Stitch & Chat
We've been fans of Jay McCarroll ever since his victory on Project Runway Season One. With altogether fabulous clothing and jewelry lines and a new and irresistibly cute fabric line from Free Spirit, he's a busy guy. Lucky for us, he took a break to spill the beans on sewing, fashion and even his fantastic hidden talent.
Beth: How did you learn to sew? What was the first thing you ever made?
Jay: I learned to sew from my mother. She was the go-to gal for the local high school marching band. She fit the uniforms for the band members and helped sew the color guard's uniforms and flags all through my childhood. I think the first thing I did was hem my pants because I was a Sears "husky" pants boy. From there I began to create clothes and costumes for myself.
Beth: What are you inspired by right now? How do you get inspired?
Jay: I can't tell you what I'm inspired by right now because someone will read it and copy me! (laughs) Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. It comes as I'm falling asleep or driving or in the shower. It comes from childhood memories or pop culture or nature or things that are just "in the air."
Beth: Tell us about creating your fabric collection with Free Spirit.
Jay: That was a lot of fun. It was really daunting to come up with something fresh in a sea of so many awesome fabrics. I just thought about using imagery that I thought would be cute and that I would like to work with myself. I'm so excited to be part of the Free Spirit family. It's a really creative and inspiring group of folks to be working with and alongside of. I couldn't have asked for a better home in the quilting world.
Beth: What's your favorite sewing tip?
Jay: Hmmm. I have so many little tricks up my sleeve. I would say take your time. Haste makes waste and it will show in your craftsmanship.
Beth: What's your advice for sewing and creating stuff and looking cool with limited resources?
Jay: I think the most inspired pieces come from having the least resources. I remember living in London with very little money and a sewing machine, and literally finding a garbage bag of fabric and old clothes on the side of the street and making, like, 20 garments out of it. I used every last shred of it. Today I have a whole studio jam-packed with every amazing product on the market and I still have days where I feel "blank." I think you can make something amazing out of very little--it's the passion and hard work that will show through.
Beth: What would you tell someone thinking of trying to get into the fashion industry?
Jay: Hmmm. That's a hard one because it's such a large industry with so many capacities. I would say to have a good working knowledge of drawing and sewing skills, along with a good idea of fashion history. You can't know where you're headed until you know where you've been. Fashion is all about cross-referencing things that have been done and putting your own spin on it. After all, the skirt has been done in basically every color and fabrication and at every length from the crotch to the ankle, so it gets a little tough to come up with something new.
Beth: Have you had any favorite Project Runway contestants from the past few seasons?
Jay: I like many of them. I rarely see them but when I do, there's a certain camaraderie that we have--like, we-all-participated-in-this-weird-social-pop-culture-experiment kind of camaraderie.
Beth:We'd love to learn about the causes you support and how to get involved.
Jay: I have a special connection with The Humane Society of the United States because I am a fur-free designer and an animal lover. Alex's Lemonade Stand is also a special cause because it has such an inspiring back story and they provide lots of help for children with cancer. They've been very supportive of my work and I of theirs. You can learn more about the great things that both of these groups do at hsus.org and alexslemonade.org. I also have an Alex's Lemonade Stand charity T-shirt available for purchase on my Web site, jaymccarroll.com.
Beth: What music are you listening to these days? Do you have a particular playlist for sewing/designing?
Jay: I listen to all sorts of things from electronic to '80s to folk. I have a pretty big library of tunes that I listen to while doing work. I have 15.2 days worth of music on my iTunes and am still collecting.
Beth: Aside from your many amazing creative endeavors, do you have any hidden talents?
Jay: Baton twirling.
Sneak a peek at Jay's new fabric line on freespiritfabric.com.
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