Project Updates!

After the super momentum that I achieved with my Cocktail Hour dress, I’ve been feeling seriously motivated to work my way through some new projects. So I thought that I would give you an update on my works in progress and everything coming to Sew for Victory over the next few weeks!

At the moment, I’m working with some seriously fabulous fabric picked up from Joann’s. It’s part of Gertie’s collection, and I had visions of 1960s dresses the moment I laid eyes on it.

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At $16.99 a yard, it’s definitely expensive. I love Joann’s for the MANY discount vouchers on their app and I exploit these every time I visit but, unless I’m working with a 50% off coupon, $16.99 is pretty steep (especially given that any 1950s/60s-style dress is going to take 4+ yards, which will leave you over $50 out of pocket for one dress). Fortunately, I hit Joann’s when they were having a sale specifically on Gertie’s fabric line and I think I ended up getting the fabric for around $6 a yard. Far more reasonable.

The only issue I have with this fabric (other than cost) is the 43″ width. This is something I’ve come across time and again, particularly at Joann’s. Am I the only person losing it with the fact that fabric manufacturers don’t account for the fact that EVERY pattern gives cutting layouts and fabric requirements for 45″ and 60″ fabrics as standard? Why on earth would you make a 43″ fabric? Please do enlighten me if you know. Normally it isn’t too much of an issue but it caused me such problems with this pattern. Every piece of the pattern, except for the two cumberbund/cummerbund pieces, had to be cut on the crosswise grain. Manipulating the fabric to account for this, plus cutting on the fold where I had to, I ended up dramatically short on fabric – despite the fact that I had originally purchased 1/2 yard extra than required to account for any issues. I had to go back and buy an extra yard (not on sale) which obviously cost me an additional $16.99. Since I’m working with the circle skirt version of the pattern, every inch of fabric is absolutely necessary. I was finding that I couldn’t follow the cutting layout on the pattern because two pattern pieces wouldn’t fit on the width of the fabric – being 2″ shorter than the standard 45″. I recognise that this has turned into a massive rant but I’m seriously baffled as to why fabric that sells in a nation-wide chain wouldn’t be standard size?

Anyway, moving on from that outburst. I really am seriously in love with the fabric itself. The blue is so gorgeous – the photo doesn’t do it justice. I’m about half-way through the make and it looks so wonderful. I think that this is going to be a truly fabulous dress! The pattern is one that I got free with a magazine ages ago. I wanted to go with a 1960s pattern that offered the standard silhouette but also looked different from anything I’ve made before. The bodice and sleeves are definitely a departure from my previous makes, so we’ll see how it turns out!

Aside from the 1960s dress, I also have plans for a couple of other fabrics that I’ve picked up over the past few weeks. Although obviously not keeping with the vintage theme, I couldn’t resist this Beauty and the Beast stained glass fabric. I’ve seen it floating around on Instagram for a while and have been desperately in love with it. So I picked up a few yards for myself and am still debating on what to do with it.

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Isn’t it sweet? I’m thinking potentially another Sew Over It Betty dress? But I’m worried that it would look too busy. My default with any heavily patterned or busy fabric is to set it aside to become a circle skirt. But I have about 4 yards of this fabric and I’m really not sure what to do with it. I want to stick to vintage-style patterns so, if you have any suggestions, let me know!

I’m also planning another 1960s make for the brocade fabric that I picked up as a back-up for my Cocktail Hour dress. It’s super cute!

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As much as I love it, I might wait a while to grapple with this one. If you read about my Cocktail Hour adventures, you’ll know that working with the brocade was a total nightmare. It frayed like nothing else. This 1960s-style fabric is beautiful but already fraying all over the place. I think I need to get a couple of other (nice and east cotton-based) projects out of the way before I decide to brave the brocade again!

So that’s most of the news regarding my ongoing/upcoming projects. I am also working on a big super-secret side project that I’ll be chatting to you about within the next month or so. In the meantime, I have a variety of plans for Sew for Victory. As well as the usual posts on my makes (as they occur) and some new My Vintage Life posts, I’ll be publishing another Sewing for Self-Care post. My last post seemed to create a lot of interest and I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks reflecting on your comments. Since it’s a topic that’s very close to my heart, I have a lot more to say about it. So watch out for that. I’ll be back on Friday with a new installment of My Vintage Life.

Until then, have a fabulous week. And Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers!

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The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour: My Make

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After many months of waiting, my Cocktail Hour make is finally here! I’ve posted before about the fantastic selection of patterns on offer and I honestly had the hardest time picking out my choice. But I finally settled on the gorgeous V8997 and boy did it deliver a beautiful dress…

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In the interests of full disclosure, I’m not a drinker. My martini glass has tap water in it. It was also 10am when I took these photos so it’s just good sense.

When I was looking through the patterns on offer, I knew that I wanted to make a dress where the base pattern wasn’t inherently formal. I wanted a pattern that could work just as well as an everyday dress. That way, I figured I could have some extra fun hunting for a fabric that would take the dress to Cocktail Hour level. V8997 comes with six versions – all super different and perfectly suitable for a variety of occasions. I went with Version A because I loved the romantic sleeves and the floaty skirt. However, there are several options for a fitted skirt, as well as both sleeveless and long-sleeved variations.

I made the dress using a black brocade fabric and it was an absolute nightmare. I’ve never worked with a fabric that has frayed so dramatically and so quickly. Without my serger, I’m not sure that the dress would’ve survived. Fortunately, now that it’s finished, I’m incredibly glad that I decided to persevere with the fabric I picked out. I knew that it would perfectly elevate the pattern – a pattern that would work well in so many different kinds of fabrics, depending on where you intend to wear it – to a Cocktail Hour make.

