Guess Who’s Back Again…

A very brief return to sewing and blogging in 2017.

It’s been over 4 months since my last post and I’m thrilled to write that I’m finally back. I’m also delighted to see that my blog has reached a few more people since I last posted. I must admit that such an extended break was unexpected however, since my last post, the following has happened (here are a few photos to set the scene):

1) I went back to full time work and started a new job as a junior sister. I’m now working as a clinical education facilitator (a fancy job title for looking after all of the students in the hospital). Part of my role also includes working clinically, which means I get to keep my nursing skills up-to-date.

The day I received my uniform

2) I began commuting once more. We now wake up very early and get home very late, 5 days a week, travelling across 3 different counties (Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire). We are a one car household and, just to be awkward, we both work in different counties. This means that we spend approximately 4 hours a day in the car.

3) I had emergency kidney surgery after becoming acutely unwell whilst at work. The bonus is that work happens to be a hospital, so the problem was identified and rectified quickly. The downside is that I then had to make the long journey home, post-surgery, to start recovering….1 week before my wedding!!

4) I GOT MARRIED!!!

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Wearing the ‘Mildred’ Pronovias dress.
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My love and I
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Our first dance

5) We went on a 2 week HONEYMOON to MAURITIUS!!!

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Our private suite

6) We are selling our current property and searching for a house to buy. This is particularly exciting because it will be our first home purchase together and it means that we can a) end the hideous commute to and from work and b) start a family.

All in all, it has been a very busy 4 months. Needless to say, I have done absolutely NO sewing! Although I’ve still managed to increase my fabric stash! What little time I have left in the evenings has been taken up with cooking, eating and preparing for the next working day.

I’ve missed my Lil Juki and being a part of the sewing community. On a therapeutic note, I have really missed the deep joy that comes with starting and completing a project. Sewing works wonders at relieving my stress, which is much needed with settling into the new job, commuting and the impending house move. I also have aspirations of turning my passion for sewing into a profitable venture. For these reasons, I’ve made the decision to make the time for my sewing (and this blog) once again.

Over the coming months, I plan to complete some projects in the limited time that I have available and share my experiences with you along the way. One thing’s for certain….it’s good to be back!

Etsy Shop

The makings of a sewing business idea in 2017.

It’s been on my mind for a few weeks to start an Etsy shop. After much deliberation, I have decided that I will definitely be going ahead with this plan. Although I am new to sewing, my long-term goal is to find my niche in the sewing community and have a business of my own that is sewing related. I do think that by starting something small, I can obtain a small income to fund my fabric addiction, and also give myself the opportunity to develop the skills required of a small business owner. The experience will certainly be beneficial for my future sewing endeavours (whatever they may be) and I am going to fully embrace it.

At present, the first products that I have chosen to sell are zipper pouches. I find them relatively easy to make and I like the finished article. There are many sellers on Etsy who make zipper pouches that have all the bells and whistles (fancy zips, different shapes and sizes) however I have chosen a simple and versatile design, in order to cut down on the time I need to spend making each pouch but without compromising on the quality.

This is especially important as I will be running this venture alongside a full-time job, planning a wedding, preparing to sell a property and searching for a new home. I have taken some photos that I intend to use for my Etsy shop. Photography is not my strong point, so I downloaded an app called Afterlight to help with editing. It’s very easy to use and costs 99p. I’m happy with the results I achieved:

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I’ve made sure to test my products. I regularly use one of my pouches and have gifted a few to friends and relatives, in order for them to be used and abused. They have all reported that none of the zipper pouches have fallen apart (durability achieved) and that they are lovely to look at (result). Fit for purpose, easy on the eyes and durable are exactly the properties that I require from this product. I eventually intend to extend my product range and I have already written down a list of potential, future products. However, this will all be dependent on the success of the zipper pouches. I certainly don’t want to run before I can walk and I will be concentrating on executing one product very well, before introducing another to my portfolio.

I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t say that I feel somewhat apprehensive about starting an Etsy shop. The  following questions have buzzed around my head on multiple occasions: ‘What if I have no sales?’ ‘What if no one likes the product?’ ‘What if no one visits the shop?’ ‘What if I get an unsatisfied customer?’ The answer I give myself, to all of these questions, is simple: ‘You never know until you try!’

I’m excited about my new venture and I am looking forward to learning more about selling online and the intricacies of running a small business. I am hopeful that I will be relatively successful with selling the zipper pouches, but most importantly, that this experience will lead on to other things in the world of sewing. I am tentatively taking my first steps outside of my comfort zone. I am so grateful that I can share the start of my very small thing, that will hopefully turn into something wonderful and amazing as time goes by. I will certainly be sharing my experiences and progress along the way.

My First Nomination – Sunshine Blogger Award

A surprise nomination for a blogging award.

It’s been a wonderful surprise and a proud moment for me to receive my first ever nomination for an award. I’d never have imagined 6 weeks ago that I’d be writing a blog that people would enjoy reading, so this first nomination means an awful lot. A GIGANTIC THANK YOU to the fabulous Mrs.S.LDN for nominating me.

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I highly recommend that you take a cheeky look at this lovely lady’s blog at https://mrssldn.com/ She blogs about living in London, being married, her travels and her thoughts and feelings on life. It is a joy to read and she’s one of the bloggers where I eagerly await the next post. The only reason I don’t click like on every single post is for fear of being considered a stalker!

What is this award?

“What is this award, anyway??” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you: The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are inspiring and bring sunshine into the lives of their readers and fellow bloggers. I gratefully accept this award and will share the sunshine by nominating some of the bloggers who I feel shine the brightest in my life. There are far more than 11 but that’s the amount I have to choose, so I will save the others for another award when the time comes.

How it works – The Rules:

  • Thank the person(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award (making sure each one knows they are nominated) and write them 11 new questions to answer.
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Thank you for this interesting set of questions, Mrs.S.LDN. Here are my answers. I hope they don’t disappoint:

1) If you could be any other nationality, other than your own, which would you be?

Spanish. I adore the culture. The Spanish way of life is so relaxed, very family-orientated and they have a great work/life balance. I easily get stressed out, so I admire their relaxed disposition and zest for life.

2) If you could buy the holiday home of your dreams, where would it be?

Mauritius, which also happens to be our honeymoon destination. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to visit. Having the opportunity to own a holiday home there would be an absolute dream come true!! (Please take note all potential, generous benefactors).

3) Would you ever jump out of a plane? Parachute included 🙂

ABSOLUTELY! I’ve always wanted to skydive. The longer I leave it, the more pressure I feel to be a responsible adult and keep my feet placed firmly on the ground…I best get jumping out of a plane soon then!

4) If you could domesticate any wild animal to have as a pet, what animal would you pick?

Giant Panda – so that it could be as cute and cuddly as it looks.

5) What household chore would you like to never have to do again?

Laundry! It’s a job that never gets done because there will ALWAYS be something dirty to wash. No matter how much you try and keep on top of it, the laundry pile always wins!!

6) What’s your favourite cocktail?

Choosing a favourite is tricky, because I simply ADORE cocktails. I would have to say that my absolute failsafe is a Piña Colada – an oldie but a goodie.

7) Can you parallel park?

Yes. How well depends on the day, my mood, the car I’m driving, the weather…

8) What kind of food do you like to snack on?

Anything and everything!!! This is my problem!! I love food too much and I’m scared that my wedding dress will hate me for it.

9) Can you go a whole day without your phone or access to wifi?

I could go a whole lifetime without a phone or access to wifi. I think not being able to access so much information would make me less stressed and anxious in life.

10) Would you rather read the book or watch the movie?

Read the book. The characters in my head always look much better than the choice of actors/actresses in the films.

11) What is your signature dish?

A Sunday roast with all the trimmings.

