I write this while sat in our island home. But it’s no longer home. The walls are bare and the floor is too, apart from stray boxes and as-yet unpacked items lingering in my peripheral vision. Home has been packed up and is currently residing somewhere between a storage container and my memories, waiting for the time that it will come into being once more.
And with these echoey walls around us, this seems like a good time to look back on the year. I’ve made 19 items of clothing this year – not all for me – and several other smaller items (such as knitted hats, socks, sewn knitting bags, leaf blankets) and I would say that it has been a wholly successful year, in terms of advancing my skills for sewing. I love much of what I’ve made, and everything is in heavy rotation in my wardrobe. To assist with the process of reviewing the year, I am following the prompts developed by The Sewcialists, who have been running the ‘Top Five’ challenge for many years now, and although I have never written a review of my own, I always enjoy reading about other sewists’ highlights and misses. This year I am adding my own to the mix. Shall we, firstly, get the Misses over and done with?
Top (Five) Misses
First up has to be the first item I made this year. In some ways my Sasha pants were winners (nice zip fly, great shape) but overall they’ve not turned out very well. The biggest issue is no doubt the fabric.
I wore these to a work event in February, having finished them at the end of January, and realised to my horror that the corner of the welt pockets were peeking open and the lining was shining through. I blamed myself for being too enthusiastic in snipping away the edges and tried to do an invisible mend (not easy on corduroy). They split again, and I did another mend which was even less invisible than the first, so I closed up the welts. They again split so I did a not at all invisible fix and popped on some patch pockets instead. This, added to the fact that the back seam is splitting across my bum, and the waistband stretches out within half a day of wear – despite my efforts to prevent this happening, I have come to the conclusion that the fabric is not substantial enough for these trousers to be worn as they are.
However, I really enjoy wearing them. I love the shape (although I never loved the look of welts as a back pocket), and will make them again… in a sturdier fabric.
Second fail is my Tempo Leggings. Again, this is purely the fabric, as I love the leggings themselves.
From the first I felt that the white backing of the printed lycra showed through too much when I wore them. They’re partially see-through, and I would not feel comfortable wearing them in public. This has never been put to the test, of course, as the gyms have been closed here since before I made them, but it remains true.
I long to find an online UK supplier that has sports lycra such as Fablethics or someone would use. If anyone knows of any supplier like this, please do let me know!
Thirdly is my only other sewn sportswear of the year, my tie-back tank. Again, I didn’t really get a chance to wear this, but I wouldn’t rush to anyway: I feel it leaves a bit too much skin exposed to be suitable for a Scottish gym (on a not-very gym-orientated person). Or rather, it feels a bit too much for me. To wear it comfortably, I would need another tank underneath, which defeats the purpose of having a light top to wear when working out. Time will tell, but it’s not been wholly successful so far, although I’ve sewn the back up a bit, and will probably do so more.
And therein lies my three fails. None of which are total fails, as I still wear them, just they either need some additional work, or else will mainly be worn at home. But, I am happy that I only have three things that fit on this list, and for two it’s the fabric that’s the fail. Not too bad for a year of making!
Top Five Highlights!
Now this is the bit that has been really tricky! Of the remaining items I made this year, I love them all! I have shortlisted it to these five, but give honourary mention to four more items below. Now, in no particular order we have the highlights of 2020…!
My Azaire blouse is a real winner. I just love it. I feel relaxed in it, love the fabric that was bought on a special holiday with my sister, was very happy with my invisible zip, and it’s also been worn for a big work ‘do (where I gave a talk), on Boxing Day and numerous other days in between, but always with a wee giggle of happiness.
I didn’t precisely follow the pattern, and did a lot of hand sewing to get the finish I wanted. This was a real lesson for me, and I really have learnt to put the effort in for things that I love. The end result just makes it even more beloved and all the secret finishes bring me such joy.
Secondly, my first ever colourwork jumper – Grain Sweater – has been endlessly loved. I just adore it. I love the look, the fit, the cosiness, and I am so, so proud of it. It was finished in time for our walking holiday, and was a comforting hug at the end of each day. It has acted as a pillow while I’ve been working on the Shiants, and has been worn endlessly through the autumn and beyond. It has accidentally been through the washing machine – which was a dreadful moment – but it came out okay (thankfully we wash everything on a 30 and don’t use a drier), so I am thanking my lucky stars as I want to be wearing this sweater for a very long time to come.
One of my proudest makes this year has to be my first ever man’s shirt – the Fairfield. Joey suits it so much, and I just love seeing him wear it with pride. The whole process was a lesson in mindful sewing, not rushing and taking time through each of the processes and I just love it. Again, it’s special fabric (another holiday with my sister), and it was a challenging make. It was my first shirt for Joey, but it definitely won’t be my last! He wore it on Christmas Day, as well as many other times and I just love seeing him enjoy wearing something that I made.
I appear to be going in chronological order! I will continue as so…
Next up is my waistcoat! This has been dreamed about for so long, and to bring my vision to life was such a fun exercise. I really enjoyed the process, and though it hasn’t been worn very much, I look at it with real love and joy.
In fact, because of writing this, I went and put it on. I love the fabric, both the lining and the outer and feel it is just utterly and perfectly me. I will find more ways of wearing it with joy, but as with the other items on this list, the act of making was as rewarding as the finished article. The story behind it means so much and as a special item I take away from having lived on the Outer Hebrides, well it will be with me forever more.
And finally, I have to finish with my swan Pleiades. Goodness, it required some work to bring this together, and it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing with the fabric, but I absolutely love the finished garment. It was worth making my wearable toile, and the changes I made to the final pattern have provided me with a dress that I really love. I can’t wait to wear it for weddings and other events next year, and I found so much enjoyment in taking time and creating a dress that was perfectly me.
In time I will forget the difficult parts of the creating, and will remember the times it was worn, and danced in, the friends I was with, and the moments we created. It is a dress that was made to be loved, and love it I do. It was like wearing a dream, to take these photos, and I very much look forward to putting it on for real, one day.
And that brings my absolute favourites to a close! But to continue here are another four absolute winners, with links to their original blog posts. I absolutely love all of these:
Top Five Non-Sewing Highlights
Well, top, top, top highlight of the year is that my boyfriend, Joey, proposed on Christmas Day! I am, of course, over the moon, and it seems like an utterly perfect way to finish the year. I keep pinching myself, for it doesn’t quite yet feel real, but it’s magical. Another wonderful side effect of this is that it’s brought happiness to so many people as well. Both our families are absolutely delighted, as are our friends, and it symbolises so much to us all – but for us it’s a promise, that we walk forward together.
He gave me his Grandma’s engagement ring from 1942, which needs a wee size adjustment, but is so absolutely perfect that I can’t quite believe it has come into our ownership – it seems that sometimes dreams really do come true.
Many other wonderful things happened this year:
We had a fantastic walking holiday, through utterly stunning Scottish landscapes.
Swimming in the sea, including in perfectly warm weather (yes, this is a Scottish island!), including a barbecue with my boyfriend’s family, on a secluded Benbecula beach.
Applying for, and getting, a dream job that means we are moving back to the mainland.
Slowing down, spending time wandering, slowly and appreciating the nature around.
And so many other special moments, and wonderful times. Too many to count. This year has been hard – really hard – but in the gloom there are always moments of brightness and times to treasure. I hope you feel the same and that we all now look forward with hope.