Starry Starry Dress

Another day, another pinafore.
image

The day before this, she had dropped a plate and somehow sliced her leg open with the broken bits. None of us have any idea how this happened but it was a Denby plate, I was annoyed and yelled at her till I noticed the blood running down her leg. Some first aid (pressure) and glue at the drop in centre later, and she sports a dashing scar, and I’m one plate down.

image
The wound!
image
Doodling on the steps.

Anyway, the other day, I sat the child down and asked what she would like. A skirt maybe? Some trousers (perish the thought!) Shorts? Oh, no, darling, a dress. Obviously. She wanted a dress with stars on it, based on a book we’ve been reading, and she had in fact chosen this star print wax in Paris. It’s the same as the stuff Dolly Clackett seems to have in abundance.

image
In a sunny corner.

I used the Music Box pattern again, but with the B variation on the skirt. I left off the flaps as what is the point of flaps unless you have pockets beneath? We chose buttons rather than snaps this time, alternating between pink and blue. I used a decorative double topstitch in pink where necessary and can you see that I managed to put the bodice on wrong side out? That’s understitching around the neckline. Ah well. By the time I’d noticed, I figured nobody else would and left it as is.

image
Buttons up the back.

I also ditch stitched the lining in pink which is actually not nearly as visible as I was expecting. And, for once, I did not leave a visible selvage as it says something weird like “real lady wax” and I didn’t want people to think I was strange.

image
I have other people to make me look strange.

She and her young cousin spend most of their time in dresses, to their grandmother’s chagrin. She claims that the “tzniut” dresses they wear get in the way at the playground and are insufficiently aerodynamic on the swing.
image

However, I’d say that children of this age sometimes don’t have waists to hold up trousers or shorts, and quite often the only trousers available for girls are leggings, or ridiculously tight skinny jeans. I’m not sure why shops have decided that young girls have to wear tightly fitting clothes, really, as they are quite uncomfortable and restrict movement. At least a dress allows one to climb freely (as long as you don’t step on your hem).

image

As for those who put their girls in dresses with leggings underneath, in August – what’s wrong with you? It’s far too warm for that and you know what? If her knickers are visible, NOBODY CARES. So much for tzniut.

One more bit of sewing for others on the docket – a birthday shirt for a nephew – and I can get back to the stuff on *my* docket. Can’t wait.

image
Enough left for Ariel.

What we wore on our holidays

A short-ish post with some pictures of me-made things on holiday. The girl wore her Super Bright Dress on the Eurostar, which made a couple of Nigerian security guards all nostalgic.

image
Her Boden catalogue audition.

She was also easy to find in crowds.

 

image

The sheshwe dress came in handy for the beach. Its shape made it easy to pop on and off over a swimming costume, and the weird spongy stuff the print is made of turns out to be wipe clean. Sand didn’t stick to it, ice cream simply wiped off, and the slightly stiff fabric held itself away from the body, making it surprisingly cool to wear.

 

image
My niece in another me-made - a Geranium dress

The girl and her father also visited the Ephrussi Rothschild villa in matching outfits, much to everyone’s amusement.

image

He found the cotton voile to be very breezy and comfortable in the 37 degree heat, and the girl found herself to be very popular around the musical fountains.

image

I wore my Anna that actually fits – I could have definitely have done with a slightly lighter fabric myself but, really, I’d rather be sweaty than look like we’re starting some sort of family novelty act.

 

image

Down and out in Paris and Oslo

image
My haul. Stripy lawn, loud pink floral, starry wax and inky linen.

I’ve read many accounts of fabric shopping trips, either to Walthamstow or Paris. For me, Paris is slightly more accessible than Walthamstow, because I only have to change trains once. It also takes roughly the same amount of time to get from North London to Paris as it does to get to Walthamstow. One of the amusing quirks of London’s public transport system I suppose.

So whilst I do have a couple of favourite fabric shops in London (Jersey Vogue in Edgware, Crescent Trading and Empire Fabrics near Brick Lane), and my all time favourite place, B&M Fabrics in Leeds, I don’t really go on big sprees. I don’t usually have sufficiently large funds in my account anyway!

However, I had a Saturday afternoon in Paris to kill and I took an Uber from Tuileries to Montmartre, where lots and lots of fabric stores are located. I also took my daughter, which was either a sensible or silly decision. I am a bit [meh] about Paris usually, I don’t know why people like it that much or mythologise it when, for example, Barcelona or New York exist, but Montmartre is one of my favourite bits.

Our first port of call was Marche St Pierre, a huge, thronged and confusing place, made even more confusing by trying to keep track of a five year old who only wants hot pink sequinned Lycra jersey and then declares that she’s made her choice and now we should be going. I would have loved to have perused the fun prints and gone upstairs, but oh well. I didn’t buy anything from here. Not even sequinned hot pink jersey. Shamefully, I already have some.

