I recently was lucky enough to be a part of the Boys Sew Too catwalk presentation at ‘The Knitting & Stitching Show’ in London’s Alexandra Palace: Boys Sew Too, created by Clive Bruder, is ‘a movement to encourage and inspire men and boys to keep sewing’ – I’m sure you can imagine that’s a sentiment I can really get behind!
The show looked great, of course I didn’t get to see it at the time, but managed to get a front row seat watching the posts from Nicole Akong (who was guest judge) and The Knitting & Stitching Shows on instagram – as well as the posts from the others. Here’s a list of all the participants (sorry if I’ve missed anyone out!) … I encourage you to check them out – and you’ll have a front row seat too!
@sewandrew (that’s me!)
My experience backstage was just as exciting. It was great to be welcomed into a group of such talented diverse and inspiring sewists. Everyone was warm and friendly and it felt amazing to be a part of the team.
The theme for the event was Reduce-Reuse-Recycle and I thought I’d show you what I made (with a few more words and photos than I can manage on instagram!).
I knew straight away that I wanted to incorporate coffee sacks and was lucky enough to find some at a local car boot sale. I had some ‘sale-bin’ muslin fabric deep in my stash which I had rescued from the tip long ago. The rest of the fabrics all turned up through my husband’s antique & retro shop Queens Road Retro – He brought me many more fabrics than I could use on this look… so I’ve still got plenty to play with!
Anyway, there’s a lot to get through, so let’s get started…!
The smallest item was the last one to be made; at the 11th hour, MrA said ‘you need a belt! You should make a belt!’ So (I put my celebratory drink aside, and) I gathered my interfaced off cuts from the floor while he set about finding me a buckle… which he did… 3.5cm… so I pieced my scraps together so that I could cut a 7cm wide strip that was long enough to wrap round my waist plus a bit extra.
I folded the long edges into the centre and sewed a strip of ribbon to the back to cover the join. Then I used a tight zigzag stitch (and a heck of a lot of fraycheck!) to hold the ends. I just punched one eyelet in it for now (figuring I could maintain my weight until the weekend 😆) and the belt was done! (… and I could get back to that celebratory drink!)
This was the first thing I made. The pattern is a free download from the Victoria & Albert Museum website designed by Alice & Co patterns. It’s a customisable pattern with plenty of great options… and it’s free!
MrA had brought home the crochet tea table cloth quite early on, it seemed like a perfect match for the coffee sacks: Teas & Coffees! And I was happy with how it paired with the muslin. I adapted the pattern by cutting out panels from the sleeves and centre back (remembering to add seam allowance back on!) and sewed those pieces together first so that I had the whole pattern piece to work with.
At some points it was like sewing absolutely nothing! I shortened my stitch length to 2mm and engaged the built in IDT foot (on the Pfaff creative 3.0*) to hold everything steady. Also, I cut out each piece as I needed it, so it wasn’t lying around, stretching out of shape.
I interfaced the cuffs, and faced them with the muslin so that they would hold their shape better.
I didn’t want to interface the placket, so it’s a little … delicate! I’m devising a plan to put in some invisible anchoring stitches before it’s too late, but it’s holding up well for now.
The button holes were sewn twice and so thick with glue that I needed power tools to open them! But I loved it the moment I put it on.
I’m telling you this all out of order, because aside from the belt, the trousers were the last thing to be made. I’ve still got the jacket to go, but I’m saving that! I hadn’t found a more suitable fabric yet so I was about to cut up a favourite old linen bedsheet for the trousers, when MrA turned up (again!) with the perfect tablecloth. Off white, linen-ish…? With a variegated brown thread detail running through, and with a lovely big white hem already around the edge.
I used the chino pattern from the (1st?) Sewing Bee book ‘sew your own wardrobe’ – it’s very high waisted on me so I’ve lowered the waist by 4cm. I’ve also moved the back shaping from the side seams into two back darts, my ‘hip’ projection is more at the back than the sides!
I didn’t take many photos by this point, but I did take the time to match up the pocket facings (above) and the fly came out really neatly. Also I finally nailed the front waistband extension! I usually try it by sewing the extension right sides together, then turning it… it always comes out a bit wonky!
This time I pressed all the seams over on the extended piece and topstitched it all together in one go. I got a much better result this way.
As I was using the built in hem it was important to cut them out at exactly the right length. Hmm. I didn’t quite manage that, so in the end I had to fold the hemmed edge in half. This wasn’t such a problem, in fact I think it helped them look a bit more like trousers and a bit less like pyjamas!
They feel great on – although I may not get much more wear out of them until next summer.
Now, even though the shirt had turned out so well, the jacket was my main piece and I was determined for it to come out even better. Originally I’d planned to find a new chore-jacket type pattern, or work on adapting an existing one… I think I’ve mentioned this before (& still not done it!) but as luck would have it, one of my hairdressing clients recommended a friend of hers to me who happened to be Jane Taylor-Bouvard who works with Alice & Co (who I mentioned earlier, remember the shirt pattern?). Well, we hit it off, got chatting about sewing patterns, and by the end of the haircut Jane had offered to draft a jacket pattern, just for me to my measurements! I know; it sounds too good to be true! But I can assure you it is good and it is also true!
So the next time Jane came, she brought her tape measure…
And before too long I had a hand drafted pattern in my hands (printed & posted to perfection by sewingwithpride.com) and I was ready to cut up the sacks!
Now, I’ve made the sequence a little shorter than it was in real life, as there was a whole load of genius going on over at Jane’s that I had no part of… all I know is that I ended up with a beautiful pattern that I can’t wait to make over and over again.
Those who can draft their own patterns (& those, like me, lucky enough to have one drafted for them!) know the pleasure of sewing a pattern and not needing to give a second thought to whether it will fit them. Having that stress removed from the equation is truly a joy! (Especially as by this point I only had 2 days left to make the jacket & trousers!)
Handling the coffee sacks was the first thing: I’d already pre washed them 3 times using plenty of softener, and given them a good steam press 3 or 4 times each. Next, to try to help minimise fraying, I cut out pieces of lightweight fusible interfacing to roughly the size of each pattern piece, I ironed them onto the sections I wanted to cut out and allowed them to cool down before I pinned the pattern pieces. A bit like block fusing, but minimising the fusible wastage.
Although I had every faith in the pattern, my faith in the ‘vision’ for this jacket disappeared almost the moment I started! Seeing the raw pieces cut out in front of me, I thought: ‘eek, I don’t like it!’ Does that ever happen to you?
Even though I thoroughly enjoyed making the jacket, I was convinced, right up until the sleeves went on and it was finished, that it was going to look awful. Of course once I had finished it and put it on, all that disappeared. In fact, it is, to date, my favourite thing I’ve made! MrA coined the term ‘Sacket’ by mixing… well, you can imagine how he did it… and that phrase kept me going and kept my mood light… while also haunting me a little bit!
The lining was another vintage fabric MrA had brought home, not a tablecloth or curtain, just fabric. It feels a little like cheating against the burlap, but (before washing!) this stuff looked like it had sat in the bottom of at least 4 different people’s stashes – ignored – until it came to me.
I mostly underlined the outer fabric, treating the two pieces as one wherever possible. This was for speed, but also to avoid making any extra bulk. I got a clean effect on the side seams (above) and hand stitched the lining down at the shoulders. the visible seams are overlocked, hopefully to be bias bound one day.
I have to say that from the ‘sewing thin air’ of the shirt to the ‘sewing a brick’ of some of the jacket seams, the Pfaff* took it all in its stride. I wished I’d had some time to do some embroidery for this project too but that definitely had to wait!
Setting in sleeves is never one of my favourite things, but I must admit that the burlap lent itself very nicely to a gathering stitch. It took me four attempts to get the right balance on the right sleeve (all my fault, I’d marked the notches wrong and just got pot luck with the first one!!). But of course, with the sleeves already made and ‘lined’, as soon as they were in, it was finished! … well apart from the poppers, but, yeah, finished! It was late and it was dark, but I couldn’t help but celebrate in the garden with Eloise!
So with everything made, it was time to pack it all in a bag and head off to work for a few days before the show.
(Photos @miltonesque @sewingwithpride @boyssewtoo thank you 🙏🏻)
Thanks for reading all this way! I really do encourage you to check out some of the links and other makers I’ve mentioned here (apologies again if I’ve missed anyone!) … and if there’s a sewing group, event or meet up happening anywhere near you, why not go along? I did and I had a great experience!
Notes to self:
- Always start earlier than you think for a deadline!
- If you have a vision – believe in it (even if you think you might look like a scarecrow!)
- Interfacing super-fray-fabric isn’t enough, overlock the pattern pieces too.
- Learn to draft patterns, it’s got to be worth it for the fitting benefits.
* Pfaff machines on loan as part of their Ambassador Programme: Creative 3.0 & AdmireAir 5000
BoysSewToo Catwalk sponsored by AurifilThread