Meet the Maker: Sewing Expert Miss Libby Rose

From beautiful hand-sewn embroidery to dress making with a sewing machine, you can pretty much get started with anything, with a little help from YouTube and friends! We had a chat with Miss Libby Rose, one of our favourite sewing teachers, designers and sewing experts. Libby is an accomplished sewer and seamstress, regularly teaching classes on a variety of techniques for both adults children. We caught up to ask her about her extraordinary job, top tips, and what gets her inspired.

During 2017, we teamed up with Libby for the Pink Bus Project, which saw her travel to over 60 of our stores nationwide to provide sewing workshops to the local communities.

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Check out her latest video below, and read a recent interview by Craft Business here – all about how sewing makes you smile and mends the soul!

How did you get into sewing?

I learnt to sew as a child, from my mum who is a fantastic seamstress. She used to be able to make everything from anything! My sisters and I would often help in her workshop at home, which was great because it meant she could be at home with us girls and still work and be creative!

As I grew, so did my love for all things design related – excelling in Design and Media Studies at school, I went on to study fashion which led to my working in the textile industry both in Australia and London. Diversions led me into Architecture and studying Architectural Interior Design which is my other passion. Although you may think I spread fluff and sparkles everywhere (which I do..) I also have a thing for concrete and steel, and mixing modern with traditional architecture. I was lucky enough to help the Architectural team on the refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall!

What was the very first thing you remember sewing?

As I got into my early teens I started to make things on my own – remember making contrasting tops and trouser outfits…

Have you had any sewing mishaps, and if so, what were they?

It’s never a mistake – there’s always something very cool that comes out of any difficult stituation in the sewing room! Keep your cool and go with it!

What are your favourite sewing projects?

I love making dresses – especially for me!

How do you get inspired? Is there anybody you follow for inspiration?

I’m actually really into architecture and interior design so I follow a lot of designers and Architects such as the late Zaha Hadid, once described in the Observer magazine as the ‘queen of the curve’. I also love vintage style from 20’s flapper Louise Brooks , Greta Garbo to 30’s chic, and of course 40’s and 50’s glamour. Audrey Hepburn is a true style icon, Marilyn Monroe (One of my most famous pieces from my fashion days is a ‘wiggle skirt’ based on Marilyn Monroe.)

Describe your sewing space to us:

I have a section in my home dedicated to sewing and making that looks out to the garden. The window sill is always housing plants, so they get lots of sunshine and a mini chandelier in the window. My table is pale pink that I’ve up-cycled myself, and I’m always surrounded by new samples I am making for classes.

Why did you decide to start teaching sewing?

It just evolved really from having a fashion business – I got a bit disheartened with the industry and it’s actually quite a lonely place being the boss and always checking to see if anyone has made a mistake (BORING!!!). I am a much more social and happy person since I decided to be a full time sewing teacher.

It’s wonderful meeting new people of all ages and it helps spur my creativity with the questions I get asked in classes. I have found something I love and I’m sticking to it! It’s perfect being able to share my passion and help people to grow their sewing skills – plus I love to see the confidence it gives people when they achieve something fabulous!

Are there any other crafts you enjoy other than sewing?

With an Italian background, I absolutely love cooking. I also love growing herbs for cooking; I have a chilli garden, roses, and lavender that I use for my crafts.

I also enjoy up-cycling vintage furniture (although this does get a bit messy so I can’t do it as often as i’d like) – I’ve recently restored a cupboard that’s been stripped back, shabby-chic pinked with new spotty door knobs, and it’s going pride of place into the pink bus! I’m going to try my hand at decoupage again, as I used to love this as a child, and with all the wonderful papers and accessories that I’ve seen in Hobbycraft, I want to get back into it!

I also love dancing – it’s so great to get the heart racing and the body moving, which helps me to come up with new ideas!

What’s trendy in the sewing world right now?

I don’t know about the wider world of sewing, but in my after school clubs the younger participants (7-11 years) loooove Strictly, so there’s often a lot of sequin, sparkle and bows added to garments and accessories. The older kids (11-14) are given a lot of free range to design outfits, so we’ve had everything from vogue-inspired vintage dresses to playsuits.

Give us five top tips for beginners to sewing:

  1. Dont give up! If at first you don’t succeed, turn it into something else!
  2. Read and follow instructions only for as long as you have to. Create the rules yourself and break them to see what happens..
  3. If your machine starts to ‘play up’ or stitches skip, try changing your needle in the first instance; sewing machines don’t like a blunt needle and neither does your precious work!
  4. Never fill up a half full bobbin. Use a stitch ripper to take out the remaining thread, or use it up before refilling a bobbin
  5. Ask an expert (or Google) instead of battling through – you never know someone could give you a tip that could save you hours!

Where do you find inspiration for your sewing projects?

Swimming! On the surface this may seem a little strange but I find swimming an inspiration for my creative life. Each morning I try and swim for at least 20 minutes to half an hour. This gives me the mind-space i need to get the creative juices pumping for new and wonderful ideas!

Sewing classes. The more I teach and interact the more the ideas flow. There is a quote that says ‘While we teach we learn’ by Seneca the Younger, and this is so true. From kids asking amazing questions to adults throwing in new ideas or queries, every day that I teach I learn new possibilities that then topple over into the next sewing class, blog post, or live workshop.

And then there is always Pinterest. What a fantastic creative explosion of ideas! I try and keep my own boards updated with new ideas ‘Miss Libby Rose makes’ and look to others to see whats happening in the world of craft all over the world.

Which sewing/haberdashery tool couldn’t you live without?

Heat & bond – I love this stuff! I know if you have used it yourself you will be as well. I am often found cutting shapes for applique using Heat n Bond making stitching around shapes so much easier than pinning them on and the thought that the inevitable lump might happen! It also makes cutting out fabric using the Cricut explore machine a breeze!

Chopsticks…I know right? I have chopstick in my sewing tool kit at all times.
great for poking out corners, pushing through tricky lining and any pesky little bits that don’t want to ‘turn through’.

What’s your top tip for someone looking to start sewing?

Just start! A lot of people are finding it hard to start as it is so overwhelming with all the possibilities out there, but I suggest to just start and get making a simple project asap. This will give you the confidence to make more and more and more! Before you know it you’ll be starting a small business on the side selling craft online or at your local craft market! GO FOR IT!

Ask questions!Ask as many people as you can for ideas, pointers and suggestions, you can never have too much advice. Try before you buy. Go on a workshop or join in on a local sew-a-long before rushing out to buy a machine as you will get a feel for the right type of machine for you .

Have fun. Most of all have fun and dont be afraid to go a little bit off-piste!


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