Category Archives: celebration!

Quick and easy tote tutorial

This tote pattern was inspired by the best bag I ever had: big enough to carry a small selection of groceries or a creative project, but small enough that it never felt cumbersome. To expand on that bag’s great shape, I created three different sizes, each perfectly useful in its own right.

NSB - quick and easy tote tutorial header

The simplicity of this tote design provides so much opportunity to exercise creativity! Choose a fun printed fabric and embellish it with embroidery. Create some graphic patchwork and quilt it for additional texture. Paint your own fabric to be used for the outside. Make it in leather for a chic look.

This pattern goes together so quickly, I doubt you will want to make just one!

SUPPLIES

For all sizes, you will need:

  • Fashion fabric (I used printed cotton)
  • Lining fabric (I used printed cotton)
  • Webbing or ribbon for handles
  • Thread
  • Fusible fleece (optional; this adds body to the bag and stabilizes fabric)

TOOLS

  • Rotary cutter (recommended) or scissors
  • Quilter’s style see through ruler (I use 6.5” x 24”)
  • Self-healing mat (if using rotary cutter)
  • Marking tool (pen, pencil and chalk are all fine)
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Hand sewing needle (optional)

DIMENSIONS

quick and easy tote dimensions chart

Finished tote sizes:

  • The small tote finishes approximately 9.5” tall x 8.25” wide x 3.25” deep
  • The medium tote finishes approximately 12.25” t x 10.25” w x 4.25” d
  • The large tote finishes approximately 14.75” t x 12” w x 5.25” d

DIRECTIONS

For this tutorial, we show the construction of a medium tote. All seam allowances are 3/8”.

1. Cut fashion and lining fabrics to size. If using fusible fleece, follow manufacturer’s instructions to fuse to back of fashion fabric.NSB - quick and easy tote cut fabrics to size

2. For each piece of fashion fabric, find center point of top edge. Measure and mark the distance from center point according to dimensions chart (e.g. for medium tote, measure and mark 3” to either side for a total spacing of 6”).NSB - quick and easy tote mark center and strap spacing

Next, take one strap and align raw edge of webbing to raw edge of fabric along the top, matching to the  outside of the spacing mark.NSB - quick and easy tote align strap 1

Repeat with other end of strap and second spacing mark.NSB - quick and easy tote align strap 2

On sewing machine, baste straps in place (I like to sew 1/4” from the edge).NSB - quick and easy tote baste strap

3. Pin and sew one lining piece to fashion fabric along top edge using 3/8” seam allowance. NSB - quick and easy tote pin lining to outside

Repeat for second fashion fabric and lining pieces.NSB - quick and easy tote sew lining and outer pieces

Iron to set seam, then iron lining and fashion sides down (this will help create a clean finish along top edge).

4. Take one side and reopen; lay wrong side down. NSB - quick and easy tote lay wrong side down

Open second side and lay atop the first, right sides together, matching fashion fabrics and aligning the seams at edges.NSB - quick and easy tote pin tote pieces right sides together

Sew the two side seams and the bottom seam for the fashion fabric. On the bottom edge for the lining, leave a 4” to 5” opening in the center. **NOTE: it is best not to  backstitch at the corners, as these will be pressed open and cut off**NSB - quick and easy tote sew all sides leaving an opening at bottom of lining

Press flat.

5. Create the box bottom: in one corner, pull the two fabric pieces away from each other so the two seams match; press seams open. Using the ruler, measure and mark the length shown on the dimensions chart perpendicular to the seam line (e.g. for the medium tote, measure 4” from fold to fold). I find a quilting ruler marked with 45° angle to be particularly helpful to this task, as I can align with the folded edge. NSB - quick and easy tote mark box bottom outer fabricNSB - quick and easy tote mark box bottom lining

Sew on machine; be certain to backstitch at the edges. NSB - quick and easy tote sew box bottom

Trim seam allowance to 3/8”.

Repeat for all four corners. Press to set seams.

6. Turn the bag right side out through opening in bottom of lining.

Edge stitch the opening closed on the machine or blind stitch closed by hand.

NSB - quick and easy tote stitch opening closed

Fit the lining into the tote body, matching the box corners.

