Journal, Sustainable Sewing

Fashion Revolution Week 2019

Last week was Fashion Revolution week and it week got me thinking about my own sewing practise and what sustainable means to me. On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. That’s when Fashion Revolution started. This year, 22-28th April 2019, marks the 5th Fashion Revolution Week, a campaign designed to enourage consumers to ask brands ‘who made their clothes?’ and to promote transparency across the manufacturing process.



Fast fashion comes at a price to both people in the manufacturing process and to the planet. Slowly sustainable fashion is becoming more mainstream, the BBC’s documentary ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’ broadcast at the end of 2018, opened eyes as it gave light to the enviromental impact of the fashion industry. Honestly, I’m not an expert in sustainable fashion, there are plenty of people out there who are, I recommend going and listening to the Wardrobe Crisis podcast as a starting point. Sustainable fashion can feel like an insurmountable task, but there are small ways in which as sewists and makers we can play our part.


Make where you can

As makers, dressmakers, seamstresses, however you want to define yourself, being able to sew your own clothes is empowering because you cut out all the manufacuting process used in the garment production. The only way to know who really made your clothes, is well, making them yourself. This removes any grey areas in the supply chain. When brands outsource different parts of production, safe practises for employees and enviromental standards begin to slip. Being 100% self sufficient by sewing all your own clothes may not be possible. Upcyling is a great alternative to breathe life back into previously loved clothes. Ready to wear is a last resort, but all the knowlegde you have on fit and fabric means you’ll find it easier to make more informed choices. People Tree is a great choice for both basics and underwear, and you’ll be safe in the knowledge that the whole collection is responsibly sourced.

Choose well

Learning to sew puts you in control, you decide the fabric, the weight, the composition, print or plain, but with great choice comes great responsbility. Not all fabrics are created equally. There is a growing awareness in the sewing community with makers asking for GOTS certificates. There is choice between natural fibres, man-made or semi man-made. I wrote about how to choose fabric to help idenitfy what is right for your project. As a maker, it’s important to consider the whole lifecycle of fabric and how long certain fibres will take to break down. Biodegradeable organic textiles are produced and disposed of in a closed loop system, cotton, silk, wool, cashmere and hemp are all examples of closed loop fibres. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, spandex, nylon will eventually break down, but this process might take between 20 to 200 years. So choosing what your fabric is made from and how it is produced can have an impact on its enviromental cost.

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Use every inch of fabric

Once you’ve decided on your pattern and you’ve invested in some fabric, preferably one  that comes from a sustainable source, it’s important to make the most of this fabric. After all natural resources have been used to produce the cloth, so it is precious, not to mention you’ve spent your hard earned cash on it. There are a few options to ensure you’ve made the most from your fabric, you can chose to cut your pattern pieces out flat, instead of on the fold which is most common for home sewers for its ease and speed. Alternatively you can use a zero waste pattern, like this Zero Waste Shirt and Dress Pattern here by schnittchen patterns. Lastly, you can save your off cuts of fabric for smaller project, Spoonflower have produced a book for smaller pieces of fabric. You can use offcuts for Bee’swax wraps, washable cotton pads, dishcloths, pocket linings, kids clothes, the list is endless, but the mentality remains the same, use all of what you have.

Making for making’s sake?

After all this and before even starting on a project it’s worth asking, do I really need to make this? Be considered in your choice of projects, will this suit me? Will I wear it? Does this fit into my lifestyle? I’m a big advocate of a capsule wardrobe and ask a lot of questions about my style with the Collete Wardrobe Architect series which I would highly recommend. It’s difficult, because as a dressmaker making clothes is more than just a means to an end, it is an expression of creativity, so I’m not saying never make anything just for the pure joy of making, but maybe just make one or two fancy dresses a year, instead of 10, if you only wear fancy dresses once or twice a year.


It’s not just about the clothes

Finally, Fashion Revolution asks questions about manufacturing and transparacy of supply chain and these questions raised apply all year round and not just during one week of the year. The same questions rasied apply to shoes, bags, accesories and homeware. By being part of Fashion Revolution it’s a lifelong commitment to fairer production and attempting to leave the smallest impact on the planet.  Jewellry designer Alison Macleod (who made my wedding rings) raised the importance of ethical and fair jewellery (blood diamonds still remain a problem today). Cambridge Satchel Company manufacture their leather bags in the UK. Consumers are becoming more savvy to this and brands have to adapt accordingly.