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My Nominees

Now for the difficult part. I’ve managed to choose my 11 nominees and they are as follows:

  • Saturday Night Stitch – Hila has so much energy and a great thirst for life. It’s evident in every post. Plus, she looks AMAZING in her sewing creations. My goal is to sew AND look as fabulous as her in the future. #lifegoals
  • Olive and Clo – I’m absolutely blown away by Linda’s dedication, commitment, attention to detail and impeccable taste. Overall, her sweet and fun nature comes across so well on her site. A beautiful individual inside and out.
  • Carmen Sews – I feel as though Carmen is my older, American sister. Those few steps ahead, achieving all of the things that you have in mind to, but you’ve only just started your journey. Whenever I see that Carmen has achieved something fantastic in her sewing, it gives me the encouragement to carry on and succeed.
  • Thimberlina – The simple fact that Ali is from Yorkshire is enough for me! I had some of my best experiences studying and living in Yorkshire and the people are lovely. As if that wasn’t enough, she sews and plays golf! I love her passion for sewing and her involvement in the sewing community. That’s definitely something that I aspire to.
  • The Crafty Mummy – Kasia is just a bundle of joy. She was the very first person to reach out to me, via my Facebook page, when I first started on my sewing journey. These first few months of blogging and starting something new are the hardest, but I found her blog and her story so encouraging. Also, she has a successful business creating lovely products and her blog is filled to the brim with beautiful photographs. #businessgoals
  • Life as I Interpret It – An inspirational individual whose blog I find motivational. Also, such a lovely person who offers encouragement and support to others.
  • Paper Puff – SO creative!! I love seeing the next creation and admiring the patience and talent required to make cards with such a great level of care and dedication.
  • Sew Norfolk – Danie is a fellow Norfolk resident, so I immediately feel an affinity with her blog. She has started an Etsy shop, which is my next goal and I enjoy watching her progress with her projects.
  • Smile and Make – Lucy is simply inspirational! She is raising funds for brain tumour research in memory of her husband, through The Brain Tumour Charity: The Michael Barry Fund. Read more here: https://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/get-involved/supporter-groups/groups/the-michael-barry-fund/ Lucy’s handmade garments are spectacularly bright and unique and her passion for life and for fundraising is extremely admirable.
  • Crafty Crusader – When I read this blog, I feel as though I have found my London counterpart. This lady can turn her hand to baking, sewing, knitting, gardening and produce something great.
  • Self Assembly Required – Emily’s blog was one of the first I followed. It was through reading her posts that I found out about ‘The Bettine’ pattern and completed my first, me-made, dress. I love her enthusiasm and passion for sewing, plus the way she challenges herself with her projects. Whether that be with her choice of fabric or the different twists that she incorporates into the design. In my eyes, she’s definitely part of a group of sewists who set the trends in the sewing community and I avidly follow!
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Here are my questions for my nominees:

  1. Did you have any other names in mind for your blog (if so, what were they)?
  2. If you could choose a language to be fluent in, which would it be?
  3. What is the best joke that you know?
  4. When it comes to food, do you prefer sweet or savoury?
  5. Which blog post are you most excited to upload?
  6. What is your favourite project that you have completed so far?
  7. What was your last search on Google?
  8. What song can you not get out of your head at the moment?
  9. What is the best gift that you have received?
  10. If you were a superhero, what would be your superpower?
  11. What is your favourite day of the week?

To my nominees, you are free to accept or reject this award (no offence taken). Either way, you will continue to be a source of inspiration for me. To those of you who do take part, I’m looking forward to seeing your answers!

Pipeline Projects

Sewing project plans for 2017.

I’ve been extremely quiet these past two weeks due to life taking over and rudely intruding on my budding relationship with sewing. It was only a matter of time before this happened, but I was really enjoying the honeymoon period. Alas, preparing for and attending job interviews plus wedding planning (87 days to go) became a priority. I am pleased to report that I accepted the offer of a full-time job and will be starting at the beginning of May. It appears to be much more agreeable than my most recent job and involves a pay rise. HOORAH! More disposable income to plough into my new passion (I WISH! Have I mentioned that I’m planning a wedding??!!).

As a result of my new job, in 2 weeks time my sewing will be relegated to evenings and weekends (sob)! Until then, I am determined to enjoy uninterrupted sewing and complete AT LEAST 6 projects. I remain ambitious, as always! I am feeling rather apprehensive about the new job and sewing enables me to access my ‘happy place’. The 6 project challenge is as much about using sewing to control my anxiety, as it is about successfully completing each project and improving upon my skills.

Now…what does every enthusiastic sewist need in order to successfully complete a project?? Fabric, fabric and yet more fabric!! What a coincidence that I was visiting my mum over the Easter holidays and happened to accidentally, on purpose stumble into the renowned Birmingham Rag Market!! I giggle to myself as I write this, because I need no excuse to purchase fabric, but having a project in mind and being strategically placed in a specific location does always justify my purchases. I also stocked up on some haberdashery, as the prices were just too good to ignore. Here’s what I bought:

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My precious purchases
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Elastic, thread and needles – sewing staples

I must admit that I had become so excited in the build-up to visiting the Birmingham Rag Market that the actual experience was a bit of a let down. From what I recall from my regular visits when I lived in the Midlands, there were a variety of fabric stalls to choose from with lots of fabric choices, all competitively priced. When I visited last week, I struggled to find stalls that stocked fabric which weren’t solely used for curtains and upholstery. I eventually found a fantastic indoor stall that I would visit again, but the prices were not as reasonable as I would have expected. A lot has changed since I lived in the Midlands and last visited the rag market, so I may just have unknowingly missed some hidden gems.

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This fabric instantly called out to me! It’s 100% cotton and is so striking that I could not resist. I do like fabrics with unique designs, particularly if they are eventually going to become clothes that I will wear. I purchased 1.5 metres of this with the intention of turning it into a sleeveless top or a shirt dress for the summer.

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I was really chuffed with this find. It’s 100% cotton and I loved the fact that it gave more than a subtle nod to sewing. I purchased 2 metres of this fabric and hope to turn it into a skirt.

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This fabric is Poly-Cotton and was chosen by my fiancĂ©. It’s a little too busy and ‘pretty’ for my personal preference – is this a subtle hint about how he wants wife-to-be to start dressing?? I gave the Mr a choice between two and this was his favourite. I honoured his choice and purchased 1 metre, which will end up as a simple summer top.

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Definitely the ‘odd one out’ in my fabric purchases, this Poly-Cotton fabric is reserved for a project that is especially for the fiancĂ©. One of his stag dos will involve canoeing and he is insistent that he must be a pirate for this activity. Hence this material, which will become a bandana. I purchased 1 metre and expect to have sufficient fabric left over to make him another pirate-themed accessory.

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I’m a sucker for colourful zips

I did purchase an awful lot of zips. The black one will be used to fix a pair of my fiancĂ©’s jeans – this will be my first ever sewing mend using a sewing machine and I will of course let you know how I get on. The long, off-white zip is reserved for the skirt I have in mind to make, the long, turquoise zip is for a large makeup bag, whilst the other zips are for the zipper pouches I have started to make and will eventually be selling on my Etsy shop (updates on when this will open to follow).

Overall, I’m very happy with my purchases and cannot wait to get started on my 6 project challenge. My next task is to find some patterns that I like and that compliment my fabric, then it’s sew, sew, sew. Fingers crossed, the success of ‘The Bettine’ wasn’t just beginner’s luck. Either way, I’m about to find out!

The Bettine

A first attempt at a ‘Me Made’ outfit. ‘The Bettine’ by Tilly and the Buttons.

Pattern: The Bettine – Tilly and the Buttons.

Fabric: 2 metres of ‘Dog Print’ Cotton Sateen (Ivory/Black).

Supplier: The Textile Centre.

It’s official: 2 weeks ago I made my first ever dress – The Bettine!! I could not be more thrilled! It took me 2 solid days (9am – 5pm) of sewing to produce the finished article. It was SO much fun and less complicated than I anticipated. My main aim was to make it through the project without losing the will to sew again. For this reason, I took minimal photos, however I will document my next dressmaking endeavour with much more photos, in order to show the progression from fabric to finished article.

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I ensured that I pre-washed and pressed the fabric prior to cutting out the pattern. This meant that I could ascertain how much the fabric might shrink before I made the dress. I used a cotton sateen fabric which was very easy to work with and gave just the right amount of drape for the style of dress. I found the most time consuming aspect of constructing the dress (the pattern cutting) to be the most therapeutic. Carefully placing the pattern pieces onto the fabric in a particular order and cutting out the fabric pieces using my rotary cutter was very relaxing and surprisingly enjoyable.

