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.

The Secret Costumier - The red dress4

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…

The Secret Costumier - The red dress1

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. 😉

The Secret Costumier - The red dress2

 

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dress upcycled from a tablecloth
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#usedtobeatablecloth: The reveal!

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing” (Camille Pissarro)

And it’s over. The summer and the #usedtobeatablecloth challenge too. Hopefully some of you have found inspiration here in the past few weeks, and there are tablecloths out there turned into something wearable and cherished.

Two sewing friends definitely did, and turned their charity shop finds into some beautiful pieces of clothing.

Marijana, from Sew2Pro, found a very similar tablecloth to what I made my Little White Dress from. She decided to dye it to indigo and made a spaghetti strap summer dress. I really love the placement of the lace details and the interesting neckline, and as far as I know there is some leftover fabric, so watch that space!

Kaci, from Textile and Stitch, bought this crochet tablecloth for a mere $1 and turned it into something Anthropologie would sell for about 200 times more. 🙂 I think it’s super difficult to find anything crocheted that doesn’t look too cute or granny like, but with the simple design and it being monochrome, she managed to pick something that goes very well with a contemporary outfit. It might just be my laziness, but I always love a nice use of the border for the hems, and the ones on this jacket look absolutely perfect.

And I’m done with my dress too, finally…

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

We went to my favourite park to have a picnic and take some photos (thank you Robbie!), and I think I got a bit more comfortable than I was supposed to in this kind of dress, so I had to pull the dress up a few times… I am now thinking of inserting boning into the sides and maybe even into the front seam lines, but it’s not high on my list of priorities at the moment.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

I already went into detail about how this dress came together, so I will not bore you with that anymore. 🙂 While I was making it, I felt that excitement that I haven’t felt in a long time during sewing.

You know, that feeling when you can see something you are working on taking shape, and you haven’t eaten for 5 hours, because you just don’t want to waste time on that instead of getting to the point where you can try it on for the first time. And you try it on. And you realise that even though you will probably only wear it a handful of times, whenever you look at it you will still be happy that you have created something you find beautiful.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

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Me-Made-May 2016, Ready & waiting

Me-Made-May 2016: The summary

The first week of June is already gone. I also can’t wait to show you all the new me-mades, but I kind of want to do this right, and figure out what I take away from a month of only wearing clothes made by my own two hands…

I wore 19 me-made garments during the 27 days I managed to keep up with the challenge:

  • 7 dresses;
  • 3 skirts;
  • 3 trousers;
  • 6 tops;
  • and 3 bags (1, 2, 3).

I decided to take a look at what I enjoyed wearing, as well as to look at the thoughts I had after last year’s Me-Made-May.

Dresses

In 2015 I wrote: “I think I have enough dresses at the moment, although I tend to wear them a lot, so I will allow myself to make more if I feel like it. I might also give that jumpsuit idea a go this year.”

Since 2015: I have made a total of 5 new dresses since this time last year, no jumpsuits still. Unfortunately none of those 5 dresses are really suitable for everyday wear, which is why they haven’t really made an appearance during MMMay.

Now I need: Everyday, comfortable dresses that I can wear in all (London) weather conditions.

Skirts

In 2015 I wrote: “I think I wouldn’t mind having a few pencil skirts that allow me to cycle in them, but to be honest I am not in urgent need of any new skirts.”

Since 2015: I made one new skirt that I don’t particularly like, but I’m cool with that since I didn’t think I needed any more anyway…

Now I need: I really enjoyed wearing the lime green A-line skirt this year, and I would like to make a few similar ones of lighter materials for summer.

Trousers

In 2015 I needed: “More of the comfy summery kind. It’s a shame that I am so scared of making trousers, as they are the best option for summer cycling and not that hard to make at all.”

Since 2015: I have not made any new trousers. I have also decided to get rid of the ill-fitting black one that I made using an experimental, self-drafted pattern.

