@JenBenSews | Sewing Influencer
Meet Jen, aka @JenBenSews from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. She is the co-president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Garment Sewists Guild, and she started sewing during the pandemic. She’s come so far so fast, I really enjoy her Instagram feed. The dress shown below is one of my favorite of her makes. Her use of color speaks is so fun and celebrates life in a fresh way!
How did you learn your craft?
I mostly just learned during the pandemic watching YouTube videos. My mom has given me her 1970s Kenmore machine in January 2020, and I had just gotten it back from a tune-up when everything happened. So I made some masks and then a Cashmerette T-shirt, drafted my own pj shorts, and off I went.
At some point in my teens I had refashioned some Value Village T-shirts, but I’d never used a pattern or threaded the machine before 2020. It was intimidating, but I suddenly had all this time at home to read the manual.
I watched endless videos about how to cut fabric and sew darts and wrote pages of notes on doing FBAs (full-bust adjustments) and other adjustments. My body is pretty special, so I wanted to treat it right and learn how to fit it better than any ready-to-wear garment ever had.
What is your favorite project you’ve made?
I feel like I have a dozen favorites. I love some for the skills I learned while making them, like my first collared shirts, and I love others because I wear them all the time, like my tunic-length sweatshirt and my purple, two-piece summer set: the Ashton and the Ardens (HelensClosetPatterns.com). I wore that set, together and separately, all summer.
How do you handle mistakes or setbacks when working on a project?
By asking for help. I love the Instagram community for generously sharing their knowledge. I’m not shy about asking for help when I get stuck or just for solidarity when a pattern isn’t working. My feed is essentially “fat women who craft” so I’m inspired and learn from others who have bodies like mine all the time. And it’s bliss.
And (giving things) time. I am pretty good at putting some makes into detention if they are causing trouble. It’s always the project’s fault and not anything I’ve done—ha, ha. Then I come back to them another day.
Sewing is mostly fun for me, and as a recovering perfectionist I find it a great hobby, because perfection is impossible. “Good enough” is the way to go. If it’s not bad enough for detention, I just adjust and roll on with it.
What are you currently making?
I am working on a striped dress, combining a few patterns, but I like the top alone so much I may just keep it that way and not add the skirt. TBD. I love just being open to late-stage creative decisions.
I just started a new job, and I’m helping to establish our local Garment Sewists Guild, so I’m sewing less than normal right now.
If you could have anything in the world to support your craft, what would it be?
Oh wow. Cutting fabric is my least favorite part of sewing, so I would definitely love for someone to cut all my projects as precisely as I would . . . and to bring me snacks and remind me to take breaks. A dream!