Generational Sewing

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As I was writing the last blog about my Mum I was also thinking about the stuff she had passed down to me. Poor eyesite, a loathing of physical exercise and a love of reading being just three. However, it was she and my Nanna that taught me to sew.

Like a lot of children of my generation I had ‘sewing lessons’ in primary school where we were taught how to sew embroidery stitches onto large square holed fabric called binka.

I loved this!!

But even before then I remember sewing bits of cloth together just for the joy of holding a needle and thread and weaving it through the pieces of fabric. My dollies had hand gathered Dirndl skirts that had to be sewn onto them as I hadn’t figured out elastic yet.

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Before making your own presents was cool my mum was doing this out of necessity and I loved watching her magically create things on her old, pale blue Singer sewing machine, it was a 21st birthday present and was still going up until a few years ago!

All sorts of things emerged from that machine – quilted jewellery rolls and make up bags, soft toys, rag dolls, a denim trouser suit for me! While the sewing went on we would chat about all kinds of things.

Maybe it is the act of doing something else that diffuses the intensity of the conversation. I have had discussions with my friends about this and several have mentioned fishing has the same effect. The focus on a fishing rod or sewing machine while chatting about other stuff paves the way for the quiet correction in the way to hold a needle or the flick of a wrist to launch a fly.

However, sometimes as a parent it isn’t easy to teach your own child. I have had this with my own daughter who when she was much younger was really interested in making things for herself, hairbands, scrunchies and little purses. But now she is older and a teenager what mum does is definitely NOT cool! So I hope she will come back to making things later in her life, for now though horses take priority.

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But we don’t just have to share our knowledge with our own offspring if other peoples are more interested in what we are doing. We see this a lot in our workshops both with the children and some adults too who were frustrated with learning from a parent but would happily sit with a Grandparent or Auntie and sew, bake or make things.

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I and the other tutors we have really enjoy running the kids workshops. We usually end up chatting about all kinds of stuff from who said what to whom at school to “why do cats meow?”, and everything inbetween. All the while helping them to safely sew something they can take home and be proud of.

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Children, teenagers and adults can seem quite segregated at times, but by sharing activities and hobbies the generations can come together and learn from each other. The Great British Sewing Bee and The Great British Bake Off TV programmes have shown this clearly with the age ranges of both their contestants as well as the viewers that sit at home together enjoying them.

One of the things I love to share is how to tie a magic knot! (Those that have been to some of our workshops will know exactly what I mean). And I learnt the other day from my daughter that the only month that sometimes doesn’t have a full moon is February.

Who knew?!

Jules

Our Kids Holiday Workshops are now up online. Come along and join us for a bit of sewing and making, whatever your age!

Is It Just ‘Mother’s’ Day?

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Nanna, Mum, Me and Jet the Black Labrador

Sunday the 26th March is not only the day British Summer Time begins (a weird quirk of the British and something to do with ‘saving daylight hours’ although why we can‘t just get up an hour earlier I don’t know), but it is also Mother’s Day, or as my Dad often calls it “Smothering Sunday”!

It always falls on the third Sunday of Lent, so like Easter itself the date moves. Traditionally it was the day of Saint John Climacus and people went back to their Mother Church, or the main church in their area, to celebrate. It is also said to have been a day of focus on Mary the Mother of Jesus. Later our Mother’s Day became entwined with the American version although we in the UK still hold to the original date.

However, whatever the date, mothers do have a lot to answer for

I am slowly morphing into my own mother. I find myself using the same phrases, calling my everyone ‘my love’, her mannerisms are now mine, I talk to inanimate objects – and answer for them, I nag my son about eating properly. Whether this is more about nurture rather than nature I’m not sure.

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Mum and Dad circa 1984

On some issues though we are diametrically opposed, politics being the main one. But even though our views differ I’m really pleased to have noticed that my mum is more confident now in expressing her opinions than she was when we were growing up. Mum is in her 70’s now and maybe that has come with age. I respect her immensely, she has had to deal with far more than I’ve ever had to and has come out of it all with incredible dignity.

I come from a long line of strong women on both sides of my family – publicans, suffragettes, nursery maids, factory workers, homemakers. All of them inspirational in their own quiet ways. Both my Mum and Grandmothers were doers, capable and un-flappable grafters in whatever they set themselves.