7. Iron the top edge (this is where that ironing in step 3 comes in handy). Pin in place, if desired.NSB - quick and easy tote iron top edge

Stitch around top 1/8” from edge; stitch again 1/4″ from edge.

8. Admire your new bag!


As mentioned above, there are many ways to personalize this tote!

In one version, I added a pocket to the lining…

…which would also work very well on the outside!NSB - reusable gift wrap large tote pocket outside

For another version, I used a printed fabric and a coordinating near solid for the lining. I added embroidery to the printed fabric and made a matching appliqué for the near solid. By finishing the ‘lining’ by hand, this becomes a reversible bag!

I hope you enjoy making your own version of this tote! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!

Using fabric as gift wrap

After making my advent calendar, I became excited by the idea of starting another new tradition in my household: reusable gift wrap. Just thinking about the amount of torn wrapping paper that goes to recycling after opening holiday presents is enough to make me feel faint, so I thought: why not wrap gifts in something that is easily reused?

The solution? Fabric!

NSB - reusable gift wrap header

Wouldn’t it be so fun to find this stack of gifts beneath the tree?

Whether using a cut of fabric to wrap a gift or sewing it into a bag that can double as a fun holiday tote, there are many fun approaches to wrapping gifts in fabric. Let’s take a look at a few of them.


 

Earlier this year, we shared a tutorial for our easy gift bag pattern. This bag is quick-to-make and perfectly fits a wine bottle. It looks great made in a variety of fabrics, from novelty print cotton to a shimmery organza. Tailor it to the recipient or the specific bottle you are giving!

NSB - reusable gift wrap easy gift bag


 

Nancy’s carries the excellent book Wrapping with Fabric by Etsuko Yamada, which explores traditional ways of using furoshiki. Totally inspired, I decided to try a couple basic wrap styles using fabric in fun prints.

 

NSB - reusable gift wrap with fabric and book

These were wrapped in rayon challis (left) and cotton broadcloth (back right). Both prints are festive, but neither is specifically “holiday”, so they can easily be reused for other occasions.

 

While a traditional furoshiki has two selvedges and two hemmed edges, I decided to serge around the four edges of my fabric for minimal sewing. This would be a lovely way to wrap a present for someone who sews, as the wrapping fabric can double as a gift!

NSB - reusable gift wrap fabric

Can you guess what’s inside? The green parcel has a pair of books and the red gift is a sewing basket! I purchase 3/4 yard of each fabric to create my version of the furoshiki.


 

Our free grocery bag pattern (NSB grocery bag instructions) also makes a great gift bag. The shape is especially great for larger and bulkier items!

NSB - reusable gift wrap grocery bag pattern

I left off the handles for a clean finish and added ribbon for festive flair. The fabric I selected is actually toweling-by-the-yard, which is the perfect width for this pattern!


 

I love the idea of wrapping a gift inside of a gift (think of it as the turducken of giftwrap). Enter our quick and easy tote in three sizes!

NSB - reusable gift wrap three totes

These bags combine the fun and ease of wrapping in a gift bag with the practicality of a tote bag. I love the notion of filling this bag with a collection of small gifts for a deserving recipient. Make a home spa kit for a beauty enthusiast or tuck a couple books into the tote for your favorite bookworm!

All three sizes of this tote are incredibly useful and appropriate for anyone, young or old.

NSB - reusable gift wrap small tote outside

The small tote is perfect for kids or for reuse as a lunch bag!

NSB - reusable gift wrap medium tote

Our medium tote is the perfect ‘anytime’ size!

NSB - reusable gift wrap large tote outside

The large tote is an excellent size for commuters and students, easily carrying a laptop and a couple books.

Interested in making a quick-and-easy tote of your own? Check back with us tomorrow for a full tutorial!

 

Make a reusable advent calendar!

As I shared earlier this week, I love the way my reusable advent calendar turned out! I had so much fun making it, I thought others might enjoy making one, too, so I wrote up a tutorial. Check it out below!

