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

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

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

V8999 – 1954 Dress Pattern

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

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

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

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

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The Belle Curve Dress – Decades of Style

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

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

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Sierra Jumpsuit – Papercut Patterns

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

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

Sewing For Summer!

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

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

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

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Definitely the cutest fabric ever!

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

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

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

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

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

Have a beautiful week, friends!

Lucia Top (Sew Over It)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Find Your Personal Style

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

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

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

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

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

1. Find Inspiration

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

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

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

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2. Research Sewing Patterns

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

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

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

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3. Lists Are Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sewing For Self-Care: Kendra’s Story

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, my sewing machine is going at full speed.

And my closet just got a little more packed.

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

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

1960s Dress (Simplicity 8591)

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I’m so excited to be kicking off June with a brand new vintage-inspired make. It’s been a little while since I last turned my hand to a reproduction vintage pattern (despite an ever increasing stash of these patterns in my sewing cupboard), so this make feels particularly overdue. I’ve had my mind on a version of Simplicity’s 8591 pattern for a while – it’s super fun and flirty, perfect for a floraly summer dress – but couldn’t settle on a fabric. Fortunately, a trip to Joann’s set me in good stead with a beautiful mint green cotton and I was determined to finish May with a new dress under my belt (so to speak). And here she is…

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Sweet and simple. I love this dress so much! I so rarely have any issue with Simplicity patterns and S8591 was no exception. Despite the incident with my serger (we’re only just on speaking terms again), there were really no hiccups with any part of the construction process. Everything came together a treat due Simplicity’s super clear instructions. For some reason, I always panic when I use patterns from major pattern companies (Vogue, McCalls etc.). I’m not sure why – perhaps its the massive instructions sheets that typically come with their patterns. Either way, I’m always incredible intimidated by them. But this fear is usually unwarranted, particularly when I’m working with anything from Simplicity. I really enjoyed the construction of this dress and was able to reinforce a few skills – gathering, making ruffles – along the way!

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Definitely feeling my oats here

Size-wise, I obviously didn’t make a muslin (regular readers of Sew For Victory know that I avoid muslins with a tenacity that would honestly be impressive were it applied constructively elsewhere). As usual, I simply followed the sizing as per my measurements and hoped for the best. In the end, I had to take the bodice in quite a bit. I think I probably could have left it as it was, in which case it would’ve had a pretty generous amount of ease and just looked a little baggy around the waist/bust. But, since I decided to use an invisible zip rather than the standard zipper required by the pattern, it was super easy to take in. I simply basted the zip in and then worked with it until I got the fit just right. Obviously having my mannequin helped a lot with this!

Honestly, though, this fit adjustment wasn’t even slightly challenging. I would probably suggest that anyone trying this pattern might want to make a muslin first (if that floats your boat and, if it doesn’t, welcome to the club!) or perhaps opt for an invisible zip. Working with an invisible zip isn’t problematic at all in this case – there’s a generous amount of allowance of either side of the back bodice, so it’s simply a matter of finding a good fit and inserting the zip as you would normally sew in an invisible zipper (basically, I just ignored the pattern instructions and did my own thing).

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Let’s talk about the sleeve (and ignore my super pink arm – English people shouldn’t be outside in St Louis summer weather). Oh my goodness, is it the cutest feature! When I first started putting the dress together, I was slightly worried that it was looking a bit Victorian. Paired with the very gathered skirt, it definitely has that sort of feel to it. But the length of the sleeves work perfectly with the ruffles and, once the belt is added and the dress is hemmed, the dress instantly takes itself out of the 1800s and into the 1960s.

I’m in love with these ruffles. They’re really easy to add on and, if you work with a medium-weight cotton, they stand out beautifully. I’m obsessed on so many levels and seriously considering adding ruffles to literally every sleeve that I make from now on.

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I also really like the belt. I wasn’t sure if I could be bothered making it – particularly because I knew that I would have to trawl the internet for an appropriate belt buckle. It was definitely a quest trying to find one without a prong that was also the right size and colour. Fortunately, I now know that Etsy is the place to be when it comes to vintage belt buckles. After a bit of searching, I struck gold with this 1930s buckle – perfectly sized and only $8.00. I’m so glad that I decided to make the effort – not least because the belt only took about 30 mins to construct and it really does add to the 1960s vibe of the whole ensemble.

