Vintage Sewing with Sewrena

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Serena

Serena sews and collects vintage patterns and sewing machines. She enjoys creating vintage content from the 1940s-1950s for Instagram and YouTube to help encourage diversity in the vintage world and share her passion for vintage style. She enjoys dressing up and creating her vintage reality.

Lisa Woolfork

Lisa Woolfork is an associate professor of English, specializing in African American literature and culture. Her teaching and research explore Black women writers, Black identity, trauma theory and American slavery. She is the convener and founder of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. She is also the host/producer of Stitch Please, a weekly audio podcast that centers Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. In the summer of 2017, she actively resisted the white supremacist marches in her community, Charlottesville Virginia. The city became a symbol of lethal resurging white supremacist violence. #Charlottesville. She remains active in a variety of university and community initiatives, including the Community Engaged Scholars program. She believes in the power of creative liberation.

Insights from this episode:

  • Insights on Serena’s style as a form of costuming
  • How Serena describes her style and practice
  • Her journey in transforming her wardrobe
  • Serena’s journey into vintage clothing
  • Serena’s favorite vintage decade
  • Insights into Serena’s black vintage inspiration

Quotes from the show:

  • “I felt comfortable with myself like as a person, I’ve always been into vintage” -Serena in “Stitch Please”
  • “I don’t think I have a favorite, I chose my style in seasons” -Serena in “Stitch Please”
  • “I love that your creative genius is not gonna be encumbered by the historical demand of the time” -Lisa in “Stitch Please”
  • “I think the word authentic is a word that gets absolutely beaten to death, it gets overused. There are some folks that will have you think that authenticity is a thing that you do, rather than who you are” -Lisa in “Stitch Please”
  • “First, I am a creator. I like to dress in the past, but I like to leave room for creativity” -Serena in “Stitch Please”
  • “I think 100 percent historical accuracy is not realistic” -Serena in “Stitch Please”
  • “I try not to be too inspired by people that I can’t talk to and relate to, and usually that not gonna be celebrities. I try and find inspiration in everyday things and people” -Serena in “Stitch Please”
  • “I try and find inspiration from all types of people in all walks of life because I don’t want to live in this tunnel of monotony” -Serena in “Stitch Please”
  • “Never believe you are ever done learning” -Serena in “Stitch Please”
  • “Don’t underestimate the power of just trying because you really don’t know if you are capable until you actually try” -Serena in “Stitch Please”

Stay Connected:

Lisa Woolfork

Instagram: Lisa Woolfork

Twitter: Lisa Woolfork

Serena

Instagram: Sewrena

YouTube: SewRena 

This episode was produced and managed by Podcast Laundry.

