Just before Christmas I was contacted by founder and editor Jillian Bagnall and offered a complimentary copy of her new, independently published sewing-based mini-magazine called Sewzine to review. I didn’t know what to expect, initially I thought it was an online print-at-home publication but I have been very impressed because it is a nicely produced print magazine on quality paper and with high production values. The graphics are clear and appealing and there’s plenty of attractive photography and illustrations for each article, plus, because it’s been independently published, that means there are no adverts to take up space, it is all content.
Let’s take a look at a few of the articles inside…
I have to admit that bra-making is something I’ve never been very tempted to try, I’d rather leave that to the experts, but I thought the article was very well written because it gives a balanced view of why it’s worth considering making your own bras, or why it might not be for everyone, I was almost persuaded! I thought the information contained in the piece would be extremely useful if you’re about embark on bra-making, including lists of patterns, materials and findings that you would need, where to source them and a tick list to fill in as you collect them together.
I found the article about wool and woollen fabrics really interesting and very well researched, there was all sorts of information about the various sources of woollen fibres and types of fabrics. Like the bra-making article it was well-illustrated as well.
I had a chuckle at the “Bring it Back?” article because I spent so much of my early career cutting and making puffball, or ‘bubble’, skirts. I enjoyed the exploration of the style from its early days to more recent incarnations, I can see this as a thread of articles revisiting other iconic styles in the future…hot pants anyone?
I also really enjoyed the idea of revisiting patterns from a year or two back to reappraise them. We are constantly bombarded by new new new patterns but I’m always happy to reuse patterns I’ve enjoyed making previously. By chance, the pattern featured in this issue is the Grainline Patterns Farrow dress which I’ve actually made 3 times myself, including one review that featured in Sew Now magazine.
The mini-mag is aimed at intermediate sewers but I think this shouldn’t put off less experienced makers. I enjoyed the chatty yet informative style of writing and a lot of time and effort has gone into the inaugural issue, it’s clearly been a lockdown passion project. There are no free patterns or other inducements as an incentive but that does mean that the editorial is unbiased so if you are intrigued to have a read for yourself then follow the link here to the Sewzine website where you can order a copy of the first issue for yourself (it’s priced at £5.75 per copy) Jillian would also welcome any ideas you might have to contribute articles for future issues, contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org While you do that I’m off to have a go at the crossword…
I thought I would share with you the video I made specifically for the recent Sewing Weekender here in the UK for anyone who wasn’t able to, or wasn’t interested in attending. Unlike previous years, when the event takes place over two days in Cambridge, this one was entirely online and so the organisers, Kate and Rachel at The Fold Line and Charlotte @englishgirlathome asked an impressive selection of contributors to make short videos on a variety of topics. I’ve never made a film before so it was a pretty steep learning curve!
The first challenge was going to be filming it, and then it would have to be edited in some way too. I worked out that if I balanced my phone on top of my sewing machine in my workroom it was at the right sort of height with good light. Then I decided I needed a script of sorts to keep me on track and that is what I’ve reproduced here, along with the video itself. I printed it out and stuck the sheets to the window and to the sewing machine like a kind of ramshackle autocue! It turned out the window was too far away though and I looked like I was gazing to the heavens for divine inspiration…how to vloggers do this all the time? Maybe they do just waffle on and nobody minds? hey ho, I knew the things I wanted to say and without some kind of prompt I might forget some of them. Anyway, I managed to film it in bursts although I did have to pause one time to shoo the pigeons off the roof because they were audibly clumping about and I didn’t need that distraction too! I found my laptop has iMovies so I managed to splice the whole thing together using that, the next Jane Campion I am not!! The script below is not word-for-word what I said because I managed to freestyle it a couple of times in an attempt to sound natural but for anyone with hearing difficulties it’s close enough, I’m afraid subtitles were absolutely beyond my rudimentary film-making abilities.
I hope you’ve all been enjoying the Online Sewing Weekender and I want to begin by thanking Kate and Rachel of The Fold line and Charlotte from English Girl at Home for taking the very brave and audacious step of carrying on with the event in spite of the strangeness of the times. It’s so great to imagine all of us sewing away at the same time wherever we are in the world.
As well as my own Instagram account I’ve also been involved with the SewOver50 account since the very beginning and whilst Judith and Sandy manage the account on a day-to-day basis I write the blogs which accompany particular discussions or any challenges which have been running.
When Kate, Rachel and Charlotte invited me to be involved I thought I’d chat a bit about the #so50visible challenge involving indie patterns in particular. It first ran in February last year and then again this March.
