Escape To The Countryside

I’ve been sewing clothing ‘properly’ – is that the word? Or is it ‘seriously’?, ‘Hardcore’? ‘Regularly’? 🤷🏻‍♀️ – for a couple of years now. When I first started out I made some things that, looking back, were so totally not me. Even though I chose the same sort of colours of fabric as I would now, and most of them were prints rather than boring solids, I hadn’t figured out my personal style. I see that now.

Growing up, I was never really ‘in’ to clothing. When me and the husbeast were younger, and I was a trainee accountant on a trainee’s wages, most of our clothing was bought second-hand or from heavily discounted sales without really much thought as to the colour or fit (but if it happened to be pink, life was good). If the garment served the purpose and it was the right price, it would do.

We’re fortunate now that we’re (MUCH) older, that we can choose clothes for ourselves based more on whether we actually *like* the item or not (although, price is obvs still a factor, it’s not like we’re dropping thousands on Gucci fur coats, darling).

Just as – I’m sure – we all now and then try RTW clothing on in store that we take off immediately because it doesn’t suit us, I still make things that don’t suit me. It’s bound to happen, so I don’t get too cut up over it – I look at it as an opportunity for learning. When I think about it, the only way to refine my tastes and style is to try on many, MANY different colours and styles, right? The process makes sense – it’s like every time you put clothing on your body, you can learn what you like about it or what you don’t, and apply that to the next choice. Multiply that by a thousand times, and all of a sudden you’ve got a very narrow band of things that fall into that ‘yes’ space, and you know what you like and don’t like (for me, that’s pretty much anything pink and/or leopard print).

When you first start making clothing (or at least, when I did), you want to make ALL THE THINGS IN ALL THE FABRICS. Inevitably, this leads to both successes and fails, but hopefully a general trend of improvement as time goes on. I have a friend that enjoys knitting but has given up – because in her opinion, nothing she makes looks good on her. I so desperately try to make her realise that it’s not *her*, she’s not a rubbish knitter, she just needs to figure out what suits her in terms of style and colour. I could knit the most technically perfect trapeze sweater in lemon yellow cashmere – which in itself would be a gorgeous item – but it will, for sure, look hideous on me. There’s literally no shortcut to arriving at the place where your makes are successes most of the time – you gotta take the fails along the way and learn from them, in order to have the successes. It’s part of the learning process.

And all that musing leads me on to the dress you see here – the Hinterland Dress. A dress designed by Meg from Sew Liberated that I’d been admiring on the interwebs for ages, but in reality has left me underwhelmed. Not through any fault of its own, it’s just that my style and the dress are incompatible.

I love Meg’s style – that carefree, back-to-nature look. Linens, silks, all the lovely natural fibres made into beautiful clothing. I mean, LOOK at her Instagram:

Her designs are clothing that I imagine pairs well with a rural lifestyle, living close to rivers, forests and nature. Where you hang your laundry out on a string tied between two trees, and birds come and sit in between the pegs and sing.

Something like this:

My reality is very different – I live in south-east London, where I commute to my full-time job on the skanky trains with grumpy businessmen and women who insist on curling their eyelashes. The pace of life is about 100 miles an hour. Except at weekends, there’s no time for home-cooked meals and weekday lunch is either a depressing home-made sandwich or something from the culinary masters at Pret a Manger or Leon. The beautiful clear lake becomes the sewage-ridden River Thames.  The closest I get to nature is the fox with the gammy leg that walks through our back garden sometimes. Ah, city life.

The Hinterland, for me, was perhaps an attempt at escapism from the city to the countryside. Do you ever do that? Sew clothing for the life you wish you had, rather than the life you actually do have? 🤷🏻‍♀️ (remember the swanky sequin-and-satin dress that I made? I’ve worn it once. For the blog photos 🤣) After our crazy trip to New York, I felt like I needed to detox and move to a cabin – much like the one in the picture above – for a couple of months just so that I could chill. The closest I can get to this is a week in the Surrey Hills next year where I plan to park myself in front of the cabin’s fireplace on the Monday with my knitting, and not move until Friday when it’s time to come home. It’s not quite the photo, but I’ll take it.

I made my Hinterland with a beautiful burgundy cotton linen (natural fibres, obvs, to go with my natural lifestyle that I don’t have), which felt a bit stiff when it arrived but softened up lovely after the pre-wash. I remember reading online about a method to stop linen from getting so creased when you wear it – I think it was this article – but I totally forgot to do that 🤦🏻‍♀️ After wearing the dress a couple of times, I don’t actually feel like anything extra was needed though as the creasing doesn’t seem that bad 🧐

The dress itself (as in, when it’s not on me) is actually lovely, and Meg’s pattern and instructions are brilliant and really easy to follow. The finishes on the inside are fabulous – lovely and tidy. French seams all round. I even used some scraps of a lovely autumnal liberty lawn for the neck and armhole facings.

