Tuesday 9 January 2018

New Year Reflections and Goals

Happy New Year guys! Its my first post of 2018 and as I've really enjoyed reading all your round ups and sewing plans for the year I thought I'd kick off with a little look back and forward of my own. 2017 was a tricky year. It was incredibly busy for me work-wise (which I'm not complaining about!) but it left me with very limited sewing time and when I did have the odd day off I was left with a lack of motivation and creativity. In previous years my freelance lifestyle has given me the odd week or two between jobs to take a little sew-cation and blitz through a number of projects and ideas whirling around my head. Overlapping jobs all year meant no such luck and I had to adapt my sewing practice to sew in smaller chunks, grabbing the time when I could, rather than completing projects in one stint at the machine. I improved at this as the year went on and I found a better balance between professional and other responsibilities and taking time for myself. Working on this is a big goal for 2018!

I've always found making a couple of Top 5 lists (as initiated by Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow a few years back) a really great way to reflect on my sewing over the last year. This year I have been surprised by both how much I did manage to sew and how many of those were successful projects! I think in a way the limited sewing time made me really think through what I was going to use it for and led to more careful choices. I didn't want to waste any of those precious hours! However, I think in response to that I fell back on patterns I had already made or simple styles which I knew would be likely to be a success rather than challenging myself with new skills and techniques or getting creative. You'll see in my plans for 2018 later on that my focus for the year is going to be getting back into learning some new skills and trying out some garments I haven't made before.

Top 5 Hits

  • In chronological order I'm starting with the Kelly Green Party Dress I made to wear to my step sister's wedding in February. I spent a long time on this one and I think out of everything I've ever made it's the closest to having nothing I'd change that I've ever got! It worked hard on fitting a muslin of the bodice and that really paid off. This stuck with me through the rest of the year and I think my patience with fitting improved as a result.
  • The biggest and most surprising hit in my wardrobe in 2017 were the Flint Trousers. They were a real departure from my usual style and I didn't expect to love them but I have worn them to absolute death. I feel so very me in them and have found them to be surprisingly versatile to style. I made a second pair in chambray but these in black stretch gabardine remain my favourite.
  • Another style of garment that I never saw myself wearing and yet was in constant repetition from July onwards were my linen Turia Dungarees. They are comfortable, yet feel stylish in the linen and I had compliments whenever I wore them. It was difficult choosing between these and the denim McCalls pair I made recently but the summer styling won out.
  • I haven't even considered wearing another coat since I finished my Oslo. I had high hopes for this project, yet didn't expect to love it as much as I actually do. It was one of those incredibly happy culminations of beautiful pattern combined with fabric which just worked perfectly for it. The interesting construction meant I loved every second of making it and the cashmere coating and silk lining combo mean I love every second of wearing it.
  • My final pick is my last project of the year; the black tuxedo jumpsuit. I'm really proud of this one as the project really pushed me and unleashed my creativity. I think the challenges involved really sum up how my sewing has improved this year as I branched out from using a single pattern, drafted and figured out the construction of the collar element of myself and tackled a tricky fit.

These were really hard to pick this year as I've made quite a few things which I have loved and worn an absolute tonne...in fact I found myself staring at a list of 10 garments and not knowing how to whittle them down! Other projects worthy of a mention for either the amount of times they've been worn or for pure sewing enjoyment are my birthday Lonsdale maxi dress (for pure sewing enjoyment), my green fitted party frock (for the accomplishment of making such a challenging project work) and my grey merino Longley cardigan (for being one of the most worn items in my handmade wardrobe and also really fun to put together).

Top 5 Misses

  • I've worn my black merino Toaster Sweater day-in, day-out throughout the course of the year and loved the idea of it in a more structured fabric to show off the shape. Whilst the shape is great in this teal boiled wool one it only got worn a couple of times as it just didn't sit right as I moved around throughout the day. I have since made another though which is a huge success and I'll share soon!
  • The second choice I don't even have a picture of as it was such a disaster it ended up in the bin! Its very unusual for me to give up on a project but the fabric I chose for my Half Moon Atelier Delphy Top made the fiddly construction of the straps nigh on impossible. I used a metallic woven poly for it which refused to hold a sharp press, I very much recommend a nice natural fibre which likes the iron if you want to make this one!
  • I adored making this ombre batwing top from Chinelo's Freehand Fashion book. The completely different cutting and construction method really freed up my brain to think about garment sewing in an entirely different way. However, I found the completed top really hard to style and didn't feel like myself in it.
  • My military Archer shirt was a UFO from years back that I forced myself to finish. I'm still not quite sure what went awry but it ended up way too short and snug for me. Despite being pleased with the construction it just wasn't the look I was going for with my heavy twill fabric choice.
  • My last choice I haven't entirely given up on yet! I love the design of the Papercut Aomori and it was another project which expanded my thinking on how clothes are put together. But I haven't yet found a way to work it into my wardrobe which I love. The twist front means a risk of exposing stomach and I haven't yet hit on the right balance of volume between top and bottom half.

Again these were really hard choices as only one ended up in the bin and it was really hard to find projects I was unhappy with. The mark of a good sewing year I guess! Although looking at it perhaps I need to up my top making game...one pieces seem to be good for me!


Looking back over the year I've noticed a couple of things that have really changed in my sewing. Firstly the speed at which I sew. I can only put this down to time behind the machine but something really clicked this year and I found myself whipping through projects without forgoing technique and accuracy. I've really found a rhythm with sewing now and my preferred ways of doing things so its almost like muscle memory kicks in at some points! I find batch cutting projects really works for me. I spend an afternoon or evening cutting out a handful of projects and preparing pattern pieces with markings and interfacing so I'm ready to crack on and assemble at a moments notice. I've also been getting in to the swing of production line style sewing now I'm more familiar with the construction process, which leads me on to the second thing I've noticed; an improved confidence in my sewing skills and knowledge. I'll look ahead in the instructions and see what I can pin, sew and press at the same time. For example, if making a t-shirt I'll pin the shoulder seams of the front and back, pin the sleeve seams and pin any cuffs or bands together. Then move to the machine and sew all of these one after the other. Then to the ironing board to press. Getting each of the elements ready to put together in this way can save loads of time and is also a really satisfying way to work. I could actually ramble on about this for ages and perhaps I should save it for another post another day!

A method I discovered to keep up my motivation to sew and challenge myself was to mix simple little projects in with the big ones so you feel like you are achieving something. When you've only got little spurts of time to sew in working on a big project can be really frustrating as it takes such a long time to reach the end. Sewing a t-shirt or repeat of something you've made before in the middle of this process can really help to reinvigorate your desire to sew. In the latter part of the year I also made a decision to chose projects also for the enjoyment of making them rather than the finished result. I've always got the most out of projects which either challenge me or have an interesting construction and so force me to think rather than just go through the motions. Now I've sewn quite a lot of garment types multiple times I can almost go without the instructions which isn't as satisfying.

Looking Forward

I've already discussed the wider goals for my sewing in 2018 but in terms of more specific plans I'm participating in the #2018makenine challenge over on Instagram. I love this challenge as I think its great to encourage a bit of thought about the direction you want to take your sewing in over the course of the next year. It was dreamt up by Rochelle at Home Row Fibre Co a couple of years back and the idea is for you to pick nine patterns or projects you want to make over the course of the year and then report back and see how you did at new year! My 2017 grid was a total failure. I completed none (yes thats right, ZERO) of the projects and only got two of them cut out and started despite getting the patterns/supplies ready for a couple. In my defence I have over the Christmas break made progress on a couple more so perhaps all I needed was a bit of time to focus! Despite that disaster I'm still keen to take part this year and I've tried to make some better choices which I'm confident I'll still want to be part of my wardrobe in 6, 9 and 12 months time rather than the impulse decisions I made this time last year.

From left to right, top to bottom...

  • First up the Berlin Skirt from Orageuse Patterns. I adore the style of this skirt (those big pockets set in the side panels!) and can see me getting a lot of wear out of it. Plus its one of those designs that really makes me want to put it together! Its been on my wish list for ages.
  • I took my first paddle in the world of knitting this year with a simple scarf and would really like to push myself with a bigger project but with no fixed decline! Something I can pick up and continue when it takes my fancy. Ideally I'd like to try for a sweater or cardigan and love this Risin' Sun Cardigan from Wool and the Gang.
  • Long time readers of my blog will know how long sewing lingerie has been on my list of new year goals. Probably the last three years! I got Norma from Orange Lingerie's book for Christmas (thanks Dad!) and am determined that 2018 will be the year it happens! I've got my eye on the Fenway Bra but may have to build up to it.
  • The Ultimate Trousers from Sew Over It are the one pattern I've carried over from my 2017 Make Nine mainly because learning how to fit trousers properly is one of my big goals for the year. I have their e-course on trouser fitting and construction so will probably stick with their pattern but the classic cut of the Closet Case Patterns Sasha Trousers has also caught my eye.
  • I'm always taken with patterns with wearable clean lines that have a unique twist and the Sirius Sweater from I Am Patterns is just that. I'm going to try out making that pleated back panel in lace and the fabrics are ordered and on their way!
  • I fell in love with the Kew Dress from Nina Lee London when it was released at the end of the summer; in particular view B with the cold shoulder dropped sleeves. I picked up a copy at the Great British Sewing Bee Live show in September and can't wait for the warmer weather to come around so I can make it.
  • McCalls 7542 is a style I already know will be a big hit in my wardrobe and I'm in desperate need of more interesting tops to pair with jeans. With 5 sleeve variations to choose from I'm hoping the fit will be good and I can make multiple. Eyes peeled for beautiful rayon fabrics!
  • I've had the Papercut Patterns Pneuma Tank in my stash for years. I love the design and am intrigued with the construction but I wasn't sure how useful it would be for running. But I've recently been bitten by the yoga bug for which this would be ideal! Got high hopes for this one.
  • Finally a pattern I've actually already made once but which I think I could get a lot more mileage out of; the Named Kielo Wrap Dress. Firstly I want to make a short winter version using the sleeve expansion pack and then I want to make a sleeveless maxi version for summer to replace my favourite RTW jersey maxi which I've finally had to admit is beyond repair.

I already own the majority of the patterns and have fabrics stashed to suit a few so hopefully this list will be more achievable this year. Aside from these plans I'm not going to limit myself to much as I know the changing seasons, fashions and new releases will provide plenty of inspiration throughout the year. Before I'm allowed to get inspired by anything new though I've made a pact with myself to tackle that big pile of projects cut out and waiting to be assembled under my desk! Writing this post has actually really motivated me to crack on and finish some of those garments I was so excited about months ago...I might go and start my Kelly Anorak this afternoon.

Happy Sewing!


  1. Your #2018makenine choices are so you! I'll look forward to seeing them made up. Your hits of the year were BIG hits, and it's inspiring to hear about your sewing speeding up - mine has a bit, but I know it can only get better with practice; sewing a shirt doesn't seem like a massive undertaking to me any more, so that's progress. Happy New Year!

    1. I totally agree about the shirt-making! Before it was a huge undertaking...now it seems like so much fun!
      Thanks so much Nina, I'm really looking forward to sewing them. Especially Kew!

  2. I enjoyed reading this post. Your hits were great so no matter that you didn't do the make nine selection. Like you, I feel more confident this year and am possibly a little faster (starting from a very slow base line!). I too really enjoy learning new skills and pushing my boundaries. Good luck with your sewing in 2018 and with finding that balance.

    1. Thanks Anne. I can't believe I failed so badly with the 2017 Make Nine...but I made what I really wanted to at the time and am really happy with those projects so I'm not beating myself up about it!
      Glad to hear someone else getting as much satisfaction and enjoyment out of their sewing too. Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

  3. You should try the Papercut Aomori over a dress with an A-line (ish) bottom!

  4. Great post Fiona. I didn't buy the Aomori because I couldn't for the life of me figure out how I would wear it, so I get you. I love the flint pants and have actually been wearing a long or cropped wide leg pant for many many years ( I love 30s style) so they were a no brainer, but can see they might have been an unexpected hit for you:). I tried a couple of patterns way out of my comfort zone this year, including a dress with a cowl front effect. Hated it but big sis loves it so it has a happy wearer..... Dungarees/overalls - I don't get and probably never will. Same with jumpsuits. My one step dressing is a dress, anything else gives me the hives at the thought of going to loos at work or otherwise!

    IAMPatterns have a book out! https://www.amazon.fr/Dressing-id%C3%A9al-V%C3%AAtements-accessoires-coudre/dp/2501121767/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8
    I bought it from amazon.fr. It includes Sirius and quite a few of her other patterns. It's in French - but unlike a lot of other French pattern books, seam allowance of 1cm is included like her other patterns.

    1. Glad to know I'm not alone with Amori...I was just so intrigued by the construction! I'm going to try it over some dresses.
      I totally hear you on the going to the loo situation with jumpsuits but its totally worth it for me! I feel great in them and think there will be a few more cropping up in my sewing this year. I am so surprised that I'm wearing dungarees but am loving them too!
      I actually met up with Marie-Emmeline from I AM over the weekend as she was in London so found out all about her book! Think I might need to improve my French before I tackle it though!

    2. As if! Not with your experience😎. Plus there are loads of illustrations so i really think even a much less experienced sewist could handle it😊

  5. I'm not surprised you struggled to find misses, your garments are beautiful. I love the wool and the gang cardigan, did you know there is 20% off at the moment.

    1. Thanks Mags :) I think I struggled because I am stubborn and refuse to give up on a project so usually find a way to make it work!
      I had spotted the 20% off at WATG...its still a pretty pricey investment for a newbie knitter though! I do adore it though so will mull it over

  6. Your top five were all excellent! I'm too behind on photos to get through a hits and misses post, so I'm always impressed by everyone who finds the time to look back on the year. When you make the Pneuma, I would suggest using a double layer for the bra top - even for yoga. It gives a nicer finish, and the elastic is all hidden between the layers. Happy sewing!

    1. Thanks Chloe, I'm really happy with my sewing this year!
      Thanks very much for the Pneuma advice, Ive been checking out a tutorial for doing that and think it looks great! I'm going to add some sturdy power mesh to it too for some added support


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