Sewing For Self-Care: Getting Honest About Your Needs

Ordinarily (and as is totally my instinct) I would begin this post with an apology for the fact that there was no post on Monday. Although one day of a missed post definitely isn’t a big deal – and nobody’s wellbeing is dependent on my posting – I’ve made real efforts to work toward my 2018 goal of posting on a reliable three day per week schedule. For me, deciding to miss a day was tough. I’ve been feeling very much on top of game for most of January and have definitely enjoyed the structure that I’ve given my attention to Sew for Victory. That said, my choice not to post was precisely that – a choice. And it very much provided the inspiration for today’s post.

*An important side-note: sewing is definitely not a cure for mental illness and this post is totally reflective of my personal experiences. I got better through a whole range of things, including help from doctors and therapists. But, for me, the holistic approach always works best. Sewing is a huge component of how I maintain my happiness and positivity and I definitely recommend creative endeavours to anyone struggling. But I absolutely see this as a companion to other kinds of intervention. Please make sure to pay a visit to your doctor or call a helpline if you are in a bad way.*

IMG_6061

I’ve been working really hard to stay true to my initial goal when writing about self-care, mental health, and sewing, which was that I try to be as honest as possible. It’s difficult to have helpful conversations about these topics while holding things back or presenting life to be something different from reality. I’m definitely acquainted with how easily the internet – social media and blogging, in particular – offers a warped and very selective version of what our lives are actually like. When I decided to start writing posts dedicated to self-care, it was incredibly important to me that I avoid falling into these traps. Not only am I sure that any insincerity on my part would be pretty obvious to you all, it would also be less than helpful in starting a conversation about creativity and self-care that I believe is sorely needed. I’ve spent a lot of January thinking about these things and one significant benefit has been a greater degree of honesty in my relationship with myself.

Part of developing a comprehensive and helpful self-care regime is learning to be honest about your needs. After all, being in denial about how you’re feeling or what you need is always going to be a big obstacle to practicing effective self-care. This is where therapy, and even yoga and meditation practices, can be particularly useful. It’s important to cultivate a good amount of self-awareness if you want to live as your best and happiest self, and these sorts of resources are so helpful for getting to a place of self-knowledge. Although I’ve worked hard to become more self-aware, I still go through periods of some denial about what I need. I tend to be very all or nothing in my approach to life – I throw myself 100% at a project or hobby until I eventually burn out to a point of being unable to act. Balance is something I struggle with. Recently, this problem has started to impact my sewing.

A couple of months back, I decided that I wanted to spend a while looking at ways to make sewing a full-time occupation. Although I’m still relatively early in the planning stages, this decision totally reinvigorated me in my attention to personal sewing projects and blogging. I’ve spent much of January juggling the various aspects of sewing for myself, developing content for the blog, and moving future plans along. As I got more and more into this, I started shedding my weekends in favour of working. Even though I was still careful to set aside evenings to be with my husband, do yoga, and relax, I found that my mind was never far from my work. I’d lost sight of my off switch. Had I stepped back for a minute, I would’ve realised that this was unsustainable – I have enough experience of these cycles to know that cracks will always inevitably appear. This past weekend, things broke down. Although this happened no way near as dramatically as used to be the case, I felt very low and completely physically exhausted. Fortunately, having a lot of knowledge about the self-care practices that work best for me, I was able to work my way back up to a better place. In doing this, I decided that I needed to take a designated self-care day (hence my lack of post on Monday) and focus completely on myself.

IMG_6065

This kind of dedicated self-care practice will look different for everyone. In my case, it meant lots of cups of tea and reading a good book whilst tucked up under a ridiculous number of blankets. I ate good food, listened to music, worked on my bullet journal, and totally relaxed. I also unplugged from the internet – meaning no social media checking, no blog activities, and no time wasters. When you feel burnt out, this kind of designated self-care time is vital. Whether only for an hour or an afternoon, setting aside some ‘you time’ can be the most effective method for putting a stopper in feelings of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.

As you all know from my previous posts on the topic, sewing is typically one of my main go-to methods of self-care. But, now that I’m working to step-up my activities in a more full-time capacity, I’m aware that my relationship with sewing is undergoing a transition. I believe that I can continue to make it a vital aspect of my mental health maintenance and I still feel so incredibly fulfilled every day that I get to sit down at my sewing table. That said, it will inevitably become a source of stress. Blogging, in and of itself, can invite these issues. Even if you’re blogging as a hobby, entering the world of social media and online communities can invite negative comparisons with others and a sense of failure. There are very concrete and measurable barometers for success online – numbers of followers, numbers of page views etc. This can make it very easy to fall into a place of stress or melancholy. However, it can also be an opportunity for us to revisit our relationships with ourselves and our self-care outlets. Sewing will continue to be a method of self-care for me but it will require a reappraisal of my approach. Balancing my sewing time with dedicated attention to other things – bullet journalling, reading, cross stitching, yoga – will become increasingly important. I’m also planning on stepping up my meditation game to ensure that I’m able to stay present in what I’m doing when I’m not sewing – hopefully helping me to avoid my propensity to have my mind on sewing while I’m doing other things.

We must never take for granted that our self-care practices are always practiced as self-care. Our relationships with the different components of our life will inevitably change as our circumstances shift. It’s important to check in with yourself often to re-evaluate, making sure that you are properly aware of your needs and addressing them. This will always require a degree of honesty. Sometimes we’re blinkered by distractions. This was exactly my problem when I was so deep in my sewing activities that I didn’t even think to step back and consider the possibility of burn out. I hadn’t anticipated that my approach was turning an incredibly valuable self-care practice into a source of stress. Had I checked in with myself earlier, I would have noticed the warning signs (less sleep, more tension, more irritability etc) and taken some much needed time out.

So remember that a good self-care practice is one that remains attentive to your current situation. To know what this looks like means having an honest conversation with yourself about habits, thought patterns, and behaviours that might affect how and why you practice self-care. One of the most helpful things for me is keeping an ongoing list of my favourite self-care activities – this includes things like snuggling with my dog, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race (YAAASSSS!), and having a cup of my favourite herbal tea. Every so often, some things on the list get crossed out or changed. I also categorise some practices as especially helpful when I’m feeling certain ways (for example, herbal tea is especially great when I’m feeling stressed, watching RPDR works amazingly well when I’m anxious or panicking). This list should be a total reflection of you – although looking around online can give some amazing ideas for things to try. Just remember to remain true to yourself and open to what you need in any given moment. As this past month has proved, I’m still learning about the best ways to be kind to myself. While I’m very sure the learning won’t stop, I really do believe that the process can only take us on to better and brighter things.


Thank you so much to everyone who got in touch or gave feedback about my Sewing for Self-Care: Your Story post. I’ve had some incredible people reach out to me and they should be providing some amazing insights into their own use of sewing for self-care over the coming weeks.

If you use sewing as a self-care practice – whether to combat daily stresses or to help manage your mental health in any capacity – and would like to add your voice to the conversation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can email me – laura@sewforvictory.co.uk – or message me via Instagram or Twitter – @sewforvictoryuk You can also check out the blog post for more details!

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…

20180130_121749

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.

20180130_121800

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.

20180130_121806

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.

20180130_122713

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.

20180130_122507

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.

20180130_122808

 

Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story

selfcare

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.

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.

BB39FE57-E741-42AD-8949-151916E52067

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!

 

Vintage Sewing 101: Sewing Tools And Their Uses

IMG_5849

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…

IMG_5851

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.

IMG_5858

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:

IMG_5860

  • 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:

IMG_5852

“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:

IMG_5861

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?

IMG_5862

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!*

IMG_5863

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.

IMG_5891

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.

IMG_5865

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!

IMG_5892

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!

