Sew on the Go: a maker's journey
By Mary Jane Baxter
An inspiring road trip and a practical guide to crafting wherever you find yourself
Publication date: May 2021Support this project
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Personalised travelling charm bracelet
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Last year, Mary Jane Baxter did what many people dream of: she quit her job at the BBC, rented out her flat and headed for the hills. Her home for the next few months was an upcycled 1986 Bedford Bambi campervan with a top speed of 60mph. She raided skips for vintage wallpaper and scoured second-hand emporiums to source stylish vintage accessories, creating her own travelling craft studio, packed with everything necessary for crafting on the road.
She then set off around Europe searching for inspiration, travelling from Belgium right down to the Cinque Terre in Italy then around France and up to Scotland. Armed with her trusty hand-cranked Singer, she spent a summer sewing on the go, foraging in flea markets, meeting artists and hosting pop-up events to help fund her trip. Like creatives the world over she decided to see where her travels would lead her and returned with a head full of new creative projects.
Fortunately, there’s no need for you to give up your job, wave goodbye to your family and rent out your house in order to re-ignite your own creativity; Mary Jane has done all the hard work for you. Sew on the Go is her guide to carving out more creative space in your life. From decorating your own budget-conscious bolthole (no matter how small) to achievable projects including clothes and fashion accessories, beautiful gift ideas and child-friendly makes, this book is the ideal companion for those who dream of devoting more time to their craft.
Sew on the Go is packed with craft projects, and is also a fascinating travel journal. It will open up a new creative way of looking at the world around you while showing how it’s possible to carve out your own artistic space on a budget. By using found and preloved materials you’ll be able to weave in your own memories, creating new heirlooms to treasure. Including delightful paper decorations crafted from vintage books, a simple-to-sew dress and top (inspired by thrifted French pillowcases), and a wonderfully kitsch cushion (made from a souvenir tea-towel), each project is clearly illustrated and accompanied by straightforward instructions enabling both beginners and experts to have a go.
Whether you're a maker yourself or an armchair traveller, you’ll enjoy the process, add your own twists and create memorable makes that will be appreciated by everyone.
Mary Jane Baxter
Mary Jane Baxter spent her childhood making things and her teenage years running up quirky clothes and hats at the kitchen table. However, after studying English at St Andrews University she went on to have a successful career as a BBC news correspondent and producer travelling widely throughout Europe. Somehow she also managed to train as a milliner, sold her first hat collection to Harvey Nichols and lectured in millinery at The Kensington & Chelsea College in London. Three years ago she bought an unloved Bedford Bambi campervan and turned it into a mobile craft studio. She quit her job and set off on a continental crafting adventure putting on pop-ups to help fund the journey.
Mary Jane has published two previous books, Chic on a Shoestring (2011) and The Modern Girl’s Guide to Hatmaking (2013), both with Kyle Books. She’s written a monthly style column for Homes & Antiques magazine and presented on fashion and craft strands for the BBC, famously bartering her sewing skills for board and lodging in a series of films for Newsnight.
She currently lives in London where she’s stitching together a living and writing her new book Sew on the Go.
- An introduction to Sew on the Go and a Free Sample Project (click 'Read More')Read more...
You know the score. You’re sitting at your desk thinking for the millionth time about leaving the rat race behind. It’s just you, your rucksack and a rough plan on a piece of paper. There are no e-mails to answer, no deadlines to meet, no daily commute, no people vying for your attention. Just the freedom of the open road stretching before you. Then the phone rings and you get back to work with a sigh.
Of course there are many reasons why most of us can’t make our dreams come true most of the time. There are debts to pay off, family commitments to keep us at home, jobs to hold down and health issues to cope with - all the difficult stuff of life that means we can get stuck in a rut. But what if for a few brief, glorious months nothing was actually preventing you from breaking free? Would you do it? Would you dare quit the day job and take the risk? It’s sometimes very easy to find reasons for avoiding challenges, and frightening to embrace the uncertainty of saying ‘I do’.
