Creating unique pieces to share on your blog and inspire others: the sew & blog combo is all the rage. It's exactly because the number of bloggers keeps multiplying that Fibre Mood is featuring a new blogger every month. Get to know Tatiana, Margot and Lieve and their blog Girls In Uniform this month. Find out what sewing means to them and their roles are in this community.
What made you decide to start your blog? And why did you start sewing and/or knitting?
Three ‘Girls in Uniform’, three different stories... Tatiana was looking for a way to spend some me-time and really wanted to supply her own wardrobe and her boys’. Lieve had a hard time finding clothing in the shops that fit and wanted to sew for herself, in particular. Margot was hard pressed to remember anything nice from her handicrafts classes in primary school; however, the success stories of two of her friends made her want to come up with her own creative style too. When Lieve introduced Margot and Tatiana to each other, the blog was created as a joint project by three beginner sewers looking for a platform to share their creations with each other and the outside world. Three years down the road now, Girls in Uniform has become the story of a special friendship between three women in uniform – working for the Belgian Armed Forces and Police – who share the same passion.
How did you learn to sew?
Tatiana and Lieve sewed their very first stitches during Boho Atelier’s evening sewing classes in Ghent. All it took was the first reversible tote bag to win them over. Sewing techniques weren’t the only thing they picked up... they also made a new friend! Margot learned how to sew assisted by YouTube, a few handy books and a whole lot of trial and error. Her first project was a pincushion. For tricky projects though, she does occasionally need to rely on outside help. What made her go for it? ‘I'm convinced that your own experiences are what you learn most from. There’s also a huge advantage to having all three of us involved in the blog. There’s always someone online who can come to the rescue if we can’t figure it out’.
What do you prefer, sewing or knitting?
Before Lieve got started sewing, she’d already been a hard-core knitter for three years. Looking back on that period, she comments: ‘Knitting is fun, but the downside is that you can't really knit to measure. Every time I’d get to the end of the process, it would turn out that the jumper didn’t quite fit the way I'd intended. So, I started mass producing knitting projects for others, since apparently it did work out for them. It was only when I got started sewing that I was able to replenish my own wardrobe. That opened up a whole new world for me!’ The other ‘Girls’ agree – no knitting for them. Sewing is way more fun!
Were you already a creative spirit as a child?
Tatiana comes from a creative brood: ‘My brother and I already had our own sewing workshop in the basement of our childhood home, where we used to sew cuddlees together. I also loved to draw and sew in my dad's studio. He designed theatre and opera sets and costumes.’ Margot and Lieve were fairly creative but had never sewn by hand. They preferred coming up with stories based on imagination’.
Where did you get the name for your blog? And why that one in particular?
We're three women in uniform, working for the Belgian Armed Forces or the Police. We thought it would be fun to create a link between our hobby and where we work, since it seems counter-intuitive to most. Margot laughs: ‘We weren’t quite sure about the name for a little while, because Girls in Uniform produces some ‘interesting’ search results. My mum got a lot of unexpected results when she tried to find our blog. It was only after I sent her the link that she felt better. It was precisely that duality that cracked us up’.
What do you think is your finest creation? What are you most proud of?
There’s no better compliment than when someone says, ‘The dress you're wearing is so lovely. Where did you get it?’ Then you can answer offhandedly that you made it yourself. Margot remains proud of her Flo dress and the Megan she made years ago. They’re keepers for sure. Lieve is super proud of her first pattern, the Stinger. She and her son came up with the instructions for that free pattern. ‘Every time I see an example of the Stinger show up on social media I just glow with pride. Being able to inspire others with your own creation is fantastic’. Tatiana also doesn’t need to give it too much thought. ‘I’m most proud of my Stinger laptop bag. As soon as I saw Lieve’s pattern I was immediately sold. The outcome of my sewing was even lovelier than I'd hoped for’.
Do you encounter any specific challenges in relation to the handiwork setting?
