Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Worth of Something Handmade: A Q&A with Little One-Yard Wonders Contributor Lorraine Teigland

We're celebrating the release of Little One-Yard Wonders with profiles of a few of the talented contributors behind the designs featured in the book. In today’s Q&A, we get to know Lorraine Teigland, who comes from a family where everyone, including her father, knows the art of sewing. 

Lorraine Teigland’s playful sensibility comes through in everything she designs and sews. Many of the things she creates are inspired by watching her girls at play. This is so apparent in her work, and we love it!

Lorraine Teigland

Tell us about the inspiration behind your projects in Little One-Yard Wonders.
The House in a Hallway was a present for my youngest daughter, Kate, on her fourth birthday. It was inspired by the very popular puppet theaters that are made from flat panels wedged in a doorway with tension rods.
Racerback Sundress from Little One-Yard Wonders
Photo © Julie Toy
I’d already made two other play tents for my older daughters and I thought Kate should have one of her own. The House in a Hallway has just the front of the house and roof, but if yardage hadn’t been a consideration as it was for projects in the book, the back could be added to make a complete tent. Kate loves her house but she and her sisters are now too big to crawl through the door that was perfectly-sized only two years ago.

The PVC playhouse with a fabric cover Lorraine made for her daughter, Jenna
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland
The Racerback Sundress was loosely based on the casual rayon dresses that everyone wore at tropical beach resorts in Southeast Asia where I lived as a child. I remember loving them because of the straps — they wouldn’t slide off shoulders and looked interesting and chic without being fiddly to construct. I made ours in knit because I have plenty of that in my stash and the kids love wearing anything made from it.

Racerback Sundress from Little One-Yard Wonders
Photo © Julie Toy
How did you learn to sew? What’s your earliest sewing memory?
I grew up in Singapore in a family of sewing women. My grandmother was a professional tailor and she taught her daughters and daughters-in-law to sew. Grandma introduced me to the joys of making toys and other crafts, but she moved into a nursing home before I was old or interested enough to learn garment making from her. I learned that skill in homec at the same time that I learned to use a sewing machine. As was the way in Asia at the time, people learned to sew garments by custom-drafting slopers from body measurements, rather than with commercial patterns. Over the next two decades, my mother and aunt mentored me in the finer points of drafting and garment making. My father, who himself sews bags, pouches, and accessories for his various athletic pursuits, widened the playing field further by introducing me to hardware and new fabric that included nylon, leather, packcloth, and vinyl. I have been hooked ever since.

The round table tent with roof Lorraine made for her daughter, Emily
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland
I have so many early sewing memories! Some of the funniest ones were of my early sewing efforts as a teenager. My best friend Jen and I were both very enthusiastic garment seamstresses and we’d sew outfit after outfit — including shoes — and wear them on outings together. Once, I made a white twill miniskirt that I’d decorated with random neon paint I found in the house. I wore the skirt as soon as the paint was dry, and went to meet Jen. We took a bus, and the paint flaked off onto every single surface it touched — bus seats, walls, my own skin. It was quite embarrassing. To this day, Jen and I remember that skirt and its dandruff-esque effect.

What’s your favorite thing about sewing for children? How do you engage them in the process?

Chickens and chicks
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland

I love sewing for children because they don’t know the word “impossible.” Some of my ideas came from watching my kids play. I’d see them playing farm and think, “They really need an egg-laying chicken and a patch of dirt to plant and pick strawberries and peas.”

A patch of dirt for growing
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland

Jenna loves all things confectionery, so for her, I made a felt cake, frostable gingerbread, and a portable bakeshop for retail purposes.

A felt cake for Jenna
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland

Sometimes, it’s the material itself that that sparks an idea. Other times, the children themselves will ask me to make them something specific. So in the name of adventure and experimentation, I’ve run with their ideas and drawings and made Fairytale Dolls who go camping, princess wigs, and Owie Dolls in need of TLC:

Princess wig
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland

Owie Doll
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland

Owie Doll
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland
I’ve made a Bunny for their birthday, fairies in the garden, a rainbow in a dress, and outfits of their favorite characters from books and movies they’ve loved.

Fairies in the garden
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland

Lorraine’s girls as Narnian royalty for Halloween
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland
At some subconscious level, I want my kids to believe that they can design and create things if they want to, that they can opt to make something rather than buy it, and to weigh the relative merits of both. While handmade is wonderful, it is also time consuming and a lot of work. So I prioritize and save handmade for special things: a costume, a special toy, a custom-designed backpack. I like that my kids watch me throughout the entire process of creating something — including the false starts, roadblocks and detours — from initial idea to final product. I am hopeful that if I give them the whole picture, I am helping them appreciate the worth of something handmade.

My kids and I also make things together. Recently, we held our own Stuffed Toy Making Workshop, in which we busted into my fleece stash and sewed these:

Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland

Most of the time when we sew together, I work one-on-one with whomever is showing interest and focus a little more on a teaching, which hopefully translates to more independence in making subsequent projects.

There are so many amazing fabrics available. Which are the must-haves for your own personal stash?
Ikat, because it is my absolute favorite fabric!

Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland
I sew a variety of items and I hoard different kinds of fabric for each: knits, linen and wool for regular garments, or more unusual fabrics, such as brocade, chiffon, denim or Lycra® for special projects. My kids seem to only wear handmade clothes if they are made of knit fabric, so I own far more of that than anything else.

Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland
For my kids’ dress-up outfits and costumes, I use cooler knits, sheers, and satins. And I use my vast stash of fleece for toys and winter accessories. For bags and wallets, I use homedec weight and canvas fabrics. I use ripstop nylon, oilcloth, packcloth, vinyl and interfacing for the projects that need to look a little more like what I’d find in a store.

Photo courtesy of Lorraine Teigland
I use all kinds of fabrics for my toys and stuffed animals, so I stock up on felt, flannel, velour, and quilting cotton.

What projects (sewing or otherwise) will be keeping you busy this summer?
We love outdoor parties so we celebrate our girls’ birthdays in the summer, even though their real birthdays are in the cooler months. We’ve just finished with one party and we’ll be planning and preparing for the other two in the coming months.

I have a stack of pillowcase panel hems that were hand-embroidered by the girls’ great-grandmother that I want to turn into summer dresses. Otherwise, as long as the weather is lovely outside, the girls and I are planning to visit parks, museums, and the zoo, and swim.

Thanks, Lorraine!

You can find more from Lorraine on:

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