I’ve had this Marcy Tilton trouser pattern Vogue 8499 for an absolute age, several years at least, and I took it out for consideration at regular intervals but for some reason it just kept going back into the box. Maybe the leg shape felt a little too radical for me on those occasions? But then the Style Arc Bob pants kept cropping up everywhere, especially in the Sew Over 50 community, so I returned to this pattern because of its similarities to the Bobs. Now I know I’m not six feet tall or a size 8 but the photo on the packet isn’t very helpful because I think it gives the distinct impression that the legs are fairly slim with a slight bulbous shape to the hem. The front is flat with deep pockets inserted into the side front panels while the back waist is elasticated, the curved leg shape is created though the addition of darts at knee level. They come in two size brackets UK 6-12 and UK 14-20.
You might think that visually the width of the front and back leg pieces would give some indication to the sizing but they are cut in two parts so the individual sections are slightly deceptive. I’m very familiar with the style of instruction sheets which ‘Big 4’ pattern companies (or is it 6 now?) use because they are what I learned with from the age of 11 and, in my opinion, the sewing instructions and diagrams are very clear. Because of the quantity of topstitching there’s a certain order to follow but it’s very methodical, I used a triple straight stitch rather than actual topstitching thread. I had a couple of try-ons whilst I was sewing them but I did have Covid at the time so maybe my brain was just not functioning clearly and I simply didn’t think they were going to be as huge as they have turned out to be.
So there we are, judging by some of the comments on my Instagram post about these trousers, a number of you have the pattern but haven’t sewn it up yet or, like me, you have had similar size choice issues with it. If you have an older copy like mine then I strongly suggest you pin the pattern fronts and backs together first and measure them before going anywhere near your fabric, or lay the pieces on top of a pair of me-made or RTW trousers which are similar and a satisfactory fit. This pair cost me very little because the fabric [some sort of linen/cotton/viscose type] was very cheap at Walthamstow market and I bought it for exactly this type of garment. As with any home sewn garment which doesn’t quite work out it’s feeling that the time spent on something I don’t love has been wasted which is annoying. That said, it’s been a learning process and I know I will make another darker coloured pair, possibly in a drill or denim-type cloth, but I will cut down the front by two sizes and the back possibly by as much as three sizes. I haven’t helped myself because I’m feeling really bloaty and despondent at present so I think these just emphasise this. I tried wearing them with a T-shirt tucked in but that just made me feel worse so it’s back to the drawing board for now. If, however, you love a very oversized trouser then these could be the ones for you.
As I said in my IG post, they will be great in warmer weather (which isn’t that often here) I’ll probably style them with my heavy black books, white Trend pleated shirt and denim Simple Sew cocoon coat in the winter hoping I’ll be rocking a little European-style continental chic, or I will simply put them on but not check in the mirror before I leave the house!
Recently on the @SewOver50 account a follower asked if we could help her with any suggestions for trousers/pants that featured a side zip and/or a flat front and, as we’ve come to expect, the hive mind flew into action.
Speaking personally, my primary reason for wanting a flat front is that it falls more smoothly over my not-so-flat tum [Years of fashion magazine input tells me that a flat tum is highly desirable, it’s what every woman of every age should want to achieve and anything less than perfect and a bit wobbly should be kept out of sight…Complete and total nonsense obviously but it’s very hard to undo so many years of conditioning] So, whilst I know it really shouldn’t matter it somehow still does matter to many of us and, because of that, we still continue to search for those perfect and often elusive trousers which give us just the thing we’re after, whatever it is. Sometimes we choose a smooth front because we want the top or blouse that’s worn with it to be the highlight and features like fly openings or pleats can be a bit bulky and change the silhouette we desire, but it isn’t always about hiding ‘figure problems’. One follower pointed out that as a person with physical limitations the trouser choices she made had to be based upon practical reasons which made her life more comfortable and straightforward and could not be influenced by mere vanity, a luxury not everyone have.
Much like the SewOver50 go-to T-shirt list I will simply give you links to the many and various patterns which followers have suggested. I’ll begin with the ones I have sewn myself so they are my personal opinions and then follow with the rest. Most of these patterns either have a side or back zip, a few have an elasticated back, some are pull-on and the majority have a flat or flattish front. Where I’ve mentioned sizing it will be UK sizes unless I state otherwise.
Let us begin…
Eve trousers by Merchant and Mills are as basic and classic a shape as it’s possible to have. They have a side zip and darts front and back with a fixed waistband. They have a tapered, slightly cropped leg shape without being close-fitting and a turn-up hem option. I’ve made 3 pairs (so far) in very different fabrics and they fill a gap I had in my wardrobe for just such a garment. There are two patch pockets on the back but I think this understated style lends itself to many hacking opportunities. Sizes available are UK 6-18 or 20-28 paper and PDF
Sidewinder Pants by The Sewing Revival The USP of these flat front and elasticated back trousers is the unusual side seam which winds from the waist starting slightly in front of the hip bone, down the side of the leg and finishing behind your ankle bone. There are pockets set into the seam and the Sidewinders can be hemmed with or without a turn-up or with a deep elasticated cuff. I found them very straightforward to sew-I’ve made 3 pairs of these too in a variety of fabrics including one pair in a really nice heavy jersey with the elasticated cuff. I wrote a review of them a while ago which you can read here. It’s a PDF only and sizes available fall into 4 brackets UK 6-12 10-16 14-20 and 18-24
Palazzo Pants by Simple Sew This style has darts front and back with a fixed waistband and a back invisible zipper which runs up into the waistband. It gives a smooth close fit around the body which then widens out to very voluminous legs. There are pockets in the side seams if you want them but could easily be left out. I think they are a lovely shape, and I reviewed them here when I was a Simple Sew blogger, but if I made them again I would sew a regular overlapping waistband which closed with a button and buttonhole or a hook and bar because they are a bit tricky to do up. UK sizes 8-20 paper and PDF
Portobello trousers by Nina Lee These trousers have a lovely Katharine Hepburn vibe, they aren’t technically flat-fronted because they have deep pleats but they zip up at the back, which has darts, so there’s no extra bulk in the front as a result. They sit on the natural waist with a fixed waistband, have wide straight legs and there are pockets in the side seams. I made a pair in a slightly-too-springy fabric but they look OK and are very comfortable. I reviewed them on the Minerva website, a better fabric choice would have been something like a nice heavy crepe or twill, anything with a bit of drape would look great. I believe Nina Lee patterns are only available as PDFs now, sizes are in two brackets UK6-20 and 16-28
6351 by New Look This is a pattern for separates and I’ve used the trousers a few times now. They have a drawstring (and elasticated) waistband, side seam pockets and the legs fall wide and straight. If these fit well on the hips then there isn’t too much bulk from the gathers at the waist-I’ve made them in linen and they are gorgeous in warm weather. I shortened another pair I’d made but didn’t wear so much and they have had so much more use as mid-calf cropped pants. Paper pattern only UK 10-22 (I think)
That’s all the patterns I’ve sewn myself so now it’s over to you, in no particular order…
Ultimate trousers by Sew Over It these slim-fitting trousers have a side zip and a facing rather than a waistband. They have been around since the very earliest days of Sew Over It and I’ve heard reviews which swing wildly in either direction. Some people swear by them and others say they can’t get a satisfactory fit. My advice would be to read a few reviews before making your decision. They only seem to be available as a PDF now UK sizes 6-20
Pietra pants by Closet Core these are a more recent release from Closet Core as part of their ‘Rome’ collection and they already have a legion of fans. There’s no zip, the back is gently elasticated with wide elastic, the front is smooth because of a grown-on slightly-raised waistband, there are quarter seams down the front with pockets plus there are three leg shape options-tapered, wide leg and shorts. That number of variations alone must make them excellent value for money! On top of that they come as a paper pattern US size 0-20 only and PDF in sizes US 0-20 or 14-32
Jenny overalls and trousers by Closet Core these are a wide-legged dungaree pattern with a number of options including trousers. They have a fitted waistband and darts for a close fit. Available as both paper and PDF in US 0-20 only. Closet Core have a reputation for comprehensive tutorials on their website so take a look if you need any help.
Chiara trousers by Tessuti these are a wide-leg slightly cropped length trouser with darts for a close fit around the hips and waist and a side zip. The waist is finished with a stitched-down facing. Available as a PDF sizes AUS 6-16 only.
Crew trouser by Chalk and Notch These trousers/shorts do have a side zip although they aren’t flat fronted, they are high-waisted with pleats and a tie feature. PDF only sizes US 0-30
Mountain View pull-on pants by Itch to Stitch Initially I thought these didn’t fit the brief because they appear to have a front zip but it’s a faux one so we’ll let them past. A jeans-style legging made in fabrics with stretch this is a PDF only pattern in two size brackets (you get both with purchase) US 0-20 and 22-40
Eureka pants by Fit For Art Patterns I wasn’t familiar with this brand but these trousers for woven fabrics have multiple options for the waistband and leg shape which should help you to achieve an excellent fit. Paper or PDF sizes XXS-3XL (whatever that means)
Calder Pants by Cashmerette are another good option. Wide legged in three lengths including shorts, smooth front and elasticated back to ensure an excellent fit. It comes in paper or PDF formats, sizes US 12-32 Cashmerette are renowned for their comprehensive fitting instructions which could be very useful.
Willow Trousers by Style Arc classic slim pants similar to Eve mentioned at the top. The Willow have a split hem detail and side zip. Paper patterns or PDF are both available in single sizes AUS 4-30 or multiple AUS 4-16 18-30
Bob pants by Style Arc a tapered, ‘balloon’ shaped leg with an elasticated waistband and side seam pockets, these trousers have become a stylish choice teamed with loose shirts and casual tops for a modern look. Sizing as with the Willow above. If you like these you might also like the Ethel pants by Style Arc.
Flint trousers by Megan Nielsen a wide leg pant or shorts without a zip at all, instead they have a crossover closure at the side which is incorporated into the pocket. Printed comes in AUS sizes 0-20 or PDF 0-20 or 14-30
Marilyn Jeans by Charm patterns These are a Fifties-inspired close-fitting jeans pattern but with a side zip, think Capri pants. PDF only at present but available in two size brackets US2-20 or 18-34
Clover pants by Seamwork another pair of slim-fitting pants designed for wovens with stretch. Side zip and ankle or mid-calf length, they can also have small inseam pockets at the waistband PDF only US 0-18
Duet trousers by Love Notions these trousers have an invisible side zip, two front hip pockets, back darts and two leg shapes-straight or tapered. They are suitable for both wovens and stretch fabrics. PDF only in sizes US 2-26
Miller trousers by Paper Theory These don’t have a zip, instead they have an elasticated waist with a tie option. There are pleats in the front, deep side pockets and long darts in the back to improve the fit in this area. Paper pattern or PDF UK 6-28
Free Range slacks by Sew House Seven These are another pair of slightly gathered elasticated trousers but the side seams on these have been divided and shifted to form a panel at the sides instead. They come with a tapered or wide leg option and look great in linen or similar fabric types. It’s a PDF pattern with two size brackets included AUS 00-20 and 18-34
So there we are, this isn’t in any way an exhaustive list of course, you may think there are glaring omissions, and the emphasis is strongly on Indie patterns rather than the mainstream pattern companies. These are the patterns which were suggested by the followers of Sew Over 50 so if you have your own favourites then feel free to let me know in the comments, a few of the patterns suggested were out of print so I haven’t mentioned them here. Don’t forget to tag #SewOver50 and #So50Trousers when you post on Instagram either, it’s such an amazing source of inspiration and ideas for others.
