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The Orchard Garden Collection for Liberty October 11, 2018 21:11

I loved being involved with the development of Liberty's latest quilt range The Orchard Garden.  

I had my first preview back in January when the head designer Mary-Ann came up to visit my Ilkley studio.  I instantly fell for a couple of the signature prints including Pheasant Forest.  The design is similar to Jess & Jean on Tana Lawn with delicate details perfect for piecing into a quilt.

The first strike-offs arrived in the Spring, and we designed the Orchard Star Quilt as a free project to accompany the collection. This pattern can be downloaded from Alice Caroline's website here, where you can also buy fabrics. 

I made the quilt in time for Festival of Quilts in August and I am pleased to know that it is now travelling the world at trade shows and exhibitions. 

Each of the prints tells a story and you can hear all about them in my short video here.

Thanks for stopping by. 

Jenni 


Quilting is cheaper than therapy September 21, 2018 16:50 3 Comments

Every week I teach quilting at my studio in Ilkley.  Many of the women have been sewing with me for a number of years.  In fact, over 95% of our customers stick around, and have warned us that we are never allowed to close the studio doors!

We often discuss the fact that the cost of the each term of classes, is much cheaper than therapy.  Whilst it's a bit of a joke now, the mental health benefits of practising a craft in the company of others is real. I witness it day in, day out and it's an amazing experience.

I can recall so many moments of laughter, as well as the odd moan.  Someone gauging opinions on a situation, another person struggling with illness.  Tears, scandals, hilarious conversations, revelations - the whole lot!  

                              (We don't always drink prosecco and sew!)

The common thread is that everyone always leaves feeling better than when they arrived.  Focussing your mind on a quilt project helps to shut out the unwanted noise.  Creative inspiration from like-minded people lifts your mood.  Stroking fabric  brings happiness. Making beautiful things enriches your life.

I know for a fact that if I don't sew for a few days then I get grumpy.  It's my passion and my release in equal measure.  I figure out quite a lot of problems whilst my hands stitch,  and I am very grateful for all the special friendships that quilting has brought into my life. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this? 


My First Aurifil Thread Collection August 09, 2018 08:03

Hope you are all having a lovely Summer.   

I’m super excited to share my first thread collection as a designer for Aurifil!  I felt very honoured when they approached me to work on their first ever box dedicated to dressmaking.  The collection contains 10 small spools of different weight cotton thread that I have hand-picked based on all the different garments I have made in recent years.  There are two 50 wt threads that are perfect on silks and Liberty lawns.  Three 40 wt spools for sewing up a Hepworth Apron or Riley Dress.  Two 28 wt which make more defined stitches on bag projects or jackets.  And three gorgeous 12 wt spools for topstitching, sashiko and visible mending.  

As a Collection I want it to be really useful but also to allow people the chance to experiment with Aurifil’s different weight threads, sewing by hand and machine.

Why Cotton thread?

I have nothing against polyester thread when making clothes but I do prefer using a cotton thread on cotton fabrics.  Seams lay flatter, on lighter fabrics it handles better and it doesn’t damage the fabric over time which a polyester thread could do.  

You can learn lots more by tuning into my Facebook Live with Aurilfil on Friday 10th August at 3pm BST.

The Collection is available to buy on Stand C1 at The Festival of Quilts starting tomorrow, Thursday 9th August and will be coming to the website soon and is available to shops via Aurifil worldwide.

 


I am a designer for The Splendid Sampler 2 April 11, 2018 06:00 1 Comment

This is a very exciting milestone for me and I am glad I can finally talk about it after many months of secret planning!

The Splendid Sampler kicked off in 2016 with 84 designers producing 100 quilt blocks for people to make throughout the year. Pat Sloan (in the US) and Jane Davidson (in Australia) are the masterminds behind the whole project and managed to engage thousands of creative people around the world. 

I loved watching my friends get involved and following the project on Instagram and Facebook.

I met Pat and Jane at Spring Market in St Louis last May and admired the first Splendid Sampler quilt in all its glory. They are very warm, talented and hard-working women. 

Several months later I received an email asking me to take part in the follow-up project (Splendid Sampler 2) and it meant a great deal to me.  There are so many designers who I admire and respect in the group and I am hoping to learn a lot of new things as I work through the blocks and share my experience. 

I am planning on some video tutorials and studio workshops too, and to create my own Splendid Sampler quilt. 

My Splendid Sampler 2 block 

The design has a story that is close to my heart, but that is all that I can share for now. 

My fabric choices

Erm, Liberty of course!! I have had a head start on quite a few blocks and it is working a treat. 

Want to join me?

People who have followed me for a while will know that I love a community quilt project. Sewing socially, chatting and making new connections is my main motivation when quilting these days so I hope lots of you will join in too. Keep following my blog for details of social sew-alongs and videos. There may be a few giveaways to celebrate too. 

To find out lots more here is the link:

Splendid Sampler Homepage

For my earlier thoughts on community quilt projects click here.

 Thanks for reading. 

Jenni x


Why Jenni Smith sewing and quilt patterns are unique March 24, 2018 15:51 2 Comments

On the eve of the release of my debut quilt pattern, Morris Mouse, I wanted to share a few insights. 

The strongest value in my business is to be helpful. This goal drives the studio classes that I teach, and the patterns that I produce.  I want people to improve their skills and to feel the sense of pride and achievement that I love at the end of a craft project. 

I know from experience that written instructions for any sewing or quilt pattern can be tricky - however well drafted.  I have been frustrated, confused and, at times, I may even have had a little cry when I just don't get it!

Therefore, when I wrote down my vision for the Jenni Smith Studio I pledged to produce video tutorials to compliment my products.  I am primarily a visual learner, and if I can watch a process then I find it much less daunting to have a go.

Video production is time consuming and costs money.  Many other pattern designers charge a fee for online tutorials.  However, I like to see this as my USP and the feedback on the Hepworth Apron tutorials, which have already had over 17,000 views, has been really encouraging.  

Producing Morris Mouse has been a whirlwind, with a close deadline to be able to share him on my Liberty show for Sewing Quarter this weekend.

Kay has worked on the pattern design, we have both stitched samples and tested instructions. Our designer has worked up the graphics and our printers were amazing. This week we squeezed in 2 days of filming and I have been editing the videos until the early hours each night.  Life in a small business is never boring. 

I am really proud of the finished product and I hope you are encouraged to have a go at sewing Morris up. The videos can all be watched on my YouTube channel or right here on my website, and your feedback is always much appreciated. 

The pattern is available to buy in our online shop from 10am on Sunday 25th March. 

Thanks, 

Jenni 


Our debut quilt pattern is on its way! March 17, 2018 08:19 58 Comments

Happy World Quilting Day 2018! 

We have been very busy behind the scenes producing our first studio quilt pattern. 

Introducing Morris Mouse.  A dapper young chap, inspired by Liberty's Cottage Garden range.  He loves relaxing amongst the cosmos flowers and bluebells, which surround his cosy thatched cottage. 

 How is he made?

Morris is a foundation pieced sewing pattern.  This means that you sew through the paper templates on your sewing machine and then remove the paper afterwards.  It's a technique that allows you to make very accurate lines and we love it! 

When can I buy him? 

Morris is making his debut on Sewing Quarter TV on Sunday March 25th at 10am. He will also be available on our website the same day.

I will demonstrate how to make him during the show and some Liberty fabric kits will be available. 

How much? 

The Morris Mouse pattern is £12. 

A pdf version will be available in May for £8. 

Giveaway!

To celebrate World Quilting Day we are giving away a Morris Mouse pattern.

Simply write your name in the comments below and ensure that you are also registered on our mailing list.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Jenni x 

Saturday 23rd March - giveaway update!

The winner (chosen at random by a number generator) is Sharon Buford.  Thank you all for entering. 

The pattern is available to buy at 10am on Sunday 25th March from our online shop. 

 

 

 


Happy International Women's Day 2018 March 08, 2018 07:00 4 Comments

It's fair to say that if it wasn't for some of the female population of West Yorkshire I wouldn't have a business!  So today, on International Women's Day I am celebrating everyone who supports me by coming to classes at the studio.

Back in 2011, a small group took a chance that I might be able to help them to sew when I offered quilting classes in the Promises Auction at my children's school.  It was in my home, with quilt templates cut from cereal packets and the chaos of family life surrounding us.  I tried my best, we cracked on together and it gave me the confidence to teach a few more people.  

Three years later I rented a room at Ilkley Playhouse and went round baby groups in the town to recruit new mums who wanted to bring their babies and learn to sew.  I started out with just 2 or 3 but gradually these sessions were fully booked and some amazing women joined the gang. Many of them still come to classes today, managing to carve out a bit of creative time for themselves in-between careers and family. It is wonderful to see their skills and confidence develop. 

Committing to open my new, grown-up space at the Corn Mill in 2017 could have been terribly scary, but because I have so many great women who sign up to classes each month,  I took the leap!  My regulars are the lifeblood of the studio.  They help each other, test my patterns, advise me on what to do next, bring cake, bring fish and chips, share fabric and I couldn't do it without them.

 

Not forgetting Kay - who I taught in those first sessions at my house 7 years ago.  Officially her role is studio manager, but it is fair to say that she does quite a bit more than that! Off the top of my head job roles include sorting schedules, doing the accounts, teaching, quilt design, newsletters and keeping me on track when my head is busting with ideas and I have taken too much on.

 

All of the strong, creative, generous women I am surrounded by in my working life are the best part about my job.  Without them, it would be a pretty dull and mediocre journey.  Thank you if you are one of them.

Finally, how about, to celebrate International Women's Day, we all treat ourselves to some new fabric and carry on the good work!

 

 


Is craftiness inherited? March 03, 2018 07:00 9 Comments

Earlier this week I attended the funeral of my Great Auntie Margaret - a lovely celebration of her 96 years on this earth.  Margaret was my grandpa's sister and she is the one person in the family I am compared to the most.

I had lots of good parties with her over the years and loved going to her house to visit her and Uncle Cyril. We would eat cakes, listen to stories and hear her play the organ or laugh infectiously. In recent years she would be sat in her lounge with toy meerkats, other fun ornaments and a garden full of gnomes - watching Big Brother on the I pad or learning about something new across the world. 

At the funeral I learned that she worked as a weaver in the Lancashire cotton mills in the early 1940's, before serving in the TA during the war.  I believe that she was a self-taught seamstress - partly because she was very tall and well-built so, out of necessity, she made clothes to fit her well. She was always stylish, and unique. 

She apparently used to lay her son Michael out on the floor on her fabric, draw around him and then make all of his clothes.  My nan always used to say that she could pop to the shops, study a dress she liked and come home and make her own version, without a pattern and in time for Saturday night dancing at the Pallatine Nightclub in Nelson. Her house could be in chaos, tea not prepared but she had a new handmade outfit.  That sounds scarily familiar to me!

I only have memories of photographs of her handmade delights, and my parent's crackly black and white wedding movie.  In her nineties her eyesight was too poor to continue sewing.

However, she did travel to see my quilt exhibition back in 2014 (in some glasses she probably bought from QVC) - and she really loved it. 

Margaret and my Grandpa Stanley were passionate about creativity and confident in their ideas.  They both shared their skills and knowledge and didn't take life too seriously.  Remembering the two of them makes me incredibly happy to have had such fantastic role-models in my life - and I was proud to wear a handmade dress and coat for her memorial service!

 

 


Becoming a guest designer on Sewing Quarter February 21, 2018 14:46 4 Comments

Hi everyone, 

I think it is fair to say I have been neglecting this blog.  It began to feel scary, like a long overdue library book that you are too ashamed to take back.  The simple fact is that I have been all carried away with my other social media - easy to post from my phone and to share in seconds. 

However, this blog is important to me.  When I read back over the past few years it is the best record I have of my creative and business journey.  It has helped me to record experiences, and the important and inspirational people I have met. 

It is a way to connect with an audience of like-minded people and I am going to try my best to get back on track. 

Sewing Quarter TV

One big challenge since the Autumn has been filming live television as part of the design team at Sewing Quarter.  In my previous career I was an Associate Producer for the BBC and other channels, but always behind the camera. 

I was invited for a screen test in the summer and have now made 4 appearances.  I still feel quite sick before I go into the studio and can't really eat.  However, having a platform to teach and inspire people to get sewing at home is actually making it really enjoyable.  I basically pretend I am at my studio in Ilkley and share my thoughts as I do in my classes each week - slightly trickier with no students but the presenters Jon and Natasha chat away and an hour flies by incredibly fast. 

I haven't watched my shows back - just the odd snippet, and my husband can't watch either but my mum and dad tune in every time.  

I am representing Liberty on the channel for their quilting cottons (more on that soon) and my own Hepworth Apron has sold out super quick both times. 

There's a page on my website now where you can see the shows and the link is here:

Thanks for your patience and speak to you all soon x


A statement summer dress in Silhouette by Alison Glass September 03, 2017 18:00

Alison Glass is a fabric designer I love.  Her fabrics are bold, colourful and I have had a lot of pleasure from working with them in the past few years. 

Handcrafted was my choice for this Improv Quilt I made in 2016.  It is a collection of Indonesian batiks - very modern and fresh. 

I have also sewn up a storage basket with her Indigo handcrafted, and Kay made this cushion by Jeli Quilts recently for the studio. 

I met Alison and the Andover team at Quilt Market in May in St Louis.  Her booth was a little heavenly corner of everything I would like in my life.

The most exciting range for me was definitely the Silhouette collection, just  released and making its way to shops across the globe. It's a simple reverse border print in 4 colour ways and you have to stroke it in real life to know it is a beautiful soft lawn cotton with fantastic drape.

What to sew with silhouette?

You can certainly quilt with lawn cotton (think of all those Liberty beauties out there) but for me I was straight to garment planning. 

In my opinion, when a fabric speaks for itself, the key to success is to keep the garment as simple as possible.  I didn't want to begin shaping darts, creating a waist seam and interrupt the flow of the design. 

In the end I opted for a shirred, floaty dress.  I have made some for my daughter and enjoyed how easily they came together.  To avoid looking too child-like I avoided straps (they always seem to slide down),  and I also didn't fancy a halter neck as they can be quite uncomfortable to wear. So I have inserted a broad elastic band across the bust so I have no fear it will fall down, and some little sleeves to make it look more than just a tube when I am wearing it!

And here it is on the my summer holiday in Cornwall a few weeks ago - waiting for Poldark to ride by!

 

Free dress tutorial

The good news is if you fancy it, this dress requires no pattern.  All you need are approx 3 metres of Silhouette, a tape measure, approx 30 metres of shirring elastic and about 5 hours of free time - though you could do the shirring whilst watching TV as it requires little effort! 

To read the full step by step sewing directions watch out for my tutorial on The Village Haberdashery blog in a few week's time - they have the fabric available to pre-order too. 

In my experience Alison Glass fabrics sell out pretty quickly, so if you do want some then don't ponder for too long. 

Coming next on the blog is my portrait of Comet the dog for my friend and sewing heroine,  Anna Maria Horner.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment too - it's always nice to hear from you. 

You can also pop by our shop for classes and patterns just click here

 

 

 


The Big Stitch Campaign: How I made an evening dress from a curtain July 02, 2017 20:21 1 Comment

My studio has over 50 lovely sewists passing through each month and many hours are spent stroking fabric and getting over excited about new projects in like-minded company. Occasionally we do some work.