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Now that I look back at it, there’s actually something super witchy about the fabric. Which just makes it all the better because the stars are the real selling point.

Of the pattern’s various features, the sleeves are absolutely one of my favourites. I was concerned that the thickness of the brocade meant that both the sleeves and the skirt would lose some of their shape but the fabric ended up working perfectly. I think this type of sleeve is a wonderful option for anyone looking to make a more formal dress whilst hesitant to go sleeveless. I always like a bit of coverage because I get cold super easily. I also think that, compared to the other versions of V8997, the fullness of the sleeves works incredibly well with the wide, deep neckline.

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I absolutely love the neckline on this pattern. Firstly because V8997 comes with a choice of cup size when cutting out the bodice. This is such a rarity and takes a whole lot of the effort away from the sewist when attempting to properly size the chest. Although I rarely have to adjust the fit of the bust on garments, I find it a really annoying oversight when patterns take no account of bust-fullness. The fact that V8997 offers cup variations was so exciting for this reason. I also just love the deep V on the front and back of the dress. The V is low enough to help the shape of the sleeves and skirt pop, but still high enough that you don’t have to worry about any inappropriate flashing (versus appropriate flashing which is, of course, fine when consensual).

The width of the neckline helps to balance out all of these proportions and is, to me, one of the features of the pattern that makes it so appropriate for more sophisticated settings. I won’t lie, it’s a pain finding a bra that works with this. My strapless bra didn’t fill out the bust of the dress properly so I ended up just wearing a normal one and pushing my straps to the very edge of my shoulders. This obviously wouldn’t be very feasible when wearing the dress out and about. So I would certainly suggest that, if you’re planning on making this pattern, you account for underwear choices. Finding a strapless bra that works and fitting the dress around it would probably be the best path (if you have a lot more forethought than I did).

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Now all of this is very well and good, of course. But what you’re asking at the back of your mind is what we’re all asking whenever we look at a new dress/skirt pattern – ‘Where are the POCKETS?’ As if this dress couldn’t get any better, I get to tell you that V8997 does actually include pockets!! I had an internal debate for all of 5 seconds about how appropriate pockets would be in a Cocktail Hour setting before I decided that, honestly, women suffer from a terrible lack of pockets in their clothes. Who am I to miss a chance for more pockets when they’re offered to me? Plus, you never know when the opportunity might present itself to sneak some extra canapés away with you.

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Moving on from the various features of the dress, I want to highlight the simplicity of constructing this pattern. It’s labelled a ‘Vogue Easy Options’ pattern and, although I wouldn’t say this dress is necessarily right for an absolute beginner, it’s certainly a stress-free make. The dress itself is fully lined and, as many of you know, I genuinely despise lining garments. Every time I try to do it, I face a million problems. But lining V8997 went surprisingly smoothly. Had this pattern been my first experience with lining, I probably wouldn’t have the massive aversion to lining that I currently do.

I ended up leaving the lining of the skirt unattached at the hem because I liked having it hang as more of an underskirt in order to give the dress a bit of added volume. Obviously this completely depends on personal choice. But I think finding a way to volumise the skirt a little is perfect if you choose the Version A sleeves. I really appreciate the way that the shape of the skirt and the sleeves is so similar in this version of the pattern and leaving the lining loose on the skirt was perfect for really helping these parts of the dress mirror one another.

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So there we have it! It’s been such a pleasure taking part in The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour. As with the Big Vintage Sew-Along, proceeds from the patterns in the Cocktail Hour selection go to The Eve Appeal. This charity raises awareness of and funds research into the five gynaecological cancers. I think we can all agree that this is an incredibly worthy cause. So please be sure to take a look at the patterns on offer and make a purchase to back this fantastic organisation. You can also take a peak at the choices of the other fabulous bloggers who have taken part, which is a wonderful way of getting some extra inspiration. Make sure to post some photos of your makes and use #sipandsew so that everyone can enjoy your beautiful garments!

 

Vintage Sewing Treasures: Notions Galore!

As you probably know, I have a total obsession with hunting out the best antique and vintage shops in an effort to lay my hands on some perfect sewing-related finds. I’ve found these escapades much easier to arrange since I moved to the US, where an antiques mall is never far away and typically stocked with vintage sewing patterns and notions.

On a recent trip to my all-time favourite antiques mall – the Antique Mall of Creve Coeur – I scored some of the most incredible bargains. The beauty of antiques malls (at least, the ones I’ve been to) is that they host booths from a variety of antiques dealers – all of whom specialise in different things. I’ve yet to walk into one where I haven’t found a selection of vintage sewing patterns and other sewing goodies on offer. And the Antique Mall of Creve Coeur is always incredibly well stocked with more notions than I could ever need.

I wanted to share my latest haul with you. I actually got all of these bits a couple of months back but it’s taken me forever to get around to writing a post as I’m working my way through a backlog of posts and projects (blame a mischievous pup who demands most of my attention)! Anyway, on to notions, notions, notions!

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All of this for about $10! While I typically find that vintage sewing patterns can get super expensive (usually depending on how old they are), hunting for vintage notions is an easy way to indulge your love of all things vintage while making sure that your bank account stays reasonably intact. Shopping for vintage notions is where antiques malls come in particularly handy. Since there are a number of sellers, it is easy to locate booths where prices are low.

