Holiday top and a conundrum


I won the pattern for the Holiday Shirt and Top by The Maker’s Atelier in a competition run by Sew Over 50 on Instagram. I was so pleased as I’d been eyeing it off for a while. It’s an actual pattern, beautifully presented, so it took a little while to wing its way to me, and then I went away on holidays, but I was determined to make it as soon as I got back, particularly after I saw my friend Hélène wearing hers.

There are two different styles for the same top – one with a hood and drawstring waist, and one with a collar, short sleeves and shorter body length.

holiday top

I began with the hooded version and spent a short time trying to sort out the sizing as it looked quite large. I decided to go down one size as the top is clearly meant to be a bit oversized. I used a piece of fabric that I snaffled in the Fibres West garage sale for $1.


Clearly it’s new and it appears to have been a fitted sheet as it had elastic in the corners, but I don’t think it would be very nice to sleep on as it has the texture of quilting cotton. It was originally bought at Cronshaw’s in Bunbury, which I think closed down at least ten years ago. I decided that this would be perfect fabric for a toile.

Even though it was a toile I did my best to pattern match as I had a sneaky suspicion I would be wearing it. Also, I can’t bear to throw toiles away, which is even more reason to wear it. Pattern matching was good and bad as you can see. I could have done better with the hood, but most of the rest isn’t too bad. IMG_0513

The hood inside seams are finished off with tape and I used the tape from the bags given to us on our United Airlines flight. Not quite a perfect match, but good enough. Next time I will be lining the hood.


I’d worn this at home a couple of times and taken photos which I failed to get from my camera, so new photos were taken. I didn’t have the hood sitting properly, but you get the idea.


Pattern matching on the front and sides gets a tick.


I had noticed that the hood pulled the front up so before I left home for our holiday place, I added a couple of glass beads to the drawstring to try and counterbalance the weight of the hood. This worked a treat. I’m not sure I like the colour of the drawstring but it was all I could find and I refuse to buy something.


I deemed this top a success and was prepared to risk more precious fabric on it. I chose a beautiful cotton from Woven Stories Textiles  but didn’t have enough for the hood, although I had enough to make the longer version.


I had to piece the sleeves though. I did consider making the short sleeves but thought they might look a bit frumpy on me. Although cuffed they may be ok. The long sleeves are very long and, although the line drawing doesn’t show it, the photo shows them cuffed, so that’s what I did but found it a bit unsatisfactory.

I originally made this top without the drawstring as I wanted to put in pockets. I didn’t like the way it sat so have inserted a piece of elastic in the back.


The pockets are a single layer of fabric to reduce bulk. Sewn to the back side seam with the front finished off for the opening. The pocket was then stitched down. I quite like this method of side seam pockets as (a) aforementioned bulk is reduced, and (b) there are no pockets flapping around inside. IMG_0481

I still feel that the front is a bit baggy so I’m plotting a workaround.

The only other thing I changed was the way the collar sits. When it sat open and flat it looked terrible on me, so I folded it up like a shirt collar and stitched it down. I’m much happier with this.

Now I come to the conundrum. There is a lot being said about the whole sustainability of sewing and I am keen to come up to snuff in this area, so I’ve given it a lot of thought. There is a view that new fabric buying should be a last resort and that we should be recycling, upcycling, and thrifting our fabric. I feel that my first make meets this requirement admirably. But what about the second make? This is new fabric bought from a shop (I don’t really buy much fabric online).

Thinking about this fabric got me thinking about the three pillars of corporate sustainability, or the triple bottom line, which is something not usually associated with a sewing blog, and how we, as a sewing community, bewail the closing of fabric stores, but how are they to stay in business if we don’t buy new fabric?

Sustainability is usually defined as meeting current needs without compromising the ability to meet future needs. There are three main pillars (although I have seen five); economic, environmental and social. Also referred to as people, planet and profits.

So, with these thoughts in mind, I began considering the purchase of my green fabric. As mentioned, I bought it from Liz at Woven Stories Textiles. Liz goes to India, has built relationships with artisans from various villages and tells them what her customers require. They then produce the fabric using techniques handed down through the generations. She treats them ethically and pays a fair price, so they can make a decent wage. There is a cost in all this, but we are getting unique, hand made fabric and so I consider it totally worth it. If, as a community, we stop supporting small traders like Liz, then not only will she go out of business, causing her financial hardship, but all those Indian families will suffer hardship as well, and traditions and techniques will be lost, perhaps forever. The upshot of all this is that I am determined to celebrate the new fabric I have in my stash, especially the fabric I buy from small traders, who I like to think rely on us. I believe that this is a far more sustainable approach than never buying new fabric, and I am going to repeat my sentence on sustainability to emphasise this: “Sustainability is usually defined as meeting current needs without compromising the ability to meet future needs.

I have decided that I will take what is, in my opinion, a balanced view – I recycle, thrift, upcycle, use my stash whenever possible, and buy the occasional piece of new fabric, but I will be careful about what fabric I buy and use. I try to avoid polyester, but have long faced the fact that I am going to have to use fabric with elastin or lycra, the content of which I try to limit to under 10%, and I don’t put any fabric into landfill. In the main I try to support local businesses, especially local to me as I can develop relationships and ask questions. Having said that, I’m not averse to buying fabric when I’m travelling, but on my last trip I mostly confined myself to Fab Scrap, as that is a small business, whose mission is to be sustainable.

What are your thoughts/arguments/rationale? I would love to talk about this!


*If you want to do some reading around this topic you will find that most articles say the same thing and that real research is hard to find, but here are some links to get you going:












25 thoughts on “Holiday top and a conundrum

  1. I love the style of that blouse but I know it wouldn’t work for me. I have bought similarly shaped patterns in the past so I clearly love seeing other people’s makes in this sort of style but they don’t seem to work for me. Your s both look great, and the checked toile is gorgeous!
    With regards to buying fabric/sustainability I try to buy much less now (and I have an enviable stash to draw from) but also try to buy ‘special ‘ fabrics from independent shops. I also pass on my makes to friends and family where possible, and charity shops where saleable, but it’s not unknown for me to wear things to destruction. I’m saving those to use as filling for a pouffe/foot stool 😁

    1. Lovely Kim. I think it’s great that you understand your style so well. To be honest, I didn’t think this would suit me either, and I don’t think the one without the drawstring does much for me, but I will finagle a solution to that. I see this pattern in a nice warm fabric for winter.

  2. Lovely tops, both of them.

    I found that worrying about the environmental effects of my sewing habits was getting me down and I lost the joy of sewing. This year I am trying to get some of that joy back, so I am buying fabric if I really love it and still sewing styles that I know I will not wear because I want to try out the techniques, and making practice versions if required. Garment sewing has been a big part of my life, and I found that not sewing because I don’t need new clothes has not been good for my mental health. I would like to find a balanced way forward, but don’t have the solutions yet. I like your view of sustainability.

    1. Thanks Sue for so much food for thought. With so much talk of sustainability and being “green” people seem to forget our economies work by paying people to make things or to provide a service. It is the catch 22 situation in which we live. I’m glad you have a sensible outlook on it.

      Love both tops, especially drawn to the hooded version.

      1. Thank you Suzy, the hooded version is definitely my favourite too. I think the whole issue of sustainability is much more complex than we think, and is particularly important for all those small businesses.

    2. Thank you Katherine and I completely agree. I have been feeling guilty if I bought new fabric, but began to examine my thoughts and decided that a balanced approach was necessary. I also sew for my mental health – it’s so much better than drinking gin all day – and I enjoy having a varied wardrobe to choose from.

  3. Thank you for the links. I’ve been on a sustainable fashion/zero waste/ethical fashion reading diet for the past several years and I certainly think the subject has a place on sewing blogs, both in words and in actions (which you did here – you made a wearable toile from things you had handy, and when your top in precious fabric wasn’t 100% satisfactory you tweaked it instead of writing it off).
    I have chewed over the subject considerably too, and my conclusions are similar to yours.
    I do enjoy, without any guilt, buying, using and wearing new fabrics, and I like supporting small business owners. Admittedly I rarely have opportunities to visit fabric shops now; they are few and far between in regional Australia. I also pay attention to that small voice in my head that says “use what we have at home” (or “what have we got around here that can be cut up?”!) and make do. While the number of home-sewn clothes made in this world is tiny compared to the colossal amount produced in factories, it still does make a difference, as you discussed. As well, I like to think that home sewing makes an intangible difference in the mindset of the sewist regarding their attitude towards fabric and clothes – caring for clothes, mending, appreciating them.

    1. Thank you for the lovely thoughtful comment Liz, and I agree. I have been feeling guilty about my new fabric stash, but most of it has been bought from local stores which rely on people like me, or on my travels, and I think fabric is a much better souvenir than some piece of plastic tat. I am working so hard on the balanced approach.

