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Student Profile: Kikanza Nuri-Robins

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How and when did you start sewing?    
My godmother tells me that I starting draping my dolls when I was very young.  At 13, I bargained for my first sewing machine. (You don’t have to give me anything else, All I want is a sewing machine.)  It was an old Kenmore that had two stitches — forward and backward.  My mother didn’t sew, but she set standards for the quality of my work.  She said that it had to look as good on the inside as it did on the outside, and if I spent my clothing allowance on fabric, whatever I made I was going to have to wear.  That meant I learned to finish seams, set in zippers, and  handwork button holes.  Right from the beginning I learned Quality and Excellence were presented to me as standards.

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Blue Faille Coat

I made this coat a number of years ago for a Threads article – and I’d forgotten about it until I saw a blow-up photograph of it as a backdrop to an interview Kenneth King was doing with Judy Neukam (at the Threads offices).  So I dug it out, and have been enjoying wearing it ever since!

The Blue Faille Coat

The Blue Faille Coat

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Grey Lace Scarf by Alexandra Sojfer

Every now and then, when I’m in Paris, I see something I just can’t live without.  It’s probably a good thing that it doesn’t happen too often, but this one grabbed me….

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I was out walking one chilly afternoon, and saw a number of beautiful scarves in the window of a boutique on the Boulevard Saint Germain.  I kept on walking, but on my way back, I couldn’t help but go in…and this is the one I fell in love with.  The scarf is a creation of Paris-based fashion house Alexandra Sojfer.

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Black Sequined Zipper Jacket

I found this wonderful Chanel fabric in Paris – it’s certainly far from the boucles that are more commonly associated with that name…and I decided to modify an old Vogue dress pattern to make a jacket that zips up the front.  And while it’s  pretty sparkly, I wear it a lot, even in the daytime….

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Vintage Trims & Buttons from Paris

My most recent trip to Paris yielded a treasure trove of vintage trims and buttons.  They are now available in the SKC Store!  Check out the video below for an in-depth look at these one-of-a-kind pieces.

Student Profile: Leisa Stanton

Throughout my twenty-five years of teaching couture sewing classes all over the United States I’ve crossed paths with so many amazing sewers. Now that I have an editorial platform, I’m delighted to to showcase some of my amazingly talented students! Up first is Leisa Stanton. After reading her profile, be sure to check out her extremely informative and inspiring sewing blog, A Challenging Sew.

Leisa Stanton

How and when did you start sewing?   
I started sewing after my youngest started school – nine years ago.  I’ve always drawn and painted,  but I quickly found that immersing myself for hours on end with oil paints was no longer an option with four young children.  Sewing was a natural creative progression, I love clothes and shoes but could never afford what I wanted to wear.

What’s your favorite sewing tool/piece of equipment?
My Japanese needles without a doubt. They are an absolute pleasure to hold and are thin enough to sew through almost any fabric with ease.

How much time do you have to sew?
On average, I would say three or four full days a week.  I started a sewing blog two years ago and like to have a variety of interesting works in progress as well as completed garments to show.  It pushes and inspires me to constantly evolve and try different and interesting techniques, which in turn makes sewing an endless pleasure.

Where do you go for fabrics?
I work part time at Mendel Goldberg creating content and curating their website, so a lot of my fabric comes from there, but I also love  B&J and Mood in NYC.  I recently discovered Max of General Diff when in Paris on Susan’s tour and am now trying desperately to find an plausible excuse to visit him once a year as well!!

What’s your favorite fabric to sew on?
I have a few, Guipure and Alecon lace for when I want to slow down and reconnect a little more to the sewing process, Cashmere for tailoring when I want something more complex and challenging and Boucle when the need for another Little French Jacket strikes!

Who is your favorite designer?
Without a doubt Alexander McQueen. The tailoring, the femininity, the complex edgy designs and unusual fabrics… an absolute genius.

What is your biggest inspiration?
Fabric – always.  Its a very liberating and often a challenging process, to buy the fabric first and then find the right pattern and one I have learnt so much from.

What is your favorite fashion book?
Alexander McQueens Savage Beauty and Madame Grès Sphinx of Fashion.

From a technical point of view, when you sew, what’s easiest?  What’s hardest?
Fit will always be the hardest. I struggle with that constantly – its such an essential skill and yet almost impossible to master when you sew and fit yourself.

And the easiest: hand sewing.  There is so much control and freedom with just a needle and thread.

What the favorite thing you’ve ever made?
I’ve not made it yet.  I like most of what I sew but there is always something I think I could have changed or sewn better… it’s a journey… but I know one day if I keep practicing, I will be good enough to create that piece.  That’s my motivation.

What’s your next sewing project?
I sew with Marfy patterns almost exclusively but have come out of my comfort zone to try Vogue V1440. Its a fairly complex jacket with multiple odd shaped pieces, and about twelve crazy inches of ease.  Its certainly giving me fitting practice, and reminding me why I don’t often buy these!

Whose personal style/wardrobe/image do you admire?
Georgina Chapman of Marchesa.  I don’t know anybody else who can wear lace with just the right amount of sass and elegance as she does.

Can you share with us a garment you’ve sewn and talk about your inspiration and process?
I have a picture in my sewing room of a Prada lace shirt that is simply beautiful.   Technically,  it’s a little challenging as there is no underlining or lining to hide the seams and the process of working through those issues appealed to me.

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I imagined making it with a nice fine Alecon lace and using French seams to keep the insides neat… but I kept being drawn back to a Prada re-embroidered Alecon lace at Mendel Goldberg that was made of cotton and substantially thicker than I had planned on buying.

I bought it anyway, wondering if it would be possible to hand sew the shirt in it’s entirety so I could control the seaming allowances inside and try out some new techniques.

For the pattern, I picked a well known and incredibly well drafted shirt called the Archer by Grainline and made a muslin first for fit and then a second test garment using a cheap nylon lace to work out any technical issues with the fashion fabric.

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In total, this shirt probably took a week to make, and I still cannot believe how wonderful it feels to wear.   The seaming is soft and flexible because of the hand stitching,  and the tiny hand bound seams are invisible on the outside and comfortable to wear on the inside.

This shirt is the very first garment that I had sewn intuitively from start to finish and because of that, I am keeping it on a hook in my sewing room as a reminder of how far I have come from that very first class with Susan three years ago –  a long, long way indeed!

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(For a more in depth look at the entire process of making this garment, go check out Leisa’s blog post.)

 

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