Indie Interview: Stitch Lounge Co-Founder Melissa A.


This Friday, Stitch Lounge celebrates its 4th anniversary (to join in the festivities, stop by 6-8pm for drinks and happy hour fun). Since co-founders and friends Melissa A., Melissa R. and Hope M. launched the sewing lounge and independent designer boutique in Hayes Valley four years ago, Stitch Lounge has taught many a local crafty gal how to better her buttonholes, whip up a snazzy tote bag and work the serger better than Obama can work a crowd. And these days, more and more people stop by to snag refashioned and one-of-a-kind apparel from the boutique, which features designers like Hope (co-founder), Lucky Space Monkey, Chloe K, Lucid Dawn and Foompa.

Over the weekend, we checked in with Stitch Lounge co-founder Melissa A., who filled us in on this local gem’s past, present and future.

When you look back over the last four years, how has Stitch Lounge changed and evolved?

We found out that there was this desire and hunger for learning how to sew. [The lounge] didn’t start out that way. We thought it was going to be an open studio where people who already knew how to sew were going to come and do their thing. But [classes] are what they want, so that’s what we’re going to do!

What are the most popular classes?

Uber Sewing Basics is always full. And people love to make bags, so those are always popular. Recently we’ve had a lot of demand for Sewing Basics II. The students, the customers, the community are growing and advancing their skills.

How did the publication of your books Subversive Seamster and Sew Subversive changed things for the co-founders and Stitch Lounge?

It’s brought us more national recognition. We’ve never had a budget for marketing. Having the publisher behind us, and they obviously had a marketing budget for the books, that helped us get our name out, pushing it to a national level. It’s expanded our exposure, which has just been really amazing.

We were the first studio like this, but since we’ve started, these little lounges have been opening up all around the country. They call for advice, and we’re always happy to help them out.

The resurgence in craft, D.I.Y and indie fashion has been going strong over the last five years. Where do you think the movement is headed next?

I think that it’s going to spread outside of our area. If you look at the bigger trends in society, with recycling and sustainability, refashioning is a way to do that. It’s a way to not bring more material into the world.

I think what we’ll see is more clean materials, taking the materials that exist and deconstructing them, like sheets. I think we’ll be come more resourceful in our refashioning. You see a lot of people making art that way, with things like tires and keyboards.

I don’t think that we’ll ever see that in the mass market, but more on the independent level.

What was your most recent sewing project?

I’m working right now on a piece for my wedding gown. I’m not making my dress like Hope did. I’m making an obi from WWI vintage kimono silk that my sister-in-law gave me. I’m so nervous to cut it because it’s so special. I’ll definitely post pictures of it.

Have you ever considered opening another Stitch Lounge somewhere else?

You know, it’s not easy to run a business, and the three of us have full time jobs outside of here. Really, we just want to have this project. We really like this spot and this community.

How should interested designers approach Stitch Lounge?

Right now, we’re focusing on refashioned clothing. If a designer is interested, they can come in and meet with our boutique manager. We prefer if [clothing] is handmade and one-of-a-kind is nice. We do a 60-40 split [desingers get 60 percent of the sale price].

Since it’s hard to say when something is going to sell, we do a 30-day run. It’s a nice entry level kind of boutique.

What advice would you give aspiring and independent designers who want to make a career out of it?

Designers are artists, but selling your clothes is a business. You have to understand that it is a business. You need to do the business side of things. If there are rules, if you are going to have to meet, you’ve got to be on time.

The successful ones in the market are the ones who realize that this is a business.

Having samples, having things clean and folded and presentable, having business cards. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, but you need to have your information. And have a phone!

Where is Stitch Lounge headed in its next four years?

We’re still going to be a sewing school, though we try to keep things fresh and always have new classes.

We’re trying to bring a little fresh breath back into our designer boutique. We’re doing a lot more with our blog. We’re posting downloadable tutorials, and we’d like to have Stitch Lounge reach other cities.

We’re really excited about the online part of Stitch Lounge. Send us comments. It’s this community space where you can come and share online. It’s the same sort of concept of sharing and learning from like-minded people who physically can’t make it to the space.

For more about Stitch Lounge, visit online or in person at 182 Gough St., 415-431-3SEW.