Sewist Spotlight: Meet Pauline!

When we first were introduced to Pauline (@sewuthinkucan), she had hacked our Fiona Sundress into this super cool ruffled skirt and posted an amazing outfit with it featuring a gingham top and matching bomber jacket.  I just remember thinking, this is so cool and effortless but also really high fashion and WHO IS THIS WOMAN??!! One scroll of her IG revealed what I suspected: THIS IS A WOMAN WHO LOVES CLOTHES. There is such a clear through-line in everything she makes and wears (I scrolled back so far she probably got an alert she has a weirdo stalker) and though everything is very au courante, it isn’t too trendy or basic.  You can tell she’s been all over the world and her sense of colour, pattern, and taste in textiles is evidenced by the fact she always seems to choose the most unusual (but somehow perfect) fabric for every pattern and project. Her blog has all the details of her makes so go check that out!

She is mother to three beautiful teenagers (I told you I was a stalker), and her extensive collection of shorts is perfect for her California Bay Area home and outdoor photoshoots, which are a constant joy and inspiration in our feed. So without further ado, let’s meet Pauline!

How long have you been sewing?

I’ve been sewing for 40+ years.  My productivity has significantly increased in the past 5 years but prior to that, I was sewing on and off, whether it be special occasions for myself or my family. I made robes for everyone, had fun planning and making Halloween costumes for the kids and made Easter and Christmas dresses for the girls.

How much time do you spend on your sewing practice a week (including planning, researching, sewing etc).

The pandemic put a halt on all our extra-curricular activities and freed up some precious time for me to indulge in my hobby. I spend well around 15-20 hours per week.

What is your home sewing set-up like? 

I don’t have a dedicated sewing room like I used to when we lived in the Midwest. I have claimed half of our garage as my sewing cave. My garage is not insulated so California’s clement weather allows me to sew in there 11 months out of 12.  A fan usually gets me through the week or two of heatwaves we have here in the summer however my space heater is not enough during cold winter nights so I take refuge in our dining room. I have 2 rectangular tables on bed risers for cutting and a smaller table for my machine, serger and cover stitch. I set everything up so that what I need is within an arm’s reach from my chair.  I miss not being able to see the natural light from outside but having a permanent workspace is by far preferable.

Did you have a gateway person or experience that brought you to sewing?

I was a very opinionated little girl with a distinct sense of what she wanted to wear. Nothing my seamstress mom made for me was satisfying. Could she make the sleeves shorter and puffier, how about adding ruffles, buttons or trims? She decided to teach me how to sew at the age of 7 to get me off her back, hoping I’d realize it wasn’t an easy job. To her surprise, I loved it and soaked in everything she taught me. After school, my sisters and I would help my mom with fulfilling important orders. 

When I moved to France my love for sewing was rekindled by my friend, a German exchange student I met in middle school. She came to spend the summer with me in Paris with her sewing machine in tow.  It was the year of the Bicentennial of the French revolution and Paris celebrated it in an astounding fashion. We explored the city together and sewed up a storm from my friend’s Burda magazines. In the fall following her visit, my oldest sister purchased a sewing machine and sewing has since become a constant in my life.

What was the first thing you remember wanting to sew?

The first thing I made when I was a kid was a dress. It ended being too tight but I was so proud — I showed it off to our neighbours. In my teenage years, I made simple tops, pants, and jackets from Burda magazines. My German friend taught me everything I needed to know so I started with Burda Easy which had illustrated instructions before trying the monthly magazine.

How would you define your style?

I think my style is casual chic or elegant minimalist with an emphasis on statement sleeves and interesting details. I like clothes with simple and clean shapes with a few details that elevate them without being ostentatious. I’m striving to build a wardrobe that is trendy and yet casual and that has a high end feel while being practical. Having lived on 3 different continents my style is a mix of those cultural influences which have shaped who I am.

If I could, I would wear stripes everyday! They make me so happy!

What is your favourite thing you’ve made?

I’m very proud of my collection of Zadie jumpsuits by Paper Theory. From the moment I tried on my very first Zadie, my fear of jumpsuits vanished and turned into unconditional love and borderline obsession for this pattern. I have since made 10 versions and none of them are alike. They all have different details that set them apart from each other. 

What is your favourite Closet Core Pattern?

I absolutely adore the Pietra short and the Cielo top pattern. These two patterns are beginner friendly, versatile, and surprisingly quick to sew. I have made 3 Cielo tops, 6 Pietra shorts and will definitely be adding Pietra pants for fall and winter. The Cielo is a pattern hacker’s dream, especially with the different sleeves options. The fabric options are also quite varied. 

The Pietra fit perfectly without a muslin and with only one little crotch length modification. I love the flat front with the wide facing that tucks my tummy in, the beautiful pockets, and the elasticated back waistband. I’m planning a few more hacks of these two amazing patterns.

