Why Muslim women should learn to sew

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I’ve been sewing on and off for about 10 years now and although I still consider myself an adventurous beginner I have found it to be a fulfilling and enjoyable creative process which has brought me a lot of pleasure. I have sewn my own clothes on occasion and many times for my children and feel I’m ready to take the next step and make more clothes for myself.

I’d like to share that process here as well as make it easier for other Muslim women to make their own clothes. I enjoyed watching Rumana‘s stellar performance on Great British Sewing Bee  – with some relief, as a friend applied on my behalf a few years ago and I didn’t make it past the interview stage! I don’t think I could have managed a lot of those challenges, especially in front of a camera. I also realised that there was a lot of interest in sewing and dressmaking, but that many people feel like it’s something that they won’t be able to do themselves.With the explosion of hijab blogging and modest fashion for Muslim women, I’ve often been interested but also feel that it taps into the disposable and commercial nature of fashion blogging – looking for the next thing to keep pulling in readers and continuing to perpetuate the myth of looking perfect and having endless clothes and accessories to wear, which most people can’t aspire to. In addition it occasionally doesn’t fit into the ethos of hijab and being less materialistic, but seems another way to display one’s sense of style. This is not by any means a criticism of all Muslim fashion bloggers, who I am often slightly intimidated by!

For myself, sewing is a creative pastime but is also very practical. I personally believe sewing is an essential life skill, in the sense of being able to hem a skirt or sew on buttons. In addition, there are a lot of other benefits, especially for Muslim women who feel they may have less choice on the high street (although many companies are remedying that – Inayah is my favourite). Here are some thoughts I had on the benefits:

  1. Choice – I hear a lot of people complaining about the length of sleeves,  lack of suitable ankle length skirts or dresses. For example, often the fabric and colour will be perfect but the neckline may be too low, or the dress may have short sleeves or a slit. By choosing to make your own clothes, the ball is in your court.
  2. Quality – By and large the quality of high street clothing is now quite poor compared to what it used to be. A lot of clothes in affordable shops are made of cheap synthetics which lose their shape, bobble or fade quickly. Your £15 could go on a beautiful organic cotton jersey rather than on a polyester blend t shirt.
  3. Ethical concerns – We should all be concerned about where our clothes come from. A friend of mine recently visited a clothing factory in Bangladesh run by a well respected organisation yet there were very young looking children laboriously embroidering clothes in silence. By making our own clothes, the labour involved is not a source of guilt, but a source of satisfaction.
  4. Cost – the cost of high street clothes is going up all the time, while the quality is decreasing. Sewing can be expensive or can save money depending on the fabric you buy, but there are many bargains to be had. I do believe that well made clothes are more equivalent to quality designer wear than the high street, without the price tag.
  5. It’s easy! – OK, haute couture is not easy to achieve but the majority of clothes most people will wear are simple to make. T-shirts, blouses, dresses and skirts are all achievable by beginners with the right pattern. There are also many free sewalongs which walk you through from beginning to end, making it even easier. You can also easily achieve much nicer finishes, such as French seams.
  6. Tailored to you – for me,  being shorter than your average European, shopping is often frustrating as sleeves and hems are too long, the waist is in the wrong place or pockets are too low for comfort. You can make clothes to fit you, rather than a standard size.
  7. Slow fashion – by making your own clothes, you appreciate the effort and work that went into them and treat them with more respect. While it’s not practical to assume you will make all your own clothes, throwaway fashion becomes less acceptable.

Convinced? I will be posting some patterns that are hijab friendly or easily adapted to be shortly. In the mean time, please use the hashtag #hijabisewist on Instagram or Twitter so we can find your posts!

 

Mini Dwell and friends

I often read blog posts after coming through google search and then find the blog dwindles to ‘sorry I haven’t posted in so long’ until eventually the blog owner just gives up and never comes back. In the past year, I have to admit to finding it  impossible to get up the energy to photograph, edit, upload and then blog! Since my last blog post I have had a baby boy and returned to work again, so life is very hectic with three children. But I have decided to make a comeback as I enjoy chronicling my work and learning from what I have done.

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This Mini Dwell was made 75 weeks ago (Instagram tells me) but I have only just got round to quilting and binding it. I made bias binding but wonder whether I would have been better off making straight grain binding. I would have liked the binding to be neater but am just glad to have finished it and have it ready to hang up! I quilted around each house then did 3 straight lines at the edges.

 

I used a lot of bright coloured scraps, including Anna Maria Horner (of course), Joel Dewberry and Amy Butler. The Kokka Red Riding Hood print makes a nice centerpiece for the doors.

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First time making pinwheels

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An unsuspecting Red Riding Hood

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This fabric basket is a more recent project although it was also cut out around the same time! It was made using a tutorial from The Village Haberdashery. There were a lot of steps involved but it was easy to follow and is a useful storage solution. It would be nice filled with baby gifts for a new parent, and could then be used to hold nappies and other essentials. The drawstring bag is made from this tutorial from In Color Order.

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I also spent some time this weekend making bibs. Each one needed 28 2.5″ squares to be sewn together for the top before cutting out the bib shape. It’s sometimes hard to find interesting boy prints in the shops so the Ed Emberley prints really stood out for me.

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I kept this one for my youngest son

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Bib projects are great as they are fast and useful, and use up nice scraps! I definitely plan to make more, maybe to add to a gift for new babies.

 

Winter Coat patterns + Simply Fabrics Brixton

I have been thinking about making a wool coat for my daughter and saw some beautiful ones  at the Hand made Fair last weekend. I don’t think I could ever justify spending nearly £200 on a child’s coat no matter how beautiful so have been looking at patterns and fabrics online. I also went to Simply Fabrics a few years ago and remembered they had a selection of coat material so thought it would be worth going on a little outing.

The shop (or rather two shops on the same road) has been mentioned on a few blogs, including on Tilly and the Buttons, so is not such a well kept secret any more but is a great place to pick up something unusual at a good price.

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photo 2 There are some beautiful wools and unusual technical fabrics, including Japanese wools and coated silks. I spied some lovely delicate Roland Mouret silks and a shelf of Liberty silks, lawns and wool blend fabrics. They also had dupion silk, linens, jersey and faux fur fabrics. In the end I came away with a piece of faux fur to make my daughter a gilet for the winter and some Liberty Lifestyle Garnett fabric in a colourway which I’m fairly sure is sold out elsewhere. The prices are amazing also – all the Liberty fabric is £12/m, and most of the other fabrics are much cheaper.

I also wandered into the Brixton market which was a real surprise – quirky shops and wonderful places to eat. We stopped at French and Grace where we enjoyed a delicious mezze plate before heading back home

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As for children’s coat patterns, here are a few that are in the running:

Make it Perfect Serendipity coat

I made this last year for my daughter so of course I could reuse the pattern. I do love this coat and it was adorable, so will definitely consider it if I don’t find anything I love more.

Sydney by C’est Dimanche

This version is stunning but I’m not sure my French is up to the challenge! The Volga pattern is also lovely. I like that you can add on variations to the patterns to change the look, but they start from age 4 so think I’ll have to save these until she is older.

Stylish Double breasted coat by Dear My Kids

Another double breasted coat – can you see a theme? I do like classic shapes on young children!

The Bubblegum Coat by See Kate Sew

I love this pink version, it has a more modern look, maybe a bit more sixties because of the big buttons.

Cecily by Citronille

Another classic coat, this time by French company Citronille – again a little deterred by it being in French but could give it a go with the help of Google Translate!

School Days Jacket by Oliver + S

This is a different style with a practical hood and nice finishing details, but also looks a little more challenging.

Of course, I haven’t had a chance to look at the Simplicity etc pattern books and I’m sure they will also have some great patterns. For now I will start thinking about fabrics and colours and hope to get going before the cold sets in.

A Garden Tour

I must confess that blogging has been quite low on the priority list over the past few months, mostly due to my obsession with gardening, but also in part due to being very busy (and very tired) during Ramadan.

I only became interested in gardening last year, and decided to start off a few things from seed and see what happened. We managed to get quite a few tomatoes and 2 or 3 marrows (and a few measly potatoes). We have a tiny garden which was taken over on one side by a large and ugly ivy which was over a foot deep and 8 foot high. I had this removed earlier in the year, which meant the fences had to be replaced, but once this was done we had a lovely empty border and lots more light and space.

gardenI bought some perennials from the Beth Chatto gardens to fill the space, but to my beginner eyes, it all looked rather sad and empty.

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Despite being reassured that the plants would fill out the space with time, I couldn’t resist popping in new plants here and there to fill up the gaps. I was given a pot full of tomato seedlings and stuck them in randomly (10 in all on three sides of the garden), as well as a ball courgette plant, annuals including verbena bonariensis, cerinthe major, cosmos and antirrhinum, scented stocks, rainbow chard and dwarf french beans.

After three weeks, we ended up with this:

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I love the picture above, even though the garden is starting to look quite ramshackle! It was how I had imagined the colours to look together. The Moerheim beauty and agastache both flourished and I was also pleased with the number of echinacea flowers we had (and they attract lots of bees).

DSC_0514I noticed that Echinacea has a starring role in the new Pretty Potent collection.

DSC_0509I also bought some argyranthemum in the Sarah Raven sale which have finally bloomed. I also bought Cleome and the pink pot collection – the nicotiana were not at all successful unfortunately and the snails devoured most of the cleome.

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Overall, I think the garden has been a real pleasure over the past few months. My only regret is that we didn’t get the fence and gate painted as planned before everything grew as it is now impossible to paint without trampling over everything. I will also not be planting any vegetables in the flower border next year! I didn’t anticipate the tomatoes getting so big – one of the plants are taller than me!

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We have had some vegetables from the garden, including some very pretty patty pan squash. Unfortunately we were away for 4 days which resulted in a lot of new vegetables just giving up altogether so I think we will have to wait a while before we get a good crop. We may go all out and get an allotment next year as I have discovered there is one 0.3 miles away!

 

Ramadan Meal Planner

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I have planned for some time to try and get more organised this Ramadan, and make a meal planner to save the headache of not knowing what to cook on the day and then having to go to the shops on the day to get the one ingredient that’s missing! I’m aiming for a zen-like calm this year, which means thinking ahead. The reality may of course be different, but I can try!

I put out the idea of a meal planner on a fantastic Facebook group I belong to and the response was overwhelming! I am clearly not the only one who feels daunted by the task of preparing delicious food during Ramadan, as well as managing all the other requirements of additional prayers and the physical demands of the long fast.

Due to the ‘hype’ that was created, I have put some extra work into making this planner attractive and easy to use. I hope you find it useful – it is literally what we will be eating this Ramadan, so not everything will be to everyone’s taste – it is very easy to adapt by substituting your own recipes. I would love to hear your feedback and ideas for how to make it better. Please bear in mind this was done in two days so it will not be perfect, and some recipes are not specific on quantities.

Download the planner below and feel free to share:

Ramadan planner final

 

2D Zoo Quilt

I made this quilt recently for my friend’s new baby. I bought the fat quarter set with the intention of making a baby quilt some time ago because I really love the Alexander Henry 2d Zoo print in the primary colourway and thought the coordinating fabrics were a great match.

I backed it with a piece of linen cotton I bought from Namolio on Etsy ages ago (I think at least 6 years!). It has a lovely wobbly red stripe across the back which matched beautifully with the red on the front. I also tried the Cluck Cluck Sew machine binding method to save some time and was pleasantly surprised by how neat and quick it was! I think I will use this technique on my huge Patchwork Prism quilt which I was not looking forward to binding!

I gave the quilt with a pair of little trousers I made using the pattern from Handmade Beginnings.

 

I have since had a couple of requests for similar quilts but there is no 2D Zoo in the primary available in the UK! I enjoyed using my stash as a resource to make a practical and well received gift.

Kids Clothes Week: Mustard Paris Skirt

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I managed to miss the last KCW – even though I knew it was happening there was far too much going on at that time to even think about sewing! It’s still fairly hectic here but KCW always gives me a bit of momentum..its also very satisfying to be able to get a small useful item done in a short space of time. 

I had to abandon my first KCW project – a cord polka dot jumper dress, as one of the fabric pieces has mysteriously disappeared into thin air and there isn’t enough to cut another. Hopefully it will appear before the end of the week, but I have given up searching for it now to preserve my sanity! 

This morning I pulled out a mustard coloured cotton which I bought on Etsy a while ago, and decided to make a skirt. I had pinned the Paris skirt tutorial a few days ago and it seemed like it would work with the fabric so used that. The little bit of maths at the beginning is very simple and makes it so easy to customise the skirt – my daughter was asleep so I estimated her waist size and the final skirt turned out to be a good fit with a bit of room to grow. 

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will have to remember to cut those thread before photographing next time! 

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I have some plans for tops to match this skirt – a lovely white and red polka dot Nani Iro double gauze and a charcoal floral print. I’m sure I’ll be making more of these skirts too – I think it would be great in a floral cord or quilting cotton too.

2014

It took quite a long time for the dust to settle after our holidays, what with returning to work, illness and family gatherings, but I am finally back blogging! We had a wonderful trip to the Middle East, and spent time with family and friends there. Our priorities were relaxation and eating great food, so not many photos were taken! But here are a few photo highlights: 

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Sumptuous food at Kitchen 6 in Dubai – so many different cuisines on offer including a wonderful roast turkey meal. I especially enjoyed seeing my son eating a baby octopus – he even surprised himself!

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The market place at Global Village – admittedly a little kitschy but the goods on offer are genuine enough. The Yemen market had some beautiful displays of dried herbs and fruit, and we tried some Sidr honey which is prized for its medical benefits and fine quality. 

 

 

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Sultan Qaboos mosque in Muscat, which was beautiful and serene. We were a bit disappointed that no (well behaved!) children under 10 were allowed in, but as the weather was good we enjoyed being outside during the Friday prayers. 

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The view from our hotel in Musannah

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The kids enjoying the view 

 

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The stunningly restored fort at Nizwa surrounded by mountains. 

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Nizwa fort

As you can tell, it took a bit of time to adjust to the weather and change in pace when we got back! I attended the London Modern Quilt Guild meeting soon after we got back and am looking forward to starting some new projects and learning new skills. I’ve also made my first fabric purchase in a long time – of course it is Anna Maria Horner’s new line, Dowry which looks beautiful. I am hoping I can sort out the rest of the decorating too so I can finally show what I have been busy with! 

 

 

Giveaway winners!

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway, especially all of you who now follow my blog! The winners are below:

1) Winner of the Fat 1/8th set of Andalucia fabrics:

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MoeWest – congratulations!

2) Winner of the 2nd fat 1/8th set

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Kelly Williams

3) Winner of the Aurifil thread set Image

The final  winner is Beezus.

I will be in touch with you all so I can send you your prize! Thank you again to all those who entered, and I am planning to host more giveaways in the new year.

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day!

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I thought I had missed this and was disappointed, as it was fun last year. I see that I can still add my link though so will join in again!

I am giving away 2 fat 1/8th sets of this gorgeous Andalucia fabric by Patty Young – I love this line especially the little flower print, it really has a mediterranean feel, especially in the bright hot pink/orange shades! I made my daughter a peasant dress in one of the prints and she had lots of compliments on it.

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I also have this lovely Aurifil thread set to give away, this came from the Fat Quarterly retreat and is a great way to try out a few different weights of Aurifil, especially if you have never tried it.

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I will ship internationally so anyone can enter! Please leave me a comment, or follow me for an extra entry (just add an extra comment to say you have followed).  You can also like me on Facebook for a 3rd entry! Thank you and please have a look around while you are here!

The giveaway is now closed, thanks for those who entered! I will announce the competition winners shortly.