Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Interview with the Nancy Langdon

Over the summer one of the Trendy Textiles members did an interview with the amazing Nancy Langdon. For those who love Studio Tantrum, you deffinately know who she is.

Mellissa, from WonderMommy did the interview and has so kindly allowed us to paste a copy of the interview here on the Trendy Textiles blog!

So, on with the interview: (Me, Nancy)
Introduce yourself.
I’m Nancy. I have two children. I have the privilege and greatfortune to straighten ballet tights, cheer soccer jukes, listen to“Kitten’s First Full Moon” read to me, proofread class reports,pack lunches, make teddy bear pancakes, smear sun screen on fidgetynoses and referee squirt gun battles. I have the best job in theworld. I’ve seen a good deal of the world, but my favorite way tosee the world is through these kids’ eyes.

How long have you been sewing?
I have not sewn very long with this regularity. I learned watching mymother, who sewed quite a bit. As a very young child, it took me awhile to learn that you could actually buy the clothes in adepartment store. Usually, I would shop with my mother and say, “Ilike this, but in blue” and over to the fabric section of MarshallField’s we would go. She sewed for me all her life. Mom came of agein an era when even everyday dresses were tailored (think “I loveLucy”) and a decent dress cost $50 or $100 back then. Sewing wasmuch more commonplace. And Mom could do it all: Welted pockets andbutton holes, steam-formed shoulders and blazer collars that laidlike they were part of me.

What/Who first got you interested in sewing? What interested you indesigning children’s clothing patterns?
I’ve always liked clothes. Not fashion, but clothes. I can look atan Armani cocktail dress at the Barney’s or a 50s swing coat at thesecond hand shop the way some people look at a Vermeer. And then,with Anna, I really just wanted some clothes for my daughter similarto the kinds of clothes the kids had in Europe. Children’s clothesdon’t require much fabric, so why not sew up a few? I dusted offMom’s old Bernina and cut up some fabric with the lines and styles Ihad seen in Europe. At one point, I came across Sabine Pollehn’sforum, and I said, “I want clothes like that.”When I began posting some of my items, other people started saying“I want clothes like that” about my clothes. And that was thestart of the pattern thing.

What is your favorite sewing tool?
Good question: Probably a Sharpie pen and paper. It all starts with apiece of paper. I like my seam ripper that’s like a knife, I thinkit’s sold as a “serger” seam ripper. A good pattern sure takes a lotof the guesswork out. The pattern is one place I don’t like toskimp. If the pattern has been hand-drafted by a coutureprofessional, I am ten steps ahead. If you have read this far, maybeyou’ve sewn Farbenmix and studioTANTRUM/fledge and maybe you agree.And that tape measure: Measure thrice, cut once. And measure,measure, measure as you go along.

Do you have any advice for beginner sewers that you would like to share?
Sewing for children is a good way to start sewing. First, it doesn’trequire a lot of fabric. Second, children always need new clothes asthey grow. If the sewn item isn’t perfect, no big deal. They willsoon outgrow it. And fudging is allowed. Appliqué is the French wordfor “covering up wonky seams”, I’m sure of it. Also, in sewingchildren’s clothing, you learn the basics of clothing construction,upon which you can expand and improve. Once you have make a basicjumper, there’s not much to hold you back from making adouble-layer jumper with a scalloped hemline. And choosing a goodpattern is also a good way to start. If the seams match up nicely, ifthe fit is comfortable and flattering, and if the form is catchingpeople’s attention, well, pretty soon the sewing bug will bite you.And just wait for the first time your little one puts on that twirlydress you made her and she spins herself dizzy and lands in a heap ofgiggles. Or your somewhat older girl shops with you at the fabric store and sketches up adesign she wants, when she eschews mass marketed brands and wants todetermine her own style. That’s what it’s all about. Andremember, with the Internet, you are never alone! It has been myexperience that sewists are not only some of the most creative peoplearound, but also some of the most helpful and generous. Do you have aquestion? Is there a term you don’t understand? Do my patterninstructions require the Rosetta Stone to decipher? There are tens ofthousands of sewing enthusiasts sharing their knowledge and arepleased to help. Wondermommy is a great example of this.

