Word has been creeping out about this, but we are now ready to make our Big Announcement.
We Are Moving!
The time has come to move out of The Minories and into a new home. We have spent 6 happy years in our current location but we have outgrown the space we’re in now. The high street is changing and our business has grown and developed in new and exciting ways in the time we have been here.
We will still be providing top notch workshops, with expert tutors, a truly friendly welcome and incredibly tasty cakes. And we shall still have a carefully curated selection of fabrics and haberdashery that will meet the needs of the workshops we run and the patterns we create.
But opening the ‘shop’ at more selected times will enable us to focus on producing more patterns and developing the business in a more sustainable way. Our long term vision is not only to help people improve their sewing skills but to enable them to learn different crafts as well, and to help them develop their own creativity and enhance their mental wellbeing too.
The move will mean a bigger studio with more space for different types of workshops, all on the ground floor, and with free parking right outside the studio too, so no need to worry about over-running your parking ticket!
Our new home will be on the Alscot Estate just on the edge of Stratford upon Avon on the Shipston Road. A beautiful drive down the farm track will take you to a group of converted farm buildings that house a range of other businesses. Our New Studio is 3b on the Grove Business Park in Alderminster.
Now we have the keys and the work of transformation has already started turning it into an oasis of crafting calm. We will let you know how the renovations are going and keep you posted on social media.
We will be closing the doors at the Minories on Saturday 7th April and will be opening the news doors of Sew Me Something at The Maker’s Space Studio at Grove Business Park for our lovely SASSY Club Members on Wednesday 18th April. So all workshops listed on our website after this date will be in the lovely new studio. You will still be able to buy fabric, patterns and everything else online while we are in the process of moving.
I appreciate change is not everyone’s cup of tea but our new location is really easy to find and once we have worked our magic there it will be a fantastic space offering creative workshops and training for other local businesses. I am so excited about all of the new things we are going to be able to offer here.
So please watch this space for more exciting news…
We have had a couple of major events back to back hence the time it’s taken to put fingers to keyboard and blog about the wonderful weekend we had on the Sewing Retreat.
It really was a weekend of sewing bliss. I firmly believe everyone learnt from it too, including Claire-Louise and me.
There was a diverse range of projects on the go from day one including, trousers, jackets, a coat, a jumpsuit, various tops and even children’s wear too, which reflected the different levels of ability and sewing confidence. It also kept CL and me on our toes as we never knew what was going to be asked of us – just the way we liked it!
It was also a great opportunity to see how others dealt with the tricky issues of fit. Because let’s face it there is rarely a pattern out there that doesn’t require some form of major adjustment or even minor tweak somewhere. There were more than several occasions where a small group had gathered to talk through some fit challenges faced by someone in particular. Claire-Louise and I helping them sort out their own problems definitely helped the others see their way through some thorney sewing and fitting issues too. Sharing different methods of alterations and pattern adjustments helped us all make more sense of our own body shapes and how we fit our own clothes better.
It was also lovely to be able to see another professional tackle sewing challenges as well. Having two heads come at the same problem from different perspectives I think really helped the Retreaters make sense of things too. I felt reassured by CL being there, and although from different backgrounds, mine fashion and CL costume, seeing her deal with issues in a similar way affirmed my own way of sewing and teaching style.
Several of the early risers made use of the pool for a refreshing swim before breakfast and on Saturday night some of the retreaters returned to the sewing room after dinner and they kept us there until gone 10:30pm! Hardcore sewing! But that is what the luxury of a retreat is all about. You could sew as much or as little as you wished and we were there to help every step of the way.
The response from the lovely ladies on the retreat has been overwhelmingly positive. All have enjoyed their weekend and learnt things they never knew before. Their confidence has grown and they have achieved even more than they’d hoped.
We have also learnt from the weekend and will be able to improve on this one for the NEXT Sewing Retreat.
Yes, we are going to do this all over again in August. So if you weren’t able to join us in February, come and sew with us over August Bank Holiday. If you want to treat yourself, improve your sewing and meet some wonderful people you will not be disappointed!
