Bucket List No. 16 – Learn to Sew/Bucket List No. 14 – Upcycle an item of clothing

23 Feb

The Great British Sewing Bee started another series last week and I’m already hooked.  There’s something really captivating about the idea of sewing.  Maybe it’s all those clothes I pay a small fortune to have altered.  Or being able to make something completely original. Or revamping my wardrobe by customising what I already have.  Like my relatively recent love of baking, I thought sewing would be a useful skill to learn.

After a bit of research, I came across Fabrications on Hackney’s Broadway Market.  An independent shop, studio and workshop, they offer all kinds of sewing and knitting courses and have a strong focus on upcycling.


Fabrications – The shop

The last bit of clothing I made was a polka dot nightie when I was 15, so I needed to start from scratch.  I started with Fabrications morning workshop Provisional Driving – Introduction to using a Sewing Machine which covered the basics of setting up a sewing machine and different stitch types. This was followed by an afternoon session of Creative Making on the Machine (you get a discount if you book them both together) during which you make either a tote bag or a cushion.

I decided on a cushion for my daughter Amaya, just in case you wonder why there’s a massive ‘A’ on there.  Made from old shirts and scraps of material, this was my first experience of upcycling and here’s the finished product…

My cushion!

My cushion!

The sessions are run by Barley Massey, the founder of Fabrications.  As well as teaching sewing and knitting, her ethos is all about upcycling and refreshing your wardrobe and she was recently described by the Evening Standard as “London’s Eco Queen”.  Softly spoken and passionate about the environment, Barley was reusing and recycling long before it became fashionable.

Fabrications Creator Barley Massey

Fabrications Creator Barley Massey

She attributes this passion to her upbringing in rural Wales. “Both my grandmothers were very thrifty, nothing would be wasted in their households!” she explains.  “Now working as a professional ‘upcyclist’ I have become very aware of how much waste we generate as a country and how valuable items and materials are thrown away. I also find upcycling very transformative, it really channels my creativity and shows me how to do more with less.”

The workshop space downstairs is also a reflection of this belief.  A warm, welcoming space with tea and coffee as soon as you step through the door, the chair covers are upcycled, the cupboard curtains are made from old ties and the wall tiles are either recycled or factory rejects.

Ties and tiles in Fabrications' workshop

Ties and tiles in Fabrications’ workshop

Like baking and knitting, sewing is one of those old school hobbies enjoying a revival and Barley has a theory on why. “It is fun and good for your well-being to have a creative outlet.  You can save money, be more resourceful and self-reliant which helps your confidence and self-esteem.  It’s a solitary activity but also very sociable – there are more and more classes and clubs popping up bringing people together, building a sense of community”.

It’s so true.  There was something so therapeutic about cutting out patterns, thinking of a design and creating something new.   And enjoying it with other people was a really lovely and productive way to spend a rainy Sunday.



Sewing may be more time consuming than popping out to the high street, but as well as appealing to creative types, it is drawing in those who care about where their clothing comes from.

As Barley says “it depends on how you look at and value your clothing. I am meeting a lot of ‘conscious consumers’ who want to step away from the high street, that don’t want to buy into badly produced, unethical, bland ‘fast fashion’.”

I tend to be an all or nothing person so I knew I was either going to love sewing or hate it.  I loved it.  We’re moving soon and I’ve already bagsied the area where my future sewing machine is going to live.  I’ll also be booking onto Fabrications’ Refresh Your Wardrobe workshop so I can get on with revamping my wardrobe.  I can’t wait to get started!

To find out more Fabrications visit www.fabrications1.co.uk or see them directly at 7 Broadway Market, Hackney. Workshops can be found at http://fabrications1.co.uk/index.php?page=calendar


2 Responses to “Bucket List No. 16 – Learn to Sew/Bucket List No. 14 – Upcycle an item of clothing”

  1. Emmely February 23, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    Great that you had so much fun sewing! It sounds like a really good studio to take lessons from.

    • notsuchagirliediary February 23, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

      Thanks, it was a brilliant place to learn sewing – I recommend it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: