Featured Burdastyle Member!

I knew it was coming, but it was still a surprise when I saw it . . . !

This was how the interview appeared in Burdastyle today:

janene profile pic

Me in vintage sheet dress

Where are you from and where do you live now? What do you do other than sewing?

I was born in Surrey, England but eventually settled in West London where I work as a freelance Graphic Designer. My work is very creative and varied, and I currently have the absolute pleasure of designing childrens books. That said, I crave sewing time and my obsession grows by the day!

 If we were to come to your town, where would you take us?

If you were to pay me a visit, there are a number of wonderful places I would take you to: galleries, brasseries, patisseries and, it goes without saying, fabric shops and haberdasheries! First stop: Goldhawk Road and the Shepherds Bush Market, a gateway to fabric heaven. There are about 14 fabric shops and stalls with notions!

dotty jacket

Dotty shawl jacket

As unglamorous as it might seem, I would also have to take you on a tour of all the charity shops between Chiswick, Hammersmith and Ealing, which, I am not kidding, have some amazing fabric selections and great quality clothes to refashion.

ladybug dress

Ladybug dress

How did you start sewing?
I started sewing (again) just over a year ago. My mother taught me when I was very young. She is a seamstress and met my father, a pattern cutter, at Austin Reed in the late ‘50s. During the school holidays, I had a fabulous way of earning pocket money. I sat in the garden with my hand operated Vickers sewing machine, and sewed fob pocket linings to the BOAC pilot suits that my mum made. Luckily, the child labor police weren’t so hot in those days!

Me with my mum and sister, Caroline.

Me with my mum and sister, Caroline.

My favourite nightie

My favourite nightie!

My parents separated when I was five and that made me very sad. I decided I was going to be a fashion designer and the necessary link between my parents skills. That would force them back together, surely?! I drew pictures of my creations and pinned them all round my room.

matching dresses

Matching dresses, always!

Like most working class families, my mum struggled financially when I was young but nevertheless ensured we were well presented — in handmade clothes. I loved it to a point, until my girlfriends at school were all about what boutiques their clothes were from. I yearned for an outfit from Chelsea Girl or Dorothy Perkins and I (stupidly) began to reject my mum’s creations. It backfired, of course. There was no money in the pot for such extravagances and so if I wanted a new outfit I was going to have to make it myself.

Mum made my bridesmaid dress

Mum made my bridesmaid dress

My first proper garment was a lemon blouse with a mandarin collar and rouched 3/4 length sleeves with pearlised buttons and hand embroidered button loops – lots of them! It was so much work but I had a point to prove — and a party to go to. As I grew older, my time got shorter and I wasn’t very patient with all of the finishing, unless mum was “holding my hand” the whole time. I stopped sewing when I left home at 16. In any case, I had no time at all to sew, with all the jobs I did outside of college!

The reality of wanting to be a fashion designer had set in when I was constantly [told] “you may as well be a famous pop star!”

Where do you find inspiration?
The BurdaStyle community has played a huge part in renewing my passion for sewing. When I first joined in 2008, I couldn’t believe how many free patterns and resources lay waiting for me. It took me until 2010, though, to get brave and upload my first project! Goodness knows what I was waiting for!
I love having a record of what I’ve sewn at the click of a button and I have gained so much from the support and advice from the wonderful friends I have made along the way. I log in pretty much on a daily basis, and love looking at the recently submitted projects. Joining BurdaStyle led to me creating my own sewing blog. It’s a struggle sometimes to find the time to make the posts but I try to make it a priority, and I really value the comments that visitors leave.

Floaty floral mini with sash

Floaty floral mini with sash

handmade bias binding

handmade bias binding

I also buy BurdaStyle magazine and subscribe to a number of amazing sewing blogs but, in general, my inspiration comes from people-watching! Whether I am on my way to work, strolling round an art gallery, shopping or watching a movie, I am quite often not paying attention to the task in hand, and more likely scanning the decks for what everyone is wearing or how they are wearing it! I like quirky styles, particularly retro and vintage-inspired clothes. I keep cuttings from freebie mags on my tube journeys to work for design inspiration – for when I get more confident at pattern cutting!

