Guest Post – RTW Faster Julie Starr

Vintage glass buttons from Paris

16 Nov Guest Post – RTW Faster Julie Starr

If you visit the Pattern Review website then you certainly have seen the gorgeous clothes and helpful reviews from Julie Starr. We live on opposite sides of the small state of South Carolina, but I had the pleasure of meeting this lovely woman last year. I was so pleased when Julie signed up for the 2014 RTW Fast and found her post fascinating while reading about the way her sewing is influenced by her daily surroundings.


Jenna Cardi by Muse Patterns.jpg

Jenna Cardi by Muse Patterns.jpg


I was introduced to Sarah’s blog when I stumbled on it purely by accident in 2012.  It was a revelation to me and truly became the catalyst for my return to sewing.  Now, nearly three years later, accepting the challenge to join her fast from buying RTW for all of 2014, along with a group of nearly 400 women from around the globe, has become a large and rewarding part of my life.  Creating my wardrobe by hand gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction and relaxation from a demanding work schedule and I have had a great time this year sharing ideas and projects with these talented ladies whom Sarah has brought together via internet technology.  It is remarkable to realize that I now have “sewing buddies” on several continents.

On the job in McCalls 6844 and Ooh La Leggings

On the job in McCalls 6844 and Ooh La Leggings

For the past eight years I have been involved with luxury residential construction management, including historic restoration, in and around Charleston and Kiawah Island, South Carolina. I have the incredible good fortune to work on a daily basis with enormously talented and respected architects, designers, tradespeople and decorative arts professionals in this well-preserved gem of a city.


Only recently have I begun to realize the extent to which this exposure is reflected in my sewing style.  Form, function, balance, scale and texture each has its own important place in good design, whether in a building or a garment. The antique brick, wrought iron, copper, cobblestone and wood of which Charleston’s structures and streets were built have withstood centuries; some actually pre-date the American revolution.  Interspersed with these traditional materials, modern elements are being introduced.

Maria Denmark's Audrey knit dress

Maria Denmark’s Audrey knit dress

In fact, the controversial proposed design of the new Clemson School of Architecture’s curving concrete perforated walls and metal screens is the basis of a lawsuit brought on by preservation groups who feel it is not in keeping with established guidelines for the historic district.  Private gated paths offer peeks of fragrant walled gardens and history is alive at every turn. Just as in garment sewing, a mix of seemingly unrelated materials oftentimes results in unexpected impact.  All of this surrounds and inspires me in untold ways every day.

Vogue 8536 and Jalie jeans.jpg

Vogue 8536 and Jalie jeans.jpg

This fall, as I select yardage and styles for cooler weather,  I find myself drawn to textural sweater knits, matelasse quilted fabrics, leather, metallics and lofty boucle.  Left behind is my summery seaside palette of clear blues, aqua and white as I embrace black, neutrals and deeper, more mellowed hues.

Burda 6847.jpg

Burda 6847.jpg

Paper patterns are a sewist’s “blueprints” and as in construction, details must always be executed with precision.  Trims are important to my artistic expression; I love edging with braid and piping and selecting buttons or embellishments to enliven a simple, classic silhouette. These are the touches that make my sewing uniquely my own. Using every tool in the box ensures that my garments are a reflection of my individual style.

McCalls 6355

McCalls 6355

About me:

Home town: Suburban Buffalo, New York; moved to South Carolina in 2000

Family: Husband, Jim; 3 stepchildren – 35, 30 and 25; 3 grandchildren – 10, 4, and 2; wire fox terrier Scooter; Lhasa Apso Bella

When not working or sewing: I’m playing golf (not as much as I’d like!) or gardening; I received my Clemson Certified Master Gardener designation in 2004

Major sewing accomplishment for 2014- Attending Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing School in Houston

Vogue 7975

Vogue 7975

Vintage glass buttons from Paris

New-to-me sewing technique/project planned for 2015: Vogue 1263 jacket using hand embellished reverse applique in the style of Alabama Chanin

  • Alethia
    Posted at 14:20h, 16 November Reply

    It was certainly a pleasure reading this post! I love your perspective on architecture relative fashion and design, especially when it comes to your own personal style. I love your style, thanks for sharing your view with us!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 15:37h, 16 November Reply

      Thank you, Alethia! I love the silk tie and handkerchief you posted last week 🙂

      • Alethia
        Posted at 16:22h, 16 November Reply

        Thank you so much!

  • Angela
    Posted at 14:36h, 16 November Reply

    Julie, your clothes are beautiful! They look classic and do not have that “loving hands at home” look, and i enjoyed reading about how your surroundings influence your style. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments on the RTW fast forum on FB.

    Speaking of the fast….. will it continue into 2015?

