a run down of sewing and more in 2022

Well, here we are at the end of another year which has not been without its challenges again. We’ve been learning to live with Covid 19 as a fact of life but 2022 has been tumultuous in terms of other world events, including the beginning of the war in Ukraine, multiple Prime Ministers here in the UK, the Platinum Jubilee and then the death of Queen Elizabeth, and a worsening cost-of-living crisis, to name but a few.

You haven’t come here to read my personal thoughts on any of these though, there are many who have or will continue to comment more eloquently, passionately or noisily, than me and my blog is for me to detail my sewing.

I began the year with sewing a few garments for the book written by Juliet Uzor to accompany the spring series of the Great British Sewing Bee. The series didn’t air until the late Spring so I wasn’t able to share these photos at the time. In total I sewed five garments which featured, some of which were Juliet’s original designs and others were pattern challenges from the new or previous series of GBSB. Obviously when I’m making these samples I’m sworn to secrecy and I’m rarely told anything more about them anyway until the book comes out. I really enjoy sewing for this though and whilst there are time pressures and it has to be my best possible sewing that’s a challenge I’ve enjoyed rising to. [I’ve sewn for a few books now so I know what’s expected] I have to say that I have no idea how the Bees manage to complete the pattern challenges in the time allowed because they took me a jolly sight longer than a couple of hours!!

Immediately I finished these garments I became a Backstitch Ambassador and sewed up my first Merchant and Mills Ellsworth shirt. You can read my review of it here, it’s proven to be the most popular post of the year.

The Ellsworth shirt for Backstitch, plus I’m wearing the Eve trousers also by Merchant and Mills. I’ve sewn 5 iterations of them in 2022, it’s such an adaptable pattern.

Next I sewed a Paper Theory LB Pullover from a herringbone tweed wrap which I made a few years ago and then never wore, this became the first of 4 LB Pullovers this year. It’s occurred to me that I haven’t blogged this top yet so I need to put that right in 2023. The trousers are another pair of Eves in soft corduroy and they featured in a Sew Over 50 post I wrote early in the year with many of your favourite trouser patterns in.

An upcycled LB pullover with cord Eve trousers.
I sewed this Named Talvikki sweater in a really thick sweatshirting I bought at 1st for Fabrics. I wrote a review of it over on the Fold Line website if you’re interested.

I also hosted a couple more of my Herts Sewcials before the lawn bowls season started again and we had to stop until early October. They have been such a source of fun and sewing camaraderie and I hope to announce some other sewing days later this year. It all takes time to find a suitable venue, make bookings, advertise etc etc though

I was (finally) struck down by the first of two bouts of covid in late February which meant I had to miss out on the The Stitch Festival show in London and being in the first ever Sew Over 50 lounge. This was particularly gutting because I had organised the whole rota of people who had generously volunteered to ‘woman’ the space over the four days and I couldn’t share all the fun and chat, and the fashion show which I could only watch unfolding on social media from home.

I sewed a Tilly and the Buttons Nora cardigan using another of the fabrics I bought from 1st for Fabrics and it’s been in regular use on chilly days (I’m wearing it again right now)

I diversified a little after that when I made a fabric roll to keep our ‘good’ cutlery in. It’s only ever lived in a box with bits of tissue and an elastic band around the items so I finally got around to making something more suitable. I used a couple of fat quarters and some Liberty off-cuts in the stash, plus some wadding to go inside. The embroidery function on my machine was very handy for making the labels for each pocket too, all in all a very satisfying make.

Dhurata Davies had very generously gifted me a copy of her Overlap pattern in 2021 and I bought this silk habutai fabric from Hasan, the Man Outside Sainsbury’s in Walthamstow specifically to make it. However, it took me until March 2022 to actually do so! I’m so glad I finally did because it’s been absolutely lovely in warm weather and on holidays, it’s so light and folds up very small. The construction of the collar and facings on it are things of beauty too.

I used a ‘vintage’ 80’s blouse pattern in my collection to sew a shirt dress for our delayed holiday to Antigua in March. We should have gone in March 2021 to celebrate Mr Y’s 60th birthday but world events scuppered that. In spite of my having Covid just two weeks before we were due to go I was cleared to fly at the last minute and thankfully we all made it there-and back-without further problems.

I sewed the first of two Elbe Textiles Serpentine hats, the first from Ellsworth leftovers. Because I hadn’t been able to leave the house in the lead-up to our trip I had to make do with the interfacing I already had so the brim wasn’t really stiff enough. It was shady and kept the sun out of my eyes though. Mask-wearing was still strictly enforced in Antigua.

As soon as I got back from holiday I chatted on Instagram live with Gabby of Gabberdashery on her Quick Unpick feature. It was nerve-racking to start with but I quickly forgot that people were watching and just enjoyed nattering with Gabby.
It wasn’t as bad as all that!

I had been wanting some kind of vest or tank top for a while and then Charlotte Emma patterns released the Clove Vest which was exactly what I wanted! I bought, printed, stuck together and sewed one in double-quick time and I have been using it ever since. In fact I’ve just made another using small leftovers of another project so it’s a good way to use remnants up.

The Clove Vest in action on a walking trip to the Yorkshire Dales, Swaledale to be exact.

From Yorkshire we continued north to Scotland where we had the huge pleasure of staying with Sew Over 50 Supremo Judith Staley. The OHs went off to play on trains while Judith I went first to the V&A in Dundee and the following day we visited the Great Tapestry of Scotland which we would both highly recommend.

In April I organised a quick, low key, visit to Walthamstow market where I caught up with friends old and new. Not too many purchases on my part, I’m more of an enabler…

I delved into the remnants box and found enough of this linen to make a short-sleeved Fantail Top by The Sewing Revival, I love the gathered elastic hem detail on this pattern. Using fabric I bought at Walthamstow I sewed this shorter, wider pair of Eve trousers.

I returned soon after to Walthamstow and the William Morris gallery to catch the small-but-perfectly-formed exhibition of Althia McNish’s work. Until I listened to the very first Haptic and Hue podcast nearly 3 years ago I had never heard of this wonderful textile designer. I’m very glad I know about her now because her designs are so full of life, colour and vibrancy.

I hadn’t sewn anything for Lamazi as a blogger for a while but I was able to make this McCalls 8090 using their beautiful own design Tencel Lyocell ‘Garden of Dreams’. It has the most gorgeous handle and drape, and I love the vibrant colours of the print. It worked beautifully for this pattern and I’ve worn it loads, plus I’ve layered long-sleeved tops under it this autumn/winter, and with tights and a cardigan over the top too. I really must write this pattern up as a proper blog post in 2023!

In late April myself and my fellow Love Sewing models finally FINALLY got to Thirkelow in Derbyshire for our sewing retreat. I can’t tell you how many times this got pushed back and pushed back because of the pandemic and we were all just so thankful to be together as planned and have a wonderful time chatting, sewing, walking, laughing, eating and drinking at last. We booked for 2023 before we even left, and 2024 is in the diary too!

I made my second LB Pullover while I was in Derbyshire (yes I actually got some sewing done…)
These are the Trend Utility trousers from a couple of years ago.

Another departure was a waistcoat for Mr Y, everything except the buttons (ironic when you see how many buttons I have) came from the stash. I first used the pattern over 20 years ago for some wedding ushers.

I don’t think these Marcy Tilton trousers have been my biggest success…I’ve met someone since who was wearing them and they looked great so if I size down by at least 3 sizes (or more) they won’t look so voluminous, I hope.

I made my second Serpentine hat which worked better than the first, I wore it loads
Claire and I went to both Africa Fashion and Fashioning Masculinities at the V&A on the same day and unexpectedly bumped into Barbara so we all had a lovely outing together
Farie from GBSB Series 7 was a work colleague of my friend Jane who kindly hosted a lovely lunch so we could all meet Farie and have a good old chat about all things Bee and sewing!

I spend a good deal of time sewing this jacket for my dear friend Sue for her son’s wedding in July, we bought the stunning fabric from Misan in the Goldhawk Road. It all got rather more complicated after she broke her wrist on holiday and I had to make the whole outfit because she couldn’t get to the shops!

The ridiculous steaming heat of July meant I moved everything indoors where it was only marginally cooler. Sue’s top was the Maker’s Atelier gathered top from their spring/summer magazine sewn in crepe-back satin.

