Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hopping on the Blog Hop Bandwagon

I've noticed this 'Blog Hop' thing bouncing around the internet for a while, and now it's come my way. The lovely Coo at Betty Stitchup, who I met this summer when she visited London, has put me forward to answer the 4 questions. Go check her answers out, and look around her blog at all of her gorgeous, retro-inspired outfits.

Let's start!

What am I working on?
I've just finished one project and am trying to decide what to do next. I usually have a big pile of patterns, that sort of acts as a visual 'to do' list. Here's my current pile:

It's usually stacked neatly......
I'm in need of some new work clothes, so it's likely I'll make the bolero in the bottom right and match it with the skirt from the top left. But the Maudella is also speaking to me, and she's saying 'I'm much more fun - make me out of the Japanese print!' You'll see one of these in a blog post soon, no doubt.

I also have a bottomless knitting bag, where nothing ever seems to get finished. It's currently holding some nearly finished socks, and a 2/3 finished jumper:

My knitting bag, with the black and white jumper sleeve(left), and the nearly finished pair of socks(right)
I'm pretty sure the socks will be on my feet in time for winter, but the jumper's a bit further off...

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
When I started, I thought I was the only one out there working from old patterns, but I soon found out I'm not. So I'm not really sure what makes my blog any different from other sewing blogs. Blogging, and then meeting other bloggers, has given me a great deal of confidence in my skills, and where pre-blog I may have held back, or toned down some of my outfit choices, now I seem to push myself further. I don't like 'twee' clothes or themes, and I increasingly find myself railing against current mainstream fashion which to me has very little glamour or rebellion involved in it. So I suppose I aim to present work that's technically and stylistically challenging, but also harking back to the past. 

Yup, that's me being 'technically and stylistically challenging'...

Why do I write/create what I do?
I've been sewing since I was a little girl, but it's always been a solitary pursuit. I've never joined a sewing club, or attended a knitting group. Blogging was a way of finding out if there was anyone else out there. It was also just a way of archiving my creations, a sort of note book to remind me what I've made, procedures and techniques I've learnt, etc.

How does my writing/creative process work?
I make stuff, then I post it - simple as that. I like to explain the inspirations behind some of my projects, like copying a piece from a film or an old photo. I would only write posts about subjects I would find interesting, so every now and then I'll include some holiday bits and pieces (usually with a sewing basis), or tutorials on techniques I think readers will find interesting. I really just make it up as I go along. I work full-time, so I have to squeeze posts in usually in the evenings; you'll notice that some of my post times are at ridiculous hours. Photos can happen any time. It's usually just me and the tripod, so they tend to be indoors, but now and then Mr Needles will help out with some outdoor shots.

Not every photo makes the grade, like this 'Popeye' pose

A fellow blogger recently told me that she'd like to see more about me on the blog, like outfit posts, or hair tutorials. I'm still not one of those people who's comfortable with 'sharing' on line. I suppose my basic insecurities also make it hard for me to believe that anyone would be interested, but I might branch out.

And that's my blog hop - I hope it was enlightening! The next step is for me to pass on the baton to some fellow bloggers. My 3 lucky bloggers are:

Janene Ooobop, who is always effortlessly stylish, with great photographs to boot!

Emmy at My Oh Sew Vintage Life - she makes gorgeous dresses, and regularly takes you through the insides of vintage pieces she owns, which I find particularly interesting.

Fiona at Diary of a Chainstitcher - she just gets better and better, and she's so damn cute.

See you soon!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Minerva Bloggers Network - an End of Summer Ensemble

I sort of mis-timed this months Minerva project, now that the nights are drawing in and the temperatures are dropping. It's more suited to the balmy days we were experiencing here in London a few weeks ago. But weather's never stopped me from wearing what I want - if I'm in a sunshine state of mind, I'll wear the clothes to suit it, even if it's snowing outside!

So here's my End of Summer Ensemble-

The bolero is from Vogue 8721, which I used previously on this project. I love this pattern because you get 4 jackets, 2 of which I really like, 1 I'm so-so about, and the 4th I just don't get, but that's not bad going!

Version C (bottom left)

I used version C, shortening the body so it sits just above the waist. It was really quick and easy to make - no lining, just a facing on the collar and hems, and french seams to keep everything tidy:

Inside view of jacket

I especially like the sleeves and the way they puff out at the shoulder

As for the skirt, I used the By Hand London Flora, but just the skirt part with a waistband added. As seems to be the norm where Flora's are concerned, spontaneous outbreaks of twirling have been known and I'm no exception:

To keep the skirt extra flouncey, I used a deep hem of about 3"/7.5cm so that there's lots of weight at the hem. Then I added a lining with a ruffle to keep it all puffed out:

 I love the final effect of these two techniques, but they are a complete pain to complete, adding several hours to what should have been an easy project. Why am I surprised? I always seem to take the 'long way round' when I sew...

 So that's the outfit; but lets talk about this insanely brilliant fabric:

The camera doesn't do the colours justice - there are neons pink and green, vibrant blues and yellows, and everything tropical in every direction. I couldn't work out which way was up, so I went with the palm trees being upright as they seemed the most dominant motif. That meant the little surfer lost out to gravity, and he's permanently upside down. I'll just pretend he's 'wiping out' or something.

I love this fabric, not just the colours and pattern, but the weight which is just a touch heavier than quilting cotton. And even better - it's on sale! It's marked down to £4.99 on the Minerva website. Get over there and get some tropical in your life! 

See you soon!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Cheers! The Champagne Skirt by Capital Chic

A short while ago, Sally from Charity Shop Chic launched a collection of patterns under her label Capital Chic. If you follow Sally's blog, you'll know that she's all about re-creating high fashion, sophisticated looks on a budget, and this ethos is carried through into her pattern collection. These are minimal, grown-up pieces which would work well in the office, or take you through to drinks in the evening.

I'm lucky enough to know Sally, and she was kind enough to offer me a free download to try out. I jumped at the chance to try out the Champagne Skirt:

Sally in the Champagne skirt - she does all her own modelling!

It's a pencil skirt, and it has frills - what isn't there to like!? I decided this would be a perfect work skirt for me.

Out came the scissors and tape - all of Capital Chic's patterns are PDF downloads - and I quickly put it all together. I've only ever used 1 PDF pattern before, and the download of that didn't go well (wrong size, etc), but this was a breeze. Sally has obviously put loads of work into making sure the assembly of the pattern is as pain-free as possible. There are lots of little numbers and letters in strategic places to help you match everything up, and nice clear cutting diagrams.

Enough of my waffling - here's my version:

I'm much more curvaceous than Sally, so the skirt is more figure hugging than in the website photo. I used a stretch sateen, meaning it could be tight without being uncomfortable, and lined it with a rose polyester. This is a size 14, which works well, though the wrinkles across the front are bothering me - either I need to add a bit of room across the hips in future versions, or I've just forgotten how to stand! Also, this fabric does tend to show every wrinkle, despite being black.

Back view
It's a pretty straight forward project, and only really took about a day of sewing to complete (probably less if you don't get distracted easily like I do). The instructions are clear, with excellent diagrams - check out this iron!:

Sally explains all the steps clearly and simply - I think a beginner could follow them easily - but of course I went rogue and used some of my own techniques. First,before I attached the frill to the skirt, I stitched it to it's lining, right sides facing. After trimming and clipping the seam I then turned the pieces right side out and under stitched the seam allowance towards the inside to give the hem a crisp finish. 

That probably sounds like gobbledygook, so here's a picture to help you understand:

The finished frill, with seam allowance under stitched to the inside. 
Then I attached the frill to the skirt, sandwiched between the lining and the body of the skirt; this seam was also under stitched.

I've worn this skirt to work several times already, and even had a few complements on it - this is definitely one I'd make again. Well done, Sally!

But don't just take my word for it - visit Capital Chic for yourself!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Minerva Bloggers Network - the Russian Dolls Blouse

For this month's Minerva project, I decided on something small and sweet, namely McCall's 6020, version C.

Version C in white (top)
On the recent Minerva meet-up, I admired all of the cute little prints they had in stock, particularly this one:

And so I turned it into this:

The blouse was pretty simple to put together, with a some bust darts and little tucks at the waist, front and back, for shaping. The trickiest part was the unusual front closure, which called for lots of clipping to produce these crisp right angles:

The sleeves went in really well - the fabric has a tiny bit of natural stretch, so they eased in without the usual puckering and gathering:

I used a catch-stitch to hold the sleeve hem in pace - you can just see a few of the stitches in the picture above.

I can already tell that there's going to be one thing that will drive me mad when I wear this blouse - the collar. The design pretty much relies on interfacing and gravity for it to stay in place, but of course as you move, it moves. I just know I'm going to be fiddling with it constantly!

But on the whole I'm pleased with how flattering this design is - it makes my waist looks freakily small in these pictures!

To finish, I added 3 little red buttons:

And that's it! Just in time for a short break I've got planned in Budapest at the end of the  month, where there are Russian Dolls everywhere you look (don't know why...)

See you soon!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Summertime Shift

It's scorchingly hot here in London at the moment, and I'm terrible at dealing with it. All of my clothes feel too heavy and restrictive. This weather calls for something light and less fitted, something like this:

Vogue 7372, 1960's.
I love how the girl in the beret looks impatient, like she's thinking 'Hurry up , b****es, I've got my driving gloves on so I can drive to Paris in my E-type and steal a painting with Peter O'Toole'

The envelope drawings look pretty structured, and the instructions recommend it to be underlined for stability, but I decided to skip this or it would have been too heavy. 

And here it is:

I used a navy cotton I picked up on a recent diversion to Abakhan's with Katie of What Katie Sews. It's super light without being see-through, and is even a little stretchy on the weft. Best of all, it's sprinkled all over with little apples:

The dress appears pretty straightforward, but being a Vogue Pattern, and therefore aiming to emulate high-end designers, there's more to it than your average shift. Where other dresses would have stuck with a couple of darts here and there, this dress has princess seams front and back, pockets in the seams, tiny little bust darts, and a side zip. There's also a tricky button placket which was a pain to do, but I got there in the end:

And I love the apples so much I even made covered buttons emblazoned with them:

From this... this!
I cut the pattern as is, without any adjustments - the fit seems fine:

This is me doing a 60's model pose
A few construction details-

French seams are my preferred method for finishing seams, but that was never going to work with the curves of these princess seams. Instead, I stitched them as plain seams, finished them with a 3-step zig-zag, then top stitched them close to the seam so they would lie flat:

Inside view of seams

Top stitching detail, with a bar tack at the base of the pocket.
It was a bit of a squeeze fitting the whole dress into the fabric I had - I bought it without knowing I was making this dress - so I had to save space by making half of the pocket with some scraps of red lining fabric:

Pocket detail

And finally the hems - I turned under the raw edge about 4 mm, machined this, then attached the hem to the body of the dress with a catch stitch:

And that's pretty much it!

Have fun in the sun, and see you soon!