It’s also worth mentioning that this dress works perfectly well without a petticoat. I do have a bit of a problem when it comes to 1950s/1960s silhouettes. I love a circle skirt but I find that, without a petticoat, they can end up making my hips look enormous. The whole thing ends up looking a bit like a deflating balloon. Fortunately, the gathering on this skirt – balanced out by the high neckline and ruffles on the sleeves – helps the dress look amazing, even without a petticoat. This definitely makes me much more likely to wear it out and about!

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What more can I say? This dress is a vintage lover’s dream. I think it may be one of favourite makes to date (I know, I say this every time – but seriously, it’s amazing). I’m thinking it would be perfect for special occasions but could totally see it working for a  summer picnic or a desire to pretend you’re starring opposite Gene Kelly in a Hollywood musical (not that I ever think about this).

Now I’m off to twirl around for a while and practice some seriously sub-par dance moves!

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Ginger Jeans (Closet Case Patterns)

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I’m officially a jeans champion! My foray into the world of trousers is only relatively recent and, before the Ginger Jeans, I had only two pairs under my belt (*pun SO intended*). Before this, trousers were super intimidating to me. I’ve always struggled to buy them because they are either too small for my hips or too big on my waist/thighs. I guess I thought that any attempt at making trousers would revolve around the same difficulties. But with the success of the Tyyni Cigarette trousers and Sew Over It’s Ultimate Trousers, I started to think that jeans might actually be a possibility. To me, jeans seem like the pinnacle of trouser-based achievement. And, honestly, I would’ve probably avoided making them forever if holes hadn’t started to appear in my favourite store-bought pair!

Fortunately, I’d heard so many good things about the Ginger Jeans pattern that I knew immediately that it was the one I wanted to try. I’m so glad I did, because these jeans are AMAZING!

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Miss Elizabeth Bennet has the tongue of three dogs. (please read in context)

When I committed to making jeans, I knew that I didn’t want to go with conventional denim. So I traipsed around Joann’s for a while, trying to find something sufficiently different from the norm. Fortunately, I came across this amazing anchor denim and I knew that it was perfect! The pattern suggests using stretch denim with at least 2% lycra – this fabric met the specifications, so I was good to go!

Because I’m a terrible person, I once again refused to make a muslin. I don’t think I’ve ever made one and, unless something is super critical or complex, it’s unlikely I will. That said, don’t let me discourage you from your muslin-making ways! I promise, you are infinitely more patient and practical than I! So, as per my usual method, I simply traced off the appropriate pattern sizes (I think 10 waist, 12 hips) and hoped for the best. Fortunately, the fit is dead right with no alterations and I wouldn’t change anything on my next go round!

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Let’s talk details. One of the most intimidating things about making jeans has to be the endless topstitching. I’ve done a bit of topstitching in the past and always enjoy the finish that it gives to a garment. But there is a LOT of topstitching on jeans and, in most cases, it’s going to be pretty visible. I realised early on, however, that although I couldn’t escape the visibility of my topstitching, I could let go of my compulsive need to have it all look totally perfect. Because while there is a lot of topstitching, this just makes it even less likely that someone’s eye will be drawn to that little wave of stitching where you veered off course. I actually didn’t find the topstitching a problem at all – I took it slowly, practiced things like bar-tacking on spare fabric first, and just generally didn’t worry about it not being perfect. I highly recommend not worrying!

If you are really worried about it, you might want to consider investing in an Edge Stitch Foot. This was one of the recommendations made by some of my lovely readers when I put out a call for help on topstitching in the middle of fabric. In the end, I wasn’t patient enough to wait for a new foot – so I just estimated and went for it. Next time around, I think I’ll get a proper foot, just to make the whole process easier. The main issue is that you can’t really mark on your fabric for topstitching (unless you have a super reliable way that is guaranteed to wash off). But an Edge Stitch Foot will definitely save you a lot of time and anxious energy!

One thing I adore about this pattern is its attention to all of the details that you find on store-bought jeans. The topstitching replicates almost exactly what you would see on any pair – same with the bar-tacking and the pockets! Of course, you could sew the pattern without any of these extra details and it would still make a great pair of trousers.

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The pockets are especially cute! I was really intimidated when I saw the various pocket components (coin pockets, yokes, regular pockets etc.), thinking that it was going to end up being a complicated process. But it ended up being truly simple. In fact, although there were definitely parts of the overall pattern construction that gave me pause and I had to play through in my mind a few times, there really weren’t any stumbling blocks. If you’re going to make the jeans, I highly recommend referring to the Ginger Jeans Sew-Along tutorials. I found these posts incredibly helpful. They elaborate on the instructions included with the pattern and are accompanied by detailed photos of every construction stage. In some instances, the tutorial also offers alternatives to the methods included in the pattern instructions. So if you’re stumped by anything, checking the Sew-Along posts is definitely a good idea!

