I Now Have A YouTube Channel!

I know, I know, it’s years overdue, but finally I have a YouTube Channel!

And drum roll please……….here is my first video:

I’d love to know what you think, do let me know what kind of videos would you like me to create?

Subscribe to my YouTube channel you’ll see all my new videos as soon as I post them.

New Classes at MIY Workshop!! Make a Kimono | Make Your Own Knickers | Fabric Stamping

Two new teachers are bringing 3 fantastic new classes to MIY Workshop this autumn with lots of dates and times (weekdays, weekends, evenings) available.

Michelle will be showing you how to make your own bespoke kimono and your own knickers:

how to make a kimono

knicker making classes

Nula will be teaching fabric stamping so that you can print your own fabric:

fabric printing classes brighton

Spaces are limited at all these classes. Full details including prices, dates and how to book are on the MIY Workshop website here.

How to Apply Bias Binding as a Facing to a V-Neck (an excerpt from my Refashioners 2016 “Jeanius” project)

It’s my turn today in Portia’s August spectacular blog series “The Refashioners”. This year the theme is “Jeanius” and I’m not going to give the whole game away here, so hop over to Portia’s blog http://www.makery.uk to see the whole shebang.

attaching bias binding as a facing to a vneck

However, what I did end up doing with my project was, without even planning to, write a detailed step-by-step tutorial for how to achieve my favourite edge finish on a V-neck. So I’m going to just share that bit as a mini self-contained tutorial. Here goes:

 1.  Position the end of the bias binding beyond the intersection of the two seam allowances at the point of the V neck on the right side of the garment and pin in place. (I also tacked mine in place to make sure I was super accurate at the point of the V – start your tacking at the intersection of the two seam allowances at the point of the V and tack along the crease line in the binding.)

how to attach bias binding as a facing to a v-neck1

2.  It helps to pin the overhanging end of the binding back on itself so that when the other end of the binding reaches the intersecting seam allowances at the point of the V you can place it in exactly the right place.

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3.  Your tacking should stop in exactly the same position at the point of the V as it started on the other end of the binding. Machine in place.

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4.  Snip into the seam allowance of the garment as close as you dare to the point of the V.

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5.  Let the bias binding fold back on itself to cover your stitching and then fold it around completely to the inside of the neck.

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6.  The two ends of the bias binding will overlap each other.

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7.  Wrap one end of the binding around the other.

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8.  Cut off the longer end of the bias binding that isn’t tucked under and pin and tack the whole of the binding in position close to the loose edge.

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9. Machine the binding in place from the right side of the garment following your tacking.

NOTE: some people like to understitch the first line of machining (after step 4). It can help to keep the binding on the wrong side of the garment. I don’t always understitch, only if I’m working with particularly bouncy fabric.

My 6 Inspirations & Must-Haves for Sewing Network Magazine

blogger picks sewing Network magazine.jpg

I really enjoyed choosing my 6 inspirations and must-haves for Sewing Network magazine’s “Blogger Picks” feature this month.

In true form you might easily guess some of my choices, but can you guess all of them?!

Gees Bend Quilts

I love the social history of patchwork and quilting. I find the idea of the stories and meaning held in quilts made from re-used clothing really powerful and they can make me quite emotional. Ever since I first saw images of the Gees Bend quilts they’ve been a constant source of wonder and inspiration for me. I love their honest beauty.

Worn Stories by Emily Spivack

The idea behind this book is simple; the author asked people she knew to tell a story about a piece of clothing in their possession, something significant that happened in their lives while they were wearing it. It makes for fascinating reading and a bit like the Gees Bend quilts, reminds us of the significance that clothing can have in our lives and that it is more than a disposable commodity.

The Community Clothing Project

Began as a kickstarter project and championed by Patrick Grant this is a great project. Based in one factory in the north of England it aims to reinvigorate garment manufacturing in the UK by using the seasonal quiet times faced by all factories producing for brands to make their own range of good quality basic items such as jeans, harrington jackets and raincoats.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Just up the road from my hometown of Sheffield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park is heaven, how could it not be when it combines art and beautiful Yorkshire countryside?! There are permanent works set outdoors as well pieces from featured exhibitions and several indoor galleries including the stunning Longside Gallery whose huge windows not only flood the gallery space with natural light but also perfectly frame the most perfect views of the green valley below.

MIY Collection Fulwood Dress

This might be my favourite of all my patterns. It’s one of the most popular and I’ve personally made myself at least 8 versions. It’s easy to wear and easy to sew which makes it a good first dressmaking project for beginners. However, I think its real secret is its versatility; it works in almost any fabric and can be made as a top or a dress in lots of different combinations. I’m always finding new ways to make it. I enjoy working that way; I’d much rather explore the potential offered by one pattern rather than churning out pattern after pattern.

Ernest Wright & Son Scissors

Again, harking back to objects with meaning that can tell stories, I love my handmade Ernest Wright scissors. They’re made in my hometown of Sheffield and I’ve visited their factory to see them being made. It takes a huge amount of skill to make a pair of scissors and it shows in the finished product – they cut through anything and are sharp along the full length of the blade, including the tips. They’ll last you a lifetime and the more you use them, the more they wear to your hand and your particular grip. I love that. You can buy unique MIY Collection branded while handled scissors here.

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How to Get Your Sew-Jo Back

howtogetyoursewjoback

Remember this post that I wrote asking if your sew-jo has ever left you and how you’ve got it back? Well, responses to that post, comments I got from people on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds and a bit of my own research have resulted in a comprehensive article for this month’s Love Sewing magazine. So comprehensive in fact that it needed to be quite heavily edited to fit into my allotted double page spread! Not one to let work go to waste, here is the full piece in all its unedited glory.

May your sew-jo never leave you again!

get-your-sewjo-back-list-web

How do you get your sew-jo back?

I’ve been sewing for over 30 years and there have definitely been times in my life when sewing has been more and less important to me. Most of us have times when our creative outlets have to take a back seat because life just takes over, but that’s normal and it doesn’t mean we want to do it any less, in fact often we want to do it more at these times, precisely because forces beyond our control are keeping us from it!

But what if your drive to create leaves you completely? Has your enthusiasm for sewing ever left you temporarily? Again, although it’s scary, I think it’s a perfectly normal phenomenon and comes as part of the creative package. After working 60 hour weeks to write my new book whilst keeping the rest of my business going for the last 9 months, mine was definitely on the wane recently.

I hope the sharing of some of my own experiences on this subject and the collective wisdom contributed by other sewists will help should you find yourself stuck in a creative rut.

Why does it go?

So what are the most common causes of this sewing equivalent of writers’ block?

Perfectionism & Fear of Failure

Perfectionism is the enemy of creatives, it’s a fine balance; I think a little bit of a perfectionist tendency can be useful as it keeps you striving to do the best you can and constantly improving your work, but too much can be the complete opposite and actually stunt creativity. The way it manifests is the thought creeping into your head that if you did that thing you’ve been thinking about making; “it would be a bit rubbish and never as good as it should be, so I might as well not bother”. I’ve definitely suffered from this in the past and the way out is simply to just allow yourself to make a mess, accept that mistakes are useful and help to develop your work, how can you learn if you don’t make mistakes? It’s impossible to just be perfect all the time, how could you ever develop and improve on perfection?

Logistics

This was a recurring theme for the sewists who shared their experiences with me online; if everytime you sew you have to clear the dining table, unpack your project and your sewing machine, it’s often time to put it all away again as soon as you’ve started, so why bother?

Too Much Sewing For Others

Taking on too many projects for others was a cause mentioned by a few people online. While it’s rewarding to make things for others (when they’re well received!), make sure you put time aside for selfish sewing too.

Are You Happy?

There is a theory that you need to be in the right headspace to be creative, happy and relaxed and unencumbered with too many worries. Bobobun68 on instagram shared an example of this saying “I sewed nearly every day until my dad died and then it went for months. When my marriage ended two years ago I could manage work and being a mum but all creativity went. As my happiness returned sewing and inspiration came flooding back hugely like an addiction. I’ve pushed myself to learn more and I’m loving it, so I’d say my sewing mojo is heavily influenced by my emotions.”

However, there is a parallel theory that if you’re not happy to start with, being creative can actually help to make you happier; a theory which is backed up by phychological research explained in this brilliant piece about overcoming writer’s block by Maria Konnicova on the New Yorker website: http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/how-to-beat-writers-block If you can push yourself over that initial hurdle to start creating when you’re feeling low, the creative process will usually leave you feeling in a much better place.

How do you get it back?

Variety & Learning

They say variety is the spice of life, so try a different craft from sewing; learning something new is always really absorbing and rewarding, so get a friend to show you or take a class. There are some brilliant short classes to get your creative juices flowing again on Creative Bug.

Inspiration

Fresh inspiration surrounds us in magazines, books and online. Join a local creative group or connect with fellow makers online. I recently got myself a copy of Oh Comely magazine as an antidote to purely sewing magazines; it’s still aimed at creative types but encompasses a lot more. I’ve heard Flow and Frankie are also great reads.

Instant gratification

Sew something quick and small or something safe that you’ve made before and you know works well, I love verykerryberry’s advice on Instagram to sew pyjama pants. The perfect remedy I’d say, who doesn’t need more cosy pymama pants and they’re easy to sew for others too.

Get out there

Walk the dog, go for a run, go to the gym, I find any kind of exercise refreshing and invigorating to mind, body and creative soul. This is one that definitely works for me and that I use a lot; I’ve often had some of my best ideas while dripping with sweat in the gym!!

Focus

Focus is always useful to me, if I think “oh I can make anything I want”, I can’t make anything! Whereas if I think “I’d like some new t-shirts”, I’m off!

Do the washing up

Any kind of mindless repetitive physical task can help unlock the creative part of your brain.