The reason SO50 began in the first place was because we felt that our slightly older age group was being overlooked by the burgeoning home sewing industry and we really didn’t want it to become as age-centric as the mainstream fashion industry has always been. Plus many of us bring a wealth of knowledge and experience which we’re only too happy to share with anyone new or maybe returning to dressmaking at home.
Many of you will know that the dress pattern market has been dominated for many decades by the so-called Big 4 but in the last 10 years or so there’s been a boom in independent designers putting out their own patterns.
Followers of SO50 have embraced these indie designers with gusto but we also felt a little bit side-lined by them too. We didn’t often see ourselves being reflected back on the packaging or marketing.
The #so50visible challenge was created to draw some attention to ourselves, to highlight that very few older sewers were featured, and to politely encourage a change of thinking.
We came up with the idea to ask people to only sew a pattern which featured an older model in it’s advertising and promotion.
Judith and I spent an absolute age trawling through the Fold Line database and eventually came up with quite a modest list considering how many patterns are listed! We found a few books with older models too.
Throughout the month long challenge followers were asked to share their makes, it meant many people found new brands of pattern maker which we might not have heard of before. Very often the most popular patterns were stylish, fashion-forward and wearable but the model looked more like us. Many of SewOver50’s followers are still very interested in fashion and style and we still want to look good whilst making our own clothes.
Many of us in our 50s and 60s have more time to sew for pleasure and we might have more cash to spend on patterns and fabric too so it always strikes me that it’s a missed opportunity for indie pattern makers to disregard this huge potential market.
While the first challenge was running we also introduced the #so50thanks hashtag because if anyone’s make was reposted by the designer we thought it was important to appreciate that they had first of all noticed and acknowledged the maker and that they were then happy to share it on their own feed.
It’s a virtuous circle isn’t it? Feature an older model on the pattern and it gets our attention, we buy your product, we share our makes, SewOver50 probably reposts to it’s 20K followers, you get free advertising to an audience with money to spend, and more people will buy the pattern because they can imagine themselves wearing those clothes-simple!
There are a few other companies like Maven and Alice & Co who don’t use models at all, just illustrations or mannequins but they are super-supportive and involved in our community and constantly share and repost. Let’s be honest here, most of us are pleased to get a like or a repost because it gives us a little boost that the designer noticed us, we can all gain ideas and inspiration from others, and we want to see the garments being worn by people who are similar to ourselves in some way. The pattern companies which do notice us have then tended to become very popular with SO50 followers, it’s that virtuous circle again.
We think there’s a small element of change happening but there’s a long way to go, though there are more companies than just the ones I’ve had time to mention here and there’s always room for more.
I’m always happy to share the knowledge and experience I have from many years of sewing, and I know of many others who are too. It’s fantastic to be a part of this worldwide sewing community and it’s diversity is vital so if we can encourage a few more indie brands to look beyond the young, slim, white stereotype then that can only be a positive thing right?
Enticing us to spend our grey pounds (or dollars) is a good reason to check out what the followers of SewOver50 are up to especially as there are now almost 20,000 of us! And I will often write honest reviews of patterns or fabric over on my blog which you might find interesting too, I like to think I’m a critical friend. I would encourage anyone to look at the #sewover50 hashtag because there are now tens of thousands of images to inspire you.
Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the Sewing Weekender wherever you are, and I hope whatever you’re sewing is going well, with any luck we will have opportunities to meet again in real life before too long, I do hope so. I love going to meet-ups and being able to chat with fellow sewers, and filming myself like this is a first for me so I hope it’s made a bit of sense!
Thank you again to Kate, Rachel and Charlotte,
Bye bye etc etc…
I spent both days of the Weekender on a video call with two of my sewing buddies Melissa Fehr and Elizabeth Connolly, I met them both originally at the first Weekender and we’ve all been fortunate enough to go to every one since, we weren’t going to let a pandemic stop us this time! I made another Camber which was one of the projects I cut out on my recent batch cutting splurge and I added a machine embroidery stitch from my Pfaff Quilt Ambition 2.0.