Coupons St Pierre was even more thronged. There are coupons (3 metre lengths), priced individually, but inside and outside the place is a mess, the fabrics a crazed rummage heap of heaven knows what. I did buy two coupons, one of pink striped cotton somewhere between a lawn and a poplin, and a loudly patterned pink one that the girl chose, they were both €5 euros for the lot. Right, she said, we’ve bought that, let’s go home.  I can see why. From her height the mass of elbows, handbags and fabric must have been quite disconcerting.

I persuaded her to go in one more shop – much calmer in here. I bought some wax print (actually wax print rather than Java which I always seem to plump for). It was €4 a metre, not bad going really. And that, I’m afraid, was that.

I can imagine that going on a quiet weekday morning, with plenty of cash in the pocket and without an easily bored and/or lost 5 year old, it’s probably a smashing experience, and I am sure rummaging through the piles to unearth a gem is great fun. Still, she saves me money and for that I must be grateful.

I am not usually so vigilant about her whereabouts, but we’d lost her cousin that morning in St Pancras, and whilst she’d only been missing a couple of minutes (and from her point of view, wasn’t lost at all, she’d seen her uncle and had run over to him), that feeling stays with you for a while.

Also, when we returned to the hotel (we walked back rather than indulge ourselves with another Uber) we had the fun of making a den with the fabric. How many sprees end with the making of an excellent den? Practically none I expect.

image
A den that we made and hid in.

I did have another fabric shopping experience whilst on holiday that was quite a contrast. From Paris we took the TGV to Nice, where we lazed on the beach for a week, and then I travelled alone up to Oslo, for my youngest brother’s wedding. He’s now an Oslo native, married to a Norwegian, and he had a quick City Hall ceremony on the Friday, which was followed by a formal meal for family.

My sister and I visited a champagne bar that evening and were pleasantly surprised to find that the legendary high prices of Oslo are really not any different from London’s. Of course it was a contrast from paying €5 for a large bathtub of vin de pays, but I’m used to paying £7 for a glass of Prosecco, let alone the Moet and Chandon we eventually went for.

image
The newlyweds. Ingvild chose a cheese plant leaf for a bouquet.

On Saturday evening, the couple had arranged a big party for friends and family, so I had most of the day on Saturday free to amble around Oslo with my sister. We shared a hotel room, but I made a nest on the floor rather than share a double bed with her. Anyone who has shared a bed with Mrs Trumplebottom will understand why. Anyway.

image
In my nest.

My brother has a job with the Norwegian Salvation Army, who run a large chain of high quality second hand stores in the city, so we went there first. There were some excellent finds, but unfortunately they were all rather too big for me. I would say visit if you’re in Oslo, but try to find out which days they get new stock in so you can have your pick.

In a bookstore nearby I bought a book of hair braids inspired by the movie Frozen, containing lots of pictures of incredibly patient Icelandic girls with very elaborate plaits. Oh, I thought, deciphering Norwegian hair braiding instructions can’t be too hard – it wasn’t really. Thank you, google translate!

image
This is beginner level, it gets up to final boss, braiding braids to braids, towards the end.

We pottered down to the Marimekko store, in the hip area. Well, I guess it must be hip but I’m not really any judge. A small selection of fabric was on display, but I nearly jumped down the sales lady’s throat when she said the linen was on sale. 60% off. Marimekko linen, in Oslo, for under £20 a metre. Eep. I did a sneaky google to check that was a good deal. Yes, it did appear to be. I bought 2 metres.

image
This is the stuff. Is it ink or ocean?

It is worth buying fabric from Marimekko if only for the delightful experience. The sales lady marked the metre lengths with an elegant glass headed pin, before gently smoothing down the fold with a lovely wood ruler, and cutting a beautifully straight line. The man at Jersey Vogue measures by eye, rips, and gives me a bit extra if I am super nice to him. I’ve never had fabric measured and wrapped so nicely – not even at John Lewis. I did not get any extra.

My sister bought some rather adorable trousers for her son, also on sale. She’s on some Facebook group that sounds completely insane, obsessed with all things related to Scandinavian children’s wear, and she planned to share her purchase with them and watch the slavering commence. We went for coffee and to stare intently at our purchases.

image
Party. Full of the effortless simplicity my sister in law can summon.
image
She sang I'll Be Your Mirror.

I took a flight back the day after the party and bought a Danish Burda Style, and a Norwegian magazine of a similar ilk. Well. Google translate has been working overtime ever since.

image
I'm sure this will work out just fine.

A Tale of 4 Annas

Oh, the Anna Dress. A By Hand London staple. A classic. You could spend your life looking at images of amazing Anna dresses online and never get tired.

I bought the pattern, and have so far made 4, of which only 1 actually fits me. This is a story of accepting one’s body and the importance of patience.

My first Anna was to be of moth printed rayon challis, from Anna Maria Horner. It was planned to be a maxi dress, with a V neck, and I spent ages ensuring everything was just so. I did make a muslin and I thought it looked OK.

However, in my infinite wisdom I used silk jersey for the facing and it would not lie flat. No matter what I did, it kept popping out and threatening to strangle me. I replaced the facing but to no avail. I ripped that facing out and tried bias binding – no dice. In a fit of despair I screwed it up into a ball… no, I didn’t. I hung it on the back of my bedroom door and thought about it for a long time. And then I removed the bodice, made a waistband, and bish. A maxi skirt.

Mothy skirt. There are so many colours in the print, it pretty much goes with anything.
Mothy skirt. There are so many colours in the print, it pretty much goes with anything.

Sometimes I wear the skirt and wonder about what could have been, but I think we’re quite happy together on the whole. The many colours in the print make this quite versatile. I also managed to get a sleeveless Laurel out of what was left which made me feel better too.

My second Anna is actually in use. It’s made from this nice embroidered cotton from Fabric Corner, in Lincoln. The slash neck was a lot more obliging, I used a lapped zip and it sort of fits.

There is someone peeking out from behind me. Photobombing.
There is someone peeking out from behind me. Photobombing.

The cotton’s really lightweight and dries quickly, making this an ideal dress for the paddling pool at Hampstead Heath as there’s always some cushioned posh child only supervised by a lackadaisical nanny who will merrily splash you sodden and spit in your kid’s face. (By the end of a busy day, the water in this pool takes on the consistency and colour of a light vegetable soup, so go early.)

However, you can see that the neckline has a lot of excess fabric. It buckles and gapes. I also took it in too much at the back to try and remedy this, meaning this dress does not have a great deal of room for cakes and ale around the middle. This is something I gradually realised after wearing it to a vegetarian buffet restaurant – I have a nut allergy and there wasn’t much that I could eat, so I had beer for my main and cocktails for pudding. Burp. Why was I in a vegetarian buffet restaurant in that case? Shh. I don’t eat soy either, you can imagine how much fun it was. Hic.

Dress 3 is cotton lawn from Crescent Trading, which is well worth a visit if you are ever knocking around Spitalfields or Brick Lane. In an attempt to remedy the gaping, I put little neck pleats in. I thought they’d suit the dress more than darts.

Plenty of space for storage in the bodice here.
Plenty of space for storage in the bodice here.

The pleats kind of work, but my rolled hem foot made a meal of the hem and, for some reason, I used a purple zip. One day I’ll switch it for one that matches.

Bit wrinkly but the purple zip really detracts attention from that.
Bit wrinkly but the purple zip really detracts attention from that.

Two muslins were then made, 3.1 and 3.2. I finally accepted that there’s a difference between being able to fasten something up, and having it fit. I think I had convinced myself that I could wear patterns straight from the envelope in spite of the evidence piling up to the contrary.

For the first I just raised the waist, which sort of worked, but then for 3.2, I used an SBA, from this tutorial on By Hand London. This worked really well, but the fabric turned out to be rather too itchy for anything other than a muslin unfortunately.

Finally, Dress 4 beckoned. This one actually fits! It’s cotton poplin from B&M Fabrics in Leeds, it makes full use of the SBA, and gosh, it fits.

I'm watching the girl painting and wondering how much is going to end up on the sofa.
I’m watching the girl painting and wondering how much is going to end up on the sofa.

There is, again, very little cake room but perhaps that’s no bad thing. I used bias binding to finish the hem, which sticks out a lot. I am not too sure about the effect here but will leave it for a bit and see how I feel.

Bit of structure here which apparently is something the cool kids like nowadays.
Bit of structure here which apparently is something the cool kids like nowadays.

Yes, I am short and yes, I am small! No, I didn’t buy those doll patterns in the Simplicity sale for myself. Haha.

Oh Dear Dahlia and a question mark 6696

So I made another Dahlia. I was really hoping that this would have slight overtones of Game of Thrones or something, made as it is in a red organic cotton crossweave with silk noil as a contrast on the waist and bias binding. I picture myself as a sort of side character to whom nothing bad happens. Fairly unrealistic I suppose.

Hmm. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME.
Hmm. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME.

Er. This is what it’s meant to look like.

Well I can safely say none of mine have turned out as nicely as this.

Well as you can see this does not fit at all. It looks completely weird, like I’ve shrunk in the wash. I am not sure why this happened as I used the same pattern as for the black French Maid Dahlia, which I do wear and which does fit – at least fits better than this does.

I'm not quite as devastated as I appear to be in this photo.
I’m not quite as devastated as I appear to be in this photo.

I was so confident that it would work! It wasn’t like I hadn’t made it before, or not bothered with a muslin. It’s annoying for all sorts of reasons, not least that this fabric wasn’t especially cheap. Poo. I think, Dahlia, that you and me weren’t meant to be. The raglan sleeve design doesn’t lend itself that well to my amateur attempts to reduce the real estate around the front. I guess I could perhaps rescue the lower half and at least get a skirt out of the whole disaster.

Trying to get a decent shot of the bodice here. Honestly, there's mostly air and wrinkles under here, not two strangely shaped boobs.
Trying to get a decent shot of the bodice here. Honestly, there’s mostly air and wrinkles under here, not two strangely shaped boobs.

And here, for your further delight, is a sort of odd fitting 6696. It’s double gauze, I wish I could say I got a good deal on the fabric but I really didn’t, and I wish it had turned out better as a result.

