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For a Woody Allen/Sex and The City/Friends/King of Queens/HIMYM/Will and Grace/Mad Men/ you name it… fan, New York is that one city you’ve never been to, yet know absolutely everything about. Or so you think.

Last year was the first time I did not feel like I was only temporarily living in London, temporarily having a job and temporarily putting off things I would love to do once I settle down a bit – like travelling to the places on top of my wish list. After getting a taste of South East Asia in March, during a lunchtime email session we somehow ended up booking a flight to New York with my sister. 5 days Airbnbing in Williamsburg, in the middle of the weird December heathwave, ensured that I saw in the New Year pretty broke, but it was totally worth it.

I found Central Park pretty decent, the Top of The Rock is better than the Empire State building, I would pick Manhattan Bridge over the Brooklyn, people are super nice, rats are pretty much all over the place at night, the bagels beat the ones on Brick Lane, the Whitney Museum must be the coolest place to hang out, I totally missed out on fabric shopping as I’m a bit of an idiot when it comes to checking opening times I guess, Greenwich village and the banana pudding by Magnolia Bakery are to die for, and while visiting Harlem was probably more shocking than exploring certain parts of third world cities for example, it would have not been the same experience without it.

There is so much to see in the world before I decide to go back to see more of New York, yet this is one of the few cities where I would actually love to spend a few months getting to know my way around it.

(Photos of me shot by my sister @debso)

Travels

New York, New York…

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TheSecretCostumier - Laptop case3
Bags. Handmade!

New tech – old fabric

I love travelling. I love preparing for trips. I probably spend more time researching compression socks for long flights, hammams for a stopover in Istanbul or cameras that are not only affordable, but will work for taking photos on holiday as well as in the flat, for shooting the latest piece of fabric I’ve just snapped up, than actually on said holidays.

After an epic 4 month research, review reading, Youtube watching, saving, and a fair amount of dreaming, I finally updated my 7 years old laptop. In laptop years that is exactly a hundred, but the veteran still stays in the family. The new kid is currently being tested, I love new technology, but I’m also quite suspicious, so the box it came in will be part of the furniture for another 12 days…

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In the meantime, I decided to make a little case for it, so that I can take it outside and see exactly how mobile the two of us are.

You must be tired of this fabric by now, this is the same I used for the Bangkok bag and the camera case too. It is a waxed cotton from Nigeria: easy to sew, easy to iron and pretty durable. I have 6 meters of it, so once I run out of gadgets to cover, I might even make a dress for myself. :)

I have used up pretty much all the remnants of the military jacket’s lining to line the case, with some batting sandwiched between the layers for extra padding. The edges are bias bound, and some elastic is sewn at the back to hold some magazines, or paper…although given the fact that there is a pen that works wonderfully with the laptop/tablet (no notepad necessary), and having Pinterest and the whole of the internet with all the information and photos available I could possibly need, I don’t see why I would be carrying a 200 page magazine with 150 pages of adverts with me. Oh the design-fails we make… :)

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TheSecretCostumier - The Wool Skirt5
From scratch

Pattern cutting: Beginners I.- Skirts

Last year I decided to get started with learning pattern cutting. I love Morley, I’ve done a few other courses there before, and although I know how to use commercial patterns and have an understanding of what makes them fit, I wanted to get the basics right. I have finally met like-minded people in person, and all in all I have to say I couldn’t recommend the course enough…. although I really shouldn’t as I did not get a place for the second module because of the high number of applicants :( .

The teacher, Linda, is really supportive and open to whatever ideas you may come up with. I loved how, even though it was a beginners course, at our final project, we did not have to limit ourselves while coming up with the design of the skirt.

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I obviously wanted to include absolutely everything we practiced during the 11 classes from pleating, to pockets, to yokes and the different flares. But then I also wanted to make something I could take to New York with me (I have developed this habit of making something special for an upcoming trip – in the very last-minute). Since I missed the class where the others designed their final project, I had to come up with mine in under 10 minutes, so I scrolled through my secret ‘To sew’ Pinterest board and selected two skirts (skirt on left, skirt on right), then merged them into one.

