How to create your own unique style by sewing your own clothes – A style interview with Sue

by Sylvia

How to create your own unique style by sewing your own clothes - A style interview with Sue

I’m always in awe of women who can sew their own clothes. What a thrill it must be to create exactly the clothes that you want to wear. Sue is doing exactly that, so today I wanted to find out a bit more about how she does it and where she gets her inspiration from. Enjoy!

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

I live and love to create! I’ve always had a passion for textile arts, and these days I’m channeling all that positive energy into sewing my own clothing. If I’m not sitting behind my sewing machine, I might be getting messy with my paint box, or making my own beaded jewelry. I do need the balancing effect of reflective pastimes too…I love yoga, and I can easily lose track of time reading a favourite mystery. My very techie husband and two loveable cats are the souls that keep me rooted in reality.

As a point of reference which age group do you belong to or perhaps you are willing to share your age?

I am 53, soon to be 54.

blue white and red nautical dress |

Can you tell us a bit more about your blog A Colorful Canvas and why you created it?

I initially created A Colourful Canvas as my small way of catching up with social media in the 21st century. In September 2012, I was ready to challenge myself with something new. I’m decidedly non-techie, not even a cell phone, and I was beginning to feel a bit like a dinosaur. It was then that I had one of those light bulb moments and I decided that creating a blog would be the perfect platform both for learning new computer skills and for dipping my toes into the social media waters. What came as a surprise was the very positive influence my little blog has had on my own creative expression. What began as a humble potpourri of personal fashion and lifestyle posts, has slowly developed into the blog I have today…a style and sewing blog. It’s here that I get creative with style, sewing, and all things arty and fun.

How would you describe your own style?

I describe my style as classic with a twist. Although I gravitate to mainly classic silhouettes, I love adding an unexpected element. Most often, I shake things up with colour, pattern mixing, or a whimsical fabric selection. Polka dots have me at hello, and I rarely leave the house without an armful of my treasured bracelets.

wearing jeans with a green jacket |

What would you consider the most important components of your style?

Classic lines, cheery colours, pattern mixing, and whimsy.

Where do you live and how does that influence your style?

I live in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver has a pretty casual vibe….think Lululemon Athletica. That easy going vibe, and a rainy climate, does make for a lot of people dashing around in yoga pants and rain gear. I get it…there’s a lot of fun, outdoor activities in my beautiful city, and I do have my fair share of both workout and casual clothing. But, I also love getting dressed up, and I love seeing others do the same. The often wet weather does influence my style choices. Rain is wet, and in the winter, rain is wet and cold. For years, my winter wardrobe consisted of a typically dark toned raincoat along with serviceable footwear. For several months of the year, I basically covered up my colourful style. I am now in the process of creating a winter wardrobe that is expressive of my style yet still works for Vancouver’s weather.

Mixing patterns with flower pants and a printed top |

Do you feel you have a signature style?

Yes, I think so….when I am consistent with the above mentioned important style components, my outfits do feel very much a signature style.

You have the amazing talent to sew your own clothes. How do you decide what to create next?

Thank you so very much for the compliment Sylvia! I don’t have a single method of deciding what to sew next. There are times when I fall in love with a fabric, and I’m inspired to create a garment. However, spontaneously falling in love with a fabric isn’t the most practical way to build a cohesive wardrobe, LOL. Twice a year, I get a little more practical. When I switch over much of my wardrobe, packing away either my spring/summer clothing or my autumn/winter clothing, I assess what wardrobe holes {there’s always some} need to be filled. That list gives me creative direction. And…I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’m often inspired to create something based on a sew-along theme, an inspiring blog post, or the rabbit hole known as Pinterest.

Sue wearing a gray suit |

How has creating your own clothes changed your style?

In a word…dresses! I rarely found a properly fitting dress in ready to wear, and therefore, I seldom wore them. Now my closet is filled with dresses that I can’t wait to wear.

What do you enjoy most about sewing your own clothes?

Hands down, it’s the creative expression that I enjoy the most. When I get a garment right {and yes, there have, and will continue to be, fails}, it’s as though my clothing is speaking on my behalf. I love that! I try to give everything I sew a little bit of whimsy; even some of my more decidedly classic pieces have either a polka dot lining or a bird pattern in the pocket. It’s a design aspect that other people may not see, but these quirky little twists absolutely brighten my day.

flower peplum top with red printed pants |

What would be your best advice for others who want to learn how to sew as well?

I would suggest reviewing your learning style first. If you learn best by example or hands on assistance, find a class or a private teacher. A lot of fabric stores offer classes, and some even have in house sewing studios. If you do best flying solo, many of the Indie pattern companies write blog posts that give step by step instructions for sewing their patterns. Whichever road you take, be sure to choose a pattern you love. Don’t settle for sewing an apron if you never cook in the kitchen. A simple skirt is a very good first project. You might be pleasantly surprised how quickly you can create your own one of a kind garment!

What inspires your outfit choices the most?

Oooh, this could be the most difficult question. I just see so much inspiration all around me. I would say that colour always catches my eye first…in clothing, accessories, art installations, you name it.

Sue wearing a colorful flower dress |

Do you take things like color profiling or body type into account when you dress?

I have taken the Dressing Your Truth course, and found it to be of great value. Although not colour profiling, there are elements in DYT that have similarities. The biggest help that DYT has provided me is narrowing down the overwhelming amount of choice one has when sewing one’s clothing. I was easily becoming overwhelmed in the fabric stores, and then either leaving empty handed, or coming home with fabric and a pattern that ultimately didn’t feel right after I had gone to the effort of sewing it. Now, I have a much better understanding of what fabrications, textures, and weights, suit me best. I am also paying greater attention to my body type. Not because I feel I have to, but because I want to.

Has your style changed at all after turning 40?

Let me think back, LOL. I have worn my way through a number of style phases over the years. So, yes it’s true; after turning forty my style changed. But, I think my style is always evolving and that any style changes that occurred after age forty were unrelated to my age, but more about a deeper understanding of my true self.

Sue wearing pink with lime green |

Do you believe in dressing ‘age appropriately’ and what does it mean to you?

I believe in dressing ‘personality appropriately’. As far as dressing ‘age appropriately’, all I can say is that I believe I dress appropriately for me right now. And, as I grow older, it’s my intention to continue to wear clothing that is expressive of my unique personality!

Would you say that at this stage of your life you are now more, or less interested in fashion, style and the way you look?

I think I’ve come full circle. During my thirties, I consciously stepped away from fashion. Once again, I am really interested in style, as much or more than when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I find it interesting that I now view fashion from a very different perspective than when I was younger. Thirty years ago, I was highly influenced by everything around and outside of me. Now that I am older and more confident with whom I am, I find that I approach style more intuitively and with greater discretion.

Why is the way you look important to you?

When I look my best, I definitely feel my best! I find that when I dress in the style that best reflects my personality, I feel more confident. I feel more genuine, and I find that people are more receptive to me.

Which of the outfits on your blog are personal favorites and why?

blue and white striped dress |

I can’t seem to help it, but it’s often my most recent makes that make it to my personal favourites list. My End of Summer Blues Dress is currently at the top of the list, and I do think it will be a favourite for a long time. I love the classic silhouette and the blue and white stripes sing! It fits well. It flatters me. And it’s comfortable and easy to wear.

My second favourite is my I’m a Bird in Paradise Dress (top image). I always, always, get compliments when I wear this dress, and I wear it often! I love the quirky bird print and the pops of colour. I’m also completely sold on the fit and flare silhouette!

Sue wearing the Midnight in Paris dress |

My third choice is My Midnight in Paris Dress. It may not be the most flattering silhouette, but it’s oh so comfortable to wear. I think it’s pretty special because of the creative challenge that comes with making a copy of a film favourite. Marion Cotillard wore the original dress in the film, Midnight in Paris. Again, I wear the dress frequently, and I sometimes feel almost as though I’m Adriana, Marion’s character. It’s a great conversation starter.

Do you follow trends? And if yes, which trends excite you at the moment?

Well, I don’t often intentionally follow trends. Having said that, seemingly out the blue, I decided that I must have palazzo pants, and I’m currently on the hunt for a vintage Japanese kimono. I imagine that these items are, or more likely were trends, so in answer to your question, yes I follow trends.

Do you have any fashion and style tips for women over 40?

I think that dressing authentically is key to fashion and style for women {and men} over 40. When we were young, it was easy enough to follow the latest trends and/or fads. The one style fits all fashion ideology more or less worked. It was as though the clothing wore us, rather than us wearing the clothing. The more years we have on this planet, the more life experience we have. I think it’s such a wonderful gift that we can let our clothing be a creative expression of our authentic selves.

Sue wearing a colorful paisley print jacket |

What are your plans for your blog and how do you see it develop over the coming years?

Ah, planning. Although I have many, many ideas rolling in my head at any given time, I confess that actual planning is not my greatest strength. I will say that in looking back over my blog, I am ever so happy with the direction that it is taking. It is becoming a true representation of my creative expression. I am very proud of that, and I hope that my blog continues to grow creatively. I love the visual arts and would like to be able to integrate some of my artwork into future posts. I am always trying to improve the visual appeal of my blog, and I am keen to learn more about photography. And last, but not least, I have been giving some thought to doing some instructional sewing posts. I think it might be a another way of connecting with my blog readers.

Anything further you would like to add?

