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.

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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:

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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.

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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…

The future is bright

So I have officially gone with a new name. When I started this blog I wanted the angle of it to be all about saving money with sewing, however I’ve quickly come to realise that cheap fabric is cheap for a reason, and often when I sew with cheaper materials I take less care. I’ll always love a bargain and I’ll find ways to save wherever I can, it’s just how my brain is wired, but I want to create high quality, well made items, so I’m changing the stance of this blog to reflect this.

I’m a bit obsessed with Ted Talks (if you’ve never watched one, you must – go now (but come back here after!)), and I watched one called “Where joy hides and how to find it”. In this talk Ingrid Fetell Lee ‘reveals the surprisingly tangible roots of joy’ and it really struck a chord with me. I have a bit of an in-built radar for spotting pops of colour in the everyday, and these images from the street photography book I created in my last year at university give a little glimpse of that. When the general ‘art school thing’ was to create something deep and meaningful, I just wanted to make something bright and happy to make people smile: red mini copy2

west croy train copy

police sonic balloon

bus stop ladies

…and in all honesty, with my love for sewing taking the front seat and photography getting shoved to the back, I think my eye for these everyday glimpses of joy has dwindled, and I want to revive it!

I’d been mulling this over, and while thinking of a new name I came up with The Polka Dot Palace. I absolutely love polka dots, and as simplistic as it sounds, I love circles. That literally sounds like something a 4 year old would say, but in her talk, Fetell Lee surmises in one sentence what I could never put in to words about the joy circles and polka dots bring me:

“I saw all these patterns; round things. Pops of bright colour. Symmetrical shapes. A sense of abundance and multiplicity. A feeling of lightness and elation.”

And with hearing these words, the new blog name was decided!

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Circles (in pompom form!) and colour were in abundance at my wedding

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My aim is for this blog to grow in to a hub of creativity, colour, style and happiness. I’ll share photos of things I make and photos I take, and I hope you’ll enjoy sharing the joy with me.

Sew Out of This World: My Starburst Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress

It’s Sew Out of This World day! May the 4th be with you!

In a previous blog post I wrote about this new sewing challenge from Sew Loco and I was so happy to be team captain for Challenge 3, Stargazer, which invited everyone to create a space-inspired garment, and here’s mine! Continue reading “Sew Out of This World: My Starburst Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress”

Mimi G’s 8123

So we finally had some sunshine! I got a bit excited and decided London was comparable to the gloriously sunny streets on the packaging of Mimi G’s 8123 Simplicity pattern.

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I wanted to make something I can get a lot of wear out of, so rather than a floral which might make the dress a bit formal, I went for this gorgeous denim from Sew Essential. It’s always a bit of a gamble getting denim online rather than in person; I find the variations in weight, texture and colour are more drastic than with other materials but luckily this denim was perfect for this dress. It’s lightweight enough to feel soft with a hint of drape, but it holds the structure of the style perfectly. I’ve been holding out for the right denim to make a Simplicity 1325 tunic and I think this could be the one huzzah!

As for the pattern, there are lots of small pieces so if you’re a whizz at pattern Tetris you can squeeze this out of a fairly small piece of fabric, especially if you go for version A as I did. Big four patterns get a bit of a hard time for the clarity of their instructions but this all seemed quite straightforward, the only step that stumped me a bit was the boob band (official terminology), so if you’re making this dress I’d say to just take step 23 slowly and read the instructions properly – I was being too hasty! After this step the dress was all coming along nicely, but I did find that the wrap over detail of the dress made it a bit difficult to gauge fit so I only tried it on properly after putting in the zip and it was MASSIVE.

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After a brief chat with Athina Kakou I was reminded of the ancient sewing proverb:

“The Simplicity patterns doth giveth much ease”

It was too big to even attempt to adjust so I had to go back to the pattern, recut down a size and luckily I’d cut economically enough to have leftover denim to cut a whole new bodice. Annoying as this was, it was so much quicker to make the bodice second time than the first, and I took in the seams of the skirt so it all fit together perfectly. Even after going down a size I had to shorten the straps by 5cm and take in the boob band by half a centimetre, but we got there in the end and I’m so pleased with how it turned out!

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The only other amendments I made to the pattern instructions was to stitch in the ditch on the waistband and the boob band so it sits perfectly flat (the button holes aren’t actually opened, they’re just for show and you actually put the dress on by invisible zip at the back!) and slipstitched the very top so it all sits really neatly, lining up the strap to the edge of the fold over detail.

Of course the hot spell lasted only a couple of days, but this meant I realised the layering potential of this dress! I was a bit concerned it may be a bit too dressy that I wouldn’t get much wear out of it, but it can be made totally daytime appropriate with a top underneath yay! The setback with sizing meant I didn’t make this as perfectly as I’d like and the insides aren’t as neat as they should be; I’ll wear it still but will definitely make another one or two of this awesome and surprisingly versatile dress!