JW Anderson for Topshop: sewing inspiration

Have you heard of JW Anderson? He’s so hot right now darling. I only really know this because Topshop have done one of their design collaborations with him. WOW I sure am riding the cutting edge these days. Anyway I’m not sure exactly how to describe the look of the collection, except it’s sort of 90s meets boarding-school uniform meets wacky prints.

So it might not be TOP FASHION NEWS any more but I was on Oxford Street yesterday and had a quick look at the collection, and was shocked to find that some of it was actually quite nice, and very ripe for a home-sewing rip-off. Specifically these two items.

This quilted pencil skirt was surprisingly well-made. It’s got a bagged lining and the outer is silk.  The combination of the sleek shape and the padded fabric is really unexpected and great. Plus the print is lovely (if you’re a paisley fan, anyway- I know some people hate and despise it)

This skirt has made me very interested in sewing with pre-quilted fabric, the only problem being that you can’t find fabric like this for love or money (although to be honest I have only tried money so far).

And this skirt could be SO easy to reproduce if I could get my hands on the right stuff. I’ve been searching and searching and there’s nothing out there except for children’s prints and beige waterproof stuff. No chance of any awesome quilted spider fabric. Hmph. I know you could quilt your own but that seems a bit too laborious.

There’s also matching padded t-shirts which I really like. If you bought the whole outfit you could basically nap anywhere you wanted in perfect comfort, which is a big plus in my opinion.

Here’s the second awesome thing I saw. This ‘maid’s dress’ has a removable collar and cuffs.  It’s done very cleverly in real life, the white collar is fully finished and has several buttonholes so you can easily attach and detach it from the main collar.

Again, this would be highly copiable at home. It reminds me of the shirt I made with a double collar, which I have never actually never worn due to fit issues and the fact that, well, I basically don’t wear shirts. Ah well.

What do you think of designer collaborations in general? I guess the idea is that you’re getting Marni style for H&M prices, or whatever, but I can’t help seeing it the other way round, ie. you’re paying 150 quid for something from H&M. Which was probably made in the same factory and with the same quality of materials.

My favourite collaborations are print-based like the Uniqlo tie-ins with Orla Kiely and Laura Ashley. I think that’s why I covet those J W Anderson quilted skirts – the prints are so unique, and that’s something that’s hard to replicate at home. Fabric shopping is a hit and miss affair sometimes.

Finally, if you are a wacky print fan, you must check out this A-line tortoise print skirt which seems calculated to appeal to that coveted sewing blogger demographic.

Sewing blogs vs. DIY blogs – the showdown

I have an enduring fascination with categorising different groups of people, especially online. It must be the frustrated anthropologist in me.

Something I’ve been pondering for a while is the difference between sewing bloggers and DIY bloggers. You’d think there’d be a big overlap, but no! They’re totally separate tribes.  I was reminded of this by a recent post from Karen, and thought it would be fun to pit the two groups against each other, Top Trumps stylee:

In the red corner, we have:


Here we have dip-dye, neon, studding and denim cut-offs. If only there was some chevron-ing involved it would be the Holy Grail of DIY

Leading Lights: P.S. I Made This, Park & Cube, A Pair and a Spare, I Spy DIY, Outsapop, etc etc.

Who they are:  100% female. Mostly thin, beautiful, and young.

What they do: Easy DIY tutorials recreating specific pieces or trends from high-end fashion designers.

Defining characteristics: At least two of the following in every post: studding, neon, dip-dyeing, chevrons, embellished collars, and cut-off denim. Huge images and tiny text. Heavy use of the phrase ‘pop of colour’.

Strengths: Gorgeous photos. A playful, fun approach to DIY and customisation. Accessible to people without a sewing machine. A way to replicate high-fashion looks without spending thousands.

Weaknesses: Too much Instagram, not enough text. Occasionally silly fashion blog poses. Unlikely corporate tie-ins. Sometimes projects look like they would fall apart after 5 minutes wear.

And in the blue corner, there’s the:


Ahh, a lovely reassuring vintage circle skirt pattern

Leading Lights: Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, Male Pattern Boldness, too many more to mention (check my links list)

Who they are: 98% female. All ages, sizes, styles.

What they do: Sew things, take photos, put on blog. Repeat. Interspersed with occasional tutorials, sewing tips, and wardrobe planning posts.

Defining characteristics: A love of 40s/50s vintage. Circle skirts. A weakness for decorative buttons. Knitting often spotted. Have made at least one thing from Colette Patterns. Refer to other sewing bloggers by first name with no context.

Strengths: Interesting writing. A strong sense of community. Useful tips and tutorials. Real content (ie. not just ‘curated’ from somebody else’s Tumblr). Clothing which is wearable by those over the age of 25.

Weaknesses: Blog layouts not as professional as the DIY crew. Often small or badly-lit photos. Overuse of the word ‘make’ as a noun. Too many wacky fabric prints. Pattern crazes sweep through the community like wildfire, which can lead to distressing homogeneity.

So who wins? I think we’d have to call it a draw. Personally I read a lot more sewing blogs, and my favourites are those that take inspiration from fashion, like Erica BGrainline and DIY Couture. Maybe both sides could learn from each other – the DIY bloggers could get a bit more in-depth with their making skills, and the seamstresses could learn to love simple, fun projects (although I draw the line at studding everything in sight).

