The Queen of UFOs

My Mum. Where to begin? She’s kind, caring, efficient, hardworking, etc etc, but one thing I didn’t know about her until recently is that she has a HUGE stash of unfinished projects (UFOs). Take, for example, the cardigan she’s yet to finish for my brother. She started it before he was born. He’s now 38. pattern backShe recently gave me a package she’d found in the loft containing everything needed to make this incredible vintage pattern. It appears to have been a freebie from Woman’s Weekly, and contains four different skirt views and a pair of trousers. The pattern is a size 12, and is for a 26″ waist. I like to think of myself as a size 12, but my waist hasn’t been 26″ since I was a teenager. Or earlier. I won’t be finishing this project. co-op zip From the accompanying Co-op paper bag, we can deduce that this zip was bought in Hull Co-op in 1976 for the princely sum of 23p. I love the Co-op’s by-line on the bag “The Sign of a Modern Store”. vintage fabric The most nostalgic part of this find for me is the orange tailor tacks. You see, when my Mum taught me to dressmake in the early 1990s she instilled in me the importance of marking darts and other features with tailor tacks. We had a huge spool of orange cotton that was used in every garment I ever made as a teenager.  Mum thinks it came from her great-aunt who was a seamstress. I can still remember feeling a bit sad when it eventually ran out. tailors tacks Are you a starter or a finisher? Can you beat a UFO from 1976?

A Book Review, A Girl’s Dress, and a lot of Swearing

Greetings, sewing chums. It’s been a while. Work and life have got in the way of blogging, but I have been beavering away in the background on a few projects. Today I bring you two firsts: a book review and a girl’s vintage-style dress. Spoiler alert: it involved a LOT of post-watershed swearing.

I was given ‘Sewn With Love: Classic Patterns for Children’s Clothes and Accessories’ by Fiona Bell a couple of Christmases ago. Despite being filled with gorgeous vintage-styled patterns for kids, It’s been languishing on my bookshelf while I gorged myself silly on selfish sewing. After a number of heartfelt pleas  to “make me a dress please, Mummy”, I gave in.

Sewn With LoveI don’t think of myself as a novice sewist these days, which made the problems I encountered all the more annoying. First off was a PDF pattern that was fiendishly hard to assemble. I’ve cut and stuck my fair share in recent months and I’ve always found the quality of indie PDF patterns to be really high. This was not the case. The margins were tiny, and pieces were laid out in the least economical way possible. There was an absence of standard pattern markings.

The written instructions were sparse, accompanied only by the vaguest of sketch drawings. Thankfully I’ve learned enough over the past couple of years to make an educated guess. The least satisfactory of fudges was the bottom of the button band extension. I had a couple of attempts, and gave up on the basis that it would not be noticeable.  I am hoping all will become clear when I attempt the cuffs on my next big project: The Grainline Archer.

button extension

I did wonder if anyone who actually makes clothes had proof-read the book. Other irritating errors and omissions included metric/imperial measurements that didn’t tally  (for example the option of 1cm or 1/2″), and interchangeable non-standard seam allowances of 5 or 10mm. The fabric requirement was huge and not proportionate to the pattern sizing; I probably had at least 1.5m too much. The final straw was the pattern piece for bias binding the neckline that was at least 4 inches too long.

No doubt, the images in the book are lovely. It’s an aspirational craft book, rather than a serious sewing book. It’s put to shame by the quality of independent companies, who create patterns with clear instructions and easy-to-assemble PDFs. In the spirit of adventure I would probably attempt another dress, but would know to expect that the instructions were merely suggestions. I did enjoy making a scaled-down dress, and threw in an alteration for good measure by adding an inch to the length of the bodice to accommodate my tall girl.5o's girls dress

As you’d expect, my daughter absolutely loved her girly, twirly dress, so the adventure was worth it! I shall be taking Patrick Grant to bed tonight to console myself: Mothers’ Day came early this year with the arrival of the new GB Sewing Bee book in the post and it looks fantastic….. What’s been your worst ever sewing pattern experience and are you ready to cope with the end of another series of the GBSB?!