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TheSecretCostumier - The Wool Skirt

There are only 4 pattern pieces in this skirt: the front, the center back, the side back (cut 2x) and the frill (cut 2x). I drafted a basic skirt block according to my measurements and by following Winifred Aldrich’s instructions. I should have then tested the block before modifying it, but you know…ain’t nobody got time for that! I had a night to start and finish the whole thing (and I was going to line a tailored coat that same evening too…), and I luckily it came along rather quickly. I did a sort of ill-fitting impromptu lining from some leftover fabric too, and while it is not that pretty, it does get the job done.

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I absolutely love the wool fabric I picked up for this, I think it’s what’s called a boiled wool, so it doesn’t fray and is relatively easy to iron. What I’m not totally happy with is how it is NOT hemmed. Sure, I was lacking time to finish it properly, but because of the round hem, I was going to add a facing to the hem, which would have made it pretty bulky and even shorter. I still have some fabric left over, so I might hem it one day, but if anyone has a suggestion on how to go about it, please do let me know, as I’m still pretty undecided on how much I love/hate this unfinished (or clean?) look…

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By the way, most photos were taken by my lovely sister at the Alberto Burri exhibition at the Guggenheim. :)

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From scratch, Ready & waiting

2016: Resolution time!

It’s that time of the year again. Some people hate them, some people love them, for me making resolutions is a bit like having a map giving me a direction for the year ahead. I know myself too well, so I try not to have too serious intentions, but looking back at what I managed to accomplish from my list is my favourite part of the end of the year.

1. Make a Little French Jacket

Do we all sewing enthusiasts have a list of things we want to sew in our life? You know, the wedding dress, something with lace, a vintage dress from a vintage pattern, the tailored coat, the Little French Jacket… Since I’m really not fussed about throwing a wedding – ever, and I’m just about to finish my tailored coat, the next long project on the list must be the Chanel style jacket that allegedly takes 80 hours to make. I have been looking at pictures of it for well over a year now, I have the pattern, I have Claire Shaffer’s book, and now I also have 20 samples from Linton tweeds’ selection. All there’s left to do is picking 1 fabric out of 20, and the 80 hours sewing can commence! :)

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2. Try lingerie making

There is so much inspiration out there and so many fantastic finished projects, that after tackling making bags, I must give this a go too. I don’t like wearing padded or underwired bras, so hopefully I’ll be able to make something nice, simple and wearable from some of the vintage lace I scored from one of Brighton’s many second-hand shops.

3. Continue learning French

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

4. Watch a play once a month

It’s hard to explain exactly why, but I’ve always found the theater magical. I even considered going back to uni to do a degree in costume design a few years ago, and working in the Royal Opera House’s costume department would still be the dream job. In spite of all this, for some reason going to the theater has not become as high a priority since I moved to London as it used to be while living in Budapest, so this year I decided to make a little effort to find some good shows.

 5. Knit a jumper!

I’ve been working on the knitting below, ever since I’ve picked this hobby up – that was 2 years ago. I obviously had to choose the prettiest AND thinnest yarn out there, which is why knitting my first top has taken me so long. Now that I finished the front of it (not following the pattern, obvs.) I managed to leave the whole thing (needles, yarn, finished front and the 1/4 of the back) on the plane to New York.

To be completely honest, I can’t say I was devastated when I found out they are gone. I think it wasn’t ever gonna be finished anyway, so now I have a good excuse to restart my knitting game… with the chunkiest wool out there, of course! :)

2014 - Resolutions reviewed!

6. Make a quilted bedcover.

I have never thrown away any scraps from any of my projects since I started sewing. I know, it’s fairly crazy, but I cherish fabric and I don’t want to waste anything. I do think I could turn even the smallest scrap into something useful, like you know…a patchwork bed cover.

All my previous projects (the journal cover and potholder) were attempts at making one, but I got bored with all the cutting and ironing of little pieces.  I also don’t quite have enough cotton scraps to make one big and beautiful quilt, so I will look for some second hand shirts, sheets or vintage fabric, and make this the year of the Quilt!

7. Finish the UFOs.

Please, please, please: just do it! New fabric shall only enter the flat once an unfinished project has left the shelf!

