Category Archives: Uncategorized

Make-It-Yourself March – want to join in?

MIYMarch - make it yourself march instagram wendy ward and crafty and cake

In celebration of sewing and dressmaking and the Sewing Bee on television and all things you made yourself, me and Emma aka Crafty & Cake are hosting a month long photo-a-day challenge over on Instagram.  We want to know what you’re making, what you want to make, your making inspiration, where you make, what you make with and your best and worst making moments!

Each day will have a theme that we’ll post at the start of the day and you just need to post a sewing and/or dressmaking-related photo or photos on Instagram, tag us (@thewendyward and @craftyandcake) and use the hashtag #miymarch

Hopefully you’ll be inspired by everyone else’s photos, meet some new online buddies and have a bit of fun appreciating the fruits of your labours! Every day Emma and I will choose our favourite 4 images to showcase at the end of the day.

What’s not to like?!

You can play on Twitter too – use the same names @thewendyward and @craftyandcake and the #miymarch hashtag and let’s celebrate your dressmaking achievements, inspirations, secrets and sewing goals.

Celebrate Making It YOURSELF!!

A Festive Gift From Me to You


Subscribers to my newsletter received a little festive thank you offer in their inboxes this afternoon.

Those that know me know that I don’t really “do” special offers or discounts.

Want to be included? Sign-up here.

How to Choose a Sewing Teacher

choosing a sewing teacher

Have you been thinking about learning to sew but been a bit daunted and put off by the choice of sewing schools and teachers available?

Maybe you’ve felt intimidated by going back to learning, thinking it might be a bit like school?  Perhaps you thought you wouldn’t be good enough or creative enough to join a sewing class, that everyone else would be much better?  You might even have been put off by the thought of a strict / lazy / patronising / old fashioned / clueless teacher or simply a teacher you wouldn’t be able to get along with.  Have you been wondering how to choose between the many people that are now offering to teach you how to sew?

Here are a few tips that I hope might help you to reach the right decision (these are the criteria I would personally would apply to choosing any kind of teacher!).

Start by asking a few questions (you can find my answers at the end of this post):

  1. how long have they been teaching?
  2. how long have they been sewing?
  3. do they have a teaching qualification?
  4. did they do any relevant training before teaching – have they got a degree or similar in the subject that they’re teaching?
  5. have they actually worked in the industry in which they’re now teaching?
  6. are they teaching full-time, or is it a hobby or just for fun?
  7. how many students are there in each class?
  8. are they still practicing in the area in which they teach?                                         Then do some of your own research:
  9. what’s the teaching space like?  Is it equipped with all the necessary equipment or do you have to take in your own?
  10. what do other people say about the classes?  Can you read some reviews on Google or similar, or previous student’s testimonials?
  11. what is the teacher’s reputation more widely?  Have they had their work published, either in a book or magazine?
  12. are you going to learn anything in the classes or is it just a social coffee morning?  Can you find examples of things previous students have made?

Ultimately, you need to decide why you want to go to classes and what you want to get out of them.  If you just want a bit of sociable creative time without really learning much, then you’re probably better off with a community or pub based sewing group with friends.  If you want to make progress and really learn and practice some new skills, you would enjoy going to some classes.

And before you know it, you could be one of these happy and proud students…..(most of whom were complete beginners when I first met them).

how to choose a sewing teacher

One of the reasons I wanted to write this post was a conversation I had recently with one of my students.  She has been coming to my classes now for over 6 months and when she started was a complete beginner.  She confessed to me this week that she had been wanting to come to sewing classes for over a year before she plucked up the courage to give me a ring and come along to one of my classes.  She had been wrestling with some of the questions I began this post with and applied some of the criteria above when deciding to give me a ring.  I’m so glad she did, she’s doing great and making fantastic progress; enjoying wearing the clothes she’s made and now making a shirt for her dad for Christmas.

Here are my answers to all those questions…..

