Nancy Langdon Interview
I know today was supposed to be our sixth day of our sew-a-long, but I just got the big interview back. If you love Studio Tantrum, you know who Nancy Langdon is. I’m not going to say anything other than, thank you Nancy for taking your time to give this interview. We all love your work and know that it took time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. Thank you so much.
So, on with the interview: (Me, Nancy)
fortune to straighten ballet tights, cheer soccer jukes, listen to
“Kitten’s First Full Moon” read to me, proofread class reports,
pack lunches, make teddy bear pancakes, smear sun screen on fidgety
noses and referee squirt gun battles. I have the best job in the
world. I’ve seen a good deal of the world, but my favorite way to
see the world is through these kids’ eyes.
How long have you been sewing?
I have not sewn very long with this regularity. I learned watching my
mother, who sewed quite a bit. As a very young child, it took me a
while to learn that you could actually buy the clothes in a
department store. Usually, I would shop with my mother and say, “I
like this, but in blue” and over to the fabric section of Marshall
Field’s we would go. She sewed for me all her life. Mom came of age
in an era when even everyday dresses were tailored (think “I love
Lucy”) and a decent dress cost $50 or $100 back then. Sewing was
much more commonplace. And Mom could do it all: Welted pockets and
button holes, steam-formed shoulders and blazer collars that laid
like they were part of me.
What/Who first got you interested in sewing? What interested you in
designing children’s clothing patterns?
I’ve always liked clothes. Not fashion, but clothes. I can look at
an Armani cocktail dress at the Barney’s or a 50s swing coat at the
second hand shop the way some people look at a Vermeer. And then,
with Anna, I really just wanted some clothes for my daughter similar
to the kinds of clothes the kids had in Europe. Children’s clothes
don’t require much fabric, so why not sew up a few? I dusted off
Mom’s old Bernina and cut up some fabric with the lines and styles I
had seen in Europe. At one point, I came across Sabine Pollehn’s
forum, klickundblick.de and I said, “I want clothes like that.”
When I began posting some of my items, other people started saying
“I want clothes like that” about my clothes. And that was the
start of the pattern thing.
What is your favorite sewing tool?
Good question: Probably a Sharpie pen and paper. It all starts with a
piece of paper. I like my seam ripper that’s like a knife, I think
it’s sold as a “serger” seam ripper. A good pattern sure takes a lot
of the guesswork out. The pattern is one place I don’t like to
skimp. If the pattern has been hand-drafted by a couture
professional, I am ten steps ahead. If you have read this far, maybe
you’ve sewn Farbenmix and studioTANTRUM/fledge and maybe you agree.
And that tape measure: Measure thrice, cut once. And measure,
measure, measure as you go along.
Do you have any advice for beginner sewers that you would like to share?
Sewing for children is a good way to start sewing. First, it doesn’t
require a lot of fabric. Second, children always need new clothes as
they grow. If the sewn item isn’t perfect, no big deal. They will
soon outgrow it. And fudging is allowed. Appliqué is the French word
for “covering up wonky seams”, I’m sure of it. Also, in sewing
children’s clothing, you learn the basics of clothing construction,
upon which you can expand and improve. Once you have make a basic
jumper, there’s not much to hold you back from making a
double-layer jumper with a scalloped hemline. And choosing a good
pattern is also a good way to start. If the seams match up nicely, if
the fit is comfortable and flattering, and if the form is catching
people’s attention, well, pretty soon the sewing bug will bite you.
And just wait for the first time your little one puts on that twirly
dress you made her and she spins herself dizzy and lands in a heap of
giggles. Or your somewhat
older girl shops with you at the fabric store and sketches up a
design she wants, when she eschews mass marketed brands and wants to
determine her own style. That’s what it’s all about. And
remember, with the Internet, you are never alone! It has been my
experience that sewists are not only some of the most creative people
around, but also some of the most helpful and generous. Do you have a
question? Is there a term you don’t understand? Do my pattern
instructions require the Rosetta Stone to decipher? There are tens of
thousands of sewing enthusiasts sharing their knowledge and are
pleased to help. Wondermommy is a great example of this.
