Q&A – Your Questions Answered!

One of the goals I set myself in 2018 for this blog was to expand on the type of content I write – 90% of last year’s posts were makes, which is fab but there’s a whole other world out there related to sewing that’s NOT about the finished item. And do I want to make 52 items of clothing every year? Maybe, but I’m not sure my wardrobe (or my bank balance) can handle that many new additions. There’s a long road to get to the final photos that have been popping up in your inbox each week, and I want to include that journey on the blog too. There’s the pattern selection, the fabric, the colours, the trims, never mind the months it took me to even get this blog off the ground technically. So, there will be a post every now and then that’ll cover some of these sideline topics, and help give a more rounded view of everything that a sewing hobby encompasses.

You may have seen my posts over the last couple of weeks on social media asking all you lovely people to come forth with your questions – this was prompted by the fact that I often get asked things across many platforms, so I thought it would be a good idea to consolidate them in one place. And that place is here.

So, if you contributed a question – the answer is below! Grab a cuppa, get comfy and dive in… (I’ll warn you, there’s a lot of words here. I can talk A LOT.)

You always choose good quality fabrics, I’m a believer in ‘you get what you pay for’. Good fabrics give good results – do you agree? (Cindy-Lou)

Absolutely, Cindy! The fabrics I buy are (usually) natural fibres – cotton, silk, wool, viscose etc. If a fabric is seriously cheap (and not because it’s on sale) it makes me suspicious. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the good stuff is expensive for a reason – better quality fibres, better thickness, and washes/wears better. I’d much rather make fewer items per year out of quality materials than loads of things out of cheap fabric – which I suppose reflects the fact that I sew things that will (hopefully) last a long time rather than buying throwaway fashion from Primark. Unfortunately though (as my husband will tell you), I have expensive tastes. The very first shirt I made for him I used Liberty Cotton lawn… though I think i might have got it off eBay for a discounted price (at least, I hope i did…)! I also feel like I put more effort into something if I know it’s made with good quality fabric. It’s like you ‘set the standard’ with the fabric you buy. I feel like I’d be tempted to be a bit sloppy with £3 a metre polyester, but with a £25p/m wool you’re going to take your time a bit more and try to get things on point because you can’t afford to hash it up!

However – I’m going to add one caveat: whilst good materials can help achieve good results, the nicest silk in the world can’t hide an awful style or fit. A trapeze dress is going to look just as bad on me in £2/m fabric as it would do in hand-beaded silk at an eye-watering £350 per metre.

How long has it taken you to reach the sewing level you are now? (Ruby)

I received a sewing machine for my 16th birthday… I’m 33 now. At the time, I wasn’t really sure what to make with it, and I can count the number of times I used it in the first ten years of ownership on one hand. Then one day, in the summer of 2013, inspired by a colleague that sewed her own clothes, I dug out the sewing machine and I made a skirt:

It was an Easy Vogue pattern, if I remember rightly. It looks vaguely like it was supposed to, but I messed up the zip – I put it too low. I was still getting to grips with this thing called seam allowances, and had to sew two (two!) hooks and eyes above the zip to get the waistband to close. Ooops. I then got into the swing of things and before the end of 2013 rolled around, I’d made a couple of dresses and my first shirt for the husband (which was a bit ropey. Actually, a LOT ropey.). But then I took a break from sewing for a couple of years – work and life in general got busy, and then we moved to London. I made nothing more until 2016 – so my total garments to date at that point (just a couple of years ago – crazy!) was about five. Then something happened around April 2016. I can’t remember what now, but looking through my camera roll on my phone, I started making a few garments at once. Most of them I don’t have anymore, because I discovered that they don’t suit me/don’t fit me, but one of them I still have – this Deer and Doe Belladonne. It remains one of my favourite dresses to date.

Deer and Doe Belladonne Dress in Alexander Henry Zen Charmer Fabric

What you won’t spot from this picture is all the rookie mistakes – the fact that the back pieces are overlapping wrong, and that the bias tape is actually meant to be on the *inside* not the outside. I had no idea, I just bought black bias tape (1 inch wide – I now know that it should have been half-inch) and got confused with the pictures and instructions so just did what I thought was best. I actually love the look of the exposed tape though, and I’ve just made a second one and put the bias tape on the outside again. Shortly after I made this dress, on my sewing high, I then made my Marvel Comics dress:

Marvel Comics Superhero Halterneck Dress M7157

And then I just kept on making, using different patterns and making different garments to expand my skills. If I could give one piece of advice to someone looking to improve, it would be practice, practice, and practice some more. Just make all the things. I’ve only been ‘properly’ sewing since 2016, and I’ve learned and improved so much in that time, more than I could ever have imagined.

When did you begin sewing and why? (Kaiserin),

Hi Kaiserin! I’ve been crafting pretty much all my life. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve dabbled in knitting, papercraft, scrapbooking, cardmaking, crochet (rubbish at that, lol), quilting (even worse at that than I was at crochet) sewing, cross stitch… you name it I’ve probably tried it. My mum was a knitter and that’s probably what started me off, I remember wanting to knit a scarf when I was small – I could only knit (not purl) and she had to cast on and off for me. So basically I only did the easy bit in the middle 🙂 We used to go to the Knitting and Stitching show every year, and I’d normally come out with a new craft kit of some description. If I had the time, I’d like to carry on with my cross stitch. I’m quite partial to a good cross stitch, and I’ve done it for many years. My most favourite piece is this Japanese one I completed:

I’m part-way through a Josephine Wall design that I started in 2010 and I really should finish it… those individual crosses are TINY though!

