Friday links: Happy animal time

I’ve had a slightly sub-standard week, what with coming back from holiday and worrying about unemployment, but it’s hard to be too miserable on a Friday when the sun is shining and the temperature is a freakish 29 degrees. For some reason summer has decided to make an extremely late appearance, making the whole country happier in the manner of this genius Boots ad.

So if you’ve had a less than ideal week too, here are a few things that have cheered me up, all animal related for some strange reason.

Giant yellow rabbit

Hope you all have a good weekend! I have some actual sewing content coming up for tomorrow (probably).

Inappropriate shoe lust

I’m in love with these ridiculous shoes from Clarks. But I know in my heart that we could never be together.  I can’t walk in high heels, they wouldn’t go with anything I own, and I don’t even like beige footwear.

Image source: Clarks website

But I still keep clicking over to the Clarks website to admire them.They also have an intriguing name: ‘Bobby Bingo’.

I would kill for the job of naming product lines at Clarks. Someone is having a LOT of fun over there, possibly involving daytime drinking. (If I asked you to picture a shoe called ‘Citrus Palm’ would it resemble these totally unsummery, black, studded brogues? No? Didn’t think so.)

Also, these shoes are SO Carmela Soprano. She would probably pair them with a nice sparkly ensemble like this one:

Image source:

Do you have any inappropriate love for shoes or clothes you would never wear in a million years?

Fried food and mountain roads

I’m back! Did you miss me? (tumbleweeds…).

I had the BEST holiday. I totally failed at updating this blog, or even documenting outfits for the Self-Stitched-September Flickr group, but I was too busy trying out different American snacks, cruising mountain roads while giving unwanted driving tips to my boyfriend, and taking 700 photos (which seem to be mainly of fried food and the camouflage aisle at Walmart).

Coming home was not so fun. I have an intense case of post-holiday blues and unemployment woes. The charity I work for is shutting down due to a lack of funding, so this time next week I’ll be back knocking on the door of Dalston Jobcentre.

At least I’ll have lots of time for sewing. Last summer I was unemployed and so stressed that I spent the whole time chewing my nails, googling unlikely jobs, and eating whole packets of chocolate digestives. This time I plan on being extremely zen about the whole thing and using it as a chance to sew and get stuff done around the house (this may or not actually happen).

Anyway here are some photos of our holiday, which has left me considerably poorer, fatter and more sunburnt. It was definitely worth it though.

Blue Ridge Mountains
Blue Ridge Mountains
Beach at the Outer Banks
Beach at the Outer Banks
Arnold Valley on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Arnold Valley on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Chicken pot pie
Chicken pot pie
Thomas Jefferson's house, Monticello
Thomas Jefferson's house, Monticello
Flower in the garden at Monticello
Flower in the garden at Monticello
Hot dog at the Blue Mountain Brewery
Hot dog at the Blue Mountain Brewery
A quilt in a reconstructed pioneer house on the Blue Ridge Parkway
A quilt in a reconstructed pioneer house on the Blue Ridge Parkway
A table set up for my friend's wedding
A table set up for my friend's wedding
My crescent skirt in Washington DC
My Crescent Skirt tours Washington DC
Fried chicken and home-made baked beans
Fried chicken and home-made baked beans
Trees at Otter Creek on the Blue Ridge Parkway
I managed to finish the dress I was making for the wedding but I got no photos on the day due to unforeseen circumstances involving a huge storm, a rapidly sinking wedding marquee, and a tumble-dryer, which meant that the dress wasn’t exactly at it’s radiant best. I’m going to post about it as soon as I get some decent pictures. Right now though I have to go and read the 800 blog posts that have built up in Google Reader. I may be some time.

Holiday time!

Image source: Channel 4 website, courtesy of serial capsule wardrobe abuser Gok Wan

I’m off on holiday tomorrow! Hooray! For a whole two weeks: 2 nights in Washington DC, 4 days driving around Virginia and North Carolina, then a week in a beach house on the Outer Banks where my friend is getting married. I’m more excited than I thought was humanly possible. I REALLY need a holiday.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of the holiday capsule wardrobe, and I’ve decided it’s an evil concept devised by fashion magazines to make us all feel bad. It comes in two versions:

  • The upmarket Vogue/Elle type. All you need is 10 bikinis, one wildly expensive designer dress for dinners out, some ‘funky accessories’, and cashmere socks* to wear on the plane.
  • The cheap and cheerful Woman’s Weekly/Good Housekeeping version, where you take a sarong, a swimming costume, and a big scarf, and combine them into a myriad of complicated outfits.

Am I right or has anyone actually mastered the concept of the capsule wardrobe on holiday? Maybe you have to have a very specific personality type not to wildly overpack. I am hopeless at thinking of possible outfits beforehand, I just frantically shove everything I own into a huge bag and then discover that nothing goes together and I can’t actually carry it (but aha, this time we’re renting a car! Over-packing here I come.)

So I won’t be updating this blog much for the next two weeks. I’m going to try and keep up with the Self-Stitched September group, probably with some dubious quality phone photos. And if you have any tips on things to do while we’re away, let me know! I have a Virginia guidebook but it’s a little bit useless.

*Why do people always recommend this? It must be a first-class thing. If you’re travelling with the rest of the plebs you need ear-plugs, a trashy magazine, and one of those mini bottles of lukewarm white wine just after take-off.

Friday crafty, arty and sewing links

Here’s some interesting new things I’ve found on the internet this week (actually most of them are from last week, as that’s when I intended to publish this before forgetting all about it, so it’s basically some lazy, stale and re-heated content. Sorry about that.)

Vintage 1950s / 60s dress pattern - Vogue Special Design 4259 - Bust 34
Image source: glassoffashion

  • Nice to see an Etsy pattern seller based in the UK. I was eyeing up the pattern above in her shop for a while and I’m SO glad that somebody else bought it, honest. I know the cowl neck would never sit right and that I’d be fiddling with the back wrap all the time, and I can’t afford it anyway, and really I know it would be happier with someone else, someone far better at sewing that I could ever be (*breaks down in sobs*)

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday bits and bobs

This post has no real purpose, except to distract me from my pre-holiday packing woes and pending unemployment (three weeks and counting, oh dear). There’s three things I’ve been pondering lately:

Firstly, the elbow patch. Check out the awesome tartan tweed elbow patches on this young man. They’ve actually been needled-felted into the jumper! (at least as far as I can tell from the  confusing description on the Fred Perry website). Also here’s an inspirational elbow-patch post from Experiments and Accidents.

Woollen elbow patches by Fred Perry
Image source: Fred Perry website

I am a huge fan of the elbow-patch, never mind any geography teacher related jibes, and have been searching for the perfect ones for a while. I’d love to make a jacket or jumper and add some, but I’m not sure where to buy nice-looking ready-made ones (NOT in fake leather, John Lewis). Ultimate Craft in Stoke Newington has, for once, proved fruitless. If only I had Howard Moon here to provide me with a wide selection.

The second thing on my mind is bust darts. I’m frantically trying to finish a new dress (it’s Vogue 8779) before I go on holiday next Tuesday, for a friend’s wedding in America. I don’t know why I always impose these ridiculous sewing deadlines on myself.

Kate Middleton dress bodice

This dress is not going smoothly, and the main reason is the stupid bust darts, which just refuse to stop being pointy. They’re really going all out for the whole ‘cold in here?’ look, and I can’t fix it. I’ve tried curving the dart and pressing the hell out of it, but it’s just not working.