What do you think, gentle readers? Do you read DIY blogs, sewing blogs, or both? Are you interested in fashion or do you prefer to tread your own path? And do you share my love of categorising people into groups, or do you think its like, totally oppressive and unfair?

Ship Pendant in the V and A + sewing meet-up musings

I keep meaning to post this photo I took in the V&A a few months ago. It’s a 400 year old ship pendant, which you can find in the British Galleries just up from the Raphael room.

It’s an awful photo (sorry about my giant pink hand which you can see reflected in the glass), but this necklace just blew my mind when I saw it. It’s a tiny ship on a chain, for goodness sake. It’s so exquisitely intricate and detailed. Just imagine some Elizabethan lady rocking this over a massive lacy white ruff.

The rigging and the masts are all made out of twisted gold, the hull is polished wood, and the tiny crazy pirates on board appear to be enamelled. There are pearls dotted all over. Even the anchor is made from a big old pearl (which would probably float, but then I suppose you wouldn’t make a real ship out of gold either. Realism was not a priority here.)

I WANT THIS. Is there anything better than mad, expensive, vintage jewellery? If you share my love, you should be reading the posts about Estate Jewelry on The Hairpin. Looking at this amazing stuff is the only time I wish I were oligarch-level rich.

Speaking of the V&A (smooth segue), I had a great time there a few weeks ago, meeting up with some fellow sewing bloggers to see the Ballgowns exhibition. Thank you so much to Karen for organising! I had to bail a bit early but it was so lovely meeting lots of new people whose blogs I read, and catching up with those I’d hung out with before.

Recently I read about the Spanish concept of a Tertulia, which is a gathering of like-minded friends who convene regularly to discuss a certain artistic or literary topic (often in bars).  It instantly reminded me of the meet-ups I’ve been to. Talk of seam finishes and fabrics still qualifies as ‘artistic’, right? And we’ve got the whole drinking thing covered. Besides, Tertulia is a much fancier sounding term than ‘blogging meet-up’. Maybe I will start dropping it into conversation casually.*

*Or not. Please still invite me to meet-ups! I promise not to use badly pronounced Spanish words.

When hand-made clothing dies

It’s a sad fact of life that clothes don’t last forever. Yes, you could make them out of steel, or lock them in a climate-controlled wardrobe for 100 years, but that does sort of defeat the point of wearing clothes in the first place. But what do you do when you damage things that you’ve made yourself?

I’ve had two clothing disasters lately. Firstly, my Crescent skirt. I’ve worn this everywhere. It’s been to the USA, Italy, Norway, and  every park in East London. It’s perfect for hot weather. Not only that, but it took me weeks to sew. I topstitched everything with the proper topstitching thread, and even measured the hem instead of eyeballing it at the ironing board as usual. And then this happens:

A rogue pen has left a massive, permanent ink stain all over one side. Damn you pen!

I dyed it dark blue to try and hide it. Which didn’t work. And has left it a strange, patchy colour that looks vaguely country & western.


The other casualty was this psychedelic pink dress. It’s always been a bit tight across the shoulders, and in Bournemouth this summer I was reaching over a fence on the sand-dunes to pick some flowers when the fabric ripped right across the armhole. (Which is surely the twee-est clothing accident EVER.)

It does look a bit like I burst the seams with my enormous biceps, but sadly this was not the case. I haven’t been lifting weights  while wearing hand-made clothing (not yet anyway).

What do you do when your carefully made clothes suffer injuries? To mend or not to mend? I think the Crescent skirt is a goner, but the dress is fixable. But I find mending and altering the most boring form of sewing, hands down. What about you?

McCalls 6439: Draped skirt pattern

You’ve probably noticed that pattern fever can sweep through sewing blogs like a bad bout of flu. But poor old McCalls always seem to get left out. I hardly ever see people sewing their stuff, although I’m not sure why.

Anyway, Jaycotts had a half-price sale on McCalls patterns at Easter and I snapped up loads, including this dress and this blouse, and 6439 which is a draped skirt with pockets.

I can only find one review for this pattern online, but I reckon it deserves to be more popular. It’s basically a slightly more involved version of Simplicity 2451, which the world and his wife has made. And 6439 has 4 different options! Now that’s value for money.

I made view B. Here’s the front,

McCalls 6439

And the back:

There’s not much you can do to make photos of a plain grey skirt look exciting. The best bit are the double fold pockets. The instructions were Burda-level opaque, so a lot of guess-work was involved in making these. I think I may have pleated something the wrong way round, but whatever. It works.

The fabric was a end-of-roll bargain from my favourite shop in Edinburgh. I don’t know what’s it’s called, but it has that wibbly-wobbly silky feeling, almost like Viyella.

This was pretty quick to make. The biggest hold-up was silently arguing with myself about whether to add a lining or not (it’s not in the pattern). Eventually my practical side won out over my lazy side, and I used this weird polyester I’ve had lying around for ages. Which makes it more appropriate for winter-wearing.

I highly recommend this pattern! Go forth and make your own versions! I want to try view D next, which looks pretty crazy.