Now I need: More trousers!!! I am taking a pattern cutting course at Morley College again, now learning about the trousers block, so hopefully I will be able to improve on this soon.

Tops

In 2015 I needed: “More tops, obviously. Sleeveless ones for summer, a few more crop tops, another shirt, the perfect white T, and maybe some woven basic tops. I just need more tops. Simple and wearable ones!”

Since 2015: I have made two camisoles that I quite like in theory, but they aren’t the obvious choice to wear in most occasions. I have also just finished a shirt which I am very pleased with.

Now I need: More tops! I probably need to go back to the Wardrobe Architect project and finish it, before I start making things that don’t work with the rest of the wardrobe. I have a few ideas already though, and after the trials and tribulations of making my second shirt, I think I enjoyed the process just as much as I enjoy wearing it, so I’m up for making more!


Last year the aim was to not only wear one me-made item/day, but to wear them head-to-toe, and I am pretty happy about managing to do it. The plan now, is to do a deep clean in my wardrobe, ideally by the end of summer, and get rid of all the clothes that I don’t look forward to wearing for some reason.

If I manage to do that and streamline my collection of clothes so that I only have comfortable, good looking and versatile garments that I enjoy wearing, then I will definitely wear only me-mades in May next year again… 😉

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Refash., Thrift Store Thursdays

Shirt refash!

Have you heard of the Refashioners? I’ve stumbled upon Portia Laurie’s blog about a year ago, while checking out a pin about a stunning upcycling project. She invites bloggers every year to – you’ve guessed it – refashion old pieces of clothing. This year round there’s even a competition with an absolutely amazing amount of sewing related prizes, and what’s best, everyone is welcome to join in.

So for this month’s Thrift Store Thursday, I decided to show you what I’m entering the competition with… and you know, if there’s going to be a vote, feel free to choose my dress if you like it! 😉 )

TheSecretCostumier - £1 shirt turned into summer dress for #therefashioners community challenge

TheSecretCostumier - £1 shirt turned into summer dress for #therefashioners community challenge

I got this plain, blue Marks & Spencer shirt in one of Brighton’s many vintage shops for £1. I had no idea what to do with it, and I was just gonna use it to make a toilet for the final version, but I thought I was running out of time, so I just I went with this.

I wanted to make a folksy/boho summer dress with loads of details. I was looking for embellishments on Pinterest that could be recreated quickly. Originally I was going to get guipure lace and appliqué it on the dress, but I couldn’t find red in the shop, and after eliminating black and white, that was the colour I was going with.

I knew already what shape I wanted the dress to be like, but after assembling the top bit (quilting it, attaching the piping, attaching the ribbon, then the lining), I realized that the front and back piece alone wouldn’t be enough for a gathered A-line skirt. I played with all the remaining pieces (the cuffs, the collar, etc) until I could work out how to make a bigger piece of fabric. I wanted to have pockets and I actually had to have pockets, as there was a slit on one of the side panels – where the placket was inserted into the sleeve originally.

TheSecretCostumier - £1 shirt turned into summer dress for #therefashioners community challenge

TheSecretCostumier - £1 shirt turned into summer dress for #therefashioners community challenge

TheSecretCostumier - £1 shirt turned into summer dress for #therefashioners community challenge

The fit is not exactly perfect as the skirt dives down at the back, but it doesn’t bother me too much. I am quite happy with how it turned out as it’s super comfortable and I really love how the red pops on the blue.

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From scratch

Yet another wrap dress

Last year I was wearing the original version (on the left) of this Burdastyle wrap dress (bodice and skirt, sleeves from f this pattern – without the zipper) during Me-Made-May a couple of times, but I never blogged about the dress itself. This second model (on the right) has quickly became one of my favorites, and apart from some minor changes this has basically the same story as the first one, so here is the quick(ish) lowdown on how both of them were made.

I found both fabrics in the remnant box – as usual. Then I started thinking about updating the wrap dress somehow, and I stumbled upon an article on how the Diane von Furstenberg dresses are finished. Instead of using an entirely different pattern, I decided to stick with what I have used before and just modify it here and there.

