I coat-dn’t believe I made this

Back when I went fabric shopping in Hong Kong with Vicki  one of the things I absolutely fell in love with was a woven monochrome wool, a bit like houndstooth but more like stars (or at least, more like stars in my eyes).

I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to turn it into a coat, and found myself stood with Vicki in the baking heat trying to figure out how much material I’d need for a winter coat (a very strange experience I must say).

I settled on three metres, but, when I got home and remeasured the fabric, I discovered a fatal flaw in my plan; I might have been talking in metres but the shop owner was definitely listening in yards! That left me with 2.7 m of fabric – not a shabby amount but not quite as much to play with.

Then I started looking for the perfect pattern. I found it, it was glorious.

It needs a minimum of five metres of fabric.

Continue reading

Sixties mania!


A lot of the time my work wear is the same as my rest of the time wear; it’s one of the joys of both working in the arts and (mainly) working from home. It means I get to spend most days wearing dresses I love with the added bonus of vomit jumpers on days working from home.

Whilst dressmaking has really added to this ability, my most recent make for the Simple Sew bloggers network has bucked this trend somewhat, as – despite it’s cute vintage stylings – it really could count as “office wear”.

What is it?

A tailored shift dress with three quarter length sleeves and a contrast peter pan collar


Is it blue?

Yes

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

The body of the dress is made using an adorable navy floral print cotton poplin that was very kindly supplied by Abakhan for this make. The collar also came from Abakhan and is a super soft cream coloured viscose.
What’s the pattern?

The Simple Sew Trudy dress in view B.

What was good about making this?

The first thing to say is that this dress was super easy to sew up. I made a toile first to check for bust fit after the issues I had with Ruby, and once I’d made some minor adjustments it went up in hardly any time.

In addition, although I’m not sure if good is the right word, this dress did push me out of my comfort zone due it’s sixties styling; whilst I love classic details, the sixties aren’t usually a decade that I look to for inspiration as I tend to find that the styles just don’t suit me. Making this dress has helped change that assumption somewhat (although I doubt I’ll be emulating Twiggy any time soon!).


What was bad about making it?

For some reason I couldn’t get the collar to stay put at the back, although that was fixed with a bit of invisible stitching. I found I had to make a really thin hem on the dress, which might have been a design feature (the 60s were all about the mini after all) but I think might be more to do with a combination of my height and personal preference to not show my bottom to the world!

Would you make it again?

Hmmmm….. So I think I might be a bit swayed towards the sixties aesthetic, but I’m not sure I’d make this dress again without making a few tweaks first. There’s also a couple of other similar but different dresses out there which I might give a try. Or maybe I’ll just go back to my usual fit and flare style. Only time will tell. (And Instagram. Instagram always tells.)

X

Disclaimer: whilst the Trudy pattern was provided by Simple Sew Patterns and the fabric generously provided by Abakhan, I received no other forms of payment for this blog post and the opinions expressed are my own.

The case for the prosecution

The case

Over the last few months I’ve been noticing something strange in amongst my usual sewing projects. Namely that there’s been things that haven’t been made by me for me. It seems that – unwittingly – I may have become an unselfish sewer.

Clue 1 – Christmas waistcoats


It started off casually enough when, building on our Christmas card, I made matching waistcoats for the boy’s brothers for Christmas. Yes, it’s a gift but well, they’re part of a joke, nothing more. Plus I’d already made a white one for the boy, so making two more wasn’t much of a hassle.

Clue 2 – A very loud shirt

© Photography by Khris Cowley for Here & Now (www.fb.com/wearehereandnow)

My brother is a lover of loud vintage shirts and I figured what could be better than a loud vintage shirt chosen by your sister but a loud vintage-esque shirt made by your sister? This train of thought led to my making a Negroni shirt for him for Christmas using the most insanely loud Liberty fabric I’ve ever seen from the rag market (and man do I love that fabric).

It was a dream to make up and even more of a dream when, on Christmas day, not only did he love it as soon as he opened it but it was a perfect fit (I’d been a bit worried about making something without any measurements).

