MULTI-TALENTED ANDREA SCHEWE
PART XVII / CONTINUED
Goose Mother: Today, Andrea has graciously agreed to allow us to tour her studio and describe how she prefers to work. Although she refers to her studio as a room of chaos, it is evident that she knows just where everything is. It’s her work space. The room is bright and airy and graced with windows on three sides providing pleasant views. I see trees in abundance offering their testament to the approach of Winter. There are Maples, Elms, Poplars and Mulberry. Inside the studio there is evidence of ongoing projects; ordered and folded stacks of material with various trims on top with note papers tucked aside. There are some paper sacks and boxes containing remnants of fabric and material and trims with a few odd button cards and ribbon. Above eye level, the room is punctuated with the familiar small boxes and baskets that store various implements and double as decoration. Some are marked and some are not. Then there are several items placed about the room that are unrelated to sewing but hold a special meaning to the one who spends time in this room. Try as I might, I had a difficult time imagining what chaos would actually look like in this room for the simple reason that Andrea doesn’t seem to get flapped very easily. And it appears that if she does, it’s not for long. She’s solution-oriented. I could imagine a small whirlwind zipping about the room in a countdown to a deadline, but not chaos.
Andrea Schewe: Welcome to the chaos that is my studio! Believe it or not, I have just spent about an hour and a half tidying up enough so I am not embarrassed to allow anyone in here to take photos! (we both giggle)
Goose Mother: I have to admit that every time I tidy up my sewing room because company’s coming, I end up stuffing things in a closet and when I go looking for some item, I can’t seem to locate it because I tidied everything up! I’m convinced that a picture perfect sewing room is an unused sewing room!
Andrea Schewe: Well, I have been busier than usual this December … and that is a good thing.
This used to be my sons’ bedroom. I used to work in a smaller room upstairs which is now my official guest room, but my studio is my second guest room. (photograph #2) The couch in the background is a queen size futon bed. It’s currently covered with fabric for an upcoming project and on the floor are boxes of left over supplies from projects I have just finished. I always feel I need to keep this stuff for a while in case something needs to be remade before the photography session.
Goose Mother: OK, wait. I just have to interject something here. See folks, her sewing room serves a dual purpose too, just like almost everybody else out there.
Andrea Schewe: Here in the corner just to the right as you enter the room, you can see some of my dress forms. (photograph #3) I have a couple others downstairs and a 6 month infant and a dog form in my closet. Also, you can see I use a gravity feed iron. They are no more expensive than a good home iron, but you do need a space to set them up. In the file cabinets are commercial patterns and several drawers of patterns I’ve made for the toy industry.
My Simplicity patterns are in this long closet. (photograph #4) I believe in hiding as much mess as possible. (more giggles) The patterns are on the second shelf from the bottom in the large craft envelopes. The other shelves are more left over supplies. (photograph #5) I always try to give extra fabrics and trim items to people who can use them. But, you know, that takes time! If anyone knows a good place to donate sewing and craft supplies, please tell me.
Let me show you what one of my patterns looks like. (photograph #6 ) This is my copy of Simplicity 1728. You can see on the bodice pattern where I changed my mind and made adjustments. And, please don’t tell my husband about the shirt I’m making him for Christmas that’s in a pile on the back right side of the table.
Goose Mother: Ummm, this is a case where I will accept a bribe ……. (laughter)
Andrea Schewe: I store all sorts of stuff under my work table. (photograph #7) I have small boxes with ribbons, bias tape, rick rack, buttons and other trims. Larger drawers have white and black interfacing. Smaller drawers have bins with thread sorted into color groups. All my scissors are in one drawer; I call it the sharp drawer! I own about 15 pair of scissors. Things just seem to accumulate when you do the same thing for years and years.
Goose Mother: Andrea, when you are working, do you listen to music or the radio or do you prefer quiet?
Andrea Schewe: Mostly I listen to National Public Radio. I have to have something intelligent to say to my husband at the dinner table. Actually this brings up the joys and pains of working alone at home. When I first started doing this I had two young sons at home, so I didn’t have that many hours by myself. I considered myself fortunate to be here when they got home from school to supervise their homework and just be with them. Now, it can be lonely. That’s one of the reasons I have so many extracurricular actives, which I will tell you about next time. But, I can only listen to interviews with authors and politicians for so long. If I am working on a tricky design or calculating a tricky measurement, I find a half an hour has gone by and I have no idea what’s being talked about, so then I switch to classical music. Or, sometimes I need it quiet.
This corner has rolls of white paper I use for patterns. (photograph #8) I don’t use anything special. It’s just 36” or 48” poster paper or butcher paper; whatever I can find cheapest. Also, in this corner are most, but not all of my costume history, craft and sewing books.
And even though I try to give my extra fabric away to people who can use it, I keep a supply of basic stuff on hand to experiment with new ideas. Or sometimes all you need is a 6” x 6” square of green cotton, but it has to be just the perfect shade of green! I have some more fabric storage on the back side of the cabinets you are looking at now. (photograph #9)
Goose Mother: Green, cotton fabric?? You got me on that one.
Andrea Schewe: You know, sometimes you need a small piece of fabric to put behind a button you are sewing on, or for the leaves on a fabric flower, or part of a doll dress, or, or …
Goose Mother: Oh, OK, got ‘cha. That fabric cabinet looks oddly familiar! Right down to the pieces of note paper attached to some of the fabrics.
Andrea Schewe: And, this is my sewing machine. (photograph #10) It is an old Bernina 1030, made in the Seventies, I believe. I love it. It is strong and has a knee lift for the presser foot (which I cannot live without). I also have several back up machines, two other Berninas, a very old Elna Lotus and an extra serger. I just can’t risk having a machine break when I have a deadline to meet. And, sometimes people come over and help, so it’s good to have machines for all. In this photo you can see to the left of the window my large drafting rulers. I also have my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine, but I don’t keep it in my studio. I keep intending to have my grandmother’s machine serviced so I can use it if the electricity goes out, which happens frequently even in brief, small storms; compliments of the large trees we are both blessed and cursed with that surround the house.
Goose Mother: Sewing by candle light, like Great Grandmother?? (we both let out wry chuckles. Andrea then notices my staring at the objects on her window sill and before I can ask the question, she answers it.)
Andrea Schewe: And in case you are interested in what that clear, yellowish body on my window sill is … he is called Amber Man. About ten or so years ago I was making the clothes for a Spiderman toy that was designed to climb walls with suction cups on his hands and feet. This is the model they gave me to fit the bodysuit on. So when the project was finished I begged to be able to keep him.
Goose Mother: Thank you, Andrea, for the tour and your hospitality. It was fun to get a peek inside your studio.
Andrea Schewe: Ahh, don’t mention it. The pleasure was all mine.
It’s early afternoon when I step back out into a brisk and gray late Autumn day. It was a stark contrast to Andrea’s studio. I glance up at the leafless trees and think of the treadle sewing machine that holds the secrets of many more Seasons than I have known and times I have only read about.
To Be Continued ….