My Favourite Autumn Patterns!

It’s the last day of August and I’m already anticipating the autumn with determination. I love autumn, not least because it offers a break from the 40C weather I’ve been forced to endure for the past five months. Mostly, I adore the cosiness of the season – the hot drinks, blankets, books, and being able to layer my clothes. In fact, clothes play a really central role in why it is that I love the autumn so much. I always struggle to dress appropriately in summer. I’m not a big fan of shorts and skirts, unless I can throw on some thick tights or knee-length socks with them. I love cardigans and jumpers. Unfortunately, none of these things lend themselves to a summer in Missouri.

So, with true anticipation, I’ve been thinking hard about my favourite autumnal patterns. Some I’ve already made, some I hope to make for the first time! I thought I would share them with you, at least partly in the hope that it might motivate me back to my sewing machine.

Chataigne Shorts – Deer&Doe

I’m actually in the process of whipping up a version of these shorts, imitating as closely as possible the suede version shown in photos on the website. Although I’m using faux suede (#veganlife), I really wanted to copy the style that they’ve shown because it just feels super autumnal. I’m actually a big fan of tights under shorts – in fact, I’ve always worn shorts far more often in the autumn/winter than in the summer, so my version of the Chataigne shorts will definitely serve that look!

On a technical level, I also just love the design of these shorts. They have a unique pointed waistband which I just adore. The pleating on the front is another detail that I tend to search for whenever I’m looking for short patterns or buying shorts on the high street. So stick around for this because, fingers crossed, I should have some photos up in the next couple of weeks!

Vintage Shirt Dress – Sew Over It

This is a pattern that I’ve already worked with and loved. However, my version – very pastel and generally summery – is not super suited to the cooler months. The pattern was an absolute dream to work with and I’ve been determined to make a new version ever since I finished my last one.

The long sleeve option would make this pattern perfect for the start of autumn, when temperatures are cool enough to need coverage but not so cool that you need thick layers. I’m thinking that a more muted fabric – perhaps even a plain cotton – might work perfectly with a bright pair of tights or a hat. I’m always on a bit of a beret kick in the autumn so anything I can make work with that obsession is always super welcome.

Ginger Jeans – Closet Case Patterns

Another pattern with which I am well acquainted but planning out a new version. The pair of Ginger Jeans that I already have – navy denim with white anchors – will actually be pretty appropriate year-round. However, I’m in love with black jeans. I think they look so chic and, bonus, they match with just about everything. As we approach the autumn and some cooler weather, I’m excited to actually get some wear out of my trousers. They’ve been languishing in my wardrobe for months because it’s been far too hot (I know, I just can’t help complaining – but I’m English, very fair skinned, and just generally find this weather totally unreasonable).

If you’re looking for some new jeans for the autumn and fancy a bit of a challenge (although not the level of challenge that you might expect and fear), I definitely recommend the Ginger Jeans. They were my first experience with jean making and the process went off without a hitch. Super clear instructions, very simple steps, and just generally a good time!

Juliette Blouse – Sew Over It

One of my sewing goals for this year was to spend more time working on separates. So far, I’ve been doing a pretty good job on this. But my sights are set on a new make – the Juliette Blouse from Sew Over It. Since making the Lucia Top, I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with ruffles. Any top that gives me the opportunity to flaunt some frilly goodness is, in my view, worth the time it takes to make.

I’ve been on the hunt for some good blouse or shirt patterns that would work in colder weather. Particularly something that I can tuck into a skirt or jeans, that also fits easily under other layers. The Juliette Blouse seems to fit these requirements perfectly. That said, the layering would be vital with a blouse of this kind since it demands a very lightweight fabric. But, as I mentioned above, I love a cardigan – so really it’s just an excuse to add on even more layers!

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So those are four of my favourite autumnal patterns, all of which I’m planning to make (or, in some cases, remake) over the coming months. Do you have any favourite patterns for the autumn? Leave your recommendations below!

My First Minerva Crafts Post!

As I mentioned a little while ago, I’m now part of the Minerva Crafts Blog Team! This gives me the opportunity to pick out items to review – fabric, patterns etc. – and a chance to write about some really exciting sewing-related goodies.

This past month, I decided to work with some super cute fabric from Minerva Crafts – a gorgeous floral jersey fabric. I whipped up versions of Nina Lee’s new Effra Skirt and Moselle Top patterns from their Summer Essentials collection. So if you feel like giving that post a read and seeing some pics, click the link and head on over to the Minerva Crafts blog. Here’s a sneak peek of the fabric and my super cute makes…

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Sewing For Self-Care: Being Honest About My Struggle

It’s been a while, friends! In fact, this has probably been my longest blogging hiatus in over a year (which is saying something). Truthfully, this break was not simply a matter of life getting in the way – although I have been ridiculously busy. While I always strive to be as honest as possible on the blog – and my Sewing For Self-Care series was a way to integrate my struggles with my mental health into this – it’s not always easy. The past few months have been tough on me. I started working for the first time since I left my PhD programme, whilst also trying to accommodate increasing amounts of yoga into my schedule to gear up for teacher training. I’ve had a backlog of sewing projects to work through – some with deadlines – on top of dealing with some really severe homesickness. It’s hardly a surprise that I found myself back in the throes of panic attacks and pretty crippling stress.

Surprisingly, given the nature of these blog posts, I generally struggle to talk in detail about my mental health. I’m sure there’s an element of cultural conditioning in this – the whole ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality – as well as an awareness throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood of the stigma that still surrounds these sorts of conversations. Starting a conversation about self care on Sew For Victory was not only an effort to point to the remarkable impact of creative activities on mental health, it was also a place for me to learn how to have honest conversations regarding mental health and mental illness. Although I’m so passionate about the destigmatisation of conversations about mental health, practicing what we preach isn’t always as straightforward as advocating our passions.

