Interview with TÉLIO Customer; Marcy Tilton.

Today I introduce to you, one of TÉLIO’s long time customers; Marcy Tilton. Born into a creative family, Marcy learned how to sew at a very young age. After taking an inspiring sewing class with Sandra Betzina she was hired to teach tailoring classes in her school. In 1981, her lifelong dream of combining teaching and learning with creativity began when Marcy opened The Sewing Workshop. Years later, Marcy sold this business and moved to Southwest Oregon where she still resides and designs her own line of clothing and home decorating patterns for Vogue Patterns, conducts creativity/sewing/fiber retreats nationally, and investigates her own creative process daily. On top of it all, Marcy takes the time to  blog about it all here! I had the opportunity to ask Marcy Tilton some questions, enjoy!

marcy-tilton-interview copy

Image Sources: Left; Marcy Tilton, RIght; Gala Fabrics

What was the first item that you learned to sew?
Two things come to mind.  One is a shirtwaist dress….dark brown cotton, had a nipped waist, gathered skirt, what was then referred to as a ‘McMullen’ collar, buttonholes (which still can give me fits), and a self covered belt and buckle made from one of those kits sold in the notions department. The other was a yellow linen skirt, lined, kick pleat….I had seen one like it at Frank Murphy, St. Paul’s upscale women’s shop.

Who first taught you to sew?
Even though I come from a sewing family, I came into sewing via a back door. My mom was a whiz at turning out slipcovers, my sister Katherine took the Singer sewing lessons and whipped up a dress and bermudas (I was envious). My Aunt Mary could and did make and repair anything.  When I was in high school, I won the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow award which cracked up my family and friends. But the nuns in my convent school told me, ‘maybe you have some talent in this area,’ and took me out of my one study hall a week and sent me up to the sewing room with Sister Margaret Mary (who wore the same thing every day, but assured me she made it), and she introduced me to the basics. My Aunt Mary was probably the best natural sew-ist I’ve ever known. She fixed my mistakes and never told me it was questionable for me as a very beginner to make a velvet blazer…..when the two lapels came out different lengths she showed me how to fix it. She told me about taking tailoring classes during the ‘40‘s and I think that planted the seed of my own teaching. When she heard I was learning to sew she remarked, ‘Honey, you will never be able to pass by a fabric store again!’ ….and she was right.

What are you most inspired by?
My sister Katherine and my immediate circle of friends. Paris. Being in my studio and making things with no attachment to the outcome. Books. Movies. Fabrics. The internet. Issey Miyake. Wabi Sabi. Shopping.

When did you realize that you wanted to make a career out of your passion?
In 1976 I spent a year driving across Africa, which gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do next. During this journey, I sewed clothes by hand from African wax batiks found in the markets. When I returned to California, I found the fabric store of my dreams in Mill Valley, Good Measure. I was there so often I got to know the staff, and the owner became a friend and gave me carte blanche to teach classes in the store. Then I found a school in San Francisco and took a week long workshop with Sandra Betzina, who owned the school. When Sandra sold that business I continued to teach and when that business closed, I founded The Sewing Workshop in 1981. At that time there was no such thing as a business based solely on teaching classes. I was in the right place at the right time….the Bay Area had/has so many talented designers and fiber artists and many of them were willing to teach. I sold TSW in 1992 and moved to Oregon, continued to teach nationally, write, and began doing patterns for Vogue. It was a natural segue into the fabric business. I started around 2000 in my studio with a half dozen bolts of knit fabrics and things have grown since then.

You describe your business as a place where your passion for teaching and learning is combined with creativity, what is the best part of owning a business that fits a description like that?
I love what I do, my days are filled with different creative pursuits, so an average day involves some sewing, photographing the fabrics, writing the copy, keeping the website updated, keeping in contact with my wonderful staff, preparing for our Paris trips and running the other aspects of the business. Fortunately I love it all!  Right now most of my teaching is done online, though I love doing hands on teaching too.

And what is the hardest part?
Keeping all those balls in the air!

You are a long-time customer of ours and work with a lot with our fabrics; what do you like most about TÉLIO fabrics?
I appreciate the quality, the design and the diversity of TÉLIO fabrics.  I really appreciate the fact that so many fabrics are in stock and can be re-ordered.  I really enjoy seeing the TÉLIO line at the Las Vegas shows where I can play with the samples and see and touch the new items and have the great staff guide me to what is hot and new, always a lot of laughing and good fun and great shopping.

Which TÉLIO Fabric is your all-time favourite and why?
One of our best selling fabrics is from your Brazil line. We call this ‘Parisian’ because it is just the kind of fabric I see used for basics in upscale French clothes. Ironically it is a poly/lycra and so many people look askance at it, but once you have a garment, especially pants, it becomes a wardrobe essential.  I am also a great fan of all of your knits!

What was your most memorable sewing project and why?

One of my earliest designs for Vogue was a pair of jackets that were inspired by vintage garments. My all time favorite is one of those jackets, which I call the ‘feather’ coat.  It is modeled on a ‘30‘s vintage opera coat, white organza with silk shantung edges. The organza is double layers stitched in a grid of squares with a guinea fowl feather dropped into each grid.

If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I’d love to have a conversation with the Dalai Lama and Issey Miyake, a perfect blend of soul, design, heart and happiness.

Thank you so much for your time,


Posted in Interviews

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