If you’ve ever read any of my previous blog posts you’ll know I really enjoy going to meet-ups so not being able to do this for the last few months has been sad to say the least, with luck it won’t be too much longer though. To my mind, this year Charlotte, Kate and Rachel have successfully created the next best thing because everyone could sew whenever and wherever they were in the world. Some did as I did and had group chats going on, two sewers I know set up their machines on trestle tables in the garden (suitably distanced of course!) others were solo but had all the video content to keep them company or by using the #sewingweekender hashtag, some didn’t/couldn’t really join in with sewing on the day for one reason or another but took part in the giant Zoom at the end of Saturday, or early afternoon on Sunday. The Zoom was fantastic because it made me realise just how many people from all over the world had been participating including the US, Canada, Germany, Norway, Israel and Australia, and hearing so many shout-outs for SewOver50 from them was even better! Everyone, whatever their situation or circumstances, had the opportunity to buy a ticket-which was essentially a charitable donation anyway-it will be interesting to see if this is a format that could be repeated in the future to make the event inclusive worldwide. Were you ‘there’? what did you make of the concept, and was it preferable in some way to the real life event for you, or not as good? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts
We asked you another question on @SewOver50 in October-which were your favourite go-to, never-fail, T-N-T T-shirt (tee shirt?) patterns and naturally you came up with a veeeeerrrry long list. I’ve trawled through them all and simply listed them here with a link (if I found one) for each so you can check them out for yourselves. As blogs go, it’s a bit of a dull one but you might it useful and maybe find your next new favourite pattern amongst these. Needless to say there are probably another one or two hundred more patterns which you think ought to be on this list!
I’m not recommending or endorsing any of these patterns personally, they have all been suggested by you, the enthusiastic followers.
I can finally publish a blog all about the making of this dress so I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful or insightful…
I was very excited when Sew Now magazine asked me to review a pattern for them. What an opportunity! Editor Sam asked me to suggest 3 patterns that I’d like to make which were ‘me’ so I thought about the various patterns that were around at the moment and which ones I wouldn’t mind having a go at.
It’s funny but when you’re given the opportunity to push something to the top of your ‘make’ pile it really concentrates the mind. I thought the best way of seeing lots of patterns together was to go to The Fold Line where there’s a brilliant online database of virtually any pattern brand you can think of. I spent a happy hour (or two) browsing until I eventually settled on 4 patterns to submit. They were the Farrow dress from Grainline, the Talvikki sweatshirt by Named Clothing, Ivy pinafore by Jennifer Lauren Handmade and the Landgate jacket by Merchant and Mills. I spent quite a while sourcing suitable fabrics for each of the garments too so that, once Sam had made her final pattern choice, I could tell her the fabrics I thought would work well for it.
Because I really liked all the patterns, and they were quite diverse, I didn’t mind which one Sam chose. I’ve made a dress a little like the Farrow already and it’s actually one of my favourites. What made the Farrow different is the diagonal seams which bisect the front and back, and there are pockets set into the front seams. It has sleeveless and long sleeve variations too. I was stupidly excited when it arrived speedily in the post courtesy of The Draper’s Daughter
There was a slight hiccup with the first fabric I chose because the supplier hadn’t got quite enough so we had to go with my second choice, a lovely turquoise squared design viscose crepe at £12.99 per metre kindly supplied by Ditto Fabrics in Brighton.
And so to begin….
Because Grainline are an American brand it’s important to remember that their sizing bands are different to UK and European sizing so I took my measurements and then chose accordingly. I’m usually a cutter not a tracer with patterns (always have been because it was never suggested to me there was an alternative, patterns are there to be cut up and used)
The Farrow doesn’t have loads of pieces and, apart from a curiously-shaped front piece for the pocket which needs a bit of space, I do think the lay plan is a bit over generous although the largest sizes will inevitably need more fabric overall. On a wide width fabric-especially if it is plain-you could easily reduce the quantity needed although I would urge you to double-check before buying if you’re not sure.
Luckily for me the Ditto fabric doesn’t have a distinct one-way design so I could interlock the pieces successfully and get the dress out of 2m60 instead of the suggested 3m20 (incidentally another factor of being a US pattern is that the fabric widths and quantities are in Imperial not metric so you’ll need to convert these)
Once cut out it’s a very straightforward sew. The instructions are clear although the diagrams could perhaps be a little bit bigger and also the right and wrong sides of the fabric are coloured the opposite way around to most other patterns I’ve ever used. This could lead to confusion and mixing up which side you’re supposed to be sewing so you’ll need to concentrate!
Stitching the lower edge of the pocket, the crossed pins higher up mark the pivot points for the seams creating the upper edge.
Since first making the dress it’s been through the wash once and I’ve noticed the top edges of the pockets have stretched slightly because they are on a bias grain. I would suggest for future makes that you use a strip of iron-on interfacing approx 3cms x the top width of the pocket to reinforce the edge and stop it from stretching and bagging out of shape.
Once both fronts have their pockets sewn it’s a case of matching the centre front seams and stitching.
So far, sew good. Everything from now on was pretty simple. The neck is faced, as are the cuffs-this gives them a really nice crisp finish to the edge. I’d made another Farrow when the pattern first arrived and I used a contrast fabric for this, so that it has one of those little secret details that only you know about-that’s one of the things I love about making my own clothes, their uniqueness.