    1. Thank you Linda. I like the fabric in the first one, but it is suspiciously crease resistant so I must do a burn test. I try to use everything and I am buying less and less fabric, but I do worry about the sustainability of the local fabric shops!

  4. Hi Sue
    Love the pattern and the tops. Really interesting read. For my part, I have always got enormous satisfaction out of making do with what I have so to reuse anything at all gives me a buzz. But for this reason I have to manage my propensity to hoard….and that’s also a problem. Space is a scarce commodity (as is time) so a fair bit of thought goes into what I keep to repurpose and also, what I actually make. I’m not sure I’ve really reached a comfortable position on all of this.. I absolutely love buying new fabric but can also feel very guilty about it. I never buy without justification (even if it’s only mine 😉). But yes, definitely an interesting topic and certainly relevant to this community.

    1. Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment. I get my biggest thrill from reusing or repurposing or mending, but I do enjoy buying fabric from small stores which rely on me. As a family we mend, build, and repurpose things, and I love that we rarely buy anything new.

  5. The tops are lovely. I especially like using the beads to balance the top. Good tip. I like your thoughts on sustainability. I’m trying to toile with upcycled fabric and make the finished look with new fabric. I have a nice stash so I’m trying to work with it before buying new fabric.

    1. Thank you Raquel, I love the idea of making toiles with upcycled fabric and only using the precious stuff for the real thing. My problem is that I like to make wearable toiles and then I don’t want a second version necessarily.

  6. I like your reasoning Sue. What a great prize, I’ve been looking at that pattern company for a while, but at £25 for a pattern they’re are decidedly out of my league!

    1. I would never have paid the price for this pattern and may have thought I could hack another pattern. I’ve had a thought if you want to email me.

  7. We had the chance to talk about sustainability in sewing when you came to Montréal and I totally agree with you. Buying local – especially from a fair trade merchant – is obviously a great alternative when you’re looking for something special you can’t find in op-shops. That green cotton fabric looks pretty unique with undertones of blue. Seeing yours, I can’t wait to try the hoodie in woven (for which I shall go and shop my stash) and I would love to give a go to the little open-collar blouse as well! Nice idea for the collar.

    1. Thanks Hélène, I can’t wait to make a winter hoodie and I have the perfect fabric, but it seems a bit silly to do it now with summer just round the corner! I can’t wait to see your woven one…

  8. Thanks for posting a link to Sew Over 50; I hope to get time today to check it out. I don’t think a lot about sustainability mainly because I tend to sew with natural fibers. What I don’t use gets demoted for household use and eventually goes to our compost pile. With as much thought and time that goes into my sewing, my fabric choices are geared to the right color and fiber for the project. We don’t have any local sources so that part of the equation gets tossed out here. I feel pretty good about the choices I make. Once a garment is complete, I tend to wear it for a long, long time. I owned a beautiful merino wool sweater for over a decade. I’m happy to have found your blog and enjoy your posts very much!

    1. Thank you so much Mary, I think you are doing brilliantly with your sustainability! The Sew Over 50 initiative is a fabulous one, and if you have time I recommend it.

  9. Lovely tops Sue! Especially draw to the plaid version.

    I’m more with Katherine’s comment regarding the sustainability in sewing. I just want to make my clothes, enjoy my hobby and enjoy my sweet national/international sewing friends through our mutual hobby of sewing and creating. Simple as that. Whenever it ventures outside those parameters, I begin to lose that simple joy and it begins to become a stressful thing. Sustainability is important, yes…. but I also receive such joy in purchasing fabrics that may sit in the stash for years. Oh but ‘seeing’ my stash and ‘petting’ it from time to time brings simple joy too. There is only 1 truly local fabric shop still open in my area and it pulls its inventory from all over the world….. so it’s quite hard to buy textiles even made in my own country anymore. I do try and patron that shop as much as I can because it feels like I am buying ‘local’ and supporting a small local business. Having said all that… I do enjoy seeing what you make from zero waste techniques and creative uses of fabric.

    1. Thanks Lisa. I enjoyed your comment as I think I was trying to say all this to some extent. I see because I enjoy it and although I try to be sustainable, if I don’t like something I don’t hesitate to give it away. I am mindful about landfill though so do try to recycle and reuse where possible

  10. Two interesting makes with some sustainable thoughts to think about. Trying to sew as eco-friendly as possible with a low sustainable footprint is really a challenge.

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