Meet the Maker: Sewing Expert Debbie Shore
Debbie Shore is a sewing expert and influencing personality who’s varied career has seen her on television, writing books, hosting tutorials on YouTube, and now designing her very own fabric patterns that are available to buy online and in store at Hobbycraft.
We’ve had an exclusive peek at Debbie Shore’s working process and inspirations. Read on to hear about her journey up until this point, and what we can look forward to next!
Tell us a little about yourself and what your practice involves:
My career over the last 40 years has been in television, and has been quite varied! From a Children’s ITV presenter to acting in soaps such as Brookside and Emmerdale, with a few commercials in between.
Sewing was always a hobby, I’ve enjoyed home décor and dressmaking from quite an early age. These areas of my life came together around ten years ago when I wrote my first book, ‘Making Cushion Covers’ published by Search Press and photographed by my very talented photographer husband Garie.
That was the first of 20 books so far and more to come! At the time I was working for a shopping channel, where I sold the book, and gradually I became so busy with the sewing these became the only shows I presented.
Writing books led to designing patterns, projects and magazines, and more recently my own ranges of fabric for The Craft Cotton Company. That really was a highlight of my career!
I also have a subscription web site, The half Yard sewing Club, with thousands of members worldwide who enjoy the projects, hints, tips and offers they receive each month.
How did you first become interested in textiles and sewing as a craft?
My mum was a dressmaker who had a room full of fabrics, boxes of patterns and so many tins of buttons! I would sew for hours, creating my version of ‘fashion’ for my dolls and teddies, decorating shoe boxes with little cushions and curtains and eventually making clothing for myself.
When I began sewing as a career I took myself off to the London College of Fashion to study dressmaking techniques but didn’t finish the course, Mum had taught me well!
What are some of your favourite sewing projects, and why?
I’ve always been interested in construction, so bags are some of my favourite things to design and make. I take great satisfaction in creating new shapes, incorporating zips and pockets, and I love a bit of metal hardware!
I’ve also trained in upholstery, a very different form of textile craft, grappling with springs, pincers and tacks, transforming old, unloved furniture into something beautiful.
I enjoy free motion embroidery, whether I’m stippling a quilt or embroidering applique, I use this method in many of my projects.
Can you show us your work space? How have you altered the space to suit you as a maker?
I don’t have a work space, I have a work house! Three rooms at the front of the house are dedicated to writing, filming and photography. But as I’m still writing so many books, every room in the house is at some point a set, even the garden shed regularly gets a make over to create a new look for a book or magazine!
I like to be organised, I can’t work in a mess, so storage is important to me too. I have a large walk-in cupboard full of clear boxes of samples and fabrics, shelving to hold bolts of fabric and baskets of interfacing and stabilisers. Button jars are in order of colour, and zips are stored in lengths. I have a couple of white boards on which I write deadlines and weekly plans.
What sorts of projects would you recommend to a beginner?
I’d say choose something small but practical, so if things go wrong you’re not wasting too much fabric. A sewing machine mat is ideal, decorate it with applique, quilt it, bind it so you’re learning a few techniques, it’s a useful project to keep noise down from your sewing machine and to prevent scratching your table, and if there are any wonky stitches they won’t be seen as it’ll be under your machine!
Why did you start a YouTube channel, and what response have you had from your growing audience?
I’m so proud of my YouTube channel, I have over 206,000 subscribers and receive up to 20,000 views a day!
I initially started it as many people find it easier to learn by watching rather than reading, and by taking notice of the feedback I’ve had over the years I now add text to the videos, with measurements in cm and inches, and instructions to make certain steps easier to understand for my deaf viewers.
Subscribers are from all over the world, mainly in the US but also Australia, India, Russia, China and of course UK! I receive many comments and acknowledge all of them, it’s lovely to hear from so many people from so many countries.
How did the opportunity come about for you to design your own fabrics?
I’ve thought about designing fabrics for a long time, so when I decided to go ahead I took myself off to University to study fabric design, so that I could understand the whole process. I didn’t just want to put my name to someone else’s work. I then approached Dani from The Craft Cotton Company, who said he’d be delighted to work with me! I’m now designing my fourth and fifth ranges!
What is the process of designing a pattern?
Firstly I discuss the subject of the design with Dani and his very talented fabric designer, Vicki. My fabrics are all personal, based on my house, garden and even holidays. I like to sketch the images, then watercolour them. I send the images over to Vicki, who tweaks the colours if necessary, advises if anything else is needed, then creates the layouts. When we’re all happy, a sample from the factory is made called a ‘strike off’, so that we can check the quality of the print. If no changes are needed and everything is approved the fabric is printed!
What inspired you whilst designing this new collection?
My latest collection of ten designs is called ‘Lily Pad’ and is based on sketches of the pond in my garden. Of course the lilies, bit also the garden furniture, fish, and the occasional visiting kingfisher!
Can you show us some of the early designs of the collection – what changes were made, and why?
These are some of my original sketches, as you can see from Vicki’s interpretation there is very little change! The main difference if the colour, with watercolour there are shades of the same colour, whereas in the fabric the colour is solid. A couple of the designs were changed to be non-directional, useful for quilters, and the pink lilies were given an outline to help them stand out more.
What do you envisage these fabrics being used to create?
The fabric quality is very high, so it’s suitable for quilting, dressmaking, and of course bags!
What’s next for you in 2019?
My Christmas range of fabrics, ‘Deck the Halls’ launches in the summer, and I have three more books to come this year, ‘Sew Outdoor Living’, ‘Build a Bag Backpacks’ and ‘Build a Bag satchels’. I’ll be working on more projects for The Half Yard Sewing Club and of course there’ll be more You Tube videos!