Book Review: Everyday Fashions Of The Forties By JoAnne Olian


When I first picked up sewing as a hobby, it was almost an accident. I’d been on the lookout for an activity that would help me to channel the relative chaos of my life and had already cycled through a pretty impressive number of potential outlets – drawing and photography among them. I’d never had any previous inclination to take up sewing. In fact, my only encounter with a sewing machine when I was very young had left me terrified and certain that I would never touch one again. When I eventually decided to give sewing a go, it wasn’t due to a desire to overcome this long-established fear or a real passion for the idea of making my own clothes. Rather, it was a love of history – and vintage fashion, in particular – that first sparked my interest in getting reacquainted with the sewing machine.

I had always had a fascination with vintage styles. I’d taken up swing dancing while at university as an excuse to dress myself as authentically as possible. At the time, however, it never occurred to me that I might have greater success finding the outfits I was looking for were I to make them myself. Instead, I spent countless hours trawling eBay and a number of other sites for any authentic or replication 1920s-40s dresses and accessories. I didn’t have a whole lot of luck and, eventually, my passion for the jitterbug died out. But the fascination with vintage styles never disappeared.

Although my sewing skills have developed substantially over the past couple of years and I therefore depart every so often from sewing exclusively vintage-looking garments, I’m still constantly looking to bring sewing and vintage style together. When I’m not sewing vintage, I’m typically researching it. And my growing library has played a key part in delivering me great inspiration when it comes to my sewing.


Everyday Fashions of the Forties edited by JoAnne Olian is one of my favourite sources of vintage fashion inspiration. Alongside Vintage Details: A Fashion Sourcebook (which I’ve previously reviewed), it is my go-to resource when I’m searching for that spark of creative instinct in designing or planning a make. The book contains a truly wonderful collection of advertisements used by Sears during the 1940s – ranging from women’s wear, to men’s wear and children’s wear. It is a truly thorough accounting of the styles that dominated the period.

The book opens with a detailed and incredibly interesting introduction, contextualising the whole collection with information on fashion in 1940s America. The manner in which the war impacted fashion choices is especially interesting:

“In spite of war-imposed shortages and hardships, and ‘sorry, not available’, stamped with increasing frequency over items in Sears wartime catalogs, the smiles of the clean-cut American women modeling in its pages never faltered. Wearing cotton stockings or leg makeup and rationed leather shoes, they took Sears’s advice and saved their treasured service-weight rayon stockings for ‘furlough dates’, conserving gasoline by walking in comfortable low heels or wedgies. They wore slacks for comfort and warmth even when pregnant.”

However, you truly come to this book not for the introduction (however interesting it may be) but rather for the amazing advertisements. The whole collection is an incredible historical snapshot. I mean just look at the hats:



As with the hats pictured, the collection of advertisements gives a great amount of insight into 1940s accessories – as well as clothes. We get to see beautiful shoes, pins, and belts, in all of their authentic glory. There’s even an amazing ad for ‘leg make-up’ designed to offer “that silk stocking glamour”! I mean you really can’t more authentic in terms of understanding the 1940s war-time style environment than that!


The layout of the book is impressively. Although obviously the ads are presented in black and white, they are all incredibly visually clear. You’ll also notice that the year of the ad’s publication is in brackets at the top of the page, meaning that you can track the advertisements and the styles they present with a mind to the social and historical context!

I can’t recommend this book highly enough to those with a real interest in 1940s fashion. Whether you are looking for personal style inspiration or simply a wonderful historical snapshot, you really can’t do better do better than this amazing collection.

Everyday Fashions of the Forties edited by JoAnn Olian is available in both the US and UK. You can find it on Amazon UK here and Amazon US here.


Sewing for Self-Care: Jenny’s Story

The latest Sewing for Self-Care: Your Story post is here and comes to us from Jenny of Jenny DIY! When Jenny reached out asking whether she could share her story, the questions she was raising totally struck a chord with me. At the time, I’d been dealing with a desire to step back from my sewing and practice other forms of self-care. In this post, Jenny discusses this issue of timing in self-care and how we might manage our desire to sew with our expectations of the results that it can deliver to our mental health. I hope that you find this post as thoughtful and reflective as I do!

*If you’d like to contribute your own story to this series, details can be found at the bottom of the post.*

I’ve been sewing all my life, but it has only been recently that I have realised how much of an impact it has on my mental health.

My sewing journey began when I was a child making clothes for dolls. When I was a teenager, I created some very dodgy clothes! I got my first sewing machine when I was 18/19 and was using my spare time at university learning dressmaking.

Heather Dress

From my teenage years, I’d had anxiety. During my mid-twenties I’d learnt that therapy, in particularly CBT was a treatment for the anxiety I had. I was learning to retrain my brain.

Therapy taught me that the relationship between sewing and my mental health was vital. It taught me that sewing is who I am, what I’m good at and a way to keep myself grounded. The state of mind I had whilst sewing was what I needed to transfer to my everyday life to move away from anxiety.

When I’m sewing it’s just me and my rules. It’s my achievements and failures. The time I spend sewing is time to be me with no judgement from others or myself.

From the first skirt I ever made, to the first collared shirt and getting my garments to fit perfectly, my sewing journey has made me feel like I can do anything. The clothes I get to make and wear bring me so much joy. Sewing is the ultimate self-care practice!


Melilot Shirt

If this is the case, then why do I sometimes feel like sewing can feel like a chore? I hunch over the machine and tense my shoulders. This isn’t ideal for my self-care!

When I sew I have to be motivated. The machine needs setting up and everything has to be set up right. It has to be light, warm and I need to feel wide awake.

Sometimes sewing is not my self-care. It’s often the little things, the boring things that are self-care practices that ‘work’ the most. Washing your hair and making your bed. Taking deep breaths when you first leave the house in the morning. Eating healthy food and making sure your home is neat and tidy. Those ‘boring’ self-care activities can keep your mind clear and accomplished.

I often set my heart on sewing projects and have a huge to-do list of things to sew, things to amend. My dreaming up projects and constant need to be ‘productive’ doesn’t help my headspace! Is sewing more of a burden to my self-care?

Speaking to Laura about this, she explained that “when our self-care practices become a chore or a stressor, it’s really an indication that we need to be more responsive to ourselves and our requirements in the given moment”.

That’s why I have a struggle with sewing for self-care. I never want to force myself to sew because it will make me feel better. But sewing has been a huge help for my mental health.

I get such a feeling of accomplishment and energy when I do something amazing. It boosts my self-esteem and makes me feel great about myself. It makes me feel like I can achieve so much, and this is the state of mind I have to bring to my every day anxious life.


Sewing might be self-care for some people, at all times, but for me, it’s self-care at a specific time. If I can do my ‘boring’ self-care practices and keep my mind clear, then I can get stuck into my sewing projects. The more I can sew and be myself, the more I can continue to grow my sewing skills, and continue to keep my mind healthy and happy.

A huge thanks to Jenny for this super thoughtful post! Be sure to take a look at her blog – Jenny DIY – to see pictures of some more gorgeous makes and follow her on her sewing journey!

If you’d like to contribute your own story about using sewing for self-care, please get in touch. You can email me – – or message me via Instagram/Twitter – @sewforvictoryuk. Alternatively, make sure to check out my original post introducing this series and starting this larger community conversation about using sewing for self-care.

Sewing for Self-Care: The Science Behind Creativity and Mental Health

This is a post that I’ve been piecing together for a while with various bits of research. Since launching my series of Sewing for Self-Care posts, I’ve been growing more and more interested in the evidence behind the use of creative outlets to help maintain our mental health – and potentially recover from mental illness. Although there is clearly so much anecdotal evidence that creativity helps to manage mental health – my experience has certainly proved to me that there’s a connection – is that evidence really enough to suggest that we should all whip out our needle and thread in the name of good health?

Expanding my knowledge of sewing for self-care through the Sewing for Self-Care: Your Story posts has been an eye opener. I’ve heard from people who have used sewing to navigate all sorts of challenges – Tamsin’s story of using sewing to maintain her mental health following the birth of her daughter is just one example. How well do these experiences translate, however? Can sewing be helpful even if you aren’t suffering a mental health crisis? And what exactly is the connection between sewing and self-care? I’ve distilled some of the research in an attempt to answer these questions (and as the ever compulsive former PhD candidate, sources are listed at the end of the post)!

* As always, none of the below suggests that sewing should be seen as a cure for mental illness (and none of the studies mentioned posit that creativity can single-handedly fix a mental health crisis). My personal experience – and the evidence discussed below – is a testament to the power of creativity in maintaining mental health and practicing effective self-care. But I found my answer through a wide range of interventions and activities, including consultation with doctors and work with therapists. If you’re suffering, please be sure to reach out to local professionals who can help to put you on the path to recovery.*

Is There A Connection Between Creativity and Mental Wellbeing?

YES! (I’m really fortunate that this is the answer because otherwise it would make a LOT of what I’ve written totally redundant). There’s a good amount of evidence to suggest that creativity helps to maintain mental health. An article in Psychology Today cites a literature review by Stuckey and Noble, in which they looked through over 100 studies into the connection between engagement in the arts and mental health. Their overall conclusion from looking through these studies was that “creative expression has a powerful impact on health and well-being on various patient populations.”(1)  The researchers also found that these studies showed a general consensus “that participation and/or engagement in the arts have a variety of outcomes including a decrease in depressive symptoms, an increase in positive emotions, reduction in stress responses, and, in some cases, even improvements in immune system functioning.”(2) So creativity could even help you fight off that irritating winter cold!

Outside of this, engaging in creative practices can also put you into a different psychological state. Many of us have experienced this before – a place where you are so engrossed in what you are doing that time passes without you even noticing. This is actually a widely acknowledged psychological phenomenon – labelled ‘flow’ by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (if I remember correctly from my years studying psychology, this is pronounced chick-sent-me-high – I wonder why I remember it?). Flow is essentially a state of hyperfocus and a place in which we are our optimal selves. We experience flow when our whole attention rests on the present moment, when we are fully engaged in and enjoying what we are doing. Creativity is one of the easiest ways to find yourself in a state of flow. And flow is integral to our happiness and wellbeing. The amazing Ted Talk by Csikszentmihalyi – linked in the citations at the bottom of the post – is a really great explanation of flow and why it is so fundamental to our mental health and a fulfilling experience of our own lives.(3) The same thoughts behind flow are the ones that encourage us to practice mindfulness – essentially the act of being fully present in the moment. It all very much connects.

