Getting Creative With Your Clothes

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

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

1. Highlight Shapes and Break Up Busyness with Piping

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

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

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

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

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

2. Choose an Extra Interesting Lining

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

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

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

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

3. Experiment with Colour-Blocking

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

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

4. Work with Patches

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

Make Your Own Shoulder Pads: Tutorial

Happy Wednesday, sweet peas!

I thought that I would take a break from working on my newest sewing projects to write up a short tutorial on how to make the queen of all retro garment features – shoulder pads! Don’t make the mistake of thinking that shoulder pads live and die with ’80s fashion. Journey back a few more decades and shoulder pads were all the rage, as evidenced by my recent Big Vintage Sew-along make. V9127 was, in fact, my first run-in with real life shoulder pads and, despite my fears that they would give me an American football player vibe, they elevated the 1930s silhouette to a totally new level of authenticity. And, believe it or not, they are so easy to make from scratch.

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I worked with a pattern provided through V9127. But after measuring up and reading through my various sewing manuals, I’ve managed to condense the process into a few simple steps that should be workable for any garment.

What You Need:

  • Cotton Batting – I got a pack of 45″ x 60″ from Sew Essential which worked perfectly.
  • Lining Material
  • Thread and an embroidery needle

1. Measure Your Seams and Make Your Pattern

The key measurement that you’ll need for this project is the length of your shoulder seam – from neck to arm hole. You’ll want to take about half an inch off of this measurement as the total width of your shoulder pad (so, if your shoulder seam is 4.5 inches, you’ll be working towards a 4 inch wide shoulder pad).

Once you have this measurement, you’ll need to construct your pattern pieces. The first thing you’ll need is a circular base – draw a circle that is twice the length of your intended shoulder pad width (so, using the measurements above, your circle would have a diameter of 8 inches, and a radius of 4 inches).

Now for the confusing bit. You will need 4 semi-circles of decreasing size, with the first the same diameter and radius as the circle you’ve already made. The next three will be 1 inch smaller in diameter (essentially taking 0.5 inches off of either side of the diameter – when we place the pieces together, you’ll see the importance) and 0.5 inch smaller in radius than the previous.

So working with the above measurements, your first (and largest) semi-circle would have an 8 inch diameter and 4 inch radius. Your next largest would have a 7 inch diameter and a 3.5 inch radius. Your next semi-circle would have a 6 inch diameter and a 3 inch radius. And your final, smallest semi-circle would have a 5 inch diameter and a 2.5 inch radius.

Ultimately, you should wind up with a set of pattern pieces that looks something like this:

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2. Cut Everything Out

Pop your pattern pieces on the cotton batting and cut out. Remember that you’ll need two of each piece, since you’ll (hopefully) be making two shoulder pads!

You’ll also need to cut out two pieces of lining fabric that you will use to cover your shoulder pad. You can use the large circular pattern piece to do this but will want to make these pieces of fabric a little bigger than the base piece. This is because the lining will need to cover the shoulder pad and be stitched down (so essentially, you need a seam allowance) – I would suggest adding about 0.5 inch total to the diameter of the circle for this purpose.

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3. Pin Your Pieces Together

This is super easy. Start with the circle as your base. And proceed to place each semi-circle along the diameter of this circle, lining them up so that they are stacked pretty centrally. You’re basically constructing a tower out of your pieces. Once pinned in place, it should look something like this:

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4. Stitch The Pieces Together

You’ll need a thickish needle and any spare thread that you have lying around. Then work your way around the outer-edge of each semi-circle, stitching it down to those underneath. You can use any kind of stitch that works for you, as long as it’s secure. I used a basic cross stitch.

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5. Fold And Cover

Now you need to fold the loose half of the circle over and place the padding on top of you lining fabric, ready for stitching.

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6. Machine Stitch The Lining Over The Padding

Fold the lining over the top of the padding and pin down. You’ll then need to stitch around the edge, keeping nice and close to the padding, using whatever seam allowance you gave yourself when cutting out the lining fabric. I would suggest doing an additional line of stitching close to the edge of the seam allowance, for extra security. You could also use a bias binding on this outer edge if you’re concerned about fraying.

The finished product should look like a cornish pasty!

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7. Insert Into Your Garment

Place the shoulder pad along your shoulder seam so that the width of the pad runs centrally along the seam. You can then hand stitch along the seam, securing the shoulder pad in place, and keeping the stitches invisible by using the ditch that already exists. It’s also a good idea to tack the corners down somewhere – this will depend upon the shape of the garment, but tacking to the armholes is a good method. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t want to do this, it’ll just mean rummaging inside your dress/jacket when you put it on so that you can get the shoulder pads in the right place.

