There are times when I feel imposter syndrome sneaking in and I start questioning whether I’m really a creative person at all. I start believe that I can’t think up any original ideas; I just copy things I’ve seen out in the world and I don’t actually know what I want to sew or wear. This comes and goes and it helps to remind myself that I have drafted an original design in the past, I am inventive with fabrics and I only feel happiness when I look in my wardrobe.
And something guarranteed to make you feel more unsteady is a wedding and specifically a wedding dress. If like me you haven’t been dreaming about your ideal dress for years, there’s a sudden rush of confusion, pressure and indecision as you try and work out what to wear. I also know women who were rock-solidly confident in their dream dress until they were proposed to and the fear crept in.
Its a giant white dress… that isn’t really like anything you’ve ever worn before. What is actually going to suit you and what you’re capable of sewing might also not match up! And how often are we asked to create pattern instructions from scratch that result in a flawless finish???
It turns out, I couldn’t think up an original dress to make and I’m okay with that. Instead I went to several dress trials and whittled it down to one dress I really liked from Lou Lou bridal. I didn’t love it but I really really liked it. The way you can really like the possibilities a lovely pattern or piece of fabric holds. Then I thought about how I could tweak it and make it my own. Shortening it for sure, different bust gathers, a different combination of fabrics and a different skirt shape. I found a base pattern and made up the rest.
It has been a strange roller coaster ride: I found what was labelled rose voile curtain fabric online but what I actually think is the exact poly-organza fabric from the Lou Lou source dress. Ordered 5m too much silk organza and currently have no use for the excess. Made four toiles for fit and a wearable test. Nearly cried over the hem. Nearly cried over the zipper. And stabbed my fingers countless times.
It’s my dress, brought into being by these hands so it’s one of a kind in that sense and although I failed on an original design, I think I succeeded in testing my fitting, construction and time management skills.
I love my dress. Even though its not perfect… because can we ever sew THE PERFECT DRESS!? If you’ve managed to catch that unicorn please let me know in the comments.
Did you ever wonder how sewing was changing your personality? Life skills? Or even hire-ability?? This post has been a long time coming and I’m still not sure it’s conveying exactly how awesome you’ve become through learning to sew. I talked about it with the Stitcher’s Brew team and Karen Ball in our super fun episode OUT TOMORROW and they encouraged me to finish the post and hit publish! I’ve tried to summarise all the ways sewing transfers to real world skills you may be better at than you realise.
Stay with me; it’ll all make sense! (I hope)
There’s a reason we call our makes projects! You work out your requirements, gather all your supplies, execute the steps and keep up momentum. You’ve got end to end sight of where you’re starting and where you’re ending. You also set goals for yourself review them and feel accomplishment. When you feel bad over failures it’s just because you’re invested in the whole process but there’s always lessons to learn in project management! Perhaps you’re also trying this skill out by setting yourself deadlines… oooh that yummy adrenaline gets pumping.
Attention to detail
Just like cooking you understand the method to creating. Which steps have to stay in order, and which can be slightly juggled for the same result. You can follow directions showing your attention to instructions and chronological working. And you can interpret the result from technical diagrams because your brain is logically and methodically predicting future steps. You know the importance of how seam allowances affect finished measurements, how neat straight lines of stitching help the polish of your garment and how a new fabric can change both the process and the results. You’re constantly paying attention to little things you’re taking for granted, and improving your skills with every new make.
Okay so this one isn’t wildly applicable in real life but you have gathered the understanding of making flat shapes curve around your 3d form. With every dart, seam, pleat or drape you are showing off a special kind of intelligence that you might have seen in those funny tests with different shaped cubes. Once you understand the spacial requirements of a situation you can reason yourself solutions meaning you’re forecasting answers to problems before testing them out, just like planning fit adjustments or design alterations. You’re a psychic seamstress!
You’re a sponge and you didn’t realise it! Learning new skills like sewing is a constant memory booster. Every project can introduce you new techniques and each time you practice or read a tutorial you’re embedding expertise into your brain. Similarly you’re being exposed to more pattern and fabrics than you can imagine. I bet you can recount several patterns you’ve got your eye on with the designer and name or number close to your tongue. This us great for long term memory retention, beating off the early effects of dementia and keeping your brain young!
From pairing patterns with fabric and working out which size to fit, to automatically course correcting your sewing as it’s disappearing under the presser foot, you’re making a range of quick, instinctual, educated, considered or methodical decisions at every stage. Your initiative grows with every scrap of knowledge you learn and remember. And we’ve all had to dive into some problem solving from time to time, assessing the issue and deciding the solution. These problem solving methods can work with any kind of dilemma; just think it through, apply reasoning and weigh up the solutions. And because sewing teaches you the art of mindfulness, flow and quiet calm, you’ve got the mind-space to breathe and work through issues in a level headed way. Channel this the next time something goes wrong outside your craft room!