Read Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Lisa Woolfork: Hello everybody. It is Black Tober and we are starting off this month with Vintage Sewing with Serena. This is one of those episodes where you are going to want to see the video, so become a Patreon subscriber and you can see these amazing projects that Serena is discussing. Here we go.
[00:00:29] Lisa Woolfork: Hello Stitchers. Welcome to Stitch, Please, the official podcast of Black Women's Stitch the sewing group where Black Lives Matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woo Fort. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax.
[00:00:51] Lisa Woolfork: And get ready to get your stitch together. Hello everybody, and welcome to the Stitch, Please [00:01:00] Podcast. And as I say, every week, this is a very special episode because I am talking with none other than so Serena, you all Serena, she's an icon. She is the moment. But also this is someone. Who has revolutionized vintage style without vintage values, and she is looking stunning in a dress and a head piece that I'm sure she can talk about.
[00:01:28] Lisa Woolfork: But listen, y'all, I went to a state sale yesterday trying to impress Serena. Because I sent her a picture, the sewing machine that I was very excited about, and she said, Oh, that's rare. That's amazing. And so I was like, Oh my gosh, if I get this machine, I can show Serena today for the interview, and then she'll be impressed with me, and then we can be friends.
[00:01:48] Lisa Woolfork: And it didn't work out because someone got that machine before me because they planned better. But in the meantime, Serena still agreed to talk to me in light of that horrible failure. So thank you so much, Serena, for being with [00:02:00] us today. We. So, so glad to have you and welcome to the Stitch, Please Podcast.
[00:02:04] Serena: Thank you for having me. I'm really, really happy to be here.
[00:02:07] Lisa Woolfork: Can you describe this wonderful look, because I think one of the great things about your work is that it is historical, it looks archival, and yet you bring it to the present day and it's just so striking. So tell me a bit about the pieces you're.
[00:02:23] Serena: All right. I made this house dress, it's like a pin four dress without all the ruffles. Cause I took that off. I hacked it to be like a maternity dress. So I don't know if you seen it like a couple years ago when I first made it, I left the side seems open so that way I could nurse. And so I just decided to put that on today cuz it's like really early in the morning and I didn't want to do the most but still get dressed.
[00:02:45] Serena: So it's a very convenient house dress. You just throw on like a little accessory and then you kind of dress it up. And then I did, I guess it's called like a Gibson role type thing with my hair. A
[00:02:55] Lisa Woolfork: Gibson role.
[00:02:56] Serena: Okay. Yeah, I think that's what it's called. Since I time hop, [00:03:00] I can't have like a permanent hairstyle, so I always have to find ways to make my natural hair to look shorter or never really longer because a lot of vintage styles, they had shorter hair and this is a good way to like make your hair look shorter and if you don't set your hair, you can do like a couple twists at the top to give it that.
[00:03:15] Serena: Yeah. Yeah, gonna look. So I'm always like manipulating my hair and things like that, so that way I can still jump from decade to decade as I lie. And then I top it off with some hair, flowers. I got some flowers from the craft store, and then some earrings from my friend at Retro Shimmer. She made these for me
[00:03:33] Lisa Woolfork: retro shimmer. Beautiful. Yeah. Wow. Wow. Thank you so much for walking us through that. And you use the phrase time hop. And this leads me to a question that I was really curious about, and I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you see as the difference between historical costuming and coplay or historical reenactments?
[00:03:59] Lisa Woolfork: I'm trying to think [00:04:00] about your work or just your style. As a form of costing, and I'm wondering if you wouldn't mind talking a little bit about cosplay versus, like you said, the time hop, which also, when you say it sounds like one of those dances that they would do back in the fifties, like let's do the time hop.
[00:04:18] Lisa Woolfork: I think that's from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but , do you know what I'm saying? I just would love to hear your thoughts about how you approach looking at the past because you really. So beautifully. And so do you see yourself as a costumer, as a cause player, as just a person with a beautiful, elegant sense of style? Like how do you describe your practice?
[00:04:42] Serena: I don't really know the differences because I am new to the community in general, like the vintage dressing or vintage community. I haven't really been a part of it prior to having an Instagram account. But I do think to some extent, a lot of the costumes do solely as a hobby.
[00:04:58] Serena: So maybe [00:05:00] some of them will be dressed like this every day, whereas this is just an el, this is my wardrobe. Like I am not doing this temporarily. This is what I'm going to look like majority of the day. But I do feel like there are customers who maybe they do experiments where this dress for maybe a year or a couple weeks or so.
