When I attended my interview to become a Design & Technology teacher, I was asked to talk about the project of which I was most proud. Well, this was a no brainer! Without a moment’s thought I launched into my ‘Woollies’ story….
…In order to clinch, what was for me in the early 90’s, a huge deal to supply Woolworths with fabric for little girls dresses, I designed a floral fabric print, sent it to a Turkish supplier for colourway ‘strike offs’, ordered a sample length of the colourway selected by the buyer, made up a garment myself and went back to Woollies on a mission to clinch that deal. And clinch it I did. My first big order for 50,000m of fabric, which I then coaxed through production in Turkey to its final delivery and garment manufacture in the UK. The remnants of the original sample length I used at home to create a dress and matching sun hat for my niece who was 2 at the time…this two piece was 4 years later handed down to my daughter!
To see my own print design made up into dresses hanging in the shops and knowing that I was involved with their journey from concept to completion gave me a huge sense of achievement. I went on to teach not just textiles but also graphic design and business. However, sadly, the UK government in it’s wisdom, decided to remove textiles from the curriculum in 2017. What was it thinking? At a time when it is more important than ever that we all consider the impact our clothing has on the environment. When we need to design and create new products with less environmental impact and when we need to educate how to reduce the impact of the fashion industry by selecting environmentally friendly fabrics, upcycling, recycling and making our own clothes. But this change in the curriculum was a double-edged sword for me. It gave me the push I needed to leave teaching and set up my own business. I could now not only continue the fun I had introducing teens and young adults to sewing and to make the whole process a little easier for them, but also return to what gives me most satisfaction. I could again be involved in a product from creation to completion, and now, having complete autonomy, be able to do so following a sustainable low waste/no waste ethos.
To encourage more people to take up sewing by making the process easier I first had to identify the issues. There were four problem areas for my students when learning how to make their own clothes. The first was in the correct selection of fabric, the second was in the cutting of it. The third was the misplacing of pattern pieces or instructions half way through the making process in a class of up to 30 students, each with a different pattern in a confined shared space! Finally, following the jargon of the instructions, assuming they had not been misplaced, lead to much pulling out of hair!
Now fabric is NOT cheap these days, neither is a good selection of types or colours easy to come by unless purchasing on-line and then how can an appropriate fabric be selected without fabric knowledge and without first handling it? Many a student turned up to lesson with a length of totally inappropriate fabric or interfacing because an unscrupulous haberdasher prayed on their ignorance to off load some old unwanted or faulty stock. When it came to cutting, the enthusiasm to get constructing and sewing often got the better of students and led to pieces cut upside down, the wrong size, back to front or simply led to a teenage strop as cutting lines went awry because it wasn’t easy to control the fabric sheers. Bear in mind that many students have not used fabric sheers or large scissors before they enter secondary school so don’t know how to hold them until this point.
Through the years I spent teaching I saw hundreds of meters go to waste due to cutting errors but also because pattern manufacturers, the vast majority of the time, over estimate the amount of fabric needed for each garment to cover themselves for errors. My two huge ‘scrap’ boxes had to be emptied each year as they did not have the capacity to hold all the waste produced, despite recycling projects in lower school.
No matter how I emphasised the importance of taking care when packing up at lesson end invariably, during the chaos that could ensue in an effort to be first class in the dinner queue or on the bus home, pattern pieces or instructions were misplaced or torn. This resulted in more tantrums, delays and extra cost while new patterns were ordered.
I realised that these problems and distractions exist not just in the classroom but to all inexperienced home sewers and often even seasoned ‘sewists’. After over 40 years of sewing clothes I can still make silly mistakes when rushing or due to the many distractions of modern-day life. Et Voila…. the idea of Cut Couture Kits was inspired.
Pre-selected first quality sustainable fabric ideal for the proposed style and perfect for dying to whatever colour is required. Precision pre-cut fabric panels using industrial methods ensuring no errors, maximum efficiency and removing the need for patterns. YouTube tutorials removing the need for large unwieldy paper pattern instructions. Styles designed to wrap or gather in relaxed sizes to fit all removing the need for synthetic and difficult to insert fastenings. Components selected for their suitability and their natural biodegradable properties. All delivered in recycled, recyclable and biodegradable packaging.
My Mother taught me, ‘if you want a job doing, do it yourself’. Cut Couture has given me the opportunity to do just this. To design, problem solve, pattern draft, develop, source materials/packaging, to pack, bring to market, teach through YouTube ‘how to’ videos, and most importantly, to do it all with sustainability at the forefront of my thinking.
Through Cut Couture I aim to respect the origins of textiles and garment making, from the best of industrial practice to the creativity and individuality of home sewing. I hope to enable and inspire more people to find the satisfaction of simply making, of being creative and of getting the job done well, by doing the job themselves.
In establishing Cut Couture I am employing knowledge learnt over many years. From my parents and grandparents, from my time in the garment making industry and from working with young creatives in textiles education. I hope you find as much fulfilment in the sustainable and ethical making and colouring or embellishing of your own individual garments as I did in providing you with the kit to do so.