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My Ghana Holiday Wardrobe

On my recent holiday to Ghana, I was surprised by how easy packing was, and this is rarely the case for me. It helped that we were going somewhere where the weather would be consistenly hot rather than the UK or European holidays I’m more used to having. What was extra pleasing was that I noticed for the first time that my suitcase consisted of I’d say 95% memade clothes. So I thought that was blog worthy 😊

I’m going to just walk through what I took on holiday and comment on how suitable each garment was. I’ll talk about the things I took which weren’t me made and I’ll also talk about what I  learned from this me-made holiday wardrobe.

We went to Ghana to celebrate my mum’s 80th birthday and unfortunately we were only there for a week. Apart from the dress I wore for my mum’s party, I didn’t make anything new for the trip, I didn’t think I needed anything new. And most of the rest of the gear I packed were firm favourites, worn many a time. That was pleasing because I’m not in the business of making a wardrobe that doesn’t get worn because it doesn’t fit with my lifestyle. I do think carefully before I take on a sewing project about the wearability and practicality, my garments need to earn their place in my wardrobe.

Let’s start with my outward bound airport fit, which left a lot to be desired! I didn’t think this one through very well, I just knew I wanted to have a white shirt out in Ghana as a throw-over and I wanted layers to make the transition from cold October London to hot, sticky Accra. But the look I achieved with my vintage Gucci bag made me feel like Paulo Gucci in the House of Gucci film- not very well put together! My trousers and jacket are me made, the shirt is from H and M and a lovely friend made the crochet  vest for me.

Just call me Paolo!

The next day we were travelling from Accra, the capital, to Kumasi, the second main city. We were travelling by road and comfort was key.

The Pattern Scout Ava dress

I chose to wear this simple faux wrap dress in a really light cotton and it was perfect. The journey was really long and frustrating but it gave us the opportunity to soak in some of the surroundings.

Saturday was the day of the party and we spent much of the morning and afternoon by the pool. I wore a pretty old tankini which I love, even though it is a bit bobbly. I have considered making my own swim suit. I am not a bikini fan, but I like a two piece, and halter neck or racer backs are my favourite. I’m happy to hear your suggestions for swimwear patterns.

The evening was party time! I had spent 3 weeks leading up to our holiday frantically sewing up 4 outfits for my sister, two daughters and me. I ran out of time to sew for my husband and brother in law so a lovely sewing friend of mine stitched a band of fabric and a pocket onto white shirts for the guys. We all chose different garments which I sewed in matching printed kente ankara cloth. It really was fun sewing to each person’s specification.

A hack of the Sew Over It Maisie dress

Traditional kente is the cloth of Ghana, worn and designed originally by the Ashanti and Ewe people mostly. It is heavy, woven in strips on a loom and then hand stitched together. It is expensive due to the process and often uses silk along with cotton. I opted for a printed cotton version as it was a cooler fabric for us – and a lot cheaper! We all had a ball and my parents loved the party. The dress code was white and Kente. In Ghana, white is the colour of thanks giving and kente represents wealth and celebration.

The King and Queen aka my dad and mum

Sunday was church and my mum didn’t tell me that it was a thanksgiving service and that we all would have to go up to the front at some point and be prayed for. Oh well. It was really lovely though, we joined a few other members of the very large church that day who were wanting to give thanks to God for something special. White was the order of the day but I didn’t know that and was wearing my all time favourite dress in bright yellow. I don’t actually own a white dress but now I really want to make one so I will always be ready for a Ghanaian thanksgiving!

The Sew Over It Maisie dress

On Sunday evening we all went out for a meal, my brother, his girlfriend and son had also travelled out. We enjoyed a lovely time as family. The restaurant served excellent food and had a wonderful atmosphere.

I wore a trouser set, the Saguaro Pants set by Friday Pattern Company. The deep v-neck top can be worn either way and I found that I really liked it with the v at the back, no cleavage issues and the higher neckline looked quite classy.

Monday was a bit of slow pool side, a bit of being tourists before heading to have dinner with my parents. I started off the day in my Tilly and the Buttons  Seren dress, but the crepe fabric was not very breathable and I felt very hot and uncomfortable.

So I changed into a simple cotton shift dress, the Stevie by Tilly and the Buttons. It was very comfortable but that day was hotter than the others and I was also mercilessly bitten so in many ways it was still a very uncomfortable day.

Tuesday was market day, again unbearable hot. We navigated the large market in Kumasi looking mostly for fabric and shea butter. I wore my Jessica dress by Mimi G Style, which is unfortunately a little tight now. I was quite a hot, sticky mess by the end of that day. I love the Jessica dress though and I definitely need another for next year.

On Wednesday we spent most of our day in the hotel relaxing, packing and hanging by the pool. I wore a simple slip dress made from the True Bias Ogden cami bit I didn’t get a picture of it. My parents joined us later at the hotel. It was so good to spend that time with them. I got changed for dinner and wore a Mimi G for Simplicity dress. This dress is a newer one and hasn’t been worn much, but I really like it. The ankara fabric has glitter worked into some of the print which makes it feel quote dressy, not to mention the dramatic puffed sleeves and low back.

And so the week was drawing to an end and it was hard saying bye to my parents. I was nonetheless so pleased that we’d been able to get out there even if it was for just one short week.

On the Thursday we were heading back, firstly to Accra to very quickly soak in the city before heading back to the airport for a night flight to London. We flew to Accra this time, the journey taking a mere 40 mins rather than the 6 hours it took by road! I am not good in aeroplanes, for one, I always need to take sickness tablets and I am also scared of flying. This little internal plane was a terrifying experience for me, I had my eyes closed all the way and offered many prayers! But I had a cute dress on so that was good 😆.

Fibre Mood Mindy

We met a friendly photographer while we were in Accra and he kindly took a family photo for us.