As one of the new team of Backstitch Ambassadors I relished the chance to go along to the gorgeous shop at Burwash Manor to browse their fabrics and patterns. It’s about 40 minutes from where I live and I love to go there whenever I get an opportunity, I’ve previously included it in this round-up of Hertfordshire based fabric shops. To be completely honest, I already had an idea that I would like to make the newish Merchant and Mills Ellsworth shirt but I had an open mind about fabric choice. In my head I was looking for a lightweight linen-type but as soon as my eyes alighted on the checked double gauze I was all in for that! It was folded on the bolt with the large check visible on the outside but when I discovered the reverse was small checks my mind was blown and I knew I could mix the two sides to create a unique garment. There are currently 4 colours available but I settled on the pretty shell pink variation. I took 2 metres as per the pattern instructions but after cutting it out (and as I’ve found before with M&M patterns) I had almost 50cms left over, even allowing for pattern matching. It’s very annoying when this happens and I’ve made a note for next time. I cut a straight UK 12 with no mods.
The Ellsworth is quite typical of M&M’s aesthetic, it is a very wide and loose fit shirt with a stepped hem, a collar and button placket and cropped, cuffed sleeves. It will lend itself towards fabrics which have an element of fluidity and drape such as soft linen or cotton-types, light woollens, crepe, chambray or babycord. Some light- or medium-weight jerseys would probably be okay but I wouldn’t recommend ones with a lot of stretch.
Another reason for choosing this shirt (apart from the fact I liked it anyway) is because I had seen a few makers on Instagram were having trouble interpreting the instructions for the placket. I hope what follows will give you a bit more information and guidance.
Away we go…
Definitely give your fabric a wash first, its light loose weave will shrink a little (it will be very crinkly when it comes out of the machine but don’t panic, it will press flat again. You may ultimately prefer the crinkles but they will be hard to work with during the making process so press as you go for now)
If you are a person with no patience when it comes to laying up your fabric, or time is tight, then this may not be the fabric choice for you because it does need some careful laying up and folding to get the checks straight and matching [or you could cut every piece on the flat to save on the head scratching] There were a couple of places where, in spite of my best efforts I was bit off but I won’t tell you where they were and you might not notice anyway! It does have the advantage of the large check being 3cms square and the reverse is 1cm squares so a 1cm or 1.5cm seam allowance shouldn’t be a problem to follow.
The problematic placket is made first so here’s my interpretation of the instructions for you. Begin by interfacing all pieces as instructed (although I interfaced the whole placket rather than half as the fabric is quite fine and a bit unstable)
Next I moved on to the sleeve opening which is neatened with a very narrow bias strip.
The hem facings are sewn on next, then join the shoulders using French seams. This is a useful technique if your fabric is very fine, sheer, or frays badly, or if you don’t own an overlocker. Obviously you can sew a flat seam and overlock/zigzag if you prefer. You could also topstitch these seams if you want a bit of interest on them. My personal preference is to press shoulder seams to the front, this is so that the seam is slightly less visible when looking at it.
I found the collar instructions straightforward so I won’t go into them as well, I opted to catch the lower edge down by hand so that I had control over it and a really neat finish. I also added a label from Little Rosy Cheeks.
The sides are then French seamed, be careful with the step at the lower edge and make sure you don’t take too much seam allowance on the seams because this could throw out the overlap at the top of the opening. I used the bartack stitch on my Pfaff to secure it as this could be a point of weakness further down the line.
I cut a straight UK 12 with no modifications and I’m 5’5” tall but if you’re taller you might want to lengthen the shirt as it’s quite cropped at the front.
I’m very pleased with how the Ellsworth has come out, I’ve worn it with flat-front Eve trousers but it will look good with a skirt or even a dress under it for layering. I’m going to have a look through the stash to see what other fabrics I can make it in now!
I’m delighted to have the opportunity to write for Backstitch because it’s a lovely little shop which I’ve been visiting for a few years now. It’s in a beautiful rural location and sells a really nice, well-considered range of quality fabrics and indie patterns and sewing books. As Ambassadors we are provided with gift vouchers to shop in the store, it’s entirely up to us what we make and how much of those vouchers we spend, the balance can be kept to spend on another occasion if we choose to. If you don’t live anywhere near enough to pay a visit yourself then Backstitch has a recently revamped website to shop through too, their range of yarn, knitting and crochet patterns are all on there too.
I hope you have found my review useful, that’s always my intention, do write in the comments if there’s something which still isn’t clear and I’ll try to help.
Well that was another weird year wasn’t it!? I’m not gonna lie but I’ll be glad to see the back of 2021. For every good event there seemed to be two or three stinkers which I found made it really hard to see positives anywhere. I know that there were some good things though and I’m incredibly grateful to have the life that I do so I don’t want to dwell on the downside, let’s move into 2022 with an air of cautious optimism!
I entitled my round up for 2020 as ‘sewing in a time of pandemic’ and I’m so glad I didn’t know then that 2021 was going to be ‘part two!’ Anyway, I’ve collected a few photos to round up my sewing and other events I was able to get up to during 2021 although I’m not sure if they are particularly chronological…the length and colour of my hair at any given time will give you a bit of a clue!