NSB - reusable advent calendar header

A couple notes:

  • This tutorial walks through two different construction methods, starting with the more involved patchwork-style calendar and then looking at a simpler, non-patchwork calendar.
  • My calendar was designed with 25 days, rather than the more traditional 24 days. For this tutorial, I depict construction for 25 days, though I also include details & dimensions for 24 days and share a completed version after this tutorial.

 SUPPLIES

For the patchwork-style advent calendar with 25 days

  • 25 cuts of fabric 5” tall x 3.5” wide for windows
    • While I used many different fabrics, you could easily select just two fun prints or solid colors and alternate them.
  • Fabric with numbers for each day; while these can be as large as you please, they should be cut to a minimum of 1.5” square (including a ¼” seam allowance on each side)
  • 1/2 yard fabric for the pockets

For a non-patchwork calendar with 25 days

  • 5 cuts of fabric 5″ tall x 15.5″ wide for the ‘windows’
  • 5 cuts of fabric 6.5″ tall x 15.5″ wide for the pockets

For all 25 day calendars

  • 2/3 yard (approx.) fabric for the backing, facing/binding, and hanging sleeve
    • I used one fabric for the backing and a second for the facing and sleeve
  • 2/3 yard thin quilt batting or cotton flannel
  • Thread
    • I used three colors: light grey for piecing, red and green for quilting
  • Dowel for hanging (I use 3/8”)
  • Ribbon for hanging

TOOLS

  • Rotary cutter (recommended) or scissors
  • Quilter’s style see through ruler (I use 6.5” x 24”)
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • Sewing machine
    • I used two needles: sharp for piecing and general construction, twin for quilting
  • Iron
  • Needle for hand sewing
  • Hera marker
  • Water- or air-erasable marking pen (optional)
  • Fabric safe tape (I like to use artist’s tape)
  • Quilt basting pins
  • Drill for adding holes to the dowel (optional)

Finished dimensions: 22.5” tall x 15” wide, each pocket finishes at 3” x 3”

Seam allowance is 1/4” throughout. For all piecing, sew fabrics with right sides together.

 

DIRECTIONS

PATCHWORK STYLE CALENDAR

Prepare your windows

If you are creating the patchwork style calendar, you will need one 5” tall x 3.5” wide cut for each day.

 

1. You will make five rows of five windows. Determine layout for the rows.

NSB - advent calendar window fabrics

 

 

2. Using a 1/4” seam allowance, sew together the five pieces of each row along the 5” long side, pressing seams open. Set rows aside.

NSB - ReuAdvCal piece windows

 

 

Prepare your numbers and pocket pieces

Some great ways to make your numbers include embroidery, cutting out and appliquéing felt numbers, using a number print fabric (either store bought or printed at home), painting numbers by hand, or using rubber stamps and a fabric ink pad. Numbers can be as big or as small as you like; I recommend somewhere between 1” and 2.5” in either direction.

 

3. For the patchwork style calendar, you will need to cut out each number so you have at least 1/2” on every side of the digit; each number should be a minimum of 1.5” in both height and width.

 NSB - advent calendar numbers

 

4. Begin piecing your numbers to the pocket fabric.

I will walk through the steps, but a quick view of order of construction will look like this:

Web

 

5.You will have to do some math based on the raw (unsewn) size of your numbers, but the aim is to have 3.5” wide raw pocket fronts for each number.

  • For example: if your individual unsewn number pieces are 1.5” square, you will need two 1.5” squares cut from the pocket fabric, in addition to a 1.5” x 3.5” rectangle (this allows for 1/4” seams on all pieces).
  • If your raw number pieces are 2.5” square, you will need two cuts at 2.5” x 1” and one 1” x 3.5” rectangle.
  • If your unsewn number pieces are 2” tall x 2.5” wide, you will need two pieces 2” x 1.25” and one 1.25” x 3.5” rectangle.

Basic quilt math: raw piece measurement – 0.5” = finished size. When in doubt: cut the raw pieces too big and trim after sewing.

 

Note: Keep track of the height measurement of the base piece you add to the number/sides.

 

6. Once you have cut the side and base pieces, sew the sides to your number, using a 1/4” seam allowance. Press seams toward outside. Trim, if necessary.

