… ...wouldn't it be awful to live in a world without color? I think so! That's why I picked the most brilliant one in the whole box for the next interview. One day I just happened upon Michelle's blog, "That Black Chic". She had made this GORGEOUS Ralph Lauren knockoff. Call me a copy cat, but I just knew THAT DRESS WOULD BE MINE; and so it was. There is ALWAYS a wonderful surprise there in the form of unique designs, electrifying photography, and EXPLOSIONS OF COLOR! Watch, as she takes an average everyday commercial pattern and turn it into a real work of art. Nothing mundane about this blog - you'll see! - Sky rockets in flight, rainbows, fields of wonderful wild flowers and plenty of graphics as well. Michelle utilizes EVERY COLOR IN THE BOX, and beware - she N-E-V-A-H colors within the lines!
Can you tell us about your sewing progression? How did you learn to sew; classes or formal training?
MICHELLE: I learned to sew and design out of necessity. We were POE when I was young. I couldn’t ask for the latest thing out or afford to get the new sneakers or shoes whenever I wanted them. I thrifted and up-cycled my little heart out. I was sewing everything by hand, needle and thread and my imagination. My Home Eck teacher took me under her wings in middle school and while everyone was making pillows I was making pants. I went to my local technical school majoring in Fashion Design 10-12th grades so I will say that’s when my serious sewing started, even though I had been sewing since junior High school. I followed that up with a year at Moore College of Art. I also attended The Craft Fashion Institute for Tailoring. I have a lot of technical training under my belt but I have been out of the loop for more than 20 years so I would say today, I am re-learning some old things in a new light and learning new techniques that have come out since I had stopped sewing.
Your photography! I can’t help mentioning it! What camera do you use, and can you share a few tips on how you get such beautiful shots of your garments?
MICHELLE: I also have a background in photography and graphic art. I have a Nikon D5100 but this summer I plan for an up-grade to a newer Nikon model. I have to tell you that I look at everything with art in mind, so photographs are how I can capture art. [my kids don’t call it art they call it annoying] Sometimes I think my pictures are too artsy for blogging but it’s my blog and I can do what I want! I think this is why I love blogging so much, I have an excuse to take pictures all the time!
As for tips, I will say that a good camera is a great start and learn how to use the camera. If you know the settings, you can do magical things with a camera. To make my photographs more interesting I try not to always center my subject, that’s expected. If you get close up on an object you can get some great detail shots, they are always interesting. And if all else fails you can always use a photo editor and the easiest one around that is not really too technical is Picmonkey.
MICHELLE: I really love working with new denim and re-purposing used denim. All my friends save their old jeans for me to use in my projects. I have denim from when my boys were babies, I even have a little acid wash denim in my stash for a special project. I will even buy thrift store denim for a buck to add to my denim stash. The whole idea of taking something apart and refashioning it into something new and original is exciting, especially if I am able to keep some of the characteristics from the original piece, that makes it special.
Is there anything that you refuse to sew, garment or otherwise; and why?
MICHELLE: I can't think of anything that I would refuse to sew but I've sewn some things I did not particularly want to sew...like anything satin.....I don't like that stuff! Ohhh wait I got something that I think I might push me the almost refusing to make is a men's tailored blazer, yeah that might do it.
What garment(s) to date have you made that you are most proud of?
MICHELLE: Since my return to sewing I would have to say that black bejeweled beauty I made for the Rippin' Ain't Easy sewing competition that I won last year. That was a thing of beauty if I do say so myself. I took several ideals and mashed them into this gown. That gown was self-drafted and the jeweled romper was my Picasso in black. I was inspired by a gown the Lupita wore in a stunning blue but my vision was to be black, even though I almost changed my mind when I had all the different color jewels together. That was the most interesting DIY I ever had to figure out. If there is ever a black tie event that my daughter should attend she is ready to go. My gold trash bag gown is a close second. I was able to weave trash bags into a dress, how cool is that?
What are your favorite fabric sources? Do you ever shop for fabric online?
MICHELLE: Ahhhh shucks now we're talking! So I work right around the corner from Joann's and I make frequent trips there during my lunches. I only shop there because they have coupons and pattern sales, I must be in dire need to purchase anything full price from them. Locally I shop at the neighborhood fabric shop Gaffney Fabrics because they have great fabrics....sometimes and the prices are awesome. I can usually pick up some unusual prints there. I also use a wholesale supplier at times.
I shop online all the dang time. FabricMart is my newest vice for online fabric, they are always having sales and clearance events and you just can't beat. I also find interesting prints and I'm not just saying this because I'm blogging for them either. My other online fabric stops include. Fabric.com, which was my first online fabric purchase experience, then there is LowPriceFabric.com and AKNfabrics.com for reasonably priced African prints. The only down-fall to ordering online is that you cannot actually see and touch the actual fabric until it has been delivered. I have been disappointed more than a few times. The best online shop that returns with no hassles is fabric.com, they are the best! AKN is not, they sent me a substitute fabric one time and the process to get what I really ordered failed epically, I gave up and kept the fabric that they sent. Now when I order from them I add a note to my order no substitutions!
Michelle when I think about you and your designs I get such colorful thoughts! Is there any advice you could give on how we can make our lives as colorful as yours?
MICHELLE: I felt all colorful just reading this question. I have no idea why I am attracted to the big, the bold and the colorful but I will say that I'm happy that I am. Our everyday lives are sometimes taxing, mundane and oh so not attractive and what I do know for sure is that people feel better when they look good and bump it up a notch they feel even better when they look good and are colorful. I really did not expect people to get me or understand my designs. I am surprised my garments have been well received.
How large is your pattern stash, and can you show us a few of your favorite (TNT) tried and true patterns?
MICHELLE: There are two patterns in my stash that I have used a zillion times and those patterns are Simplicity 1421 Blazer and See and Sew B5908 and my newest is Butterick 6088 as seen below.
My pattern stash, unapologetically messy!
Can you share your favorite sewing tool(s), equipment, or sewing tips?
MICHELLE: I have only ever had Singer and Brother sewing machines and I am in the market for two new machines. I was looking for a heavy duty sewing machine and a new computerized sewing machine. There are several brands that I am looking at such as Juki, Janome and Phaff. I have gotten great feedback from fellow sewists on the Juki Exceeds series, so I was considering purchasing the Juki Exceeds 400 machine. That was until I was just recently named a Bernina Ambassador. I get to use one of their top of the line machines for a year, so I won’t have to purchase a new machine just yet and I am sure this machine will become my new favorite thing in my sewing room. I will however be purchasing the Janome HD3000 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine for my denim/leather projects.
MICHELLE: As far as sewing tips, I would advise any sewist to pay attention to the details. The small things make your garments look professional and not home-made. As much as me and my seam ripper fight, I use it when I have to. If it’s not right take it out and do it over, no settling. Oh and if I said it once I said it a thousand times, iron your projects as you go along and especially before you post any pictures...Pleaseeeee!
I looked on as you were designing your new sewing room and it is AMAZING! What is the very best thing about (or in) your new sewing area or room?
MICHELLE: I think anyone who has a separate space for sewing is winning no matter what it looks like! The best thing about my new sewing space is that this is the most room I have ever had and all my things fit. Don’t get me wrong a little more footage for a sitting area would be awesome but I am grateful for what I have. The best thing is my cutting/craft table. I love that I can roll a bolt of fabric out for cutting and I can walk all the way around the table if I need to.
Soooo, when ever you're in search of a much needed lift in the arena of inspiration, or need your day brightened just a bit - pop on over to see Michelle at That Black Chic. Before long we'll all be coloring out side the lines on purpose after being influenced by her posts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest...