Does something have to be hard to be a sewing achievement? Do you need to slave away for hours and hours at the machine and cutting table, and turn out something completely unique and immaculate to celebrate a major triumph?

I don’t think so.

Lately I’ve seen a few projects pop up and they haven’t been a couture garment but they have marked developing a new skill, overcoming a hurdle, technique refinement or beating a difficult fabric. I enjoy these posts as much as the posts that are full of monumental sewing achievements, like a couture dress, a tailored jacket, jeans that look just like RTW. Yes, those posts blow me away and I often read them and think ‘I wish I could do that’ or ‘if only I had the time’. However I think celebrating our little achievements is important. Cumulatively these will lead to bigger things but it’s important to enjoy the sightseeing stops on a sewing journey. Everyone starts somewhere and I’m sure even the rock stars of the sewing world have their sewing nemesis.

In the last couple of weeks the following have popped up:-

  • Goodbye Valentino posted a Kwik Sew 2498 top. She commented that this year she had decided to sew challenging projects – but this project qualifies as it has five buttons – apparently she’s not a button fan! I think that’s great, it’s not a couture top but its a celebration of overcoming a sewing hurdle, and yet she’s churned out made an amazing dress that counts as couture but celebrates this Kwik Sew project too. I admire and love that.
  • Kim-ing. I love everything about this blog. She’s quite new to sewing but her enthusiasm, sense of fun and sharing is infectious. I’ve loved watching her Thurlow journey (because I’ve been there too!) and I think there are another pair to come! Or her Cambie dress with its invisible zip and lining. She’s a stitcher who bumps along over the hurdles and lets us have giggle on the way, I mean this would have to be one of the most light-hearted and joyful sewing blog pictures I’ve seen, I love it!
  • Bimble and Pimble – she made leggings! Yes, leggings are not hard sewing in themselves (although she did try hard to make it so) but she drafted them herself from an Etsy tutorial! And oh my goodness they are wicked things! Check out the fabric!!
  • Sylkotwist she conquered some very temperamental dobby fabric and made a lovely pair of Iris shorts. She’s also nailed Peony and got it to fit beautifully – which was beyond me. I got so cranky with this pattern, I ripped out the zip and binned it before the camera came out!
  • Thornberry’s made some more Renfrews and so has Sew Squirrel and SusiehomemakerMDand Gillian they all find ways to sew this pattern and make it their own. The sewing blog world seems to be afflicted by Renfrewitis!

There are hoards of others I can mention (sorry if you feel I’ve missed out but trust me I’ve read your blog!) but there are many more that I can’t because they are not deemed fancy or clever enough to blog about. I think that’s a shame. We all often bang on about ‘the simple things in life are often the best’ but it seems we don’t think so in regard to sewing.

So what’s been my achievement lately?

Making a simple gathered skirt with an invisible zipper closure. Exactly easy peasy.

I love making these skirts. This is my third and I can see the simple improvements in my sewing skills. For these skirts my go-to guide has been Gertie’s full gathered skirt posts.

I’d been having a rather tough and arduous time at work. Feeling very flat on Friday evening, I spotted some owl quilting fabric I had purchased for my eldest daughter. She’s got an obsession with owls this year, it’s her classroom theme. She’s a very diligent student and adores her teacher – so it’s all about owls in 2012. Too often I promise to make them something and never quite get around to it.

I decided to remedy that.

So I cut out four rectangles of fabric, a piece of interfacing and started sewing. Less than 90 minutes later she was wearing this.

Owls in action!

Owls in action!

Now it’s not a WOW project. However this is the third skirt I have sewn for my daughters and it gives me simply joy because of the improvement in my zip insertion skills, drafting and finishing.

I had planned to add piping to the waistband – but she just wanted the skirt NOW. So I obliged.

Zoe's owl skirt waistband - front view

Zoe’s owl skirt waistband – front view

  1. I’ve gone from no zip or button – just a tie waist. To a centred zip and button. To finally an invisible zip. This one is not perfectly neat but it’s getting better! I should have finished this in the same way I finished the Hazel zip (which was perfect), I’m not too fussed though – I’m sure there will be a next time. The girls hunt the bargain tables for new skirt fabric every chance they get!
  2. I’ve learnt how to accurately calculate waistbands and finish the waistbands neatly.
  3. I can do French seams (this is how I finished the side seams).
  4. I can draft a simple skirt and have a child beam with pride because it fits them perfectly – and only them. And they are happy because their Mum took the time to make it for them.
  5. Most importantly, I feel much happier about life;
  6. and my daughter adores her skirt.

And perhaps those last two are the most important achievements of all to come out of this little sewing project… it might be simple but to someone else is means the world.


Zoe's owl skirt waistband - back view

Zoe’s owl skirt waistband – back view

Giselle's skirt

Giselle’s skirt – my second simple gathered skirt. She loves this skirt dearly. It’s nto as well made as the Owl Skirt – but it twirls beautifully and that’s what counts in her world.

I’m not saying that creating a couture dress or making a tailored jacket is not an achievement (because they are some of my ambitions and I am awestruck by these projects and most jealous) however I think we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves and celebrate the simple joys and improvements in our techniques as well – however simple the project might seem.

What’s been your major sewing achievement lately?


  1. I think you are very right: The most important things we sew are not always the most complicated. Actually, one of the things I’m most happy about sewing was pants for my son when he was about 5. He wanted camouflage trousers, I found a remnant of fabric and made him elastic waist (fake fly) trousers, that he ended up wearing for years! (They started out a bit long, with a cuff, then he wore them as normal length pants, then they were below-knee shorts and finally real shorts before they were too small). He loved them. And would wear them as soon as I took them off the clothe rack. That’s value for the sewing time!
    Same thing goes for my basic garments. I don’t wear my fancy dresses very often. But the quick and easy t-shirt, skirt etc gets so much more wear – and value for sewing time.
    I still enjoy working on more complicated projects from time to time, but I love quick and easy sewing just as well.

    • I love that story! I’ve also been guilty of wearing camo pants to threads.
      I think I could have spent hours making a ‘designer’ perfect skirt and yet the end result would have been exactly the same – happiness. I do make every effort to make things to the best of my ability but it’s so interesting to see the improvements in even the ‘easy’ projects over time.

  2. I love that you did this post! This week I really needed to hear that a project doesn’t have to be a vintage couture gown spun from my own silkworms to be worthy and admirable. I think we all need to appreciate our small steps and happy wearables more than we do!

    • Good thing too as mulberry trees are in short supply over here – koalas don’t find them tasty.
      And you are dead right, I see some AMAZING projects and feel very inferior. Then I see a little person cartwheeling and spinning around the garden in a mum-made skirt and think ‘hang on, I’m on the right track, it’s just a slightly different one’.
      The laughter and joy your projects and posts bring to all your blog followers is second to none. When you lift a needle you lift our spirits 🙂

  3. awww this is such a lovely post and thank you for mentioning me with such kind words! 😀 I have worried that I come across too new or that what I make isnt interesting as I am new but it is great to see that someone enjoys the bumps with me! 😀
    I adore the skirt you made your daughter! It is so cute and I she was really excited! so cute!
    And I think what you say under the second gathered skirt is very true. If it twirls who cares of the seam is straight!? 😀

    • Everyone, even the best stitchers, have bumps. It’s how you deal with them that counts.
      You would get along great with my little barnacles (oops, that’s what I call my kids!). It’s all about enjoying the moment.

      • hahaha! that is so cute! Also a bit random! How did that come about, if you dont mind me asking?
        I think that is what sewing is teaching me. nNjoying the moment and the process even if it is taking a whole to get right. 🙂

  4. Oh and I forgot! I hadnt heard of some of the other sewing blogs, so I am looking forward to reading about their journeys and challenges and successes! 😀 thanks for sharing!

  5. Aww, I love this post! Thanks for reminding us to keep everything in perspective. The skirts for your daughters look adorable, and congrats on conquering your invisible zipper challenge. What really counts in the bonding time with your girls! : )

  6. I love this post so much. I use sewing to relax and the self stitched items I wear the most are the simpler items I’ve made. Your daughters look adorable in their new skirts, and so happy. Keep it up!

  7. I love this post, too! It’s so easy to focus on mistakes or things you’d like to do better instead of the fact that HOLY COW, we can make things that we or the people we love can WEAR! That’s really pretty awesome! Both your girls look cute as can be in their skirts!

    My biggest achievement lately is finishing the silk Chloe dress. It still needs a lot of reworking, but it’s a big deal for me to be able to finish working on something that was really challenging. I have a hard time overcoming obstacles in projects and my natural inclination is to cry and cut the whole project to ribbons, but I’m trying to build up some perseverance and patience when the going gets tough!

    • Gotta love the Chloe dress. Such a great job to get through that! I am very impatient and sometimes just finishing a project that drove me to the brink of insanity and I was desperate to ditch is a huge achievement in itself.
      During our ever on-going relationship with our unpickers/seam rippers we need to keep perspective or just give ourselves a break – a wonky seam or zipper does not condemn us to the pit of unworthy seamstresses.
      And as the saying goes ‘to the world you are one person, but to one person you are the world.’ 🙂
      Thanks for your comment, I love to hear everyone’s stories.

  8. I love the owl skirt! I’m sure she loves it too. I have to say I think my favorite items are simple dresses and skirts and stable items like the iris shorts. Thanks for sharing these great blogs, now I have new seamstresses to stalk!

  9. Ooh thank you so much for the mention, how lovely of you! You are absolutely right about celebrating the little achievements, however small or simple the project, the joy of making something from nothing and working through any problems you encounter is personally priceless! The blogging world of sewists continues to inspire me, lovely to find some more to read about here x ps love those skirts, lucky girls!

    • No worries 🙂
      It’s too easy to get intimidated by some of the mighty talents out there. I have days when I wonder if my attempts are rather pathetic in comparison – and I know that’s their absolute last intention. We are all, every single one of us, on a journey of self discovery and working along a learning curve which is steeper for some and less so for others.
      I’m getting better at acknowledging my own small triumphs, focusing on what I am doing well and how I am improving rather than thinking about how steep that learning curve is 🙂 and where I am on it in relation to others.

  10. So true! I might go off and make a picnic blanket skirt to celebrate… But in all seriousness when my brother and I were kids, and mum ran out of money but wanted to give us more presents under the christmas tree she sewed up quickly two capes. Very simple, one red one blue. They were the surprise smash hit of the day..and based on the photos of that time it would seem they were the hit of the year…..

  11. YES! You are absolutely so so right. Some of the quickest makes turn out to be our favourites, and something one has slaved hours over gets worn only occasionally. Doesn’t seem fair sometimes 😉

    • So true – modern design aesthetic is for less less less – but we aim to sew more more more. Perhaps we yearn to be fancy peacocks in our austere modern surrounds.
      I think you can never have too many t-shirts or casual skirts but there is a limited on fancy frocks!

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  13. It’s quite true that sometimes the smallest projects bring the greatest all-round satisfaction because we who make them see them being worn (to death) and loved (to bits) by those who wear them (I have in mind here some boardies and PJ trousers I long ago made for my Boy). We don’t need everything to be complicated or couture or even extremely well made.

    More recently (a couple of nights ago) I’ve made a warm tube for my Boy to wear (to help keep his face warm) when he’s out on his motorbike. It was so simple that even including time to unpick one bit of hem I wasn’t happy with – yeah, I know; but it was gaping!! – the whole thing couldn’t have taken me an hour. And my Boy loves it. So it comes back to that being kinder to ourselves and less OCD or perfectionist, doesn’t it? Long live the simple sewing results because they generally bring as much gratification as the complicated ones.

    And please keep blogging about them, I really enjoy your posts. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Felicity 🙂 and I’m impressed with the attention you gave to the Toob – although I hope you have more polar fleece in the stash as I suspect his motorcycle mates will be most impressed!
      It’s these little thoughtful details that reflect the personality or needs of the wearer that are just as important as the fanciest couture finish.
      Thank you for your kind words, those things really inspire me when I feel flat or a bit deflated about life in general x

  14. Thank you so much for your lovely comments about my blog, Kwik Sew top and couture dress! While the Kwik Sew top took an afternoon to sew and the dress took a couple of weeks, I consider both to be important and worthwhile contributions to my year of sewing! Thank you for recognizing the value in both 🙂 I’m finding your sewing very inspirational and I adore the cute skirts for your daughter!

    • So true, I think it’s important that we value the little and big things we achieve. It makes me think of some of my travels, such as when I was in York UK and visited the Bar Convent. So many people miss it, I think because they are focused on seeing the famous cathedral. The cathedral is grand and magnificent, the convent chapel is tiny but exquisite in its own right. It’s the little details and the emotions or experiences they evoke that make a story or a journey – not just the headlines or landmarks.
      Thank you for your lovely comments, likewise I find you very inspiring – not just the sewing but your natural generosity of spirit. X

  15. This is such a lovely post! I fully agree that the pieces we sew that bring pride do not have to be epic couture wear (though snaps if they are) and can be the bits and pieces that challenge us. Love the owl skirt- too adorable! And thank you for the mention- those fabulous (but accursed) leggings have been a total piece I wear with pride 😀

    • Those leggings are all the more fabulous for the whipping they gave you!
      It too easy to measure myself against others and find my shortcomings. It’s harder to stop and think ‘hey I’m doing ok’. I think everyone needs to do it and I hope anyone that reads the post gets a bit of positive perspective on their sewing and their achievements. It’s all good – even the hiccups!

    • It is an adorable fabric. I love the brown background with the bright colours. I’ve always been a huge fan of pink/brown combinations they look girly without being babyish. When she fell in love with this fabric I was just as happy to buy it for her.
      Thank you!

  16. I love this post. I often find that it’s the quick and slapdash projects I sew that get worn and loved the most. Not the ones that take tons of time and precision. It’s the projects I make quickly without thinking about it for too long.

    On another note, sometimes I think it’s a combination of ideas that really makes a sewn garment great. Not so much pure technical skill. I am an art teacher by day, so I try to view sewing like I view making an artwork. It’s more about the idea and expression that goes in to a project– choosing a fabric, color, style, silhouette, stitch, etc. All those things coming together are what make something great. Not just that it’s make to couture standards. But that’s just my humble opinion.

    • I totally agree with your humble opinion, the projects I am always the happiest with are the ones when I’ve seen a fabric and instantly know what pattern will work with it and how I will wear it. I had one of those moments with my Port Paris, Simplicity 2444, dress. Makes for happy and rewarding sewing!

  17. Pingback: More like a rollercoaster – Thurlows take 2 « Kim-ing


  19. I wholeheartedly agree with this post! I also particularly like when people share where they went wrong or had issues as it hopefully helps others from having the same problems

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