I am very lucky to be surrounded by creative inspiring people, and being of the nosy persuasion, I have asked a few of them if I can interview them here on my blog.
My first victim interviewee is Fiona Hesford who runs Sewgirl from her studio in Worthing. Sewgirl is another business similar to QP with different elements all coming under the textiles umbrella. At the moment Fiona teaches workshops from her home studio and at Clothkits in Chichester, the Fluff-a-torium in Dorking and My Crafty Soul in Cobham. She also designs and sells sewing kits through her website and via Not on the High Street, and prints fabric panels. Her work has featured in a book published by Lark, and her projects feature regularly in magazines such as Love Sewing and Simply Homemade.
Fiona’s studio – outside view
I first met Fiona in early 2010 at a business workshop aimed at women start-ups run by Business Link and we have stayed in touch. I love the style of her work, and she is rather cool… so on with the Q&A…
So to start, a question students always ask me…what’s your sewing CV?
Well, since about the age of 10 I have always had sewing projects on the go, and I come from a sewing family – my grandmother was a tailoress and made us girls the same dress in different fabrics with matching headbands. I studied Fashion Textiles at Brighton (back in the Polytechnic days!), and worked as a knitwear designer. Those were exciting times, and I worked in Paris, Italy and Hong Kong.
After I had my children (now 16) I started getting more into home wares, and as I had twins I often made the same thing but with different motifs. This really got me into personalizing things. I carried on selling knitwear designs through an agent, but I fell in love with fabric and eventually packed my knitting machine away. I did however use the old knit samples to make toys.
Here is one of these toys. Fiona gave me a knitted lucky cat when I opened and I keep it in the studio, a little bit superstitious about it leaving similar to the ravens and the Tower of London!
The lucky studio cat
What is the Sewgirl story?
The business was born at same time as the doll kit, late 2009/early 2010. Sewgirl was originally my first product, the screen-printed doll kits, but the name stuck. Naturally the doll kit fell by the wayside as I moved into other areas such as clothing and home textiles.
How has printing become part of your business?
I initially got into printing through my husband who is an artist and screen printer. We discussed ideas and tried some of them out, starting with the doll. The Little London kit was a big success and has evolved onto the patchwork squares I am working on at the moment.
We also screen print details onto the kits. I feel this makes the kits especially unique.
Screen print samples hanging up in studio
Tell me more about your work with NOTH?
I have been on there about 2 ½ years. I first applied and was given feedback that my images needed to be improved. They followed this up a year later, and as I had taken their advice and had better images my work was accepted. It is really good being on there but you need to keep creating new ideas so your work is still fresh and current. Personalised work has been selling well, and sits comfortably alongside other things I do. Christmas is always extremely busy with orders, but I manage to keep on top of things.
Your work has a certain style to it – where do you get your inspiration from?
It is great having a husband who is an artist as there is always stuff lying around the house to look at.
I am inspired by vintage magazines, books and textiles, but feel good design needs an element of you in it – something different. Often my eye catches hold of something – usually unexpected. This can come out of the blue – I might mull over an idea and if it sticks for a month then I know it is something to follow.
Collaborations are also good – it takes you to new directions and allows you to grow.
What is your typical working day?
I have a cup of tea in bed, and then check emails and process orders. In the morning I try to get the studio straight as hate working in a mess. Some days I’m kit making, others writing patterns for magazines, prepping for workshops or designing for screens. I try to organize it so certain days are for specific jobs, but that usually goes by wayside if for example an order comes in for personalized bunting.
How do you prefer to work, sketchbook or computer?
Always sketchbook – I have many on the go! I write endless lists.
I have had a peek at your sewing space (and sharing some photos here), and it is rather lovely… tell me about it.
I used run Sewgirl from a front bedroom, designing and teaching from there.
Just over a year ago I had a studio built in our garden and it feels like I have always had it – I couldn’t imagine workshops in my house any more. It is lovely to look in the garden while working and listening to 6Music (which is a big part of my working day).
One downfall of working at home is it can be difficult to separate the two, but it is slightly easier now I have a studio to go to, and the advantages of being based at home outweigh the disadvantages. I try to keep my studio looking current, for example I have a washing line that has inspirational sources or samples for a workshop about to happen.
What do you do when you are not working?
I read a lot and really like biographies. Sewing of course – I make my own clothes and am strict at setting aside specific time for making for myself not work.
What are your plans for the autumn?
Ooh, this will come round quickly!
I am working on a range of patterns featuring coordinated outfits and accessories. There will be more screen-printing – a new “folk” range is coming soon and later in the year a Christmas range of Scandie inspired motifs
I also want to do lots more writing and designing for magazines
What are your sewing essentials?
I love masking tape – I like it as I can write on it and stick it on things to label them, whether it be fabric or paper. I am also in love with this honeycomb fabric I get in Fabricland. It is plastic fabric so doesn’t fray, and I use it for pattern making, particularly trying out paper patterns in 3D.
What are your career highs so far?
It is always good to see your name in print in magazines and books. Doing Pulse (a trade show) and Made (a curated craft fair) were quite pivotal things for me. Also getting the Little London kit into the shop at the Museum of London was quite an achievement.
Name three words that sum up Sewgirl?
Retro, Eclectic and Bold.
To find out more about Fiona visit the Sewgirl website.