Sprout Profile: Rachel E. Pollock, Costume Craft Artisan extraordinaire.

There are so many fascinating people using Sprout Patterns that we thought it would be cool to share their stories with you. Sooooo, we’d like to take this opportunity to introduce Rachel Pollock – Costume Craft Artisan extraordinaire and (lucky us!) our neighbor in Durham! Rachel caught our eye because of the very cool and outspoken Concord T-shirt she made using her Epithets Collection on Spoonflower—a collection of crass textiles inspired by DIY punk-rock clothing she used to own.

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In the fall of 2005, Rachel started working as a professor in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Costume Production MFA program and Costume Crafts Artisan for PlayMakers Repertory Company.  Before living in North Carolina, Rachel was in Los Angeles, where she’d been working in the costume shop of the LA Opera. Prior to that, she was the Costume Crafts Artisan at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, which is the professional theatre in residence on the campus of Harvard University, similar to how PlayMakers/UNC. And before that? LOTS of freelance all over the place!

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Dyeing fabric in the UNC studio

Where did you go to school? – I did my undergrad degree at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, in costume design and production. I hold an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Orleans with an emphasis in nonfiction/playwriting.

How long have you been sewing? Do you remember the Fisher-Price sewing machine? I had that as a kid and did some very simple stuff with it, but in high school my mom taught me to use her Singer, an antique machine that had belonged to my great-grandmother. That’s really the point at which I started making things from commercial patterns and not just “playing”-sewing.

Dream feature at Sproutpatterns.com – Honestly, my dream feature is to design a line of cut-and-sew hat patterns for Sprout! Is that selfish or what? 😀

For ten years, Rachel has been writing her blog, La Bricoleuse, on behind-the-scenes costume production processes. She writes it from the perspective of someone who makes costumes for theatre/TV/film for a living, but much of it is also of interest to hobby sewists, cosplayers, folks working in community theatre costuming, etc.

Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 3.57.44 PM.pngWe’re especially and selfishly loving her series of review posts on Sprout Patterns projects. In a science-experiment-type way, Rachel is using Sprout as if she didn’t have the expert sewing experience she does. This includes cutting out the pattern at home (on the floor!), using scissors instead of a rotary blade, reading the instructions, and eschewing a serger for a zig zag or stretch stitch on a sewing machine.

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Her idea (and we agree with it) is that anyone could use Sprout for dancewear, sports jerseys, etc. in contemporary plays in which the Sprout/Spoonflower customization opens up huge possibilities for costume designers who might not have access to a traditional costume shop full of patternmakers and industrial machinery. No more painting on spandex or purchasing something that’s not quite right. (We swear, we didn’t pay her to say this!)

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Draping costumes for an upcoming show

Rachel understands the appeal for print on demand cut and sew, which is to create very specific, low-run garments that are easy to put together. What’s exciting about Sprout to Rachel (and many others) is that you don’t need an MFA in costume production and planning to make something that’s totally customizable and available to those groups with lower budgets than are typically found on Broadway.

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By this time, maybe you’re wondering about the story behind her synonym designs? I know we were! Rachel told me that the designs were originally created for a performance art piece. It was a highly conceptual dance project in which people would wear clothing with profanity on them and that sentiment would later be reclaimed in the action of the dance.

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The project and the nature of the costumes changed and they went in another direction visually. Fortunately in their agreement, Rachel still had ownership of the designs and so she went ahead and made them public and for sale on Spoonflower. People started ordering them and she realized she had a new fan base! When the Women’s March was announced, Rachel couldn’t go, but sponsored a friend’s trip and made scarves for them to wear. Visual statement? CHECK. Cozy and warm? CHECK.

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Want to make a statement with Rachel’s designs, but you don’t sew? Check out her Etsy shop, Troublesome Girl, offering scarves and headbands. Or her shop on Sprout to try your hand at sewing up a shirt. And thank you to Rachel for chatting and giving us a glimpse behind the scenes where she does her thing!

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Wearable Art = A Memory Tribute

Today’s Guest Blogger is Duncan Carter, a contestant on this year’s “Great British Sewing Bee.” Duncan runs a fashion website of his own and is also a monthly blogger for Minerva Crafts in the UK.


You know what, I don’t actually have many dress shirts in my wardrobe. There are two reasons for that: First off, ready-to-wear shirts rarely catch my eye and secondly, constructing a shirt at home is not quick and can be a bit of a headache. So when I saw Sprout offering the Negroni shirt by Colette Patterns I knew it was a sign to face my fears and make a unique garment, without worrying about tripping over a million pieces of tissue pattern!

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Thus began many days of searching through Spoonflower’s massive selection of fabric designs. Anyone who has read my blog or seen my videos will know I like colour and a bold design. There’s plenty of that on Spoonflower but what intrigued me more were all the stories that designers like Whimzwhirled had attached to their creations. When I found this design (Burning Down the House), I knew it was for me.

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Is it colourful? Yes. Bold? No question! But it was the story that really caught my eye. After a fire burned down this designer’s studio and left her with nothing she made this design from a collage of newspaper cuttings that reported on the fire. She talks of a phoenix rising from the ashes, letting go and moving forward. I like a cool design, but a cool design with a story like this? Perfect!

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This was my first time using a Sprout pattern and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When the parcel arrived I tore in and was thrilled at the colours, design and feel of the fabric. I waited patiently as my machine pre-washed and used the time to read the downloadable instructions. I am big believer in keeping good notes so the printable instructions were brilliant to have.

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I did part-print some of the pattern pieces from the digital pattern to get my pleats and buttons lined up, but I must say it was a dream to get stuck in without having to wrestle with any pattern pieces.

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Another thing I love about this fabric design is that the intricate collage effect would help to cover any little flaws. (Although, of course, there aren’t any in this garment. Honest. Maybe.) Seriously though, if you’ve never made a shirt before then choose a design that is a little forgiving and you’ll sew it up no problem! The Negroni shirt is a great pattern – nothing is under-explained and there was a cool wee tip for perfectly shaped patch pockets.

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The Cotton Sateen fabric is medium weight so it has a sturdiness that means I will be able to use the shirt as a top layer in the springtime but it is also soft enough to wear against my skin as a casual shirt.

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I have to say my experience with Sprout and Spoonflower was amazing from start to finish, and who knew something could get across an ocean so quickly? A million thanks to Caroline at HQ for being so welcoming and patient with me. I already have ideas for a design of my own on the next garment, maybe something with a little Scottish flavour…

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