Sewing more thoughtfully

When I started sewing, it was just something fun to fill the odd spare afternoon. I never imagined it would become such a big part of my life, influencing everything from how I spend my spare time (sewing, obviously) to how I shop.

I’ve never really been into fast fashion – if I love an item of clothing, I’ll wear it until it falls apart – and now that I sew a lot of my own clothes I rarely shop. Recently, though, I’ve been starting to think about sewing as another form of consumption. I don’t need to sew – if I stopped sewing today, I would still have more than enough clothes. Similarly, if I stopped buying fabric today, I would have enough to sew myself an entire wardrobe of new outfits (and then some, judging by the current state of my fabric stash – but more on that later).

And yet, I’m not going to stop sewing. Obviously, this is mainly because I enjoy the making process itself as much as I enjoy wearing the finished garment – learning new skills is as important to me as the final outcome. But I’ve come to realise that I have been mindlessly buying fabric and patterns almost as much as I once bought cheap clothes.

I’ve bought fabric that realistically I would never wear (or, at least not very often) just because I liked the print; fabric I love but have no plans for sewing with anytime soon; and patterns for swishy 50s dresses that definitely aren’t my style but I’ve bought because I like the cover artwork (please tell me I’m not the only one who has done this). It’s all too easy to scroll through blogs and social media and feel like I should be sewing more, buying more, and sharing more – which, ironically, is exactly what I don’t like about fast fashion. This is especially true when every sewing blogger in the world seems to be sewing the latest cult pattern and I’m still making the same tried-and-tested favourites that I love to wear but aren’t always that interesting to blog about.

I also feel slightly ashamed to think about all the lovely fabrics that I could be wearing but are instead piled up in a basket next to my sewing desk. I recently made a list of all the fabrics in my stash and found that I had enough to make at least 20 garments, probably more.

We’re now five months into 2018 and I’ve finished two makes on my sewing list so far (they don’t call it slow fashion for nothing, right?). If I continue sewing at the same rate, I’ll make about four new garments this year, which means I’ll still have 16 left to make from my current stash if I don’t buy any more fabric in 2018. Basically, my fabric stash could last me at least a couple of years easily.

It’s taken me way too long to realise that I can’t sew as quickly as I can shop, but I’m also still working on honing my ideas into a realistic sewing list. My to-sew list seems to change constantly, so I end up planning my projects too far in advance; I buy fabric and patterns for summer clothes in November, and then, when summer finally arrives, my tastes have changed and I want to sew and wear something else.

And it’s not just the amount of fabric I own that’s been giving me the guilt – it’s the type of materials, too. I’ve read a few articles lately about the microfibres in synthetic fabrics, and would like to switch to using more natural fibres in my sewing; unfortunately, though, most of my current stash is synthetic.

This presents a dilemma: do I recycle/destash the lot and start over, or keep sewing with it and vow to buy more eco-friendly fabrics in future? It’s something I’m still undecided on: for now I’m sewing with my stash as it feels like such a waste not to, but it also means I’ll be contributing to the micro-fibre problem everytime I wash those me-mades.

I’m not going to pretend I won’t buy any more fabric or patterns, but I am going to try and achieve more of a balance between what I want to sew, what’s sustainable, what I like to wear, and what I realistically have time to make.

Further reading:

  • Join the Fashion Revolution, campaigning for a fair deal for the people around the world who make our clothes.
  • Admire the amazing thrifting skills of blogger Paloma in Disguise, who shares snaps of her impressive secondhand wardrobe, and a few DIY ideas too.
  • This guide from Megan Nielsen has some great advice for taking a more responsible approach to buying fabrics.
  • For ethical fashion inspo and thoughtful articles, look to Tolly Dolly Posh – a teen blogger taking on the world of fast fashion one stylish thrifted outfit at a time.







Review: Soak Wash + Flatter Spray

Gone are the days when I would chuck my clothes in the washing machine on a standard 40-degree setting and hope for the best – since I’ve been making my own garments, I’m far more careful (some might even say obsessive) when it comes to how I wash my me-mades.

So, although student me would’ve scoffed at the idea, I often hand-wash some of the more delicate fabrics in my wardrobe – anything to avoid that sinking (or should that be shrinking) feeling when you realise your favourite top is now doll-size.

Let’s face it, though – hand-washing is boring. Soaking, rinsing, drying – it’s all more of a faff when you’re doing it by hand. So I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that Canadian laundry brand Soak has revolutionised hand-washing for me. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration – but it has made hand-washing a whole lot speedier. As its name suggests, with Soak you just need to soak the garment for around 15 minutes or so then squeeze out the water by rolling the item of clothing in a dry towel. That’s it! Easy, quick and very non-faffy. I have the Yuzu scent, which has a fresh, light, citrusy fragrance that isn’t overpowering (there are also fig, pineapple and scentless options). The formula is environmentally friendly and biodegradable, and the bottle is recyclable and printed with water-based inks.

As you can probably tell from the bottle in the photo, I’ve used mine a lot (and a little goes a long way – I’ve had mine for ages now and there’s still plenty left) for everything from delicate vintage blouses to occasion dresses and it’s never caused any shrinkage or colour-running (although obvs it’s always best to test). And, if I’ve still not managed to convince you of the joys of hand-washing, it can be used in the washing machine, too. A newer addition to my laundry cupboard is the Flatter Smoothing Spray, also from Soak’s range. As previously discussed, pressing has not always been my favourite part of the sewing process, but I have learned to love it – in fact, it’s now one of the most enjoyable aspects of stitching for me.

Aside from the fact it’s so satisfying to see a lumpy seam become beautifully flat and crisp with just a quick sweep of a steamy iron, pressing also provides an excellent excuse to buy more sewing tools, from steam-generator irons to pressing hams (I’ve got one of those fancy wooden clapper things on my wish list).

And, although not technically a tool, this handy little spray is now an ironing-board essential for me. It leaves fabric beautifully pressed with no residue at all, even on dark fabrics (although, as always, test it on a small area on the wrong side of the fabric first just to make sure) and kinda makes me want to sew seams just so I can press them, which I’m hoping will work wonders for my sewing productivity.

What are your pressing essentials? Share your pressing-tool geekery!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post or ad – I just like the products.






A new season (and a not-so-new name) at Duo Boots

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since my first blogger evening at Duo Boots in Bath – and, impressively considering the rate at which I seem to ruin shoes (I do a lot of walking), I still wear and love that very first pair of Duos. Continue reading “A new season (and a not-so-new name) at Duo Boots”

A sewing hiatus (or how to sew when you can’t sew)

As the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone – in my case, I didn’t know I loved my tiny sewing space in the corner of the bedroom until we moved.

Yes, it was small. And, yes, I got threads and tiny bits of fabric all over the bed. But I haven’t had a sewing space to call my own since, and so I can’t help but miss that messy little corner.

As we’ve still got a living room and dining room to paint (and our new cat/sewing helper is currently living in what should be my sewing room), I haven’t even had so much as a sewing desk since we moved in in June – until, that is, I decided that enough was enough and I was no longer content with scrolling through Instagram for sewing inspiration while my machine was packed away. I just had to sew.

So, I shifted a desk into the only room in our house that isn’t totally chaotic: the kitchen. And even though all I had time to do was mark and pin darts, and even though the location was far from ideal (although I do have easy access to the kettle and biscuits, so it’s not all bad), it was such a relief to be making again.

Since then, I’ve even managed to add the facing (I know, I’m on fire). Mostly, though, I’ve learned that slow slowing is ok – as long as I’m sewing, that’s all that matters. My how-to-sew-when-you-can’t-sew top tips:

Just get on with it. I like to give sewing my full attention (mostly to avoid those annoying mistakes you make when you’re tired, like sewing a sleeve on inside out), but waiting for the ‘perfect’ time to sew is a one-way trip to unfinished project island. Instead, I try to fit in small bursts of sewing, like pinning a hem while I’m cooking dinner. All these little tasks add up to a finished garment, so try not to lose heart with slow progress.

Be organised. If you don’t have the luxury of a sewing space, you’ll have to get smart with storage. Since being sewing-room-less, I’ve started keeping everything I need for my current projects – fabric, patterns, tools, threads – in one tote bag next to my machine for speedy sewing, and the rest of my fabric stash in a vacuum storage bag (it’s amazing how much you can fit in those things – I can almost pretend my fabric stash isn’t enough for several years’ worth of sewing projects).

Adjust your thinking. Ironically for someone who sews as slowly as I do, I can be rather impatient, so the fact that it’s taken me over a month to finish the Sorbetto top – basically the simplest sewing pattern in the world – is KILLING ME. Having said that, it helps to adjust your mindset and enjoy the process rather than thinking so much about the finished garment. I’m still working on this.

Choose wisely. If you’re finding it tricky to fit sewing in around other things in your life, it’s probably not the best time to start that ballgown you’ve always dreamed of making, or a last-minute summer skirt you’ll have to make right-now-this-minute to stand any chance of wearing this year. So, I’ve moved any tricky and non-seasonal-appropriate projects onto my ‘would like to sew someday’ list, and am instead picking makes that are achievable and quick so I don’t feel too overwhelmed (I’m aiming for just whelmed, 10 Things I Hate About You-style).


The skin saviour

I’m back! Not sure how it happened, but it’s been 3 months since my last post. It’s really easy not to blog, isn’t it? Anyway, I’ve got a couple of finished makes to share with you soon, but for now I’m talking skincare.

I’ve had every skin problem in the book – spots, dry patches, sensitivity, redness – and over the years I’ve tried about a million products. Some of them worked, some of them didn’t (and some of them gave me an allergic reaction), and lots sort-of-worked, but not quite enough to justify re-buying. My latest try-it-and-see purchase, though, is definitely one I’ll be purchasing again.

My skin was the best it’s ever been when I was using an organic face oil (I also happened to be 21 at the time, but let’s not dwell too much on that). No spots, no redness, no dry bits. Unfortunately, though, that particular brand no longer exists (yes, it was that long ago) and I’ve since tried a few disappointing oils that just haven’t lived up to that first one.

Still with that first miracle face oil in my mind, I decided to give it one more go and added a bottle of A’kin rosehip oil to my basket at Holland & Barrett (not an affiliate link/ad – I just shop there all the time). How to use face oilI wasn’t expecting much, to be honest, but after a couple of weeks of using it, it really has worked a treat. The redness has calmed down a lot, my skin feels more hydrated and, to me at least, it looks noticably better – so much so that I’ve even gone outside into the big wide world make-up free and didn’t feel like a blotchy, spotty mess.

I’m not going to lie – because this is a natural product with no fragrances added, the smell is a little, erm, weird. Not get-this-stuff-off-my-face-now-horrible, just a bit unusual. But I got used to it after a few days and now don’t really notice it at all.

Despite being an oil, it’s not too greasy and works well with other products – I like to wear it at night, along with a tiny bit of my usual Sanctuary Spa night cream (again, not an affiliate link), to give it time to sink into my skin, but it’s great under make-up, too – just make sure you only use a small drop.

I’ve read that rosehip oil has anti-ageing benefits, but obviously only time will tell with that one (perhaps I’ll do a follow-up post in ten years’ time). It has helped with a few annoying skin issues, though, so is a winner with me (and means I’ll happily overlook that slightly odd aroma…).