2020: The Year Of The Blog

As we approach Christmas, albeit a very 2020 Christmas, I have started reflecting on the year. While it’s been stressful in some ways, its been a great year for me, I started my blog/channel and instagram this summer to name one great thing!

Adam & Me in Zurich

I rang in the new year with Adam in Zurich while visiting his extended family. In January I had a great birthday and started playing badminton weekly with Adam for some time together from my busy work schedule. In February I left my stressful workplace and got a new job and I went on a bra making workshop at the New Crafthouse. I saw my family in London in March and my family and Adam’s family all had dinner together which was really special. Then the pandemic hit. After some extremely stressful moments considering whether or not I would be made redundant, my colleagues were put on furlough and I stayed full time helping clients reschedule their events across the next two years.

During this time I sewed a few things, did some pattern drafting and planning but my old red machine was getting to me a little, my motivation was slack and the living room was not configured in a way that let me have enough light to sew. Adam and I did some gardening and I taught and filmed a lot of yoga classes. But I wanted to sew more. I also had always wanted a blog. I have tried many times to keep a blog going but I always felt silly because I didn’t feel like I really had anything good to say. I could do the first few posts but then I just felt like I was forcing it. Its one of the great challenges of blogging to keep the authentic voice and purpose. However talking about sewing is something I can do and whats more I LOVE doing, much to the dismay of many of my friends.

Enter The Blog

My First Logo

I vividly remember the day I started this blog. 28th June, I was lying in bed watching treasure planet on Disney Plus and I’d been toying with the idea for a few days and then I decided to go for it that morning. I spent all morning trying to think of names, I enlisted my sisters to help but in the end I actually came up with So What If I Sew. Honestly ‘So What If I Sew’ is the crux of the response I give to people who make judgemental comments about my hobby and a response I’m sure we can all relate to. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t incredibly nervous about starting the blog because I am by no means an expert. In fact one of my first blog posts was put down by a woman who decided to tell me my scissors were rubbish and I clearly had no idea what I was talking about but I don’t care, I love sewing and dressmaking and it is for absolutely everybody.

So now here we are six months on and I’ve loved every minute of it. I love blogging and vlogging and instagramming. My YouTube Channel has been a great source of relaxation and fun, watching other sewing vlogs on YouTube has been very inspiring and the sewing community as a whole are wonderful and supportive. I am now starting to plan my landmark makes for next year and I can’t wait to show you all what I get up to. I am going to return to fabric Friday blogs in the new year but I am going to aim for fortnightly reviews instead. I will also do a monthly blog spotlight on a project and I’ll be asking on instagram what you guys want the blog to be on!

Now I’m off to relax with Adam before we go and pick up our Christmas Duck from the Farm Shop and start really getting ready for our first Christmas just the two of us.

Merry Christmas all and Happy New Year!

Tilly And The Buttons Eden Coat – Sewing Project

I’ve been a little bit absent on here recently due to my degree workload however if you head over to my youtube you can see what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks! In November, I finally, FINALLY, finished my Tilly And The Buttons Eden Coat. This project is by far the most complex make I’ve ever attempted and I am so proud that not only is the garment wearable but that it looks vaguely professional and its waterproof! I decided over the summer that I wanted to attempt this pattern as a present for my eldest sister so of course I had to try one for myself. I was nervous when I bought the fabric but it was also really exciting, it felt like such a big step forward in my sewing life. As I’ve always wanted a proper barbour jacket, I decided to make my coat in that style using black waxed cotton, a white floral cotton lining and brass zips and snaps. I tell you I was the most nervous I’ve ever been when I cut into the waxed cotton for the first time but it was worth it for the coat I’m now living in every time I go outside.

The pattern is labelled as ‘for improvers’ and is produced digitally as a PDF. While the pattern itself isn’t particularly complicated, there are a huge number of individual pattern pieces. The pattern and fabric cutting took a couple of hours and was mentally exhausting but after the cutting stage it wasn’t too bad. The instructions could be a lot clearer and I would like it if they were numbered and the pattern pieces were in bold when mentioned in the pattern to avoid some of the more confusing elements of the making process. Otherwise its a time consuming but not a particularly difficult sew and I had to work on it in the mornings only because the lighting in our house isn’t great and trying to sew black thread on black fabric in the evening sure does hurt your eyes! In this blog I’ve picked out a few elements that I liked, disliked and of which I feel other sewists should be aware. If you want to follow the whole making process check out my two part sew-a-long vlog linked below for more information.

Inserting my first jacket zip

Honestly I was most nervous about this step because I’d never done a jacket zip before, I’d never even sewn a zip using my new machine and new foot. So, true to form, I dived in head first and it went really well! I split the zip, placed the tape on each side and marked the top and bottom with chalk, made sure they were at the same height and went for it. I was surprised and delighted to find that jacket zips are actually quite simple and I am no longer scared of them – so thats a result!

Working with Waxed Cotton

Croft Mill have a wonderful selection of lightweight waxed cottons perfect for a ‘Barbour’ style waxed jacket. After great trepidation I was somewhat surprised to find I absolutely love sewing with waxed cotton. It’s a joy to work with, it stays where it’s put, you don’t need pins and it flows through the machine like a dream. My only advice would be to use a denim needle and if you want a 100% waterproof coat consider how you are going to seal your seams against the weather.

My First Snaps

At this point having made two Eden coats with two different snap applying methods I have a mixed opinion about snaps. My black Eden coat was my first attempt at applying snaps and it was incredibly frustrating. I used the Prym antique brass coloured snaps and the equipment that came with them to apply them and it was absolutely maddening. There is a small plastic tweezer type contraption that you fit a series of heads to and you use a hammer too apply the snaps. However using a hammer and the instructions, it took Adam and I over an hour to apply them all and it was not error free I can tell you! After this frustrating experience I bought the Prym Snap Pliers from The Makers Merchant to use on my sisters coat and they made a massive difference. I cannot recommend them enough the whole process took 15 minutes and I didn’t swear once!

Overall this coat has made me smile and its made me scream with frustration but I am proud of the result. Its surreal to look at it hung up next to my other coats for all the world as though I bought it somewhere. It’s a coat of firsts. My first snaps, my first jacket zip, my first lined garment, my first hood, my first patch pockets, my first piece of outerwear in fact! So of course there are little bits and pieces I would like to improve but its a win, a milestone and I am almost giddy with pride whenever I wear it. If you want to learn more about my making journey and process then have a watch of the vlogs below!

Follow my progress on YouTube!

Part 1:
Part 2:

Fabric Friday Reviews: Sewing At Number 51

Happy Friday everybody! You know what that means? It’s Fabric Friday! Although I am starting to run out of fabric shops so if anyone has any suggestions of places I should try please let me know in the comments. Today I have the absolutely joy and pleasure of talking about Sewing At Number 51. Last week I bought some absolutely stunning cotton poplin from them, picture above, and its beautiful. I have had a great idea of what to do with it but I’m nervous because its a significant pattern hack so I think that will be a project for next weekend. Definitely will vlog it though because I’m crazy nervous. Anyway, on to the review!

Sewing At Number 51

  • Online Shop / Physical Shop / Both
  • Web Link: https://www.sewingatnumber51.com
  • Core Purpose: Dressmaking Fabrics and Haberdashery Equipment
  • Units of Sale for Fabric: 1/2 metre

Sewing at Number 51 was started this year in 2020 and already is building a great name for itself as an independent fabric and haberdashery supplier. When I read that it was started this year I almost had to double take because while their range of fabrics is admittedly quite small, mainly just cottons, but it doesn’t feel like a *new* shop. It just feels like a smaller fabric shop which is fine. Not everyone has space to have thousands of types of fabrics on hand to send out and for a new operation the range of fabric designs is good and range of actual fabric types I’m sure will build over time. One thing I admire is the curation of the fabric collection. You can tell a lot of thought has gone into choosing what fabrics to stock. The beautiful poplin I bought, shown above, was such an instant win for me. I looked at it on their instagram story and went ‘yes please I want that now’ and they do stock fabrics that make me want to buy them and I have no idea what i will use them for. Equally in terms of haberdashery and sewing equipment they have stuck a toe in the water to see what people buy and I have no doubt will build on that. Honestly in this climate of despair it does me good to see a small business flourishing and I look forward to support Sewing At Number 51 through out the years ahead.

In terms of who their fabric is best suitable for I would say beginners straight away. No tricky stretch fabric to navigate so you pretty much have your choice of cottons to work with. I remember when I first started sewing and all you really think about is colours and patterns because you don’t necessarily understand the properties of fabrics themselves. Equally in terms of cost they are low range so very accessible to all markets and they stock fabric by the half metre. Delivery is quick and when your fabric arrives it comes in a lovely paper bag with a note inside from Abi. Check out my instagram fabric haul highlight if you would like to see exactly how it arrives. Honestly I’m such a sucker for a handwritten note I really feel like it makes the purchase, jut to know there is a real human on the other side makes the making journey feel so much more personal.

The website interface is clean looking however I would say that the inability to filter by fabric types/equipment is frustrating. However as it is a smaller store you are still able to look through all the available fabrics fairly easily and I’m sure as a broader range of stock is added this feature will update. A problem that many other sites have also applies to Sewing At Number 51 which is that the phone interface is so so much easier to use than the desktop. The mobile site is clear and easy to use, the menu is a usable size and the payment system simple, however the desktop interface has an incredibly small logo and a very small menu text. I wonder if focus has been placed on the phone interface to match new consumer habits. Which I completely understand because research shows that people are buying more and more from their phone. I love their blog section I think it reflects their brand identity really well and I look forward to seeing more posts there. Equally I think it would be nice to see some guest blogs as it would push up the profile of a fantastic new sewing retailer.

Rating

  • Range of Fabrics – 5/10
  • Cost – 8/10
  • Delivery (Speed / Cost) – 8/10
  • Ease of Use – 7/10
  • Ease of Payment – 8/10

Overall Score: 7.2/10

Sewing at Number 51 typify to me the ‘friendly fabric shop-next-door’ it’s sweet, it’s independent, the selection of fabrics although small is exceptionally well curated and when you buy from them you can’t help but smile. They have fantastic engagement on instagram and social media and you all know I love a brand that really engages with their makers and consumers. Would I shop from there again? Absolutely and I’m so excited to start using their fabric. I will keep you guys posted and look out for a vlog in the coming weeks on what I get up to with this stunning fabric.

Monthly Magazine Make: Boxy Blouse and My Very First Yoke!

This is my first detailed project blog for a while but here I am to talk to you about this month’s make chosen from my copy of Love Sewing magazine. I only started my subscription last month but I already love it, I love how many free patterns you can access and its always super interesting to hear from other makers, experts and amateurs alike! The second I saw the My Handmade Wardrobe Boxy Blouse from Crafty Sew & So I had to make it. I love shirts, I love the silhouette and having just bought a machine almost purely because of its incredible buttonhole functionality I was desperate to sew buttonholes. A sentence I’m sure no one has said before. Whilst containing some familiar elements such as collars and buttons this pattern also contained a little challenge in the form of my first ever yoke.

In the spirit of the New Craft House #sewyourselfsustinable challenge I decided I would use a deadstock remnant I had left over from another project, my gorgeous daisy patterned viscose from Rainbow Fabrics Kilburn, and I used the rest of the pink shell buttons from my fish dress earlier in the summer. So not only was this project super fun but it didn’t cost me a thing, well apart from the cost of the magazine but hey you can’t have everything. I have also been a little under the weather due to personal health issues and I felt this project was the perfect way to get my sew-jo back.

Project Details

Step 1: Pattern Printing & Cutting

I printed the whole pattern on my printer at home which means that the pieces probably aren’t perfect but they were as good as I could get them! Still it is quite fun to be able to print at home and start straight away. My fabric layout wasn’t as efficient as it could have been but I wanted to make sure the stripes would be evenly lined up on the shirt.

Step 2: Create The Box Pleat In The Back

I liked this as a first step because I love a box pleat and it felt cosy and familiar. They are easy to make and so satisfying to look at afterwards. I’m not going to explain this step really as its clear, follow the markings and make a box pleat in the back panel, but here is a picture of mine as I do just love them.

Step 3: Create Your Yoke

It was at this stage I realised that I did not have the correct yoke pieces. On the pattern piece it does not tell you to cut the yoke on the fold, it just tells you to cut two pieces. The cutting layout in the magazine is also incorrect. Having never done a yoke before I naturally followed the instructions and cut two individual halves of the yoke. It was only when I got to the assembly stage that I realised something was extreme wrong. Luckily I managed to squeeze another yoke piece out of my remnant however I couldn’t cut a second one so you will see that my inner yoke is two pieces sewn together and my outer yoke is one continuous piece. It wasn’t a huge drama as luckily I had just enough fabric left but it is definitely worth flagging that you must cut two yokes on the fold rather than just two pieces as the pattern piece states. Once you have got the correct yoke pieces, attach the back pleated piece to the base of the yoke with pins and then roll it up. Then attach the fronts of the shirts to the shoulder seams again with pins and roll them up until you end up with something resembling the first picture below. You then place your second yoke piece on top to create something that looks like a calzone.

Step 4: Stitch The Seams & Pull Through

As this was my first time using the burrito method I was understandably nervous, I kept thinking to myself ‘surely this won’t work’ and yet! As long as you roll the fabric pieces nice and tightly inside and leave the seams flat you can stitch along the shoulders and back seam et voila! You reach through the neck and pull out your finished garment. I was absolutely enthralled by this process and proceed to bore my partner for a good 10 minutes with my utter amazement at this technique. He was actually very sweet and listened to me far longer than he had to but I was extremely excited about it.

Step 5: Create Your Button Plackets

This is a simple step and yet… I was quite tired by this point so accidentally pressed the placket to the right side instead of the wrong side, luckily I realised and was able to fix it quickly. You fold the placket 1.5cm to the wrong side, then again and stitch down the open side. To make this easier for yourself make sure you cut the notches on the neckline as they show you the distancing.

Step 6: Create & Attach Collar

Having really struggled with my last collar it almost felt like seeing an old friend when I started to cut out the pieces. I interfaced them with medium weight interfacing because honestly its all I had in the house and i reasoned that as my fabric was so lightweight it probably needed the extra weight and honestly it helped significantly, I don’t think the collar would have stood up correctly otherwise. However I did have one issue stitching on the collar, on the pattern pieces it said to use a 1.5cm seam allowance when stitching them together which I did however when I came to attach it to the garment I found that the collar was at least 1.5cm short on each side. I really had to snip into the neckline and do a lot of easing to get it on. It really isn’t my neatest collar but thankfully the colour and pattern of the fabric hide it. Next time I will reduce the seam allowance massively but otherwise the instructions were very clear and easy to follow.

Step 7: Side Seams & Finish Raw Edges

At this point its a nice simple finish for the side seams, I stitched them at the 1.5cm seam allowance and then used my overlock stitch on my machine to finish the edges. If you have an overlocker you could probably just overlock them but either way, a simple finish, then I used a rolle hem on the end of the sleeve and on the bottom hem of the shirt. I used a rolled hem for two reasons, firstly speed but secondly because I am working with a very lightweight, almost diaphanous, viscose and I didn’t want the hem to sit too heavily.

Step 8: Buttons & Buttonholes

For once I was absolutely itching to get to this stage because the buttonhole function on my new sewing machine is genuinely phenomenal. I have a Singer Starlet 6680 with a 1-step buttonhole function. Its got the cleverest buttonhole foot, like an enormous frame that measures the size of the button then creates the right sized space for the needle to sew a perfectly fitting buttonhole. I was so confident in this function that I actually used contrasting thread and used a thicker buttonhole to show them off. Not only did I have a great time sewing the buttonholes I also machine sewed my buttons on for the first time ever! My lovely new machine came with a plethora of feet that I am only now getting time to experiment with. the buttonhole foot is absolutely excellent and saved me a huge amount of time as well as saving my eyes from strain. I am beyond chuffed with the result and it was a super fun way to finish off this garment.


What I love about this pattern is that it is challenging and yet simple. On the one hand you are attaching a collar which can be tricky and you have buttons and buttonholes to worry about, on the other, there are no sleeves to worry about and all the finishes are pretty basic. It’s a bite sized amount of challenge and a fantastic project for beginners who want to branch out into new techniques. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this pattern to every beginner anywhere, its fun, the instructions are simple, the garment is eminently wearable. My only caveat would be that the cutting instructions could be better, as I mentioned above the cutting label on the yoke piece was downright incorrect, but despite that I would still recommend this pattern as a fantastic introduction to collars, buttons and shirts.

My Top Tips To Sew Your Own Amaya Shirt

As my YouTube subscribers will know, I have just finished making the Amaya Shirt from Made My Wardrobe. Today I am mopping up, resetting my machine and trying to sort some other little projects/alterations/fixes which have been piling up for a while now. However, before I completely forget how I made it I wanted to share my tips, tricks and honest feedback on my making journey for the Amaya Shirt.

Firstly, here it is in all her gorgeous, flute-sleeved glory. Honestly I would never have thought of making this pattern originally, it was very much the case that the fabric came first. I bought this stunning red spot cotton from The Rag Shop with no clue at all what I was going to make with it. For transparency I almost never do that, I’m always very project lead but I thought, you know what? I’ve got to have it. When I posted about it online and asked for recommendations Steph from The Rag Shop got in touch and suggested the Amaya Shirt. I was intrigued and although its a little out of my comfort zone fashion-wise I decided to take the plunge.

It also took me out of my technical sewing comfort zone. My first proper top stitching, my first raglan sleeves, it was all a journey and I really made myself take my time. Especially as I knew that I didn’t have enough fabric to recut if I made a mistake. I’m really glad I took the time, doing only one or two pattern steps a day for a week. It was a lovely way to wind down from work each day and I feel like this is technically one of the best garments I’ve made because I didn’t rush a single step. So my first and biggest piece of advice I can give you is to take your time with this make, there aren’t many steps but they all require accuracy and care. Below I have linked my vlog so you can join me for every step of the sew and you can also see just how many grey jumpers I own as I change between days.

My Top Tips:

  • Draw The Line For The Front Opening – seriously, do this. I thought I wouldn’t bother but it requires a straight line stitched 4cm in from the edge which is surprisingly hard to do by eye and most machines don’t have markings that go out that far. This was made extra difficult on my fabric as its exceptionally hard to draw a straight line on Swiss Cotton! Regardless draw a solid or dashed line, its worth it for a garment feature that is so front and centre.
  • Really Press The Centre Front Open – While we talking about the centre front…before you start top stitching you absolutely must press it open thoroughly so that your facing and seam doesn’t bulge when you do the top stitching.
  • Finish All The Edges As You Go – Cards on the table, I’m straight up awful at finishing raw edges when I sew, honestly just awful, but I really made the effort with this garment partly because i didn’t want fraying but mostly because it actually really helps with the structure and the strength of the seams. I am particularly highlighting this as something you should as you go along because there are quite a few seams you can’t access once the garment is done if you were hoping to have a tidy up at the end. The pattern recommends overlocking but if you don’t have an overlocker then either you can zigzag or you can go on a voyage of discovery with your sewing machine and find out that it actually has four different overlock stitch options. (It’s the dream)
  • Gather Much Closer To The Neckline Edge Than You Think – Basically if you look at the outside of my garment the bind covers all the gathers, that is quite emphatically not the case on the inside. I did my gathers at the distance recommended by the pattern, or at least i think it did as I work in imperial and it only had metric, but at that distance it was impossible to enclose the gathers properly in the neck binding on both sides. So I would recommend sewing one row in the seam allowance and then other just beyond it. You will still be able to gather and you will be able to enclose both sides in the binding.
  • Go By Your Measurements – so I looked at the finished pattern measurements and was going to make a size down as they looked huge but when I looked at the body measurements I saw that they actually put me in the 10 bracket. I decided to go with the 10 because I would rather it fit my bust properly and then i could adjust other areas but actually i found it to be a really nice fit. its loose but you actually have enough room to move and the sleeves and bust line are both really flattering. My recommendation would be to pick the pattern based on your bust size and then work from there.
  • Print Out The Pattern Instructions And Highlight – For me the pattern instructions required a second and even a third reading as I found the prose of the instructions very unclear. That could just be me but if you do have the same issue I would recommend printing them out and highlighting the action areas just for the sake of clarity. The pattern makes a stunning garment but the instructions could be easier to understand.
  • Use A Fairly Structured Fabric – It really helps with the construction and the fit of this garment. I’m sure you could easily make it out of more slippery fabrics but I think a structured cotton, linen or chambray would be a good starting point for a first make of this garment and would show off its more flattering and exciting features.

Those are my top tips for working with this pattern, its a great pattern and I have worn mine loads since I made it so I would recommend it for all abilities. Check out my sew-a-long vlog below to see how I got on making the Amaya Shirt.

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!

Box Pleat Skirts – What I’ve Learnt In A Year

Back in April 2019, after four years of living in the south, I found my self missing my sewing machine more than I can explain. With a stressful job and a long commute I felt I was lacking my own mental space. I needed a calming outlet for my stress and something constructive I could do at home. After long discussions with my partner about my stress levels and how we could manage them, we decided it was time to get my sewing machine sent down from Scotland. I had previously thought that this would be impractical and expensive but my mum, presumably glad to get some more space in the new house, happily complied and sent me not only my machine but the rest of my equipment and my sewing books as well.

