The Sewing Weekender

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Hi all,

So this weekend I’m going to be binge blogging – is this a thing? I feel like others do nice regular updates to everyone each week and here’s me, nothing for a month and then two at the same time.

It is mainly because I’ve spent the entire month, since my July update, making my Ginger Jeans and nothing much else. However, as I mentioned last time, I held off making my True Bias Nikko top until the Sewing Weekender, as I wanted something simpler to make while I chatted to my sewing friends.

For those who have not heard of the Sewing Weekender, it is a day and a half of sewing together with like minded sewers, drinking tea, swapping notes and getting to know each other better in person. It is supremely well organised by three gorgeous ladies called Rachel and Nicky from the Foldline and Charlotte English Girl at Home. They rally round loads of sewing suppliers to gather sponsorship and also have Janome lend us a couple of rooms full of sewing machines for us to borrow. Some bring their own machines, some share – but Janome were so generous this time that hardly any of us found ourselves actually waiting for a machine. It was more like 3 machines between 4 people.

Using a more modern computerised machine has me pining to upgrade, I must confess. Exactly what you wanted isn’t it, Janome? 😂 I have been called an Ad-Man’s Dream before now. I admit it! This is the one I was using.

So Sarah and I headed out in Sarah’s gorgeous little car on the Friday. A lot of singing happened enroute – we do love to sing. It’s held in Cambridge which is a fair way from Bristol, so we wanted to arrive fresh the next morning. The venue for the event was Murray Edwards College Cambridge and we had dorm rooms for the two nights. They were nicely kitted out dorm rooms – not every uni dorm has ensuite. From what I remember..

It was a rather surreal experience for me, because I’ve followed Sarah since she started with her sewing Instagram account and have gradually started following other people in the community, through her, especially once I got into it myself. So suddenly I’m faced with all these REALLY familiar faces, some of whom I almost just completely blurted out “Oh hiiiii, how are youuuuu?” to them, when I know they have no idea who I am. I’ve met properly famous people before, who are used to this and I’m probably a lot more star-struck then, but it was more that they felt like friends already because of how the sewing community shares their ups and downs. So hopefully I didn’t come across too strange or overly familiar to too many people! Haha

One lady I was really excited to meet was Kate from The Cats Out The Bag on Instagram. We both have boys starting school this year and she lives near to where I grew up in Shropshire, so I knew I’d feel like we had a little in common from the start. We sat next to each other and were laughing together from the first few minutes. I was also privileged to meet Maddie from Thimblebee and Jen from Gingerella. The four of us sat together to sew and we all had a really lovely time, getting to know each other and helping with words of advice. Across the table from me were Kathy from Sew Dainty and Rebecca from redwsews. I really enjoyed meeting all these lovely women.

Sewing-wise, I took my yellow jersey that was already cut out to make a True Bias Nikko top. I thought it was going to take about an hour, maybe two. But it took me most of the day on the Saturday. I think this was partly because I normally work in the quiet of my sewing room with nothing distracting me, and suddenly I was surrounded by squeals from girls who haven’t seen each other for ages, reuniting again. Plus we had our own gossip to add to that. There was also a new machine to get used to. This took no time at all though and I was in seventh heaven. It has a speed setting, which my manual machine doesn’t have. So I was often messing about with the really slow speed setting, feeling all zen and slowly carefully stitching my top. Ohhhhmmmmmm!

Honestly that setting is the best thing in my world right now. #sigh There may be a new purchase soon. Hubby may have already said “I’ll give you some towards it so you can buy new.” Fink I might love that man… 😊😍

So I thought I’d finished my Nikko top, and pottered off to the toilets to try it on. The toilets, by the way, were buzzing with other women doing exactly the same thing! Total strangers were helping each other out with fit tips, pinning hems, checking out rear views of outfits – it was the best place to go if you needed a second opinion!