Grace came in a few months ago with a vintage curtain and I literally jumped up and down when I saw it.  The design had bold fruit in gorgeous colours, surrounded by a vine in turquoise. It reminded me of Marimekko fabric and Josef Frank all rolled into one.

I helped Grace to construct a simple shirft dress with it and she took it away to finish.

A few weeks later, Grace came back with the other half of the pair of curtains and gifted it to me. A random act of kindness which was very much appreciated.

 

When deciding what to sew up I knew I didn't want to break up the central panel too much, so needed a pretty simple pattern without too many darts and that would let the Design Guild print speak for itself.

The By Hand Anna dress was on my wishlist and I just managed to cut out the full length version.  It's a pretty fabric hungry pattern!

 

I was keen not to break up the pattern down the back so I decided to insert a side zip as the sleeve curves into the sideseams at the underarm anyway. I omitted the seam allowance at the centre back to compensate, and added a little extra at the side seam.

I overlocked all of the raw edges and hand sewed the hem.

Sadly there aren't any remnants to kit out the rest of the family in a Von Trapp style - though they are probably quite relieved.

I wore this dress at the Moda party at Quilt Market  last month and everyone kept stopping to ask me about it so it made quite an impression.  I should perhaps have not told them all it's history - but to be honest I was pretty proud to have upcycled a curtain into an evening dress that fits well and makes me smile! 

Inspired to have a go? The British Heart Foundation have the Big Stitch running for the whole of July.  Call into one of their shops, buy an item of clothing, some fabric or a scarf etc and turn it into a new garment to wear. 

You can read all about how to take part here

We are offering free studio time on Wednesday 5th, 12th and 19th July from 7.30 to 10pm for anyone who would like help on a sewing machine or overlocker to make their Big Stitch entry. Just drop us an email on studio@jenni-smith.co.uk.

Thanks for stopping by and please spread the word about this brilliant campaign. 

 

Also check out my YouTube channel here: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Girl with a Sewing Machine book review by Jenni Smith June 18, 2017 09:06

 

Girl With a Sewing Machine is a craft book with genuine soul and one of the nicest dressmaking titles I have read in quite a while. The reason it resonates is because Jenni is a down to earth person who truly wants to get people over that initial fear of making their own clothes. It is a much bigger step than some might imagine and it makes perfect sense to get cracking with old clothes or charity shop finds and to upcycle them. Looking back this is was I was doing from about the age of 9 with my best friend Laura – creating garments from our dressing up box, letting my imagination run wild and then enjoying the end results instantly. The alteration challenge on the Great British sewing Bee is always my favourite part, yet for some reason I have got out of the habit of just having a go and being adventurous. If it something that would otherwise be given away or never worn, then what is there to lose?

There are projects using different fabrics such as silk scarves or woolly jumpers meaning you can quickly learn how your sewing machine handles them, and what you prefer working with. I am definitely going to sew the mittens and snood from an old jumper for next Winter.

 

The technical details are nicely written too, in a friendly and accessible voice and Jenni looks so happy and confident in all of her makes that you want to get sewing and replicate her joy!

 

Having said that, Jenni has her own style and you may not want to recreate all the outfits exactly, but you can still learn plenty from the methods. I am not sure I could rock a tassel top, but I could sew one up for someone who could!

 

I think the self-drafted garments towards the end look appealing, though I have not yet had time to sew them up. The wrap-trousers are on my make-list and I will report back.

I would recommend buying the book for those friends who keep saying they want to sew but don’t know where to start. I would also recommend planning some sewcial nights with like-minded folk to have a go at some of the projects together, embracing the spirit of the #sewingrevolution.

The wonderful textile artist Ineke Berlyn was the spark for Jenni to start sewing and she sadly died earlier this year. My mum bought me her book on Journal Quilts a fews years back and I have admired her work ever since. I imagine that she would be super proud of Jenni’s book and I am sure it will give readers the same inspiration to make beautiful things.

In the spirit of upcycling I made this By Hand London Anna Dress out of a curtain - check back next week on the blog for all the details. 

Also read on for a brilliant hack of our Hepworth Apron pattern that you can buy here now (as a paper pattern or a PDF). 


Hepworth Apron Pinafore Dress Hack June 15, 2017 13:18

So what is a hack?

A hack is making changes to an existing pattern to create a different look.  It is a great way to add your own style and to build confidence in dressmaking. It gives you a good feeling at the end which far outweighs the nerves when you begin. 

So, as promised here are all the details of how to use your Hepworth Apron pattern to make a super stylish pinafore dress. The fit remains flattering and very contemporary. 

You can buy the Hepworth Apron here as a paper pattern or as a PDF (including a US version). 

You can follow the basic construction tips and free video tutorials included in the pattern, as well as reading the additional information below. We have made 3 videos just for the hack too (watch below). 

The secret to this hack is creating a skirt back which fits you well and sewing it to the apron front.

I didn't want a wrap over with too much fabric at the back of the skirt, so took the time to create a very simple pattern with 2 darts and a zip. It's quick and stress free to draw up and requires no specialist tools. 

The main learning point for the hack is inserting a centre-back zip, which I always put in a skirt where possible to make it hang nicely.  The trick is to do it early on so you can then fit the garment at the side seams. In the old days people were always taught to put the zip in as early as possible whilst the fabric is laying flat.  Access is easier, it gets the stressful part out of the way and the fact is you cannot fit around a zip, but you can fit so much better at the side seams once the zip is stitched in place and you can try it on. I hope when you try this method, it will be a game-changer, because it certainly was for me. 

What you need:

All of the Hepworth Apron pattern pieces 

Pattern paper (or newspaper) to draw your skirt block and trace strap

A tape measure

An invisible zip to match your choice of fabric (8 inches long)

Fabric

The hack requires less fabric than the apron if your fabric is 60 inches wide: buy 1.25 m

If you use 45 inches wide fabric you need an extra half metre as the skirt is wider: buy 2 m

I sewed up a looser fitting version where the straps cross at the back, and a more fitted version where they don't. I honestly love them both and get a lot of compliments when I wear them. I have at least another 2 planned - a lightweight gingham one for summer and a needlecord version for winter to team with colourful polo neck jumpers. 

My fitted version is based on the first set of measurements below.

The looser version is based on the second set of measurements.

So, grab a pencil and a ruler and try not to panic: 

Step 1

Drawing the skirt back

Begin by drawing a vertical line on your pattern paper which is 29 inches long

At the top make the top of the skirt 10 inches wide (for UK 8 to 12) and then mark the following points with a small dot ( I would recommend adding an extra 1 inch to all the measurement below for UK 14 to 18 and 2 inches for UK 20 )

7 inches down the vertical line measure 12 inches across the width of the skirt (or 13/14)

16.5 inches down the vertical line measure 13 inches wide (or 14/15)

29 inches down the vertical line measure 13.3 inches wide (or 14.3/15.3)

Join the dots on the right hand side and across the bottom. 

Mark a 1 inch wide dart which begins 5 inches from outside hip and is 4.5 inches long

You can also mark a notch on the centre back seam 9 inches from the bottom if you would like a split in the skirt for ease of movement. 

Top tipPin your paper pattern to the apron front pattern (A) before you cut it out and ensure it will fit around your waist and hips (allow 5/8 inch for your seam). If in doubt go a bit bigger as you can then fit it at the side seams once the zip is inserted. 

Step 2

Making a strap pattern

From the centre back edge of pattern piece B ( the long curved edge) draw a line across the width of the strap at  a depth of 19.5 inches.

Trace this slightly curved shape to make a new strap pattern, adding 2 inches to the top and label the top and the bottom so you don't get confused later.  Also copy the grainline off the pattern piece. Note the strap is on a slight angle so that it will hang correctly across your back. 

What else to decide before cutting out

Do I want my straps to be hemmed and a single layer of fabric as on the Hepworth Apron?  If yes just cut 2.