One of the other great things about visiting antiques shops is that they often offer opportunities to buy in bulk…

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This jar must contain at least 40 lots of bias tape, elastic, and lace. And all for about $8! This seller had another jar of the same size containing assorted buttons and belt buckles. I was super tempted but, in the end, thought I would be much less likely to use them. I have a button obsession but I couldn’t see myself finding a use for mismatched buttons. Unless maybe I just start my own vintage button collection!

Some of the cutest bits from this bargain jar…

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Vintage packaging is honestly one of my favourite things. Am I the only one who feels this way?!

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Anything floral is a bonus!

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And so much lace! I have no idea what I’ll do with this. Sewing lace onto garments is something that I’ve yet to do.

As you’ll have seen from the first photo, I also got myself a few packs of vintage buttons. Here’s a close-up of those beauties:

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I’m not sure what projects these will go towards. The buttons on the far left would obviously be super appropriate for a coat, so I’ll probably save them for whenever I’m feeling ambitious enough to get into coat-making! I tried to keep my button selections relatively neutral so that I’ll have plenty of options when it comes to actually using them. For now, though, they’ll sit in my collection and look pretty!

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I also picked up this pack of needles. I’m pretty sure that these won’t ever actually be used but the pack was about 50 cents and, as I mentioned earlier, I am a serious sucker for vintage packaging. When I saw the ‘war economy pack’ note on the back, I couldn’t resist! There’s something about vintage items like this that really makes me feel that I’m holding onto a piece of history. I’m sure this intersection with history is what make most of us vintage lovers develop a love of vintage in the first place.

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Some hooks and eyes! Again, in large part because I couldn’t resist the packaging. But I’m sure that these will actually have some serious utility.

And, finally…

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This fabulous hat pin. I’ve actually got a growing collection of vintage hats, some of which have a really hard time staying in place. I’ve been on the look out for a hat pin for a while and this one was a steal at $1. The fleur de lis design is particularly classic. I’d really like to grow my hat pin collection so fingers crossed that future antique hunts will turn up some more!

So that’s it! $10 and many vintage notions later. I massively recommend paying a visit to some local antiques shops if you’re on the look out for sewing patterns, fabric, or notions.  Alternatively, there are great places online – I love Etsy! – that also stock these kinds of items. If you have any alternative recommendations, be sure to pop them in the comments. I’m continuously on the lookout for new places to shop for my favourite sewing goodies! And, if you’re ever Missouri way, be sure to send me a note so we can go antiques shopping together!

Getting Creative With Your Clothes

First of all, thank you for all of the comments on my last post. I was so happy to read that so many of you find sewing to be such a help. I’m a real believer in the fact that any activity can be turned into an opportunity to practice self-care. Even something as simple as brushing your teeth can be a chance for some mindfulness meditation. So it’s no wonder that something as creative and involved as sewing can provide such a wonderful avenue for managing our day-to-day struggles. Sewing gives us boundless opportunities to pour ourselves into creating beautiful clothes. And there is so much that we can do give them that extra special edge.

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about learning to sew has been the ability to make my clothes a truly individual creation. When I’m working with any pattern, one of the first things I do is try to come up with ways that I can make the garment totally personal to me. This extra level of creativity is, to me, one of the most important ways in which I connect to sewing as an activity that really lifts me out of the doldrums. And over the course of the past two years, I’ve come up with a few go-to ways to add that extra bit of quirkiness to my makes. In the name of both creativity and self-care, I wanted to share some of them with you today. So here is a list of my favourite ways to get super creative with my makes:

1. Highlight Shapes and Break Up Busyness with Piping

My first foray into piping was for the Big Vintage Sew-Along last year. I’d never thought about using piping before but the shape of my chosen pattern was just screaming for something additional.

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The dress’ front panels are perhaps the most interesting thing about the garment. To make the whole thing in one fabric would essentially hide this detail. Sewing some piping into these front panels ensured that the shape was one the first things you notice when looking at the dress. Plus it gave me an opportunity to really develop my colour palette. I was keen to replicate the sailor-esque colours that were so popular during the 1930s. Paired with the white buttons and blue crepe fabric, the red piping really hammered home the authentic 1930s look that I was shooting for.

Piping is also a super effective way to get creative when trying simply to break up a busy garment. I had this problem when I was sewing up the Simplicity 1221 vintage apron. I had chosen a really beautiful fabric that I was super keen to use. I also knew that I wanted to make the version of the apron that had big ruffles attached to the sleeves. All-in-all this promised to turn out an overly busy creation where the details were lost to the distracting fabric.

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The way that I contended with this was a return to my trusty piping method! I attached some white piping in between the front panel and the ruffled straps. This super simple addition served to give the eye a bit of a break from the dots, flowers, and strawberries.

Piping is definitely one of my favourite methods for really getting creative with patterns. It’s simple to do and always looks super effective. Not to mention, everyone will be super impressed with your skills!

2. Choose an Extra Interesting Lining

I honestly hate attaching lining so much. It really is the worst thing. I’m working with lining on my Cocktail Hour project and it is seriously horrible. Somehow I always have issues getting the lining to match up with the shell fabric correctly. Just about the only time it has gone right for me was with the Beignet Skirt. This skirt was one of my first makes, inspired solely by the fabulous fabric I found to use as the lining.

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I discovered this William Morris fabric in my local fabric shop while I was living in Colchester, and I was honestly blown away by it. Looking at it, I knew that it would be too busy as an actual garment (although I’m sure there are a lot of people who could actually pull it off!). But as a lining, how perfect! I remember posting this make and getting comments about why I would hide away such a fabulous fabric. But, honestly, it never even occurred to me that I was hiding it. As far as I was concerned, I knew that it was there. And this extra secret detail was exactly the sort of thing that made sewing such a perfect creative outlet for me!