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The one part I did struggle with was the threading of the elastic waist band into the body of the dress. I started from one hole, got all the way around to the other side of the dress (with great difficulty and effort) only for it to not come out of the designated hole! I rectified the issue by creating another discreet hole and doing some repair work, which was really simple and did not ruin the dress. I prefer my dresses to be above the knees, however the design leaves ample material for a much more modest hemline should you prefer it.

Unfortunately, due to my self-imposed Wedding Diet (3 months to go!!), the dress was too big for me (my hands are strategically placed during the photos in order to hide this fact). In hindsight, I should have re-measured myself beforehand but the dress has now gone to a lovely home. It became an Easter present for my mum and it fits her perfectly. She absolutely loves it and I am so happy to see something that I made being worn and enjoyed by one of my favourite people in the world.

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My thoughts on the pattern were that it was simple, the instructions were clear and there were some elements of challenge for the new sewist should they wish to give them a try i.e. pockets and shoulder tabs. A word of warning: although the pattern states that it is for beginners, there is an element of expectation that the sewist will be able to understand and execute some of the basic sewing skills. I am extremely grateful to myself for being patient and consolidating my skills by starting off with non-garment related sewing projects. This enabled me to get to grips with the basic sewing skills. Had I simply picked up a beginner pattern with no prior knowledge or practice, I would definitely have struggled and the process would have been tiresome and tedious.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable time was had and I intend to make another ‘Bettine’ in the coming weeks. This time, in my size so that I can have my very own ‘Bettine’ to wear. For now, I want to try my hand at a different type of garment and have decided that my next project will be a simple, sleeveless top. I have shortlisted a few patterns and will decide which best suits my choice of fabric. ‘The Bettine’ was a rip-roaring success and I highly recommend this pattern to all sewists, from novice through to expert.

Material Girl

It’s all for the love of fabric. The stash continues to grow.

Fabric, fabric fabric….I can’t get enough of it! I am a material girl, through and through!! Recently, I have been working with lots of different types of fabric, mostly because I will be setting up an Etsy shop by the end of April 2017. I have quite a few items lined up to eventually sell, however I have decided to start off with zipper pouches. They are very easy to make and I have decided that I would like mine to come in a variety of colours.

My fabric of choice for the zipper pouches is PVC coated cotton, as I really like the finished look that is achieved. I have also decided to start making garments, my first of which will be a dress. ‘The Bettine’ dress, to be exact, from Tilly and the Button’s pattern collection for beginners. I then have a simple, sleeveless summer top in mind for my second garment project.

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One of my fabric choices for a zipper pouch
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Fabric for ‘The Bettine’ dress (white) and sleeveless top (blue)

With each project, more fabric is required and I have thoroughly enjoyed looking at different fabrics, both online and in store. It’s really quite addictive (and expensive)! I get the distinct feeling that my love for fabric is only just beginning. If it’s wrong, I don’t ever want to be right!

Light Reading: Every Little Helps

A review of several sewing books that help at the start of a sewing journey.

So far in my sewing journey, I have learned basic sewing skills and consolidated them by completing projects of varying difficulty. My next step is to start making garments and my first pattern of choice is ‘The Bettine’ from Tilly and the Buttons. I was so excited to receive the pattern two weeks ago. I couldn’t wait to find the right fabric and get started as soon as possible. I opened the pack, took out the instructions and the pattern, then immediately froze.

The pattern looked so confusing that despite the clearly written instructions, I could not make head nor tail of what I was expected to do. I felt a sense of panic and the fact that I am a complete novice really hit home. I have never attended a dressmaking class and I had no interest in learning these skills when I was younger. My mother is a fine dressmaker and has the ability to create wonderful garments without ever using a pattern. This meant that she would be of minimal assistance if I required further support with understanding the pattern I had purchased. In short, I had no idea where to start and I felt a barrier to sewing evolving.

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My first ever purchased dress pattern

In order to ensure that my fear and inexperience did not get the better of me, I decided that it was time to read, read, read. I would carry out research and teach myself the skills I required to start making simple garments, using a pattern. To do this, I required books to guide and aid my progress in dressmaking. I set about researching the sewing books available for beginners. There are a plethora of books available for the novice sewist, so there is something that suits every personality and learning style.

