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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 😊 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!😊

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!😁

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.Β  The construction was a little different but very sensible,Β  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.Β  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 😊

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 😊

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 😊

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 specialΒ  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. 

The Stevie Tunic – Ankara Everyday

So, I made a dress for my birthday. I didn’t want to make anything too fancy that would sit in my wardrobe and not get much wear and I wanted to make something quick in beautiful fabric! So I teamed this gorgeous red and gold ankara fabric from Dovetailed London with my beloved Stevie tunic, with a twist. But let me back up a little.

The Stevie tunic is a Tilly and the Buttons darling of a pattern that I love. Why? It’s a quick, easy make, so wearable. It’s hackable, has a dress and top version with a button or tie closure at the back, and can be worn all year long, layered with cardi, tights and boots for cool days. I have made 8 variations of Stevie, 6 for me and one each for my sister and daughter. I don’t usually navigate towards tunics or shift dresses because I prefer a more fitted shape on me and yet I am drawn to the shape of the Stevie, it has a 60s mini dress vibe which I love.

This latest Stevie is hacked with a ruffle and exposed zip at the back and side seam pockets. The ruffle was made by gathering a tube of fabric to the desired width across the back seam. I then sandwiched it between the lower back and upper back. The ruffle could be made out of a single layer of fabric finished with a narrow hem or overlocker. There seem to be a lot of ruffles on clothing these days and that back seam was just crying out to be ruffled! The exposed zip is something I’ve wanted to try for ages, I love the effect it gives this garment. I made a size 4 grading to a 5 at the hips.

Ankara fabric works well for a Stevie. It is a pattern with few pieces which means prints can be shown off beautifully. The Stevie I made for my daughter was also in ankara.

My daughter’s version is made with a large scale print. Her’s has cuffed sleeves, a button closure and a patch breast pocket which was pattern matched almost to perfection! Can you spot it?

Perhaps if you have just a small amount of ankara you could try making the Stevie top, to change up your usual tee and jeans combo.

As much as I love the Stevie, I’ve got a little round up of similar tunics or shifts that you could try with waxprint: the Carnaby dress by Nina Lee London, The Camber dress by Merchant and Mills, the Lulu dress by Sew over it, the Farrow dress by Grainline Studios and Vogue patterns V8897. I’m really wanting to try out the Carnaby dress.

Remember, ankara is a medium weight waxed fabric and will tend to give garments a more structured, stiff-ish look, it is not drapey. I love the shape it gives the Stevie tunic. The Stevie makes a very casual, every day dress but the right ankara fabric can lift it into a party dress!

Twinning is winning!

If you follow #sewingstevie on instagram you will see a few other Stevies in ankara. I’m hoping that they’ll be few more now!

The Nenuphar Jacket – Ankara Everyday

The Nenuphar jacket by Deer and Doe is a winner for African waxprint, in my opinion.Β  The pattern actually suggests more drapey fabric but I love the structure that ankara gives to the garment.

There are two options to play around with, this three quarter length sleeve version with patch pockets and another with long gathered sleeves. The patch pockets are generous and have a v- notch in the top that echo the v- notch of the collar band.

I get excited about easy to make patterns,  I guess I am a lazy sewer. There are no difficult steps. The lower back piece is gathered before attaching to the upper back piece. I point this out because I don’t love the process of gathering but I do quite like patterns with gathers and ruffles. During this make I actually snapped the threads as I pulled the gathers, not nice. But other than that all went smoothly with this pattern. The instructions are very clear and it was a quick make.

I actually cut out the pieces for this jacket last year from this vibrant fabric I won in an Instagram challenge.  For some reason I didn’t make it up until I was prepping for Ankara appreciation week.  This was my “with jeans” look, teamed up with denim shorts and trainers. A dead casual, relaxed look.

This bright, bold Ankara fabric in my favourite red and yellow just lifts the denim, smartens it up a bit while still being fun. A good top to wear with the nenuphar is the True Bias Ogden Cami beloved by almost every sewist I know! I made this one out of scraps from another project and could only fit the pieces on if I cut the front and back as 4 separate pieces rather than 2 on the fold. I french seamed the pieces together and I quite like the Ogden with centre seams.

Nenuphar and Ogden, a happy couple!

The Nenuphar jacket is unlined and makes a great summer alternative to a denim jacket. You may may want to opt for French or bias bound seams for a super neat finish. I French seamed the easier seams and for quickness, I just used my overcast foot and zigzagged the sleeve seams. I really love everything about this jacket, the shape, the length sleeve of version 1 is more me, the quickness of the make and that it is so good in ankara. I’m on the look out for fabric with blue tones to make another.

If you’re not really a dress or skirt person but are looking for ways to incorporate Ankara into your wardrobe perhaps a jacket is the way to go. The nenuphar opens up options for colour blocking, for example, you could have just a hint of ankara by just msking the collar piece ankara. Or for the more bold, you could play around with two coordinated ankara fabrics. Here are a few other jackets I think would look good in ankara: Simplicity 8418 – bomber jacket, Cambria Duster- Friday Pattern Company, Butterick 6739- Wrap jacket and the Jasika blazer – Closet Case Patterns. I’d like to have a go at some of those one day but for now I’m enjoying my nenuphar. I’d love to know if you make one from waxprint!

The sleeves make me smile!

Roma Midi Skirt – Ankara Everyday

I really, really love this gorgeous African wax print (ankara) fabric and I really, really love the Roma midi skirt by @halfmoonatelier

I bought this fabric as a remnant from a seller on instagram, @ailz_ . It was less than a metre and I was initially thinking of a top. But as I was prepping for Ankara appreciation week I decided that a quick and easy straight skirt was what I needed.

@therealalexisbailey

I came across this roma skirt by @therealalexisbailey on instagram and knew that I needed to make one.

It looked so simple and was just the shape I wanted, with no fasteners and a cute side patch pocket, which I left off on mine as I didn’t have enough fabric. In fact, it looked so simple that in my arrogance and my quest not to buy all the patterns (see Megan Neilsen River Hack post), I thought I’d draft my own copy. But then guilt flooded over me, I  shouldnt be copying someone else’s pattern and for Β£9, surely I could help out a gal doing her hustle. So I  clicked.

The pattern is for a straight skirt which falls below the knee, with a lovely curved hem creating a side split. It has an elasticated waist. The pattern allows for you to make it more or less fitted according to where you take your measurements. It can be finished with a folded hem or with bias binding. @therealalexisbailey has a sewalong style tutorial showing you how to do the folded hem around the curve.




This is a skirt that can be made in around 2 hours. It’s also a skirt that works really well with ankara fabric. Just 2 pieces and an optional pocket so you can really showcase your fabric with little interuption to the print. With larger prints you can have fun with pattern placement too. I love this ankara roma skirt by @timetosew with the bands of colour and pattern.

@timetosew finished her roma skirt with bias binding and it is made from a lovely ankara print.

This skirt is a casual, modern take on the classic pencil skirt and can be dressed up or down.

A more casual look with tee and trainers.

Following #midiskirtroma I was surprised to see so few makes. I’m not a great fan of elasticated waists because although they are comfy, they create a fuller silhouette than I want around my tummy and bottom. But this skirt shape has minimal pouff around the mid section and the straight shape is pleasing.

If you followed #sewingankarafabric on instagram last week you may have been blown away by all the amazing, showstopping makes. But I want to show you some ways in which ankara fabric can brighten up a basic garment, making waxprint work for every day. The roma skirt is definitely one pattern to use. It is a good one for left over fabric from a 6 yard bundle perhaps, or if you’re just wanting to test run ankara, buy one yard and make this skirt. Let me know if you make one!

Megan Nielsen River Hack

Sewists can feel like collectors some times. We collect fabric, patterns, books, tools and haberdashery like they’re going out of fashion. It’s not a cheap hobby and it takes up a fair bit of space. But as well as collecting all this hardware, we collect skills, achievement and joy and that keeps me going.

For a while now I have felt conflicted by how much I feel the need to buy every new pattern or pattern book that hits my insta feed, and how much I need to watch the pennies and just actually make the patterns I do have. And then there’s the whole business of hacking. Can I be bothered to hack and draft my own pieces? Is it wrong to copy someone else’s design?

The thing is, there are so many patterns out there and because all these designers are keeping their eyes on the catwalk and high streets there are so many similarities. And while I really want to support independent businesses, and I have my favourites, I need to support my purse too! So, recently I decided to practice and develop some of the skills I’ve been collecting by hacking and mashing patterns.

A few months back, I fell in love with a gorgeous blouse by Style Arc, the Harmony top. It has beautiful floaty sleeves and a lovely simple boxy shape. I really wanted to buy it but I held back. That litte niggling voice saying ” you have similar boxy blouse patterns already. You could hack those sleeves” grew louder each time I wanted to hit purchase.

Eventually, the right fabric came into my hands and an idea was born.

The River blouse and dress by Megan Nielsen is a really simple make. I had made the dress last year, also with hacked sleeves, that time elasticated cuff. The pattern is for knits or wovens. It has a raglan bodice which I’m really loving at the moment. The River is also reversible in that the front and back pattern pieces are identical but one is crew neck and the other is v- neck. You can choose to wear it whichever way you like.

Everything about this make is easy. The instructions are clear and the fit is casual and comfy. I made the medium size with no fit adjustments.

For the sleeve, I added two flounces to the original sleeve using a flounce from another pattern I had. I needed to widen the flounce to fit this sleeve width and I cut one flounce to be a little less deep that the other. I stitched the more narrow flounce over the wider one and attached them to each sleeve before sewing in the sleeves according to the River pattern instructions. ( notice the thread I didn’t trim- oops)

I really love this blouse, it feels and looks great on. I’m so pleased with the way this hack worked out, it’s exactly the look I was going for and didn’t cost me any extra. I will definitely be returning to this pattern.

The nice thing about working with patterns you’ve already made before, is that you know that you like the style and fit on you. Also you already have all the paper pieces traced and cut. If you’re anything like me, I find that to be the most tedious part of the making process.

I don’t know what your thoughts are about hacking or about tweaking your existing patterns to look like another pattern. The way I see it, in the making world we are all borrowing ideas from each other.

The River pattern is a great one to make as is but it also serves as a great block to make hacks from. I have more ideas for it whirring in my head. But if you liked this blouse but don’t have the pattern or can’t be bothered to hack it, then the Harmony blouse from Style Arc looks worth getting 😊