Shop Your Stash – Planning Your Makes

For the last 3 months I’ve been talking about how to use your leftover fabric scraps, organising and de-cluttering your fabric stash and how to pair your newly organised fabrics and patterns into winning combinations. The last of this mini series is all about planning your projects; to make best use of your time, to avoid stressful sewing and to improve your skills and knowledge.


OK, every project doesn’t have to be a battle to master a new technique; we all love to sew and often the most pleasure is to be had in just sailing through a project, feeling confident in what you’re doing and having everything go right. But occasionally it’s good to choose a project that is going to challenge you in some way and enable you to learn something new, even if it’s in just one aspect of that make: maybe it’s a fabric you haven’t sewn before, a fiddly detail that you always struggle with or a difficult garment to fit.

My first piece of advice is: tackle one challenge at a time! Don’t combine all those challenges into one garment – trying to tackle a tricky detail in a difficult fabric on a garment that might not be the best fit is a recipe for frustration and disaster.

My second piece of advice is: don’t try to learn something completely new with every project – practice makes perfect. I’ve encountered students in the past who as soon as I’ve taught them a new technique and they’ve tried it once, are all too keen to move onto the next one. You don’t collect new techniques, they’re not fully formed and perfected after doing them once, the process of learning new skills and techniques needs practice and you need to master each one until they become almost like second nature. Identify the bits you find most difficult and explore ways that work for you to make them easier – that might be extra tacking, chalking seamlines or simply just practicing on fabric samples until you’ve got it right.

Try and plan your makes with this advice in mind, so if you have a tricky fabric in your stash that you’re planning to use up and it will work equally well in 2 of your patterns, choose the pattern that either; you’ve made before, or is the least technically challenging for you.

It’s rewarding to use your hobby to develop your skills, it gives you a greater sense of satisfaction with your end results and you’re continually building on what you already have. I call this approach “Progressive Sewing”, I’ve written about it before in more depth here, but it’s basically an idea I took from my gym. The instructors in my gym like to encourage everyone’s training to be progressive which means regularly changing your exercise routine by adding new exercises and increasing the difficulty of existing ones. This pushes your body to increase in strength and fitness.

Here are some ideas for a progressive approach to sewing your own clothes that will build your skills and techniques.

how to plan your sewing


In the previous part of this series I went through some common fabrics and the styles of clothes they’re best suited to, this month we’re adding those all important fibres to the mix. Fibre content is important for knowing how the fabric will handle and most crucially – what it will be like to wear. From now on, when you’re shopping for fabric, make a note of the fibre content of the fabric (and the recommended washing instructions!)

Here’s a quick reference guide to the most common fibres, what they’ll be like to wear and what they’re best used for. Print off a copy so that you have it on hand when you’re fabric shopping.

fibre identification chart

Now you might not always know the fibre content of a fabric in your stash, you might buy fabric that isn’t labelled with a fibre content or you may want to check the fibre content of a fabric that you suspect might be mis-labelled. The only way to check fibre content accurately is to burn a bit of the fabric. CAUTION! Use a small piece of fabric, hold it with tweezers and do the test ideally outdoors or at least over a sink.

Here’s a table of what happens to the most common fibres when they’re burnt. Obviously fabrics made from a mix or blend of fibres can be more tricky to identify, but if you’re trying to check if the fabric you’ve been sold really is 100% cotton or really does contain some elastane or really is silk, this should help.

how to identify fibre content


We touched on planning in the 2nd part of this series; mainly talking about seasonal versus non-seasonal sewing and setting yourself realistic goals.

Heed this advice that I’ve personally learned the hard way and that I’ve experienced with lots of my students: don’t decide to make yourself something “special” to wear on the spur of the moment for an imminent event!!

It’s stressful, you’re unlikely to enjoy the process (even if you do enjoy the end result), you won’t learn much as you’ll be rushing rather than taking the time to do things well, you might make some bad fabric / pattern choices and end up wasting money and you might not be happy with the results.

If, however, you enjoy flying by the seat of your pants and have to sew to a deadline, choose a fabric that you know you can sew easily in a colour and print that you know you will wear and ideally choose a pattern that you’ve made before, don’t try to learn new techniques in a project with a tight deadline. Or if you do, don’t bring it to your sewing class!!!

Make a Roewood Jersey Skirt in Sheffield

jersey pencil skirt

Up North and want to take a class with me? Good news! There are still places available at my one day workshop at Running with Scissors on Sunday 4th June.

We’ll be making the Roewood jersey pencil skirt from my book “A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts”, ideal for newbie dressmakers and those fearful of sewing knits as I’ll be showing you how to sew stretch knit fabrics using just your regular sewing machine.

There are several ways to make this skirt so you’ll end up with a finished skirt completely unique to your own style to take away at the end of the day and a signed copy of my book to make more skirts.

Full details and booking info here.  Look forward to seeing you fellow Northerners!!

April’s MIY Maker (a bit belated…!)

Fulwood dress

I can’t believe I completely forgot to post this on here. (I managed to post it everywhere else!!)

So, it was a fairly close run vote, but Kath’s Fulwood dress won in the end. I do love the look of those pleats turned into gathers and have been inspired to make a version of my own. More on that soon.

In the meantime a well deserved congratulations to Kath.

A Review of the Roehampton Culottes from Beginner’s Guide to Skirts

Aimee (aka Wrong Doll on her blog and Instagram) is a prolific stitcher, I don’t know how she manages it alongside a full-time job!

She recently made the Roehampton Culottes from my book “A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts” and I instantly wanted to steal them!  They’re so my style; Aimee’s chosen the kind of fabric I’d have gone for and wears them pretty much how I would choose to.

Her review of the culottes project and the whole book makes heart warming reading for me but here are some choice words:

“Wendy’s book is split in two – the individual projects, followed by a techniques section at the end. This format empowers you to get into the driving seat and customise each pattern according to your whim.”

“Thanks to the mode of presentation and clarity of instruction, these Roehampton culottes are by far my most well made make to date.”

It’s so satisfying to know that I’ve played a small part in improving someone’s sewing skills like this. That’s what it’s all about folks.

Read Aimee’s full review here and get a signed copy of my book here.

A Review of the Longley Cardigan Pattern

Looking for that perfect in-between-seasons project?  My Longley cardigan pattern might just be for you and Fiona of Diary of a Chainstitcher blog has just made a gorgeous version which she’s blogged about along with a review of the pattern.

Spoiler: I think she loved it! Here are some of the lovely things Fiona says about the pattern.

“When the construction is as well thought out as this getting professional looking results is very satisfying.”

“The finishing of the Longley is a real selling point for me and I highly recommend it as a cracking pattern to try if you are looking for a similar style.”

Read her full review here. You can also read more reviews of the Longley pattern here and get your copy of the pattern here.

My Month on Social Media – April 2017

Not everyone does social media, but as someone who does, I can see its pitfalls:

it’s so quick that sometimes it’s easier to post something on social media than to give it more time and space in a blog post,

not everyone uses social media and I have no real control over who sees what I post as they’re now all controlled by algorithms (with the exception of Twitter)

and its advantages:

because I post regularly on social media it acts as a kind of diary.

So, for a while now I’ve been trying to think of a way to bring the 2 (blogging and social media) together and this is what I’ve come up with. A blog post at the end of each month to collect the highlights of my news and news I’ve found elsewhere and shared on my social media channels.

So, here goes……

INSTAGRAM

  • I started doing the #100daysproject, where you set yourself a creative theme or challenge and post a photo a day of your progress. I set myself a #100daysofpattern challenge to continue the work I started on my screen printing course at the end of last year and have included some of my posts here: top centre is work I started at a collage workshop led by local Brighton artist Esther Cox, centre left is a one of my designs printed on a length of cotton poplin from Spoonflower that I’ll be sewing up very soon and centre bottom is one version of a pin print I started working on.
  • Some gorgeous makes from my patterns old and new popped up on Instagram this month, my highlights were these 2 completely different Fulwood dresses (centre right) – I just love how the same pattern can produce such different results! Bottom left is Naz’s 2nd make from a new pattern I’ve been working on for a while (perks of being a MIY Workshop student), she’s a big fan of it already.
  • We shot the last batch of samples for “A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing With Knitted Fabrics” this month (centre image and top left). I got the neon pink fabric paint out for that top left sample and I was soooo happy with the results, I can’t wait for you to see the finished thing.
  • Finally I had a relaxing long weekend with the dogs back home in Sheffield for my dad’s birthday (top right and bottom right), highlights included visiting one of my favourite places – Yorkshire Sculpture Park. If you’re ever up that way (just off the M1 between Sheffield and Leeds), go visit; if you like art and the outdoors you’ll love it.

FACEBOOK

I have two Facebook pages; a MIY Collection one and a MIY Workshop one. Occasionally I share interesting things I’ve seen elsewhere on Facebook, my blog posts and this month links to my Sewing Dictionary and Fabric Dictionary. Have you seen them? They’re right here on my blog:

SEWING DICTIONARY     FABRIC DICTIONARY

TWITTER

On Twitter I shared this review of the the Granville Wrap skirt from ” A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts”,

this great tip for zip ends from C-L Hardie (sewing producer on the Sewing Bee TV shows)

and a polarising piece about feminism and labels which really is a thought-provoking read if you’re a woman, a feminist, running a business, or all of the above…..

PINTEREST

I have to confess I mainly use Pinterest for my own ideas / inspiration (I’m thinking I really should up my Pinterest game……..one day, soon…) and have most recently been collecting images that have been inspiring my print / pattern experiments…..

I’ve recently discovered John Piper’s beautiful collages thanks to Esther Cox

and have become a little obsessed with Ellsworth Kelly’s beautifully simple line drawings of plants and flowers.

I did also find and pin some great sewing resources recently,

such as this great illustration of how to sew a cuff placket.

Last but definitely not least, each April sees growing awareness for Fashion Revolution Day and this year I had a timely postal delivery of this Kickstarter project by Safia Minney (founder of ethical clothing company People Tree) that I backed way back last year.

Anyone who buys clothing from high street brands should read this book, but I know that most sewists in particular will find it useful (if not shocking). You can get a copy here.

So, that’s it, my April on Social Media. I’d love to know what you think?

New Class!!! Make a Wrap Skirt

skirt making classAll images taken from “A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts and © Cico books / Julian Ward Photography.

Join me for a day of dressmaking this summer. You will make the easy Granville wrap skirt from my latest book “A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts”.

This class is ideal for beginners and there are lots of different ways to make the wrap skirt; with ties or buttons, with pockets and even a reversible version so you can really make it to suit your own style. It’s quick, easy and a gorgeous flattering skirt that’s perfect for summer.

You’ll learn how to sew accurate seams, my favourite method for neat hems, how to sew darts, how to attach a facing or lining and how to make and attach a pocket (if you choose that option!).

By the end of the day you’ll feel confident using a sewing machine and leave with a unique-to-you handmade skirt, ready for wearing all summer.

Some materials will be provided, a full list of materials needed will be sent when you book your place.

  • Suitable for absolute beginners.                                                                                            
  • Class size limited to just 5 people.
  • £95

To book your place email Wendy on miyworkshop@gmail.com or ring 01273 693451