Fabric shop review: Our Patterned Hand

A few weeks ago, I got an email that made me run around the kitchen with excitement, mid tea-making. It was from Our Patterned Hand, an East London fabric shop, asking if I’d like to come and choose some free fabric to make something and then post about it as I’m a local blogger to the shop. They also contacted the lovely Stitch and Witter, and you can read her post here.

Obviously I said yes within about ten seconds. I already knew about what a treasure trove this place was, and I think more people should know about the fabulousness. So here goes!

Our Patterned Hand is based in Broadway Market AKA the spiritual home of the East London hipster. If you can push past all the organic-beer drinking, fixie-riding, moustache-sporting trendy types, you’ll spot it mid-way along the street. It’s ten minutes cycle from my house, but I think it’s worth a visit from further afield in London. It’s a great area for people-watching (and laughing), and you could also visit the famous Lido and get some foodie treats from the market.

What OPH specialise in is truly amazing prints. I had an interesting chat with the owner Leanne, and she said that the plain everyday type of fabrics just don’t sell for her, and I can see why. They’d pale in comparison with some of the beauties that line the walls of the shop.

They stock interesting stuff, including exclusive fabrics by local designers which are really fun and unique. They’re pretty expensive, but they’re printed in the UK in short runs, and if you’re looking to make, for example, some awesome cushions, they’d be perfect.

Another thing I like about the shop is that it’s nearly all dress-making fabrics. Quite often you spot all these amazing prints and they all turn out to be for patchwork, but there’s only one or two quilting cottons in the whole shop. Back off quilters, this is all ours!

Someone had just asked for 150 metres of these batiks when I visited the shop. How’s that for a fabric stash? (okay, it was for a business project, but still…)

I liked these shorts in orange linen, which had been made up in a Vogue pattern.

Normally in a shop this size there’s not enough room for a good haberdashery selection, but they’ve installed this cunning little system to solve that problem (the drawers pull out towards you)

Plus, how could you resist this selection of BRIGHT NEON webbing and elastic?

There’s also a good selection of books, and some quirky products like iron-0n embroidery patches to cover holes in clothing, and make-your-own knickers kits. Plus a whole array of buttons, which also form the window display. That’s some crafty multi-tasking.

This isn’t the sort of shop where you go for a rummage and get a bargain, Goldhawk-Road stylee.  Most of the fabric is over 10 pounds a metre, and there’s lots of gorgeous Liberty prints and silks. But it’s all been beautifully selected and curated, so you can guarantee you’ll find something special. This sort of shop is a great place for new sewers as well, as you can see how lovely everything is at first sight. I think a common mistake is using a super-cheap polyester for your first project, which then doesn’t hang well and looks cheap and creased, and you throw it on the floor and give up sewing in disgust.

I’m not saying you should cut into that 50 pound a metre cashmere for your very first A-line skirt, but I do think simple clothes are well suited to showcase the sort of amazing fabric this place sells.  They also have a little workshop place downstairs where they run courses for newbies, as well as more advanced sewists (the ‘sew a silk top’ course looks intriguing).

You’ll get great advice from the staff, most of whom come from a commercial sewing background. I talked to Leanne a bit about how intimidating sewing can be for newbies, and how she gets lots of non-stitching younger customers in with their mums who’ve come to visit. They normally both leave buying fabric for a new project, which is encouraging.

In summary, highly recommended, and I’m not just saying that because they offered me free fabric, honest (although obviously it is the greatest thing to ever happen to me). Unfortunately I haven’t yet taken a good picture of what I chose, but it’s this insanely intense Italian digital print cotton which I’ve been eyeing up for, ooh, at least a year. I’m planning on making yet another hideous-on-the-envelope McCalls pattern with it, which I’ll post about soon. The print is sort of like neon oil on water, you can see it on the OPH website here. 

And if you’re not based in London, they sell fabric through their website too, at www.ourpatternedhand.co.uk

Summery white shirt (but no summer yet): McCalls 6512

Thanks to everyone who responded to my last screed on blogging and narcissicm, all the comments were so interesting and insightful.

I started this site because I wanted somewhere to rant on in tedious detail about all my obsessions, which I keep from my friends to avoid boring them into a coma. I really enjoy getting feedback and comments, which were mentioned as reasons for blogging, and I do find this site keeps me more motivated and creative.

