Ruffles and Flounces

This vibrant sunflower print Vlisco (from the For You range) voile was what I’d chosen at Empire Textiles over the hummingbird and pineapple stuff.

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I do like sunflowers and have had half an eye out for sunflower fabric for a while. But it took a long time for me to dare to make it up into something. This is mostly because it is red. A long time ago I made an orange Sorbetto top from some lovely hand printed cotton I bought from Cloth House but Nick really hated it. There was something about the colour that really did not suit me apparently and off the top went to the great charity shop in the sky.

But look, I wanted to de-stash and also use this Cynthia Rowley 1801 which I bought in yet another half price sale. I thought I could get away without doing a muslin because all the shaping in this dress comes from gathers, rather than darts, so it would be relatively straightforward to do any alterations simply by tightening or loosening the gathers as needed.

Ruffles.
Ruffles.

This was a fun project with a few unusual touches, like the V-neckline facing. Rather than hanging loose, the lower edge of the facing is secured in the upper waistband, giving more stability to the deep V and preventing it from rolling outwards.

I left off the pocket from the side with the zipper. I’m sorry. I was keen to get it finished and figured I could get away with just one pocket. Nobody else will know!

I think the shoulders are a bit too wide.
I think the shoulders are a bit too wide.

I like the flouncy sleeves and overall appearance. It’s a little bit retro I think. I also think I cut too much off the skirt when I hemmed it. It’s a little shorter than I usually have my hems but never mind.

Lastly, I was slightly worried that the voile would be too translucent but I hoped that the colour and print would be enough to off set this. It seems to be. As long as I don’t stand in front of a very bright light, I should be OK. The fabric is wonderfully light. I keep thinking I will wear it on a hot day when I’m on holiday, but then I remember we’re going on holiday to Norway this year…

Sea spray, or possibly ink

I bought Simplicity 1099 a while ago with the vague idea I would make a billowing maxi skirt combo to wear on my upcoming cruise.

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I didn’t make a billowing maxi skirt. In fact one dark evening, fuelled by binge watching Elementary and warm milk, I decided to meld together the crop top of 1099 with the skirt of New Look 6208.

It took some lightning and a helpful Igor that I found on TaskRabbit but it worked!

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The fabric here is Marimekko linen, of all things, possibly the most expensive fabric I’ve ever bought. Having said that I bought it for half price in a shop in Oslo. It’s rare anyone says they found a bargain in Oslo. I loved the print, it half reminds me of the sea, and half of that moment at school when you realise your fountain pen has leaked all over your bag and your things.

I like the crossover back.
I like the crossover back.

I think a print that sort of looks like a wild, tossed sea is just the thing to wear on a cruise (which I did).

Coffee Dates

I have been considering the free Coffee Date dress pattern for a while and finally decided to print the thing out and have a go.

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This is a very simple fitted dress with flared skirt, darts, back zip, facing and a ruffle at the front. And it’s free! I am not so very different in size and shape from the Selfish Seamstress, the originator of this pttern, so I went for the single sized pattern rather than the multi. The facing is a nice all in one arrangement, so it’s applied rather like a bodice lining, inside out, and then turned right way round for an all machine, clean finish. I ditch stitched the lower part of the armscye facing to stop that flapping out and annoying me. All the visible seams are trimmed and zig zagged and I went for a simple turned up hem and an invisible zip. The facing was attached to the zip using, again, an all machine clean finish method.

I has a kitty.
I has a kitty.

For the wearable muslin I used this Vlisco sunflower print voile. I didn’t try too hard to pattern match but was pleased to find that the printed selvage, which I’ve left slightly visible at the back *on purpose* has given the effect of a sunflower stem running up my back. How fun. I did have to adjust the upper back to remove, oh, about an inch of excess fabric on either side. I made a note to pinch out this excess on the pattern for next time – but see below.

Look at my washing.
Look at my washing.

I do like the bodice, especially the neckline, as it’s quite flattering on my narrow shoulders. The skirt is cute and kicky and, one last thing, this is an absolute fabric miser. I think I had barely a metre and a half left and if I’d wanted the ruffle, I would have had to do some piecing. I left it off in the end as I thought it would get lost in this bold and busy print. Whilst I’m a big fan of a full skirt, I like this neater silhouette on me.

I have about 3 poses.
I have about 3 poses.

But what’s that? Another one?

Unlike a lot of wax print fabrics, which are produced either in the Netherlands, or more frequently China, sheshwe is actually produced in South Africa. I know wax prints are exciting and beautiful but wearing sheshwe feels more special to me because of my family connections there. I hope that the popularity of wax print leads more sewists to seek out different types and styles of fabric from this enormous and beautiful continent.

Exercises.
Exercises.

I fell in love with this sheshwe print recently from www.africanfabrics.co.uk – the flowers look like they are glowing against the dark purple background. Once again, there was not enough fabric for a ruffle. Sheshwe is very narrow, just like its West African cousin, (under 90cm after pre-washing) and I only squeezed this dress out by the narrowest of margins. The stuff I used for my daughter’s dress was a collection of offcuts given to me by a friend and it wasn’t until just now, really, that I quite understood how narrow the fabric is.

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Method wise, this was constructed in exactly the same way as the dress above. Except for one thing: I had originally decided that an exposed metal zip would look brilliant and I spent ages fitting one properly. It did indeed look absolutely brilliant. But when I tried the dress on, it was a complete disaster. Whilst the insertion was fine, I had not managed to remove enough excess around the top back as I had originally planned. This was an utter disgrace.

The zip stuck out at the back and did not look right at all. I think it may be too stiff for the sheshwe, which despite its hardwearing nature, is fairly lightweight. I had to perform emergency surgery and because of the method I’d used for the zip, you can still see the cuts I made to insert it. These have been interfaced and darned with tiny hand stitches, so I don’t think they’re going anywhere, but it was a terrible shame really. I used an invisible zip, curving outwards from the top to remove the excess fabric (more about this method here) and the end result is much neater. A cock up that spectacular only ever seems to happen with very simple projects, don’t you find? Anyway, lesson learned and notes duly made for the next time I make this pattern. And there will be a next time, with ruffle. The darts are also a little *pointy* but I think this will steam out.

Oh, the tears I cried.
Oh, the tears I cried.

The body and handle of this cotton lends itself well to the A line skirt and fitted bodice, adding flare and structure and making me feel I have two very different dresses that originated from the same pattern. Neither have pockets, a necessity borne out of having very little fabric. This makes me a little sad.

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Festive Flora

This is how far along the backlog goes… a Christmas dress. I saw this lawn at Croft Mill and thought that it was suitably festive. It has red berries, or maybe baubles, on a darker background and it’s very light and floaty, perfect for Flora’s wide, pleated circle skirt, without sticking out too much. A fabric with more body, like quilting cotton, sticks out too much for me and puts me in mind of one of those toilet roll covers.

Ta daah. Lots of fabric in this skirt.
Ta daah. Lots of fabric in this skirt.

I did remember the last time I made a Flora dress the bodice was a disaster for all sorts of reasons. The fit wasn’t brilliant and in order to stop the dress billowing out at the back I just narrowed the back seam, making it too tight in the middle. I had to sit bolt upright the whole time I wore it. I was sure that the tank bodice option would gape around the neck and, generally, I wasn’t feeling very optimistic until I completed a muslin and – yes! The neckline was fine.

The shoulder straps represent the only really tricky part of the bodice. If I had been sensible I would have shaved off a smidge from the lining fabric pieces to ensure that they did not peek out even a tad. I think they do a weeny bit but the lining fabric (a calico from Ikea, I’m ashamed to admit) is pretty much the same as my skin colour so I think I get away with it.

Ta daah. Lots of fabric in this skirt.
Ta daah. Lots of fabric in this skirt.

I chose the high-low skirt option and for some reason thought that a ribbon bound hem would be a fantastic idea as it can be seen from the front. It would have been a great idea had I not run out of ribbon halfway through and had to use, well, several sorts of ribbon to complete the hem to a tight deadline.

I am pointing at the neighbours' annoying tree.
I am pointing at the neighbours’ annoying tree.

