Sunday, February 26, 2012

FO: The Seraphine Wrap, for Wool People

Pattern:  Seraphine by Lucy Sweetland for Brooklyn Tweed's Wool People
Yarn:  Over a pound of handspun grey gotland, from Croft Wools of Cuaig near Applecross in the Western Highlands.  The shop is a shed at the roadside:  you can't miss it as there's nothing else for miles.

 I had no idea how enormous this wrap was going to turn out to be.  The dimensions are clearly stated in the schematic, but I was in denial.  I saw those cables and they called to me.
I ran out of yarn half-way across the second wing, but fortunately I tracked down the seller's email address via the local tourist board and there was an odd ball of the "2010 spin" lurking at the back of the cupboard - phew!

It is immensely sheepy.  It is wonderfully warm.  If ever there was a great big  shepherd's hug of a garment, this is it.  Yes, it was quite rough on my fingers as I knitted, but absolutely worth it.  The i-cord bind off was a trial on my patience (4 stitches knit from side to side across the entire wingspan?  Uh huh, that's what I said too) but now that it's done, it's done.

No matter where my life takes me in the future, this will be my farm shawl.  Right now, it's perfectly at home.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

FO: To Infinity and Beyond

This morning I woke to birdsong and sunshine and startled my dear FL by getting up early to hang out the washing and zip through the housework.  I left him asleep on chair island, encircled by newly-mopped floor, while I nipped out for a batch of fresh newsprint. When I got home, I was planning to cut out some sensible grey work trousers on that fine clean surface...
But by the time I got back the sky was as grey as my fabric and the DOG was sprawled full-length on my lovely shiny floor.  When he stood up, there was a crime-scene-style mud-stain and tell-tale footprints right round the table...  canine and human.
I took one look at my grey fabric and another sidelong look at the dog and decided NOT to give into Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Let there be colour!  Let there be pattern!  Let there be PRINT!

Design:  The Infinity Scarf from Anna Maria Horner.  Instructions here.

Fabric:  Bought as a kit from Fanciful Fabrics on Etsy.  If you are quick, they are on sale right now.  The yellow is a cotton velveteen, the blue is a voile.

Who knew something so simple could be so complicated?  I paid heed to the instruction to pre-shrink the fabrics... and just as well I did as the velveteen shrank along its length while the voile shrank across its width.  So then I had to trim them to the same size...

Luckily, I decided to sew the long seams first, because of course the velvet wanted to shift in one direction, while the voile wanted to go the other way, no matter how many pins I used.  So my trimming required some "squaring off" of the tube before I joined the ends together, machining the velvet layer, and catch-stitching the voile layer end to end.

It's just a big fabric tube loop.  That's all it is.  But the COLOURS!  I dare anyone to feel blue wearing this piece of confectionery!
And it satisfies my need for that LouLouThi print, which I fell in lust with when I saw Scruffybadger's skirt.  I came so close to copying Ms Badger and making a wild floral skirt!  But when I realised I could have this print in velveteen in mustard?!  Too much as a skirt, but just massive enough as an infinity scarf!

And look!
I match the vacuum cleaner!
What more can a girl ask?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fresh Prints in the Air

Well that got you all talking to me, didn't it?  Fascinating!  There was a strong streak of "stop worrying about what other people think" which I greatly appreciated, but also lots of other people with the same fear of print as me - phew!  Of course, there are others who exist in an alternative print dimension , and to them all I can say is:  you have fun with that - I'll watch!  ; ) 

Meanwhile, back at the farm... the first glimmers of spring have sent me into a flurry of stash-diving and wardrobe-digging to try to make sense of what it is I wear when I am not cocooned in polo-necked jumpers.  A Sencha saw the light of day on Thursday!  It is definitely time to do some planning for the coming season.

The Spring 2012 Simplicity patterns were released in the States and I quickly developed an obsession with a new Lisette pattern, 1879, the Souvenir.

Because I have no patience, I stalked Etsy until someone listed a copy for sale.  The seller wasn't planning to ship to the UK but she agreed to do so for me - woo hoo!
The whole deal cost me £5!  What a bargain!
What's that you're saying?  I have plenty of patterns already?  Who asked you?

£8.95 per metre, organic cotton
View A in purple-heather-spotty organic cotton.  View B in navy and white elephant-print (as previously discussed).  I can hardly wait!  And shorts?  Shorts?!  Hold me back!

But this weekend I will be working from the stash.
I might play with a croquis
I will definitely be aiming to finish my gigantic grey knitted wool shawl, just in time to pack it away with a crate-load of mothballs.
Oh yeah... moths.  My lime green vintage cashmere cardi has a suspicious-looking hole that wasn't there on Sunday...  noooooo!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Can we talk about prints?