When did you make your first pattern?
That would be REDONDO. That was in May 2005, I believe.
Did you go to fashion school or are you self-taught?
I have no right to do this: I have no background in fashion design
whatsoever. There is a tiny bit of me channeling my mother’s
abilities. My dress-up clothes as a kid were like a lesson in 20th
Century fashion design: 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s—all right
there. Mom could sew, but you should also see the fashion art she
painted and drew. I’m hoping my sister still has some of her art,
because I would like to make a few copies.
What is your biggest inspiration?
Inspiration, I think, just pops up at you out of the blue, don’t
you think? Some of my patterns have come by just looking at a solid
form and thinking, hm, what if that hubcap were made of fabric? How
would it fall? I’m always looking at seams. That is the alchemy of
design. I’ll watch an entire movie and not know the plot, because
I’ll be concentrating on the costumes.
What is your most favorite pattern and why?
The next one. Always the next one 😉
How long have you been in business?
I’ve been distributing Farbenmix and studioTANTRUM/fledge in the
U.S. for over two years. Time flies!
What made you decide to go into business?
Sabine Pollehn asked me. No huge plan to conquer the world one
sewing pattern at a time. But it seems to be happening! And it will
be your—you and sewing enthusiasts everywhere—fault! Really: I
have a really lousy Website that has only been up a couple of months.
I don’t have a big company behind me with a PR and advertising staff
to call magazines and promote the patterns. I’ve never been to
“market” and only recently understood what “market” meant. These
patterns have sold in the thousands, because somebody posted a
finished garment on a forum somewhere and somebody else recommended
it and somebody else posted something on a blog…I’m very
embarrassed at my lack of professional marketing. On the other hand,
I am proud of the fact that these patterns have sold without
advertising. They have sold through word of mouth and forum and blog.
I probably should have it another way, but I am rather pleased that
the sewists want these patterns, despite the
fact that the packaging isn’t very fancy and the trancing requires
some concentration and some of the designs really are a leap of faith
in terms of construction (think “LAGUNA” ;-).
What can we look forward to in the future from you and your company?
Nancy action figures? I don’t know: What do you want? There are
areas in this corner of crafting to which my colleagues at Farbenmix
and I could really add something new. We have the ideas. But we are
really just working from our homes between packing lunches, searching
for lost shin guards and sitting through music lessons. I have been
working on some clothes for myself that I like and maybe I’ll try
my hand at women’s patterns. But I want to know what you want. I
know you want more patterns translated. And I am the bottleneck. I am
so very sorry for that. I have a couple of wonderful women
translating with me. But it takes time. And I’m looking into French
and Japanese versions. It takes time. For all other things, I’m
open to ideas and criticisms!
Is there anything else that you would like to share with the
like to hear how other people came to the sentence, “And so, I
began to sew.” A friend recently wrote to me that starting a new
project was “like falling in love, like a twist in my stomach”.
That is what I would like to know.
for sewing these patterns. I want to thank you for spending your
valuable time with these ideas and for sharing them with your
children. I haven’t made my favorite versions of my designs, somebody
else out there has. It warms my heart. It really does. I’m humbled
Nancy, I would like to thank you again for doing this interview. I know you are very busy. Your words have inspired me. I, too, am relatively young to sewing with no design education, but you prove that it is possible for all sewists to do great things. Since you asked, I will share what started me to sew. I started to sew when my daughter was born. Something made me want to dress her with “art” that was spun from my hands. I may be the only person that calls my sewing art, but that is what I feel. I feel that I am sewing love around her tiny body. I felt a kinship to you through your words about your children. They make my world go round, and my daughter and son are my biggest inspirations.
Thank you so much Nancy for all that you do. We love Studio Tantrum and Farbenmix. Your designs are so creative and inspiring. All I can say is that we want more! 🙂
If you want more of Nancy, here are a list of her sites: