A day out in Stockport

If, like me, you love scrolling through Instagram looking at pics of fabric and frocks and patterns etc, then you may have noticed the appearance of the hashtag #sewover50. It started last summer after a blog post by @susanyoungsewing talking about how older women are under-represented on pattern covers, magazine covers, advertisements etc. This lead to a lively debate from many who felt the same. @judithrosalind created the Instagram account @sewover50 and soon women and men, all around the world were using the hashtag to show that sewing is not just for the bright young things!Susan then contacted Love Sewing magazine and asked if they would be interested in a feature and photo shoot for the mag. Love Sewing said yes and so Judith and Susan put out the call for some like-minded sewists willing to take part,and after mentioning it to my husband, who said ‘go for it’  I put my hand up!

Which is how I came to travel to Stockport, on a very grey and damp November day, with some me-made items in a case, for a photoshoot for a national magazine! There were ten of us, from as far away as Edinburgh and Port Talbot. Some women had been sewing all their lives, some earned their living from sewing and teaching sewing, and some, like me, were home sewists who enjoyed making their own clothes. To be honest, I felt like a terrible imposter. Here I was in a room with people who had so much more experience than me, who had forgotten more than I would ever know. In the weeks before, we had set up an online group chat, so by the time we arrived, it felt like seeing old friends.

There had been much discussion about what to wear for the pics. In the end, I took my rose and spot patterned Joni dress, fabric from TrixieLixie, it’s a dress that makes me feel good when I am wearing it – and surely that’s the measure of a good dress!  Amy Thomas, editor of Love Sewing was there to greet us, with hair and make-up artists too! Amy was so friendly, making us feel at ease and putting us in groups for various photos. Have you ever seen that episode of Friends, where Monica and Chandler have their engagement photos taken, and Chandler can’t smile, and ends up gurning at the camera? Well that was me! Who knew it was so hard to look at the lens, stand up straight and smile all at the same time? It was such a fun day, and since then we have kept in touch, and are hoping to meet up again. I came away inspired to improve my sewing, and with lots of ideas for new makes, new designers to try but more importantly I felt good from spending time with a group of wonderful women. I felt that a conversation had been started, and there was no going back, it was time for designers and publishers to reflect the makers of all ages and sizes. 

If you would like to see these fabulous women and read their thoughts on sewing and life, then get yourself a copy of issue 64 of Love Sewing magazine, it’s in the shops now. And do keep an eye on the #sewover50 hashtag on Instagram, there’s more to come from all of us over50s, all over the world!

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

Nothing Fancy – just a denim skirt!

Hello my lovelies, happy new year to you all. Yes, I know it’s a little late, but this is my first blog of the year, so I feel I can still say that to you.

I have a little hack to share with you today. It is a Miette wrap skirt, pattern by Tilly and the Buttons. You might remember I made and blogged one last summer, but this one has buttons instead of the ties. I really love my summery, purple Miette, and fancied making one in a denim for winter wearing – but I didn’t really fancy the ties. I also omitted the front pockets. The fabric is a lovely light weight, dark coloured denim from TrixieLixie. I pre-washed this fabric – dark denim like this can bleed dye, so be warned! Because I knew I would be wearing it with tights, I decided to line it (nobody likes a clingy skirt!). They have plenty of lining fabric in stock at TrixieLixie, in lots of colours. 

I have used two, a cream and a pale green, and by a happy coincidence they match the fabric I used to line the waistbands – a piece of rosebud print cotton I had left in my scraps basket.

If you follow the pattern instructions, you will cut out various lengths of waistband and attach the ties. Because I wasn’t using ties, I cut the waistband pieces to match the top of the skirt pieces – denim for the outside and cotton for the lining. But I cut the piece that would be on the outer wrap, (my right side) approx. one inch longer than the skirt piece. I omitted the buttonhole at this stage of making (the one where your tie would thread through, if you were using the ties) I did use an interfacing as well, but it wasn’t stiff enough, and my lovely waistband has a tendency to crumple (usually after lunch!) and roll down a bit. I made the lining in the same way as the skirt, and basted it, wrong sides together, to the skirt before attaching the waistband. I hand stitched the waistband lining inside. I do like to sit quietly with a mug of tea and some quiet hand sewing, there is something rather soothing about it, isn’t there?

