Tuesday 24 February 2015

Sewing + Podcasts = Heaven!

I've currently got a bit of a backlog of finished projects to share with you, but I want to break up the 'I made this!' and 'I made this as well!' to write about something else. Don't worry, it's still sewing related. I want to talk about something that, for me, goes hand-in-hand with sewing: podcasts!

On a week day, when the stars aline and Dolores has a two-hour nap at home (rather than in the pushchair or sling when we are out and about), I can often sneak in an hour or so's sewing time during the day. This is a blissful little oasis of time which gives me a little break from trying to figure out how to entertain her, and it is very good for my mental health. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when she drops this nap, but I'll worry about that when the time comes closer, and in the meantime I'll enjoy the spell of productivity I'm currently experiencing.

Something I love to do that connects me to the 'outside' world, rather than the one I usually inhabit which consists largely of fish fingers and story books with flaps, is listen to podcasts. I listen to them on the train going to and from the classes I teach, but I also love to listen to them during these precious windows of sewing opportunity.

Here's a list of my favourite podcasts at the moment in alphabetical order:


What is it? Fascinating little true tales around the theme of illegal activity, usually only about 15-20 minutes long apiece. Warning: some of the episodes are a little on the dark side, so probs best not listen to this podcast when there are kids around or you're feeling a bit sensitive.

Recommended Episode: J.R.R Ziemba. There's only one episode of Criminal that I haven't found fascinating so I could have recommended almost any of the fifteen currently available.

This American Life

What is it? The Big Daddy of podcasts! TAL has been going since the 1990's and has a massive following. Most of the hour-long episodes revolve around a theme and feature several stories that are loosely connected to the theme, but some episodes are based on a single factual tale. I got into TAL when my boss at Traid went on maternity leave and I worked alone for several months. I got thoroughly obsessed and used to rack up maybe five episodes a day. TAL reminds me just how multifaceted and absorbing real life is.

Recommended Episode: My goodness, so many but I'd say two episodes that really drew me in to this podcast are Switched at Birth and Act V. The wonderful thing about TAL is that, if you get into it, there is a backlog of over 500 episodes to dive in to!

What is it? The tag line is something like 'stories about the invisible forces that shape our lives'. But I'd describe it as spending an hour with two awesome, intelligent ladies who are having the most interesting conversation you're going to hear all week. 

Recommended Episode: I'd recommend you listen to all of them, but if I have to recommend one I'll say How to Become Batman, as this is one that I had to tell Pat (Mr So Zo) about immediately after he returned home. Frustratingly, they've only just finished airing the first/pilot series so there are only six episodes out there in the world, and we're looking at a long wait until we get some more.

What is it? How the hell to describe Love + Radio?! It's mental and captivating. The creators must have scoured the world to find the most interesting people alive to be the subjects of their shows, and then won their trust and honesty to make it the most absorbing chunk of time you could devote to listening to something. In short: I'm in love with L+R. 

Recommended Episode: Oh my! Literally each one is a work of art in itself, but the episodes I wish I could erase from my memory to be able to devour them again as if for the first time are: Superchat, The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt, Strip, Pt 2 and The Silver Dollar

What is it? 'Mortified' takes many forms, but the podcasts basically consist of a recording from one of their lives shows where someone reads an unedited chunk of their teenage diary, out loud, to an audience. As you can imagine, the content is usually pretty embarrassing for the reader and therefore amusing for everyone else. The podcast then includes a mini-interview with the reader. Episodes are about fifteen minutes long.

Recommended Episode: To be honest, I'm not obsessed with Mortified as a podcast, but it is often amusing. I really enjoyed the Mortified Nation documentary, which allowed the viewer to learn far more about some of the featured readers from the live shows, and was a much more thought provoking and explorative experience. But I've added it to this list because it can be good if you've only got 15 minutes left of your train journey or a hem to sew.


What is it? I've only just started listening to Radiolab so I'm not sure what it is yet exactly. Other than excellent. 

Recommended Episode: The Trust Engineers is the only one I've listened to so far (I've got more lined up...). A disturbing yet fascinating subject reported on sublimely. It's about an hour long and you should listen to it. I cannot add anything else at this stage. 

What is it? What is Serial? What is it? ESSENTIAL LISTENING is what it is! The whole series/season follows one reporter's explorations into one single story about an arguably-innocent man wrongly imprisoned for murdering his ex-girlfriend. Each hour-long episode builds on the story and introduces more information with new twists and turns. It's easy to forget that it is a real story about a real crime. 

