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This week I have some thoughts to share about recent events in our knitting community, why I am committed to anti-racism and to how we can make our spaces safer and more inclusive. I’m also thinking about some sewing projects I would really like to get started on this summer, although my plans might need to wait until after the big move.

Show Links:

Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad

Creative Ceci on Instagram

Adaku Ezeudo

Creating a Culture of Inclusion by Adaku Ezeudo

Clio by Elizabeth Doherty

Elton Cardigan by Joji Locatelli

La Bien Aimée

Gathered Dress by The Avid Seamstress

Ray Stitch

Merchant & Mills

Chardon Skirt by Deer&Doe

Simplicity 1108

Little Koto’s Closet on Instagram

Pom Pom Quarterly

New Look 6145

The Fold Line Podcast

Brooklyn Knitfolk Podcast

Voolenvine Podcast

Joji’s Journal Podcast

Circus Tonic Handmade

The Wool Kitchen

Show Transcript:

Welcome to the Curious Handmaid podcast, you’re listening to episode 269. This podcast is all about crafting a life of happiness and creativity. I’m your host Helen and you can find me on Ravelry as HellsBells and on social media as Curious Handmaid. You can also find full show notes and the transcript on my website at

Hello and welcome to the show. I hope you’ve had a good week. I’ve had a busy week just for something different. I’m sure you have too. Thank you to everybody for your wonderful reading suggestions on Instagram and emails. I have a list of fabulous recommendations, mostly detective series which is what I asked for and, yeah, one thing leads to another one. You start looking at things on Amazon. You get lots of suggestions for similar things, so that’s really fun as well. Yeah, so I’ll have lots of summer reading and thank you again for suggestions.

We are winding up towards the end of the school year here in the UK. I know that in the US things probably wrapped up a few weeks ago and I think Canada is about now as well. So we’re just in the midst of end-of-year concerts, end-of-year sports days, assessments, all that winding up stuff that happens, so it gets really busy. I’ve decided to take next week off the podcast. Yeah, just give myself a little bit of space, because it’s been a bit hectic lately and I’m just coping with things, so I won’t have a show coming out next week, but I thought I’d decide now rather than just not have something come out, let you know.

I am going to be aiming to publish an episode every week or almost every week over the summer and do a summer series like I have in the past, I don’t know, three years now that I think I’ve prerecorded episodes, so when we go on holidays to Australia this year it’s going to be a little bit different because we are moving to Australia, but I’m aiming to prerecord some shows just to get through that period where we’re moving and things are a bit up in the air. I’m not sure how successful that’s going to be, because I’m already behind my schedule of where I wanted to be. Anyway, who knows? I might catch up a little bit or get a burst of energy from somewhere.

I’m hoping to make that one of my priorities, because I love recording the show and keeping in contact with you all. This week I am talking a little bit about sewing and sewing patterns, because when it starts getting warm, that’s what I start thinking about a little bit more, and I know lots of you do, so I’ll be talking a little bit about that, this show as well as what I’m knitting. 

First, I wanted to make an important announcement. I don’t often talk about politics or political things or, I don’t know, stuff like that on the show, but sometimes I do, and today is one of those days that I feel compelled to.

There’s been a lot of discussion on Instagram in the past couple of weeks about the policy Ravelry posted on their homepage this last week. They posted the policy that, “We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry. We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is unambiguously support for white supremacy. For more details, read the document.” 
This is a statement that has been made by Ravelry and I feel that it’s part of the big discussion and awareness raising campaign, if you like, led primarily by black indigenous people of colour from many countries around the world.

It’s been happening for a long time, but has intensified dramatically in January this year, I would say. Personally, I’m endlessly grateful for those people speaking up. I’ve mostly seen it on Instagram, because that’s my social media of choice. I don’t go onto Twitter at all, and very rarely on Facebook but … so, I’ve seen it mostly on Instagram, and lots of posts of leadership and education. Yeah, just awareness raising that have been posted by the BIPOC and LGBQT people who’ve started these conversations, continued the conversations and, yeah, just opened themselves up to a lot of criticism, actually, from people, but also a lot of support from people as well.

They’ve been the ones that have stood in the firing line and spoken up about issues of racism and inclusivity and diversity. I have learned a lot and am very grateful for them speaking up. I think this raising of awareness has, I don’t know, it’s just led to a lot of conversations. I mean, I’ve been a member of Ravelry since 2007 and I think that would make me a reasonably early member, and I’ve always loved it. I’ve always loved being part of it. We have a really thriving discussion group for Curious Handmade on there. I think that the reason Ravelry has been a really good community over the years, have been as a result of the policies that Jess and Casey, who are the founders of Ravelry, have put in place.

Recently, there was a incident where someone was basically abused, a person of colour was abused, so they have put this policy in place. I support this policy, I don’t support any hate speech or any harassment of anybody. Although the wording is quite confronting, especially if you’re white, and especially if you voted for Trump, Ravelry have made it clear in the policy that Trump supporters are not banned, it’s the talking about supporting Trump that is banned. If you are someone who doesn’t want to talk about politics on Ravelry, then on my reading of the policy, nothing has changed for you.

A lot of people have said that they wish that it wasn’t political, that Ravelry wasn’t political, and that a lot of people like myself and designers and dyers, people who work in the industry aren’t political. People have said that they don’t like that we’re making political statements, but I don’t agree with that. I think it’s important to talk about these things. If you don’t want to talk about them, you don’t have to. There’s plenty of groups where politics aren’t discussed and generally I would say that politics aren’t discussed very much in the Curious Handmade threads. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any discussion along those lines in the threads.

I just think that, this is a policy, it’s been made, I think we should abide by it if we want to participate in this free platform that Ravelry provide, it’s free to use. As a designer, I pay very minimal fees, I think, to sell my patterns on Ravelry. I think that Jess and Casey are incredibly inclusive. This platform is amazing and I think that we should all support that. I know that some people have decided not to, but I think that there’s a big difference between feeling confronted and defensive about the policy, because of your political camp compared to genuinely being harassed and made to feel unsafe because of who you are.

I don’t think there’s any room for hate speech in our community or anywhere, that’s why I support them. Obviously, the issue of equality and discrimination is much broader than the fiber community and Ravelry, but for those of us who spend time on Ravelry or Instagram and follow fiber people, we’re getting every wake-up call at the moment. Personally, I’m grateful for that and I’m grateful to the activists that have been doing that work. I mean, I think that the what and the why, are very clear. Discrimination, intolerance and hate speech, it’s just not acceptable.

In most of the countries that most of my listeners live in, definitely the US, UK, Australia, will have anti discrimination laws in legislation and case law as part of our legal system. I think it’s one thing to have the laws and policies, but the how of real change made in our day-to-day lives and as individuals, is really the challenge we’re facing. Just because we have laws protecting people against discrimination on the basis of race or sex or colour, age, physical and mental disabilities, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist in society. It does exist. Discrimination does still exist. I think it’s all of our responsibility to face that.

I am on a steep learning curve, when the conversation sparked up in January, I started doing a lot of reading and I would recommend the ebook, Me and White Supremacy, I thought it was a bit of a confronting title at the time. It’s a book by Layla F Saad, at the time it was a downloadable ebook and now it’s a physical book and ebook on bookstores, including Amazon. My awareness has raised significantly since then. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I was in a bit of a bubble before. I think a lot of us were, to be honest. I think my vocabulary to talk and think about issues around racism and inclusion and diversity have improved a lot, which is helping me analyze all the arguments and understand what people are saying.

I’m still a long way from fully understanding all the issues that people face and knowing what I can do to act better as a person or as Creative Ceci says, to level up, but I really want to and I’m working on it. My hope is, if we all become more tolerant and inclusive and supportive, our community is just going to be more wonderful than before. I’m just don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to do that. 
I recently listened to a talk by Adaku Ezeudo and she spoke at Woollinn, which was a recent yarn festival in Dublin, and they’ve published a video of the talk on their website and I’ll link to it in the show notes.

I would recommend, everybody listen to this. It was just a wonderful talk that she gave. She spoke about how small every day actions can make an impact and that leadership is a privilege and responsibility. I was really debating whether I would or could talk about this on the podcast, because I don’t want to be tokenistic, I don’t want to be performative or center myself in this, so I was really wondering if I could talk about it meaningfully. She had line in her speech that said, leadership as a privilege and responsibility.

I am very privileged in society as a white person, a white able-bodied a straight person, and I’m just realizing more and more how privileged I am. I have a lot of listeners, I have a lot of followers on Instagram, so I thought I would, it just felt like my responsibility to say something here, but the point about the talk, by Adaku Ezeudo at Woollinn, is that she had a long list of practical steps we can take. I would encourage you to listen to it. She explains it really, really well and really clearly, it’s really fantastic.

Some of the things she talked about is having a zero tolerance policy towards racism and also evolving your business as you go along and as you learn more and as society evolves and to create inclusive products, to think about advertising and marketing, being inclusive, to create strategic partnerships with minority-owned businesses, have an inclusive mindset to acknowledge our bias, to be aware of our biases when we’re making important decisions. Some of it is only from the perspective of the business owner, but most of these things are just from the perspective of anybody.

She talks about some more business oriented things like hosting trainings and events. She talks about recognizing your privilege, that it’s not just about being wealthy or having money, it’s about things that come to you naturally that don’t come to other people, and use your privilege to advantage people less privileged. 
A big one is, when you hear people talking about privilege, to not get defensive, to think about what you can do to promote change. I think from what I’ve seen in comments on Instagram, a lot of people do get defensive, myself included, I feel a little bit under scrutiny as a white person.
That’s to be expected and that’s for me to deal with, I think, but I need to stop being defensive and think about it from a different perspective and to overcome that initial reaction. That’s about all I want to say about the topic today. I mean, it’s a huge topic and there’s so much reading and materials out there to educate yourself if you wish to. I’ve found it both confronting and very rewarding to educate myself on all of these things this year. Yeah, and I hope other people can can do the same. I know that many of you are already thinking about these things and doing and acting on them. I am very hopeful for our knitting community and society in general and I hope things improve for everybody. 
I have a fairly brief knitting update for you today. Most of my knitting recently has been working on designs and most of my designs are secrets, so I can’t really talk about those too much. I’m working really hard at the moment to try and get a bit ahead of schedule. Never been particularly good at being ahead in my design schedule, but I’m trying very hard this year to do that, because I need to be ahead at the moment and, yeah, just been working like crazy to get on my collections for the year wrapped up before we actually pack up and move. It’s going okay. As I said before, I am behind schedule, but I don’t know, I might have to work a few evenings or just pick up my pace a bit and try and get there. 
I have been doing a bit of relaxation, personal knitting, and I’ve been working on Clio by Elizabeth Doherty and I have finished the body now, so I’m excited about that. I have been working on the, what do you call it, the band at the bottom, I’m sure there’s a more technical name for it, but I can’t think of it right now, of the body for the last couple of weeks really and have finally got that cast off and I’m now bobbing away on sleeve island, but I’m quite happy hanging out on sleeve island. I don’t mind knitting sleeves, they’re just part of it and they just have to be done, so I just consider that part of knitting a garment. Yeah, I’m enjoying that. I am looking forward to finishing it. 
I don’t know if I will just cast on something else as well for a bit of variety while I’m working on the slaves. I was very generous. They gifted the Yellow Brick Road yarn, how he used in the sample in La Bien Aimee and Amie gave me the yarn, which I’m very grateful for and I am so looking forward to knitting that. Especially now it’s become really summery here in the UK.
I think that bright yellow is just calling my name, so I think I might start that as well and have two garments going at once, which I don’t know, I probably should just finish Clio and then move on to something else, but I just feel like doing that as well, so we’ll see. I haven’t given into that temptation yet, but I’m itching to. Probably by next week it will be on the needles. 
As I mentioned in the intro, I’m itching to do some sewing as well. I think realistically this is going to have to wait till later in the year, but again, when summer and warm weather come around, it really sparks my craving to do some sewing.

I just thought I’d talk about a couple of patterns that I have in my queue. I’ve been packing up my knitting and sewing stashes and I’ve been going through these things. I have lots of lovely fabric and patterns that I want to make. The first one I have in the queue is the gathered dress and it’s by The Avid Seamstress. Oh, this dress is so cute. I bought the pattern at Ray Stitch in London. It’s a fabric shop, is LinkedIn. Ray Stitch has an amazing area where they have all their patterns displayed and they also have a fantastic sample rack. There’s often items there that inspire you to want to make a particular pattern.

You can actually try them on if the sample is sort of around your size, just to get an idea of what size you might want to make or how it looks on, so that’s quite cool as well. I got the gathered dress there and I’m not very familiar with The Avid Seamstress. It’s a fairly new to me pattern label. I think they’re UK-based, their website address, which is on the back of the pattern, is That would indicate that they are UK-based. I also bought Merchant & Mills linen in a dusky pink to make this, it’s a really cute dress. You can make it long or short sleeved, which is quite cute.

This is very, very simple. At the front, it’s, I don’t know what line it is, but it just goes straight down at the front, maybe slightly fitted, then at the back there’s a really cute line of gathers around the waist. It’s gathered at the back, which is quite good for my shape, because I’ve got a bit of a bum and I’m fairly straight at the front. Yeah. I thought this would would be good, it’s also got pockets, which is really cute. I’m looking forward to doing that one at some point. 
I also have the pattern for the Chardon skirt by Deer&Doe. I actually have this twice. I bought it and thought I couldn’t find it and then bought it again, so now I have two copies of this pattern. It’s a pleated skirt, a high waisted skirt with inverted box plates, knee length, and you can do it with or without a hem band. I love this pattern on my friend, Stuart, made it years ago and that’s when I bought the pattern the first time. It’s just super classic, I think, and cute as well. I’ve got several lots of fabric to make this. I just need to get on with it. Yeah, so that’s one. I’ve got this really cute print that I bought in Paris and it’s got little Eiffel towers on it. It’s super cute. I think it’s got poodles or something as well. Something sort of French, maybe a bit cliched, but quite fun. I’ve always intended to make this Chardon skirt with that fabric, but it’d be cute in any fabric I think. 
The last pattern I have, which I talked about last summer, is Simplicity 1108, which isn’t a very romantic name, but it is a robe sort of cover-up type garment. It’s a really cute pattern. Actually, on the back, they actually call it a kimono, but we know better than to call it a kimono. Having been educated about cultural appropriation, especially about the kimono by, in particular, little_kotos_closet, an Instagram account. An Instagram account that is written by Emi Ito. Emi talks about cultural appropriation specifically around the kimono. She’s written an article that was in Hong Kong Quarterly number 29 and on some other websites, but you can find out more about that at little_kotos, K-O-T-O-S_closet. I think when I was talking about it this time last year I was using that term, Kimono, about this garment, but I’ve now learnt not to do that.
Finally, I have another dress and it’s just a simple fitted dress. Again, I saw the sample for this at Ray Stitch. The pattern is New Look 6145. I think what I liked about this, on the sample, is that it’s got a really cute boat neck option, and I think it’s also a really simple pattern. I think it would be a good pattern for a work dress, probably a more formal dress, but I think it could be also a nice dress for, I don’t know, I think a going-out dress. It’s not a flowy dress, it’s quite a classic fitted dress. I don’t know if I still love it as much as I did. I think, when I bought the pattern, I thought that the pattern really didn’t do the dress in the shop justice, so I’m trying to remember, because I loved the dress when I saw it made up, but I’m looking at the pictures on the pattern cover and it’s not super inspiring.

I’m thinking, why did I love it so much? But I remember the dress, maybe it was the print that they’d used in the shop, but I thought it was super cute at the time. That’s an option as well, but that will probably be the last on my list. 
Along with my wish for more sewing time at the moment, I’ve been watching some sewing podcasts and in particular The Foldline by Kate. This because it has been around for a few years and I dip in and out of it from time to time, but I’ve been watching a few episodes recently. It’s a fantastic sewing podcast. I haven’t found any other sewing-dedicated podcasts that I like as much as this one.

