One Year On, How Shopping Has Changed

Today for the first time in over a year I bought clothes. There I said it.

As many of you know what really kickstarted my sewing journey was my pledge to completely give up fast fashion and buy no new clothes for a year.

Now, a year on, I find my mindset towards shopping and clothes is completely different. Before I would shop when I was sad or needed a confidence boost but I would get sad when clothes didn’t fit and I would blame my own body, believe me I have cried silently in many a dressing room. So I would try things on until I found something I loved or something that made me feel better and a few hours later I would come home, arms covered in shopping bags and a big smile on my face. 

However taking a year away from all types of clothes shopping and focussing on my sewing really has changed the way I feel about clothes and my body and that’s what I want to talk to you about today. 

So, what prompted me to shop? Well yesterday I finished my last job and I start my dream job on Monday morning (excited is an understatement) so as a little present to myself I booked in for a manicure and a pedicure which really feels like a luxury when you go at mid-morning on a Wednesday. After my manicure I decided to have a wander through the town centre, I popped in to buy toiletries, I picked up my prescription, I had a mooch in Waterstones and then I walked past GAP. 

Now any of my lovely readers who are not based in the UK may not know but GAP is closing down in the UK forever and although the human rights record of GAPs parent company isn’t great I feel genuinely sad that we are losing this pillar of the high street. GAP is one of the shops I grew up with, its where you would go to get basics or holiday clothes as a child, its where my mum would take me to get proper jeans, its where I bought my favourite jumpers and jeans that actually fit my body. I remember when it was the height of cool to have a jumper with the huge GAP letters across the front, I remember them subsequently going out of fashion and now they are back-in [side note: aren’t trends ridiculous?]. 

Here I am now confident and loving life in the dressing room

Not only was it a big part of my childhood but also GAP had the most consistent sizing, the jeans are done by measurement sizes rather than dress sizes and they have a range of leg lengths. It’s easy to forget the mental impact size consistency or inconsistency can have on you. I have size 10 shorts from River Island bought in 2011 that are still too big for me and now if I tried to buy a size 10 shorts in River Island they wouldn’t even fit on one of my legs. Years ago I would have burst into tears thinking I’d gained weight [another poor side effect of 90s/00s culture] whereas now as an adult I’m outraged that sizing can be so arbitrary. 

So when I walked past the shop today and saw a huge red sign saying the store was closing for good in four days’ time I felt a pang of regret and nostalgia and decided to go in for one last shop. The second I stepped in I noticed a difference in my mindset, I was critical of the clothes not myself, I was aware of what I could make and I didn’t even look at items I know I could sew easily and probably make better versions than what was on offer. 

For me the one thing I’m still not up to yet with my sewing is jeans and one of the reasons I’m sad to see GAP go is that it was the one shop I could always count on to have good quality denim jeans in my leg length and the range of cuts meant I could always find something flattering. So I picked up a few pairs to try on as well as some denim shorts, a super soft black t-shirt and a nostalgic yellow GAP branded jumper and I headed to the changing rooms. 

Again when I tried the clothes on and inevitably some of the jeans didn’t fit I wasn’t sad. I didn’t feel let down by my body because I didn’t fit. Instead I looked at the cut, the fabric and pattern shape and I was critical of the garment. I didn’t want to break my pledge for the sake of it, I thought to myself that if I was going to buy anything I would buy something that fits me well, that makes me feel good and that I like. 

I spent about half an hour in that changing room evaluating each garment, I tried them on separately, I tried different combinations of everything together and in the end I bought a pair of light skinny jeans, a really nice pair of dark denim shorts that are a little longer than normal, the comfy black t-shirt (because I loathe sewing basics) and the bright yellow jumper. The yellow jumper is still making me smile as I sit here writing about it because its just so me. I love the super baggy cut, I love the colour palette and I know I will get a huge amount of use out of it because this gal loves a sweatshirt in all seasons. 

I was worried I would feel bad for breaking my pledge but I don’t. One of the key reasons I chose to give up fast fashion in the first place was to re-evaluate my relationship with clothes, to understand why I shop and not just to buy clothes I’ll never wear to make me feel better. I like making my own clothes but equally I’m not going to pressure myself too much. Buying fabric is expensive so I shouldn’t be buying that just for the sake of it either and there is nothing wrong with buying something every now and then if it’s something completely out of your technical sewing abilities or something you just don’t want to spend your valuable spare time sewing – no one really wants to sew plain t-shirts do they, but we all need them in our wardrobe. 

So will I be going back to shopping now? No, I don’t think so. I love the me-made wardrobe I’m creating, I love the awareness I have of my body and my figure, and I love knowing that my body isn’t the problem, the fashion industry is. 

Furthermore I have increased awareness of the labour of others that goes into my clothes. I see the effort that has gone into them and I recognise the need to pressure the fashion industry to tell us who is making our clothes and to provide those workers with fair working conditions and pay.  

