Ethical Clothes – Part 1

One of the reasons I decided to start sewing my own clothes was for better fit and so that I could get the styles I wanted with the fabric and finishes I wanted. The high street just wasn’t offering what I wanted.

But another factor was the ethics of the current “fast fashion” trend, and this has become more important to me over time. I recently watched the documentary The True Cost on Netflix and while much of it wasn’t a surprise, it was still shocking and spurred me to make yet more effort to buy consciously.

Because I do still buy, or get bought clothing as presents. I want to make every effort to ensure the brands I do still choose to buy from are promoting a more ethical approach to fashion. My survey is based on information provided on the brands’ own websites and may therefore be considered biased or unreliable but you can still tell a lot just by the depth and type of information they give, I believe. I also found a couple of independent organizations surveying and collating information on the big brands.

The below is a list of brands currently most common in my wardrobe (aside from second hand, handmade or vintage items), with a summary of the info I found plus my rating. 

Seasalt – a family-owned company originating in Cornwall, they make a strong statement of ethical and environmental responsibility. They have a policy of local or artisan purchasing through their supply chain, and were the first fashion company to have their clothing Soil Association certified as organic, in 2005. They also seem strong about passing their standards down through the supply chain, whether that’s ethical or environmental. Eg. Where organic or fair trade certification is specified by us as a condition of supply, follow the relevant certification organisation’s rules and guidelines. And when that’s not the case, still use eco friendly, fair trade or recyclable materials wherever possible. They also require suppliers to sign various statements of ethical practice, and to join SEDEX and report annually on ethical practices.

Rating: 10/10 Seasalt’s policies seem pretty robust and tick all the boxes for me. They also seem to have a strong methodology for making sure that their policy is also their suppliers’ policy. I also like the depth of documentation they have made available on their website

Desigual – Now a global fashion brand originating in Barcelona, Spain, known for very distinctive clothing which often features bright multi colored prints, decoration and complex patterns, most commonly on dresses, skirts and tops in jersey fabric. To my dismay there is nothing on their website about ethical policies, not even in the Spanish language site. Through a Google search, I found two useful websites which rated Desigual very badly:

Rankabrand.org rated them E – Don’t Buy, with the following statement:

Desigual has achieved the E-label. This is our lowest possible sustainability score, and Desigual has earned it by communicating nothing concrete about the policies for environment, carbon emissions or labor conditions in low-wages countries. For us as consumers, it is unclear whether Desigual is committed to sustainability or not.

The Clean Clothes Campaign also cited a lack of information and only a basic response in terms of company action to ensure ethical working conditions in their supply chain. 

My older Desigual garments state Made in China, but more recent ones have Made in Spain or Portugal.

Rating: 4/10 The lack of openness and information means I can’t rank Desigual any higher, but the fact that more recent garments indicate a shift in manufacturing back to Europe shows that Desigual might be more aware of the issues than they first seem, and have even chosen to support some of the European economies which have struggled in recent years.

Collectif – a rapidly growing London based vintage repro clothing company, Collectif make much of the small team who oversee every aspect of the design, production and sales process. However, there is nothing on their websit about manufacturing, ethical or environmental policies and I couldn’t find anything from a Google search either. The labels in the clothes say Made in China. 

I contacted the brand to see what they had to say. Within a couple of hours I had a reply, which in addition to clarifying that they manufacture in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Romania, Armenia and London and the majority in China, said the following:

All our fabrics are sourced in China, where we have our own facility and office, run by our own staff, who are in constant contact with our team in London. Having our own facility, means we are very aware of everything that happens throughout our production process. Our London design & production team regularly visit China to personally source our fabrics and ensure they are of an acceptable quality and ethical standard. These team members, as well as members of senior management, also make regular visits to our production facility and offices.

Rating: 6/10 I am a bit disappointed that the clothes are mostly made in China, and not having openly available information for consumers is not best practice. However, I was impressed with the speed of response to my enquiry, and based on what they’ve said they seem to have closer ties to their suppliers than many retailers might have, and they are aware of the issues.

M&S – a British institution, although they sell a huge range of products I’m thinking mostly of clothing in my research. The website does carry a statement on Modern Slavery, which make clear that M&S are aware of the risk they carry in their supply chain and sets out what they do to mitigate this. They say they require their suppliers to :

  • Participate in ethical trading audits assessments; 
  • Provide employees with good working conditions, fair treatment and reasonable rates of pay; 
  • Respect workers’ human rights and comply fully with all applicable laws. 