Meg has a really good method for getting the gathers nice and neat – you sew two rows of basting stitches, one within the seam allowance and one outside of it, and then sew your ‘for real’ seam in between the two. Ok so you then have to go round and remove the line of basting stitches, but it helps keep the gathers nice and small and actually straight rather than leaning to one side.

(You guys! I got an iPad. Purely so that I could feed your eyes with drawings such as these 🤣 As you can tell, I’m no artist (not with a pencil, anyway) My goal is to get as good as SewAndrew, but I feel I may never achieve such greatness. The hand-drawn pictures on his blog are WORKS OF ART.)

Despite all the things the dress has going for it, I feel that it’s just not ‘me’. I’m starting to question how I feel about dresses – unless it’s a Kielo dress, you don’t very often see me in a one-piece these days. Hardly ever, in fact. Perhaps I’m just not finding the right type of dresses. I’m not a particularly girly-girl, and for normal day-to-day wear you’ll most likely find me in jeans and a t-shirt/jumper. Which is odd really, because I’m only now getting in to making jeans (I HAVE finally finished those Safrans btw – on the blog soon!) and I haven’t actually yet sewn myself a knit t-shirt. I’ve made a couple of woven Scout tees, but no t-shirts. I really should remedy that, given that those are my wardrobe staples. Anyone made the Megan Nielsen Dawn jeans? I feel like I might want to give these a go in a corduroy, and I actually have the perfect fabric already 🤔

Dawn Jeans

Partly due to this Hinterland dress, partly due to the fact that my wardrobe is a little bit overflowing, and partly because I’ve just tripled the size of my fabric collection in New York (😱), I’m most definitely having a wardrobe clear out before the new year (and yes, this dress will be heading for a new home). Minimalism isn’t really the direction I was heading in, but the principles of a minimalist wardrobe are totally on point for me right now:

1. Be selective: Reserve your closet space for items you love 100 percent.

2. Be authentic: Forget conventional style typologies like “classic” or “bohemian” and create your own unique look.

3. Aim for quality: Build a wardrobe of high-quality pieces that last more than just a few years.

4. Style trumps fashion: Get excited about fashion trends that suit your own style, but ignore all others.

5. Put in the work: Invest time and thought into developing your style and selecting the perfect garments.

(taken from this article)

Whilst these obviously apply to someone clearing out their closet (ie, me), they can also apply to a sewist – take your time, and sew quality items that you love and will wear for many seasons. Don’t just make all the new patterns because everyone else is, and don’t sew for a lifestyle you don’t have. Quality over quantity, definitely.

When I get round to having this clear-out, there will be a few handmades that will be sent to a new forever home for various reasons – and I’m ok with that. I’m currently working on a blog post that talks about whether the things I’ve made have actually slotted into my everyday wardrobe, or if they’ve been relegated to the dark corners of the closet and why. There’s some questionable styles, dodgy fabric choices, and optimistic sizing/fitting to be learned from here.

I find that I tend to focus just on the new makes here on the blog, but that’s really not the whole picture of sewing a handmade wardrobe – do the items last? Has the fabric washed and worn well? Have I finished the seams well enough, are the buttons falling off or the seams fraying? Have I learned advanced techniques that I can apply to future garments?

I’m chalking this Hinterland up to experience and moving on from it, and I’m going to try to incorporate *all* aspects of a handmade wardrobe here on the blog – not just the shiny and new things that are fresh off the machine. I’m not quite sure right now what that actually looks like, but I’m sure it’ll take shape 😊

This make was my October Minerva Crafts Blogger Network make, and you can read more about it here.

Happy sewing guys ✂️

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18 Comments

  1. Cindy
    November 11, 2018 / 8:59 am

    It’s a beautiful make, I love the color, but we can see by your body stance that it’s “not you” you look sort of uncomfortable, I have this issue in most my clothes, if only I could wear my PJ’s all day, then I would be so comfy , but hey as soon as I’ve fed and locked my chickens away and fed the horses and goats and pig, yes I live on a farm, a small one where we rescue abused animals any size and shape including 29 cats and 9 dogs….. So I do need comfy bendy clothes that wash very well xx but is it a dream life.? No BUT its a good one, we get lots of manure to grow our food.see a plus in everything xx

    • Sarah
      Author
      November 12, 2018 / 6:23 pm

      I sort of feel like it’s a maternity dress on me 🤷🏻‍♀️🤣 at least I know to stay away from this style in future! Your farm sounds amazing… that would be my dream job, helping animals in need. So rewarding ❤️ I used to have chickens when I lived in Malaysia – they are so fun! Such personalities, and collecting the eggs everyday was amazing. We even hatched a few 😊

  2. Amanda Ostermann
    November 11, 2018 / 9:41 am

    Yep, that dress is just so not you.The pattern (sorry for being blunt) is frumpy and dull. Shame because your finishing is wonderful.

    • Sarah
      Author
      November 13, 2018 / 8:43 am

      Haha, no apologies needed for being blunt! Honesty is the best policy in my world 🙂 I think you’re totally right though… it’s just frumpy. Not me at all. Kind of feels like a maternity dress lol. I’ll rehome it and hopefully it will find it’s perfect owner ☺️

  3. Donna Bartlett
    November 11, 2018 / 9:54 am

    YES!! So this is why I hate most of my me mades! I find I get so overwhelmed in the fabric shop I end up making a really daft choice, not loving the process & delegating the result to The Back Of The Wardrobe. Meh.

    I sooo look forward to reading your blogs, as a committed bed slob I actually kicked my own husbeast out to make tea shouting ‘yay it’s Wanderstitch email day’ So you’ve actually motivated me into sitting up this morning 😆👏🏻

    Were there instructions for those Liberty interfacing bits or is that something you like to add yourself? They give a very professional finish 👌🏼

    Much love, Donna x

    • Sarah
      Author
      November 13, 2018 / 8:46 am

      Haha… I so love the phrase ‘committed bed slob’!! What a star of a husbeast you have – I hope he brought the tea to you in bed?!
      Yep, the templates and instructions for the Liberty facings were included in the pattern – so no faffing needed! The dress is really well written and drafted, it’s just a shame it feels like a maternity dress on me lol.
      I think it’s really hard to distinguish between fabric we like as fabric, and fabric we like as clothing. Sometimes its really hard to picture fabrics as actual finished items of clothing, and this doesn’t help either 🤦🏻‍♀️ The only way I’ve found to get better at making the choices is to just keep on making… and see what works and what doesn’t!

  4. Emma Langhorne
    November 11, 2018 / 10:51 am

    Great finishing, really beautiful. It’s a bit frumpy… Would a belt help….??? I often get rid of clothes that I made in the early days… Thinking about it I don’t have any me made clothes that I wear alot… Which is something I hadn’t realised before… I am trying to be more considered about what I make nowadays… thanks for another thoughtful blog post…

  5. November 11, 2018 / 11:22 am

    The dress i…OK. It would undoubtedly look fabulous layered up with other items as per the designer’s style, but Lagenlook isn’t for everyone [I know it would make me look like a pile of laundry]
    Reclaim the fabric and make a nice gathered skirt maybe? Or yeah, pass it on.
    I’m finding that joining into wardrobe challenges a couple of times a year does me a power of good, and is making my work wardrobe WAY more effective. I could never do minimalism, or suit dressing [as Kate of Fabrikated just tried for a month] but my tone-coordinated collection is going great guns. I sort of adopt a colour strategy a couple or three times a year, and try to use more from stash in that area. So for the 2018 SWAP I was stash busting and re-purposing red/black/grey. By the time I was getting a little bored with that lot, I moved onto my ‘Sewing with a KIND of Plan’ collection for The Sewing Place challenge. This has used up lots of lovely purple/blue/green fabrics, some of which still work with the previous collection items. It’s making far fewer orphans in the wardrobe. I don’t get guilty about having a full wardrobe- my body is aging, and changing slowly, so I get the excuse of changing my clothes and style.
    On which subject, I think at 58 I’ve finally got a style yay! I would probably say it’s eclectic art-teacher/punk although a student recently said I looked as if I should be reading tarot cards. Ahem. mostly I get compliments though! Definitely all about the colour, and mad prints too, as long as there are neutrals [which can still be bright colours, bugger beige] to get the most out of your separates, do what suits!

    • Sarah
      Author
      November 13, 2018 / 8:56 am

      I don’t think layering clothing is my thing, either – I feel like I’ve tried this before and just couldn’t carry it off. I think the best thing to do is for me to pass it on to a new owner. It’s actually the only thing I own in linen, too – and I’m not sure how I feel about linen clothing…
      I followed your wardrobe challenge and it did seem to work really well for you… the red items especially looked really great on you. As for being tone-coordinated… wait till you see my post next week with all my NYC fabric purchases – there’s *cough* rather a lot of pink *cough* 😂 I’m slowly weeding out the colours I don’t wear from my wardrobe (navy is the first one that’s going to go) so I’m hoping that by the new year I can have a good base to start from, which I can build next year.
      And yay for finding a style! Better late than never! And punk is an AWESOME style to have – don’t give up on the mad prints! I’ve realised that my neutral is most definitely black – beige is possibly the worst non-colour in the world lol 😂

  6. San
    November 11, 2018 / 11:26 am

    When I first saw the dress on IG, I thought that’s not your usual style. It’s a shame as the colour is lovely but if it’s not you then all you can do is take away what you’ve learnt from the process, which is a lot. I’ve just cleared out my wardrobe & have been completely ruthless and have noted what is getting worn & what isn’t so I don’t make stuff I won’t wear. The problem is my lifestyle isn’t one dimensional, I wear many different hats so to speak, so while some things may not get worn a lot, that’s maybe because I haven’t had a beach holiday this year, (as an example), so no need to chuck everything out!

    • Sarah
      Author
      November 13, 2018 / 9:00 am

      Thanks San 🙂 How did the wardrobe clear out go? I think I’m going to be totally ruthless too… I know I’ve got several pairs of low-rise jeans that even though I like, they just don’t fit my body shape. I need high waisted jeans and need to stop kidding myself that I’ll wear low rise again one day. I won’t. There’s some questionable colours floating around in the wardrobe too – navy is the first that springs to mind, and I think there’s some slightly dodgy shades of green kicking about as well. I really do just need to be ABSOLUTELY RUTHLESS. No regrets. Did you discover any common themes with the things that don’t get worn?

  7. November 11, 2018 / 11:49 am

    I can see how you feel about this dress. I think that taking in the waist has changed the character of the pattern making it a bit tame. Maybe you could shorten the hemline, too, if you had to keep the dress (ie. because of expensive fabric). But maybe a new home will be the best for this well made dress of wonderful fabric.

    • Sarah
      Author
      November 13, 2018 / 9:02 am

      I think the best thing for this dress is to pass it on to someone that will love it ☺️ I’m ok with that, I’d be happy for it to go to a new home. I’m not really sure how I feel about the fabric – it’s the first thing that I’ve sewn in linen, and I think maybe the last… it just makes me feel a lot older than I am for some reason?! So although I will not keep the finished dress, I think I have learned a lot from the process.

  8. Ellen
    November 11, 2018 / 4:06 pm

    I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on which of the clothes you make get worn regularly. I’m still trying to work out what are the ingredients for a successful garment ie something I’ll want to wear all the time! I love hearing about what happens to everyone’s sewing after the initial blog post.

    • Sarah
      Author
      November 13, 2018 / 9:05 am

      Ah, thanks Ellen! I’d never really considered writing about the clothing’s ‘life after the blog post’, until now. I’m realising that sewing your own clothing isn’t just about the initial make, but so much more, and I will reflect that here on the blog 😊 I have a few me-made garments that will head to a new home, and a few that you won’t be able to prise from my hands because I love them so much 😂 I’m going to try and analyse what it is about each pile that works and doesn’t, so that I can make even more ‘keepers’ next year!

  9. November 13, 2018 / 2:13 am

    It looks great to me, but I know what you mean when something feels wrong, always something to learn though, and those gathers look amazing!
    Haha, I’m not mine are ‘works of art’ but I’m glad I’ve inspired you to get drawing 👍 🖼 👩‍🎨!
    Looking forward to seeing your jeans 👖 there’ll be no stopping you once you find your favourite fit 👍
    Get over that jersey-phobia and start making some tshirts!! 👍😄🙏

  10. Sam
    November 19, 2018 / 3:22 pm

    Most of the unworn stuff was ready to wear that I’d had kicking around for years and some earlier handmades that I don’t feel comfortable wearing anymore as my skills have improved, (or weight gain), I was just hanging on to them for sentimental reasons, but no real theme as such. The result is loads of space in my wardrobe so I can sew more stuff – hurrah!

    • Sarah
      Author
      November 20, 2018 / 9:05 am

      Yay for wardrobe space! I’m actually pretty excited about clearing out the wardrobe, because this time I’m going to be absolutely RUTHLESS. You’re right that we hang on to stuff for sentimental reasons, but it’s so freeing to finally let them go. If I’m honest I probably won’t get round to the clear out until the Christmas break, but that’s only about five weeks away so I don’t have too long to wait ☺️

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