I was looking for new sewing challenges early in the year during the next long lockdown and Mr Y was the lucky recipient of a few items including this Carmanah sweatshirt by Thread Theory. The fabric was kindly provided for me as I’m part of the Lamazi blogger team.
I was selected to contribute some articles offering sewing tips and advice for an online sewing project in the early spring but after just two such items they just stopped contacting with me or replying to my emails. Bit rude I’d say, I’ve no idea what was wrong because they never had the courtesy to tell me, and I’ve no intention of wasting more time on them frankly.
As you know if you read my posts I like to reuse patterns if they have lots of options so I’ve sewn several variations of a number of Sewing Revival patterns during the year, including the Fantail top below which I made in an ancient remnant in my stash which I believe somebody once paid 90p for!
I wrote just three specific Sew Over 50 blog posts in 2021, the first was a summing up of lots of ideas and inspiration for how to sew more sustainably which the followers of the Sew Over 50 account contributed. There was a lot of it and it definitely worth a read.
I was a guest editor on the Sew Over 50 account in the autumn when we chatted about mannequins in our sewing practice. Many of you contributed some brilliant and insightful comments, I wonder how many people have gone on to buy a dress form, or use the one they have differently, or more often, as a result?
Sew Over 50 stalwart Tina generously shared with us the many resources she has gathered together over the last couple of years for sewing and adapting patterns and clothing after a breast cancer diagnosis. It has been one of my most read articles on the blog since it was published in the autumn and I know Tina is happy for followers to contact her via Instagram for any advice or support she can offer them. For me, she very much represents the positive aspects of being a part of this worldwide community.
One of my favourite ‘in person’ events in the sewing calendar, Sew Brum, quietly took place in the autumn and my lovely mate Elizabeth kindly put me up overnight and we had some quality shopping and sewing time together. Our friend Melissa even joined us for a couple of hours for a Zoom sew! Plus I ran in my first (and so far, only) Park Run too! phew, it was a busy and almost-normal 48 hours.
I finally made a jumpsuit (or two) at the end of the year, it’s the Cressida by Sew Me Something Patterns.
For quite a while I had wanted to organise an informal sewing event and they were finally able to happen in October and November with #HertsSewcial It was such a joy to be reunited with my Sew Over 50 stalwart friends Ruth and Kate, along with meeting several other online friends like Bev and Elke in real life for the first time. We had so much fun sewing and chatting together, the time flew past far too quickly and I very much hope I can organise some more in the New Year, current situations permitting.
And my final sewing treat of the year was being able to meet up with Judith Staley in her hometown of Edinburgh!! It was much too brief but absolutely better than nothing, we had so much we could have talked about but that will have to wait until our oft-rescheduled and much looked forward to sewing get together next spring…fingers tightly crossed!
My final personal make of the year was another Maven Somerset top in this celestial jersey I bought at the Lamazi open day. It’s festive without screaming CHRISTMAS!
And so ends another year of sewing and other stuff, as well as the new garments I’ve sewn for myself there were many other occasions when I wore, and re-wore, favourites which didn’t need to be photographed! I fervently hope 2022 brings better times for everyone and that we can adapt to our new or changed ways of living. Sewing will continue be a big part of my life and I hope there will be some new and exciting projects and opportunities during the year. There are so many wonderful people in this community and the support and encouragement that swirls around has been so important during another trying year-I hope I will get a chance to meet up with more of you in person during the next twelve months.
Until then, thank you for reading my wafflings, happy sewing and a very happy New Year,
I’ve been dithering for aaages about sewing myself a jumpsuit for various reasons. The main one is because I’m haunted by the memory of an ill-advised white cotton get-up purchased one lunchtime from Leather Lane market in about 1986….ah the folly of youth. Of course I was channelling Pepsi and Shirlie and thought I looked the bees knees but I’m just grateful there’s no photographic evidence to prove very much the opposite was true!
I digress. My other reasons are simple enough; what about when I need the loo? (which is often) and, will my bum look big in it? [Of course the size of my bum should never be up for discussion but decades of reading articles in magazines telling a woman what she can wear because of her age/ weight/ height etc etc can’t be unlearnt overnight]
I know there are some cracking patterns for jumpsuits (and I cannot bring myself to call it a boiler suit because that just makes me think I should be in the inspection pit under a Class A4 Pacific locomotive with a monkey wrench in my hand) and I’ve even got as far as buying and printing the uber-popular Paper Theory Zadie but that’s where it ended.
Anyhoo, I went to the recent Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally and while I was at the Sew Me Something stand I signed up to receive their newsletter. The upshot was my name was randomly chosen and I won a pattern of my choice from their selection. [You might know that one of my favourite tops is their Imogen blouse which I’ve reviewed here in the past] This time I decided to go mad and choose their Cressida jumpsuit. It is a simple shape with short grown-on sleeves, a collar and rever, bust darts, a waist seam, hip pockets, slightly cropped length and an optional belt. I received mine as a paper pattern but it is also available as a PDF, plus PDF with a printing service too if required.
Because this was a completely new type of garment for me I decided to make a toile version first so I used some medium weight denim I bought in Hitchin market. I made the slightly rash decision not to pre-wash it because I was in a hurry to get started so I gave it a really good steam press instead. With hindsight this probably wasn’t entirely wise because the colour came off on my hands terribly and there was some shrinkage when I eventually washed it, although fortunately not enough to make it unwearable.