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Florence my Mum’s Mum a demon baker!

 

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Isobel My Dad’s Mum holding my son the day after he was born.

I hope their legacy will follow through me to my daughter. In fact I know it is. She at 14 is more self assured and practical than I ever was. She is bright and funny and hardworking and a pain in the arse, but I only see good things for her future. If I can be as good a Mum to her as mine has been to me I will consider that as a job well done!

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But maybe it isn’t just our mum’s we should be celebrating but all the women in our lives that have shown us wisdom, empathy, humour, perseverance and tenderness;  aunts, grandmothers, friends, teachers, daughters. These qualities are not just confined to our mothers but can be found in the wider group of women that have influenced us and helped to shape us into the people we are.

Are there women in your life you’ve been inspired by?

Jules

The Pros and Cons of Shows

img_1109We have just returned from the Stitches Trade Show at the NEC – a chance for us to meet new potential wholesale customers and have a good chin wag with some old friends. I usually go through a kind of de-briefing with myself making lists of the pros and cons of each show we do. It’s an opportunity to review and evaluate, a worthwhile habit I was introduced to on my PGCE a good few years ago.

It is so wonderful to be able to meet new customers and to have informed discussions with other like minded people in this industry. There are always new things to learn and new ideas to embrace.

Here I am with the fabulous ladies who are organising the #MonetaParty @sewabigail @SewPositivity and @rach_wain.

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The Lovely Triple Stitchers and Me!

I hope you saw their ‘swishing’ boomerang video I posted! I can’t wait to see everyone’s Moneta dress. The Party starts tonight on social media at 19.00Hrs GMT.

I feel so lucky to be able to connect with so many like-minded people (mainly women, but some men too) who love dressmaking, or other sewingy and yarny things, or just love being creative in a zillion other ways. You can find us on Instagram Twitter Facebook and Pinterest.

So thank you to everyone who came to see us at the Stitches Trade Show at the NEC this week. Indeed everyone that comes to see us at any of the shows we do. It’s always lovely to see old faces, well not old, you know what I mean. Although so many of us are connected through the ether by social media (and thank you for reading my wafflings, such as this) you can’t beat actually nattering with someone face to face. ⠀

While it is wonderful to chat with and meet new craft and sewing folk we do have to think about the costs involved in taking part in these large shows. The prices of booking stand space, electrics, lighting, accommodation, wages and food all have to be taken into account.  And one of the main reasons we do them is to increase our sales. This is after all how I pay my mortgage and feed my children.

The increasing costs of exhibiting levied against small businesses could be a whole other blog – or maybe more of a rant!

So each business will weigh up the pros and cons of committing themselves to the long haul of travelling, setting up, being on your feet for days, paying wages and then breaking it all down, packing up and traveling home again. For some the cons are starting to outweigh the pros, which is a shame but understandable.

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Drowning under a sea of boxes, soon to be full of patterns.

 

While this may at first appear to be negative – it really isn’t. What I have just outlined are the tangible costs to exhibiting at the shows. What we as business owners must do is also account for the intangible benefits that come to us through increased exposure to a specific audience – ie YOU!

Even when, like me, you’re lucky enough to work with, teach, drink tea with, eat cake with and laugh with like minded sewaholics, it can be lonely a times, sitting at your sewing machine, or with your knitting needles, or paints, or clay.

Yes, we may be fortunate to have family and friends around us to share so many parts of our lives, but they might not truly get the joy of finishing off a flat felled seam, or the frustration of running out of thread when you’d be finished in 5 minutes! To have a group of people who ‘get’ how frustrating it is to not quite have enough fabric to pattern match correctly or who can whoop with joy with you at the perfectly matching stripes it’s taken you ages to achieve is incredibly empowering.

While crafting may be seen by some as just a mere hobby or way of passing time. For those in the know it is so much more. We can achieve so much more together than we can on our own. If we can be there to help hold each other up we can be safe in the knowledge that there are a wealth of others there ready when we tire of holding ourselves up.

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It’s great to connect to our customers at the shows.

We can inspire, support, joke, advise (advisedly) and just appreciate each other and our own creative journeys through life.

So while I do have to count the pennies and that does appear on my lists it’s also the things I can’t quite quantify that makes all the difference.

Does coming to a show make a difference to your sewing or crafting journey? I’d love to know.