It wasn’t until 2013 that I made the leap into sewing clothing – the skirt that’s a few pictures above was the first garment. I made it because I wanted to see if I could do it – as someone who had never made clothing, it seemed like this really complicated thing that only people with mad skillz could do. And I wanted to see if I was good enough. That sort of reflects my personality though – I tend to think I’m invincible and I can do anything, and I’m always looking for ways to test myself. Sewing was one of those things, and even now I keep trying different fabrics and different techniques to see if I can do them. But I’ve stuck at it, because I really enjoy it and I love the feeling of making my own clothes in fabrics I love – it’s the inner rebel in me rebelling against the offerings in the shops and going my own way instead.

I’d like to know if you are self-taught, and if so how you came to be so good! (Vicki)

I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. Great that you had the confidence to make the tailored coat for your OH. That’s a big leap from making dresses, skirts and shirts. Have you had training, or is it all self-taught? (Nancy)

Ahh, thanks guys! 🙂 I am totally self-taught, I’ve never been to a sewing class or course in my life! But then I always say that we learn better by doing… so I just keep practicing! I never dreamed that I would ever be able to sew some of the things that I make now, but I have a way of looking at things that doesn’t make it seem so overwhelming. A coat is just a collection of seams, so if you can sew a seam, you can sew a coat. It’s like that age-old saying about the longest journey starting with a single step. Just read through the pattern instructions one by one, one step at a time. And when things go wrong – which they ALWAYS will, that’s how we learn – I have a look at why it went wrong, what I did that was wrong and make a mental note of what not to do next time.

I’ve always been quite creative though, despite being an accountant by day! I have an A-level in music, my main instrument is the piano but I have also dabbled in flute and violin. I love playing with colour and patterns and translating the combinations into clothing, and find that practicing and challenging yourself is the best way to develop your skills. A saying that I really like is “whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right”. Believe in yourself and you will keep improving!

What’s your most worn me-made garment? (Sarah)

Well, I’m assuming we’re not counting underwear as a garment – because that would be the Watson bras I wear everyday (not the same one, obvs, there’s a rotation and stuff does get washed). The most worn item of clothing, without a doubt, has to be my pink long-sleeved Kielo dress. I love that dress, its sooo comfy, its like wearing pyjamas to work. It’s not perfect by a long shot, and my approach to lining it wasn’t the best – plus the fabric was uber-shifty and slippery and stretchy to cut so it was a bit of a sewing nightmare. But I loves it ? I’m finally making a couple more Kielos, after struggling to find fabric I loved as much as that fabric. I’m still not sure I’ll ever beat it.

Named Patterns Kielo Wrap Dress

What’s your most sewn pattern? (Sarah, again) This one’s got to be a shirt, but I’m not sure whether it’s my shirt or the husbeast’s… I think his one wins it because I’ve made one more that’s not pictured and yet to be blogged. I’m still trying to nail the fit of my shirt around the boob area, and I’ve just recut a size bigger in the mens’ shirt because the ones I was making were turning out to be a tad snug… 🙂

Here’s my versions of Vogue/DKNY V1462:

And the versions of V8759 for the husband:

If you could design one pattern for commercial sale of just for yourself, what would it be? (Yep, still Sarah… who let her in lol)

This was the question that had me stumped the most! I thought about it long and hard… and considered all my options. Coats? Trousers? Skirts? I almost settled on a bra – the Watson comes pretty close at fitting me well, but I’d prefer a higher rise in the middle to keep everything in place. Then I realised that the answer to the question is, in fact, trousers. In RTW jeans, I need a UK 14 on the legs and a 10 on the waist. Which obviously, isn’t available. The only brand that fits me is American Eagle, and the three shops they had in the entire UK closed down last year. Y THO.  I literally can not find another brand in the UK that fits, so I bit the bullet and suffered the wonderful import VAT and ‘handling charge’ in order to get three new pairs of jeans because my final pair are on their last legs. I’ve put off making trousers for like, EVER, but I wish I could just get on with it and design nice pair of trousers that actually fit an hourglass shape. Like *properly* fit. In my head I picture them to be something like the amazeballs pair in this pic of Dita Von Teese’s backside:

I mean, look at that hip to waist ratio! And the FIT! This is totally my dream pair of trousers.  I think the pattern would have to be just for me, rather than commercial sale, as I reckon it would only fit a very small percentage of the population… but I’d be happy to be selfish on this occasion because if I had trousers that fit like this, nothing else in life would matter.

With the state of London real estate as it is – do you have a specific room for sewing or do you just clear off the dining table? Where/how do you store stash materials? (the_mclemon)

In a way, I wish I had a specific sewing room because of all the space that would give me, but then that would isolate me from the rest of the clan – I talk to my husband while I sew, and sometimes my girl dog likes to share my chair (yep – really). It’s next to the window and gets a lot of sun, so rather than deprive her of the warmth and heat that she loves so much, we share. And by share, I mean that she sits up against the back rest and I perch on the front edge of the chair – yes it’s bloody awkward but sometimes she will put her little chin on my shoulder and then all is forgiven.

So, like many others I’m sure, I’m a member of the Dining-Room-Table Party. Except, the table doesn’t get cleared when I want to sew – it’s the other way around: the sewing gets pushed aside when we want to eat. I feel that the following picture of my living-slash-sewing room deserves a pre-warning: It ain’t glamorous.

