Angela Merkel in a rainbow of jackets

The most popular thing I have ever posted on this blog was this Rainbow Queen image Vogue did a few months back. Who knows why, although as a big fan of both rainbow colours and clothing infographics, I’m glad to see that others agree. With that in mind, I had to highlight this image of German chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a whole Pantone colour chart of jackets:

I found it via Metafilter, who found it via NextNature.

I do feel sorry for female politicans, who are constantly scrutinised for their appearance in a way that men aren’t. There’s still no standard, unnoticeable uniform for women, the female equivalent of the suit. Of course men do get stick for their off-duty wear (who could forget William Hague’s baseball cap), but it’s more about mocking them for being out of touch with normal people. Whereas with women there’s always a nasty touch of Heat magazine sneering about it.

I think this is a pretty good, practical solution to a work uniform. When I was a kid I thought it would be cool to have a wardrobe made up of the same identical skirt, trousers, top, and shoes, but all in dozens of varying colours so you could go head-to-toe, or mix and match. (Yes, I did actually invent the idea of colour blocking. Although possibly it would have been more ‘children’s TV presenter’).

Angela has made the same dream into reality. Well done Ms Merkel. Also for leading the only solvent country left in Europe, which I guess is a slightly bigger achievement.

Dirndl skirts: a consideration

Extremely late-breaking fashion news! Dirndl skirts are hot right now. In fact they were the one thing to be seen in this spring, so I hope you were wearing yours.

Magazines seem to have defined the look as anything full and below the knee, as in this gallery from Elle, which confusingly doesn’t feature any proper dirndl skirts at all, instead highlighting two circle skirts and four pleated numbers. I do like this Reiss one though, which has an interesting asymmetrical pleat arrangement.

The classic dirndl skirt is properly two rectangles of fabric gathered into a waistband, much beloved by home dressmakers because it’s so easy to draft and sew (as in the two very popular tutorials from Gertie and Tilly). I find it hard to wear, even though I’ve seen it look great on other people. Something about all that bulk at the waistband. You might think this skirt is all 1950s glamour and cats-eye sunglasses, but turn your back for a second and the dirndl has a worrying tendency to channel Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. Which is a hard look to pull off without a mountain in the vicinity.

I haven’t seen that many people out and about wearing the dirndl, however much fashion magazines might hype it up. Midi length skirts are definitely still in, but mostly those those horribly cheap polyester chiffon pleated things which used to be strictly for the over 60s, but are now marked up 300% and sold in American Apparel.

I do like the look of a longer skirt, and want to sew some for this autumn (which appears to already have arrived in England). But I think I might opt for pleats rather than the classic dirndl. I loved the Sewaholic Crescent skirt pattern, which controls any potential bulky gathers with a nice smooth waistband, but unfortunately the pattern has mysteriously disappeared in the black hole of my sewing room.

In other delayed fashion update news, according to the Times style magazine  I found discarded on the bus, this beautiful but eye-wateringly expensive piece from Jonathan Saunders was the dress of the season. It’s called the Yvie. I very much approve of dresses having names, so big pat on the back for Jonathan.

It could have been yours for a mere £1,100, although it’s now sold out. Soz. It’s pretty hard to tell what the style lines are because the print obscures them, but it seems to have two waist darts, a pin-tucked yoke panel, and a gently pleated skirt which also features horizontal tucks. You can get a better look on the Harvey Nichols website.

It wouldn’t be difficult to recreate this dress at home for somewhat less than a grand, although the print is what really makes it work. It somehow manages to reference the 50s, 60s, and 70s all at once, while still looking distinctly modern.

I have less problems wearing gathered skirts on dresses than as stand-alone pieces, probably because the matching bodice helps to  smooth the whole line. Still, I do prefer patterns that include a midriff piece above the gathered skirt, like the McCalls 6503 I made earlier this year.
What do you reckon? Are you a dirndl devotee?

Apron wrap dress by Ermie

I found this dress via a great blog called Gems, and I’m now officially obsessed with it.

Apron dress by Ermie

It’s from a small US based fashion label called Ermie, and it’s called the ‘ERMIE/Myrtle Raku Apron Dress’.

Here’s why I love it so much (this is the dress in another awesome print called ‘Light of California’).

Check it out! This dress is pushing all my buttons. Not only does it have kimono sleeves and the perfect boatneck (two of my favourite things), the wrap part is an extension of the skirt. I’ve never seen this style before. Apparently it was inspired by the cut of a vintage dress in a local boutique.

I love garments like this that only use straight lines, with no zippers or buttons or closures. This dress reminds me of the traditional kimono shape, with the sleeves moved down to become a wrap skirt:

You do need really good fabric to show this style off. The Ermie prints are all stunning, you can check them out on their shop.

I love that you can tie the wrap at the front or the back, or even walk around holding it out like the model in the photo above, although that’s maybe not so practical when you need to make some tea or pay your bus fare. Expect to see a version on this blog soon (soon = within the next year or so).

Rain and a new dress

I give up. I can’t take this weather any more. It seems to have rained every day for the last 3 months. It rained through April. It rained through May. It rained all the way through the Queen’s Jubilee. It was the wettest June since records began. You can basically guarantee that it will piss it down all through the Olympics. We’ll all get totally sick of hearing commentators overuse the phrase ‘rain isn’t dampening spirits here!’, and we’ll be seeing lots more pictures like this:

The woman in the top right has the same facial expression I’ve been sporting for the last two months.

Somewhere I read about a conspiracy theory that the UK government deliberately foster really bad foreign language teaching in schools, because if everyone learnt to speak Spanish or Italian there would be mass emigration to warmer climates. I firmly believe this is true.