Passion and creativity
This one is a little obvious but super important! Creativity is a way of living life that embraces originality. You are literally making yourself more unique! Creative actions help you express your emotions, experiment with risk taking and refine your motor skills giving you nimble fingers. Did you know creative people are better at teamwork and team bonding? Its true! Studies have shown creative people are more sympathetic to others because they understand the feelings of putting yourself out there and they want to collaborate to create better ideas! Strength in numbers you know. And to feel fulfilled you can simply keep seeking new information, new knowledge and new ways to do things, constantly, and then turn it into something magnificent. Plus the fear of being a beginner humbled you in a very raw way, teaching you to appreciate the act of learning and increasing your attention span for new ideas.
Quality standards and consistency
Seeing your skills grow in a measurable way is really important. Personal growth means working to understand and develop your skills in order to meet your fullest potential. And even better, learning to recognise and reach for benchmarks can be applied to both general career development and other skill building areas. Define your own standards of excellence! For some it’s learning about the strength of a hand sewn stitch, the superior feel of special fabric and the polish of a well finished design element helps you believe in yourself and your skills. You deserve to be great at what you do and you’ll appreciate your best efforts more than anything.
Phew! That’s quite a lot? Well I probably could go on for longer. It’s hard not to sound like a cheesy self help tape but the facts are there, you just may not have looked at your favourite hobby this way before. Of course we’re all still learning and maybe not all these topics apply for you yet. But don’t do yourself down; sewing is a skill. You may also have a talent for it but you have learnt the techniques, built your confidence and push yourself regularly. How many non-sewers can you say are working this hard on themselves?
Hello June! And hello everyone else. We’re well into a new month and well past the end of Me Made May. If you participated I hope you enjoyed the challenge. Maybe you’re keeping the fun going with #memadeveryday a great way of documenting your outfits more regularly.
If you weren’t aware, I started my blog with Me Made May way back when. I had only a handful of handmade garments but I wanted the kick to wear them out in public and share my thoughts online. This was several years ago so it’s always like a kind of anniversary for me when I take part now. I wear my handmade wardrobe everyday now so I have to get a bit more creative with the challenge aspect of the month.
This year I pledged to wear unloved or neglected makes to see whether they could be resurrected. You can see the highlights of this experiments at the top of my Instagram wall.
The main reasons for neglect were:
- I hate ironing
- Too short/too big/too tight
- Needs nude lingerie
- Inexperience on early makes
- Style mistakes
This list contains both easily avoidable issues and things that you need to accept as part of life!
I really don’t need to pick fabrics that rely on ironing. That’s my own stupid mistake. I know my lifestyle and patience levels aren’t compatible with ironing. I’ve got better things to do and I don’t get any enjoyment out of it! And nude lingerie is easily available so that has been pure laziness on my part. It’s been brilliant to rediscover some of those light-coloured garments.
Working out your style is a lifelong exploit. Anyone who doesn’t experiment can’t be having much fun with their wardrobe. You’ll create a few mistakes but you’ll get a clearer idea of what you like!
While it was fun to try on some of those experimental garments again, I’m still not convinced they have a place in my wardrobe. Other than the maxi skirt… I really need to try that out a bit more!
Chasing a great fit can be an endless obsession with fluctuating success. Our bodies are constantly changing with age, activity and diet.
And interpreting wrinkles and drag lines on garments can be a black hole of fit iterations that you have to start again when you revisit the pattern after your body has changed or even just if you’re changing fabric!
Lastly, I’m both fiercely proud and terribly embarrassed by my early makes. So I don’t think I’ll be ever able to get rid of them but they can stay out of heavy rotation.
I know I’m a little late with this round up but I hope you enjoyed stepping into the world of my neglected clothes. Sometimes I worry that it looks like everything goes dreamily for me but that’s not real life! Failure and mistakes are part of learning and succeeding.
Hi everyone! Since the weather matches my blogging schedule (sporadic) I thought I’d share a long overdue finished jacket. As some of you will know from my social media posts I have around 40 unblogged makes. Thankfully five of them have been photographed but I still need to find some blogging time which is proving difficult. Let’s crack on then shall we!
If you’ve considered making a jacket as a step into tailoring I heartedly recommend the Colette Patterns Anise Jacket. It has enough new techniques for someone wanting to learn outerwear but not too many that you can get overwhelmed. I in fact made my first version when I was very much an adventurous beginner, in 2013! I copied my favourite blue coat and was pretty chuffed with the results… see my fabulously grainy photo below if you don’t have time to click through. I thought given all those years of experience I’ve managed to accumulate it would be interesting to see how I found the pattern four years later (yep this jacket is a year old people).