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 15:40h, 16 November Reply

      Thanks, Angela! I’ve learned so much from the ladies in our RTW fasters group. If Sarah plans to continue it next year, then I’m in!

  • Jonelle Bellis
    Posted at 15:18h, 16 November Reply

    Julie, I really love your clothes. Where do you buy your fabrics? They are exquisite! Wish I looked .that good in my creations.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 15:50h, 16 November Reply

      Hi Jonelle. Not counting an occasional find at Joann or Hancock, my purchases are broadly spread around the Internet. A few favorites for textured knits are Michael Levine and Vogue Fabrics. I find a lot of good things on ebay and Etsy, too. Elliott Berman and Mood are where I look to for top quality and special fabrics. Thank you for your nice comment!

  • Susie
    Posted at 15:26h, 16 November Reply

    Beautiful pieces and exquisite photography! I, too love your style. I can’t even pick a favorite. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 15:52h, 16 November Reply

      Thank you so much, Susie! It was entirely my pleasure.

  • Melinda
    Posted at 15:28h, 16 November Reply

    You have a good eye (as my grandmother used to say) for fabric and style! Your clothes are lovely.
    I would love to find fabric like you used in the black zip jacket. I can’t even google it, though, because I don’t know what to call it. Can you help? Thanks.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 15:56h, 16 November Reply

      The black double knit fabric is called matelasse and I found it on the Michael Levine website last month. It was a dream to work with and I wish I’d bought more! Thanks for asking, Melinda.

  • Art Attack
    Posted at 15:48h, 16 November Reply

    Yeah, Sarah and Julie! Fabulous post and what a great capsule of Julie’s style and surroundings. The two of you are such a source of inspiration for my sewing. Julie, I feel like I know most of your garments inside out, as you do mine. What a wonderful share you’ve given us. Hugs to you both! Dorcas

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 16:04h, 16 November Reply

      Dorcas! Yes, I have Sarah to thank for leading me to you, my “sewing sister”! Hugs back

  • Rhoda K
    Posted at 15:49h, 16 November Reply

    Thank you for a very informative and interesting interview! I always enjoy your posts on PR and look forward to more. Your sewing is just beautiful!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 16:05h, 16 November Reply

      Thank you so much, Rhoda. I truly appreciate it.

  • Alice Elliot
    Posted at 16:07h, 16 November Reply

    I really enjoyed the photos of Charleston! And your Chanel suit is lovely, the details are terrific!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 16:25h, 16 November Reply

      Thank you, Alice! The French jacket “experience” and Susan’s class shifted my thought process and commitment to sewing tremendously.

  • Becky Fisher
    Posted at 16:14h, 16 November Reply

    Wonderful guest post! With Julie explaining her fashion influence I had my “aha moment”. My style has changed over the last 15 yrs since moving to the east coast. I am now drawn to the simplicity of Lilly Pulitzer style shift dresses, free flowing fabrics as in summer palazzo pants or lovely crisp linen slacks, and the ever evasive perfect tunic pattern. My personal influence should have been obvious to me all along since I have lived in Florida in a beach town for almost 15 yrs now. It is no wonder I love my blues, greens and creams.

    I will be making the Audrey dress and Jenna cardi very soon. Loved hers! Thank you Sarah & Julie for sharing!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 16:28h, 16 November Reply

      Bingo, Becky! And it happens so gradually that it takes a while to even realize it! Please, please share when you find that perfect tunic pattern, ok? Thanks very much!

  • Manju
    Posted at 16:20h, 16 November Reply

    Julie it was SO good to find out more about you and you continue to make exquisite, inspirational pieces. I love the chanel style suit. Beautiful!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 16:31h, 16 November Reply

      Thank you, Manju! If I had Linton Tweeds in my backyard, like you do, I’d be in real trouble. Congratulations on being named a Burda Top 50 Blogger. That’s awesome.

  • Gail M
    Posted at 16:29h, 16 November Reply

    Julie, I love your classic style and how you embellished your white dress and Chanel suit. It is such a pleasure to read about what motivates women to take to needle and thread. Job well done!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 16:37h, 16 November Reply

      Thank you, Gail. I agree…the backgrounds and perspectives of the women whose sewing I admire are every bit and interesting as the clothes.

  • Heather Myers
    Posted at 17:04h, 16 November Reply

    Thank you, Julie and Sarah, for inspiration and all your comments and photos. I haven’t produced much so far except fitted patterns you cannot see benefits yet, but you’ve gotten the ball rolling for me. Thanks for a bit of your background and perspective, Julie – it sounds like rewarding work. ))

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 20:11h, 16 November Reply

      Than you very much, Heather!

