Craftaganza, Sunshine, and Brighton

It’s taken me a week to write about this, but the Craftaganza market last week was really fun!

It was held in a beautiful building, an old church. I used to walk past it when I was a student at Brighton but I’ve never been inside. It’s a great space.

Zoe lined up some really amazing sellers and I did a bit of sneaky shopping. My lovely boyfriend also bought me a pair of Erica Trogal feather earrings, which I can highly endorse.

It was a scorchingly hot day. Brighton was packed, the train down from London Bridge* was full to the brim, and people were crammed everywhere along the sea-front.
* my new candidate for least favourite London station. Finally Euston has a worthy competitor in the hideousness stakes.

We didn’t make it onto the pier because it looked off-puttingly full of people, but we did see the sea, photo evidence above and below.

It was strange walking round Brighton again. The atmosphere hasn’t changed at all, it still has that charming, ramshackle energy that’s so much less polished and stressful than the way London feels.  All the old shops are still there, and lots of new ones too! But I was glad to see that the pick and mix shop on the North Laine was still present and correct.

The next Craftaganza event will be in June, and if you’re anywhere near Brighton, I definitely recommend popping down, it’s going to be epic. I’m really impressed with how much work Zoe puts into organising these things, on top of a full time job as well.

Zoe also gave me the greatest gift one human can give another: parrot fabric!!

Parrot fabric

This is just a small close-up of the magnificence. Don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet, it’s too amazing to cut without some serious planning first. Possibly I will just frame it and admire it every day.

She also gave me this gorgeous hand-made bag from wax print fabric, which was really overwhelming and too nice. I love it, the colours are brilliant.

Amazing bag in African print fabric

So that was my weekend, a week ago. Hope you have a good one coming up!

Vintage patterns from Miss Betty’s Attic

Well, it’s been a bit quiet here lately. I have been doing some sewing but generally I’ve either been doing temp work or applying for jobs, fun activities I’m sure you’ll agree, but possibly not the most exciting of blog topics.

There were a couple of things I wanted to highlight:

And the last and most important thing:

Yes, that’s 20% off vintage pattern heaven, the shop where most of my disposable income goes.

The discount code is SPRINGY20, which Kestrel Finds and Makes has kindly arranged as part of her birthday celebrations, so hop over there and say thanks!

I have my eye on a couple of patterns, which I’m not going to post in case one of you buys them, but here are some of my other favourites:

This ‘Cleopatra meets a dental hygienist on the Starship Enterprise’ mash-up is rather special.

Pattern by Miss Betty's Attic

This next one is SO 60s. I wouldn’t wear it to any festivals, in case you are mistaken for a large teepee by any wandering hippies who will then form an acoustic guitar circle beneath your ample fabric shelter.

Aptly named tent dress by Miss Betty's Attic

This one is very Annie Hall, and actually looks like a super nice jacket pattern.

Pattern by Miss Betty's Attic

Do you have any favourite Etsy vintage pattern sellers?

Put a bird on it

I’m totally obsessed with birds at the moment. Or more specifically, tropical birds. They’re just so colourful and bright and hilarious-looking, like a big joke that nature is playing on us.

Photo from National Geographic

I can’t get my own parrot or macaw (they’re really a big commitment) so I have to make do with a Pinterest board instead. See how technology can improve our lives.

Now, when it comes to fabric, I am fussy about bird prints. I’m not really into small, boring repeats. Neither do I want to see owls, swallows, or generic bird silhouettes. I want massive tropical birds and I want them now! Like this one:

Parrot print dress

This dress may be silly in many ways but I love the 60s silhouette, and of course, the giant parrot.

For something a bit more jaw-dropping, what about this Alexander McQueen  dress from 2003?

I love the way this hangs between being both an over-the-top carnival costume, and the most beautiful evening dress in the world.

I already have this gold, mirrored parakeet necklace by Tatty Devine:

Tatty Devine gold parakeet
Tatty Devine gold parakeet

The shape reminds me of the giant condor that’s been etched into the Peruvian desert, one of the Nazca lines.   Nobody knows why the lines are there.

And finally, what about this Peter Jensen dress? I am not a peplum fan, to be honest, but the parrot print is nice.

Peter Jensen Parrot Dress from SS12

All of this lovely parrot print fabric doesn’t seem to be trickling down to London fabric shops, unfortunately (although Peter Jensen’s studio is actually in Dalston – maybe I should hang around outside and check the bins).