I was asked by a friend if I could replicate a dress she had seen last year online so eventually I was able to create this dress partly utilising an existing 1980s pattern and partly by pattern cutting other elements myself. Our measurements are very similar so I dug this cotton fabric out of the stash and made a version for myself first which Lynn then tried on as a toile. Astonishingly it was all perfect so I made her own dress without any need for further fittings!

I’ve made a second version for myself using some very inexpensive fabric from Walthamstow. This time I made a new cropped bell-shaped sleeve and altered the front to add a shirt collar.

After my second bout of Covid (thank you MR Y) June saw us able to travel on a long-planned trip to Tuscany in Italy. We had a wonderful stay in Florence which included a visit to Bacci Tessuti which was chock-full of beautiful fabrics. I bought myself a lovely piece of fine linen and Mr Y treated me to two pieces of Liberty Tana lawn. I also bought a remnant of Pucci silk/cotton which was just enough to make a short version of my own Dexter pattern.

I added a button back
This was the first version of a short Dexter in fabric that had sat in the stash for a while.

And then in August I turned 60…

Afternoon tea at Cliveden was one of my treats over a wonderful weekend
At the end of August we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with several hives full of honey bees
The exhibition celebrating 150 years of the Royal School of Needlework at the Fashion and Textiles museum was well worth a visit with many beautiful exhibits including this stunning Red Dress

At the end of September was the event many of us had been waiting months for, it was the very first Sew Over 50 Frocktails event held in Edinburgh and hosted by both Judith and Sandy! I suggest you pop over to the blog post I compiled afterwards to get the full rundown with loads more pictures.

The beginning of October saw my Herts Sewcials recommence again. I didn’t have a project to sew until the day before, there was lots to organise and I became so indecisive! At the last minute I settled on the Portobello Trousers by Nina Lee in a bright pink crepe and what a good choice they were, I’ve really enjoyed wearing them!

Next up I headed to London and the autumn Knitting and Stitching show, not once but twice!

Catching up with Maria from the Sew Organised Style podcast and Sewing Bee alumnus Mercedes
Another Bee, Jen Hogg on her own Jenerates stand this time along with Sew Over 50 stalwart Sue Stoney, also visiting from Australia
I was the only non-Australian here at the Tessuti stand!
Trying out a Simplicity PDF for the first time

In October I treated myself to a Sew Me Something retreat in Stratford upon Avon which was so enjoyable and I met some lovely people while we all sewed together.

Day 1 hotel mirror selfie, the Olya shirt by Paper Theory and those pink Portobellos again.
On day one I completed this Tessuti Lily Linen dress in red check bought at the K&S show a few weeks earlier. I love this dress but sadly I’ve got to do some fixing because somehow a pen I was using sprang a leak and blobbed ink down the front skirt! I’m very upset about it and I think I’m going to have to cover it with a patch of fabric if I can match it successfully.
Fun times with CL @thriftystitcher and my chum Elizabeth came to visit on day two
Third LB pullover of the year, a sleeveless one this time and completely influenced by Sandy @sunnydayz and her holiday wardrobe
I popped pockets into the side seams

I also started a Closet Core Sienna Maker jacket while I was in Stratford but I didn’t finish it until after I got home. I’ll blog this one in the new year, I’m really pleased with it though and, weather permitting, it’s had a good number of wears so far. After this I also compiled a Sew Over 50 blog post rounding up lots of your favourite casual jacket patterns

In November I had a massive tidy up and sort out in Threadquarters and as a result I made this Fehrtrade Tessalate Tee for yoga from various jersey scraps.

This gorgeous lawn was one of my purchases from the K&S show, as soon as I saw it I knew it would be perfect for another M&M Ellsworth.

Sue treated me to afternoon tea at the Lanesborough Hotel in London and we both proudly wore our me-mades for the occasion.

My next Backstitch blog came at the end of the year when I sewed this cheerful saffron Ingrid by Homer and Howells.

Nearly there, honestly….I constructed another ‘tree’ for the local Christmas Tree festival at the beginning of December, she was called ‘Etoile de Noel’ this year because almost everything came from recycled toiles

We had loads of snow in late December (unusual for this part of the UK) and I took the opportunity to take pictures of this full circle skirt sewn using a vintage Vogue Claude Montana pattern from the early 80s.

