Today I have something different to share. I have met so many interesting and amazing people through Scott; and today that brings us to Ann. I first met Ann at our local wilderness academy after being told she was a weapons expert. I have since followed her on social media as she has pursued various mobile living accommodations. One attempt ended after the van’s console caught fire while driving I believe. So clearly Ann is a renaissance woman, and recently she has set up camp in a box truck endearingly referred to as the “Rolling Toaster”. Ann and her partner have renovated the truck with all sorts of DIY touches, and she has since moved on to refashioning vintage fabrics into fantastic tunic dresses.
She kindly let me ask her a few questions about herself, and sewing. Enjoy!
Tell me a bit about yourself, what you do, and where you are currently living?
I’m originally from Indiana. I moved out to Denver almost a year ago now. I have a house in Sunnyside, but we travel and work from the Toaster quite a bit. I’m an Occupational Therapist by trade and was working in hospitals up until the point when I sold everything I owned and came out West. It’s still pretty surreal to me.
I notice many of your endeavors focus on the ability to travel and be in nature, being resourceful, upcycling, and self-sufficiency. Do you have a personal philosophy you are guided by?
My boyfriend and I both believe less is more. Due to the changes in healthcare (which I desperately agree need to happen) I took a 60% pay cut and was forced into a personal bankruptcy as I could no longer afford my mortgage/loans/lifestyle. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I’ve always loved and preferred the outdoors and dreamt of downshifting into a lifestyle that afforded more opportunities for travel and just enjoying life on life’s terms and not the almighty dollars’. I love learning and being able to do things for myself , not only out of necessity, but I get more satisfaction from the experience. I don’t feel as disconnected as I did before. I have more respect and appreciation for all things.
What is your background in sewing; how did you learn and how long have you been sewing for?
I have almost no background in sewing save for my 6th grade home ec. experience. I started sewing in a DIY effort for the Toaster to make custom blackout curtains for the bubble windows above the loft and it just stuck. It’s kind of an obsession now. I used to get into the same flow when I drew as a kid. I went to the library for some how-to books to help with seam work and ended up with one that had several patterns in the back and gave it a whirl. I outgrew my beginner sewing machine in 3 days! I got a more advanced one with better attachments to make clothing with. Everything I’ve done so far is self-taught. If I get really stuck on something I turn to You-Tube, but that’s it. It’s not as daunting as some people might think. I only started sewing earlier this summer. It’s a labor of love. I do it everyday.
Where do you find your fabric for those fantastic tunics? What have been your best finds?
It’s all previously owned and largely repurposed. I use a lot of sheets and tablecloths. I think of it as a flour sack sewing revival. Fabric is expensive and there’s already so much out there not being used. Plus, I’ve always leaned towards vintage looks that just can’t be recreated. I go to antique shops, thrift stores, and second hand places all the time. It’s a treasure hunt. It’s just as fun to shop for them as it is to make them.
Are your garment patterns self-drafted?
I always start with a pattern to get my bearings and then add or subtract based on the fabric design. I made my own tunic patterns out of 16 gauge vinyl that I can see through so I can line up each unique fabric design to suit the cut of the dress. I use rotary sheers to be more exacting. Each dress pattern ends up a bit different based on how much of the design I want on the fabric.
How is life in the Rolling Toaster coming along? What are your future plans?
We’re currently adding a roll out kitchen, covered porch, outdoor shower, and solar panels to the Rolling Toaster to increase efficiency and be able to travel more for work and play. We’ve got great big plans to put together enough savings to buy a few acres in the mountains and start our own hobby farm. My boyfriend’s mother did the exact same thing and bought land and built a house from the ground up while raising three boys. She’s an inspiration for both of us.