For this installment of Meet the Maker, we want to introduce you to a new sewist whose story truly inspired us. We “met” Jamie on Instagram earlier this year when she tagged us on a few of her summer makes. In September, she joined us for our Virtual Fall Launch event on Zoom and shared that she has only been sewing for 8 weeks and can’t get enough of it. EIGHT WEEKS! She has tackled projects we didn’t attempt until much later into our sewing journey, and her enthusiasm and passion for her new hobby are absolutely infectious. We thought she would be a great choice for our next interview, so let’s meet Jamie!
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you joined the making community.
I am a writer, currently a student at Columbia working towards a certification in Narrative Medicine, and as the mom to two kids with disabilities, I have also given myself the title of “Chief Medical Officer” (of my family). I live in Southwestern Connecticut with my family and our dog (Whiskey), where we are all currently spending a LOT of time together at home as they are both distance learners, and my husband has been working remotely since mid-March. I joined the making community after stumbling upon a beginner punch needle kit on Etsy in April, which I half-joke was my “gateway drug” into sewing…
What is your definition of being a maker? What specific crafts does that include for you?
I think a maker is someone who creates. I have always loved cooking and baking and definitely baked my fair share of no-knead pandemic loaves when I could get my hands on some of the scarce flour and yeast available. Before this Spring, though, my creativity was mostly channeled through my writing.
For years after my son was born, I wrote a blog and first-person personal narrative essays for national publications. But when my kids reached Elementary school, I no longer felt comfortable writing about them. I felt (and continue to feel) strongly that at some point, it needed to be their decision to make in terms of how much of their stories they wanted to tell and to whom. While I am proud to have made that decision when I did, it did leave me feeling somewhat adrift in terms of my career, my creative outlet and the catharsis it brought to me, and the connections I made through my writing.
Since that time, I completed my Masters in British and American Literature and have gone back to school at Columbia University to pursue a career in the emerging field of Narrative Medicine.
What drew you to sewing? How did you go about learning during the pandemic?
As I mentioned, I was shopping for something on Etsy one day in April and came across Punch Needle kit for beginners from an amazing Canadian shop called Blanc Laine. I thought it might be fun even though I definitely wouldn’t have considered myself a crafter at all, and when it arrived a couple of weeks later, I finished the first project in a single day. I began doing that every day and went from making the designs in hoops to pillows too. It was great to make something handmade and personal for friends whose birthdays came up in those early days of the pandemic. I made pillows for all of my daughter’s teachers for their end of school year gifts, too.
I was hand-sewing the pillows since I didn’t own a sewing machine and it was really killing my fingers because I was using a pretty sturdy duck canvas and the layers weren’t especially easy to get the needle through. I also started getting curious about trying to make some tote bags and at that point decided to look into getting a machine. Fast-forward to late-June, tons of research, and a lot of searching as the availability of sewing machines were super scarce, and my Brother XM2701 arrived on June 29th!
Literally that day I made a tote bag and I signed up for Closet Core’s “Learn To Sew Clothing!” class despite never having thought it was something I could (or even wanted to) do previously. I went through the entire class and on July 15th I had sewn my very first garment, a Cielo dress! I was so, so proud of that dress and all of the hard work that went into it.
Since then, I have also gotten a Juki MO-644D serger for my birthday in August. I have taken over the dining room as my sewing space since my husband is currently occupying our spare bedroom as his office. However, I keep my supplies in there and will eventually have that be the room where I permanently set up my sewing space. Luckily, we aren’t having many dinner parties, so the dining room is perfect! I even made a sign that says, “Do Not Disturb (Seriously. Just Don’t.)” so that when I really need some time to get in the zone and escape, my kids will (mostly) respect that.
Any advice for other new sewers?
“Face your fears!” as my twelve-year-old daughter would say. Actually, I read something in the September issue of Seamwork magazine that really spoke to me and truly encompasses the spirit of how I have approached this new skill. In her article, “Create In Abundance: Choosing Quantity Over Quality”, Julicia James writes about getting over the plight of perfection paralysis that impacts so many people and prevents them from moving forward in their craft because fears of making mistakes become so overpowering that they never even begin a project. Being so new to sewing, I think I was at an advantage here because I sort of expected to constantly mess up and so when I did it wasn’t really a surprise, but when I didn’t it was a huge win!
I have really done my best to just dive in with reckless abandon and hope for the best while having realistic expectations about how the results might turn out, but always keeping in mind that each garment is a learning experience that I can take with me onto the next one. I would also recommend finding a pattern you really love and then making it in a variety of fabrics. Early on, I did that with Blank Slate Patterns’ Oceanside Pants, making them in everything from Brussels Yarn-Dyed Linen, to Tencel Twill, to a light denim and it really taught me a ton about how different fabrics “behave”.
What has surprised you most about sewing your own clothes?
