Every May lots of people take part in Me Made May. What this exactly means is different for each person that signs up. Some people undertake to make something new every day, some people undertake to wear something handmade every day, some people undertake to seriously scrutinise their handmade wardrobe to find what they maybe don’t wear so much and what they maybe need to make more of to fill gaps.
We (or is that just me?!) can get so carried away making the same fabulous dress over and over, or making things in all the crazy flamingo fabric we find, that we may not every really stop to think whether we actually wear all the wild prints or whether we actually consistently grab the plain ones. Y
I myself have pledged to fill the gaps in my handmade wardrobe. In 2015 I didn’t buy any clothes apart from underwear, socks and tees, and even then, I learned to make bras and knickers and knitted some fabulous pairs of socks! It was a great year, I learnt so much and loved every moment of it. I’ve let things slip in some departments, all my handmade bras are kaput or too small now, and I have been too tired/ busy/ reluctant to pick up the patterns and books again and make more. It took about 8 goes to get the pattern to fit me perfectly and I suspect now middle age spread has well and truly set in, I may need to re-do a lot of the pattern to achieve a good fit. But I may not have to, and I won’t know until I make one! I have a huge stash of bra making fabric and really no excuse at all. I have been busy teaching and also took on an allotment in December so time is precious and I more often than not curl up on the sofa with knitting and Netflix rather than get the machine out in the evenings but I am promising myself I will make at least one well fitting bra this month.
Today I am wearing a Sew Over It Ultimate Shift dress in a fabulous cherry print. I’ve not worn this much at all, it kept being overlooked for baggier dresses and today I realised it just needs some tweeking. The neckline is super high which doesn’t suit me nor does it feel very nice, and it is pretty short (and rides up), so I am going to alter the neckline and maybe add a funky ruffle for length. And maybe some waist darts to make more of my D cup (it’s a bit shelf like in this dress, also because of the high neck). So it’s good to examine my me made clothes and refashion ones that I don’t love quite as much, fix ones that may have sustained some holes/ tears, and fall in love with all my handmades again. I must say I wear handmades all the time anyway, I reckon half my dresses are handmade. I made leggings in the summer but they fell down within hours of wearing them and life is too short to make leggings which don’t fit so well when you can just buy some in Tesco’s for £6 as I did this morning (yes I know…cheap fashion, someone pays for it…)
Here is a link for you to sign up: http://sozowhatdoyouknow.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/me-made-may-18-sign-up-here.html
Check out all the blogs, Instagram posts etc under the hashtag #MMay18!
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I want to talk about mental health today. It’s world mental health day today, the 10th October. Mental ill health is something we all struggle with sometimes and yet easy as we may find it to talk about having a physical issue, people tend not to talk so easily about not feeling well mentally. This stigma is in my opinion a huge problem. It stops people seeking help and it makes people feel ashamed of not being in perfect health. This needs to stop. Nothing good at all comes from somehow pretending you bring mental ill health upon yourself or that you are somehow weak or lesser.
Mental ill health can cause enormous problems, some chronic and far reaching both for the person with the problems and for their friends, family and community. I have myself been through hell these last four months on account of my partner suffering a horrible breakdown and turning on me, his mother, his friends etc. If he had felt less ashamed he may have been more likely to seek help but as it stands he won’t as he is terrified of the stigma and terrified of what might happen if he admits to being ill. It has been hugely traumatic for all involved and it’s even more heartbreaking when you know it didn’t have to be this way. That there is help and support and medication out there.
On a less extreme note lots of us suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, depression etc. It’s so common, especially living in these hectic always-on times and in hectic big cities. I fully believe living like we do makes us sick. We arenft coping at all with all the non-stop digital input, the never switching off, the pressure of 24/7 social media and emails and news etc. We aren’t relaxing, we aren’t sleeping properly, we have forgotten how to be still and how to entertain ourselves. My kids complain of being bored all the time, even when they are watching TV. Any kind of break where the input slows down and their minds feel like they’re in free fall. They need constant stimulation. And it’s not just kids, most adults have an unhealthy relationship with their phone/ iPad/ laptop. It stimulates the reward centres in our brain and we are most of us addicted to technology in varying degrees. No wonder we are full of worries and anxieties and have panic attacks.
We need to slow down. Reconnect with the soil, with ourselves, with doing slow things. With being rewarded by real things such as smiles from actual people and vegetables grown on allotments. By connecting with people and making things with our hands. This is where I believe crafting has a huge role to play.