At least I’m in good company – Kate Middleton’s wedding dress seemed to have a smidgeon of the same problem (or is it just me?)  Surely Sarah Burton knows a thing or two about a bust dart, from which I can only surmise that it was a deliberate design look.  Anyway that’s how I’m going to re-brand mine if I can’t solve the issue…

Lastly, and this has no relation to anything, Rita Hayworth.  I have wasted many hours lately watching clips from old Rita Hayworth films on Youtube. There are loads of great ones, but this is my favourite. It’s 11 minutes of brilliance and I watch it whenever I need some cheering up. The best bit (apart from Rita) is the un-smiling lady representing Vogue at 1:08. Clearly Vogue was the snootiest of the fashion magazines even back then.

Autumn sewing: blouses and shirts

A/W11 Blouses
This is my first Polyvore set! I know I’m approximately 5 years too late for the Polyvore party, but it’s great, isn’t it? Saves lots of time messing around in Photoshop.
One of my A/W11 sewing resolution is to make more shirts/blouses, and there are lots around at the moment for inspiration. I’ve picked out some favourites above in a nice Autumnal colour palette. Luckily this is all fantasy shopping, as they range in price from ‘cheap as chips’, to three times more than my sewing machine cost’

I find it frustrating shopping for blouses on the high-street, as they never fit properly and they’re normally made with 100% polyester so cheap you trail a shower of static sparks whenever you move. But they’re pretty rewarding to sew; they don’t take much fabric and there’s lots to customise. It’s probably wise to avoid using too many ruffles, ribbons, and bows, in case you evoke the Grayson Perry effect, but in general you can mess around with them however you like.

I am planning on sewing one with a flat/Peter Pan collar, which is apparently big this season. The Peter Pan collar’s been around for a while – Carole Lombard was putting her name to them in the 1930s:

Carole Lombard 1930s blouse pattern
Image source: Etsy seller iandrummondvintage

They were perched on top of these AMAZING sunray darts in the 1940s (I want this pattern so much! If you are a 30 bust you must buy it)

Vintage 40s Blouse Pattern Vogue 6226 Size 12 Bust 30
Image source: Etsy seller lisaanne1960

And they went very modern in the 60s. Loving the bowl haircut on the left.

1960s Peter Pan collar mod version
Image source: Etsy seller HeyChica

I think it’s best to draw a veil over what happened to the poor Peter Pan collar in the 80s.

My plan is to use the Built By Wendy shirt pattern from the first Sew U book and add a drafted flat collar. I’ve also pre-ordered the brilliant new Jasmine pattern from Colette Patterns. I’ve been looking for something like it for ages – it reminds me a lot of the Topshop blouse which is bottom right in the collage above, but it’s bias cut so you don’t even have to sew any buttonholes. Bonus.
Do you have any favourite blouse/shirt patterns? What’s the difference between a blouse and shirt anyway?

Fabric shop review: Ray Stitch in Islington

On Essex Road in Angel, there is a small and eclectic parade of shops which boasts a funeral home, a pet accessory shop, a Thai massage parlour, and a tropical fish retailer. The latest addition is a fabric shop and cafe in the shape of Raystitch.

Ray Stitch fabric shop in Islington

I was very excited that this shop would be opening in Islington (not least because it’s only 15 minutes from my house), as they’ve been selling online for a while and have some lovely organic fabrics and trimmings. The new location is very near to where the old Loop used to be on Cross Street.

Raystitch reminded me a lot of craft shops in New York I visited a few years ago. They have a small space but everything is beautifully presented and the selection of products has been edited very well. It’s also interesting that they’ve combined a cafe with a sewing shop. It did make me wonder about possible problems involving spilt coffee on posh fabric, but they do have a huge wooden counter which seems to be divided down the middle into a food area and a shop area.

Inside Raystitch on Essex RoadYou can see the fabric cutting area in the foreground with the cafe and cakes at the back

On the main wall (on the right as you come in) there’s a good selection of all their plain cottons, as well as some organic prints. Opposite this there’s a nice selection of patterns, and the tea/coffee area. There’s more fabric hidden underneath the big wooden counter including flannel, checks and plaids.

