Tuesday, 21 July 2015


I’m Jen, and I’m learning to sew.

Every couple of years I get hit by the need to learn something new. I’m not great at textbooks and theory, so it’s generally something practical and creative that produces tangible output (except that time when it was employment law, which made me into an actual useful human being and should therefore be treated as an aberration to be ignored). I’m a writer first and foremost, but over the past decade I’ve learned photography, law, make-up, lindy hop and blues dance, and to some extent they’ve all become part of my identity.

Until this year, the last time I touched a sewing machine was when I was thirteen in 1998. My teenage self (usually referred to as Teen Goth Jen, and you’ll be hearing from her a fair bit) liked to draw designs on the templates she got in Year 8 Textiles, but it never occurred to me to try and learn how to actually make any of it. Last year I reached a point of utter frustration with my wardrobe and everything in it, and decided that 2015 would be the Year of Sewing.

I usually walk into clothes shops with a sense of dread, especially if I actually need something. “Come on, burnt orange floral dress suitable for doing lindy hop in that I need by this weekend! Floral but not orange… orange but not floral… orange floral and apparently made out of the sound of someone squeaking a shoe across linoleum… orange, floral, nice material, I’ll try this on… hmmm. The boobs on this dress appear to end where mine start and the waist is down around my thighs somewhere. Also the waist is baggy but my arms are unable to lift up more than four inches. This can go in the 'maybe' pile.” As a result I only wore about 10% of my clothes, because I’d bought everything else based on “well, it’s not terrible”, and then never wore it because what kind of a recommendation is “not terrible”?

I took an introductory sewing weekend in January, bought a sewing machine in February, made endless cushions for three months, then went on an introductory dressmaking workshop in May. Since then, it’s possible that I’ve got slightly carried away. Sewing is AWESOME. Suddenly almost any piece of fabric is bursting, glowing with possibilities. It could be a long skirt, a short skirt, a day dress, an evening dress, a top, a jacket, a pair of shorts… Fabric shops are toy shops, shelves piled high with untold stories that could be mine. The downside to this is that cutting the fabric cuts the possibilities, so after two months of dressmaking I already have a cupboard stuffed full of fabric that I’m too frightened to use. Well done, me.

I’m starting this blog because a) it’s nice to see progress and be able to show people things, b) I’m hoping it will motivate me to actually use up some of my ridiculous fabric stash, and c) I’ve come down with a case of writer’s block, and I’m hoping that writing about this might get me writing about other things again. I am the most beginnery beginner that ever there was and the most prized traits in sewing - patience, meticulousness, neatness, caution - are ones I’m not acquainted with in the least. I like to get things finished. I will never unpick ‘good enough’ to try and turn it into ‘perfect’, and if my hem isn’t perfectly straight or my seams matched up with absolute precision, I’m not really that bothered. If you’re a perfectionist, my entire blog is going to annoy the crap out of you. I'm not trying to teach anyone, or to set an example. I'm just documenting my own learning, and hopefully being a little bit amusing in the process.

Themes you may notice:

- I started learning with Sew Over It, and I'm using a LOT of their classes and patterns right now. This isn't for any reason other than "they have a lot of nice patterns and I'm scared of change."
- I tend to work in quite long and concentrated bursts. I'm a little bit worried about attempting more complicated things because there is a very real chance that I won't eat or sleep for three days to get it finished.
- I am a serious impulse buyer and I should be stopped.
- Sometimes Teen Goth Jen takes over and I buy something completely ridiculous.
- I am not the neatest, I never will be, and I've made my peace with that.
- I like bright or dark colours and vintage shapes. I do not like pastels, ruffles, bows, or anything that buttons up the front (I hate the way it looks on me).
- I enjoy metaphors, similies, and overextending metaphors and similies.
- I like puns, but I always apologise.

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