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!!

 

#Blazerof2016 and tips for tracing Burda patterns

So this week, I finally chose what pattern to use for #Blazeof2016. I’ve decided to make it extra difficult for myself by going for the minimal instructions of the Burda Style magazine pattern from February 2016 issue, and I’ve just got as far as tracing the pieces. It took most of Saturday afternoon but that’s ok because I had an empty house save Phryne Fisher and Jack Robinson to keep me company!

Burda blazer pattern trace

 

The tracing took longer than usual not just because of all the pieces but because I was aware of how easy it would be to miss a notch or a mark of instruction. So I was like a detective myself, scanning the spaghetti lines with eagle eyes! I want this jacket to work so I need to make sure every detail is attended to. It didn’t help that the red lines on the pattern sheet I was following clashed with the red pattern pieces of the featured ladies blouse. This could wind up a very interesting hybrid ‘blouzer’, but let’s hope not!

For anyone who’s daunted by the tracing of Burda patterns – and let’s face it, that’s most of us – the following might be of help:

Top tips for tracing Burda patterns

  • Work on a large clean flat area
  • Use pattern weights or similar to hold your papers in place as you trace
  • Refer to the Pattern Overview to ensure you capture every notch, seam number, slit mark and grainline arrow
  • Tick off each piece in the list as you go
Burda pattern overview
Pattern Overview and Cutting Out list
  • Label all of your pieces with Model No., size and piece description / number
  • Remember seam allowances are not included so write that clearly on your pattern pieces too OR add them to your pieces and mark that they are included*
  • Photocopy the image to file with your pattern envelope if storing separately

*I will be making size adjustments to the pattern so I have left the seam allowance off. It’s way easier to play around with minus SA. And then I will either add it at the end or mark it directly onto the fabric when the pattern is pinned on.

Incidentally, the fabric we’ve decided on is a gorgeous traditional boating stripe from Yorkshire Fabrics. 100% wool, made in England which raises a little smile every time I see that selvedge! Doesn’t come cheap so I’ve wrapped it up like a precious swaddled baby and put it away for safe keeping until the calico version is made good. No chances being taken here!

boating stripe fabric

I really am in the slow lane here but there is a distinct advantage to this. Have you seen how MaleDevonSewing is steaming ahead with his amazing tailoring skills? For anyone else who is pootling along like me, he has posted some cool construction photos and instructions. Most of which I’ve never heard of. All of which I will be employing!

Di Kendall has shared the progress of the lovely striped blazer on her blog and it’s great to see lots more activity from other participants of #Blazerof2016 on Twitter too. Keep posting your progress… I need all the help I can get!! 😉

Burda cap-sleeve top and a bit of a whinge-up!

burda style cap sleeve top

Once in a while a sewing project is sent to try us. This particular little smart-arse of a sewing project first lured me from the glossy pages of Burda Style around this time 3 years ago. It presented a cool, stylish-looking basic that could rock any skirt, shorts or pair of strides. Edgy with its contrasting shiny sleeve caps, close-fitting for sleekness of style and a raised neckline for a fierce, designer don’t mess with me touch. I should have got that message first time round really!

My self-imposed rule not to impart cash for cheaply made RTW clothes has been obeyed for a good few years now. And I’d say it’s largely been very easy and fun and rewarding. But to summon up the motivation to make what is fundamentally a basic black staple is much harder than making a pretty dress. That’s way more fun.

I cannot even begin to recount the hours spent on this tiny little top. It was definitely a test of patience. Largely because I didn’t do a muslin so no surprises really.

I decided to stick to the suggested fabric which was crepe satin – luckily there was little needed because this fabric didn’t come cheap either. Read on if you can really bear to listen to my gripes!

burda style 2012 cap sleeve top

First gripe: crepe satin. I will think twice before sewing those stupid shiny sides together in a hurry. They move! But having said that, lucky the shiny sides were inside because they also catch on just about anything that is vaguely rough. Like hands, unfiled nails, pins etc etc. It also frays. And so every seam, every edge had to be overlocked. Do not even attempt this top, in this fabric if you don’t have sufficient means to finish every single edge. And OMG, static alert! I tried this top on at least 10 times to check fit and shape of sleeve etc and the electricity ran at least 240v from root to tip of hair. This firmly remains one of it’s unforgiving factors!

The bust darts are way too low for me. I know, I know, I didn’t toile!

There are two zips involved in this top, or else you’d never get it on. One from the neck edge down the top of the left sleeve. And another under the left arm and down to the hem. Fine in principle, definitely not fine if you want two matching shaped sleeves! I bought a couple of quality invisible zippers from Dalston Mill. I remember thinking at the time that I should perhaps invest in more quality notions. I usually get them from Shepherds Bush market for a snip of the price. But it wasn’t such a good call ater all. Sadly the teeth were metal and so the zips less flexible coupled with the instructions to end the zipper a couple of inches from the hem, I ended up with one sleeve fit for a Gary Glitter tribute and another as a deflated floppy thing. Zipper aside, at that point I realised the sleeves were far too roomy in any case. They seemed to fit snugly on the model which is confusing given my substantial arm girth. So I removed said sleeve zipper and shaved a bit off each of the top sleeve seams to ‘smallen’ the sleeve cap.

Removing the zipper was a mare. Black on black, mostly with a crap lightbulb overhead and from hostile fabric that was just goading me to be snagged.

I put a new cheapo lightweight zipper in but made it run from top to bottom this time. Better but still not brilliant. Plus it took 2 goes to insert. Don’t ask! In hindsight I should have sewed another just to the seam allowance on the wrong side of the opposite sleeve to match the shape better. I may still do this.

The sleeve hems are hand sewn. Catching 1 of those damned threads at a time so it doesn’t make a mess of the right side. And the underarm seams are finished with a self made bias strip, hand sewn to the inside also. Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey!

So then there was the neck facing. Could well have been me but I’m totally blaming those Burda-style translations. I have such a problem with visualising even the simplest written instructions. Give me pictures every time. So after the umpteenth read, I gave up trying to understand and went ahead governed by my own hunches! They were rubbish hunches and I ended up sewing the bottom bit of the facing to the shoulder/top sleeve seam. What is wrong with me? I was all twisted and distorted and I was convinced the facing was the wrong shape!

A right proper meltdown ensued. Foot on the pedal-bin pedal, lid raised, dangled over the sprout peelings and prosecco foils, the whole thing was about to meet its demise!

Saved by a flash of possibility. I spared the wretched thing and spread it inside out on the ironing board to instantly see the issue: The lower end of the facing was meant to be sewn around the armhole… of course!!

cap sleeve top back view

More unpicking. More hand sewing. It worked. Kind of. But even though I’d used a stretch interfacing (My own recommendation, not Burda’s) it doesn’t behave the same as the outer and there is still an element of ‘pull’.

Although the sleeves are too big, the body is a touch too small. I clearly overestimated the stretch in this fabric and underestimated the difference in a petite sizing, which this pattern was. I might possibly get away with it in a dark room with a jacket on!

 

The hours involved to create something that is at best a black top, have completely taken me by surprise. I seriously could have whipped up a whole dress in as much time!

If I did it again, I’d go up a size and definitely redraft the sleeves.

I’m glad I didn’t give in though and I’m glad I found a way to solve the main issues. I hate being defeated at anything. I don’t often work with fine fabrics and clearly this is something I need more practice in next year. But for now I’m rifling though some good old fashioned vintage dress patterns where suiting and furnishing fabrics are my favourite friends. Onwards and upwards!

Happy New Years Eve, my wonderful readers. Wishing you all a healthy, productive and successful 2016.
With lots of love thrown in for good measure

Janene xxx

Curtain call for the Martini!

capital chic martini front

Sadly this is my first and very likely my last post of December. But I’m not going to duff myself up because… it’s Chriiiiiissssstmaaaaasssss!

