You go, Coco

You’ve definitely seen many, many, many versions of Tilly’s Coco pattern – and here’s another! I know, I’m super late to the party. But I think the party is very much still in full swing, so maybe I’m just fashionably late. And fashionable is definitely how I feel wearing my new Coco, darling (what a segue! If I do say so myself).

I haven’t sewn with jersey fabric for a few years, but as I’m now exclusively wearing stretchy fabrics for the foreseeable it just had to happen. And, you know what? I enjoyed it, unexpectedly. I had a bad experience with sewing jersey fabrics and it put me off, but I guess I am (sadly) older and (thankfully) wiser now.

I just really enjoyed taking my time over it to get it right (I mean, lockdown has given us all the luxury of time, right? So. Much. Time). I used a twin needle for topstitching, stitched clear elastic into the seams so they won’t stretch out, and – my personal favourite new discovery – used Vlieseline Stretchfix tape to stabilise the hems before topstitching them in place.

Any fears you might have about wobbly, wavy jersey hems need not apply with this magical stuff. And, as my Coco has been through the wash a few times (because I can’t stop wearing it), I can confirm it washes well too.

Although this is 100% comfy lockdown wear, I’ll definitely be able to dress it up whenever we’re allowed outside into the world where other people are again. I’m thinking that a faux leather skirt (ahh, remember skirts!), heeled boots (ahh, remember boots!), and a glass of wine at a nice bar will be the perfect accompaniments. One day, Coco, one day.

Pattern: I mean, do I even need to tell you? It’s Coco by Tilly and the Buttons, in case you somehow didn’t know about this Insta fave.

Pattern alterations: I shortened the length, as usual (although I left the sleeve length as is, because I like cosy long sleeves in the winter. I’m one step away from making a thumb hole in the seam, school sweatshirt-style).

Fabric: Zebra rust jersey from Like Sew Amazing.

Sewing soundtrack: The I May Destroy You soundtrack. Probably one of the best series I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t seen it, go and watch it RIGHT NOW (TW: it covers sexual assault and consent).

A Stevie Summer

It’s fair to say my lockdown sewing plans are very far from coming into fruition. Out of an ambitious list of 12 things, I’ve made…two. Still, it’s not all bad news – it looks like the pandemic will be carrying on for the foreseeable, which means plenty more time for Covid couture. Hurrah! Yes, I’m being sarcastic. Obviously, I’d quite like the pandemic to be over now please (if only so I can wear what I’ve made outside, where other people are. Rather than in my own home, where my cat is).

One thing our current situation has proven once and for all, however, is that available sewing time does not always correlate with sewing output. At the beginning of The Unprecedented Times, newly living that #WFHlife, I was excited to swap after-work commuting for evenings in the sewing room. What I actually swapped it for were evenings in front of some gentle comfort TV (think rom-coms, Emily in Paris and SATC. Basically, anything without the risk of even mild peril) with a glass of gin.

A lot has been said about the mental health benefits of crafting, and I don’t disagree. I’ve never been able to get into mindfulness, but sewing is certainly a form of it. It’s always amazed me that it’s possible to be focussing on pressing a hem or sewing a dart while simultaneously mentally processing whatever has gone on that week – or, indeed, not thinking about anything much at all apart from the task at hand.

But, real talk – sewing can also be stressful and tiring. When it goes wrong, you’ve wasted time, money and fabric. And when the world is changing in new, stressful ways by the minute, do I really want to devote energy to a hobby that could potentially add to my anxiety? As much as I love sewing, lately the answer isn’t often yes. I guess what I’m saying is: if your sew-jo has vanished quicker than your social life this year, you’re not alone.

What about those times when I do somehow rustle up the mental energy to get my sew on, though? Well, much like I’ve watched comfort telly to get me through this dystopian nightmare, I’ve found that comfort sewing is the way to go. I don’t just mean comfy garments, but simple, comfort-zone projects. I’ve always been a fan of a stress-free sew, and that’s the case now more than ever.

And what could be more stress-free than a Stevie? No fastenings, a patch pocket, cute cuffs, a tie fastening – it’s got all the details, and none of the drama. I’ve made two this year. It’s not the sewing output I’d hoped for, but I’m taking it as a win nonetheless. I mean, there’s a pandemic on, for crying out loud. We can save sewing the fancy ballgowns for 2021, right?

Pattern: Stevie by Tilly and the Buttons.

Pattern alterations: I shortened the length, as per usual. I also raised the back neckline for version two (in the leopard print), as it feels like the weight of bow pulls it down slightly when wearing my first Stevie.

Fabric: Spot double gauze from Higgs & Higgs, and leopard print cotton from Like Sew Amazing.

Sewing soundtrack: Thundercat. I have optimistically booked tickets to see him live next year. Come on, vaccine!

The joy of simplicity

What are your ‘staple’ garments? When you make your own clothes, it seems like it should be easier to fill your wardrobe with them, but there is such a thing as having too much choice – and, boy, does sewing give you that. I had so many fabric fails when I first started sewing, be it cheapy synthetics (sweaty to wear and not great for the environment), bright prints (just not me) or fabrics that didn’t work for my everyday life (satin. When was I going to wear that??).

Obviously, sewing garments you’ll wear for years, in organic, eco-friendly fabrics, is the ideal. But not everyone has a stash full of lovely organic cottons to pick from – and deciding which garments fall in the ‘staple’ category is subjective. For some, it’s amazing wax-print dresses (hello, SewVee). For others, it’s designer-inspired pieces that wouldn’t look out of place on the pages of Vogue (Ada Spragg and House of Pinheiro spring to mind). For me? Well, it’s polka dots, stripes, monochrome, leopard print…and black. Lots of black. I’m obviously a secret goth at heart. Not exciting for Instagram, but easy to choose from when I’m in a rush in the morning (i.e. every morning). I realise this is a whole lot of rambling for what’s essentially a post about the most simple top in the world. It’s The Boxy Top pattern from Simply Sewing issue 45, originally from Jen Hewett’s lovely book Print Pattern Sew – and it may not be the most impressive thing you’ll see on Instagram today, but I can tell it’s going to be something I’ll wear a lot.

I didn’t make any alterations apart from, as usual, shortening the length – and that was mostly so the pattern would actually fit on the fabric. I’ve had this cotton gingham in the stash for a while – I think it was from eBay – but its narrow width (and the fact I only bought 1.5m for some reason. Who the hell just buys 1.5m?) meant I had to be ‘creative’ with cutting out. So, if you were hoping to see some expert pattern-matching today, you’ve come to the wrong place (I did manage it at the shoulder seams though, so will obviously be showing those off at every opportunity. Feel free to ogle my shoulder seams, everyone. Don’t be shy).

Although seriously simple to make, with techniques I’ve done endless times, it did involve one new skill I haven’t tried before: flat sleeve insertion. Where has this type of sleeve been all my sewing life? So much easier and speedier than set-in ones. It was a real boost to make something that wasn’t challenging but still taught me something new, so that’s going to be my criteria for projects from now on. Heck, I might just apply that to the rest of my life as well. 

Pattern: The Boxy Top by Jen Hewett, from Simply Sewing issue 45.

Alterations: Shortened the length. That’s it!

Fabric: Cotton gingham from eBay (if I was going to buy more gingham – and I probably will – I’d get this one from Organic Textile Company).

Sewing soundtrack: Have just started learning Lindy Hop, so currently obsessed with all things swing. Also, Lizzo.