Now for the scary bit – the fly! Making the Ginger Jeans wasn’t my first time installing a fly. I’d worked through this process on the Tyyni trousers and, although it was definitely complicated, it wasn’t as horrendous as I expected. That said, the Ginger Jeans take the process to a whole new level of simplicity. The fly is probably the most impressive part of the jeans (to me) because it looks so professional, both on the outside and the inside of the jeans. As much as I would love to take credit for this, I literally just followed the instructions.

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Where the fly on my Tyyni Trousers definitely looked a bit ragged on the inside, the construction on the Ginger Jeans is just so clean. I don’t think I’ve had a make that looks so well put-together internally! Having a serger definitely helped with this (especially because denim can fray like nobody’s business). If you don’t have a serger, zigzag stitching will work just as well, and will still help to capitalise on the super clean look that is basically inherent to this pattern.

I genuinely have nothing bad to say about the Ginger Jeans. They’re amazing. The jeans are definitely a time investment – just switching thread back-and-forth for topstitching takes up about 10 hours (I joke but it really does feel this way). All things considered, however, I was honestly so impressed with how quickly the jeans came together. I will definitely be knocking out more of these in the future.

Although the construction is complex enough that I probably wouldn’t recommend the pattern for beginner, you could definitely make these jeans with relatively little sewing experience. Using the Sew-Along for reference, as well as the pattern instructions, you could easily make a great pair of jeans! I’ve learnt so much from sewing this pair but without any struggle or frustration – which, to me, is the mark of a truly well-made pattern.

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Same jeans, different angle.

So if you’re debating whether or not to make your own jeans, debate no longer! Trust me when I say that the Ginger Jeans pattern will get you where you want to go. You will end up with a beautiful pair of jeans and feeling like the trouser ninja that always were inside!

Spring = Shirt Dresses + Sleeve Failures

I’ve been a super busy bee over the past couple of weeks! I’ve managed to acquire even more fabric since my last fabric haul post, so I’m practically swimming in cottons. But oh my goodness, my newest fabrics are some of the sweetest I’ve ever seen! With all this fabric overflowing my sewing spaces, I’ve been attempting to make a dent in my growing stash. And where better to start than with my favourite fabric of all time (I know I say this about pretty much every new fabric I buy):

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But seriously, is this not the sweetest? Bien sûr! I got this gem after seeing it on The Foldline’s Facebook page and ended up ordering it from a US-based stockist (saving on the postage!). Fortunately, this particular fabric seems to be available from a few different places so I had no problem getting hold of it. If you’re interested, the fabric is called ‘Le Map’ and is designed by Dear Stella. I got mine from New Arrivals Inc. who mostly seem to cater to babies, but needs must. They have a 20% off voucher for joining their mailing list and I had the fabric within about a week of ordering. So definitely recommended!

As soon as I got this fabric, I wanted to set to work! Fortunately, I had the perfect project in mind. I’ve been messing around with plans for a Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress for ages now. I think I’ve had the pattern for about two years. But no fabric ever really jumped out at me as being entirely appropriate. I have a lot of difficulty pairing fabrics and patterns. It’s beyond the level of just thinking that a fabric would work for a pattern. I have to really feel like they go together – it’s the fabric/pattern equivalent of pairing soul mates. I’m like a matchmaker, except that there’s so much more at stake with what I do (I joke, of course. People are just as important as fabric). This is why shopping for fabric with a pattern already in mind is always a nightmare for me. It takes forever. I swear, my skeleton will eventually be found in an aisle at Joann’s.

As soon as I had the Paris fabric in my hands, I just knew it was time to dust the cobwebs from my Vintage Shirt Dress pattern and finally put it to work.

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I’ve been working on the dress this week and it’s coming together a treat! As expected from Sew Over It, the pattern has proved very easy to follow so far. I decided to make the version with sleeves because I always love a sleeve. I’m not sure why but I really never wear anything sleeveless. That may need to change now that I live somewhere that gets 100F summers, but we’ll see.