Bow Ties (Self-Drafted)

Continuing the Christmas theme, I wanted to do another post about the gifts I made (largely because I’m super proud of myself for making something for someone else!). This post is dedicated to the bow ties that I made for my little brother. This isn’t the first round of bow ties that I’ve made for him – I posted about the others way back in 2016. Since then, I’ve refined my process considerably and drafted my own bow tie pattern to correct some of the issues that I had when I made my previous batch.

*My lovely parents got me a portable photo studio for Christmas, which I’ll be posting about soon. The photos in this post were all taken in my photo studio – partly because I was testing it out and partly because I didn’t want to corral my brother into modelling the bow ties for me.*

IMG_5784

IMG_5786

I’m super obsessed with these bow ties. The fabrics are absolutely beautiful and both 100% cotton. I got them from The Quilted Fox, which is an independent fabric seller here in St. Louis. I’ve been working with a few of their fabrics recently and I’ve honestly never come across a better or more unique selection. I picked these fabrics out for my brother because I wanted to give the bow ties a distinctly vintage feel whilst also ensuring that they would be unique, statement accessories. The photos below offer close-ups of both fabrics:

IMG_5793

IMG_5800

I’m so happy with how these came out. Given that the previous bow ties were made a year and a half ago, this project has really allowed me to track my sewing progress. Even down to planning out the appropriate seam finishes and figuring out how to achieve the perfect shape, it was very obvious to me that my sewing skills have evolved dramatically. This was only reinforced by my brother’s reaction when he opened his gift, which was along the lines of: “Your last bowties were good, but these are on another level.”

If you’re interested in making your own bow ties, there are a tonne of resources online. It’s such a quick and easy thing to put together but makes for a wonderful gift. My previous bow tie post includes links to some resources and a tutorial. Although I’ve now created my own pattern to avoid some of the pitfalls I encountered before, I’m still using many of the same techniques for construction that were detailed in that post. I plan on sharing my bow tie pattern soon (once I can figure out how to digitalise it) so watch out for that and other related news coming soon!

Hello to 2018!

Happy New Year, lovelies! I want to say a massive thank you to all my readers for walking with me through the peaks and troughs of 2017. I know that it was a tough year for lots of us – and, in many respects, for the world at large – but we’ve made it out of the other side and have welcomed in a new year. I truly appreciate every one of you for helping to make Sew for Victory happen, keeping me inspired, and offering so much help and encouragement when it’s most needed. As cliche as it sounds, there is no way that I would still be blogging and sewing with any regularity if it weren’t for all of you. I think the best way to start out any new year is with a whole lot of gratitude for what’s been and what’s still to come – I’m definitely grateful for this blog, being able to sew, and for this little community. So THANK YOU!

On to looking forward into 2018. I’m not much of a believer in resolutions. The idea of a ‘fresh slate’ is hugely appealing and this, I think, is why so many people love the opportunity to resolve on new habits for the year ahead. My problem was that every resolution offered an opportunity for self-flagellation when I eventually failed to keep my promise. To turn this on its head and still take advantage of the fresh start that the new year offers, I decided to turn resolutions into goals. Although, in many ways, this is just a language switch, the idea of a ‘goal’ instead of a ‘resolution’ feels more achievable and less intimidating. Goals change and adjust with circumstances – resolutions do not. This approach has worked for me over the past couple of years, particularly with the huge number of unexpected and dramatic changes that have come my way.

Along these lines, I thought there would be no better way of starting off 2018 on Sew for Victory than sharing my sewing goals for the New Year. It’ll be interesting to check back in as we move to 2019 and see what I managed to achieve – although, as I emphasised before, these goals are totally fluid and will probably change as the year progresses. So, here we go…

1.  Sew More!

2017 brought a huge amount of instability. I started off the year by leaving my house, moving in with my Nan, and saying goodbye to my (then) fiancé for an indeterminate amount of time. Although I set up a sewing base at my Nan’s house, the four months apart from my husband were mostly focussed on immigration and trying to get through the whole process. Fortunately, we were reunited at the end of May and got married in July! Shortly after that, there was more immigration stuff, moving to a new apartment, adopting a dog, and then the Christmas holidays. To say that it’s been a whirlwind would be an understatement. But I’m a big believer in viewing challenges and difficulties as opportunities to learn. In that light, 2017 was a very opportunity-filled year!