After a comprehensive search, I ordered 3 books that covered multiple bases in the gaping chasm that is currently my dressmaking knowledge. They are: ‘Learn to Sew with Lauren: From first stitches to perfect projects’ by Lauren Guthrie (finalist in BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee), ‘Sewing Machine Basics: A step-by-step course for the first-time stitchers’ by Jane Bolsover and ‘Sew U: The Built By Wendy guide to making your own wardrobe’ by Wendy Mullin. These 3 books were exactly what I needed and contained information that I thought would be beneficial to my particular sewing journey.

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My sewing library

Each book has their individual strengths and combined, they provide me with comprehensive information on basic dressmaking and sewing skills. I will not be providing a detailed review of all 3 books, simply a general overview, as I believe that the usefulness of a book is determined by the requirements of the reader. I think that overall, for absolute beginners, any of these books could be used in isolation. The first few chapters of all 3 books go over the very basics – basic sewing kit, how to use your sewing machine, types of fabric, their composition and their uses, hand sewing and the stitches that you may need to use (back stitching, basting, etc.).

All 3 books are written in a clear and concise manner, providing adequate detail to ensure that the novice sewist understands how and why different techniques are performed/items are used. ‘Sew U’ concentrates solely on dressmaking projects, which is particularly helpful to me, as this is now my area of interest. The other 2 books have a mixture of garment and home decor projects, e.g. cushion covers. I will now give a brief overview of my thoughts regarding each book.

Sewing Machine Basics

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This book really focuses on how to achieve each project by using your sewing machine effectively. It also includes patterns for you to make the garments included in the book. The step by step instructions are comprehensive and supported with pictures, in order to further aid your progress in each project. There are comprehensive measurement charts provided for the garment projects, which I absolutely love. There is a good variety of projects for the complete novice, to the improving beginner. I really like the detail provided in this book, because I like to know as much as possible about whatever a subject may be.

Learn to Sew with Lauren

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The layout of this book is extremely well organised with projects categorised into the following sections: ‘Beginners easy peasy,’ ‘Improvers next steps,’ and ‘Improvers more tricky.’ The projects in each category reflect the level of difficulty. There are a variety of projects to choose from and each project builds upon the skills previously learned. A lot of thought has been put into this book, which is aesthetically pleasing (the photographs in this book are wonderful) and extremely informative, without giving information overload. Patterns are included for the garment projects.

Sew U

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My favourite chapter

This book is precisely what I need in terms of my dressmaking journey. It provides comprehensive, clear, well-written information and advice on all things dressmaking-related. It even has a section that explains how to express your creative vision if you want a tailor or seamstress to create clothes for you! Patterns are included for you to make the garments illustrated in the book.

My favourite chapter is completely devoted to patterns and it makes sense out of what appears to me to be nonsense. This book immediately puts me at ease when I think about making ‘The Bettine’ dress, because I can use it as a constant companion. In fact, this book makes me extremely excited about starting to make my own clothes and demystifies an aspect of sewing that initially appears to be so daunting and complicated.

General thoughts

I dip in an out of all 3 books, referring to one or the other, depending on the level of detail and explanation I require. There are some projects in these books that I may not attempt, simply because they are of little or no interest to me, e.g. making curtains and making roman blinds. What I like about all 3 books is that they can all be referred back to further down the line in my sewing adventure, when I am no longer a novice. This makes them, in my opinion, a good investment and money well spent.

I definitely recommend having at least one sewing book that you can use as a guide when you first start sewing. It can always be on hand during those moments of panic and they really help to build up your basic, traditional, sewing skills. I bought ‘Learn to Sew with Lauren’ from brand new, but I managed to source the other two second-hand at under ÂŁ3 for each. Due to this fact, I invested in all 3 books, however one book would have sufficed. I must say that the quality of the second-hand books were brilliant, just like new, but in order to ensure this was the case I did my research prior to purchase.

This is how I spent last week; reading through the chapters of these 3 books, consolidating my theoretical knowledge and understanding of basic sewing techniques. It turns out that it was time well spent, because once I finally returned to the sewing machine, theory met with practical and everything slotted into place. I achieved another ‘EUREKA’ moment and had the best time sewing. Here’s to sewing books: the handy companions that will remain by my side throughout my sewing journey.