Recommended Episode: You have to listen to all of them in the correct order or you are a fool.


What is it? A lovely, friendly podcast produced by Lea Thau who created The Moth (see below). The episodes hoover around 30-45 minutes and usually feature stories that explore emotions, motivations and relationships. I may be making it sound less awesome than it is. 

Recommended Episode: One I absolutely adored is Gay Talese: Committed Voyeur. The Love Hurts mini-series is also so good in an absolutely open, confessional kind of way (the first episode can be heard here).

The Bugle

What is it? The Bugle is a super funny satire podcast that acts as a kind of correspondence between British comedians Jon Oliver and Andy Zaltzman. I've found it to be so funny that it can be awkward to listen to it whilst on public transport. Recommended to me by Emily of The Botterman Empire a couple of days ago, I've already hoovered up several episodes and I think I'm addicted now. 

Recommended Episode: Whatever is the most recent episode. This is a news-based podcast so it'll be funnier if you can actually remember the events and people they are satirising.

The Moth

What is it? Like Mortified, The Moth is recorded as part of live shows where members of the public tell their story. I wish these live shows went on in the UK because I would love to attend. Each podcast episode is just one short-ish story and could be about anything that is/was important to that person's life.

Recommended Episode: It's difficult to suggest just one that you should listen to. Whether or not such a personal tale will resonate with you depends so much on the individual listening and the mood they're in. Some have made me laugh, some have literally made me cry, just dive in and listen to a few (of the nearly 500 currently available)!

What about you? What do you listen to, if anything, whilst sewing? Any good podcasts you can recommend to me/us?


Kestrel said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I am really enjoying listening to podcasts on my commute at the minute. I can also recommend Death, Sex & Money to you - some really great episodes

Dilly said...

I like listening to things when I sew too - I can't comprehend those who watch TV as I normally end up sewing just one seam per half hour and sewing it wrong to boot... I tend to listen to Radio 4, but also like podcasts (and also listen to them whilst travelling).

Looking forward to listening to some of your recommendations! From your list, I listen to Radiolab and the Bugle. Radiolab is brilliant, keep listening to it, it's such intelligent investigation of subjects and often on very lateral lines.

My recommendation to you is Answer Me This - two comedians (one of them is actually Andy Zaltzman's sister) plus Martin the sound man answer questions sent in my listeners. It's very very funny (I tend to find myself snorting in public quite frequently). The early epsisodes you have to pay for, but most of the archives are free. Note that there is frequently a fair bit of swearing, so if Dolores is starting to talk maybe listen when she can't hear...

Oh, plus the Radio 4 archives - there's lots of interesting interviews from Woman's Hour, plus From Our Own Correspondent, More Or Less and the Friday evening comedy all have podcasts.

Sewing by Shirley said...

Sometimes I listen to Podcasts when I sew too! When my girls were babies and taking naps, I use to sew madly trying to get in all I could since I only sewed when they were sleeping. I too was not looking forward to when they stopped napping. My son took naps up until about 5 I think, but overnight it seemed, at the age of 3, my girls wouldn't nap anymore--yikes! What I did...for my own sanity, was start a "quiet time" which lasted the length of a nap. This was a time to go to their rooms and read their little books or just play quietly or sometimes I would put on a dvd for them. It worked for me so maybe that can work for you one day! We all still needed that "break" in the day whether we were sleeping or just having some down time.

Scruffybadger said...

I too am a podcast listener, particularly for walking to work, and even running when I'm on a longer one. I also love Ted radio hour. That's been really interesting. And the memory palace ( short snippets ) and I was hooked on startup too. And welcome to night vale is just very different! Thank you for suggesting a couple of comedy ones- I'm going to check them out!

Knitlass said...

I listen to lots and lots and lots of radio (mostly radio 4 and radio 2 - with a bit of radio 3 thrown in here and there).

I tend to listen to the radio - or music - when I'm sewing. But, I think I'll have to try some of your suggestions now! Just need to find a time when I can actually get on and sew....

Ashley Jeanne Espy said...

100% agree! I've been obsessed with TAL for years and listening to it while sewing on Saturdays was my weekly heaven, too. I've got a 10 month-old baby now and squeak in 20 min here and there (she's not a good napper, unfortunately) but it's still my heaven.