Unfortunately, with all those happenings, my sewing and blogging fell by the wayside for large chunks of the year. Although November and December have allowed for some stability and a chance to refocus myself on these things, I’m going into 2018 feeling that I need to make a concerted effort to do more sewing. Since I’ll be balancing this with my professional goals (more of that to come soon), I’m taking a carefully planned approach to ensure that I am able to give attention across the board. As such, I’m setting aside a couple of days a week to focus on my sewing projects – making sure that I have a good turnover of new makes and plenty of opportunity to build and consolidate my skills!

To help me along, I’ve been thinking about the different patterns that I’d like to try and get made in 2018. Here’s a few of them:

IMG_5874

2.  Find A Vintage/Everyday Wear Balance

This definitely relates to my first goal. One of the things I started thinking about more in 2017 was the nature of my makes. Since I was sewing a lot less, I wanted to ensure that I was using my time to make garments that I would actually wear regularly. I wear all of my vintage makes but tend to keep them for special occasions, parties etc. Going into 2018, I’m hoping to focus on making more patterns that are vintage-inspired but wearable on an everyday basis. Since I’m not working in an office, this means garments that will work when I’m walking the dog, at my sewing table, or just generally pottering around the house. That said, I will never move away from my love of circle skirts and gorgeous frocks, so there will certainly be more of those on the way too.

On my list of patterns to make for everyday wear:

IMG_5875

3.  Blog More

Grappling with all of 2017’s changes, my blogging schedule had fallen victim to procrastination. My goal moving forward is to return to a three times weekly posting schedule (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). I’m hoping that this will add some level of predictability for all of you but also that it will help spur me on with my general sewing activities. I started this blog as a way to record my sewing journey, warts and all. To me, sewing and blogging are basically intertwined. They run parallel to one another and help to move me forward. So 2018 will definitely be a year of more reliable blogging and attention to Sew for Victory!

IMG_5877

My as-yet empty January sewing Bullet Journal spread. Filling blank pages is one of life’s under-rated joys!

4.  Worry Less And Pay Attention To Self-Care

If you’ve been reading Sew for Victory over the past couple of months, you’ll know that I’ve been emphasising a ‘sewing for self-care’ angle. I started sewing as a way to combat my anxiety and panic disorders and, even though these thing are now only shadows in my life, I still maintain that sewing is an incredible self-care opportunity. My first Sewing for Self-Care post – and my Holiday Survival post – both detail the ways in which I use sewing to remain attentive to my own needs. That said, I still fall into old thought patterns and behaviours that absolutely don’t serve me.

Moving forward into 2018, I want to stay super on top of my self-care and continue to use sewing as a central feature of my self-care regime. In doing this, it’s incredibly important to ensure that the self-care tools themselves don’t become sources of anxiety. This requires a lot of introspection and honesty. For example, I use yoga to keep me on track. For a while I was practicing daily but found that I would get incredibly anxious and down on myself if I failed to practice or missed a day. The whole process then became self-defeating. To manage this, I decided to reduce my practicing to four times a week – meaning that I could switch days around as needed. Voluntarily opting out of some days also allowed me see my yoga practices as less of a concrete thing and meant that I could start paying attention to what I actually needed on a daily basis. Some days I need it, some days I don’t. The same can be said of sewing. Particularly when we’re putting our efforts out into the world via blogging or social media, it’s vital to ensure that we don’t allow these activities to slip into something anxiety-inducing or stressful.

2018 will be a year of super self-care!

IMG_5876

As per my Sewing for Self-Care posts, I love having a list of reliable activities that will always serve as a pick-me-up.