© Photography by Khris Cowley for Here & Now (www.fb.com/wearehereandnow)

As for the particularly professional photos with this one, my brother’s a DJ and he also runs amazing events in Bristol, so the fact he wore the shirt to one of their events is pretty much the highest honour I could ask for!

Clue 3 – Secret Valentine’s Exchange


In mid-January sign ups went live for this year’s Secret Valentine Exchange. I’d not taken part before, but I know a lot of people who really love it as a swap, so thought I’d get on board. Besides, it’s not really selfish sewing if you’re going to get something in return, right?


My gift went to Nina, and based on her love of orange and blue and her frankly awesome knitting skills I made her a knitting needle roll using this tutorial from Guthrie & Ghani. The chambray was in my stash from my shirt dress, whilst the orange came from a single fat quarter. I made the piping out of some bias binding I had. I also sent some yarn and knitting needles, because you can’t have an empty needle holder or needles with nothing to go on them!


In return I received a wonderful gift from Amy, you can find out more on my Instagram feed.

Clue 4 – sewing for a baby

The boy’s sister-in-law has just had a baby, making me an auntie by proxy, so of course I sewed something up for the little baby, I mean, he’s so cute (baby not boy) that it would have been cruel not to. Plus, I already had the bib pattern from the sewing I’ve been doing as a part of The Big Sew (which, yes, is also unselfish, but shh, or rather, click through and find out how you can help!) so it wasn’t even like it was that big of a deal. Honest.Verdict

It seems it’s confirmed. I am a handmade gift giver, no two ways about it. Still, given that my next few projects are all for me, I don’t think the title will stick too hard!

x

Time pressures? What time pressures?

New Year’s Eve is a strange thing; for some people there’s nothing they like more than staying out into the wee small hours, giddy and drunk on the promise of a new year, whilst for others they couldn’t care less and are happily tucked up in bed like on most other nights of the year.

I am not one of the latter people.

And as one of those who like a good party on NYE, I also like to have a fancy dress to wear.

This year (16 into 17) I was thinking about my dress for months. Not on purpose. It was more that I had a vision in my head of the perfect dress that I wanted to make but no opportunity to wear it. A leopard print wiggle dress. Outrageous but, for NYE, just outrageous enough.

I found a pattern, I found some amazing leopard print scuba in Dalston, I was away.

And then, at 4:30pm on New Year’s Eve I actually tried on the dress (I’d not had a chance to before then because of various Christmas crafting projects and Christmas being social projects).

It was a disaster. Not unsalvageable. But certainly not something that could be sorted before heading out to a party.

I had less than two and a half hours before we headed out, and I needed to eat in that time. It would have been madness to try and make something new in that time, right?

Right.

I did it anyway…..


What is it?

A slash neck dress with a three quarter circle skirt.

Is it blue?

No, but it is a turquoisey green which can sometimes count….

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

A gorgeous African wax print that I bought from the rag market during Sew Brum.

What’s the pattern?

The By Hand London Anna dress with the three quarter circle skirt I drafted for my Christmas dress

What was good about making this?

Erm, getting it done in two hours (allowing for the break for dinner)? I cut the fabric out not really sure if I would actually manage to get it done in time, so getting it all sorted felt pretty good. Plus, in amongst the mild mania of the creation, I managed to get a neat pattern match on the bodice back and I’m really pleased with the pattern placement of the yellow spiral on the bodice.

Would you look at the pattern placement on that….

What was bad about making this?

I did feel pretty rude when our friends turned up for pre-drinks and I went “can’t talk, got to hem!”. They all went and played some weird game about Vikings (so weird, a half hour of googling can’t find it…) with the boy instead. To be honest, based on the sounds of confusion they were making, I’m not sure who got the worst deal there….

SWOOOOOOSH

Would you make it again?

I would. I’m smitten with this dress and have worn it a couple of times already in the last month. It swooshes ever so nicely and is dressy without feeling over the top.

Although next time, I might try to take my time with it.

x

The most ridiculous time of the year

Before we start, yes, it is now February. And yes, this is a blog post about Christmas. Your point…?

