I am very excited to share today’s “get to know” interview. In addition to working in our Ribbon Room every Tuesday, this employee is also a talented Seattle milliner. As she is both an employee and a friend of Nancy’s, this extended interview includes questions we ask of our vendor friends! Please join me in welcoming Izzie.
Who are you?
I’m Izzie Lewis and I am a milliner. I also work at Nancy’s.
How long have you been acquainted with Nancy’s? How long have you worked at Nancy’s?
I’ve been acquainted with Nancy’s for 20 years or so, through millinery and classes with Candace Kling.
I think I started working at Nancy’s in 2008, so I’ve been with the store for about 8 years.
How long have you been sewing?
Well, I’ve been sewing for as long as I can remember, but I was in second grade the first time I sewed a garment from a pattern.
What was your first sewing project?
I made a little cotton top with a sailor collar that zipped up the front. It was very cute. It had little puffed sleeves. The fabric was navy blue with white anchors.
Tell me about your business.
I make custom hats and I teach hat making in my studio in West Seattle. I work in straw, felt, and fabric, and find that whatever material I am working with at the time is my favorite. That can make it difficult to change seasons.
How did you get started in millinery?
I started making hats when I found out that you could actually make hats. It hadn’t really occurred to me before that. I used to wear a lot of vintage hats, so when I found out I could make them myself I started pursuing hat making.
I actually met a hat maker – Wayne Wichern – while shopping at a fabric store in downtown Seattle. I was wearing a hat and he came up to me and said, “I really like your hat. I am a hat maker, if you’d ever like to have a hat made…” and I was like, “What? I can have a hat made?!” I had him make a hat for me and it was through that experience that I started studying with him. Years later, he explained that the day we met, he had just picked up his business cards and he was so excited about it that he came right up to me and gave me a card. He said that he wouldn’t have done that except that he was excited to have business cards.
My background is in architecture, which is still that idea of constructing things. When I began making hats, the architecture firm where I worked – Workshop 3D – had a gallery within the space. My boss asked me to do a millinery show, so I started putting together group shows every spring and fall. These shows became one of the foundations of the millinery community in Seattle.
What is your most recently completed project?
I’m also currently completing a variety of straw hats for a group hat show, which is happening on Saturday, April 2nd. The show, which I am doing as part of the Millinery Artisan Group Northwest, takes place 10am-4pm, at the Phinney Neighborhood Center.
Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
I did a fun project in 2015, which started out as a little tweed top hat. I bought a yard of fabric and made the top hat. I had fabric left over, so I thought I’d make another hat. I made a cloche, and there was still fabric remaining, so I made a little cap. Then I just decided to keep on going until I had used every scrap of fabric. I think I ended up with seven or eight hats, the last one being this tiny headpiece on a headband.
It was a fun project that kind of developed on its own, but is in keeping with what I like to do, which is use scraps. One of my signature hats is a felt hat that is made of scraps and pieces left over from other hats.
Another memorable project was The Great Blocking Marathon. I invited students (former and current) and local hat makers to help block nearly every form that I have in the studio. We worked for 2 days, with a break to sleep and we blocked approximately 50 hats!
What project is next?
This coming Saturday, April 2nd I have the group show at the Phinney Neighborhood Center. I will be there selling spring and summer hats. There will also be a special exhibit as part of the show: we were given a millinery challenge to create an “elemental” hat. The hat I am contributing evokes the element of whimsy. It was created from the scraps of an oddly sized straw cartwheel, which I combined with some vintage trims (editor’s note: “cartwheel” is a name for a large, unblocked piece of straw or felt).
In general, I’m working my way through a lot of the vintage trimmings and do-dads in my studio, attempting to use them all. For most of my hats, the trims are an integral part of the design, not just added on. For this new project, it’s more that I am making these hats and adding these vintage pieces. The challenge is: am I taking these vintage materials and making pieces that look like vintage pieces, or am I taking these vintage materials and creating something that looks new and fresh? I’d love to be able to have my pieces look fresh and modern.
What do you love most about Nancy’s?
Well, the Ribbon Room, of course! I love all of the conversations about different design ideas that happen in the store, and how helpful and knowledgeable the staff is. And seeing all the projects that people bring into the shop.
Thanks, Izzie! It is such a delight to see what our very talented staff creates!
If you are interested in contacting Izzie about having a custom hat made, or in taking classes with her, find her on Facebook or her website. And if you are in the Seattle area this coming Saturday, April 2nd, be sure to check out her show at the Phinney Neighborhood Center! More details can be found on the show’s event page here.
All photographs in this post courtesy of Nancy’s Sewing Basket and Izzie Lewis and may not be used without express permission.