For the past year I’ve subscribed to Sew magazine, but I won’t be renewing my subscription.

The cover of the latest edition features a girl in an unflattering dress with a shrug jacket of the kind that you know will neither be comfortable nor stay in place, and a child in an unattractive dress and cape.   It also has pictures of a reversible tea cosy;  a hand embroidered cake ribbon, and 25 Christmas articles.   Ugh.   I wouldn’t give any of those things house room, let alone waste time making them.

You can bet your computerised sewing machine that if a dress looks ill-fitting and badly cut on the model it’s going to look a complete mess on you.   What on earth would you want with a reversible tea cosy?   Or indeed a teacosy at all?   I hate old, stewed, tepid tea.   If you don’t drink it while it’s still hot enough, throw it out and make fresh.    Similarly with embroidered cake ribbon.     Are you going to use the same one year after year?   And 25 Christmas articles?  As if we didn’t have enough already.

But the final insulting straw  is a closing page article, part of a series by Anthea Turner, badly written and boringly executed.    Does this magazine for a moment suppose that its readership is going to accept Ms Turner as an example of good taste, good behaviour, intelligence, a model of a successful home-maker?   If so, it’s sadly mistaken in this (about to be ex) reader.    I wouldn’t dream of wasting any time whatsoever on anything even associated with Ms Turner.

It’s easy to criticise, but what would I like to see in the magazine?

I think I’d like it to concentrate on sewing for wardrobe.   I’d like for example a series of articles, with well fitting pattern, on dresses, from winter woollens this month, party dress next month, wedding guest outfit in June ,summer dress in August.     I’d like it to do a series on lingerie  and night attire, as the catalogues call the category, – pretty, lacy camisoles and slips in silk, mohair dressing-gowns for winter, men’s easy to make pyjamas.   I’d like it to offer say 12 patterns from the commercial books per month, with discount.    I’d like it to have an item for sale every month at a good price, perhaps a scissors set, a book, a dummy…   I’d like it to take one fabric per month (offered at discount)  and show 6 different looks from it – say, for example a white spotted voile.   You could have a full skirted sleeveless dress;  a dressing-gown and pyjamas;  a child’s dress mixed with lawn;  a ladies blouse;  a cotton dress with sleeves and yoke of the lawn.   Or say an ocelot faux fur fabric would lend itself to a child’s coat; a hat and scarf;  little girl’s coat with collar and muff;  a woman’s gilet;  a woman’s velvet serape lined with the ocelot plus hat; a cushion.

You could do a series of technical instruction: how to fit a zip;  do a buttonhole, and then garments that featured that work.

You could ask readers to send in photographs of their work and there could be a prize awarded for the best each month.

Although it would be a sewing magazine, you could have one easy article per month on knitting or crochet – so, a baby’s layette;  a mohair shrug for a woman;  a crocheted fine wool baby’s shawl, a pet’s crochet blanket.  You would always try to offer the materials and pattern.

You could do a monthly quilting picture – let’s say of a seasonal flower, which could be assembled into a large quilt or used individually.   Similarly you could do one a month embroidery project – flowers in a square perhaps;  initials;  the leaf of a tree, so people had the option of doing a one off, or of collecting them into quilt, wall hanging or bedspread.    Ideally these motifs would also be usable in clothing patterns, say the flower element on a quilted waistcoat.

In these times of recession, you could show how to make some hit of the moment fashion item much more economically;  and you could  show how to remodel a second hand or older garment into something new.

Someone could review a different sewing machine each month, sewing the same things – a sample with buttonhole;  a piece of machine embroidery;  a cuff decorated with automatic stitches;  a piece of quilting, so over the months you could see the comparisons.

But nothing ‘twee’.   No crinoline ladies.   No handkerchiefs embroidered with Mother.   No napkin rings with people’s initials.     No tea cosies, egg cosies (? You just eat the egg), no mysterious things divided into fiddly sections for putting bread into, no toilet rolls covers in the shape of a lady,  no sausage dogs, no bell pulls, no cushions with witty messages.     We wouldn’t ask Anthea Turner for any contributions.

I’d buy it.

(If any gentle readers care for any of the above articles I’ve disparaged, then you should just dismiss this blog as a rant of personal prejudice.    Having good taste (and who’s to say what is and what is not; it’s all personal preference) – having good taste doesn’t matter.    Having good character does.)


Wearing your true colours.

I’ve been sewing.   Many (indeed most) of my clothes need taking in and since I’m at the machine anyway I’m taking the opportunity to change things that while not quite right for me were not perhaps worth altering on their own.   I find there is an optimum length for a skirt for me;  a blouse or jacket too short or too long doesn’t flatter, and sleeves are best an exact length.   So I’ve been chopping  and fixing and so far I’m pleased with the results.

I dislike waste so I also enjoy melding two garments together – making a plain black dress for example into one with lace yoke and sleeves from a blouse of which I’m tired.   Although on the other hand, I do not readily give up garments and I still wear coats for example that may have been bought about twenty years ago.

I go on and off colours too.   Some colours – peaches, orange, yellow, camel, mustard, most greens – I never wear – they make me look sickly.   But even among the colours that do suit me, I go on and off them over the years.

Black is my all time favourite.   It’s dramatic;  it highlights the face, and it suits me.   I look good at funerals, although I accept this isn’t the purpose in going.   I also suit white and combinations of black and white.   (Cruella de Vil’s wardrobe would do me very nicely.)   Beige, really stone, is another great basic for me, and these three colours mixed with some grey and red could provide a whole wardrobe and I would never get bored.

But other colours in my repertoire come in and out of favour.   Brown does suit me but I don’t often fancy it.   Navy blue is also a colour I can wear, and I notice it creeping back in after years in the wilderness.    Then the accent colours – pinks, purples, pale blues, some greens – I do wear these but I tire of them quickly.   And I’m always hunting for particular colours slightly ahead of their being fashionable.    You can be sure if I’m scouring the high street for purple, (unsuccessfully), by the next season every shop will be awash with it.

Then there’s the colours and styles you occasionally fancy, but which are like an unsuitable lover – they’re great in the imagination, but the reality is not good for you.   I love those subtle grey greens, and soft mid blues but they just make me look washed out.   Prints, however pretty, I find rarely flattering.   I’m for bold blocks, take it or leave it colours, not compromising mixes.

I can admire very pretty dresses, with frills and ruffles and ribbons and lace.   I can really quite covet them.   But when I try them on I just look ridiculous, like an eagle masquerading as a parrot.   I guess I’m not a pretty, gentle, dainty lady and there’s no use pretending!

Black velvet cape, ermine trimmed, hood drawn up, battle dress and sword concealed underneath, anyone?   I’m sure it would look just fine on the catwalk, and you could have a snorting war horse just for the drama of it close behind.