The first SewOver50 challenge roundup and what’s next?

Well this is definitely late in arriving seeing as the challenge finished on March 15th…! After my flurry of activity for the launch of the first SewOver50 challenge in February, and a follow-up post with updated pattern companies, you might have wondered (probably not though…) where I disappeared to? The answer is simply that I had a holiday booked so off I went! Rude I know but Judith and Sandy were fully in command of the day to day running of the challenge so away I went. I missed seeing large chunks at the end of the challenge though as we were on a cruise where internet access is extortionately expensive and much as I love my sewing buddies I don’t love them THAT much, or another option is you can buy beer in bars when in port in order to receive ‘free’ WiFi (follow a crew member, they always know where a hotspot is)

So that’s my excuses out of the way, how did you get on? Did you enter? I was exempt from entering (obviously) but I did contribute a few makes of my own using patterns that qualified.

The Heron Dress by The Sewing Revival
The Holiday Shirt by The Maker’s Atelier, I’ve used this pattern 5 times now.
The Dawson Coatigan by The Thrifty Stitcher (what IS going on with my face? Don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question!!

I think what the challenge brought home to many people is the lack of visibility of anyone aged over 40 frankly, never mind over 50. There were many comments over the six weeks, from much younger sewers as well as more mature people, saying how they simply hadn’t noticed but once you had noticed it became obvious. We have grown largely immune to it and just accept that the image in no way reflects a large majority of makers, even younger dressmakers must be sick of competing with these idealised versions of themselves too. [ yes we know that this doesn’t bother everybody and that’s fine but that doesn’t mean the rest of us are willing to accept the status quo]

Did you discover a new pattern brand as a result of the challenge? I’m sure there are many other brands who didn’t make themselves known to us either by email or commenting on the previous blog posts and I’m definitely not going to vouch for the quality or otherwise of some of those that did but personally I found lots of new ones which I’ll look out for more often in future. Many of them are PDF which means wherever you are in the world they are still accessible to anyone.

Via her posts Judith encouraged people to contact pattern companies who don’t currently use older models and she herself has received some enlightening answers. Of those companies which have so far responded to Judith, almost without exception they say that, unless they have a friend or family member who is willing to model for them, it’s very very difficult to find suitable older professional models registered with agencies, even if they would like to use them. There were a number of different reasons cited for not using older models and, as we’ve said before, a brand is absolutely entitled to create their own ‘look’ as they see fit. Many also said they already featured, or promised in future to feature, a wider cross-section of makers of all kinds in examples of their patterns, this seems the absolute least that a brand can do in exchange for constant free advertising when we ’share the hashtag’ or tag them in our posts. One brand claimed to feature a wide range of their customers makes but having looked through their feed I beg to differ, a modest range all under about 35 is how I saw it.

A lot of brands are very small operations so we appreciate the difficulties this brings but they were also very often the ones that were most keen to bring about changes. I guess being small means they can alter things about their product if it’s within their power to do so and they genuinely want to.

One brilliant example is Selkie Patterns who are a start-up company based in London creating their own print-to-order designs on lovely quality ethically-sourced fabrics. In January on Instagram they put up a post asking for anyone who would be willing to model their next pattern, I somewhat cheekily responded by saying “would you consider an over 50?” Imagine my shock and surprise when Alexandra contacted me and said “yes!” Gulp!

A month later I found myself posing in the sunshine in a backstreet near Waterloo in London, modelling the new fabric design and a sleeve ‘add-on’ for their London dress, top and skirt pattern. I had a blast and Alex made me feel so comfortable and at ease, and it was all loads of fun…we had cake too! I bet no one eats cake on Vogue shoots… It feels slightly surreal to keep seeing myself pop up unexpectedly in their advertising and on the website now…perhaps Kate Moss feels the same.. I was happy to do it because it was a chance to start the ball rolling [perhaps I should sign up with an agency ROFL]

So if one little company just starting out can do it I’m sure others could too, with a modest camera, an attractive backdrop and a willing volunteer it’s possible to get really nice results. Some might expect to pay or be paid which is absolutely fair enough, especially with larger companies who should have a budget for this, but not everybody can do this at the outset. You only have to look through the Sew Over 50 Instagram account to see just how many fabulous, attractive, amazing, funny, inquisitive people there are out there sewing original and inspirational clothes for themselves-dressing in the way WE want to suit our personalities and tastes. Yes, we might ‘just’ want great fitting jeans and a comfy cardie sometimes but that doesn’t mean we can’t make them for ourselves with fantastic details and using beautiful fabrics.