I’ve hoarded the remnants of this particular fabric ever since and recently used it on my Tyyni trousers as another cute hidden curiosity!

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So if you’re looking for a seriously easy way to give your garment that extra bit of quirkiness and you have lining or pocket opportunities, definitely think about fabric choice. It’s your chance to go a bit crazy and use that gorgeous fabric that you weren’t quite sure what to do with!

3. Experiment with Colour-Blocking

I’ve only just started working with the potentials of colour-blocking (and I’m not even sure that my approach really counts). When I picked up my amazing Harry Potter fabric, I was pretty well settled on having a go at making the Zadie dress from Tilly and the Buttons. One of the best things about this pattern is the neat use of shapes. As with the Big Vintage Sew-Along dress, I knew that the shape would get lost in using the same fabric for the whole garment. But, since the Zadie dress demands knit fabric, piping wouldn’t really be an option. So I set about finding a plain fabric that would complement my fabulous Harry Potter knit.

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This dress still isn’t finished due to various construction issues. But I love the black fabric against the mustard yellow. Once again, it stops the garment from looking too busy, while also drawing the eye to the shapes. Not to mention that it is yet another way to achieve that additional level of creativity with a pattern. There’s something incredibly satisfying about looking at a pattern and thinking up ways to make it even more interesting! I’d be super interested to see any examples you have of using colour-blocking. This is something that I’ve only just started to think about – and I do struggle a bit with knowing whether or not colours really fit together. So I’m always looking to you fabulous sewists for inspiration!

4. Work with Patches

This discovery was very much a happy accident. If you were following the blog back in spring, you’ll remember that I was working away on the muslin for my wedding dress. This project, more than any other, really honed my skills when it came to achieving perfect fit. Unfortunately, at the very end of the project (I was literally trimming down the back seam as a final step), I accidentally cut through the main fabric on the back of the dress. This left a massive hole right in the centre-back.

Needless to say, many tears and much sadness followed. But then a thought occurred to me. Why not just patch it?! Since it was a pre-wedding dress make in navy blue – with white polka dots – I figured that dotting some red heart patches around the dress would be a fabulously appropriate addition. I was honestly terrified that it would make the dress look super kitschy but it ended up working perfectly!

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I’ve become such an advocate of cute patches. And they were super easy to make. I simply drew some heart shapes onto paper (for a more complex shape, you might want to find a template online), attached them to the fabric and cut out the number I wanted. I attached iron-on interfacing to them in order to stop fraying and then top-stitched them onto the dress. The whole process took me about an hour and I honestly couldn’t imagine the dress without them!

I haven’t seen a lot of use of patches out there. So, once again, let me know if you’ve used any in the past. One of the great things about using patches is that there are so many available to buy online! The hardest part is deciding where they might be appropriate to use. So if you have any inspiration to provide, please send it my way!


So there we go. Some quick and (relatively easy) tips for kickstarting your creativity. For me, this goes hand-in-hand with last week’s post about sewing for self-care. While making the pattern as written is still a super joyful process, I honestly get most involved in finding ways to add a truly personal touch to my makes. Not only is it the perfect method for developing your sewing skills, it is also a great reminder of how fantastically creative you are. Happy accident or purposeful decision, be brave and take a chance!

If you have any of your own tips to share, please leave a comment or send me an email. I’m always looking for new techniques to try out!

 

Sewing for Self-Care

Most long-time readers of Sew for Victory will know that I came to sewing during a battle with severe anxiety. At the time, I was stuck in a state of permanent physical panic and was working to find a solution that lay outside of a doctor’s office. Although sewing was by no means a cure, it took me out of my head and let me put all of my issues on pause for a brief period of time. Since then, things have really turned around for me. While I never count myself totally free and clear, I now have a whole toolkit of self-care techniques that keep me in check.

That said, it’s inevitable that new battles emerge. I mentioned in my post on Monday that I’ve been on a bit of a blog hiatus while I’ve been dealing with a bad bout of homesickness. It’s been about 5 months since I moved to the US and it’s definitely not been the easiest transition in the world. Anyone who has moved country knows that it comes replete with challenges. Since I’ve lived in the US before – albeit for brief periods of time – and I was also going to be moving closer to my parents – who are English but have lived in the US for about 12 years – I figured it would be super easy. Not to mention that I was actually going to be back with my then-fiance and finally able to get married. But I’ve learnt that none of this is a guard against missing what you’re used to.

My instinct when I feel down is always to wrap myself up on the sofa and binge on some reality TV. But I know, after many years of figuring this stuff out, that this rarely works to turn things around. So, after letting myself mope for a couple of weeks, I’m back on my self-care game with a vengeance. And, in light of what I’ve been going through recently, I wanted to share my tips for using sewing as a method of self-care!

*An important side-note: sewing is definitely not a cure for mental illness. I got better through a whole range of things, including help from doctors and therapists. But, for me, the holistic approach always works best. Sewing is a huge component of how I maintain my happiness and positivity and I definitely recommend creative endeavours to anyone struggling. But I absolutely see this as a companion to other kinds of intervention. Please make sure to pay a visit to your doctor or call a helpline if you are in a bad way.*

  1. Pick a project that works for you

It’s important that, when you’re sewing during a difficult time, you have a plan. Since my mind is typically all over the place when I’m feeling down, it’s especially difficult to focus. The beauty of sewing is that its very nature demands your attention. So, before you sit down at your sewing table, make sure you know what it is that you’re going to be working on. Otherwise there’s a good chance that you’ll spend the next 30 minutes staring into space whilst you try to decide what your next project will be, ultimately leaving you frustrated and feeling a bit like you’ve failed.

