Jen Kennedy is a wonderfully prominent figure in Australian sewing circles. She is the designer for her pattern business, Ainslee Fox Boutique Patterns, and also the creator of the ever popular (and highly recommended) sewing e-zine, One Thimble. Jen was a pharmacist by trade before she became a successful work at home mum. We spoke via email, and I really enjoyed getting to know Jen a little more during this process. I hope you do too.
B: What does average day for you look like?
J: I’m an early bird so I generally get up about 4am and try to get some work done before Paul and Kt get up. Then I walk our dog Lexie before doing the morning routine with Kt and getting her ready for school. Between 9 and 3 is my working hours. Occasionally I’ll get some work done after I pick Kt up from school and before Paul gets home from work, but generally I try to be done by 3. If it’s close to a release I’ll head back to my office and work on the issue after dinner but usually I’ll just do a bit of social media or planning on my phone.
B: How do you manage all of your commitments?
J: I have a very supportive husband and Kt is getting older. When she was littler it was harder to find the time to devote to my business. I try to be organised but how well that works out fluctuates week to week!
B: How did you learn to sew? I know your self taught, did you use a lot of online resources?
J: I didn’t know about YouTube or blogs when I started learning to sew. So I started out with old books from lifeline and paper patterns. There were a few ladies where I was working who are excellent seamstresses and I used to take my questions into work for a mini sewing class. I loved how they would speak about how they had learned to sew from the women in their family and from their friends … how they have sewing play-dates where one Mum would look after the kids while the others sewed and then they’d swap over and if anyone got stuck there were others to help.
Apart from that it was a lot of trial and error. I was never very interested in sewing until I had Kt and was living 1600km from my Mum (who sews). When I told her I was going to start selling my dresses she was horrified! She said you can’t sell things you’ve made! Eventually when she realised I was going to do it regardless she gave me the best piece of advice. She told me – if you’re going to be selling what you’ve sewn then it has to be perfect. I think learning to look at my work critically and trying to figure out ways to get a “perfect” finish made me love the challenge of sewing even more! I love experimenting to find better ways of doing things.
B: So you make really amazing patterns, and have a great reputation as a designer. The grading is beautiful and the sizing is spot on. The little girls dresses are gorgeous! I’m trying to decide which to buy to make for my daughters next birthday. Do you have a favourite?
J: I love all my party dresses. Probably the Billie Dress is my favourite. I was so happy when I figured out some of the construction details of that dress and I’m a little obsessed with the rockabilly look!
B: One thimble is THE online Aussie sewing magazine. It’s wonderful to see it doing so well! Where do you see it heading in the future?
J: I hope next year to see One Thimble in print. I’d love to go to the craft fairs and have sewing classes and retreats. I can see where I want OT to be … I just have to figure out how to find the time and $ to get there! My vision for One Thimble is that it will help Mums live a creative life through sewing. I really do believe that finding my creativity has changed my life and helped me become the mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend I always wanted to be!
B: What’s on your work bench at the moment?
J: I’m working on two patterns for OT17. They’re proving to be more challenging then I’d realised but I’m keen to get them right!
B: Who do you sew for?
J: I sew mainly for Kt, friends kids and my nephews and nieces. I occasionally sew for me and Paul wants me to start sewing for him.
B: Do you get to do any fun sewing?
J: Yes! At the moment I’ve been getting into making costumes. I made costumes for Paul and Kt for book week and I’m working on costumes for Paul, Kt, me and my stepson Hudson to wear to the My Little Pony movie premiere in November. It’s going to be fabulous when it all comes together. I’d love to start going to comic-con etc.
B: What’s on your wish list?
J: I’d like to look at getting a coverstitch machine or Babylock one day!
B: Do you have a favourite sewing tool?
J: It’s not a sewing tool but I’m obsessed with packaged bias binding! I love it!
B: Can you share a tip or trick our readers might find useful?
J: It’s probably a bit controversial, but I use very few pins! I find pinning takes extra time and I find it easier to sew by maneuvering the pieces by feel … also I have a knee lift for the presser foot on my sewing machine so I don’t have to let go of the pieces while sewing.
Also it’s not really a tip or trick, but if you don’t already use a rotary cutter and cutting mat to cut things out you really should give it a go. I was always a bit scared of getting one as I had visions of cutting myself or chopping chunks out of my fabric or pattern, but they really do save a heap of time and aren’t nearly as tricky as you think they’ll be!
- Beth W