Posted in Blog, Sewing, Teaching

Some thoughts on blogging

Whenever I talk to new people about sewing, I am more often than not asked the same question.

“Do you make things to sell? You should do.”

The answer is always no. I don’t make things to sell. I have done this in the past with an Etsy shop but I have no intention of doing it again. I found making things to order really quite stressful and it took the enjoyment out of sewing for me.

I have a full time job as a school textiles teacher. I work hard at it and I enjoy it. I also really love clothes  – both making and wearing them. I’ll make the occasional thing for someone else as a gift but mostly I am just getting on with my hobby.  And I would not have it any other way!

I also get asked why I blog and what I am hoping to get from it. This one is harder to answer because I am not really sure myself.  Starting a sewing blog was something that I had wanted to do for a long time and there were a few failed attempts at blogs that existed prior to this one. I guess I just really love writing. In my early twenties I studied journalism and then worked as a newspaper journalist. While I am happy to have left that career behind, I have always loved writing and in some ways I have missed it.

Sewing – and knitting – are my favourite things to do but they are very solitary hobbies for me.  I love that there is now a thriving online sewing community – particularly on Instagram –  but I don’t really feel that I am a part of it. I feel a bit too old for it to be honest! I don’t mean that in a negative way at all, it just is what it is.

Although I don’t feel a need to belong to any sort of sewing community, I do feel a need to document the things I make. That is why I blog. To document the things I have made and because I really love writing.  Especially writing about sewing!

It’s lovely to have readers and comments, of course, but my blog is not a business tool or a stepping stone to something else and nor will it ever be. Teaching sewing is my job,  not blogging about it.

I do have one more aim for Wendy Stitch though and that is that I hope to eventually  start adding more content that my students can access, to inspire them beyond the classroom. I’ve never been particularly impressed with textiles text books and it may be that part of my blog becomes an online textbook of sorts. We’ll see. For now I’m just happy doing this.

It comes down to one simple fact really. I just like doing it. That’s why I blog.

Posted in Knitting, Sewing, Teaching

Some works in progress

Hello again!

Is it just me or has this week absolutely flown by? I can’t believe it is Sunday already and I am back in the classroom tomorrow. Not that I am complaining, it means I am getting closer to my half term break or as I like to think of it -a one week sewcation! I am planning a whole week around fabric shopping trips, textiles exhibitions, sewing classes, learning some new skills and, obviously, sewing up some new patterns. Three weeks to go and I literally can not wait!

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Planning a visit to the Josef Frank exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum, London.

I don’t have any finished projects to show you this week but I have got a few things on my cutting table.

First up: I am making my first ever jacket. Eeeeeep! I am making the Colette Patterns Anise Jacket as the second of my #2017makenine makes.

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I’ve had this pattern for a couple of years now but have always lacked the confidence to tackle it, in case I mess it up. I’ve stopped thinking that way now though and Operation Anise has begun.

I love the sixties shape of this jacket and that it tapers in gently at the waist, while still having that boxy thing going on. I made a toile, cutting a size 8, and that didn’t throw up any fitting issues at all. (I’ve had Colette patterns fit me with no alterations before so this wasn’t a huge surprise). So this week I have sourced and cut out all the fabric pieces.

Finding the right fabric was a bit tricky to be honest. This jacket is for the spring time so I didn’t want it to be made from a wool or anything that would be too thick and warm. But obviously it needed to be made from something substantial.

I settled on this blue cotton and raffia tweed paired with vintage silk for the lining – both from Fabric Godmother.

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All the pieces are now cut out and I’m itching to get started on it this week. There are a lot of firsts for me in this jacket – first jacket, first time sewing with silk, first time underlining, first welt pockets, first bound button holes – but I am not scared. Bring it on!

Also on my cutting table this week is the New Look 6341 made in a bright red  and white floral linen from Minerva.

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I am making this as part of a two-part tutorial on princess seams I am doing for the Minerva Crafts blog. I can’t share too much about it just yet but here is a sneaky peek of the fabric.

