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 ?
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 ✂️
Next week on the Wanderstitch blog… the post you’ve all been waiting for…. MY NYC FABRIC HAUL! There’s pink, there’s animal print, but best of all – there’s FAUX FUR ? Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out! ?? (and believe me, you don’t wanna miss this one!)