Crafty hen do and bunting extravaganza

So, I’m getting married two weeks on Saturday. I haven’t really posted about my wedding planning, because I’ve done absolutely no DIY, crafting, or sewing for it at all. It’s been a total CRAFT-FREE ZONE.

This is because I prefer to keep crafting and deadlines far, far away from each other. Luckily for me though, my friends have more than compensated, putting me to shame with their amazing creativity.

This applies especially to my hen do which was a couple of weekends ago. My lovely friends hired a room above a pub in Shoreditch, and filled it with embarrassing photos, crafting activities and wine.

It looked like this:

knitting, wine and bunting

Check out the bunting/knitting action!

I am far too lazy to make bunting so I was very touched that so many lovely people took the trouble to sew so much, and decorated the room so beautifully.

My friend Lizzy made some of it, and it’s the most perfectly finished bunting I have ever seen – she’s posted about it on her blog here. It’s basically the Rolls Royce of bunting. I have some in my living room adorning the bookshelves.

bunting from lizzy
Photo stolen from Lizzy’s blog

As well as this, my friends organised a fascinator making session run by the v talented Jess, who I met on the textiles course at Morley College. She brought along so many trims, ribbons, buttons, templates, millinery bases, and bits of fabric, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. Everyone was having a go! I hope to see them all at the wedding…

fascinators
My friends don’t know I’ve posted this but hopefully they won’t mind. Or alternatively never find out.

Here’s my fascinator effort. Not bad for an hour’s work while drinking rosé, I reckon.

fascinator

We also had a writing area run by my friend Bea, where you looked up the meaning of your name and filled in a template to create your own poem:

poem

And a knitting area, led by Lizzy who is a knitting fiend. That woman has made more jumpers in the last year than I have ever owned in my life.

knitting

I loved that when I looked around, everyone was sitting crafting, drinking, and chatting. It was more relaxed than a formal crafting class, but still really fun and creative.

It was an amazing weekend, and I feel very lucky and privileged to know such lovely people. Cheesy but true.

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Brand new shirt – from a vintage Maudella pattern (again)

I’ve made another Maudella pattern! I just can’t stop. I’m a Maudella machine.

maudella shirt 5

It’s a 70s shirt pattern that I’ve posted about before, I couldn’t resist buying it from Ebay, although I wouldn’t exactly describe my lifestyle as ‘ship and shore’, whatever that means. It includes a pattern for a rather excellent pair of 70s bellbottoms which I may make at some stage.

Photo nicked from Ebay seller as I couldn't find the envelope in my sewing room
Photo nicked from Ebay seller as I couldn’t find the envelope in my sewing room

I really liked the yokes on this pattern, and the pocket placement on the front. I can let you into a little secret though – the pockets are completely non-functional.

maudella shirt closeup

The pattern has you sew two pointy rectangles right sides together, turn them right side out, fold over the top point and topstitch the whole thing down. Does that make any sense at all? Anyway they look neat, and I never use shirt pockets anyway.

I spent a lot of time working on the shoulder and bodice fit of this pattern, but somehow forgot to account for my gorilla arms so the sleeves are too short. I mostly wear them rolled up anyway.

shirt done up

The collar has a pointy finish to the band, which you can see when it’s buttoned up to the top. I know it’s trendy but I feel like I’m suffocating when I wear shirts like this. Maybe I have a particularly thick neck (must be all that weightlifting I do).

Here’s the back, with a lovely matching pointy yoke.

maudella shirt 2

This shirt was almost entirely brought to you by Wonder Tape. If you haven’t used this, it’s a thin double-sided sticky tape that dissolves in the wash, and which you can sew through without gumming up your needle.

photo (3)

This stuff has transformed my sewing career. It’s a brilliant cheating aid for lazy people who can’t be bothered to pin and baste, like myself. I used it to stick down the yokes and pockets before topstitching them, as well as securing the button placket facing before stitching in the ditch.

