sewing fast and slow

I’ve been a very tardy blogger but I have been sewing. I had 20 days off work over the Christmas holidays and although I wasn’t the  whirling-sewing-dervish that I thought I was going to be I did manage to sew and learn and fail and succeed. That brings me to sewing fast and slow. I borrowed the title and the general idea from the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics winner Daniel Kahneman.  The book’s central thesis revolves around two modes of thought. Fast, which is, yup, fast and also instinctive, frequent and emotional. And slow thinking which is more deliberate, planned, logical and effortful.

One of my rather limp new year’s resolutions was to be a slower sewer. To choose more ambitious projects and give them the time and attention they deserve. To not rush through hems and final touches.  Then I thought about Kahneman’s book. Well, to be honest, this is where the similarities between the book and my sewing thoughts end, but anyhoooo. I decided that I’m going to commit to slow sewing but also intersperse it with “quick and dirty” projects. Things like leggings and simple pencil skirts that I can start and finish in an evening. This way I’ll get the quick fix of fast sewing while still building my skills with the harder, slower projects.

First fast project? A princess seam pencil skirt, started and finished on one Sunday. The kids were here too and I still managed to finish it, hand-stitched hem and all!

In my quest to find my TNT pencil skirt pattern I turned to Burda’s princess seam skirt from 04/2012 (#118.) There are lots of pretty versions floating around the internet and the pattern call for ONE metre of fabric. How great is that? I really like By Hand London’s Charlotte skirt, but that pattern eats up at twice the fabric because of the waistband. I figured, if the princess seam pattern turns out to be good I can afford some of the beautiful designer fabrics I’ve been eyeing at Tygverket in Stockholm.

For this skirt I chose a nubby hot pink and black boucle from the mystery bin at Ohlsson’s on Sveavägen. I think it worked out to about 50 SEK or 8$. About as cheap as you can get in Stockholm. I added an exposed zipper that I picked up at a thrift store for 5 SEK.

The fabric sat in my stash drawer for a couple of weeks. I was unsure whether it looked a bit cheap, or if it would be too bulky for a slim skirt. But I went for it.

Side note: do you ever get overwhelmed by fabric and pattern choices? Sometimes I have so many choices that I end up overwhelmed and sew nothing at all. But I also get like this in the cereal aisle of the supermarket so maybe it’s just me.

I cut a size 38 of the pdf pattern, marked my seamlines with chalk and gave myself a wider seam allowance to account for the unravelly (my word) boucle. I could go down a size next time.

The verdict?

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I love it! (I need to steam out that fold on the front, but otherwise…)

It’s a lovely pattern. Super quick and easy. The instructions are typical of Burda…minimalist. The exposed zipper took me the longest of anything, and that was only because I’d never done one before. I used this tutorial from Threads magazine.

Is it my TNT skirt pattern? If I can get the fit just right, and it’s pretty close now, then yes!

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Not bad for my first go at an exposed zip.

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In the interest of quick and dirtyness, I didn’t line the skirt, but I cleans up the guts with my Bernina 700D serger.

So how about that slow sewing? Stay tuned as I dive into coat-sewing.


Is sewing an expensive hobby? And…the best FREE online sewing patterns

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I was talking to my sister the other day and telling her that I can whip up a pair of leggings in an hour with my new serger. She asked me whether it was worth it since leggings are so cheap and readily available. That got me thinking. How much does cost factor into my love of sewing? Does it really matter whether I could buy ready-to-wear cheaper than my own makes? Is sewing an expensive hobby?

Short answer? Yes. And no.

When you first get into sewing there are a lot of things to buy. Starting, of course, with a sewing machine. These days you can buy a perfectly decent new machine for under $200 or you can troll around craigslist and garage sales and get lucky with a tank of a vintage machine for next to nothing. I think most people grow out of their cheapie new machines pretty quickly and if you want to finish the innards of garments professionally or sew knits, then you are inevitably going to start dreaming about a serger/overlocker.

In addition to a machine, most sewers are going to want a good pair of shears, rotary cutter and mat, a sewing/quilting ruler and other notions. You can spent a fortune on gadgets and goodies if you want. Btw, if you are prone to fits of uncontrolled notion buying DO NOt click on this link. The Wawak catalogue is pure insanity.

I think I spent about $500 on sewing goods in my first month or so of sewing.

As far as fabric goes, the sky is the limit. I’ve had my eye on some Prada boucle at Tygverket in Stockholm, but mostly I buy what’s on sale.

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Yup, that 24 quid ($40) a metre.

I usually roughly cost out a project before I start.

For example my green Anna dress worked out this way:

pattern: $12 (although I’ve already used it once before)

fabric: $15

thread: $3

zipper: $5

for a total of: $35

(you can find inexpensive fabric in Sweden, but sewing notions like zippers and such are always pricey)

As far as I’m concerned the grand total is more than reasonable. Cheap as chips even. Now if I added my labour cost into the total it would be another story….

Buuuuuuut. I think the point of sewing is not to save money, or not just save money. Sewing is about creativity,it’s about taking control of your wardrobe and not being a hostage of the current offerings at the shops. Sewing is also a lot of fun, it’s good for the mind, and beats watching reality TV (except for The Great British Sewing Bee, Project Runway and Alla Severige Syr of course.) You can save money and you probably will, but you can also buy fabulous fabrics, like silk or cashmere, or employ couture techniques that you will never see inside the garments at H&M. As far as I’m concerned, sewing my own clothes is not about having more clothes or a less expensive wardrobe, but having better clothes that I’m more proud of wearing.

So yeah. Sewing can be an expensive hobby. But who cares.

Now onto the freebies.

Everybody loves a free pattern, right? Here are some of my faves:

The By Hand London Polly Top was one of my first makes and introduced me to BHL. There’s a great video tutorial on the website and you can see dozens of cool versions of Polly throughout the blogosphere.

Collette patterns, known for their teaching approach to pattern-making also has a great free top pattern, the Sorbetto. Like the BHL Polly, I’ve seen the Sorbetto made into a dress as well.

Collette also offers a free bloomers pattern, the Madeleine. The victorian style bloomers look sweet on the model, but I suspect they’d look like diapers on my generous arse.

Camelots fabrics has a cool cropped blazer pattern for free here. It has tuxedo style lapels and is sewn up with quilting cotton (I’m dubious about the fabric choice but it does look cute.)

So Zo graciously offers a gratis panty/knickers and cami pattern (go on, buy her a coffee to say thanks.)

Do you have any fave free sewing patterns?