The Guardian is launching its Fashion Bloggers Network today, seeing a range of bloggers give their personal take on the world of fashion through posts on the Guardian website.
This might sound like something that doesn't hold much relevance for lovers of craft and sewing, but then we heard about Karen Ball. Her fashion blog is one with a twist. Did You Make That? isn't just pretty pictures of clothes, but a sewing, knitting and crochet blog, which is dedicated to Karen's handmade wardrobe.
Tell us a little about you – what do you do for a living?
I am Head of Editorial at a packager of children’s series fiction. I spend my days with a team of editors based in London and New York, brainstorming, writing storylines, commissioning authors, editing manuscripts and liaising with children’s publishers from around the world. It’s deeply creative and satisfying – yet I still seem to find time to sew and blog about sewing!
Why did you decide to start your blog?
It’s a fairly typical story – I’d been reading sewing blogs for some time and had an increasing sense that I wanted to contribute to the online sewing community in a more meaningful way than just by leaving comments on other’s blogs. I set up a blog with Wordpress and can distinctly remember my first reader comment. I was in the Royal Festival Hall when I saw it pop on my mobile phone and it was from an American blogger, Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch. A thrilling moment – someone was reading!
For anyone who’s not come across Did You Make That, can you sum up what you write about in one sentence?
Humorous and honest blogging about the bumpy journey of sewing and knitting!
What do you love about making your own clothes?
It’s a journey in inspiration. From seeing someone in the street whose outfit you’d like to duplicate, or noticing a pattern that makes your eyes light up or spotting a bolt of fabric and falling immediately in love, it can be really exhilarating and satisfying. Isn’t that so much more joyful than dragging clothes off a high street rack and walking reluctantly towards the changing room? Of course, not every sewing project works out, but I enjoy the journey towards (fingers crossed) perfection. A girl can dream!
Of course, not every sewing project works out, but I enjoy the journey towards (fingers crossed) perfection. A girl can dream!
Which of your creations are you most proud of?
It would remain the Vogue coat I finished in January 2012. I’d never made a coat before, and barely knew or understood what I was doing. I relied heavily on input from my readers. The cashmere wool was bought from Mood Fabrics in New York, the original inspiration came from an Australian blogger and advice came from around the world. When I finally shared my finished coat, it felt as though my international readers and I had all stumbled across the finish line together. As I told them at the time – WE made a coat.
What’s the most rewarding thing that comes from blogging?
Without a doubt, reader engagement. I often tell readers that the blog would be nothing without them, and it’s true. I love how a single blog post – often written quickly and spontaneously – can lead to a massive conversation in the follow-up comments. I like when my readers give me constructive feedback or suggestions and I love hearing when they’ve been inspired to make something. For me, it’s all and always about community. It’s a foolish blogger, indeed, who thinks it’s all about the cult of the individual! Communities build blogs.
How did you come to be a part of the Guardian’s Fashion Blogger Network?
They advertised in December 2012. I sent off a hasty application in my lunch hour – and then forgot all about the whole thing. Two months later, I received an email to say that my application had been successful and that they’d like me to blog for them. It was as simple as that. It took a few more months for the network to launch, and we had a very exciting day in The Guardian offices where all the bloggers met for the first time and were trained. I nearly didn’t apply, as didn’t feel that I ticked all the obvious fashion blogger boxes. I wasn’t young, beautiful with a vast wardrobe and an expensive camera. But I did sew and knew I could write, so when I thought again I wondered if my USP might be the exact fact that I wasn’t an obvious choice. I admire The Guardian in that none of their fashion blogger choices have been obvious. I think there’s going to be some exciting and invigorating debate!
Which are your top three blogs you just have to check in on?
What’s your most essential bit of making kit?
Ha! The seam ripper. When I first decided to sew something, I bought cotton, thread and … a seam ripper. Learning is all about making mistakes, and the seam ripper is every Sewist’s friend.