For her birthday, my 14 year old asked for a sewing machine. My 87 year old mother couldn’t contain her excitement. She loved to sew. When I was a child she made pretty much all my clothes, until I was old enough not to be afraid of throwing a huge strop and insisting on shopping at Chelsea Girl (is anyone else old enough to remember that? I think it became Top Shop – or was it River Island..?) Anyway, my mum was good at sewing. She made me a full on ballgown in silver lamé when I was at university, and she studied for her City and Guilds when I left home.
By contrast, I couldn’t sew for toffee, and the whole business of trying to learn left me cold. I remember one summer when a shell top pattern lay permanently on our dining room table. She’d convinced me to give it a try, and bought the most straightforward pattern she could find. I cut out the red cotton fabric, then made a coffee and sat down for a rest. It stayed there, pinned to the tissue paper, until September, when I went back to school, and my mum packed away my shell top with a heavy heart.
But now Maddie wanted a sewing machine, and I knew my mum would love it!
A Bedroom Sewing Space
Our problem was space. If you live with kids (and especially teenagers) they take up a lot of space. I have a piano player, as well as a budding trumpeter, and a decent saxophonist. You think toddlers make clutter, but it doesn’t get any easier. All you do is swap the bright plastic for more technical, larger items. Xbox paraphernalia for one – who knew?! Anyway, I needed to fit my daughter’s sewing machine and materials into her bedroom (plus there’s the small issue of stray pins, and a dog who eats everything he finds to contend with. It definitely needed to be upstairs!)
A fashion mood board to inspire designs
She had started a collection of postcards that she liked – some she’d been given, others she’d picked up a the V&A Dior exhibition, where she’d been fascinated by the production of tuiles before a designer even begins to play with fabric. This is when I knew she was serious about wanting to do this properly, so I had no qualms about getting her set up for it.
We used the mood board to inspire some choices from Posterlounge, who’d offered to send us some framed prints free of charge for us to review. The two of us spent hours poring over the right images, finally settling on these fashion prints:
What I like about Posterlounge is the variety of materials you can choose from in your print. These are posters in black wooden frames, but you can also choose canvas, wood for a natural and vintage look, acrylic glass, hard foam and aluminium, which has a beautifully understated satin finish. I’ll show you some of these in a post I’m going to write soon about perking up my study space – they are gorgeous! You can choose each poster in up to six different sizes, so it’s easy to vary it up to create a jigsaw style mosaic on your wall, or to select a more uniform look with matching sizes. We had minimal space, so went with smaller prints, so she could have more variety. The framed prints are affordable too. For example, the Breakfast at Tiffany’s print is 30x40cm, and costs £34.90 with a wood frame.
Next I searched on local Facebook groups for people selling a small white desk with drawers – for the pins! We found one for £30 that was in great condition, and hey presto! We had ourselves a beautiful sewing area where she could store all her materials, and learn to use her machine.
She immediately got started with a beautiful turquoise cotton, and some pink braiding to make her first cushion cover. I tried to sway her towards my colours – the living room could do with an update! – but she was single minded, and now has a new cushion for her futon.
Her grandmother has promised her her own sewing machine one day. We’re going to need a bigger house (or someone to give up playing the piano) if we’re going to fit it in – it is the Millenium Falcon of sewing machines. I wouldn’t be surprised if it could make the dinner whilst whipping up a wedding dress! Until then she’s learning the ropes on a basic machine from John Lewis (cost just over £100), and with a selection of my mum’s old patterns. I’m just waiting for her to make the culottes I wore when I was 17!
Pin for later