NSB - ReuAdvCal piece numbers to sides

 

7. Sew base piece to bottom of number/sides. Press seam down.

Repeat steps for all 25 numbers.

NSB - ReuAdvCal piece windows framed numbers

8. Lay out the framed number pieces in rows of five (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25). Sew the five pieces of each row together, pressing seams open. Trim top of row, if necessary.

 

NSB - ReuAdvCal number row

 

9. It’s time for a little more math as you finish piecing the pocket panels. This next piece becomes the top of the pocket front and the pocket lining. Add the height measurement from the base piece to 3.25”. Cut five pieces that are this new dimension by 15.5” wide.

  • For example: if the base piece for framing the number is 1.25” tall x 3.5” wide, you add 1.25” to 3.25” for a sum of 4.5”, so you would cut five 4.5” tall x 15.5” wide pieces.

 

Sew each row of pocket fronts to one of these pieces. Press seam allowance toward the larger piece.

 

10. Turn full pocket panels face side down. Measure 3.25” up from the bottom front of the panel and use your hera marker to draw a line along the full width; this creates a crease that will allow you to fold the pocket panel with ease. When folded, there will be slight overhang on the bottom of the pocket panel back.

 

 

NSB - ReuAdvCal mark crease line

NSB - ReuAdvCal fold crease line

11. It is time to pad the pockets! If you are using quilt batting for your quilt, cut five pieces 3.25” tall x 15.5” wide. If you are using cotton flannel, cut five pieces 6.5” tall x 15.5” wide. For this tutorial, I am using batting.

With pocket panel laying open face down, place your pocket padding on the backside. If you are using batting, nestle one long edge along the crease you made with the hera marker.

***If using cotton flannel for padding, it is helpful to use the hera marker to draw a crease in the flannel just as for the pocket panel. At this step, nest the folded edge of the flannel inside the fold of the pocket piece.

NSB - ReuAdvCal pad pocket lay flat

Fold pocket around batting and pin in place.

NSB - ReuAdvCal pad pocket fold over

12. Sew through all layers close to the folded edge. I sewed my panels using two hues for additional cheer.

NSB - ReuAdvCal stitch pocket panel edge

13. Measuring from the folded edge, trim pocket panels to 3.25” tall.

NSB - ReuAdvCal trim pocket panel

Trim side edges of pockets panels, if necessary. Each pocket panel should be 15.5” wide.NSB - ReuAdvCal trim pocket panel edges

14. Place each pocket panel over its corresponding window panel, aligning bottom raw edges and pin in place.

NSB - ReuAdvCal align pocket panels to windowsNSB - ReuAdvCal pin pockets to windows

Baste the pocket panels to the window panels along the bottom edge.

NSB - ReuAdvCal baste pockets to windows

15. Sew the pocket/window rows together, ensuring the seams are aligned.

NSB - ReuAdvCal rows stitched together

16. To create a little depth to the pockets, we are going to press the seam allowances ‘up’. To start, press the seam allowances flat to set the stitches.

NSB - ReuAdvCal press calendar flat to set stitches

Starting with the top row, pocket front face down, use your steam iron to press the windows up.

NSB - ReuAdvCal press windows up

Next, understitch seam allowance to the base of the windows.

NSB - ReuAdvCal understitch seam allowances

Using your steam iron, press the pocket panel up. Pin into place to prevent flapping.

NSB - ReuAdvCal press pockets up

Repeat for rows two, three, and four; the bottom row should be left flat.

NSB - ReuAdvCal calendar ready to sandwich

17. Next, create a quilt sandwich:

Cut the batting or cotton flannel so it is somewhat larger that your calendar front; cut the backing fabric so it is larger than the batting/flannel.

Lay your backing fabric (right side down) on a clean, flat surface. Smooth the fabric and secure the perimeter with tape. Layer your batting or cotton flannel over the backing fabric, smoothing so it lays flat, then layer the calendar front (right side up) over the batting.

Starting in the center of the calendar front and moving outward, pin baste through all layers.

NSB - ReuAdvCal make quilt sandwich

Quilt sandwich: ready to go!

18. To create the individual pockets, quilt straight lines from the top to the bottom, centered between numbers.

 

The seam lines between windows and numbers double as excellent guides, but it may be helpful to mark your quilting lines. Columns should be marked as 3” wide.

