Carisa Brunner, Made Sewing

“Saving Seattle from sewing disasters since 2011…”

I really enjoyed interviewing this warm lively redhead entrapenuer for Who Is Seattle… thanks, Carisa, for your time, insight, innovation, humor and generous spirit!  We met back in April to chat about Carisa’s vision of her new business in Greenwood, the past, present and future of sewing in Seattle, Greenwood neighborhood, and what Seattle means to Carisa.

How did you come to this place in your life?
“I lived in the South for 7 years, from Memphis I moved around a lot in the South and Midwest.  I lived in London too, studying in the London College of Fashion.  After that I got an undergrad degree in business, and  worked as a retail manager.  During that time, I realized that I loved to sew.  Up till then I had always toyed with sewing.  Next I got a degree in music (vocal jazz) and then went to Chicago, studied a little of everything I loved, including sewing.”

Carisa told me that her love affair with sewing actually goes back to when she was eight, and one day she took apart all the doorknobs in the house.  It was an old house, of a fashion that’s called a Tornado House.  All the doors lock into a central hallway which was meant as a refuge in times of storm.  Carisa took all the doorknobs off the entire series of doors in the house.  Her grandmother was a “tough lady” who had worked in the FBI, and all the tools in the house were hers.  When she saw what Carisa had done, she was trying to look stern and not laugh.  Carisa demonstrated to her how the doorknobs and locks worked.  Her mother was angry and had a locksmith come in and redo them so she could not take them apart any more!  She decided that maybe if she taught Carisa to sew, how to put things together, she would stop taking things apart.  She loved sewing and continued to sew everything she could.  She made all her sister’s prom dresses, for instance.  She is now a little sad all those lovely gowns are gone and she can’t show them to her daughter Rowen.

Because she loved costumes, she went to London and studied, after which she traveled back to the U.S. and applied at any theater internship she found that paid.  She got the one in Seattle and came here with her boyfriend Jay, from Montana.  They live in Ballard and when she opened Made Sewing Studio, she decided to locate it in Greenwood.  The current location opened up and it was perfect because of the mezzanine for classes and the ease of getting there from anywhere in the city.  They do get a lot of visitors from the neighborhood too, many of the regulars live 10 or less blocks away.

What is Made Sewing Studio all about?
In an effort to change direction Carisa went and got a masters in curriculum design, but just then the economy tanked, so she took the course of staying at her current job, and then for creative outlet opened Made Sewing Studio in November of 2011, after planning it for two years.

“People really like the idea” she says, “and my favorite part is that the customers can come here and get help when they need it.  Sometimes you have a project and you just break down somewhere, and need moral support.”  The Burda Style Club (a German pattern company which is very fashion-forward) meets here for free.  A great function of the space is people getting together.  At home, sewing is lonely.  It’s not easy to get together at someone’s home, and it kills the social aspect.  Here, they do pay for classes or sewing machine use time, but not the help.  There is also a free sewing library at the back.  “It kinda comes back, it really is like riding a bike!”

Here is a terribly funny and charming little animation  that gets at the heart of the “issue.”

A great feature of Made Sewing Studio is the event calender, like the Summer Fashion Review that was held in August with over 25 intrepid sewers modeling their creations for friends and fans.  And there is a consignment corner for those lovely fabrics you’ve been hoarding but sadly have realized you’ll very likely never use, that can benefit from seeing the light of day and becoming someone’s new project.

What is the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle Like?
“It reminds me of Chicago, neighbory but more urban than some other neighborhoods here, grittier but more family oriented.  All the neighbors on this street called me when I opened Made Sewing.  A lot of businesses here are really old.  The day that I moved in here we’d left the door open, and four business owners stopped in to say hi, so friendly.  It’s a condensed neighborhood.  There’s a great pub, the Pig & Whistle, next door.  The new owner, Steve, has been the proprietor for a couple of years.  He loves experimenting with food. The food is always changing, people don’t know that about his place.  Then we have Chocolatti, the cafe and chocolate shop, a half block south.  A great “fresh healthy” Mexican food place, Gorditos, is right around the corner.  We have the first Mr. Gyros here too, now they have three or four open, and have gotten a lot of recognition for their delicious and inexpensive greek food.”

What are your favorite things about Seattle?
I love the Solstice Parade in Fremont.  The summer here in Seattle is a magic time.  I used to row, but now love going to Green Lake and getting a paddle boat or kayak.  Taking the motorcycle out in the summer is amazing, with Jay.  We go to Hurricaine Ridge on the Olympic Peninsula or quite a few other great places around the area.

Who do you think I should talk to next?  Who Is Seattle for you?
Kevin Rosinbum of Eye Wanders Photography has a unique perspective.  He gets the silence of it, of Seattle.  Also a friend of mine, a  woman, Shauna Kelly, who created The Emily Program, her first year in Seattle.  It is a program in which women challenge their eating disorder.  She is a fantastic visionary.