My Sewing Space Tour!

Now that the final boxes have been unpacked (somewhat reluctantly) and my new apartment is looking presentable, I thought that it was about time to give you all a tour of my new sewing room! This move was an exciting one for me, largely because I’ve been living without a creative space for the first half of 2019. While searching for a new place, the need to have a designated work area (however big or small) was at the front of my mind and I really lucked out in finding an apartment that met every single one of my needs. Those of you who’ve been following Sew for Victory for some time may recall the cute and cosy sewing room that I was lucky enough to have in my first American abode. Although on the smaller size, the room was abundant with storage and natural light and ended up being the part of the house in which I felt most completely at home (largely because it was filled with the stuff that I’d paid many hundreds of dollars to ship over with me). Now in my new flat, my sewing room is far more spacious and I’m in love with the amount of room that I have!

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Important to me (although not an essential part of what I was looking for), the wooden flooring combined with the spaciousness of the room gives plenty of space for pattern cutting. This was a real problem in my last place. My sewing room was carpeted and the rest of the apartment, although floored with wood, was bedecked with the kind of original wooden flooring that is both incredibly splintered and not particularly smooth. Anything that can help to reduce my tally of workplace injuries is always good by me and this room’s smooth laminate is just about as perfect as it gets for avoiding splinters whilst still able to lay out large amounts of fabric. You’ll also notice that this apartment is pretty incredible when it comes to natural light. I was slightly concerned about lighting levels pre-move. The apartment is basement-level and its window sills are pretty much inline with the ground outside. Paired with the fact that the building itself is relatively tall, I figured that light was going to be somewhat hard to come by. Fortunately, the angle of the sun works perfectly for giving me plenty of light, whilst avoiding the blinding midday period that made sewing almost impossible in my old space. I’m also lucky enough to have a fountain right outside of the window above my sewing table, making this probably the most scenic place that I’ve had to sew in.

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Happily, there’s also plenty of room right next to my sewing table for my clothes rail and mannequin. This fact is truly testament to the space’s comfortable size. My previous sewing room necessitated a game of real-life tetris as I attempted to fit my (very) large work table in the space, alongside my ironing board, mannequin, and clothing rail. Needless to say, there wasn’t a whole lot of room for manoeuvre. But everything now has a place for itself and I can actually step back to appreciate all of the bits and pieces that I’ve sewn over the past couple of years!

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One of the big downsides of the new sewing room (compared with the one in my old apartment) is the lack of storage. Since this is meant to be a second bedroom, it’s unsurprising that the space comes with a simple, single-sized wardrobe. The problem is that I was totally spoiled in my previous sewing room, which came equipped with the biggest cupboard I’ve ever seen – complete with a small staircase so that you could climb into it. The cupboard was so large that I filled it with my entire fabric stash, all of my other bits and bobs, my entire sewing library, and still barely took up half of the space. To compensate for the lack of storage here, I decided to buy my own. Always enjoying an opportunity to nosy in on other people’s sewing set-ups, I’d noticed that cube storage is super popular as a way to organise everything. So I got myself down to Target (truly my favourite thing about America and the greatest shop in the world) and bought a white cube storage system, to match my IKEA work table.

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I’m absolutely in love with this thing. It has so much space and, although I managed to fill it up pretty quickly, accommodates most of my sewing supply (as well as my continually growing library). Since I’m not allowed to stick anything on the walls here, I’ve also used the top to support my notice board and various trinkets. For now, my fabric stash is confined to the shelves at the top of the wardrobe – until I can search out a better storage solution (probably something that I can fit into the bottom of the wardrobe). Suggestions welcome!

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Given the size of the room and the fact that I’m balancing time between Sew For Victory and my other online endeavour – The Book Habit – I decided to add a reading corner to my work space. This has a couple of functions. Giving me a designated place for reading and writing, it also has a super comfy chair for my husband (or, let’s face it, mostly my dog) to occupy whenever I’m at the sewing table. This was a problem in my old apartment. The room was so small that there was nowhere for either of my family members to perch themselves while I worked and this, in itself, made it so much harder for me to motivate myself while they were around. Having somewhere for them is just perfect – especially while I work to re-establish a sewing habit. We actually picked the little sofa up at a thrift store for $15 and somehow managed to manhandle it into the back of our car (much to the consternation of the shop’s employees). It was an excellent find! The rug was a $20 Amazon find and the favourite purchase of my tiny dog (Miss Elizabeth Bennet) who loves to rub herself all over it. The bookshelves are the only feature of the room that still requires attention. My plan is to spray-paint them white to match the rest of the decor (or, more likely, wait until I have the money to buy new white shelves, since I know nothing about spray-painting).

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So there we have it! This sewing room definitely makes the wait for a new place totally worth it and has already proved a sufficiently inspiring space in which to work. While two years into my American adventure and still searching for a sense of home, having a space like this is one of the most important elements of grounding myself in a place that remains incredibly foreign. Much of my sewing collection has travelled with me across continents. It’s moved with me from home to home, occupying each of the five places that I’ve lived over the past 2.5 years. Much the same as I feel when it comes to my book collection, my hobbies and their accompanying inventories of stuff have been some of the few things that I’ve been able to carry with me as I’ve uprooted my life and worked to establish a new home for myself. Having this sewing space and being able to share it with you is such a joyous thing. It’s less about the space itself and more about what it represents – a sense of home and belonging that can often be incredibly hard to achieve. Whether your creative space is an entire room or the corner of a dining room table, whether it’s full of fabric or confined to a single box, I hope that it fills you with the same sense of contented joy and grounding that I feel whenever I look at my own.

My Super Summer Sewing Plans (Or ‘How I Will Finally Tackle My Monster Fabric Stash’)

Thank you to everyone for your lovely words and well wishes on last week’s post. As someone who has struggled with mental illness for most of my life and continues to advocate for the incredible benefits of creativity to health and wellbeing, it’s not easy to openly confront/admit to continued challenges. However, it’s also clear to me that nothing in life works with the mythical convenience of a panacea. Creative outlets – much like my experiences with medication and therapy – are vitally important components of my efforts to overcome mental illness. But (at least, in my experience) they work most effectively when used in conjunction with one another. My life with anxiety, depression, self-harm – and the various other manifestations that my struggles take – is one of peaks and troughs. I’ve never wanted to give the impression that I’m ‘recovered’ and now live a life totally untouched by these issues. In fact, too much of the discussion around mental illness is told from the perspective of ‘survivors’ or those who are now considered free-and-clear. It’s an appealing picture but one that doesn’t fully capture the months of peaceful, productive existence followed by months of crippling panic and sadness that represent the experiences of so many. All of this to say that I’m truly grateful for the kindness of everyone who has reached out with understanding and positive wishes for my health, particularly as I’m reintegrating some serious sewing back into my routine!

Enough with the serious stuff! I’m here to talk summer sewing plans and my continued efforts to diminish my fabric stash. Now that I’m back to sewing, it’s inevitable that I will once again start to accrue fabric at a baffling rate. I honestly hadn’t been too concerned with the size of my personal haberdashery until we moved into our new place and I was faced with the incredible challenge of finding adequate storage for everything. The sewing room in our old apartment had the benefit of an incredibly large wardrobe/cupboard (so big that there were steps to climb into it – so something of a Mary Poppins carpet bag set-up). Faced with normal-sized cupboards, I realised quite how dramatic my fabric collection has become. So, in an effort to get my stash down to more manageable proportions, I figured that I should put together some plans for the summer months and start to work through those fabrics that have found themselves languishing in my sewing spaces for too long.

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1. Sew Over It Jessie Coatigan 

Also known as Laura’s own, personal version of ‘A NeverEnding Story’. This is the project that I had left half-completed when I stopped sewing last year. It’s still resting, in its sad, frayed state, on my mannequin and I’m determined to finally get it finished. Let’s ignore the fact that I’m going to be sewing a hefty coat/cardigan whilst suffering through the 37C weather – this project has got to be finished before I can let myself get on with anything new. And there are some truly tempting pattern/fabric combinations that I have lined up for myself. So here’s hoping that this serves as adequate inducement to finally tackle my sad, neglected Sew Over It Coatigan. At least I’ll be well prepared once autumn comes around!

2. Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress

I’ve already had a tremendously successful encounter with this pattern, resulting in one of my very favourite makes. When I picked up some of Rifle Paper Co’s incredible Alice in Wonderland fabric, I was immediately determined to use it in another version of Sew Over It’s amazing shirt dress pattern. Anyone who has found themselves feeling creatively uninspired will probably know the draw that some beautiful fabric can hold. During my time away from the sewing machine, this is the fabric that kept whispering sweet inducements to get me back at the pedal. I’m so excited to see how this one comes out – particularly since it’s a dress that can be easily styled for both summer and autumn!

3. Untitled Thoughts Matilda Wrap Dress

I’ve had the most beautiful stretch fabric waiting its turn in my fabric stash for well-over a year – the victim of some continuous changes to my sewing plans (as well, obviously, as my lack of sewing for all of 2019). One of the motivating thoughts that I’ve had at the back of my mind as I attempt to get back into a sewing routine is my brother’s wedding in October. I haven’t felt particularly pressured to create something, although it would be really nice to be able to wear something that I’ve made specifically for that day. I also desperately want to avoid the hours of shop trawling that would be the inevitable consequence of my decision to not make something myself. My current thought is that this fabric – combined with the Matilda Wrap Dress pattern from Untitled Thoughts – would work as a contender. Even if I decide not to go with it, I think that it will make for a beautiful dress!