Of course, this project hasn’t been without its problems. I spent most of the day yesterday trying to figure out issues that I was having with the sleeve cuffs. This is the first time I’ve found any instruction from Sew Over It to be vague enough that I end up spending ages trying to decipher them. The problem was in hemming the sleeves. The instructions tell you to turn the sleeve under to the wrong side and match with a notch on the inside seam. My mistake was in matching the raw edge of the hem with the notch (then spending ages pressing and sewing it) when I was supposed to match the sleeve’s actual edge with it. Essentially this meant that I had two sleeves with short hems and, when it came to turning the sleeve back to the right side in order to get a proper cuff, I had barely any fabric. Enter much unpicking…

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The line of stitches is about 1cm from the edge of the hem (which is where the notch is). So, as you can see, there is definitely not enough fabric to turn back to the right side in order to make a cuff.

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The seam gauge makes this photo look like a police evidence photo and I only just realised it.

This is my current status. I’ve unpicked and have now turned the hems under properly. Finishing and attaching the sleeves is on today’s agenda. I’m hoping that I might actually get around to doing the buttons/buttonholes, in which case I’ll only have the hemming left to do!

Despite my sleeve issues, I’m seriously loving this pattern. It’s come together really quickly and easily. I just love Sew Over It patterns. They’re always so clear (with the exception of the sleeve hemming) and well illustrated. Plus, the Vintage Shirt Dress has lapels! What could be more exciting?!

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So that’s where we are! My plan is to get this dress finished by the end of the week and hopefully have photos up on Sew for Victory soon after. I’m off to see An American in Paris in a couple of weeks (one of my favourite Gene Kelly films!) and I can’t think of a more appropriate outfit. I’ll be a Brit in America in Paris fabric, watching An American in Paris. Perfection!

 

 

Clémence Skirt (Tilly and the Buttons)

Finally, some photos of my Clémence skirt! The skirt has been sitting on my mannequin for a couple of months, totally finished. But, thanks to St Louis weather, I really couldn’t find a good opportunity to take pics – and I was determined to get the photos while I actually took my skirt out for a spin! Fortunately, we had some beautiful weather last week and I finally got the chance to pop on my new favourite skirt for a picnic with my hubs.

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I’m not really sure what my hopes were for this skirt. I had picked up the fabric last year on sale and knew that it would make a perfect skirt for the summer. However, in a pattern that’s becoming frustratingly familiar to me the longer I’m in the US, the fabric proved too narrow for almost all of the sewing patterns that I had in mind. Le sigh. I’d yet to sew up any of the patterns in Tilly and the Buttons’ Love at First Stitch book but figured I’d have a flip through in the hope that one of them would work with my fabric. Lo and behold, the Clémence skirt was perfect!

There are so many things that I love about this pattern. First and foremost, it’s a super easy introduction to making your own patterns. It talks you through measurements, seam allowances, and the various aspects of drafting the skirt as a pattern for yourself. So you won’t find the pattern in the pattern library included with the book – you have to draw it up yourself. The downside to this is that you obviously need some extra tools – tracing paper and long rulers being the main necessities. But I found it super rewarding to draw up the pattern for myself, so I definitely consider it a bonus that the Clémence pattern offers a really basic introduction to doing this!

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The pattern itself is incredibly simple. It’s made up of just four patterns pieces – the front and back skirt, plus two cuts for the waistband. The shape comes entirely from the gathers used around the waist. Using a stiffer cotton, I found that these gathers gave an incredible amount of volume to the entire skirt – a volume you would normally need to achieve with either an underskirt or the use of horsehair braid on the hem. Using a fabric with some stiffness to it definitely helps the gathers gain this shape.

I also really enjoyed the way that the Clémence pattern introduces beginners to some new techniques. The use of gathering is not necessarily something that beginner sewists would have encountered previously and the instructions included alongside the pattern are a super effective introduction. You will also be guided to ‘stitch in the ditch’ for attaching the waistband, meaning that the waist of the garment – with the gathers and invisible stitching – is a real focal point for the skirt.

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Glittery bicycles and balloons are the best!

The pattern also gives super detailed instructions for using french seams. Confession time – I’ve somehow avoided ever using french seams on anything. I guess I just haven’t come across them with the patterns that I’ve used before. But now I’m obsessed! They are such a clean way of finishing a garment – I’ve honestly never made a skirt that looks as tidy on the interior as my Clémence skirt. Normally, I’d turn to my serger for seam finishes but I think I might be a sometimes-convert to the french seam in future!

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I think the most complex part of the Clémence pattern is the insertion of the invisible zip. But isn’t zip insertion just one of those skills that really takes work to perfect?! I know that, even after two years of sewing, I still don’t have zip insertion down perfectly every time I make a garment. This pattern doesn’t offer particularly detailed instructions on inserting an invisible zip but look to trusty YouTube and you’ll find all of the guidance that you need!

