Alice Butcher and Ginny Farquhar have worked together for years and now run a variety of craft and textile workshops for adults and children. I chatted to Alice and Ginny about their passion for sewing and their latest book, Sewing for Kids…
How did you get into sewing?
Alice: “I have always made things from a very small child but I think what probably got me hooked was inheriting my great grandmother’s hand crank Singer sewing machine when I was about 8 years old. It really allowed me to be more ambitious with my sewing and not long after getting it I made my first garment, a smock top – we’re talking mid ’70s here!”
Ginny: “My mother is very creative and as a child I was encouraged to make things. I was allowed to use her beautiful hand crank Singer sewing machine and I remember making clothes for my Pippa dolls!”
What do you love about sewing?
Alice: “When I’m sewing I become completely immersed in what I’m doing and can get lost for hours plotting, planning and creating. I’m always really happy and excited when I have a sewing project on the go but sadly, we’re so busy I don’t get the chance to make things for myself as much as I’d like.”
Ginny: “I love that sewing is a skill for life. Through creating a few simple stitches you can alter, repair, add decoration or make something from scratch. Sewing can also help you to save you money if you recycle and transform old materials that you have into something new. I like to make gifts in this way. Teaching my own daughters to sew has been so rewarding – they have both now started making their own clothes.”
Do you have a favourite sewing technique?
“Appliqué is a technique we both love to use. In 2001 we set up a business creating fabric gifts from recycled fabrics, most of which were appliquéd in some way! We sold our creations under the name of ‘Folkydokee’ through large retail events including Country Living and House & Garden Fairs. We cover this technique in Sewing for Kids, and our first two books Sew Fabulous Fabric and Home Sweet Sewn also include ideas for using appliqué in sewing projects.”
What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made with a sewing project?
“There are far too many to mention! We always tell our students that all mistakes are a useful learning experience and sometimes they can enable you to change something to make it even better. One of our favourite sayings when making a mistake is “even Mary Poppins was only practically perfect in every way”!”
What was your inspiration for the book?
“We wanted to write a sewing project book for children that included fun makes, that both girls and boys would enjoy creating, but also taught good basic skills and techniques. Like the project magazines and books from our youth in the 1970s, we wanted all of the templates to be full size for easy use and to be included alongside each project rather than at the back of the book. There were several books that were really inspirational to Alice as a child and she wanted our book to have that same feeling with lots of colourful illustrations laid out in an appealing way so that children would enjoy looking at the book as well as making the projects.”
Do you remember your first sewing project as a child?
Alice: “Truthfully, I really can’t. I feel like I’ve always sewn. It was probably some kind of simple soft toy or an embroidered table mat made from Aida.”
Ginny: “One of my first sewing projects was a green and orange felt pincushion with a hand-sewn blanket stitch edge.”
What do you teach at your children’s workshops?
“We teach children from ages 3 – 16 years. Projects for the under 8s include cutting and sticking fabrics to create collage pictures, and ‘first stitches’ using an embroidery hoop and open weave fabrics. From 8 – 12 years we concentrate on improving hand-sewing skills whilst encouraging creativity and design ideas. Projects have included potato printed pillows, aprons, stitched birds and felt friends.
Classes for ages 12 and upwards are focused on teaching good foundation skills and building confidence and independence when using a sewing machine. Students create a variety of craft and dressmaking projects, exploring techniques such as appliqué and freehand machine embroidery to add decorative elements to their creations. Recent students have made summer dresses and designed and made their own handbags.
We teach classes at West Dean College in Sussex, The West End Centre, Aldershot and The Phoenix Arts Centre, Bordon in Hampshire and Farnham Maltings in Surrey.”
Alice and Ginny’s new book, Sewing for Kids, features 17 easy projects and basic sewing techniques for your child. It’s available as a downloadable PDF ebook, and there are individual downloadable projects and a fun range of children’s craft kits too! I spoke to Alice and Ginny further about the book and which projects to start with. Take a look at their website for more information about their classes, and don’t forget to look out for updates on their Facebook and Twitter.
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