Based on my body measurements and the finished garment measurements I opted to make a UK size 12. Aside from my own foolishness with the fabric shrinkage I’ve found the 12 to be a good fit. The body length was just right which means I can sit or move comfortably in it, the only change I made was to the second version which I made using some beautiful Cousette viscose twill provided for me by Lamazi Fabrics to wear at their very first open day in mid-November. I decided to add 1.5cms to the bodice using the lengthen/shorten lines marked on the pattern. However, I probably didn’t need to have done so because I was making that decision based on the slight shrinkage of the denim! Not to worry, it means that getting in and out of the jumpsuit is a bit easier because of the extra wiggle room.
A couple of details I tried out on the denim jumpsuit were to use a variegated sewing thread for the decorative top stitching and buttonholes which I bought from William Gee. I also added belt loops which aren’t included as part of the pattern but I wanted these so that the belt sat in roughly the right place and covered the seam. By the way, I felt the included belt pattern piece was very long so I shortened it quite considerably, by at least 50cms. I had recently bought some gorgeous buttons from Pigeonwishes, also at the K&S Show and these were exactly the right colour, size and quantity I needed-perfect!
Overall I was very pleased with my denim Cressida so I was happy to go ahead with the viscose twill version. As I said earlier I added a little bit of length but possibly didn’t need to, being a button front opening does mean that I’ve given myself just a little bit more space to get the sleeves up and down from my shoulders. Because we’re heading into winter in the UK now I have opted to wear a long-sleeved T-shirt underneath at present (both ancient RTW ones) Although I made the fabric belts for both I can put a leather one through the loops instead and it looks good.
I have found the instructions for Sew Me Something patterns to be very thorough and clear and the Cressida is no different, the pattern goes together very well. Jules uses a slightly different method for sewing the collar together which I haven’t used before but it gives a very nice end result. I would rate this pattern as a moderate level of difficulty because of the buttonstand at the front but otherwise there’s nothing here to scare the horses particularly.
When I made the second Cressida in the viscose twill I didn’t make the same mistake twice and pre-washed the fabric first! The viscose has a beautiful weight and drape to it and I love the autumnal colours. It has a lovely soft handle too, you just need to be as careful as possible when sewing it together because viscose twill does have a reputation for snagging which can result in slight ‘catches’ or runs in the print which is irritating and disappointing. My advice would be to make sure you use a new fine needle, possibly a Microtex, and certainly no larger than 70/75 size to try and minimise any risk. Also, viscose is often known for creasing a lot but I didn’t find this twill to be too bad-damning with faint praise possibly but I’ve come across far worse.
As I mentioned earlier, I made the Cousette viscose jumpsuit to wear at the recent Lamazi open day, I’ve been one of their blogger team for some time now so it was lovely to have the chance to visit their new premises (they aren’t a retail shop but check here for their visiting arrangements) fellow blogger Sharlene Oldroydwas also there having travelled especially from Northern Ireland so it a real treat to finally meet her in real life.
So there we are, a lucky win from Sew Me Something and a generous gift of fabric from Lamazi means that I’ve broken my long-held suspicion of jumpsuits. Both have been worn a few times already and, because of the short sleeves, they will get worn in the summer months too. Taking into account my worries of getting in and out of the jumpsuit, it hasn’t been too much of an issue. The denim one is a little more tricky to get over my shoulders because the overall length is slightly less but I haven’t had a problem with the viscose edition.
The Cressida would also look lovely made up in a variety of fabrics including linen or crepe, or even a luxurious silk-type perhaps?
In 2019, when I was writing a round-up of the first year of activity on the @SewOver50 account Tina @bricolagedk gave me her very honest, and touching, response as to why she was so happy to be a part of our community. She had a very different reason for joining in to many. Living in Denmark, she was struggling to adjust to a new and altered body-shape after a mastectomy, RTW clothing just wasn’t right any more so she wanted to start sewing her own again after many years but found a lack of patterns and information available. She contacted Judith directly and, when Judith shared the question with everyone, the response was extraordinary. I’ll let Tina explain in her own words,
“You posted my request and I got an amazing response. People gave me drafting tips, and told me of helpful sewing tools for hurting hands and weak arms. A couple of post mastectomy sewers also contacted me. Others from the SO50 community gifted me patterns, and translated patterns for me from languages I didn’t understand. They told me of patternmaking books with drafting tips for asymmetric sewing. But most of all, everyone was extremely supportive, and in less than a year I have gone from feeling so alone and insecure about how to sew for my changed body, to being part of a very supportive,helpful and inclusive community.”
Over the following two years Tina has amassed a huge number of resources which could be of use to the many women affected by a breast cancer diagnosis, or know someone else who is and whom they would like to help and support by sewing articles for them. After all her hard work Tina is very happy to share them with our community, we are indebted to her wonderful act of generosity and ‘giving back’ to the SO50 community which responded with open arms to her. I am very happy to be able to publish them all here on my blog as a means to make them available to you.
Tina has already given her own headings or categories to each topic, and provided the links which you see here. They include not just everyday clothing and ideas how to adapt them but things like comfort cushions, post-op gowns, turbans, as well as ideas for self-drafting too. She also suggests various hashtags which might link you to other women in the same situation.
If you need post mastectomy op drain bags, there is a tutorial below or use the vest from madeit patterns. Drain bags can also be sewn into a dress, top, hoodie, cardigan, shirt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOLqkRvG5A0
I do hope you will be able to access the many and varied resources which Tina has accumulated (a few are not in English but hopefully Google Translate can help here whichever language you need to access them in) and I want to thank her on all our behalves for the sheer effort she has put into researching and collating them, and for now being only too willing to pass them on for us to use. Many of the resources are free for anyone to access and not for commercial use so please be mindful of that and to credit the source where it’s due if you use any of them yourself, now or in the future.
