Monday, 27 May 2013

The Seamstress

If you didn't know the story already about Lesley's Girls I thought I would enlighten you before I tell you a bit more about my lovely sister Susannah.

Two years ago Susannah and I both had two young children each and were at a point in our lives when we wanted to do..something.  We both love history and Susannah has a passion for sewing and creating- and so we simply turned out enjoyment of vintage fashion into a business and a blog together. We named  it after our mother Lesley who died when we were children, as we felt it was a nice tribute to her and because she also loved sewing.  However, not long after we discussed this Susannah got pregnant with her third beautiful child, Louise, and realised she couldn't devote as much time as she'd hoped to the business, as such Lesley's Girls Vintage has largely been run by myself, but always with Susannah unswerving support, advice and general all round brilliance!

In the (not too distant we hope) future Susannah will start doing bits and pieces with Lesley's Girls again- largely the upcycled range and vintage inspired sewing. In the meantime I asked Susannah a few questions so that shop followers can get to know her a bit better.

How long have been sewing and knitting for?

Susannah: I remember watching my Mum sew when I was very young, making dresses (whilst I was at school – it was like magic, I came home and it was almost done!) and making school uniforms and so on. I remember Mum teaching me to knit and sew from about aged 7/8 years old. I had my own play sewing machine from about then too (bit it broke very quickly!)

What is the first thing you remember making? 

Susannah: The first things I remember are making my Sindy doll clothes (I used Mum’s scissors and accidentally went through my trousers into my leg – I still have the scar to prove it). I remember that- any less traumatic sewing projects from your youth you could share?! Well there was a patchwork cushion for school.  And I made a simple lined gathered skirt with patch pockets with Mum when I was about 9/10. I remember that skirt- I think it was one of my hand-me-downs, I didn't realise you made it though! I thought Mum made it- that's really impressive. Well she did make me unpick the hand sewing, as it wasn’t good enough as "the inside had to be as good as the outside else you’re not wearing it! It’s not allowed to look home made!" – she learnt that from HER Mum, our Grandmother!

What makes you sew? Why do you enjoy it so much?

Susannah: It relaxes me.  I can do something totally for myself (It’s not exactly a hobby I’d share with the husband so I really do get some me time!) I have always particularly liked fixing and altering  things, as I get a kick out of making something like new again! You are always helping me fix things- so I can vouch for you that they always look like new! I love the fabric. I love patterns. I just love to create.  I am actually a fully qualified accountant too and weirdly these two things about me go hand in hand- I never thought I was much of a perfectionist but I have come to realize I totally am! I won’t start a project unless I can get it spot on.

I remember you making a home for my Pound Puppy when I was 6 years old- do you remember it and do you realise I STILL have it!?
Susannah: No! I don’t but I do remember the pound puppy! Can I see it!? Yes when I have dug it out from the box in the loft- then I'll show everyone it... it was made from white fur and had a blue gingham bone sewn on the top of it.

If you could make only one more thing and that thing would be here forever what would you make?
Susannah: Can I please say 3 things!? If you must!! They are all related so it's fine! A large quilt for each of my children’s that they can have forever and pass on to their children too. Each one made with a personal design or use of colours that reflects each of their unique characters. I have made a baby one and it’s well used but lasted well – I really do love quilting and I would literally stitch each one with love! I know that sounds corny but they’re getting one when they leave home or get married whether they like it or not but I suspect they’ll just pull it over the bed when I visit and take it off again when I go! That is really lovely- perhaps I should persuade you to make some for my kids too!

What is your sewing nemesis?

Susannah: Easy peasy – being able to make trousers and skirts that fit me perfectly! Have you ever tried to alter a pattern and then pin it to fit your own back/behind? Or trust someone who’s not so good with fitting that they’ll make it look good?  I'll assume that is a rhetorical question Susannah as you know I haven't! Hmmm. Well the only time I overcame this was when our Grandmother helped me alter the back of a skirt pattern and I made countless skirts in various fabrics for myself including ones for work. Mind you I had a 23 inch waist then, and the pattern doesn’t quite fit me now after having 3 kids virtually back to back in the last four years!

What tips would you give your own children if they wanted to follow in your stitching foot steps?

Susannah: I would be really pleased if they wanted to and I think I would say to them the same things Mum said to us – ‘you must learn patience’ and ‘the inside must be as good as the outside’. I’d like to think that if they had some dressmaking/creative talent lurking there that we could help encourage that and maybe do some courses so if they wanted to they could think about it more seriously as a career. 

What advice would you give to the novice seamstress?

Susannah: Keep trying, take a deep breath and don’t be too scared to cut. If you are attempting something very tricky then try making it out of cheap fabric first (after you have carefully put the pattern against you for fit!) Find a fitting buddy who you trust and give it a go. One thing I have worked out with sewing is that, you can make a pattern from scratch with expert sewing machinist skills, pressing as you go along, your hand sewing is immaculate and the inside perfect and so on BUT you’ll never be a good seamstress if you don’t make that pattern fit the person you are sewing it for. It won’t show those skills off enough. Conversely – you might be very good at pattern fitting but not great at finishing. You need to get good at BOTH and this can take time.

What does the future hold for my stitching sister in her sewing and crafting career?
Susannah: That is a difficult question to answer. I have sort of just got to grips with a new routine with Louise in the family and the routine is due to change many times over! When I have more time I’d like to do more sewing for Lesley’s Girls Upcycled. Sounds exciting!  I’d like to make some more key pieces for my own wardrobe as I’m sadly lacking dresses, skirts and some quirky coats. As for the future- I forsee sewing a major part for the rest of my life. I think I’d like to do more of my own label (I Love Bewitched – I like watching the inspirational sixties show Bewitched whilst I sew hence the name) - making things to make houses and oneself pretty. I’m even tempted to attempted fabric printing-  who knows! I am very lucky I have some lovely friends where we get together and sew and chat, maybe I’ll try to organise more of these local things and inspire more people to pull out their hidden talent! I think there’s a bit of craft in all of us!  Oh and….. it won’t involve teaching you to knit Janine! You are a very good teacher- I'm just not good at remembering what you told me- I will finish the knitted turban we started!

We hope you have enjoyed reading this and getting to know Susannah and what inspires her, we will definitely be sharing some of her new creations on here when she gets back into the swing of it.

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting piece - 'don't be scared to cut' - great advice! I'm still in the novice category and this part scares the bajeebus out of me! ;)


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