Ultimate Trousers (Sew Over It)

I’ve been on such a sewing whirl this month. My second make of 2018 is done and dusted and, my goodness, is it a cracker. After many, many months of dithering about whether – and how – to use my favourite fabric, I finally decided to take the plunge. I’d expected that I would go for a dress or skirt since those are traditionally my favourite makes but, on a whim, I had a browse around for some good trouser patterns. My only foray into trouser making (the Tyyni Cigarette Trousers from Named Clothing) was un unexpected success – unexpected because I was scared and had thus far avoided having to really fit anything around my generous butt and hips. The Tyyni trousers stoked my confidence but I’m a sucker for lovely floral cottons and hadn’t acquired any fabric that really propelled me back into the world of trouser making. That is, until I found the most incredible Australian aboriginal fabric and decided that a pair of statement trousers – in the form of Sew Over It’s Ultimate Trousers pattern – was a necessity…


Let’s start with how much I love love love this fabric. I was worried that it might be a little too much for trousers but I adore it. I got it on a trip to The Quilted Fox – a fabric retailer in St. Louis. It’s called ‘Spiritual Women’, which just sells it even more, no? The intricate design of the fabric makes for the most incredible statement garment. I love it as trousers because it works so well with a simple top for a casual look, but I could also see dressing it up with a pair of heels and otherwise black ensemble.

In terms of the specific pattern I used for the trousers, I’m not sure that I could’ve done better than Sew Over It’s Ultimate Trousers pattern. I hemmed to above my ankles to give it a more relaxed feel. The simplicity of the pattern itself – the fact that it uses a side zip and is otherwise unobstructed by a fly or anything else – means that it really works perfectly with a bold fabric. It honestly makes for the most amazing pair of trousers.


In terms of the construction, it genuinely couldn’t have been easier. I used the PDF version of the pattern and it came together like a breeze. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know that I have a bit of a vendetta against PDF patterns. Even the ones that are generally easier to put together always have some issues – typically a few pages that just won’t go together like they should, with the pattern lines refusing to match up. This is the first PDF pattern I’ve put together where I’ve had absolutely zero problems of this nature. Everything went together perfectly and it was honestly one of the most satisfying parts of the entire process.

The actual trouser construction was also incredibly quick and easy. I had the whole pattern together in half a day (not including pattern and fabric cutting time). This is truly a trouser pattern for all abilities. If you know – or are willing to learn – how to insert an invisible zip, you’re all set. That is easily the most complex part of the construction process. Since I’m waiting on my invisible zipper foot, I only have a regular zipper foot to work with. This – plus the fact that the I made the trousers very fitted – means that my invisible zip is very visible. I knew that this would be the case, however, and half planned for it by picking a bold colour that matched with some of the patterning. I actually think that a visible zip on the side looks pretty great, so this might be a design point to consider when planning out a pair of your own.


In terms of the fit, I fell right between two of the sizes (10 and 12, I think) for both waist and hips, so I simply drew in my own line. Make sure to pay attention to the pattern instructions when measuring your waist – the measurement isn’t that of your typical waist, but rather 2″ below this point. I ended up drawing a mark on my belly to make sure I was correct. You might also want to get someone else to give a hand with this (or use a mirror) – since this waist measurement isn’t your natural smallest point, the tape measure has a tendency to shift on your back. I had my husband help out by making sure that the tape measure was level the entire way around my body.

I’m super in love with the fit of the trousers. They’re definitely on the tighter side looks wise (although not uncomfortably so) but, since I live most of my life in yoga pants and leggings, I’m pretty used to this. If you want something with more ease, it would definitely be worth making a muslin and sizing up a bit around the hip area. But I honestly think the finished product is incredibly flattering and comfortable just following the size guide laid out in the pattern. When I make another pair of these trousers, I’m not planning on making any adjustments.


I also really love where the waist sits. I’d say that it’s definitely above where most store-bought trousers sit, but it’s also wouldn’t be classed as high-waisted. The waist is, I think, much of what makes the trousers look so flattering when on. That said, there’s also a super helpful resource on the Sew Over It website for how to make these trousers high-waisted. The website also has an archive of their sew-along for the Ultimate Trousers which provides a tonne of useful information on every part of making the trousers, if you’re in need of a bit of advice.

In summary, I’m just super obsessed with every part of these trousers. Enough that I took them on an outing almost as soon as they were off of the sewing machine.


So definitely take a look at Sew Over It’s amazing Ultimate Trousers pattern. It is incredibly easy to put together and is an absolutely perfect way to use up those bold and beautiful fabrics in your stash.

Then you can go and hang out with the geese, who will be stunned into submission by your fantastic trousers. Trust me.




Vintage Sewing 101: You And Your Figure


Welcome back to Vintage Sewing 101! Thank you to everyone who stuck with me last week as we traipsed our way through the basics of learning to use a sewing machine. What a rollercoaster it was! I was forced to finally get acquainted with my sewing machine manual but, as a reward, got to get excited about sewing corners (my absolute favourite thing!). Fortunately, this week we’re out of the sewing basics and into the real nitty-gritty of vintage sewing. It’s the week that I have absolutely not been waiting for – time to appraise my body to work out what sort of clothes I should be sewing for myself. So buckle in for some serious old-school body assessments and a whole lot of up close and personal pictures of my figure (that only my husband enjoyed the process of taking).

*Disclaimer/Trigger Warning: I want to emphasise that this post is a pretty detailed appraisal of my body and its size. This is all done as part of following a vintage sewing manual that we must remember was written in the 1950s. Attitudes have certainly evolved since then (although not dramatically enough, in my view) and I am resolutely of the opinion that everyone should just wear whatever they want and whatever makes them feel good. If, however, you are triggered by photos or details about body size, this might be a post to save for another time. That said, please remember that this internet stranger thinks you’re perfect exactly as you are.*

Deep breath, everyone. Here we go…


Our Sew with Distinction manual does not disappoint by immediately proving its sensitivity towards women’s bodies. Although “there are limits to what padding, lifting or lacing can do towards achieving a perfect figure” (oh the possibilities that “lifting” provides for our insecurities!), wearing the right clothes promises us the opportunity to fix our flaws. In fact, Sears et al claim that wearing the correct clothing “can make almost any woman attractive in the accepted traditions.” I’m pretty sure the sound I made after reading this sentence was one that’s never left my mouth before – a mixture of total incredulity and astonishment. Besides which, I’m still trying to work out what “the accepted traditions” are. Nevertheless, it’s reassuring to know that however horribly disfigured we are – even if in the nature of some sort of troll – there is hope for us. And Sew with Distinction clearly intends to show us the light.

