I love the BBC Pride and Prejudice – the actors, the settings, and especially the costumes. When I was little my mom sewed for me all the time. My closet was packed with handmade sundresses. As I got older I fell in love with American Girl Dolls and especially the books that came with them. My mom sewed me a Felicity dress which I wore every time I could possibly manage. She also sewed me a Laura Ingalls dress and bonnet, which I wore incessantly. I guess I’ve always loved to dress up and pretend I’m someone different.
Recently in reading Jane Austen Knits I stumbled upon Sense & Sensibility Patterns, where you can buy patterns to make your own Regency Era gowns (I’m drooling over this one in particular). I would love to make one for myself, but I don’t wear a lot of full length dresses. So my plan is to make a short dress. It will have a square-ish neckline and a knee-length (very slightly) hi-low hem. I will wear it with my wedding boots, and in the winter I can wear leggings. Also, I will knit this spencer to go with it.
Knowing me, I’ll take forever to actually make it, but it is so fun to dream of projects.
About 2 months ago I bought the Watson Bra and Undies pattern. I made up a shopping list, cut out my fabric, and sewed the undies pretty quickly (more about that here). And then I stopped. I was terrified of making the bra. What if I didn’t cut it just right? What if after hours and hours of sewing it just fell apart? What if it didn’t fit?
The only way to know what would happen was to actually make the bra. So I did it. It fits! It didn’t fall apart. And now I have a matching set.
My main fabric is a cotton/polyester blend, and I fully lined it with nude power mesh. I really like the fit of this bra. It gives me good coverage without squishing me or making me a shape I’m not. The instructions are pretty easy to follow as well. In the future I think I would go down a band size, but on the whole I have no complaints.
So there you have it. I made a bra by hand, there are no machine stitches on it. So if you are holding back from something like this because you’re scared, just do it. You might surprise yourself. And if it fails somehow or doesn’t fit? It’s just fabric. There is always more.
Sewing was one of the first crafts my mother taught me. I started by making small pillows that were supposed to be square. Soon I graduated to decorating plastic canvas and then to basic embroidery. I don’t live near my mom anymore, so most of the new skills I learn are from the internet or from books. These are the books in my sewing library.
Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: This book changed my life. I had never thought of hand-sewing jersey before or of using applique as an all over technique. I didn’t know there were hand-sewing stitches that were stretchy. I’ve made 3 garments from these patterns so far, and they are great.
Couture Sewing Techniques: If you want to learn everything there is to know about the finer points of hand-sewing garments, this is the book for you. It starts of with a history of couture, and has chapters devoted to different aspects of crafting a garment, such as seams, hems, and finishing techniques.
Fit for Real People: The basic premise of the method presented in this book is that you fit tissue paper patterns to your body. You don’t make a muslin, you don’t have to take a million measurements or learn to draft patterns. Just pin the pattern in place, make adjustments for your body, cut, and sew. Revolutionary!
Doodle Stitching: This book is all about whimsical embroidery. It starts with suggestions of several embroidery stitches to use, and then details projects to be made with these stitches. I keep this book not because I want an apron with a teacup on it, but as a reminder that not everything has to be serious and that a little colour can really spice things up.
McCall’s Easy Sewing, White Sewing Course, and The Home Handicraft Book: These are all basic sewing courses aimed at amateur sewists learning how to sew garments for the first time. They are full of tried and tested techniques, and are a great way to get started sewing.
Do you have a sewing library? What books do you keep coming back to for tried and tested knowledge?
At the end of May, Karen from Fringe Association announced a make-along that she called Summer of Basics. The goal was to use the months of June, July, and August to make wardrobe basics. Sewing and knitting were both allowed, and everyone got to decide what was a basic for their individual wardrobe. Brilliant!
I didn’t seriously consider joining until a reader commented that I should, at which point I realized that I make things all the time and wardrobe basics are super smart things to make since they get used all the time.
First up is my Call Box Hat:
This is a pattern that I wrote (and it will be released September 30 in Knotions Magazine!). I had made a prototype version several years ago, but somehow I lost it and I missed it last winter. I wrote all about it here.
Second is my Alabama Chanin T-shirt tunic:
This tunic was a super easy make. It’s the perfect length, and I love wearing it! You can read more about the details here.
And Third is my Watson Bikini:
I just finished these last night, and they fit well. Part of me can’t believe that I just made my own underwear, but there they are staring me in the face. You can’t get much more basic than underpants (also, I’m planning to make a matching bra. You’ll see that in the next few weeks).