  1. how long have they been teaching? – I’ve been teaching since 2007.
  2. how long have they been sewing? – Since I was 12 – almost 30 years!
  3. do they have a teaching qualification? – I got my PGCE in 2007.
  4. did they do any relevant training before teaching – have they got a degree or similar in the subject that they’re teaching? – I have a BA degree in Fashion (1st class) and an MA in Design.
  5. have they actually worked in the industry in which they’re now teaching? – I worked for high street clothing companies as a designer / product development manager for 7 years.
  6. are they teaching full-time, or is it a hobby or just for fun? – My business is my livelihood and is very full-time!
  7. how many students are there in each class? – 4 for pattern cutting and 5 for sewing and dressmaking, never any more than that.
  8. are they still practicing in the area in which they teach? – Yes, I’m designing my own range of sewing patterns called MIY Collection which are available for students to use in classes at MIY Workshop, I have a stand at the Knitting & Stitching Shows in London and I exhibited at Made Brighton in 2013.
  9. what’s the teaching space like?  Is it equipped with all the necessary equipment or do you have to take in your own? – MIY Workshop has a specially designed cutting table, 5 Janome sewing machines which are regularly replaced, Juki overlocker, Babylock embellisher and 2 Bernina 1008 sewing machines all available for students to use along with specialist pattern cutting tools and equipment.
  10. what do other people say about the classes?  Can you read some reviews on Google or similar, or previous student’s testimonials? – If you Google MIY Workshop you will find reviews and you can read testimonials from my students here.
  11. what is the teacher’s reputation more widely?  Have they had their work published, either in a book or magazine? – You can find out more about my writing for books and magazines here and articles in the press about MIY Workshop here.  I was also nominated in Sew magazine’s British Sewing Awards for the “Best for Sewing/Workshops” category.  Voting is open until Feb 2014 and you can vote here:
  12. are you going to learn anything in the classes or is it just a social coffee morning?  Can you find examples of things previous students have made? – You can find lots of pictures of student’s work all over this blog!

Sewing with Knits….again!

Sunday’s Sewing with Knits workshop started with an interesting discussion during which everyone agreed that knit fabrics made the kind of clothes that they actually want to wear.  It’s true, when you think about the kind of clothes that you wear most often (and usually feel most comfortable in), I’ll bet that most of them are made from knitted fabrics.  Yet most sewers that I meet, even experienced ones, feel daunted by the prospect of sewing knitted fabrics.

Well I’m happy to say that this workshop is the cure to that fear and here are Sunday’s fantastic and wearable results……

octknitsFrom left to right Debbie, a long-time sewer but a self-confessed knit-phobe was very happy with her drapey cardi.  Elena who hadn’t sewn since school came in with a dress made of very slippery fine jersey knit fabric and went home with it transformed into a separate skirt and top!  Amandine has been loving sewing Colette patterns using lots of woven fabrics, but now is a convert to knit fabrics after making my straight neck dress and matching up her stripes perfectly.  Laura has also done a fair bit of sewing, but has avoided knits and couldn’t find a way of edging knitted fabrics nicely, she was surprised by how quick and easy my fold-over waist skirt was to make and took it home very neatly and professionally hemmed using a twin needle.

octknits-cowlAnd last, but not least, Tricia was camera shy so Elena stepped in to model her lovely cowl neck top.  This one got lots of admiring comments from the rest of the class!  Tricia was another experienced sewer and knit-phobe at the start of the day and now feels confident in being able to tackle slippery lightweight jersey knit fabrics.   This pattern isn’t yet available to buy but is one of the next ones on the list….!!

Here’s what the students themselves thought of the workshop:

“Enjoyable day as always – Wendy’s patterns are so easy to use and well designed.  Am delighted with my skirt, thank you!”  Laura

“I really enjoyed the workshop – lovely atmosphere, lovely people, a day very well spent.  Thank you Wendy!  I had a great time and I am happily back to sewing after some 20 odd years!”  Elena

“Really enjoyed the day.  Very informative and now feel more confident to work with jersey.”  Tricia

“Thanks for a great day.  Tacking tacking tacking – essential for a perfect finish!!”  Debbie

“Thank you very much Wendy for a lovely Sunday!  I feel much more confident sewing with knit fabrics with your advice regarding stitches and needles to use.  Jersey fabric is so great to sew with and I loved using your dress pattern.”  Amandine

By the end of the day everyone’s fear of knitted fabrics had been overcome and I feel sure that these 5 garments are going to get plenty of wear!

