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Refash., Thrift Store Thursdays

From coat to skirt

Going to a vintage pound sale weekend once or twice a year has become a tradition for me and a good friend of mine. It’s usually in a warehouse somewhere in East London, we usually plan to get there first thing in the morning on the Saturday, and usually end up arriving hours after the opening on the Sunday.

We usually still have to queue up, which is a great opportunity to catch up, and we usually end up being a bit disappointed with the offer, but still manage to walk away with some goodies. Usually. Around this time last year, those goodies were these two leather coats for £1 each.

I must have spent over an hour searching for them, as most of the jackets on sale were mouldy, cracked  or had been made up of small pattern pieces. These two have seen better days too, but after dismantling them, I had enough material to make something wearable out of it.

I already have a leather-like skirt, which I don’t really wear because I don’t like the shiny material, so I knew there was a gap in my wardrobe that I now had the fabric to fill.

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The pattern is a self-drafted one, based on the also self-drafted basic skirt block I made using Winifred Aldrich’s book (I bought the old version for a couple of pounds, but psst: it’s also available for free in PDF somewhere online…). 😉 It was supposed to be a simple A-line skirt, but I had to make modifications according to the size and shape of the pieces I had from the disassembled coats.

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It has an exposed zip on the side, a simple waistband and no lining… which decision I may have to reconsider. I have worn this skirt a lot, especially during Me-Made-May last year, but somehow I keep forgetting that it sticks to my tights while walking and how annoying that is. So next time I feel bored, I may add a lining and see if that resolves the issue…

 

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From scratch

Valentine’s Day sewing

I don’t think I personally know anyone who takes Valentine’s Day seriously, yet when it comes to the 14th February, all of a sudden people kind of feel like doing a little something for their loved ones. That is pretty much my attitude as well, although this year turned out to be a bit different in many ways…

First of all, I decided to take part in this year’s Secret Valentine Exchange. Then I found out that the surgery I was waiting for would be right before I was supposed to send the #2017sve gift off, so I was left with a few days to plan and create said gift. And lastly, I happen to have someone special to spend this particular Tuesday with, which gave me another reason to make something.

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For the Secret Valentine Exchage I got to make a present for Stacy, an artist in the US, who seems to be really good at using natural dyes to create beautiful fabrics and yarns. She likes earth tones, and natural fibers, so half way through sewing a kimono robe for her, I realised that it may come out looking nice and perfect to make Valentine’s Day a little special, but ultimately the colour and texture are very far from what she would be happy to wear, so I decided to make something else.

I love making bags and I always wanted to try dyeing with something I can find in the kitchen, like turmeric, so I ended up doing both.

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I used this brilliant pattern & picture tutorial, and managed to finish it in about 4 hours from drafting the pattern to sewing the final hand stitches. I have saved the pattern as it makes for a very neat bag, although in future I think I would make it slightly deeper and a bit narrower.

The turmeric dyed fabric turned out to be bright yellow, and not the ochre shade it looked like while wet (picture on top), which was a big surprise, but I was still pretty happy with how intensive the colour was. I don’t know a lot about dying fabric, so other that using an aluminium pot (does it even matter) for the dyeing process, I don’t think I did anything to make it colour fast, so fingers crossed it won’t cause any trouble while washing it…

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I got a big box of goodies “in return” from Regina in Pennsylvania. It included 2 little zippered pouches, 3 fat quarters for quilting, two fabric marker pens, a thread wax and a lovely letter. The little bags are so impeccably made I could hardly believe they were not fed through some industrial machines calibrated just to make things like these. I really love the fabric choices as well, they look exactly like things that would catch my eyes in a store.

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The fat quarters are really fun too, and what’s best is that I don’t actually have any proper quilting fabric at hand, so they really do fill a gap in my stash.

What I was also missing until now were those marker pens. I have never been a fan of the tailor’s wax or chalk, so hopefully they will end up being as useful as I imagine them to be, just like the thread wax which I am already familiar with. Thank you so much Regina! 😀

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Since the surgery, I have been home-bound, so when my boyfriend mentioned that Valentine’s Day is coming up, I thought it would be best to use my time making a little gift, just in case he feels like surprising me (he did 😉 ). He has to wear a suit to work, and sometimes he even puts on a tie, so it seemed like a good idea to try to make one.