When the challenge closed Judith had been keeping a list of all the qualifying entrants and, with the help of her two gorgeous grandsons, they quite literally pulled the names of the winners out of her hat!

Our generous prize sponsors were:

The Maker’s Atelier
Paper Theory
The Sewing Revival
Naughty Bobbin Patterns
Alice & Co Patterns
Seamwork Magazine
Maven Patterns
The Thrifty Stitcher
Viola Isabelle 6
Ann Normandy
Designer Stitch
Fresh Press Patterns
Laura Sew Different

All the winners should have now been notified and have hopefully claimed their prizes, it will be lovely if they share what they make with the rest of us eventually, it could become a sewing virtuous circle!

So, what have we learned from this? Well there’s still a long way to go for sure but there seems to be a shift in perception in many areas of life that as we get older we shouldn’t be relegated to the backwaters of life, nor should we go there quietly and wait for a life belt to be thrown to us, if we want attitudes to change we have to change them ourselves by making our presence felt. It doesn’t have to be in a loud and crashing way because sometimes the softly-softly approach will work better initially, and if it doesn’t then we’ll just get louder. There is an element of ‘don’t ask, don’t get’ because by approaching pattern companies and magazines directly with polite enquiries and requests we’ve found them starting to sit up and take notice. Again it goes back to us being people who have disposable income to spend on quality products, which businesses with any sense will embrace as a lucrative market (so long as they don’t talk down to us or patronise, we aren’t all in care homes just yet!)

Since its creation just seven short months ago the account now has over 10,000 followers and continues to grow all the time. The Great British Sewing Bee returned for a fifth series and featured several wonderful sewers in their 40s, 50s and 60s, it’s a source of real inspiration and encouragement (isn’t it interesting that one of the judges is a feisty and stylish woman in her 60s? That wealth of knowledge and experience takes time to acquire) There’s another series on the cards and applications are open now so why not give it a try, here’s the link to get you started..

And let’s not forget that 10 of us did a photoshoot for Love Sewing which appeared in February with a fantastic 3 page spread in the magazine and a longer version in their online blog. Editor Amy is always on the look out for readers to review the free gift patterns in each issue so if you think you can write a decent review and would like to participate in a photo shoot yourself then drop her an email.

The fabulous 50s gals and editor Amy.

Personally I’m as inspired by younger makers as I am by people my own age and older, having the cross-section matters to me. I love to go to meet-ups and socialising with other makers because even though it can feel like speed dating for dressmakers I know we all have at least that one interest in common at the outset.

I’ll keep sharing SewOver50 updates here from time to time, I’m always in contact with Judith and some of our other partners in crime. We’ve got plans for the year and we’re are always open to suggestions for collaborations or sponsorships of our initiatives so if you think you’ve something to bring to the table feel free to get in touch with one of us. If there’s a brand you love who you think could do more then why not email them, offer yourself as a tester or a model for them, at worst they’ll ignore you and, if they don’t, who knows where it might lead? You could also leave a pattern review on The Fold Line website, or your preferred pattern review website, try and include nice clear photos where possible, they don’t have to be super-styled but it helps everyone more if you can see the garment clearly (rather than a big ol’ mess in the background) with a couple of views.

Right! I’d better get back to some sewing now, it feels like forever since I did any!

Until next time,

Sue

Sewing makes of 2018

I think this is a fairly comprehensive album of my makes in 2018, most of them have been worn a good number of times although not all were for me.

