From scratch

The Vogue dress

Either out of laziness or because I’m too impatient, but I hardly ever try new patterns these days. I made an exception recently with the Vogue 1341 and I am pretty glad I did!

I bought this pattern a few years ago and have been looking for the right fabric every time I entered a fabric shop. I finally found a fairly big piece of this mauve/deep purple fabric in a charity shop, on sale for £2, so even though the only colour out there that I really don’t like is purple, I still went for it.

 At home I realised that it’s a bit less than the length I needed, but by ignoring the grain lines on the sleeves, and cutting one of the sleeves out of two pieces, I managed to make the dress out of it.

It’s probably the most challenging, yet fun pattern I have ever worked with. The front and most of the back of the dress are made up of one pattern piece that has darts and pleats to control the drapes. Once the sleeves are set in, they make up parts of the back.

I was supposed to insert a zip into the back seam, but even after taking in a lot from both the front and back seams, it was loose and stretchy enough for me to just pull it on over my head, so I decided not to. There is still some excess fabric at the lower back, but It doesn’t bother me much, and since the back and the front are the same piece, taking in more fabric at that back seam could have an effect on the drapes on the front too.

Once the dress was sewn up, it didn’t quite look like it did on the photo. The folds were not exactly where they were supposed to be, and the draping seemed way less dramatic. I saw very few dresses made up on other blogs, but I remember one where the lady decided not to insert the lining and just wore a slip underneath. I was quite reluctant to make the lining too, but as soon as I sewed the lining and the dress together where the seam line is in the front, everything fell into place and it looked just like the red dress on the photo. I think it’s an amazing little trick, but there should be a note to let sewists know that lining the dress is not optional, it’s the key to get the design! 🙂

I really love this dress, it came together in a night, but right now I am really struggling to find a place, or the right occasion to wear it to, mostly because the shoes that would go with it aren’t really meant for daily wear, and at this point of my life I am not willing to sacrifice comfort for style, so for now it stays in the safety of my wardrobe. 😉

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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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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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From scratch

The crochet bikini top

I tried my hands at making swimwear last year (see the most successful outcome, the bikini brief below), and I have to say it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever sewn. That was one of the reasons for not attempting to make more before our recent holiday. The other one was the difficulty of finding proper swimsuit fabric in London, so I decided to try a different approach this time.

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I was never a big fan of crochet bikinis, but I really liked the fact that it can be easily replicated at home. That’s if you know how to crochet, of course. I didn’t. But what is a 6 hour flight good for, if not for learning a new craft, am I right? 🙂

I did learn how to do the first chain super quickly, but doing the second row just made no sense at all. If you do something for a while there might just be a point when it all clicks, and luckily it did. Once I finished one of the cups (by following this video) and could see that it didn’t quite look the way it was supposed to, I was confident enough to go back and start again.

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By starting again, I mean pulling out the whole thing and redoing it, this time a lot neater. I managed to finish it on our way to the hotel, but unfortunately I could not actually test it in action, as it simply didn’t do the job. The problem is that the cups are really gaping, unless I pull the neck straps tight. If I do that, however, then the strap that goes around my back won’t stay in place, and I still get exposed, just in a different way.

All is not lost though, I think if I undo the straps where the cups meet, make the cups a little longer, turn them under to form a case for the straps like in normal bikinis, then I’ll be able to feed a strap through the case and move the cups where they fit best. Now I just need some inspiration on where to wear it next, and the work can commence… 😉

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From scratch

The red dress

On Monday I decided to check out the Notting Hill Carnival for the third time since I’ve been a Londoner. For the first time I actually had some fun. 🙂 I wore a dress that I made at the very beginning of summer, but have had no chance to wear it until now.

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It’s pretty much a replica of a dress by Reformation that I spotted a few months ago. I didn’t have a pattern, so I just had to work it out while sewing it, but I think it does the job.

