I’ve published my first vlog of 2020, which is a look back at my favourite sewing patterns released in 2019.
You can watch the vlog below or via my YouTube channel.
I’ve published my first vlog of 2020, which is a look back at my favourite sewing patterns released in 2019.
You can watch the vlog below or via my YouTube channel.
Happy new year everyone! I’ve been writing this blog for eight years now and always enjoy looking back at the end of the year.
I started a new job just over a year ago. It has turned out to be not very exciting, but it has meant that all of my free time is my own which has meant plenty of time for sewing. That’s allowed me to sew some of the new pattern releases this year straight away (including Deer and Doe’s Sirocco, CocoWawa’s Raspberry, Alice & Co’s Georgie, Tilly’s Indigo, and Closet Case Patterns’ Pietra).
It has also allowed me to pick up and complete quite a few projects from my unfinished-objects basket. Including a Yates Coat and faux-fur Tamarack Jacket which I cut out last winter, and a Trend Patterns’ 70s Dress which I cut out for a Christmas party two years ago.
In addition to having more time to sew this year, I also began taking more care over my sewing. I really noticed an improvement in my sewing this year – an increased ability to understand how to construct a garment, and to respond to fitting or other issues as they occur. It felt like a sudden change, but it’s of course the accumulation of several years of regular garment sewing. This increased proficiency made me want to take more care, and I’ve not only being putting more care into the garments I made this year, but also revisiting past projects to address small issues with fit or finish which I’ve never been completely happy with.
Alongside sewing, I continued to organise sewing events. I (jointly) organised the fourth Sewing Weekender (with Kate & Rachel from The Fold Line), and the sixth SewBrum (with Lauren Guthrie), plus the the first Paris Sewcial with Carmen Bouchard. Thanks so much to everyone who attends each event and makes them fun to organise and to attend. Thank you so much also to the sponsors and charity raffle prize donors. In the six years it has been running, SewBrum has raised £3,690 for six charities which is a lovely bonus of organising an event I started because I wanted to attend it!
I made sure to make time to attend other events in the sewing community. I get a lot of enjoyment out of organising events, but attending an event you haven’t organised is completely different, and you are able to fully relax and enjoy the event in a way you can’t at an event you have organised. I travelled to New York to attend Male Pattern Boldness day, Leicester for the Dressmakers’ Ball, Leeds for Sew Up North, and Bristol for the Like Sew Amazing shop launch. I’m also a regular attendee at the excellent relaxed monthly meet-up Brummie Yarn Social (thanks so much to @sewsuehandmade for organising us).
Online, I participated in two sewing swaps, the #ogdenidaswap and #secretsewingswap. Inspired by the Love to Sew podcast, I set up a dedicated Instagram account @sewcialevents for sharing and curating sewing challenges and events in a single place, and have remained pretty good at keeping it updated.
I continued to try new sewing techniques and pattern types, including sewing my first ever pair of shorts, first pair of jeans, and second ever swimsuit. I also had a go at making earmuffs to match my Tamarack Jacket and a hairband to match my Indigo Dress.
Outside of sewing, I listened to 31 audio books (including 14 Agatha Christie books for free via Birmingham Library). I studied English Literature and Librarianship for my undergraduate and masters degrees respectively, which is a pretty good indicator that I used to read a lot. The amount of books I read (as opposed to magazines, blogs, etc. which has remained pretty healthy) has slipped to next to nothing in the last couple of years so I’ve really enjoyed getting back into reading via audiobooks, and it also satisfies my desire to feel like I’m multi-tasking. I was intending to use my audiobook subscription as an opportunity to keep up with new releases and instead have largely been listening to classics and old favourites, but that’s ok too.
I continued volunteering for the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers; running the newsletter and social media for the Association, and taking on the role of (joint) Programme Secretary for Birmingham Guild. I attended my first Association Summer School (they run for a week every two years) and spent a week weaving tweed and tartan near York. I really enjoyed it, but also felt like it ‘clicked’ for me and could become a serious hobby. I treated myself to a loom just before Christmas and I am planning to set it up during January and start experimenting with weaving my own fabric.
During 2019, I tried out other crafts by attending workshops in ply-split braiding, sign painting, foiling, monoprinting, bargello, and hoop earring making. I also attended two terms of tap dancing class. Unlike weaving, I don’t think tap dancing will ever ‘click’ for me, but I enjoyed being challenged, being part of a lovely group, and observing the contrast with the level of comfort and proficiency I feel with sewing.
Thank you so much for reading my blog this year. I still enjoy reading blogs and I still enjoy writing a blog, so have no intention to stop and have lots planned to share in 2020.
