Batik and Mindy

Well, I have had the absolute joy and privilege to work with some gorgeous African batik fabric. I was very interested when Comfort from Letasi design studio  asked if I would like some of their fabric and as I scrolled through their website I got very excited and just could not choose!

Letasi design studio specialise in East African hand batiked fabric.  Batik is a wax resist process whereby hot wax is poured onto fabric and then dyed, the areas with the wax resist the dye. Heat is then used to remove the wax. Batik can also involve the use of stamps to print on a design, or brushes can be used to paint dye on or splatter dye on. The process of waxing and dying can be repeated to add more colour. That’s my simplified version of it, correct me if I’m wrong. It is an involoved process.

As I looked at the fabric on the website I was drawn to big, geometric designs as well as some amazing splatter designs that reminded me of a Jackson Pollock art piece.

I ended up choosing this design with pinkish red circles against a black/ green background and was sent about 2.5 yards of it. The fabric feels very similar to good quality ankara that I  love to work with. It is 100 percent cotton and it has a tiny bit of stretch to it.  The fabric is waxed as I’ve said but it feels a little less stiff than ankara fabric.

The fabric was a dream to work with. A strong, stable fabric which will withstand being unpicked and allow you to work quickly because it stays in place and you can get away with not pressing every seam as you work. With fabric like this, I adopt my mum’s method of “hand pressing” with thumb and forefinger, it works.

Perhaps you’re wonder what the difference is between African batik and ankara/ African wax print. At a basic level ankara is imitation batik and mass produced by machines. Ankara tends to be more bright and bold where as batik produces more muted tones generally. As a lover of story and as someone who takes a lot of interest in how things come to be and who makes my stuff, I get a little fuzzy feeling as I look at this fabric, thinking about the crafts women and men who eorked on it. Every dribble, dot and blob,every crackle, every bleed and blend make each piece of this hand made fabric truly unique and the colour hard to pinpoint.

A close up of my fabric showing green, yellow,  brown,  pink and black bleeding into each other.

I decided to make my fabric intoย  a dress,ย  I like dresses. I chose to make the Mindy dress by Fibremood. I have really liked the various versions of this dress popping up on my Instagram feed. I’d even seen a couple of wax print ones that caught my eye. But I was concerned about the shape, it strays out of my usual leaning towards fitted waists and away from gathers. Also I’m going to confess that I’m not a massive fan of big sleeves. My thought is always “will they fit in my cardigan or coat?” However the feeling to make one was strong.

Am I sorry that I made a Mindy? No! Am I a little bit uncomfortable wearing it? Yes! Why? Because if I don’t stand in a certain way it sits on the lower curve of my back, billowing around my bottom looking odd!

A side view picture would better explain my comment above but I didn’t capture one – I wonder why

That said, this dress is super comfortable to wear, that could be because I actually remembered to add the seam allowance which is something I sometimes forget when making Fibre Mood patterns. It has an empire line a side zip and is gently gathered. I added about 3 inches to the length. The sleeves can be left big and floaty or puffed by adding elastic to the sleeve hem. Most of the making process was really straightforward but when it came to adding the facing to the front and back necklines I was stumped. I couldn’t understand the picture instructions or the more detailed instructions on the website. My facing pieces also seemed longer than they needed to be. I eventually worked something out and it looks okay. I have heard people complain about the scanty instructions for Fibre Mood patterns and I tend to agree.

The one thing missing from the Mindy are pockets. I think I might retrofit some patch pockets on the side. I really like the neckline and the shape of the bodice. The Mindy and this batik fabric are a perfect pairing. It could just be me but I find that when I wear unlined wax print garments with tights, I get a lot of static and the fabric clings to my legs. I haven’t lined this dress but am wearing a slip to combat the static.

I think this particular fabric design is sold out but do head to the Letasi website and see what other beautiful designs they have in stock, and if you chose to purchase, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Cozi by name, cosy by nature

I pattern tested for one of my favourite indie pattern companies again. The Pattern Scout’s patterns are really cool, totally wearable, every day garments. What I love about these patterns is that there are always options so you get more for your money and they are so hackable.

The latest from Pattern Scout is the Cozi Jacket, an oversized cropped zipped jacket with funnel collar or hood, and with deep a waistband and sleeve hem, which can be elasticated. It can be made from a wide range of low stretch fabric, woven or knit. Talk about options! The size range is from a US 0-30.

I started off making my test version out of some rather garish fleece I had stashed away in my craft coffin- a large chest in the attic where crafts and failed projects go to die! I had bought the fabric some 10 years ago when my youngest was a toddler intending to make some cute things from it and never did.

I cut a size 14, Version A, funnel neck.The jacket came along nicely and quickly, turned out a bit big though. I did everything apart from adding a zip and elastic.

While making this toile, I couldn’t get out of my mind some images of padded, quilted denim jackets I’d seen in Gap. I really wanted to make one even though I hadn’t quilted anything before, I didn’t have any batting and I had just under a week to make it!