This was taken when I was in the middle of a sewing session, so you’re seeing it at its worst. Bottom left you’ve got the dog food bowls. Just above that you’ve got bags of projects that have been cut and/or started. My machine is on the far end of the table, along with the husbeast’s machine at the back. My overlocker sits on the floor behind my sewing chair and I turn round and lift it up onto the table whenever I need it, and push my machine backwards towards the wall to make space. In the middle of all the chaos is our ridiculously large fish tank, and my mannequin who doesn’t have a name. Then there’s the fugly but functional ironing board. To the far right of the picture is my stash… now shown in all it’s unedited raw glory:

I know. It’s pretty bad. I’m not a tidy person. There’s patterns and fabric and all sorts in there. There’s also some boxes of stuff on the windowsill next to my sewing chair – zips, bias tape, machine needles and the like. Smaller stuff that wouldn’t stand a chance at survival amongst this lot.  This did actually used to be an actual bookcase before it got suffocated in fabric! The crates you see represent good progress for me – it’s my first step towards organisation. There’s a crate upstairs as well which contains ‘summer’ fabrics that I will sew when the weather gets warmer. It’s organised chaos. Well, semi organised…

Have you always known you’re different, or has it been with time that you’ve realised it? (mime_btfy)

Ahh, good question!

I’ve always known. Even as a teenager, I dyed my hair bright colours. In fact, when we were at high school (yes we’ve been together that long) me and Aaron won the graduation award of ‘Most Technicolour Couple’. I think my hair might have been green at the time – I went through all the colours! I was a total hippy and I loved all the bright, rainbow clothes and always bought clothing from the ethic, alternative shops and markets that we had around us. If it was loud, and/or bright, I would like it.

I remember a few things from my teenage years that I now realise represent my crazy tastes – I had a white furry backpack, a black reversible coat that you could turn inside out to be metallic silver, a black velvet top that had long gothic sleeves made from cobweb lace. Even now, at age 33, I carry my lunch to work in this Rilakkuma lunch bag:


You wouldn’t find me at the ‘popular’ music nights – I was there at the ‘alternative’ nights in gothic makeup listening to Korn and Slipknot. I never fitted in with the ‘normal’ crowd, and didn’t want to. My mother wanted a little girl who would be sugar and spice and all things nice, and instead she got me 🙂

I am never afraid to push boundaries or be bold, and I don’t do well in environments that restrict personal expression. Being a qualified accountant, it can be hard to find that balance between working in a professional industry and looking like you belong in a creative one. But I genuinely hope I’m going to be that 70 year old pensioner that rocks a hot pink rinse and a walking stick with metal studs on it.

Do you have an exact pattern of yours and your hubbies bodies? Or do you use standard patterns? I have gone off making my own clothes as they simply never look right/always too big on the shoulders or too tight on the hips. (Dee)

I actually don’t have blocks of us… but it’s been on my to-do list (a virtual one, in the back of my mind) for a while now. I use standard patterns, but over time I’ve come to learn which adjustments may need to be made – the husband is only 5’5, so I know that sleeves ALWAYS need to be shortened for him. I have a smaller waist, so I almost always need to take some in there.

With regards to your fitting issues, do you grade your patterns? I discovered that with skirts, my waist falls into one size but my hips are one (sometimes two) sizes bigger. If I cut the size based on my waist, I can’t get my hips into it. If I cut the size based on my hip measurement, it’s WAY too big around the waist. Since that moment of realisation, I grade. I always mark the waist size at the top of the pattern template, then my desired hip size at the hip line, and draw a curve between the two (I have a Pattern Master ruler that helps with this – I’m no good at freehand!) I then cut out along my freshly drawn lines, and the finished skirt fits my shape SO much better.

For your shoulders, it might be better to cut the bodice size based on your upper bust measurement and then do a full bust adjustment to give you the room that you need. This way you should (hopefully) get a good fit at the shoulders AND the bust. It took me many garments to realise that I couldn’t cut a straight size out the packet… If i was to make a fitted dress, I’d need three different sizes at bust/waist/hips AND I’d probably need to do a full bust adjustment too. It sounds like a lot of hard work, but once you do it a few times you soon get the hang of it. Especially when you realise that you’ve just made something that fits you perfectly and makes you look smokin’!

Where do you source your fabric? I love those prints and colours! (une_petite_crevette)

I will admit to spending of time browsing fabrics. I love digging through fabric sites to find those awesome hidden gems. About 95% of my fabrics are bought online. Clockwise from top left:

Black jacquards from Ebay (frog closures from Etsy), neon fur from Croft Mill, aztec viscose from Ebay, Ganesha jersey from Minvera Crafts, octopus lawn by Cottons and Steel, zig zag tapestry from Stof and Stil (pink lining from Ebay), Liberty Mirako silk from Shaukat, pink leopard jersey from Fabric Godmother and finally the geometric hands silk was from Etsy.

Other sites that I buy from are Stone Fabrics, Fabric.com, Fabric Dreams, Spoonflower, and Funki Fabrics for stretchy-spandex-type-stuff.

For something special or a bit luxurious, I’d head over to Joel and Son.

I spend a lot of time randomly looking at eBay to see what’s going on there – it’s a good place to pick up offcuts of a couple of metres or so, and discounted fabrics from bigger brands. I’m also quite lucky to have the Cloth House Warehouse Store nearby to my work so every once in a while I take a wander round there to see what’s available. If I have time to make the trip across the city, Goldhawk Road in West London is an absolute fabric heaven – SO many fabric shops on one street!

