Tiny Dancer Flora Dress from By Hand London

Hey guys! It’s been too long since we talked, but I finally have a new dress to show you, not to mention a whole new haircut.

Flora 1

Recognise this little number? Yes, it’s the new By Hand London pattern, Flora, and once again the ladies have totally smashed it. I predict this will be the sewing sensation of 2014.

I have to admit I was  a bit hesitant about making this one. I loved the design but I wasn’t sure about the high-lo hem. My opinions on my knees are similar to those of Coco Chanel – I prefer them covered by either fabric or black tights.

flora side

But actually, I love the drafting of the skirt. It’s got really deep pleats so it feels very floaty to wear, and spins out around you when you move.

My fabric was very kindly provided by Raystitch, and it’s an amazing Liberty print called Tiny Dancer. Check it out:

fabric close-up

It’s covered with lines of dancing men and women in unitards, giving it the full Martha Graham. HOW AMAZING IS THAT. Raystitch do have a beautiful range of more traditional floral Liberty prints too, but I couldn’t resist this one.

I did try recreating some of the poses for you, but the results really weren’t good. I couldn’t bring myself to put them on the internet for future employers to discover. Ask me in the pub sometime and I’ll show you.

flora 4
Seemingly I did manage the old ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ though

I had to make a couple of fit alterations – lengthening the bodice two inches, as usual, and also sewing a larger back pattern than front. The fabric was a tiny bit too narrow for the full back skirt, so I just shaved a bit off the side.

The pattern asks you to clip into the seam allowance and then stitch the armholes closed by hand. That was way too much hand-sewing for me, so I just finished the armholes with bias binding. I got away with it as the fabric is so light.

flora back

I didn’t do full-on pattern matching but I did try and make sure the lines of dancing people matched on each side of the zip. It looks as though they are jeté-ing their way around my torso, which is awesome.

The back isn’t really ill-fitting by the way, I’m just standing weirdly.

I really love this wrap-effect bodice. I interfaced and stay-stitched the edges so they wouldn’t stretch out of shape, and I also understitched the lining.

flora 3

Basically, this is the perfect summer dress and for once I’ve made it in time for the right season!

Huge thanks to By Hand London for providing the pattern and Raystitch for providing the beautiful fabric.

Aubergine crepe New Look 6070 dress for the Minerva Blogging Network

I’d like to put in a vote for purple to become the official colour of Christmas.

purple dress 4

Red is played out, don’t you think? It’s so obvious, so Coca-Cola. Let’s all pretend we’re Roman emperors and drape ourselves in shades of aubergine.

Here’s my contribution to the cause, in the form of my latest project for Minerva Crafts. It’s another version of New Look 6070 which I’ve made before in a summery floral cotton – you can see that here.

purple dress 3

It’s made in a gorgeous luxury crepe from Minerva. This fabric is amazing. It’s drapey, heavy, and beautiful, and it makes the perfect winter dress. They have it in a range of beautifully saturated colours – I’m keen on the maroon, might have to pick up some of that for my next project…

This went together pretty smoothly. I had an issue with the facing, which required some tacking down, and the hem, which has annoyingly decided to flare out at the bottom. This fabric also frays like mad, so you’ll need to get the hoover out regularly when sewing.

new look 6070 dres back

I think the pleated shoulders stay just on the right side of being too 80s, although you may disagree. The fit is great, helped by the fact that this crepe has a slight stretch to it. It’s very comfortable to wear.

Top tip for working with this crepe – use a press cloth! You need quite a high heat to make it behave, but it’s easy to put a shine on the fabric if you’re not careful. You should also baste down all the pleats (I do it on my machine with a long stitch length), as you can’t iron them flat  as you would in a cotton.

Read my post about this dress on the Minerva network here, buy the kit here which includes two metres of fabric and a matching zip, and get the New Look 6070 pattern here.

Here’s to a purple Christmas!

new look 6070 dress

Epic wedding post – we’re married!