So those are my four goals for 2018. Plenty to be going on with and to think about over the coming months. I feel confident that they are all achievable but they’re also subjective enough to accommodate changes and the inevitable challenges that life brings. If you have your own sewing goals set for 2018, be sure to share in the comments. I’m wishing you all the most incredible and peace-filled New Year. I hope 2018 will bring you all that you’re looking for.

 

 

1950s Stole (Decades of Style)

Sewing for other people has never been my strong suit. Mostly, this is because I’m an unrelenting perfectionist and am never truly satisfied with anything I make. While I can live with this feeling when it comes to things I make for myself, it’s much harder to let go when I sew garments or accessories for other people. Sometimes, however, I’m able to make myself take a step back and remember how far I’ve come with my sewing since I began. Over the past year, in particular, my skills have come on leaps and bounds. With this in mind, I’ve stopped avoiding making things for others and instead let this Christmas motivate me to give some super unique gifts!

For a while now, I’ve been desperate to try out Decades of Style’s 1950s Stole pattern. As you all know, I’m a diehard Decades of Style fan. Their patterns are consistently the easiest to construct because, even when requiring techniques that are more complex (see my version of the Belle Curve dress, for example), the instructions are always crystal clear. So, when it came to picking out a potential gift for my mum, I jumped at the opportunity to have a go at another one of their patterns.

*I promise that all of the pictures in this post are after I gave the stole to my mum on Christmas Day. She opted out of having photos on the blog because she was super harassed making Christmas dinner so, instead, you get more photos of me!*

IMG_5828

Because this gift was for my mum – a woman who loves all things sparkly – I knew that I needed to find a super unique and fabulous fabric. Luckily, I found the perfect thing on a trip to Joann’s. The fabric is a gold sparkly synthetic with a red (really maroon) net overlay. The effect is truly stunning. The fabric is constantly catching the light and sparkling! I lined the stole with a pale gold lining fabric. The fabrics worked wonderfully together and helped to create a stole that will be perfect to throw on over a black dress for an event or party. Ultimately, I wanted the stole to serve as a bit of a signature piece that could elevate a relatively simple outfit (think lots of black) to something more night-time ready. The fabric picks definitely helped me deliver that.

As I expected, the pattern itself was absolutely divine. I had selected the stole in part because I didn’t want to choose anything too complicated. I knew that I had other makes to get done, as well as the pressure of a Christmas Day deadline, so I wasn’t looking for anything overwhelmingly ambitious. As it turned out, the most time-consuming and complicated part of the process was cutting out the shell fabric and lining. The stole comes in four pattern pieces, two of which are essentially the length of the stole itself. When it came to cutting, I was working with the longest pattern pieces that I’ve used to-date. Finding the space to do this (and stopping my dog from climbing all over the fabric) was a challenge. But I’m fortunate enough to have a large space of wooden floor in my lounge, so I managed to find a way forward.

I will also add that, as always, the Decades of Style PDF really came through for me. I absolutely despise PDF patterns. They are consistently a nightmare to put together and, somehow, I’m never able to get the pages to stick together quite how they should. While I’m still not a PDF convert, I’ve used quite a few PDF patterns from Decades of Style and they are always the most problem free. The 1950s Stole pattern fixed together perfectly!

IMG_5843

The stole itself was done in about three hours. It would have been shorter except that I accidentally attached the wrong pieces together and had to do quite a bit of unpicking in order to rectify the situation. That minor problem aside, I had absolutely no issues constructing the garment.

The shape of the finished is total perfection. I adore the drape of it! Although I would probably use a brooch to pin the stole at the shoulder when wearing outside (the lining makes it a bit difficult to get the stole to stay on the shoulder without sliding down), it is incredibly easy to wear. The pattern comes with illustrations that show a couple of different ways of wearing the piece, offering options to work with whatever else you’re wearing. The stole itself has a sleeve on one side and a flap on the other (you can see this in the photo above). I absolutely love the shape of the sleeve, which has an almost kimono sleeve feel to it:

IMG_5808

Of all the features of the stole, however, I’m most obsessed with the hand flap. Last year, I bought a vintage cape with the same option – you can either keep your arms and hands inside the cape or stick them out through small flaps on either side. To me, this feature on the stole truly brings home its 1950s feel, while also offering another great way of wearing the accessory.

