Today in my series of interviews with sewing bloggers on their connection between sewing & style, I’m delighted to feature Amy of Sew Well. I first started reading Amy’s blog because she is a Mood Sewing Blogger. I learned that she is a scientist (like me!) and lives in San Francisco (like me!) and was thrilled when I got to meet her as part of a gathering of Bay Area Sewing Bloggers. She is a lovely woman, fun, and smart and enthusiastic and I was equal parts disappointed when she recently moved to Seattle and excited because I’ll be heading their soon(-ish)! In the meantime, I’m excited to share her thoughts on the connection between her ability to sew and her personal style.
Hello to all the lovely readers of Seamstress Erin. My name is Amy, and I blog over at Sew Well. I started sewing in 2010, and I decided from the get go that I didn’t just want to learn how to sew – I wanted to put in the effort to learn how to sew well, right from the beginning. A blog felt like a great way to reflect on what I was learning and making, as well as to learn from and share with the greater online sewing community. As you’ll read below, the sense for style that I’m now beginning to develop came from my efforts in sewing and thinking about garments in new ways.
Describe your style.
I’m not sure I’ve nailed down my style yet. I remember feeling very complimented when I heard Erin describe my style as “feminine but not girly”. I’d like to look back over a long lifetime of sewing and think I lived up to that description!
Describe what you sew.
I try to sew anything and everything. I figure each new garment is a chance to learn new skills and better previously established ones. I’ve sewn dresses, tops, jackets, pants, and more. You name it, I likely have tried it or want to try it. The downside to this promiscuity is that I can sometimes get blinded by wanting to learn a particular skill, by a Sew-Along, by what everyone else seems to be sewing, by something I haven’t tried before, etc. that I forget to think about how the garment in question will work into my lifestyle.
What about in the beginning: did you learn to sew so that you could have a certain style?
I think the answer should be obvious by now – no. I started sewing because my parents got me a sewing machine for Christmas. You see, I inherited my grandmother’s old Singer machine, and I had every intention to learn how to use it. But, at one point during graduate school, I moved into an apartment that was too small to really keep a sewing machine out. The apartment did come with a large storage room though, so I moved it into there (along with my fish tank and, really, all of my other large hobby items because I found that I just didn’t have time for them at the end of graduate school). When it came time to move out, everything was just as I’d left it in the storage room except the sewing machine. It had just vanished. The funny thing was that it was built into this little table that also came with a matching stool, and the stool was still there. Anyway, I was fairly distraught, and I decided I must get a new sewing machine to replace it. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could likely find an identical Singer online. Instead, my parents picked out a brand new Babylock machine for me when the holidays came around. The machine came with classes, which gave me the confidence to sew crafty things for our wedding. Soon after the wedding I discovered the world of sewing blogs and the next thing I knew I was addicted to Sew-Alongs! They were great for walking me through difficult garments, but they meant I was sewing whatever was the garment du jour. But, they did give me the confidence to keep sewing, keep learning, keep blogging, and, eventually, keep analyzing what kind of styles I liked and didn’t like for myself.
How does your passion for sewing enable your style?
Sewing has brought style in general, and my style in particular, to my attention for probably the first time ever. Growing up I was always that girl who wanted to wear big, baggy, comfortable clothes that, unbeknownst to me – or at least I didn’t care to know at the time – were not very fashionable. I remember wearing a light pink sweatshirt with a fabric and puff paint rabbit on it every year for my school picture in elementary school. I just loved that thing. Had I looked around though, I probably would have noticed I was the only one rocking a pink rabbit. This pattern continued into college. Part of the problem was that I just did not enjoy going clothes shopping. There was something about stepping out of the dressing room and being evaluated by family, friends, and strangers alike that made me super uncomfortable. In college I seemed to have the best success when I let my roommates just pick out clothes for me. But, ever since graduate school I’ve been on my own. My darling husband compliments me on a great outfit, but he also compliments me when I haven’t brushed my hair all day, so he’s no help with style! Initially, I gravitated heavily to jeans and tshirts. I lived in southern California at the time and worked in a science lab, which meant I could get away with jeans and tshirts every single day of the year without worrying about the weather or having anyone notice or care. But, ever since I’ve started sewing, with each garment I’ve sewn I’ve been paying attention to what kind of clothes I like wearing, what kind of styles work for me, and, most recently, what kind of colors seem to be the most flattering. I think a lot of the motivation has been wanting to spend my time sewing things that I love wearing. That doesn’t mean everything I sew works for me. In fact, I’d wager that many of the things I’ve sewn aren’t the ideal shape or color for me, but how else am I going to learn unless I try it all out, right?! And, interestingly, somehow posting pictures of myself online in my new garments for the whole world to see doesn’t feel the same as stepping out of a dressing room. I do feel a bit silly taking oodles and oodles of pictures of myself, but somehow it’s also okay because the focus is on the garment and not me. I still have a lot to learn about my style, but I’m excited to finally have a way to think about it and evaluate it, and, thankfully, a wonderful community to encourage me along the way.
What inspires or influences your style?
Right now a lot of my style inspiration and influences come from things I find online. Blogs, big style websites, sites like Pinterest, etc. are all oozing with beautiful garments that I want to make. As I mentioned above though, I’ve been trying to shift away from making what looks good on others, and instead focus on evaluating what I think looks good on me. For example, I love the idea of skirts that hit at the natural waist, but I just never feel comfortable in them. I now think it’s because I have very little waist definition, so what those kind of skirts do that I subconsciously have always known is draw attention to the fact that nothing nips in at my waist! It also just sunk in that the colors of clothes can have a major impact on how you look and feel. I’m eager to explore what kind of colors are truly flattering on me.
This whole style thing is a huge new insight for me, so we shall see where it takes me in the coming years. I’m eager and excited to find out. And, again, I’m hoping to find that I do in fact embody the “feminine but not girly” elegance that you’ve so graciously bestowed upon me. Thank you, Erin, for giving me the opportunity to talk about my experiences with sewing and style!