Desert island sewing

OK, who’s curious like me? Have you ever wondered whether there are some top patterns that us home sewists would chose above all others if we were forced to pick a few? I’ve been mulling this over for a while & then this idea grew, it sounded a bit like Desert Island Discs, a BBC Radio 4 institution, where guests (famous in some way) are interviewed whilst they also chose their favorite music tracks. This is a great way to discover more about the guest beyond the celebrity, & can be really interesting.   Now I am not a regular listener, but it can provide some fascinating perspectives. My favorite was Morrissey’s ( of course as I love his speaking voice and wryness as well as his music – his luxury if not allowed sleeping pills was a bed!).

So I’m applying this approach to sewing….and here starts  “Desert Island Sewing“. I am lining up other sewing bloggers to participate in this game as part of my quest so that I can gather data and analyse for themes. There will be stats, charts & pies, promise! and we can see if there are any trends. Hopefully, like me you’d find it an interesting way to learn a little more about other sewing bloggers and you might see some inspiring choices!

To start it off I’d better be the one to set the ball rolling, let me describe the situation:

You are stranded on a desert island, surrounded by beautiful crystal blue water populated by turtles & tropical fish (no sharks!). You have a comfy cosy shelter, an abundance of food & drinking water & a solar generator. Upon exploring the island you find a container that has fallen off a cargo ship & guess what? It is filled with what seems to be a never ending supply of fabrics of all descriptions, threads & notions!! What chance!

You are allowed to take your sewing machine & sewing box but which would be your 8 desert island patterns? (Note I will leave it up to my interviewees to imagine that their desert island’s climate & their adventures did not only require bikinis & sarongs but maybe more of a variety of clothing- but up to them! This is about designing their dream but limited wardrobe.  The patterns might be practical choices, or maybe they have more sentimental meaning).  So what will it be?


I have to chose 8 patterns

1. Simplicity 2154- a retro 1960s reprint
You know I love this blouse in all its fake pussy bow glory, it’s just TOO CUTE!

I adore that it is a 60s pattern (but with the luxury of modern tweaks & proportions) and that it also provides a stylish cardigan, jacket and pencil skirt. I can see a lot of mileage in this, being able to adapt the skirt as my basic block. This is a multi practical choice for warmth and cute style. Love love love love love.

2. Next up, if I had the chance, if it was warm enough, I would wear shorts to death, it’s the attraction of bare legs in the sun that I love, & this doesn’t happen that often in our climate. So, desert island = yes! Much as I was tempted by a 1960s sailor pattern, I’ve just gotta stick with the trouser love if my life, Sewaholic Thurlow, Tasia’s at Sewaholic shown below.



Canvas shorts, denim shorts, gingham suckers, the works. And that there are trousers too – bonus! No brainer. Tell you what I would perfect these pockets & become a welt-ninja.

3. Which would be my absolute basic top pattern do you think? I bet you can guess. Yes, another Sewaholic pattern, the mighty Renfrew.
It is so adaptable, making t shirts and jumper weight cosy sweater knits. I’d try adapting it to make tank/ vest tops too for wearing with my shorts ( with plenty of saucy nautical details 😉 )

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4. Ok, so that’s all the sensible practical choices. I can now let myself loose on my pattern collection and find that the rest of my choices are dresses! Whoop whoop! My top priority  is another retro reprint – Butterick 5747.

I haven’t made this yet, but I swoon every time I see it. I’d make sailor dresses first of all, in all sorts of colours with both skirt variations, then mess around with all sorts of other fabrics, including a taffeta full skirted version. The skirt pieces also make good options for using on their own as cute skirts, different from the pencil skirt block above (oh, I am ever practical).

5. Next up a dress I still haven’t sewn but will this summer, promise. A 70s zip through with a MASSIVE collar.

I like the plain blue sleeveless version best and would make a stretchy elastic belt (made with rainbow elastic) , maybe trying to find one of those ‘s’ shaped buckles from the belts that boys used to wear in the 1970s. I could see this in all sorts of fabrics, spots, stripes, checks and plain. It would be perfect for bronzing those shoulders. Long sleeves for cooler times.