The manual goes on to describe how both line and colour are central to whether clothing will work for you (this is something that we’ll go into far more detail on in next week’s post – hurrah!). In order to decide what sorts of colours and lines will work best for my body, however, I must first make a thorough assessment of my body. Oh the joys of following a 1950s sewing manual. To spare your eyes and minds, I decided to avoid the suggestion that I conduct this figure analysis in “your foundation garments since these help to create the figure you will dress” (I’m not sure anyone needs to see my granny pants and sports bras here) and instead work with some form-fitting black clothes. This look is actually very close to my everyday wear – which I like to call “mime chic.” With that, let’s get going…



Someone or something upstairs must have anticipated this post because, thankfully, I’m taking these photos off of the back of two months of daily yoga activity. As uncomfortable as these photos make me feel (I mean, for a start I clearly have no idea what to do with my hands and arms), the full body shots aren’t that bad. That said, this is only the beginning. The first step in the figure appraisal comes with an assessment of height:


As the manual keenly perceives, “your height is one unchangeable part of your figure. Other dimensions can be modified by diet, exercise or foundation garments; but you are tall, medium, or short for life.” How dispiriting. Fortunately, we are about to be provided with all the information needed to make the most of this unchangeable asset. First, we have to note whether we are classed as tall (above 5’6″), medium (5’3″ to 5’6″) or short (below 5’3″). Since I’m 5’8″, I come very much within the ‘tall’ category. but this isn’t really a surprise to me. So what advice does Sears et al offer for someone of my stature?

Firstly, I am reassured by the fact that “fashion figures are drawn tall” which should apparently give me a clearer appreciation for how clothes will look on me. I would debate this point. Fashion figures are drawn thin and tall. It’s like suggesting that any woman over 5’8″ could look at a runway model and know how their clothes will look on her. Not to mention that an illustration isn’t always the most helpful. Fortunately, the sewing course doesn’t leave it there in the advice department. I’m told that I “may wear large collars, wide lapels, wide belts, and big bold designs without being overwhelmed by them.” I do appreciate the possibilities I’m being presented. As much as none of the above feature regularly (or at all) in my wardrobe, it’s really nice to know that I have options. Even better “you will find cartwheel hats, big ornaments and oversized handbags effective.”

Now, I must take issue with all of this. It seems to me that the suggestion is simply that tall women should wear everything oversized and large. Take these suggestions in their entirety and it sounds more like a clown’s wardrobe that one suitable for a “woman attractive in the accepted traditions.” Add to this that I’m told “I must avoid high waistlines” because “they add length below your waist and throw your figure out of proportion” and I’m becoming even less happy. Plus, no vertical stripes for me! Sears et al is already grinding my gears with these suggestions. And, now that I’m fully informed what my height permits me to wear, I get to move on to an appraisal of the specific parts of my body that might cause problems. I sense things are moving downhill very quickly.


At least this page is titled “usual figure problems.” There’s nothing better than resting in the knowledge of our communal body flaws. I will caution that I’m making these assessments of myself – I could certainly be too generous or too harsh, but I’ll do my best to be objective and work in accordance with what Sears et al are instructing.

So let’s start with my waist…


For the waist, the sewing course presents us only two possibilities – that a waist might be “thick” or “wide.” I’m genuinely not too sure that either of these apply to me. My waist is pretty narrow in comparison to my hips and shoulders (I’m pretty hour-glass shaped) so I don’t think I need to worry too much about either “avoid[ing] fullness in front or back” – as per the instructions for a “thick” waist – or avoiding “any fullness at the sides” – the advice for a “wide” waist. I’m really interested in the fact that the manual interchanges the word “wide” with “elliptical” here. I’ve never heard of an elliptical waist – apparently this is where your waist is “wide in front, but narrow when viewed from the side.” I’m still have a hard time picturing what exactly this would like in practice.

Anyway, it seems that Sears doesn’t have a whole lot of advice for me regarding my waist. I’m relieved that I can continue to have fullness on all sides of my body. However, the reprieve is, I fear, short-lived since we’re now moving onto the hips – and I KNOW there will be advice for me on this…



Excuse dirty dog paw prints on the bottom of my trousers. Apparently someone had some fun with these before I put them on.

I’m genuinely not very insecure when it comes to my body. It does what I need it to do and I’ve worked hard to respect that, ignoring all of the expectations that society tends to project onto women’s bodies. That said, I’ve had to work incredibly hard to overcome insecurities to do with my hips/bum/thighs. I have wide hips and a definite butt – although I actually super appreciate these features now, it’s taken a lot of time to get to that place (and a lot of yoga), and I was genuinely a bit concerned that I would see these photos and have a bit of an internal freak out. Fortunately, I feel pretty good and ready to offer Sears et al a figurative punch on the nose for the advice they’re apart to force upon me.

On hips, Sew with Distinction offers three kinds of common figure problems: hips that “bustle” (?!), hips that widen at the sides, or hips that don’t exist at all. I definitely don’t have the latter problem. Initially, I thought I might fall into the “hips that widen at the sides” category – but according to the description, this is associated with an “elliptical waist” (still no idea) and a flat bum – “if you can back flat against a wall,” as the manual describes. I absolutely don’t suffer from this. I have a good rear cushion. So that means that I’m of the “hips that bustle” variety. As soon as I read that description, my first thought was genuinely of Victorian ladies in their gowns. I think I’m actually not too far off. According to the sewing course, “If you protrude too much in back, you may want to minimize the bulge.” BULGE! Definitely a novel name for your butt. Accordingly, I must avoid “tight skirts that show the exact line.” I totally disagree with this. I think tight pencil skirts with a kick pleat at the bottom are one of the most flattering looks on those of us blessed with some booty and a sizable set of hips. So, sorry Sears but you definitely called it wrong on this one.

Next, it’s my shoulders that are up for judgement. Definitely an under-appreciated part of the human body. Let’s see what Sew for Distinction has to say on this.


Luckily, I pretty much avoid the critiques on this count. The sewing manual offers suggestions only where your shoulders are “too wide for your hips” – in which case, you apparently “have a masculine appearance” that necessitates extra volume in the skirt – or “too narrow for your hips” – which should be “disguised by shoulder pads.” My shape is such that my shoulders are pretty much equal to the size of my hips, so it’s all quite well balanced out. I win this time Sears.

Time for the bust, abdomen and neck…


My bust is well documented in the shoulder picture above. At 36″, I’ve always considered it pretty average in terms of size (although feel free to disagree with me on this, since I’m only guessing based on pattern/clothing size ranges). However, if I were forced to go one way or the other, I would probably view myself as being on the larger side of the spectrum. According to Sears et al, those of larger bust should “never wear a tight fitting waist,” which is a shame for Sears since that’s pretty much all I wear. We should also avoid any type of clothing addition with the word ‘breast’ in the name (not what they specifically suggest, but I’m guessing this is the real reason) such as “breast pockets” or “double-breasted effects” (because we already have two, so why double it?). Alternatively, if you’re small of bust, it is suggested that you opt for high waistlines. This begs the question – what on earth will you do if you are both tall and small busted? You must simultaneously avoid and only wear high waistlines. Wishing you all the luck in the world with this conundrum.


