I’ve been sewing for the last six years now and I’ve been reflecting recently on how my interests have influenced my children.
If you asked them, the two hobbies that my children would identify as mine would be sewing and running. In fairness, I love one of those and do the other in a failing attempt to keep healthy – but still they are the things I choose to do regularly in my spare time.
I’ve tried to get my girls running, but with minimal success. The least that’s said about Ellie’s nine consecutive Park Run fundraiser the better. They’ve all had a go, but any time I try to encourage them now to come for a jog around Bushy Park, they say “mum lies” and head straight for the bacon sarnies. (“Mum lies”, in case you’re wondering, relates to the only way I could get Ellie round the Bushy Park Run route, by telling her that the finish was right round the next corner. Repeatedly.)
Sewing however has been welcomed in a much more positive way.
Ellie might not be a runner, but after achieving an A in her GCSE Textiles exam (and making a fabulous 1950s red satin prom dress), she’s taking her Fashion A level next summer and is applying to university to study Costume Design. I’m so jealous – she’s been very clear that I can’t just sneak in at the back of her classes and join in – but I can’t wait to see what she creates.
Last summer Alice, my middle daughter, stitched a patchwork blanket because she was bored during the long holidays. The delicate hand-stitching is fragile but very neat, and she amazed me with her commitment and creativity. She has bursts of sewing (when she’s not immersed in GCSE exam revision, which is her world right now) and other creative projects, and is passionate about photography.
My youngest daughter, Tilly has also been interested in sewing, but in a slightly less self-sufficient way than her older sisters. To date that interest has mostly been expressed by asking for my help to make her doll some clothes (usually when I’m at a key point in a complicated project of my own) or creating cushions for favoured members of the family. That has just all moved up a gear.
Tilly is ten, so my sewing life started when she was four. I’ve made quite a few items of clothing for her over the years – and thinking about it, a lot of them have been pyjamas. She has relentlessly outgrown all the ‘jams I’ve made her so far though – even the ones with ridiculously big turn ups have now been turned down to the scant minimum hem and yet are flapping mid-calf. She’s going to be tall, this one.
So new pyjamas have been promised for some time, but this time we sewed them together. No, that’s not right either – for the pyjama trousers, she sewed and I helped.
The pattern for the trousers is the Simplicity 1722; one I’ve used for Tilly and others on countless occasions before. It is made with one pattern piece, and really couldn’t be simpler. One overlocked seam on each leg; the front-to-back crotch seam; elastic in a channel at the waist and hems on each leg. It was the perfect first project for someone who wanted to make something real that she could properly wear.
The fabric is a Spoonflower jersey that came to me at the Sewing Weekender, when I took the New Craft House knicker workshop. Spoonflower sponsored the workshop (thank you!) and gave participants a 1.5m piece of their jersey that we could choose from a range of prints. I knew Tilly would love this one (Whale’s Song by Katherine Quinn) and it was just wide enough to fit the age ten leg size on the cross grain. (You really couldn’t have gone on grain and had the whales swimming up and down the leg – that would have been very odd). The colours in the print are lovely and I don’t think it’s really faded in the wash – but even if it did, I think this print wouldn’t be hurt by a little fading. My previous orders from Spoonflower faded quite a lot and it put me off a bit – but whether it’s a better colour process they’re using now, or the jersey fabric, or the print itself – this time it’s all good.
We only had one seamripper moment with the trousers. When sewing the channel for the waist elastic, the machine ate some of the surrounding leg fabric on the first pass, but that was quickly sorted. By bedtime she had a new pair of PJ bottoms to leap around in and was feeling very proud.
I was feeling pretty proud too. It was such a nice experience to be teaching my daughter, who was at the right point to want to learn. I wasn’t distracted by another project that this was interrupting and it was a pleasure to be able to help her achieve something she really wanted to do and to make something she’ll get lots of use from. She was more than confident using both my sewing machine and the overlocker – and if the seams of one of the legs are a bit wigglier than is traditional – well who on earth is going to notice that? In sewing, in my experience, it’s all about having a go and learning by doing. She’s starting about 30 years earlier than I did, and I hope she ends up enjoying this hobby as much as I do.
The following weekend I managed to scale down the hoodie pattern from the Tilly and the Buttons Stretch book to fit a 10 year old frame. Using the smallest pattern size, it was a reasonably easy job to take out a couple of inches of length in the body and the arms. The pale green ponte fabric was one I had in my stash, and works perfectly to co-ordinate with the main pattern.
I managed to piece together enough of the whale fabric to line the hood, which she loves – and fortunately no one looks too closely at the inside of a hood, so the fact that some of them are upside down by necessity is not very obvious. The hoodie was a bit more complicated, so I was allowed to lead on the sewing this time. She did sew some of the seams, but was happy to let me back to my overlocker.
I’m proud of all my girls. If they had to choose one of my hobbies to join me in, I’m sure I should wish it was running for their cardiovascular health – but for the enjoyment of a creative shared experience, I’m really glad that they’ve all spent some time listening to the siren song of the fabric, and joined me in my happy place.