Get to know a Nancy’s employee: Tamara

Today we “get to know” the fabulous store manager for Nancy’s Sewing Basket!

NSB - gtkTamaraWho are you?
My name is Tamara.

How long have you worked at Nancy’s?
Forever, almost 🙂 I first started working at Nancy’s in 1979. I quit after a year to attend Seattle Central Community College, returning in the late eighties when my two daughters were young. After graduating from SCCC, I worked in the local garment industry but found that the lack of flexibility for a mom was hard to work around. I was the assistant manager until 2004, when I left to pursue a high-fashion clothing line. I returned in 2007 when Nancy decided to retire from daily store management and have been here since!

How long have you been sewing?
I learned to sew when I was 7 and I came across my grandmother’s basket of fabric scraps.

Do you have a special focus?
Historic clothing and costume, though I also do a lot of collaborations with artists. Lately I have been working with a puppet maker, creating costumes for puppets.

What was your first sewing project?
I don’t remember my very first project, but when I was ten I followed a Simplicity pattern for shortalls, which I made in stars-and-stripes print denim. They were adorable and I wore them for the 4th of July, naturally.

What is your most recently completed project?
In my historical costuming, I made a man’s early 18th century costume for a Baroque dancer, consisting of a jacket, a vest, and breeches. I drafted all the patterns following a historical costuming book. I don’t yet have a picture of my customer in the full ensemble, but here are a few in-process pictures.

NSB - baroque men's coat

Early 18th century jacket for a baroque dancer, full length view.

NSB - baroque vest appique detail

Arranging and hand sewing embroidered appliqués on the vest front.

NSB - baroque men's breeches

There were more than 50 buttons on the three garments, including 16 visible buttons on the breeches alone!

The fabrics I used are all embroidered silks. He wanted additional detail and texture on both the jacket and vest, so using extra fabric with the same embroidered pattern as the vest, we turned the motifs into appliqués that were hand sewn to garments. I also layered vintage and modern ribbons together for additional trimmings.

NSB - baroque men's coat detail

I layered four different trims on the center front to get just the right look. Here you can see the combination, along with the buttons and appliqués on the embroidered silk fabric.

In the world of puppets, I just completed costumes for a production of “The Princess and the Peacock.” I made a total of eight costumes for this production. Here is the full cast in costume.

NSB - puppet cast party

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
I have three projects that I consider the most valuable experiences as they really pushed me to expand beyond my comfort zone.

The first was an 18th century ball gown where I learned a lot of new skills, including figuring out a way to embroider on velvet and to make my own lace. I also created my own floral trimmings out of ribbons. I combined a lot different materials, including glass beads, antique gold mesh, French lace, and vintage buttons. I also drafted the pattern.

NSB - 18th century ball gown bodice detail

Antique gold mesh borders the stomacher, embellished with metallic ribbon, glass beads, and with my own embroidery.

NSB - 18th century ball gown skirt detail

On the skirt, lily-of-the-valley, handmade using ribbonwork techniques, blossom above French lace.

The second project was the first time I collaborated with another artist on an avant garde piece of clothing. We worked with a variety of materials, vintage and modern, never-worn and well-loved. For the foundation of the garment we used men’s trousers and combined with pieces of fabric and trims from my own stash. My partner and I did a majority of our collaboration via phone conversation. This was before smartphones, so there weren’t any images being transferred. We primarily communicated with words. It was a transcendent experience.

NSB - Neodandi dress front NSB - Neodandi dress left NSB - Neodandi dress right

The third project was a request from a friend who curated a show for the Special Collections of the Allen Library at the University of Washington called Under the Wings of Artemis. She asked that I make a six-foot-tall Artemis with wings to welcome the audience as they arrived to the show.

NSB - Hymn to Artemis poster

Exhibition poster for Under the Wings of Artemis, featuring my sculpture.

I used a mannequin as the base for Artemis’s body, making several adjustments to the form. For the wings, I hand-smocked a silk/metallic organza and then used a sculpting medium (similar to starch) to help maintain the shape. I made an armature for her garments out of thermoplastic net to ensure the shape would remain; her under-dress is made of linen and the over dress is deerskin. I included a variety of details that reference her story, like an ancient poem called a Hymn to Artemis written into the linen of her face covering and QR codes around the bottom of the sculpture, which allow viewers to learn more about the goddess. This sculpture is now part of the permanent collection at the university.

What project is next?
I’m making a sexy space suit for a music video, using stretch denim, polyester/spandex swim-suit material and the kind of fabric that is used for lining the roof of a car. It should be out of this world.

What do you love most about Nancy’s?
I love that we still carry all the traditional sewing supplies: fabrics, notions, and trimmings. And I love everyone who works here.

Any questions for Tamara? Leave them in the comments!

All photographs in this post are courtesy of Nancy’s Sewing Basket employee Tamara and may not be used without express permission.

10 responses to “Get to know a Nancy’s employee: Tamara

  1. Tamara, So fun to read about widely-varied sewing history. Glad to see Artemis because I missed going to the library to see it.

    • Thanks chrisseattle – glad you enjoyed this interview! The Hymn to Artemis, Tamara’s sculpture, is part of the permanent collection at UW so you can view it any time!

  2. Tamara is awesome. I loved working with her at Nancy’s Sewing Basket while I attended SPU!

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