The only real alteration I made was adding in-seam pockets. They nestle nicely in Flora’s ample skirts. Having had all my valuables removed from my handbag at one Christmas party a few years ago, I would prefer to keep my nearest and dearest items in my pocketses. There is something liberating about pockets generally. I have been experimenting with carrying a very small bag and, at times, not carrying a bag at all. Suddenly one feels less tied down. And naturally, if one is at a party with lots of fizzy wine, having things like your Oyster card and phone physically on your person at all times ensures that you return home with these items.

I am picking up a thing.
I am picking up a thing.

Moon Bunny

I wondered about having a rabbit print phase.

Wot u looking at?
Wot u looking at?

The fabric is Cotton + Steel. No doubt it’s quilting cotton really, but it has a lovely soft hand and enough drape for the princess bodice and gathered skirt of the ByHand London Kim dress. I loved the colours (I realised I simply cannot perceive any shades that are not either green, blue, greeny blue or bluey green) and the little story the print tells, which I found interesting without being overly wacky or weird.

Rather than line the bodice, which I felt wasn’t entirely necessary with this kind of fabric as it has enough body on its own, I used self bias binding. I ensured that I had taken account of the seam allowances around the neckline and armholes for once. I just stitch marked these, attached the bias and trimmed everything to suit. Next time I will be a bit more sensible and trim *first*, before applying the binding, as at certain points I was dealing with about 5mm of fabric and things got a little hairy. I used pink thread to overlock the hem, and as the bobbin thread when finishing the hem, so a little bit of the pink peeks out. I thought that was a fun touch.

I didn’t try too hard to match the pattern as there wasn’t enough fabric to get really anal about exactly which rabbit would go where. However, I did mark up where the moons were, and tried my best to ensure that the stripe continues around the body and skirt so there aren’t any sudden transitions, or decapitated bunnies. I traced the shapes as a marker onto the pattern pieces to try to ensure everything was in line.

Oh, my stars!
Oh, my stars!

I think I did OK. I made the skirt shorter than I usually have, partly to save fabric and partly because I wondered if a shorter skirt might make me look taller.

Otherwise, Kim is a lovely easy dress to make. I wish I had bunged in pockets, but I was cutting it fine with the fabric as it was, stingy features (me) having only bought 1.5m. I shortened the shoulder straps a bit to stop them slipping and to raise the bodice front. A sweetheart neckline is all very well when one has the bosoms to spill out of it but, well, I really don’t.

Twirl, he said. You won't look stupid, he said.
Twirl, he said. You won’t look stupid, he said.

My little niece, who is five, spent a great deal of time trying to work out the story and it kept her amused. I couldn’t quite remember the story myself so she made up a better one. In fact there isn’t really a story per se, the rabbit in the moon is just the Japanese/Chinese equivalent to the European man in the moon. I thought her story was better anyway, despite the fact that she merrily told me the whole thing while sitting on the loo.

A Very Sensible Frock

A disclaimer: I have loads of posts in the pipeline but I have needed photos done and that’s really the only thing blocking the pipe. It never seems that I have everything ready, pressed, some decent light and a willing photographer, all at the same time. Something to address for New Year I guess. That and backstitching the end of my invisible zips, which I never seem to do and which always bites me on the backside eventually.

I bought this Cynthia Rowley 2215 during a half price sale. Seems to be where I get all my patterns from these days. I thought it looked very slightly *fashion* in a way that I might just about be able to cope with, and it also has pockets, which I can definitely get behind.

I took the photos at Parliament Hill playground in Hampstead Heath, and from now on I shall pretend that I live close by lol. I intended to have all my makes photographed at once but it was really rather cold and one session with my coat off was quite enough, thank you.

This was the coldest day we've had for a while...
This was the coldest day we’ve had for a while…

However, the pattern was just gathering fluff for some time until serendipity visited. I’d ordered some Japanese print fabric from Plush Addict, with the idea of making matching, contrasting frocks for the girl and her cousin. I ordered two lengths from the Hakama collection and when the package arrived, I was confused to find one length of the Hakama, and another length of what I can only describe as the nicest material I’ve ever seen. I think it must have been a coding error on the website or something. It’s called Kaiko.

Capering about for warmth.
Capering about for warmth.

Kaiko is slightly textured, barkcloth I guess, with what looks like slubs but which is actually a print. It’s very light and airy with a little bit of structure and I thought it would be perfect for this dress. So I didn’t send it back.

One disadvantage is that it’s got a very loose weave and is quite translucent, so I had to somehow add a skirt lining to a frock that only has guidance for a bodice lining, or forever have to wear a flipping slip which I could frankly do without. I used some nice rayon lining that I bought from Crescent Trading. I paid the extra for the posh stuff like what the swanky tailors use and I think it’s probably worth it. Adding the lining, particularly when pockets are involved, was something of a puzzle but I sort of kind of managed. I like the way the lining adds so much substance and warmth to an otherwise very lightweight fabric.

Showing off my lining.
Showing off my lining.

The pleats are meant to be uneven, because it’s fashion, darling. I used wooden buttons that I bought from Amazon, and again deliberately mismatched them as I thought it might add interest to something that’s otherwise quite plain. The buttons, incidentally, are decorative and the dress does up with a zip. I had a mutinous thought when I was instructed to add buttonholes that actually I could say sod it and just sew the placket together and bung buttons on top, but in the end I thought that might look a bit crap, so I didn’t. I guess if you’re nursing, the functional buttons would come in rather handy.

I am not quite sure about the look of the neckline when worn without a collar beneath – I wonder if I look somewhat like Andy Pandy. Then again, Colette have just brought out the Phoebe, which has a similar sort of button front option, so maybe it’s “in.”

Overall the dress is really comfortable. It’s far less fitted than the kind of thing I usually go for, and I didn’t give in to the temptation to winch in the bodice. This is meant to be “designer” after all and rather like adding salt to a Michelin starred chef’s dish, perhaps it’s better to taste it first. I also suspect that the lightweight fabric would wrinkle and hang in a weird way if forced into something more structured.

I'm growing a person out of my shoulder.
I’m growing a person out of my shoulder.

I’m really happy with how this accident turned out.

Hot Darn

What I seem to have been doing a lot of recently is repair and alteration.

Trying to be all Instagram and fancy.
Trying to be all Instagram and fancy.

It started off fairly low key – hemming up a pair of polyester slacks for my mother in law. She sat with me and had tea while I did the job, asking why I wasn’t “double tacking” the hem before stitching it, and why was I using the machine for such a little job? It is funny how everyone has their own little methods for doing things. I don’t usually tack a hem that can be pinned, let alone tack it twice… The original hems had just been turned up and stitched down so I thought I’d do the same. I overlocked the raw edges, which she was very impressed by – she was also amazed by the speed of my machine. I promptly got another pair of what she, originally from South Africa, refers to as “pants” as a reward for a job well done.

I was then given my father in law’s cashmere jumper, which had come apart at the neck binding. I thought of re-grafting it using Kitchener stitch, but eventually went with simply overlocking the join with a very narrow stitch, and steaming the result. He pronounced himself chuffed. Then my brother in law deposited his ripped shirt with me.

He had fallen off his desk and managed to slash his shirt, his trousers and indeed flesh, in an apparent attempt to disable the smoke alarm in his office. The trousers I refused, as the tear went into the waistband and behind the pocket. I figured that a professional mender might also make a fist of it, but at least he’d have some recourse. The shirt I took. I used this tutorial but it was a little more tricky as the tear is L shaped.

The finished repair. The tear was about 4cm by 3cm.
The finished repair. The tear was about 4cm by 3cm.

Next on the list were socks to darn. I know socks are very cheap these days but really, I hate the idea of disposable clothing and anyway, the socks I have are quite nice, bamboo viscose ones, and worth repairing. The really really cheap ones don’t take a darn well as they just aren’t strong enough.

I’m pretty much a self taught darner, mostly gathering how it’s done from my old copy of What Katy Did, since Katy always seems to be darning stockings and the like. Basically you weave the mending wool over and under the hole or weak point, reconstructing fabric with your needle.