Fabric Shopping at Goldhawk Road Shepherds Bush London

My questions would be on how you set up your blog, and your recommendations on doing so. Thanks 🙂 (Sophie)

Hi Sophie! Ah, you’re actually the second person to ask this (Duncan pipped you to the post!). And it’s strange you should ask, because – in a true rock and roll fashion – I spent New Years Eve drafting a blog post on how I set up my blog (from scratch with no previous experience) and the things I learned along the way. Because it was pretty hard, and a MASSIVE learning curve for someone who had zero experience of blogging when she decided that a blog would be a really cool idea.

A couple of days later I actually wondered why I wrote it, because I didn’t think anyone would want to read it. But now that’s two people who have asked me, so I’m going to finish off that post and make sure it covers everything. So, I’m afraid I don’t have a response for you guys *right now*, but I promise in a couple of weeks you’re gonna get a whollllllle long post with everything I learned. I couldn’t possibly explain it to you in a few lines here, so in order to do the job properly so it’s actually of some proper help, it’s going to be a post in its own right. Just for you 🙂 You won’t have to wait long I promise!

I have a very difficult body shape 49″ bust, 36″ waist and 42″ hips. Anything I make for me just looks hideous. Any suggestions for a very unhappy bunny 🙁 (Mags)

Aww Mags, don’t give up. It took me a very long time to figure out what suited my shape, what didn’t, and why. I often get lured in by the way the garment looks on the model on the pattern envelope, but when I make it for myself it looks horrible on me. Then I realised that we are all individual, and every one of us is a different shape, and what suits one person does not suit another. Also, we all have our own colour scheme that suits us best. Is it the fabric, or the designs that your unhappy with? For fabric issues, I always ask myself the question: if I saw a garment in a shop made from this fabric, would I buy it? If the answer is no, then the fabric gets passed on by. There’s plenty of pretty fabric out there, but it’s not necessarily destined to become clothing for me. It’s hard not to get lured in by those fabrics that look beautiful on the bolt – I have to be firm with myself and *really* evaluate whether I want clothes made from it. If I can, I’ll hold the fabric up against myself in a mirror – this is usually enough for me to be able to make the decision as to whether I will like it as clothing. Obviously you can’t do that online… so perhaps get yourself to a fabric store and hold up some different colours and see how they go with you skin tone/hair colour. Write down the colours that you like (for me that’s warm colours), and the ones you don’t as well (so you know to stay away from them!).

If it’s the fit/style of clothing that you struggle with, do you have any particular items of shop-bought clothing that you like to wear? If so, try to figure out what it is that you like about it. Is it the sleeves? The neckline? Does it have a wrap bodice? A defined waist? Equally, try to think of a few design elements that you DON’T like on yourself. I personally don’t like V necks, so I never make anything that has one of those. Once you have some likes/dislikes, start looking at a few sewing patterns and see which ones have the design elements that you like. I’d then start with those – make one up, and see how you feel. You might need to make some fine-tune adjustments to the fit, but hopefully you will have a good starting point!

Do you prefer patterns from big pattern houses such as Vogue, Burda etc or do you prefer indie designers and why? (Alison)

Ah, that’s a good one, Alison! I’m going to cheat here, and say that I prefer both – but for different reasons. I find that the big pattern houses are great for more timeless and classic designs – winter coats, jackets, evening wear, formal wear – and also for a good challenge using couture methods or hand sewing. But, I find that the indie designers (Deer and Doe are a favourite of mine, and I’ve recently discovered DP Studio) bring a more modern edge to sewing – a lot of the big designers can be a bit outdated, especially with their ‘Mom’ envelope modelling/styling. I’ve been hankering after this Vogue pattern ever since I laid eyes on it:

I feel like it’d be a rare occurrence to get something this complex or formal from an indie company (with the exception of maybe the new Rumana coat from By Hand London, which is already on my sewing list!). Swinging totally the other way, DP Studio has some extremely edgey stuff – sometimes a little *too* edgey even for me… I mean, this is crazy, right?!

But it’s refreshing to see patterns that push boundaries – I always feel like the indie companies will be the ones to do this, and the big houses will stick to the ‘safe’ designs. So I’ll always use patterns from both, depending on what sort of garment I’m after.

Where do you get the time to sew? How do you fit it in with your job/commute/life? Any hints or tips for finding sewing time? (Charlottewhincup)

Ah yes, the wonderful experience that is having to give up time you could be sewing to instead go to work. Working in London means that my commute, by default, is almost as long as the working day. Well, not quite, but it can get pretty close when ‘broken down trains’, ‘signal problems’ and ‘there is no service on the Northern Line’ come out to play. I get national rail into the city, rather than the underground, purely because there’s more chance of me getting a seat and being able to type blog posts on the way. I bought a small little laptop that I use on the train, so that I didn’t have to spend my evenings typing blog posts when I could be sewing instead. I don’t cook in the evenings – I have a hot meal at lunch so sometimes there’s some sewing time to be had in the evenings if I’m lucky. Not a lot, but usually enough to do some pinning, hemming, or a sew a couple of seams – unless I’ve had Etsy orders come through during the day, in which case I’ll be sewing those. Even if I only manage to snatch a couple of nights a week, I’m still further along with the project at the end of the week than I was at the start. Sometimes I’ll use my evenings to trace patterns or cut out fabric – even if it feels like you’re not doing a lot, all those little bits really do add up. Every minute counts – so don’t be put off if you only have 30 mins, or even 15 – hand baste that zip in place or rethread your machine with the right colour. In five minutes you could measure yourself for a new pattern to see what size you want to cut, or hypnotise yourself by winding some bobbins (strangely relaxing, no?).

Saturday is our day of the weekend where we ‘do stuff’. Sunday is reserved exclusively for dog walking and then pure, unadulterated sewing time. All day. Yessssssss. We NEVER commit to doing anything on a Sunday, it’s our one day of the week where we get to relax and do what we want (the husbeast will usually be found watching Formula 1, football, or playing the Playstation or sewing with me). I know that if I don’t get much sewing done in the week, I always have my Sunday to look forward to. It definitely helps that I have this blog – I plan out what I want to blog about each week in advance (waaaaay in advance) so that I can see what I need to sew by when – if I have a deadline to meet, that’s usually motivation enough to push everything else aside and get some sewing time in!

What is your favourite pattern? (Katia_bloch)

It’s actually going to be a tie between the Deer and Doe Belladonne dress and the Kielo by Named Patterns. I love the way both of these fit me – the Kielo is so easy to wear with no uncomfortable waistbands or closures, and I just love the back of the Belladonne bodice. I’ve made two Belladonne’s (one on the blog, one to be blogged soon) and four Kielos (two on the blog, two to come!). I love the way that the Kielo can over you for all seasons – you can use the free long sleeve add-on to make a snuggly winter version,or just layer a short sleeve one over a long sleeve tee and leggings.

Named Patterns Kielo wrap dress Ganesha fabric

The Belladonne fits my shape so well, and I really love that you have so many options for using contrast bias tape and piping.

Deer and Doe Belladonne Dress in Alexander Henry Zen Charmer Fabric

How do you install an invisible zip? (skysky038)

Those invisible zippers are really tricky aren’t they! It took me many attempts before I felt comfortable at putting them in and getting them right first time.

The process I follow is very nicely summarised here on Craftsy – the important things to do in order to get it looking good are:

Basting and then removing the pins – absolutely don’t skip this part. I’ve tried sewing zippers in when there’s still pins in the way and its SO awkward and my sewing line goes all over the place. It’s much easier to sew the zip if you hand baste it. Plus it’s easier to close the zip and check that everything’s in line before you actually commit to sewing it.

Ironing the zip tape before installing – by doing this, you expose more of the zip tape that’s next to the teeth so you can get your stitching as close to the teeth as possible – meaning that when the zip is closed, it’s actually invisible (which of course is the point). Sometimes I find that after I’ve sewn the zip, my line of sewing has strayed a little bit away from the teeth resulting in the zip tape being visible from the outside when the zip is closed. If that’s the case, I go over my sewing line again and *make sure* that my needle stays right next to those teeth.

Making sure that you place the top of the zip stopper precisely on the seam line of the top of the piece – so if you’re seam allowance is 5/8″, put the top of that plastic zip stop 5/8″ below the top of the fabric. That way, when you sew that seam along the top, the zip stop will be right at the top of the seam so that the zip closes all the way to the top of the garment. When I was still learning how to install them properly, I’d have zips that finished a bit below the top seam, meaning that I needed to sew in a hook/eye closure to get the garment to close all the way up.

Don’t give up! I promise that it will get easier with practice.

I’d like to know if you have wardrobe-planning tips for people who tend to choose patterned fabric (hfdock)

Ah, yes that old trap of always picking the cool prints and then realising that you have nothing to coordinate with them. Been there done that! I’ve only recently (and grudgingly at that) started sewing plain things because I just didn’t have anything to wear with my pretty things. As boring as it is, I’d recommend sewing (or buying) at least one of each item you wear in a solid colour of choice – for me that’s one black skirt (below – I’ve just made the Rosari by Pauline Alice), one black shirt (again below – I made the Suzon blouse for summer – still need to make a long-sleeved one though), and one black pair of trousers (yep, still working on that one too…). The other basics, like t-shirts, polo necks and vests I always buy – i don’t want to spend my limited sewing time making boring basics when I can pick up satisfactory ones off the high street. I hate sewing with jersey anyway 🙂 I have a massive stash of black tights, t-shirts and long sleeve tees. When I make really loud things (so like, most of the time) I try to think of them as the ‘centrepiece’ of an outfit on their own, so patterns don’t get put with other patterns – they get put with plain. Patterned top? Plain jeans. Patterned skirt? Plain sweater. It’s so easy to always pick the cool patterns but there always needs to be a yin to the yang to keep the balance – in my case the yang is ALL THE BLACK.

Republique Du Chiffon Suzon shirt and Deer and Doe Chardon Skirt in Alexander Henry Zen Charmer fabric

I’d love to hear more about your travels, and the time you lived abroad 🙂 (aubergine_kenobi)

If I’m not thinking about sewing chances are I’m thinking about travelling (both past and present). Some of my actual passport stamps form the lower part of my tattoo sleeve:

I’ve saved answering this questing until last… because I could talk for hours about the places I’ve been. I promise I won’t though, I’ll give you a whistle-stop tour of the best bits and some of my favourite photos 🙂

Nearly all of my travelling revolves around Asia – not sure why, but something draws me to that part of the world. In 2009 we spent six weeks there and took in Japan, Singapore, Borneo, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Thailand and Cambodia.

During that trip, I had a geisha makeover in Tokyo:

(yep, that’s really me)

Saw parts of the amazing Angkor Wat in Cambodia:

Visited the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto:

And got some tattoo inspiration from the monks in Bangkok:

Then in 2010 we moved to Malaysian Borneo, to a town called Tambunan located in the Crocker Range of mountains.

We lived in a house that my husband designed which had views over the mountains and rice fields. It was here that our two dogs came into our lives (yep, they woof in Malaysian).

