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From Where I Sew: Liesl Gibson


It's time for our latest edition of 'From Where I Sew' and this time we are talking to Liesl Gibson the designer and businesswoman behind Oliver+S, Lisette, Liesl+Co, and the Straight Stitch Society.  Liesl talks about where she learned to sew, working from her Brooklyn studio, and how she manages the creative process.



I grew up watching my mom sew. She sewed a lot of clothing for me and my four younger sisters. Women were always complimenting my dresses. Because I expressed an interest, my mom involved me a lot in the process.  I spent lots of time perusing fashion magazines from the library and pattern books at the fabric store.

My mom really allowed me to design. She let me pick fabrics and she altered patterns according to my requests. I learned a lot by watching her work, too. In fact, I started sewing for myself in college one summer and I knew exactly what to do because I had been watching and asking questions all those years!

Once I tasted the creative possibilities myself, there was no turning back. In my late 20's I finally decided I would go back to school to study design and make a career of it. I'm so glad I did because I learned an incredible amount in school, and I really love what I do.

During the day I sew for my job and on nights and weekends I sew for fun. It's been difficult to make the time to sew for fun since I started this business, but I manage to squeeze it in here and there. And now that we’re producing sewing patterns for women’s clothing under our Liesl + Co brand, I have an excuse to design and sew what I really love!

Our business studio in Brooklyn is a beautiful space with lots of light and big windows. It's an inspiring, quiet place to go to work. There are countertops along the two windowed walls, so we can look out over the city while we work. The other two walls have huge industrial shelving units hidden behind linen-covered doors which function as enormous inspiration boards.

Mood boards are really important to my working process and I make heavy use of them for planning. They help me to clarify my thoughts and communicate my ideas. While I'm working on one project I can start to plan the next so that it's ready when I have time to work on it. The boards help me to be efficient and stay organized.

At home I sew in the back of a small walk-in closet in our bedroom. It's a tiny space, but I only need enough room for my travel-sized machine and an iron.

My sewing time happens sporadically. Pattern development takes about six months. I’ll do a lot of sewing as I'm developing the pattern and writing the instructions. Then I move into a period where much of my work is on a computer, so I won't do any sewing at all for a few months. That's when my personal sewing becomes more important. I get a little twitchy when I’m not making something!

I'm very focused when I sew, to the point where I forget to eat or drink. I'm notorious for heating water for tea and never drinking it! But I do love to listen to podcasts. I binge listen, and I love it because it's a fun way to learn. My mind is clearer when I'm doing something with my hands, so I think my recall is better.

I always have more ideas than time. Right now I’m writing a second book (shhh!), so a lot of my sewing time is devoted to that. But I have a few things cut out for myself and some plans to sew for my daughter as well. And somewhere in there I need to sew up samples from my next fabric collection (due out this fall) and develop the next collections of patterns!

I don’t really like to show what I’m working on too far in advance.  It’s a delicate balance to know what to show and what to hold back prior to a project release. I’m not good at keeping secrets, but sometimes it makes more sense to wait until we’re ready to announce a project before I show it.

I’m not very sentimental about my sewing. I enjoy the process, and I enjoy the outcome, but I haven’t kept a record. I suppose that between our two blogs (Oliver+S and Sew Lisette) and Instagram I am keeping a sort of sewing record, albeit a little arbitrarily.

Someday I would like unstructured, no deadline sewing play time! I want to spend more time draping to develop really creative ideas. I want to sew really involved projects that require great skill and lots of detail. And I would really like to get back into weaving. All with no time pressures. Someday when I'm retired, I guess!


Thank you so much to Liesl for taking part!  We stock the entire range of Oliver+S, Liesl+Co, and the Straight Stitch Society digital pdf patterns and the Oliver+S and the new Liesl+Co printed paper patterns.  We also have a class running to sew the Everyday Skirt in a day!

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