Monday, August 24, 2009

TOS Review: Sense & Sensibility Patterns

Mr. Blandings and I are not splurgers. In actuality, we own shockingly few things that we can claim were first ours; the vast majority of our furniture, appliances, and everything else under our roof came to us (as we like to say) "with the bugs worked out." Most of the items came our way thanks to the generosity of folks who like to upgrade, and we're not at all offended to be the recipients of the cast-offs. Quite the opposite. My family room sports a rock-solid love seat circa 1980, an amazing oriental rug, a diminutive two-shelf book case and a wooden buffet cabinet. We bought none of it. Not a single piece.

This trend isn't unique to the family room. It's the entire house. Most rooms don't have anything that hasn't been recycled from someone else's home. And I'm perfectly o.k. with that. I don't hold any nostalgia for the "it's ALL mine!" concept that runs amok in most Western minds.

But you know what I bought brand new this past spring?

A sewing machine.

It was still in the box when the kind gentlemen who ran the store brought it out. I watched him slice the packaging tape, lift the styrofoam-bound machine free and settle it onto the table. Together, we were the very first ones to flick the switch, wind a bobbin and thread the needle. The very first stitches that the machine made were mine--setting number 2, an all-purpose straight stitch. The thread was pale pink.

I was instantly smitten. And the love affair continues.

There's something romantic about browsing fabric aisles and imagining the possibilities. Matching the idea in your mind to the woven cotton in front of you, pouring over notions, creating a hundred different motifs in your mind. It's creative, artistic, engaging. It requires the work of your hands, the focus of your mind and the commitment of your heart.

This is a kind of craftiness I can embrace.

Mr. Blandings has embraced it as well--hence the new sewing machine. In a complete turnabout of his normal frugality, Mr. Blandings not only endorsed the purchase of a brand new sewing machine, he also hasn't blanched a bit at the mounds of fabric that keeps piling beside my little sewing area, aching for a project.

The projects, of course, are what sewing is all about. My main goal in buying the machine to start with was to make skirts for Jo and me. More than simply a statement on the awful offerings in local stores (although it's that as well), this machine was destined to be the focal point of some very productive, very heartfelt Mother/Daughter time. And it has been. Sewing has brought generations of women closer; try it in your house if you don't think it's true.

Of course, a girl tires of sewing skirts evening after evening. She earns her gold star on A-lines and is ready to fly. She wants to soar. She longs for something out of the ordinary. A fancy, beautiful, maybe even frivolous thing that she will display with the same kind of joy that bakers reserve for their perfect meringue creations.

Enter Sense & Sensibility Patterns.

The tag line on the motif says it all: Winsome Clothing with an Old-Fashioned Appeal.

And then some, people.

Sense & Sensibility is patterns and more: downloadable sewing tutorials, ultra-helpful sewing tips and amazing vintage eBooks that will make you long for a time when a woman's idea of beautiful would have never included a ponytail and her husband's soccer jersey. The website alone is worth a fun gander; it's clearly the work of someone who labored in love.

The heart of Sense & Sensibility, though, is truly the themed patterns. Covering some of the most fabulous eras in clothing design, the patterns give you a taste of what it would have been like to be a true lady of the day. Eras represented include Regency, Romantic, Edwardian, Titanic and Swing. Gowns, undergarments, blouses, pinafores, aprons and skirts are all considered, and the sizes range from toddler girls to women. The end result of these patterns are simply beautiful pieces of practical, wearable art.

Patterns are downloadable and can be printed off of your own computer. Step-by-step photographs walk you through the process, too; if you're a visual learner, like me, this puts Sense & Sensibility Patterns heads above the typical printed directions that you painstakingly meander through. For true newbies, Sense & Sensibility offers class bundles that will literally hold your hand all the way through the process. Audio instructions, a photo tour of your pattern and even videos make the process next to foolproof.

Jo and I worked through the Girl's Edwardian Apron Pattern (a $7.95 download). While I won't say that this was a simple project, it was certainly doable by a mom and her 11 year-old daughter, neither of which has been sewing for more than three months. The photographs saved the day; some of the trickier elements (like the bias pieces ... whoa!) were explained so clearly that we literally only messed up once. Perhaps that's too large a margin of error for you, but for us, it was an A+ effort! The entire class--with a pattern that you can reuse countless times--was just $24.95. Frankly, what I leaned about sewing in general was easily worth $24.95.

Jo now has her eyes on the Titanic-era 1910s Tea Gown Pattern. Since she wore her Little House on the Prairie dress (handmade by my dear aunt) until it was above her knee, I have no doubt that this one will come to good use as well. After all, if you've paid full prince for something like a sewing machine, you might as well use it.


The Hayes Zoo said...


THIS is a fabulous website. I wish I was gifted with the ability to sew. Or is that skill? Or desire? Or PATIENCE??? Sigh....this is the stuff my girls' dreams are made of.


mary grace said...

Sewing is ... I don't know. It's a craft, it's a calling, it's just darn fun! :-)

ANd the website is amazing. Jo is drooling, and she's 11. I can't imagine if I'd started doing this when she was 5!

Michelle said...

I love how you worded your review! Inspiring . . . if only I weren't such a mediocre seamstress! Maybe I can get my mom to sew me and my daughters a matching dress pattern . . . :)