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july 2014

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We are lucky to have such an amazing bunch this season! At KCW we are happy that we get to show off such an amazing array of pattern designers and fabric shops. No matter what your style or budget, I’m sure there is something for everyone in this collection of shops. Behind these shops are an amazing group of brilliant women, working hard to bring you very high quality patterns and fabrics–two things sewers couldn’t live without!

Please consider supporting them, because without their support KCW couldn’t continue.

amazing kid clothes patterns and beautiful fabrics1. Sew Modern 2. Fabricworm 3. Cali Faye 4. Warp & Weft 5. Sew Much Ado 6. Straight Grain 7. Brindille & Twig 8. Filles a Maman 9. Imagine Gnats 10. Fishsticks Designs 11. Made by Rae 12. See Kate Sew 13. Jennuine Designs 14. LouBee Clothing 15. Miss Matatabi 16. The Fabric Stash 17. Organic Cotton Plus

why I sew // KCW

why I sew: Shelley

Hi everyone, it’s Shelley from Bartacks and Singletrack back again to talk about me this time, and see if I can answer the question: Why I Sew

Let’s imagine we’re all on a deserted tropical island (humour me here, it’s winter down-under and I need to dream). What are you all doing? Not much? Lying on the beach? watching the waves? idling in the sun?….

Well, I’d be doing something. I’d like to think I’d have the engineering smarts to be building the raft that could rescue us all, or that I’d be catching a fish for our dinner, but more likely I’d be amusing myself making a fancy dress costume out of things I find lying around.


Prior to having kids my thing to do was race mountain bikes. Before that it was travel, learning languages, university study, riding horses… The activity has varied but my commitment to whatever I was doing at the time has never wavered. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. That may not always be very good compared to others (my mountain bike racing career was a case in point!) but I get real satisfaction out of trying to improve.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a restless person. I can be physically still and very much at ease, but I’ll probably be thinking, or planning, or talking. When I found myself somewhat housebound as my heavily pregnant belly limited my range on the bike, I took to making stuff.

early projects

1. Wombat playmat (1st ever sewing project)    2. Quilting a change mat     3. Play gym made from hula hoops and fleece

I bought a basic sewing machine and made a few things for my soon to be born baby. It never occurred to me to seek instruction or tuition, or even to see if there was a pattern for what I was wanting to do. I just experimented. One of the things I love about taking on a new hobby is that “honeymoon period” when your confidence is way ahead of your skill or ability.

While I hadn’t sewed before, it didn’t feel like completely new territory as there’s quite a few parallels between sewing and my professional career as a veterinary surgeon

Thanks to my surgical training, I found most sewing skills relatively easy to pick up. When I realised that a slipstitch is just the same as how I do intradermal sutures on a cat spey, or that a thread chain is just a series of hand ties, I felt more and more confident that this sewing caper was something I could possibly master.

surgery sewing

Most of all, I relished the freedom to practice those skills in a field with a lot less restrictions. You see, a sewing project can be set aside if it’s getting too complicated, if you’re bored with it, if you’re hungry, if you need a toilet break. In fact, a sewing project will wait quietly on a shelf for months on end and you can return to it when you choose to. Unfinished objects, or UFOs in sewing speak, simply cannot exist in the surgical world!

And, should it all go horribly, disastrously wrong, a sewing project can be quietly popped into the rubbish bin and no explanations are needed. Perhaps if you’d justified the expense of some really fancy fabric by telling your partner how awesome the thing you were making was going to be, perhaps then you might secretly pop the failed garment into the outside bin rather than the kitchen bin. But that’s about as serious as it can ever get, and I find the freedom to fail enormously liberating!

With the invincible feeling that you get from knowing that the price of failure is negligible, I started to sew clothes for my little boy.

early garments

1. Burda 9792 shirt    2. Make It Perfect Little Explorer overalls     3. Burda 9793 Jeans

Shortly after I started struggling with sewing kid’s clothes I discovered Oliver + S patterns, then I had a baby girl to sew for as well, and from that moment on I became almost unstoppable. As I learned more, my confidence grew and I continued to delight in the devil-may-care attitude that I can use when approaching a sewing project.

Speaking of which… You know, my sewing machine is perhaps one of the only appliances I own that did NOT come with a warning not to operate it while consuming alcohol. That may not be the case for everyone, as I’m sure in more litigious, risk averse countries such warnings are making their way into sewing machine instructions. But at my house, if I want to try and pattern match plaid with a glass of red in one hand, then darn it, I will. (And I maintain it’s a sure fire way to make stripes match, or at least not to care when they don’t…)

evel knievel

Evel Knievel costume

I’ve never been much of an artist in terms of having a creative vision, but I’m not bad as a copyist (I think that is an almost exact quote from my year 10 art report). Sewing allows me to copy something that takes my fancy, whether it’s what you just posted on Flickr, a costume or haute couture.

The challenge in recreating a garment using the patterns that I have to hand, my limited ability to “mash” patterns, and the materials I can source locally, is something I delight in. In doing this I can combine some painting, handsewing, or other techniques to achieve the look I want. Pitching all these artistic endeavours into one project is immensely satisfying.

Elle and Audrey

Kill Bill Vol 1 – A Moschino 2001 knock off

However, like anyone who sews for their kids, my creations are bound to sometimes get rejected. A painstakingly made dress or shirt that never gets worn would seem a waste, but a ridiculously time consuming beaded sweater? Nope, that was my project and I don’t care a jot if it doesn’t get worn.

By getting carried away with the idea, the technique and the attention to detail I can make the project something that I enjoy. From the imagining right through to the last stitch I’m in it for the journey, and the skills learned along the way, as much as the end result.

pixcell red deer

KCW Summer 2014: Beaded pullover

But since I do like a challenge, I also set myself the goal of making all of my kids’ everyday clothes (with the exception of socks and undies). That meant getting comfortable with sewing knit fabric, and perhaps even consulting with the kids sometimes on what it is that they would actually wear.

Sewing for kids seems to be a bit like surfing. You have to paddle really hard at the start to get yourself up to speed. Then, if you can keep your skill set just a little bit ahead of the wave of their disregard for anything dorky and mum-made, you can keep riding it forever. At least that’s how I hope it will work.

Herein lies another thing I love about sewing. I am a bit of a perpetual student. Since the day I started kindergarten I have almost always been doing some form of study. As well as my degree in veterinary science I’ve undertaken studies in fitness instruction, cocktail making and bar service, French language… It doesn’t seem to matter what the topic is so long as the instruction is good I’ll enjoy learning. It would seem there is an endless amount to learn about sewing. I doubt I would ever have learned to sew beads, cut freezer paper stencils, do reverse applique or a dozen other things, if it wasn’t for the need to jazz up a bit of garment sewing.


1. Kenzo knock off jeans     2. Darth stencilled T-shirt     3. Metallic topstitched jeans

I find lots of inspiration from sewers who post their creations on the internet, and I am forever mentally noting details that give a garment a professional look. Perhaps one reason I can’t stop sewing is the flood of ideas that come from all corners of the globe. As long as you people continue to make awesome stuff I will continue to either find suggestions in what you’ve done, or to straight out copy it.

While my early beginnings were experimental and truly “self-taught” I would say I am now taught by YOU. If you’ve ever created a pattern, put anything on the internet, or shared your tips for the perfect knit hem, or the neatest bias binding application, then you have been my teacher. Maybe not directly, but the great whirlpool of information and inspiration that we share on sites like KCW means our own modest efforts get picked up, improved upon and then circulated back to us.

recent garments

1. Apple Picking dress     2. Made for Kids Month    3. KCW: Mini Me

Perhaps what will keep me sewing, rather than drifting off to discover some new hobby, is this very community. When we feed off each other we all get so much better. I never cease to be delighted when people make comments about my sewing, but I’m especially proud of who we are when someone comments favourably on something I’ve done, which was a blatant copy of what they’d done themselves a season earlier. You don’t find generosity of spirit like that in too many other endeavours. Sewing folk rock.

Thanks to the KCW blog for having me. I’ve had such fun chatting and sewing with you all. Until next season,

Shelley xx

why I sew // KCW

why I sew: Sophie

Hello dear KCW readers!  Sophie here for my last post as a KCW contributor. It has been an honour to share this season with you all.
When I was preparing for this post , I thought of all the many reasons why I sew. There are lots! But I wanted to give you an idea of what makes my relationship with sewing special and that’s what I will share today.

But before I start, there are a few things you might need to know:

a. I am very new to sewing : I mean 2 years is new!

b. I am totally self-taught : thank you Internet!

c. My first love is paper!

So here is to some of the main reasons why I sew:

1. I sew because I scrapbook:
That sounds funny, I know, but it all started with my scrapbooking pages.

PicMonkey Collage12

I used to design scrapbook pages for american companies such as American Crafts and Crate Paper. I was the luckiest French scrapbooker in the whole wide world! I got to play with patterned papers and embellishments and it was so great to search for the coolest design for my next layout.  After I touched a sewing machine for the first time in a scrapbook workshop, I was hooked! When I got home I immediatly ordered a Singer.  I would sew on all of my layouts to add texture and a handmade finish. That was my first ever relationship with thread and needles.

While reading scrapbooking blogs, I discovered that some scrapbookers I admired also made quilts . I was in awe of the beautiful things they created. In the same way that they played with paper, they got to play with fabrics in order to create something beautiful they could use and gift! I had been hoarding all these scrapbooking papers and I was crazy about their colors and patterns.  I discovered then I could have the same glorious colors and patterns and get to use them, to wear them if I learnt how to sew with fabrics! And so I did, all on my own, thanks to Pinterest and google! I learnt to sew just for the love of colors and patterns and the soft touch of quilting cotton!
Naturally I turned to patchwork first, using a fellow scrapbooker’s beginner’s quilt tutorial,  because it was all about patterns and colors mixed together : I created a few quilts and even got some orders from friends and family:

PicMonkey Collage45

2. I sew because I am fussy

Quilting requires precision and patience: your seams have to be perfectly matched and pinning is almost an art! It gave me the perfect basic techniques to sew garments. I was ready for dresses and tees!

When it comes to clothes, I like simple patterns and simple lines, I like a great fit and cool fabrics (see above!). I mainly wear dresses and I prefer cotton, linen and wool: all things I don’t find easily in ready-to-wear shops.  Therefore, being able to create my own garments was an extremely freeing experience. Scary, but freeing! PicMonkey Collage Indeed it is great to have the freedom to pick a pattern I like and create garments I truly love, garments I have imagined and designed in my head and to bring them to life with my sewing machine. It is such an empowering feeling, really. I also find that the small alterations I have learnt to make through the process of sewing with patterns even increase this sense of freedom : I can create almost any garment I dream of.

So the fussy me rarelly goes shopping nowadays. I don’t even look in the shops windows anymore. Instead, I prefer searching online for the perfect fabric –  that would match that perfect pattern-  that would make that unique garment for myself or my kids, just as I like it.

3. I sew because sewing is “meditation in action”:
I am a woman with many duties. I work full time, raise my children and do all the chores while my husband works long hours outside the house. I worry and get tired, like many of us. I can’t leave the house to go to the gym or yoga classes but I found the best “meditation in action”: sewing! yes!  Sewing is like “meditation in action” : it empties my head of all sorts of worries and nourrishes me with beauty and achievements! Love that! So therapeutic! When my hands are busy, and my brain really tries to understand how to attach this sleeve to this armhole or how to quilt-as-you go,  really, there is no room for worrying or any kind of anxiety! Sewing helps me keep my sanity. Bags are my favorite “meditation in action” projects: they require precision but they also quickly give me the sense of achievement I am looking for.

PicMonkey Collage23

When kids are in bed, and I have marked all my students assignments, I go and lock myself in my studio, even if it is just for a half-hour of my own “meditation in action”. After that I feel restored, filled up and happy!
4. I sew because I care!
I started scrapbooking in order to save our memories and to pass these good times on to my children. I meant my albums as gifts. But it seemed quite far from them. It seemed they would only use them, read them and understand how much I put into them in a few years, when they grow up. Sewing was a way to show them my love ” right now”, with an item they could wear everyday, a reminder of my deep feelings for them on a daily basis.

I also like that it teaches them that garments are to be treasured: you don’t buy and throw. It takes time to make garments and each piece should have the respect it deserves. It is a way to fight consumerism and our “ephemeral” society .

PicMonkey Collage16

Sewing them costumes for school plays and carnival is also something I enjoy: they get to have something special, something unique and it has a “made with love” label on it!

PicMonkey Collage
In the same way , if I design and sew a quilt for a newborn baby, I welcome him to this world with the warmth of a handmade quilt and all the time I sew,  I think of this baby and I hope he will find comfort in this quilt.
In many ways, sewing is an act of love.

So here are the real reasons why I sew! But let me add that one of the reasons why I KEEP ON sewing , is all the inspiration I find on Internet everyday, on blogs and places such as this one! The sewing community is awesome and I never thought I would find such inspiring and encouraging sewers accross the world who would reach out to me, even through digital messages and provide the motivation to keep on creating, just for the love of colors and patterns!