6. Simplicity 1880 is another pattern I’ve yet to sew, but I am a huge sucker for a shirt dress and as it also comes with a wrap dress I’ve got all sorts of styling options and a flirty skirt.

Sunni from a Fashionable Stitch led a double sewalong using this pattern and there are so many gorgeous versions I’ve seen.
I found two stunning dresses made by A SewingLife

Images from A Sewing Life, link as above.

Can you see why this features in my top patterns?  Plus, I’d be able to use the bodice as a shirt block, the skirt is another style to,add to my repertoire…

7. To challenge myself I’d also finally have enough guts and time to finally tackle Gertie’s bombshell dress.  Could you imagine a more perfect make for a desert island –  a slower careful make, perfecting my fit? Hawaiian print would be my first version (I must have sub-consciously remembered Lladybird’s awesome version)


I’d then make one in turquoise Chinese brocade.

8. Finally I would opt for a Wearing History pattern, some 1930s beach trousers and halter top, because think of the style (G&T in hand) and they are described as for the beach after all!!

I do not own this pattern, but think it would fill the gap in this desert island set admirably.

But you may notice that I have not chosen a swimsuit. Let me tell you now, this is a desert island….having a plentiful supply of dress patterns is more important than covering up when sunbathing I’d say…;-)

Next, in desert island discs, you are allowed to take the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare ( but don’t have to on my desert island if you don’t want!!) but I’m going to see which sewing related book people would choose.

This is hard, as before last week I would have taken one of my Japanese 1970s pattern drafting books as the idea of making a cool 1970s wardrobe whilst learning drafting appealed to me. However, I ordered Winifred Aldrich’s “Metric pattern cutting for women’s wear” and have to say that there is so much to learn, so many garment variations, style details I have never even conceived, let alone tried that it would have to be my sewing book. I can imagine turning to this book & it occupying me when contemplating version 21 of a Bombshell dress….

Just to spice things up a bit, I also would like to know which non sewing book would get chosen.

Mine would be One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, my favorite ever book.  It’s one of the few books I’ve read more than once, & definitely the only one I would ever want to read lots of times.

I love getting lost in the magical descriptions and convoluted sentences, miraculous and tangential plot, so much so, it inspires me to write.

Which leads me on to my luxury…you are allowed one luxury,

Mine would be resources for writing/ journaling, having been inspired by One Hundred Years of Solitude I will want to write! I’d have lots of time to do it by hand and make it look lovely.

Click through for source

Finally, music.  This could provide unexpected insights.  But which disc would I chose?

Well, for me this was a tricky one as I seem to survive on playlists, however, an album I would never tire of is “Always and Forever, the best of Louis and Ella“.

Not only is it 50 songs of velvety Ella and dulcet Louis , I’d be able to sing along, taking either Ella’s or Louis’ part and feel I wasn’t alone after all as I would be in duet with one of these greats (with no-one but the parrots to hear my creaking tones! Oh, just imagine the cacophony!!!). There are songs that are just so happy, (and Louis so makes me smile) and would have me swinging my hips, as well as gorgeous duets such as the awesome Summertime. There are so many artists that I listen to endlessly for three months, become my fave of the moment, but then I hardly listen to after that, moving on to the next. Ella & Louis are always there in my faves & do not wear with constant listening.

So please let me know what you think about this idea. Is it entertaining? Does it satisfy an inner curiosity? Have you ever wondered these questions yourself? I am hoping to post maybe every two or three weeks, a different blogger each time.  Tell you what, I am Mega Excited by it!!!

62 thoughts on “Desert island sewing

  1. Andrea

    Winnie, what an awesome idea! Totally looking forward to your desert island series. Also, I like the fact that you would not take a swimsuit in favour of a fabulous vintage dress pattern, and that you would take 100 Years of Solitude – my favourite book EVER! I’ve read it three times in Spanish and twice in English – just love it!

