Interview with Radio Northampton

Bernie Keith Radio Northampton

A week or two ago Bernie from Radio Northampton gave me a call to talk about all of the wonderful sewing and craft workshop we had going on at the studio in November – here is what we said:

You’ve heard of Movember, you know, Veganuary for the start of the year we’ll add a new one to the list. Sewvember s e w sewvember it’s the work of Stitching Kitchen in Brackley encouraging new generations to sew – say hi to founder Hannah Thompson. Hello, Hannah.

Hello. Good morning.

Now I’m interrupting you. I’m breaking into a workshop, aren’t you?

Well, that’s it. We’ve got a very small crowd today, but we’re making Christmas stockings. So we’re sewing some really bright colourful Christmas fabric and creating some stockings to make everybody’s houses look a bit more festive.

Stocking made in sewing workshop at Stitching Kitchen
Stocking made in sewing workshop at Stitching Kitchen

I’m sorry ladies to interrupt. I won’t keep your mentor for long I promise. You’ve got your own studio there.

Yes, so I’m very lucky. We’re on the top station road industrial estate in Brackley Northamptonshire, obviously, and we’ve got two spaces. We’ve got creative space downstairs, which is for all the messy wet kind of crafts and then upstairs we’ve got beautiful Sewing Studio. There’s space for about eight to ten Sewing Machines in here to rattle away.

Someone sent me a photo the other week of my first school photo from 1967. Most of the girls sitting in chairs in the front were in handmade dresses. Several of the boys including me, were in hand knitted jumpers. It was the norm for my generation. It seemed to drop out of favour now with fast fashion but also sewing be on the telly. Where do we stand now with making clothes?

Well, I think there’s a big movement to being more sustainable. So I’m wearing two items of clothing today that I’ve made myself. And I know not only need to my leggings fit me like a glove. But they’re gonna last a lot longer than the ones you buy from for two or three pounds from certain high street outlets. And I know that I spent the morning making them. You know it was my time and my effort that went into it. And I will wear them until they are completely destroyed and that’s the way I treat all my clothes now I tend to wear things I’ve made myself or things I’ve bought secondhand and having the ability to sew and adjust things means that I don’t need to go and buy things on the high street anymore.

Cuddle Tunic and Leggings made at Stitching Kitchen in Stretch Sewing workshops
Tunic and Leggings made at Stitching Kitchen in Stretch Sewing workshops

For when did you start? How did you start?

Oh, well, I started crafting as a child I was really lucky that my mum and my grandmother were both keen crafters, one knitted one crocheted and they both dabbled with sewing. I knitted my first jumper when I was about 10. And then at secondary school, I was lucky enough to have a home economics teacher and a sewing lesson and I discovered that you could make this very basic kind of shirt t shirt style thing. And it took me two afternoons at school. And I thought that’s much quicker than knitting. So then I started making my own clothing so shorts and culottes and various bright coloured 1990s atrocities. But it fell out of my life as I moved into work really and I didn’t do in sewing for quite a while.

And now you’re so busy as Stitching Kitchen, November 16. So today it’s free motion embroidery where all you need is a sewing machine. But it looks complicated.

It does look complicated. Basically, it’s a way of getting creative with your sewing machine and you’re using the sewing machine to draw lines in any direction. So you can write your name. You can sew something onto something else that’s called appliqué . We’re going to just get a little bit creative and make some Christmas themed things so they could end up on a Christmas card. Or they might end up adorning a stocking or something else cushions or who knows.

Student on sewing machine set up for free motion stitching making appliqué christmas tree
Free motion stitch appliqué Christmas tree

I’ve seen people do this with a fabric say with a floral design on it and they will stitch around the petals in the flowers is that kind of thing isn’t it?

Is that kind of thing so you can accentuate the pattern on a pattern fabric and we do that quite a lot when we’re doing quilting. Or you can create a picture using little snippets of other fabrics. Or you can add anything on really sky’s the limit but you’re using your sewing machine in a completely different ways. So it’s not feeding the fabric through. You’re directing the fabric underneath the needle.