Full warning – this is massively long and crammed with about a million pictures. I’ve put it all in one post so it’s easy to skip if weddings bore you senseless.

We did it! We got married! After 9 years together we finally took the plunge. And it was the best party ever.

wedding 1

The Dress

Okay, so your marriage is the most important thing about your wedding, but the dress comes pretty close, don’t you think? I really didn’t want your typical white strapless number and initially thought I’d buy vintage or make one myself. But, as you can see, that didn’t exactly happen.

I ended up with this:

flowers wedding

Although part of me is sad I didn’t make my own dress, as soon as I put this one on I felt like Ginger Rogers or Carole Lombard. It’s so glamorous, in an old-school Hollywood way. It was perfect.

So how did it happen?

During the planning process, I tried on this fabulous Alice Temperley gold lace dress. It was love at first sight except for one thing – the price. I started feverishly researching ways to recreate it, even buying a hideous 80s fishtail prom dress pattern on Etsy.

Then one happy day I was browsing the Issa website, and saw this very similar dress, reduced from over a grand to just £500. After dithering for weeks until there was only one size 12 left, I bit the bullet and ordered it, sight unseen. I figured I could always return it.

But as soon as I tried it on, the decision was made. Surprisingly fast for me. It’s the most expensive dress I’ve ever owned, but at least I can wear it again. Not sure where – possibly just to Tescos?

wedding 4

It’s a very simple shape. There are two bust darts, two hip darts, a midriff band, and a skirt in two pieces. The armholes and neckline are finished with a flesh coloured silk binding, and there are tiny buttons on the sleeves so you can get your hands through.

The top layer is gold lace, and it’s lined with two layers of silk – a beige chiffon and a buttercup yellow charmeuse. The lining forms a strapless bodice, which is tacked to the overlayer of gold lace. It’s very well made. The only damage after three hours of strenuous ceilidh dancing was the tacking which came away slightly on one side.

The front may be demure and long sleeved, but the back has a surprise:

wedding 5

It fit nearly perfectly, but I took it to a London tailors to have about 2 cm taken out of the waistline, and the bust darts curved in.  I could have done it myself, but I was nervous about all that lace unravelling, so for £50 I thought it was worth the peace of mind.

It was ridiculously comfortable to wear and took me about 10 seconds to get into. I just needed some help with the hook and eye at the back.

wedding 6

Hair, shoes, etc

One of the best decisions I made was getting the lovely Alexis Miller to come and do my hair and make-up, as well as make-up for my bridesmaids, sisters, and mum. I really don’t have that much hair, but somehow she magically coaxed it into a Swedish style plait with a side bun, and gave me beautiful smokey eyes.

wedding makeup

A few people advised me not to hire a make-up artist as I wouldn’t end up looking like myself, but I think that really depends on whether you usually wear make-up, and also who you get. I was worried about hiring someone who would slap on a trowelful of foundation and give me 80s bridal ringlets, but Alexis was the total opposite of that.

I wish I could get her to do my hair and face for every special occasion. If I was rich I would definitely have her on retainer.

Shoes-wise, at the last minute I bought these gold leather numbers by Rachel Simpson after eyeing them up for months. They only arrived two days before the wedding. Again, they are more expensive than any shoes I have ever bought, so I plan on wearing them for housework, food shopping, yoga classes, etc etc.

wedding 7

shoes times two

I do love this picture of me showing them off to Alex though.

shoes

The Flowers and Decoration

Another amazing decision I made (so modest) was hiring Pyrus as our florists. I love flowers but I’m not that keen on typical wedding arrangements. But Pyrus are local, seasonal florists who grow all their own flowers and plants.

