15mins with Sew Over 50
SewOver50 are an amazing force in the sewing community, so I’m really pleased to be interviewing them on the blog as well as partnering with them for a week of special coverage on our channels.
Judith is the creator of one of the biggest sewing communities on Instagram. SewOver50 pushes for the increased visibility of older people, asking companies, other communities and individual makers to recognise their unconscious bias.
Sandy came on board when the scale and speed at which the community grew meant a team would be needed to keep up with the amazing demand for interaction, inspiration, and education! She comes up with challenges and prompts to encourage makers to share their sewing and creative hashtags so users can find each other.
Together they run an immensely successful Instagram account which is authentic and a joy to follow. Now at over 39k followers they have seen over 160k uses of their main hashtag #SewOver50. Let’s hear from them in their own words how the community was created.
How did the idea for Sew Over 50 come together?
Judith: I had been pondering the fate of older women in the media for some time but when Sewcialists put out a call for any niche community sewing accounts on Instagram, and suggested one for older sewists, all the threads came together. Very quickly Sandy appeared on the account and I gladly accepted her offer of help.
Who runs the Sew Over 50 account and blog?
Sandy: The account is run on a daily basis by Judith Staley (@judithrosalind) and Sandy Bach (@sunnydayz06). We are lucky to have @susanyoungsewing on board who writes the blog for SewOver50. We also have a link up with Maria at @seworganisedstyle podcast. Something fun is that we regularly have guest editors who share their expertise and experience on our account for the day!
Tell us a bit more about yourselves and your sewing.
Judith: I live in Edinburgh and am lucky enough to have a sewing room which overlooks Leith docks and the Firth of Forth. I’ve been sewing since I was 16, with a gap from the late 90s until spring 2013 when the Great British Sewing Bee inspired me to take it up again. I jumped in in a big way and sewed everything, but in the past few years I have slowed down and am much better at sewing things that suit my style. I like plain fabrics, muted tones, simple styles with an edge… influenced by styles I see out and about, and by the community on Instagram. Favourite fabric? Linen. As a way to keep making without over producing for my wardrobe I have taken up embroidery (I like to make my own labels for my garments), cross stitch, EPP and more recently knitting.
I started hand sewing dolls clothes from an early age and used a sewing machine for the first time at 11. My mother was an excellent sewer and even today at 92 she gives advice. Being surrounded by her sewing it was amazing what terminology and techniques I’d learnt as a child. I sewed sporadically throughout my life but I took it up in earnest when I retired. I didn’t know anybody who sewed until I joined Instagram and found the Brisbane Spoolettes and then the online community worldwide. I’m still learning something new every time I sew a garment and I think that’s one of the special things that keeps me engaged and inquisitive. I enjoy making my garments for my own style, fit and the fact that I’m not pigeon holed by RTW clothing. I’d describe myself as teetering on the cusp of calling myself an intermediate sewer and I’m happy with that!
How can people take part in @sewover50 and #sewover50? What kind of challenges do you run?
Sandy: The best ways to take part are to follow @SewOver50 and to use the #SewOver50 hashtag in your blurb on your posts. We check the posts that have used the hashtag every day so that’s where we see you. We produce a post to the grid 3 or 4 times per week, and share more makes and info in our stories that run 24/7.
We run challenges from time to time, such as #So50Visible (where we encourage people to use a pattern that has an older model as the main image, few and far between but it is improving) and we have run challenges around flatlays, pattern mixing and sewing more sustainably. We often run short photo challenges, usually with humour involved, and all challenges are open to all ages and never involve you having to make new garments… you can always submit something you made previously.
Your secondary goal seems to be making Instagram accessible for all with your tutorials and tips for using the app and taking photos. How did that develop?
As the account grew, and as Instagram brings in changes, we have had to learn some of the tips and techniques very quickly. It only seemed right to pass on what we’ve learned to our followers so that they can fully engage in the account and in Instagram in general. These posts always have lots of saves, and thanks, so we gather it’s appreciated.
How rewarding has it been to bring together this community and engage with them daily? And why do you think it’s been a success?
We are constantly amazed at the speed with which the account continues to grow and with the engagement from our followers. Our initial aims were to give the over 50s a place to share their makes, to gain inspiration, and to try to influence the whole of the sewing community into being more inclusive of older sewists. We also intersect with all other communities, and are constantly learning from our followers. The most special thing to see has been the connections made between our followers, and the confidence it has given people to branch out, to share photos of themselves, and to try new things. The community has developed as a very safe and supportive space.
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