All I could find was some Liberty print fabric called Pauly Parrot, which is too small and tasteful for me. I did also track down this macaw print vintage fabric on Ebay:

Vintage Macaw Print Fabric by DaisygatorHome on Etsy

I’m very tempted to be honest.

Do you have any unusual fabric obsessions?

Zig Zag Art Deco

I love this super-bright zig zag fabric print. It’s so colourful!

Zig Zag Garnet Anna Maria Horner Fabric

It’s a cotton velveteen designed by Anna Maria Horner, which you can now buy in the UK from a new online craft shop called The Village Haberdashery. They also have some lovely solid-coloured cotton voiles, and a good selection of sewing patterns. Worth checking out.

The zig zags remind me of these 1920s sketches by Sonia Delaunay, a modernist artist and textile designer.

Sonia Delaunay sketches from the FIT archives
Sonia Delauney sketch from the FIT archive on Flickr
Sonia Delaunay sketch from the FIT archive on Flickr

These pictures are from The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, who now have material from their library archive available to view on Flickr. You can look at original drawings by Dior, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Givenchy – the list goes on and on. I discovered them through this blog called Mixed Up.

I spent quite a lot of time clicking through all the sets. It’s amazing that everyone can access these beautiful sketches. There’s so much inspiration to be had online now! (and a fair amount of time-wasting distraction as well, I have to admit…)

Who made your pants?

It’s a great leveller, clothing. Young or old, rich or poor, lover or hater of fashion, you have to buy and wear clothes. It’s actually illegal not to.

But who knows where our clothes come from?

I’ve been thinking about this because of the new Mary Portas knicker range. She’s launched a new UK company that makes lace undies. She’s trained up young apprentices, re-opened a factory, and persuaded big department stores to stock her new wares.

In fact, if you read this Daily Mail article, you’d get the impression that Mary is the new saviour of manufacturing in the UK. Nobody else makes pants here! Everyone told her she couldn’t do it! She’s providing employment where David Cameron has failed! Etc, etc.

Mary Portas knickers

Hmmm. This has caused a bit of a stir because, as you’ll find out if you read this post by Kiss Me Deadly, quite a lot of people are already making underwear in the UK. There’s a list at the above link. Here’s an example: the company Who Made Your Pants, who not only make lingerie, but also campaign for worker’s rights and create jobs for refugee women.

I’m in two minds about this. It is a shame that Mary Portas couldn’t have built on the existing UK manufacturing sector. But unfortunately the world we live in is all about PR and marketing, and ‘Mary saves UK factories!’ is a better story than ‘Mary helps some other people who’ve already started saving UK factories!’

At least this is bringing the issue into the public consciousness (there’s a TV show to go with the knickers – it starts airing next week).

Because I think that most people never give a second thought to who makes their clothes, beyond some vague, uneasy ideas about sweatshop child labour, or maybe the unlikely image of robots cutting out and stitching material.

And you can’t really blame them, because the whole process is shrouded in mystery. If I look at the label of the top I’m wearing right now, I can see that it was ‘Made in Mauritis’. It’s sewn from cotton jersey. It has kimono sleeves, and has been constructed with an overlocker and a cover-stitch machine. I know all this because I make clothes myself. But the list of things I don’t know about this top is much longer:

  • Where was the fabric made?
  • Who sewed the seams?
  • What sort of conditions were they working in?
  • How much were they paid?
  • How many miles did this top travel before it ended up in a Dorothy Perkins shop in London?
Burger Nike Air Max created by Swedish designer Olle Hemmendorff

There’s been a lot of attention in this country lately to where our food comes from. More and more people are eating organic, growing their own vegetables, and asking where the meat they eat comes from and how it was raised. I think we need to take a lesson from this and pay more attention to the clothes on our backs. What do you reckon?

p.s. If you do want to make your own undies, So Zo has a good tutorial here, or you can find out how to make some little stretch lace numbers from Su Sews So So here.

70s style Jasmine blouse, from Colette Patterns

Here’s my second Jasmine blouse, from Colette Patterns.

The first one has already gone to the charity shop. I foolishly made it out of some extremely cheap floral polyester which had all the drape and charm of hessian. The combination of the puffed sleeves and the garish print made it look like an early 90s Country Casuals piece.

This one is made from some of the swap fabric I got at the Brighton sewing meet-up, courtesy of Julia from The Secret Life of Seams. I love this floral print, it feels a bit 70s.

I did like the fit of the first version I made, but I wasn’t so keen on the use of a facing to finish the neckline. I’ve noticed that you hardly ever see facings on tops and dresses in RTW. I only have one dress that uses this method, and it’s a big pain to wear as as the facing constantly flips up.

