if you're like me, you've been eagerly awaiting the opening of anna allen's new store. as soon as i saw anna was about to release her own clothing collection this spring, i asked if she'd be willing to answer some questions about it and tell me what's led her here. in the middle of all the madness, the talented seamstress, knitter and cook has taken the time to graciously answer!
why hello, anna! give me your five minute bio: where you started, where you are now and where you're headed.
I started sewing when I was a little girl, maybe three, after my mom taught me the basics. At about 13, I discovered my interest for the American Civil War. I had been obsessed with American Girl dolls, but was getting too old to play with dolls, so living history seemed like a nice alternative. I didn't realize this would pretty much take over my life for the next 12 years. I was intrigued with learning about 19th century sewing methods, fabrics that were produced during that era, and how garments were constructed. Back then I could care less about modern clothing and wouldn't dream of wasting my money on modern fabric, especially when I could spend a little more on enough fabric for an 1860's dress! As I have grown older, I've discovered I love modern apparel just as much (and sometimes more) than historical clothing.
Right now I am learning SO MUCH! For many years I have talked about learning to draft patterns and have dreamed of selling some of my modern creations. Finally I'm doing it. And although I only have a few patterns made now, I plan to continue creating more designs.
As for where I'm headed, I'm not exactly sure! I know I want to continue sewing, creating and learning, learning, learning! Seriously, there just never will be a time when I'm not learning. Someday I think it would be the coolest to learn tailoring, just for the heck of it. Maybe I'll move to London and be an apprentice... Hah! Are my five minutes up??
whoa, three years old?! for a three year old to be interested in sewing and stick with it that long, you must have had a pretty serious love for it.
what did you want to be when you grew up? how does what you're doing now reflect that?
I remember being asked in Sunday school what I wanted to be and I said a nurse, because I thought all girls were nurses when they grew up. Hah! I didn't really think much about what I wanted to be as i grew up, but one day I thought, "what do I spend all my time doing and would do all my life even if I never got paid for it?" All my free time had been going into sewing, and when I wasn't sewing, I was studying how to be a better seamstress. I didn't ever think I wanted to be a fashion designer, so instead I decided in high school that I would start my own business to sell historical clothing. I started right after graduating high school, and nearly six and a half years later, I still love what I do. I'm more comfortable now with being a designer, and to be honest, I find designing the clothing to be a lot more fun than sewing. At the moment, I don't have any plans to go back to school for it, but you never know, I may change my mind.
i think familial support is crucial. and since your sewing aesthetic seems to have a real appreciation for classic styles and vintage, was there anyone who passed this appreciation down to you?
oh me too, sometimes the inspiration gets overwhelming! what do your family/friends think of what you do? do they give you a hard time about your online life?
yes, it's great if you can keep a balance. and your everyday life, especially your weekends have always inspired me. would you say you're content and happy with where you are?
Thank you! I try to show only the good stuff about my life, hehe... But yes, I am really happy right now! I'm about to move into an old church in a small town that used to be a religious commune in the mid-19th century. I'm actually pretty psyched about living in an 1860's church! I don't know if I'll be in this spot forever, but for now I'm very content.
wow, i can't imagine a cooler, more inspiring atmosphere! and without giving away your trade secrets, are there any fabric/yarn shops that you'd want people to check out if they were in Iowa?
well, everything you choose for fabric is beautiful. what would be your favorite fabric to work with?
I love anything that is made of natural fibers. I LOVE working with silk taffeta. It's so nice. It's not too light and not too heavy and it has a beautiful drape to it. Cotton lawn is also a really great fabric to work with, if it's a quality lawn. Linen is my more recent favorite, however cutting it out can be a pain! It likes to squirm around and get out of place, but I think it's worth the effort. I also love working with blends of natural fibers like cotton/linen or silk/linen.
ooo, this is making me want to run to the fabric store, so i'd better wrap this up!!! when you're working on a project, what do you do to pass the time as you sew?
ha! i can barely talk on the phone and walk at the same time! as far as when you're not working, what is something you do to relax and get your mind off everything?
I love to sit back and watch old movies with my boyfriend. Lately we're starting to get into the silent film era, but I adore the pre-codes (saucy 1930's flicks!) and I got on a huge Hailey Mills kick a few weeks ago (um yes...I am a little kid at heart). I also like to sit back and knit, usually while watching a film. I watch too many movies, need to read more...
i just had to wikipedia "pre-codes," very saucy indeed! and as far as reading more, me too. especially since magazines don't count...
and finally, now that you're about to open shop, what is your new brand name and when can we buy your spring line?
I thought about this a long time and just decided in the end to give it the same name as my own, Anna Allen. Sometimes I feel weird about that, but whatever. It just makes things easier for me; this way I don't have to worry about coming up with something creative. My spring line should be available mid-May, although I haven't set a date yet. I'm planning to get it ready in the next few weeks. I'll start small and hope to continue to build my line into a larger collection over time.
wow, thank you for taking the time to share, anna! i look forward to what you've got in store!
Thank you so much, Elly!
make sure to check out anna's blog and her new bigcartel shop! and don't forget to sign up on her mailing list to be the first to know when her shop opens.