IMG_5840

Although fit is obviously not much of an issue when it comes to this stole, the pattern offers three separate bust options from 30″ – 46″, to accommodate nearly everyone. Paying attention to the bust size is vital for ensuring that you get the right amount of drape across the chest. I made the stole in Size B (36″ – 40″). While you’re seeing it on me in these pictures (36″ bust), my mum is on the other end of the Size B spectrum  – the fit and drape worked perfectly on both of us. The length of the sleeve was also perfect on us both!

So if you’re looking for a pattern that offers a super vintage feel whilst taking only a handful of hours out of your day, this is definitely a pattern for you! It’s a perfect gift and a wonderfully wearable accessory, not to mention the perfect way to class-up any outfit.

Sewing For Self-Care: Surviving the Holidays

Since my first Sewing for Self-Care post, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the cross-over between self-care and creativity. For me, it’s a delicate balance. Creative projects are vital to my sense of self-worth and yet it’s so easy for them to tip over into something negative when I’m in a self-critical mode. Although there are plenty of things that can (and should) be done to make this kind of negativity less present (I do many things, including yoga and meditation to help quiet that voice inside my head), I think it’s also vital to manage creative outlets to maximise their self-care potential.

With the holiday season upon us, these issues feel even more important to discuss and think over. The holidays can be a difficult time for many of us – whether because we suffer with anxiety, are made to be around people that trouble us, or have to deal with a sense of isolation and loneliness. Even where none of the above apply, December is often a month of increased financial burden and a larger-than-usual period of time spent around others. Where these sorts of challenges exist, however, we are offered a valuable opportunity to step up our attention to self-care. For those of us who rely on creative outlets, the holidays can take a toll in this regard. Moving around to different houses and meeting familial obligations can make it tough to carve out time, not to mention that some creative hobbies are much less mobile than others (carrying a sewing machine and serger around isn’t the most practical option).

With this in mind, I thought that I would offer up some self-care tips for those of you who, like me, use sewing (or any creatively-minded exercise) to steer your way through the instability and challenges of the holidays.

*An important side-note: sewing is definitely not a cure for mental illness. I got better through a whole range of things, including help from doctors and therapists. But, for me, the holistic approach always works best. Sewing is a huge component of how I maintain my happiness and positivity and I definitely recommend creative endeavours to anyone struggling. But I absolutely see this as a companion to other kinds of intervention. Please make sure to pay a visit to your doctor or call a helpline if you are in a bad way.*

  1. Make It Portable

For me, one of the hardest things about using sewing for self-care is how chained it is to my house. Although I supplement my self-care techniques with things I can do wherever I go, the holidays often mean longer periods of time spent away from my sewing base and therefore unable to indulge myself. Since sewing is so integral to my well-being and, as I mentioned in my first Sewing for Self-Care post, something I have to maintain as a daily habit, it became super important for me to find a way to make it a portable activity.

There are many components of the sewing process that can easily be done away from the machine. Cutting out pattern or fabric pieces is a pretty portable activity – I often cart my cutting mat and rotary blade along with me when I have cutting to do (especially good when I’m working on a small project). Another great way to make garment sewing portable is to save up any bits of hand sewing that you have to do. I hate hand sewing so I am always procrastinating anything that forces me to get out the needle and thread. Being away from home gives me sufficient motivation to finally tackle these neglected projects, learn some new techniques, and tick some more things off of my to-do list.