Bah. Poo. Bums.
Bah. Poo. Bums.

It’s strangely lumpy in places and the buttons gape and pull all over the shop. I will add snaps to rein in the gappiness, and may tack down the backiness, but I fear nothing short of major surgery is going to fix this. I did think maybe a self-fabric sash would help to pull it in a little bit and distract attention from Gappytown down the front, so that’s probably the first thing to try.

I am the first lady of gapaciousness.
I am the first lady of gapaciousness.

It’s a shame, because it’s a lightweight, breezy dress with lovely capacious pockets otherwise.

Fthrrrp.
Fthrrrp.

Awkward Family Photos

I visited Empire Fabrics, near Wentworth Street in Spitalfields, last week, and picked up 6 yards of Vlisco print voile for GBP35.
wpid-wp-1437911509724.jpg
Once home, I got busy and wound up with these:

There's no way this looks uncomfortable.
There’s no way this looks uncomfortable.

A Negroni shirt for him, and a Music Box pinafore for her. They both do up with snaps, as he really likes not having to bother with buttons, and I thought the back buttons on the Music Box would dig in a bit when she’s sitting down. Whilst I’ve sometimes thought it would be fun to walk around in matching mother/daughter outfits, I also realise that it’s sort of lame and embarrassing in the future. However, matching daddy/daughter outfits could never ever possibly be embarrassing!

Oh, no, this isn't at all embarrassing.
Oh, no, this isn’t at all embarrassing.

The pinafore was very easy, I am sure the instructions called for something different in the construction but since I didn’t look at them, I may never know :-). The Negroni was a quick sew for me as this is the third one I’ve made now. I added a couple of little touches, like yellow topstitching thread, and a nice clean finish for the pinafore’s inside, as well as visible branded selvages (because I have convinced myself that that’s what one is supposed to do when using Vlisco, though I haven’t checked recently). The voile was lovely to sew with a slight silky sheen, pressed beautifully and the busy print means that its slightly diaphanous nature is concealed.

Yellow topstitching, I let him choose the colour like a proper couturier would.
Yellow topstitching, I let him choose the colour like a proper couturier would.
I am aware this indicates that this is the Vilsco diffusion line and that I am therefore a cheapskate. I think I'm OK with that.
I am aware this indicates that this is the Vilsco diffusion line and that I am therefore a cheapskate. I think I’m OK with that.

Nice, easy summer sewing and they now have matching attire that they can wear on holiday next week. I’ve got lots of fabric left over too. You never know, we might all match eventually…

Do the swirl. I'd look excellent in this pattern you know.
Do the swirl. I’d look excellent in this pattern you know.

Nightie

After the fun I had making the sheshwe dress, I mused about making a nightie version. We may live in England, but we do have occasional hot nights, and all the girl’s current nighties are polyester.

  
I know! Not that I have anything against polyester.. well, after an extremely sweaty, smelly and uncomfortable morning in a poly dress and New York last summer, I’ve sworn off polyester for the time being. I have eczema and so my skin and synthetics (and wool, to my sadness) are not friends. 

I guess it’s something to do with fire safety but I could not find a cotton nightie anywhere. And what does a sewist do when rtw fails her? 

So out came the Oliver + S Badminton Dress again, and a bit of leftover shell print lawn from Fabric Corner, in Lincoln.

  
I left off the scalloped hem and shoulder… what would you call them? Flanges? Frills? as I thought they might be annoying to sleep on. For the ties, I used a bit of soft lace ribbon.

And, of course, orange thread. Because why not? 

  
She likes this nightie. It’s cool and breezy and it doesn’t make her sweat like the polyester. As for the fire thing – I’ve match tested cotton, and polyester. I’m happy with cotton. I’m a bit 😖 about flame retardants in children’s fabrics anyway.

A Find

I find all sorts of things dumped outside on my travels. 

  

This is quite a find. A hand cranked sewing machine.

It was on someone’s driveway. I asked if I could have it, and the answer was yes. I was then offered a lift in the guy’s car… which I turned down when he said I’d have to hide the girl under some pizza boxes. Dude, no. I went and got my car, and took it. 

  

He had claimed it didn’t work. Well, 10 minutes with the WD40 and removing the jammed bobbin case fixed that. 

 
It’s quite nice, I think. Pongs of mould mind you. 

   

 Now I wonder (a) how to thread it and (b) wtf it is, where it came from and is it going to infect my house with woodworm? 

Slung Low 2

As promised, a bit more detail about the sling I finished last night. It’s this one, McCalls’ M5678.

Inside is one of my teaching babies. They are great as they are (a) light, (b) don't nurse constantly and (c) never poo.
Inside is one of my teaching babies. They are great as they are (a) light, (b) don’t nurse constantly and (c) never poo.

I was thinking about making a gift for my nephew. He was born in the US to British parents and he is visiting, parents in tow, next week. I saw Amy’s version and immediately thought this might be suitable.

I made up View B, which is what I’d call a mei tai carrier.

