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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Sew far, sew good

Over the Easter break, Looking Our Best (LOB) nearly choked on her chocolate egg while reading one of the 'quality' newspapers. The affront was over a TV review with the following claim:  “No-one in Europe under 50 sews, or wants to…”  The critic was referring to the new series, The Great British Sewing Bee, which started this week on BBC Two.  But much worse were his criticisms about the presenters of this show’s predecessor, The Great British Bake-Off,  as being old (Mary Berry) and fat (Paul Hollywood).  
Well, how dare anyone considered old or overweight be allowed on television –  really, what is the BBC coming to? 
Amy Butler's simple ruffled scarf
Seriously, the review was also about how old-hat, so to speak, the notion of a programme celebrating DIY crafts is. (LOB would wager a bet that this same reviewer spends a small fortune on his artisan fondant fancies, and hand-made shirts, yet scorns the idea of anyone actually taking time out to learn or indulge these skills.) Sure, we have time-saving gadgets galore, and information available at the tap of a fingertip.  But with the economy banjaxed, the weather rotten, and wallets emptier than an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the nation can do with a comforting, nostalgic bail-out now and then.
All of this is by way of introducing this week’s post celebrating ye olde craffte of home sewing. LOB believes it’s our current time-poor culture, not age,  that holds us back.  That, and perhaps a lack of basic skills. And a sewing machine.  Modern sewing machines are a far cry from the designs of old which were so large, they were actual items of furniture. IKEA has a lightweight and basic design for around the €55 mark that will sit easily on your kitchen table.  And while you're browsing around the store, the range of Scandinavian designed textiles here will surely inspire you on to DIY home furnishing. The simplest thing of all to brighten up a room after the long winter, and for a novice to make,  is a wall-hanging, tablecloth or light bedspread – basically a length of fabric which can be neatly hemmed all around. From that, graduate to making a simple cushion cover, and hey presto, you’re off.
Patterned cushions and fabric bags by Amy Butler 
 Hemming, like sewing on a button,  is a skill everyone should have, young or old, male or female.  You know the scenario, you’ve found a garment that is almost perfect – if only it was a little longer/shorter?  There are online tutorials for basic sewing skills, while most fabric stores can supply information on sewing classes available locally. LOB’s current favourite fabric outlet is The Cloth Shop, brimful of dress and furnishing materials, as well as haberdashery. 

An old favourite is the family run Murphy Sheehy, who has been supplying Dublin dressmakers and upholsterers with keenly priced fabrics since the 1940s. Likewise,  Hickey Fabrics stores stock a wide collection, including their printed cotton craft materials which make the most colourful simple summer bags and cushion covers. World -famous Liberty fabrics can be ordered on line if you are in the mood for delicate cotton lawn in retro prints.  Worth checking out for beautiful trimmings is A Rubenesque in Powerscourt Townhouse Centre – great for simple but appealing ideas on customising a plain garment.  
Truly inspirational is the online site of Amy Butler, where you can even download free sewing patterns, as well as avail of helpful tips. 
Summer coat in Sandalwood print
This advocator all things sewing- related designs sumptuous fabrics which can be used for a variety of items to easily make.  Illustrated at the top of this post is Amy’s simple but effective ruffled scarf.  There are also patterned cushions and roomy tote bags (above left).  For the more adventurous needlewoman, check out the Sandalwood print lightweight reversible coat (pictured right) made up in her bright Rowan design.
All information on online purchases, as well stockists, and a sewing forum are available on her site.

As for the notion that sewing (and a television programme on same) is only of interest to Older People, that tv pundit should trying telling that to young fashion and textile students in art colleges, and hip twenty-something blogging on sewing forums.
Too old, eh?  
The little sew-and-sew....


  1. You are so right. Knitting has come so into fashion also with so many lovely types of wool and how about the current trend to bake cupcakes - seems to me that all these things I enjoyed as a young women are back in fashion and my skills are required as the next generation of women in my family ask my advice

    1. It's true Cath, - stylish gal pals of LOB's have taken to knitting in particular (who would have thought?!). Not because they are of the Make Do and Mend school of thought (and fabric and wool can work out more expensive than a bought garment), but say clicking away on the knitting needles is relaxing....