Full disclosure: Henna is one of our testers and we have had our eye on her for a while! She always has the best fabric (now I know why…), beautiful sewing and awesome photos. So basically, a pattern company’s dream date! She grew up all over Virginia and currently lives in Alexandria and works at the Stitch Sew Shop (hence, the fabric.) I have been looking forward to picking her brain about sewing and learning a bit more about her life, let’s dig in!
How long have you been sewing?
I picked up a sewing machine in 2009, so it’s been about 10 years now. I only sewed here or there at first, but really fell in love about four or five years ago.
How often do you spend time do you spend on your sewing practice a week (including planning, researching, sewing etc).
Hah! This one is hard! All my waking hours? Between sewing for work, teaching people to sew, and sewing for myself, it feels like it’s about all I do. It still surprises me when, after a stressful day, sitting down at the machine is just what I need to relax.
What is your home sewing set-up like?
It’s pretty compact and takes up about half my bedroom. When moving into this space, I planned the layout around a 3’ x 5’ cutting table, and it has been the best thing for my sewing efficiency (and my back!). I also have designated spots for my sewing machine, serger and iron. It probably goes without saying, but not having to set things up every time I start working means more time actually sewing. Pegboards and shelves are great for making use of wall space. My fabric and patterns are all stored in my closet, so everything is easily accessible. It would be a dream to have an entire room to spread out in, with multiple machines, but this works perfectly well for me.
Did you have a gateway person or experience that brought you to sewing?
My maternal grandmother was the seamstress of the family, and I’m often told that I take after her. I remember watching her sew all kinds of things when I was young: dresses, curtains, quilts, you name it. She was the matriarch of a very large Afghan family, so there were always people to make things for. I never got a chance to learn from her, which is one of my life’s biggest regrets, but I think that growing up around her influenced my creativity a great deal. She had a “how hard can that be?” attitude about everything, which I try to emulate. I’m told that she used to have dreams about dresses, then would wake up and start making them. She was very much a woman after my own heart.
What was the first thing you remember wanting to sew?
Oddly enough, I got into sewing by making headbands. I stitched strips of quilting cotton to small bits of elastic and attached little fabric rosettes to them. Some were even hand-beaded. They were terrible, but I was so proud of them! I gave them out to everyone I knew, and one of my best friends tells me she still has hers.
How would you define your style?
My style is definitely still evolving. My life has changed a lot since I started sewing. I used to work in an environment with a strict dress code (for safety), so I had little room for creativity – think lots of dress slacks and button down shirts, to be both professional and compliant. I spent most of my precious sewing time focused on clothes I could either lounge in or wear to a party. Not much to create a style around. Now, I don’t have so many restrictions and I can dress however I please. I’ve been trying to balance all the prints in my wardrobe with some solids, and recently I have made a few solid black garments that are (not surprisingly) in heavy rotation. Lately I’ve been gravitating towards relaxed styles of dresses and jumpsuits. Virginia is hot and humid in the summer (and yes, it’s already summer here), so the more billowy the better. If I can belt it to define the waist, it’s perfect.
What is your favourite Closet Case Pattern?
This is a hard one, but I think it’s the Kalle tunic. I’ve made two of the tunics and one dress, and I love them all. I just love the drama of the hem, the perfect sized little pocket, and all of the different options with collar and placket. It’s a great wardrobe builder, and so easy to throw on.
How does sewing relate to your body image?
Sewing has helped me to realize that clothes should be made to fit the body, not the other way around. Before making my own clothes, I shed many tears in various mall fitting rooms, struggling to find things that I liked in my size. I would convince myself that if I just lost 10 pounds or so, then I’d be able to wear whatever I wanted. Sewing has freed me from that, and I no longer need validation from a dressing room mirror. I’m still trying to ignore other people’s opinions, especially when it comes to fit and what is traditionally “flattering” on my body shape. I try to think of my body more as a canvas for my art, and I dress myself according to my mood or attitude for the day.
What are your go-to fabric stores?
Obviously, Stitch! I used to buy almost exclusively online (Blackbird Fabrics was a saved link), but there is so much to be said for being able to touch and feel and compare the fabric before buying it. Personally, it’s usually the pattern that speaks to me before I find the perfect fabric for it, so being surrounded by lots of choices is a dream come true. Fabric petting is one of my favorite pastimes.
What are the tools you can’t live without?
There are lots of tools that I use on all of my projects, but I truly can’t live without the tiny snips that live next to my machine. I think this pair was 99 cents on Wawak. They’re easy to use and light on my wrists, which I hope will stave off future aches and pains. Also, my wax free transfer paper. Using it with a tracing wheel is my preferred method for transferring pattern markings. It’s so fast!
What was the best lesson or skill that took your sewing to the next level?
Hands down, it was learning a full bust adjustment. I believe the Acton Dress (by In the Folds) was the first time I did one (on a princess seam, no less), and when I tried on the muslin it was magical. Fitting clothing seemed like a mystery before that, but afterwards I realized it was really just math. Now I’m very carefree about hacking into patterns to make them fit me – they don’t scare me anymore!
What pattern release would you not be able to resist (aka what type of garment would automatically jump your queue).
If you’re asking for my dream pattern, that I’d drop everything for and make immediately, it would be a faux wrap jumpsuit with a notched collar/lapel situation, slightly tapered legs, and long sleeves (not dropped shoulder). The closest I’ve gotten to this is a vintage pattern from the ‘80s, but I haven’t yet found it in my size. So here’s me putting this request out into the universe! (Editor’s note: YOU HEAR THAT UNIVERSE?)
What’s the next thing you want to make?
I see lots of evening pool time in my future this summer, so I’m planning on finally cutting into some of my fun and colorful swimwear stash. I’ll likely make a few Sophie swimsuits as I really like the style. The bottoms have just the right amount of coverage for me.
What are your sewing goals? What would you like to learn how to do to push your practice forward?
I’ve wanted to learn pattern drafting for years, and I’m signing up for an online class soon. It’s another one of those things, like fit adjustments, that seems completely mysterious to me right now. At this point I think I’ve gotten pretty far with the “how” of sewing, but I really want to know more about the “why.” I think that learning how patterns are made will help with that. I’ve also gotten in touch with some local commercial pattern makers to learn more about the design process in manufacturing garments. I feel like there are so many paths you can choose from to take your sewing to the next level: pattern making, fabric design, retail, or tailoring. The hard part is deciding which direction is right for you.
We know you will find your path, Henna! We can’t wait to see what you do next! Thank you!