My fabric is actually so close to that from Untitled Thoughts’ own version!

So those are my immediate sewing plans – probably sufficient to see me through the summer and definitely enough to have me really excited to be back at the sewing machine. I’m hoping that my summery makes will be done in adequate time to actually enjoy them before the leaves start falling! What are your summer sewing plans? Let me know down in the comments!

 

 

Still Alive And Back To Sewing!

Well it’s been a while, my friends! Over six months since I last posted and about the same length of time since I last touched a sewing machine (I know, it’s almost sacrilegious!). As those of you who have been following me for a while would have likely sensed, life got a little tumultuous toward the end of 2018. I was approaching a year and a half in the US, grappling with the fact that I still hadn’t really established any foundations for myself in this new place, and continuing to struggle in various ways with my mental health. I’ve always been advocate of the ‘take what you need, leave what you don’t’ approach to life and, at the time, sewing became less and less of a priority. This was, in large part, a result of an increasingly difficult living situation (anyone who has experienced the joy of nightmare neighbours will empathise) and a desire to be basically anywhere but my apartment. Enter six months of life changes – we moved out of our place and into my in-laws. I took the time to work through my own challenges and focus on the things that were making me feel good. Absent any available sewing space, however, writing on Sew For Victory felt a little redundant. Fortunately, my husband and I finally found a new apartment that we love, moved in, and I now have a designated sewing space back (which is not only perfectly proportioned but, most importantly, incredibly quiet). I’ve been getting stuck back into the projects that have been on hiatus for months and thought that it was about time to bring my attention back around to Sew For Victory.

I’ve missed you all and am so incredibly grateful to those of you who have remained around and been checking up on me. It’s been a challenging few months and certainly a lesson in the fact that, more than anything, progress is never linear. I know that I’ll be sharing more on this over the coming weeks, particularly as I work to reestablish the habits and routines that have been so important to me over the past few years. But I wanted to take this opportunity to stop in and let you all know that something approaching ‘normal service’ will resume again next week. We have so much to catch up on and I’m truly looking forward to chatting with you all again!

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of my The Little Prince-inspired Rosie skirt (taken from Sew Over It’s Rosie dress pattern) – a make that I finished up a year ago and never got around to posting or reviewing. I’ll be doing a long over-due pattern review in the next couple of weeks so look out for that. This photo is stolen from my other endeavour – The Book Habit – where you can catch more of my writing, as well as find me on Instagram posting about all things book-related. So, if that’s your jam, you can also check me out there!

Le Petit Prince

 

How To Sew The Perfect Winter Holiday Outfit: Finding A Pattern

Now that I’ve rediscovered my sewing motivation, I’m in full swing planning out a dress for the holiday season. I rarely sew with an event in mind (in fact, I think the last time was for Valentine’s Day about three years ago). I tend not to respond well to deadlines in sewing, even though I’m great with deadlines in just about every other area of my life. Since sewing plays such a vital and necessary role in my mental health maintenance, I suppose I resist anything that might add stress or pressure into the mix. However, this year, I have found the most perfect pattern for the holidays and am feeling the inspiration coursing through my veins. So trying to get it sewn in time for Christmas (or, if there are delays, New Year’s Eve) doesn’t feel like too much of a burden.

In recognition of the fact that we can now permissibly begin talking about Christmas (yes, my Christmas tree is already up!), I thought that I would write up a post to provide some Winter Holiday sewing inspiration. I’ve been doing quite a bit of searching about in order to settle on my own festive project, as well as looking back over patterns I’ve already made myself, and I have some real gems for you!

V8999 – 1954 Dress Pattern

This is my chosen one. I actually found it on a hunt in a pattern sale at Joann’s (probably the best pattern bargains that I’ve found anywhere to date) for about $3 and fell instantly in love. The shape is so unique and I just adore the panelling. I’ve decided to sew this up in a cranberry crepe to really hammer home the Christmas vibe. I was actually on the hunt for an emerald green because deep greens are probably my favourite colours for clothing. However, I was VERY budget limited. Because this dress requires an astonishing 8.5 yards of fabric (that’s about 8 metres). I’ve never sewn with that much fabric before, since even the most poofy of vintage dresses typically only require about 4 yards. Have you ever made a pattern that required so much fabric? I don’t think I’ve even seen one before this! The amount of fabric made me genuinely debate whether this pattern is the one for me, largely because I just couldn’t justify spending $100 on fabric for one dress that – let’s face it – might not turn out how I envision it (especially since I never make muslins). But I’ve recently discovered fabric.com (not sponsored in any way, they just have incredible fabric deals!) and managed to get all of my fabric and notions for about $45, which I consider quite the success.

