Today’s Free Stuff Friday is especially fun. You get to meet designer Andrea Schewe and get a first hand peek at two of her latest designs for Simplicity patterns! I found Andrea through Simplicity’s Facebook page and made the bold move of contacting her to see if she would like to be part of a Meet the Designer post for Sew News. I love reading her bio and how she got from point A to point B in her career. If you would like to learn more about Andrea and see more goodies from her please visit her website and blog Andrea Schewe Designs. Once there you can see more of her design process, ideas for costuming on a budget, working for a pattern company and see her patterns she has designed for Simplicity. And, if you have any sewing, costuming or design questions please check out her blog and ask away!
So on to our interview. And be sure to read the question at the end to be entered into this week drawing. Two readers will win one of Andrea’s patterns from Simplicity!
Where do you live/from?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, lived in New York for 20 years and now live one mile outside Washington DC.
How long and who taught you how to sew?
My mother taught me to embroider when I was 6 and I was given my Grandmother’s treadle sewing machine for my 10th birthday, which I still have. In 5th grade I started trying to make clothes for my Barbie and I made a Medieval nurse costume out of an old sheet for a play that year using my treadle machine.
When I was 16 my mother took the 2 year apparel design program that was offered at the college near us and every night I would closely examine the work she was doing and started drafting patterns on my own with guidance from books we had at home. She became the costumer in the theater department there and I helped out a lot until I moved to New York to study music.
When I arrived in New York, I interviewed at several costume shops and was hired by Brooks Van-Horne, the largest one at the time.
I also spent time working in the fashion industry and toy industry. Have needle will travel, is my motto.
So, I guess I’ve been sewing roughly 50 years! EEK!
In all the years you’ve been sewing what is the greatest change that you’ve noticed? Or is there something that you’ve had to adapt to?
Shopping for fabric, the internet has changed everything. In a way we have more fabric available now, but it’s just not the same looking on line. So many stores have closed and the ones remaining don’t have as much fabric in them. So, then it is downward spiral. I want to buy fabric in my local stores, but when I get there they don’t have what I want so I buy on line, so then the store makes less money and they reduce their stock even more … I don’t know how to fix it. I just get better at shopping on line and make sure to order swatches whenever I can.
What has been your (to date) greatest achievement in the sewing world?
Becoming a contract designer for McCalls and then Simplicity. I would have never gotten the chance to make all the wonderful costumes and other things without this job. I still occasionally pinch myself. It is a cool job and has given me so many opportunities.
What was (or is) it like working in professional costume shops? What was a particular fun show you did?
Working in professional costumes shops was a dream job for me. I was in my 20s, working with so many fun and talented people, learning something new everyday AND getting to see, in person, famous actors from time to time. I was too lowly to actually be in on a fitting or anything. BUT, the hours were horrendous when a show was about to open. I was a full time student at the time and there were 2 weeks in a row when I put 70 hours and then 80 hours in at the costume shop while I was trying to go to classes, do my homework and go to music rehearsals. The pay was very low, but they let me come and go as my schedule permitted. I can’t think of another job that would have been so flexible. And I wouldn’t be doing what I am today, if I hadn’t been so lucky to get that job.
As for a particularly fun show … there were many, but it’s hard to top the circus. The shop I worked for made the costumes for the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey circus each year, from the elephant blankets to the midget costumes. A group of little people came around to great all of us when they came in for their fittings. It was the first thing I worked on in the professional shops and it was very exciting.
What inspires you and your design aesthetic?
I have saved this question for last. It is the hardest for me to answer. I’ve never had any one design hero. I appreciate good design in all places, whether in a high fashion magazine, in a painting at a museum, in the traditional clothing of some country or great designs in the theater. I’m always looking and learning. BUT, I do have one thing I do trust while designing. This is the feeling in my stomach. At every stage of a design, I call it my gut test. When I’m sketching, draping, choosing fabric or sewing, things turn out best if I listen to my gut. I get this uneasy feeling when things are wrong. And, a very settled calm feeling when it’s right. When I rush and ignore this I am always sorry.
What do you do when you are not sewing?
Ha Ha … one of my son’s said to me recently “Mom … you have a lot of hobbies!” Because I work at home, all by myself, I need to get out and commune with people, especially now that my 2 sons are all grown. So, here is what I do when I’m not sewing. I’m the piccolo player in a large concert band, we give several concerts a year. I, also, belong to a 6 person recorder ensemble. We meet once a week, mostly for fun, but we also give an occasional concert. Five years ago I started taking ceramic classes. I throw pots on a wheel. It is a wonderful diversion and another great social outlet. I’m a pretty good cook and a so-so gardener.
What are your future plans?
I am not looking too far into the future right now. I am trying to establish a web presence, partially because it is a fun challenge, but also I hope to connect with new people. I would like to be involved in inspiring people to sew, teaching perhaps, getting people back to sewing who have taken a break and introducing new people to sewing.
If you couldn’t sew what would you do?
I could teach flute again. I have always worked with my hands and have really fallen in love with ceramics. So, I would spend many more hours sitting in front of a pottery wheel. At some point, I hope to have time to do some volunteer work in my town. I’ve been a reading tutor and would like to do more of that.
Any quick tips you’d like to share with the Sew News readers?
While cooking,when in doubt, add less than you think you need, you can always add more.
While sewing, when in doubt, cut things larger than you think you need, you can always trim it away.
Make a muslin. It doesn’t need to be a full muslin. Test sections, if you can and only stitch the main seams, don’t bother with any finishing. Correct the pattern before cutting into your good fabric. It will save you time.
Thank you Andrea! It was a pleasure and we’ll be seeing more of Andrea in the months to come!
So for Sew News readers the question for Free Stuff Friday is: Would you ever think of sewing professionally, or be a designer, instructor, fabric shop owner? What’s your dream career? Do you have any questions you’d like to ask Andrea?
Two winners will be picked on Monday to win one signed copy of an Andrea Schewe pattern (seen above) from Simplicity!