Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Thoughts on the cost of sewing your own clothes

cost of sewing Su Sews So So

The general consensus around these bloggy parts is that sewing your own clothes isn’t cheap. For example, you can’t just take into consideration the cost for the pattern and the fabric, there’s all  the notions the project uses as well (thread/zips/buttons/interfacing etc). Plus the start-up for this hobby can be quite pricey – even your basic sewing machine doesn’t come that cheap. I’ve also learnt the hard way that buying cheap means paying in the long run – I recommend never buying cheap fabric shears or cheap thread, the money you save is just not worth the heartache!

I’ve always been aware that my hobby was a bit of a money pit (shhh…let’s keep that between you and me, my husband needn’t know!), but do you know, I have never sat down and actually worked out how much each of my projects has actually cost me.

Until the other week that is, when I decided I would do just that for my Autumn sewing plans (photo above). I was busy making plans for things I would like to make, but they all involved buying new patterns and new fabric, so I was concerned how much my ideas were actually going to set me back. To be honest, my initial reaction wasn’t good, probably because I added everything up and got a big stinking figure. But anything is going to sound expensive if you add a whole pile of things together. Looking at each garment cost individually it’s not actually that bad – a dress for £29.45 sounds fair to me. OK I could get something cheaper in some of the shops from the high street, but I would guess (hope?!) that the quality wouldn’t be as good, plus I wouldn’t have a say in the fit, fabric type or colour.

Of course there’s the argument that you need to factor in my time spent on making the clothes and an hourly wage – but if I did that then I would definitely be shocked at the cost! I’m happy to work for ‘free’ with the reward of something pretty at the end of it!

And they are only good value if I actually MAKE them!! I don’t even want to think about the number of patterns and amount of fabric in my stash all waiting to be used up. That’s when things start to get expensive. I see lots of bloggers talking about shopping their stash and going on a fabric diet, which is what I planned to do…only I didn’t really have any suitable ‘Autumnal’ fabric in my stash. There’s always an excuse isn’t there?! I suppose every hobby has it’s costs though doesn’t it?

I think I will try and keep a tally of how much each project costs from now on though, and will list this when I blog about new makes.

I’ll tell you one thing, it’s hard to stop buying new patterns and fabric, when there are so many wonderful and inspirational sewing blogs out there, tempting me with their latest creations!!!

How about you? Do you keep a close eye on your costs? Do you work out how much each project ends up costs? And do you go on fabric diets (or maybe fabric binges?!!)?

Friday, 25 October 2013

Sewing with a different attitude

Although I have been back from my honeymoon now for about 3 months, I haven’t actually had much on the blog to show for it. My friends and family suggested that after the immense amount of sewing and crafting that I put into the wedding I should take a well deserved break. So they were a bit surprised to hear that I have already got back to the sewing machine – hey, I was away on honeymoon for 3 weeks, surely that was enough of a break? You guys know what I mean, right?!!

Floral Skirt Collage Su Sews So SoOne thing that has changed though, is my attitude to sewing. Over the last 12 months I have been sewing with a very distinct deadline and (in my usual style) crammed an awful lot into the last month or so before the wedding. It stressed me out a lot and I started to loose the enjoyment that I used to get from sewing. So I have been trying to tell myself to just relax and remember what it’s like to slow down and take pleasure in each step – after all, it is my hobby!

The first thing I started working on when I got home was a version of Gertie’s Pencil Skirt, from her book Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing, made up in the gorgeous floral cotton sateen (see above). I have been taking my time and paying attention to all the details, and really enjoying it. When I first started making it one of my colleagues in work asked if I was sewing anything, so I described the skirt to them. A week later they asked again, and initially I felt a bit embarrassed that I was going to have to admit that I hadn’t really made much progress on the skirt since they last asked – but then I realised that I have no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed that it has taken me a couple of months to make a simple pencil skirt* – who cares?! I know that, if I had to, I could whip up a simple pencil skirt in an afternoon. But I’m making it for me, taking my time to make it perfect and there is no deadline, so there is no need to get stressed about it. When it’s done, it’s done, and I’ll be happy that I have a new skirt, but until then, I’m happy I have a little project to work on! Currently it is waiting for me to blind-hem the floral fabric, and hem the lining (with some lovely lace). I’ll get around to it eventually!