Here I am, stress testing the carrier with a child that is far too big for it.
Here I am, stress testing the carrier with a child that is far too big for it.

I used home dec weight cotton from Ikea, with a sort of botanical print. This is because the sling is intended for my newest nephew, who is called Moss. I used green fleece for the inside, and found a green cotton sheet on sale there for £3, which I used for the contrast on the inside.

Overall, apart from cutting out several very, very long straight pieces (straight lines are not really my forte), this is a fairly simple make.

Lots of long, long, long straps. Like sewing curtains but less boring.
Lots of long, long, long straps. Like sewing curtains but less boring.

There are no head scratching moments. I double stitched every seam I could for extra security, but as you can see from the photos, it carried a 5 year old without disintegrating so I think it can handle a 3 month old. The major challenge, as it turned out, was needles. I snapped two in quick succession, I think due to forcing them through about six layers of thick fabric. I even used a walking foot but it was still a bit of a struggle. I used emerald coloured thread as I thought it would be a jolly contrast, but it just looks black, and the struggle of getting through all that material meant the topstitching is not nearly as straight and nice as I would like. So jolly contrast topstitching is not something I would recommend unless you have one of those amazing atommic powered machines that can sew through cast iron.

Slowly travelling down my back. At this point we were both keen for her to get down.
Slowly travelling down my back. At this point we were both keen for her to get down.

I used to carry the girl in a Baby Hawk mei tai. It was ideal for me, it packed up very small for trips into town when she was almost too old for a buggy but still needed to be carried from time to time. I lent the Baby Hawk to my next door neighbour for a trip away, and when they got back I had a very awkward conversation about its return, realising that in fact my neighbour had thought it was a gift, not a loan, I was terribly embarrassed and that was that for the Baby Hawk. I was never really a habitual baby carrier and because of my small stature, found that most didn’t suit me. I wasn’t saftig enough, tall enough or broad shouldered enough. I was no goods mule, as I put it. But the mei tai was flexible enough to fit me and the straps distributed the weight very comfortably across my hips.

Apparently you can nurse in these using a front carry. Don’t ask me how, I assume you must have to have prehensile boobs.

I also, because I am trying for Best Auntie 2015, made a nappy bag and changing mat. It’s not that I don’t think they have such things, it’s more that it matches and I had the fabric left over. The mat is just some ripstop nylon with Hello Kitty on it that I bought from Plush Addict yonks ago, sandwiched between some fleece and a bit of leftover botanical print and edged with grosgrain ribbon.

Teaching dolly says Hello!
Teaching dolly says Hello!

The bag is a messenger bag using this tutorial, a template made of A3 paper and I used leftover fleece instead of batting.

Bag.
Bag.

Because I had fleece and absolutely did not have batting.

The changing mat nestles inside.
The changing mat nestles inside.

Hat

Quick post to show off a quick and dirty sun hat that I made just prior to running off to do the tombola at the school fete.

image

It’s Kokka fabric from Nunoya, the inside is fine linen from Crescent Trading and the pattern is the Oliver + S bucket hat, with a 1/4 seam allowance to make it big enough for my head. I made the largest size.

image
Fine linen on the inside with weird pleat.

I’ve made a few of these before, they are quick enough that I see them as almost expendable (children and hats being what they are) and a big advantage is that it’s machine washable. Nunoya is based in Barcelona but they ship to the UK and certainly the price in euros compared to GBP for things like Nani Iro, Cotton and Steel and Kokka (and they don’t price by the fat quarter, which is always very annoying) make it worth the shipping costs.

image

Having come back from 3 hours in the sun with only a smidge of red on my shoulders, the verdict is a resounding success.

image
Secret kangaroo

(sort of) Cultural Activity.

I disturbed her bedtime for this.
I disturbed her bedtime for this.

One of the best things about a hobby like this is the community you meet. I swapped some Vlisco Java print (left over from the Super Bright Dress) with a friend, in return for some Sheshwe, which is to South Africa what wax print is to West Africa. It has a similar history – brought in the c19th by missionaries from Europe, and co-opted into traditional attire. However, it’s not the same as wax print at all. The process is quite different, as is the fabric. It has a distinctive, pleasant smell and apparently wears beautifully, becoming very soft.

Hearts and swirls
Hearts and swirls

My friend was brought up in Pretoria and my husband is from Johannesburg. I had high hopes that the Sheshwe would send him off on a Proustian reverie, but apparently it wasn’t in vogue in Joburg.

This fabric is not ringing any bells.
This fabric is not ringing any bells.

I wasn’t disheartened though. I began cutting out an Oliver + S Badminton Dress at my husband’s grandmother’s. She at least recalled sheshwe.

The girl had the idea of putting a heart on the front, drew and cut out a template and chose the placement. It was her idiot mother that decided now was the time to try out reverse appliqué without referring to any instructions or tutorials, basically working it out from the term alone.

I used bias binding for the ties.
I used bias binding for the ties.

It turned out ok, but it doesn’t look very impressive. I think it needs different fabric thicknesses to work properly. The rest of the dress was easy apart from the yoke. This was one of the few garments where transferring the dots from the pattern would actually have been useful. The shoulder ruffles are different widths as a result. 