As to why I didn’t do this much earlier, up to the summer of 2018 my partner and I had lived in shared houses and as we all know, sewing machines are not exactly quiet and I didn’t think it would be fair on my housemates. Fast forward then to April 2019, I had 10 days of leave booked, my sewing machine was ready to go, all I had to do was pick a pattern. And I picked this! A box-pleat skirt from one of the Sewing Bee pattern books. It took me a few weeks because I really wanted to take my time and get it right but on the 19th May 2019 I finally finished my first entirely me-made garment. There are definitely a few things I could have done better but it’s precious to me and despite its flaws I wear it all the time. It’s a work-appropriate length and incredibly light plus the shape given by the box-pleats means the skirt doesn’t flip up in the wind – what’s not to love?

I feel like my sewing has improved a lot since that first make, well I hope it has, but I wanted to do an experiment to measure the difference. To see just how much I have learnt in the last year and a bit. Initially I wondered about aiming for a really complex make to show how far I’ve come but I wanted a direct comparison and I didn’t think just making a more advanced garment would provide that. Instead I decided the best way would be to make the same skirt again and observe the differences. I dug out the pattern again and I chose to make the skirt out of a lightweight navy blue gingham from Rainbow Fabrics Kilburn. The fabric has a good amount of structure to it and it’s opaque while still letting some light through. The big thing I’ve learnt about gingham is that it frays incredibly easily so I used my pinking shears quite a bit and tried to use lots of enclosed seams.

Today’s blog is not going to be a ‘how-to’, instead I want to reflect on the changes in the garment and how I felt making it. I’m going to start with material changes in the garment and move on to the overal changes in how I felt making it.

Material / Physical Changes

I’m so much quicker at cutting and stitching.

This is a big one for me. I remember just pinning the pattern took me about half an hour the first time and cutting it out took even longer. That was because I was so scared to make a single wrong incision, terrfiyed it would ruin the garment from the outset. This time I had this ironed, pinned, cut out and ready to go within 30 minutes. It has to be said I also have much better scissors than I did a year ago but also I’m used to cutting fabric now and in particular I’m used to cutting on carpet which was a challenge for me when I started sewing in this house. The next big step for me will be a cutting mat and a rotary cutter to help me use my slippier fabrics to better effect as I refuse to use my scissors on chiffon.

My pleats are so much neater now.

I mean come on look at those, those box pleats are beautiful if I do say so myself! My first ones are fine, there’s nothing particularly wrong with them but these are gorgeously sharp. Honestly after I had stitched them I just sat and stared at them for a bit because I was so proud.

The lapped zip is actually a lapped zip this time!

Right so it’s still not perfect but its a sight better than last time. The zip is actually covered this time. I wanted to use a shorter zip because I felt the last one was too long but sadly I went too short this time and it requires a bit of a wiggle to put it on. Maybe I’ll make another one in a years time and I’ll finally get the zip completely perfect.

General Changes

I care much less about pattern instructions.

This sounds awful but its true. I promise I do read the pattern instructions but I definitely read them less or perhaps a better way to say this is that I am less worried by the instructions. If it’s a new pattern then of course I will sit down and properly read the instructions before I start just to get the shape of pattern journey in my head. However when I first started I was almost terrified of making micro mistakes or missing anything in the pattern but its because I really didn’t know what I was doing when I started. Now I have a better understanding of sewing techniques and of garment construction, I don’t worry as much about the instructions. Making this skirt is incredibly simple anyway and I didn’t look at the book until it got to the lapped zip stage and then I gave the book a very close reading! Otherwise the next steps of the pattern just seem clear and make sense now and you know what? It feels good. I feel like I have matured into someone who osn’t just following instructions but actually understands what I am doing and that feels like an achievement.

The whole process is much more fun.

The first time I made this skirt, it was pretty much dead silence in my living room, I was really scared that I would make a mistake and wanted my full concentration. Honestly, it was tense! Now I’ve loosened up and that comes down to experience. I know what I’m doing, I can trust my judgement and relax into the rhythm of sewing. I put netflix on or a good radio crime drama and I’ll happily sit and sew for the rest of the day. Making this skirt a second time I was able to revel in the process a lot more. To congratulate myself for little successes like my zip or my frankly knife sharp box pleats. I was able to identify, celebrate and own my successes as micro sewing achievements while recognising that of course I still have a long way to go. I was also able to trust my judgement which enables me to relax and go with the process. Observing what I do, correcting errors before they become mistakes and laughing at any mistakes I make.

What the second make of this skirt taught me is that not only am I technically a better dressmaker than I was 15 months ago but that I am more mature as a person. I am able to laugh at myself, trust my judgement and grow through every garment I make measuring against no one’s standards but my own.