Spotlight on…Abi’s Den

Craft 07/06/2021

Abi tells us how she gained her sewing expertise and sewing machine repair skills, as well as what inspires her to teach thousands of people through her popular YouTube channel, ‘Abi’s Den’.

 

Firstly, please tell us about yourself and what you do?

Hey Daylight, thanks for having me! Primarily, I am a dressmaker, sewing machine enthusiast and engineer. I repair sewing machines and overlockers and teach the wider community (on YouTube) how to sew and how to save money by taking care of their machines.

 

What do you enjoy most about your work and why?

I enjoy sewing and playing with machines, so I get to do both here and I love interaction with people in general. When I hear I have saved people money, saved a machine from the scrap pile, or that the learning has empowered people, particularly women, makes me proud. Engineering is sadly seen as a ‘man’s’ job and to feel I have given women confidence to work on their own machines is amazing.

 

How did you first become interested in sewing?

Sewing is something I had around me in my family. I grew up wearing only handmade clothes. We used to employ tailors to make clothes until I was older (in my teens) and then I started sewing my own clothes. My mother and sisters created wonderful pieces through sewing, knitting, hand embroidery and crochet. Sewing was right for me, I got to play with machines. I was fairly proficient at sewing by the time I was in high school, so I found the class hard work because it moved so slow. School put me off sewing for a long time. All that aside, I had learned so much from my sewing teacher, but I wish I enjoyed it then, I would have asked more questions, I have never met anyone as good as her.

 

You’ve build an impressive and engaged following in a relatively short amount of time, particularly on YouTube! Please tell us about your journey on social media- when did it first start?

This all began with losing my mother just a few years ago. I found calm and a closeness to her when I sewed soon after losing her. My best friend pushed me into teaching her, and helping her with small projects. I started teaching kids after school to fill up the time I suddenly had. YouTube happened when parents were asking for extra support when their kids went home and forgot how to do something. It was to help just one or two people. I didn’t expect anyone else would watch the videos I made. It’s still strange to me that someone is watching one of my videos right now.

 

You teach people how to make cushions, skirts, masks and everything in between! Where do you get your creative inspiration from?

I have always made each video with a person in mind. The videos are requested by a mum of a child or if I am making gifts for someone. I still only sew projects that will be useful to someone. I think people use far too many pins so I use as few as possible. I personally prefer not to use any.

 

What types of videos or posts do you particularly enjoy creating? Is there a specific project you’ve worked on that stands out to you the most?

My favourite videos are for quick clothes. Ones where people have commented that it’s helped them understand to create something from scratch. The Lined Sari Jacket and Lounge Pants videos that I made are my favourite garments. They might not be the more successful in terms of views, but the way I sew is easier than what I see a lot of people do, and there is no need to compromise on a good finish. Using a machine properly means you will get a great result.

 

You also advise people on tools and sewing machines, particularly how to fix them and problem-solving any issues they may be having with their machines. Where does your interest in machinery and repair come from?

I have always been an engineer at heart. I used to open up toys as a child. I remember taking off the head and limbs of an expensive Barbie as a child. I wanted to see how her arms and head could rotate properly. I used to lay under my father’s desk and pretend I was fixing the car engine. I even remember being jealous of the Fonz. I wanted to be in his class and learn how to strip a car engine. I have a degree in Chemical Engineering, Oil being my specialist subject. It’s just me I guess.

 

What advice would you give anyone who has an interest in sewing and is looking to develop their skills further?

Take it slow, and enjoy it. Learn how to use your machine properly. I show you how to understand a sewing machine in one of my more popular videos. If you can use your machine properly, then the frustrations of thread snapping, fabric getting trapped, and the bobbin thread being all messed up is avoided. Hating your machine is not a great start to sewing. Make things you want to make. Don’t just make a cushion, go straight to making a pair of trousers for example. I can’t think that I ever made a cushion before I started teaching. I’ve only made clothes (and curtains).

 

Are there any people in the industry who you admire and have influenced you in your career?

I used to like Angela Wolfe but I have’t watched much of her stuff nowadays. I stay off social media so if I’m honest, I wouldn’t know who to watch. I used to like Betty Foster. She was a metallurgist before she became a sewer.

 

How important is lighting to your work? What tips would you give other sewers, embroiderers, quilters and crafters struggling to find the best lighting solutions?

Lighting is absolutely important. I have a nice big window at which I place my sewing desk. I am very lucky to be able to do that, but it’s taken me years to steal this space from the family. I live in a dingy city, and the window doesn’t get a lot of sun, sadly, so I have invested in lights that I can use over my sewing. I originally used floor lamps but they don’t point downward. I purchased the Slimline when I spotted it at a show and the Sewing Machine Lamp. They both made a huge difference to my ability to see my sewing better. I love how I can rotate the light to move over to my lap so I can hand sew. Black thread on black fabric is tricky to see, the lamp is brilliant. The quality from a the strip of light is amazing and even after 5 years, the lights are as new. I have a new addition to my lamps, the Smart Go lamp, which is portable. It’s amazing for me, I like to repair machines in the kitchen, away from my sewing, so I no longer need to unplug and unscrew the clamp of my slimline to take into the other room, the Smart Go is just as bright, no need to plug it in, it sits neatly by the machines.

Take a look at Abi’s tutorials on her YouTube, Facebook and Instagram channels, as well as her website.

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