Wendy Ward is a brilliant sewing teacher, pattern designer, author of A Beginner's Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics and the owner of the MiY Collection. We caught up with Wendy to chat about sustainability, favourite projects and advice for fledgling sewers.
You’ve written books on skirt making and dressmaking, do you have a favourite item of clothing to make?
I do love making dresses, probably because they’re my favourite thing to wear. They’re also a great way to show off beautiful fabrics, prints and embellishments.
Do you have a favourite garment from A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics?
That’s like asking me to choose my favourite pet! I’ve made myself things from all of the projects in this book, all of which I regularly enjoy wearing, but probably the one’s that get most wear are my many Kinder cardigans and Peak T-shirt dresses. The Kinder cardigan is so easy to wear and super cosy, I particularly love the longer length which I tend to wear with jeans. The Peak T-shirt dresses are great in summer, comfortable to wear with bare legs or with leggings and I love piecing together left over fabrics to make colour blocked versions, they also make a fantastic blank canvas for my fabric painting experiments!
What trends are you excited about this season?
I have to say I really don’t follow trends at all. This might sound a bit odd for someone who trained as a fashion designer, but I’ve always been a bit averse to trends. I like to come up with ideas in different ways, for example in response to gaps in my wardrobe, or designing something to be more practical or comfortable. I also like the individuality offered by making your own clothes, why follow trends when you can create your own style and be one of a kind?!
Aside from sewing, what is your favourite way to pass the time?
I love getting outdoors; if I’m cooped up inside for too long I quickly get cabin fever. Luckily I have 2 dogs who make sure I get out regularly! I love taking them out walking in the countryside – particularly in the Peak District when I get back home to visit friends and family in Sheffield. I enjoy going to the gym, it’s where I completely switch off and forget about work and I’m also learning to play the trumpet. Unfortunately the trumpet practice doesn’t go down quite so well with the dogs!!
If you could give one piece of advice to new sewers, what would it be?
Work with good quality fabrics and buy fabrics in the same way you would shop for clothes; choose colours, prints and textures that will go with the rest of your wardrobe and that you enjoy wearing. The thing I’m also always telling my sewing students is to enjoy the process, if you set out on your sewing journey in a rush, with cheap, poor quality fabrics, with only the end product in mind, you will give up quickly and honestly you might just as well go shopping and buy your clothes. Learning a craft like sewing is a way of life which will enhance your life the more you practice it. If you start your sewing journey with enjoyment, patience and aiming to make your sewing as accurate and neat as possible, you’ll have years of sewing pleasure ahead and the speed will come with practice. Start off slapdash and you’ll always be slapdash.
What steps can people take to start making their wardrobes more ethical & sustainable?
If you’re making your own clothes, start paying more attention to where your fabrics come from. There are more and more fabric suppliers around who are passionate about sourcing sustainable and ethical fabrics. I’ve written a lot about this subject on my blog and wrote a whole guide to buying sustainable fabrics. I also encourage my students to really think about the style of clothes they’re making, for example: what’s the point in making an elaborate vintage style tea dress if you never wear dresses?! If you focus on making the style of clothes you’re already happy wearing, you know that whatever you make is going to get lots of wear. Although the online sewing community is a wonderfully positive space, I do think sometimes it can encourage makers to be constantly making the “latest pattern” from cheap fabric and churning out lots of garments that are never or hardly ever worn. For me that’s as bad as fast fashion shopping on the high street.
And finally, are you making anything exciting right now?
I’m currently working on another book which is always very exciting, you can see the odd sneak peek on my Instagram, but aside from that I have a very exciting move coming up as I’m relocating back home to Sheffield from Brighton, so I’m really excited to finally have the perfect excuse to make lots of home textiles. I’ve been bursting with ideas for cushions, throws, curtains and wall hangings for many years and I’m really looking forward to trying out some of them!