In order to help with this, I have a designated monthly page in my bullet journal where I plan out my projects for the month. Although I might not get around to all of them, it gives me a clear vision of what I have lined up. For each project, I then break down into bullet points the specific things I need to work on. For instance: cut pattern pieces; cut fabric pieces; construction; seam finishes. This list can really get as detailed as you want it to. Have a look at the photo further down in my post to see how this looks in practice (*disclaimer: I am artistically challenged*).

I’ve found that keeping track of projects in my bullet journal is a really helpful way of avoiding the inevitable fuzzy-brain that accompanies anxiety, depression, stress, homesickness etc. I tend to set up my sewing page a couple of weeks in advance each month so that I can develop my plans on a rolling basis, when I’m in a good frame of mind. This gives you the flexibility of avoiding making these decisions when your mind isn’t in the best place. And it gives you a super accessible and well thought out reference point for when you’re feeling down but know that you want to sew.

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2.  Set aside some time, daily

Now, this may not work for everyone. I have the luxury of flexibility when it comes to structuring and planning my day. But some people have other obligations that might keep them from designating daily sewing time, or they might just have a whole list of self-care techniques that they choose to mix and match. However, when I’m feeling at my lowest, it’s helpful for me to commit to sewing as a daily activity. This means that, even if I only spend 5 minutes at my sewing table, I’m actively carving out time to focus on something that I love to do.

For me, the best strategy is not telling myself that I must be chained to my sewing room for a pre-allocated amount of time. I don’t force myself to sit for an hour, or even 15 minutes. Instead, I simply commit to sitting at my sewing table on a daily basis and seeing where it takes me. Most of the time, I expect to give up within a couple of minutes. But, more often than not, I get quickly engaged in the activity and end up sitting there for  well over an hour.

Since most of us, when we feel down, end up stuck in a cycle of lethargy and guilt, finding something to commit to daily is a super important step. Sometimes this commitment will be something as seemingly small as getting dressed in the morning, or making sure that you eat three meals. I’ve had days where these things are a massive victory. Investing in a creative project is a demanding thing and sometimes you won’t quite be up to the task. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge what’s achievable for you.

3.  Acknowledge what you’ve achieved

This follows on from what I said above and also relates back to bullet journaling. It is absolutely vital that you find some way of keeping track of what you’re achieving. My bullet journal is one component of this because it allows me to check things off of my list. The act of doing this is incredibly satisfying. But it’s vital that you also keep a daily log of what you’ve done, where you’re actively noting what you’ve achieved. This can be as simple as writing down ‘I sat for 5 minutes and planned out my projects for November’, or ‘I finally started to attach the sleeves to my top’, or ‘I actually got around to changing the threads in my serger. It was a nightmare’. Just making a note of these things, however seemingly small, is so important. It promotes a feeling of accomplishment and success – which we all need on a rolling basis, but is particularly necessary when we’re feeling blue. I also find it helps to note down how I’m feeling about what I’ve done. Maybe getting myself to sit down at my sewing machine was super hard that day or maybe I feel particularly triumphant. This all provides a great record of your progress and your achievements.

You could make a project of this record, as I’ve done with keeping my bullet journal (although sewing is just one small component of what goes into my journal). You might even use a blog or social media – such as Instagram – to keep track of things. There are definitely ways to make this into a larger and more involved hobby, which can be incredibly rewarding in itself.

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4.  Share, share, share

Since I’ve been dealing with a particularly acute bout of homesickness, one of the best remedies has been renewing my connection with the sewing community. I’m very lucky in that I already have this blog on the go and a community through social media. But it’s easy to have these things and still feel isolated. Sharing your creativity with others should be an active and engaging process. Read other blogs, comment on people’s photos, share your experiences. Each of these things will make you feel a part of something bigger and you’ll find that you end up attracting people with similar tastes and experiences. I posted on Instagram earlier in the week and mentioned that I’d been feeling homesick. I got some wonderful comments and messages from people, offering support and telling me about their own experiences. This was incredibly comforting and, given that I’m in a new country with a very limited network of people, made me feel far less alone.

Sharing your crafts will also help to reaffirm what you’re achieving. As I mentioned above, it’s important that you’re able to document what you’re doing so that you can recognise your accomplishments. Doing this online – or even by starting a Meetup group or attending a sewing class – is a fabulous way of keeping a record whilst also finding inspiration from others around you, and reminding you that you are part of a community of like-minded people.

5.  Find inspiration

It is vital to stay inspired. Inspiration is really at the heart of finding the motivation to sew and share what you are doing. It can be incredibly difficult to feel inspired when you’re struggling with other things and your mind is everywhere but on your sewing. To make sure that I stay inspired, I do a few different things. The first, and most important, is that I constantly check in with what other people are doing. I keep an eye on my Instagram, read other blogs, and generally look out for makes that might inspire my own creative instincts. This doesn’t always work. Sometimes I’m in a bad place and the last thing I want to do is be reminded of all those things that other people are achieving. It’s not always the healthiest thing to look to other people when you know that you’re going to be inclined to compare yourself negatively (trust me, I’ve been there!). In these instances, I keep a cache of photos on my computer and various bits of inspiration on my notice board in my sewing room. I’ve curated these as time has gone on to reflect the different kinds of inspiration that I usually need in order to get my creative juices flowing. Another great resource for this kind of thing is Pinterest. Although I’ve fallen off of the wagon a bit, I used to use it a lot as a place to store all of those pics and patterns that sparked my interest.

However you do it, make sure that you find a way to stay inspired through the dark times. Scrapbook, blog, use Pinterest, glue pictures all over your walls (unless you’re a renter like me, of course). Inspiration is perhaps the most important resource for ensuring that sewing remains a positive self-care technique.

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So there you go. My tips for self-care through sewing. If you’ve used sewing for similar reasons, definitely let me know if you have any of your own tips to add. Obviously all of this is based on personal experience, but I’m sure many of us share the opinion that sewing can be a powerful tool in difficult times. If you’re going through it right now, remember that everything really does pass and, before you know it, you’ll be in from the cold.

The Cocktail Hour: An Update

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You might remember that, at the start of the year, I announced that I would be participating in The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour! Well, many months later, my reveal is actually approaching! I’ll be posting on 17th November about my finished dress – and finally showing you all the pattern that I’ve been working with.

Thankfully, my Cocktail Hour project has been just the motivation I needed to kick-start my sewing again. After the endless disasters of the Zadie dress (which is still not finished because of various construction issues), I’ve been having a seriously hard time getting myself to sit back down at my machine. But I finally took myself out fabric shopping in the hopes that I would find just the right fabric to get me moving again! So here’s a little fabric teaser for the dress that you’ll be seeing here in a couple of weeks…

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Stars for days! Cocktail Hour appropriate, while still sufficiently Laura! This gem was picked up from Joann’s and, although the fraying is already a pain, I’m super happy with this fabric choice. I can’t wait to see how the finished dress turns out.

If you’re feeling in the mood for a challenge or need a bit of sewspiration, definitely check out the great collection of Cocktail Hour patterns. It’s an amazing selection and the proceeds from sales of the patterns are going to The Eve Appeal – so you’re also helping out an incredibly worthy cause! Here are some of my favourites:

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If you decide to participate (which you absolutely should!), make sure to post your makes with #sipandsew so that we can all see them. And stay tuned on 17th November to see my make!

Guest Post: 13 Basic Sewing Machine Maintenance Tips

A special treat today! The lovely Annabelle, who blogs over at Wunderlabel, has written a fantastic post about maintaining your sewing machine. I’m seriously the worst when it comes to sewing machine maintenance (in that I don’t do any) so I was super excited to learn some tips. This post is an excellent starting point for anyone who – like me – doesn’t have the first idea when it comes to maintaining their precious machine.

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Have you ever noticed that when if you don’t get a regular oil change on your car it seems to run differently?

You might not pay as much attention to it as I do…

But, I have noticed that right after I get my oil changed, it seems like my car is brand new again. It is almost like I have just given it a bath or fed it a good meal.

Well, your sewing machine is the same way…

As a seamstress or even just the part-time sewer, your sewing machine gets used quite often. It makes pillow cases, dresses, blankets, and various other crafts you design. So, it is important to keep your machine well-oiled and clean to ensure maximum efficiency. A dirty machine can lead to issues with your craft and also issues with the machine – which can be time-consuming and costly.

In addition, a dirty and not properly maintained sewing machine can lead to issues with sewing safety – you might poke yourself with a bad needle or something of the like. However, by practicing some proper maintenance steps, you will be on your way to a clean machine:

1. Read your owner’s manual

The first thing you should do when you get your sewing machine is read your manual…

But, you should keep this on hand so that you can also pull it back out when you go to clean or service the machine.

It might note the best ways to clean your specific machine or anything you need to know to avoid.
 

2. Always start by turning the machine off

Once you have reviewed your manual and are prepared to get the cleaning process started, turn your machine off.

This will help avoid any mishaps or injury during the cleaning.

During this time, you should also remove the extension table (if necessary) and take out your bobbin.
 

3. Use different brushes for different tasks

Just like one-size-fits-all doesn’t work in clothing, one-brush-fits-all doesn’t apply to cleaning your sewing machine…

Different parts of the machine need the attention of different brushes.

Tip: Use a stiff brush for removing lint and fuzz, such as around the feed dogs. Use a soft brush for picking up the stray pieces.
 

4. Oil your machine

Nothing works better than a well-oiled machine…

There are a lot of moving parts in a sewing machine that need to be lubricated to keep them running smoother and longer.

Invest in a good quality sewing machine oil – typically it will be clear and very fine.
 

5. Double check your oiling job

Once you have completed the oiling of your machine, it is time to ensure you have done the job correctly…

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a little oil might still be lingering inside. So, simply sew a bit on a piece of scrap fabric to make sure everything is working smoothly and no excess oil is dripping down.
 

6. Avoid using canned air

The debate on whether or not to use canned air on your sewing machine continues…

But, I say don’t.

Using the canned air can add moisture to the sewing machine and only create more clumps of lint, which in turn, can clog up the machine.

Instead, use the various brush types I discussed in tip No. 3.
 

7. Clean the inside thoroughly

Do you remember when your mom asked you to clean your room as a child and you would just throw everything in the closet?

Well, throw that mentality out the door when it comes to cleaning your sewing machine.

It is important that you carefully address each and every part – from the feed dogs to the bobbin area to the needle plate.

8. Inspect the needle plate

Sometimes, the needle plate can get some nicks or burrs – this needs to be smoothed out. So, before you put your needle plate back, check it and smooth out any nicks or burrs you find with an emery cloth.
 

9. Clean the outside, too

While the inside of your machine is important, the outside deserves just as much attention. Start by cleaning the outside of the machine and work your way inside to avoid knocking any more dirt or grime into the machine.
 

10. Use high-quality needle and thread

Of course, half of the proper maintenance of your sewing machine is cleaning it properly.