I also hand sewed the hem of the skirt, but I overlocked the hem of the lining. Once the skirt was fully assembled, I was able to wrap it on me and work out where to put the buttons and the buttonholes. This was quite straight forward, with the help of some tailor’s chalk and pins.

I had two big navy buttons in my button box. Once I had worked that out, I made the buttonholes on my old Singer. This is always an anxious time, for both of us. She prefers to do her 4-stage button holes in the order 2,3,4,1 – which is fine by me, as long as she does them neatly.

So here it is, my new denim, Miette skirt. It’s nothing fancy really, but I do love the shape – it’s just the right A-line shape for me, and it’s just the right shade of denim and so far this winter it’s had lots of wear.  Sometimes nothing fancy is just what you need!

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

The pattern and the fabric were bought at TrixieLixie. I pay for my fabric, but I do get a discount.

2019 aims, goals, objectives.

I have not got a great record for sticking to my New Years Resolutions and I often make plans for sewing projects that fall by the wayside so I have stopped writing lists of what I am going to make, instead I have decided to do 3 things this year that I think are achievable so that I won’t be too disappointed at the end of the year when I look back at what I have done.

Firstly I am going to ‘shop’ my wardrobe, rather than rush to make or buy something to wear all the time I am going to revisit the huge number of (mostly) me-made garments that are already in my wardrobe!

As you can see the rail is straining under the weight of all my clothes!

There are also my Ginger jeans, Boyfriend jeans, numerous tops, blouses and shirts, I cannot stress enough how full my wardrobe is!

My second goal is to finish my ‘works in progress’ (WIPS) I have numerous piles of WIPS in various degrees of ‘progress’, this could be garments that I have washed and prepared the fabric for, possibly even cut out ready to start, or way more often, started but not finished! it would be too embarrassing to show you them all, these are just the ones that I have cut out but not actually started yet!

Has anyone else got this many?

Finally I have decided to try and work my way through my stash rather than buy new fabric for every project – how many other people have got this as a goal for 2019? If I can reduce my pile of boxes to 3 I think that will be a great achievement!

Five boxes in my sewing room alone!

Well there we have it, my aims for 2019, it shouldn’t be too difficult should it?

Fade to Grey

Fade to Grey

Hello sewing friends. Thanks for all the love for the Jonis in my last blog. Despite my moans about the neckband, they have had a lot of wear already. And so, onto my latest make – yes, it is me, you didn’t recognise me in a plain dress, did you? Plain grey? Me? No print, no flowers or purple swirls, no feathers or spots or stripes!! And yes, I am a little out of my comfort zone!!

The pattern is the Fringe dress by Chalk & Notch. It’s a dress I hadn’t heard of until I saw the version made by my Instagram pal @like_my_granny. It is a downloadable PDF of many pages, which means it needs time and space to stick it together and trace it out.

I made view A, with the button placket. View B has a notch neckline. My grey fabric is a cotton chambrey from TrixieLixie, its light and drapey and I needed to pay attention to the right and wrong sides, as it was easy to muddle them up. Compared to some of my recent makes, the Fringe dress was a little more complicated, with more pattern pieces and more stages, but it was quite soothing to lose myself in the process of making it. That’s part of the joy of making our own garments, isn’t it? The making is nearly as important as wearing!

After sewing the darts with the waist ties, and the sleeve cuffs with the button tabs, and the inseam pockets, and gathering the skirt and attaching it to the bodice I tried it on. Oh dear, I know it is supposed to be a relaxed fit, but this was enormous.  I couldn’t put my hands in the side pockets, as they were so far down my thighs that they were almost on my knees!! This poor dress needed some serious structural alterations.

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I took the skirt off, opened the front bodice darts, took out the waist ties. I chopped a whopping two and a half inches off the bodice and an inch off the skirt. I resewed the waist darts making them an inch wider before reattaching the skirt. Finally, I had a dress that fitted – it still has a relaxed fit, but at least now it doesn’t look like I am a toddler wearing a grown up’s borrowed clothes. I sewed the button placket closed as the buttonholes don’t need to open – despite them being the best buttonholes I have ever managed on my old machine.

I wasn’t sure what buttons to use and asked for votes on my Instagram account. My button options were bright red, pearly red ones, pearly purple, bright blue or grey metal ones. Metal won the day, making my grey dress even more grey! Despite being a cotton dress, I think I will get some winter wear out of it, with tights and boots.

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I am already thinking of another, view B with the notch neckline, perhaps in a blue and white ikat print. So, my foray into plain fabrics didn’t last long, did it? Whether you are sewing a plain or a printed fabric, happy sewing to you.

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

 

The Tale of Two Joni dresses

“Hello, this is Joanie, I’m sorry, but I’m not home,

But if you leave me, your name and number,

I promise, soon as I get in I’ll phone”

Hello there, sewing friends, who remembers that little tune? It got to number 6 in the UK charts in 1978? It’s a catchy little song about a chap whose girlfriend (yes, Joanie) is killed in a car crash and he is so keen to hear her voice he calls her landline to hear her answer phone message.  This may sound odd, but in 1978 having an answer machine was a big deal, trust me!

Anyway, as I sewed the first Joni dress I had that song going around my head, not just because it is catchy, but because I feared the dress would be a bit of a wreck too! The pattern is from the latest book Stretch by Tilly and the Buttons, it contains seven patterns all designed for stretch fabrics, starting with a simple tube skirt and ending with the trickiest pattern – Joni, a dress with a twist in the bodice.  I sewed it in a beautiful Art Gallery Fabrics cotton jersey from TrixieLixie, it’s a lovely dark navy with a white feather pattern on it [Petal and Plume Panache Profundo – Jersey].

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The patterns in the book come on thick white paper, so I traced it using greaseproof paper. Once my fabric was cut I started to add the clear elastic to stabilise the shoulders and waist of the bodice pieces, and this, dear readers, is where my troubles began.

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My overlocker just chewed it all up (don’t worry, this was a test piece!) so I ended up having to use my regular sewing machine, with a jersey needle and zig-zag stitch. I found leaving a long tail of elastic helped to keep it in place when starting to sew.

Once the bodice is twisted, the neckband needs to be attached. This is where the tears (and swearing!) really started. Now, I usually find the instructions of Tilly patterns clear, well-illustrated and easy to follow. But I really struggled with this stage. I scoured the internet for reviews and tutorials and got lots of tips from friends on Instagram. I managed to get the neckband on, but it’s not perfect and it was a bit of a fudge! There was a gap between the end of the band and the top of the twist, on both sides, which I folded in and hand-stitched down. The rest of the dress came together easily – I love it when you seam the sleeves, bodice and skirt all in one go. My first Joni was finished, and I do like it, honestly I do, it’s a great shape on me, with a swishy skirt. But some of the seams felt bulky, and that neckband finish irked me, and it all felt less well-made than garments I have made from woven fabrics. So (and I am sure you will understand this, sewing friends) what did I do? I jumped straight back on the Joni horse and cut out another. This is another fabric from TrixieLixie, a lighter jersey with a spots and flowers pattern [Bromley Jersey]. I bought it during our recent #WalesSews meet-up, and I know it was really popular. (Those of you who were there, I am looking forward to seeing what you all make with it!)

