Baby shoes

Whilst sewing  ‘Not the Norm’ portraits I came across a whole host of amazing fabrics. Doesn’t take much to get me hooked. Visits to local stores, a trip to the Quilt Festival in Harrogate and a Crafts show in Manchester I found myself with a small pile of fabric (ok I lie – masses of fabric). I made everyone (and I mean everyone) a bag for Christmas. That’s for another blog post.


I love linen fabric and linen blend fabric. As a Pinterest addict I found some adorable baby shoes. I created a board and searched and searched. I eventually bought several patterns on Etsy but Petitboo is my favourite pattern site – PDF downloads and really easy to follow. I was hooked! You can customise with leather soles, leather toes, suede soles and Kam Snaps. Once you have the basic pattern you can tweak it to what suits you.

french 1cats 1JMH_9714animals 1green toes 1


I have some of these for sale on my Etsy shop but I also have lots of friends and a step daughter who are having babies 🙂

I’m currently researching Japanese House Shoes as this has got to be my next project 🙂

I’ll just leave you with a photo of LJ my granddaughter. I made her a reversible linen bag just her size. She loved the brown paper bag that the material came in x



How to create your own Not the Norm image

My grandson is 2 and a half. He crashes into the kitchen banging the door in his wake and announcing loudly ‘I’m back’! I’m sharing this and his gorgeous smile as that’s a bit like how we feel today.


We have had planning meetings but as we said in our last post ‘real life’ has somehow taken over and our sewing was put on hold…but in the words of Tommy – we’re back!

We have finally managed to create a ‘How to’  leaflet for people who have asked us how to create their own free motion embroidery image from a photograph. This is  the result of a lot of trial and error on our part and learning as we went along. We made lots of mistakes but have worked out the easiest way of doing this. We obviously used Tommy as our ‘model’ as you can see here. Processed with MOLDIV

This is available as a digital download as we have also sorted out our Etsy Shop. The link is HERE.

My study is obviously not finished yet – we are working on it but multitasking is beyond us! The wall paper has been bought, the decorator booked, the flooring on order – watch this space!

I took lots of photographs whilst working in Shanghai and have turned some of these into free motion portraits. Such an amazing place.


We’d love to hear your thoughts and if you decide to create any of your own images we’d love to see them.

Processed with MOLDIV

Processed with MOLDIV

Jane and Sharon x


The best laid plans….

Full of enthusiasm, ideas and resources we set off on our journey. We are loving it but at the minute we are short of one key ingredient …time! Sometimes ‘life’ has a way of getting all muddled and certainly getting in the way of sewing. Illnesses, work, family commitments, travel have all impeded our plans. We may be down but we are certainly not out. We are ‘ticking along’ until I return from a working trip to China in March. we’ve done a few more ‘not the norm’ presents like this one  of Debbie and Hywel.

img_6233I’ve also been experimenting with some more Free Motion Graffiti – very therapeutic – you can’t get it wrong!


If any of you are from the UK and have a spare half hour – Sheffield Children’s Hospital have an appeal for ‘bonding hearts’ for the parents of premature babies. The mother wears one and one is placed on the baby – then they swap – the scents help with bonding. They are very easy to make.  The pattern  and details are here


Please bear with us – we will be back – ups and downs are just part of the journey. Jane IMG_2571x

Making Progress…..Slowly

What a learning curve this sewing project has been for me. When Jane first suggested that we work together I was ready for a challenge but I didn’t realise that part of that img_6237challenge would involve learning a whole new set of vocabulary.

Over the past few months I have learned, not only where to locate my feed dogs, but how to drop them!

I also know the difference between a top thread and a bobbin thread and how to use the former to draw up the latter!

I can lay out fabric in an R Formation and I have figured out what RS and WS stand for when working with fabric.


It really is a whole new world which I think I have just about conquered but I am certain that my learning journey would have been a whole lot easier and quicker if the experts who write tutorials didn’t assume that we beginners are familiar with all this sewing terminology!


Items we placed on Etsy

I am just discovering a similar problem as we begin the next stage of our little business. Setting up an Etsy account. We now have a number of products and we are building up stock so after deciding on a pricing structure we began the process of setting up an Etsy account.

After two hours of negotiating the site and consulting various tutorials we managed to put just two items on the site and we are still trying to link it to this blog!

We will get there but please be patient with us. We decided our time would be better spent on the sewing machine rather than on the computer!


Jane is branching out and producing some amazing embroidery in hoops.





We produced another commission for another satisfied customer, meanwhile  I’ve been practising my sewing skills so that one day I will be proficient enough to put the finishing touches to our Not the Norm portraits!


Our latest commission

Valentines day is next week so if you fancy a portrait with a difference then maybe you can send us a photograph of you and your partner and we will see what we can do. Just remember that we are Not the Norm so it will certainly be different!



Why Not The Norm? Sharon’s Story!

It took Jane and I ages to agree on a name for our little business enterprise. It was only when I made a passing comment saying that I didn’t consider myself as the norm when it came to sewing.

“What’s the norm?” she asked.

“Someone who can sew!” I replied!

I’ll let you imagine the look on Jane’s face! Maybe I needed to reassure her?

So over several cups of coffee and plenty of cake we chatted about my experience of sewing and why I didn’t think I was the norm.

10288763_10207339121530461_5886385019593664799_nI explained to Jane that as a young and impressionable 12 year old my domestic science teacher told me I had no talent for sewing and I should stick to playing hockey! I was an eager student with a creative mind but when it came to sewing lessons I had no confidence. I dreaded having to take my work to the textiles teacher at the end of the lesson knowing she would criticise the fact that that none of my stitches were even and I couldn’t sew in a straight line. I can’t count the number of times I was told to unpick my apron due to dodgy stitching and I never got to cook because I never finished the apron I had to make before I could bake coconut macaroons!