[00:05:17] Serena: Like I think that it varies. I think there's different levels to everything, how far people take. But I don't consider myself a costumer and maybe I will down the road. I haven't been in the community long, so I haven't been to like events and things that bra these communities together. I haven't had the opportunity just yet. So I just find myself to just be a normal person who likes older clothing and style and fashion. So,
[00:05:39] Lisa Woolfork: Yes, like an fish anda, but I really feel like you are setting the mark and doing it really beautifully. So it looks like you started your journey to transforming your modern wardrobe to vintage about two to three years ago.
[00:05:52] Lisa Woolfork: Mm-hmm. . And at that time you were Red Ribbon Slim. What's the origin story of Red Ribbon Slim? And then what made you to [00:06:00] start this transformation?
[00:06:01] Serena: Well, that was just like an old email account from high school . Because I'm younger, I've always grown up with tech, but is it my most favorite thing ever? So when it came to like opening Instagram or doing a YouTube or whatever, and I used that email, I just left everything, that email, cause it's easy to remember.
[00:06:17] Serena: I'm not going to forget. But once my Instagram started to grow, I felt like that one was too long and irrelevant. But it just like, it needs to be shorter. Something that people think Serena, because it's linked to my name beautifully, it blends well as it started to grow. People didn't have to remember my whole email address.
[00:06:35] Serena: They could just be like, Oh, if you remember my Serena name, then you remember my actual name and if you remember my actual name or remember my screen name. So it just made more sense.
[00:06:44] Lisa Woolfork: That is really beautiful and it's absolutely accurate. Once you see Serena, it's like you're not gonna forget that. I mean, absolutely. Beautiful. So what motivated you to start this beautiful transformation from more modern or contemporary today's [00:07:00] clothes to the style that you're using now?
[00:07:02] Serena: I felt comfortable with myself as a person. I've always been into vintage. When I was younger, late elementary school, getting into junior high, middle school, I played with my look.
[00:07:12] Serena: So I dressed 1970s most of the time. Yes, I always had my bell bottoms in my platforms. Like that was my thing. I wore my hair, my natural poop, and like a ponytail. But then as you get older, of course you become more aware, right? No one cared that I dressed like I was in seventies, and other students didn't care.
[00:07:27] Serena: We were all just weird little children, creative children, creative the time in life, right? You get to stay creative and nobody cares. And then like when you get to middle school and you start caring, and then, so I guess at that point is when I freshed off what I wanted, it kind of just wanted to be ignored and conformed.
[00:07:43] Serena: And I kind of went on with that for most of my life up until I made the switch where I felt comfortable. I was like modern dress. While I do find it attractive on the people who like it, I find moderns in people to be just as beautiful, just as stylish. That's just their expression. I [00:08:00] feel more comfortable this way, and I felt more comfortable presenting myself this way the older I got.
[00:08:05] Serena: So I was just like, I don't wanna do that anymore. All the stars aligned. Three years ago I had kids, my body started to change, so my old clothes didn't really fit the same, and it was just like, if ever there was a time to redo my wardrobe, it's right now. Cause I have to replace my clothes anyway.
[00:08:18] Lisa Woolfork: Wow, that is wonderful.
[00:08:21] Lisa Woolfork: So you decided to concentrate on the vintage timeframe. But you say because you time hop, you aren't prioritizing like what everything has to be from 1945 to 55. You have a much broader expanse of time that you engage with. I wonder because you take your vintage style inspiration from so many decades.
[00:08:42] Lisa Woolfork: Do you have a favorite? And because your vintage interests expands such a wide frame, do you have a favorite decade that you like, Okay, this is my jam. I know when I get to these I'm gonna just go into overdrive and that's gonna be it. So what is your favorite vintage decade that [00:09:00] you sew from?
[00:09:00] Serena: It started out with fifties for sure. I think that's the easiest ones we get into because it's the most iconic and that's the one that universally everyone likes, even if you don't dress vintage, cuz everyone likes the icons from the time everyone likes the Marylands and stuff like that. So that was the easiest to get into. And then you have like Greece, seventies did fifties.
[00:09:19] Serena: You have all these style references. But as I got into it, I started to appreciate the simplicity of the forties. And then the art deco, the style of the thirties. And then I am more recently getting into sixties because I have a lot of fabric and mustache that needs busting. They're like smaller cuts. So because the hemline got a little shorter in the sixties and more like the more fitted dresses and stuff.
[00:09:42] Serena: So I've started to like the sixties a little bit more, but I don't think I have a favorite. I choose my style in season. Does that make sense? So yes, it's really hot right now, so I don't wanna wear a whole lot of. So I'm not really gonna be wearing a whole lot of fifties right now. I'm gonna be wearing more 40 or sixties where the silhouette [00:10:00] starts to get a little bit smaller.