Slowing down to create something engages our brains in a much more deeply satisfying way than achieving another level on Candycrush ever can. When you are fully losing yourself in sewing a dress you actually forget to worry about other stuff, you are fully mindful and in the moment. And it’s not just sewing. Any kind of making has been shown to shift our brain activity in the same way that meditation does. It reduces our stress hormones and increases our dopamine (happy chemicals) levels. It helps us regain a slower pace of life and helps us focus. It has clinically been shown to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. Our brains can only do one thing at a time. Being absorbed in following a pattern means we cannot worry.
“The repetitive motions of knitting, for example, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which quiets that “fight or flight” response” (http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/25/health/brain-crafting-benefits/index.html)
Learning to overcome challenges in the sewing room can set us up to help us deal with bigger challenges in life. If we can finish a knitted jumper or sew a quilt it teaches us to approach life with a more can-do attitude too.
And of course seeing a finished item feeds back into that reward centre in our brains, creating a perfect loop of happiness. Or at least happier than when we reward ourselves with Facebook or gaming or wine.
I have taught many students who are not only here to make things but to help them cope with bereavement, anxiety and depression too. And they have without fail reported back on feeling better when they are regularly sewing. Or knitting or cross stitching or baking or gardening. Sewing is good for you, mind, body and soul. And yes I may be addicted to buying yarn and knitting but I’d rather have this addiction than one to drugs or alcohol!
I don’t know who to credit this fabulius piece of X stitch to. Not me, that’s for sure. It was a Bored Panda piece I’m sure, re-posted on FB. Sorry whoever made this, I love it and I’m totally reposting it here. Both because it’s a crafted item but also because actually I need to learn to fall in love with better people 😉
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I love fixing sewing machines. I love seeing harrassed or broken machines being broiught back to life, cleaned and oiled and purring away happily. Unless your machine is a cheap plastic thing most machines an be coaxed back to life even after being ignored for years and years and the really old ones are utterly indestructible.
Here’s just a few of the horrors I’ve come across…
Keep your machine covered up and clean, change your needle often, use decent thread and the right bobbins, and don’t stitch over pins, and you should have a long relationship with your machine! IUf it does all go pear shaped come and see the doctor and I will fix her right up.
Sewing machine servicing & repairs London
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On Saturday 15th July the whole day is dedicated to appliqué and free motion embroidery in my sunny garden studio.
This is such a fun and freeing workshop, the techniques take no time at all to learn and then you will spend hours creating pictures with thread and scraps of fabric. Applique and free motion are brilliant for adding lovely details to dresses, tea towels, kids clothes, quilts, bags etc.
All the tools and materials are included in this class. You just turn up with yourself and I’ll supply everything else including coffee, tea and biscuits!
Booking is here: bookwhen.com/cheekyhandmades
*photography by Simon Daley [email protected]*
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The longer I teach the more I find out just exactly how different my classes are from many other classes.
I don’t want this post to sound like me massively blowing my own trumpet as to me it’s more about eradicating bad teaching rather than promoting myself. But hey if that means another few students I’m obviously not complaining!
My ethos is to inspire confidence and to encourage a love of sewing. A love of creating, stitching, making and wearing clothes that fit and make you happy, knowing where to buy fabric and how to look after your sewing machine, the confidence to start and finish a project, to experiment, to play, to enjoy the process even if the result disappoints.
And I believe I manage to get this across most of the time. My classes are friendly, encouraging, in depth, fun, inspiring, and I give everyone as much time and attention as they need. I couldn’t teach another way. To see people skipping out of my class smiling is more important than getting paid even. To get emails from students saying how sewing has changed their lives, is invaluable.
And yet I hear horror stories of how other people teach. Over and over. Too large a class for anyone to learn much or dare to ask questions. Teaching from a real distance (learn to sew in a lecture theatre anyone?!). A dressmaking class with 8 students and everyone making something different. People left to their own devices week in week out. People being belittled for not knowing certain things (erm hello it’s a beginners class!!), and people being told they will never learn. People being set useless exercises. Recently someone came to me asking me to help her learn to sew in circles as this had been set as her homework. You’ll never need to sew in a circle baby! Teaching for teaching’s sake. Not inspiring or challenging or providing a supportive environment.
Hearing these stories breaks my heart. There is just no need to teach like that and to destroy someone’s confidence or potential love for sewing is unforgivable.
Needless to say then that’s not how I teach.
To book one of my classes click here
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