Onto my abdomen. Much yoga (because I can’t talk about it enough) has left me pretty flat in the belly. I’m not sure if it’s sufficiently flat to be classed as “flat” for Sears’ purposes but we’ll work with it and see what they advise. For those with flat tummies, ” a princess style” is recommended. After looking this up (because I honestly didn’t know what it was), I found out that a princess style dress is essentially one cut without a waist seam. So it’s constructed out of long panels, joined vertically, rather than having a horizontal join at the waist. Sew with Distinction also suggests that a flat belly can get away with a large buckle and V-waistline.

Our final stop on this tour of the female figure is – you guessed it – the neck! Because who can possibly think about sewing something without checking that it’s flattering to their neck first?


Sears suggests that there are four types of neck: short and thin; short and thick; long and thin; or, long and thick. I honestly have no idea whatsoever where my neck falls on this spectrum. I’ve never given it a whole lot of thought. I feel like it’s a pretty normal sized neck but maybe long and thick? In which case, I can “wear a square neckline, but it must be deep rather than broad, and the shoulder lines must come up as closely as possible to the neck.” This feels like a lot of requirements. Perhaps easiest to just not wear square necklines. Or maybe just wrap your neck up in a lot of scarves?

So, there we have it. I’ve worked my way up, down, and all around my body conducting a thorough analysis of its various features. In summary, I’ve learnt:

To Avoid:

  • High waistlines
  • Vertical stripes
  • Tight skirts
  • Peplums (unless they end in a straight line and aren’t too closely fitted)
  • Tight fitting waists
  • Breast pockets
  • Double-breasted effects
  • Broad square necklines
  • Wide V’s
  • Boat necks

To Wear:

  • Large collars
  • Wide lapels
  • Wide belts
  • Oversized handbags
  • Horizontal lines
  • Slashed front
  • Princess style dresses
  • Large front buckles
  • V waistlines
  • Deep square necklines
  • Narrow V-necks

All things considered, this is a whole lot of unnecessary shoulds and shouldn’ts. Historically speaking, it’s fascinating to consider the way that garments were designed and what they were intended to flatter or disguise. The wide variety of stylistic choices discussed in the sewing manual as things to avoid or embrace shows just how vast the fashion options really were and how much control home-sewing gave to women looking to style themselves. That said, I can’t help feeling that much of the advice offered is a lot of nonsense that just reinforces the idea that bodies should fit some sort of specific – and yet abstract – mould. All the shouldn’ts listed above are honestly just shoulds in disguise. My suggestion, in light of everything I’ve learnt from this section of Sew for Distinction? Wear what makes you feel amazing – whether traditionally ‘flattering’ or not. Life is way to short to worry about bustling hips or short, thick necks.

On that note, I leave you. The next Vintage Sewing 101 post will be taking what was learnt today and considering how lines can be used to create emphasis and shape when making garments. Another spoiler for you, apparently there is a such a thing as “youthful lines” versus “sophisticated lines.” Who knew?!



Sew Your Own Vintage Neck Scarf – Tutorial

Any avid sewists know that a growing stash of fabric remnants is an inevitable consequence of many sewing projects. I’ve been sewing for just over two years and the only thing that has helped to control my remnants is a trans-Atlantic move. Even then, I carted most of my fabric across the sea with me. Because remnants – as well as random measures of fabric that aren’t quite enough for a complete garment – are a relatively reliable part of sewing, I’m always on the lookout for ways to use up the bits and pieces that I’ve got lying around.

For a while now, I’ve had the most gorgeous piece of vintage silk in my stash. It was a present from my parents a couple of years ago, but there’s not quite enough of it to make anything big. Because of that, I basically just left it in my sewing cupboard to gather dust until I was struck by some sort of inspiration. Recently, I was on one of my trots through vintage fashion illustrations and photos online and it suddenly occurred to me that this fabric would work perfectly as a vintage scarf – the kind that you can tie in about fifty different ways around your neck, or even wear as a headscarf. So I set about making one and turned the process into an easy-to-follow sewing tutorial for anyone who has a stack of remnants searching for a purpose.

What You Need:

  • Fabric
    • A large scarf – of the size also workable as a headscarf – requires a square of fabric about 30″ x 30″. Alternatively you can make one much smaller than this – down to about 25″ x 25″, depending on the amount of fabric that you have available.
    • Choose a drapey fabric – silk, chiffon etc – so that you get that perfect flowing vintage-style scarf
  • Paper – pattern, tracing, or normal
  • Fabric scissors or a rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • Pins
  • Seam gauge, ruler, or tape measure
  • Thread to match your fabric
  • Sewing machine (unless you want to hand sew, which is also possible for the truly committed)
  • Iron and ironing board


1. Make Your Pattern Square

While it would be possible to mark directly onto you fabric, it’s well worth the effort of putting together a paper pattern piece. Since you’re working with silky material, there’s always a risk that the shape will be warped by the fabric shifting when marking directly onto the fabric itself.

Pre-determine what size of scarf you want to make and mark a square of that size onto your paper (either pattern paper, tracing paper, or by sellotaping some regular pieces of paper together). As noted above, 30″ square will make a large scarf – but you can work with a much smaller square, depending on personal taste and the size of your remnant. Around the square that you draw, you’ll want to add 1″ for your seam allowance.


2. Pin Your Pattern and Cut Your Fabric

Make sure that you use a good flat surface for pinning your fabric and ensure that the fabric isn’t moving or puckering underneath the pattern piece. Using a few weights (cans of beans will work just as well as traditional pattern weights) is a good way of making sure that the fabric doesn’t shift as you pin. Use plenty of pins to ensure that the fabric doesn’t shift around too much when you’re cutting it later.


Once everything is pinned down, cut your fabric out. You can either use fabric scissors for the job or a rotary cutter and cutting mat. I really like the rotary cutter for this kind of fabric – it’s much less likely to pull the fabric out of shape.


3. Press and Pin Your Edges

When you measured out the pattern piece, you left a 1″ seam allowance. To avoid any raw edges being visible, you’ll be using a double-fold hem to tidy the edges of the scarf. You also have the option of using some pinking shears to finish the edges before you start folding and pressing the hem, depending on your preference and how much your fabric has frayed. If you want to finish the edges, however, it’s best to avoid using a serger – this will bulk up the edges too substantially and make it much harder to get a neat, flat hem.

Start by turning the edges in 4/8″ and pressing – you’ll want to be sure to keep the corners nice and neat when you press them down.


Once this is done, fold your edges over by another 4/8″ so that the raw edge is hidden. Press down – making sure that the corners are still nice and tidy. Pin the hem in place.


4. Sew Your Scarf

Starting at one of the corners, sew around the edge of the scarf, using a 2/8″ – 3/8″ seam. 2/8″ is typically the best for keeping the corners well tucked but a wider 3/8″ seam can look great with a contrasting thread. It’s really a matter of personal preference! At each corner, be sure to raise your presser foot (with needle down) and pivot the fabric.