8. Drink more water! :)

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Ready & waiting

So long 2015…

I don’t think I was as active in interacting with other bloggers/ readers as I could have been, but I wanted to say it out loud how grateful I am for the friendly faces I see around here. Sharing the one thing I’m most passionate about with people who feel the same way about sewing, and those who just find some joy in reading about it, is one of the few constantly positive things in my life, so let me wish you All, beautiful people, a very happy New Year! x

And since I decided not to force the party mood on myself on this particular Thursday night, I have time to look back on how those resolutions from last year worked out:

Tick1.Finish my Wardrobe Architect project

I planned to do all suggested steps in the Coletterie’s Wardrobe Architect Project to put together my capsule wardrobe for a 3 week long South East Asian backpacking trip I took with my sister this year.  I planned the new pieces around some existing ones in my wardrobe and it worked quite well. More on this next year? :)hkk

Tick/ex2. Be more mindful about my body

Again, the South East Asia trip inspired me to get in(to a different) shape. Yup, you guessed it right, it did not quite happen. I did however enjoy myself on the beach in my handmade swimsuits anyway and also began a dance course in September, you know, just for body positivity’s sake and all…

TheSecretCostumier-Holidays

Tick3. Look after my two favorite machines

I promised myself to be nice to my bike and sewing machine(s) this year, and I kind of-sort of did alrightish. :) A series of punctures forced me to upgrade my tyres, and I cleaned it more than once, but I’m still not quite doing enough I think.

Still no sewing machine cover, sadly, but I did get the old one up and running. Yeeey.

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ex4. Kick a bad habit & move forward…

Nah & nah.

Tick5. Go out & do something at least once a week

I aimed to do something outside of the house at least once a week, and while I might have had a few weeks with not much going on, by signing up to 2 evening courses in September and travelling a lot, I think I did achieve what I had in mind with this resolution.

ex6. Empty out my closet

Yeah…well, we sold our home in Hungary at the end of summer and without any heartbreak we donated all our clothes that were still in the house to the organization helping the refugees in Hungary. Emptying out my closet at home is  somehow a different question. Although I did make some progress in this field too, the biggest obstacle seems to be overcoming my laziness when it comes to transporting the bags of clothes to the charity shops/ stopping myself from keeping clothes that I don’t need because ‘I could make something out of it’.

That’s about 3 and a half resolutions kept out of 6, if I’m bending them a little. I guess I’ll try a little harder from tomorrow…or make up easier resolutions to stick to? :)

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Lisbon. No new bags were made this time around, but out of all the places I’ve been this year, this is the European favourite. Those tiled old houses? The sound of the Fado everywhere? Not to mention the beautiful Portuguese men (who knew?!), and my new favourite restaurant, I think it’s safe to say that I fell in love with the place. If I wasn’t in a monogamous relationship with London already, I would definitely be busy strapping the sewing machine to the bike, while trying to find a flat in the oldest little house and a route to it avoiding those steep hills in Alfama… :)

Travels

Bem-vindo a Lisboa

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TheSecretCostumier - The Barcelona Bagmain
Bags. Handmade!, From scratch

The Barcelona Bag

Please welcome the Barcelona Bag. This is the last in my unintentional travel (and other) bag series. :)

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As you know already, I’ve spent a few days in the Spanish capital recently. I knew I would be taking one of my other backpacks as my carry on luggage, but last time I was sight-seeing in Marseille, I realized that carrying a shoulder bag is just a pain in the (quite literally) back. So I came up with the idea of using up the leftover leather from Morocco that I used for that Berlin Bag, and making a small backpack, that can be turned into a regular bucket bag.

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I did not take pictures of it acting like a bucket bag, so you will have to take my word for it, but on the picture below you can kind of see how it works. There are two clamps at the bottom of the bag that click onto the rings on the one long strap to turn it into a backpack.

TheSecretCostumier - The Barcelona Bag

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I have lined it with the same material I used for the Bangkok Bag and the camera cover, and put in a zippered pocket which turned out beautifully this time.

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I used double cap rivets for the first time, and while it was pretty easy to insert them, 2 fell out in the middle of the trip. If anyone knows a surefire way of inserting them, please do let me know, as I’m not sure if it was me, or if they were too small to start with, or simply the quality is not what I was after…

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The design of the bag was kind of random, as I just tried to use as much of the leather I had as possible. I had to buy some leather scraps from one of my favorite fabric shops in Brixton for £5/piece. The front pocket is made of one of those pieces and was left raw on the edges. Unfortunately it did not stay closed, so I had to superglue a magnetic closure thing on it. It’s not exactly how I imagined, but it works. All in all, I’m in looove with the bag! :)

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