When I look back like this I realise what a busy sewing year 2018 was ( and a bit of knitting too!). Also, there seem to be a LOT of dresses and tops but very few skirts and trousers! I think this is definitely as a result of me gaining weight in the last two years and feeling self-conscious so, with the exception of my Megan Nielsen Ash jeans from autumn 2017, I really haven’t wanted to make close-fitting clothes.

I’m addressing this now, with some success so far, but the other truth is that I like wearing looser-fitting clothes anyway, although hopefully I can go down a size or two when I make them in future…time will tell.

Some of the garments you see here have been worn loads since I made them whilst others were less successful. Sometimes this was bad fabric choices, sometimes they didn’t suit me after all, also the weather became so hot that I didn’t wear the heavier items as much as I expected at the time.

I tend not to set myself up for ‘sewnine’ or other year-long initiatives because I’d rather see what takes my fancy as time passes, or whatever gap I feel needs filling. I’ve really enjoyed making a few jackets and coats this year and they have all had a good amount of wear, they aren’t something I’d done much previously. I’ll be making a couple of posh frocks soon because we’re going on a cruise in March which will need a few fancy threads in the evenings, I’ll be taking old favourites like the Maker’s Atelier Holiday Shirt and New Look 6351 trousers, and Papercut Moana to keep cool in during the day though.

Have you got sewing plans already for 2019 or are you more like me and just see what takes your fancy? We’ve got the new series of the Great British Sewing Bee to look forward to very soon and I’m sure that will inspire even more people to take up this brilliant activity with us! Dressmaking is an activity anyone can try fairly easily these days and there is so much inspiration, help and encouragement out there too, in a way it never was when I was first sewing.

I can’t wait to see the two blockbuster exhibitions at the V&A next year, Dior: Designer of Dreams opens in February and Mary Quant in April so there’s lots to look forward to there. It’s well worth considering membership this year I’d say, I’ve had excellent value-for-money from mine these past four years. [alternatively, Art Fund is also worth considering if you don’t live near London because that gives you reductions to lots of galleries and museums all over the UK, including the V&A)

I’m also looking forward to seeing a lot more SewOver50 activity from all over the world too, have you joined yet?

Maybe our paths will cross in 2019 and we can talk sewing together in real life?

Until then, happy sewing

Sue

Simple Sew Cocoon jacket

When it came to selecting our next make for the Simple Sew blog there were two new ‘mystery’ patterns on the list as well as all the existing ones. One was a dress and the other was the Cocoon Jacket. As my next blog would be appearing at the beginning of autumn it seemed an idea to take a chance on the jacket-I already know the Cocoon dress which has been incredibly popular and is a very simple and stylish make so I figured the coat would be very similar.

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I was so happy when the pattern arrived because it’s exactly that-simple and stylish!  The obvious fabric choice would be a nice woollen cloth-it suggests a boiled wool and this indeed would be perfect but, because I didn’t know just what the pattern was like until it arrived, I hadn’t chosen any fabric from one of our generous providers so I needed to get my own. For some reason it occurred to me that denim would an interesting choice and ideal for the autumn too. Luckily I live very near a branch of John Lewis so in I went and managed to buy 2.5m of a nice quality rigid denim in a fairly dark blue. The first thing I did when I got it home was put it through the wash twice to get out as much excess dye as possible and deal with any possible shrinkage before I started cutting out.

The pattern pieces are an intriguing shape, the back and the sleeve come as one large piece plus a front, a pocket and neck facings. What this means is that every piece ideally needs to be cut on the single which shouldn’t be a problem, it just takes longer and you need to be very careful not to cut two the same of the large pieces. If you want to use a cloth with a large check you may need to allow more fabric for good matching too. A stripe would look interesting as well.

Initially I opted to make my usual size 14 and I could already see from the pieces that this was likely to be too large. Before anything else I tissue-fitted the pattern. This is when you pin the tissue or paper pieces together accurately as though they are sewn and try it on carefully either on yourself or your dress stand if you have one. From this I could tell that the sleeves would be really long so for the toile I reduced them by about 8-10cms by folding out carefully about halfway down the sleeve. I cut and sewed the jacket then in some grey suiting fabric from my stash so that I could assess the size. I’m so glad I did this because it was HUGE, not just comfortably roomy, actually ginormous! I’m not sure why it needs to be so oversized but that wasn’t how I wanted to wear it so I chose to come down two whole sizes and make a 10. As you’ll see later it’s still plenty big enough. [I’ll recut and make up the grey one at some point so it won’t go to waste.]