Image source: Reformation Carson dress

There is only one seam at the back, the top bit is lined with the same fabric, and the edges are bound with a bias binding, also made of the red knit. Luckily you can’t really see that the lining is slightly smaller, so the fabric is kind of gathering around the armholes. It was supposed to be a very simple sew, but binding knits is not my specialty, to put it mildly…

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The dress turned out to be a really comfortable wear, even cycling was fine in it. The only reason why it won’t be my go to summer dress is the combination of being skin-tight AND backless, but if you’ve seen photos of the Carnival, you can imagine that it was just the right choice for the occasion. 😉

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From scratch

The safari shirt

A few months ago I felt a burning need to sew a shirt. I have tried my hands at making one before, and decided not to bother with it ever again. 🙂

But then I guess struggling with sewing something difficult might be like giving birth. Once you see how well it turned out, you forget how difficult the labor was and you decide to have another one…

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When we booked our tickets to Tanzania and the safari looked like something that might actually happen, I started researching what to wear to one. I mean, we probably all have the same images of people in sand-coloured trousers with practical pockets, women wearing a not so practical white shirt, and the usual clichés.

As the time of the holiday was approaching I decided not to make each and every outfit I was planning to wear, but to only sew stuff I could also wear in areas less populated by wild animals, so the idea of a khaki shirt was born.

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I bought the cotton fabric in Budapest, and for quite some time I wasn’t sure if I picked the colour I was actually looking for. The pattern is a mix of two patterns from Burdastyle with a further modified collar.

I really liked the pleated pockets on this blouse pattern, but I didn’t like the hidden buttons and I wouldn’t have been able to do it with my material anyway. Which is why I simply copied the front with the button placements from this basic shirt pattern.

On my first attempt I finished the whole collar and turned the button facing under, sewed it in place, just to find out that I have turned it under so many times that the two front panels no longer met. I was ready to give up, but I quite enjoyed following a pattern (for once) and getting otherwise nice results so much by that point, that I decided to just keep my head down, rip the seams out of the whole collar and all the way down where the buttons are, and do it again.

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And it was totally worth it. I am really happy with the outcome. I love the french seams, the big pockets and how light it is. I could hardly believe it, but it actually wasn’t that hot during the safari at all, so it proved to be the perfect choice.

 

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The Secret Costumier - The Little White Dress
From scratch, Thrift Store Thursdays

The Little White Dress

I and 2/3 of my family went on holiday to Tanzania recently. It was undoubtedly one of the (if not THE) best holidays of our life. We signed up for a safari and booked a hotel on Zanzibar, so I had to plan clothes that will work for covering up and on the beach too.

I already wanted to make a khaki shirt, and I realized that I have enough clothes for summer that I really like, so I did not plan on making a lot of stuff ahead of the holiday. Then Pinterest happened. The beautiful pictures of the beaches of Zanzibar inspired me to make just a few more things…

The Secret Costumier - The Little White Dress

I’ve always wanted to have a white summer dress with loads of embroidery, but I did not intend to do the embroidering, so I started looking at all things already embroidered on eBay. I searched through over 100 pages of listings of curtains, tablecloths and napkins until I found this beautiful vintage tablecloth that was about 2m x 3m, and it went for only £11.

When my mum saw it, she was trying to convince me that I should let it be the beautiful thing it was, but I cut into it before we got too attached…

The Secret Costumier - The Little White Dress

The Secret Costumier - The Little White Dress

Since I had only a couple of days before the holiday, without having an actual pattern, I just started cutting the fabric up, trying to make the most of the embroidered parts.

The skirt is made out of 2 rectangles sewn together and gathered, while the bodice is made of the 2 corners of the tablecloth. I inserted some darts there, handsewn some “lining” to the back of the cups and made spaghetti straps from the leftover fabric… and forgot to get rid of some significant amount of thread as you can see below. 😀

The Secret Costumier - The Little White Dress

The Secret Costumier - The Little White Dress

The Secret Costumier - The Little White Dress

While I quite like the look of the dress, I am not extremely comfortable wearing something with that much cleavage on show outside of beach settings. Shortening the straps might improve the situation, but now that I have tested  the dress, I think I may take it apart and make something a little bit different with it…

The Secret Costumier - The Little White Dress

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