Category: Interview

Announcement: Artful Blogging Magazine Feature

Yesterday, I announced my ambassadorship with Bernina USA and today, I have more great news. Available now at Barnes & Nobles and most craft stores is Artful Blogging’s spring edition, which features an article written by yours truly. I’m even on the cover. Woot woot! In my short essay, I write about why I think blogging comes naturally to me, how I combine sewing and blogging and how I organically fit it all into my life. It’s an incredible feeling to be highlighted in print, even more so than web. This feeling is tenfold since Artful Blogging is available at a store like B&N. I remember starting Madalynne with no intention of it growing to where it is today. I’ve come so far and I can’t imagine the growth that is yet to come. I already feel incredibly lucky. So, thank you for reading my sewing adventures and thank you Stampington & Company for choosing me for your magazine.  Be sure to pick up your own copy!

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tags: Interview Comments: 9

Portrait of a Seamster: Olan Reeves

Let me be clear, Olan Reeves quilts are not folksy fabric scraps thrown together. He is a real artist with an impressive background who pursued a traditional, non-sartorial handicraft on his on terms. Based in South Philadelphia, he has me rethinking the classic coverlet and coveting one for myself. Not interested in dressing the human body, he creates beautiful pieces that dress the home. While fashion is thought to make one feel better, Olan believes that making your surroundings can have an equally profound impact, maybe even more. I am originally from Bryant, Arkansas, and spent my summers as a child on my grandmother’s farm. We constantly had an abundance of feed sacks, and I used them to make my first quilts. I became more experimental later on – implementing cornhusk and other “fabrics” into my designs. I continued quilting throughout high school, but started diving into painting. I attended Savannah College of Art and Design first as a painting major, then as a photography major, and finally settling on a degree in fibers. I studied abroad my senior year in Berlin. My senior thesis was a juxtaposition of European graffiti merging with traditional quilting. Creating traditional quilts, I explored different distressing techniques by spray-painting and even dragging one behind a car! Directly after college I moved to Philadelphia. For the first year, I designed and sewed for a leather handbag company. After, I worked at a sewing and knitting studio in Rittenhouse Square called Spool & Loop. I taught several classes covering a variety of quilting techniques. During this time, I lived and made work in an artist residency in Center city called Goldilocks Gallery. We conducted a variety of shows and were involved in several community art-related organizations. I’ve taken a full circle and currently work part time at…

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tags: Interview, portrait of a seamstress Comments: 23

Portrait of a Seamstress: Mali

In the last 50 years, sewing has undergone an evolution. A necessity for women in the early 20th century, it transitioned from a chore to an almost obsolete hobby during by the 1980s. There was a lull in the 90s where sewing moved neither forwards nor backwards, but in the past few years, maybe even decade, it has grown into an intriguing life skill, like an item to put on one’s bucket list. People are eager to learn a trade that has an intimate, fond history, especially if their mother, grandmother or member of their family sewed.  Amalia is the owner of Butcher’s Sew Shop, a studio space that offers sewing classes of all levels for adults and children and focuses on teaching students how to make professional looking pieces at home.  Coming from a lineage of sewers, Amalia first started a career in the non-profit sector, but her sewing DNA seeped slowly through her veins. On nights and weekends, she kept up on her heritaged hobby and sewed. The urge to start something new ran rampant when she walked by a closed-up shop in Philadelphia’s Bella Vista neighborhood. With a beautiful, marbled doorstep, the building called to her. She took a chance, and got the place. Once renovations began, she came to understand that it was once a highly regarded meat store -“Guarrera’s Quality Meats” had been a Philadelphia establishment for 80 years. She uncovered many of the design elements from the 1920s, which only adds to its charm. Open for just six months, it’s become an establishment in the neighborhood. As I was interviewing Amalia, a local stopped in to say hello and admire her Christmas tree. Oh, and it’s also where one of my favorite sewing ladies, Andrea, works (hey pretty lady!). While this series, Handmade, started as…

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tags: Fashon, Interview, portrait of a seamstress Comments: 10

Homemade: 611 Menswear

I’m guilty of it – bashing overseas production and praising domestically made products. At its core, that’s what this series, Handmade, is about. While I root for team USA, there are times when I side with China, India, and Sri Lanka. That’s what Nigel, owner of 611, taught me. A men’s clothing line based in Philadelphia, 611 only dealt with local manufacturers when it launched in 2007. Ironically, and at the suggestion of several domestic partners, he transferred a percentage of his manufacturing overseas. With a few points of reasoning, he proved to me that both have their strengths and weaknesses. While I’m still passionate about this series and its message, I think it’s important to look at both sides in order to make a fair judgment. Your story: Hi, my name is Nigel and I am the founder of 611. Before I launched the line, I owned a music store called 611 Records, named after its address, 611 South 4th Street. In addition to selling music, we produced t-shirts with our logo printed on them, and that eventually expanded to bags and different varieties of t-shirts. After 14 years in business, 611 Records closed in 2007. About 2 years after, I lost a quite a bit of weight, and like any man or woman, became interested in fashion. I had the urge to bring the brand back to life, but this time, I wanted it to be something different. Working with a design consultant, I relaunched 611 as a clothing line for both men and women. Right before the relaunch, my wife and I attended Milan Fashion Week and seeing the international trends inspired the initial collection. The t-shirts that 611 Records made were laid back, but I wanted to make something more upscale. I had grown up and…

