Getting a kick out of our kits!
We’ve been thrilled with the response to our kits over the last few months. We’ve done three now – and although there’s more work involved than we’d anticipated (no, really!?) we think their reception more than justifies the effort. Thank you to everyone who’s given us feedback and encouraged us along the way! We can’t tell you how much we’ve appreciated your support.
There’ve been lots of comments and we’ve tried to take account of as many as we can. The Sew-along for our latest Summer Shirt Dress Kit was one idea – and we hope it helps those of you embarking on that project.
Of all the comments we’ve had, the one we’ve heard repeated most is how reassuring it is to see how a particular fabric works for a particular pattern design. Although we can’t sew up a sample for every fabric selected for a kit, we try to do at least a couple. It’s often the case that different fabrics give quite different results – all equally pleasing but in different ways – and we’ve tried to reflect that.
This week’s post tells the story of how I enlisted a bit of assistance in that department.
The importance of shape and size
We’re keen to be as inclusive as we can be with our kits and the feedback we’ve received has reinforced that approach. Style Arc’s standard 4 – 30 size range was an important part of our decision to select one of their patterns for our Summer Shirt Dress.
Individual body shape matters as well as size. It was seeing my bargain from Whistles worn by so many different people that prompted us to consider it as a design that might have a broad appeal.
I’ve mentioned my swimmer’s shoulders in various posts; likewise my bottom which seems to be disappearing underneath my wider upper hips. A customer wrote to me last month, saying her bust ‘resembles the foothills of the Alps’. In the world of ‘boobs as landscape’ mine are more like the Fenland fields where I live (albeit rather less muddy, I’d like to think).
As I wore my purple bargain over the winter, first one friend, then another, pointed at my dress in recognition:
“Oh – you’ve got my Whistles dress – I have it in [insert colour of choice]”.
It didn’t bother me in the least since we all have quite different styles and would have worn our respective versions quite differently. What was noteworthy however, was that each person who spotted me wearing ‘their’ dress had a very different body shape to me; busts, waists, hips – everything, really.
Of course one of the many joys of sewing our own clothes is that we’re in the privileged (if hard-won) position of being able to adjust our garments to fit. Having a pattern that’s the right size, is a good starting point. But although my friends’ comments didn’t add up to an exhaustive poll, they suggested that here was a design which might work across different body shapes too.
Many of you will know Judy from emails about orders you’ve placed and samples you’ve requested. Judy’s responsible for cutting and packing most of your orders and her bookkeeping skills keep our accountant happy. She’s a fabulous sounding board and helps us keep an even keel amid the inevitably choppy waters of a small business.
In real life, Judy knits up a storm – but she also sews. Fabric deliveries are always fun but I’ve learned to spot (and even predict) the goodies that will see her raise her eyebrows and elicit an “Ooooh” which translated, usually means “I wonder if there’ll be a couple of metres of that to spare…?”
Which is precisely what happened when we had a delivery of our lovely linens and other fabrics destined for our Summer Shirt Dress Kit.
“You like those?” I enquired innocently
“Ooooh, yes” Judy enthused.
“Why don’t you pick one to make up a version of our new kit?” I ventured, setting the trap.
“Hmm – I don’t know. This linen perhaps” she mused, fingering our ‘Solana’ paprika linen. “Or maybe this one. For a summer dress.” She eyed up the ‘Summer Haze’ cotton. “Yes. This one. Might that be OK?”.
“Yes of course. We could do a picture if it works – would that be OK?”
“Oh. Mmm. Well. OK then…”
I know. It was heartless of me. I know only too well what it’s taken to build up the confidence to take pictures of myself and post them in my blogs. It’s still a source of stress but I cope by acting as carefree as I can, on the basis that if I fake it, eventually I’ll make it. Plus so many of you share your pictures with us, I feel it’s only fair. The world of selfies will never be my comfort zone. But I do feel strongly about doing my bit to populate this corner of the internet with images of people who don’t necessarily conform to media norms of age, shape, size or appearance – but who nevertheless, look damned fine in the clothes they’ve created.
It helps to know I’m not alone. On Instagram there are hashtags that highlight people over fifty who make their clothes (#sewover50) and last month the #sewbravesewcialists tag had its moment in the spotlight. This was created by the inclusive Sewcialists site to showcase anyone braving a new fabric, technique, garment or style that pushed them out of their comfort zone. Despite our selfie suspicions, Judy and I both love the motivation behind these tags.
So this week, Judy’s being brave. #SewBrave month might have finished but who says we can’t be brave in June, too?
Judy’s brave make
Judy’s bravado manifests itself at a number of levels. For starters she describes herself as “Not a ‘dress’ person”; I can also testify to the fact that she’s anything but camera-hungry. However she entered into this project with fabulous good humour and. Here’s how she got on.
We had a joint photoshoot for our Summer Shirt Dress makes. In an effort to make the photography process as pain-free as possible, since the sun had come out for the first time this year we decided to head out to the garden with a jug of pink lemonade.
To amuse and relax us, we played the latest instalment of one of my favourite podcasts: Fortunately… with Fi & Jane. BBC radio journalists Fi Glover and Jane Garvey sit in the piazza outside the BBC building in London and heckle people coming and going. It’s blunt, laden with innuendo and provides belly-laughs aplenty; just what we needed. Also Melton turned up for the occasion.
Our own episode of ‘Unfortunately… with Alice & Judy’ warmed us up for bit of full-frontal photography. Except not quite. Here’s Judy in her Shirt Dress. The colour and pattern do suit her very well, as does the relaxed shirt style.
And here’s that lovely back pleat.
However capturing an actual full frontal of Judy proved impossible since when she puts on her ‘I really don’t like this’ face, it gets quite scary. Since I’d quite like ClothSpot to survive beyond the end of the week, you’re not getting one of those. Instead you get this, which is what happens when two women of a certain age head out for lemonade on a hot afternoon to have their picture taken.
Our photoshoot revealed that Judy wasn’t completely sold on her dress so I thought I’d quiz her on how she found the project. Here’s what she had to say.
Why did you choose this fabric?
I loved the colours and texture of the ‘Summer Haze’.
How confident were you with the style of the pattern and whether it would work for you?
I was slightly uncertain about it as I don’t wear dresses and couldn’t be sure I’d suit a shirt dress.
How did you find the making process?
I was pleasantly surprised to find the pattern quite straightforward – I was very pleased with the collar when I made it – and was proudly showing my family “Look, it looks like a *real* collar!”. I’d got the back pleat slightly wrong, but that was before we devised our simplified instructions for it.
What do you think of the result?
I love the look of the dress when it’s on a hanger, but I don’t feel like me in it!
Finally, what would you have done differently?
I think, as someone not used to wearing a dress, I should have gone for a more substantial fabric – such as one of the linens – for my first attempt. I couldn’t get used to the lightweight lawn being my only body covering.
Judy’s make was incredibly helpful. Not only did it showcase our kit in another fabric, but her feedback from the making process informed our Sew-along by highlighting areas we needed to focus on. Not least that pleat!
Moving on swiftly…
However at a personal level, there was just too much floatiness in Judy’s dress for her to absolutely love it. Despite its undoubted potential for conversion into a summer shirt, I hated her being even a little disappointed, having put in the effort to create a garment that she wanted to love.
Judy thought she might prefer something with a more structured fabric and with a more defined shape. One option was this ‘Sydney’ Designer Dress pattern from Style Arc which she’d loved the look of since it appeared earlier this year.
Although she might well come back to that, we discussed using a pattern with a set-in sleeve that might fit her narrow shoulders better. With that in mind, we clicked over to Tessuti Patterns and found their ‘Eva’ Dress pattern. This design has a semi-fitted bodice with a high waist and a lantern-shaped skirt. It runs up to Size 22 – not as great a size range as Style Arc’s but fortunately fine for Judy.
I despatched her with a length of our ‘Solana’ paprika linen – and look what she came back with!
Summer dress success!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Judy look so confident in a garment – the look on her face when she modelled the finished result was a treat. Here’s another shot.
The structure in this dress is assisted with top-stitched seams (not quite felled, but they’re similar).
Judy even made her own binding from the linen in order to finish the neckline and sleeve hems
Here’s what she has to say about it.
What is it about this pattern that you like?
I love the design of the dress – it’s very cleverly constructed to form that lantern shape. It also it has a sleeve option which can be extended – I made mine slightly longer.
What were the trickiest aspects of putting it together?
It was all quite straightforward, until I found I’d attached the bias binding for the lower hem to the upper edge of the lower panel by mistake. I had to remake a long length of binding to redo it properly. This meant I had to lose an inch or so from each of the lower panels, but the dress was long enough to cope with this!
How does it make you feel?
I love it – I feel like I’m in a sort of cocoon when I’m wearing it, and the linen feels wonderfully cool. You never know, I might even become a proper dress-wearer!
I absolutely adore Judy’s linen dress and I’m completely thrilled that despite a hiccup en route, she has a beautiful summer frock in which she looks and feels fabulous. If that’s not a great payoff for a bit of bravado, I don’t know what is.
Do you have garments that make you feel brave and confident? What pushed you to make the leap? We’d love to hear if there’s a garment that nudged you so far out of your comfort zone that you never went back.
I’m so excited that Judy’s stepped out from behind the cutting table – and hopefully you won’t have seen the last of her. Next post though, I’ll be back with my own ‘brave moment’. Thank you for dropping by!