The Clean Clothing Campaign also has a report on M&S which seems fairly positive about the policies and more importantly action the company is taking.

Rating: 7/10 the statement and independent assessment make it clear M&S are actively trying to improve the situation & ensure their supply chain is ethical, but given the volume of manufacture and the size of the retail chain, I can’t honestly rate it much higher.

Next – another British high street staple, and long a favourite of mine for workwear. They have several statements on ethical and environmental policy under the Corporate Responsibility section of the website, but here are their stated priorities:

  • Develop and improve workers’ conditions, including safety and human rights
  • Communicate and support the achievement of compliance to our ethical standards with all our suppliers
  • Support our suppliers to achieve continuous improvement through partnership
  • Implement sustainable programmes and initiatives with suppliers to improve their capacity and ability to deliver to our ethical requirements
  • Continue to develop opportunities to work in collaboration with other Brands and retailers, Governments, trade unions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to pursue solutions for some of the more complex and systemic problems within the global supply chain that we cannot resolve alone and to help achieve lasting change

From an environmental perspective, a standout statistic is that they claim to have diverted 91% of operational waste away from landfill. 

RankaBrand has given them a D rating, or “first milestones recognized, can do better”. 

Rating: 7/10 I think Next seem on par with M&S on policy and at the end of the day they are another large fast fashion retailer.

This post is turning in to a bit of an essay so I’ve decided to split it into two. More brands coming up…

GBSB Swing / Circle Skirt

You know the advice that you should never buy fabric without a project in mind? I totally ignore that most of the time. There have been a few exceptions such as the navy twill for the jacket I had to make, but mostly I buy fabric because I like it. Sure, I consider the material type, the weight, the drape and what styles the print would suit, but I don’t always have a project in mind and sometimes end up using that fabric for something totally other than what I originally thought.

This fabric however, I have known exactly what do with since I bought it at March’s Spring Knitting & Stitching Show. The soft drape of the cotton, the brightly colored crazy travel novelty print….it screamed circle/swing skirt!

travel fabric

I used a pattern from my original Great British Sewing Bee book, which meant I had to download, print and piece together the pattern. Considering the way GBSB has inspired so many to take up or resume sewing, I find it disappointing that their books are so opaque on sizing. Each pattern is multi size, usually UK 8-16, but there are no guidelines on waist/bust/hip measurements for each as you would get on a paper pattern. Instead you get a diagram of the pattern pieces printed on one page of the book on a squared background, and the information that each square is 1cm. But again, no clear guidance on how to measure and judge sizing or adjustments from this.

GBSB circle skirt book

The pattern for this skirt is very simple (waistband and 2x skirt panels) and the only important measurement is really the waist. Based on the number of 1cm squares I judged that the largest size 16 was, including seam allowance and the buttonhole overlap feature, approximately 2.5 cm short of my waist measurement. This was easily added to the end of the waistband piece (/2 since it’s cut on the fold), and for the skirt it was added to the straight edge, /4 since there are two skirt pieces (front and back) cut on the fold.

GBSB circle skirt pattern adjustmentI actually cut the bottom of the skirt panel along the size 8 (shortest) line, even though I was also cutting along the size 16 (deepest) waistline. Given my short proportions though this put the finished skirt length just on the knee which is quite flattering.

Cutting was very quick, thanks in part to my new rotary cutter…more about that in another post! It definitely made cutting the long curve of the skirt less of a headache.

Sewing was also quick; sew the front and back skirts at the side seams, insert concealed side zip (I had one the right length and color!), sew waistband in half at the ends, turn and press, sew waistband to skirt, make buttonholes, hem and done!

Finishing the waistband seam was a pain. I think either the instructions are not clear enough or you need a bigger seam allowance. I sewed both raw edges of the waistband to the skirt, then I was trying to turn the raw edges under and top stitch – I had to do this on the inside rather than the outside so I had half a chance of keeping the raw edge under, there wasn’t enough spare.

What I think is supposed to happen is that you sew the front edge of the waistband to the skirt, then turn the back edge under and top stitch to enclose all seams. But the instructions didn’t describe this explicitly and I would have expected them to. Also because you have already stitched both waistband ends together, this makes lining up and accessing the front raw edge a bit tricky at the ends. The alternative is to do what I did but on a 2cm rather than 1.5 seam allowance, so that you have enough to turn under. This would make the waistband narrower but it’s quite generous as is.