Each of the ‘Girls’ faces a different challenge. Properly finishing a project is not always a given for Margot. ‘At some point, I'm ready for the piece to be done, so that I can get started on the next one. So I have to force myself to finish the project first before I get started on the next one’. In contrast, Tatiana has trouble altering the patterns to her body shape. Her body shape doesn’t match any of the standard sizes, so she has to alter everything to make it fit properly. Lieve’s big challenge is to avoid saying ‘yes’ to every challenge that comes her way. ‘My enthusiasm keeps getting me into the same trouble – I'm always on the lookout for new patterns, techniques, pattern tests, etc. But often my schedule is already packed to the max. Then I get stressed out by the deadlines and sewing stops being relaxing. Saying “no” once in a while helps relieve the pressure, but that’s not always easy’.
For people who don’t sew or knit, how would you convince them to give it a go?
Start with small, simple projects until you feel confident enough to learn new techniques. If you do things right, then sewing is incredibly relaxing, and despite that it's just you at the sewing machine, you’re joining a whole community, sharing the same hobby. Join a sewing café or a sewing workshop where someone guides you through your projects, that way you can also ask all your questions right away. Sign up for a sewing weekend or attend a fun workshop. You'll discover that there's a click with the other participants right from the start, because you'll never run out of topics to discuss.
What do you dread or what frustrates you the most about sewing and/or knitting?
It’s incredibly frustrating when you’ve put your heart and soul into a project and the result is disappointing: the wrong fabric, a mistake, or when the pattern doesn’t look good on you. The advantage to Girls in Uniform is that we can let off some steam in the digital world. We post something and then get loads of support from our followers, or we complain to each other. Other sewers often provide tips on how to salvage a sewing work, which means that projects are regularly saved from ending up in the rubbish. Another shared frustration is the lack of time. There are so many gorgeous things to make, but there are only 24 hours in a day. Does anyone know how to conjure up more time?
Where does the inspiration for your blog come from? And are there other blogs that you enjoy or find inspiring?
We didn’t want a traditional sewing blog and went for a mix of (age-old) sewing facts, feelings about sewing, sewing magazines or book reviews and sewing bits and bobs (clothing, bags, tools, etc.). In short, anything and everything that has to do with sewing in the broadest sense of the word. We find our inspiration on Pinterest, but are also inspired by each other and other blogs. You don’t even have to look that far. Sometimes you're out on the street and see a fabric, print or pattern that you know you're going to use somehow.
What does your workspace look like? And where is it?
Margot and Lieve gradually took over the office and Tatiana claimed her sons’ old room. Having your own sewing room where you can leave your stuff and indulge your creativity is heaven on earth. Not too long from now, Lieve and her husband’s guest room will make way for a true, made-to-measure ‘sewing workshop’. That’s the bee’s knees, isn’t it?
Do you get a lot of satisfaction from the comments on your blog? Do you interact much with your followers/regular visitors?
While the blog mostly started out as a kind of online storage place for our sewing projects, where we especially wanted to get satisfaction out of our creations, all three of us secretly get a kick out of when people respond to our posts. We also make it a point of honour to answer every response. Lieve says: ‘Occasionally women contact us directly via another channel, and every time it happens it's a lovely encounter. Sometimes, we also run into our followers in real life. As long as you're sitting behind your screen, it feels just like you're keeping some kind of diary, but when someone approaches you in the supermarket, you suddenly realise that what you write really is read (by others). The warmth our followers share with us is something we cherish’.
Is there anything you’d like to try making in future?
Coats, dresses and cross body bags are totally Tatiana’s thing and are on her wish list. Margot and Lieve would like to be able to call the majority of their wardrobe homemade. So far, Margot hasn’t tried sewing any trousers, but it’s on her agenda though. Margot adds as an afterthought: ‘We also try to regularly sew for charity, which also gives considerable satisfaction’.
What tips & tricks would you like to pass on to sewers and/or knitters who are just starting out?
‘Don’t get discouraged’, Tatiana says. ‘Those first few months my seam ripper was my best friend’. Start at the beginning and don’t expect that after a (first) project, you'll all of a sudden be able to sew a perfect blouse. Margot has a note stuck to her sewing machine that says: ‘Enjoy the process, even more than the result’, because that’s the point of your hobby. In addition, Lieve points out the risks posed by the digital world: ‘Often the only thing you'll see online are the success stories. Keep in mind that every sewer experiences moments when she'd like to throw her hands in the air, days where everything goes pear-shaped and takes twice as long. Don’t fall prey to messages saying that it will only take you ‘two hours’ to make those nice dresses. Take your time and enjoy yourself!’