Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Let's get to sewing!

Long time no chat.. I apologize about that. (poet and I didn't know it?!) 
I have been busier than a cat with two liter boxes. 
Thank you guys so much for you sweet words from my post below about my party! It was amazing to say the least. More on that coming soon. 

TODAY(!) is a oh-so-very-special day... Because today we will be talking to a dear friend of mine, Ms. Valerie! {Some of you may remember me talking about her here.}
She lives in NYC with her hubby, Vanessa, and her lovely sewing machine. 
This interview is a little lengthy, but that's just because EVERY detail matters and I promise friends... YOU WANT TO READ THIS :) 
PLUS! There's a totally awesome video.
This girl is more than talented ((and might I say, lovely)) and she is here to inspire!
Let's get the third "Interview the Crew" on!

-Hey Val! I am so beyond pumped you are here today. Seriously. I don't tell you enough how totally awesome I think you are :) How is life in Valorie world?
  • Hi Sam!  Things are going well in the Valerie bubble here in NYC!  It's a tad cold for my taste (ok, it is bitterly cold, if I'm going to be honest), but all the more reason to spend lots of time under a big blanket with the husband, right?  
  • don't like the cold, but I do love this time of year:  January is such a feel-good month, coming off the warmth of the holidays and spending time with family, so full of hope, and a time for making plans, lists, and goals (WHICH IS MY FAVORITE THING OF ALL TIME). 

-Ah, yes! January is a GREAT month for goals, lists, and plans. It's like you're revving your engine for the entire year :) Now, speaking of GOALS, LISTS, AND PLANS... Can you share with us what you have written down, planned, reaching for in 2011?! Especially with your sewing career!
  • Oh, where to begin?  First, non-sewing related:
    • 1).  Explore this gorgeous city we live in much more than we did in the past year.  We're only going to be here once, so we HAVE to take advantage of all that we can here!
    • 2).  This past year I cooked at home 3 times a week; I want to up that to 4.  (P.S. I am NOT a good cook...yet.  Practice makes perfect, so I've heard.)

    And now, sewing related!
    • 1).  I challenged myself to buy only 1 clothing item per month from a store this year.  The hope is that this will force me (in a good way) to both sew more and sew a bigger variety of things, but also do a better job when shopping to buy pieces that are really necessary and worthy of buying, as well as doing better to reuse/re-wear/make better use of the clothing I already do have.
    • 2).  The "26 Things" Project - I've been thinking about this one for awhile, and actually plan to start it on my birthday (in March). I'll be turning 26, and in my 26th year, I want to make 26 Things that I absolutely love, that fit me well, and fulfill a need in my closet.  My hope is that by the time I turn 27, my closet will be filled with things I have made, and I'll be able to dress on a daily basis in me-made items!
    • 3).  Spread the sewing love!  Within the last year, I have had 3 good friends buy sewing machines and delve into sewing themselves.  I want my friends (in real life, or in blog life!) to feel free to ask me for any advice or help on projects they may be working on, and to encourage sewing as much as I can!  Sewing isn't one of the most widespread of the creative arts, but it could be!  BECAUSE IT'S AWESOME!!

-You just got even more awesome because of all your plans {which i didn't even think was possible}. Those are all such amazing things to reach for, and I KNOW you will do them all, and ROCK them too! You mentioned sewing a 'bigger variety of things', could you maybe elaborate on that for us? Is there maybe something you feel you would have difficulty actually making? (btw, in my mind you can move sewing mountains). I mean after all, you DID sew an amazing winter coat. 
  • Right now, I basically sew a few main types of garments:  skirts (TONS of skirts...too many most likely), dresses, a few tops, and a few pairs of pants - and all mostly that I will be able to wear to work at my office job.  That kinda seems like it covers all bases of types of clothing, doesn't it?  But it doesn't!  
  • There a couple things I have never even attempted to make, but I would like to:  jeans (they seem terrifying to me), and tank tops or t-shirts (it seems like it's just so much easier to buy them for $10 at the Gap than actually make them!).  
  • And then are things that I have attempted to make, but would like to try again, such as:  outerwear (I did successfully complete a winter coat, but I have failed miserably at attempts to make a blazer, and I would like to try some warmer weather jackets and I'm even thinking a down vest at some point!), shorts (I've made one pair, and am itching to make more!  Hurry up, spring!), and loungewear (I'm thinking leggings, pj pants, maybe even some nighties...ooh la la).  
  • Anyway, I feel like there is a whole other world beyond skirts and dresses that still needs exploring!

