31 May 2013

A Day in the Life of Sarah Adie - Crafty Magazine

Have you come across Crafty magazine yet? Oh you must get your hands on it! It's like the making magazine for cool dudes. Well, you know, "cool" in my book at least. It's brimming with goodness, from fabric insects to David Bowie paper dolls, and not a crochet cupcake in sight. Plus it looks, feels and even smells really nice (what?). Sarah Adie is the person in charge of making sure each issue is suitably awesome, and in this month's A Day in the Life we get an insight into what exactly that involves - from proof-reading knitting patterns to favourite snacks. Over to Sarah...


"It’d be pretty difficult to describe a ‘typical’ day for me right now! Since taking the job of editor of Crafty Magazine four months ago, my life’s been a little bit hectic to say the very least. It generally starts off the same – my alarm buzzes next to my head at 06:30 (but I’m always awake before it, for some unknown reason) and, because I’m one of those annoying morning people, I hop out of bed wide awake, give the old face a good scrub, moisturise (essential for a 30-year-old, don’tcha know?), pull on some clothes and skip off to the kitchen for a hearty meal of Weetabix with a tonne of sugar (it’s the only way it’s nice...).

Then I’m off on my way to the train station, handily only 10 minutes from my house, pick up my Metro (bit obsessed with Rush-Hour Crush) and get the rickety old Chester train to the delightful town of Stockport in Manchester, where the Crafty offices are based. I always stop off at the local Co-op on the way in to pick up something to munch on – at the moment I’m on a bit of a health kick, so stock up on bananas and apples, although invariably I forget to eat them because I’m too busy chowing down Maltesers and cake. We’re a very cakey office – I’m in charge of the charity baking rota, so there’re copious amounts of chocolatey goodness in the kitchen every two weeks, which we sell to raise money for the Wellspring, a resource centre for homeless people in Stockport.

Once actually in work, the very first thing I do is check my emails. I live in fear of my inbox as I get over 100 emails a day, from people doing projects for us to interesting bits and bobs from PR folk, so I always keep an eagle eye on it in case I miss something amazing. From then on, every day is different – which is one of the main reasons I love my job (that and all the cake...). On PDF days, when the magazine gets sent to the printers, it’s a little crazy as I’m busy working with our art editor to make sure there are no mistakes, all pictures are perfect, the copy’s right (which can be tricky when dealing with very long knitting patterns!), all illustrations are in, font colours are complementary across the issue, adverts are in the best, most relevant places, and all credits given to those who’ve contributed to the magazine.

On non-PDF days, I can generally be found planning out coming issues alongside our brilliant editorial assistant and then commissioning out all the copy. I like to work closely with the designers who do makes for Crafty as they’re artists in their own right and it’s much more fun to take an idea to them and then develop it together, rather than just say “here’s what I’d like you to do”. Of course, not everything comes back as I pictured it in my head and that’s when I sometimes have to do some emergency crafting. The turnaround time between issues is quite tight – about two to three weeks – so if something isn’t quite as I’d imagined it in my head I won’t always have time to send it back to the designer for them to fix. There’s nothing quite like the panic of having to make a beautiful skirt out of a scarf in just a few hours! Of course, it isn’t always as manic as that and I like to do a couple of projects in each issue, because I love making and often feel these days that I don’t really have the time to do it just for myself. I used to run an arts and crafts blog but have had to give that up because I simply don’t have the time, which I’m quite sad about as I loved doing it and I met so many interesting people because of it.

One thing I do get to do every day – and it’s something I love doing as it’s just so much fun – is updating the Facebook and Twitter pages for Crafty. Hunting down amazing images to upload on the Facebook page is great and I love it when people leave fun comments or like a post. We like to play games over on Facebook as well, so I’ll get people to find the cat hidden in a picture, play Where’s Wally or run caption competitions. Twitter’s great as well, as it means I can really chat to people who love Crafty as much as I do!

One of the highlights of my day, however, is when the post arrives and there’s a project in it with my name on it. I love getting mail and commissioning out loads of amazing things means that it’s basically Christmas every day. And then once everything’s in and accounted for I get to head out of the office with the art editor and go out on fun and funky photo shoots involving knitted chickens, pop art embroidery, cow cushions and God only knows what else.

And let’s not forget writing. Putting pen to paper is something I’ve always been passionate about (my mother always regales people with embarrassing tales of me writing short stories about talking pheasants at the age of six... very much in my Dick King Smith phase) and I love to do as much writing for Crafty as time permits. So a lot of my time is taken up with interviewing interesting folk about their lives, transcribing said interviews (the worst part of my job – or journalism, I reckon!) and writing them up in feature form. Coming up with the seeds of a feature idea in my mind, doing the interview, writing the article and then seeing it appear as an article in a magazine is a pleasure I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of.

Once my working day is done at around 17:30, I head off to Stockport train station once again (typically in the rain, since this is Manchester after all) and figure out on the 15-minute journey home whether or not I’m too knackered for the gym. After a long, tortured inward argument, the answer is invariably yes, so I pop off home instead feeling ever-so slightly guilty about being lazy, cook some dinner (loving baked potatoes at the moment), stick on How I Met Your Mother and fall asleep with my fork in my mouth. I may always be tired and I may always be rushing around like a crazy person and I may never be off the clock but I’ve always wanted a job that I love – and by Jove, I think I’ve got it!"


Keep up the good work, Sarah - you and your team are doing an awesome job!

In the mood for more Days in the Life? Read on!

28 May 2013

My Denim Ginger Skirt

Finally! I've jumped on the bandwagon and made a Ginger skirt by Colette Patterns. And what a great choice of bandwagon - this skirt is chic, comfortable, and most of all, super duper wearable. So wearable, in fact, that I wore it multiple times before taking these photos, hence the rogue bulges in these snaps - apols!

It's a relatively easy make, although if you go for a shaped waistband, like I did, it's susceptible to sticking out a bit. Once I realised this, I had to apply a bit of jiggery pokery to taper the waistband in at the top without unpicking the whole thing. I think I got away with it! I was also a little anxious that the thickness of the denim would play havoc with the invisible zipper, but it's actually been fine and hasn't got stuck (thus far).

And finally, here's a sneaky peek from the photo shoot that never was. I tried to break with the tradition of photographing all my makes safely tucked up at home by asking my man to take a few snaps in front of a super cute row of beach huts in Lyme Regis on a recent weekend trip. Alas, the day I wore the skirt was also the most miserable rainy day (that's a brolly in my hand), plus the stripes I wore just don't show off the waistband in the photos. Back to having a disco in my kitchen on my own!

[Soundtrack: 'Get Lucky' by Daft Punk]

23 May 2013

Folksy Summer School

"Super duper excited" is an understatement at how I'm feeling right now having been invited to give a talk on blogging to designer makers at the Folksy Summer School. Eep! I could literally talk blogging tips all day, so having a room full of people there to listen will make a nice change from talking to... erm... mostly myself.

Plus, Folksy Summer School looks so awesome! It takes place over the weekend of 10th - 11th August (I'll be there on Sunday 11th), in a fantastic looking venue just outside Sheffield with the beautiful name Woodland Discovery Centre. (I want to go there another time too, you can learn to make an axe.) The event is for designers and makers who want to learn stuff about branding, marketing, selling etc - you know, all the stuff you need to know about if you actually want to be able to make your passion for making stuff sustainable in the long term. There will also be lots of hands-on crafty workshops for when your brain can't take it anymore and you just want to play. The speaker line up is so fantastic, I'm so flattered (and a little bit flabbergasted) to be on the list amongst such awesome people!

In my talk I'm going to reveal my best blogging secrets, including defining your niche, how to think about your audience, crafting stand-out content, building a readership and fitting it all in to a busy life. Phew!

Hope to see some of you there!

21 May 2013

Maria's Itty Bitty Baby Dress

One of my bestest friends in the whole wide world recently had an ickle baba! So I just had to make a little something to welcome Maria Ines into the world. And it really is little. This is the Itty Bitty Baby Dress pattern from Made by Rae, made in some cotton I'm pretty sure I picked up at a stash swap once upon a time (thanks to whoever gave me this!), lined in... erm... polka dots and trimmed with polka dot bias binding. It's a super simple make, and one I'm sure I'll be making again as more of my friends catch the baby fever. Next time I think I'll make the straps a little longer, as once you tie them up they seem a little short. Perhaps I should have put a tape measure or coin in the photo like online fabric shops do to provide a sense of scale, but believe me when I say this really is itty bitty. It's just sooooo ickle and cuuuute! Eep!!!