So that’s my Summer of Basics. What counts as a basic in your wardrobe?
A while ago I wrote about how I like to dress down at home, but somewhat nice at work. However, I find it easiest to make clothes that fall in between – too nice to wear at home, but not nice enough for a professional setting. Several months ago I bought some cotton jersey, intending to make ALL THE THINGS, but the colours were not what I expected, so the fabric got set aside. A few days ago I decided that sometimes good enough now is better than perfect someday, and that I should use what I already have rather than buy more stuff.
So I pulled out my Alabama Chanin patterns, and set to work making a tunic to wear at home. I used the basic T-shirt pattern, but lengthened the hem to end mid-thigh and shortened the sleeves to end just above my elbow. I also added a pocket, because POCKETS!
I turned the neckline under to stabilize it. I may turn the other hems under, but then again, I may not. I have also thought about felling the seams, but that just seems like a lot of work for an already functional garment. In my imaginary world I will applique leaf shapes all over the tunic and it will become a work of art that I wear with leggings and a hat as I walk through piles of autumn leaves. But sometimes good enough now is better than perfect someday. And I can always add to my finished tunic.
This month I participated in Me Made May. I’ve seen this in the past and wanted to participate, but didn’t really know how. I looked it up this year, and basically Me Made May is a challenge to wear the things you have made every day in the month of May. I wasn’t sure if I had enough handmade clothing items to do this, but I decided to try. It ended up being a great way to find things I had made that I had forgotten about and to try different clothing combinations. I will definitely do this again.
One dress, three ways: I love my Alabama Chanin inspired grey dress. I feel very cute wearing it, and it is so easy to style!
Tank Tops: May is warm where I live, so I wore my tank tops a lot. One is self drafted and two are Wiksten tanks (one of which I upcycled from a shirt my husband had torn).
Socks: I wore my Fraternal Slytherin socks a lot. As in every time they were clean. Also, I finished my Pink Floyd socks this month and they have been a bright addition to my handmade wardrobe.
Accessories: The Chevron Lace Headband is my first published pattern (and it’s free). I’m about to publish a pattern for this cowl as well – it will be called Raindrops and Wildflowers and I’m planning to publish it in July. I also wore my Wedding Shawl and a ribbon rose hair clip I had forgotten about.
Other: I don’t wear skirts as much as I used to, so I had forgotten how much I loved my Joseph skirt. I wore my Lace-Back vest, and my long sleeve Alamaba Chanin t-shirt for the odd cold day.
Historically clothes were often remade. But somewhere along the way clothes became cheap and thus disposable and we stopped remaking them. Well, we also stopped making clothes (that’s a discussion for another day) and thus we lost the skills to make (or remake or mend) clothes.
The other day my husband ripped the elbow of his dress shirt. He has done this before and it always pains me to throw out an otherwise perfect shirt. This time I had an idea: why not use his shirt to make a shirt for me?
I laid the shirt out, cut off the sleeves and up the side seams, laid my pattern out (I’m using the Wiksten tank), and cut out the pieces. I was in a bit of a conundrum about the bias binding until I remembered the perfectly good sleeves (well, one of them was perfectly good, and the other very nearly so). Using the sleeves as bias tape also reduced my waste.
I pinned and sewed and ironed and sewed some more, and here is what I came up with:
I made some modifications to the pattern because of what I had to work with:
- The shirt is a little less full at the bottom than the pattern (because my husband is a skinny man). It still fits very comfortably.
- The last time I made the Wiksten tank I really didn’t enjoy turning up the hem. Since I was working with a shirt that already had been hemmed I kept the existing hem (even though it was a little different in shape from the pattern).
- The neck is a little higher – partly because I feel more comfortable with a higher neck, partly because I wanted a button at the very top of the shirt.
- The neck and arm holes are simply sewn over with bias tape instead of being turned under.
- I moved the pocket to the right hip area (and it’s a man-sized pocket so it fits ALL THE THINGS).
I feel so pretty and comfortable in this shirt! And I can wear it with jeans or coloured pants. And the pocket! Did I mention the pocket? I love pockets.
What would I do differently? Well, I somehow messed up the shoulder/back neck so it doesn’t hang well in the back. I need to raise the whole back panel. And I think I will end up putting in some bust darts because the arm holes are a little wide for my taste.
All in all I like it. Would I do it again? Maybe.