Sew By The Seaside - Dressmaking and craft blog based in the UK
Blog by Samantha. As you might have guessed, I live by the seaside on the the south west coast of Dorset. I love to create, so every chance I get you’ll find me dressmaking, sewing and other creative projects. As well as sharing my makes with you all I’d love to learn about your favourite projects, tips and tricks.
The lovely Hattie, Athina & Lisa have come together to create the thought provoking #SMYLY challenge. Starting in January and all the way through February they are encouraging the online sewing community to share stories of how their own sewing journey has helped with mental health and body positivity…. and WOW it has just gone to prove what a fantastic and supportive online community we have and one that I am proud to be part of.
You guys have shared some amazing stories and as much as everyone is fighting/fought their own battles Sewing has proven to be a fantastic form of self care and escape for many. It has helped some to overcome and turnaround some really quite negative and sad moments in their lives.
Over recent years the world has become less scared of talking about Mental Health and Self Care, and it’s about time! How are we to heal if the world doesn’t understand or discuss issues that effect so many. Just talking about our pain and our worries goes along way to take a bit of the weight off of our shoulders. If you don’t feel you’re ready to talk about yours just yet then write them down as this also helps – even if you rip up the pages afterwards the exercise will bring relief.
It is very easy for me to tell you the things that are proven to help (the usual…talking about your problems, exercise, spend time outdoors, keep a diary, eat healthier, practice Mindfulness etc etc) however I most definitely do not always practice this. I have in the past and still today suffer with my mental health and in particular anxiety and as much as I know what can help, it’s not always quite that simple! But, as many of you will relate, sewing helps me to truly be myself and get lost in a project that at the end gives such a sense of achievement and then pride every time its worn.
My Sewing Journey
For as long as I can remember I have loved anything and everything creative, I am lucky enough to be a Twin which meant growing up I had a permanent play mate! We’d spend hours drawing up fashion designs for our excessive amount of barbies, doing each others hair and make up (this still happens now at 31 years old!) and playing dress up in anything we could wrap ourselves up in! My love of being creative carried on through secondary school which led me to choose my main GCSE subjects of Art, Photography and Textiles – all of which are what I achieved my top grades in (apologies to anyone who may ever ask me to solve a maths equation or converse in French!).
Unfortunately I can’t give you a beautiful family story of how skills were passed down through the generations. Despite the fact that my Nan was an accomplished seamstress and my Mum could sew, when my twin sister and I chose to study Textiles our Mum did place a caveat on signing it off… We could not ask her for help! This was down to our older sister studying it 7 years prior and my Mum spent many nights after work completing projects on her behalf (nice one Laura-Lee!!).
That being said, it was a positive as it meant we learnt the skills for ourselves, skills that I am very grateful for today.
When I left school at 16 I decided to take a year out before attending college, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to study and I wanted to be able to drive to a college out of my hometown. So I decided to work in my parents business for a year. However, as ever life doesn’t always go to plan and two weeks after turning 17 my Mum died at 46 years old, no warning, no signs just out of the blue and in the blink of an eye my world was turned upside down.
My lovely Mum in the 80’s
As a seventeen year old girl still trying to discover who you are in the world and what you want to do I was broken and lost. In despite of sadness and uncertainty I still stood by my goal and learnt to drive and enrolled at college the following year to study… Floristry! I’d love to tell you it was something I had dreamed of becoming but I came across it in the college prospectus and thought I could enjoy it! I completed the course, became a qualified Florist and not to boast, but I won an award for my work (*pat on the back for me). I was working in a Florist shop when my boss decided to run away with his lover… not romantic like a film, just really bloody inconvenient! The shop closed and I had to look for another job.
Fast forward 12 years and I am still in that same job today. It is an office based role, pretty non creative and has seen me cry many times over the years… sometimes everything would just get on top of me (sorry to anyone that may have witnessed my cry face). Aside from those negatives it helped me to progress, buy my very first property on my own and then a family home with my husband.