They created the most colourful, stunning bouquet I have ever seen. You may notice I am clutching it in every photo – I really didn’t want to let go. It smelt INCREDIBLE. I got yellow pollen all over my nose because I kept sticking it in there.

wedding flowers

They also did gorgeous, wild table arrangements in recycled glass bottles. We had a branch from a fig tree on our table which smelt like heaven.

flowers 1

Alex designed all the table plans, which were named after our favourite places in Edinburgh and London, with corresponding photos.

the river

clissold

I generally think favours are a waste of time at weddings. The only good ones are edible, and who really wants more to eat after a three-course dinner? Having said that, we did them anyway. Weddings make you crazy like that.

They were sweetie bags filled with sherbert dib dabs, love hearts, trivia cards, and party poppers. We designed stickers with our faces on to close them, as a joke, rather than because of our massive narcissism (I hope). There were only a few Dib Dabs left at the end of the night so hopefully people enjoyed them.

favours

The Venue

Teviot Row House, where we got married, is actually part of Edinburgh Student Union. It was built in 1899 and is about a million times nicer than any other student union I have ever been to, and the main hall is beautiful, with wooden panelling and balconies. It was also ridiculously cheap compared to most other venues we looked at – they only charged us for catering.

Even so, the terrace bar still has a slight student-y ambience, so we covered it with streamers and paper pompoms. Cheap, cheerful and colourful. Our friends Solii, Bob and Tom helped us out massively, spending hours up ladders the day before the wedding putting them all up.

streamers

pom poms

I know you can make these paper pompoms yourself, but again I took the lazy option and ordered them from here. One tip though – fluff them up before the wedding day. It takes bloody ages.

The Day

We wanted it to be a big, fun, happy family party, and it was really was. I have never smiled so much.

laughing 2

I found planning was easy until about a month before, when the logistics start to get pressing and I started to get stressed (who’s going to drop off the wine? Where do people sit? How will they get from church to venue? etc etc).

As I’ve already confessed, I did no DIY at all for our wedding, but we were incredibly lucky to have a huge amount of help from friends and family. The social committee at the church made and served ALL the canapes in the garden after the service – more than 1000 (!).

canapes

The Christ Church flower ladies did some beautiful arrangements in church.

church flowers

Alex’s mum Jean made the delicious wedding cake, which was soaked in brandy, and decorated with shimmering white icing feathers.

cake

My beautiful friends (including the lovely Lizzy) acted as bridesmaids and helped me get ready in the morning, bringing champagne and nibbles. Alex, on the other hand, had to go to Greggs for his nuptial breakfast. I think I win.

These ladies are the best, I really can’t thank them enough for being awesome.

kathrynalex17199

My favourite parts

We walked down the aisle together, alone. We wanted to enter married life as a couple, and I’m really glad we did it like this.

I met Alex outside the church in the garden and then we headed in together. I was a bit nervous, and it was lovely to have a quiet moment together before we saw everyone else.

kathrynalex16930

garden

Walking down the aisle is a blur. I was so jumpy I couldn’t smile properly without my mouth starting to shake.

wedding 8

But walking back down the aisle, and out into the church garden with my husband (still keep forgetting to call him that), was brilliant.

Coming out of church

The whole morning I was convinced I was going to catch my dress in my heels and fall over and break my ankle in the middle of the church, but luckily this didn’t happen. I even managed walking up and down steps with no problems. What a pro.

out of church

Another great part was making a speech at the reception. I woke up at 4am worrying about it, but it turned out to be one of my highlights of the day. Why should the men have all the fun?

wedding speech

After that, my friend Bea read out a poem she’d written especially for us, which made me totally lose it and start crying (happy tears).

Another highlight was the ceilidh. The band were called Carrie On Dancing and they were really, really good. I switched to flat shoes for this part of the evening. Ceilidh-dancing in thin heels is a recipe for a broken ankle.

ceilidh

For our first dance we decided to do the Gay Gordons, which is the traditional start to a ceilidh. We began it on our own, then people joined in as the music went on. I just couldn’t see us swaying around the floor for 5 minutes on our own to some cheesy love song, so this was a good compromise, although we did have fun suggesting more and more ridiculous first dance ideas to each other (The Final Countdown! Respectable by Mel and Kim! Vibe by R Kelly!)

ceilidh dancing

Actually, I think my favourite thing about our wedding was looking around and seeing so many of our friends and family together in one room. I have never hugged so many people in one day. It was the best.

ceilidh 3

ceilidh 2

ceilidh 1

Our photos

The absolutely definite BEST decision we made was having Caro Weiss as our photographer.

I was a bit daunted by finding a photographer. There are so many out there. Plus, we got married in Edinburgh but organised everything from London, so we didn’t get a chance to meet with most of the suppliers before the day. But we completely lucked out with Caroline.

I’ve been to a lot of weddings where the bride and groom disappear for 3 hours for a mammoth photo sesssion, while you stand around aimlessly, waiting for them to reappear so you can get your dinner. That was something we definitely wanted to avoid.

Caroline only took us away for 20 minutes, so guests got to stand around aimlessly with us instead. And she still got pictures like these:

walking

caro 1

To be honest, I hardly noticed her on the day. She’s like a photography ninja. She captured so many lovely moments, and got the nicest pictures of us and our friends and family that I’ve ever seen.

kathrynalex17042

The photos in this post are all from her. If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can see even more pictures of our wedding on her blog here.

If you’re getting married in Scotland, hire this woman! She’s a genius.

The end

Did you make it this far? I hope it wasn’t too boring. As a bonus, here’s my one piece of wedding advice:

It will be over in a FLASH, so don’t stress about it too much. It’s just one day of your life. As long as you end up married, it’s all good.

(Just try not to set the legal paperwork on fire, as we nearly did while signing it next to a lit candle. That could really have put a dampener on the day).

caro 4

Thanks for reading!

Vintage Maudella dress in coffee coloured polka dot crepe

Well what do you know – it’s a bank holiday weekend here in the UK and the sun actually came out! And having the Monday off means I have a bit of extra time to catch up with blogging.

I’ve got so many new things to show you, but our internet at home has been broken, which has made it a bit tricky. Anyway, I’ve managed to get online now, so fingers crossed it holds out until I finish this post.

This is a new dress I made for a wedding last weekend in Scotland. It POURED with rain but it was a lovely day, and everyone was safely indoors (except for the poor bagpiper standing outside the hotel, who had huge streams of water running from his cape.)

spottydress1

I won this crepe fabric in a giveaway run by the lovely Rehanon. I think the coffee colour makes enormous polka-dots look quite sophisticated, and it was gorgeous to sew with.

The pattern has the same shoulder treatment as the Colette Ceylon, but it’s actually a vintage Maudella pattern which I won on Ebay for 99p! You’ve seen it before, but here’s the envelope again, just cos I love it:

maudella dress front

I’d definitely make this again – it’s pretty quick to put together, and the shoulder yokes are so cute! I did two things that really made a difference. I bought posh interfacing from the English Couture Company, which made the usual stuff I sew with look like old cardboard in comparison. And I worked very hard on adjusting this dress around the shoulders, so the sleeves aren’t sliding off for once.

Unfortunately tissue-fitting didn’t show me that the centre front neck was far too big. It looks okay, but I’m going to rip out the facing and bring that front seam in a bit. I’m loathe to start making muslins for everything, so I’ll just chalk it up to experience.

dress bodice on hanger

I probably should have lined this dress, but I didn’t have the time or the fabric, so I took the cheater’s option. That’s buying a slip from M&S to go underneath. Specifically, this one.

I heartily recommend doing this. A lot of vintage dresses aren’t lined and were designed to be worn with a matching slip, so there’s a precedent! I kept thinking ‘well I could make my own slip….’ but then I came to my senses and realised I sew for fun, and that would not be fun.

I also added belt loops using this easy-peasy Colette patterns tutorial, and felt very smug about it too (although one broke halfway through the night, boo. I was dancing quite a lot).

dress belt loop
Belt Loop Action!

