Category Archives: NSB Interviews

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!

Get to know a Nancy’s employee: Kristina

I am excited for today’s interview; join me as we “get to know” Nancy’s employee Kristina. She is an important component of our team, who takes care of ordering buttons for the store, has a great eye for arranging fabrics, and is one of the most patient people I’ve ever met.

NSB - get to know kristina

Who are you?
I’m Kristina.

How long have you worked at Nancy’s?
I guess twelve years? I started about eighteen years ago and left after about nine years to get my cosmetology and esthetician licenses. I returned to work the Sunday shift a couple years ago and have picked up a few additional days as there has been need.

How long have you been sewing?
I started in 7th grade home economics, but I’ve always been around sewers. My grandmother sewed clothes all the time and my mother made dolls.

Do you have a special focus?
No, not really. I manufactured children’s clothing for 18 months about ten years ago. It was a LOT of work for not a lot of money, so I stopped, though I love making clothes for little girls.

NSB - kl girls dress

Kristina’s daughter in a linen dress.

NSB - kl sunflower dress

Cutie in a sunflower dress, made by Kristina

NSB - kl kids clothes

Kristina’s daughter, sporting a dress she made, and her son.

These days, I primarily sew bags, pillows, and other small projects. I also make dolls.

NSB - kl skeleton doll

A soft body doll with skeleton applique and great printed legs.

I also spin my own yarns and knit them. I’m interested in how things are put together, which is why I started spinning. I took a weaving course in college, which was incredibly inspirational.

What was your first sewing project?
My very first sewing projects were done in school. I made a pair of shorts, followed by an apron. After I learned to sew, I started picking up pieces at thrift stores to alter them. One time, I found a wedding dress at the thrift store and altered it for a Renaissance Faire.

What is your most recently completed project?
[laughs] I have a bunch of half-done projects and fully conceptualized projects! As soon as my kids go back to school, I’ll have more time to sew.

NSB - kl doll hand in progress

Work in progress: a soft sculpted doll hand, showing the inner armature, built from real pipe cleaners. The red nubs in the pipe cleaners help grip the stuffing inside the body, which allows for better positioning.

I think the most recently completed garment is the dress I made from one of the Italian shirting cottons for my two-year-old niece. We displayed it at the Sew Expo back in February. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the dress before it was gifted to my niece.

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
I think my favorite project is the Willy Wonka costume I made for my daughter when she was about ten. It was modeled after the costume worn by Johnny Depp (Gene Wilder’s performance always terrified her). That costume got a lot of use, too, as my son used it for dress up after my daughter was done with it. Once, when my son was five, he wore it to the barbershop; the barber said he looked like a pimp, in his velvet blazer and top hat. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures!

What project is next?
I’m working on some dolls: some made out of cloth, some will have hands and heads sculpted of clay.

NSB - kl doll torso front

This fabric doll is being needle sculpted and will then be painted. Kristina uses the sketched lines as guides for stitching additional dimension into the doll’s body.

NSB - kl doll torso side

From the side, you can see more of the dimension that has been added to the face through needle sculpting.

NSB - kl doll hands

These hands also have wire armatures, built from pipe cleaners, which allows the fingers to be posed. The hand on the left has already received some detailing with a needle and thread, the hand on the right awaits the same treatment.

NSB - kl doll feet

Like the hands above, one foot has started being needle sculpted (right) and the other is untouched. Stitches define toes and a small dart creates an arch in the foot.

I have some ideas for a few dolls that are inspired by sideshow attractions and oddities. I’ve always been fascinated by anomalies. For example, I want to do a set of conjoined twin babies.

What do you love most about Nancy’s?
It’s like family! And you get to play with fabrics all day, so what’s not to like? It’s great being surrounded by color and texture all day; it’s nice to come to work and just be inspired.

Thanks for sharing your works in progress, Kristina! The construction of your doll is fascinating and I am excited to see it completed!

Have any questions for Kristina? Leave them in the comments below.

