Welcome to the inaugural post of my new blog – Making a Creative Life (total delusions of grandeur!). This is an online space for me to record and track my creative activity (pretty much exclusively sewing and dressmaking at the moment. It varies – according to a former colleague; one of my hobbies is collecting hobbies!).
I have always been interested in creating things. I loved painting and drawing when I was younger and for a while I was determined I was going to be an artist (I’m not; I’m a lawyer), and over the last ten years or so, and after a long break from sewing and creating in general, I have rekindled my interest in making things.
About four or five years ago I took a jewellery-making course with a good friend from work. I loved it. For a year or so I was quite obsessed with making earrings, necklaces and bracelets. I sold a few of them, wore quite a few, and gave away some as gifts. I haven’t really done much jewellery-making since then, but I have a habit of coming back to my hobbies after a while!
My current passion is making clothes. This is something that I have done on and off since I was about 13 or 14. My maternal grandmother taught me the basics of reading a pattern, cutting out fabric, and constructing a garment. She also bought me my first sewing machine; a Janome NewHome. It was very basic but did everything I needed – straight stitches in three lengths, various zigzags and a four-step button hole. Thank you, Granny! I still have that machine and it’s great as a spare and for when I am using two different colour threads and can’t be bothered to keep rethreading my main machine.
About five years ago I decided that I wanted to learn more about sewing so I attended a five-week course run by the Birmingham School of Sewing. It was useful in teaching the fundamentals, but we didn’t actually construct anything. As I had made some items in the past, I was able to use it as a springboard to get back into sewing. I started off as most people seem to: with a wrap skirt. In my case, I used a Tilly and the Buttons pattern for the Miette skirt. It was quick and easy to make so I made another in navy gingham with salmon-pink bias binding.
After this course, and about five years ago, my wonderful husband bought me a very much upgraded sewing machine, a Janome TXL 607. It is computerised and has more stitches than I could possibly imagine, but most of all, it makes sewing a lot of fun. For Christmas 2016 I was very generously given a Janome overlocker (the 9300DX) by my Mother-in-law . I absolutely love this machine and the professional finish it gives to my garments. There is now no limit to, and no excuses for not making, any garment I could possibly need (except bras – complex structural engineering required here! #fullbustproblems).
Until last year my clothes-making hobby was a fairly sporadic one, and I was not particularly adventurous. I periodically made wrap skirts, A-line skirts, long skirts (lots of skirts), and all wovens. Then I attended a two-day course at my local sewing shop, Guthrie and Ghani, taught by the amazing Layla Toteh. It was a game-changer! I made a Grainline Morris blazer, then on day two of the course I made another one. Then I went home and sewed a third one. I was hooked! I think it was a combination of the beautiful studio above the shop, the stunning fabrics available, the lovely, positive atmosphere, and Layla’s ability to make you believe that you really can sew whatever you want – nothing is too difficult!
Guthrie and Ghani is now a place I go to stare longingly at all the wonderful fabrics; where I book onto a course to get my sew-jo back when it begins to wane; and, where I go to buy patterns and seek advice on all aspects of my projects from the always-knowledgeable and ever-patient team. As it’s just under two miles from my house, I also feel justified in rewarding myself with a purchase if I walk there and back. Good for my physical health, not so good for my bank balance health.
At the start of 2017 I sort of made a resolution that I would make any clothes that I needed and I would refrain from buying ready to wear. I didn’t succeed and I succumbed to a number of Joules tunics and comfy M&S leggings (my sort of uniform now). I also had to plug a few gaps in my work wardrobe. However, I did make some items which I regularly wear: a Tilly and the Buttons Coco top, some Cashmerette Concord t-shirts, a few dresses and, most recently, a Tilly and the Buttons Cleo.
I intend to renew my pledge on 31 December 2017 to make as many items of clothing that I need in 2018! Items exempt from this are underwear, hosiery, and shoes.
Some projects that I have planned are:
- Lots more concord t-shirts – I have a gap in my wardrobe for long-sleeved, warm and comfy t-shirts.
- A Papercut Patterns Sapporo coat – I have just bought the most unbelievably stunning navy silk and hand painted gold fabric from Fabric Godmother. Seriously, it is the stuff dreams are made of!
- A Cashmerette Rivermont dress – Cashmerette patterns fit me really well (plus there’s the added bonus of not having to do a full bust adjustment).
- Another Cashmerette Upton dress – plain navy this time.