Last month, I had the absolute pleasure in catching up with good friend and amazing all-round crafter Sharena Morgan, aka The Creative Seamstress. Hilarious and gracious in equal measure, Sharena had no problem guiding – and laughing – her way through her life as a sewing fanatic, teaching me a few things along the way!
Inspiring children by day in her role as a Teaching Assistant, Sharena whips up amazing creations in her spare time. If Sharena can throw together dozens of amazing nativity costumes within a week, you know there’s no limit to this woman’s talents! In the coming weeks, she will be sharing her Top 13 Sewing Essentials list and taking us step-by-step through sewing basics, including how to make an easy shopping bag.
How did you get into sewing?
I just always liked sewing and I liked to make little bits and pieces or add stuff to clothes I already had.
Was it someone at home that inspired you to start sewing?
No, not really. I did a fine art course in college, and in this course I could choose the unit I wanted to do my main, final project in. I just loved the sewing unit – textiles – so I chose to do my final project in textiles, and wanted to carry on with it. I borrowed a sewing machine from my auntie, as she had a few, and I used to do little bits on hers. They never looked like anything, but I was trying to make clothes and things. Then, my friend’s mum gave me an overlocking machine that she never used. I would always try and work out how to use it. When I got this house, it was a bigger space and had a spare bedroom, so I decided to make it into a sewing room. Now, I do little crafty bits – making bags, or Barbie clothes for my daughter, anything for other people, little repair jobs such as a zip changing, or a hole sewing up – things like that.
Was it your college course that taught you those skills?
I wouldn’t say it taught me those skills. I watch a lot of YouTube videos as well. I learn a lot of skills from those, so if I’m not sure how to make something, or if I’m struggling with an area, whether it’s making a pattern, or putting a certain type of zip in, I’ll go on YouTube. Later on after I did my art course, I went on a clothing pattern making course and I learnt lots of skills there: sewing skills, making patterns and things like that.
In the world of sewing, what would you like to do?
I think anywhere involving sewing. I wouldn’t say I’m a designer, as I’m more of a DIY-er and I like doing DIY stuff rather than creating a fashion line! So, re-designing something that’s already done; upcycling. I might add a different fabric to it or some beads to a plain top, or make something more interesting. I like change and don’t like to settle on one thing because I get bored easily! I like to do bits of everything. Making a few bags here, or over a period of time I might decorate some flip flops, or another idea will come into my head and I’ll do that. I do lots of different projects at the same time but all are to do with sewing and crafts. Just being a seamstress, really – a DIY seamstress, in all areas of sewing. I suppose in my dream job, my title would be ‘Creative Seamstress’!
What kind of commissions would you take?
A huge range – making outfits for people, making little craft things, doll furniture sets, baby sets – blankets, clothes, bibs – loads of fun things! A bit of everything, lots of diversity. It’s not always about stuff you wear, it could be like making frames – you can do a lot of sewing work in canvases, wall art and home decor, storage and furniture. You can decorate pretty much anything!
Where do you get your fabrics from, and what kind of materials do you like working with?
I get my fabrics from my local fabric shop or online. I like scuba type fabrics, that don’t show all your lumps and bumps! It’s a thicker fabric that is great for a flattering, fitted style. I also like ankara – African print – fabrics in cotton. Bright colours, patterns and quilts for kids’ clothing or dolls. But if it’s something I’d wear, I go for plain fabrics. Cotton and stretch fabrics are my favourites to work with, but I also like using vinyl fabrics, for bags.
Why do you prefer cotton or stretch fabrics?
Cotton fabrics are easier to work with because when you’re cutting patterns, the fabric doesn’t really move. Where you’re cutting, your line is always going to be straight. Whereas I really don’t like working with chiffon, because every time you put your pattern on, it moves when you go to cut it. You have to have a backing paper behind just to keep it in place – there’s a lot more work that goes into it with those types of fabrics.
How often do you use your overlocker?
More than I use my sewing machine! It makes your edges look a lot neater, and you can just sew your edge with the overlocker and it’ll be secure. Some people do stitch and then overlock it afterwards, to neaten up the edges, but if you just wanted to use the overlocker on its own it’ll seal it fine. It’s joining your fabric and sealing at the same time, saving the job of doing it twice.
Keep your eye on our Inspiration section for more from Sharena… and happy sewing!
Louise – Online Editor