Interview with a store department: woolens

As August begins it’s descent into September, we are beginning to think about changing leaves and autumn wardrobes. While this summer in Seattle has been incredibly beautiful and sunny, we would be lying if we said we weren’t excited for a little fall drizzle.

In anticipation of the harvest season – and the Nancy’s Sewing Basket anniversary sale! – we decided it would be fun to have a chat with the woolens department 🙂

NSB - woolens header

Who are you?
Hi, I am the wool department.

Where do you reside at Nancy’s?
I live in the center of the store, toward the back. I used to reside in a long row of tables in the back right section of the store, but since we rearranged, I am now in a cluster by the main walkway. I’m enjoying the brightness of being under several skylights.

NSB - woolens new location

The new location is arranged in a way that is fabulous for browsing.

Do you have a special focus?
I house all of the woolen and woolen-blend fabrics, both woven and knit, which are perfect for suiting, coats, dresses, skirts, and more. I am also home to all of the specialty animal fibers, like cashmere and camel hair.

What is your most recently received product?
In preparation for the fall season and the Nancy’s anniversary sale (which begins on Labor Day…), we just received a large shipment of woolens. We got in a lot of beautiful basics and interesting novelties.

Among the latest shipment is a small grouping of 100% wool crepe, fiber-dyed in the prettiest colors. Each color way has an interesting depth of hue. I think they would make a lovely dress or match set, like a tailored woven tee and a pencil skirt.

NSB - woolens new crepes

New wool crepes in exquisite colors: grey, brown, olive, and blue-grey.

Another interesting piece that arrived in the latest shipment is a twill-weave coating with a brushed surface that is comprised of 65% rabbit hair 35% wool. I believe the fiber is Angora rabbit hair, because it has the softest hand. It is incredibly luxurious and would make a sumptuous winter coat.

NSB - woolens specialty fibers

Three bolts of brushed woolen fabrics made with specialty fibers. From left: black fluffy mohair/wool, black rabbit hair/wool twill, and brown heather wool/cashmere/mink.

Do you have a current favorite product?
I am a big fan of the Italian 100% cashmere coatings that we carry. We have solids and patterns, all of which are simply gorgeous.

NSB - woolens cashmere

Incredible Italian cashmere in beautiful solids and exquisite textures and patterns.

We also have a nice selection of real Harris tweeds. Harris tweeds used to be narrow and very stiff, but we are lucky enough to carry what I think of as the ‘new generation’ of Harris tweeds: beautifully finished with an incredibly soft hand and 60″ wide.

NSB - woolens Harris tweeds

Gorgeous Harris tweeds! These are just begging to be tailored into a hacking jacket or a lovely little skirt.

Any favorite projects you’ve seen made from your wares?
This could easily be a very long list. We have sold so much wool throughout the years!

Right now, I am excited to see what the staff at Nancy’s creates for display during the anniversary sale. They are recreating several runway looks and many of them are using wools. I know there will be a D&G-inspired dress and a Marc Jacobs-inspired jacket & skirt ensemble, among others.  It will definitely be worth a visit to the shop when the sale is on to check out the different looks!

Thanks, woolens! We are also excited to see how the runway looks turn out! If you have any questions about materials shown in this post, let us know in the comments below, or by calling us at 206-282-9112 or 800-443-2964.

All pictures in this post copyright of Nancy’s Sewing Basket, LLC. Special thanks to Kam Martin for taking the picture used in the header.

Meet a friend of Nancy’s: Candace Kling

Today we are thrilled to share an interview with someone who is very special to Nancy’s Sewing Basket. She is a vendor, a friend, and an artist. You may know her as author of the exquisite book The Artful Ribbon, who also teaches workshops in our store.

Please welcome ribbon goddess, Candace Kling.

NSB - meet Candace Kling header

Who are you?
Candace Kling, Oakland CA

What is your business?
My tax return says artist/teacher.

