Enemy No. 1: Laura’s Serger

If you read last week’s project update post, you’ll know that I’m working on a new super cute vintage dress. I’m pretty obsessed with the pattern and the fabric is definitely a summer dream – so, needless to say, I got to work on it almost as soon as my Vintage Shirt Dress was finished up! So far, the construction process has been pretty amazing. I sometimes have problems following patterns from the bigger companies, mostly because they usually seem to assume a certain level of pre-existing knowledge about the pattern. Although I definitely think I’m past the point of being a beginner to sewing, I still appreciate a beginner’s approach to pattern instructions – an approach that I generally find it pretty typical with the various indie companies I’ve used.

That said, Simplicity is usually pretty good at giving enough instruction to avoid substantial problems and S8591 has been quite true to this trend so far. So, unusually, this mid-construction update post is not an opportunity to get frustrated with complicated instructions. Instead, I’m going to rant about my new ENEMY NUMBER 1 – Constantine the Serger.

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Although we’ve had our run-ins on a fairly regular basis (usually when he refuses to create a proper chain after my fifth rethreading), we’ve always found a way to work through our issues. In fact, I have always pretty well raved about him at any given opportunity. Serged edges look so professional and overlocking them has removed virtually all of my anxiety over washing my me-made garments for fear of fraying. I totally recommend a serger to anyone who is looking to take their sewing to the next level. They’re a pain to learn to thread for sure, but they’re definitely a worthwhile investment. This is not a statement that remains specific to my serger, however. He’s turned on me.

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The ironic thing with this incident is that I wasn’t even serging anywhere near the sleeve ruffle. The sleeves had been done and dusted for a while by this point – and that’s what makes this even harder to accept. I was serging the back seams and *somehow*, right at the end of the back seam, the sleeve just up and practically walked itself under the knife and needles. I genuinely have no idea how it happened. In fact, I am ridiculously careful anytime I have anything to do with cutting or finishing seams – largely because of the incident last year where I accidentally cut a massive hole in the back of my wedding dress muslin whilst trimming seams.

So there is no conclusion possible other than my certainty that Constantine the Serger is determined to destroy my projects and, ultimately, my life. If I never post again, you can assume he’s taken his quest for vengeance to its inevitable conclusion. But if I survive, you’ll find me digging for fabric remnants in the bin, in the hopes that I’ll find a piece large enough for a brand new ruffle! Keep your fingers crossed for me!

 

Vintage Shirt Dress (Sew Over It)

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My second make of Me Made May is here! And while I’m very aware of the fact that I call every new make my favourite, I think the Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress might legitimately be one of my favourite patterns of all time. I’ve had it in my stash for ages – I bought it not long after I started sewing in 2015. But, I just never got around to making it. There were really two reasons for my avoidance: (1) I just couldn’t seem to find a fabric that stuck out as being super perfect for a shirt dress; and, (2) I was legitimately concerned about making that many buttonholes look neat and lined up. So I let the pattern gather dust on two separate continents, until I came across what is *definitely* my favourite fabric of all time – the Le Map design by Dear Stella.

All it took was a little Parisian flavour to make this amazing pattern happen. And, now, here’s the finished product….

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How many ways can I express my love for this pattern? I think one of my sewing mantras is fast becoming ‘when in doubt, make a Sew Over It pattern.’ Because they are SO easy to work with. I very rarely have issues with sizing, following instructions, or the fit. The process is just clean from start to finish.

As with my previous encounters with Sew Over It patterns, I used the size guide to determine the sizes I would cut – although I can’t remember which sizes these were. And I made zero alterations to the fit. The resulting fit is perfection. Just the right amount of ease whilst still looking tailored to my body. Just another success story for Sew Over It pattern sizing!

The construction itself posed few issues. I’d decided from the beginning that I wanted to make the version of the Vintage Shirt Dress with sleeves (there is a sleeveless version). I just really love the cuffs and am generally a sleeve gal. If you read my previous mid-construction post, you’ll know I had a problem figuring out the sleeves – the only construction issue that I ended up encountering. I would retype the whole saga here but it’s probably easier if you just follow the link to an explanation of my issues with sorting out the cuffs. Although I definitely think the pattern instructions could’ve been clearer on this point, it wasn’t a tough issue to resolve and I ended up with some super cute cuffs once I figured out the problem!

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Another feature of this pattern that I love is the skirt. I think the little pleats on the front are just adorable. They give the skirt a bit of extra shape and just make the whole dress look even cuter. I’m fortunate that the cotton I used was relatively weighty, which definitely helped to give the skirt a bit of extra structure and encouraged the pleats stand out.

I also needn’t have worried about the buttons. Going in, I was concerned about sewing the buttonholes without having them look wonky or misplaced. I’ve only had one experience sewing multiple buttonholes and that was with my Beignet Skirt a couple of months into my sewing journey. Needless to say, the buttonholes weren’t very well aligned! So I took extra time to make sure that my measurements were correct for each of the buttonholes on the Vintage Shirt Dress. It’s a good idea to experiment with button placement before sewing, just to make sure that you don’t end up with any gaping over the bust. Personally, I just ended up following the button placement as on the pattern and the dress is perfectly closed the whole way down the dress – no gaping at all!

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Another super sweet feature of this pattern is the neckline. I love the collar and lapels! They definitely give the dress its ‘shirty’ feel! In order to achieve a really crisp shape, I ended up using a medium-weight interfacing. This gets attached to the fabric facing and then sewn down the back and front of the dress. The combination of fabric and interfacing has worked incredibly well in this case – once pressed down, there’s been no movement from the lapels or collar. So they’re pretty reliably in place, meaning that I’m not having to constantly reposition them or press them back (which I find is often the case with lapels). So, if you’re thinking about making this pattern, the weight of the interfacing is definitely an important consideration!

Construction-wise, the collar and lapels were actually super simple. I did have a problem with size disparity between the facing and the dress shell. After attaching the iron-on interfacing, I found that it had shrunk the size of the facing slightly. So, when pinning the facing to the dress – specifically the collar – I did find that I had to stretch the facing out a bit in order to get it to fit. This didn’t end up posing much of a problem and the size discrepancy wasn’t especially big, but it’s definitely worth being aware!

I also just want to give a shout out to Sew Over It for the fact that their instructions include mentions of when it’s appropriate to finish your raw edges or seams. I think Sew Over It is the only pattern company I’ve used that does this, and it helps so much! I love that the pattern tells me where/when to serge so I don’t have to debate when it’s most appropriate. It also stops me waiting until the whole garment is together and having to spend hours just serging seams and feeling that life has lost all meaning.

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So, in summary, make this dress! I’m actually debating whether I’ll end up using my new fox fabric to make another version, because I’m so in love with this pattern. I think the whole thing probably came together in about 8ish hours (not including pattern/fabric cutting time) so it’s not too big a time investment either!

I think there are so many amazing things you could do with this pattern: add piping to the front; put ruffles on the ends of the sleeves instead of cuffs; add pockets! Or just make it as it is and you’ll still end up with a super chic dress! I’m really excited to experiment with some more versions of the Vintage Shirt Dress. Definitely the perfect make for a beautiful summer!

 

New Projects: Foxy Cotton and 1960s Ruffles

Starting off this post with a big thank you for the response to my Ginger Jeans! I’m definitely super pleased with how they turned out. And, seriously, if you think jeans are beyond your reach, I promise you they aren’t. You’ll just have to trust me and give the Ginger Jeans a go!

With the Ginger Jeans ticked off my list and my Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress all finished (photos to come soon and boy is this dress a stunner!), I’m turning my mind to some new projects. I’ve had my eye on a couple of patterns for a while and, with summer now fully here in St Louis, it’s time to get sewing a few more heat-appropriate outfits! So let’s take a look at what I’ll be working on…

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S8591 is a pattern that I’ve been lusting after for some time. I’m often found perusing the vintage section of Simplicity’s website when I have an overwhelming desire to sew something vintage-inspired. Fortunately, on one of my frequent trips to Joann’s, I came across the pattern in one of their pattern sales! I can’t remember how much I ended up paying, but I think it was 50% off. Bargain! Obviously, after finding the pattern, I had to uncover the perfect fabric. As soon as I saw this cotton, I knew it was the one! Mint green is my favourite. Plus there are gold butterflies! I mean, really, what could be better? Another outfit that will match my favourite mint green petticoat and shoes (are you sensing a theme?)!

I’ve already started work on S8591 (hence the crumpled pattern sleeve!). Fingers crossed that it’ll be an easy breezy construction process and I’ll wind up with a perfect summer dress!

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The second project I have in mind is the Sew Over It Poppy Playsuit, using this gorgeous floral crepe. I’ve wanted to sew a playsuit for ages. I actually own one that I bought from Modcloth ages ago but the fit isn’t great. Which is a shame because it’s super cute and covered in an umbrella pattern. I mean, it’s fine and comfortable as long as my arms are down by my side. But as soon as I raise them, it gets super uncomfortable in the crotchal region. I figure sewing my own playsuit will probably give me the best chance of actually owning something that fits properly. I’m planning on making the version with the shorter legs because SUMMER!

Right now, the plan is to work on the jumpsuit after I finish S8591. However, we all know that I have a propensity to get wildly off track when it comes to my sewing plans. I get distracted by shiny new patterns and fabric. So, while I’m sure the playsuit will happen (probably this year), it’s anyone’s guess whether it will get sewn any time in the near future!

My final project isn’t really a project. It’s another AMAZING fabric for which I have some vague ideas…

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Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the pure sweetness of this fabric. I found this in one of my favourite local fabric stores. I don’t shop there much since we moved to the city – also, they don’t really do sales or discounts so all of their fabric is on the pricey side. That said, I totally couldn’t resist this cotton. It’s actually – totally incidentally – designed by Dear Stella Designs, who also created my favourite Parisian fabric! Clearly they have a knack for making incredibly cute cottons.

Anyway, my plans for this fabric are to make a summer skirt – probably on the longer side (just past the knees/mid-calf, I’m thinking) with some pleats for shape. The main issue is that the fabric doesn’t have a lot of width to it. I think it’s about 43″ wide and I have roughly 4 yds (I bought it a while ago, so my memory is evaporating – it could be 3.5 yds). I like the skirt version of Sew Over It’s Rosie Dress (and it has an option for fabric that’s 1.15m wide) but I do prefer the skirt of the Elsie Dress (which doesn’t have a 1.15m option). So I’m a bit stumped on what to do. If you have any pattern ideas that fit the bill and maybe look a little more pleated – like the skirt of the Elsie dress – definitely leave me a comment! I really don’t want to use the fabric on a pattern that I’m not hugely enthusiastic about since (1) it was expensive, and (2) I really like it!

Those are all of my current project updates! I’m also in the process of putting together a list of patterns that I want to get through this year. There are about 15 items so it’s definitely overly-ambitious. But participating in Me Made May has shown me that my wardrobe is dramatically lacking in separates (I have literally no tops). So my goal is to start spending more time on ‘small’ projects – where I can, perhaps, make multiple versions of a pattern to fill my every day wardrobe. Ideally, I’d like to get to a place where I can put together a good number of self-made outfits (not counting dresses) and mix-and-match what I have. So wish me luck!

I’ll be back next week with some pics of my new Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress and the usual does of Laura’s internal ramblings. In the meantime, have an amazing weekend!

Sewing for Self-Care: Managing Motivation

Motivation is a fickle thing. We all find ourselves subject to its whims, usually at the most inconvenient of times (hello deadlines!). To see peaks and troughs in your daily drive is totally normal. Things like energy level, social interactions, and even the weather can impact our desire to get things done. When it comes to practicing good self-care, however, our general levels of motivation can be both an excellent sign of our current state and a great place from which to build ourselves back up.

My motivation is perhaps the most effective indicator of my state of mind. When I’m feeling acutely anxious or depressed, my ability to get things done flies out of the window and away to some far-off land. It’s not necessarily a question of desire. I usually know what I need to do to put myself back on a positive path. But knowing and doing are two very different things. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve become stuck in a cycle of knowing what I ‘should’ do and criticising myself for my failure to do it. This is neither helpful nor compassionate.

Over many years of handling these lengthy dips in my motivation, I’ve developed some pretty helpful techniques to get myself moving again. I like to think of it like giving a car a jump start. Since this is a sewing blog – and I’ve written before at length about why sewing/creativity is so valuable to mental health– these tips are written with creative hobbies in mind. They are techniques that I apply specifically to my sewing, although I’m sure that they could work equally well elsewhere. The tips I’ve put together in this post are also framed by my own battles with mental health, so they’re particularly sensitive to that. However, I definitely find myself applying some of these tools on days where I’m perfectly happy but just ‘can’t be bothered’. So hopefully there’s something for everyone!

*This post isn’t intended to serve as either a diagnosis of or a treatment for mental illness. I write about sewing and self-care because, for me, creativity helps to bolster a positive outlook and has assisted my recovery. However, sewing is not a panacea. I was helped by doctors and therapists, as well as a host of other important interventions. If you’re struggling with your mental health, please reach out to a professional or someone you trust.*

  • Be Kind

If life were accompanied by its own set of rules, I would campaign for this being number one. We forget it far too often, particularly when it comes to our relationships with ourselves. I want to begin with this tip because it should frame your understanding of the others. Nothing that I’m saying in this post should be a starting point for self-criticism. I’m presenting a number of techniques that work for me when I’m struggling to find motivation. But there are days (and, let’s face it, weeks) where nothing is quite able to penetrate the walls of negativity that I’ve put up around myself.

If you find days or weeks where your motivation wanes – when you just can’t get yourself to the sewing table – it’s ok. The worst thing that you can do is add a layer of self-criticism into the mix. It will only further diminish your motivation. I mean, who has ever told themselves ‘I’m such a failure’ and felt more desire to get things done? Kindness should be your watchword. When I’m in a mindset of self-compassion, I usually find that my periods of low motivation pass by the fastest. Of course, it’s easier said than done. Few of us are taught to cultivate self-love. But learning to be kind to yourself truly is the jumping off point for all great things.

*A side-note: I always struggled with the whole concept of self-compassion. On bad days, I still do. If you’re having difficulty developing a mindset of kindness, I highly recommend looking up metta meditation (there are some on the Insight Timer – a free meditation app that I use). I know this isn’t everyone’s thing – and it’s totally not sewing related – but it’s a really incredible tool!

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  • Small, Achievable Tasks

Now we’re on to the concrete stuff! One of the greatest drains on our motivation – particularly when it comes to creative projects – is looking at a big task as one complete whole. Creative hobbies are often very involved, with lengthy projects. If you can only see the long hours ahead of you from start to completion, is it any wonder that your motivation to get started might disappear?

When I’m feeling anxious or depressed, it’s really easy to get stuck in a feeling of overwhelm. Everything becomes a bit overwhelming – getting up, getting dressed, showering, eating. When you’re investing so much energy to just do the things that you need to (like eating), thinking about an optional hobby like sewing becomes totally unimaginable. However, doing something creative is also a powerful path back towards yourself. The important thing is working to build a bridge between your current state and a place that gives you enough energy to work with something creative. To make this achievable, it’s so important to break any projects down into bite-size chunks – little tasks that could be accomplished in a really short amount of time.

The great thing with sewing is that our projects already come packaged in steps. Writing these steps down in a list can be really helpful – i.e. sew front bodice to back bodice; insert zip etc. Doing this condenses the instructions even further and makes them appear even more manageable. You can break the steps down as much as you want, to meet the demands of your life. Sometimes motivation wanes simply because we have so much else going on. Having bite-size tasks that can be accomplished in five minutes is a great way to get in some creative time, regardless of what else is happening!

A word of warning – don’t rely on yourself to do a task breakdown when you’re in a low place. When you’re already lacking motivation, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to invest energy in this. I tend to do a project breakdown at the start of each new project – this allows for any bad days and gives me a pre-existing list that I can turn to at any time.

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  • Create A Multi-Purpose Space

Like me, you may be lucky enough to have a designated sewing space. They’re truly a gift. However, when my motivation to sew has evaporated, having everything contained in a separate room becomes a bit of a problem. I just avoid the space like the plague and don’t have to think about anything sewing-related. When I had a sewing area incorporated into my living space, I found myself sewing a lot more when motivation was low. This is largely because I would find myself walking past my sewing area, seeing something that needed doing, and just getting on with it.

Now I’m not suggesting that we evacuate our sewing rooms. But it’s helpful to find small ways of making the space feel more multi-purpose. A lot of this is about using the room’s advantages. If, like me, you have a big window, adding a comfy chair for reading in the sunlight might be a great option. If your room is hidden away as an escape from the family, capitalise on that! Add a kettle and some snacks, or a blanket so that you can take a cat-nap. Basically anything that gives the room an added, non-sewing purpose. This way, you’ll find yourself going to your sewing room even when sewing motivation is low.

Where this isn’t possible, it might help to develop a list of non-sewing tasks that can be accomplished in your sewing room. I like to clean my room in between projects, for example. Often, cleaning feels much more achievable than sewing does. Sometimes I like to reorganise my patterns or fabric stash. Alternatively, maybe you have some decoration ideas in mind to brighten up your room. For more on this, see the ‘Emergency Tasks’ tip at the bottom of the post!

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My sewing room is super small. But I recently moved my mannequin so that I could throw some cushions down and read in the sunlight. I’ve ended up spending way more time in my sewing room and, often, will just wind up doing some actual sewing!

  • No Zero Days

The ‘No Zero Days’ mindset has been one of the most valuable tools at my disposal in confronting my motivation. The idea is that you work out the things that you want to achieve and commit to doing something towards that goal every day. No Zero Days. For me, this means doing something sewing-centric (choosing a project, working on pattern construction etc.) and something blog-centric (writing a post, replying to comments, social media posting etc.) each day.

The No Zero Days mindset is great because it gives no requirements on how much or how little you do. You’re simply committing to doing something. Even if it’s 11:30 a night and the day has totally passed you by, there’s always something you can do. Make a list of things you could post about on your blog this week, trawl through some online fabric shops to help plan your next project. Just do a little bit of something – even if there’s no way that you can drag yourself to your sewing table today.

Always remember, however, to forgive yourself. If there’s a day when you just can’t get anything done – you’re too distracted, too low, or otherwise – be kind. It’s no big deal. Learn from it and move on. You’ll do even better tomorrow!

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But really, where would I be without my bullet journal?

  • Emergency Tasks

Along with my breakdown of bite-size tasks, I always like to keep a list of ’emergency’ tasks. These are to accommodate my worst days and help me stay on track with my ‘no zero days’ commitment. Essentially, these should be tasks that you think you might be able to achieve if all else fails – and they can be tailored to the things you most struggle with. For example, when I’m in a state of particularly acute anxiety and panic, distraction and absorption become my priorities. I can typically get about the apartment just fine but my mind is racing non-stop. Tasks on days like that are typically focussed on things that I find really absorbing – so it’ll be sitting on the sofa with RuPaul’s Drag Race on TV and doing some cross-stitch. Relatively low effort but still super engaging for my mind. Alternatively, on days when I’m just super low, my priority is typically to get my body moving. Those are the days when I would work on cleaning my sewing room, reorganising my stashes, or otherwise. I might also set aside some hand stitching that I can do in a comfortable seat.

The important thing here is to work with yourself – that’s what makes this a self-care centric practice. Do some experiments. Watch yourself as your motivation peaks and troughs, see what works when you’re in different states of mind. Trial and error is no bad thing. This should be tailored to you and your needs.

This is true for everything I’ve listed. These are tips that speak to my personal experience. Although I believe that they can be translated to different people and different experiences, they might not appeal to you. And that’s ok! Maybe they simply give you ideas of your own that you can adapt to suit you. I wrote this post as something of a guide for potential ways to navigate low motivation. More than that, however, it should hopefully show that there are ways – even on our bad days – when we can move ourselves forward whilst always respecting our needs in any given moment. It’s not about forcing, pushing, or criticising. Rather, it’s about attentiveness and limitless compassion to ourselves – this picture will always look different, depending on your situation and frame of mind. Just be kind to yourself and the rest will certainly follow.

If you have any of your own tips to share – or general thoughts to add – please comment below! I’m always super excited to hear what other people do and have a conversation about the many aspects of using sewing for self-care!

Ginger Jeans (Closet Case Patterns)

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I’m officially a jeans champion! My foray into the world of trousers is only relatively recent and, before the Ginger Jeans, I had only two pairs under my belt (*pun SO intended*). Before this, trousers were super intimidating to me. I’ve always struggled to buy them because they are either too small for my hips or too big on my waist/thighs. I guess I thought that any attempt at making trousers would revolve around the same difficulties. But with the success of the Tyyni Cigarette trousers and Sew Over It’s Ultimate Trousers, I started to think that jeans might actually be a possibility. To me, jeans seem like the pinnacle of trouser-based achievement. And, honestly, I would’ve probably avoided making them forever if holes hadn’t started to appear in my favourite store-bought pair!

Fortunately, I’d heard so many good things about the Ginger Jeans pattern that I knew immediately that it was the one I wanted to try. I’m so glad I did, because these jeans are AMAZING!

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Miss Elizabeth Bennet has the tongue of three dogs. (please read in context)

When I committed to making jeans, I knew that I didn’t want to go with conventional denim. So I traipsed around Joann’s for a while, trying to find something sufficiently different from the norm. Fortunately, I came across this amazing anchor denim and I knew that it was perfect! The pattern suggests using stretch denim with at least 2% lycra – this fabric met the specifications, so I was good to go!

Because I’m a terrible person, I once again refused to make a muslin. I don’t think I’ve ever made one and, unless something is super critical or complex, it’s unlikely I will. That said, don’t let me discourage you from your muslin-making ways! I promise, you are infinitely more patient and practical than I! So, as per my usual method, I simply traced off the appropriate pattern sizes (I think 10 waist, 12 hips) and hoped for the best. Fortunately, the fit is dead right with no alterations and I wouldn’t change anything on my next go round!

