Sewing Weekender 2019

What a fantastic close to the summer: a weekend of making, while chatting to fellow sewing obsessives about fabric, patterns, sustainability, design, the sewing bee, wedding dresses and everything in between.

After The Fear of last year’s weekend, realising late in the day that actually sewing in a room full of other people might be quite intimidating for an introvert, this year was a dream. I knew for certain this year what I knew only in theory last year – that sewing people are the very nicest bunch you could hope to meet, that no one else is looking at your wonky seams and that the warm enthusiasm of being around people that understand us is incredibly liberating!

I was lucky enough to be part of the knicker workshop on Saturday morning, to make some Very Big Pants. Led by the lovely Hannah and Rosie from New Craft House, the workshop used the Madalynne Sinplicity 8228 pattern combining jersey and stretch lace. They look enormous, but in truth they’re really comfy.

Anyone interested in this pattern, please ignore the fabric requirements listed on the pack. Half a metre of jersey? One and a quarter metres of 8 inch stretch lace? I gathered the list together on Friday evening wondering how on earth we might need that quantity. In truth, you could probably make at least four pairs with the resources we brought, so I’ve plenty over for extras.

Hannah and Rosie were great – leading the workshop by sharing their skills and their enthusiasm. As the workshop was sponsored by Spoonflower, we were also each given a metre of their lovely jersey for taking part. The only downside really was that the workshop was in the fabric swap room – so my good intentions to donate and not to snaffle were undermined by my lack of willpower. With the lovely gift from Spoonflower, I certainly didn’t much reduce my stash this weekend.

As I wanted to finish them, unfortunately I missed the first talk of the afternoon in our room. Talking to others afterwards, it sounds like a fascinating and thoughtful presentation on sustainability in sewing from Selkie Patterns, and I’ll be reading their post on how I can be better at this. It certainly provoked discussion, which is key to change. I did arrive in time for Tara from Paper Theory talking about her experience of the fashion industry and its horrors (did you know there were sweatshops currently operating in London? Me neither, and it’s hard to get my head round.), her escape from it to home sewing pattern design and her very inclusive approach to designing garments that fit everyone well. Particularly after a weekend of staring enviously at jumpsuits, I’m very tempted by her Zadie pattern.

I spent the rest of the afternoon constructing the Named Sointu tee that I’d brought. After last year I was well aware that I’d be highly distracted, sewing in a much smaller space than usual and probably a bit nervous, so I’d decided on a relatively simple project. The Sointu has four main pieces – front, back, sleeve bands and belt. I prepped last weekend, cutting out the pieces and interfacing the belt and sleeve bands. I decided to put in a facing (also interfaced) rather than a bias bound neckline, and I chose to use a woven rather than a jersey fabric.

Thanks to Joy of Pink Coat Club for taking these pictures and making me laugh – a lot – to stop me feeling so self conscious

My fabric was a satin-backed crepe from Fabrics Galore. It has a lovely drape to it, and feels quite luxurious. I used the crepe side of the fabric throughout except for the sleeve bands where I used the satin side for a bit of gloss. The satin-backed crepe makes it feel like the tee is lined, without any effort whatsoever. #winning

The Sointu really is a very quick sew. Despite mucking up the facing first time around and needing my unpicker almost immediately, the tee was finished (apart from the belt) by the time that we finished for the day. I took it back to my room for a try on and liked it so much even unbelted that I wore it out to dinner – a dinner that involved gin and tonic, wine, fish and chips, and so much laughter and sewing gossip. A lovely evening with brilliant people.

A good night’s sleep and we were back for the second day, kicking off with a sewing celebrity – Juliet Uzor, last year’s Great British Sewing Bee winner. She brought her fabulous makes from the show and talked about pattern hacking as a creative and personal process, as well as providing an overview of sewing with wax fabrics. She was followed by Nina Lee – another maker well known in the community for her sewing patterns, but in her talk she led us through the delights (and the trials) of sewing her own wedding dress – along with clothes for most of the rest of the wedding party by the sounds of things. Really incredible achievements.

The talks, gossip and coffee meant I got less done on day two than I’d anticipated. I finished the Sointu belt – which is a couple of metres long and needed to be turned through, ironed and topstitched – as well as hand sewing in a highly appropriate tag to the tee and stitching down the facings to stop them flapping about.

[Top tip for future sewing weekender attendees – identify and save up some hand sewing items so you can continue with them during the talks – you obviously can’t use a sewing machine during them, but some calm and relaxing hand sewing is ideal.]

All too soon it was time for the group photo, farewells, and packing bags, machines and haberdashery to return home.

So, back to reality tomorrow. Right now I’m sat reflecting on how fortunate I am to have met so many great people, and to be confident that all the future sewing people I meet are likely to be similarly great. It’s such a warm community and this time round I was so much more confident about being accepted and welcome. Enormous thanks to everyone who organised the event (Kate and Rachel from the Foldline, with Charlotte and Barbara) – it’s an enormous achievement and you do it all so serenely! And a particular thanks to Liz (thebakerwhosews) who was kind enough to take me with her and bring me back home. As I say, sewing friends are the best!

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