Sarah Jo Martens

Artist and Engineer. Passionate and Logical. Dreamer and Planner.

I began this blog to document some of my favorite projects in the world of sewing and to share tidbits I’ve learned along the way. 

I am an environmental engineer by trade but adore sewing. I try to combine my studies in sustainability into my costumes by selecting cast off fabrics. By upcycling materials, I can create entirely unique garments while putting what would be wasted to use.

I am no expert by any means, like most of you I am learning.  I am primarily self-taught, though I had the opportunity to take a few sewing & costuming courses while at university. 

Beyond those courses, I strive to learn something new with each project I take on, whether it be how to pattern draft, proper dying technique, specific hand stitches, fitting, or fabric manipulation.  Everything is a challenge and I very rarely make a pattern twice. 

But it all did truly begin with a rummage sale sewing machine.

I had registered for basic sewing as an elective course and I was terrified!  I had used a sewing machine a long time before with my mom, probably making Halloween costumes of some sort. But I had never attempted it on my own. 

Luck or the fates were on my side as I stopped at a random rummage sale in the Northwoods of Wisconsin (while riding on an ATV, mind you).  There it was, a beautiful Kenmore sewing machine in fantastic condition for only $15.  I had to take it home; it was a chance to learn before starting class.  Apparently, the machine had belonged to the homeowner who had made hospital scrubs with it for her daughters.  She had passed away and the daughters running the sale were delighted to see it would go to good use again.  I hope they know just how much use I put into it and how special it was to me. 

Well, I brought it home with me, on the back of an ATV, through the woods, and immediately sat down to learn.  My first few projects were terrible, absolutely terrible, but I did it.  I learned to use a machine to let my inner kid soar with beautiful fabrics and costumes.  I was hooked and never looked back.

Since that original rummage sale sewing machine, I’ve taken classes, worked in a costume shop, made countless projects and moved on to two new machines.  I inherited my grandmother’s machine and most of her supplies when she passed away and every time I use the machine, I feel that I am honoring her memory.  

But the rummage sale sewing machine is still a part of my life.  When I switched to my new machine, I passed it on to a friend who had moved and didn’t have her own machine.  She later passed it on to another of our friends to learn to sew herself.  

The lessons I take from that machine are the pure joy in learning something, finding purpose for something beautiful, though old or used, and the connections we form in this somewhat lost art as it is passed down from generations and between friends.