But, the other half starts with using quality thread and needles to avoid any issues.

The low-quality thread is linty; therefore, it can get caught up in the machine and cause it to get dirty. Even some waxed and glazed thread can be bad for your machine.

Visit a sewing shop near you – they will know the best type of thread for your machine.
 

11. Use your cover 

One of the easiest ways to maintain your machine is to keep it covered when not in use. This will help avoid damage to the outside and help keep dust and other particles off.
 

12. Regularly change needles 

After hours of sewing, needles can become dull and might even become damaged. This can negatively affect your project and even damage your sewing machine.

Always ensure that all your equipment is in tip-top shape!
 

13. Ask a professional

In the end, it is all about who you know…

And, occasionally, you should know of a good, quality professional who can clean your sewing machine for you about once per year.

Typically, there is a tech who specializes in the cleaning of your specific machine.

 

While it might take some work on cleaning day, a properly maintained sewing machine works much better. Therefore, helping you create several high-quality, crafty pieces for years to come!

How often do you clean your sewing machine? Let us know in the comments!

 

About the author: Annabelle Short is a writer and a seamstress of more than 5 years. She loves making crafts with her two children, Leo (age 9) and Michelle (age 11). Annabelle likes to write about business, crafting and sewing, and parenting. She splits her time between London and Los Angeles and writes for Wunderlabel. You can visit her blog to learn more about her and her handmade creations.

 

 

Introducing My New Sewing Buddy!

If you’re wondering why I’ve disappeared for the past couple of weeks, here’s the (very fluffy) reason:

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Please ignore the drool on the floor!

This is Miss Elizabeth Bennet (guess who named her) – our sweet new puppy! She was a birthday present from my lovely husband and is a totally gorgeous addition to the family. With a new 8 month old bundle of mayhem, my attentions have obviously been away from the blog. But I’m training her to be the best kind of sewing buddy (as soon as she stops chewing everything in sight)!

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RIP Mr. Caterpillar. You survived for an incredible 40 minutes before decapitation.

Obviously this is not a dog blog, but I’m sure you won’t mind her featuring every so often. And I wanted to introduce her as the newest member of my Sew for Victory team! For those interested, she’s (according to the shelter) a Schnauzer-Dachsund mix. She was abandoned as a puppy, picked up by a pound in Tennessee at 4 months old, and brought to a shelter in Missouri 3 weeks ago. She’s had a tough life but fingers crossed everything will be incredible for her from here on out.

Anyway, enjoy some of the (many) photos of little Miss Lizzy and I’ll see you later in the week with some actual sewing-related content!

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Laura’s Fabric Joy!

I’ve been having the best luck recently when it comes to fabric buying. Since leaving England meant saying goodbye to most of my haberdashery – and lots of other sewing goodies – I arrived in St. Louis massively understocked. Fortunately, I have the best husband in the world and, before I got to the US, he had set about getting replacements for all of the most important bits and pieces. But while I needed to make sure that I had a sewing machine ready to go on arrival, the process of rebuilding my fabric supply has been far more slow-and-steady.

I highly recommend fabric shopping to anyone trying to explore somewhere new. Of everything I’ve done to get myself acquainted with St. Louis, searching out off-the-beaten-track fabric shops (and by this I mean not Joann’s or Michael’s) has been an amazing way of discovering different parts of the city. That said, Joann’s has an incredible fabric supply and a constant stream of discounts so it’s also been an incredible resource. Since I’ve really lucked out recently when it comes to fabric finds, I thought I would share some of my favourites with you. These fabrics will be familiar to anyone who already follows my Instagram since I post updates there on an almost daily basis (it’s also worth heading over if you want to have a go at the amazing #sewphotohop challenge through the month of September and get to know some incredible crafters!). But otherwise, here are some pretty fabrics and details about where I found them!

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Just LOOK at this fabric. Genuine 1960s fabric that I totally lucked upon at the incredible The Future Antiques in St. Louis. I had actually visited The Future Antiques before a couple of years ago and picked up an amazing 1940s dress from their stunning collection of vintage clothing. Unfortunately, they’ve had a bit of an overhaul since then and their vintage clothes are no more. But I found a batch of vintage fabric in the back of their sale room – somewhat pricey but all marked down by 40%. I got 3 yards of this fabric for about $20 which felt like a steal to me. I’m thinking that this fabric obviously has to go towards a 1960s make and I’ve been browsing through Love at First Stitch from Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons for the perfect pattern. Still thinking it over though!

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I still can’t get over the beauty of this cotton. I’ve been totally enamoured since the moment I spotted it. This gem is from an incredible fabric store called The Quilted Fox in Frontenac, MO. They have an amazing range of Australian and African fabrics – this ‘Spiritual Women’ piece is from their Australian collection. I think it’s seriously the most beautiful fabric I’ve ever seen and I’m so excited to use it, although simultaneously too scared to commit to anything. Fingers crossed I’ll settle on a pattern eventually. In the meantime, I’m just enjoying gazing at it periodically!

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So technically not a product of my St. Louis fabric search but a delicious find nonetheless. This beautiful viscose fabric came to me from ‘Til The Sun Goes Down as part of my winnings from #vpjuly on Instagram. I totally lucked out and won a £30 spend on the online shop so bought 3 yards of this beautiful ‘Birds on Turquoise’ fabric and seven 1940s basket weave buttons. If you’re looking for some genuine vintage fabric/notions or fabric that has every appearance of being genuine vintage, definitely head over to the shop. Not only was it all super reasonably priced but these goodies got all the way to Missouri from the UK in a matter of days!