NSB - ReuAdvCal layers quilted

I used a twin needle with thread in two colors to achieve a festive look.

NSB - advent calendar pocket rows

19. Trim the quilted calendar so it is 23” tall and 15.5” wide.

NSB - ReuAdvCal trim calendar

  1. Finish the edges by adding a facing. This tutorial from Victoria Gertenbach offers very clear step-by-step instructions.

 NSB - ReuAdvCal add facing

21. In order to hang the calendar, you will need to sew a hanging sleeve to the back. I like this tutorial from Jacquie Gering, though I cut my piece 4.5” tall (the sleeve will finish as 2”, which is more appropriate for a quilted piece of this size).

NSB - ReuAdvCal add hanging sleeve

22. Cut your dowel to the finished width of your calendar and drill two small holes for your ribbon (I like to drill just beyond the width of my finished hanging sleeve).

NSB - ReuAdvCal hanging sleeve and dowel

23. String ribbon through the holes…

NSB - ReuAdvCal string ribbon through holes

…and hang it up!

NSB - reusable advent calendar complete

Enjoy using your reusable advent calendar for the first time!

 

NON-PATCHWORK CALENDAR

Prepare your windows

For the non-patchwork style calendar, you will need five cuts of fabric 5” tall x 15.5” wide. Iron and set aside.

Prepare your pocket pieces

For the non-patchwork calendar, you will add your numbers directly to the pocket fabric. Begin by marking guidelines on the five 6.5” x 15.5” pieces with the marking pen:

  • Measure 3.25” up from one long edge and mark the full 15.5” width
  • Measure 7.75” in from one short edge and lightly mark on each edge and on the marked line
  • From center point, measure and mark 1.5” to the right, along the full 6.5” height.
  • From this new line, measure 3” to the right and mark the full height
  • Repeat last two steps to the left of the marked center point

You will have two rows of boxes; on the bottom row of each piece, add your numbers inside the guidelines using your preferred method. The five pieces should be numbered 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25.

 Print

After preparing all fabric pieces, follow steps 10 through 23 as for the patchwork style calendar.

 

24 DAY ADVENT CALENDAR

I reworked the layout of my 25 day calendar a bit for those who prefer a more traditional 24 day advent calendar.

NSB - ReuAdvCal 24 day non-patchwork

This is the layout for the 24 day calendar, made following the non-patchwork instructions. The numbers were cut out of felt and stitched to the pocket fronts with embroidery floss.

Alternate dimensions, supplies, and directions are as follows:

For either style of calendar (patchwork or non-patchwork) with 24 days

Updated row layout is four rows of six numbers (1-6, 7-12, 13-18, 19-24).

Finished dimensions of the 24 day calendar are: 18” tall x 18” wide (pockets still finish 3” x 3”).

 

SUPPLIES (24 days):

For the patchwork-style advent calendar with 24 days

  • 24 cuts of fabric 5” tall x 3.5” wide for windows
  • Fabric with numbers for the 24 days, can be as large as you please though they should be cut to a minimum of 1.5” square (including a ¼” seam allowance on each side)
  • 1/2 yard fabric for pockets

 

For a non-patchwork calendar with 24 days

  • 4 cuts of fabric 5” tall x 18.5” wide for the ‘windows’
  • 4 cuts of fabric 6.5” tall x 18.5” wide for the pockets

 

All other supplies and tools as listed for 25 days calendar

 

 

For 24 day patchwork calendar

Alt.9: cut the pocket lining piece as calculated height x 18.5” wide.

 

For either 24 day calendar

Alt.11: cut batting as 3.25” tall x 18.5” wide or cotton flannel as 6.5” tall x 18.5” wide.

 

Alt.13: pocket panels should be 18.5” wide.

 

Alt.16: follow the steps for rows one, two, and three; row four should be left flat.

Once Upon a Time raffle

One of our favorite things about being a small business is having opportunity to participate in and positively impact our community. For the past few years, we have held a raffle to benefit Mary’s Place, a wonderful local resource for homeless women and children.

