Third up in our mini series, ‘Meet the Simple Sew Bloggers’ is Susan of blog, Susan Young Sewing. Experienced and experimental, Susan is one of our chief pattern hackers, who’s love for technique, craftswomanship and great fabric shine through her Simple Sew blogger posts.
Get to know more about her style and sewing below….
Why did you start sewing?
I’ve sewn since I was a child really, I love to be able to take a piece of fabric and make it into something that can be worn. The quality of my sewing began to improve significantly once I got to Secondary school where I had a great, if old-fashioned, teacher. It all stems from her really. I’ve never lost my fascination with engineering fabric into a garment.
What’s been your proudest sewing moment?
That’s tricky because with so many years to choose from there have been a few at different times. I made a (very 80s) taffeta dress for my friend’s 21st birthday when I was still a student for example, then my own wedding dress and 5 bridesmaids dresses a few years later. More recently I still get a huge thrill if anything I’ve made pops up in a magazine or online, and I’ve just made two garments for the next GBSB tie-in book which was I was so chuffed to be asked to do.
What’s your favourite sewing technique?
And the technique you dread having to do One of my favourite techniques is understitching, weird I know but it gives me so much satisfaction to see that neat row of sewing very close to a seam on the inside of a garment where no one else can see it! I enjoy hand-sewing too, a nice bit of slip-hemming or herringbone is very soothing…unless you’re in rush, when it’s anything but!
I don’t think there’s anything I really dread as I’ve done most things now. I made a tailored jacket for a client recently though and knowing the fabric cost £60 per metre really focusses the mind I can tell you!! It turned out beautifully though so I should probably add that to my ‘proudest make’ list too.
What’s your favourite fabric to sew with and why?
I don’t really have a favourite, I’ve sewn with so many different types over the years that I just go with whatever works best for a pattern, although it’s always good to be experimental. Different fabrics require different techniques so I’d encourage anyone to push their skills with new fabrics from time to time-don’t get stuck in a sewing rut, but if you really don’t like something no one is going to force you to use it again!
Could we have a peep at your sewing space?
Where do you get your fix of sewing inspiration?
Instagram mostly, I’ve been very involved with the @sewover50 account since it’s beginning and it’s filled with hugely inspirational women, and a few men, who sew. I like The Fold Line for their breadth of appeal and inclusivity. I buy sewing magazines occasionally, and I do love a good ‘coffee table book’ with fabulous photos. I adore going to exhibitions and galleries which feature fashion and couture. Films or TV can be very inspiring too, most importantly though I want to see women of my own age well-represented anywhere as stylish and inspiring individuals.
Which sewing community sew-alongs have you joined in with?
I’ve joined in with Me-Made-May a few times now, and Sewvember. The @sewover50 account has run a couple of challenges which were fantastically well supported, especially #so50visible in which followers were encouraged to only use a pattern which had featured a model who was 45+. We’re an important and varied part of the sewing community with much to offer.
Which fabric suppliers do you tend to shop with most?
I very much prefer to feel fabric before I buy it so that I know exactly how it’s going to be, and judge it’s quality and suitability for a project. Retailers such as Fabrics Galore in London, Ditto in Brighton and Backstitch near Cambridge are 3 of my favourites. Excellent online suppliers I’ve used include Sew Me Sunshine, Selvedge and Bolts and Lamazi. Also, Minerva have a fantastic and wide range of lining fabrics which I’d recommend.
What do you like most about writing a sewing blog?
I love to share my own thoughts on patterns which I’ve used, on my blog Susan Young Sewing. Sometimes I will have been provided with a pattern and/or fabric specifically to review it (I’m always honest though, so if I encounter a problem I’ll highlight it, politely, and feed it back to the supplier) Others are patterns which I’ve picked out for myself and thought others would interested in how it went. I also write about exhibitions or museums that I’ve been along to that have a fashion or textile angle. Many of my overseas readers say they enjoy these if they can’t get to similar events near them, because I include lots of my own photos.
Anything special about our sewing blog that we need to know?
Whether or not I’ve been provided with a pattern/fabric I will always write as a ‘critical friend’ about something. I absolutely don’t write ‘hatchet jobs’ but I’ll tell it truthfully, and always try and offer alternative techniques or advice as required. It’s for people who want to know what someone who has been sewing for over 40 years thinks, you won’t find many perfectly styled photos, just me and my makes complete with messy backgrounds!
What’s the best part of being on The Simple Sew blogger team?
It’s a great way to share what ‘real’ dressmakers can do with the patterns. We all have different styles and approaches as we’re a very varied group of individuals, which means readers get a great cross-section of ideas and advice on offer.
What’s your go to Simple Sew pattern?
Definitely the Zoe top and dress, I’ve made at least 4 variations now.
And the Simple Sew pattern that you’ve made that’s got the ‘wow’ factor?
That would probably have to be my most recent, the Amelia Tea dress which I made in a drapey velour with a distinctive ‘Bee’ print. I lengthened the skirt and added long Bishop-sleeves which gave it an extra edge. I’ve worn it loads over the winter and it always gets lovely comments.
If you could give a piece of advice to a Simple Sew pattern newbie what would it be?
As well as following the written instructions with any pattern, definitely have a look at the bloggers to see how they approached it, there’s quite an extensive back-catalogue of information now to draw on. What fabric did they use? Did it work well? Was the fit OK or were there consistent alterations which people were making that you might need to consider too.
Can you share you top two Simple Sew pattern sewing tips?
Don’t be afraid to ‘pattern hack’, try adapting a simple shape like the Zoe for instance by adding sleeves, alter the neckline, extra topstitching or adding a skirt for example, the blogger team are all excellent at this. Secondly, (and this goes for almost any pattern if you’ve not made it before) if you’re planning to use a ‘good’ fabric I’d definitely make a toile to check important details like fit first, to avoid expensive and disappointing results.
Click here to read Susan’s post on her fabulous dog tooth checked Utility dress