From playing with scraps from a sewing factory as a child to pattern making and an MFA in Costume Design, Steffani Lincecum found her calling. She is all about the details that make garments successful and then helping others achieve their sewing goals. Her book, Sewing Machine Magic, does just that with tips to help you get the most out of your machine. It can do more than you ever imagined!
Tell us a bit more about your journey with sewing garments.
I’ve been sewing ever since I was little playing with dolls and scraps of fabric from a sewing factory in my hometown. Every woman I knew made things so it was just part of life. My Mom made my clothes and they were really special because of the time it took. In a sewing class at the Girls Club in 5th grade, I made a flutter sleeve top. I was so proud of it and loved learning. I found it really empowering. Sewing just always made sense to me and I loved making things. Then that lead to making costumes when I got into college and that’s how I learned patternmaking and alterations.
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What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your book, Sewing Machine Magic?
I want them to see that you don’t have to be frustrated with your sewing machine. That there are some simple principles that you can learn that will make it a much smoother experience, and therefore way more fun.
Do you feel that you chose your “passion,” or did it choose you?
My first job in a costume shop was for a Shakespeare festival. I was a stitcher and we arrived earlier than everyone else to get a jump on the workload. But they hadn’t found a patternmaker (called a cutter in that shop, a draper in others). So the costume designer worked late and I hung around watching her blow up 1/8 patterns from books and then adjust them to the correct size. Seeing that, it was like I’d done it in another life or something. I can’t explain it. But it made perfect sense and I was hooked. I remember thinking this is what I was born to do. I assumed most people have this experience at some point in their lives, but that’s not always the case. So, I feel pretty lucky to have that sort of joy about the process. I’m very, very grateful for that.
Did you receive formal training on pattern drafting? self taught? or a mix of both?
A mix of both really, because I really learned on the job at those Summer programs just doing it and making all the mistakes, and then I got an MFA in Costume Design from Tulane University and learned proper tailoring and construction skills. After graduating, I fine tuned my pattern drafting, tailoring and construction skills over the next decade in Hollywood working in film and television, including costuming for Will & Grace and Third Rock from the Sun.
What do you believe is a key element in creating good garments?
Fit, Fit, and more Fit.
How does your studio setup contribute to your work process?
It’s good to always have a dedicated cutting table ready to go. But I’m getting away from that as I begin to work again with other organizations like American Players Theatre that have well equipped shops. Now I don’t really need a whole cutting table at home, so I’m beginning to downsize.
What is your favorite tip for organizing your stash of creative supplies?
Clear containers like those shoebox sized ones. That way I don’t even have to label them so much because you can just see what it is. So it’s a tidy look.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade?
Well, I love all the feet for my machine that I discovered researching my book Sewing Machine Magic, and my other favorite tools are the wooden tailor’s pressing boards that have points and curves in them. I show how to use them in my Craftsy classes because pressing is so important in the process of making fine garments.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
Yes, I have 5 classes available on Craftsy/Bluprint and I answer questions in those classes daily. So it’s a great way to learn. You can watch the class through once to get the idea and then slowly again as you work through the process. So I teach people all over the world through that platform and it’s been very rewarding.
What do you hope the next year will bring?
I’m so very excited to make a quilt for my daughter who’s graduating from high school in June. My great-grandmother made one for me when I graduated, so I made one for my son a couple of years ago. I already reserved my time on a long arm machine at my local sewing shop here in Madison, The Electric Needle, for the quilting part. They’re so great about walking you through all the technical stuff.
How can people follow you and your work?
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Interview posted December 2018