Ginny Buckley lives near Bristol in the UK. There she has organized sewing days, drawing in members of her church and local community to come sew a bag for Sew Powerful. In this episode, Ginny walks us through her planning process and how she arranged the room to ensure safety protocols, provide convenient access to the supplies, while still encouraging sharing and friendship. Ginny also reveals her secret weapon that draws in her bag makers, and she literally shares the recipe for her success.
Take A Cake Break with Ginny Buckley
IN THIS EPISODE
Yatton, UK, sewing days, sewing for charity, sponge cake recipe, room setup, Sew Powerful purses, straps, webbing, pre-cut purse kits, bags, beginner pattern, intermediate pattern
We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Ginny Buckley
Jan Cancila, Host 00:04
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
Hello podcast listeners. We are going to be speaking today with Ginny Buckley, and Ginny is speaking to us from the UK. And she has had a couple of very successful Sewing Days that she's organized with the ladies at her church. And I wanted to explore this more; I wanted to learn how she came up with the idea, what she did to plan for it, what the days were like, what the results were like. We're going to really get into this. So, you will be wanting to conduct your own Sewing Days after you hear what Ginny did. So hello, Ginny, how are you today?
Ginny Buckley, Guest 01:01
Hello, Jan. I'm very well today. Thank you. It's a lovely day here in the UK.
And where are you in the UK? Help us orient.
I'm in the southwest of the UK, in a small town called Yatton, which is just south of Bristol. We're actually in North Somerset, which is, as I say, down towards the Southwest.
Very nice. And your weather now?
The weather is lovely. We've had a spell of sort of coolish drizzly sort of weather. But today it's pulled it socks up and it's quite warm again, approaching probably 28 degrees, which for us is very warm.
And we're recording this in mid-August so this is summertime temperatures.
Let me start off and just ask you, what is the COVID situation where you are right now?
We're getting to the stage where restrictions have been lifted. But people are still advised to be sensible so the wearing of face masks is purely optional. We're very fortunate in that the majority of the population have been vaccinated at least once. I mean, even my daughter who is 20 has had two vaccinations. They're just starting to approach 16-17 year olds now. So, they've really zipped through the population.
Mm hmm. And when does school typically start there?
Round about the fifth of September.
Mm hmm. And so is there any concern now with back to school and COVID and the children?
I think there is. Yes, I think there is. And towards the end of term, which was the end of July, children were being told all the time, they have to go into isolation for 10 days because somebody that they knew or in their, one of their classmates have tested positive. So, it's all, it's all very tricky, and people aren't really sure what's going to happen.
Sure. This has got to be so challenging for children and teachers. And well, we know it's challenging just for everybody. Okay, well, on to happier subjects. You posted in Facebook some photos of, I believe it was two different Sewing Days you've held so far. Is that right?
That's right. Yes. Two this year.
Two this year. And are there any more planned?
Yes, we have another two: one next Wednesday, which is the 18th of August, and one on the 27th of August.
Well, I'm a little far but otherwise I would sign up and come. Alright, so let's back up. So, what gave you the idea to have Sewing Days? These were conducted at your church. Is that correct?
That's right. Yes.
Okay. So what was the original idea?
I felt really passionately about Sew Powerful. When I first discovered it, it spoke to me so strongly that I just wanted to share that with other people. I knew that I had church friends who sewed, I knew that I had church friends that would be equally interested or equally passionate about Sew Powerful, and I just wanted to just encourage them and just make as many bags as I could and send off as many as I could.
Okay, and so you decided that you would conduct four Sewing Days. And did you have to go to the people at church to book the room, or how did all that work?
Well, fortunately, at our church we were without a booking secretary at the time. So, my husband, Martin, was looking after the bookings. So, it was very easy. I got my calendar down off the wall and said to Martin, Can I have these days? And that was it. I tried to book days that were a different day of the week each time, just in case people who worked part time, you know, so it wasn't the same day. They wouldn't exclude people. I also have them about 10 days apart, so that it would give me a break in between times as well because there's a bit of work involved.