So putting aside how frustrated I will inevitably be when having to cut out 8.5 yards worth of pattern pieces, I’m excited for this make. It’s been a while since I made something truly vintage since this year has been mostly focussed on sewing up some everyday wearable clothing. So it’s high time that I got back on the vintage horse and, with a goal in mind, I’m sure I’ll make it!V8999V8997 – Misses’ Princess Seam Dress

This is a pattern that I made for last year’s Cocktail Hour Sew-Along and I’m still pretty obsessed with it. Although the pattern itself is quite casual, this is definitely a dress where the fabric can transform the garment into something super glamourous. I used a black satin with silver stars and am still so in love with the way that it turned out. I decided to go with the version that has floaty sleeves (version A), since it feels most occasion-appropriate to me. However, this pattern comes with four very different versions, including two that are far more form-fitting. So, if that’s your style, I think that it would look perfect for a work Christmas party or New Year’s Eve shenanigans.

Also, this dress has pockets! Need I say more?

V8997

The Belle Curve Dress – Decades of Style

If you’ve been visiting Sew for Victory for long enough, you’ll know that the Decades of Style Belle Curve dress is just about my favourite pattern of all time. It’s just stunning. I made it very early on in my sewing career (ambitious much?!) and was amazed to find that it turned out really beautifully. Until I cut through it a couple of months ago when attempting to stop some fraying, that is. Disregarding my thoughtlessness, this remains a beautiful pattern. The sunburst dart detailing on the sides gives the dress an incredibly flattering shape and is probably the most effective design detail that I’ve seen on any pattern.

Don’t be intimidated by the number of darts. If I could make this as my third ever sewing project, I have faith in your abilities. It’s also a relatively quick sew! I actually wore this dress for Christmas back in 2015, the same year that I started sewing and launched Sew for Victory. I highly recommend this make if you’re looking for a holiday pattern with a distinctly vintage edge!

Belle Curve

Sierra Jumpsuit – Papercut Patterns

If you’re looking for something a little more modern and less conventional, the new Sierra Jumpsuit from Papercut Patterns might be exactly what you want. Full disclosure: I haven’t actually made any of their patterns before. But their newest collection popped up on my Instagram feed and I was instantly in love with this particular pattern. I can just imagine it in an emerald green corduroy (even though, technically, the pattern recommends light to medium weight fabrics, but I do love to run counter to advice when it comes to my sewing). With a turtleneck underneath, this would be a stunning winter outfit. The waist-tie of the jumpsuit gives it that glamourous edge, without feeling too fancy. So if comfort and utility are important to you (or if you’re going to be chasing a herd of children around for most of Christmas day), this pattern would be an excellent choice!

Sierra Jumpsuit

So those are my favourite patterns for all of your winter holiday needs. I will obviously be keeping you appraised of the dress making process, as I tackle monster amounts of fabric. If you don’t already follow me over on Instagram, you can catch me there – I usually post copious amounts of photos to my Instagram stories to document my making process. Otherwise, let me know in the comments if you have any favourite holiday patterns. What are you making this year?

Turning Hobbies Into Habits: 5 Practical Steps

Hobbies into Habits

Lately, I’ve been very preoccupied with the notion of habits. Part of getting myself through the various struggles I’ve encountered this year has been a reliance on and strengthening of old habits (the ones that I know work really well for me), as well as building new habits. Although many of us recoil from the idea of structuring our lives around habits, fearful that they go hand-in-hand with predictability and a lack of spontaneity, habits are a cornerstone for us all. More than 40 percent of the actions that we perform over the course of the day are habit-based, meaning that there is no conscious decision-making involved. Statistics like this make it clear why learning to create good habits can be so critical to our health and happiness. Our brain automates what it can in order to conserve extra energy for other critical decisions. If we can learn to automate the different activities that we really want to perform (or, at least, reduce the amount of decision-making involved), we are building our lives on a solid foundation and raising the bar for our own base levels of happiness.