But at the end of the day it is okay to buy things every now and then if you need to or want to as long as you doing it for the right reasons. Pairing Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans made in eco-friendly denim with a RTW jumper doesn’t invalidate the effort put into the me-made garment. In the same way that forgetting your reusable water bottle one time and getting a single plastic one doesn’t devalue the effort you make the rest of the time. We’ve all got to find a way that works for us and it doesn’t have to be all one way or all the other.  I have taken a step back and I see that the way the fashion industry wants me to shop isn’t good for me, it isn’t good for garment workers and it isn’t good for the planet. But if I want to make a considered purchase every now and then and continue to make the rest of my clothes then that’s fine too. 

Clothes should make you feel good and don’t get me wrong my me-made clothes do but so to does my sunny new yellow jumper. 

5 Ways to Get Your Sew-Jo Back

No matter what type of sewist you are, chances you’ve lost your sewing motivation at some stage. So here are my five top tips for reigniting your sewing passion.

Picture the scene, you’re sat in your sewing room or at your sewing table, you’ve finally carved out five minutes in your day to get sewing but all of a sudden you just don’t want to. You’ve been thinking about sewing all day but now you’re there you just haven’t got the energy to turn on your machine or cut out a pattern.

This happened to me this week. I’ve been so tired lately that I just haven’t felt like sewing at all. What’s more I have been thinking a lot about sewing my dads shirt. Its one of the only projects I’ve ever truly messed up. I cut the first version so badly that I literally couldn’t even get to the sewing stage and honestly I felt so upset and ashamed that he couldn’t get his present at the same time as everyone else and that I’d messed it up so badly. So I got him something else for Christmas but people have been pushing me to start making it for his birthday that was in April and the more people pushed and asked the more overwhelmed I felt.

The thing is I’ve made myself shirts, none of the sewing is daunting at all apart from maybe cuff plackets. I was just so scared of cutting it incorrectly that I’ve let the project overshadow me. In April I took the plunge and bought the fabric however even then it sat in the sewing room looking at me. On Saturday I finally felt like it was getting too much so I set myself the target of cutting it out. No time limit, no concerns about sewing or vlogging the process. I got my partner to help me lay the fabric out and pattern match it really carefully and cut it out.

Today I did about half of the sewing, the shirt is together and currently sleeve-less, the collar is together and the buttonholes are marked and I do feel a little bit better but the project is still overshadowing me a bit and sewing it is not relaxing in the slightest because I want it to be perfect for him. I’m feeling better because everything I’ve done is good and I’m really happy with the sewing I’ve done but also I can’t wait for it to be done. Not only to give it to my dad as a very belated present but also to prove to myself I can do it and hopefully restore my sewing confidence and my sew-jo!

That experience got me thinking about my sewing motivation in general. What motivates and demotivates me and what you can do when you’re feeling a little low on sewing enthusiasm.

Why do we lose our sewing motivation?

There are many reasons we lose motivation for a hobby. It can be that you’ve lost impetus to make something new if none of your patterns or fabrics are really grabbing you. Maybe you’ve left a project half done and just can’t face going back to it. Maybe you’ve made mess of the last garment you tried and your sewing confidence is low. A hobby should be a relaxing space and if you’re struggling with a new pattern then suddenly your hobby time can become less relaxing. After a long day at work, you might not want to spend an hour cutting fabric or stitching buttonholes or deciphering complex pattern instructions.

I personally struggle with sewing motivation after a concentrated period of sewing. For example after a month of sewing everyone’s Christmas presents I just didn’t want to touch my sewing machine. This made me realise that I don’t like sewing for others precisely because it detracts from the relaxation of my hobby, there is suddenly a greater amount of pressure to make things ‘perfectly’ and it can leave you not wanting to spend your free time sewing.

However it can also happen when you’re sewing for yourself. Maybe you’re working on a big complex make you’ve wanted to do for ages like a new coat or a pair of jeans. Makes like that require brain power and sometimes after a long day of work or a long week you just don’t want to sew because you don’t want to make a mistake or sit down for a long period of sewing. I found after spending a lot of concentrated time making my Eden Coat that although I was in love with the garment I had made and very proud, it took a lot of brain power and I felt like I couldn’t face sewing for a few days after.

Sometimes we can be enthusiasm personified one day and have zero motivation the next day and thats pretty normal. So what can you do about it? Well my first piece of advice would be to give yourself the space to think about why you aren’t sewing and then try one of my tips below to see if you can coax back some enthusiasm into your sewing.

Top 5 Tips to get back to Sewing

1. Tidy Your Sewing Space

This is a simple way to do something sewing related without the pressure of sewing. You may have lost some of your motivation if your sewing space is messy or if its being used as a dumping ground for other things. Take 10 minutes and straighten everything up. Put something good on the TV or the radio or Netflix and just take your time, whether you’re tidying a sewing room, a sewing table or a tiny sewing nook. You never know you might stumble across patterns you had forgotten you owned or fabric you had a great idea for and then forgot about. Its a great way to spark a little sewing enthusiasm.