This had certainly been my story. For many years I’d combined several different jobs. Whilst working as a BBC correspondent I’d also trained as a hat maker. I worked for two years with milliner-to-the-stars Stephen Jones, sold my first hat collection to Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge and ran creative workshops for the likes of Liberty and Topshop. Somehow I’d even managed to squeeze in a series about ‘make-do and mend’ for BBC Newsnight, two weeks in Paris working for Marc Jacobs and a part-time teaching job in London. After a while I began to feel I was spreading myself too thin. I was juggling too many different balls and felt in danger of dropping them all.
Around this time my Godfather died and generously left me some money. I immediately decided to spend part of my inheritance on an old campervan. I fantasized about doing it up and filling it with all the materials I needed to make beautiful things as I journeyed. I’d create the perfect travelling craft studio and then set off around Europe exploring French fleamarkets, swimming in rivers and meeting a clutch of colourful creative characters. My van of choice wasn’t a trendy VW (too expensive) or a quirky Citroen H van (too heavy on the steering) but something of a plain Jane - a boxy Bedford Bambi in need of some TLC. Once purchased, I drove it back to South East London and parked it on the street outside my little flat. It didn’t matter to me that Bambi’s top speed was 60 mph, that the interior electrics didn’t work or that the fridge was broken. Bambi would be my bolthole, my crafty retreat from the world - my very own Mobile Makery.
Whenever I had the chance I’d spend a few hours working on Bambi. It felt like I was building an escape-pod outside my front door. First I papered her interior with the pages of a 1950’s dressmaking book and then started reupholstering the seats with a mixture of funky fabrics and souvenir tea towels. I changed the curtains and added over-the-top trims spending many happy hours hunting down enamel mugs and crochet blankets to cosy up the space. The dream of having a Mobile Makery kept me going through the dark winter nights and the long shifts working in the BBC newsroom.
My neighbours watched my upcycling activity with mild amusement and a certain amount of cynicism. But when I started découpaging the outside of the van with posh wallpaper foraged from a Brighton skip they decided I’d completely lost the plot. To me however, it seemed like a perfectly sensible idea. I couldn’t afford a state-of-the-art vinyl wrap, so why not just do-it-myself? It was extremely therapeutic. Once I’d finished, I coated the design with several layers of outdoor varnish and hey presto! My Bambi had been transformed into a Magical Mobile Makery complete with a travelling craft library and a mini gas stove - essential for fry-ups on the go...
- 17th April 2020 The Stationary Makery
Dear friends and supporters,
I hope you're all coping as well as possible during these strange and unsettling times and are managing to stay healthy in both body and mind. Like a number of people I'm currently mostly at home at the moment. I've been putting the finishing touches to my manuscript for Sew on the Go, the book that you've so generously co-funded, as well as doing press & PR for…13th June 2019 A bunch of thank you roses.....
This is a moment that I thought would never come.
To be on the cusp of completing the funding for Sew on the Go is as humbling as it is exciting. Two years since setting out on this incredible journey with Unbound, my book’s publishing costs have all but been met with the help and support of all of you. I have been amazed (and sometimes completely moved) by your incredible generosity and faith…24th May 2019 THANKYOU for such an incredible effort!!
Well! What an amazing couple of weeks! You’ve all been absolutely incredible.
Over the last two weekends I’ve been taking part in Stroud Open Studios with Atelier (a fantastic creative hub with affordable workspace in the heart of the Cotswolds). I gave a talk about ‘Sew on the Go’ to a very empathetic audience, sold a range of handmade and vintage goodies, led a macrame workshop using…7th May 2019 Meeting Dame Joan Bakewell
My three month residency with The Hosking Houses Trust is sadly nearing a close. During my time here in the beautiful Stratford-Upon-Avon countryside, I have completed the first draft of Sew on the Go, started a collection of poetry inspired by my stay, and created a range of hand-crafted artefacts based on a 1930’s floral tree made entirely out of wool and encased in glass. This precious…19th February 2019 Three months in the countryside
At the end of last year I heard that I had been awarded a prestigious writing sabbatical with The Hosking Houses Trust which offers women writers (over 40) a bursary and a residency in an 18th Century cottage in a small village just outside of Stratford Upon Avon. I was lucky enough to have been awarded a prize by the Trust before, five years ago in fact, when I was working on a previous book…19th February 2019 A writer in residence14th December 2018 Some very good news in time for Christmas!