I bothered scalloping the hem, which wasn’t too onerous in the end. The Sheshwe is quite obliging, hardly frays and stays where it’s put.

Faced scalloped hem. My first go at something like this.
Faced scalloped hem. My first go at something like this.

She rather likes the dress. I think it would make a great nightie in a lighter weight fabric too.

One ruffle is wider than the other. Guess which one this is.
One ruffle is wider than the other. Guess which one this is.

I have another half metre left. Maybe a matching outfit for her little cousin beckons.

How to make a North London Quilt

I’ve never been I’m a fan of quilting. I thought it looked like a pain in the rear end to cut things out, sew them together, then sew more together, so on and so on… and the idea that in order to do this I had to buy more fabric *specifically for this task*…

A mix of handprinted Indian cotton, Liberty lawn, some rubbish I got at Ikea and wool crepe.
..especially when duvets exist.

My understanding of quilts, and patchwork, is that they were something that was originally made to make use of tiny scraps of worn out clothes, so it seems a bit absurd that making a quilt is more of a status symbol these days than the creation of anything useful. However, recently I found myself with a great many scraps, and no money to buy fabric, so I found some information about how to make a simple log cabin quilt which just involves sewing strips of fabric around a central square. I have made a couple of patchwork quilts before, but I hated every second of it. It was amazingly dull, sewing squares together endlessly.

The Liberty print at the centre was bought in one of Liberty's excellent little sales. It has vampire bats and things on it.
The Liberty print at the centre was bought in one of Liberty’s excellent little sales. It has vampire bats and things on it. Also there is some wool crepe, some rubbish I got from Ikea, handprinted Indian cotton from Cloth House and a bit of lawn from Croft Mill.

The log cabin quilts made from scraps I saw online were made with a fine eye for colour and pattern and design. Someone had sifted through their scraps with love, care and attention. I don’t have any of those things, so I sewed the strips done together in a random order.

But the log cabin pattern come together very quickly and I was able to make 4 blocks (which is the name for the individual components of a larger quilt) in about 40 minutes. Had I been bothered, I would have tried to arrange the scraps in a aesthetically pleasing order but I figured true “makers” are driven not so much by aesthetics but a wish to save money and make use of things, Womble style. So with that in mind, all I really tried to do would make sure that identical strips were not touching one another.

I have 4 blocks now, enough for a cot quilt I guess, but I think I will carry on and wear down my scraps pile, and see where it takes me. It feels very virtuous to be making use of these. Have I been converted into one of those crazed quilting women I saw at the Knitting and Stitching Show, a slightly crazed look on their faces as they seized fistfuls of fat quarters? Who knows. Maybe…

The Pinny Project

Small wriggly creatures have many habits. They are usually covered in scabs and bruises from something or other, they sit and chew their hair and periodically, the owner finds that they have grown out of most of their clothes.

A creature of perpetual motion, she has yet to perfect the art of holding a pose whilst the shutter button is being pressed.
A creature of perpetual motion, she has yet to perfect the art of holding a pose whilst the shutter button is being pressed.

I bought this Anna Maria Horner fabric at the Knitting and Stitching Show. I think this is the last chunk of my purchases. I think I’m pretty good about not hoarding stash and I tend to have something in mind when I buy the fabric. Scraps are a different matter, I have loads of scraps that I periodically dump on the school.

This is the Music Box Pinafore from Oliver+S. A perfect school pinny pattern but since most of her Bread & Jam dresses are outgrown and summer beckons, I thought I’d make this version first.

It’s unspeakably simple.

She found a dead daddy long legs in the corner (Actually a harvestman but what can you do).
She found a dead daddy long legs in the corner (Actually a harvestman but what can you do).

There are only a few pattern pieces. Indeed, I only used two in the end for the bodice, the rest is a gathered skirt, and I used an invisible zip rather than the buttons on the pattern. Because there is time for many things in life, but chasing a child around while you attempt to button up the back of a dress is not one of them. I finished it with bias binding rather than lining the bodice, for speed and for versatility in warm weather.

She complains that it does not have pockets.
She complains that it does not have pockets in which to store the unfortunate dead arachnid.

I like the print here. It looks sort of Mexican(?) to me and I managed to pattern match the back bodice reasonably well. It’s an unusual palette for girls’ clothes, which I like. I don’t hold with Pink Stinks but sometimes it’s nice to take the advantage home sewing gives you, and use something different.

Move your hair out of the way, I said. There's a dead daddy long legs, she said. Look.
Move your hair out of the way, I said. There’s a dead daddy long legs, she said. Look.

It’s really fortunate that I am not squeamish, although I must dust that corner at some point.

Daisy Dreams

(The above is a reference to a My Little Pony).

Many long years ago when I was at university, I had a dress. It was a black dress with a daisy print, a small round lace trimmed collar, short sleeves and a sash at the back. I loved that dress, I bought it from Miss Selfridge right around the time that a vintage tea dress worn with bovver boots (swapped for Vans or Airwalks in the summer) was pretty much the uniform and to be honest, I may have ditched the Doc Martens some time ago but the rest has remained more or less constant.