It all sounds very appealing, of course. But habit creation is a difficult thing. I’ve spent months reading through literature, doing research online, and trying to apply various strategies to my life in order to create better habits. Although I’m not suggesting that anyone should give their lives over to habit formation – nor do I think that habits hold a magic answer to all of life’s problems – working on building good habits has helped me immensely this year. Since I work from home, juggle multiple projects, and am something of a self-care fanatic (no surprise there!), I have a lot to grapple with and total freedom in how I do it. All of this free time really lends itself to bad habits, since I rely exclusively on self-motivation in order to get things done (and fall victim to reality TV binges with concerning regularity). I’ve also been trying to better manage my mental health and work through periods of depression and anxiety with a view to lessening their impact. A big part of this has been turning my existing hobbies – or new ones that I wish to pursue – into something more akin to a habit. After my two month hiatus from sewing, I’ve become particularly keen to figure out how these types of hobbies can become more ingrained and less susceptible to life’s ongoing peaks and troughs.

But why should we turn hobbies into habits? Doesn’t it suck the fun out of it? I don’t believe so. Habits are foundational to the overall trend of our lives. If our habits are bad, we generally don’t feel great nor do we thrive. Integrating good habits into my daily life has truly allowed me to take control of the downward trend that I was on. I also know that, when it comes to hobbies, we have a tendency to see them as optional. Life gets in the way. Yet hobbies exist because they expand our life – they make us happier, better, and more fulfilled. The idea that we would allow life’s obligations to interrupt such an important aspect of our wellbeing is a problem. We deserve to take the time to create a habit around these most important activities. Turning a hobby into a habit means that the time is already set aside and we are choosing to use it for ourselves. It’s not simply an optional extra that we can dip into if we happen to find that we have the time left over.

If you’re looking to build a hobby into a habit, I’ve put together five practical steps that you can take to this end. These are things that have worked for me and are also backed up by the truly incredible amount of literature that exists on the topic (I’ll put some resources at the end of the post if you’re interested in reading more). So, without further ado, let’s delve in…

1. Get To Know Yourself

I’d love to do away with the cliches but self-knowledge is critical when it comes to building good, sustainable habits. We all have limited time in a day and, for most of us, we have far less free time than we would like. This makes it extra important that you are working to build habits in a way that is geared specifically toward your own preferences and lifestyle. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in what other people are doing and how they’re doing it. I’m definitely guilty of this. I love reading about the habits of various famous authors and imagining that adopting their routines might suddenly unveil the literary genius that I always knew lay deep down inside me. Or perhaps I could become the Oprah of a new generation by mirroring her morning regime. But the simple fact is that I am not these people and, if I want to succeed in my own way, I will need to know what works best for me.

Obtaining the kind of self-knowledge that can help you on your journey to habit creation isn’t as hard as it might sound. It’s really about getting into the practicalities of what a habit would look like for you. The types of questions that I asked myself (and wrote down the answers to because it really does help), included:

  • Are you a lark who functions best in the morning? Or do you work best late at night?
  • What does your free time look like? Do you have the ability to shift your free time around (if you’re a lark, for example, can you build your free time into the morning?)? Is there a set period of time that you can set aside for your hobby – daily, weekly, or monthly?
  • What are your goals? Why do you want to pursue this hobby as a habit?

These questions will help you to become better acquainted with your goals and how you might pursue them within the limits that your lifestyle imposes. It is important to give some time to exploring the realities of how a habit can fit into your everyday life, particularly when that habit is a hobby such as sewing. Hobbies tend to take up quite a lot of time and it can take a while in each ‘session’ for us to feel like we’re really present. It’s a bit different from a habit of brushing your teeth. However, when you compare to the sort of time that would be invested in exercising or cooking dinner as habits (both good habits, by the way), it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. As I’ve emphasised in previous Sewing for Self-Care posts, even 10 minutes a day at the sewing machine can help to stir motivation and, ultimately, create a habit out of a hobby. Getting to know yourself is really the first step toward setting yourself up for success which, incidentally, is the second step!

2. Set Yourself Up For Success

It can sometimes be difficult to acknowledge the places where we are limited. If we’re in the habit of going to bed late after a Netflix binge but know that we function best in the mornings, it can be tough to acknowledge that we may do better with an early night and some self-care time in the morning. Life can undoubtedly get in the way of us functioning at our best! So it’s key when trying to build new habits that we set ourselves up for success in as many ways as possible. Once you’ve spent a bit of time thinking about your lifestyle and preferences (as per Step 1), you can begin to create manageable goals for yourself. This is so important. You’ve already asked yourself what you want to achieve, so now it’s a matter of figuring out how to go about it. This will look different for everyone. If your goal is time-specific, you may decide that you are shooting for 30 minutes at the sewing machine per day. If you’ve figured out that you are a lark, you might have chosen to set your alarm an extra 30 minutes early to accommodate. Or perhaps weekdays are out of the question for you, so you’re setting aside Sunday afternoons as your weekly crafting time. The most important thing is that you are realistic. Going from doing nothing at all to sewing every evening after work is probably not setting yourself up for success!

