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.
Having 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.
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?
My 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?
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?