Did you have a gateway person or experience that brought you to sewing?
Both my mother and grandmother sewed, the latter professionally, so it surrounded me in my childhood. Young me, however, thought “sewing was stupid” and I refused to have anything to do with it and never learned. So, I came to sewing in a decidedly more modern way. One sunny spring afternoon, I stumbled across a bit of a lifestyle fluff piece online about the home sewing resurgence and Me Made May. That article led me down a rabbit hole of sewing blogs, ending with Tilly and the Buttons. As I devoured Tilly’s blog and how accessible she made sewing seem, I just had this sudden “I could do that” moment. The next day I bought a sewing machine (after first spending the morning figuring out where one could even buy such a strange object!). One day later, I’d sewn my first ever wrap skirt. I was hooked! It was like there had been a sewing-machine shaped hole in my heart that I never even knew existed until that day! For the record, a photo of my Nana sits on my sewing table accompanying me and gently mocking me over the fact that I needed a lifestyle fluff piece to introduce me to something that surrounded me my entire childhood!!
How would you define your style?
Can linen be a style? How about stripes?? My style is definitely a work in progress. When I first started sewing, I sewed more girly vintage-inspired fit-n-flare dresses than I could ever wear in a lifetime!! Although I’ve been sewing a while now, it’s only been relatively recently that I’ve stopped jumping from garment to garment and tried to think about my personal style in more wholistic terms. Stumbling across a copy of The Curated Closet was a game-changer for me here. I think today I would describe my style as slightly preppy minimalist with a weakness for a statement dress.
What are the tools you can’t live without?
A camera!!!!! Hear me out on this one! Before I started my blog, I never took any photos of my makes. Each make went off the sewing machine and into the wardrobe. But, the process of photographing all my makes for the blog and Instagram has been the single-best tool in enabling me to learn about my sewing and how to improve it. It’s incredible how much you can learn from looking at your garments from angles you don’t usually see!!!
What is your favourite thing you’ve made?
I usually swear that my most recent sewing project is my favourite but that could just be the me-made adrenalin rush of finishing a project speaking! I was totally captivated by the spirit of the #sewfrosting challenge and I’d say one of my all-time favourites was definitely the outfit I sewed for that. It felt all kinds of liberating to throw practicality to the wind and sew printed linen at the onset of winter. And I would never have dreamed of sewing anything with sequins without the sewfrosting push!!
What is your favourite Closet Case Pattern?
This is a tough one, since I am an uber-Closet Case fan. Or addict. Not sure there is much of a difference!! And since I’m yet to sew a Closet Case pattern I didn’t like, it makes it even harder to pick a favourite! The pattern I’ve sewn the most is definitely the Kalle shirt – I think I’ve sewn seven of them – covering all possible lengths and variations!! But my favourite Closet Case Patterns are probably those which bring me a sense of being more than just a sewing pattern but are a sewing or style “level up”. Both Ginger and Morgan Jeans gave me the most amazing feeling of “damn, I can sew anything”. The Sasha trousers and the Pietra Pants are also special to me because they gave me major “Ah-ha” moments in which “I’d spent my entire life thinking that I just couldn’t wear this shape” was replaced by “I totally can, as long as I can adapt it to the quirks of MY body”!
How does sewing affect your relationship to shopping and RTW?
I don’t think I have much of a relationship with shopping and RTW anymore (fabric shopping aside of course!). I don’t shop for clothing a lot and the only things I buy tend to be basics or knitwear. I think sewing gives us a great way of opting-out of the RTW slog. It’s entirely subversive to be able to break free from the limited options, colours, fabrics, trends and sizes; every time I see supposedly high-end “quality” brand selling garments made out of polyester I want to scream!
But, more significantly, sewing is subversive simply because we appreciate the labour that goes into making a garment. Of course, there’s still a lot that’s troubling in the textile production industry and sewing doesn’t solve all the problems, but the simple act of being able to properly understand the value of what goes into a garment makes it impossible to look at RTW and shopping in the same way. The thing is, sewing has always been kind of subversive and I love feeling connected to that. For my Nana, sewing was a way for her to use her mad sewing skills to make sure that she and her 12 (!!!!) kids were always looking great even if there’s no way they could have afforded buying clothes of such quality. And at various times and places throughout history, sewing and handicrafts have provided women with a sphere of independence and influence that was often sorely lacking in other parts of their lives. But, I think I’m drifting somewhat here….