“The average person has 60,000 thoughts per day and 95% of them are exactly the same, day in and day out.”(4) Creativity allows us to break free of these thought patterns and puts us into a different mental space. We turn to what we’re doing, rather than falling down the rabbit hole of spiralling thoughts in our minds. This is why creativity has such an incredible effect on our mental health. As Charles Benayon, writing for the Huffington Post, explains:

“Neuroscientists have been studying many forms of creativity and finding that activities like cooking, drawing, photography, art, music, cake decorating and even doing crossword puzzles are beneficial to your health. When we are being creative, our brains release dopamine, which is a natural anti-depressant. Creativity usually takes concentration and it can lead to the feeling of a natural high.”(5)

Clearly, then, creativity is acknowledged to be fundamental to our mental wellbeing. Whether you are working to recover from mental illness (in which case creativity can be an excellent supplement to other interventions) or simply looking to keep your mental health on point, practicing an activity such as sewing is a great step!


Will Creativity Always Make Me Feel Better?

I think this is an important question to consider. Next week’s Sewing for Self-Care: Your Story post – written by the lovely Jenny from Jenny DIY – deals with the issue of timing. Because, as many of us know from experience, sewing will not always make you feel better. Sometimes – particularly when those pattern pieces just won’t fit together properly or your fabric can’t help puckering – it will make you feel a bit worse. Learning to respond to your needs in any given moment is something that I’ve already written about at length. But it’s a tough skill to learn (and yes, it really is a skill!). Especially when we know that sewing is such a great self-care practice so much of the time and we convince ourselves that it is always an appropriate response.

Interestingly, reaching that meditative state where creativity can have such a positive impact on your mental health is not a given. Returning to the idea of ‘flow’, Csikszentmihalyi actually identified nine different elements of flow that he saw recurrently when researching people’s engagement in flow activities(6):

  • There are clear goals every step of the way

In sewing, this is a relative given. The process of following a pattern is incredibly goal-oriented which makes it a naturally suitable ‘flow’ activity.

  • There is immediate feedback to one’s actions

This means that, at every step of the activity, you should understand how well you’re doing. With sewing, the feedback is often self-driven and avoiding falling into a place of self-critique can be a challenge (and self-criticism certainly isn’t conducive to ‘flow’). It’s important to be able to acknowledge how well you’re doing, without being hard on yourself if things aren’t going perfectly.

  • There is a balance between challenges and skills

You need to make sure that what you’re doing isn’t too easy or too hard. To achieve flow, you want to be challenged just the right amount – basically, what you’re doing should correspond to your skill level. If you’re sewing, this is pretty simple to assess. Make sure that you’re looking at pattern reviews and details before committing!

  • Action and awareness are merged

Be in the moment, fully present. This can take a bit of effort at first – don’t fall down that rabbit hole of thoughts and, instead, keep returning to what you’re doing (however, determinedly your mind is trying to pull you away with thoughts about the past or future).

  • Distractions are excluded from consciousness

Basically as above. Focus on the activity at hand and don’t let yourself get carried away by distractions.

  • There is no worry of failure

This is definitely one that I struggle with. ‘Flow’ means that you should be so absorbed in what you’re doing that you’re not engaged with the idea of failure. Since ‘flow’ requires that we know what steps we need to take in our activity, we should be fully immersed in carrying these out. If you’re naturally self-critical, it can be hard to disengage from constant negative assessments of your progress. But, if you’re fully in the present moment and the activity at hand, failure shouldn’t be on your radar.

  • Self-consciousness disappears

This relates to the above. It’s basically about putting your ego to the side. If, like me, you’ve taken your creative outlet to the internet, it can be hard to let that self-consciousness go. Many of us are engaged in comparison with others and fear that what we’re making might not get the right kind of response. These thoughts can carry away from the internet and into the activity. Thoughts like ‘What if this goes wrong, when I’ve already told people it’s what I’m making?’ or ‘If the sizing isn’t right, I’m going to look like a sack of potatoes!’ start to become a problem. Returning to ‘flow’ as your priority, the ego gets put to the side. It’s about letting go of your self-image and self-consciousness to be a part of the process.

  • The sense of time becomes distorted

I mentioned this above. When in a state of true ‘flow’, your sense of time will disappear and you’ll find yourself so absorbed in what you’re doing that you don’t notice time passing.

  • The activity becomes ‘autotelic’ (an end in itself, done for its own sake)

This relates to most of the above. If you practice sewing, you should be doing it for the pure enjoyment of the process. Blogging, or taking your makes to social media, can augment this quite a bit. It starts to become a means to an end (recognition, followers etc.) rather than an end in itself. If this is the case, take a step back. Remember why you started sewing in the first place and try to return to that sense of beginner’s joy – where everything you do is interesting and a victory.