We are thrilled to announce our 3rd annual 18” doll clothes raffle, the Once Upon a Time raffle. This year, we are pairing up with Queen Anne Book Company as we feature beloved children’s books and their heroines!

NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle header

The staff at Nancy’s has drawn inspiration from our favorite books to create more than 12 costumes befitting the awesome girl characters that we love. Even better? Queen Anne Book Company is providing a copy of each book that inspired the costumes!

We are selling raffle tickets now through December 23, 2015. Each ticket is $2 (cash or check only) and can be purchased in-store at either Queen Anne Book Company or Nancy’s Sewing Basket.

Let’s take a look at the incredible creations made by the Nancy’s staff:

DSCF1843

Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle - The Borrowers

Arrietty from Mary Norton’s The Borrowers

NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle - Eloise

Eloise from Kay Thompson’s Eloise

Harriet from Harriet the Spy

Harriet from Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy

NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle - Heidi

Heidi from Johanna Spyri’s Heidi

Hermione from Harry Potter

Hermione from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle - Little House in the Big Woods

Laura (r) & Mary (l) from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods

NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle - Corduroy

Lisa from Don Freeman’s Corduroy

DSCF1840

Madeline from Ludwig Bemelmans’s Madeline

NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle - Pippi Longstocking

Pippi from Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking

NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle - Beezus and Ramona

Ramona from Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona

NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle - TGW Circumnavigated Fairyland

September from Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle - TGW Fell Beneath Fairyland

September from Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle - TGW Soared Over Fairyland

September from Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

While tickets are available for purchase in-store, if you live out of the area and would like to buy raffle tickets, please give us a call at our store (206-282-9112) and our staff will tell you how you can participate in the raffle.

Happy 37th anniversary to us!

NSB - anniversary headerIt’s our anniversary! In celebration of the 37 wonderful years we have been in business – and to thank all our customers for their patronage over the years – we will be offering 25% off all fabrics* in our store starting today, Monday, September 7th, and running through Sunday, September 20th!

In addition to that fabulous discount on fabrics, we also offer daily specials at 15% off anything within that category! Check it out:

  • Monday, September 7th: RIBBONS
  • Tuesday, September 8th: FULL PRICE PATTERNS**
  • Wednesday, September 9th: NOTIONS
  • Thursday, September 10th: BOOKS
  • Friday, September 11th: FLOWERS
  • Saturday, September 12th: RIBBONS
  • Sunday, September 13th: BUTTONS
  • Monday, September 14th: BOOKS
  • Tuesday, September 15th: FLOWERS
  • Wednesday, September 16th: BUTTONS
  • Thursday, September 17th: FULL PRICE PATTERNS**
  • Friday, September 18th: BUTTONS
  • Saturday, September 19th: NOTIONS
  • Sunday, September 20th: RIBBONS

We hope you can join us for the sale! It’s too good to pass up!

*Sorry, some items not discounted during sale including classes, remnants, and sale items. Discount is limited to in-stock items only and will not be applied to special orders.

**Full price patterns include Burda, Decades of Style, Folkwear, Grainline Studio, KwikSew, Liesl+Co, Sewing Workshop, and more! Patterns from Vogue, Butterick, and McCall’s are still 40% off, every day.

Get to know a Nancy’s employee: SPECIAL EDITION!

Today I am sharing a particularly exciting edition of the ‘get to know’ interview series. In celebration of Nancy’s Sewing Basket’s 37th anniversary*, I sat down with Nancy (yes, that Nancy!) and her mother Jackie, who owns NSB, to learn more about the store itself and the people who started it.

NSB - gtk nancys header

The original shop location, with a familiar face sweeping in front

Tell me a bit about the shop. What inspired you to open a fabric store?
Nancy:
My mother and father wanted to open a retail shop on Queen Anne. We talked about an Italian deli but opted for a fabric store. Quite a leap! Both my mother and I loved to sew, but we were tired of being in the middle of a project and having to get dressed up to take the bus to downtown Seattle to purchase notions, patterns, and fabric at Frederick & Nelson. This was at a time when you did not go downtown without looking your best!

Jackie: I remember Nancy really hated having to leave Queen Anne for a spool of thread. Opening a fabric store in our neighborhood was a good solution.