I haven’t tried to find that many and I would appreciate any recommendations of fun sewing podcasts that you like listening to. I really like Kate. She does reviews of patterns she finds, new patterns that have come out and talks about why she likes them and features that she thinks are cool. She has episodes where they’re just talking about sewing related but not just sewing patterns. She talks about fabrics, she talks about events. Yeah, just stuff happening in the sewing world. Yeah. She has a nice descriptive way about talking about patterns that, yeah, just makes you look at them in a different way. So I enjoy that one.

Of course, I enjoy some of the knitters who sew, who talk about sewing on their podcast from time to time. I enjoy hearing about Brooklyn Knitfolk’s sewing projects, Kristin on Voolenvine podcasts. Really enjoy listening to her sewing projects. She does a lot of really cute dresses, adorable dresses and skirts. She has a very feminine style, probably more so than what I would go for, but I really enjoy seeing what she’s made, as well as Joji. Joji from time to time will talk about sewing projects as well and she’s really inspiring, because she talks about it from, well, she’s not really a beginner anymore, but when she started talking about sewing, she said she was a complete beginner.

Yeah, it was quite inspiring to see as a beginner what she was accomplishing and she has lots of fun ideas about her makes. Yeah, just really enjoy listening to them talk about knitting, but also I really enjoy hearing about the sewing projects. I’m sure there’s more that I’m not mentioning, but those are the ones that have just come to mind as I’m having a bit of chat about this. This podcast has gone on for a bit longer than usual, mostly because of my serious chat at the beginning. 
The colorway name is Homemade Jam and you can find the listing on her website at and it’s listed as Helen Stewart The Sock Society Homemade Jam. The pattern itself won’t be out until the 15th of August, if you’re a member of the Handmade Sock Society, but because the yarn is coming from Australia, we are trying to get the listing up nice and early, so it can reach everybody.

Also, we have the yarn for the third pattern for The Shawl Society and we just announced that this week and that is by The Wool Kitchen and the update for that is just starting today. You can find the details for that at and that’s for the third shawl which is coming out quite soon. 
As usual, if you are members of either society and you have signed up for this specific email for the society that you are a member of, you should have gotten an email about that. The details of where to sign up for emails are in your information sheet that’s part of the collection that’s available in your Ravelry library if you are participating.

Thank you to everybody who is participating in the societies this year. I, of course, appreciate all of you and love seeing your shawls and socks popping up on Ravelry and on Instagram and for the messages you send me and, yeah, just really appreciate it. We appreciate your support and love seeing what you’re making with my patterns. I will be with you again in two weeks time. I, as I mentioned, taking next week off and look forward to talking to you again soon. 
Happy knitting, bye for now.

As all the excitement around the Summertide MKAL continues to grow, I’m stealing a moment to return to our ongoing Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge. I have another great interview for you, this time from one of my handmade wardrobe heroes, Karen Templer from the exceptional Fringe Supply Co (The shop’s tagline “Nice things for makers” is an understatement…her things are gorgeous.) She also writes an insanely inspirational blog, Fringe Association. Karen agreed to share her knowledge and journey towards a handmade wardrobe with us today, and I’m so happy that she did. Welcome Karen!


Photo credit: Kathy Cadigan

Photo credit: Kathy Cadigan

Tell us a little about why you’re interested in having a handmade wardrobe.

First and foremost, I’m a control freak. 🙂 I want what I want, when I want it. But there’s also enormous creativity and joy and peace of mind in making one’s own clothes.

Which came first: Knitting, crochet or sewing?

My mom taught me to sew when I was young enough that I don’t really remember it, so I feel like I’ve just always known. But I have sewn only very sporadically during my adult years. I definitely knew more about sewing when I was in junior high school than I know right now, but I’m relearning pretty quickly.

I also was shown how to knit when I was a kid but I didn’t take to it. I did love crochet as a kid. But a friend taught me to knit in October 2011 and I was instantly obsessed. Have been knitting like a maniac ever since.

How often do you wear something you’ve made?

In the winter, you’ll find me wearing a hand knit sweater most days. I have fewer warm-weather clothes that I’ve either sewn or knitted, so less often in the warm months.

Do you want to have more of your wardrobe be handmade?

Photo credit: Karen Templer

Photo credit: Karen Templer

I’m in awe of people who are able to wear handmade every day, and love the idea of an entirely handmade wardrobe, but it’s not realistic for me. I run a business (Fringe Supply Co.) and a daily blog (Fringe Association), have very little free time, and I’m very slow — especially when it comes to sewing. I always have a lot of big plans about all the clothes I’m going to make and then manage to produce only a fraction of them. But I’m pretty committed at this point to not buying clothes made in faraway factories under unknown conditions, if it can be avoided, which is a big shift after a lifetime of mall clothes. I’m wearing things longer, buying less, and spending more per item to get things that are produced by known humans in known conditions. That might be a piece by a local designer sewn in a studio I’m able to visit, or something by a brand that isn’t local to me but is transparent about how and where production is happening, and ideally also about where the fabric comes from. I love supporting makers and small businesses, and want to be able to feel good about every garment in my closet, whether I made it myself or not.

Photo Credit: Karen Templer

Photo Credit: Karen Templer

Do you relate to “fashion” or “style” /or “capsule wardrobe /Or uniform? Do you have a uniform?

I have fairly limited tastes, so that does lead me to some semblance of a wardrobe. I’m mostly denim and neutrals, classic shapes but maybe put together in slightly unconventional ways here and there?