 

The Perfectly Imperfect

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My husband, The Bearded One, brought me some flowers while I was teaching last weekend, he’s kinda nice like that. And they made me smile. One gerbera was a quarter orange. A weird quirk of nature and something that should have made it fail quality control, but he picked it out. For me.

I posted the picture on Instagram and some of the comments made me think further on the perfectly imperfect.

Isn’t it the imperfections, the quirks that make each one of us unique? That makes the garments or quilts or whatever we make part of our story? What we do, what we make, where we are right now with our skills, the tools we use, it’s all part of the continuing story of our life.

So why do we strive for perfection? What is “perfect” anyway? The perfect wife, the perfect mother, colleague, boss. The perfectly made garment or sewing project. The perfect face or body. The perfect life!

Who actually decides the definition or sets the standards for perfect? How do we measure ourselves and what we produce?

I was having a conversation with the mum of one of my friends the other day who was admiring the rise in popularity of all things sewing and crafty and how she used to enjoy making things herself but that her friends shunned it as it was seen as not being quite good enough. If you could afford it you bought brand new. Brand new meant factory produced, homogenized quality control, no imperfections. A complete break from the ‘Make Do and Mend’ philosophy from the post war era.

Are we measuring ourselves against “factory made”?  If so perhaps we are our own worst critics?

Factory produced garments are made in a totally different way to how we sew at home. Each garment is broken down into a series of processes and assigned to an individual that usually only completes that particular process before passing that part of the garment on to the next person to complete the next process. And so on and so on.

Imagine how immaculate your zips would be if you only sewed zips all day.  Or how straight and even your seams would be. I have worked with people who do and sew these kinds processes and although they may enjoy their work there is little or no love there.

Do we as domestic sewers even want to be held to those standards? I don’t think so. Although I have lost count of the times I have passed an appreciative comment on something someone has made only to have the smallest of mistakes pointed out by the maker, that I really wouldn’t have noticed, let alone comment upon.

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It is these small imperfections that make me love ‘handmade’. Handmade objects are given qualities that come from where we are right now with our skills, time and creativity. It is the time and love we invest in each of our projects that really counts not the perfectly finished piece. So we really should not berate ourselves for the slip-ups we make. Or forgo the pleasure of acquiring a new skill or learning a new technique because we have a fear of it not being “quite right”.

Trying isn’t failing – failing to try is.

Maybe we need to embrace the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi – the art of appreciating the beauty in an imperfect world, flaws and all. When we see a flaw we can be reminded of how it got there and why. The reason it exists is what happened in that moment of creation.

Does it really matter that there is a wobble in that seam, if you got distracted by what’s happening in the Archers as you were sewing?  Did you enjoy the story?  Or if there is a blip in the pattern you’re busy knitting as you watched your cat chase a feather? Were you laughing at what the cat was doing? Both of which have happened to me and then I agonised over whether to unpick and correct my mistakes.

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Neither of them were major errors and who would really notice apart from me so I left them. It was good enough and I had enjoyed the process of making. It doesn’t undermine or reduce the pleasure I get from wearing the dress or jumper that I’d made.

So although unpicking is good for the soul, sometimes maybe we should give ourselves a break and leave the un-picker in the sewing box.

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Introducing the Julia Pocket Top

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This is our first new pattern for 2017 and it’s been long time coming with the other very large project I was working on last year! I am so pleased to be able to release this pattern as I have been wearing it for almost a year myself. I hope you will see how simple and easy is to make and wear.

The Julia Pocket Top

This is a relaxed shape with the wide, boxy garment body slimming into snug fitting sleeves to give a tapered silhouette.

Order Your Julia Top

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Two different necklines

An open scooped neck and a wider cowl shape give alternatives and options for different fabrics. We have used a navy bamboo viscose single jersey and a loopbacked white cotton sweat-shirting.

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Clever pockets

Are incorporated into the horizontal seam providing additional detail and interest saving this top from being just another T shirt.