Wall of patterns and cafe at Raystitch

It’s great to be able to browse and buy Colette patterns in person.

At the back of the shop they have haberdashery and accessories, more quilting and Japanese fabric, and swatches for all the fabrics which they aren’t able to display on the shop floor, including anti-static lining and the softest bamboo knit in the world.

The haberdashery selection is small but perfectly formed, including ribbons made from Wallace Sewell offcuts, giant rick-rack in bright colours and embroidery silks. They do sell essentials like machine needles and thread so you can buy everything you need for a project here (although I’m spoilt for haberdashery, with Ultimate Craft in Stoke Newington about 5 minutes from my door).

Haberdashery at Raystitch

It’s pretty impressive how much fabric they’ve crammed into the space without it feeling too cramped.

Japanese Fabric at Raystitch on Essex Road

I totally love the Japanese fabric on top of the pile in the photo below. It looks exactly like note paper, complete with the double red margin lines down the side. I have no idea what I would use it for, but it’s brilliant anyway.

Notebook quilting fabric at Raystitch
It would have been rude to come away with buying anything, and look how nicely they wrap up your purchases, in a pale blue bag and bright orange tissue paper (love this colour combination).

Raystitch packaging

I bought some of the Organic Crossweave Cotton in a very pale denim blue (it’s exactly the shade of the inside of a pair of jeans). It It seems like a good weight for skirts/dresses. It will probably end up being either the Colette Patterns Beignet skirt (which I also accidentally bought), or the Lisette Traveller dress. I love the texture and variegated look. I need more plain fabrics in my stash but I’m not keen on flat colour for sewing so this is perfect.

I really liked Raystitch. I quite often prefer smaller shops as it cuts down on the amount of dithering I do when confronted with a huge wall of fabric. Too much choice can be a bad thing when you’re naturally indecisive.

If there’s anything I’d change, it’s only that it’s a bit cramped trying to look at fabric while someone’s trying to order a cup of tea, as the aisle isn’t very big. This is unavoidable given the space they have, though. All the clientele seem polite enough that it isn’t a huge problem!

It would also be nice to have some more information somewhere (on the wall? a leaflet?) on why they sell so much organic fabric. I was a bit hazy on why this is a good thing, but there’s a thorough explanation on Tilly’s blog about the benefits of organic cotton.

I will definitely be back, not least to sample one of the massive Chelsea buns they sell!

Drink, Shop, Do

If you haven’t visited Drink, Shop, Do in King’s Cross yet, here’s two reasons to go:

No 1. You might get a royal surprise as you eat your cucumber sandwiches…

It’s her Royal (deceased) Highness, the Queen Mum! She looks a bit annoyed, probably because you have ordered tea instead of a stiff gin.

And reason No 2: You can get a ‘Man’s afternoon tea’, featuring a pork pie AND a Scotch egg (and pickled onions!). Why should men have all the fun? I fully intend on ordering this one day.

(They are also running an interesting looking workshop on fashion illustration this Wed (7th Sept), which is totally free. Wish I could go along but think I will be a bit frantic getting everything done before my holiday.)

Crescent Skirt No. 1

My first Crescent skirt! I say first, because there’s definitely more to come. I LOVE this pattern from Sewaholic.

Crescent Skirt in blue cotton voile

It’s so fun to put together, and I learned a lot from following Tasia’s extremely comprehensive Sew-a-long, including an amazing zip insertion method which I will now use for everything I sew, forever. I am an expert at the process, having carefully sewed in the zip completely the wrong way round the first time. I didn’t notice until I was showing the beautiful ‘finished’ product to my boyfriend and had a sudden flash of realisation – the zipper pull belongs on the outside of the skirt. Oops. At least ripping it out and re-sewing has put it firmly in my head.

Crescent skirt close-up

It’s made from a thin poly/cotton blend which is really a shirt weight, so I lined it with a white cotton poplin. You add a lot of structure to the skirt when sewing (interfacing, topstitching and twill tape) which combined with the lining, makes it feel lightweight but not flimsy. The waistband looks a bit wrinkly in this photo, but I had worn it all day, and think I just need to give it a bit of a press.