[00:10:02] Serena: The forties, because of the war, there wasn't a lot of fabric, so a lot of the dresses take like two yards. So I'm just wearing less. So I gravitate to the forties for the hotter seasons, and then I'll wear more fifties around December in the winter months where I can just pile the layers and things like.
[00:10:17] Serena: It's more seasonal for me, and when I get into the season, I'm like, Okay, great. Now this is where I'm going to have more of my 40 successories things accessible to me, and that's when I'm gonna tailor my looks to certain things. So I don't really have a favorite because I love different things about different decades. I allow myself to love them all and not have to choose. Cause I don't have to choose. I don't live in any of those decades. I can do what I want.
[00:10:41] Lisa Woolfork: I love it. I love that your creative genius is not gonna be encumbered by the historical demand of the time or whatever that might be. One of the things I appreciate about what you're describing here is that sometimes it seems for, at least for historical reenactments, there is this very strong.
[00:10:59] Lisa Woolfork: [00:11:00] Appeal, it seems to precision or accuracy what some would call cannon in the cosplay comics world. It has to be exactly the same. And goodness forbid you have this glove, which they would never have had in that time out. You bastard. Yeah. . That can be, That's a lot of gate keeping. Yeah. That exists. The bot.
[00:11:20] Lisa Woolfork: And so that's something that I feel like when I look at your work and speaking with you now, is that you have a much more open. Approach. Mm-hmm. , it seems then a closed one. Can you talk a little bit about that? As you were saying, it seems like some policing that seems to go on, and a lot of assumptions that people put onto you based on your wardrobe that I've seen you discuss.
[00:11:40] Lisa Woolfork: I have a feeling that people come to you and say, Oh my goodness, thank goodness. I am so glad that someone here cares about values and about the way America used to be a moral pillar. That's right. Look at all these. We got hot girls summer, and the girls with the booty cheeks showing and they are twerking.
[00:11:57] Lisa Woolfork: And finally, we've got Serena [00:12:00] here who is gonna show us the way back to modesty and American values and Serena's like, Oh, hold on now. Hold on. Not this one. Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about that? About the way that your approach just seems so beautiful. Open. Yeah. It feels open and warm and just inviting.
[00:12:17] Lisa Woolfork: And I think the word authentic is a word that gets absolutely beaten to deaf. It gets overused. There's some folks that will have you think that authenticity is a thing that you do rather than who you are. Yeah. And so I wondered if you could talk just a little bit about that, about some of the feedback that you've gotten and some surprising responses, or maybe not so surprising.
[00:12:39] Lisa Woolfork: Mm-hmm. .
[00:12:39] Serena: So first on your creative. I like to dress in the past, but I like to leave room creativity. So if I'm following this set frame, I have to recreate this look that doesn't leave room for my creativity, and I might as well just be wearing modern clothes, like what's available to me because this is what is available to me.
[00:12:55] Serena: I don't wanna do that. I don't feel like I need to recreate. I think [00:13:00] 100% historical accuracy is not realistic. Just like today, I am a modern woman living in a modern world, and when history talks about our fashion, I will be excluded because majority of the people don't dress like me, But I am still a modern person.
[00:13:14] Serena: In 2022, yes, I am not the first outlier in history. There are going to be people who were in the fifties who may have their care better in the forties, and they decided I could cut my hair like everyone else, but this looks good on me. I believe those people exist. I know those people. Just so I don't have that hold to do something.
[00:13:35] Serena: That to me is very unnatural. People have been people. Everyone was not always fashionable and not everybody had access to media back then, especially back then, Right? Not everybody was up to the times. Not everybody had tv. Not everybody had access to the magazines or stores that kept the magazine.
[00:13:52] Serena: There's no reason for me to be historically accurate because this probably reserved mostly for people who were rich in movie stars who were trying to [00:14:00] influence the masses like they do now. The most hip people are the people that you're gonna see the most. I don't believe normal people were all hip.
[00:14:07] Serena: Most of them, yeah, but all of them, probably not. There was probably a Serena of yester year. He really liked twenties in the forties. I don't feel like I have to be held to that because that's not even true today. I've gotten people tell me like my home isn't historically accurate. What?
[00:14:25] Lisa Woolfork: Oh my gosh.
[00:14:26] Serena: I have furniture for different decades.
[00:14:28] Serena: I do use mostly vintage items in my home. But also that's what I think makes it historically accurate. I've been in homes where the original owners lived in their mid-century homes, and they have things throughout the decade. They didn't throw away everything they owned because it was in the decade. My mom's not a Ted woman, and she still has things from when I was a kid, so would that make her house less water?
