19 January 2011

Stash Amnesty! featuring Karen aka Did You Make That?

It's Stash Amnesty! time again, when we get to take a sneaky peek at another blogger's sewing stash. This month I interview the lovely Karen, aka Did You Make That?, a fellow Londoner who I've had the pleasure of meeting not once, but twice! Karen is a productive and inspiring stitcher whose posts always make me chuckle. Let's find out a bit more about her...

When and how did you learn to sew?

Karen: "My first encounters with a sewing machine were in my childhood home. Mum had a sewing machine in a corner of the living room. (I now have a sewing machine in the corner of the living room!) I was about ten when Mum first started teaching me how to use the machine. I definitely remember being left to my own devices once I’d gained confidence. Looking back, I very much admire the fact that my mum would let me get on with things. Would today’s children be let loose with expensive machines and sharp needles?! Part of me hopes so.

My more formal sewing lessons started at secondary school. (Boys did woodwork, girls did sewing.) Each of us girls had to make a paisley print apron for home economics. After that we were allowed to make something of our own choice, and I distinctly remember making a drop waist skirt in purple cotton with a small white print. I had to persuade my mum to buy the fabric as it wasn’t cheap. (From John Lewis, I believe. God, were we made of money? Answer: no.) Because of the cost of materials, Mum forced me to finish the dress even after the end of term. I never wore it! Isn’t that a shame?

My memories of school sewing lessons are of the over-weaning draconian, censorious, insistent, bullying RULES of the teachers. Thou shalt not sew over pins, thou shalt always baste first. Even as a teenager, I kept thinking, ‘Does it really have to be this … rigid?’ I did enjoy sewing, but jeez – those nuns worked hard to drive every last drop of pleasure out of the sewing experience."

Talk us through some of your favourite things in your stash...

Karen: "A crafting friend gave me a small collection of cotton fabrics and ribbons last year for my 40th birthday. At the time, I wasn’t entirely sure what I could do with them, but they’ve been a godsend for little quilting projects or if I just need to add a bit of decoration to something. Each and every time I pull out those ever dwindling scraps I think of my friend, of my 40th birthday party, and smile. An entirely unexpected gift and one that has proved not only useful but a beautiful aide-memoire to happy times.

I also have some fabric and covered buttons that I bought from the V&A Quilts exhibition last summer. I still haven’t properly used the fabric. It feels a tragic shame for this 19th century ‘seed head’ design to be languishing in my stash box. I really must find a project to show this turquoise cotton off to its best advantage."

Do you tend to hoard fabric or use it up quickly?

Karen: "I’m not a big fabric hoarder. As with my knitting, I only buy supplies once I have a make in mind. With Walthamstow market on my doorstop, I have no practical need to stock up ahead of the game. I have one plastic box for clothes making fabric and a recently acquired wicker basket (rescued from a Christmas food hamper!) that I’m using to put aside fabrics for quilting projects."

Go on then, tell us about Walthamstow market!

Karen: "Sewing significantly changed my relationship with the area I’ve lived in for the past ten years. I’d never taken much notice of our chaotic market in E17 (the East End of London), until I needed sewing supplies. Then my eyes were opened to the stalls with ever changing bolts of fabric and dazzlingly cheap notions. I love the market and any visit to my blog will brainwash readers into loving it vicariously. I’m not saying it’s perfect – sometimes you get what you pay for – but as a novice sewer it’s often been a life saver to jump on my bike and race to buy an extra metre of something.

I also buy fabric from Ebay and recently I purchased from the Ditto website. One of my early fabric purchases was from Tessuti in Australia, which doesn’t make much sense when I live in London. Definitely a case of over-excited novice buying! That fabric was expensive, burnt up air miles and … languishes in the bottom of my stash box. Tessuti is wonderful, but it’s a long way away and Walthamstow market is only just down the road.

I have a group sewing trip around Walthamstow market planned for Saturday 19 February, and it’s looking like it’s going to be a great day out! Details on my blog."

Do you have a dedicated sewing area?

Karen: "My dedicated sewing area is a corner of the living room. In the summer, it’s lovely to throw the sash window open and have flowers from the window sill pot watching me sew. Sometimes the nextdoor neighbour’s cat pops his head in, too! I don’t have a proper sewing table, which is a pain when you are working with heavy fabric that really needs to spread out on a long table. I have a compact metal chest of Helmer drawers from Ikea. I really recommend these for sewists, as there’s lots of storage space in those shallow drawers. I also have a secondhand table that I use for laying fabric and patterns out on as I’m working through a project. My rotary mat lives behind a side cupboard in the living room and the table top ironing board lives, well, wherever it can find a space. My boyfriend is extremely patient with the noise of the sewing machine when he’s watching TV."

What sewing projects have you got lined up for the future?

Karen: "I’ve started an evening course at Morley College, where I’m planning to make a version of the V8667 dress. Double knit or wool boucle – I just can’t decide. I’d also like to make the Simplicity 2443 jacket in linen. And having recently seen blog posts about the newly released Vogue patterns, I’ve fallen in love with Pamella Roland V1233. I’d love to make it in almost the same fabric as featured in the pattern photograph. With an imminent trip to New York on the cards, I may need to visit the Garment District and stock up on fabric…"

Thanks, Karen! Looking forward to seeing those projects, and looking forward to our outing to Walthamstow market! Readers, if you're interested in showing us your sewing stash, get in touch and I might be able to interview you in a future post...