An object synonymous with sewing our own clothes, or a typical sight in a fashion atelier, is the mannequin. A dress form, dress stand, tailor’s dummy, call it what you will, it is a representation of a human form frequently in an idealised way and often without any of our bodily idiosyncrasies.
They are used for fitting and draping, for working out tricky styling or seam lines, for planning, frequently for sticking pins into, or they can stand silent in the corner of the room under-used and gathering dust.
The Parisian company Stockman was established in 1867 and still supply the French couture and fashion industries with their own version of the mannequin, this time being a papier mache base with padding and cotton fabric over the top.
Once you start looking you will see there are lots of options for the home sewer when it comes to mannequins and it really boils down to how much you have to spend.
For this article I’ve researched some of the options for you, believe me when I say it’s a bit of a rabbit hole! I’ll give you some idea about each of them beginning with my own purchase of an adjustable stand.
I used a bra I didn’t wear much and, as you can see, I also used pieces of wadding. you could use those chicken fillet ‘bust enhancers’ that might be lurking in the back of a drawer too although you can’t easily stick pins into them if you need to. While researching for this post I also saw suggestions to use dried beans, this could be useful if gravity has taken a hold of your attributes. I added extra wadding where my fatter areas around my midriff are, on the tummy and also on the butt to give shaping (I guess you could put a pair of briefs on her too and pad them if you have a particularly luscious booty!)
I should tell you that very shortly after buying my lovely new dress stand 3 years ago I won the second one in a raffle!! I had thought that I wouldn’t keep it but it’s actually been very useful when I do bridal and other alterations. She is Indoor Doris because she’s in the house whilst my body double is Outdoor Doris because she lives in Threadquarters-simples!
If you don’t have loads of cash to spare I discovered that there are quite a number of tutorials out there to make you own using various different methods. They all involve wrapping the body in some way, starting with wearing a close-fitting T-shirt or dress to protect the skin of the model and then encasing the torso in duct tape or plaster-soaked bandages. Try searching Pinterest or YouTube, or Threads magazine had a number of articles on how to make your own. These probably won’t last a long time as they aren’t very robust but if you are a cash-strapped student for example then it might do the job for a while. I also found patterns to sew your own which looked pretty good but you do need patience and tenacity to get a good result.
Since publishing this, and as a result of lots of comments on the SewOver50 account, Beatrice Forms got several positive mentions, as did Bootstrap fashion so I’ve created links to their websites.
If doing things on a budget isn’t an issue then you can go to the other end of the spectrum and have a custom-made mannequin to your exact needs and requirements.
Once you have your mannequin what will you use it for. My friend Theresa Hewlett is a pattern cutter and tutor extraordinaire and one of her favourite methods of making a pattern is to drape, or model, on the stand. This often involves pinning flat pieces of cloth onto the stand and manipulating them to create pleasing and original shapes which might not be possible by flat pattern cutting alone. Try it sometime, it’s great fun and very liberating and creative.
So before you buy a mannequin it is wise to have a budget in mind to start with, and to understand what your needs might be from it. There shouldn’t be any need to spend loads of cash because there are plenty of cheaper options, secondhand or reconditioned could be a good bet too. Shop around, there are lots of models to choose between so pick the one that is best for you and not just the one that looks pretty. This is one of the more expensive pieces of equipment that a home sewer can buy so choose wisely. My first mannequin lasted many years, although the base had been replaced before she gave out altogether.
For me personally my mannequin is a very useful piece of kit which I use often, and I’m happy with the adjustable kind because I’m a person whose weight and body size has always tended to fluctuate. Even if I had the money to buy a beautiful professional mannequin I don’t think I would because there would often be periods of time when it wasn’t actually ‘me’ which would be both irritating and depressing!
If you have the room and the budget for one though it’s well worth considering.
What have been your experiences with using a dress stand or tailor’s dummy? Have you found it an invaluable piece of equipment, or is it a home for spiders in the corner?
Essentially it’s a raglan cropped-sleeve sweatshirt or dress with ribbing cuffs, hem and neckline. The sleeves have darts at the shoulder to give them some shaping and the neckline is quite scooped out. Most of the sweatshirts I’ve made in recent years have been quite baggy and over-sized so I thought I would try the closer fit of the Fielder for a change. Based on my own body measurements and the finished measurements given on the packet I opted for a UK size 12, and I lengthened the sleeve to be wrist length.
I bought the unusual ‘quilted’ fabric from the M&M stand at the recently-revived Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in London. It was so good to be able to browse a whole selection of stands once again, it had been over 18 months since any of us were last able to do that. The colour reminds me of old-fashioned sticking plasters, the triple-layer fabric is a clever weave but the loose threads through the middle layer do come adrift quite easily. Because of this I overlocked every piece around its edges to prevent further disintegration. I also stay-stitched the neck edge before it had a chance to stretch.
I haven’t mentioned the rest of the garment construction because it’s a very straightforward sew, I just made it a bit harder for myself…but in a good way.
Anyhoo, that’s one way to elevate a plain top into a slightly more interesting one (IMO!)
I haven’t shared a museum or gallery visit with you in such a long time (for sadly obvious reasons) but, at last, I’ve been to one that is probably worthwhile to write about because you may have time to visit it for yourself if you’re within reach of London!
‘Beautiful People: the boutique in 1960’s counterculture’ is the latest exhibition to open at the Fashion and Textiles Museum in Bermondsey, London. I went a few days after it opened and there was a lovely ‘buzz’ to it because a good number of people were there (but not too crowded by any means) and a great backing track of familiar Sixties music to accompany it.
