my sewing journey

Hi I’m Sam and I love to sew.

I live with my partner, also called Sam, and our two cats Ruby and Kratos (he’s very a bit touched).  By day I’m a family and criminal lawyer and in my limited spare time I love to sew.

I live on the North Coast of New South Wales Australia – home of Russell Crowe and 500 km from Sydney.  Its not a small town but it’s not a city.

I’m a plus size lady and my personal style is a mash up of vintage and modern.  Buying clothes is hard and some days it’s soul destroying.  We have a some great independent retailers in my town but as as a plus size lady who has a professional job, there isn’t really anywhere to appropriate clothes unless you shop online and that’s a whole different kettle of fish.  This need for work clothes lead me to sewing.

I’m a third generation sewer.  My mum sews her own clothes and has done since she was at school.  She made our clothes as kids.  She learnt embroidery, patchwork and quilting and is now operating an on demand costume service for my niece (she’s currently very experienced in all things Belle).  I don’t remember a period of my life when she didn’t sew.  It always came in handy at school formal (Australian for prom) time.

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In my Mum made Races Dress during fitting

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Just a small selection of her handiwork circa 1980

Both of my grandmothers were creative.  My Dad’s mum sewed her own clothes and crocheted.  My Dad’s sister studied dressmaking and made clothes for people.  One of the most vivid memories as a child for me is playing dress ups with the op shop clothes on a dressmaker’s dummy in the back room of my grandma’s house.

My Mum’s Mum was a knitter.  Gran specialised in making baby clothes.  I can still remember her one summer when we had all gone to my Aunt’s farm for Christmas sitting inside listening to the cricket on the radio and watching the tennis on the television without sound, all while making a babies jacket.

With a background like that was it a wonder I caught the bug?

As a child I was always fascinated with jewellery and for many years I made beaded jewellery.  I eventually picked up knitting but the limit to my skill was straight lines of knit and purl.  I’ve come a bit further these days but not very.

I have always had a love of beautiful fabric and started making cushions and bunting for my house.

A few months after I met my partner he was hosting a friends Christmas party.  For a lark I decided to make him some outrageous Christmas pants.  I made sure there were pockets which will fit a beer in and trimmed them in pom poms.  I’d never made a garment before let alone pants so I traced them off a pair of his pants.  The results was a fabulous pair of pants with an incredibly short crutches.  He loved them.

He now insists on wearing them to work on Christmas eve.

After that I finally tried my first dress pattern and was hooked.  I’ve had some absolute disasters but have finally amassed a handmade wardrobe which is about 50% of my clothes.

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Being able to sew my own clothes has also meant that I have a wardrobe that is bright and colourful and makes me feel confident.

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Not long after I started sewing I started reading blogs.  Which lead me to the  Sewcialists Firehose 

The Sewcialists is my go to source for reading blogs.  There many great people writing about the amazing things they make.

When it comes to trying a new pattern I find myself googling to see what other people have made before tackling it myself.  It is also how I try to learn new things and my confidence in making has grown.

I also love putting in the quirky details into my clothes.  I make my own bias binding from my left over fabric and I like to use a contrasting binding when I hem a piece.  I take pride in handstitching my hems.  I also use a different fabric for a pocket or facing.

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I recently spent two weekends at a fitting class run by a local couture dressmaker and it has helped me understand my body and what adjustments I need to make.

I’ve never been petite.  I’ve always had curves and for much of my teenage years I’ve had a love hate relationship with them.  Since I’ve been sewing I’ve learnt to accept my body as it exists.  Wearing clothes that fit you properly can do wonders for your self love.

The only downside for me is that I live on the other side of the world and whilst I am currently inspired to make a coat – I am currently experiencing summer.  It can be difficult to participate in some of the challenges when there is no practical reason to sew something you may want.  I would love to make a coat but living where I do I rarely wear a coat even in winter.  The upside is winter here isn’t ever too cold so I don’t really have seasonal wardrobes and summer dresses work all year round.

Sewing as a hobby hasn’t quite exploded here the way it seems it has in the US and UK.  It takes us a bit to catch up.  We have two major stores Spotlight and Lincraft and there quite a few independent retailers all over Australia.

I’m lucky that my hometown has a Spotlight and a few quilting stores.  They are great resources.  I do tend to buy a lot of my fabric from eBay and online retailers.

When it comes to patterns since discovery independent pattern companies I’ve can’t really imagine not using them.  I have a soft spot for Sew Over It, Tilly and the Buttons, True Bias and Cashmerette.

Whilst the Australian exchange rate isn’t very favorable when it comes to buying for the UK (it’s almost double) and the US (1 dollar buys 65 cents) – you can’t really help yourself.  We also pay more for our Big 4 patterns – Vogue are usually about $30 unless they are on sale and Butterick retail at full price for around $10 – $20.  We do get specials but the lowest I’ve seen are $3.50 for Butterick or Simplicity.

Each time I’ve thought something was too difficult to do I give it a go.  Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.  But nothing beats the feeling when it does.  I’m still learning jackets, underwear, pants and jeans are on my two conquer list but I’ll get there.

Thanks for reading my ramble.

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Sam

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2017 make 9 – first up By Hand London – Anna Dress

I’ll admit it’s been a while since I posted anything.  Blink and life takes over and you don’t realise.  In this case my day job has controlled my available time and other days after work I just don’t have the brain capacity.

This however, doesn’t mean I haven’t been sewing.  Mostly I just haven’t got round to doing photos.

The first of my completed make nine for this year was the By Hand London Anna Dress.  Whilst when I first saw the pattern I wasn’t sure it was for me.  But it grew on me and after seeing a few different people’s version I was swayed.  I think what tipped me over the iceberg was Sian from Kittenish Behaviour’s Video of her Anna Dress Collection which can be found here.

I bought the pdf pattern and had it printed at the copy shop across the road from work for about $10 (mostly as the skirt pieces are maxi length and you pay by the length).  I found it was so much easier than cutting and sticking.  Living in a regional area of Australia pdf patterns are a godsend.  My practice is to trace each piece onto baking paper which i easily locate and buy.

The fabric was from the sale rack of Spotlight.  In the quilting section I think I paid $4 a metre and bought what was left.  It is a pink chambray with a purple fleck.

I am trying to focus on keeping to a jewel tone palate with my sewing.  That way I can mix and match, especially for work.

I made the midi version but added 3 inches to the length.  Other than that I didn’t make any other alterations.  After wearing it a few times I think next time I might do a sway back adjustment and a slight full bust adjustment.

So here is my finished garment (My other half needs training as a photographer), the dress is a little crinkled after being worn all day at work but I love it:

I have already completed a second version in navy floral poplin with a pleated skirt.  Photos will be on instagram (eventually).

Have you made an Anna?

The “It Took Forever” Shirtdress

I must admit that I am a complete pattern hoarder.

In Australia, where I live, patterns from the Big 4 tend to retail starting around $10 and go up to around $35 for Vogue.  Every now and then Spotlight (which is the only place in the town I live in that sells patterns) has a sale when they are marked down considerably.  On those occasions I take my list of patterns I want and buy what I can.

I’ve had V9000 in my stash for a while.  Several of the girls in the Facebook group “Those Darn Sew and Sews” have made it up.

 

I bought some light blue gingham to sew it up in after seeing a shirtdress made by Draper James which is Reece Witherspoon’s label.

Southern belle: Reese Witherspoon wore a dress from her Draper James collection while posing with son Tennessee in an Instagram post on Monday

Photo credit: Reese Witherspoon Instagram

Whilst there are other patterns which are a closer match V9000 was a better style for my body.

I cut out my size and followed the instruction and it sewed up rather quickly and easily.

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Once I put it on the dressmakers dummy I didn’t like it.

I let it sit on the dummy for a while and tried all sorts of buttons white, pearl, shell and once I found some big navy buttons I started to like it.

I was looking at it one day when I had a light bulb moment and decided to add some colorful embroidery to it.

It took me a while to find a pattern that I liked but I stumbled on the pattern linked here.

 

After talking to my mum and having a quick lesson whilst visiting her on holidays I bought some thread, washaway and a frame and had a go.