So, in conclusion, hooray for Maudella patterns! As well as this dress and this skirt, I’ve made another piece of clothing from this English pattern company in May, which I will post about soon (she said unconvincingly).

Here’s another photo just to prove that I can smile in pictures:

spottydress2

Important parrot update

It’s been a while, but my parrot obsession is still undimmed.

A pretentious children’s shop in Stoke Newington is currently showcasing these in their window:

mini rodini

I tracked them down to a label called Mini Rodini, who sell overpriced clothing for tiny hipsters. I really need this jumper.

parrot jumperWhy should children get all the best clothes? Who spends £45 on a sweatshirt for a 7-yr old anyway? It’s so unfair.

Apparently there’s a childhood obesity epidemic, but it doesn’t seem to have reached Scandinavia, where this label is from. The largest size they do in these still wouldn’t fit me. I am tempted to do some screen-printing and rip this sweatshirt off (also if I spot that budgie fabric anywhere my jumpsuit plans will be resurrected ASAP).

On the other hand, this Charlotte Taylor dress is adult-sized, and possibly the best dress in the history of the world.

parrot dress

It’s like Sonia Delauney with parrots. Luckily it’s sold out as it’s a bit over my budget.

My final parrot find is from Boticca.

I signed up to this accessories website to try and find some interesting wedding earrings, but I find it nearly impossible to navigate. It has the Etsy problem – there’s just WAY too much stuff. Also Boticca send me nearly as many emails as Linkedin, which is a pretty high spamming bar to reach.

However I did manage to find this origami parrot necklace, which is also over my budget. I like to admire it from afar though.

design-fetish-origami-jewelry-2This concludes your April ’13 parrot update.

p.s. who’s going to the London meet-up on Saturday? I’m pretty excited about the thought of that many sewing bloggers gathered in one place. It may cause a huge ripple in the space-time-sewing continuum.

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).

Denim shirt dress – Simplicity 2246

This is the Lisette Traveler dress, Simplicity 2246.

Simplicity 2246

Sorry for my stern expression. I’ve just bought a magnetic Gorilla Pod tripod, which I wrapped around the light switch to take this photo. I was wondering if it was going to fall off and smash my camera mid-shot.

This dress does have a slight lady-prison-warden vibe to it though, maybe I was channeling that.

This is a lovely pattern, with lots of helpful touches like huge hem allowances on the sleeves, so that you can roll them up without any side-seam stitching showing. Two things I’d advise you to think about if you want to sew this:

  1. Pin the pockets to the dress to check positioning, BEFORE you sew and top-stitch them. I lengthened the body and then sewed on the top pockets without checking, and they were ridiculously high.
  2. You hem the dress very early on in the sewing process, so think about where you want it to end before you cut the pattern out – you’ll need to alter it then.

I’m not 100% happy with this version. My boyfriend compared it to a denim lab-coat, and the swayback adjustment I did has given the skirt a definite A-line shape, which I don’t like (but am too lazy to change).

The fabric is beautiful thick denim from Fabricland*. As well as running a truly unique website, Fabricland have a chain of shops in the south of England which reward some digging. When you walk in they appear to sell 100 different colours of glittery dancewear fabric and nothing else, but if you spend time rummaging there’s some really good quality fabrics, well-priced too. As well as this denim I got 2 metres of beautiful bright blue Italian wool, destined to be a pencil skirt one day.

*Don’t click on that link if you’re feeling at all nauseous today. 

I added belt-loops and used metal snaps instead of buttons. I’d just made the Beignet when I sewed this dress, and I couldn’t face making another ten buttonholes.

However it turns out that spending two hours hammering these little metal things into place is just as stressful as sewing buttonholes.

