Saturday, 19 December 2015

Top 5 Hits, Misses, Reflections of 2015 and Goals for 2016

Top 5 of 2015

I decided to look at hits and misses from this last year, as championed by Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow. Thank you, Gillian! The idea was to post the top 5 in each category. I wasn't altogether sure that I had a total of 5 items from the whole year,  far less 5 in any one of these areas. Indeed I've only reviewed 9 items on PR  the year; that's only new items made from scratch. There are some things that were such wadders that they didn't make it as far as blogging or in some cases past toile stage and these aren't included. Not a lot of sewing, you'd be right in thinking. I was,  I admit,  shocked!  After all,  I started sewing to make myself garments that fit - and I started doing sewing classes to learn how to make those garments - and I started pattern cutting classes to learn how to make the patterns for those garments, to make sure they fitted!

A lot of my time has been spent in course work, doing samples and in developing patterns for Helen's wedding. As a result, as I have so little,  I'm combining all the sections in one post.

It's interesting that my successful items are mainly for other people. I enjoy sewing for others (by that I mean family).  It's easier to fit someone else rather than yourself - and especially when that person doesn't have the same figure anomalies creating fitting difficulties.


1.Skirt for my youngest daughter Helen. Style 1981.

She tells me she wears it often, it appears to fit well and I was pleased to be able to salvage my mother's fabric.

2 Kimono for Helen. New Look 6217

Rear view to show it twirl

She wears this to death or at least did during the summer. Loves it. It was easy to make,  too.

3 McCall's 6844 for me

I've worn this regularly. I like the colour as it's useful. Next time,  though,  and there will be a next time, I'll make the straight version rather than the peplum version. Maybe in navy.

4 Jeans for husband.

Jeans in his favourite green
These were far from perfect but DH wears them regularly, so that counts as a success. They were self drafted and I think that was a step too far; I would have been better starting with a commercial pattern

I learned a lot of techniques in my jeans making class and in making these and feel more confident about making more jeans. I have more of the same fabric to make another pair,  perfecting the fit issues. I wouldn't use my drafted pattern,  though - I've since bought the Kwik Sew men's jeans pattern and will use that. Is have to go back to toile stage again,  of course.

5 Does this count as number 5? By far my most successful garments this year,  that get worn ALL the time are RTW garments that I have altered to fit. I didn't really enjoy altering things as often it seems it would be easier to start from scratch! However, I have a great sense of achievement and satisfaction to produce a wearable garment from something that wasn't. My altering skills have increased a lot. There are lots of future candidates.

Some of these items were new,  never worn that needed fit alterations. Others were items that had developed faults - the commonest was that a seam hasn't been overlocked properly and a hole had appeared. One top, though, had developed an actual hole in the fabric. My repair and disguise isn't great and I don't think I'll be wearing that out of the house.

I feel that RTW is a misnomer as they're not,  for me at least. Off the peg, okay.

There isn't a ‘proper’ number 5. I have some successful wedding related toiles, successful class samples and some successful craft items, and if course my very successful remodelling of my small dressmaking model, Missy, for Helen but I guess these don't count here.


1 Liberty print dress. Butterick 5951

Inside of dress
Just - no!

I didn't like anything about this dress. The style didn't work; I had problems with altering and sewing the darts to look good after trying to alter the fit and the colour was just not me. It has gone! I also gave away the rest of the beautiful fabric - lovely touch and feel that is, not the colour or pattern. I'm not a Liberty print type of gal - I don't like little bitty floral prints (on me) - I have,  however,  recently bought a couple of Liberty geometric prints. The fabric is beautiful to touch and in handle and I think the pattern is more me,  while,  true,  being a pattern rather than plain.

2 Blue Capstan dress Simplicity 1418

The dress was too small to put on my model

I was pleased with this dress which I made to practice some techniques. I intended it for Helen and used her usual pattern size and alterations - but it was much too small. I say her usual size - this clearly varies between pattern companies, despite their sizes being quoted on the envelope. The ease obviously varies.  Helen is a RTW 8/10 (UK). i started making items for her using a pattern size 12.  One thing drowns her, one is just right and this is miles too small! Just as well I now have Missy and some decent measurements.  My daughter is planning to donate this dress to a very petite friend.

I like the dress and style and considered it for the starting point of the bridesmaids’ dresses I'm making but am worried about the sizing so it's probably easier to draft from block. Both the bridesmaids need FBAs; I've made them both blocks (slopers) and need to make up and test the toiles (muslins) over Christmas.

3 Blouses - New Look 6407

I don't like the fabric; it fits better now but still...
I came 2nd in PR competition with this one

I just don't feel comfortable in these blouses so really don't wear them. I guess the fit needs further tweaked. There are fabric issues,  too - I find the blue fabric too thin and lacking in body, I think I'll make a standard shirt style next time instead of the lowered neckline which I don't like despite that being what attracted me to this style in the first place. I've made up practice shirts in class and now feel more confident that I could end up with a really good looking shirt. My burrito yoke was fabulous!  I learned how to insert piping and feel pretty confident about that now, too.