If you’d like to overcome your fear of sewing knitted fabrics the next date for this workshop is Sunday 8th December.  Get in touch on 01273 693451 or miyworkshop[at] to find out more and book a place.

If you want to have a go at using one of my patterns to sew knit fabrics at home, you can find out more here:

How to Sew Neat Seams – use your seam guides!

Ever wondered what those mysterious markings were by the presser foot on your sewing machine?

They’re seam guides and can help you to get neat accurate seams, here’s how to use them:



If your machine doesn’t have any seam guides – place a strip of masking tape on your machine the correct distance from the needle!

Talks at MIY Workshop – 20thC Fashion History

Monday evening was the first in a series of talks at MIY Workshop.  I’m planning to invite experts and professionals from a variety of areas connected with fashion, textiles and design to give short interactive talks about their work.


Suzanne Rowland got us off to a great start with her talk on 20th Century Fashion History.

Suzanne started with a fashion degree and had a brief stint as a designer for M&S, but since then has moved into costume and fashion history; she is a freelance costume maker, has an MA in Design History and is teaching costume design with BTEC students.  In between all this she is a regular contributor to Making magazine and pursues her own fashion history research attending conferences and delivering papers.

Suzanne’s talk was a whistle-stop tour of the highlights from a 10 week lecture course she has developed on 20th Century Fashion History that will be running at Worthing Museum from the end of September (for full details telephone the museum on 01903 221448, or email

Worthing Museum is a bit of a hidden gem as it has one of the largest collections of fashion and textiles in the country, numbering approximately 30 000!  It is also unique in that many of these artefacts are everyday items that belonged to ordinary people.  The collection’s particular strengths are in 19th century women’s dress, underwear, swimwear, accessories, smocks and quilts.  The collection also covers a comprehensive collection of ephemera and associated material including fashion plates, paper patterns, magazines and photographs.

It’s very tantalising to know that you have the opportunity to handle many of these items from Worthing’s archive as part of Suzanne’s 10 week course.  Whenever I go to exhibitions of textiles and clothing I almost have to hold onto my hands to stop myself from touching the pieces on display!

Suzanne had brought in pieces from her own collection for us to look at during her talk.


There was a beautiful vivid blue Victorian bodice/jacket which was admired by all for its inner construction as much as for how it looked on the outside (typical for an audience of makers!).


A gorgeous little beaded purse in perfect condition.


A beautiful bias cut, lace trimmed night dress from the 40’s.

We also ooohed and aaahhed over some bloomers, petticoats, a beaded motif from a flapper dress covered in glass beads and magazines from the 60’s and 70’s.  Something I found particularly interesting in a magazine from 1972 was an advert for M&S complete with prices of the clothes……they weren’t that dissimilar to the prices you pay today at many high street shops, over 40 years later.  I wonder how many other industries have seen the prices of their products remain static over 40 years?!

A few people in the audience were vintage addicts and wanted to know where to find good quality pieces for themselves.  Being a collector herself, Suzanne had a few tips:

  • an ebay shop called Advantage in Vintage
  • every Tuesday morning in Lewes Town Hall there is a good bric a brac market from 10am to 1pm.

If you don’t want to commit to the full 10 weeks of Suzanne’s course, you can pick and choose which lectures you want to go to.  Here’s a list of what will be covered each week:

  1. 28/9/13  1900-1910: Elegant Edwardians – Course introduction, starting with Charles Frederick Worth, the “Father of Couture”.
  2. 5/10/13  1920-1920: Troublesome Teens – Hardship and Luxury, from everyday wear to Poiret, Fortuny and Lucille.
  3. 12/10/13  1920-1930: Terrific Twenties, introducing Chanel and Vionnet.
  4. 19/10/13  1930-1940: Glamorous Thirties, art and Schiaparelli, British romance and Hollywood glamour.
  5. 26/10/13  1940-1950: From World War II to the New Look rationing, Make do and Mend and the shock of Dior’s New Look.
  6. 9/11/13  1950-1960: Fabulous Fifties, Balenciaga, beautiful dresses, Teddy boys and teenagers.
  7. 16/11/13  1960-1970: Swinging Sixties, Mary Quant, minis, maxis and more.
  8. 23/11/13  1970-1980: Spangled Seventies, Biba, Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell, disco styles.
  9. 30/11/13  1980-1990: Eclectic Eighties, new fashion capitals – London, Tokyo, Milan and New York, Westwood, Miyake, Versace and much more.
  10. 7/12/13  1990 onwards: Past Present and Future, street culture, celebrity culture, the rise of Galliano and McQueen.