To reduce bulk, you may want to backstitch a few stitches by hand once your stitching is complete and you secure your thread. However, if the slightly bulkier machine backstitching doesn’t bother you, then go for it! I use a machine backstitch because I’m not the most patient when it comes to hand stitching.


5. Give Your Edges a Final Press

Before wearing, its a good idea to give the edges of the scarf a final press to give them a nice crisp shape!

6. Wear and Enjoy!

The thing I love most about this scarf is its versatility. There are a number of different ways to style it around your neck and shoulders but it also makes for a great head scarf if you’re feeling that Jackie Onassis vibe! So go out and be your best vintage self!



Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story


I am determined to make 2018 a year of great self-care practice. After a lengthy battle with anxiety, panic disorder, and depression, self-care remains a vital personal activity. For the past two years, sewing has been a really major part of that regime and I’m setting myself up for another year where creativity plays a primary role in my life. In my previous Sewing For Self-Care posts, I’ve written at length about the ways in which sewing helps me to navigate life’s peaks and troughs, as well as the specific practices that have moved me out of much darker places (hello bullet journaling, I love you!).

The response to those posts was overwhelming. I was beyond happy to read about the ways in which sewing has helped so many of you to overcome various types of trials. I have always maintained that creativity should play a part in any attempts to holistically deal with the clouds that drift our way – although I would definitely not suggest that this should serve as a replacement for professional intervention, where needed. I was struck by the number of people who commented, messaged, and emailed to share stories similar to my own – stories of sewing helping to deal with issues including anxiety, body dysmorphia, and depression. The more I thought about these stories, the clearer it seemed to me that sewing provides a legitimate avenue for all of us to work through thought patterns and behaviours that trouble our lives.

I want to provide a forum for those stories. Not just to serve as testimonials on just how fantastic sewing is (because we all know it’s true!) but an insight into the specific ways that a creative habit can help us to practice self-care. This is such an individual experience but I know that, in my bleakest moments, it was the stories of others who had found a way through that really helped me to move forward. I think it’s so important for us to navigate past undervaluing hobbies and creativity as a cornerstone for self-care. Although it can’t replace the benefits of medication (where prescribed and needed) or therapy, it is something that can assist lasting change in our attitudes – it can give us a passion that encourages us to move forward with our day, as well as a much needed boost to our self-esteem and self-image.

I don’t want to keep telling this story in my own words. Although I’m really passionate about having an open and honest conversation about my experiences with sewing and self-care, my perspective is one of many. And I don’t want to speak for others. Instead, I want to invite those of you with a story to share to share it on Sew For Victory. I’ll be providing a space for anyone who is interested to email me with their account, in their own words, of their experience with sewing and self-care. Whatever sewing has provided you, if it has helped you to tend to yourself and your needs, I really want to hear from you.

You can email me at laura@sewforvictory.co.uk to let me know that you’re interested in writing a post on this topic (whether short, long, or somewhere in between) or if you have any questions. You can also reach out to my via DM on Instagram or Twitter (links to both are in the sidebar). I think a discussion on sewing and self-care is one that must happen but only where it can accommodate everyone who wants to be heard. I truly hope that you’ll share your story with me and help to make this conversation happen. In the meantime, I’m sending you all the best kind of wishes for health and happiness.

Vintage Sewing 101: Care And Use Of Your Sewing Machine


Welcome back to Vintage Sewing 101! Last week we got acquainted with the well-equipped 1950s seamstress and found out that, in comparison, my tools come up a little short (quite literally, since my main problem seemed to be insufficiently lengthy rulers). This week, I’m continuing to build my foundational 1950s sewing knowledge with a look at how to care for and use my sewing machine. Although a lot of this information feels somewhat self-explanatory (particularly to anyone with basic sewing knowledge), I’ve decided that my mantra for this series of posts is ‘Take nothing for granted’. In that spirit, we move forward!

Before we delve into the content, however, I thought it would be a good idea to check out what the typical 1950s seamstress would be using to sew. Since the sewing course specifically mentions the Kenmore machine (made by the producers of the course – Sears, Roebuck and Company), I thought I would have a look at those. Kenmore machines were run on electricity (rather than with a foot peddle). The most popular model in the 1950s was the Kenmore Model 117-169, made out of aluminium and relatively lightweight in comparison to other models. However, the Kenmore Zig-Zag Automatic 117-740 – released in 1956 – was the most up-to-date in its technology, offering the ability to zig-zag stitch (and so sew stretch fabric). Pretty revolutionary at the time! If you’re interested, there’s a great Youtube video showing how a 1950s Kenmore is threaded and used – plus it will give you a good idea of what the machines actually look like.

In comparison, I have a Janome New Home Machine with at least a thousand stitches and just about every bit of technology available to modern sewing machines. It comes with a digital screen and stitch selection and all of the standard operations. Suffice to say, my experience of getting to know my sewing machine will not be quite the same as for someone sewing with a 1950s machine. But no doubt I still have much to learn! So onto the course instructions…


The sewing course places a LOT of emphasis on the sewing machine instruction book. Now, I’m not the best when it comes to reading manuals. I’m much more of a ‘throw myself in head first, whatever the consequences’ kind of girl. Since I’m a big believer in learning from my mistakes, this philosophy tends to really help me learn. But, true to my pledge of following this 1950s sewing course through from beginning to end, I dusted off my sewing machine manual and sat down for a read.


In all honesty, I can’t quite meet the standards of Sears, Roebuck and Company who insist that I must “Keep this book in your sewing cabinet – and refer to it frequently until you know its contents by heart.” The Instruction book is 54 pages and, quite frankly, who has the time. That said, I did read it through and discovered a whole lot of stitches that I didn’t really know existed on the machine. So I must grant Sears et al a victory on this front since there are clearly some benefits to reading the manual before jumping in.

After getting to know the truly insightful Instruction book from beginning to end, it’s time to learn about cleaning our machines. I feel as though this sewing course is already beating it into me that I’m not the best or most attentive sewist. I very rarely (*read never*) clean my machine. I know. It’s not good. But, thanks to a forced perusal of my machine’s Instruction book, I am now armed with the knowledge on how to go about giving my machine a good clean. Trying to bring myself up to the rigorous standards laid out for the 1950s seamstress by the (now, in my mind) dictatorial Sears, I took to giving my machine a thorough cleaning – hook race, feed dog, and all…


A clean machine is a good machine (Big Brother is watching)

With a clean machine ready to go, now it’s time to actually get to grips with using it. Since I don’t want to test your patience too incredibly, we’ll skip over learning to thread the machine – after two years of sewing, I’m pretty sure I’m doing this right. So we’ll hop straight on to learning to control and stitch. The manual first instructs that “Smooth (not jerky) machine operation is one of the ‘secrets’ of even, flat stitching.” I’m not quite sure why this is such a secret since it feels pretty self-explanatory. I will confess, however, that I had the biggest trouble with not jerking a sewing machine around the first time I sat down at one. I think I was about 12 and learning to use a sewing machine at school. I was so terrified of sewing over my fingers that I went at snail’s pace the entire time and, even then, took my foot off of the pedal every five seconds. Apparently I’ve grown out of this fear, although it’s pretty miraculous that I ever decided to sit at a machine again. Therefore, I can definitely verify the truth of what the manual is telling us – indeed, as the course promises, controlling speed on my sewing machine is now “as automatic as striking the right key is to a typist.” So I guess there’s hope for everyone.