Okay, and so because you're right there at home with the person who's booking everything, that went smoothly. And so what kind of items were on your checklist to prepare for these Sewing Days?
I printed off about six of the beginner patterns and the same of the intermediate pattern, because I knew I had some friends that preferred one, some that preferred the other. And then I just started cutting out and making kits. So, I cut out fabric in beginner patterns and intermediate patterns, put each kit into a plastic bag (one of the ones with the Ziploc on the top), put a little sticker on saying what it was, just amassed as many as I could in the time that I had.
Mm hmm. And so, you had kits. And so how did you advertise? You know, you've done all this prep work, but how did you advertise it so that people in the church, and was it open to people in the community?
Yes it was.
Or did you restrict it to your church?
No, no. To start off with, we have a church bulletin or a newsletter, which goes out every month. I advertised it in there. We also have a church Facebook page. So, it went on that. It went on my own personal Facebook page, because I knew there would be some of my friends who would be interested. And we're belong to a Methodist Church, and the group of Methodist churches in the local area all work together. And they have a Facebook page as well. So, it also went on there. And on the Sew Powerful page, of course.
Yeah. Well, and that's how I knew about it. So that sounds really extensive. And so, what was the result of the advertising? Did you ask people to register or just show up, or what was the plan?
I asked them to book in so that I had an idea of how many tables I needed to put out really, and how many kits I needed to prepare and how many irons we would need, to try and keep people distanced in the room. So, we weren't all waiting for the same one as well.
And then you had a little incentive besides the fun of, of making purses and the companionship. What was the other added incentive to come to the Sewing Day?
Yes, some people say bribery, but I like your word incentive. I always offer cake; I always offer homemade cake to people as well. So, we have to have that. We have a cake break at about half past 11.
A cake break. And you know, one of our Regional Coordinators in the United States (I'll just give her a shout out), Chris Harwood, had a day, a Sewing Day, that she called, I think she called it Purses and Pies.
She did, I remember.
And the local bakery there provided pies to the people who made purses. Apparently, offering sweets is a good idea, because what was the turnout? Let's talk about the first event. What was your turnout?
We had about seven people on the first week. But there was quite a surprising visitor to our first, our first week because a lady had seen the Sewing Day advertised on the Sew Powerful page. And she lived 81 miles away from me, didn't know anyone in her area that sewed. She didn't know anyone that was connected to Sew Powerful. And she thought, I fancy that, my son lives in Bristol. So she tied it in with a visit to her son. And she came to join us for our Sewing Day, which was fantastic.
Wow. Well, let's give her a shout out. Do you remember her name?
Sue Harper. Well, thank you for making the drive. So, tell us about that first day. So, you put tables out. One table for each person?
More or less, yes. We've got a number of six-foot-long tables at church, which we use for catering and things like that. So, we're very fortunate. The hall we use is a good size, and it's got a kitchen connected to it with a hatch. So, you know, there was always access to tea and coffee, things like that. I put out three of these six-foot tables down each side of the room. And then I put two tables at the far end, which was sort of diagonally, so they were connecting. So, we didn't just have two lines that didn't meet. We had a lot of extension cables so that people could, you know, plug in their machines, obviously. I put an ironing station, I had four, one in each corner of the room
Oh, good idea.
So people didn't have far to walk and they didn't, not falling over each other or walking too closely to each other. I also put down the center of the room, I had another couple of six-foot tables. And on those I had the patterns and the kits. I had a box of scraps of fabric in case people wanted to do like appliqué or something like that. I had webbing for straps. I had fabric in case people wanted to cut their own bags out and I had various weights of interfacing as well. Oh, and my box full of accessories and bits and pieces like ribbons and buttons and that sort of stuff.
This sounds like the setup took into account safety protocols for social distancing. But then you made it friendly and convenient and appealing and easy to get to. Ginny, the layout sounds brilliant.
That's what we tried to do. We just tried to make it as friendly, as you say, as friendly but as safe as we could.
Mm hmm. That sounds really smart. And so, you had 7 people come that first day, and they use your kits. Did anybody choose to cut their own? Do you remember?
Yes, they did actually. There's another Sew Powerful lady who lives very close by, a lady called Jean Harrison, who we'd met recently
in Sew Powerful. As an Admin, I admitted her to the Sew Powerful group, and recognized that she lived close-by, so I got in touch with her. She came and she was an absolute whiz. And she made about four bags of her own that she had brought, you know, with her, ready cut.
And I've seen photos of the purses that she's made individually before. So hello, Jean. Thank you. Okay. All right. So, she had brought some. Had anybody else made any before the Sewing Day, that they brought?
Yes, actually, I've had Sewing Days previously, and recruited two what I call my super sewers. And so, they both were
Okay, who were they? Give us their names.
Barbara Hook and Pam Blackwell.
Okay, Barbara and Pam. Okay, super sewers.
They are; they've really got the bug. And they'll do things like they'll turn up and say, Hey, you are Ginny, here's another 17 bags for you.
I've got them in a wardrobe and they're all going to be sent off to Sandy Simm before too long.
Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
So, they keep bringing me bags throughout the year.
And I'll just ask this, do most of the folks that are making these bags for you, are they making their own strap or do they like webbing or is it a mix?
It's a bit of a mix. Mainly webbing, but one or two make their own straps.
Okay. All right. I think I must be the laziest sewer in the world. I've never made a strap; well I think I made one strap. And then I said,
Oh, no, webbing. Webbing all the way.
I did one that was a combination of webbing and fabric, because I didn't have quite enough fabric. So I just turned the edges under and put webbing over the top. And that looks quite nice.
That's great. Okay, so that was session number one. So, for the second Sewing Day, did you set it up the same way again?
Yes, I did. We had seven people for the second, but some of the same people came, but we had some different people as well, who were unable to come to the first one.
Okay. All right. You have two more set up, and therefore two more dates in August. And if you would, give us those dates again.
They are the 18th of August, which is next Wednesday, and the 27th of August.
Okay. And this podcast will come out on the 19th of August. So there'll only be one more chance after you listen to the podcast. And if somebody wants to participate in your Sewing Day, what should they do?
Just contact me, send me a message or a message on Facebook.
And they'd be very, very welcome. It would be lovely to see them.
Okay. All right. And so, they could just send a private message on Facebook to Ginny Buckley, right? That's, that's how your name shows on Facebook?
Yes, that's right.
Ginny Buckley. Okay. Okay, so contact Ginny if you want to participate in one of her Sewing Days. And she wants to know in advance so that she can have the proper setup. And everybody brings their own sewing machine and tools?
Own sewing machine and tools, yes.
There's always a shout up: I haven't got my own picker, or has anybody got a tape measure? Oh, I forgotten those, or Oh, my mom's borrowed this or not put it back in the box.
That sounds pretty normal. Okay, so then the incentive, or the bribe, that you talked about was the homemade cake. And you personally make the cake. Is that right?
I did. Yes, I did.
Okay, and promises to do the same for the upcoming events?
Oh, yes. Okay. And is it the same cake every time?
It's usually a variation on the theme. We had a plain sponge the first time and a chocolate sponge the second time because I had a young sewer who I know is particularly fond of chocolate cake. So, and it had just been her birthday, so I did it for her.
Oh, nice. Okay, so I know on the Facebook group, there was a clamoring for your recipe and are you willing to share the sponge cake recipe with us?
Yes I am. It's very easy. I use old-fashioned Imperial scales, weights on one side and the pan on the other. But instead of using weights, I put three eggs onto the side where the weights would go. And so then I do equal weights of self-raising flour, margarine and castor sugar, which I think you call either super fine sugar or baker's sugar.
Right, right. super fine. Uh huh. Yeah.