Thank you so very much for this interview Sylvia! I think I’ve been wordy enough with my answers to your very thought provoking questions! No need to add anything further. This opportunity to share my thoughts about fashion and the creative process has been, not only a lot of fun, but also of great value to me. It’s helped me to gain greater clarity about my thoughts on style, and also given me direction regarding the future direction of my blog!

Thanks so much Sue. I personally think doing some tutorials on your blog would be a great idea! Be sure sure to head on over to Sue’s blog A Colorful Canvas right now!


1 Glenda

I adore She’s colorful and expressive style. I Always Look Forward To Her postings. Great interview!

2 Patti

Thank you for this – I always enjoy Sue’s blog and her wonderful style! And her curly hair too. xo

3 Lisa

Every now and then, when I can’t find the skirt I’m looking for, I tell myself I should just sew one. Then I remember that I can’t put in a good zipper and already have a number of projects of different stamps that have never been completed. I absolutely admire someone who can (and does) make their own clothing. I love the lime green jacket and skirt.

4 Suzanne

I love Sue! Her sewing talent and creativity are awe inspiring but when I met her it was her wonderful energy, smile and upbeat attitude that really won me over. Like a small piece of sunshine to carry in my pocket, powerful, bright and warm : )

Great interview Sylvia!

Yay Sue!


5 Julie

Thank you for introducing me to Sue! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that she sewn the MC’s Midnight in Paris dress!!! I’ve been keeping an image of it since the movie is out… Now I’m really inspired to try it too!

6 Heather Long

Great to see Sue creating stunning garments for her personality. I love her styling and colour choices. She is really encouraging for the 50+ woman.

7 Belen de bellepoque

lovely looks.

8 Sue @ A Colourful Canvas

Thanks so much for the feature Sylvia! It’s a delight to be able to connect with your lovely readers! And thanks too, for the vote in favor of tutorials on the blog. Yes…definitely something that I will seriously consider.

9 Jill

Love the look and so creative and talented!

10 Natalia

Sue is wonderful! Happy, sweet and lighthearted, and so very creative! I enjoyed this interview very much. Thank you for your in depth answers, Sue. Being genuine is what it’s all about, you are so right. And thank you, Sylvia for this amazing series of interviews.

11 Ann

Nice to see Sue here and learn more about her. She is so talented at sewing items that look great on her plus I really like her creativity when it comes to taking pictures. Well done interview!

12 Anja van der Vorst

Another great interview, Sylvia and Sue. Thanks!

I knew ‘about’ Sue already, and Suzanne spoke highly and fondly about her when she was in Haarlem. But now, after this interview and after seeing all the beautiful, colorful looks on Sue, I am going to follow her blog.

Many of the above looks are great, but the red graphical top with the flower pants must be my favorite!

Nice to get to know you better, Sue!

13 The Style Crone

Great feature Sylvia. Sue is a must read! I enjoy her creations, her writing and her talent for sewing. Her photos inspire!

14 Tammila Goodwin

Wow, I love, love love all of these outfits. Sue you are adorable. I wish I was gifted with seamstress skills. My mother tried to teach me. She is a sewing dynamo. Peace and keep being your creative self.

15 Natalie

A terrific interview Sylvia. I sewed many of my outfits eons ago but abandoned it as clothes got cheaper while fabric and patterns got more expensive. Sue’s creative energy and her fabric choices is inspiring me to dust off the machine and dive in again.

16 Greetje Kamminga

Thanks to 40+Style I discovered Sue’s blog a long time ago and been following her ever since. She is funny, creative and comes up with such nice combinations. And always with the right shoes to go with it. And the right bracelets. I love such outfits. They are also colourful, which is something I adore. I had to laugh when I read her answer to “age appropriate”.. If she wants a new career I suggest politics. LOL

17 Lorraine

I love the stripy dress and the lime green coat. Like Natalie I have sewn all my life but put it to one side when I had my career and could afford high quality clothes; then I had more time and clothes were cheaper, there was less choice of fabrics and I discovered ebay. Last year I bought a new sewing machine and have started again in a small way, spurred on by my friend Sue, who is a very talented seamstress. I often alter items (especially dresses) for a better fit.

18 Rebecca

Wonderful interview. Thanks to Sylvia, I have discovered another fabulous blogger.
Her exuberance and colorful personality jumps off the computer screen.

19 Petra

Sue’s creations are just amazing – they look so joyful and fun. Oh, to have that kind of talent 🙂

20 MikiT

ADORABLE! I want to steal all her clothes 😉 I love what she said about dressing “personality appropriately.” This makes much more sense to me than dressing a certain age.

21 Melanie

Thanks for this interview, Sylvia. I join you in your encouragement for Sue to do some instructional sewing posts. Her blog is always very well-written, colourful, features professional-looking photography, and Sue is bursting with positive energy in the clothes she makes. Plus, she is an amazingly talented artist. I’m happy to learn more about her.

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