You will also want to enable yourself by making sure that you have what you need. This is something that’s relatively specific to hobbies as habits. You’ll want to be sure that you don’t sit down in your crafting space, ready to begin your activity, and then discover that you’re missing something critical to the whole endeavour. There’s nothing worse than getting ready to sew and realising that you’re out of thread. This just increases the temptation to throw in the towel and sit down with an episode of The Only Way is Essex and a bowl of ice cream instead (am I revealing too much?!). So be sure to pre-plan and set yourself up for success by being properly equipped. It is also a great idea to have a back-up plan. If you discover that you don’t have what you need in order to sit down and sew, what can you do instead? Perhaps spend some time planning your next makes, or look for some style inspiration. Maybe tidy up your crafting area. Or take care of some of those long-neglected clothing repairs. There’s always something else that you can do and still feel that you are maintaining your habit. The key is setting aside the time and using it purposefully on your hobby.

3. Use The SMART System

If you’ve read anything about creating habits, you’ve probably come across the SMART method before. It’s a really easy way to ensure that you are hitting all of the most important components of successful habit formation. So let’s go through them one by one:

  • Specific: giving yourself vague goals will not work. So don’t say to yourself ‘I want to sew more’. Be as specific as possible when setting out to create a habit. Hobbies are slightly more complex as something to turn into habits because they are naturally more expansive than many of the habits we think of (drink 2 litres of water a day, for example). So there are many different approaches. As I outlined above, you might choose to be time-specific (sew for 10 minutes a day, paint every Saturday afternoon from 2-5pm). Or you might be project-specific (complete one new garment a month). Being project-specific is slightly harder since it doesn’t necessarily create a concrete habit in the same way as designating time. However, it depends on your goals. Perhaps the habit you want to cultivate is simply making more of your own clothes, in which case being project-specific would be a valuable approach!
  • Measurable: This relates back to specificity. It’s important to set goals that are measurable. So time, projects, etc. Saying ‘I want to sew more’ is not a great way of creating a habit because it isn’t measurable. You need to be able to know that you are achieving what you set out to achieve in a very clear and concise way.
  • Reward: Successful habit creation relies, in part, on some sort of reward. This can be something you consciously give yourself as you complete a habit. For instance, eating a piece of chocolate after exercise. With hobbies, this kind of explicit reward shouldn’t be necessary. Assuming that you are picking up the hobby for the sake of enjoyment, the reward is usually a part of the process. You get something out of what you’re doing. In the case of sewing, this might be the absorption that comes with immersing yourself in the activity. It is also very likely that you feel rewarded by completing a garment and wearing it out. That said, there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself an explicit reward. I like to accompany my daily sewing with cups of tea and a podcast. To me, this just ups the ‘reward’ factor that’s part of my sewing time.
  • Trackable: Monitoring/tracking is important. It’s a form of accountability that allows you to acknowledge whether what you’re doing is working. It’s also part of human nature that knowing we’re being monitored (even if it’s by ourselves) makes us stick to habits. It is the same reason that many people advocate an accountability buddy when they’re trying to diet or exercise. I use my bullet journal to track my habits (not just sewing but any habit that I’m trying to cultivate). It helps me to monitor how well I’m doing and often encourages me to perform an activity, even when I’m not really in the mood. Obviously you want to be sure that the habits you’re tracking are ones that actively make you feel good!

Adopting the SMART system is a sure way to set yourself on a good path toward successfully creating habits. Before diving into performing a habit, it is worth figuring out how well it conforms – or can conform – to SMART. Ensuring that you’re ticking each of these boxes just makes it more likely that the habit will stick long-term and survive life’s more tumultuous periods.

4. Get Involved In The Community

For me, being part of a community is integral to habits around hobbies. It is an actively encouraging factor in pursuing hobbies that we love, particularly where time investment might be higher. This could mean taking classes to develop your skills. Alternatively, it might mean creating a blog or participating in a community via social media. Hobbies lend themselves to interactions with others. Whether you’re into fitness, painting, sewing, or cooking, there are huge communities both in-person and online that you can become involved with. I find that the friendships I’ve formed online, as well as the inspiration that I get from others, helps to remind me why hobbies (and habits) are so important. I love to sew because it plays such an important role in my wellbeing. And I like to make a habit of sewing because I know how often life can get in the way of pursuing hobbies. Being a part of the sewing community is a great reminder of why setting this time aside for myself is part of the foundation on which I’m choosing to build my life.