This time I used regular white elastic instead of clear at the waist, and ribbon to stabilise the shoulders (much less bulky) and I added the neckband so it is visible, with a zig-zag topstitch. I lengthened it by about 2 cms, and joined it at the centre, which gave me a V above the twist, but I don’t mind. It’s still a neater finish than the first dress.

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And here ends the story of my two Jonis, thankfully with a cheerier ending than that catchy song. Neither are perfect, but I will wear them happily because I like the shape on me and I like the swishy skirt. Now, if I could only get that song off repeat in my head…!

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

Just sewing away obsessively…….

I love sharing my latest makes, but I am a bit of a sewing obsessive, as soon as I finish something I start something new! I am constantly thinking about what I am going to make next! So let me show you what I have been making …………

These are the Sew me something Portia trousers, the fabric is a super soft cotton/linen blend that drapes beautifully. I struggled a bit with the zip on these only to realise that I hadn’t cut out enough facings! Great views of Barrybados in the background! I am also wearing my me made Colette Anise jacket and a huge piece of Liberty silk as a scarf!!

Another recent make is my Deer and Doe Myosotis dress, very comfortable, a great dress for big lunches! I would probably go down a size if I make it again as it is very generous. The fabric is a lush cotton lawn by Lady McElroy available here

I have recently finished a couple of Tilly & the Buttons Cleo pinafores, this one is mine. I made it slightly longer and put the split at the back. I regretted not inserting pockets, although I have been persuaded that front patch pockets will work so watch this space. The denim has a slight stretch so it is really comfortable. I also made a Cleo for my sister, I will try & get a photo of us together in them!

I am also doing a bit of mending after obsessively looking at Japanese mending techniques on Pinterest 😂 does anyone else hate throwing things away! I just love this Sashiko technique!

Anyway, I have got lots of sewing to be getting on with (Tamarack jacket) so I’m off to get on with it!

Wales Sews Meet Up

Well, at the risk of sounding like Enid Blyton, what a jolly splendid day was had by all. Last year I met with three other Instagram sewists in Cardiff, we had a mooch round TrixieLixie and then ate cake and drank tea in the John Lewis café. We had a lovely time, and all agreed to do it again soon. Well, it’s taken us a year, and this time I thought there might be one or two other sewists who might like to join us, so I posted an announcement on my Instagram account – and, well, wow!

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I had replies from over 20 local-ish sewists, and yesterday, on a mild sunny Saturday, 17 of us met at TrixieLixie.  I say met, it was more like an invading hoard. We poured into the shop – don’t worry, Tracy and Stewart were expecting us, and had the kettle boiling and plenty of cakes and bikkies laid out. There were sewists from Llanelli, Swansea, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Newport and Cardiff, of all ages, from university students to retired grandmas.

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It was such a joy to meet the people behind the makes that we knew from IG posts. Some of us had communicated online for years without ever meeting face to face. There were squeals of ‘ooh, you finished your Cleo’ and ‘how did those buttonholes turn out?’, ‘can I see your lining?’  etc. In fact, a sewing meet-up is the only place where you can stroke each other’s clothes, examine seams etc without ending up with a police caution!

After much stroking of fabric and rummaging through all the notions and patterns (TrixieLixie now stock Merchant & Mills and Deer & Doe patterns – but that’s a whole other blog post!) and a lot of purchases, we made our way into the city centre (taking Tracy with us, leaving Stewart to tidy up the shop!). We had another good old mooch around the haberdashery department of John Lewis, before heading up to the top floor café, where they had set aside tables for us to sit, and talk, and eat, and talk and talk.

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There was lots of laughter, and some tears (@made_by_tea agreed to be @mummabmakes’  Sewing Wife, aww) and a lot of discussion about how sewing and Instagram can bring people together, especially as a grown up, when it can be difficult to make new friends. We all agreed to meet up again, soon.

Thank you to TrixieLixie, for your hospitality, and for helping to make new friendships. Happy Sewing!

 

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews