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I’m so happy to have An from Straight Grain today. An not only sews the most beautiful garments for her sweet daughters, but she also sells her own patterns(different dress patterns and a sleepsack) which are full of different options and just oh so perfect. She has a ton of tutorialson her blog and also contributes to both the birch fabrics blog and the Miss Matatabi blog. This doesn’t come as a surprise as her fabric taste is impeccable and her clothes always have that little twist that takes them from just a dress to WOW. An also hosted two amazing and inspiring sewing series: Kids Clothes Belgian Stylee and Secret Squirrel. And last, but definitely not least: She is a super nice and friendly woman that I hope to get to know better in the future.
Here are some of my favorites.
|Birthday dress and crown, Bean Bag, Bubble Dress with improvisational pleating|
First things first: Please introduce yourself(who are you, tell us a little bit about your family, which country and maybe city do you live in, are you originally from this country, do you work or are you a stay at home mom, etc.)!
My name is An, and I just turned 34. I live in Antwerp, Belgium, with my husband Jelle and two kids Norah and Ava. I work part time (60%) as a communications lecturer at a university in the Netherlands. The rest of the time that is left, I spend on my kids and pattern business.
Let’s talk about sewing:
When did you start and who taught you to sew?
I started sewing almost 4 years ago. I took formal sewing classes, but also learned a lot via the internet and trial-and-error of course.
Do you consider yourself a beginner, intermediate or professional sewer?
Which three tips would you give a beginner sewer?
– Don’t waste money on lousy fabrics. Treat yourself to really nice fabrics. If you spend many hours making a garment, you better do it in a decent fabric.
– Try to use hidden zippers. They scare a lot of beginners, but they are actually really easy to use! You can install a blind zipper in just a few minutes, so they are a lot quicker than making button holes and attaching buttons.
– Kids aren’t Christmas trees – don’t overload them with balls, garlands, lights, and other ornaments. Keep it simple! If you use a dress with a lot of details, use a fabric with a simple print. If you use a fabric with a busy print, go for a simple dress design. The more bells and whistles you add, the cheaper the garment will look.
For whom do you sew?
Almost exclusively for my two daughters. If I had more time, I would also sew for myself, and presents for friends.
How often do you sew?
Only about two times per week, and almost never more than two hours :-(
What fabric type(s) do you like most to sew with?
I have a preference for wovens, although knits are growing on me! My favorite types are voile, lawn, and double gauze.
How do you get inspired?
I really get inspiration everywhere. I’m pretty obsessed with sewing, so I see sewing projects in everything.
Do you have any real life sewing friends?
Yes! Every Tuesday night, I sew together with 4 friends I met through the sewing course. We alternate between our different homes.
You blog at Straight Grain. I’m curious to hear a little bit about your blog:
When and why did you start to blog?
I started blogging a good 2 years ago, mostly because I wanted to get feedback on my stuff. I had no ambitions with it whatsoever, and I’ve been nothing but amazed by its success… If you had told me back then that I would be selling pdf patterns, working together with some of the nicest fabrics brands and shops, and contributing to sewing books, I would have laughed so hard that my abs would have sustained permanent damage.
Is there anything that you would make differently if you started your blog now?
The name! I didn’t really care about the name of my blog, as I didn’t have any ambitions with it. I also wish I had started on Blogger, instead of switching to it after a few months (I was originally on WordPress; the switch to Blogger did wonders for my traffic).
How often do you blog? How much time do you spend each day/week blogging?
It depends so much on how busy I am at work. Sometimes, I don’t blog for two weeks; at other times, I blog 3 times in one week. I don’t know how much time I spend on it… What I do know is that making the tutorials always takes about 3x as long as I imagined it would. ;-)
Do you plan your sewing, picture taking and blog posts in advance or do you just let things happen?
Let things happen. I don’t have time to plan ;-)
What are the three sewn (and blogged) items that you are most proud about or that you yourself like most? Show us some pictures (with links)!
I’m hardly ever proud of the stuff I make… Pride generally comes when others comments on my stuff, or share it. Only then I might think “Hm, perhaps that dress wasn’t so bad”. So that is also what the list below is based on.
The colorblocked sundress in the middle has made me quite proud. It was featured on Michael Miller’s Facebook and on BloesemKids among others, and it was pinned a lot by people who are not into sewing, but just liked the color combo. And Norah loved it.
