As of last week,Tuesday the 24th of March 2020, the UK is in lock-down, which means: #StayAtHome, no unnecessary journeys or social contact, we can leave home for essential shopping & medical needs or exercise, travel to work if you are a key worker but under no circumstances should we be having any public gatherings. The pubs shut their doors a week last Friday 😢 & the police have been given powers to fine people not following the rules.
My first thoughts were, well at least I can stay in & sew, I’ve got plenty of fabric & patterns to keep me going for a while but I realise this is going to be more difficult for some people. Especially if the anxiety of all this is getting too much for you or you’re a parent still working from home & having to home school the children, or if you have elderly parents that you can’t check in on. It’s going to take some serious planning & readjustment, not to mention getting used to everyone wanting to use the same facilities for weeks on end.
I was watching Lauren’s vlog from Lauren & the Books last week & she had some great ideas for what we can do whilst we are confined to quarters, so I thought that I would put a sewists spin on some of her suggestions, along with a few others that I thought of along the way. I know that for some people sewing is the furthest thing from their mind & for others sewing is a solace which helps to take their mind off things & others will want to sew but feel that they are unable to focus. Sew, here’s what I plan to do during lockdown.
Have A Clear Out
About once a year I have a wardrobe clear out of all the things that I no longer wear. I make a pile for upcycling & the charity shop & I make a note of the holes in my wardrobe & things that I’ve stopped wearing & why. I make a mending & alterations pile for anything I don’t wear because they are too big or small. I try & do this around Spring time every year, sometimes more thoroughly than others, (one year I tried on every single item in my wardrobe & noted down how often I wore things, put everything back in colour order, with all the hangers facing the same way & when I had worn something put it back the other way, so that I could tell what was getting worn, with a view of reassessing any garments that weren’t getting worn.)
It’s Spring, so I’ve had a good Spring clean of my sewing space, (not the the rest of the house obviously, that can wait 😉). I’ve pulled everything out to see what I’ve got & put fabric & patterns to one side that I’ll sew up in the coming season. It’s a good chance to get it all listed & perhaps photographed, using whatever method suits you: Trello/Cora/Spreadsheet – I prefer paper & ink. Using this information I can make a plan – either a make 9 or a module. Ive had fun recently with #TheGreatModuleSewalong & plan on making another 6 pieces that will coordinate together for Spring. I prefer to fold my fabric so that it sits on end & I can see everything that I have.
Mending & Alterations
Once I’ve had a clear out, I usually have a few things with missing buttons or stains to get out (I’m a messy eater). These are the jobs that us sewists seem to put off, I suppose they’re not as exciting as starting something new but it could be the reason that you keep putting a shirt to the back of the wardrobe! If I haven’t got any to do my husband usually does, it’s a good way to get you back into sewing without it being too overwhelming.
Start a Big Project
On the other hand you could be looking for something to really get stuck into. Tackle that nemesis – you know that item that you’ve been meaning to sew if only you had the time – well now you have. 😉 Take the time over getting the fit right on a pair of jeans, make your first coat or try a new technique, if you’ve never inserted an invisible zipper, now’s the time. For me it would be either revisiting the bra making class I took back in October & making another couple of bras or the pattern drafting class that I took last month & designing a pattern from scratch.
I find it quite difficult to just sew something without a reason, I had 2 weddings to sew a couple of nice frocks for this year, one in May, the other in September & a holiday in June, all of which have been postponed & there’s no point in starting any of those now with the rate of biscuits I’m going through. I will sew a Spring capsule wardrobe, something more casual than I’d originally planned, as I’m currently working from home for 2 of my 3 working days.
However there is a global #VirtualFrocktails being held on the 4th of April. @dressmakersanonymousbelfast had to postpone their event & have joined up @cambsfrocktails & @sydneyfrocktails. It looks as though there are prizes for posting a picture of you wearing your finery & your drink of choice – it doesn’t have to be a new one by the looks. Take a look at the #VirtualFrocktails for more information if you fancy joining in & I might see you there. 🍸
Get Your WIPs Out
We’ve all got something that we started & for whatever reason didn’t finish – a Work in Progress or WIP. Drag it out from its hiding place & see what needs to be done to finish it. By the same token, if you’ve fallen out of love with the project, see if you can reuse the fabric for something else. Is it a dress that would make a nicer skirt for example. Don’t let it linger there making you feel guilty, make a decision about it & either finish it, donate it or upcycle it. I’ve finally finished the Closet Case Patterns Pouffe that I started back in January & stuffed it with all the fabric scraps that were too small for any other projects, brilliant for scrap busting, especially if you’ve just had a clear out!
Take the BluPrint Classes
Remember that class that you signed up to ages ago, when it was on offer? Now’s a good time to sit down with a cuppa & see what it’s all about. Use it to start on the ‘Big Project’ mentioned above or maybe try something completely new, such as photography or cake decorating. I can recommend Sew the Perfect Fit by Lynda Maynard, anything by Janet Pray, she has a lot of knowledge & is a great teacher, as are Suzy Furrer & Kenneth King. I subscribed to BluPrint back when it was Craftsy & they had some pretty good deals on & I see that they currently have a free unlimited access until the 9th of April if you haven’t already signed up. There are many other companies offering classes too, such as Skillshare & Beautiful Things.
Listen to sewing podcasts
I find listening to sewing podcasts really inspirational, I can listen while I’m out walking the dog or doing other things, you don’t have to give them your undivided attention, so they can just be on in the background, slowly coaxing you back into your sewing space, if you haven’t been feeling like it. Here’s a few that I subscribe to: Love to Sew, Sewing for the Weekend, Sewing Out Loud, Clothes Making Mavens. I’ve just discovered Sew Organised Style, so will give them a listen, if there are any more that you can recommend leave a comment below.
Read sewing books
I received a couple of books at Christmas that I haven’t got around to reading, full of inspiration & useful information but I also love fiction that involves sewing (& knitting). I’m currently reading ‘Where the Light Gets In’ by Lucy Dillon, which has a lot of knitting in it, I didn’t know that when I chose it, so it was a nice surprise. Sara at Sew Sweetness ran a book club last year & I read some really good books that I would probably never have picked for myself, such as The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie & The Last Runaway by Tracey Chevalier. A free pattern was released with each book.
Sara is running the book club again & my book arrived this morning – ‘The Quilter’s Apprentice’ by Jennifer Chiaverini, along with another free pattern, the Tower Crossbody bag, (see mine below). I try to borrow books from my local library but all public libraries are currently closed. I believe it’s also available on Kindle, if you want to join in, there’s no sign up but she will do a Book Club video on YouTube on April the 19th where she discusses the book with her friend. Here are a few more titles that I read last year: The Gown by Jennifer Robson, Mademoiselle Chanel by CW Gortner, The Hidden Thread by Liz Trenow. Also anything by Lucy Addlington, she is a fashion historian & has written fiction too. Additionally Marie Bostwick is reading her book ‘A single Thread’ on Facebook, the recordings are going on to YouTube if you miss the live reading.
Watch YouTube videos
Be careful, you could lose hours of your life watching these without actually getting anything done! But if you’re in a bit of a sewing slump & are looking for inspiration there are many, many sewing YouTubers out there. My current favourites are: TomKat Stitchery, she has a lot of knowledge & ran the Great Module Sewalong, she goes into colour & style, not just ‘here is a load of fabric & patterns that I bought’, (although there is some of that too). Lifting Pins & Needles has a lot of tutorials on her channel & Alex Judge Sews is always very inspiring, to name but a few of my favourites. It seems that I subscribe to 105 channels, so maybe it’s time for me to unsubscribe a few! I also discovered BookTube, where people chat about the books that they have read, which is a whole other Rabbit hole.
Try a new Craft
If you really can’t get motivated to sew something why not take advantage of the BluPrint subscription offer & try a new fibre related craft such as embroidery or cross stitch, or patchwork & quilting, there are some good basic knitting videos on there too. I have books about dying & shibori, that I haven’t got around to trying & a Luna Lapin book, that I’ve been meaning to try, which has a lot of hand stitching in it. Claire at Beautiful things has a really good beginners crochet class. I couldn’t crochet at all 3 years ago & managed the temperature blanket below last year. I find that knitting is my go to at the moment, especially socks, once you’ve got the hang of them, they’re very meditative to do & portable, not that I’m going anywhere soon. I’ve also just ordered a new cross stitch kit from Fabricate in Mirfield, we’ll see if I actually finish this one!
I’m finding that blogging can be quite therapeutic. I’ve been using the time that I’d normally be stuck in the car commuting to write. For me it’s about getting all the guff out of my head & hopefully adding value & detail, rather than here’s a thing I sewed & lots of arty photo. Reading other peoples blogs is a good way to check out new patterns & how people have found them to see whether they encountered any problems, either with technique or fit. While Youtube (YT) & Instagram( IG) seem to be more popular now, I still think that blogs have their place, (slightly biased, I know!) I think that they are more detailed than an IG post & it’s easier to reference back to than YT.