A bit more crafting before Christmas with these Festive oven gloves, I found a tutorial on’t t’internet which helped with fabric requirements and measurements but actually you could copy a pair if you have them.

And so to the final two makes of 2022, first was another LB Pullover, this time in ruby red velour-so comfy!

And the absolute final make was another Charlotte Emma Clove vest in stash remnants (from a sweatshirt for Mr Y in 2020)

This wasn’t absolutely everything I sewed in 2022 but most items are there, not all of it was for me by any means. It looks like I need to write up a few more reviews though, they have definitely not been happening so much in the previous twelve months. In November and December I did some teaching for Backstitch which was very enjoyable, I’ll be doing some more in 2023 too. There will be new exhibitions to look forward to in London including one featuring the work of Gabrielle Chanel in the autumn.

Thank you for following my activities this year, it’s been great to meet more of you in real life and I hope we’ll get the chance for more meet-ups again in 2023. I don’t have any sewing resolutions for next year, we’ll just have to see how it all unfolds I reckon.

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

PS as I was writing this the news about the death of fashion great Vivienne Westwood came through, I wrote a post reviewing her autobiography which I would highly recommend if you want to learn more about her.

Trying out a new Simplicity patterns PDF

Simplicity have long been one of the most familiar big names in the home sewing paper patterns market but many of us are now choosing to use PDF patterns instead for a variety of reasons. Simplicity have recently decided to dip a toe into the waters and release a small collection of patterns as PDFs for the first time.

I was first invited to try one of this new range of PDF patterns way back in high summer but for a variety of reasons it’s taken until mid-October to get completed. 

Simplicity have released a range of ten basics which are available now from Sew Direct including several tops, a skirt, a dress and a jumpsuit, plus two children’s patterns and a free clutch bag pattern. 

I chose the tie-front robe jacket SP110 which appealed to me as a cover-up in place of a cardi or sweatshirt and, because it was July at the time, I picked a pretty, drapey Atelier Brunette viscose crepe in a pale ivory print kindly provided by Minerva. The robe jacket is a very simple silhouette with a wide grown-on 3/4 length sleeve, the neck is finished with a band and the tie waist is elasticated across the back.

For me, it depends how many pages a PDF has whether I print it myself or send it away (my usual cut-off is anything over 30 sheets, more than that and I’m not keen on the printing and assembling) However, we had been experiencing postal strikes here in the UK and I needed to get started so I printed at home this time. I think the paper in my printer was a bit out of alignment because not all the pages were printing as accurately as they should have been but fortunately I could see what had gone adrift as I assembled the pages and was able to rectify it. Make sure you print the test page and check carefully that all borders are present and accurate, don’t simply check the test square measurement and wander off into another room while it’s all printing out… With A0 printing this shouldn’t be an issue.

The pattern includes all sizes from UK6 to UK26 (up to 48” bust) which are broken down into two size bands (there isn’t a layering option to isolate which sizes you choose to print unfortunately) The robe jacket consists of just six simple pattern pieces.

The instructions sheet/booklet design is attractive and uncluttered with clear diagrams and straightforward step by step instructions. For the more novice sewer there is a glossary which includes all the sewing terms that will be used throughout, and a page explaining pattern markings. This being a US-originated pattern, all the seam allowances are only in inches so you may want to write your own metric equivalents on the page somewhere before you start, to avoid confusion. 

snipping the curved underarm seam means it sits more smoothly without puckering when it’s turned through
pulling up the gathering stitches
turning through the front ties using my old school ruler!
I joined two pieces of elastic using the 3-step ‘elastic’ stitch on my machine.
two different methods of pulling the elastic through, either using a bodkin or using a safety pin with a piece of masking tape to prevent it from opening accidentally inside the channel.
All finished

This is a quick and easy make, not much more than half a day probably, and everything comes together well. I thought the instructions and diagrams were clear, well explained and thorough without being over-complex. Overall a relative beginner should be able to manage this pattern. I like to print my instructions in booklet form but I should have increased the font size a little as I struggled occasionally to see the diagrams. I think the diagrams are actually very good, I simply didn’t print them large enough. If you are reading them from a tablet or lap top then this isn’t so likely to be an issue.