Daisy, Daisy
Daisy, Daisy

However, at one point I went out with someone who much preferred me in jeans and hated dresses. So for some reason I scooped up a lot of my floral print frocks and gave them to a charity shop in Hitchin. I still remember seeing my daisy dress on a mannequin in the window and went to buy it back, but by the time I got there, it had gone. Oh, the distress.

I’ve had half an eye out for a similar print for ages. Two years in fact. At B&M in Kirkgate Market, Leeds, I spied something that more or less fitted the bill. It’s drapey rayon challis, so from memory it’s a pretty good match for the fabric, and the print is not dissimilar. But look:

This dress decapitates people.
This dress decapitates people.

It’s a border print! I was so delighted with this I bought loads, at £3 a metre indeed. There are some odd holes in it here and there, which is interesting because I bought some other rayon at a different shop recently and it also had random holes in it here and there. So it’s just as well the stuff is (a) cheap and (b) abundant.

After my Emery triumph, I chose to make another Emery. The By Hand Kim dress would have been a similar shape but I seem to remember my old dress had sleeves and a higher neckline. I opted to leave off the collar and lined it with some leftover silk I had lying around (as you do).

Wet Hair Redux.
Wet Hair Redux.

In some ways this is better than my old frock. It has pockets for one thing, and a silk lining which I hand stitched down.

I HATE hand stitching things. I swore the whole time and made a mess.
I HATE hand stitching things. I swore the whole time and made a mess.

I did a nice clean finish with the invisible zip too, there’s a nice tutorial on By Hand London for this if you’ve not done it before.

Invisible zip and silk lining.
Invisible zip and silk lining.

I wore this for a friend’s birthday party in Brighton. It’s nice and breathable for sweaty pub backrooms and the pockets are great for filling with blinis and mini cupcakes at the buffet for the long train trip home.

Like a hamster or sulky teenager, if I have pockets, my hands will be shoved in them. Pockets may contain: keys, phone, sweets, fluff and/or hair bobbles.
Like a hamster or sulky teenager, if I have pockets, my hands will be shoved in them. Pockets may contain: keys, phone, sweets, fluff and/or hair bobbles.

Those back wrinkles. Hmm. I put those down to the odd posture I am assuming here as they aren’t usually visible.

I am sure that if I laid my hands on the original dress, I’d be disappointed with it. But I’m quite happy with my replica.

Alteration Altercations

I bought a Burberry suit on Ebay a while ago, jacket, skirt and trousers, for £100. However, all but the jacket are too big at the waist and I have been looking at the skirt and trousers on and off, thinking that I must get round to altering them. I remember I once tried to adjust a skirt using darts – I hand sewed them through the waistband leaving a massive bulge that then undid itself throughout the day and that’s put me off for a long time.

Burberry check bias tape hides the junction between inner waistband and lining.
Burberry check bias tape hides the junction between inner waistband and lining.

Finally I got my ripper out and set to. The skirt’s construction is interesting and complicated. The waistband is attached every which way. There is bias binding on the lining, twill tape on the inside and endless rows and rows of topstitching. I have had to undo both the side seam and the zip as there’s about 4 inches of loose fabric between my waist and this skirt, but once undone the job appears to be quite easy. Here is the dismantled skirt on Monica the dressform. It’s inside out with the lining pushed out of the way for now.

Inside a designer piece of tailoring. You can just see the twill tape. This waistband was secured by about 5 different methods. It's really impressive, and humbling.
Inside a designer piece of tailoring. You can just see the twill tape. This waistband was secured by about 5 different methods. It’s really impressive, and humbling.

I have marked the excess fabric with pins. I am going to tack it first, try it on and then machine it, grading out to the original side seams at the hip.

Marking excess fabric with pins. There is no way it's ever going back the way it was but at least after alteration, it will get some wear.
Marking excess fabric with pins. There is no way it’s ever going back the way it was but at least after alteration, it will get some wear.

Reassembling this is going to be a lark. The label says “size 8” but that’s insanely generous.

On Monica the dressform. I have tucked the lining away for the moment, I feel the main body is going to be the trickiest part to get right.
On Monica the dressform. I have tucked the lining away for the moment, I feel the main body is going to be the trickiest part to get right.

A Lovely Blouse

I have been craving a nice blouse for a long time. Something structured yet soft, something pretty yet versatile. When I buy woven tops they always end up being too big and sag down at the bust, giving everyone a nice eyeful of my bra. I’ve bought shirts from places like TM Lewin, but the looser fit styles are too loose and they are more inhabited than worn. The fitted versions are OK but the waist is far too low, meaning I am forever yanking them down to prevent weird gapes.

I have wet hair. But I also have this super blouse.
I have wet hair. But I also have this super blouse.

This is Butterick 5526 which I have made before in stripy Paul Smith fabric.

This is the only pic I have on file and I observe that it is unironed.
This is the only pic I have on file and I observe that it is unironed.