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Let’s talk details. One of the most intimidating things about making jeans has to be the endless topstitching. I’ve done a bit of topstitching in the past and always enjoy the finish that it gives to a garment. But there is a LOT of topstitching on jeans and, in most cases, it’s going to be pretty visible. I realised early on, however, that although I couldn’t escape the visibility of my topstitching, I could let go of my compulsive need to have it all look totally perfect. Because while there is a lot of topstitching, this just makes it even less likely that someone’s eye will be drawn to that little wave of stitching where you veered off course. I actually didn’t find the topstitching a problem at all – I took it slowly, practiced things like bar-tacking on spare fabric first, and just generally didn’t worry about it not being perfect. I highly recommend not worrying!

If you are really worried about it, you might want to consider investing in an Edge Stitch Foot. This was one of the recommendations made by some of my lovely readers when I put out a call for help on topstitching in the middle of fabric. In the end, I wasn’t patient enough to wait for a new foot – so I just estimated and went for it. Next time around, I think I’ll get a proper foot, just to make the whole process easier. The main issue is that you can’t really mark on your fabric for topstitching (unless you have a super reliable way that is guaranteed to wash off). But an Edge Stitch Foot will definitely save you a lot of time and anxious energy!

One thing I adore about this pattern is its attention to all of the details that you find on store-bought jeans. The topstitching replicates almost exactly what you would see on any pair – same with the bar-tacking and the pockets! Of course, you could sew the pattern without any of these extra details and it would still make a great pair of trousers.

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The pockets are especially cute! I was really intimidated when I saw the various pocket components (coin pockets, yokes, regular pockets etc.), thinking that it was going to end up being a complicated process. But it ended up being truly simple. In fact, although there were definitely parts of the overall pattern construction that gave me pause and I had to play through in my mind a few times, there really weren’t any stumbling blocks. If you’re going to make the jeans, I highly recommend referring to the Ginger Jeans Sew-Along tutorials. I found these posts incredibly helpful. They elaborate on the instructions included with the pattern and are accompanied by detailed photos of every construction stage. In some instances, the tutorial also offers alternatives to the methods included in the pattern instructions. So if you’re stumped by anything, checking the Sew-Along posts is definitely a good idea!

Now for the scary bit – the fly! Making the Ginger Jeans wasn’t my first time installing a fly. I’d worked through this process on the Tyyni trousers and, although it was definitely complicated, it wasn’t as horrendous as I expected. That said, the Ginger Jeans take the process to a whole new level of simplicity. The fly is probably the most impressive part of the jeans (to me) because it looks so professional, both on the outside and the inside of the jeans. As much as I would love to take credit for this, I literally just followed the instructions.

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Where the fly on my Tyyni Trousers definitely looked a bit ragged on the inside, the construction on the Ginger Jeans is just so clean. I don’t think I’ve had a make that looks so well put-together internally! Having a serger definitely helped with this (especially because denim can fray like nobody’s business). If you don’t have a serger, zigzag stitching will work just as well, and will still help to capitalise on the super clean look that is basically inherent to this pattern.

I genuinely have nothing bad to say about the Ginger Jeans. They’re amazing. The jeans are definitely a time investment – just switching thread back-and-forth for topstitching takes up about 10 hours (I joke but it really does feel this way). All things considered, however, I was honestly so impressed with how quickly the jeans came together. I will definitely be knocking out more of these in the future.

Although the construction is complex enough that I probably wouldn’t recommend the pattern for beginner, you could definitely make these jeans with relatively little sewing experience. Using the Sew-Along for reference, as well as the pattern instructions, you could easily make a great pair of jeans! I’ve learnt so much from sewing this pair but without any struggle or frustration – which, to me, is the mark of a truly well-made pattern.

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Same jeans, different angle.

So if you’re debating whether or not to make your own jeans, debate no longer! Trust me when I say that the Ginger Jeans pattern will get you where you want to go. You will end up with a beautiful pair of jeans and feeling like the trouser ninja that always were inside!

Me Made May is Underway!

May brings us so many joyous things – better weather (sometimes), bank holidays (depending on where you are in the world), and a royal wedding (not an annual event, but historically significant). Ok so none of these things are a guarantee. Fortunately, one event is a yearly promise (other than my perfection at subject transitions) and that’s Me Made May!

For those of you who don’t trawl social media on the regular – in many ways, an excellent choice – you may not have come across Me Made May. Started by SoZo blog, Me Made May (or #mmmay if you’re hip with the kids) is an opportunity to wear all of those beautiful self-crafted garments you’ve been hiding away. You can join in in a very casual way or more formally by making a pledge about the number of items you plan to wear. If you visit SoZo’s blog post, you’ll see more information about all of this.

I’ve only ever joined in with Me Made May in passing, mostly because I’ve never had enough self-made clothes to make it through the entire month. This year, I’m taking a much more structured approach (excessively so, some might argue) to my planning and have allowed my bullet journalling habits to guide me.

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Obviously there are still plenty of gaps to fill. This is to allow for new makes, as well as the fact that weekends are a bit up for grabs and I may not fancy wearing a 1950s circle skirt on a hike. I’m also waiting on the second half of the month, just to give myself some flexibility and see if the weather decides to stay on its current hot, sunny track.

We’re now two days into the challenge and, so far, I’m two for two! I decided to go with my Sweetheart Dress for Day 1. This was largely a nostalgic choice since it’s been about a year since I was making this back in the UK, while waiting for my fiancee visa to come through. Those of you who were following me back then will remember that the dress was supposed to be a muslin for my wedding dress! Time constraints and the general stress of moving country meant that a self-made wedding dress didn’t happen, but I’m super happy that I have such a wonderful version of the pattern to wear:

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Hello to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, the ultimate and cutest photobomber!

