body confidence · body image · body positivity · dressmaking · sewing · Uncategorized

Hacking

Being able to make clothes that suit my shape and style has been the biggest boost to my confidence and self-image- more so than when I lost loads of weight for my wedding. It may be surprising to some, but my sense of identity, self-confidence and general acceptance and understanding of myself is at its lifetime peak, despite my weight and waist measurement following the same trajectory. (I wrote more about that here). Because of this ability to design, create and adjust my clothing, I no longer see myself as not conforming to the ‘standard’ but have a whole world of options at my fingertips and that level of creativity and possibility excites me.

The finished dress

I’m now three and a half years into my sewing journey and feel that I actually have the skills and confidence to alter/ hack patterns to get exactly what I want. I’m still learning a lot about fit but feel that I’ve got basic construction and finishing under my belt.

With this in mind, when I saw the Saraste Dress in my copy of Breaking the Pattern by Named Clothing, I loved the flat, button-up front, midi length, princess seams on the bodice and gathered side and back skirt but originally discounted the pattern due to its neckline.
Saraste Dress from Named Clothing
I’d learnt from my Vintage Shirtdress that collars weren’t really my thing and a high neckline makes me look rather full and frumpy (IMO). However after seeing Sister Mintaka’s version in rayon, where it draped so beautifully and looked so effortlessly stylish, I decided to give it a go with a neckline alteration.
Firstly, I used a recent Quincy Dress top to decide on the shape I wanted (it also helped that it was still hanging on Dolly Dressform from where I had finished it a week before).
I then folded the neckline on the pattern piece (I used Patternsy to print an AO version as I have a strong dislike of tracing from books) to the shape I wanted. Full disclosure- I did actually alter this to a steeper slant after this pic was taken but you get the idea.
There is no additional button placket or facing on the pattern, the edge of the front opening is turned under and folded back. So, to create this in the changed neckline, I drafted an add on section to the pattern piece which would be the edge to fold back.
When finishing the neckline and  front edge there was an overlap at the front neckline which was tucked under (working well in this viscose but I’m sure there’s a better way of drafting it 🤔) 
The back of the integrated button placket
The button hole side
The other alteration was to redraft the back neckline. I did this by removing the same amount from the  shoulder (neckline side) as I did from the front. I then returned to the Quincy to alter the shape from the shoulder across the back.
The back yoke and back neckline
Finally the other change was finishing the shoulder seams. Without sounding like a broken record, I used what I’d learnt about sewing enclosed shoulder seams from the Quincy Dress (there’s a fab video here).
Inside view of the back yoke and shoulder seam
The effort I put into changing the neckline embedded a mindset that made me think carefully about finishing the insides well. I used narrow French seams everywhere (including the armholes) except the waistline which I finished with Atelier Brunette viscose bias binding (thanks for the inspiration Sister Mintaka).
The insides
I’m really proud of the final garment (the inside finish is not perfect but it’s good enough for me) and I love the fabric (from Material Girl Laura). The relaxed fit makes it super comfy but the shaping from the princess seams keeps it flattering. 
I hope this is useful to someone and gives you a nudge to alter something to make it more ‘you’. I’m now considering a similar hack on the Honeycomb dress by Cocowawa. I think it would be fab for Spring/ Summer. Or maybe an asymmetric hem and ruffle with a v-neckline version of my old favourite the New Look 6262. 🤔 Watch this space.  
body confidence · body image · body positivity · sewing · Uncategorized

This Laura dress

Before learning to sew my own clothes, I’d never been a great follower of fashion- mostly because fashion always made me feel like I didn’t fit in. The clothes I liked wouldn’t suit my shape or the shops I liked didn’t stock clothes that actually fit me properly. Don’t even get me started on the fashion magazines that left me feeling inadequate and isolated in every way. All this considered, it came as a bit of a surprise when I found myself drawn to ‘that’ Zara dress.