Cuttings from freebie mags

Cuttings from freebie mags

Nonetheless, as much as I love street and vintage fashion, I can’t resist the world of exquisite designer fashion, and the wonderful talents of Vivienne Westwood or Alexander McQueen.

All things Vivienne Westwood

All things Vivienne Westwood

All things Alexander McQeen

All things Alexander McQeen

What’s your sewing secret weapon? What trick or technique do your sewing projects always tend to include? I don’t have any secret weapons to speak of; just a trusty Janome Sewist 525s that my mum recommended for a first machine, a beautiful pair of quality tailor’s scissors that my fiancé bought me as a gift and, more recently, an adjustable mannequin. No particular tricks or techniques, either, other than the aid of my mum’s voice in my ear, constantly reminding me to “measure twice before cutting, press fabric, seams and darts properly and at each and every stage, and finish those seams nicely!”  

What is your sewing experience like?
I am a hobo sewer! I work and sew wherever there is space and less noise, usually in the bay window in the living room, sometimes in the kitchen or even in the bedroom. My fiancé is a bass (and double bass) player in a function band called The Redfords, my daughter plays the flute and my son likes to play X-box games with his own added sound effects! So, as you can see, I don’t need the help of any other music, but given the choice I would tap my foot pedal along to David Bowie every stitch of the way!

with fiance Daniel

With fiancé Daniel

With my lovely children

With my lovely children

What is your dream sewing project?
I have various dream sewing projects, which materialize on a regular basis, and it really is difficult to put them in order. But here is a first draft of the key dreams!

1. To design my own wedding dress (my mum is lined up to make it for me)
2. To have a totally handmade wardrobe – a contemporary and and a vintage version
3. To have a range of lingerie and corsetry.
4. To have a collection of dresses to sell in my Etsy shop.
5. To have a signature couturier piece!

What is the most frustrating thing about sewing for you? What is the most rewarding?
I would say the most frustrating thing about sewing for me is the lack of time I have to spend on it. As a freelancer, I feel compelled to say ‘yes’ to every job I am asked to do, just in case there’s a period without none. I work early mornings and late evenings so that I can do the school run and spend more time with my children. I don’t mind so much about my lack of sleep, but do mind my lack of sewing!

Sewing space

Sewing space

The most rewarding thing about sewing is when I am complimented on something I have made. I quite often don’t admit that I have made it. I’m just thankful for the compliments and beam from the inside! I was approached in a supermarket by a young girl who asked where I got my skirt from. On this occasion, I did tell her that I made it myself and she was dead impressed. She asked if I would be at all interested in making one for her. I think that was the ultimate compliment.

21 thoughts on “Featured Burdastyle Member!

  1. Congratulations on a well-deserved feature and wonderful interview! I just love finding out more about what inspires and drives talented people that I look up to and the insight into your childhood is refreshingly honest. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. i thoroughly enjoyed reading this! your childhood photos so endearing. thank you for sharing. and oh, i really like your sewing nook; how you can look out the window and watch the street. 🙂

  3. This is the first thing I have read this morning and what a read. Thanks for this truly interesting post. It’s always nice to know more about people whose creations you admire, and congratulations on being featured.

  4. Oh Janene, this was an absolute pleasure to read and I LOVE the photos (especially the 70’s wedding!). It’s so interesting and full of life – a really great addition to the Featured Member slot. And very well deserved too – as well as making beautiful clothes, you’re a truly active and encouraging member of the Burdastyle community – congratulations. x

  5. Thank you for sharing so much in this post. The pictures are wonderful, and I love the vintage sheet dress, the dotty shawl jacket, and the lady bug dress. They look wonderful on you.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. My sewing experiences now are much more fulfilled as I’m enjoying the learning process much more. When I was younger, I just wanted to make a garment as quickly as possible and certainly didn’t worry about what it looked like inside!

  6. Pingback: What day job? « Hands off my hem gauge

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