I remember a time in the not too distant past when the costumes in Downton Abbey were weekly fodder in the sewing blogging world. Lady Mary this, Countess Cora that… At the time I hadn’t yet watched the show (I got rid of my TV several years ago because I had become addicted to say the least – cold turkey was my only saving grace!), and I was desperate to figure out what this new-to-me show was all about. I read every Downton post I found in order to piece together the story that was gripping this community. I eventually watched the first season of the show with my neighbor, finally catching up with the online social scene while enjoying some in-real-life social time. A win, win if you ask me!
So, when the good people at Interweave/F+W wrote to ask if I’d like to give away five copies of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews Magazine from the editors of Stitch Magazine, I immediately said, “Yes, please!” How could I not spread the Downton love?
The fine print says that this magazine is unofficial and unauthorized, but that doesn’t stop it from being chock full of patterns inspired by the show. The projects are divided into four sections: Take Me Dancing, which includes fancy dresses and the like; Out and About, which includes casual and practical everyday wear; At Home, which includes home dec and nightgowns and robes and such; and, finally, From the Archives, which includes a hodge podge of everything else.
Most of my favorite patterns come from the everyday wear in the Out and About section. While it would just take too long to show you everything, I hope you’ll oblige me with a few of my favorite patterns. (And, here’s a secret for you: most of the patterns from the magazine can be downloaded for free from SewDaily.com if you are willing to sign up for a free membership to their site. You’ll still need the magazine for the instructions though.)
There’s something about the blues and greens used in the Suffragette Day Blouse and Skirt (all of the pattern links here and below go to the corresponding free pattern download) that immediately drew me in to this section. These two patterns were inspired by Lady Sybil and the outfit she wore to the political rally in Season 1. I don’t think I could personally pull off either of these garments since I’m not sure high-waisted skirts are for me (after trying one here), but I’d love to see this exact outfit on everyone else!
The Maid’s Day Off Coat, however, is right up my alley. This pattern was inspired by Anna and the coat she wore to visit Bates in prison in Season 3. While I don’t have too many occasions to visit prison, I imagine I could find many other appropriate places to wear this coat!
I also like the Sporting Jacket and the Modern Jean Jodhpurs. The jacket pattern was inspired by the jacket Lady Mary wore when she was horseback riding with the Turkish diplomat in Season 1. The Jodhpur riding pant pattern isn’t attributed to one particular point in the story, but it’s hard to imagine a list of Downton-inspired garments that doesn’t include Jodhpurs.
While most of the patterns are free online downloads, the magazine also includes pull out paper patterns for the Let’s Do Lunch Topper (hat), the Legacy Cot Quilt, the Out and About Wrap, the Peacock Evening Clutch, the Embroidered and Embellished Belt, the Goddess Headpiece, and the Silk Polonaise Stole. The magazine is also invaluable for the included instructions. Take the Peacock Evening Clutch for example…
The beautiful peacock feather is actually made by smocking. And, the directions don’t just assume that you know how to smock – there’s a whole sidebar detailing the technique. In fact, instructions for most of the projects require more than just the typical “sew right sides together”. This magazine details how to make puckered fabric, make a jeweled collar, sew with sequins, embroider, work with lace, make fringe, attach a coat lining, pad stitch, create welt pockets, make a fagoted seam, sew with French seams, add piping, make scallops, paper piece, make rosettes and other floral embellishments, and more. I learned a lot just reading the instructions! Now, that said, the instructions are mostly text with minimal figures. So, while there are a lot of techniques included in this magazine, you have to have the confidence to work mostly through text descriptions with a single key image.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the magazine also has little blurbs about the designers. I love getting a little bit of insight into the people behind the patterns! For example, the Out and About Wrap was designed by Samina of Sew Everything Blog. She wrote about her design and how to wear the wrap as a scarf here. There are even two designers from the Seattle area: Charise of Charise Creates and Kerry Smith!
For true Downton junkies the magazine even includes sections devoted solely to the show, like the piece on the Inveraray Castle, the Scottish estate featured in the Christmas special.
Now, typically when I review books and pattern collections like this I like to make one of the included garments so that you can get an idea of what is possible. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find the time this time around (read: baby girl + husband being out of town a lot for work + science deadlines = very little sewing time). I did get so far as to chose the Flapper Dress as my first victim.
I know it’s not one of the patterns I highlighted above as being my favorites, but I have had a beautiful sequins fabric from Distric Fabric burning a hole through my stash for half a year now (see top photo above). I’ve been looking for the perfect dartless dress pattern since I only wanted to deal with stitching the sequins along the side seams. As soon as I saw this one, I knew I had to give it a chance (again, see top photo above for the line drawing).
I’ve gotten as far as downloading the pattern and printing it out. I still need to tape that sucker together (even simple dress patterns require taping a lot of sheets of paper!), and then I figure I should make a muslin. My sequins fabric is a knit, which means it’ll forgive many fitting issues, but it would still be nice to truly get a sense of how the dress will fit before going through the time and effort of removing all the sequins from the stitching line only to realize something doesn’t work after stitching the side seams together.
Once it’s boot season again, I’d like to try the Jodhpurs. I need more skinny jeans, and I like the equestrian seaming details. I’ve tried to zoom in and lighten the photo below so you can see what I’m referring to. Look to the inside, just above the knees.
And, then after that it’ll be that coat… Definitely that coat!
Now it’s your turn! I want to see the Downton love spread all around the sewing blogosphere again! So, five lucky readers will win a copy of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews Magazine from the editors of Stitch Magazine (retail $14.99) thanks to F+W Media Distribution and Interweave! If you’d like to be entered into the drawing, just leave a comment below letting me know. I’ll pick the winners at random next Thursday, July 17th at 7 am PDT. Good luck! (If you want another chance to win, enter Sew Maris’s giveaway as well!)