30 Days Of Photos With Strangers


The tenth anniversary of Me Made May has drawn to a close. Some of you will be silently raising a cheer of relief; others will be reflecting on their wardrobe choices. It’s an initiative that both divides and bonds, which I feel is just as it should be. How boring if we all agreed.

In 2019, I took part for the first time in eight years. I couldn’t quite let the anniversary slide with no acknowledgement. I mean, it’s a big deal and a massive achievement on SoZo‘s part – and says a lot about the online sewing community. We’re here for the long haul, man!

I decided to repeat my Me Made May experience of 2011 and add a twist – to be photographed with strangers each day because – you know – fun! I didn’t try to wear different outfits every day; I reached for whatever I fancied pulling from the wardrobe.

Which means we all now know how much I love:

The Ogden Cami from True Bias

The B6178 Culottes from Butterick

The Myosotis Dress from Deer And Doe

The Charlie Caftan from Closet Case Patterns

All great and highly wearable items. But my choice to be photographed with strangers also raised a few unexpected highlights.

First, what is my advice for approaching 40+ strangers in 31 days? (Some people declined and I missed one day.)

  • Look for an open and friendly face.
  • Don’t tackle people who are busy.
  • Avoid feeling insulted if people turn you down. (I mean, I’d probably turn this down!)
  • Expect to be surprised.
  • Stay spontaneous. I made it a rule not to go back once I’d walked past someone.
  • Have a cute, ice-breaker dog with you.
  • Be sensible.
  • Be respectful.
  • Bend the rules if you want to!

I loved the diversity of people I engaged with – it’s what I’ve always loved about London. If you didn’t follow along on Instagram, here are some of my personal highlights from the people I met:

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Caring For Vintage Cushion Fabrics

Ella and I have a new garden bench and it’s become our favourite place to sit.

I drag out a blanket and cushions and lie with my legs dangling over an arm rest as I proofread pages. Ella keeps a keen eye on the comings and goings of local wildlife. It’s pretty blissful for a small London garden that’s fast becoming a meadow!

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Are You Part Of The Mending Brigade?

Last week I went to Oxford to talk to a bunch of Sewists about The Little Book of Sewing. It was SUCH a great event and I met fascinating people from sewing academics to sewing start-ups, teachers to parents to booksellers.

But there was one particular person who intrigued me because she named herself a Mender. It’s a thing! It must be, because it’s on Instagram:

Visible Mending

Tom of Holland

Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald


This all happened in the same week that I repaired the neckline on one of my hand sewn dresses and put aside a pair of culottes for taking in. Was something in the air?

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Meeting Makers – The Miniature Maker

JL Martin – or Tinkymctiddles as she’s known on Instagram – is a writer, illustrator, coder – and, very recently, a sculptor of miniature models – models just like this!

These tiny pencils, miniature baguettes and eensy-weensie rows of knitting fascinated me when they began to appear in my Instagram feed. I couldn’t resist inviting Janet to be interviewed as part of my Meeting Makers series.

Keep reading to find out how you model a pencil from a toothpick!

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Five Good Reasons To Press Your Fabric

Ironing water

Do you run an iron over your fabric before cutting out and, if so – why? I was thinking about exactly this question as I pressed some summer weight wool suiting to make yet another pair of culottes.

Here are my reasons to press fabric before cutting out – and they may not all be the obvious ones.

1. Getting In The Right Frame Of Mind

If you start your project in an organised, efficient way there’s a good chance that you’ll carry this attitude through the whole piece of work – or at least through the cutting out! Pressing your fabric takes a few moments of time, time during which your mind can settle into the work to be done. This activity can also be pleasingly mindful, emptying the brain with repetitive motions, and you know I’m a fan of that.

sew yourself calm

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The Eighties Called. They Want Their Clothes Back.

liberty sewing book

I bought this book for £1.50 from a shop on the Isle of Wight. What’s not to love? Liberty! Sewing patterns included! The Eighties! Not just a piece of history. There’s some pretty detailed information in this book, plus basic pattern blocks can always be adapted. I’m hopeful there’s something here I could sew.

Always check the line drawings…

sewing pattern line drawing

But, oh these Eighties moments, frozen between the pages. Flipping through this book, I am swept back to an era when Princess Di pie crust collars were de rigeur, flounces ruled and Laura Ashley was a lifestyle goal.

Would you join me on a stroll down memory lane?

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The Launch Party Of Dreams!

Having fun at the launch party! copy

Last Thursday we celebrated publication of The Little Book of Sewing with a party at The Village Haberdashery – and what a party it was!

I’d ordered photo-printed cupcakes carrying miniature images of the book cover but – doh! – ordered them for the wrong day. Still, that didn’t spoil our fun.

Kate of The Foldline arrived early to film a pre-party book interview with me – you can see it here.

karen with the foldline

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Should I Wear This Dress To The Book Launch?

V8825 how to sew vogue dress

Do you ever feel as though you were born to live in a certain decade of your life?

I found my youth hard. I was too ‘fat’, I loved make-up despite the fact that my 20s were lived through the Britpop era when women were expected to be lads. My writing was gauche and immature.

But I loved to write. I vividly remember the evenings I would sit on my bedroom floor, with an electronic typewriter, hammering out letters to friends who rarely responded. It didn’t matter. I took huge comfort from the fact that Carol Shields only began writing novels at the age of 50. 50! Could anyone imagine being that old and still able to write?

And so it is no small irony that The Little Book of Sewing is published in my 49th year and I find that my sewing empowers the woman I am today. If only we knew back then what we know now.

Life will be fine, little acorn. More than fine. You’ll wear some fancy dresses, too.

how to sew a crepe jersey dress

Want to draw attention away from your white legs? Wear even whiter tights!

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When Blog Readers Help You Write A Book

publication day

It’s publication week for The Little Book of Sewing! Have you been joining in the Instagram fun #thelittlebookofsewing? I’ve seen so many great and inspiring stories, including how this book inspired Kathy of Sew Dainty to launch her own jewellery business. Check out those acrylic scissors – swoon!

sew dainty

Sew Dainty Jewellery

Of course, it takes more than one person to write a book. From my editor, Ellen, to Sam who designed the cover, to the production person who picked out those gorgeous yellow endpapers to … you, dear readers!

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Designing The Cover For The Little Book Of Sewing

stitched up sam

When it came to cover inspiration for The Little Book of Sewing, my editor asked me to send over a few visuals that I liked. Amongst them was a link to Stitched Up Sam’s Instagram feed. I really like the way she combines the traditional technique of free motion embroidery with some edgy images. She chooses to work with lovely fabrics and her embroidery is always so neat!

david bowie embroidery

Having shared my mood board with the publisher, I continued to admire Sam’s work from afar as the book was brought together and was going to print. By this stage, I’d seen the cover, of course, but had no idea who had embroidered it – until Sam got in touch to thank me. SHE HAD DESIGNED THE COVER!

I was thrilled that a fellow creative had been part of the journey and couldn’t resist asking Sam about the process. Read on to find out how you embroider a book cover!

The Little Book Of Sewing newsletter

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