Monday, 29 October 2012

Autumn Tova dress, and some thoughts on sewing through the seasons of life

This got done a while ago and I finally get round to posting the photos... just about within the right season. Ooh the excitement - it's another Tova!

When I made my first Tova dress this spring, I knew immediately I would want another by the time the cooler weather came around. It’s ideal for the turn of seasons: a fairly open neckline and three-quarter length sleeves, but with coverage enough to keep warm.

I’ve tried this year to stick to solid colours in my clothes. Much as I love prints, in reality I just don't wear them very easily. I’ve had this brown fabric for ages - it's shot through with orange and has a slight stretch, a nice drape and enough weight for winter. Perfect autumn outfit material, and finally gets it out of the stash (I had been itching to make something from it, but couldn't decide what).

As the original pattern is pretty short I’ve mostly been wearing my other tova as a tunic over skinnies or leggings. I wanted this one to be a ‘proper’ dress so I lengthened it (by about 10cm). The result, somewhat predictably given the design, was on the sack-like side. G took one look and opined that it needed a belt. Highly unusual both that he had an opinion and that I listened, but he was right. After one or two wears I also added some crochet belt loops to stop it shifting around.

Yes it's very wrinkled. Sometimes I sit.

To begin with I wasn’t entirely sure about how it turned out, but now I really like that it’s a different look from the previous one. It’s lost the A line shape but sits like a shirt dress, which is no bad thing.

Plus, as ever, it’s comfy. Coming to a realisation that I do not like to make things that aren't comfy :-)

:: :: ::

So anyway, I've been thinking on and off about what it is that's enabled me this year to finally get into a groove of sewing my own clothes successfully. The idea was, as more or less promised, to see if I can pin down some tips to share: being largely self-taught in this respect, it's been a slog to get here, and if I can help anyone else avoid that, so much the better!

But, the more I write and post here, the more I realise that actually, wardrobe sewing for myself is not what gets done most. As a proportion of my sewing time I really had no idea that it was so outweighed by sewing clothes for the children, gifts for others, and random accessories (and yes, I have a blogging backlog already).

When I started sewing seriously again, a couple of years ago, it was entirely motivated by sheer frustration with the shops and a determination to make clothes for myself that worked. Yet now, although I do shop far less, my personal fashion quest takes up much less of my sewing time than I imagine. I think the balance is about 30% clothes for me, 70% the rest.

Probably not to scale

I guess the obvious reason for this is that I happen to have two small children. It's got me wondering: is this just the natural state of affairs at this stage of life? That those with young kids are:

  1. unlikely to seriously resist the urge to sew cute things for them, and
  2. time poor and thus drawn to quick easy projects?

It's certainly the case for me, and I procrastinate making for myself because the process of fitting accurately and actually sewing larger garments is more time-consuming. Plus, the clothes I do make all fit into the easy-wearing category, when I'd love to let myself make some frivolous complicated things too.

Colette Ceylon: beautiful, but sadly too
frivolous and complicated for my real life

Or is it just time to admit to myself that I don't have the attention span for fashion sewing all the time? Will my kids grow up and leave home and I'll still be making sandwich wraps instead of difficult, stylish dresses? I see so many talented sewing bloggers making amazing clothes for kids, and I have to wonder what they'll be making when their children grow up (quilts??).

I'd be really interested to hear from you about this! Do you think our sewing inclinations and habits simply and necessarily evolve alongside our circumstances? Or could you say that you have a definite interest in one sort of sewing to the exclusion of others, regardless of circumstances? What's your sewing journey been - can you identify different seasons in your sewing life?

And, will I ever be free to make myself the fabulous wardrobe in my head??

(I would really like 'yes' answers to that last one ;-)


  1. Love your tova. A few weeks ago I cut out a blouse for myself and a few months ago I started a pair of pants. Instead of finishing those, I've made several dresses, skirts, costumes and hats for my kids. They take less time and concentration and I guess I feel they are needed immediately whereas I can wait. My kids are 7 and 4 and I do want to take advantage of the fact that they wear the things I make (and even request them) because I know it wont last forever. I'm with you though -- I'm wondering when I will have time/motivation to make the fabulous clothes I drool over online.

    1. absolutely agree about taking advantage of the fact they'll still wear thing we make! I guess that's kind of what I was thinking - I'll just accept that as a 'season' of my sewing life for now - when they grow up and I can't sew for them any more, I'll miss it even though I've got exactly what I wanted, ie more time to sew for me.

  2. Your tova is great and looks pefect for autumn. What a perfect post for how I've been feeling lately. I love the pie chart! It is so so true! I rarely make clothes for my boys any more, but I'm still making little gifts, costumes and of course fete sewing that is usually easy and reasonably quick. I do wonder as well whether I'll still do a drawstring bag (my easy - sandwich wrap type project). I probably will.. I read all the time people who do muslins - and can't believe they find the time or energy or patience for them. I do admire it, but sadly either due to my personality or the time factor I cut straight into my beautiful fabric and if it doesn't work c'est la vie. I always wonder if this is also a factor of working as well as trying to be creative and a good mum and just trying to do it all.

    1. Gifts eat up a lot of my sewing time too, it's so nice to make little easy things that people tend to appreciate isn't it? It's that that makes me think my sewing habits may not change that much when the kids grow up. And balancing it all is definitely a factor. I've found recently though that I've saved time by doing a really quick muslim, which I never used to do - it's eliminated a lot of adapting things on a 'finished' garment. Either way, it's definitely cut down hugely on the stress factor, and it only takes about an hour max which I can accept in terms of balancing my time. For me stress is the key factor to manage!

  3. I have just discovered your blog whilst on a Tova/Scout Tee research mission (which is normally as far as I get with my selfish sewing - after buying the pattern of course). So this post resonated with me and made me chuckle at how alike we can all be. My husband will be happy to know I am not the only one who makes wishlists of patterns and then moves on to something for the kids instead.

    I love both your Tova's and similarly go for solids. Solids = safe. I wish I were more adventurous with the fabrics I choose for myself. I can pick out cute prints for my girls but get completely stuck if I think about making something for me. I tend to chicken out and go for solid black, blue, green, grey or white. So predictable!

    I am underway with my first Tova and have the plan to make a Washi tunic as well. But will probably make something for the girls instead!

  4. Hi- Thanks for sharing- I love comparing notes on the weing front.
    I have been learning to sew from home thanks to all of the amazing people who post tutorials. I have a love of quilts and all things quilty- and find that the majority of my projects are gifts- My fave gifts to give are for babies- as they are usually small projects and you can get away with using all sorts of fabrics.
    I make myself a lot of different tote bags, again- these are small projects, I wonder too- if this is due to the time factor- I have two children as well, so I like projects that can be started and completed within an day. I find that by keeping my projects smaller I willl not get so easily discouraged. IT helps to be able to see the project through to completion in a shorter period of time- especially when beginning a new hobby.
    Note to self- I will make a large bed quilt for myself this year- by completing a block a week.- 52 blocks later, a year from now I will be quilting that union jack quilt that I covet,,,,


Please don't be anonymous or unpleasant!