Talking: Portia Lawrie, Makery

Tell us a bit about what brought you to sewing in the first place, have you ever been formally taught?

I began sewing in 2009 after the birth of my son. It was the first time I had ever not been working and had the opportunity to pursue something recreational.  I wanted something that was just for me and didn’t involve nappies and feeds too, lol. So I enrolled at a local adult community college where I spent the next year or so attending one day a week. I gained basic qualifications in garment construction and pattern cutting and learnt the ins and outs of using a machine, following a pattern and making adjustments as well as drafting from a block. We moved about 18 months after I started and the distance became to much to continue. But it gave me enough of a grounding to start working things out for myself and, more importantly, ignited a passion that just keeps growing!

We’re all looking with envy at your Shedquarters, but have you worked your way up from less salubrious sewing surroundings?!  

Ah yes! Dining table. Tiny space behind the bedroom door. Floor. Been there!  Having said that, this is not my first summerhouse. It’s Shedquarters MkII, lol! I had another one at our old house but had to leave it behind when we moved in 2014. It was nowhere near as well planned and customised as the current Shedquarters. Back then I had not long started sewing and hadn’t really figured out my working style. I think that comes with time you know. Figuring out when and where you use things and how to lay out your space so everything flows just right. Even though I had to wait a year without any kind of sewing space, it gave me time to really work out what I needed from this build. I basically spent a year pinning, planning, and dreaming. As a result, Shedquarters is a wonderful place to be for me. My haven of calm where I can completely lose myself. I consider myself a very lucky gal indeed! (Although there was a lot of hard work involved!!)

Recently you’ve really been delving into the technicalities of pattern adjustments (Pt1 & Pt2), I can’t be alone in having thought this was a bit of a no-go area, complicated and a bit beyond me, but you have done a great job of demystifying the techniques and preparing some really valuable resources to be saved away. Was it a conscious decision to go down this route? 

Ah, thank you! It makes me happy when people find my posts useful 🙂 I confess that very little on my blog is planned or conscious. I just tend to share what’s on my mind and whatever I happen to be working on at the time. That itself is quite a fluid thing and dictated by whatever I fancy sewing at the time. I’m quite fickle, unfocussed, and tend to flit from one thing to another. (Although recently I’ve been trying to identify wardrobe needs and sew based on that). Basically if a make throws up a particular technique or adjustment then that’s what I will share with readers. Hopefully with a slightly different slant or approach to it than existing content already out there.  I like to think I can explain things in a certain way that breaks things down and simplifies them without being patronising. At least that’s what I aim for! Fitting adjustments are kinda my nemesis. I loathe them. Which conversely, and weirdly means, that when I reluctantly resolve to delve into it to try and understand it, I go into ALOT of detail. I have to try and understand it from all angles. I share that process with readers because I figure there are bound to be people out there wrestling with the same issues. And if I have figured something out, I feel kinda duty bound to share and save them the time and hassle of figuring it out from scratch themselves. Because, lets face it, we’d all rather be sewing than faffing with annoying fit issues!!

What does the act of  creating things mean to you? Is it more than just a means to owning a new bit of bling?

Oh blimey  it’s much more than that! (Firstly I’m the least bling person you’re ever likely to meet, lol!) But it’s the satisfaction, the learning, the progressing and the uniqueness of being able to make something that suits your aesthetic that drives me most.  Clothing has become for me a means of finding and expressing myself. Feeling comfortable in your skin is an essential component to confidence and self esteem; and clothing is SUCH a big part of that. I can rarely find what I picture in my head in RTW on the High St. If  I do find anything remotely similar then there’s usually a compromise in terms of fabric, cost or fit. So making my own enables me to express myself, rather than showcase whatever some retailer decides is the latest trend; irrespective of whether it suits me or I feel like “me” when I’m wearing it. There’s that….and of course there’s the  Zen’ness of absorbing yourself into the act of making something so much, that everything else just melts away. Sewing really is good for the soul. Kinda like meditating for people that can’t sit still and have to be doing something!

The Refashioners  is your upcycling challenge, we’ve seen some incredible entries over time. What was your inspiration for starting the series, and (more importantly), will be coming back for 2016?!

The Refashioners is all about shouting about how awesome refashioning is and encouraging people to add it to their sewing armoury. Not as a replacement to conventional dressmaking but as a companion. It’s economical and environmental credentials are obvious. But more than that, it encourages a different kind of thought process and unleashes a different kind of creativity than following a pattern and using standard yardage. Hacking up old garments can help us discover industry techniques used in manufacturing that garment (often subtly different and more efficient than those used by the home sewer) and overall enhances our understanding of garment construction. Basically it’s awesome, and fun and creative; and I also passionately believed that we could elevate it from the realms of “refashions that look like refashions” to “oh my goodness I need that in my wardrobe like, NOW”. And YES! The Refashioners 2016 will run again  this summer! The blogger line up is pretty much finalised already. (Yep already! There’s alot of preparation and planning involved so I start early!) You guys may squeal when you see this year’s line up. It’s gonna be epic and I can’t wait!


You can find Portia at Makery, on Instagram @portialawrie, on Pinterest and on Facebook  – Say Hello!