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!!

 

Mini Stanley Pyjamas

Mini stanley pyjamas

Little Miss Ooobop has been hassling me for a pair of PJs for so long, bless her. So yesterday, we set off for the Goldhawk Road to track down the very specific ‘cats and dogs’ fabric that she wanted. But of course, the shops were shut. It was New Years Day, after all! In order to relieve the disappointment (me more than her), we drove off, instead, to get a burger and watch a movie!

Now as luck would have it, for all that was closed in Chiswick High Road, Cath Kidston was open! Like some shining apparition amidst the rainy gloom! And there was a sale on. So we duly picked out some Mini Stanley fabric. No cats but very cute dogs!

Cath Kidston mini stanley pjs by the window

I used this vintage Maudella pattern. It’s not dated but could be 1950s if not 1960s. What would you say?

maudella_3162

I’m still working on convincing LMO to have the matching top to the bottoms but I don’t think a 9 year old can see past the ‘fogey’ images on the pattern sleeve!

I dutifully traced the one pattern piece. This is something I make a habit of nowadays. Just purely out of the respect for a tissue pattern piece that has happily existed for between 50-70 years. I don’t want to be the one who destroys that amount of history!

So including the careful ironing of the pieces, the tracing, the cutting, the making and the finishing touches, it took all of 2 hours. This is largely down to the magic of my new, though very old, overlocker, which was so generously bestowed upon me just before Christmas. I didn’t realise what the implications of having one were, until all the seams were serged and the hem edges neatly finished in a jiffy!

detail of overlocked seams

I am still going to have to work on the fine tunings of the tensions but it will so totally do me for now!

reading a book in mini stanley pjs

LMO has spent the rest of the afternoon in her new PJs and I’m delighted to have completed my first project on just day 2 of the New Year. Here’s hoping its the first of many more projects to come.

jumping in mini stanley pjs

Happy New Year lovely people x

Photography by DJ Photographic

Fabrics that fashioned a band

For someone who has lived, worked and partied with musicians since a very early age, it’s shocking how little I used to listen to the radio. But, thankfully, my new found obsessionial love of sewing has sparked a renewed love of radio, in particular BBC Radio 6! A great all round, varied, genius playlist even though it does draw attention to my short term memory! Such brilliant company at night when everyone’s in bed and it’s just me and the the hum of the machine. And by day at work when I’ve got my designer head on, but sshhh not too loud though, some people can’t hear themselves think! ;-).

Many a planted seed, conversation, memory, argument and debate has been triggered just from the intro of a song that was from the 70s, 80s, or 90s… or even last week…. have you heard David Bowies new single? ♥

Anyhows, one such seed that got firmly planted was the realization of how many bands were named as types of fabric!

So here you go, in no particular order:

1. The Chiffons (A lovely one to have stuck in your head)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfxx3scAKS8]

2. Suede (Oh yes!)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNPA68htGxk]

3. Corduroy (Remember these?)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ophw7rvZcyc]

4. Black Lace (sorry!)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqJVR6zz3lk]

5. Velvet Revolver (woken up yet?)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKz2U4fvA4U]

6. Velvet Underground (Another velvet, sorry cheating a bit!)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hugY9CwhfzE]

7. Psychedelic Furs (I won cinema tickets to see the movie from a radio phone in!)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c08vQ-vUhWI]

8. Billy Cotton and His Band (I used to work in the road behind the Lambeth Walk!)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOMro8HCxgY&w=560&h=315]

9. The Swinging Blue Jeans (Well kind of Denim!)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k701n6zQpyM&w=420&h=315]

10. Elastica (Forgot how much I like this!)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilKcXIFi-Rc&w=420&h=315]

I feel sure I’ve missed one or two. Can you think of any I shouldn’t have missed?

Happy Thursday everyone! x