A brace of delights has been prepared for you this week. As promised a few weeks ago, I can now share with you a Q&A with the person who helped to make the entire Holly The Human reveal possible. It was designer and seamstress, Jo Morris of JoMoSews who created my metaphorical comfort blanket, my emotional raft: The Hat, which you see me wearing in all of the videos. (You can skip to the interview here.) I knew if I had the right hat, it would carry me through the journey from cartoon obscurity to life in front of the lens, to talk to you directly.
There is also a Cornish special offer You can skip ahead to that too here.
Unboxing Holly: The Full Reveal From Start to Finish
‘Two. You said “Two treats”‘, I hear you utter. Indeed. I can now also bring you the compilation of the reveal videos, from the unboxing of the Hat to Holly and the books on the village green, after a mysterious disappearance and a literary hunting trip.
With regard to the ‘Book Hunt – Up The Garden Path’, I should, in all fairness, include a photograph of my friend Tony’s garden, when he has not, as a concession to me, left it in a somewhat wild state. This was so there would be long grass, piles of leaves, and mounds of moss in which he and Mike could stash the goods. (Tony: ‘Can I cut the grass now?’ Me: ‘Erm, could you leave it just a few more days, please?’)
The setting of this rummage through the undergrowth for the books is of considerable significance for the entire Amanda Cadabra series. Consequently, we shall be returning there, in due course, to as close as fiction can come to what we like to consider the Real World.
The Mystery of The Toe
You may have been wondering about this, and you’ll see why I couldn’t present the conundrum and the solution before now.
It was like this. About a week after the shoot on the village green, which inspired the one in Amanda’s village, I noticed something I’d never seen before. The second toe of my right foot was bruised underneath. I had no recollection of having kicked anything or dropped any object, light or heavy, onto it. It was not painful, and I could move it freely. Nothing that a Google search suggested fitted.
Over the next couple of days, the bruising spread to the sides, but still, no explanation offered itself. Whatever could have caused this strange phenomenon? The answer lies, of course, in the videos. In case you’d like to solve it yourself, I’ll wait to tell you until next week. I’d love to say, ‘Answers on a postcard.’ If you’re a subscriber to the Inside Track Newsletter, you’ll see an address at the bottom if you’d like to treat us both to some old-world charm. But an email or a comment on Facebook or one of the other platforms would be equally welcome.
Spotlight on Jo
So here, without more ado, I give you … Jo Morris:
Jo, how old were you when you started sewing?
I’d have been around 12 or 13. We were lucky enough to have needlework classes in school.
Do you remember the very first handcrafted thing you made?
The first thing I remember sewing was a baby doll outfit at school. You know those floaty, strappy tops with matching puffy knickers? I hated making it; I couldn’t understand why we needed to make one of those at 13 years old! It never got worn, and my sewing teacher told me not to bother sewing; I wasn’t any good at it!
I’m glad you didn’t listen, Jo!
Who have been your sewing inspirations?
All those years ago, it would have been my mum. She could turn her hand to anything, from dressmaking to decorating, dancing to cooking. She really could do it all. Now I love to watch The Great British Sewing Bee, and I’m inspired by both Esme and Patrick. Esme’s creativity and flare, all those years ago, she dared to be different, using fabrics in unimaginable ways at that time, whilst Patrick’s love of wools and tweeds are at one with my own but also his support for small charitable projects and upcycling fabrics is inspirational.
Great recommendation. As far as I know, readers in the US can watch The Great British Sewing Bee on Apple TV but I found some other suggestions of ways to watch here.
Sewing or knitting? If you could only do one for the next 6 months, which would you pick?
Well, this is an easy one; it would have to be sewing! Sewing in any form is my absolute love, so long as it isn’t repetitive. I get bored very easily as my mind is a constant whirlpool of ideas…. new ways of piecing things together, new ideas for coats and waistcoats. So many projects yet to be made.
And we can get notifications from Etsy when they appear in your shop, which I love browsing.
Years ago, sewing and knitting were things women did to save money. How have you seen that change?
I think that over the years, society has become much more of a throw-away culture. Cheap labour from abroad saw prices plummet, so perhaps the hours spent making and mending became more valuable, especially with more women working full-time. However, this is changing with the slow fashion movement, which is encouraging society to buy to last and mend or upcycle clothing and other textile items.
Oh yes, that’s very on trend now.
Nowadays, it seems it’s cheaper to buy ready-made. Is this still always the case?
At first glance, it would seem cheaper to buy ready-made garments; however, this isn’t true of more expensive items when cost of materials and labour are taken into account.
Are sewing and knitting undergoing a revival?
Oh absolutely! This has to be a huge positive to come out of COVID, where people were staying at home and had time on their hands. Also, shows such as The Great British Sewing Bee, along with celebrities like the British diver, Tom Daley, openly showing their love of knitting, crochet or sewing, has encouraged people of all genders to take up crochet and sewing.
Yes, he even knitted a pouch for his Olympic gold medal! I like his Instagram page and this interview with Tom about how he got started and life as a diver-crocheter.
In Amanda Cadabra and The Hanging Tree, there’s an important character, a Cornishman who knits. Cornwall is one of the places in the British Isles with a tradition of men knitting. Do more men sew and knit these days than, say, a generation or two ago, or is it still predominantly women?
It definitely feels like more men are knitting and sewing now; however, men have always been there in the background, and in fact, many of history’s top designers and tailors have been men, whilst women tended to be seamstresses which were never as highly regarded. However, today, society is far more accepting of men sewing and knitting, so perhaps they no longer have to hide away their talents and hobbies.
Let’s encourage them!
Is it expensive for someone to do as a hobby?
Honestly, yes! Mainly because once you find a love for fabric or yarns, you have a need to collect more and more. Ideas will flow, so you’ll need more fabrics and yarns to bring your ideas to life. However, it doesn’t always need to be costly. You might upcycle garments, breathing new life into old, which can keep costs down or use cheaper fabrics. Ultimately though, you could make a garment for less than the cost of a couple of pints that can be worn for years to come, so if you’re careful, it doesn’t need to expensive.
Where do you go for advice if you hit a snag with a project?
If I run into trouble with a project, I almost always reach out to friends online, but if they aren’t able to help me, I’ll search on Pinterest or YouTube. These are fabulous for technical information, and often the problems are solved in a variety of ways so I can choose which method suits me best.
Where is the best place to start if you want to start learning from scratch how to knit or sew? Is there a guru out there on YouTube with a channel you’d recommend, for example?
I would initially suggest learning from a family member, helping them to make a simple project or just copying what they do. I’ve shared my love of sewing with my children, girls and boys. Learning from someone who is present is a great way to use their experiences of what has and hasn’t worked for them, and being able to discuss these experiences can help understand why things are done in s certain way, although often the ‘best’ way is whatever way works for you not one specific way of doing it.
If you don’t have someone close to be able to learn from, then I find Pinterest and YouTube invaluable sources of information and tutorials, although I couldn’t recommend anyone specific as I tend to find someone I like the sound of or someone that I feel I can learn from, and I guess this is the most important aspect here. Just find someone that you can work with and learn from, wherever that source maybe.
How did you turn a hobby into a thriving business?
After trying to find clothing and hats without seams for my children and grandchildren, searches came up with barely anything, and what was there was made from fabrics that simply didn’t fit my ethos, so I began to make my own. I didn’t want dress-up clothes that were made out of manmade fibres or would only get worn for a few months and be too small; I wanted them to be as well made as day-to-day clothing and last for 1.5-2 years. Friends and family liked what they saw and asked me to make items for them, and so began the journey of JoMoSews.
And long may it flourish.
You have been helping me tremendously to come out in front of the camera. I adore the witch’s hat you made for me and wear it in all of my videos. What has your own experience been with coming out in front of the camera? Why did you decide to do it? What difference has it made?
I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to come out in front of the camera, other than a couple of posts on social media. These have been uncomfortable and awkward, to say the least, so I’m looking to learn how to be more confident with this. I do have some ideas of how to do this now and am waiting to be able to do some photo shoots in the next few weeks. Watch this space!
Exciting! You can do it, Jo.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers?
The harder you work at something, be that a trying out a new skill, setting up a business or coming out in front of the camera, the better you will feel when you achieve it.
Thank you, Jo for sharing your journey and hints and tips with us today.
Jo’s new website will be up shortly and I’ll be linking to it here. Jo does ship to the US and elsewhere so no one is deprived. Meanwhile, you can find Jo on Etsy here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/JoMoSews
And follow her on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/jomosews/
Cornish Special Offer
From 7th September, together with my friend Linda, I will be teaching beginner Cornish language on Zoom. An exciting new adventure in which I hope you’ll join me, space permitting! The first three weekly sessions are free. But this offer expires on Sunday 13th September. The classes will be in the evening in Europe and the morning on the West Coast of the US on Thursdays. They will be small classes and at the time of writing there are 14 places left. If you’re curious, there are more details here: https://amandacadabra.com/beginner-cornish-course-with-holly/
Now I know I said you’d get the first on location video this week. However, as Mike The Cinematographer has been on holiday, I brought you Jo instead. But next week, I promise! The first On Location With Holly Video. Where it all began …
Until then, Happy August,
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print