I picked out two fabrics for the project from my stash: an African print waxed cotton and a silk sari with a really bold print. Since I was doubted he would wear the latter one, I decided not to cut into that sari just yet, and went for the blue and red cotton fabric.

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Using this pattern (with some modifications), and some of the instructions from Purl Soho’s tutorial, I ended up with something very much resembling a tie. It feels super long though, so we’ll find out tonight if it actually works like a tie is supposed to…

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The Secret Costumier - The Hungarian Parliament Building ©Robbie Packer

The Secret Costumier - Budapest

The Secret Costumier - Budapest

The Secret Costumier - Budapest - The Hungarian Parliament Building ©Robbie Packer

The Secret Costumier - Budapest

The Secret Costumier - Budapest - The Hungarian Parliament Building ©Robbie Packer

The Secret Costumier - Budapest

The Secret Costumier - Budapest

I’ve spent a weekend in the city where I grew up, and for the first time in my life I got to look at it as a tourist. I moved to London because I felt more at home here than I ever did in Budapest, but I guess the distance, the time spent away and the urge to show le boyfriend a good time, allowed me to see the city in a whole new light.

Budapest is full of pretty buildings, but other than the main attractions, nothing beats getting lost in the Jewish quarter and looking at all the little details on the buildings there, some of which are housing apartments, others hiding those famous “ruin bars”. When I mentioned to my friends that I am planning to take Robbie to Szimpla (the first and most famous such bar), they seemed unimpressed with my choice, because locals think it’s too touristy. It does have more tourists than locals I must admit, but for a good reason. It’s the still the quirkiest, biggest, most fun of them all, and the farmers’ market on Sunday morning with live jazz and great quality food was just unbeatable.

We also went to the biggest bath in Budapest (Széchenyi), which in spite of the freezing weather was a fabulous choice. There’s nothing quite like chilling in a pool of hot water, outdoors, after spending a day walking all around the city.

There are way more dishes to try than patience in me to mention them, but if you’re only gonna eat one meal, have a lángos. It’s a salty dough, fried in oil with different toppings, but the one I would strongly suggest you to go for is the sour cream & cheese one. It. Is. Divine.

Long story short, I think what I am trying to say is that I had an amazing time, especially because I was able to totally be in holiday mode without all the struggle of making decisions about where to go and what to eat. So if any of you Ladies and Gents are planning a trip there, I’m more than happy to shower you with recommendations. 😉

Travels

Budapest

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Ready & waiting

2017 – Resolution time!

Here comes the ever so late new year’s resolution post for 2017! By a twist of fate, this post was published automatically while it was still a draft, so now I feel like it would be flat-out cowardice to delete my very first, most intimidating resolution, so here it comes:

1. Start my own business.

I think whoever learns how to create (anything at all) and really enjoys doing it, gets to a point where the idea of turning the hobby into a dream job pops up. Ever since I have discovered the joys of sewing, I hoped that one day making clothes, and listening to music while doing that, would be how I spend all day, everyday.

I don’t want to give away too much just yet, as I’ve had an eureka moment recently, and realized that I need to sit down and talk the idea through with somebody with actual experience, but I promise you’ll be the first to know if I ever manage to turn this into reality.

2. Learn a new skill: Embroidery.

More specifically, learn the beautiful technique that is on the verge of being forgotten and what technically is appliqué, not embroidery. It’s coming from the small village where my mum grew up, called Buzsak, and where my grandmother was often commissioned to make table clothes and pillows for special occasions.

I love this resolution, as it hopefully will give me a chance to learn from my mum, who might end up enjoying it so much that she takes it up again herself.

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image source: kezdi.info

3. Learn to play 3 songs on the guitar.

The guitar case is great, but I guess the reason I got the guitar in the first place was not so that I can sew a case for it. Or was it?!

4. Finish the Wardrobe Architect project.

Now, more than ever, I feel like I need a total wardrobe rehab. Not because I am bored with my clothes, but because after doing 3 Me-Made-Mays I have a very clear idea of what clothes I am actually wearing, and I can’t stand looking at those I don’t wear. So the first step forward will be to get rid of the unused clothes (aka donate to charity shops), and to get rid of all the fabric I’ve had in my stash for years without having a clue about what to do with them.

Question 1: Should I donate my me-made clothes as well (I am worried that they won’t fit anyone else and will be discarded), or should I try to reuse the fabric (we all know what this means though: more stash!)

