Becoming a knicker-stitching junkie

Learn to sew, felt and fascinate at the Makehouse

Anabelle Fournier learns to sew her own underwear in a workshop at The Makehouse.

Anabelle Fournier learns to sew her own underwear in a workshop at The Makehouse.

The description of the workshop on The Makehouse website gives fair warning: “making knickers is highly addictive!” But, not deterred by the apparent danger of becoming an underwear-stitching junkie, I signed up for the three-hour activity.

I hadn’t touched a sewing machine in about 10 years, and I doubted that I had the proper skills. But, as The Makehouse owner Jennifer Ambrose knows from years of teaching sewing, “a lot of people feel like they can’t. And then when you show them that they can, people get a real buzz from it.”

After creating my own pair of knickers, I felt proud, elated and yes, buzzed. There’s something special about seeing how such an ordinary item of clothing is constructed and then repeating the process yourself. “It’s about tapping in your own creativity, challenging yourself,” Ambrose tells me. And while my first creation is rather prosaic, I can definitely see the creative possibilities.

In the world of fast fashion and big-box stores, the art of making your own clothing (let alone your own underwear) is being lost faster than you can thread a sewing machine. But not for Ambrose: “My parents were both DIY people. My mom did a lot of sewing; all my clothes were homemade or hand-me-downs. I spent a lot of time in her sewing room.”

After a few years designing and selling an eco-fashion label in London, England, Ambrose started giving workshops at The Makery in Bath, a sewing space similar to The Makehouse. “I was really happy with this job. I realized that I really loved being with people,” she says. When The Makery started giving workshops for kids and teenagers, Ambrose felt right at home: “It’s amazing spending your time with creative children, helping them learn to sew and seeing their ideas come to life. It’s so much fun to work with kids.”

After moving to Victoria, Jennifer decided to open her own Makery-inspired workshop: “I wanted to create my own version of the place where I was so happy.” When she got her hands on the current Makehouse space (833 ½ Fort), she received help from the Victoria community in the form of free furniture, yards of fabric, hundreds of vintage patterns, feathers, buttons, lace and other knick-knacks.

“I had to give away a lot of stuff when I left England, and it’s come back tenfold … Everything I have ever loved or learned is combined in this space. This is my dream job and I can’t believe I get to do this.”

Since last October, The Makehouse has expanded its workshop offerings to include activities such as painting, needle felting and even making your own fascinators. But Ambrose is especially excited about some new activities for the summer: the DIY Wedding workshops in June and the weekly creative summer camps for kids in July.

The DIY Wedding workshops will give future brides the possibility to plan and fabricate their own wedding items for “The Paper”, “The Look”, “The Details” and “The Memories.”

“I think people spend unnecessary money on weddings,” Ambrose explains, and these workshops are meant to save brides hundreds of dollars on things they can make themselves.

In July, The Makehouse will offer four-day creative camps for kids and teenagers between nine and 14 years old. They will learn sewing, painting and other creative techniques to fabricate things based on themes such as eco-fashion, “By the Sea”, dolls and puppets, music and dance. M

 

By Anabelle Fournier

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
Vancouver Island children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
B.C. musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s close connection to director led to rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

This image released by SYFY shows Meredith Garretson, left, and Alan Tudyk in the new series "Resident Alien." (James Dittinger/SYFY via AP)
B.C.-shot ‘Resident Alien’ invader gets lift-off with viewers

New Syfy series catching on, proving TV doesn’t have to come from premium cable

West Coast-themed metal art by Nanaimo artists Hayley Willoughby (pictured), her father Jack and partner Blair LeFebvre is on display in the window of Lululemon at Woodgrove Centre from now until March 13 as part of the store’s monthly local artist program. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Metal artists present cross-generational show at Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre

Work by Hayley Willoughby, her partner and father on display in Lululemon window

Vancouver Island Symphony principal violinist and concertmaster Calvin Dyck is among the musicians performing in the upcoming Salmon and Trout concert. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Vancouver Island Symphony will make a splash with fish-themed quintets concert

Performance was to take place in November but was rescheduled due to COVID-19

Nico Rhodes, Lucas Smart, James McRae and Kosma Busheikin (from left) recorded their set for the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival’s online video series at the Harbour City Theatre in December. (Photo courtesy François Savard)
Music starts next week at online Nanaimo International Jazz Festival

Ten free, virtual performances to occur over three weeks in March

The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
 The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
Victoria calls for artists to fill Commercial Alley gallery

Competition open to artists in the Capital Regional District

Cowichan Valley author Teresa Schapansky’s books for young readers have become a phenomenon on Amazon. (Submitted)
Cowichan author tops Amazon charts

Award-winning author Teresa Schapansky learned of a need for low-level readers in the classroom

Nadia Rieger restocks some of the art supplies at the Crows Nest Artist Collective. Their move to stocking more art supplies over the course of the pandemic was a response to increased demand, which she thinks shows people have been turning to creating art to cope with mental health struggles due to lockdowns and restrictions on other activities. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Vancouver Islanders using art to conquer COVID blues

It seems people have been turning to their creative sides to stay mentally and emotionally healthy

Chris Bullock, Parksville artist, stands next to his ‘Mermother’ series, on display at the McMillan Arts Centre until Feb. 29. Bullock himself will be at the MAC from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. every Saturday until the end of the month. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville artist Chris Bullock’s unique illustrations on display

‘I’m heavily influenced by old comic book styles from the 1950s’

VIU music instructors Hans Verhoeven, Ben Henriques and Ken Lister (from left) are presenting a weekly jazz performance series with pianist James Darling (not pictured). (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
VIU music instructors presenting online jazz concert series

Musicians getting ‘back in shape’ performing American Songbook standards

Most Read