  • Virginia
    Posted at 17:45h, 16 November Reply

    Sarah, thank you for allowing us to know Julie better via your blog. Julie, I admire ALL of your creations. You match fabrics to style composition so very well…..and that is my fatal flaw! I am in awe that you (and many of the RTW Fasters) are able to order fabrics online and have them work so well. Any suggestions on how to achieve that vision and confidence?

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 20:37h, 16 November Reply

      Thanks Virginia. I would say just look at lots of high end RTW, both online and in stores, for styles, fabric and trim ideas that appeal to you. MMy ipad and sewing room cork board are filled with designer RTW inspiration from Polyvore and other favorite retailers’ websites. You can often tweak an available commercial pattern to get to something very close. As far as online fabric purchasing, rarely do I buy it with a specific project in mind. I usually buy things I like and keep them until the right pattern comes along. As time goes on I have become more skilled at having a good idea of what something is going to look and feel like based on the content and description.

  • Denise Thompson
    Posted at 17:57h, 16 November Reply

    Julie you have been inspiring me throughout this RTW challenge. I also understand what you mean about your surroundings inspiring your sewing. My husband, an architect, and I went to Charleston, SC last year and it was so beautiful and relaxing I took notes and pictures about what I wanted to make when I got back. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 20:58h, 16 November Reply

      Thanks so much, Denise. I’ve loved seeing what you’ve sewn this year (especially your great fitting pants!) and I’m so glad you and your husband enjoyed Charleston. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

  • Cheryl Scott
    Posted at 18:08h, 16 November Reply

    Great post! Exquisite taste shown in these garments!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 20:59h, 16 November Reply

      Thank you very much, Cheryl 🙂

  • Laura Casey
    Posted at 18:13h, 16 November Reply

    WOW…What a beautiful interview and woman, both inside and out….loved learning about one of my favs in the 2014 RTW-Fasters. Your job sounds most interesting and creative just as your sewing is. Loved it! And thanks ….think I’ll go sew something this afternoon.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 21:02h, 16 November Reply

      Another one of those beautiful bags?! Laura, you are our official group cheerleader! Your great humor and encouragement to all has been a real highlight for me. Thank you!

  • Becky H
    Posted at 21:16h, 16 November Reply

    What beautiful work. I am truly inspired. You balance classy and relaxed so well – a tough thing to do. I tried to find you on PatternReview, but there are so many Julies and so many Starrs, but no Julie Starr. Probably everyone else knows, but I’d like to find you there..
    Becky in VA

  • Sharon
    Posted at 23:39h, 16 November Reply

    Julie, so lovely to meet you, your sewing is so inspiring and I love seeing what you achieve.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 11:39h, 17 November Reply

      Thank you, Sharon. I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity!

  • Ronnie B
    Posted at 23:43h, 16 November Reply

    Julie, your Chanel jacket and skirt came out beautiful. It was such a joy to have you in our Houston class. Hope you and Dorcas are back with us next year. Ronnie in Houston

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 11:43h, 17 November Reply

      Hi there, Ronnie. Thank you…it’s great to hear from you. Dorcas and I have both registered for Susan’s Houston class next year so I look forward to seeing you again. I hope you’ll be wearing that incredible lace dress over the holidays!

      • Ronnie B
        Posted at 21:18h, 17 November Reply

        Thanks, forgot to mention that your blog was awesome along with all the garments showcased.


  • Libby wood
    Posted at 00:14h, 17 November Reply

    Hi Julie, Sarah Gunn and family used to live across the street from me and my family….I never knew she sewed so beautifully! And now thru her — I’ve found your blog site! I love everything you and Sarah stitch, but I could never attempt anything as couture as you and Sarah……
    But, I have recently stitched 2 coats, 2 jackets and one dress using the ALABAMA CHANIN process and love them! What a genius Natalie CHANIN is – tshirt material, stencil and fabric paint, thread and scissors! And voila, a beautiful jacket, coat, etc. I look forward to seeing what you stitch up using AC METHOD – but, you MUST get the book,, ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING + DESIGN. it’s a big help in explaining the whole AC process and has beautiful photos.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 11:52h, 17 November Reply

      Hi Libby. Having that many Alabama Chanin projects under your belt, it sounds as though you’d really enjoy couture sewing. I’m looking so forward to learning Natalie’s process. Thanks for your comment and for the information on her book.

  • Sue Stoney
    Posted at 00:27h, 17 November Reply

    What a wonderful post and your garments are so elegant and sophisticated with beautiful styling. Thank you for taking such time and trouble for the rest of the blogging community.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 11:54h, 17 November Reply

      Thank you, Sue. I had a few “aha” moments of my own while putting it all down on paper!

  • Sandra (Sewist-Stitch)
    Posted at 07:53h, 17 November Reply

    Thanks for a great post, a thoroughly great read! I’m loving your personal style, and can definitely see how this is influenced by your environment. Sarah, a great choice of guest bloggers.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 11:55h, 17 November Reply

      Thank you so much, Sandra!