How did you get started?
I studied flat pattern drafting at a local junior college, later teaching it, as well as dress-form-making, at the California College of Arts and Crafts. I made custom wedding dresses for a one-of-a-kind, handmade clothing store called Sew What in Berkeley, California. My husband and I made hand-painted clothing using Inkodye.

In the 1980s, I worked at Bizarre Bazaar, a vintage clothing store in Oakland, California. Since then, I have been researching ribbon and fabric embellishment (mainly on garments and accessories). I’ve traveled around the country exploring museum costume and textile collections, private holdings, and libraries with vintage sewing books and periodicals. I’ve coupled those travels with a busy schedule of lecturing and teaching all the techniques that I have learned and continue to learn. My book, The Artful Ribbon, seems still to be a favorite among ribbon fans.

From the onset of my discovery of this wealth of vintage knowledge, I have tried to incorporate parts of it into my own artwork. My richly detailed textile sculptures (helmets and headdresses as well as diminutive candy boxes and monumental waterfalls) have been exhibited nationally and internationally over the last 30 years and are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Arts and Design and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and The Oakland Museum of California.

‘Red Rainbow’ by Candace Kling, 1980.

‘Cobra’ by Candace Kling, 1986.

‘Love with a Bite’ by Candace Kling, 1988.

‘White’ by Candace Kling, 1980.

What is your connection with Nancy’s Sewing Basket?
In February 1994 I presented my artwork (helmets and headdresses) and taught ribbon classes at Costume Con 12 in Santa Clara, California. Agnes Gawne (costumer and most excellent instructor of fashion history at Seattle’s New York Fashion Academy) took one of my classes and liked what she learned. She returned to Seattle and convinced Nancy’s store manager Tamara to hold ribbon classes sponsored by the store in conjunction with NYFA. I’ve been coming to NSB periodically ever since. It is such a bonus for my students to have a ribbon room and a ribbon expert extraordinaire (Susan, the ‘ribbon lady’) “in house”. But the real bonus…girlfriends!

NSB - CK bunting for Oak Mus - hist document

Bunting made for a 19th century document at The Oakland Museum of California history section.

What is your most recently released product or completed project?
Victory is measured in increments. So rather than being able to report publication of my second book (focusing on fabric flowers), I can say that I have been working all this year on it. Three hundred images are mostly edited to perfection and eight chapters are pretty darn smooth.

Candace Kling fabric flowers board

Examples of fabric flowers made by Candace Kling.

Candace Kling cabochons board

Candace Kling created these cabochon style flowers from fabric and ribbon.

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
In 2005 I participated in a “wedding” themed show at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco CA. I created “Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls”, a 15-foot-tall textile sculpture. I worked on the piece for four months, pressing, stitching, gathering and tacking, 250 yards of fabric at least. Throughout, the work lived sideways on a long table in a low-ceilinged room. Only on gallery-moving day did it take its upright position.

‘Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls’ by Candace Kling, 2005. Photo by John Bagley.

It was my biggest “Tada!” moment ever. So much bigger than me, and in my mind’s eye that day, magnificent.

A true ‘Tada!’ Candace Kling at installation.

What is next?
Back to the book!

Thank you so much, Candace! It sounds like you are making excellent progress on your book! As always, we are very excited to host your upcoming classes.

If you are interested in taking a workshop with Candace in October, please head over to our website to view our class schedule.

Photographs in this post are courtesy of Candace Kling. If you would like to learn more about Candace, and see more pictures of her work, check out her website CandaceKling.com. Additional pictures of her work can also be found on Patrice Krem’s pinterest board. Photograph in header by Debbie Bone-Harris.

Interview with a store department: the quilt shop

In a similar vein to our interviews with Nancy’s employees, I have a fun new series planned for the NSB blog! Let’s get to know the store, one department at a time!

NSB - quilt shop header

Who are you?
Hello! I am the quilt shop at Nancy’s!

Where do you reside at Nancy’s Sewing Basket?
We recently rearranged a few sections of the store and now I live just inside the front doors, to the right of the stairs.