I can’t give any advice about setting up a blog as my son did this for me but Sarah @ Wanderstitich, one of my favourite bloggers, has a guide. If blogging is too public, writing in general can be therapeutic, I know journalling is a big thing at the moment, it’s not for me but it could be a good time to start to record these strange times.
Open Up an Etsy Shop
This is probably not something I will do but before we were told to stay at home, we were going to have a fundraiser for the Craft club that I was attending, just before Easter. I’d thought that if I had anything left or there was a positive response to anything, that I would sell a few items on Etsy & this time next year I’d be a millionaire, (you have to do this in a Del Boy accent). 😉
If you really can’t face the sewing machine or simply don’t have the space, as your other half or kids have taken up your sewing area with their home office/school, here’s a few things that we’ve been doing:
Getting out in the fresh air: We’ve been encouraged to get our daily exercise, so long as we are well & keep a 2 metre distance from anyone else. The dog is getting 2 good walks in our local area, by each of us, we’re thinking of hiring him out to neighbours, as he’s quite happy to go out 6 times a day. (The dog not Eric). Hubby has also taken up gardening – talk about unprecedented 🤣. He’s got spuds in & planted loads of vegetable seeds to keep him occupied. It’ll probably be muggins here that has to water them all when he goes back to work but it’s keeping him out from under my feet.
Get into the kitchen & experiment, I’ve got tons of recipe books that I’ve only made a few meals from. Jack Monroe has loads of recipes on her website for cooking on a budget & with limited resources. But I enjoy just chucking stuff in a pan & seeing what comes out sometimes. I found some Hungarian sausage in the supermarket the other day & mixed it with half a packet of of Italian beans, pasta, various veg, tomatoes, stock & herbs & voila – Granville soup. Why Granville soup I hear you ask – because it’s half Hungarian. 🤣
Batch cooking is something that I’ve always done, I buy a 750g pack of mince for example & make as much chilli & spag Bol as I can, freeze it & we have ready cooked meals for week days. I do the same with soup & stews. I won’t be baking, as Eric is diabetic, which means I would have to eat it all myself & my waistline can’t take it. 🎂 And I’ve never had much success making bread but maybe now’s the time to give it another bash.
We’ve also been trying to support local businesses if they sell online, as this is going to be really tough for them. We’ve discovered that our favourite butchers are delivering Isolation packs to the door, which pleased himself no end – no pork pies though for some reason – times are tough! Our local garden centre has started delivering fruit & veg too. We’ve just taken a delivery of 8 pints of beer from our local brewpub, this is purely selfless you understand. 🍺 We also have equipment to make wine if times are desperate!
Keep in Touch
We’ve got a family WhatsApp group where we keep in touch, my niece sends us a riddle of the day & mum has found out how to post videos from Facebook, so is torturing us thrice daily. But it’s a a good way of all keeping up to date with each other. I’ve got another for a group of friends one of us will post something, more or less daily to keep each others spirits up.
There’s nothing like getting up before everyone else & reading for an hour in peace & quiet. I mentioned before that the public libraries are closed, the good news for me is that they have renewed all books on loan until the end of June, which means that I might be in with a chance of finishing the books that I have on loan! Most libraries have a digital offering too, including audio & Audible have free streaming of books while the schools are closed. (Presumably mostly children’s books).
Face Masks & Scrubs
One thing that I won’t be doing for the time being is make Face Masks for hospitals. At the time of writing this there is little evidence that they have any use & this study by the BMJ in 2015 is suggesting that they do more harm than good: ‘Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection’. But obviously if you want to make them for personal use to give you some peace of mind, that’s up to you. There is a Facebook group which has been making scrubs & laundry bags for Healthcare workers in the UK called ‘For the love of scrubs’, which I might look into further. Here’s a link to a BBC story about them.
And finally, if you feel like you’re going stir crazy, I’m going to link this clip, another from the BBC, from a submarine captain, who has spent 286 days in an 84 metre submarine with 130 people, without seeing daylight with his tips for self isolation. Essentially: Keep to a routine, cleaning – don’t let your standards slip, downtime is important, especially from information overload to keep anxiety at bay, look for the positives, deescalate conflict & communicate.
Right, I’m off to do an online pub quiz to raise funds for our local cricket club, it’s going to be chaos I expect but fun, hopefully. Stay safe everyone & remember if you don’t feel like sewing, you don’t have to, your faithful sewing machine will be waiting for you when you’re ready.
Let me know below how you’re keeping yourself busy/sane, are you sewing up a storm or finding it hard to focus?