First of all, thank you for all of the comments on my last post. I was so happy to read that so many of you find sewing to be such a help. I’m a real believer in the fact that any activity can be turned into an opportunity to practice self-care. Even something as simple as brushing your teeth can be a chance for some mindfulness meditation. So it’s no wonder that something as creative and involved as sewing can provide such a wonderful avenue for managing our day-to-day struggles. Sewing gives us boundless opportunities to pour ourselves into creating beautiful clothes. And there is so much that we can do give them that extra special edge.
One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about learning to sew has been the ability to make my clothes a truly individual creation. When I’m working with any pattern, one of the first things I do is try to come up with ways that I can make the garment totally personal to me. This extra level of creativity is, to me, one of the most important ways in which I connect to sewing as an activity that really lifts me out of the doldrums. And over the course of the past two years, I’ve come up with a few go-to ways to add that extra bit of quirkiness to my makes. In the name of both creativity and self-care, I wanted to share some of them with you today. So here is a list of my favourite ways to get super creative with my makes:
1. Highlight Shapes and Break Up Busyness with Piping
My first foray into piping was for the Big Vintage Sew-Along last year. I’d never thought about using piping before but the shape of my chosen pattern was just screaming for something additional.
The dress’ front panels are perhaps the most interesting thing about the garment. To make the whole thing in one fabric would essentially hide this detail. Sewing some piping into these front panels ensured that the shape was one the first things you notice when looking at the dress. Plus it gave me an opportunity to really develop my colour palette. I was keen to replicate the sailor-esque colours that were so popular during the 1930s. Paired with the white buttons and blue crepe fabric, the red piping really hammered home the authentic 1930s look that I was shooting for.
Piping is also a super effective way to get creative when trying simply to break up a busy garment. I had this problem when I was sewing up the Simplicity 1221 vintage apron. I had chosen a really beautiful fabric that I was super keen to use. I also knew that I wanted to make the version of the apron that had big ruffles attached to the sleeves. All-in-all this promised to turn out an overly busy creation where the details were lost to the distracting fabric.
The way that I contended with this was a return to my trusty piping method! I attached some white piping in between the front panel and the ruffled straps. This super simple addition served to give the eye a bit of a break from the dots, flowers, and strawberries.
Piping is definitely one of my favourite methods for really getting creative with patterns. It’s simple to do and always looks super effective. Not to mention, everyone will be super impressed with your skills!
2. Choose an Extra Interesting Lining
I honestly hate attaching lining so much. It really is the worst thing. I’m working with lining on my Cocktail Hour project and it is seriously horrible. Somehow I always have issues getting the lining to match up with the shell fabric correctly. Just about the only time it has gone right for me was with the Beignet Skirt. This skirt was one of my first makes, inspired solely by the fabulous fabric I found to use as the lining.
I discovered this William Morris fabric in my local fabric shop while I was living in Colchester, and I was honestly blown away by it. Looking at it, I knew that it would be too busy as an actual garment (although I’m sure there are a lot of people who could actually pull it off!). But as a lining, how perfect! I remember posting this make and getting comments about why I would hide away such a fabulous fabric. But, honestly, it never even occurred to me that I was hiding it. As far as I was concerned, I knew that it was there. And this extra secret detail was exactly the sort of thing that made sewing such a perfect creative outlet for me!
I’ve hoarded the remnants of this particular fabric ever since and recently used it on my Tyyni trousers as another cute hidden curiosity!
So if you’re looking for a seriously easy way to give your garment that extra bit of quirkiness and you have lining or pocket opportunities, definitely think about fabric choice. It’s your chance to go a bit crazy and use that gorgeous fabric that you weren’t quite sure what to do with!
3. Experiment with Colour-Blocking
I’ve only just started working with the potentials of colour-blocking (and I’m not even sure that my approach really counts). When I picked up my amazing Harry Potter fabric, I was pretty well settled on having a go at making the Zadie dress from Tilly and the Buttons. One of the best things about this pattern is the neat use of shapes. As with the Big Vintage Sew-Along dress, I knew that the shape would get lost in using the same fabric for the whole garment. But, since the Zadie dress demands knit fabric, piping wouldn’t really be an option. So I set about finding a plain fabric that would complement my fabulous Harry Potter knit.
This dress still isn’t finished due to various construction issues. But I love the black fabric against the mustard yellow. Once again, it stops the garment from looking too busy, while also drawing the eye to the shapes. Not to mention that it is yet another way to achieve that additional level of creativity with a pattern. There’s something incredibly satisfying about looking at a pattern and thinking up ways to make it even more interesting! I’d be super interested to see any examples you have of using colour-blocking. This is something that I’ve only just started to think about – and I do struggle a bit with knowing whether or not colours really fit together. So I’m always looking to you fabulous sewists for inspiration!
4. Work with Patches
This discovery was very much a happy accident. If you were following the blog back in spring, you’ll remember that I was working away on the muslin for my wedding dress. This project, more than any other, really honed my skills when it came to achieving perfect fit. Unfortunately, at the very end of the project (I was literally trimming down the back seam as a final step), I accidentally cut through the main fabric on the back of the dress. This left a massive hole right in the centre-back.
Needless to say, many tears and much sadness followed. But then a thought occurred to me. Why not just patch it?! Since it was a pre-wedding dress make in navy blue – with white polka dots – I figured that dotting some red heart patches around the dress would be a fabulously appropriate addition. I was honestly terrified that it would make the dress look super kitschy but it ended up working perfectly!
I’ve become such an advocate of cute patches. And they were super easy to make. I simply drew some heart shapes onto paper (for a more complex shape, you might want to find a template online), attached them to the fabric and cut out the number I wanted. I attached iron-on interfacing to them in order to stop fraying and then top-stitched them onto the dress. The whole process took me about an hour and I honestly couldn’t imagine the dress without them!
I haven’t seen a lot of use of patches out there. So, once again, let me know if you’ve used any in the past. One of the great things about using patches is that there are so many available to buy online! The hardest part is deciding where they might be appropriate to use. So if you have any inspiration to provide, please send it my way!
So there we go. Some quick and (relatively easy) tips for kickstarting your creativity. For me, this goes hand-in-hand with last week’s post about sewing for self-care. While making the pattern as written is still a super joyful process, I honestly get most involved in finding ways to add a truly personal touch to my makes. Not only is it the perfect method for developing your sewing skills, it is also a great reminder of how fantastically creative you are. Happy accident or purposeful decision, be brave and take a chance!
If you have any of your own tips to share, please leave a comment or send me an email. I’m always looking for new techniques to try out!