This is an OK shirt but suffers from the same problems as my RTW versions. It is slightly too big all over and the reason I did not take a picture of myself in it is that I feel the collar is trying to eat me alive, so I look like Harry Hill. However, I like the princess seams and sparkly buttons that I added.

I mulled over the shirt for ages and then thought, what the hell. I traced out the smallest size as, like an idiot, I followed the size guidelines on the envelope the first time. I pinched out about 3cm of length from every piece and shaved off about a centimetre from the collar. Surprise surprise, when I tried this on, it fitted! I do not need to yank it down, nor do I feel I am peering out from behind a massive collar.

I amended the sleeves to be short. I had a ponder about whether to leave it sleeveless, like Lladybird, but she lives in Tennessee. I think they get a lot more sleeveless blouse days than I do, in North London. Short sleeves means I feel a bit more dressed, and they will hopefully behave themselves under a cardigan.

Button Holes
Button Holes

The fabric is a nice poplin from my favourite place in Leeds, B&M Fabrics in Kirkgate Market, and it cost me about £4 a metre. It’s a bit ditzy, a bit pink, a bit 70s, but not too much. It has a slight texture to it, meaning I don’t feel like I’m wearing quilting cotton.

Side view. Still with wet hair. Not sure where the expression of intense concentration comes from.
Side view. Still with wet hair. Not sure where the expression of intense concentration comes from.

The Emery Dress, or how I learned to stop worrying and love pattern alterations…

I bought the Emery Dress pattern at the end of last year, having seen all sorts of enviable versions floating around. I really wanted to wear a cute fit and flare dress like this, with a higher neckline, pockets and a nice full skirt.

image
I'm thinking, how silly not to have sorted this out before.

However, the reality was so horrendous, no photographs exist. Everything went wrong. From accidentally hoovering up one of the bodice pieces, to setting in the sleeves backwards – and then when I tried it on.

I had chosen a very vivid patchwork print lawn and the sleeves, high neck, gathered waist and APPALLING FIT (did I mention the appalling fit?) combined to make something quite ghastly. I looked like Anne Shirley’s fever dream of a puff sleeved dress. I looked like I was wearing Kimmy Schmidt’s formal bunker dress. And around the bodice there was gaping, there were pools and pools of fabric around the middle and yet the sleeves were too tight.

I must have worn the dress for about 30 seconds. It wasn’t much longer than that before I took it apart and used the fabric to make two Geranium dresses for my daughter and niece, because dressing small girls in identical outfits is fun. Certainly more fun than wearing something that looked as if it was sucking me dry from the inside. 

The pattern went into the sin bin for months. I didn’t even want to think about it. But then I decided to be a grown up. I referred to my Colette sewing book, I looked at the Emery sew along, and used my new dress form, Monica, to make a couple of muslins.

It seemed that all I needed to do was pinch out the excess fabric and raise the waistline. So, I did! I decided to make the dress without the lining or sleeves, planning to finish it with bias binding. What I wanted was something very lightweight for the summer, which I might also be able to layer over a thin long sleeved t shirt in winter. There are some dire warnings about simply leaving off the sleeves on the sewalong. However, I think that because I had pretty much made the recommended alterations anyway, I pulled it off. I also raised the point of the bust darts so they were pointing at my boobs, rather than off into the middle distance.

image
Hands on hips.

Here are the pattern pieces, showing how I folded out the excess.

I had measured this on myself before and double checked it with *another* muslin before starting for real. As you can see there were a couple of cms of extra “ease” across the centre, and another couple of cms at the waist. For next time I will trace and grade this properly. The gathered skirt meant that I didn’t have to adjust this part of the pattern, I just gathered it to fit.  I thought of adding a circle skirt but considered that this pattern, with a definite direction, would look odd as a circle skirt. Possibly migraine inducing. 

image
Back view. I'm staring at a picture hook in the wall.

The bias facing around the neck is standing proud. I have left this for the moment, because I kind of like it, but I may fix this in the future. 

image
Miles Standish proud. Now I have Begin the Begin in my head. (obscure REM reference)

The fabric was from Olympia again, a sort of William Morris knock off with lots of Art Deco flourishes. I was looking at my WordPress media folder the other day and realised that I have, unconsciously, chosen most of my fabrics according to a palette. This is the kind of thing organised stylish people do so I was quite excited to realise I’ve been doing this anyway. As I suspected when I was looking for paint colours and couldn’t see anything other than variations on eau de nil, I like things on the bluish, greeny, grey spectrum, punctuated with occasional red or orange.  I also only really like “green” fragrances, like Chanel No. 19. Must be because, like Anne Shirley, I’m also secretly a dryad. The fabric is a cotton poplin, nice to work with and with a bit more body than quilting cotton imo. 

The invisible zip insertion was a bit of a triumph, marred only (when I tried to put it on) by the realisation that I had bought a zip that is slightly too short and I had a struggle getting it over my boobs. I am not replacing the zip. It will never look this good a second time. 

image
A moment of quiet contemplation for a job well done.

(null)

A commonplace book on the internet.