Meet the Maker: Erica from The Handmade Wardrobe
by Kollabora Follow

posted 4 years ago

My name is Erica Penton, but you may know me as The Handmade Wardrobe, and my DIY weapons of choice are my heavy-duty seam ripper, my magnetic seam allowance guide, and my button-hole gauge.

When I am looking for inspiration I buy a big stack of non-fashion-related magazines. Scientific American, anything having to do with architecture, travel, photography, etc. This is an old habit from when I was a window dresser. I still rip things out and put them up on a wall.

After a long day of making things I like to read the New Yorker with a big glass of wine and some Jazz. I am also 80 years old.

I got started making when I wanted to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz for Halloween. I ended up getting work as Dorothy Impersonator. That costume got a lot of use!

The one thing that drives my creativity is fitting my curvy body.

When I think about starting a new project I search the hashtag on Instagram and do a Google Image search. I like to see what other people have made and how the pattern fits on different bodies. I also search for any tutorials or sew-alongs that have already been done for that pattern.

My advice to anyone looking to start their own business is book time with your local librarian, or a University library near you! There are many resources open to the general public and they can put you in touch with the right people.

If I wasn’t a Librarian I would love to be a Set Designer. I love the idea of getting to tell a story from visual cues. I still miss being a window dresser, but I didn’t like using my creativity to influence people to buy things.

The first thing I do when I wake up is snuggle with my Jack Russel, Yuri, so he doesn’t try to barge in on my husband in the shower and “save” him from the running water.

My favorite place to buy supplies is Patch Halifax, of course!

The movie or book that can cheer me out of any bad mood is anything Harry-Potter related. It’s my go-to comfort entertainment and I normally have a marathon at least once a year.

My favorite word (currently) is Obfuscate. It’s just so fun to say.

My least favorite word is "actually". I use it far too often.

Making makes me feel like a recovering perfectionist. Sometimes I get caught up on a certain step in a project (or even a single seam). Even though it’s not perfect, it’s probably perfectly fine and I should move on. I’m still working on that.

I get out of a creative rut by cleaning my sewing space and organizing my fabric and patterns. There is something about having everything lined up and tidy that gets me excited to get in there and start cutting things up!

Even though I never wanted to be a writer, I was obsessed with Jo from Little Women as a child. Give me a slightly cranky brunette who loves books and I am on board.

I love Leah Duncan prints, Closet Case Files patterns and I’m always checking out what Meg from Cookin and Craftin and Heather from the Pug and Needle are making!

My favorite thing about making is the surprise on people’s faces when they learn I make my clothes.

To me, DIY means not having to rely on an industry to dictate my likes, needs, or wants, building a life-long craft, and bringing ideas to life.

The first thing I made was a Simplicity 2444 dress in what was probably quilting cotton.

My favorite thing to do on the weekend is cooking elaborate meals while using every pot and pan I own (I’m a very messy cook), while listening to public radio from different countries.

I can’t get enough Nutella. Ever.

Three words that describe me: Curious, Stubborn, Enthusiastic.

Three words that describe my work: Classic, Preppy, Fitted.

Best creative advice I ever received is to stop early. My instinct is to power through, but then I get tired and hungry and make sloppy mistakes. A friend of mine is very happy to put away her sewing project for the day after just a couple of hours and I now try to follow that method as well.

I never leave the house without dog treats in every pocket.

If I could live in any other city it would be Copenhagen. Biking there is such a dream compared to my city.

The best spots in my city are a short bike-ride away! Halifax is a big small-town and a small big-city. I call it Mini Boston. It also reminds me of my old hometown, Bristol, England.

One fact about me that’s embarrassingly awesome is I am a retired trapeze artist.

My DIY secret weapon is Wonder Tape.

The biggest DIY mistake I ever made was being too intimidated to try a pattern. I could have been making my own jeans for years!

My next project is a sparkly party dress. Bring on those cocktails!

Discussion 1

  • Sew in Progress commented 4 years ago

    Hi Erica, nice to meet you! One of the things that really motivated me to invest more into making was when I wanted to become the "Tin Man" of Wizard of Oz. It is still the best costume that I own till today :) 



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