For the night flight home, I changed into my Homer and Howells Lennox boilersuit. I didn’t get any photos of it but you can check out my previous blog for details. My homeward bound airport fit was more put together!

I didn’t deliberately choose a mostly African wax print wardrobe, it just so happens that most of my summer outfits are made from wax print. In Ghana you’ll find people mostly wearing jeans and t-shirts like everywhere else. Wax print you’ll tend to see more of on Sundays and for events. But I couldn’t possibly face wearing jeans in such heat!

The clothes I make tend to be quite fitted because I like that fit on me but I felt that I could do with more floaty, voluminous dresses that allow air to circulate around the waist and under the bust. I’ll be doing some research on patterns I could make that fit the bill, it’ll be tricky because I don’t like that sort of shape on me, I feel my body looks nicer with fit and structure.

I also really loved wearing my Saguaro set for an evening look, that pattern needs repeating. I noticed aswell that many of my dresses had v-neck and faux wrap, that’s obviously a neckline and cut I like on me.

Well, thank you for coming on this little trip with me reflecting on my holiday wardrobe. I’m not sure why it feels so good to have a me made wardrobe that really works for me, so much so that I mostly don’t need shop bought stuff, but it really does feel very good!

Homer and Howells Lennox Boiler Suit plus thoughts on Queen and Country

Phew, what a strange time we Brits and it would seem, the world find ourselves. “The end of an era” will be the catchphrase now to top “the new normal” spawned in the covid pandemic.

I wanted to write a blog post on this boiler suit, which is my current favourite and best but my mind kept turning to the Queen and all the emotions and thoughts her death stirred up in me. So I shall do both.

I am not a true monarchist at heart, but I make no apology for having had a huge admiration of the Queen. There was something so nobel about her character, she had a servant heart which is extremely rare to find these days in our celebrity obsessed culture. I admired her commitment to her family and to her country, she fulfilled her promise of lifelong service. And it would seem from her comments and people’s observations that she shared the same religious beliefs as I do. Her love for God and Jesus his son was a reality to her and not empty words spoken at ceremonies. I respect that.

And yet, the monarchy. Unelected individuals who by reason of birth rule us and get to live in excessive luxury at the taxpayers expense while often getting up to all sorts of unsavoury and unpleasant things. And history makes it uncomfortable for me as a black person to cheer the monarchy on with it’s past hankering for empire, lording it over many nations, committing and sanctioning some atrocities along the way.

And yet. Life is way more complicated than just black or white, love it or hate it, support or dismiss.

All through my life I have had to navigate voices telling me what I should believe, who I should love, who I should hate, what I should listen to, what I should wear. Voices from white people and people of colour. There is often an expectation that as a black person, I should like x and I should dress like y. It really frustrates me and I have always fought against it. I am guided firstly by my faith and then secondly by a desire to see the best in people and beauty in the world.

And so, I am sad at the Queen’s passing and not thrilled at Charles becoming King. If we became a Republic, I wouldn’t be devastated, it is the end of an era after all.

Moving swiftly on, what I am thrilled about and hoping will mark a new style era for me, is this boiler suit.

When I first came across the Lennox pattern from Homer and Howells, I was quite impressed with it. My love for stylish adult onesies has been steadily growing over these past few years. Yes, they’re a pain when you’re desperate for the loo. Yes they can be struggle to get out of. Yes you do feel odd sitting on a loo half naked. All this aside, they do look so good, are super comfy to wear and like dresses, they simplify getting ready in the mornings.

The Lennox was one of my make nine, an instagram challenge to make a selected 9 garments in a year. I’m not sure I’ll complete the challenge as this is only number 4 out of the 9.

It was when I saw the Lennox boilersuit on one of my favourite instagrammers and bloggers Alice of thepolkadotpalace, that I decided that I needed to get on and make one. In fact, she had made 2, one in a similar lightweight denim as this, and one in pink corduroy, they are both gorgeous. Alice put yellow buttons on her denim Lennox and I loved this look, but red is so much more me.

I enjoyed the making process of this even though I took it really slow and got distracted by other things along the way, like Ankara Appreciation Week back in July. In fact, I paused the making of the Lennox jumpsuit to make a Lennox shirt out of wax print.

This shirt and this jumpsuit have been well worn already. Next time when I make the shirt version, I will add a couple of inches in length as it is a bit cropped and I find myself pulling at it too often.

For the jumpsuit though, the bodice length was fine. For the trousers, I did an adjustment for the seat. I added an inch or so to the crotch length for the back leg piece and it’s perfect. No more wedgies for me!

I also lengthened the leg pieces as I wasn’t really sold on the cropped version.

The fabric I used was from Minerva and it is a really lovely chambray, both to work with and wear.

In the Lennox, I think I’ve found the perfect shirt and boiler suit pattern. I am trying really hard to be a pattern repeater and not get influenced into buying and trying every new pattern I see. There’s something to be said for finding something that suits you and that you love and making it again, with adaptations and variations. For example I plan on turning the Lennox into a shirt dress, I’ll let you know how that goes. Being a pattern repeater saves money and time. And surely it helps to build a more wearable wardrobe don’t you think?

It struck me as I was preparing to do this blog that the colours were quite pertinent to some of what I was saying earlier. Red, white and blue with a flash of Ankara too. That’s me.

Fibre Mood Sienna with Big Arm Sleeve Hack

I’ve always been the sort of person who only needs to look at a set of dumbbells to gain muscle. Lucky you I hear you say, yep it’s just how the good Lord made me. A couple of decades ago when I was involved in car crash the doctor’s report described me as a “pleasant mesomorph”. That was new to me, so I searched it up. We mesomorphs gain muscle easily and are the envy of bodybuilders everywhere.

I didn’t always regard my build as a blessing, sure I was always one of the first to be picked for sports teams but I always had a hankering to be more delicately built. I had the sort of frame which meant boys were happy to punch my arm and treat me as one of the lads. Some even wished they were built like me.