When things started to go downhill for me again, I realised how much easier it is to share our stories once they’re behind us, rather than when we’re in the middle of them. After all, a story of conquest and victory sounds so much more appealing than one of struggling in quicksand when you’re casting yourself as the main character. Unfortunately, battles with mental illness are rarely simple plot lines – as inconvenient as that fact is when we’re trying to distill our experiences into something that sounds attractive to others. But this realisation is hard to come by.

Writing about mental health on a public forum adds an extra layer of complexity to this whole situation. Having introduced some incredible voices to the conversation, I felt more obliged than ever to stick to a narrative of having ‘survived’ and ‘come through’ my struggles with my mental health. After all, who would consider me a responsible host for the conversation about sewing and mental health if I was still knee-deep in the struggle? It took some time to realise that this idea of ‘obligation’ was one that I’d built up for myself. I don’t believe for a minute that any of the incredible bloggers that have written for the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series, or any of Sew For Victory‘s readers, would consider me obligated to any kind of standard.

So here’s the honest truth. I still struggle. Sometimes every day, sometimes every hour. I have panic attacks, I take medication, and sometimes sewing is the activity I’m least likely to turn to for any kind of relief. I cry, I hold myself to oftentimes impossible standards, and I see a therapist. Equally true, however, is the fact that I’m writing this post and that, despite having many moments of feeling that giving up might be the easiest option, I still have an incredible amount of hope. The internet offers us a forum to paint our lives as whatever we want them to be and whatever we wish they were. It’s easy to slip into the habit of creating a narrative for yourself that veers so far away from reality you feel ashamed and guilty when you look at the truth. My story with mental health isn’t one of conquest – although I achieve victories constantly. Neither is my use of sewing to help manage my mental health as simple as I’m sure it comes across in the posts that I write. Although the tips I give and the thoughts I offer are all true and things I use, the ways in which I utilise sewing (or, on some days/weeks, don’t) shifts in parallel to the changes in my mindset.

Although this isn’t really a sewing post, as the host of the Sewing For Self-Care series I thought that it was important to write. When I wonder if stigma still exists around mental health – given the fact that conversations on the subject are increasing – I can’t help but look to my belief that I have to be ‘on the other side’ of the battle in order to offer a legitimate and worthy perspective. Looking around, it’s clear that so much of the information we consume regarding mental health is told by the ‘victors’ – people who consider themselves free and clear of the struggle. Perhaps, like me, they’ve simply made their narrative more palatable to a society that still isn’t quite comfortable talking about the reality of mental illness – the unbrushed hair, the angry outbursts, the feelings of hopelessness that no amount of logic or rationality can contradict. These are difficult truths to face.

I managed to get back to the sewing machine last week. It felt like a relief. I actually ended up taking some of my own advice – tried and tested – to rediscover my motivation. But if you read these posts and wonder why the tips don’t work for you, you need to understand that they don’t always work for me either. As Jenny wrote in her guest post, sewing and self-care have a complicated relationship. Sewing isn’t always what we want to do, nor is it always what’s best for us. I still believe that creativity provides one of the most powerful resources – available to all of us – through which we can manage out mental health. The science backs this up. But sometimes, we’re just working on getting ourselves out of bed. And that’s ok.

I’ll still be writing about sewing and self-care. Even with the fluctuations in my mood and my motivation, sewing is still one of my major passions. But it’s important to write here that I don’t fit the narrative of Sewing For Self-Care. My story with mental health is much bigger than that and, whether you struggle with mental illness or the general stresses of adulthood, so is yours. My overall message, however, remains the same. Be kind to yourself. Whether that involves a session at the sewing machine or not.

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Sewing For Summer!

I’m honestly not sure how we’ve already ended up mid-way through the summer. Things that felt way off on the horizon – starting my yoga teacher training, my 30th birthday (!) – are now just around the corner. Not to mention the fact that I’ve just celebrated my first wedding anniversary and have now been in my apartment for a whole year, even though it feels like I only just landed in the US. I’m honestly feeling a bit blindsided by how quickly 2018 is progressing!

Thankfully, I’m feeling pretty accomplished when it comes to my sewing. I already have a lot of makes under my belt and have definitely taken good steps on all of my 2018 sewing goals. Mostly I’m pleased that I’m finding a way to spend more time on building my everyday wardrobe and I’m getting so much joy from actually wearing my makes on a daily basis! I still have big plans for the rest of the year. Sewing is definitely harder in the summer – longer days and nicer weather mean that I’m generally keen to spend as much time as possible out and about. Plus my work commitments have escalated dramatically, so trying to fit everything in is definitely presenting a challenge. But that won’t stop me!

I’ve just wrapped up a beautiful make with one of my all-time favourite fabrics – the Fox Tales fabric from Dear Stella. I deliberated for quite a while on what pattern I wanted to use. In the end, I settled on the skirt from Sew Over It’s Rosie Dress. I really love the pattern – plus, it was one of the few that worked with my very narrow fabric. I’m excited to show you some proper pics, although I’m working on a new white version of the Lucia Top to go with it before I’m ready with an outfit to photograph. For now, here’s a little teaser…

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Definitely the cutest fabric ever!

I’ve been planning out some other new projects. I’m super lucky to have been accepted as a new member of the Minerva Crafts Blog Team, for which I’ll be reviewing some different sewing-related delights. I’ve been working on my very first Minerva Crafts project and my first post will hopefully be up on their blog soon! I’ll be sure to link you to it once it’s done so that I can finally reveal one of the things that I’ve been working on.

I also picked up a few new vintage Simplicity patterns from Joann’s a couple of weeks ago. I got them in a super sale, each for about $3, and thought the sale would be a good opportunity to stock up! One of my more immediate makes will be this super cute 1940s pattern…

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I picked up the fabric from Joann’s at the same time as the pattern, without much thought on an appropriate project. But mulling over it, I think the cotton will work incredibly well for this skirt and top! The fabric itself is a little stiff so I think I’m going to have to pre-treat it in the hopes that it will soften up. If anyone has any tips on this, please let me know! I normally just do a standard pre-wash but I feel like this will not be enough to soften this particular fabric. I also have crazy sensitive skin so need to be careful about what I use (if I don’t use certain brands of washing liquid, I break out in a full body rash, so it’s no joke!). Any tips are definitely welcome!

I picked up a couple of other Simplicity patterns that I consider to be more along the lines of wardrobe staples. I’m not sure when I’ll actually use them but, at such a wonderful price, I figured it was a good opportunity to grab them!

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So much to work on! I think it’s going to be a busy summer of super sewing. Fingers crossed I’ll continue to feel the motivation. What are your summer sewing plans? Do you find yourself sewing less or more in the summer months?

Have a beautiful week, friends!

Coocoo For Colour: How Do Our Colour Choices Impact Our Mood?

“The best colour in the world is the one that looks good on you.” Thank you Coco Chanel for your endless fashion wisdom. Whilst I’m usually inclined to defer to Coco on just about anything style-related, her thoughts on colour definitely have me wondering. Is colour selection really just about figuring out what looks ‘best’ on you? Or does this approach simply narrow the way that we think about colour and its potential impact on us?

Interestingly, I have lots of books about both sewing and fashion but one thing none of them mention is colour. Yet, to me, colour is such a key part of why and how I sew. As most of you know, there’s little planning involved in my selection of new projects. Instead, I just trawl fabric shops for endless hours until a fabric catches my eye. Then I either pair the fabric with a pattern I think it’s perfect for, or stash it away until I find exactly the right project. Although my being drawn towards particular patterns and projects is driven by a whole variety of factors, colour plays a massive role in how I select my fabrics.

My attraction to particular colours goes through phases. It doesn’t just influence the sorts of fabrics I select and sew – it dictates most of what I place around me at any particular time. Frequent visitors to Sew For Victory might recall that I’ve been in quite a strong and unrelenting mint green phase recently. From my favourite shoes, to my fabric choices, to my water bottle and my nail varnish – everything has been mint green. And, honestly, I’m not even slightly mad about it. You see, I firmly believe that our colour preferences and choices are tied heavily to our mood and general place in life. I’ve become more and more interested in this as I’ve delved deeper into both the various dynamics of self-care and sewing, as well as trying to understand my own very prevalent attachments to colour.

The psychology of colour impacting our moods is actually very well documented. Throughout history, people have created dominant associations between particular colours and certain emotions, thoughts, and situations. Red has, for example, become almost synonymous with love and romance. However, our colour choices go beyond this in actually having a demonstrable impact on the way that we feel. According to Professor of Psychology Andrew Elliot, some evidence points toward green as having a particularly calming effect on us “because it is associated with growth and nature.” (1) Similarly, orange “is said to stimulate enthusiasm and creativity,” (2) which is good news for us sewists! One really powerful study from back in 1982 found that colour has a dramatic impact on the health and wellbeing of children. As reported by the New York Times (the article is well worth a read if you’re interested), school room colour and lighting changes saw a drop in the children’s mean systolic blood pressure from “120 to 100, or nearly 17 percent…” Their behaviour also changed for the positive. (3)

So what does this mean for us sewists? Colour definitely doesn’t have to be a conscious choice because, ultimately, if it makes you feel good then there’s really no need to interrogate. However, sometimes understanding the impact that colour has on our mood can help us to make purposeful choices in order to move ourselves in a particular direction. If we’re feeling down, throwing on a bright dress can certainly work wonders! As with everything, colour is obviously no miracle cure. But I was super impressed by the amount of evidence out there to suggest that colour really can have a demonstrable and measurable impact on the way that we feel. Having browsed around and plucked different pieces of information from different places, here’s a summary of colours and the moods most strongly associated with them (I’ve included a list of articles at the end of this post, if you’re interested!):

Red: Stimulates and excites. Can be associated with passion and love.

Orange: Stimulates creativity and enthusiasm. Also associated with feelings of playfulness and warmth.

Yellow: Creates positive emotions, such as hope and happiness.

Green: Creates a sense of calm and relaxation, largely due to the association with nature.

Blue: Calms the mind and provides a sense of concentration. Can also be associated with trust and security.

Purple: Creates a sense of calm and soothing. Purple is also historically associated with spirituality, so can help you to feel spiritually connected (is that’s your cup of tea!)

Pink: A calming colour that stimulates a sense of safety and connection with femininity.

I find it so reassuring to know that something as simple as picking a colour to wear can help my mood. Even working with bright and playful colours on my sewing machine has a very real impact on my mindset. Although I couldn’t find the evidence out there during my search, it would make sense that there is also a sort of reverse relationship here – meaning that we might be ‘drawn’ to particular colours as a reflection of how we feel or (if you believe it) what we most need at a given time.

Part of the reason I’ve been reflecting so hard on this recently is that I’ve very much transitioned from a mint green obsession to a love of all things pink. I didn’t even notice it happening but just suddenly found myself picking out pink fabrics, wearing pink nail varnish and clothes – even selecting pink/red flowers at the supermarket. I’m not sure how real the connection is between colour and the way that I feel, but there’s definitely some kind of relationship between how I choose to surround myself with colour and the way that I’m relating to the world around me.

