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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The mission behind Jenni Smith Studio patterns January 09, 2017 07:00 5 Comments
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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).
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.
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:
Jenni's top tips for the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show November 23, 2016 07:00 1 Comment
- Do take some cash if possible - it makes everything quicker and last year the cash point outside the building wasn't working.
- 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.
- 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!!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 2 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.
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!
Patrick Grant opens Community Clothing in Blackburn October 23, 2016 07:00 2 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
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.
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:
The Festival of Quilts 2016 with Aurifil Threads August 21, 2016 07:00
Jenni Smith Ltd is born and Beyond Magazine Feature August 07, 2016 07:00 2 Comments
A lot has been happening behind the scenes in recent weeks. I have opened my new studio space and started to fill up all of my classes for the Autumn. I have also registered as a Limited Company, put in several trademark applications and started working on my branding and packaging.
My first garment patterns are in production (yippee) and this is a stage which I worried I might never get to. It's very easy to have an idea, but to make it become reality takes a lot of work and even more bravery. I think everybody is afraid of failure, and also the unknown but I am trying to not get too distracted by fear!
I have also had my first day of filming. After graduating, I worked in TV for 13 years, in amongst having 3 children. However, I was never in front of the camera myself. My job was to do the research, organise filming and make it happen on the day.
My plan is to produce a series of free video tutorials for people who may never have sewn, or have a terrible memory from school that has put them off for life. I aim to build skills in dressmaking, quilting and more creative textile art and also capture some fabulous tips from my teacher and expert tailor Ann Ladbury.
My friend Lucy is a BBC producer and presenter and very kindly offered to help me out. We spent a few hours shooting the first edition and I will be sharing it here soon for some honest feedback. It feel a bit weird and I was terrible at remembering the notes I had made but I am just relieved to have the first day of filming out of the way.
Many of you know that I am on a programme at the moment called Entrepreneurial Spark. I am sure that all of the above actions would not have happened if I hadn't won my place back in February this year. It is incredible to work in an environment where over 50 other businesses in Leeds alone, are working to grow and scale their dreams, whether they are actual companies or concepts at this stage. Ultimately, I am a girl who loves sewing and has followed a creative path up to now, knowing nothing about business at all. However, I am now starting to believe that I can get my head around spreadsheets, financial forecasts, seed-funding, and whatever else used to sound incredibly scary and out of my league.
A huge thank you to all my friends and mentors on the E Spark programme and watch out for more updates soon.
I have also attached my new editorial feature in Beyond Magazine. I was a little excited to be interviewed for a publication also including Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge is one of my favourite films) and I hope these pages inspire some like-minded people to get in touch and come and see what the Jenni Smith Studio is all about.
Next week I am heading to my first ever Festival of Quilts for four days so I promise to share loads of stories and inspiration here.
Gaining confidence by sewing a blouse (amazing fabric by Heather Ross) July 24, 2016 07:00 1 Comment
I have been a huge fan of fabric designer Heather Ross ever since I discovered her work 5 years ago.
I made by youngest child a quilt with her Nursery Versery prints, as well as some shorts featuring incy wincy spider which I tried to squeeze him back into last month but failed.
Heather released a new collection last year TigerLily including these ballerinas. My daughter Edie dances so I bought a metre of the cotton in pink to make her a top (still a WIP), then I ordered 2 metres in the cotton lawn for myself. I imagined it would look like a simple pattern from afar, but make people smile (and especially me) when they studied it up close.
I have been working my way through some vintage pattern books by my teacher Ann Ladbury. I decided to have a go at the blouse from the book Weekend Wardrobe, which accompanied one of her many series on the BBC. The garments were designed by Caroline Charles but the construction of them is explained by Ann Ladbury in the text.
I am often too impatient to sew a test garment to assess fit. There was a risk I would mess up my beautiful (and quite expensive) lawn but I decided just to go for it. I did however check the pattern pieces against a blouse I have that fits well, and the finished collar measurement before cutting out.
Reading the instructions was like having Ann with me - because they are so thorough and leave little room for error. There are great top tips as with all her books, like putting your interfacing onto the cloth before cutting out, or how to get accurate points at the tip of the collar.
I made french seams on the shoulders, sleeves and sides as the lawn is light and quite transparent.
I made my first collar stand and did a lot of top stitching.
My main tip is always to try and work in balance. I completed one process on the left side of the blouse, and then repeated it immediately on the right. I think once you have your eye in, you work more accurately, especially when setting in sleeves. I also continually checked that pleats, seams, centre fronts etc were matching up as I went along.
