Trace, cut, bag, repeat

A new approach to prepping my sewing projects has completely changed the way I sew. As I’m sure you pretty much all identify with, spare time is a rare luxury! Finding dedicated, decent time to sew can be a tough feat and I’ve been seeing more people share their approach to sewing in short bursts; a dart sewn in before the school run, a sleeve inserted before going to work, and it’s definitely something I’ve adopted.

So the premise for this new approach I’ve adopted (since seeing others share it on Instagram – it’s in no part my genius!) is really straightforward: instead of working on one project at a time, I’ll choose four or five projects and trace them all. This may take a week of evening sessions, and to be honest I thought I’d find it a bit boring, but I ended up actually looking forward to tracing; maybe it tapped in to my inner 6 year old. Could this be an excuse to invest in some pink wafers and put on some Sharky and George?

After tracing them all I’ll move on to cutting and marking. Again, when focusing on one part of the process I found myself concentrating more and enjoying this part more than I have before. I’ll put thread in to mark all the darts and other bits here, although I’ve heard some people actually sew their darts in at this point. Maybe I’m staying too true to the ‘this step is just for cutting and marking’ philosophy, but I literally do not touch the sewing machine during this step.

Once they’re all traced and cut I put everything in…BOOK BAGS!!! Again, maybe it’s a nostalgia thing, but using book bags is well fun.


Last step is sewing! With all the projects bagged up and ready to go it was so nice to be able to sit and just sew sew sew for a good couple of weeks whenever I could squeeze a bit of time in.

I’ve found this approach so useful, enjoyable, and effective. While writing this I’ve come to realise it’s possibly because it’s enabled me to zone out and properly escape through each step of the sewing process; it’s brought back my childhood in a few ways…

  • You get to do loads of tracing. Sitting armed with a pencil and paper is weirdly satisfying
  • You get to use BOOK BAGS!!!
  • The impatient inner child gets (near) instant gratification; by breaking down the process into smaller targets i.e. just tracing, you feel like you’ve achieved your goal in a short space of time.

But also I’ve found I focus more on each step. Tracing or cutting is not an obstacle to ‘get through’ before the fun part: the sewing, but something to enjoy and concentrate on in isolation.

So give it a go and let me know how you get on!

Join the Kew

This blog post was originally written for the Sewalicious blog, and I was so happy to review one of my favourite patterns this year: the Kew Dress from Nina Lee. I love this dress. It’s a button up dress with so much variety – you can make it with sleeves so it’s got a 40s tea dress vibe to it, sleeveless and strappy with or without cold-shoulder sleeves for the summer weather, and there’s a skirt option too. That’s all before doing any modifying or pattern hacking. I decided to go with this dreamy cotton lawn covered in flowers and birds:


This fabric is so beautiful so I wanted to make sure I’d get a lot of wear out of it; if I made the version with cold-shoulder sleeves it would be perfect for a wedding or a formal event, but I wanted to be able to wear this all through summer so I made it strapless, without the cold-shoulder sleeves, and with a gathered skirt to make it more daytime-friendly. I added 4cm on to the bodice length but other than that I cut a straight up size 8. I was unsure whether or not to add patch pockets so I waited until it was all finished so I could try it on and see, but decided it may be a bit too much so I’ve gone without, meaning I have a dress WITHOUT POCKETS!!!

With this beautiful bird print there was high risk of tit on tit, so I was very careful with where I cut the bodice front, and luckily, I avoided any birds nesting on my bosom! The bodice is so comfortable, it all just sits in place and the straps are short enough that there’s no faffing with them slipping down, however, the only downside is the sides come up really high so next time I need to lower the seam by a centimetre or so.


I cannot recommend this pattern more, it’s a straightforward make and a good step up for beginners – no fiddly princess seams or tricky collars, plus it’s so versatile that you can make versions for all seasons, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. I’m so pleased with the final dress and I’m really glad I made it with a gathered skirt because I wore this so much while the good weather lasted!

I made a second version in this amazing tropical print from Fabrics Galore and added big ol’ patch pockets for holding important stuff (=snacks).

My obsession for this pattern isn’t waning and I’m planning to make a couple for layering in autumn/winter, maybe one in cord and another in a dark floral cotton linen blend from Sew Loco; they’ll just have to form an orderly Kew…

Why it’s ok my #2018MakeNine isn’t going to plan

This was my first year joining in with #2018makenine, a sewing community movement where you plan 9 garments to make during the course of the year. It’s a great way of planning ahead and setting targets for specific things to make, but when I reviewed my progress I felt a bit…meh. Now we’re over half way through the year I’ve seen lots of Instagram and blog posts reviewing progress and lots of sewists have already completed all 9, which is amazing!

I originally planned to make these:

Top row: Gable top from Jennifer Lauren Handmade, the knit sweetheart top from Gertie, the Madeleine Skirt from Victory Patterns Middle row: TATB Arielle skirt, Jenna jumpsuit from Cotton and Chalk, the Penny dress from Colette Bottom row: TATB Lilou dress, Sew over It Doris dress, Kew dress from Nina Lee

I’ve made the Gable top, the Gertie top and the Kew dress. That’s it. C’est tout. Fin.

I was going to change my sewing plans to make sure I complete all nine, but when I really looked at my list, I could see some on there that I just don’t want to make or wear. A weird feeling of failure started to creep in; I’d publicly committed to making these and I know I’m not going to. The Jenna jumpsuit is lovely, but I’ve seen others I’d rather make, plus the summer is kind of behind us now so it won’t really get any wear. Lilou is such a cute dress but really, where am I going to wear it?? I realised I need to change tack and let my Make Nine evolve throughout the year and to use it as a starting point, not a list that must be adhered to.

Are you in the same boat? Do you feel a bit of a let down because you’re not finishing a list of goals? Here are my thoughts on how to use the challenge without letting it govern your sewing projects (or your mood!):

  • Keep it flexible – although you’re setting a target, it can change. If you made your first pair of trousers and realised you love wearing them, scrap the skirts and dresses and make some more trousers!
  • Let your list evolve – circumstances change. A year is a long time and a lot can happen, so let your nine evolve and work around you, rather than the other way round
  • Don’t feel tied to it being a ‘public promise’ – although you’ve put your list out there for all to see, it’s ok to change your mind
  • Don’t compare yourself to others! Everyone has different circumstances; even if you know you made the right selection with your Make Nine but you won’t have time to finish them all off, it’s ok, just go at your own pace and enjoy it
  • If you’re not excited to make it, don’t make it! The start of a new sewing project should fill you with excitement. What looked like a really great dress in January might not interest you any more – chuck it off your list and make something you really want to wear.

So I’m scrapping a few of my original choices, and others will take their place. I love making lists and planning ahead, and Make Nine is such a great starting point to make a plan for the year and I love seeing everyone’s progress, but I will be keeping my sewing plans fluid and reviewing throughout the year, keeping it relaxed but purposeful, and above all, fun!

The Great Big Pattern Swap – window shopping the prizes!

The Great Big Pattern Swap has been running for nearly two weeks now and the uptake has been amazing! The tag #greatbigpatternswap has been shared over 800 times and sewists are joining in from:

  • UK
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Denmark
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Italy
  • Sweden
  • Spain
  • France
  • Singapore
  • Greece
  • Switzerland
  • Norway
  • Malta
  • Hong Kong

…and no doubt more that I’ve missed off!

That’s a lot of sharing! Everyone has been so generous and it’s been amazing to see all the kind notes and goodies posted with the patterns. Although it’s clear already that everyone is a winner by joining in with this challenge (honestly, it was such a great feeling to receive my patterns) there are some fantastic prizes lined up so I’ve been perusing all the sponsors’ sites to see what I’d choose if I won ALL THE PRIZES…


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Alas I can win none, but you all can enter for a chance to win these amazing prizes:

To be in with a chance of winning you need to have shared an unwanted pattern of yours, then received and made a new-to-you pattern by Saturday 18th August, sharing the photos with #greatbigpatternswap

Each garment made from the swap will be a separate entry, so if you receive three patterns and make two, your name will be put in the draw twice.

Makes are already being shared so please do join in the fun, and if you have any questions please leave a comment or get in touch.

Happy swapping!


The Great Big Pattern Swap: a new challenge for the sewing community

At the beginning of the year, like many others I’m sure, I aimed to get organised! I love a list, so I made one of all my fabric and patterns in an attempt to make a plan for the year ahead. While doing this, I found quite a few patterns that I know I’m never going to make, and it’s a sad thing for them to sit gathering dust when they could get made in to beautiful garments by other sewers. This got me thinking, and an idea for a new sewing challenge brewed in my mind, so now, together with Emma (@thezipperfoot), we’re so excited to launch…The Great Big Pattern Swap!

How does it work?

Have a rummage through your pattern collection, and if there are any that you know you won’t use (that are uncut and in good condition), take a photo and share it on Instagram with a bit of a description and tag it #greatbigpatternswap

In your Instagram post say where you’re happy to send to; you may not want to pay postage abroad, but if you don’t mind then say you’ll post worldwide.

First to comment on the photo gets the pattern! You can then directly message the recipient to get their postage details – please don’t post any personal information or addresses publicly!

The flipside of this (and what makes everyone a winner) is that you can also claim patterns that are listed by others, so make sure you’re following #greatbigpatternswap

What’s the catch?

To claim a pattern from someone else you must give away a pattern of your own!

This is a ‘pay it forward’ style challenge, so if you claim someone else’s unwanted pattern, you must also list one for someone else to have.

When does the challenge start and finish?

The challenge starts today, Saturday 7th July, and the closing date is Saturday 18th August.

To be in the draw to win one of the awesome prizes we’ve got lined up, you need to have shared a pattern, and received a pattern and made it, sharing with the tag #greatbigpatternswap

And most importantly – what are the prizes?

We have some amazing prizes lined up for lucky winners who will be chosen at random after the closing date! Drum roll please….

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£30 Fabric Godmother voucher
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£25 Sew Me Sunshine voucher
Sewalicious logo
£30 Sewalicious voucher
Sew Essential logo
A Mettler thread pack (worth £30!) from Sew Essential
3 winners will each win a digital download of a SMYLY pattern
Make at 140
£40 Make at 140 voucher


A Pink Coat Club pin to choose
£30 voucher for Sew Loco

I’m so looking forward to seeing what everyone shares and makes for the challenge! If you have any questions about it please send me a message either on here or on Instagram and I’ll get back to you asap.

Happy sewing, and happy swapping, everyone!