Alusha Newnham-kell – Sewing

Alusha Newnham-Kell, sewing her own clothes

For Alusha Newnham-kell, sewing her own clothes is as much about freedom as it is about making gorgeous frocks.

Freedom from uninspiring plus-size shops. Freedom from measuring up to a random number on a label. Learning to sew, Alusha says, has restyled her relationship with her body, and with fashion. “Suddenly you realise it’s not about your body, it’s not your body’s fault,” she says.

Measurements are now a means to an end: creating a wardrobe full of pieces that Alusha loves. “It’s a really, really good way to remove a lot of that shame from what numbers and sizing mean,” she says. “Your body is no longer a problem that you have to deal with. You don’t have to find stuff that fits it, or just accept what’s available to you.” Instead, you can sew your own bold collection of dresses – and all of them are made to fit just right.

Growing up in the country with the kind of family that encouraged a make-your-own-fun ethos, Alusha has always been keen on DIY. She played around with her grandmother’s “very, very old sewing machine” for a while during high school, then got more serious about dressmaking at uni.

DIY SEWING SCHOOL

Growing up in the country with the kind of family that encouraged a make-your-own-fun ethos, Alusha has always been keen on DIY. She played around with her grandmother’s “very, very old sewing machine” for a while during high school, then got more serious about dressmaking at uni.

“I had this revelation at the start of learning to sew. You may as well do whatever you want. Wear what you love.”

DIY Sewing

Now a primary school teacher, Alusha says she relied on YouTube and pattern instructions for her early education in machine sewing. “The first thing I ever made, I was like, ‘Oh, I could actually wear this! It’s only got 53 holes in it,’”
she laughs.

Things have improved since then, though Alusha says she still loves learning new tricks. “Dresses and skirts are very simple shapes. I taught myself to make my own patterns from there, and learn new skills, and use all that high school maths that you don’t use for anything else! I love that process. I always think, ‘try it and see how it goes’.”

BIG, BOLD, BRIGHT – BUT MAKE IT FASHION

One of the frustrations of being a plus-size shopper is there just aren’t a lot of choices out there. This is one reason why Alusha loves sewing so much – being able to create the kind of fashion she doesn’t see out in the world, at prices she can afford. “I have a very bold and colourful sense of style,” Alusha explains. “That kind of aesthetic was always my thing, but it wasn’t available to me. And suddenly it became available to me! And that’s really great.”

Learning to sew means I can wear what I love.

Alusha’s style leans into bold and bright prints paired with simple shapes in dresses, skirts and tops. Her inspirations? Indie pattern designers and the plus-size sewing community on Instagram. “I like full-skirted things and smock dresses and ruffly sleeves,” she enthuses. And lots of colour, too: “I probably couldn’t even put an outfit together that’s all neutral!”

Alusha Newnham-Kell, sewing her own clothes

“…life isn’t meant to be just working and
cooking dinner and being exhausted.”

Of course, all that colour attracts attention. Which is another thing Alusha has learnt to love. “A lot of the fabrics I choose are quite playful,” she says. “I think you go through this mental shift of, ‘Oh well, I’m fat, so I can’t wear that. I’ll stand out more.’ And it’s like, whether you do or don’t, you are anyways. I had this revelation at the start of learning to sew. You may as well do whatever you want. Wear what you love.”

SEWING FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Alusha reckons about 75% of her wardrobe is handmade – something that works nicely with her own ethics and values. “It means I’m not buying in to fast fashion, and I try very hard to only buy fabric that is ethically and sustainably produced,” she says.

Sewing has also helped Alusha appreciate everything that goes into fashion production. “I value my wardrobe a lot more than I used to, because I know how much time and energy has gone into it,” she says. “I take more care with my clothes, make repairs to increase their lifespan, and repurpose the fabric from older items that I no longer love.”

MAKING SPACE FOR CREATIVITY

Currently, Alusha’s sewing is done from one end of her dinner table – since her boyfriend took over the spare room as a work-from-home office. Her sewing stuff is tucked into neat craft drawers, and the machine gets packed away once the sewing is done – usually. It’s a small space, but it works, Alusha says.

Two or three garments a month emerge from this little corner of the flat. Often, Alusha admits, after some marathon sewing sessions. “I’m very much: it’s Saturday, I’m sitting down at my sewing machine, don’t talk to me for six hours, because this is what I’m doing.” But recently she’s trying a more mindful approach: “I don’t have to rush to finish something in one day. I can do a bit and put it away. Come home from work, have some downtime, do 30 minutes, and that’s all good.”

Brother Sewing

Al this has taught Alusha the importance of having the right tools to support her creativity. Buying a pair of lefthanded scissors was “life-changing”, as was stepping up from a machine that could do more than “just a straight line and a zig zag”. Upgrading machines as your needs change is worthwhile too, Alusha says. “Over time, you learn what works, and what tools might be right for you.”

GETTING INTO THAT FLOW STATE

So what is all this sewing doing to her mental state? Alusha has some ideas. “I read this article a couple years ago about the concept of ‘flow state’. It’s basically where a task that you’re doing is easy enough, yet has enough challenging elements to it, that you get completely absorbed

“Time can pass and you don’t even realise that you’ve been doing that thing for three or four hours. And when I read the article, I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s exactly what happens to me when I’m sewing!’

“As someone who’s sometimes a very anxious person, with a crazy brain, I find it really hard to disengage from work and stress. Having a hobby that is very mindful is really good for me. That’s one of the side benefits of sewing.”

HOW TO GET STARTED WITH SEWING?

Alusha says;

HOW DO YOU FIND THE TIME TO SEW?

Alusha says;

Brother Sewing Machine

EXPLORE THE BROTHER Innov-Is F420

Alusha spends a lot of time on her machine, so she loves the Square Feed Drive System. This lets her control stitches with the push of a button, rather than relying on a foot pedal. “It’s great. Especially because I’m a bit more of a marathon sewer,” Alusha says. “I can sew for six hours, and suddenly I’m like, “Oh my god, I don’t have a horrible cramp in my leg!’ I love that!”

She’s also a fan of the F420’s beautifully clear and white lightbulb (which has cut down on squinting) and the automatic thread cutter: “Because I am a very chaotic person, I could never find my little thread snips. And now I don’t need to!”

Designed to help you get set up and stitching as quickly as possible, the F420 features details like a drop-in bobbin and a needle that practically threads itself with the pull of a lever. For beginners or more advanced makers like Alusha, it’s easy to get creative and make fashion you’ll love.

Discover more here. Or talk to your local dealer to find out if the Innov-Is F420 is a good fit for you.