How does sewing relate to your body image?
Both sewing and, maybe even more importantly, being part of the online sewing community, have been transformative of my body image. It’s liberating to realize that the fitting room cry of “what’s wrong with my body” can actually be translated into: my waist is proportionally larger than my hip and bust, I’m long in the torso, I have fuller upper arms and thighs. Those are all mathematically solvable problems – there’s no longer any need to cry to the heavens in despair!
But, even more so than sewing itself, I’ve found being part of the online sewing community to be transformative of my body image. Delving into the sewing world on Instagram and sewing blogs has genuinely been the first time in my life where I am regularly exposed to photos of women of all shapes, sizes and ages proudly saying “look at me wearing these clothes”. Normalizing this has really helped me internalize a positive body image in a way I’ve never done before! Screw fashion magazines, sewing insta is the best place to see glowing, vibrant, thinking people revelling in a love of fibre and clothing! It’s really given me a new ‘normal’.
What was the best lesson or skill that took your sewing to the next level?
Sewing the Jasika blazer, following along with the online course, totally blew my sewing mind! It really stretched the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of. It gave me a new appreciation of fitting and completely opened doors as to the kind of professional finish I can achieve when I really take the time to muslin, to search out correct supplies, to press like my life depends on it and to hand stitch when needed!
How was sewing impacted or interacted with your identity?
Sewing has had a huge impact on my identity – it’s been somewhat transformative. Before I discovered sewing, I had no idea that I was a creative person. Sewing has reawakened the child-like joy of making and creating that I now can’t imagine living without. I also feel that it has been invaluable to my mental health. It’s my only regular, sustained form of self-care and it makes me a more balanced person in all facets of my personal and professional life. It has been consistently shown that creative pursuits and outlets can help people manage stress and the challenges of modern life. And I’ve definitely experienced some low moments where having sewing as a refuge has enabled me to find a much-needed balance in a busy world of life as a Mum with a stressful full-time job living on the opposite side of the planet from her family. In a world that seems increasingly out of control, sitting down in my corner and making something beautiful, one step-at-a-time, gives me a sense of achievement and purpose that goes far beyond the garment in question.
What makers or sewists in our community do you find inspiring?
I’m kind of old-fashioned in that I’ve still got a real thing for sewing blogs. Instagram is a nice glossy catalogue, but blogs get me thinking about how a garment will fit into my real life. For the first 4 years of my sewing life, my only interaction with the online sewing community was regularly checking favourite blogs and googling potential pattern purchases to read blog reviews about it. I like to think that I probably wasn’t the only person who interacted with the online community in that way and there are probably plenty of people who still do something similar. So despite the much-heralded “end of the blog”, for me it’s still sewists who blog that I find most inspiring.
In this vein, I have a real soft spot for those sewists who still post substantial content-heavy details about their makes: I’m thinking of people like Fiona Parker, What Katie Sews, Jasika Nicole, Lladybird, Handmade by Carolyn, Kirsten over at Fifty Two Fancies . My favourite sewing blogger at the moment is probably Lia over at Pound Cake Sewing– she writes blog posts that inevitably make me both laugh out loud and also learn a decent sewing tip in the process!
What experiences have come out of your interaction with the online sewing community?
The online sewing community, both through my blog and on Instagram, has given me a sense of connectedness that I couldn’t have imagined when I first started. I think it’s the first time in my life that I really feel like I’ve found my people. And even though we come from different walks of life, I find it wonderful how often we are able to relate to each other’s experiences. I’ll never forget one day down in the dingy basement gym at my work I almost fell off the elliptical trainer because Helen and Caroline started to read out a message I’d written to them on the Love to Sew Podcast. And it never ceases to amaze me that there are thousands of people out there who can totally relate to the things I have to say about sewing!
When someone reaches out to me and says something along the lines of “I’m also a size 14-16 in this pattern and seeing how great this looks on you makes me think that it must look good on me too”, I feel like it’s totally worth the effort of being part of the online community. Helping even just a few people realize that they can look and feel entirely fabulous in what they make is more than I could ever hope to do!!
Especially in currently troubled times, it is wonderful to be part of a community characterized by support, empathy and kindness. Communities of that nature are pretty thin on the ground and we should continue to cultivate and strengthen the wonderful one we have!!