26 November 2012

A Day in the Life of Christine Haynes

I can't quite decide how to describe Christine Haynes. Designer? Teacher? Author? Fabric shop manager? All those things, yes, and more - perhaps all-round sewing queen would be a better description! You may have taken her Craftsy class, or donated to her Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund her business, or maybe you're just plain curious as to how she manages to juggle so many jobs. And what kind of pyjamas she wears, of course. Let's find out in this month's A Day in the Life...


"When people ask me what I do, it always takes a long time to answer since I wear many hats. They are all related, but there’s no one answer, there are many! So here’s what I do: I write for various magazines like Sew Stylish and Sew News, I authored a book called Chic & Simple Sewing, I teach sewing classes in Los Angeles, I have a class on Craftsy called the Sassy Librarian Blouse, I launched my own line of sewing patterns this past spring, and I work a “day job” as the manager at Sew L.A., a fabric store and classroom in Los Angeles. I also participate or teach at the occasional event, like the Craftcation Conference, the Renegade Craft Fair, and the American Sewing Guild Conference.


Like many of the other people that have been featured in this lovely series, my days are full of endless tasks and “office hours” are loose, as are “days off” or “weekends”! Ha! But I digress. My daily routine depends on if I’m in the shop, in the studio, or teaching. So I thought I’d break down what each of those look like, since they are all a bit different. Here goes!

A Day in the Life: Studio/Teaching (AKA, days “off”)

My studio is really my dining room in my apartment, and I love it. I had a “real” studio in the garment district in downtown LA, surrounded by real life sweatshops and racks of clothes being wheeled out onto trucks all day long. I met some contacts that I still use today and it was great to have access to a freight elevator for my industrial machines. But once I stopped sewing ready-to-wear collections and turned to teaching and writing, I didn’t need that much space and that level of equipment. So I sold my industrial machines and I moved all the rest into my home. Now I can sew at any time of day and in my jammies! (Which consists of an obscenely large collection of 1950’s and 1960’s nighties, in case you were picturing footed pajamas!) I know many people who prefer a separation of their work and living spaces, but I love having it all integrated into my home life. I usually have 2 days a week where I’m working in my home studio and one day where I’m in my studio for part of the day and teaching in the evening. They are my favorite days of the week, and here’s how those usually go down.

Morning: My cats don’t let me sleep much later than 8am, so I’m usually up in that ballpark, but on these days I DO NOT set an alarm. Absolutely forbidden! I immediately feed the cats and make a giant cup of black tea, which is usually Kusmi Tea or Mariage Frères, both from France. Though I did just pick up a box of PG Tips from England which is great when I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to deal with loose tea.

I open my laptop and check email, Facebook, Instagram, and my Google Reader feed. I also check in at least three times a week on my Craftsy class, answering questions and offering encouragement to the 2,500+ students I have enrolled in my class. Because I’m on West Coast time zone, most of the world has been up and active for a while by the time I get up, so there’s usually a lot of activity right at 8am. Breakfast is prepared, which is usually a fruit and yogurt, or toast and a soft-boiled egg.

Then I get to work in my studio. What I’m doing in there depends on what deadlines I have looming. I’m nearly done with my newest pattern, so lately it’s been all about that, in addition to some other projects I’m not at liberty to discuss… yet! There’s sewing, writing, and pattern drafting all happening, pretty equally. I usually listen to music when I’m in my studio during the day, which is usually our local NPR station KCRW from 8am-12pm, and then I switch to streaming the station FIP from Paris on my iPhone, or I play records, as I have a pretty nice collection of vintage vinyl.

Afternoon: Lunch is usually a salad or veggie and hummus wrap (I’m a vegetarian). I try to eat in the early afternoon so that it’s digested enough to make it to an afternoon yoga class. The class I like to hit is at 2:30pm, so I switch to my yoga outfit and go to class. If I have to run errands, I drive and do them afterwards on my way home. I try to do any driving all at once. I mean, this is LA and driving can take up your whole day if you’re not careful! If I have no other errands to run, I walk or ride my bike to yoga. I love this break in the day to center my body and mind. I used to go to yoga all the time, and then fell out of practice, but am now back at it. It changes everything for me and keeps me centered.

Evening: There are some days when I stop at this point and do something fun with my man, like going record shopping or lounging followed by dinner and a match of backgammon or Scrabble. If not, after yoga I usually check in with the world again on email, Facebook, and the like. I try not to get up from my sewing machine every time I want to see what’s happening on the web and set specific times for the computer, or else I’ll lose hours or complete days to the internet! I then usually put on some TV or a film and work in my studio until dinner.

On days when I’m teaching, I’ll have a small snack after yoga and teach at Sew L.A. and then eat a real dinner after class. Teaching is awesome and I love my students! They are a constant reminder that sewing is supposed to be fun! I’m always very aware that this is NOT their job and that they have paid good money to be present and to do this in their free time. This should be a fun learning experience and I think most of the time I succeed in that goal. Later in the evening I usually do any computer work I need to, like blogging, invoicing, etc until around 10 or 11pm, at which time I make myself stop and begin to quiet my mind with a book or magazine or sketch in my sketchbook. Lately I’ve been reading up on London since I’m planning to visit during my springtime trip to Paris! My man calls it a pilgrimage to the mother ship, AKA, the Liberty of London store! I’m usually passed out sometime between 11:30pm-1am, depending on how early I have to get up the next day.

A Day in the Life: Shop

I am the manager of the local shop and classroom called Sew L.A. This fall was our 5-year anniversary and we have tons of great fabrics and classes. This is also where I teach, but some days I’m just the shop girl/manager and not a teacher. I know a lot of people have the goal to quit their “day job” but I love that this job keeps me connected to the world, keeps my income stable, and please, I get to work with fabric and sewing all day! It’s not like my day job is in a cubical, so I can hardly complain! We get to do fun things like throw parties for Oona and Colette Patterns, and twice a year I get to go to Quilt Market and order fabric for the shop. It’s really a great gig. This is what a day at the shop looks like.

Morning: If I’m working at Sew L.A. I set my alarm for 7:30am. I don’t have to be at the shop until around 10:30am, so this is a lot of time in the morning. But I really prefer to have a relaxed morning to waken my mind and do all those things I’d do if I were working from my home studio. So it’s much the same: a big cup of tea, breakfast, followed by a shower and dressing. (I can’t wear my vintage nighties to work!) I try to pack a lunch, which is again usually a salad or veggie wrap, but sometimes I don’t and get myself a veggie burrito or veggie crepe at one of the local restaurants.

Afternoon: I open the shop at 11am and help customers in the shop as they pick out fabrics and notions for their projects. Usually it’s a fun job, and I’m very lucky to adore my co-workers and boss. Once I week I do all the ordering for the shop, for notions, patterns, and such. In the late afternoon I set up the classroom for the evening class and help the students get their supplies as they arrive. Once the class is going and everyone’s settled, I close up the shop and head home.

Christine with Sarai Mitnick from Colette Patterns; and with Oona Balloona

Evening: On rare occasions, I’m teaching the class after being the shop all day, so on those days, I set up the class and then teach until 9:30pm. Afterwards I clean up the classroom and head home about 12 hours after arriving in the morning. On those days, I pretty much come home, have a snack, and collapse! If I’m not teaching the evening class, I head home and make dinner. After dinner my night looks much like it does on my studio days, sewing for a while, working on the computer, then reading before bed around 11:30pm-1am.

Working for yourself can be incredibly difficult, but I’ve been running various incarnations of my little business now for nearly 9 years, so clearly I’m still doing it because I love it. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but it can be incredibly rewarding. I work very hard and love every minute… most of the time!"


Woah! I'm kinda exhausted just reading that, but also very jealous that Christine's whole life pretty much revolves around sewing. Thank you for giving us a peek into your world, Christine!