Meet Simple Sew Blogger Bea, of Bea’s Sewing Adventures, who’s quite possibly our most experimental blogger who’s passion for dance wear means any stretchy fabric is her muse. And she’s not afraid of a hack or two either. We go behind the scenes with her, discovering her love for the sewing community and what gets her sewing mo-jo going.
Why did you start sewing?
I’ve always sewn for as long as I can remember. It was just something I did. I’ve always enjoyed making, so making things with fabric and thread was just part of that. I guess I was following my mum’s example. She made a lot of dresses for me and my sisters when we were little. I went from making dolls’ clothes out of my mum’s dressmaking scraps to making my first skirt for myself (dirndl, denim blue chambray, lace insert) when I was about 10 or 11.
I stopped dressmaking in my mid-20s and came back to it through dance-costume sewing, which I started in 2011. I found my old skills coming back and I was learning new ones, and I decided that actually I wanted to use my creative energies on making clothes that I could wear on a much more regular basis. I decided I liked wearing clothes which reflect me as a person much better than any shop-bought clothes could, and that’s been the driver for all my garment-making since I came back to it.
What’s been your proudest sewing moment?
My mum and I made my wedding dress and the bridesmaid dresses together. It required a bit of hacking to turn the basic pattern that we started off with into the wedding dress that I had in my head. Sadly, the dress lasted longer than the marriage
What’s your favourite sewing technique? And the technique you dread having to do?
I love hand finishing. For me, it’s that extra bit of love and care that I’m sewing into my make, and I enjoy the meditative calm of stitching an invisible hem.
I dread buttonholes, even with an automatic buttonhole maker on my sewing machine. Whenever I have to do them for a make, I practise them over and over beforehand, and even that doesn’t take away the dread that I might get all of them perfect except for the last one, then find it wrongly positioned or chewing up the fabric. I can’t breathe easily until they’re all finished.
What’s your favourite fabric to sew with and why?
This is a hard question!
I love working with fabrics with a bit of spandex/lycra/elastane content, because the finished garments are so comfortable to wear, and so easy to maintain, and with an overlocker, you can get super-speedy results. I also love the look of a drapey viscose, and I don’t mind that they can be a bit slippery to work with. But those are all about the results, not the sewability of the fabric.
When it comes down to it, for sewing pleasure, my favourite fabric to sew with would have to be cotton sateen. It has stability and a bit of weight to it, so it sews up cleanly, and has a fab finish.
Could we have a peep at your sewing space?
I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t got one. I live in a tiny studio flat, and I’ve just got a little corner where my sewing machine & overlocker live, and everything else is wherever I can find somewhere to stash it. It’s very far from Instagram-pretty.
Where do you get your fix of sewing inspiration?
A few years ago, I would have said it was all the sewing blogs that I had on my google reader account. I miss google reader! I still love reading blogs but nowadays Instagram is where I get my main sewing community fix – I’ve made so many lovely sewing friends through Instagram, and using hashtags like #brightsewing or #memade can link you to so many other makers all around the world. I’m @missbeacurtis on Instagram, if you want to find me there.
And although this isn’t necessarily about inspiration, the other thing that has helped me feel part of this community is meeting other sewists and makers for real, at meetups, and at workshops and classes. For anyone who’s never attended a sewing meet-up, I can heartily recommend it – even if you’re shy, there’s always somebody who you can talk to one-to-one, until you feel more comfortable about joining in a crowd-y conversation! As I said, I don’t see these meetups primarily as sources of sewing inspiration, but usually everyone is wearing something me-made, or a full outfit they made themselves, and that very often does inspire me, when I find out about new-to-me patterns, or I see an old favourite done in a way I would never have thought of myself.
Which sewing community sew-alongs have you joined in with?
I’ve done So Zo’s Me Made May every year since 2014, which isn’t really a sewalong, but it’s probably one of the best known online sewists’ challenges.
I did a couple of proper sewalongs when I first started on my blogging journey: The Sew Weekly Reunion and the Fall For Cotton challenges in 2013, and the Summer Sundress Sewalong in 2014. But I found sewing to a deadline stressful, and I decided that since I’m sewing for my own pleasure and enjoyment, I didn’t really need that!
