An interview with An of Straight Grain

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An Kuppens of Straight Grain is a Belgium based sewing pattern designer and sewing blogger. She started sewing shortly after the birth of her eldest daughter, and soon also started studying pattern design. Upon the success of her first patterns for children’s clothing, An left her job in academia to become a full time pattern designer. An has a soft spot for clean and minimalist designs with a special detail or original touch. Next to children’s wear, her patterns and tutorials also include home decoration and baby accessories.  We were delighted to feature her Matroyshka Bins pattern in this month’s Bustle & Sew Magazine ……

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… cute little fabric bins that stack, one inside the other, just like the Russian Dolls. And now I thought it would be fun to chat a little more with An about her style and inspiration ….

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Hi An, to begin with could you tell us please, when did you first start sewing?

I started sewing when my eldest daughter turned one, because I wanted to be able to sew some blankets. Back then, I thought making kids’ clothes, which are typically outgrown after 3 months, was for crazy people. But of course, soon enough I was making my first little dresses.

And what are your top tips for anyone learning to sew?

Well I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that the prettiest things are not necessarily the most complicated things. You can make a jaw-dropping project from a very simple pattern. All you need to do is pick a beautiful fabric, or use an original color combo, or add an original like a few pleats or a little ribbon, and the result can be spectacular.

Secondly: use good materials. If you’re on a budget, it’s better to buy a good second-hand machine, than a brand new low quality one. The same applies to fabrics: you’ll enjoy sewing so much more if you don’t go for cheap synthetic fabrics. If you’re going to spend a few hours on making a dress, make it worth it by going for good quality.

And finally: don’t be afraid to try something new. I know so many seamstresses who were afraid to use a hidden zipper, for instance. But once they gave it a try, they noticed how much easier and faster it is than using buttons, and rarely used buttons again.

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Where do you look for creative inspiration?

I really get inspiration everywhere. It may sound a bit crazy, but sewing is on my mind practically all the time. So I cannot look at a building, a flower, or a paining without immediately wondering if there’s an idea for a color combination or a pleating detail hidden in it. And oddly, I also get a lot of inspiration from my own mistakes. I’m a rather chaotic person who does stupid things all the time, but more than once, my mistakes have lead to original ideas.

Sshhh …. we won’t tell anyone else – have you had any crafting disasters?

The first dress I ever made for my eldest daughter was a disaster, at least as far as the process was concerned. I was a beginning seamstress, and I thought I could just sewed every possible seam of the bodice, and then simply turn it right side out. As you can imagine, that plan didn’t work out well, and I ended up unpicking almost all the seams again. But I did learn a lot from that experience, and the dress turned out fine and is now worn by my youngest daughter.

Please share your favourite creative blogs with us 

Stitched Together has since long been my favorite sewing blog. Rachel makes the most beautiful things for her five kids, and always manages to take stunning pictures of them. And she’s a super sweet and smart friend. I also really love Sanae Ishida’s blog. She has a very distinctive, beautiful style, and she writes so, so well. She also just published her first children’s book, Little Kunoichi. And finally, there is Belgium’s most popular sewing blog: Emma & Mona. Griet makes stunning clothes for her kids, at an amazing rate, and her photography and styling are great.

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Can you describe your style in a few words?
Simple, minimalist clothes with a special little detail. My device is always: kids aren’t Christmas trees, so don’t overload them with balls, garlands, lights, and other ornaments. I love to keep it simple, and then add one little eye-catcher, like a special collar, a little button, or an original pleating detail.

And finally, what’s the best creative advice you’ve been given?

“Do what you love, and love what you do.” Quitting my academic career to become a full time pattern designer was a big step, but even though I have to work much harder for less pay, I feel much happier.

Thanks so much for talking to us An, and for being a part of the October Magazine.  Do please pop over to Straight Grain and check out An’s patterns and blog (she has lots of free tutorials too) and take advantage of her generous offer of a 25% discount to all Bustle & Sew readers until the end of November – just enter code BUSTLESEW25 at checkout to claim your discount.

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