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

Edinburgh Frocktails 2022

When Judith and Sandy announced the first @SewOver50 Frocktails event was going to be held in Edinburgh in September 2022 I knew I had to be there to celebrate its success with them. SewOver50 has been a big part of our sewing lives for the last four years and I was so excited at the prospect of meeting some of the people I’ve chatted with over that time. As it turns out I wasn’t at home in Hertfordshire just then but on holiday in the North York Moors so I was basically halfway there!

Mr Y dropped me off at Northallerton station on Friday morning and I was on my way!
While I waited for my flatmates Kate and Fiona to arrive I had time to wander over to Princes Street gardens and the Scott monument.
I had booked a 3 bedroom flat for us very close to the Frocktails venue in Leith, not too far to totter in high heels.
But first, pre drinks at Malmaison with some of the gang, Lisa, Janet, Corrie, yours truly, Nic, Elke, Judy, Kate and Lisa. This group of people alone had travelled from England, Wales, Canada and Germany!
Oh well if you insist…there was delicious food later too
We each got to choose a goody bag from the table which was stuffed with generous discounts and gifts and some also contained special spot prizes. I was thrilled and surprised to discover I had won an Advent calendar from Fabric Godmother-I can’t wait to receive it in November to see exactly what it contains.
and ArkDefo were incredibly generous with the sheer quantity of fabrics they donated as gifts. They are new company specialising in ex-designer fabrics at vastly reduced prices, usually waxed cottons in various weights and loads of colours. In fact I ordered two pieces from them before I even got out of bed on Saturday morning!
I definitely need new glasses…#squinting
Lou and Jen chatting, in fact it’s a whole room of people doing the same thing for the whole evening.
Selfie time with Ruth and Fiona
Judith chatting with occasional SewOver50 stand-in editor Janine who had flown all the way from Canada (with Sandy in the background, who had come even further, from Brisbane!)
still gassing…with Margaret this time
There were speeches (not karaoke) from Sandy and Judith
The Granary in Leith was a perfect choice of venue for the Frocktails
Sandy very sweetly thanked me for my contribution of writing the SewOver50 blog, which you’re reading right now!
I was especially happy to finally meet Lou because through a strange quirk of fate we discovered she had been the primary school teacher of my best friend’s two boys.
another daft selfie
getting into place for the group shot. The professional photographer for the evening Chris Scott captured some really lovely candid shots. There was also time for a catwalk where me-made creations were shown off and appreciated, and the evening ended with some Scottish country dancing (the Scots having a distinct advantage over the rest of us when it came to execution!)
Going though the goody bag on Saturday morning in bed
Leith looking beautiful in the sunshine on Saturday morning

On Saturday many of us headed into Edinburgh city centre on the bus to visit first The Dress Fabric Company followed by a glorious walk across the Meadows until we eventually arrived at Edinburgh Fabrics. I’m polishing my halo at this point because I resisted buying any fabric from either shop…others didn’t!

Arthur’s Seat in the distance across the Meadows
Herding cats!
The collective noun for a group of dressmakers? a bobbin of course!
Saturday supper at The Shore with Fiona, Diane, Janet, Corrie and Kate
it involved quite a bit of silliness
a lot of silliness in fact
got there, after a fashion, in the end
Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street
Waiting for the famous One o’clock gun…it doesn’t fire on a Sunday we discovered
Serious tile-action in the loos at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Once we arrived at the correct gallery (there’s more than one Scottish National Gallery it turns out) we enjoyed the Barbara Hepworth exhibition
a recreation of Eduardo Paolozzi’s studio
and finally Kate and I headed back to the airport to wend our way home, tired but very happy from a great weekend spent with friends from far and wide.
Going through the goodie bag at home, I may have taken advantage of some of the generosity of the sponsors-Thank You

What a wonderful weekend it was, to be reunited with existing friends and meeting new ones too from all over the country, and the world in fact. Judith and Sandy have created, and sustain, an amazing community which we all get so much from, very real friendships have been made because of SewOver50. Trying to explain this to people who don’t use social media, or have had a bad experience of it, isn’t always easy but being in the room with over 70 people who all came together because of a simple connection-making our own clothes-was all the explanation anyone would need.

