Hello, lovely people! I’m Anna (sometimes also known as Jo) and I’m a 41-year-old sewist living in Somerset, England. These days I share house space with my partner, Andy, and three kids: Daisy (13), Gabriel (nearly 4) and baby Lauren. There are two cats here as well, but they don’t get much of a look-in these days. Sorry, cats!
I’ve been sewing pretty much all of my life now. I learnt to sew at my Mum’s knee, and my very first sewing project was a little soft toy made of lots of felt scraps. I called him Mouseshaker, for reasons best known to my five-year-old self, and he’s somewhere in the attic, in a box full of sentimental crap. One day I’ll get on with my decluttering and find him again, and there will be pictures (that’s both a threat and a promise!)
So, Mum was good for teaching me embroidery, but she wasn’t a dressmaker. I didn’t learn to make clothes until reaching secondary school. I made myself a dreadful pair of MC Hammer-style dropped-crotch trousers in a lovely skeleton leaf woven fabric. They had a wide elasticated waist and were extremely comfortable, but not very stylish even in the early 90s. I seemed to remember they were relegated purely to loungewear, but then I found this picture from a summer holiday in 1992. Proof I did indeed wear them out of the house on at least one occasion. Please ignore the bandana. I was going through a (mercifully) brief Guns ‘n’ Roses phase at the time.
My second school dressmaking project wasn’t as successful. I made a long-sleeved knit tee in powder blue, but finished before the rest of the class so my teacher made me add a patch pocket on the front, despite my stylistic objections. And then I accidentally left the presser foot up and sewed right through my finger. There was a lot of blood. I never wore that blood-stained tee and perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t carry on with dressmaking the next year…
So, for a long time I was afraid of sewing machines and the only sewing I did was the odd bit of repair work by hand. But then after having Daisy, I felt the need for a new creative outlet. And for clothes that fit my 30-year-old post-childbearing body properly. And so I faced my fears, enrolled on a dressmaking evening class at my local college and sewed up a few Butterick and McCalls patterns, to varying degrees of success. I haven’t kept any of those garments and I don’t have photographic evidence either. Actually, that’s a lie. I have one red wool self-drafted lined skirt that I fully intend to remake into something that fits me now I’ve lost all the baby weight. I would post a photograph but it’s just hanging off me now and would look like one of those dodgy ads for the latest diet fad.
After those initial early dressmaking disasters I took up running, lost a load of weight, and then discovered Craftsy. Taking a few classes there really upped my game when it came to making garments that fit me properly. From this period in my sewing career I have a fairly extensive range of cocktail dresses, a steampunk burlesque costume and a corset. Yep, technically impressive but not the kind of clothes that really get worn all that often. Still, I’m spoiled for choice when choosing clothes for a posh night out. Shame that doesn’t happen more than a couple of times a year!
It wasn’t until I discovered the world of sewing blogs (about four years ago) and the wonderful challenge that is Me Made May that I started to realise the possibilities for making the kind of clothes that I would wear every day. It took me a while to get started–getting pregnant with Gabriel put the brakes on temporarily as I knew my body would change size massively over the next couple of years–but in 2016 I finally felt like I had enough me-made items to take part in Me Made May. And it was a huge amount of fun.
Learning to sew with knit fabrics has really been a revelation. I had lots of technical skills when it came to fitting and sewing tricky fabrics, but the garments I made rarely felt comfortable enough to want to wear all that often. Now I’m a bit of an old hand at knits I’m wondering why I found them so scary to begin with. These days I’d much rather sew with knits than with wovens–I just wish it was easier to find a good range of knits in fabric stores!
This blog’s been going for a few years now (first post 23rd January 2015) and I’ve learnt lots along the way. For a while I was posting at least once a week, but that’s fallen off since baby #3 came along. It will happen again, though, I’m sure. Definitely once they’re all in school!
These days I’m much more organised about my sewing than I used to be, planning capsules and keeping a sewing journal. I’m also honing in on my personal style (Rockabilly-Librarian, I like to think of it as) and hoping to get a better ratio of hits to misses in future. I haven’t completely vetoed the idea of buying ready-to-wear clothing, but I’m finding these days that I’m way more likely to think first: can I make it myself (in a reasonable timeframe)?
And here’s me with my two little lovelies, Daisy and Gabriel:
And one of Lauren too: