Top 5s for 2013

I’ve been sewing all through 2013, but only started blogging about it in July, having discovered the sewing blogosphere and all its wonderful people. So now that the Top 5s of 2013 post meme has started going around, my list is a lot shorter than other people’s – for one, it’s only one post, as opposed to separate ones for hits, misses, inspirations and goals.

2013 has been a good year for me, and really converting sewing into a Proper Hobby has definitely played its part in that. It’s therapeutic to sit down at the machine and be able to concentrate on the physical intricacy of guiding the fabric through it, and it’s exhilarating to snip the final trailing threads and have a Finished Thing to show for my time.

I’m still a novice compared to many, obviously, but I feel I have crossed a couple of sewing milestones in that I now have more fabric than space to put it in and more patterns uncut than made up!

On to the listicle!


I can’t (won’t) provide an itemised list of links to my mess-ups because I’m not in the habit of photographing and blogging them, but also because a) there have been thankfully few of them, and b) the ones I can think of got abandoned fairly early, without much actually to show for the attempt.

The exception to this is the Harlequin jacket, that I was blogging about all excitedly way back in the summer. I’m not sure if it qualifies as a full-on failure – I’ll be keeping the lining and plan to re-do the shell – but it’s certainly a big false start and a salutary lesson in why knowing about fabric is a vital and way underrated skill. (And it is a skill, not some mysterious instinct.)

Frays. Badly.

Frays. Badly.

I originally loved the mysterious sheen of the black fabric I had, then came to hate it as I discovered that it cut weirdly, frayed like anything, and would melt into glutinous black puddles if put within three feet of an iron. I had loads of it, as well, which is now firmly relegated to the practice material section of my stash (~2m of it redeemed itself as a useful toile for the Thurlows). The other misfires I can think of also came down to terrible fabric. (Terrible synthetics, both times.)


This is probably the main thing I want to work on for 2014: getting better at gauging fabric quality before I take it home with me, and being able to pick out the cheap-but-good from the cheap-and-horrible. With that comes the related ambition of getting a better feel for how a fabric makes up into a garment – it can look and feel lovely on the bolt, but how does it drape? Will it co-operate with curved seams? Is it going to be a pain to press? That sort of thing.

Patterns I can cope with. There are instructions for those. Fabric, alas, seems like something you just have to learn.


This is much more fun!

1. Thurlow Trousers.

What's in its pocketses, precious?

What’s in its pocketses, precious?

Straight to the top of the list, easily. Partly because they’re fancy as anything and glorious to wear; partly because I’d completely forgotten what it was like to wear non-work trousers that weren’t jeans; partly because they involved mastering, or at least declaring a cautious peace with, techniques that intimidated me; and partly because I made trousers. In one swell foop the boundaries of my sewing repertoire feel like they’ve expanded considerably, and I’m already planning three more pairs.

2. Vogue 8772 #1, in cherry and black

Pattern matching 100% unintentional.

Pattern matching 100% unintentional.

My very first non-costume project. Has all the happy breaking-new-ground associations of the Thurlows and has also accrued points for being a wardrobe staple over the months when it was still warm enough for short sleeves. This is also one of the garments that consistently garners compliments from complete strangers, so I must have done something right.

5. 3 sir, 3! Lekala 5016 #2, in black and gold


All three of my Lekala waistcoats are on regular rotation at work, but I think the swanky black and gold version is my favourite. I made the right call with the detail panels: a whole waistcoat with gold flecks would have been too much even for my legendarily bizarre dress sense, but they’re subdued by the black self fabric, and the effect is fancy without being overwhelming. I wore this to a wedding in September with a black shirt and trousers, red jacket and red tie, and the bride told me I looked fantastic. I’m sure that’s not how it’s supposed to go …

4. The Eagle Cloak


Bit naughty including this as I have no picture or post to link to – I shall come back and edit a link in when I’ve got one. EDIT: Now done! This was a costume piece I made way back in January, and it’s had more use since than almost any of my other LARP kit. It hits all the LARP-kit targets of being dramatically eye-catching (it’s a giant cloak with a GIANT EAGLE on it), easy to fight in, supremely characterful and really damn warm, and other people think it’s awesome too.

5. The Glastonbury Shorts

The pocket lining on this was originally a sort off-white. It's now a sort of off-pink.

The pocket lining on this was originally a sort off-white. It’s now a sort of off-pink.

I lived in these shorts for quite large chunks of the summer when I wasn’t at work. They’re light, soft, alarmingly red and extremely comfy. Also, for a first attempt at wrangling elastic, and fitting my lower half, turned out remarkably well. And they have pocketses! They will also always hold a special place in my heart because of The Saga of the Glastonbury Shorts (see link), along with everything else about that whole sleep-deprived weekend.


In no particular order, five of the wonderful blogs, and, by extension, Internet Sewing People who have inspired me this year:

Did You Make That? – First one I found, via Karen’s now (sadly discontinued) columns for the Guardian. Quieter than it used to be since she got a new job, but still a rich source of tips, links and advice on fabric shopping.

Cyberdaze – When I first came to this blog I archive-binged pretty much the entire thing over the ensuing few days. I love the 80s/sci-fi/minimalist aesthetic, and am in awe of the complexity of some of the projects.

Cation Designs – I am slowly but surely seeking out other sewing nerds (haven’t yet found another LARPer, but it can only be a matter of time) and the amount of hilarious cosplay, nifty tutorials and general inventiveness on display at this blog is awesome.

Sewaholic – Useful tutorials, a welcoming space for general international sewing dialogue and, glory be, a source of reliable, well-drafted, easy-to-follow patterns for the wide of hip. I can only personally speak for the Thurlow Trousers, but people more into dresses rave about all of them.

Kazz – Now an archive only as Kazz has moved on to other things, but I wish I had that much confidence to be outrageous. And that much sewing/drafting skill. But mainly that much sheer pizazz.

Reflections and resolutions

1. Don’t sew when tired. This is a tricky one for me because so much of my sewing time is in the evening, after work and dinner, but tiredness and/or dehydration reliably end in my needing to reach for the seam ripper.

2. Don’t sew over pins. It will not end well.

3. Sew something. Even if I don’t have enough time to put in a proper sewing session, sitting down at the machine for five minutes and putting in one seam, or doing one buttonhole, still helps to alleviate the buildup of frustration I get when I haven’t had time to sew for a while. And it’s surprising how the five-minuteses pile up.

4. Check the thread tension! It needs to be different for different fabrics, and on my machine it will gradually loosen if not reset every so often. I always forget to do this, right up to the point I find myself starting at a wibbly mess of thread and wondering what went wrong.

5. This is supposed to be fun. If it’s not fun, stop. This is a maxim I try and apply to all walks of life that are supposed to be fun, but it’s something I have to remind myself about when sewing, as sometimes the urge to Be Finished or Do It Perfectly starts to overpower the actual enjoyment of the task. I’m not making things for money, or to hard deadlines – I’m making them because it’s fun.


So those are my thoughts on 2013 In Sewing. I am even now heading over to Crafting a Rainbow’s roundup thread to read other people’s.

And (perhaps obligatory) video: It’s Christmas Eve, babe …

About Craft (Alchemy)

I make things and make things up.
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3 Responses to Top 5s for 2013

  1. I have to make myself a pair of Thurlows I think! Found myself nodding with all your resolutions (except the machine tension one), very wise words 🙂

  2. Oh do show us the Eagle cloak!

    Thanks for the shoutout, and Happy New Year.

  3. Pingback: The Eagle Cloak | Craft (Alchemy)

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