Now onto stitches…


We begin with a bit of straight line stitching. According to the sewing course, it is incredibly important that we first learn to position our hands correctly on the machine. I demonstrate:


DON’T [emphasis mine because I feel this is how Sears et al would desire it to be read] place the hand that is guiding the material directly in front of the needle. You might get careless and run it under the needle! Keep it off to one side where it can’t be hurt.”

It’s strange to me that the course is referring to your hand as something of a separate entity. But I do agree with this very common-sense approach to sewing with your machine. It is, after all, a really bad idea to run your hand under the needle – as my 12 year old self would agree.


DON’T reach around and pull the material from in back of the needle. This can bend the needle so that it doesn’t go down into the hole meant for it, and it may snap in two.”

I’m not even going to try to be facetious about this advice because, for quite a while when I first started sewing, I did have a habit of pulling the material through. I guess I thought that it would speed everything up. It didn’t.


So, what’s the right way to do things? The sewing course informs “When the machine is running, material travels through without help from you, but your hand is needed to hold it straight. Preferably use your left hand, keeping your right hand free to straighten folds of the material in front of the machine, to hold the wheel for stopping at a point…and for similar tasks.”

My first thought reading this is that the end of the sentence feels incredibly ominous. Why the ellipsis? What other tasks is it referring to?! Am I right to slightly afraid of what Sears has planned? Otherwise, all good advice.

Now that we know how to position our hands, it’s time to stitch. The manual recommends that we start out with the very basics – learning to stitch in a straight line. As instructed, I didn’t draw lines on my piece of fabric and instead followed the seam guides on my machine. I was concerned that, after basically mocking the course for the entirety of this post, it would turn out that I actually couldn’t sew in a straight line. But I actually did ok.


I even did two lines – one at 3/8″ and one at 5/8″ – just to show off.

That’s all very well and good, of course, but are curves such an easy go? The course says that I should follow the same technique as before.


Granted, this is a pretty steep curve. I wanted to get more ambitious just to check my skills but the sewing course warns against this. It suggests that, when I become more advanced, I might “practice following wavy lines, then tight curves and lines like those used in an embroidery pattern.” But “don’t draw lines for the first stages of practice.” To avoid getting too big for my britches, I thought I should calm down and stick with some nice, calm curves.

Having mastered most of the basics, we now have just a couple more skills to learn (thankfully) – the joys of turning corners and learning tacking!


Learning to turn corners was one of my favourite skills when I first came to sewing. I still get a strange instinctual satisfaction from pivoting my fabric and sewing a right-angle. It’s just so neat! I particularly enjoyed how emphatic the course gets when talking about turning the corner – “Again stitch a straight line; but this time, stop exactly at a desired point (right hand on wheel) with the needle down.” I choose to read this as the course instructor being incredibly excited by the upcoming pivot because, if you haven’t felt the joy of a needle pivot, you just haven’t truly lived.

To stop myself getting too overly excited about right angles, I only sewed one…


And, for the first time, I was also able to backstitch at the end of my line. I’ve avoided doing so thus far since the course is very clear about skill-building in the appropriate way (and apparently tacking is the pinnacle of basic sewing techniques). Despite leaving it until the very end, the course is detailed on the importance of learning to tack. I will say that, on this point, I truly understand how much easier we have it with contemporary machines. Where the sewing course presents a few different options for tacking at the end of your stitches, for most of us it’s simply a manner of using our reverse stitch button. What a miracle this button is! I won’t take it for granted again.

Thankfully, Sew with Distinction has now talked us through all the basics of caring for and using our sewing machine. It closes out with an emphasis on learning to use machine attachments (I’m skipping over the diatribe on not wasting thread. To paraphrase – “save thread”) and, since I’m now so well acquainted with my sewing machine’s Instruction book, I’m off to get to know each of my attachments and what they actually do (since I only use about three of them on rotation). The next Vintage Sewing 101 post will take us away from learning the sewing basics (hallelujah!) and onto assessing our bodies for pattern making – a quick spoiler, “Are you tall?” and “Are you short?” are key phrases. I feel that this is where the course really comes into its own. So join me next week as I continue my 1950s sewing adventures!

New Projects and Updates!

Now that I’m all finished with B6242, it’s on to even better and brighter things! I’ve definitely been keeping to my pledges for 2018 and spending a lot more time both sewing and blogging. This is largely owing to some new bullet journal spreads that have really helped me to get my sewing schedule and plans under control. I hate having these sorts of plans just in the ether of my mind – it can get so overwhelming trying to mentally keep track of my various projects and objectives. Having a concrete method for scheduling out everything related to my sewing and blogging has been a massive help this January. I’ll be sharing some more insight into my current means of organising myself at some point over the next couple of weeks!

In an effort to stay on track with my other sewing goals, I’ve been thinking a lot harder about the types of makes that I want to get completed over this coming year. Although I’m not one for planning patterns too far in advance (mostly because my moods change frequently when it comes to what I want to make), one of my goals for sewing in 2018 was to find some sort of balance between vintage and everyday wear. In order to make sure that I’m working towards this, there’s obviously an amount of forethought required. Since I’ve just got finished with a very vintage-inspired make, I thought I would take a step back and try to use up some of my fabric stash on a more contemporary garment!

For a while now, I’ve had my eye on Sew Over It’s Ultimate Trousers pattern. Only once in the past have I had a go at making a pair of trousers and they were a roaring success so I’ve been super keen to try out a new pattern. I’ve always had great experiences with Sew Over It patterns and the photos of various versions of the Ultimate Trousers look so impressive. The photos also inspired my fabric choice. As you might remember, I bought the best fabric ever a few months ago on a trip to the independent fabric retailer, The Quilted Fox, here in St. Louis. The Australian print is so incredibly bold and intricate that I’ve been determined to find the perfect pattern for it! I had initially assumed that I’d go the way of making a dress or skirt but this wasn’t sitting totally right with me. So, when I started looking through the galleries for the Ultimate Trousers and seeing lots of amazing bold prints, I was seriously struck by the determination to put my fabric to work! After some consultation on Instagram, I was totally set.


So look out for these trousers over the next couple of weeks.

