Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Bring me sunshine

I really should be making my son a pair of Tintin pantaloons to wear for World Book Day but am procrastinating badly.  So whilst I drum up some enthusiasm, I'll talk about The Sunshine Award which the lovely Janene at ooobop! very kindly nominated me for this week - thank you so much! 
I've met Janene in real life and can confirm she's a top woman, a fabulous seamstress and has a penchant for polka dots, which is probably why we got on so well!  As part of the award there are a few questions to be answered, so here goes…

Favourite Colour: Red

Favourite Animal: I'm not a great animal person, but if push came to shove I'd have to say monkey

Favourite Number: Never really thought about it, probably 23, which is my birthday

Favourite Non-Alcoholic Drink: I'm a northern girl so it has to be Vimto!

Facebook or Twitter: Facebook, although I'm pretty rubbish at keeping up with it.  I haven't yet had the pleasure of twittering/tweeting/whatever it's called. If we're talking new social media obsessions though, look no further than Pinterest…

My Passion: My family... sewing.... and crime thrillers

Getting or Giving Presents: Giving, without a doubt, I LOVE giving presents

Favourite Pattern: Polka dots and gingham - don't make me choose between them

Favourite Day of the Week: Sunday

Favourite Flower: Tulip

There you go, scintillating stuff!  Here are three more awesome bloggers I've recently discovered that I'd like to pass this award on to:  

Kathryn at yes i like that
A stylish, London based blog about sewing, knitting, art and culture.   

Kyle is a member of that rare species, a man who blogs about sewing.  I like his witty writing style and the amazing job he did altering his uncle's old suit.

What can I say?  Just that this woman makes the most beautiful clothes I've ever seen AND she's the brains behind the brilliant Mad Men Dress Challenge. 

Ladies (and gent), please don't feel you have to answers the questions in return, I know these things may not be everybody's cup of tea, I just happen to be feeling a bit sunshiney.

Whilst I'm on a roll, Joanne from Stitch and Witter also passed on the Versatile Blogger Award recently.  If for some strange reason you don't follow Stitch and Witter - get over there now for great taste in fabrics, lovely makes and Peter Pan collars aplenty.  
This particular award asks you to name some interesting facts about yourself.  Now I've done this exercise before and believe me, it took me about 1000 years to think of anything.  I can't possibly think of any more, so if you want some more fascinating Jane facts, read them here.

Much as I'd like to, I can't really procrastinate any longer, the boy-reporter pantaloons are calling.  Happy Tuesday. x 

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Book Making with John-Paul Flintoff!!!

Yesterday, I met up with Kathryn from Yes I Like That for a notebook making workshop with sewing blog favourite John-Paul Flintoff.  I know, I know, you can't really get much more rock and roll! It was lovely to meet Kathryn at last - her blog is one of my faves and it was only through reading this post of hers that I was made aware of the event in the first place. The event was held in the Ultralounge at Selfridges, which thrillingly has been turned into an in-store library.

John-Paul (yes, we're on first name terms now, we've both shaken hands with him, don't you know) started off by giving a potted history of his own story before talking us through the basics of making our own notebooks.  He had lots of examples of his own handmade books to show us, all literally made from bits of tat that were hanging around his house. Here's one with a self portrait on the back....
This one is covered with a remnant of one of his old shirts....
The endpapers from this one are an old map....  
I love this idea and may well make my map-loving father-in-law one like this.