If accountability is something on which you thrive, community can also be a massive part of that. Signing up for a class keeps you accountable, particularly if you know that you’re expected at the class or you have already paid for your place. Alternatively, you might enjoy taking part in an online challenge. The sewing community on Instagram is constantly having 30 day photo challenges (#bpsewvember is taking place right now, in fact) or competitions (the Cosy Cardi Challenge is also going on at the moment) and these can be great ways to up the accountability factor. Using a blog to make a public commitment to some sort of challenge (self-imposed or otherwise) might also help!

5. Acknowledge Your Achievements

This final step is probably my favourite because I’m all about taking time to step back and celebrate the victories. Acknowledging what you’ve achieved is absolutely key to creating a habit. It serves, in part, as the ‘reward’ function that I mentioned as part of the SMART system in Step 3. If we forget to recognise our victories, we’re losing an inherent part of the reward that comes with hobbies! Taking the time to celebrate achievements is also fundamental to what psychologist Albert Bandura called ‘self-efficacy’. Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task. So self-efficacy is key to us having the confidence to pursue an activity and is, therefore, absolutely vital to our continuation of habits. If we don’t believe we’ll be successful, we’re not as likely to keep devoting the time to habit-building. Making sure to celebrate what you’ve achieved and acknowledge what you’ve overcome is part of creating self-efficacy. If you can step back and recognise the victory in setting aside time for yourself, creating amazingly unique garments (or whatever is relevant to your hobby of choice), you automatically increase your own self-efficacy. Sticking to the SMART system and setting yourself up for success are also important ways of developing self-efficacy when it comes to hobbies as habits!

I would suggest writing down victories as they happen. Maybe, like me, you keep a journal in which you can acknowledge what you’ve accomplished. Or perhaps it’s just a matter of writing a list on your phone before you go to bed. Either way, it’s important to communicate your successes in a concrete way. Writing things down allows our brains to process them more actively and consciously, rather than just half-absorbing them as they buzz around our mind. These victories will play a large role in what spurs you on to keep up with a habit, even when the going gets tough.

So there we have it! Five practical steps for turning hobbies into habits. If you’ve managed to make a habit of your own hobby, leave any tips you have in the comments! Part of what I love most about writing these posts is getting to chat with all of you and hear about your experiences. Happy hobbying!


Some of my favourite resources on habits:

  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • 6 Stages and 16 Tips for Developing Good Habits by Barbara Markway (Psychology Today)

Chataigne Shorts (Deer And Doe)

I’m back with my first truly autumn make! As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been taking a much needed break from sewing and blogging whilst attempting to cultivate some sort of balance between all of the competing elements of my life. Fortunately, my version of the Chataigne Shorts from Deer and Doe patterns is something that I finished back in the summer and, now that the weather has turned, I’ve been able to take them out for a spin…

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I actually ordered this pattern way back in June, just a couple of weeks before Deer and Doe announced that they were releasing it as a PDF. Living in the middle of the US has definitely made me appreciate the joy of PDF patterns. Since this pattern shipped from France, got lost en route, and had to be resent after a 30 day wait period, it ended up taking about six weeks for me to actually get the pattern to my door. Not ideal. However, this is certainly one of the risks of ordering internationally and, in future, I’ll definitely be using PDFs where I can! The long and short of this is that, what was originally intended to be a summer make, has ended up becoming part of my autumn wardrobe.

Fortunately, I’m someone who has always preferred wearing shorts in the autumn. Although the 100F heat in Missouri has necessitated that I embrace summer-appropriate clothing, I’m infinitely happier when I can pop on a pair of tights and plenty of layers along with my shorts. I decided to make my version of the Chataigne Shorts in a faux suede (that I bought from Joann’s), mirroring the pair shown on the model in the Deer and Doe photos. Not only does the heaviness of the fabric make these shorts nice and toasty, the colour also provides that perfect neutral tan for a lovely autumnal colour palette.

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This particular shorts pattern drew my attention largely because of the super unique details. The pointed shape of the waistband and the neat little darts add a wonderfully tailored look to the garment. There are also some lovely deep pockets on the front and, as you all know, I’m a massive fan of anything with pockets. They were particularly helpful here because it was below freezing when I was taking these photos!

Construction-wise, none of these details posed much of a problem. I did find that it took a bit of fiddling and multiple attempts to get the point of the waistband to line up perfectly with the crotch seam. In the end, I accepted that it was going to be ever so slightly off centre. My husband couldn’t even see the issue but I’m sure many of you will sympathise with the excessive fixation that can accompany those not-quite-perfect sewing moments. I’m getting better about letting them go but I still often feel like I can’t see anything other than the mistake. Tell me that I’m not alone in this! Aside from the waistband, everything else was pretty simple. The instructions were quite clear and easy-to-follow and the shorts themselves close with an invisible zip attached to the side seam. If you’re familiar with this insertion process, you’re already good to go!