In other, somewhat related, news, I’ve joined the Sew Over It PDF club! If you haven’t heard of the Club, it’s well worth a look. Membership costs just £5 and gets you a free PDF pattern, as well as exclusive first-look access at new Sew Over It PDFs and 10% off these patterns. Since PDF patterns from Sew Over It typically cost £7.50, membership to the Club actually costs quite a bit less than the price of the free PDF that you can select as a new member. Plus you get all of the added bonuses. So, if you have your eye on any Sew Over It PDF patterns, definitely consider membership. I’ve always loved their patterns and consider this a really worthy investment!

Anyway, that’s all for now! I’ll be back on Friday with more content for you. Time to get back to some shivering temperatures (I’m most definitely not adapted to Missouri winters yet) and a bit more sewing. Enjoy the rest of your week!


1960s Dress (Butterick – B6242)

After a short Christmas-inspired lull in my personal sewing time, I’ve been back to sewing for myself over the past couple of weeks. My mind has been in another world for the past month while I’ve worked my way through sewing gifts for family but, with my new dressform in tow, I was super ready to get back to finishing off my version of B6242. This is a pattern that I got a while ago – free with an issue of Make It Today! Dressmaker magazine – and have been hanging onto it every since while waiting for the perfect fabric to come along. I finally found the right fabric on a trip to Joann’s and a good look at Gertie’s fabric collection! So finally, many months – possibly years – after the fact, I actually have a version of B6242 ready to share…


I had a number of concerns going into making this pattern. Mostly, I was incredibly worried by the shape of the bodice. I’m very much one for structured and fitted bodices – these tend to accentuate an hourglass figure and, to my eye, help balance out the fullness of a circle skirt. This is the first 1950s/1960s inspired garment I’ve made that doesn’t come with a very fitted top. That said, I decided to place my confidence in the pattern and the fact that the cumberbund/cummerbund (I’m going to go with cumberbund!) would cinch the waist sufficiently to stop the dress looking shapeless.

I’m really pleased that I put my faith in the pattern! As it turned out, the cumberbund did manage to balance the whole dress and give a sort of symmetry to the top and bottom of the garment. The fact that the top isn’t super fitted also means that the pattern is an incredibly simple construction. The cumberbund relies on gathers to give it a wonderful ruched effect. Gathers are also used on the front of the bodice where attached to the cumberbund, while the back of the bodice is tailored with darts. Assuming that you are able to get to grips with these techniques, there is nothing about the pattern that poses any significant challenge.


The sleeves on B6242 are probably the simplest that I have ever constructed. They come as part of the bodice, so there is no insertion necessary (inserting sleeves is always one of the most annoying parts for me). Once the bodice is attached to the cumberbund, it’s simply a matter of sewing seams up the side of the dress to the end of the sleeve. The only downside of the sleeve design is the way in which they attach to the side zip. Because this kimono sleeve-style curves so dramatically under the arm, the side zip runs quite far up the length of the sleeve – essentially ending parallel to your armpit. This means that the zipper-pull flaps down very obviously when you move your arm up (you can’t see it in this photo since I made sure to photograph the non-zippered sleeve!). Although this genuinely isn’t much of an issue in terms of comfort, it does look a little odd when you see it. The only real solution here would be to move the zipper further down the side of the bodice which I think would be totally doable without impacting the fit.


This pattern is definitely full of really interesting and unique design choices. Aside from the cumberbund and sleeves, the boatneck structure of the neckline is a perfect fit for the dress. It nicely complements the width and curve of the sleeves and, once again, poses little challenge for someone with basic sewing skills. The pattern includes information on making bias fabric strips to attach to both the neckline and the sleeves (admittedly, I didn’t use them on the sleeves). I was way too lazy to slip-stitch a bias strip to the neckline and instead decided to attach it with my machine. I don’t think the visible stitching detracts from the overall look and, honestly, it saved too much time for me to feel particularly bad about taking the shortcut!


Size-wise, I can’t say much about the pattern as it came. Since I got the pattern free with a magazine, I was given a pre-selected set of sizes. Although my bust size was included in the pattern (and just on the size cut-off), I had to grade out for both waist and hips by making my own pattern lines. This wasn’t too much of a bother and the final fit of the garment came out perfectly. However, I would suggest making up a muslin of the bodice if you feel concerned by the relative lack of shape. There is plenty of ease to work with if you want to achieve a slightly more tailored fit.

One final word of warning – be careful when you’re cutting this pattern. Almost the entire garment is cut on the cross-wise grain and I ended up needing considerably more fabric than was suggested by the pattern. Partly this was because the fabric I used came in at 43″ wide which seemed to make a big difference to the pattern layout. If you aren’t used to cutting on the cross-wise grain, just be sure to plan your cutting layout beforehand to avoid a last minute run to get extra fabric (totally my experience).

B6242 is an excellent pattern for anyone looking to branch out their vintage style. While the silhouette is relatively conventional for a 50s/60s look, it has a number of design features that really forced me out of my comfort zone. I was so worried that the bodice would look shapeless and unflattering but totally needn’t have been concerned. Ultimately, I really love how the dress turned out and would definitely make it again!

I’ll leave you with some outtakes from this mini-photo shoot when I encountered the real difficulties of attempting to do blog photos with a nosey dog running around…






It turns out a dog is the must-have accessory for this look! Someone alert the fashion designers!

Vintage Sewing 101: Sewing Tools And Their Uses


Welcome back to Vintage Sewing 101. Hopefully you’ve already read my Introduction to the series and know what to expect from these posts (if not, be sure to have a quick read!). As per my pledge to follow the 1950s sewing course through from beginning to end, I’m starting where the manuals tell me that I should – by determining whether or not I’m well equipped to begin.

Since I’ve already been sewing for two years, I obviously have an advantage over the amateur vintage seamstress – not to mention that my tools are likely a little more advanced than hers would have been (I assume). From a historical standpoint, however, it’s interesting to think about what would have been considered ‘well-equipped’ from the perspective of 1950s sewing companies. Since this sewing course was produced by Sears, Roebuck and Company, we’re obviously working with one of the major sewing retailers. So let’s see what they have to say…


Starting off with the absolute basics of the basics. The course promises that having the right tools to measure with “will save hours of work that can be lost by careless, half-guess calculations.” I already feel that I’m not quite a Sears-standard seamstress since – although I assume that I’m doing pretty well in the realm of sewing tools – careless, half-guess calculations are honestly just part of the process for me. Perhaps this course will help me mend my ways.

With regards to measuring tools, the course recommends that we be equipped with:

  • A stout (non-stretching) cloth tape 60 inches long
  • A short, 6-12″ ruler (preferably steel)
  • A yardstick
  • Wax chalk and/or tailor’s chalk (for marking)
  • A full length mirror

As well equipped as I thought myself to be, I’m surprisingly under-equipped by 1950s standards. I gathered all of my measuring tools together and realised that this journey is going to be a definite uphill battle.