Question 2: What’s the best place to sell/give away pre-cut fabric pieces, especially when one is unsure about the fabric content?

5. Travel to one of the top places on my bucket list.

I am dying to go to a lot of places, but Bali, a cycling holiday in Puglia (Italy), and a road trip to LA-The Yosemite National Park-Vegas-San Francisco-The Big Sur have all been on top of my list for years now. I decided not to go a couple of times because I didn’t want to travel on my own, or because I can’t drive, or because of some other excuse, but really I just didn’t want to leave my comfort zone. This year should be different! 😉

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Image sources: Bali, Puglia, San Francisco

6. Reach level 52 on Memrise.

Just get there already. 🙂

7. Post on Instagram once a week.

I have been a very passive Instagram user for years now. I found it a bit overwhelming to look at it daily (in addition to my Pinterest addiction) and didn’t feel inspired enough to contribute much either.

Then came the #sewphotohop organized by Rachel from House of Pinheiro. It was really inspiring to think about ways to answer the prompts with a picture every single day, but what really made a difference was discovering the massive sewing community on Instagram. I am now following so many people with very different styles and skills, that slowly but surely checking what everyone is making has become another addiction. According to my 2016 #bestnine, my most popular posts were the pictures taken for MeMadeMay2016 and posted during the #sewphotohop… 🙂

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8. Get a tattoo for your 30th!

Oh yes. I am turning 30 this year and I am planning to mark the occasion with an actual mark. Whenever I imagined getting a tattoo, I was looking for some wise words, but never managed to find anything with a timeless meaning… And then I stumbled on a very minimalistic tattoo, which may not be the most original, but it’s fun, interesting and symbolizes the one activity I can’t imagine my life without: sewing.

9.#2017makenine

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I decided to join all the crafters who will #makenine projects this year, and come up with a list of 9 things I will focus on. Half of these are already planned out/toilled and they should also fit in with my wardrobe plans. Here is a little breakdown of what is on my sewing/knitting list in 2017:

For the image sources click on the links below.

  1. Embroidered summer dress/top – with the above mentioned Buzsaki appliqué.
  2. Bra – I am already working on a muslin for this.
  3. Little French jacket
  4. Little black dress – I actually have 4 little black dresses, but none of them are comfortable, elegant, and a wee bit sultry all at the same time.
  5. Slip dress – I have been slightly obsessed with making camisoles cut on the bias lately, now I want to go a little further…
  6. Knitted turban – I love turbans and this should be a quick knit. Win-win!
  7. Culottes – My favourite kind of trousers, I definitely could do with another pair.
  8. Military jacket – I’m planning on making a short version of my beloved military jacket, with this lace up detail.
  9. Napkins – They are pretty and simple and make dinners feel extra special. 😉

10. Stop being late. Aim to be late as rarely and as little as possible. 🙂

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Ready & waiting

So long 2016…

Since the first week of 2017 is coming to an end, I thought it was high time I took a look at how I did resolution-wise last year.  I decided to cut myself some slack and instead of ticking things off the list, or not, I gave myself a score judging how far I’ve gotten on the path of completion. 😉

1. Make a Little French Jacket – 10%

In 2015 I managed to get to the stage where I ordered my first 20 samples from Linton Tweed. In 2016 I got another 40 of them, got super confused and decided to just chill out and make a guitar case (pictured unfinished below) from all those samples.

The Secret Costumier - Handmade guitar case

I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out whether I should go with a goes-with-everything-little-black-jacket or something fun and colorful. I then ended up buying 3 meters of some really interesting looking, white-blue fabric from Linton for less than half the original price.

Now, of course, I can’t see the logic behind this move and I’m thinking that on the long run it would be worth buying the black fabric that I really want, if I’m gonna spend 80 hours making it. I have already spent about 4 hours on the toile alone and I haven’t even started the fitting, so that number does seem to be realistic!

2. Try lingerie making – 100%

I really wanted to try making my own lingerie for a while, but I didn’t think I needed to take classes to learn how to. However, when I found out that the pattern cutting class at Morley that I was about to sign up for wasn’t going to go ahead, I sort of panicked and enrolled for a bra making class instead.

Best. Decision. Ever. Carol, our teacher, used to work for brands like Coco de Mer and Agent Provocateur, so I knew I was going to learn from someone with a similar taste, but I had no idea how fun she was! And so were my class mates.

