Sewing review 2021

Posted on

It’s not been a bad year. Everything fit, not too many bad fabric choices, but I’ve still yet to complete a garment perfectly from beginning to end.

Two shirts

M6436 came along in Feb and March. I got the urge to sew a button down shirt and this pattern included different cup sizes so was a good starting place in terms of fit. The first shirt was that old favourite, a wearable toile, made from a vintage sheet and a small left over piece of cotton poplin. There were new techniques to learn which were button placket, collar stand and pocket flaps, but all came together without drama as the instructions were easy to follow and the fabric was well behaved.

I shortened the length of the second shirt and made different pockets. Fabric was quilting type cotton.

Although pleased with the sewing and fit of these 2 shirts they are difficult to wear, in fact I haven’t started wearing the toile yet. The cotton one has been worn 6 times. I have a lot of tops and it’s difficult to fit new ones in, the shirts were too warm for the summer months, the patterns are loud and they are too long to wear with skirts. I wouldn’t rule out making this pattern again but would have to be a short sleeved, shorter, quieter version.

Interfacing – obviously this pattern required it in the collar, cuffs and pocket flaps but I used an extra layer of cotton in place of interfacing. I have yet to find any which doesn’t transform into a web of useless mush after about 3 washes so have given up using it.

Four pairs of trousers

I sewed 3 x Helen’s closet Arden pants, my 5th, 6th and 7th ones in Feb and July. Number 5 was made from new viscose fabric left over from making some of these pants for my daughter. Of course there wasn’t quite enough and I added some toning pocket detail. These trousers were almost a perfect sew, I’ve had enough practice with this pattern after all, except when I started to wear them I realised that one of the leg pieces had been cut off grain which makes that leg hang twisted. At first I found this very annoying but now I barely notice it. I’d cut so many shapes out of the fabric at this stage so much there weren’t many clues which way the grain lay and the fabric design wasn’t directional at all. This would explain why I initially thought I would have to join one of the leg pieces then managed to cut it in one piece. So far they’ve been worn 17 times.

Numbers 6 and 7 were made as gardening wear – I do paid gardening work which is very hard on trousers and soon saw off 3 old pairs I had been using. One of the Ardens was made from the same vintage sheet as I used for the shirt toile, and the other was from an old duvet cover. I added jeans pocket knee protection to both. They are both a big success and have been worn and washed weekly since July.

In May it was time to try a different pants pattern and used K8175 which also has a skirt version which I have made a couple of times. The fabric is a fairly thin polyester crepe from a de-stash and these trousers turned out OK but I initially made the waistband too big and had to go back and alter, and the zip installation isn’t great either. They’ve been worn 10 times.

Two Yanta overalls

I am a big user of Helen’s closet patterns and this one looked so comfortable I had to try. The fabric for the first version was an Ikea tablecloth bought at a jumble sale for pennies. With so much ease and no bust fitting required, I made a straight size 16, but went back in to make the hips and legs smaller. Currently the most comfortable clothing I own and have been worn 10 times. The second pair, which quickly followed the first, was in what I believe is 1980’s liberty lawn found in a charity shop de-stash. This time I sewed a straight size 14 and shortened the body by a couple of inches, which I now regret as the extra room is useful when sitting down. I had been wondering what to do with this precious fabric for some time and liked the idea of sewing dungarees in a posh fabric, and I’ve used them as evening wear. Also a success, the fabric is quite thin and they’re not that warm. They’ve been worn 4 times.

Three jumpers / sweaters

In November I made 2 versions of K8529 which is basically the Sew House Seven Toaster sweater. The first one was a straight size L (but shortened and no high low hem) made from a scarf which was given to me as fabric, supplemented with some navy jersey. The scarf fabric was ribbed and the ribs ran diagonally so it was always going to be tricky to marry the two together. What I learned from this make was that the pattern was a good one, its USP being the neckline which is a cross between a boat neck and a turtle neck. The pattern piece is an odd shape folded back on itself to make a facing, which is then sewn to the shoulder. I really liked the way it is close enough to keep your neck warm without feeling tight. I immediately followed up with a 2nd version in ponte as a straight size M. This was a perfect fit and also one of my favourite makes of the year. The scarf one has been worn 6 times and the ponte one has been worn twice.

In October I made a TATB Stella Hoodie. For the body and hood I used some cotton jersey and for the sleeves and cuffs I used an old polo shirt in a similar colour. My twin needle was not particularly keen on the jersey and kept skipping stitches. It was an easy sew which came together well, and is a rare and useful neutral in my wardrobe. I made a size 7 but next time would make a 6. It’s been worn 10 times.

Two skirts

In Feb I made a second MiY patterns Kelham skirt in vintage Welsh wool which my mother had bought many years ago. I made the terrible mistake of pre-washing the fabric which both shrunk it and felted it. I steamed and pulled at the wet fabric but the damage had already been done. This is an error I am never going to forget. Determined to still sew the skirt, I just about got the main pieces out of it by shortening the length and using smaller seam allowances. It’s been worn 10 times.

In April I made the ‘seeing red denim skirt’ with a free pattern downloaded from Love Sewing magazine. The fabric was black denim with some stretch, and as usual there wasn’t enough of it, some piecing was involved. It’s also been worn 10 times. Both of these skirts are OK but not favourites.

One dress

McCalls Siella in bamboo jersey

In March I made M8085 in a bamboo jersey purchased from a local independent fabric shop. The fabric was similar to the one on the pattern envelope. This has been a good versatile dress suitable for many occasions. It’s a little warm for high summer but with a vest and boots has been quite serviceable for winter. The plain front design makes a good backdrop for necklaces. The dress is physically quite heavy, and there’s a full length version which would be pretty weighty. It’s had 11 wears.

A re-fashion

refashioned silk tunic

A friend gave me a pure silk top which she no longer wore. It was too tight on the bust so I added a lace side panel and moved the darts. It’s not been worn yet but soon will be.

Sewing plans for 2022

I’ve got a lot of patterns and fabric but don’t like to sew up a lot of things which won’t get worn. I do love sewing though, it’s a constant dilemma. Only definite plan is for a shirt dress, M8030, and vague plans for more Yanta overalls and maybe a cardigan, but inspiration will surely come as the year goes by and the urge to stitch gets stronger!

Sew wear are they now? 2017 edition

Posted on

I made / refashioned 11 items of clothing in 2017, 3 of which I still have. Here I am reviewing a representative selection.

Spider t-shirt

I used to spend more time on pinterest than I do now, and spotted a cute t-shirt transformation which looked easy to copy.

This t-shirt got comments whenever I wore it, even children who could barely speak would notice it.

For some reason I later decided to shorten the hem and add a band of lace to the hem, but this ruined it – just made it look wrong.

The base t-shirt which I got from a charity shop was more worn than I realised which also limited its life.

positives – always got me noticed

negatives – took it a refashion too far

estimated number of wears – 20

I discarded this re-fashion in March 2020

Men’s linen shirt refashion

I made a top from a good quality large size men’s shirt.

It was a simple re-make where the back becomes the front, I cut off the sleeves, added some bust shaping and bias binding.

I remember being quite pleased with the bias binding but the darts look a bit dodgy.

This top has had a good amount of wear but has a limited wearing season of high summer.

Positives – nice colour, simple garment which goes with anything

negatives – creases within 5 minutes of putting on

Estimated number of wears – 31

This top was demoted to gardening wear summer 2021 when it quickly picked up some stubborn stains and has now been discarded.

Dress to skirt refashion

I made a skirt from a dress and a skirt given to me by the same person (my daughter)

Despite 2 different types of fabric, a thin stretchy jersey and a mid weight woven, they actually went together well. I had a penchant for a frill hem on a skirt at the time.

I didn’t actually make a waistband initially, just relying on the stretch in the fabric to hold the skirt up, but that didn’t really work and in 2020 I modified it with a waistband.

positives – very comfortable to wear due to the stretchy nature of the fabric

negatives – none really, its a summer season skirt

estimated number of wears – 25

I wore this skirt 10 times summer 2021 and have now discarded it.

Dress to top refashion

I was given this dress to refashion and I really liked the colour of the fabric, which had 2 way stretch.

The dress had a wrap top which in my experience always gape, so I cut off the wrap section and sewed a centre seam instead.

I used more of the dress fabric to add length under the wrap.

The trim around the neck V was the finishing touch. – see next photo for an image of the top.

Positives – good original fit around the shoulders and arms

negatives – can’t think of any

estimated number of wears – 20

I still have this top and it’s probably got another 20 wears in it, I have a lot of tops and they only get 10 wears per year.