The original dress (Zara.com)

After seeing it on a couple of people I follow on Instagram, it seemed to suddenly be popping up everywhere I looked (think Cruella D’Ville looking at Dalmatian puppies). ‘That Dress from Zara’ even had its own Instagram account! I felt I needed it in my life and even considered buying it online (despite the rest of my wardrobe being me-made), before seeing the price tag and very much thinking ‘I could make that myself’. I was also inspired by Olivia from www.clothesmyboyfriendhates.org who dyed her Zara dress to make it more unique so she could wear it her way.

I quickly decided that the neckline would need to be different in order to suit my shape and style (having avoided white dresses since my wedding day I didn’t want to start looking like a snowman by adding large expanses of white fabric over my top half) and the long sleeves would have to go (long white sleeves in summer…with children…😱-they’d be covered in ice cream, sun cream and sticky fingers in minutes!). So my design on the dress used a similar fabric from www.sewsewsewuk and included my tried and true Quincy bodice from Jennifer Lauren Handmade, a two piece skirt (using the Quincy width dimensions plus a little length), a waist tie attached at the side seams, shorter cuffed sleeves and a ruffle around the bottom of the skirt.

I French Seamed all of the seams (including the armholes) and used plain white viscose for the facings (I was worried the dots would show through). I added little bow details to the sleeve cuffs afterwards to mimic the waist tie.

All in all, I’m really pleased with the outcome and the only changes I’d make would be to line the whole dress with the white viscose (oh, and not to lose pieces of the ruffle and have to redo it again when I found the right piece 🤦‍♀️).

The most interesting thing about making this dress was the sense of freedom and creativity that it gave me. I loved thinking through how I was going to make it ‘me’ and working out the steps myself instead of following instructions. Creating this dress made me realise how far I’d come on my sewing journey but also on my journey with self-identity. This dress made me realise that I know how to do ‘me’ despite what fashions may dictate. This dress showed me that I have the confidence to wear white as a curvy girl despite the fashion/ styling ‘rule’ that ‘white adds width but black is slimming’. This dress makes me feel fabulous in my size, my style, my way and embraces that I am unique and perfectly made. This. Dress 💖

body confidence · body image · body positivity · community · mental health · sewing

No Body shamers here!

This blog has been rather neglected for a while, mostly because I haven’t felt passionately enough about anything to warrant putting precious time into it: my sewing makes are for me and are generally patterns that have already been thoroughly reviewed by others, why would anyone want to spend their precious time reading that? Well, now I have discovered something (in a rather unfortunate way) that I believe everyone needs to invest time and attention in – body positivity and the messages we give (and receive from) those around us.

This week I had a hospital appointment, a referral from an ongoing issue that I had never bothered to get properly investigated before. It has affected me on and off for a large part of my life and I’ve got to a stage where I just want to find out why. I made this clear to the consultant and explained that it has recently got worse over the last seven months.

After very little time she wanted to know how my weight had changed. Not if I had suffered stress, not any changes to lifestyle, not other related symptoms – just my weight. I assured her that I didn’t own any scales anymore but my clothes still generally fit the same over the last three years so I doubted it was a factor. There is some medical link with high BMI exacerbating this condition but not in this instance as I’ve had the same issues when I was four stone lighter. During the appointment, this health professional went on to make comments like ‘well, your BMI is obviously over 30’ and ‘if you could lose 5% of your body weight it could work wonders – everyone feels better when they’re thinner’ and ‘you could join Slimming World’! I cried in there, not because she could only see an overweight patient but because of how I had spent YEARS listening to damaging messages like that from people in roles of responsibility, and it’s only relatively recently that I had learned to listen to my own inner voice first.

This health professional thought she was being helpful when she told me how I could eat healthier (I know this and my family have a well-balanced diet, thank you) and exercise regularly (I enjoy long walks and attend a dance fitness class). However, her message of ‘your body size is not what it should be’ was not helpful and instead massively damaging and has been from when, at the age of eight, I was asked by the school nurse ‘Are your parents overweight too?’. Add to that the attitudes of primary school bullies, unhelpful remarks from older family members and the influence of celeb magazines on a sensitive teenager and you get a young woman who struggles to look in the mirror without feeling disappointed at best, disgusted at worst. I spent most of my life listening to that message of ‘your body isn’t what it should be’. I believed I should always be thinner and lighter. The thought that my body wasn’t good enough then mutated into the general feeling that I wasn’t good enough. Even when I dropped three dress sizes before my wedding, I still felt fat.

Me at 15. Left- I wore baggy clothes to cover my ‘fat’. Right- I remember feeling really uncomfortable that evening.
Me at 19-20: These pictures disgusted me so much that I started going to a slimming group and lost 3 stone over a year. Now I just see bad styling choices.

For me, personally, to lose any significant weight, I have to exercise for at least an hour a day and deprive myself of all sugar and massively limit my fat intake – it’s the only way that has ever worked. It’s a recipe for making me miserable, not happier!

Me at 23-25: I had to exercise for over an hour every day and massively restrict my diet to lose an extra stone and a half for my wedding. Trying to maintain this weight was really socially restrictive.
Me on my 30th birthday (we had a 2 year old by this point). This is the ONLY full length picture I could find of me from 27-34 where I’m not consciously hiding my mid-section.

So what changed? Well, there are many factors (stick with me) but primarily I discovered sewing. Not only did this give me a sense of pride in my creations and my new-found abilities but it meant I could wear clothes that I liked, which made me feel good, instead of just finding what fit or was the least unflattering. Simple things like being able to alter necklines, hemlines and sleeve lengths have also meant that I can additionally adapt ready to wear (rtw) clothes to make them more ‘me’. Sewing has also given me the ability to detach my self-worth from the number on the label and appreciate that fitting to MY body is about my uniqueness rather than my body shape not ‘conforming’.

I’ve also found my tribe. The online sewing community has shown me that there are all kinds of body sizes and shapes that don’t ‘conform’ to rtw sizing and all kinds of adaptions that all kinds of people need to make to ensure their garments fit properly. Engaging with other sewists on Instagram has helped me find people with a similar style and to develop my own sense of style from what brings me joy instead of what is ‘the most flattering’. I joined Instagram in April 2017 (after nearly a year of sewing my own clothes), after avoiding having my photo taken for years. However, I now regularly post unfiltered pics of myself onto that little grid without fear of judgement or negativity because the sewing community is such an encouraging, supportive and respectful group of people (thanks guys).

My first sewing meet up #sew2gether

Surrounding yourself with people who are good for you and make you feel wanted and valued is so important. It can be tough to evaluate long established friendships and discover that being with particular people intimidates you or leaves you feeling somehow surplus to requirements. However, it is so important to me to make social/community interactions positive, engaging, joyful and life-giving.

I’ve also found my cheerleaders. This is essential (in my opinion) in the development of body positivity – people who will help you pick yourself up if you get knocked down. People who messaged me straight away when they heard of this week’s unfortunate event. I want to celebrate them here:

My husband is an amazing support and has loved me the same at a size 12, size 18 and everything in between. He says he finds me most attractive when I’m confident in myself (he’s a keeper).

My friend Gemma (@curvy.curl) has known me for 20 years and is always ready with a confidence boost and a listening ear. She knows when I need some tough talking as much as when I need a hug. Also (FYI Dr Bodyshamer), she is a runner who is fit and still curvy and has documented her own body positivity journey on Instagram.

Emily (@whoopfitnessandwellbeing) is the most amazing fitness instructor. I have been to her classes on and off (when life has allowed) for five years. Her message is to love yourself and be fit and healthy. She is a mental health advocate and encourages us to cast aside the idea of making our bodies conform. She runs half marathons and goes full pelt in her classes but still has her Mum Tum and I love that! Some of us are never going to have washboard stomachs and we can spend our lives fighting and trying to be something unachievable or we can accept that we are perfectly and beautifully formed – JUST. AS. WE. ARE.

Other things that have helped is developing the confidence to call people out when they make judgements or remarks about people because of their size: ‘Is that relevant, kind or helpful?’ Telling people that I am accepting of my size and shape so that they don’t try to offer me advice on dieting or exercise can be useful. I understand that others may need to alter their weight to make themselves feel happier and confident – everyone has to do what’s right for them, but right now, that’s not for me so please don’t tell me ‘you should try it’ when discussing your new diet. I respect your needs, please respect mine.

Finally, accepting that you can’t account for everyone else’s issues with body image and how they may try to put those on you is important. Most people I know still see ‘you look thin’ as the highest complement they can give. I much prefer ‘you look amazing ’ or words such as radiant, elegant, glowing, stylish or confident that don’t reflect on someone’s size.

I don’t love my body YET but I have made my peace with its size and shape. My feelings about my body should ONLY be mine, not those of other people – they don’t know what it’s like to be me. Ultimately, body positivity has to be a conscious choice:

I am going to keep trying to give power to my body positive thoughts and let the bodyshamers’ words wash away like waste water down the drain.

Thanks for reading. I hope that this resonates with someone, somewhere and helps another person on their journey to body positivity. This year’s theme for The Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week (13th- 19th May) is body image. Follow them for more information and support. Whoop Fitness and Well-being also has a great fundraising event for the MHF on 17th May (follow Emily on Facebook or Instagram for more info).

L xxx

community · neonatal · premature babies · sewing · Uncategorized

Difference

This blog post is a bit different to my previous ones but is the most important. Please read it and get involved or spread the word.

Recently, I have become easily agitated by the self-promoting elements of Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, I think us sewists (yes that is a collective noun) have an amazing online community full of creative, talented and supportive people. There’s just something about the hunt for followers that doesn’t sit right with me. It made me question why I was using social media to share my makes and what I was trying to achieve as part of the sewing community.

At the same time, an amazing group within my church was struggling to find sewists to make really essential products for our local hospital. This is something much more important than anything I can do on my own and a genuinely worthy way to mobilise the Sewists of Instagram to follow an account and share posts. Therefore, I am asking that you read the rest of this blog post and see if it’s something that you could consider important too.

Embrace is a group within Christ Central Church that wholeheartedly supports the neonatal unit of East Surrey Hospital and the families that use it. The group was founded by Keata Murray, after her experiences there with her youngest child, Olive (born 13 weeks early), gave her a conviction and a God- led mission to help provide whatever comfort and resources could give these tiny babies the best chance at life and health and to show love and support to families going through such a challenging time.

One such resource is the incubator covers (as seen on Olive’s incubator) sewn by members of the church community.

“Our experience is that an incubator cover enhances a premature or sick baby’s rest as it shields their eyes from harsh hospital lighting and all the activity going on around them. It also helps to exclude external noise whilst allowing easy access and observation by the nurses and doctors.

An incubator cover also provides one of the only opportunities for parents to create a unique little nursery space in the hospital for them and their baby.

It also helps parents to easily identify where their baby’s incubator is when they arrive at the unit every day, should they be moved to accommodate other babies. Most importantly it gives parents a unique opportunity to “tuck their baby in” when they have to leave the unit to go home… the only way possible in those very early days.

An incubator cover is a simple but massively impactful gift to help parents on a very worrying journey.” (Keata Murray)

East Surrey Hospital in Redhill needs about 500 of these a year.

I used a duvet cover, some curtains and their lining fabric to make two covers.

What can you do to help?

