Monday, October 12, 2009

This Etysian Drives a Sewing Machine - City Chic Country Mouse

Making the ordinary extraordinary is what the mother-daughter team of City Chic Country Mouse does so well. They offer items to make some of your not-so-fun chores more enjoyable – like ironing! Work becomes easier when done with lovely tools in a beautiful space. I know this for true, two of their ironing board covers adorn vintage wooden ironing boards in my work space. Function is critical to me, to be able to obtain a well fitting, expertly sewn cover was paramount and combining that quality with beautiful fabric sealed the deal. The best of practicality and art. How neat to turn an ironing board into a pleasant piece of furniture.

How does the City Chic Country Mouse team function? It seems to be an exciting collaboration of ideas and skills.
They say:
Our collaboration of Jamie’s sense of style and Carmen’s sewing expertise make our creations seem to fall into place effortlessly (well, almost!). We have often started out by making an item out of muslin and reworking it several times before we’ve come up with something that we both love and feel that others will as well.
I must admit, I am a wee bit envious of Carmen, because I think Jamie also does the photography and listing and marketing tasks; and does them very well. It really takes a combination of not only designing and creating goods but also an ability to explain them and offer them in the right places in order for a handmade goods business to thrive.

As always, it is interesting to learn about the relationship of the craftsperson to their tools. Here are the answers to several sewing machine questions:

When did you first press the peddle on a sewing machine.

City Chic:
When I was a Senior in High School, but it didn’t stick with me and I didn’t sew much until about a year ago.

Country Mouse:
I first began learning to sew around the age of 5 or 6.

What kind of machine was it? Any special memories of using the machine or what you created with it?

City Chic:
It was a Singer Stylist zig-zag sewing machine free-arm model 834 from 1980.

I remember my mom (Country Mouse) making me sew my Halloween costume (Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz) for Senior Dress up day in High School.

I thought, why can’t you just do it for me?! I knew she secretly hoped I would enjoy it, but I was too interested in other things (like friends, boys, and horses) to be bothered with sewing things.

Now I am much older and wiser in my late twenties ;) and when my mom decided to get a new sewing machine, I thought why not give your old one to me? We visited an amazing fabric store in Minneapolis (Crafty Planet) and I got hooked on all of the fabulous fabric that was available.

Country Mouse: I learned to sew on a 1953 Singer Model 90.

Yes, it was electric! I started out sewing clothes for my Barbie and Skipper dolls. No Ken, tho. I guess men just weren’t of any interest to me at that age! I was lucky to grow up on a farm in a big 5 bedroom farmhouse and my grandmother lived in her mobile home in our yard so we kids were able to run over to grandmas’ anytime we wanted. Between her and my mom, they got me started on a life long love of sewing.

What is the machine you use today?

City Chic:
I still use the trusty Singer, but when Country Mouse and I get together I get to use the new fancy machines.

Country Mouse:
Today I use a Husqvarna Scandinavia 300 and a Huskylock 901. In fact, I can’t believe I waited so long to purchase a serger! Having that machine has made so many things we make much less time consuming as well as having a much more finished look.

Why do you enjoy making the things you sew?

City Chic:
I am inspired by all of the gorgeous fabric available and I love seeing the transformation from on the bolt to a finished product. In fact, I probably still like the designing part slightly more than the sewing part.

Country Mouse:
I simply love to sew! I especially love all of the wonderful designers that create such beautiful and fun fabrics. In the past I’ve tried stained glass, macramé (remember how popular it once was?), acrylic painting, etc, etc. I have always come back to my first love which is sewing.

Now some things to dream of owning --

Gorgeous aprons.

Sewing Machine covers Beautiful ways to keep the dust off your own machine. And yes, even though I could make a sewing machine cover, an ironing board cover; sometimes it is just better to go to a specialist and know you will be getting a well crafted, use tested item.

In both the apron and the sewing machine cover you can see how the binding creates a crisp weighted edge that provides a beautiful finishing touch to many of their creations. When asked what special tool they find most useful in completing their items they responded :
we were both awestruck with our handy dandy binder maker. It’s unbelievable how that little item has made our life much easier. We use binding on aprons, sewing machine covers, and towels and have ideas for many other uses.
This is especially joyful to me as it hearkens back to the fabulous use of binding pre-modern machine and serger era. There are so many widths and ways binding was used by the home seamstress to finish, to decorate, to enhance and complete items for the home and wear. My grandmother's treadle machine has a whole box of specialty binding feet. It simply cheers my heart and soul to know these skills of long ago have been adapted in new ways, are alive and being used to create modern work today.

City Chic Country Mouse is the cats pajamas! the bee's knees! an altogether swell crafty team who drive sewing machines.

Thanks so much to Jamie and Carmon for taking on being interviewed; it was so much fun to learn more about them, especially after enjoying their work so much. I hope you too have enjoyed this introduction to them and their work.


City Chic said...

Thanks Jane! This was so much fun!

Rachel Follett said...

What a great interview! It is so nice to get to know more about the two of them. I have admired their work for some time. They are such a great team!

hatjunkie said...

What a great feature. I have no less than 8 sewing machines. Not that I use them all, but it's quite the addiction. I have one of those wonderful ironing board covers and now that I see the sewing machine covers I think there's no turning back. Like you, I could also make them, but why bother when it's being done so beautifully.