Buttonholes have caused me some tears in the past. I have learnt that the key is preparation. I put extra interfacing beneath the facings where they would sit and also found that my Janome Horizon coped really well with the finer cloth. I still struggled to breath though whilst stitching them and felt a huge sense of relief when they were finished.
As instructed I made horizontal buttonholes on the collar stand and cuffs, then chose vertical ones for the rest. Ann gave clear instructions about placement too which seem obvious but super helpful:
1. Don't leave a large gap between the collar button and the first one or it will gape open.
2. Place a button level with your chest
3. Avoid placing a button at your waistline, especially if the blouse is to be tucked in.
To get the spacing bang on I borrowed Ann's fabulous slim flex measuring gauge. It is brilliant for even spacing and I need to track one down to buy myself.
I have to say that I think this blouse is my most accomplished make so far. I really took my time and tried to learn as much as I could. I am not a perfectionist when sewing, but I do feel that I am taking a bit more care and time preparing for certain stages.
I was nominated for an Entrepreneurial award on Wednesday evening so had a good incentive to finish it in time. I toyed with the idea of customising this black vintage dress into a matching skirt that was a little tutu like. I was thinking Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. However, I ran out of time and was a little unsure if I could pull it off!
I didn't win the £3000 prize sadly, but my blouse got lots of lovely comments and it was very easy to wear. My daughter Edie said the sleeves were a little Pirate-like, but I think she was just a bit cross that I hadn't finished her top off yet!
Next week I am starting to film my first video tutorials, and will also be doing some with Ann Ladbury in the coming months. Please leave a comment if there are specific procedures/ sewing tips you would like us to cover and we will do our best! Thank you x
Meeting Polly Leonard at Selvedge Magazine July 17, 2016 07:00
I have subscribed to Selvedge magazine for several years and love it for so many different reasons.
Every issue I learn stories about cloth, and the people who make it worldwide. Textile histories and personal stories are told in detail and brought to life with breathtaking photography.
The fashion is ethically produced and always has a fascinating backstory. Every magazine includes garments that would sit happily in my dream wardrobe.
So many artists and craftspeople across the globe have come to my attention in the pages of this bi-monthly publication, such as Celia Pym, Julie Arkel and Adrianna Torres.
I have also learned about local women with rich textile histories including Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth who lived at Gawthorpe Hall, and designer Sheila Bownas from Skipton.
It is obvious that a lot of love goes into the production of Selvedge, and to me, that comes from the fact that it is owned by Polly Leonard who founded it back in 2004. Polly isn't simply the editor; she crafts each edition through her own passion and commitment to the endless possibilities of cloth and thread, along with her team. It is also a business which she has built from scratch, with loyal customers across the world and a clear, strong aesthetic. Definitely something to aspire to.
Last week I was very lucky to take part in a mentoring session with Polly at Selvedge HQ in London.
We discussed my journey so far in the world of sewing and how I would like to move forward in the next 12 months. Having the opportunity to speak to somebody with a huge amount of industry knowledge was so helpful. I was very encouraged that I am on the right track and able to talk through some of my main worries and questions.
Polly told me that she launched her idea for the publication at the Knitting and Stitching show quite a few years ago now. Bravely she went with her concept and little else. She gathered a list of potential readers then cracked on and made it happen.
I know one of my problems is that I have a lot of ideas and could be in danger of spreading myself too thin, not doing any one of them to the best of my ability. Polly spotted this pretty quickly too and, as my mum has now said several times, told me to focus on one task to begin with, and get it right! It's the best advice, but incredibly hard to commit too when you have a curious, excitable mind. Focus, focus, focus.
The promise I made was to have some physical products to show her by the end of the summer. It seems a massive leap to go from talking about a pattern or dressmaking kit, to making it in 3D. However it is what all of my research, relationship building and validation for the past 6 months has been about.
There is a very interesting quote I heard on my Entrepreneurial Spark programme and that is "If you are not embarrassed by your first product than you have launched too late". I know what every aspect of my perfect website looks like and the packaging of my ideal pattern kits. However I also know that you need to start small, listen to feedback, make changes and then grow.
In the last three days I have made key decisions about my branding, graphic design and have a week-by-week plan to get me to the next step, so it was well worth the trip to London.
A big thank you to Polly, Emma and the rest of the team.
Find out more about Selvedge Magazine on their website here.
Please take a look at my online store also.
The Jenni Smith Studio is open for business! July 08, 2016 06:30
For the last few years I have packed up my car boot several times a week and carried 4 sewing machines and all of my other kit down to the local theatre. I once counted over 15 bags of fabric, wadding and sewing samples!
I have taught over 300 classes at Ilkley Playhouse and gained so many loyal customers. The management were amazingly supportive to me as a new business and allowed me flexible times and low rental. I am very grateful, especially to the late Walter Swan who encouraged me to give it a go.
Joining the Entrepreneurial Spark programme in February this year was a big step forward for me. It made me realise that in order to grow my company I need to be brave and believe in my vision.
Six weeks ago I went to see a studio for rent in a local mill. It was light and warm with views looking out to the Yorkshire Dales and my children's school a 5 minute walk away. I came home and did my numbers (very rare for me) and emailed the landlord to say I wanted to rent it.
With the help of friends and family we painted the walls, cleaned the carpets and filled it with furniture all set to go. I also now have 5 Janome machines including a fancy Horizon model for quilting, and a new overlocker to use.
Last Wednesday many people came to the official opening and having now taught a few classes it definitely feels like home. The part that made me smile the most this week was simply having to switch off the machines, wash my cup and then lock up at 3.20 to make it to school, rather than 45 minutes of packing up like before.
My plan is to keep on teaching and having open studio time, with a couple of days each week to concentrate on my next step. I am working on releasing skill-building kits to encourage people to start sewing with my own patterns and tools to compliment them. There are also videos tutorials to be filmed over the summer and a couple of textile art commissions to work on.
The class schedule from September will be released early next week so watch this space or follow Jenni Smith Sews on Facebook for updates.
You may also like to read my recent interview with US quilter Laurie Meyers from the blog.
Me Made May 2016 A Change in Mindset June 05, 2016 11:30
I have had a really enjoyable Me Made May. It is the first time I have joined in with an online project like this, but I am sure it won't be my last. The idea is to wear a handmade item each day for the month of May. Some people record this with photos across social media, but it is much more about celebrating what you have stitched/ knitted, and discovering what lots of other creative people are up to in your local area, and across the globe.
I have sewn a lot in recent years but often I finish a project and then pop it in the wardrobe and go back to my default, comfortable clothes. I do the school run five days a week and to a certain degree I have the mentality that I will save the clothes for a special occasion.
The best think about Me Made May is that it has changed my mindset. Wearing clothes you have stitched with your own hands makes you feel proud and happy, so why not repeat the experience as often as possible? I sometimes worry that people might think I am trying to show off, but I also realised this is pretty daft too. I love dressmaking. I put a lot of time and effort into practising techniques and learning my craft. I share my knowledge, and help others to make their own clothes whenever I can. So I suppose there is nothing to feel guilty about. That is my biggest takeaway - create what you love and enjoy wearing it. Through teaching, my goal in the next 12 months is to try and get lots more people to this happy place.
I started two new projects during May and challenged myself to learn some new skills with a fitted shirt and hooded jacket.
The kids joined in too and I appreciate each time they wear something I make for them as I know it could become uncool at any time!
Oh and I also discovered lots of gaps in my handmade wardrobe which must be filled, especially trousers and simple tops in solid colours. Thank you Me Made May for verifying the need for more fabric and pattern purchases in the coming months! Thank you also to Zoe for making all of this happen, and roll on 2017.
Please stick around and read my interview from the May issue of Sew Magazine here.
You may also like my interview with textile artist and printmaker Karen Lewis
Karen Lewis Interview for Jenni Smith Sews May 02, 2016 08:33 61 Comments
I first met Karen Lewis a couple of years ago at the fabulous Chirpy store in Leeds. Karen had just published her book Screenprinting at Home and had an open workshop to give the basic techniques a go.
Last November I also enjoyed a full day workshop at Karen's home studio with some of my quilt-loving friends.
(My rather wonky logo templates ready for screen printing!)
Karen is incredibly busy at the moment. She is working as a fabric designer for Robert Kaufman and this week she announced that she will be teaching and lecturing at Quilt Con 2017 in Savannah, USA. She has also set up The Thread House with Jo Avery and Lynne Goldsworthy to release patterns and host retreats.
We spent a bit of time together at The Craft Hobby and Stitch show and I am very pleased to share this interview here.
Jenni: Can you give us an update on what is happening with your fabric and thread collection at present?
Karen: My first collection for Aurifil is currently being launched and will be available for retailers in May. My Blueberry Park fabric collection is still going strong…I think!
(When Karen printed over her Kona colour chart one day at home and put the photo on Instagram everybody got very excited and that is how the collaboration with Robert Kaufman began.)