Do I want my straps to be double with a contrast fabric beneath? If yes cut 2 in outer fabric and 2 in your contrast of choice. 

Do I want my patch pockets to be in one fabric?  If yes cut 4 single pockets in total.

Do I want my pockets to have a contrast lining?   If yes cut 2 in outer fabric and 2 in your contrast of choice. 

 

Step 3

Lay out your pattern pieces and cut out

(Piece A is on the fold and straight - it's just the camera angle!!) 

Step 4

Pockets

The pinafore suits pockets and I can't live without them.  On the apron you can place on an angle but I think they look smarter straight on this hack.  You can sew them on to the apron front at this stage as access is easier than at the end.

I positioned mine approx 5 inches below the top of the side seam with approx a 4.5 inch gap between them at the centre front. 

Top Tip:  Baste your pockets half an inch from the edge so the stitches are easy to remove afterwards and don't get caught beneath your machine stitches. 

Top stitch. 

Step 5

Making up the skirt back 

Transfer the darts using tailor tacks and stitch them.  Press towards the centre back of the skirt. 

There is a quick video here on how to press darts: 

Step 6

Preparing to insert the zip

Read on or watch the video:

 Iron a strip of lightweight interfacing approximately 1 inch wide by 10 inches long to the centre back edge of the skirt. This helps the zip to sew in nicely. 

Overlock or zig zag the centre back seam of your skirt as this is the only exposed seam once the garment is finished.

Place the skirt right sides together and using a contrast thread machine baste from the top of the skirt 8 and a half inches down the seam (I use a 1 inch seam allowance for zips)- use the longest stitch length on your machine and do not secure stitches at the start or finish as they are only temporary! 

Now reduce your stitch length, put in the thread that matches your garment and sew from the point where the basting ends to the bottom of the skirt, or if you wish to have a split at the back of the skirt like me then finish off inches 9 inches before the bottom, securing with a backstitch. 

Next - press the entire seam open so it lays lovely and flat - this is your only chance to this as the zip goes in next.  

Step 7 Inserting the zip

Read on or watch the video, or both!!

Position the zip tape right side down 1 inch below the top edge of the skirt so the centre of the teeth sit on the seam line you created in step 6. 

Pin and baste it, only going through the seam allowance and not to the skirt front. These stitches can stay in place afterwards as an extra level of security so make them reasonably neat!

Now remove the temporary stitches in the contrast thread so you can access the zip to sew it in place. This is done from the right side of the skirt. 

Put your regular zipper foot on the machine and set the needle to the left position. Open the zip as far as it will go and then roll the zipper tape back and sew as close to it as you can - go slowly and make your stitch length about 3 so it's not too tiny. Again you are only sewing the zip tape to the seam allowance and not through to the skirt front. When you get as far as you can go, reverse and finish off. Shift the needle a little towards the edge of the zip tape and sew a line level with where you had to stop and the end of the tape. 

Repeat at the other side.

Top Tip: Never sew across the bottom of a zip - it creates an unnecessary bump that can be visible and the zip is very secure as it is. 

Now look at your zip from the front and admire it! If you feel you can still see some of the tape simply repeat the stitches a little closer to the zip teeth - you don't need to unpick the original rows so it is not too much work.

Step 8

Joining the front and back of the pinafore (step 2 and 3 in Hepworth Apron instructions)

Now that you have a functional zip you can pin the skirt back to the apron front using a 5/8 seam allowance and try it on. Decide on the height of the bib as this can be adjusted later with the straps and also how low you want the skirt to sit.  My looser version is level with the top of my hip bone rather than at my waist - but you then need a longer top to wear underneath. 

Once you are happy with the fit of your pinafore follow the Hepworth Apron instructions to sew and press your French seams.

Step 9

Hemming the bib

Press a double hem from the bib to the zip on both sides of the bib. Sew this BUT stop approx 1 inch beyond the side seams so you can slot the straps in later.

 Step 10 

Sewing and fitting the straps

Either turn under and hem the straps as in the Hepworth Apron instructions (step 4) or cut a second pair in a contrast fabric like this Liberty print I chose.

For the second option, pin and sew the longer edges of the strap together with right sides together and a half inch seam allowance. Turn right side out. Press. Top stitch if desired (use a stitch length of at least 3)  – ensuring the bobbin thread matches the colour of your contrast fabric beneath.

I used Aurifil 40 wt thread to top stitch on the denim and 50 wt sage green on the bobbin.  

Top Tip: Sage green is a brilliant colour to blend with multi-coloured fabrics - or if not then try a mid grey. They show a lot less than white. 

 

Hang the strap at your shoulder and make sure the gentle curve is going outwards at the lower back as it would on the apron. 

 Step 11

Baste the straps to the top of bib and add the facing as on the apron, including top stitching it in place (step 6 in the Hepworth Apron booklet).

 Step 12 (Almost there!)

Try on the pinafore once more and pin the straps in the position you want them to finish and at a length you are happy with (you may need to cut some length off the bottom). 

Tuck them into the hem you have already pressed in step 9 so all the raw edges are neat and tidy and sew the hem from where you broke off earlier to the centre back - this should finish just above the zip. 

In order to prevent them from curling outwards, add a row of top stitching across the width of each strap from the right side.  

Step 13 

If you have a bit of contrast fabric left you can bind the inside of your split on the skirt as shown here. 

Otherwise all that is left to do is to decide on the length of your pinafore and turn under the hem.

The finished pinafore looks very tidy from the inside with no raw edges and will be very easy to wash and wear many many times.

Please share your versions with us at the studio - it makes us very happy and the hashtag is #hepworthapronhack. 

 

Check back this weekend where I will be reviewing Jenniffer Taylor's new book Girl with  a Sewing Machine. 


My first trip to Quilt Market May 29, 2017 19:15 4 Comments

Three years ago I wrote a little wish list for 2017 in my notebook (my 40th year) and at the top it said "visit Quilt Con with a purpose".

I didn't make it to Savannah in February as we were in the middle of a house renovation, but I have just got back from my first Spring Quilt Market in St Louis, Missouri. 

Market is essentially a trade show for businesses in the quilting world where shop owners and distributors buy for the next seasons. It is hosted in Houston every Autumn and moves around US cities in the Spring. 

It was a huge opportunity to see how the industry works and to meet people, many who I have only known virtually until now. I also had a secret project to pitch, and had received some export funding to do this from UKTI. 

Schoolhouse

The day before market opens there are a series of schoolhouse events, every 30 minutes for the whole day.  You sit in a classroom setting and the fabric designer, or company rerpresentative talks through their new collection and answers questions.  I hadn't realised there were so many - at least 15 every half hour, so it was hard to decide where to go.  In the end I opted for the designers whose fabric I love and then proceeded to have a continuous series of fan girl moments. It was a bit like the fabric Oscars and I missed having my friends there with me to share the excitement. Fabric matching with Anna Maria Horner was a highlight I hadn't planned! 

 

Crisis of Confidence

After my first day at market I did have a slight panic and crisis of confidence.  It was quite overwhelming to see all of the talented designers doing their thing and I wondered "what am I doing here?".  I rang my husband Paul and he was very sweet and encouraging, then I had a good sleep and a huge American breakfast and decided to be brave. 

Secret project

For the past 6 months my studio has been working on a quilt project that I took to market to pitch. The ethos behind it is to 'Cherish the past, Adorn the present and Create for the Future'. We have created designs, samples and a lookbook and this was my chance to get some feedback from those who know.  Thankfully I got a really positive reaction and can't wait to share more details as they emerge, but for now I can't say anymore, except watch this space. 

Aurifil Live

The lovely folk at Aurifil asked me to do a demo on the booth on Saturday afternoon.  It was also filmed for their Facebook live audience.  I watched Pat Sloan on Friday which made me very nervous, but I felt proud to have given it a go afterwards. I was sewing up my sloth picture, made using Carolyn Friedlander fabrics and talking about using all the different thread weights in my textile art.  I had a few technical hitches, and haven't watched it back but the team were encouraging and it's another challenge faced!  Rob Appell of Man Sewing also came by after and told me about his studio experiences. We all have to start somewhere. 

