Meet the Maker for September is Renee who has rekindled her passion for sewing and has recently discovered that making your own lingerie unlocks possibilities that allow you to curate your ideal wardrobe. Renee discusses finding balance in hobbies and life...
"One of the recent lingerie sets I made"
1. Name and a bit about where you live:
My name is Renee and I currently live in Manawatu, New Zealand.
2. What first sparked your interest in lingerie sewing?
For several months now I have been sewing my own clothing after a very long break away from sewing! My background is that I started sewing when I was in High School and then went on to study Fashion Design at Wellington Polytechnic. During that time I did sew some of my own clothing, and even some of my Ballroom/Latin Dancing costumes…but was never exposed to the world of lingerie sewing. I worked in the Fashion Industry once I moved over to Sydney. However, I left that industry after several years as I was too interested in dancing, and I found the Fashion Industry rather stressful in combination with dancing!! So I pretty much packed up my machine and sewing supplies and lost my passion for it.
"One of the latin dance costumes I made when I was dancing"
However, fast forward to about 12 or so years later, a move back to NZ and becoming a Mother…and that spark and interest in making clothing came back to me. When sewing my own clothing I was now interested more in beautiful fabrics from natural fibres, and was (and am still!) figuring out what my true style really is. The cost of purchasing the clothing in beautiful natural fibres in the quality I wanted was not within my Stay-at-home-Mum Budget at the time…..however, I realised that creating them myself was.
Which is the same with sewing my own lingerie….I wanted it to be in mostly natural fibres, but still pretty and not sporty or casual looking, to be wire-free and in matching sets….which again wasn’t so easy to find at this time. I actually didn’t even know that making your own lingerie was something people did, and I honestly can’t remember how I came across the possibility of it…but I am so grateful I came across Helen at Nellie Joans!! So I just decided to go for it, and haven’t looked back. I now love it so much that my next step is to start learning to draft my own lingerie patterns and hopefully one day have a small business from my sewing.
3. How would you describe your lingerie sewing?
I would say my skill level is Intermediate in lingerie sewing….I am very new to sewing lingerie so there is still a lot to learn, and I do love the whole learning process, so I try and absorb as much as I can from others and also trial and error. My process is definitely very planned, I actually do love the whole planning process, figuring out which colours will go together and which style I want to make.
4. How has it enriched your life?
It gave me back a sense of creativity which had been missing in my life at this stage, and being creative I have realised, is something that nourishes my soul so much and I don’t feel as vibrant and alive without it. Also in these early years of Motherhood it can be all too easy to lose a sense of who you are as you are moving into this new role. Sewing has given me such a sense of pride and also confidence in myself again.
It has introduced me to a so many amazing sewists around the world (via Instagram) whose work inspires me and teaches me constantly.
"In Paris several years ago….I love everything French!"
5. Please describe your best 'Ah-hah! Wahoo! Ye-haw! Tah-dah' moment.
When I finished sewing my first bra! It was so exciting to put it on, have it look good and also be so comfortable…never before had the thought of making my own bra crossed my mind, so it was a huge ‘ta-da’ moment when I realised what was possible and my head was then full of so much inspiration!
6. How do you deal with sewing setbacks?
Previously I struggled in dealing with set-backs. I do have a bit of a perfectionist nature, which in one way I love because I do get inspired by beautiful craftsmanship, so that perfectionist part of me gets so much joy in working precisely and making things look beautiful and tidy…but that same perfectionist nature can also hold me back at times and on occasion make things more stressful than they need to be!
I actually completed my Yoga Teacher Training several years ago now, and the tools I learnt through that have been the most valuable gifts to me in terms of handling obstacles, setbacks and stresses in life. So now when things don’t go to plan I am able to pause, breath, and judge whether this is something I can fix/work out now….or whether it’s best to walk way, do something else, and come back to it later with a clearer and more open headspace. It was actually a huge revelation to me when I realised that I could do that…and it makes things flow so much smoother!!!
So that’s how I mostly handle set-backs….but there are still times when I don’t handle sewing setbacks as graciously as I would like and can get incredibly frustrated...but the frustration passes, and something good always comes out of it!
7. What is your top tip to share with other lingerie sewists?
As I am still new to lingerie sewing I don’t have any practical tips to offer at this stage…however, I can offer some words of wisdom from a more mindful/spiritual aspect of creating that may help or inspire:
Treat your lingerie makes as if they are the most exquisite piece of French Lingerie you have every touched! I can be a little haphazard when it comes to putting my clothing away, but with my makes I love to calmly fold them beautifully, then place them in the lingerie drawer with the knickers on the bottom (I like to make about 3 coordinating pairs of knickers) then place the matching bra on top. Each time I open the drawer I really take pleasure in looking at it and getting my underwear out for the day. I’m going to get some lovely lavender or another type of natural fragranced sachet to place in there to further enhance the joy of it!
A peak into the beginnings of a hand-made lingerie drawer
Also, try and take pleasure in the process of creating each make. I know for me, when I am just enjoying the process of cutting/sewing etc and taking my time without focusing on the end result, a project will come together much quicker and smoother than if I were to have a plan of getting something finished by a certain time!
Bonus Random question - Drink of choice first thing in the morning - Tea or Coffee? (or other!)
A glass of warm water, either plain or with some lemon….I have done it for years and can’t actually imagine a start to the morning without it!
Thank you so much for your lovely and expressive answers Renee. Your philosophy on learning to pause and assess the importance of sewing setbacks is such a good thing to put into practice and so relatable for many of us makers! Reading your interview was very timely for me as I am struggling with just such a thing at the moment with a recent project that hasn't worked out as planned. I am learning that it is OK to take a breath, take a break and walk away.
To keep up with Renee's gorgeous handmade wardrobe be sure to check out her Instagram:
And for values that you can also apply to your creative pursuits: