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Getting back to making clothes

Jane in a dark green linen dress and the Deren cardigan by Jacqueline Cieslak

When I was a teenager I made most of my clothes.

Partly it was financial - buying several dresses from jumble sales (and jumble sales were SO good in the 1980s) and refashioning them was a cheap way to get something new to wear.

Partly it was fit - I had a narrow waist and wide hips, a figure that ready to wear brands struggled to accommodate.

Partly it was style - I tended towards fancy dress in my clothing tastes; Edwardian slips, chef’s whites, satin pyjamas, you probably get the idea. When I went to University, as well as my sewing machine I packed 20 vintage hats.

Partly it was boredom. Growing up in a village in the 1980s left an awful lot of unfilled time.

The clothes were slapdash, sewn in haste, often the hems were held up by sellotape. I preferred to sew a new outfit each week rather than make something properly that would last. I was the sewist version of fast fashion.

I sewed my graduation dress - white jaquard silk with a paisley pattern, gored skirt and antique handmade lace around the neck.

I sewed my wedding dress - a raw silk puff of of a dress with a hand embroidered bodice and an underskirt fashioned from a Victorian crinoline.

I sewed my honeymoon outfit - a navy and white capsule collection made from patterns in Prima magazine.

And then I stopped.

Jane in embroidered linen dress

I made a lot of things for my daughters before they got to the age when pink and glittery became important. But from 1996 until last year, I didn’t make anything for myself to wear.

I don’t really know why.

Perhaps it is that thing that often happens when children are born, that the mother’s focus moves and many activities are simply abandoned or switched.

Perhaps it was a body shame thing, a feeling of worthlessness - steroid treatment for an auto immune condition made my body change to the point I didn’t really recognise or value myself for a long, long time.

Perhaps it was lack of space and time, a lack of intention.

For I always said that I would like to get back to sewing clothes - but I just didn’t.

Last week I made a dress, as I type this I am wearing it.

I ordered a pattern online from Elizabeth Suzann, got it printed by Netprinter, and found some old glazed cotton fabric to make a toile.

You can see that I am aiming to put the slapdashness of the past away.

The toile showed that the style just didn’t suit me - I had missed that the sleeves were part of the body, with fat facing cuffs, I had missed that the neckline was high, that there were no bust darts and, even more distressing, no pockets.

By the time I had cut up my toile and re-cut the pattern all that was left of the original was a beautifully shaped hem, dipping at the back, rising at the front.

I made it from a purple linen left over from some lavender bags we once made for Jason Statham - but decided that I didn’t fancy owning a dress the colour of parma violet sweets, so I dyed it olive green in the washing machine with a pack of Dylon that had been in the cupboard for years.

On Saturday afternoon - killing an hour before picking up rugby watching blokes from the pub - I decorated the hem with freehand machine embroidery, cream poppy seed heads and cow parsley. The instructions are now in the Freehand machine embroidery course.

Jane in embroidered dark green linen dress

I don’t know whether this will be the start of a creative wardrobe - I have worn the dress three times since last week which is encouraging and I love that it is a walking work of art. At University my MA dissertation was on artistic dress - from the Pre-Raphaelites to Sonia Delauney - maybe this is a circling back around and taking inspiration.

I have my next pattern picked out. It is based on an apron dress that Tove Jansson, the creator of the Moomins, wore. I just need to work out how to fit a larger bust into it . . . .

Linnet patterns

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Comments: 2 (Add)

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Corrie Fairlie

Dearest Jane,

The dress is beautiful and you look beautiful in this beautiful dress. Thank you for writing about how you made the dress. Very, very interesting.

No apologies for repeating myself, the Seven Wise Men of Greece did! "Wisdom can be repetitious", according to Thomas Cromwell when he was speaking to his son Gregory in Hilary Mantel's 'The Mirror and the Light'...

Judith Schur

I used to sew loads of clothes from Prima magazine patterns too. I had a file full of ones that I wanted to use but since having children I have only made one dress (and I've only worn that once!!) Reading this reminds me how much fun it was :)

Snapdragon social

It is my birthday today and I intend to spend most of the day in the garden. 
There are a couple of orders to send out and some seedlings to drop off, but then it will just be me and this little menace pottering around the vegetable patch and putting seedlings in the ground (and hopefully not digging them up).
Then I will be away from the main Instagram feed for a couple of weeks. 
I will still pop up from time to time in the Studio Club stories feed, but otherwise I'll be on a social media break.

📷 @katgoldin 

#slowliving #mindfulgardening
My elder daughter Zoë asked for a stripy jumper knitted with wool dyed from the garden.
These are the finished skeins - currently curing in the studio - dyed with sweet cicely, dock, bay, birch and nettle.
In a month they will be ready to knit with.
The slowest of slow fashion.

#slowstitching #slowfashion #naturaldyeing #foragedcolour #foragedcolor #naturaldyersofinstagram #sustainablemaking #sustainablecraft #plantdyedyarn #plantdyes
I find that, unless I have a particular time set aside for doing something I often simply don’t get around to it.

Even when that thing takes half an hour, even when I really want to do it. 

So this weekend, in the Studio Club, we set aside some time to start making a balm from daisies. 
I videoed myself as I went along and was there to answer questions. 

It made me realise that it’s actually quite difficult to see from the outside all the things that go on in the Club week to week. 

So I’ve decided to send an extra email every month , just to the people on the waiting list, giving a access to something that is usually members only. 

If you’ve been wondering whether the Studio Club is for you, you can join the waiting list via my profile. 

The next opening is in August. 

#sustainablemaking #slowliving #seasonalhome #daisybalm #herbalife #startwhereyouare #
Kat Goldin came round for a cup of tea and a natter last week - and took this photo of me for the next edition of A Seasonal Way.
I'm posting it today because it shows off the dress that I am inordinately proud of having knitted! 

The bodice is the Deren cardigan by @jacquelinecieslak and the skirt just flares out from that into a mid calf twirl. 
My pride is in the keeping going with the knitting . . . and in eventually using up some of the cones of wool silk yarn that I bought from a mill closure in 1984.

📷 @katgoldin 

#derensweater #derenpullover #jacquelineceislak #embodycapsulecollection #memademay2022 #memademay #memademayplus #memade2022 #sustainablefashion #seasonalhome
A week in dyes - recycled cotton threads from the dye pots, sorted, labelled and curing in the Studio.
From left to right
Sweet Cicely and iron
Bloody dock
Bay and bloody dock
Bay and iron
Sweet Cicely and bloody dock,
Sweet Cicely

This year I’m exploring layering up colours and creating depth and also trying to work out how the base effects colour. 

#botanicaldye #alchemy #growyourowncolour #gameoftones #plantdyed #naturallydyedwool #plantdyersofinstagram #craftwithconscience
#shadesofnature #extractedfromnature #inspiredbynaturesbeauty
#slowstitching #sustainablemaking #foragedcolour
I picked this Black hero tulip when it fell down in the wind and put it so the evening light could shine through the petals - for unlit it looks a little undefined, a little absent, as many dark flowers do.
Then as I took this photo it reminded me of the art nouveau drawings of Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh - the willowy bend, the swoop of the curved base, the full head.
Now I find myself speaking to it as I pass.

#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #tulipblackhero #windowsillwednesday #ihaveathingwithwindows #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #slowfloralstyle #petalsandprops #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
It is warm enough to have the doors to the dye deck open again - this week there are dock, sweet cicely, bay and nettle in the dye pots, a shuffling around as they steep and simmer.
Today I shall be writing up my initial results for dyeing with bloody dock (rumex sanguineus) for a Studio Club blog. 

I love having that space to put up progress reports - and the report is  very much in progress as the colours on wool and cotton were radically different - so members can follow along with my experiments.
Doors close to the Studio Club tomorrow - and the next intake of new members will be in August. If you fancy a summer of seasonal inspiration and slow living then you can find out more and join at

📷 @katgoldin 

#mystudio #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #allthingsbotanical #mindfulsewing #foragedcolour #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow  #plantdyersofinstagram #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife
I wrote a letter to the new Studio Club members yesterday. 

It was all about Euan’s Granny, and what she said to me when I was a stressed thirty year old. 

It was about what I thought she meant at the time and what I realise she meant now. (The letter actually goes out tomorrow morning so don’t worry if you haven’t got it 😂)

Then I took this photo of tulips at the ends of the vegetable beds and I remembered that at the time I was receiving the grandmotherly advice was also the year that I grew striped tulips for the first time. It was in my back garden in Old Kilpatrick and I took a bunch through for her. 

When we look back there is often such rhythm to our lives. 

#growyourownflowers #slowliving #cornersofmygarden #slowflowers #aseasonalway

About Snapdragon Life

In the Studio Club I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

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