My only ‘problem’ now is that I have a summer garment as we head into autumn/winter. I intended it to be a light cover over summer dresses and tops so I’ve tried to style it for the season as it is now. I made a UK14 but possibly should have gone up a size, I feel self-conscious about how it looks around my midriff. It falls exactly on my natural waistline (I’m 5’5” tall) rather than above it like the models who are probably 5’8”-5’10” minimum. Hey ho, I didn’t get the tall gene but I did get the yoyo weight one instead! Basically, I’m pleased with the garment overall but less pleased with how it looks on me just now. I’m determined to get use out of it though but it will probably not be much before next spring. 

Wearing it with Vogue Marcy Tilton #8499
and with a newly finished pair of wide-legged Eve trousers by Merchant and Mills
And finally with my recent Nina Lee Portobello trousers and a vintage shirt pattern from around 1978!

I have a small quantity of the fabric left so, if there’s enough, I may consider adding it to the bottom under the waistband. This shouldn’t be too difficult because the waistband is straight and it would then give a little peplum which I might feel more comfortable with. It wouldn’t be too difficult to add a longer skirt to turn it into a coat as an alternative.

Being a PDF means you can buy the pattern to use immediately, and all the others in the Simplicity PDF range from Sew Direct. I was paid a modest fee for my pattern review and generously provided with the fabric to make it from Minerva. All views expressed are of course my own. 

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

Vogue Marcy Tilton trousers #8499

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.

I opted to sew the shorter length version (on the left) and although the pattern gives you body measurements to choose from, unlike many patterns, there are no finished garment measurements for guidance. I found this lack of information meant I really struggled to know which size to cut, my current waist measurement suggested that I should go with a size 20 which I found a bit hard to believe given that the back waist is elasticated. [I should add a caveat here that the pattern has been in print since 2008 and I’ve noticed it has since been re-numbered as V1731 so it’s possible that the information has been updated, maybe you can let me know if you have this version of the pattern?]

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.

Ta-dah!?
I really wanted to disguise the bagginess over my hip and bum area so I started by teaming it with my Merchant and Mills Ellsworth shirt I don’t think this looks too bad.
The deep pockets are great
I’m happy with the length, I am 5’5” tall and I didn’t alter it from the pattern, the shape and the width at this point are fine.
I’m okay with the amount of fabric at the front
Next I tried it with my trusty Maker’s Atelier Holiday Shirt, a long-time favourite.
I start to have a problem once I get round to the back…there’s way too much fabric over the seat and hip area, it gathers in at the elastic casing but there’s just too much of it so it’s bulky and it isn’t a good look. I didn’t take a photo of the back, I will add one here when I get around to it.
closing my eyes to the problem…
I do think the dart details on the knees and the topstitching certainly elevate the style from more run-of-the-mill trouser designs though.
As you can see there is loads of fabric in the back, the pattern description merely says “very loose-fitting through the hipline”. With hindsight, and with the absence of ‘finished’ measurements, I should have pinned the paper pattern pieces together to check first but that’s rather blaming myself for the error when in fact I’ve done nothing wrong!
Side view

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!

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

Indie patterns vs ‘the Big 4’-discuss

Well, I seem to have set the cat amongst the pigeons a little with my previous post reviewing Vogue 9251. In it I mentioned how I chose this particular pattern over a Sew Over It one. I didn’t say anything detrimental about their Eve dress, I simply chose the Vogue one.

When I posted on Instagram about the new blog I simply commented, “don’t dismiss ‘big 4’ patterns because Vogue have some fantastic designs which fit well and are often fashion-forward”. What I didn’t expect was the number and variety of responses which that provoked. I’d like to try and explore a little more some of those comments here.

When I first learned to dress-make at secondary school the only patterns generally available to me were the big brands, Butterick, Vogue, Simplicity etc. Burda were there too but they were much more challenging because very often you had to trace them off (I’ve never been a tracer, always a cutter-outer) and remember to add your seam allowances. They were frequently more fashion-forward but I think because they are a German brand their styles were ‘a bit weird’ and it wasn’t often to my taste at the time. Their printed patterns now include seam allowance but the magazine still has large sheets which you trace and add the SA to. The designs have improved somewhat too. Vogue patterns were always very much the ‘Rolls Royce’ of the pattern brands and it was always a big deal for me to spend so much money on one (even now I try to buy them when they are on a half price offer) They were often where innovative designs first appeared and then an adapted version would appear later on in Butterick or Simplicity instead. Now a Vogue pattern almost seems cheap compared to indies!

