Ribbons and tassels and pom poms, oh my!

Sometimes, it’s the amazing things right on your doorstep that are the easiest to miss – and VV Rouleaux’s beautiful shop in Bath is one of them. It’s been just a 10-minute train trip away from me for a WHOLE YEAR, and somehow I’ve never been. So I was like a kid in a sweetshop – or, indeed, a sewist in a ribbon shop – when I popped over for their 1st birthday celebrations. Free workshops, celebratory cake and fizz, and racks and racks of haberdashery to browse – what’s not to love?

Sadly, my photos here don’t quite capture how gloriously colourful the shop is – it’s like walking into a rainbow. Feathers, hat-making supplies, pom poms, tassels and, of course, ribbons fill every corner of this inspiring space, which also includes a separate room for craft workshops.

I count it as a real achievement that I didn’t walk out with a bag bursting with ribbons – just a couple of lovely pom poms, because I couldn’t not get something. It has inspired me to be more creative with trims and embellishments in future, though, so I’ll be back with a shopping list in hand.

See more at vvrouleaux.com

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Sewing kit new-in

I’m currently struggling to get over the cringe-factor of posting photos of myself on the internet, which means that although I’ve been sewing quite a bit lately (hurrah!) I haven’t actually got any photographic evidence of it.

So, while I attempt to cure my blog-photo shyness (is there even a cure for that?) I thought I’d share a few new sewing bits and bobs I’ve added to my stash lately. I’m not usually one for buying lots of sewing gadgets, but these ones landed on my desk at work and I couldn’t resist giving them a road-test. None of these are affiliate links/ads – just products I’ve tried and liked!

  1. Clover Hold It Precision Stiletto. This one is filed firmly in the don’t-need-it-but-I’ve-got-it-so-I’ll-use-it category. I don’t think I’d ever think of buying a tool like this, but it has proved really useful for not burning myself while pressing (always good), and for holding fabric in place while stitching trickier bits on the sewing machine, so I stand corrected.
  2. Klasse duckbill scissors (from Sewing Quarter, but not currently available). Honestly, I’m not sure how I ever did without these essential snips – they’re amazing for trimming and grading seam allowances, and if you haven’t already got a pair you should buy them NOW.
  3. Clover Hot Hemmer. This basically does what it says on the tin – it’s great for folding and pressing hems accurately, and is made from a cotton blend so it won’t melt when ironed. If you hate hemming (yup) this will make the process a lot speedier.
  4. Clover Roll and Press. Another one I probably wouldn’t think of buying as I thought these were more for patchworkers than dressmakers, but I use mine for giving seams a quick press as I go along before pressing them properly with my iron in batches, rather than individually – it’s been a real time-saver so far.

Like this? You might enjoy:

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

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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).

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