  • Raid your stash for any ‘nursery’ appropriate cotton or recycle a well-conditioned child’s duvet cover. You could also use scraps in a patchwork design. Fabrics simply need to withstand a 60-degree hospital wash, to kill off any germs.
  • Make an incubator cover (using the instructions below) and send it to Embrace, 3 London Road, Redhill RH1 1LY.
  • Or you could drop it off in person. The entrance is down the alleyway next to West Central coffee shop in Redhill town centre. Simply ring the buzzer and an incubator cover collection box will be just inside the door (for health & safety purposes please do not post or drop them off directly at the ESH neonatal unit).
  • If postage is an issue, you could contact your local neonatal unit to find out if they have similar incubators and cover needs and coordinate a similar project.
  • If you are a sewing teacher, use incubator covers as a product of your teaching. They would be a great first make (our sewing club at school will be making some soon).
  • Follow Embrace’s newly set up Instagram for requests and updates @embrace_esh or ask to join their private Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/685633854930237/
  • Share your support or any covers you make using #sewyourembrace
  • You can also email Keata at embrace@christ-central.org.uk

Something that would take you 30 minutes- 1 hour of your time could make such a difference to a neonatal baby and his/her family. Let’s use our passion to show compassion and #sewyourembrace

Thank you xx

decorating · sewing · Uncategorized

Building

It’s been a long time, too long, since I last scattered my ramblings across this page. Partly this is down to the crazy business of life combined with building works and partly because of a loss of confidence in my ability to actually say anything interesting. Well, what better way to get ‘back in the game’ than to combine the two and write a blog post about our loft conversion that may not actually be of interest to my sewing followers 🤣.

Instead of nattering on about the trials (oh so many) and tribulations of 10 weeks of building work followed by 8 weeks of intensive decorating (those 47 spindles nearly killed me), I thought I would instead celebrate the handmade additions to our newly reconfigured house and the fact that I survived the process relatively sane and somewhat more resilient than before.

First to be completed, was our bedroom and ensuite in the loft. Despite a few (many) cross words spoken whilst wallpapering, especially when we discovered a printing fault AFTER we had finished, this room was relatively straight forward to decorate.

I’d had the colour scheme and wallpaper for the bedroom in mind before the scaffolding even went up so I’d managed to recover our blanket box in matching Laura Ashley fabric (Dragonfly Garden) whilst the works were going on. Then once I got the sewing machine out, I decided to make two envelope cushions in the steel colour way of Laura Ashley’s Lisette fabric (can you see a theme developing here?). Finally, the last handmade addition was a Victorian balloon back chair that I got off eBay and restored (wood glue and sandpaper are my friends) and up-cycled with some Laura Ashley cotton white coloured furniture paint and the opposite colour way of the Lisette fabric. (I promise I’m not sponsored by Laura Ashley)

Next, was the front bedroom on the first floor. This used to be our bedroom before the build and had had fitted wardrobes ripped out, a wall moved in and a complete re-plaster. Our eldest son wants to be an inventor when he grows up so we decided on industrial/ steam punk highlights whilst incorporating things that he loves like Star Wars, reading and geography.

Our favourite handmade item was a real team effort and labour of love. Having seen this lovely shelving unit on Pinterest, I researched copper components and came up with a plan. One trip to Toolstation and a local salvage yard and my husband plus one of his diy-enthusiastic mates set to work on the floorboards and copper piping and turned them into this:

After the success of this piece, we went on to buy some copper brackets from Simply Copper on eBay and combined them with some left over copper piping and a donated piece of scaffolding board to create a trophy/ medal display.

Other handmade items were some science themed cushions (fabric from eBay), a set of drawers purchased from a local Facebook selling group that I restored and up-cycled (I love a bargain), and a bedside drawer unit that I found in the shed and painted blue.

The final stage of decorating was the room/area that I had been dreaming of since we first decided to remortgage to finance the work- the sewing/ reading area in the landing area of the new loft. This room was designed to give myself and my husband a space where we could be together but both enjoy our separate hobbies. We managed to squeeze in enough Ikea furniture to make this dream a reality.

Up here (other than what I make at my sewing desk), the main handmade items are my foldaway ironing table (another up-cycled Facebook marketplace purchase), some cushions, my sewing machine cover and the fabric covered embroidery hoops that decorate the stairwell wall.

All in all we are really pleased with our new spaces and agree that it is worth the stress of all the leaks, dust, collateral damage and bloomin’ hard work. I surprised myself with how well I managed to live in a building site whilst maintaining normal family and work life.

