I want to talk about mental health today. Itfs 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 wonft 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 itfs even more heartbreaking when you know it didnft 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. Itfs 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 arenft relaxing, we arenft 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 theyfre in free fall. They need constant stimulation. And itfs 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 itfs 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 Ifd 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 😉
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
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]*
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
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!
So far so good. I have made two blocks for my Gypsy Wife quilt, only about 25 to go ~(*’><‘*)~. I’m posting the blocks on Instagram as I go. Do you follow me on Instagram? If not, do! I’m a very visual person and am always posting pictures of nice sewing machines and trees and stuff. I’m here.
I’m working on my gorgeous Carousel crochet along blanket again. It took a backseat whilst I finished my christmas present knitting and I can’t crochet and watch tv so it’s a morning thing only so progress isn’t fast but I only have 5 large pentagons to go and then the border!
My sociable sewing sessions are finally working. This is the third time I’ve tried running these and now it’s taking off. I’m so chuffed. There’s been such a lovely
variety of people and projects already, people have made dresses and bunting anf worked on tailored shirts and skirts etc. The next session is on Sunday 5th
February and there’s plenty more throughout February and March! Book here!
I’ve made the prototype of my wedding dress and fit first time round, no adjustments needed at all. Amazing! I’ve also made 8 meters of rainbow bunting so I’m wellon track! Later in the year I will get you all involved in bunting etc making so watch this space!
I’ve finished knitting the shawl for Sarah I started in Scotland over Christmas. I found all this lush yarn in a Paisley
charity shop for 20p a ball and started a shwal with it. I ended up using quite a bit of pink and coral too to inject a bit of colour into the winter 🙂
And I’ve finished the Hermione’s everyday socks in Helen’s stunning Prism break yarn. Lush pattern and yarn 🙂
I am blogging more and I am actively doing my Illustrator course finally after almost 6 months of inaction. I haven’t eaten ANY sweets, cake, biscuits or indeed very much hidden sugars (pizza, juice, sauces) for three weeks now. I feel more energetic and my eyes aren’t as dry but I haven’t lost a single ounce. Argh. Must be my age!
How are you all getting on with your new year’s resolutions?
I have had an extremely productive year this year although I produced much more finished knittingprojects than sewn ones (it’s a huge addiction now, I think about knitting ALL THE TIME!).
Next year no doubt I will knit about a million shawls and socks but I also want to make other planned things. Some of these are already started and been lingering, some for a long time, some of these have been planned (patterns bought even!) for a while, some of them for years.
In the early part of 2016 I took part in a quilt along, making foundation paper pieced blocks from the 1930s farmer’s wife book. It was fn but super time consuming, each blocjk taking at least two hours. After 10 blocks I gave up, but I do want to turn this into something. Maybe a scrappy patchy quilt along the lines of the crochet blankets below?
Talking of scrappy colourful blankets, the Gypsy Wife quilt pattern has been lingering in my stash for about 4 years. I LOVE the look of it but have never got further than reading the first few pages of the description. I really would like 2017 to be the year I make this! Maybe a quilt along with friends? Who’s in? I know Sam has this pattern and not made it yet. Fancy making it together in a quilting bee? Cake and tea?
I have been crocheting a blanket made from all different squares since about 2014. Since before I had a boyfriend basically ;-). I have a trunk full of patches but nowhere near enough yet for a blanket. I feel inspired by the pictures of these to make it scrappy and patchy AND finish it this year.
I want to crochet and knit some more kids ponchos. These are about 12 year old now! And I want to write the pattern down as these were just made up as I went along…
I started knitting this as a jumper after coming back from Arisaig n the west coast of Scotland in summer 2015, then decided to turn it into a poncho. It’s knitted with 2 ply alpaca yarn and skinny needles so progress is s l o w but this year I WILL finish it. Below are some lovely fair isle inspirational photos. Maybe I will even knit another fair isle cardigan too!
This year I WILL knit myself some fun and lovely fair isle socks!
I want to make at least one more pair of Ginger jeans, as they are just such a good fit. Some more bras too as I haven’t finished ANY this year and I have enough fabric and elastic to make about 20!
I am very close to finishing the Sue Pinner Carousel blanket, just a few more pentagons and the final rows. January. Promise.
I’m getting married in September and of course it’s going to be a handmade affair! I am making the dress, have started making a test of this 50s simplicity dress to see if it works. I also want to make a fabric/ yarn bouquet, all the bunting and poms poms and other decorations. Watch this space. I will try finalise everything in the summer holidays.
Having bought this funky shiffon cat fabric for next to nothing on the market I want to make a summery tunic dress with it.
I have long wanted to make a spider’s web quilt and seeing the pattern for the quilt turn up on Instagram reminded me. I have tons of scraps I can use I haven’t made a quilt since spring of this year so this will be timely.
I have had the Swoon pattern for a few years now. 2017 will hopefully be the year I will make one!
This coming year I also want to make a modern wedding ring quilt. I especially love the scrappy and fun grey one on the left.
A few months ago I learnt to macrame. Plant pot holders don’t really do it for me but I have seen some great wall hangings I would like to try my hand at.
Another quilt block I would love to try is the pineapple block. I do think it would test my patience severly to make a whole quilt out of it as it’s rather time consuming but maybe I will make a mini quilt?
I really would love to crochet a rainbow unicorn! Whether I ever will is debatable but you never know…
Last but not least next year there will be another e17 art trail. The theme this time will be STEAM, how the arts and sciences interact. I have all kinds of plans for mathmatical crochet and quilting. This will no doubt occupy a lot of my thinking and time in the months, no really, realistically the weeks leading up to the Art Trail. Am excited already!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
It’s been a super long time in the hatching stage and we have come up against more problems than we needed but I am back to writing my sewing book and I am more than excited. It’s been hard to find the right angle, I didn’t want to write yet another projects book, I think the market is saturated with those. But I think I’m on the right track now and I’m looking forwards to finding a publisher. There will be a good mix of beginners sewing, dressmaking, quilting, gorgeous photography, tools and tips and general all round cheekyness!
I’ve been super busy and then when I did think to breathe and blog again my WordPress app wouldn’t let me. I’m still not entirely sure what’s going on, it’s all way too technical for me, so I’m meeting with my friend Lisa next week who’s a techie whizz and who looks after my site for me. In the meantime I can compile blog posts on my phone but not add pictures, boo. So I’ll write it on here and add pictures later before sending it off into the ether. Boring but better than not being able to blog at all. Not that I’m that avid a blogger or feel the need to tell you constantly what I’m up to (I’m sure you don’t care much) but as soon as I can’t do something I want to be able to do it.
I taught my first class (hopefully of many more!) at a gorgeous space in Dalston. Turns out I first the owner about 20 years ago when she played in a band with my friend Sam! Small world.
I’ve taken a huge break all year from sewing for me. Not because I wanted to mind, but due to lack of time. I was up to my eyeballs in making quilts for other people until about 3 weeks ago and since then I’ve been painting my front door, cooking, gardening, knitting and going back to the gym. It’s been super relaxing but now I’m itching to make things for me again. I did get into dyeing yarn with Koolaid a little, it was such fun and smelt heavenly. I ran out of light coloured yarn hence stopped but I want to do LOADS more.
my hitchhiker shawl, knitted with @the wool kitchen #ziggy yarn
Me-designed shawl for the lovely Tanja, again with lots of @the wool kitchen yarn!
@ countess ablaze socks, two on one needle!
Lovely stripey socks. Unfortunately I had to frog them as they stretched SO BAD!
I mastered brioche knitting on my most recent Scotland break. Hard fought!
My lovely capuccino dress made out if IKEA fabric died a few week back. The fabric just ripped under the armpits and despite reinforcing it in a rather cute way it promptly ripped again.
Definetely time to go back to the gym. Or maybe the fabric was too cheap and cheerful. Either way I need another one in my life as it was just such a good wear. Massive pockets and a flattering fit. So that’s on my list.
As are more jeans, my Ginger jeans are just the best jeans ever so I need more. Maybe some flared ones too?! I also need some summery shorty dungarees, some funky culottes and more bras. All but one of my me-made bras have broken in some way or other, mostly to do with the pattern being altered and me ending up with underwires too long for the channelling I had made and them not poking out through the stop I had made for them. Hey ho.
I also have many ideas for drafting patterns for dresses and tunics a la cheekyhandmades’ style. Watch this space!
One thing I probably won’t make again is knickers. I made a few pairs in the last few months, one cotton woven pair and two jerseys pairs. The woven pair needs some adjusting to cover more of my bootie but it was surprisingly almost a good fit out of the bag. I just prefer the feel of stretchy fabric under my jeans. The two pairs of jersey knickers I made were from a pattern I bought online. They were high waisted ones and were a pig to cut out. I hate cutting jersey, it just won’t behave well when cutting. Grrr. It was super easy to sew them and they fit beautifully, however I’m just not a high waisted pants kinda girl. Even in funky fabrics they still scream granny pants at me and I feel decidedly frumpy in them even if no one can see them. So that was an interesting experiment but I think I’ll leave the knicker making to the experts.
Some gorgeous blossoms
Here’s some of the quilts I have finished these last few months
Max, Sean and I hve been going on some great trips. We have been to Ramsgate, St Leonards, Glasgow, Flakirk and Paisley and last week we had a whole sunny week in Scotland. We visited Sean’s mum’s caravan on Cumbrae. It was so hot the lads swam in the sea!
I ove my Ginger jeans pattern so much I am pretty evangelical about it. I use it to teach my jeans classes and have made myself my two favourite pairs of jeans from the pattern. There’s an awesome sew-along and now all the info from the sewalong has been put into an e-books. All the info you need to get to grips with buying and using denim, top stitching, inserting jean’s buttons and rivets, fly zips, pockets etc. And now there is also a Flares pattern for those of us who love flares.
There is a special offer on bundles on the pattern website at the moment, buy either the jeans, flares or ebook or any combo thereof and you will get a discount.
Chop chop, what are you waiting for?!