So I left secondary school with no interest or qualification in any DT subject, choosing to channel my energy and creativity into sport and teaching. I have somehow managed to avoid a needle a thread all my working life opting for a career as a PE teacher instead.

That was until I retired last year and Jane introduced me to Free Motion Embroidery. I wanted to try something totally different that would challenge me.

To be honest I never imagined that that challenge would involve sitting behind a sewing machine creating pieces of art with textiles.

Apart from the fact that I was convinced I couldn’t sew, I never considered it as something I would enjoy. Hence I didn’t think I was the norm.


I have always preferred to be outdoors and working with a team rather than being indoors and working alone. However discovering Free Motion Embroidery has smashed all those pre-existing ideas I had about sewing. It’s not what I considered to be the norm as far as sewing was concerned.

I do work as a team, with Jane and with other like-minded people on social media.

Yes, we do work indoors, but our inspiration comes from outdoors. From our family whom we capture as they walk through the park, from the photos of flowers that we shoot whilst out with our cameras and from just being outside of our comfort zone.

Free Motion Embroidery has taught me that sewing in a straight line and having neat even stitches are not needed to be creative with a sewing machine. On a personal note I have discovered that I am able to unleash my creativity without being bound by those constraints forced upon me as a young enthusiastic teenager.


Having listened and chuckled at some of my stories we agreed that maybe

Not the Norm Textiles was an ideal name for our business

I am still learning (as the images in this blog show)and I am still enjoying the challenge. At the moment I leave all the complicated sewing to Jane and I do the cutting and sticking but Not the Norm is encouraging me to practice and improve and I think I secretly love the fact I have proved my domestic science teacher wrong…….

I can sew just……. NOT THE NORM!












Here we go …

So today was our first business meeting for Not the Norm Textiles. We met in our office otherwise known as Jane’s attic room. You really have to see it to believe it. How on earth Jane manages to produce such wonderful work in such a disorganized space is a miracle! If you follow our progress you will see this change into something resembling a work space similar to the ultra organised space at my home! (Sorry Jane!)


It’s actually been quite a productive day. We have ordered business cards, made a “business plan” drunk several cups of coffee and eaten carrot cake. Being ex teachers we have set ourselves targets and our next business meeting  involves a trip to Ikea with more coffee and carrot cake. Jane has also fitted in a whistlestop training session of wordpress and Instagram so that I keep up the high standards of social networking. In fact the only thing we haven’t done today is sew!


Me looking hopeful amidst the chaos

As you can see from the header we have various things we are working on but we have given ourselves at least 6 months before we have a working studio.

We are hoping that you are going to follow our journey and watch the progress of not only our business but also our studio – no backing out now.

Sharon x

New year, new challenges – here’s to 2017

Now the decorations are safely packed away our thoughts are turning to moving our new enterprise forward and we are so excited! We are full of plans but know we have a long way  to go. What would be your one piece of advice for a pair of newbie sewers who want to share their ideas and build a ‘business’ – all ideas gratefully received. We are looking at an Etsy shop and already have an Instagram account but we have so much to learn.

I just want to introduce you to Sharon’s grandchildren as you met mine in the previous post.


This is Ella Mae and Lilly Bet and was one of the first photos we tried to sew. Lilly – Bet is adopted and at the time we couldn’t share her face on social media hence this being a special photograph to introduce her.

Free motion embroidery portraits

These two lovelies are Layla and Alfie – a perfect photo from which to work.



Just trying out one of LJ as we want to get some cards printed – so again any suggestions would be great.

As I type this I am looking round at the chaos that is my study and which is at the top of my to do list this year – the distressed white wooden, perfect Pintrest style studios are so tantalisingly far away at the minute. Hope to hear from you and that you will join us on our way this year Jane x


For those of you with children or grandchildren you will appreciate how difficult it is to get them to ‘perform’ for your camera. Despite actually working as a semi professional photographer, I have failed miserably in trying to get my two to stand together!  If you wedge them into a supermarket trolley you have half a chance but unfortunately that doesn’t give us the photo we need to sew.


I was overjoyed to get one image the other day and duly set to work with my sewing machine. If you follow this blog you will see lots of Tommy and LJ – my grandchildren. We will introduce you to Sharon’s grandchildren shortly.

Free motion embroidery


Cut out the different pieces of material

Free motion embroidery

Tommy D & LJ

Thank you to all our new followers for joining us – lots of you from The USA – – we had a real spike in our stats yesterday – can one of you let us know  where you ”found’ our site ? We would be really grateful. We have lots of plans for 2017! Have a great Christmas and please get in touch we love meeting new people, Jane & Sharon x


Creating memories from photographs

The key idea for ‘not the norm photography’ was born from the fact that as two grandmas we have loads of photos of our respective grandchildren. As photographers, many of these were taken from behind or were ‘arty’ shots rather than snapshots. We wanted to save some of these memories and began to recreate the stitched images you see on this site. This one is of my granddaughter’s first birthday . LJ is gorgeous but doesn’t stand still for very long! Hence the balloons were moved slightly nearer to her.

Processed with MOLDIV

Building a free motion embroidery portrait

The collage above shows the process of creating these images


Quick cards using scraps of material

I have loads of scraps of material – I never throw anything away! I spent yesterday making Christmas cards. By using just two or three circles and a leaf shape it’s very easy to create modern cards.


I used material that had text on it and a plain circle in the middle. Just iron on with a little bondaweb and then free motion circles and it takes ten minutes!



You can also use the scraps to make brooches – just sandwich your design onto 2 pieces of calico with some padding in the middle.