And a week today on November 29 in Brackley . You’re doing Indian block printing. Yes, that’s right. So that’s, that’s a lovely no sew evening. So we’ve got lots of blank items like bags and purses. And makeup bags and that sort of thing. And people can come and personalise them. So it’s a bit like potato printing. So it’s really simple. And we’ll have all of the alphabets out so we can personalise gifts, I love it. You can make something really personal.

Printing in progress - indian block printing at Stitching kitchen
Printing in progress – Indian block printing at Stitching kitchen

So much to do – Saturday week – It’s wet felting now this is sculpting Yeah, rather than stitching so much.

This is an interesting one and I’ve invited Karen Lane, who’s actually an artist from Lincolnshire over to teach this one and I’ve been lucky enough to do a couple of workshops with Karen in the past.  It’s about using sheep’s wool and in this case we’ll use Corriedale.  And it’s about making a three dimensional thing and then sculpting it and pulling the wool and shrinking it down and getting it to form the shape of in this case a bird Yeah. They awesome funky chicken. So I’m looking forward to making what mine

End of a busy day wet felting birds with Karen Lane
Completed birds at the end of a busy day

Was a very good dance the funky chicken I’ll have you know.   So it wasn’t it was sewing stockings next Wednesday  15th you’re crocheting stockings.

Yes, we are. I have to confess I cannot crochet. So I have a lovely lady called Sonia comes in and teaches those classes for me and yes, we’ll be making. They’re quite small little things. So we’re thinking you can make a bunting maybe make several of them or hang them on the Christmas tree. So that’s a fun one and that one’s suitable for total beginners to crochet so even if you’ve never picked up a hook before Sonia will get you making a little Christmas stocking.

Crochet is great for all ages
Crochet for all at Stitching Kitchen

Well, there’s so much here for children or grandchildren to do I’m sure that you know that you get people of a certain age coming to do it. But for kids, these are lasting skills, aren’t they as you’re Testament to.

Absolutely and we do do bits and pieces for children. We’re not going to over Christmas because I’ve decided I need a rest. But often at half term and holidays. We have kids clubs so we have teens sewing and kids crafts. And Sonia, actually the same lady that teaches crochet, she does my after school club on Thursdays and the kids are making lots of present ideas at the moment. So lots of things they can give away. Some of those are stone projects. Some of them are sort of yarn crafts, they weaving or crochet and that sort of thing. So yes, lots with the kids and I think it’s a fantastic way. You know, we all have stressful lives and crafting helps us kind of regulate. It’s the same for kids.

Has it been exclusively female thus far?  because you know, men make fine tailors.

They certainly do. I’ve had I’ve had a handful – I’ve had maybe two or three gentlemen join us on the how to use your sewing machine class. And I’ve had a couple of reluctant block printers who’ve been dragged along by partners,

designated drivers?

The funny thing is though, Bernie, my brother is Is this the stitcher in his household he can sew on a button he can mend things his wife can’t. So there’s no reason that fellas can’t get involved as well. And actually there’s a lot of engineering when it comes to constructing garments and things. So often men see things in a different way to women and actually they very good tailors.

Well, it’s amazing what you’re doing Brackley it’s the top station road industrial estate in Brackley have a look on Hannah’s Instagram page to get an idea for the kind of stuff that happens. It’s Stitching Kitchen stitching with the G and the website is there you sell wool and soap and materials and tools as well as listing the workshops

Absolutely. So we’ve got craft supplies the wool in the soap is for felting we’ve also got every thread colour under the sun and scissors and notions that you need while you’re sewing. And we’ve also got some bits and pieces for Christmas. So there’s some Christmas crafty kits, which would make perfect stocking fillers.

Wonderful and on Instagram. Thanks Hannah.

Thanks so much Bernie. Have a good day.