I love linen. Those who know me or who have been to a workshop, or even seen us at a show will already know this. Most of the patterns I design are with some kind of linen in mind. It’s my favorite fabric of all time.
For many years I was a fashion lecturer and mainly dressed in the required uniform of a fashionista- black. Being involved in Fashion back then meant some incursion into the latest trends and fabrics. Which were usually “technical” and basically means man-made. There was very little ‘Natural’ anything including fabrics.
Escaping from that environment allowed me to rediscover the freedom of natural fibres. They take colour so well and feel just gorgeous next to your skin, there really is no substitute. Wearing linen is like wearing a breath of fresh air. It is light and breathable much more so than cotton.
Linen is known to be the world’s strongest natural fibre and far more durable than cotton. In fact it has been shown to be up to 30% stronger than cotton. This is due to the length of fibres within the plant. As the fibres are twisted together the longer fibres are much less likely to break making the yarn much stronger than the yarn made from the shorter fluffier fibres of the cotton plant.
A cotton t-shirt may last a couple of seasons but a beautifully made linen dress will last years. Think about the textiles you may have had handed down to you, I’m sure there will be a linen tablecloth or some bed linen in there.
Easy to care for
Linen is incredibly easy to look after. It can be washed by hand or in the washing machine. You can even tumble dry it, but to be honest that probably isn’t the most eco-friendly way to dry linen. For the best results I dry my linen clothing on the line outside when I can. Pegged out properly linen clothes will dry beautifully flat and require minimal ironing.
Yes it does crease a bit, but modern prewashed or laundered linen is much softer and will not crease much at all. And besides, the warmth from your body will help to relax the fabric and allow the creases to just melt away.
I feel the creases should be embraced as part of the natural charm of the fabric. I try hard to rock the ‘Crumpled Look’ now as opposed to the ‘Corporate Look’ these days.
Many people will have noticed that wearing different fibers can cause irritation and discomfort. This is not the case with linen. Fibres such as cotton allow moisture to stay trapped within its fibres creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Linen’s hollow fibres allow moisture to be absorbed and wicked away from the skin quickly. These same hollow fibres enable air to circulate around the moisture so it can evaporate effectively leaving you feeling cool and comfortable.
Linen is a fabulous allrounder, and I do indeed wear it all year round. The hollow fibres mentioned previously help to keep you cool in the summer by wicking away moisture but then help to trap air next to the skin in the winter helping to maintain an even body temperature keeping you warm.
Whereas cotton or wool might make you feel warm initially, they can cause you to sweat as well. Linen’s breathability allows the excess heat to disperse keeping you at a comfortable temperature.
The flax/ linen fibres can also be made into a variety of different types and weights of fabrics making it incredibly versatile to work with. From heavier weight linen for workwear style jackets and trousers to the finest, softest linen for baby clothes and christening gowns it makes up beautifully and is a delight to sew with.
The flax plants from which linen is derived is a hardy plant and will grow in even poor soil. It requires much less water to produce linen from the flax plant, unlike cotton, and far fewer pesticides are used in its cultivation making it a more sustainable crop to grow and more Earth friendly too. Flax / linen fibres can be processed without the use of chemicals so it’s a win – win as far as I’m concerned.
If you haven’t tried working with linen you really should! And you should definitely be wearing some this summer at the very least.
Have a look at the linen fabrics we have in stock, I’m sure there’s something that will take your fancy. I have another linen project on the go right now!
There has been rather a lot going on behind the scenes at Sew Me Something over the last few months. Some of which you know about and some you don’t – yet!
Lockdown has given a lot of people headspace and time to think and re-evaluate, including me.
One of the things we have been re-assessing is our sizing. We have increased our size range gradually and hopefully more people have found it to their liking. But I have had a complete overhaul of our sizing system, something I have been wanting to do for ages and now I think we are in a much better place with it all. I will be writing more blogs on what we’ve done and how it’s changed later, but for now I have a special request.
To reflect our change in sizing we want to find women that epitomise this. Real women, people like YOU.
Our style and ethos remain the same – relaxed, comfortable clothing for stylish, modern women.
