Start Where You Are

This week marks the beginning of a series of “how I got started” stories that may or may not help some of you out there who are not sure how to begin or where to go. Again – everyone’s experiences, resources and access is different, but I think the most important thing is the motivation and the willingness to use what is available to get to the next step. Plus there are so many free resources on the Internet. I’ll go through week by week and describe the steps I think helped me get where I am, and maybe they will help some of you, too.

The most important thing:

Start Where You Are

Sure, if you want to go to fashion school or move to Paris or design a whole collection for a show, you can totally do that.

But if that feels like WAY too much – more time, more money, more commitment or just too overwhelming to contemplate yet – that’s ok. Don’t wait for some magical far off day when you have enough time, or you’ve figured out your branding, or you think you’re good enough. You’ll get better and then good and then great as you go. (For example – I started this newsletter with zero idea what I was doing and a lot of you have watched me flail around figuring it out – thank you very much for that ??. I’d been talking about it for years and realized I just had to dive in and start. People will support you.)

Figure out what you want to know. And if you want to know EVERYTHING, break it down. Prioritize. Pick a thing to focus on for now. There is time.

This may be going back too far to actually be helpful, but I had an after school job at Fabricland and my mom’s old plastic singer. I had no idea how to sew anything, and I knew all the clothes in shops were lame, so my bestie Danielle and I would comb through the racks at Value Village and second hand stores and I would bring the stuff home, chop it up and restitch it back together into outfits that we love to this day (though they live on only in pics, they are enduringly cool).

Taking shit apart is a brilliant way to learn. Reverse engineering. Go slow. See the way it comes apart and figure out how they put it together.

My first collection for FAT was on a lark. I lived out west and had zero money to pull it together. I applied without any real belief I would get in, and then somehow had to make it happen.

The whole thing was built out of fabrics I took from second-hand clothes and materials and stuff from the clearance tables at fabric stores. I mean, I put a lot of work into those reused fabrics, but that’s my point – it doesn’t have to cost a ton. It’s the motivation and your vision that matters. I can’t find many photos from that first show because I spilled tea on that hard drive years ago and was not yet a maniacal digital hoarder, so this is the only one I could dig up. The white dress is made of curtains I got at Value Village and then painstakingly hand-pleated, and the wolf outfit is made of fabrics I ripped out of other clothes or clearance fabrics. I took the pics in my bedroom, using my friends as models (I’m lucky, I have hot friends). 


Some of you might know this already, but the glamour of fashion is bullshit. It’s all a show. Smoke and mirrors. The whole thing is an illusion. It looks glam on the outside, because it is created to do so. Don’t let your fraudy feelings get in the way. I promise you – it’s ugly and messy and chaotic and extremely unglam on the inside. I felt bad for a long time that I was working like a maniac up until the last second on projects until I watched a documentary about Marc Jacobs – on the night before his NYFW show, he was on his knees on the floor of his studio re-cutting a dress before he and half his staff pulled all-nighters and napped on couches. This is what it’s like. It’s a *show*. Part of your job is to maintain the illusion. Anyway, back to my original point.

Start where you are.

There are a load of tutorials on the internet about putting in zips and other basics. However, the very best ones are here:

Kathleen is fantastic, and it doesn’t matter that her tutorials have not been updated since 2012. They have set the best practices for my custom gowns and absolutely elevated the standard of my sewing. I’ve gone through and done every one of them until I got them perfect (and they are all better than anything I learned in school – I swear).  I have also purchased her book, but we’ll get to that later. If you love her tutorials, please consider donating to her or buy one of the books on her amazon wishlist).

The point is, start where you are. Practice. Don’t let yourself get discouraged by sucking at first. We all suck when we start. You get better.

Next week I will add to this with more resources and more practical suggestions. I have written out like nine more posts for this – I have quite a lot to impart.

Def send me your questions – I want to make sure I cover what you want to know.


Beginner Tools To Get Started

These are the most basic things to get you started on your beading journey. I mean, obviously beads and stuff. Where you can get beads and sequins will vary from city to city, town to town. In Canada, if you don’t have any little crafty shops or shops specifically for jewellery makers (you might – do some googling and see if your city has any of these), you can still find stuff at Fabricland, Michaels, and <barf> Walmart. Sequins are harder to come by. Michael’s supply varies by location, but even their best selection is pretty limited. You might have to find your sequins online. In America, try Joanne’s or <barf> Walmart. Any place that sells fabrics, etc.

  • Embroidery hoop. Look for one that seems to fit closely all the way around.
  • Masking tape. Some beaders and embroiderers use bias tape, but I am really hard on my hoops and this is just faster and easier for me. Wrapping your inner hoop helps delicate fabrics like tulle or illusion stay more securely in your hoop while you work. Layer the tape more thickly in any areas of your hoop that have gaps.
  • Beading needles. For a lot of beads, these won’t seem important, but for seed beads and even some bugle beads, these are necessary to be able to get the bead over the eye of the needle. The package will say beading needle on it, and they are long and very thin. My faves are from Unique – I’ve found them to be the strongest.
  • A threader. Even for me, beading needles can be a bitch to thread. A threader may take a bit of the frustration out for you, especially if your eyesight is a bit dodgy.
  • Thread conditioner. This one isn’t crucial, but a lot of people don’t know it exists. You run your thread through this before threading your needle, and it tangles/knots a bit less. Again – even for me, with all my years of experience, there are just times/threads that hate me like fire and want to tangle up and knot to the point I have to cut it off and start over. Thread conditioner helps tamp that occurrence down a little.
  • Clamps. Again – not crucial – but these babies save SO MUCH TIME by letting you have both hands free while you work. It was a literal revelation to me when I realized I didn’t have to hold the frame in one hand and stitch with the other.

I won’t tell you what fabric to use – use whatever you want. I have my students start on tulle because it is sheer and they can see their hands while they get used to the motions of working, but it’s probably really influenced by my bridal work. I was always working on sheers for the gowns, and it has carried over pretty hard into my artwork and teaching.

I do get a ton of questions about which sheers I work with, how and why, but I’ll put that into a video in another newsletter. For now, send my any extra questions you have. xo