-JEANS! Holy smokes if you make jeans... can you just imagine the freedom? IDK about you but jeans are my worst enemy while shopping. I just never know how they are going to fit that day. So, girlfriend BEST OF LUCK making jeans! Although, I know you don't need it :) I think that will be the biggest asset (no pun intended) for you! So many AMAZING things ahead for VKB! How long have you actually been a seamstress and what made you even think to get started? {SOOOO glad you did}
  • Oh, you have just put words to all my fantasies about making the perfect-fitting pair of jeans!  I think jeans shopping is a headache for most women, so yes, it would be so awesome if I somehow perfected my very own pair that fit all my curves just right, and then I could just make myself 100 pairs!  I am chasing that dream...
  • My seamstress-ing abilities actually go back pretty far in my life.  My Granny has always sewed, for her entire life.  When we went to visit, she was always working on a quilt or some kind of decoration or something.  My Grandad even built her an entire sewing room onto their garage!  Anyway, when I was in early elementary school, we would go visit my grandparents, and Granny taught my sister and I how to sew simple little projects like pillows and quilt blocks.  We were pretty addicted!  My mom is also somewhat of a seamstress (and learned from her grandmother!), so she helped me sew a few little sets of clothing - most memorably, a red and blue plaid short/vest combo (oh, the 90s) and a bright green 60s style dress with daisies that I wore like every week in 6th grade.
  • I didn't sew much for the next 10 years until the year after I graduated from college, when "Santa" happened to get me a sewing machine for Christmas!  I was pumped, and immediately hatched all sorts of ideas in my head about the fabulous things I was going to make for myself.  That was in 2007, and I started slowly re-teaching myself how to make clothes then.
  • There are two main reasons why I wanted to start sewing garments in the first place and why I continue to love to do so today: 
  • First, it gives me a sense of family history and carrying on an artform.  I have a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother who all love to sew - it would seem it is in my genes!  And I know that sewing goes back even farther than that in our family, as most of my ancestors were farmers, and I am certain the matriarchs of those families made clothes for everyone else.  For them, making clothing was a necessity; for me, luckily, it also gets to be an art.  
  • Which brings me to my second reason:  I love getting to choose, down to the finest detail, what my clothing is going to look like.  I believe that what you wear is very personal and says something about you; it's a glimpse into your personality through colors and prints and silhouettes and it's an outward expression of how you hope you will be viewed by the world.  Now, sometimes, of course, it's not that serious, and we just throw on the nearest clean t-shirt.  But sometimes, it is that serious.  And I love creating that image of myself with my own two hands.

-HOLY AMAZING!!!! What a great feeling knowing that sewing is literally embedded in your DNA! And I truly LOVE your outlook on people's attire reflecting who they are. I couldn't agree more. I like to think mine is a mix of every style combined into one which in turn makes me a jumbled up mess just trying to find her way! Haha, maybe once I become an actual big kid my wardrobe will get consistent. I definitely think yours speaks ROCKSTAR in it's own Valerie way. For reals...   

READERS: What would you say your personal style says about you?!
-Ok, now back to Valerie :)
What would you say is your proudest or most meaningful piece?!
  • You are just TOO kind!  Thank you for all the compliments; you are the ultimate ego booster!
  • I had to think about my most meaningful piece for a long time, and went through about five different choices before I settled on just the right one:  the Patchwork Dress.  I've only worn it once my whole life, to one of my bridal showers, but what I really dig about it is the story behind it!
  • I made this dress after I had been sewing seriously for a little over a year.  I was looking at all the scraps I had from the projects I had worked on thus far, and decided I wanted to combine them all into one.  I literally got the idea for and started this dress at about 6:00 PM on a Saturday night, and worked for 8 hours straight until I finished it!  (if you want to see slap-happy, see video)
    From the top down:
    • Light blue ruffles:  from a sheath dress that I washed once with a pair of jeans, and the zipper punctured a bunch of holes in it!  Bummer.  I think I only wore it once or twice.
    • Paisley strip and maroon strip:  a tunic top that was more of an experiment and I never, ever wore in public
    • Blue and white seersucker strip:  from the aforementioned failure of man shorts
    • Yellow floral:  part of my Little House on the Prairie top
    • Teal strip:  from a sundress I made for a friend
    • Tan floral:  another part of the failed tunic.
  • Now, I don't know if you're keeping score here, but from the 7 projects that birthed this dress, two of them look like something from Little House on the Prairie, and only one of them is actually something I still wear and like!  Which I think is what makes this so meaningful to me:  out of a variety of mistakes and failures came a dress that is full of memories and reminders of where I have been before.  Isn't that kind of just a metaphor for life in general?!