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Hmmm, plenty of room for everyone in here!

The instructions tell you to overlock all the edges before starting but I made all the darts first (which aren’t indicated in the line drawing-why not?) and then overlocked. If you’re using boiled wool, or decide to line it, then I wouldn’t bother overlocking unless your fabric frays a lot. Denim does fray a bit because it’s a twill weave but it wasn’t really a problem here. As the overlocking on my coat was going to be visible I picked a mix of three fun colours, fuchsia, orange and teal. I used a jeans needle throughout too although a sturdier size (90 or 100) of a regular needle would do if you haven’t got one.

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multi-coloured overlocking

Because I’m using denim I wanted to use topstitching to highlight the seams. I was going to buy some specific topstitching thread but I couldn’t settle on a colour so instead I tried out a few colours in regular thread I already had and then used the triple straight stitch on my machine, which looks like topstitching. [You may not even know your machine has this stitch, it looks like three rows of straight stitch close together in the diagram so have a look to see if it’s there-it’s also known as saddle stitch] In addition to sewing on the patch pockets with like this I highlighted the darts at the back neck, elbow and hem, as well as all the seams and outer edges. Be aware that the triple straight stitch uses a lot of thread though.

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A very generous patch pocket, I used squared-off top stitching at the top edge for extra reinforcement.

This jacket goes together so quickly! You simply make up each half and then join them down the centre back. [Since writing this it’s been brought to my attention that the instructions for attaching the front to the back at the raglan seam are currently wrong! I’ve realised that I probably disregarded the drawing because I couldnt make sense of it and did it intuitively which isn’t helpful to you! The illustration shows the front piece attaching to the back the wrong way up, in so doing it means the neck edge won’t form a curve and the underarm sleeve seams don’t come together, below is the instruction as it currently stands, together with my drawing of how it should be]

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This is how the instruction sheet shows it. It has the neck edge attaching to the underarm seam and will never work if you do it like this.

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This is my little drawing of how it should be. The illustration looks like the raglan seam won’t match up but it does, you have to manipulate it a little.

 The sleeve seam falls to the front as a raglan and there’s the darts in the back and elbow/underarm to give a little shaping but that’s it. I would urge you if you’re using a boiled wool or other fabric which looks the same on both sides to mark them in some way so that you don’t make up the two halves the same not a pair! If you use boiled wool there’s no need to finish the edges unless you want to, or use the facings. You’ll need to use plenty of steam to press those seams open too.

I used facings cut in denim but you could easily cut them in a contrast if you like. I didn’t bother with interfacing because my jacket is meant to be very soft and slouchy and denim is already quite firm without adding more weight. At the lower hem don’t forget to trim away the excess fabric at the corners so that they turn better to make a sharper corner. When you’re sewing at a point like this always start from the fold or seam (marked with the pointer in my photo) and sew towards the open edge so that you don’t get a wrinkle or lump forming, it pushes any excess fabric away flat as you sew with this method.

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When you stitch the facing at the hem start from the point indicated and sew across.

trim excess fabric
trim away the excess at the corner but don’t take it too near the hem itself, to the left.

Once both halves are made and joined there’s only the hems to turn up and the fastenings-if you’re using any- to sew on. I bought a pair of HUGE metal press studs in John Lewis, the pattern suggests magnetic fastenings or bold decorative buttons would be fun too.

Considering I didn’t know anything about the pattern before it arrived I’m really delighted with how it’s turned out. I reckon this will be a very popular pattern this winter as it’s so quick to sew, just be very careful about your sizing though, at the very least do a tissue fit before cutting your fabric. It’s going to be a great casual cover up, for me it’s a variation on the denim jacket, but it’s still generous enough to get woollies underneath.