SO VERY EXCITED

Ah Christmas. A time for all sorts of ridiculous things, including, for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of, a decision to make matching Christmas outfits for me and the boy, along with a bow for Pickle, and then pose for a “family photo” which got used on all of our Christmas cards….

To avoid us turning into a Buzzfeed listicle about people who love Christmas a bit too much, I’m not going to post either the actual photo or any of the out-takes. If you’re really good, maybe, just maybe, Father Christmas will bring them to you next year / I’ll show the picture to you at some point in the future in a real world setting.

It went into the real world too!
(This is just before I went out for my work’s Christmas do.)

What is it?

For me; a holly print dress with a sweetheart neckline and three-quarters circle skirt. The boy had a waistcoat and bow tie of the same material, whilst Pickle had a bow that was attached to her collar.

Is it blue?

No

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

I bought several metres of holly print polycotton from Minerva Crafts. I lined my dress with some cream cotton I already had, and the waistcoat with white fabric from the rag market.

Imagine this is being worn by a man with a beard.
Also, note the holly shaped buttons #twee

What’s the pattern?

My dress is a modified Mortmain dress by Gather patterns; the sweetheart is the same one used on the second space dress whilst I drafted the three-quarters circle skirt specifically for this dress. The waistcoat is Simplicity 8023 view A, and I copied the bow tie from a pre-existing bow tie that the boy has. Pickle’s bow was the easiest of all; a square of fabric tied together and attached to a new collar, so no pattern needed!

What was good about making this?

The best thing was probably the fact that it made me laugh every time I thought about what we were doing, and then laugh again every time I have seen the picture since. Or maybe the actual best thing was when the cards started landing and people were telling us how much they had enjoyed the cards. That was pretty nice too.

(and yes, that’s a horrendously corny answer, but if you can’t be corny at when writing about Christmas, when can you be corny?)

Why yes, there is a cat treat out of shot to get her to look up long
enough to show off her fancy bow tie. How did you guess?

What was bad about making this?

There was a fair bit of strategy involved in getting Pickle involved in the photo, which probably counts as part of the making. In the end, we got the collar on her the day before so that she wouldn’t then run away as soon as I tried to pick her up for the photo (she hates having her collar changed).

Would you make it again?

This was a fairly niche make… And whilst I have already had friends ask what our plan for next Christmas is, I’m a bit worried about making a rod for my own back. So for now, let’s say no, but maybe ask me again in December / next February!

x

I cord-n’t stop the awful puns


In the middle of the summer, I got in to my head that the dress I wanted for autumn was a blue needlecord dungaree dress. I didn’t know why, it was just what I wanted.

Time marched on, and I found myself in September, having not bought any corduroy. Tilly & the Buttons had just launched Cleo so suddenly the internet was awash with dungaree dresses.

Still I didn’t pull my finger out.

Then, I went to Hong Kong, and when I came back I knew exactly what the first thing I was going to make was. That dungaree dress I’d had my eye on for months. It took me until the middle of November. It was worth it.

Coupled with my trust Belle and Sebastian brooch

What is it?

A corduroy dungaree dress

Is it blue?

Yes!

What’s the fabric and where is it from?

The fabric is a thickish corduroy which is actually leftover sofa material from the time that I made a sofa cover that I then dyed blue with machine dye. The whole process made me feel like a wizard, which was pretty cool.


What’s the pattern?

It’s a mash up of the Hollyburn skirt and the Cotton & Chalk Sunday Set pattern, which I got free with a copy of Simply sewing magazine. I really liked the dungaree part of the Sunday Set, but wanted a longer skirt, and I also wanted slash pockets in the skirt which the Hollyburn has.

What was good about making it?

The sense of achievement pulling together lots of different patterns to make a dress was pretty cool. I also like the fact that I’ve managed to make something that combines my usual style with something a bit more casual.

On top of this, I got to use my trusty clamp (or whatever it is they’re called; the squeezy plier things) to squeeze the jeans buttons in place, and that’s always fun.

Look how neat it looks!

Finally, the two tone effect that occurred due to the machine dying meant that not only does the fabric have a really interesting variation in it, but the cutting and sewing was a piece of cake as everything was in clear straight lines.

What was bad about making it?

Turning the dungaree straps. Oh man that was a pain. They’re quite long, and quite thing, which, adding in the thickness of the fabric meant it was totally unwieldy to deal with.

Would you make it again?

Probably not. Not because I don’t love it (and indeed, I’ve had a load of wear out of it over the last two months) but, realistically, I don’t think I’d wear another dungaree dress!

x

(Cotton) diamonds are a girl’s best friend

Reader, I have a confession. I have become a bit obsessed by African wax print.

It started out innocently enough; I noticed on Instagram that some bloggers (particularly Roisin and Vicky) were posting up dresses made from super vibrant bold patterned fabric. Something about the vibrancy sparked an affection for the fabric, but it wasn’t something I saw when physically fabric shopping so I watched from afar.

Then I started to see wax cotton on my rounds of the rag market, and realised how well priced it is. The affection strengthened, moving into an attraction. I even bought a piece, relatively subdued in pattern as it was, and used it for my Colette Rue, marvelling at how workable the fabric was.

The attraction morphed further.

Things came to a head towards the end of September. In my day job, I work predominantly from home, but when I’m in London I work out of an office that’s based in Rich Mix.

Which is a ten minute walk from Middlesex Street, one of the hubs of wax print in London.

Which I then discovered having not previously realised it.

Faced with overwhelming choice and a serious heap of desire I caved, and came back two wonderfully joyful outrageous pieces of fabric. The obsession was fixed…

 

What is it?

A strappy summer dress with a princess seam bodice and gathered skirt.

Is it blue?

Some of the panels are blue, as are the lines that connect the little roundels.

My house is on Bank Street. Cue obligatory ridiculous posing….

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

An amazing piece of African wax cotton from Middlesex Street. I think I bought it in Good Luck Textiles, but, based on the number of stores in the area, you could into any of them and have a blast.

What’s the pattern?

I used the By Hand London Charlie dress, using a gathered skirt rather than a circle skirt, as per the strawberry dress.

What was good about making this?

How truly wonderfully vibrant it is. I did some pattern matching on the bodice that seemed to actually work (a feat for me….), and I also liked the pattern placement that I did with the roundels central on the bodice.
It came together relatively quickly and felt like a fun thing to sew, probably based on the happiness of the pattern.

What was bad about making this?

I spent a while wondering about the skirt length, and, although I ended up going for the shorter length, still wonder if I made the right decision and should have stuck with midi length (although it’s definitely too late for that now….). I also had worries that I wouldn’t actually wear the dress because it’s that bit more vibrant than my usual makes. I shouldn’t have though, as it was amazing to wear and, even if it ends up being mainly a summer holiday dress, it is still wonderful.


Would you make it again?

I do really like the Charlie pattern, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I made another. I also have a lot of fabric left (pretty standard where wax cotton is concerned as it comes in 6 yard chunks) so I may well make a skirt in the same fabric that might, possibly, be a way to wear the print more regularly.

x

#2017usenine


It’s 2017. Goodness. Wherever did 2016 go?

With the approach of a new year, all sorts of resolutions get called, with people declaring that this is the year they’re going to lose weight, find a new job, run a marathon and all sorts of other big achievements that seem like a great idea when you’re fuelled by fizzy wine and it’s ten to midnight and you don’t actually think you want to do any of those things but it feels like a thing you should do.

Sometimes I think there can be a similar drive within the sewing community to commit to making all sorts of things over the course of the coming twelve months. We see the hashtag #2017makenine and all the plans other sewers have and get caught up thinking about our own plans.

For me, this has led to a #2017makenine but also a #2017usenine.

One of the things I am acutely aware of at the moment is that my stash is getting bigger and bigger, and that I keep buying new things with plans to use them, but then a new favourite comes along and pushes it to the side. So, with that in mind, I’m committing to using these nine fabrics in 2017.

These are actually all relatively recent purchases, but part of the plan here is that they don’t become like other parts of my stash where the drive has gone and they linger waiting for a new project (besides which, some of those are covered by my make nine pattern choices). I’m not saying I’ll use all of them, but it will certainly be interesting to see if I have when this time next year rolls around!

How about you? Do you have a #2017usenine alongside your #2017makenine?

(And for those interested, my make nine are: Sew Over It vintage shirt dress; Closet Case Ginger jeans; Simple Sew Trudy dress; Tilly and the Buttons Orla top; Deer & Doe Pavota jacket; Deer & Doe  Datura blouse; the Ripple Wrap Blouse from Rosie Martin’s No Patterns Needed; the Brighton skirt from Wendy Ward’s A Beginners Guide to Skirts; and a desire to finally use my bodice block and draft myself some more dresses)

X

Pearl & Dean have nothing on me

Well my dears, it’s been quite a while since I dropped by here. Some of that is work related, as things have really stepped up a gear over the last couple of weeks, whilst some of it is much fun and sewing related (although, in fairness, my job gets to be pretty fun too sometimes!

I’ll do proper updates on my recent makes over the coming few weeks, along with a few posts about the adventures I’ve had, but, like a series of adverts in the cinema, here’s what’s coming to a screen near you soon:

  • Two day dresses
  • A party frock
  • Possibly the greatest photo I have ever taken
  • Thoughts on meet ups
  • A series of unselfish acts (well, it is the most wonderful time of the year!)
  • Some resolutions for the future

And now, for today’s main feature; Hong Kong fabric shopping!

I was lucky enough to get to go to Hong Kong at the end of October. I went with my mum and dad, and had an absolute blast; we went to the Big Buddha, did a trip around some of the islands, went to the top of Victoria Peak, trawled the markets of Kowloon, rode the Star Ferry about thirty times (not enough times for my liking!) and generally ate and drank our way around a host of amazing places.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the cable car up to the Big Buddha

And of course, I managed to sneak in not one but TWO trips for fabric shopping.

The first was an organised trip of the most wonderful serendipity. It turned out that the wonderful Vicky was in Hong Kong at the same time as me, and, probably unsurprisingly, was also interested in a spot of fabric shopping. So, on the Thursday of our trip, along with my mum (and, much to his bemusement, my dad) we found ourselves in Sham Shui Po, probably the best area in Hong Kong for fabric shopping.

img_1921

(This is from a fab video Vicky made that you can find here)

Quite a few of the stores were wholesale, with an amazing array of coloured swatches hung up outside for people to take away and consult (I wanted to take the whole rainbow with me, but wasn’t sure what I’d do with one inch square pieces of fabric). Sadly, most of these places required you to order two to three days in advance of delivering the fabric, and coupled with my non-existent Cantonese it just wasn’t to be.

However, we did manage to find a couple of shops that were more like the fabric shops I’m used to. My absolute favourite was an Aladdin’s cave of a shop where Vicky and I were constantly in danger of having the rolls come tumbling on to us (and, indeed, in once case they did….). The shopkeeper added to the appeal, not least when, looking at my poor dad’s confusion about just why three women were going “oooh” at seemingly identical rolls of fabric, she offered him her seat!

I came away with a couple of interesting pieces, none of which have yet been made up, but which will all be revealed in time.

Then, the second trip was another act of serendipity. My dad had decided to get a suit tailored whilst we were in Hong Kong, and we were on our way to go and pick it up from the tailors. We came out of the metro and walked past another tailor. A tailor with a massive bounty; bags and bags of fabric, all neatly packaged up and all 50 HKD each. That’s a fiver. Five pounds. For high quality suiting and dressmaking fabrics.

img_1388

An actual treasure trove!

Needless to say, mum and I were on it like a pair of magpies, and I came away with some absolute beauties, including some blue Chinese silk brocade and leopard print sateen. There weren’t any guides as to how big each piece was, but I figured I’d at least get a top out of each piece. In actuality, each piece is at least two metres long meaning there’s some rather fancy dresses in my future.
img_1392

All the loveliness!

So there we have it; two really rather successful trips. Indeed, they were so successful that I couldn’t actually fit all the fabric in to my suitcase and had to put them in a second suitcase….. Thank goodness for Emirates’ 30kg luggage allowance!

x