Jenni: Is printmaking still part of your daily routine?
Karen: Printmaking is very much part of my daily routine whether it is physically printing or planning new designs. Since moving house I haven’t got my printing space fully set up so I am currently relying on using studio space outside the house. This has the result of making me more organised when and what I print but has the downside of me not being able to print when the mood takes me. Making me more organised however is no bad thing!
Jenni: Do you have a new studio/ workspace?
Karen: I have a new studio that is just off the kitchen. My previous studio was in the attic and away from the rest of the household. I loved hiding away up there and was a little nervous of being in the hub and distraction of everyone but actually I love it. I love being in my studio and being a part of what everyone is doing in our live-in kitchen.
Jenni: Will the recent move to countryside inform your new designs?
Karen: Most definitely. I go for daily walks through the fields and country lanes and my head is constantly buzzing as I see new flora and fauna, mark making shadows, farm buildings and all sorts of other things I didn’t see regularly. I am sure it will have an effect on new designs.
(Karen's new surroundings - photo from her own blog)
Jenni: How important do you think social media is to connect with other makers?
Karen: As makers we live very isolated lives so for me social media is very important. I love interacting with other makers and also customers. I don’t have colleagues on hand that I can bounce ideas off and learn from so to interact on social media platforms is a necessity.
Jenni: Do you find other challenges working for yourself?
Karen: It is a daily challenge to not get distracted! Whether that is by chores around the house or losing time on the internet. There is no-one around to keep an eye on me and for me to feel the pressure of sloping off. I do love working for myself but do miss the real life daily interaction with others.
Jenni: You have a brilliant sense of colour, where does your inspiration come from?
Karen: Thank you. I am drawn to simplicity and I think that shows in my work, both with my fabric and quilting design. I don’t seem to be able to combine multiple colours and really admire those that can. As a consequence my work tends to be limited palettes which generally blend together easily. I always seem to be drawn to a mustard, grey and teal combo and that is definitely my default colour setting but more recently I have been enjoying adding peach and aqua into that combo. Also a bit of turquoise. I would say to people who struggle with colour combinations to pick one busy print that you are drawn to and pick out the individual elements in simpler/one colour prints to go with it. I would also say, go with what appeals to you.
Jenni: How many quilts do you have in your home?
Karen: Definitely too many to count! I try to sell sample quilts but some I am just too attached to and find it hard to let go of them!
Jenni: Have you passed your skills onto your children or younger family members?
Karen: My 2 sons are coming up to 19 and 17 and are in no way interested in learning either quilting or printing. They are just about interested enough to dictate something they would like me to make for them! My daughter is 14 and flips in and out of being interested in learning to quilt. She has done some quilting and I think it is something she will become interested in when she is older. She however loves to print and that is one reason to get my printing set back up at home so she can do more of that.
Thanks Karen and good luck with all your projects this year.
I am super excited to have one large set of Karen Lewis's Aurifil threads to give away. This has 12 large spools of 50wt thread.
To enter simply write your name and contact email in the comment box below. Alternatively you can email me your details through the contact page on this site.
One very lucky winner will be chosen at random on Saturday 14th May and I will announce it here on my blog.
Why not also read my recent interview with US fabric designer, artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon here.
Thanks for stopping by.
The winner of the thread competition is Erin @onceuponadonkey. Thank you to everybody who took part.
Guest blog post for The Village Haberdashery on Top Tips for Sewing with Double Gauze April 19, 2016 14:52
I am very pleased to have written a guest blog post for one of my favourite shops The Village Haberdashery.
I first went there in 2013 and was giddy to see so many beautiful fabrics and patterns all under one roof.
I also did a workshop there with my friends on a girly weekend down South the following summer, and I always try to visit when I am in London.
The post is my top tips for sewing with double gauze. It is a lovely, soft fabric to wear but I have discovered a few things along the way and, most importantly I hope that you can learn from my mistakes! My most recent make is a Tilly and the Buttons Bettine Dress in Vignette double gauze by Aneela Hoey.
The link is here so please pop over to the Daily Stitch and if you have any questions or comments just let me know.
My Interview in Sew Magazine May 2016 April 08, 2016 11:23 1 Comment
Here is a link to my interview in this month's Sew Magazine.
I was very excited to pop down to my local shop and pick up a copy this morning, though it cost me a small fortune once all of the kids had also picked a magazine each.
I am also going to have a go at the free dress pattern with some linen for summer as I doodled something with a similar neckline in my notebook not long ago.