Takeaways

I left St Louis knowing that I have found an industry that I love and believe in.  Market is a trade show yet the community spirit, which to me is the backbone of quilting, was evident everywhere.  Here are just a few examples: 

Kristi, Erin and Hilary at Aurifil took me from booth to booth introducing me to their industry friends and sharing their knowledge with me. The rest of the team are amazing too. 

Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson had the splendid sampler quilt on display - a project which has engaged hundreds of quilters worldwide, including quite a few of my friends in England. Social Media is such a powerful tool for connecting like-minded people and made quilt market less intimidating for me as a newcomer. 

Richard Dunn and his Moda crew hosted a party for over 800 shop owners as a thank you for their continued support (I did take advantage of the free bar!) They champion independent retailers as opposed to large chain stores and keep the industry alive at a local level. 

Anna Maria Horner talked to me about setting up Craft South and creating a local meeting place for like-minded people who benefit from their craft. 

April Rhodes shared stories of her first market, her own insecurities as a designer and how feedback from customers is so important. 

It's a weird reality chatting with people you admire hugely, but when you have a shared passion then somehow it is ok. 

It was also so nice for me to talk to people about our studio in England, all of the lovely people I have met so far through teaching and our plans for the future. 

If all goes well I will be back at Quilt Market soon, hopefully with my a friend or two in tow next time.  Thanks for reading and please comment if you would like to. 

Thanks, 

Jenni 

 

 

 

 


Real women are the real inspiration behind sewing my own clothes March 08, 2017 19:13 1 Comment

I suddenly realised the other day why I love Instagram so much, especially the sewing community which makes up about 99% of my feed. It is because I see real women making and wearing their own clothes. I am not staring at teeny sized models in fantasy landscapes, dressed in clothes I could never afford. Instead I see a person feeling comfortable in her own skin, celebrating her creative talents.

                                                Hila @saturdaynightstitch

Scrolling through images I might see a new pair of jeans modelled in the kitchen, or a skirt shot in bad light when it has just been finished! But when you have felt the excitement of finishing a project, you want to share it and capture that proud moment. Garments are so much more desirable because they look accessible.  

                                                        Abi @abi_norman

Makers are not inhibited by their shape or size.  They celebrate individuality and quirkiness. They share tips and ideas and give positive feedback to one another. It's inspiring, honest and a refreshing change.

                                                     Eleanor @nelnanandnora

High fashion has it's place, but these days I get way more excited scrolling through my feed than flicking through a copy of Vogue.  I suddenly want to sew a wax batik dress  or have a go at visible mending. Sewing my own gym wear is appealing, though I would then have to do move away from my machine and do some exercise.

                                                     Ruth @ruth_in_sweden

Obviously people still want to look good and I love adding a rosy filter to my photos. However I don't feel any external pressure to be a certain way, and I hope that eventually other forms of media might catch up. 

                                                            Vicki @sewvee

So thank you everybody who sews and shares and keeps me inspired every day.

Happy International Women's Day.  If you want to celebrate your creative friends then please share this post and spread the crafty love! 

 

 


All you need to know about sewing the Grainline Tamarack Jacket February 18, 2017 07:00

When my friends at Vlieseline (major producer of interfacings etc) asked me try out their new wadding I had a definite project in mind. The Tamarack by Grainline Studio. I have admired the company's minimalist style for some time, and have also been lamenting the lack of time to quilt, so this seemed like the perfect project. 

 

The jacket is simple in shape and the sleeves don't need to be set in.  However, it is rated as an intermediate level because you do need to quilt all of the pieces, add welt pockets if you want to, and bind the edges. 

It took me approximately 8 hours to sew up - though I didn't add welts in this case as it is a sample garment for display at shows and I thought it was best to show off the quilting as much as possible ( I wasn't just been lazy, honest!!).

The wadding I used is light-weight, 80% wool and 20% polyester with a non-woven cover on one side to prevent fibre migration.  It is quite lofty and gives a padded look to the jacket.  I secured it between my outer fabric and lining with large basting stitches and the non-woven cover next to the top layer.  This meant that the sewing machine needle went down through it before hitting the wadding and it seemed to work perfectly well.

I used quilters tape (washi tape would work fine too) to mark my stitch line and ensured they matched across the jacket whilst it was laying flat. 

I am lucky to have a Janome Horizon with large throat, walking foot and stitch-length regulator so I am sure this helped enormously.  I used a 70 needle and Aurifil 100% cotton 50 wt thread to quilt it. I would recommend a stitch length of at least 3.5 here for nice, clean lines. 

Top Tip I ensured the top thread matched my outer fabric and the bobbin thread matched my lining, then checked my tension before I started. 

I had a tiny bit of movement between the layers when quilting, but I simply trimmed any excess wadding away, and ensured the pieces were symmetrical before sewing up the seams. For this step I used a Gutterman sew-all thread. 

The seams are obviously bulky with all those layers of fabric and wadding.  You could overlock them, or use a herringbone stitch that only goes into the inside layer of fabric and wadding, and helps the seam to lie flat. 

I found wonder clips more useful than pins, again because of the number of layers of fabric. 

I would say that the sizing seems accurate - I cut out a 14 (US) for the sample and it is a little big on me.  I am a UK 12 so I will make my own version smaller. 

The most laborious part of construction for me was applying all of the bias binding.  I bought the tape as I wanted a contrasting colour and to save a little time.  I machined it on first and then top stitched to secure the inside.  The fact that I have bound many quilts in my time definitely helped with making neat corners, but Grainline do have a helpful guide on their website.  There isn't really an alternative finish you can achieve, because the layers are quilted together, and it wouldn't hang right if you turned back a hem. You just need to take your time, have a coffee break, and work through it. 

Top Tip I only added one sewn-in snap for a fastener at the front edge.  However, if I was applying set-in snaps I would be tempted to add a layer of iron-on interfacing between the wadding and fabric to strengthen it (this would need to happen before you bind the edge). I was worried that, over time, the snap might work loose. 

And that is it. 

The Tamarack is never going to be a cheap garment to sew up because you need approx 4 metres of cloth and the wadding, and binding. However, at the studio I love the challenge of persuading dressmakers to quilt, and quilters to try dressmaking.  This is a fantastic crossover project, and really cosy to wear.  I also love how the back sits a little lower and covers your bottom. 

I fancy some Liberty print for my own version, so watch this space. 

If you have sewn up the Tamarack too I would love to hear all about it. 

Click here to read my top tips for sewing with Double Gauze fabric

 http://www.grainlinestudio.com/?s=tamarack


The mission behind Jenni Smith Studio patterns January 09, 2017 07:00 5 Comments

The mission

Nothing beats the feeling of saying "I made it myself",  yet 7 out of 10 young people don't know how to sew a button on. For a good 30 years these basic life skills have been completely scrapped from education, in the UK at least. 

I am one of the forgotten generation who did not learn how to sew at school. I am a self-taught dressmaker who loves having the ability to create unique, well-made clothes that reflect my personality and style.

I have taught over 250 people to sew in the past 5 years so releasing patterns seems like a natural progression. The aim is to try and help people gain the skills and confidence to build their own wardrobe. My studio has six patterns in development for 2017 and we can't wait to start sharing them.

How do we do it?

Each pattern is born from the sewing techniques we want to teach. The big picture is to gradually build skills so that our customers can work their way through all the processes needed to sew well-made clothes. We are starting with basic seams and patch pockets but will move on to different zip fastenings, tailoring, bias-cut and so much more. 

The garment choice is based on timeless styles that allow the maker to add a personal twist. Inspiration comes from fashion past and present across different cultures. 