Firstly, as soon as I put it over my head, I got foundation all over the neckline! Didn’t think that one through did I?! Then when I looked at it in the mirror, the front of the neckline was half strangling me and there was loads of excess fabric above my bust. I thought it was a terrible fit. So I took it off again and wandered slowly back to my machine, telling people on the way that it was a rubbish fit. It was only when I held it up to show another person and straightened it out a bit that I realised I’d put the neckline on backwards! The seam that was meant for the back was what I used to gauge which was the front or back and I’d tried it on backwards! I should have known when the neckline was strangling me but I was all abuzz at the time. So that was easily fixed, turned the neckband around and it fit like a glove! 💛

Of course then I had to take it back to my room and wash all the foundation off so I could wear it on the second day!

Fun fact. I went to change the thread in my bobbin from yellow to black and the bobbin was completely empty. That will literally never happen again. Winning at bobbin roulette!

I then changed out of the batwing dress I was wearing so that I would be able to switch in and out of my gingers, as I wanted to finish the back pocket topstitching and get the ladies to help me place them on the back of my jeans. I hadn’t quite finished them to be wearing them properly on the day, but the hems were baste stitched and they just needed little finishing touches. I’ll do a separate blog on the jeans but I made the most of like-minded people who have been there themselves to help me place the pockets. Emily from Self Assembly Required stepped up to the plate and with a group of onlookers, she checked out the shape of my bum and pinned the pockets perfectly. To the point that suddenly, the group of onlookers went “oooooh” and “wow” and “yes”! Hahahahaha. I was giggling like a schoolgirl!

The other great part of the Sewing Weekender was that there were talks from four really inspirational women in the sewing community.

Sheona from Sewisfaction talked about what it was like setting up her lovely creative business. It was interesting to hear about how you give up your private life at the start, and then finally realise you need help. And staff. Then it all starts falling into place. I found this fascinating.

Karen from Did You Make That was up next. She had a really useful talk for anyone thinking of publishing their first sewing related non fiction. It’s not what I imagine doing myself, but I thought the publisher’s insight into the process really really interesting. Things like doing your research on other related books published in the past 2-3 years, to prove to potential publishers that you know what you’re talking about. It made the whole process seem really simple! Which I’m sure it’s not.

On the Sunday, it was the turn of Frances Tobin, fashion designer and the founder of The Makers Atelier pattern line. I didn’t know too much about her before her talk. She took us through a bit of the history of vogue patterns and then blended that with the beginnings of her own design label. I could tell from the reverence of my friends towards her that this was someone I needed to gen up on. A very classy lady.

Lastly and possibly my favourite, was Harriet from the Little Dressmaker. She used to call herself Hobbling Handmade. I rather strangely convinced myself her name was Charlotte for a bit. No idea why! Aaaanyway.

She did a talk about taking better care of your clothes. She has blogged about finishing your seams in more robust ways, to continue the longevity of your me-made clothes. She also talked about washing your clothes in a sparing way that doesn’t degrade them too quickly. But the best bit is that she has self-published a guide for stain removal. There are certainly some stubborn stains that this little book is most useful for. She has setup the Clothing Care Co. to expand on this subject and I really think there’s a huge market for advice of this kind, where we all need to be mindful of maintaining the strength and use of our clothes for as long as possible. She has such charisma, poise and professionalism for such a young woman and we all absolutely adored her.

We enjoyed a meal out across tables in two pubs over the road from each other in the evening. There were so many of us that there wasn’t anywhere in Cambridge that could accommodate all of us. I believe another group of us had dinner at the college too.

I spent the Sunday sewing time doing more to the jeans, namely topstitch attaching those pockets in place. This took some concentration and Kate was also concentrating on finishing her York pinafore. So there were times when we were quite quiet. But it felt nice, quietly sharing our craft time. It’s not often that either of us get a whole day and a half to just sew, with kiddies running around. So we were really making the most of it.

The only thing I had left to do on the jeans after the weekend was belt loops, rivets and finishing the hems properly.

I really didn’t want the weekend to end, although I did miss my boys and was keen to get home to spend time with them. I’m hoping this is the start of some really great friendships. I’ve had a lot of laughs, learned loads and made some great new connections. For anyone considering taking part in something like this, do some searches on sewing meetups in your area. If there aren’t any, then maybe you’re the person to get one started?! If you’re considering trying to come to the Cambridge event next year do it – just book it and get here because it’s just the best!