The Pencil Atelier at the Port Eliot Festival

port eliot wardrobe dept
The quiet before the storm!

I have just recently returned from the most exciting and inspiring 4 days away at the most amazing festival, ever – The Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall, UK.

Lucky old me was asked to join the Pencil Team to fuel the 80s theme and bash out some rara skirts for lots of festival goers who would then participate in the fashion show finale at the end of the week. It all seemed a little bit daunting at first, not least of all because raras aren’t the quickest things to whip up and with minimal resources and in a tent!

ooobop sewing at Port Eliot festival

But we did have leccy and we did have good fabric. Boy did we have a substantial stash! Sponsored by Chloe no less. No expense spared for our budding fashionistas!

fabric sponsored by Chloe

So the afternoon before the first session we arrived at a prototype. For Paul! A willing and most encouraging volunteer who was delighted to be my model and first happy customer!

rara_skirt_for_paul_1

The order of the day was raw and ready! Overlockers didn’t get a look in and hey, who needs a hem anyway?! We had 2 shifts a day–one for each rara–at the very least, times 7 sewists: 4 fashion students from the Glasgow Clyde college; 1 amazing consultant stylist; one very wonderful experienced seamstress/mother/grandma to everyone… and me!

Bumble teaching sewing

To emphasise the ‘raw’, we barely used scissors, save to snip the ends of the fabric before ripping near-as-dammit lengths for main skirt and flounce sections. I accounted for double waist measurement for the width and measured just above the knee for length. The measurements for the layers were guessed… and hoped!

lanyas rara skirt

So we started flat, gathering the flounces from bottom to top. But not a gathering thread in sight. Way too much faffing! We just pinched and manipulated those strips under foot and zigzagged into position, covering each layer of stitching with the next flounce above.

rara skirt in progress

When sufficient layering was complete, we stretched and sewed the waist elastic (measured comfortably stretched against the body) to the top edge of the skirt using a wide zigzag stitch – making a casing was taking too much time. If there was any excess fabric beyond the end of the elastic, it was simply trimmed off. Then there was just one back seam to stitch up.

Each skirt took about an hour and a half on the whole, including a lot of chatting and demonstrating and getting the children to have a go. Some were willing. Some were quite happy to sit and chat and have a bespoke skirt made before their very eyes. I know I would be!

rara skirts

Little Miss O was in charge of printing the designer labels!

designer Pencil Atelier labels

Every customer had their own ideas. How many flounces, what fabric combo and whether or not there were additional ribbons and bows. In fact it seemed the younger the customer the more determined they were to inject their own creativity. However much we tried to push the gold mesh it often got declined! They wanted pinks and blues and yellows. And oh the relief when only one frill was requested!

port_eliot_amelia

I can, hand on heart, say that the most amazing music to my ears was hearing that most of the pre-teen children I sat with knew how, or regularly operated a sewing machine. Mostly of their own! How refreshing is that. No surprise that it wasn’t from the teaching of schools or after-school clubs, but by the willingness of their fabulous grandmas. It really was so encouraging to hear. Sewing isn’t disappearing anytime soon, fellow sewingistas! There are grannies out there championing this all-important and special skill that so needs to be nurtured and that makes me sooooo happy.

These twin sisters were a prime example. They love making their own dolls clothes and hope to make their own clothes one day. Fashion student, Megan made the skirt on the left and I made the one on the right, independently, guided by each allocated twin.

The twins wearing their rara skirts

And the results were fascinatingly, coordinated!

rara skirts for the twins

The sewing sessions were fast and furious but no less creative and fun. So much so that immediately after each one we stayed behind when everyone had left to make use of the fabric and whip up our own outfits.

after hours sewing in the tent

It was such a delight to meet these Scottish student beauties. So much energy and passion for sewing and fashion. And so much fun to have around.

Fashion student outfits

Whilst rara skirts flew off the sewing machines at one end of the tent, hand-painted slogan T-shirts were being pegged up at a rate of knots! A massive resurgence of 80s brilliance.

And then, when the last session finished, and the chilled dandelion and burdock tins where handed out (ok, so maybe there was an odd swig of the strong stuff!) then it was time for the fashion show. Paints were cleared, and in their place, a spray of silk flowers were jiggled into a jug, and the models were prepped by Jenny, Ruler of Pencil!

Jenny Dyson backstage ready for show
Shot by amazing society phogotraher, Darren Gerrish – port Eliot Official

Just check out these amazing head-dresses made at one of Piers Atkinsons workshops! The single only downer for working at the festival was that I didn’t get to make one due to clashing of classes!

headdress by Piers Atkinson

head wear by Piers Atkinson

They were all so excited. rehearsing their moves: A flick of the hair, crossed arms, over the shoulder attitude, pouts galore, working those raras and T’s!

Hay bales outlined the catwalk and the music began. It was simply brilliant!

Pencil Atelier fashion show

pencil atelier fashion show

I felt a wave of emotion once the children danced off. And moreso when one came back to hug me and thank me and tell me it was her most favourite skirt in the whole world. I properly cried!

But moods surged the next day whilst taking photos at the Rubbish Olympics. Another amazing concept drummed up by Jenny! Human dressage, Egg and spoon race without said egg and spoon, pencil tossing, Zoolander musical statues and more. Quite difficult to photograph when you are splitting your sides laughing but here is one of my faves. They were ‘Best in Show’ of course!

Human Dressage
Human Dressage

Such a glorious place, such amazing creative people, such talents and inspiration. Port Eliot is such a magical place. I truly hope it returns next year. And I think you should all come too.

A blue half circle skirt

blue half circle skirt

This is my new half circle skirt. Self-drafted and made in a cobalt blue poly crepe.

Sounds pretty simple hey? Well to be honest, in principle it was. And it would have been a swifty project if I’d have remembered a couple of simple things.

ALWAYS MARK YOUR SELF-DRAFTED PATTERN PIECES AS SOON AS YOU’VE DRAWN THEM

Why? Well in my case, I have a fair few circle and half-circle skirt pieces that I’ve not only drafted for myself, but for others too. And in my haste I’d just labelled them ‘skirt front’ or ‘full circle’ and one just said ‘circle skirt piece no SA’. The latter was helpful, at least to know that I needed to add a seam allowance but none were any help at all to know if it was the right waist measurement, the right length, a full or half circle etc. What a twit!

blue half circle skirt

So first job was to redraft another, to my size. And second job was to ensure all that info was written bold and clear on the pattern piece for future use.

I’d already prewashed my fabric, so that was a win. The number of times I’ve been fired up to sew and didn’t have prepared fabric to hand is way too many to count. But swifty projects aren’t very swifty at all if you haven’t factored in to…

ALLOW A CIRCLE SKIRT TO HANG AT LEAST OVERNIGHT BEFORE HEMMING

Sewing a circle or half circle really doesn’t take that long but don’t bank on whipping one up, hours before a party because it has to hang at least overnight to allow the weight of the bias fabric to drop. This will almost definitely result in an uneven hem and will need levelling before hemming. I put mine on a dressmakers dummy but I’m sure if it was hung evenly on a pegged coathanger, you would achieve the same result.

So next there’s the levelling. I put the dressmakers dummy, wearing the skirt, on a table so that the hem is at eye-level. I use a metal rule from table top to my desired length and then mark all round with chalk or pins, rotating the whole dummy rather than spinning it (that’s another long story). I then go round a 2nd time to double check the measurements.

Once trimmed I sewed a quarter inch line of stitches from the edge and pressed up a hem. I stitched and in this case didn’t need to turn over again. But that might be necessary if fabric is more fraying.

blue half circle skirt

The lining of course needs the same treatment.

I rarely hate on any aspect of sewing, but I discovered this morning that I truly hate levelling, trimming and narrow-hemming lining fabric for a circle skirt, like massively!

It appears I’ve only made one other half circle skirt before, but it was so long ago, it’s well and truly worn out! So as much as I love this colour blue – quite unusual for me actually, don’t you think?! – I feel I must make a replacement black one too. And maybe a red as well!

I must at this point just big up my 12 year-old daughter who took these lovely photos for me. It was a very impromtu shoot as I was doing some shots of my eldest daughter who was face-painting in the park. Little Miss O brought her own camera along for some practice and certainly did me proud. Look out dad, someone’s hot on your heels!

Big Vintage Sewalong: Retro Butterick 5813

Big Vintage Sewalong dress

Back in March I announced I was taking part in the McCalls Big Vintage Sewalong. My scheduled date to blog seemed an awful long way off then, but all of a sudden today came shooting along like an express train and of course I’d left everything till the last minute!

My pattern of choice was the 1950s Retro Butterick 5813 – Nail on the head, Alana from Flying Purple Hippos.com! – but it wasn’t without a dither. I loved each of the three 1940s patterns on offer too!

retro butterick 5813

As soon as that pattern was in hand and I’d decided on version A, I headed straight down to Goldhawk Road and to the relatively new store, Goldbrick Fabrics, to snap up some gorgeous Italian brocade. I’ve been quite literally ‘stitched up’ (or rather unstitched) by brocade, once before (yes looking at you BHL Georgia!) and I knew as a rule, it has massive ‘give’ issues but this particular brocade is beautifully soft and luxurious with just the right amount of body at the same time and subsequently a little more forgiving.

retro butterick 5813

big vintage sewalong dress

And because the fabric was so special I wasn’t about to employ any gung ho scissor action. So I made a toile like the good girl I am. Fortunately I only had to make a few minor adjustments. Firstly I needed to remove some excess bagginess from the back bodice. I often come up against this issue but this style commanded some serious ease for practical reasons of movement I guess.

Big Vintage Sewalong Butterick 5813

Secondly, I needed to gain a little more girth. My go to adjustment for this is always to add a bit at the side seams but that often results in a loss of shape and a sausagey silhouette, so I thought I’d try a different way by sewing narrower darts and I do believe the result was way better, though, looking at the back view shot I should also have shortened the bodice a tad.

retro butterick 5813

Thirdly, I lobbed a fair bit off the length. I ummed and arred between below the knee or to the knee but I think after seeing these photos, an inch longer may have added a bit more drama. What do you think? I sewed a substantial hem so I could take it down a little I guess.

I wouldn’t recommend this dress to an absolute beginner. There are potentially, lots of hissy-fit inducing features like darts – lots of them, some underbust gathering (which admittedly would probably have been easier in a more manageable fabric) oh and inset panels! Luckily I’ve had some former training with insetting sections of my quilt panels – for example the Whirligig block –which made the instructions and the construction a near enough breeze!

Another thing to be mindful of is the precision of facing the front opening – sewing perfectly symmetrical seams to meet at a single point before turning through. I think the collar is such a lovely feature of this dress. There were no complications in adding it and it has a real neat finish that encloses the lining around the neck edge.

Big Vintage Sewalong dress

It’s fully lined too which means sleeves an’ all! I’ve only ever done this twice to my ever failing knowledge: My vintage plaid dress (which annoyingly seems to have disappeared from my blog) and more recently my Sew Over It Joan Dress. And I must say it feels like a bit of a rip off to have to basically construct the dress all over again in lining, no cutting of corners, darts, gatherings, inset panels the lot! And that means even more seams to overlock too!

retro butterick 5813

But of course it was all worth the effort and it’s so lovely and weighty. Proper quality, like!

I’m not sure whether I cut or sewed the wrist end of the sleeve incorrectly but in any case I opened the seam a little to avoid the puckering that was about to happen. And yes those are 3 little darts for shaping the sleeve. On the fashion fabric and the lining. That’s proper vintage detail!

retro butterick 5813

I chose an invisible zip over a more-authentic lapped one, only because I had one to hand but I’m really pleased with the outcome. It just looks like another side seam. I achieved such invisibility by taking my time for once, pinning and then tacking in position before using a regular zipper foot and then sewing a second time with the invisible zipper foot.

retro butterick 5813

One thing that surprised me was the vent. It’s just a slit with facings either side and the lining is stitched to the facings like a little bridge around the outside. Much simpler than the usual lined vents or kick pleats of most vintage dresses I’ve sewn but it does feel like a bit of a cop out after all the attention to detail elsewhere.

Overall I totally love this dress. It was such a pleasure to indulge in some vintage sewing again. Very long overdue and I’d love an excuse (and some more hours in the day) to make another. But I’d make a few more adjustments next time, namely taking a bit off the shoulders, shortening the bodice a fraction and adding a little more to the waist.

retro butterick 5813

It got some lovely comments as we strutted around Portobello Road and around Notting Hill. Not least of all from the lady who managed to sell me 2 new pairs of sunglasses. Flattery gets you everywhere, see!

retro butterick 5813

retro butterick 5813

retro butterick 5813

Many thanks to The Foldline for the encouragement, for McCalls Pattern Company UK for providing the pattern and fabric. I sincerely hope that lots of people get inspired to buy these gorgeous vintage patterns and that lots of wonga is raised for The Eve Appeal in the meantime.

retro butterick 5813

Special thanks also to Dan for dutifully shooting these amazing photos. We always have such fun. London is so full of amazing places and we’re lucky that most of them are just a short tube ride away. It’s always a hoot when we’re oot and aboot!

Marie from A Stitching Odyssey is next up. Can’t wait to see what she makes.

Born to be a gypsy girl

gypsy girl top and skirt

I gave up Flamenco dancing when I was 7 months pregnant with son. My teacher told me that if there was an ounce of gypsy blood in me I would continue dancing right up until the baby was born. Clearly my o-neg wasn’t cutting it. Lord knows how any amount of footwork is achieved when one is the size of a whale!

Anyhoos, just 4 years of practice and 17 years later there is still undeniable evidence of gypsy in me. Even if I’m not a real one. The dancing, the music, the earrings, the roses . . . the dresses. I think I’m just going to have to grab that bull by the horns and start over again.

gypsy girl dancing

But before I drift back to when I had time on my hands, lets talk about this outfit. It’s not a dress. It’s a top and a skirt. Separates, like!

I literally snatched the fabric out of the hands of the shopkeeper when he showed me some precuts on the counter. Just how hard is it to find border print these days? I knew it was going to be a skirt already but I had enough to make a top and my lightbulb moment was realising I had the perfect pattern in Butterick B4685. I’ve made it a few times before and blogged one of them here. Another version even served to complete Dorothy’s World Book Day costume! But this is the first time I’ve included the flounce on version C. And this fabric was perfect for the job.

Butterick 4685 top

I do have an issue with the fabric though. Mostly I find the shop keepers in the Goldhawk Road honest about the content. At least where they are informed themselves. And some even do an on the spot burn test for me if I ask. But this one (who shall remain nameless) confidently told me it was linen lawn. I had no reason to disagree. After all I’ve never purchased linen lawn before. But it sounded good and most importantly, implied of natural fibre. It is lovely and soft and lightweight. Perfect for keeping gathering bulk to a min. But I got that suspicious sweet smelling odour that hit my nose when I ironed it and felt compelled to do a burn test myself.

gypsy skirt and top back view

Surprise, surprise. Not an ounce of natural fibre to write home about. Well maybe one fibre in a million. It did crumble a bit betwixt forefinger and thumb so not 100 per cent plastic. Gah!! I hate the dishonesty. I probably would have still bought it with a bit of a haggle attached. But why glam it up when its so easily sussed?

I’m not too cross because I’m very happy with the outcome. I’m just cross with the bull****!

gypsy girl in the orchard

So the skirt is just a self-drafted gathered rectangle on a waistband with an invisible zip in the side. Unlined and therefore so quick to run up. Though I did hand-sew the hem because it pleases me!

gypsy skirt and top

Dan took these photos in and around the grounds of Fulham Palace, London. Such a beautiful and understated palace which is openly used as a museum and wedding venue and picnic grounds! The gardens are so immaculately kept. And the perfume from the wisteria was gorgeous!

gypsy style with wisteria

gypsy girl by outhouse

And as has become the norm, we had some more interest from the local residents. Clearly cleaning up from the picnics!

squirrel with a sandwich

And once again outposing me on the log shot! I’m sure Mr O does this on purpose. It had bugs and cobwebs and everything on it. Eeeewwww! Can I just say out loud. I hate sitting on logs!!

gypsy girl on a log

I love this outfit, not only because it brings out my inner gypsy, not even just because I made it  (well that as well!) but because its a style that never goes away. I’m as happy wearing this kind of dress now as I was in the 90s and the 80s and I’m pretty sure there’s photographic evidence of me wearing a dress very similar in the 70s! Or maybe I’m just plain old fashioned. Who knows. Who cares. I’ll make more anyway!!

A visit to Contrado

The weekend before last I had the absolute pleasure of joining Kate and Rachel from the Foldline along with some other lovely sewing bloggers –Marie, Jane, Katie, Elena and Charlotte – to visit Contrado – a very exciting, UK-based printing company with so much to offer.

choosing fabric at Contrado

The Day began cozied up in a room with tea, sticky buns and more lovely fabric samples than one could possibly shake a stick at. Already sold! We’d each come armed with a design in mind and we were going to print our very own fabric. It was almost too exciting to bear.

Looking at fabrics

Chris and the gang gave us an introduction from whence they came to where they are today and I was effortlessly sucked into his mesmerising world of print-on-demand on pretty much anything with a turnaround of just a couple of days, in most instances.

We uploaded our ’tiles’ and chose our fabric. I’m making that bit sound easy but when you’ve got a choice of over 75, so generously care of Contrado, it was such a tough decision. We watched the scheduling process as it happened on the big screen. Upload to print. Just like magic.

Next stop was to see them emerge from the printer. What? Already? I seriously wasn’t expecting to take mine home the same day.

fabric emerging

A little trot past the photo studio and around the trampoline (I didn’t ask that question) and into the print room where all the magic was happening. I was amazed at the silence of the operation. Smooth-running synchronised inkjets dancing back and forth in a clean and cool room. And not smelly at all!

The transferred fabrics were coming out and as I turned the corner, there was mine, printing onto actual cotton satin fabric in front of my very own eyes. The natural fabrics get printed onto directly whereas the designs for synthetics are transferred.

While this was happening, we were shown some of the great garments available for customisation. A dressing gown, espadrilles, a baseball cap, some lucky pants, swimwear, kimonos, all printed and handmade right there on the premises, to order.

printed dressing gown

It really is incredible. But seeing how speedy the seamsters were upstairs it was completely plausible. We oooed and arrred at the machines a lot. I can still hear the Randomly Happy squeals of delight. And just check out this bad boy!

contrado sewing machine

And it’s not just about garments. Though clearly that’s what we were all most interested in. It’s about product too: Hairbrushes, X-Box controllers, clocks, deckchairs, foam cubes, roller-blinds, shower curtains, phone cases, trays, biscuit tins… it would have been easier to ask what they don’t print on!

The next room was where the fabrics were heat-sealed (for durability) and packed. Though most of us chose not to have ours packed and instead, just folded for immediate cradling. You can just imagine the squeals in that room!

And so here are the fruits of my humble tile! Plans for a 50s wiggle dress of sorts have promptly entered the queue!

contrado_fabric_1

We all had such a brilliant and inspiring day. I left not only with an armful of amazing fabric but a head full of design plans for more. I love that this is a UK-based and family-run company. And I’m completely smitten with the strength of passion that passes through the team. It matters that communication is good when you are working at creating something so unique and precious. And so to meet such an approachable team in person was not only reassuring but it was truly an absolutely honour.

sewing bloggers

With much thanks to Rachel and Kate and the Contrado team.

 

BHL Sabrina dress v3

sabrina front view by fountain

This is my third Sabrina dress. And the best-fitting one yet. The first one was the result of a pattern test for By Hand London and the second, more recent version, was made so I didn’t keep wearing the first one all the time! It was also meant to address some of the fitting issues. But if you read that post, you’d see that I only created more!

But this one is certainly close to the mark with regards a perfect fit.

Most dress patterns come up too big across the back bodice for me. It’s not something I’ve ever properly addressed before I made a Sabrina, mostly because I didn’t know how. But it was as simple as taking a horizontal dart from the centre back and tapering to the armscye.

Sabrina dress back view

If I’m honest, it’s still a little snug across the hips. Probably because this fabric is less forgiving. It’s a sturdy brocade-like viscose. It has shiny woven ‘characters’ on a matt background which works great in the sunshine. The shop assistant guessed it was a polyester, which at £8 a metre stumped us both a little, so he took a sample outside to do a burn test. And it turned out there was more than just a little natural fibre in there!

viscose brocade close up

I also hemmed little bit shorter than the other two.  The skirt section flares out perfectly, especially in this fabric. Perfect for a bit of flirty, flarey fun!

sabrina silhouettes

bhl sabrina battersea

The weather was gorgeous on Wednesday as it is today, and promises to be on the weekend too! So Mr O suggested Battersea Park for our shots. I wasn’t too sold on walking from The Kings Road in Chelsea in high heels but he is mostly and annoyingly right with the no pain, no gain philosophy!

sabrina dress

I remember saying, not so long ago, that I couldn’t bear to make the same thing more than once, given all the amazing options out there. But I’m happy to make as many as it takes if it means I get the perfect fit, and the perfect fabric of course. I still have plans for more of these using some more challenging fabrics but those plans are on hold for a little while, as I focus on what I’m meant to be doing: Dan’s blazer and my Big Vintage Sewalong dress for example… ooops!

The By Hand London Sabrina dress pattern comes in two variations. This one and a lovely strappy button-front one…mmmm… no stop it, Janene. Focus!!

 

And the winner is…

winner classic tailoring techniques for menswear

Congratulations Evie Jones!

Special thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing and Fairchild books for providing such a great giveaway prize in association with #Blazerof2016 and thank you to every one who left such lovely comments. I’ve really enjoyed reading about what you are all getting up to. Remember you can still get hold of Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear at Fairchild Books along with a whole host of fabulous fashion books. My copy is already proving to be my best friend already.

In other news I finished a 3rd By Hand London Sabrina dress, yesterday. And it fits! So I’ll be back sometime soon this week, hopefully, with some pictures and a post. Oh I do love a bank holiday!

TTFN x

 

BHL Sabrina in animal print

bhl sabrina dress in leafy arch

I felt the need to sew a failsafe dress. No fancy features, no pattern matching and preferably no lining. One that I’d made before that fits just right and whips up quick. So here she is: The By Hand London Sabrina mark 2 in animal print.

I’m working on a couple of complicated projects at the moment, re Mr O’s #Blazerof2016 and my dress contribution for McCalls Big Vintage Sewalong and I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve got a lot on, instead of getting on with it, I need a pleasant distraction just to up reduce the stress factor. A little bit of selfish sewing goes a long way in my book!

by hand london sabrina dress

I pattern-tested By Hand London’s Sabrina dress way back in October 2014 and I can honestly say it’s had more wear than any dress I’ve ever owned. To the point that I’m now a bit embarrassed that everyone in the office must think it’s the only dress I own! The fit was pretty good on the first one and all I really needed to do was remove some of the excess fabric from the back.

bhl sabrina back view

So I just needed to pinch out a horizontal dart on the pdf print out I’d kept and well, Bob should have been my lobster… but!

The finished dress came up huge and I just couldn’t fathom why. For sure my choice of fabric had more drape and less structure than the tartan. It’s a cotton/wool blend that I got at a bargain price from Classic Textiles in the Goldhawk Road. It has a little give but no stretch as such. I could only assume that it moved when I pinned it and perhaps I should have used weights. But following a really thinky night’s sleep it dawned on me. And I was horrified to find that I’d paid no heed to the version 1 and 2 lines marked on the front pattern piece. Version two is cut wider for a front fastening and I’m pretty sure I’d placed that pattern line on the fold instead. OMG no wonder I had to take the side seams in an extra inch each side AND pinch an extra quarter inch from the princess seams. It fits now, kinda. But I wish I’d have got it right first time and saved myself the bother of make-shift fitting, doh!

bhl sabrina dress

If I had cut it correctly from the off, it really would have sewn up in less than 3 hours. Not including a hand-sewn hem though. That takes a little time but I much prefer the finish to that of a machined hem, don’t you?

bhl sabrina hemline

This style of dress is so perfect for donning in the morning. No finding a top to match the skirt. Black tights, fancy shoes and perhaps a cardi if its chilly. A simple shift with a draping skirt that falls off the hips. Room to accommodate a cheeky plate of chips and a pint at lunchtime and worn with cardi for when the hot-blooded colleagues take control of the air con.

bhl sabrina dress

Mr O (aka Daniel Selway) took these photos for me, of course. Now that the children are getting older we are just beginning to enjoy a couple of spontaneous hours here and there, zooming off for pints shoots and today’s wander took us to Richmond Hill. I lived there some years ago but quite forgot how breathtaking the views were. And despite the chill factor, the rain held off and it was lovely to wander about the gardens and blossom trees. Actually it was more like an ungainly stagger in those heels If I’m completely honest!

sabrina dress under the blossom tree

That path was a lot steeper and muddier than it looks and Mr O believes I should suffer for my art. Short of a pigeon-toed pose, I’m trying to emulate a snow-plough ski stance here, in order to not fall flat on my face!

bhl sabrina in the blossom

A little stroll around the more wooded areas drummed up a bit of attention from the local wildlife too. This cheeky little robin insisted on following us around. I’d have loved for him to have created an extra splash of red on my shoulder!

robin redbreast in Richmond

Mr Jackdaw was very keen to join us for a cup of tea but I was thankful for him keeping a polite distance.

jackdaw in Richmond

And this wide-eyed and bushy tailed little fella was definitely keen to get in on the action. He looks much more relaxed on his log than I do on mine!

squirrel in Richmond

So that’s my little weekend fix. I managed a whole two days without working; sewed a new dress; got some running in and managed a cheeky afternoon out with Mr O. How was yours?

Knickers big and knickers small

It’s been a while since I made knickers – I made some Burda pin up pants here and here. But this week I had a go at some other varieties from this book: The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers and Laura Standford.

The Secrets of Sewing LIngerie

One of my lovely work colleagues was given this book, but as a knitter rather than a sewer, she thought it would be better placed in my hands and who was I to argue?! It pays to let the whole world know that you are a crazy sewing blogging lady: beautiful sewing things seem to gravitate towards you from all angles! And what a beautiful book this truly is. The photography is gorgeously inspirational and leaves you wanting to make everything in it.

So I started from the beginning, intending to work to the end. And I still might. I just need to overcome a few hurdles.

The first pattern is for a pair of cotton minis, entitled Pretty as a Picnic and they truly are. The fabric suggestion is cotton lawn and I could just imagine how lovely they would be to wear. It’s not my usual style. I’m more partial to a pair of stretchy big pants but ‘pretty’ won me over. I also have a fair bit of printed cotton in my stash and it struck me as a good project to use it up.

cotton minis

I painstakingly followed every instruction which incidentally was very clear and I even basted where suggested, like a good girl – I’m not usually that fastidious! But I had to abandon mission before completion when it became apparent how small they were! Far too mini for me. I think the photo in the book is a shot at an angle which makes them look wider at the sides than they actually are.

So I adjusted the pattern: I added an inch to the depth and a bit extra across the width too. (Gawd knows why I just didn’t trace a size up!) And so I made another pair. Seemed to do the trick but lets just say I’ve worn better. The recovery of the elastic is a bit slack (my bad, probs) and where the fabric is cut on grain there is just no give, so they do feel and look a bit strange. I may give them a third go, cut on the bias and see what happens. I WILL have a pair of pretty minis!

But rather than have a go straight away. I got lured by the cotton French knickers. After all. What could go wrong with those? And even if anything did, I could wear them to bed where no one would see. They are described as natural bed-fellows in any case.

cotton knickers

But why don’t I learn? These are cut on grain too. And I didn’t even pay heed to the need to size up either. I’m seriously such a bozo sometimes!

They look dreadful on me. They are simply too small but yet the waistband extends at least an inch above my natural waistline despite being sold as a ‘softly-fitted style sitting between the natural waist and the hips’. I checked that I’d traced the pattern correctly and I had, so I think that may be an issue with the pattern itself.

That said, I loved the implementation of some of the techniques used. There are French seams throughout. No rtw-style serged seams going on here and the centre front and centre back are pressed in opposite directions so there’s no bulk at the crotch.

knickers french seam

The top edge of the waistband is top-stitched at the fold and at the base of the elastic casing with gives such a neat and professional finish. Exact measurements are given for the casing and the size of the elastic which seems to prevent the elastic from twisting too. Little things certainly please my little mind!

knickers waistband

The coquettish vent is a lovely touch too. There seemed to be a notch missing off the pattern so I just allowed 3 inches which worked just fine.

knickers side vent

But if only they fit!! I’m convinced that these also would be made far better by being cut on the bias and then I realised that there was a version of bias cut silk satin French knickers further on in the book, doh! They use different pattern pieces with shaping at the centre front and back and appear to be much wider in size. I’m confused by this. Why would the bias cut ones need to be bigger? Surely the on-grain version would need to be bigger to account for lack of stretch. Am I missing something?

Anyhoos. I’ll report back once I’ve had a mo to try them out. Because I really really want these to work.

I’ve had a scout round to see if anyone else has had experience in sewing undies from this book but mostly the reviews are of the book itself and not any real findings. So please let me know if you’ve made any and what the outcome was. I’m really keen to know how these patterns have worked for for you.

Oh, and don’t forget to enter the Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear book Giveaway if you haven’t done already. Good luck all!

 

Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear: book review and Giveaway!

classic tailoring techniques for menswear

Today I would like to share a review of a great book that is already my best friend and bible for #Blazerof2016. The lovely people of Bloomsbury Publishing have not only sponsored me this fabulous book but have also sent an extra copy for one other lucky reader!

The title of the book is Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear: A Construction Guide. And this is the 2nd edition written by Roberto Cabrera and Denis Antoine since it first published in 1983.

My bookshelves are home to all sorts of sewing literature but when it came to ventures in proper tailoring techniques, none of them books scratched that itch, if you know what I mean.

I am a woman on a mission with a man’s jacket to make before June is out. Jamie has already completed his stunning plaid blazer and panic was beginning to set in fast. But now I have my trusty guide I feel the journey will be easier.

If ever I was doubting the ‘why’ of tailoring, the short and concise intro reassures the reader of the unsurpassable techniques over faster more modern ways to achieve that impeccable finish. It gives a brief but insightful history that inspires a preparation for a very slow but satisfying journey ahead!

classic tailoring for menswear intro

The contents include the following chapters: Tailoring; The Pattern; The Fit; The Fabric; Layout and Cutting; The Jacket; The Pants; The Vest; and Alterations.

There then follows an extended table of contents which allows the reader to go straight to the finer points within each chapter. The Jacket is clearly my primary concern and so when I come to pockets, I now have all the necessary information to create a welt, cash, patch, double-piped or double-piped pocket with flap should I choose to add one… or all of them!

As a book designer myself I’m very particular about presentation and I am a stickler for levels of information. So I’m very happy to report that I found the inside layout to be very clean and concise. The font is classic and unfussy, a good size with comfortable space and set in good readable chunks.

I must admit, at first I was disappointed by the black and white photography. It does appear take away some visual interest but on further inspection, all becomes very apparent. The hand-stitches which are crucial to the tailoring process along with other key marked areas are highlighted in red against the greyscale photography and therefore are easily recognised without distraction. It’s a more sophisticated approach than the sole use of line-drawn illustrations and diagrams which can sometimes be too graphic and disassociated with the real thing. Colour photography would have looked lovely – especially to see some of those coloured tweedy fibres – but style over substance would have been useless in this instance. I’m after good, clear and immediate instruction and this is what this book delivers.

The reality of the photography delivers on other levels too: you can identify the lay of the fabric, how it ripples, how it rolls, how it behaves. You’d never get that across with any amount of linework!

That said. This book also displays some fine line drawings which hone in on the tiniest details.

All the tailoring and understructure supplies you will need are clearly listed and defined along with necessary techniques and hand-stitches. And there is a  very well explained section on how to take measurements. The repeated photo of the man in white pants is a little distracting but as I mentioned before, far more preferable to a line drawing. It’s easier to see exactly where on the body those measurements should be taken. Nothing left to the imagination here!

classic tailoring taking measurements

And fitting is obviously a major part of the process. This section does good to address posture and body imbalance and how to identify the issues. I’m focussing on the jacket here and where wide shoulders and a stooped posture adjustment might come in dead handy, but should I venture into tailoring trousers in the future I’ll be ready for any amount of bow-legs, knock-knees and flat bottoms!

There is brief but great insight into the world of wool fabrics that are used in tailoring. The weights, the textures and the usages; naps, shrinkage and how to straighten a grain. This section may have benefitted from some colour just to see those checks and stripes pop, but again. It’s just the information I need. I can go see and stroke any amount of fabrics up the Goldhawk Road for that kind of fix!

Laying and Cutting Out covers exactly how the professionals do it. Great to see the hands at work and of course a vital section on matching plaids/checks and stripes.

classic tailoring for menswear

When I got to the Jacket section I was a bit overwhelmed. So much stuff to learn. But that is the whole point. I want to learn. And I want to have reference to it all. I want to get good at this and there is no fast track way. Just slowly and properly and remembering to enjoy each little step-by-step instruction. I’m really looking forward to making some shoulder pads. There’s a great how-to with a pattern at the back of the book. Incidentally there are also traceable patterns included for a French fly and a French tab and some other elements that I’m not going to pretend I know what they are yet!

The Trousers and Waistcoat sections are just as detailed. Covering the classic tailored processes for each stage. No stone unturned, it would seem.

The final section covers Alterations, which will prove invaluable if I ever I fancied some more unselfish sewing further down the line. And already I am inspired to pick up on the advice for relining a jacket. Something I have been putting off for so long (see this Boer War jacket). It is so simply and brilliantly explained that it makes me feel daft for every doubting my capabilities! And if you ever need to alter a pair of trousers for the man who has muscular inner thighs, look no further.

In fact, it’s all there: what you need, and what exactly you need to do to achieve each stage of a perfectly classic tailored jacket, waistcoat or pair of trousers. Brilliantly presented and clearly explained… in black and white (and red)!

If this little review of Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear has whetted your appetite, click here to be taken to Fairchild Books – an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing– where you can buy one for yourself and peruse all the other amazing fashion titles they have on offer.

Or if you fancy winning yourself a FREE copy, simply leave a comment below and let me know how you are getting on with #Blazerof2016 or indeed any other tailored garment you have plans for. Entries will be drawn on 30th April and the winner announced on 1st May 2016. It really is a fabulous prize – good luck!

Both the review and the giveaway copyies of Classic Taloring Techniques for Menswear were kindly given to me free of charge by Bloomsbury Publishing. All opinions expressed are my own.