Firstly, sewing buttonholes doesn’t involve repeatedly hitting your thumb with a large hammer (unless you’re doing something very wrong). Secondly, if you live in a block of flats, sewing buttonholes won’t lead to your neighbours leaving a note on your door in the morning, asking ‘the DIY enthusiast’ to keep the noise down after 6pm at night. Just a little tip.

Sunshine dress – Vogue 9668

Here’s the dress I was frantically trying to finish before my recent holiday – Vogue 9668 in yellow gingham.

Vogue 9668 - Sunshine dress
Sorry about my dreadful smirk

I bought the fabric in May and it’s been marinating in my stash for a few months.  I LOVE large gingham prints, and thought this would be perfect for a beach wedding*, but didn’t want to do something too obviously 1950s. I bought a few vintage patterns on Etsy which I thought about using, but in the end  Vogue 9668 seemed like the best choice as I’ve made it twice before.
*The wedding ended up actually being in the living room of our rental house, due to a massive storm at the wrong moment, but I reckon it was still technically a beach wedding.

The fabric is so super fine and drapey, I love it. I got it from Fabrics Galore in Battersea, and apparently it’s from Paul Smith, I’m guessing it was used for their line of men’s shirts. The bodice and midriff are self-lined, and the skirt is lined with white cotton poplin.

Here’s the back:

I made a metric ton of alterations on this dress, some good, some not so good.

Before I cut the fabric –

-An FBA on the bodice
-Changed the bodice so the two sides meet in a sort of V/scoop neck,  instead of coming straight down to the midriff band (which I thought was a bit too low-cut for a wedding)
-Re-drawing the armholes so they were a better fit to add sleeves. I basically made this up as you can probably tell.

Vogue 9668 inside the bodice
Here's the inside with the bra cups sewn in

While I was making the dress –

-Bra cups sewn into the lining, as this style is too low-cut in the back to wear a normal bra.
-Added yellow piping to the midriff seams
-I changed the massive bust dart into two smaller ones, which worked extremely well in reducing-‘pointiness’, but made it a pain to sew the bodice to the midriff. Should have done this BEFORE cutting out the fabric.
-Sewed a ribbon to the back, as otherwise the dress constantly slipped off my shoulders in a Flashdance stylee.

Vogue 9668 back and ribbon
RIBBON ENHANCE! Please note my friend's amazing drawing of a jar of treacle, top left

Otherwise I pretty much followed the Vogue instructions, even hand-sewing down the midriff facing to the skirt, which is an unusual occurance as I loathe and despise hand-sewing (that’s why me and embroidery have never got on).

Reasons I love this dress:

      • It’s yellow gingham! It makes me feel like Doris Day.
      • Adding bra cups to the dress was a great idea, I feel super sewing smug about this.
      • I finished off all the seams properly for once.
      • It’s great for twirling around in, because of the bias cut skirt.

Twirling around in Vogue 9668

Reasons this dress could be better:

  • Oh dear, why didn’t I match up the checks on the front skirt? The back skirt is great but for some reason (I think it’s called ‘sewing after 11pm’) the front is totally out.
  • The fit isn’t amazing – you can see that the ribbon puts a lot of strain on the back bodice pieces, and the front stands away from my body a bit (it is fully interfaced so that doesn’t help).
  • It’s a smidgen too tight round the waist. After eating a huge meal and dancing around in 90% humidity at the wedding, I had to admit defeat and change into something more comfortable.
  • I’m not naturally a yellow sort of person, although this dress may have won me over.

On balance, I love this dress, even though it has absolutely no place in my daily life, and it’s too summery for most British weddings, so I forsee a long future in the wardrobe for poor Vogue 9668.  Somebody I know really has to get married on a beach so I have an excuse to wear it again. The South of France would be acceptable, or the Caribbean. Maybe even an Italian lake, I’m not fussy.

Jumping in Vogue 9668
Invite me to your wedding! I will jump around like a fool!

(sorry about not wearing shoes in these photos and thus exposing you to my feet. I know they look really dirty but it’s a combination of a tan and some dodgy lighting, honest)