Coming up soon on the blog I have an interview with fabric designer and printmaker Karen Lewis so don't forget to sign up for updates.
Please also stop by my shop whilst you are here - I am part of the Just a Card campaign and every little purchase helps to grow my business!
My new coat - with pockets big enough for a dead rabbit! April 05, 2016 07:00 1 Comment
This week I finally went out in the coat I have been working on, very sporadically, for a good year or so. The wool cloth is from Marton Mills, which is 15 minutes down the road from where I live, and is lovely to handle. I have been guided through the main processes by the great Ann Ladbury, who is also delighted that she doesn't have to see it again in class!
It started out as the pattern pictured below though I merged all of the front and back into single pieces and added welt pockets. When I was considering the pocket size and placement Ann Ladbury pointed out that the look and cloth I had chosen was sporty and countrified, so ideally they should be large enough to fit a dead rabbit in! Who knew?
Another top tip was to cut the welt flaps on the cross and avoid trying to match non-square checks. I still had to repeat one to get the symmetry right but in the end I was happy. In fact pattern matching was a challenge all round and I am very pleased with how it all came together, especially my centre back seam. I tacked before machine sewing and also used my walking foot which I found stopped the wool sliding as I stitched.
I also learnt how to sew bound buttonholes and used a green corduroy to contrast, as otherwise the design of the coat is very simple. They are far from perfect but I no longer have that dreaded fear of the unknown technique. I also much prefer hand sewing buttonholes and having more control than when using the sewing machine. I sourced the buttons as my final job and found them in my local haberdashery Duttons for Buttons.
The lining fabric is also from Marton Mills and is a nice weight to compliment the wool. I vastly improved my felling stitches by sewing all of it in place by hand.
I added my train ticket pocket on the inside using one of my favourite Liberty prints, The Strawberry Thief. I made this like a patch pocket, interfaced and bound with lining fabric, then fell stitched it into the perfect position.
I like the cocoon style of this coat and chose it because I can wear it on top of big cosy jumpers in the winter without feeling that my movement is restricted. I have a shorter cape but that doesn't keep me warm enough up here in the north.
The downside is that it is made from wool and it rains a lot in the Wharfe valley. It will have to be reserved for the perfect dry day when I am not on the school run, or getting mucked up by my toddler, and can stroll leisurely through town to Betty's Tearoom. Needless to say it might not get as much wear as I would hope in the near future. But at least is it finished at long last!!
Sewing Retreat in Florence Nightingale's Childhood Home March 22, 2016 23:30 2 Comments
I have just returned from a weekend of sewing in Derbyshire with 18 of my friends, some I have known for many years and others I have met more recently through a shared love of all things stitched.
The location was a charming, if not slightly mad country house where Florence Nightinghale spent her childhood years.
The soundtrack to our 3 days away was the whirring of sewing machines, the kettle boiling for endless rounds of Yorkshire tea and, most memorable of all, laughter. From 7am (when some of the hardcore ladies were up crafting) to 2am when the party animals finally gave in, there was always a lot of happy chuckling (or cackling in some cases) to be heard!
I have written before how important the social aspect of sewing is to me, and I also love to see people sharing skills and ideas.
Between us we made a whole host of handmade delights and I feel pretty chuffed that I started some of these people on their sewing journeys, even if I had to twist their arms to give it a go at first.
There were many 1 hour baskets in production, though how many came in on schedule is hard to say.
Quilting was also a big feature with plenty of amazing projects started and quite a few WIPs finally over the finishing line.
Annmarie was queen of the hand sewing as usual, relaxing in the sunshine.
I managed to finished off two dressmaking projects. Firstly, my By Hand London Victoria Blazer in a very sweet Japanese dobby matchstick print from Raystitch.
Secondly my Tilly and the Buttons Bettine Dress in soft double gauze which I partied in on Saturday night whilst drinking cocktails from our mobile bar tender.
Annette also stitched up her Liberty print dress.
Catherine made this sweet foxy dress for her little girl and a top.
Some joined in a handmade pincushion swap which we made at home before so we could have a souvenir from the trip.
Overall it was the perfect combination of time to crack on with projects without the interruptions of daily life and time to relax and have a laugh with like-minded people. Not forgetting Bertie the dog who coped very well with 19 excitable and noisy housemates.
Thank you to everyone who came xx
Meet the Maker - Quilter Laurie Meyers March 19, 2016 07:00 1 Comment
I have never met Laurie Meyers in real life as she lives far away in the US. However, we have become friends through Instagram, and I am pretty sure that we would get along very well if our paths were ever to cross.