Today’s choice was a dig back into the Sew for Victory archives because I made this dress very early in my sewing career, and barely ever bring it out for a spin. Part of the reason that I so love this challenge is that it really does encourage me to revisit some of the garments that, for whatever reason, I just never think to put on. Sew Over It’s Betty Dress is actually a super versatile and wearable pattern. I think I’m going to make up some new versions – probably shorter than the one I currently have.

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Since I’m wearing this outfit for the day, I decided to forgo a petticoat. Fortunately, the dress works just as well without it!

So those are my first two outfits for Me Made May! I’m not planning on posting any more of these pics on the blog (although I’ll probably do a reflection post at the end of the month) so if you want to stay up to date with my makes, be sure to follow me on one of my various social media accounts. I’ve added handy dandy buttons at the top of the sidebar, which will take you to wherever you want to go!

Let me know if you’re planning on participating in Me Made May, whatever your level of commitment. One of the greatest things about this challenge is getting to see everyone’s fantastic makes. Hopefully I’ll be seeing some of yours too!

 

 

 

Spring = Shirt Dresses + Sleeve Failures

I’ve been a super busy bee over the past couple of weeks! I’ve managed to acquire even more fabric since my last fabric haul post, so I’m practically swimming in cottons. But oh my goodness, my newest fabrics are some of the sweetest I’ve ever seen! With all this fabric overflowing my sewing spaces, I’ve been attempting to make a dent in my growing stash. And where better to start than with my favourite fabric of all time (I know I say this about pretty much every new fabric I buy):

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But seriously, is this not the sweetest? Bien sûr! I got this gem after seeing it on The Foldline’s Facebook page and ended up ordering it from a US-based stockist (saving on the postage!). Fortunately, this particular fabric seems to be available from a few different places so I had no problem getting hold of it. If you’re interested, the fabric is called ‘Le Map’ and is designed by Dear Stella. I got mine from New Arrivals Inc. who mostly seem to cater to babies, but needs must. They have a 20% off voucher for joining their mailing list and I had the fabric within about a week of ordering. So definitely recommended!

As soon as I got this fabric, I wanted to set to work! Fortunately, I had the perfect project in mind. I’ve been messing around with plans for a Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress for ages now. I think I’ve had the pattern for about two years. But no fabric ever really jumped out at me as being entirely appropriate. I have a lot of difficulty pairing fabrics and patterns. It’s beyond the level of just thinking that a fabric would work for a pattern. I have to really feel like they go together – it’s the fabric/pattern equivalent of pairing soul mates. I’m like a matchmaker, except that there’s so much more at stake with what I do (I joke, of course. People are just as important as fabric). This is why shopping for fabric with a pattern already in mind is always a nightmare for me. It takes forever. I swear, my skeleton will eventually be found in an aisle at Joann’s.

As soon as I had the Paris fabric in my hands, I just knew it was time to dust the cobwebs from my Vintage Shirt Dress pattern and finally put it to work.

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I’ve been working on the dress this week and it’s coming together a treat! As expected from Sew Over It, the pattern has proved very easy to follow so far. I decided to make the version with sleeves because I always love a sleeve. I’m not sure why but I really never wear anything sleeveless. That may need to change now that I live somewhere that gets 100F summers, but we’ll see.

Of course, this project hasn’t been without its problems. I spent most of the day yesterday trying to figure out issues that I was having with the sleeve cuffs. This is the first time I’ve found any instruction from Sew Over It to be vague enough that I end up spending ages trying to decipher them. The problem was in hemming the sleeves. The instructions tell you to turn the sleeve under to the wrong side and match with a notch on the inside seam. My mistake was in matching the raw edge of the hem with the notch (then spending ages pressing and sewing it) when I was supposed to match the sleeve’s actual edge with it. Essentially this meant that I had two sleeves with short hems and, when it came to turning the sleeve back to the right side in order to get a proper cuff, I had barely any fabric. Enter much unpicking…

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The line of stitches is about 1cm from the edge of the hem (which is where the notch is). So, as you can see, there is definitely not enough fabric to turn back to the right side in order to make a cuff.

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The seam gauge makes this photo look like a police evidence photo and I only just realised it.

This is my current status. I’ve unpicked and have now turned the hems under properly. Finishing and attaching the sleeves is on today’s agenda. I’m hoping that I might actually get around to doing the buttons/buttonholes, in which case I’ll only have the hemming left to do!

Despite my sleeve issues, I’m seriously loving this pattern. It’s come together really quickly and easily. I just love Sew Over It patterns. They’re always so clear (with the exception of the sleeve hemming) and well illustrated. Plus, the Vintage Shirt Dress has lapels! What could be more exciting?!

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So that’s where we are! My plan is to get this dress finished by the end of the week and hopefully have photos up on Sew for Victory soon after. I’m off to see An American in Paris in a couple of weeks (one of my favourite Gene Kelly films!) and I can’t think of a more appropriate outfit. I’ll be a Brit in America in Paris fabric, watching An American in Paris. Perfection!

 

 

Fashion Revolution Week: Who Made My Clothes?

We’re now in the midst of Fashion Revolution Week and I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about this amazing movement. If you haven’t heard of it, Fashion Revolution is an organisation that is working to change the way that we think about our clothes and the ways in which they are currently produced. Looking for greater transparency from manufacturers, Fashion Revolution encourages all of us to ask ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ by getting in touch with brands for information and becoming more conscious of our purchasing habits.

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With the number of disasters and atrocities occurring across the world, it’s easy to wonder why this issue should matter. But it does. The ways in which our clothing is manufactured – and our disposable approach to our wardrobes – has created a cycle of human rights violations and environmental harm that only grows in scale each year. Many of us can recall the 2013 factory collapse in Bangladesh, in which over 1000 people were killed whilst making clothing for some of the world’s biggest brands. Fashion Revolution estimates that 75 million people are employed across the world to make our clothes, with 80% of these being 18-35 year old women.

