The Body Issue

There are few things more devastating for a sewist than trying on a half made garment and being completely unable to join the packets together. The only thing more devastating than this is realising that no you haven’t got the seam allowances wrong, and yes you did check the sizes on the back of the envelope before you cut your pieces. So yes, I am 100% sure that I are not the same size I once was.

People that sew know their body measurements off the top of the heads. There is no getting around talking about bodies, because when you sew you need to talk about waist, hips, ease…  And there is no room for being all like ‘this shop’s sizes run very small’. It is what it is.

So when I attempted to try on my Alder Shirtdress mid-sew I was 100% floored when I discovered that I was no longer the Penny I once was. This is a shirtdress, the plackets would puckers. And before you suggest it yes, the side seams had already been overlocked.

But the thing I found the most upsetting from this whole experience was the camaraderie I found in the company of women. It was like I had joined a club, you hate you body? Oh yeah, I’ve been hating mine for years now. Women I barely knew were sharing their diets, exercise regimes and miscellaneous disappointments with the way they looked.

It was nice, at first, to be part of this club – but it is also disturbing. I don’t want to feel camaraderie with a group of people who hate their bodies – until very recently I’ve been perfectly fine with mine. These conversations should not be normal… But, there is always a but, it’s hard to deny that I spend that vast majority of my day sitting in front of a computer researching and writing essays. And, ok there are two buts, I am the first to admit that I blatantly use my asthma as an excuse to avoid exercise.

So what’s the point in telling my readers this? Because I don’t want to part of this club and far more importantly, I want to confront this issues head on. I need to get over it and realise that there are far worse things than going up a dress size or two. And, frankly, I know only I care how I look. But I do want you to know that there will be some fitness posts on my Instagram. Does this mean that I’m giving in to the club? I don’t think so. I think I’m going to carry on as I have done before – avoiding women’s magazines, diet fads and ‘style tips’ because before I bought into this culture I was perfectly happy. And I think I’d like to return to that state of affairs.

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Fear of Squat

What Happened in April

Hi readers, it’s the beginning of a new month and that means that it’s time for behind the scenes. April has been another busy month for me – both with Dresses & Me and in other parts of my life. So read on if you’d like to know what’s been happening.


The Shop
This month I achieved one of my goals for 2014: bringing Colette Patterns to New Zealand. I use the word “achievement” mostly because of the endurance required to make this happen! I began organising this last October so I’m pleased (and relieved) that it has finally happened. At the moment we’ve got the latest patterns and there’s an order of Colette’s classic designs flying across the ocean as I type.


Recently I’ve had a survey up on the site too. I’ve had several requests to stock Deer & Doe patterns in the store. I WOULD LOVE TO! …Unfortunately this is not possible as they only allow wholesale orders for brick and mortar (physical) shops. I’ve emailed Eleanor twice since opening the shop but it looks like they’ll be holding on this model. In the meantime you can buy them from her online store.

I want to make this next comment brief. If you have anything you’d like to talk to me about regarding the store or my blog *please* contact me. Even if – gosh – especially if it’s negative. I’d far rather know and have the chance to remedy it than loose a valuable customer and your respect. Please, please just contact me – please?! Yes, I had a complaint.


If you write a blog you probably already do this and know it happens, but I wonder if non-bloggers do? I actually spend a lot of time emailing people to keep the blog interesting. In April I organised collaborations and sponsorship for Kat and Mel’s Indie Pattern Month. Indie Pattern Month is a celebration of independent sewing pattern producers. Mel and Kat have put a huge amount of work into organising sponsorship (read: awesome prizes), planning competitions as well as moderating the Monthly Stitch site. This is all work that they do in their own spare time, just cos they want to and I think that deserves a bit of praise!

I have also been organising to host a sewalong! Whilst I can’t say too much at the moment, this will be using one of the patterns in the shop at the moment and it will be in the middle of the year.


So what have I actaully sewn this month, I mean this is a sewing blog after all! Well I finished off my Charlotte skirt and, of course, my Batwing dress (yet to take photos). Is that it? Well not entirely… I’m nearly finished making my Brigitte Dress and I started making a Jasmine by Colette. Except that in truly amateur fashion I burnt-melted a hole in it whilst ironing the darts flat. So that has completely stalled.


I also had a giveaway on the blog this month! Entrants took instagram photos of their cats and used the hashtag #catsforcolette. This competition was held to launch the Colette range at Dresses & Me. To see all the entrants search #catsforcolette on instagram. They’re pretty darn cute. Luna won with the gorgeous photo above.

Tea cups all set up in our new apartment

I’d be completely lying if I said I flew through April. In reality it was a slog! I moved house, wrote a public relations strategy for university and began writing two more essays! I know not many people feel for the plight of the student but I’m working a lot harder this time round at uni. Perhaps I’m a bit older and wiser… or just older with a less demanding social life!


Perhaps the best, and sadly, the most commersumer-tastic, thing to happen this month was the arrival of my freight boxes from London. As the last leg of my trip was backpacking we sent a lot of heavy or unnecessary things home to NZ. So when the boxes arrived I was greeted with spices and a tea set that I bought in Morocco, a 100% wool coat I bought in London, books that my family had sent me while away, fabric I bought on Goldhawk Road and a mulled wine mug from Potsdam, Germany. All of these ‘things’ have memories attached so it was lovely to have them in our home.


