The Seamstress Tag

I picked this up from Emily at Self Assembly Required.  Although this is called “The Seamstress Tag” Emily left it up to other bloggers to pick up on this only if they wanted to.  I prefer participating on this level as it doesn’t feel so heavy and I’m more light hearted about answering the questions.  So here goes…

Who are you?

EmilyAnn Frances May, born in Brooklyn, New York and still living here.  I’m descended from Italian, Sicilian and Galician Jewish  immigrants who settled in the U.S. between 1892 and 1930.

When / Why did you start sewing?

My maternal Grandma Josie was a big influence on me from childhood.  She taught me how to hand sew doll clothes when I was 5 years old.  We cut out circular shapes from tea cups and saucers.  Then slit the back to make the seam and put in a snap for the finished skirt.

Then when I was 6 Grandma Josie and Grandpa Sam bought me a little hand crank sewing machine that made a chain stitch.  Eventually when I was 12 I got my Mom to move her old 1950s Singer Sewing machine up from her room into my room.  I made many mistakes but by age 13 I had made my first dress.

Favourite/Proudest make?

An evening gown made for an exam when I was in design school.  It was the first strapless bodice I’d made.  The teacher gave me scraps of a silk brocade.  He had sunburst pleated material left over that I begged him for.  We used it to create the skirt and a dramatic cape.

I think the proudest part of the history of this garment was when I finally released it from my portfolio.  I knew I did not like the business side of the garment center and that I was not going to do this professionally after 2 years of an unsatisfying job.  I met a young woman who was a performance artist at poetry readings and also had a rock band.  She could fit the gown and some other pieces I made to a “T”.  It was as if everything was waiting for her.  When she put the gown on I knew it was meant for her and I released it.  Knowing someone actually made use of something I’d designed and made still gives me a high.

More recently, I had made a Dirndl Dress in 2013 out of quilting cotton.  I put an ad that the dress was up for a new home.  A woman contacted me who knew of a young teacher in Manhattan that she wanted to give such a dress to.  It turned out once more that this woman, unknown to me, was a perfect fit and match to the style.  I was happy to pass the dress on to someone so worthy as a teacher who had deeply impressed the daughter of the woman who answered the ad.  This dress was made for my new portfolio but I wasn’t 100% enthusiastic about the results of using quilting cotton.

Disastrous make?

Without a doubt the mess I made of a dress while in design school.  I used purple silk velvet and eggplant colored silk satin.  At the time everyone in class was cutting on the bias and I got caught up in the enthusiasm.  I didn’t realize how much the dress would stretch from the weight of the velvet.  It ended up needing so many alterations it was too tight to wear.  All the intricate seaming I’d envisioned stretched down too far.  The hipline sash of satin that I’d sewn into the dress ended up at an unflattering point right above the backside.

Favourite place for fabric shopping?

Nowadays I have to shop online.  Brooklyn has no old school style fabric shops in my area.  In Manhattan there are still a few shops but they’re very expensive.

Most used pattern?

My own.  But when I used commercial patterns my favorites were Vogue Paris Originals.  I also loved any patterns by Betsy Johnson.

Most dreaded sewing task?

Machine or hand made buttonholes.

Favourite sewing task?

Cutting and stitching up the toile and refining the fit.  The muslin toile is the purest form of expression for the creative vision.

Favourite sewing entertainment?

I prefer to have it quiet most of the time.  If I’m in the mood, I’ll listen to “The Moth Radio Hour” on PBS.  It’s a show where people tell funny, touching or shocking stories of events that have changed their lives.

Printed or PDF patterns?

Hand drafted.

What sewing machine do you use?

A Janome 3/4 machine I’ve nicknamed “Kitty”.

Any other hobbies?

Cultivating the “Simple Abundance” path and lifestyle.
1:6 Scale sewing for fashion dolls.
Family history-collecting our stories and preserving our memories.



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