Craft Snippets: Sewing with Rachael Okey

Sally reports back from the last Craft Snippets event at Upper Riccarton Library. The next event on Wednesday 28 September 28 will feature jewellery maker Maree Grant.

“Being creative isn’t the way I think it’s the way I was taught to live” - Zandra Rhodes.

Our July Craft Snippets event featured sewer extraordinaire Rachael Okey who loves and lives by this quote. Rachael runs one-on-one sewing classes where people can have a go in a no pressure, ask all the questions you like, space. It doesn’t matter where you are on your sewing journey – a complete beginner or someone who has sewn for years.

Rachael’s sewing journey started when at 7 years old her Grandmother brought her back a Barbie from Hawaii. Rachael felt sorry for this scantily clad doll in our cold winter Christchurch climes and set about making her some outfits. Some of which were made from her mother’s carefully stored away ballgowns, oops. That didn’t go down so well. But Rachael’s sewing adventure had begun.

At high school Rachael would make clothes for friends, for their birthday presents and school dances. Finding herself the only student who chose textiles in her senior years, Rachael had to do sewing via correspondence school. The advantage to this, was that Rachael was left to her own devices in the sewing room and got to try things out and experiment.

Professional sewing and making

Rachael’s first job out of school was with a furnishing company making cushions, Roman blinds and Austrian blinds. Rachael had some cushions to show us that she had made. You can go to her classes and get some help if you are keen to learn how to make cushions, blinds and upholstering.

Rachael did a course with Pamela Mayling, Court Theatre Costume Designer, learning how to make 18th century bodices, panniers and hip rolls. Rachael gave us a demonstration of how panniers and hip rolls work and had a collection of some of the dresses she has made on display. On this course she met Jenny Gillies famous in Christchurch for her flower costumes.

Rachael went on to work with NASDA and the Children’s Theatre making costumes. Small theatres are great to work in, Rachael said, because you get to do a bit of everything and be a Jack of all trades. Rachael showed some of the costumes she has made including some made for Armageddon Expo featuring leather work.

There isn’t much Rachael hasn’t had a go at making and she showed off a collection of hats she has made including jester hats, hats with a straw based decorated to become amazing creations, and helmets made with felt and wallpaper glue.

Rachael had a stint overseas in London and worked at Fortnum and Mason where she would do alterations on ball gowns. Rachael said it was pretty scary cutting into a £3000 ballgown. One of the most fun jobs Rachael had in the UK was making backdrops for LegoLand.

Sewing for charities

Rachael told us about three charities she does sewing for. These are ones anyone can help with.

The first one is Dress a Girl Around the World. There are a couple of patterns you can use, a pillowslip dress and a peasant dress. Rachael has made them herself, taught others how to make them and visited Avonside Girls and taught a class how to make the dresses. Each dress has a label on the pocket for a very good reason … “And can you please help protect us from predators by putting the Dress a Girl label on the outside front of the dress? The label indicates that an organization is looking after us and just maybe a predator will pass us over! That's worth the extra time and effort, don't you think?”.

The second charity is much closer to home, set up by a woman in Rolleston, NICU Cuddle Hearts. Cotton fabric hearts are made and worn by a mother and a baby in ICU, every few days they are swapped and the smell goes from baby to Mum and back again.

And the third charity Rachael told us about that she is involved with is Brainy Beanies. The idea here is that you knit or crochet a beanie and send it to Brain Tumour Support NZ, they sell the beanie and keep the funds. The beanies have to be made of wool and Rachael admits she is not a knitter, so instead she used old woollen blankets to create some fun beanie designs.

Costumes and classes

Rachael has kept very busy with costume design helping with school productions. Rachael showed some amazing animals heads she had made for ‘The Lion King’ school production. To create them Rachael used a cap with foam glued all over it, cut in to shape and then painted up.

One production Rachael worked on the director was colour blind so Rachael found the Chromatic Vision Simulator app that helped show what colours they could see.

As well as teaching sewing, upholstery, mending and darning, Rachael can service your sewing machine for you and does a wonderful job. Your singer will be singing again in no time. Also, Rachael rehomes machines. So, if you would like a machine do get in touch with her, or if you have an old machine needing a new home, pop it along to her.

Rachael tells her sewing students to be brave and courageous and that if you don’t try something you don’t progress - ‘Creativity takes courage’ Pablo Picasso. Looking around at the amazing creations Rachael brought in to show us, that is something we could all take away. You can get in touch with Rachael through her sewing page Sew Far Sew Good NZ. Her next class is all about demystifying sewing patterns, How to Read Patterns.

Crafting resources at the Library

New Crafting Titles: July 2022

Angela did a roundup of the latest crafty books and magazines in the Library. You can put a hold on any of these.

View Full List

We also chatted about some fiction titles with crafting at their core and have made a Craft Snippets – fabulous fiction list. We will add more as we hear about them.

It was great to find that through the Library and PressReader you can get the latest issue of your favourite mags to your email inbox. If you would like us to help set you up with this, please get in touch.

Don’t forget the two free streaming channels available with your Library card - Beamafilm and Kanopy. Both work just like Netflix and give you access to free movies and documentaries. If you would like help setting any of these up please pop in and see us or ring the Library on 941 7923. Or pop along to one of our GenConnect techie help sessions at Upper Riccarton Library – Thursdays 1pm.

Crafting events in Canterbury

Sally did a run down of what is happening in crafty world around Christchurch, and people added more. Here is the list for this month:

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