Careers in Sewing – Sample Maker
Have you ever considered a Career in Sewing? Do you dream of ditching the 9-5 and pursuing your creative dreams? In this blog series we will be posting interviews for a range of different sewing jobs to give you a taste of what possibilities are out there. Today we interview Lisa Obuchowska who is a sample maker and has worked for theatre productions and sewing businesses.
Lisa wears a sample of the Penny Dressshe has made for Sew Over It
What is your background and how did you first get into sewing?
I have loved making things since I can’t remember when, I think my love for sewing and fashion started when I binged watched every available costume drama I could as teenager. Historical fashion was always something that fascinated me and I went on to study Costume Design at university. Then after lots of years of working on tiny fringe theatre productions and lots of odd jobs I ended up doing what I do now.
Can you tell us about your job and where you work?
I work as a sample sewer for Sew Over It, which I am sure lots of you have heard of by now! My job is to make up samples to show off the lovely patterns and fabric. But for those of you that haven’t it’s a one stop shop for everything you need to sew your own wardrobe. It’s stocked with lots of lovely fabric and patterns, and you can take lots of classes online and in the London shop in Islington.
What do you do in a typical day?
It really depends on what’s going on a week by week basis. I usually work from home and a typical day starts with me cutting everything out and prepping everything so it’s ready to sew. By the time I’ve done that I’ve probably got to pay my cat some attention, she’s a very demanding colleague! And then I spend the rest of the day making up whatever I’ve prepped.
What are the best and worst bits?
The best bit is definitely spending my day creating and making. It can get a bit tough still having the motivation to sew stuff for yourself when your job is to sew for others. I have been getting better at making sure I have time for that too, starting Pattern Pals with Louise and Barbara has definitely helped make sure I fit in some time for some selfish sewing. The absolute worst thing is not being able to keep some of the stuff I make. Sometimes I wonder if Lisa would notice if things accidentally disappeared into my wardrobe instead!
Lisa in her amazing handmade wedding dress!
Did you always want a creative career?
I could never really imagine doing anything else and for the few years that I wasn’t doing anything creative for work it made me quite miserable, so one way or another I wouldn’t go back now.
What qualifications, skills or experience did you need to get your job? Have you continued to train since starting?
After I graduated from university I felt that I didn’t have enough practical skills to pursue the career I wanted so I went back to study pattern cutting for two years. It really helped me understand how things go together and made me a much better seamstress. I have also been lucky enough to take some classes at Sew Over It with Julie Johnston. She’s an absolute superstar and I’ve learnt so much from her, she’s so generous with her time and even helped me fit my wedding dress.
Here Lisa has made a sample of the Heidi dress for Lisa Comfort’s magazine.
Do you have any tips for someone looking to get into the same thing as you?
I would recommend going to study construction techniques or pattern cutting somewhere as it will give you a better understanding of how things go together. It will also get you used to working towards deadlines which is something you have to get used to if you’ve been sewing for fun! Having a creative career isn’t easy and a lot of it is down to luck so my best advice would be if you really want to do it don’t give up! Eventually you’ll get there!
If you could do anything else what would it be?
I would love to retrain as a couture embroiderer. The amount of work that goes in to some of the pieces is breathtaking. Maybe one day!
What is your favourite sewing tool and why?
It would have to been a yarn needle and audiobooks! I use a yarn needle to finish my overlocking ends by threading them through and use it as a loop turner, and audiobooks keep me company as I work.
What are you sewing right now/will be your next project?
Right now I’m planning a winter coat and I’m making something for Pattern Pals which I can’t tell you about yet!