Monday, 14 April 2014

A handmade wardobe

I don't mean a physical wardrobe, though ours was of course self-made when it came in its box from Ikea! What I mean is my clothing. Lately I've been feeling so very disappointed when it comes to clothes shopping. Believe it or not, years ago I was a fashion journalist and stylist and used to create the trend pages for celebrity magazines and style still life photography, too. Since I had Albie, however, my style has changed. I feel old and fat when I walk into shops, and I don't want the kind of cheap, throwaway trends that seem to dominate the high street where I live. I prefer to wear 'pre-loved' items from vintage fairs and eBay, and I have to admit I do love Cath Kidston- the clothes are feminine and flattering and feel so nice to wear. What does a 30-something woman wear in a town that reveres Amy Childs and the cast of The Only Way is Essex as style icons?
Well, as ever, I turn to the crafty community. And again, Mollie Makes comes up trumps with this gorgeous special edition- DIY Fashion. Edited by Lisa Comfort by Sew Over It, its beautifully matte pages are crammed with inspiration. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't very much in there about dressmaking- e.g. where to find nice patterns and some basic skills, but overall I loved the content. (I have also become obsessed with Kate Gabrielle of Scathingly Brilliant- how gorgeous is her style?)

Inspired (like so many of you) by The Great British Sewing Bee, I've decided to start making my own clothes. Clothes that fit nicely, are unique and indulge the rather addictive habit of shopping for fabric and notions. Who doesn't love a bit of ric rac? So, a couple of weeks ago I decided to stop being frightened of my sewing machine and just sit down and sew something. My lovely friend Hannah (owner of Make, Do and Mend, whom I talk about so often on here) helped me to set up Betsey (my 1970s Frister + Rossman behemoth) and gave me the confidence I needed to just get on with it. I can't be that hard, right? Right!

 I rather sensibly started out with a very simple pattern- just two pieces of fabric and some bias binding was all it took to make this gorgeous top. The top is the FREE 'Sorbetto' tank top pattern by Colette. I've been a fan of Colette patterns for a long time, but always filed them in the 'never gonna happen' section of my mental wish list. But this was SO easy! And isn't it lovely? The fabric is a simple polka dot cotton poplin from The Makery (part of my Mollie Makes subsciption gift so it was gloriously FREE also!) and I had the white bias tape in my box from when I made my wedding bunting two years ago. I am planning a whole range of these easy-to-wear tops. My next one will involve gingham bias and sleeves. And then I plan on tackling the rest of the Colette pattern range!

Next up, this fabulous skirt I made on Friday night at a new workshop at Make, Do and Mend. I used the beautiful mustard double gauze from my last blog post with this extra-wide elastic waistband. The technique was pretty simple and I really LOVED sewing together with some lovely Make, Do and Mend chums. I'm thrilled with this, I cannot tell you how pleased I am with that straight hem! All thanks to Han's instruction. It will look marv with leggings, clogs and breton, oui? I envisage a black and white gingham one next, with some mint green ric rac trim. Tasty. 

I have got a real taste for sewing now. Since the inaugural Sewing Bee I've been following the lovely blog Tilly and the Buttons. Her easy-to-follow instructions and tips are pretty amazing, and her first book, Love at First Stitch comes out in May. Exciting, non? I cannot wait to get my hands on it and get stitching. I've already downloaded her Miette skirt pattern, I'm seeing it in blue chambray with liberty binding on the pockets...

But of course my handmade wardrobe won't be limited to sewing. Already I have a couple of hand-made garments in my closet, including THE crochet dress...
And the first and only cardigan I knitted 18 months ago! 

I have another crochet cardigan on my hook at the moment, of course it is MUSTARD. Obsessed, moi? But I'm really looking forward to tackling more of Tilly's patterns and the gorgeous Colette dresses. And I will of course be documenting my experiments in sewing right here. There is a Pinterest board dedicating to sewing, too, of course. 

Would you and do you make your own clothes? Any tips appreciated thanks!



  1. Love, love love! It's all looking really good - someone told me not to be afraid of cutting into fabric which I think is probably the scariest bit, at least it is for me! I'm meant to be stitching a tunic top right now from the first Sewing Bee book but hubby has been on a conference call nearly all day so I'm still waiting to start up the new machine! Wish me luck x

  2. Sew well done to you and BIG Yay!! for the GBSB it has re invented sewing for everyone have you had a peep at my sew-along we are making the simplest 'a line skirt' ever...worth having a go..I am on my 6th one!!
    bestest Daisy J x

  3. how wonderful! Thanks Daisy i'll have a look- is the pattern easy to find? I am really into skirts lately! You're right, Ginny, cutting the pattern is really scary. And so is sewing the first few stitches! I took more than a few 'deep breaths' before I took the plunge by myself. I loved it though!

  4. Ah good for you getting over the fear! I have wanted to make my own clothes for years, but I have put it off and put it off. All I wanted was a basic A-line skirt pattern, and a pinnafore pattern, which I have had now, sitting in a drawer for the past 5 years! Eeeek! I said last year it was aim to have a go, and I cowardly gave up on that! I really should make a start. I love the idea of handmade in a wardrobe, especially as I am the worst body type for shop bought clothes and nothing ever fits well. Sigh.....I need to take a leaf out of your book!

    I hope the sun is shining for you today!

    Much love xxxxxx

  5. Your makes look lovely well done,I have recently started sewing clothes for my children partly because they are small and partly because i am scared of how much fabric i would need to cover my body... Ha ha. But i found the washi dress by made by rae, yesterday and it looks flattering for a mummy tummy shaped person like me so i am inspired to give it a go. I too was inspired by the sewing bee and in the last week i have made 6 tops and two dresses for my little girl and i am about to make a waistcoat and trousers for my little boy all patterns from Oliver and S. i am so excited by it good luck in your sewing adventure too, i would quite like to go to make do and mend to learn seam finishing if they do that sort of thing as i live quite near Chelmsford. Xx

  6. My Mum was a seamstress and all my clothes were either made by her or hand me downs as they were called ! My sister trained as a pattern cutter and can make a paper pattern from most any piece of clothing you give her and the last new thing I bought was from Cath k so I totally understand what you mean,and I agree that high street fashion trends especially in this corner of Blighty are a bit brash ( that's nicest word I could think of for TOWIE led scene ! ) I love your mustard dress, and look forward to seeing the rest of the Inverleith collection spring/summer 2014 xx

  7. I love hearing all about your adventures! Thanks for all the tips about patterns, I would love to make the Washi dress. And how exciting is THIS: Chinelo Bally will be teaching freehand pattern cutting workshops at Make, Do and Mend this summer! Woweeee I need to practice so I can book on and not feel like the class dunce...

  8. Lovely makes! I've spent many a happy hour looking at what has been done to the Sorbetto - added sleeves, lace inserts, buttons. Now you have the correct fit you can have so much fun adapting the pattern! I feel the need for a skirt like yours this summer... love the chunky elastic waistband. I enjoy sewing for my little boy and friend's little ones that always run out of time for me makes but I think it is time I delved into my stack of patterns...


Hello! Thanks for stopping by to read. I've enabled Disqus so if I don't reply to your comment here, please know that I read and treasure every word. Let's stay in touch! I'm also found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Let's be friends.