NSB - quilt shop angle view

It’s especially great because I get a lot of natural light through the big front window, so it is easy to color match. I love my new location!

NSB - quilt shop birds eye view

Do you have a special focus?
I specialize in fabrics that are appropriate for quilt making and craft projects. I house all the printed and solid cotton broadcloth, along with some cotton/linen blends that are suitable for quilting. If you are looking for fun, bright prints, this is likely where you will find them!

NSB - quilt shop low view

I also house the quilt batting-by-the-yard. We have a lovely selection in a variety of qualities: light and lofty polyester batting, heirloom quality washable wool batting, classic cotton batting, and a nice cotton/rayon from bamboo blend that has an exquisite drape.

What is your most recently received product?
We just got in a fabulous set of Halloween themed prints, that I adore. One of the prints is actually designed as bunting, featuring a few different motifs, so it’s a fun and fast-to-complete project!

NSB - Halloween bunting

The collection also includes a large panel print that I think will make an awesome wall hanging or banner to display for Halloween! I love the historical costuming aspect, in addition to the wordplay. It is ‘sew scary’!

NSB - Halloween panel print

Do you have a current favorite product?
Nancy’s recently started carrying a fabulous new line of prints called Cotton + Steel, which are incredibly charming and come on a variety of base cloths. While the majority of the prints are on cotton broadcloth, C+S also makes lovely cotton lawn, cool linen/cotton canvas, sumptuous cotton double gauze, and smooth rayon challis. We’ve received two shipments so far and I love every single print.

NSB - C+S prints

Any favorite projects you’ve seen made from your wares?
One of my favorite projects is something called a “me doll”. The local schools make them every year, meaning we get a rush of enthusiastic younger students who come in looking for fabrics that represent them, which they usually find among the cotton prints. I’ve never actually seen a finished doll, but I imagine them to be perfect and adorable.

Thanks, quilt shop! Any questions about what is available in this department? Let us know in the comments below!

Get to know a Nancy’s employee: Kitrina

Today we “get to know” our talented and prolific assistant store manager for Nancy’s Sewing Basket! She is the person responsible for the incredible 1927 Cloud Cape that we featured earlier this year. She also teaches our fabulous embroidery class: Hand Embroidery Basics! NSB - get to know kitrina Who are you? Hi! I’m Kitrina. How long have you worked at Nancy’s? I started when my youngest went to kindergarten. She turned 21 last week, so I’ve been with the store for 16 years. Although, before she was even born, I taught smocking classes at Nancy’s when we still had a classroom space.

NSB - kitrina smocking blue dress

NSB - kitrina smocking detail A smocked dress, with detail.

How long have you been sewing?
I’ve been sewing since I was six years old.

Do you have a special focus?
I like handwork. I love embroidery and embellishing, though I do all kinds of things. What do they say? ‘Jack of all trades, master of none.’

[editor’s note: I don’t agree. I feel like Kitrina is very much a master of anything she does.]

I’m adopted and my family of origin didn’t really keep stuff, but creating keepsakes for my own family gives me a charge. I have this embroidered piece that my great-grandmother made when she was eight. I put my spirit into the things I make, hoping that my work will keep me alive long after I’m gone.

I’ve had several focuses of interest, including heirloom sewing, smocking, and different kinds of embroidery, including crewel work.

NSB - kitrina heirloom christening gown

The christening gown Kitrina made for her daughter using washed silk dupioni. She says at the baptism, the priest asked how long this had been in the family and she was delighted to say, “About two weeks!”

NSB - kitrina heirloom inscription

The hand embroidered inscription on the gown lining.

NSB - kitrina heirloom set

The full set: christening gown, bonnet, and booties.

NSB - kitrina pink set

A cotton dress and under-dress featuring heirloom sewing techniques and trimmings.

NSB - kitrina pink inscription

A sweet embroidered inscription on the under-dress.

NSB - kitrina crewel baa blanket

A fun example of crewel work with applique and embroidery.

NSB - kitrina crewel baa detail

The bodies of these incredible sheep are made from french knots!