I never thought I would have been able to cope with the lack of control and the massive inconveniences to routine. Don’t get me wrong, I have thrown my toys out of the pram a few times since when we’ve had to call the builders back to fix issues and during the painting of the 47 spindles (which could only be done once the children were in bed but the light was then so poor that we ended up painting with a head torch!). However, the process has taught me that I am more resilient and pragmatic than I often realise. You never really learn how you cope outside your comfort zone until you are thrown right out of it and pushed to your limits -a loft conversion combined with two children and a teaching job in the summer term will certainly do that for you!

(All flooring provided and fitted by Surrey Flooring)

If you want to know where any items came from, feel free to ask in the comments or message me on Instagram @lolssewandsews.

sewing · Teaching · Uncategorized

Mending

Have you ever been through a time when you seem to be simply reacting to life rather than having any say or control over what goes on? This has been me over the last couple of months- jumping from one thing that demands my time, money and attention to another. First there was a flat tyre, then a broken washing machine (for 3 weeks!!!), a boiler that gave its soul to The Beast from the East and a shower that lost its pressure…you get the gist (first world problems, I know). However, it’s got me thinking …the reacting/ fixing/ mending of broken things has such a fundamentally different feeling to that of creating something new, of planning and future-proofing something beautifully designed and purposeful. It’s a thought that has permeated into many aspects of my life.

The brokenness that has affected me the most is that which I’ve encountered through my job as a primary school teacher. Over the last few years I have witnessed an increase in the number of children and their families who are feeling ‘broken’. They have things going on in their lives that impact massively on their well-being and self esteem, let alone their learning. Then we, as teachers, do our best to nurture and support these children but have to fight a system that takes away their free school meals and disbands the support from local Children’s Centres. We are trying to mend brokenness instead of these children having the opportunity to be beautifully created and given the best chance of the bright, shining futures they deserve. How hard is it to realise that by supporting these families from the beginning, by shaping their parenting and making life less demanding for their children, we would be building a firmer future rather than putting all our energies into plugging the gaps and patching up as best we can when things fall apart?

This sense of reacting and fighting has been rather consuming (and the major reason why I haven’t blogged for a while). However, in recognising it, I am now readying the counter attack in a small but significant way (for me). I am trying to hold on to the satisfaction and anticipation of the creative process by focussing on sewing and embracing the plans for our loft conversion (including a dedicated sewing area)- something we can plan and create rather than just repairing stuff all the time.

This month I have been addressing (and future proofing) the gaps in my wardrobe. I have little me-made casual wear so my two latest makes have been dungaree dresses/pinafores for the much needed purpose of chasing around after my boys or supporting football matches etc.

The first was a tried and tested Tilly and the Buttons Cleo. I went for the longer version but left out the split (accidentally, but because the fabric was stretch denim it worked out ok). The fabric was from The Denim Company (http://www.thedenimcompany.co.uk) and I absolutely love it!

This was my 4th Cleo so I decided to pre-empt any minor annoyances I may have with the dress and right them before I started. Firstly, I like to use buttons instead of the dungaree clips but previously it’s annoyed me when the straps pull a bit around the button after a few washes. This time, I interfaced the straps to give them a bit more structure. Secondly, I’ve had issues with my finish on the hem and facing so I used a narrow bias binding to keep all seams and edges (except the centre front and back) neat and fray free.

My second garment was made in answer to my issues with my first Cotton and Chalk Sunday Set. I’d made one over the Christmas period using a gifted baby cord (thank you Agnes) which resulted in a bulky skirt that was rather unflattering on me.

This time, I opted for a simple gathered skirt, a bib with a wider base and a fabric with more drape. I wanted a lighter fabric that would suit a spring/summer pinafore and chose a teal viscose twill from eBay. This created some serious problems. It’s beautifully silky and drapey but it frays more than my temper when I tread on a stray piece of Lego. Therefore, to make it last, I chose to interface and line the pocket and used bias binding on the hem and all the seams. In hindsight, making my own bias binding from the same fabric would have stopped the hem flicking out but…did I mention the fraying?!