I know this might sound like telling my Grandma how to suck eggs, but it is an issue we come across time and time again in our workshops. So I thought I would just go over my method to see if it can help you too.
Now I also know that not everyone likes to pin out their patterns on to the fabric and they use weights and a rotary cutter instead – that’s absolutely fine. If you do prefer to pin, and I must admit I do, then there is an easy way of doing it.
We find sometimes in our workshops there is a temptation to try and lift up the pattern and fabric and slide your hand in underneath so you can feel where the pin is as you pin the paper pattern to the fabric
However, this can distort the fabric laying underneath the pattern as you’re lifting it. The easiest way to pin a pattern to the fabrics is this:
Lay all your pattern pieces out onto your fabric first before pinning. You can double check everything is in the correct place – all the pieces that need to be on a fold are on a fold and that all the grain lines are parallel to the selvedges, and that you have enough fabric to fit all the pattern pieces on.
Start by pinning the corners of the pattern piece. Try and keep the pin diagonally across the corner as this will hold more of the pattern paper flat.
Ensure that the whole pin sits on the paper and doesn’t hang off the edge. Even just 1mm over the edge of the paper could potentially get caught on your precious fabric shears and leave them with a frustrating notch in the cutting blade and render them useless.
Next look at any long edges on the paper pattern that might lift up and then pin along those.
Space your pins roughly a hand width apart and make sure they sit parallel to the edge of the pattern paper.
Curves are next and usually only two or three pins will suffice. Too many pins may distort the edge of the pattern paper and make it trickier to cut the fabric.
Once your pattern is in place you’re ready to cut!
Remember to throw out any blunt or bent pins as they are just plain annoying and of no use to anyone!
There are no hard and fast rules in sewing really, whatever works best for you. But these are just a few tips I have picked up over the years and I hope they work for you.
Do let me know how you get along with pinning. Are there any tips that work well for you? Or anything you’re not sure about?
This is one of the sayings my Grandma used to come out with. Some of her others were, “That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” and “When life throws you lemons, make lemonade.” And all of them are true!
You really can’t pour from something that is empty, in other words continuing to look after everyone else without looking after yourself will leave you an empty vessel – tired, irritable and unhappy. You can’t keep giving and not replace what has been given. It is so important to remember that a little bit of self care goes a very long way. After all the in-flight safety demonstrations always say put your own oxygen mask on first before helping anyone else.
So why can this make us feel so guilty? Maybe it’s because I’m a Mum? After all they pass you the bundle of guilt that goes along with the baby as soon as it’s born! Or is it just that I have been brought up to put others before yourself?
This is something I have been asking myself a lot recently. Since Charlie’s accident, or the Bearded One’s Attempt to Fly as it’s known in our house. I have been doing a lot of ‘looking after’. Charlie, obviously, the kids, my business, his business, our finances, the chickens, the cats, extended family… the list goes on. And that’s fine I’m really not complaining. I am happy to do all of this, it’s my life I’m looking after.
Or is it? I have struggled to make time for myself in all of this and that is neglecting an important part of my life – Me. I have felt incredibly guilty about having time away from home or work. No-one else makes me feel this way, I am more than capable of doing it all by myself, but I am learning to be kinder to myself. To lower the somewhat unachievable expectations I have of myself and to allow myself to just be. I’m even scheduling it in to my day now.
I am getting up half an hour earlier so I can have a peaceful cup of coffee reading and planning my sewing projects.
Yes I am going to make time to sew just for me, something I rarely have a chance to do. Well I say that but it’s up to me isn’t it. How I decide to spend my time is, up to a point, my decision. So I have decided to allow myself some time during my week to sew for me. It might not be every week and that’s OK.
This is me giving myself a hug and saying “it’s alright to leave the dishwasher for a couple of hours. It’ll still be there when you get back. Now why isn’t that collar sitting right? And how are you going to fix it?”. We can be a best friend to ourselves or our own worst critic and I know I’d much rather have more friends, even if it’s just me.
Now as we all know sewing feeds the soul. So I am going to fill my soul/vessel with sewing projects this year.
And this is my list of sewing projects so far. Or my #Sew9for2018 if you’ve been following this on instagram.
A white linen shirt. Oversized of course.
A pair of Hero Trousers with a front fly this time
A new pair of Rosalind PJ’s
A swimming costume that will cope with my capacious bosoms.
The ultimate, classic shirt waister dress
A new Winter coat
Some training gear – running leggings and a vest. Does that count as 2?
A super comfy hoodie for my inner teenager.
My daughter’s Prom dress
Pictures and plans on all of the above will follow…
Are you being kind to yourself? Do you find it a struggle and if so how do you tell yourself it’s OK?
This is something I have been wanting to host for a while. We have run so many weekend workshops now and have seen how much people enjoy themselves sewing and making various projects. So we have decided to host our very own Sewing Retreat.
From Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th February 2018
A chance to sew, chat, make friends, learn, fit, practice, perfect and just chill. All in luxury surroundings. Because let’s face it we all need a little bit of pampering sometimes and we can certainly provide some sewing pampering here!
We looked at various locations for this retreat as, although we have a large studio, we needed more space and accommodation very close. So this is what we have come up with…
The Sew Me Something Sewing Retreat
Three whole days of sewing heaven working on your own sewing projects at the Crowne Plaza Luxury Hotel right on the River Avon in the centre of Stratford itself close to the RSC.
If you need help fitting or with specific techniques or processes, you’ll have the time and space to work through any issues or projects with expert help and tuition on hand if you need it. So you may have wanted to nail the fit on that pair of trousers you’ve been wanting to make for ages. Or have a go on an overlocker and whizz up a Bianca coat before working on a couple of other projects. Ot perhaps you want some space to cut a few projects out and then decide which to make – the choice is yours!
The Crowne Plaza has provided us with an excellent sewing studio space that we will fully equip with sewing machines, overlockers, cutting tables and pressing stations. But you can choose to bring your own machines if you prefer to work on something more familiar.
There will be help and guidance on the machines when required and also we will be running a few Masterclass Demonstrations on some key processes we know are the ones people find tricky.
So this Retreat really will move your sewing up to the next level as well as give you time to focus and relax.
There will be plenty of tea coffee and cakes to keep you sewing throughout the weekend and a gourmet restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner too.
When you’re not sewing you can relax using the hotel facilities including gym, swimming pool, sauna and steam room to ease away any residual sewing tension. (Yes that is a pun :-))
What’s included in the Sewing Retreat….
A cuppa and cake on arrival
Help to make your sewing plans for the weekend using our sewing planner
Use of all the sewing machines, overlockers and equipment from 9am to 6pm.
A chance to visit Sew Me Something to stock up on sewing supplies
Expert help and advice on all your sewing projects
Expert help and advice on fitting and pattern alterations
Lunch and dinner on Friday
Breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday
Breakfast and lunch on Sunday
Comfortable twin or single bedrooms for two nights
Use of all the hotel facilities including swimming pool, sauna, steam room and gym
We may also be arranging additional optional activities or visits during the weekend as well. But we’ll let you know more about these later…
To be honest I have tried to create the kind of weekend I would love to go on myself. This is going to be the Ultimate Sewing Weekend, if you like, and I am so excited about what a great weekend this is going to be. Don’t worry if you are thinking of coming on your own you will soon make friends and we will do all we can to look after you and make you welcome.
This is what some of our past workshop attendees have said about joining us…
“Like a holiday doing something I love doing.”
“Jules is incredible at explaining and offers such a bespoke service it’s incredible! Would recommend to everyone interested in learning how to sew.”
“Fantastic, basic but challenging patterns and final products looked excellent. Gorgeous cake. Friendly instruction. Loved it!”
“Great atmosphere. Lots of information, tips and enthusiasm. The course has given me the confidence to try other sewing projects. Thanks J x”
“Great to learn new projects and ease of understanding and help when stuck! Invisible zip yes! yes! Pattern alterations very very good!”
“Workshop was just the right level, very informative. Jules was an excellent tutor, calm and patient. Will be back for more!”
