Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

The Dark Side


I have plenty of clothes but I love sewing – Carolyn has had the same thoughts as me on this but expresses them much better.

What’s a girl to do?

Sew for others? But that entails arranging fittings and meeting expectations and sewing things that I possible don’t like or want to sew.

Sew slowly? This I am already doing with my Jersey Blues SWAP ’15. Hand stitching every garment really takes time but I miss my machine and I’m making more clothes.

Move over to the dark side? Yep, I’ve signed up for a quilting class – Shock! Horror! Gasp! Turncoat!

I reckon this way I can still sew but not clutter my over-stuffed wardrobe with anymore clothes. Anyway, I need to learn about pattern coordination, fabric matching and clashing and most importantly, accuracy. It’s not really quilting – it’s patchwork and my first class is this week. I’ve always had a secret admiration for quilters, the way they sew a few squares of fabric together, slice them up, twist and turn and a kaleidoscope of colour and pattern simply emerges. Actually it’s just pure envy.

When I went to Quilter’s Quest last week to book and pay, Claire said to me’ “You’re not wearing any of our fabrics!” . I did have to explain to her that although I have often bought many fabrics, they are all cottons and this is the middle of winter! What can I say – Quilters! Huh! She is lovely though and while I might learn about patchwork, I’ll make damned sure they all learn a thing or two about making clothes.

I’ll be bringing my own machine and tools to the class. I thought it would look a little amateurish to turn up with stuff in a Tesco’s plastic bag so I made a ‘pouch’ to hold them all together in one place.


I found scraps and bits of cotton in my fabric box, traced around each tool and sewed a made-to-measure holder for everything I think I might need.

Tool kit

There’s a piece of wadding sandwiched between the inside and outside to cushion scissor points and add a bit of substance. The top third folds down and is secured at the button with a loop to stop anything falling out and then it rolls up and its tied with a ribbon.


If you’ve ever done patchwork/quilting is there any tool or item I’ve left out and might need?


Garlic, crucifix, silver bullets and a wooden stake?

17 thoughts on “The Dark Side

  1. I can’t wait to see what you make. I think many sewers will understand your comment about wanting to sew but not needing the clothes produced. Whilst I love sewing for other people it can sometimes be trying (and yes, you do have to finish the jobs you hate) and my wardrobe still echoes! I am hopeful that my recent changes will help with that. Or perhaps I could call you?

  2. I’ve made lots of quilts. Machine pieced, hand pieced. American & English pieced… Rotary cut, self drafted, naive applique, traditional applique… so the tools all depend on what type you are doing!
    Although pencils are most useful, a sharpener, paper etc.
    If you are cutting out small pieces by tracing around templates, a very fine grade sandpaper is very useful to place your fabric on as you draw around templates. The fabric doesn’t move at all. However if that’s not the sort of thing you are doing… it’s of no use.
    I learnt lots of techniques that have been handy for my garment sewing. While I got tired of the physical process of sewing a quilt together & quilting, I do still often miss the fabric selection and design process… and the highly addictive joy in seeing your creations wrapped around those you love, year after year…

  3. Looks like you are all prepared and ready to have some fun.
    Have to admit, I fall into the slow sewer category, and as I am early retired don’t need the amount of clothes I needed years ago.
    I shared a house with a girl that quilted when I was at Teacher Training college, and admit it is on my bucket list of things to do.

    It will be interesting to share this next adventure of yours Ruth. Enjoy, as I know we all will, learning from your experiences.

  4. First Alabama Chanin and now quilting…arrgh.. the Dark Side indeed.

    Love the pouch.

  5. Ok, the last line made me laugh out loud! (And sewing blogs rarely do that!) quilting is yet anothe way to make things with a sewing machine that are beautiful and useful. Enjoy!

  6. Band-Aids!!! Can you tell what happened with my first experience with a rotary cutter in my very first quilt class?????

  7. I hear you. Now that I no longer work in an office, I have little need for more clothes, other than comfortable jersey outfits (think yoga pants). Maybe Alabama Chanin is where I should turn next! I have also made many quilts. They are fun, because the fabric is so fun, and you can be so creative with the patterns. I’ve also made a few artsy quilted garments, that my mom loves to wear and look great on her.

  8. I have often been in awe of your sewing output, Ruth. Your are so motivated to keep sewing! I am a rather slow sewer, so I have a very long queue. I admire that you continue to add to your stuffed closet, because I really struggle with the “point” of making yet more, when I don’t need more. Taking up quilting is going to be a great outlet for your time and happy sewing appetite! Can’t wait to see your first quilt.

  9. A calculator and a handy reference sheet of bed sizes. Neither necessary if you are working metric instead of inches…. Some quilters have colour wheels, too? And a little piece of red plastic that evens out the hue so you can see the value (if I’ve got the terms right…)

    But seriously. You think you have to many clothes? How many blankets do you need – especially in the Age of the Duvet? I made four quilts about 20 years ago and as yet have no need to replace them. Every four or five years I make a baby quilt for someone (but actually last time I knit a baby blanket…). Still, they’re lovely, and a challenge. Go for it!