I did however have some denim and some beautiful Ankara fabric that would look great as the lining. And I did have the fleece- how different is that from batting? Not much, I decided.

And so I got to work. I unpicked the fleece toile and then cut the pattern out in the denim and the Ankara. To make the jacket up, I sandwiched the fleece between the denim and Ankara and pinned them together. I decided to go for a simple grid design. I played around a bit to learn how to use my quilting tool, which stitch to use and how big my squares should be. It was fun learning a new thing with my fairly new machine.

With each pattern piece I chalked a line down the centre as my guideline. I chose a basic quilting stitch and worked my way straight down and then straight across. For the pockets I did a smaller grid and for the back I did squares along the lower half but left the top with just the vertical lines. It was all very easy, the quilting tool made sure that my lines were straight. But it was very slow. I’m glad I persevered though.

I love the denim with the wax print

The actual cozi jacket is an easy make and the instructions are so clear and easy to follow. But I made things difficult for myself by sewing with padded, lined fabric. My seams were so thick! I was joining six layers of fabric together. When I came to add my zip, my machine made lots of angry noises and I managed to break a needle! I couldn’t add tape to the inside of the zip to finish it or do top stitching along the zip and pocket edge for fear of breaking another needle.

I love so many things about this jacket. Lining it in this beautiful ankara was very pleasing. I love making garments that are truly unique, one offs. If I had more time and will power, I could have worked out how to make this jacket reversible, but I had neither! Besides, I feel that when you’re pattern testing it’s kind of respectful to stick closely to the designer’s intentions. My inside seams are visible and not super tidy but I still love to look at the fabric and smile ๐Ÿ˜Š

When I made my toile, I was ok with the sleeve length but with my denim one,as I tried it on and moved around in it, I felt it could do with a bit more length, about an inch. I wasn’t sure what to do. The pattern has the cuff and waistband included in the sleeve and bodice pieces respectively, you just fold them up. Because I had intended to do that, I had made sure I didnโ€™t allow the fleece fabric into the cuff and waistband allowance, because it would have made the hems too bulky. I decided I would add a ribbing cuff and Casey, aka Pattern Scout was happy for me to do that.

The ribbing cuff was a good move, I have longer than average arms and it’s good to have a jacket that doesn’t expose my wrists. Several of the other pattern testers were reporting that the sleeves were too long, not me!

Sometimes when I sew something, I spend a lot of time looking at it, trying it on, twirling about in it and saying “I can’t believe I made this!” I did all of that with this jacket, I’m so proud of it.

I really enjoy being a pattern tester. There’s something about being involved in this process that gives you an appreciation of the work a designer does. I also pick up tips on fitting and adjusting and learn and glean ideas from the other testers. But one of the best things is that it makes me try something new. I don’t think I would have chosen to make this jacket as I am a bit of a lazy sewist, I love those quick and easy projects. At one level, this is quite a quick project, but not if you quilt your own fabric. I also tend to get stuck in a style rut and pattern testing can help break this.

Many small pattern companies can’t afford to pay you, the minimum they offer is a free copy of the pattern to test and a completed one at the end. Some like Pattern Scout give a little stipend to help with the cost of materials. Some may totally cover the cost of materials and give you access to other free patterns, it varies.There usually isn’t a requirement to do a review or plaster it all over your social media, but hey, if you love the garment, you’ll want to.

I see pattern testing as a win win situation, the designer gets to iron out any issues with their pattern and I get at least a free pattern and some experience to tuck under my belt. As long as I don’t say yes to everything and over burden myself, I’m happy to pattern test. I do try only to test what I like the look of too, what I think suits my style.

So yes, the Cozi is a winner for me. You can find it here. You can also see a round up of some of the jackets made by the testers here. Lots of great inspiration there. I’m planning to make a fluffy, snuggly one to wear at home because our old house is a bit draughty. My daughters have put in their orders too.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on pattern testing ๐Ÿ˜Š

Stretch African Waxprint! What’s this?

Back in December Jacqueline who owns Wax and Wraps selling African print subscription boxes and lovely African fabric got in touch with me with an irresistible offer. She had some stretch fabric in some popular wax print designs. Yes, stretch African waxprint is a thing! Amazing right? I was really excited to be able to choose a design in exchange for a review. So let’s review.

One of the best features of African waxprint cotton is the vibrancy of the colour and happily this vibrancy has transferred very easily on to this stretch polyester fabric. The fabric is single knit, I think, the print is only on one side as the picture below shows. It has a good widthways stretch, but less stretch vertically. This makes for a fairly stable knit that behaves very well under the sewing machine. It has a fluidity to it that puts it somewhere between a viscose jersey and a ponte roma.

Even before I got the fabric I had my mind set on active wear, leggings and a vest. But my plans changed a little when the fabric arrived. The stretch fabric isn’t actually performance fabric and I’m a sweaty thing when I work out. I really need breathable fabric that wicks sweat away from my body. Too much detail? That’s life! So I decided to mix the fabric with some cotton jersey I had in my stash and make something a little more loose, but still with a workout vibe.