These elements of ‘flow’ can definitely make it feel as though such a state of immersion is out of reach. But it truly isn’t. Remember that the positive effects of creativity are not tied to achieving a meditative state. Just the act of creating and getting yourself off the couch to do something productive can be sufficient. It’ll still give you that dopamine boost! But if you want to truly experience everything that creativity has to offer you, it’s a good idea to cultivate some of the elements listed above. A lot of these will just happen naturally when you find something that you love to do and are in the right mental headspace. Some of it might take a bit of work – as, for example, trying to reduce incidents of self-criticism and remain present with the activity. You might find that you achieve this state for just five minutes (and not even notice that you’ve been in it), or it might go on for hours. Although feeling good isn’t a given when it comes to investing time in creative activities, there is so much that we can do towards improving the consistent and long-term impact that creativity can have on our lives.


So Is Creativity For Me?

Creativity – as well as the positive effects that it brings with it – is absolutely for everybody. I spent most of my childhood feeling like the least creative person on the planet. I invested all of my time in my academics and always told myself that creativity was for someone else. I did poorly at art, played the piano mechanically, and basically spent no time at all investing in anything truly creative. It wasn’t until I started sewing that I realised I’d been carrying so much creative potential. Creativity isn’t an exclusive practice. We all have, in our minds, an idea of someone truly ‘creative’. They’re probably wearing an artist’s smock, glasses, and a beret. But creativity isn’t pre-packaged and it doesn’t come with a list of admission criteria. Find something that you love to do and you will reap the benefits. Divorce yourself from thoughts of judgement from others and stop believing that you have to come into an activity already being totally knowledgeable. I’ve been sewing for two and a half years and I still do more learning than feeling proficient. That’s ok though – learning is genuinely 75% of the fun. You just have to embrace it.

Scientists, doctors, therapists, and those of us with personal experience all point to creativity as a stellar way to help manage your mental health. It is not a panacea – you won’t find that your depression lifts forever the minute you sit down with some knitting needles. But creativity will help to alleviate internal conflict and teach you to cultivate a outlook that will assist you in making lasting change. You just have to give it a chance to work its magic.

(1) Cathy Malchiodi, ‘Creativity as a Wellness Practice’, Psychology Today (31 December 2015). Link

(2) Same as above

(3) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, ‘Flow, the secret to happiness’, TED (February 2004). Link

(4) Charles Benayon, ‘How Creativity Improves Mental Health and Wellness’, Huffington Post (5 July 2017). Link

(5) Same as above

(6) Dr Steve Wright, ‘”In the zone”: enjoyment, creativity, and the nine elements of “flow”‘, Meaning and Happiness (5 September 2008). Link

Topstitching Triumph?

As you all know from my most recent ramblings, I’ve been working away at my Ginger Jeans. This is my first foray into the jean-making world and, given the amazing reviews of this pattern, I’m hopeful that they’re going to be fantastic.

One of my favourite things about making jeans is the amount of topstitching. I love topstitching! I’m not sure if this is a popular opinion, but I genuinely find it so satisfying. Plus it looks super decorative and professional! The Ginger Jeans are presenting so many opportunities to practice a bit of topstitching. Although I will admit that constantly changing threads between my regular stitching thread and my contrast topstitching thread is a pain, I’m definitely enjoying myself. Maybe one day I’ll have two machines so that I can just move back and forth!


An added bonus is that the white topstitching looks so cute with the anchors!

However, I am encountering a bit of a problem. At a couple of stages, I’ve had to topstitch adjacent to an inner seam line (as opposed to an edge). Whilst topstitching next to an edge is relatively simple since you can just use the guides on the sewing machine to judge the 1/8″ and 3/8″ lines, topstitching in the middle of fabric is turning out to be a nightmare. In case my inadequate description is posing problems for you visualising what I’m talking about, here’s a picture…


Obviously, in this case, the fabric is obscuring the seam gauge lines on the sewing machine, making it impossible for me to measure. Although the actually foot has lines of its own (which are fine for following 1/8″), anything beyond the width of the foot is proving tough. I’m basically having to make a rough estimate of where the line should be – which doesn’t feel very good when I’m trying to get some perfect topstitching going. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to address this? I’m genuinely at a loss for how anyone manages this kind of scenario without some guesswork as to where the topstitching line should fall. For reference, here’s a pic of what I’m working with:


Now the obvious solution would be to draw the line onto the fabric before stitching. I’ve avoided doing this because I’ve had such unfortunate encounters with unreliable fabric markers – ones that have come very close to ruining garments because I can’t get the marks to wash off. I’ve tried a few different methods but haven’t found any that I’m comfortable marking onto the right side of my fabric. If the only way to take the guesswork out of my topstitching measurements is to mark onto my fabric, I’m definitely going to do more investigations to find a trustworthy fabric marker!

Sorry for the ‘Dear Diary’ nature of this post. But you lovely people always have excellent sewing advice so I’m hopeful that, with your help, I can find a way to make my topstitching even more triumphant!

I’m Back!

Thanks to all of you for the super sweet messages on my last post. I’ve had a much needed break from the computer and sewing machine, and am feeling tip-top once again! If you’re feeling run down or otherwise at the end of your tether, I can’t emphasise enough how great it is to take some time away from everything. Although this obviously isn’t possible for everyone, finding even an hour or two to just switch off and focus on your mental wellbeing is an incredibly powerful act of self-love.