Similarly, if sewing is your bag, you might consider taking up a small cross-stitch project when you know that you have a lot of travelling or time away from home approaching. I’m not an avid cross-stitcher but I find the process just as soothing and absorbing as garment-making. The same could be said for knitting (which I know how to do) and crocheting (which I have no idea how to do). Whatever your particular hobby, there will always be ways to make it a portable pursuit. What this does require is some forethought to ensure that you have activities lined up.

IMG_5624

2.  Make Some Lists

Lists are super important to planning holiday self-care and are honestly brilliant for monitoring self-care in general. I have an ongoing list of activities or resources that I can reliably refer to when I’m feeling low and know that I need a distraction or a pick-me-up (this can include things like great Youtube videos, favourite music, activities and hobbies). But, when I know that there’s a challenging event or few days approaching, I find it helpful to make lists that are a little more specific. When it comes to sewing, I will often break ongoing projects down into smaller goals or components so that I know what I have to work on. Not only does this let me keep track of my current projects, it helps me plan adequately when I know that I need to be equipped for time away from home.

If, like me, you keep a bullet journal, you are likely already acquainted with this kind of thing! You can also refer to the details in my first Sewing for Self-Care post where I wrote in more depth about how I use my bullet journal to document sewing projects. Whether or not you choose to go the bullet journal route (it’s certainly a more involved way of doing things), forethought and planning are absolutely key to surviving the holidays with your self-care intact.

IMG_5621

3.  Do Your Research

Whether or not you run a blog, sewing can be a relatively research-intensive process. From finding patterns and fabric to searching out sources of inspiration, there are plenty of opportunities to spend some time on your phone and absorb yourself in sewing plans. I’m constantly on the lookout for great vintage photos that might help me design future projects and, when I find myself at a loose end, I’ll often pass the time browsing the internet for new resources. Down-time can also be a great opportunity to scour your favourite online fabric shops to see if there are any great sales or new finds.

Another fantastic thing to do is take the time to work on new sewing techniques – or improve those that you’ve already acquired. As I mentioned above, my hand sewing leaves a lot to be desired. But it’s inevitable that I’ll need to slip stitch gaps closed or collars down in most of my garments. So working on this, or other hand sewing necessities, by spending some time watching Youtube videos or reading blog tips is a really useful way of passing the time. Plus, all you really need for this is a phone and a bit of fabric for practice!

IMG_5627

4.  Try To Devote Some Time Daily

As I mentioned in my first Sewing for Self-Care post, it’s vital to make self-care a daily habit. In my day-to-day life, this means carving out some time to sit at my sewing machine – even if I don’t think that I’ll last for 5 minutes, more often than not it’ll turn into a much longer session because I become so absorbed. When I’m travelling or otherwise busy with plans for an extended period of time, I try to maintain this daily commitment. One of the biggest challenges about the holidays can be the loss of control over your daily activities. You’re essentially subject to majority rule in deciding what you’ll be doing and when. To make sure that I continue to feel stable and present in my own mind, I have a few things that I make uncompromisable everyday activities – yoga, meditation, and sewing.

Although each of these activities might change their form to accommodate the circumstance (sewing becomes portable, yoga becomes a 10 minute sun salutation practice rather than a 50 minute guided practice etc.), they are essential to making sure that I remain calm and collected. Sewing offers an opportunity to retreat inwards and remove yourself from the hustle and bustle taking place around you. So try to find a way to ensure that you can give a bit of time to it each day. Whether this becomes a snatched 10 minutes in between meals, an activity to accompany Christmas TV watching in the evening, or a 30 minute wind-down session before bed, it’s vital to keep yourself grounded through what you love to do.


So there we have it. A few tips for using sewing to survive the holidays. As much as the Christmas season is a time for compassion towards others, this is a kindness that we must absolutely learn to turn inwards at all times. To make sure that you can be your best self and feel fully recuperated by the time that the holidays end, pay attention to yourself and your needs. If you have any tips to add for using creativity to make it through the craziness of the season, please feel free to share in the comments below. Otherwise, I’m wishing you all a wonderful and joy-filled weekend – whether, and however, you celebrate.