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

The Maker’s Atelier asymmetric gather dress

In the summer of 2021 Simply Sewing magazine invited me to choose an Indie brand pattern to sew and review for them. After some deliberation I settled on the Maker’s Atelier Asymmetric Gather dress which they generously provided me with free of charge. The article was published a year ago now but if you didn’t see it then I’m sharing some of my thoughts about the pattern here.

I like Maker’s Atelier patterns because they are deceptively simple to look at but many of them have stylish details such as notched hems, interesting seam lines, button-up backs or gathered sections which can elevate the garment out of the ordinary. On their website, and also in their newsletter, they always illustrate how much variety you can create from reusing a single pattern simply by sewing it in different fabric-types. I’ve made numerous iterations of their Holiday Shirt and Top using a number of different fabrics and embellishments for example.

If you’ve seen my various makes of Trend Patterns you’ll already know I’m rather fond of an asymmetric style and although the Maker’s Atelier one is a simple cocoon-shaped shift dress the gathered features really lift it out of the ordinary.

Because the front pattern piece is cut as a whole ‘right side up’ by flipping the piece over you can have the gathered neckline to the right or left depending on your preference. I love how the back is given shape and definition by adding the wide elastic at waist level too. 

I made this first version in gingko-printed crepe fabric bought at least four years ago from Fabrics Galore.

The style works best using a fabric that gathers softly and has some drape which is why the viscose twill kindly given to me by Sew Me Sunshine worked well. I wanted a fabric with a little bit of weight to it so that the elastication looked right, a stiff fabric without any fluidity would not flow nicely over the contours of the body. I really wanted a design that would look interesting whether it was gathered or not. This particular fabric from Mind the Maker contains 100% LENZING™ ECOVERO™ Viscose, which is a sustainably certified viscose fibre by LENZING™ with minimal environmental impact in the production process (compared to production of traditional viscose fibres). Some fibre and fabric production methods can be very damaging to the environment and the work force so this is at least a step in the right direction.

It was very satisfying to see the shape come together once I’d inserted the elastic, I know it probably sounds odd but I do love a bit of understitching on a facing. However I’ve found the back neck facing keeps creeping up though so I need to find a way to fix that.

Viscose often shifts around quite a lot so it’s important to not pull or drag it too much while you’re laying it up so that your pieces aren’t distorted once you’ve cut them out. If you have to cut on a table which isn’t quite big enough make sure the overhanging fabric is at least supported on a chair to prevent it pulling the fabric on the table out of shape. If you can manage to cut on the floor that would probably be preferable. Thankfully there aren’t many pattern pieces though so it isn’t a complex lay-plan.

My measurements at the time fell between a UK 12 and 14 so I measured the front and back pattern pieces to work out what the finished bust and hip sizes would be, from these I opted to sew a UK12. I was happy with the final fit, there’s just enough fullness without becoming too voluminous and baggy. I’m 5’5” tall and a little ‘pear-shaped’ but this style would suit a variety of body shapes because it skims over the waist and thigh area, it isn’t a ‘fitted’ style. The elasticated sections on the hip and back give the slightly-cocoon shape some definition and this could be adjusted to your personal preference. I’ve gained few pounds since I last summer but the dress still looks okay I think.

At Eltham Palace in south London, summer 2021

The one major adjustment I made was to shorten the pattern by 5cms before cutting out. I read a few online reviews before I started which all said they wish they had, or they did, make it shorter. I’m happy with how the finished length looks on me, it would definitely not have looked right if I’d left it as it was. I took the 5cms out horizontally across the front and back just below the hip/knee area, not from the hem. If you shorten it from the hem you will make the shape at the bottom a little wider which might result in it losing a little of its ‘peg’ shaping. The only other thing I did was to slightly raise the position of the elastic channels on the back and hip by approximately 1.5cms so that proportionately they sit a little higher on me, I think it looks better. 

An easy hack would be to use a narrower elastic than suggested, or sew two or more rows of narrower elastic into channels, you could even use shirring elastic. Instead of elastication how about slotting ribbon or tape through the channels, sew buttonholes for the tape and leave the ends dangling so that they are decorative and adjustable, perhaps finish the ends with small toggles to make a feature of them? Leave the sleeves off completely maybe or turn them into full-length sleeves with elasticated cuffs, or a cap sleeve. If you’re feeling adventurous you could even elasticate the hem! What about having fun playing with the grain line, especially if you use a check or striped fabric. There aren’t any pockets so you could add at least one in-seam pocket, probably on the non-elasticated side seam.