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So what does this mean for self-care? Thinking more consciously about the way that we interact with colour may be a positive step toward checking in with ourselves. However, I think the indications that our colour choices give will vary dramatically from person to person. Just like I wouldn’t suggest wearing black will make us all depressed and sad (it actually makes me feel pretty good most of the time), it won’t be the case that choosing pink fabrics or clothes means the same thing for all of us. As with everything relating to self-care, it’s really about becoming more aware of yourself and your needs – looking at what colours you’re drawn to and how they make you feel. Ultimately, it could all be one big placebo effect – but, if it helps us to be our best and happiest selves, colour is an amazing tool to have at our disposal!

Do you find that colour has an impact on your mood? Are you ‘drawn’ to particular colours when you’re in a certain frame of mind? I’m interested to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!



(1)
‘How Color Affects Our Mood’, Rachel Grumman Bender, HuffPost (27 Nov 2011)
(2) Same as above
(3) ‘Color Has A Powerful Effect On Behavior, Researchers Assert’, Lindsey Gruson, The New York Times (1982)

Other articles/websites of interest:

‘Colors That Affect Your Mood’, Brook Haven Retreat
‘Color Psychology: Does It Affect How Your Feel?’ Very Well Mind

Lucia Top (Sew Over It)

You might remember that I posted a few weeks back about my feelings at the end of Me Made May. It was such a great month of working through my handmade wardrobe, but it definitely left me with a sense of the gaps in my makes. I have such a tendency to get carried away by the beauty of vintage dress patterns, throwing myself whole heartedly into creating my own versions of these gorgeous garments. However, I live in a State where the winter and summer weather is pretty extreme and I’m also quite active throughout the day. This means that a vintage wardrobe doesn’t really suit my lifestyle (however much I might want it to be the case). So I set myself the task of interspersing my vintage makes with some more ‘every day’ projects, with a particular focus on separates.

Fortunately, my resolution timed with the release of Sew Over It’s Lucia Top. As soon as I saw the email about the new pattern (I’m in the PDF club so I got an early look!), I knew that I would immediately set about making some versions for myself. It’s a beautiful pattern – perfect for those (relatively few and far between) cooler summer days. I’ve already got a couple of new versions planned but I wanted to show you my first Lucia creation because I’m totally in love with it!

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I won’t lie, I was pretty well sweating buckets whilst I took these photos. It was about 95F outside and really not a jeans/knit top kind of day – but I was super determined to show Lucia to you all! Also, I really wanted to take my Ginger Jeans out for a spin because I’ve been in shorts for weeks and I’m always quite impressed with myself whenever I look at or wear these trousers!

As I mentioned, I made this top in a simple black knit fabric. I hate working with knits but this top is definitely bringing me round to them. The Lucia Top isn’t necessarily a knit project – in fact, the versions pictured on the website look like they’re made from cotton combinations. But I had a specific image in my head for how this top would look and it required taking the leap into the world of knits. I’m actually very glad that I decided to go with knit fabric. The top itself is super flowy (there’s a generous amount of ease in the bodice) but the knit gives it a more fitted feel – particularly when tucked into trousers. I definitely prefer this look to having the top billow out. I think the knit fabric makes the sleeves look super sleek and lovely too!

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The construction process itself wasn’t tough at all. The pattern only comes as a PDF (so if you aren’t a fan of PDFs, you basically have to suck it up on this one). I generally prefer to go with paper patterns to reduce the amount of pre-sewing faff that I have to go through. But Sew Over It PDFs are always pretty easy to put together and don’t usually have any issues with matching up the various pages and pattern pieces, which means it isn’t a standard PDF nightmare!

The top itself came together very quickly. Obviously the most arduous part of the process is adding the ruffle and the elastic. I’ve never used elastic in my sewing before but all of the steps were incredibly clear and well diagrammed. I honestly had no issues whatsoever getting it all to work. Just make sure that you use a small enough safety pin when passing the elastic through the channel that you sew around the neckline – otherwise you’ll find yourself getting stuck at the seams that you have to cross. Speaking from experience, I was lucky that I picked out a multi-size pack of safety pins because only the smallest kind ended up fitting through properly. So don’t use normal sized pins or you’ll end up making yourself very frustrated!

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I honestly can’t remember the last time (if ever) that I wore anything shoulderless. Probably largely because I only bought my first strapless bra last year for my wedding dress. It’s strangely liberating to wear a top with no straps or shoulders – especially in the summer. For those of you who don’t enjoy strapless/shoulderless garments, the top can be quite easily pulled up over your shoulders. You’ll obviously still have a pretty wide neckline but you can definitely sit the top far enough up your shoulders that you could get away with wearing a normal bra (albeit with the straps pushed slightly off to the side). This versatility will also make the top a good one for summer workdays (particularly if you work somewhere with a strong dress code).

Whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced sewist, I highly recommend the Lucia Top pattern. It’s so easy and quick to put together! Although you might find yourself facing skills that you haven’t used before, the instructions provided are definitely sufficient to guide you through. I really do think anyone with a sewing machine and a love for ruffles could make a beautiful version of this top!

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As I mentioned at the start of the post, I already have a couple of other versions of the Lucia Top planned. Although I won’t be making separate posts specifically for those tops, they’ll definitely be featured on Sew for Victory as part of other makes and new outfits! So keep an eye out for new versions of Lucia popping up on here in the future. And, in the meantime, be sure to check out the pattern on Sew Over It’s website and share your own versions with me!

My Spring 2018 Favourites!

Happy 4th July, everyone! To those of your reading from the US, I hope that you’re having a fabulous holiday and are looking forward to seeing some wonderful fireworks this evening. I’m excited to spend a few days off with my husband – it’s our first wedding anniversary on Saturday so we’re celebrating with a mini staycation! We don’t have many plans, other than some trips to the book shop and a couple of museum visits. But this will be the longest amount of time we’ve had together since I moved to the US so I’m just hugely excited for that!

