When I grow up (which I am intending on doing one day) I want to be Karen! She’s pretty, funny, clever and most importantly of all SUPER crafty! Her blog ‘Did You Make That’ has been top of my ‘blog stalking’ list for ages so imagine how happy I was when actual real life Karen asked me to do an interview on her blog. It was an opportunity I could not miss so I of course immediately told her I would but only if she did an interview on my blog as well.
Not only does Karen knit, crochet and write brilliantly but she also makes clothes. I do a lot of crafty things but not in my wildest dreams will I ever be able to make some of the stuff Karen has made! In my opinion ‘Did you make that’ should be renamed ‘There’s no way you made that, it’s just to good!’ – But I have a feeling that’s a slightly less catchy title.
So, I am extremely EXTREMELY excited to publish my very first blog interview with one of my all time blog heroes. And equally as exciting if you go over to her blog you can read her interview with a very over-excited me. Enjoy her words of wisdom!
What inspired you to start your blog in the first place and what's been your favorite part of it so far?
I started my blog two years ago in February! The inspiration came from all the other sewing and knitting blogs I was reading and commenting on. I started to have a creeping suspicion that maybe I could contribute to this active community with a blog of my own. I’d already been blogging regularly at my writing website – www.karen-ball.com – and have been an editor for 20 years and a children’s author for quite a while, so I felt very comfortable with the written word. Photography and blog design was a whole other ball game, however, and one I knew little about. I’ve learnt a lot over the past 24 months!
I’ve seen from your blog that you also have a career as a writer of children’s books. I’m scared that when I get older I won’t have time for all the crafty things I love. How do you manage to squeeze it all in?
Ha, ha! Time management certainly becomes a pressing issue when full-time jobs enter the mix. I remember when I first started working after university – I found a day at the office exhausting! But in terms of squeezing everything in: if you enjoy something enough, you will find the time to do it. When I’m on a serious sewing roll, I have been known to creep out of bed very early before work to sew. My worst example of this was getting up at 3am to do a bit of sewing. This was a big mistake – the sewing was awful and I felt dreadful for the rest of the day. When I’m being more sensible, I do bits of sewing in the evening after work and at weekends. Sewing can be my reward system, as I also write my books at the weekends: ‘If I write 2000 words, I can go and sew for an hour.’ But sometimes you have to accept that life is just too busy for the hobbies. This week, for example, I haven’t had time to sew at all. It’s a good idea to avoid giving yourself deadlines with your sewing or crafting – though often deadlines creep in if there’s a party you want a nice dress for!
I’ve recently started to explore the world of sewing but I find it all very scary! How did you start making clothes and do you have any tips for getting into it?
I started sewing about three years ago, when I scored a free secondhand Toshiba sewing machine via Freecycle. My first make was a very simple tunic top in cotton. Cotton is a great fabric to work with on first projects, because it behaves itself. Opening and reading a pattern for the first time can be intimidating, but just take things one step at a time. Google your pattern and see if any pattern reviews come up on line – Sewing Pattern Review is a great website for seeing what experiences other Sewists have had with a make (even if the design of the website is clunky). A lot of sewing bloggers post tutorials and these can be massively helpful. Just choose a simple pattern you like the look of and go for it! You’ll never look back.
I’ve been drooling over the pictures of your amazing coat and loving all your updates with your progress. Your stuff always seems to come out so perfectly! Have you ever had a true crafting disaster?
I regularly have disasters! Everyone does, and if they claim they don’t, they’re lying. It can’t go right all of the time. In fact, most makes involve something going wrong – usually at least one seam that will need unpicking. My last ‘disaster’ was wasting a whole load of pretty white cotton broderie anglaise bought in Paris. I’d intended to use it to make a dress, but the dress didn’t come together at all well – the cotton was just too lightweight. I ended up throwing the fabric away and that always kills me as it’s such a waste of money. But here’s the interesting thing – disasters stop feeling so dreadful. You learn to shrug your shoulders and move on. It’s all a learning curve; no experience is wasted.
How long have you been doing craft for and why do you think traditions like sewing and knitting are so important to keep going?
I’ve been knitting for probably about ten years, sewing for three years and crocheting for one year. But these crafts were also a big part of my childhood – my mum had a sewing machine and I’d be allowed to sew as a child, one grandma did a lot of intricate crochet and my other grandma always had an aran sweater on her knitting needles! I used to knit and sew as a child and in hindsight I think it’s clear that I had a talent for these crafts even then. So coming back to these things as an adult was a bit like coming home. Which answers the second part of your question: I think these traditions are important because they cement people’s sense of who they are, where they came from and what they are capable of achieving. There’s also a huge social benefit. I have made many truly great friends in real life since I started my blog. My life has never felt so enriched.
The writing on your blog is always so lovely and you have a very strong voice. Do you think you prefer the writing or the crafting side of having a blog?
I love both! The crafting can be painstaking and sometimes slow – a fitted dress can be a three-month project. But I love the sense of achievement. The writing is fast, fast, fast and I’ll knock a blog post out when I get home from work, or lying on the sofa or sometimes squeezed into a lunch hour! I don’t really plan my blog posts – they’re very spontaneous. I have a strong sense of my audience and firmly believe that they help make the blog what it is. The best blog posts become conversations and rich exchanges of information. But I’ve always had a huge fondness for comedic writing and I think it’s fairly clear that I indulge that side of my creativity in my blogging! Sometimes people worry a lot about their blogging ‘voice’ and how to blog, but my key advice for blogging and for life is: Just be yourself!
Remember to read Karens interview with me over on her blog
Remember to read Karens interview with me over on her blog