[00:14:48] Serena: It just doesn't make any sense. Your refrigerator's not gonna be from the year you're in. Your stove isn't gonna be from the year you're in. These are things that go with you until they don't work anymore. So those people, while they don't harm [00:15:00] me, I feel like they suck the fun out of it for themselves.
[00:15:03] Serena: Like they are so miserable with what they have created for themselves that they just, you don't get to have fun. Like you don't get to have fun. Come be miserable with me and just, I don't have to do that.
[00:15:13] Lisa Woolfork: He's like, You know what? I could, I really could. But I'm not. I'm not, cuz I don't want to. I just don't want to.
[00:15:20] Lisa Woolfork: So yeah, they gatekeepers,
[00:15:22] Serena: they gate keep themselves also. I'm not asking you to open the gate like I am going to do what I wanna do
[00:15:27] Lisa Woolfork: regardless. Exactly. It's like, oh, there's a gate here. I didn't even notice. I stepped right over that. I thought it was a curb. Yeah, because your gate is not gonna keep me out.
[00:15:36] Lisa Woolfork: And also I like to think about the gate keeping all y'all in there. So please stay in and let me be free out. Absolutely love that. Hey friends. Hey, I wanted to share a little bit about the abundance of the Stitch, Please Podcast. The growth of the podcast has been so exponential that the work has exceeded what I am able to do, and this is where you come in to [00:16:00] retain the joy practice and the liberatory vision of the podcast, and to not have it reproduce, capitalist extraction and overwhelm.
[00:16:08] Lisa Woolfork: I am recalibrating the Black Women's Stitch Patreon for increased sustained financial support. You can find links to the Black Women's Stitch Patreon in the show notes and be on the lookout for more information as the recalibration unfolds. And thank you for your support.
[00:16:28] Lisa Woolfork: I also wonder sometimes in, I think that I've seen this in some of your comments, that there's folks who. I think want to imagine you, and this, I think for me, returns to this shocking, in my opinion, comment that someone would say something about your house is historically inaccurate. Like, who are you person on Instagram to weigh in as if I have asked you, First of all, what do you think?
[00:16:54] Lisa Woolfork: I don't think in this entire caption, I said, Your opinion really matters and I will change [00:17:00] my behavior based on it. So feel free to share any and every thought. At the same time, I think it's because you know, you're a modern black woman. I'm a modern black woman, and we have survived Trump presidency where there were folks who wanted to make America great again.
[00:17:15] Lisa Woolfork: And for some, the great again era was the fifties and the forties before we had any civil rights. And so I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about. Some of that kind of commentary that in some ways might not come from historical people, but just from regular folks who are like, Oh my gosh, I really remember, What was that show?
[00:17:34] Lisa Woolfork: Now I'm blanking on it. With the Fs Happy days, right? Oh, I remember Happy Days so well. Or I remember this and the forties times were so much simpler then And the farther you go back in the past, the Better America was and look at you. Thank you so much for reminding us of our true values. And you're like, um, not, I guess how do you respond to that when someone is like, Yes, the fifties were [00:18:00] way better than now in the forties.
[00:18:01] Lisa Woolfork: Were way better than now. And you are proof of that .
[00:18:05] Serena: Okay. So I try and make my page very open that I'm liberal to begin with. So I try not to entertain people individually when they have those types of comments because a lot of times you're not going to change their mind and I'm not gonna waste my time to do.
[00:18:18] Serena: I just delete and block for the most part because I've gotten into conversations in the past and these comments are puke and far between because I do try and make it look very obvious that this is just addressed and these are not my beliefs. So the people aren't really trying to chill out on my page who have that thought process, but every once in a while it.
[00:18:37] Serena: They'll slip into the cracks. And I try not to address them on an individual level because we're gonna go back and forth and it, and they're gonna feel like, Oh, such a shame. I thought you were a certain kind of way, blah, blah, blah. And I'm just not engaging that. I'm just not even back then. I am not the first person to have these views and things like that.
[00:18:53] Serena: I'm just more free to express them now than they were in the. And I am not going to throw my [00:19:00] people under the bus for your compliments. I'm not gonna do that. That's
[00:19:03] Lisa Woolfork: what makes you, at least in my mind, so inspirational. Just so inspirational. And I wanted to ask you a question about your inspiration. Like we don't see a whole lot of black vintage inspiration.
[00:19:17] Lisa Woolfork: I think there's some pages, there's some photography that I really enjoyed looking at. The New York Public Library has this really great free database of images. It's wonderful. But in terms of like on the daily, on IG, for example, it's hard to find a lot of black vintage inspiration. Who inspires you and who do you hope to inspire?
