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From Cloth to home

March 18, 2022

Behind every business is a story. A story of life, of roots and pathways, and growth and creativity. ‘From Cloth To Home’ is my story.

Helen Izzard Designs

It is not until later in life that you can look back and reflect upon certain points in life that piece together and influence the path you chose to take. Those points for me started in childhood, arriving home from school, Mum sat at the sewing machine or hand sewing late in to the night. Mum was the local dressmaker and her ethos was always about craftsmanship, quality and perfection. I learnt so much from her, as she had learnt from my grandmother, and I am incredibly lucky that they both passed their skills down to me.

My journey, like many journeys, may have been a winding path but looking back, it was inevitable. I have always sewn since those early days, and loved the creative release that sewing gave me, but it was a particular point in my path, barely able to put one foot in front of another through complete exhaustion, stress and loneliness in a corporate job where I was once happy, that became the pivotal point. The seeds of an idea of turning my small creative hobby business in to a full-time business began their final journey to bring me back to where I belong.

It was just over two years ago, in our many chats, that Sarah Mason, Film Maker and Photographer, and I started talking about making this film. In late October 2021, Sarah finally came to Somerset and we spent the day laughing whilst chasing dust and the low autumn light! We even managed to dust off one of my old sewing machines, which still stitches beautifully. And even though I have upgraded the old machines to the modern machines I now use, the distinct smell of the old Singer as I remove its cover, always takes me back to those memories of that first sewing machine.

Helen Izzard 01 1 1

Sarah & I had a well organised plan for the day, something we had discussed often in our chats. But shortly after Sarah arrived, and saw the low beautiful Winter light peering through a small window, the plan literally went out of the window! We spent so much time in that room, with the sewing machine and fabrics, and my paintings, just watching the light slowly move across the room, and the shadows form as we worked. Some of the most beautiful images were taken that day in some incredible light.

We could not have planned the light to be that perfect. We had plenty of fabric dust to film and the slow methodical sound of the old hand Singer, as the light caught the flecks of dust as they fell, and the slow movement of the needle.

As I have often said to Sarah, I grew up around these sewing machines. And even to this day, I love the sound of the old Singer sewing machine as it stitches, the slow gentle thud as the needle pierces the fabric and the sound of the hand wheel turning slowly. It brings back so many memories and using it again was definitely interesting, as I automatically tried to use the non-existent foot pedal! Sadly, the machine is back under cover again and tucked safely away for the moment. And even though I rarely use it now, it remains one of those precious items that I could not part with.

The slow move towards interiors was not a conscious choice, and in many ways happened over time, because I love interior design! 

From that very first visit to meet a new customer, those first few steps into their home, are the start of the design journey for me. A home is more than bricks and mortar, I believe that we are custodians for the time we are living there, there is a shared history of everything that went before us, and the possibilities that lie ahead.

Helen Izzard Designs
Helen Izzard Designs

I don’t think about trends when I work, I look at the house, its light and colour, look at the family and how they use and move around the space and its only then that I look at fabrics, patterns, colours and designs. Every home is unique and has its own story to tell, and the interiors are just a part of it, so every piece I make is unique.  I love to watch it all grow organically, allow it to breathe and reshape, room by room.

When I am working, there is so much to think about before that first cut. Every fabric has different elements: the pattern repeat, the pattern placement on the cloth, how the cloth handles and falls, how it moves, the linings and interlinings, the different headings. I only work with natural fabrics, linen and wools are my favourites, as they handle and mould and drape so well.  And the very nature of the fibres they are made from influences the making process and the finished piece. Every step of the making process is important and influences the next step so it is important to focus on each step and get it right.

The majority of my work is hand stitching. I love how it allows the fabrics and the layers to work and move as one together. I think this is an important part of what I do, using my hands to guide, to feel and to make.

There is so much that influences and inspires the way I work, and we are so lucky to live in a tiny corner of Somerset, with the coast, woodlands, the moors and wetlands around us or within reach. It’s an everchanging landscape of seasons, colours, textures and light.

The most beautiful light which falls on the woodland walks, in between the many rain storms. The woods are a great place to be after a few stormy days, heavy boughs dripping with rain and the low sunlight peaking through small gaps. Picking up the camera and capturing the low winter light coming through the little window, with threads and bobbins and scissors and linen ribbons aplenty. To watch and listen and hear the birdsong in the mornings and observe the quiet stillness in the cool early morning air before the world wakes up. To pick up pencil, brush, watercolours and paper and lose hours of time perfecting the tiniest details of a flower.

Those early childhood days of creativity had a huge impact on where I am today. It’s not until you look back and remember those small moments that you realise why.

I love art and use watercolours and pencils, I love photography. These simple tools have become an extension of my hand, the sewing needle and thread, the old thimble, the watercolours, paintbrushes and pencils, the camera and the lenses.

I picked up the camera again a few years ago, purely for the business initially, but I fell in love with photography and now the camera rarely leaves my side. And I was drawn back to watercolours too, it had been many years since I had picked up a brush and pencil, and we found mums old set of brushes and watercolour paints buried in the drawer, and so I started again.

My work is very much about the light and colour and textures, and how they change and shapes things, the home, interiors, my photography and my art. I am incredibly fortunate to be doing what I do. This isn’t a job, it’s just my life. This is where I belong, this sense of connection with sewing and fabrics, and home and everything my Mother taught me about sewing and simple, well constructed, craftsmanship.

Helen Izzard Designs

This film is a little insight in to my world and what inspires me in this quiet corner of Somerset. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Photos by Sarah Mason, Filmmaker and Photographer.