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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!


  • Ghetto_girl_goes_to_colo__large

    Dec 7, 2011, 04.17 AMby turtlegirl00

    so glad to read your feature!! :) you have a wonderful sense of style and great skills! thanks for being a motivating and inspiring member of burda.

  • Me1_large

    Dec 4, 2011, 09.08 PMby fashionfreek

    What a lovely read about your experiences. I love your style. All the best to you and your family. I will keep a look out for your future projects.:-) (p.s your mum seems like an amazing lady.:-))

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    Dec 4, 2011, 12.03 PMby missjackieo

    I’m loving your style , very inspiring to see all your projects .

  • Cali_large

    Dec 3, 2011, 12.06 AMby threadsquare

    I am just head over heels with this interview. Your style, your story, heck even your hair… it all really speaks to me. If I could afford it, I would book a ticket for a tour of London with you this instant. Though you’d have to keep a close eye on your closet ;)

  • 22_05_11_005_large

    Dec 2, 2011, 08.56 PMby sewtake2

    I was really excited when I saw you were a Featured Member-I love everything you make and it was lovely to hear about your life-you seem to pack an awful lot in to every moment. I wish I lived near the charity shops that you have in London-the dress you made with the vintage sheet is just amazing and so unique.

    I work full time and spend a lot of time with my grand children at the weekends so I too get up early and give up a bit of sleep to get sewing done. I always have a great day if I’ve done something creative before I even get to work! I’d have more time if I just sewed but I’m addicted to knitting as well!

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