The bleeding edge of online fashion has long ago left the bog-standard world of blogs to jump to specialist Tumblr sites, Pinterest, and other innovations, which means that the really interesting and specialist stuff can begin to explode (witness the huge number of sewing blogs that have sprung up in the last couple of years). When blogging becomes just another normal method of communication, the novelty of it doesn’t matter so the content becomes more important. More types of people get involved, so there’s so much more variety. Which is great if you are both incredibly nosy and love reading, like me.

Anyway, enough waffling. here’s my latest creation, McCalls 6512. I can’t rave enough about what an awesome pattern this is. Here’s a line-drawing of the magnificence:

Check out that sexy saddle sleeve! It’s like a superhero hybrid of a raglan and kimono, I think it may have magical powers. The styling on the envelope is rather terrible as usual with McCalls, you can see it here.

Here it is in REAL LIFE.

I sewed version A almost straight out of the envelope, but I lengthened the sleeves a couple of inches, the body 1.5 inches, and then had to bring in the underarm/sleeve seams by about 1cm. I did french seams throughout, except for the pesky sleeve/body join.

The fabric is a lovely embroidered cotton voile, from my favourite Edinburgh fabric shop.

The awesome pockets and sleeve tabs make it look super professional. I’ve had absolutely no unsolicited compliments on it, and I suspect that’s because it looks like I bought it in Next. Which gives me mixed feelings. Would it make more sense to sew items that are less generic? In other news, I’m not happy unless I have something to worry about.

The hem line is nicely curved, and the shape is loose-fitting but not baggy.

‘Try and look natural Kathryn. Oh never mind.’
Bun enhance
Extreme elbow close-up

Because it’s a Palmer/Pletsch pattern, it comes with lines on the pattern telling you where to do a FBA, a swayback adjustment, and a few other fitting things. The instructions are also really good. The sleeve parts do look a bit like a strange jigsaw puzzle when you first try and put it together, but it all makes sense eventually.

I’ve already relied heavily on this top for Me-Made-May. I know that having a basic white shirt is one of those boring women’s magazines recommendations, but it does actually turn out to be very useful! Who knew?

McCalls 6512 shirt
This is my ‘looking into the distance pose’. It’s not very good.

Apologies for my posing ‘skills’ and general air of blotchiness in these pics. Obviously I’m not as narcissistic as I thought or I would try a bit harder with the old photos, but there you go.

I am definitely going to make the version with the long sleeves and bow next. YOU MUST BUY THIS PATTERN. If not you’ll be filled with regret when it inevitably goes out of print, and you have to buy my copy on ebay for a vastly inflated sum. Do it now!

Thoughts on blogging, narcissism and Me-Made-May

Thoughts on blogging

Karen’s recent-ish post made me think a bit about blogging, and why we do it.

To me, blogging is unavoidably a narcissistic activity – broadcasting your activities to the world and hoping for some sort of validation in return However, the whole world is becoming more narcissistic, so the base line has moved. What would have seemed unimaginably boastful 50 years ago is now rather sweetly modest.

Will a more narcissistic society necessarily be a worse one? It will seem normal to our grandchildren.

I recently read the book ‘Extras‘ by Scott Westenfeld, which is a dystopian YA novel. It’s set in a future Japan where everyone in society is ranked by their level of online fame. Money has been abolished, and reputation is the only currency. The amount of people that subscribe to your ‘feed’ determines everything about how you live, what you can buy and how you’re treated. Journalism has disappeared as a profession, and everyone is a ‘feed-kicker’, trying to break stories to increase traffic. It struck me as a remarkable prediction of what the future could look like.

For myself, I prefer reading blogs that bring something new into the world, whether it’s a viewpoint or a piece of hand-made clothing. I do think there can be value in the ‘curation’ style of blogging but it has been vastly overhyped.

That’s why I can’t really get on with Tumblr, although I do acknowledge it’s an amazing way of discovering new inspiration.

For some much more interesting thoughts on the future of blogging as it relates to fashion, read this post by Final Fashion.

Some narcissism

These thoughts were also prompted by the news that a lovely blog called A Beader’s Life had nominated me for ‘A Versatile Blogger’ award, which suggested I name 7 random things about myself.