In other news, my eye has finally healed itself meaning that I’ll actually be able to get some pictures of my Lucia Top this week. Look out for that post on Friday. In the meantime – and now that summer has officially started – I wanted to do a roundup of my various ‘favourites’ from the past few months. Originally I had intended to do a very general ‘my favourites’ post but I’m one of those people who reliably claim that whatever I’m currently focussed on is my “favourite thing of all time.” So I thought it wise that I restrict this post to just the past few months. With that, here we go…

Favourite Pattern: Vintage Shirt Dress (Sew Over It)

I’ve been pretty productive with my sewing through Spring. In fact, there are no patterns I’ve sewn that I don’t absolutely love! But my favourite pattern to work with has to be Sew Over It’s Vintage Shirt Dress. The construction process was just so simple and the finished product looked incredible. Not to mention the fact that the fit was total perfection.

Obviously my obsession with this dress is largely assisted by the fabric because the Le Map cotton from Dear Stella is beyond a dream. But purely from an ease of construction, clarity of instructions, and just all around fun-level standpoint, the Vintage Shirt Dress is definitely my favourite pattern from the Spring!

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Favourite Fabric: Le Map (Dear Stella)

What a surprise! I really wanted to be able to mix it up a little so that all of my sewing favourites aren’t focussed on one make. But, let’s be honest, was there any way that this super sweet Parisian fabric wasn’t going to be my favourite from the past few months?! Not only is the pattern so adorable, the cotton has such a great weight to it – it made the fabric perfectly suited to the Vintage Shirt Dress, giving the garment a really crisp and tailored look.

Obviously my other Dear Stella fabric – Fox Tales – would be a contender here. However, since I’m not quite finished sewing with it, I decided that it counts as a Summer make! I feel that this is probably a spoiler for a Summer Favourites post!

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Favourite Listen: Studio Ghibli Cafe Music

I’m super obsessed with listening to music while I sew. I tend to stick to lyric-free music, mostly because I like to create a very relaxed environment whenever I’m in my sewing room. My favourite listen from the past few months has to be the Studio Ghibli Jazz playlist. I actually found out about it from one of the few YouTubers I watch and it has changed my world. The soundtrack consists of snippets from various Ghibli films but played in a jazz style. I love Ghibli so I’m all about anything that integrates my favourite films into my everyday life. This soundtrack/playlist is just amazing and, if you’re a fan of Ghibli films, I definitely recommend giving it a listen. An added bonus is that it’s available via YouTube and on a 3hr30 loop – so you can leave it be for a good long time and just get on with what you’re doing!

Favourite Watch: Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Every so often, I’m really in the mood to pop something I love on my laptop and watch while I work on sewing projects. As with the things that I listen to, I tend to go through extended periods of focussing on just one thing. Spring has been a very Agatha Christie heavy time for me – and I’m totally on board with it. I adore the various televisations of her books but I’m most in love with David Suchet’s Poirot. The series is amazing and I watch the episodes on repeat without any enjoyment diminished at all. Plus I met him and he stayed in character as Poirot the whole time, so this series will always have a special place in my heart.

Favourite Read: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This one isn’t sewing related at all since, although I’m an epic multi-tasker, even I can’t read and sew at the same time. But I’ve done so much reading this spring (I think about 16 books, which is pretty good going!) that I felt compelled to include my favourite. Most recently, I’ve been working my way through the Pulitzer Prize winners going back from the most recent (I figured that they will always be pretty reliably amazing books) – so obviously this meant that I finally got around to reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I can’t quite put into words how much I loved this book. At around 750 pages, it’s definitely a lengthy read. However, I ended up racing through it because I was so enthralled. Although the book is emotionally heavy, it is truly Dickensian in its scope. Definitely my favourite read from the past few months!

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Favourite Purchase: Spirited Away Mug

My favourite purchase from Spring happens to be very much unrelated to sewing – unless you count the fact that I drink tea from it habitually whilst sewing. As I mentioned above, I love Studio Ghibli films. I’ve always had a love for animation (of course, I remain totally Disney obsessed) and Studio Ghibli takes the art to a completely different level of beauty. Plus the stories are just amazing. I was so excited to find that Barnes and Noble have a pretty good collection of Studio Ghibli items – although they’re all quite pricey – and I’ve had my eye on the Spirited Away mug for ages. My husband bought it for me as a present last month and I’ve been glued to it ever since!

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So those are all of my favourites from Spring 2018! It’s been an incredibly varied and successful few months – something that I hope carries over into Summer! Do you have any favourites from this Spring? Share in the comments – I’m always excited to read your thoughts!

How To Find Your Personal Style

Today’s post was originally intended to be a pattern review and pics of my Sew Over It Lucia Top. The top itself has been finished for a while – in fact, I’ve already taken it on a couple of outings (when the crazy hot weather lets up a little and I’m not restricted to shorts and vest tops). Unfortunately, I’ve been struck down with a mega eye infection for the past week (super gross, I know) and, although I’m actually pretty much cured at this point, I’m still stuck in glasses. Despite my husband’s constant reassurances that I look “totally cute” in glasses, I really hate wearing them and basically avoid it as much as I can. And although my self-confidence has blossomed incredibly since starting Sew For Victory, glasses-wearing Laura is a very ‘unwilling to have her picture taken’ kind of girl. That said, I’m planning on getting the photos taken this weekend and should have a post about the Lucia Top coming up next week!

In the meantime, I wanted to post about something that’s been on my mind for the past few weeks (and a lot of this year, honestly) – the process of developing your own sense of personal style, whether vintage or otherwise. I’ve always admired people who have a very clear and concrete sense of personal style. As someone who spends far too much time trawling social media, I’m constantly confronted with pictures of people who obviously have a fully-realised idea of how they represent themselves through the clothes that they wear. As a member (albeit a casual one) of the vintage community, the need to have a very definite sense of personal style is particularly acute.

