Today I am super excited to share with you a very special edition of my Creative Chat interview series. Because of Slow Fashion October, I've had Handmade Wardrobes on the brain recently. When I think about handmade wardrobes, one of the people who most inspires me is Jess from La Mercerie.
I first connected with Jess on Instagram, where she shares lovely photos of her crafting endeavors and of course, her handmade wardrobe. I really appreciate her honest and genuine way of sharing and she seems to just choose the very best pieces to knit and sew. I was of course, over-the-moon excited when she agreed to chat with me a little bit more about her creative process and handmade wardrobe.
So with that, let' dive right in to my chat with Jess:
1. If we were able to have this conversation in person, in a cafe with warm drinks and our knitting, what would you be drinking? Are you a coffee or tea person? (or both?)
I survive only because I drink coffee in the morning. But when I'm drinking something warm later in the day, I tend to switch over to chai lattes. There's this place called Anchored Ship in Seattle that has the BEST lavender chai - it's spicy and wonderful and perfect for a crisp day.
2. Tell us a little bit about what got you started on this journey. Why did you choose to start making clothes for yourself?
I've always been a very creative person. I went to school for photography and creative advertising, so creativity has always been a huge part of my life. I wanted a fun duvet cover for my dorm room when I started college and couldn't find one I liked, and my mom said "why don't you make one?" So I did. It took me a few years to graduate to clothing, but I was very inspired by the Scout Tee from Grainline Studio and that was my first me-made.
I worked at Anthropologie at the time and started thinking "I could make that" when I saw things I liked. It's that mentality that's stuck with me over the years and pushed me to try new things with my sewing and knitting. "I could make that" has become a blessing and a curse, as my project list is miles long...
3. You have what seems like such an effortless personal style. Has handmade been a part of creating that? How do you select what items and patterns to make?
Oh my gosh I'm flattered that it looks effortless! I feel like it's an ever-evolving process. I used to only ever want to wear t-shirts and jeans. When I started working at Anthropologie (way back in the day), I suddenly had to start dressing nicer, so I switched over to dresses. But even then, I was never the girl who liked the over-the-top, very embellished specialty pieces - I always gravitated towards the more simple, understated outfits. I guess that influenced the patterns that I've been drawn to throughout my handmade process. Now that I'm not working at Anthropologie anymore, I'm moving back towards t-shirts and jeans, but in a more grown-up sort of way. I love basics that I can mix-and-match and layer, which is what I look for in a pattern, hence my love of anything from Grainline Studio (I'm reaching fangirl status!)
4. Do you have a favorite item in your handmade wardrobe? I'd love to hear it's story!
My first Snowy Day Cowl that I made! I had just started learning how to knit and, of course, I decided to take a class for intermediate knitters thinking "I could do that". I was working with two colors and two balls of yarn and slipped stitches and lots of knots and it just made my head spin. But I kept at it and ultimately, that pattern is what really helped me figure out how stitches are formed and work together in the knitting process. I'm pretty sure my scarf is felting at this point since I've worn it so much, but it definitely helped me take my knitting skills to the next level.
5. Where do you most like to create/make?
Until recently, I'd never had a dedicated space to create; I would always just pull everything out from under my bed and off of shelves to get to work. When I moved to Seattle, I was able to turn part of my garage into a dedicated sewing space and it has been life changing! Having a cutting table has made my life so much easier. That said, there's nothing I love more than curling up on the sofa with my knitting and a Law & Order marathon on TV. If it's snowing outside, that's even better.
6. Do you have any advice or favorite resources (patterns, articles, etc) for people who may be interested in starting a handmade wardrobe of their own?
I definitely recommend starting out with either the Scout Tee or Tiny Pocket Tank from Grainline Studio. The patterns are straight-forward and well written, but Jen also has blog posts to walk you through anything that might trip you up as a beginning sewer. I honestly just followed her tips and tricks to teach myself most of the techniques I needed when I was starting out.
For knitting, I would recommend the book "Stitch and Bitch". It seems silly, but I used it religiously as a beginner (any book that puts little faces on stitches to remember knit vs. purl is fine by me).
7. What are your future goals for your handmade wardrobe? Are you working on any projects currently?
Slow Fashion October has really inspired me to be more aware of where my materials and ready-made clothing is coming from, so that's a big thing I want to keep in mind. But I also want to really look at my wardrobe for what I need, not just what I want. I just finished my Waver Jacket and it's already become a staple in my closet.
I definitely need about a million more Archer button-ups, but I also really want to tackle my own pair of jeans. Lauren from Baste and Gather has really inspired me to take it on and I bought some denim from Fancy Tiger Crafts during my recent trip to Denver. I'm thinking I'll have to try out the Ginger Jeans as my next big project! I've also got enough yarn for at least three sweaters...winter is coming, right?
Thanks so much Jess for taking the time to chat with me here, and giving us all a peek at your creative process and handmade wardrobe! If you'd like to connect with Jess further, or see what else she's up to, make sure to stop by her shop or connect with her on Instagram.
All photographs courtesy of Jess.
Note: this interview is part of a series featuring various makers and creatives. You can read past interviews (and a little about the idea behind this feature) here.