My house was built in 1953 and has old-school closets — not walk-ins. My closet has a little door, behind which is a shelf above a hanging rod. It’s small, in other words, and I’m determined not to exceed (or even max out, actually) its capacity. When you have fewer clothes, you want them all to work together and to be of good, lasting quality. So I do lean toward the “capsule” concept.

How did you start on your journey to a HMW?  

In the 80s, my school years, I did a lot of alteration/customization of store-bought clothes. Fashion was a ton of fun then — pegging your mens 501s, tailoring hospital scrubs, embellishing everything. But I didn’t make a lot of my own clothes from scratch until I started knitting sweaters. (I cast on my first sweater in the third month that I knew how to knit and have been knitting mainly garments ever since.) Making sweaters made me long to make other clothes for myself as well, which led me back to sewing.

Who inspires you in this journey?  

Beautiful Japanese sashiko thread, available from Fringe Supply Company. Photo Credit: Karen Templer

Beautiful Japanese sashiko thread, available from Fringe Supply Company. Photo Credit: Karen Templer

The entire handmade community, truly. As soon as I learned to knit, I started scouring the web for good blogs, which led me to lots of inspiring knitters and sewers both. Instagram is so awash in talented people I wish I could spend whole days just combing through hashtags. It’s so inspiring, all of it, and there are a lot of clever, thoughtful individuals who either got me thinking or taught me skills or whatever the case may be. Way too many people to name. But at the moment, I’m spurred on a daily basis by some really good friends in the industry who are incredibly prolific makers: Jaime and Amber of Fancy Tiger Crafts; Kate Gagnon Osborn of Kelbourne Woolens, who also sews most of her non-knitted clothes; Jen Beeman of Grainline Studio, who is also a knitter; and Anna Maria Horner, who is also about to get me started on quilting! Because that’s what I have time for, right?

When you choose a pattern, do you think about how wearable it is? Do you think about how well it will go with your other clothes?  

Absolutely. Obsessively. Like I said, my closet is really small and I only want stuff in there that can pull its weight. And again, I’m slow, so everything I choose to spend precious time on really needs to be worth it. I’ve always had a shopping rule that I’m not allowed to buy anything unless I can instantly make at least three great outfits out of it with other pieces I already own. With handmade, I’m trying to follow the same general rule, but at the same time I can actually plan out a whole wardrobe — calculating how an array of pieces will work together once they all exist. Of course, the challenge is to get them all to exist! But I do spend a lot of time sketching and planning and choosing the right fabric or yarn. Planning might be my favorite part.

What’s the most wearable item you’ve made?

Probably my charcoal grey Bellows cardigan. I can literally put it on over just about anything I own! And would wear it every single day from October through March if that were socially acceptable.


What pattern(s) would you nominate as “highly wearable”?

I’m not often one to make patterns as written/drafted – I tend to find things that are in the neighborhood of what i’m wanting and then bend them to my will. I think the key is knowing what’s wearable for you and then finding ways to get there.

Do you have any suggestions of great resources for new sewists?

Jen’s blog, Grainline Studio, and the Colette site are both chock full of great info. I’m not as well-versed in sewing resources as I’d like, but those are two I feel like i’m always learning from. But I also say find people on Instagram whose taste you vibe with (check hashtags like #handmadewardrobe and #memade and #knittersofinstagram and such) and pay attention not only to what they have to say about the patterns they’re posting about, but also the comments from everyone else. There really is a lot of wisdom in that crowd.

So many thanks to Karen for joining us on the blog today! I really love hearing people’s stories: it spurs me on in my own quest for a more creative life. For even more inspiration and wisdom from Karen, you can find her online here:

Fringe Supply Co.

Fringe Association



So, are you onboard with the Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge yet? There’s still lots of time, so take a peek at our very active thread on Ravelry. #CHWChallenge

CH 88 With Libby from Truly Myrtle

Helen —  August 20, 2015 — 1 Comment

Curioous Handmade Podcast With Libby From Truly Myrtle

We’ve got a second helping of Libby from Truly Myrtle this week. After her excellent guest post for the blog, she also sat down to chat with me in more detail about her own handmade wardrobe and the journey she’s been on for several years. She’s an absolute font of information. At one point in the interview Libby says that she feels as though she was “born to make things” and if you’ve visited her website, it’s very obvious that she was. I took so much away from this conversation, but the main inspiration for me has been moving towards thinking in terms of whole outfits. Libby really captures the glee of creativity and making, and I hope you have a lot of fun listening too.

Show Sponsors

Today’s show is sponsored by The Fibre Co, and their wonderfully soft and gorgeous Acadia yarn. If you want to see how wonderfully this knits up, take a look at the two tone sample of my pattern Whispering Island!

TheFibreCo_Logo CH

Acadia is named after the oldest American national park east of the Mississippi river, a place of natural beauty where the sea and mountains meet, slopes are densely forested and wild blueberries abound. Acadia National Park is in the state of Maine, The Fibre Co.’s birthplace.  The yarn inspired by this beautiful region has a rustic look and a soft hand. A subtle tweed effect is created by the silk noil that is combined with a heathered base made from fine merino wool and brown baby alpaca. The yarn is a classic DK weight and makes a beautiful textured fabric that is perfect for next to the skin accessories as well as garments.

You can get your hands on some Acadia of your own at our other sponsor’s shop, Meadow Yarn:

Meadow Yarn 

Meadow Yarn is an inviting online retailer selling yarn, needles and notions. It’s a small, family business based in rural Suffolk in the UK. Meadow Yarn was born out of a passion for beautiful yarn and knitting accessories and aims to bring you a range of great products. Yarns stocked include madelinetosh, Eden Cottage Yarn, the Fibre Co and many more.

What’s in the WIP

I’m still working on the really fun and relaxing Cavepoint Shawl by Paula from the Knitting Pipeline. The Cavepoint KAL is going until the end of the month so I might just make it under the wire.

I’m also working on a new shawl design for a Mystery Knit Along which will be coming out soon…there will be more details over the next couple of weeks.

The whole Curious Handmade Wardrobe challenge is a giant WIP for me. There’s so much great conversation happening in the group thread, and everyone’s getting super inspired, especially me! August is the planning month, and I’m still deep in the planning phase myself, though I have some thoughts coming together. Also, we have a hashtag now: #CHWChallenge so be sure that you use it on all your social media posts to that we can all follow along!

Show Links

We mentioned a few patterns:

Merchant and Mills Dress Shirt

Washi Dress

Simplicity Pattern 1080

Libby’s recommendation for keeping inspiration organized:



The pattern tutorial that Libby mentioned:

Box bag tutorial


There’s just over a week left to vote for Curious Handmade in the finals of the UK Podcasting Awards! It only takes a few seconds to vote, and every vote counts! and I’d be really grateful if you’d take a moment to vote for us here: all you need to do is scroll down to my photo and click!

September 5th is the Great London Yarn Crawl! There will be a special pop up marketplace, and there’s going to be an Indie Designer Spotlight stand. Several up and coming designers will be rotating through, and I’m lucky enough to be among them. Stop by! It’s a really fun event.

Thursday 29th of October through Sunday the 1st of November there’s an amazing retreat on: the Geeky Puffin Knitpalooza in Edinburgh. It’s being run by the girls from the Geeky Girls Knit video podcast and knitrundig. There will be lots of interesting sessions being run by a wide variety of teachers, including Kate from A Playful Day.

There’s also a Craftsy sale happing this weekend — up to 70% off their best selling supplies. It’s a great opportunity to stock up and treat yourself to some new creative supplies. If you’d like to support Curious Handmade at the same time, click through the Craftsy banner: it means I’ll get a small commission. Thank you so much.


Thanks again for listening! I’m sure you’ll be as impressed and inspired as I was, hearing about how Libby has focused so much talent and creativity on her own handmade wardrobe (while raising four gorgeous kids, too!) Happy knitting (and sewing!) to you all until next week.


 Continuing in our series of conversations with talented creators who are exploring the world of a handmade wardrobe, I’m really happy to share this interview with the marvellous Sarah Knight, a designer and blogger who shares her adventures with making on her site Crafts from the Cwtch. Sarah has her own strong sense of style and buckets of experience and wisdom when it comes to creating wearables that really work in real life: she’s been running her own personal handmade wardrobe project for a while now, with some amazing results! She very kindly agreed to answer my questions about her inspirations, her journey, why a handmade wardrobe matters, and all her best tips for everyone embarking on this adventure. Welcome Sarah!

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Tell us a little about why you’re interested in having a handmade wardrobe.

Sarah KnightHaving a handmade wardrobe appeals to me for a whole number of reasons. Firstly I hate shopping for clothes — nothing ever fits properly and I get stressed, disheartened and start having negative thoughts about myself and my body. My body is actually not unusual for a mother of two in her forties, it’s the clothes in the shops that are all wrong. I have curves plus I’m short — these things are not routinely accommodated in the High Street, which means that, like a large proportion of people, I have to wear clothes that don’t fit (and don’t look great).

Secondly, I am not a follower of “fashion”, so finding clothes that suit me and that I want to buy is difficult. Then there’s the practical consideration that I don’t spend very much on my own clothing – the kids keep growing and majority of the budget is quickly used up on them.

I turned 41 during ‘Me Made May’ and realised I had reached a point in my life where I have a wardrobe stuffed (and I mean stuffed) with things I don’t really like or care about, just because I need to wear something and they were the least awful options (or the right price) when I was in the shop. Getting dressed is quite an effort under these circumstances, which isn’t a very inspiring start to the day.

Which came first: Knitting, or sewing?IMG_4659

My childhood was spent surrounded by yarn and fabric. I loved draping myself in my own “designs” but despite being shown how to knit and sew from a very young age, it didn’t interest me at all. When I wanted something made, I could sketch my ideas and it would be sewn or knit for me by my Mum (who you may know as Lynda from the GBSB series 2) or my Nan (who trained as a tailor before having children) – between them they were able to make anything.  It would be true to say that I had a wardrobe which was almost entirely handmade for much of my childhood, and far from appreciating it, I was desperate to wear ‘shop-bought’ fashion, like all my friends. (Doubly hideous as this was during the 70s/80s!)

A few years ago, I was at home with two pre-schoolers and I started knitting and blogging about my projects. I have mountains of scarves and shawls but very few garments, as commercial patterns often have the same sizing issues as shop-bought clothing. On the other hand, I’ve been sewing for just a few weeks. My machine was a gift from my mum, and it was still in the box until I started my first Handmade Wardrobe Project. Giving it a permanent space on my desk has totally changed my perception of sewing.

How often do you wear something you’ve made?

Since starting my Handmade Wardrobe Project I find that I prefer to wear the clothes I’ve made because they fit and I like them. At the time of writing, that’s only seven items, so I wear them as much as I can get away with, but I really need a lot more to choose from.

Do you relate to “fashion” or “style”? Do you think more about a “capsule wardrobe” or a “uniform”? Do you have a uniform?

IMG_4677My ideal would be to have a kind of ‘capsule uniform’ – I live in the countryside and have a dog so I walk a lot and jeans have been the most practical option for most of the year, including summer. With jeans, I like comfy tops which can be layered to suit the weather and they can be dressed up or down or worn with knit/crochet accessories.

The longer term plan for my handmade wardrobe is to to make neutral items that will work separately or together (for layering) and won’t compete with bold splashes of colour from my knitwear. I would like tunic-style dresses which can be worn as dresses in the summer, or layered over long-sleeved t-shirts and leggings for cooler weather and this option is now opening up as I can make them exactly how I want them to be — it’s very exciting!

Who inspires you in this journey?

I would like to be more like my mother, who is able to ‘whip’ something up whenever she wants, but my inspiration for getting started with my  Handmade Wardrobe Project was actually watching the journey of other crafters I follow. So many ‘knitters’ are now making and wearing handmade garments which cross over between knitting, crochet and sewing. I’ve been following Truly Myrtle and Not so Granny for a long time, and both Libby and Joanne really champion wearing handmade and show how they put their outfits together which I love to see.

Then A Playful Day podcast included interviews with Sonya Philip and Ysolda, and I could really relate to the things they were talking about – I quickly ordered some fabric. Now that I’m learning more about sewing, I’m really inspired by people like Cal Patch who teaches that anyone can draft patterns and sew things they love to wear. This is the way to go for me, for sure.  

What’s the most wearable item you’ve made?


I’m currently obsessed with Fancy Tiger Craft’s Sailor Top. I had a great time experiementing with that one recently: you can see the process on my blog!

Do you have any suggestions of great resources for new sewists?


I love the Creativebug sewing classes

Finding a local class or at the very least someone who knows their way around a sewing machine is also invaluable. Half way through my second sewing project I thought my machine was broken – my mum quickly worked out that I’d threaded the bobbin the wrong way around which wasn’t something I’d thought to check. If she hadn’t solved the problem it may have been enough to put me off finishing the top.
Social media is a great resource.Using hashtags, it’s possible can see what others have made from specific patterns, and it’s also a way of getting inspiration for new projects, seeing the fabrics that people have used etc. There are lots of people blogging about sewing and some really great tips and notes on how they have altered popular commercial patterns. As a beginner, this is very helpful.
My top tip is to get some inexpensive fabric and not to overthink it – just start making something. If you can accept that the first few garments don’t have to be perfect, it’s quite liberating. Don’t be afraid to try it!

What’s going to be your Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge with us this fall? 

I really like your idea of making an outfit. I’m not sure what yet but I am thinking about sewing a dress and making a jumper or cardigan that I can wear with it.
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Thanks again to Sarah for visiting us here at Curious Handmade. You can follow along with all of her creative adventures here:

Another lovely guest post as we ramp up in the early days of the Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge! Today I’m really lucky to introduce you to the wonderful Libby from Truly Myrtle. Libby is a designer, podcaster and blogger who is already living the handmade wardrobe dream, and she’s graciously agreed to join us here on the Curious Handmade blog to share her expertise. There’s so much gold in this post, and I think it will really inspire anyone taking their first steps into the world of the handmade wardrobe. Libby talks about how to find great patterns and offers her best tips for a successful project. She designs knitwear but is an avid and acocmplished sewist as well, and this post focuses mostly on sewing, which is a growth area for a lot of us knitters who would like to branch out and make garments to wear with our beloved knits. 

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Libby from Truly MyrtleHi everyone! I’m Libby from Truly Myrtle and I’m really excited to be posting on the Curious Handmade blog today! Thank you for inviting me Helen! I am an enthusiastic champion of handmade wardrobes and I knit and sew many of

my own clothes. Much of what I know has been learnt through trial and error and I’m still learning every time I make something. These days I’m particularly keen to master the art of getting a perfect fit and a great finish as well as gaining skills in drafting my own knitting and sewing patterns. It’s proving to be another adventure!

As knitters, we are incredibly lucky to have Ravelry. It’s such a great resource for finding patterns, hearing what other have to say about them and seeing how they look on a variety of body shapes. But what about sewing? As yet there isn’t a similar resource and it’s daunting trying to figure out which sewing patterns to start with, how to find a pattern that you can master and what will suit you. I thought I’d share a few ideas about finding great sewing patterns and my favourite wardrobe staples.



– your local fabric store is probably a good place to start. They’re likely to stock fat catalogues of sewing patterns from all the major brands and the salespeople should be able to provide some good advice about what patterns will suit your level of experience. They might even offer classes!

– I’m always keen to support small creative businesses and there are many independent sewing  designers online these days. Indiesew stocks a number of patterns from indie designers and their blog is full of tips and tricks to support you.

– google it! Searching “independent sewing patterns” will bring up a heap of designer pages.

Some of my favourites are:

Colette patterns

Grainline Studios

Megan Nielsen

Tilly and the Buttons


I particularly like these ones because they all have great blogs full of helpful information. Some even do sew alongs and walk you through their patterns step by step. You’ll find there are many many more independent designers and it can be a bit of a rabbit hole once you get started! I like to click on “images” when I search to view pictures of sewing patterns to get a feel of what might be available.

– look in your local library. There are lots of fabulous learn to sew or beginner sewing books around and many include patterns. Maybe your library stocks some?

– are you on Instagram? Me Made May is a huge event each May and this year thousands of knitters and (especially) sewers posted pictures of their handmade clothes including names of the patterns they’d used, under the tags #mmmay15 and #memademay. I found it so helpful to see pictures of sewing patterns on real people. It’s also a great place to find my next idea …

– sewing bloggers. There are hundreds and hundreds of sewing bloggers online sewing and reviewing sewing patterns. Search “sewing bloggers” and prepare to be wowed.



Beginner sewing patterns are great for new sewers, experienced sewers and sewers coming back to their machines after a break. Many beginner patterns are great wardrobe staples and can be adapted and adjusted as your skills and confidence increase. Here are some of my favourites:

Tiny pocket tank from Grainline Studios. I’ve made several of these tops and they’re simple, require only a small amount of fabric and are a great summer wardrobe basic.

Washi Dress from Made By Rae. I love this pattern and I live in my Liberty print cotton Washi dress through the summer. The instructions are easy to understand and the pattern is endlessly adaptable. I’ve made a Washi tank top from the basic pattern too.

Clover Trouser Pattern. from Colette Patterns. Trousers can be scary to sew but this pattern is fairly simple and well supported on the Colette Patterns blog. You’ll learn how to put in a zip and how to get a good fit.

Sewing with Knits Class by Meg McElwee. This a series of classes showing you how to make five sewing patterns (also included) rather than a sewing pattern per se but I thoroughly recommend it if you’d like to try sewing knits on your regular sewing machine. The patterns are great (the t-shirt pattern is my staple t-shirt) and you’ll have lifetime access to the classes showing you how to make each of the patterns.

Alabama Studio Sewing & Design. This is a book rather than individual pattern but it is absolutely fabulous. The patterns in the book are very stylish basic shapes and are intended to be sewn by hand (the book is stuffed with wonderful information showing you how) but could also be sewn by machine. Personally, I love the hand-sewn look and I really encourage you to have a go with patterns like these if you’d like to try sewing but don’t have access to a sewing machine or want to sew out and about.



– Like it has for knitting, the internet has revolutionised sewing. Many of the sewing patterns from independent sewing designers are only available in pdf form so you’ll need to download them, print them out and then assemble them before you can use them. I’ve written a guide to help you work out how to quickly and easily get a pdf pattern ready for sewing.

– It’s a good idea to make a muslin. It’s a bit like a swatch; a test run of your pattern to make sure it fits you properly. I often make a “wearable muslin” from a fabric that’s a bit cheaper than my real fabric. Just make sure the two fabrics are similar in weight and feel.

– Ask for help. Don’t get discouraged by mistakes. We all make plenty of them! If you’re confused reach out. Maybe your neighbour sews? Maybe your mum or your friend? Look for classes in your area if you’re wanting to learn with others or join a sew along online. Sewing days with friends are a good way to learn new techniques and share tools and machines.

Good luck with your handmade challenge! What are you planning to make? Will you try your hand at sewing?

Most of all, have fun xxx

A big big thanks to Libby for her wonderful contribution. You can learn more about Libby here:

Truly Myrtle Website






CHWChallengeIf you heard last week’s podcast, you know that we’ve just launched a really exciting challenge which will be running over the next three months. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can be more intentional about creating (and wearing) a wardrobe of handmade garments and accessories that work together for real lifestyles. There are so many reasons why a handmade wardrobe is a worthy dream: the ability to truly express your individuality, clothes that truly fit your shape, the chance to break free from the destructive cycle of “fast fashion” and (of course) the sheer joy of making things and flourishing in your own creativity.

I was chatting about this to a friend of mine, Susan, (she’s Kizmet on Ravelry) and we decided together that the time was right to get serious about exploring this subject. That’s why we decided to launch this challenge. We want to start a conversation about where you start with a project like this, and what it takes to create, curate, style, maintain and wear a wardrobe of beautiful things that you’ve made with your own hands, and we want to do it with the input and support of the creative community. We’ve decided on a really generous timeline so that everyone can take part without needing to rush.

Would you like to join us? The rules are simple:

Guidelines for the Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge:

Dates: August 7-Oct 31, 2015


This month is for dreaming, getting inspired and planning your project. Really give yourself time to take a look at what you already have and any gaps that might be crying out to be filled. Whether you’re in need of staples like a workaday pullover or you want to shake things up with a really artistic piece, this is all about focusing on your own individual needs, wants, and dreams. Make moodboards, if that inspires you. Shop for materials and notions.

The parameters for the wearble object(s) are extremely open: the project simply has to be anything you can wear, clothing or accessories, and all types of crafting are acceptable: knitting, sewing, crochet, embroidery–all are welcome.


Time to start your handmade wearable object: a piece or more to add to your wardrobe!


Finish up your wearables and post photos in the FO thread. We’ll be most inspired if you can photo them with you wearing them.

Come chat!

We’re curious about lots of things related to a handmade wardrobe, and we know that community support is going to be a big part of seeing this project through. Everyone will be getting together in the Curious Handmade Ravelry Group to share, ask questions, offer advice, and cheerlead each other through the whole process.

Official chatter thread

FO thread

We’ll be asking questions, where we can dig deeper into every aspect of creating a handmade wardrobe. Whenever you decide to jump in, feel free to answer them with us! We’ll update this post as the questions are posted.

  1. First, why are you thinking about this and going to take on the challenge? (added 8/8/15)

That’s all the details for now! We’re really excited to see where this challenge takes us.