The fabric is a fine dotted swiss, part of my Peter Jensen sample sale haul. Yeah, I’m still working through it! I’ve still got a metre and a half left. Not sure what to do with it. Suggestions welcome! I don’t think I need two beige shirts….

maudella shirt 6

Spring Sewing Swap!

Readers, do you swap? I am, of course, referring to exchanges of the sewing variety. I recently took part in my first postal swapping event, which was kindly organised by the lovely Kerrie of Kestrel Finds and Makes.

I was lucky enough to be paired up with Amy of Sylko Twist, who I first met at the HUGE swap earlier this year, and even better, she put me to shame by sending her stuff early!

Is there anything better than a big mystery parcel? I think not, especially when you get it at work and sneakily take it to the kitchen to tear it open and paw through all the lovely stuff. Amy sent me some gorgeous things. First, the fabric. This was all beautifully wrapped up in tissue paper and ribbon, unlike the sorry parcel I sent her…

fabric

Check out these beauties! On the left we have a semi-sheer knit in some fabulous colours. I think I’m going to leave this until the colder months (although that’s all relative in the UK at the moment), and maybe make a Hot Cocoa sweater. Or possibly another little knit dress. There’s loads of it so I have a myriad of options!

On the right is a beautifully drapey crepe type fabric – I’ve already decided this is going to be a Scout Tee with long sleeves, like Shivani’s lovely versions. The print is too awesome to let any darts or pleats get in the way.

patterns
Next, some amazing patterns. I have some cunning plans for the jumpsuit on the left. I am a huge fan of the pattern art (and the pattern) in the middle – Upper arm bangle! Manicure inspection! 60s hair! And the shirt dress on the right is completely perfect, will definitely be making a version of that.

trimmings

But that’s not all! Amy also included a card of beautiful buttons, which I think she must have hand-stitched on herself. They are almost too pretty to use, I may have to just admire them. Plus there was some gorgeous ribbon and lace trim.

parrots

Finally, the icing on the cake – a parrot tea-towel! These may not technically be parrots –  if any Australians want to chime in to identify them, please feel free. They’ll always be parrots to me though.

And what’s that on the left-hand side? Could it be…I think it could be…yes it is….

parrot jumper

A parrot jumper knitting pattern!! Goodness knows where Amy managed to find this, but it’s made me very happy. At my current knitting speed it would take me over 20 years to make this, but I can dream…

Thanks to the lovely Kerrie for organising this swap, and the gorgeous Amy for sending me such beautiful things!

Bright blue stretch skinny jeans: Burda 7863

I made some more jeans! You know what they say about third time lucky…

bluejeans1

These are definitely my best pair so far. Once again, the pattern is Burda 7863. The fabric is bright blue stretch twill from Mandors in Glasgow.

I’m really happy with the fit on this pair. I widened the outside hips and that seems to have eliminated a lot of vertical wrinkles in the front. Also, it’s my flattest fly front yet!

jeans fly

The topstitching on this pair of jeans has taken years off my life. If there’s any sewing task worse than double-needle topstitching with heavy thread on stretch twill, I never ever want to try it. I should apologise to our neighbours for all the shrieks of frustration coming from our flat as the needle jammed AGAIN or the thread got caught in a tangled mess.

After a lot of trial and error I did come up with some ways to make it easier – if anyone’s interested I’ll do a post.

I also added rivets (from Jaycotts) which were v satisfying to hammer in. The inside pockets and fly facing are made from a scrap of black and white floral cotton I had lying around:

inside jeans

One curious thing about this pair. The leg seams are incredibly twisted. The inside seam is almost at the front of my foot. This happened with my brown pair too, but it’s much more noticeable in this one.

At first I thought it was something I’d done when altering the pattern, but after reading this blog post I’m wondering if it’s because of the stretch twill fabric I used. The first (denim) pair I sewed had no problem, and I don’t think I’ve altered the legs enough to cause this much distortion. Or possibly I cut the fabric off-grain. Anyone know about seam twisting in twill fabrics?