2. Pick a palette cleanser project

This is a great way to deal with the post project blues. If you’ve spent a month working on a coat or you’ve been toiling jeans for ages put them to one side, pick a super easy project that you’ve got the pattern and the fabric for and just make it. The golden rules for palette cleanser project are make it quick, make it simple and make it fun. I’m a big fan of whipping up a t-shirt in between projects as I never have enough t-shirts that fit me comfortably and they are so quick to make. Whatever your preferred palette cleanser is, just make sure its something quick to make as you don’t want it adding to a growing pile of UFOs in the corner!

3. Break down your projects into smaller goals

Can’t face starting something new? Then just cut out the fabric today. Nothing else. Have a really big project in the works that promises hours of sewing? As my history teacher used to say, you’ve got to eat your elephant one bite at a time. Break down big projects into small tasks and then reward yourself when you complete them.

4. Set a 5 minute sewing timer

This is a technique I use for everything not just sewing. If you can’t face doing something set a five minute timer and say to yourself ‘I’ll just do 5 mins’ whether that is writing an essay, tidying the kitchen or sewing your next me-made garment. What this does is it takes away the threat of spending hours doing something because you can stop when you’re 5 minute timer is up. More likely than not you won’t stop after 5 minutes because you’ve got into the rhythm of the task but what it does is motivates you to start rather than thinking about starting.

5. Do something else

Sometimes we can be full of enthusiasm one day and suddenly that enthusiasm dwindles all of a sudden. This can happen for rational or irrational reasons. Maybe you’re experiencing one of the situations I described above or maybe you’re hormonal and don’t feel like doing anything at all. You could be exhausted and stressed and tired and all you should actually do is have a bath and go to bed. The most important thing to do is not to beat yourself up about it, it is completely normal to have off days. Literally everybody does. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not sewing – give yourself the space to go and do something else if you want to. I don’t sew everyday. Sometimes I play the piano or go for a walk with my partner or bake or read or just watch TV with my partner on the sofa. It doesn’t make me a bad sewist, it makes us human.

I hope this tips are helpful to you and let me in the comments if there is anything else I’ve missed. My top piece of advice however no matter what the situation is to actively choose to take some time away from the sewing machine. whether thats 20 minutes to grab a cup of tea, a biscuit and let your brain catch-up with you or a full evening to do something completely different. Just remember that there is nothing wrong with losing motivation, it happens to the best of us and you will get it back I promise.

#SewYellowForEndo Challenge: How to Enter!

Hello wonderful people! Appologies I’ve been a little quiet on here recently but I’ve been working on a very exciting project which I am now able to share – I am of course talking about my Endometriosis Awareness Month activities and in particular the #SewYellowForEndo challenge which will take place on Saturday 20th March.

Endometriosis Awareness Month

Endometriosis is a cruel condition that affects one in ten women and is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK. It causes agonising periods, pain with sex, problems with bowel and bladder function and can contribute to infertility. Despite that diagnosis takes seven years on average and honestly? Thats way too long.

No one knows what causes endometriosis and there is no known cure however the earlier you catch it the more effective treatments can be. The first step to catching it is knowing something is wrong which is why discussing menstrual health is vital. I am an endo-sufferer and although I had a successful surgery back in June 2019, it is still a condition I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month and provides a chance for us all to talk openly about Endometriosis and menstrual health, to engage openly and share experiences. I decided to arrange a months worth of activities to raise awareness and champion experiences in the sewing community. The month includes Instagram Lives where I will be talking to a range of guests about their endometriosis experiences, I will sharing resources throughout the month, running mini-quizzes and sewing up plenty of yellow garments! I will also be raising funds for Endometriosis UK.

Endometriosis UK is a fantastic charity who support and advocate for the Endometriosis community encouraging research, running support groups and championing us at the highest level of government and after a very tough year for charities I want to support their vital work! 

So What Is The #SewYellowForEndo challenge?

I am inviting you to learn more about Endometriosis and sew up a yellow or partially yellow garment/outfit – yellow is the awareness colour for Endometriosis. Put your sewing skills to the test and support the Endometriosis community by whipping up a gorgeous yellow garment and show it off on 20th March on Instagram!

How Do I Enter?

Like the sound of the challenge? Well entering is super easy! All you need to do is:

  • Sew a yellow (or partially yellow) garment/outfit and post a picture on instagram with the hashtag #SewYellowForEndo on the weekend of the 20th March. Please tag me @sowhatifisew so I can find your entry.
  • Donate £1 to Endometriosis UK via my Just Giving Page – this challenge is for charity after all!
  • Include a fun fact you’ve learnt about Endometriosis or tell me whats been your favourite part of the Endometriosis Awareness Month in the caption of your post.

Entrants must be over 18 and UK resident to be eligible for prizes. If you’re none UK based and still want to take part I would love to see your yellow outfit!

Prizes!

I am extremely pleased to say that we have some fabulous sponsors on board who are donating prizes to the challenge! We have…. *drum roll please*

  • A stunning fabric bundle from The Rag Shop
  • 2m Metre of gorgeous yellow double gauze and £10 gift card from Hey Sew Sister
  • A £25 gift card from Felicity Fabrics
  • 3x Tilly and the Buttons Patterns + 3 x Yellow Pink Coat Club Pins from Fabric Magpie
  • A £25 gift card from The Sewist Fabric Shop
  • A beautiful fabric and haberdashery bundle from Sewing At Number 51

Winners will be chosen randomly on Monday 22nd March and I will also be aiming to produce a little video/reel of everyone who takes part to share at the end of the month (stay tuned for more on this in March!)

What Else Is Going On?

The other big event I’ve arranged is a series of Instagram Lives to talk about Endometriosis every Wednesday throughout March. Join us every Wednesday on instagram to talk about all things Endo! Lets normalise discussing menstrual health, raise awareness of the condition and the variety of experiences had within the Endometriosis community. We will also have some more scientific content talking about what the condition actually is so anyone who hasn’t heard of it can learn more. I’ve listed the lives below so check it out and come along!

3rd March 6pm – I will be kicking off by sharing my experience and hosting a live Q&A (I’m super nervous)

10th March 6pm – So What If I Sew & Martha Made Things – Endo Experiences

17th March 7pm – So What If I Sew & The Mindful Scientist – What is Endometriosis anyway?

24th March 6pm –  So What If I Sew & Sew Much To Say – Endo Experiences (with some surgery and post diagnosis chat in there as well)

The fact is that many women have to go through an average 7 years of agony to get diagnosed and it’s terrible. How many women will go their whole lives not being believed about their pain, being told its normal or ‘part of being a woman’ to suffer? This year I want to shout about menstrual health and wellbeing and support EndometriosisUK, an amazing charity who support 1 in 10 woman. Let’s end the stigma around menstrual health and getting talking about Endo. 

#FeelingSewMuchBetter Challenge: My Week Of Slow Sewing

I stumbled across the #feelingsewmuchbetter challenge on instagram after a few people I follow posted for the first day. Its run by Sister Mintaka, a fabric shop and haberdashery, and the premise is to pick a project and sew a bit everyday and hopefully finish by the end of the week and a winner is picked randomly each day to receive Sister Mintaka vouchers. I thought I would join in as I often sew for a whole day straight and I very rarely take more than 2/3 days of continuous sewing to finish a project. As a very busy person I decided it would probably do me a lot of good mentally and physically to force myself to just do a little bit each day. Its not about finishing, its about doing every step slowly and consciously and enjoying the process. I thought I would blog about it for this exact reason because its a new experience, something to document, discuss and share. I will do a micro-blog each day and then I’ll review at the end of the week. Without further ado lets get going!

Day 1

After only finding out about the challenge at lunch time, I spent the rest of today thinking about what project, fi any, I would like to attempt to join in. I say ‘if any’ because I didn’t want to just sew for the sake of it if it wasn’t something I had planned on making but I went through my stash extension – which is the part of my stash that has escaped the main box and so needs to be sewed more urgently – and decided that it was finally time to have a go at my Tilly and the Buttons Nora jumper. I’ve been meaning to make one for ages and this pattern does feature on my make nine grid for 2021. For fabric I chose a fun scuba/textured midnight blue jersey remnant which I’ve had in my stash for a while. Looking forward to sewing this project this week!

Day 2

Disaster struck almost immediately tonight as I laid out my pattern pieces on my fabric and immediately found I didn’t have enough fabric. I always forget that Tilly and the Buttons patterns do actually use the amount of fabric they say they will on the pattern envelope! So it was back to the drawing board and I came up with the two fabrics you can see on my instagram story below. I asked you all to help me choose which fabric I should use and it came back as a straight 50/50 which was unhelpful. At that point I mentally decided that I am definitely going to make both of these into a Nora as I think they would both be cute for different reasons but honestly it came down to the fact that I am absolutely freezing so I chose the extremely cosy Salmon/Coral-Coloured Knit from Lamazi Fabrics and I will make the Polka Dot Nora in the summer as the fabric is very light. I then got on to cutting the fabric and stupidly I decided to use my mid-range scissors instead of my super fancy new ones and I wish I hadn’t! This fabric was a pain to cut and foresee some frustrating and slippery sewing so the jumper better be super snuggly. One thing I would mention is that once again the Tilly and the Buttons patterns have got my back up as I think the sizing is way off. I came up as a 12 in the pattern due to my bust which I wouldn’t mind if the waist was right but its not, I wear a 36″ bust but a 26/27″ waist which normally puts me between two sizes which I have to grade. However for Tilly and the Buttons I am two sizes apart and trust me its really hard to grade between an 8 and a 12 especially when we think about shoulders and back pieces. I don’t know what it is about the bodice block because the waist to hip ratio is pretty standard. I come up as an 8/10(by an inch) which is absolutely fine but I wonder if there is a reason the bodice block is so square? In this case I’m making a 12 because its for loungewear so I don’t care about a close fit but its really frustrating!

Day 3

Today I was exhausted but I wanted to do something relating to my project so I decided to do something I almost never do – I actually read the instructions…in detail. I’m not sure if I’m the only one who does this so I might sound a bit weird but I often don’t read instructions, I will give them and the picture a glance for a bout 5 seconds and get one with it. The instructions I read are for techniques I’ve never done before, the first step of a pattern and of course I will depth read if I’m pattern testing for someone else. However on a normal day-to-day sewing basis I normally find that I know how garments are constructed and after about two steps I just get on with it. To me it feels like doing ‘nets’ in maths where you have a flat-lay of an object and you can see how it goes together so the instructions are kind of secondary unless its a complex garment – does that make sense? let me know in the comments below if its just me who’s weird like this. Anyway, I sat and I read as much as possible particularly as I’m determined to really make this jumper step by step. I know some people have chosen really tough projects this week but I have chosen something extremely simple that I would normally do in a couple of hours to make sure I actually take my time and sew slowly and consciously. Now I’m off to bed but I feel better armed to tackle this project step by step!

Day 4

Shoulder Seams Attached

I actually started sewing today and I made myself just do the first two steps. I stabilised the shoulders with some ribbon I had in my stash, it doesn’t match but its on the inside so who cares. Also I almost never use ribbon so I have no idea why I have so much? The pattern instructions suggested using a satin ribbon but I went for a quite stiff textured ribbon as my fabric is so fine and slippery so I thought it would work better, which it has. I then attached the shoulder seams and stopped there. Although I’ve been thinking about this project all week I feel strange stopping after these two steps as I know I could sew more right now but I am making myself stop and do something else. I’m trying to celebrate the steps, the little wins that make up a project. This fabric also has the potential to be immensely frustrating as its so fine that pins just fall out of it soo maybe its better for me mentally to take this make day at a time.

Day 5

Neckband is on

I’m starting to get into this slow sewing malarky! When reviewing my progress tonight and posting to instagram I got some lovely comments praising me for my stripe matching on my neckband which is hilarious because its entirely accidental. I swear whenever I don’t think about it I match patterns really well and whenever I try it doesn’t work. Regardless, the neckband is on and I’m pretty proud of it. Its nice and wide so I’m hoping I will be able to pull it on without having to take my glasses off. The dream.

Day 6

The Sleeves are on!

Today I nearly fell into the trap of keeping going and finishing my jumper today I’ve got the sleeves on which I’m happy with, they are even and neat and I’m so happy that due to the marl of the wool my white zigzag stitching is completely invisible as I had to fix one bit where I had accidentally caught the sleeve. I was just going to move on and do the side seams but I had to stop as I was getting so frustrated by the pins falling out of the fabric. Also I’m feeling really under the weather today (not Covid don’t worry) but I feel hot and cold and I keep shaking so I’m going to give it a rest now and have a very early night.

Day 7

Getting some use out of my fabric clips!

It’s the final day of the challenge and all I have to do is finish up the side seams, hem sleeves and close the stepped edges. I have been sat editing this blog this morning and listening to the Un:Cut Podcast which has been really relaxing and as I was sat thinking I realised the solution to my pin problem – I have fabric clips now! I’m not used to them yet as I only got them over Christmas but they worked like an absolute dream on my Nora. The only issue I had is that the sleeves were SIX INCHES, yes you read that right, six inches too long so I had to chop half the sleeve off to make it fit! Head over to my instagram to see how bad the situation was!

Completed TATB Nora

Here is my finished Nora! I love parts of it. I like the neckline, the fabric is so cosy and soft and I like the stepped hem. On the downside it is like a literal tent on me and honestly I don’t think I could wear it outside the house unless its tucked into something. The sizing is way off and after a rant on instagram this morning and many conversations with you all it seems the consensus is that Tilly and the Buttons sizing is not made for anyone with a significantly larger bust than waist. I chose a size based on my bust measurements but the rest of the garment is so enormous and its not even fitted on the bust so I think next time I will make a size smaller. Also having to cut 6 inches off the sleeve surely shows that something is wrong with this pattern? Although I love Tilly’s patterns I will be approaching them with caution in future and plenty of measuring, toile making and further attention to the finished garment measurements as well as the pattern sizing!

As for the Sister Mintaka #FeelingSewMuchBetter challenge I’ve loved it. I’ve loved giving myself permission to take things slowly, I’ve loved taking time over my makes and its been nice to do 5 minutes everyday. I’ve really enjoyed the consistency! Also its been wonderful to be part of a big community effort and see what everyone else has been making this week. Now I’m off to have a cosy night in my enormous Nora before the work week starts again!

Fabric Friday Reviews: My Sewing Box

Hello Everybody and welcome back to Fabric Friday! This week’s fabric purveyor is My Sewing Box, a wonderful independent fabric shop and haberdashery run by a mother daughter team, Amy & Angela. I particularly enjoy their instagram where they do long stories on the different equipment, fabric and notions they sell and what you should use it for; making My Sewing Box an extremely beginner friendly store.

My Sewing Box

  • Online Shop / Physical Shop / Both
  • Web Link: https://www.mysewingbox.co.uk
  • Core Purpose: Dressmaking Fabrics
  • Units of Sale for Fabric: 1/4 metre 

I have followed My Sewing Box for quite some time, as I’ve mentioned I love their instagram account and the way they relate to and understand their customer base. Their website is excellent and although I found the main menu a little overwhelming when I first looked, the main body of the website is simple, user friendly and well designed. Equally the payment process was simple and delivery was affordable and exceptionally quick even during an extremely busy Christmas period. They apologised on their IG for slow delivery but honestly they were quicker than most companies normal delivery! Delivery is free over £45 and standard delivery I paid is £4.50, again a little steeper than other suppliers but very speedy and very reliable so again, good value for money.

One thing that put me off to begin with was that fabric is priced and bought by quarter meter. Something you guys know I find a little frustrating! However the choice of fabrics available does make up for it. They stock a fantastic range of fabrics, haberdashery and notions for all skill levels and projects. I finally took the plunge after seeing their range of Christmas French Terry and I bought two types in their Black Friday sale to make myself a very cosy Christmas Jumper! My Sewing Box is a little pricier than other stores but I would say excellent value for money. I love how they have diversified and stock sewing gifts and books. They also offer a monthly subscription box which I am tempted by, I am actually going to look into whether I can buy one box as a one off to try it out first.

Rating

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

Overall Score: 7.4/10

Overall My Sewing Box is a wonderful independent fabric shop, ideal for beginners because of their helpfulness and knowledge of their stock. They are a little pricier but I would say fulfil value for money easily and offer a wonderful service – I will definitely be shopping here again!

Fabric Friday Review: MyFabrics.co.uk

Happy New Year everyone and welcome back to my Fabric Friday review blog which this year will be bi-weekly. Today we are talking about MyFabrics.co.uk, a large-scale online fabric and craft emporium based in Germany that stocks a large range of materials for sewing, knitting, crochet and textile crafts. MyFabrics is one of the biggest fabric shops I’ve bought from online and it was a very different experience to the mostly independant small businesses I patronise.

MyFabrics.co.uk

  • Online Shop / Physical Shop / Both
  • Web Link: https://www.myfabrics.co.uk
  • Core Purpose: Dressmaking Fabrics, Haberdashery, Wool & Crochet Materials
  • Units of Sale for Fabric: 1/2 metre minimum

My exploration of the site began as I was in need of christmas themed quilting cotton for a fun Christmas stocking making project and let me start by saying there is a great range of fabrics and craft materials (festive and normal). All of the fabrics are categorised into types and My Fabrics stock upholstery and quilting fabrics alongside dressmaking fabrics. Due to the scale of the operation they have broken down all fabric types in a sub-menu for ease of selection. One thing I found immensely frustrating is that the fabrics do not show you that they are out of stock until you enter the individual listing. Equally the listings are somewhat impersonal although they do give you all of the necessary information they lack the personal touch. However with a company of this size you don’t expect the personal touch, in the same way that I don’t expect a note from hobbycraft whenever I buy elastic. What the size of the company does enable is for you to personalise your own order. My Fabrics have a very useful feature when purchasing fabric in that when you want a specific amount over half a metre you can select it, for example you can buy 0.7m of fabric if you want. A feature which would be helpful if you want to build in an insurance buffer on the amount of fabric for example an extra 10/20 cm, 1.6m or 1.7m, when you don’t want to go up to the 2 metres.

What really let My Fabrics down for me was the delivery. I got no notifications of despatch and delivery was exceptionally slow. So slow that I began to think I hadn’t ordered anything! While slow delivery is acceptable at Christmas, what isn’t acceptable is no delivery notification, once you know its been shipped you just wait, but not even knowing if its left the supplier is unnecessarily stressful. However, when I did get them my Christmas fabrics were good quality and sewed up beautifully into Christmas stockings! If you want to see more about my fabrics and how I used them, check out the vlog below where Adam and I make Christmas Stockings.

Rating

  • Range of Fabrics – 8/10
  • Cost – 8/10
  • Delivery (Speed / Cost) – 4/10
  • Ease of Use – 6/10
  • Ease of Payment – 6/10

Overall Score: 6.4/10

My Fabrics are a good choice if you are on a lower budget and very good for all round crafting, sewing and quilting however I wouldn’t call them a specialist dressmaking fabric shop. However they are great for basics and I really liked the Christmas fabrics I bought. My Fabrics are well priced and the purchasing process is easy and simple. Unfortunately, delivery was quite incredibly slow and I got absolutely no updates from them so they won’t be my first call for fabrics however I would definitely recommend them for beginners and anyone who is branching into dressmaking from knitting/crochet etc as you would be able to get multiple materials in one place.

2021 Sewing Plans: My Top 9 Patterns For Next Year

It’s new years day, its absolutely freezing and I’ll be honest I’m still in my pyjamas. There’s something about the period between Christmas and New Year that makes absolutely everything and anything acceptable, so the pyjamas will stay at least for today until I return to the real world. I would love to say I’m still relaxed from the best christmas I’ve had in years but alas my MA assignments due on Monday now occupy most of my brainpower. I have however started reflecting on my makes from this year, the techniques I’ve learnt, the challenges I’ve overcome and I’m honestly proud of everything thats come off my sewing machine this year. This was the year I invested in an advanced sewing machine that is such a workhorse I doubt I’ll need another one for the next decade.

I’ve also begun to think about new years resolutions, aims and goals, I always make some and actually for the last three or four years I have achieved most of my goals and kept to my resolutions. I differentiate between goals and resolutions because resolutions are somewhat intangible and goals can be ticked off a list but i think both are important. This year I am going to set myself a few sewing resolutions!

Resolutions

  1. I will finish all of my seam edges all the time, not just when I feel like it.
  2. I will pre-wash all fabric even when its super inconvenient to do so.
  3. I will try to use up the fabric I have in my stash before buying more.

We will see how I go with these and I’ll report back in three months time to see how I’m getting on. I’m hoping this blog will keep my accountable!

Top Nine Patterns For 2021

After a lengthy period of trying on my clothes and excavating my wardrobe, I’ve also started reflecting on what pieces I would like to add to my wardrobe in 2021. I have seen other makers do this on instagram so I will be joining in this year and creating a Make Nine grid. Nine patterns or garments I would like to aim for this year. While these nine patterns will by no means be the only things I make, they will be core projects that I plan for and focus on in 2021. With the exception of the jeans, I don’t have fabric in mind for any of these makes and half of them I still need to buy the pattern! However I am going to try and do one big blog on each of them as well as the inevitable YouTube sew-a-longs and vlogs which I really love filming. I’f you would like to see me talk through these patterns in detail then head over to my youtube to see a full vlog! (linked below)

Tilly and The Buttons – Cleo Pinafore

Closet Core – Elodie Wrap Dress

Size Me Sewing – Florence Blouse

Tammy Handmade – Leona Dress

True Bias – Hudson Sweatpants

Megan Nielsen – Dawn Jeans

Tilly and The Buttons – Nora Jumper

Yoga Leggings

Fitted Work Blazer

So there we have it, my Make Nine patterns for 2021! I can’t wait to share the making journey for all these with you over the year. Let me know in the comments if you’re doing a Make Nine this year, and which sew-a-long and projects reviews you’re excited to see!

My Autumn Makes

Happy Sunday everybody and in fact Happy September! This year has flown by, I have just past my six month probation at work, Adam has started a new job, we’ve changed over to the winter duvet and the weather has almost definitely turned which means its time for my favourite season, Autumn! I have to say that in fact i love all seasons for different reasons, I love the freezing cold sunny days in the winter with a clear blue sky that remind me of skiing, I love those first warm days of spring when the clocks go back and we start getting sunny mornings again, I even love the intense heat of summer, albeit preferably somewhere with aircon and stone floors, but autumn is special for me. Down here in the south they get a couple of days of proper autumn where the trees go brown and everything looks golden whereas in Perthshire, where I am originally from, the trees turn slowly and you get weeks of golden leaves falling and Autumn really does last a couple of months.

I love the colder weather, I love guy fawkes night, I love going for really long walks and needing to warm up when I get home and I love love love the fact that I can go back to wearing ankle boots(my spiritual shoe), jumpers and coats. Whilst I adore the heat of summer I hate dressing for it as its a nightmare trying to look professional but stay even vaguely cool, whereas in Autumn I can go back to wearing big scarves, cosy knitwear, tailored coats and I only have to worry about staying warm when I go out. It’s the dream!

This Autumn is particularly special for me in terms of sewing because I have never actually made autumn/winter clothing. Autumn and Winter clothes tend to involves more knits, stretch and wool. More sleeves, large silhouettes and more comp[lex techniques. I am generalising here as there are definitely some beginner friendly patterns out there but even if you find a beginner friendly pattern, chances are that once you go beyond medium weight stretch knits a beginner machine can’t handle the fabrics. My old John Lewis machine certainly struggled with anything remotely bulky. Now armed with my new machine, so beautiful patterns and some stunning fabric I am ready to take my first forays in Autumn clothes.