OK - sewists and fashion gurus alike, can I have a bit of help please?
Prints:  I am confused.
Dahlia Fashion:  cat print
On the one hand, the thing that is most likely to attract me to clothing in shops / online is an interesting print.  So, I look at Dahlia Fashion and their silhouette prints of black cats or swans and I want.  Only the polyester-ish-ness and the skimpy cut of the garments prevent a major self-stitched vow-breaking incident.
And some garments scream "Buy me! Buy me!" while my head screams back "No - you look too much like Boden, Boden in that print!"  because they are.
And sometimes I see another sewist do something fab with a distinctive patterned fabric and spend the next week scouring the internet to find it... only to chicken out at the point of purchase because it would be "copying" and her blouse looks better than anything I would make.
Here's the thing:  I want to make Simplicity 7457, with a print body and a white collar, to wear to work.  I had picked out a yellow pansy print, but on closer (web-based) inspection I realised it was quilting cotton and it would look as if I had cut up an old duvet cover to make it.  Which I wouldn't mind if I had, but if I am buying brand new full-price fabric that's not the first look I would aim for. 
Polka dots would be an obvious choice... but I already have two navy and white polka-dot blouses.  Three would be going too far.
Gingham appeals, but comes dangerously close to school-uniform-chic, especially with a white collar. Same problem with seersucker stripes.
Which brings me back to animal prints and florals.
Ditto Fabrics £6.50 per metre
Animals seem... too childish and casual for work?  A sophisticated animal is hard to find.  Not an actual leopard or tiger-skin print, you understand... that's too grown up!  Anyone seen a black animal silhouette cotton print anywhere? Nope - neither have I.
So... florals?  I have a couple of Liberty print Senchas which I wear a lot in the warmer weather.  And a ditsy floral 1940's blouse.  I just don't want to look... twee.

V&A Horrockses print on sale at £4.25 per metre
Maybe the secret is to go all-out vintage repro and hit the roses or the daisies?  
Ditto Fabrics £7.99 per metre
Do you understand my confusion?  Prints seem to carry so much sub-text.  They carry associations with particular brands or eras or ages.  I don't want to look too young, too old, too "middle-class mummy", too... anything.  Prints require a different degree of confidence from their wearer.  They provoke an identity crisis that I just don't need!  Over-thinking again, Roo.

So tell me, dear readers, how do you choose a print?  Is it enough that it is is "pretty" or the right colour, or do you need to see its birth certificate and talk to its mother before you ask it out to play?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

FO: Pattern Runway Sweet Shorts in Purple Velvet

Right leg finished, left leg not

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

by Jenny Joseph
Pattern:  Pattern Runway Sweet Scalloped Short, size XS
Fabric:  0.7m purple cotton velvet from Mandors, Edinburgh, £9, purchased at the Crafters' Ceilidh - woo hoo!
Other:  7 inch zip (far from invisible);  lots of purple gingham bias binding (eebaay) and a Jane Austen quote label from a UK seller at Etsy.
Not without incident.
This fabric frayed like crazy. I was compelled to bind every raw edge with bias binding, including the edge where the zip was due to go.  As a result, there was some purple prose when the lapped edge of my non-invisible zip came un-lapped and caused a side-flash of gingham.
See it?
It has since been top-stitched within a millimetre of its life and no longer shows.  Ditto the droopy hem in this picture.
I ended up binding the hem-facing with gingham tape and applied two rows of machine stitching, top and bottom, creating a double row of stitching at the hem.
It looks pretty darned sharp now, but I can't prove it because it is too dark for pictures!

Verdict?  Utterly Roobeedoo, whoever she is!  They fill me with optimism and self-confidence and they make my dear FL laugh himself silly... and right now I cannot ask for more.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Somebody Stop Me

If  I go on like this I am going to have to open a vintage pattern shop on Etsy.

Actually... that's not such a bad idea! ; )

Another eebaay windfall.  Somewhat more modest.  And I didn't even have to bid for it.  £7.99 for 6 vintage patterns.  Even if I only make one of them, it will be cheaper than buying it from the US.

Simplicity 7457 is the one that tipped the balance.

I saw it only yesterday on another blog and may have hyperventilated slightly.

picture from vintage pattern wiki

Infinitely adaptable.

The black and white one looks a lot like a Sorbetto, but I have my eye on the yellow roses.

Dagnabbit - I shall make it up in yellow pansy fabric!

from Ditto fabrics
 With a white collar?

Listen, I am feeling a bit stressed.  This is cheaper than making an appointment with a therapist.

