Sewist Spotlight

Sewist Spotlight: Mia

I can’t remember exactly when we started paying attention to what Mia @sewnorth was cooking up in her sewing room but I do remember screaming across the studio at Alexis, “Bike reflector jeans!!” For a relative beginner sewist, there isn’t much Mia hasn’t swung at sewing wise, from re-working the Morgan jeans pattern for her bike riding man, figuring out how to make her Jenny overalls bib detachable and all kinds of ambitious pattern drafting and refashioning. She shares her makes from her Minneapolis home and has recently started a blog (thank god!) so we can all get inspired by her brilliant ideas. She is definitely worth a follow and I personally cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

Biking reflector Morgan jeans adapted for a man.

How long have you been sewing?

About a year and a half now. I first sat down with my mom’s sewing machine and its user manual in the fall of 2017. Day one I couldn’t figure out how to thread it and nearly walked away from it altogether, but a few hours later I cooled off and came back to it and realized the bobbin wasn’t clicked in all the way. Then it was pedal to the metal! My New Year’s goal was to share what I was making, so I started my IG account on January 1st, 2018.

How much time do you spend on your sewing practice a week (including planning, researching, sewing etc).

I’m really lucky to be working from home with people on the other side of the world, so my working hours are early in the morning, and then again in the evening. The middle part of my day is usually my sewing time when the sewjo moves me. That could be anywhere from 5-25 hours per week. Lately I’ve been spending more time at the computer setting up my new sewing blog and learning Illustrator for pattern drafting. I just sewed up my first sample from a pattern I drafted from scratch on the computer and whoa, was that the flood gate I just heard opening??!

What is your home sewing set-up like? 

I’ve claimed the whole second level of our home as my sewing space! It sounds dramatic, but we live in a 1.5 story home so it’s small bedroom at the end of a hallway. My pressing station is the landing at the top of the stairs, and the hallway wall is covered with cork tiles. I’m guessing the cork wall was put up in the 70’s by the previous home owners and I initially *hated* it, until I started sewing and pinning in-progress pattern pieces all over it. It’s so useful! I have my mom’s basic modern Singer that I sewed everything on in my first year. Then I bought my Juke Jam (Juki serger). Your blog review of this machine (MO-654DE) was actually the tipping point for my purchase. My proudest impulse buy is my thrifted Vintage Singer 603 with original table from the 1960’s. It’s a workhorse and top-stitching maniac.

The cork wall for patterns is super cool!

Did you have a gateway person or experience that brought you to sewing?

Yes, and I haven’t been too open about this yet. My mom was a talented sewist and just an overall force of creativity and grace, and she learned from my grandma who was also an incredible sewist. I have the sewing gene, apparently, but I didn’t get the chance to learn to sew from them directly. In early 2017 my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and my family went through the most devastating time of our lives. She passed away in May that same year. She was a beautiful, generous, strong single mother of four. Words can’t describe the loss we experienced. I needed something to keep me occupied while trying to keep my head above the scary waters of grief. I pulled her sewing machine out, and the first thing I made on it was a comically tiny pillow case, about 4×4”. Bouts of crying were very regular at that time, and I remember using that tiny pillow case as a tissue too. The process of learning and making was utterly healing. Sewing is the perfect activity to keep my hands moving, but I can let my mind wander and think about her. I know she would be really proud, and I would have loved to sew clothes for her. She’s still teaching me in her own way, and I’m so grateful for this practice of making.

What was the first thing you remember wanting to sew?

I started learning with simple pillow cases and totes. During that time my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and needed to undergo immediate and expensive treatment. This was after my own mom passed away so I yet again turned to sewing for healing and help. I started brainstorming something simple I could make to raise funds for her. My local fabric shop (Knit & Bolt) carried this silly fabric with male pinup models and their staff had the brilliant suggestion to make “hot guy hot pads.” They were a hit and I was cranking those out to ship all over the place to family and friends. We raised around $2,000 for her care. (Ask me about the US healthcare system another time.) I got really comfortable with sewing bulky layers, insulation, bias binding and mitred corners, but I don’t have any desire to make another hot pad for a long time. My mother-in-law is doing well!