Maybe I’ll see you there!  I’ll definitely be booking up for a couple…..

I’m hoping to announce the next talk soon.

Inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee?

great british sewing bee

So, after many years of waiting sewing has finally made it onto prime time national TV.  The last time I remember this was when I was inspired as a teenager by the Clothes Show with Selina Scott, Jeff Banks and Caryn Franklin!  Those of us working in the world of sewing have seen a renewed interest in making gathering pace for a few years now, but finally the nation has caught up and realised that there is an alternative to baking and the cutesy perfect world of Kirsty Allsop.

I have to admit I was anticipating the programme with equal amounts of excitement and dread; while over the moon that sewing has made it onto national TV I was also envisaging myself ranting at the programme for presenting the subject in either a patronising or “oh it’s just so easy anyone can do it” way. Thankfully this didn’t happen and I was very pleasantly surprised!!

The mix of presenters works – Patrick Grant will make sure the twee is rationed and is a fabulous bit of eye candy (!), May Martin has super high standards of which I approve and while I thought that having a sewing novice in Claudia Winkleman as a presenter wouldn’t work, I actually think that her lack of knowledge adds to the show – she asks the questions that any sewing novice would ask, but maybe would feel too afraid to ask.  As I always tell my students; there’s no such thing as a stupid question, it usually means that I haven’t  explained something thoroughly enough.

As for the contestants, well, they’ve got in all the stereotypes haven’t they?!  I think they come across really well and there (so far!) appears to be no ruthlessness and they seem pretty supportive of each other.  I did feel for them though, the pressure of some of those tasks was not nice and having to do it all  while being filmed and trying to look your best and occasionally being interrupted by the presenters was no mean feat!  Impressing me the most last night were:

Ann – an amazingly accomplished sewer, who tackled every task perfectly because she absolutely knows what she’s capable of and knows how long things take (the hardest lesson of all to learn in sewing!).

Sandra – who managed to recover from a silly mistake and didn’t crumple under the pressure of it.

Lauren – impressively aware of her abilities, she managed to show off her skills without trying to do too much.  I also loved the fact that she still has the first bit of sewing she ever did!

I did feel very sorry for Michelle.  I think she was let down by her fabric choice in that dress and nevertheless managed to overcome it, admittedly with a dress that wasn’t a perfect fit, but it wasn’t the worst gaff made on the show and  I don’t think she should have left.  Nope, I’m not going to reveal who I think should have gone!!

Judging by the activity on Facebook and Twitter on the subject last night and this morning, I’d say the show is a hit and hopefully they’re already working on series two.  I’d encourage any of my students to apply.  The book is already out: and you can catch up any missed episodes here:

Maybe we should have a MIY Workshop Great British Sewing Bee day……now there’s an idea………

Last but not least here’s our very own A-line skirt success from last night’s class!


Naz came to my “How to use your Sewing Machine” workshop as a complete novice at the start of this year and in 6 subsequent classes has made 2 cushion covers and this gorgeous skirt that fits like a glove.  Having said that she did make me laugh last night when the skirt was almost finished by asking me if there was much more to do and “is there light at the end of the tunnel Wendy?” !!!  She then assured me that she really was enjoying herself!

If you fancy having a go at making your own A-line skirt the next date for my popular Skirt Making Workshop is Sunday 28th April, full details here:

WIN!!!! A pair of tickets to the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show


If you fancy going to the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show at Olympia in March for free, enter my competition on Facebook using this link which takes you straight to the competition area of my page:

I have 2 pairs of tickets to give away to 2 lucky winners.  It takes minutes to enter and you’ve got to be in it to win it!!

I’ll be at the show on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th March (stand E13), but it’s on from Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th and the tickets are valid for any of these 4 days.

There will be lots of sewing related businesses showcasing their products during the 4 days and plenty of hands-on demonstrations and workshops.

I look forward to meeting some of you there!!