Sew Style Hero—The Selfish Seamstress

This post is inspired (just a little past due) by the Sewcialists blog theme for August: your Sew Style Hero.

I started this blog in early 2010. It was early days of sewing blogs, it was exciting, and I was learning so much about sewing. But I didn’t know much about blogging, or about how to build a following (Still don’t, I guess) and while I blogged basically every single day at that point, nobody else knew I existed.

The day that changed was August 27, 2010. The day the Selfish Seamstress wrote about me.

Many of my favourite blogs from those days are still around, but many have also gone silent. Life happens, and no one was a pro at that point. But one of my favourites to slip into the shadows was The Selfish Seamstress. In addition to fabulous knock-offs, her writing and online persona were hilarious, with her kindness and joy showing through the allegedly grumpy and misanthropic Selfish persona.

She was notoriously vague about her location, even to continent, so I wouldn’t have ever expected to meet her. Except one day earlier that spring, she had posted about an unseasonal snowstorm, and I had commented that we were having the same crappy weather where I was. A private message followed and by some miracle it turned out that we were in the exact same city!

We met up for coffee a few weeks later, my first real-life sewing meetup! It was as giddy and delightful as I could’ve hoped for—except for the crushing news that Selfish was in the throes of moving back to Europe. Our real-life friendship would encompass exactly two coffee dates. I think I still have some of the terrible fabric she gave me when she moved. Though most of it was good and put to good use.

While my brush with sewing blog greatness was brief, the exposure she gave me cracked my shell and really helped me start interacting with the online sewing world, as well as showing me how awesome it could be when online turned into real life.

Back in those days, before people figured out you could charge for it, it was pretty common for sewing bloggers to slap together a free pdf pattern to share with the world (mine are still linked under the pattern tab here). The one Selfish was most famous for was her iconic Coffee Date Dress, which is a lovely little basic, with a signature ruffle to keep it from being boring.

I had always meant to make it but never quite got around to it—but as I started thinking about Sew Style Hero month for August, I kept coming back to The Selfish Seamstress and the dress.

It didn’t take long to re-download the pattern, and it only takes 24 pages to print. (I think the Fiona dress I made earlier this summer was 40 pages) It’s been a while since I used a hand-drafted PDF. It’s cute.

And by a miracle I remembered to add all the seam allowances when I cut it out, whilst paying a ridiculous amount of attention to matching the plaids.

This fabric is a mystery suiting that has been in the stash almost since the last time I saw Selfish. It’s a grey plaid/houndstooth with little threads of pink that I can’t seem to get to photograph. It’s almost certainly polyester. In any case, it makes a good wearable muslin if nothing else. Because it’s a bit on the heavier side (and plaid) I cut the ruffle as a single layer on the bias. Time will tell if that was a good idea, I guess.

I did my “usual” grading between sizes: 36 shoulders and bust, 38 waist, 40 hips. I should have remembered that this is essentially an indie pattern. I should’ve cut the whole bodice a size 38. For that matter I could’ve cut the skirt size 38, too, but it’s easier to take in than let out. What really sucks is that I kept thinking (since this fabric has a lot of give) that it would work out, so I kept going, and by the time I had the zipper in for a full try-on I’d already aggressively clipped my seams at the underarm facing, only to discover I couldn’t even zip the damn thing up.

I threw it on the dressform, took some pretty pictures, and thought about it for the weekend.

Then I sacrificed my careful, impeccable plaid matching at the back seam, ripped out the zipper, and re-sewed it in with minimal seam allowances. This gave me the extra inch or so I needed at the bust, but I had to take quite a bit out at the waist. That’s ok though. Taking out is ok.

All in all, the dress is cute but I don’t feel fabulous in it. The bodice is a bit short (a known feature of this pattern, but I tend to have a short torso so I wasn’t too worried) even on me. Mainly I think I don’t love the fabric–it’s pretty but doesn’t feel nice, and gets really staticky. I guess there was a reason it had been in stash seven years. In any case, almost more than the dress itself I enjoyed posting about it on Instagram, revisiting and sharing memories of the Selfish Seamstress with people I’ve known since the “old days” of blogging, and many more who I didn’t know back then. Check out the posts under #selfishseamstressfanclub on instagram if you’re interested. Or share some memories here, especially if you made this dress back in the day!

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21 Comments

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21 responses to “Sew Style Hero—The Selfish Seamstress

  1. (stares into distance). I just caught the end of her blog. You met her. Whoa. That dress is deeply sweet.

  2. Miriana

    Excellent style hero choice. I miss her blog; a brilliant writer!

  3. Summerflies

    I remember the coffee date dress and downloaded it back then like everyone did. Wasn’t there some controversy over it – someone renamed it and tried to make it theirs? Anyway I miss her blog too and how wonderful to have met her…as fleeting at it may have been. I think the colour is a bit flat for you but it looks so good. I love the flounce… it’s good to see it back.

    • I think at some point someone was making and selling versions without attribution? (Maybe on Etsy?) Anyway, it was really fun to revisit, even if it doesn’t end up a TNT pattern for me.

  4. I also had the privilege of meeting Elaine. I miss her blog so much!

  5. Caitlyn

    Your experience meeting the Selfish Seamstress is eerily similar to my first (and only) in-person meeting with a sewing/knitting blogger I admire: I thought I recognized the location of one of her photos, we struck up a conversation, met for a super fun day of coffee, chatting, and a movie, and then I found out she was preparing to move back to France. Wah! It’s impossible to regret the experience though, even if it’s bittersweet, and I think it’s cool that so many years later, you were inspired by one of your original sewing heroes! It’s a bummer your dress didn’t work out, but I confess that it makes me want to scoop up the pattern and give it a try. 🙂

  6. That was one great blog. Strange how people disappear. And you look great in this dress – awesome tribute. Thanks for reminding me of some fun times in the old days!

  7. leblanctory

    I loved her blog! She kept me on target for selfish sewing. Sadly, since she disappeared, I’ve slipped and have fallen into the dreaded trap of Sewing For Others. Husband, children, grandchildren, and worst – costumes for a theatre production!

  8. lloubb

    It’s crazy how it wasn’t thaaaat long ago but it was a very different blogging time!

  9. themodernmantuamaker

    This dress looks freaking adorable on you! Thank you for reminding me of it, I’ve now printed it out, taped it together, adjusted for my size, added seam allowances and cut out the pattern pieces. Now I just need to finish a quick transitional dress I’ve started, the 1790 fly fringe trimmed dress (for an event in just under two weeks, ack!) and pick out my fabric to make it in!
    I really miss selfish but am grateful for the reminder of her. It’s made me realize just how much I miss the blogging environment of 5 or so years ago – before IG swept through. So this has all inspired me to actively re-engage with other blogs. Writing ones own can take so much time and energy that I often forget to keep visiting others. But you’ve inspired me to get back into that! I do enjoy IG but I love and miss the depth of blog posts. And how can I really expect other people to pay attention to mine if I don’t reciprocate!?

    So thank you, on multiple levels, for this post and reminder – to which I was ironically alerted via IG, lol.

    • Haha, have fun with it! And with the fly fringe dress—-two weeks?!?
      I’ve also been trying to read and engage more with the blogs, for the same reason. Actually, I’m currently stalking yours for Regency Spencer construction. 😂

  10. Your dress is very pretty!! I’m pretty sure I actually found your blog through Elaine’s post and I have been reading you since then! The selfish seamstress is my favorite sewing blog of all times, thanks for the nice memories.
    I made the coffee date dress back in 2009 out of African wax, i’m petite and I remember it being a bit snug too.

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