Posted in Lifestyle, Plans, Sewing

Wendy takes Manhattan

Hello,

It seems like forever since I last wrote a blog post. Not quite forever, but 20 days really is a long time in the blogosphere.

I would love to tell you that I have sewn up a whole new wardrobe in that time but I have not made much at all since I was last here. I have a few projects that are cut out and ready to be sewn up  (a bra, skirt, two cardigans, two tee shirts) and a few projects on my knitting needles (scarf, jumper, baby cardigan) but hardly anything finished to completion. Except for a top (for me) and dress (for my mum). The top is a lovely striped French Terry number, that started off as a Sew Over It Ultimate Shift Dress and later became a top when I realised I’d probably get more wear out of it that way. One of my best ever decisions.

This was taken before I changed the length to turn it into a top. You get the idea.

The dress for my mum is a simple summer dress, made from old lady fabric, that just needs hemming. I’ll do a proper post all about this one later. While it is a simple enough summer dress, sewing for someone who is elderly, disabled and has limited mobility, presented me with a load of new challenges that I had never really considered before.

I actually thought I would get a load of sewing done during the last few weeks. The boyfriend has been working in NYC for the past month and, strong independent woman that Beyonce told me to be I am,  I really embraced this as a time to get stuff done and learn some new skills. In reality, I ended up missing him terribly and feeling too weary to sew or do much other than eat my feelings. Also the baby cats were pining for him and became very demanding – they barely left my knee while he was away.

I eventually flew out to join him in NYC this week and, as always when I visit this city, I had an amazing time. I met some lovely people; attempted to drink all the local beers and visited the greatest sites of NYC – Purl Soho yarn shop and Mood fabric store.

Wearing my Tilly & the Buttons Cleo Dress in Brooklyn, NYC

While it was wonderful to be there and to touch all the pretties, I didn’t actually buy anything in Purl Soho. To be honest I didn’t really see anything that I can’t get in my local yarn store. Also, because of the state the pound is in at the moment, it was all super expensive. I’m still really glad that I got to visit though.

Purl Soho – I came for the selfie

As for Mood Fabrics… this is hands down the greatest fabric store I have ever visited. Friendly staff, who really know their stuff and were a delight to talk to, and oh my god the fabric. There is so much fabric in Mood that I got completely overwhelmed and had to sit down for bit and compose myself (seriously). I could have bought so much more but I managed to show a bit of restraint and bought three lengths (2.5 yards each) of printed silks. All polka dots. This wasn’t an intentional plan, I  just have a thing for polka dots (and stripes and gingham, but that’s another blog post).

Mood Fabrics – I have this thing for polka dots

I haven’t really decided yet what I am going to make with the silk but I suspect lovely light weight summer dresses. I welcome any ideas you might have for it.

I think maybe a Sew Over It 1940s Tea Dress for the pale peach and pink dots.

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Sew Over It, 1940s Tea Dress

Possibly a Tilly & the Buttons Bettine for the pink with white dots. I don’t know though. Is a Bettine special enough for this lovely fabric? I think I will need to do a toile first and see if I like the fit of this dress on me.

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Tilly & the Buttons, Bettine Dress

And I am really not sure about the navy and white polka dot. Maybe another BHL Anna Dress. A short version this time, with a V-neck.

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By Hand London, Anna Dress

This could all change, and there are a gazillion other things in the queue to be made ahead of these, but it is good to have plans!

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 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 Blog

I Have A New Blog!

Hey there! My name is Wendy and I am a high school sewing teacher who has been knitting and sewing for as long as I can remember. In many ways I have my dream job – I get to share my passion for textiles with teenagers and I get paid to do it! I love my job and, like all teachers, I love that every day I get to make a difference to children’s lives.

However:-

  1. It is exhausting
  2. When I have spent all day demonstrating French seams; untangling jammed bobbins and replacing broken needles, often the last thing I want to do when I get home is get my own sewing machine out. I feel like I have lost my sewing mojo (sew-jo?) and I want it back.

Last week I was lucky enough to take a sewing class with the lovely Gretchen ‘Gertie’ Hirsch at Ray Stitch in London and it has reignited the sewing spark in me. In six short hours of a bodice fitting master class, Gretchen taught me something that I have been ignoring in my sewing practice…. to slow down, stop cutting corners and enjoy the process from start to finish. The result will hopefully be well fitting garments that I can be proud of. A far cry from my previous method of against the clock ‘speed sewing’ and crossing my fingers that the fit is ok.

I feel inspired to keep up this new approach to garment making and to document it in this blog. So… welcome to my blog and come back soon to see some sewing!