  2. Houseofpinheiro

    Winnie, this idea is rad, I am a sucker for stats and über curious about people’s preferences. Please can I join in? I cannot stop thinking about it now

  3. Debbie

    Great post! Looking forward to seeing the results. Now you have got me thinking of what patterns I would take. The sewing book is easy, I would have to take the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. I’ve had my copy since the mid 80’s and it is still my go to sewing book!

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Sewing book choice is tricky – would you go for all the techniques you could ever want (ie Readers Digest or Vogue Book of Sewing) or would it be a book of yet more patterns? Tricky!

  4. Jenny

    Great idea! I can’t wait to see everyone’s choices. I wouldn’t know where to start, but I love your combination of staple, frill and challenge

  5. ooobop!

    Brilliant! What an awesome idea! Gonna have to think on this one, my brain is shot tonight but couldn’t wait to congratulate you on such a cool post x

  6. Jennifer

    What a great idea! And what great choices you’ve made 🙂 It will be very interesting seeing what everyone chooses and what the end stats show (I’m such a sucker for charts).

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Oh I also love charts ! I did stats this year for our ski holiday & that was huge fun. Luckily stats is not very much of my day job otherwise I’d be worried about bringing into my out of work activities!!

  7. Amanda

    This is a fantastic concept! Love the idea and your picks! I’ve just bought the 2145 pattern and am champing at the bit to get sewing on it. Too cool!

  8. Becky

    I’m entertained! And yes, I’d love to see you keep going with this. Also, you can’t cheat and bring a fully loaded kindle or ipod? 😀

  9. Sarah

    This is fun! I’m always curious to see what other sewists classify as their ‘necessary’ patterns (I’m with you on Renfrew!) I would have to have a copy of a Prayer for Owen Meany with me.

  10. Sam

    What a fabulous post! I love your pattern choices – a nice amount of variety there, and I now want to check out that pattern cutting book. I’m with you on resources for journalling/writing, although I’d probably use mine for drawing!

  11. Jane

    Interesting choices that should make you an (almost) complete wardrobe. I’m going to go away and think about the patterns I’d choose now.

  12. IngeMaakt

    What a great idea! I’m so curious what your interviewees will take with them. Something to look forward too, as is a sunny island in this time of year 🙂 Now I can’t stop thinking about the sun, and the beach 🙁

  13. Merche

    What a great post, Learning your choices gives a better idea of who you are. funny and clever,and a little bit whimsical? That’s how I precieve you.
    It’s funny you mentioned the complete works of Shakespeare, I have that massive book stored in my parents house and we were discussing about the sillyness of buying it in the first place (my mum can’t read English and my dad says he is too old to bother reading old English), it’s me who bought it, and that i should take it away with me. I agreed as long as they let me take along their old copy of Don Quijote, another enormous book…both are master pieces of literature and in my mind they have to be together.
    I stop the blabber now!
    Tell us, who else is going to take part in this and where can we read about it!
    Excellent iniciative

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Thank you Merche & for your story about the Complete Works of Shakespeare! That was a funny tale. You clearly have something for huge heavy books – great for pressing flowers on your desert island?

  14. Virginia aka Ripple Dandelion

    Trying to be cool and not all gushy here: I’m so honored that you showed my two Simplicity 1880s out of all the lovely versions on the web!!! Well, so much for cool. What a fun thought exercise. Eight patterns? That is tough, but it will be great to see what folks say. Your idea of Ella and Louis as the musical choice seems absolutely perfect.

    Thanks again for the shoutout!

  15. Roisin

    This post made me giggle so much, Winnie! I am with you on Butterick 5747, I have it in my stash and think it could be really fun and versatile. I’d have to bring Sewaholic Cambie and Lonsdale with me, and for the sake of a complete-ish wardrobe Gertie’s book would come too. I also LOVE One Hundred Years of Solitude (I have the Penguin cover poster pride of place on my wardrobe door) but if I was bringing Marquez it would be Love in The Time of Cholera which is one of my all time favourite books. Either that or East of Eden by my main man John Steinbeck.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Interesting that you’d take Gertie’s book – that also has techniques in it too…
      I think 100 years of solitude is provoking lots of love here, but if you had to pick just one novel I wonder what it would be….

