The shortness of breath returned when I spotted her fabrics at Purl Patchwork in New York City (and blew my fabric spending budget). When I got back home, I started reading her blog and immediately loved the warmth and honesty of her voice. And few months later, when I was five months pregnant, I got a copy of her newest book, Handmade Beginnings. How nice that Anna Maria wrote a book just for me, I thought! I whipped up a handful of the projects in a frenzy, so excited to be able to make cute maternity clothes and an adorable baby doll and quilt to introduce my two-year-old to the idea of a new baby (he’s now become obsessed with the baby doll, as I’ve written about before, and I made another doll for his cousin for Christmas, along with a dress!). Just last week, I visited Sewn, a shop here in town that’s about to open and is going to carry Anna Maria, and got to see Innocent Crush up close and in person. I had to remind myself to breathe.
I was nervous when I approached her about doing a Q&A for my blog because, well, she’s awesome, and I’m still very much a humble newbie in this craftastic blogosphere of talent. But of course she said yes, because that’s the kind of person she is. She also generously agreed to partner with me in a giveaway of Sew Retro. And on that note: wait until you see what she’s giving away!
-- A fat quarter bundle of Innocent Crush (cottons)
-- A fat quarter stack of the Pastry Line collection
-- A one-yard cut of Jewel Velveteen
-- The ENTIRE Anna Maria sewing pattern collection--that's 10 in all (Proper Attire Skirt, Ruthie Clutch, Sidewalk Satchel, Roundabout Dress & Slip, Gathering Flowers Quilt, Socialite Dress, Flower Patch Pillow, Evening Empire Dress, Study Hall Skirt, and Multi-Tasker Tote).
I think you'll agree, that's pretty flippin' amazing! So, to enter: read every single fabulous word Anna Maria says, and then leave a comment about what you would like to see Anna Maria design next. Me? I'd love to see her modern take on the jumper.
The giveaway ends Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 at 10:00 am EST. I'll pick a winner at random; I'll post the winner, and also email you, so make sure your email address shows up.
Thanks everyone for participating, the giveaway is now over. But stay tuned for more giveaways! And you can still enjoy this lovely Q&A with Anna Maria.
And now, the Q&A with Anna Maria . . .
Q: You have six kids, including a toddler. Do you sleep?!
Anna Maria: YES!
Q: Seriously, how do you balance it all and manage to stay so on top of your game, creatively speaking?
Anna Maria: Oh that’s a good question! I've learned to be patient with my family, but more importantly patient with myself. Everyone but Roman is school age now, so that definitely allows me some hours in the day during the school year to absorb myself in my work. But the fact of the matter is, I just take it when I can get it! Some days there is no way I am going to get focused work done in the studio so during those times, I just clean, organize. Or I might do some type of hand work in the kids' space, like the playroom or their rooms, which makes it seem like I'm not really working. I am lucky that my work includes various levels of processes—some that I have to do in seclusion, and others that I can do in a family atmosphere. So the trick is pairing the task with opportunity just right. Which I mess up. Often!
Q: Sew Retro is all about the history of sewing for the various generation of women. What is your personal sewing history? Who taught you and what role has sewing played in your life?
Anna Maria: My mama taught me how to sew, but I learned mostly by observation and tinkering. She made so much for us—dresses, blouses, toys, doll cloths, décor for our rooms. I love reminiscing about the sweet little calico fabrics she chose for our school dresses. I especially cherish my fabric store memories when I was old enough to help pick out the fabrics for my clothes—what a dream that was. It was invigorating for me, even as a young girl—so much more fun than shopping the girls’ section of the department store! Both of my grandmothers did a beautiful job at any needlecraft that they picked up—crochet, knitting, and needlework. It was all very inspiring as a young girl. I ponder sometimes what life would have been like without those influences, and while I trust that I would have come to the arts one way another because of my nature, I am thankful that it was handed to me by my family.
Q: Does vintage (like retro fashion or vintage textiles) play a role in your creative process? What are some of your favorite sources for vintage inspiration?
Anna Maria: Not too different than many designers, I love looking through old archives of furniture, clothing, and interior design. Sometimes it’s on websites or at libraries, but most often it’s at markets, antique stores, etc. The Library of Congress is a very inspiring place to look through images of days past and you don't even have to leave your house. But when given the opportunity I love to peruse old goods in person.
Q: Your blog is gorgeous, and I know that hundreds—actually probably thousands—of sewers and craft enthusiasts follow it. How do you balance the work of a blog with the pay-the-bills kind of work? (I ask this because I know a lot of bloggers struggle with this, myself included.)
Anna Maria: Thank you! This is something that definitely enters my mind as my schedule gets packed with projects. I love writing my blog and I can't imagine not doing it. It serves so many purposes for me. But I do have to remind myself that in regards to the tutorials and projects that I share there, from a business perspective, this is free content. If you're earning a living for what you do, there can only be so much free content in your business structure. So when other projects or collaborations present themselves, as inspiring or as fun as they sound, if it’s not a source of income for the business, I have to weigh its value and whether or not I have room for it while still keeping this place humming, employing myself and a handful of people. Now this is partly because I don't use at my blog as a revenue generator by taking advertising, etc. I do get asked a lot about placing ads on my site, but there's an obligation then set in place to post very regularly, and then I might also feel the pressure of what those posts are suppose to be, etc. Whereas currently, my blog is probably the easiest, most fluid, no-stress thing that I do. All that said, I have been working on pay-the-bills kind of work for years longer than I have been writing a blog, so it’s mostly just been working the blog story into my work story. So far, so good. However, I am aware of how much my blog has enhanced the business. I think this is due in large part to the fact that a lot of the fabric that I design is how-to based. And I very often share how-I-do.
Q: Clothing design seems to be an area that you’re really focusing on. I don’t know about you, but now that I’m in my late-ish 30s, I’m starting to feel sort of old, like I can’t keep up with the trends in fashion! How do you keep up, and figure out which trends to let into your creative process and which ones to tell, “no thanks!”
Anna Maria: Keeping up is made simple because I visit style.com almost daily and have for YEARS—pretty much as long as they've been in existence (which is around the same time I gave up my WWD subscription). I think the editing that takes place has to do with what kind of a fashion customer I am. I think if I've learned anything in my personal life of style (and five years as a clothing designer for my own label) it’s knowing what to say no to. I am also very lucky to have a daughter (19) who is really just one demographic age below me who provides fantastic input from her perspective. I am a 38-year-old woman and I employ women who are 24, 26, and 30. Their occasional input is really wonderful because I have the filter of various ages younger than me, each with their own perspective. This is also the same group of ages that I design for /sell to most often.
Q: I love your new line, Innocent Crush. It feels like, well, an innocent crush! What was your inspiration for the line?
Anna Maria: It was really just a very simple idea. The smallest phrase or idea can inspire a narrative which fuels the colors, forms, and print arrangements in my mind as I work. I always have forms, colors swirling around up in my head; they are sort of a cast of characters, if that makes sense. Coming up with a collection title just gives them all a story to play a part in. I know it sounds a little vague, and obscure, but I am a story-based person. Narrative is important and inspiring to me. This has been true since the beginning creative endeavors . . . from my handmade dollhouses, to my charcoals in high school, to my paintings in art school, to my clothing line, to my fabric collections.
Q: So what can we expect to see from you in 2011? More patterns? More lines of fabric? Another book?
Anna Maria: Yes to patterns, yes to fabric, and not really to a book. But a new collection of inspiration with a new collection of materials. Kind of under wraps for the time being, but I can't wait to share soon! I also am working on some product lines in the fashion arena . . . and can't wait to spill the beans on those too!