[00:19:38] Serena: I really like Diane Carol. I did a project for, for Black History Month. I got to read her biography and I saw a lot of overlap. Not a whole lot, but like the parts that mattered to me. There was a lot of overlap between the two of us. I. Hearing her narrate her own story was amazing. I was just going away with that.
[00:19:56] Serena: Her approach to style in fashion. I do feel like to [00:20:00] some point she was a little bit out of touch and I'm not, I hope to never be that one, but in general, the way that she likes to dress and style things and the bot that she had with her mother over those things, I loved that about her. I try not to be too inspired by people that I can't talk to, and usually that's not gonna be celebrities.
[00:20:19] Serena: I try and find inspiration and everyday things in people. I'm still finding that as my, um, popcorn girls. I find while my dress isn't usually inspired by people, the want and the need to create, I get that inspiration from other people and other things too. I really like crafting in general. So maybe sometimes I'll follow account that is just like, why would you follow account that has literally nothing like a garden count?
[00:20:42] Serena: You know, really garden here. But I find beauty and everything. If I see you making, I don't know, whatever you've decided. Garden and I'm like, Oh, those flowers make a lovely dress. I hope I find fabric like that. I try and find inspiration from all types of people in walks of life because I don't want to live in like this tunnel of [00:21:00] monotony.
[00:21:00] Serena: I accept inspiration from everywhere, and it doesn't have to be simply from where I craft. And so, But if you're looking for more vintage people on my Instagram, I have a whole highlight of black vintage creators, dressers, and I think I have a couple of costumers on there too. So I have a lot of people store there.
[00:21:20] Serena: And then I have another one every day normal vintage people on there too, because a lot of people like to pretend that we didn't really exist. So I wanted to not necessarily showcase the black celebrities. Somehow they can believe that all the black celebrities and entertainers were there solely to make you happy and dance.
[00:21:37] Serena: Exactly. But the normal everyday people were not there. So I have a whole highlight of just everyday black people just being black in America, whether it's going to church or posing us to the Christmas tree. You know, just being people. As I find new photos, I add to that highlight, and as I find new creators, I add to that creator list because people like, I've never found, like I've never seen another black vintage stressor, and I'm like, [00:22:00] We're out there.
[00:22:00] Serena: There's not a lot of us. So I wanna make sure that there's places where you can go through the whole
[00:22:05] Lisa Woolfork: spectrum of people, and that's why you are both an inspiration and a. So thank you very much for that, and we'll make sure that folks know about your highlights and some of the other features you've described to us.
[00:22:19] Lisa Woolfork: We also see you working with a lot of vintage tools and patterns. Are there any techniques or tools in the vintage space? That modern tools and techniques cannot compare to. Are there certain either machines or certain features of the vintage sewing style that you are like, Oh my gosh, this is so much better than what we do today?
[00:22:42] Lisa Woolfork: I
[00:22:42] Serena: like the patterns better because the pattern information is to me more detailed. A lot of people say that they aren't and that they are very scarce. The pattern instructions are, I didn't find that because I started reading vintage pattern. Early on in my sewing career. So it wasn't like I had a [00:23:00] whole lot of knowledge and I was able to make the pattern.
[00:23:02] Serena: But one main difference I see between the vintage patterns and modern patterns is the vintage patterns are really trying to make sure that you know how to use this pattern no matter what your skill set, because people weren't as wasteful back then. So these patterns will show you how to manipulate the pattern.
[00:23:20] Serena: It will show you how to tissue fit the pattern. It will show you if you have to cut the pattern and how to like slice and spread it. Yes, yes. It will show you how to manipulate that pattern. Vintage patterns don't do that because they are multis size pattern for the most part. So if it doesn't fit, you just cut the other sides up where you blend the sizes.
[00:23:38] Serena: That's good and all, but like what if you do actually need to manipulate the pattern? Its on the sides, but you need to do a small bus adjustment. What if you need more bidding and you're not going to get that given to you with the pattern. You're going to have to probably buy a book or look on YouTube, but with the vintage pattern, you bought the pattern and it gives you a little bit of an overview of how to do it [00:24:00] with a diagram on how to do it and adjust your pattern yourself.
[00:24:03] Serena: And I think that goes. Further, especially for me, where those are the only patterns I use. So if I can only find one size, then I need to manipulate that size to fit me. I think overall I end up with a stronger sewing foundation as someone who's a home seamstress, because I didn't go to school and I don't have a teacher to call.