Washi red

Because I have always hated hemming, I might have got a little bit distracted and started another project! I am also currently making a Washi Dress out of a heavy burnt red linen which I’m hoping will be a good layering piece during the Autumn/Winter, and be a much needed addition to my everyday wardrobe since I currently can’t fit into half of my clothes (no lie people!). Again, I’m taking my time and just fitting in a wee bit of sewing whenever my life lets me, and I’m not stressing about getting it done asap.

Another thing that has often made me feel under pressure to finish projects is the blog. There are so many fantastic sewing blogs out there these days, and some sewists are able to churn out project after project so quickly! Because of that there is always that little feeling that if you aren’t keeping up, you will get left behind. But along with this new attitude to sewing I have also adopted a much healthier attitude towards my blog. My blog is here to document my sewing, rather than having to sew to fill-up my blog – and if there are readers out that who enjoy it then that’s all the better!

So, how about you – do you ever find yourself stressing over a project, perhaps with a deadline, and loosing the enjoyment from your hobby? Or do you ever feel the pressures of having to create content for your blog (for those of you who’s blog is not their job…that’s a different matter! lol)?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

DIY I Do : 10 tips for doing your own Wedding make-up

Now I know that this isn't sewing or crafting related, but it is essentially a DIY so I thought I'd add it to my DIY I Do series.

I don't wear a lot of make-up in day-to-day life so I was a bit nervous about getting my make-up done professionally for my wedding and ending up looking nothing like myself. A couple of years a go I was a bridesmaid for a friend and she brought in a make-up artist to do all of us. I ended up looking nothing like myself and feeling very uncomfortable, and in fact, my husband made me promise to not get my make-up done anything like that for our actual wedding as he said he hated it!

But I did get a couple of make-up trials done for my wedding when I was still deciding what to do about the whole make-up thing, and each time, even though I tried my best to explain that I wanted it very soft, I always ended up looking odd. So in the end I did my own make-up. Now, as I mentioned, I don't really wear much make-up so the whole make-up world was a bit foreign to me, but I did my homework and I thought I'd share a few suggestions for anyone else who may be going through the same though process as I did.

DIY wedding makeup


1. Watch You-Tube videos! This became a bit of an obsession for me once I discovered them! There are millions of videos out there that guide you through from the very basics of foundation application to blending eye shadows and how to get the perfect eyeliner. A few of my favourites are:

-  Jaclyn Hill - especially this video

- Lisa Eldridge

- Tanya Burr

- Goss Makeup Artist

- The Makeup Chair

RS wedding 042

2. Invest in a few decent brushes - this is so important as the right brush can make applying your make-up so much easier. Through the you-tube videos I discovered Sigma and Blank Canvas Cosmetics brushes, which are similar to, but cheaper than, the infamous MAC brushes. Blank Canvas also have some double ended brushes which save money and space.

RS wedding 033

3. Invest in a MAC make-up lesson. I was completely new to the world of MAC and assumed it would be like every other make-up counter where you get a free make-up application and then get pressurised into purchasing all their products. Nope - you have to PAY for that service…and in Belfast there is a massive waiting list too!! When I discovered this I was a bit put off and didn't know if it was a good idea or not. But actually, if you know you are likely to buy something from MAC it's not such a bad idea as the cost for the lesson actually gets deducted from a purchase afterwards (but you can't get a refund if you don't' buy anything). So I decided that, because I wasn't going to have a make-up artist on the day, I would spend that potentially saved money and take my Maid of Awesomeness (the new name I gave my Maid of Honour!) along and we would both get a make-up lesson and then purchase some of the products to use on the day. So sort of a win-win situation!  Now make sure you explain that you don't want anything too strong. I don't think my MoA explained that well enough as she ended up looking a bit drag queen (MASSIVO black eyebrows!), but I went on and on about wanting a soft look, and ended up with really lovely make-up. Oh - and don't forget to go out for cocktails afterwards!

