Does Luxury Have To Be Bought?

Happy Sunday everyone, this weekend Adam and I have deep cleaned the house. We made five different lists, one for each space, and we’ve worked HARD. Honestly yesterday we were cleaning solidly for well over 10 hours! We have rearranged furniture, repotted plants, tidied, cleaned, polished, sorted, decluttered and it feels great. Throughout the cleaning process I’ve been considering about how I feel about my possessions and my wardrobe in particular. What things I value and why I value them.

Now I’m sat with a cup of tea and honestly, I’ve got a bone to pick with fast fashion. In my first month of giving up ready-to-wear clothes I have made a conscious effort to consider when I buy clothes and the reasoning behind these purchases. Often I like a shopping trip to cheer myself up or to celebrate a promotion, to purchase a few new items for the next season or just to catch up with friends. Shopping trips like these are normally social occasions or they result in the little emotional purchases that make you feel better. These aren’t too hard to cut out because I can just go do something else with my friends or I can partake in the ultimate endorphin high which is of course fabric shopping . Really the only time I go out or online with the very specific goal of “shopping” is for occasion wear.

In the past, whenever I have had a formal event and don’t know what to wear I hotfooted it on to Missguided or Asos to select something gorgeous, slinky and that could be with me in under three days. Purchasing evening wear like this is of course partly for convenience but also because it has never felt like something I could or should make for myself. When you go to a black tie event you don’t want to feel homemade, when you think of black tie events you think of chic women in Chanel, the idea of a homemade dress in those surroundings is jarring. Or at least this is what the fashion industry has taught us to think. This is how we have been conditioned to feel and it makes me angry because the reality is very different.

On the one hand you have an admittedly expensive designer gown bought in a shop made in one of the standard women’s sizes. Its not shaped to your body, its not designed with you in mind, its designed for their ideal consumer, to reflect their image. On the other hand you have a homemade gown tailored by you for you. You choose the fabric, you choose the pattern, you choose the fit, as garment a home-made evening gown is quintessentially you. If you were to go to a high end event and told people you were wearing a handmade tailored gown they would be impressed, as soon as you mention that the tailor in questions is in fact you that feeling turns to mirth or grudging respect or even worse, requests to make them something similar.

Why should we be made to feel as we aren’t good enough in our me made wardrobes? After all every single piece of clothing is made by somebody, clothes don’t just appear. Honestly, I’m done with it. Of course other people’s opinions don’t really matter if they haven’t got anything nice to say then quite frankly they should shut it but its the fact that this isn’t an isolated one or two people this is an example of social conditioning that is prevalent in books, films, magazines and television, from Cinderella’s homemade dress being torn to shreds to the shopping montage in Pretty Woman. Expensive clothes don’t make a woman and if they do I don’t want to be the kind of woman they make. I will admit there is a joyous sense of giddy luxury in buying yourself something gloriously expensive and decadent but honestly I got the same feeling buying my first proper sewing machine! I get that same feeling when I spend a lot on a dinner for my partner and me, I get that feeling when I book a luxury hotel for a holiday and on those occasions I don’t also receive body-image issues and self-doubt alongside the purchase.

So what am I going to do? You’ve heard the rant, now here is my personal solution. There are two prongs. Firstly, I have reviewed my current evening wear wardrobe and got rid of anything that I don’t absolutely love myself in so if I need a dress super urgently I’ve definitely got something to hand. Secondly, I am aware that occasion wear is a weak area for me because I honestly adore it. So! Last week I bought 2-3m of second hand pale blue satin from a lovely instagram destash account. That fabric has now been stored carefully in my fabric box and I am currently marking appropriate patterns that I own and PDF one’s online that would work with this gorgeous structured mid-weight satin so that if I need a really stunning dress and want something new, I can satisfy those cravings at home and make myself something beautiful tailored and 100% me.

All clothing is made by somebody so my next evening garment might as well be made by me. I will learn a lot by making one and I won’t be contributing to a global system of oppression. Sounds like a win to me!

Fabric Friday Reviews: Sew Sew Sew

Happy Friday Everybody! This week we are talking about the wonderful Sew Sew Sew a purveyor of high quality fabric for adults and children. I recently bought a stunning viscose from Sew Sew Sew and made my wonderful Rhea Dress(below) and I was so impressed that I had to review them next.

Sew Sew Sew

  • Online Shop / Physical Shop / Both
  • Web Link: https://sewsewsew.co.uk
  • Core Purpose: Dressmaking Fabrics
  • Units of Sale for Fabric: 1/2 metre

Let me just say to start, I found the selection of summer fabrics available at Sew Sew Sew utterly tantalising. Their fabrics are very high quality and there is a wonderful selection, the downside of this is that they were somewhat out of my price range. When it came to picking the fabric for my Tammy Handmade Rhea Dress they were my first point of call as I wanted a high quality and draping fabric, something that flows beautifully, I wanted to splash out. However as I needed about 3m I didn’t think I had the money but just my luck there was a stunning blue firework pattern viscose remnant 2.74 metres long. Result! This has to be one of Sew Sew Sew’s great strengths. Their remnants are actually a decent size which makes their fabric accessible to those with lower prices ranges who still want to make something beautiful or treat themselves. When my fabric arrived it was absolute perfection so soft and cool to the touch even in the heat.