Laura’s Measuring Tools:

  • A 60″ measuring tape (giving myself a mental checkmark here)
  • A 6″ plastic ruler (probably half a check mark since the sewing course recommends a 6-12″ steel ruler and mine is plastic)
  • A curved ruler (not recommended but I think invaluable. This is the nearest I come to having a yardstick. Since a yard is 36″, I’m definitely no way near where I should be)
  • Some tailor’s chalk (another check mark!)
  • Mirror (unpictured)

Ok so I didn’t do too badly on this front, although I’m missing a whole load of steel and about half a yard on my rulers. I’m also not entirely sold on the need for a mirror as a measuring tool – I guess maybe required to check even hem length – but who am I to question the wisdom of Sears?

On to Tools to Cut With. I think we can all agree that these are amongst the most important pieces of equipment for any sewist. A good pair of scissors can see you through practically anything. As the course indicates “Nothing slows work more than poor cutting tools.” For cutting, the well-equipped 1950s seamstress requires:

  • A large pair of shears with raised handles
  • A pair of 3-5″ scissors for close work
  • A pair of 7-8″ pinking shears
  • A razor blade for ripping seams
  • A cutting surface

Admittedly, I had to do an internet search to determine what raised handles are. As it turns out, they’re pretty standard to fabric scissors (where the handles are tilted, rather than straight like most regular scissors – see my picture below for a better idea). On to my cutting equipment:


  • Large fabric scissors (2 pairs) with raised handles
  • Pinking shears
  • Seam ripper

Confession time – I own no small pairs of scissors. This sounds almost catastrophic for anyone who considers themselves an avid sewist. I’m very aware that I need to get a pair but I just never seem to get round to it (*update: since writing this post, I was motivated to go out and buy myself a pair of 3″ scissors. Thank you Sears for pushing me to do the right thing.*). So, on that score, I’m not so well equipped by 1950s standards. I also traded in a razor blade for a seam ripper, but I figure that it’s a permissible exchange. In terms of a cutting surface, I use both my sewing table (which is super long) or our big wooden floor – since the course informs us that “it’s better to use the floor than try it on the bed!” I think I’m doing pretty well.

So measuring and cutting-wise, I’m not quite up to par.  Although I’m only deficient on a couple of fronts, writing this post almost 70 years after the fact means I had pretty much assumed I’d be surpassing the manual on every front. Instead, my performance is just a little lacklustre. The 1950s obviously had pretty high standards. Perhaps I will fair better when it comes to pressing and sewing:


“Press as you sew!” exclaims the course. This is a point that I wouldn’t contradict. I used to be terrible when it came to pressing my seams but I’ve definitely learnt the error of my ways. Pressing, by 1950s standards, requires a few different tools:

  • A light-weight, easy to handle iron (2-3lb in size)
  • An ironing board
  • A good pressing cloth
  • A sponge and dish of water (unless you have a steam iron)

Now, I haven’t actually weighed my iron so I can’t verify whether it falls within the bounds of the appropriate 1950s weight. I imagine conventional modern irons are lighter than their 1950s counterparts since they’re predominantly plastic (don’t quote me on this because I genuinely don’t know – if you have any insight on the subject, please share!). Anyway, my pressing equipment:


Pictured are:

  • A Singer Steam Iron
  • An ironing board (very sturdy)
  • A pressing cloth (ok, truly I’ve never used a pressing cloth. But I imagine this would suffice, so we’ll just imagine that it’s used for that purpose)

I finally checked all of the boxes! Since I have a steam iron, the course permits me to forgo the bowl of water and sponge. I can’t imagine how using water and a sponge would turn out – I guess that it would be pretty slow going and a bit messier than using the iron. I may give it a go just to see how well it would work in comparison to a steam iron. For now, however, I consider myself very ready for all the pressing that must be done. And, apparently, the 1950s would agree.

Finally, on to arguably the most important set of tools in a sewists arsenal, those required for sewing. The course doesn’t beat about the bush on this, telling us simply that “good sewing tools are a must.” In the 1950s, a good seamstress would require:

  • A generous supply of needles
  • A thimble
  • Plenty of pins
  • A pincushion
  • Mercerised thread
  • A sewing machine

So, where do I fall on this count?


In my kit:

  • Needles (pictured are embroidery needles and ones for my sewing machine, so I’m actually exceeding 1950s standards)
  • Pins, stuck in…
  • A pincushion
  • Thread
  • A sewing machine

Here I fail on just one count – no thimble. I actually had one when I was still living in the UK but found it incredibly difficult to use. Although, admittedly, a thimble would in theory save me a lot of finger pain, I couldn’t get to grips with it. I also had to do an internet search to find out what, exactly, ‘mercerised’ thread is meant to be. According to the source of all wisdom, Wikipedia, “Mercerisation is a treatment for cellulosic material, typically cotton threads, that strengthens them and gives them a lustrous appearance.” In modern production, cotton is bathed in sodium hydroxide and neutralised in acid. According to Wiki, “this treatment increases lustre, strength, affinity to dye, and resistance to mildew.” I have no idea whether or not my threads are mercerised, but I’m going to assume so. Most sewing threads have a definite sheen to them that would suggest mercerisation. So I’m going to give myself a check and say that the only piece of 1950s sewing equipment I’m lacking is a thimble.

It would seem, then, that the 1950s had pretty high standards when it came to being adequately equipped for sewing. Although we should bear in mind that this sewing course has been put together by a seller of sewing goods, I’m still surprised by the number of contemporary tools that were in use back in the 50s. Although we’re only 60 years on, technology has clearly developed by leaps and bounds. Other than the sewing machine itself – which is undoubtedly a totally different experience from those in use in the 50s – we’re still relying on much the same equipment. Hopefully, I have the appropriate foundations for moving forward on my 1950s sewing journey.

Make sure to join me for the next Vintage Sewing 101 post when I’ll be following instructions on how to care for and use my sewing machine!

Meet My New Dressform: Sew You Dressform by Dritz

For the longest time, I’ve been desperate to get my hands on a proper dressform. Fitting clothes on and off of my own body has always been a bit of a pain – not least for my poor husband who is inevitably brought in to help pin the back of my body, but is never quite sure what he’s supposed to be doing. Way back when I was still living in Colchester, I bought myself a standardised dressform, albeit knowing very little about the purpose of it (I just thought all sewists should have one). Trying to match one as close as possible to my body measurements, I ended up with a mannequin that was too big in the bust and waist but too small in the hips. So this dressform ended up good for nothing more than serving as a very stylistic feature of my sewing space.

As my sewing skills have evolved, I’ve been feeling more and more that I could benefit from a proper adjustable dressform. Since I now do the majority of my sewing during the day while my husband’s at work, I’m also operating solo when it comes to fitting my garments. Thankfully, my incredibly thoughtful husband decided to help rectify the situation with the absolute greatest Christmas present – a Sew You Dressform by Dritz.