According to the blog post, on the Diane von Furstenberg dresses the facing is cut together with the front panels and simply turned under and ironed, instead of cutting a separate facing, understitching it, then turning it under. I had difficulties doing the understitching with the first version, so I was seriously considering redrawing the front pattern pieces, but the fabric is way too fine to allow me any invisible blind stitching, and I was worried it wouldn’t lay flat, so I decided to stick with the original faced front pieces.

The facings were not attached to the back of the front panels at all first time around, which was really very annoying. This time around I used a hemming tape, which gives the neckline a tiny bit of structure too.

The biggest alteration I made was changing how the sleeves are finished.  On the first one they are simply turned under twice and stitched down. This made them a little bulky and not very even. On the second dress I shortened the sleeves and added cuffs which I absolutely love.

Instead of turning the skirt under and stitching it down, like I did on the first dress, I blind hemmed this one. Again, I think doing this must be easier on a thicker jersey, like what the DvFs are made of, as for me it was quite a pain, and it is not totally invisible, but it still looks a lot nicer than on the previous version.

This is one of those dresses that tick most boxes: I love the fit; it makes me feel professional enough-yet casual at work and it is super comfy. I would declare it the perfect dress, if it didn’t have this minor issue: I am flashing like crazy while cycling… 🙂

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TheSecretCostumier - Homemade birthday cake
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The birthday dress – finished!

I turned 28 a few days ago. The cake is the one I made for my sister’s 28th when it was her time to celebrate, and my present to myself was to finish a project that I have started a long, long time ago…

You probably don’t remember my enthusiastic post from last year, planning to refashion a thrift store find for my 27th birthday. Now, that did not happen back then – as you might have guessed, but I finished it for this year’s shenanigans. I did not end up wearing it at the end of course, but I did get to go to Frank’s (and all around Peckham), and had an amazing time, like I planned last year.

I am hoping to wear it to someone’s wedding, which given my age, should be an everyday occasion during summer. That is if my waist does not get any larger. You see, I am an impatient sewist, and since I only had a short zip, I used that. Removing the dress therefore is a two (wo)men job, and it is so tight that I could not possibly have a 3 course meal wearing it, but I still love the fit.

Construction wise it was pretty straight forward. I disassembled the original dress and used the bodice of my favourite Burdastyle pattern for cutting out the top pieces. I then cut out the lining pieces from the original lining, and 2 extra layers from cotton, to use as interlining. I then basted the interlinings to the lining and outer fabric, and sewed the Rigilene bonings to the interlining bit. I made it sound super complicated, but trust me, it was just as easy as this Threads article suggested it would be.

As for the skirt, it was trial and error really. I matched the side seams of the skirt to the “side seams” of the bodice, only to realize that they are not exactly on the side and ended up twisting the skirt out of shape. The pockets got an interesting drape this way, but the side seams were wonky, so I decided to do the right thing, and put pleats into the front, and darts on the back to match the two waistlines.

I finished it within 2 days, which counts as a quick project in my book. It does look slightly different from the one I planned last year, but I guess that is the beauty of the process: being able to change it as we go! 🙂

The Secret Costumier -The birthday dress

 

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Me-Made-May 2014, Ready & waiting

Me-Made-May-2014: The Summary

   This was my first Me-Made-May ever, and ever since I’ve started sewing about 3 years ago. I pledged to wear something handmade for at least 4 days a week for the entire month, and I managed to do this on 25 days, with some outfit changes wearing a total of 29 outfits including a Me-Made garment. I made one new item (the peplum top) and finished 3 UFOs (pink shirt, silky trousers, asymmetric dress). I took exactly 901 photos, mostly with the help of my sister, and discovered probably over 50 like-minded bloggers I did not know before, doing just the same. It was a bit of a hassle at times, but pretty much the most exciting May of my life so far.