Anyway, it’s not that noticeable in this colour, and if anyone comments, I will pass it off as a homage to the early 2000s.

jeans 2

I’m happy with the back fit too. There are some wrinkles but they feel comfortable and allow for movement, rather than being constricting.

Hooray for new jeans! The pain of topstitching these is fading from my mind, and I’m already planning another pair in black stretch denim with a flared leg…

jeans 1

Emerald green dirndl skirt

This was one of those unicorn projects where it all comes together exactly like you imagined. Right fabric, right pattern, and the right modifications. How rare is that?

green skirt 2

And as with most great ideas, this skirt is 100% plagiarised.

I first got the idea for a BRIGHT GREEN dirndl from this amazing skirt by blogger Gail of Today’s Agenda. It was love at first sight.

She in turn was inspired by this skirt from a US designer called Emerson Fry.

Emerson Fry

As soon as I saw these photos, I knew I needed an emerald-green flared skirt. I bought some suitable fabric in Goldhawk Road while on the epic sewing meet-up, 1.5 metres for £6, and it’s SO PERFECT. I think it’s cotton, but it almost feels like silk twill, with a slight sheen and a crisp hang to it. It hardly creases either.

green skirt 1
For the skirt pieces, I went digging through the stash, and came up with this battered pattern from an Ebay job lot. It’s actually for a pleated skirt, but it had the perfect shape and ready-drafted inseam pockets (yay!) so I just smoothed the waistline and gathered it rather than adding the pleats.

Style skirt pattern
I think rectangular dirndls can be a bit much if you’re pear-shaped, there’s so much bulk around the waist. This A-line shape flares nicely and avoids the full on Sound Of Music look (not that there’s anything wrong with dressing like Julie Andrews in an old pair of curtains. It’s a good look)

The colour is not right in this photo, but you get a better idea of the shape.

skirt laid out

You might be wondering about that big seam in the middle of the skirt. You see, I wasn’t sure about the front patch pockets on the original versions. I wanted something a bit different as embellishment. Then I remembered a Carven skirt I’d pinned on Pinterest, which had a flat-felled seam right across the middle. Voila:

seersucker full skirt carvenIt’s a subtle detail, but there’s something about that seam that makes the skirt hang differently and look posher. So basically I decided to rip off the idea and add a flat-felled seam to my emerald skirt, saving myself £220 in the process (yep, that’s how much the Carven skirt was.

The seam is purely decorative, but I love the extra bit of detail it adds, and it didn’t take long to sew. The trick is to avoid cutting it straight across the pattern piece. You need to curve it in line with the hem so it looks straight when you wear it. There’s a great flat-felling tutorial here from Colette which helped me a lot.

I also added little tabs and covered buttons inspired by the original Emerson Fry skirt, because why not? They’re just sewn into the waistband side seam.

skirt tab and button
I love this skirt! Now let’s hope the sunshine stays with us so i can wear it again.

greenskirt

‘Ageless Style’ and sewing in UK Vogue

There’s a brilliant little article in this month’s UK Vogue, July 2013. It’s the ‘Ageless Style’ issue, and four sets of women and their grandmothers have been interviewed about fashion and clothes across the generations.

vogue1

What caught my attention about this article was not just one, but TWO references to Burda magazine. See below:

burdavogue

The grandmothers are more interesting than their granddaughters, who mostly just reel off a list of labels. The older women have fascinating stories, from Natalyia, who was born in the USSR at the start of the 1940s and owned just two dresses, to Katholiki, who grew up in poverty on Rhodes and had to use petrol oil mixed with water to style her hair.

Most of the grandmothers are pretty sceptical about current clothing trends. All of them grew up either making their own clothes, or having clothes tailored for them, but this is not something any of the granddaughters have ever experienced.