One final thing that I changed was the hem. I decided I wanted to use contrast bias binding to give it a nice finish, the hi-lo hem means whatever finish you choose it will be partly visible at the back.
Obviously you can machine the hem up if you wish but the point is I wanted the stitching to be barely visible and hand-stitching is by far the best way to achieve this.
The final detail was to use a button and hand-sewn loop at the back neck closure (the pattern calls for a hook and eye but I don’t think they stay done up very well and a button looks much nicer anyway)
So there it is, the Farrow dress is a satisfying, moderately quick sew. I’ll definitely be making a sleeveless one for the summer in something a bit lighter, a chambray or soft linen would look nice, or a cotton shirting in a check or stripe could look really interesting if you’re up for the challenge of matching on the those pockets and diagonal seams! Broderie Anglais fabric would look gorgeous too!
I really enjoyed writing the article for Sew Now and was dead chuffed to be asked. I spent a long time considering which patterns I’d like to make and which fabrics would be suitable for any of them. I was more than happy with editor Sam’s selections in the end. Funnily enough, getting everything into 300 words was the hardest part! There were so many things I felt it was important to talk about (it’s a review after all and there are facts that I’d want to know about if I’m considering spending £15 on a pattern and I thought they were important to include) and I still wanted it to sound like ‘me’ too. With strict editing I got it all in there and I’ve gone into greater detail here on the blog.
I was so thrilled when my copy of the magazine came through the post! I’ve had photos of garments I’ve made featured before in a few publications but this is the first article I’ve been asked to write, I’d love it to be the first of many (hint hint)
Thank you for all the feedback I received when it first appeared and I hope you’ve enjoyed finding out about my writing experience in more detail.
I thought I’d take a look at everything I’ve made over the course of the last 12 months and it makes, for me at least, interesting viewing. There’s a variety of garments, styles, shapes and silhouettes. Some have been more successful than others for various reasons, some are self-drafted, others were new patterns free with magazines, some were hacked from patterns I already have and some were indie patterns and PDFs. There have been garments thrown together in very little time and with very little fabric, and there have been a few things that I’ve taken a huge amount of time and care over. There have been a growing number of refashions in the mix too. Not everything I’ve made ended up being photographed so I don’t think this is an exhaustive list but most of it’s here, wherever possible I’ll give pattern and fabric details but I think it will be a photo-tour through my sewing year 2016.
So here goes…
I made 2 of this dress during the year, the blue chambray was first and the pale green was made during the Sewing weekender in August. I blogged about them both and I love wearing them both. I’m particularly happy with the exposed zip on the green.
Quite different garments but both new to me-the stripes was a copy of a top I already had and the shirt is a refashion of one belonging to my husband, read about them here and here.
I made an evening dress for myself in March using Simple Sew‘s Floating Bodice pattern (for reasons I won’t go into it became known as the Flying Buttress dress) I’ve never blogged this one, maybe I’ll get round to it because I’ve used some interesting techniques on it.
I did a bit of pattern-making of my own for the next dress.
This was my own self-drafted pattern for the skirt with pleats and a false wrap over, and an existing bodice from years ago. Overall I’m pleased with it, the skirt works really well but the bodice needed some tweaking-the shoulders were too broad and the bodice too long so I altered it the next time I made it-sleeveless this time, in gorgeous cotton/linen mix from Ditto fabrics in Brighton.
This gorgeous fabric came from Faberwood and although I only had 1.5m I got two tops out of it! On the left is New Look 6230 (free from Sew magazine!) On the right is a top from a hacked pattern I’ve used at least 5 times in various versions either as a top or a dress.
Still with me…?
Alder dress with sleeves
Next up was an Alder from Grainline patterns, the summer version was a cotton poplin from Backstitch and the red is more recent and I’ve added long sleeves . Both have had plenty of wear.
This top has been one of my absolute favourites over the summer, it’s my version of a RTW top from last year and was an early blog post. The skirt was a wonky bolt-end of jersey I turned into a super-comfy skirt, even the elastic in the waist came from something else.
This was another extreme labour of love. It’s a jacket made for Portia Lawrie‘s The Refashioners project 2016. It didn’t win but I got a mention in despatches and I’ve had a lot of use out of it. The dress underneath is from last year and is one of my absolute favourites-I’ve had random strangers on public transport compliment me about it!
I love this waxed cotton dress, I got the pattern (Simplicity 2444) from the swap at the Weekender in August (and the button was in the goody bag) and the fabric is from a shop in Walthamstow.