Did you have much experience in retail prior to opening Nancy’s?
Jackie: No. Well, the truth is when I was about 14/15 years old, I ran an ice cream shop in my hometown in North Dakota. I never ate a drop of ice cream the whole time I worked there because the previous shopkeep – a relative of the owner – got fired for eating ice cream. We were open year round, though summer was our busiest season. I did that for about two years.

My husband, John, loved business and was very interested in starting one of his own, which is why we went for it.

Nancy: No retail experience at all. I studied hard in high school taking bookkeeping, business, and economics classes. When living in Arizona, I took some accounting classes at the local community college.

I was very nervous during the first months the shop was open. Since I had very little schooling in sewing techniques/fibers/etc. I was sure everyone who came into the shop knew so much more than me. But, what I learned is that you treat everyone politely and answer their questions the best you can. When I did not know the answer, I got back to the customer with the proper information. My mother and I had so much fun talking with, helping, and building very loyal customers and friends.

Tell me a bit about the early days.
Nancy: The original shop – where Caffé Ladro is today – was so small.

Jackie: We had fabric reps who originally refused to even come into the shop because it was so small! The first storefront was a small, cramped space. We worked in very tight quarters; there was barely room to move behind each other at the cutting counter! We met with reps in a tiny room you could hardly turn around in. But right off the bat, we made decent sales.

Nancy: Yes, we were successful enough to expand into the two north spaces (originally a beauty shop and a real estate office) by our third year.

The first shop was not fancy and was so jam-packed with fabric (everything from quilting cottons to woolens to imported French laces), notions, buttons, yarn, and patterns. Jackie and I loved to buy lovely things. We wanted to carry everything! We wanted to be the local fabric store our customers could count on to find what they needed.

Jackie: Nancy, John, and I spent a lot of time in the shop over the years; it was real work.

How has Nancy’s changed over the years? 
Nancy: 
When we purchased the last space on our block of Queen Anne Avenue and built our permanent location, the shop started looking more organized.  Jackie and I worked with an architect to create a space we thought would reflect the character of Queen Anne and work for our purposes. Today, with the ideas and creativity of the Nancy’s staff the shop looks amazingly beautiful. It is like Nancy’s has grown up from our very humble beginning.

My one disappointment is that Nancy’s now has the reputation of being very expensive. Yes, we have some very special fabric and it is expensive. But, we also have the basics!

Jackie: Well, the store has changed in some ways I didn’t originally expect. Like Nancy said, we now carry a lot of special fabric that can be expensive. I always loved notions and the supplies that contribute to making small crafts. While we still offer a lot in the way of notions (Ellen does a great job with our notions department) and we have a nice selection of craft materials, we don’t really carry all those crafting supplies anymore. That isn’t what I anticipated.

What is your current role at Nancy’s?
Nancy: I do the daily bookkeeping and set the budget for all the departments. I keep in touch with the shop management via email and telephone on a daily basis. And, I still participate in the most fun stuff: buying the lovely fabric we offer to our customers.

I must say I miss being at the shop. It was such a huge part of my life for a very long time. It was so special to work with all our customers.

Jackie: I’m on the back burner. I talk to the store every day to keep up on what is happening, what’s selling well, what kinds of projects people are doing. Mostly just supervising from a distance. I still like to participate in buying fabric!

Do you have a favorite memory of running the store?
Jackie:
I have a few favorite memories. One time, in the early days, I had a customer who came in looking for Velcro. I hadn’t ever really used it and, in my unfamiliarity, I accidentally sold them only one side! I was so embarrassed. They never did come back for the other half…

Another time, in our first space, a customer came in asking if we carried woolens. I very proudly showed him to the wool section, which at the time contained just three bolts!

One more: for several years, Nancy’s would put on fashion shows, where all the staff would make an ensemble and then wear it in a runway show. One year, one of our staff was a bit behind in her sewing and to complete it on time she used glue to finish her last few seams. It was a workable solution; she got to wear it on the runway!