I traced the design onto the washaway and pinned it in to place.

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I wanted the colour to stand out and outlined the design in a darker colour and then filled it in.

I wanted to use brighter contrasting colours to create more interest.

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I originally only planned on doing a back center piece and was then planning on putting a panel down the centre of each side of the bodice.  After I finished the back piece I decided I just wanted to put it on the shoulders rather than the centre.  It took about three months to do the embroidery and I am really pleased with it.

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All it needs now is a wash to get rid of the plastic washaway and whip up a belt.

 

2017 Make Nine

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Well hello I know I have been really slack in maintaining this blog but one of my goals for 2017 is to post more regularly.

Since I have started sewing I have found a lot of support within the online sewing community.  I am mostly self taught after a few basic lessons from my mother.  It must have been in my blood.  Both of my grandmothers and my Mum sew.  My mother is an amazing quilter, embroider and dressmaker.  Unfortunately she lives 500 kms away.

So whilst I don’t plan on sharing tips and tricks, I find seeing everyone’s makes really inspiring, so I’d like to contribute.

This year aside from some specific makes, I would like to sew up some of my fabric stash which has exploded over the last year and to make a quilt out of some of my fabric scraps.

I saw Rochelle New’s hashtag #2017makenine from her blog Lucky Lucille and thought hey I can do that.  So hopefully this will give my sewing this year some direction.

So here are my pics for 2017

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  1. BY HAND LONDON – ANNA DRESS

By Hand London – Anna Dress Link

I work in an office and most days I have to wear a suit jacket.  For me I like to wear a dress with a jacket, it makes getting ready in the morning much easier and I am by no way a morning person.

After seeing a few other people make up an Anna dress I thought the pattern would be great for some work dresses.

I have some cool navy floral and plain fabrics in my stash which would work well.

2. CASHMERETTE – SPRINGFIELD TOP

Springfield Top PDF pattern - Cashmerette Patterns - 1

Cashmerette – Springfield Link

I have a tendency to make a lot of dresses and full skirts so I wanted to fill a gap in my wardrobe and make some tops.  The rave reviews of all of the Cashmerette patterns led me to the Springfield.  My problem areas are usually fitting my bust and hips.  My waist measurement is usually a size or two smaller.

I love the simplicity of the pattern and like the idea of using a contrasting fabrics.  I plan on making this up in both prints and plains.

3. COLETTE – MONETA DRESS

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Colette Moneta Via Seamwork or Colette Moneta via Colette

My darling boyfriend bought me an overlocker for Christmas and Birthday (I’m a Christmas baby) last year.  I have used it mostly for finishing garments and would like to try my hand at sewing stretch.

I went to Spotlight for the boxing day sales with my Mum and grabbed just over three metres of black ponte which was $4 a metre.  I thought that the Moneta would be a good match and should make a good work dress.

I am a Seamwork Magazine subscriber but being in the southern hemisphere means that the patterns aren’t always practical when they are released I had a whole heap of credits stored up and used them to get this pattern.  All I need to do is pop down to the copy shop and have it printed out.

4. SEAMWORK – CAMDEN CAPE

Camden

Seamwork Camden Cape Link

When this pattern came out I was so excited.  I loved the look but I live in the tropics so it rarely gets cold enough except for coming and going from work in winter.

I’ve not made a coat before so I want to push myself a little bit.

I haven’t found any fabric to use yet but I am hopeful I will come across something.

5. SEAMWORK – ADDISON TOP

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Seamwork – Addison Top Link

I love watching vloggers on YouTube and one of my favourites is Jen from Gingerella.  A couple of months of ago she made an Addison top in a white swiss dot which can be found here.  This got me thinking about making a version of this in white broderie anglaise I have in my stash.  I can also see myself making a few of these in other colours both in prints and plains as a great layering piece both casually and for work.

6. JENNIFER LAUREN VINTAGE – GABLE TOP

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Jennifer Lauren Vintage – Gable Top Link

In an attempt to make more tops I want to make a few of these.  I’ve had the pattern in my stash for a few months after seeing Bex from Subversive Femme‘s version.

I really want a white, black and navy striped version.  I also like the idea of adding some embellishment but it will have to wait till the weather cools down.

7. WEARING HISTORY – HOMEFRONT OVERALLS

Wearing History – Homefront Overalls Link

This pattern is one of the first pdf patterns that I purchased.  I saw it and had to have it.  However, I haven’t made it up yet as I need to grade out the hip which I find quite intimidating.

There are few versions floating out there in the blogosphere which all look amazing.  I have had the dark wash denim in my stash for ages, so this year I am determined to make these in time to wear in winter.

Hopefully I can get the pattern to work for me and use it for a few pairs of jeans.

8. MCCALLS 6696 SHIRTDRESS

McCall's Misses' Dresses and Slip 6696

McCalls 6696 Shirtdress Link

I love the look of a classic shirtdress but I haven’t made one.

I am a massive fan of Roisin Muldoon’s blog Dolly Clackett.  She has made several versions of this but my favourite is a red polka dot version which can be found here.

A few months ago I scored five metres of red cotton sateen polka dot fabric and all I have wanted to make from it is one of these.  So it is a definite goal for 2017.

9. BUTTERICK B5030 – WRAP DRESS

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Butterick B5030 – Wrap Dress

I really love the look of View C.  I have a beautiful cactus print voile which is calling out to be sewn up.

I used to be very skeptical of wrap dresses but recently bought one to wear for the Christmas Party season and I love it.  It is cool and flattering.

Anyway these are my plans.  Would love to see yours.

Sam

When you need a frock to take in a musical

My partner’s mother had a spare ticket to see our local production of Anything Goes, my partner’s Father isn’t a musical fan and was eternally grateful I let him off the hook.  However, a trip to the theatre needs a new dress.

A rummage through my filing cabinet and I came up with Simplicity 1354BB.  It’s part of their ‘Amazing Fit’ range.  I picked it up during one of Spotlight’s pattern specials.

Simplicity 1354BB

They have some great options for those with a bigger bust.  I however, fit comfortably in a C cup.  As someone shortwaisted I should have taken the option to shorten the waistline, however didn’t (something I regretted later).

I picked up the fabric during a Spotlight shopping trip with my mum (she is a worst fabric horder than I am). I saw a gentleman shopping with his wife and they picked up this fabric and it was only then that I noticed it.  Whilst at the counter with my other selections they asked if there was 15 metres left on the roll, there wasn’t so they decided against it.  Their loss however was my gain and I walked away with 4 metres which was more than enough for this piece.

I went with View C as I thought it would be more versatile.

It took me a while to work out how the neckline pieces went together but I got there in the end.

I had to make a few alterations in the end as the size I decided on was too big for me in the bust, shoulders and waist length. The dress isn’t lined and has a facing.  Something I will rectify should when I make this again.

Simplicity 1354BB finished

I’m really happy with how it turned out and I think it goes really well with this red cardigan my Mum knitted for me.

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Sam

When you have a little bit left over …

In my last post I detailed the upcycling of my new/old desk chair.  I loved the fabric and when I decided to make up Butterick 6089.  I had picked view B and figured it would be a great work dress. I had picked my fabric and decided on a basic black cotton sateen.

Butterick 6089
Butterick 6089
Butterick 6089
Butterick 6089

In the cutting out process I realised that my basic black would be too boring for my liking I rummaged through my small pieces pile and came up with this.

Fabric Swatch - Cotton Sateen from Spotlight
Fabric Swatch – Cotton Sateen from Spotlight

I had just enough to cut out the front panels in the bright cotton sateen.

The process of putting it together was pretty straight forward.  I decided against lining the dress, mostly cause the process of lining was mildly terrifying.  I ended up making some facings.  I have a habit of using contrasting fabric where you can’t see it so I decided some black and white polka dot fabric would be perfect.

I had to make some alterations to the patterns to fit me.  I had to put some extra bust darts in, shorten the waist (I’m high waisted) and bring the shoulders up so they sat right.

The finished product - Butterick 6089
The finished product – Butterick 6089

It didn’t take long to put together and paired with black stockings and a black jacket makes a great addition to my working wardrobe.