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Here are just a few of the comments from our pattern testers…

“This is a great , simple sew which results in an easy to wear top. The optional cowl neck and pocket detail make it more than just a basic item of clothing.” Lisa

“Very easy to put together, did this in an afternoon. Never sewn with stretch fabrics but this was a breeze to put together. Would recommend for beginners.”  Lyn

“A lovely simple pattern for a casual, boxy top, with very clear instructions and quick to make. A pleasure to make and will definitely be making again.” Amy

“I love this top and cant wait to make another. I used a fairly light weight jersey and plan on making another with a heavier weight or sweatshirt fabric as I think this would work really welll. The instructions are easy to follow and the top only took an afternoon to make.” Claire

” The Julia is a lovely, relaxed top to make and to wear. It is a great way to safely explore using a stretch fabric and create a stylish, informal and flattering garment. I really enjoyed making the top and will be stocking up on knits and jerseys and sweatshirt materials to make a few more!” Ellie

Order Your Julia Top 

Join us for a Workshop

It is such a Super Easy Make it is a great way to lower yourself gently into the warm waters of Sewing with Stretch Fabrics. We have the first workshop coming up on 12th February so you can join us to make one for yourself.

See you soon

Jules

Love What You Do, Do What You Love

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As part of trying to gain a bit more control over various aspects of my life this year I have been completing the Five Minute Journal where everyday I enter the positive things that have happened to me and things that I am grateful for. I must admit when I was first introduced to it it felt a bit ‘false’ filling in the same sections everyday but I have persevered and it does make me feel just a smidge happier every morning when I’m reminded about the positive stuff in my life – family, friends, good health, work, a great cup of coffee in the morning…

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One thing I have noticed is that things do get repeated and one of the things I am repeatedly grateful for is my work. At a networking meeting last week I was asked what I do. So I explained and the response was, “Wow, how great to be able to do what you love!”

Yes it is, and I do realise that I am incredibly lucky to be able to earn money doing something that I really enjoy. I realise this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone and I have had to earn a living doing  jobs I haven’t enjoyed in the past too and I was reminded of something my Grandmother used to say as well…

Love what you do, do what you love.

Although this can be taken in a literal way I’m sure she meant this in a wider sense.

It could be an almost a self fulfilling phrase. Love is a verb as well as an adjective. In the immortal words of Massive Attack – “love, love is a verb, love is a doing word”

 

I have tried explaining to my son who does not enjoy formal education and bucks any attempt to make him conform that maybe just enjoying what you are doing in that moment is enough.

If you try and actively love what you are doing, maybe you’ll end up loving what you do?

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It can work with sewing too. I used to hate having to unpick my mistakes with a fearsome loathing when I did sewing and needlework at school. But I have come to understand it’s purpose now and in the time I take to unpick some stitches I have the space to think about how I can improve upon what I’ve done. I can totally get where my needlework teacher was coming from when she used to say “unpicking is good for the soul!” Although I wouldn’t go quite as far as to say I actually loved unpicking now!

What parts of what you do, do you love and where could you love a little more?

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Because a little bit of love can go a long way and heaven knows the world could do with some right now!

 

Jules x

Celebrating Pyjamas

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January is a bleak month, the decorations have come down and the post Christmas diets have started, some have even signed up for a Dry January. So one of the things I really look forward to while waiting for the evenings to get lighter is to schlep around in my PJ’s.

This is why we have decided to dedicate January to All Things Pyjamas.

The word Pyjama is derived from the Hindi word paejama, which means “leg covering”. Men began wearing them around 1870’s on returning from the colonies and they became increasingly fashionable as elegant evening attire. By the 1920’s Coco Chanel had made them de rigeur for women in sophisticated silk satins and simple cotton for beach holidays. And to be honest they have never seemed to go out of fashion.

Pyjamas are an essential element to a Winter wardrobe and a necessity in colder climates. I leave mine on the radiator so that when I get home from work they are toasty warm and ready to pop on while I cook dinner. Personally I prefer a traditional Pyjama Shirt with mine but my daughter likes to wear a T shirt or camisole with hers.

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Either way the goal is comfort! You may like to read our blog on Staying Warm Skandi Style to get into the spirit of Hygge January.

There is also 25% off our Rosalind Pyjama Pattern for the whole of January so you can whip up a pair of PJ’s as quick as you like.

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We will also be sharing tutorials and pattern hacks with you so you can make the most of your PJ’s and indulge in the warm and comforting embrace of a pair of handmade Pyjamas.

Have a look at the Clean Finish Binding Tutorial we’ve used on the Peaseblossom if you fancy making a different top for your PJ’s

Happy New Year Sewing!

Jules