About Me

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Currently, I'm a stay-at-home mum to an inquisitive and often rambunctious three year old girl and her sunny little brother. In a former life, I was a lawyer. I know which I prefer. On the odd occasion that I get some downtime, I knit, crochet, read, sew, sing badly, dance even more so, enjoy a glass of wine and watch bad TV, sometimes in varying combinations of the foregoing and not necessarily in that order of preference.

Saturday 8 March 2014

Preparation is key

I've been watching the Great British Sewing Bee and it has really got me itching to get back to the sewing machine.  I've been flicking through my patterns and books, reading blogs and wondering what to make.  I've even been pondering my wardrobe thanks to Sarai's thoughtful posts about building your look over at The Coletterie.  There's lots of ideas brewing and the fabric stash has been well-thumbed recently.

But I've also been doing shopping.  I mentioned the other week that I'm probably a better collector than user of sewing materials and the collection has grown again since that post (despite all those projects remaining unsewn...). However, there is a plan.

You see, the thing I'm hankering after the most is Coco.  My friend Julia is planning one and I've been enjoying reading the sew-a-long over at Tilly & the Buttons, and for once it is a project that would actually enhance and fit in with my regular wardrobe and so should get a lot of wear.  It will be my first foray into knit fabrics (ironic for a knitter?) so I am planning carefully and thinking about things.  Tilly did a great introduction on her blog, particularly useful for those of us who don't have, and can't afford/justify the expense of, an overlocker, and I was very excited to read this post from Sarai at The Coletterie as I love her Sewing Handbook.  I've been thumbing my sewing books and learning.  As I don't get much time to sew, I therefore want to make the most of it and, for me, that means making sure I do the best job that I can.

So far, I have thought a lot about fabric and actually only bought about 10% of what I liked (progress!).  I have thought a lot about needles, thread and notions, dug out the walking foot for my machine, ordered ballpoint needles and found my double needle should I wish to add some topstitching.  I have come up with about a dozen different riffs on the pattern in my head and even remembered to write some of them down before I forget them (progress).  And now I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the pattern, some fabric and some bits and pieces.  But the fabric for the first one that I want to make arrived this morning and so I am doing some preparation.

Yes, I'm actually prewashing my fabric before I sew it for the first time ever.  I can see Julia's eye roll from here.  It looks much like the eye roll she gives me when I make a tension square before starting a jumper. Still, I am glad I did it and I will live with the mockery because, much like tensions squares, this annoyingly time-consuming precursor to starting a project can really save you a lot of time and heartache down the road.  I took the opportunity to also wash the fabric for the kids' Quick Change Trousers (from Handmade Beginnings by Anna Maria Horner) and the flannel came out about two inches narrower and an inch shorter than it went in, despite being done on a 30 degree wash.  If that had happened to finished trousers, I'd probably have cried. After all, double-layer trousers where one layer shrinks and the other doesn't do not exactly sound like a recipe for success.

It just shows that, much like tension squares, all these random and seemingly fussy steps before you actually get started really are worthwhile.  It also got me thinking that maybe I approach them wrong.  Maybe I should look at all this planning, thinking and preparing not as a series of hurdles to be overcome before I can get started but as what they really are: the first steps of the project.  That shift of emphasis makes it all feel much more positive, exciting and constructive.  There's obviously a fine line between planning and procrastinaton and definitely a place for the mantra "progress not perfection" here too, but I've been cutting corners recently with lots of things (including with the knitting of tension squares and it hasn't really paid off as I've had a few slightly wonky shaped results). I'm starting to think it is not really helping.  The half-completed and shoddily executed abound.  That coupled with general mess and disarray are really starting to get me down.  I think it's time to go back to "less haste, more speed" and trying to plan and prepare properly. It might mean I get less done but hopefully I will be happier with the results.

In other news, if you want a recipe for success, look no further than these delicious cookies - we made them this morning while Granddad was fixing my DIY disasters, using a mixture of white and dark chocolate chips for a bit of variety. Yum.

Perfect for eating while you wash perfectly clean bits of fabric, instead of the mountains of dirt towels and sheets you should be washing, and contemplating sewing.


  1. I do knit tension squares for big people jumpers but I'll admit I don't prewash fabric half as often as I should! Seeing it as the first stage in the project is definitely the way to go, just do lots at once so you don't have to wait for it to dry next time!

  2. That was my strategy - I now have fabric for 4 projects all washed and ready to go. Although my next challenge is unearthing the sewing table from beneath crap that has accumulated in our office/sewing room. I keep trying to organise someone to watch the kids so that I can tidy and it keeps not quite working. I've been hit by a major desire to spring clean this year (entertaining since I've never wanted to nest like that when pregnant) and it is tricky to get it sorted. I remember naively thinking I'd have so much time and the house would be so tidy when I stopped working and was home all day. I really had no idea what looking after small children was like.

    Still, I would probably get more done if I turned of the computer and started tidying the table behind me rather than telling you about it...