Laurie has been the most supportive and kind "virtual friend" during my 2 years of sharing craft related projects through my favourite platform. Laurie is full of enthusiasm, always encourages and is a huge inspiration with the quilts that she creates.
Although I teach I do also spend a lot of time working alone on my projects at home, I find the possibility of sharing progress with other makers extremely useful and rewarding. Pre-Instagram I would have bits of sewing or new fabric in my bag at school pick-up to my friends, especially if I was a little over-excited.
So I thought that my blog would be a great place to introduce you to some of the crafty people out there doing amazing work with cloth and thread. When following Laurie what strikes me the most is her extreme kindness: she is forever piecing and hand quilting beautiful quilts for other people. I hope you enjoy reading the interview below and please share it with your friends on social media.
L: I discovered Instagram in May 2014 after reading several writers who said that they were neglecting their blogs and switching to Instagram. I was intrigued. When I got my first smart phone I had my daughter set me up on Instagram, which I found easy to use. I initially wanted to use "lauriepie" as my user name which was my nickname in college. I used to motivate myself with positive self-talk (before that term was even invented). "You can do it Laurie pie" I would think. Apparently at times I would say these things out loud and my friends started calling me Laurie pie too. Fast forward 32 years - I thought lauriepie would be a great user name, but it was already taken. So laurie3.14 was my second choice. As it turns out I do love to use math to motivate myself. I particularly like to calculate the percentage of a project that I've finished. Due to my username and these "percentage posts" on IG many people think that I'm a "math person". I have embraced that notion. Quilters do use a lot of math and women can be just as talented at math as men.
L: My maternal grandmother was a passionate quilter. She lived on a wheat farm in northwestern Kansas and I used to go visit her for a week each summer when I was a teenager. I learned basic sewing skills from my mother (who was artistic but not a quilter) and my home economics class in middle school, but it was my grandmother who helped me first piece a pillow top. My grandmother sewed her quilts on a Singer treadle sewing machine which was made in the 1930s. When I was 17 my grandmother made me a quilt for my high school graduation, and I helped her with hand quilting it on her large quilting frame. I should note that she had to rip out many of my hand stitches since they were not up to her standards!
L: I was an obsessive knitter in my 20's. My mother taught me to knit mittens when I was 7 or 8 years old, but she never knit a sweater as she thought sweaters were too difficult. Once I got my Master's degree it finally occurred to me that knitting a sweater really couldn't be more difficult than getting a Master's degree, so I tried to knit a sweater. While it wasn't perfect, I figured it out and started knitting all the time. Knitting is portable and very relaxing. I knit a lot of things for babies when I was in my late 20's and early 30's, since I had many friends having children. However I switched to quilting when I was pregnant with my son, since I felt strongly that mothers should make their babies a quilt. I made my son a simple 9-patch baby quilt, and I began to quilt, albeit slowly. It took me two years to make my second quilt. I love the fact that you don't really have to worry about size when making a quilt, like you do when you knit. To me quilting has more artistic possibilities than knitting does and the finished product can be enjoyed for decades, while a sweater wears out much sooner.
L: I definitely don't like to follow rigid rules and rarely use patterns. I particularly like scrap quilts since I love the unexpected mix of colors and fabrics. I've never made a quilt with just one fabric line in it, since I dislike things that are too "matchy-matchy."
I used to have a large fear of the quilt police, due to stories I heard growing up. Apparently people would criticize my grandmother's quilts since her stitches were "too big" and her quilts were not as perfect as her mother-in-law's quilts. This made me upset as I dearly loved my grandmother. I think initially this made me fear that other people would judge my quilting harshly, and I was surprised that there was such a positive response on Instagram to my quilts. Over time I realized that what matters to me is not making "perfect" quilts, so I no longer worry that others will harshly judge my quilts. I mainly give my quilts to non quilters and they are thrilled, not judgmental.
L: I am mainly inspired by color. I have always felt that bright, saturated colors were the best antidepressant. A few years ago I read about "tetrachromacy", which is a gene variant where individuals have an extra, fourth cone in their eyes which allows them to perceive even more colors than the normal person who has three cones. Apparently 12% of women may have this gene (although it may not be expressed in all of the people who have this gene). I told my daughter about this and she immediate said "We have it!" While I haven't had the genetic testing to prove that this is true, I suspect my daughter is right. Both my mother and my aunt left the Kansas prairie and studied art in New York City in the 1950s during the abstract expressionist period. They also attended the famous Black Mountain College in North Carolina where they met and studied with many famous artists. My aunt studied weaving with Anni Albers and my aunt ended up in New York as a textile designer for a major clothing company. The fact that my mother and my aunt grew up on a wheat farm and ended up studying art at that level has always been an amazing story to me.