Anyway, on to the most exciting bit of sewing this skirt – the buttonholes! The waistband design has an overlap of fabric across the top of the zip which fastens with two buttons. My sewing machine has an automatic buttonhole setting (in fact three styles) and came with the necessary foot. Essentially it works by you setting the button you will use into a gauge in the back of the foot. The needle is threaded in the front of the foot as normal, and you pull a stopper down from a fixed point on the machine to the left of the foot. Then you start the machine sewing (using the start/stop button rather than the foot pedal) and it sews a straight line until the stopper hits the stopper at the front of the button gauge. Then the machine sews a zig zag end, a quick line back to front until it hits the front stopper, then another line backwards to the gauge stopper, locking stitch and stops. Magic! You then use a seam ripper or snips to carefully open the buttonhole between the two lines of stitching.

buttonhole foot I did a lot of practice ones on some scrap fabric (probably more than I needed but it was fascinating me!) and then bit the bullet on the real thing. I think there must be a trick to lining up the holes perfectly parallel, I marked the start of mine but it was hard to see precisely past the machine foot so they are slightly off.

GBSB skirt buttons

Start to finish this is probably the quickest sew, considering I had to print and make up the pattern first too, everything done in less than a day.

GBSB skirt

 

New Look K6035 navy jacket

To think that I made this back in March/ April, that just seems ages away!

This is also probably the first time I found myself making something I needed more than I wanted. I can think of a ton of much more fun things to wear, but the orchestra I was playing in at the time (not now that we moved, more on that later…) had a summer concert uniform including a navy blazer.

For the first concert I was caught out and had to borrow one, but there was a nice long gap to the next concert and I was determined to be prepared. Given I had not managed to find a navy blazer I liked at a reasonable price point from the high street stores (or indeed barely any at any price point, thanks to whimsies of the “current fashion”) and anyway, I’m supposed to be making not buying, I decided to take the plunge on the most tailored item I’ve made yet.

It’s not as if I could hide the tailoring either – if it was bad it was going to look really bad. Fortunately I had a pattern already from one of my magazine subscriptions; New Look K6035.

New Look K6035 pattern

I read through the instructions and decided I could manage it, so next challenge was finding a suitable fabric. A&M Textiles in High Wycombe came up with the goods, a nicely toned navy twill which was structured enough for the garment (with interfacing) but not too heavy bearing in mind I would be wearing this at a fair number of (hopefully sunny) outdoor concerts.

I interfaced all the necessary pieces right at the start so that I didn’t need to interrupt the sewing process. I opted for a lightweight interfacing, which worked well but in hindsight I think it could have taken a heavier weight and resulted in a slightly stiffer structure, especially in the larger areas such as the front facings.

K6035 front princess seam

Construction wise, I was pretty pleased with the princess seamed front panels which were one of the first elements to sew. I managed to get a really neat smooth curve especially with pressing over a ham. The collar was the big and messy bit, all about matching the notches and sewing to very specific points. The instructions also only mention matching dots, when in fact you also need to line up dot, notch, dot – the whole thing would have been much easier if that was more specific!

I found it particularly hard because most of the time I couldn’t see what I was trying to sew, until the later stages when I could partly turn it through and start to see the result. In fact I almost thought I’d gone wrong right at the end, when I couldn’t seem to turn through correctly – until I realized what structure I’d actually made and folded the fabric at the top of the collar. Suddenly everything fell into place!

I did fail to follow one step though – step 12, I stitched the whole edge of the upper collar/facing rather that only between the dots as instructed. This didn’t actually seem to have any negative effect though, and rather seemed to avoid some later hand-stitching of the neck seam under the facing (step 14), which struck me as a bit awkward. Maybe with a heavier fabric it would be necessary to follow the instructions due to the bulk, but in this case it was fine.

I still managed to fudge one lapel notch though, as evidenced by the photo below. But a bit of unpicking and careful 2nd attempt gave a much neater result.

fudged lapelFit wise, I cut a 16 and made only one alteration based on a rough (sleeveless) toile, which was to make a triangular dart-like adjustment of the side seam, taking in at the widest part at the underarm and grading to meet the seam at the waistline. This was to tailor the sides/back some more, as the two back pieces feature a princess seam and so a standard centre-back adjustment wasn’t possible (or as easy). As it turned out, I should have also done some work on the sleeves, as when I tried the jacket on with sleeves, they were much too big at the armhole. I was loathe to unpick the whole sleeve as I had managed quite a neat set-in, and anyway the shoulder and top of the armhole was ok. Instead I pinned out some excess fabric along the sleeve seamline in a wedge shape, with the widest part at the underarm join. I effectively sewed this as a dart, cut away some excess fabric and re-stitched the sleeve back in. It’s worked but next time I will alter the sleeve pattern piece to match. I think I could still have taken a little more from the side seams as well.

