On Saturday I visited The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace and spent the day looking at all things handmade. The first session I attended was the Mollie Makes Mash Up at the Super Theatre tent. Inside a large big top tent a huge audience of passionate crafters watched Jamie ‘Mr X Stitch’ Chalmers take on Lisa Comfort in a crafty challenge. Their task was to each take a plain calico tote bag sold from Hobbycraft and to transform it into something to wear. With a basic Brother sewing machine available to use and 45 minutes, the battle commenced…
Both Jamie and Lisa had chosen to create an apron, I thought it was a great choice of a wearable item as it can be made into any style and shape. Using the tote as their blank canvas they both started by unpicking the seams of the tote and then each went off into their own styles of making. Whilst they were making their aprons we could see what they were doing on the screen behind them and the close ups being filmed.
Jamie had some fun at the start by saying he was making two items, a bandana and an apron and tied a spare piece of his calico bag round his head. Lisa joined in and added a pretty piece of ribbon to her hair do too.
The concept of the mash-up was really intriguing, throughout the session it became really clear how distinct both makers are in their style and approach to handmade. Jamie decided his apron was going to have a punk feel and Lisa’s an element of precision and her signature vintage style. Over the 45 minutes the pair entertained us, talking through what they were making, telling us a few techniques, and we got to find out more about them, their businesses and their personalities too.
Jamie created a punk style lap apron, it was almost like a utility belt, he dismantled the entire tote with an unpicker and stitched on front pockets to his apron. He hadn’t had a lot of experience with a sewing machine before but managed to create a great wearable piece. The apron was embellished with typography and statements using Tulip fabric pens and was roughly hemmed to finish it off and give it a distressed punk craft feel. The lettering he created on the front of the apron was impressive for the time he had and the idea of combining wording on a worn item using different styles of typography was a really interesting and different concept.
Lisa unpicked the majority of the tote and cleverly used one of the handles of the tote bag as the strap of the apron that goes over your neck. Lisa talked us through that she was using a box pleat and gathering to create the look she wanted. Using a mix of off the cuff sewing with no pins, and then precision pinning for the box pleat and gathering, she whipped up an impressive and pretty apron, using ribbons to add trimmings and covering up a few of the seams. The ribbons used were bright and sourced from India and added a great addition to the apron. Lisa finished her item so neatly, pressing and positioning her item initially on a mannequin to tidy up and check that the ends were trimmed and tidy.
It was a really entertaining session, with lots of laughter and was something I thoroughly enjoyed watching. The way the mash-up was set up and filmed so that each of their items as they made them close up, gave you a small peak into their day to day world of handmade and just how each of them are very skilled in their own way and have a very different approach to making. At the end of the 45 minutes we took a vote to say whose item was our favourite, the vote was really close but Lisa won overall with her pretty traditional apron that she named ‘Pinelope’ (a clever name suggestion from the audience!).
The Mollie Makes Mash Up showed me how much you could make in the time given and how much one item can be transformed into something completely different with a creative approach. During the session I saw a clever mix of different approaches and styles to the task both Lisa and Jamie had in front of them. I will try to remember the way they both approached the task to inspire me next time I sit in front of my sewing machine. With lots of focus and determination and my sewing station set up I wonder what I could create in 45 minutes? I think after seeing this I may give it a go!