And my brother and uncle were featured in an episode of This American Life-- number #413 Georgia Rambler, check it out!

(and P.S., I'm the one that sewed a shit-ton of panties from your pattern and you posted the picture I sent you. Pants, panties, underwear, whatever they may be called...)


TheHappyHermit said...

I have discovered you can browse the Desert Island Disc back catalogue, so I download a few and get stitching!

Anonymous said...

I was going to do a post on podcasts over on my blog later this week, so I suppose great minds think alike!

I like Answer Me This too - they will literally answer anything, whether it's just trying to find out what happened to an obscure 80s popstar, or sorting out moral dilemmas. It's always rude and sweary but it's always hilarious too.

Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast is good too - he interviews a different comedian every week, and most of the time it's just a bit daft, but you sometimes get a revelation.

I also like Stuff You Should Know for finding out about random topics. However, having listened to their Football episode during the World Cup last year, I take their research with a hefty pinch of salt. I spotted loads of mistakes (15 players on a team? FA Cup every 4 years?!) and I'm not even a football fan. Still, they often have some really interesting subjects - everything from the scientific method to feng shui to online gambling.

Thanks for your suggestions - definitely going to give a few of them a listen!

Becky said...

I used to watch tv more when sewing, but I've since learned that I'm more productive when I'm just listening than watching. I don't have time to get into too many podcasts, so I mostly listen to Stuff You Should Know and Stuff You Missed in History Class. I'll freely admit that I was that kid who really enjoyed school and learning in general (except for math), so I do enjoy getting my little weekly doses of history/science/social studies/etc. I also listen to the odd sewing-related podcast, when I can find them--it's hard to find ones that aren't about quilting! Otherwise, it's mostly music for me.

Veronica said...


Hope you're well! Happy 2015!

I recommend WTF with Marc Maron (however I have to give the strong LA accents a rest every now and again) and am about to start Wilosophy podcast, by an Australian comedian Wil Anderson... xoxo

Katrina said...

Yes! Another Bugler! I started listening when I first strted sewing. Outdated episodes, out of order. It was great fun. Nothing made any sense.

Two recommendations for you: The Forum from the BBC World Service, and Welcome To Nightvale (though don't listen to too many at once or you'll go dotty)

Zoƫ said...

Oh I am soooo pleased you posted this, finding new podcasts has been on my to do list for ages but no one really suggested any I could get into. I'm onto this list NOW!

Unknown said...

As a relatively new Momma myself, my son is 26 months, I love to listen to THE LONGEST SHORTEST TIME, I think that you will absolutely love this. It's all about parents sharing their stories and relating to one another. I listen to TAL and listened to Serial too! What a great post!

Erin said...

ooooh, you've got some of my favs on the list! And some new one's I now can't wait to check out. I also highly, highly recommend 99% Invisible. It's a podcast about design put out by some architects....but they really take the definition of design to some interesting places. They just started putting out hour long episodes but have a huge backlog of shorter (5-15min) stories.

The Old Fashioned Way said...

Yay! You've got all my faves on this list and I just listened to Criminal this week and loved it. I sometimes feel sad though that none of the gazillion podcasts i listen to are British- except sometimes desert island discs and craig charles. I might try some radio 4 action but any other recommendations on that?

Lone Pine Farm said...

You've listed a few of my faves - our lists are pretty similar! - but I'd like to add: Freakonomics (the hidden side of everything) and Stuff you should know (usually about 30 minutes of a quick overview of a topic, such as Alien Hand Syndrome, Stonehenge, Ice Cream, the Scientific Method, Archaeology, Avalanches, the Brain, "Is your employer spying on you"... They cover very diverse topics).

I listen to podcasts while I clean, commute, and they help me get to sleep sometimes too.

Naomi said...

Sometimes my son won't have a daytime nap anymore but I still put him in his room for 'quiet time' and he entertains himself. It's very cute to listen to. I need the break for my sanity!
I listen to lots of local (NZ) national radio podcasts + some of the ones you've mentioned. When I am struggling to find anything I often revert to BBC 4's natural history podcast or I book out an audiobook from the library. I always love recommendations, thanks!

Unknown said...

When she doesn't want to sleep in the afternoons, I recommend Cbeebies, quiet time listening to a story/playing in her room or if all else fails gin. For you. Not her. I don't recommend trying to sew though, my two (6 & 4) will go from playing happily at the top of the house to screaming like banshees at each other/me the minute they hear the sewing machine start up. Have you tried knitting?

Miriam said...

I need to get back into podcasts, or even into them at all. Thanks for the recommendations :o) x

Ellen said...

You just perfectly described my life at the moment, right down to the flap books and sling (should have known you were a babywearer). I find sewing the perfect bit of "me tine" to switch my brain off everything else and just focus on fabric for a short while. M is only just switching to
one long nap but long may it remain!
I save my podcasts for our morning walks to the park and just listen to ABC Radio National (kind of the Aussie version of radio 4) while I sew.
My guilty pleasure is The Archers omnibus... theres something about that rural idyll that sooths my ex-pat soul. I also enjoy "Now Hear This" which are recordings of story telling slam events from around Australia. It never used to be available as a podcast, but it appears it is now, so thanks for making me search it out!

Chris B said...

Ladies after my own heart!!! I absolutely agree that sewing and listening to something is the perfect combination. I have been a fan of the spoken word since I was a child and have happily passed it onto my children who are now teenagers. Echo all the BBC radio 4 recommendations but also highly Audible for audio books. Tip http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/ often has audible offers for as little as 99p - just have to remember to cancel your subscription before it goes up to the regular amount. Will definitely enjoy listening to some of your recommendations.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, thanks for the recommendations!! Quite a few here that I haven't listened to, which is great. Serial and The Moth are two favorites, in particular. I also really like Girl on Guy (Aisha Tyler usually interviews other comedians) and have recently started listening to Woolful, which is about fiber arts. I highly recommend it to all handmakers, even if you're not into knitting/spinning/weaving. I also like audiobooks and often listen to classics that would take me a long time to actually sit down and read (recently finished The Count of Monte Cristo, which was something like 65 hours and a $2 download). But my favorite thing to listen to is standup comedy- it's so much more fun to laugh while I'm working!

tialys said...

There will come a day, as it has for me, when you will feel quite nostalgic about fishfingers and story books with flaps. I do still sneak a few fishfinger suppers in from time to time and I've still got the story books in the loft - can't part with them.

Dr Susan said...

Thanks for the recommendations! I usually listen to the radio while sewing, but listened to one of your recommended podcasts today - I loved it!!

Missrose said...

The thrilling adventure hours. stories in the style of old time radio. Very fun and funny and the nerdist intervies, Paul Rubens is a must to listen to I just scroll down and pick the people I know as fare as the old recordings go but I'm trying to listen to the new ones to expose myself to new things. I'm so glad to hear i'm not the only one who listens to a pod cast while sewing. Thanks for a few more to add to my rotation since the morning radio show I usually listen to was getting boring.

Molly said...

I love podcasts for sewing time! You should check out The Dinner Party Download and Threadcult

French Toast Tasha said...

It's been fun to read your recommendations, and the others from the comments!
I love Radiolab too, some of my all time favorites are the Color episode, which was just mind-bogglingly interesting, and the Space one, which might just make you cry. The Translation one is really good too.
Enjoy and good luck with the naps!

JustSewJenna said...

When the nap gets dropped, I recommend a rest time in her room every afternoon! That should take you up until she starts nursery!

Alana B said...

Yes - totally listen to most of these but my absolute fave right now is 'Call your Girlfriend' a little feminist, a little pop culture and crazy good!
also Nerdette is worth a listen too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendations, I also like to listen to podcasts when I'm sewing / crafting. I also really like Woolful, and the Sewing Affair (although they haven't posted lately).

Andrea said...

I will echo the recommendation for The Longest Shortest Time and also for Death, Sex, and Money. If you like TAL, you'll love these.

romykate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
romykate said...

Oh my goodness, I'm clearly so late to the party but thank you for recommending Serial. I never listen to podcasts but you made these sound interesting so I downloaded the first episode of Serial, didn't get round to listening until I was stuck on a very boring train journey, when I listened to the first episode. I thought that was the only one about Adnan's case and that the story ended there. Ha. Haha. How wrong I was! And I was stuck without internet then so couldn't download any more. Now I've just finished the series and it was so gripping and fascinating and perplexing and so worth listening to. So thanks for recommending it. I've also listened to a couple of Criminal episodes and like that too, so will definitely explore more podcasts now. :)

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