Swedish Sewing Patterns (by way of Japanese sewing patterns of course)

And she begins with a digression…It was Japanese sewing patterns that drew me to sewing in the first place. I lived in Japan for five years and spent a lot of time in Japanese magazine stores. My Japanese was not that great but Japanese magazines are filled with drawings and cartoons and diagrams and great photos (and by great I mean slightly weird.) I didn’t sew or knit at the time but I loved to look through the craft magazines. The patterns, especially for bags, were so cool and inventive, and the meticulous instructions made me suspect that if I tried, I might just be able to make something. It would be another ten years until I actually tried, but the seeds were sown.

So here I am in Sweden, which in a lot of ways (clean minimalistic design, orderliness and attention to detail) is somewhat similar to Japan, so I thought I might explore Swedish sewing patterns. I started with the Jenny Hellström Ruas books, specifically Sy! Från Hood till Skjort-Klänning.

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It’s 109 pages (in Swedish of course,) and contains 18 patterns with variations of each. Jenny Hellström was known for her eponymous clothing line in the late 90’s and into the 2000s. Typical of the nordic style she designed clean, casual clothes with playful graphic details. The label’s logo was her father’s passport photo.


The title of her first sewing pattern book translates to Sew! From Hoodie to Shirtdress. So let’s take a gander inside:

There are indeed hoodies:

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and shirtdresses:

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How cool is this shirt and tie?

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I love the collar.

Others patterns I’m not that hot about. Like this skirt.

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Maybe it’s just the fabric and colour choice, but I think it looks a bit homemade ( in the bad sense.)

A pretty cute pencil skirt and a versatile tee-shirt pattern (that I failed miserably at, but that was my fault mostly.)

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One of my favourite patterns is the Jasmine Coat. I’m a sucker for raincoats.

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There are some basic sewing instructions in the back with some (limited) illustrations.

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And the patterns are nested on two large sheets:

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My review:


I really liked the look of this book and I think some of the patterns could prove to be wardrobe workhorses. The tee, the shirt and and shirtdress will all appeal to anyone who like a slightly androgenous style with a vintagey edge.

The Cons:

Yeah, it’s in Swedish. If you can’t read Swedish then you’d better be a seasoned sewer. There aren’t any cute little cartoony diagrams in this book to follow.  In fact the instructions are very rudimentary.  There’s a glossary in the back, but again, if you aren’t down with the Svenska, you might be shit outta luck.

I’m still gonna try to make the raincoat so I will update the blog with the final verdict!


Meet Greenie, my vintage Elna Grasshopper

-Hello. My name is Catherine and I’m addicted to vintage sewing machines

-Hi Catherine

Another stockholm thrift store find. It’s like THEY find ME.

So I was just browsing. You know. Killing some time. No intention of buying anything. And then I see this:

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How intriguing. Vaguely military. No label or markings. But I just knew.

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Yup. A cute little green Elna 1. The first model Elna produced. Original case, accessory box, a couple of presser feet. 200 Kr ($33.) Sold. He wasn’t quite as heavy as my Bernina 730 Record, but I had some sore arms after hauling him back to Gubbängen.

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When I got home I excitedly unpacked Greenie. He came with the original manual in Swedish, and tucked in the manual was the original receipt, dated 1959. He cost 350 kr 55 years ago.

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The green-lidded accessory box:

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And the best part:

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The case the turns into a sewing table.

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Can you see what beautiful condition he’s in?

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A little bit of cleaning with a looped pipe-cleaner and some compressed air, and Greenie was sewing nicely. The Elna 1 is a straight stitch only machine and has limited capabilities, but I’m pretty happy. The knee pedal is really nice to use, although it takes a little getting used to.

And here’s a sneak peek at my lovely new green Anna Dress.

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I’ll model it when the rain stops.

Teaching yourself to sew

You know on Project Runway when one of the contestants says “I’m self-taught” and wears it like some kind of badge of honour, sneering at the poor suckers who spent 50k on design school? Well I totally get it. Kind of.

Of course in the internet age no one really teaches themselves to sew. Unless you are locked in a room alone with your sewing machine and some fabric. You learn by reading blogs and tutorials, by using indie sewing patterns that guide you through the process of making a garment, but most satisfyingly (and this is why I can relate to the proud self-taughters,) you learn by experimenting, figuring stuff out, finding ways to do things that make sense to you and you learn by making mistakes.

So if a make has glaring mistakes (and mostly those mistakes are glaring only to the maker,) I’m not going to get all bent out of shape. I can learn from them and do it better next time.

Take a look at my BHL Georgia dress:

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Not bad. The seams are a bit squinty in the front and the bodice lining keeps popping out. That’s because I ironed said said lining on the hightest heat setting, burning holes in it and ruining my iron. Yay! Learning experience.  I also learned that stretch fabrics are nothing to be afraid of. This is a rather heavy stretch denim I picked out from the bargain bins at Ohlsson’s Tyger on Sveavägen. It was easy to sew with although I suspect I didn’t get the grain quite right. I didn’t even need to put in a zipper. I can wiggle into it from the bottom up.

Georgia looks more difficult than she is. The bodice was surprisingly simple, although I got the centre seam and the little peak slightly misaligned. (Next time, next time.) Probably the most difficult thing about making this dress was turning the straps right side out after stitching them. Heavy stretch denim is a nightmare to turn.

Best part? This dress is comfy. I wore Georgia for drinks with Scotty on my birthday.

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Ignore the lining.

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Pattern: By Hand London Georgia

Fabric:  Stretch denim from Ohlsson’s in Stockholm

Time to Sew: A leisurely afternoon and evening

Cost: 110 SEK ($16) plus pattern

Will I wear it? Yes!

Would I make the pattern again? Yes, I’d like to make the wide strap version in a patterned fabric.