Sewing Inspiration

I’ve reported here about the sewing group – Chi Stitch – I run with Karen from The Draper’s Daughter.  We now have a lovely group of regulars who come along with a myriad of sewing and crafting projects and I find the whole experience inspiring – even if I don’t always get a lot of sewing done!

This has set me off thinking about my sewing inspiration generally.   I know both my grandmothers sewed and knitted, although I really only remember seeing my paternal grandmother in action.  She was Scottish and knitted very fast on long needles tucked under her arms.  During the Second World War I know that she knitted socks, gloves and balaclavas for soldiers.

My mother has always sewed, knitted, crocheted and generally made stuff  – and still does.   My dad was also an inveterate maker of things.  He made model boats with working steam engines, built furniture and kitchen units, made wooden toys.  He could turn his hand to just about anything.   I’m ashamed to say that I never really took the opportunity when I was younger to benefit as much as I could have done from their skills and knowledge.  There were other things that seemed of much more interest to me!  That’s not to say that we didn’t make things.  We were deprived of television for many years “for the good of our education” so we had to fill the time somehow when we weren’t sloping off to our friends’ houses to watch TV there.  Amongst other things we made rudimentary dolls’ clothes, knitted yards of woollen ‘tubes’ with the Knitting Nancy and made a mess with papier mâché.

At  secondary school I did needlework for the first three years.  Our teacher was sadly not inspirational.  We were taught the basics and I remember making a striped apron with a patchwork embellished pocket and a really hideous dress that I never wore.  Despite the lack of inspiration, I was quite good at sewing and remember one test when I had to pass my very neat seam finish samples to my friend behind me to copy because she had no idea what she was doing! Another friend and I always recall the time when she was sewing the pocket to her apron and it ended up attached to her skirt!

Of much more importance to me was my Food & Nutrition (aka Cookery) teacher who I have never forgotten.  She was a tiny and very feisty Welsh lady called Mrs Jones who I really liked – and she really liked me because I paid attention.  Not something I was necessarily well known for in some other lessons.  She taught me pretty much everything I needed to know and a few things I didn’t.  I honestly don’t think I’ll ever make my own flaky pastry – but I could if I wanted to.  I certainly won’t be stuffing a heart or sousing a herring!  Here’s Mrs Jones in the centre of the photograph.

Fast forward a number of years and after various forays into assorted crafts I decided I wanted a sewing machine.  I acquired a basic Singer and started making bags.  I also used it for sewing paper which probably didn’t do it the world of good, although it’s still working as my colleague now has it and is using it to make a new set of seat cushions for his boat!

Having decided I would like to try making clothes I popped into The Eternal Maker to ask Anna if they were planning to offer dressmaking classes.  She said they would if they could find someone to teach them.  I put her in touch with a friend of a friend and I started a six week course of lessons with Cath.  I made a skirt which turned out surprisingly well and we moved on to a second six week course.  After that we set up a little sewing group which met in the conference room at my office for a few months and I was on the road to a sewing obsession!

Back to Chi Stitch and I was so pleased last month when Cath came along for the first time! Without her I probably would have carried on sewing bags and paper decorations and never met all my lovely sewing friends.  Here she is with her knitting on the table reserved for Catherines – @cathysewsstuff is next to her and Catherine opposite her!  Karen is also there – her name does start with the right sound!

I can’t believe this picture was taken a month ago.  The next Chi Stitch is tonight at St George’s Church Hall in Cleveland Road, Chichester from 7.00 – 9.00 pm.  Everyone is welcome.

Just going back to school needlework teachers.  My sister, who can sew but doesn’t, had a sewing teacher whose response to anyone referring to “material” was “fabric dears, fabric”.  It’s an entrenched phrase in my family which we often repeat automatically when someone says “material” and then have to offer an explanation!

 

 

 

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Desert Island Patterns

I can’t remember how old I was when my parents decided that television viewing was not a suitable activity for young children and the TV disappeared from the house. I must have been at infants school but I had already had the exciting experience of seeing my letter to Junior Points of View displayed and read out on the programme! I had put in a special request to “Make Sooty Longer”. This was in the days before special effects so the BBC’s response was to stretch out a drawing of Sooty which clearly wasn’t what I was after.  I do remember being quite pleased at the time mind you!  How I wish I could find this clip in the BBC archive!

The upshot of the disappearance of the TV was that my sister and I just spent more time at our friends’ houses than at home so that we didn’t miss all the important stuff … Blue Peter, Bewitched, Top of The Pops, Alias Smith & Jones etc.  I got fed up of being asked at school “did you see?” and having to reply “we don’t have television”. Thankfully the grown ups finally relented when I was about 14 and a TV graced the corner of the living room once again.

You may wonder where this is going. Well, the lack of television meant that we listened to the radio and my childhood was filled with The Archers, Down Your Way, Gardeners’ Question Time, Letter from America and – most importantly for the purposes of this post – Desert Island Discs.  I’ve remained a fan of the radio and still listen to some of these programmes.