I opted for a vest and pants combo from Madeit Patterns. I have to say that I’ve been flirting with Madeit Patterns for a while, not so you’d know. I have stalked them and have loved spying on makes by @needleandted, one of their designers. It was high time I made a move and commited to a purchase. So I clicked and shopped the Rest Vest and Slow Pants.

The cotton jersey I had in my stash was white and I had planned previously to tie dye it, but for the purpose of this project I stuck the fabric into the washing machine with some Dylon denim blue dye. It came out quite well I think.

The rest vest has a muscle fit back and is designed for colour blocking fun. The trousers also allow for a contrast band down the side. I decided to use my stretch waxprint as the contrast accents. Both the vest and pants were easy makes. The instructions are fun, clear and simple. I was so excited that the trouser pattern showed you how to make a high rise adjustment and also a full butt adjustment- happy days! I actually just ended up making a straight size 14 for both pieces but I will make changes for my next. I will size down to a 12 for the vest and for the pants I’ll sew a size 12 at the waist with a high rise adjustment and grade out to a 14 at the hips. I really love this style of loose fit straight leg trouser on me- both uber comfortable and suits my shape. The bright contrast of the waxprint lifts the whole outfit.

But I wasn’t finished with the stretch fabric just yet. I loved that it featured heavily on the back of my vest and I wanted to give it more visibility. So to complete the look, I made a very simple, loose fitting t- shirt to throw over my vest. I chose the Clara top from Fibre Mood. Again it is such a really, easy make, just 2 pieces and some neck binding. And I’ll let you into a little secret, I left the sleeve and bottom hem raw. I think I might revisit that soon, for the sake of the longevity of the garment.

So, there you have it, a simple workout/ lounge outfit. With names like ‘rest’ and ‘slow’ you get the impression that this set is for taking life easy!

I plan to purchase more stretch fabric from Wax and wraps. Cotton waxprint will always be my favourite hands down but it’s great to have a stretch fabric option too. I would happily recommend Wax and wraps, you’ll be overwhelmed by the gorgeous fabric on her website. You may opt to make a fitted, sexy little number with yours. I think I’d quite like to make a jumpsuit with my next aquisition. But for now, I’m loving my new set and I know they’ll get a lot of wear.

Claudette Trousers- The Power Pants for 2021

I am so in love with these trousers. I feel ready to take on anything wearing these! Bring it on 2021, I’m ready for you. These trousers are seriously ‘the boss’!

When Adaku of Dovetailed London asked if I’d like to have some of her gorgeous fabric and her Claudette palazzo pants pattern in exchange for a blog, I didn’t take too long to reply! I had already been stalking the Dovetailed website and had my eye on this ‘ A river runs through it’ fabric.

Let’s talk about this make. Do you know, the best thing about this pattern is that my lovely daughter is the cover girl! Hehe. She and I got to do some modelling for the new Dovetailed packaging a while back, it was fun.

This pattern is given a difficulty rating of 3 out of 5, but I think a beginner sewist could handle this. There is no zip or buttonholes to worry about. However, I  do think the instructions assume a knowledge of sewing trousers that a beginner wouldn’t have, thus the 3 stars I guess.

There are just 4 pattern pieces, front leg, back leg, pocket and waistband, simple. The construction is really straightforward too.

The size range is from a U.K 8 -26. My measurements fell between a 12 and 14. I checked the finished garment measurements and saw that they allowed about 2 inches of ease. I decided to sew the 12, grade out to a 14 at the hips and back to  a 12. On the pattern the sizes are colour coded and the size 12 is a pale yellow which was a bit difficult to trace, you might want to go over the actual pattern in a darker colour, if like me you need the size 12.

The pattern suggests that  smaller scale prints work best for this pattern and I see the sense in this. These are a large pair of trousers, how much of a statement do you want to make?! Large scale print also makes it more complicated if you want to pattern match. Well,  I went for a large scale print, although when I ordered it I  couldn’t really tell how large the circles were. I knew that I wanted to make some adaptations to make my trousers a little less of a statement and I hoped the fabric would work well. I think it did!

I’m not a huge fan of elasticated or gathered waists, I prefer flat fronted garments as I like a smoother  silhouette. So, making a size 12 waist when my waist measurement was actually for a 14, I hoped would give me a little less gathering,  and it did. I also adjusted my pattern to remove some of the fullness just because I like a less flared wide leg trouser. To do this, I took both the front and back leg pieces and marked the knee point and then drew a line down to the hem. I cut along the line, see picture:

Then I overlapped the piece by 3 inches and stuck it down to create a new piece. I don’t know if this is the correct way to reduce fullness, but it’s my way and it worked.

One New year’s resolution I made was to be a bit neater with my sewing. I often rush through things like finishing the seams because I want to get the project done. I finished my seams with the overcast foot as I don’t have an overlocker, but a zigzag stitch would work too.