Whilst living there I fulfilled a life goal of keeping chickens – Aaron did the prep work of designing and building me a chicken coop out of scrap wood:

We then went to the market and bought five absolute floofballs:

Who liked nothing better to use my washing line as their own personal perch.

Eventually they had babies of their own (we had a rooster by then, called Kelloggs):

They actually had the best personalities! So funny, just like dogs.

We spent two years in that house and while we were there we travelled as much as we could…

My skin actually blistered from the heat on Koh Phi Phi in Thailand:

I went up Taipei 101, which at the time was the tallest building in the world. (that’s me with black hair BEFORE I figured out that I don’t like white/light coloured clothing):

I’ve seen the orangutans of Borneo more times than I can count, and it never gets boring:

Likewise with taking pictures of the awesome Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and despite visiting them more times than I can remember, I’ve never actually been up them.

The husband had a Sak Yant tattoo at the remotest place you could ever imagine in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Basically he was jabbed with a sharp stick for a couple of hours and afterwards he had to do the blessing ceremony. It was really interesting to watch, a fascinating experience and insight into tattoo traditions.

The tattoo made up of two parts – the tigers are for long life and strength, and the small bit on top is for wealth, success and good fortune. Not the best picture in the world, but you get the idea.

We visited the Sultan of Brunei in his palace (well, he wasn’t home at the time, but you know)

I love looking back over all my photos and memories, thought it does have the unfortunate effect of giving you itchy feet and making you want to quit your job and pack up and go… There’s still many more places on my travel bucket list (Canada, New Zealand and the West Coast of the USA to name a few) and I’m definitely NOT yet done with travelling Asia.

Phew! You’ve made it to the end. #SorryNotSorry for my verbal diarrhoea.

Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… a very colourfully-reserved Rosari Skirt ? Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!



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  1. January 28, 2018 / 8:39 am

    This was such a great read Sarah, what a fab idea for a blog post! Thanks for sharing an insight into your life, sewing and travels. Enjoy your sewing day today! ?

    • Sarah
      January 29, 2018 / 1:52 pm

      You’re welcome Maxine, I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  2. themclemon
    January 28, 2018 / 9:19 am

    So interesting! I just can’t believe you’ve only been properly sewing for a year or two, the progress you’ve made is incredible! Thanks for answering my question (and with pictures) – I have a small flat with very limited storage so just have one drawer for stash, so I’m always super interested in seeing other people’s setups (who don’t have gigantic American houses with a whole loft for sewing ?)

    • Sarah
      January 29, 2018 / 1:54 pm

      Really glad you enjoyed it! Yes, it feels like much longer that I’ve been properly sewing, probably because I’ve made so much in that couple of years! So glad I made the decision to start dressmaking though 🙂
      Ah, yes that dream of having a whole ROOM dedicated to sewing… I don’t see that anytime soon in my future haha!

  3. January 28, 2018 / 9:58 am

    Hurrah for the creative and messy! I tidy my messes up a few times a year, but halfway through any project it all reverts to various bags and heaps. I did put my foot down a year or so ago, and refused to be moved form the table anymore, and now it’s mine permanently. If we want to eat at a table, we use our cute picnic table!
    Your travels look fascinating

    • Sarah
      January 29, 2018 / 1:56 pm

      Yay for the mess! I think I’m almost there with claiming the dining room table, my sewing stuff gets moved out of the way at breakfast so we can sit and have a cuppa, but all meals are now eaten on the sofa 🙂 I have come a long way with the crates and project bags – the whole thing was a lot worse prior to this!

  4. Dee Davies.
    January 28, 2018 / 10:33 am

    Lovely blog to read on a relaxing Sunday morning. Thanks for answering the questions Sarah. I’m grateful for the lesson on invisible zips. Thanks for the useful tips given in the answer to my question on pattern sizing. No I haven’t tried pattern grading but I now intend to. It’s interesting that you use a pattern master ruler. I’m imagining this may be similar to the Sure fit ruler a member demonstrated to me at my home recently. I’ve taken on board all your tips for my body shape. I’m so impressed and inspired at how much you’ve achieved in two years! The way you use not just your spare time but time whilst commuting is impressive. (Bringing to mind Kipling,’s ‘If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run.’ Thanks too for sharing your travel stories. Wow! What an amazing life you and your hubby are having and lovely to see how well matched you are. You certainly looked the part as a Geisha. Interesting about both your tattoos, especially where your hubby acquired the one his back. I must show my grandson who is off to Asia soon. Your travelling ones are impressive too. Most of all, thanks for being beautifully different and sharing your life with us.

    • Sarah
      January 29, 2018 / 2:03 pm

      Ah thanks Dee! I’m really glad you enjoyed it 🙂
      Yes the rulers are pretty similar I imagine, I use mine for the grading curve because I’m rubbish at freehand drawing! Plus that way I can make sure that both sides are the same 🙂
      Ah, yes ‘efficient’ is often a word that’s used to describe me – I hate wasting time and am very resourceful!
      I feel very lucky to have seen so many places in the world, and hopefully there will be many more to come – where is your grandson off to?

  5. January 28, 2018 / 10:39 am

    What a great blog post ? I particularly liked reading about your travels… and your chickens!
    I’m envious of your proximity to the cloth house warehouse, it’s only open on the days I’m at work so unless I book a day off especially, it’s out of bounds!
    I loved seeing your ‘sewing space’ too… I’m in a very similar situation (although I think my living room is smaller, also MrA is a bit of a hoarder/ magpie!) So this helps normalise it a bit!
    Keep up the great work ???