8. Be Bold, Bright, and Very Boxy!

Wooohooo! You’re done! And now you can rock that vintage style with appropriately square shoulders. Enjoy!

Big Vintage Sew-along: My Make

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The day is finally here. After many hours of plotting, planning, and making, I can actually reveal my make for the Big Vintage Sew-along! Presenting my version of Vogue 9127:

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When browsing the selection of patterns for the Big Vintage Sew-along, this 1939 design immediately struck me as the most interesting and unique. I adored the structure of the garment and the fabulous panelling. Although I anticipated that this might be quite a complex make, I figured that it would give me a valuable opportunity to learn some new skills and put my own twist on the pattern.

I knew immediately that I wanted to make this pattern in a way that emphasised the unique shape of the dress. The examples provided by the drawings on the pattern sleeve and the photos on the website were all made up in one colour – although beautiful, this approach makes it difficult to see the fabulous design of the panels. I decided straight away that I wanted to have a go at using a contrast piping down the seams to really play with the shape. And I thought a sailor vibe with the colours would really give the dress a little extra va-va-voom.

Although adding the piping was pretty complex (the panels are sewn overlapping, rather than with traditional seams), it was worth the extra effort. Not only does it really elevate the dress to a truly unique piece, I think it successfully shows off those swerves and curves. I totally adore it. And I selected exactly the right fabrics, with both main fabric and piping fabric from Sew Over It’s collection of crepes (in this case, navy blue and red).

I added some extra contrast details to pull the piece together, using notions kindly provided by Sew Essential. The white buttons really bring home the sailor theme – emphasised by the fabulous 1930s dress gloves that I found in a vintage charity shop. I also put in a red zip to tie in with the piping. The pattern comes with a couple of options for belting – I opted to go with a sewn-in belt, so that I could cinch my waist. I found that doing this and piping the panel at the top of my back gave the dress added impact when viewed from behind.

One thing I loved about this pattern was the feeling of authenticity. Instead of a zip, the pattern gives an opportunity to use hook-and-eyes. I also got to make my own shoulder pads for the first time ever (a tutorial on this will be coming soon). I was a little concerned that the shoulder pads would make the dress look too boxy but, in the end, they gave the dress a truly 1930s silhouette. Delicious!

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My experience with this pattern had its ups and downs. I’ve only been sewing for about a year, so I’m still finding that every new pattern introduces me to skills that I haven’t yet developed. This pattern threw A LOT of new skills at me – added to which I’d already decided to take a chance with the piping. Fitting the panels together and making the front pieces symmetrical was a challenge. But I found that taking a slow and steady approach really benefitted me and allowed me to keep the patience needed to turn the piece into something great. There was nothing here that totally exceeded my abilities and ultimately the pattern turned out a gorgeously authentic 1930s dress that gives me a huge amount of pride.

I would absolutely recommend this pattern to anyone wanting to get involved with the Big Vintage Sew-along. In addition to contributing to a wonderful cause (pattern profits go to The Eve Appeal), this dress gives a real feel for vintage style. While I would caution beginners to take this piece slowly, it is well worth the extra time and effort required to develop the needed skills. So take this pattern, get creative, and venture into the 1930s!

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Big Vintage Sew-Along and A Giveaway!

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That’s right! I’m one of 22 sewing bloggers participating in McCall’s BIG Vintage Sew-Along. This sew-along is being run in support of The Eve Appeal, an organisation that aims to raise awareness of, and funds for, gynaecological cancers. Find out more about The Eve Appeal here.

The Big Vintage Sew-Along offers up a choice of 20 vintage patterns – each purchase directly supports the work of The Eve Appeal. Over the course of the summer, myself – and 21 other bloggers – will be posting on our chosen makes, taken from the fantastic selection of ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s patterns available. Watch this space on 5th August to find out what I’ve made!

A SECRET GIVEAWAY!

As part of The Big Vintage Sew-Along, Butterick are supporting a pattern giveaway on Sew For Victory! One lucky winner will receive a copy of the pattern that I’m making. I won’t be revealing my chosen pattern until my blog post on 5th August – the winner of this giveaway will be the first person to find out what’s to come!

So which pattern will it be?

Or could it be another pattern from the selection on offer? Enter to find out!

To enter the Big Vintage Giveaway:

  • Comment on this post or tweet @sewforvictoryuk and complete this sentence: ‘I love vintage style because….’
  • Deadline for entries is Friday 11th March at 6pm GMT.
  • The giveaway is open only to UK residents.
  • Once the competition ends, I will choose my favourite answer from the entries!

So make sure to enter by the deadline and, in the meantime, follow McCall’s (@McCallPatternUK) and The Fold Line (@thefoldline) for updates on The BIG Vintage Sew-Along.