Q&A with Michelle Morris, founder of Sewn Magazine
How did you get started sewing?
Wow, that was sooooo many years ago! I started sewing by hand when I was a pre-teen – I was refashioning before it became a thing. I could not afford the newest and latest fashions that were out but there were thrift stores and I was creative, so I did my own thing. My first introduction to sewing with a machine was in 7th grade Home Economics class and I was super ambitious because my first project was a pair of pleated pants. They turned out fabulous and I was hooked.
What inspired you to begin sewing again in 2013?
I think I’ve heard a lot of people say this same thing but I came across this little old sewing blog by the name of Mimi G Style. I had been out of the the sewing game for so long that I was not aware of sewing blogs. I followed her and garment after garment I said “I can make that, I can make that!” and that’s what I did. I ventured to the fabric store and realized that so much had changed with sewing – namely how much patterns cost! I pushed forward, bought the pattern and fabric, and made this really cute top. That was the new beginning.
What was the impetus for creating Sewn Magazine? How did you go about delving into the world of publishing?
I’ve always been involved with art in some way shape or form. I love fashion magazines and once I could call myself an influencer, I was able to freelance projects to national sewing magazines, which was wonderful. I must confess, I was not an avid reader of sewing magazines, but I would purchase one if the cover caught my eye.
Right before my work was published I realized that faces like mine were missing from the contributors to these national magazines and there began my quest to find makers who were published and looked more like me. I purchased over a dozen magazines and I was only able to find two makers of color. I was really blown away, because I am on social media all day and I see us out there! Then I got this bright idea of creating my own sewing magazine but it had to be a hard copy or I was not doing it.
Did I really know what I was getting myself into? No, but that didn’t stop me. Sure I got some bumps and bruises along the way and I am still learning but this is an amazing experience that I get to share with my family, even though they hate shipping day!
How do you decide on the look of each issue – is it just instinct or are you working from a theme or point of inspiration before you even start putting the issue together?
I think it’s my duty in life to take prints and try to use them in ways that the average person would never consider. There are times when I put something off-the-wall together and think to myself there is no way anyone is going to like this! But I post it anyway and those garments are the ones that people love the most – that still amazes me every single time! Now I get to share that on the pages of my very own magazine.
I knew that my magazine had to look like a fashion magazine and I knew I would load it up with fantastic photographs, this was very important to me. It’s hard for me to NOT to put too many pictures in the magazine, because I need room for that silly thing called text – I am totally considering a Sewn look book!
I would love to say that everything is planned out – but I would be telling a lie. I had grand ideas in the beginning of planning sessions and group meetings but the reality is that there is only a 50/50 chance that my themes work out the way that I plan them. Sometimes it goes to plan and other times I am forced to go in a different direction but it has all worked out so far. I am working hard to formulate and routine in all areas of the magazine so that things work more smoothly.
Your daughter Mori is such a fabulous model. I see that she has a background in art – does she have a lot of input into Sewn? Has working together on this project changed your relationship?
I wish I had cameras running in the background while we are taking photos or working on the magazine, I think everyone would get a kick out of how we interact. If she doesn’t like the outfit the photo shoots start off very rough!
She’s always been a mama’s girl and has to run everything by me – even when she’s buying socks – so we’ve always been close. She’s like my right hand with his magazine and I know I can count on her when I need help, so our relationship is stronger than ever. Please understand that we do get on each others nerves every now and then but we always work it out.
Mori mostly works with editing and answering emails for the magazine. She is such a perfectionist that it would take her two days to layout a story and that’s not going to cut it.
What are the biggest struggles in creating Sewn?
I have two big struggles. First, I am relying on contributors for content and that puts me in a vulnerable place. People drop out of features without telling us or tell us the day the project is due, then I struggle to either create the content myself or find someone quick. Secondly, since this is a pre-ordered magazine, I have to wait until two weeks before the issue is due to submit my proof to my printer, which usually causes delays on shipping. I wish I could actually get the magazine printed and mailed out before the issue is scheduled to begin but my readers are understanding. They know that all I want to do is get a quality magazine in their hands, even if it’s a few weeks late.
Where do you see Sewn in five years?
Hopefully on the shelves in stores!
How has acting as an ambassador for companies such as Husqvarna Viking helped promote you as a sewing influencer and Sewn?
Well, I will say that working hard on being a relevant influencer has opened up opportunities for me. These experiences afforded me to use premium sewing machines that I may not have used or purchased on my own. Husqvarna Viking has been amazing and has outfitted me with two top-of-the-line sewing machines and I have some amazing projects planned with my newly released Designer Brilliance 80. I will also say that no one promotes my brand harder than I do, but as an ambassador I do get promotion from the brand that exposes me to a wider audience. Hopefully in the future Husqvarna Viking will work with Sewn.
Let’s get back to your background in fashion design and how that influences your sewing. Did you (or do you currently) work in the fashion industry? Are there any designers that you find especially inspiring?
I do have a background in art & fashion design but that was so many years ago. When I came back to sewing, everything was different but what I learned will always be a part of the process when creating. I do not work in fashion at this time but I have some goals in 2020 that may point me in that direction. I don’t really follow any designers – most of my time and energy is on the unknowns – regular people making incredible things!
Thanks so much to Michelle for sharing her story with us! You can find Michelle on her personal blog, ThatBlackChic.com or on Instagram at ThatBlackChic. Subscribe to Sewn Magazine here and follow them on Instagram at SewnMagazine.