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Saturday, 20 February 2016

Meet Our Members: Noela's Story

One of the highlights of the Australian Sewing Guild Convention is the Sewing Challenge, which is open to entries from all Guild members.  At the 2015 Convention, Noela McKernan was the overall points winner, and winner of the Debutante’s prize!  We had a chat with with Noela to learn more about her sewing journey, and her involvement in the Guild.  Enjoy!

Why did you join the Guild?  I saw the ASG stand at one of the craft shows and went to see what it was all about. I discovered that my closest group met in the Community Hall in the estate near me which is less than 5mins from where I live.

Which group do you belong to? Buttons & Bows, Kallangur, Queensland.

What is the best thing about your group? The friendships I have gained.

When did you start sewing? While still in primary school. My mum sewed for us on her treadle machine and I would sit and watch her and cut up fabric and make dolls clothes by hand. At that stage she would not allow me to use the machine.

Who taught you to sew?  I first learnt to sew while at primary school in the late 50s early 60s. We attended Windsor State School in Brisbane for domestic science classes on a weekly basis. The first thing I remember sewing was the sampler we did there - it was all handwork - starting with learning the basics. I continued my sewing adventure at High School where I really gained the love of sewing. We were taught the basics of pattern drafting and garment construction. I can remember our mother telling my sister and myself that now we had learnt to sew she would no longer make our clothes for us. Luckily for me I enjoyed sewing and was pretty good at it. And by this time we finally had an electric machine.

Throughout the years I made the majority of my clothes for work. Once my daughter Michelle started ballet, the costumes required for concerts gave me another avenue to enhance my sewing skills. There were tutus and costumes of all descriptions to make over the years. Once high school came around it became time to start making formal dresses. For some years while still working I was also into making wedding and bridesmaids dresses. All this type of sewing is what increases your knowledge, skills and abilities.

I was never afraid to say yes I can do that and then hope all would turn out as expected – fortunately it did.

How did you improve your skills?
  • I attended TAFE learning advanced pattern making and garment construction
  • I had lessons for sewing with stretch fabrics, I attended other workshops and I practiced what I had learnt.
  • By checking how the garments (especially the better designers) in shops were constructed as in those days the manufacturing was still done in Australia
  • Books were a great source of reference and still are.
  • The internet is now a good source of learning and I have enrolled in some Craftsy lessons
  • I don’t limit myself to just dressmaking. I also attend craft classes learning different techniques along the way. With sewing you are always learning.
What is your best tip or technique to pass on to other ASG members?  Enjoy what you do. Never be afraid of trying something new. Be open to new ideas. Remember there is no right or wrong way to sew something. Do what works for you. Try to have your garments looking just as good on the inside as they do on the outside.  I love to do piping and include this in my sewing as much as possible and have done so for many years.  Invisible zips are just the best as they give your garment a nice finish.

What advice would you give a young person new to sewing? The best advice I would give a young person is:
  • Take lessons and learn the basics and build your knowledge from there.
  • Never be afraid to try something different.
  • Ask questions if you don’t know how to do something. Join a sewing / craft group - there can be a wealth of knowledge amongst members in these groups and people are only too happy to help.
  • Use the Internet to your advantage - there is a lot of information out there today.
What advice would you give to anyone entering or thinking about entering the next Convention challenge? Be very clear with your understanding of the criteria for any challenge/competition and ensure your entries meet these criteria. Sewing and finishing off of any garments should be flawless.

Do you have any photos of your early sewing efforts? I have attached a couple of photos of a dress I made for my daughter when she was around 6yrs. Originally it was for her first ballet exam and then I added the frill so that she was able to wear it to church. As you can see by the lace daisy it is quite old. It would be around 38yrs old now.

One last thing is never say ‘I can’t do that’ - you never know unless you try. You just may prefer one genre of sewing to another but you never know unless you give it a try. I thought I would never try patchwork / quilting as I could not see the sense of cutting fabric into small pieces and then sewing it back together. I have given it a go and will keep doing it occasionally but dressmaking will always come first.

The 2016 National Australian Sewing Guild Convention will be held in Cairns from Monday 10th October to Thursday 13th October, but the sewing challenge is already underway! Read more here.