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Finally, I have a new project on my knitting needles. I am test knitting a beautiful new cowl pattern by Rochelle at Lucky Lucille. More details about this coming soon but she is a beauty. You are definitely going to want to knit this!

In other news, my GCSE class have started their textiles coursework this week. A class of 23 girls and one boy tackling sewing patterns for the first time. It’s fun. Chaotic but fun. And my A-level class are busily finishing off their current projects before starting to prepare for their final exam. I’ll share some of their work in a future post but it really is stunning. One of my girls was offered a place to study fashion and textiles at the University of East London this week. I was so incredibly proud of her that I burst into tears when she told me. Textiles teaching is a very emotional career!

Posted in Sewing, Teaching

So You Want To Be A Textiles Teacher?

Would you like to spend your days teaching teenagers how to make clothes? As a secondary school textiles teacher this is part of what I do… a small part though.

I often get asked how I ended up being a textiles teacher and what my job involves, so pull up a chair and let me tell you all about it.

I have been sewing and knitting since my mum taught me when I was very young but I haven’t always been a sewing teacher. After I left school, I studied journalism at university and went on to work as a news reporter on a local newspaper in my home town in Lancashire. I left the north west, and journalism, and moved to London in my mid twenties with no clear idea of  what I wanted to do. After a string of dull office jobs I decided that I wanted my hobby  – sewing  and knitting- to become my day job. Back then I didn’t really know what I could do with these skills. But I knew I wanted to go back to university and I knew I definitely didn’t want to become a fashion designer. I never even considered becoming a teacher until I went to work one day wearing a hand knit scarf and my then boss said “that’s really good, you should teach kids how to knit”.

And that was it…. I went to Goldsmiths University and did a 3 year BA Ed course in Design and Technology with Education.  The more common route is to do a one year PGCE course but, feeling like I had something to prove, I really wanted to do a full three year degree. I loved my degree course and I ended up specialising in textiles and finishing with First Class Honours. I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a teacher though.

Textiles is on the National Curriculum and it is taught in most schools. It usually comes under Design and Technology and is taught alongside Food Technology, Graphics and Product Design (wood and metal work to most of you!) but often it is taught as part of Art. I trained as a Design and Technology teacher, which means, in most schools, I would be expected to teach all areas of Design and Technology, not just textiles.

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Learning to use the sewing machines
So anyway… I  graduated in 2010, aged 34, and got a job in quite a tough London school, teaching graphics and a little bit of textiles. I stayed there for three years, still not sure that I wanted to be a teacher but seemingly, very good at teaching. Then I got my current job and felt like I had won first prize. I was taken on at an Ofsted rated ‘outstanding’ school to introduce textiles to the school. I was to be the sole textiles teacher and had total control over what I taught.  I would just be teaching textiles, no other areas of D&T. An amazing  and really unusual opportunity.

I love my job and I am finally sure that I want to be a teacher. I teach all ages from 11 year-olds to 18 year olds. With the younger ones I teach basic sewing skills, using a sewing machine, applique, tie dye and designing. We make plush toys and slippers. GCSE textiles is more about construction and we do a lot of clothes designing and making. At A-level it goes up a notch and becomes a lot more creative. We do a lot of free machine embroidery, fabric manipulation and more advanced pattern cutting. As one of my students put it… “at A level you stop designing pretty dresses and have to ask yourself would ‘Lady Gaga wear this?'”

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Teaching knitting
I do love my job and yes I do get to teach my hobby every day but it is not always easy. Teenagers are usually fantastic to work with but there are times when they are unpredictable and difficult. There is a lot of work to do and most nights I go home so exhausted that the last thing I want to do is start sewing or knitting. The rewards more than outweigh the negatives though. I get to make a difference every single day. Nothing beats that.

If you are interested in becoming a textiles teacher – and do remember that jobs teaching just textiles are few and far between – then my advice to you is to visit a school. Visit several schools and just get a feel for it. Visit my school if you like! I think you will know quite quickly if it is for you or not. And if it is, then go for it… it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made.

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Year 7 ‘Urban Toy Project’

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Block printing
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Newspaper dress inspired by Queen Victoria