Behind the Scenes: March

March has been such a busy month at Dresses & Me HQ. I’m getting straight back into blogging and creating strategies to grow the shop now that I’m back from devouring churros, fawning over art and swimming in the Mediterranean. So what have I been up to?

The Blog

In March I starting writing a new series call A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Sewing. In the first post I talked about how to choose a pattern for your first sewing project and in the second post I offered some thoughts on where to start with fabrics. If you’re anything like me you’re self-taught and spend a lot of time wondering what the ‘correct’ way of doing something is. I’m hoping this series will offer some help for new sew-ers. I have many ideas for upcoming posts but if you have a burning question or topic send me an email [penny at dressesandme .com]


This month I made a pair of Pleated Pants and two Georgia Dresses (here and here). I was pretty stoked that my FBA turned out well as this was one of my first attempts at pattern editing – and you know what? It worked out and it wasn’t as painful as I had feared! I also cut out my Simple Sews Batwing Dress. I am currently sewing this together…

March also mean Meet Up! The Auckland Sewists’ Collective meet up at Tasca Cafe and had a riot. You can join our Facebook group to fine out about the next one here.


The Store

This month I officially launched Dresses & Me’s new website and logo. And because I am always looking for feedback on the store I developed a survey! I’m such a geek but I just can’t help it. On the survey you can tell me which patterns you’d like in the store and any other feedback (and you can do it anonymously if you prefer). So far I’m getting a clear indication that New Zealanders are keen to have Colette Patterns in the store next. So you’ll (hopefully) be pleased to read I’m working pretty hard to make this happen! Watch this space!

I have not be able to move the discount codes over to the new site yet. This is a very time consuming task as it requires manually entering randomly generated codes, creating individual discounts. If you want to make a purchase  using yours please send me an email. I hope to have this completed by the end of the month.


I was also really happy to be able to restock the whole Sewaholic range this month. Tasia’s latest design, the Gabriola Skirt, is a maxi skirt with a fitted waist and hips. It is very flattering and gloriously floaty for this great extended summer we’re having in. I also created a new patterns page so that all the newest patterns are in the same place.

What else did I do? I had a sale on all Victory and Cake Patterns and you guys pretty much bought up the whole stock! I will be placing a new order with Victory when Kristiann when she releases her latest pattern, Hannah (very soon). I don’t have a lot of sales (only had two since opening last June) so if you’d like to know about the next one join the mailing list here.

In March I also returned to study. I’ve previously completed a BA hons in sociology and art history, and while I enjoyed learning I felt totally burnt out by the end of the four years. This year I am studying Public Relations and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! But along with self-directed study and time management comes the inevitable procrastabaking (baking instead of writing a 4000 word literature review) and procrastaplanning (planning cool holidays or events instead of reading journal articles). These procrasta-pass-times have featured heavily in March for me. So tell me off if you see lurking around me too much on instagram!

To keep study spirits high I’ve been listening to this song heaps – enjoy!


Travel & Jewellery


I’ve recently returned from six months living overseas. Because I was backpacking, and because I’m a firm believer in traveling light I decided that the trinkets I would buy would be small.

I bought two rings which I wear stacked on top of eachother. Amber and silver from Rhodes, Greece; moonstone and silver from Eze, France. From Greece I also bought one pair of earrings, mother of pearl pendants from Santorini; and a lapis lazuli, wood and metal necklace from Athens. The yellow and white beaded necklace is Murano glass from Venice, Italy.


My favorite piece that I bought is the silver necklace with Greek letters. It says Penelope in the original spelling – Pinelopi and is pronounced Pin-e-lo-pi.

I like to think I’m a light traveler and scoffed loudly when my sister told me that she bought a tagine in Morocco … but then I, myself, did buy a tea set. But that is a story for another blog.

Brand Spanking New


I’m super excited to announce that Dresses & Me Shop has a brand spanking new site AND we have some lovely new patterns in store! The store is still at the same address – – but I’ve changed hosts so that the site looks more slick and professional – would you agree? In case you were wondering, I was with BigCartel before and now I’m with Weebly.


These new patterns are by British Designer Simple Sews, and Claire is her real name if you were curious! Dresses & Me has all four of her printed patterns – The Peter Pan Collar Blouse (check out A Stitching Odysseys’ version), the Classic Trouser, the Pleated Back Pencil Skirt and – MY FAVOURITE – the Batwing Dress. The rest of her designs are in PDF download format, and will be in printed format in a few months. Go to her site and check them out 🙂


On the new site you can view patterns by type, such as dresses and tops, as well as by their designers, such as Sewaholic and Victory Patterns.


But perhaps the best new feature of the site is the free patterns page! Everybody loves freebies and my number one goal is to get people excited about sewing – so let’s make it easy for new people to get into sewing and get excited about it! Do you know of any more free patterns out there that I should add to this page?


So…. What do you think of the new site? Would you like any additions? Modifications? Just let me know…