[00:24:20] Serena: I can use what I have and figure it out, and they're writing it out. And I think with modern patterns, they give you so much that you don't have to build upon techniques if you don't want to. Because it's all really just given to you. Like if you don't like the size, then buy the size. You know what I'm saying?
[00:24:35] Serena: Right, right. Also, you had to learn more techniques using vintage tools because they are so simple and basic. I think with computerized sewing machines, the machines do so much that you don't have to learn a lot about your machine itself or certain techniques. Some techniques are a little bit more manual with vented sew machines.
[00:24:53] Serena: I haven't come across anything that a modern machine cannot do that mine. Can't do. Right. But it [00:25:00] depends on technique. Do I know the techniques to get it done because my machine isn't going to do it for me. That's right. I just get to immerse myself more into the craft, and I like that.
[00:25:09] Lisa Woolfork: I love that. I'm a big fan of notions.
[00:25:12] Lisa Woolfork: I love notions. I love well. Notions, So that's rulers and sea allowance, that seam gauges in tracing wheels and all these kind of great stuff. And so one of the things I often look for when I go to in estate sale is the sewing space, because as you said, people collect things over the years. And so that's one of the reasons I'm gonna share these books that have shared earlier.
[00:25:33] Lisa Woolfork: But do you have a. Favorite notion from the past that you're like, Oh, this one is my jam and I'm glad I found this one and I wouldn't give this one up. Do you have a particular notion that you encountered or used that you're like, This is great.
[00:25:50] Serena: Maybe not a notion, but machine attachments. But I do have a lot of vintage notions.
[00:25:55] Serena: I actually display them in my room. I have like a wall floor ceiling pegboard, and I [00:26:00] collect vintage sewing machines and their tables, they usually come with the inside. So as long as they're in their original packaging and I can like put 'em up like a little store. I have vintage elastics, I have tracing wheels.
[00:26:10] Serena: I will say the notions are of better quality because singer's been around forever. Yes, I have modern singer gauge, so engaged that I got when I first started. And then of course I have a true vintage. I have several, two vintage singer. The one on my modern one, the paint and the numbers, they're completely wiped.
[00:26:26] Serena: Wow. Like I've only had it for like six years, and then the other one looks crisp. Brand new, never been used. And it's three times the age of the original one. So it's just to see how the quality has really gone down because we're not expected to have kept. Our GN or, or any of our things for so long that they're falling apart because we really would've been a thorough away society now, maybe someone who sews now, they would never have even own age so long to notice that it's not that great ,
[00:26:53] Lisa Woolfork: Right?
[00:26:53] Lisa Woolfork: Right. That you can't really gauge it without numbers. You gotta be able to see those
[00:26:57] Serena: vintage shears. A lot of my vintage [00:27:00] things, if they're similar package, I like to leave 'em in the package, but if they're not, I will just go ahead and use it. So I'll use my shares, my pinking shares, all of the thing I'll use as long as they're not in their package.
[00:27:08] Serena: Oh,
[00:27:09] Lisa Woolfork: that's wonderful. Now, what has been your most satisfying make? If you could think of just one thing or top two. Maybe you like, I'm making this and Wow. Do you have something that's just like this? Is
[00:27:22] Serena: it my quilted house code that I need? Started it last year. Finished it this spring, I think it was. Yeah, the
[00:27:29] Lisa Woolfork: spring.
[00:27:29] Lisa Woolfork: It's right here. Ooh. I'd love to see. Oh, oh my gosh. Yes. Yes. I saw those photographs.
[00:27:37] Serena: Yes. Button snaps, true vintage button snaps in the beginning, and then I have like regular buttons down here. Oh, it's stunning.
[00:27:46] Lisa Woolfork: Oh, it's absolutely. Stunning. And the covered buttons too. Yeah.
[00:27:51] Serena: Covered button snacks and then like regular covered button stamp here.
[00:27:55] Serena: Yes. Two-tone fabric
[00:27:57] Lisa Woolfork: we have. Oh, it's stunning. It is [00:28:00] just stunning. And all the
[00:28:01] Serena: quilting was hand quilted by me.
[00:28:03] Lisa Woolfork: Oh my. Good gosh. Yeah, you all, if you went not a Patriot supporter, get on the Patreon because first of all, hashtag pay black women. And second, you get to see. I mean, y'all, I've seen the photographs.
[00:28:17] Lisa Woolfork: I've seen her modeling it, her holding it, and with this beautiful smile on her face of satisfaction. Oh my gosh. The lighting. Yeah. It looks so clean in there too. The sewing is so, yeah, this
[00:28:30] Serena: is clean. My best work hand down, my best work. It took me some time because I was really nervous throughout the whole process cuz you know, SAT's not very freaking big with all this quilting.
[00:28:40] Serena: If I screw it up, then I've have to start over also, I usually try to stick to budget friendly projects and this was not that, so I wanted to take great care. So it took me a really long time just to get over my nerves. Like this is definitely a lot of. Wow.
[00:28:57] Lisa Woolfork: I feel
[00:28:57] Serena: like I was able to combine all the [00:29:00] years, all my efforts into one project and this was it.