    • Sarah
      January 30, 2018 / 5:35 pm

      Ahh yes – I did love my chooks! We had one that was like the ringleader, and she had a massive comb that flopped to the side… so we named her Stroppy Floppy 😀 😀
      Yes I’m quite lucky to work so close by… it’s about a 10 minute walk. But that also means it’s SO dangerous! Bad morning at work? Let’s go buy fabric!! haha.
      A glamorous sewing room would be lovely… one where I didn’t have to step over the dog just to use the ironing board… maybe one day! I’m quite happy with using the living room, it’s nice to be around everyone while I sew. Hurrah for the living-slash-sewing-room brigade! 🙂

  6. Roberta Bombelli
    January 28, 2018 / 2:52 pm

    I absolutely love reading your blog. I love your down to Earth approach to self improvement, you have an amazing talent. Will you bring any influence from your super amazing travel experiences into your sewing in the near future? Thanks for including my question and answering it, it just goes to show what an inspirational lady you are. Keep up the great work! Until the next blog, take care x

    • Sarah
      January 30, 2018 / 5:38 pm

      Ahh thanks so much Roberta! I’m so glad you enjoy reading the blog!
      And I hope I answered your question satisfactorily… I really love Japanese kimonos, I recently saw one of the new Vogue patterns which is a shirt that has an obi-style tie belt so I’ll definitely be sewing that one! I really love ethnic prints, and I have a sort of Thai-style dress in mind – but that’s definitely one for the warmer weather, I’m still sewing coats and not even thinking about summer yet!!

  7. Nancy May
    January 28, 2018 / 4:11 pm

    Thank you for the answer to my question.. You really are a talented lady. One thing I’d like to point out regarding the place you’ve been in Japan. The golden temple is in Kyoto, not Tokyo. I’m sure it’s a typo on your part. I have enjoyed reading this blog, and yes going forward seeing the steps in your makes would be good to.

    • Sarah
      January 30, 2018 / 5:40 pm

      Ah, thanks Nancy! I knew that in 5000+ words I was bound to make a mistake somewhere! Of course, you’re absolutely right that it’s in Kyoto 🙂 And I should be ashamed of myself because I’ve been there twice :O
      Really glad you enjoy the blog! 🙂

  8. PsychicSewerKathleen
    January 28, 2018 / 5:19 pm

    This was such an interesting and luscious read/see! Loved your stories about sewing, travels and “husbeast” 🙂 I agree with you 100% re using high quality fabrics. We spend so much time constructing our garments – from visioning and imagination to final creation – why anyone would denigrate all that work and time with cheap fabric is beyond my comprehension. I think few of us in the western world actually NEED clothes (quite the opposite!) so why not make special garments that you’ve always dreamed of having which will last many years? That’s been my philosophy and approach. Buy the best, take your time, ponder, create and ultimately you’ll have an article of clothing that will fill you with pleasure and delight for years! I love your Kielo by the way too! It’s gorgeous!

    • Sarah
      January 30, 2018 / 5:44 pm

      Thanks Kathleen! So glad you enjoyed it! It was actually really enjoyable to put together a post like this that gives you an insight into my sewing (and non-sewing) life.
      That’s such a good philosophy – creating beautiful things that will last long. I’d rather have a teeny tiny wardrobe with just a few, really well made items in it than have 100 ‘meh’ items. Unfortunately though my bank balance can’t keep up with my sewing dreams 😉 Although… I hardly EVER buy ready to wear clothes so I guess the cost evens out!!
      I really do love the experience of working with beautiful fabrics, it makes the whole process so much more special. Ah, yes that Kielo – I feel I will never make a better one!!!

  9. PsychicSewerKathleen
    January 28, 2018 / 5:21 pm

    I forgot to mention that you might like to investigate Cashmerette patterns – she’s just released a jeans pattern for curvy women. Although Cashmerette is marketed to VERY curvy women she does start her sizing at a US 12 and her instructions, patterns, sew-a-longs are fabulous. I bet you could get just the pants you want with her pattern 🙂

    • Sarah
      January 30, 2018 / 5:46 pm

      Ooh, I will take a look at these patterns, thank you! A US 12 is… A UK 16 I think though, which is a few sizes too big (at the waist anyway, probably not so much at the hips/thighs), but I will definitely have a look to check out the styles!

  10. Julie Barner
    January 28, 2018 / 6:19 pm

    This was a great post, I really enjoyed it!
    You’ve done so much in your life already for being so young.
    I’m a life long seamstress & costumer professionally & personally as my hobby.
    I really like the things you make & your willingness to try more difficult garments, and challenge yourself.
    Keep up the great work!
    You’re giving us out here inspiration!

    • Sarah
      January 30, 2018 / 5:50 pm

      Ahh thanks Julie! I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂 🙂
      Yes, I’ve crammed a lot into my 33 years, and hopefully there will be just as much crammed into the next 33 as well! I’m always on the lookout for the next adventure!
      Wow you have a creative job… I’m so jealous. Do you ever find that if you sew professionally all day, the last thing you want to come home and do is more sewing?

  11. Alison
    January 28, 2018 / 7:14 pm

    Such an interesting read, thank you very much.

    • Sarah
      January 30, 2018 / 5:50 pm

      Thanks Alison, I’m really glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  12. Deb
    January 29, 2018 / 5:35 pm

    Oh, the house your hubs built!! How did you ever leave?