[Soundtrack: 'What Goes Around' by Justin Timberlake]

17 May 2013

What's On My Sewing Table...

This is the kind of project I know I'm going to get a lot of wear out of this Spring/Summer - I'm making a Ginger skirt in a dark navy denim with a slight stretch and a lovely visible weave. My denim Beignet skirt is nearly falling apart from overuse and I practically live in my denim Miette. I need another. I'm going for version 2 with the curved waistband, using some... erm... navy polka dots for the facing. Yeah, I've got a thing for navy polka dots, as evidenced here, here and here. Oh and here. And not forgetting here. Some call it boring, I call it "signature style".

What's on your sewing table please?

[Soundtrack: 'Green Garden' by Laura Mvula]

14 May 2013

Pattern Hack! Gathered Mathilde Blouse

Want to avoid sewing the tucks on the Mathilde Blouse? I'm going to show you how to create a lovely, loose-fitting smock version by gathering the excess fabric at the top where the tucks would usually be and leaving the bottom loose. Super simple stylee!

1) Follow the Mathilde Blouse instructions past stay stitching the neckline. Skip over the tucks step and stitch the bust darts.

2) Thread your sewing machine in a contrast colour thread - this will make it easier to identify and rip out the gather stitches later. Set the stitch length to 4mm.

3) On the top edge of the front bodice, sew three parallel rows of stitches about 5mm - 7mm apart. Try to avoid the 15mm (5/8in) seam line as this is where you'll be sewing your "real" stitches later. Leave a few inches of loose thread at the start and end of each row. These are your gather stitches.

4) Gently pull on the top threads and use your fingers to distribute the resulting gathers evenly across the seam. You want to gather it so the top edge of the bodice becomes the same width as the bottom edge of the yoke.

5) Pin the top of the front bodice to the bottom of the yoke, right sides together.

6) Tack (baste) the pieces together, with about 10mm (3/8in) seam allowance. Use your fingers to keep the gathers even while you're stitching. Check the gathering is nice and even - you can unpick the tacking stitches and try again if it's not.

7) Once you're happy with the gathering, thread your machine in matching thread and set the stitch length to normal (2 - 2.5mm). Stitch the bodice to the yoke for real.

8) Remove the tacking and gather stitches. Finish the seam using zigzag stitch or an overlocker/serger. When it comes to pressing, be careful not to press over the gathers or you could lose the fullness (erm... as I kinda did here - doh!).

Ta da! A pretty gathered smock version of the Mathilde blouse.

Liberty Tana Lawn fabric courtesy of Sewbox.

12 May 2013

Pinterest for Sewing Inspiration

Pinterest have invited me to be part of their #PinItForwardUK campaign to help introduce Pinterest to the UK. If you're a regular reader, or an IRL friend, or sit in my office, or have ever been on one of the courses I run in my day job, you'll probably be aware that Pinterest is one of my FAVOURITE THINGS EVER so I'm delighted to continue that evangelism in this blog post. (And no, I'm not getting paid to say this.)

I'm sure most of you know what Pinterest is, but in case it just sounds like yet another social media tool that you don't have time to get your head around, let me explain why it's so awesome. Pinterest is basically an online tool for keeping track of things that inspire you. If you find a picture, video or article online that you like and want to refer back to later, you can "pin" an image from that web page to one of your virtual pin boards. Plus you can follow other people - or selected boards they've created - to check out what's inspiring them. You can also use it as an image search engine. The major point of difference to other social platforms is that it gives primacy to imagery, which means it's perfect for crafters, fashion enthusiasts, designers, photographers... and yes, dressmakers!

I use it all the time to make a note of sewing patterns I want to make, interesting garment detailsfabrics that catch my eye and general sewing inspiration for future projects. I also use boards to keep track of the gorgeous Miette Skirts and Mathilde Blouses that pop up across the interwebs. I also reeeeeally enjoy scrolling through my feed to see what other people are pinning. In fact, getting my Pinterest fix is one of my favourite things to do in the world. No, I don't get out much!

