Spring Sewing Bee – Buzzz

7Welcome to Rebecca Symonds seasonal fashion blog. Rebecca is locally born and bred and runs a business called Rebecca’s Room Knitting where you can buy handmade knitwear. She has been sewing since her mother would trust her with sharp objects and this started an interest in fashion at a young age. Locally educated, Rebecca studied at University College of the Arts in Farnham, however, in her early thirties she suffered a stroke and woke up paralysed down one side, unable to talk. As part of her rehabilitation she took up knitting and hasn’t stopped click-clacking since! She gets her inspiration from looking at people in the street, long country walks with her dog and the necessity of keeping warm whilst living in a cold rural cottage!

Spring is definitely erm, springing? I love this time of year, hopefully the rain will stop soon and we can enjoy some golden sunshine. I’m still knitting, planning my collection for next autumn/winter in sumptuous merino wool, but more of that later in the year. As we are heading out of winter I thought I would take a slight departure from knitting to talk about home dressmaking. It’s enjoying a real resurgence in popularity right now and you can see one of my first attempts at dressmaking (above), with one of my scarves ready for photographing in my studio.

When it’s too hot to be sat under a pile of wool, my other passion is sewing. Anything, from dresses to cushion covers, patchwork to upcycling old jeans! And The Great British Sewing Bee has started again (BBC 2 Tuesday 8pm), yay! I get to bliss out, salivating at their haberdashery and fabric collection plus have the chance to shout at the telly “Noooooooo you don’t do it like THAT!” It’s a win, win situation. Throw in a glass of wine or a slice of cake and I’m in an hour of self-indulgent heaven. If only I could watch it in the bath, hmmmm.

My mother was a keen sewer, back in the days before cheap supermarket clothing. A time when making your own clothes was not only a creative outlet of self-expression, but also made financial sense. She passed on some skills and my first ever Saturday job was in a (now long gone) fabric shop in Farnham. One thing hasn’t changed though – if you make your own clothes you can get them to fit you exactly! No more trousers dragging in the mud, unflattering hem lengths on skirts or uncomfortably low necklines.

In Guildford town centre, C&H Crafts and Home in Tunsgate have dressmaking patterns, fabrics and haberdashery. There are some supplies in Pandora and the nearby Cath Kidston sells her fabric off the roll upstairs. Hansson Silks also sells quality silks but you might want to choose an easier fabric to work with, like cotton, if you are just starting out on your sewing journey.

There is a multitude of fabric suppliers on-line. You can’t feel the fabric before you buy, but the range of fabrics available is amazing! Try the Fabric Rehab website HERE for a great range of retro, modern and funky fabrics.

I suggest a simple skirt pattern as a starting point for a newbie sewer. Look for one that says ‘easy’ or ‘quick sew’. Then is the fun bit – choosing your fabric. Let your inner fashion designer free. Go with what you love and think will suit you as a skirt! I know that seems obvious, but it’s very easy to get carried away when confronted with a gorgeous spring green fabric. But if spring green doesn’t suit you, you’ll never wear it!

If you are buying in a shop then the assistant should be able to advise if your fabric choice will work with your pattern. I’ve never met anyone working within fabric that doesn’t LOVE the opportunity to pass on some of his or her hard earned experience and knowledge. Then kindly ask them to look over the pattern once more and make sure you have everything you need before you head home. Trust me, there is nothing more annoying than sitting down to start a project just to realise you don’t have the right colour thread or you’ve forgotten the Vilene.

Then just practise! There is a vast amount of information and advice to be found online, plus some sewing tutorials. Remember you can always unpick any mistakes and try again. If only everything in life was that simple…

Rebecca Symonds