What an incredible pattern this is for beginners! However, even a non-beginner stands to benefit from revisiting the techniques included with this pattern and, ultimately, you definitely won’t regret the opportunity to make such a super cute skirt. The whole pattern sews up in an afternoon and would make a really effective stash-buster because the fabric requirements are so reasonable! With warmer weather on its way, this would make such a great project for just about everyone – plus you get to buy a book with so many gorgeous patterns, which is just an amazing bonus!

So whip out some of that cute cotton you’ve been hiding away and have a go at the Clémence skirt. I know that I’ll be checking in again soon with 50 new versions!

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Sewing For Self-Care: Moriah’s Story

Welcome back to another Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story post! I’ve been so overwhelmed by the response to this series and particularly the willingness of such an amazing collection of sewists to share their stories. Talking about mental health, in any form, can be a daunting task. Doing so in an unfiltered, globally accessible forum – as with blogs like mine – takes the challenge to another level. So I want to take a moment (acknowledging that it isn’t nearly enough) to thank all of the beautiful and courageous souls who have shared their stories on Sew for Victory so far.

This week’s contribution is an amazing addition to the conversation surrounding sewing and self-care. Moriah offers an incredible insight into the many ways that sewing has helped her with her mental health – particularly around the types of body image issues from which so many of us suffer. So, without any more chatter from me, I’ll hand over to Moriah!

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


My name is Moriah Conant and I blog at www.thelordismyteacher.com.

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I’ve been sewing for almost 13 years, and it is a huge positive in my life.

Sewing and Mental Health

One of the first memories that I have of sewing was during a summer that my older sister/best friend was spending with our grandma.  We’ve always gotten along well and my sister is a great support, especially when I am struggling with my mental health.  Eight year old Moriah was pretty upset about her sister being away for so long.

To keep me occupied one day, my mom suggested sewing a quilt for my beloved dolls. Together we cut small squares of scrap fabric, sewed them into rows, and then into a small quilt.  It was amazing to see these wrinkled scraps of fabric become a beautiful and useful object.

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Apparently we still own the little doll quilt!

Needless to say, I was hooked.  Sewing provides me with something to do with my hands on the hard days that I can’t quiet my mind.  I make the rules, I control what I’m making, and where my focus is.  Doing something constructive with my hands allows me to makes positive choices for my mental health.

In college I was always busy and rarely had time for sewing.  About a year ago I picked up embroidery (again) as a way to sew on the go.  That revamp of a hobby became an Etsy shop that I run (www.owlofit.etsy.com).  My small embroidery projects are portable, do not require a lot of time investment, and provide a way to be creative when I don’t have much extra time.

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My Etsy shop is a good way to fund graduate school, do something that I love, and boost my mental health.

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I’ve also done some fun projects for myself.

Sewing and Body Image

I think most people can relate to struggling with body image to some degree.  For me, I lost over fifteen pounds over the course of a few months (about two and a half years ago). Even before this loss I didn’t have any weight to spare. It’s frustrating to try everything that you can to gain weight and still feel like your clothes are falling off of you.

It wasn’t until almost two years later that I finally connected the dots between the weight loss and a medication that I was taking. Thankfully, when I brought that up to my doctor he made some adjustments and I’ve now gained back that weight.

It is an amazing feeling to create a garment specifically designed and fitted to my unique body.

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This bodysuit is one of my most recent makes and it took several pattern adjustments to make it fit but it paid off!!

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This is a Barrett Bralette (pattern from Madalynne Intimates).  I love the way it turned out.

Sewing and Self-Confidence

I love saying, “Thanks! I made it.” Every new project reminds me that I am capable of making things and overcoming challenges.  Failing, learning, and growing also helps the perfectionist in me to give myself grace.

There are few things that get me more excited that a sewing project that turned out great.  Even when plans don’t turn out so well, I can learn from what went wrong.

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This is my beautiful niece in a beanie and leggings that I made for her.

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My cat Wednesday also likes to give her help and input with my sewing.

If you want to hear more from me, check out my blog www.thelordismyteacher.com !

Thanks so much to Laura for allowing me to share some of my story with sewing.


A massive thanks to Moriah for sharing her amazing story! Definitely take a look at her blog – The Lord Is My Teacher– to follow along with her journey. You can also buy some of her incredible makes via her Etsy Shop – OwlOfIt (seriously, the embroidered hats are amazing!

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