Oh and of course I have the obligatory kittens board. Yay, little fluffy kitties!

You can join Pinterest here.

Do you use Pinterest to keep track of your sewing inspiration? Or do you use more traditional scrapbooking methods or other tools?

7 May 2013

Polka Dot Picnic Blanket Skirt

Look, I made another Picnic Blanket Skirt! Inspired by an image I saw on Pinterest that I just couldn't get out of my head, I knew I needed a polka dot skirt to wear with my Breton top collection. So I whipped this little baby up in a couple of hours. I particularly love the buttons - they're beautiful flat-top polished wood - yum. I finished the insides with French seams, which works great with the light-to-medium weight cotton that I used.

This make doubled up as preparation for a class I was teaching at Ray Stitch. The participants were all lovely and we had so much fun! A professional photographer popped along to take these photos for Ray Stitch. Other workshops I've got coming up are now listed on my dedicated workshops page if you're interested - the next one will be the Mathilde Blouse.

I love the fact that this skirt works well both with and without tights. Perfect for Spring when you just don't know whether it's gonna rain or shine. I'm currently itching to make a Summer dress in what is just the most gorgeous fabric - you're gonna love it! But is it too early to make a Summer dress?

Are you dreaming of Summer sewing too?

[Soundtrack: 'Isis' by Bob Dylan]

3 May 2013

It's Ann!

What an amazing lady! Ann Rowley kept her cool during challenge after challenge, methodically and meticulously stitching her way to glory. 75 years of sewing experience really showed, as did her yoga practice. Yes, I took up yoga after meeting Ann. And yes, I sat at her feet during the breaks to feed off her sewing wisdom. Let's hear from the wonder woman herself...

Thanks for joining us, Ann! What are your favourite things to make for yourself?
"I make everything I wear except for underwear, nightwear and t-shirts - all these are too boring! I most enjoy working with wool, jackets and coats. Basically anything that challenges me. But I also knit, crochet, embroider and quilt – anything that uses my hands and a needle."

Do you have a favourite pattern?
"No, I don’t use the same pattern twice – I bore easily..."

What are your top sewing tips?
"Preparation, preparation, preparation. Make sure you have everything you need before starting and that you understand the pattern. Work slowly and methodically and enjoy the process."

What would you say to anyone who has seen the show and is thinking of learning to sew?
"Have a go! It’s not rocket science, and the more you sew the better you will become."

How did you find taking part in the show?
"One of the most interesting and challenging things I’ve done! Incredibly hard work – I’ve never worked against the clock before – but a real test of my abilities."

How did you find watching yourself on television?
"Strange to see yourself as others see you, but not too toe-curling..."

What was your best moment on the show?
"The finale!"

Your worst moment?
"Those awful pockets in the second episode. My mind went totally blank – Patrick’s 'You could do better' was the understatement of the show."

Your funniest moment?
"Reading Alison Pearson’s column in the Daily Telegraph. And Stuart..."

Your fondest memory of taking part?
"Meeting all the other contestants - such a wonderful and caring group. It’s great to see the impact that this series has had and I really hope that it will start some sort of revival and help to spread the joy of sewing."

What are you doing now or what plans do you have for the future?
"I’m doing a patchwork class and a crochet block-of-the-month. Nice change of pace after the the show and I love going to classes. I continue to help with sewing problems on Stitcher's Guild, a lively, international community of needle women (and a few men)."

Congratulations, Ann - you are an inspiration to us all!

1 May 2013

The Marielle Skirt

A few months ago I was invited to contribute a sewing pattern to Sewing World magazine. Well, it's out now in the May 2013 issue! This is the Marielle Skirt, a high-waisted, hip-hugging side-button skirt. I made it in a navy linen blend fabric with white ribbon trimming, polka dot facings, and red bias binding. The design was inspired by cross-between Edwardian skirts, art deco lines and sexy sailors (what?). I'm planning to make another version for myself in yellow gabardine or similar weight fabric... although I'm struggling to find some - any leads?

I do believe this model has been off rolling in the hedge... the crumpled fabric and guilty grin gives it away!

Update! We have now released a shiny new version of this pattern called the Arielle skirt!

[Soundtrack: 'These Days' by Nico]