Welcome to my little corner of the internet! How are you getting on? Are you finding what you need?
Grab a cup of tea and pull up a chair and we can have a chat!
A little bit about me.
I’m a wife, daughter, sister and mum. I have 4 sons and a three legged cat, and the 7 of us live in the flat bit of Norfolk. It’s very close to where Norfolk joins onto Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. We live in a large village, which means amenities and transport links, but also open fields and cleaner air within walking distance.
I’ve always loved making things ever since I was very small. One of my earliest memories is of making a Santa mask from cotton wool and a cereal packet!
The soundtrack from my childhood includes the whirring of my mum’s sewing machine. My grandmother sewed, and so did her mum. Knitting and crochet feature too, so I come from a long line of women who made stuff.
When I was 10 my mum taught me how to use the sewing machine and I learned how to knit and crochet at about the same age. Needless to say I was hooked!
As I got older, I made clothes for myself, sometimes with a pattern and sometimes without. When I moved into my own place, I made cushions to make it homey.
Time moved on and we bought out house here, and it’s full of things I’ve made. From cushions and blankets to bunting and tea towels, there’s very little in the way of soft furnishings that we’ve actually bought.
When the babies started arriving, I made things for them too. Little hats, dungarees, I even made a jacket that got left a bus! Having 4 boys means that I haven’t made any little dresses, but maybe they’ll provide me with some granddaughters to sew for when they’re older!
Now I don’t make as many things for them, but they’ve all had a go at making things for themselves. My 2nd son even made a furry hat for the cat after a video he saw on YouTube!
Tea and a Sewing Machine began as a way for me to share the things I had made.
As an ex teacher, the most natural thing to do was to explain how I had made them, and before long Tea and a Sewing Machine became a craft tutorials kind of blog.
It’s gone through several iterations before becoming the place it is today. The earliest versions were really awful! I knew nothing at all about design, photography, websites or anything other than making stuff, and it showed!
But I learnt, and over time things have improved. But I’m not just on a technology and photography kind of journey, I’m on a sewing and making things journey too. I’m glad you’ve chosen to travel along with me for some of the way!
Several years ago after a frustrating experience with a dress pattern, I started experimenting more with making clothes for myself, using my own ideas and my own measurements.
What I learned was that it’s definitely possible! The most successful attempt was a dress I made to wear to a wedding in 2015. It was a circle skirt with a bodice added, made from 2 pieces of fabric. After the wedding I wore it at least once a week whenever the weather was warm enough!
The success of this dress led me to make others in a similar style. It also inspired me to write my first ebook, Making Clothes Without a Pattern (it’s here if you’re interested in having a look!).
More recently I’ve become concerned about the impact of throwaway fashion on the environment, and the pay and conditions of the people who work in the factories overseas.
There are several things I’ve come to realise while I’ve been gulumphing along this road.
The first is that making mistakes is part of the creative process.
When it comes to making mistakes, I have made them all.
I’ve sewn over my fingers (more than once!). I’ve sewn what I’ve made to what I’ve been wearing. I’ve hidden messy patches with big bows and ruffly flowers. I’ve made things that are too big and have needed adjusting, and things that have been too small and have needed extra bits to make them bigger (or I’ve given up and given it to my sister!). I’ve bought patterns in the wrong size, chosen fabric that was unsuitable, and I’ve made such huge disasters that I’ve had no choice but to put it back into the fabric pile and eventually turn it into something elseeee.
But you know what? We learn at least as much from our mistakes as we do from the things that turn out well. Sometimes when we ask “what if…?” the answer is “that doesn’t work”. In order to make it work it might need some small adjustments. Other times we might need to start again. But either way, the things to ask are “what have I learnt?” and “what will I try next?”
The second thing is that making things ourselves is surely part of the solution to the ecological disaster that is the fashion industry.
There is nothing like wearing an outfit that you’ve made yourself. You won’t bump into somebody who’s wearing the same thing and you won’t have to worry about looking like you belong to an organisation that buys its uniforms from Marks and Spencer.
You might look like an overgrown, overweight, middle aged fairy (been there!) or like you’re on the run from a 50s themed tea party (been there too!), but who cares? We’re all individuals. So let’s use our creativity to express who we are in all our unique craziness through what we wear and in the other things we make.
The implication of making things yourself is that nobody in their right mind is going to throw out something that took them hours to make. If it doesn’t fit, we’ll adjust it. If it develops a hole, we’ll mend it. When it gets to the point where we really can’t wear it any more, we might still be able to salvage some of it and use it in another project.
Having these kinds of skills also mean that we can repair shop bought clothes, adjust them when they don’t fit and change them when when we get bored of them.
That’s a lot about me! But the point is that it’s not about all me!
I want to share all of this with you. The things that have worked and the things that haven’t. The projects and the the things I’ve learnt along the way.
So stay for a little while will you? It’s going to be fun!