sewing machine cover:
- pattern: a tracing of the old plastic cover (imagine the shape of an upside down shopping bag);
- fabric: cotton - Sew Simple by Makower ❤
sewing machine cover:
Louise Bourgeois is famous for her sculptures - the huge spiders, for one. So, it’s so great to see this exhibition of her works on paper. Something different and more intimate.
There is a series of small etchings based on some domestic scenes. I especially love the etching Sewing. A dressmaker working on her machine, with a dress hanging up nearby.
The Bourgeois family were tapestry restorers and Louise would spend time in the atelier. Sewing and the tools of needlework are often seen in her work. She used the needle to look at the issue of ‘reparation’ - the needle to repair and heal what is damaged.
There is also a fabric book Hours of the Day on display - about the slow passing of time, loneliness, memories, waiting.
Image source: Etching: © Louise Bourgeois, Sewing, 1994, Photo: © Tate, London, 2014
When I was learning to sew, the makes I was always most proud of were my shirts/blouses. I just love all the features - collar stand, collar, cuffs and buttonholes.
This is the first shirt I’ve made as an adult. I wanted something casual, and this gingham is just lovely. It’s a deep indigo navy, but it also looks black. It all depends on the light. It has a lovely texture too.
This pattern has quite a few different designs, so I think I’ll be making a few more in the different variations, in the future. I chose to make the one with the tab sleeves, which allows the sleeves to folds up.
The only adjustment I made to the pattern was:
I took out quite a lot of length from the sleeves. The sleeve pattern piece doesn’t have a shorten/lengthen line, so I used the three quarter length as my shorten/lengthen line.
I wanted the cuffs to end above the small rounded bone at my wrists, but traditionally shirt sleeves should end nearer your hand. So, this is for my own taste, but aesthetically it does look a bit short. Next time, I’ll just remove 2 inches from the length.
Whenever I’m wearing long sleeves, I’m always pushing them up, so I’m going to be using the sleeve tabs, which looks good. (My favourite sleeve length is 3/4.)
I looked all over the envelope and instructions for the finished garment measurements, eventually finding it just on the front piece. There’s a lot of ease - 4 inches at the bust, so I decided to go down a size and traced off the size 8.
I usually do a tissue fit. It gives me a reasonable idea.
I spent a bit of time laying out - trying to get at least the horizontal pattern to match on the side seams. It isn’t perfect - one side is better than the other. I didn’t worry too much about the vertical pattern matching. I cut each of the pieces singularly.
I normally use sew in interfacing or self fabric, but for this shirt - I used fusible interfacing. I wanted the collar and collar stand to look sharp and crisp. I’m pleased with how they turned out.
The hem is curved, which gives a lovely soft shape.
I’m going to keep an eye out for fabrics that I can use to make more versions of this shirt pattern.
I’m so happy with how this shirt turned out - it’s practical but also looks very classic and smart.
I keep thinking - wouldn’t it be good if taking a sewing machine out is as common place as carrying a laptop around? I know… not very practical.
I do like to sew out and about sometimes. Hand sewing obviously.
In high school clothing was a source of stress. Even though I went to a school with a uniform - there were still non-uniform items - shoes, coats etc.
Most of my clothes were picked out by my Mum, which was quite mortifying for a teenager.
One day, my Mum came back from the shops with a new winter coat for me. It was a red quilted coat with an off-white fleece-fur lining. I really didn’t like it and knew that wearing it to school on Monday morning, would attract many unkind comments. I remember feeling frustrated and anxious.
Monday came and I went to school. The jibes did come.
'Where did you get your coat?'
'Is it from Father Christmas?'
I braved it out and eventually the unkind comments died down. A few people told me that they liked my coat.
It’s horrible to experience bullying. Children can be very conforming - they want to fit in and be like everyone else. People can be very afraid of any kind of difference. Being judged on your clothes or appearance is a harsh thing. It isn’t until later that you realise being different or individual is a great thing.
I think sewing your own clothes really supports self-acceptance. You can make things which suits you or doesn’t suit you, but you develop a better understanding through trying out. You don’t need to follow trends or the crowd, if you don’t want to. Ever.
I went to have a look around the London Sewing Machine Museum recently. It is a personal collection belonging to Ray Rushton. It houses antique and vintage sewing machines.
Ray’s father Thomas Rushton started the family business when he sold a Victorian sewing machine, that he bought from East Lane Market. The museum has a replica of Thomas’ shop front.
The Rushton family also own the haberdashery shop next door where I buy a lot of my sewing supplies.
I really like how this ‘American Gem’ machine resembles a treadle sewing machine. The wheel at the side is huge in comparison to this little machine.
Some of the machines have decorative flowers embellished on the machine’s body.
I like the red metal of this little machine.
This ‘Union Special’ resembles an antique typewriter.
If you want to visit the London Sewing Machine Museum, it is at:
292-312 Balham High Road
nearest tube: Tooting Bec
It is open on the first Saturday of every month, 2pm - 5pm. Entry is free.
It’s a perfect visit for sewing geeks (like myself).
I have made up these Burda Style shorts before. I made a red cotton pair, which I wear a lot in the summer. They’re great to relax at home in.
The adjustments I made to the pattern are outlined in the post Making the scarlet shorts.
The linen I used for this pair were from the Sew Incidently meetup in August 2013. It’s a beautiful colour. There was only about half a metre of it. There was just enough for these shorts.
For the facings I used some Liberty Tana Lawn scraps that were left over from the Contrast dress. It did feel a bit strange to use a Liberty fabric as facings, but it’s actually a good use of little bits of fabric. It actually gives the garment a different feel too - a bit of luxury. Something special that only you know about when you’re wearing it.
I had another attack of the ‘waist Bermuda triangle’. I have used this pattern before and the facings went together with the waistline with no problems. But, on this pair the facings were about 1 inch too short. I don’t know what happened. I had to add a small piece at the end to lengthen it.
Before I sewed the shorts up, I embroidered along the hem line. I marked out the area in tailor’s chalk and used a small embroidery hoop. I used a lighter blue colour embroidery floss . It gives the fabric some texture, but it’s quite minimal and subtle. I used a lazy daisy stitch for the flowers and it’s freestyle. Just like scattering a few flowers along a path. It was very relaxing embroidering these flowers. I did it whilst Wimbledon was on.
The only new thing I bought especially for this make was the concealed zip. I used materials I already had at home, so it feels like it scores well on thrifitness.
I’m so happy with these shorts. I’m enjoying wearing them.
Sewing was a childhood hobby. I collected craft magazines, borrowed craft and art books from the local library. I made lots of things.
As a teenager I belonged to a needlework club, which was run by the school sewing teacher, once a week during lunch break. It wasn’t considered a cool thing at all. It was akin to chess club or computer club. It didn’t bother me.
I learnt to make clothes in junior and high school. I talked a little about it in this post about a baby dress I made.
Although I stopped sewing after high school, over the years I would continue to explore stitching in different forms. I would knit scarves, baby cardigans and even had some freelance work knitting neckies (neck warmers) for a small company. I also made art work which crossed the division between craft and fine art - making big quilted pieces which were exhibited in traditional gallery settings. I also made paintings based on lines and shapes from dressmaking patterns.
I started making clothes again at a time when I was feeling lost and jaded. Building an art practice takes a lot out of you. It’s a competitive world. You’re only as good as your last painting. There are always new artists coming along. You really have to pause to stay in the moment - because at opening nights, people are already asking when your next exhibition is.
Returning to sewing felt comforting and a refuge. I could be creative without the judgement. I didn’t need to submit an essay explaining and justifying why I’d made it. I could just enjoy.
A few years now down the line - I’m finding a balance (not perfect), but better. I’m still making paintings consistently, and I try not to get so troubled if I’m stuck.
Although sometimes, I find myself thinking, maybe, sewing could be another career. I always try to balance that thinking, knowing that sometimes, making something you love into a job can also dampen that joy. It’s a risk.
For now, I sew in my spare time. It’s my hobby and I get to play. I’m allowing my interest to grow in an organic way, mindful of pacing myself.