Suit to skirt refashion – refashioners 2017

This refashioners challenge was indeed something of a challenge as I had never refashioned a suit before.

I think I chose a good ladies skirt suit to work with and gave it my best shot by making a panelled A line skirt from both the jacket and skirt elements of the suit.

The fabric was denim coloured but had a lot of stretch and an embossed finish.

Note that I used fabric from the previous refashion for a waistband.

This skirt grew on me and I ended up being quite a favourite ( it was easy to wear with any top)

positives – comfortable and goes with anything

negatives – the fabric was stiff and had no drape at all

estimated number of wears – 20

I discarded this skirt in Aug 2020, it wasn’t worn out and I was maybe just having a bad day.

Skirt in 2017, worn with above top as a twofer.

This concludes my ‘sew wear are they now?’ series, I’ll leave it until next year to do 2018.

Sew wear are they now? 2016 edition – what happened to clothes I made in 2016

Posted on

I made 17 things in 2016, 5 of which I still have. I won’t review all 17 just a representative selection.

There seem to be quite a number that didn’t go too well in 2016 so I will start with one of them

By way of explanation from 11.10.19 I started keeping records of how many times I wear clothes and refer to this in the post. I wear clothes in 10 wear blocks then put them away.

Deep Purple

I took a waterfall chenille cardigan with frills on the cuff and hem as well, and turned it into a jumper with a fake button band. There were multiple problems with this refashion – the fake button band was too thick and looked too odd, the neckline was too low, it was too bulky to fit under a coat, and I just felt uncomfortable wearing it.

Positives – nice colour, cheap buy which was barely worn

Negatives – Impractical and uncomfortable to wear

Estimated number of wears – less than 5

I discarded this refashion at least 3 years ago, barely worn.

Jeans to dress refashion

This was my entry for therefashioners 2016 the challenge was to make something out of used denim, the dress was modelled in 2016 by my daughter. I did these challenges for 3 consecutive years, each one pushed me out of my comfort zone but ended up with a result I was pleased with.

Positives – fits me perfectly and used denim is my favourite fabric.

Negatives – Can’t think of any

Estimated number of wears – 40 including 20 since 11.10.19

I still have this dress and but its probably only got 10 more wears in it.

22 inch waist scuba skirt to 2 hour top refashion

I made this top from a very small sized scuba skirt which had large pleats so contained enough fabric to make the front and back of a top. I used a free pattern so was ahead of my time as free patterns are very current in the sewing community!

I was just dipping my toes into the pattern world and although unable to complete the top in 2 hrs did find it a simple make. It was the first time I used scuba and it was a dream to sew. Some of the creases from its life as a skirt were very persistent, and it is a little sweaty to wear as the scuba was mid weight. My work lanyard made some little pulls in the front of the top as the lanyard had a sharpish corner to it.

Positives – simple design in plain fabric, wearable with many trousers and skirts

Negatives – a bit sweaty, some of the creases took a long time to disappear.

Estimated number of wears – 35, including 20 since 11.10.19

I still have this top and have worn it this week. It’s probably got another 10 or 20 wears left in it.

Auntie’s antimacassar to skirt refashion

Out of many rather odd refashions I have done, this may be the oddest. I took a t-shirt, 2 pairs of cord trousers, a vintage antimacassar (damaged), a bit of old pillowcase, and made a skirt out of them.

It was actually comfortable and quite successful in that it got a reasonable amount of wear. The yoga waistband had to be made smaller as it tended to fall down and the antimacassar did not really tolerate washing.

Positives – I made an antimacassar into a skirt

Negatives – It was a bit odd

Estimated number of wears – 20

I discarded this skirt at least 3 years ago as the antimacassar was falling apart.

Scarf to top refashion

I made this top from a large scarf with a striking design, which I had found on the way to work.

I copied a tutorial found on pinterest (you can see details if you follow the link in the title) and though I had never heard the term at the time, it used an almost zero waste technique to make a top out of any scarf. This technique did involve sewing a bias cut, fray like hell, flimsy fabric so sweat and tears were involved in its making.

The top received many compliments when I was wearing it ( I was always a bit nervous wearing it to work in case someone claimed it as theirs)

The fabric was fragile and faded when (hand) washed, so after at most 20 wears it was looking scrappy under the armpits.

Positives – striking zero waste top

Negatives – scarves are not meant for this type of wear

Estimated number of wears – 15

I discarded this top at least 3 years ago as it was looking tatty.

Skirt made bigger

This was a simple refashion where I took a nice but too small skirt and made it fit by increasing the waist size, this is a bit of a go to method for me as I have a 2 sizes difference between my waist and hip measurements.

I’m including this skirt because mostly because I still have it but to be honest am now a little bored with it.

Positives – good quality skirt

Negatives – I added quite a lot to the waist and if effects the drape and is still a bit tight.

Estimated number of wears – 25, including 10 since 11.10.19

I still have this skirt but its fate is 10 more wears this summer then out.

This concludes my review of 2016 makes, there are more of them back there in blog post history but I don’t want to labour the point.

Revisiting these older makes has brought me joy, 2017 to follow soon.

Sew wear are they now? 2015 edition – what happened to the things I sewed in 2015

Posted on

Inspired by

I decided to look back on some of my older makes and reflect on their life history.

I started recording what clothes I wear on a daily basis from 11 Oct 2019 so prior to this date number of wears are estimates but after that they are accurate.

I bought a sewing machine in 2015 and it has changed my life…. well my wardrobe anyway.

I habitually bought second hand clothes at charity shops, so the first clothing items to be tackled were refashions.

I refashioned 13 items in 2015, 4 of which I still have, so here is the life history of some of my 2015 makes.

Dress and skirt to dress refashion:

The first item I ever blogged was this dress, the bodice of which was made from the skirt of a well worn RTW dress which I owned and the skirt was made from a drill type fabric 2nd hand skirt.

With this item I had beginners luck because the dress was a good fit, probably due to knit fabric on the top, and was comfortable to wear. It looks like a skirt and t-shirt but is more comfortable because there was no waistband. I loved the before dress and refashioned it because the armpits were getting a little grotty.

positives – comfortable and nice fit

negatives – weight of skirt tended to drag the bodice down a little

estimated number of wears – at least 20 in this re-incarnation and at least 20 as the before dress.

score 9 out of 10

I can’t remember when I discarded this dress but it must have been at least 3 years ago and the component parts had a final life as cleaning cloths in my home.

Shirt made bigger

This was my 2nd make and a found item which I noticed in a bin bag near my home, picking it out with the intention of using it as a fabric source. I actually ended up making the shirt fit me by sewing a rudimentary triangle into the back to make it bigger, the fabric for which came from shortening the shirt considerably. The reason I did this was because when I tried it on I was surprised how good a fit the shoulders and arms turned out to be. This shirt is something of a curiosity to me even now because the armholes are a perfect fit and I can lift my arms up and the body of the shirt does not move at all.

positives – perfect armhole fit

negatives – triangle on the back looks a bit odd and the side seams are thrown quite a bit forward as a result.

estimated number of wears – 20

score 5 out of 10 good fit but not many wears.

I have kept this shirt for sleeve fit reference and wore it 10 times in 2020 but then retired it from my wardrobe.

Party dress to gypsy skirt refashion

I bought a too small dress 2nd hand because I liked the fabric which was a mid weight cotton with some stretch. I made it into a skirt and added a denim ruffle at the hemline. I really enjoyed wearing this skirt because it was comfortable and had some structure.

positives – good design and fit

negatives – the fastening wasn’t very well done

estimated number of wears – 30

score 8 out of 10

I no longer have this skirt and threw it away at least 3 years ago as the fabric was pretty faded.

Club Tr Op icana t-shirt refashion

This is pretty typical of the refashions I was doing at the time. I bought a lightly worn t-shirt with a logo I didn’t like, lowered the neckline and created a pleated ruffle to cover it up. This refashion was pretty successful and got enough wears at the time

positives – fairly good design and fit

negatives – the neckline gaped a bit

estimated number of wears – 20

score 7 out of 10

I no longer have this t-shirt and threw it away at least 3 years ago as it was looking worn. It probably had a final life as a cleaning cloth.

Refashioners 2015 entry – alternative angles

Seen below in 2015 (on left) and now

This shirt refashion was my entry for therefashioners challenge for 2015 which was to refashion a men’s button down shirt. I was, and still am, quite proud of my creativity in this make as I turned the shirt round 180 degrees so a former armhole became the neckline, and did the rest of the construction by draping, re-attaching the shirt collar with some added trim and re-positioning the pockets as one at the front. I could have probably done with a bigger sized shirt as this was a bit of a limitation. This top has a limited hot weather wearing season due to the low back but I do like it, and the pocket was useful on holidays for small items like tickets or credit cards.

positives – creative design

negatives – limited wearing season, its a bit snug on the bust

estimated number of wears – 15 including 5 in 2020

score 8 out of 10

I still have this top and intend to wear it some more this year. I will probably keep it long term as I am quite attached to it.

Keep your cloth as long as you can as long as you can shirt refashion

Don’t seen to have a 2015 photo of me wearing it so this is now:

With no time to plan I bought this men’s shirt new for a particular event and paid £40 for it. It was too tight on the hips and too long, so after wearing for the event I decided to shorten it and make a shaped hemline.

I made a mistake and cut too much off the length. In addition poor armhole fit made the shirt ride up and expose my midriff, so I made a 2nd refashion of adding some knit fabric to the armpit area. This helped a bit but not enough. Having just tried this on again I am determined to bring it back into use as I now have more high waisted trousers and skirts it could be worn with comfortably.

positives – quality fabric

negatives – too short which limits wear

estimated wears – 10 but none since oct 2019

score – 2 out of 10

I still have this shirt as it was too good to throw out and did use the trimmed hemline piece for some other garment but can’t remember what now. I haven’t worn it for a long time but it will get 10 wears this year or my name’s not Helen.

That concludes my 2015 review. I haven’t included everything but a representative sample. The original blog post are still there if you wish to look. I used to favour making tops and so I am planning to target wearing some out this year. My records are showing me that most items will be looking quite worn after 40 wears and ready for retirement.

How many times do you wear your clothes?

Posted on

Here is my wardrobe

Looks like I don’t have many clothes doesn’t it? but there are also these 2 full containers of clothes not in current rotation.

Actually I am still virtue signalling and don’t think I have that many compared to other wardrobes I have seen.

I have been sewing since 2015 and regard this as my main hobby which has opened up the online sewing community to me. I enjoy very much reading about other peoples makes and learning from them. Most of what I know has been learned for free by their kindness and generosity.

Something bothered and puzzled me. I read common phrases like ‘this garment has/will get a lot of wears’ or ‘is in constant rotation’ but then I see that the same sewists will publish multiple makes each month and I wonder how many wears do their garments actually get and how do they know?

I have plenty to wear but still make one garment a month because I want to.

Last year I decided to keep a record of what I wore each day. I normally wear the same thing all day. I have also recently transferred it to a spreadsheet. This led me to discover I have 32 tops/cardigans and 10 – 12 each of trousers, dresses and skirts.

Here is a sample page from my record book. The number of the left of the page refers to the wear number of each item. For anyone thinking this must be a terrible chore, it isn’t, and it has enhanced my enjoyment of my clothes.

Once each item has been worn 10 times it gets washed and not worn again for at least one month. Once each item has been worn 20 times, I don’t wear it again until all other items in that category have been worn 20 times as well. Some items are seasonal, around 35%.

I learned that I have too many tops and should avoid making more, haven’t yet been able to wear each of them 10 times in a year.

Dresses, trousers and skirts have all been worn 10 or 20 times.

Documenting my wears made me change my dressing habits, and I now have around 4 outfits on the go at any one time. I look forward to getting to wear number 10 from each item and always consider in advance what I will bring into rotation next, and this is a fun thing to do!

The exercise has got me wearing all of my wardrobe and not just a selection of it, and I have found that familiarity brings comfort. By this I mean that I began to like things I was initially less keen on, once I had worn them 3 or 4 times.

Here are some examples of things I wanted to wear more :

denim skirt made April 2019
Betty dress, made Sept 2019
Arden pants, made August 2020

Clothes I was reluctant to start wearing:

Early refashion dress from 2015 made from t-shirt and skirt
Top made from palazzo pants and gifted ankara fabric ( poor fit on bust)
Purple/pink shapes skirt (charity shop buy with waist made bigger to fit)

So, sewing community, thank you for all I have learned from you but want to challenge you by asking you these questions

How many times do you wear your clothes and how do you know your answer is correct?

Is this enough and could you do better?