  10. It never dawned on me that overproduction could be a problem. I was wrong. So, if I had a thirst to sew but not enough wardrobe gaps, I’d look at five things:

    Quilting, as you have done. Lots of sewing and creative freedom. Once you’ve made a quilt for everyone in your family, there’s always quilts for charity, quilts for turning into bags and tool kits as you’ve just done, etc. This should keep you busy…. for two months. You’re fast.

    Bags. Working in fabrics and leather to create handbags, totes, luggage, jewelry storage, craft organization bags. Two more months.

    Rent-a-grandchild if necessary (as I do). Sewing for little people is gratifying. Simpler body shapes to fit. Too young to be embarrassed by things that look unique. You can do party clothes, play clothes, costumes for Halloween and dress up games, or toys. When a kid particularly enjoys what you made, it feels sensational.

    Interiors. Not just summer and winter curtains: what about smart slipcovers (could be season-specific, even) for your furniture? I’ve seen slipcover styles from urban loft chic to grandma’s chintz & tassels: anything you like is possible. You live in the land of fine linen. I call that a head start.

    Finally, the biggie: Upgrading any ho-hum parts of one’s wardrobe to couture quality. If I were as prolific as you, I’d make a superior* version of all my garments and retire the originals. Out with anything that doesn’t feel fabulous on; that binds; that once fit but doesn’t any longer; that looks good from the front but not the back; unflattering color, etc. Your wardrobe needs are of course different, but here’s what I’d make, just as an example.
    -2-3 absolutely perfect white shirts (Caroline Herrera, Oscar de la Renta as inspiration).
    -Well fitting, well made, chic wool crepe pants, skirt, dress, and jacket, for year-round go-to outfits.
    -The ultimate little black dress.
    -A fine knitwear dress (or suit).
    -A(nother) Chanel style jacket.
    -A real leather jacket. Yikes.
    -An impeccable Burberry/Hermes/Prada coat.
    -Perfectly fit jeans that I’d be proud to be photographed in from any angle: in white, dark indigo, and stretch corduroy. Leather, even!
    -A linen summer dress.
    -Several high-quality T-shirts and tunics.
    -A gorgeous nightie and robe set.

    Using these as core elements, I’d make a coordinated travel wardrobe(s) for vacation and business travel. I dream of being able to quickly assemble a carry-on-bagful of pieces that pack well, wear well, work together, and cover all my trip needs! Imagine the relief and confidence of having the right things ready to go on short notice.

    That might keep you busy until 2016. Good luck. I love watching your show. Keep posting.

    *When I say superior, I mean persevering in the brutally correct ways. I’d do a class in the vein of Susan Khalje’s to tackle my tailored wovens. Make pieces with relentless, no-compromises techniques, from fit to finish – clothing quality that I could never afford in department stores. Alabama Chanin beading AND stencil work, here we go.

  11. You have a great eye for putting colours together and quilts can become heirlooms, lasting a couple of hundred years. What’s not to like!?

    When you mentioned the dark side, I thought you were going to say you bought a truck-load of reject RTW stuff in the sales!

  12. I actually ALMOST bought a book on Alabama Chanin today…. It is calling to me, I think….

  13. Loving your tools holder. (There has to be a better name for it than that!). Good luck with your class, I shall look forward to reading about how you get on with it. I’ve only been in The Quilters Quest once – for shame, as it’s only down the road!

  14. Any quilter I have ever known was fueled by chocolate. Here in the US there was always a huge bag or bowl of M&M’s or box of donuts at the front of the class…beware…love the little tool roll…Good luck on the Dark Side!

  15. I think you have the basics there nicely 🙂 When I took to quilting properly (instead of amateurishly!) in late 2013, I invested in a new cutting mat, a 24×16 inch quilting ruler and some new blades for my rotary cutter.

    I think you’ll be fine – you’re accurate and can sew a straight line 🙂 The only odd thing is 1/4″ seam allowances which takes a bit of getting used to coming from dress making.

    You can see my 9 quilts here – and loads more!!

  16. What fun! I so enjoy quilting, I do mine in ‘small’ blocks, usually about 14″ square, by hand, while watching TV. Or when I was working, on the train or plane ( I learned to use my floss cutter to cut my thread, once scissors were a no no.) Then I use the machine to put the quilt together. Tools…gosh, it’s so much fun to collect things for hobbies. Love your pouch.
    A little memo pad for notes and sketching.
    Pencils – I use Bic mechanical pencils. So convenient.
    And a separate large white rubber eraser, it will erase on fabric quite well.
    And not for those little quilting stitches, but for basting – wonderful long quilt basting needles. They are rather thin and slip in and out of fabric so nicely. I use them all the time in my garment sewing as well. Perhaps something you already have!
    A spool of plain white thread for basting.

    Can’t wait to see your projects!

  17. Love your pouch! I bet you’ll love quilting. I’d refer to clothes sewing as the dark side, ha! I love the art of quilting. We have so many quits but I always want to make more….seasonal quilts, baby gifts, wedding gifts, remembrance quilts out of a persons shirts, wall hangings, picnic quilts, table runners, table toppers, then the quilted bags, etc. can’t wait to hear what you think about it!

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