Sunday, 29 December 2019

Sewing Top 5 of 2019

It's time for a round-up of 2019, and this year I'm using the Sewcialists SewingTop5 for the format of my post.

For this post I'm sticking to hits, misses, highlights and reflections, with goals coming next Sunday. So without any further ado . . .

Top 5 Hits
Sadly, this didn't require a lot of thought, or an agonising selection process, because I've only made five garments this year! Completing my Masters dissertation (it was a research Masters, so the 28,000-word dissertation was the main part of it) took up a lot of the year. On top of that, I spent six weeks living at my parents' house when my mum fell and broke her hip. She is my dad's carer, and looking after both of them left me with very little sewing time. (Any carers reading this, feel free to laugh/roll your eyes at the fact that this was a shock discovery for me!)

The grand total of this year's makes

Left to right: Wardrobe by Me Grace dress, hat made by taking a pattern from a bought hat I already owned, Butterick 5997, Vogue 8964, the frankenpatterned New Look 'anemone' dress.

The hat has probably been the biggest success - I wear it a lot. The anemone dress is only recently completed and is a summer dress so hasn't been worn yet, but I'm just super-pleased to have finally used some fabric which has been lurking in my stash for almost three decades!!

Which brings me on to . . .

Top 5 Misses
The biggest of these has been the failure of my latest plan to reduce my stash. I'm hoping to make a further reduction before 2020 begins, but it will only be tiny and won't budge the Stashometer out of the red.

The sorry tale

I did have a pattern lined up for the 'retro cotton from Wells', but both this and completing the curtains were shelved when I went to stay with Mum and Dad.

Obviously the plan to complete the anemone dress for the #sewbravesewcialists challenge in, ahem, May was an epic fail as well! Still, better late than never.

Butterick 5997 has sat on my alterations pile since it was completed, as the neckline is just too low for me. I've not come up with a fix that I like enough to spend the time doing it, and as I'm not happy with the massive overlap on the cuffs either, I can see this being donated to a charity shop in the near future.

My main 'miss' of 2019 though has been missing sewing. I've been making at least some of my own clothes for over four decades, and have been sewing in some form for closer to five, so simply not having the time to make things felt uncomfortable, to say the least.

Top 5 Highlights
This will have to be a 'Top 3', as it's been a quiet year. Top of the list of course is submitting my dissertation and completing my Masters. A combination of natural reticence and very old-fashioned Scottish schooling means that I'm really not comfortable blowing my own trumpet, but I know that some of you have been following my 'progress' since I first mentioned my Masters on this blog (thank you), so it seems only right to let you know that I got a Distinction. Also, I must add special thank yous to the following people: Lynn of American Age Fashion for your research on Mrs Exeter - I cited your Clothing Cultures paper; and Lauren Stowell and Abby Cox of American Duchess and Rebecca Olds of Timesmith Dressmaking for your information about the work of women in the past as professional dressmakers.

Mantua-makers hard at work

Talking of which, the Wedding Gown in a Weekend event at the National Museum of Scotland was defintely another highlight. Watching an entirely hand-sewn, made-to-measure dress come together as it would have been made in the eighteenth-century, over the course of two days, was just fascinating, and I learned so much.

At the end of the weekend

Finally, putting together the University Centre Shrewsbury banner was hard work but a real joy. The commitment of the individual block-makers to the project just shone through, and it was a privilege to be involved.

The banner

Top 5 Reflections
Again, I haven't got five things to list here, in fact this section is really just thoughts on one reflection; that sewing is a huge part of who I am, especially now that I make most of my own clothes. Home dressmaking provided the topic for my dissertation, and clothing exhibitions and events have frequently been the catalyst for holidays and trips away when I've been at a loss for something to do as a break. Having so little time to sew for much of the year did, at times, feel as though part of me was missing.

Over the last couple of weeks I have seen lots of articles reviewing the decade which is coming to an end, and it suddenly struck me that I have been a widow for over half of it. In the early days after Mr Tulip's death, sewing was a familiar and absorbing activity in which I could lose myself - for a little while at least. Judging from the stories shared in the Sewcialists' Who We Are - Sewing Through Grief series this year, I am not alone in this. The first garment I made which Mr Tulip never saw or heard about is getting a little shabby now, but I suspect that it will stay in my wardrobe for a long time because it is so much more than just another dress.

The first version of the CC41 dress

All things change over time, and that includes me - both mentally and physically. Over this last year I've become aware that the pattern alterations I have made as standard for years are no longer quite right, and I need to spend some time working out why. With sewing as a hobby, I am never short of something to do!


  1. Congratulations on completing your Masters degree, and with Destinction! From reading your blog I feel that Adrian would have been very proud and happy for you.
    I too have had a difficult decade, made it through, and am optimistic about the one to come.
    Happy New Year!

    1. Thank you Lodi! Yes, I'm looking forward to waving the teens goodbye and seeing what the twenties bring - hopefully good things for both of us!

      Happy New Year to you too.