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tags: Fashon, Interview Comments: 6

Homemade: Wild Chairy + Giveaway

One of the purposes of Portrait of a Seamstress was to stretch the definition of a sewer to the max. The tie between sewing and sewing garments is so tight that most people automatically make the association when they hear the word. Think about people’s first response when you tell them you sew; most respond with the question, “Can you make me….” But there are so many people involved in the hobby who don’t sew clothes, as evidenced by Sara, who manipulates and stretches silk over canvases, and Caitlin, who crochets skeleton. I’m carrying that purpose into this series by featuring domestic makers of all types of products. The only common thread is that it involves fabric and a sewing machine somewhere in between start to finish. What makes this Homemade most interesting, at least in my opinion, is that Andrea Mihalik, owner of Wild Chairy, doesn’t know how to sew. That’s probably not the way Andrea would like me to introduce her, but I think this is inspiring. How many of you can bang out a Renfrew top or and Albion coat, but wish you could make shoes to go with it? Well, you can. Just because you don’t know how doesn’t mean you can’t. Stick around to the end because Andrea is offering approximately 2 yards of awesome fabric. Tell us your story: Hi, my name is Andrea, and before I started Wild Chairy, I was a photographer. I started photography when I was 5-years-old because my dad was in the trade, and I spent a lot of my childhood in the basement flipping images from the stop bath to the fixer and washer. Later I attended Tyler School of Art and became a photographer at the Philadelphia Daily News. Twelve years later with three children and a husband…

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tags: Interview Comments: 32

Homemade: Norman Porter, American Made Jeans

There are secret worlds of garment making. The bra industry is one of them, and it heavily guards its patterns, fabric, and notions, making it extremely difficult for any seamstress to become skilled in the trade (believe me, I know!). Another one is cordwaining, and the ability to receive training in this field is few and far between. Denim is another cloak-and-dagger industry. Just like lace, denim is its own breed of fabric, and it requires special treatment, care, and skill. It’s hard to find artisans specializing in making jeans, but luckily, one lives close to me. Norman Porter is based in Northern Liberties (north Philadelphia), and was started by brothers Mike and David Stampler, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania. There are moments when you meet someone and you think, “he’s got it going on.” I had that moment with Mike when I asked him to show me how his buttonhole maker worked (video below!), he said, “It’s broken, but I haven’t had time to fix it.” Yes, he fixes his own machines. This is the first of many posts in my new series, Homemade, which will highlight burgeoning, domestic businesses and companies. Just how Portrait of a Seamstress was meant to show how far the definition of seamstress can be stretched, Homemade is meant to show as well as inspire sewers that a hobby can be turned into career. They did it, and so can you. Tell us your story: David and I started Norman Porter as a response to our trouble finding consistent clothing that fit well and looked good. Because I am so tall, I’ve always had a hard time finding jeans for my height. I taught myself how to sew years ago when I wanted to make a pair of jeans for myself. That idea…

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tags: Interview Comments: 28

Shop Feature: Shop Juju’s

We hear Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Coco Chanel considered style icons a lot, but Angelica Huston, not so much. I remember watching her in Witches and boy, could she play a part. That movie scared me more than Jurassic Park, and Jurassic Park had me lying in bed, motionless and breathless because I thought the dinosaurs would notice me if I moved (true story). Witches didn’t scare me with its plot, but its character, Angelica, who could move an audience. I’ve only recently learned about her story – the New York Times wrote a great article on her a month or so ago. For someone to spit out Angelica as their number one style icon, well, it gets my attention. Leslie, the owner of Shop Juju, did just this, and when I read that answer, I knew she had a knack for what she does. I am a hunter.  I started rummaging through the attic as a child and honed in on my digging techniques. I really think it’s an innate thing – you are kind of predisposed to it, and either have it or you don’t. From the attic, I hit the streets, and I began haunting thrift shops. At age twelve, you don’t have a ton of loot so you make do with $5. I can stretch a buck, let me tell you. Then I was introduced to estate sales by my mom. I bought my first vintage dress at 15 years-old, and I remember that I brought it home and hand washed it. Then I altered it to fit me and that was the first time I sat down to a sewing machine.  I am not a sewer by any means imaginable, I don’t have the patience to stitch a straight line, but I use it…

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tags: Interview Comments: 1