Overall, I was happy with my forward planning, anticipating future problems and taking steps to address them in advance. It’s much easier to stop a garment from fraying and turning into a haystack of threads than it is to bale up those threads into a wearable garment that you are proud of again.

Another aspect of this future planning is the creation of a sewing club at school! I am fortunate enough to work in a supportive, community school where creativity is valued. Therefore, when the DT coordinator recognised the need for sewing in the curriculum, we were well supported in our endeavours. Last week was our first session and we all left with a bounce in our step. That feeling of creating and the potential possibilities of what we could achieve impacted us all in such a positive way. I am so excited to see where we can go with this and the fantastic opportunity it offers to our children. To be able to inspire them to create and aspire rather than wait to react or fix what life may offer them is such a fantastic antidote to the nonsense and stress of the last couple of months.

So, if you’re still reading this after all my ramblings, thanks for sticking with me but now go- design, plan, create, and work on building that better future (in whatever way you can) rather than having to react to and mend a broken one.

sewing

Lessons learnt in 2017

I’m not a fan of New Year. Don’t get me wrong, I love a (pre-children) party but I really struggle with the ‘looking back’/ ‘looking forward’ element of the New Year period. In my mind, every day is new opportunity and a chance to improve on yourself and to ponder (or try to forget) the good (or bad) of the days that have gone before. The pressure of ‘new starts’ and resolutions often makes me feel I’ve set myself up to let myself down!

I haven’t had any time (or anything interesting) to blog for a while but have thought the end of the year provides a great opportunity for a summary of what I have learnt about my sewing, fitting and ultimately myself this year. There will be no resolutions or challenges set for next year but instead an ongoing desire to develop my hobby and subsequently learn a bit more about myself along the way.

Sewing skills

This has been my first full year of dressmaking and I have made about 20 new garments for myself and about 10-15 others as gifts or to sell. I’ve learnt a lot but my top 4 new skills are as follows:

1. Lapped zips- what started as a fix for a messed up hacked dress has now become my favourite zip insertion style.

2. Button holes- these used to terrify me but now I feel I have mastered neat, aligned button holes (with the help of some Prym Fray Check).

3. Neat insides- I have experimented with different finishes on seam allowances (I don’t own an overlocker…yet). I love Hong Kong seams

but tend to most readily use French Seams where I can

or simply fold under and zig zag stitch an open seam.

4. Sleeves- I now have the confidence to alter sleeves to suit my desired fit and style. I really liked the cuffed sleeves on my Sew Over It Vintage Shirtdress and the puff sleeves I added to the Simplicity 1801.

Fitting

I have had issues with body confidence for as long as I can remember but sewing my own clothes has helped me a lot in this area. This year I have learnt that a full bust adjustment is often a good idea and that my shoulders are narrower than my bust measurement accounts for. I have learnt to adjust darts to bring a garment in more under my bust and that my waist is not as big as I always imagine.

I am excited about the prospect of easier fitting now that I have ‘Dolly’ my adjustable dress-form. I thought I would struggle with having my body size reflected back at me but it’s actually reassured me and reminded me to trust measurements and not oversize my garments ‘just in case’ they don’t fit.

Me

This year has taught me that I am more resilient than I thought. I have managed to come back from a horrid period of depression and anxiety and proactively deal with negative thoughts and feelings through CBT and self care. Sewing has played a major part in this and the support and encouragement of the online sewing community has been amazing. The Great British Sewing Bee Live was a highlight of the year. My anxiety nearly kept me away but I managed to put my brave face on and even managed to talk to some sewing celebrities!

My body image is improving and my sense of personal achievement and acceptance of mistakes are developed in a creative, purposeful manner that also produces new lovely, individual clothes for my wardrobe.

When I started this blog in April, I never would have believed that my ramblings would have attract more than 1000 visitors. Thank you so much for stopping by and encouraging me. Here’s to more sewing endeavours and successes in 2018. 🥂