Jury's out!

There's only 1 item left on my list of 9! The jury's out with that.  Vogue 8646. It was the garment I made for my class in the summer and I didn't get it back from marking until the new academic year started in September, so I haven't had the opportunity to wear it.


1 Skills

My skills have increased enormously. I feel ready to tackle just about anything.  I'm honoured to have been asked by Helen to make her wedding dress, though I'm terrified too! I'm designing the pattern rather than using a commercial pattern so my pattern cutting skills are useful here,  as are the contacts I've made - I'm getting help and support.

2 College course

9 garments!  Only one really wearable for me!  My sewing has taken a wrong turn! The biggest issue for me is that I feel my college course is not taking me in the right direction and I have to jump through their hoops to meet their requirements which are,  quite simply,  not mine. I don't mind the work. I like an element of structure. It's great to have expert tutors on hand to help.  BUT Pattern cutting,  whether flat or by draping,  appears to have been dropped for the moment at least. Pattern cutting was my main reason for starting my college career!  Last year we also had dressmaking techniques,  which have been covered in terms of shirt making - yokes, cuffs,  plackets,  collars,  which is good but not the area I need at present. Of course, last year ended on a high with me getting distinction in both of the coursers I did (only one course this year). Funding constraints mean that courses have to concentrate on entering this area as a business - well,  just no! Design, okay, but that's as far as go. (I did suggest that in fact I had a company with a very limited clientele consisting only of family!) I'm retired, have no business aspirations and want to make a good job of my hobby. I can't see me returning next year unless things change a lot.

We're only one term into the three term course so things might will change.

3 Fabric

When I started sewing, I quickly built up a fabric stash. A lot of this fabric was bought at a good price - although I didn't like some of it at all,  I thought it would be good for toiles - I make a LOT of toiles! However,  I now find I buy cotton calico specifically to make toiles. Some of the fabrics are polyester ‘suiting’, not suitable for toiles I find now, and very hard on shears, blades and needles. I will never make them into garments for me. Gillian alluded to the need for heavy duty deodorant - well,  yes!  It may be a consequence of ageing or perhaps of illness but I'm finding that I can’t tolerate synthetic or stretch fabrics, a change over recent months. So a major de-stash is coming up.

I'll use natural fabrics next year - probably not exclusively.

One very successful fabric area was getting our tartan woven and since then, getting it printed onto silk. I'll blog about that in due course.

4 Tools

The right tools make the job so much easier!
My stars of 2015:
Clips - great for pinning the bag layers together.
Micro serrated shears - purchased on Black Friday so new,  but fabulous! I saw these recommended for cutting slippery fabrics and am glad I followed the recommendation.
The fabulous pattern weights David made for my birthday. Just that. Fabulous.
Edgestitch and quarter inch with guide feet

5 Unselfish sewing

My husband gets mad when I promise something or other, without having been asked. He says I should be concentrating on myself. This was before I agreed to make the wedding dress etc. However,  I actually enjoy sewing for my family.  It's so much less stressful than sewing for myself! I'm not going to change that.

Goals and plans for 2016

There will be more selfish sewing! First,  though,  I have to get the wedding out of the way!  I won't be blogging about garments for the next six months. Then hopefully I can show off my makes. I might be able to share some of my mob outfit  development - my MOB outfit  is my class project. I need to work on that quite a bit over the Christmas holidays, work on a few samples and develop the pattern. I've been ill, not fully recovered yet,  and have fallen behind.


Wedding dress - no further info here!
2 x bridesmaids’ dresses - creating fitting blocks and modifying to create dresses
Waistcoat for groom - using a heavily altered commercial pattern. The third toile is pretty decent.
MOB outfit - design and make. Probably dress and jacket. Dupion silk.

Skills I need to get under my belt:
Working with fine fabrics - satin, lace, tulle, silk etc
Welt pockets (for waistcoat)
Fine narrow hems (?) for dresses above
No doubt there are others!

After wedding

I was successful in altering Missy to fit Helen and need to alter my new model to fit me. Then sewing for me! Trousers and smart casual jackets are on my radar. I've enjoyed making some craft items,  including a bag (will blog after Christmas) and will do some more.

We also want to downsize and move south. Any recommendations, please? We want to be within easy travelling distance, preferably by train, of Cambridge and London. I want to be able to attend courses and exhibitions in London! I'd like the town to have a library, a post office, a doctor's surgery, local shops and decent transport. Maybe a local. Also within easy travelling distance,  a golf course and a sewing bee, not necessarily college course - could go to London for that. Not in London,  though - too expensive. I need something larger than a postage stamp! A house with a granny flat would be ideal.