It would be easy to fully line as well, simply cut all the pieces in a lining fabric too and make up the same. Attach it at the neck and front edges and then add the facings is one way to do this but there are others. Alternatively, you could use ‘Hong Kong’ finish on the seams, this is to bind all the seams with bias- or seam binding, it makes the inside of the coat look lovely although it’s time-consuming. What about using a heavy drill fabric, or a waterproof one even? Add a hood? In-seam pockets? Fleece-lined sweatshirting? So many possibilities!

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dart near the elbow

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front raglan sleeve seams

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darts at the back neck

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GIANT press studs!!

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I used bright pink to top stitch the CB seam

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I managed to top stitch the whole under arm seam too.

Cocoon coat winter-ready!
Even coming down 2 sizes it’s a generous fit and there’s room for jumpers underneath.

Cocoon coat autumn

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there are darts at the back hem

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The blouse is a favourite Maker’s Atelier Holiday shirt.

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The trousers are New Look 6351

The jacket will gradually soften and scuff as time passes which is exactly what I want and I think I’ll get a lot of use from it. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of versions of the Cocoon Jacket appearing over the autumn/winter months ahead, I wore it to the recent Sewing Weekender in Cambridge organised by The Foldline and English Girl at Home and it got a fair number of very positive comments. You’ve only got to wait until the November issue of Sew Now magazine when the pattern will be the free gift with it, unless Simple Sew can be persuaded to release it sooner than that…

Happy sewing

Sue

 

 

Rounding off Me Made May

Did you take part in Me Made May? At the outset I pledged to try and wear at least one self-made garment every day during May and, by and large I achieved that. I say ‘by and large’ because although I definitely wore a me-made item of clothing every day there was the odd occasion when I failed-or couldn’t be bothered-to take a decent photo!

The first few I managed by balancing my phone on top of a loudspeaker and setting it on a 3 second timer. This proved imperfect and the novelty quickly wore off when it fell to the floor for the umpteenth time!

Anyway, here goes…

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May 1st was a mash-up pattern, bodice of one, skirt of another, in Queue for the Zoo Liberty Tana lawn worn with a Jigsaw sparkly cardigan.

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Day 2 was a Burdastyle magazine top made in a floral scuba fabric and the back in crepe-back satin. I made it at least 2 years ago but haven’t worn it much as the cuffs were a bit flappy.  By the time I wore it to the first London Stitchers meet up that evening I’d taken them in considerably and I was a lot happier with the fit of the sleeves. The jeans are the Ash pattern from Megan Nielsen which I’d had the pleasure of testing and I’m a huge fan of them.

Day 3 is the first newly made garment and it’s the Farrow dress from Grainline which I wrote a review for in Sew Now magazine 18 months ago. I made this version in navy and burgundy linen with short sleeves.

 

Neither of the next garments were new either, the red broderie anglaise was amongst some fabric I was gifted and was already cut out, I just sewed it together. The blue and white was self-drafted 2 or 3 years ago in a cotton/linen mix fabric and it’s a summer favourite of mine.

 

The georgette kaftan is new and was the try-out version of my most recent Simple Sew make for their blog.

The stripes is also the same Burdastyle top but in a striped jersey and with short sleeves. I’d didn’t like it much as a regular T-shirt but it’s been great as exercise wear!

 

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Dragon dirndl, no pattern just pleated into a narrow waistband.

Awesome dragon pattern-matching and zip insertion even if I do say so myself! Bias binding and hand-sewn hem too.

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Colette patterns Moneta in striped jersey with a dodgy waist (should have put a belt over that!)

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One of my favourite tops, Imogen by Sew Me Something and the trousers are Butterick 6461 which I reviewed in Love Sewing magazine last autumn.

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Striped Camber Set from Merchant & Mills worn with a refashioned skirt that used to be jeans.

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More refashioning with a silk top made from a vintage dressing gown and a hoodie using a vintage 60’s pattern in jersey and cotton fabric harvested from a charity shop dress.

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A blouse made using a vintage 70’s dress pattern in ‘Gallymoggers’, an Alice in Wonderland Liberty Tana lawn. This is a couple of years old too.

