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Friday, 28 March 2014

Inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee (part 1)

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Start `em young!
First things first. It's Mothering Sunday this weekend. With a sick bug working its way through the family (including me!), it has felt like a timely reminder to me this week that there are times when it would be nice not to be the one in charge. Being sick is grim. Being sick and tending to a sick child (or two) is even worse. No doubt there will be much written about how wonderful it is to be a mum. And it is (most of the time). But, there is also a lot of plodding on regardless to be done. 

Now I'm a grown up - and a mum - I am looking back on my own childhood with different eyes. I think part of the art of being a wonderful mum is not making it obvious to your children that you are plodding on regardless, when actually, you'd like to press the pause button and not have to be in charge for a bit. 

One of the ways my own mum did this for me was through sewing. She'd make me great clothes (because money was tight). She'd make literally hundreds of dancing costumes (as a way of paying for me to go to ballet lessons). And, she'd find the time to sit down and teach me to sew and guide me through my own creative whims (when she would have probably liked to get on with other things).

One year for Christmas, she bought me this antique Singer sewing machine. I can remember telling all my friends at school about it, and feeling proud that no one else had one.

I've been LOVING watching the Great British Sewing Bee. I sometimes find myself unable to sleep, because my head is buzzing with ideas of things I'd like to try making from the programme. Friends, I have two words for you. Vintage. Coat. That is all.

This week's episode got me thinking about my beautiful antique Singer machine. Whoah, I thought. I am not sure I could even remember how to thread that thing up any more, let alone whip up a pretty blouse in timed conditions.

By yesterday afternoon, both the littlest big girl and me were starting to feel a bit more perky. We'd both had just about as much CBeebies as we could bear. So, the idea came to me to get the old machine out and let her have a go.

I got the machine out of its box. It smells wonderfully old!

The four year old was super eager to have a go. I can remember finding it hard to thread as a girl - I guess I have learnt something over the years, after all, as threading up seemed pretty intuitive this time round. With the GBSB episode fresh in my mind, I was expecting tension problems galore, and so I down played our chances of actually sewing something.

But, luck was on our side. The old girl still works like a dream!

I let the littlest big girl practise on a scrap of fabric. Unlike her adventures on my electric sewing machine when she and her big sisters were making ponies, she wasn't scared this time round. The slow pace of the hand wheel was just perfect for her, and it quickly became clear that she felt confident enough to try making something. A bag, was her suggestion. Because little girls can NEVER have too many bags, right?! (Actually, she had a specific purpose in mind for this bag - she wanted something to collect golden tickets for fudge in, for the hunt that is going on in our home town of Bedford this Saturday. I hope the hunt doesn't disappoint...)

Predictably, when her big sisters returned from school, they were less concerned with asking how their little sister was feeling now, and more interested in when would they be allowed a go on the sewing machine that was sitting proudly in the middle of the front room.

After tea, I said. (Now there is an incentive for them to not drag their heels over a mealtime, eh?!)

And then it happened. In the time it took for me to nip upstairs and grab a piece of fabric for the middle girl, I was stopped in my tracks by the sound of yowling from downstairs.

The biggest girl was making her way through to the front room at the same time as I was running downstairs to see what had happened, so I knew it had to be the other two creating the noise. The sight of the littlest big girl leaping about the room clutching her finger and the middle girl dashing past me with a look of complete horror on her face made it pretty clear what might have gone on. And then the victim's yelled through sobs accusations clarified things a bit more.

Right, back in the box it goes, I said, declaring an end to all sewing for the day.

Things calmed down. There was no blood in sight when I was eventually allowed to check the finger in question (although I am assured `it was in fact bleeding, Mummy'). I coaxed the ashamed middle girl out from under her bed by bath time. Shortly after that, I overheard a rather sweet little conversation between the two of them in which they were clearly making their peace with each other. Needless to say, we've now got a new rule that only one person is allowed near the sewing machine at any one time.

The middle girl is now poorly on the sofa, so has still yet to have a go on the machine. I'll let you know how she gets on when she does.

To all the mums reading this, I hope you get a lie in on Sunday. And, perhaps (if you have little ones) some home made cards thrust in your face in an excited manner (but not too early in the morning, eh?).

And to my own special mum, thank you for all the sewing - and everything else you did in my childhood in the name of plodding on regardless. I love you.


  1. I love this post, I too have old machines, I unintentionally started to collect them!!
    They are so beautiful to look at, unlike my new Janome?
    and as proved by you will last and last.
    I am sure that will not be the first finger last finger prick as it sounds as though they have the sewing 'bug' now too...Happy weekend wishes to you
    daisy j

    1. Yes, those old machines are beautiful to look at, aren't they? Hope you had a good weekend too!

  2. My boys want to learn to sew on my machine but the speed of it scare them somewhat. That old machine looks beautiful.

    1. Yes, it took at lot of coaxing to get my older girls using my electric machine. Am definitely going to consider one where you can fix it to a slow speed when I buy a new one.

  3. Sew Many Dresses30 March 2014 at 13:44

    This is a lovely post, very funny. Looking forward to having children eventually and teaching them to sew x

  4. Yes, it is lovely passing on your own love of sewing (if you ignore the bit about them inflicting sewing related injuries on each other)

  5. Great post full of love for both your Mum and offspring, I smiled the whole way through. Your singer machine is stunning and the little stitched bag is very cute your daughter must be so proud of it. My two have always been fascinated with my craft items and (cue 'Worst Mother Award') once got hold of my paper cutter / guillotine and despite the safety guard my son, who was about three at the time, managed to cut the very tip of his one year old sister's finger off! How we laugh about it now........but it took a decade to see the funny side x