RTW Fast; MAGAM Challenege
I don't think I will commit to this next year. There are some items that I can buy much more cheaply than I can possibly make - and I'm not talking about disposable fashion here. Tee shirts for example. They don't inspire me to make them,  anyway.  If by some miracle I found a well fitting garment, that I liked, of any description, I would buy it - no hesitation. I don't want to have to turn down a really good bargain, either, as I did this year. If I end up buying my MOB outfit, so be it. I can't sew fast enough to keep up with my garment needs - but I will continue to try. I just can't buy trousers. Or dresses, jackets… (so buying MOB outfit extremely unlikely!). I've bought much less this year and spent less time shopping. I do need to look in shops and try on different styles as part of my design journey.
MAGAM challenge - I love the idea but haven't achieved and maybe shouldn't aspire to this. Will see what happens in the second half of the year.


I've been quite ill. Unfortunately the medication prescribed has disagreed with me, making me feel even more ill; that's stopped as a result of the side effects and they have greatly diminished but next year we'll be looking for some further treatment. I have a minor cold and it's knocked me for six, probably as a result of the depot steroid injection impacting on my immune system.

I was due to be going to the German Christmas markets tomorrow, for a few days,  and have had to cancel as I'm not well enough. I haven't been playing golf - the main part affected by the inflammatory arthritis is left hand. This is a chronic condition. Maybe I won't play golf again?  I've had to ask that question. I hope I can but I have to be prepared if I can't. I need to find ways to exercise (sewing doesn't work for that!) and to get my weight and cholesterol down.

Today I was at our ladies’ golf group Christmas lunch. We are a very select group now - only 8 of us!  I had pheasant for the first time ever. Some of the others had played a few holes before the lunch - in tee-shirts! It's once more unseasonably mild. My car was reading 16 deg C. Interestingly,  that was the temperature one year to the day before Helen's wedding!

Tonight is the Strictly Come Dancing final. I've loved the dresses. I'm not sure who I want to win;  it's pretty close this year,  I think. All down to the public tonight! I'll vote if I feel strongly about one of the couples. Looking forward to an evening watching. I'm posting this in the break between rounds - not as I thought it was going to go!! We'll see at 9pm who is leaving. Oh, and I did vote! I'm excited.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Anne x


  1. Seems like you've accomplished a lot this year! I'm glad you've done a roundup - it'll be nice to look back at next year, I'm sure! :) Have a great Christmas!

  2. Commenting via Gillian's blog. You seem to have accomplished so much this year. I would say that having the courage to sew a wedding dress was a good thing. If you are stuck sewing bridal fabrics I can heartily recommend the Susan Khalje Couture Sewing book. Cc

    1. Thank you. I have this book. I also have the bridal book on CD though I haven't read that yet - somehow the format puts me off. I must get around to it. I love books and can enjoy videos but this... My attempts with some fabrics so far have been much less than successful!

  3. Anne - sorry to hear the medication wasn't successful and trust that in the New Year they get you 'sorted out' well and truly to give you better health.
    How exciting to be downsizing and goodness imagine being in the thick of all things creative....sounds wonderful but hard work of course (moving that is).
    Wish you and yours a very Happy and peaceful Christmas and a New Year filled with good health, good sewing (!!) and the happy prospect of a family wedding.

    1. Thank you, Joyce.
      Wedding first then think about moving!
      We'll still see the family at Christmas, fortunately.
      Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year 2016 to you and your family!
      Best wishes

  4. Phew. What a lot of work, and some very interesting reflections. The most disappointing thing is the course. I feel you are on the edge of cracking it. I feel you need to be more certain about your style and colours and then your makes will be the sort of things you want to wear. I am getting very excited about the wedding!!

    1. Thank you. Yes, it seems like a lot of work with little to show for it! I agree with your comments. Yes, wedding plans are becoming even more exciting - I was able to get Joanne and Alison to try on toiles in preparation for their bridesmaid dresses and make some further more specific decisions about style.

  5. I enjoyed reading your reflections and learning. I agree about moving toward natural fibres and considering fabric quality over bargains. I discovered that working in small classes gives me the boost of skills that I want. Tools resonated with me too. I purchased a pair of Kai dressmaker shears and it has honestly made things so much easier. I love the sweater and jeans that you made. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

    1. Thank you, Janet. I'm currently busy on yet more toiles for MOB outfit, which will be in dupion silk (I think - so far, at least; I have the silk I think I am going to use). I've heard Kai shears are great though I've never seen them. I also bought a new rotary cutter, in a bigger size, and that is very helpful too. I think my old cutter must need adjusting as it's just not working very well. Now so much easier. I do have new blades for my old one but tried to sharpen the old blade - I'm not sure how well that works and in the overall scheme of things, the 'saving' isn't worthwhile.


Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. Please leave a comment. I welcome each and every one. I value criticism (constructive of course! ), love hints and tips and would appreciate suggestions for future direction.

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