I’m now back at the sewing machine and will be posting some proper blog content again next week. I’ve decided to drop my posting schedule back to twice weekly (Wednesdays and Fridays) while I ease back into things. I have some great posts coming – including some new Sewing for Self-Care: Your Story posts, provided by some incredible sewists from our community! In the meantime, I hope that you are all well and finding plenty of time for crafting (especially if you’re in the currently snow-bound UK). I’m currently enjoying some sewing in my very sunshine-filled sewing room. Don’t get too jealous though – Missouri weather is notorious for dramatic changes every few hours, so I could be knee-deep (literally) in some snow by tomorrow morning!

Thanks again for the amazing support. It makes all the difference. I’ll see you next week for a proper return to normal posts! Have a wonderful weekend!



Taking A Break

Lovely friends,

I just wanted to write a quick note to let you all know that I’m going to be taking a break from the internet for the next couple of weeks. As I alluded to a few posts ago, I’ve been struggling a bit recently with various things and – in order to head things off and get myself centred again – I’ve decided that I need to take a bit of time. So I’m off on a retreat where I can switch off for a bit and do a bit of mental spring cleaning!

I’ll see you all back here in a couple of weeks when normal service resumes. In the meantime, enjoy what’s left of February!


Ode To My Fabric Facilitator (Also Known As Husband)

A little late for Valentine’s Day (although I’m actually writing it on the day) but this is a post that’s been in my head for a while. I think many of us who craft a lot – particularly when we’re also turning that crafting hobby into an online presence of some sort – tend to paint a convincing picture of the activity as something quite solitary. This isn’t entirely inaccurate – the skills involved in sewing and the planning that goes along with creating a new garment tend mostly to come from our own minds. It’s not much of a collaborative activity. But there are almost always other people holding us up in some way. Whether these are shop attendants helping us to find the perfect fabric, blog readers who motivate us to keep sharing our creations, or supportive partners who don’t question our many hours at the sewing machine, we all owe some credit to someone.

I often forget how much I depend on my husband to support my sewing. I don’t talk about him much on here – mostly because I’m the one who has chosen to run this blog and I don’t feel that it’s my right to put too much about other people up on the internet. My husband also has the world’s most Googleable name, which is why I don’t ever actually name him anywhere. This said, I do want to spend a post acknowledging how massively he contributes to my creativity and this blog. Without getting too gushy, of course.


He was absolutely the driving force behind me picking up sewing and blogging in the first place. I’ve been quite open on here about the fact that sewing came into my life at an incredibly difficult time – a time through which my hubs was totally present and worked every day to help me navigate. I mentioned to him that I thought sewing might, for some unclear reason, be a distraction for me. Within a couple of days, he’d got me a sewing machine, some patterns, and just about all of the accessories I could need. I should mention that, by this point, I’d cycled through about four or five different hobbies in the hope that they would be the thing that stuck and helped to alleviate my anxiety and depression. All of these were time and money investments and they all pretty much fell into disuse. The fact that there were no eye rolls or questions when I brought up learning to sew is really a testament to his patience and belief in me. He also encouraged me to take up blogging as a way to log my achievements and potentially connect with other amazing sewists (that’s YOU!).

Since that point, you’ve all been a party to my journey through this blog. From leaving my PhD programme to moving to the US, it’s all been documented here on Sew for Victory. In the background, my husband has been an absolute constant. He’s financially supported my sewing while I was waiting for my green card and couldn’t work. Now that I have my green card, he’s continuing to give me every form of support needed as I try to figure out where I want to go with my career and sewing. But the material stuff is far from the most important thing. He’s there every time I doubt myself and feel like I want to throw in the towel (this happens more times than I’d like to admit). He’s rescued half-finished projects from the bin on more than one occasion. And he’s the man behind the camera every time we photograph my finished makes, telling me how amazing my garments look.

To say that I couldn’t do this without him would be an understatement. I’ve been working to get to a place where I have sufficient self-belief that I rarely question myself or my achievements. Since I don’t believe that resisting these thoughts is the best way forward – and instead work to let them come and go without getting invested or spiralling – it’s a long process of trying to get to a place where these thoughts don’t impact my actions or choices. The work continues but, because of my propensity to get super self-defeatist, I have no doubt that this blog would have disappeared long ago – along with my sewing – if it weren’t for my husband.

This is not a blog post that should be read as suggesting that it’s impossible to develop or sustain a new hobby unless you have a partner. I’ve been alive for 29 years and with my husband for just four of those. I completed an MA, MSc and took up countless hobbies without him – all while anxiety and depression were very present in my life. It’s totally possible to achieve anything that you want to without a relationship. Not to mention the fact that there are so many other types of relationship that are just as valuable as those of a romantic nature. The support I get from my husband is the kind of support that everyone out there deserves – but it doesn’t have to come from one place. I count myself lucky every day that I found all of this in one person.

So I wanted to write this post for the man who is so constantly present behind-the-scenes. He may rarely be featured but he is somehow always helping to facilitate what I do. He deserves a lot more than a blog post but, for now, this is what I have to offer. And I know he’s reading this – so thank you, my gorgeous one, for everything.


Denim Dilemma!

Picking fabrics can be a nightmare of indecision. This is the main reason why I tend to pick projects based on fabrics that I already own. That way, I can fabric shop purely for what I love rather than panicking myself into a stupor trying to decide on what’s most project appropriate. But this doesn’t always work. Sometimes a project finds its way to the top of my To Do list without any workable fabric in my stash. Participating in The Big Vintage Sew-Along and The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour were great lessons in fabric shopping with actual purpose!

When my only pair of jeans (store-bought – and yes, I only had one pair due to my pre-transatlantic move wardrobe cull!) ripped at the weekend, I knew that I would have to shift my upcoming projects around a bit to accommodate my need for new jeans. Since I already had the Ginger Jeans from Closet Case Patterns lined up, I decided to just delay my Mimi blouse for a little bit and prioritise a new pair of jeans. Who knew, however, that picking out denim could be such a task? My husband drove me out to Joann’s where I managed to spend 45 minutes looking at a pretty limited selection of denim, trying to decide what I wanted to do. Initially, I was planning on simply replicating my old jeans as closely as possible by picking out a relatively dark, plain denim. But then some alternatives caught my eye.

Firstly, I was super tempted by a white floral design that I thought would make such a gorgeous pair of jeans for the spring. I carried it around the shop with me for ages before deciding that it might just be too far away from the versatile pair of jeans that I’d initially been intending to make. I’m all for straying off of the beaten path and I adore a good pair of statement trousers (my Ultimate Trousers really demonstrate this fact) but since I currently own no jeans – and I practically live in jeans and yoga pants – I figured best to stay as simple as possible.

That said, I obviously can’t resist making garments that look as unique as possible. So when I came across an adorable dark denim with embroidered anchors, I couldn’t resist!


How cute is this? The only thing that remains to be seen is whether I actually have enough. I ended up finishing the bolt and it came up just short of the requirements. Annoyingly I fall in between two sizes for the pattern, both of which have different fabric requirements (2.75 yds versus 3 yds). The width of the fabric also falls between the two given widths. So estimating whether the 2.75 yds I ended up with will be enough was a bit of  a task. In the end, I bought it and am going to check the pattern layout before prewashing (in which case, the fabric is still returnable). Fingers crossed that it will work!

I also bought a super cute cotton for the pocket/waistband lining! I love the triangle pattern. Plus the colour scheme feels very much fitting with the nautical theme. I spent a while trying to find a stripy fabric that would work – mostly because I thought that stripes would look really great – but no such luck! I’m super happy with my choice anyway!

Deciding on the fabric was definitely a bit of a trial. But I always have to remind myself that I can have a second stab at any pattern I love. If this version of the Ginger Jeans goes well, I totally anticipate a return trip to Joann’s for the super sweet floral denim! This said, I absolutely need to get better about not feeling as though I’m making life-changing decisions every time I have to pick out fabric. Not least because I fear my husband will eventually stop driving me out to fabric shops if he has to spend many more hours trying to have opinions about fabrics.

Stay tuned and fingers crossed I’ll have some jeans to show you soon!!

Sewing for Self-Care: Tamsin’s Story

The first Sewing for Self-Care: You Story post is here! I was so excited to hear from Tamsin, who blogs over at Hazelnut Thread. Her story about using sewing as part of an effective approach to postnatal self-care is incredibly relatable and enlightening! When I emailed her back after receiving her post, I wrote that I couldn’t help smiling as I read. I’m sure that you’ll find the same! Whether you are dealing with anxiety in general, attempting to develop a specific self-care regime around your little ones, or are simply looking for better ways to attend to your own needs, I’m know that Tamsin’s post will help you there. I hope that you enjoy!

While it’s quickest to describe myself as a long term sufferer of anxiety, in reality, what I suffer from is a multi-plate spinning brain. When each plate is being spun, I feel pretty normal. When I’m at work, I teach 30 different children a concept at several levels of understanding at the same time as balancing their behavioural needs, thinking of better ways to explain myself and keep them all in the same room. It’s what my brain is used to. It’s fine. But whenever I don’t need to think about that particular plate, anxiety loads the empty plate – filling the gap that is left behind. In other words, my brain is trained to think about several things at the same time and when I stop, it finds other things to think about, and think about and think about. I can rumunate on a gut-wrenching thought over and over quite compulsively.

Sewing has been part of my life now for almost 3 years and it is a blessing for someone with a brain like mine. I wanted to write about how this happened and where the sewing journey has taken me in that short time. I had always wanted to be able to make clothes since I can remember. I had a sewing machine, actually I had two! But honestly, I could not make a thing, all the gear and no idea, stuffed in the back of my wardrobe for 15 years.


When Hazel decided to come along (I thought it was early menopause, but no, I was 6 weeks pregnant) the timing was tough. I was expecting to get Postnatal depression, but I didn’t. In fact I distinctly remember feeling Postnatal joy for several months. I would walk around so blissfully grateful. I felt so priviledged to be able to look after her, I still do. However, the antidote to this immense love is that I felt incomprehensibly guilty that I was not good enough for her. I don’t live near my family and only one of my friends has children, so everything I felt was magnified as it was often just me and her. I suppose my day-to-day happiness masked what was really going on. While on maternity leave, an entire dinner service of anxiety plates were building in my head.