  16. Helen Made

    What a great post! It’s totally got me wondering what I would take with me if I were stranded in a place like that… Plus I get to be nosey into other people’s inner thoughts, bonus!

  17. MrsC (Maryanne)

    Such fun! I do giggle at that 70’s zip through – having worn a nylony version of the exact thing in my student job in an old folks home for several years. EW. But I am equally sure it will look nothing like that monstrosity when you make it up in something hip. Time heals many fashion wounds after all 😉
    Great idea. I love the idea of this island idyll too. Except what about desert island sewists meet ups! A boat would simply have to come around regularly for social purposes!

  18. Tilly

    Love this! Such an interesting exercise to work out what our desert island patterns would be. Some of mine I haven’t even sewn yet – they’re almost too good! x

  19. Hanny Bobbins

    Ha ha ha absolutely love this idea! Very funny how you’ve twisted the concept. Look forward to reading everyone’s. maybe one of the sewing true confessions could be a little bit of radio 4 on the iplayer…maybe I’m not alone?!

  20. Alessa

    Oh what a fab idea! Now you’ve got me thinking about my desert island wardrobe! And desert islands. Sun! Sand! Water! Bare feet!
    I don’t know if I could be limited to just one book, though. It’d need to be really loooong… 😉

  21. Roobeedoo

    Some big surprises here! I look forward to seeing you make up at least a few of those “wildcard” choices soon – I honestly thought you would pick 8 “tried and tested” patterns. This is so much more exciting!
    And 100 years of Solitude? I really really wanted to love that book when a bloke I fancied said it was the best book ever, but I just didn’t get it. But that was nearly 30 years ago – ahem! Maybe I need to try again! In fact – I must!

  22. LinB

    Wow. I’d have to winnow my four jammed pattern boxes marked “Favorite Favorites” down to only eight? I don’t think I want to play this game, lol. I’d go for long sleeves and complete coverage of my legs, and some sort of wide hat, for sure — the sun is NOT my friend. And a decent bra pattern. Books? As a church secretary, I ought to say the Bible, but am more likely to want a how-to book to learn to build and sail a boat. Sewing-related books would be one of the pattern drafting classics, and definitely my book that tells how to sew camping equipment and tents and such (old as dirt, long OOP, and I can’t remember the title right off hand). Music … probably lots and lots of bluegrass, so I’d feel right at home. Luxury? Dear Gussie! I don’t deserve anything special. Luxury for me would be a decent bottle of beer every Thursday, I reckon.

  23. Jane

    Hi Winnie, I read your post, nodded vigorously, smiled, left a comment about somebody elses book choice and forgot to comment myself! Soz. EXCELENT idea – I would love to see what patterns (and books and records to be honest) other sewists would choose. x

  24. missjoiedevivre

    Ha, what a brilliant idea! This does point out that one really only needs a handful of patterns though, and the hundreds I own are mostly superfluous, but I don’t want to narrow it down, I don’t!

    Looking forward to seeing other people’s choices though 🙂

  25. coco

    What a fun idea! Once you’ve done your series, how about opening it up and endorsing anyone who wants to do a post along the lines of your series! i.e. use your guideline and badge. I for one would really love to do one. Thks!

  26. Amy

    This is such a fab idea Winnie, how intriguing. It’s just the sort of thing I can spend a whole train journey day-dreaming about… which 8 patterns…hmmm…

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  28. Josie

    Hi from Josie
    I just found your blog…a year later. Love the idea. I live in an Island. And yes, it is a challenge. For starters, we have a Tsunami alarm every month, to prepare ourselves for the real one which I understand is coming. Based on this premise, I “hoard” patterns, materials and notions. I am resourceful and wouldn’t use many patterns. All things considered, i am practical. My idea, tracing, shorts, t-shirts. And, the famous mumus. They are colorful, and cool year round. It’s the tropics. One must think what the most effective, fast way to keep cool.
    Thanks for sharing

  29. Josie

    Oh! Yeah, one need books (Gabriel Garcia Marques), One hundred years of solitude, great choice. In Spanish too, so I can practice a foreign language.
    Thanks again. What a great imagination

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