This is an issue about which I’m incredibly passionate. My professional and academic background is in human rights and I’ve worked in a variety of contexts that have exposed me to the tremendous violations that occur to support western buying habits. Most of us are in touch with issues like blood diamonds (thanks, in large part, to Leonardo DiCaprio, of course!) but, since diamonds are relatively easy to forgo in our daily lives, changing our diamond-buying habits doesn’t challenge us to adapt in any remarkable way (although buying certified conflict-free diamonds is incredibly important and so valuable towards reducing harm perpetrated in these contexts!) . Our choices have an effect. There’s no getting away from it. But working with this knowledge doesn’t demand perfection. Acknowledging that the labour behind our clothing often promotes the most dangerous working conditions, child labour, and incredibly low wages, does not require that we all start making everything we wear. There are so many ways in which we can work consciously towards promoting fair and safe working conditions for those employed in garment-making industries across the world. We can buy from brands that conduct screening and checks of their global manufacturing facilities. We can check that brands have explicit policies on ensuring their products are free from child labour. Even sending an email to a clothing brand that you purchase from, asking them how they guarantee adequate working conditions from their manufacturers, can make a difference.

It’s unacceptable that anyone must sacrifice their dignity by working in squalid and dangerous conditions, simply so that we can spend £5 on a pair of jeans that we’ll be done with in a matter of months. And this disposability is a problem. Fashion Revolution cites that people in the US throw away 14 million tonnes of clothing a year, around 84% of which goes to landfill. So the planet will also thank you for a more conscious approach to fashion choices!

It’s all too easy to slip into apathy on these issues. After all, the scale of these kinds of problems can very quickly lead to thoughts of ‘what difference can I make, anyway?’ Believe me, I’ve been there. But if many years spent working on issues such as this has taught me anything, it’s that change and accountability truly does begin with our own choices. I spent years working in depth on places that had experienced some of the most unimaginable human rights atrocities – from genocide to child soldier recruitment. As inexplicably horrendous as these events are and were, I maintain that the gravest atrocities facing us are those that are practiced as the most insidious and globally-accepted. This has everything to do with the industries that we support – such as garment making and electronics – and the violence that is practiced daily against both people and planet. It’s not our fault that we’re party to this. A great genius of global industries is their ability to point us away from the problematic and divert our attention through convenient and on-trend products. But, when something sits with us as not quite right, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and do what we can – whether this is sending emails, making different choices in our buying habits, or spreading our knowledge to those around us.

There’s no getting away from the fact that we are global citizens. We reap so many amazing benefits from this position without even realising it – travel, food, and products. Working with Fashion Revolution and helping to promote their cause is just one way in which we can help to give back on this. So head over to Fashion Revolution’s site or join everyone (including me!) on Instagram, asking major brands ‘Who Made My Clothes?’

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Clémence Skirt (Tilly and the Buttons)

Finally, some photos of my Clémence skirt! The skirt has been sitting on my mannequin for a couple of months, totally finished. But, thanks to St Louis weather, I really couldn’t find a good opportunity to take pics – and I was determined to get the photos while I actually took my skirt out for a spin! Fortunately, we had some beautiful weather last week and I finally got the chance to pop on my new favourite skirt for a picnic with my hubs.

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I’m not really sure what my hopes were for this skirt. I had picked up the fabric last year on sale and knew that it would make a perfect skirt for the summer. However, in a pattern that’s becoming frustratingly familiar to me the longer I’m in the US, the fabric proved too narrow for almost all of the sewing patterns that I had in mind. Le sigh. I’d yet to sew up any of the patterns in Tilly and the Buttons’ Love at First Stitch book but figured I’d have a flip through in the hope that one of them would work with my fabric. Lo and behold, the Clémence skirt was perfect!

There are so many things that I love about this pattern. First and foremost, it’s a super easy introduction to making your own patterns. It talks you through measurements, seam allowances, and the various aspects of drafting the skirt as a pattern for yourself. So you won’t find the pattern in the pattern library included with the book – you have to draw it up yourself. The downside to this is that you obviously need some extra tools – tracing paper and long rulers being the main necessities. But I found it super rewarding to draw up the pattern for myself, so I definitely consider it a bonus that the Clémence pattern offers a really basic introduction to doing this!

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The pattern itself is incredibly simple. It’s made up of just four patterns pieces – the front and back skirt, plus two cuts for the waistband. The shape comes entirely from the gathers used around the waist. Using a stiffer cotton, I found that these gathers gave an incredible amount of volume to the entire skirt – a volume you would normally need to achieve with either an underskirt or the use of horsehair braid on the hem. Using a fabric with some stiffness to it definitely helps the gathers gain this shape.

I also really enjoyed the way that the Clémence pattern introduces beginners to some new techniques. The use of gathering is not necessarily something that beginner sewists would have encountered previously and the instructions included alongside the pattern are a super effective introduction. You will also be guided to ‘stitch in the ditch’ for attaching the waistband, meaning that the waist of the garment – with the gathers and invisible stitching – is a real focal point for the skirt.

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Glittery bicycles and balloons are the best!

The pattern also gives super detailed instructions for using french seams. Confession time – I’ve somehow avoided ever using french seams on anything. I guess I just haven’t come across them with the patterns that I’ve used before. But now I’m obsessed! They are such a clean way of finishing a garment – I’ve honestly never made a skirt that looks as tidy on the interior as my Clémence skirt. Normally, I’d turn to my serger for seam finishes but I think I might be a sometimes-convert to the french seam in future!