An awareness I felt when I had my daughter, which I was not expecting, was the feeling of connection with my female ancestory. I would hold Hazel, humming the same lullaby that my mum had sung to me, knowing that her mum had sung it to her when she was a baby. I never knew my maternal grandmother, but I attribute this feeling of connection to the reason sewing really took hold of me 3 years ago. My maternal grandmother was a gifted seamstress and used it to make ends meet as well as for pleasure. I had an overwhelming urge to make Hazel a pair of dungarees and when I bought that Burda pattern, I also bought a simple dress pattern that included a hat. Why I thought I could do any of it I don’t know. Obviously the first attempt at dungarees went in the bin, but when I needed to get Hazel a summer hat, I was compelled to make one. This is the decision that ignited something in me and sewing took over most of the spinning plates in my brain. Not only was the hat the first sucessful sewing project I had completed, but I distinctly remember getting a buzz from doing the top-stitching! I wonder if some deep seated genetic abililty was starting to come to the surface.


I wish I was blogging back then to try and remember all the thoughts and learning that I was doing. But I can remember making this simple dress about 5 or 6 times. Each time deciphering the instructions in a slightly different way. The fabric was so cheap and I didn’t have to worry about fitting it carefully or anything – I could just go for it. Every bit of skill, bar sewing in a straight line, was new to me. I can remember getting so excited when I could sew bias binding on neatly. While it took me hours to complete a dress, it was easy to pick up and do in stages during nap time. It was the first time in over a year that I had sat still, with music in the background, focussing on something other than my worries. It was bliss. My mind was able to think about so much at once! The endless possibilities. Fabric choices, details, accent colours, different patterns…my head was full of it. When I wasn’t sewing I was reading about it online or in books. The guilt was there in spades that I wasn’t focussed on her, but I was making things for Hazel while she was asleep, new things in her favourite colours, so this allayed my guilt. Now looking back, I know I had no need to be guilty, but there would have been no point telling me that at the time.

It’s funny to think that I must have made 8 items on my simple 20 year old Toyota machine with what was probably the original needle! I had no idea how much I didn’t know. I did go back to that dungaree pattern and made about 4 versions – still with that same needle.


Skip forward a few months of obsessive sewing practise and learning and I was lucky enough to get the chance to buy a new computerised machine. I was so excited that I drove straight through a buses-only lane! I had no idea until I got the ticket a few weeks later.

I made another dungaree dress in denim for the first time on my new machine, inspired by the triple-stitching feature. I made a zebra motif from felt and zigzagged it in black all around the edges. This went on the front of her dungaree dress. I was now feeling that I could make her any design she wanted. This felt like a mummy super power. I loved being able to make her a one of a kind outfit based on her favourite book for World Book Day (a cow from Click, Clack, Moo!).


I had some ideas about how to sew in theory – as seen in films etc. – such as measuring, fitting alterations, pinning up the hem. However, I found that with children’s clothes I could get away with following a straight forward packet size with no alterations. I eyeball hems with an iron and pin them flat. I think this gave me the freedom to really learn from scratch and figure out what worked and what didn’t. The continual learning, problem solving, and creativity is such a tonic for my brain. By spinning all those plates and thoughts, I create a new outfit from a flat piece of fabric, but feel calm and relaxed the whole time.

I mentioned that I don’t bother with hemming properly, or fit! Well, I moved onto making clothes for myself. I don’t enjoy the fitting process and I’m really bad at it. But it’s reassuring to know that there is still a wealth of learning to do. I genuinely feel that learning to sew is going to take me years and that’s a relief. I know what I can’t do, but I also feel a sense that I can take on any project and as long as I take my time, it’ll get there. I feel that when times are difficult, I know that there is a way to give myself a break from the incessant ruminating about rubbish.


Top of my list for feeling happy about my sewing is top-stitching and finish. I give loads of my makes to charity because they don’t fit – but they certainly look lovely on the hanger inside and out. I love things to be neat and tidy and top-stiching just looks bloody lovely to me. My machine definitely helps though! I can spend hours setting in a label (not that I have my own, yet) so it looks lovely. Whereas others will put fit on the top of their list and feel happy, the photos I heart most on instagram are usually of overlocking and hidden liberty facings or a hong kong seam.

I love writing my blog. I can’t keep to a regular posting schedule, but I really enjoy keeping a record of what I’ve learned on my journey, with the odd non-sewing related ramble. Instagram is my go-to social media of choice. I scroll through it a couple of times a day and it’s always been the blame for any impulse fabric, book, or accessory purchase. Mostly, I enjoy connecting with the sewing world. It’s the norm that people have their own sense of style and embrace their individualities, and people just praise each other or ask for more information. If only the whole of social media worked like that. Recently, I have really enjoyed taking part in two gift exchanges – which is odd because I don’t do any crafting and only sew clothes. But it’s definitely highlighted the joy of giving and it’s another way to connect with people.

