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Where are you from and where do you live now? What do you do other than sewing?
I was born in Surrey, England but eventually settled in West London where I work as a freelance Graphic Designer. My work is very creative and varied, and I currently have the absolute pleasure of designing childrens books. That said, I crave sewing time and my obsession grows by the day!

If we were to come to your town, where would you take us?
If you were to pay me a visit, there are a number of wonderful places I would take you to: galleries, brasseries, patisseries and, it goes without saying, fabric shops and haberdasheries! First stop: Goldhawk Road and the Shepherds Bush Market, a gateway to fabric heaven. There are about 14 fabric shops and stalls with notions!

As unglamorous as it might seem, I would also have to take you on a tour of all the charity shops between Chiswick, Hammersmith and Ealing, which, I am not kidding, have some amazing fabric selections and great quality clothes to refashion.

How did you start sewing?
I started sewing (again) just over a year ago. My mother taught me when I was very young. She is a seamstress and met my father, a pattern cutter, at Austin Reed in the late ‘50s. During the school holidays, I had a fabulous way of earning pocket money. I sat in the garden with my hand operated Vickers sewing machine, and sewed fob pocket linings to the BOAC pilot suits that my mum made. Luckily, the child labor police weren’t so hot in those days!


Left Photo: janene’s mum, her sister Caroline and a little janene. Right Photo: janene (on the right) in her favorite nightie.

My parents separated when I was five and that made me very sad. I decided I was going to be a fashion designer and the necessary link between my parents skills. That would force them back together, surely?! I drew pictures of my creations and pinned them all round my room.


janene (on the left) and her sister in matching dresses made by their mum.

Like most working class families, my mum struggled financially when I was young but nevertheless ensured we were well presented — in handmade clothes. I loved it to a point, until my girlfriends at school were all about what boutiques their clothes were from. I yearned for an outfit from Chelsea Girl or Dorothy Perkins and I (stupidly) began to reject my mum’s creations. It backfired, of course. There was no money in the pot for such extravagances and so if I wanted a new outfit I was going to have to make it myself.


janene, on the right, in a bridesmaid dress that her mum made.

My first proper garment was a lemon blouse with a mandarin collar and rouched 3/4 length sleeves with pearlised buttons and hand embroidered button loops – lots of them! It was so much work but I had a point to prove — and a party to go to. As I grew older, my time got shorter and I wasn’t very patient with all of the finishing, unless mum was “holding my hand” the whole time. I stopped sewing when I left home at 16. In any case, I had no time at all to sew, with all the jobs I did outside of college!

The reality of wanting to be a fashion designer had set in when I was constantly [told] “you may as well be a famous pop star!”

Where do you find inspiration?
The BurdaStyle community has played a huge part in renewing my passion for sewing. When I first joined in 2008, I couldn’t believe how many free patterns and resources lay waiting for me. It took me until 2010, though, to get brave and upload my first project! Goodness knows what I was waiting for!

I love having a record of what I’ve sewn at the click of a button and I have gained so much from the support and advice from the wonderful friends I have made along the way. I log in pretty much on a daily basis, and love looking at the recently submitted projects. Joining BurdaStyle led to me creating my own sewing blog. It’s a struggle sometimes to find the time to make the posts but I try to make it a priority, and I really value the comments that visitors leave.

I also buy BurdaStyle magazine and subscribe to a number of amazing sewing blogs but, in general, my inspiration comes from people-watching! Whether I am on my way to work, strolling round an art gallery, shopping or watching a movie, I am quite often not paying attention to the task in hand, and more likely scanning the decks for what everyone is wearing or how they are wearing it! I like quirky styles, particularly retro and vintage-inspired clothes. I keep cuttings from freebie mags on my tube journeys to work for design inspiration – for when I get more confident at pattern cutting!


Cuttings from freebie magazines.

Nonetheless, as much as I love street and vintage fashion, I can’t resist the world of exquisite designer fashion, and the wonderful talents of Vivienne Westwood or Alexander McQueen.


Designs by Vivienne Westwood.


Designs by Alexander McQueen.

What’s your sewing secret weapon? What trick or technique do your sewing projects always tend to include?
I don’t have any secret weapons to speak of; just a trusty Janome Sewist 525s that my mum recommended for a first machine, a beautiful pair of quality tailor’s scissors that my fiancé bought me as a gift and, more recently, an adjustable mannequin. No particular tricks or techniques, either, other than the aid of my mum’s voice in my ear, constantly reminding me to “measure twice before cutting, press fabric, seams and darts properly and at each and every stage, and finish those seams nicely!”

What is your sewing experience like?
I am a hobo sewer! I work and sew wherever there is space and less noise, usually in the bay window in the living room, sometimes in the kitchen or even in the bedroom. My fiancé is a bass (and double bass) player in a function band called The Redfords, my daughter plays the flute and my son likes to play X-box games with his own added sound effects! So, as you can see, I don’t need the help of any other music, but given the choice I would tap my foot pedal along to David Bowie every stitch of the way!


janene and her fiancé, Daniel.


janene and her three children.

What is your dream sewing project?
I have various dream sewing projects, which materialize on a regular basis, and it really is difficult to put them in order. But here is a first draft of the key dreams!

1. To design my own wedding dress (my mum is lined up to make it for me)
2. To have a totally handmade wardrobe – a contemporary and and a vintage version
3. To have a range of lingerie and corsetry.
4. To have a collection of dresses to sell in my Etsy shop.
5. To have a signature couturier piece!

What is the most frustrating thing about sewing for you? What is the most rewarding?
I would say the most frustrating thing about sewing for me is the lack of time I have to spend on it. As a freelancer, I feel compelled to say ‘yes’ to every job I am asked to do, just in case there’s a period without none. I work early mornings and late evenings so that I can do the school run and spend more time with my children. I don’t mind so much about my lack of sleep, but do mind my lack of sewing!


Janene’s sewing room.

The most rewarding thing about sewing is when I am complimented on something I have made. I quite often don’t admit that I have made it. I’m just thankful for the compliments and beam from the inside! I was approached in a supermarket by a young girl who asked where I got my skirt from. On this occasion, I did tell her that I made it myself and she was dead impressed. She asked if I would be at all interested in making one for her. I think that was the ultimate compliment.

Discover janene’s top ten favorite member projects!

71 Comments

  • Missing

    Dec 1, 2011, 01.00 PMby Lauren Fairley

    you working hard and you making good clodes and your sewing is very claen ….good luak.

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.39 PMby janene

      Thank you Lauren :-)

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    Dec 1, 2011, 10.01 AMby marnieann

    Thanks so much for sharing your sewing story. It was lovely to read…and now I must check out all the stuff you have made!

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.38 PMby janene

      Thank you for your lovely comment :-)

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    Nov 30, 2011, 07.54 PMby smileymari

    Love the vintage stuff and so would all my FB buddy’s :)

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.38 PMby janene

      Aw, thanks Smileymari :-)

  • P1090540kl_large

    Nov 30, 2011, 07.27 PMby kerstika

    What a lovely story and beautiful pictures of you, your family and your inspirations. I loved reading this, thanks for sharing :)

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.38 PMby janene

      Thank you for taking the time to read it! I am very flattered :-)

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    Nov 30, 2011, 07.23 PMby shopjomama

    Great stuff Janene! Keep on sewing!

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.36 PMby janene

      Thank you Shopjomama. I certainly will!

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    Nov 30, 2011, 12.21 PMby Rosy1964

    Hello, Janene! I wanted to say I greatly enjoyed this interview and learn some things about your life, many times people only know a “foreign face”, so I’m grateful to you for everything you shared with us. Your family life is incredibly fascinating!

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.36 PMby janene

      Thank you Rosy :-)

  • F56c9d0134e8b1fdd27201a106f800b5dfc0eb77_large

    Nov 30, 2011, 11.01 AMby racheblue

    Aw, wonderful story Janene, thanks for sharing :) I can relate very well to a lot of your childhood sewing experiences as well as your current love of charity shop supplies and freebie magazine pictures inspiration. May your creative juices keep flowing and please give London a big hug from me (now moved to Norwich – still creative but not quite the same) x

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.35 PMby janene

      Thank you Rachelblue. At least the internet means you can be anywhere and still reap the rewards of all the inspiring crafters of the world!

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    Nov 30, 2011, 10.18 AMby raving

    Loved reading this, a great story! Wonderful to see someone from London featured. I’m about to move into a flat in West London and I have to agree that Goldhawk road is a goldmine. I’d love to know more about charity shops though, I’ve only really explored Earl’s Court and King’s road charity shops.

    Also, the floral mini skirt is amazing.

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.34 PMby janene

      Thank you Raving. Congrats on your move to the West! There are some great charity shops in Chiswick, a little pricey but some fabulous retro finds. Hammersmith has 3 good ones 2 of which has great linen sections. Ealing bdy has 2 or 3 and the Oxfam quite often has good lengths of fabric but further on towards Hanwell it gets cheaper and with a lot more choice :-)

  • Threadbanger_av_large

    Nov 30, 2011, 10.08 AMby blueshoegal

    Loved reading this – you’d put it words things I think and feel about crafting/sewing and I have quite similar tastes in terms of designs/designs you admire – if you’ve not seen his stuff before, I’d think you’d like David david lachapelle’s photograph (I’d be surprised if you weren’t already aware of him) . I wish I lived in London (having all those fabric shops on my doorstep). If you ever need someone to trawl the charity shops with then let me know!

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.29 PMby janene

      Thanks Blueshoegal. I did recognise that style of photography, particularly the ones of David Bowie but I didn’t know that was the name of the Photographer. Thank you for pointing him out to me. Always happy for a charity shop buddy! :-)

  • Missing

    Nov 30, 2011, 08.22 AMby tickles

    Hi Janene. I really enjoyed your feature. Like you, I am addicted to fabric, colour, texture and amazing design and can’t get enough of it. You know, ‘so many ideas, so little time…’. I live in Australia, but visit family in the UK an hour out of London. I have actually taken fabrics with me on the plane to the UK because I was unaware of sources there. I too love the charity shops – affectionately known as ‘Op (opportunity) shops’ in Australia. Thanks for the hints re fabric spots and charity shops – I’ll certainly be checking them out on my upcoming visit. If other BurdaStyle members have any suggestions for my upcoming visit, I’d love the feedback. Burda is a favourite here in Aus too. My passion is reversible children’s clothing. I currently supply an outlet in a small village in UK and am hoping to get established on etsy soon. Thanks for your inspiration Janene!

  • Missing

    Nov 30, 2011, 08.22 AMby tickles

    This comment was deleted by the author.

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.22 PMby janene

      Thank you Tickles. Ah so thats what ‘Op shop’ means! Etsy is a lovely place. I hope to have some dresses there in the future.

  • Missing

    Nov 29, 2011, 11.05 PMby couturier159

    Dear janene. I live in south EAST London but otherwise our lives are very similar. My job was different and I decided to take the jump and retrain as a tailor. Savile row here I come. I now work as one and although sometimes find it challenging and frustrating, I love it !! Still the same though… Not enough time to sew what I like.

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.21 PMby janene

      How lovely. I do sometimes think about doing the same but I think the moment I make it a job it will be very different. Never say never though! :-)

  • Missing

    Nov 29, 2011, 10.51 PMby llobdell

    From what I can see, you are beautiful inside and out. It does help to surround oneself with inspiration…hoping one day I, too, will make the time to truly find myself and dress myself! By the way, where did you get those leopard/black shoes you’re wearing so well with your red/blue plaid dress???

    1 Reply
  • Missing

    Nov 29, 2011, 10.27 PMby Heychica

    Congrats on your feature, loved seeing the vintage pics and your evolution as a sewer!

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.16 PMby janene

      Thank you Heychica. If only there was more hours in the day… I’d sew vintage every day!

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    Nov 29, 2011, 09.22 PMby libra-s

    Congratulation on being featured! It’s was lovely to read your story and know you better.

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.16 PMby janene

      Thank you Libra-s :-)

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    Nov 29, 2011, 08.30 PMby uglybeat

    Love your style and your creations. Thanks for the inspirational story!

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.42 PMby janene

      Thank you so much Uglybeat :-)

  • Lady_large

    Nov 29, 2011, 04.49 PMby LadyDanburry

    Congratulations on being featured! The first time I saw you was when you posted the red/navy plaid dress, and I was so impressed.

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.42 PMby janene

      Thank you so much Lady Danburry. I am very inspired by your lovely creations :-)

  • Missing

    Nov 29, 2011, 02.21 PMby Monia Norén

    I´m so proud of you Nene. I´d love to walk in to your own designer shop one dayXX

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.41 PMby janene

      Hey Monia… what a lovely surprise. I’d like that too! Never say never! xxxx

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    Nov 29, 2011, 12.49 PMby handmade-jane

    This is so well deserved Janene, congratulations. I love the things you make and I really enjoyed reading about your background etc. Keep up the excellent work. xx

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.40 PMby janene

      Thank you so much Jane. Its all helped along by having lovely blogging friends like you! x

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    Nov 29, 2011, 12.11 PMby mokosha

    congrats on being featured, it’s well deserved, my friend :) .. it’s nice getting to know you a bit better

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.12 PMby janene

      Thank you so much :-)

  • Missing

    Nov 29, 2011, 07.13 AMby Sue Bremner

    Thanks fro the inspiration Janene.

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.12 PMby janene

      Bless your cottons, Sue :-)

  • Missing

    Nov 29, 2011, 03.37 AMby ggexpansive

    Thank you for telling us about yourself :) I want to take the time to tell you how happy I was to see the pretty things you sew, esp. the 1st dress! I also love your hair. Your mums o ring top is also very fun. Have fun sewing.

    1 Reply
    • Ooobop_thatched_house_large

      Dec 1, 2011, 07.11 PMby janene

      Thank you so much. I knew that bedsheet would be put to good use! 70s photos are always a source of amusement to me but my mum always managed to look cool!

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