I had always tried to offset the downsides and stresses of work by picking up old hobbies, but nothing ever really stuck. That was until 2012 when my husband bought me a sewing machine – (as 15 year olds we dated at school, until he broke my heart one day and we didn’t speak … until he asked me out 9 years later). He knows of my love of being creative, my studies and above all else knows the importance having a hobby has on your mental health.
It wasn’t until May 2016 that I started to document my sewing using Instagram, I had always kept pretty quiet about sewing as it wasn’t really mainstream and often thought of as old fashioned to an outsider. It wasn’t until the middle of 2017 that people I work with and spend 45 hours a week with knew that I make my own clothes. What I’ve grown to learn is to worry less about what other people think, do what makes your heart sing and be nothing but true to yourself! I am unsure whether age has something to do with this, but I know that sewing and the online community has certainly helped me with this attitude.
If it wasn’t for every single one of you who have tapped a little heart on my photos, left a comment or sent me a message online in response to my makes I would not have found the confidence in myself to start this blog or head out to a Sewing Event all on my own and meet some of you amazing people in the real world!
Mental Health & Body Positivity
I recall being 10/11 years old and choosing an outfit for my Mums Birthday party, whilst all my friends were buying their clothes in Tammy Girl I was in Topshop buying a ladies size 8, it was the only time in my life buying a size 8/fitting hips in to Topshop clothes, but it was at this age that I started to notice my body shape was different to my friends. All through my teens I was always curvier than the other girls and felt very conscious of it. My Mum sympathised, after all it was her figure I’d inherited, but she always tried to instil in me that it doesn’t matter what size the label in your clothes say so long as they fit and you feel good in them.
Those little words of wisdom from my Mum have stuck with me and really did help when it came to sewing my own clothes. As I mentioned earlier I started sewing my own clothes as an outlet at times in my life when I needed something to focus my mind on, so there is nothing worse when you’re feeling a bit low and sad in your own skin than grabbing a tape measure and recording every inch. Not only that, but to constantly get undressed and look at yourself in a mirror or photos in order to make adjustments. There is also the huge range of sizes you fall in to with different pattern companies, to walk in to a high street I am a size 12 but I have sewn garments in pattern sizes 8 to an 18… the bonus is there’s not a label to remind you in me made clothes! Amazingly though the more you do it, the more they just become numbers and mean nothing derogatory as suddenly you have a wardrobe full of garments that are made to fit every individual quirk of your body shape perfectly and make you feel not only proud but beautiful! Sewing truly does help ‘make you love yourself’.
We need to scrutinise ourselves less and be grateful that we are healthy and for the things we do have, for those things you moan about there will a woman somewhere else in the world wishing she had what you have. I think every woman at some point in their lives have wished they could change something about their appearance, whether it be size, shape or feature but what happens if we achieved those desires? It’s human nature to just keep wanting more, there will be no end as there is no ‘normal’. The moment you have the epiphany and realise that you don’t need to wait until you’re a certain way to do a certain thing or that maybe when you’re a certain size someone might think more of you… it’s not what’s holding you back, your mind is. Just be yourself and remember “you can be the ripest juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches” – Dita Von Teese.
There a lots of life lessons my Mum gave my sister and I, with gems such as “no one knows what the label says, if you hate the number on the tag cut it out!”…”there’s no such thing as normal” and “if you’re not happy you are the only one who can do something about it” but the biggest life lesson from my Mum is that life is too short and you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so live for now, create your own happiness and enjoy every moment.
My#SMYLY challenge Make
I chose to make this gorgeous dress which is the ‘No 6 Kobenhavn‘ from ‘How to do fashion‘ – a beautiful pattern company from Denmark created by Nanna whos beautiful designs are vintage inspired. I picked it not only because I absolutely love this dress and fifties style (my favourite era), but the design also shows off those ‘flaws’ that growing up I hated and am now proud to show off. It also tells the story of what a fantastic community us sewing folk are!… Nanna contacted me via Instagram and asked if she could send me one of her patterns as she thought it would suit me, a week later I received two gorgeously packed patterns from Europe. The How to do Fashion’s selection of patterns are full of inspiring feminine designs with a vintage feel, the website is full of online instructions, blog posts and a free pattern if you sign up to their newsletter! I used this gorgeous leopard print ponte roma from Minerva Crafts, the pattern called for a woven fabric but i think it worked really well in a knit too.
I look forward to sewing more patterns from this fab Danish company, I can’t wait to see more makes pop up on Instagram! Let me know if you make any.
Fellow sewing addicts, I don’t think I’m alone when I tell you I’ve got a new obsession… Nina Lee Patterns!
I am a huge fan of independent/indie sewing labels and every so often a new one pops up that inspires us and helps us to create our dream hamdmade wardrobe… and in March this year Nina Lee did just that with her launch that included three beautiful patterns and have continued growing since!
I was lucky enough to be a pattern tester for The Kew Dress, as soon as I saw the line drawings I was in love! The dress has three different options; tea dress style with sleeves, straps and cold shoulder sleeve or a skirt. I opted for the version with the straps and cold shoulder.
The garment has a fitted bodice, a skirt piece that features a high low hemline and a button fastening all the way down the front of the dress. Dependant on fabric this pattern can be dressed down for summer days or dressed up for evenings out.
For my tester Kew Dress I picked a fabric from my stash, a patterned Crepe from fabric land at £2.99 a meter. Nothing too special, however as the dress started to come together and take shape I was love in and decided that I was going to wear it to my brother in laws wedding.
Once I’d decided on this I made self covered buttons which finished it off perfectly. It was just right for the occasion dressed up with heels, it was cool in the sunshine and beautifully swishy on the dance floor! My email to Nina Lee, once I’d finished the dress, was just me gushing over my love of the pattern and how grateful I was for the timing as the perfect wedding guest outfit!
My husband & me at my brother in laws wedding this summer, wearing my Kew Dress
That being said it’s not just a pattern for summer, I hosted a dinner dance event at work in November that required me to dress up and my immediate thought was to make The Kew Dress and that is how my gorgeous second version came about.
I picked the fabric used for my second during a visit to Sewisfaction in Wokingham (who is also a stockist of Nina Lee printed patterns), it’s a Crepe called ‘tales of the orient’. If I’d have had the time for this version I would’ve made covered buttons again but unfortunately I didn’t so simple black buttons had to do. I think this version may be one of my favourite dresses in my wardrobe, I feel so feminine in it and the style is flattering on my shape.
Wearing this dress at the event was the first time many of my colleagues and customers discovered I am a Seamstress and make my clothes (I wear a uniform every day)- is anyone else shy about this? I’m aware how ironic this is as I have a blog and social media accounts documenting it, it just never really came up to discuss so has gone unknown in that part of my life… that and the fear of being asked to hem trousers, fix zips and make curtains constantly!
I’m sure 2018 will involve more Kew Dresses being added to my sewing list alongside the two other Nina Lee Patterns on my cutting table; the Bloomsbury top & Portobello trousers.
Which Nina Lee Pattern has been your favourite so far? I look forward to 2018 & seeing what exciting launches Nina Lee has planned!
If you are looking for a sweater pattern to see you through these cold months then pop on over to Minerva Crafts to read my latest make and review. I made the I AM Apollon Sweater and you need one in your wardrobe!
Each month I make a new Garment for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network using my own choice of fabrics, patterns and haberdashery items from their extensive online shop. You can view my latest post here and buy everything used to make your own.
I am excited to announce that I have joined the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network and my first post is now live!
My Tania Culottes Debrief Fabric – C7531-Navy Georgette Pattern – Megan Nielsen Tania Sew time – an evening Difficulty – advanced beginner (hardest skill required is an invisible zip insertion). Would I sew again? – Yes, again & again! Tip – insert a label! I keep confusing the back and the front!!
“When I wake up in the morning and the alarm gives out a warning, I don’t think I’ll ever make it on time” My Kalle Shirt Dress from Closet Case Patterns has become affectionately known as my Saved by The Bell Dress, as you can tell this is down to the spectacularly 80’s fabric I picked up from Fabricland in Bournemouth!
The pattern itself has three different options; a Shirt, a Tunic & a Shirt Dress. All varieties are on my ‘to be sewn list’ but I thought I’d kick off with the Shirt Dress as I’d seen some gorgeous versions online! I knew I wanted it to be light, summery and bright ready to wear to our local Champagne & Seafood Festival during the recent heatwave!
I am a big fan of the Closet Case Patterns, they offer stylish modern design with lots of variations to each pattern and come with perfectly clear instructions and sew-alongs on their blog. The pattern was straight forward to sew and was made in one evening… my favorite type of projects!
During this project I finally worked out how to sew buttons on to garment using my machine… hand sewing is my most hated task (maybe one day I will find it therapeutic & relaxing like so many of you!). I use the Janome DC6030 (from John Lewis, in all other stores it is the DKS30 model), no extra foot was required, you just need to lower the feed teeth and use the machine part that you attach a foot to, to hold down the button! Simple!
Once I completed the dress and tried it on, I have to say it was a bit oversized and my husband suggested taking it in as it drowned me. I of course did not want to do this an hour before leaving the house, but he was right (sssh don’t tell him I said that) and it needed to be taken in a good two inches either side. I will be sure to adjust the pattern before my next Kalle!
Here it is in all it’s glory at the Seafood Festival, perfect for a day of eating!
Got to go, I’m late to meet Zack & Kelly at The Max…
The latest pattern from The Avid Seamstress is a gorgeous Shift Dress that has lots of gorgeous details, making it so much more exciting & flattering than your standard versions of
this style. The Avid Seamstress are great at creating patterns that depending on your fabric choice, can give you variety of looks for any occasion. For example, take The Shift Dress and create with a linen and you have a great day to day work dress or make it with a crepe and you have the perfect occasion dress.
For my version of The Shift Dress I chose this beautiful ‘Nightingale Grove Crepe‘ fabric from The Fabric Godmother as I knew I wanted to make a version I could wear to my sister’s engagement party at the end of the month…. and come on, just look at how beautiful it is! Not only is it dreamy to look at but also lovely to handle and work with.
The pattern itself comes in a gorgeous printed envelope, it’s the type of packaging that you want to display in your sewing space. The Avid Seamstress always provide a guide to taking your measurements, a handy checklist, sewing terms/ demystifying card and of course a step by step instruction booklet – this includes photographs which I always find much easier to follow when I’m sewing!
All this made for a straight forward construction of my dress, as ever for me inserting the invisible zip and matching the bodice seams took patience and concentration – but if you don’t get it first time that’s what seam rippers are for! Just take 5 minutes, grab a cuppa* (*cough, vodka) and try again.
The dress has a fitted bodice with fitted sleeves and a pencil skirt that features a panel at the bottom front and a kick pleat to the back. It has a lovely scooped back and an invisible zip fastening. The stand out feature for me is the waist seam of the fitted bodice – ensuring a flattering fit, creating a gorgeous silhouette. There is the option of pockets but I left these out… this time round!
Beautiful scoop back detail
As I said previously, I am planning on wearing this to my sister’s engagement party, though with the little heatwave we’ve been having (and my absolute LOVE of this dress) I’ve already worn it twice!! Both times I dressed it down with a pair of flat sandals for days out so I’m looking forward to dressing it up with a pair of heels.
There will definitely be more The Avid Seamstress Shift Dresses from me and I can’t recommend the pattern to my fellow dressmakers enough. As you’ll see from Kathy & Dominique’s versions of the dress, it’s amazing how different this dress can look with different fabric choices… I can’t wait to see all your versions!
Sewisfaction is fabulous online fabric shop & haberdashery, they also teach a variety of sewing classes at Folly Lodge studio in Lightwater, Surrey. Founded by the lovely Sheona, who curates all the beautiful fabrics and notions, you will be sure to find lots of inspiration and products for your next project!
In my first post I talk about stepping out of our comfort zone and trying something new, to read the full post and see my finished Erin Skirt visit The Sewisfaction Blog