Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Meet Helen of Bustle & Sew

Hi everyone:

When you're a pattern designer, I think most people believe that you work in your own little world, focussing on your own creation and oblivious to what others are creating. In reality, I believe that it's the opposite - well, at least it is for me. I do focus on my own designs, but am influenced and inspired by the projects other designers are creating. Helen Dickson of Bustle & Sew, is one of those designers.
Helen Dickson, publisher of Bustle & Sew
Photo courtesy of Helen Dickson
For the past few years, I've been a subscriber of Bustle & Sew, a monthly e-zine published by Helen. 
Bustle & Sew ezine
Photo courtesy of
I must admit that I'm in awe of Helen's accomplishments: not only is she an incredible designer with whimsical and sweet patterns, she also manages to publish her magazine every single month! And each issue has not one, not two, but many patterns in it! You'll find stitchery designs, quilt patterns and always a stuffie or two. I eagerly anticipate receiving each issue every month to see what she's created this time. Since Helen lives in Devon, England, many of you may not be aware of her accomplishments. She has graciously agreed to an interview so you can get to know her a little better.
One of the free patterns offered on Bustle & Sew
Photo courtesy of
Thanks, Helen, for taking the time to chat with me today about Bustle & Sew. 

Before we get going, I’d like to thank you for inviting me to feature on your blog.  It’s very exciting to be here and I’ve really enjoyed having a good look around at all your lovely designs.

You're welcome and thank you for the compliment.

Your patterns all feature hand embroidery, so it's obvious that this is your first love. How did you get into hand embroidery and what is its appeal for you?
Yes, I love hand embroidery and have been stitching for as long as I can remember.  Both my mum and grandma were very talented embroiderers and I learned literally at my mother’s knee.  Hand embroidery is great because it’s so easy to try for yourself – you don’t need any expensive tools and equipment, just a needle and thread, and possibly a hoop.  It’s a great hobby to take around with you too as it’s so portable, it’s really easy to stuff your project into a bag and just bring it along when you’re on the move.  I also love that there is such scope for personal interpretation in freestyle hand embroidery.  Often people send pictures of projects they’ve completed from my patterns – and you can really see how they’ve stamped their own personalities on the design – creating something that’s truly unique.
One of the Rosie and Bear stitcheries (January)
available at Bustle & Sew
Photo courtesy of
In your e-zine, Bustle & Sew, you have a variety of projects from quilts to wall art to stuffies. What made you decide to branch out into these types of projects and to merge hand embroidery with other crafts?

Ah, well, this is because I have a bit of a butterfly mind – with a very low boredom threshold and quite unable to concentrate on one particular aspect of sewing for very long.  When I’m working on a design I always try to think of how the finished project can be incorporated into a useful item – whether that’s a bag, cushion, quilt – or anything at all really.  I like my work to be used and handled every day, with a life of its own, and I don’t mind when it gets a little worn or tatty as that’s a good excuse to stitch some more!

I love softie making as I love animals (all kinds apart from spiders.  I know that spiders are good, useful creatures but I do not love them).  I’m not at all keen on dolls and didn’t play with them at all as a child.  Instead I had a soft toy menagerie and could often be found pushing my favourite panda around in my doll’s pram, whilst my dolls languished unloved at the bottom of my toy box.
Little Geese Softies from
Bustle & Sew (November 2012 issue)
Photo courtesy of
I think our minds work in a similar way - I call it monkey brain since I jump from idea to idea. I like how you see this as a positive thing since it allows you to create many different types of patterns, which I'm sure help you when it comes to designing an issue of Bustle & Sew.

Speaking of Bustle & Sew, I love the variety of patterns in each issue of the magazine, and there are so many of them. How do you manage to make all these projects each month – what's your secret?

