World mental health day

World mental health day

I want to talk about mental health today. Itfs 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 my, 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ft 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fs even more heartbreaking when you know it didnft 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fs 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 arenft 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ft relaxing, we arenft 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fre in free fall. They need constant stimulation. And itfs 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fs 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 to make things but to help them cope with bereavement, anxiety and depression. 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fd 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 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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sewing machine repairs…

sewing machine repairs…

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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applique and free motion workshop

applique and free motion workshop

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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why my sewing classes are different

why my sewing classes are different

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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Joseph Frank

Joseph Frank

I went to the Fashion and Textiles museum last week, for a class in dyeing techniques. Before I went in I got to see the Joseph Frank exhibition which is amazing. Super colourful, positive, hopeful. A nice counter to the crazy negativity in the world right now! 
Here’s some pictures:


I always love going to the FTM, the building alone is inspirational (it’s pink and orange!) and the exhibitions are always amazing. The shop is fabulous as is the cafe next door. I’ve always known it was Zandra Rhodes’ baby but this time I found out she works from there, her printing studio is on the ground floor and her sewing studios upstairs, and that she lives upstairs. What a lady! 

Go and visit, I highly recommend it!

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cheeky handmades