The Secret Costumier - Handmade bra

Long story short, I have almost finished a wearable muslin and I finished a bra made of some vintage lace. I think it turned out great (I’ll show you soon), it’s my best fitting bra ever, and I’m already working on the next one! 🙂

3. Continue learning French – 61%

Resolution: Reach level 52 on Memrise by the end of the year.

Result: Reached level 32. Way to go, but the real achievement here is not giving up on it! 😉

4. Watch a play once a month – 100%

This brought me so much joy last year! I bought a “passport” to one of my favourite Off West End theatres, so I watched half of the plays there on my own, and caught the rest in theatres all around London, sometimes with friends joining me.

The best show was definitely Yerma at the Young Vic (probably one of the best plays I have ever seen tbh), and apart from 2, I have enjoyed all of them. 8 out of the 12 plays had the same theme, which says a lot about the whole year I think: terrorism and the refugee crisis. (You can read a brief description of the plays by clicking on the images below if you’re interested.)

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

 5. Knit a jumper! – 100%

The Secret Costumier - Knitting

I’ve done it!!! 3 years after learning how to knit I have finally finished something I could actually wear! I will take some photos of it soon, but in the meantime I might try to improve it a little (boring neckline + bulky arms).

6. Make a quilt. – 99%

The Secret Costumier - Quilting prep

Done. 99% means that some threads need to be tied and the binding needs to be finished by hand on 2 sides. It was a Christmas gift to the wonderful guy who makes me not want to spend all my waking hours sewing, because he really needed one.

7. Finish the UFOs. 0%

Did not even touch them, just created more…

8. Drink more water! 50%?

Since I did not come up with a tracking system I have no clue, but to be super honest I don’t think I did very well.


I have now compiled a list of resolutions for 2017 too, as I really like having a plan for the year ahead, but there are a number of factors that could change how my year pans out, so I’ll hang onto them for a little while…

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It’s been almost 3 months since I last shared anything in this little corner of the internet. It feels like the longer break you take, the harder it is to find something meaningful to say.

Pretty much from May till September my sewing and personal life were the busiest and happiest they’ve ever been. By October my workload got really out of hand, I felt exhausted and didn’t handle the lack of sunshine and free time very well. Long story short: I still don’t feel the urge to get out of bed most weekends, but I do want to be an active member of this community, because come rain or shine sewing is still the one thing I cannot stop thinking about.

I’m wishing you all (a very belated) happy holidays in my impromptu Christmas jumper! 😀

Refash.

Well, hello world!

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From scratch

Those Delpozo trousers

…otherwise known as my final project for the “Pattern Cutting for Beginners: Trousers” course at Morley College.

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You would normally make a toille for a standard pattern size in class, but I braved drafting a block in my own size and modifying it into this pair (without testing the block first #foreverlazy). After getting some help from Linda, our fab teacher, it was a fairly straightforward process to end up with something that resembles the original Delpozo number below.

Image sources: 1, 2

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After careful inspection, now I can see that the ruffles are inserted into a cut on the front of the trousers, while I drafted the front of the trousers as two separate pattern pieces. Where the center front runs I drew a curve, connecting the two legs, almost reaching the top edge of the trousers.

The ruffles are made of a straight piece of fabric that has been folded in half and turned inside out. Matching the two pieces at the top was a total nightmare, as after about 6 tries they were still off by a millimeter or two.

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My fabric choice was not the best, as for some reason I thought the trousers were supposed to be really fitted and I went with a very crisp, presumably some kind of a cotton blend fabric, with zero stretch. Because I drafted a fitted pair of trousers and made it up in a non-stretchy fabric, AND I made sure to keep the ease to a minimum (since it was gonna be fitted, you know!), this is the least comfortable pair I own, to put it lightly… 🙂

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They are pretty hard to be worn casually too, and I’ve kind of given up on that idea already, yet I was pleasantly surprised by being able to cycle to Frank’s in Peckham to take these photos, when my original idea (to photograph le pants at the Chanel x i-D x Es Devlin’s exhibition a few steps away) fell through, due to the 2 hour queuing time…

So. I don’t hate it as much as I did at first, when I wasn’t even sure whether I should finish it or not, and I may make a looser version of it, but I suspect it will not be on regular rotation… Oh well, moving on to the next one! 🙂

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