I top-stitched the waistband seams and the hem (which I made nearly 4 inches) with a light grey topstitching thread. It looks strangely yellow in this photo but it’s much more silvery in real life.

I pulled a super-human effort to get this skirt finished last weekend before visitors came to stay in my sewing room (some refer to it as our spare room). I really tried to finish everything off nicely, inspired by the sew-along: french seams, twill tape, making the gathers super-even, the lot.  I’m so proud of it and glad I didn’t take any short-cuts. I cut out the size 10 and I didn’t have to do any alterations, it fits perfectly, hooray.

As the sun decided to shine on London today I put it on to go fabric shopping with my sister. It’s also the second day of Self-Stitched-September! Yesterday I totally forgot it was September already, but luckily I was wearing my African print Sorbetto. Not sure if I’m going to make it to the end of the month but will give it a damn good try.

I’m going on holiday in about a week, so hopefully Virginia and North Carolina will be sunny enough for me to give this skirt a little bit of an airing before it gets put away for the winter (but I’m definitely making a winter version before then!).

Liberty Rocks: AW11 Fabric Collection

Back in the day, when I was still young and fresh-faced, it was very important to decide which member of Blur you fancied.

Blur in the 90s

Was it Alex James, the tall dark-haired bassist? Or Graham Coxon, the arty, be-spectacled guitarist? (Sorry, but Damon was just too obvious).

I was always an Alex fan. He was from Bournemouth (my home-town) and had a lovely floppy fringe.  But fast forward 15 years and who’s looking like the better choice now?*

I think the Graham fans were right all along.

I really love the fabric he’s come up with for Liberty, it has an Escher/wood-cut vibe to it. I can see it as a shirt, or some very trippy kitchen curtains.

A Boy Dreams Liberty Print Fabric Graham Coxon
Image Source: Liberty website
The rest of collection is worth a look as well, and the colour palettes  are stunning. They’re based on vintage album covers. Lots of inspiration here if you’re taking part in the Colette Fall Palette Challenge 2011. My favourite is this one, described as ‘dusty pink, velvet green, suede brown and beige.’
Foreigner palette from Liberty Fabrics. Image source: Liberty website
Image source: Liberty website

(It’s based on this Foreigner album cover)

Foreigner Feels Like The First Time

I also love this digital print, which allegedly the design team made by ‘entering the mind of a rockstar to create their own fantasy album cover’.

Explosions in the Sky Liberty Fabric montage. Image source: Liberty website
Image source: Liberty website

It’s called Explosions in the Sky (after the band?) and is a large-print fountain paint splatter. I can see it as a very simple shift dress or silk shirt, especially in that blue and yellow colourway.

It’s available in Tana Lawn, Lantana Wool, Lilestone Wool, Crepe de Chine, Georgette, Poplin, Silk Satin and Jersey, although good luck actually finding all those in Liberty. If you’re based in London, you should only ever go to Shaukut to buy Liberty fabrics.  It’s an Aladdin’s Cave Basement of Liberty prints and fabrics, pre-cut into three metre lengths and on rolls, and they have a hugely better selection than the actual department store.

You can buy online as well, but I recommend visiting for the full mind-blowing effect. A perfect day out in London is going to South Kensington to visit the V&A, having a cup of tea and cake in the members room, and then popping over to Shaukut to rifle through some Liberty print  (sadly this is not my boyfriend’s idea of perfection or I’d be there every weekend).

I have a feeling that Shaukut get the new collections about a year after they come out (I saw the 2009 Grayson Perry collection there in 2010) so I’ll be looking out for these next summer.

*(Actually Dave the drummer turned out to be the coolest one; according to Wikipedia he’s had five careers as a musician, animator, solicitor, political activist, and pilot.)