Dedicated space

Try and organise a sewing space at home, no matter how small, even if it’s just keeping your machine accessible (and visible as a constant reminder) on top of a cupboard or shelf ready threaded up and with your project neatly nearby you’ll be able to grab small bits of sewing time as and when the urge takes you.

A project for every circumstance

Have a few projects on the go and I do say this with caution as being a serial “starter” can also lead to sewing misery; you need to be a “completer” too. Some great advice from Deborah who commented on my blog was to make sure you have a small portable project as one of your projects on the go. That way you can take it on train journeys, do it in front of the TV and possibly even take it into meetings at work….!!

Have some “playtime”

Open up the floodgates – whenever I write, it’s like a stream of consciousness and ideas at first, I never write something polished and finished from the start. I like to edit heavily! It’s the same with sewing; I play around with ideas, use some cheap fabric that I’m not worried about spoiling and make lots of toiles, play around with some fabric embellishment or manipulation ideas or hack away at an old garment that I was going to throw out anyway.

I love some of the advice in this post on the Brainpickings blog, especially the tip from artist Lisa Congdon to spend 30 days doing repeated drawings of something that you’re already comfortable drawing. You could easily apply this  to sewing: make a few versions of a quick tried and tested pattern, but use different fabrics, try some  easy style adaptations to the pattern, add some embellishments, even try making it from recycled old garments.

Gift Sewing

While sewing for others can sometimes cause you to lose your sew-jo, certain types of selfless sewing can also be a way to reconnect with the joy of sewing. I love the approach of poppiesgrowinva on Instagram who says: “When I feel down about sewing I sew something super easy like a pillow cover or stuffed bunny for my boys. Sometimes “selfish sewing” doesn’t feel as great as you expect it to. Sewing things others can enjoy and benefit from, those have been my favorite makes!!! We are also too critical of ourselves. When you make a simple gift for someone they don’t see any of the flaws you see yourself when sewing! It can help you see that things don’t have to be perfect!!” Also a good technique for when the perfectionism monster tries to take you over…

Go back to things and edit/rethink

I often use a technique that I call “tricking myself into working” rather than sitting down with a blank page, fresh piece of fabric, brand new word doc open on my computer and thinking “right, now I’m going to do that thing” I just make adhoc notes and randomly try stuff out as and when it pops into my head and before I know it I have a new project, pattern, blog post well underway. An essential tool for applying this technique is to have a notebook/sketchbook and pencil with you at all times!

Remember: the end result isn’t always the be all and end all.

Children never suffer from these creative blockages, they create with that beautifully uninhibited approach of simply enjoying the process without focusing on the end result being the be all and end all. Social media, whilst being a wonderful place to share, encourage and seek inspiration that can help you rediscover your sew-jo, can also be a place to make you feel inadequate and like you’re not coming up to scratch. If so, unfollow the people who most make you feel that way or take a break completely for a while. Most important is what you’re doing and how much you’re enjoying it, not what everyone else is doing.

On a bigger, longer term solution I think it’s healthy for creative types to build variety into their everyday working and / or hobby lives.

I think I’m quite lucky in that I’ve managed to carve myself a job where I get to do a variety of differently creative tasks. Take writing this column! I love writing and it’s great to have an outlet and a purpose to write  and while still being creative and thoughtful, it’s different to sewing.

I’ve also recently taken on a collaboration to work with a local charity on some clothes recycling projects and have recently finished my contribution for this year’s The Refashioners.

Even my most recently acquired hobby (learning how to play trumpet) taps into this need, I experienced my last creative lull about 18 months ago and realised that I needed to redress my work/life balance. I decided to learn a musical instrument because a) it’s good to keep learning b) it’s another creative outlet unrelated to what I do to earn a living and c) it’s something I know I can get absorbed in and get “flow” from, the way I can with sewing.

So, don’t give yourself a hard time, embrace a little creative block as part of the creative process and a reminder that you need a bit of variety and a bit of nourishment for your creative soul. Go out for a walk, take that online class and break out the colouring pencils!

Thanks to everyone who contributed their stories online.

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July’s MIY Maker(s)

July MIY Makers

In a shock result Maria and Kate were neck and neck in votes on Instagram, my blog and email responses to my newsletter, so they are both MIY Makers for July!!

Maria’s Wisewood dress and Kate’s Brightside shrug are both beautifully made garments with great fabric choices. I suspect they would each look at home packed into a summer holiday suitcase too.

Well done to Maria and Kate, they can now both choose their next MIY Collection sewing pattern for free.

Have you got what it takes to be August’s MIY Maker? Post your makes using my patterns online and you might make the final 4. Full details of how to enter here.

Good luck!

Vote for July’s MIY Maker

July MIY Makers

It’s that time again. OK, so it’s a bit early! That’s because I’m off on holiday on Friday so get your votes in today for who you think deserves to the the July MIY Maker.

What a lovely selection to choose from (clockwise from top left):

Leave a comment with your choice and I’ll be announcing the winner tomorrow (Thursday).

Voting will also be open on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.