I was out cycling through the glorious Sussex countryside this morning; the sun was shining and it felt like Spring could be just around the corner. This is the perfect distraction-free thinking time for me, and I planned a whole introductory blog post! Unfortunately, after 15 miles and too many hills it had all gone a bit fuzzy. But it definitely began with my musings about why I sew, and why I want to blog about sewing.
I’ve been sewing for almost 20 years now, but having never had a sewing lesson in my life, it’s taken a long time to get where I am. I’ve learnt to sew by following numerous patterns, reading books, and in more recent years watching the occasional YouTube clip and looking up on-line tutorials. But by far the most valuable teachers have been trial and error. I’ve made every mistake in the book (some of them more than once, I’m sure) and I expect I will make many more! However, I realised last year that the mistakes now have become few and far between. In recent years, I’ve gone from reckless and speedy, fingers-crossed sewing, to patient and considered sewing, trying out new techniques and new fabrics. And this works for me.
It occurred to me the other day that for some time now, I have, for the most part, been wearing my own handmade clothing every single day. Sometimes it’s a top I’ve sewn with a pair of high street jeans, but more often than not, I’m wearing one of many dresses that I’ve sewn myself, and am truly happy with. I like the style, and the fabric; it didn’t cost the earth, it’s well made, nobody in the school playground is wearing the same, and above all it fits! This is why I sew: to get exactly what I want, and to feel a little thrill of pride and achievement whenever I wear it. I know there are a lot of people out there who would love to learn some sewing skills, and I’m beginning to feel like I have something great to share. I’ve lost count of the times somebody has told me: “I have a sewing machine but I just don’t know where to start”!
For the past few years I’ve been designing and making bags and accessories (a selection above), which I’ve sold at craft fairs, and online. But recently my focus has changed as my daughter wanted me to teach her to sew. She’s always been interested in what I’m doing, and from the age of seven I’ve occasionally helped her to use the sewing machine to make a little something – heavy on the help of course! At the age of nine I realised she was more than capable of listening carefully and following instructions. A Mum at my children’s school had set up an after school art club for the kids, and I realised that a sewing club could work equally well. And so ‘Stitch Club’ was born. Since the Summer term of 2015 I’ve been teaching a group of 9-11 year olds (including my own daughter) to sew. They’ve tried embroidery, and sewed their work into cushions; they explored the use of felt and embellishments to make a soft toy; they carefully stitched applique motifs and sewed them into tote bags; at Christmas they made Santa hats and decorations; and now they are getting stuck into some colourful cross stitch designs.
I’m having so much fun planning their projects and seeing the improvements they are making with hand sewing, and their growing confidence on the sewing machines. Several Mums have been asking when there will be a Stitch Club for adults, and I did take on a handful of one-to-one adult sewing students last year. So 2016 is the year when I’m finally going to organise some sewing workshops and courses, which I’ll run from my home. Exciting times ahead and lots of ideas for things to make and teach.
If you’d like to keep up with my sewing stories and hopefully a few tips and tutorials, please follow the Needleswift blog. You can also find me on Facebook at Jenny Gale, Handmade
If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading my very first blog post. Here’s to handmade goodness, and new adventures.