My favourite bit is this quote on how sewing turns you from a ‘consumer of fashion’ into someone that makes fashion ‘work for you’. It’s kind of a radical statement to see in a copy of Vogue, which is all about the dream of the £5,000 dress.

vogue text1

The grandmothers are able to describe the clothes they’ve worn and made in their life in so much more detail than the granddaughters. You can visualise them perfectly.

voguesewing
Please excuse my giant hideous thumb

I love written descriptions of clothing, don’t you? I’ve always enjoyed reading about ‘sprigged muslin’ and ‘biscuit coloured pantaloons’ in Georgette Heyer novels, even though I have no idea what the hell they are.

The pictures are nice too. Check out the shoes and handbag on the left of this photo, belonging to a lady called Dora Yang. She was born in Shanghai in 1928 and always had tailored cheongsams made for her.

voguegrandmothers

It seems unusual for Vogue to cover such a wide spectrum of clothing options. I guess the fact that it’s all in the past makes it okay. I can’t see them writing an article about sewing your own clothes in 2013.

Anyway, it’s worth picking up for a read, or flicking through in WH Smiths if you don’t want to spend £3.99 on a copy.

Me-Made-May 2013: The Final Countdown

Here we go! The last instalment, plus my thoughts on the whole Me-Made-May experiment. Hope this hasn’t been too boring for you.

The photos from the last week are truly dreadful, I apologise for that. On the plus side, my ability to take one-handed iPhone pics has improved 150%.

penultimate

26th: Didn’t manage to get a picture of this day, even though I met up with fellow sewing ladies Shivani and Rachel for some Liberty fabric fun in Shaukut! I wore my Moss skirt, floral top, and trusty cardigan. You can see I haven’t missed my calling as an outfit visual merchandiser.

27th: Me-made jeans, unblogged top from Burda kimono pattern, and sparkly cardigan (again).

28th: It doesn’t seem right that I was wearing a wool skirt, a long-sleeved striped top, a knitted shawl and thermal tights in late May. That’s the Great British Summer for you.

final

Last three days, eek!

Day 29: black and white McCalls dress, Uniqlo jumper, new favourite Tatty Devine necklace.

Day 20: Me-made jeans, still unblogged Maudella vintage shirt which I really need to talk about, and Uniqlo cardigan.

Day 30: Stripey Burda kimono sleeve top, Maudella skirt, big knitted shawl again.

ME-MADE-MAY 2013 – MY THOUGHTS

IT’S FINISHED!!! OMG, I can’t believe I actually did the whole thing this time around.

The worst part was taking a photo every day, but it’s also been the most useful bit. It’s given me a great overview of what I actually wear, and what I think looks good on me (and what doesn’t).

I’d like to have had more time to engage with the community on Flickr. It was massive this year. I really enjoyed seeing the outfits of Handmade By Carolyn (sewing goddess), Crab and Bee (I love everything she wears), mchigu (her romper is AMAZING), creating in the gap (wish I had 10% of her elegance) Kathryn Mhairi (gorgeous colourful separates), and KB Field (queen of the collar) amongst others!

The best part was thinking about what I was going to put on each morning and coming up with combinations I’d never normally wear. I discovered I really like colourful accessories – necklaces and socks and cardigans – so I’m going to look out for more of those.

I’d gone off my home-made jeans a bit before May, but I wore them to death during the month, and you know what, they’re great. Sure, the fit is wonky, and the finish is worse, but I’m still proud of them.

Wow, I’ve really sewed a lot in the last year. I didn’t realise how many Burda patterns I’d made and how many everyday ‘cake’ items I have now. Blogging everything I make has really upped the quantity and quality of my sewing. I managed to stick to my pledge of wearing mostly me-made-items, apart from knitwear/jumpers/blazers.

HUGE HUGE THANKS go out to Zoe for organising this event. It’s such a simple, brilliant concept. Can’t wait to see how big it gets next year!

Here’s my whole month in review:

MMM collage