L: The first quilting books that inspired me where by Kaffe Fassett. I love his use of saturated colors which are often paired with more "traditional" patterns. Other books that I love are "Quilt Improv" by Lucie Summers, "15 Minutes of Play" by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, "Liberated Quiltmaking" and "Liberated Quiltmaking II" by Gwen Marston, "Unconventional & Unexpected" by Roderick Kiracofe, "The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters" by Sherri Lynn Wood, and "Sunday Morning Quilts" by Amanda Jean Nyberg and Cheryl Arkison.
L: Unlike a lot of quilters I'm not as focused on fabric designers. While I do enjoy beautiful prints, I think I am starting to switch to using more solids in my quilts. My favorite project from last year was the quilt I made from scraps that my cousin sent me. My cousin lives in my grandmother's house, and he and his wife cleaned out the basement last year and sent me a giant box full of leftover scraps from her stash that had been sitting in the basement for over 30 years. Lately I have been buying bags of fabric scraps in antique shops when I can find them. I love the mix of the old and new.
L: My current count is 53 quilts (baby size or larger) and 12 wall hangings. Right now I have 13 quilts/wall hangings that I made in my home. So I've given away 80% of the quilts I've made. To me it feels wrong to keep a quilt unless I have a "use" for it, since there are so many people who don't own a single quilt.
L: I am lucky that most of the recipients are very grateful to receive a quilt. One of my nieces said it was the most thoughtful present she had ever received. Giving a quilt is sharing a part of yourself with someone. It is a wonderful feeling.
L: My grandmother made several quilts for me. She made more than one baby quilt, since I was so attached to my quilt that I wore it out completely and she had to make me another one. As described above she also made me a quilt for my high school graduation. Her tradition of making a quilt for graduations inspired me to start that tradition with my nieces and my children.
L: Believe it or not I've never even tried to quilt with a machine! I stick with hand quilting since I find it relaxing in the same way that knitting is relaxing. It also seems more economical to me, since paying someone to do longarm quilting is expensive. While I think the longarm artists who do this quilting deserve every penny they charge, for me it makes more sense to just hand quilt it myself, especially since I am making 10 quilts or so a year.
L: Both my children have made a quilt for charity, but I'm sure my son wasn't hooked on it and while my daughter loves color it remains to be seen whether or not she will take up quilting later in life. My daughter made a second quilt for her boyfriend last summer, so it is possible that when she has time later on in life she might quilt again. My daughter loves quilts and has encouraged her friends to follow me on instagram. One of them has started a quilt of her own which she plans to give to her grandmother. Two of my nieces have said they would like to learn to quilt, but since they are still in school they don't have the time to pursue it just yet. We will see what happens. I do love to see how many people in college follow me because they love my quilts.
L: There are so many people on IG that have inspired me. Chawne Kimber (@cauchycomplete), Hillary Goodwin (@entropyalwayswins), Tonya Ricucci (@tonyaricucci), Bonnie Hunter (@quiltville_bonnie), Amanda Jean Nyberg (@crazymomquilts) and Sarah Cooper (@coopcrafts) are just a few.
L: I am currently working on a quilt for my son's college graduation quilt which features his favorite irrational number ("e"). I am also working on a quilt using rainbow colors, which makes me very happy. After that I hope to make a quilt using improv techniques for my niece who will graduate from college in May 2017. She is very artistic so I think I can take a risk and try something new with her quilt.
L: I love to read and I frequently read memoirs and books about the brain. Both of those types of books help me with my job. I am a clinical social worker and I have a private practice where I work as a psychotherapist. I also love geology and love to travel. Currently I have been to 45 of the 50 states in the U.S.A. My goal is to visit them all!
Lisa Congdon Interview for Jenni Smith Sews March 06, 2016 07:00 22 Comments
My portrait of Wilfredo the dog for Lisa Congdon March 03, 2016 13:21 2 Comments
Today I am sharing a recent project I stitched for the amazing Lisa Congdon. Lisa is an American artist, author, fabric designer and somebody I admire very much.
Lisa has very kindly agreed to an interview which will be on this blog on Sunday (March 6th) so make sure you check back or sign up to Jenni Smith Sews on Bloglovin and don't miss it! There will be a fabric giveaway from Cloud 9 too.
The textile picture I stitched shows Lisa's beloved dog Wilfredo, fast asleep beneath a quilt. It has now made its journey across the Atlantic from Ilkley to Portland Oregon and has been very well received, much to my joy.
The story of how it came about goes like this:-
Many moons ago I pinned a graffiti wall from one of Lisa's Pinterest boards because I loved the play of colours and forms.
I am a modern quilter and teacher and I decided to make a little improv piece inspired by it. I chose a limited colour palette from my Denyse Schmidt Modern Solids charm pack and played happily until I came up with the miniature quilt top in the picture. Then I hung it in my workshop and carried on with a million other projects.
In the meantime I bought Lisa'a book Art Inc which is a guide to making a living from your art, and not being afraid to approach your creative development with a business mind-set. I have read a lot around this subject in recent years and found this book to be the most inspiring and comprehensive guide out there in terms of having the confidence to follow your dream, on your own terms. I studied Art History at University and used to have a successful career in TV documentaries, so making a change has been a little scary. Lisa's book made it less so.
I also bought some of Lisa's fabric collection called Revelry for Cloud 9. I love the soft voile and have a half-constructed Washi dress in it to finish sewing when the weather in England is a little warmer!
Over a period of months I had become a big fan of Lisa, and through following her on social media I had learned that Lisa was a big fan of her dog, Wilfredo. I then had the idea to challenge myself to see if I could make a dog portrait in thread for the first time.
For a number of years I have been making textile art based on sleeping animals and the story of why I started is on my blog (link below). Basically it came from a nursery rhyme I have sung to all of my 3 children. I have made hedgehogs, giraffes, elephants and many others all using Yorkshire wool spun at the mill in my home town.
So I worked from a photo of Wilfredo looking super relaxed on Instagram and had a go.
I began sewing on my machine with a mixture of Aurifil threads including their Lana (wool), linen and cottons of different weights. I worked from a black and white photo to look at the tones and also added some shading with pencil crayon.
My first attempt was, for me, full of character but didn't look like Wilfredo and seemed to get older as I stitched away! However, I really enjoyed the process of working with new materials and essentially drawing with my machine, so I decided to have another go.
I was much happier with my next version. I reached the point where I felt I couldn't do any better unless I was to head across the water and observe Wilfredo in real life!
I then hand-quilted the mini quilt I had made many months before and put the picture together. The background incidentally is a beautiful Indigo damask weave from the Gambia which has geometric patterns. I felt that it complimented Lisa's style as an artist and could also depict the night sky. The bow tie is Lisa's Revelry voile. Here are the many Aurifil threads I used...
On completing the work I sent an email over to Lisa's studio with details of the picture and the story of its creation.
I received a lovely response and was very happy that Lisa wanted the original work.
As I mentioned earlier Lisa also kindly offered to be interviewed for my blog so it has been an exciting and challenging project, which I am happy to finally share.
Please have a look at my online shop whilst you are here. I sell greetings cards and fine art prints and ship worldwide:-
You may also be interested in reading about my two commissions for US actress Kristin Davis using prints from Liberty of London:-
Please also feel free to comment and share this post. Thank you very much.
My very first trade show - Stitches 2016 February 28, 2016 21:03
Last week I had my first experience of a craft-based trade show. I took part in Stitches at the NEC in Birmingham, Europe's largest event of its kind.
My textile art, quilts and clothes were displayed on the Aurifil stand, the most popular thread on the market for quilters. I used their products in all of my projects and had made work to showcase their different threads including Brillo (metallic), Lana (wool), Floss and other weights of Egyptian Mako cotton.
My aim was to validate my idea to sell products featuring my designs, as well as other "Beautiful Tools for Creative People".
As soon as I arrived I knew that the creative world is where I want to be. I was super excited to browse other stands full of new season fabric, independent pattern designers, notions and books.
I spent three very busy days meeting shop owners, magazine editors, freelance journalists and a whole lot of lovely modern makers. I received some really positive feedback, plenty of constructive criticism and a lot of invaluable advice about how the industry works. I was approached to be featured in several magazines and to teach workshops around the country too, which I wasn't expecting!
I also had access to the free seminar programme and heard some fantastic and really useful talks by Sara Naumann, Warren Knight, and Hannah and Rosie from The New Craft House blog.
I spent each night unable to sleep because my mind was too full of ideas and inspiration and arrived home very tired, but happy in the knowledge that I am on the right track.
My challenge now is to focus on the next step and work towards having my own booth full of Jenni Smith products the next time I am there.
A very big thank you to everyone who sent me supportive messages during the show and to all the people who stopped by and talked with me.
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