We are deliberately keeping the participant numbers small this time to make sure that all those that join us get a really good chunk of tutor time if they need it. So I can guarantee you will leave the Sewing Retreat knowing more than you did when you arrived.
I can’t wait to host this weekend, it is going to be wonderful and I can’t wait to see you there.
We will be providing an Early Bird special price until
“Every cloud has a silver lining” – This is one of those glib little phrases that get churned out when we’re told bad news by someone and we don’t really know what to say, but want to say something reassuring in the hope that everything will be alright in the end.
It’s a phrase I have muttered to myself multiple times daily for nearly a month now. Because on Halloween my lovely, but rather forgetful, husband fell 8 feet from some scaffolding and broke his back. Yes that’s right he broke his back. He fell so hard a vertebra exploded and then went back into almost the right place again – almost. The pressure on his spinal cord meant his legs were effectively being electrocuted for two days. The pain from nerve damage is not like anything else. Broken bones or even child birth don’t have anything on it, it’s in a category all on its own.
For those who follow me or my husband Charlie Budd on social media you have probably seen the references to it and that he is going to be alright. He wasn’t though, and for a several heart stopping hours I really thought our lives were going to be thrown off the edge of a cliff. I am sure the sight of a woman walking through the hospital car park at 2am in the morning sobbing uncontrollably can’t be that unusual, surely.
The hours during Charlie’s surgery to insert permanent pins and rods into his spine (effectively making him bionic!) and those waiting for him to come back onto the ward again were painfully, achingly slow and some I would never wish on even my worst enemy.
But he is on the mend now after some incredible medics and surgeons have literally bolted him back together. When you really need it the NHS is a truly wonderful thing. The pins and rods he has had inserted into his back fuse several vertebrae together stablising the broken one while it heals. He has to wear a body brace to support his back and prevent him from bending and twisting for three months and then we can work on the physio side of things. But after all this he actually managed to walk out of the hospital only two weeks after he fell.
How can I possibly find a silver lining out of this?
Well for a start he could be paralysed or even dead and he isn’t so we can tick those boxes!
The injuries Charlie has sustained mean he will take a long time to recover and return to normal. The thing is we don’t quite know what normal is going to be just yet. He can walk, well more of a shuffle really, and as he says himself “he ain’t gonna win any races against a three toed sloth any time soon!” But he is getting stronger and more mobile every day. (Thanks be to all the Gods that ever existed!)
However, this is going to be a life changing event for us. He cannot work for at least six months and even then he won’t be able to return to his former occupation. Charlie was a high end painter and decorator with an attention to detail I have rarely seen matched. He is/ was booked up for most of next year already. But there is certainly no way he’s going near any more ladders even if he were able to bend and move enough to be able to do all the things he did before.
This could be viewed as a disaster, a tragedy, a calamity, how are we going to cope? And this dear reader is where my silver lining comes in. Where the little sunbeam rays of hope creep their shiny fingers around the oppressive clouds of doom.
Charlie, although very good at painting, has other talents too. Some of you may have seen his instagram posts as @thetallphotographer on instagram. He is well versed in photography having taken pictures since he was a child, and more recently proved a dab hand at cinemagraphs and plotagraphs. If you want to see what those are have a look at his Instagram feed.
For a long while now we have both been coasting along doing what we’re doing and not being completely satisfied with the direction of travel. Don’t get me wrong I love teaching and all things sewing related, especially pattern cutting! But we have felt that we weren’t quite where we wanted to be with our respective businesses. Charlie is a creative soul and needs to be channeling that creativity in a more satisfying way. He is extremely good at putting together small but perfectly formed videos showcasing independent businesses and has been working on this more recently with a view to turning it into a business. This is now becoming a reality as editing is something he can do in small bouts of sitting at his Mac.
Queue a massive kick up the pants! A life changing event. A chance to take stock.
Now I don’t advocate that taking a nosedive from some scaffolding is the answer to everyone’s prayers but it has brought us up short. Made us take a good, hard look at what we’ve got, where we want to be and how are we going to get there.
It has made us reassess what’s important. We both work bonkers hours and actually enjoy working but do we need to do it how we were doing it? Is there a better way? Can we get off the treadmill we’re on and create a better life?
I think we can. So while breaking your back and being in screamingly excruciating pain really fucking sucks, (and I make no apologies for swearing, I’ve done an awful lot of that too lately: I’ve seen my husband in screaming agony – literally, and I’ve seen the MRI scans of his broken back), the silver linings really are becoming visible.
I’m working from home more and will be for the foreseeable future, but I am actually more productive. I have a new vision for where I want to go with Sew Me Something, what we can provide to you the sewers and dressmakers, and I have a better idea of how we are going to get there. So watch this space.
Another of the wonderfully glib phrases that springs to mind here is “when life gives you lemons – make lemonade”.
“RIGHT” (she says hands on hips standing in the middle of the room) “pass me the fucking juicer!!!”
This is a tutorial I have been meaning to put up here for some time now, but with one thing and another it has taken me until now.
The Imogen Top is a pretty straightforward one to put together but to get the front placket absolutely ‘bang on’ takes a bit of accuracy so here is how I do it.
Make sure you have interfaced the placket pieces (and one of the neckbands.)
Like anything it’s the prep that makes all the difference. So marking the stitching points for the placket opening are key. I use a pin and a marker pen for added accuracy, rather than tailor’s tacks or chalk, but whatever works for you. Just remember the A word!!
The little dot at the corner of the placket opening is marked by poking a pin through the dot on the paper and then gently lifting the paper away from the fabric and marking where the pin goes through the fabric with the pen.
You can then flip over the fabric and where the pin comes out of the second layer mark with the pen again.
On the placket pieces make sure to mark the small dot at one end using the same method of poking the pin through and marking with a pen on both pieces to make sure you get a pair.
Now when you come to offer up the placket pieces to the front neck opening you can match up these dots exactly. Remember to place the RIGHT side of the PLACKET to the WRONG side of the FRONT. This way you end up doing the topstitching on the right side keeping it nice and tidy.
Sew down the sides of the opening attaching the placket pieces with a 1cm seam allowance. Again accuracy here with the seam allowance will mean it’s easier to finish the placket neatly.
Make sure to finish exactly on the dot!
You should have two perfectly level rows of stitching. (If you mark everything accurately.)
Press the placket away from the front so it lies over the seam allowances.
Flip the front over and snip into the ends of the lines of stitching. Again it’s the A word. Accuracy is important here too, because if you don’t snip right up to the ends of sewing you will get “woolly corners”, to quote my old needlework teacher, when you try to pull the placket over to the right side.
You must snip in far enough to allow the placket to sit flat after being pulled over to the right side.
Press under the raw edge that is left on the placket by just under 1cm.
Fold the pressed edge over to enclose the seams and to sit just over the sewing line of the seam. Pin in place along the length of the placket. Pinning this way will hold more of the placket in place as you sew.
If the folded placket doesn’t ‘fill the space’ ie. sit neatly inside the gap without hanging over or leaving a gap between the other placket pieces you may need to adjust how much has been folded under in the previous step.
Flip the front over and you can see the little triangular pieces of the front left behind the placket.
Flip the placket pieces back over to the wrong side and fold the triangular piece down. Fold the placket pieces back in place.
Make sure they are even along the bottom edges, and create a perfect V shape from the right side. The triangular piece is tucked down to the wrong side now so it should look nice and neat and level.
Sew from the right side along the edge of the placket piece. Make sure that none of the original placket seam stitching is visible and that the placket hangs just over that line of sewing.
Drop the needle down so you can pivot and sew along the bottom of the folded over triangular piece. Stop just in time so you can pivot again and do one stitch to take you back onto the other placket piece.
Sew back up the edge of the other placket piece. You should have a row of sewing that comes down one edge of the placket hops onto the front, across the flat bottom of the placket, hops back onto the other side of the placket and up the other side.
You can remove the marker pens spots with a paintbrush and a dab of water. You may note while reading through this tutorial that I haven’t used stay stitching around the opening as described in the pattern instructions. This is for several reasons:
I find the extra stitching can get in the way of real accuracy.
They can remain visible after sewing in the placket.
Most of the time a stable fabric is used so it’s not strictly necessary. And if it’s not necessary there’s no point!
I’m not a “sewing purist,” so am quite happy to use whatever processes I feel I need wherever I feel I need them – or not.
I included the stay stitching in the instructions as a way of making sure to get an accurate opening following feedback from our pattern testers. But please let me know if you use stay stitching here of if you prefer not to.
There are always ‘better’ ways of doing things and sharing the knowledge is what we’re all about. 🙂
Gathers can be tricky little blighters to sew accurately and neatly. Usually a double row of long machine stitches will suffice.
However, if you have a full amount of gathers to sew or even a rather bouncy fabric to tame, an extra row of gathering stitches can be of great benefit.
The first two rows are sewn within the seam allowance, so you don’t have to remove them after you have stitched the gathers into place. Remember don’t reverse and leave long tails to the gathering threads.
The third row can be sewn below the seam line, about 2cm from the raw edge. This gives a wider channel in which to sew the seam line and ensures that the gathers are small and nice and close together.
Pull up the gathering threads as normal by taking up the bobbin threads and gently easing the fabric along the threads.
You can use a pin at the end to anchor the threads by winding them around in a future of eight.
The extra row means that the gathers are held in place as the seam is sewn.
The extra row of gathering stitches can be removed after the seam has been sewn.
Beautifully even and neat gathers sewn with THREE rows of gathering stitches. It might seem like another step to complete but let’s face it, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly!
I have a confession to make – I don’t really do holidays. That sounds a bit sad when you write it down but it’s not that I don’t like going on holiday, it’s more that I don’t really have the time to go away for weeks at a time. So we tend to do smaller mini-holidays instead.
We had such a one a couple of weeks ago when we went to the Good Life Experience. It’s a kind of festival for ‘grown-ups’. Not that there wasn’t alcohol and late nights involved don’t get me wrong! But it was so much more than just getting hammered in a field (and I’ve done my fair share of that too!).
It really is about the good life – no not the Tom and Barbara variety – the GOOD THINGS IN LIFE. And it was another chance for us to use our new bell tent that has a stove – yes a tent with it’s own heating! I can’t tell you what utter bliss this is.
The festival is run by a team that include Cerys Mathews, she of Catatonia and now 6Music and Charlie and Caroline Gladstone who started Pedlars -(yes I do have a wish list) and is held at Charlie and Caroline’s pad in Flintshire – Hawarden Castle.
My Charlie, or @thetallphotographer as some of you might know him, was one of the photographers for the festival which meant we could get in early and joined in the singing at the old castle with Cerys and Sills & Stich. We were creating the beginnings of a festival choir that would continue to grow over the weekend. It’s incredibly uplifting being part of a group of singing people. Not that I can sing particularly well but hiding in amongst lots of other voices is very encouraging.
The views from the old castle were just stunning and we could see over the rest of the festival and the field of official Bell Tents.
It was such a chilled and relaxed atmosphere, everyone was chatting with people they had just met and it was wonderful to just go “ Ahhhhhh” with a G&T in hand. What was even better about this festival was that there was so much ‘other stuff’ going on. There were talks and readings, bush craft, cookery demos, craft activities to try out, lots of amazing festival food, unusual music to listen to, loads of stuff for kids to do, even dogs are welcome too!
I joined a peg weaving workshop and made a surprisingly warm and comfortable cushion/mat thing. Great for sitting on cold camping chairs.
I met people I had only chatted with on Instagram and Twitter who were all lovely, including Sara Tasker whose daughter is called Orla as well. She was giving a talk on Instaphotography – yes there is such a thing!
I listened to the wonderful Michael Rosen, who held a whole tent of kids and adults completely rapt with his stories.
I threw axes and wasn’t really rubbish at it! I hit the target more often than not and I really enjoyed it – now where do we keep the axe at home?
I wore my wellies the entire weekend – yes it rained and was muddy but hey this is Wales in September what do we expect?
