May 2011: Sew big


Walking from closet to closet in Sherrie Hannah’s sewing studio, you might feel a bit like you’re touring the prop room at HGTV headquarters. Boxes of fabric line the shelves, spools of thread sit in the windowsill, five pairs of spring-loaded scissors lay scattered on tables and desks. In fact, Hannah, a sewing instructor at local fabric store Les Fabriques, considers herself the “punk rock Martha Stewart,” and this studio is the set of her inspiration.

The space, down a spiral staircase in the basement of her Esmont rental, is just the latest in a long line of large-scale workrooms she’s had. “I cannot imagine myself being able to function without a good-sized studio.”

Lately, she’s been getting into industrial sewing—large projects for festivals like Bonnaroo and San Francisco’s Outside Lands that call for tents of 1,000 yards of fabric or more. Needless to say, her kind of work requires a roomy, clean surface. “Most people just have a regular sewing room with a little sewing machine,” she says. “I have to go for all the industrialness.”


"Ever since about 2002, I’ve had a big space. When I lived in Brooklyn, we had a really large apartment and it had a big room that I used. When I moved here, I had a studio in town for a while. Then, the last house I lived in before this one was an old schoolhouse and it had a big 17’x25′ living room that we didn’t use as a living room; I used it as a studio. And then I found this place.

“I was in Les Fabriques one day and a lady came in, an older woman, and she used to work in an apparel factory in Lovingston. When it closed down in the ’80s, she bought these six industrial machines and had them reconditioned so she could do piecework in her home. About five years ago, she came in to Les Fabriques and wanted to buy herself a fancy pants embroidery machine and so she wanted to sell all of these. I went out and looked at them and was super intrigued. At the time, I had a studio in town with some other people. So, I bought them. I have a button holer, a buttoner, a blind hemmer, a straight stitcher, a zig-zagger and a serger.

“If I had a crew, I have everything in here to be a little clothing factory.

“I have my grandmother’s domestic sewing machine. I have a domestic serger. I really have about four domestic sewing machines. One of our second cousins in the family recently passed away and so I have hers now too. Everyone always wants to give me all of their stuff.

“I had a pinched nerve a couple of years ago and was in the middle of doing that 1,000-yard ceiling and I discovered I had to make adjustments in all my equipment. I raised the machines as high as I could get them and sat on a yoga ball, because then you have to engage your core and sit up straight. It takes me down low enough that the machine’s at eye level.

“This week, I have three pair of pants to hem for my neighbor’s mom, who’s a friend of mine. And I have a whole tub full of clothing that I’m working on for myself that need to be finished up. I’m doing some blackout drapery for Cityspa. So, sometimes I’m working on window treatments, sometimes I’m working on clothing.”