Start with this...
Start with this…

You’ll need these things. The pink stuff is 100% 4 ply wool from a failed jumper project which I often use if the darn doesn’t need to match. The grey stuff is what you buy from John Lewis or whatever, and the mushroom thing helps stretch out the sock.

You'll need these..
You’ll need these..
And this...
And this…

So when you’ve done, it looks something like this:

Darling little darn.
Darling little darn.

With socks, I find that wool mending felts together in wear, forming a nice patch like this one.

Nice little matted stitches.
Nice little matted stitches.

I also merrily repaired two rips that have appeared in my dresses. Fortunately they’re lost in skirt gathers, as neither is particularly neat.

This is the first one, a weird triangular tear that’s very small and fiddly.

No wonder the rabbit is running away.
No wonder the rabbit is running away.

The other is a tiny hole in rayon challis, which frays like buggery so I wanted to get in there before it grew.

This is much better but it was much smaller and less awkwardly shaped.
This is much better but it was much smaller and less awkwardly shaped.

Phew. Of course come the Singularity, these kind of skills, even to my rubbish standard, will be in short supply. So I’ll be OK, I guess..

Yet Another Pinafore

After a few goes at the Music Box Pinafore (or “jumper” if you really must), here is the girl in an actual school pinafore.

But it's Saturday...
But it’s Saturday…

I bought a bit of viscose/poly blend grey twill from Crescent Trading. Apparently this is the stuff that posh school uniform shops use. It presses wonderfully (so I hear, since I have not bothered) and was a sinch to sew. It was also £5 a metre.

Sliding down our scavenged slide.
Sliding down our scavenged slide.

On the inside is what I will now modestly refer to as my signature finish – a contrast lining in Kokka kitten print, bought in Barcelona.

Kittens on the inside, obviously.
Kittens on the inside, obviously.

She does tend to show people the inside of this, which isn’t really surprising.

I topstitched the pleats a little way down. This was partly to make pressing easier, but also because I’d seen topstitched pleats as a detail on a couple of London Fashion Week catwalk shows. Oh, yes, finger definitely on the pulse here.

Topstitched pleats. Because all the cool kids are doing that.
Topstitched pleats. Because all the cool kids are doing that.

It does up the back with these shell buttons. As it turns out, one can wear the dress back to front on PE days, and fasten it without assistance.

Shell buttons up the back. I used navy thread for the buttonholes which on reflection I probably won't do again.
Shell buttons up the back. I used navy thread for the buttonholes which on reflection I probably won’t do again.

Jersey swirls

I went a bit mad on the New Look half price pattern sale: I bought a cape (to follow), some other bits, and this mock-wrap jersey frock – 6301.

Spinning in the autumn leaves.
Spinning in the autumn leaves.

As if by design, the cosmos then sent to me 3 metres of this Liberty viscose jersey, courtesy of the Ray-Stitch sale. It was £24, a steal imo. This is a really nice, lightweight jersey with plenty of drape and swirl and as far as I can tell, is not transparent although I would not choose to wear black pants underneath.

Wrap dresses are a minefield for the petite, as the best tied knots have a tendency to work their way loose, and without plenty of frontage, you end up revealing more than you might wish. And not in a cute way either. A glimpse of bra, fine, but simply showing all your bra is more weird than sexy unless you’re Rhianna or someone. But I liked that I could control the wrap over the bodice here, and then fix it.

Can you see my bra? Excellent. Though it is a nice bra.
Can you see my bra? Excellent. Though it is a nice bra.

It took a couple of goes to ensure that I wouldn’t be constantly re-adjusting myself, but other than that, this was a very quick make. The waist is reinforced with elastic in a little channel, which was the only really tricky bit. I don’t have an overlocker, so it was all done on machine, finished with a twin needle.

I’ve tried making a Colette Moneta, but found it to be a bit boring. I think I need some more interest on the bodice when using jersey – again, I find that a Colette pattern is brilliant on curvy, stacked women, but a damp dishrag on me. So I was pleased finally to have the “secret pyjamas” that I’ve been craving (though I’m not above wearing pyjamas in public..).

Remind me not to wear black shoes like this again. Instant stumpy legs!
Remind me not to wear black shoes like this again. Instant stumpy legs!

