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Berlin is reinvention; it’s stitching and patching your life together into something else—something uniquely you. And, wandering the hazy Berlin streets this summer, you’ll want to present this creativity—based first and foremost in your fashion—to the world. And you’re not going to do that going to H&M and Zara.

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Professional seamstress and costume designer Mariya Ivanova is Berlin Sewing Salon—a Neukölln-based sewing studio offering workshops for both beginner and more-advanced stitchers, all looking to utilize this artistry to take control of their fashion sense, once and for all.

London-born Mariya, who proclaims that the Berlin fashion scene is up and coming and raw, rather than limited (as it’s deemed by many-a-designer), doesn’t rely on brands and very rarely buys anything new, opting instead for second-hand and vintage treasures. With sewing, a skill she picked up at a young age, she can alter, fix—make anything used seem more hers. For any artistic mind, this is the dream.

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The alteration process is highlighted in the Nip & Tuck Alterations workshop (sign up here! Next class: April 13)—a three-hour beginner or one-hour advanced workshop. The first two hours of the beginner class are spent learning tons of alteration techniques and handy tricks of the trade (using sampling materials). During the last hour, the advanced students join the beginner’s and learn to alter their own clothes, with guidance from Mariya, to keep everything nipped-and-tucked in all the right places.

“I have noticed that people who know how to sew a little or are self-taught sometimes lack the confidence to tackle certain projects on their own,” Mariya says. And so: this safe sewing space is for you.

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We chatted with Mariya about her Berlin Sewing Salon vision, where to find fabric in Berlin, and her favorite stitching techniques. To sign up for the next workshop, or inquire about private parties, head here.

BLY: Another workshop you offer is Perfect Patterns. What is that like?

During this workshop the students will be taken step-by-step through how to take body measurements and the method of creating what’s called a Basic Bodice or Basic Block. This is the basis for so many clothes, from tops to skirts to jackets…and the method can be transferred to men’s wear, too. Everyone attending the workshop will go away with their very own Basic Block that they would have drawn to either their own measurements or someone else’s. They can then adapt the Block to whatever style they want and create a totally unique garment! I am also working on setting up longer courses that will take you through the whole process from start to finish of a garment.

BLY: What kinds of things do you generally enjoy sewing the most? 

I love using vintage elements, and creating pieces that have been inspired by historical costumes. The techniques that were used in the past are timeless, and still spotted in clothing today, but designers have come up with different ways to apply those techniques. Something with a lot of structure like a corset is always fun to make, and to see how it modifies the body.

BLY: Can you describe the most elaborate (or your favourite) costume you’ve ever sewn? 

I have made quite a few large scale and extravagant costumes that I am proud of, but my favourite so far has to be a costume that I made using a design by Erté, who is one of my favourite designers from the 20th century, and who greatly inspires a lot of my work (see the costume above). The design had everything from dip-dyed Ostrich feathers protruding out of the skirt, to a structured corset and 18th century panniers creating the exaggerated shape. It was made for a dancer who performed with the costume at various venues in the UK and around Europe.

BLY: Do you have any tips for fabric shopping in Berlin?

Get familiar with the types of fabrics that are out there first, and if you do not speak German then I would recommend translating the names before you set off, as some names are different. Karstadt have a great haberdashery and some lovely fabrics, but for sewing basics (needles, basic equipment and some trimmings) check out Woolworth’s, as they have a great sewing section and at half the price. Keep a look out in supermarkets, too, as they sometimes do deals on sewing equipment.

The Turkish markets are good for getting your hands on fabrics and trimmings whilst having a fun experience. I know a few designers here in Berlin who get their fabrics from there. Personally, I prefer Stoff und Stil in Lichtenberg and Hüco Stoffe in Charlottenburg as they have a wide range of fabrics that are better quality. The prices are reasonable, and you know what you are getting.

BLY: What kind of people do you expect to meet at your workshops?

Everyone is welcome! Berlin is a wonderful city full of friendly and accepting people from all over the world, but when I first moved here I did not know anyone, and I sometimes felt a little lonely until I settled in. Going to events on your own can be intimidating and scary, so I decided to run the workshops for people like myself who are new to the city and would like to take part in a fun and relaxed activity where they can learn a new skill, meet new people and come out feeling proud of their achievements.

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About Author

Allison Krupp is a novelist and screenwriter, currently scouring the city for earnest conversations with other Berlin weirdos, writing about music, film, art, literature, and food. [email protected]

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