Just one more day of work to go. I repeat, just one more day day of work. Excited? Me? Yes siree. But also determined to hold that wonderful thought and not to get stressed out that I’ve not yet scratched the surface of my shopping list nor yet contemplated what is to appear on the Christmas dinner table!

But let’s get priorities in order. Let’s blog this latest outfit of mine. This two-piece garment of brilliance that’s been so patiently waiting in my inbox! It’s the Martini pattern by the very cool and talented Sally of Capital Chic. I’ve been a fan of her amazing Charity Shop Chic refashions for like aaaages so when she asked if I’d be interested in trying out one of her new patterns I was flattered beyond belief. It just took me a hundred years to get round to finding the absolute perfect fabric to do it justice!

So just how delighted do you think I was to find this amazing set of vintage bark cloth curtains with ‘Martini’ written all over them!!

vintage bark cloth curtains

They were peeking out behind a rail of really naff shiny peachy curtains in Snoopers Paradise, Brighton. I’d almost given up hope of finding any vintage fabric at all. And as I gave one last despairing glance backwards, there they were, glowing, calling me. I literally ran back like a crazy woman, in case anyone else spotted them before me and whipped them out like my life depended on them. Nostalgia screamed from every thread. I’m pretty damned sure we had these curtains in our living room when I was a kid!

Here’s a little intro to Snoopers Paradise if you haven’t had the pleasure…

I think I might possibly be a professional snooper!

And oh the beautiful irony that this pair of the coolest curtains were to be refashioned into a Capital Chic outfit designed by the queen of charity shop chic, herself!

And so they became my Martini. Why oh why isn’t bark cloth made any more? It sews like a dream, it doesn’t crease, it presses beautifully, it has body and holds its shape, and washes like a dream. I think I am actually in love with this fabric. The colour too, actually. I knew I loved it, lairy as it was, but I’ve had at least three random people comment on how ‘very me’ this lime green is. And there’s me thinking I’m all red and black!!

This is probably my most impressive invisible zip insertion to date. Once again, Thank you for all the advice on my invisible foot purchase. How ever did I manage without it?! The zip totally sinks into the centre seam of the back skirt. And the top has a separating zip. I so love that there’s always something new to learn about sewing. This is the first time I’ve ever had to shop for one of these, let alone sew one on a garment!

capital chic martini close up back

The construction of this two-piece is very simple if you pay attention to every word of the carefully presented instructions. I say this only because I’m definitely one for skipping an instruction or two and thinking I know better. But Sally knows her onions and her technique for sewing an all in one lined bodice is genius, as is her explanation on how to line a vent in the back of a skirt.

The waist is high on the skirt as you can see and is supported by bones sewn to the darts and the seams in the lining (which makes for six). But if I had to add one thing to those instructions, it would be to file those bones more roundy at the top, because boy do they dig in if you don’t sit up straight or lean over without hoiking up your skirt!

Also, The top worked out surprisingly short. Totally my fault for not toilling and so I defo need to add an inch or two next time. I’m no spring chicken and I’m not sure that the world needs to be exposed to any amount of my midriff so I sewed an inch of ‘modesty lace’ to the hem. That said I’m still horrified by the amount of skin that still shows. I’m hoping that this is because the lens was low!

capital chic martini front

I love the cutaway armholes in the top. Even if they do highlight the squidgy bits of my arms. But I will go a size up next time to lessen the squeeze. The beauty of this two-piece design is that you can have a totally separate size top to bottom. Which is what I am. You could also add a contrasting colour top to bottom as Thumbelnina did. and if you were really clever you’d make two or three sets that you could mix and match!

Watch out crazy curtains…. I’m on a mission and I’m coming after ya, big time!

capital chic martini back

A good cause and some odd fabric

manson dress in progress

I’m sure, by now you must have heard about Karen’s (Didyoumakethat) Made Up Initiative, a brilliant scheme to fundraise for the National Literacy Trust. And by the looks of it, heaps of you have signed up already: 114 donations to date and £1,224 so far.

As much as I’d like to partake, sewing challenges, blog hops and other sewing teasers don’t get much of a presence on my pages, mostly because of time restraints but also because I just like to do my own thing in my own time. I’ve got deadlines coming out of my ears on a daily basis and to self-inflict any more would be ridic!

But, and this is a big BUT for sure… this challenge is different. It relates to a industry where I am strongly connected and brings both work and personal pleasures together. I can’t bear the thought that children be deprived of such a basic life skill especially in this country. Access to books and help with reading should be a given, not just for the privileged. The National Literacy Trust helps to make this happen, all the while inspiring and motivating children to read for enjoyment by engaging them in fun and exciting workshops.

So what have I pledged? It’s an odd one. Not one of my run of the mill vintage makes, not a boring pencil skirt for sure; no quilt block (even though the last one I made was in January!), no funny hats and I need a little recovery time from the Boer War jacket already…

It’s a new dress for me to wear to a Marylin Manson gig coming up in November! And there’s a few birds being killed with this Made Up stone!

I’m working with this very odd fabric. It’s a hundred percent synthetic, don’t you know. With a bit of elastine thrown in for good measure. Kind of pleated with splashes of silver paint thrown all over it. No prissy prints for Marylin, oh no! I found it in A-One Fabrics at least four or five months ago and have always wondered what I could do with it. Little Miss O has presented me ‘that’ screwed up face and steered me with a ‘walk away from the goth fabric’ grab of the arm each and every time. But I literally went running back to the shop when I found this damned good reason for it.

The pattern? Drum roll… It’s a Burda pattern at long bleedin’ last. From Burda Style March 2015. I’ve been longing to work with another Burda pattern. The only draw back is the pain of tracing the wretched thing but when I think about it, I trace to preserve most of my vintage ones, so it’s no different really. If you can get over the spaghetti junction of other lines set to confuse you!

It will look kinda like this but with no sleeves…

burda maxidress 03 2015

I’ve made a wee start. And already realised that I’d overlooked the pain in the backside bit which is the matching of the ribbons. This is the back centre seam. Not done very well!

centre back seam

I hope to make some headway today. It looks like a doddle but I’m not going to count my chickens just yet!

Has the Made Up Initiative inspired you to make something new?

Sewing Bloggers and Gaultier – The Perfect Rescue Remedy!

Anyone else bumbling through the school holidays? I’m quite exhausted to be honest. Don’t get me wrong. It’s lovely to see more of the children but trying to work full time and juggle child-share has had me a bit frayed around the edges this year. No holiday plans has meant no proper stretch of time off and though I’m quite used to that, I’m really not used to being so knacked that I don’t have head space to sew or even think about what I want to sew. Robbed of inspiration, I was. Until this weekend that is!

I’d almost clean forgotten that Roisin had planted a seed to go to the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican on Saturday. So following a Tweeted nudge, I booked that there ticket along with a voucher for a cocktail. Well, it would have been rude not to!

The day began with an assembly and fashion parade of beautiful sewists at Goldhawk Road, of course. Emmie, Roisin, Amy, Marie, Katie, Jen and a lovely chance, fancy-seeing-you-here type meeting with Alana too! I usually arrive with a handbag and a relative amount of restraint when it comes to shopping in the Goldhawk Road. I live so near and my stash is so ridiculous that I can only justify purchases for immediate plans. And I actually have some of those, now, funnily enough.

Last week, Anne from Mercury Handmade so very sweetly sent me the August issue of Burda Style magazine which I tried so hard to get hold of and failed miserably. WHSmiths could offer no reason why they just weren’t delivered and then just when I’d given up Anne Tweeted that she had a spare and would I like one? What an absolute Angel! of course I would! And If that wasn’t enough she’d enclosed two gorgeous vintage patterns for me as a surprise. She is such a kind and generous lady and spookily knows exactly what I love.

vintage patterns tops

So I bought some fabric. I’m thinking the red leopard print and or the lighthouses for the wrap blouse. I’ll need something more drapey for the tie blouse. Oh, and I bought some shoe fabric, just because!!

fabric for blouse

The next three hours sped by and then we were en route to the Barbican for some divine inspiration!

We were greeted at the entrance by some iconic breton stripes and some freaky blinking mannequins! The live expressions were projected onto the faces of the otherwise static dummies. Quite distracting at first as we were more focussed on the faces than the garments. You get the idea from the pic below:

blinking mannequins

 

Gaulier crop top

But not for long. The outrageousness of the designs increased and the freaky faces paled into insignificance!

gaultier dogtooth allover

I shamefully realised how little I knew about this incredible man.

He was self-taught and got his foot in the fashion door by sending some of his sketches to Pierre Cardin. (Best I invest in a new Fashionary book!!) This exhibition starred 165 of his amazing garments spanning 40 years of his work

His very own first collection was released in 1976 and soon earned him the title ‘enfant terrible’ of French fashion. Street fashion was dominant throughout but the couture pieces were nonetheless exquisite and edgy at the same time.

I still have no idea why the man-skirt never took off. Teamed with some serious boots and those iconic stripes of course. Such a great look and one I’d be happy to wear today too!

Gaultier kilt

Of course there was a fine selection of construction corsetry and some incredible leather cage designs that I would so love to replicate if I even knew where to start!

Gaultier leather cage

I just love the shape of this coat and I marvelled at the gazillion green feathers that incidentally look as though they were hot-glued to the lining. Kind of puts the couture classification into question, don’t ya think? Or is that allowed?

Gaultier feathered coat

And check out this ‘pinstripe’ dress, which on closer inspection transpires to have thousands of mother of pearl buttons sandwiched in between pleats and encrusting the cuffs!

Gaultier mother pearl button dress

Gaultier button cuffs

I love a bit of contradiction. A spot of rule breaking. Rebellion even! A bit Like here where recycled camo is patchworked to a ball gown, complete with fishtail and adorned with dripping glass beads. Perfect.

Gaultier camo ballgown

And a clash of the tartans. Proper rule breaking. Love it!

gaultier tartan clash

But my favourite piece which has stuck in my head and clearly wont leave until I blatantly copy it, is the yellow tartan jacket with its wonderful sculpted lampshade silhouette. I was so desperate to touch but just knew I’d set of an alarm so I gently encouraged Roisin to stick her head up and see what was going on. She kindly obliged but alas the lining hid all!

gaultier yellow tartan jacketWe loved the pan-scourer/tin-can jewellery. And a further use for all your perfume packaging! There was even a shiny tea-strainer on the belt!

Gaultier jewelery

Of course there was the famous cone corset for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour of 1990 and also the amazing nude sequinned suit modelled so beautifully by Naomi Campbell but I still haven’t learned to turn off my data roaming and so my stupid i-phone ran out of juice at the crucial exhibits!!

The exhibition reflected his genius talent and humour at the same time without dropping an ounce of style. Though humour was evident by his starring role in 90’s Eurotrash. I loved that!

Two floors and 165 garments examined and discussed, we made way to the Gin Joint. Yes that’s right. A bar purely dedicated to gin. In the same building, with a great view and a menu of gins longer than both my arms! We had time to kill, you see. At least half an hour before the Gaultier Bar opened and where our cocktail voucher was valid. But there were no complaints. Just lots of ooos and arrs and a table full of pretty coloured gins! So enamoured by this place, that we came straight back for more after our cocktail, for truffle mac cheese… and another gin, bien sûr!

And it can’t go unmentioned that I now have taken ownership of the best loyalty card evs!!

Gin Joint Loyalty card

Alas the last day for John Paul Gaultier at the London Barbican is today, 25th August so if you are London-based and not shaking your tail feathers at Notting Hill Carnival, I advise it as the best place to keep out of the rain today . I’m just so grateful for Roisin for giving us the heads up in time and organising such a wonderful day which has totally inspired me to get back on that sewing horse and do what I love most. Thank you lovely lady. Thank you Anne and thanks to all you gorgeous sewing bloggers who make me tick!!

1939 Vintage Simplicity Dress

vintage 1939 dress

It’s been a while since I sewed a proper vintage dress and when I spied 5 gorgeous yards of pretty blue and white print fabric in a charity shop for a fiver, it was a sure sign to unwrap one of my favourite patterns. I bought the fabric thinking that if I screwed up, a fiver was worth the risk. But actually I loved the fabric so much I used some other polycotton, from stash mountain, to rehearse a toile for the bodice first.

Very few alterations were needed. I did a slight FBA to add a bit of shape and added an extra inch to the waistline. I think it fair to say that I manage to pack away a few more calories than those svelte 30s women!

simplicity 3302 pattern pieces

The pattern is a vintage original from 1939: Simplicity 3302. And the condition of the pieces was impeccable. Factory folded and clean. Such an honour to be working with such precious pieces that are 75 years old!

The most surprising thing about this dress is that it takes 5 yards of fabric. At 35 inches wide that is. But it really doesn’t look that extravagant. I’m used to 50s style dresses taking up miles of fabric but the skirt section of this one isn’t even a full circle!

vintage dress simplicity 3302

I kept to the instructions, like the good GTS I am, and I created a neck facing instead of lining. I also decided against overlocking the seams. It somehow seemed wrong! The fabric behaved beautifully and frayed very little so I opted for a spot of pinking! Feels far more authentic and it pressed beautifully flat.

I’m not totally sure what the fabric content is. But on doing a burn test, I was left with a very silky white dust. So the consensus is that it is 100% natural fibre and top notch quality I reckon! It has quite a good drape going on and doesn’t crease too much either which makes me wonder if it is cotton or not. I made a decision not to line it. Mostly because of the gorgeously warm weather we’ve been experiencing but also because it always seems a bit mad to line a natural fabric with a synthetic lining. And I wasn’t about to splash out on silk!

sitting pretty in vintage dress

Having said that. I did use a silk organza for the sleeve stiffeners. You didn’t think those puffs stick out like that, unaided did you?! Quite a clever little trick that involves a circular piece of fabric like tafetta or flannel or organza, folded in half and sewn to the sleeve head before the gathering is done.

silk organza sleeve stiffener

vintage_1939_dress_sleeve_headIt looks a bit comical until you press the seam onto the sleeve and not onto the bodice which I did at first. Didn’t get a shot of that but the look on Dan’s face was priceless!

There is also an inverted pleat that is topstitched at the hem of the sleeve. So neat.

pleat on sleeve

I’d like to say it all went swimmingly but I made quite a big boo boo when I inadvertently cut the back as two pieces and not on the fold. Very easily done when patterns of that era are unprinted, but, regardless, I needed a quick solution as it would have come up too small once I’d seamed it and also, I didn’t have a large enough leftover piece to cut another back piece. Quite a big issue when you get your hands on a unique piece of fabric from a charity shop. It’s not like you can go back and bag another metre!

So… This is a bit bodgie… I made an inch wide length of bias tape from a 2 inch strip that I’d rescued from the selvedge, using my trusty Simplicity Bias Tape Maker Machine. And with half inch seam allowance I sewed it on each centre seam of the back. That effectively joined the back pieces together where they would have sat had there had been a fold!

Luckily the seams are disguised by the busy print so I think I got away with it!

back of vintage 1939 dress

I know my hair do isn’t strictly 1930s and the shoes are far from authentic but it needed a little bit of vintage styling to pull it off. Especially as youngest dort decided it was ‘lovely but very 80s!!’

vintage simplicity 3302 dress

I love the sweetheart neckline. So discreet and so pretty. It doesn’t have any added interfacing so I’m surprised it holds so well. I did clip into those curves good and proper though!

vintage sweetheart necklineI wrestled a bit with the zip. I knew I didn’t want an invisible zip. That seemed a bit wrong too so I opted for a lapped style zip insert. But could I get my head around it… No I bloomin’ couldn’t! I can do it with my eyes closed in the back of a pencil skirt but for some reason I just couldn’t pull it off. So I went for a straightforward zip insertion whereby I basted the seam shut, centred the zip and sewed to seam allowance. I did however prick stitch close to the teeth on the right side.

side zipper

I reluctantly wore my new dress a to a party on Sunday. I didn’t know any of the guests and was a bit worried I’d stick out like a sore thumb (in my 80s dress…. thanks dort!). But my assumptions were way off. Such wonderful food and great music and the most amazing people. My ‘wallflower status’ was upheld!

candy from Black Dwarf Designs
With Candy from Black Dwarf Designs

Oh and hats off to my wonderful fella, Daniel Selway who took the photos and who now finally has a site to host his pictures. Right here, in fact!

 

Camping it up in a Burda Maxi

Burdastyle Maxi DressThis is the Burdastyle Maxi dress from May 2014 issue and it literally took an evening to trace and make, plus a morning to finish seams and hem.

I love the gathered front loop detail created by some clever drafting and a drawstring. The straps are a lovely and incredibly practical feature too. Each strap is folded in half and the fold is attached in position to the front bodice. This creates a double strap which separates over the shoulder where the visual is 4 spaghetti straps at the back. No irritating slips off the shoulder. No embarassing wardrobe malfunctions!

And I have to mention the fabric. I went in asking for linen lawn. I knew it was a bit of an ask and I’d anticipated the screwed-up-face response that I got in each and every shop. I even predicted the suggestion of cotton lawn instead. No, no, no. Burdastyle definitely stated linen lawn. Kind of a contradiction of terms really, so I’m wondering if its a translation thing. Anyone know?

So with no linen lawn and an urgency to make this dress before I went away, I asked if they had anything soft and drapey. No not polyester. Eewww sweaty! Though to be fair it was very soft and drapey. No not cotton. It’s not nearly drapey enough. Too crispy and neat. Apart from the lawn, possibly. But oh the creasing. I was tempted by tangerine muslin. Really tempted. But I’d have to have lined it for modesty purposes and I really couldn’t be arsed. I was about to give up when the viscose was presented as an option. Only in black or white but also only £4.99, with all the softness and drapeyness I could ask for. Bargain! Done!

And what a joy to work with. I took my time to cut it out because it did move around a bit on the table. especially when I was cutting on the bias. It has got a little natural stretch to it. But to be fair. It is drapey, black and relatively casual so no glaring errors are going to cause a stir here.

I made it a couple of weeks ago when I last went camping so this was it’s second trip out into the wilds of West Sussex!

So there I was, minding my own business, floating around the campfire in my new maxi dress, relishing the soft swishes of viscose around my ankles with stars in the sky and Mr O at my feet. Doesn’t really get much better than this . . .

. . . then this happened . . .

Burda Maxi Dress photobombed

Right on cue!

It’s a small miracle I got the first picture sans bombing to be honest!

I was going to leave out the in-seam pockets to hurry the process. I never really got the excitement when other people go on about pockets. But I’m glad I did and boy do I understand now! Torch and lighter in one, cash and phone in the other. Look, no bag!

And who wants serious posy photos any hoos?!

Burdastyle Maxi dress photobombed

You get to see how the straps separate at the back in the picture above. Clever, no?

You can also get an idea of how the elastic at the waist cinches the bodice in to create a much more flattering silhouette than it would have done otherwise!

You must also be feeling my delight at the depth of my in-seam pockets!

The bombing barrage came from nowhere. Actually it came from all angles. Sabotaged good and proper by a gang of onesie-clad cheeky girls!

Photobombed by onesie girls

The absolute cheek of it!

photobombed by the girls

Hang on a minute. Remind me whose shoot this was?

There was only one thing for it . . .

Maxi dress bombs the children

Seriously ladies, this dress is great for camping. It’s great for slinking down the shops too. And methinks in a drapey sandwashed silk it would be super sexy and glamourous, no?!

If you don’t have May’s Burdastyle mag then here’s a link to where you can download a pdf pattern.

And for anyone who is keen to know more about the delights of viscose, here is a fine clarification of the making process and its properties.

Hope you all had fun sewing times this weekend. Or maybe you were out camping it up too?