Ever since I eyed a beautiful set of simple, handsewn bathroom curtains while shooting for this green tour, I've been intrigued at the world of textiles, DIY and sewing my way into a stylish home. Lupine, Michelle and Gina created an extraordinary sewing studio and Bernina machine retail shop, Modern Domestic. Located in North East Portland, the space is inspiring, positive and absolutely approachable. These women make DIY actually doable, even for the laziest of seamstresses (myself being the president of this do-it-later type of attitude!). See more photos below:
The most wonderful aspect that this studio has going for it isn't the colorful selection of threads or high-end machines to work on; it's the creative community that embraces every participant who walks through the door. To learn a new skill is hard, but when you're laughing with an understanding teacher and like-minded peers, it becomes an authentic, fun experience. This community keeps you coming back, improving your skills and learning something new.
Lupine Swanson, Owner/Partner
Michelle Healy, Owner/Partner
What does a typical day look like?
L: Get to the store at 9, check in with class orders, clean and tidy store, open the store. After the shop is open, there may be any of the following: greeting customers, present sewing machines, check in machines for repair, check in orders, plan events, network, schedule classes, merchandise class samples, run errands.
Pick up kids from school, spend the late afternoon and evening with my two daughters. Then, after dinner and bedtime, go back to the shop to teach a class, or work on planning, newsletter writing.
M: make coffee, greet the plants in my yard, go to MD, make more coffee, clean the store and make it feel like home, help customers read patterns, install a zipper or thread a machine, troubleshoot a tension problem, have lots of conversations with some pretty creative people, go home, talk a walk, make dinner, work on my own sewing or craft project, read in bed.
The term "green living" can be so generic. What does it mean to you?
L: Living green means living with intention. It means creating a store full of long lasting items that are truly useful to the sewist. Not filling up as space with disposable junk and low quality items. We sell BERNINA sewing machines, which is the only brand of machines that is made by a family owned company that has never been bought or sold. The machines we sell are made to last, not meant to be thrown in a dumpster when they break. Adding sewing machine repair is also a way to care for goods so they can be used longer.
We also support teachers that are selling their handmade goods and teaching to make a living. Handmade goods are a true symbol of living green, as well as sharing information so that people can create and make useful everyday things themselves.
What inspires you?
L: I am inspired by other successful small business in Portland driven by their passion, as well as the community of craft and sewing online that has been inspired by blogs like Angry Chicken, Posie gets Cozy, Sew Mama Sew and so many more. As well as our amazing teachers and staff and their body of knowledge and awesome design skills and style!
M: My nightly walks inspire me. I am a garden and house design junkie. Sometimes I walk alone, listen to my iPod, tune the rest of the world out and look for tiny details that strangers lovingly install at their domiciles. One of my favorite things about living in Portland is that folks here love domesticity, whether they call it that or not. Lupine and I really wanted domestic to be in the name of our business because we hope to inspire people to love their homes.
The one thing you can't live without:
L: The one thing I can not live with out would be my business partners and staff. They make it possible for me to run a business with out feeling like I have to give up my family and life. By having others involved, I can still spend lots of time most days with my 3 and 5 year old daughters, and having a better balance of family and work gives me the inspiration to do what is needed for work with more excitement and intention.
Favorite quote or personal mantra you live by?
L: My favorite sewing, business and parenting mantra is "Tears are the sound of learning" which to me means that your failures are where you get the most knowledge. When you are sewing and you do everything right the first time, you don't always get the same depth of knowledge as you do when you make a mistake! Making a mistake on a project is a great way to truly learn a sewing lesson. I think it works for my kids and my business as well, and makes me approach the challenges a little differently.
M: Keep calm and carry on, definitely! I walk by my little coaster on my coffee table with that saying and it really works to keep me balanced and to not sweat the small stuff. Even when everything feels like it could fall apart I say those words to myself and know that it will all work out as it should.
• Visit Modern Domestic: Modern Domestic
Related: Jill Bliss, Studio Tour
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)