  • Cissie Wellons
    Posted at 10:57h, 17 November Reply

    Loved hearing all about the incomparable Julie, who always inspires me with her lovely creations. I still wear my ribbon skirt that you and Sarah so generously taught us how to make! And that’s only the beginning of the many ways that you have inspired me. Still hoping to meet up face to face with one of my favorite people!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 12:02h, 17 November Reply

      Thank you, Cissie. You and Sarah were the first two reviewers I saved as “favorites” when I initially discovered Pattern Review…and that was before I knew you were both Carolina girls! We will figure out that meet up one way or another.

  • Ginger
    Posted at 16:55h, 17 November Reply

    Wow, Julie has made some amazing garments! I’ve always had a soft spot for Charleston and wish that somehow work would bring me there! 🙂

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 00:27h, 18 November Reply

      Thank you, Ginger Makes! I really enjoy your blog.

  • Natalie
    Posted at 17:29h, 17 November Reply

    Thank you both for such a lovely post. Both of you have been great inspirations to me since I got back into sewing a few years ago. Julie, I absolutely love the white and navy dress. Wow. If you don’t mind me asking, where did you get that fabric from and did you line it, etc.

    Many thanks again to you both.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 00:33h, 18 November Reply

      The fabric is from Vogue Fabrics online and it’s a viscose/wool blend boucle. I used power mesh to line the body only before applying foldover braid. Thanks so much for asking, Natalie!

  • Karen Helm
    Posted at 17:34h, 17 November Reply

    How wonderful to read about your sewing, influences on it, and seeing some of your beautiful creations. Charleston is a magical place, and I am sure you have added a bit of that magic to it since your arrival in 2000. Thanks to Sarah and you for sharing part of your story.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 00:34h, 18 November Reply

      That’s so nice of you to say. Thank you, Karen 🙂

  • MaryEllen
    Posted at 20:14h, 17 November Reply

    Thanks Sarah & Julie for such wonderful inspiration!!! Although my RTW sewing this year has been mostly basics to get my feet wet – I’m truly ready to move ahead thanks to both of you !

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 00:36h, 18 November Reply

      Basics are exactly what I’ve been trying to buckle down and sew more of, Mary Ellen! Thank you.

  • Vicki Maiorano
    Posted at 09:37h, 18 November Reply

    Beautiful clothes! And sounds like you have the perfect job as well. And gardening!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 01:12h, 19 November Reply

      Thanks so much, Vicki!

  • Cheryl Lemmons
    Posted at 16:08h, 18 November Reply

    Julie, I love seeing all the beautiful things you’ve made. The French jacket and skirt are spectacular! I’m still working to complete my dress. Too many distractions. Hope to have it done soon. Like Sarah, you inspire me to stay at it and keep sewing whenever I can.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 01:18h, 19 November Reply

      Hi there and thank you, Cheryl! I can’t wait to see your dress finished. Oh, that black lace…! I hope to see you again in next year’s class.

  • McCallPatternCompany (@McCallPatternCo)
    Posted at 21:36h, 18 November Reply

    So nice to meet you here, Julie! We’re thrilled you pinned some of your makes to our fan gallery on Pinterest. Would you mind if we shared the Vogue jacket and the McCall’s dress on our Facebook pages? Keep up the inspiring work and wonderful photography.

  • Julie Starr
    Posted at 01:19h, 19 November Reply

    Thank you so much. I’d love for you to post my projects.

  • Danielle
    Posted at 06:44h, 19 November Reply

    Beautifully articulated and a pleasure to read about your garments and gadgets Julie. A big thank you for sharing from downunder. Keep inspiring us….

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 02:10h, 22 November Reply

      Thanks very much, Danielle!

  • Nancy Settle/Cannell
    Posted at 20:06h, 24 November Reply

    Hi Julie- I loved your interview and seeing your beautiful creations. Both you and Sarah have such impeccable style – you are an inspiration, especially to those of us who plan to join the RTW Fast for 2015!

  • Anne McClure
    Posted at 09:09h, 27 November Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this guest post. You and Sarah are both inspirations to me. That’s even though your shapes are different from mine, as I’m tall. I do have Linton Tweeds almost in my back yard; so far I have only bought a couple of skirt lengths and a couple of remnants, still to be used. I’m making a jacket at present but I’m still some way off making one of Linton Tweed or some of your gorgeous fabrics!
    I retired 3 years ago and am still coming to terms with the shifts in my wardrobe that my changed lifestyle necessitates. I still need to buy RTW as I’m neither fast enough nor skilled enough to become a faster. However, buying RTW becomes more and more difficult (always was, hence my new hobby!) as I’ve become more discerning about finish.
    Thank you for your post.

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