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 Blog, Knitting, Lifestyle, Sewing

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

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I love the start of a new year – empty diaries, endless self improvement lists and so much hope for the coming year.  I wasn’t actually planning on setting any resolutions this year, but who am I trying to kid?! I can’t resist a bit of goal setting.

So, in no particular order, here are a few of my goals for 2017:-

1. Be a happy blogger.

When I started this blog just a few months ago,  I had no real plans or hopes for it. It was just meant to be an extension of my Instagram account really. A place where I could share photos and a few details of what I have been making. I pretty much told myself that there are enough sewing bloggers already and what could I possibly have to say that is not already being said plenty of times over. But now I realise that this doesn’t matter. I am doing this for me and if anyone else is inspired by it then even better. I really like writing this blog and I am having so much fun documenting all of my makes and interacting with other bloggers.  Also, and this is the big goal for me, I am particularly keen on using this blog to showcase handmade fashion forward clothing for the slightly older woman. I am 40 years-old and I hate it whenever anyone says ‘it’s a bit too young for you.’ I firmly believe that we can all wear what we damn well like at any age. I want to show my readers how to do that with a handmade wardrobe. If I happen to inspire anyone while I am at it then I will consider it a job well done. 

2. Commit to #2017makenine

If you follow me on Instagram you may have already seen that I have pledged to take part in Lucy Lucille‘s 2017 make nine. This is an initiative to make nine garments over the course of the year, with the focus on slow fashion.

In all honesty I hope to make a lot more than nine garments this year but these are the ones at the top of my list – either because I have had the pattern in my collection for ages or because it is a new skill and challenge for me.

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  • Top row, l-r  – Gertie’s Princess Seam Bodice Dress; Sew Over it Ultimate Trousers; Sew Over it Ultimate Shift Dress.
  • Middle row, l-r – Hermione Everyday socks; M Madalynne Bra (Simplicity 8229); Colette Patterns Anise Jacket
  • Bottom row, l-r – Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress; Slopes Pullover; I Knit London Brioche Kit Scarf

3.  Take part in #sewmystyle

Have you heard of this? It is basically a year-long sew-along starting this month. It has been organised by Alex from Bluebird Fabrics and aims to raise awareness about the pitfalls of fast fashion. They have selected 12 patterns, one for every month of the year and the goal is that by the end of the you will have your own little capsule wardrobe.

Starting with this piece for January – the Toaster Sweater (v2) by Sew House Seven.

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Such a lovely idea and, while I don’t think I am going to take part every month, I am pleased to be joining in for January at least. 

I will finish with a couple of resolutions that are not sewing related…

4. Get fit

2016 was the year in which I lost a lot of weight through Weight Watchers. Give or take the few pounds I have put back on over the holidays, I have lost around 20lbs in the last year. I am now a UK size 10 and, even though it is far from perfect, I  have a body that I no longer want to disguise under baggy ill fitting clothes. But I haven’t done any exercise while I was losing the weight and it’s all a bit flabby and out of shape. This year I want to get fitter, stronger and make the best of the body I have. Hmmm, maybe I could make some new gym clothes as an incentive!

5. Save

I have been a bit too spendy this past year. I really want to put an end to this and start saving more regularly. This means a halt on fabric and yarn shopping until I have used up some of my stash.  I have put it in writing so I have to do it now!

I could write a load more goals for the year but I think that is probably enough for now. 

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

Posted in Knitting

Completed: Icelandic Lopapeysa

In July this year I celebrated my 40th birthday with an incredible trip to Reykjavik in Iceland. I had wanted to go there since I was 16 years-old and obsessed with the singer Bjork.

The Bjork obsession has diminished somewhat in the last 24 years – I still love her but no longer feel the urge to pretend to be her – but my fascination with her  home country still remained.

It was a perfect holiday. Iceland was magical, with scenery unlike anywhere I have ever been before. I waited 24-years for that trip and it was everything I wanted it to be and then some.

Knitting is huge in Iceland – no doubt it stops them going mad in the cold and dark winter months spent indoors –  and the traditional Icelandic yoke jumper, the lopapeysa, is sold all over Reykjavik.

It is a style I have always loved and I knew that making my own with a traditional Icelandic pattern and Icelandic yarn would be a perfect souvenir of my birthday trip.

I bought my pattern and yarn from the Icelandic Hand Knitting Association and, considering how shockingly expensive everything in Iceland is, it was pretty cheap. The yarn and pattern came in at less than £30. And the ladies in the shop were incredibly helpful, explaining the pattern and yarn to me.

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The yarn I bought, Plotulopi, is a a traditional unspun yarn that is incredibly fragile and really unlike anything I have ever knit with before. I knit the lopapeysa with two strands of yarn, on size 6mm needles. I loved knitting this jumper. The fairisle yoke was so much fun to knit. And it was a pretty quick knit. Well it would have been if I didn’t have the kittens. I know I have mentioned this before,  but it is almost impossible to knit or sew with two very active and very curious kittens jumping around. The majority of this jumper was actually knit under a blanket so they couldn’t pounce on the yarn! But they are very cute so I will put up with this!

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I love my finished lopapeysa. It’s so warm and snuggly. I feel like I am being hugged when I wear it. And best of all, like all good souvenirs, it brings back happy memories of a perfect trip to Iceland.

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