My September Makes

My September is going to be very busy with work starting to pick up speed a little and the fact that I am starting a part-time MA alongside my job I felt like it was a good idea to plan what I want to make this month so that I can work my way through project I actually want to do and not lose my sew-jo along the way.

Make 1: Amaya Shirt, Made My Wardrobe

As I publish this post I am actually tidying up the remnants of this project. I’m a little late writing this post and my first make of the Autumn is complete. It’s a gorgeous peasant style blouse with a keyhole neck and flared sleeves and I made it in a bright red spotted cotton from The Rag Shop. It’s a versatile statement piece that can go day to evening with ease. I love it and what’s more there’s some complex sewing in there that I’m really proud of. It also represents my shift in focus towards making high quality statement pieces that go with my existing wardrobe.

Make 2: Raglan Dress, Trend Patterns

I’m super excited to make this. I’m nervous because its not a style of dress I’ve made before and not one I wear often but its a stunning pattern and I have a gorgeous dark viscose covered in little red roses from Rainbow Fabrics Kilburn that will suit the pattern perfectly. The fabric has great drape which I think will work really well with the full sleeves on this pattern and I quite like the high neck with the tie. This dress will probably need a belt on it for me and I will probably make it a little shorter than the pattern suggests to accommodate my height.

Make 3: Cocoon Cardigan, GBSB

This make will be my first knit make! I have a lovely mid stretch pale grey knit from the Maker Merchant and I will be attempting a Cocoon cardigan from one of may GBSB books. It’s meant to be a three hour sew so I will do a vlog and see if I can make it in under that time. I’m excited to start working with knits as they form a big part of my wardrobe.

Make 4: Square Neck Dress, Unknown

This make is definitely the most free-form as I know roughly what I want to make, I’ve got a couple of patterns that would work and the fabric is stunning. I’m hoping this make allows me to exercise my creativity a little more and make something beautiful. It will definitely need a toile so I will keep you guys up to date with what I’m up to and fingers crossed I’ll end up with something great.

As I’ve been at home for the past five months and I’ve not had costs of commuting and general work life, I have almost definitely spent too much on sewing. Now I have set myself a monthly budget and costed up my September makes. With one exception I had already bought all of the fabrics, patterns and notions that I’m using at some point over the summer. I’ve definitely spent more than I meant to but writing all the costs down is a really important first step to controlling sewing spending. It’s definitely not a cheap hobby but as I’m not going back to gym anytime soon I’ve redistributed some of my budget so I can have fun sewing. For the sake of transparency, I give myself a £50 per month budget for sewing but I obviously don’t use all of it some months and I will use more other months depending on the fabric I’m using and patterns etc but it balances out to about this much over the year. I want to show you guys how I cost my monthly sewing, this month was more expensive that usual because I lost track slightly but now I’ve found a costing system that works for me so there we go.

September
COSTS
Amaya
Shirt
Raglan
Dress
Cocoon
Cardigan
Square
Neck Dress
Total
Patterns£12.50£14.20
(sale)
£0
(already own)
£0
(already own)
£26.70
Fabric£17.00£0
(Gifted)
£11.50£0
(Gifted)
£28.50
Notions£1.50£1.50£0 £1.50£4.50
Pattern Printing£4£0£0£0£4
Equipment£0£0£0£0£0
TOTAL£35.00£15.70£11.50£1.50£63.70

As you can see my biggest expense is fabric, this month I’ve actually bought a few patterns but normally I try to work through one’s that I already have. When I do buy patterns I try to take advantage of sales, offers and free patterns to reduce costs. I rarely have to buy notions because for some reason I have a lot of back stock that I bought years ago. When I do buy notions I try to buy a lot at once as a restock and because they are cheap and if I’m paying for delivery I might as well make it worth it. Anyway, I’ve included this as I’ve been having lots of conversations with other makers recently talking about budgeting for sewing so if this is a helpful table/split please do use it, its definitely helped me to gain awareness of what I spend.

October & November Thoughts

I’ll see how I get on with my September makes but below are a few things I want to have a go at for each month.

October

  • Anorak – Tilly And The Buttons Eden Coat
  • Cowl Neck Knitwear Dress – Sew Over It
  • Jersey Skirt
  • Wrap Dress

November

– I then have to make two more anoraks for my sisters this month!

– long sleeved top

– A line skirt

– sheer chiffon blouse

So there are my plans! If you found this pose useful then let me know in the comments below. I can do this monthly or seasonally if that would be helpful. It certainly helps me to plan my makes like this to ensure that I don’t spend too much and also that I have projects to work on when I’m stressed from work.

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!

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.