Marlene Ingraham, Founder of Original Sewing & Quilt Expo, is embarking on a series of interviews with various faculty members and sewing personalities for The Maker’s Experience. She loves to learn about people, and finds everything adds to her enjoyment of their art. We hope you feel the same way! Today, we learn a little more about Linda Lee.
From Linda: Hi, I’m Linda Lee, the owner of the Sewing Workshop Pattern Collection. I have been producing patterns since 1991 out of a need to make clothes to wear that are flattering to a my maturing figure while still high-style and fashion forward with an avant garde edge. Plus, I live in a town with limited clothing stores, and I don’t fit in most clothes on the racks in the stores anyway.
MI: Oh my, does ANYONE? Here’s what interests me today, and I quote from your website: “She (Linda) loves to investigate the engineering of garment sewing — thus the geometry of the patterns. And she likes to watch the transformation of her students’ views of themselves as she works with them to create wearable wardrobes that complement how they want to express themselves.”
I’d like to explore these two thoughts with you today….
Let’s start with your background and how that influences your pattern designs and how you dress yourself. How much of your architecture/interior design background shows up in your patterns and clothing?
LL: I owned an interior design business for almost 40 years, and I find that I still bring some of the strategies and concepts as a designer to my style in patterns. I love interesting architectural shapes in garments. I’ve sewn enough “two fronts, a back and two sleeve” garments in my lifetime. Now I am interested in sewing pieces that are more like a puzzle – angles, asymmetry, surprise details. Follow the directions and magic happens. And that magic transforms how I feel about myself and am portrayed in this world.
I like for people to ask if I have made my outfit. I assume they are asking because whatever I have on is unique, made in an interesting fabric and fits me well.
MI: That’s a very safe assumption – I’ve always been impressed by the expert finishing and small details – artful and precise, without being stuck up about it. I don’t know how to say it, but the clothes have an approachable attitude even in their sophistication.
LL: Maybe it’s because, just like the process I used as an interior designer of coordinating wallpapers, fabrics and floor coverings, I am comfortable with and like to mix textures, patterns and motifs. In order to bring that to my garment style, I am constantly perusing home decorating magazines and online interior sources plus fashion resources as well. I want my pattern collection to be fresh and on trend.
MI: We are not all born with or have taken the time to develop a strong personal design sense, and it’s hard to see ourselves as other see us, too. Do you see your retreat students’ self-image change during the time you spend together?
LL: I love teaching workshops such as the Knits Workshop as part of the School of Art Fashion with Original and Sewing Expos because I get to see the pure delight of my students when they discover they can actually sew well using good techniques and equipment, plus they leave with completed ensembles that fit and flatter. I have actually had students tell me that a workshop has “changed their lives” and definitely given them the confidence to step out of their normal sewing box and sew on great fabric using patterns that are for real people.
MI: What are your favorite features of the knit garment patterns you chose for the retreat? I know you chose them for a reason ….. and not just that they’re pretty quick to make — they are that too, I know. But what else?
LL: I chose the garments for this season’s knit ensemble for several reasons. First, I want my students to experience sewing on different weights and types of knit, from tissue weight to sweater knits. I insist on using the very best quality designer knits in order to get really good results. Then I want to ingrain the idea that knits don’t have to be intimidating. We wear knits almost every day. It’s time to hone our skills and sew what we really want to wear.
MI: Oh, gosh, I love that idea! We so often only sew ‘special’ things, and that’s just not satisfying enough after awhile…..
LL: The eTee is the best-fitting and most flattering t-shirt I have ever had in the pattern collection. The eShrug, made as a vest, is currently being shown in many forms in every catalog, fashion magazine, and style ad in the universe. It is easy and fast to make, and super flattering on everyone from ages 25 to 75+. The variations are endless. And the pants, well, no doubt they are the most versatile and wearable pants with today’s tops and tunics, and everyone who has made them is in love with them and has made more than one pair.
MI: I’ve been backstage dressing models during your fashion show at the Expo, and am always amazed by how very lovely – that’s the word I want to use, lovely – your garments are. Not fussy, but distinctive. Made simply and perfectly, made using high-end fabrics. And they look so great on all the models, who are not all “model size and shape.’’ Please explain….
LL: I sew to replicate the great clothes that I can’t afford in the best stores, and I sew for the love of the process and the challenge of the engineering. Every woman of any size or figure type deserves to look amazing. Every year I have to re-evaluate what looks good on me and my customers. I am of the age that if something feels good and looks good on me, then most likely it will work on a lot of people. While I don’t have to have the very latest design craze, there are definitely silhouettes of the time that I want to have represented in the pattern line.
So….. I hope to see everyone who sews in a workshop or lecture somewhere along the way. To me it’s about sharing our love of the art of sewing and feeling good about ourselves.
MI: Amen! And thank you for your time today, Linda. I think I need to be in your Knits Ensemble retreat myself….. see you in Fredericksburg!