Let’s start by saying the sewalong for this jacket is superb. The welt pockets and bound button hole tutorials are excellent and work on many other garments. Probably doesn’t need to be said but welt pockets are super lovely to make but not great for putting your hands in on a bitter English day. The way the back seams curve to match the sleeve seams at the armhole is also my sign of a superior coat. It drives me crazy when they’re close but intentionally not aligned! Also having made several coats since this I realise how special it is to have a separate pattern piece for interfacing the the roll line. The collar is kind of a pain in that it refuses to neatly meet at the centre front due to the way the buttons strain and move. It still comes together pretty nicely and the clean finish you get by hand sewing everything closed at the armholes and hem is very neat inside.
Finding the right interfacing is a mission though and I’m less happy with the boucle version compared to my melton. I was trying to find something that would keep the boucle weave secure but offer the right support and I think I went too stiff. It’s most noticeable to me at the collar where I can feel it sitting slightly unhappily but I think it looks fine. There’s not a lot of help out there for picking interfacing (no magic unicorn saying you must buy this specific weight and brand) because it all depends on your chosen fabric. The only tip I can offer here is that you’re looking to support not harden the fabric or add too much weight. And remember cheap fusible interfacing isn’t built to last and will bubble and unstick itself over time, so if you’re keen to keep your jacket or coat around, invest in the branded stuff!
Let me share two bits of wisdom I learnt from making both coats. Number one – don’t use covered buttons, no matter how confident you are that the wool is safely enclosed inside. Years later, your buttons will pop apart from the strain and embarrass you in front of your peers. Not pretty. Number two – If you’re not a delicate dresser, use a lining with a tiny amount of stretch. I’m not talking a super spandex mix fabric, but just something with a little give. I always pop the armhole seams on my lining by wrestling myself in and out of my jackets without care. The jackets were I’ve used stretch satin have faired much better. Last tidbit – ALWAYS ADD A HANGING LOOP.
My wool was picked up at an excellent open day at Beyond Measure. Grace had sourced small remnants from a Lancashire mill; Offcuts and end bolts, plus colour coordinated bundles. I succumbed to this smooth soft and almost glossy boucle wool with flecks of bright yellow and blue running through. It was £30 for a 1.6m piece, enough for the jacket with nothing to spare! The lining was chosen to match the yellow flecks as good old B&M Fabrics on Kirkgate outside the market. Every time I see it the super flash of gold makes me giddy. Last but not least those fancy polished metal buttons were from Totally Buttons, an excellent online shop.
It’s a great little jacket and fun pattern to follow. I’m also super grateful past-Amy taped together the PDF and worked out all the fit kinks so I could just crack on and sew the new version!! I’m pleased I finally got to share it with you. I’ll try not to wait so long to post again, but while I’m gone maybe have a read of these lovely Anise jackets.
I love novelty prints. Especially when they’re on a crepe or polyester-mix, something I don’t have to iron. This swan print polyester crepe de chine was from Fabricland’s online shop. They had it in navy as well but red has to be one of my favourite colours.
I used to wear red shoes everyday when I was a young girl and I wear red converse, red ballet pumps or red loafers most days. I used to have the most beautiful pair of red Carvela heels but they are sooooo worn in now that they’re a danger to wear in case the sole splits in half. I’m most commonly found with red nail varnish on my fingers and as you may have guessed, my car is red. So why don’t I have more red clothes?
I got the True Bias Sutton top as part of the Sew Indie Month pattern bundle but wasn’t sure the boxy style would suit me. It’s a great top with fun features like the yoke that rolls over into a dropped front shoulder seam, high low hem and nice v neckline so I thought I’d give it a go… and it’s a top, not a blouse, let’s not fall out over this.
Just to add if I hadn’t found my favourite new jeans I’m not sure I would have been able to pull this look off. For me boxy tops need a streamlined lower half to stop things looking entirely box shaped.
The centre front seam was a real bother for me so that went straight away, and I made the centre front the cut on the fold line. That changed how I finished the neckline a little but I did follow the instructions roughly. It sews up really quickly!
Self made bias binding finished things off prettily inside but polyester cdc fights you with every press. I have tape makers in multiple sizes which is very useful but you can always use a pin attached to your ironing board and make a little channel to feed the fabric through. I’d kill for one of those mechanised tape makers but they stopped producing them.
Above is my 90s tv star pose which shows off the hem step. I wish I could reduce the amount of polyester in my wardrobe but I do not have time for ironing. I barely have time to check I’ve put together a decent outfit in a morning and most days I get to work and discover my make up is all uneven. The perils of leaving the house in the dark.
The crepe is floaty but stable and didn’t snag as I worked. It only gets a little static throughout the day but I wear a cotton vest underneath most days anyway. It makes me feel like I’m wearing a Hawaiian shirt somehow, which I LOVE. Just call me Magnum PI.