We are looking for new models to help us showcase our patterns, and we have lots planned for the future. It doesn’t matter what size you are as our patterns now go from a UK size 8 up to a UK size 30. We just want ladies that have a bit of sass about them and are happy in front of a camera. This is a paid gig. We don’t expect anyone to give up their time for free to do this. You will also need to be within easy reach of our Studio in Stratford upon Avon as that is where we hold the photoshoots.
All you need to do is:
Tell us a bit about yourself in 100 words or less.
Send us full length images of yourself, front, back and side views
Let us know your:
Full hip measurements.
Send all your information to Jules at email@example.com
This will be a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to meeting you.
The lockdown situation and postponement of all our workshops has allowed me time to reflect and consider where we are, what we are doing and how we are going to move on from this.
First and foremost the reason Sew Me Something exists is to help people. I firmly believe that this is, or should be, the purpose behind every business. We strive to help as many people as we can learn to sew and make the clothes they really want to wear by creating easy to use dressmaking patterns, running workshops and providing quality fabrics and haberdashery.
It has become clear over the last few months to me and the rest of the team that we can reach far more people, and help far more people, by being more focussed online which is why I created the Sewing Studio. The tutorials, videos and in depth courses can be, and indeed are watched by people all over the world who would never be able to join us in person.
So now is the time to grow our team and invite someone to join us and help us to help more people learn and develop their sewing skills and techniques.
I am looking for an assistant. Someone to work with me to help create and produce new products including new patterns and courses.
This person will need to have a specific skills set. Ideally I am looking for someone who can pattern cut, have a good working knowledge of adobe software including Illustrator and InDesign and who knows about sewing.
They will need to be an excellent communicator and extremely organised as we have a lot to do!
The post would ideally be full time but we may consider a part time post for the right candidate. We are located on a farm just outside Stratford upon Avon, so the new team member will need to have their own transport and a clean driving licence.
When the world returns to semi-normal we will return to exhibiting at shows, so some travel away from home will be required as the shows are a team event. But it is a brilliant opportunity to meet our wonderful customers face to face and so gain better insight into who we serve.
For more information about the role and how to apply click on theWORK WITH USsection of our website.
I have had my sewing gauge for quite some time now. In fact I can’t actually remember purchasing it or even when it came to live in my sewing box it’s been around for so long. But I wouldn’t be without it now.
I always have it with reach, next to my machine or over on the ironing board. Tape measures are great particularly when worn as a skinny fashion accessory around your neck, but a proper metal sewing gauge is just that bit easier to pick up and use. Especially when it has that lovely little red slider that will remember how deep your hem is even if you forget.
But this is also a Multi Tool! Measuring is only one of its many uses. I love the point at the end which is perfect for using as a point turner and pushing out little corners. It is pointy enough but with a rounded tip so it won’t poke through your fabric.
The funny horseshoe shape at the other end is actually a button shank spacer. Yes who knew that was even a thing! There are two of them so you can use it ‘double height’ or slide one out of the way if you have a smaller button to sew on. Laying the button over the top of the horseshoe and sewing through the gap will lift the button off the fabric slightly. So you can wind the sewing thread around the thread shank to allow the opposite side of the garment to sit nice and flat underneath the button when it’s buttoned up. How fabulous is that!
You can even use this wonderful invention to draw circles just like a pair of compasses. The outer corners of the little red slider have a hole in them so you can pop a pin through that to hold it in place at the centre of your soon to be drawn circle. Just under the point of the sewing gauge there is another slightly larger hole, you can put your marker pen through this hole to draw out the circle ready for cutting out. Genius!
You really need one of these in your sewing kit and to make more use of it. So if you haven’t got one already, You can. . . .
It was our eighth birthday last week. A bit of a milestone really as most businesses fail after the first three years and few make it to six, and here we are eight years later.
I’m not used to reflecting much, a habit I’ve rather gotten out of over the years as I prefer to deal with what is happening now and in the future. But as a lecturer it was something I did on a daily basis – how did that lecture go? Could I have expressed that idea better? How can I help a particular student to understand and improve their work etc.
