The Emotional Range Of Making

how to embroider

My latest pursuit. I’ve been working with an embroidery kit. Oh yeah, I did tapestry and cross stitch as a child, but I’ve never before pursued the solitary activity of choosing which stitch goes where, with a tiny needle and tinier stitches.

It’s been a revelation.

Why did no one warn me? That embroidery could be so emotional? Every single stitch in this project hugs to it the most precious memories. I know exactly where I was sat the first time I punctured that black canvas with a glinting needle. I remember the joy and distraction of learning a French knot whilst watching a film. The mantra I repeated in my head as other parts of the embroidery took form and the times I cast it aside as the gloaming merged into night and I had no more light by which to see. All I had left to do was listen to the quiet.

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The Slither And Hiss Of Silk

how to sew a pussy bow blouse

Is there anything more delicious than the slither and hiss of silk as a pussy bow is tugged free, during gentle disrobing?

YES! The slither and hiss of £3 a metre polyester from TMOS!

This animal print is the bomb. Get some. It’s polyester – one assumes – but quality. A joy to sew with. Doesn’t wrinkle in your holiday packing. Shake out and wear. Fake sophistication, even if you’re feeling foolish and giddy.

pussy bow detail

It’s ages since I sewed a Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse, and I’m super-pleased that I returned to this pattern. It’s so satisfying to make and gives you real wardrobe stalwarts. Animal print is everywhere this summer, but this is a classic that will keep on giving. If I had to write a Top Ten of essential sewing patterns (and maybe I should!) this would be in there.

You can see previous versions I’ve made here and here.

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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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