The cloth is also a major consideration and tells a big part of the story.  We are working with many British manufacturers to source fabrics for our patterns including Irish linen and Yorkshire wool. These will be available to buy in kit form. 

The patterns are cut by experienced professionals with intimate knowledge of making patterns that fit today's woman. They are based in the North of England.

After making up samples in the studio, we enlist the help of the fabulous local sewing community to test the patterns and instructions before release.

Our promise

Our promise to our customers is to make the whole process as stress-free as possible. We understand that some people need to see how it is done, rather than just reading instructions, so we are filming video tutorials to complement each garment.  This is included in the price of the pattern.

We want our customers to know what they will learn from each pattern.  We want them to sew with cloth that suits the project and where possible, has a story to tell. We want the process to be enjoyable and to celebrate all of the positive emotions associated with producing something amazing with your own hands!

I hope that you will join us and make 2017 the start of your dressmaking journey. 

 

 

 

 


Jammy Jenni turns 40 December 30, 2016 16:00 4 Comments

Tomorrow, on New Year's Eve, I will turn 40.  I thought I would reflect on 2016, the first full year of sharing my sewing related adventures through this blog. 

Firstly, thank you to everyone who has read it. I am not bombarded with comments but I can see in my page analytics that many come and take a look, and I really do appreciate it!

It has been a year for going out of my comfort zone, starting with me joining the Entrepreneurial Spark programme in February. To begin with I felt very out of my depth discussing financial forecasts and all of the rest. However,  I also felt like I was amongst people with the same mindset as me, totally excited and engrossed in their vision and willing to just get on with trying to make it happen. I would recommend it to anyone 100%. 

In March, eighteen of us escaped to the countryside for a weekend of sewing and cocktails in the childhood home of Florence Nightingale.  We were all super productive and I was amongst my loveliest friends for three child-free days, with no interrupted conversations!

Sewing up the portrait of Wilfredo the dog for Lisa Congdon was probably my most creative spell of the year. I had set myself the challenge to have a go at it, and wasn't sure if I would like the end result. However I learned a lot and was very happy when Lisa asked me to send it to her, and did a fantastic interview in return.

Unfortunately I haven't had enough time to stitch more textile art, but I have sketched out another few projects and fingers crossed for 2017. 

In May I organised my third exhibition of quilts by local makers. It was one of those events that came together without too much stress, and just worked.  There was a fantastic atmosphere and some really beautiful textiles on display. 

In the Summer I had a bout of bravery and decided to rent my own studio to teach and work from. Lovely friends and family helped me to kit it out and I smile every time I open up the door. The mill it is housed in, is growing into a creative hub and hopefully there will be lots of scope for collaboration. 

August involved five days away at my first Festival of Quilts, working with Aurifil threads.  I met Kaffe Fassett (another tick off the sewing bucket list) and also loved spending time Sheena Norquay, whose work I really admire. 

The summer was also tinged with sadness with the loss of my beautiful friend and quilting guru, Annmarie. She had been a central part of the sewing community I have built up in the past few years. Annmarie had the knack of making crazy fabrics of all colours work harmoniously and was so generous with her skills and advice. I am currently hand quilting her amazing Moda Building Blocks Quilt that she made for her husband Paul and miss her very, very much. 

In September, my son Harry went off to Secondary School, Edie started Year 4 and Ellis, my youngest, joined Reception.  I have been pretty much a full-time mum for eleven years so this was a big change, but the studio was a fantastic distraction.  

In Autumn I also employed my first member of staff and I think that this is my best decision of the year. Kay has made a massive difference.  We run the studio classes together, discuss the many options and ideas, dream of trips to Quilt Market in the US, run up costumes for dance shows and very occasionally have time to sew for ourselves!

In the closing months of 2016 I have won two entrepreneur awards and also arranged leading sewing workshops at the new John Lewis in Leeds.  I hope that 2017 is set to be an exciting one. 

My nickname amongst friends these days is Jammy because I have had a lot of good things happen to me. All I know is that I am very lucky to have an amazing support system and people who believe in what I want to achieve, and go out of their way to help me. 

Turning 40 doesn't fill me with dread, though the hangover after my party tonight does!

Wishing you all a very happy and crafty New Year xx

 


A magic two-way sequin jacket December 18, 2016 11:27

Hi, it's Kay here. Last week we wrote all about our love of two-way sequins.  Jenni has been wearing her lovely skirt and we have had three more people running up similar versions in the studio. 

I went for the royal blue fabric which turns to black and wanted a simple jacket to sew up, with as few seams as possible to allow it to hang well.

I chose New Look 6305 and bought some stretch black that feels like PU for the facing and cuffs. 

I cut out with the rotary cutter and used the stretch stitch, size 70 needle and polyester thread as we mentioned last time. 

The jacket has 2 bust darts, no centre back seam and so it came together with few problems. 

I also lined it with the same lightweight stretch knit that Jenni used on her skirt. You could get away with not inserting a lining as most of the raw edges are covered by the facing and it isn't overly scratchy on the inside. However if I wear it with a camisole top I think it would be more comfortable. 

The facing is hemmed at the bottom edge but I have left the raw edge on the sequins so it doesn't look too bulky.

You can buy the two-way sequins by following our link here.

Please also read through our top tips for sewing this cloth in last week's post

Also, please share any projects you sew up by emailing us at studio@jenni-smith.co.uk, we would really love to see them. 

 


All you need to know about sewing with two-way sequins December 09, 2016 19:42

I was a bit over excited on our last trip to Empress Mills when I discovered the magic sequin fabric they have in stock.

I had seen a Facebook video showing how this fabric changes colour when you stroke it, but I hadn't quite realised how cool it would be in real life.

The excitement was enough to encourage me to overcome my fear of sewing sequins and try and run up something in time for the party season.  So I came away with three-quarters of a metre of bronze (turning to silver) fabric and a plan to make a simple skirt.

This fabric has stretch so I knew I could eliminate a zip and waistband from the start.  I used a basic skirt pattern which only includes darts at the back.  

Cutting Out

The front and back pieces were cut out on the fold.  The stretch of the fabric goes around my body and even though the fold is quite bulky, I weighted the pattern down rather than using pins.  I had a go at cutting with scissors but this felt quite "crunchy" so I used a rotary cutter knowing the blade might not manage both layers at once but I felt it would be better to replace a blade rather than buy a new pair of scissors, and that I could always go back and re-cut the second layer.

It was probably lucky I had my glasses on at the time as sequins did have a tendency to fly around, but thankfully not to eye level. Just be warned that it can be a messy job!

I marked my darts with a chalk pencil and managed to pin but also used some wonder clips to hold the fabric in place (these made life much easier).

Sewing Up

I used a strong polyester thread and size 70 needle and set the machine to a stretch stitch to complement the stretch in the fabric.

 It was fairly hard to keep a very straight line when sewing but the fabric is quite forgiving on the right-side so don't worry too much.  Once sewn, I snipped the darts open on the wrong side to decrease the bulk and help them to lay flatter.

I stitched the side seams using the wonder clips rather than pins, sewing at a slow pace to make it easier to hold the weight of the fabric.

Some tutorials mention unpicking the sequins along your seam allowance but I didn't have the patience to try that and it seems fine.  The only downside is that you have some sequins touching your skin along the seams of the skirt.  This wasn't a issue as I had already made the decision to line the skirt in a fine knit stretch lining.  A regular anti-static lining would not complement this type of fabric.

I also used the stretch stitch to sew up the lining which was an exact copy of the basic skirt pattern.  I joined the waist seams of the skirt and lining, right sides facing.  Once they were stitched together I flipped the lining to the inside of the skirt.

Can you press sequins?

In order to get the waist to lie flat, I did press the lining gently using a damp muslin on top. This worked fine, but if in doubt do a test on an offcut of your fabric first to ensure the sequins don't melt.

