6 Questions with…” is an opportunity for women and girls everywhere to share something about their passions and lives. (It’s also a fantastic excuse for me to be really nosey and learn more about the incredible women I admire.)

This week I’m putting Sophie Howell in the hot seat. This woman is one of the funniest, craziest and most genuine people I know. She’s also pretty handy with a sewing machine too, which she’ll tell you more about later. To be honest, she’s much better at introducing herself so I’ll leave you in Sophie’s capable hands…

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you come from. Paint a picture of yourself.

Hi! My name is Sophie, and I am technically from nowhere! I was born in Essex, grew up in York & Lincolnshire, went to university in Reading, and I now live in Leeds. When I visit the South I am Northern; when I am in the North people think I sound posh and that I’m Southern.

I embrace my inner five-year-old a lot – I enjoy bright colours, and art, and being loud and daft. I try to love my friends and family with the love that radiates to me from Jesus. It’s so easy to give a kind word or encouragement. I love the outdoors, gardening, and flowers, trees and English wildlife. 

I work for StepChange Debt Charity, who are similar to CAP, in facilities, so I look after buildings and moving projects of staff. I used to work in events, and this has given me a lot of confidence. Having to tell 200 people which direction to go in needs a voice like a foghorn! I like being a point of contact, and the fount of all knowledge when I can be. 

2) You’ve really inspired me by your passion for the Bible recently. How did you learn to spend time in the Bible when you could be watching Netflix instead?

Honestly, this has come very recently, since the beginning of this year. I was supposed to be baptised in April, and I think this is the part of me that has changed. I’m not going to lie, I also invested in some new stationery to write all my prayers down in different colours. Writing out verses in nice pens helped a tonne funnily enough! I am a big advocate for establishing good habits, and if something helps make something easier, use it to your advantage! Also, short bursts! 15 mins in prayer and Bible reading is better than nothing. The more you do it, the more the Bible becomes so appealing. It is like good home-cooked warm bread, fresh out of the oven – there’s a reason they call it the Bread of Life. I also began helping out at an Alpha course, and realised that I needed to be more grounded in His Word to be able to spread that knowledge to people who hadn’t grown up in the faith. It’s funny, as a person who grew up in a Christian home, I’d sometimes wonder if my faith was as ‘true’ as someone who came to Christ later in life. (Silly – there’s no levels of faith!) Having such a strong Christian background means that I am able to share as much as possible with those who haven’t had that. 

Lockdown has certainly helped! I am not someone who can stay still and watch a film for long. I like to be doing, or learning at all times I have found. So going up to my bedroom in the middle of the day and whacking on some Christian radio, having a pray and reading the Bible has really helped me as well through this whole thing. It has given me the time to be able to really connect with God, and I love it so much. I am so happy to feel so much closer to him. I now run the risk of being that friend that just says ‘I’LL PRAY FOR YOU’ at every minor inconvenience to all and sundry, Christian or not!

3) The Bible isn’t just one book although there is one story that runs throughout it. What’s your favourite book in the Bible and why?

Ooooh, I’ll be cheeky and start by saying Jude as it’s only like a chapter long, haha! I have finally read the Bible all the way through this year, which I’m really excited by. Mostly because I have started reading it through all the way again! This time, as a very wonderful friend, suggested, chronologically! Already it has been fascinating. I’m determined to beat the year as well, and then once I have finished – start it again. 

The reason behind this is that as a keen Lord of the Rings fan Christopher Lee, who played Saruman, used to read all three books at least once a year. And I thought, ‘if he could do that with the Lord of the Rings, there is nothing stopping me doing the same with the Bible’. It does help that I am a fairly fast reader though, but I highly encourage starting a plan if you can. 

There are chapters of Isaiah I am coming across a lot at the minute. Isaiah 40-43 are wonderful and have so much incredible power in them. And Philippians has a lot of what I would call ‘bangers’ – really good verses you can turn to to be encouraged by if you need that. I also really enjoy Proverbs. We studied it once at Keswick in-depth; I really enjoy not only the beginning about wisdom and the unwise woman but also all the wonderful proverbs in there as well. 

I’ve just re-read the story of Joeseph from Genesis 37 as well and it just tells the story of God’s perfect timing so wonderfully. Joseph was placed there to help that famine out years before – everything you go through is guided by God. 

4) One of the things that makes you such a brilliant friend is that you insist on doing life your own way. From unpacking kids’ toys on Instagram for the LOLs to making your own clothes, what is it that keeps you being you?

I was very blessed to have a bit of an epiphany the very first year I volunteered on the Kids Team at Keswick. It was just before my third year at university; I’d struggled slightly with people getting used to my personality, making friends and the usual things you struggle with when you’re in your early 20s. When I volunteered I decided just to be myself. To react and be silly in the way I wanted to be. I was working with a load of kids, why shouldn’t I! I had a wonderful time and made friends that I still have to this day. I took this back to uni with me and realised that all the friends I had made liked me for who I was. I just continued being me rather than worrying about what people thought about me. People are just as worried about how they come across to one another. 

A friend I’ve reconnected with through quarantine has said that even at secondary school they really admired my sincerity. I was so flattered and inspired by that. (it’s all from the Lord though haha!) I like being honest. I like showing all parts of my life, the good as well as the bad. We need to be reminded that we are human, and it’s very easy with Instagram and the like to put up that perfect image and only document the good times. So I make a point of being daft and posting the days when I feel rubbish just as much as the ones where I’m having fun. People like to see what you’re up to – we’re naturally nosy and inquisitive – so if you’re sharing a positive honest account of your life, people enjoy that. I have had a few people say how much they enjoy what I’m up to, and sadly it fuels the fire and I post more! I like teaching as well and helping people learn, and I have been learning as I go along with sewing and the like. 

5) You’re clearly a keen seamstress – keen enough to be constantly educating us via your InstaStories on how to draft our own patterns. What is it about making your own clothes that appeals to you so much?

I have been struggling with a wardrobe that is currently enormous! I rarely throw things out and many lovely friends over the past 10 years donated me clothes, so it got to a point where I had too many clothes. I don’t even buy many! My mum also surprised me with a sewing machine for my 30th, which was the perfect present. I also really struggled last year at Christmas with ‘stuff’ – I had a house that was full of clothing and items that I didn’t really need or have a place for, was conscious that I needed a good clear out, wanted to buy less ‘fast fashion’ and to choose more quality pieces that would last the test of time. So then with the machine having been gifted, I decided to start making clothes instead of buying. 

Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get swept up in the fun of making things and buy lots of fabric! I’ll sort myself out. But once you’ve seen the work that goes into a garment, you do appreciate it a lot more. I also have kind of found my style – I knew I had one of sorts, but it was interesting finding it. I like ‘dressing up’ – skirts and shorts and leggings and crop tops. But a lot of the fashion in sewing currently is boxy tops & dresses, and things that have no shape to them, so I need to be careful I’m making things I will wear rather than just making them for the sake of it. I had an argument with a skirt recently, and then unpicked at least 7 hours of work – a true learning curve! I also had a big rant about pockets, but we’ll not go into that. 

When you start sewing as well, it can be very daunting! By sharing all the tips and tricks of the trade that aren’t necessarily on your instructions, hopefully some would-be sewers will remember them and find them useful. Nuggets of information that can be tucked away for a rainy day. 

6) Finding Chaya is a community of women who don’t think they fit in or have chosen not to. What advice would you give to those women, who are still trying to figure out where they fit in the world?

As Christians from 1 John 2 v 15-1, we are taught that we are in the world but should not be of the world. Ask yourself – with whom and what are you trying to fit into? Are you shaving parts from yourself that you need to work on as they are flawed, or for some reason other? I went to a church in my youth where I never fitted in to the youth group. I was weird and different and odd. Even at church! But I powered through with the help of the Lord. Don’t squash yourself down into a box for other people. Be you. Whether you are loud or quiet, a presence in a room, or a comfort to other people, know who you are in God’s eyes and embrace it. And pray about it! Pray that you learn to be more like Jesus every day – he was human, and he was perfect. He is how we should all strive to be. But it is really hard! Have good friends around you who will hold you accountable and advise and help you. And then you can help them. Community is so important. Social media is a good tool for finding communities, we can be really blessed by it but take it always with a pinch of salt. Lead by example, and be honest – it really is the best way.

Don't squash yourself down into a box for other people - 6 Questions with Sophie Howell. Image description: young boy sat in a cardboard box