We were then taught how to put together a simple A5 notebook of our own, showing off our hand sewing skills by sewing the sheets together. Admittedly we only had to sew three stitches, but it was sewing nevertheless!
Kathryn sewing: in black and white to disguise my blurry/rubbish photography skills 
The workshop was completely casual, but so much fun, and I took home bucket-loads of enthusiasm, plus the beginnings of a new skill.  In fact I was so buoyed up by my efforts, I bought some origami paper on the way home to finish off my book.  Look what I made:

My first little notebook with its own spine, a fabric cover and origami pattern end papers!  Yes, it's not perfect: it's a bit wonky and the end papers are in segments because the origami paper wasn't wide enough, but it's made entirely by hand and I loved making it.  As well as being charming, enthusiastic, thrifty, creative and extremely tall, John-Paul really urged his audience to try new things.  We don't have to be good at them and they don't have to be perfect (see above), it's the trying that's the important thing.  Thanks J-P, I couldn't agree more.  Have a great weekend everybody. x

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ginger Mark Three

If you've been reading Tilly's blog recently, you'll know she's planning a One Week, One Pattern project from 26th March to 1st April.  The idea is simple: to celebrate those special sewing patterns that get made up again and again. How? By spending an entire week just wearing garments made from that favourite pattern.  As Tilly says, "the (mini) challenge comes in really pushing the boundaries of the pattern's versatility, finding new and creative ways of restyling similar-looking garments so it doesn't look like you're basically wearing the same outfit all week."

I love this idea and shall be jumping in whole heartedly.  It's also given me a boot up the arse to make another version of my favourite skirt pattern which I've been threatening to make for months on end.  In case you weren't paying attention to the title of this post (there's a big clue there!), I'll be wearing my Colette Patterns Ginger skirt for One Week, One Pattern.  As of today, I've now made three different versions of the skirt, which should be more than enough to get me through a whole week. Here's my latest version.

Thrillingly (for me anyway), this third version was made entirely from stash materials, yay!  For the outer skirt I used leftover wool crepe from my Swing Dress, and underlined it with a scant metre of red cotton muslin that was lurking in my linings box.   

I used a fat quarter of a 1930's style red flower print for the inside waistband and a zip that was part of my lovely bag of goodies from the Brighton sewists.  All stuff that was just lying around - I love it when that happens.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is a very easy skirt to make.  It took me barely a morning from deciding I was going to make it to pressing the final seam. The wool crepe is quite drapey and consequently, this third Ginger skirt has a completely different feel to my first two, which were made from much stiffer denim and cord (find them here and here). That's all good though as it means I can style it slightly differently. Talking of styling, do you like my lovely detachable collar?  

I made it using a scrap of white cotton and a vintage glass button and it took me barely half an hour.  I used Casey's excellent tutorial, which includes a printable pattern for the collar pieces.

So I'm now all set for the mini challenge - I'm really quite looking forward to wearing skirts every day for a week! x

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Mad Men Dress Challenge - I'm In!

It's no secret that I'm a die hard fan of Mad Men.  Everything about it is just so well done: the complexity of the characters, the superb acting (I'm not a fan of child actors but the girl who plays Sally Draper needs some kind of award, she's mesmerising), the excellent, excellent writing, but above all - the clothes.  In the first couple of series, the late 1950's gear worn by Betty, Peggy and Joan had me virtually passing out in front of the TV each week. So when I read on JuliaBobbin that she was hosting a challenge to sew your favourite Mad Men influenced dress, I was in like a shot.  Check out the details of the challenge here.

So the big question, which dress to sew?  It was a toughy I can tell you, as well as replicating the style of a Mad Men dress, I knew I wanted  to sew something I'd be likely to wear.  I did initially want to try my hand at this gorgeous green cocktail dress of Joan's.

But realistically, I don't go to enough posh events to wear it and this needed to be a dress I would wear on a regular basis.  I eventually decided on a wiggle shirt dress.  

I have a real soft spot for shirt dresses and actually need a more fitted one.  I've got a few vintage shirt dress patterns, but sadly, none of them were quite right.  I knew I'd recognise the right pattern when I saw it though.  Then yesterday, just before we were about to go out for what turned out to be a 6 mile hike around the park (I blame having boys, they need exercising like dogs), I put in a quick search on Etsy.  Look what came up????!!!!  

And it's my size!!!!  Ten seconds later it was MINE.  The thrill of that purchase gave me the best high I'd had for ages (I live a very mild mannered life).  As soon as I get my mitts on the pattern I'll be starting work on my dress.  The pattern's from a US seller so I just hope I don't have to endure the horror of it going astray across the ocean.  Fingers crossed eh?!  Any ideas for fabric?  I'm thinking of a stretch cotton sateen.  Is anybody else doing this challenge?  I'd love to know your dress ideas. x 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Finished: Rosy Peony

When the Peony dress was first released by Colette patterns, it seemed to pass me by for some reason. I was only swayed into buying it because of all the delectable versions that kept popping up on sewing blogs.  But I'm SO glad I did - I can see myself making this perfect little dress over and over again.  I love the classic lines, the neat fit and the fact that it has a vintage 1960's vibe whilst still looking modern.  So without further ado, let me present my version: the Rosy Peony.  

It's made from a textured, almost waffley cotton fabric (I'd be interested to learn the official name for this type of fabric if anybody knows). The fabric is relatively thick, but also soft, which was important as I didn't want to end up with pointy darts as forewarned by Karen in this invaluable post.  Taking Karen's advice, I made a muslin of the bodice and by some miracle, didn't need to make any adjustments to the front.  The back was a different matter though and I encountered my usual problems of busty front versus narrow back.  The changes were still only minimal: I increased the top/shoulder darts and made a tuck across the back.  I was sporting quite a smug look on my face at this stage, which was soon wiped off once I'd sewn the bodice up in my fashion fabric.  Yes, I encountered the old chestnut of different fabrics behaving in different ways, grrr. I used a plain woven cotton for my muslin and failed to take note that the waffley fabric actually had quite a bit of stretch to it. You've guessed it, the fit was now too big, doh!  The overall shape was good though so it was quite easily rectified by simply taking in the side seams from just below the bust dart.  

Apart from the fitting of the bodice, the pattern was the usual delight to sew up and only  took a couple of hours to make.  I added black piping to the neckline, (gifted to me by Zoe and Claire when I couldn't make the Brighton De-Stash meet up, thanks ladies!)  This was my first time working with piping and I couldn't believe how easy it was!  It seemed to work like magic, I'll be piping everything that moves from now on.  
Admire my piping
...and my overlocking - couldn't resist a gratuitous inside shot
I also didn't bother with the cummerbund belt - if I need a belt, I'll add this little number instead.  

I've got a party to go to in a few week's time and I know this dress will be perfect.  I think it will also be good to wear with sandals and a cardigan in spring, so I'll definitely be making another version before the year is out.  I think the Year of the Dress has got off to a good start. x

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Year of the Dress

It's freezing cold here in the UK with thick snow on the ground. I've got a stinking cold and a sore throat which is making me sound like Patty and Selma from The Simpsons.  In an effort to cheer myself up and inject a bit of femininity into my testosterone-ridden house (they're all currently watching Top Gear after a session of stunt sledging), I thought I'd talk about dresses today. 

To start things off, I'd like to confidently predict that 2012 will be the year of the dress.  Not just for me personally, but for the world at large. Primarily because of the V & A's forthcoming exhibition - Ballgowns: British Glamour since 1950.  
Need I say more?  Everything I love most all condensed into one exhibition.  I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm already dreaming about it…

So why do I love dresses so much?  It could be the fact that an entire outfit is sorted in one fell swoop.  Or that they're indisputably feminine.  Or perhaps because no matter how plain and simple the shape and design, one always feels just that bit more dressed up when wearing a dress.  I nod my head to all these reasons, but above all, I love dresses just because they're so pretty!  Here are a few of my favourites.... 
My all time favourite: Lauren's beautiful polka dot Ceylon dress

Julia Bobbin's gorgeous gingham Peggy dress

Scruffy Badger's flirty vintage pattern gingham dress 

Casey's breathtaking floral print Swing Dress
For me, if a dress features polka dots, gingham, an old fashioned floral print or a vintage vibe, then I'm smiling.  Thus inspired, here are my dress plans for the year.

A Peony Dress
I haven't seen a version of this dress that isn't totally gorgeous, but I think my favourite would have to be Roisin's.  
I love the floral print and the way she's styled it - especially the handbag!  I've also chosen a floral print for my version (hhmm, a rose print, surprise, surprise!)  
I'm about half way through making mine and it's looking good so far….

A Gingham Dress
I simply love blue gingham, preferably with red accents. 
Scruffy Badger and I in matching gingham, courtesy of Tilly and the Buttons
Having seen Scruffy Badger's dress in real life, I can confirm it's a stunner.  I want one…. Not sure what pattern to use though, maybe another Peony? Then I can do red piping….

A Polka Dot Dress
Maybe something simple using this McCall's "quickie" pattern?  With a matching head scarf if you're lucky.

A Classic Shirt Dress
I'd like to give this Vogue pattern a try.  
It's certainly not a quickie, more of a "longy", but isn't it a beaut?  I'm quite tempted to use this Boden dress as inspiration and make mine in linen….  
Boden Weekender dress
I could go on (and on and on and on) but that might have to be it for the moment - I don't like planning too precisely or too far ahead when it comes to sewing.  It will be interesting to see just what my final frock tally turns out to be.  How about you?  What dresses/patterns inspire you?  I'd love to know so I can steal your ideas gain further inspiration! 

I feel much better now, that little interlude definitely seems to have done the trick.  Happy Sunday everybody and keep warm! x

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Blue Rose Top: Revisited

One thing I wanted to do this year was to try and refashion some of my handmade clothes that hadn't worked.  One of the main culprits is my Blue Rose top which I've only worn once.  I made it last spring using a rose print poplin.  Now I love floral fabric, especially if it has roses on it and doubly especially if it has blue roses on it.  I don't know why, but blue rose prints just make me beam with happiness!  Fabric this beautiful needs to be worn and shown off.  So I decided to make this top work.

The pattern was a vintage one - Advance 8589 - which looked so chic on the pattern envelope….  
I should have known better.  This is what didn't work: 

The drawstring
Although this is a lovely feature, it made me feel like I was pregnant, I'm just not comfortable with this amount of excess fabric around my waist!

The boxy shape
Yes I know, it has to be boxy in order for the drawstring to work, but this was almost wider than it was long!

The length
Far too short, making it wearable with only the very highest waistbands.

The one other thing that stopped me wearing this top originally was the neckline.  I hated the neckline, as I kept feeling I was choking to death.  However, since then, I've had thyroid surgery and it seems it was my thyroid that was the cause of my choky, strangling feeling.  Trying the top on again recently, the neckline didn't bother me at all, and is actually a lovely, elegant shape.  So the neckline stayed the same.

If I'm honest, I pretty much made this up as I went along, refashioning not being one of my strong points.  Once the drawstring was removed, the main priority was to give some shape to the boxiness.  
Front darts added, but still short and squat

TONS of excess fabric at the back
I moved the bust darts which were strangely high, (I hadn't even noticed this the first time around) and added contour darts to the front and back.  The only solution to the short length was to add an extra panel.  I added a three inch strip around the bottom, luckily, I think the busy rose print just about allows you to get away with it. 
In order to get the top on and off, I inserted an invisible zip right down the back.  
A bit wonky, but at least most of the bagginess has disappeared
As there was a bit of fabric left over, I made another 1950's style headband from the Chic on a Shoestring book.  

It's not quite as wide as my last one, and I think it looks better for it.  I even managed to attach a lovely vintage buckle which Miss P very kindly sent me.  

It was quite a rigmarole making this top fit, but I think it was worth it.  It's by no means perfect, but it's much more 'me' now, and at least it's wearable.  Not on its own at the moment though - it's currently FREEZING here in the UK.  
The lengths sewing bloggers will go to for a photo - you can almost see the goosebumps on my arms!
Because it's sleeveless it's perfect to wear underneath a cardigan.  There, much more suitable… 

Next up for a refashion - my Swing Dress - which needs a few tweaks.  Happy Wednesday everybody. x


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