One problem can usually be addressed without too much frustration.
Fitting is generally the hardest obstacle to overcome for any sewist including me. The more I sew, the easier it is to understand how a pattern will fit me, but I always make a muslin for a new pattern.
CK: What kept you sewing?
SG: Different things kept me going. The extra $2,500 at the end of month one was evidence enough to keep going but my momentum increased with every successful garment I made.
CK: How did you know how to pick out a pattern and fabric for your first project?
SG: I had an Amy Butler pattern on hand to use for my first skirt. Now I look for patterns that mimic high end RTW. I try to envision every detail of the finished garment before selecting my pattern and fabric. Then I try to imagine what it will look like on me…… from every angle 😉
CK: Did you have the equipment you needed to start sewing?
SG: I’ve sewn off and on for years, but had not sewn clothes for myself with any regularity in over 25 years. My husband gave me a Bernina 1230 in 1990. I did lots of sewing for my daughters, some home dec and quilting.
CK: You have a studio now, but how did you start?
SG: I have always been lucky enough to have a sewing space. This time around I set up my machine in a room that had been the computer/date/play room. I believe every dedicated sewist should have a dedicated space if at all possible.
CK: How did you feel when you finished your first garment?
SG: I always get a high when I finish a garment. Can you see the delight in my face on the blog? 😉 I’m really that happy when I complete a successful garment!
CK: What were some of the comments from your friends when you wore your first outfit?
SG: I didn’t tell people I knew what I was doing for several months. When word eventually got out people reacted with shock. This usually happened in front of groups of people which was slightly embarrassing for me, but yes, they were impressed and supportive.
CK: So now do folks who see you and compliment your clothes?
SG: Yes, everyone who sees me generally asks if I made my clothes and they are disappointed if I am wearing a RTW garment.
CK: Have you converted other friends/family to sewing?
SG: Yes, as people learned about my blog and RTW Fast, they started telling me their sewing stories and a few started to sew again…. Beautifully I might add!
CK: how does your family feel about this?
SG: My family understands me is all I can say.
CK: How do your daughters feel about it?
SG: During my first RTW Fast I noticed a change in my daughters… they quit asking me to buy them clothes! I had set an example, which they respected. I don’t know if they will start sewing. One mentioned she might want to learn to sew, but they are busy young professionals with little time for hobbies right now.
CK: Do folks ask you to sew for them?…..what do you say?
SG: I have received requests to sew for others. I do not have an interest in sewing for other people except on very select occasions…. Perhaps for one of the children, a very close friend etc….
CK: When people compliment you, what do you say?
SG: Thank you so much!
CK: OK, you finished your first year “giving up shopping”, and most of the time people would think that, “Ok I did that, now I can go back to shopping,” so why didn’t you?
SG: As you know I just started another RTW Fast in January 2014 after a year and a half of being off of the wagon. When I finally hit the stores after my initial fast was over I was turned off by the high prices of clothes similar to what I had made, and was energized to continue to improve my sewing. I eventually bought a few clothes. I compare it to eating that first cookie after being on a diet. What begins as an occasional sweet becomes dessert after every meal. Buying clothes became easier to justify. While I did not return to my old shopping habits in full, I knew I it was time to go on another RTW Fast.
CK: When you look back on this experience of giving up shopping and sewing your own clothes what’s the most striking thing that sticks in your mind?
SG: Giving up shopping was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. Not only did I improve my sewing skills, and save money, but I met people from around the world on my blog and developed my own style of dressing.
CK: Can you just briefly talk about your lifestyle?
SG: MY professional life has been entirely devoted to classical music and musicians through teaching, mentoring, public relations and administration. I was a symphony orchestra Executive Director for many years.
Though I wouldn’t say I’m retired I no longer work outside of the home. 😉
I’ve toyed with many hobbies, but sewing is the one I always come back too. However I do enjoy cooking and traveling.
I like trying new experiences and meeting new people. I get together with a group of women twice a year to try something new. On our last trip we did the longest zip line in the US!
I dislike getting in a rut and wasting time.
CK: How do you dress when you go out or have friends in?
SG: My style is smart casual. It’s what I’m most comfortable wearing. At this stage of my life there are many weddings to attend due to the age of my children and my friends’ children, so there is a need for special event clothes on an ongoing basis.
CK: Do you travel?…where?….
SG: I don’t travel as much as I’d like to.
My preferred places to visit are destinations that offer lots of culture. I really enjoy visiting Europe and would love to rent an apartment in Paris for several months. My family owns an old beach house where we spend as much time as we can. There my style changes from smart casual to very casual.
Like many women I’m searching for the perfect clothes to work for my life. My advice is to make clothes you will actually wear.
Thanks to Sarah for chatting with me, and isn’t she an inspiration. I love how she knows that everyone can learn to sew and how it has become a life skill for her so that not only is she saving money but she’s look fabulous doing it!
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