Thanks so much for your lovely comment – I’m so pleased you are enjoying the magazine – I put a lot of myself into every issue and it’s great to hear that others like it too.    I worked full-time in an office for 30 years, during which time I raised my daughter – and all of this left very little time for sewing, just a few moments snatched from a busy schedule either late at night or weekends.  Now, through Bustle & Sew, and the internet, I am able to spend all my time doing something I really love.   So I guess you could say that 30 years’ worth of ideas are bursting out of me now!   Also, I am the sort of person who can’t bear to sit and do nothing – I always have to have something to do with my hands.  When my daughter Rosie was little, I used to knit and sew for her – I think her most demanding request was for a cardigan – featuring sparkly buttons and dancing mice! (I managed in the end).  I still do find myself sewing and knitting for her mind you, even now she’s all grown up!  When she visits (luckily she doesn’t live too far away) she always has a good rummage through my project cupboard and usually goes home with one or two things.  This month she’s snaffled my Nordic Reindeer Cushion and SewFlapdoodle Christmas Bunting! 
Nordic Reindeer Cushion from
Bustle & Sew (November 2012 issue)
Photo courtesy of
I can certainly see why she would've taken these two items, but am surprised that she left you with the Starry Night Embroidery cushion and the Little Geese Softies, just two of the wonderful designs in the latest issue of the ezine. I would've taken these projects as well! 
Starry Night Embroidery cushion from
Bustle & Sew (November 2012 issue)
Photo courtesy of
It's obvious that you devote a lot of time to choosing the projects and creating each issue of Bustle & Sew, what's your favourite part of publishing it?

Definitely not the uploading bit!  That has given me so many grey hairs!  I don’t think I could really choose a favourite part of the publishing process – but what I do love is when my readers take the time and trouble to send me feedback on each issue.  They’re all very lovely, and hardly ever say anything unkind – but do make some really good suggestions, which I try to incorporate as I go along.

I empathize with the computer part of the publishing - this seems to be what slows me down in producing new patterns. I'm glad to hear that you're receiving positive feedback from your readers and I'm sure this helps you to decide on what you'll include in future issues of Bustle & Sew. 
Summer Birdie Bag from Bustle & Sew
Photo courtesy of

What direction would you like the e-zine to take in the future?

Last year I carried out a reader survey to ask just this question and over the last 12 months have tweaked the contents in line with the survey results.  It was a very worthwhile exercise which I’m planning to repeat in the New Year.  So … if you’re a magazine subscriber and you’d like to see any changes to the magazine – whether that’s to the content – format – or anything at all really, then please do complete my survey when it lands in your in-box.

One exciting new development is that I’ve started publishing the magazine as a “proper” publication – available from Amazon.  It’s great to see it in print as well as online.

Congratulations! I didn't know that there was a "hard copy" of Bustle & Sew available through Amazon. I'll definitely have to look for this. Any other ideas you'd like to incorporate into the ezine?

I would like to have more interactive media in each issue – embedded video or sound would be good – if I can master the IT skills necessary!  I’d also like to include more guest contributors – and am totally delighted that you’re going to be contributing to the January issue – can’t wait to read your article! 

I would love to see videos of you giving helpful tips for completing your patterns with Ben helping! I'm also looking forward to the January issue - and had better start focussing on that article :) 
Detail of Calendar Bunnies quilt
Photo courtesy of
When you're not designing or creating projects, what do you enjoy doing?

That’s easy .. walking on the beach with Ben, my enormous Newfoundland dog, enjoying tea and cakes with friends, snuggling in front of the fire with Townie Husband, shopping with Rosie and … very soon ….. playing with Ben’s new “little sister”.   Daisy will be joining our little family in the spring – watch the blog for updates!

More exciting news, Helen! Perhaps Daisy and Ben can both help out with Bustle and Sew :) At least Daisy may provide you with more design ideas - do I see a Newfie stuffie in the future?
Ben, Helen's Newfoundland companion
Photo courtesy of
Now, I've left the most important question for the end: what's your favourite snack to eat while you're working on the next issue of Bustle & Sew?

Chocolate has definitely been proven to aid creativity.  So I feel obliged …….

I feel the same way, Helen, and chocolate has never let me down!

Thanks so much for allowing my readers to learn about you and Bustle & Sew, Helen. I'm sure they'll want to visit your blog to hear more about the projects you're working on and subscribe to your newsletter for sneak peeks of upcoming issues, special deals and free patterns. Visit Helen's store to purchase all of her patterns, including those featured in this article, as well as back issues of Bustle & Sew. 

If you're not already receiving Helen's ezine, you'll want to subscribe to Bustle & Sew, because the December issue is going to be outstanding - and you'll receive a free ebook just for subscribing. 

Now if I can just be a patient for a few more days until the December issue is published...

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