And I get a new blouse out of it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Plans for Self-Stitchery: an update

I have not forgotten my pledge to make ethical choices in the creation of my self-stitched wardrobe.

Remember what I said?  Aim to use fairtrade / organic materials, but failing that "natural" fibres as the bare minimum.  So that would exclude velvet polka-dot polyester tulle, don't you think?

I haven't bought any new yarn or fabric since my trip to Edinburgh, but as you will have noticed, I have taken delivery of a rather large number of pre-loved sewing patterns.  Not just Janet's stash, but also a bag of patterns from a work colleague (who advertised them in the internal mail as free to the first taker).  Most of these are frankly hideous in that special early 1990's way, but maybe one day I will view them as "vintage", so I have put them in storage for now. 

All three of these, please!
 I really really want to sew some dresses.  I am so excited about some of my new vintage patterns that I want to see made into garments... but I am not sure that I necessarily want to wear them!  Do other people have this dilemma?  Wanting to see a design come to life in all three dimensions, but perhaps not having the lifestyle to support a prom dress?

So I am trying to be practical without losing the sense of fashion adventure that these old patterns inspire.  And I have been finding that even quite extreme looks can be surprisingly wearable.  I wore my shocking pink trousers "out" twice last weekend!  I dared to wear my navy shorts to work.  And I even wore my pumpkin plaid minidress (not me-made) to work without incident.  Now, either people are getting so used to my eccentricity that they felt it best not to comment, or else my outfits were less outrageous than I thought.  Either way, nothing happened to inhibit me from future public exposure of my home-made garments / knees.

Brannock and Patek fabric
 So I return to the smock-dress plan and the quest for the perfect fabric.  Several commenters said to beware of making something so warm and fluffy that it might be mistaken for pyjamas.  You have a point.
But I wanted to show you my latest fabric discovery from RayStitch:  Brannock and Patek Woven Basics.  The dark green / blue brushed cotton gingham is almost the same as the Anna Allen dress that sparked off this quest in the first place.
"Absolutely perfect for PJ's" it says on the website!  Maybe I need to just accept that this is a "homewear dress".  Something to wear from Friday evening through to Monday morning without the need to change!

Liberty Missenden jersey from Raystitch
 And then by way of contrast, I would love to make a dress from Janet's pattern hoard.  Something Spring-like and work-appropriate.

Again I have to accept I do not have any suitable fabric in the stash, because I have never felt the need to buy dress-lengths until now.  I am thinking of something slightly floral with a hint of mustard in the mix.

This Liberty jersey caught my eye.  For a 60's-style cowl-neck shift.  My only worry is that it looks awfully like something my boss would wear...

several sellers on eebaay have this one
 And finally, I am obsessing about my "need" for a red and white gingham-stripe full-skirted fifties dress.  Janet had the perfect pattern (top right)- and now it is mine!  I would run the stripes horizontally.

By the way, thank you SO much for all your lovely comments about my Valentine's Day story.  I have started to wonder if it was all true.
Especially after I tried googling Janet's full name and found "her" in Southend...!

She was also in lots of other places, you understand, but if I want to believe that "my" Janet is bringing up her grand-daughter by the sea, then that is where she is - OK?!

More thinking to be done before I splash out on fabric.  Meanwhile, there is the small matter of the purple velvet shorts...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Life in Dressmaking: a story for Valentine's Day

Despite all my talk about having too much inspiration spinning round my head, I had a moment of lunchtime eebaay insanity last week and pounced upon a mystery bundle of sewing patterns in their last few seconds.  The photo was indistinct, the description unpromising, but I just had a good feeling about this lot.  And boy, oh boy, has that instinct paid off!
Yesterday I took delivery of a cardboard box containing 30 paper patterns, predominantly from the late 1960's / early 1970's.  Some are still in their factory folds, while others have clearly been cut and then carefully refolded in their envelopes.  Call me an old romantic, but I have pieced together their previous owner's life story.

Janet was married in 1965 and sewed her own wedding dress. Not an inch of bare flesh was on display that day:  she was keeping all her secrets for her husband.  They honeymooned in Southend.  She made all the dresses for her trousseau and was so proud as they strode arm-in-arm along the pier!

Before her marriage, she had a little office job and liked to keep up with the latest fashions.  She met her husband-to-be at the tennis court in the local park.  He was such a tease!  What a lovely young man!
After the wedding, she returned to work for a short while, but was soon pregnant with the first of her two children,  both girls, born two years apart.  She quickly settled down to married life, and rather enjoyed motherhood.  She put on a little weight after having the children and was pleased when looser styles came into fashion in the early 70's.

It was a fine life.  Her husband was making good money at the factory and they managed to go abroad once a year on holiday:  somewhere nice and sunny like Spain.  She liked to have a new dress or two in her suitcase every summer.  Once, she even made Himself a jacket for his holidays - oh he did look smart!  It was lovely to have a family to sew for.
And then... well, the girls were getting older and didn't want to wear home-made clothes anymore.  When she took them shopping in C&A's, she could afford to pick out something new for herself too, and gradually she stopped looking at the pattern catalogues, because, well the styles were all a bit young-looking for her, now she was in her 30's... and maybe she should just put the sewing machine away in the attic.

And the years passed.

Then one day, her elder daughter said "You used to sew, didn't you Mum?  I was just saying to our Tracey, remember those matching dresses we used to have?  One red and one blue? I just can't imagine our kids wanting to look the same!  But we were so pleased with our Sunday Best frocks, with our hair in ribbons and you in your suit... you made that yourself too didn't you?"

And Janet thought:  "You know, so I did!  I used to make all my own clothes and I was always the  smartest girl in the office.  I might just look and see if that old sewing machine still works.  I could run up a couple of outfits for our anniversary cruise and save myself a fortune!  Yes, I might just do that!"

And she did.

Then Tracey asked if she could make her some cushions for the new house?
And Sharon wondered if she could maybe help with costumes for the school nativity play?
So she did.
But her grandchildren burst into tears and refused to wear the outfits she had slaved over all weekend.

And then she said "Never again!  It's time you girls learned to sew for your own selves!  I'm too old for this!"  And she gave her sewing machine to the church car boot sale. 

After Janet was left a widow, she decided it was time to move out of the city and move to a little bungalow in Southend. She left it to her daughters to clear out the old house - too many memories.

They found a cardboard box in the garage...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Velvet Polka Dot Inspiration

This week in two words:  grey wool. And even I would admit that's not very interesting.  I could show you the effect on my hands, but that ain't pretty either.  Thank heavens for Nuxe Reve de Miel hand cream!  ; )

So how about some fashion inspiration?

Black swan print!

Ooh - orange!

TheGirl wants this
Jacquard pinafore!
I have lost the trail of how I came across Dahlia Fashion.  It is a small UK company which designs rather quirky floaty polyester dresses for the super-young and super-skinny.  Some of their designs are sold on ASOS, where it says:

Sister duo Tracey and Leigh’s fashion label, Dahlia , first caught the eye of its global following selling homemade designs at London’s Portobello and Spitalfields markets. Teaming clever cuts and bespoke detailing with playful prints; dresses and playsuits reign as designs reference vintage, lady-like imagery as ever present inspiration, delivering a hit of offbeat personality with each individual collection.

A few celebrities have been spotted wearing their clothes.  They have a team of "Girlfriends" from around the world, who blog about how they wear the clothes:  style ambassadors, I suppose.  Sarah, the UK-based girlfriend also has her own blog here.
cat print blouse(ASOS)

Dot mesh dress (ASOS)
Now, you would be right in thinking that I just don't "do" polyester... but some of these styles are just so darned lovely!  And if I was in the market for buying clothes, their sales are extraordinary, with just a few of each item coming and going as fast as you can blink for a fraction of the original price. 

So I pop over there quite regularly just to see what's new. 

Image credit:  temporary secretary blog
This dress in particular caught my eye.

Peter Pan collar!  Image:  temporary secretary blog

Sarah looks amazing in it!

I asked her permission to share these photos, by the way : )

So what do I like about this dress?
  • The layering of fabrics:  sheer black velvet polka dot over a crisp white cotton under-dress.
  • The over-sized white cotton Peter Pan collar with lace edging and embroidery
  • The black satin ribbon tie at the neck
  • Little puffy sleeves
  • Nipped-in waist
  • The length:  and the fact that the sheer layer is longer than the under-dress
It's on sale at ASOS for £55.

Certain could be done...
But in these days of Sew-Your-Own, there is just no way I am going to lay out that sort of cash for a dress I don't have the lifestyle to support.  Although I wore my navy shorts to work this week and wasn't sent home with a de-merit and a note for my mother, I really can't see me having an excuse to wear a dress like this.

Which is a pity... because I have found that amazing fabric!

Look!  (Link to Ditto Fabrics in Brighton)

Picture credit:  Ditto Fabrics

Width: 148cm.
Composition: Polyester
Black tulle printed with with a flocked velvet polka dot.
Polka dot size approx. 4.50cm.
£7.99 per metre

Could someone do me a favour and make something stunning out of this fabric, and show me the results?  Extra love for a Peter Pan collar!

Back to my grey wool...