-HA! Well you are so welcome. But, I'm not blowing smoke up your skirt sister :) I mean every single word! I LOVE that you chose that dress. It's seriously probably one of the most unique pieces of clothing I could imagine, and the meaning behind it is just the best. I think it's even MORE perfect that you wore it to your bridal shower. Kinda like (you said) life in general: "Hey I made mistakes, I failed a few times, but it all added up to make Valerie and my hubby loves me because of all my flaws and now we are going to make a perfect combination, together." JUST.LIKE.THE.DRESS. :) ANYWAY.. My last question of the day is one I know SO many readers are going to want to take heed to... WHAT ADVICE, TIPS, SUGGESTIONS, INSTRUCTIONS WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANYONE WANTING TO PURSUE, ADVANCE, OR BROADEN THEIR SEWING EXPERIENCES?!?!
  • 1.  Try it on for size.  Like many hobbies, sewing can be expensive.  You don't want to make a huge financial commitment only to find out you don't really like it all that much!  So, take a beginner sewing class.  Find a friend or family member who sews and ask them show you how to make something simple.  If you find that it's something you like to do and you think about sewing all day long when you aren't sewing (or maybe that's just me?...), then get yourself a sewing machine, y'all!

    2.  Pick your poison.  The great thing about sewing or learning to sew is that it opens up lots and lots of doors of things you'll be able to create!  It isn't all about making clothes; that's just the avenue I have chosen for myself.  You can also make home decor (pillows, curtains, placemats, couch covers,...) or accessories (purses, belts, tote bags, scarves,...) or other miscellaneous crafts (laptop covers, aprons, shoe embellishments, fabric flowers,...).  The list truly is almost endless.  My sister, for example, is always quilting up a storm!

    3.  Practice makes possible.  Know that you won't start sewing and be a perfect seamstress on day one.  The logistics of sewing can be confusing, you might not understand the instructions, your fabric might not turn out the way you wanted it too, you might sew things in backwards or upside-down, you might have trouble sewing straight!  And all of that is OK.  I've been sewing for 3 years now, and I have never finished a garment and thought, "Everything on here is absolutely perfect."  The more you practice, the better you will get, but don't aim for an impossibly high standard!  Odds are absolutely no one but you will even notice or see your little imperfections and mistakes.  And if they do, who cares?!  You MADE something with your own two hands!  That is what really matters at the end of it all.

    4.  Befriend the internet.  Whether you are just beginning, are currently a seamstress, or haven't sewn in a long time, I promise that any questions you could possibly need answered, you can find somewhere on the web.  The sewing community has a big presence here, and you can find hundreds of tips and tutorials and suggestions and adorable ideas for new projects.  And even FREE sewing patterns!  Here are just a few places to start:  Grosgrain, Burdastyle, Threads, Sew Mama Sew, Sew4Home.  Always remember, you are not alone in the universe of sewing!

-I think everyone readying this probably has a pen and paper out jotting down notes! (or at least, you should be!!) 
Val, you are something else, miss. You have such am amazing future ahead and I know that you will be taking sewing to new levels+heights and I CANNOT wait to see how successful you become. You deserve nothing but the best and I hope you get just that and so much more! 

 I know I speak for us all when I say thank you for taking the time to answer these questions today and we all can't wait to see what's next from VKB!! Thanks again, and give NYC my love :)  

Don't you just want to go find the nearest sewing machine and have at it?! If you have questions, you can find Valerie here. Drop in and say hello!
Also, to get a look at ALL of Valerie's pieces of art, GO VISIT HERE!

Happy Tuesday loves. 


Kendra said...

... so talented, that valerie bryant!

she helped me buy a mini sewing machine (and answered all my puzzling questions) last year - i'm hooked. thanks for introducing me into the sewing world, val! I love it.

Miss K said...

totally incredible post! i just got a sewing machine for Christmas and have been dying to bust it out! This post was so refreshing and inspiring!!! thank you!

Megan said...

I want to sew. Sigh.

Shalyn said...

Aw, Valerie...I want to know how to do what she does! And she lives in NY too? Gall, lets trade lives please? Hope you are well, Sam!

Jessica said...

Wonderful post!! That girl has more talent in her pinky then I have in my whole being!

Valerie said...

sam, i had so much fun doing this with you! i feel like you've put my whole life together on just this one page, and i LOVE it! thank you thank you thank you for all the work you put into this - i feel completely honored and lucky to have a friend like you who wants to chat with me for 15 e-mails about what i love to do. you are so great. love!

emily said...

wow! i don't know where to start... what an awesome post! i so want to dig out my sewing machine riiight now. she is SO talented. thank you so much for sharing!

-Mallori said...

I love following her! thank you for introducing me to her!

I'm so sad I missed your party, it looked like you had such a great turnout, and such a fun time!

Love ya girlie!

Meg said...

Love all of her stuff!

& her wedding dress is SO very lovely!