Four year blog anniversary and my sewing story

WordPress told me it was my anniversary a couple of weeks ago but this is the date I published my first post so this is what I’m calling my blog anniversary. Or blogiversary if you prefer.

I started my blog not long after I started sewing so I thought it might be a nice way to celebrate four years of the blog by writing a little post about my sewing story.

Unlike a lot of people in the sewing community I didn’t grow up in a crafty household and I certainly didn’t learn to sew as a child. We were given a sewing machine once but none of us could thread it so I think it got given away. I’ve found out since I started sewing that my granddad sewed and made clothes for my nan and my aunties, which I think is just lovely.

He made those dresses

The women on that side of the family are also excellent knitters. I had some great jumpers that my mum’s Auntie Mabel knitted me and a knitted Worzel Gummidge, complete with a tiny mouse in his hat. Apparently my granddad’s mum also used to knit samples for knitting pattern covers.

But that’s an aside. All that craftiness just seemed to skip my mum. I tried to teach her to knit once and it was one of the most frustrating experiences. If I needed anything hemmed or a button replaced, that was always my dad’s job.

The most sewing I’d done before my 30s was sewing big triangles cut out from a t-shirt into the side seams of a pair of cords to turn them into big ass flares. I did it all by hand with a simple running stitch (I didn’t know there were other stitches) and I am still AMAZED they didn’t fall apart in the washing machine. I also once tacked black circles onto a red top to dress up as a ladybird for a fancy dress night out. Me and my friends did a lot of fancy dress nights out in my 20s so I could bore you with lots more grainy old photos like this but I generally used fabric glue and wonder web for my creations so I didn’t think I could count them. (You can see some on Instagram here)

I then got myself a boyfriend who could sew, which was ever so handy. He repaired things for me and he even made me a bedding set for my birthday. I had a thing for cow print back then and he made it out of cow print satin. I still have it even though it’s for a double bed and I’ve always had a king size so I’ve never actually used it. But still. It was a handmade gift and it would feel wrong to get rid of it even though it feels sort of weird to keep presents from an ex.

It was actually my friend reminding me how gutted I was to not have someone to do my sewing for me when he and I broke up that made me think about writing this post.

After that I thought about learning to sew a lot but I thought I’d be rubbish at it. The only time I’d used a sewing machine was in one technology lesson when I was about 12 and we used an unthreaded machine to punch holes in paper with different shaped lines printed on it. I’m also very faddy and have abandoned many, many hobbies in my time. I was worried that I’d buy a sewing machine for it to just gather dust.

So I just talked about how much I’d like to have a go for ages. Years. I nearly bought a sewing machine so many times. I once pleaded with my mum to buy me one from Lidl and I’d pay her back (I was buying a house and was trying to keep my bank accounts and credit looking good). She wouldn’t. She has seen the fads first hand…

I then stumbled upon sewing blogs. I can’t quite remember how but I think it started with Sarah of A Million dresses. Who is technically a lifestyle blogger but when I found her blog she’d just spent a day learning how to sew a dress. Which made me think dressmaking must be loads easier than I thought if you can learn how in a day. Then through Sarah’s blog I found Roisin aka Dolly Clackett and binge read most of her blog. Falling more and more in love with all of her beautiful dresses. That was exactly the sort of thing I wanted to make.

From there it was a short jump to all the other “famous” sewing blogs, including Tilly and the Buttons. I spent hours reading all of Tilly’s beginner sewing guides and convinced myself I could do it. So in March 2014 I used some of my house deposit savings to buy myself a basic sewing machine. The rest as they say is history.

I made an envelope back cushion cover as my first project, which I still have.

Bonus Poppy

Next came an elasticated waist skirt. I followed one of the may online tutorials and I was so proud of myself when I finished. It has cartoon raccoons on it and I’ve worn it approximately three times. Turns out, I hate elasticated waist skirts. I also still have that somewhere and I’ve thought about trying to refashion it into something I will actually wear.

From there I dived into sewing real patterns. I find the best way to learn how to do something is to have a go at doing it. I learned so much from my first few projects. Mostly that fitting is really hard.

The rest of my sewing journey is here on the blog and I love that I started it so early in my sewing. It means I can see just how much I’ve improved and learned over the years. And just how much my focus has changed. I don’t think at the start I’d even considered making anything other than woven fit and flare dresses. I can’t remember the last one of those I made. They’re just not something that I actually wear.

But anyway, that is how I got started sewing. I hope you haven’t been bored silly by this long, rambling post. Have a great weekend folks. And here’s to the next four years of blogging.

My Favourite PDF only patterns

After writing about the reasons I like PDF sewing patterns last week, Melody asked in the comments what my favourite PDF only patterns are. So I put my thinking cap on, had a look at which of the patterns I’ve enjoyed are PDF only and here we are.

Helen’s Closet Blackwood cardigan

Size range: Bust 31″-48″ Waist 24″-40″ Hip 33″-50″
Price: $14 (USD)
No variations: 2

This is one of my most made patterns to date and I still have lots more planned. It’s one of my favourite patterns ever, let alone just PDF ones. I wear my long grey version all the time as it’s just so versatile. It’s the perfect cardigan pattern for me as I always wear my cardies open.

My versions:

Other people’s versions: Sarah | Laquana | Lara | Meg | Judith (Judith has also done a video sewalong)

Helen’s Closet Winslow culottes

Size range: Waist 24″-38″ Hip 34″-48″
Price: $14 (USD)
No variations: 4 different lengths

Another Helen’s Closet pattern because I’m a fangurrl. I love my Winslow culottes/palazzo pants, they’re just the perfect spring trouser. As I was getting the information for this post I saw that Helen is doing a Winslow hack series and the pattern has 15% off until the end of May with the code “hackwinslow”. So far she’s shared a hack for an elastic waist and I’m looking forward to seeing what else she does. I should probably branch out and sew a shorter version at some point but I love me a maxi.

My versions:

Other people’s versions: Shannon | Gillian | Jasika | Michelle | Abigail

True Bias Southport dress

Size range: Bust 32″-44.4″ Waist 26″-38.5″ Hip 34″-46.5″
Price: $12 (USD)
No variations: 2

I’m surprised that Kelli hasn’t released this one in a paper version yet as it’s a great pattern. But then maybe other people aren’t as obsessed with maxi things as I am. There are always some really nice touches in True Bias patterns and they all seem to be really well drafted. There’s a nice bit of construction on the neckline that gives a really clean finish to the bias binding. I love the shape of the neckline and the amount of blousiness in the bodice. I’ve used the Southport dress as a base for loads of hacks and mash-ups. A Scoutport is next on my list, with a Grainline Scout tee as the top half and my more flared, knee length version of the Southport for the skirt.

My versions:

Other people’s versions: Jenny | Erica | Meg | Sonja | Kirsten

Dixie DIY Ballet dress

Size range: Bust 34″-42″ Waist 24″-33″ Hip 36″-44″
Price: $8 (USD)
No variations: 1

While I’m a big fan of the Ballet dress it’s very similar to the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater dress, which gets a lot more love in the blog world so you may prefer that as it has more variations and fuller instructions. The Ballet dress fits me really well across the shoulders though so I prefer it to the Lady Skater (I’ve tried both). The Ballet dress also runs quite large – I wear the small and I definitely shouldn’t be the small. So if you’re slim it will swamp you. But then I like negative ease in my knits, not everyone likes things to fit the same.

My versions:

Other people’s versions: Amy | Zoe | Val G | Lisa | Katie

Sew Over It Penny dress

Size range: Bust 33″-45″ Waist 26″-38″ Hip 36″-48″ (though the hip is free and the bodice is oversized – the finished bust measurement of the largest size is 49.5″ – so if you’re a little bit outside the size range you may be okay)
Price: £7.50
No variations: 1

The Penny dress is such a nice dress for when you want to look good but also be comfortable. I wouldn’t recommend it for complete beginners as I don’t think the instructions are the best that Sew Over It have to offer. It’s a great pattern if you have a bit of experience though. And I’ve just seen on Sew Over It’s Instagram account that they’re working on a blog post to help clarify the facing/placket bit of the instructions, which is great news. (Edit: It’s here)

My versions:

Other people’s versions: Carmen | Carmen again | Holli | George | Beck

Sew Over It Alex shirt and shirtdress

Size range: Bust 33″-45″ Waist 26″-38″ Hip 36″-48″ (There is a LOT of ease in this pattern though – 8″ at the bust, 7″ at the waist and 10″ at the hip so if you’re outside the size range you’re probably still okay. I sized down 2 sizes for my version)
Price: This only comes as part of an eBook, which is £20 but you do get 4 other patterns so if you work out an average it’s only £4
No variations: 2 for Alex but 9 in total

This pattern is the main reason I bought the Sew Over It City Break eBook. I love all of the samples, it seems to work in any fabric. I’ve only made myself one version so far but I keep meaning to make another as my first one is so versatile. I made my mum one for Christmas too and I want to get some photos and video of her in it for a sort of “one pattern, two body shapes” post or series. We actually have quite similar body shapes but she has bigger boobs and I have slightly more of a waist so I thought people might find it interesting to hear about how different patterns fit each of us.

My version:

Other people’s versions: Jo | Hayley Jane | Heather | Laura | George

Alina Sewing + Design Co Chi-town chinos

Size range: Waist 24″-36.5″ Hip 34″-46.5″
Price: $15
No variations: 2 – shorts and a skirt – but there are expansion packs available with 2 additional versions

I think this is a great pattern to tackle as your first shorts(/trousers if you use the expansion pack) as the instructions are fantastic and the shorts aren’t supposed to be skin tight so the fitting isn’t as hard as with something like jeans. There are just loads of great features to the pattern and getting both a skirt and shorts is great value for money. I have a pair of the trousers cut out that I’m hoping to get made up soon too.

My version:

Other people’s versions: Heidi (shorts) | Cristy (pants) | Abbey (skirt) | Helen (shorts) | Teri (pants)

Megan Nielsen Veronika skirt

Size range: Waist 34″-42″
Price: Free when you subscribe to her newsletter
No variations: 3

There’s nothing particularly fancy to this one, it’s just a circle skirt pattern but I’ve found it way easier to use than a circle skirt calculator. I used it on my Sewaholic Cambie dress and I used it for a tulle skirt for my work Christmas do last year. It comes with two different waistbands, huge patch pockets and you can use it for knits or wovens. Plus it’s free! So if you’re on the fence about PDF patterns this is a nice one to try. When I relax my fabric buying ban I fancy a scuba version.

My version:

Other people’s versions: Annie | Ruth | Katy | Teresa | Lauren

So there you go, those are my favourite PDF only patterns. There are loads more PDF only patterns I like but these are the ones that I’ve used multiple times and I’m glad I have in my collection. To look at the other side, are there only printed only patterns that you think I should check out?

5 reasons I prefer PDF patterns

It seems like you’re either a lover or hater of PDF sewing patterns. Personally, I’m a big fan and here are some of my reasons why.

1. No tracing

This is the biggy for me because I HATE tracing. I dread it and put it off for ages. I’d far rather sit on the living room floor in front of the telly or listening to the radio and trim and stick a PDF pattern together. These days I use a paper cutter (I have this one) to trim the sheets and Pritt stick (generic glue sticks don’t stick at all in my experience) rather than tape to stick them together. I find using a glue stick much quicker and it gives you a bit of repositioning wiggle room that you don’t have when you’re using tape.

I’ve also seen people cut off more of the edges off than they need to. I only cut the left edge off the top row pieces and then the top and left edges off all the subsequent pieces. Depending on how the pattern has been laid out you sometimes don’t even have to cut that many off.

2. Cost

PDF patterns are usually cheaper, though not always by much. And I’m sure once you add in paper and ink they’re not actually cheaper but I enjoy the feeling of false economy.

3. Storage

If I had all of my patterns as physical patterns I have no idea where I’d put the things. Of course the printed out PDF patterns take up space but as I trace my printed patterns they take up double space. I’ve gone through a few different storage methods with my patterns including plastic document wallets, a filling box thingy and poly pockets in ring binders. My current method is C4 envelopes. At the moment I’ve got them in a paper box but I’m going to get some magazine files when I next go to Ikea and divide them up into garment types.

In terms of digital storage I keep all of my patterns in a folder on my Google Drive called Patterns. Each pattern company then has a folder, where each pattern also gets a folder – even if the pattern is only one file.

4. Errata/updates

This is a great aspect of PDF patterns that I wouldn’t have thought of. If there turns out to have been an error in a pattern you are usually given updated versions for free. It happened with the Megan Nielsen Tania culottes, where I gained an extra version. I also had an updated version of the Ginger jeans when Heather Lou added the pocket stay and made some other changes.

5. Thicker paper

Tissue paper freaks me out. I’m always convinced I’m going to rip it. I prefer the printed patterns that use thicker paper too like Tilly and the Buttons and Deer and Doe. I can see why you wouldn’t if you cut your patterns and like to tissue fit though. Because I cut using a rotary cutter and weights I like that the thicker paper keeps me a harder edge to follow.


Of course I’m not immune to pretty packaging. I love the look of Sew Over It patterns in particular and have a a few of them. The dream would be for pattern companies to offer a bundle. So you could choose to buy the printed one but for a little bit more money have a digital version too. Deer and Doe have been doing a cool thing with the patterns they’ve updated to have a PDF version. You can fill in a form to prove that you bought the printed pattern and they’ll send you a link to buy the PDF for €3.

Another benefit of PDF patterns is that they’re cheaper and less risky for pattern designers than printed patterns. That means we get to enjoy more patterns. Some of my favourite patterns have been PDF only and they would have been a huge risk for the designers to release in paper format so they just wouldn’t exist without PDF patterns being possible.

What about you, are you Team PDF or Team Printed?

Quarterly round-up number 1

Hey there peeps. I hope you’re all having a good week and had a nice long weekend, if you were lucky enough to have one. Mine was quite peaceful and chilled out. I had planned to decorate my sewing room but I didn’t get round to it. Tidying and emptying the damn thing took up most of the weekend! It’s completely empty now and I’ve even pulled the carpet up as I’m thinking about sanding and painting the floorboards. Any tips on painting floorboards or paint recommendations are gratefully received.

In other life type news, my nan is still on the mend and walked with a quad-foot walking stick yesterday, which is really good as she hadn’t been doing much walking. Hopefully she should be able to come out of hospital soon.

Anyway, sewing. I follow a few people who do monthly round-up posts about what they’ve sewn, including Masha from The Itinerant Seamstress who has a section at the end tracking her fabric buying, which I think is a great idea. So I thought I’d copy and do little round-up posts. I’m not productive enough to do them monthly though so I’m going for quarterly.

Projects finished

In January I finished off my Jennifer Lauren Handmade Mayberry dress (and actually blogged about it!).

In February I had a little flurry of sewing for a holiday to Egypt with my mum to celebrate her 60th birthday. I made a pair of True Bias Lander shorts, a wrap skirt using the skirt part of the Sew Over It Eve dress and a maxi dress by shirring the top of two big rectangles of viscose.

True Bias Lander shorts and Ogden cami, self drafted maxi dress, SOI Eve wrap skirt

I also finished off a knit dress I made last year. There wasn’t actually any sewing involved though, I just chopped a bit off the hem and decided I liked it unhemmed. It’s hack of my beloved Dixie DIY Ballet dress. I’d already made myself a swingy t-shirt from the pattern by tracing around the shoulder and armhole shape and then swinging the side seams out and lengthening into a tee. I made it into a dress pattern by just extending the side seam down.

Dixie DIY ballet swing dress hack

The pattern needs a few tweaks as the sides were a bit too long and it had a bit of a hanky hem shape, which I had to level. I really love this dress though and definitely plan a few more. There’s a lovely autumnal floral jersey in my stash that I’ve earmarked for a longer sleeved version.

I haven’t finished anything in March but I have made most of a Sew Over It Heather dress. I just have the neckband and the hems to go. This project finally kicked me into action to get my overlocker repaired. It had been broken since the beginning of January and because I hate making phone calls so much I kept putting off phoning the sewing machine repair man. But my sewing machine taking SIX MINUTES to sew one (admittedly, long) seam with a stretch stitch was the push I needed.

Projects in waiting

I’ve had a wee cutting spree and I’ve got 4 new projects cut out.

  • A True Bias Ogden cami I’d hoped to finish for my holiday but ran out of time
  • A self-drafted knit pencil skirt
  • A Tilly and the Buttons Bibi pencil skirt
  • A Grainline Archer shirt

Stashbusting stats

Fabric in: 11m
Fabric out: 13.5m

I’ve actually stashbusted! Only 2.5 metres but I’ll take it. I did get it down by 4.75m but then I bought 2 bits of fabric and some ribbing. Ironically it’s all intended to be used to stashbust some of my smaller pieces of stash fabric. I bought some white jersey to use for the body of a raglan t-shirt with the leftovers of the ballet swing dress above as the sleeves. And some lightweight black sweatshirt fabric to be the sleeves and yoke of a jumper with some sloth print sweatshirting I bought a 0.5m remnant of.

Pattern buying

While I’ve been better for not buying fabric willy nilly, patterns are a different story. So I thought it might be nice to track that here too. I’ve bought:

  • Chalk and Notch Fringe dress and top
  • True Bias Lander Pants
  • Helen’s Closet Avery leggings
  • Nina Lee London Kew dress
  • Hey June Handmade Union St Tee
  • Megan Nielsen Flint shorts and pants
  • Sew Over It Ultimate culottes
  • The latest Sew Over It PDF club pattern (as I was writing this, which is what made me add this section)
  • Oh and Tilly and the Buttons’ new book, Stretch, which contains 6 patterns

So that’s quite a lot… I’ll try and curb it a bit over the next few months.

I’m sure I thought of another section to add but it has completely flown out of my mind. If there’s anything else you’d like to see included here then please let me know in the comments. I’ll try and work on a better name for these posts too.

A slightly belated 2017 review

I’ve mentioned a few times before that I’m a massive spreadsheet nerd. Well for the past couple of years I’ve maintained a sewing stats spreadsheet where I record my makes and various things about them. Like what sort of fabric I use, whether they’re printed or PDF patterns and I’ve just added a column for whether it’s a new to me pattern or one I’ve made before.

I also have a sheet for my “stash maths” where I record the fabric I buy and the fabric I use each year to see how much I reduce or increase my stash. Spoiler: it’s always increase.

Anyway, I love reading that sort of stuff on other people’s blogs so I thought I would share a nerdy, graph heavy post on last year’s sewing for anyone who is interested – and for myself obviously.

What I made

I made 34 things last year. 33 were sewn and 1 was knitted – though I also part knitted 2 other things that still need finishing. The jumper I did finish knitting could also do with me undoing the sleeve cast off and adding about another 3 inches to each of them but I can’t face it yet.

Now let’s hit the graphs. This first one is to show what garment types I made.

Tops and dresses being the most common is fairly consistent with previous years but the surge in cardigans is all thanks to the Blackwood cardigan pattern. I made 5 different versions making it my most made pattern so far. The love affair is certainly not over yet either.

Knit v Woven

It’s been a fairly even split down the middle this year. Knits were given a boost by my Blackwood cardigan obsession. I might have a little play with my spreadsheet to try to get it to show me the proportion of knit and woven for each garment type.

Printed v PDF

This is definitely the year that I realised I’m very much a PDF girl. I’m such a bodyweight yoyo that I can’t not trace patterns if I ever want to use them again in the future and I HATE tracing. I’d far rather sit on my living room floor in front of the telly or listening to the radio with my paper cutter, a Pritt stick (never generic glue sticks) and a cuppa. I can assemble patterns quite quickly now and I find it sort of soothing. I’d far rather reprint and reassemble than retrace. I’ve even almost bought a couple of patterns I already have printed versions of in PDF format just to avoid tracing them but so far I’ve resisted.

Indie v Big 4

I’ve made hardly any Big 4 patterns this year. Only two and of those two only one was even for me. It wasn’t a deliberate choice as I would like to try a few more Big 4 patterns. I think it’s a combination of exposure to more Indie patterns via Instagram and blogs and preferring PDF patterns. I bought quite a few New Look (6212, 6414 and 6507) and McCall’s (7387, 7534 and 7537) patterns when they were on sale and I hope to use some of them this year. Perhaps I should set myself a week where I trace at least one pattern every day as there’s loads of paper patterns I want to make but keep putting off.

Pattern companies

a graph showing

This one is a bit cramped sorry and some of the company names got chopped. You can clearly see which companies I’m a fan girl of though. For Helen’s Closet it was the five Blackwood cardigans and a Suki Kimono that I made my Nan for Christmas. The Sew Over It patterns were a bit more varied but there were two Penny dresses and two Alex dresses, the other two were a Nancy dress and an Ultimate shift dress.

Fabric choices

It’s no surprise to me that more than half of the things I made contained viscose in the fabric. It’s my favourite fabric to wear. I was surprised that I had used so much polyester but it was things like sweater knit, ponte and crepe so it shouldn’t have been that much of a shock. The wool was yarn not fabric, I still haven’t sewn anything with wool.

Stashbusting

This is only my second year of tracking the stash so I don’t know for certain but I suspect it’s probably my worst so far for overbuying fabric.

I bought 56 pieces of fabric totalling 107.4 metres.

And I used/cut* 48 pieces of fabric totalling 68.95 metres.

*Not all of my cut out garments have been made yet.

So the stash increased by 38.45 metres.

This is something I really want to work on this year. I think I’m going to go for a one in, two out policy. Though I’m already losing on that as I’ve bought two bits of fabric already – some beautiful Cotton + Steel rayon for a Chalk and Notch Fringe top/dress and some flannel for a wearable toile of the Grainline Archer. I remain positive though. I’ll settle for breaking even.

So that was my year in graphs and numbers. It’ll be interesting to start doing this every year and see how things change if at all. I suspect that the main change will be fancier graphs. Does anyone else track their makes or am I just a daft nerd?

Celebrating TnT patterns

This month is very much a month for celebrating our TnT patterns – that’s Tried ‘n’ True, if you’ve never heard it before. It’s the Sewcialist theme this month but the end of the month (25th November – 1st December) is also One Week, One Pattern – or OWOP if you will – hosted by the lovely Sheona from Sewisfaction. And as I don’t have any finished items to share due to lack of oomph to get photos I thought I’d break my blogging silence with a little post about my TnT patterns and plans.

My TnT Patterns

Dixie DIY Ballet dress

This is one of my favourite patterns and I’m a bit surprised that I’ve only made 3 dresses from it. I’ve also hacked a t-shirt from it and used bits of it a few different hacks – with more planned (and talked about later on in this post).

Ballet dress // One with a more flared skirt // One with a gathered skirt

 

Helen’s Closet Blackwood cardigan


This is my most made pattern and it only came out this year! I’ve made 5 of them – one long, two hip length and two cropped ones. I need to have a bumper photoshoot and actually write a post about them! It’s my ideal cardigan and I want one in every colour.

True Bias Southport dress

Southport // Southport-ish // Another Southport ish

I’ve used the Southport dress loads. I’ve only made the dress as is once, but I’ve also made two simplified versions, a tank top and used the skirt with other tops to make pattern lovechildren.

Southport tank // Newport dress // Simple Sew Lottie/Southport dress lovechild

Grainline Scout tee

Original Scout  // Latest Scout // Middle Scout // Scout hack

I wouldn’t say that I’ve got the fit down on the Scout yet but it’s one of my most made patterns so I thought it deserved a mention. I’ve made three standard versions and two hacked off-the-shoulder versions (only one of which I have a photo of). A Scoutport mashup with the Southport dress is probably on the cards at some point too. If only because I like the name.

New Look 6217


I love my New Look 6217s but I don’t think I’ve got the fit right yet. They’ve all seen better days so it’ll soon be time to revisit the pattern.

 

One Week One Pattern

I actually recently made a video sort of related to TnT patterns. When the Love to Sew podcast ladies asked for questions for their Q&A episode @shar_bozz asked them if they could only make three patterns for a year what would they choose and how would they change them to make them unique, seasonal, etc. I thought it was a really interesting question and I put my thinking cap on to choose three patterns.

So when I saw that OWOP was going to happen again this year I thought that I should probably put my money where my mouth, use one of the patterns I chose and do some of the hacks I talked about in my video. The patterns I chose were:

Dixie DIY Ballet dress

This was the most obvious choice for me. I just really like the way it fits me across the shoulders, which is no mean feat as that’s my tricky spot.

It’s such a simple dress it has the power to look entirely different with just a few tweaks. It’s basically a knit block/sloper. You can change the neckline, add a different skirt and even just changing the fabric will make it look different. A scuba will give you a totally different dress to a drapey viscose jersey.

The t-shirt I’ve made from it is one of the first things I reach for from the clean washing. and I’ve started work on some more garments using it. I’ve cut out a sort of swing dress and I’m hoping to make two of them if possible. I want to make a long sleeved t-shirt and a boat necked dress with a pleated skirt. Overambitious aims as always. I fancy trying to make a cardigan from it at some point too. And it was on my Make Nine plans to make the Seamwork Neenah dress as a top but I’ve been thinking that I might just pinch the collar piece and neckline shape and hack the ballet dress instead as I know I like how it fits.

Sew Over It Ultimate Shift dress

I hadn’t actually made this one when I picked it, I just chose it based on its versatility and hackability. I have made one now – out of flame print quilting cotton. There’s some fitting work to do before it becomes a TnT pattern for me but I’m fairly pleased with it. I had to add a dart from the armhole to the bust after it was sewn up but it’s quite well hidden in the busy print.

Even without any hacking you can make lots of different variations. I made a sleeveless dress but want to make some sleeved tops. I quite like the idea of adding some shirring to the waist of a viscose version too. Lisa Comfort’s pregnancy hack where she added a seam, pleat and tie is lovely too. I’ve thought about giving that a go myself, even though I’m not pregnant. You get the tutorial of how to make it included with the pattern now and I think that you can email them to ask for it if you already have the pattern.

I want to make a slightly more flared version, a bit like the Grainline Farrow dress, and I have thought about copying the pockets from the Farrow dress too. I did think that you could add a seam at the waist for an elastic channel and then slash and spread just the skirt part too. If you’re a flounce fan it’s a great pattern to jazz up with a flounce or a frill.

One of my friends has a really nice collarless coat that I think would be totally copiable using the shift dress as a base. It would just need to be sized up, seam allowance (the inspiration coat has an exposed zip) or overlap (for buttons) added to the centre front. The back also has a pleat that’s sewn down for a few inches so I’d cut it on the fold with a couple of inches added to the centre back. You could also use it to make a 60s style coat if you did buttons, added a peter pan collar and made it a bit more swingy – by rotating the dart out maybe.

Jeans

I don’t actually have a jeans TnT pattern yet so I cheated with this one and didn’t specify what pattern. I really want to work on finding a TnT jeans pattern though. If I didn’t have lots of other things to get done this month I should work my way through the six jeans patterns I now own. I have:

The Simplicity ones are probably the most promising because they have different pieces for different body types but I keep putting off tracing the pattern as I hate doing it so much. I would far rather tape a PDF sewing pattern together so I might go for one of the other patterns first.

There’s not much pattern hackery that I could think of for skinny jeans but jeans are something I’d struggle to live without. And they can look completely different in different fabrics. I did think that you could alter the pockets and give them more of a chino styling in a stretch twill. Once you’ve got the fit right in the hip/bum area I’m sure you could fiddle with the leg shape too for different looks. Turning them into flares by slashing and spreading the pattern at the knee is a nice easy one.

So there you have it. Those are my TnT patterns and patterns that I’d like to become TnT patterns. I’ll be back later on in the month to show you my Blackwood cardi collection after I’ve taken photos and I’ll report back on how OWOP goes. You can follow along on Instagram too.

Are you planning to join in with #sewcialiststnt or #OWOP? Are you a TnT pattern kinda person or more of a pattern butterfly?

5 Sewcialists Who Inspire Me

Have you guys seen that the Sewcialists blog is back up and running? The aim of the Sewcialists (sewing + social media = sewcialist) is to create a community where everyone feels included. Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow and the creator of the Sewcialists wrote a lovely post on her blog about the aim of the Sewcialists blog. I think it’s a fab idea and I’m really excited to see it take off again, find lots of new sewcialists to follow and to take part in the theme months. I’m hoping they do Scraptember again because I could really use some inspiration for what to do with my scraps!

But I’m getting ahead of myself, this month is Tribute August, where the challenge is to make something inspired by another sewer you admire. To quote the blog:

“The “rules” are wide open, so interpret the challenge in your own way. You could:

  • Copy a project exactly
  • Try a pattern or technique someone else used
  • Imagine what your favourite Sewcialist would do with a piece of fabric
  • Push yourself out of your style comfort zone or make some awesome basics to fill in wardrobe gaps”

Throughout July people have been sharing who inspires them on the Sewcialists blog so I wanted to join in. I could easily have listed 20 people so it was really hard to narrow it down to just 5 (and I might sneak a tiny list of some more at the bottom of this post). Okay, lets go.

Gillian – Crafting a Rainbow@gilliancrafts

It may seem a little like I’m sucking up and gushing but Gillian is hands down one of my favourite sewing bloggers. If I see a post of hers in my Feedly I always read it first. Her blog is so helpful and inspiring, she has a great mix of finished make posts, tutorials and helpful series’ like the Better Pictures Project. I love her bright, colourful style. She sews almost exclusively with knits and always looks gorgeous, proving that comfy can be chic.

I’m always really inspired seeing how she hacks her TnT patterns and I’m trying to do that more these days. A couple of recent hacks I’ve made but not blogged yet are a cropped Helen’s Closet Blackwood cardigan and a Dixie DIY Ballet dress swing tee. You can see them both in my most recent YouTube video.

Rachel – @shesewsvintagestyle

I’ve only followed Rachel on Instagram since this year’s Me Made May – always a great time for finding new sewing peeps to follow. But I immediately fell in love with her style, which is vintage without being costume-y. I particularly love this gorgeous outfit:

She’s wearing Nina Lee Portabello trousers and a Sew Over It Silk Cami. As soon as I saw this outfit I started planning my own pink tank top – I planned to use my Southport dress hack – and wide legged navy trousers. I was originally planning Winslow culottes but I’ve wanted a pair of empire waist wide legged trousers since an episode of Agent Carter where Peggy wears a pair with a red blouse and her and Jarvis climb through a vent into a morgue.

The internet is stubbornly refusing to show me the trousers.

I toyed with the Decades of Style 1940s empire waist trousers, which would obviously be the most suitable choice but I’m contrary so in the end I bought the Deer and Doe Chataigne shorts because I like the pockets and the yoke and I’m going to lengthen them into trousers. I think I’ve bought completely unsuitable fabric but I’m doing to try it anyway. It’s probably a bit too drapey so I’m going to interface the yoke and the yoke lining and hope for the best. For the pink tank top I’m still going to use my Southport tank hack but after seeing Helen’s knit Southport dress I’m planning to make it in some fuchsia jersey I’ve got.T

Anya – Anna Zoe@anna.zoe.sewing

I think I’ve saved more of Anya’s Instagram posts to remember the pattern than any other sewcialist. She always looks absolutely stunning in whatever she wears. Her Me Made May posts were brilliant and I really enjoyed reading her little stories each day as well as seeing what she was wearing. Her blog and Instagram are really helpful and she’s done some great tutorials – a mini bra sewing tutorial on Instagram made me buy a bra sewing pattern! Granted I’ve not even printed it let alone started sourcing materials but the thought is there.

I also bought the Kommatia patterns skinny jeans pattern after seeing her fab version (below) and I’m hoping to make them at some point soon. I’ve built up quite a stack of jeans patterns and I still haven’t finished my Ginger jeans. I don’t think they’re going to fit very well but I’m determined to make myself finish them, I can’t abandon yet another pair of trousers at the fitting stage. I also love the shirt she’s wearing in this photo with the Kommatia jeans.

Hila – Saturday Night Stitch@saturdaynightstitch

I love Hila’s style. I love the colours she uses and the silhouettes she chooses. I particularly like her Sewaholic Hollyburn skirts and Granville shirts – I bought the Granville shirt pattern because of seeing hers and I should really buy the Hollyburn pattern too. Another thing that massively inspires me about Hila is her shoes – check out those silver brogues! She wrote about shoe choice in her post about her thoughts on last year’s Me Made May and I keep meaning to expand my shoe collection but I still live in the same tan pumps during the summer and tatty ankle boots in the winter. Which is definitely something I want to work on.

I just love everything Hila wears, her style is so varied but it all works together and everything looks great on her. The Anna dress above is amazing! For my make inspired by Hila I’m going to get brave and cast on an the Andi Satterlund Chuck sweater I’ve had the yarn for for over a year. Not sewing I know but it’ll mean when I finally finish it and sew myself a Hollyburn and Granville combo I can copy this gorgeous outfit:

Hattie – @hattie_van_der_krohn

The beautiful Hattie always looks so gorgeous and well put together. She looked more glamorous at 9 months pregnant than I will ever look. She’s made so many beautiful dresses that I would outright copy. A royal blue SOI Alex shirt dress might have to happen and I definitely fancy a funnel necked Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress now, preferably in houndstooth.

I was super inspired by her collection of Sew Over It Eve dresses and bought the pattern even though I’ve always been afraid of wrap dresses. I’ve bought some beautiful navy and pink floral viscose and I plan to make it this month.

Sneaky honourable mentions

Some of the other sewers I find inspiring:

I could go on and on but I’ll stop now.


Are you planning a make for Tribute Month? If you do take part remember to tag it #tributemonthsewing on Instagram to be included in a roundup post on the sewcialist blog. I’m hoping to get the Eve dress, Chataigne trousers and Southport tank top made but haven’t actually started any of them yet… Eeek!

Favourites – Autumn/Winter 15/16

Back again so soon just to let you know that I have a new video on my YouTube Channel. It’s a favourites video covering the months since my last one way back when. It got a bit long, even with me cutting out my non-sewing ones that I’d tacked on the end. Sorry. If you don’t want to watch it I’ve written a bit about what’s in it underneath.

Pattern

I have a selfish favourite and and unselfish favourite. My favourite selfish pattern over the Autumn and Winter has to be the Dixie DIY Ballet dress. It’s a quick, easy sew that meets my style perfectly. I love it.

My unselfish pattern is one that I’ve only made once but I just really enjoyed the process of sewing it. It’s the Paxson sweater from Colette Seamwork magazine. I like that you can sew it all on the overlocker and I like the finishes of the cuff and hem bands.

Thing I’ve made

Definitely my dinosaur print Ballet dress because, well, dinosaurs. Not a lot else to say. Dinosaurs PJs you can wear to work!

IMG_7859

Tool

The best sewing investment I’ve made for a while is my stitch in the ditch foot. It’s been so great for neat edge stitching and top stitching. Mine looks like this:

janome-stitch-in-the-ditch-quilting-foot-9mm-cat-d-202087003

And you line the black blade up with the edge of the fabric and move the needle position over how ever far you want to stitch and away you go. It’s great for understitching too. Just put the blade in the seam and move the needle position over slightly. I don’t think I’ve actually used mine for stitching in the ditch yet but I’m sure it’s great for that too.

Technique

When I did my Christmas crafting marathon a lot of the patterns I used were PDFs so I had a lot of putting together to do. I’d seen a few people online say that it was so much easier using a glue stick than sellotape so I gave it a go and my god, I’m glad I did. It really is so much easier than using tape, you can wiggle things to reposition them and somehow it feels quicker even though it’s the same process just a different sticking method.

Fabric

Mermaaaaids!

alexander henry sea sirens fabric

I had new fabric to show so I added a fabric category. This is Alexander Henry Fabrics Sea Sirens in blue. I love it! It’s now a skirt that I also love and still need to get some decent photos of so I can blog about it.

Non-sewing

Invisibilia PodcastThese didn’t make it into the video because it was creeping up to being 15 minutes long but when I filmed it I talked about a podcast and an audiobook I liked. The Podcast is Invisibilia, which I found out about from Jo of Stuff Jo has Made. There is only one series so far, but series two is due next month and I’m very excited about it. It is about invisible forces that affect human behaviour. So there are episodes on fear, our thoughts, computers, expectations and more. It’s so good. I listened to a lot of the episodes while I was walking my mum’s dog and a couple of them made me cry and one made me dance in the woods.

Youre Never Weird on the Internet almostThe Audiobook is You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. I mainly knew Felicia Day from playing Holly in A Town Called Eureka and not her internet stuff but I liked the title and the blurb so I used one of my Audible credits and I am so glad I did. It’s hands down one of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to. I’m a big fan of books read by the author (I’ve also enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s books and Modern Love by Aziz Ansari) because I think it just makes them more fun than reading them yourself. Felicia Day sort of acts the book rather than just reading it. If you’re a fan of the internet and nerdy things at all I think you’ll really enjoy her book.

I also waffled on about Parks and Rec but having bombarded you with Parks and Rec gifs the other day I won’t go on about that again. (I totally could though.)

And I think that’s it, minus the waffle and bizarre facial expressions. If you like the waffle and bizarre facial expressions you can subscribe to my channel here.

September Sewing Favourites

I’d been hoping to have a September Sewing Favourites video for you last week. I filmed it, edited it and uploaded it to YouTube on Thursday evening. Then got an email to tell me it had been removed for breaching The YouTube Community Guidelines and I have a strike against me, which was upsetting to say the least.

I have no idea what I did wrong. It’s just me, sat in my spare bedroom talking about my favourite sewing pattern of September and tools and techniques I’ve enjoyed using and a bonus non-sewing favourite at the end. They didn’t give me any information about what I’ve specifically done wrong – just called it inappropriate – or I’d change it.

I have appealed the decision and hopefully they’ll at least let me know what I’ve done wrong because at the moment I’m too nervous to make any more videos.

But as I can’t show you the video I thought I’d write a post about my favourite sewing things of September instead.

EDIT: They reinstated my video, hurray!

Pattern

My favourite pattern was New Look 6217. I loved how easily it went together and the simple, wearable style of it. I’ve already worn my first version lots and have a bunch more versions planned.

nl6217-close-up

Dixie DIY’s Ballet Dress deserves an honourable mention but it probably should have been my August favourite.

Tools

As I’ve started sewing with knits I’ve actually started using the walking foot I bought yonks ago and it is fab. I tried to alter an H&M vest before I had the walking foot and it went terribly so I really appreciate how smoothly it goes with one. Mine is just a non brand, compatible version I got on Amazon for next to nothing but it seems to work absolutely fine.

Another thing I lumped under the tools category is my, big arse roll of tracing paper as I called it in the video – and the mild swear made me wonder if that’s what earned me to strike but people swear far more than that. But anyway, my big arse roll of tracing paper is fab. I used to use baking/grease proof paper, which worked well but when you make alterations to the pattern the sellotape (cellotape?) doesn’t really want to stick. That’s not a problem with tracing paper. I do cut out using a rotary cutter and pattern weights and I don’t think I’d like using tracing paper with pins but I really like the extra thickness with weights, it gives a nicer edge to align the cutter against. This is the roll I bought, from Amazon as always.

Technique

I have been all about the bias binding this month. On my New Look 6217 as well as binding the neckline I bound the sleeve hems and the actual hem. It was sort of as a way to preserve length and sort of because I just really like the finish it gives. In the video I made a joke in this bit about how if you came too close I’d probably try to bias bind you, which is the only other thing I can think of that got me my strike.

Non-sewing

I am completely addicted to The Spicery and have ordered from them 3 times in September and signed up for a monthly subscription. They sell kits of premeasured freshly ground or whole spices, a shopping list for your fresh ingredients and the method to make fancy dishes and whole meals.

Selection of spice kits from the spicery
One of my many orders, look how nice the branding is

So far the manfriend and I have tried the Vietnamese beef stew, Indonesian Nasi goreng and had a date night in Thailand, which comprised of a coconutty brothy chicken soup to start, king prawn pad Thai for main and sticky mango rice for dessert and it has all been gorgeous. It’s the date night subscription box I’ve signed us up for and we’ve got date night in Bali next but I’ve amassed a bit of a stash with my many orders so there’s also a date night in Trinidad, rogan josh, jerk chicken and many more to come.

Vietnamese beef stew
Vietnamese beef stew

I would highly recommend it to anyone but I think it’d be especially great if you’re dating and want to pass yourself off as a great chef!

So that’s my September favourites, sorry it’s not a video complete with my daft faces, inability to speak correctly and a brief moment where I got distracted by my washing on the line. If YouTube respond to my appeal and they reinstate the video *fingers crossed* or let me know what to take out I’ll update this post with the video and let you know on Twitter.

How about you? Any favourite patterns, tools or techniques this month? I’d love to hear about them or watch a video of them. Though that may lead to me spending even more money than beauty favourites videos do!

Adventures in Pattern Cutting

Or maybe that should be misadventures in pattern cutting…

I went to my first pattern cutting class last Thursday but when I checked in at reception I found out that there was a chance the course wouldn’t go ahead if there weren’t enough of us. They needed 12-14 and only 7 of us turned up so the course has been cancelled.

They put the first session on as we were all there and there was still a chance the course could go ahead if they managed to get some students from some of the daytime art and design courses to come. I really didn’t enjoy the first class anyway and ended up sloping off early so I’m actually relieved that it’s been cancelled, as now I’ll get a refund.

I realised after about 10 minutes that the course just wasn’t going to suit me and the way I learn. There were several “characters” in the class and I could see myself getting frustrated. I also didn’t learn anything. We were shown tools and some standard size 12 bodice blocks(/slopers), then we had a break and when we came back the lecturer was going to get us to trace around them. Then if we got time she was going to talk about pockets.
The whole point of me going on the course was because I want to make my own block because I struggle to alter patterns to fit me. Tracing a pattern isn’t going to help me with that. And surely even if we weren’t going to make the blocks from scratch she should be talking about the basics like dart manipulation before going on to pockets. Maybe she just didn’t see the point of actually starting anything meaty if the course wasn’t going to run but I also didn’t see the point of staying if I wasn’t going to learn anything so I left during the break.

When I got home I bought Patternmaking basics: The Skirt Sloper and Patternmaking Basics: The Bodice Sloper from Craftsy instead. If you’ve never heard of Craftsy they are a company who offer online video courses. I have almost finished the skirt sloper course, I got manfriend to take my measurements on Saturday, drafting the sloper took next to no time and my toile fitted without any adjustments needed. The rest of the course is then talking about how to adapt your basic block into other types of skirts and other design ideas like raising or lowering the waist – There is very definitely an empire pencil skirt in my future.

The bodice course is a lot more involved, with most of the course taking you through making the sloper (there are a lot more steps) and then there are other course you can buy that deal more with the design elements. Craftsy were having a sale so I decided to splurge and buy a few of the other courses I know I’d probably end up wanting later on. I bought Creative Necklines and Creative Sleeves. I probably should have bought Creative Darts and Seam Lines but I couldn’t afford all three and sleeves won out, though when I just looked to get the links they’ve all gone down to £19 each now so if it they’re still that price on payday I might invest.

Anyway, this is all just waffle really. Basically, I love craftsy and am going to binge learn pattern cutting. I also picked up Pattern Cutting Made Easy by Gillian Holman, which is nice to have along side the Craftsy courses but I couldn’t have learnt from it on its own. It’s more useful for ideas of things to try. There’s a nice little pleat insert thing it shows you how to make that I’m planning to put on the back of my empire line pencil skirt. If only I had any money left to buy fabric!