Happily married with two children and living in a converted shed on acreage about an hour outside Canberra, Ange Hamilton dreams about building an energy passive house and being self sufficient. She’s also a passionate sewist with a home full of handmade comfy cushions and snuggly quilts!
Ange found time to take five with us and share her sewing story.
How did your sewing journey begin?
I had sewing lessons in high school but didn’t enjoy it in the slightest. We spent two months sewing a pair of shorts in horrible fabric that in the end didn’t fit me and went straight to the bin!
After the birth of my daughter, I struggled to find dresses in prints that I liked, at a price I could afford. So I decided to try my hand at making my own clothes again and bought my first sewing machine 8 years ago.
I enrolled in a basic dressmaking class at a local fabric store – which was a great introduction to sewing – and spent the next few years making clothes for my children. It was also a great skill to have after my 18 month old daughter was diagnosed with hip dysplasia and needed to spend 6 months in a hip spica cast (a cast from chest down to both ankles) and then a brace.
Unfortunately along with having a little toddler stuck in a frog leg position we also couldn’t find any clothes to fit her. So I used my sewing skills to make her pants that we could pull over her head like a skirt and then button up over her cast. It was wonderful to have a hobby that I loved and also meant I could help my little girl gain her confidence back as it stopped strangers staring at her whenever we left the house.
What do you make now?
As my children got older they preferred shop bought clothes over handmade ones which meant I was free to discover a new type of sewing – patchwork!
One of my favourite fabric designers Tasha Noel , had a great blog which had links to lots of other fabulous patchwork bloggers like Amy Sinibaldi from Nana Company and Kerri Horsley from Lovely Little Handmades. From their accounts I discovered the quilting community on Instagram.
I initially made small projects like purses, cushions and single quilt block wall hangings which is why when I joined Instagram I named my account A Little Patchwork. I still love working on small scrappy projects, using lots of fabric from various collections but in the last year I have also started sewing larger projects such as quilts.
Where do you sew?
Living in a tiny space in a converted shed means space is at a premium. For the first few years after we moved I sewed standing up at the kitchen bench and would have to pack everything away to prepare meals. I now have a dedicated space underneath our stairs in a corner of the lounge!
Ikea has made this very workable, as I use the Norden drop leaf table for my sewing machine (when I’m sewing I prop both sides up so I have space for my cutting mat) and all my fabric and tools are on Raskog utility carts which I can push under the lower stair section when I’m not using them.
Where do you get ideas?
Instagram is a huge inspiration for me! I don’t have time to attend quilt guild meetings but the quilting community is so generous and supportive I feel like I am part of a global guild. It’s a great platform for being inspired by the fabric or project choice of others but its also fantastic if you want advice on how to learn a new technique or pattern.
I also borrow a lot of quilt books from the library and spend way too much time on Pinterest.
What’s a typical day like for you?
On weekdays I get up at 5am to get my children ready for school and myself ready for work. Then we spend most afternoons racing to after school activities like swimming and ballet.
The weekends are our family time and often spent working on our home or garden. However everyday I always make time for sewing, whether that is grabbing a few minutes on the sewing machine while dinner cooks or hand sewing in the evenings on the couch while we watch TV.
Then and now – has your sewing style/technique changed much?
Practicing sewing every day has meant my sewing techniques have definitely improved. I have also come to understand the importance of using the right tool for the right job (like the difference using a rotary cutter and a 1/4 inch seam foot make when it comes to getting accurate quilt blocks).
What are you currently working on?
I am looking forward to making a Christmas themed quilt using Heather Ross’ latest collection Sugar Plum. I also want to start making gifts like foldover pouches and totes for Christmas, as this year I’m hoping to be super organised rather than panic sewing on Christmas Eve…
Any future plans?
The next technique I want to learn is free motion quilting – it was one of the main reasons I was drawn to buying a Janome Memory Craft!
Your best sewing advice is…
Embrace the imperfection.
When you fixate on getting a perfect finish it can often prevent you from finishing which means you end up having a pile of unfinished projects in a cupboard rather than a slightly wobbly finished quilt for your family to snuggle under.
Share something people don’t know about you…
I am a huge fan of Kylie Minogue – I have been ever since she first appeared on Henderson Kids in the late 1980s. My love for Kylie has now been passed on to my children and we are all hoping she’ll tour Australia again soon!