Saturday, 10 January 2015

2014 Round Up!

It's taken me a little while to get motivated to write this round up of last year and onward look into the next but finally writing it has made me feel incredibly inspired to get sewing! It's been so satisfying to look back at how much my sewing has improved over 2014; it was a great sewing and blogging year for me and my interest in and passion for garment sewing has only increased the more I've sewn. Some of my personal highlights of 2014 have been sewing related, in particular meeting up with many of you in person in London and making friends from all over the world online. I'm continually amazed by your lovely comments and how many people are interested in reading this blog!

Some of the brilliant sewing related memories from 2014! Pics thanks to Katie, Alex and Brian Doherty

I did a quick count up and I made 41 garments this year which was a lot more than I thought I had! Although I end up posting completed garment posts fairly regularly throughout the year (as I often don't post things until they've had a couple of wears) my sewing productivity goes up and down in fairly irregular peaks and troughs because of the time I get to sew. I'm self-employed so sometimes I go through spells of working weekdays, evenings and weekends with very little time to sew and then I'll end up with a couple of weeks free to sew to my heart's content. I kind of love it that way and thoroughly enjoy my little 'sew-cations' but it does make any kind of sewing schedule impossible! I'm so pleased to discover that I've managed to be that productive though!

I'm fairly happy with how successful I was at achieving the goals I set myself at the end of last year although I totally failed at making myself a pair of trousers! I did sew up a muslin of Sew Over It's Ultimate Trousers but got way too bogged down in and confused by the fitting issues I had. I'm hoping to have more success with a different pattern then revisit them as you'll see below. I do feel a hundred times more confident about working with knit fabrics than I did this time last year, being excited about using my overlocker made such a difference! I do still prefer working with wovens as there's something about the unpredictability of one knit compared to the next unnerves me, but I'm more confident about getting a good result now. My final goal last year was to push myself to try new sewing techniques and I really feel like I achieved this one and then some! This year I worked with so many fabrics I never thought I'd try, I boned garments, mastered zips and rolled hems, used every foot on my sewing machine and made shirts, t-shirts, dresses, skirts, coats and cardigans.

To look back in more detail I've roughly adopted the format of Gillian's Top 5 Series as it's a great concise way to look back over the year. I'm just going to do hits, misses and goals and I'm starting with the hits!


  • Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress - This dress is hands down the best thing I have ever made. And I can't believe I'm saying that about something made from silk chiffon! I put a lot of time and thought into all elements of this and it's proof that taking your time and putting in the effort pays off.
  • Striped Italian Cotton Shirt - Second best thing I've ever made. It's the fourth shirt I've made, counting two Archer's for myself and one previous Negroni, and the closest to a professional finish I've as yet achieved. So proud of that collar and stripe matching.
  • White Russian Sweatshirts - I know these are technically two of my five garments but I'm counting them as one. These have become total wardrobe staples and I feel great in them. They would be my most worn garment of the year if it wasn't for...
  • Polka Dot Laurel Blouse - I love this top. When I don't know what to wear in the morning I fall back on this every time. It's flattering and comfortable and fits so great. I've since made three more variations of this pattern which will be making an appearance soon!
  • Pink Floral Flora Dress - I had a hard time picking my 5th hit as there are so many other garments I made this year which I love but in the end it had to be this dress. It was one of those instances when the match of pattern and fabric work out perfectly and despite the pink being a total departure from the norm feels just so very 'me'.

And now for the misses. I haven't made anything this year which I would count as entirely a huge failure as every project has taught me something important but there's often something about a completed garment which means I'm not quite satisfied with it once worn. Next year I'm going to take some projects a little slower and set myself more realistic deadlines. Towards the end of this year I taught myself that a bit of time with the unpicker can make a huge difference!



  • Polka Dot Chloe Blazer - Despite being really proud of this as my first venture into tailoring and wearing it a lot in the spring this has recently found it's way into the charity shop bag as now my skills have developed I can't stop seeing the flaws in it.
  • First Striped Renfrew Top - I'm still not entirely sure what went so wrong with this one but it ended up huge compared to the other two. Add to that the poor quality fabric and this one was destined for the bin.
  • Tie-Dye Gabriola Maxi Skirt - I adore the swish of this skirt and fit over the hips but my super cheap fabric choice let this garment down. The thin polyester sticks to my legs and feels horrible to wear. I've got plans for a soft voile version for this summer.
  • Dior Linen Look Silvia Dress - I'm so disappointed that this isn't the success I wanted it to be as the fabric is so gorgeous. Luckily I still have enough left for another project. The fit on this is poor and the tulip skirt doesn't feel flattering. 
  • White Floral Flora Dress - I really liked this dress when I finished it but it got the grand total of zero wears this summer as every time I put it on something just didn't feel right. The skirt length feels odd on me without heels and my decision to self line the bodice in the cupro was a bad one. Despite actually being a good fit, in a double layer of this fabric combined with the scale of the print it feels voluminous and unflattering.

The main thing I established last year is that, whilst I enjoy the satisfaction of completing a quick project in an afternoon, it's the learning aspect of sewing that I enjoy the most and giving myself new challenges is what inspires me to keep going. Whether it be working with a different fabric, learning a new technique or making a particular type of garment for the first time there's always more to learn and I love that. I've managed to tick off a fair few things on my technique checklist this year as well as adding quite a few new ones! Next year I'd like to keep going with this, keep learning and keep trying new things. Some of the specific challenges I'm interested in are:

  • Sewing jeans. Despite sewing up some fairly frivolous garments (mainly for the enjoyment of learning how to make them!) I spend a lot of my time in jeans, tops and trainers for work. So I think it's about time I made myself a pair of the most used things in my wardrobe! This goal will hopefully be ticked off fairly quickly as I'm already armed with Heather Lou's Ginger Jeans pattern (exactly the style I like), my supplies and her detailed sew-along to hold my hand.
  • Tailoring. After my dabble in tailored garments with the Chloe Blazer piqued my interest in sewing this kind of clothing I decided I needed to go right back to basics and do some research into tailoring techniques before trying again. My brother got me Claire Schaeffer's 'Couture Sewing: Tailoring Techniques' for Christmas and I'm enjoying this as much as her initial couture book. Does anyone have any more recommendations for tailoring advice or good patterns to begin with? I would definitely like to make a coat but don't think I'll get time to do my research and make one well before the end of winter so that might have to wait until autumn.
  • Bra making. I've been going back and forth on feeling inspired to try this one, I think as it seems like SUCH a different thing to what I normally sew. Just getting to grips with the materials required gets my head into a bit of a spin! But then I see some of the bras that you guys have been making (I'm looking at you Novita, Tasia and Caroline!) and I don't think I'm going to be able to resist trying it myself! I'm tempted to treat myself to 'Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction' by Norma Loehr from Orange Lingerie which I've heard really good things about but think I might leave this goal until later in the year when I can give it some more focus.
  • Working on fit. I tend to dive into new sewing challenges headfirst without much fear but the one aspect of sewing which I still feel nervous about is fit! This was actually one of my goals last year and while I have got better at noticing problems with the fit of my clothes (and now find it so difficult to buy RTW because of this!) I still feel quite overwhelmed by the enormity of the subject at times. It's the identification of the correct resolution to the problem that I tend to find difficult as there seems to be such a huge number of possible adjustments and reasons for wrinkles/excess fabric or drag lines. I'm going to try and not get too bogged down in labelling the problem and instead look at it more simply in terms of where fabric needs adding or removing. All advice will be much appreciated so if you ever spot a fit issue please feel free to comment!
  • Drafting my own blocks/slopers. The main reason I'm keen to do this is so I can compare my blocks to commercial patterns to get an idea of the fitting problems I might encounter before I even begin. I'm particularly hoping this will help when it comes to trouser fitting! Upon the recommendation of a few people I asked for Winifred Aldrich's 'Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear' for Christmas to help with this goal. I've never been all that inspired to start drafting my own patterns but a quick flick through the guidance that this book provides has already slightly changed this...we'll have to see what happens!

Despite these ambitions all I aim for next year is to continue enjoying sewing as much as I do now. I do want to sew clothes I'll wear but I also want to sew what I WANT to sew. Although I wear a lot of handmade clothes sewing is my hobby and is more to me than a way providing myself with something to wear. I sometimes like to sew things that I might not wear more than once just for the enjoyment and experience of making them and I see that on it's own as a worthwhile investment. I'm definitely going to continue this in 2015! I also don't want to put pressure on myself to complete projects to unrealistic deadlines (or even to complete them at all!) or to sew when I might not be in the mood. Here's to a year of successful and enjoyable sewing in 2015!

27 comments:

  1. I"m so glad you included your White Russian in the roundup, because my next post includes a list of all the popular raglan patterns this year, and I forgot that one! Thanks for the timely reminder! ;)
    One of my favourite things on your blog this year has been your pattern round-ups. Did you do them the year before too? I can't remember... either way, I always look forward to them!
    Can't wait to see what beautiful things you sew this year! Happy 2015!

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    1. It's so good to hear that you enjoy those round-ups Gillian! I actually started them last January and the question of whether to continue them this year had crossed my mind as they take quite a bit of time. I really enjoy putting them together though and the last round-up had a really positive response in the comments so I'll definitely be keeping them going! Happy New Year to you!

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    2. I also really enjoy the pattern round-ups. I am a bit of a new pattern junkie, but even so, you always seem to find new patterns that I hadn't already spotted. Somehow.

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    3. I love these too!! Thank you so much for doing these Fiona.

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    4. You're all very welcome! It's good to hear such a positive response to them, I definitely won't be stopping any time soon now!

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  2. Having seen your sewing IRL I know that you sew to an incredibly high standard - yet there's so much humility in this blog post. You are going to grow and grow. Sequins and velvet? I can't wait to see what you sew in 2015.

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    1. Karen, I am really touched by this comment, thank you. This time last year I would never have dreamed of some of the things I've now made so I'm pretty excited about sewing this coming year too! Looking forward to seeing what you make too!

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  3. I cannot wait, either, for your 2015 projects! I look forward to your blog almost everyday (knowing of course that you cannot possibly write that often) but it is so tempting to see what you are up to concerning your sewing. I never want to miss a thing. Also, I am inspired by your blog, and have learned a lot from it. Happy New Year Fiona, and I cannot wait to see what you come up with next!

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    1. That is such a lovely comment, and it means a lot to me to read it, as do your regular comments and interest in my blog! Comments from reader's like you is such a big source of encouragement and motivation for me, when it comes to both the sewing and writing so thank you. Happy New Year!

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  4. You've made some beautiful things this year! Look forward to seeing your plans in action too - you will LOVE the Gingers, I'm sure, and making blocks is so worthwhile.

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    1. I really can't wait to sew the Gingers now I've seen your lovely plum ones! They are going to be perfect for all those silk tops we have! Fingers crossed my blocks turn out ok!

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  5. You had such a wonderful year! Your goals for next year are pretty great too, and I look forward to seeing what you make! I've always been a practical sewer, but I've made a couple frivolous party dresses for work and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Even though they hardly get worn I think of them so fondly! There's definitely a place for that kind of sewing.

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    1. I'm glad you agree! Sometimes for me it's more about the enjoyment of making it and what I learn along the way rather than the wearing of the finished thing. Plus I think the more unusual sewing techniques I get to try out, the more my sewing will improve in general!

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    2. I like your comments about wanting to sew what you want to sew too – that's how I feel so often too! How else are you supposed to learn if one decides sewing with sequins is too frivolous?

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  6. Great round-up, and what a year you had! 41 garments is.. a lot!!

    Useful to hear that Claire's tailoring book is an enjoyable read, as that's one that I've had on my wishlist for a while :) On the tailoring - I recently used the Simplicity 2311 (Project Runway pattern) to make a coat, and with a few changes I loved how it turned out! Might be worth a try? Here's my version, in case you wanted to take a look: http://www.queenofdarts.com/2014/12/navy-wool-coat.html

    I also have in my stash McCalls 5525, and vogue 1266 for coats - again in case you wanted to check those out.

    Happy sewing Fiona x

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    1. It's so funny that you should link to your beautiful coat as your post was one of the few that got me really excited about coat making and 2311 is on my short list of possible options! It looks great on you and I think we are a similar height so I'm very tempted, plus I love those Project Runway patterns! Thanks for the suggestions.
      Happy New Year Alice!

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  7. I enjoyed the tailored blazer class on Craftsy. I expect the information's in your book too, but it's nice to see it.

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    1. Ooo I didn't know that existed! Definitely going to check that out as you're right, it's really useful to see someone do it

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  8. You made some BEAUTIFUL garments in 2014! How fun! I'm excited to see what you make in 2015!

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    1. Thanks Sonja! I'm really proud of my productivity and some of things I achieved this year. Hope 2015 is a good one for you!

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  9. I've enjoyed reading your blog so much over the last year. I love that you write such thoughtful posts about making your clothes. What went right/what went wrong/goal setting and all the rest of it.
    The only thing I can suggest in your journey to find the best fit is a book called "Fitting and Pattern Alteration" by Liecthy, Rasband & Pottberg-Steineckert. Since buying this book I've made a muslin of every garment and every time I open up this book and diagnose wrinkles and folds. It covers every issue imaginable and while sometimes I choose one fitting issue when actually it's another at least I learn more and narrow down my common fit problems.
    All the best for a wonderfully fun 2015 full of sewing!

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    1. I haven't heard of that book before so thanks very much for the tip! I think it's choosing the right fitting issue that makes the whole subject seem a bit overwhelming, it seems so easy to get it wrong and then end up spiralling down a rabbit hole of causing other problems with the alteration you've just made!
      Thank you for your lovely comment, I'm glad to hear that you enjoy my posts!

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  10. I've so enjoyed your blog this year and admired the quality! The Little Tailoress is just writing a series about producing a slower using Butterick 5627, so I'm joining in on that. I made the skirt block from the nook you have, but there was too little ease for me, so I need to do some more work.

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    1. Thanks so much Mags! I have got my eye on Ami's series, I think I'm going to draft my blocks following the instructions in the book and then use her tips to tweak it and obtain my 'perfect' fit! Good to know from the outset that there is little ease

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  11. I love what you said about not making yourself sew at the end. I think that's so important and something I admittingly tend to forget when I'm feeling pressure to meet a certain deadline or something. But sewing should be fun like you said! At the end of the day, if it's making you happy then it's serving it's purpose. If not then what's the point? Anyways thanks for adding that, it was what I needed to hear.

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    1. I'm glad to hear that that resonated with you Haylee, there were a few instances in the last year when I fell out of love with a project halfway through and forced myself to finish it despite not really wanting to or I pushed through a project too quickly to meet a deadline and it never ends with a garment that I really love. Ultimately that means a waste of my time and a waste of fabric! Here's to both of us enjoying all our sewing in 2015!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!