Monday, 6 April 2015

Lizzie (or how I realised this one might be a step too far)

Ladies and gents, I present the Lizzie dress.

Long ago in school when we were learning about the Tudors (every Brit will have studied the Tudors on an annual basis between the ages of 4 and 18), a kindly teacher showed us The Ditchley Portrait. "That's a nice dress." I said "I'd like to have a dress like that."

I'd also like to rule over all of Europe

So I made one. (The ruling over Europe bit is taking a bit longer to organise)

Admittedly, I knew then that getting hold of a dress based off Queen Elizabeth I's most famous apparel would be costly. Very costly. I lamented the potential process of acquiring and subsequently spending my life's fortune on such an exquisite creation. Seemed like a lot of effort when (frankly) there would be slim occasion to wear it without looking like a crazy lady.

So this fabric appeared on my doorstep and the Angels of Artistic Licence sang out from the heavens. A symbol of mercy for every penniless creative with lofty ambitions!

Using the mod dress pattern again, I traced a lining pattern and an outer pattern for a vaguely normal dress. The two are connected at the neck and shoulders, but nowhere else. They are different sizes/shapes and the outer has no fastenings, while the lining has a zip in the side seam.

You know, so the outer looks all floaty and theatrical

The lining fabric is butter muslin, so I'm sorted if I ever find myself needing to drain soft cheese (win!). B patiently cut the hems and he has also counseled in favour of wearing spangly tights.


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Come on now, pull up your socks and concentrate

I'm snatching a quick blog at my desk, during a snatched lunch - at a point when managing my time starts fundamentally with managing my motivation to do anything. Breaking with the habit of posting up to 5 months behind the real world: I'm going to tell you what's actually going on.

Stockholm Tap Festival is coming up, birthdays and impending births abound, a wedding on the horizon again, curtains that still haven't been made, wishful (hopeful!) Liberty trousers patiently wait in my stash.

I've recently finished a project that could possibly be the Be All And End All of my sewing career. Time to hang up the needles? It is a beautiful jacket though. It'll show up eventually.

But my mind is on Stockholm - I could be learning about the teachers, brushing up on my paddles, shuffles, pullbacks and thirds. Instead I'm idling. At the end of last year I'd vowed I would level up for 2015, then I would sort out my wings or double pullbacks, then I would at least crack a basic polyrhythm, then I would complete the Stockholm Challenge, then I had an excellent idea for the cabaret showcase, then I wanted to make a dress for the Easter party.

With a week to go, none of this is likely to happen. B might have a new pair of shorts...hopefully...if I get on the hem pretty quickly...

Having bought the fabric and settled on a design for the Easter party, my focus and enthusiasm finds itself waning. This weekend could save the day. It's not like I need a new dress, there's one in the cupboard that'll do. But there's no fun in that.

Stay tuned, it could all change this weekend.


Saturday, 14 March 2015

Jusqu'ici tout va bien...jusqu'ici tout va bien...jusqu'ici tout va bien...

Did you hear the one about the man who jumped off the top of a block of flats?

Of course you've heard it.

The MW dress is over. Having worked on the dress for a year and a half, literally hundreds of hours, it is finally complete.

It isn't perfect. Every step of designing, fit and construction was new to me or pushed my existing knowledge to its limits.  Every stage that got ticked off I'd say "so far so good" and move on. Perhaps this wasn't the most forgiving dress for its imperfections. If one seam is slightly off in the pattern, it will show. If the fabric is damaged, it will show. If the fit is off, it will show. If the construction is sloppy, it will show. And the whole of its imperfections will appear greater than the sum of their parts. Truly.

Perhaps now that it's done it feels a bit like I've hit the pavement.

I have a philosphy that whatever you make tends to subconsiously reflect your state of mind at the time. This dress has gone from whimsical and ambitious to exhausting and disheartening. The fact it took two years to complete means that every step is the best of what I could do at the time. Not now.

I don't know what the dress was ever meant for. It was beautiful and needed to be made. It was a cocktail, birthday, wedding guest etc dress. I think I said at one point that I wanted to wear it on my 25th birthday, and again on my 50th. That obviously didn't happen.

In its final unfinished hours it found its purpose as a work dress.

Now let me explain.

I have somehow fallen into a profession where we organise and host fancy-dancy events for fancy-dancy bigwigs. Just as gents need a suit for this kind of thing, I need an Event Dress. The old one had served me well, but at the beginning of 2014 I looked at it for what it was: a stinking, overworked, RTW polyester dress from 2006. It had served its time. Moreover I felt like a fraud talking to fancy-dancy bigwigs in this dress and a faded, ill-fitting, shoddy Zara suit jacket. It was cheap. It was awkward.

So I threw it out.

And the MW dress has taken over. People sometimes wax poetic about the power of clothing. I recognise it's not a perfect dress. I recognise people probably don't consciously care what other people wear. But in a room full of fancy-dancy bigwigs, I'm bringing something to the table that's totally unique. I am proud of this dress. You don't need to know I made it. It doesn't matter to me whether you know or not. It's not perfect, but what were you expecting? You need to know that this dress is a promise: look at it now and if you decide to buckle up for the long haul, you're in for something spectacular.

So I've jumped and hit the pavement. I've gotten back up and walked away. Now it's time to dust off my (shop-bought) jeans and move on to the next project...


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

This post is brought to you by corporate partners

Not really. But you may have gathered from my last post that I'm struggling to tell you interesting things about some recent projects. As much as I'd like to tell you about the profound thought processes and problem solving that took place while I was making these, or wax* poetic about the inspiration behind them, there's not much to actually tell you. Both of the projects below were Christmas presents (on time, thank you very much), both feature branding, both for lovely people. They seemed like good ideas at the time. That's pretty much the important stuff!

 *can you wax things other than poetic or lyrical?

How great is the print on this fabric?

4649 Scarf - Japan all over
Guys, this scarf was for TapTapTap: the lady just oozes cool. She just debuted her company Old Kent Road at The Place.

TapTapTap had a proper 4649 scarf. Had. Apprently it went walkabout on the train and the brand's remaining supplies were long gone. Sad times. Naturally, we thought we could manage a broadly similar thing by buying a t-shirt and refashioning appropriately. (We - B was in on this as well)

Evidence it once was a t-shirt

The pattern is Two Way Stole from Natsuno Hiraiwa's Shape Shape. Once again,the pattern behaves very differently depending on which fabric you use. That might be a running theme at the moment, don't you think?

Shape Shape two-way stole

EDF Plushie
You know this guy actually has a name?! It's called Zingy - and it somehow has a merch shop, a pattern on Ravelry and a whole selection of bootleg replicas floating around eBay and Etsy. Do you find it a bit odd that there's a whole handmade economy growing around the cute mascot of a corporate energy firm?

EDF Zingy Plushie
Anyway, you remember my highland cow from July? Turns out it was a big hit with the grandparents. Anything cute, they will adore. I have it on grandfather's athority that the cow is only allowed to cosy the teapot on special occasions. Otherwise it's got its own place on one of those mantelpieces that all grandparents reserve for special things.

Zingy getting stuffed

The grandparents have a soft spot for Zingy. EDF flyers can be spotted about the house. I had this idea a while ago but dismissed it so I could avoid giving people too many me-made things as Christmas gift. But as mid-December came along, and the deadline was drawing closer, I knew that this was the only good thing to get for grandparents. I mean come on.

Pattern pieces
 So Amazon ond Plush Addict came to the rescue with fast delivery and an insane selection of orange fabric. The colours are a bit off in these photos but please trust me that a lot of thought went into finding the right shade of orange. I borrowed a machine, drafted a shape with B and sculpted/improvised the point on top.

This guy is bigger than expected, but I think he's a success.

That's it for now, more for you soon!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Ever heard of zig-zag pinstripes?

At the same time I made the green trousers, I also made up a pair of actual office-appropriate trousers using some reversible zig-zag pintripe. Seen below post-commute in my scummy Converse. I used the more subtle side for the outer, it's a little scratchy to wear but I'm hoping that'll soften up (or I'll stop caring).

The pattern is still Burda 10/2013 #126A Bootcut Trousers. The pattern is still not bootcut.

The fit is slightly different to the green trousers and seems a little looser/drapier, allowing for a little extra space "out back", which thankfully makes them wearable.

The quest for a repeatable trouser/jeans pattern continues but I've been using these recent projects as a means of experimenting with construction methods, details and finishing. Dear patient reader I won't bore you with a discussion of 'when in the process to sew a fly', but I want to tell you about one of my favourite details:  buttonhole elastic in the waistband.


Mammafairy kindly gave me a big reel of the stuff a while ago and I've want to properly crack this over my next few pairs of trousers. In high-waisted trousers it helps mitigate slightly against a swayback; in low-rise trousers, it's pretty important in not letting them slide down my hips as I wiggle throughout the day. Y'know? Of course you do.

Anyway, for anyone interested in adding buttonhole elastic to their waistbands, here'a a quick explanation and some photos:
  1. Construct and interface your waistband as you like. Mark the facing (or inside bit) for two slits. I choose approx 1-inch backwards from the side seam.
  2. Stitch and cut open two buttonholes for the buttonhole elastic to pass through
  3. Secture one end of elastic beside the buttonhole. Add a button.
  4. Feed elastic through one hole and pass through the inside of the waistband
  5. Bring elastic out through other hole, sew in place and attach a button
  6. Attach waistband to rest of garment and do any necessary finishing

Done. Clear as mud.

I'm sure there are better or prettier ways, but will get back to you once I have a new idea.

Right now, I'm off for some pinot grigio and tinned pears.

Catch you soon!


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Money Saving Tips for the Frugal Stitcher (7/7) - Some closing thoughts

Hey guys, 

It looks like we've come to the end of this series. Either I've run out of ideas, strung it on more than long enough or perhaps realised that you can never totally opt out of being a consumer.

I am certain you can save money if you sew. You save money on clothing, homewares and gifts. On the other hand, it can become a very expensive pursuit and that's a big risk if you're generally short on dough. 

If you want to get your sewing budget under control, you need to think and act carefully.
+ Who are you? What do you sew? What are your spending priorities? Can you combine costs and benefits?
+ Look after your tools, repair and repurpose
+ Stop spending too much on patterns
+ Treat your stash like a pantry: things will expire.
+ If you can get it discounted or free, do it!

I wrote all of these posts in one go on a snowy day in January 2014 in Berlin. Seems like I'm a bit guilty of dishing out advice and not following it one single jot.

After a binge at the start of October 2014, I've decided to start tracking how much I spend on sewing. Why didn't I do this in January? Beats me.

Stay safe,

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Ohh Lurgy...

Before I begin, I'd like to pass a quick message on to whichever one of the 12.1m people I have apparently been in contact with over the last few weeks has given me the lurgy: Not cool, bro. Not cool.


The trouser pattern is Burda 10/2013 #126A Bootcut Trousers. The pattern is definitely not bootcut.

I'm hoping that 2015 will yield some trousers/jeans for me. The first thing I need to find is a suitable pattern: Self-drafted? Printed? Traced/RTW copy? Right now I think it's just a case of testing what I can find against what is "good enough" and what sort of sizes and mobility work well for what I expect of  my trousers. Obviously they need to keep my ankles warm.

The trousers are bottle green, stretch drill from John Lewis. There is a metal-tooth zip in the fly, a jeans button in the waistband and the facings/pocket linings are made with some vintage William Morris floral I'd inherited. French seams throughout, I'm pretty proud of the finishing in here!

I made a size 34, and must admit these green trousers are tight. I'm showing you blurry photos because there is nowhere near enough room for my whole derriere (which is painfully visible in anything less blurry). I have popped the jeans button off twice already.

Green pants can't handle my booty.

I'm also showing you blurry photos because this case of "super long leg" showed up too:

(Which I, admittedly, find absolutely hillarious)

The t-shirt is a raglan tee I'd traced of a basic Fruit of the Loom crew t-shirt. Made from scraps, I had to do a bit of fiddling and piecing up the back to work with the pieces available. Let's call it a yoke. It seems to work well enough.

In this outfit I feel a bit like a character from The Prisoner. Anyone for a game of giant chess?