All through my life I have been absolutely guilty of admiring other people’s skills and immediately wanting to give it a go. I can remember being in year 5 of primary school and, during a summer outdoor performance, watching a year 6 girl squeakily playing ‘Little Brown Jug’ on the clarinet, and thinking – that’s the instrument I want to learn! When I see someone deftly demonstrating a craft I haven’t seen first-hand before, I often think – I must give that a go! Perhaps it’s the curse of the over-achiever, or of a lifelong creative, that you want to be able to do everything. It’s also a kind of gift, in that I can’t keep my hands still for an evening and so constantly push myself to learn new things in my spare time.
In this way, inspiration is never out of the blue. One thing always leads to another – a back and forth process of shared inspiration, progression and collective influence. The things we learn and master depend on the things that our family do, the performances we go to, what our friends are into, things we’ve read about or what happened to come on the television when we switch it on. I love the way that life develops in those wonky progressive lines.
Dom bought me a magazine called “The Simple Things” which is absolutely 100% up my street – full of craft ideas, foraging, beautiful handmade things, and ideas for appreciating life’s simple pleasures. In one issue was a book review – Simple Sweet Clothes by Noriko Sarahara. I decided that for £10, a book of simple and rather artsy dress patterns and instructions would be a small price to compel me to learn a new skill. That, and the fact that it would motivate me to visit my grandmother more frequently, who was always keen to pass on some sewing skills and who had given me an old Janome sewing machine a few years before. Plus, I had very little paid work at the time, and I’d already got the hang of crochet a couple of months before so was hankering after a new way to break up the job applications and interviews ;).
I took my grandmother for a trip to Daventry market where, she informed me, the cheapest fabric stall in the Midlands could be found! Over a cup of tea, she helped me choose a couple of simple projects to get started with and I fell in love with this Liberty print fabric at the market – the print reminds me of foraging for berries!
I learned how much there is to sewing a piece of clothing from start to finish. Knowing how much fabric to buy at the market (because your pattern only fits on it in certain directions!), tracing the pattern off an immensely complicated looking sheet which has all of them on, overlapping. This thin, squared, pattern paper was definitely worth buying. I didn’t realise that one of the longest parts of the process is just tracing, marking out, and cutting your pattern – making sure that you have all the correct seam allowances and measuring it so that you know you have it straight down the weave of the fabric. Sewing itself seems like a tiny part of the process! And I have found that a few tasks that are less fun – tacking, and ironing or ‘pressing’ – are really, actually necessary. 🙂
But it’s all worth it once you have made your very own, first piece of clothing. I adore this shirt and I expect everyone I know has seen me wearing it. I’m planning to wear it for my foraging workshop on Saturday! It’s my forager shirt now. So comfortable… and a great conversation starter too. I’d really recommend this book if you’re thinking of starting out with sewing because the clothes are so stylish and relatively simple, each pattern introduces you to a slightly different skill (this shirt includes clipping corners and curves, gathering & setting in sleeves, and elasticated sleeves). However, be aware that this book assumes you know a lot of the skills and terminology already – so you would need someone to help you get started. Having done just one pattern I feel like I’m much more confident at getting on with things on my own. I would highly recommend having a grandma on hand to show you how to do a few of them first.