Editor note: Please feast your eyes on this INCREDIBLE capsule collection Pauline made using Cielo and Pietra. We’re obsessed with how mix and matchable everything is, and obviously crazy heart eyes for those Closet Core yellow shorts!!

 How does sewing affect your relationship to shopping and RTW?

Other than athletic wear, lounge wear, and underwear, I think at least 70% of my wardrobe is me made. I decided to stop buying jeans because they’ve never really fit me properly and I need to push myself to start sewing my own. A few years ago, I participated in a RTW fast for a year. In retrospect, the timing wasn’t right. We were in the critical first years of homeschooling and I simply didn’t have time to sew all I needed to fill the gap in my wardrobe. I still wonder why I didn’t quit and held on for that long wearing nothing but my me-made dresses. Interestingly, my RTW consumption has been on a steady decline since then as my handmade wardrobe keeps growing.

How does sewing relate to your body image?

It’s so satisfying and empowering to be able to make something that fits my body. I’ve learned over the years what works for me and it’s clearly reflected in my wardrobe. Each new skill I learn adds to my confidence when making clothes that fit my short-waisted, apple-shaped self with long legs and long arms. This sense of freedom from the diktat of the fashion industry and magazines is possible when you’re able to sew your own clothes. 

What are your go-to fabric stores?

I’m lucky to have Stone Mountain and Britex in my area. Actually I’m glad they’re a good 45 min(without traffic) drive from where I live because they’d see me every single day. I also buy online from Mood, Fabric Mart and Fabric.com.

Most of the time, however, I do shop from my own fabric stash which I’ve accumulated over the years. I still have fabric I bought in France before we moved to the US 20 years ago!

What are the tools you can’t live without?

My rulers. They’re a pattern hacker’s essential tool and if you’re a stripe matching nut like me, you need them in your drafting arsenal.

What was the best lesson or skill that took your sewing to the next level?

Making muslins. I fought against them for so long until I finally relented. No more going rogue and sewing blindly only to be frustrated and waste precious fabric. It is truly worthwhile and saves you time, money and headaches.

What are your sewing goals? What would you like to learn how to do to push your practice forward?

I want to master coat/jacket tailoring. Although I made jackets before, I’ve never tried tailoring. I was under the impression that it was daunting and difficult but after taking a class last fall I realized it wasn’t out of reach, just a tad time-consuming. I need to stop procrastinating and finish sewing the lining in my Jasika blazer. I love the fact that the Jasika Blazer online course is available every time I need a refresher and I have plenty of tailoring books to refer to. I also want to tackle jeans. I know that as soon as I finally get my act together I’ll wonder why I waited so long! 

What’s the next thing you want to make?

I have several hacks planned in my sewing queue. The Elodie wrap dress is one of them. I’m about to complete a vintage jumpsuit that I successfully muslined. It’s also a refashioning project that required extra attention while I was cutting it. I want to squeeze in some more summer makes since the warm weather seems to be lingering. Lastly, I need to find the courage to revisit a Rachel Comey Vogue jumpsuit pattern that I muslined twice without success and set aside to avoid a burnout. I have a beautiful brocade waiting in the wings for it and I’m really close to getting the perfect fit so it might be my holiday outfit. We shall see!

What makers or sewists in our community do you find inspiring?

The list is way too long and I don’t want to forget anyone! I’m constantly inspired by the sewists I follow online and in the sewing community on Instagram. Each one of them in their own way brings something unique to the table and it is so important that we continue to recognize and celebrate such diversity of talents. We help each other grow and improve in our craft.

Where else do you turn when you need inspiration?

Besides Instagram, I love browsing Pinterest, Shopbop and Moda Operandi to name a few.

What experiences have come out of your interaction with the online sewing community?

I have made many virtual sewing friends online, some of whom I had the chance to meet IRL which has truly been a blessing. Last year I had the chance to meet several sewing friends including Peggy Mead @sewhouse7 and Anne Whalley at the Pattern Review weekend in Portland. Spending a whole weekend chatting and fabric shopping with like-minded sewists is so energizing and a great sewjo booster. I also spent a month in France last summer and met up with several IG friends. Laurence @pimsycoudsdestrucs went out of her way to pick me up from the train station and drive me to Tissus Bennytex for a fabric shopping spree — we had an absolute blast. 

My IG friend Diana @ by_mooglii lives in Denmark and we love to send each other sewing goodies. She sent me the cutest striped ribbings from Stoff Stil and Albstoffe I was lusting after. I used one of them on my beloved scuba knit Inari Top and I can’t wait to use the rest. Sewing friends are the best friends!

Ain’t that the truth.. thank you so much Pauline! Make sure you keep up with her on Instagram – it’s truly a pattern hacking wonderland!

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Hi! I'm Heather Lou, a pattern designer and sewing educator for the modern maker. At Closet Core Patterns, we transform your imagination into step-by-step implementation that helps you create a wardrobe you love - not one you're limited to buying off the rack.

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