Designer Amanda Madden of AMadden Tailoring gives us a glimpse into her life as a designer. She’s the owner of a specialty shop geared toward brides and formal wear in Brooklyn, New York. You’ll also want to check out her DIY Bridal Veil tutorial!
O: When did you start sewing and quilting?
AM: I watched my mom sewing as a child and sometimes I would help out. I really started doing serious sewing about the time I started college and worked at an alterations shop to help pay my way through school. It’s something I really took to.
O: How long have you had your business?
AM: My business has morphed several times over the years. I started out designing costumes for performers and theater and doing alterations about 25 years ago. For the past 7 years I have had an alterations shop in Brooklyn, NY where we have specialized in bridal and formal wear. Now we are about to evolve again to do more custom design, pattern design, private lessons, blogging, and video lessons. I try to keep it something I am interested in and passionate about so it changes shape every few years.
O: Do you specialize in a specific look or technique?
AM: We have been doing mostly bridal, but I love to design just about anything. I get inspired by the fabric or something I see on the street and an idea starts to form. It can be anything from an elaborate wedding gown to stage wear for a friend’s punk band. I have even made furniture and curtains based on inspirations that I couldn’t forget. I like to let each piece evolve throughout the process so I never know for certain exactly what the finished product will be until it’s done. More recently, my custom clients and I have collaborated to make them clothes they have an idea about but need to flesh it out. I just love the design process from start to finish and in all its forms.
O: What craft or hobby did you do prior to sewing? Do you still continue?
AM: I love all things textile! I knit, crochet, embroider, cross stitch, and any other way I can find to put threads together. I started cross stitching when I was about 5 and have just wanted to make things every since. My mother is very creative and talented and I think I get that need to make things from her.
O: What is your community like? Do you sew locally with friends?
AM: Most of my friends are professional sewists. While most of what we do is for work, occasionally we get the opportunity to collaborate in the studio and those are my favorite days. I would love to have a shared studio with a couple of them where we could just work on our own ideas and collaborate all day!
O: Have your quilting and sewing tastes changed over time?
AM: Absolutely! When I started it was more about the finished project and getting it done quickly. The longer I do it, the greater love I have for hand sewing and taking my time to really do it the best way instead of the easy way. I consider Susan Khalje a mentor and her couture techniques are my current obsession.
O: What is your favorite holiday? What kinds of projects do you create for it?
AM: Christmas/Hannukah season is my favorite and most of my projects are for gifts. I often spend the year (or two) on a cross stitch project for either my mother or mother-in-law. Last year I made my niece a “REAL LIFE PRINCESS GOWN” (her enthusiastic words). My husband always gets a new shirt or jacket. I have kind of done myself in because now people get a little hurt if I buy them something rather than making it!
O: Do you have a hidden talent? Something others don’t know about you?
AM: I don’t think so. I love to cook and bake, but that’s not really hidden. I cook for anyone and everyone! I honestly can’t think of any talent that I have that is not textile or food related!
O: When you have a free day, how do you spend it?
AM: The shop keeps me working 6-7 days a week for months on end, but when I do get a free day I like to spend it walking around Brooklyn or Manhattan with my husband. Farmer’s markets, flea markets, window shopping … since it happens so rarely it’s like a mini-vacation. If the weather doesn’t permit or he’s at work, I actually just spend it sewing things for my friends or myself. I am happy either way!
O: Do you have a favorite color? How about one you don’t like so much?
AM: If you saw my drawers and closet, you would think black is the only color I wear! I do wear a lot of black but I was the kid that felt that anything short of the 64 box of Crayola’s was a like a broken toy. I especially love bold, vivid jewel tones. Any color can be beautiful if it’s in the right context.
O: Which social media platform do you prefer?
AM: I am the worst at social media. My assistant is pushing me to use more for work and promotion so I am getting more comfortable with it. I tend to like Instagram and Facebook because I follow a lot of sewing people and love to see pictures of what they create.
O: Which OLFA tools do you reach for the most?
AM: My 45mm rotary cutter is always nearby. I actually keep 3 on hand: one for paper, one for fabric, and one with a pinking blade. I love the Splash colors because I always know which is which without labeling them.
O: Besides OLFA, what are your go-to quilting tools?
AM: I can’t work without my Pacific Steam iron or my Juki industrial machine!
O: Can you give us a quick tip?
AM: An easy and fast way to finish seam allowances! If you are making a quick garment or something that will be lined, you can use the pinking blade for your OLFA Rotary Cutter to trim your seam allowances. It keeps them from unraveling at the edges and that’s why you see a lot of vintage clothes with pinked seam allowances. The rotary blade is so much easier to use than a pair of pinking shears!
O: Which school class do you wish you’d paid more attention to?
AM: Geometry and Algebra! Better math skills would be really useful to me in design and pattern drafting.
O: What have you dreamed of doing but haven’t yet?
AM: I would love to design a red carpet gown for someone really interesting. I wouldn’t really be into designing for a Hollywood actress who has all the designers on speed dial but maybe for a documentary filmmaker, or an activist…just someone really inspiring.
O: How do you organize your fabric, books, and patterns?
AM: I found an old McCall’s pattern cabinet from a fabric shop at a church yard sale a few years ago. I have since filled the entire thing with patterns. I collect vintage sewing books and pretty much all sewing and design books so I have two large bookcases in my shop full. I try to keep everything categorized, but it rarely lasts very long. When I get excited about an idea, books, patterns, and fabric start flying everywhere