This was my first Tilly and the Buttons pattern and also my first properly inserted exposed zip. I blogged about it here. Then came a pattern-testing opportunity for Megan Nielsen patterns, her new Karri dress to be precise. You can read the blog for that here.
While I was working on many of these things I was slowly beavering away on possibly my favourite dress ever-it’s the gorgeous evening dress I created for our special Ladies Night in November.
Almost finally, this is version 1 of the Zoe dress from Sew Now magazine, in a lovely printed denim from Ditto
There was one last dress I made recently which wasn’t so successful not because the pattern wasn’t good but because the fabric didn’t work well for the style. I have worn it but there’s no photo, I intend making it again because I really like the pattern but I’ll be more careful with fabric choice this time. I’ll write a review when I’m happier with it, it was me not the pattern!
So there we have it, well done for sticking with me all the way through this trawl of the last 12 sewing months. In between all the making I completed a large number of bridal and other alterations, which are much less fun frankly. I’ve taught lots of lovely people new things too either individually or in weekly classes. It’s been so much fun. I’ve really enjoyed meeting lots of sewers and dressmakers in the flesh this year too and I hope there’ll be more opportunities for meet ups and Weekenders next year, I like nothing better than to get together with other people to talk sewing/patterns/fabrics until the cows come home…
There’ll be one last blog for 2016 which will be a review of the two shirts I’ve just made Mr Y for Christmas, but I haven’t written that yet….
Thank you for reading my blog and I really like to receive your comments. I hope there’ll be a lot more sewing fun in 2017. I’ll still be pushing myself to try new techniques and methods and patterns, I’m every bit as keen to learn new things as any beginner-I love learning from newbies just as much as I’m happy to share what I know with you. Just because I’ve been doing this forever is irrelevant, we’re never too old to learn something new, or another way of doing it.
Don’t forget that, if you don’t already, you can find my page on Facebook at Susan Young Sewing and also on Instagram (susanyoungsewing) that’s usually where I post lots of pictures of what I’ve been sewing, galleries and museums I’ve visited and what my cats are up to!!
Merry Christmas, a healthy and prosperous 2017, and lots more sewing of course,
I’ve already made one Alder earlier in the summer and liked wearing it more than I expected to…a slightly bizarre statement surely? I loved the fabric, a cute butterfly-print poplin bought from Backstitch in the spring, and I like the style a lot but it felt a bit snug over the bust (and I’m not large) and I couldn’t get the collar to go on the neatly. This may have been because I forgot halfway through (or never actually checked) that the seam allowances are 1/2″ which isn’t a typical SA for most patterns sold in the UK. If I used 1.5cms this would explain why it was a bit tight. Rookie error!
I added a box pleat to the back this time to create a little extra fullness, as well as it being a new detail. This is simple to do. Instead of placing the pattern piece directly against the fold of the fabric just move it parallel away from the fold by the amount you want, I moved it by 2cms which added a total of 4cms. [If you don’t want fullness all the way to the hem, place the hem against the fold and pivot the pattern piece from that point away from the fold at the top by as much as you want to add] Then you can pleat out the extra as you wish, I top-stitched it down, western-shirt style.
I decided exploit the distinct pile of the fabric by cutting the patch pockets on the bias. It was pretty straightforward from then on to make up the dress, I was really careful about the seam allowance this time.
I top-stitched most of the seams using the saddle stitch setting on my machine [it looks like 3 lines of stitches side by side in the diagram if you’ve got it, it oversews each stitch so they’re highlighted more than if you just did one row of normal stitch in regular thread]
In the end I decided not to make it sleeveless as before so I added sleeves from a Simplicity pattern I’d used previously. I checked the arm scye measurement against the sleeve head to ensure the sleeve was big enough, but not too big, to go into the armhole. This sleeve has a simple cuff without a placket so it was speedier to make and not too bulky in the cord fabric.
I should mention that I’ve also added pockets to the side seams this time-always handy for a tissue to go through the washing machine and cover everything in white fluff!
Considering I have about 4 billion buttons in my collection I was somewhat surprised to not be able to collect together enough buttons all the same! So….there are two different-coloured ones on the front and perfectly matching red ones on the cuffs, a quirky detail I like to think.
And there we have it, it needs a bit more of a press judging by this photo but I think it will be a lovely cosy winter dress with thick tights or leggings, and boots. The pile on plain cord gives lots of different shades even when it’s all cut in the same direction as this was.
…and there’s still a bit of fabric left too, perhaps I’ll keep that another 23 years and make something for my yet-to-be-born grandchildren!