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!!

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!!

 

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!

 

A quilted mini skirt

quilted skirt front

This skirt wasn’t on a list. Moreover it jumped to the top of the queue once I’d seen the fabric and decided I had to have a quilted skirt. I knew too that it would be a perfect pairing for my Sarah Shirt that I tested for By Hand London.

When I stumbled across the quilty roll of fabulousness in A-One, Goldhawk Road,  I had a flashback to some seriously stored inspiration: I fell in love with Marie’s quilted pleather skirt 2 years ago and clearly it didn’t leave my head. But I also saw Paloma Faith sporting a pink pvc quilted skirt on The Voice a couple of weeks ago (can’t find visual ref, sorry) which clearly gave a nudge to dislodge to said stored inspiration.

quilted mini skirt back

It’s not A-line, like Marie’s or Paloma’s though it would have been good to eliminate the darts. I figured that Sarah needed to do all the hollering and she needed a small straight skirt to wear underneath. It probably could have been more understated but I wasn’t up for sewing something so boring!

I used an existing self-drafted skirt pattern and shortened it. The poomfy fabric is totally unsuitable for a waistband so I faced it with some leftover heavyweight polyester satin. No interfacing needed. In fact no more bulk whatsoever needed! I did understitch and pressed with a cloth on a low heat but with all my might to get the waist seam vaguely flat!

quilted mini skirt facing

I haven’t lined it yet. Still pondering whether to or not. There are no messy edges inside, the quilty fabric doesn’t fray, but it does rustle when I walk! Might be a bit irritating for my work colleagues when I trot back and forth to the kitchen to make a cuppa. Will road-test it next week and test for ‘tuts’!

No fancy shoot this week (save the glimpses of it on the Sarah Shirt post). Mr O is away gigging with The Redfords, at a wedding fair, and I’m desperately trying to save some time so that I can get on with his #Blazerof2016 blazer toile!

So please forgive me as I bugger off to defluff the table and get cutting into that calico.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, all x

 

BHL Sarah Shirt in cotton silk

BHL Sarah Shirt

This is By Hand London‘s latest lady, Sarah. Released just last week. A classy swingy shirt to interpret any way you fancy. She’s a dress up or down kinda girl with gorgeous sleeves so I snatched that offer of pattern-testing and got straight on it.

The sleeves are what I love most about this shirt. Nicely full but not so much that they’d trail in your soup. And with a subtle puff on the shoulder, it makes for a great shape. But there’s an alternative short sleeve design with a cuffed hem, if you’d prefer.

BHL Sarah Shirt sleeves

The Peter Pan collar has a roundy and a pointy option too. I went for sharp corners because, well, that’s just the way I was rolling that day. But the roundy collar looks just as good on all the others I’ve seen.

Sarah Shirt collar

Sarah calls for a light to medium weight fabric and I do believe I hit the nail on the head with this black cotton silk. I’ll never get away with not ironing it but it doesn’t crease to madly, even when I’ve left it on ‘one of the piles’. Of course that meant French seams all the way, but that’s ok because it looks dead neat inside and out. the only seams I had to trim and serge were the armholes. The yoke is designed in such a way that it encloses all seams too and with some tiny hand-stitchery to the undercollar, it’s beautifully neat all round. Note that I chickened out of any top-stitching, though!

BHL Sarah Shirt

I used poppers/press-studs for the cuffs though I was very tempted to extend the cuff beyond the sleeve end to make for faux cufflinks or maybe even real ones. There’s always a next time!

BHL Sarah Shirt cuffs

Theres a lot of button holes to sew down the front placket. Instructions call for 10-15 and mine has 12. But they are necessary to get that neat flat finish. My buttonhole action decided to wreak havoc and I ended up having to redo 2 of them. One for bad positioning and one that was just an oversewn mess. Out came a brand new scalpel blade. I wasn’t going to loose a fight over a final detail. Took a lot of patience to unpick but successfully managed to create new ones and dead chuffed I was about that too!

BHL Sarah Shirt

I love the pleats on the front yokes and at the centre back but I was quite surprised at how much swing was involved. It’s not normally a silhouette that I’d go for. I’m usually a ‘tucker-in’ of blouses, but once I saw how it looked, when I wore it loose for the photos I really liked it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that!

Sarah Shirt back view

This isn’t a quick one to run up. But it’s none too taxing either. I’d say the only difficulty with this pattern lies with however challenging your fabric is. Mine required a bit of careful handling and I imagine chiffon or the likes would need a bit of a talking to but a more stable cotton would have been much easier and quicker to work with, I think.

If, like me, you’re sold on Sarah, she’s up for grabs over at By Hand London.

 

Photography: Daniel Selway
Shirt: BHL Sarah
Skirt: handmade (yet to be blogged)
Tights: M&S (I think!)
Boots: Irregular Choice
Handbag: Fara charity shop, Ealing
Sunglasses: Retro Peepers

Vintage Simplicity 7527 and a fond farewell

simplicity 7527 1968 dress Bowie

That news announcement on Monday 11th January 2016 marked the beginning of another very sad week and another goodbye I totally wasn’t prepared for. My first true love, my ‘confidant’, my constant, my hero… my David Bowie.

I’ve always felt alone with my passion for this man but these last few days have seen everyone on my feed, saddened and some devastated as me. Just one of my friends dared to mock the fan hysteria with sarcasm but I’ve resisted the urge to argue and instead, silently felt sorry for him- (who-shall-not-be-named) in that he clearly didn’t experience the love as much as we all did.

David Bowie memorial Brixton

Since 13 years old, when I was accused of being a ‘weirdo’, not fitting into any of the usual cliques, I’ve hung onto his every word – after all, precious few wrote a song called Janine (He wasn’t very good at spelling ;-)) – I loved the fashions, going to most of his gigs: on shoulders of strangers, right at the front on the Serious Moonlight Tour 1983; watching him descend from the underbelly of a Glass Spider in 1987; and we even touched, albeit fingertips, at the Hanover Grand, 1997 when I won a pair of tickets from Capital Radio! I even went to the loo in his dressing room at the Royal Festival Hall 2002. Long story! There were others. And his inspiration is untold. But we never actually met. Something I was holding out for. But actually I’m not sure I could have kept my cool so it’s probably for the best that we didn’t.

simplicity 7527 1968 brixton

So when Mr O suggested Brixton, his birthplace, as a venue for my latest dress shoot it wasn’t questioned. Seemed wrong to pose in front of the memorial so we wandered off to the Village Market. Colder than a polar bear’s toes, it was. So we warmed up on some buckwheat galettes at Senzala Creperie. They were amazing – staff and food!

simplicity 7527 1968 dress

The dress is a vintage Simplicity pattern, no. 7527 from 1968. Another happy Ebay win about a year ago, if I remember rightly. It has been designed for wovens but I figured it would work just as well in a stretch jersey.

simplicity 7527 sewing pattern

Incidentally, this stretch jersey is black with red flecks and allegedly ex-Hobbs. I got it from Dalston Mill Fabrics in the Ridley Road Market, not really knowing then what it was going to be. But it was always going to be something!

simplicity 7527 1968 dress

I’m not sure of the content. But it is very, very stretchy and quite weighty. A burn test revealed a minute quantity of something natural, so I’m guessing a viscose blend as it does have a lovely smooth feel about it.

vintage simplicity 7527 1968 dress

I expected it to come up big, not only because the pattern size was bigger than my usual but because stretch fabric, well… it stretches! There was rather a lot to come off. Five inches to be precise, so I took it, rather dodgily from the sides and a little bit from the centre front and back seams. This is usually totally inadvisable but I was in a hurry and hey, it kinda worked! Wrists dutifully slapped, I’ve since noted how to grade it down properly  and will make another with proper adjustments next time.

vintage simplicity 7527 1968 dress

The best thing about making it in a stretch jersey is that it doesn’t need a closure. I made sure that the turtleneck did fit over my head before I sewed it for real. I tacked the whole thing with a long straight stitch before sewing with a shallow zigzag stitch on my ordinary machine, much the same as I did on my Agnes top. And then I finished the seams on my 3-thread overlocker.

vintage simplicity 7527 dress

I’m not kidding when I say this was a quick project. I cut it out on the Wednesday evening, sewed it on the Thursday evening after work, and wore it on the Friday to a funeral. Needs must when you find that you don’t own (or fit into) a single black dress! Doesn’t look really funeral appropriate in these photos but suffice to say, my goosebump-riddled arms were covered with a respectable jacket on the day.

 

Photography: Daniel Selway

Hat: Shepherds Bush Market
Shoes: Aldo 
Seamed tights: M&S

 

Agnes Rocks!

“Hey Agnes! Where’ve you been all my life?”

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

Following on from my far-from-successful Burda top, I needed a bit of a sewing massage. A project that would give me a couple of hours of soothing sewing action with the gratification of a good result guaranteed. Plus I am in desperate need of some new tops and fast! – Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top to the rescue!

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

Ordinarily I’m not sold on making plain T’s. Life is way too short. But this fancy T was just the ticket. I adore those drapey puffy sleeves and the bust-enhancing ruching to the centre front. So ‘casually chic’ if that’s even a thing!

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

I haven’t sewn this top before but I have sewn Tilly’s Mimi blouse and the Coco top, both of which sewed up and fitted without hitches so I’d have bet big bucks on this being the same. Couldn’t have been more right if I tried!

I obeyed every instruction which if I’m really honest generally makes for a smoother exercise and in any case they are so clear and easy to follow it’s effortless really. I sewed the whole thing with a zigzag stitch on an ordinary sewing machine, as suggested. But I finished the seams on my overlocker. I only have a vintage, 3-thread kind which doesn’t stitch, just finishes, but it does the job beautifully.

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

The only bit I foresaw repeating a couple of times, was the neckband. But to my surprise it went on like a dream. Tilly has completely allowed for the right amount of stretch so that it doesn’t go all baggy. Though in fairness that could have been down to the quality of the fabric I used – a great quality cotton stretch from one of the shops down the Goldhawk Road. And it’s black and ivory too, (instead of navy and white) which I’m delighted with.

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

But I am a bit agged by the unavoidable issue of the stitching that shows down the centre of the ruching though, owing to the stripes – sleeves and centre front. I will make a solid black one at some point which will alleviate the problem. But I am left wondering whether I should have stiched with white/ivory thread instead of black. Or would it have created the same problem in reverse?

We had such fun shooting these photos. Mr O had found this area in Waterloo, London, and thought it would create a great backdrop to an otherwise monochrome outfit. He wasn’t wrong. He seldom is. But best not to let him know that!

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

I don’t often get Mr O all to myself so after a stroll around all the little vintage shops of Lower Marsh Street, we stopped off for a delicious lunch at Bar Cubana.  I could get quite used to these kind of Wednesdays!

Photography: Daniel Selway

Top: Handmade by me – Agnes by Tilly and the Buttons
Skirt: Handmade by me – self drafted half circle
Hat: Second hand – Oxfam
Belt: H&M
Boots: Irregular Choice
Bag: Gift from my daughter – Floozie
Gloves: Gift from Mr O – Alice Hannah

 

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