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I think the most complex part of the Clémence pattern is the insertion of the invisible zip. But isn’t zip insertion just one of those skills that really takes work to perfect?! I know that, even after two years of sewing, I still don’t have zip insertion down perfectly every time I make a garment. This pattern doesn’t offer particularly detailed instructions on inserting an invisible zip but look to trusty YouTube and you’ll find all of the guidance that you need!

What an incredible pattern this is for beginners! However, even a non-beginner stands to benefit from revisiting the techniques included with this pattern and, ultimately, you definitely won’t regret the opportunity to make such a super cute skirt. The whole pattern sews up in an afternoon and would make a really effective stash-buster because the fabric requirements are so reasonable! With warmer weather on its way, this would make such a great project for just about everyone – plus you get to buy a book with so many gorgeous patterns, which is just an amazing bonus!

So whip out some of that cute cotton you’ve been hiding away and have a go at the Clémence skirt. I know that I’ll be checking in again soon with 50 new versions!

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I Love Fabric!

It’s been a hard couple of weeks. Adjusting to life in a new country is definitely tougher than I expected when I moved here. Now that I’m almost a year on from the move, I was anticipating feeling a lot more at home than I do. But starting your life over again is no joke and trying to build one for myself is taking its toll. Fortunately, I have an amazing husband who knows exactly the right way to cheer me up – by taking me fabric shopping! So with a couple of new projects in mind, we headed over to Joann’s so that I could pick myself up with some fabric devotion. As always, I was in heaven.

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SO much fabric joy! Am I the only one who pretty much always fabric shops in person? I mean, I order the odd thing online – but mostly just fabrics with really cute patterns that I can’t resist. Otherwise, I much prefer a trip to the fabric shop. I guess I’m always worried that what I order online won’t turn out to be as good in person. Although I know you can order swatches, I’m also incredibly impatient when it comes to waiting for fabrics to be delivered. Also, when I’m feeling not so at home here, hunting out new fabric shops or returning to favourites is a sure way to make me feel more comfortable. It’s exactly the same feeling of ‘at home’ that I get whenever I go into a bookshop. I know, I’m super cool!

We ended up spending a long time searching through the various fabrics at Joann’s. I had a couple of projects in mind and was hoping to find some fabrics that would work. The first project is a new version of the Decades of Style Belle Curve dress. This was one of my first makes (ambitious, I know!) and remains one of my favourite me-made garments. However, in my eternal Laura wisdom, I decided a couple of weeks ago that I should try to tidy up my original version. Since I was super new to sewing when I made it, there were quite a few problems with the construction. None of the issues were a particularly big deal, but mostly I was getting annoyed with the wide, unfinished seams and a lot of subsequent fraying. Since everything was already constructed, I didn’t want to risk serging. So I decided to take my pinking shears to the seams and have a go at both trimming them down and stopping the fraying. As careful as I thought I was being, I ended up snipping through the body of the side of the dress – right by the amazing sunburst darts – and leaving a hole big enough that there’s no fixing it (flashbacks to my wedding dress muslin, anyone?!). Needless to say, I was pretty distraught. However, the dress was definitely in need of many alterations. I’ve lost a lot of weight since I originally made it and, with the way the dress is constructed, it would’ve been impossible to alter. So I guess my accident was actually providing an opportunity for me to revisit and remake one of favourite patterns!

I knew that I wanted to stay super plain with the fabric. The best part of the Belle Curve dress is undoubtedly the darts and using a patterned fabric would only make this detail much harder to see. So I decided to get a couple of drapey fabrics in bold colours that would work super well and show of the unique details of the dress pattern.

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Green is probably my favourite colour and I couldn’t resist this gorgeous bottle green. My original version of the Belle Curve dress was in green and it looked stunning. I’m not sure if I’ll use this fabric for my next version since I want to try something different but, either way, it’ll certainly be put to good use!

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Purple! I don’t think I’ve made any purple clothes so far, which is strange because I absolutely adore purple. This is definitely a super bold purple but I think it will work incredibly well with the pattern. I can’t actually remember what sorts of fabrics these are – I think they’re poly blends. But they are perfectly drapey with a silky underside, which will work very well against the skin. I can’t wait to get started!

I’ve also been putting together plans to make some shorts. Summer in Missouri is pretty crazy and temperatures can get up to 110F (I think that’s over 40C). Since I’m came over from England, clearly my wardrobe was very underprepared for such temperatures. I’m determined that this summer will be much more comfortable than the last, so I’m putting my sewing machine to work for the cause. Fortunately, one of the lovelies that I follow on Instagram (Erin from My Poetic Memory) posted a photo of some shorts she’s whipped up recently. All of the pairs looked gorgeous but she had a version of the Chataigne shorts from Deer&Doe that left me particularly in love (I was the personification of the heart eyes emoji, for sure). After searching out the pattern for myself, I knew that I needed to put this on my project list! Since I was especially in love with the styling of one of the models for the pattern, I decided to try and replicate the look by finding some faux suede to create some beautiful shorts:

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I’ve never sewn with faux suede before, so I’m excited to give it a go! I think these shorts will be amazing – although perhaps not made with the most cooling of materials. Just an excuse to buy even more fabric to make new versions!

So that’s a summary of my recent adventures into the world of fabric. I’m so excited to get started on some new projects (especially because Me Made May is coming and I need to get some more stuff together!). Fortunately, my Ginger Jeans are almost finished – just the jeans button, rivets, and hemming to go! So I’ll have those to show you soon.

For now though, I’m wishing you a wonderful weekend full of sewing and happiness!