Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interview with Lupine Swanson of Modern Domestic

Lupine Swanson is an owner/partner of Modern Domestic sewing studio on NE Alberta in the bustling arts district. She has been sewing and crafting since childhood and really began sewing just after college 15 years ago, then became a Sales Rep for Petersen-Arne, a large wholesale distributor of sewing and craft supplies out of Eugene. There she had the opportunity to travel in the greater Portland Metro area and spent time in all sorts of stores, big and small. After having her first child, Lupine switched to teaching sewing at Bolt Neighborhood Fabric Boutique which proved to be a wonderful change, and perfect for the first years of her family and second child. Eventually, she assisted Gina, the owner of Bolt and future partner at MD, on starting the bolt neighborhood blog. Last March, Lupine opened Modern Domestic with Gina of Bolt, and Michelle, a long time friend and sewing and knitting inspiration.

When did you learn how to sew & what kind of machine did you first learn to sew on? I began sewing as a child on my grandmothers hand-me-down Singer. It was horrible. If I had access to a better machine, I would have been sewing much earlier. There were constant problems with tension, unthreading and more. It made sewing by hand easier than figuring out the machine, which really stalled my learning. After college, I borrowed a friends simple and inexpensive machine. After a little less (just a little mind you) frustration, I started taking some classes. I wanted to become a better sewer, and although I didn't know much, I knew there was a whole lot for me to learn.

I began taking classes in a great shop in Eugene, 27th Street Fabrics. I quickly discovered that Bernina's were truly wonderful machines, and bought one. I am the type of person who feels that if I am going to invest in something, a tool or learning experience, I would rather have a good one that I can depend on to work ever time and make learning fun. I can not tell you what a difference that machine made to my skills. That lovely Bernina 130, a handful of classes, and I was sewing for years and years! There wasn't access to great fabric or inspiring patterns, but I made due and mostly just kept sewing through the years, for myself, my home, and now my kids.

What sewing machine do you use now? I also invested in a Bernina serger, it is a 900 DL. It is a great serger and continues to serve me well. I now also have a Bernina Aurora 430, and still have my Bernina 130 (although I have lent it to my sister). I also sew on lots of new Bernina's at Modern Domestic, the 330's mostly, as they are in the classrooms.

What do you most use your machine for? I use my machine for loads of things, from sewing doll clothes, to clothes for myself, a little quilting, home dec projects, what ever inspires me. Most recently I made a little Vogue tunic dress with beautiful Liberty of London fabric, which was dreamy.

What is your 'dream machine'? I think I can happily say that I own my dream machine! I do think that may change when I get to know more about the Bernina 820, which is truly amazing. After I can get over the intimidation of such a sophisticated sewing machine, I bet I will begin to fall in love.

What advice would you give to a beginning sewer looking to invest in a machine? When it comes to investing in your first machine, please do not purchase on from a "big box store." Aside from a very poorly made sewing machine that has mostly plastic and non-durable parts, they are hardly worth maintaining and you get NO support from those stores. Go to a dealership and buy the best you can afford. A well-built sewing machine will last you a very long time if properly maintained, and you can get loads of support from your dealership, including classes on your machine, and tips and help. If you have to wait a little longer to invest, look into layaway, and use a sewing studio for classes meanwhile, so you can learn and sew before you decide on your level of commitment/investment.

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