Meet a maker: Slow fashion with Maria Norbäck

Meet a maker: Slow fashion with Maria Norbäck

How did you first get into sewing?

When I was a student in my early 20’s I had a sewing circle together with friends. We met and knitted and sewed, and drank beer and ate Chocolate mud cake. Sometimes we just had beer and mud cake , but often we also made things!

We called the sewing circle “Sticky Fingers” (because Sticky is almost the word for “knitting” in Swedish). We had a sort of punk-DIY approach to sewing, and as we had very limited budgets as students, we often bought second-hand fabric and old clothes that we remade.

I had a period when I bought old ties, which you could get for like 1 SEK/10 cents Euro back in those days, and made a skirt and belts out of them. 

Then I graduated, started working and had small children, and didn’t sew very much for about two decades. Then the pandemic struck and I found myself with time on my hands.

It started with an old Sari that I had never used: lots of blue silk fabric that needed to be put to use! A friend suggested that I try a TAL-pattern and I started making three of the “very easy”-tops: puff shirt, cuff top, and high cuff sweater. And I was hooked! 

How would you describe your personal style?

Kulturtant with a twist! (Kulturtant is a Swedish word for the kind of cultural older ladies that wear kaftans and large jewellery, and frequents the theatre on a regular basis. Think Iris Apfel, and you get the idea.)

Think Iris Apfel, and you get the idea.

Which is your favourite sewing tool and why?

My Seam ripper. For obvious reasons - when it comes to sewing I'm still more enthusiastic than accomplished.

What are your best sewing tips/tricks?

Listen to good music, a good radio programme, or pod. And have snacks at the ready, as you cannot concentrate if your blood sugar is low! And think it through one more time before you cut or sew.

What’s your proudest sewing moment?

Actually, when I did my first TAL tops, that was the first time I had ever made something truly wearable (I’m not sure the tie-skirt counts…). I felt very proud of having made something that I actually could wear in daylight!

What would you want to say to someone who’s trying to get started in sewing?

Start with a pattern marked “very easy”, lowest skill level! And why not use thrifted fabric, like bed linen. You get lots of fabric for a very small price, and it’s sustainable as it is already produced. Then you don’t have to be nervous about ruining expensive fabric.

An old classic sewing machine can get you far. If you don’t have one of your own, perhaps you can borrow one, before you invest in one of your own. I have an old machine from the ’70s, a Husqvarna in beige and green.

What’s your next project?

A jumpsuit made from my parents’ old curtains. Or a lab coat in velvet, wouldn’t that be fab for Swedish spring?
I have raided my parents, friends, and parents-in-law’s cupboards for old bed linen and curtains.

What do you do when you’re not sewing?

I work as an associate professor at University. But if I could, I would just loaf around, hang out with my kids and watch costume dramas. Every Monday night I play the drums in my band “Stor som Lola”. We play kulturtants-punk (see above for translation of kulturtant).

You inspire us with your remaking skills! Can you tell us a bit more about where you source/find your fabrics? 

I have raided my parents, friends, and parents-in-law’s cupboards for old bed linen and curtains. I also like flea markets (back in the days before the pandemic…) and thrift shops.

It's usually easy to find a good woven second hand-fabric, but more difficult to find stretch and knits.

... and what comes first, the finding of the fabric or the garment idea?

I usually buy fabric that I like because of the print or colour, and then I think about what I could turn them into. As I started to sew again quite recently, I am still making my way through the TAL-“very easy” and “easy” patterns!


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Maria Norbäck

Gothenburg, Sweden

Favourite TAL Pattern: 
The high cuff sweater. Easy to make, casual, and can be varied endlessly, depending on the fabric and cuffs you use.

Listen to while sewing:
Music, for example, Florence and the Machine. Or Swedish artist Säkert. And public service radio documentaries.

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