But I have looked back over where we started and what we’ve achieved. I say ‘we’ because although this is my business it is very much a team operation. (The current Team are doing an amazing job in really difficult circumstances too). I certainly couldn’t do all this by myself now. The shop opened in May 2012 with literally about a dozen rolls of fabrics. I had reps coming to see me at home because we were frantically painting the shop and building furniture getting ready for the first workshop, which if I remember correctly was ‘How to make Bunting.’
We’ve come a long way since then. I’ve had some lovely people helping me out in the shop over the years and they have all added their own special ingredient to the Sew Me Something flavour. Some have stayed with me for years and to them I am immensely grateful. They have stuck by my vision for what we were all about and helped me ride through the ups and down of running a business. And there have been some downs as well as ups. In our first couple of years we won several awards, local business ones and sewing industry ones too. Then nearly three years ago Charlie had a major accident and it made me really step up to the plate with how I was actually running the business. I wish it really was all about sewing your own clothes and designing new patterns. But as any other business owner knows all too well the other stuff tales priority most of the time; accounts, marketing VAT, employment issues the list could go on and I had to conscientiously make the decision to take the business up a notch in order to keep us all afloat. Which was what I did.
I let go of the shop when the lease had run its course and we moved to the new Studio. As we were in the throes of actually moving I had my first show in the Sewing Quarter which was amazing. It brought us to a whole new audience. More people were able to join us for workshops where they could learn and enjoy the whole experience of sewing and making your own clothes that actually fit.
Through all of this we have stuck to our core value of helping as many people as we can to learn and improve their sewing skills in a friendly, inclusive and supportive way. This is fundamentally why Sew Me Something exists. Apart from the fact I am probably unemployable now, I really don’t think I could go back to having a boss!
Helping people is at the heart of what we do and why we do it. So although the idea for The Sewing Studio has been bubbling away at the back of my mind for over two years, now was the opportune moment to actually create it. Firstly, I actually had a bit more time on my hands with no teaching and no shows. You would be amazed at how long it physically takes to create all the content videos, and most of it I can do in one take! We have spent hours and hours filming and then editing, (mainly Charlie I have to say), to get the tutorials and courses absolutely right. I have had to raise my technical game hugely, even my son is impressed with my sorting out the website for the Sewing Studio. No web builder here I’m afraid.
Secondly, and most importantly, I felt this was the best way we could help you. If you can’t come to the Studio then let us come to you in your own home. You can join in with the In-depth Courses, have a go at the Projects, learn from the Tutorials and Technical Library and hang out with other sewing nerds enthusiasts in our Community.
I realise we are just starting out on this new road. Online is the way forward for us and so many others now and for the foreseeable future. There is so much I want to add in terms of content and courses, new patterns and – well just so much it makes my brain ache to think about it sometimes. I really want to find out from you what you’d like to see in the Sewing Studio too. So do have a look at The Sewing Studio and let me know
I realise it’s not perfect, but then done is way better than perfect in my book.
We are living through some very strange times indeed, shuttered in at home only venturing out early morning or after dusk just to avoid other human beings. It feels a little like I’m living in one of the dystopian post apocalyptic books I like to lose myself in. Only this is real and it is having quite an impact on a rather lot of people.
The first week of Lockdown sent me into a bit of a tailspin, I won’t lie. When I realised we were going to have to postpone all of our workshops and retreats and that the upcoming shows we had planned on attending were not going ahead, I had a brief but rather intense meltdown sitting in my garden gazing at the chickens. I wondered if I was going to be able to afford to buy chicken food, or what I was going to feed the chickens if I couldn’t, could I even bring myself to dispatch them if this really was the end of the world and could I use the chickens to feed my children? But I decided that there is not a lot of meat on an egg-laying chicken!
Looking back now that seems a bit ridiculous and rather melodramatic, and after I had given myself a rather good talking to, more rational thinking resumed. I am, by nature, not really a panicker so the last few weeks have been more about “Right!” *stands hands on hips in the middle of the kitchen.* “This shit thing has happened – how are we going to deal with it?!”
Make videos – was how we dealt with it in the first instance.