    Truly enjoy reading your blog. Thanks… Deb, Northern California

    • Sarah
      January 30, 2018 / 5:56 pm

      Ahhh… it’s amazing, isn’t it! It was a bit of a shock to the system to leave a nice spacious house with a view of the mountains and come back to the grey UK :O
      Really glad you enjoyed the blog! And very jealous that you’re in California… I’ve never been. California Dreamin’ is one of my favourite songs! Do you guys get a winter or is it gloriously sunny all year round?

  13. Sarah Jolley
    January 30, 2018 / 12:00 am

    I just discovered your blog last week. What an inspiring read, and very lucky to have caught this particular article! So informative!! Oh, so many ideas already brewing!!
    I’ve recently started sewing again, after a 20 year break, with a few sparse emergency dresses made for brothers’ weddings.
    Most of my sewing has been for my three little nippers, but have made myself my first coat and first jumper in the past two weeks. I suspect my children’s wardrobes will be neglected a little now I’ve taken the plunge back into adult clothing!
    Delighted to have found your blog and will be looking forward to reading it weekly.
    Thank you!!
    xx Sarah.

    • Sarah
      January 30, 2018 / 5:59 pm

      Hi Sarah! Yay to you finding the blog! So glad you enjoyed the post! It was really enjoyable to write something that is a little different to my weekly makes. Glad to hear there’s lots of ideas brewing – my list of things is enough to keep me busy for at least the next five years!
      Wow you’re on a roll with the sewing now! Yay for sewing coats – I *love* sewing coats. I don’t really know why – maybe because I’m always cold?! Which coat pattern did you sew?
      So glad to hear that you’re sewing again after a break – do you already have a list of things you want to make or are you seeing what takes your fancy at the time?

  14. Tachalili
    January 31, 2018 / 1:36 pm

    This is so interesting! Hope you’ll be able to get to New Zealand one day, it is such a beautiful country. And thanks for the fabric store listing. Am heading to London next week-end from Paris and Joel & Son’s looks amazing 🙂

    • Sarah
      January 31, 2018 / 6:49 pm

      Really glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
      How strange that you’re coming to London next weekend… I’m going to Paris!!! Other than Mahlia Kent (which is already on my list), any recommendations? Have a fab time in London!

  15. Tachalili
    February 2, 2018 / 12:35 pm

    Funny indeed! Like you I buy my fabric online a lot… But the obvious is Marché Saint-Pierre right by the Sacré Coeur. You might end up finding some nice stuffs and there is a very nice place nearby to have drinks or a piece of homemade cake: the Halle Saint-Pierre (and which also houses a nice little museum). Hope you will enjoy your stay!

    • Sarah
      February 5, 2018 / 8:01 pm

      Thank you for the tip – I’ll definitely visit here! I’m so excited, I can’t wait! Hope you have a fabulous time in London 🙂

  16. Tachalili
    February 2, 2018 / 12:37 pm

    Oh there is also Bennytex but it is a little outside of Paris (nearest subway station is either Fort d’Aubervilliers or Bobigny Pablo Picasso). It is a warehouse and it is open on Sunday from 10:30 am.

  17. February 5, 2018 / 11:17 am

    A great read! Those orangutans! I’ve got a sizeable difference in my waist to hips/thighs and am starting to learn more about full seat adjustments rather than just grading between sizes which is what I used to do. Wish we could all speak to Dita’s tailor!

    • Sarah
      February 5, 2018 / 8:19 pm

      Those trousers are just PERFECTION aren’t they!! Hmm, I don’t really know anything about full seat adjustments – do you find that it gives a better fit? Really glad you enjoyed the blog post!

  18. February 6, 2018 / 11:51 am

    Hahaha I invited myself, clearly! What a great post, lovely to discover more about you and some ace photos here! X

  19. Helen (@hfdock)
    February 10, 2018 / 1:03 am

    Hi Sarah!

    Thanks for answering my question! 😀 I’ve been thinking about your answer on and off for a couple of weeks, and have decided that my neutrals are more the brown/taupe/grey colours.

    I love black, but for some reason I find it hard to pair with the colours I choose – maybe there are more textures and finished of black fabrics I could explore to find my neutral pairing version. I’ve found some fabric from an op shop to start on my neutrals journey… I’ll let you know how it goes!

    This is my first time visiting your blog – the layout is gorgeous! I’ll be back 😀

    • Sarah
      February 10, 2018 / 7:04 pm

      Ahh thanks Helen! Glad you like the blog 🙂
      I hope I answered your question satisfactorily! I saw your post on Instagram, so excited that you’re making a few neutral pieces! I know it’s not as fun, but it’s really nice to pair the patterned pieces you make with a plain separate that’s *also* handmade. I’ve been tempted to cheat previously and buy the boring separates because I want to sew with all the colours, all the time, but there is a certain satisfaction with sewing the coordinates as well.
      Yes, there are some textures of black fabric that take away the harshness that it can have when paired with some colours, see what you can find! 🙂

  20. Deb
    February 10, 2018 / 5:26 am

    California is well worth visiting….we get winter, however, it’s a big state size-wise and topography-wise. Southern Cal has much less rain than Northern Cal. Temps in winter depend if you are in the mountains, in the deserts, on the coast or in the long central valleys. I love California! It has it all!

    • Sarah
      February 13, 2018 / 7:01 pm

      Oh wow! I didn’t realise that it had such a variety! But then geography was never my strong point 🙂 It really does sound like it has it all! In England, we don’t get much of a summer and it’s usually grey and rainy 🙂 And cold!! California is definitely on my destination list – I’ll be coming to you for tips when the trip finally rolls around!

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