@vintage_jo_sew_and_sew | Sewing Influencer
Meet Joanna Chamberlain, aka @vintage_jo_sew_and_sew. She describes herself as a “Mad curvy cat lady of a certain age who loves to sew for a hobby, especially things vintage and stylish.” We love her sense of style and flair for the dramatic. She hails from England, and we have kept her spelling intact.
How did you learn your craft?
I learnt the basics at secondary school when I was 13. It was the ’70s; girls learnt sewing and domestic science, which also included how to file your nails and groom your hair, as well as cooking. Boys learnt woodwork and art … I have to admit I wish I learnt woodwork, as my husband is hopeless and I would love to be able to make a custom fitment for my sewing supplies in my sewing room. I learnt very basic sewing and everything looked “homemade.” I gave up when I had my children and didn’t sew again until 30 years later when I became interested in vintage. True vintage was either too small for my curvy figure or the price was too big for my bank balance. It was like starting again: My first makes were awful, but I kept at it and I think I got a little better each time.
What is your favorite project you’ve made?
My favourite project seems to change every time but as I write this, my favourite is definitely my last make, which I made for a party of sewists to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a company called Minerva. I am very happy to say I was one of the winners from the catwalk. It was judged by Patrick Grant. who is famous in the sewing community here in the UK, as he is one of the judges on The Great British Sewing Bee.
The outfit was a hack of the Charm Patterns Lana dress bodice, which I added extra petals to, then I self-drafted a mermaid skirt. It ended up looking very art deco. The party was the last day of September in Northern UK, and it would be nearly autumn and the evening would be chilly. So I decided to make a jacket of some sort. By chance, I came across the Folkwear 1920s Poiret Cocoon coat. I knew this would work well in the Minerva exclusive velvet fabric I used for the dress—it has such a beautiful drape. I finished it with a faux fur collar . I also made a little matching cocktail hat. I felt like an old 1920s starlet in it! What’s more, the coat is also great over trousers.
How do you handle mistakes or setbacks when working on a project?
I don’t handle mistakes or setbacks when working on a project very well, if I am honest. But whereas I used to throw it in a bag and forget about it, I now put it down and come back to it the next day, especially if it’s late in the day. I carry on if it’s not beyond repair, but if it is, I use it as a lesson. If I am honest, I learnt far more from my mistakes in the past than my triumphs, and the mistakes are getting fewer and the triumphs getting more! I learnt that even the most experienced sewists have a close relationship with their seam ripper, and I admit I use mine several times a day at least. I have even been known to unpick and make the same mistake several times.
What are you currently making?
I am actually making two things right now. One is How to do Fashion’s Barcelona cape. The other is a long term project for a Sewists Regency ball next May. I want to allow myself plenty of time to research and not have my usual last minute rush.
If you could have anything in the world to support your craft, what would it be?
A lover who owned a sewing/fabric shop. Joking apart, I would have a at least 36-hour days and a housekeeper so I could spend all the daylight hours sewing, along with a huge sewing room that would hold a huge cutting table. I get fed up with trying to manoeuvre large patterns like the cocoon coat on the dining table. These days cutting out on the floor isn’t an option as I am not as agile as I used to be.