Spotlight: Barbara Emodi, Seamstress and Author
It was fate for us to meet Barbara Emodi at Quilt Market. We were giving our feet a break and she asked if she could sit at our table with us to charge her phone for a few minutes. We had the most enjoyable chat and knew we wanted to learn more about Barbara. She is inspiring me to sew more clothes, and why not start by cutting out several outfits at once! Here’s more about Barbara:
How long have you been sewing? How did you get started?
I started sewing when I was eight – a yellow flannelette nightgown for Barbie with button hole stitch edging and some stencilled flowers down the front. I was always over ambitious.
Do you feel that you chose your “passion,” or did it choose you?
I was born this way. Is that an adequate response to this question?
How often do you start a new project?
I usually sew 3-4 of the same colour group simultaneously. Today, I cut out two bathing suits, four pairs of leggings, and three T shirts. Because I sew for myself and three generations of my family I can do this. There is always that much sewing going on and I am always behind schedule for birthdays.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I used to have a sewing room that was one large room in my lower level. Then I had one room going upstairs too so I wouldn’t have to go down stairs for fast jobs. Then I also set up a satellite space in the dining room because the dog likes it in there and I wanted her to be happy. Finally I moved the whole dispersed operation to fill the entire lower level of my house. Essentially my husband lives in a sewing room at this stage.
What is your favorite storage tip for fabric?
Go through it every once in a while and find out what you once bought. It can be exciting to see great fabric in your own house that you didn’t know you had – either because you really are losing it this time or because you bought it so long ago you can’t remember where or why. Or because there is so much around that you can’t be faulted for losing track of some of it.
Shelves and shelves and sometimes the freezer, or under the beds or in the trunk of the car when I am trying to ease yet more fabric purchases into the system under cover.
Are there indispensable tools in your studio? How do they improve your work? Where are they available?
Seam rippers. I have multiple because I am always losing them and always need one. My granddaughter actually thinks they are called the sewer’s best friend because I am always asking her to pass the sewer’s best friend.
Tell us about your most challenging piece. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
My most challenging piece was my mother of the groom’s dress I made to wear to my son’s fancy wedding in Washington, DC. The problem was that the pattern was chosen by a committee of my sisters and my daughter, all of whom did not trust my taste. I ended up trying to exceed expectations and made a complicated Marfy pattern with an asymmetrical collar thing that went across the body to a bow on one side. Of course it was in fuchsia silk dupioni and was beaded. Despite my best efforts in the pictures I look like I have on a silk dupioni Girl Guide uniform with my badge scarf draped across my body. What can you do?
Have you had a “never again” moment, then gone and did it again?
Of course. I think I have once put the left sleeve in the right armhole four times and used the sewer’s best friend in between each time.
How would you say your creativity has evolved over the years?
I still jump into things hoping for the best and over my head. In this respect I would say my creativity has been at this same place over the years. Sometimes I get lucky though.
When is your most productive creative time?
Between when I get up and when I go to bed if you don’t count getting up at 3:00 to fix a mistake that bugs me so much I can’t sleep. I let a lot of other things in my life slide.
How do you make time for creating? Do you try to create daily?
See above. I more or less resent any time I spend that is not sewing related so this is not a challenge for me.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
Also see above. It’s being interested in anything but sewing that I need more motivational help with. Any ideas?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
A boss I once had said in any activity 80% perfect is as good as it gets, just learn to live with the other 20%, it doesn’t matter. Broadly this applies to getting all I want done with my sewing. I figure if I can keep it at about an 82% and not get lower than say 78% I am operating at optimal capacity. Sewers of my generation ruin the experience by trying to be perfect.
Tell us about your new book, Sew. . . The Garment Making Book of Knowledge! What inspired you to write?
I was inspired by seeing so many new sewers (or sewists to quote the title that Google insists on changing to sexist) start sewing. I just wanted to pass on as many of the handy hints I could in the hope that understanding some mistake I have learned from in my past might be helpful to a new or returning sewist who could then avoid the same mistake themselves.
Everyone who sews should have a great time doing it and feel clever. Pattern instructions leave out so much and what they leave out is the important stuff that makes the difference. I wanted to fill in some of those blanks.
Really I don’t have a clue. Right now I am up to my eyeballs in new projects and trying to share as many tips as I can, through my book, on my blog, on Instagram and my Youtube channel. If folks buy this book my publishers will let me do another one. If not, well, then I have a lot of sewing to get done.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Talk to me. I love hearing from other sewers. The best part of my blog is definitely the comment section. You can find me at barbaraemodi.com, @bemodi on Instagram and Barbara Emodi on Youtube. The book can be found in many libraries and bookstores and of course on Amazon.
Here are some of Barbara’s great how-to videos: