Now that the presents have all been opened, I can show you some of the things that I made this year. As I’ve mentioned before, my regular sewing slots are pretty short, so I didn’t even try to make everything, but there were a few simple projects that I wanted to pursue.
First up are a couple of cotton shopping bags. I knew that Matt’s granny would appreciate a couple of lightweight but sturdy bags. These are both sewn in quilting weight cotton’s and every seam is sewn twice for strength. The side seams and boxed corners are French seamed, and the handles are placed under the deep hem fold at the top of the bag and sewn in both at the top and bottom of the fold.
These bags are fairly roomy, but fold up very small and light so are easy to pop into a handbag. I’m actually very tempted to sew up some more for myself!
For Matt I sewed up a very simple insulated cosy for a new mini French press. When he is working it is easy to let coffee get a bit cold, so keeping it warm as possible increases the chance that he will get to enjoy it.
This is just a couple more quilting cotton’s and a scrap of thinsulate insulation from my coat project. It is held in place with a small strap and a popper. I think it is one of the easiest things I have made in a long time but it looks very smart.
Finally, I made Matt some PJ’s. Its something that I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but never seemed to get around to so I decided to give myself a helping hand and use Sprout Patterns before they shut down forever to get me started. These are printed on their performance pique, which feels very silky and smooth, so not the easiest sew but they seem to have come out ok.
I think part of what put me off was the fly in men’s pjs because I wasn’t sure how to adapt the patterns that I had to include it. Now that I have done it once though I don’t really know what I was so worried about because it was very easy. I also added inseam pockets from the spare fabric.
The presents all seemed to go down very well, and I’m glad that I made the effort even if it was just for a few simple things. Here’s to 2019!
Last year I found it really helpful to think about which of my makes hit the mark, and which were less successful with my hits and misses, so I thought I would have another go this year too. I think most of my sewing has been fairly successful this year, though I have just done a wardrobe clear out, and a few handmade clothes did get the axe, so its certainly not perfect yet.
So here we go:
Top 5 Hits
Amber tops and Dress
I practically lived in my Amber tops during the last part of my pregnancy when it was hot and my bump was huge. Even since then, I must wear one at least 2-3 times a week because they are one of my most practical options for feeding in too. I particularly love my Amber dress because I think it looks fairly stylish and is so easy to just throw on, and my Amber hack layering tee also gets a lot of wear under shirts at the moment. I think the reason they have been so successful is because they suit my lifestyle as it is right now, not how I might wish it was. They are also made in good quality cotton jersey, so they have survived lots of washing and grabbing straight back out of the laundry pile!
This is another item of clothing that regularly gets taken straight from the clean washing pile to be put back on. When I first made it I wasn’t sure about the style on me and this was really intended as a wearable toile. However, the oversized nature of it has definitely been growing on me, and I love how easy it is to throw on. I would love to make another (possibly multiples) as again it fits my lifestyle right now really well.
Modified Toaster Sweater
I made this Toaster sweater right at the start of the year with some very special Atelier Brunette fabric. I’m pleased that I used this very special fabric in something which is comfortable and practical. I love that it fits over my Archer shirts, and the crew neck is more practical with a collar. I’m even really pleased with my decision to go for contrasting gold topstitching.
Ultimate Wrap Dress
This dress is another make that I love because I tweaked the pattern to create what I actually wanted. I hacked the sleeve into a little flutter sleeve, modified the cross-over to be a little higher and added an empire line seam to make it fit over the bump. I have worn it a bit since the arrival of baby too, though I think it might now need re-hemming to take out some of the extra length that I added to the front. I’m looking forward to being able to wear it again next summer.
I have made a mountain of these tops for Toby and as gifts, and I’m sure there will be more. I particularly like hacking them to have poppers at the neckline while he is small, but the pattern goes up to ages 5-6, so I’m sure I will make more as he grows. It’s a free pattern too, so what’s not to love!
There were a couple of other patterns that I would have included, but I thought it might be cheating to include patterns that made it onto last year’s successes like the Mens Metro Tee and Grainline Archer because I knew before I got started that I would love them! I also thought that perhaps I couldn’t include the skirt that I am currently sewing, even though I’m pretty sure it will be a hit because I haven’t actually worn it yet! Another that came close was the Dandelion Dungarees because they have seen a lot of wear in the last few months and the popper hack definitely worked there too. I think the things that I have included demonstrate that I’m getting more confident at hacking patterns to get what I actually want from them, not just putting up with the parts that don’t work for me.
Top 5 Misses
Considering how much I love my Oslo cardigan, it seems a little strange that I’m not such a big fan of the Kinder Cardigan which is pretty similar. I think it is down to a couple of issues, one being that the pattern is possibly even a little more oversized than Oslo. The other being that the Ponte I made it in is definitely more structured so it ‘feels’ bigger. I did like some of the construction methods, and the pockets though, so I’m tempted to adopt some of these for my next Oslo cardigan attempt.
Technically this was made in 2017, but I was never really going to wear it until this year. I’m not sure if it is just because it is such a large expanse of single colour, but I didn’t really hit it off with this Blossom dress. I love the fabric, and the Anna Top that I squeezed out of the offcuts, but the dress hardly got worn. It probably doesn’t help that it looked a bit strange before I had a big enough bump, and by the time my bump was bigger the weather was warming up. This hasn’t survived a recent wardrobe clear out because it looks ridiculous again without a baby bump. Perhaps it would have been better as a top.
A more recent make was this Lucia Top. It was a great way to kickstart sewing again being really simple, but I’m not a massive fan of the fabric. It’s a bit too shiny and ‘polyester’y. It has survive the wardrobe clear out, but only to see if I will wear it during the festive season when red and shiny seems more acceptable. If it doesn’t get worn it might have to go too.
There is nothing actually ‘wrong’ with this Lily Top, it just doesn’t get worn as often as I thought it might. I did wear it while I was pregnant, and I do sometimes wear it now to feed, but I wasn’t 100% pleased with the finishing techniques and there are some areas that I don’t think are going to be all that robust. It’s not a total fail, though I don’t think I would make the pattern again.
Again, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with this skirt, but I think it suffers from not suiting my changing body and style. I have been wearing a lot less that sits actually at my waist because I don’t find it that flattering at the moment. Perhaps that will change in the future and I will feel better wearing this skirt though. With hindsight, though the pockets are really useful, they just draw more attention to an area that I feel less confident in at the moment!
I think several of these projects have suffered from the difficulties of guessing what sorts of things I was going to want to wear as my lifestyle and body have changed. Hopefully now that thigs are starting to settle down I can make more informed choices for next year and get more of them right!
How do you like to pick our next sewing project? Do you sew multiples of the same garment or dive straight in to something new? Do you like to stick to the same colours or fabrics (or same thread in you sewing machine/overlocker) or do you flit about with different colours textures and patterns to keep things exciting? I tend to do a bit of both. Sometimes I’m tempted immediately by the lure of the next new thing, or other shiny fabrics, but sometimes I’m a little more pragmatic and choose to sew several things in the same fabric to save changing threads and needles, or make repeats of a pattern so I only need to figure out the instructions once.
This is one of the times where I’ve decided to let pragmatism and planning win out. I’ve been planning this speckled cream Archer Shirt for over a year, but it fits in beautifully with an outfit I have in my head for Autumn/Winter so it finally made it to the top of the sewing queue. I’ve made several Archer’s before, so I know what to expect from the fit, and also from the complexity of shirt making, and decided that it would actually be almost as quick to sew two shirts together. (See my post on sewing with limited time).
Especially once I rediscovered this other brushed cotton in my stash which would work with the same needles and same white thread It’s actually the same fabric that I used to make my sister an Archer for Christmas last year, but I figured she won’t mind me copying a good idea!
The shirts are actually just the same as all the ones I’ve made before (here and here)- a straight size 4. I love them to bits though. The brushed cottons are just perfect for this time of year. They feel so cosy.
I remembered to sew in my ribbon tags into the back yoke of the shirts which makes me smile every time that I put them on. I French-seamed the side seams too.
The checked shirt has several details cut on the bias to save on pattern matching, and to add a bit of interest. I did (mostly) pattern match the side seams and front, though it isn’t perfect. I decided that I can definitely live with it, and didn’t have the patience for meticulous cutting out!
On the speckled shirt I decided to hem it with bias tape. It’s not a technique I use very often, so I could probably do with more practice, but I like the neat finish. It’s not always easy to press up a neat narrow hem when there is a big curve like on the side seam of the Archer. Its worth spending the extra time on garments which are going to get lots of wear!
I think I probably have enough of these shirts to keep me going for quite a while, so I probably don’t need to make any more for a bit. Next time I need a shirt though, I can be pretty sure which pattern I’m going to be going straight to.
I do have plans to think through the successes and failures of my last year of sewing (much like last year’s hits and misses), but I thought that first it would be interesting to see what did I make. So I made some pretty graphs to help me understand the bigger picture!
First up, is patterns. I used patterns from a wide variety of patternmakers this year, but almost entirely independent pattern companies. The largest proportion was of Brindle and Twig patterns, and that is likely because every time I have made their baby leggings or top patterns I have cut and sewn in bulk! Megan Nielson also features heavily because I have made multiples of the Acacia Underwear and Amber top/dress patterns.
When I look at which patterns specifically I used, quite a few of them were either made multiple times this year (like the above mentioned baby and Megan Nielson patterns), or are remakes of patterns that I have had a while and have made before such as the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes, Grainline Moss and Archer (the new ones haven’t been blogged yet!), Sew House 7 Toaster and Oliver and S Mens Metro Tee. I’m glad to see that my sewing is not all about sewing the newest releases and following trends, but that I am developing my own style and am able to use and adapt patterns to be made multiples of times. Its much more cost effective for me, but also seems more sustainable. I can be pretty sure that when I make these patterns they will be worn again and again.
Next I thought I would like to see what sorts of things I was making. Unsurprisingly, the majority of my sewing was clothing for myself, followed by the novelty of scrap busting with baby clothes! Newer for me though was the addition of refashioning clothes from the charity shops or my wardrobe to make them more pregnancy friendly. There have also been a few more practical projects such as bags and baby wipes which make up the ‘other category’.
One of my aims this year was to sew more from stash, and to buy less fabric. I didn’t buy fabric at all for the first 6 months except where it was given to me in exchange for writing a post. After that point, I did buy some fabric, but it has been a bit more restrained and this year has mostly been sewing from my stash. It feels good, though I feel like there is still a bit further to go. In the next few months I want to sort through properly and give away or sell the fabric that is no longer my style, or for projects that I don’t think I will ever get to.
So a pretty productive year I feel. There are still a few projects and presents in the works, but it feels like even in a year with big changes in lifestyle, free time and priorities I’m getting better and better at knowing my style and sewing things that will really get well used.
It’s been a few months now since baby Toby arrived in our lives, so I’ve had some time to contemplate the changes that it has had on my sewing habits. Gone are the whole days or evenings of sewing uninterrupted, and the sewing until the early hours to finish a project (sleep is too valuable now). So here are my 5 top tips for sewing when your time is suddenly more limited.
1. Be realistic
When your life circumstances change, be that work, family or routine there are going to be changes to your sewing time too. Having limited time doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to enjoy your hobbies, but you may have to change your expectations about what is possible. You will probably enjoy the time that you do have more if you aren’t fretting about the things you can’t achieve any more, or the time you wish you had. Be realistic about your life circumstances now, and choose projects accordingly. I have been loving these baby feeding friendly tops (here and here) because they have been quick to sew, and get worn all the time because they meet the needs of my lifestyle as it is right now.
2. Make the most of short time slots
Toby is not a good daytime napper. If I get 30 minutes during the day without a baby I feel like I’ve done pretty well. To actually use that little time slot I have to plan ahead.
If I’m well planned, there are lots of ways that I can use that time productively, for example, reading through the next section of the instructions, pinning or pressing seams, or even a little hand sewing. I sometimes manage to machine sew a little, but I tend not to because it’s not great if I have to stop midway through a seam to pick up a newly awake and crying baby! with that in mind I always try to make sure that I’ve left myself a job to do which is easy to pick up and put down if I only get a few minutes at a time.
I try to keep things conveniently arranged too, with the equipment and materials that I need for the next stage all together and in easy reach. If you have space, leaving the ironing board set up and ready to go makes the world of difference! (See more pattern and sewing room organisation)
3. Choose fabric and patterns wisely
The first bit of sewing that I did post baby was a Sew Over It Lucia top and it was exactly what I needed- just 3 pattern pieces, and super simple and quick to sew. The vast majority of the sewing that I have done since then has been well behaved jersey knits using familiar patterns. I don’t have the patience of time for finicky, dainty fabric or complicated pattern fitting at the moment!
By choosing your fabric and patterns wisely you can maximise the parts of sewing which you enjoy, and minimise the difficulties. I know that my least favorite part of sewing is the cutting out, so I have been mostly choosing to sew patterns which are either fairly quick to cut out because they have few pattern pieces, or fabrics which are easy to cut because they don’t shift around too much in the process. You can also make both cutting and sewing easier by avoiding fabric which needs pattern matching (or taking a more laid back approach to it).
4. Batch sewing
More complicated sewing with more complex processes will necessitate more time reading and interpreting the instructions. When you sew several versions of the same pattern simultaneously, you can maximise your time sewing compared to reading instructions and working out construction. The second time completing each step is often much quicker than the first because you can dive in with confidence.
This doesn’t work for all projects, and is best for patterns with either a fairly forgiving fit, or which you already know fit well. I often use this technique when sewing shirts such as these Archer Shirts from last summer.
Even more efficient is if the items that you are sewing are all in the same colour family, then you can keep switching between them without needing to change thread colours.
5. Enjoy the process, not just the end result
This tip is probably the most important. I have come to terms with the fact that I am not going to sew so much as I did before. I just have a lot less uninterrupted time, so even when I have a free weekend, chances are I won’t get much sewing done unless Toby is out on a walk with someone else, or asleep. That actually makes the time that I do get to sew even more valuable though, because it is the opportunity that I get to relax, reset and do something for me. That bit of downtime is my chance to recharge ready for the next challenge.