Sewing time taken (excluding cutting out): 3.5 hours
Fabric: Liberty sweatshirting from Birmingham Rag Market (The Little World of Fabric, also known as ‘The Liberty Man’)
I hope everyone who celebrates it had a good Christmas. I’ve had a couple of quiet days in the house following spending Christmas and Boxing Day with family, and a couple of busy weeks in the run up. I spent the days immediately before Christmas focused on sewing a couple of gifts (using Noodlehead’s Forage Bag pattern) and hastily sewing a new dress in a day (Trend Patterns’ 70s Dress). I finished the dress just in time to wear it on Christmas Day (with a spot of hand sewing on Christmas morning and my brother sewing me into the cuffs), but I rushed the last sections so they aren’t finished to a standard I’m happy with. I’m going to revisit the sections of the dress that I rushed, perhaps before New Year’s Eve so that I can wear the dress to a second party asap.
These pictures were taken a few days before Christmas, in the local park on the way home from some last-minute present shopping. This is my second version of the Belted Sweater by Digital Pattern Library, sewn in a Liberty sweatshirting bought during this year’s SewBrum meet-up from the ‘Liberty Man’ in the Rag Market (also known as The Little World of Fabric on Ebay).
After making my first Belted Sweater in a lightweight knit, I was keen to try it in a heavier-weight fabric. I spotted this Liberty fabric at a bargain price (I think I paid £20 in total) during SewBrum and thought I’d try pairing it with the pattern. The resulting sweater is very cosy and I’m really enjoying wearing it. I think a slightly lighter weight sweatshirting would be more practical though (and is what I’d opt for next time) as this Liberty fabric is very thick and with the ties wrapped around the waist I’ve found that my slim fit RTW coat won’t do up over it! Luckily I’ve now finished the Yates coat I started a year ago which is roomy enough to fit this jumper under.
I love how different this pattern can look dependent how the ties are done up, and you can create some lovely pleats and tucks in the fabric. I’m a big fan of a good sweatshirt pattern (evidence: the number of Lindens I have sewn) and I love that this pattern offers something a bit different. I requires a bit more fabric and a bit more time than a more ‘standard’ sweatshirt, but is an equally straightforward project to sew.
My brother has been trying to get me into Stardew Valley for a few years (I’m a big fan of the Harvest Moon games) and has bought me the Switch version for Christmas, so I’m going to curl up on the sofa and start farming this evening. Have a great new year everyone and I’ll catch you in 2020!
Sewing time taken (excluding cutting out): 5 hours
After a busy week and a rubbish election result, I decided to treat myself to a weekend at home. Apart from a couple of excursions out for sustenance – and to take these photos – I’ve stayed in the house, watched films, and sewn. It’s meant being able to finish a Yates coat for myself and getting back to the blog after a couple of weeks absence.
It was a bit chilly taking these photos in the local park, but I wanted to share my Tilly and the Buttons Indigo Dress – and the hairband I made to match it. I’ve been making good progress through both my unfinished-object pile, and my fabric stash, this year. This fabric was a piece which Kate (of The Fold Line) gifted to me at The Sewing Weekender in 2017, so it was really satisfying to sew with it and to be able to start wearing it at last.
My Indigo is graded between sizes 3 and 4, I made the dress length version and included all of the ruffles (although they aren’t easy to see in the pictures due to the business of the fabric). It’s such an easy and comfortable dress and I’m sure it will get lots of wear once the weather warms up again. I have to credit Joy, Amy & Marie‘s version of the Indigo in particular for tempting me to make my own.
I wear headbands regularly, and decided to have a go at making one to match this dress using my fabric scraps. For the base of my headband I ordered wide plastic headband bases from Petershams Millinery Supplies. To cover the band I cut a rectangular strip of fabric, sewed it up as a tube and secured it around the band with a few stitches. I then made two more rectangular tubes, and attached them on top of the band to form a bow. It’s a really cheap and easy way to make a matching accessory and uses very little fabric. I’ll definitely be making more.
Now that my Yates coat is finished my next (sewing) priority is finishing a Carlton Coat for Phil which I started last year, and a dress for me to wear on Christmas Day which I cut out two years ago. If I can get those projects completed I will be starting 2020 with a very healthy (i.e. small) unfinished-objects basket, and loads of plans for working through more of my fabric stash in the new year. But first I’m going to go back to a weekend of films and relaxing on the sofa beside the Christmas tree.
Sewing time taken (excluding cutting out): 4 hours
Fabric: Faux fur from Samuel Taylors / Sew Up North 2018
This faux fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket was a long time coming. I first decided to make a Tamarack in faux fur in November 2015, after seeing a RTW faux fur jacket in a similar shape. It then took me until 2018 to spot a faux fur fabric I liked enough to buy it – in Samuel Taylors, Leeds during the 2018 Sew Up North meet-up.
