Tag Archives: custom sewing

Get to know a Nancy’s employee: Izzie

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.

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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.

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Izzie models a gorgeous pink cloche constructed from vintage straw braid, trimmed with a ribbon rose handmade using Candace Kling’s techniques.

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.NSB - IzzieLewis felt hat from scrap

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 make garments for myself on occasion. My most recent garment was the sheer overdress/printed cotton underdress for the Nancy’s anniversary sale.

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.

NSB - IzzieLewis parisisal straw vintage roses and veiling

A parisisal straw hat is trimmed with vintage veiling and roses

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.

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Scraps from at least five different hats come together to create this fantastic cloche

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!

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Hat blocks used for The Great Blocking Marathon

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).

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‘Whimsy’ is perfectly captured by curvilinear form and vintage blossoms

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.

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Vintage irises are the perfect trimming for this sinamay straw hat

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.

Meet a friend of Nancy’s: Marie Cooley of Fitting Room Corsets

Today, I am excited to introduce you to another friend of Nancy’s! She is a talented seamstress and the proprietor of Seattle’s premiere custom corset shop. Please welcome Marie Cooley.

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Who are you?
I am Marie Cooley of Fitting Room Corsets.

What is your business?
I’m a corset maker, making custom corsets. That means I take your measurements, make a designated pattern for you, and make a corset from fabrics that you select. I do all the work in my Seattle workroom.

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Marie Cooley’s Fitting Room

As a corset maker, I work in fulfilling peoples’ fantasies. It’s amazing. Everybody has a thing like, “I saw Gone with the Wind and I want to wear a pretty Scarlett O’Hara dress…” and then they come to learn that they really like to wear corsets; it feels good to wear them. You feel presented; your posture is better, when you stand up straight, you immediately look better.

I make between 100 and 200 corsets per year.

How did you get started?
I have been a dressmaker since I was 14 and started sewing for money. I was an all-purpose dressmaker for twenty years. My major skill-set is sewing; it’s what I do.

I started doing historical costuming pretty early on and the first thing I learned was that I needed corsets to make the dresses look good. And all corsets really grow out of historical pattern work.NSB-MCFR-renaissance georgian style

After I made a few corsets for myself to wear with costumes, I learned that not everyone likes to make corsets. It’s very exacting, it’s drafting, it’s minutiae, it’s little details and engineering. I’m kind of a frustrated engineer, but I like the engineering part.

So, I started making corsets for other people. And I discovered that it is something I like to do and can charge an appropriate price for the amount of work. And the other advantage to corsets is they are small; they don’t take up a huge amount of material and they don’t take up a lot of space in my workroom.NSB-MCFR-deep plunge

How long have you been acquainted with Nancy’s?
Oh gosh! Since before Nancy’s moved into the building it’s in now. It used to be in a smaller space, which was very dark! [editor’s note: Nancy’s started in the space currently occupied by Caffe Ladro] I remember going into that location just when you were getting ready to move and you were having a big sale.

Nancy’s is my home away from home. It’s a great store and I don’t know what I would ever do without it.

What is your most recently released product or completed project?
I just finished a pretty standard corset. It’s not the most exciting corset I’ve ever made: it’s made from a simple fabric in the under-bust style that reminds me a bit of my mother’s girdles.NSB-MCFR-waistcincher

At a given time, I might have anywhere from one corset to a dozen in process.

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
I have made many memorable corsets over the years, from corsets for a pirate reenactor to a corset made for a goth bride. One memorable corset was made for a fantasy-style wedding. This bride had purchased a bolt of three-dimensional fabric, with all this decoration on it. I initially thought it would be impossible for me to work with and for her to wear. For the most part, however, the fabric itself just made a great corset. I did not add anything to the fabric, though I did take a few pieces and judiciously place them where they needed to be.NSB - fitting room corsets fantasy

The bride also made a skirt using the same fabric and she wore the ensemble with fairy wings. It turned out so beautiful and looked great on her.

I’ve also done a few fashion shows. In 2010, I collaborated with Tamara on a fashion collection of Steampunk garments, which showed in the SteamCon II fashion show. We set out to go very far out on a limb, to push the whole Steampunk aesthetic. Though that movement has delved a little bit into the eighteenth century, the overall aesthetic of Steampunk hasn’t changed much. We wanted to show ideas that were fresh and new.

I thought it was a great collection, though it did not seem to resonate as much with the audience as we’d hoped. I loved doing this show; I was very proud of what we did.

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Marie & Tamara and their wild weird west circus

What is next?
In terms of corsets, I am working on something for a cosplay that is a variation on Harley Quinn. This sketch has my scratchy little notes, but you can see the basic shape with the high back and shoulder straps. I was worried it would take a lot of fitting, but when the customer tried it on, it fit just right! It’s going to have alternating black and red panels, with a black & white diamond print in the center front. I’m excited and eager to get this one done!

I also have a grand class in the works! I’ve done one-on-one classes and intensive workshops, but I want to teach the full construction process in a larger setting.


Thanks so much, Marie! It was great to see so much of your work and learn a bit about the world of custom corsets. I am very excited to hear about your grand class; I’ll keep an eye out for more details!

If you have any questions for Marie, please leave them in the comments below! Interested in a corset of your very own? Visit her website to learn more about her work and how to order. And don’t forget to follow her on Facebook!

Photos of corsets, costumes, and the Fitting Room workroom are courtesy of Marie Cooley and may not be used without express permission.