K6035 back jacket

new look K6035 jacket

If I were to make this jacket again, these would be my alterations:

– use a slightly heavier weight fabric and/or interfacing; I think this jacket works better with more structure

– recut pattern to improve fit of sleeve and side jacket seams. I was ok with this fit as the purpose of the garment meant I would be wearing it seated with arms raised (for playing the flute) most of the time and therefore a slightly more relaxed fit is ok

– add a button to the front. For the reasons above I left it open but again I think the style suits a button fastening. I may yet change the jacket to add this

– catch stitch the front facings in place. Again I may go back and fix this as I find it annoying that the front facings tend to “catch the wind” as I’m walking along. They are stitched in place at top and bottom so they can’t completely fold out, but the long edge is open and this is what causes the problem.

Tilly and the Buttons “Agnes” Top

So I’ve been a bit remiss in blogging about my sewing (yes, again) but this is the first of a series of posts catching up.

One of the hazards of regular wardrobe analysis and decluttering is realizing that you are short of a certain type of garment but then added to that is the delay when you are aiming to sew rather than buy the replacements!

The Tilly & the Buttons Agnes top was one such item. I decided my wardrobe needed some more “basic but pretty” jersey tops and that it was about time I had a go at sewing with knits. I liked that Agnes has a bit of a vintage flair and that there are lots of options: long or 3/4 sleeves, ruched or plain shoulders, ruched or plain neckline. From one pattern you could style up a whole range of distinguishable tops.

Of course for now I’ve just made the one. But I do have another jersey fabric in stock for version 2. For the first attempt I decided on 3/4 sleeves with all the ruching – no one can say I shy away from a challenge!
The ruching was really the most obviously tricky part of this. I’ve never really sewn with elastic before except for the Sew Over It knickers when I ended up really going overboard with the tension…

I don’t know if I was too cautious but I seemed to have the opposite problem with this, or maybe it was the fabric needed a bit more oomf to pull it in, but anyway when I tackled the bust ruching the first few attempts didn’t really scrunch up that much. I think I had 2 or 3 attempts and then decided I had to live with it as the fabric was getting a bit worked over through all the unpicking and zigzag stitching. The sleeves worked out better so I think it’s just a case of practice practice!

agnes ruched sleeve

I did appreciate the instructions for the ruching. They were very clear and the only method I’ve come across which seemed to have some precision behind it. Basically it involves cutting a specified length of elastic and stretching it on the fabric as you sew with the end of the elastic matching a marked point on the fabric. I think this is supposed to help you avoid over or under stretching the elastic.

The other construction element I had some trouble with was the neckband. But this was mostly because of lack of familiarity of the construction of knit garments and so I couldn’t visualize what it was I was trying to make. However I just followed the instructions through logically and lo the neckband turned out ok. It did take a couple of attempts at pinning evenly before sewing, as the band is smaller than the neck opening in order to pull it in. But you want a smooth finish of course with no gathers or puckering.

agnes neckband

All in all I quite enjoyed knit sewing, certainly there’s very minimal pressing as that is almost ineffective anyway, and no seam finishing. That said, despite using a walking foot the hemline stretched out a bit, and I’m not a fan of the way the raw edges curl up inside the hem. The pattern tips recommend using a knit tape to stabilize the hems but my machine very strongly objected to this, and jammed every time after a few stitches.

Since sewing this top I’ve discovered the overstitch feature of my sewing machine so I think I would either try to use this for hemming, and or stick with zig zag stitch and in either case try to enclose the raw edge inside the hem.

agnestop.jpg

Next Agnes will be coming up very soon I’m sure!

Also I reviewed this pattern on The Fold Line: Certainstyle reviews Agnes on the Fold Line

2016 does 1926: Dorothy Perkins flapper dress rework

So it’s been a long six months since my last blog post! I really am terrible at keeping up with these things.

I have still been striving to make more of my own clothes, but I’m nowhere near the sewing rate I’d like to be at.

Since my last post I made a pair of trousers at the Sew Over It workshop, but haven’t managed to make another yet. I also made a pair of Sew Over It knickers, another thing that I’d like to make more of. I finished the scandi-style crochet jumper (just in time for spring) and the latest things I’ve made in April were a navy blazer for concert band uniform and a Tilly & the Buttons Agnes top. I’m particularly proud of these last two because they are some of the most technical things I’ve made & also that I am most pleased with the fit and finish of.

Anyway, I’ll probably post about those at some point later on. Certainly I’ll be making the Agnes top again and again in different pattern options.

Today, I decided on an impromptu re-work project. It’s Simon’s birthday this week, and we’re going to White Mink in Clapham on Friday night. It’s a 20s themed electroswing dance night, and I suddenly realised I had nothing to wear! Well, nothing that I could comfortably dance the night away in anyway.

image
Me in a too-long dress, doing some kind of Charleston wave thing…

Fortunately, yesterday was also a day when I decided to sort through the latest bag of castoffs for eBay sales from mum, and lo and behold I found this flapper style dress from Dorothy Perkins. I reckon it might have been one she picked up in a charity shop because the label style looks a bit older than the current ones.

The dress has a stretchy underslip and a lace/crochet style overlay. It’s comfy and fits well – just one problem. It’s about 2 feet too long for me, and with the clingy slip I didn’t have much legroom for Charleston steps…

Taking up the slip was no trouble – I measured up from the floor to the height I wanted the hem to be whilst wearing it, then with the dress on my mannequin I chopped into it. A quick pinning and then overlocked on my sewing machine. I don’t have an overlocker, but my sewing machine has an overlock stitch which I recently discovered and have a feeling I’ll be making more and more use of!
image

image
Overlocked new hem

The lace was going to be a bit more tricky. I wasn’t sure if I cut into it whether it would hold together long enough to restitch or whether it would unravel immediately. I played around with an idea of using some leftover silver fabric scrap to make a dropped waistband, and restitching the cut edges of the lace to that. But I didn’t really like how that was going to look, and decided I had to somehow preserve the clean lines of the dress without breaking it up with a feature or an obvious stitch.
image

So I moved my focus back down to the hem. I knew I wanted to keep the scallop-edge detail, and that I wanted the new underslip hemline to hit roughly at the peak of the scallop so the lace would hang over. I took a deep breath and cut into the lace at the new hemline…it didn’t immediately unravel! Phew. I trimmed down the piece of scalloping to just above the peaks, then with the dress laid flat I pinned the pieces of lace RS together matching the seams. I say pinned, there wasn’t a lot to pin securely so it was a bit loose!
image

Next I stared at my sewing machine for about 5 minutes trying to work out what stitch to use. In the end I decided to stick with overlock, but instead of catching the raw edges I stitched about 1cm in from the edge. I hoped that this would create a secure bound seam that would hold the lace together. Once sewn, I trimmed back the raw edges quite close to the new stitching, to reduce bulk, and pressed. The lace doesn’t press that well but it did help flatten the seam.

image
Overlocked lace seam
image
Shortened lace hem

I had aimed for the seam to be level with the hemline, in the end it’s fallen a bit lower but I decided that trying to unpick black overlock stitching from black lace would be a disaster. I’m happy with the new length anyway so I’ve decided to leave it.

image
Ready to Charleston!

 

#thewardrobechallenge – 6 month review

So, it’s just over six months since I set myself The Wardrobe Challenge, to make one item per month and strive to stop buying high street and make more of my own clothes.

So how have I done?

April – The challenge begins! I started out quite well, making the Lottie Simple Sew blouse just a few weeks in.

wpid-20150411_215041.jpg

May – Still on a roll, I made the New Look 60s mod dress.

wpid-20150525_200345.jpg

June – this is where the summer hit and life got in the way of my still-slow and methodical sewing somewhat. I excused myself by going on the invaluable pattern-fitting workshop from Thrifty Stitcher. Clare-Louise Hardie. I still think this was a great choice, I learnt so much that I use every time I sew a garment now.

July – Again, a bit of an excuse month as I was busy every weekend. I bought preloved/vintage though, and reworked a Julien McDonald dress for my Roman holiday.

wpid-2015-08-24-21.36.12.jpg.jpeg

August – ok, this was a fail month. I’ve hunted high and low and I can’t find a single stitchy thing to attribute to August.

September – maybe not clothes, but I made the clutch bags for the bridesmaids (myself included!) for one of my best friend’s weddings. I also went to a learn-to-knit evening from London Craft Club!

11911726_10153397159145804_592050500_n

October – I made a GBSB sleeveless shell top (very seasonal, I know, but I’m trying to use up my fabric stash!) on a Sunday afternoon, possibly the fastest sew from scratch. Also the first time I really used my dress form in earnest. I’ve also started to crochet a fair-isle inspired jumper.

image

For November, I’ve signed up to Sew Over It‘s Ultimate Trousers workshop. I’m really looking forward to that because trousers are nearly impossible for me to buy fitting off the peg. The design is really nice, with a side zip and a bit of a vintage flair, and you come away from the workshop with a pair of trousers and fully fitted pattern!

So what’s the verdict? I’m a bit disappointed with myself that I didn’t manage to make more, but then again life has to be about balance. In the last six months I have also started a new relationship (around the time I started the challenge, in fact!), travelled to Brighton, Cornwall (twice), Durham, Rome and Portugal, been a bridesmaid, been to a vintage music festival, taken up Lindy Hop, and generally got on with everything else life brings!

The important thing is that embarking on this challenge has made me be critical of my purchasing (more so than even before), and I’m determined to keep sewing and improving my skills.

Here’s to the next six months!

A botched cami and a pattern fitting workshop

So #thewardrobechallenge didn’t go so well in June. Somehow the month ran away with me and so a couple of weeks ago I decided to try and bust some of the fabric stash and make something quick and easy for summer – the Cami top from the 1st GBSB book. Adapted slightly – just made simply in cotton without the ruched detail or lace trim. Since I took notes on the last GBSB top I made from the same book, I cut the size up and didn’t worry too much about alterations or testing the pattern.

As it was a simple sew and I wanted to get cracking, I also constructed most of the garment and didn’t actually try it on until I needed to find the strap lengths.

At which point it clearly wasn’t going to fit at all. I’m not sure why two patterns from the same book can be so different in fit but it’s not even close, and I haven’t changed THAT much in size. So I threw the half-made thing back in the pile in annoyance and spent a few days trying to think up ways of salvaging it (mostly involving adding panels) before giving it up as a lost cause. At some point I’ll rip out all the stitching and the fabric is probably destined for some other random project.

I then sat down to read the “Sew your Size” supplement that came with Sew magazine a few weeks ago. Literally 2 pages in they recommended a pattern fitting workshop run by Clare-Louise Hardie. I looked it up and there was one such workshop running this Sunday (I was free) and it was within reasonable distance of my boyfriend’s place in North London. Fine, I thought, let’s achieve one thing in June at least, and hopefully avoid similar future cock-ups!

I would 100% recommend this and probably any other workshop run by Clare-Louise. There were just four of us during the 3-hour (+ a bit, we overran!) session which meant that as well as general principles such as measurement-taking, we all had the chance to study our own foibles and understand the likely pattern alterations we’d come across time and again. We had sample patterns to look at but we’d also all brought one of our own from home. I definitely found having a “live example” much more practical to understand what changes were being made and why.

We talked about the way the big pattern companies work in how they design their products – apparently it is quite common for them to allow for the fact that people will be in denial about their size and cut too small – so if you do actually try and cut your ready-to-wear size it will probably come up big. Add to that the fact that their measurements per size all vary and it’s really a lottery – unless you measure properly and study the information given on the pattern pack to work out what you really need.

We learnt about wear ease and design ease too – an important factor that I hadn’t previously considered at all when looking at measurements. Practising with our patterns, we all tissue-fitted a garment so that we could see any glaring issues straight away, and learnt how to fix these. In my case I had a bit of a revelation, because I have always thought that full bust alterations were inevitable to get things to fit right. Not so! Instead we added some width at the side seams, and it turns out I have broad shoulders so we also added at the centre-back, and did a sway-back alteration to improve fit. Having added at the side seams, a bit more shaping was necessary because I do have a fairly defined waist, so we pin-fitted that in order to re-draw stitching and cutting lines on the pattern.

This workshop was really such good value, I can’t overstate my recommendation. If you have been finding it frustrating getting home-sewn garments to fit, find the commercial pattern packs confusing or get easily lost in the minefield of online resources, really just get booked on to one of Clare-Louise’s workshops because there is no substitute for in person tutorial and discussion, and the group environment adds to the benefit because you can also learn from other people’s body types and alterations too!

July is going to be pretty hectic for me (I’m away 3 out of 4 weekends) so I don’t hold out much hope of a great leap forward for home sewn clothes – but my trips do include Brighton, Rome and Birmingham so I will be on the lookout for vintage or indie bargains!