As well as viscose-types like I’ve used you could also choose fabrics such as handkerchief or washed linens, crepe, softer types of satin, crepe de Chine, challis and wool crepe. Softer cottons like lawn or chambray-types would all work well too. You don’t want anything overly stiff or thick because you wouldn’t get the lovely definition to the elasticated folds, they could become a bit clunky. Ideally avoid fabrics which crease badly if you might be sitting in it for any length of time, creases would spoil the look of the front. 

I chose to trace off the pattern, I find I’m doing this more and more often even though I’m not a big fan of doing so. Take your time if you’re tracing the pattern, transfer all the markings accurately. Because the neckline is asymmetric make sure you cut the neck facing to match and double check you have a mirrored any pieces that are a pair before cutting into your fabric. Read through all the making instructions before you start and highlight any areas that you think are, or might be, trickier for you. 

The Asymmetric Gather dress isn’t a difficult garment to sew up, I would say anyone from an adventurous beginner upwards would enjoy making it. It certainly took me less than a day to make, especially as there are no openings like zips or buttons to construct. 

I’ve found it entertaining to see my changing hairstyle since I first made this! I was paid for the original article last year but all thoughts, advice and opinions are 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

Sewing the Cressida jumpsuit by Sew Me Something

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!

Southend-on-Sea buttons by PigeonWishes
Buttons, belt loops and variegated top stitching complete

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.

worn with a leather belt

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.

I made the decision to sew the buttonholes in a variety of colours so that they weren’t quite so obtrusive and you can also see that I used a twin needle to sew the cuffs of the sleeves.

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 Oldroyd was also there having travelled especially from Northern Ireland so it a real treat to finally meet her in real life.

getting stuck in to stroking all the fabrics!
Because there was no shrinkage of the fabric this time, and also because I added 1.5cms to the body length, the legs seem quite a bit longer than the denim version. I’m not sure if they are right this length so I’ll probably shorten them at the hem slightly-they are neither long enough nor short enough just now!
there are two patch pockets on the back in addition to the hip pockets. I didn’t attempt to pattern-match them because the print is busy enough, and no one is likely to notice anyway.
I nearly came unstuck at the last hurdle because I didn’t think I had any suitable buttons. Cousette don’t make matching buttons and my local store had a useless ‘selection’ if you could even call it that. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time trawling online either but eventually I found 6 matching buttons amongst my button boxes and I think they will do adequately well.

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.

And you can actually jump in it too!

The Cressida would also look lovely made up in a variety of fabrics including linen or crepe, or even a luxurious silk-type perhaps?

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

Sewing resources for breast cancer patients during treatment and recovery compiled by Tina and shared with Sew Over 50

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, 

This was Tina’s original request to Judith and the Sew Over 50 community.

“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.

Sew let’s begin…

To meet other post mastectomy sewists
Check out the tag #sewoverbreastcancer on Instagram, there are currently well over one thousand posts using this hashtag, and if Facebook is your thing then join Facebook group Sewing Flat and Asymmetrical https://www.facebook.com/groups/275875773308157

Pattern adaptation, Breast dart removal-here are two methods
1. ease moved into the waist seam
https://www.seamwork.com/magazine/2019/10/bodice-adjustments-for-a-bilateral-mastectomy 

[You can find the Seamwork Instagram account here @seamwork as a starting point to finding and using its resources.]

2. for leaving the waist seam width unchanged try
@Inhousepatterns  https://www.inhousepatternsstudio.com/blog/how-to-eliminate-a-bust-dart   https://www.instagram.com/p/CSMTMB-IRki/

The book ‘Fast Fit – Easy Pattern Alterations for Every Figure by SANDRA BETZINA‘ has a chapter on sewing and pattern alterations for a post mastectomy chest

Twig and Tale are a New Zealand based pattern company which now offers instructions of their popular Fable dress to enable a flat-fronted version.