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Surprised this one still fitted me! Cotton poplin from Ditto fabrics, Butterick 6026 Katharine Tilton pattern and vintage buttons. Refashioned denim skirt again.

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One of my favourites, African waxed cotton with crazy diagonal stripes Simplicity Project Runway pattern 2444, all fully lined.

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Love the button on the back of the neck too, it was a single one of this design in a Sewing Weekender goody bag.

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Packing for our trip to Assisi, all self-made except the cardigan.

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With my new car! Trusty Holiday shirt from The Maker’s Atelier in Swiss Dot and newly made checked linen trousers New Look 6351-I’m so pleased with these, they’re perfect in warm weather if your legs are still pasty like mine. (Awesome pattern-matching too but you can’t see that)

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The new Farrow got to go to Italy.

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Linen trousers again and the Holiday shirt in Liberty cotton voile, outside Santa Chiara, Assisi. Loving my holiday chapeau too, from Monsoon

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Camber Set hack in beautiful Roberto Cavalli cotton lawn and new for the Assisi trip(RTW trousers this time)

This top was drafted from a RTW one and I extended the shoulders to form sleeves. It’s sheer georgette with a slightly sparkly stripe which I get from a market and worn with a RTW camisole underneath. I made it 3 years ago but it’s been a real favourite.

The next ‘make’ is a big old cheat because it’s the etchings I made not the clothes! I loved my visit to Sudbourne Printmakers in Suffolk, and the sewing connection was meeting Chrissy Norman the tutor at the first Sewing Weekender two years ago. take a look at her work, it’s beautiful.

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One of my finished prints…I’m rather proud of it…

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Linen Imogen again with a jacket refashioned from 2 pairs of Mr Y’s trousers!

 

This is only half new-I made a top from this lovely broderie Anglais I bought at Walthamstow market last year but I hadn’t bought enough and it was too snug around the hips. Luckily I managed to get a bit more so I unpicked and started again. This time I used the top half of my favourite Holiday shirt and used wide elastic in a casing under the bust to give it some shape. There was just enough for sleeves this time. I used a ‘daisy’ bias-binding to finish the neck edge and opening.

Not everything I’ve made has been an unqualified success and this teal blue dress is definitely one of the disappointments! It looked lovely on the packet but the back is ridiculous because the zip bulged out giving me a strange hump so I took it out again and inserted it in the side seam instead. Frankly it’s not much better. The top is far too wide and the V neck flaps about undecided whether it’s a V or a fold-back revere. The fabric was super-cheap from Walthamstow again but it’s the amount of time I spent which makes me grumpy. I might turn it into a skirt…

And so to the last outfit of the month…

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The top for my last outfit of the month was originally a dress but, even though I’d made one previously for winter, this version just wasn’t right. The length wasn’t flattering and the sleeves, which had decorative darts, were too tight. After a bit of a refashion which removed most of the skirt, put short splits in the side seams at the hem and took the darts out of the sleeves making them a bit more floaty it was much more wearable. There were pockets in the side seams which I wanted to keep so this governed the length overall. I wore it with my trusty Ash jeans which I’ve absolutely loved since making them last autumn.

So to sum up, Me Made May encouraged me to really look in my wardrobe and get out some of the things which get worn less often, as well as the favourites. The weather has ranged from freezing cold to boiling hot and I realised that my summery dresses are rather lacking when it’s warm, and cooler plain bottom halves are needed to go with my many patterned tops. I know I’ve been prolific in the last 3 years or so compared to a long fallow period for years before that and that makes me very happy. Looking through the clothes I’ve worn during May the vast percentage are things that were made more than a year ago, a lot are more than 2 years old and some older than that. Even when I used to buy more clothes if there was a garment I really liked I kept it for a long time, I think probably because if I’d taken the time to choose it then I wanted good use from it-££ per wear and all that. The same is now true of my makes, I’ve invested my own time into making them so I want to enjoy wearing them (although it’s frustrating when they aren’t a success, but I’ll often refashion them if I can)

Did you join in with Me Made May and did it encourage you to to make more use of your self-made clothes?

Happy Sewing

Sue