The last few weeks have been super bad, as we’ve had the worst of both worlds. Really hot, muggy weather, but with random spiteful downpours every 45 minutes or so, just to keep you on your toes.

This weather is making me very confused about what to wear and what to sew. There doesn’t seem to be any point making summer clothing, but it’s too depressing to start thinking about winter stuff. Also, I’m still deliberating on what to make with my digital print fabric from Our Patterned Hand. I really need some ideas.

I did make this dress, out of some material I bought at The Shop on Cheshire Street, which is great for vintage fabric. I think this was probably a curtain once upon a time.

I made this without a pattern, using a mixture of Alannah at Lazy Stitching’s Toast Tunic tutorial, and the Grecian dress instructions from the DIY Couture book. The neckline is finished with fold over elastic (love this stuff!) and I shirred the waistline.

The fabric’s really thick though, and the two areas of elastic make the bodice puff out in a less than flattering way. I think I might remove the shirring and turn it into a long tunic top to wear over jeans. That probably that would be more weather appropriate anyway. What do you reckon?


BeFab Be Creative digital fabric printing

Do you remember my post about BeFab Be Creative, the digital fabric printing business that my friend is setting up? Well hold on to your hats, I’ve got an update for you!

My friend Solii and her sister Zoe are planning on launching the business this September, and as Solii was down in London this week she brought along some fabric samples so I could have a look and get my grubby paws all over them.

As a reminder, this business is going to be aimed at home dressmakers, so you’ll be able to order short runs of printed fabric in any pattern you like, after you upload a jpeg with your design. Do you need a vest top covered in pictures of your cat yawning? You’ve got it! (Although maybe you shouldn’t).

These photos aren’t great, but hopefully they give you an idea. There’s something addictive about fabric samples. Without any colour or pattern, it’s so much easier to compare the way different materials look and feel.

These three are what I’d class as sturdier silks. Something a bit more steady  and easier to sew. I’d never heard of Morocain before (on the far right), but let me tell you, it was super nice. It has a beautiful drape and texture, sort of like a crepe but thicker.

This silk jersey was also incredible.

I’ve managed to crop the label off this due to my non-existent photo skills, but in the bottom left hand corner is a  lovely slubby Habotai silk/cotton mix which would be great for a loose woven tee like the Scout pattern.

There were some really nice cottons too, in light dressmaking weights and heavier stuff for home furnishings.

BeFab are trying to source as many fabrics as possible from the UK, and everything will be printed here in the UK as well. So no humongous postage costs and customs charges.

What BeFab would really like to know (and so would I, because I’m nosy) is what kind of fabrics you like to sew with? I have to confess that 90% of the time I use cotton. I really love the sort of fine, crisp cotton with a sheen that I just used for my shirt dress, but I like drapier voiles and heavier skirt fabrics too. I’ve only sewn with silk once, and I’m a bit scared of it, although I love how vibrant the colours are in silk prints. Time to branch out?

Solii will be sending out an email with some questions to the BeFab mailing list, so they can find out what kind of fabrics they should be stocking. But she’ll also be reading the comments here, so let us know what you like to sew with! Silk? Cotton? Bamboo? Camel hair?

You can sign up to the BeFab mailing list by emailing, or have a look at their Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Geometric 70s shirtdress: Simplicity 2246

We have a new record! Forget the Olympics, this is the fastest time ever between me posting about a potential sewing project, and actually making it. Normally there’s a time lag of at least 6 months. Here’s my shirt dress:

So, you might have noticed that Simplicity 2246 has an A-line gathered skirt, while this one is, well, a pencil.

I did actually sew the original pattern shape. I only just managed to squeeze it out of  two metres, which is why the back skirt panel has the little ‘A’s going right side up, instead of upside down. I don’t think anyone will notice though, do you? I find people pay a lot less attention to minor clothing details than you’d think (apart from fellow sewists, they’re a bit tricksy like that).

So anyway, I made the original A-line skirt version, put it on and looked in the mirror, and just HATED it. It was those mimsy little gathers at the waist. They looked so home-sewed, so apologetic, so little-girly. The geometric fabric just did not like them.

Normally what I’d do is stuff the piece away somewhere until I could face dealing with it. But because I’d already blogged about this I felt a weird obligation to finish the damn thing.

So my solution was to re-make the skirt entirely. This involved a lot of seam ripping (including all the overlocking, which was just as fun as you’d imagine). Then I took my trusty pencil skirt pattern and traced it on to the pieces, moving the darts a bit so they matched the bodice ones. Sewing it all back up didn’t take long, and then I overlocked the hell out of everything.

I figured the print was so blinding that it needed ultra boring detailing, so I just went for brown top-stitching and some very plain buttons.

This Lisette pattern is nice, but there’s a few annoying things about it. There’s way too much sleeve cap ease, which as we all know, is totally bogus. I really hate those tiny little gathers at the top that you have to do to make it fit (I’m being super harsh on gathers today, I know.). Also, it instructs you to cut out 4 placket pieces which just takes forever. There is no need for this! Cut the placket and the facing all in one, ladies!

Hmm, what else. Oh yes, I combined the bodice darts into one really massive deep waist dart, which came out a bit pointy but you can’t really tell in this fabric. I also added a little pocket with a button and cuffed the sleeves above the elbow.

So what do you reckon? I think this is one of those fabrics that you love at first sight, but become steadily disillusioned with over the course of sewing. I’m not sure if a plain sheath dress would have suited the print better. But I’m still pleased with myself for salvaging a potential disaster into something totally wearable.