Boutiques were an entirely new concept at the start of the Sixties, before then young people were pretty much obliged to dress exactly like their parents and shopping for clothes, if you didn’t sew your own, was a very dull affair in traditional gents outfitters or snooty ladies dress shops. All of that began to change when Mary Quant opened Bazaar, her first London boutique and many others soon began to follow suit (pardon the pun!) Clothes shopping became a fun and sociable activity, trendy boutiques with exciting interiors, pumping music tracks and fast-changing, attractive merchandise became more commonplace.
Both young women and men started to break away from the constraints of very formal fashions prior to the early Sixties and young men in particular embraced much less starchy ‘masculine’ designs with many bright colours and shapes and new fabrics coming into their wardrobes. Women of course were already embracing miniskirts with wild enthusiasm.
Moving on through to the main part of the exhibition, it is set out with examples of garments from a number of the boutiques which were most notable during the Sixties. Often they are in high-cost areas of London such as Chelsea or Knightsbridge, and were owned and run (with varying degrees of financial competence and success) by the wealthy offspring of British landed gentry. The information notes made me laugh because they describe how dark, noisy and shambolic a lot of these shops were, with stock all over the place, inconsistent supply and poor quality of the stock, they weren’t intended to be welcoming if you were the ‘wrong sort’ of shopper! Some were barely shops at all, just a space to hang out with your friends that had a few clothes draped around it (like a teenager’s bedroom…) If Daddy was underwriting the venture it didn’t much matter how successful it was!!
Moving upstairs there are even more examples of the fashions from the decade, it was interesting to see the more fluid shapes here with possibly 1930s and 40s influences, certainly different from Mary Quant’s simple colour-blocked shapes at the same time.
To sum up, this is a show that any generation can enjoy because there are so many great clothes on show. I’m not old enough to remember much of the Sixties but that didn’t matter-I enjoyed overhearing some of the women chatting who clearly were there though! The show is on now until March 13th, booking is recommended although I didn’t and took a chance on the day. FTM is a small independent museum and I always enjoy a visit there, White Cube art gallery is a few minutes walk further down the road plus there is a glass blowing studio nearby which is open to watch the artisans at work so there’s much to enjoy in the area. It’s so close to the river too which is a bonus.
It’s wonderful that museums and galleries are now reopening and they need our support if we can offer it as we emerge from the pandemic. The ones I’ve visited so far have felt safe and not too crowded, numbers are limited and booking is definitely advisable if you’re making a special trip, and the opening days may be more limited too so check their websites.
I’ve been an absolute fraud when it’s come to writing any Sew Over 50 blogs for ages and ages which I feel very guilty about. I’ll hold my hands up and say that the community has been an absolute lifeline during the last awful 18 months that we’ve all been going through-the support, friendship, inspiration, encouragement and camaraderie that I’ve found through the account has been personally so important but my writing and blogging has really tailed off along with my mood in general. Judith and Sandy do an absolutely awe-inspiring job of running the account for us, along with fantastic guest editors to keep us all coming back time after time-thank you thank you THANK YOU!!! The sheer variety of topics covered has been incredible but I thought I’d dip my toe back into the @SewOver50 blogging waters by writing a round-up of the August 2021 challenge #So50SustainableSewing
If you follow Judith’s personal account @judithrosalind you’ll already know she has been increasingly sewing in a more mindful and sustainable way for some time now and has wanted to launch a challenge on the account so that we can all join in with this in some way.
We all know that ’the most sustainable garment is the one already in our wardrobe’ and that is true but it doesn’t allow for the important creative outlets that our sewing and garment making gives us. So, if we are to continue sewing for ourselves or others, how can we approach it?
Judith’s idea for the challenge is a simple one-we use only fabric which is already ‘in the system’, especially if it’s already sitting on our shelves. In other words, we source it in a variety of inventive ways and these fabrics could include…
remnants or scraps
charity or thrift shop finds-fabrics or garments
textile manufacturing waste
fabric swaps in person or online
discarded garments, table cloths, bed linen, curtains etc
This isn’t a definitive list of course and over the whole month of August several guest editors shared their brilliant insights to inspire us.
The month kicked off with Judith making a guest appearance on the Sew Organised Style podcast chatting with Maria Theoharous about her idea and lots of ways for us to get involved. Maria always has Sew Over 50 Thursdays too which feature guests from our community who share their sewing stories, techniques and inspiration so it is definitely worth having a listen while you’re sewing, or walking the dog!.
Throughout August there was a great line-up of guest editors including Jen Hogg @jenerates who is so overflowing with ideas that she had 4 separate posts! Her first post encouraged us to ‘shop our stash’ if you have one…I know I do! Like her, some of my fabrics are relatively recent purchases, occasionally on impulse although not always by any means, whilst others are fabrics I’ve acquired over a long period of time and from various different sources. Jen sees it as part of her creative process, to have the choice amongst her stash, to inspire her ideas for making. Jen is a multi-talented woman who not only sews but knits, embroiders, makes jewellery, works leather….in the UK you are probably familiar with her from being a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee, plus you can also listen to her chatting on Sew Organised Style too!
Next was Sue Stoney @suestoney in Australia who shared her love of collecting all sorts of vintage items for later use including beautiful table linen and haberdashery. Many of us probably have buttons, zips, hooks and eyes, threads, elastic (doesn’t last indefinitely though so check it hasn’t perished before you sew it into something you don’t want to fall down around your ankles!) which came to us via our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, neighbours etc etc. I know I love to rummage amongst the hundreds of buttons I have to something special and individual, and I can’t recall the last time I actually bought hooks and eyes or press studs!