*Just a heads up, I’m not going to be linking to the product in this post. Since this was a Christmas present, I have absolutely no idea how much it cost and I’d rather remain in the dark on that score. That said, the dressform is – I’m told by my hubs – available on Amazon, so just give it a search if you’re interested in the cost!*


I’m honestly still a bit astounded at the thoughtfulness of this present. I had to wait a day to put it together (I was visiting my parents for Christmas so I had to wait until we got back home) and I was absolutely bursting at the seams (*seamstress joke*) by the time I got it back to my sewing room. The form itself was incredibly easy to put together – it came as the mannequin itself, the pole, and the base. So constructing it was simply a matter of slotting these pieces together.

As you can tell from the photo, the dressform comes with a number of adjustable dials – both on the front/back and the sides. Since I’m already well acquainted with my measurements, it was simply a matter of using a measuring tape and adjusting the dials to match my body. When I was researching dressforms a while back, I had read a number of reviews citing issues with the dials – they would get stuck, buckle, or even break. I had no problems at all with making adjustments to the Sew You Dressform or using the dials. I was also guided by a really helpful instructional booklet that details both how to take your measurements – just in case you aren’t certain about your own – and how to make the appropriate adjustments to the dressform.


As well as the standard bust/waist/hips adjustments, the neck of the mannequin can also be adjusted to match your own. This was similarly simple to do but is well detailed in the booklet for anyone who isn’t sure. Additional adjustments include the length of the torso – as you can see in the first photo, the dressform is essentially divided at the waist meaning that length can be easily added or taken away at the waist to increase or decrease the length of the torso as required – and the height of the mannequin. None of these adjustments posed any issue whatsoever and, with a bit of help from my husband, I had the whole thing together and adjusted within about 15 minutes. As you can see from the photo above, the dressform is already in use!

I was also super impressed by the range of measurements to which this particular mannequin is adjustable. My dressform is a Small (Medium and Large are also available, I think) but is adjustable to the following measurements:

Bust: 33″ – 40″

Waist: 26″ – 33″

Hips: 36″ – 42″

Back Waist Length: 15″ – 17″

Neck: 14″ – 17″

Part of the issue I had when initially looking at the dressforms available was my hip measurement relative to my waist/bust. I’m lucky enough to have an hourglass shape but my hips are always classed a size above my waist. Although this really isn’t a problem when it comes to patterns since I just grade out a size, it meant that I was on the border of two sizes when looking at dressforms. Somehow, my husband hunted out the Sew You Dressform and I’m well within the range for each measurement. I love how large the measurement ranges are for this particular dressform – especially useful if you make a lot of gifts for others!

On to additional features, all of which genuinely surprised me. The form comes with a hem gauge and lock, both of which I love.


The stand itself has measurements listed, allowing you to gauge the length of the hem as needed. Attached to this is a clamp (pictured above) with nifty holes for pinning while your fabric is in the clamp. I had honestly never even entertained the thought that this might be a nifty addition to any dressform but I’m beyond excited to use it. I always have big problems when I’m hemming since attempting to pin a standard hem all the way around never seems to produce a symmetrical or level skirt. I anticipate this additional feature on the dressform being a great solution to my hemming problems and I’ll definitely be using it to finish off my cherry dress once the skirt is finally attached!


I also want to give a shout-out to whoever thought of popping a pin cushion on the top of the dressform. I don’t have one of those fab wrist pin cushions (although that will undoubtedly be an investment I make at some point), so this is saving me a lot of trouble. It’s perfect!

So, all in all, this is definitely a dressform that I would recommend to anyone on the hunt. It is incredibly easy to put together, has some great additional features, and is very inclusive in terms of the measurement ranges. I think the Sew You Dressform by Dritz is definitely going to transform my sewing and make it a whole lot easier to get a great fit with everything I make!

Book Review: Sewing Basics by Sandra Bardwell

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to write a review of one of the first sewing books I ever bought – Sewing Basics: All You Need To Know About Machine And Hand Sewing by Sandra Bardwell. As a self-taught sewist, I have relied completely on books and internet resources in order to teach myself the most basic sewing skills. Since the Sewing Basics book was foundational in terms of my sewing knowledge, I thought that it would be a worthy book to offer up for review on Sew for Victory – particularly for those of you who, like me, are entirely self-taught.


When I initially set out to learn to sew, I knew that it was going to be an uphill battle. I armed myself with a couple of very basic patterns – hoping that they would teach me as I went – and the cheapest sewing machine that I could find on Amazon. From here, it was really a matter of learning on the job. But I knew that I needed to work simultaneously to  build my basic knowledge of garment construction. The problem with learning as I went along was that – even though I might produce a wearable garment at the end of the process – everything felt a little bit jerry-rigged. Although I always knew that this would be a natural part of learning a new skill from scratch, I did want to make sure that I was learning the right way to do things. Without a teacher, this was quite a challenge.

It’s for this reason that I picked out the Sewing Basics book. I was most impressed by how comprehensive the contents of the volume seemed and I certainly wasn’t disappointed by the detail of the chapters themselves.


The book really builds you from the ground up in learning to sew. From working out what tools you will need to figuring out how to sew different kinds of seams, Sewing Basics really does what it says in the title – it teaches you the very basics. But, since the book is so comprehensive, I still use it as a reference point on different techniques about which I’m unsure. This is definitely a book that will take you further than simply learning the basics of sewing into building skills that I would consider more advanced.

One of the best things about Sewing Basics is that it goes beyond just reciting facts by also offering a number of helpful tutorials. There is, for example, information on how to produce piping and how to use various methods of hand embroidery.


It’s a tiny croissant!

That said, the book is incredibly instructional when it comes to the basics. Each part comes with very clear pictures, as well as detailed information that is easy to comprehend. I was able to understand and use this book with absolutely no previous sewing knowledge and, at no point, did I feel out of my depth or unable to grasp the meanings of the various sections. The layout of each chapter and section of the book varies depending on the information being presented. There are paragraphs of text, plenty of pictures, and – where necessary – tables of information. I really appreciated the layout of the information presented in the chapter ‘Fabrics and Interfacings’.


For someone with no knowledge, this ‘school textbook’ approach is really useful and illuminating. It also ensures that the book continues to serve as an excellent and easy-to-use reference guide where you aren’t having to search around for ages to find the appropriate information.

I particularly love the pictures in the book. They are so well laid out and help to ensure that, at no point, is the reader having to look up additional visual information online. I’ve found this to be a big problem with a lot of the ‘foundational’ sewing guides – there’s always plenty of information presented textually but, without good accompanying pictures, it’s very difficult for a beginner to understand how this information would apply visually. Sewing Basics really doesn’t suffer from this issue.


All in all, I think that Sewing Basics by Sandra Bardwell is a worthy place to start for anyone interested in learning to sew – or anyone simply looking to fill the gaps in their sewing knowledge. I know that there are a huge number of basic techniques that I still don’t have down quite as well as I could, so having a guide to the foundations of sewing is always useful. This book is definitely an excellent companion!

Sewing Basics: All You Need To Know About Machine And Hand Sewing by Sandra Bardwell is a UK book but seems to be readily available in the US. You can find it here on Amazon US or, alternatively, on Amazon UK here.