I was fortunate enough to get to meet up with Lauren while she was in Portland teaching one of her famed jeans classes. She was kind enough to meet me after a long day of travel and we chatted about her sewing/blogging journey (while eating gluten free Cuban food; a win for both of us!). She’s just as awesome in person as online and I think I managed not to fan-girl too much!
Elisabeth McClure (EM): I know you have mentioned previously that Gertie (owner of Charm Patterns, sewing author and longtime blogger) was your inspiration for starting your blog. How were you inspired to start sewing? And were there any other inspirations for starting blogging? (Cue us both gushing about how nice and genuine Gertie is)…
Lauren Taylor (LT): I was sewing pre-blogging. Nothing fazed me! I started by altering clothes as a teenager, partly because I was a very small size and couldn’t find RTW that fit. I also come from a family of artists so there was a natural progression of using my hands and brain for creativity.
EM: What was the first thing you sewed?
LT: I can’t remember the actual literal first thing, but I made accessories for Barbies by hand as a kid. The first dress I sewed, I used [an out-of-print] Simplicity pattern and quilting cotton from Walmart. I chose that pattern specifically because it did not have darts, because I wasn’t sure how to sew them. The bodice had gathers under the bust — I didn’t understand the directions so I sewed the bust to the midriff flat. Needless to say, it did NOT fit, but I still wore the hell out of it!
EM: You’ve been blogging since 2009, so you’ve seen the blog world go through lots of shifts and changes. What are your thoughts about the shifts, particularly around the trend of monetizing?
LT: I have so many thoughts! If you’re monetizing you should get paid! Your time is worth something and this is a huge problem in the maker community; it seems like people are afraid to ask for compensation. Women bloggers are chronically underpaid. Asking for money is fun!
EM: How has your blog journey evolved and shifted over the years?
LT: I started blogging because I was at a really boring day job. But now I’m not working at that job anymore… I don’t blog as much. Which people were really upset about initially; they’d get mad because I wasn’t making work clothes anymore. But I don’t work in an office anymore! The other thing is I hate taking photos. Also, interactions on the blog are less, so it’s harder to write long posts. And I tend to feel like it’s not worth it if it’s not long and involved!
EM: How did you start sewing for others?
LT: I was working for Craft South and [the owner] Michelle asked for help with a photo shoot for five days with Fruit of the Loom. My couture experience happened with a woman named Muna Abboud; she owns a custom dressmaking/bridal business here in Nashville called Muna Couture. Muna and I separated on good terms — we just realized we didn’t work well together — and I started working for Elizabeth Suzann. In that space I learned more about sewing production and producing Ready To Wear. I have an agent now who helps book alterations and photo shoots. It provides a supplementary income [Lauren works as a personal assistant as well]. I charge by the hour for alterations which require more perfection than photo shoots. I recently did my first ever suit alterations for a music duo called Seaforth (check out Lauren’s IG page for some photos). I’m really good, fast, and efficient!
EM: Do you have any good stories from your alterations?
LT: The most expensive alteration I ever did was a $10K gown that I altered for country musician RaeLynn during the CMA Music Awards last year. It was a black gown with a bagged lining and a silk organza ruffle that cascaded down the side of the dress. Originally I was just supposed to shorten the hem, but the stylist ended up wanting to redesign the dress so that the ruffle stood up away from the body (rather than lay softly on the dress). It took a lot of brain finagling to figure this out — the ruffle was pale pink and sheer, so anything you put in it would show through, and I was trying to avoid removing the ruffle entirely since I had less than 36 hours before the client was due on the red carpet. I ended up hand sewing two different weights of jewelry wire into the ruffle seam allowance which was enough to give it the structure the stylist was trying to obtain. Oh, and in order to properly hem the dress, I actually had to CUT it. That’s when I looked at the tag and realized how much it cost. Definitely nerve-wracking, but I can also confidently say that pretty much NOTHING fazes me now after that! Ha!
EM: How did you get started teaching sewing?
LT: I enjoyed writing tutorials on my blog, then I taught an adult education class and the classroom setting just didn’t make sense to me. My best friend is a teacher and so she talked to me about teaching styles and how to bring that to the sewing classroom. I teach beginner sewing classes at Craft South as well. I was at a meet up in NYC and talking to Jennifer of Workroom Social… I was like, “would you ever consider bringing in guest teachers?” I did a pants intensive class, and then jeans making.
EM: What is your favorite thing to sew?
LT: Jeans, bras, and coats! As far as classes, jeans are the most advanced class with the least limitations. Coats have too many variations. For jeans it’s easy to make kits and you can do it in 2.5 days. Also, jeans have lots of skills you can apply to other garments, like fly fronts and waistbands, so it’s a happy medium.
EM: OK, now’s the really important question… How is Amelia [Lauren’s awesome cat who frequently appears on IG]?
LT: She’s good! She turns 12 on June 22. She purrs a lot, lays in the window and watches birds. While I’m doing fittings she chases toys in the hallway. [Lauren has recently started harness-training Amelia so she can safely spend time outside. The report is that she LOVES it!]
EM: Do you have any particular method for planning sewing?
LT: I’m trying to be more thoughtful and have a plan for my fabric. I have a mental list, then do a lot of planning on the fly. I start with an idea and then let it expand. I’ve been doing a lot of sketching in an app called Sketches, and I also like another one called SketchBook. Both are free! It’s easier to carry than paper and pens and markers.
EM: Is there one thing that’s your dream “I want to make this”?
LT: I’d love to make a suit! I have no need to make one, no need to wear one, but I would love to do that at some point. But really, if I want to practice, I can probably call the guys I did the alterations for. I’d also like to make a corset, but again, no need to have or wear one.
EM: Do you have any other creative pursuits you’re enjoying right now?
LT: I’d like to get into woodworking. It’s kinda like sewing in that it’s 2D-3D. I’d like to start with some simple frames to put some paintings in.
EM: Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
LT: When I do fittings I like to share fun facts… So for male underwear models they always pad out their garments and they use the pads from bras. When I was working with my first male underwear models, I told them that those pads are called cookies, which they thought was hilarious. I also like to share random sewing information, like how 3/8 inch is a tiny amount that can make a huge difference. The newer people have never really had alterations and their minds are just blown a little. I always think “I’ve ruined you!”
All photos are courtesy of Lauren.
Elisabeth was one of the previous group of guest Editors here at the Sewcialists. She sews in Portland, OR and is a huge fan of garment making in all the bright colors and prints of fabric. Elisabeth has been doing some level of sewing since she was a kid but seriously started garment-making with her second hand sewing machine back in 2010. She’s passionate about making the world of sewing (and as a whole) more inclusive and accessible and is very excited to join a team so committed to that goal. She also practices as an Occupational Therapist (hospital for now…) and loves spending time with her partner and her family. Elisabeth is also a fan of most craft things and is always game to try a new making project! She’s on IG as @emcclureot and someday she might resurrect her old blog but for now it’s all IG.