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laura fisher

why I sew on KCW
winter

what makes me sew: laura

Evolution of a home sewist

Why do I sew?  Well, I can tell you all the obvious (and true) reasons (I’m guessing some of you can relate):

  • an innate desire to create;
  • an opportunity to carve out some time for myself in this world filled with the demands of little people;
  • the feeling of satisfaction I get by engaging both the creative and technical sides of my brain;
  • the personal challenge of pushing myself and learning new things (often through failure/trial and error);

…but for this post I want to delve a little deeper.

To uncover this motivation let’s first go down a very well-trodden route for us home sewists.  We’re starting a new project.  We have the pattern and and fabric and we want to get started.  As we are all too aware, there are now lots of steps involved – if it’s a PDF pattern we’ve got to print and tile that damn thing, then trace the size, then cut the fabric, then mark the fabric, then the actual sewing process can commence.  What is it that makes this whole (often tedious and definitely time-consuming) process worthwhile?  Why do we keep at it?  Have you ever tried to explain to a non-sewist the steps you go through, in detail, to create something?  I usually lose them at “then I print off 36 pages of pattern pieces and try to accurately tape them all together.”  But for us sewists we stick at it.  We keep going.  And, not only that, we actually enjoy it (does anyone else get butterflies in their stomach before starting a new project?!).  But, why do we do it?

After much soul-searching about my true motivation for sewing, I’ve come to the surprising conclusion that it’s all about CONTROL.  By making clothes for ourselves or our children we are taking control of a process, of a finished garment, and, to a larger extent, of the fashion industry.

Let me explain. I’m guessing the vast majority of us (myself included) started out by buying ready-to-wear clothes off the shelves and racks of well-known shops.  At some point we made a decision to try to make something ourselves – usually by following patterns or online tutorials.  Over time, as our skills and experience grew, we started to change and adapt these patterns until we could actually design our own clothes.  Each of these steps gives us more control of what we or our kids wear.

I say this is a surprising conclusion (I don’t consider myself a control freak in other aspects of my life) but, then again, maybe it’s not that surprising at all when I consider my motivation for other interests.

COOKING.  I, like all of us, started by eating food someone else has prepared, then I decided to cook for myself so I followed recipes.  Over time I would change and adapt these recipes until, in the end, I was creating my own dishes from scratch.  Again, you can see this theme of control; in this case control of what I eat, where the ingredients come from and exactly how it’s all prepared.

As another example, let’s look at PHOTOGRAPHY (bear in mind I am NO photographer but my interest is growing and so is that desire for control).  We start by taking pictures on Auto mode and hope for the best, as we learn we start playing with settings, light, aperture, and shutter speed to get a desired result.  Before we know it we’re taking photos in full RAW mode and doing lots of post-editing to boot.  Do you see a trend?  Yup, more control.

Everyone’s passions and interests will be different but I dare say that this sense of control over the subject is a common thread.

I could stop here.  I am motivated to sew in order to have control over the clothes I and my kids wear.  But, as we’re delving, why don’t we look at what this control actually means?  By looking at the evolution of me as a home sewist, I can now answer the question “what is my sewing motivation?”, but the answer also has some unexpected and yet entirely desirable consequences/effects.  These can be summed up as:

  • Independence from mainstream clothing consumerism.
  • Increased clothing self-sufficiency.
  • Supporting and advocating sustainable fashion…and, sustainability in the textile sector in general.

Each of these effects sits easy on my conscience and makes me feel that, in a very small way, I’m making a difference.  I’m not here to preach and say that everyone should adopt this path (let’s face it, if I didn’t love sewing I wouldn’t be doing it no matter how lofty the ideals or goals), but these three issues are ones that have been playing on my mind for a while now and ones that I hope to explore in greater depth on my blog in the coming months.  (In particular, I’d like to get more involved with initiatives such as Fashion Revolution Day due to take place on 24 April).

 

To conclude, I am thankful to Meg for setting me the challenge of writing this post.  These self-reflective ones are always the hardest and most time-consuming!  But in the end I have learned two very important things about why I sew which, in turn, will effect how I sew in the future:

  1. My core motivation for sewing is a desire for control.
  2. That this desire for control is a means to other, greater goals and not just an end in itself.

I know this is post is rather heavy-going so, if you’re here till the end, thank you!  It’s great fun to sew cute clothes but it’s also nice to reflect on these issues now and again. So, what would your sewing journey look like?  Do you agree with this evolution or has your sewing taken an entirely different path?  I really would love to hear from you.  In the meantime, let’s all keep doing what we’re doing – using our creativity to make ourselves and the people around us happy.

Laura x

PS – And if you missed Brienne’s post on the same subject – go check it out – it really strikes a chord. x

kcw guest post by laura from behind the hedgerow
winter

HOW TO make a garment work for winter and summer

KCW guest post - summer to winter - title collage

Hi, folks.  It’s Laura from Behind the Hedgerow back for another chat.

We all want our handmade clothes (well, all clothes for that matter) to be as useful and versatile as possible.  Today I’m here to illustrate an example of how you can make a summer garment perfectly acceptable for winter wear.

KCW guest post - summer to winter - winter style detail2

My personal approach to such matters can be summed up in two words: layering and knitwear.  I know, there is nothing radical or particularly genius about this statement – if you add more layers of clothing to your body you will be warmer; and if those layers happen to be lush knitwear then you’ll be warmer still.  But, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the simple ideas, right?!

For this example I chose one of my daughter’s favourite handmade dresses – and one that many of you have probably sewn, or at least heard of – Made by Rae’s Geranium Dress (I got so carried away with this pattern that I once made four of them back to back!)

This is how the dress looked directly after sewing it – in the early Spring.

 

 

 

Surprisingly the dress still fits (just) so it remains in full wardrobe rotation.  In the damp and cold Belgian days, however,  it can’t be worn like this.  Instead, I’ve been using the dress as the base and having lots of fun adding layers.  First a long sleeved tee underneath…

KCW guest post - summer to winter - autumn style2

…then a sweater on top…

KCW guest post - summer to winter - winter style4

KCW guest post - summer to winter - winter style detail3

…and let’s not forget the hat and scarf.

KCW guest post - summer to winter - winter style1

KCW guest post - summer to winter - winter style2

Now all that remains is adding a coat and she’s ready to face winter in style.

KCW guest post - summer to winter - in coat

Styling for summer is a much easier prospect – sandals, a silky, floaty scarf and away you go.

KCW guest post - summer to winter - summer style3

KCW guest post - summer to winter - summer style detail

With this example in mind, here are my top tips for choosing patterns, fabric and colours that will help you create pieces for multiple seasons.

  • FIT.  Once sewn, will you be able to layer something under or over this garment for added warmth?  You could also consider going up a size to ensure a roomy fit for layering.
  • FABRIC WEIGHT.  A fine cotton voile or lawn may not be the best fabric choice here.  Think medium weight.  I find that a good quality quilting-weight cotton, or even a linen-cotton blend, is the most versatile fabric.  It’s light and breezy enough for summer but has enough structure to stand up to layering for winter.
  • COLOUR.  Of course there is no right or wrong here – you can sew with whatever colours you like, for whatever time of year you like, but, for me, if I plan to use a garment for both seasons I will at least bear that in mind when making my fabric choice.  Here are two colour palettes I love – they each have lots of neutrals with fun bursts of colour that would work equally well in both seasons.

  • FABRIC DESIGN.  Think about how your fabric choice can be paired with other existing items?  I love textures and mixing various solids, prints, stripes, etc but one has to be a wee bit careful not to go overboard.  How far you go is very much a matter of personal taste (and I fully appreciate that my winter ensemble might be a bit too much for some 🙂 ).  All I would suggest is that you play around with various colours, patterns and textures and see what works for you.
  • PATTERNS.  With the right choice of fabric and added layers, many apparently summer patterns would work well for winter.  Here are some that I have my eye on.

Figgy’s Celestial pullover – when made with a heavier-weight knit this would be ideal on top of long sleeved tees or even thin sweaters.

 

Oliver+s sailboat top, skirt and pants – I would love to make these pants in a luscious, rich velvet paired with tights and chunky socks.  And this pattern is unisex!

Oliver+s sailboat pants sewn by Skirt as Top

 

Go To Leggings – always useful to have in your child’s wardrobe.  You can layer them under pretty much anything.

 

Small Fry Skinny Jeans by Titchy Threads – because of their skinny fit, you can layer these with lots of chunky knitwear on top and the whole look will be sleek and stylish without being too heavy.

 

The Norah Dress by Welcome to the Mouse House – this dress is full of options (including instructions for sewing with knits).  Make it dress or tunic length.  I would love to sew it with the peter pan collar and layer it with a sweet sweater, with just the collar poking out.

 

CONCLUSION

So, what will you sew for KCW?  While trying to decide, don’t automatically disregard those summer sewing patterns you might have lurking in your stash.  Take a look again and, with these tips, see if you can make them work for winter.  If you do, there’s an added bonus – you’ll be one step ahead on your summer sewing!

But, if all of this gets too much to take in just wrap your little one in a big, warm quilt and away they go!

KCW guest post - summer to winter - in quilt

Thanks to you all for reading and Meg, thanks for having me.  I’ve already started cutting some fabric for KCW!  It’s getting close now.

Laura x

kcw guest post by laura from behind the hedgerow
winter

kcw plans: laura

KCW plans - KCW guest post

Hi there KCW readers and happy new year!  I’m Laura from Behind the Hedgerow and I’m here to share with you some of my plans for this season’s KCW.

I usually make my plans while sitting in my little corner of Belgium and share them only with my cat and dog…or I would if I had a cat and dog.  In other words, I normally share them with me, myself and I so, to be here with other awesome, like-minded sewists is a real treat!  I hope you find at least a smidgen of inspiration – and I’d love to hear what you have planned.

For me, this season’s KCW is all about black and white.

I love colour and, in the past, I have been quite an impulsive sewist.  Like a magpie, I would make whatever caught my eye without much regard for practicality or versatility.

As I become more experienced and sew more than just the occasional party dress, I try to make garments that can be true wardrobe staples.  For me, black and white (or close to it) is the most versatile colour scheme – perfect to pair with all those existing colourful items.  There are so many prints, textures and patterns that can be layered beautifully with black and white as the base.

This isn’t only true for clothing.  While indulging in the new series of Sherlock (if you haven’t seen it, drop your sewing, close your laptop and start watching NOW!), I was struck by how wonderfully the stark black and white wallpaper melds with all the other colours and textures of the room.

sherlock collage

I want to achieve a similar effect with the clothes I sew for KCW.  In particular, I have my eye on these gorgeous fabrics.

black and white kcw collage

1.  Timeless Treasures: Sketch: Whiteblack.  2.  Heather Moore: Up Up and Away: Dark Red.  3. Lizzy House: Constellations: Moon Phase.  4. Robert Kaufman: Typewrites in Vintage.  5. Michael Miller: Stitch Floral Circle: Black.  6. Stretch Rayon Jersey Knit Stripes.  7. Petit Pan: Cotton Mikko Blanc.  8. Like a Dandy: Atelier Brunette.  9. Anna Ka Bazaar: Fabric Collin.

black and white kcw collage 2

1. Chevron Wool Heavy Coat Weight.  2. Kokka: Echino Decoro Animal Frame.  3. Kokka: Animal Friends: Pink.  4. Nani Iro: Spots.  5. Kokka: Echino: Planes.  6. Japanese Fabric French Terry Knit.  7. Liberty Print: Rossmore Needlecord: Jack and Charlie.  8. Michael Miller: Mod Cameras.  9. Michael Miller: Flight.

With all of this lovely fabric – full of patterns and textures – what will I actually make??  Well, I want to keep it simple – stick to staples and items good for layering.  I also want these items to be worn so I’m choosing patterns that are tried and true, that I know I can sew successfully and that will fit.  At the moment I’m still not completely decided but I’m fairly certain some of these patterns will be put to use:

And, if there’s time (ha!) I’d also like to design a few of my own items.  In particular:

  • A floaty gathered skirt with ribbing waistband
  • A thick jersey black and white striped tunic with square neckline, raglan sleeves and exposed front zip – saw something similar somewhere and it caught my eye.  I have no idea how to install an exposed front zip into jersey so this one could be interesting…
  • A simple sleeveless bodiced dress with peter pan collar and pleated skirt (similar to Oliver + s’s fairy tale dress, but slightly less full and fully lined).

 

So there you have it!  Like most KCWs it’s easy to get carried away with what can be achieved in one week.  Let’s see how these actually get played out!  Best laid plans and all of that…

Thanks so much for reading.  I’d love to hear your plans and maybe see you over at Behind the Hedgerow.  Thanks for having me, Meg.

Laura x

PS – I have three kids – one girl, two boys.  I feel a little guilty only planning for girl sewing – I know how hard it is to find great patterns and fabric for boys.  You can check out my Top Ten list of sewing resources for boys if you’re in need of some inspiration in that department.