The level of pride, calm, and satisfaction it brings me. I am so grateful to have found this craft when I did. All I can say to truly sum it up is that it gave me an outlet to make, mend, and create just when it seemed like everything in the world was crumbling, cracking, and breaking. This has been cathartic and centering for me in the same sort of way that writing had always been – and since I felt like I needed something that took me out of my thoughts rather than brought me down deeper into them – sewing turned out to be exactly what I needed when I needed it.
What has been the most difficult thing to learn or master?
Buttonholes! I think I have tried every possible combination of lengths, widths, and tensions and have likely lost hours of my life down the rabbit hole of YouTube tutorials, so why does it still feels like a roll of the dice every time I make one?
So far, what make are you most proud of and why?
Definitely the RBG-inspired Page Hoodie and Hudson Pants I made during the sew-along I did with @blakandblanca!! Aside from having an absolute blast planning this with Blanca (who may be among the top ten coolest humans I’ve ever encountered), the timing of this was so meaningful. We had planned the project two weeks earlier and ordered matching patches based on her iconic dissent collar – they arrived three days before she died. What was going to be a project in honor of a woman who had our mutual admiration suddenly became a tribute in her memory. I put so much thought and love into those pieces and wore them with pride.
How would you describe your style? What are your favorite sources for inspiration? Or, how do you decide what you want to make?
I would aspire to have my style described by others as “Casual Chic” though you can only elevate joggers and hoodies to a certain degree! “Things Without Buttons or Zippers” has basically been all that I’ve lived in since March, but before that I would definitely consider myself a woman who loves a great-fitting pair of jeans, a well-tailored button-down shirt, and a cozy sweater in the cooler months, but absolutely lives in flowy dresses and jumpsuits in the summer.
Overall, I have a pretty good relationship with my body despite the fact that my weight has fluctuated by 30 pounds or more at times and that my midsection has more than a dozen scars from the eight surgeries I’ve been through. Though it has taken me a while to come to terms with my permanent fanny pack (or what I affectionately refer to as the “bonus features” that came after having my kids – like when you used to get a DVD and a second DVD with “bonus features” that you neither ordered, needed, nor wanted came with it).
Sewing my own clothes has really helped me appreciate all aspects of my body and how to both highlight and camouflage the parts I’d like to. I have been so inspired seeing the incredible pride and support that people have within the sewing community and the acceptance of self and others that is clearly valued and celebrated among sewists. I am consistently finding new garments I want to make by the scrolling through the accounts of fellow makers I follow on Instagram, though sometimes a great fabric I come across will also spark inspiration for a pattern I have been eyeing or have previously made in a different material.
What has sewing during the pandemic given you? How has it changed your life?
It has given me a healthy escape, a meditation of sorts, a sense of pride, mental stimulation that has endless growth opportunities, and something that pulls me away from watching the news and panicking about the state of our world. It has changed my life by teaching me how to consistently practice self-compassion.
I screw up plenty of makes (like when I sewed the inseams on three consecutive pairs of pants incorrectly and realized I almost had my pockets going into VERY uncomfortable places!!), but instead of getting annoyed, I usually just laugh at myself and send it to friends or post it on Instagram so everyone can laugh right along with me!
Where to next? (Sewing goals, sewing future, etc?)
I’d like to continue growing and challenging myself. The Blanca Flight Suit and a pair of jeans are definitely on the horizon for me. I have the patterns, fabric, and notions for both makes – and I have even purchased Closet Core’s online denim class – now all I need is the confidence and patience for projects that will take me days rather than hours to complete!
A Few Quick Questions!
(Although you are still new to sewing, do you have favorites so far?!)
- Favorite Fabric to Sew With = The yarn-dyed linen you carried this summer is just so EASY to sew that it’s a pleasure, but in terms of what I want to wear when it’s done, any super cozy cotton/bamboo/fleece-type combo always gets me motivated to finish my make up quickly so I can put it on!
- Favorite Pattern = So far it’s definitely the True Bias Hudson Pants, though I can tell that the Blackwood Cardigan by Helen‘s Closet is going to be one I got back to again and again too!
- Your Essential Tool/Notion = My Rowenta Focus Iron
- Must-Have Sewing Snack = Is coffee a snack??
- Current or Next Sewing Project = Structured things with buttons. I have a half-finished Archer and enough material to make another, plus I bought SO much delicious Mammoth Flannel from your Fall collection to make a couple of Kalle Shirt Dresses too, but I need to get over my fear/intimidation/laziness of patterns with lots of pieces to them.
Last but not least…where can people reach/follow you and see what you are up to?
You can find me on Instagram @sew_the_story. I am always looking to make connections with another one of the great humans I’ve met in the online sewing community!
Hopefully, Jamie’s story inspired you as much as it did us. We first talked to her during a time when our sewjo was definitely lacking and her passion for sewing renewed our own excitement! So let’s get sewing!