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Sewist Interview - Sue Miller

Firstly I would like to say that my thoughts, like many of you, are with all those people battling the blazes and suffering tremedous loses from the fires here in Aus at the moment....Of course I, like many, feel so powerless as I sit watching the horrible scenes unfolding on the TV. Life lost and the heartache of so many who have lost their home and indeed everything barr the clothes on their backs.... Such a long road ahead for many as they try to rebuild their shattered lives......So much sadness and heartache! Words cannot express.....

SO... for the moment at least, let's focus on something more FUN! Our next Sewist Interview - Sue of Fabric Garden here in Aus!

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Over to you Sue:

Sue Miller of Fabric Garden

When did you start to sew?

I almost can’t remember when I started to sew. Both my mother and my grandmother were always sewing and I remember sitting under my mom’s sewing machine picking up pins she had dropped with a magnet from a very early age (Should I even admit to this!). I think the first thing my mom taught me to do was latch hook, then tapestry and French knotting. My mom kept all my early attempts – but they are in South Africa – otherwise I might have embarrassed myself and taken some photos for this interview. I then moved to hand sewing and made clothes for my dolls. My nieces still play with my dolls and the clothes I made.

Soft Toy

My mom bought me my first sewing machine for my 20th birthday, it was a Singer. By then we were living in Cape Town and I was going to university there. Cape Town is the textile capital of South Africa and there are a huge number of fabric stores selling ‘seconds’ and discontinued lines. I loved trawling through these shops, finding some fabric and making clothes for uni. I didn’t buy many clothes at that time. I think I made my first pair of shorts on that machine.

About 18 months ago – I made an impulsive decision to start an online business selling modern quilting fabrics and patterns online. It seemed a logical extension of my love of all things sewing and computers.

Who taught you to sew or are you self-taught?

My mother taught me to sew – although she was very casual about things. Tacking or pinning was not encouraged. I remember when I was about 13 years old I had some home economics homework to do and, as usual was in tears because I had forgotten to do it, she did it for me. It involved sewing a couple of samples of the perfect seam at exactly 1.5cm. My mom whizzed up these seams in a second and I was shocked when I failed! Anyway, taught me a lesson and I am a lot more accurate.

When I was in my early 20’s and working at my first real job, I bought a new machine a Bernina and a Bernette overlocker (both of which I still have). It was all the rage to sew tracksuits using stretch material (it was the 80’s after all). Before then it was almost impossible on a domestic machine. Well I did numerous courses after work at the local Bernina shop. I think the whole world did a Stitch Witch course at that time!

I took up quilting about 5 years ago and have done 2 courses – one with Pam Davies of Picklemouse in Leura which involved making a sampler and another with Monica Poole where I made Dragonfly Cushion using raw edge applique. My niece was thrilled with the cushion.

Kayla's Monica Poole Dragonfly Cushion
What sort of things do you like to sew?

At the moment my passion is quilting (and has been for the last 5 years). I also love making soft toys. Over the years I have done dressmaking, tapestry, embroidery, knitting, crochet – basically anything craft related although I never did get into scrapbooking.

Gina's Quilt

Do you like to use patterns or do you prefer to make it up as you go along?

I prefer to use patterns – especially as I sell so many online. It is always great to make up the patterns so that I can test them and answer honestly whether a pattern is easy or difficult to make. I can also pick up if there are any errors and let the pattern maker know.

However, I often don’t follow the pattern exactly. I love to use the pattern as a guide and embellish it to give it my own take on it.

For example, I love modern, bright and vibrant fabrics. Older patterns can often be used with these fabrics – but the patterns need to be updated. This is the basis of the Modern Quilting Movement. If you haven’t started following some of their blogs – now is the time to start!

http://www.themodernquiltguild.com/

Have you made something that is your all-time favourite creation? If so, why?

My all-time favourite is a quilt I made for my niece Jade. It was based on a pattern called Love Birds from Don’t Look Now by Kellie Wulfsohn. It is 100% hand stitched (including the stippling). My mother was ill in South Africa after suffering a stroke and I was able to sit at her bedside and sew. She never got into the ‘fiddly’ stuff I did and I know that she used to watch me sew and I think it was soothing for her.

Jades Quilt
Do you have a favourite fabric type you prefer to work with? Favourite Fabric line or fabric designer?

One of my favourite designers is Kate Spain for MODA fabrics. I also love Kaffe Fassett and Amy Butler. The quality of their fabric is amazing it is wonderful to work with.

Any sewing secrets you would like to share?

I have a confession to make – I often only read pattern instructions after I have started cutting / sewing. Hence I make a lot of cutting errors. What I have learnt is that it doesn’t matter with quilting. Step back, have a look at the issue and then make up an inventive solution to solve the problem. Make it a feature of the quilt! Sometimes my mistakes have forced me out of my comfort zone and the result has been amazing.

What type of machine/s do you have?

I have a Bernina 1001 bought at least 25 years ago. I have been frantically finishing a quilt for a show our group is putting on and have really put her through her paces. She desperately needs a service! My mom passed away last year and I have her Bernina Activa 130. I had it serviced last year and when mine is in – I am finally going to pull it out and start using it. It is a least 10 years younger than mine.

Bernina Sewing Machine
Do you have any sewing goals?

I would love to use up my stash! I don’t think it will ever happen in my lifetime though.

Any UFO’s?

When I was younger I had hundreds of UFO’s and the most fantastic mother. She would sort out my UFO’s and finish them off for me. When I started quilting, I decided that I would finish every quilt before I started the next project. I also purpose buy most of my fabrics so relatively speaking my stash is not huge. I have one UFO, a friendship quilt that I started about 2 years ago. It is actually almost finished (I ran out of fabric and finally matched it up a couple of months ago).

My quilting group, The Barn Quilters of Mosman, decided on a project at the start of the year. The project was that everyone was to identify their oldest UFO. We all had to bring it in to our meeting at the start of the year and explain what it was and why we had not completed the project. We then had to commit to completing it by the end of the year. It will be fun to see everyone finally complete these projects.

UFO
When do you find time to sew?

Whenever I can – but in reality it is in the evenings and over weekends. I work full time as an IT Manager by day and moonlight running an online fabric store.

Do you have a dedicated sewing space or room?

I live by myself, so have my sewing machine permanently set up in my dining room, surrounded by bookshelves storing the fabric and patterns I sell online.  Long term I dream about opening up a bricks and mortar store perhaps in Crows Nest or Neutral Bay.

Sue's Sewing Area

Do you have any other hobbies you like to indulge in?

I wish I had the time to indulge in everything I want to do. I do read a lot, love travelling, scuba diving (although it has been a while since I last did this) and spend a lot of time reading blogs etc.

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You can find out more about Sue here:

BLOG * WEBSITE/SHOP * FACEBOOK * TWITTER * PINTEREST

Thanks for a FUN and interesting interview Sue! LOVE your work, I must say! Next week we have a Pattern Designer from Louisville, Kentucky… you know Kentucky, the place with the horses?? LOLLL Curious? Well you will have to wait until next week to find out more......

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