Nicole Morgenthau of Finch Sewing Studio | Home Front

Oct 23, 2014

Nicole Morgenthau is owner of Finch Sewing Studio in in historic downtown Leesburg. Morgenthau is a wife and mother of two children and previously worked as as a teacher and Assistant Principal in Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Hi everybody!  Thanks for coming to chat about the creative community in Loudoun!

Good morning all and good morning Nicole. Nicole is the owner of an adorable shop in Leesburg called Finch Sewing Studio. It is in a historic building with interiors designed with a modern touch and full of sewing goodies and DIY supplies. Lots of people hang out there and work on projects together. Check out my article today in Local Living. Click here. I also include other fun places to shop in historic downtown Leesburg. So send in your questions for Nicole now.

What are your thoughts on making slipcovers at home? I have a home-grade machine (inherited older Bernina), fair clothes-sewing skills, and 2-4 modern upholstered chairs and a sofa to slipcover. A pro can do a great job, faster, but the cost difference is huge. I'm going for an unfussy shape, possibly edgestitched instead of piped, in a white cotton or linen twill. My goal is to be able to launder the covers a few times per season. Any recommendations on equipment, materials and online sources would be very much appreciated, as I don't live near DC! Thanks so much!

If you feel like you will love the end product more because you made it, I say go for it.  There are projects that are not worth the struggle in a home setting (without the benefit of professional equipment, experience, etc.), but I think if you are someone who will be more proud of your space and your work because you put your own hand to it, this is the right project for you! You are starting with the best machine for this project (Bernina is our fav too), so you have that going for you!  And if you get stuck, we'd love to help you- call or email anytime!  For local folks, Friday night sew-cials are a great time to come work on your own project - it's like sewing with a safety net.

We have a Pottery Barn filing cabinet that needs to be repaired. The gliders on the bottom drawer have fallen off. They don't carry the furniture any more. Can you recommend a reliable in-home repair person who could install new hardware? Thank you.

You might try the Furniture Medic people. They come to the house and do on site repairs.

Hi. Not a question for Ms. Morgenthau, but rather regarding upgrades I should or shouldn't do to my townhouse. We're thinking of moving to a single family home next summer. Our townhouse is 11 yrs old and we bought it as new construction, so there are builder basics in it. I'm almost done putting stainless appliances in the kitchen (only the fridge to go). I'm torn between what's best to do. Replace the ugly brass/glass pendants in the foyer and stairwells, replace the ugly Moen Chateau "crystal" faucets in the master and hall baths upstairs, or replace the carpet on the stairs with hardwood. Only issue with the latter is that the kitchen has that yellow oak, and replacing that is not an option, so we'd have to go with the same on all the stairs/landings, and it feels dated to me. What's your opinion on the best way for me to spend my money? I want to grab buyers when they walk in the door when we go to sell! Thanks!

The stainless appliances were a great idea - that is what people want these days. I would forget about the crystal faucets for now. Lighting fixtures might be a good way to update the place. Try Restoration Hardware or Ballard Designs for something with a drum shade or a bronzey or silvery metal look. If the carpet is worn on the stairs, I might replace it with something fresh and neutral. Putting in hardwood on the stairs would be expensive and lots of people like carpeting on stairs for the safety as well as the look. Good luck.

how did you build a customer base so quickly for your brick and mortar shop? I've always thought parking was an issue in downtown Leesburg.

We have a parking garage right next to our shop, so parking is not an issue.  The garage is quite central to the town, and I don't see parking as an issue for our town. 

I think our customer base grew quickly because our business is more than just retail. The social aspect is very important to me, and I think it's the most compelling thing about Finch.  When you come to Finch, you'll be treated as a part of our community... people feel very validated and excited when others recognize their creative work.  I am also a resident of Leesburg, so it's not just my place of business.  I work collaboratively with other businesses, making for a more dynamic experience for my customers.  We do sip and sews at area wineries, breweries, restaurants every month, and people love those events! 

 

following up on the list of closet solutions for small spaces, has anyone used the vacuum bags to condense and store out of season clothes? Pros & cons? Thanks!

Great question. I have not. Can anyone help out?

Why did you give up your job in the school system to open a store? Was it hard?

Yes, it was hard!  Several years ago, I moved cross-country for my husband's job.  At the time, our daughter was 9 months old, taking two naps a day, and I was friendless in a new town.  I needed something to do BADLY.  I fell back on my lifelong love for sewing.... luckily, we moved into a neighborhood that had a vibrant sewing and crafting community (see Modern Domestic in Portland, Or.), so I plugged in there.  When we moved back to Va., I found that there was no such community/store in Leesburg (or Loudoun), so I knew I needed to make that happen myself.  My experience as a teacher and administrator was the perfect match for opening a business that focuses on education and social events.  This has been a great marriage of my creative and professional selves, which until now, had been completely separate. I'm having the time of my life!

Mine never stayed vacuumed sealed for one reason or another.

Thanks for your comment.

Help, Jura! Please save me from myself. I am cross-eyed from looking at BM fan decks. I'm looking for a cheerful sunroom color to go with an adjoining room painted BM Breath of Fresh Air. Ideas??

That is quite blue. What about Patriotic White or Ice Mist by Benjamin Moore.

What plans do you have for lessons with your new Bernina line?

Oh, we are never short on ideas!!  We're starting with the basics.... showing folks how great Bernina machines- no matter what model you purchase. We're doing some really creative and modern things with the embroidery modules as well.  We plan to have some free make and take classes soon... stay tuned for that!

I've sewed most of my life (mostly garments, some quilting), but only ever with a pretty basic home-grade sewing machine. Just upgraded two years ago to a new computerized machine with some fancier stitch patterns and such, but I've always wondered if owning a serger would be worth the cost. I'm not making a ton of items, maybe a clothing item every month or two. Thoughts on other ideas I should pass on to the husband? I'm also a hard-core knitter, but I think I'm pretty well-stocked with knitting tools and such.

I love this question.  What you need to know is sergers are accessories.  Many people think that not having a serger is holding them back from doing really "GREAT" sewing, but that is not the case. I have two words for you: French Seams. That said,   I have a serger, and I love it, but I don't use it every day.  It does make fast work of finishing a garment, that's for sure. If you want a serger, we can help you find the right fit for you.  And if you want to knit with friends, come to Knit Night at Finch... every Tuesday night from 6-9pm.

Thank you so much for taking the question, and I will take you up on your kind online help offer once I get my fabric & plan!

Pleasure!

Good morning-- I'm stymied on how to store fragile crystal, serving and decorative items that I recently inherited. No room in my dining room, but I do have a free wall in my adjacent living room. thx!

Confused on if you want to display them or store them away. If you want to display them, you could buy a bookcase or some sort of vintage cabinet to display them. Group like items together.  If you are worried about displaying them and about them somehow breaking, you can use a product called Museum Putty to secure them to the shelf. If you want to pack them up, use special packing paper and bubble wrap and plastic tubs.

I have used vacumm bags annually to store my quilts. The one thing is that I close the bags with the slider they provide, then I go back and manually check to make sure that they are totally zipped (there is a small popping sound when they zip) after vacuuming them closed, make sure that the vacuum hole is completely closed. I really like the bags.

Thanks.

I'm using an Ikea Pax wardrobe with lots of shelves and pull out wire baskets as a linen closet. Room for everything!

Great tip. Thanks.

How can I get my kids interested in sewing and knitting? I really want them to know how to do some of these wonderful crafts.

Let them play!  Kids love to play, and they will come up with amazing things on their own.  My philosophy when teaching kids is to allow them lots of free reign.  They develop and idea on their own, we fine tune it and design it together, and then I help them throughout the project, giving them the skills they need as they go. Parents tend to give more input than is necessary (this is my observation in the shop and during mommy and me classes)- if you let them pick out and design on their own, they'll be really proud of themselves (and so will you).  Oh, and patience, you gotta have patience.  This can be really hard for parents who are teaching their kids to knit or sew (or do anything, for that matter...).  Remember that they are thinking about a lot of moving parts, so the instructions you gave them two seconds ago may have been replaced by another thought the moment the instruction was given.  You'll be repeating yourself a lot.  But keep it up! If you don't use your creativity, you can lose it.... it's like a muscle!

I was reupholstering some dining room chairs and I had a lot of trouble getting the fabric to tuck right around the seat. I also had trouble keeping the fabric stain free; I tried using scotchgard on the fabric first. How should I go about reupholstering these seats?

There's a great book out on this that will be a big help.  It's called Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design.  Check it out!

Were you always a sewer and knitter? It has been a lot of women's dream to open their own store. How did you make this happen?

Crafting is something I had the good fortune to grow up with.  I was taught by my mother and grandmother, and my sister and I grew up making things together. I like to say that we all get along best when we're making something together!

I made the business happen because I have a really supportive husband and family.  They build me up.  It's super scary to start your own business, but if you have the support and a whole lot of guts   no, straight-up crazy courage, you can do it!!  I also keep good relationships with others in the business- it helps just to not feel lonely in your work.  Having friends in the same situation makes you feel a little less nutty.  :)

Tried these once...don't bother. While they do squash your clothes into a much smaller bundle, they make them so wrinkled they are unwearable without major steaming/ironing. Definitely not worth the trouble and expense.

Oh dear.

Do you ever go to the outlets? What are your favorites?

Oh yes.  I love Kate Spade and JCrew.  Williams Sonoma is also one of my favorites.

What has been the best way to reach out to and keep in touch with customers?

Facebook and Instagram have been my best allies in developing a presence online.  But I think emails are very effective too. Never underestimate the power of personalized attention- I try really hard to remember names so I can follow up with people personally.

Thank you Jura for the great article today - I have recently moved to the DC area and will now have to go past the outlet mall :-) Nicole's shop sounds great - however, I live in Silver Spring. Is there a shop similar to Nicole's near Silver spring?

I don't know of one. There are several knitting stores in the area, but don't know of one as complete as Finch. But does anyone else? You would enjoy a nice jaunt to the country - Leesburg is a lot of fun and great shopping of all kinds. Great pie too! Thanks for reading.

We appreciate your being on the chat today. I think there are many people out there who are looking to connect with other DIYers and you are providing a place to do that. Meanwhile, next Thursday we will be chatting about collecting. Join me as Fritz Karch and Rebecca Robertson discuss their new book Collected: Living with the Things You Love. They are both former editors at Martha Stewart Living. Until then, have a great week.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Nicole Morgenthau
Nicole Morgenthau is owner of Finch Sewing Studio in in historic downtown Leesburg. Morgenthau is a wife and mother of two children and previously enjoyed a successful career as a teacher and Assistant Principal in Virginia Beach City Public Schools.
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