Nancy: Over the 23 years that I was at the shop daily, there are too many to mention. Okay, here’s one: I am a punctual, on-time person.  Even though I was always at the shop on time, my dad often beat me to the shop and that annoyed me at the time. But looking back, it was so fun to see him sweeping the sidewalk, always there to say hello. It was very special. He loved the shop and that is why our building has a memorial plaque in his honor.

Let’s switch gears a little; I want to know more about you. When did you learn to sew and what was your first project?
Nancy: My mother taught me the basics of sewing at a very young age. In high school, I took the required course of home economics. Mrs. Hayes was the home ec teacher at Queen Anne High School and Oh! My! Gosh!! My first project was a hand sewing sampler and you were either lucky or talented if you passed that! I passed, not sure if I was talented or lucky! 😉 Then we moved on to the machines to make an apron with perfect seams. She was like a drill sergeant but, oh my did you learn the proper way to sew.

Jackie: I started with embroidery work when I was 8; that was my first fight with a needle and thread.

When I got older, I learned how to sew clothing because I wanted to go to the school basketball games. You see, it cost money, which I didn’t have, to go to the games. Then I figured out that if I joined the band, I could get in for free. I stabbed at the clarinet, and could really only hit a C note, but they still let me play. But back to learning how to sew: in order to be in the band, you had to have a pair of white pants. Those, like tickets to the game, cost money that I didn’t have. My first sewing project was my pair of white pants for playing in the band. I joined the home economics class and got enough help from the teacher that I completed the pants! I think she must have helped me with all the buttonholes, because I don’t remember putting in a zipper.

Do you still sew much? How do you spend your time now?
Jackie:
No, I can’t really do that any more. I work on all sorts of paperwork for another business. I also spend time with my three littlest granddaughters (twins who are two years old and a baby who is one). They are very well-behaved and so fun.

Nancy: I do not sew much anymore, although I have great plans to get up to my sewing room someday soon when my life finally slows down! I joke with friends that my sewing these last years has been repairing horse blankets.

After managing the shop for 13 years and then commuting to Queen Anne from my farm, south of Olympia, for another 13 years, I decided to semi-retire. Since I know the shop is in good hands under the management of Tamara and Kitrina with the help of our amazing staff, I can relax.

These days I spend my time with my horses. I train and have competed the last 19 years at dressage with my amazing Morgan geldings. My husband, Bill, and I  have been on many trail rides, rides at the beach and weekends spent riding and camping in the National Forest Wilderness.

Of course, living on a farm, there are the annual garden veggies that need to be processed.  So, I am busy, busy.

My husband and I love to travel.  We have had some amazing adventures in the last 20 years.

Did you have a special focus in sewing?
Jackie: Well, my sewing was pretty basic. I primarily made simple clothes for my grandchildren: tee shirts, nightgowns, and pajama pants. I didn’t sew much for myself. I made a couple of dresses over the years, and I still have a shirt that I made that turned out very well. I’m not a particularly accomplished seamstress, but I was good with the basics.

Nancy: I did a little of everything – tailoring, sewing for my boys and family, always having a project in the works. I especially liked making Halloween costumes for my boys – fun, creative, and you did not have to have the perfect fit!!  And: they loved it.

Jackie: Nancy was a really talented seamstress. All her garments were finished impeccably; she could wear them inside-out!

Do you have a favorite or most memorable sewing project?
Jackie: One year, when my younger son was around 12 years old, I made rain-capes for him and his football team out of a waterproof material. It was a simple silhouette, not much more than a hole for the head and a couple of seams on the sides, but it was a fun project. I must have been the only mom who could – or would – make them!

Nancy: I made the most beautiful hot pink – but not hot pink – wool crepe dress with bias cut matching silk binding from a Vogue pattern, more difficult than I had imagined. It was for an especially fancy New Years Eve event. After 40 hours of constructing this dress I was finishing the hand work until the minute before we left! I felt like a princess in it.

Thank you so much, Jackie and Nancy! This was a really fun interview and I have an even greater appreciation for the shop and its history!

*the Nancy’s Sewing Basket anniversary sale will begin on Monday, September 7th. For more details, please check out our website.

Thanks for reading this special interview! If you have any questions for Nancy or Jackie, please leave them in the comments below!