7 random things about myself seemed like an impossible task, as they would either be extremely dull or very well-covered on this blog (DID YOU KNOW – that I am obsessed with Clarks and the V&A museum? Yes? Thought so), but in the narcissistic spirit of the future, here are five things:

  • I will read basically anything and find it difficult to eat without reading something at the same time. The exception is detective novels and murder mysteries. I just can’t abide them. (Do you like reading? Are you on GoodReads? Be my friend!)
  • I love Victorian history, especially if it relates to London. Here is a rather brilliant page of Victorian jokes.
  • I am very interested in the crazy world of dreams, and frequently attempt to teach myself lucid dreaming, without success. Whenever I try my tricksy brain rewards me by giving me dreams about the most extremely boring subjects imaginable. For example: washing up, sitting in a chair reading the paper, cycling my usual route to work, eating toast with Marmite, etc etc.
  • My favourite singers in the world are Jonathan Richman, Lou Reed, and Ella Fitzgerald.
  • When I was young I wanted to be a scientist (aged 10, heavily inspired by the guy on the Weetos packets), or a writer for the NME (ages 14-18).

Thoughts on Me-Made May:

MMM to me doesn’t feel narcissistic, even though it involves taking pictures of yourself on a daily basis (or can do, as obviously it’s a very broad church). I think that’s because I find it so useful and interesting to keep a record in this way, it’s a great perspective on what you actually sew and wear. Also, I love seeing what other people make and how they style it. And finally, the outcomes are so positive: increased sustainability and creativity.

Follow my exciting adventures at the MMM 12 Flickr group! I have many more specific thoughts on what I’ve learnt about my me-made wardrobe, but I’m saving them for the half-way mark.

If you’d made it this far, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on blogging and why you do it (or don’t)…

Jeremy Deller: Joy in People

I had to blog about this amazing exhibition because it ends on Sunday! Hurry hurry hurry to the Hayward Gallery to see ‘Joy in People’ by Jeremy Deller, the best thing I’ve seen in a gallery in ages.

How true

Jeremy Deller is the guy behind the big bouncy model of Stonehenge which is coming to London for the Olympics, but also other things you’ve probably heard of like the Acid Brass project (getting brass bands to play Acid House tunes – there’s a massive reproduction in the exhibition of a sort of mind map he drew to explain the links between the two. Did I take a picture? Er, no but you can see it here)

Apparently the exhibition title wasn’t his choice, but it sums up the experience perfectly. There’s a pervading atmosphere of interested-ness, of curiosity and affection for people and the odd and beautiful things they do.

You enter into a replica of an exhibition he held in his bedroom in his parent’s house while they were away (they didn’t find out until ten years later, when they saw it in one of his books…) It’s so great, down to the slightly manky carpet, single bed, and built-in wardrobes.

Next door there’s a toilet displaying graffiti that nhe copied down from the Gents at the British Library in the mid-90s. I am a fellow connoisseur of toilet graffiti (if that doesn’t make me sound too weird), especially the ruminations of academics who have spent too long researching obscure books and perhaps have slightly lost it. Example below:

There’s a replica of a Bury snack bar called Valerie’s, where you can have a (free) cup of tea and sit in classic red perspex cafe seats.

I could write all day about this, but here are some of my other highlights in bullet form instead to save boring you:

  • A film of 3D bats!
  • Loads of old copies of the NME from the early 90s which brought back happy memories of my own pile, which my mum threw away when I went to university (quite rightly, they were a manky fire hazard)
  • Young people sitting and quietly reading under a huge banner reading ‘I heart Melancholy’ (all part of the exhibition)
  • A fascinating film about his reconstruction of the Battle of Orgreave
  • Tons of amazing banners made by his long-term collaborator Ed Hall
  • A whole corner dedicated to Failures – projects that never got off the ground

The few negative comments I’ve read about this exhibition mention that the subject matter is too scattered and diverse, but that’s why I adored it. There’s so much interesting stuff going on, and what connects it all is his attitude of curiosity.

If you do go to the Hayward make sure you go upstairs to the free bit, where there’s a documentary film about Depeche Mode fans which is fascinating, hilarious, and sad.

ALSO it’s only £10, which includes the David Shrigley exhibition upstairs which is also v good.

Also, when you get out and wait for your bus on Waterloo Bridge, you can admire the Brutalist concrete cube that is the National Theatre, described by Prince Charles as ‘”a clever way of building a nuclear power station in the middle of London without anyone objecting” (yes and I love it)

Well worth a tenner.