When I am looking for inspiration I get a lot of design ideas from seeing what other people are wearing - 99% of the time I'm bored to tears with the sportswear offerings in the shops (if I see any more black & pink I'm going to cry!), but I'm always on the lookout for a little feature or print that I might incorporate months down the line. I love checking out what other people are wearing while I'm inside a race pen waiting for the starting gun, and I love talking to people who are enthusiastic about sports I'm not familiar with. Over the past year I’ve learned a lot about the needs of rock climbers and equestrians, for example - two sports I've not really done much myself.
Like a lot of patternmakers, I started my business because of opportunity, and a hole in the market. I started running and sewing about 13 years ago, and after a while I realised that the activewear patterns on the market were pretty basic in terms of style and design. I was spending more and more of my time chopping up existing patterns to make them more stylish and suitable for actual exercise than I was in sewing them, and when I was made redundant from my tech job, the timing seemed right to share my activewear designs with the wider world.
When I started my business, I totally underestimated how much time I’d spend on pretty much everything that isn’t sewing! The sheer amount of time spent at my computer, between answering emails or customer support queries, writing blog posts, tallying up my expenses, working on pattern instructions and drawing illustrations… it absolutely dwarfs the amount of time I actually get to spend actually sewing!
I get out of a creative rut by going for a run. I’ve been running for about 14 years now and running is definitely my “me time” – it’s my time to think, to roll little problems or stresses over in my mind, and to just relax. I’m a pretty high energy person, and I have very little patience for many traditionally “relaxing” pursuits, but a good run, especially off in some trails or woodland, is my perfect way to unwind.
I absolutely love that I can choose to spend my time sewing garments that fit me, are exactly the way I want them, in exactly the styles and colours I want. For me, I'd rather spend my Saturday in my sewing room than fighting the crowds on the tube to find clothes in shops that aren't quite what I want, to try them on in a sweaty changing room, then queue again to pay and stand on a crowded tube on my way home. It's the balance of the way I spend my time and the end result that really stand out for me, but also the simple joy I get in wearing my own clothes.
I would describe my stash/craft space as highly organized, and exactly the way I want it! My husband and I live on a Dutch barge, moored on the Thames in London. It used to be a hotel that slept 26 before we bought it 8 years ago, and we're slowly renovating it into a proper home for us. I've been sewing in a temporary room no bigger than most American closets for the past 8 years, but last year we finally finished building my permanent sewing room, and I couldn't be happier! It's even hidden behind a bookcase door at the end of the corridor, so it's a real superhero hideout!
The first thing I made was a tee-shirt refashion. Not counting the sewing projects I made when I was in school, the first garment I made on my own sewing machine was taking an XXL Firefox teeshirt someone gave me and completely chopping it up to have an X-band back and be much more fitted. I always find it odd when people are intimidated to sew with stretch fabrics or think they need a fancy machine – I was sewing knits from the very start with my basic, vintage sewing machine.
The biggest DIY mistake I ever made was not sewing a zipper stopper immediately after shortening a zip. Unfortunately this was on my 99% finished wedding gown, and when I pulled the zipper head right off I nearly broke into tears. Luckily, my husband (then fiancé) is more patient than I am and carefully coaxed the slider back onto the zipper for me. But the experience has made me always immediately sew a new stopper (or at least affix a safety pin through the teeth) for every zipper I’ve ever shortened since then!
My next project is a mid-weight coat using some navy wool coating that I bought nearly 18 months ago, but for some reason finding a pattern worthy of it has been a real struggle. I’ve gone through muslins for no less than 5 different coat patterns but none of them were what I had in mind ultimately. But over the holidays I’ve finally made a muslin I’m happy with, so I’m excited to finally get the chance to cut into that wool!
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