The first show we were due to attend that had been cancelled was the Sewing for Pleasure Show at the NEC. So I decided that if we couldn’t be at the show we could do a Live Video for each of the days we should have been at the show. It was a bit of an experiment as I wasn’t really sure if it would work and we would get many views, or even if it was what our lovely customers wanted to see. However, we quickly realised that if we were not able to go out to see our customers and if they were not able to come to see us in the studio the only way to connect with you/them was by video. So we popped it up on our YouTube channel and have been recording Live twice a week since then. This has been a team effort. I am lucky enough to be married to a videographer and my son is blessed with the inherent tech knowledge only the young were born with and I couldn’t have done this without them.
Just before Easter I was tagged into a Facebook post, sorry I can’t remember by whom, from the Warwickshire Scrubbers and it got Charlie and I thinking. We have several friends working in the NHS and other care professions and after asking them if this really was a thing, I quickly realised it very much was a thing and that yes I could make scrubs but, at Charlie’s suggestion, would I not be better making a pattern that included what my friends were looking for in a set of scrubs to help others make more scrubs. I freely admit the pattern is not perfect. I bashed it out over a weekend and would happily go back and alter things. But it’s there, and it exists to help people make scrubs for their local community, and for that I am a little bit proud. I have even been sent a letter from a local MP thanking me for my help during the crisis. Being a slightly left leaning, tax paying egalitarian this has left me with mixed emotions as you can imagine.
It was a team effort and we also made a little video on how to make a set of scrubs that has now been watched by tens of thousands of people across the globe! I never imagined it would take off as it did. We have had thousands of orders for the pattern and it took us a good few of weeks working flat out and roping in the SMS team and all my family members to get those orders sent out. I am so grateful for the patience of everyone who placed orders and were chomping at the bit to get going with their sewing. We had no idea so many people would want to use the pattern or indeed want to help.
Designing, printing, packing and sending out the scrubs pattern really took up the first few weeks of lockdown. We did it all ‘not for profit’ and just about covered our costs, but it gave us all something to focus our thoughts and energy on and for that I am truly grateful.
Once the initial shock of what had happened had receded and we had responded to the immediate crisis of the lack of PPE and created the Scrubs pattern, we quickly came to a level of normality in our new working lives. We are incredibly fortunate to have the studio in a rural location away from the town centre which has allowed us more freedom than we would have had before at the shop.
Normally I would be teaching and running workshops over the weekends or be exhibiting at a show away from home for several days. But without this level of activity I have been able to step back and give myself some headspace. I have managed to have weekends away from the studio and work and have been able to focus my energies into re-juvinating our garden. It got totally flattened six years ago when Charlie and I got married and we covered it entirely with a marquee to hold our wedding reception and it hasn’t really recovered since. Now with weekends at home we have been able to lavish our care and attention upon it. While working in the garden our minds have been free to roam and be creative in our ponderings about how the business is going to continue to move onwards.
A couple of weeks ago a long term project finally came to fruition and we launched the online Sewing Studio. The extra time both Charlie and I have had has meant we could focus our efforts and headspace into creating the content for the Sewing Studio Subscription Club. This is something I have been dreaming about creating for a couple of years now. Without us being able to teach workshops for the foreseeable future we needed to think of other ways to reach out to our customers to support them in their sewing and online, it appears, is the way forward. Whether I like being in front of a camera or not. So with an ever increasing range of video tutorials, PDF patterns, in-depth courses and pattern adaptations we hope to be able to help more people now with their sewing.
Looking back over the last 8 weeks or so of lockdown, (to be honest I have forgotten which week we are on now!) has forced me to completely rethink my working life. I am fully aware that a lot of people have been knocked sideways by the whole Covid 19 nightmare and many have lost friends and loved ones. Levels of anxiety and depression have risen hugely and taken their toll on the Nation’s mental health. Which is why I do feel rather guilty when I admit to rather enjoying elements of Lockdown.
Time is a gift so precious, and one we have been given in spades during this time of uncertainty. BC – Before Covid I was forever bemoaning my lack of it. I was “so busy all the time” rarely taking time off and constantly on the hamster wheel of life running a business, trying to be creative, looking after my family etc. Now I have had TIME to just BE.
