Sew Style Hero: my choices

Hi, my name is Sue, I live in Perth, Western Australia, and I blog as fadanista. I was recently contacted by Chloe from the Sewcialists blog who asked me if I would do a post for the August theme of Sew Style Hero.

To quote from the Sewcialists email “the theme is about getting inspired by other sewists, designers, celebrities, or fictional characters whose style we admire.

I agreed and then the reality of choosing one hero hit me – how could I choose just one? I decided that I was going to stretch the brief a little bit and mention a few of my heroes before focussing on one and talking about my inspiration garment.

I need to say that every person I follow is, by definition, a source of inspiration for me at various times. A few that I would like to mention include my Perth sewing and coffee friends, meggipeg and handmadebycarolyn, both of whom are constantly inspiring me to try new patterns.

Megan’s beautiful makes using fabric printed from her mother’s paintings are worth checking out – I have a case of serious fabric envy and was inspired to try printing my own fabric for the garment I made for this post.

Carolyn is a constant source of inspiration with her detailed sewing, emphasising style lines (which again I drew inspiration from for this garment) and she has, of course, recently joined the ranks of Indie designers with the launch of her Perth dress. The three of us met when we were embroiled in a challenge called “1 year 1 outfit” where we had to make whole outfits from only local materials, which in our case meant wool and wood – think shoes and underwear from wood and wool! We had some really fun times discussing our outfits and supporting each other when things got difficult.

Linda from nicedressthanksimadeit organises Designin December, which has stimulated me to make some tricky things including an Yves Saint Laurent  Mondrian dress and my Dior suit, which is much more complex than it appears.

Hélène is an online and real life friend from Montréal, Canada who is not only the most delightful person but also something of an enabler, regularly pointing out new patterns and designers and constantly encouraging from afar. We’ve also managed to catch up a few times even though we live at opposite ends of the earth. I love the fact that she includes little bits of French in her emails to me, and I pretend I understand, but in reality I’m using Google to translate – please don’t tell her!

Then there is Kate from fabrickated who is a constant source of education for her followers and the author of the book Making life more beautiful“.  She runs interesting knitalongs and sewalongs which are full of valuable information and I find myself referring back to them from time to time.

Kate currently has some of her followers making outfits to emulate the style of Frida Kahlo, including the hair embellishment, and this has stimulated me to explore Frida as an artist and as a woman so that I can better understand her dress style. It was also the push I needed to make my “hero” garment, which is a Huipil inspired by Frida.

This leads me into my final muse and the person I am making the main focus of this post, Sarah, from Workspace Fashion and Design School, my ever patient pattern making teacher and also friend. I have a full day one-on-one class whenever we can both find the time, and from the minute I walk into her studio I am requesting patterns for the various outfits she has dotted around on her dress forms. I can ask her to help me design anything and she teaches me to apply my blocks/slopers to almost any style. I love that she will always go back to first principles if I take a pattern for modification. She believes in copying the style lines using my personal blocks rather than trying to modify the pattern to make it fit. Both the Mondrian dress and Dior suit were made from patterns developed under her watchful eye. If you have never seen her work check out her IG @workspacefads and be enchanted by her underwear, swimwear and cooking!

Sarah and I not only draft patterns, but she shows me new techniques and, in my last class, we did some block printing on fabric. Sarah is also a really talented artist and I’m totally not, but she encouraged me to do some drawing as homework. On one of the weekends I spent in the bush I gathered a collection of native flowers and spent a happy afternoon drawing them. Don’t mock my drawing!

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I haven’t been encouraged to draw anything for years and found that I loved it. We took one of my sketches and turned it into a linocut block, which I used to print a tea towel. I finally printed three tea towels joined together to be turned into a Frida Kahlo-esque top for the Fabricated sewalong.

My hero garment, then, is a Huipil, which according to Wikipedia, is a loose-fitting tunic, generally made from two or three rectangular pieces of fabric which are then joined together with stitching, ribbons or fabric strips, with an opening for the head and, if the sides are sewn, openings for the arms”. Doesn’t sound too hard.

For my Huipil I did the basic sewing and took it off to Sarah for my printing lesson.The new book by Jen Hewitt, “Print, Pattern, Sew”  was the inspiration and I read all her suggestions carefully and then Sarah showed me a slightly different way to go about things. We photocopied the chosen flowers and played around with colouring in. The dark pieces will be removed from the lino and will not be inked.

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We made a repeating pattern

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and cut it out of the lino. This is my first attempt and it leaves a bit to be desired, but I’m ok with the rather naive outcome.

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We had a lovely time choosing paint colours. Sarah is something of a Frida Kahlo afficianodo and was able to guide me quite a bit, although we did change the colours a little to suit my Huipil.

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My very first go at block printing (well, since I was in primary school!), and Sarah looks pleased with my progress.

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Once the top was printed we talked through further embellishment and I was able to get her to help me make a top suited to my style. I frayed the edges, except for the neck which I bound with yet another tea towel bias strip. The neck cutout became a pocket, which I blanket stitched on, and each flower is outlined with a running stitch, although this is too subtle to show up on the photos.

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A monkey (which was my eldest son’s when he was a baby), and a headband made from an old tea shirt and some knitted roses complete the outfit.

It is the middle of winter in Perth, so I am suffering for my art here.

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If you’re wondering about the monkey – it’s because Frida was often photographed with a monkey.

The outcome of the session was a highly original top that was developed by me with Sarah’s input. This photo shows the back and also the way the pattern flows over the body of the fabric, and, I have to admit, I wanted to show my epic stripe matching!

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Every session with Sarah has a similar outcome. I develop new skills, more confidence, and we have a great time with lots of laughter and some deep and meaningful discussions. She is my teacher, my friend, my mentor and my Sew Style Hero. I treasure our time together.