What’s on my sewing table?

Although I’ve been quiet on the blog this month, there’s plenty of sewing going on. Some successful, some less so. Here’s what I’m up to this week:

Bridesmaid Betty


I’ve just, just finished handstitching the enormous hem on this, and it’s all ready to photograph. I just have to decide whether to take my own pictures for the blog, or see if I might be allowed to use the professional ones from the wedding.

A short-sleeved Fairfield shirt


This was originally intended as secret squirrel surprise sewing for Mr Wardrobe’s birthday last week. It’s almost finished: there’s just a bit of finishing on the collar to do, plus the hem, buttons and buttonholes. But there’s one small problem. When he tried it on, we both remembered why he doesn’t own any short-sleeved shirts – they actually don’t suit him. His arms look weirdly stick-like and this shirt really brings out the geek in him. So now I need to either abandon it, or find another Mr-Wardrobe-shaped owner for it. I might see if my Dad would like to try it on…

Returning to the scene of a previous blunder


Now that 1990s patterns are pretty much vintage in the sewisphere, I dragged out the first pattern I ever attempted (with disastrous consequences, all the way back in 1992) and it’s starting to look quite appealing again now. Since I currently own exactly zero pairs of shorts, I thought this might be fun to try again. Only this time I’ll be making view C in a lightweight tawny linen, rather than View B in a rose-print rayon challis type. (SO not a good fabric choice for a first project – if only my teenage self had listenened to her Mum.)

Stepping up my skirt game


Having worn out my favourite RTW denim skirt this year, my wardrobe definitely needs skirts. So I’m planning a few as we move into autumn. First up, this gorgeous red heavy wool crepe is going to become view D from New Look 6346 – a straightforward flared skirt pattern with a contoured waistband and invisible zip. I was eyeing the Sewaholic Hollyburn pattern orignally, but I already had this one, plus it’s more economical on fabric so that swung it for me.

Knitting plans


It’s time for a new knitting project, so I’ve spent some time on Ravelry this week, trying to work out how best to use some yarn oddments I have stashed away. I have four different balls of double knit (one cotton, one alpaca, two merino/cashmere blend) lurking in my stash and absolutely no idea what to do with any of them.

So that’s the next few weeks taken care of, then. Do you keep several projects on the go at once, or do you limit yourself to just one UFO at a time?





The end of my stash diet


Back in September, I decided my fabric stash was beginning to get out of control, and that it was time to take action. I was accumulating fabric faster than I was sewing it up and it was making a very definite hole in my wallet.

So I began a stash diet, and I made myself a promise:

  • I wouldn’t buy any more fashion fabric in 2016
  • I would sew the garments for which I already had both the fabric and the pattern.

The first thing that happened after that was that I went to #sewbrum – a sewing meet up of over 100 fabric-hungry sewists, complete with a tour of Birmimgham’s best fabric shops. Nightmare. But I stood firm and (possibly for the first time ever) didn’t succumb to the delights of Guthrie & Ghani’s shelves.

What’s surprised me is that I’ve actually enjoyed it.

Working through my stash and completing some of the projects I’d had planned for a long time (Fifi pyjamas, Fairfield shirt, Christmas pudding pyjama bottoms) has been really satisfying. And because it’s so long since I bought some of these fabrics it feels a bit like getting free clothes.

It’s forced me to confront the stuff at the bottom of my stash and assess whether or not I’m ever going to use it. One or two pieces have made their way to charity shops, and I’ve spent time thinking about how I’m going to use the rest.

There’s been a psychological change too. It felt liberating to just delete all those emails that tried to tempt me with 20% off Liberty prints or 15% off wool coating. Once I’d said I wasn’t buying any more fabric , I no longer had an excuse to browse for it online. My fear of missing out began to lessen, and I stopped trying to examine and assess all the possibilities.

And this week I came across (courtesy of the Oliver + S blog) something else that struck a chord. Deep in an article about ways to save money painlessly, was the following advice:

When you’re passionate about a particular hobby, it’s easy to fall into the trap of accumulating stuff related to that hobby rather than actually doing things within that hobby.

That hit home. I often say I’d like more time to sew. So why am I spending all this time buying fabric and browsing fabric rather than actually sewing?

So my 2017 stash resolutions are:

  1. Not to buy fabric faster than I can use it – for me, that’s one piece a month.
  2. To start thinking about my pattern purchases in the same way. Half price patterns, or the latest indie sensation is definitely not a bargain if I never get around to sewing it. Unless it’s a rare vintage pattern, it WILL be there in six months when I actually have time to sew it.
  3. To spend less time browsing fabrics online and use that time to actually sew things!

Have you resolved to sew your stash this year? What’s the best approach for you?

The stash diet: progress update

p1130982After it dawned on me that my stash was gradually expanding I decided in late September to sew up some of the £200 or so of fabric that’s languishing in my sewing space. Critically, I also pledged not to buy any more fabric until at least January 2017.

