Tag Archives: get to know Nancy’s employees

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.

NSB - gtk izzielewis header

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.

NSB - IzzieLewis pink straw

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.

NSB - IzzieLewis felt cloche made from scrap

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!

NSB - izzielewis great blocking marathon

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).

NSB - IzzieLewis hat element of whimsy

‘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.

NSB - IzzieLewis sinamay straw vintage irises

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.

Get to know a Nancy’s employee: Ellen

For our first interview of 2016, I sat down with the employee who oversees our wonderful notions department, ensuring that we can cut out our patterns, pin our pieces together, and sew all the seams! She’s also an active member in our neighborhood and Chair of the Queen Anne Community Council. Please welcome Ellen.

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Who are you?
Ellen Monrad.

How long have you worked at Nancy’s?
I don’t really remember…I started when my son was in fifth or sixth grade, around 1996.

How long have you been sewing?
Since I joined 4-H when I was 10.

Do you have a special focus?
Myself! [laughs]

NSB - gtke corduroy top

An ensemble for Ellen: corduroy top is pattern V8924, printed ponte pant is the Helix pattern from The Sewing Workshop.

I’ve sewn for my daughter-in-law and when my mother was alive, I would sew for her. I don’t really sew for other people. I have a friend that once in a while I will sew a gift for her, but nothing too intricate. Lately, I’ve been making scarves for gifts.

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Embroidered mitten ornaments made as Christmas gifts for friends.

I also knit, which my grandmother taught me when I was about 11, but I didn’t really knit until I was a freshman in college. I had a major in history so I had a lot of reading, and it bored me to just sit and read, so I learned to knit and read at the same time. My first knitting project was a Fair Isle Shetland sweater.

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Ellen’s current knitting project: a cable scarf made from ombré-dyed yarn.

What was your first sewing project?
I made my first sewing project in 4-H: a gathered skirt. It won a blue ribbon at the fair.

What is your most recently completed project?
It’s a top, the Hudson pattern from The Sewing Workshop. I made it in sparkly blue and black stripes, for the holidays.

NSB - gtke hudson top

Hudson top pattern from The Sewing Workshop.

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
No, not really. I don’t go out to fancy affairs, so I’ve never made anything with boning; it’s all basically clothing for me, and my style is very “east coast preppy”.

What project is next?
My current big project is a state of Washington block-of-the-month style quilt that I’m making for my son, who now lives in Amsterdam.

NSB - gtke patchwork gift

A previous patchwork project: Ellen made several of these pins featuring a variety of birds

What do you love most about Nancy’s?
I love Nancy’s because it’s a local business, everyone who works here is great, I enjoy the owners, and it’s a great way to sew. It’s inspiring. And, I really like the customers; people who sew are nice. I’ve worked here long enough that I know a lot of people who have come in, and I’ve been able to follow their life stories.

Thanks so much, Ellen!

Have any questions for Ellen? Leave them in the comments below!

Get to know a Nancy’s employee: Susan

Today’s “get to know” interviewee might be best known as the ‘Ribbon Lady’. An accomplished historical costumer, she inspires everyone around her to fall in love with vintage textiles and trims and to appreciate the stories they carry. Please welcome Susan.

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Who are you?
My name is Susan, though I also answer to ‘Ribbon Lady’.

How long have you worked at Nancy’s?
I think it’s been 18 years.

How long have you been sewing?
Since I was a very small child. As a toddler, I started with a yarn needle (my mother would thread it for me) and I would sit and sew for hours. I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t sew.

Do you have a special focus?
Handwork and historical costuming, though to me they are one and the same. I’m interested in basically all costuming eras aside from the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s. My favorite costumes to create are from the 18th century and Edwardian eras, as both are suited to lots of handwork. Where 18th century styles have fairly simple construction, Edwardian construction is a bit more challenging, which I enjoy.

NSB - gtks yellow gown bodice

The design and color palette for this c.1755 style gown was inspired by the small piece of antique fly fringe at the top of the stomacher.

My costuming process begins with my collection of textiles and trims. It is a slow process; I collect items and create kits of fabric and trims. I use mostly antique and vintage trims, as antique yardage is more difficult to find and more fragile. The starting point for a given costume is usually a single item, like a button or a trim; sometimes it is a tiny piece of 18th century fly fringe, sometimes it is a piece of fabric from the 1920s.

NSB - gtks harlequin detail

A black-and-cream checkerboard fabric from the 1920s and vintage cherry motifs inspired this 18th century costume with harlequin details.

What was your first sewing project?
The first true project was sewing doll clothes. I had very well dressed dolls, in many eras of historical costume. Sewing and historical costume go hand-in-hand for me; the clothing of other eras has always been of more interest to me than the clothing I could see on the street.

What is your most recently completed project?
An Edwardian ball gown skirt, made in silk brocade with antique butterflies and antique Art Nouveau trim. The silk brocade is a very deep navy blue, the butterflies are black backed in gold metallic fabric with a slight pleat; it is a moody and mysterious color palette. I’m still working on the bodice that goes with it.

NSB - gtks edwardian ball gown

One of Susan’s completed Edwardian ball gowns, a true 1901 shape. Her recently completed skirt and soon-to-be finished bodice have a similar silhouette.

Do you have a most memorable or favorite project?
The most memorable project would be my daughter’s wedding dress. When I started making it, I believed I had six months to complete it. Then she was awarded an overseas scholarship that had to be used immediately, so the wedding was moved up five months. I completed it in three and a half weeks.

NSB - gtks wedding gown bride and groom

The bride, Susan’s daughter, and her groom on their wedding day.

It is an 18th century style gown made in a color palette best described as ‘triple cream French vanilla’. The dress is vanilla-colored silk dupioni, with monochromatic embellishment, including embroidery, ribbon embroidery, beading, and dimensional ribbonwork. Most of this dress was made with modern materials, but I did use a gorgeous antique woven tubular silk ribbon. Though the tube is flattened, it still has a lovely dimensionality.

NSB - gtks wedding stomacher detail NSB - gtks wedding skirt embroidery detail NSB - gtks wedding skirt detail NSB - gtks wedding skirt side detail

My favorite project is one of the two things that I made without a deadline: an 18th century ensemble.The skirt was made of cream-colored wool challis, which I embroidered using antique thread. Some of the embroidery – a double wave of pearls winding around the skirt – was inspired by something I saw on an 18th century skirt. The floral motifs were informed by the availability of colors in the antique thread. My mother was a florist and I spent lots of time in her shop when I was young; I used my memories of different flowers to create the motifs, which include lilies of the valley, pansies, forget-me-nots, sweet peas, tiger lilies, anemones, and morning glories. Because I didn’t have a deadline, I was able to spend time experimenting with the flowers. It was lovely.

NSB - gtks favorite 18th c ensemble

Susan in her favorite 18th century ensemble

NSB - gtks favorite 18th c ensemble

To coordinate, I made a Pierrot jacket using an incredible antique 18th century silk fabric in brown with a woven stripe. I trimmed the jacket with white silk organza ruffles, two 18th century metallic trims (one ruffled, the other serpentine), and ribbon and thread buttons from the Victorian era. It wasn’t the most ornate or structurally complex costume I have made, but I felt totally at home in it and it remains a favorite.

NSB - gtks favorite pierrot front NSB - gtks favorite pierrot back NSB - gtks peplum detail

What project is next?
At present, I am preparing for an exhibition of my costumes, which will take place November 11th through 15th at the Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theater at the University of Washington. The show will feature more than 50 costumes, ranging in date from the late 17th century (Cavalier era) through the 1920s.

NSB - gtks collar detail

In terms of costume, I have several works in progress: an embroidered 1920s coat and the bodice to the Edwardian ball gown skirt, among others. I plan to finish the Edwardian bodice next.

What do you love most about Nancy’s?
The quality of the staff and the quality of the merchandise. And the Ribbon Room, of course! The Ribbon Room and I were made for each other.

Thank you Susan! We are all so excited to see your costumes on display in November. To learn more about Susan’s exhibit, including glimpses into her incredible historical wardrobe, please go to the event website: Art of the Costume.

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

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.

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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.

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Kristina’s daughter in a linen dress.

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Cutie in a sunflower dress, made by Kristina

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.