Finishing Off

The skirt did fit fine at this point but as the weight of the fabric is quite heavy and there is no waistband or fastening, I decided to add a band of 1" wide elastic on the inside.  I measured this to fit my waist snuggly and stitched it into a circle first.  I then marked the quarter points of the circle and matched these to the side seams, centre front and centre back of the skirt, pinning it in place (clips wouldn't suffice here). I stitched the elastic on with a large zigzag with the right side of the fabric facing upwards, stretching the elastic band to fit the skirt as I went.  I moved the sequins around the waist of the skirt so that they were facing the direction I was sewing in, because the zigzag secures the sequins in place and this made it easier to sew (I also had a lighter thread on the bobbin to match the elastic on the inside). 

I have left the bottom edge of the skirt as a raw edge because it doesn't appear to fray and would become too bulky if turned under and hemmed.

By playing with the sequins you can create different looks to your garments and it will be a great talking point!  The skirt took me no more than two hours to sew up and I really love it. The approximate cost for the finished garment is £30. 

I can wear the bronze easily in the day time and here I matched it with my wool cape and flat shoes.

I can then turn the sequins around to silver and pop on my heels for dressing up ( I also thought it might be quite handy if you spill anything as you can effectively cover it up!) You can also have a mixture of the two and make stripes or patterns.

If you are inspired to have a go then you can buy fabric, thread and other accessories by simply clicking here.

Thanks for reading!  

You can watch my short video of the skirt in action here too.

Read more highlights from the blog:

Patrick Grant and Community Clothing in Blackburn

 

 

 

 


Jenni's top tips for the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show November 23, 2016 07:00 1 Comment

I always look forward to my annual trip to the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate. I have been for the past 4 years and without fail come home with a bundle of sewing-related delights.  I am not a knitter and am always relieved in a way, as I am not sure I could manage the whole show in one day (or financially) if I was also lured to the gorgeous wool stands.
Here are my top ten tips:-
    1. Do take some cash if possible - it makes everything quicker and last year the cash point outside the building wasn't working.
    2. Try and write an essential shopping list before you go and check it at some point.  As a quilter I always stock up on 505 basting spray and some different threads to try out. If you can get a large can of 505 for around the £10 mark it's a good deal. You will find such a huge variety of thread weights and colours that is a great opportunity to feel, see them and challenge yourself to try something new.
    3. If you are a dressmaker know what type of cloth will suit your next project and how much you need to sew it up if the fabric is 45 or 60 inches wide. If you don't yet have a pattern then I usually buy 2.5 metres if I plan to mke a dress and 1.5 for a top or pencil/ A-line skirt.  There is nothing worse that running short and having to source the same cloth again, and I am speaking from experience!!
    4.  Do find time to look at the exhibition stands. There are always some amazing textile works on display and often many of the makers are there to chat with.
    5. Wear comfortable shoes and try to layer up rather than taking a big, heavy coat.  There are cloakrooms but once you are in there you will be too giddy to queue and will want to start browsing straight away!
    6. There are places to eat lunch buy they get incredibly busy.  We always get a stamp on our hand to say we have paid entry and head out for a good hour.  Last year we had wine and noodles at Wagamama (5 minutes walk) and contemplated what to buy on our return.
    7. You cannot enter with large backpacks so think about bags you can carry your statsh in, and be comfortable.  I bought the beautiful bolga basket (pictured below) last year then used it for the rest of my goodies.
    8. If you plan to do a big swoop first, and then go back to buy, do make a quick note of the stand number and hall you want to revisit.  It is very easy to get disorientated and frustrated when you can't locate that perfect Liberty cotton.
    9. If you go with more than 1 friend perhaps plan to meet up at different points. We have never managed to stick together in the past because there is just too much to see, and often long queues to pay. I also think it is more enjoyable if you are not worried that your friends are waiting constantly.
    10. And finally do plenty of self-gifting! This is your hobby that keeps you sane throughout the year and brings you happiness. I often buy many things and then distribute them to my family to be gifted back for Christmas and my birthday. 
    I always try not to miss:-
    • Janet Browne (stand TG109) Janet dyes fabric and stitches beautiful birds and landscapes. She also works to commission and made an amazing work for my friend's 40th last year.
    • Beyond Measure (B160) Grace has a thoughtfully curated collection of sewing notions and gifts - it's the best place for presents for crafty friends, but buy yourself a treat too.
    • Emma Garry patterns (C570) - modern fabrics and independent patterns, what's not to love!
    • Japan Crafts (C580) - sashiko kits, exotic fabrics that you don't see very often and expert knowledge on hand. 
    • Empress Mills (A175) - Charles and Christine know threads, waddings and interfacing inside out and all their team are super-friendly.
    • Fabrics Galore - (C240) - I have found Liberty chambray, jersey and there is always plenty of Tana Lawn on this stand but it does get super busy so be patient!

    A big congratulations to everybody who won tickets to the show is our giveaway. Don't forget to share your highlights with me either by posting on the Jenni Smith Sews Facebook page or tagging me on Twitter or Instagram @jennismithsews.


    Sewing a Chanel-style Jacket and a trip to Linton Tweed November 03, 2016 07:00 9 Comments

    Last week I persuaded five of my sewing friends to join me on another fabric-related adventure.

    We took the famous train journey from Settle to Carlisle, which I have never travelled  before, despite living close-by for most of my life. It's a two hour trip passing through  amazing countryside, over the famous Ribblehead viaduct and with views of the Yorkshire Three Peaks and the Lake District. 

    A sweet guide came through the carriage to tell us all of the historic landmarks we could visit on our arrival, including the castle and museum.  He didn't know that we intended on spending our four hours in Carlisle admiring fabric and having a leisurely afternoon tea, which is exactly what we did. 

    A trip to Linton Tweed has been on my wish list since I first saw the fabric samples in a class with my teacher, Ann Ladbury, a few years ago.  Shaddon Mill has been weaving their innovative cloth since 1912, and is a stunning building with the landmark Dixon's chimney, which originally stood 305 ft tall. Linton's international reputation comes from its relationship with global brand Chanel. Those iconic edge-to-edge jackets, woven with ribbon and sequins, are what Linton is all about. 

                                                                   Coco Chanel

    Their website tells the story: 

    "In 1912 Scotsman William Linton started Linton Mill in the Caldewgate area of Carlisle, a small city situated close to the Scottish border and near the famous Lake District.

    Initially Linton employed two salesmen with ponies and traps who travelled the Lake District buying wool and selling woollen suit lengths. William Linton's great friend, Captain Molyneux, was a Parisian couturier who in the1920's introduced him to a dynamic young lady called Coco Chanel. This began an association which has flourished over the years resulting in the house of Chanel being Linton's biggest and most prestigious customer."

    Jean Muir opened the retail shop next to the mill in 1993 and Linton Direct is a collection sold there, and online too.  The average cost is about £36 per metre and I would say  there were about 80 fabrics to choose from. 

    The shop has plenty of lengths of 2 metre fabrics (perfect for an iconic jacket) next to a mirror so you can drape them across you and imagine if they would work well. It is incredibly useful, and I think when you are spending between £70 and £80 then you need to be both confident, and excited about your choice. I had a few friends on hand to give me an instant yes or no, and eventually went for a loosely woven red wool cloth. I loved the delicate white cloths too, with fine woven details,  but had a reality check that with three children it might not get much wear and I wouldn't look like Gwyneth Paltrow does in hers!

    They also have a skirt-length rail where you get 2 for the price of 1, so 2 metres of cloth for £20. We all came away with some pretty crazy fabrics to make up into skirts!

    Then there were the scrap bags - £5 for about 15 pieces of cloth which could be used for small bags, purses, appliqué or corsages etc. Not forgetting the bargain box with random cuts for £5 too. 

    The Bobbin Coffee Shop served us afternoon tea with prosecco and the most delicious homemade cakes, then we headed back to the train with our delights. 

