I Hate to Put a Label on It, But…

I finally did. Behold:

Style Arc Jasmine trousers – with my label.

It wasn’t easy.

This is my second pair of Style Arc Jasmine trousers, with custom-made labels I got at The Dutch Label Shop. I bought 100 of these labels back in December 2017. The cost was  $33.70, including shipping. (I bought them during a 30% off Black Friday sale. The normal price would have been $46 with shipping.)

I chose red – my favorite color – the Distaff name and my city, New Haven, Connecticut (USA). You can also choose a logo, and I decided after some hemming and hawing to put the astrological symbol for Venus on the labels too, just to drive home the whole “female” point.

Custom-made labels – ready for projects!

I put the labels in a drawer in my notions and threads organizer. I looked forward to using them. And then I didn’t. I even used a label the Islay Woollen Mill gave me when I bought fabric there to hide my labels, so I wouldn’t have to think about them.

Lonely labels

I can’t say WHY I didn’t use them. Sometimes I think it’s a bit of an affectation to put your own label on something. Sometimes I am not proud enough of a garment to label it. Sometimes I just don’t want to do the tiny bit of hand sewing necessary – lame excuse, I know.

This week I finally said the hell with it and promptly sewed a label onto three items. Besides the Jasmine pants, I sewed one onto this top from Vogue 9246.

Label matching – oooh!

And the Osaka skirt from Seamwork Magazine:

Labeled, bitches!

I am going to label everything from now on. Promise. Three labels down, 97 to go!

Cultivating a Culture of Sewing

During my trip to Ireland and Scotland, I was delighted to see how cultures of sewing and quality craftsmanship were still going strong. I was on the lookout for this, yes, because my plans included shopping for lovely wool fabrics. But I did not have to look far at all to see so much more. Here are a few objects that tell the story:

American flag sewn by hand on Islay to honor sailors who died at sea

On Islay, off Scotland’s western coast, there’s a little museum to the history of the town. You know the type of place – the candle molds and butter churns, the arrowheads and stone tools, the old-time photos and other bits and pieces donated by the community.

And then there was this flag, in a place of honor. It was sewn for the funerals of American sailors whose ship, the Tuscania, was sunk by a German U-Boat off the coast. Islanders nursed the wounded and retrieved bodies for days, then prepared those who died for burial.

The museum’s plaque explains the story of the flag better than I could, so here it is:


I examined this flag for a long time. You could see how different women sewed different parts, based on the skill and style of stitches. Some stars are a bit off-kilter. I could imagine them pushing through to complete the project. But it’s sturdily made to withstand Islay’s wind and weather. The islanders are proud of this flag, and rightly so.

In Glasgow, the city of Scottish industry, the museum had a sweet exhibit on sewing.

Exhibit on the Singer Sewing Machine factory

The museum also had a hands-on exhibit where you could tread the pedals of a sewing machine. I enjoyed trying to film it, but I confess my video skills suck, and I am too cheap to pay for the video upgrade on WordPress. Imagine the squeaky foot pedal anyway:


Every morning, I tuned in for a few minutes to a quilting show on TV, and reminisced about the days when PBS regularly aired several sewing and needlework shows.

Ireland abounded with sewing treasures too. Besides the ancient Viking distaff, there were exhibits about weaving and knitting. And loads of sheep, of course. We also visited a shop that sold 100% Irish-made goods. There are plenty of cheap stores selling tourists junk, but we sought out the real thing. The shop had bolts of fabric in the back, and I was sorely tempted, but I’d already budgeted out my sewing money. My husband bought this cap, thoughtfully labeled:


My husband has worn it almost every day since we got home. I can’t wait to go back.

Finding Inspiration for Winter Woolens in Scotland

I came away from my vacation in Ireland and Scotland with a new appreciation for quality woolen fabric and garments. In the first place, it was a bit chilly – mid 50s at best and usually cloudy. Puts you in the mood for a mug of tea and a cozy sweater, right? In the second place, I was inspired by the two traditional two woolen mills I visited. And third, I enjoyed the pro-sewing atmosphere of both countries in their modern and historic cultural artifacts (post to come later).

I bought these fabrics to craft into my own garments:

Tartans woven in Scotland from Scottish wool

The one on the right is a houndstooth from the Islay Woollen Mill on Islay, an island off the West Coast of Scotland. Islay is famous for its peaty whiskey, my husband’s favorite. I was excited to check out the mill too and was delighted with the experience. They even gave me labels to sew into my project, because Islay wool is such a quality product.

The mill makes fabrics for Saville Row tailors in a variety of checks and colors.


The guy running the mill was quite a character. He quickly and rather incoherently explained how the mill worked and then got back to work. There was a lovely smell of wool, old wood and axle grease in the place.


The showroom was just bolts of fabrics on shelves and piled on the floor. I looked everything over and had a tough time deciding what to buy. Finally I chose the gray, black and blue houndstooth because it was so unusual and it goes well with other items in my wardrobe.


I am planning to make a jacket out of it. Because this fabric is so rare and expensive, I will definitely make a muslin first!

The Islay Woollen Mill also had a pretty shop on the first floor with all finished goods from the mill and other things. My husband bought a traditional cap:


I didn’t get any pictures of the Edinburgh Tartan Weaving Mill, but be sure to look it up online and in person if you’re there. The mill is rather hidden inside an enormous gift shop down the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle. The mill is in the sub-sub-basement, and the fabric shop is a floor above that.

The place specializes in traditional tartans. I chatted up the salesman and spent quite some time looking over the choices before going with this tartan, woven in the traditional “Blue Ramsay” design.


This fabric has a smoother texture and a crisper hand than the fabric from Islay, but the colorways are similar, so I know it will go with other garments in my wardrobe. I am planning to make an off-kilter kilt with it from New Look 6326. I ironed out the fit problems with the previous attempt. I like the idea of using a tartan on the bias for the overlay. I will need to figure out how to stabilize it so it doesn’t stretch out or warp.