Another source of patterns were free ones provided by post by women’s magazines and newspapers, you’d save up printed vouchers which you posted off and they would then post the pattern back to you. A slow process but actually it didn’t matter much because we weren’t all about instant gratification back then, we were happy to wait because we were getting something for nothing! Some of these patterns were OK, some not so much.

IMG_7701
I found this one in my collection, it doesn’t have a date on it but it’s probably from about 1983-4

In the early 80’s Prima magazine started giving free patterns included with the magazine. They were the template type we still get today which came on two-sided sheets that you had to trace off and, as a result, they were quite simple designs but they were popular. I was attempting my own pattern cutting by this time before I went to college so these patterns were a springboard to getting me started.

Then dressmaking seemed to fall out of favour and the curriculum all seemed to change at school. There were always a few of us who kept it up, it was how I earned a modest living while my children were small but it became harder and harder to buy nice fabrics at reasonable prices, or haberdashery, and nobody seemed to think it was a worthwhile pastime.

Then, in 2013, the Great British Sewing Bee happened and everything changed. There was always the core of us that had carried on sewing but now a new group were being introduced to it as a hobby and as a means to make the sorts of clothes they wanted to wear. The big pattern companies were still there but for the women who hadn’t been taught dressmaking they were a bit daunting and also a little dull. [I know there are men who sew but, let’s face it, they are the tiny minority] The packaging looked a bit dated and the layout of the instruction sheets inside hasn’t changed in decades. This isn’t a bad thing for those of us who know what we’re doing but to the unfamiliar they can be very confusing and a bit scary. They generally always assume a good level of sewing knowledge before you start so beyond telling you the order of making they don’t always tell you the exact technique or method. The pattern books don’t help themselves because they can look uninspiring with strange fabric choices and not many up-to-date or trend-led styles, or by making it difficult to spot them amongst the dull ones!

I’m not aware there was any such thing as an ‘independent pattern maker’ before about 5 years ago, and if there was then they were well below the radar, but people like Tilly Walnes, who appeared on the first GBSB series and is Tilly & the Buttons, and Lisa Comfort of Sew Over It both started developing their own patterns and began marketing them. Tilly created wearable, simple modern shapes which were beautifully presented and the instructions came in the form of photographs rather than with illustrations. Sew Over It’s aesthetic is vintage-inspired with tea dresses and floaty skirts being more prevalent. Lisa seems to have diversified into a whole lifestyle-thing which I’m quite glad I’m no longer a young mum trying to emulate.

Fast-forward to today and we have masses of new ‘indie’ patterns flooding the market all the time. It seems that everyone who fancies themselves as a designer can have a go at it and create new patterns and clearly some will be considerably better than others. Initially I didn’t go down the indie route because they were usually in the region of £12-£15 or more for a printed pattern, and besides I have a monstrous collection of paper patterns which I’ve acquired over about 40 years! I wasn’t attracted to the new patterns because they were either too simplistic and I could make my own quite frankly, or they were vintage-style which I’m not that into.

I’ve noticed too since making a few indie brand patterns that with some of them if you don’t fit into a certain age or body type then you never get a ‘like’ or a mention if you tag the company in your IG feed. Frankly, if I, my makes and my photos don’t suit your design ideal or aesthetic then I won’t be bothering to tag in future, you need the customers more than they need you and no one likes to feel ignored.

So, where does that leave us today?

The big companies have carried on very largely unchanged for decades and you can usually be sure of a well-drafted product with good instructions (although if you are able to follow them is sometimes an entirely separate issue) The fit of some of these styles isn’t always so good but there’s always going to be some variation according to the style and I’m not saying they are always wrong or right. Let’s face it, we’re dealing with the human body here with all it’s quirks and variations as well as personal taste and style.

I wonder if the fact that, almost without exception, indie pattern styles have names rather than numbers which instantly makes them more memorable? Also, having now succumbed and bought a number of indie patterns I see there’s a wide variety in the form they take and their packaging is definitely part of the appeal. They come in nice packages and they might feature lovely sketches on the cover or fashion shoot-style photos, many come printed on heavy, quality paper and others are on ‘greaseproof’ type paper or even brown wrapping paper, each is trying be unique in what is becoming a crowded market. If you can get yourself in with The Fold Line and an attractive young blogger who will sing your praises then so much the better, guaranteed advertising.

