June 13 is National Sewing Machine Day and if you’re wondering what that has to do with the arts, meet Anne Rosato.
Anne makes and designs costumes for a living. Straz audiences first saw her work in the recent production of Little Shop of Horrors. Like any professional, the tools of her trade are important to her. Anne talks about her sewing machines the way guitarists talk about their favorite Fenders and Gibsons.
“I have six of my own, and I can think of at least two more that I could definitely use,” Anne said.
“My favorite is my Juki DDL-8700,” Anne said. “It sews up to 4,000 stitches per minute. It’s great for working with heavy-duty fabrics like leathers and vinyls.”
It is not, however, portable.
“I can’t lug a 600-pound machine into The Straz,” Anne said.
“Juki, Bernina and Janome are the machines you’ll see professionals lean toward the most,” Anne said. Brother, however, is the manufacturer of most of her machines.
“The Juki is only a straight stitch so if I need to do something for dance anything that stretches, I’m going to be using my Brother,” Anne said. “It can do a zigzag, a lightning stitch, all the stitches that have more give in them, so that when the dancers move, they’re not going to split their skirt right off or whatever.”
Her other Brothers include a specialty stitching machine called a serger and an embroidery machine, “in case I need to make embroidered patches, like for maintenance or janitor costumes.”
Anne enjoys the process of creating a costume, from envisioning it to its completion.
“I love to design the costumes, I like to do the renderings and do the research and say ‘What about this, visually speaking?’ That is my favorite part of my job,” Anne said.
How much leeway she has for creativity depends on “whatever the director and the production team are comfortable with,” Anne said.
“The first thing I like to do is talk to the director: ‘Visually, do you have any ideas? What are you feeling?’” Anne said.
The costumes for her current project, the Straz’s upcoming production of Nunsense: A-Men, are pretty well set in stone. The characters are nuns. Nuns wear nuns’ habits. Period.
“I can’t put them in anything else other than nun’s habits,” Anne said, “because otherwise it wouldn’t be Nunsense and it would just be nonsense. See what I did there?”
Anne is a cosplayer and she said she’s noticed growing interest in sewing from the cosplay community.
Her advice to sewing novices? “Start small and work your way up,” Anne said.
“It’s OK to get frustrated,” Anne said. “I started with really small projects and I would get frustrated a lot.
“You will learn,” Anne said. “It’s a trade skill, so over time you’ll learn and it can be very rewarding.”