Fashion Revolution is a movement, it’s a mindset, it’s about asking questions about where all things came from, how they were produced and at what cost to the people involved and to the planet. This week raised a lot of questions for me, as a maker and as a consumer. I try to be as responsible as possible, my sewing output has radically decreased and I choose to invest in better quality fabrics and spend more time on quality of finish, focusing on fit and longevity. If I have to buy something ready to wear, I see it as an investment, not a throwaway purchase. In the future if I’m producing something out into the world, I want to know it’s not going to cost the earth.



Inspired by, Journal

Inspired by Rifle Paper Co.

At the moment I am obsessed with patterns, everywhere I go I’m seeing prints, tearing off corners of wrappers, newspapers and cutting out magazines collecting inspirations for my #100daysofpattern project where I make a repeat pattern everyday. What’s great about the 100 day project is that it forces quantity, when at the start of the design process quality is missing. It’s quite frustrating when you first start creating, there’s a gap between what you’re making and what you want to be making. Your work is falling short and — worse — you know it. This short film sums it up brilliantly.

This is especially true for me designing repeat patterns, (probably what caused some serious procraftination to get started) is that as someone who sews I’m exposed to so many great fabric designs, nearly everday. Instead of getting paralysed in fear of how many great designs are out there, I wanted to look, I mean really look at great print design companies, understand what I like about their work and how I can translate these elements into my own work. So here it goes and first up, is Rifle Paper Co.

Riffle paper 01.jpg

Rifle Paper Co. is a stationery and lifestyle brand based in Winter Park, Florida founded and owned by husband and wife team, Anna and Nathan Bond. It was built on the principle that life’s personal stories and moments are best told through the gift of a handwritten card or note to share these moments with others. I have been on the receiving end of one of these notes and too beautiful to discard, I’m treasuing this card as a bookmark.

Riffle Paper Co 02

In the past I might have been sceptical about a stationary brand, firstly, because it seems like such a saturated market, secondly, because it seems simple, trivial even, but perhaps in my old age I’m becoming increasingly more sentimental and now see the value of a handwritten note. The strength of the brand comes from the strong signature style, florals. The repeats are densely packed and overlapping, you can’t see the background, it’s this busy print that really makes them stand out. Standalone, the motifs are beautiful and are sold as individual prints.



I love the bright florals on the dark backgrounds, it reminds me of canal boat folk art. I think it’s easy to think of florals are exclusive to softer, dare i even say pastel colours, but the use of the strong dark colour really makes the details stand out and is a confident choice.


The floral repeat patterns on dark backgrounds translate really well from stationary to fabric. As a sewer I’d spotted these Rifle Paper Co. prints crop up with a collaboration with Cotton and Steel made beautifully here by Kate Eva Designs. Although such densely packed florals are not something I wear at the moment, I think they make beautiful garments to be worn all year round. You can buy the fabric on Minerva Crafts here & here.

Riffle Paper 04.jpg

Riffle Paper 03.jpg

Aside from florals, the collection has a strong focus on craftsmanship, you can see brush strokes, pencil marks, etchings and where the repeats have been screen printed. For me, there is a lot of charm in showing the process to the print production, rather than seamless and at times souless digitial repeat designs.

Riffle Paper 06

Riffle Paper 05

Last but not least, there is a sense of fun, without being too much like crafty quilting cotton, which just isn’t my bag. I love the dogs wearing sunglasses and the vespa prints give an insight into personality without being too cutesy, quirky or defining the brand.


I really enjoyed looking through the Rifle Paper Co. collection, it was interesting to see how prints translated from fabric, to stationary to wall art and what I found appealed to me.  I found the whole exercise inspiring and it reiterates that although the stationary market seems over-saturated, there is no one doing your own unique style and it is a reminder of how important a strong signature style is.

We’re working on it.

All for now.

Claire & Co.



#100daysofPattern, Journal, Projects, Surface Pattern

#100daysofPattern – Week 1

So this is the start of my #100daysofPatterns. The prompt for this week’s theme is celebrate, which was broad covering a whole host of occasions to celebrate, including new homes, new life and another year passing. So here’s my image board that got me started.




Day 1 – I started with flowers, because despite my reservations about floral print design, most celebrations include florals in some way. With the help of Skillshare I wanted to digitialise my design and work on the all important repeat pattern. I experimented with a background colour, but most importantly I wanted the daisies to retain their painterly quality, so I didn’t manipulate my initial image too much.



Day 2- Next, I worked on a pineapple print, I’d dreamt up ever since illustrating a ‘new home’ card with a pineapple, Pineapples in the Victorian era were a symbol of welcoming and hospitality. I overlayed the image as a symbol of abundance.

Pineapples Stacked.jpg

Day 3 – Next I explored paper streamers. I knew I needed a bit of inspiration, so I collated some images to get me started.  I manipulated the colours in Photoshop whilst keeping as much as the painterly quality of the lines as possible.



Party Streamers Original

Party Streamers Colours_BlueParty Streamers Colours_purple

Day 4– I looked at confetti. I wanted to created an abstract print and spent some time making different elements in my sketchbook and scanning them in.



Day 5-  I took my inspiration from champagne bubbles and used the multiply and divide feature in Photoshop to overlay the handdrawn bubbles on photoshop. Although this works as a tile, I’m not sure how well this pattern would repeat, as my idea was to have dense bubbles at the bottom and gradually dissipate.


Day 6 – Then I looked at animals in party hats, because, well why not. I definately see this print working as a set of cards, with a pom pom attached, because everything is better with a pom pom on.


Zebra Tile.jpg

Day 7– I struggled because my inspiration was sparklers and it didn’t really translate as a literal motif, so instead I broke down the sparkler into it’s sparks and ended up happy with the result. It did remind me of this Atellier Brunette French Terry.

Sparklers Tile

Week 1 done, what did I learn?

Well this week had a steep learning curve. My focus was to get my head around how to turn things from my sketchbook into something digital and I didn’t want to be too precious about the design. I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface and found myself quite frustrated on a number of occasions trying to get the computer to do what I wanted. So there is going to be a lot more time spent watching Skillshare tutorials.

Secondly, I started to understand what elements I needed to draw and paint to make a repeat pattern, the penny dropped on day 4. I want to keep as much of the hand drawn and painterly affects on my patterns as possible.

I’m naturally beginning to see a colour palette form; yellows, (obviously) blues, mint green, neutral & blacks and for now I want to stick within these colours and work at bringing in new colourways in upcoming projects.

Finally, there is a lot to be said for consistency and showing up, some days I struggled, like on day 5, and other days I had a design for a repeat pattern, a product and a print.

Next week it’s more of the same, I have a few days holidays next week so this is going to be a test of discipline and consistency to stick to the #100daysproject.  But so far, I’m still enthussed as I’m creating a body of work, with some ideas I want to develop further. The pattern from day 2, the pineapple, and day 4, the confetti, need more explorations. I want to see how these prints work on fabric and even on products, so I’m going to mock this up and getting some samples printed from spoonflower.

At the moment it’s eat, make, yoga,repeat. Honestly, it’s a routine I could get used to. I’d love to hear how you’re getting on with your #100dayproject and if anyone out there has any tips for creating pattern designs. I’m all ears.

All for now.

Claire & Co.








Journal, Sewing Plans

Spring Sewing Plans

It’s the first day of spring, and it’s time for some (as always) over ambitious sewing plans for the new season. I’m big into the concept of a capsule wardrobe. I don’t want to start from scratch and sew a whole new wardrobe, but instead I want to create a few new pieces that I hope to wear time and time again. I wanted to share my patterns and fabric for my up and coming projects. And this time, if you’re short of time or if you’re not a sewer yourself, I have included some ready to wear alternatives to put a spring in your step.

Trench Coat

A trench coat is a spring staple,  but I want to make a twist on this classic with this colourful fabric. I’ve been dreaming up this yellow trench coat since last autumn when I finished my first coat, which is featured on my make nine and it’s still not made. I’ve been put off by all the pieces, but I have cleared a week in my diary to give it my undivided attention. I’m using the Named Clothing Isla Trench Coat Pattern and have this glorious Mustard Robert Kaufman Twill from Sew Me Sunshine, that I bought with some vouchers I got for my birthday in October. I have my eyes on some polka dot lining and bold black buttons. It was hard to find a mustard trench on the high street, that’s the beauty of making your own, but the Whitstable Trench in navy or beige is a good alternative especially with the burst of colour provided by the lining.

Paper Bag Stripe Trousers

The McCalls 7661 pattern came with the Love Sewing Magazine. When it landed on my door step, the pattern encouraged me to experiment with paper bag waist trousers for the first time. I was always a bit adverse to creating any extra bulk with the layers of fabric around my waist and hip area, so I’ll be making a toile to test the silhouette on my figure. If all goes to plan, I want to keep it classic with this navy and white stripe Gutermann fabric. I spotted this blue and white pair of linen and cotton blend trousers on the high street that create a relaxed, tailored look.

Breton Top

Finally, I want to add, yes another, breton top to my wardrobe. This time I want to make it in a sunshine yellow colour to bring a bit of joy, even if I have to pair it with jeans, a jacket and umbrella (let’s be honest, it does always rain in Manchester). I was given the Tilly and the Buttons Coco Top from a friend of Rob’s whose sewing career was sadly short lived, so it will be my first time using this pattern. I bought some yellow and white cotton jersey from Sew Me Sunshine. The yellow is a bit on the lemon end of the scale and I prefer more mustard tones, but I searched fabric shops online looking for the perfect yellow and white mustard breton jersey and it was nowhere to be found. It was hard to find a ready to wear duplicate, instead I found this colourful breton long sleeved jersey top that would be a great colourful addition to any spring wardrobe.


Now that’s enough to keep me occupied over the coming months. First up, I’m making  the trench coat so keep your eyes peeled over the coming weeks for a full detailed review of the pattern and construction.  I hope you’re enjoying the first signs of spring and I’d love to know what’s on your spring sewing table.

Claire & Co.













Journal, Sewing Plans

The Wardrobe Architect

Making your own clothes gives new value to your wardrobe, because of the time, effort and investment that went into making them. The Wardrobe Architect Series on The Collete Blog back from 2014 was especially designed to help sewists construct their handmade wardrobe. The blog series provides a set of prompts to force yourself to define your core style. I wanted to share my consolidated answers as a way of cementing what it means to make my style, which ultimately will inform my decisions on future projects. So here it goes…

Making Style More Personal

How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystalise? Have they changed over the years, and why?

My style cemented from when I was around 20, I was interning in London so wore a lot of tailored men’s shirts, blouses, skinny jeans and loafers and the occasional shift dress and blazer. I was hugely infleunced by Alexa Chung during this time. Now I don’t work in an office my style is more relaxed and got lost along the way. Now I want to feel more feminine, colourful and creative. For the past few years I was wearing alot of leggings and baggy jumpers during the day, but it took me a bit of time to realise that spending a bit more time getting dressed for the day helps me feel more together, plus getting dressed is way more fun when you’ve made your own clothes.

How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?

I hate waste, pride quality over quantity and try to buy from sustainable and ethical sources. I really want my stuff to last and I want to wear it often. I grew up around a lot of wool and was constantly reminded of the value of a ‘wool jersey’.

How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?

I’m involved in the yoga community and some classes can feel more like a fashion show, but my favourite teachers tend to wear one colour, so slowly I’ve stepped away from the patterned leggings. I’m also involved in the sewing community and it’s made me realise that it’s great to show off what you’ve made. Generally I’m at home, so things need to be comfortable. It does always rain in Manchester, so things have to be warm and waterproof. 

In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?

Generally I never wear anything above the knee unless it’s paired with black tights. I like camisoles that show my collar bones in summer, jeans that make my legs look longer and I like things that follow an hourglass shape. I don’t like to wear anything too baggy or tent like.

Defining A Core Style


When you are wearing your favorite clothing, how do you feel? 

 Confident, colourful, classic, comfortable.

When you’re wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?

I hate pulling stuff down if it’s too short or worrying about lack of waist line definition if something is too baggy or boxy.

Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?

I like the tailored items Alexa Chung wears, and love how she still makes her look feminine. I adore how timeless Indes De La Fressange is. I appreciate how classic Emma Stone is in La-La Land, even her dressed down outfits are well put-together. Finally, I love the French style of Francoise Hardy.

What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?

Polished, Crisp and clean lines, everything I wear endeds up crumbled!


Exploring Shapes

You’re asked to consider shapes of garments you prefer. Here are some of the main elements that contribute to a garment’s shape; ease (tight or loose), length, neckline, waistline position, sleeve length, fullness. I rated my preference of each element of garments from 0-10, to help determine my signature silhouettes. You can read the answers in Style Lines PDF.



Proportions and Silhouettes

From here you’re asked to review how you’d pair these shapes together for outfits, for instance I like slim fitted trousers and an oversized shirt.



Organise Your Colours

You’re invited to find key colours in your wardrobe and what you graviate towards, from here you’re invited to organise them into neutrals, nearly neutrals and statment colours.

colour palette

organised colours_2

Exploring Solids and Prints

From your most worn clothing, calculate what percentage is prints. For me it’s between 10-15% and of those, the prints are stripes and geometric patterns. What can I say, I love a Breton stripe.


It can be both liberating and overwhelming when faced with so much choice when making your own clothes. However making items that compliment each other is part of the magic of making your own wardrobe. Going through these steps helps me filter some of the endless choices, and I now find myself instinctively drawn to items within my style. From here, the Wardrobe Architect series goes into detail about how to build and plan a seasonal wardrobe, but that is a whole other post. Keep your eyes peeled over the coming weeks for more on capsule wardrobes and how I plan my up and coming makes for the season ahead. Let me know if you have tried the Wardrobe Architect Challenge and if you found it useful?

All for now

Claire & co.