   I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, that I think Me-Made-May is a fantastic idea (thank you Zoe!), it really makes you focus on the usefulness of what you make and gears you towards updating your sewing goals. What I have learned about my style and ways of using garments for more than what they were intended for, will be extremely helpful when I finally get to design a capsule wardrobe for myself as part of the Wardrobe Architect project.

   Reading through other bloggers’ summaries made me realize that we have pretty much all gone through the same challenges: changing weather, changing taste, changing bodies and the lack of certain types of garments (not enough or too much separates/dresses) and I can report on having the exact same issues. But I won’t.

   Just kidding. 🙂 I will of course, even if you are all done with reading these, I feel like putting this all down to  use it later as a reference for when I’m just about to start making something beautiful, that I could wear every 5 years to a friend’s wedding… So here are all the outfits, and if you feel like it, check out the conclusion below the images.

   I pretty much stayed true to the tried and tested silhouettes that I’ve collected for Week 3&4 (Wardrobe Architect project), but I did try out a few silhouettes that I rarely wear. Such was the figure hugging skirt + A-line top combo, or the asymmetric dress, and they both hide my waist and bring attention my legs, so even if I didn’t feel as uncomfortable as I thought I would, I would still avoid making those types in the future. Plus they just don’t work with le bike. From looking over the pictures above, I identified what I need more of and what works already:

Dresses

The third most popular item, the backless dress proved to be extremely versatile, and I always feel a little sexy wearing it, even if it’s layered under tops and jumpers. The wrap dress was made in no time and I really love wearing it, although it does need to be shortened. As for the Kimono dress and the “Dior one”, I only wore them to make Me-Made-May a bit more interesting, otherwise they don’t quite fit into my everyday wardrobe, not even for date nights,  if I’m being honest. I still need to figure out if I just didn’t make them comfy enough, or the fabric is too fancy to pull it off with trainers…

I need: At least one more backless dress, simple dresses in solid colours. Wrap dresses, and dresses made of knit fabrics. I don’t own any jumpsuits yet, but they should be a great alternative to dresses for summer, so I am planning to give them a try.

Skirts

I only have few handmade skirts, but the they got the most use throughout the month. The most successful ones were the pleated faux leather one, probably because of the basic black colour and the interesting texture gives. The other often worn skirt was the simplest item I have in my wardrobe, the burnt orange/rust coloured velvet circle skirt, which ticks all my boxes regarding shape, length, colour and the ability to be dressed up or down.

I need: More simple skirts in solid colours, from interesting fabrics.

Trousers

As for trousers, it looks like fit is everything. The pink ones used to be high-waisted and I liked them like that. Now that I’ve lost some weight they are hanging somewhere between my waist and hip, and the fabric isn’t the best either. The black silky one would have been a good idea, but I really need to take my time to test patterns when it comes to trousers, as a gaping neckline is really annoying, but not being able to sit down in something is really the deal breaker.

I need: Well fitting comfortable trousers that work for summer. Try a palazzo style and a slim fitting one.

Tops

I can’t believe I could wear something handmade for almost every day for an entire month with having only 3 (4 with the refashion) Me-Made tops in my wardrobe. Out of those 4, 3 only work with high-waisted trousers or skirts, and the one shirt I made is a bit less than perfect, as well as pretty hard to pair with anything, due to its baby pink colour. Although I am pretty happy with my basic RTW T-shirts, there is definitely room for improvement in this section.

I need: More tops, obviously. Sleeveless ones for summer, a few more crop tops, another shirt, the perfect white T, and maybe some woven basic tops. 

Well, we are almost in the middle of June and all that documenting somewhat kept me from actually sewing stuff, so I am planning to jump back into it again. Kath, from Bernie and I, had a brilliant idea to keep us all going, by suggesting to make 1 project per week for an entire month. I was going to do it in June, but guess what, I’m running late with finishing the first #1ppw already, but as long as I have 4 finished pieces by the end of June, I will call this a success, so bear with me…

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