While I see nothing wrong whatsoever with having a clear-cut notion of your own identity through fashion, the image of ‘dressing vintage’ that we get online is very all-or-nothing. I generally come across few online personalities of the vintage persuasion who dress in anything but vintage outfits. Every photo, every #ootd, is very vintage specific. Don’t get me wrong, these images are incredibly inspiring and, ultimately, if what you wear makes you feel good, I say go for it! But in my own world, I’m constantly worried that what I present on this blog isn’t ‘sufficient’ because it is not exclusively vintage. I love vintage styles (and I’m aware that I’m using the term ‘vintage’ very loosely here) and I adore sewing vintage-inspired garments. They’re my favourite thing to make, without a doubt. However, they are not what I spend most of my life wearing, largely because it’s not totally practical given my lifestyle. However, vintage clothes also represent only a small fraction of the outfits that I actually enjoy wearing and in which I feel most myself.

When it comes to my own sense of personal style, I’m something of a split personality. On the one hand, I love vintage looks – circle skirts, petticoats, shoulder pads. It’s all beautiful to me! But another side of me is very much jeans, t-shirts, and generally pretty grungy (my hubs tells me I often look like I’ve rolled straight out of The Ramones). Where I used to dither about this – totally unable to reconcile both parts of the fashions I love – I’ve come to embrace it. Although Sew For Victory will always be largely vintage-focused, it’s also a personal sewing blog. And it makes no sense for me to narrow my own sewing projects to a niche that doesn’t represent what I wear most of the time. More than anything else, sewing my own clothes has helped my sense of personal style evolve dramatically. I pay far closer attention to things like colour and lines than I ever have before. And it’s so much fun. It also gives us the space to allow our own styles to change in parallel to other things in our life. This freedom is, I think, one of the major advantages of taking up garment-making as a hobby.

Vintage or otherwise, sewing has given me the tools to think about what I wear and how I want to portray myself. Although what we wear is a relatively superficial consideration compared to the most important things about us, it is still a form of communication with those around us. Playing with this is something that I enjoy massively. When I feel uninspired or am otherwise looking to plan out sewing projects that conform to the ways I like to dress, I have a few go-to methods for turning it out. These are techniques that apply whether you’re interested in vintage fashion or not, and they’ve all come in super handy for me over the past few months (especially in light of my 2018 goal to develop a better balance in sewing vintage versus everyday garments). So, here we go:

1. Find Inspiration

I’ve talked about this in other blog posts but I don’t think I would be half as productive in my sewing life if I wasn’t constantly searching out inspiration. Whether you do this online or through books, the world is a treasure trove of images and ideas! I’m generally not an advocate of spending too much time on social media – I definitely have to restrict my own time online because I tend to fall down a hole of self-comparison and general despair. But, used correctly and in moderation, social media can also be an incredible resource for finding outfit inspiration. I’m always saving screenshots of outfits I love and then searching out sewing patterns that would work to replicate the look. When you have a sewing machine, the world of fashion truly is at your finger tips!

I also make a point to visit second hand bookshops whenever I get a chance to see if I can find anything particularly inspiring. This is particularly the case when it comes to my vintage makes. I’ve had good luck on a few trips and landed some books with wonderful pictures and information about style during eras that especially interest me. If you have your mind set on any particular era, see if there are any used books you can get that might inspire or help you to develop a more concrete sense of how you might adapt the style for yourself. Sewing gives us an incredible ability of interpretation – with a photo or idea as a starting point, you can piece together a Frankenstein’s monster of an outfit that works for you. But inspiration will always be the starting point!

Really it’s all about exploring and seeing what ticks the boxes for you. If you’re not exposed to it, then you won’t know that it’s a possibility. Look at anything and everything that you think might interest you and you will find yourself naturally clinging on to images or ideas that come together to form a more defined notion of what you want your ‘personal style’ to be (even if it’s a thousand different things).

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2. Research Sewing Patterns

I’m obsessed with googling different sewing patterns. I pass many an evening looking at pattern makers and their patterns, noting anything that looks interesting. Once you’ve found some sources of inspiration, the next step is looking for sewing patterns that conform to this image – or might otherwise be manipulated to look the way that you want them to.

More generally, looking through sewing patterns (in person or online) is just another great way to find that inspiration. Part of the reason that my vintage sewing pattern collection has grown so large is because I find the patterns themselves to be super inspiring. Even patterns that I have no intention of making come together to form a bigger picture in my mind. It’s become a mini-education – I’ve learnt what I like, what I don’t like, and what I find interesting but wouldn’t necessarily what to integrate into my wardrobe. Part of the reason I loved getting the sewing patterns from my aunt was precisely because they don’t represent what I would normally make. Whether or not I get round to making them myself, I love seeing the patterns and thinking about how they might be interpreted to fit my own sense of style. It’s amazing what you can do with a pattern by choosing the right fabric and making a few alterations – it can become pretty much whatever you want it to be.

So have fun and explore what’s out there. If you’re of the vintage persuasion, I definitely recommend digging through the Vintage Patterns Wikia – although be sure to leave yourself plenty of time because you will likely fall down a bit of a vintage pattern hole.

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3. Lists Are Everything

Is anyone surprised that lists are one of my favourite tools?! You all know that I love planning, especially when I get to involve my bullet journal!

When I set out my sewing goals at the start of the year, I put a lot of emphasis on my desire to create more of a balance in the types of things that I was sewing. Sewing is a big time investment, particularly when I’m already juggling multiple things, so it’s important to get a good return for that time! Although I will always love sewing vintage (and gravitating toward vintage patterns will always be my default), I also want to make sure that I’m spending some time sewing things that will get worn regularly. This has meant thinking about practical restrictions (like walking the dog multiple times per day, doing yoga, and the crazy summers/winters in Missouri), as well as the sorts of clothes that I most enjoy wearing.

