Meet the Maker - Jen Hogg
Jenn Hogg took part in The Great British Sewing Bee 2019, reaching the semi-final, and was described by the show as “one of the most talented and consistent sewers ever to take part”.
Her makes aren’t limited to textiles; Jen knits, can silversmith and makes jewellery. She’s also interested in photography, and is always keen to try new crafts that come her way.
Since the GBSB, Jen has been running sewing and knitting workshops all over her home country of Scotland and also collaborates with her GBSB friend, Ben Moore, as ‘Ben and Jen Textile Studio’. Together they run workshops, often using cashmere surplus from a local mill.
It doesn’t stop there, Jen also writes professionally for national publications. and has even invented the ‘Jenerates Sewing Ruler’.
Read on to find out more about Jen, her inspiration, upcoming projects and more!
Hi Jen, thanks so much for taking part in our Meet the Maker interview. Please can you introduce yourself to our Knitters and Stitchers?
Jen: Hi, Jen Hogg here: I have a passion for sewing, knitting, crochet, and generally making things. I’ve been sewing and knitting since before I can remember, and in 2019 reached the semi-final of The Great British Sewing Bee. Now I spend all of my time sewing and knitting: doing it, teaching it, writing about it and inventing things for it.
What do you make?
Jen: I make sewing tools and accessories from wood, and also from leather and cashmere surplus. It started with the Jenerates Sewing Ruler – I’d searched for years for a square ruler that starts at zero at both the inside and outside corners, with drafting cut-outs, but I could never find one, so I designed and made my own. I’ve been really delighted by the response from other sewers, and by the fact that the rulers are being used around world. The range includes metric and imperial, and versions for quilters and knitters too.
More recently I’ve been working on Jenerates Seam Circles, an interlocking drafting tool for adding or taking off seam allowances from 0.5cm to 4cm and beyond. I’ve also been working with leather and cashmere surplus, making tabs for fabric scissors, labels, and needle cases. Everything I make has been based on my own needs as an experienced sewer, and I’m dedicated to working in sustainable materials with local companies wherever possible. That means I can offer bespoke versions of everything too.
Jen made this blouse from a vintage table cloth and Japanese Nuno fabric for the opening of an exhibition at Japan House in London.
How did you get interested/started in your creative field?
Jen: I can’t remember being taught to sew. It was a normal part of life in my family, although in my Gran’s day it would have been out of necessity whereas I sew for the joy of making unique and well-fitted clothes in beautiful fabric. The reduced environmental impact of sewing my own clothes is also an important factor for me.
What’s the story behind your name?
Jen: Making = generating – add in Jen and you get Jenerates! When we filmed the GBSB, I started an Instagram account for my sewing, and this name came to me. At the time I was going to jewellery classes at my local college, and I made a few enamelled copper labels with Jenerates on them. I added one to a gorgeous green Harris Tweed coat, and that became my logo.
What/ who inspires you?
Jen: I’m definitely inspired by minimalist, pared back fashion, and some of my favourite pattern books are from Japan and Sweden. I like an industrial edge, and clothes which a little idiosyncratic but practical, and preferably eco-friendly. When it comes to the sewing items I’ve created, the same applies. I also find other people’s work inspiring, whether it’s because of the pattern or fabric, or their skill, or simply their enthusiasm and joy in their garment.
What’s your creative process/ routine? How often are you making?
Jen: I make every day. I need to have a sewing project on the go, or I get a bit edgy, and I usually have 3 or 4 knitting or crochet projects too. I also like to try out new things, recently I’ve been shabori-dying a beautiful hemp / silk fabric, and I’ve got an idea for that which involves a sunny day and dye in a spray bottle. With sewing I tend to finish each project before I start the next, but I’m always thinking about my next projects. I engraved a ruler for someone with “So many ideas, too little time” which resonates with me.
What is your workspace/studio like?
Jen: A bit of a midden, if I’m honest! I’m lucky to have a workroom at home, where I do all my work on the business as well as my sewing. It’s full. Very full. But I’ve come to realise that some chaos helps me to be creative – if I can see the colours and textures in my fabric stash, I’m more likely to have ideas about things I want to make.
Creative tool you couldn’t live without?
Jen: Well, obviously my square ruler and my seam circles! Also my awl. I have an old quick-unpick which makes a fantastic sharp point for holding fabric in the right place as it goes under the needle.
Do you listen to anything whilst you’re working?
Jen: I always mean to listen to something when I’m working but I usually get too engrossed in what I’m doing to remember to switch anything on. Sometimes I do put on an audiobook though, and for a while during the first lockdown, I watched Gilmour Girls from start to finish, mostly while I sewed.
What makes you, your brand or products unique?
Jen: All of my products are designed by me, unique, and based on my own needs or experience as a sewer. I made them for myself first, then for friends and finally set up the business. The lovely comments I get are testament to this, it’s lovely when people message me to tell me how much they like a product, and how useful it is. When you’re a one-person micro-business, feedback is very personal!
I’m mindful of the environmental impact of my products and the importance of a circular economy, so I keep everything as local as possible. I work with other Glasgow businesses and use Scottish cashmere and leather surplus. It’s important to me that I pay the businesses I collaborate with a fair price for their work, and the surplus is bought from various social enterprises which donate all profits back to the community.
What is your next project?
Jen: My next sewing project is something I’ve been wanting to make for a while, the Merchant & Mills Ottoline jacket, in an off-white needlecord. I’m going to line it though, because cord can be a bit sticky to wear. And from my yarn stash, I’m stepping back into the 70s and planning a long-length granny square sleeveless cardi.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Jen: More of the same, please! Over the next 12 months I’d like to continue to grow the business, and to make garments which improve my skills. I’ve had an idea for a book for a couple for years, and I’d love to get on with that too.
And I want to spend time with my family and my wee dog, I want to get back to the Scottish hills and beaches and remote camping spots, and having coffee and generously-proportioned scones in a café with a friend. Lockdown has shown us all what we miss, I think.
What have been your biggest challenges/achievements, or your favourite story so far?
Jen: The challenge of taking part in GBSB has to be my biggest in recent years. I applied without any expectation of being picked, and it was only when the producers called to ask me to take part that I started to think about the reality of being on TV. At that point I thought at the very least it would be an interesting thing to do, and my goodness so it was. I made some best friends – we’re all still in touch and you might meet some of them at my stand at the Knitting & Stitching Show – and I made things I never knew I could. I also discovered that I can sew accurately at speed, with Patrick describing me as possibly the best sewer who had ever been on the programme. That was quite something. I’ve also met so many people from the wider sewing community through GBSB, before the pandemic I was hugged by strangers in the street (Glasgow is very friendly!) and even met someone who said my achievements had made him cry. That emotional contact with strangers warms your soul.
What is your best-selling product/line?
Jen: The Jenerates Sewing Ruler took off in a way which I didn’t expect. In the space of less than a year it has been featured by all of the major sewing magazines, praised by pattern designers and makers I have huge respect for and I’ve sent them all over the world.
What do you love about The Knitting & Stitching Shows?
Jen: I love the collaboration! We have a passion (hobby is too small a word) for something which is by and large a solo activity. It’s so inspiring to meet other people who share that passion. Plus you can have chat which makes no sense whatsoever to non-sewers or knitters. I also love the chance to browse in shops which are not usually accessible for me, because the internet is great but you can’t beat seeing fabric and yarn in real life, and it gives me an opportunity to say hello in person to people I’ve come across on Instagram, or through their online shops.
What are your three top tips for crafters and makers…
- Work with beautiful materials, you’re putting in a lot of effort. I don’t necessarily mean expensive, some of the most lovely fabrics I’ve worked with have been reclaimed or surplus, for example vintage linens and cashmere offcuts.
- Take your time and enjoy the process. Even if something doesn’t work out quite as you’d planned, you’ll have learned a lot from the project. The process is as valuable as the finished item.
- Be as kind to yourself as you would to your friend. So what if your top stitching is a bit wonky in places. If you can’t see it from a distance, don’t sweat it. If you can, and it bothers you, try it again. But what would you say to your friend if it was his or her garment? You’d say It’s amazing! Well done! Look at you!