This pleated Hanami dress on the left also got very enthusiastic comments on it, and the pleating technique I used in it has been adopted by a lot of bloggers since. They often do a better job at it than I do, ha!
And finally, a very old creation. I made the bubble a long time ago, but the picture keeps popping up on Pinterest. Funny note: mostly people tag the pin with something like “lovely dress!”, but every once in a while, someone tags it with ‘love the haircut!’ :-)
Do you make money with your blog or do you have any sewing related business (e.g. Etsy or dawanda shop; pattern shop)? Do you have tips for someone wanting to start a blog business?
I have my pattern shop, integrated in my blog and also on Etsy. I also make a bit of money writing tutorials for other businesses (e.g. the Birch blog), but I do that for the ‘honor’ and fun more than for the money.
I don’t really have tips for starting a blog business, as I am a terrible business woman. My decisions are mostly based on gut feeling, emotion, and on my friendships with other bloggers and shop owners.
Taking Pictures and editing these is an important part of blogging. Good pictures are often what makes us want to visit a blog again and again. I’m excited to read what camera you are using and if you have to bribe your kids, too…
What Camera and Objective do you use?
I have a Nikon DSLR, but I make most of my pics with a Canon compact camera. The pictures have a better color, so I stopped using the DSLR. I should really figure out how the adapt the settings in the Nikon, but I just don’t find the time.
What is your skill level in photography? Did you learn everything yourself or did you take a course or similar?
I have no skills whatsoever. I have a strong interest in photography, and would love to be able to improve my skills, but I don’t have the time to study photography. One day…
How do you get your kids to cooperate when you want to take pictures?
Ava (10 mo): doing all sorts of crazy stuff to make her laugh, and then quickly taking a picture before she crawls off or snatches the camera from my hands.
Norah (4.5 y): The last thing I tell Norah is too smile because then she makes these really weird faces. What we always do is role play: she pretends that she is Tiny (fictional character in her favorite books), and that I am her little brother Hansje, and then we make up stories while I snap pics. I also always ask her to tell jokes. Her favorite one is: “Two pears are walking down the street, and one gets run over by a car. Says the other pear: “Bye, fart”. I guess she’s into absurd humor.
What programme do you use for picture editing and which steps do you normally take to edit your pictures?
I use Pixlr. Steps I take:
– Resize to 1000×700 px
– Increase Contrast a bit
– Increase Saturation a bit
– Work a bit on Curves
– Color balance if the picture doesn’t represent the colors of the fabric well.
Oh, and I also do some serious reframing, as the pictures below illustrate ;-)
What would blogging be without other blogs? I’m always on the hunt for new inspiring blogs. And I love to get in contact with people from different countries. Who knows maybe you have some blog favourites that I don’t know about?
What are your three favourite sewing blogs to read? Why?
So difficult to name only three… But let’s try: Eva Mariaand Sanae Ishidabecause of their great photos and good writing. And You and Mie because Cherie is an awesome lady who makes gorgeous stuff for her supercute kids.
Do you follow any blogs that are written in another language? What are your three favourite ones?
I follow a lot of Dutch-language blogs of course. My favorite ones are Eva Maria, which I mentioned already, Emma and Mona, and a new favorite: MyMinnieMe.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions! Especially for the one about kids and christmas trees – so true (and funny)!
And now let’s get sewing! I’m curious to see your signature tee!
I’m not much of a t-shirt sewer, so I picked another super quick project. This skirt with lining is made from this tutorial. It consists of just 4 panels in the same size, stitched together. There is no separate waistband, so the dress is really easy and quick to sew.
I made this one from some left-over fabric. It is called Gallop and designed by Melody Miller for Cotton + Steel. I bought it at MissMatatabi.
I even had a bit of left-over from my left-over, so I also made a matching head band.
I took pictures in Antwerp’s Botanical Garden. It is small but super cosy. Norah had such fun running around there!
Thank you so much for having me here, Annika!
Well, thank you, An, again for visiting my blog. I loved to hear more about you. I knew before that you are a lecturer, but always thought you work full time. Hearing that you work 60% makes me feel much better. As I work 50% at an university, too, I always thought: How can she do all this and work full time?
If you haven’t read all of the old interviews, you can find these here. Plus, come back next week to meet the always generous and super stylish Heidi from Elegance and Elephants.