Whilst the challenge is intended to encourage us to get creative and inventive for the pleasure of it alone there were also prizes to be awarded so the post on August 8th shared the generous sponsors for these. They included @criswoodsews whose zero-waste Parasol dress pattern has proved extremely popular especially during this challenge. @lizhaywood3754 is also an advocate for zero-waste sewing and has published two books on the topic. @thatwendyward has a recently published book on sewing more sustainably (she chats with Maria about it on the podcast too!) Wendy has long been mindful on the topic after years of working in the RTW industry, as well as producing her own patterns, teaching and writing several other sewing books all of which feature older models! There were also prizes from small businesses @greyfriarsandgrace who create paper patterns which guide the user to sew clothes using recycled textiles, and @craftandthrift who sell thrifted fabrics and kits.
Jen returned with her second post sharing her use of ‘found’ fabrics, including a beautiful blouse made from a sheer vintage embroidered table cloth. Found fabrics can make you a lot more creative because you feel less constrained by what to make with them, do you find the cost of brand new fabric can stifle your creative instincts because of the fear of making costly errors?
One garment that offered massive chances to use up multiple fabrics was the ubiquitous tiered and ruffled dress-a buffet dress in current parlance! Followers have certainly embraced this style and the account shared just a small selection of them on August 11th.
Next up was Marcia @MarciaLoisRiddington who adores #GrannyChic and is a wonderful exponent of using vintage fabrics to great advantage and her combinations of colours and patterns is absolutely masterful (mistressful?)
Then @irenelundell from Sweden urged us to think about ‘circular’ sewing, buy from charity or thrift shops when you see it because not only does it support a good cause but it gives the textile or garment the chance of a new or extended life.
Tricia @morrissews who followed is a fine exponent of refashion, remake, remodel, recycle and repair…and try as much as possible to not replace. She shared her @Elbe_textiles (another prize sponsor) Sorrento bucket hat which couldn’t be more suitable for using up lots of small fabric scraps to make something really useful and wearable.
Jen’s third post demonstrated the times she’s used multiple garments to make a single new one, such as the three shirt shirt! Casual jackets which are made up of small pattern pieces are also ideal for a patchwork approach, there are even small businesses now making these commercially and every garment is different, some even manage to use 100% recycled components.
She talks too about the 90 minute transformation challenge on GBSB was actually a very liberating experience because there was no time to be overly precious with what they were given to use, it forced her to think outside the box very quickly and not have time for self-doubt.
There was another Jen up next, @jenlegg_teescreatives who told us how she has used textiles belonging to dear and much-missed friend and how, when she wears the jacket she’s sewn, it feels like a hug from her friend Emma. There are many other ways you can honour or remember a friend or loved one in this way too by sewing articles like soft toys, cushions, patchwork quilts or rugs for example using garments that once belonged to them.
Jen Hogg made her final return to tell us about using factory surplus in her making. She’s fortunate to live near a number of textile mills in Scotland and has been working closely with them to find inventive ways of using their ‘waste’ products. By using cashmere off-cuts, including something called ‘slitter’ which is a by-product of making cashmere scarves, so far Jen has knitted or crocheted rugs and blankets, and woven and stitched the strips together to make whole pieces of textile big enough to make into jackets, dresses or coats. Are there any textiles manufacturers or processors near you? Do they sell off any of their excess or by-products? It might be worth investigating. Another way of using up scraps which has been around for many many years is rag rugging (also known as proggy rugging) and @raggedlife has loads of ideas for this technique.
As the month was drawing to a close Raquel in Taipei @raquel_sewing_knitting_in_asia (who is an absolute Queen of refashioning!) showed us how she takes inspiration from high-end fashion and clothing all around her but then recreated the looks using multiple end-of-line garments and thrifted clothes. Not only that, she would wear them a few times but if they aren’t quite right she isn’t afraid to take them apart again and reconfigure them into a new garment more to her liking! Sometimes more than once! I’m always too precious with things I’ve made to do that even if I don’t much like the end result, instead they tend to sit on the naughty step while I sulk about what went wrong with them, I should just tackle it head on and take up that unpicker!
The final guest editor for the sewing sustainably month was Judy @judywillimentross whose speciality is refashioning mens suits into another wearable garment. She buys them in charity shops but one of her own rules is not a purchase a suit which might still be of use to someone less fortunate and not in a position to buy new. [This could also be something to be mindful of when purchasing any very inexpensive garment, should we consider whether it would be of use to another person as it is before we buy it to cut up. Or do we take the view that the money we pay for it is a donation to a charity in need of the cash, especially if it’s going to end up in landfill otherwise?] Judy carefully uses ever-smaller fabric scraps to piece together into patchwork.
So there you have it, loads of creativity to inspire us with our sewing projects in the future. By the time you read this the randomly-chosen winners of prizes will have been announced but the hashtag #so50SustainableSewing will continue to be used so the ideas bank will be constantly refreshed.
I’ve added links throughout so you should be able to see and read for yourselves what the guest editors had to say.
Judith and Sandy constantly add to the saved Highlights on the account too, particularly any one of the many worldwide challenges you might like to participate in, plus using some the dozens of hashtags unique to us will give you unlimited ideas for your own future projects.
For this post I’ve concentrated entirely on the sustainable sewing challenge and so I’ve not added many thoughts of my own. In truth, I wasn’t in the headspace to participate while it was going on but it did cause me to think about some of the projects I’ve completed in recent years which went some way to being ‘sustainable’.There are so many ways we can all do a little, or a lot, to contribute to reducing the problem of waste and over-consumption. We should be mindful that whatever is right and possible for one person though is not necessarily going to be achievable for another. For example, many of us can practice visible mending because we like that it gives longevity to a garment and can look attractive, but others will see it as a reminder of hard times or embarrassment. Our community is nothing if not supportive so we need to be mindful of others at times.