NSB - kitrina crewel pink blanket

Another blanket featuring crewel work.

Love the texture on the butterfly!

Love the texture on the butterfly!

NSB - kitrina crewel bumble bee

This bumble bee is three dimensional!

NSB - kitrina crewel snail trail

Check out that glistening snail trail!

What was your first sewing project?
Pre-printed pillowcases that my aunty gave me to embroider. She said, very seriously, ‘you can embroider these and give them to me for Christmas,’ which I did. This arrangement continued for many years until the one time I didn’t give them back and she stopped providing them to me. They were a great way to keep my hands busy.

What is your most recently completed project?
I take on projects for clients and I recently completed custom construction and alterations for four different brides. It was a fun and exciting spring wedding season, but I’m happy to have more time to work on other projects.

In my personal work, I recently created a keepsake memory pillow for my daughter’s twenty-first birthday. She had asked for us to have our portrait taken together, but I wasn’t really feeling it. Instead, I found lots of pictures of us from her lifetime (special thanks to my husband for always having a camera around!), which I printed onto fabric and then embellished with handwork.

NSB - kitrina memory pillow Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
Most memorable was the first play that I costumed: The Lion King, for a local school. I’d never really done something of that scale before – there were 40 students in the production and zero budget. I soft sculpted headdresses out of fabric to make giraffes, elephants, a zebra, the lions, Rafiki the baboon, Timon the meerkat and Pumba the warthog, the three hyenas, and a chorus of singers. It was all very effective.

NSB - kitrina tlk simba

Simba’s headdress

NSB - kitrina tlk hyenas

Two of the three hyenas. Kitrina put Ed’s eyeballs on springs so they were especially erratic looking (on the left).

NSB - kitrina tlk timon

Timon was a favorite costume.

In my personal work, I have a number of favorite, ongoing projects. I make boxers for my sons using the Italian shirting cottons offered at Nancy’s (I don’t think my sons have worn store-bought underwear since they were children). The quality of the fabric is incomparable; the elastic breaks down and the thread wears out, but the fabric remains intact. It’s awesome.

I also have eighty 10” x 10” crazy quilt squares that I work on little by little. My intention is to make the squares into four different throws: one quilt for myself and one for each of my three children.

Working at Nancy’s over the years, I have had opportunity to collect beautiful scraps of fabrics. One of my favorite things about crazy quilts is that small scraps are very effective.

When I decided to start working on this project, I went through my stash and started pulling anything in a palette of browns, golds, soft blues, and pinks. I began each block with a brown center, and then built around it with fabrics and embellishments.

NSB - kitrina crazy quilt squares

Nine of Kitrina’s 80 (!) crazy quilt squares

NSB - kitrina crazy quilt single block

A single block, chosen at random.

NSB - kitrina crazy quilt brown center

The brown center provides a subtle foundation for the embellishment and colors surrounding.

I work on a block until I’m tired of looking at it, then move on to another. Sometimes I will ‘audition’ a trim or an embroidery motif to decide if I like it; on occasion, I remove an embellishment.

Here are a few detail shots from different blocks: NSB - kitrina crazy quilt rich purple flowerNSB - kitrina crazy quilt velvet flowers NSB - kitrina crazy quilt scrolling vine NSB - kitrina crazy quilt sunflower detail

What project is next?
A beautiful iridescent chiffon gown for a Mother of the Groom. I am using a muted palette of mossy greens and soft golds. It’s for a destination wedding in Napa Valley. It is going to be such a fabulous event and I’m happy to be making something so incredible for it.

For myself: a new summer wardrobe! I am in love with the tunic pattern that is used in the DEF class and I’m currently working on renditions five, six, and seven.

What do you love most about Nancy’s?
The visual beauty of the store; it’s very nurturing to my spirit. And the women friends. I also really appreciate the owner of the store; it’s nice that they appreciate their staff.

Thanks so much to Kitrina for sharing her gorgeous work with us! Any questions for her? Leave them in the comments!

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

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.