There’s a sense of magic in sewing up a pair of trousers, or at least that’s what I felt when I made my first pair. Join each front to a back at the inside and outside seams, put one leg inside the other, right sides together and join the crotch seams together, pull one leg out and voila, you have a pair of trousers,  nearly. Probably best that you read the instructions!

And now for the waistband.  The pattern calls for 1 inch elastic but I only had 1 and 3/4 inch elastic and seeing as I actually prefer a deeper waistband I used that. So of course I had to adapt my waistband piece by adding three quarters of an inch to its depth. For the second part of the attaching the waistband process, I decided to hand stitch the waistband in place. I  always find it so hard to catch the wrong side of the waistband when I topstich from the right side. Hand stitching the waist was slow but neat. Finally, the hem, I didn’t hand stitch them! My trousers are a little longer than ankle length as they’re designed to be because I’m 5.4, but that’s ok  as I wanted them longer.

I’m really loving the way the trousers have turned our, they feel balanced despite my alterations. These are great trousers for dressing up or down. I intend to wear these with chunky white trainers or chunky sandals, that’s me. I enjoyed wearing them with a plain black top and blazer, then switching it up with my denim jacket.

Now, for all you pattern matching lovers out there, I made no attempt to pattern match and I’m not sorry. I wanted to break up the pattern and not spend ages and take up more fabric than I needed trying to line up the print. I still think the overall affect of the trousers is good, better than good, pretty cool really ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Pattern: Claudette trousers                                  

Fabric: ‘A river runs through it’

Claudette sewing kit

Sew that was 2020- A Tale of Two Sewists

Version 1. Lena Guilty Seamstress

In 2020, while a pandemic engulfed our world I sewed and sewed and sewed. I sewed a total of 38 garments for myself, actually 39 including the secret make still under wraps because it may or may not feature in a magazine. Wait a minute, there’s one make missing.

I forgot to include this skirt. 40 items of clothing in a year! Did I really need to sew so much? Do I really need all those pieces in my life? I sewed a few glam pieces too in a year where I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, what was I thinking of?!

And if I add to that all the things I sewed for others that would mean that I was probably sewing a garment a week. All that fabric aquired, all those patterns. All those hours and hours spent sewing and researching things to sew and how to sew. What else could I have been doing with all the time lockdown gave me? I could have baked more and eaten more, well I did do a lot of that. I could have exercised more, I did do a fair bit of that. I could have taken courses to help with my work and my general wellbeing, yeah, I did that and spent far more time with my husband and girls. And I got in a lot of time just to rest too, but still I’m not sure whether so much of my time should have been given over to indulging my interest and exploring my creativity. Sounds a bit selfish to me.

Okay, so on the whole I like the new things I made, there’s only one that I really dislike. I’ve worn it twice and that’s it, I won’t be wearing it again.

This skirt just doesn’t suit me and I don’t love the fabric. So that’s a real waste.

The thing about being a maker on social media is that the advertising and influencers just pull you in. They create such a ‘you need this culture’, feeding your FOMO in a way that is unhealthy and unsustainable. And talking of sustainability, I feel such a hypocrite. I’ve written blog and insta posts about taking a break from buying patterns and fabric, not making just for the sake of it and being a fan of slow fashion and here I am with 40 more makes in my wardrobe. And as if to mock me, the past year has seen companies offering me free sewing patterns and fabric at an alarming rate, what’s a girl to do? And I have to wonder, would I have bought as many clothes if I wasn’t a sewist? I don’t think I would.

Version 2. Lena Sewing Boss

What a year 2020 was. I’m pretty sure that this sewing hobby of mine helped me navigate those months of lockdown, restrictions, fears and sadness. I’ve never been a fan of hobbies that require you to collect objects that just sit there looking pretty gathering dust. I much prefer hobbies that I can eat or wear ๐Ÿ˜Š I made an amazing amount over the past year and loved almost every moment of it. As well as sewing 40 garments for myself, I did my bit for Queen and country in sewing a few scrubs and a huge number of masks. Some of the mask making was paid work, which helped as they were so tedious. I also took the chance to sew for a few friends, most of that paid too. I made some items for my family too including these cute pyjamas for my daughter:

And my first men’s shirt- yay, go me!

My flurry of sewing taught me new skills like sewing a flat felled seam through a sleeve tunnel. It helped me pratice things like topstitching. It has generally made me more adept at sewing and increasingly I can go off piste when following a pattern and sometimes just need to skim through the instructions and I’m off. One technique where practice has happily paid off is inserting invisible zips, I no longer fear them, they go in straight and invisible and I don’t need the safety net of a YouTube tutorial to guide me through it. It feels so good to be making those achievements.

I also had some great and fun opportunities to pattern and even fabric test. I love being part of that design process and have a lot of respect for pattern designers and drafters. As well as that different companies have reached out to me with patterns and fabric in exchange for blog posts. I have made some lovely things which I may not have otherwise come across as a result of this. I’ve discovered new places to buy fabric from and met some great people too. Social media can be a big source of temptation but it’s also great for connecting with like minded creatives and being inspired by each other.

Blogging and a new paid opportunity to write for a print sewing magazine means I’m wanting to sew more and do more research in and around sewing to get writing ideas and I’m loving it.

There are a couple of my 2020 makes that I didn’t love but they won’t be wasted. My lovely romy wrap blouse was just too big and didn’t sit right. I really didn’t have the desire to unpick and change it so I gave it away to someone more blessed than me in the bust department. The salmon skirt I’m planning to turn into and Ogden cami dress hack. Also, I might rework my Bobbi pinafore dress to fit my youngest daughter as I forgot to do my usual 2 inch length adjustment that I do for Tilly and the buttons patterns, we’ll see. But my other makes have been worn, many on repeat. I know what I love to make and wear.

I’m so thankful for this hobby, for the joy it brings me. I still find magic in turning flat pieces of lovely fabric into practical everyday clothes or gorgeous, special items. I’m thankful for the opportunities to bless others with this hobby, I love to see how happy friends and family are when I sew for them. Here’s to a creative 2021 filled with luscious fabric and amazing patterns. As lockdown continues and the pandemic continues to take hold I’m looking forward to joyful sewing days to help see me through!

So, you see my friends, it’s all a matter of perspective. Sometimes the voice of Lena Guilty Seamstress nags at me but most ofen it’s the voice of Lena Sewing Boss that comes through loud and clear!๐Ÿ˜Š

What’s your style?

I made another dress because I’m all about dresses at the moment. Simple, no fuss dresses that work well with tights and boots are my go to Autumn through winter. That’s my style.

But this dress was quite a different silhouette from my usual. I’m all about fit, darts, shaped, in at the waist, belts. I have avoided all smock, trapeze and nightgown dresses these past couple of years when almost everyone else seemed to be going crazy for them. In a moment of weakness last year, I bought the Tilly and the Buttons Indigo dress and made all but the sleeves and tried it on and hated it. Just far too much dress going on for me, plus the fabric and bodice fit weren’t right. That bad experience further convinced me to stay away from big smocks. Then three things happened.

1. Emporia Patterns sent me the Cassie dress in response to an Instagram story I posted. Very kind of them!

2. When I got the pattern, I felt that it would look great in a baby soft cord and I just happened to have some velvety red needlecord in my stash. I bought 3 yards of it at a very good price at the Stitching and Knitting show last November when the world was normal. I intended to make a shirt dress with it but I felt in the mood for a far more simple make.

3. I saw this on pinterest:

It’s from themomedit.com  and they told me that “this dramatic corduroy dress is everything!” And I believed them. See how happy they look!๐Ÿ˜

So I got to work. I made a few changes to the Cassie pattern. Pockets, of course. Dear Emporia patterns, if you ever relaunch this pattern please make pockets a standard feature. I made the sleeves longer because it’s an autumn dress and I like elbow and 3/4 length sleeves very much. I used bias tape to finish the neckline because I try to avoid facings whenever possible. And I added an inch to the depth of each tier.

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As I was making the dress I kept thinking “what are you doing?This isn’t going to suit you, it isn’t your style!” But I kept going. It was a really simple, quick make. I made it in three sittings as I’m a grab 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there kind of sewist. Nothing was tricky in this make and no unpicking occurred, a rarity.ย  The construction was a little different but very sensible,ย  it made the gathering process easier. Basically you make up all the front panels, then all the back panels then stitch the front and back together. The grown on sleeves meant that no tricky or time consuming setting in of sleeves was necessary.ย  I added about 9 inches to the length of the sleeve of the t- shirt bodice. They are a little tight, I should have widened them, an adjustment I often do for sleeves to accommodate my muscle!

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So what is the verdict? I’ve made a smock dress and I really like it! I didn’t feel the urge to add some ties to bring in the waist as I thought I would. I sewed a straight size 14 and the fit is good, it’s really comfy. I like the swishy feel of the dress, I like the generous pockets I added, I like that there is room to grow! I have to confess that because I love to get a good, close fit with my garments, I do have a few too many of my clothes languishing in my wardrobe waiting for me to adjust either my size, or the size of the garment!

I am pleased I made this ‘not my style’ dress and I know that I will wear it a lot. Even as I write, I have worn it 2 days in a row, today layered over a jersey top and leggings as it’s so cold. It’s already proving to be a versatile dress.

Do you have a ‘look’? Are you one for sticking to your tried, tested and true patterns? Do you feel in a rut? Or are you eclectic, ever adapting your style? As I rifle through my me-made wardrobe I don’t see myself as being in a sewing rut. It’s just that I know my style, I know what I love to wear and that’s what I make. I have strong suspicions about things I think won’t suit me. But this make has taught me that sometimes it pays to try something new and prepare to be surprised!

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Autumn Plans

I am not an overly organised person. I like to think of myself as a free spirit, especially when it comes to creativity.

Back when I was a primary school teacher, I felt stifled by the classroom and endless planning. I felt so much more free when I began homeschooling, plans were extremely loose and sometimes we ditched it all to celebrate the snow, or read our new read aloud all afternoon!

Recently I have been a bit  overwhelmed by all the things I want to make from my stash, all the fabric I want to buy and all the sewing offers and projects I’ve wanted to say yes to. I needed to take action, I needed not only to learn how to say no but I needed to make plans too!

I’ve been following s.is.for.sew on Instagram for a long while and watching her plan her makes and capsules was drawing me in. She suggested that I start with a mini plan list, so I did.

I bought the sewing and style planner from Sew So Natural and got to work. I decided on 5 items, not necessarily a capsule but garments I wanted to make using mostly fabric and patterns from my stash.

My first make was a hack of the Florence dress by Sew over it, a pattern I’ve had for over a year and not made. Sew over it very kindly gifted me with some gorgeous crepe. The navy fabric with the beautiful floral print was so lovely to work with and to wear. It really was the loveliest crepe I’ve ever worked with, soft and light with a beautiful drape and is not all clingy and static like other crepes I’ve used.

I styled my Florence dress on a RTW dress I pinned in pinterest. The changes I made to the pattern was extend the collar to long ties, change the sleeves for bishop style sleeves and add a tier. The pattern was very easy to make. I used this tutorial by Montoyamayo to make the sleeves. I’d been wanting to learn how to spread sleeves for a while and she made it all so simple. The gathered tier was very easy to make. I made the skirt from one back piece and one front piece, even though the pattern has two back pieces.  I’m really happy with how this turned out. It’s a really pretty piece and fits so well.

My second make was a preview for Fibremood magazine and this was a scrap busting project.

The Isra is a shirt pattern with a hidden button placket. When I saw it, I had a strong desire to make it out of my denim remnants and turn it into more of a jacket. It was mostly a fun make but the pattern wasn’t really designed for denim and I had to sew through several layers for the placket, which was tough. Other than that, it was a straightforward make. It gave me great satisfaction using remnants from previous makes.

Next, I made a little co-ordinating set from a couple of pieces of fabric I bought earlier this year.

I used two patterns from my stash. The shirt was made from fabric from Lamazifabrics, a lovely off white cotton with black chalk lines. I used the Byrdie button up pattern from Pattern Scout, a pattern I’ve used a couple of times before. I hacked it into a short sleeve shirt. I also played around with the stripe pattern on the shirt front and pockets. I like that I have a neat little shirt that I can tuck in or, I’ve discovered looks cool tied at the front.

For the skirt I used some black cord and the Bobbi by Tilly and the buttons. I’ve used this pattern before to make the pinafore version. The skirt came together quite quickly. I lengthened it by 2 inches which is my usual adjustment for Tilly’s patterns. I also flat felled all the side seams. The skirt was a little big, I made a straight size 5 (UK 14). I should have made a 4 (12) at the waist and graded to a 5. So I had to use the little elastic trick I often use on my girls’ clothes – I inserted a piece of elastic into the back waistband.

The skirt and shirt make such a great, casual Autumn outfit that I think will be layered up and on repeat through till spring!

I’m not going to say much about my last make as I have written a blog that us up on the Simple sew website. It is the Babydoll dress, which could probably be renamed The Shift dress. Do go to the Simple sew website and read my blog there.

I’ll just leave you with this cute picture and tell you that I absolutely love it!

I have been really surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed this planning and making session. It was really good to spend time thinking about the fabric and patterns I already had and how I could use them for things I both wanted and needed. It has helped to calm me to know each time what I’m going to make next and what fabric I will use. It’s been satisfying to use up fabric and see patterns I’ve envisaged come to life. Yep, I love this sewing life, I love this planned sewing life! It’s certainly the way forward for me now ๐Ÿ˜Š

Coco Dress Hack

How do you approach your makes? Where do you get your inspiration?

I love being on Instagram and seeing wonderful garments by some amazing makers. I love following the various pattern releases and ogling fabric online. More recently I’ve gone back to pinterest in my search for garments I want to make. I’ve enjoyed pinning ideas and then going to my fabric and pattern stash and dreaming up hacks.

I’ve had this piece of fabric in my stash for a couple of years now. I bought it with the intention of making a pair of Tilly and the Buttons Jessa trousers. The rust colour and the thick polyester were giving me 70s vibes which would be perfect for the Jessas. But I kept stalling because I wondered if I would find a pair of polyester trousers a bit uncomfortable, and, if I’m honest, a bit sweaty.

I’m glad I stalled because that gave me a chance back in September when there was a sewing vintage challenge on Instagram, to stumble across this:

These amazing ladies are the famous Mary Quant models, 50 years on, celebrating Quant’s 90th birthday. I love their mini dresses, the buttons and the patch pockets especially. I liked the idea of a collar but preferred a peter pan collar. So now I knew what to do with the fabric, all I needed was a pattern I could hack.

I decided on the Coco dress by Tilly and the Buttons, a tried, tested and true pattern for me. My fabric had a little bit of stretch but not as much as the Coco pattern was designed for so I knew I would need to insert a zip so I could get in and out if it easily. I was intending to make a faux placket for speed.

