Hi y’all! It has been a minute since we’ve been able to shine our Sewist Spotlight on a special member of the community but have we got a good one for you today! Leslie (@Leslie.o.sews) is someone who we’ve had our eyes on for a while (she made this incredible coat during our Sew Frosting Challenge many moons ago) but as I was scrolling her IG feed I realized she is a true Closet Core HEAD, going back to the first patterns and two name changes ago! I’m so excited to introduce you to her incredible style (if you weren’t a fan already) which is a little bit street, with a whole lot of structure. She is somehow both office appropriate and also looks like she’s always ready for the Billboard music awards. Beyond cool, and totally unique, she is an inspiration for post-pandemic dressing! She hails from the DC area in Maryland and is a geologist and microscopist which probably is why she has such a good eye for details… Let’s meet Leslie!
How long have you been sewing?
I started again 9 years ago after I originally learned as a teen.
How often do you spend time on your sewing practice a week (including planning, researching, sewing etc.)?
I spend about 12 hours in an average week. Usually one dedicated day of sewing per weekend, and then I’ll cut or prep or sew in small chunks of time after work. I spend many additional hours thinking about sewing or fabric or patterns!
What is your home sewing set-up like?
We currently live in an apartment so I sew in the den. It’s a small dedicated space, which is nice, but no windows, which is a bummer because I like natural light. Lots of IKEA: Table for my machine (I keep the serger out of the way unless I need it), wall of cubbies for seasonal patterns, fabric, projects that are cut and waiting to sew, supplies. I have storage tubs for the rest of my patterns and fabric.
Did you have a gateway person or experience that brought you to sewing?
My mom is a quilter and so I grew up with a sewing machine and I first learned to sew in my teens. I made simple clothes like tees, pajama pants, or Halloween costumes for myself. When I started again around 2013, I was watching ‘Project Runway’ and I had recently moved to a job outside of academia. I realized that for the first time in a long time, I had both time and money for a hobby and realized I’d like to start sewing again.
What was the first thing you remember wanting to sew?
I saw a blazer with fringe accents that I wanted to copy and sew for myself. Which was definitely foreshadowing my future style choices!
How would you define your style?
“Bold Modern Classic”, “Can I Put Sequins on That?”, “Everyday Pieces but Extra”. I guess I like to wear classic pieces like a blazer, a moto jacket, fitted trousers or jeans – but make it interesting either with prints or color or unconventional textile choices. I sew my work wardrobe, so I try to go for a professional/business casual look but make it feel ‘me’.
What is your favourite thing you’ve made?
The pagoda shoulder Jasika blazer! It was a creative and technical challenge and it makes me feel really powerful when I wear it.
What is your favourite Closet Core Pattern?
Ginger jeans, if only because making my own jeans was really a game changer. I was afraid to try because RTW jeans fit me so poorly (waist and hips are different sizes, swayback, etc.) but after a few wearable muslins I got it down. I blend between sizes but overall the basic drafting of the Gingers work well for me.
How does sewing affect your relationship to shopping and RTW?
I really only purchase shoes, underwear, and super basic pieces (black tees or tank tops). There’s no RTW in my closet other than that. I rarely go to stores to window-shop; I get inspiration from Instagram or designers that I can’t afford! When it comes to shopping, I would say that sewing has helped me to be able to evaluate the value of RTW, in terms of fabric and finishing. If I do want or need to purchase something I can’t make, I am better able to appreciate quality (or lack of quality) at a price point. On a more trivial note, sewing means that I grimace every time I see a RTW shirt with mismatched stripes or plaids.
How does sewing relate to your body image?
I think sewing has improved my body image. I don’t ever think about what size I am (in RTW), and whether that number makes me feel good or bad about myself. I take honest body measurements and am able to make garments that fit perfectly (or close enough), and that feels good regardless of what size they are. I also think that sewing garments that I want to wear and that I feel good in using fabrics that make me happy, instead of being dependent upon what’s trendy or seasonally available in stores, contributes to a positive body image.
What are your go-to fabric stores?
When I want to live my designer fantasy on a budget: Darrell Thomas Textiles, Selvedge and Bolts, Fabrics and Fabrics. My terrific local fabric store is G Street Fabrics. I also like The Fabric Store (NZ), Tessuti Fabrics, Stonemountain and Daughter, Fabric Godmother, Hart’s Fabric, Emma One Sock, and Mood Fabrics. For specialty outdoor fabrics, I like The Rain Shed and Rockywood Fabrics. I used to have a bigger stash, but now I try to only buy pieces that I think are really special or unique or that I have immediate specific plans for.
What are the tools you can’t live without?
My iron, my clapper, my press cloth and ham – anything that helps with a good steam and a good press. My headlamp for when I need to do detail work on dark fabrics.
What pattern release would you not be able to resist?
Coats and jackets. I love blazers, jackets, coats of any kind.
What are your sewing goals?
What would you like to learn how to do to push your practice forward? I would encourage myself to spend more time on techniques that I find tedious but that I think are worth practicing – especially related to tailoring and finishing techniques. I don’t like hand sewing, although I do it when necessary. I would like to spend more time working on hand-sewing tailoring techniques.
What’s the next thing you want to make?
A winter coat, probably the Trend Patterns TPC 28 oversized coat. I have another Jasika blazer lined up as well.
Where else do you turn when you need inspiration?
I follow a lot of designers on IG – I sometimes like to recreate looks that I see in their collections. Sometimes I find more inspiration from menswear, especially when it comes to coats and blazers or pieces and ideas I can incorporate into my everyday wardrobe. I also get inspired from movies or TV (I might get too inspired by the fashion on RuPaul’s Drag Race?)
What experiences have come out of your interaction with the online sewing community?
It has really been very positive for me, despite the inherent potential for negativity on social media. I’ve lived in 4 cities since I started sewing 9 years ago, and it’s nice to feel like you ‘know’ some people in the online community, especially when you don’t know too many people in your actual zip code (then add the pandemic into the mix). It’s a great resource, and I appreciate all of the opinions and tutorials and feedback and inspiration.