Dear friends and supporters,
It’s nearly Christmas – almost the end of another year and one that has seen the crowd funding campaign for Sew on the Go leap forward to a massive 65%. I have all of you to thank for that. I’m so grateful for your continued help and your enthusiastic cheer-leading on my behalf. I feel confident that the end is in sight. There’s no way we’re going to give up…15th October 2018 Season of mists and mellow makefulness....
Sometimes, after a challenging few weeks, it’s all too easy to forget the things that we’ve accomplished and that we’re proud of. We feel dejected, despondent, and (if truth be told) a little despairing. This year, like everyone else, I’ve had my fair share of difficulties. Some of them have been nothing more than bumps in the road. I’ve picked myself up, brushed myself down and got on with it. However…15th October 2018 Bambi’s back in business!
I’d like to start by saying a really big thankyou to several new supporters who’ve recently pledged towards publication of Sew on the Go. A little PR by one of my friends (THANKYOU Ms K!) has resulted in a much needed boost for my Mobile Makery project and has instilled in me a new positivity. We will get there! Welcome to the Sew on the Go fold all of you - I really appreciate your support and I…14th May 2018 Brother Chris on board!
I’m thrilled to announce that my brother Chris Baxter has very kindly offered to illustrate my new book, Sew on the Go: a maker’s journey. It will be scattered throughout with his wonderful sketches of Bambi, and the plan is for each chapter to start with a small black and white illustration too. Thanks so much Chris.
We’re now 38% funded - pretty good going. But still quite a road to travel to…8th April 2018 Stroud Open Studios
It’s almost a year since The Mobile Makery (aka Bambi) and I hit the road to take part in Stroud’s SITE Festival Open Studios which this year fall on 5th/6th and 12th/13th May.
SITE is a festival of artist-led projects that pop up in venues all across this wonderful little town which nestles in a valley on the edge of the Cotswolds. I have a big soft spot for Stroud. Not only did…8th April 2018 A postcard from Bambi24th January 2018 Hello 2018!
Dear friends and supporters.
I hope you all managed a break of some sort over the festive season and that you’re struggling through these rather bleak January days with the help of a good glass of claret. There’s no dry January in this household!
I’m currently waiting (rather impatiently) for the RAC to come and crank Bambi (aka The Mobile Makery) into action. I haven’t driven her for…8th December 2017 Short on time to craft Christmas?
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Well, it’s over four months now since I launched my UNBOUND campaign for Sew on the Go and to date, with your generous help, I’ve managed to raise over £5000 towards the publication of my book. I’m really grateful for your support, and I’m overwhelmed by just how many people (140 and counting) have been willing to back me to ensure that I can bring Sew on the Go…13th October 2017 Let’s get crafty!
Dear friends and backers,
Thankyou all so much for supporting Sew on the Go. I’m chuffed to bits that you want to help us make the book a reality and I’m really grateful for your help and faith in me. The clock is now starting to tick and so I’m keen to keep up the profile of the project as much as I can - and that means asking you all to keep talking, posting and tweeting as much as possible!…7th August 2017 Thankyou
Thankyou to all the supporters who've kindly pledged to get my book Sew on the Go out there. I really appreciate your investment in me and hope that together we can make this book happen. I'm really excited that we're on track to reach our goal - but the more people who know about Sew on the Go the better. If you haven't done so already - please spread the word via social media and let everyone know…
These people are helping to fund Sew on the Go: a maker's journey.
J L Yates