I measured the button placket to come to just under my bust and made it from two rectangles stitched together and then turned right side out. I love these big black buttons I got from Dalston Mill. The Peter Pan collar was a bit of a fudge. I measued the neckline and shaped the pattern piece using such technical equipment as a plate, because I couldn’t find my curved ruler! If you have a peter pan collar from another pattern, that would make life easier. The collar is in 2 pieces which I made slightly too long so they over lap at the back, and at the moment I’m calling it a design feature! I’ll probably go back to it at some point and correct it.

When I make a Tilly pattern, I usually cut a size 4 bodice and grade to a 5 at the hips (12-14). But because my fabric wasn’t stretchy enough, I thought I should scale up so I cut a size 6- no I don’t toile, I like living on the edge!

I cut the back as 2 pieces because I was adding a zip. I do not have an invisible zip foot for my new machine so I inserted the zip with a normal zipper foot. My machine has several needle positions which was very useful here so that I could get really close to the teeth and sew a nearly perfect invisible zip. After I sewed it, I realised I could have used my old machine, which has an invisible zipper foot- oh well!

When I tried the dress on, there was too much bunching at the back for my liking so I added darts on either side of the zip. I should have cut a size 5 bodice and graded out to a 6 at the hips. The other adjustment I make on Tilly patterns is to add about an inch and a half to the skirt length.

I really love the way this dress has turned out. The Coco dress is just my style of dress. I love the simple lines, the flattering waist, the 3/4 length sleeves and it’s the right length for looking great with tights and boots. I added large hip patch pockets, borrowed from another pattern, which add to the overall fabulousness of this dress, in my humble opinion!

Following on from my previous two posts, this dress was a frugal make, no new fabric or pattern was bought. It boosted my making skills as I drafted pattern pieces and added darts and learned a bit more about adjusting to fit. It has also given me great joy! I love this vintage look! And the colour is amazing and screams Autumn.

If you’re a Tilly lover and you don’t want to go through all the hacking drama, you could achieve this look with the Francoise dress ๐Ÿ˜Š

Sew all the things? Part 2

Learning to say no

I really had no idea what I was doing when I started up my Instagram account back in March 2018. I thought it was a place where cool people went to show off their cool pictures. Or where teenagers fled to escape their parents and aunties who kept embarrassing them on Facebook!

What I really wanted was to find some other people like me who enjoyed sewing and who would perhaps inspire me and give me some tips. Well, I got that and more! I met so many lovely people, so much talent, so many ideas and makes to copy!

I still can’t believe how much I have sewn in that time. How much fabric has passed through these hands, how many patterns have been studied. How many buttons and zips have been bought. How many blog posts and reviews have been written!

Yes, I really didn’t know how Instagram worked and what went on in this corner of sewing lovers social media. I didn’t know that people would approach you and offer you stuff, I didn’t know you could be asked to freely advertise, I didn’t know about the endless competitions and challenges that could lure you in. It can be quite overwhelming and heady. If you’re a new maker and new to Instagram, beware!

I remember the first time I got a message from Minerva crafts asking if I’d like to join their bloggers network and get free fabric each month in exchange for a blog post. I was so excited- free fabric, yes please! These fun trousers were my first make for them. They are the Carrie trousers from Sew Over It and are well loved and well worn.

As well as being part of Minerva crafts bloggers network, I’ve also pattern tested for 4 different companies, and this is really fun. Trying out a pattern before it comes on sale, looking for any mistakes and being a small part of the design process is really exciting. Pattern testing has been a great way for me to develop my skills and try different styles.

I’ve pattern tested for some really great companies. Here are some from @patternscout @tillyandthebuttons and @aliceandco

But recently I got to a place where my desire to sew all the things was getting in the way of other things I loved, namely my family and rest! I would often find myself saying yes to every offer of a free pattern or free fabric and entering every challenge. I ignored the fact that free isn’t always as free as it seems. If I got free fabric, then I would often buy a new pattern. If I got a free pattern, I would often buy new fabric. And then there are all the notions, and all your time. Some of the companies I test for pay a stipend for fabric, others give you an extra free pattern. All this is great, but none of it pays the bills.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful, neither do I want to bite the hand that feeds my likes! This is how instagram works, but this isn’t how sewing needs to be all the time. I love getting freebies and I love pattern testing. And I’m really happy to give a shout out to someone else doing their hustle. But as an unpaid job, it can sometimes create so much work and even some stress, that I have to pause ask “woman, what are you doing?!” Am I actually spending less, am I enjoying this and is this improving my skills. Even if the answer is yes to some or all the above, am I just making for the sake of making?

Daughter #1 is our eco warrior and she tries to keep my making in check with a “mum, do you really need that?” thrown in every now and then. And I’m glad for it. Part of making for myself is my way of combatting the fast fashion industry. It’s also about me being less materialistic, trading several quickly made items for fewer slow and careful makes. So does it make sense to be grabbing every “freebie” that comes my way?

So, I have been learning to say no, I do not have to sew all things. What other people do is their business, but I felt the need to slow down. I think I’ve settled down a bit after those giddy days and I’m choosing who to sew for and when. I’m deciding which challenges to take part in and which to just cheer along from the sidelines. I’m taking control of my sewing and finding the space to explore other things.

I will always make room for pattern testing though. For me it ticks two boxes: I enjoy it and it helps improve my skills. In fact these sewing experiences have given me more confidence to sew for others, and who knows where I might go with that!

I’d love to know if you resonate with any of this, perhaps it’s just me!

In summary, sewing is a liberating, fun and creative hobby. The Instagram sewing community is largely a great place to meet like minded people, to be inspired, to be encouraged and to learn from. Just don’t let it control you! Sew because you love to. Set your own agenda and goals, and you really don’t need to sew all the things ๐Ÿ˜Š

Sew all the things?

I think I have made rather a lot of things over the last 2 years. Sewing is a hobby that I really, really love. There is great enjoyment in choosing fabric, pairing it with the right pattern and then turning these flat pieces of fabric into a garment that looks good and fits well.

There is a bit of smugness in knowing that what you’re wearing is unique, that it really is not on the High street. Even if you happen to make the most popular garment in the sewing world,  I’m looking at you Ogden, Indigo and Zadie, to name but a few, you can still make it absolutely yours with your fabric choice, or with a hack here or there.

Sewing for yourself is also a massive boost in the feel good factor as you get to know your body and get comfortable with a tape measure. As someone who has struggled for years to accept my body and has found buying ready to wear clothes more of a chore than a joy, it’s great that I can make things which are just my size. You also get to know your style, and what shapes and silhouettes work for you. Ah, it is a beautiful, liberating and uplifting thing to be a maker!

All that being said, there can be a lot of pressure in the sewing world to make all the things and that can take away some of the joy of making. We can put that pressure on ourselves, turning our nose up when we see the poor quality or high cost of something in the shops- “I can make that myself ” we say. Other times it’s as we scroll through Instagram and see the volume of garments some makers are churning out or feel we have no new content to put on our feed and then that pressure to “make something now!” looms large.

We come into sewing for different reasons. Mine were financial, for pleasure and for my own development. So as I’m making, I like to reflect on these reasons so that I don’t get sucked into the murky depths of having to have a new make or two every week. Taking a bit of time to think after I’ve made something is for me, a healthy part of my making. Taking stock of what I have, what I need and what I would like, and checking that my drive to sew something is not coming from an unhelpful place, either externally or internally is so helpful.

In my head I’m devising two or three blog posts under this “Sew all the things” title. In this the first, I shall be thinking of some things I haven’t sewn yet, and some that I have no intention of sewing! Do you have to make *all* the things? Of course not.

I have enjoyed developing my skills in the making of all kinds of garments from t-shirts to jeans. I’ve inserted invisible zips and exposed zips, I’ve hammered in snaps and jeans buttons and attached buckles. I love making dresses for every day and special days. Shirt making has been surprisingly fun for me, collars and placket towers have been wonderfully pleasing to conquer.

But there are a few things which I haven’t made and would quite like to. On my sewing table presently is The Kelly Anorak by ClosetCore patterns. I am not yet excited to be making this but I know I soon will be.  This one falls into the ‘for my own development’ category, it will be a challenge. I want to line it and there are so many pieces to contend with. Last April on one of those sunshine and showers days, I left my raincoat on the bus, I think. Since then, my frugal self has been wearing a cast off from daughter #1, which is a tad small and not my colour. I’m hoping to have a bright coral replacement by October.

Another thing I’d like to make one day is a tailored, lined blazer, and I’m feeling lured by the Jasika blazer, again by Closet Core Patterns and the Francine jacket by Sew Over It. That might be something specialย  that the 50 year old me (no longer such a long way off) might sew for my self- in a tweed.

And now I move towards the things I do not intend to make for myself. First off, and sitting on the fence a bit is a swimming costume. Whilst I  think it would be lovely to make a gorgeous vintage swimsuit in a fabric of my choice and that, hopefully fits well, I’m not sure I can be bothered to manoeuvre that slippy, stretchy fabric and manipulate it into a bathing suit. The same goes for activewear. Yes, I’m tired of my running trousers slipping down my waist and needing to oik them up every few strides, but I’m not sure that a me made pair would fair any better.

And then there’s underwear to which I say “really?” I get that there are people who are consciously trying not to buy any clothing and to be totally me made, and I salute them. For me, smalls are just a step too far. Maybe it’s because I love to show off my makes and I know for sure that I won’t be parading in my undies on social media any time soon! Each to each.

What about you? Are you all for a head to toe me made wardrobe or are there some things you just don’t want to make for yourself? The thing is wherever you fall on this there should be freedom, don’t be forced or guilt tripped. Resist the old fear of missing out. We laugh at FOMO but it can be a  real joy stealer. Remember your reasons for why you got into sewing in the first place and check in on those regularly. 

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