I think that the single biggest difference that the indies have is the availability of downloadable PDFs. We’ve arrived at that very modern phenomenon ‘instant gratification’. You can purchase, download, print, cut, stick, cut out and sew all in one evening if that is what works for you. The PDF is generally a little cheaper [there are free ones too] so you can buy direct from a pattern maker who may live on the other side of the planet if you want to. It’s possible to get them printed at the local print shop too, or by online printers but I’m wondering if that doesn’t defeat the object of not buying a printed version if there is one in the first place? Indies often have a wealth of online tutorials and support which was never possible before. That said, never dismiss a good old text book-the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (first published in 1978 I think) is an absolute goldmine of information.

In the 4 years or so that I’ve been part of the ‘online’ sewing community I’ve noticed a trend amongst some dressmakers who only appear to use indie patterns and to sing their praises. Is this an inverted form of snobbery? I don’t know but that’s just fine if they are the styles you want make, of course it is, we’re a free country, but a lot of the new styles from some brands are starting to look incredibly ’samey’ and are bringing nothing new to the design table. If you want truly original new styles it seems to me that the Europeans are doing it better, such as Named, Deer and Doe or The Assembly Line.

Some indie patterns are so overly simplistic in the designs they offer that I do wonder why dressmakers are shelling out so much cash for the pattern when they don’t have to. Do they genuinely not realise that there are other, cheaper alternatives?

Don’t get me wrong, there are brands which produce well-drafted, original designs with clear instructions and the designer has worked very hard to put out an excellent quality product but none of the printed versions of these patterns are terribly cheap, many are £20 a pop now (and I’m not saying they shouldn’t be because of course there is a lot of time and effort involved) but, as I return to my original point, don’t dismiss the big companies out of hand because they do still have something to offer, relative cheapness for basics being one of them.

I was particularly saddened, and annoyed, to hear Heather-Lou of Closet Case Patterns say on the Stitchers Brew podcast recently that she thought “you don’t need to take a pattern cutting class” because there are “very few things in life you need to go to school for”. Well thanks a bunch!! I’m so glad that myself and thousands like me took the time to go college to follow our dream and learn how to be pattern cutters because it was obviously a big old waste of time as anyone can do it! In the next breath she says that she now has a professional do her pattern drafting because “she (the pattern cutter) went to school and trained to do it” WTF! I’d enjoyed listening to what she had to say up until that point but that’s plain insensitive and insulting. I know there are some brands, like Maven patterns and The Maker’s Atelier, which have been created by women with years of experience and expertise in the fashion industry but there are other’s who don’t have that.

I could wang on for ages about the benefits and downsides of both types of pattern and in all honesty they will coexist side by side from now on. The big companies have certainly got to stay on their toes and possibly find new and engaging ways to present themselves to be appealing to the burgeoning younger market, but I hate to see newer dressmakers parting with lots of cash for some patterns which are really just a new version of the wheel, the spokes or the tyre may be different but it’s still a wheel none the less.

Part of what we all love about dressmaking is making original, creative clothes that fit and supporting one another in our endeavours, long may that continue. It’s just that we are the customer and always have a choice where we spend our hard-earned money.

All views expressed are my own of course and I dare say many of you won’t agree with me but I know from comments on my IG post that I’m echoing thoughts of others too. I’m not sponsored by any of the brands I’ve mentioned either! I’d be really interested to know what you think about the whole subject too so do please leave a comment.

Happy Sewing

Sue

 

 

 

 

Vogue 9251 wrap-over dress

 

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Wedding outfits are always a dilemma and sewing your own is no exception to this! When my elder daughter’s best friend made the happy announcement she was getting married in the summer I started planning (in my head) straight away!

As I mentioned in my previous Simple Sew blog, by about May it was going to be the Lizzie pattern in a particular fabric but then the supplier was no longer going to provide us with said fabric so it was back to the drawing board.

