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