I’m so happy right now. Doesn’t take much – just a shed load of sunshine, some quality time with the fam and success at last with the fit of my shift dress.
In case you’ve missed any part of me whittling on about this process, my mission has been to achieve the best fit I can using my own dress pattern with minimal seam lines – ie a darted dress with both front and back pieces cut on the fold – so as not to disturb the print of a very boldly designed fabric that I have in mind to sew next!
The fabric I used here was the best test so far because it too required careful pattern placement. You can see the first version I made here and I just realised I didn’t even get round to blogging the second so here is an actual shot, instead!
I was gifted the gorgeous batik fabric a few years back, by a lovely friend who had inherited it from her parents. When she saw it featured in my instagram post she was so happy to see it again and so pleased that it was being put to good use. I kinda felt duty bound as I remember her telling me that her parents used to travel for to Thailand and Indonesia quite a lot in the 60s and 70s for work and that they always returned with gorgeous authentic fabrics. Proper sentimental value and vintage, too!
This piece in particular is undoubtedly a hand-blocked batik. Though this is based purely on my own research and I could be wrong so please correct me if you think different.
It wasn’t very wide but I knew it would be perfect for the third trial of my shift dress, knowing I was very nearly there with the fit. I wouldn’t have risked it otherwise!
It’s such a fine quality cotton. Actually feels so natural against my skin, which is an odd thing to say but I have worn cotton before that doesn’t feel nearly as good. And it completely stood up to a stroll in 24° of Shepherds Bush sunshine today.
I was intrigued by the selvedge of this fabric. Why would it have just one edge of border decoration? I put out to the wonderful, ever obliging sewing community on Instagram and the very clever Meg from @cookinandcraftin suggested it was very likely to be used for a hemline and a centre front detail for a sarong when wrapped. I loved knowing this and was determined not to waste this detail so I set about cutting my pieces on the cross grain in order to make the best use of the design.
But I hit a snag and realised just in time that the cross grain had absolutely no give at all, and considering the style and fit, it could have been a disastrous move. So I cut on the long grain, as I have trialled twice before (if it ain’t broke and all that) and cut the border separately to seam along the hemline with a generous seam allowance which is overlocked and pressed down on the wrong side. It actually helps to add a bit of weight to the bottom of the dress too.
I made a few other tweaks to the pattern since version 2:
I widened the shoulder straps by 1cm having struggled to pull the dress through the facing during construction, as per the ‘burrito-method’! The fabric I am going to use for the next one is much thicker and I don’t want to risk damaging it or pulling out any stitches in the process.
There was still an element of pooling at the back (swayback issues as usual). And even though I added a quarter of an inch more at the hips since last time – with some improvement – it didn’t seem to solve the issue as much as I’d like.
Then, just this morning, I saw that Cortney from @s.is.for.sew on Insta detailed how she lengthened her back darts to resolve a similar issue. So I moved the bottom point of the diamond dart down 2.25″ and continued the widest part down longer before tapering off. It worked a bloody treat!
And so I do believe I’m ready to cut into that prize D&G fabric that I got from The Stitch Festival 2020 – only dilemma now being, how the hell do I choose my favourite placement of the design? I anticipate this being the longest part of the process!
Thank you as always to Daniel for these amazing shots down the alley of the Laundry Yard in Shepherds Bush, London. For anyone who knows, you’ll know what a brave move this was!
I don’t know about you but this year has been a slow starter for me. Full on with actual work but slow to get sewing, not a lot of space or energy to glean inspiration or motivation. But a trip to The Stitch Festival last week was just the ticket!
Like many others I was a bit confused by the rebrand – Previously named the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show, which was a bit of a mouthful to be honest – apparently it’s been changed to distinguish it from The Knitting and Stitching Shows later on in the year.
This year’s Stitch Festival ran from Thursday 25th until Sunday 28th February and was held at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Just a short tube ride for me but apparently easy enough for everyone I met travelling from further afield.
I went without a plan and especially planned not to buy fabric.
But with minutes of arrival, I found myself fondling some awesome vintage bark cloth fabric at stand H49: Olive Road London.
I didn’t realise it was genuine vintage at first and was about to kick off when I saw exactly the same curtain fabric I’d purchased in Brighton 5 years ago which I made into a Capital Chic Martini dress. For a split second I really thought I had mistakenly bought a modern take on a vintage fabric – that I’d been sold fake vintage! And then the lovely stall holder reassured me it was genuine and we had a good chat about how it must have been as super popular then as it is now! I wanted all her bark cloth, especially a small piece of rose print that caught my eye just as I was moving on.
Soon after I waved to Tilly on her cute little stall. Always so cute. And always so busy. It was delightful to catch up with her at her recent book launch party for Make It Simple , so I didn’t feel quite so cheated of chat!
It was impossible to avert eyes at the fabric stalls. They were many and they were all fabulous. I particularly loved how The Textile Centre displayed their fabrics, deliciously draped on hanging mannequins. And some at just £5 per metre. Such a tease. One of the few things that holds me back from buying is that I must have a plan before I go adding aimlessly to my stash. I loved that black and green wiggle-dress fabric on the corner but I was ridiculously restrained.
In fact I was so proud of my power to refrain until I chanced upon M. Rosenberg & Son‘s stall. Gets me every time. One of my favourite purchases from them was the sparkly dog-tooth I used for my vintage Butterick coat. And their powers of lure was just as strong this year. How on earth was I supposed to walk past this?!:
I didn’t of course. Just as I stopped to take a closer look, I heard my name called across the other side of the stall. I looked up and was so excited to see Dibs Maxwell who I first met very many years ago, online at Dibs and the Machine. She now sells specially selected and stunning fabric at Selvedge and Bolts. Defo worth a browse! She fought her way round to my side and we hugged a big hug! No photo sadly to display we just carried on from where we left off, chatting and laughing (always laughing) And then she made me buy the fabric!!
We wandered over to see Sew Me Sunshine and The Foldline who shared a stall together. They too were chocca with customers so we said our hellos and terra’s and went on our merry way.
I wandered a little more in search of an expanding sewing gauge. But I couldn’t find one for looking. What I did want more at this point was a little sit down and a bite to eat. The cafe area looked fab with lots of healthy and delicious options but I tend to bring my own to events like this. Basically so I can skip the queue and guarantee I will get a truly plant-based option, not one that’s had the cheese flipped out of it! I sat on the mezzanine level along with like-minded visitors, looking down on the visitors buzzing around on the various levels and planned my next move.
I noticed that John Scott (John Scott Sewing World) was about to do a talk in the next half hour so I took a seat near the front of the hall and stroked my D&G fabric while I waited. I really didn’t expect the hilarity and the fun that followed. I recognised John but I can’t say I really knew that much about him at that point. Within seconds I was in stitches hearing about his stories in the film and TV industry. He really is an amazing story teller.
I loved hearing how his signature bridal wear included beading as much on the back if not more than on the front of a wedding gown, given that most of the photo opportunities involve the back view of a bride when she is talking to her guests!
I gasped when he told of the ballgown that he made for his mother to wear to a party and that was spotted by Princess Margaret across the room. She asked who the designer was and that’s how John began making couture dresses for the Royals. Hilariously, his parents were still largely unimpressed that he was a dress designer at that point and only started coming round when they saw his name among the credits of a Bond movie. But the acceptance came when after all the big blockbuster films – like Tomb Raider, Love Actually, and Notting Hill and all the TV shows, including the Catherine Cookson epics and Poirot (whereby all the costumes were made authentically to 1920s and 1930s fashions) – he joined Richard and Judy for a slot as the resident fashion expert on This Morning and stayed for 10 years! Now his mum was truly proud and told all her friends!
Seriously I could have listened to John all day. He was so uplifting. I felt like I’d been having a chat with an old friend. Plus I got a cheeky photo with him afterwards!
I left the talk inspired and hanging on to Johns best bit of advice to ‘let the universe guide you’. I generally do that but I loved that he reinforced the mission!
Next stop was a little stall run by Stef at Wear Your Art. She was demonstrating her brilliant dye sublimation crayons. I’ve never seen these before and I was blown away with how vividly they transferred to fabric.
There are two processes: the first is to draw a design on paper, place it face down on the fabric and the iron on the reverse to transfer. The second is to draw directly onto the fabric, place a protective piece of paper on top and then iron to fix design in place. The latter results in a richer colour especially if the fabric is man made. It works on natural fibres too but not quite as vividly.
I can’t wait to use my crayons to create a truly original piece of art to wear! If you fancy some too and didn’t grab a pack at the Stitch Fest you can order a set from Ebay here.
Nearby I spied the entries for the Stitch Festival Dressmaking Competition and I was so impressed with the entries. I picked three faves . . .
This is Weapons of Mass Reconstruction by Debra Wade:
She based the shape on the simple classic Kimono. The theme was inspired by Afghan war rugs, Russian tanks (named after flowers) and the patchwork reflected rebuilding over scars of terrorism.
It incorporated the contrast of delicate fabric and brutal imagery in a way that was both camouflaged and pretty.
No pattern was used and the materials were mostly reclaimed linen and cotton, tablecloths, clothing and curtains. I just loved the concept and the end result.