If you enjoy sketching as part of planning your projects then @mybodymodel has a customised fashion croquis template made to your own measurements with a no chest option. It helped Tina to test what designs might look and feel good on her post-mastectomy body.  https://www.instagram.com/p/B4QSbiknDpi/ https://www.mybodymodel.com/ 
https://www.mybodymodel.com/news-updates/introducing-the-new-omit-bust-croquis-option/

@Sewcialists #AllChestsWelcome was a theme month with lots of resources for sewing post mastectomy
https://thesewcialists.com/category/theme-months/all-chests-welcome/

Venus mensch has a created tutorial on how to adapt a bra pattern to one cup after single mastectomy
@venusmensch_mk :🦋 Here’s the link to her video tutorial demonstrating how to hack a bra pattern into a post mastectomy bra that is flat on one side. The same technique works for a flat chest.
https://www.instagram.com/p/CEYeyEQATAG/ 
https://thesewcialists.com/2020/08/26/allchestswelcome-post-mastectomy-bra-pattern-hack-tutorial/

Prosthesis and prosthesis pockets
The Sewcialists has ceased to publish new articles and posts but their resources are still available. Here is a blog-post on sewing a prosthesis https://thesewcialists.com/2020/08/14/allchestswelcome-do-it-yourself-breast-prosthesis/


Another option is Knitted knockers which offers a pattern for a soft crochet prosthesis https://www.headcovers.com/blog/how-to-knit-or-crochet-a-breast-prosthesis-with-free-patterns/

Sew soft breast forms, if you do not want to go flat while the scars are healing http://mastectomysolutions.com/sew-your-own-breast-forms.php

There are lots of options for a variety of bras and bra-making including
@bramakerssupply https://www.instagram.com/bramakerssupply/ a tutorial on how to make a soft prosthesis. I found it by searching Mastectomy on their website https://www.braandcorsetsupplies.com/2014/05/09/do-it-yourself-breast-form/ 
You can use this pattern https://www.instagram.com/p/BzwhkDEAbLY/ from @patternunion https://www.instagram.com/patternunion/
https://www.patternunion.com.au/product-page/vintage-liner-bra it can be used for creating a prosthesis  
and a tutorial for how to add a prosthesis pocket to an ordinary bra pattern https://www.braandcorsetsupplies.com/2018/10/14/draft-mastectomy-pocket/?fbclid=IwAR2f53F71r446ucbkTlC0JS0y5viHXAA41sJMW6xApcnxaaHa8kb1JehmZM

@threadsmagazine details adding a prosthesis pocket to an RTW bra https://www.instagram.com/p/B1WfsmZD4AL/ they have a better how-to on their website https://www.threadsmagazine.com/2009/01/25/adapt-a-bra-to-accommodate-a-prosthesis

Mastectomy Bra patterns

There are two free patterns for single mastectomy bras available from @tetayteta  https://sujetadorlola.es/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Patrones-LOLA.pdf Both patterns are free to use for noncommercial purposes. There are no sewing instructions to the patterns though https://sujetadorlola.es/ scroll to the bottom of the page for downloads https://www.instagram.com/p/CHc8GCkBCBa/

@Anna.bonny mastectomy patch https://www.instagram.com/p/BfNs2Url0VH/ free pattern
https://www.annabonny.com/product/monokini-do-it-yourself/

@michelles__armoire https://www.instagram.com/p/CVG0v_SBrH6/ free pdf sewing pattern for a mastectomy bra with prosthesis pocket https://michellesarmoire.com.au/collections/patterns/products/lourdes-mastectomy-bra

 www.porcelynne.com  has released flat cup options for both their Christina and Jackie sports bras, for a bilateral mastectomy as well as a combination cup for a unilateral mastectomy. The flat cup option can be utilized for individuals without breast tissue. The combination cup utilizes the flat cup on one side and a shaped cup on the other.https://porcelynne.com/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=1&keyword=mastectomy  both patterns come in digital and printed versions

Jackie sports bra https://porcelynne.com/patterns/sports-bra-patterns/jackie-sports-bra-pattern 
Christina sports bra https://porcelynne.com/patterns/sports-bra-patterns/christina-sports-bra-pattern

Pain relief pillows for post-surgery can be very helpful.
Heart pillow pattern to ease post-surgery pain

There are sewing instructions for the Sewcialists pillow https://www.instagram.com/p/B4plHVWgg0B/ pattern in photo no. 2
Other website resources for comfort pillows include:
http://createdthroughinspiration.blogspot.com/2013/08/heart-pillow-instructions.html
http://files.ctctcdn.com/646018cd001/8558ecb4-c934-4236-a756-cce344b08fca.pdf
Immediately after surgery a pain relief pillow will help when in bed, and could make the car journey home after surgery a little more comfortable.