Desert Island Discs always sets me thinking what music I would choose but that usually ends up making me emotional because the choices often remind me of my dad.  Even the theme music to the programme can bring tears to my eyes!

So, I thought I’d change the theme and go for Desert Island Patterns!  If I was marooned on a desert island what patterns would I pick that I would be happy to stick with for what might be a very long time?  Obviously I would need to have been washed up with a sewing machine and fabric but I’m happy to go with some artistic licence here.

When I mentioned this idea to Mr Jane-Makes he thought eight patterns was probably too many for an on-going blog series so I’ll see how I go.  He likes to think of himself as my editor.

Let’s start with #1 today, although the choices will be in no particular order.

This has to be the Esme Dress pattern which is included in the excellent and inspiring book by Lotta Jansdotter.

I received this book as a gift from my sister and although the Esme is the only pattern I’ve used so far I do enjoy flicking through it and I’m sure I’ll try some of the other patterns eventually.  To be absolutely honest I did try the Pilvi Jacket but I somehow traced the pattern off incorrectly and the toile ended up in the bin!  I will have another go.

I’ve made several versions of the dress and I’ve had so many compliments on the bright green one. I could probably live in the denim version.  The Esme is so comfortable and dresses make getting ready in the morning so much easier.

There isn’t a sleeveless version of the dress in the book but I’ve made two striped versions sans sleeves which were perfect in the June heatwave.  I just edged the armhole with bias binding.  There’s no zip or other fastenings to worry about and it’s a great pattern to show off a dramatic print. There’s a bust dart and a neck facing and that’s it.  The pattern comes with patch pockets and I’ve also added in-seam pockets as an alternative.

It works particularly well with the curtain remnants I like to pick up and my good friend @vintage_charity is gifting me a piece of this charity shop find which will be perfect.

There’s also a top version of the pattern. I’ve made one so far and have more planned, including a sleeveless one.

Three of these dresses were made last year and are currently in the alterations pile because they are now too big.  They may end up being refashioned into something else – or the charity shop may benefit.  Either way, they will be replaced by more Esmes and this pattern will definitely be in the lifeboat!

Going back to televisions for a moment … my grandparents were also television-free but succumbed to the small screen in their later years and were completely converted.  I couldn’t believe that my discerning grandfather could be found watching soap operas!  My mother is also a big fan of the TV these days and is currently working her way through Netflix!

Don’t forget it’s the next meeting of the Chi Stitch – the Chichester sewing group run by The Draper’s Daughter and me – this Wednesday, 9 August.  We’ll be at St George’s Church in Cleveland Road from 7.00 – 9.00 pm.  I’ll be baking tomorrow night and there might be Nutella involved!  I haven’t decided what I’ll be sewing but I might be finishing off yet another (curtain fabric) Esme which I started last night.  If not, I have another non-garment related sewing project in my head which I might make a start on.

 

Reflections on a Year

I know, an unusual time to be reviewing a year, but today is the first anniversary of Mr Jane Makes’ heart attack so I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few days thinking “this time last year”.  None of this particular reflection has anything to do with sewing but I just felt I needed to recognise the occasion.

Things could have been so different and I’m just thankful that he received such amazing treatment in hospital and, just as important, that he made the decision to turn things around and transform himself.  I’m so proud of him.

It was a scary time and I have to admit that for the first few weeks I felt very anxious every time I left him on his own and it was even worse once he started going out for walks and bike rides.  He has a somewhat cavalier attitude to danger at the best of times so I’ve always been relieved to see him re-appear on his bike (or roller blades) or to get a call at the end of a day’s skiing.   The added jeopardy was hard to handle.  I have a vivid imagination so living with action man is always going to be difficult!  At least now he’s doing all this with a set of arteries that are hopefully no longer in danger of blocking up.  One thing I’m particularly pleased about is that he’s now off the blood thinning medication as the above attitude to danger often results in injuries which for the last year have bled profusely over furniture, sheets, towels etc.

The final statistics from his new regime were – four stone lost, nine inches off his waist and cholesterol reduced from 6.8 to 2.7.  Quite a few people have said to me that they never really thought of him as overweight but these photographs definitely highlight the change in his appearance!

BEFORE

AFTER

The Park Run has been a great addition to his list of activities and although meant to be just for fun – his competitive nature means he’s always chasing a new PB and several of the other runners!  I’m there every week to cheer him on – and carry various people’s jackets/phones/wallets but I’m definitely NOT taking up running again!

Two other major things have happened during the last twelve months.  One horribly sad and one incredibly lovely.  I lost my dad in January and I’m not sure I’ve even started to come to terms with that.

However, on what would have been his 87th birthday, Mr J-M’s daughter gave birth to the adorable Baby J which means that this can still be a happy day.    Here’s some photographs from our visit yesterday.  She is just perfect. There was some amusement at my expense because she looks a lot bigger when I’m holding her!  It won’t be long before she’s as tall as me!

All the more reason to stay fit and healthy!  I’m just so glad he’s still here.