I made a trip to Goldhawk Road in London in early June and Classic Textiles came up trumps with a silky crepe de chine in several lovely botanical prints which necessitated a game of eeny, meeny, miny, mo to choose between them (very scientific!) I settled on a silvery grey background with a variety of flowers on and I bought some very soft slipper satin lining to go under it.IMG_7148

I didn’t want to use the Lizzie after all because it would break up the design into too many pieces so I opted, after quite a bit of research using The Foldline’s pattern database, on Vogue 9251. I chose it over the Eve from Sew Over It because I liked the front and back darts on the bodice instead of gathering and I preferred the flutter sleeves too-I couldn’t quite work out on the SOI one whether the sleeves dipped oddly at the back or not. Anyway, I didn’t want to do it just because everyone else was and Vogue have always been extremely good patterns. By using a very simple wrap over style it would show off the print nicely, not all ‘chopped up’. It has a full-length version too with simple short sleeves.

I chose to make a test version in stash fabric first just to be sure about fit and whether the style suited me. It’s a Vogue “Easy” pattern and it’s very straight forward-cutting out the toile wasn’t too tricky but I did have to spend a long time cutting the crepe de Chine later because it’s soooo slippery and having a one way design meant I wanted to get the flowers matching horizontally on each piece as much as possible. I wouldn’t advise a total novice using this fabric, I had a lot of fun and games with it and I’ve sewn forever!

I chose the size according to my measurements increasing slightly at the waist and I’m really happy with the fit. Obviously a wrap-over is pretty forgiving size-wise but you don’t want it much too big because it will be all gapey at the front which is never flattering. IMG_7169IMG_7162IMG_7161IMG_7159

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Help was at hand as you see!

There’s a lot of hemming to do around the skirt and flutter sleeves so I used my new rolled hem foot for my Pfaff but I really struggled with it. I just couldn’t seem to get the knack of it. I persevered and it’s just about acceptable if you don’t look too closely, I don’t know if it was too much of a curve or not enough but I must practice more! I just wasn’t happy with it on the crepe de Chine so in the end I reverted to making a pin-hem which was long winded and still not as good as I’d like but there’s an element of me being uber-critical as time was running out. [I did a test of the rolled hem finish on my overlocker too but decided it wasn’t smart enough on this particular fabric] As I’ve mentioned, cutting out the slippery fabric probably meant it had shifted a bit on the table in the process-it’s always going to be difficult if you have to use your dining table and not one specifically for the purpose.

You might find the side seams droop down a little so if this bothers you, and you’re not up against the clock like I was, then leave the dress to hang for a day or two and then level the bottom off before hemming it. You could do this on your dress stand (dummy) if you have one, or measure consistently from the waist down using a tape measure.

The pattern calls for the neck edge to be finished with bias-binding, which is what I did on the first version although I made my own from the fabric rather than buy ready made. The crepe de chine is very thin and quite sheer so I’d bought slipper satin to line it with. I cut the bodice exactly the same and bagged it out, then under-stitched the edge-take great care not to stretch this edge because it will go baggy, stay stitch the edge first or use iron-on tape if the fabric is sturdy enough. The skirt was the same except much shorter, about knee length as you can see in the photo. IMG_7659

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This is the finished dress turned inside out so that you can see how I lined it.

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For extra security I used a clear press stud at the wrap-over point and made lingerie straps on the shoulders too, using narrow ribbon and press studs.

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So that the lining didn’t flap about and show I slip-stitched the edge of it to the top layer some of the way down.

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All ready for the off! I got the hat less than a week before the wedding (half price in John Lewis) the shoes and bag I already had.

After all the boiling hot weather we’ve had in the UK over the last few weeks it changed and was a bit cooler and really blustery on the day of the wedding. I was a bit concerned that I’d lose my hat and my skirt would blow up around my neck but that didn’t happen thankfully! A hat pin helps!

I really like this pattern, it’s really comfortable to wear and the wrap-over covers well although a press stud always helps. I think I’ll make more of this style as it’s a fairly quick make and is quite beginner friendly if you don’t use a super-slippy fabric like I did, just something with a bit of drape. The sleeve shape is very pretty, and did I mention it has pockets?

Don’t overlook the ‘big four’ pattern companies when you’re choosing a pattern because Vogue in particular have always offered fashion-forward styles, often by top designers, and you don’t necessarily need to be a very experienced sewer to get a good result. [Even better if they’re on a half-price offer!]

Happy Sewing,

Sue