But my greatest annoyance was trying to fit my arms and legs into shop bought clothes that were definitely not made for girls like me. From an early age I avoided all clothing with cuffs that fell at my biceps and were buttoned, fitted or even elasticated. They were always too tight and restricting.

Knowing this, you’d think that I’d always be on top of sleeve adjustments now that I have the skill of making my own clothes. And yes, I usually am. I size up, grade out, slash and spread, swap out for a more generous sleeve, but for some reason I forgot to do this for this blouse, the Sienna from Fibremood.

Let’s talk about this blouse. As a Fibre Mood insider, I get to preview the patterns each time ahead of the magazine launch and choose one pattern for free. There were as usual many great patterns but shirts and blouses have been calling me lately. The gathered, slightly cropped and boxy shape of the blouse with high neckline and possibly bicep constricting sleeves were all things that may have put me off in the past but I was drawn to this pattern.

Other lovely features are the hidden placket, shoulder yoke with gathers, back yoke with centre pleat and gathers and neat, cuffed, buttoned sleeves.

I choose to make mine from a cotton madras check print I bought from New Craft House. It’s a lovely soft, light fabric with a slightly crumpled look which helps give this blouse a very casual feel. It’s quite a roomy blouse and I’m not a huge fan of being swathed in excess fabric so although my measurements put me at a large, I cut a medium based on the finished garment measurements. I had to cut carefully in a single layer to match the pattern design and am thankful that I got that right.

As well as gathers at the back and shoulder yokes, there are gathers at the sleeve cuff. Gathering is not a particular favourite of mine but I think I’ve got into a gathering routine that works fine for me: change bobbin to a contrasting colour. Turn machine tension right down. Use the longest stitch length. Sew two parallel lines within the seam allowance. Keep threads long at both ends. Pull on the bobbin threads to gather. Spread gathers evenly but don’t get too hung up about that part!

The sewing process for this make was quite pleasant. I even had huge success with my sleeve placket, infact I’d say they were the neatest sleeve plackets I’ve ever made. The instructions were clear and I went slow. So you can imagine my great annoyance when I discovered after all the hard work of making the sleeves that they were never going to button up over my arms!

I briefly contemplated unpicking the sleeves and making a new set as I had enough fabric left over but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. So I decided to make some cute ties instead, and unpick a tiny bit of the cuffs to neatly insert them and voila, a cute little hack was born!

Am I happy with the outcome? For sure! I’m not usually one for high necklines, I prefer a v or square neck but I love the buttoned up neat finish of this shirt. With the concealed button placket it reminds me of the smart , long shirts often worn by men in West Africa.

It’s another Fibre Mood winner and the sleeve ties mean no tears were shed!

Big shoes, big smile

My Ghanaian day name is Adjoa, I’m a Monday born Ashanti girl. Go Google Ghanaian day names if you’re interested to know more. Growing up, one of my dad’s nicknames for me was Adjoa bassa bassa. Not speaking the lingo, I’m told that “bassa bassa” is slang referring to something messy, disorganised, not put together well. Hmm. My parents often despaired of me because I wasn’t very “ladylike” in my dressing and I seemed to pair everything with trainers or heavy boots.

Very little has changed. The nickname didn’t upset me, I liked to taunt my dad with my scruffy, sometimes ‘boyish’ dressing. And he liked to taunt me and say that I looked like I was going to work on a farm. Please don’t be too hard on my dad, we love each other very much, it was all a bit of banter.

The picture at the top of this piece is my WhatsApp profile and recently, it caused my dad to bring up the old nickname. “Adjoa bassa bassa, are you going horse riding” was his comment. But then he said how much the picture made him laugh as it reminded him of younger me and he loved how happy I looked.

Younger me and older me have always struggled with footwear. I really don’t like delicate shoes. Many people have tried to convert me over the years, but to no avail. When I was planning what to wear on my first date with my now husband, a couple of older friends tried to help me and they despaired that I didn’t own a sensible pair of court shoes. I ended up wearing a chunky pair of Kickers.

What can I say, I just like a sturdy shoe. I can’t be doing with teetering about on heels with my feet pinched. I’m all about foot freedom!

My footwear choices do impact my clothes choices though. I guess I’ve always felt that I couldn’t wear certain clothes because I just didn’t have the right shoes. All my shoes seemed too casual or hefty for delicate dresses and smart trousers. It’s taken me a while to shake that off and say I don’t care. Having discovered clogs a few years back, I think, a pair of Lotta clogs are the smartest I’ll go with footwear.

I was really pleased a couple of years ago when sturdy shoes, dad sandals and trainers were doing the rounds on the catwalk with beautiful dresses- I always knew I was on to something!

Being comfortable is a huge part of my style. If I’m not comfortable, I don’t feel confident. Making my own clothes has been a big step towards a more comfortable wardrobe and not listening to the shoe gods has been another important step in that direction.

So here’s to many more years of being Adjoa bassa bassa, pairing big shoes with a big smile 😀

Comfort Dressing

The other day, I realised that I was getting therapy by stealth and I wasn’t mad about it. It was free after all.

Our family is being supported by some kind and sensitive CAMHS (Child and adolescent mental health services) staff and I’m thankful. We’ve been run through the mill a bit and the emotional roller coaster isn’t about to end I’m sure.

It was on my third one to one visit with R, a CAMHS worker who’d been on our case from the beginning, that I realised what she was doing. There was some digging into my past that I wasn’t prepared for but as I shared, I saw it made perfect sense and shed light on the situation. I’m not going to lie, I was momentarily uncomfortable and hoped that I wouldn’t cry.

As a Christian and a minister’s wife, I have to remind myself that it’s okay to seek help from others who don’t see the world as I do and it’s okay to cry for help while holding your bible close to you. This might sound strange, even silly to those of other faiths or none but this is the reality for many people like me.

It may sound a little trite and a bit contrived but as I spoke, I was also aware of what I was wearing.

Both my trousers and shacket were memade and both items connected to a part of my life I was being encouraged to talk about. And the juxtaposition of the two brought me up to date to this time and place with all it’s responsibilities, loves, beliefs and burdens.

My woven joggers made from a delightful, soft waxed cotton, of course had the connections to my Ghanaian heritage and upbringing. My parents’ loving yet Victorian-esque mode of parenting has obviously shaped me and given me much to work through.

My patch work denim overshirt took me back to university days, when I lived in denim and flannel shirts and worker jackets. Those were complicated, messy days, and it seems that I’m still working stuff through from that era.

The fact that I am now making and wearing my own clothes and deriving so much comfort from doing so is a direct result of some of the difficult stuff I’m going through. Sewing helps. It distracts, it excites and delights, it brings a sense of control and achievement.

In a very small way, my sewing is a form of escape, but it us not an addiction, it doesn’t control me. But I am so glad I have something that is beautiful and I love to do while working on more important things, people whom I love but cannot and shouldn’t control.

I was thankful that my outfit that day was comfortable and I didn’t feel awkward in it. My clothes were comfortable, they fitted and suited me and being unconcerned about them gave me more freedom in an otherwise tricky space. Don’t believe the lie that clothes are unimportant. We all know that a great outfit can boost confidence. We know that wearing happy colours can give us energy and joy. And sometimes we just want comfort and reassurance from our clothes, a sense of a hug and some grounding.

On that day, the outfit that I unwittingly chose to wear reminded me of my growth and change. The fact that people are growing and changing, living and learning helps me to keep the faith and be hopeful.

Perhaps this post makes little sense to you, but it felt needed for me. Sometimes when I’m low or feeling overwhelmed, I’m tempted to push sewing aside, allowing sadness and busyness to take over. But I have learned that this is not helpful. There is room for joy and sadness to co-exist and a little creativity can make hard days a little softer.

Fibre Mood Moira- Barrel legs and balloon sleeves

Do you like jigsaw puzzles? In a pre-kids, pre-sewing life I enjoyed a good puzzle of middling difficulty. I was not one for those ‘plate of baked beans’, almost one colour excruciating puzzles. A bit more simplicity please.

When it comes to sewing, I’m a bit like that too. I usually opt for simple patterns from companies known for their clear instructions. I look for YouTube tutorials and sew-alongs as seeing what to do in action often helps my sewing.

Now, much as I love Fibre Mood patterns and am thrilled to be one of their pattern previewers, I have to admit that their patterns can be a bit tricky to navigate. I remember the first Fibre Mood magazine I bought, pulling out the patterns and being faced with what seemed like hundreds of coloured lines resembling a very complicated underground map. I have read several comments on similarly bamboozled people, not only stumped at the patterns but also feeling lost with the minimal detail of their instructions.

I believe that Fibre Mood patterns are so worth persevering with as their designs are really great, I’ve not yet been disappointed with a single garment I’ve made from their patterns. So in this blog I will include some  survival tips for sewing with Fibre Mood.

My first tip would be to spend time familiarising yourself with the pattern. Check out the pattern on-line to see how it looks made up. Study the instructions to understand each pattern piece and what it does. I was flummoxed by the front bodice piece for a while before I realised it folded in half to make a facing which was a clever move.

Secondly, remember to add the seam allowance. Fibre Mood patterns don’t include seam allowances but will instruct you to add usually 1cm. Occasionally, I can’t be bothered to add seam allowances and just sew a size bigger.

When you decide what size you need, you might find it helps to use a highlighter to trace over your lines, that’s my third tip. Fourthly, I also label each pattern piece as they are usually just numbered. It saves constantly referring to the instructions if I write on each piece exactly what they are.

Then tip number 5, just go slow and enjoy the process 🙂

And now on to this particular pattern, the Moira jumpsuit.  I knew this year I wanted to make a couple of jumpsuits, so I jumped at the chance to make it. The pattern is actually for a sleeveless bodice with optional sleeve trim. Being sleeveless it offers opportunities for layering. The sleeve trim adds an eighties feel to the garment.

Much as I like the sleeveless look, I felt that a jumpsuit with sleeves would just make dressing much more simple, just one garment, no need to find a base layer. Also, most of my base layers are black, I need more polo necks and t-shirts in a variety of shades, but that’s another story. So I decided to add sleeves.

I knew I’d make mine in denim as I had a 2m piece in my stash. I also had some denim offcuts and two half metre pieces. My mind was swimming with ideas of colour blocking with the different denim shades, of making a ruffle out of the sleeve trim. I’d seen so many amazing denim tops and jumpsuits/ boilersuits from Toast, Cos and Seventy Mochi, which was new to me .

In the end, I decided not to cut into my two half metre pieces but to keep those for a future skirt or shorts project. I decided to use my offcut piece to make the sleeves and belt which would make just a subtle colour change. I’m super pleased with this decision as it felt like the least wasteful, I just have a handful of scraps left.

The barrel leg is a style I’ve not worn and wasn’t sure how I would feel about it, but I love it. The shape suits my legs I think and the length is perfect. I cut a size 14 bodice and graded out to a 16 hip and leg. I really wanted a roomy garment and my legs to feel free. I pondered dropping the crotch but I’m glad I didn’t as the fit is good as it is. The only little fit niggle I have is that it gapes a bit at the back across the shoulders. I’m not sure how I would fix that if I made another, making it too narrow might make the jumpsuit a bit more difficult to get out of in a hurry.

As for the sleeves, I decided I wanted something a bit balloon like and bracelet length. Having recently made a By Hand London  Marie blouse, I used that sleeve pattern, omitting the placket and sleeve trim. I wondered whether I would need to change the arm hole (arm scye) to make it fit better but I didn’t and it seems okay. I just gathered the sleeve at the head and then at the hem, keeping it quite loose, and stitched a narrow band to encase the raw edge. I really like this sleeve shape and feel like I want to add it to all my makes!

Another thing I love about this is the topstitching, which surprised me. I have previously avoided making things that require topstitching, but I embraced this. I think my current machine makes this much easier as it has more markings on the sewing foot and plate. I chose a more traditional gold brown thread over white which seems more “in” at the moment. No regrets there. I ended up unpicking the topstitching I did down the back bodice because I just couldn’t get it to sit right and it looked odd, maybe because I added sleeves.

There are so many seams to sew in this garment, each leg is made of four pieces and the bodice has side panels. So it lends itself quite well to colour blocking, with the patch pockets too. There was something quite soothing about sewing lengths of seams. Also, finishing seams on my overlocker still feels quite exciting and pro-like two months in!

Okay, so let’s talk snap fastners. This was only the second time I’d used them. The first time I couldn’t work out how to insert them and wasted a whole pack before conceding defeat and calling on my husband for help. This time I was determined to do it myself. I managed to install the first snap and then it went all wrong and I wasted two. Enter Mr King.

The truly galling thing is that after my dear hubby fitted all the snaps and I tried on the jumpsuit, the snap I installed fell off! Oh well, I am glad that my husband will enjoy this jumpsuit too, knowing he had a pretty important input!

There are a couple of things that I may change if I have time and energy, the belt loops and belt. I think both are a bit thin. I have seen some versions using thicker, shop bought belts and another with fatter belt loops and they look really good. We’ll see.

So, that’s it, a wonderful new jumpsuit has entered my life and I love it! The topstitch, the big pockets, the relaxed, comfortable shape, the sleeves all make this so lovely to wear. When I make garments, making them look ‘shop bought’ isn’t on my mind but occasionally I make something that looks like it came from one of my favourite stores and my tummy does a little flip. Call it skill, a gift or a super power, sewing your own clothes is just the best.

A little happy dance for your amusement!

Sew Slow- Marie Shirt

January blues hit hard this year. It was weird. As the new year rolled in I had a heavy sense of “here we go again”. I felt weary.

Human beings are so complex, highs can be quickly superceded by lows. Hopefulness can soon fade into discouragement. And bursts of energy can soon turn to weariness. I am thankful that I have good mental health, so I can recover quickly from low mood. A good pace is what I need, as well as a good memory. Reminding myself that I’ve been in this place before and have got through it is a big step towards peace. Doing things I enjoy just for the sake of enjoyment is also a sweet thing and a privilege. I’ve also been more intentional about adopting a Shirley Hughes approach to life.

Ms Hughes is my favourite children’s author. She got me through my own childhood. Way ahead of her time, her picture books included children who looked like me and others in my class. She also helped me get through the day parenting my girls when they were young, with her fun yet very ordinary and relatable stories. She totally got what it’s like to be a parent and saw into the minds of toddlers and young kids, genius.

In one of her books for preschoolers she writes: “it’s fun to run very fast or to be slow. The red light says stop, the green light says go.” It’s become a bit of a mantra for me.

It’s fine to be at a go slow place, or even to stop. Running very fast or always being on the go, is fun but not sustainable. Sometimes life calls for slowness and reflection and that is okay, needful. Sometimes in life we’re looking for fast action, other times it’s the slow burn. I’ll leave your imagination to go where it will with that thought.

I made three tops in January through to February. Two were super quick, the Fielder by Merchant and Mills and the Pearl by Tilly and the Buttons. Both were great makes which I enjoyed, but alongside these I was slowly working on a Marie shirt by By Hand London. The pattern is for a smock style shirt or dress with an array of romantic details.

I was gifted some brushed, recycled cotton by Offset Warehouse, an online fabric store with beautiful, ethical textiles at the heart of what they do. They really are worth checking out and treating yourself to some fabric with a good conscience.

When my fabric arrived I was so impressed by its softness and drape. I had an idea to pair it with the By Hand London Marie shirt, a romantic, smock shirt with pintucks and ruffles. I thought it might be fun  to use this material often associated with pyjamas or 90s grunge over shirts, to make something a little more delicate.

Checks seem to be every where at the moment and I’m loving them. There also seems to be a great appreciation of brushed cotton and flannel right now. I did a little research into what the difference was between them. Basically, cotton is a fibre, flannel is a fabric originally made with wool, but now often made with cotton and synthetic fibres. Brushed cotton is brushed only on one side whereas flannel is brushed on the right and wrong side resulting in a thicker, fuzzier cloth.

My brushed cotton was so soft and warm and a lovely, cosy shirt weight. There were several times during planning it that I thought about using it for pyjamas afterall. But the thing is, I’m not really a pyjamas person, plus I felt this fabric deserved to be seen and worn regularly.

It was apt I think, that I decided this shirt would be a slow make. Working with some thoughtfully produced fabric made from recycled cotton and polyester, suited a slow and deliberate sewing pace.

I took my inspiration from the shirt below by Endelea designs.

I cut a UK 14 even though with hindsight I could have managed a 12. I’m currently shape-shifting and I haven’t got to grips with my new shape yet so I’m generally erring towards the larger size instead of confidently trusting my tape measure. So the shirt’s a little big, but I’m okay with that. The shirt falls at my hip and has lovely movement.

Like I said earlier,  this was a slow burn make, from the cutting out to the gathering to the handstitching. I cut the pieces out with the fabric unfolded to get things matching just right and I’m really pleased with the matching across the body and sleeves.

There are so many lovely details to this shirt which inevitably slowed the sewing and meant I was able to enjoy each process. Pin tucks were new to me, I’ve avoided them in my sewing journey as they looked fiddly and scary. I had to  watch a YouTube video to help get my head around it. I love the texture and shape pintucks give to this garment and they were actually pleasing to make.

There was also a fair bit of gathering which normally I would have groaned about, but this time I leaned into it thinking of the beautiful ruffles and puffed sleeves that they would help create. I remembered to lower my tension,  and patiently sewed two rows of gathering stitches each time without moaning, and my threads didn’t snap, all good.

The sleeves on this shirt are a thing of beauty. They were plenty long enough, unusually for me, I didn’t have to lengthen them. The cuff with the band and ruffle were straightforward to construct and so effective. The shirt collar is also made in a similarly gorgeous way.

Another thing that slowed this make down was the hand stitching. The last step of the collar required some neat slip stitching, then there were nine buttons to sew. I always hand sew my buttons. I left all the hand stitching till the end and sat with my shirt spread over my lap like a blanket. Hand stitching gave me a further opportunity to enjoy the feel of this fabric, and the monotony of the sewing allowed me space to think.

It is often said that sewing is therapy but some people think that saying this belittles therapy and the people who need it. I’m not sure it does. Sewing for me can be a type of therapy allowing me to clear my head, choose to focus on something other than my problems, produce something beautiful and practical and find joy. Slow sewing can give me time to think and space to speak truth to myself.

I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed making this shirt. A strange pairing perhaps. A crisp poplin or lawn may have been a better choice, I still plan to make a white Marie shirt, probably from a cotton poplin. But the soft brushed cotton feels so warm and comforting, the perfect pick up from the January blues. It also makes the blouse look more casual, which means I’m more likely to wear it often.

As spring soon dawns I’m hoping to continue to make space for slow sewing in between faster projects. There’s a wonderful poem in the bible that you may well recognise as a song by The Byrds, it reminds us that “there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven” and that God is in control. I believe that, so I’m hoping to be gentle with myself as I go through the different seasons of life. One line in the poem says “there is a time to tear, and a time to sew” – I love that! It’s certainly time to tear up the “work, work, busy, busy” playlist of life for me anyway, and give time to sewing, slowly.

If you’re following my make nine for the year (see last post), I have now completed two of the projects. Looking hopeful!

Make 9- 2022

I’m always late to the party but this year I decided to jump on board with the Make nine hashtag on Instagram. I don’t know about it’s origin, all I know is that some people find it a good tool for organising their makes. I’m not an organised person but I really, really want to be.

I really mean that. It gets tiring and stressful saying yes to everything, not getting a grip on just how much time I really have and being so last minute. It’s hard when you feel swayed by every trend or challenge and pulled by new and popular patterns and fabulous fabrics. But this year, I want to start out at least, conscious of the fact that I want to be organised, I want to be slower and more deliberate in my sewing.

I must confess, I didn’t do a lot of deep thinking when choosing my nine makes. I had the general idea that I want to make more shirts this year because I like wearing shirts. My new sewing machine makes button holes a breeze but I’d like to improve on my collar and placket construction. I’m not that pleased with any of the shirts I’ve made with collar stands, could do better I think. I’d like not to be terrified by sleeve plackets too.

The Marie  pattern by By Hand London is a shirt and shirt dress pattern with dramatic sleeves, loose, smock design, pin tucks and two collar options; classic or ruffled. I want to make the shirt option with a ruffled collar and sleeve, see, I’m avoiding  the very things I said I wanted to perfect! Well, you’ve got to ease into things. Much as I’d love to make a white shirt, I’m opting for a blue and green check for this I think. Ever since I saw this checked shirt from Endelea designs, I’ve known I’ve wanted to make my own. I haven’t got quite as bright a check though.

Another shirt I’d like to try is the Lennox by Homer and Howells. It’s a boiler suit with a separate shirt option. I would make mine a tad longer in the body. I like the concealed button placket, and look, it has a classic collar! Not sure what fabric I’d use for this. I have some dark green linen that might work, we’ll see.

Speaking of boilersuits, I would like to make the grown-up onesie a staple in my wardrobe. It’s the ultimate in ‘grab and go’ dressing surely. Such ease of dressing far outweighs the inconvenience of stripping to go to the loo, would you agree? I have a couple of jumpsuits already but they are in lighter fabrics. I’d like some winter and autumn suitable ones. So the Lennox as mentioned above is on my make nine. I love this version by Alice – polkadotpalace on Instagram. I have some chambray in my stash that should work.

I’d also like to make the Lin jumpsuit by Selkie Patterns. I was given the pattern last year and also given some fabric so I’m ready to go. This is going to be a slow involved project, there are several pieces to it and getting the fit right is going to be important.

It is quite an elegant looking garment. I will be using some rust coloured linen. I haven’t worked much with linen so this should be good learning for me. I think I might switch the sleeves up a bit, make them more full. I feel inspired by this faux jumpsuit look:

Dare I change the neckline too. This sweetheart neckline is, well sweet.

I also want to make better fitting trousers, including jeans. All my jeans are a little tight for me and I only own a couple of pairs or trousers. Fit is always an issue with me when buying ready to wear jeans or trousers but I haven’t perfected my me made trousers yet. I’ve had my eye on the Heroine jeans by Merchant and Mills for a little while. They look sturdy yet comfy, with the utilitarian vibe that I enjoy.

I know that I’m going to have to toile to get a good fit and I’m actually looking forward to this. Today I’m sitting in a pair of rtw jeans that are cutting into my waist yet gaping at the small of my back. The prospect of have comfortable jeans is quite exciting. I may document my progress on instagram when I’m ready, and if you see me daring to forgo the toile stage, please rebuke me severely. I’m thinking I’ll make these into a pair of shorts first, get that fit right before moving on to the full jeans.

As well as those jeans, I’d love to make the Max pants by Lena Line patterns (nice name). I fell in love with these huge trousers after seeing this pair by Cortney-S is for sew on Instagram.

I’m thinking of getting some light weight denim, heavier than chambray but not as heavy as what I’m hoping to use for the Heroine jeans. But I’m also considering some corduroy. My eldest daughter recently bought some second hand similarly flared jumbo cord trousers and I’m a little bit jealous.

Last year, I made so many dresses, not a problem as I love dresses. So this year I’m not so focused on making dresses. But I do want to give the Davenport by Friday Pattern Company a try.

This indie pattern company is proving to be a favourite of mine. The patterns are so wearable and cool. I’ve also discovered that I’m very much a visual learner and the sew-alongs on the Friday Pattern Company website are so good. The Davenport is a tiered knee length dress but Juliet – JulietUzor on Instagram, lengthened hers and I really like it, I might just do that too. I might have the fabric for this already.

The Assembly Line is a new to me pattern company and the Cap Sleeve Vest is their new pattern, as I write. As soon as I saw it, I was keen to make it. My style is eclectic, I’m drawn to a number of things but I think this jacket will fit into my wardrobe quite well, for those days when I’m feeling the need for stylish, simple, clean lines.

I want to make it in either a black or navy coating fabric. I’m going to try hard to keep it in a solid colour,  I’m always tempted to colour block or use patterned fabric, but I shall resist the temptation… but now as I look at it, I’m wondering about colour blocking, that lower portion is crying out for it!

Another piece of outerwear on my make list is something that I’ve had in my mind for ages and just keep pushing to the back burner. It’s the Jasika blazer by Closet Core patterns.

This is a tailored jacket, a classic piece to lift an outfit and hopefully be around for a long while. This is another item that’s going to need a toile and slow, careful work. Over the holidays, I read somewhere on my social media about taking time over makes to perfect techniques and finish things beautifully.  This is my desire for all my projects this year but especially for this. I really want this to be good. I don’t have the fabric yet, I want something in wool, a tweed or herringbone design. I shall enjoy researching fabric for this.

Lastly, from my make nine list is the Fielder from Merchant and Mills and I’ve made it already!

Last year, at the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexander Palace, I treated myself to some Merchant and Mills linen and ribbing and the Fielder pattern. And last week, I put them altogether to make this bright, casual top for a bit of winter sunshine. It’s a clever little woven jumper, a quick and easy pattern that I can see myself repeating.

So, that’s my make nine for 2022 and no sooner as I had posted this on Instagram, I began to think of all the things I hadn’t included that I would really like to make. The Zadie jumpsuit by Paper Theory, The Rya coat by Fibre Mood, another Adrienne blouse by Friday Pattern Company,  the Azania by Sewphilia Studio the Lyra shirtdress by Tilly and the Buttons, the Lander pants by True Bias, plus a couple of simplicity patterns I had in my stash. And then there’s active wear, I really want to get into sewing leggings and sports vests this year. See, that’s at least a whole other make nine right there and I could go on! Well, judging from my previous track record, I’m under no illusion that I’ll only make nine garments this year! But these nine are certainly more than just a guideline. I hope to make these,  I hope to focus on shirts, trousers, jumpsuits and new techniques when considering what else to make this year. This should help me narrow my options when I get the Fibre Mood patterns each month to choose from. When I’m offered free fabric, I’ll have these 9 items in mind.

But I also want my making to continue being fun, so I’m not going to trap myself. If I change my mind on any of these, that’s okay. If I don’t complete it, there’s always next year. It does feel good though to have a goal. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can be as organised throughout the year as I’m feeling now at the making plans stage. Let’s see if this spills out to the rest of my life; my house could be tidier, the laundry basket no longer overflowing, I could stop double booking or forgetting I’m supposed to be somewhere. One step at a time.

Time For A Fling

As I’m writing, winter is hitting the UK rather hard so I was super pleased to have made this over sized, long line hoodie in a snuggly fleece sweatshirting. It is a new pattern by the very cool Made It Patterns team and they gifted it to me. The Fling Hoodie dress is not your standard hoodie, it resides in its own stylish Hood. Team Made It have added a few lovely details to make this hoodie rather special and my love for it is pretty deep.

Let’s start with the fabric and a note of exasperation. I bought this cotton mix fleece from my local fabric store, Dalston Mill. Initially I was after a more emerald green but there wasn’t enough on the roll so I settled for this blue/green. I washed it as soon as I got home. It wasn’t until I was about to cut into it that I noticed a line of discolouration through the fabric, possibly due to light damage or me drying it on the radiator- forgive me but I had run out of drying space. I still cut through the fabric telling myself it wasn’t that not noticeable. I lied.

And guess what? It’s the same down the back. Am I sad about it? Yes. Am I cross with myself? Yes. Will I track down some dye in the right shade? You bet!

What colour would you call this- petrol or teal? The shop assistant called it petrol, but really, is this pretty colour the colour of fuel? It actually reminds me of the bluey flame that would emit from the little paraffin heater my siblings and I used to huddle around when we were young. Yes, it’s by the grace of God alone that we are still here to tell the tale! That’s how we used to live. This Fling Hoodie in this gorgeous snuggly teal fabric( that’s the colour I’m going for) is a much safer way to keep warm!

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. As I’ve said, the pattern is called the Fling Hoodie dress and made at it’s full length for someone 5.4 or 5.6 depending on the sizing band, it would fall about 2 inches above the knee at the front and behind the knees at the back. Judge for yourself how dress like that would be. Much as I love a jersey dress I felt that the roomy style would be best just as an oversized sweatshirt for my frame so I shortened the body pieces by 1.5 inches.

The sizes for the Fling are named after popular biscuits which is fun, and to my great delight my measurements landed on my favourite biscuits! I am all shortbread bust and custard cream hips. And having watched An Audience with Adele the other week it’s nice to know that we are both partial to custard creams.

This pattern is suitable for beginners and the instructions are very clearly detailed. The dress can be made with kangaroo pockets or simply with the built it side seam pockets. I went with that more straightforward option. The hood can be lined or unlined with bound seams. I learnt how to do bound seams properly through making this pattern and it was a lovely process. I cut up a t- shirt my daughter had outgrown to make the strips for the bound seams. I love that the hood is sewn high and close if you see what I mean, making it really cosy.

Another process I enjoyed was making the amazing sleeves. These are 3 part sleeves constructed to build texture and volume. The upper sleeve is pleated and the under sleeves are joined to them then top stitched. The hem is finished with a facing piece which is the only part of the whole sewing process that had me saying “Seriously?” It was really fiddly trying to sew that hem neatly. The instructions say the sleeves look a bit like prawns, and I do see that but I also see croissants and I even found myself at the grocery store the next day looking for fresh croissants, sadly they were sold out.

Prawns or croissants?

The finished sleeve is a funky thing to behold.

Not the best photo as the middle part collapsed!

I also really enjoyed the topstitching, which is unusual for me. Although my stitching isn’t perfect, I feel that it added more interest and a professional touch to the make. And then there is the high – low hemline, love it! I don’t know why a deep hem is so pleasing, it just is. And the longer curved back hem providing bottom coverage and warmth is a good move.

What more can I say? It’s certainly worth flinging open your wallets and buying this pattern, you’ll love it. It is totally hackable. I restricted myself to making a solid coloured hoodie but just think of the fun you could have with the sleeves and hood! Colour blocking the sleeve pieces, maybe use a piece of quilted fabric. The hood can be lined too in a different fabric. You could size down for a less roomy garment, shorten it to make a boxy sweatshirt and I don’t think it would be too difficult to turn this into a zipped jacket. My youngest has already put in her order for a straight hemmed version.

Apart from the pale streak my only other regret is that I didn’t lengthen the sleeve. I must have measured wrongly because I didn’t think I needed to but alas as is common for this long armed girl, the sleeves are a bit short. Oh well, I’ll have to make another one!

Fibre Mood Amira- Check out that Tartan

I made a new thing. Nothing new there I hear you say, but this new thing was a little  bit different for me.

For a while now I’ve felt that I needed more long skirts in my wardrobe. Before this one, I only had one. I’m more of a short skirt with thick tights kind of person. I have plenty of dresses too but, long, full skirts was something I wanted to try.

As well as being drawn to try a long skirt, I had recently begun obsessing about checks and tartans after seeing a fabulous collection from Endelea. Their colours and print choices was inspired by the Maassai people of Northern Tanzania in particular.

Fabulous or what!?

These gorgeous bright, bold statement making skirts and shirts had me drooling. Those colours against the beautiful dark skin was something I was keen to emulate. So I began my search for checked fabric and a good skirt pattern because unfortunately, the Endelea prices were out of my budget. Even though I wasn’t sure that a full skirt would suit me or if I was bold enough to wear a checked fabric with it’s body widening horizontal lines on my lower half, I still badly wanted to give it a go.

While we’re here, let’s talk a bit about body issues. I have spent the vast majority of my life vacillating between embarrassment, dislike and hatred of my thick thighs, wide hips and prominent bottom, and also feeling guilty about not accepting my body shape. Add to that more recently a thicker waist and tummy. Part of my sewing journey has been about making clothes that fit me and thus avoiding those dressing room dramas. It has also been about making clothes that suit me, that work with my shape. While that all sounds good and well, I fear that I am not doing as well at accepting my body and loving it as I thought I was. For far too long I have bought the lie of beauty belonging only within a certain combination of body measurements and it’s a hard thing to shake. I have avoided wearing tight clothes on my lower half, I’ve avoided wearing too much fabric or loud colours and prints on my lower half. Pleats and horizontal lines have also been avoided. So this skirt was a bit of a departure for me.

I am fortunate to receive a free pattern to preview every month from the latest Fibre Mood pattern magazine. Issue 17 was packed with some really cool, on trend patterns. But choosing just one pattern was made easier by the fact that I had my mind set on a skirt. Cue the Amira, a midi length skirt with shaped waist, yoke,  invisible side zip and pleats. This was the one!

All I needed was the fabric. I wanted either a blue and black or a red and black check. I could only find this red, black and yellow check from Fabrics Galore in a brushed cotton within my price range. I wasn’t 100 percent sure. It was giving me Bay City Rollers vibes that I wasn’t sure I was ready for! I also wondered if the brushed cotton would look too much like pyjama fabric. I needn’t have worried, the fabric was perfect.

The pattern was easy to construct after the fiddly and time consuming job of ironing the pleats was done. I don’t often make pleats but when I do, it’s usually just one or two on a garment. This had about 24 pleats and they were a little bit tricky to press and place correctly. My only tip with pleats is to go slow! The cotton holds the pleats better than I thought. I was really pleased that I managed to keep the rows horizontal and match the pattern at the side seams. I also managed to match the centre yoke piece quite nicely. I cut a size 14 and I’m a little bit cross with myself for being lazy, I should have made a muslin. The skirt is too big at the waist and I’ve had to add some elastic in the back. I should have made a 12 waist and graded out to a 14. Will I ever learn that a muslin is nearly always worth it?

Anyway, I really enjoyed the construction of the skirt. The instructions were clear. The hem was hand stitched, and even though I rolled my eyes at that instruction it was actually very pleasing to do it. The hand stitched hem looks very neat and professional.

I love the way the pleats fall from the yoke, giving shape and fullness and plenty of movement. I know that the pleats, the fullness and the bright print accentuate my lower half and I am ok with that, really. I am so pleased with how the skirt turned out and how warm and cosy it is, the perfect autumn to winter garment. It’s pretty much the look I was going for. I’ve already seen how I can style it with existing garments like the ready to wear mustard jumper.

I also tried a little checks on checks look which I thought looked a bit punk.

Another great look from the Endelea Collection.

The amira is such a great pattern suitable for many fabrics. I’d like to try it with chambray or a crisp poplin, with a matching shirt perhaps.

I am really hoping I get a lot of wear out of this skirt this season. Checks and saturated colours are on trend for autumn/winter 2021, so I’ve nailed that! I’m also hoping to work more on exploring different shapes and ignoring the little voice in my head that says I shouldn’t wear this or that.