When did you make your first pattern?
That would be REDONDO. That was in May 2005, I believe.

Did you go to fashion school or are you self-taught?
I have no right to do this: I have no background in fashion designwhatsoever. There is a tiny bit of me channeling my mother’s abilities. My dress-up clothes as a kid were like a lesson in 20thCentury fashion design: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s—all rightthere. Mom could sew, but you should also see the fashion art shepainted and drew. I’m hoping my sister still has some of her art,because I would like to make a few copies.What is your biggest inspiration?
Inspiration, I think, just pops up at you out of the blue, don’tyou think? Some of my patterns have come by just looking at a solidform and thinking, hm, what if that hubcap were made of fabric? Howwould it fall? I’m always looking at seams. That is the alchemy ofdesign. I’ll watch an entire movie and not know the plot, becauseI’ll be concentrating on the costumes.

What is your most favorite pattern and why?
The next one. Always the next one

How long have you been in business?
I’ve been distributing Farbenmix and studioTANTRUM/fledge in theU.S. for over two years. Time flies!

What made you decide to go into business?
Sabine Pollehn asked me. No huge plan to conquer the world onesewing pattern at a time. But it seems to be happening! And it willbe your—you and sewing enthusiasts everywhere—fault! Really: Ihave a really lousy Website that has only been up a couple of months.I don’t have a big company behind me with a PR and advertising staffto call magazines and promote the patterns. I’ve never been to“market” and only recently understood what “market” meant. Thesepatterns have sold in the thousands, because somebody posted afinished garment on a forum somewhere and somebody else recommendedit and somebody else posted something on a blog…I’m veryembarrassed at my lack of professional marketing. On the other hand,I am proud of the fact that these patterns have sold withoutadvertising. They have sold through word of mouth and forum and blog.I probably should have it another way, but I am rather pleased thatthe sewists want these patterns, despite the fact that the packaging isn’t very fancy and the trancing requiressome concentration and some of the designs really are a leap of faithin terms of construction (think “LAGUNA” ;-).

What can we look forward to in the future from you and your company?
Nancy action figures? I don’t know: What do you want? There areareas in this corner of crafting to which my colleagues at Farbenmixand I could really add something new. We have the ideas. But we arereally just working from our homes between packing lunches, searchingfor lost shin guards and sitting through music lessons. I have beenworking on some clothes for myself that I like and maybe I’ll trymy hand at women’s patterns. But I want to know what you want. Iknow you want more patterns translated. And I am the bottleneck. I amso very sorry for that. I have a couple of wonderful womentranslating with me. But it takes time. And I’m looking into Frenchand Japanese versions. It takes time. For all other things, I’mopen to ideas and criticisms!

Is there anything else that you would like to share with theWondermommy readers?
Well, really, I would like to know what makes you sew. Why sew? I’dlike to hear how other people came to the sentence, “And so, Ibegan to sew.” A friend recently wrote to me that starting a newproject was “like falling in love, like a twist in my stomach”.That is what I would like to know.
What I do want to share is my great appreciation. I want to thank youfor sewing these patterns. I want to thank you for spending yourvaluable time with these ideas and for sharing them with yourchildren. I haven’t made my favorite versions of my designs, somebodyelse out there has. It warms my heart. It really does. I’m humbledand honored.

If you want more of Nancy, here are a list of her sites:
Mother of Invention Blog
Studio Tantrum
Fledge Flying is Easy

Thanks Mellissa, for allowing us to share this on our blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this here! Nancy is really wonderful and inspirational. She makes beautiful patterns. I really love Fledge*Studio Tantrum.