Hot guy hot pads!

How would you define your style?

When I look at my wardrobe I see a lot of great pieces that I’m proud of, but they aren’t really telling a fashion story for me yet. It’s not cohesive because in my first year of sewing, I focused on single garments and not how they work as a collection. Right now my style is like a “choose your own adventure” story, but my goal is to be more intentional about fabric, color, texture, and making things work together. Stick with me and the story will eventually make sense. If I had to pick one word though it would be “casual!”

What is your favourite thing you’ve made? 

My linen Jenny Overalls with a hacked removable bib! I lost sleep over this idea, but in a good way. I love them as overalls, because they are playful and functional. I love them as trousers, especially with the high waist and wide legs. It’s been really cool to share my sewing process in a little tutorial, and seeing other sewists try it too!

Overalls…

…pants!

What are the tools you have invested in you would definitely buy again?

Well technically my husband bought it as an anniversary gift, but my industrial rivet/button press is one of my favorite tools. He saw how excited I was when I started making jeans, and get this!: Without any prompting from me, he found YOUR blog post on installing jeans hardware and surprised me with the same industrial hand press. I love it, and I owe you one!

Reflector tape on the pockets and legs

 

Coin pocket bling!

What was the best lesson or skill that took your sewing to the next level?

The pattern and fabric manipulation techniques in Japanese pattern books, especially “Pattern Magic” were a real eye-opener for me. There are some incredible origami and slash and spread projects that I tried out on some simple patterns I had in my stash. Not all of these are totally practical for wearing, but it was worth the time to play and explore. Those projects gave me confidence in following rules and breaking them.

Where else do you turn when you need inspiration?

The library is an unsung hero of inspiration. I’ve learned so much from old (and new) sewing library books. Also, people watching! That reminds me, I need new sunglasses. I’m shameless when it comes to ogling people’s clothes.

What experiences have come out of your interaction with the online sewing community?

Lots of goodies. I’ve tapped into the community for fitting advice, and it helped to shape my process for adjusting pants patterns for my body. Pattern testing for new designs has been really inspirational too. My favorite though, is gaining some “sewing pen pals” – some serendipitous conversations that lead to lovely snail mail exchanges of notions, vintage patterns, and sweet notes.

What is your favourite Closet Case Pattern?

Ha- this question makes me inhale through my teeth. I’m obviously a huge fan so it’s tough to choose one. It’s a tie between the Morgan Jeans and the cropped Kalle Shirt. I’ve adapted the Morgan pattern to work for my husband too! I’ve made three pairs for him now, and he really gets involved with choosing top stitching thread, hardware, and denim fabric. In exchange for all these jeans, I’ve nabbed some of his old button down shirts to refashion into Kalle Shirts. The cropped view really suits the high waist pants moment we’re having right now. I love making this pattern from scratch too because the customization options are endless.

Cropped Kalle refashioned out of a men’s shirt.

How does RTW interact with your body image?

I can’t not mention my waist to hip ratio when it comes to RTW. I’m rocking a 16” difference between my waist and my hips. Short of jeggings (that’s jeans+leggings, no thank you), finding a pair of RTW jeans or pants that fit is my unicorn. But the funny thing is, before I started sewing, I just dealt with it like I didn’t have a choice! I wore stretch fabrics and belts. Fitting rooms were such a pain and my life is better without them. I can’t express the level of heavenly satisfaction I feel every time I put on me-made non-stretch jeans that fit. I happy-ugly-cried the first time I experienced that.

FIT. The challenging waist to hip ratio: conquered!

What are you looking forward to making next?

My plans keep shifting, but a swimsuit is on the horizon, I can feel it! I’m most excited to keep playing with the self-drafted pattern I’m working on, hopefully someday making it available for others to make too.

We hope so too, Mia!