There’s also an added cute detail of pocket flaps on the back of the shorts. Unfortunately not full pockets, but the lack of pocket on the butt really helps the garment to lie flat against the body without any lumps or bumps. I was a fan of this particular addition because it was quick, easy, and looks very sweet!

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Fit-wise, I simply followed my measurements and hoped for the best. It worked out because the shorts fit really nicely and comfortably. The top of the waistband sits at the waist and it is worth bearing in mind when fitting that adding the waistband will shift the shorts upwards quite dramatically. So, before attempting to gauge fit, make sure that your waistband is comfortably sewn in place. Overall, I think that the shape and detailing of the shorts makes for an incredibly flattering look. I particularly loved the length of the pattern. I’m always a bit concerned when buying short because, as wonderfully as they may fit when trying them on in a changing room, you never know whether the dreaded ‘ride up’ will occur when out walking. There’s honestly nothing worse, particularly on a hot and sticky summer day. Both with tights and without, the Chataigne Shorts are the perfect length to prevent this from happening. I feel like I could wear them all day without fear of them riding up my thighs (maybe nobody else actually worries about this, but it’s a major review point for me!).

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I would definitely recommend this pattern to anyone in the market for a unique and comfortable pair of shorts. The pattern also comes with an option for a scalloped hem at the bottom of the shorts, if you would prefer this to the cuffed legs. There is also an option for a higher waist! So plenty of choices to suit all styles. I’m very sure that I’ll be making another version of these shorts sometime in the near future. Although I think that the waistband attachment would make this a tough pattern for a beginner, it presents few challenges to sewists with a familiarity with basic techniques and a bit of courage. And, if you’re like me, autumn can actually be the perfect time to whip up some brand new shorts!

Life Updates And Autumn Sewing

Happy November, my friends!

I feel that I need to start this post off with an apology. I decided to take a step away from Sew for Victory for a while. This wasn’t really planned or intended. However, I found that creating content was becoming a bit stressful (and, I thought, kind of insincere) given that I haven’t actually sat down at my sewing machine since August. As I’m sure you know from your own experiences, life happens and weeks can zoom by with unexpected speed. So I honestly didn’t even realise how long it had been since I’d last posted. After receiving messages from a few of you lovelies concerned for my wellbeing, however, I feel like I’ve made a bit of a misstep. I’m so happy that I’ve had this blog – and all of you – to help through the difficulties of the past couple of years. Being able to write openly and vulnerably about my experiences and mental health has been an incredible gift and one that has helped me to connect with a wonderful community. What I didn’t realise was that this openness means I can’t just disappear from the face of the earth without worrying a lot of people. Being open about my struggles has allowed me to create a special kind of connection with all of you. And, although I’m really happy that I took the past couple of months to focus on what I needed, I do feel the need to say sorry to those of you who have been worried about me. Rest assured, I’m happy and healthy! Thank you to everyone who reached out. You reminded me precisely why Sew for Victory and the sewing community at large are so valuable! I appreciate you all more than I can say.

With that serious stuff out of the way, I can now talk about sewing plans! As I mentioned, I’ve taken a couple of months away from my sewing machine. I found myself gravitating towards other kinds of self care (I’ve read a truly incredible number of books over the past few weeks) and was just generally feeling a bit uninspired. Fortunately, a lovely friend of mine sent me a Joann’s giftcard for my birthday, which got my mind ticking once again over potential projects. Since the weather has turned dramatically and I’m back in my favourite season of layers and massive jumpers, I decided that I wanted to make something super cosy.

With perfect timing, I saw that Sew Over It have released a new ‘coatigan’ pattern – the Jessie coatigan. This pattern speaks to my soul. I love an oversized cardigan, particularly in combination with leggings and a shawl. I’m all about comfort. So I ran off to Joann’s, newly inspired, and ready to find some super cosy fabrics! Fortunately, the trip didn’t let me down.

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The fabrics I found are so gorgeously soft. I was slightly concerned because I don’t wear wool and was worried that I wouldn’t find something adequately thick and soft. But these two fabrics seem totally fit for purpose! I ended up getting both because one was end of bolt and falls slightly short of the fabric requirements for the pattern. But, as standard for my US fabric buying experiences, the width also falls somewhere in between the standard 1.15m and 1.40m given on patterns. So I decided to take my chances and buy a back-up fabric just in case. Let’s be honest, I would probably wear two versions of a good cardigan pattern anyway! I’m starting out with the checked fabric because it’s my favourite, so fingers crossed there ends up being enough to accommodate all of the pattern pieces.

I’ll be returning to normal content next week but I did want to stop in to give a few updates. I’ve missed posting and chatting with you all! How are you enjoying your autumn? And what are you currently making? We need to catch up!

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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