As part of my 2018 objective, I started creating lists of patterns that I felt had a place in my wardrobe. These are typically not lists of vintage patterns – since I already have so many in my collection and will pretty much always end up making one of these patterns for every one ‘everyday’ garment that I sew. But it’s come in super handy as a way to plan my makes, whilst also giving some direction to my regular pattern/inspiration searches. I’ve started a list at the back of my bullet journal to accommodate all of this. It’s not necessarily a ‘to make’ list. More of a place to record patterns I like, particularly when I have multiple patterns that I think would work together to create a complete outfit.

There are so many different ways that you can do this – and having a bullet journal definitely isn’t a requirement! But I think that having some way of recording your pattern finds and inspiration (even in the form of a scrap book or a folder on your computer) is really key to developing a concrete sense of your own style and plans to execute it.

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So there we have it! Some of the different methods I use for developing my own sense of style. Although so much of this has evolved naturally for me – and I think most of us just gravitate towards the things we love – part of the joy of sewing is in the exploration. I have things I’ve sewn that I look at and think ‘WHY ON EARTH?!’ But it suited me at the time and worked into the sort of identity I gave to the clothes that I chose to wear.

Ultimately, sense of style or not, you need to feel good, happy, and confident in what you wear. Taking some time to search for what’s out there in terms of patterns and fashions is just one way of figuring out what makes you feel your best and brightest. But we’re all constantly changing and learning, so it only makes sense that our style would evolve and adapt alongside us. Have you worked consciously to create your own personal style? Do you have any particular things you do (or have done) that have helped you to figure out what you most love to wear?

Sewing For Self-Care: Kendra’s Story

This month has been an incredible one for the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series. Elena’s post received such an amazing response from many of you and I’m so happy that this blog could serve as a forum for discussion about sewing/creativity and its role in managing more severe forms of mental illness. Today’s post, from the lovely Kendra, takes a different angle. As a mental health professional, Kendra talks about sewing as self-care in light of working such a challenging and consuming job. For those of us (and I’m sure there are many) who find ourselves stressed out, frazzled, or otherwise unable to leave work at the office, Kendra’s insights are powerful and important. So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Kendra and her wonderful story of sewing and self-care…

*If you would like to contribute to the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series, details can be found at the end of this post.*


I work as a licensed mental health counselor, which means that, like many of you in other professions and jobs, I’m often mentally drained at the end of the day. It’s ok because I love the work I’m doing, but that doesn’t make it any less draining—perhaps the opposite. I work at a community mental health clinic, which means a majority of my clients are unemployed, many are on disability, many are in recovery from substance abuse (or trying to maintain sobriety), many have been hospitalized multiple times for suicide-related behavior, and almost all are trauma survivors of one kind or another. In treating them, I become invested in their narratives. And over time, those stories can consume me, and clients’ behavior can seem personal, unless I actively pursue self-focused activities.

I’ve always had hobbies, enjoyed socializing with friends, and worked a full-time job, but it was not until I returned to graduate school (for a second time!) that I truly understood the consequences of failing to maintain balance for myself. Practicing self-care is essential. For me, that includes the healthy habits such as exercising, eight hours of sleep, minimizing coffee and alcohol intake, a balanced diet, socializing, reading, and turning off the news when necessary. But in addition, it includes my hobbies, of which sewing is the most prominent these days.

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Because I have cultivated my healthy habits and hobbies, it is a lot easier for me to sell those ideas to struggling clients. I speak with my clients a lot about developing their own hobby or re-igniting interest in an already-existing one. I always use sewing as the example in my own life. While no one has reported that they picked up sewing too, several have found benefit from being creative, adding structure to their day with a class, having an activity to look forward to, or developing a sense of accomplishment by completing a project or working with their hands.

Growing up, my mother sewed a large part of my wardrobe. I did not love it at the time because she wasn’t making me look 80’s trendy (no, my mother was not sewing me tutus, leggings, or off-the-shoulder sweatshirts). But I sure do love looking back at the pictures of us!

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My mother taught me how to knit and how to needlepoint. I learned cross-stitch at Girl Scouts. I learned to sew in eighth grade home economics. I didn’t hang on to all these hobbies, but about seven years ago, I picked up needlepoint again and really enjoyed the creative outlet it provided. And, this past winter, I dusted off my sewing machine and signed up for a class. The sense of accomplishment from completing a sewing project is very strong. I love being able to experiment with fabrics and styles that I can’t find in a store or that I wouldn’t normally select for myself. The attention to detail that I need to accurately pin my fabric, stitch straight seams and even hems, and iron the seams, appeals to my perfectionist tendencies. Not only that, but my budget can definitely handle sewing!

In terms of self-care, sewing allows me to focus on each step and remain present as I’m doing the project. For example, when I’m cutting fabric, I have to be focused on what I’m doing and be very deliberate. It’s almost meditative. I can sit down at my machine for five minutes or five hours and I still have to do one step at a time. That’s an important reminder for me to complete one task at a time and give it my full attention. When I make a mistake on an item, I fix it. That’s like boot camp for problem-solving. And, it reminds me that I do know how to solve my own problems, and that I can usually fix a mistake by acknowledging it and figuring out how to move forward, instead of dwelling on the mistake. Can you imagine if every time I sewed the lining into a dress wrong, I just stared at it for hours, cried, and then threw the project away?

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When life stressors increase for me, I lean on my hobbies even more. I attend a weekly needlepoint class and a weekly sewing class. I’ve made friends in these classes that I can check in with throughout the week while attending. It creates structure for me to attend the classes at a consistent time each day and be on time to work. I develop new skills that I can use to sew or stitch another item. I look forward to going out and coming home because each location offers its own rewards. I find myself sewing and stitching more often, as a means to balance out my stress.

Between the spotlight that mental health has recently undergone with two recent celebrity suicide deaths, the political climate and uncertainty of world events, the warmer weather and longer days leading to less routine, the transitions of the summertime approaching, a packed schedule, and even noticing that it’s time to buy a new pair of running shoes, has all led to an increase in stress.

So, my sewing machine is going at full speed.

And my closet just got a little more packed.

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A huge thank you to Kendra for such an interesting and affirmative post! Since writing the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series, I’ve been fascinated by the ways in which creativity can be used in professional mental health care settings. That encouragement toward creative hobbies plays a role – as described by Kendra – just evidences that the connection between mental health and creativity is a very real one. I so appreciate Kendra taking the time to write this post for us! If you want to keep up with her sewing journey, you can follow her on Instagram @kqkstitches or Twitter @KQKrazy

If you are interested in contributing a post to Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story, please get in touch! You can email me – laura@sewforvictory.co.uk – or contact me via any of the social media outlets linked in the side bar. If you would like to see more information about the series, be sure to check out my original introduction post!

Another Vintage Pattern Haul!

Happy mid-week, everyone! I’m back after a short break. Life got a bit chaotic last week so I decided to take some time off from the blog to get my schedule in order. Although there are definitely no prospects of things calming down any time soon (I’ve taken on new work commitments, plus I’m prepping for my Yoga Teacher Training course – yes, I got accepted!!!), I’m at least starting to work out where everything will fit. When I was studying for my PhD and working towards a career in academia, it never occurred to me that I might end up having a life made up of so many different components. But I’m in the fortunate position to be able to pursue most of my passions alongside one another! The challenge is in finding enough time to get everything done – something that I’m working on, whilst also bearing in mind the many lessons on self-care that I’ve picked up over the years. But any extra detail on this will be saved for another day and another post.

Today’s post is devoted to more vintage patterns! I’ve really been lucking out in regards to growing my vintage pattern collection. Fortunately, this time around I didn’t even have to visit any shops. My mum recently made a trip back to the UK (for those who don’t know, my parents are also British expats living in the US) to see family. And my aunt took the opportunity to pass on some vintage patterns to help boost my collection! Interestingly, these patterns lie a bit outside of my typical vintage ‘comfort zone’. I’m very much about the 1940s and 1950s, although I do enjoy the more ’50s-inspired silhouettes in 1960s patterns. However, looking at the patterns gifted to me by my aunt, I’m so encouraged to step away from my traditional makes. They’re such lovely patterns!

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I actually think that these patterns offer more ‘everyday’ looks than my typical vintage pattern finds. Since I’m working hard to expand my everyday wardrobe, I’m definitely seeing a lot of potential for new sewing projects!

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I do love a playsuit! In fact, one of my upcoming projects is the Sew Over It playsuit. But I really like the versions in this Vogue pattern. I’m particularly happy that V9464 offers multiple leg length variations – especially the knee length version. This seems to be a rarity in most modern playsuit patterns, which typically opt for long leg or short leg alternatives with nothing in between. Plus the waist tie is just so sweet!

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Simplicity 5471 is adorable! I’ve yet to make any halterneck dresses or tops, although I recently bought one of Simplicity’s reproduction vintage patterns that offers multiple halterneck tops. I think this is the perfect look for the summer – particularly with temperatures currently as high as they are in St. Louis. S5471 looks like a wonderful addition to any summer wardrobe. I’m thinking that this might be a great pattern to put on my short-term list of makes so that it can get some outings during the height of summer!

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If you’ve seen any of my previous vintage pattern hauls, you’ll know that I have a real love for patterns that feel slightly unconventional. My 1940s bathing suit pattern is probably one of my all-time favourites! So it’s unsurprising that I love V6644. When I first saw it, my immediate question was whether the shower cap is included in the pattern – imagine my joy to discover that it is! Adorable!

I genuinely am quite enamoured with the dressing gown on the left. I think it is so cute – especially the little bow ties on the front! Thinking ahead, I’m definitely in need of a dressing gown for the autumn. I’m one of those people that is obsessed with layers and just generally being covered up. Even at 35C outside, I’ll sit with the fan on so that I can justify having a blanket over me. I love thick socks, comfy pjs, and just generally being snug. As you can probably guess, summer isn’t a time of year that I inhabit with much success. But the nice thing with sewing is that I can plan ahead and feel autumnal in my makes. So perhaps indulging in a bit of dressing gown making will help me feel like October is already here!

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Saving the best for last! This pattern is actually super special because it’s the pattern that my aunt used to make her wedding dress – specifically version C. Isn’t it wonderful? I’ve been trying to find a photo of said dress but my laptop is being uncooperative. I’ll ask my aunt to send me a picture so that I can share in a future post. Although I’m not planning any future marriages (I’m sure my husband will be relieved), I’m so happy to have such an important pattern in my collection.

Although I have family members that have sewn or do sew, I didn’t grow up being exposed to these skills. I don’t remember ever seeing any family members sewing – but I always heard from my aunt how she used to sew her own clothes and had made her wedding dress. Having been traumatised by a sewing machine experience early in secondary school, these stories obviously failed to resonate with me. However, now that sewing is such a big part of my life, I think about this sewing legacy very often. The thing that I love most about sewing vintage and vintage-inspired patterns is the feeling of touching history. It’s not usually about actually wearing the garments I make – although obviously this is a bonus. Rather, I love the feeling of somehow connecting to the past through sewing such vivid examples of vintage patterns. Getting these patterns from my aunt gives me an especially strong sense of that connection!

So another vintage pattern haul done and dusted! I’m excited to try stepping out of my vintage niche with some patterns from other decades. Do you typically stick to a certain decade when you sew vintage? Or do you have no preference?