    I bought enough cloth for a jacket, 2 skirts, a crepe dress and a top for £98 which seemed pretty good to me. 

    This week I noticed my local shop had 50% off all of their Vogue patterns so I snapped up this jacket pattern.  I am keen to learn all about 3 piece-sleeves (apparently they   keep their shape when the elbow is bent).  It also includes quilting the shell to the lining, and sewing in a chain to weight the bottom.

                                         Claire Schaeffer Vogue V8991 pattern

    I have read around the internet that sewing a couture French-style jacket can take about 70 hours. I love hand sewing, so that part doesn't daunt me, and I think it will be a really good technical challenge, I just need to find a bit of time from somewhere!

    In the meantime I will start work on a simpler project, this Vogue dress in the 2 metres of soft black crepe I pulled from the bargain box for £10. 

                                                            Vogue pattern 9021

     

    You can read more about Linton and their history here

    Afternoon tea is £15 per head (with a glass of prosecco) but does need to be booked in advance.

    A Day Rover on the Settle Carlisle Railway was £15 per adult (the last part was by bus due to the landslide a few months ago). 

    Do let me know if you go for a trip, or share any top tips for sewing up Linton! 

    Jenni x


    Patrick Grant opens Community Clothing in Blackburn October 23, 2016 07:00 3 Comments

    On Thursday morning Kay and I made the short trip across the border to the town of Blackburn, for the official launch of Community Clothing. Despite growing up in Yorkshire, I visited often as a child to buy fabrics in the market, as well as shoes from the  legendary Tommy Balls factory. Kay grew up in Rochdale but always wished she had a Blackburn accent! We were both excited to go back and I have been wanting to find out more about Patrick Grant's inspirational project since I read about it in the May issue of Sew Magazine (which I was very happy to be featured in too). 

    The big idea behind the brand is this:

    "Community Clothing is a manufacturers cooperative with a simple mission; to make excellent quality affordable clothes for men and women, to create great jobs for skilled workers and by doing this to help to restore real pride in Britain's textile communitites."

    The first collection of garments are classics done well - white t-shirts made in Blackburn, premium quality selvedge denim jeans and classic rainwear from local cloth. Knitwear is produced in Scotland, socks are produced in Leicestershire and the lovely totes come all the way from Accrington Stanley.

    The clothes are affordable as they are sold direct via the Community Clothing ebay store or in their shop. Patrick pointed out that the jeans I bought for £65 would cost £150 in a retailer, so cutting out the middleman makes a big difference to the customer. Moreover they are produced when factories have quiet times due to seasonal demand.  This deceases the risk of worker's losing their jobs or having zero hours contracts. 

    Kay's Harrington jacket made from cloth produced by Millerian in Bradford

    Why Blackburn?

    Blackburn is home to two of the main manufacturers in the Community Clothing cooperative. The Cookson & Clegg factory opened in 1860 and has a rich history, producing military uniforms and workwear. It provided cloth for Grant's Saville Row company Norton & Sons until it became no longer financially viable and was set to close down. Patrick and his company bought the mill and the vision for Community Clothing was born. 

    The project launched with a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year where people committed to buy garments before their manufacture. The campaign succeeded and exceeded its target of £75.000, but it was close to the wire and took a lot of blood, sweat and tears. 1020 people backed it, from 25 towns and cities and 10 countries. 

    It was important to Patrick that the official launch was up here in Blackburn, and we were very happy about it too. There will be future pop-ups in London and around the county but the heart of the company is in Lancashire. 

     

     Saint Patrick

    Many people reading this blog will know Patrick as a judge on the Great British Sewing Bee. However, he is by no means just a frontman for the iniativive. During our chat his passion for British cloth, his industry knowledge and his determination to succeed all shone through. He knows the names of the staff on the factory production lines, and their stories. He wants to grow and scale the business and has built a great team to work with including CEO Lucy Clayton and General Manager Iain Trickett, whose grandfather made jackets for the army in the local mill. He has also teamed up with social enterprise Bootstrap to focus on creating jobs and training. One press article recently described Patrick as a 21st-century industrialist. He has gained a reputation for swimming against the tide and it will be very interesting to follow his journey over the next few years. 

    Why am I so excited?

    The values of Community Clothing are close to my heart and central in the Jenni Smith Studio's future plans for releasing garment patterns and skill-building kits. Since entering Entrepreneurial Spark I have visited local mills and manufacturers to source products and learn about their provenance. There is a positive shift as people become disillusioned with fast fashion and want to know where their clothes come from. I know that every time I wear my Community Clothing jeans and read the label "Made in Blackburn" it will make me smile (even if I am a Yorkshire lass). I want to pass on that happy feeling to our customers and champion British cloth manufacturing too. 

     

    Make do and Mend

    The funniest part of our day was leaving with a sewing project (as well as some nice new clothes). During our chat we noticed that Patrick (who often ranks on the fashion industry's Best Dressed lists) had a large hole in the elbow of his jumper.  It's Howick cashmere and a firm favourite, so in the spirit of making clothes last a lifetime we offered to fix it (he is working 100-hour weeks at the moment so can be excused). He took us up on the offer and handed it over, so that's another job to add to the list!

    The Community Clothing shop is now open in central Blackburn so please go and check it out if you are local. For opening times and location please see their website

    Alternatively you can shop online at their Ebay store

    Please also comment if you enjoyed this post, it's always nice to hear from you!

    My interview from Sew Magazine can be seen here

    Other recent blog posts: 

    Making my own clothes - a change in mindset

     


    The Festival of Quilts 2016 with Aurifil Threads August 21, 2016 07:00 3 Comments

    As an avid quilter, and an enthusiastic consumer of sewing delights I have no idea why it has taken me so long to make it to the Festival of Quilts. Perhaps it is because Europe's biggest quilt show is always in the middle of August and I am usually on holiday or surviving 6 weeks of no school with my 3 children. 
    However I was very determined to go in 2016 and booked it in the diary back in January. My friend Bradley at Aurifil then asked me to help on their booth so I got 4 days rather than 2, as well as the chance to spend time with Sheena Norquay who was exhibiting her work with them. 
                                                           
    There are over 1000 quilts on display, so it can be amazingly inspiring but also overwhelming.  I planned a strategy to go into the halls at 8am each day and tackle each section one at a time (much to the amusement of my friends). It was so peaceful with very few other people around as the public come in at 10am, and then it gets crazy. 
                                                                   
    It was great to see many quilts by people who I know personally or have  met through social networks - I think the labels should actually have Instagram names as well as real ones. 
                                                               
    One aspect that I missed was no space for makers to tell the story of their quilt.  When I have put shows together that is the main driving force for me.  I love to know the why and how and establish the personal significance of each piece. 
    However, there was no shortage of amazing piecing, beautiful fabric combinations, quilting to aspire to and food for thought. 
                                                                   
                                                  
    Kaffe Fassett's talk on his travels to Italy and his new book on Bold Blooms was charming and funny. The next day he was engrossed in his knitting whilst signing books and his pure passion for his work and that of other skilled craftspeople made me smile. 
    I caught up with Charlotte Newland (now of Sewing Bee fame) who has stitched some great quilts and exhibited at QuiltCon. 
    I also had loads of nice times with the girls at Simply Solids and Brad and Alex. It's very satisfying working on the Aurifil booth as there is a constant stream of happy quilters coming to say how much they love the thread. There was also much excitement about the new 80wt cotton launching at Quilt Market in Autumn.  We had samples to show people and I will be trying it out too. 
     
    I will definitely be back and hope to encourage lots of my students to take part next time.  I might be brave and enter a quilt or two myself, though rumour has it the judges comments can be pretty scary. 
    I am writing up my interview with Sheena Norquay and will share it soon, along with a giveaway of her new thread collection.  
    Thanks for stopping by.