I have always been fascinated to hear people’s story of their journey as a creative. Did they always have a knack for the arts, did they have a mentor or just jump in and learn it on their own? This article features Jennifer Yamamasu and her voyage through the world of sewing. As I have spent many hours with Jennifer, I have learned she has a rich history of art, languages, travel, and education. If you have taken any sewing classes at Crafthouse, Jennifer was probably your instructor. There is no doubt, she loves to teach and how much of a geek she is about the whole sewing process. Our interview with her focuses on sewing but she also knits and teaches knitting classes at Crafthouse. Let’s get to the interview…
How did you get started sewing your own clothes?
Necessity really. I have always had a difficult time finding things that fit me especially lengthwise. I started sewing my own clothes in earnest after I moved to Japan with my husband. Ready made clothing in my size are difficult to find in Japan yet fabric stores are everywhere. So much fabric! So much potential! I came across a Burda magazine in a foreign language book shop and just started making my clothes. Of course, my makes were not always successful. Oh, well. We all have to start somewhere!
Do you have a creative ritual? and what time of day do you feel most creative?
Tea and documentaries. I must have a cup of tea at hand and a documentary to watch/listen to as I prepare and sew my pattern. I always prefer sewing early in the morning when possible.
Do you have a preferred material that you like to use and why?
I prefer cotton lawn, voile and batiste. Airy and breathable, these fabrics make wonderful summer tops. Oh, and thank you for introducing the chrome quilting needles! I prefer those for lawn, voile and even rayon now over the microtex needles. I also love sewing up denim just because it feels so sturdy and does not slide around under the presser foot.
Favorite pattern designer?
I can’t pick a favorite. I do enjoy sewing Closet Case Patterns, Cashmerette and True Bias patterns because the drafting is well done with clear directions. (Click to view patterns) I also really like Named Clothing patterns for the same reasons. If you’re looking for a pretty button up, check out Orageuse Rome shirt! The designer gives a very detailed measurement guide in the instructions so you can achieve the best fit.
What have you sewn that you are most proud of?
I have two garments that please me to no end. My Ginger Jeans (Closet Case Patterns) and my denim jacket (Serendipity Studio Patterns) are the makes of which I am proudest. I didn’t know how much I loved top stitching until I made those jeans. They are so comfortable that I won’t bother buying ready made jeans anymore. Finally, I have a denim jacket that is long enough in the torso and sleeves. I thought making a denim jacket would be a hassle. Actually, it was fun and of course, lots of top stitching.
What advice do you have for those wanting to find their own style?
Dressmakers have so many choices available to them from selecting the pattern to the material and all the adjustments in between. So many choices can be distracting to someone beginning her sewing journey. Maybe it would be helpful to choose the garments you wear the most and ask yourself what you like about them. If you like garments that flow or drape away from the body, look for that design when you pattern shop. The same goes for those who like clothes that hug their curves; look for patterns that have less ease.
Get to know your pattern designers, too. Closet Case Patterns and Cashmerette designs compliment curves. Many Named Clothing designs tend to have long and simple silhouettes. Colette designs for cup size C instead of cup size B like many companies. True Bias patterns are well designed wardrobe staples which might be a good place to start.
Enjoy the process and give yourself room to try new fabrics and designs.
You sew on: (make of sewing machine and model if applicable. List others if applicable)
I sew on a Janome Skyline 5. It handles everything from silky rayon voile to layers of denim! The stretch stitch for knits on this machine is amazing. I have heard other Janome uses with different models say the same.
Where do you sew: e.g. dinning table, sewing room…
My sewing space is portable. I enjoy sewing upstairs in the autumn because I have a lovely view of the trees as the leaves turn. Currently, the sewing space is downstairs in the front room where it is a bit cooler, and I can watch the birds at the feeder.
Are you an eat in or take out person? Favorite food?
Definitely take out. I enjoy eating at home so take out is perfect. My favorite food? French fries. French fries are great for dipping and taste the best with pulled pork and cheese on top.
Are you a book or movie person? And what is a good one you’d recommend?
Books! I especially love reference books about sewing and knitting. Colette’s Sewing with Knits and Sandra Bardwell’s Sewing Basics are two very helpful and in depth sewing references for beginners. Oh, and cookbooks are also a weakness of mine. Bakers and breakfast makers may enjoy Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe. Rachel Roddy’s My Kitchen in Rome has got the best pasta sauce recipes, ever!
WOW – Thank you Jennifer for a little insight to you and your journey as a sewist! It has been a pleasure to call you friend and we are excited to continue to watch you grow in your skills and thank you for being a part of the Crafthouse community!
Please add a comment below – And if you have been a student of Jennifer, please tell us what you liked about your class or what you learned.