Our new kid on the block, expert up-cycler and super seamstress, Jeanette Archer, can teach you how to make a pretty pair of shorty PJs out of a couple of unwanted cotton shirts. She’s a thrifty momma with years of sewing experience, we’re thrilled that she’s joined our merry Ministry band of sisters and I urge you to check out her blog and then book on her course!
What first drew you to your craft ?
I have been sewing since I was a child. I remember making dresses for my dolls with a box of pastel coloured tissues at my grandparent’s house. My mother shouted at me for making a mess, but my granddad encouraged me. One of my most treasured possessions as an eight year old was a paper bag full of tiny fabric scraps, a needle and thread. I was convinced I could stitch up something lovely with those scraps.
As a teenager, unable to afford the kind of clothes I wanted to wear I began sewing. We would be given huge bags of hand me downs from family with older cousins, and I loved trawling through those bags for items I could cut and stitch and dye into the clothes I wanted.
I was taught to sew at school. I completed the old fashioned O level and A level needlework. After completing an Art Foundation year at Birmingham Polytechnic, I went on to study Surface Pattern Design, specializing in printed textiles.
I have spent the last eighteen years raising my large family, but have kept busy crafting during that time, designing and making cloth nappies, baby carriers, fabrics and children’s clothing which I have sold online and at various craft fairs.
Did you train professionally as a seamstress or are you self taught?
As I have said above, I am a trained seamstress and surface pattern designer, but I strive to improve my skills by attending workshops when I can. I have taught myself the basics of pattern drafting, but this is an area I would love to get more professional training in.
I am inspired by everything! I am drawn to pattern and colour everywhere, and obsessively take photos of anything that catches my eye; peeling paint, a faded print on an old tea towel, a feather or leaf lying on the pavement, everything!
I am a huge Pinterest fan, and can easily lose myself on there for an hour or more.
I love vintage clothing, particularly the styles of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. I like to be inspired by those eras and hopefully come up with something that is my own style, rather than feeling like I’m wearing a costume.
I spend far too much time rummaging through boxes of old linens in charity shops!
Who’s been the biggest influence on your career so far?
That would have to be my needlework teacher from school, Mrs Geddes. She was a proper lady, wearing tweeds and twinsets. She never batted an eyelid when I showed up for lessons with crazy hair (or once a shaven head!), and she gave me the skills and confidence to create with fabric. She would often bring tea and scones to lessons, and of course the tea was always in a cup and saucer.
What’s the best thing about being a crafter?
Sewing for me is a meditation; I can feel myself relaxing as soon as I begin. I thoroughly enjoy the process, right through the planning, making and completing. Of course it’s fabulous wearing something you made yourself too, and even more fabulous if it’s made from something that might otherwise have been discarded.
Do you do any other crafts in your spare time, apart from what you specialise in?
I knit, badly, crochet a tiny bit, and I get very messy with creative play in my role as a childminder and Mummy.
Difficult question. I think probably my best friend’s wedding dress and my eldest daughter’s prom dress.
Have you ever made a creative mistake?
Oh yes of course! Everyone does, and as frustrating as it is, I hopefully learn from them each time.
And your favourite tool or material?
That would have to be my main sewing machine, a Husqvarna Lily. I love how it does a little purr when I switch it on, like it’s saying hello.
Where can we see / buy your work?
I have a shop on Etsy selling my sewing patterns and sewing kits www.flossiesgarden.etsy.com
What have you got coming up in the future?
Really looking forward to teaching upcycling classes at the Ministry of Craft obviously, but I’m also working on two new children’s patterns to sell in my Etsy store.
Jeanette's first upcycling course at Ministry, Sew your own Pyjamas: Short, sweet & upcycled
For more insight into Jeanette's world check out her very excellent blog www.lazyseamstress.net, follow her on Twitter @lazyseamstress and Facebook too for good measure.