I think sewing is either something you enjoy or not. Many people would find the whole process an utter bore, with too many things to think about. However, my advice to anyone with anxiety that manifests itself like mine does is to try anything creative. Creating uses different parts of your brain, requiring your main worrying thoughts to quieten down temporaily. It is quite hard to maintain a conversation when you are in this state, so that would be the test to see if you are there. My word of warning would be to set an alarm if you need to be somewhere. When I used to paint, 3 hours would feel like 20 minutes. I can happily lose a whole day to sewing (childcare permitting!). An hour’s rest from ruminating will do wonders for your daily well-being. It won’t fix you, but moments of peace everyday will help in the long run.

My advice to anyone taking up sewing is to start simple and repeat it over and over. Sewing for children is really good because of the smaller scale and lower price. However, if you are sewing for yourself, a nice beginner pattern sewn 5 times will increase your knowledge hugely. Even something as simple as pyjama bottoms. It’s also worth remembering that, yes, there are proper ways to do things, but in the meantime, use a 20 year old needle until you read that you’re meant to change them (and use different sizes and shapes at that). Something I also like to do is try to embrace a mistake in every project. Instead of getting perfection, when each mistake comes along I decide if I will rectify it, or whether that’ll be my “mistake of the make” and I ignore it. This approach saves a lot of heartache. Lastly – and this doesn’t sit well with my eco ideals – when learning, I think if you do it for the process and not to get a dress at the end, it’s a lot more enjoyable. Many of my makes end up going in the bin half way through but, apart from feeling guilty at the waste, it means I don’t develop a perfectionism streak in my sewing.


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through my experience of sewing and anxiety. Please visit my blog – Hazelnut Thread – for more stories about my journey.

A massive thanks to Tamsin for writing this incredible post. Make sure to check out her blog so that you can follow along with her sewing adventures! If you’d like to contribute your own story about using sewing for self-care, please get in touch. You can email me – – or message me via Instagram/Twitter – @sewforvictoryuk.

Alternatively, make sure to check out my original post introducing this series and starting this larger community conversation about using sewing for self-care.

New Projects: What’s Next?

With February now well under way, I’m attempting to get together some coherent sewing plans for my next few projects. The down side of not planning out a series of makes for the year (along the lines of #makenine on Instagram) is that I do spend a lot of time dithering when I find myself between projects. Since my sewing productivity has increased massively this past month, my lack of planning is becoming even more of an issue. On the other hand, my makes tend to be responsive to whatever I’m feeling at the time so planning out patterns for the year doesn’t really work well. To navigate these two perspectives, I’m trying to develop a planning method that falls somewhere in between by having the next few makes lined up – hopefully sufficient to get me through a month or two. With that, I thought that I would write up a post on my more immediate sewing plans – at the very least it gets my plans out of my brain (where they will inevitably slosh around and eventually disappear into the ether of my other thoughts) and written down in a concrete way!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been spending a lot of time recently working from Tilly and the Button’s Love at First Stitch book.


I’ve owned this book for ages but had yet to actually make anything from it. Having just finished up the Clemence skirt (photos to come soon!), I’m now working on a version of the Mimi blouse. I’m actually super excited about this make. I’ve never been big into making separates – I always seem to default to dresses because they’re just so pretty! But I’m determined to diversify my me-made wardrobe this year and separates are going to be a big part of that. I fell in love with the 60s style of the Mimi blouse and thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to use the beautiful fabric that I won during #vpjuly last year.


I was going to hang on and make a dress from this fabric (as per my traditional dress obsession) but I can’t help thinking that it will make a super cute vintage blouse. Plus there will be some extra fabric left over for other things, which is always a bonus!

After I get done with the blouse, I’m thinking of working on another version of the Decades of Style Belle Curve dress. This was one of my earliest makes and remains one of my favourite patterns. It’s just so beautiful! Unfortunately, my early version of the pattern is both much too big for me now and not amazingly made. I definitely applaud myself for managing to make the pattern at all and, given my complete lack of sewing knowledge at the time, am still very happy with what I achieved. But I think the Belle Curve dress is definitely a pattern that will benefit from my much improved sewing abilities.


I don’t yet have any fabric for this dress. I think it’s going to be a matter of rooting around at some fabric stores in order to find the perfect material. I think I’m still going to go for something plain (not patterned) and relatively light in colour, since this allows for the darts to show up especially well. I was actually really pleased with the fabric choice on my first version, so I think I’m going to try and use something relatively close to that – because why change what works?

The last project on my current list is the Closet Case Patterns Ginger Jeans. I’ve seen these jeans circulating in the blogosphere for a while and with consistently incredible reviews. I always struggle to find good jeans in stores because they’ll inevitably be baggy on my waist and thighs or too tight on my hips. The idea of making my own jeans is massively appealing and, with my recent Ultimate Trousers success, I’m feeling really motivated to make even more trousers! Not to mention, Closet Case’s jeans patterns are all 30% off for the month of February, as is their online Jean Making course! So I think I’m going to capitalise on that discount and give these jeans a go.

So that’s everything I have planned for the next month or so. If I continue on my current trend, my self-made wardrobe will definitely be growing exponentially through 2018! What do you have lined up for February? Dark, cold winters are definitely optimal sewing time. Maybe this -10 Celsius weather will clear up in St. Louis soon so that I can actually go out wearing some of what I’ve made this year.