The other online challenge that I do try to take part in each time is One Week One Pattern (OWOP), and I’ve used Simple Sew patterns very successfully for the last couple of years, using the Batwing Dress pattern in 2018 and the Shannon in 2019. I’m going to have to find a new Simple Sew pattern to use for OWOP 2020!
Which fabric suppliers do you tend to shop with most?
I don’t tend to shop online for fabric, because I prefer to feel and see the real thing before I buy. Put it this way – I’ve had more disappointments with online fabric shopping than pleasant surprises! But most of the real life shopping I do is with suppliers who have online shopping available.
Most recently I’ve shopped with FC Fabric Studio, who are mostly an online supplier, but every so often they have a sale day at the studio, where I’ve bought lovely jerseys and crisp summery cottons. I’ve also bought quite a lot from various of the Fabricland shops, as there are several within easy reach for me. Both of these suppliers provide good value for money, when budget is a consideration
What do you like most about writing a sewing blog?
I started my blog to record my return to dressmaking after a long break, and it’s always been a way for me to reflect on my sewing journey. I enjoy sharing my making process and I love receiving comments from other people. I always make sure to acknowledge them and reply to them.
Anything special about your sewing blog that we need to know?
Although I never set out to be a plus-size sewing blogger, the fact that I am a larger woman has meant that a lot of my making processes involve ensuring that my garments fit me. So I have always included grading information about the patterns I’ve worked with, and fit adjustments such as Full Bust Adjustments (FBAs). I don’t hold myself out as any kind of expert on fit, and I’m far from being a perfectionist on the subject, but I hope that my experiences can help other larger sewists to work out their own grading and fitting issues.
Anything special about your sewing blog that we need to know?
Being on the Simple Sew Blogging Team has given me a strong sense of community and shared purpose with the other bloggers on the team, which is fantastic, because we all know that sewing can often be a very solitary process.
But the best thing, that I’ve loved in all the time that I’ve been on the team, is the feedback from the readers of the blog. It makes my heart soar when I read that someone is inspired by my make, to try and do something like that themselves. It’s such a compliment!
What’s your go to Simple Sew pattern?
That would have to be the Shannon Collection top/dress. It’s been a fantastic pattern for me, as it stands, and also for hacking/adapting. It’s a very straightforward shape, and a great showcase for pretty or wow fabrics. I’ve made 10 of them so far, but this is such a useful pattern, I can still see more in my future sewing plans.
And the Simple Sew pattern that you’ve made that’s got the ‘wow’ factor?
That would have to be the Skater Dress. It was my first make for the Simple Sew Blog, and then I used it again to make a dress for the Dressmakers’ Ball. Both of these are amazing dresses that I’ve received such lovely compliments on. It may be time to try making another one!
If you could give a piece of advice to a Simple Sew pattern newbie what would it be?
If in doubt, toile. A toile is a test version of your make. It allows you to check the sizing and fit, and also to practise the skills and techniques that you need in order to make the garment. You can make all your mistakes on the toile, so that you get the final version right.
And if (like me!) you resent spending time on a dummy version of your make, you can do it in a not-quite-so-precious fabric, so it can be wearable if it all works well.
Can you share you top two Simple Sew pattern sewing tips?
These are both about sleeves.
#1 – When sewing the neck band and sleeve bands on the Shannon Collection Top or dress, you can amend the construction order to sew these in flat, rather than trying to get a perfect join in the round. So the order of construction would go:
1. Sew one shoulder seam only.
2. Attach the neck band to the collar.
3. Sew the remaining shoulder seam, making sure the two edges match up.
4. Attach the sleeve band to the sleeve edge for both sleeves.
5. Sew both side seams, again, making sure the edges of the sleeve bands match up. You can see this in action here.
#2 – When sewing any sleeve in the round, you will usually need to ease the sleeve into a sleeve hole that is slightly too small for it, to create the shaping that will allow you to move your arm around!
Take your time, and use a lot of pins, to even out the shaping, and avoid having to gather or pleat the fabric. Then, once you’ve got the fabric well pinned, tack the sleeve in by hand, to secure the fabric together safely, so that you don’t have to machine-sew with all those pins in place. Trust me, the effort you spend on the tacking will be well rewarded by how much easier the machine-sewing is. You can see this in action here.
See Bea’s latest make, the Lapwing youga pants here. You can follow Bea on Instagram – @missbeacurtis or find her blog at Bea’s Sewing Adventures