[00:29:03] Serena: I'm really excited. I'm really proud of it. I love house coats when I'm not dressed up to like leave the house and I'm wearing a house coat. So I've invested in having nice house coats because I still wanna look nice even when I'm dressed down. Listen,
[00:29:16] Lisa Woolfork: y'all, whatever image in your mind. The Word House Code conjures for you because I know what House Code conjures for me because with my Nana and Mimi, they would put on their house coats.
[00:29:29] Lisa Woolfork: They weren't going anywhere. It was a house coat for the house. It didn't look like what we are seeing right now. Let's just say it does not look like, you know, wow. You all to see this image and to see the joy on Serena's face and to look at this gorgeous house. And she says there's a lot of doubt in it.
[00:29:48] Lisa Woolfork: Like we see nothing. And this is the difference between process and outcome. That the process might have a lot of, Oh my gosh. Uh, you know, but the outcome, it's really beautiful. And even the [00:30:00] process you describe is beautiful because as you said before, satin is not forgiving. It's kind of like leather when you poke a hole in it.
[00:30:07] Lisa Woolfork: Hello. Hole hair hole, . That's it. That's, it's like, Hey, you're the one that put the hole here. I guess you wanted it for a reason. And so you did so beautifully. It's really quite wonderful. I wanted to show you the books, y'all, I showed her these earlier, but I think I'll put pictures of these up. What I'm showing are actual McGraw Hill textbooks that I found at the estate sale from 1956.
[00:30:31] Lisa Woolfork: On creative clothing construction and tailor it. And so I'm also a nerd and I love stuff. I remember when I was a kid, we had this set of World Book encyclopedias and I would actually read them because the books were just so pretty. It was four kids. I forgot the name of what that was, but this has been such a beautiful conversation and I'm so grateful.
[00:30:54] Lisa Woolfork: I want to ask you the question that I asked all the guests that come on this show in the [00:31:00] last few. The slogan of the Stitch, Please Podcast is we will help you get your stitch together. Serena, I am going to ask you, what advice would you have for our listening audience to help us get our stitch together?
[00:31:13] Serena: First of all, never believe you're ever done learning. I hardly consider myself a seamstress. I always feel like that's a word that you, for someone who has it all figured out. And I realized that like I'm never gonna be that person cuz I wanna learn so much. I'm always gonna be learning. And one thing that really got me here is to try, I started out with no teacher , no real direction.
[00:31:36] Serena: And the only thing that got me here with trying the willingness to try, the willingness to fail and that house quote I was terrified of, but I. I'm gonna try and I kept trying until it was done. So don't underestimate the power of just trying, because you really don't know if you're capable until you actually try trying is my thing. Like if you haven't tried yet, then what are you waiting for?
[00:31:58] Lisa Woolfork: And on that note, Serena, [00:32:00] thank you. Where can we find you on the socials? Where can folks find you and support?
[00:32:04] Serena: So you can find me on Instagram at Serena underscore, and then you can also find me on YouTube at Serena. I don't upload that frequently on YouTube blog work content, extremely time consuming for me.
[00:32:15] Serena: But I did have the making of that beautiful house code on there, and you can hear in real time, like me going through the steps in the process. Mostly Instagram is where I'm most frequent. That's when I'm on there the most because it's so easy to just pop on and then pop off in my busy mom lifestyle, but yeah, you can find me in those two places for right.
[00:32:34] Lisa Woolfork: Thank you so much. This was wonderful.
[00:32:37] Serena: Thank you so much for having me.
[00:32:39] Lisa Woolfork: Hey everybody. Look, I'm experimenting with bonus content for Patreon people because I need more Patreon people, and one of the reasons why I think so is Serena in one of your posts.
[00:32:49] Lisa Woolfork: You were talking about either a fabric, I'm not sure what it was because you said, This is something, I got this from this store, or from this company or whatever that I am not [00:33:00] paid to mention.
[00:33:01] Serena: It's probably everything
[00:33:02] Lisa Woolfork: I was like, Oh my gosh. I don't know why it clicked for. When you said, this is a company I am not paid to mention, and I mean I say hashtag paid black women.
[00:33:16] Lisa Woolfork: I believe in hashtag paid black women. I'm a patriot supporter of black women artists and podcasters and whatever, because I believe in that. But when you said, I am not being paid to mention this company, so I am not mentioning this company, I was like, If you've been listening to Stitch, Please, the official podcast of Black Women's Stitch the Sewing Group where Black Lives Matter.
[00:33:39] Lisa Woolfork: We appreciate you joining us this week and every week. For stories that Center Black women, girls, and fems in sewing, we invite you to join the Black Women's Stitch Patreon community with giving levels beginning at $5 a. Your contributions, help us bring the stitch. Please podcast to you every [00:34:00] week. Thank you for listening.
[00:34:01] Lisa Woolfork: Thank you for your support, and come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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