The website is sleek and easy to use, the brand identity is strong and interface is fine. Nothing to write home about but competent and simple. Where I feel Sew Sew Sew really excels is in the little things, the delivery was speedy and is priced as a standard flat rate of £3. It arrived beautifully wrapped in lavender crepe paper and arrived with a handwritten note from Katie which I thought was a lovely touch. It honestly made me smile the second I opened the package and I think thats a wonderful feeling to get from a fabric supplier. Sew Sew Sew understand people who buy fabric are doing it for fun, they are doing to make something beautiful and you’re excited to get it! The handwritten notes ties a bow on this feeling and I think its wonderful.

Rating

  • Range of Fabrics – 8/10
  • Cost – 6/10
  • Delivery (Speed / Cost) – 9/10
  • Ease of Use – 7/10
  • Ease of Payment – 7/10

Overall Score: 7.4/10

Sew Sew Sew are a wonderful company selling high quality fabric, they are definitely more expensive than other suppliers but the quality more than justifies the price. I love the little touches of personality and I adore the quality of fabric. It’s a yes from me!

Sewing Project: Bias Cut Top – My First Attempt At Pattern Matching

My last project before I went away was a bias cut chevron top. This garment falls into the category of a simple yet deceptively difficult make. Now of course there aren’t many difficult techniques of garment construction involved, what makes this difficult is a) pattern matching and b) working on the bias.

Project Details

  • Pattern: Bias Cut Top, GBSB From Stitch To Style
  • Fabric: Daisy Striped Viscose, Rainbow Fabrics Kilburn

Step 1: Pattern Cutting

I kid you not it took me well over an hour to cut these pattern pieces and it was nerve wrecking. The aim of this garment was not only to create a top on the bias to create a chevron pattern from my striped fabric. On top of that, as you will see from the fabric below, I made things even more difficult for myself because my stripes were not even. They are in groups of diffident widths and numbers so matching to an incredibly long time. To pattern match a chevron on the bias you need to cut your pattern pieces at right angles diagonally, and honestly I used my first pattern pieces cut my second to ensure the match. Eventually I gained enough confidence in my matching skills and cut my pieces but it really was a learning curve. Pattern matching is something I’ve avoided for years because I didn’t think I could do it but this garment has increased my confidence and shown me that I shouldn’t be scared of new techniques! Everything is a chance to improve.

3 Things I’ve Learnt About Pattern Matching
  1. It takes TIME. Seriously it took me an hour to cut out my pattern pieces because I spent so long making sure that the stripes lined up. I made things even more difficult for myself than I realised.
  2. Iron your fabric beforehand to make sure that you can match accurately and remember to include your seam allowances.
  3. Transfer your directional markings on to the pattern pieces, it’s such a help when pattern matching on the bias and particularly when you are creating a chevron.

Step 2: Stay Stitch The Neckline

As always an incredibly important step but no less so when working on the bias as you want to make sure that your garment doesn’t warp. At the time I felt like Ihad done this well but afterwards I realised that it wasn’t my best work. This is entirely because I went to fast and allowed the viscose to slip and slide all over the place as it often does. Even more so when working on the bias. In fact this project has made me reflect on how rarely I cut anything on the bias. One of the wonderful things about this project is that it has helped me to understand my fabric better and the literal mechanics of fabric use.

3 Things I’ve Learnt About Working On The Bias
  1. There is a lot more mobility that you think there will be. Even in stiff fabric the bias still provides a lot of stretch so just imagine how I was working with a slippery viscose. I had to handle the fabric incredibly carefully to ensure it didn’t warp as I sewed it.
  2. If you’re pattern matching on the bias use a lot of pins and sew slowly. Louder for everyone at the back. Sew slowly, sew carefully, keep both hands on the fabric and match carefully as you go.
  3. Cut a single layer of fabric at a time and if possible use a rotary cutter and mat, this stops the fabric from shifting or stretching when you cut it.

Step 3: Centre Seams

Take your time matching your front and back centre seams and sew slowly with control. Make sure your machine doesn’t pull the layers of fabric apart at all and continue to check the match as you go. I went so slowly and carefully at the time I had to keep reminding myself to breathe but the sense of relief when I finished sewing and took it over to the iron was unbelievable. Remember to sew the back just as carefully at the front and if you want one tip, especially for matching chevrons, start sewing the seam from the top of the garment down, this makes sure that if anything does move it won’t spoil the finish at the neckline.

Step 4: Shoulder Seams & Side Seams

I forgot to take pictures of these as I went because I was so focused but here they are on the machine. Treat these carefully as you don’t want to warp the shoulder of the garment or stretch the silhouette. Shoulder seams press towards the back so you can include both sides of the seam in the neck bind and in the armhole hem.

Step 5: Bias Binding the Neckline

Now this top contained a lot of firsts for me, I’d never worked on the bias, I’d never done pattern matching and I’ve never really used bias binding let alone made my own. I’ve learnt a lot from this, I’m proud of my first go but it definitely isn’t quite right. When I look at the photo below and the garment itself I can see that I’ve bound the raw edge but not actually bound the neckline, you can’t see the binding which is a mistake. Next time I will definitely be pressing my binding more carefully so that its easier to use.

3 Things I’ve learnt about Bias Binding
  1. You’ve got to treat it gently especially if you’ve made your own and cut it carefully, its got to be even.
  2. Stitch slowly and carefully around the neckline so you don’t stretch it as you bind.
  3. Cut it carefully and iron it out fully before you fold it and then iron in the folds.

Step 6: Finish Raw Edges

The final step is just to finish the arms and bottom hem. Depending on the weight of your fabric you could use a double hem or, as I’ve done, just a quick rolled hem. Then you have your very own bias cut top!

I adore this top and I’m very proud of it but there are definitely a couple of bits I would change if I made it again. The fit is nice but I think the neckline is a little high for my figure so I would make it slightly deeper. My sewing has improved just making this top and I would definitely consider a garment with pattern matching again albeit with caution and careful fabric choice. Let me know what you think in the comments below, love pattern matching, hate it, have certain tricks you use? Tell me everything. Until then, go forth and pattern match!

2 Hour Sewing Project: Sew Simple Gwen Top

Happy Monday Everyone! I am half way through my week off from work and I’m feeling good. The stress is starting to dissipate and I’m beginning to really enjoy my time away. We are still in Colchester so no live sewing for moment but I want to talk about a top I whipped up in 2 hours last Sunday and it’s one I am really proud of. We all have those moments when inspiration runs dry, when we just can’t think what to sew and none of our projects are appealing to us. On those days it can be hard to find the enthusiasm for a single stitch, I had tried to pattern draft for another project but I was just too tired so I had a lie down. Adam and I then had a chat about what I could make and in particular what my current wardrobe lacks. The answer to this is actually pretty easy. I really lack tops. I have knitwear coming out of my ears and plenty of shirts and fancy going out tops but I have very few just tops. There aren’t many t-shirts that I feel comfortable wearing and most of my evening tops are more drinks than office appropriate neither are they especially comfortable. I don’t need any more dresses for the moment so tops seemed a good place to start.

Out of desperation to do something sewing related I had a little look through my sewing magazine, just browsing really, when I came upon one of the free patterns that week. A lightweight batwing top which would be perfect for my red viscose crepe remnant from Sew Me Sunshine! The pattern said it required 1.5m but I can confirm that, at least for a size 8, 1 metre is absolutely fine. I gave myself 2 hours and just went for it, I didn’t really want to plan or think about it, i didn’t want to make too much of a production of it, I just got a cup of tea and starting sewing. I had been lacking inspiration all weekend and I just wanted to make SOMETHING to break the deadlock. I was a bit nervous, especially as I’ve never printed an A0 pattern at home, but I am really pleased with the result. Its not the neatest garment in the world but it was a very quick and easy make and I would definitely recommend the pattern for beginners or anyone who wants to start in the morning and wear the garment out to lunch.

Project Details
  • Fabric: Red Spotty Viscose Crepe, Sew Me Sunshine (1m Remnant)
  • Pattern: Sew Simple Gwen Top
  • Sew Time: 2.5 Hours

Step 1: Cut Out The Never-Ending A0 Pattern

This honestly was the longest step of the entire project. I had to print out 20 pages, cut all the edges off the A4 pieces, tape them together then cut out the actual pattern pieces. It definitely reminded why I get my PDF patterns printed in A0 by somebody else and sent to me! Honestly though I didn’t mind too much because the pattern itself was free and it was a quick Sunday night make. I ended up with something like this. I didn’t want to waste sellotape and we have a hold load of parcel tape so its not very pretty but it did even up as well structured(if hard to fold) pattern pieces.

Step 2: Cut Out The Pattern Pieces

One of the things that makes this pattern so quick and easy is that there are only two pieces for this garment, front and back. I could have done with sharper scissors because no matter how simple the project is viscose is always slippery.

Step 3: Shoulder Seams & Side Seams

The first step is to carefully stay stitch the necklines 1cm in from the edge, as above, and then stitch the shoulder seams and press open. Move on to the side seams, stitch and press again. The side seams in this garment are less that 6 inches long because this top is about 90% sleeve!

Step 4: Finish Raw Edges

The pattern asked for bias binding however that would have been far too heavy on my fabric so I just did rolled hems everywhere and I think it worked very well with the viscose crepe. And you’re done! Thats genuinely it. A simple, easy sew that produces an flattering and attractive garment. I was so happy with it that I even went out in the thunder storm to get pictures

This top was quick, easy and didn’t require too much brain power. I love the drape, I adore the neckline and its a wonderful pattern to just make without having to think or plan or toile. It would also make an excellent remnant buster as you really can squeeze it out of a metre. It looks great with jeans or shorts and you could even tuck it into a pencil skirt for work. This pattern is a massive win in my book and I would recommend it to absolutely everybody who sews. If you just need an easy win then this pattern is for you.

6 Tips To Start Sewing: Advice for Beginners

Happy Sunday everyone, bit of a life update, this weekend I am writing to you from Essex! We have come to visit Adam’s family for a few days to get out of the house. For the first time in 5 months I’m somewhere other than our house, but we are still being very careful as I’m asthmatic and have been shielding. I was meant to be flying home on Thursday to see family however due to some moronic Aberdeonian footballers and my mum’s extremely vulnerability to covid, my trip has been cancelled. Adam’s parents invited us here instead and they even picked up us in the car to keep us safe! So Adam and I will be going for lots of walks in the Essex countryside, relaxing and getting some much fresh air.

Recently I’ve engaged with some fantastic makers on Instagram, both complete beginner sewists and very experienced dressmakers. I’ve given and received advice online and found so much inspiration for my sewing and it got me thinking. What would I have wanted to know when I started sewing? I was extremely lucky to have my very talented mum on hand teaching me the basics when I first started and I am still lucky that I can call her whenever I encounter a technique that I find vastly confusing. A lot of people don’t have that resource and there are so many different paths towards sewing, there is no right way as long as you are enjoying yourself thats all the matters. I was really interested to find out what advice others had for beginners and where better to ask than Instagram! I posted a question on my stories and I got loads of wonderful responses from a diverse range of sewists. I have collated their feedback along with thoughts of my own into the 6 tips below. Remember the best way to start sewing is just to go for it. Have fun and don’t feel bound

“Don’t be scared of your machine” – We have seam rippers for a reason

This is a major one because if you’re too scared of making a mistake you won’t enjoy yourself and you won’t progress. Just go for it! One of the wonderful things about sewing is that there are very few mistakes that can’t be fixed especially when you’re a beginner. If you’re worried start your sewing journey with stable fabrics like cotton and then when are happier with your skills you can move on to sloppier fabrics or fabrics that fray easily. Make friends with your seam ripper, you’re going to need it and remember that Even people who have sewed for decades still have t9 unpick things. It’s normal,it’s part of sewing so embrace the mistakes and learn from them. What I’ve learnt even in the last three months is that I need a roatarycutter for slippy fabrics, that you really really should prewash jersey/stretch fabrics and that I need a more ergonomic seam ripper!

If in doubt make a toile and use cheap fabric – “Don’t restrict yourself to pattern difficulty but use cheap fabric first

This was a great reminder that came through on Instagram, don’t just do the things that beginner plastered all over them. Sure it’s definitely a good place to start but don’t limit yourself. If you want to try an advanced pattern but you’re worried take it slow and make a toile. I make all,y toilets from calico because the stability of the fabric allows me to really practice techniques and see what they look like. Embrace your toile, I always use contrasting thread on my toilet so I can see what I’m doing wrong or how a finish looks. It helps to check how neat your stitches are and . As my mum once reminded me, if you’re making a calicotoile you can just write on it if you need to. Whether that’s writing front and back or in my case, right side/ring side when I was struggl with inserting sleeves. Your toile is your canvas to make as many mistakes on as you want. You don’t have to make one every time but if you’re worried it definitely helps.

“Youtube is your friend!” “Don’t be afraid to ask for help”

I chose to include both of these o the same line because they are the same. There is a massive sewing community out there full of experts, talented amateurs and literal dressmaking teachers. I promise someone else will have had the problem you’re having or is asking the same question as you. On my Instagram I always make a point of asking for advice and then reposting any advice I receive to help anyone else who is struggling. There are some wonderful youtube channels and blogs about techniques out there as well as workshops you can book onto in sewing studios across the UK. Videos are great if you want to clarify a technique, workshops are better if you want to learn to make a specific garment, e.g. the bra making workshop I went on in January, or to do a masterclass in garment fitting for example. Studios like The NewCraftHouse do loads of great workshops throughout the year and are well worth a look.

Get an iron – you think you don’t need one much BUT YOU DO

A few people mentioned this one in passing but I really wanted to focus on it. Most people think you only need a sewing machine to start sewing but thats not true, you must have an iron as well. You will use it just as much as your machine if not more sometimes. At the moment I am sewing with a lot of viscose and I honestly couldn’t manage without a hot iron on constant standby. Buy an iron on amazon and if you don’t have space for an ironing board, like me, get a table top ironing board or a reversible cutting mat that you can iron on.

“Pick a project you love and make it something you will actually wear”

This is super important. Don’t just make things because you need something to make, that way demotivation lies. When you having an inspired moment take a second to right a list of garments you’d like to make one day, they don’t have to be specific patterns, they can be things like; maxi dress, wrap skirt, blouse etc… so that when you aren’t sure what to make next you have a point of reference. Also save patterns or garments that you see on instagram to act as inspiration. Make things you are genuinely excited to wear, things you’ve always wanted but could never afford or could never find a version that fit you perfectly. You don’t just have to sew the exact pattern either, you can stick patterns together, remove sleeves, change hems, alter necklines, whatever you feel you need to do to make your perfect garment!

“Just go for it and remember to have fun!”

This piece of advice came from so many people but its also my number one tip. Unless this is your business, relax and have fun. Its a hobby! Don’t beat yourself up about every single mistake, have a laugh, unpick your seams and learn from it. Pick patterns you really want to make and fabric that makes your heart sing the same. Take your time choosing buttons, zips and threads, enjoy haberdashery, want that fabric? buy it. Have a dream garment you want to make? Go for it! Whenever you are feeling down or your sew-jo is lacking try to remember why you sew and crucially why you enjoy sewing. When I’m lacking motivation I like to pick a project I can do in one day, put my hair in a messy bun, get a massive cup of tea and spend the whole day sewing. Whatever you’re sewing remember to have fun and enjoy yourself.

I will keep consolidating information on my instagram so do give me a follow @sowhatifisew and check out my highlights where I always post any technical information. Above all sewing should be fun and relaxing so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve only just started. Next week when I get back from holiday I’m going to do a thread on Instagram asking for the stupidest sewing mistakes everyone has ever made so we can all have a laugh and learn from each other. Have a great week everyone and remember to have fun!

Fabric Friday Reviews: Sew Me Sunshine

Happy Friday everybody, you know what that means, its review day! This week we are talking about the wonderful fabric retailer Sew Me Sunshine. About a month ago, I bought two beautiful remnants from them and I finally got around to using both of them this week so I thought they should definitely feature next. 

Sew Me Sunshine

  • Online Shop / Physical Shop / Both
  • Web Link: https://sewmesunshine.co.uk
  • Core Purpose: Dressmaking Fabrics, Haberdashery & Sewing Equipment
  • Units of Sale for Fabric: 1/2 Metre

Normally I start by talking about the fabric range and quality but this week I am going to launch straight in to tell you how impressed I was by their delivery and packaging. They are the ONLY fabric retailer that I have used so far who has used completely sustainable and non-plastic packaging. My order came in a brown kraft paper bag and inside the order was wrapped in tissue paper. Free with my order I received a cute postcard and a project planning card which I thought was a lovely touch. The delivery was also very speedy considering the current circumstances!

Anyway on to the shop itself. The range of fabrics is excellent, its definitely on the pricier side but the fabrics are excellent quality and worth the money. When I was a complete beginner I wouldn’t have bought fabric there because I wouldn’t have made anything well enough to justify the expensive however as an intermediate sewist their choice of fabrics excites me. As we are in a pandemic and no one’s job is safe I am of course still cost conscious so I was just going to have a nose around the website and not buy anything, that is until I saw that they had a remnants tab. And oh my goodness, what remnants. Normally remnants areas have half a metre of this or a fat quarter of that, but they have a well stocked remnants section and I managed to get two amazing remnants, both about a metre for under £20 including delivery which considering the cost of most of their fabrics I was super impressed with. This week I used both of them for different styles of tops, the first to make my red batwing top and the second to make my new cream shell top (vlog coming out tomorrow!), and I can confirm that the fabrics are as good quality as they seem.

swipe to see both makes

One caveat is that both of my fabrics were types of viscose so I can’t attest to their other choices but I wouldn’t imagine they follow the same high standard. Their range of fabrics is good and they even have technical/outdoor fabrics which I thought was a nice touch. Not a massive selection but its nice to see them there. Fabric is bought by the half metre generally and delivery is a fixed cost of £3 and there is free delivery on orders over £60 a threshold which I personally feel is too high however i do admire their commitment to sustainability. Their website is bright and friendly and invites you in to buy more fabric from them. The web interface is excellent and payment was quick and easy which is all you can ask for really. I would say that I haven’t had the same engagement from them on social media that I’ve had from other brands, however they do have a business hashtag for makers #sewingsunshine where it is possible to win a gift voucher for £20.

Rating

  • Range of Fabrics – 8/10
  • Cost – 6/10
  • Delivery – 9/10
  • Ease of Use – 8/10
  • Ease of Payment – 8/10

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Overall Sew Me Sunshine are high on my recommended list, the provide a quality service in line with modern approaches to sustainability and they stock an excellent range of fabrics. Their stock is quite costly so approach with caution if you are a beginner and you aren’t sure of your skill level but also definitely raid their sale and remnants section, its well worth it. Sew Me Sunshine are an impressive brand and i love the little personal touches in the delivery and the about section on the website, you really get the impression that Harriet is someone who understands her client base and truly cares about customers. Now I’m off to raid their remnants section before I go on holiday and I will see you guys next week when we will discuss Sew Sew Sew!

Tammy Handmade Rhea Dress & My First Sewing Vlog

Hello everyone, its been quite the week so far and its only Tuesday! I launched my sewing YouTube channel, So What If I Sew on Sunday and I’ve already nearly got 100 followers. Thank you so much to everyone who has followed me so far, if you haven’t, go check out my channel, my intro video is below. Also you might have noticed but the blog has had a major makeover, I have been doing a lot of web design at work and I decided to put my new skills to the test with the blog. So a very busy weekend all round.

Two weeks ago I made my very first garment on my gorgeous new machine and it was fantastic fun. In fact that is what prompted me to start the YouTube Channel, I started to make the Rhea Dress from Tammy Handmade and I was trying to think about how I would write the blog for such a big project and then I realised that I could just talk about it to camera. I was very nervous so I asked on Instagram if people would be interested in a Sew-A-Long and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

It was quite an experience having never vlogged before but I actually really enjoyed it. It was exciting to share the process of creating a garment on my machine and I feel comfortable on camera, It’s like I can just have a chat with you all about what I’m making while I’m doing it. You can follow my highs and lows, see me talk about techniques I’m using and follow an honest and realistic journey as I make my garment. Like what you’re hearing? Then go ahead and subscribe to my YouTube! Below you will find my vlog and first ever sew-a-long for the Rhea Dress and this post will be mostly notes on the process of making it.

On to the dress itself. The Rhea Dress is a gorgeous tiered midi dress with straps. The construction is simple and elegant and its deceptively easy, suitable for beginners. I received the pattern after a friend who I tagged in an instagram giveaway received it instead and passed it on to me. I bought a stunning remnant from Sew Sew Sew online, I needed 2.5m of fabric for this dress and I managed to find a stunning blue viscose remnant in a firework pattern that just happened to be 2.74m long! I wasn’t especially concerned about the pattern itself but I was nervous about the gathers because prior to this video I had never done them. If you are nervous about gathering then this dress is a fantastic project! Not only is it a simple introduction to gathering but by the time you’ve finished you’ve done so much gathering that you’ll never be nervous about it again.

Good Points On The Pattern?

  • The pattern has a very flattering shape, I was doubtful as to whether it would suit me but i felt so graceful and elegant swishing around in this dress. It doesn’t cling but the drape still gives a nice silhouette.
  • It’s a quick and easy sew. I spread mine across two days and as I was filming it took longer because I talked through each stage. It is a simple sew in terms of technique. The gathering takes time because of the sheer volume of the skirt but you could probably do it in a day if you’re experienced.

Things to be aware of

  • The pattern is very loose by design, its got that boho, loose fitting, flowing silhouette but that does mean that you may need to size down. I definitely needed to make adjustments as you will see in the video but I’m glad i made a 10 and then adjusted it to my frame.
  • The straps are quite long and very hard to adjust once you’ve inserted them so I would advise either making a toile of the entire bodice or just measuring your torso beforehand and shorten the straps accordingly.

I had a marvellous time both making the dress and vlogging, in fact I’m recording my next vlog at the moment! I have had such wonderful support from everyone so far in the online sewing community. In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of projects to upload to the blog including one surprise home make so look out for lots of posts coming your way.

Living Without Fast Fashion: Why Do Brands Send You So Many Emails?

It’s a grey, rainy morning in Surrey and I am sat at my desk deleting emails. I know, what a riveting start to a blog post. Since I gave up fast fashion I’ve got to find something to do with my time! The emails I’m deleting are the endless missives from desperate brands with eternal sales trying to make me buy their clothes. I hate to say it but in my weaker moments these emails work on me. I have to delete them without reading them because otherwise I will be knee deep in the French Connection sale before you can say ‘fast fashion’. The emails are a problem, particulary the frequency, but they are not the root, they are entirely symptomatic of the way we consume fashion.

I would argue that in a lot of ways purchasing has been reduced down to pure impulse. Very rarely do we consider what we already own or if we will even wear it, we just get tempting offers with bright ‘girl power’ slogans fired straight into our inbox telling us to treat ourselves. Due to advances in online shopping technology, its entirely possible to go from receiving an email to buying a garment within 5 minutes all on your phone. Of course you can unsubcribe, but often its not about not wanting to receive the emails, its more than most of us don’t even think about them.

What I’ve realised since making a concrete effort to renounce fast fashion is that, the email isn’t just an email. The email gives you permission to browse, it gives you the justification, ‘but there’s a sale on’ or ‘I’ll just look at the new collection’ and then before you know it you’re buying an entire winter wardrobe. It’s often not even about resisting the emails, its about becoming conscious of them and their purpose. It’s absolutely fine if you want to receive the emails and actually use them as a purchasing tool, you do you! But if you are trying not to consume then unsubscribing is the first step and as I do want to give up fast fashion and absolutely refused to be beset by fast fashion brands in my own home, unsubscribing is what I shall be doing.

As I’ve told people about my commitment to give up fast fashion, I’ve had some supportive reactions and some of genuine confusion. Let me get one thing straight, I love shopping and my friends know that. I actually find it relaxing although occasionally irritating when you can’t find jeans that would fit an average human female under 5’4″ with hip bones. Crucially though I like shopping in person, I don’t often buy clothes online and if I do I often regret it. My number one reason for online shopping pre-lockdown was for occasion wear. I’m definitely not an ASOS haul person. It feels dedicant and wasteful to buy that much online without even trying it on and to be honest it feels desperate. Shopping for me is an experience. It’s going out with my mum or my friends, it’s physically going into shops, touching clothes for quality, trying on new things and going out for lunch. Its an occasion. That’s most likely why I find these emails so jarring, they don’t fit with my experience of shopping. For me its not about convenience, if I go for a shopping trip the trip itself is an integral part of the experience. In a lot of ways it makes it easier, if I don’t go into shops, I wont shop, simple.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I am approaching giving up fast fashion as I would with a major life change, holistically. From figuring out my what my own style looks like to literally not budgeting in shopping money, I’m trying to find the ways that fast fashion has permeated my life and how I can make the shift. Removing myself from as many subscription lists are possible is my first prong of attack. As these emails do work on me, its vital that trigger to consume is removed. So here’s my first piece of advice if you’re trying to give up fashion as well, if you’re looking to start giving up fast fashion, start by unsubscribing from your favourite brands. It doesn’t matter if you love them, you can always visit the website of your own volition but remove the email trigger. It’s the same premise as stopping a snack habit by just not buying snacks.

Instead I am directing that urge towards buying fabric and then imposing a fabric limit. I bought a lot at once and now I have a couple of months worth of projects to work on. I am going to celebrate every make and ensure that come September I start making things appropriate to the season so I don’t have to go out and buy a winter wardrobe, another weak point of mine in the shopping calendar.

So after my marathon session of unsubscribing I’m going to make a cup of tea and start some sewing. I’ve got a massive project coming up and I can’t wait to get started. Build that excitement over every make the same way you do for a big purchase. The release is the same you’ve just got to train your brain and remember that no one, no one else will have what you’re wearing if its me-made. See I think that giving up buying fast fashion clothes is the easy part, disengaging with fast fashion culture? Now thats the hard bit.

Fabric Friday Reviews: Pound Fabrics

Happy Friday everybody and you know what Friday means, it’s review day! Today we are talking about Pound Fabrics, a retailer absolutely renowned in their for their low prices and high fabric quality. I stumbled upon Pound Fabrics by accident on instagram and decided to explore their website, where I bought the beautiful red cotton shown above.

Pound Fabrics

  • Online Shop / Physical Shop / Both
  • Web Link: https://poundfabrics.co.uk/
  • Core Purpose: Dressmaking & Home Fabrics and Patterns
  • Units of Sale for Fabric: 1metre (N.B. minimum 3m order)

Initially I was unsure about Pound Fabrics as their prices are very low and I absolutely hate anywhere that makes me have a minimum order, that is a personal bias of mine, but its worth knowing as a consumer that Pound Fabrics will require a 3 metre minimum order for the vast majority of their fabrics. I’m always honest in these reviews and initially this put me off however then I looked into their about section to understand why. The original purpose of Pound Fabrics was to provide a cheap dressmaking fabric outlet, an online pound fabric shop, as they recognised that sewing and dressmaking has the power to be an exceptionally expensive hobby. Originally they sold all their fabric as £1 per metre with a 3 metre minimum so you could get 3 metres for less than one metre at most other shops. They have now widened their selection to include some higher priced ranges but the £1 section is still there and thriving.

They also have a bundles section where you can buy mystery 15 metre fabric bundles in lots of different types of fabrics, e.g. stretch bundle, viscose bundle etc. This is something I really want to try in the future, I would do it now but I’m in a self-imposed fabric embargo period as I’ve bought too much fabric and I need to get through it first! It may end up being something I do as a birthday present to myself in the Winter.

The website is simple and the branding may not be very elegant but it gets the job done and the interface is very user friendly. I have to say a word about the mobile shopping interface which is quite frankly fantastic. There are no fussy membership requests, you can choose your fabric and buy it within minutes. I do always try and test mobile and desktop interfaces and I would argue that their payment system is better on the phone but actually viewing fabric is a lot easier on a computer. The delivery from Pound Fabrics was extremely slow however as I’ve said on other reviews, don’t pay too much attention to that as we are very much still in the grip of a coronavirus pandemic and therefore post is obviously goig to be slower and they do warn you of that on the website clearly.

One thing that is genuinely really impressive is their range of fabrics, you can get almost any type of fabric at a mostly reasonable cost. My one quibble would be that the red cotton I bought wasn’t fantastic quality and the photograph of the fabric gave a false impression of the size of the pattern however as I only bought one type of fabric from them I can’t pass judgement over all of their stock. This was my experience and I will definitely try them again in future but maybe for different fabric types such as stretch and jersey. From my own experience, I would advise to shop with caution when it comes to photography of the fabrics to make sure you are getting what you ordered.

Rating

  • Range of Fabrics – 10/10
  • Cost – 9/10
  • Delivery (Speed / Cost) – 6/10
  • Ease of Use – 7/10
  • Ease of Payment – 7/10

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10

The thing is that I believe in the Pound Fabrics dream, I do. I want to believe in the low cost/high quality idea but the evience so far to me is that the quality doesn’t quite match that ratio. Don’t get me wrong its still good fabric and it is very affordable so it is fulfilling the mission statement but I would rather pay slightly more for better quality cotton. After all, one of the joys of making your own clothes is revelling in the luxury of choosing the perfect fabric for the perfect pattern and making it fit you. However I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and I will buy from them in future because I want to explore their range of fabrics for quality and cost. So the fat lady has not yet truly sung in this review, I will review again in the future and I will buy some wools, jerseys and winter fabrics and do another quality test.

Thanks for joining me for another Friday review! Next week we will be talking about beautiful viscose from Sew Sew Sew and gorgeous personalised delivery.

Sewing Machine Review: John Lewis JL110SE

Last Thursday my beautiful shiny new sewing machine arrived and I had to confront reality. While I had been looking forward to the new garments I would explore with a more advanced machine, I did have a pang of nostalgia when I looked over at my little red sewing machine. Sat next to the almost Sci-Fi sequence frontage of my new machine, it was like looking at a horse and cart next to the Starship Enterprise. Now I wouldn’t say that I regret buying my new machine for one second. No the feeling is more like leaving junior school and starting senior school. It’s not a bad change, its a natural advance but there is still a sense of saying goodbye and it has to be said that I got a little weepy when I boxed up my old red John Lewis model. When I considered how best to process these feelings I hit upon the idea of reviewing the machine I’ve spent so long getting to know. My aim is to provide an honest and hopefully even-handed review highlighting both the positive aspects but also the little irritating things I noticed as a long time user and why I am looking to upgrade.

The first time I saw the red John Lewis JL110SE was in Buchanan Galleries, a huge shopping centre in central Glasgow. My mum had been teaching me to sew at home and I was really starting to enjoy it, to love and be intrigued by sewing. I saw that little red machine and fell totally in love. Next to all the big grown up white machines it looked fun and quirky and friendly. Sewing can be an extremely intimidating world as a beginner, to start with there is a whole language barrier of terms and techniques plus fabrics, patterns and notions the facts that all seem achingly complicated. You look at your ready to wear clothes baffled as to how a person could have actually constructed the grment from scratch. I think that’s why I have such a sense of nostalgia with this machine, I received it for Christmas in 2016 and I basically taught myself to sew with it. It was my friend, albeit one I shouted at a lot and swore at occasionally when my bobbin had run out and I hadn’t noticed. Above all it the was a fantastic machine to learn on as a beginner and that really is where I have to start this review. The JL110SE is the perfect machine for beginners because you can pick it up and start sewing straight away with minimal experience. My machine didn’t even come with a manual and I could still set it up fairly easily. Now that’s not to say that this machine is without its flaws but simple, affordable and easy to use, this machine is the perfect companion for your first forays into sewing.


John Lewis JL110SE

  • Weight 6kg
  • 14 Stitch Options
  • Twin Needle can be used but it doesn’t come with one.
  • Special Edition comes in lots of different colours
  • Comes With: standard and buttonhole foot, seam ripper, spare bobbins and spare needles.

Top 4 Things About This Machine

1. Price

In terms of beginner sewing machines, you really can’t beat this model for price. When I first got mine in 2016, the standard white JL110 was £89 and the special edition was slightly more ( I think £99?) now in 2020 the price has risen to £120 but that is standard across JL110 and JL110SE. A price rise of only £31 in four years is not bad. John Lewis are actively trying to keep this machine accessible for beginners which is to their credit.

2. Reliability

Honestly in 4 years I’ve not encountered a single fault in the machine or encountered any problems that weren’t actually my fault to begin with. I think of mine as old faithful because it just keeps going. If sewing machines were animals this one would be a cart horse. Just plodding along and doing its job for as long as you need it. I would recommend this machine based on its reliability if nothing else.

3. Very Simple & Easy To Use

There are so few options on this machine that it is almost impossible to set it up wrong. The set-up arrows are numbered, there are two dials, one to select your stitch and one to alter stitch length, there is a tab to backstitch and a stitch tension dial with the standard tension settings ringed in a box. Thats it. The bobbin mechanism is simple; to fill you place the bobbin on the winder on top and slide it to the left and use the pedal as standard. Then you place the bobbin in the metal case underneath, pull the thread through and away you go. One of the joys of this machine is that it is so simple and has nothing extra that very little can go wrong.

4. Stitch Selection Is Surprisingly Good

There aren’t too many stitch options, only 14, which is nice because 60+ stitch options can be very intimidating as a beginner and honestly you don’t need them. Even as an advanced sewist you don’t need most of those stitches but as a beginner it can be absolutely baffling. One of the functions I like about this machine is the sliding scale for zig zag stitches and the variety of basic embroidery stitches. So if you want to start experimenting with decorative stitching you have that option but equally the main range of stitches are solid and simple to understand.

Overall this machine is simple to set up, easy to use, affordable and as there’s very little extra functionality there’s very little to go wrong, it really is the perfect beginner machine.

Why Am I Upgrading?

The machine can’t handle heavy fabrics

This isn’t the fault of the machine, it clearly states on the website that this machine is designed for light to medium weight fabric and now I need to be able to do thicker fabrics like denims, tweeds, wool and coating for the autumn so I need a machine that can handle it. This machine just doesn’t have the weight or the power in the motor to get through thicker fabrics but thats okay because its not meant to! It is however one of the top reasons that I have chosen to upgrade.

The 3 Step Buttonhole is genuinely infuriating

Cards on the table, I’m not a fan of buttonholes and this machine doesn’t do anything to help. Put it this way, one of my big priorities with a new machine was a 1-step buttonhole. On the JL110SE Option 1 is meant to be the left hand side of your buttonhole, its a straight forward stitch that you can reverse, Options 2&4 are bar tacks for the top and bottom of the buttonhole, all good so far, its Option 3 that is my greatest bug bear. Option 3 is a backward stitch for the right hand side of your buttonhole. Here’s the thing though, IT ONLY GOES BACKWARDS. If you try to reverse it with the backstitch tab it still only goes backwards and that is honestly infuriating. There is no world in which you dont need to go over your stitches a few times for a buttonhole so why oh why does this function exist? Can you tell this has been on my mind for a while…!

Bobbin thread catch is really unreliable

The bobbin thread sometimes catches absolutely fine but sometimes it takes over 5 minutes to get the bobbin thread to catch when I replace the thread in the bobbin that has started to irritate me somewhat. This is a little thing but it has started to frustrate me alot because I have to spend a long time staring into my machine and it stops me sewing.

You can’t get into the machine if you do need to make repairs or defluff

I didn’t need to do this until recently but it is a valid point. Its extremely difficult to get into this machine to make repairs or clean it. You would need to pay to get it properly surfaced when all you really need is to get into the workings with an old toothbrush and your machine will be good as new. Although of course it is a beginners machine i do feel that this is a little short-sighted and the cynic in me says its because John Lewis want you to pay them to service it for you.

Pedal and power cable connect on the same lead which makes it hard to set up the machine unless you are the perfect distance from power.

This is a moan for me because I live in a house where the power points were located by a complete idiot. We have loads of plug sockets but they are all in moronic places so this was a problem for me. The fact that the pedal and plug come out of the same lead means that I’ve had a few issues on finding somewhere that my machine can actually get power and I can use the pedal.

Overall I need the ability to do heavier weight fabrics and to move on with my sewing. This is at the end of the day a beginner’s machine and I think when you start to notice flaws like this and start to have a preference on mechanism and functionality then you need to upgrade because you’re not a learner anymore. You might still have green P plates on but you’ve passed into intermediate and need a machine that can keep up.

Does It Stand The Test Of Time?

Yes it does. This little machine is a great companion for your first forays into sewing because so little can go wrong and its just so simple and easy. It will allow you to learn about sewing and crucially to learn how you sew and what you need. When I first started to work on projects that my machine struggled with, I told myself that I wasn’t allowed to upgrade until I actually understood what I needed from a machine. This machine allows you to learn, you can’t become reliant on automatic functions because it doesn’t have any and it makes you a better sewist as a result. The JL110SE may be thoroughly out classed by my new machine but it will always have a special place in my heart as my first sewing machine.