10.4tog jacket by Gillian Foster:
No pattern was used for Gillian Fosters 10.4 jacket either. She set about combining her love of watercolour painting, freeform stitching and a reclaimed duvet to create her masterpiece. I’m so fired up to be more free with my sewing already – oh the possibilities!
I also loved this outfit by Hannah Gait.
It was part of her graduate collection inspired by the blues of a midnight garden: using wool and silk fabrics with an embroidered vine design of her own. I’m not sure it befitted the evening-wear category but I would certainly wear this outfit at any time of the day.
A little wander on from here led me to a small collection of garments by Swanky Modes I had a quick look and a read before I went in to hear Esme Young talk.
It was lovely to hear Esme talk about her life and work. I knew nothing about Swanky Modes, the 70s Camden boutique she set up with her St. Martins Graduate friends, Judy Dewsbury, Melanie Herberfield and Willie Walters. So fascinating and inspiring to hear how they set about, creating crazy one-off outfits from bedding and shower curtains and practically anything they could get their hands on.
The small selection of costumes on display included
The Pyjamas from Bridget Jones
Dale Winton’s luxe suit from Trainspotting 2
The nurses outfit from Trainspotting 2
Dale Winton and Rachael Flemming in Trainspotting2
The Padlock dress worn by Grace Jones
The amorphous dress created by Esme’s fashion brand Swanky Modes
Daywear from the Swanky Modes label
Just as I was leaving the lecture theatre I spied Susan Young from SusanYoungSewing and ambassador for SewOver50 across the room. Always a treat to bump into your sewing friends but not least of all when they introduce you to two very lovely Sewing Bee contestants: Janet Pool and Juliet Uzor. I bloody love the sewing community!
I’m buzzing at this point. I can’t believe that a single ticket not only gave access to such a massive selection of quality stalls to buy from but also quality talks and demos a-plenty with a familiar face or ten to bump into along the way!
I wasn’t quite finished yet. I hovered around some more cool looking demos – embroidery and crochet – before I was drawn into the marvellous space hosted by King’s Ely Independent School, Cambridge.
The display was an amazing array of A-level textile students’ work. I was literally blown away with the high level of concepts and craftsmanship. The first one that caught my eye was entitled A Sense of Place by Katherine Wood:
I loved the mossy textures and fantasy woodland vibe along with the dripping threads and natural earthy colour tones.
I spoke to one of the school’s retired tutors who was delighted to show me around the exhibits. She was so proud of the student’s work and rightly so.
The passion for their subject was evident in the carefully chosen materials and colours and not least of all, workmanship. I couldn’t take my eyes off this coat of printed and embroidered hessian patchwork pieces. So original and so impressive.
And then this stunning dress … with a ruff no less. I do love a ruff. Such fabulous colour and textures formed with well considered placement of organza and chiffon and the copper metalic threads reflected the light so brilliantly. I really want to make a dress with a ruff now.
Thank you Kings Ely School, for such an awesome and motivating feast for the eyes. You are all very talented artists and designers and I will be waiting patiently for the day I see your names in lights and telling all that I saw your work first at The Stitch Festival 2020!
Believe it or not there was much more to see and do but sadly I have to end here. I’m as exhausted writing this as I was at the end of my day at the festival! I left with a couple of hours to spare, buzzing with new ideas, more motivated than ever and clutching my bag of stunning D&G fabric.
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!!
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!
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!
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!
Well I’ve certainly got that winter nesty feeling. Never thought I’d say it but the rain can tip down as much as it likes. The wind can howl till it’s heart content and who cares if it’s cold as a polar bear’s nose. I am happily inside, toasty and warm, making bread, watching old movies, sewing and putting up my freshly made Roman blinds, or Roman shades if you are anywhere but the UK!
I’m assuming the fabric is vintage. It had that musty attic smell about it when I landed 5 metres of it, for £10 at a charity shop. But nothing a spruce in the washing machine couldn’t sort.
The hardest thing about these darn blinds (or shades) is photographing them! Too light outside and you get too much show through. Too dark and you see nothing!
Too long trying to be arty farty with it all and you get cat-hassle!
I’ve made these on a couple of occasions before but only posted on Burda. This set I made for Little Miss Ooobop’s room using an remnant of fabric I picked up in a discount fabric store for a fiver:
And these black ones I made for my eldest daughter… for considerably more pounds:
This is a great sewing project for a beginner because it only involves sewing in straight lines. But as many times as you make them you still have to measure twice and cut once. Or in my case, five or six times. It’s all in the maths.
For anyone who’s interested I will compile a tutorial. I didn’t take in-progress shots, mainly because I worked in such a horrendous way, spread all out on the living room floor with cats jeopardising the project every step of the way! But I will create some diagrams which should be a lot easier to follow. Just not tonight, ’cause I’m pooped!