Interview with Fiona from Sewgirl

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

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

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

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.

Sewgirl Studio

Sewgirl Studio

 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.

Sewgirl Studio

Sewgirl Studio

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.


Sewgirl Quilt

When Fiona at Sewgirl asked if I would like to play around with some of her screen printed squares I jumped at the chance!  She quickly dispatched 3 sets…  

Exciting Post!

Exciting Post!

Here they are…nicely presented.

Panels just asking to be sewn!

Panels just asking to be sewn!

I decided to keep the fabrics toned down, not easy for a print addict like me, but I thought it was a way of respecting the screen printed squares.  I only used the pink and the blue packs, and matched plains to the prints.   I had in stock a pink bella solid that was perfect, and got a blue kona cotton from Brighton Sewing Centre.  For the third fabric I was umming and ahhing, and in the end went with a black and white Sketch from Timeless Treasures.  This is such a good blender!

I decided to sew an off centre log cabin.  The squares are the stars of the show so I just wanted to frame them, but I still wanted to make it quirky, so played around with scale and colour placement.  

Here is the top finished…

Finished Quilt Top

Finished Quilt Top

I then decided to hand quilt, with the trusty perle 8.  I used a pale grey, which shows on the solids, but blends into the background on the sketch.  




I decided to bind the quilt using the single fold lapped method and used a different colour for the sides and bottom.  

Cheeky Binding!

Cheeky Binding!

The combination of hand quilting and single fold binding has made the quilt feel really soft and light. It is interesting how different the method of quilting and binding can make a quilt feel.

…and here is the top finished and hanging in the studio.


If you like the look of the panels, Fiona sells them online here, and has some free patterns available to use them to make bunting, cushions, lavender bags and pockets.
I got the opportunity to interview Fiona earlier this year, so if you want to find out more about Sewgirl pop back to the blog later on this week…


Charity coffee morning – this Saturday!

This Saturday we are holding our second coffee morning in support of Maternity Worldwide.  The Brighton based charity works in developing countries to ensure women have access to maternity care – you can find out more about their amazing work here.

As well as tea, coffee and cake, Debbie who used to run the knitting shop up the road from QP will be selling some knitting books, and I will be making a donation to the charity from sales on the day.  I am also hoping to have my autumn course schedule available for those who fancy coming on a course after the summer.

Fingers crossed we will raise at least £80 as this sponsors a trainee midwife in Africa for a month – how amazing would that be?!

Maternity Worldwide Poster QP

Prairie Strip Quilt Tutorial

Happy Monday to you!  As mentioned in my post on Friday, today I am sharing a free pattern for a quick and easy strippy quilt made from Dashwood Studios Prairie range .  It measures 39in (just under 1 metre square), however if you wish to make a larger quilt you could add a border or repeat the steps below to make more units.

Prairie strip quilt

Prairie strip quilt

You will need..
Fabric for front
Prairie Pink 6in x wof, (buy 20cm)
Prairie Blue 12in x wof, (buy 35cm)
Prairie Yellow 10in x wof, (buy 30cm)
Prairie Grey 14in x 44in wof, (buy 40cm)
Prairie Ditsy Flower 7in x 44in wof, (buy 20cm)

To finish the quilt
Backing Fabric 110 x 110cm
Wadding 110cm x 110cm
Binding 35cm x wof (based on cutting binding strips 2 1/2in wide.  If you make narrower binding or single fold binding you will need less).

Plus you will also need the usual quilt making haberdashery supplies, rotary cutting set, thread for piecing and quilting, scissors, iron…

WOF is width of fabric, and refers to the standard width of Dashwood fabrics, 44in.

A quarter inch seam allowance is essential, as when 5 strips are sewn together the width must be 10 1/4in otherwise the pattern will not work.

1. Using a rotary cutting set, cut the fabric in the following way:
Pink: Cut into four strips 1 1/2in x wof
Blue: Cut into four strips 3in x wof
Yellow: Cut into four strips 2 1/2in x wof
Grey: Cut into four strips 3 ½in x wof
Ditsy: Cut into four strips 1 ¾ in x wof

Prairie Cut Strips

1. Prairie Cut Strips

2. Make a pile of fabric containing one strip of each colour.  Take a pink and a blue strip and sew down the length to make a long seam using 1/4in seam allowance.  Sew the fabrics together in the following order pink, blue, yellow, grey, ditsy flower.  I like to start sewing from the end that is not printed with Dashwood Studios as you can cut closer to this in step 3.
Take care not to pull the fabric through the machine as you sew them as it will distort the fabric.

Prarie Strips

2. Start at the end without the writing

5 strips sewn together

2. The 5 strips sewn together

3. Press the strips, taking care make sure the seams are open, but the lines are not distorted.

4. Straighten one end of the strip (I cut from the end that I started sewing from first as it is lined up), then cut into four 10 ¼ in segments.

Cut into squares

4. Cutting the strip into squares

Cut into strips 2

4. 2 squares cut from the strip

5. Repeat steps 1 to 3 with the remaining strips.

6.  Lay out the 16 squares, following the arrangement in the quilt at the top of this post.  Alternatively, as each pieces is square you can make your own layout, making sure there are 4 across and 4 down.
Using a quarter inch seam allowance, sew the squares together to make four rows.  Press, then sew the rows together.

7. Take your backing fabric and wadding and make a quilt sandwich.  Quilt as desired.  I used a walking foot and machine quilting thread in a pale grey to quilt random straight lines down the quilt.

8. Bind using your preferred method.

Folded Prarie strip quilt

Folded Prarie strip quilt

If you fancy making this quilt, you can buy a pack containing the fabric for the front from the Quilty Pleasures website for the special price of £16.00.  Click here to order.


A tale of dogs and fabric…

Prairie by Rebecca Stoner for Dashwood Studios

Prairie by Rebecca Stoner for Dashwood Studios

Oh the internet – you make the world seem so much smaller.  When I was young I would never have believed that with the use of a machine that I can fit in my hand, I could have sent a message direct to Paul Young or have seen a pic of what Bros were having for their tea.
Thankfully, I use the internet for better things than what my 10 year old self would have, and one of these is to stalk anyone/thing textiley.

On Twitter a couple of months ago I put up a photo of my Dusty and then got chatting to others (as you do, nothing like photos of pets on Twitter to start a conversation!).  The designer Rebecca Stoner then tweeted a photo of Bertie, her lovely lurcher so lots of mutual hound appreciation went on.  I should mention I have two hounds, a 2 year old whippet, and a 14 year old greyhound, and think I am slightly addicted to them.  Toby our old boy cannot handle the car anymore, so has lead walks and stays at home with his slippers and smoking pipe, but mini hound comes out and about with me.  When I next saw my Dashwood rep I straight away pounced on Rebecca’s work, then noticed who had designed it and said “ooh, you should see her lovely dog, I must order this”.  My rep was a little bit taken aback by this, not really the reaction usually given to a fabric range!  Anyway, I chose 5 bolts, and have made a metre square quick strip quilt from them.  The bolts are photographed at the top of this post, and available here my my website.  I will post the pattern on Monday, but here is some hound eye candy for you.  Rebecca kindly emailed me a picture of Bertie, who I think should be given the role of head of marketing!

Here’s Dusty, doing her catalogue pose, with the quilt behind her…

Dusty Posing with Prairie

Dusty Posing with Prairie

..and Bertie modelling a Prairie bandana.  Isn’t he gorgeous..?!  Such a handsome face.

Rebecca Stoners Bertie modelling Prairie

Bertie modelling Prairie


Duck Quilt

My one to one teaching slots are always interesting as each session is so different.  Usually the project is something quite simple – most often help with quilting or binding, but every session is an absolute gem as I get to hear all about the story behind the quilt.  A project I have been working on recently has been especially interesting, and now it is finished and with the recipient(s) I asked the maker if I could share it here…

N booked in as she wanted to make a replica quilt of one that was made for her, by her mums friend, when she was a child a couple of decades ago.  This quilt was quickly snapped up by her sister, and ended up being something that went with her everywhere even into adulthood when travelling.  It is still just about a quilt!  Very worn, but very loved and really that is what a quilt is about – regardless of condition.  The sister was expecting (and has just had a very lovely baby girl – I have seen photos!) and living abroad so the gift had additional meaning to remind her of home.  The original quilt was designed by N’s mum, and I like the duck family motif – a nurturing image for a baby quilt.

Duck Quilt 1 and 2

Duck Quilt 1 and 2

The original quilt is on the left, and this is what we had to work with.  You can still see the stitching is yellow, but that was about it.The colours were a bit of a memory exercise, which the maker and her mum recalled what they were before the the fading.

N is really creative so drawing the templates was no problem, we then fused fabric ducks and satin stitched round the edges (as they were before), using a narrower stitch width for the smaller ducks.  Being addicted to old sewing books I knew satin stitched appliqué was a widely used technique back then, but not seen so much now, so it was interesting to see it come together.  We stayed true to the original and satin stitched through the layers.  The binding is slightly wider – again true to how the original was.

Here is the finished quilt – isn’t it cute?!

Mummy Duck Quilt

Mummy Duck Quilt

The quilt is now in situe in the USA where is looks fantastic in the nursery.  A great job was done, and maybe, perhaps…  in 20 years time another replica of the quilt will be made.

Duck quilt in nursery

Duck quilt in nursery

April Sewing Book Club

So, at the end of April we kicked off our first sewing themed book club with The Forgotten Seamstress, written by Liz Trenow.  I took some notes to share here…

The Forgotten Seamstress

The Forgotten Seamstress

The synopsis is:

“London, 1910: Maria, a remarkable young seamstress, is noticed by Queen Mary, patron of the London Needlework Guild, who gives her a job in the royal household. A century later, when turning out her mother’s loft, Caroline discovers an old patchwork quilt left to her by her grandmother, and becomes intrigued by the curious verse embroidered into its lining. When her best friend, a fabric conservator, notices that some of the fabrics are almost certainly unique and rare royal wedding silks, Caroline becomes determined to discover more about the quilt and its mysterious origins.
Through the fading memories of her mother, some family letters and photographs, some old cassette tapes and the help of a local journalist, she uncovers an extraordinary story involving a royal affair, a life of incarceration, an illegal adoption and two women whose lives collided with devastating consequences.
Finally, Caroline comes to understand what her Granny wanted her to know – the truth about herself and how she wants to live her own life.”

Well, for starters, everyone enjoyed the book and finished it.  Good start!  All were fascinated by Maria’s story and liked the way it was told.  Two members of the group remembered working in nursing several decades ago and that her story of women and mental health provision was very realistic – and made us shudder somewhat.  We liked the sewing theme – very evocative and didn’t get too technical so didn’t detract from the story just enhaunced it.  A suggestion that the quilt itself was a separate character in the book was warmly agreed with.

There was some debate about the cover.  It didn’t bother the kindle readers, but those who read the paperback version said they weren’t overly keen on it.  This led to a discussion of about illustrations vs photographs on book covers. Here it is (amongst everything else from the evening!)  for you to make you own opinion about it.

April Sewing Book Group

April Sewing Book Group

There was agreement that the story seemed to push the co-incidences perhaps a little far, however, if the book didn’t have this then maybe it would have been so readable.  The whole group would recommend it to fellow stitchers, particularly as a holiday read as once started you will want to race through it.  A few people were wanting to order the authors first book to read.

It was a very enjoyable evening.  The group are are alternating fiction and non fiction each month, all with a sewing theme, so at the end of May we are chatting about Patchwork and Quilting in Britain, written by Heather Audin.

Painting and Printing

Been swapping fabric for paper recently and dusting off my textile design head (been in storage for a while!). Mulling over some new ideas for the autumn including this piece piece of work which is being reworked on lutradur. Results to follow…


May 2014 Open Studio – demos and make and takes

In Bloom - image by Fiona Sewgirl

In Bloom – image by Fiona Sewgirl

We are opening again this year as part of the Artists open houses, with the theme of “In Bloom”.

There will be some work for sale by 6 Sussex based designer/makers, and for the first time we will be having demonstrations and make and takes (a small charge will apply for these).  Our schedule is below – if you would like more information get in touch.  Hope to see you there!

Open first four weekends in May, 11 till 5 and Thursdays 12 till 5
Demonstrations and make and takes (small charge applies) each weekend
3rd and 4th May Needlefelting with Valerie Evans

9th and 10th May – Simple patchwork with Suzanne Fisher

and long arm quilting info with Carolyn Clark

17th May – Flower stitched cards with Elizabeth Betts

18th May- Applique lavender bags with Fiona Sewgirl

24th May- Bloom Jute bags with Anita Quirky Genius

25th May- Flower corsages with Elizabeth Betts and Fiona Sewgirl

For more details contact 563032