Then you cream the margarine and the sugar together till it's all soft and fluffy. Beat the eggs or whisk them, the eggs. And then gradually add the eggs in and a little bit of flour together till it's all mixed in. Mix it til your arm feels as if it's going to fall off and then mix it again so it's nice airy. Divide it into two cake tins or cake pans and cook it in the oven at 160 at the highest, maybe between 150 and 160 for round about 30 minutes. Maybe you have a look at it after 25 just to see. That's it. Oh, I usually put butter icing in the middle, which again is just butter and icing sugar, powder sugar, in the middle. And that's it. Sometimes it has melted chocolate on the top if I'm feeling fancy.
That sounds delicious. And I don't have one of those scales, but probably somebody does, so
You could do it if you had digital scales, you could weigh the eggs. See what they weigh and do it that way.
Oh, good idea. Oh, very, very clever. Very clever. So, it's three eggs, margarine, [self-raising] flour, sugar, right?
That's it. Wow. Very good. And then beat it until it feels like you're about to lose your arm and then keep going.
Yeah, that's right. Or use an electric beater or use an electric mixer. That's a bit easier as well.
Yeah, well, even one of those hand, hand mixers, you can get pretty tired doing that. So alright, and so now we know the secret to the cake and the incentive. We know that she's had cake. You had lemon at the first one?
It was just a plain, it was just a plain vanilla sponge the first time.
Oh, vanilla. Okay, chocolate. Can you give us a hint what you have planned?
Well, I'm not entirely sure. It might be, oh, I'm not sure.
I've put you on the spot.
It might be another plain one, another vanilla one, I think, I'm not really sure.
Okay. All right. Well,
I'll look for inspiration on Tuesday. Lemon perhaps. We'll say lemon, actually, it might be lemon. Yeah.
Lemon, lemon. Okay, lemon this coming week, and then TBD for the last week, right? All right. Very good. All right. So what would you say to someone who had thought about doing a Sewing Day, but they thought, Well, you know, maybe this is too hard, or I don't know anybody, Or, you know, I don't really know how to get started. How would you encourage them?
I would say if you're a member of Facebook, just put a little advert out there and say this is what I'm thinking of doing, would anybody be interested? And I think you might be surprised by people saying, Oh, that sounds a good idea. Oh, yes, I like the sound of that. Especially if you say, I've made a few of these bags myself. It's not hard. I'll help you every step of the way if you need me to. You can always promise cake and that encourages people as well.
And did you give them the pattern booklet to take home? Or do you keep those
for your Days?
I said they could take them if they wanted to. Hoped that they would take them and be inspired to make more.
Sure, right, because then they have the pattern pieces and the instructions right there, and then they can go forward. And then have you offered to collect the bags that people make? And then do you send them to Sandy Simm, as the country purse collector?
Yes. I made sure that all the booklets that I gave out, they have Sandy's address in, but I made sure they have my address in as well. So, people have a choice of either sending them directly or they could bring them to me.
Okay. And what about the note card that people put in the purse? Did you do that?
We did last week, actually. One of my friends came with her daughter who was just 11 and she sat and she did lots of sticking and gluing and being creative.
Oh, how nice.
She had a good time.
Well, I know the girls in Zambia love those note cards, and I'm sure your friend's daughter had a good time making them. And the girls in Zambia will relate to them, I'm sure. Well, Ginny, thank you so much for your time today. It's always a pleasure to talk with you. And I love your Sewing Days. And thank you for sharing your cake recipe. Now, is this a family secret that you've revealed or how did this recipe come about?
It's what my Mum used to do. It's not a secret really. It's the cake my Mum used to make, yes.
Oh wow. It sounds lovely and you always show a photo of it when you show the photo of your Sewing Days and all the bags that the ladies are making. So please keep up the good work. It's always fun to talk to you. And I love hearing about how the Sewing Days came about and how you put it all together. So I want you to know how appreciative everyone at Sew Powerful is for everything that you do. And I know the girls in Zambia love getting the bags that people make from your group. So thank you so much.
Oh, thank you, Jan. It was a pleasure to talk to you, as ever.
You too. Thank you. We'll talk to you soon. Bye-bye.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.SewPowerful.org. That's SEW POWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.