After a single mastectomy: http://www.stitchedtogetherstudios.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Love-Pillow-Pattern.pdf

Pain relief pillow for double mastectomy: http://previvingandthriving.com/mastectomy-must-haves/ 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqmUxHmrYA8

Port pillow
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wx7B5NUmso

Post op clothes
A front closing camisole

https://www.instagram.com/mellysews/ has a free pattern and tutorial for a front closing camisole so you won’t have to lift your arms after surgery. Try typing in the search word mastectomy on her website https://mellysews.com/post-surgery-camisole-mastectomy-surgery/ is the pattern and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uCw73CPTjA is a tutorial for the front-opening camisole.

A front closing bralette, in a soft fabric without wiring or tight elastic can also be very comfortable without rubbing or chafing. Tina adapted the Delvine bralette by Primrose Dawn Designs for example.

A gown or robe will be very useful. Made It patterns created a free pattern but sadly they have now ceased trading.

The Tranquility robe was available free from Made It patterns and had been carefully and thoughtfully designed and tested for women, and by women, in recovery from surgery. Whilst it is now no longer available I wonder if others in the Sew Over 50 community who previously downloaded the pattern would be willing to share it?

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

Chemo turban pattern
Chemo turban pattern for wovens https://brimmingwithlove.com/ free pattern 

https://www.instagram.com/molliejohanson/ Blog on 10 different free chemo hat sewing patterns https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/chemo-hat-and-turban-sewing-patterns-2977862

Also, Sewcialists has a free beanie pattern which would be suitable for chemo patients too.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5NRrtzH2ag/ @sygal.dk The text is Danish but the pattern is free
Pattern https://cdn.bloggersdelight.dk/wp-content/blogs.dir/242282/files/2019/11/huexmedxslojfe.pdf 
Sewing instructions (use google translate) http://sygal.dk/2018/02/20/moenster-til-hue-i-jersey/

Tina has also been interviewed and written about her illness a couple of times so the links below specifically refer to those occasions.

Some Links to where Tina has been interviewed or written about sewing for a post mastectomy body
Tina talks to Maria on the Sew Organised Style podcast specifically about sewing for her post-mastectomy body. https://seworganisedstylepodcast.com/2021/09/29/bricolagdk-tina/

A loooong story of illness: https://thesewcialists.com/2019/11/08/who-we-are-sewing-after-a-unilateral-mastectomy/

Designing for a post mastectomy body; https://www.mybodymodel.com/sketch-sew/designing-for-my-post-mastectomy-body-with-my-body-model-croquis-by-tina/

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.

Until next time,

Sue

Merchant & Mills Fielder Top

The Fielder top and dress by Merchant and Mills has been around for at least six years I think but I only bought my copy from Anne NewVintageSewing just last year when she was having a destash sale.

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 couldn’t get any ribbing in a colour I was happy with but I found this brilliant wide elastic in MacCullogh and Wallis with it’s pink/beige stripe blending into black.( Can’t find this exact product on their website, I bought it in-store, they do have similar items online though) The next challenge was how to attach it without losing any of the colours.
I tried out laying the elastic over the top of the overlocked edges like this and that seemed satisfactory. I lined up the pink stripe with the O/L stitching underneath which created a suitable overlap.
I tried out a few stitch options and settled on this closed overlock on my Pfaff
It calls for the blindhem foot to be used which meant I could follow the red guide along the stripe.
The finished stitch is nice and stable and looks good too.
The next challenge was neatening the neck but, as you can see from the photo above, the width of the elastic meant it stood away from the neck and was all wavy.
I pinned it on though and had a ponder on how to solve the issue while I went out for a run….
I came up with the idea that if I could get rid of the fullness on the outer edge (like I’ve pinned it out here) then that might work. I sewed the elastic on in the same way I had on the cuffs and hem and pinned evenly and in alignment with each line on the check design.
Next I folded and pinned each pleat evenly, the chalk line and pencil marks where I would start and finish the line.
I used the width of the presser foot as a starting point to sew down to the bottom of the triangle.
a completed triangle.
This is how it looked after I’d sewn all the triangles and I was pleased with the result. The idea worked but now the triangles weren’t flat inside against my neck.
I tried topstitching each one from the outside to see if it would flatten the triangle sufficiently.
It worked! I pushed them all the same way instead of having some going in one direction and some the other.
The end of the elastic was folded over and stitched with two lines at the CB, it ain’t perfect but I’m pretty pleased with end result! I thought I was going to have to settle for an alternative ribbing/binding of some kind on the neck which wouldn’t have linked so well with the hem and cuffs so I’m delighted with how well this has worked out.
I added this gorgeous little label given to me by my friend Alana (and available from Rosy Little Cheeks) on the back, I think it’s perfect, and true!

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.

As I said in an Instagram post, whilst I’m really pleased with he finished result as a garment, I’m not 100% convinced about the fit yet. The fabric is an unusual alternative to traditional sweatshirt fabric, although it creases more and there’s no stretch either but I think it will come to like it. I’ve got plans to make a plain white button-up shirt to go under things this winter (most of mine are over-sized like the sweatshirts!) so I’ll probably layer it up under this, or a roll-neck perhaps?

Anyhoo, that’s one way to elevate a plain top into a slightly more interesting one (IMO!)

Until next time, Happy sewing

Sue

Beautiful People: a new show at the Fashion and Textiles Museum, London

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.

The map at the start shows the locations in and around London of all the boutiques featured in the show, some of them were remarkably short-lived whilst others opened more than one branch, at least for a time.

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.

Beatle George Harrison wearing a formal tailored jacket made using William Morris’ Golden Lilies fabric.
Jimi Hendrix lived in London for 9 months 1968-69 and fully embraced the vibrant lifestyle, including clothes like this ruffled crepe-de-chine shirt. (I can recommend a visit to the Handel Hendrix Museum in Mayfair if you have half a day to spare in London)
The use of floral designs on men’s clothing from the mid sixties onwards demonstrates how gender-fluid fashions were becoming over this period. The shirts were often reminiscent in style of Eighteenth century shirts worn by men with ruffles and frills but such exuberant prints were a new departure.
In 1966 a young Mick Jagger bought an authentic late nineteenth century Grenadier Guardsman’s jacket for approximately £4 from a King’s Road boutique to wear on TV music show Ready Steady Go. After his appearance, the shop promptly sold out of everything they had in stock!
The club UFO was a favourite amongst the hip young ‘set’ and their artwork shows a mixture of Art Nouveau influences and psychedelia.
The print on this shirt is typical of the new designs gaining popularity, this features a montage of images taken from Nineteenth century fairground and circus posters.

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!!

Granny Takes a Trip was one of the best known of these boutiques and traded for a good length of time compared to most. Eventually, during the Seventies, Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood took over the premises and it went through a number of incarnations before becoming her flagship World’s End store.
Hung on You, dapper suits for men
Androgynous men’s wear at Mr Fish
The Beatles even got involved with their Apple boutique.
Of course Biba is the name most synonymous with Sixties boutiques, I overheard several show visitors reminiscing about shopping there and it sounds like a chaotic experience…I can’t stand shopping in Primark because of all the mess, Biba sounds like a Stygian nightmare!
Quorum was another popular hangout
Many of the clothes were not especially well constructed or made using good quality fabrics. They were experimental with new textile developments embracing the likes of Nylon, Lurex, Crimplene and the now-derided Polyester. Of course, at the time, these were terrifically exciting new innovations so it’s easy for us to be sniffy about them now but it released millions from the drudgery of labour-intensive laundry or buying expensive-but-dull clothes which had to last.
Biba and Quorum displays

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.

Men’s tailoring, including green panne velvet.
There’s more than a hint of Glam Rock creeping into these outfits with Lurex and lame a-plenty.
The zigzag design on this dress pre-dated Bowie using it as a part of his Ziggy Stardust persona.
From the late Sixties into the early 1970s many Boho, patchwork, ‘ethnic’ and ‘gypsy’ styles enjoyed huge popularity. They were often pieced together scraps of Indian cottons and silks, this in an era when sustainability had little to do with everyday life and protection of the planet was seen by many as the preserve of slightly cranky individuals…
The Fashion and Textiles Museum was originally the brainchild of legendary British designer Zandra Rhodes so it is only fitting that there are few examples of her own work upstairs to finish.
There are also dresses by other iconic designers of the era including Bill Gibb, and Ossie Clark and his wife, textile designer Celia Birtwell. These designer outfits are much higher quality than many in the show, they are beautifully made using gorgeous fabrics with exquisite details and my photos can’t do them justice.

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.

How’s this for an iconic view of London? You’re welcome!

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.

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Sue

Summing up the Sew Over 50 sustainable sewing challenge.

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
  • vintage textiles
  • textile manufacturing waste
  • fabric swaps in person or online
  • de-stashes
  • 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! 

Some of the guest editors including Jen Hogg, Sue Stoney, Irene Lundell and Tricia Morris

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!

just a few of Sue Stoney’s treasured vintage haberdashery finds

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? 

this blouse using a sheer vintage embroidered table cloth is so pretty

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.

Robyn @robbynu42 was one of many to create some fabulous tiered and ruffled dresses using repurposed fabrics.

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?) 

Marcia is always so colourful, her combinations of vintage textiles are so original and fun.

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. 

Irene wearing her thrifted and dyed with iron and tea denim jacket! It has rusty nail marks to add to it’s charm

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. 

Tricia wearing her denim scraps Sorrento bucket hat by Elbe

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. 

Jen’s 3 shirt shirt!

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 Legg wearing an absolutely beautiful jacket with a really touching story behind it.

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.

Jen’s beautiful jacket made with cashmere ‘slitter’ tape, all carefully pieced to make usable sized pieces big enough to sew into a garment.

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! 

Raquel in one of her remade remakes!

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. 

Judy in one of her carefully pieced garments using men’s suit fabrics

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.

I created this collage of a few of my projects made using thrifted, salvaged, reused, donated or repurposed fabrics at the start of August but I never posted it.

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.

Until next time, 

Happy sewing 

Sue

A return to blogging with a Kingfisher top from The Sewing Revival

There’s been quite a lull in my sewing and blogging of late due to a distinct lack of motivation and generally feeling meh about everything. I don’t know about you but I’m utterly cheesed off with the persistence of the ‘Rona and, whilst I really try to find the positives as much as I can, there comes a time when I’m all out of good thoughts.

Anyhoo, I’ve finally managed to get my act together and to cut out and sew something which is worth blogging about!

You’ll know I use The Sewing Revival patterns a lot, and especially because they are SewOver50-friendly in their representation. Janine kindly offered me a copy of the new and improved Kingfisher top recently so here are my thoughts on it. The original version was one of the first in the Sewing Revival collection and it now features extra variations including 3 sleeve lengths and additional ruffles and frills to gussy it up.

Initially I’d settled on using a length of fabric I bought recently but in the end, whilst searching-sorry-shopping, my stash I came across a length of batik-printed lightweight cotton which had originally been a dress. I bought it as a remnant which was in two different-sized pieces pieces so I joined them right across the weft to make it useable. From that I turned it into a simple ‘pillowcase’ dress with a gathered drawstring top and hemmed at the bottom. Needless to say, this being England, I didn’t get a massive amount of wear from it because our climate is so unreliable. Sadly I don’t seem to have a photo of it now so you’ll just have to believe me.

The Kingfisher has raglan sleeves which are always so nice to make because they are simple and quick to construct. One of The Sewing Revival’s trademarks is to mix a stretch neck band, cuffs or hem with a woven fabric and this top features a ribbed, rounded neck band. But first I had to get all the pieces out of a length of fabric with a join across it at about 50cms in, plus a tear at right angles to the selvedge in another place AND a small hole just near that! I calculated that I could get a pair of 3/4 length sleeves but one would have to have the seam running horizontally across it. Another new feature of the Kingfisher is additional small ruffles to add so, instead of placing them vertically on the sleeves, I opted to cover the seam with horizontal ruffles, that way way both sleeves would look the same. After a bit of pattern Tetris I got everything I needed out including the ruffles. I started by making the sleeves.

Inside the sleeve with the exisiting join running horizontally

Because of the limitations of the fabric the ruffles were only 5cms wide so, in order to lose as little of their width as possible, I finished each edge with a rolled-hem finish on the overlocker. Check your instruction booklet because I’m sure many models will offer this feature, it will involve a few simple adjustments to the settings to achieve. A rolled hem is a quick and attractive way of neatening fine or lightweight fabrics when you can’t afford to lose too much off the edges.

Each ruffle was cut twice as long as the width of the sleeve because the fabric is quite fine and will gather up well. If you are limited for fabric (mine were cut on the straight grain) or if your fabric is quite stiff or thick, then 1.5x the width will be fine. I sewed a rolled hem on both edges of the sleeve ruffles and then ran two rows of a long gathering stitch along the centre line. Make sure the gathers are evenly distributed before sewing the ruffle down, I used a zigzag stitch to sew the ruffle in place.

I created a cuff to finish the sleeve ends by cutting two pieces of fabric from along the selvedge and sewing them on. My original plan was to create an elasticated cuff using a casing but then inspiration struck(!) and I sewed three rows of shirring instead.

Shirring works best on lighter-weight fabrics such as soft cotton-types [lawn, batiste, voile, Swiss Dot, pique, poplin if it isn’t too stiff] also most viscose/rayons, many silks, and fine woollens such as challis. This isn’t a definitive list by any means, basically nothing too thick, or stiff or overly ‘bouncy’. As with anything you’re unsure about I’d strongly suggest sewing a few samples first to see how it goes.

To begin (and these are very much my own thoughts on shirring, you will find many others which might vary to these-trial and error before you start is the best plan of action) you ideally need a bare minimum of 1.5x the eventual finished measurement but as a rule of thumb I would say at least 2 or 2.5x your finished measurement, especially if the fabric is very fine. I also wrote advice on shirring the back of a sundress in a previous blog post which you can still read here.

Gently wind shirring elastic onto your bobbin by hand, do not stretch it as you wind, you will use regular sewing thread on the top as normal. Set your stitch length as long as possible and, sewing on the right side of the work, make sure you backstitch at the start to secure your threads then sew your first row of stitching. Do not backstitch at the end of the row, carefully remove the sewing by gently pulling the elastic out so that there’s enough to tie off the ends eventually. Repeat by sewing parallel to the first row of stitch as many times as you require, I’ve just done three for the cuff. You could draw on the lines using a marker pen or chalk if it will help, I just keep the edge of the foot in line with the previous row of stitching. The work will gradually start to pucker up as you increase the rows. The photo above shows you what it looks like on the reverse.
This is the right side of the cuff, wherever possible work with the fabric flat and then joint it in a seam or to the next piece it’s connected with. It won’t be gathered up enough to start with so hover your hot iron with plenty of steam over the area and it will pucker up a lot more. When it’s gathered as much as it’s going to tie off or backstitch the threads/elastic to secure.
In the photo above, the top cuff is before the steam was applied and the lower cuff is afterwards, you should be able to see that the stitching is a fair bit tighter-looking.
Next I added small ruffles to the front raglan seams, also neatened with the rolled hem finish just on one edge. The rest of the Kingfisher was very straightforward, the ribbing band went on neatly and gives the neckline a nice finish. You could also use bias binding or make facings if you don’t want to deal with stretch but I like it like this.
Close-up of the finished neckline, I think I bought the navy ribbing from Lamazi Fabrics a little while ago.
Sleeve ruffle

I cut this top in a UK10 so it’s a closer fit than some tops I’ve generally made but I’m really happy with the fit, there’s still ample room for comfort and movement. From a fabric that was languishing in a box I’ve concocted a casual top I can wear in warmer or cooler weather.

Thank you to Janine for providing me with the pattern, I hope my review will be helpful, for a such a simple shape there are so many possibilities with it. If you haven’t tried any Sewing Revival patterns I’d definitely suggest you pop over there and take a look, and if you choose to follow any link I’ve created in this post or previous TSR ones, and you then make a purchase, I will receive a modest fee from it. You can also read my previous reviews for the Sidewinder pants, the Heron dress plus a hack, the Bellbird top and the Fantail top and it’s follow-up. If you want any more inspiration use the hashtag #KingfisherTop on Instagram or Facebook. I’ve got plans for a deep-cuff version later in the year, just so long as I don’t have another creative slump…!

Welcome back and thanks for reading this far, I’ll try not to leave it so long next time!

Until then, keep sewing!

Sue