I like the swirly skirt very much, but I might shorten it a bit more, maybe. I also note that if one were nursing, which I most emphatically am not, this dress would be really great – you might need to make a couple of minor adjustments to stop it stretching out over a day at the very most.

Frankendahlia

I am looking at one chewed pink Croc that the local fox must have brought into the garden.
I am looking at one chewed pink Croc that the local fox must have brought into the garden.

Rather like my dahlias in the garden, this hasn’t really been my season for
Colette’s Dahlia. Apart from the festive dress I made last year, they’ve all been a
bit of a disaster.

The only functionally wearable one I have, in an odd sort of wool blend stuff which was cheap due to a weaving flaw, from Croft Mill, was OK and I liked the skirt, but the excessive amount of space in the bodice was annoying and I wasn’t really getting much wear out of it. I still had a fair bit of the fabric left over and now and then, wondered about fixing the whole business.

So one evening I set up a load of Father Teds to watch and ripped the dress to bits. Well actually I removed the bodice and side zip and replaced it with the bodice from this Cynthia Rowley 1873 pattern which came free with a magazine. A Frankendress indeed – a top and bottom that were never destined for each other, welded together for life. Mwahahaha.

Fiddling with my hair.
Fiddling with my hair.

This bodice differs from the Dahlia in a couple of ways. It has a lower neckline and is sleeveless, rather than having the raglan sleeves which are the source of all my woes. I can now wear the dress over a shirt for work. I lined it with some Vlisco voile. This wool blend fabric is very warm, quite spongy and very tough to press. As a result, I used the fine voile to try to reduce the bulk. The front of the bodice does roll down a little, I failed to trim the thick seams properly here, so I do need to open it up and ferret around to fix this.

Bit bunchy. There's a lot of thick fabric under here. This is why they tell you to grade seams.
Bit bunchy. There’s a lot of thick fabric under here. This is why they tell you to grade seams.

I just filleted out a bit of ease from the back to allow for a side zip, and pulled
and swore at it until the bodice more or less lined up with the skirt. Of course it
was never meant to and it complained a little, but the end result is a frankendress
(maybe Frankendress’s monster?) I will actually wear without apologising for how badly it turned out. It’s nice and warm for the winter too.

Of course these seams do not match. But I think they do not match in a way that looks intentional.
Of course these seams do not match. But I think they do not match in a way that looks intentional.

Here it’s matched with a butterick 5526 shirt made from more woebegone fabric. It’s probably Liberty, maybe, definitely lawn and definitely glossy and soft.

Very autumnal. I hate autumn.
Very autumnal. I hate autumn.

It also has several printing flaws (like something got stuck under the roller) and the nice man at Crescent Trading let me have the rest of the roll (2 and a bit metres) for £10. The underside of the collar is silk noil and I was able to cut round the problematic areas. I French seamed the whole thing too.

Silk noil at the back, with a contrast buttonhole. I got the idea from Sherlock and will not let go of it.
Silk noil at the back, with a contrast buttonhole. I got the idea from Sherlock and will not let go of it.

I altered this a bit from the last iteration, by removing about 2cm from the centre back. The result (though it can’t be seen here) is a more streamlined shirt.

I am nice and warm in snuggly wool.
I am nice and warm in snuggly wool.

So, a new outfit from some disregarded bits and bobs. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

A Conker Crown

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The Conker Princess

This time of year, the many horse chestnut trees of England produce beautiful nut brown seeds, which for a short period become currency among the young. Yes, you can play conkers, but I just like the thrill of acquisition.

We’d collected a few today, and I wondered what to do with them.

So I made a crown. Well, more of a tiara. I used an old hair band, florist wire and drilled holes in the conkers, wrapping the wire round the hair band between each conker.

Cute, autumnal and very heavy (it’s really just for show!).

Starry Starry Dress

Another day, another pinafore.
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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.

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The wound!
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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).

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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.

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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.

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Her Boden catalogue audition.

She was also easy to find in crowds.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Down and out in Paris and Oslo

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Party. Full of the effortless simplicity my sister in law can summon.
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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.

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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.
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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.

A commonplace book on the internet.