London’s most in-demand tailor and creator of exquisite textile art pieces talks us through what he knows best and instructs us in the making of our own quilted blanket
Photography by Andreas Larsson
How to start the day right…
I’m a morning person – or at least, I like to think that I am. I’m not one of the overly ambitious early birds that use their alarm time as a source for boasting, although on some evenings I’ll fully commit to transforming my life with an early start the next day. “I will wake up at 4am tomorrow,” I tell myself, “like those types that are running, lunging and squatting in a park somewhere…” Then morning comes, and I snooze my alarm until around 6am. I would say that, given the choice, this is a good time to get up! No earlier or later.
On waking up fully, I will mentally plan out the day ahead and decide when I should fit in a swim. After making the necessary coffee I require to function – which I recommend drinking in bed, as it feels oddly romantic – I do some stretches. They are only simple ones, and I don’t bother with a mat. These should be done in whatever you wore to bed; not yoga pants, that’d be too earnest. Food follows all this, and my menu rarely changes: toast and poached eggs. Before leaving the house, I make a smoothie, which I have making down to a couple of minutes. Mornings are not for milling around.
My shake has some staples, the rest I improvise depending on what I can find in the kitchen. The result is a much too thick pudding-like drink that is anything but smooth. I usually need a spoon to finish it off. I do finish it, regardless of the taste – it’s not always the best-tasting, but I know it’s healthy. The below should be added to a blender (I use a NutriBullet), be exact or inexact as suits you. Saying I have it down to a couple of minutes was a lie. This can take more than 10 minutes, so will likely make you late for work.
1 handful of greens
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of coconut oil
1 heaped tbsp of pea protein (unsweetened)
1 tsp of spirulina powder
Find whatever you can to add to it, be they…
Brain cells lost in the 1990s (hard to find)
How to… stay fit
Swimming is what I love. I have done ever since I was a kid, growing up by a lake in northern Ontario. Jumping into a natural body of water always beats a chlorinated pool; you’re connecting with nature while working out, and it’s an adventure. It gives you such a sense of clarity. No exercise could be better than wild swimming – but after moving to a city, it wasn’t so easy to find a clean lake to throw myself into.
I started swimming regularly after being dumped by a boyfriend 17 years ago. I was unhealthily obsessed with him and went to the pool to find some sanity (and hopefully transform my body, so my ex would want me back). After a week of swimming, I stopped caring that I hadn’t received an “I made a mistake” call from him – I had developed a new obsession, this time a healthy one.
In London, I swim mostly at the lido in London Fields. I would recommend just going to the pool and doing what’s comfortable, and if it suits you search stroke-technique videos on Youtube to help improve your sessions. I do mostly freestyle, and a mix of breaststroke, back crawl and drills so it doesn’t get too boring.
Keep your swimming kit simple, too. Speedos and goggles are all that’s needed. Just do what your body tells you it can do, and then add a lap to that for the next swim.
The lido is open late, so I always have my Speedos with me, in case I find time in the evening. It’s great there, as every type of swimmer uses it, so the atmosphere is good and not too intimidating. There are also some excellent swimmers, which keeps you motivated.
How to… make a quilt
They can be seen as a traditional, but quilts can be as unconventional as you want them to be. The process of making one is the same no matter the look: it’s sewing pieces together with a design in mind that will eventually be something you can use. I tend to focus on the design idea, not on what the future of the quilt will be. It’s making something without the weight of having it be liked by others – or even myself. It’s a process of making that frees and enables me to do whatever I like without questioning it. I’m always proud of the end result, because I’ve seen it through to the end. It’s a lot of cutting and sewing, and not something that I’ve ever become bored of.
My parents gave me a sewing machine when
I was a kid and I’ve sewn ever since, from altering garments to making them. Now I work as a tailor for the fashion industry on shoots, making sure the clothing fits the models (or whoever is being photographed or filmed). But it was making quilts while working at a nine-to-five office job that led me to this.
To make a quilt, a pattern helps. It can be as simple or as complicated as you wish, but use whatever you fancy. In the past, I’ve used topographical maps – maps are essentially a pattern. I’d fill the pattern pieces with different colours and together they mimic land I’ve seen from flights, a bird’s eye view of small towns and the agricultural land that surrounds them. At the moment I’m taking inspiration from terrazzo, a building material. With this, I don’t use a pattern and just cut and sew randomly. This takes a lot longer and challenges my patience. But making a quilt has you slow down; like swimming, it helps you clear your head. I started a quilt last September – it’s not finished, but the satisfaction when it is will make all the time and effort worth it.
“It’s a process of making that frees and enables me to do whatever I like without questioning it.”
Instructions for a quick and easy quilt
1. The materials
You will need fabric – ideally nothing too stretchy – scissors, a sewing machine (makes things faster, but needle and thread works too), a long ruler, an iron, some batting (filling for the quilt) and a large piece of fabric that will be the underside.
2. The idea
If stuck for a creative concept for your quilt, look up the work of Gee’s Bend, a group of women from Alabama who have been making incredible blankets for over 100 years. They are an endless source of inspiration for many a quilt-maker. The basic idea is to sew strips of different-coloured fabric together; for these women, it was whatever they had available. The lesson I took away from their creations was that there are no rules. A little imperfection can give sublime results.
3. The pattern
This is a quick, easy quilt. The squares are made up of strips of fabric which together make a striped square of 60 x 60cm. For a good-size throw you’ll want to make nine of these.
4. The preparation
Cut or tear the 60cm lengths of fabric, whatever width suits you. (Most fabrics can be torn: snip on the edge and tear. You might need to iron, just to press the edges flat.) Place the strips of fabric beside each other lengthways until they make a square.
5. The sewing
Start by sewing two strips together lengthways. Add another strip, and continue sewing strips on until you have an approximate square. Then iron flat. Trim if necessary, so it measures 60 x 60cm. Make nine of these. Sew three of these squares in a row. Continue this until you have three rows of three. Sew the three rows together lengthwise to form a square. This is the top of the quilt finished.
7. The batting
Batting is a sheet of fluffy material that lies between the top layer (which you have just finished) and the bottom layer of a quilt. You can get cotton or synthetic (poly) batting. Both work, but I prefer the cotton because it has a softer texture.
8. The construction
I think this is the easiest way, but everybody has their own techniques. Lay the quilt top face-up on the floor, then place the bottom layer on top of that. Then place the sheet of batting on to that – all should be the same size. Pin the edges, and then sew them closed, leaving about 40cm open on one side – you’ll need this opening for “bagging out” (turning the quilt inside-out). Once bagged out, you can sew this length shut.
9. The quilting
You want to sew all the layers together, so that the piece will always lie flat. The quickest and most effective way is to put a little stitch where your squares meet – you’ll find that’s only four stitches. And now your quilt should be finished. You can nap under it, picnic on it, hang it on a wall or give it to a friend…