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Again not a US find but too wonderful not to share. This stunning fabric was brought home to me from India by my lovely Mum. She travels there a lot for work and used her most recent trip to do a bit of fabric hunting for me! It has a border print so I’ve been umming-and-ahhing over what to put it to but I think I’ve finally settled on the Vintage Shirt Dress from Sew Over It. I’ve had this pattern for ages but never found the right fabric for the job. I can see this Indian print totally working so I think I might mission on with it in the hopes of catching the last bits of summer in the dress!

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The last fabric/notions haul is from the accessible-to-everyone (in the US) Joann’s. I’m not huge on getting my fabric from such large chain stores, simply because I like everything I make to be as unique as possible. But Joann’s have such a wonderful and diverse collection of fabrics that it’s tough not to be pulled in. I found this adorable glittery bicycles fabric in their discount fabric section and took what remained of it. I think I got 3.5 yards for about $15, which is a definite steal. I also had my first forage through their buttons and OH MY GOODNESS they have some amazing ones. Hedgehogs, foxes, and a ridiculous number of Disney buttons. Of course, when I saw the Disney ones I couldn’t stop myself. I have absolutely no idea what these will get used for but they’re currently pinned on my noticeboard for me to admire every time I’m in my sewing room. I just can’t help it.

Anyway, that’s just about it for now. I hope you like these fabrics as much as I do! They’re all still waiting for projects because I am so indecisive. The more I love a fabric, the more difficult it becomes to actually commit to using it. Hopefully it won’t be another year before you see any of these fabrics on a finished garment!

Oh and Happy Labour Day to all of my US readers. I hope you’re enjoying some beautiful weather and an extra day of summery fun!

My Sewing Room: A Tour

Unless this is your first time reading Sew for Victory (in which case, hello and a massive welcome to you!), you’ll know that I only recently moved to the US and in to a new apartment. After many months of the nomadic lifestyle, I’m finally settled in one place and have actually managed to set up a permanent home for my sewing projects. It’s amazing how much it has transformed my motivation to sew. Big tip – if you feel yourself losing that precious sewjo, it is always a great idea to revamp your sewing space. However big or small the changes (and however big or small the space) some adjustments can make it a far more attractive place to be. Paint your table a new colour, add some inspirational pictures to the wall, find a new storage system – there are so many quick and inexpensive things that you can do. If you have any particular tips, feel free to share in the comments!

Now that everything’s finally in its place, I thought I would share some pics and details with you all. I hope that you enjoy!

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The table (a LINNMON/FINNVARD combination) and chair (a VAGSBERG/SPORREN combination) are from IKEA, of course! A wedding present from my lovely brother and his girlfriend. The table I picked was their longest variation – I had some concerns that it would look far too long but it actually allows plenty of space for my sewing machine and serger, as well as lots of room either side for my cutting mat and other bits. It also makes for a great cutting table, given the length. I’m honestly so happy with it. And the chair’s surprisingly comfy, too!

There is also just so much natural light that I barely have to use my overhead light (unless it’s dark, of course). Such an advantage of the apartment’s massive windows.

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Since we rent, I can’t actually paint any of the walls. So I’ve compromised by decorating with my favourite inspirational pieces and some pretty stickers. The noticeboard has also come in super handy as somewhere to hang postcards and my favourite packs of buttons. I’ve been using some heart pins that I got from Joann’s to stick things on the board and they’re working super well. Plus they’re incredibly cute!

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The parts of my sewing library that I use pretty regularly are on my windowsill. I also have some bits and pieces (mostly older books and magazines that I want to protect from sunlight) in my massive cupboard.

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Side note: a regular book holder (I got mine for about £2 on Amazon in the UK) is AMAZING for patterns. I love being able to have my pattern propped up and so accessible. It’s far easier to use than having it lying flat on the table, since you can actually read it and sew at the same time. If your pattern instructions are in a book, it works even better! Honestly one of the best investments I’ve made.

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I bought a cheap stand-alone clothing rail for hanging my me-made clothes. I found the lack of a designated rail such a problem in my previous sewing spaces. I would hang everything in the wardrobe and, since I’m constantly making alterations and changes on things, I found that I was constantly having to go back and forth to the bedroom to pull garments. With the clothing rail, I have all of my clothes and ongoing projects in one place. I also have a built-in rail inside my sewing room cupboard, which I use for hanging non-me-made clothes that are in my alteration or fixing pile.

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One of the biggest selling points of this apartment for me was just how incredibly this room was suited to sewing. The cupboard, especially, was ideal storage. It came with a cork board already installed on the back of the door which I’ve been using to hang my threads and bobbins (the hooks are long enough that I can fit both the thread and its matching bobbin on there, which is a great way of keeping them together). Obviously my thread collection is being rebuilt since all of my notions had to stay in the UK, so there’s not much going on right now!

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I love love love this cupboard! The apartment itself is from the early 1900s and this cupboard totally speaks to that. It has steps built in and many shelves far above where I’m currently storing. There is just SO MUCH SPACE. At the moment, I’m working on rebuilding my fabric/notions collections so there’s still plenty of room. But I love that there is so much potential and it makes everything so easily accessible!

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So that’s about it! It’s been a journey to get to this place and my husband has been so incredibly understanding of my need to have a designated space for my sewing – in fact, he never questioned what this extra room would be used for! I’ve worked on my sewing in such an array of places – a dining room table, a narrow hallway, an annex. It is just such a luxury to have somewhere to go and sew without interruption.

I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to share my space with you. If you have links to any blog posts or photos of your own sewing area, definitely drop them in the comments. I always love to have a nose at other people’s spaces!