So with this one, I finished the neckline with some bias binding – here is a good tutorial if you’d like to do the same.

I didn’t use the collar pieces from the pattern, as I wanted a longer bow that was easier to tie (inspired by this version from The Sewing Cafe). Instead I used a long bias strip, about 12cm wide, which was attached using the same method they give you in the pattern instructions. Here’s a close-up:

This gives you a lovely draping bow that doesn’t ripple on the edge. You might be able to tell that my tie ends aren’t both the same length – this was a deliberate creative decision (oh alright, I measured them wrong).

The third thing I changed was the sleeves. I took out the ease so the sleeves weren’t puffed, and finished off the sleeve hem with elastic in a casing.

This is a lovely pattern, but the fit is a bit strange on me – I had to significantly take in the front and back centre seams at the top, which has resulted in some strange pulling in the shoulder area.

It’s such a nice style though, I think I’ll make a third version and try and figure out the issues. I’d like to try using the Colette collar pattern pieces in a contrast colour. But I’m going to ditch the facing permanently. Down with facings I say!

Digital print for home-sewers

Have you ever used a digital fabric printing service?

A friend of mine is in the early stages of launching a UK based fabric printing service, which will be aimed at home-sewers. This idea has got me pretty excited, as there doesn’t seem to be anyone on this side of the Atlantic offering digital prints to those who sew for themselves.

But, she needs our help! She’s set up a short survey to gauge demand amongst sewing types, and I promised to help spread the word. If you fill it out, you’ll be in with a chance to win £100 worth of vouchers to be spent once the company is up and running.

You can take the survey here, and they have a Facebook page here if you’d like to keep up with progress on the project.

Digital print has brought us some jaw-dropping clothes and home wear, like this from Mary Katrantzou (from her spring 2012 collection, although if you haven’t checked out her A/W 2012 stuff, go and do that now. She has prints of HB pencils! 80s radios! And typewriters!)

Image from

And this from Agi and Sam, a menswear label. That coat on the right is a digitally printed tweed pattern on wool. I do love a bit of fabric trompe l’oeil (they also make potato smiley face leggings)

Image from

And I think I found this through Pinterest – it’s a design by Claudia Caviezel for a Swiss designer called Jakob Schlaepfer. The colours are just amazing.

Image from Claudia Caviezel Faces of Design profile

Do you have any favourite designs using digital print? How do you think  it can be used by home sewers? And would you wear leggings printed with a reconstituted potato foodstuff?

New reading material

Thank you to the lovely ladies Handmade Jane and Laura from Purl About Town, who were both kind enough to nominate me for a blog award.

I’m not super familiar with the whole blog award concept, so instead I’ve decided to use the occasion for some incoherent rambling, on the topic of:

What I like reading in other people’s blogs

I like reading. No, I love reading. I will read anything, and in any medium. Books, my Kindle, newspapers, the back of cereal packets, even comments on Youtube videos if nothing else is available.

Probably should have tidied these books up before I took this photo

What this means is that I read WAY too many blogs. This is what I like about my favourites:

  • There’s something to read – something to get your teeth into. That’s why I can’t get on with Tumblr. I need to know what you think about your instagrammed pictures of macaroons.
  • An interesting tone of voice. My favourite blogs are the ones that make me laugh.
  • Subject matter I don’t know much about and/or couldn’t replicate myself.

With that in mind, here are links to five blogs I love. They’re mostly non-sewing related, as I guess (rightly or wrongly) most people reading this also read most of the awesome sewing blogs that are out there.

Adult Beginner – This is all about ballet, but don’t let that put you off if the thought of pointy feet and leotard chat puts you in a cold sweat. It’s super funny, and I think you’ll enjoy it if you know what it’s like to have an all-consuming hobby.

Chuck’s Miscellany – A lovely miscellany it is too, with book reviews, outfit posts, cooking and photography all jumbled together.

Where the Lovely Things Are: Everything she posts about is highly covetable – clothes, art, prints, books, movies. She also runs the super-awesome Wear Color tumblr blog I posted about a while back.

Mimi Smartypants – Old school, long-running, infrequently updated diary blog. V funny. I once spent two days reading her entire archive.

Final Fashion – I love this blog by a fashion design graduate and illustrator.  Insightful, intelligent, and realistic about the way the fashion industry works.

Closing thoughts

I’d just like to say that I hate the word ‘blog’, and have now typed it so many times it has lost all meaning for me. It sounds like a plumbing term.  Can anyone come up with an alternative?