Where did we leave off? There was a pandemic. And as an actor/bartender in NYC with theaters and bars shut down, I needed a job. I was very fortunate to land at Sew Liberated answering customer emails. Little did I know a new world was opening up to me: the world of sewing! Sensing my growing interest, my intuitive wife gifted me her old sewing machine. I learned to sew in an unconventional way, by video editing Sew Liberated’s Learn to Sew courses, part of my growing responsibilities with the company. I was soon able to make Studio Tunics for my wife, and one for her sister, all the while gaining an appreciation for the many things a sewing practice can provide for an artist who has been cut off from his art.
Here’s what happened next…
I made myself a jacket. Yep. My first Me-Made-Make. And I love it. The idea came from a carpenter buddy of mine, Jack. He was helping me build new stairs at the bar where I’m a manager. As we measured the rickety old stairs, I thought aloud the similarities between carpentry and sewing. This stopped Jack mid-notation—“Wait, you know how to sew? I want to learn how to sew! I just got a machine my aunt was throwing away. But I don’t know how to use it.” A day later Jack text me a picture of a French chore jacket. He told me these “are very cool atm”. I was glad to have someone who knew what was cool, and who wanted to learn sewing. Also, I loved the idea of a functional lightweight layer because my jean jacket from college now resembled Swiss cheese. I ran the picture by my Sew Liberated colleagues who immediately pointed me to Friday Sewing Company’s Ilford Jacket: simple design, room to be creative, and pockets—lots and lots of pockets. It was perfect…even if slightly out of my beginner comfort zone.
But pushing yourself is part of the fun, right?
Before I knew it the fabric was acquired and Jack and I moved all of the furniture out of my living room to begin prepping our Brushed Bull Denim from EWE Fibers in 3 colors (Unbleached Fiber for Jack, Burgundy for me, and Olive for my best friend that lives across the country in LA). It was my first day as a sewing teacher and the first project I’d make for myself. Being a carpenter, Jack was a natural sewist. He knew already that preparation would be 3/4ths of the work. We washed and pressed and refolded, made pattern adjustments, and took over the apartment as my wife looked on in glee. We’d do a day of sewing prep then a day of construction prep. I realized Jack would need a pencil pocket for his cool rectangular carpentry pencil, the ones you have to sharpen with a box cutter (I wish I could get a chalk one like that for my sewing). And after he lost his pencil a few times, I realized he’d need two pencil pockets. Jack watched as I failed my way through my first placket, while simultaneously attempting to teach him. He was patient. But I’d have time to learn more because Jack was called away for a film shoot (did I mention he’s an excellent actor?), and I was given time to learn some new skills on my own.
Back in my studio/office/corner of the bedroom, I grew confident with the new pattern. I made my first collar. My first cuff, complete with contrasting lining. My birthday rolled around and I realized it had been a year since Becky gifted me her sewing machine from high school. A year later and it really felt like mine. I remembered how scared I was of it at first. How mystified I was by the fact that it created seemingly impossible seams. I felt grateful to still be learning new things in my 30s, and I made a promise to never stop.
When my mom sent me a text to ask what I wanted for my birthday, I actually knew what to ask for. I usually reply with a very helpful, “nothing :)”.
But now I have a hobby!
I knew exactly: A swing arm magnifying lamp. I’ve messed up enough seams in a year to know I needed to throw more light on the situation or I’d be blind in my sunless Brooklyn apartment by 40. Taking up a hobby turns you from someone who is hard to shop for to someone who knows what they want! My friend Kat, another manager at the bar and an incredible burlesque dancer, asked what I wanted for my birthday. I said I wanted her to show me where to buy buttons in NYC. She knew all the best places. Before I knew it my eyes were opened to the myriad trimmings stores of the Garment District. I was lost in a sea of buttons! And fabrics. And tools. And ribbons. And anything I could ever imagine! It was sewist heaven.
The first Ilford was Jack’s. It took me 2.5 weeks. The second was mine. It took me 2 days. Another 2 days for my friend in LA and I was finished. Just in time, too, because I was being flown out to LA to make a movie; my first acting job since the pandemic.
And since LA was unseasonably cold and wet, we had the perfect excuse to wear our new jackets every day. Now what should my next project be? I just joined the Mindful Wardrobe Project with my wife. I think it’s time to start planning out some thoughtful, minimalist, capsule wardrobes…