I cut out all of the pattern pieces for this jacket (including interfacing and lining) last winter but didn’t find the time to sew it. A few weeks ago I plucked the pattern pieces out of my unfinished objects basket and after around four hours sewing time I finally had a finished jacket. Further evidence that sewing only makes up a small part of many sewing projects!
Despite having planned this jacket since 2015, the high street is full of faux fur jackets in similar styles this winter, so it feels very on-trend. I had fabric left over after finishing the jacket (I still do, but I’m not sure I need any more matching accessories) so I decided to make matching earmuffs, by covering a pair I already owned. I cut two circles of fabric to cover each ear, sewed them right-sides together and pulled them over each side of the ear muffs, finally I hand-sewed the top of each side closed around the headband.
For the jacket, I didn’t want to finish the edges with bias binding – as per the pattern instructions – as I thought it would flatten the faux fur. Instead I cut a lining (using the standard pattern pieces with a slightly trimmed seam allowance to prevent the lining peeking out) and sewed the main and lining jackets together at all seams except the centre front. The lining fabric is a Liberty cotton lawn bought from Birmingham Rag Market (specifically The Little World of Fabric, also known as ‘The Liberty Man’).
I fancied a zip closure (see also: Meg and Katie’s versions with zips) but was a bit worried about the faux fur getting caught in the zipper teeth. In the end I decided to go for it, and fitted a 22″ zip (a 21″ zip would have been preferable but they didn’t have that in the shop). I attached the zip with a generous seam allowance to give it a little distance from the faux fur and I haven’t had any issues with the fabric getting caught.
The Tamarack pattern is a great simple shape for hacking and I’ve been wearing this version loads since finishing it so I’m glad I finally brought it to fruition!
Time taken (excluding cutting out): 20 hours (including lots of alterations)
Fabric: Masson Mills cotton
When Alice & Co Patterns announced they would be releasing a free pattern based on Mary Quant’s Georgie Dress, to coincide with the recent Mary Quant exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, I got excited. I got even more excited to make my own version of the Georgie Dress when I realised that I had a fabric in my stash which was a reasonable approximation for the fabric used in the original dress held in the V&A’s collection.
My fabric is a cotton woven at Masson Mill in Matlock Bath. Mason Mill was a working cotton mill from 1783 until 1991 and now houses a museum (amongst other things) which produces a small quantity of fabric for demonstration and sale purposes. The fabric is sold very cheaply (a few pounds per metre) as offcuts or cut from the bolt. It’s narrow width due to being woven on traditional mechanised looms, but I managed to make this dress from three offcuts of the striped fabric (all 1 metre+) and a small amount of a purple cotton, also from Masson Mill, for the ruffles. The bodice is as per the pattern but I had to reduce the volume of fabric used in the skirt.
Although I rarely sew vintage, it was vintage patterns which first got me interested in garment sewing before I discovered indie designers. I still find vintage (and vintage inspired) designs visually really appealing, but often find them less appealing to actually sew. The construction of this dress took 20 hours (due to me making various alterations to fit and style), which is by far the longest I’ve spent on a sewing project since I started timing myself a couple of months ago, and by the end I just wanted it finished.
I started by cutting a size 12, but after basting together and trying on the bodice in my lining fabric (as helpfully recommended in the pattern instructions) I decided it was too big and trimmed my bodice pieces down to a size 10, grading to a 12 at the waist. I think I could have gone down a size again in the bodice, so suspect the pattern contains a reasonable amount of ease but it’s probably also the result of using a loosely woven cotton fabric.
My fabric choice wasn’t the easiest to work with. The striped fabric is loosely woven, slightly shiny (meaning it really shows any fit issues), and very lightweight. The purple fabric I used for the ruffles is slightly heavier weight which caused them to droop and pull on the bodice, which I mitigated by sewing them in place along the neckline seam. I was aiming for a retro look, but when I first tried this dress on the pattern and fabric combination looked very frumpy. Reducing the length of the skirt made a huge difference to making it look more 60s and less Victorian.
A sign to myself that I had moved beyond being a beginner sewer was when I became confident making alterations to sewing projects I wasn’t completely happy with. Before that point I would finish construction as per the pattern instructions, hang the offending garment in my wardrobe and then rarely wear it. I’m still going back to those previous sewing projects and fixing the aspects which annoy me, now that I’m better able to guess what it is I don’t like and how to fix it. I’ve actually been making small alterations this evening to two garments which I do wear but which annoy me a little bit every time. I started tap dancing classes recently, I’m really bad at tap and it makes me appreciate all the more having a hobby (sewing) where I do feel like I know what I’m doing and never feel completely at a loss – even if some projects do take more effort than anticipated.
I’m glad I got this dress to a point where I am happy wearing it, and if I make the pattern again I’ll try it in a more modern fabric for a completely different look.
Now that it’s November I’m sharing my recommendations for present making. You can see the full list of pattern suggestions on my vlog, and the full list with links is also copied below.
I’ve included lots of free patterns, plus some paid-for patterns which make ideal gifts. I’ve focused on sewing patterns, but have also recommended a few favourite sources of free knitting patterns.
Now I just need to start making some of these rather than leaving it until the last minute…
Bombazine (oven) Mitt: https://www.bombazine.com.au/bombazine-mitt/
Noodlehead, Forage Bag: https://noodle-head.com/2018/10/forage-bag-free-pattern.html
Noodlehead, Tiny Treasures Basket & Tray: https://noodle-head.com/2016/07/tiny-treasures-basket-tray-free-pattern.html
Victory Patterns, Tailor’s Ham & Sausage: https://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2012/08/how-to-make-tailors-hams-and-sausages.html
Very Purple Person, Reversible Bag: http://verypurpleperson.com/2010/04/making-reversible-bag/
Thread Theory, Wallet Set: https://threadtheory.ca/collections/pdf-sewing-patterns/products/the-wallet-gift-giving-set-pdf
Milan AV-JC, Zero Waste Origami Bag: https://www.milanavjc.com/opensource-en-uamep-origami-bag
Very Sharron, Reversible Box Tote: https://www.veryshannon.com/patterns/reversibleboxtote
Wendy Ward / MIY Collection, various patterns: https://www.miycollection.com/collections/sewing-patterns-digital
Digital Pattern Library, House Tape Measure: https://digitalpatternlibrary.com/blog/2019/4/16/scrap-buster-zero-waste-house?rq=free%20pattern
Sew Over It, Tie: https://sewoverit.co.uk/product/tie-pdf-sewing-pattern/
Purl Soho, Tie: https://www.purlsoho.com/storage/fathersdaytie_FINAL.pdf
FreeSewing.org, Trayvon Tie: https://freesewing.org/patterns/trayvon
Grainline Studio, Stowe Bag: https://grainlinestudio.com/collections/accessories/products/stowe-bag?variant=22533587599442
Grainline Studio, Portside Travel Set: https://grainlinestudio.com/collections/accessories/products/portside-travel-set?variant=22533587501138
Grainline Studio, Hemlock Tee
Tilly & the Buttons, Eye Mask: https://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2015/07/how-to-make-eye-mask-free-pattern.html
Tilly & the Buttons, Slipper Boots: https://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2017/11/free-pattern-make-your-own-snuggly.htmlnne,
FreeSewing.org, Bruce Boxer Shorts: https://freesewing.org/patterns/bruce
Thread Theory, Comox Trucks Boxer Shorts: https://threadtheory.ca/collections/sewing-patterns/products/comox-trunks-pdf
So Zo What Do You Know, Pants & Vest: http://sozowhatdoyouknow.blogspot.com/p/free-patterns.html
Madalynne, Lingerie Patterns: https://madalynne.com/product-category/lingerie-sewing-pattern/
Ohhh Lulu, Lingerie Patterns: https://www.ohhhlululingerie.com/product-category/free/
Purl Soho, Free Sewing Patterns: https://www.purlsoho.com/create/tag/free-sewing-pattern/
In the Folds / Peppermint Magazine, Free Patterns: https://peppermintmag.com/sewing-school/
Sarah Kirsten, Fennel Fanny Pack: https://sarkirsten.com/patterns/fennel-fanny-pack
Kylie & the Machine, Ida Clutch: https://kylieandthemachine.com/introducing-the-ida-clutch/
Pattern Scout, Luna Crossbody Bag: https://www.patternscoutstudio.com/shop/luna-crossbody-pdf-sewing-pattern
Aneela Hoey, Accessory Patterns: https://comfortstitching.bigcartel.com/ / https://shopbeyondmeasure.co.uk/collections/patterns
Purl Soho, Free Knitting Patterns: https://www.purlsoho.com/create/tag/free-knitting-pattern/
Fringe Association, Free Knitting Patterns: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/fringe-association-on-ravelry/patterns
Loop London, Free Knitting Patterns: https://www.loopknitlounge.com/category/free-knitting-crochet-patterns/
Arne & Carlos: https://arnecarlos.com/
Tin Can Knits, Free Knitting Patterns: http://tincanknits.com/patterns-free.html
Brooklyn Tweed, Lavender Sachets: https://brooklyntweed.com/blogs/blog/lavender-sachets