I have sat in the garden with a cup of coffee doing absolutely nothing and not feeling guilty that I should be doing something else or be somewhere else. I have had time to plan and create a garden, a work in progress admittedly, but progress nonetheless. I have had time to step away and readjust my priorities. Both my kids are at home, much to their disappointment. Seamus has had to return from Uni in Cornwall and is desperately missing his new found independence. Orla’s summer has been totally cancelled. No A levels, no prom, no holiday with her friends and is facing an uncertain future regarding attending Uni in September at all. But I’m very selfishly pleased, because never again will I get to spend this much time with the fledgeling young adults that are my babies. Let’s face it would you hangout with your parents drinking gin and lemon playing Scrabble of an evening given the choice? Of course not neither would I, but the conversations and laughter that we’ve all shared is something I will treasure to the end of my days.
So although this is a terrible situation and something I sincerely hope ends soon, I am looking at it in a positive light. I am so very fortunate to have my husband and family with me and that my extended family are all safe and well but my heart goes out to those who are not.
Lockdown has given me all manner of positive things, not least of all hope for the future. The world over the last few weeks has changed irrevocably and that can be seen as a positive thing. Our values have changed, we have made do with less, after home educating, teachers will be given the respect they are due, (hopefully). There are things I miss like popping into town for a coffee and seeing my friends, we do that via Zoom at the moment, so it is still happening but in a different way. And therein lies the crux – life will go on just in a different way. We have adapted to new surroundings and situations and that has kept us going for millennia.
Adapting and changing our perspectives are what enables us to keep going onwards in a generally forward motion. And that is what I shall be doing to keep Sew Me Something moving forward. I’m not sure quite in what direction yet but we are taking each day at a time planning and readjusting as we go. We will be hosting workshops again in the future but they may be run in a slightly different way, who knows.
As long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other and counting our blessings the journey continues.
Like a lot of lucky people, you may well have received a sewing machine or even an overlocker for Christmas. Or perhaps you might have just treated yourself? But have you got it out of the box yet? And do you know what you’re going to make?
Sometimes it can be a bit daunting with a new bit of kit sitting in front of you and you’re not sure quite what to do with it. So here are 5 things to help:
Make friends with your machine
I would thoroughly recommend having a play with your new machine and just go through the instruction manual. It sounds terribly boring and something your mother would say but seriously just getting to know your machine and what it can do will set up on the right track. Even if you’ve been sewing for years and new machine, will always mean new stuff to learn. Work out what the settings are, where the tension controls are and most importantly how to change the needle! You will invariably go through a few.
Sew a Creative Reference library
The kids in our holiday or after-school clubs just adore playing around with all the stitches. And you can even create your own works of art with the different embroidery or zigzag stitches. They can make a great reference library when you go to work on a project too and maybe need something a little different to add a bit of detail, like I did on my red Viola Skirt.
Start with something simple
Again at the risk of sounding like your Mother, I’d recommend keeping it simple to start with. Working on a straightforward project from start to finish that’s quick and relatively easy to make will give you that instant sense of gratification and the ‘I can do this feeling’ you want to keep you going onto the next one. Even if it’s just a pincushion or a needle book. They don’t use up much fabric, are incredibly useful and will give you that sense of achievement you deserve for all your efforts.
Once you get to grips with your machine and you’ve made a couple of quick and easy projects it can be tempting to race into the next bigger one. But you’re not on the Great British Sewing Bee so you don’t have to worry about how long it’s going to take you. Just pace yourself and enjoy the process. I know plenty of people who really dislike the cutting out stage and want to rush through that and get on to the sewing. But each stage has its own merits and deserves your care and attention to enable you to get the best results you can. Trying planning out what and when you can manage and take your time.
Remember to finish it
This sounds obvious I know but I’m speaking from personal experience here. You’ve worked so hard on your sewing project, whether its a cushion, a bag or a piece of clothing and the temptation is to get to a point where you – only just have to. . . sew the hem, add the buttons on or whatever. GET IT FINISHED! Even if you don’t like it once you’ve made it. If it’s finished you can gift it, or even wear it or use it as you intended. But it won’t be sitting in your pile of UFP’s – unfinished projects, providing that mental block preventing you from moving on and starting something new.