So how’s it working out at the halfway point?

So far, so good. I think. I’ve completed the Fifi pyjama set for which I’ve had both fabric and pattern since July. Next, I’m going to tackle a Fairfield shirt for Mr Wardrobe using the gorgeous dark grey/blue chambray pictured above that I bought from Eme in Ilkley back in August.

The hardest part has been not snapping up new fabric. To grow my sewing shop map, I try to visit a fabric shop each time I go to anther town. So since September I’ve visited Guthrie & Ghani, Barry’s and Birmingham Rag Market at #sewbrum; and the luxe-denim fest that is Cloth House in Soho, London. My inbox is also regularly deluged with new stock from online stores and, most tempting of all, info on sales and discount codes.

The news this week that the cost of imported goods, including fabric, is likely to rise in the UK next year almost tipped me over the edge into some impulse purchases. But for now at least, I’m staying strong, and well away from the remnants bin.

How about you? Are you trying to reduce your stash, or does it keep on growing?

The stash diet: use it or lose it

At #sewbrum this weekend, I didn’t buy a single piece of fabric. I know. It was painful.

We visited the Rag Market, Fancy Silk Store, Barry’s and Guthrie & Ghani, plus there was a fabric swap, so it wasn’t because I wasn’t tempted.

I very nearly came home with some of this gorgeous textured wool – perfect for a new coat, don’t you think?

It’s that over the past year I’ve slowly amassed more fabric than I’ve sewn. Some of it was on sale; some was perfect for a pattern I already had; some was too beautiful to leave on the shelf. But whatever the reason for the purchase, most of it is still on the shelf. So I’ve set myself a challenge.

I won’t buy any more fashion fabric this year. (Interfacings, linings, trims and calico are all permitted if I need them for a current project.)

I will sew up all the fabric I bought to go with a specific pattern before buying any more. That means tackling the following projects: Fifi by Tilly and the Buttons, The Ginger jeans by Closet Case Files (eek), some Christmas PJ bottoms for my son, and the final version of the Fairfield shirt from Thread Theory.

This one is all ready to cut out.

If that doesn’t take me up to Christmas, then I’ll sew some of the rest of my stash too. I have cuts of border-print denim, flecked sweatshirting, striped single jersey and red wool crepe that are all crying out to make it into my wardrobe.

Denim border stitch and white jersey drying on the washing line
The border print denim has been languishing unused for over a year now.

Let’s see how it goes.

Is your stash growing or shrinking? And how do you make sure your house doesn’t gradually fill up with enough fabric to bury your partner, children and pets underneath it all?

Summer sewing plans

coloured threads in a box

The weather’s finally starting to warm up after some freak snow last weekend and my thoughts are turning to summer clothes. I don’t have any weddings to go to this year, so I can concentrate on the clothes I wear day-to-day. I’m determined to make more clothes I’ll wear regularly – more cake and less frosting, if you like. Here are some ideas I’ve been pinning.

I started by listing the things I do each week and the kind of clothes they demand:

  1. Walking the dog. I do three or four long hilly walks over the Malvern Hills each week, so I need some lightweight trousers or shorts and knit tops, or possibly sportswear to wear with my hiking boots or walking shoes.
  2. Childcare. Summer days mean lots of playing in the garden, trips to the park, and generally crawling around on hands and knees with a side order of chores. Everything has to be machine-washable, and surprisingly warm – where I’d walk faster or move more to keep warm, a two-year old often can’t keep up or is too tired. So good options are T-shirts,and other non-iron tops, jeans and trousers, lightweight jumpers, plus the odd relaxed-feel skirt or dress. Usual footwear: trainers. And there are to be no delicate fabrics in this category…
  3. Working from home and weekends. These categories are virtually the same. So for summer that’s lightweight skirts and trousers, the odd woven top, along with yet more knit tops and jumpers.
  4. Child-free days (and the odd evening out). There really aren’t many of these! But when I do break out of my usual routine, it might involve lunch with friends, an evening at the cinema with Mr Wardrobe, or a day trip for shopping or culture. I’m not a high heels kinda person, so a skirt or trousers with a smart top that will go with flats is probably the order of the day. And it’s time to upgrade from my childcare-appropriate hiking waterproof to a more grown-up summer jacket or raincoat.
  5. Nightwear. A very neglected catgeory! I badly need a dressing gown that won’t make me too hot in warmer weather – as well as something to sleep in on warm nights.

These are the clothes I reach for every day; and they’re currently the RTW clothes I grumble about every day because they don’t fit properly, or they’ve faded or shrunk or fallen apart.

Translating all that into patterns and fabrics, my ideal summer wardrobe probably needs:

Hmm. That’s way more than I’ll manage to make this year.

I suppose it gives me a longlist to work from. Stay tuned to find out which ones make it to the cutting table before October…

I got my colours done…

If you read Bridget Jones’ Diary, you probably remember Bridget’s Mum urging her to ‘get her colours done’. “Mavis Enderby used to be all miserable in buffs and mosses…” At the risk of turning into Bridget, (or her overbearing mother), that’s what I did earlier this month – partly to help me choose some new fabrics to sew with.

I’ve always been drawn to colourful clothes, but recently I’d noticed that I was choosing almost everything in grey or navy. And since my son was born, I’d had so many days where I woke up looking pretty grey that I felt I was turning into a Spitting Image sketch about John and Norma Major. I’ve read the Colette Wardrobe Architect series, but I was struggling to work out which colours suited me out of the ones I like.

So I booked in for a colour analysis consultation with Meg Hanlon, a local Colour Me Beautiful consultant. Meg and I tried out lots of different colour swatches next to my face to see which ones made me look hungover and which as though I’d slept well and breakfasted solely on quinoa, organic eggs and watercress. We also looked at which ones go together well and the hair and make-up colours that would suit me best.

For those who are up with the lingo, I’m soft, cool and deep*. CMB cops a lot of flack for being overly prescriptive, but you really don’t have to take every recommendation as a rule. It definitely helped me see I’d been restricting myself to just a handful of colours, and opened my eyes to some others that suit me as well. Rose brown, for example – I’d never really considered having brown in my wardrobe, and there are so many different greens.


A few of my favourites from my CMB palette

Looking through my fabric stash, I can see that most of my fabrics are in the colours Meg identified for me – there’s a lot of blue and grey, but there’s also some pink, plum, red and ivory. But it’s also quite a narrow range of colours. I think I can probably accommodate some more browns, purples and greens in there, and I’ve now got some new ideas for neutrals other than just navy, black and grey so I think it will influence my fabric shopping habits and the things I make.

Do you sew in all the colours of the rainbow, or do you stick to the same three or four shades?

*CMB UK has updated its colour groupings since Bridget Jones’ Mum had her colours done. They used to use groups named after the four seasons but there are now six: warm, cool, soft, clear, light and deep.

Christmas goodies

Wow. My family really went to town on the sewing-related gifts this year. (Perhaps they’re reading this blog?) Here are some of the things I received.

Tickets to Sewing for Pleasure, A Guthrie & Ghani gift voucher, a subscription to Love Sewing magazine, the Sewaholic Renfrew pattern and a gift voucher for my local wool shop.

As a result, I’ve spent quite a lot of this Christmas holiday contemplating what to buy, and not much of it making any progress on anything new. I’m full of plans for 2016, but I’m trying to spend at least some time reflecting on 2015.

I’ve really enjoyed getting my sewing space straight this year, and my new machine has made things a lot easier. And I’m slowly finding ways to use the ‘time confetti’ that you get as the parent of a toddler.

Knitting has been a new challenge for me this year and it’s been great fun learning a new skill (and one that you can take on holiday – hurrah!).

My original goals for 2015 have all been started, if not completely conquered. But I think my favourite make of the year was probably the second School Days Jacket I made for my son. Luckily, it still fits him – for now!

Did you get crafty gifts for Christmas? Have you had lots of time to tackle a new project?

Which are you: an opener or a finisher?

Five sewing patterns on a table.
Five sewing patterns on a table.
The lure of the new: just a few of the uncut patterns trying to tempt me away from finishing my Thurlow trousers

What’s the most exciting part of a sewing project for you? Do you get more satisfaction from breaking out a brand-new uncut pattern, or from finishing off the hem? Do you have many UFOs lurking in your cupboards…?

Earlier this year, I read the new book by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. It’s called Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. It’s all about how we form new habits and why certain methods (such as to-do lists) work for some people but not for others. To investigate this, she asks you to think about your personality along different spectrums, including whether you’re an ‘opener’ or a ‘finisher’.

“Finishers love the feeling of bringing a project to completion, and they’re determined to use the last drop in the shampoo bottle; openers thrill to the excitement of launching a new project, and find pleasure in opening a fresh tube of toothpaste.”

I’m absolutely 100% an opener. I love the optimism of starting something new; the possibilities it brings. I have to force myself to complete projects – typically by deciding that I’m going to wear it for a particular event or blog about it on a certain day. I’m uncomfortable leaving stuff unfinished because it’s wasteful, but if money and resources were no object I’d probably have seventeen projects on the go at any one time and dozens of UFOs lying about the place. The thrill I get from cutting into a new pattern is right up there with chocolate cake…

As a project goes on, I often find there’s a tinge of disappointment that comes with my progress. That zip isn’t quite as neat as I’d hoped. The fit could be better around the hips. It isn’t perfect. Next time, I think, next time it’ll be perfect.

I’d love to know what it means to be a finisher – are you better at finding and sticking to your TNT patterns? Do you have pretty much nothing in your stash sometimes? Do you rush through projects just so you can tick them off your list?!