RS wedding 043

4. Practice! Yep, the old saying 'practice makes perfect' - I tried out so many different styles, specifically eyeshadow. The whole eyeshadow blending thing was very new to me so I had to just keep practicing until I found something I liked.

RS wedding 036

5. Each time you try a new look, try and write down which products you used and how, and then take a photo. Make-up always looks different in a photograph than in real life and you are going to get photographed a LOT on your wedding day, so it's important that it translates well. Having photos of each look you try is also great for deciding which look to go for too.


6. Try and get a foundation without any SPF in it as apparently this reflects back in flash photography and gives you a white face - not a good look!! I used a MAC face and body foundation.

236xNxallnighter jpg pagespeed ic Qn6Zj05uK3

7. Invest in a setting spray. This is like hairspray for your face - it keeps everything in place all day so you don't have to keep running to the bathroom to touch-up! I used an Urban Decay one and it worked really well.

RS wedding 039

8. The week before your wedding, run through the make-up look you have decided on a few times and make sure you know exactly what you are going to do. Put all of your products in a special bag or box (I used a retro tin lunch box…which I FILLED with my products…yes, I had a LOT!!) and don't take anything out (or at least make sure you put it back if you use it!!!). That way you will know that you definitely have everything you need in the one place.

RS wedding 049

9. OK, this one may seem a bit OCD, and my photographer laughed at me when she saw it - but I tell you I was so pleased that I did this. Write down a list of every step of your make-up look…even the basic steps, like washing your face and putting on primer. Each time I was running through my chosen make-up look I kept missing out a step, and it was always a different step that I would miss out! So I decided to write every single step down (yes, even washing my face). And it was honestly the best thing because on the day I was pretty nervous and my brain actually went blank and I couldn't remember the steps at all - but I just had to refer to my step-by-step guide and it came back to me!

RS wedding 068

10. If you are not getting ready at home (my family and I stayed in rented cottages near the wedding venue the night before) make sure you find a spot  to apply your make-up that has really good natural light. It might be a good idea to bring a free standing mirror with you so that you can prop this up on a window sill for example. And make sure you have lots of room to lay out all your products so they are easy to see and you're not rooting through a bulging bag for each item, that will only lead to stress! 

Su Sews So So Make Up 1

If you were thinking about doing your own make-up for your wedding I say DO! The money I would have spent hiring a make-up artist I invested in products which I'm still enjoying the benefit of now and I learnt a new skill too!

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Red Hot Bombshell Dress ;)

I actually made this dress last year and posted this photo up on the blog, with promises to do a proper blog post about it asap:

bombshell dress

Roll on 15 months and I still haven’t blogged about it, so I thought I had better get on with it. Only problem being that I really wanted to take better photos of the dress, but guys – it was pretty figure hugging when I made it…and now it doesn’t fit me! Argh! So you guys will just have to make do with what photos I do have.

This is the Craftsy Bombshell Dress, taught by the very talented Gertie who, I have to say, is a brilliant teacher. The course covers very advanced couture techniques, way beyond my normal sewing skill level. But Gertie takes you through ever step slowly and clearly explains exactly what you need to do and I really would recommend it if you are looking to improve your sewing skills and challenge yourself.

A lot of people have already taken this class and given really good reviews so I won’t go into too much detail, but some of the techniques which I learnt and have found really useful are:

- Using carbon paper to trace seam lines

- Having massive seam allowances and thread tracing your seam lines – this allows for a very accurate fit and is really useful at the fitting stage (see below pic)

Bombshell cups

- Creating a muslin and using this as the underlining to your fashion fabric – and being able to write info on these (like numbering pieces and showing grainlines – see above pic), so so useful!

bombshell shell

- Using batting to pad bra cups – butting seams together (see red zig-zag stiches in above pic)

- Using stay-tape to reinforce curved seams (see above pic)

- Using spiral steel boning – and raiding my husbands tool kit for the job!

- Adding a waist stay and zip guard – both really helpful for getting in and out of the dress.

I used a lot of the skills learnt on this course to help make my Wedding Reception Dress.


I decided to add a basic halter neck strap to my dress, as I find this more flattering on my body shape than strapless. I was planning to wear the dress to a friends wedding and, as per my usual style, was doing everything last minute – so the halter neck was the last thing I did – and I was sewing it to the dress on the morning of the wedding! Gertie suggests adding buttons to the inside of the dress, and button holes on the ends of the straps, so that you can have the option of strap or no strap, but I didn’t have the time, so I just hand stitched it in quickly. I also just used a strip of fashion fabric, plus some muslin, but no interlining to strengthen it. This turned out a bad idea as over the course of the day the strap creased and folded and didn’t look as good. The stitching also came undone during the night! Thankfully the strap is only decorative so I didn’t have to worry about the dress actually falling down!


Apart from the strap issue I really do love this dress – I think a large part of that is due to the fabric I chose, which is a cotton that I picked up when I was in Thailand a few years ago. I do, however, have a few criticisms on the dress style and the fabric choice. Although the fabric is a lovely pattern, it’s actually a bit gauzy, and as such I have found that I have to be careful not to catch the dress on anything while wearing it or it can easily get holes in it. And as for the pattern – in these photos, which have been carefully selected, it is a very flattering dress. But in reality, it is not flattering to my rather small bust size (they are rather squashed and I look flatter than normal) and the gathering at the waist actually makes me look like I have a pot-belly! I suppose that is one of the risks you take when you make your own clothes and are trying a new pattern/style – you don’t really know how it will look on you until you have it made up!

That being said, it’s still one of my absolute FAVOURITE makes and one that I am very proud of! If you haven’t taken the Craftsy class, I recommend it thoroughly.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

DIY I Do : A Secret Embroidery Project

Well, I've got most of the major sewing and crafting DIY I Do projects blogged, but I actually still have lots of other little projects that I did for my wedding that I'd like to document on my blog. I know post after post after post of wedding related things can be a bit tedious (unless you love weddings or are planning a wedding!) so I'm going to just slowly post these in between regular posts. For anyone coming to my blog specifically for wedding related posts, I've added a page link at the top that will take you straight to all wedding related things - enjoy!

IMG 0892

OK, so this was just a fun little extra project that I decided to do as a little surprise for my then FiancĂ© to see on the day while he was getting ready. I thought it would be a really cute idea to embroider our wedding theme image of the RS rope (see original here) as well as the date on to the inside of his waistcoat. Now, I have never really done any embroidery ever before so I was a bit nervous about just embroidering straight onto his waistcoat and messing it up, so I ended up using a scrap of the silk dupion that I made my wedding dress out of and stitching that onto the lining instead. 

IMG 0895

It was just a simple back stitch in navy, with a heart outline in ivory, but I was really happy with the result. It was kind of fun sneaking up to the sewing room to make this and then trying to get hold of his waistcoat while he wasn't looking to sew it in, and then replace it without him finding out. As I said, this was quite last minute and I think I did this one evening about a week or two before the wedding!

RS wedding 054

I'm really pleased I decided to give it a go as it added a very cute personal touch to his outfit and has also given me a bit of bug for embroidery - I shall be trying it out again soon!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Form Forgiving Sewing Patterns

My post topic from last week on sewing and weight changes struck a chord with quite a few of you and it was great to hear peoples views on the subject. It was also interesting to see quite different approaches to the situation. Some of you declared that I should embrace the present and just enjoy making clothes for my current size – life happens and sometimes going back to your younger weight just isn’t realistic or possible. Others suggested to think about trying to sew some garments that would work for my current weight but would also still fit if I were to loose a little bit – for example sewing some knit pieces.

I have to admit that the latter appealed to me somewhat more – I realise life happens and we do change weight and shape over our lifetime, but I’m just not ready to accept that yet! So with that in mind, I thought I would look into what patterns I could work on now, that would also work well if I lost a little bit of weight, and not end up look like I’m wearing something too big. Now, this is relevant to the particular areas that I tend to put on weight – my tummy, bum and thighs, so perhaps the patterns I list might not be as appropriate for you (if you are in a similar situation to me and also thinking about what to make). Here are a few patterns that I think would transition well (with an eye on the current Autumn season as well):

Coppelia Cardi - Papercut Patterns

The Coppélia Cardi, from Papercut Patterns. A really great wardrobe basic with a wrap detail which would essentially mean you could tie it tighter when you shift a few pounds!

123A BS 1011 B

Staying with the wrapped garment theme, how about this gorgeous Wrap Dress, from Burda Style (long version here, on the US site, although I’m not a fan of the fabric they chose!). I have been in love with this dress since it’s first appearance back in 2011, but they recommend wool crepe and when I went to buy some I couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money!!!


How about the lovely Tova, lengthened into a dress, by Wiksten? There are some really lovely versions out there of this pattern and I have had it in the back of my mind for awhile. I could imagine this in a nice Chambray, layered with thick tights and boots and a cosy scarf for Autumn/Winter, but it would work equally as well as a Spring/Summer dress too, paired with sandals and sunnies – so the potential to get lots of use out of it!


Also by Wiksten, but not actually released yet (she hopes do to so before Jan 2014), is the Marguerite Dress. Slightly fitted bodice but a gathered skirt, but the bonus is the ties at the back, which would mean you could tighten the dress to fit as you loose the weight (or loosen them if you put the weight back on again! lol).


Or how about the Washi Dress, by Made By Rae? Similar to the Tova and Marguerite, but with pleat details. Again this would work well layered up for Autumn/Winter or on it’s own for Spring/Summer. I have a lovely burnt red coloured linen in my stash that I’m tempted to make up in this pattern.

OK – not sure how this suggestion will go down. I was drawn to Gertie’s gorgeous gathered skirt because there would be no hip/thighs/bum fitting issues (and after wearing my Cambie and Wedding Dress I have fallen in love with wearing full skirts – so much fun!), but I realise that the waistband is fitted. So either, you make it in your current size and then if you loose an inch or so around the waist you just wear it further down. Or, how about making the back waistband with elastic? That way it would fit a few different waist sizes. Yes…I realise that this suggestion does have the danger of turning a fab skirt into a granny skirt. What do you think?

Image of Archer Button Up Shirt

Perhaps this is the perfect excuse to finally get around to sewing a shirt? I’ve opted for the Archer Shirt, by Grainline, but any loose fitting shirt would work.


A lot of knit patterns would work well since knits are so forgiving, but I’ve picked the Renfrew from Sewaholic since it’s such a popular sewing bloggers choice – and I’ve yet to jump on board. Maybe now is the time?

Victoria Blazer « By Hand London

The Victoria Blazer from By Hand London could be a great option for a jacket which has quite a loose, slouchy fit.

There are many more of course, but these are few that are currently on my radar. I’m quite excited about trying some of these garments. My style has always been very much the whole pencil skirt/shift dress/skinny jeans look and I would veer away from looser fitting clothes, so it’s a step out of my comfort zone – and everyone says you need to step out of your comfort zone now and again. Perhaps I will discover and develop a new style for this stage in my life. Another positive I’ve thought about these clothes is that they will serve me well (for the first few months anyway) if I’m fortunate enough to become pregnant as they are all quite forgiving around the tummy!

Finally I just want to state that this post is in no way a discussion on what is a “good size” and what is not and it is certainly not meant to promote or champion weight loss nor to imply that any weight is more/less desirable than another. Everyone is different and has different approaches to life (which is part of what makes life great!), and this is just my own personal situation at the moment.

So does anyone have any other pattern suggestions that would work well? I’m keen to discover more!

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