We have these rather lovely washable paper zippy bag kits in stock and we thought we’d show you how to customise your bag kit. The grey and brown ones are just perfect for printing on. We have used the most simplest of printing with potatoes but you could use a stamp and an ink pad.
We used textile printing ink so you can set the image permanently by ironing it and its washable too, even though its paper.
Firstly select your potato and cut it in half, we used a sharp knife to create a simple design but if you have a Lino cutter you could try using this. Dab off the excess moisture with some kitchen roll and have a play with repeating designs.
Once you have a design that you are satisfied with draw around the template of your zippy bag onto the paper, ensuring you have a front, a back and a tag pattern piece too.
Remember the cut out corners of your bag pattern forms the bottom of the bag so work out where you would like to place your design. You will also have a seam allowance all the way round so bear that in mind too. We started printing from the middle out so the design was central.
You can print the tag with a smaller piece of potato, just remember the tag will be folded in half and have seam allowance along the long edges too
When the ink is dry, iron your design for a few minutes to heat set it (see your inks instructions) then make up your zippy bag as per the instructions. You can find our tutorial on how to make it here and you can purchase the plain grey and brown zippy bag kits here
Are you always the ‘organised one’ in your friendship circle or at work? Are you always sorting out every detail of your life, from booking dinners, sorting out travel arrangements? And do you find yourself secretly enjoying it?
Then we need you!
Sew Me Something is seeking a reliable Workshop/ Online Administrator. Someone who is motivated and highly organised to help coordinate and maintain the smooth running of everything behind the scenes.
If you find our Bianca a bit too on the slouchy side here are two hacks to help
Our Bianca Coat is a much loved wardrobe staple and is generally an oversized garment. It has a dropped shoulder to make it a generous fit over the shoulders.
However, we fully appreciate that some people are not overly comfortable with such an amount of ease in their clothes, so this is a really easy way to make your Bianca smaller across the shoulders so you don’t feel swamped.
Bianca Hack 1
Just a heads (or rather hands up) – you will need an extra pair of hands to help you with this as the alterations are taken out through the back, and unless you have octopus arms you may struggle on your own!
First try on your Bianca and have a friend lift it onto the shoulders where you’d feel comfortable with the shoulder seams sitting. This will create a fold of extra fabric through the centre back.
Have your friend pinch out the fold across the shoulder blades and and up into the collar. Pin it either with normal dressmaking pins or a safety pins.
Take off the Bianca and measure how much has been pleated out across the back and up into the collar and make a note of this. Take out the pins.
Turn your Bianca inside out and fold along the centre back. Measure in from the fold how much had been pleated out of the back and mark with chalk or a fabric marker. Take this all the way up into the collar too. This will be your stitching line.
Add on a 1.5cm seam allowance to the new stitching line all the way up the centre back and into the collar. Cut off the excess fabric. Cut all the way up the centre back and into the collar.
Unpick about 1”/3cm of overlocking on the neck seam each side of the new centre back.
With the wrong sides together overlock or machine sew down the collar section only.
With the right sides together overlock or machine sew down the coat section only.
Re- sew or overlock across the opening in the back neck seam. This will give you a centre back seam, but a much better fitting coat!
Bianca Hack 2
If you find the front waterfall too much for you, it’s easy to trim down the collar and front edge.
Try on your Bianca coat and decide how much you want to trim off the front waterfall. It may be that you don’t want the collar so high or not so much in the double breasted crossover, or even a combination of both. Fold under or mark how much you want to take off.
Turn the Bianca inside out and put one sleeve into the other. This will allow the coat to sit flatter folded in half.
Lay out the front of the Bianca so you can see the whole of the collar and front edge. Make sure both edges are level and matched up at the top and bottom corners.
Mark on where you would like the new edge to be with chalk or a marker pen. Use a ruler to get the lines straight as the collar and front edge are supposed to be at right angles.
Trim off the excess fabric. You can leave the edge raw or finish with overlocking or any other method you choose.
This will give a more pared down waterfall at the centre front.
I hope these hacks will help you to make the most of our wonderful Bianca coat for the cooler months to come.