And…. I want to go back next year. I loved it. I know spending a wet weekend in a tent isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time (you don’t have to camp by the way, there are weekend tickets too and you can just stay in a local hotel). But it only rained at overnight and I got to listen to the tawny owls in the woods nearby and of course spend some time with my love.
You can order early bird tickets here. It is a wonderful festival full of inspiration and joy I hope you get the chance to go sometime, maybe I’ll see you there next year?
Would a size by any other name fit the same? I know I’m badly mis-quoting Shakespeare here but listening to a programme on iplayer the other day prompted me to think about dressmaking pattern sizing as opposed to commercial clothing sizing.
Surfing through iplayer to find something interesting to listen to the other day I stumbled upon a programme called More or Less. One of the topics covered in the programme was on clothes sizing, something that I get asked about a hugely in our workshops.
It was only a short piece but rather interesting, you can listen to the full programme here and the piece about sizing starts at 19.45.
Commercial sizing hasn’t been around that long at all really, as before the Second World War clothes were mainly tailor made, made at home or were bought from department store or catalogues and then altered.
In the 1950’s the UK Board of Trade did an enormous survey of women’s measurements in an attempt to try and standardise it all to encourage women to shop for stuff and aid the flagging economy after the war. However, due to the huge number of sizes needed to cater for the majority of the population, that was just unworkable.
This is one of the main reasons the fashion industry has to work with averages. If the bust size of the smallest customer is X and the Largest Y then the measurements in between need to be divided pretty evenly to create a ‘range’ of sizes to cover most people and are usually labelled 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 etc. But to be honest it might as well be apples, oranges, pears, bananas, as the name of the size has absolutely no bearing on the actual measurements.
So, if we can accept that the names of the sizes are not directly connected to our body measurements and don’t really mean anything relevant, it all sounds pretty doable – right? Except when you bring into consideration the more modern concept of the ‘target customer’.
Designers and manufacturers all have their own specific target markets. Top Shop’s range is about age 16 -25 young slim and athletic frames. While White Stuff is more 25 – 55 with a slightly more mature figure (that’s euphemism for a fatter tum!). Evans and other brands may cater for even more specific demographics, but each has their ideal customer.
Going by exact body measurements the population would comprise of the 126 different sizes mentioned int the Radio 4 piece, but do you really want to be described as size 114 or size 0? I don’t think I would to be honest. Each group of customers, rather than being differentiated by individual size, has appropriated the ‘normal size’ banding of 8 -26 so a size 12 from Top Shop will of course be different from a size 12 in White Stuff or Evans, yet they are still all called ‘size 12’. And so ‘vanity sizing’ has appeared to become the norm.
Although I don’t necessarily think this is all bad. I am careering headlong into middle age with breakneck speed and have the grey hairs and extra inches to prove it, but even if I still had the figure I used to in my twenties I don’t think I would want to shop where my teenage daughter does. My attitude, lifestyle and general outlook on life have guided me to find my own ‘Style Tribe’. I know the brands of clothing that suit me and I know roughly what size I am. I’m not that bothered if the size 16 I wear should really be a size 24 or anything else. If it fits and I feel good – that’s alright with me.
Perhaps this is where us Independent Pattern Designers have the edge on the ‘Big Boys’. While they are still trying to be all things to all people we can be more specific. Our branding and size charts also reflect who we design for – usually people like us.
I love the aesthetic of Sew Over It patterns, they have a wonderfully distinct vintage look to them. The same applies to Tilly, her pretty colours and 60’s inspired silhouettes again feed another group of dressmakers. A lot of the time we dip in and out of different ‘Tribes’ too, depending on our moods or occasion. I buy from White Stuff, Boden and Hobbs as well as M&S.
So does it really matter that sizing is different from one company to another? Granted it’s hard to navigate the choppy waters of sizing on the High Street, but should it make that much difference to us if we are going to be making our own clothes? The information supplied with each pattern includes the body measurements for the different sizes. After all we measure and fit and alter the clothes to suit our own shapes and bodies.
Or do we just expect it to fit if we make up a specific size? Most of the time I make up a Toile to check the fit before I make up the final garment.