From scratch

This is not a quilt…yet!

This is a potholder. I know you know, I just wanted to set the record straight for those who think I’m busy making  a quilted bedcover. I have no idea where the obsession came from this time, but I am crazy about quilts right now, so I decided to make one using up my scrap fabrics. This will actually be my third time trying patchwork(ing?), but last time I used very different types of fabrics, and it was way more spontaneous. This time I gathered inspiration first…

…and tutorials for the cuttingpiecing, pressing, quilting and binding, and soon realized that it is a lot of work!!!! I did the maths for a quilt that would cover my double bed and started cutting, when I found out that I’d made a little mistake while I was trying to cut corners, and ended up with a bunch of half square triangles that were too small for the original project. And that’s how the potholder was born. I think it’s the perfect project for experienced sewists to take a break from dressmaking, as well as for beginners to make something that provides loads of opportunities:

  • for customization,
  • to practice straight stitching,
  • cutting accurately,
  • top stitching,
  • feeling what it’s like to work with relatively thin and bulky layers,
  • and to make something useful yet complicated enough to make you want to buy yourself a drink and celebrate your newly discovered talent!

TheSecretCostumier - Patchwork potholder front

TheSecretCostumier - Patchwork potholder back

TheSecretCostumier - Patchwork potholder detail

TheSecretCostumier - Patchwork potholder detail

TheSecretCostumier - Patchwork potholder detail

So go ahead guys, make a potholder today!

Image sources for the quilts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

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TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect
From scratch, Ready & waiting, Wardrobe Architect

Week 1: Making style more personal

Dear friends, curious old classmates, fellow pedestrians, if you ever wondered why I dress the way I dress, this post might help you find out! I am waaaaay behind the Wardrobe Architect project, but it’s better late than never, right? So here it goes! (Please excuse my excessive use of brackets (I do apologise (for the personal photo album too.).).)

How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystallize? Have they changed over the years, and why?

As you can see I had killer style when I was in kindergarten. 🙂 I also remember being pretty happy in the clothes my parents picked out for me and my sister, (my dad was the fashionista in the family back in the days…). As a teenager, I guess I just wanted to feel comfortable in my clothes and with my body and not stand out from the crowd even more (I am not the typical Hungarian looking girl, you see). It basically meant covering up as much of my body as possible, in fact that photo of the blue sundress is a rare one. It was taken in Athens and it was extremely hot and that was probably the only time I worn something like that since I was a child. When I moved to London I experienced what’s it like not to be bothered with what other people might think about me for the first time in my life, so I started experimenting with my looks. In the past 2 years I think I’ve managed to be more conscious about wearing the pieces I feel best in, although I sometimes feel like I dress a little old for my age.

How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?

Although I find many “green” movements rather questionable, I feel very strongly against wasting anything. I would like to explore more ways to reuse existing resources and reducing the clutter around me. Having a wardrobe that expands only by adding handmade pieces to it, would be another step for me in moving away from the way too fast high street fashion. When I discovered the magic of buying vintage/charity shop clothing, the most appealing factor was not only the uniqueness of the pieces, but also the fact that you are saving a piece of history by giving it new life.

How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?

I’m half Hungarian and half Nigerian. Although I appreciate my fashionable “heritage”, the well known traditional Hungarian embroidery, and I love the African print fabrics and headwraps worn all over Nigeria, none of these  have inspired me in choosing what to wear in my everyday life…yet! I do find the so called “etno” look desirable on others, but I don’t feel like myself when I occasionally wear an afro during the summer, when I’m too lazy to straighten my hair.

Image sources:  from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?

I have never dressed according to any subcultural “dress code”, since I never belonged to any such groups. I kind of hate to admit it, but the biggest influence on my style is my sister, who has a flawless style and always inspires me to at least try to be a tad bit more elegant and classy. Although while she likes to dress appropriately to every occasion, I prefer to wear whatever I feel good in.

How do your day to day activities influence your choices?

I stubbornly cycle  e v e r y w h e r e. Come rain or shine, I’ll go by bike. I would like to think it’s not mere stubbornness though, or my hatred of public transport, but a statement I make everyday about not being lazy and doing something no one around me does, something I’ve never thought I could do. Long story short, I need clothes to do all that cycling in. And I don’t mean head to toe lycra obviously, but normal clothes that allow me to move my legs, heavy enough to retain my modesty in the London wind, and won’t be destroyed by a little rain every now and  then.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Activity

Does the place you live inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in?

I am a Londoner now, and even though everybody hates this weather, I kind of love it. I come from a place with four seasons, two rainy ones, one extremely hot and one extremely cold, so I’m happy with the moderate climate and I’ve made peace with the sometimes constant rain too (it really is just water!). This means you can wear pretty much whatever you want, and I bet that’s why London is one of the fashion capitals.

In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?

Since I was a teenager I’ve had rather sensitive skin which is actually why I got interested in fashion. I had to find creative ways to hide the problematic areas and show whatever was left. I also turned from alarmingly skinny to healthy, to bigger… and now back to curvy (I guess), but to be honest, my weight has never played as big a part in my wardrobe planning as my skin, even though I wouldn’t mind having leaner legs…and arms, etc. Because of this, I feel most comfortable in flouncy skirts and black tights, high neck- and waistlines, short jackets and I’ve learned to love anything backless. I don’t really like wearing jeans or trousers, anything low-cut and short skirts or dresses that hide my waist, which happens to be the slimmest part of my body.

In the next task I will be making a moodboard based on the the words I associate with the clothes I wear and the way they make me feel, but before I bore the hell out of whoever reads this (thank you guys! ;)), I’ll show you my brand new little pleather skirt (that’s not a typo!).

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Refash.

Inspiration #2: Wingback chair refashion

I found this wingback chair on a rainy Friday night, dumped on the street, a couple of months ago. It looked rather old (according to the paper attached to it inside, it was made 54 years ago!), it was wet, it smelled, and was crying out to be reupholstered. I know very little about upholstery, but it seemed to have good bones under the dirty fabric, so I asked a friend to help me drag it home.

vintage 50's wingback chair

Then it stood on the balcony for another few weeks before I decided it was time to be brave, and spent 6 long hours to strip all the fabric off. That was 6 very long hours of pulling nails out with the help of a screwdriver and with the constant fear of poking my eyes out. Not even at this point did I know how I wanted it to look, but I knew 3 things:

  • I wanted to use piping on it;
  • I had some beautiful Dutch wax fabric from Togo on hand;
  • and the fact that I madly love anything velvet.

I had a harder time finding instructions and inspiration on Pinterest and online in general, but I stumbled upon a few sources that still make me wish I could start the chair redo all over again. Co-Lab’s boards, this one or, well,  my own dedicated board is worth checking out for some good ideas, but here are the ones that really got me thinking:

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

Inspired by these images, I came up with the idea of upholstering it with grey velvet (or mustard yellow. Or soft pink…or any colour, really) and using hand printed burlap (that was an over-ambitious idea, I know now) on the back of it. Then I went food shopping on a lazy Saturday afternoon to Peckham, and the next thing I knew was that I was walking out with THE fabric in my hand. Obviously, prior to the walking bit, there was a 45-50 minute period when I tried to describe what the selected 4 rolls of fabrics looked like to my sister, as well as taking rubbish photos of it to help the case move along. wingback chair refashionedWith her gentle nod and my strong desire to make something sophisticated, I went with the (little did I know) trickiest fabric. I was very close to giving it all up half way through, but I didn’t. So stay tuned, I’m almost there!

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From scratch

Dream coat turned real

Long time no sewing! There is a good reason for that though. I gave up my life in Budapest, resigned from my comfortable Administrator position, waved goodbye (for the 100th time) to my friends and off I came back to London – for good. I brought only my most cherished clothes with me, so my cute Primark winter coat (that was a plan B last year) didn’t make it here.

Since the weather turned chilly over a month ago I started planning THE DREAM coat after I saw this pattern in the September issue of Burda. I was planning on making a coat in a similar fabric that’s in the magazine but in black, but ended up buying this grey wool one, as it looked the best in my price range.TheSecretCostumier - Dream Coat Turned RealThe pattern did not prove to be a tricky one until I got to the neck part, obviously. Unfortunately I did not quite master it as there is still something weird going on there, but I was way too lazy to take everything apart and after working on it over a one month period I decided to just line the coat and use it as it is. I need to make a belt from the remaining fabric or get a similar leather one, as I do not want to put buttons on it as suggested by the pattern.TheSecretCostumier - Dream Coat Turned Real TheSecretCostumier - Dream Coat Turned Real TheSecretCostumier - Dream Coat Turned Real TheSecretCostumier - Dream Coat Turned RealI wanted a coat that looked like a vintage men’s coat and I definitely succeeded with this as the coat is a wee bit big and feels just like I took it from my grandpa’s wardrobe… So here it is, the first coat that I’ve ever made (and the last for at least a year for sure)!

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From scratch, Ready & waiting

What a bag-blog I found!

When was the last time you stumbled upon a real gem in the blogsphere. Something that made you excited, inspired and left you full of ideas? This is what happened to me today, when I found this little blog called “Bag’n-telle“.

That incredibly chic looking bag is 100% handmade, and you can make one too! The blog has several classic designs with detailed instruction, from advice on the fabric to choose to patterns and design tips.

I have always admired professionals in fashion design or any kind of crafts really, who are confident and generous enough to share their knowledge. I have never had any formal fashion education as I was too old to start trying to get into a fashion school and already had a degree, so sites like this make me feel enabled to gain access to some kind of an education after all. I mean all that pinning is fun, but sometimes its good to have all the background data on hand when you start a project that turns out this perfect.

There is no guarantee I will ever make any of these awesome bags as I know myself, but this might be a good reason to change my £9.00 Primark bag (that I have used for about 2 years now, almost every single day – I’ll post a photo so that you believe how crazy good it is) for something new. You probably guessed that I am not that obsessed with accessories, but I am working on this to change! 😉

Here are a few examples of the bags on the site. Just by picking out the fabric of my choice I could have endless possibilities to make the bag totally mine. Loving it!

Image sources: Bag’n- telle
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From scratch

The birth of a(nother) backless dress

Even though there is nothing easier to wear and make than a dress, I constantly find myself redesigning the ones I sew from scratch so that they turn out to be sexy, but VERY-hard-to-put-together backless dresses.

I got this blue fabric to make harem pants of it, but soon realized that:

  1.  there is a reason why I don’t have any navy blue trousers;
  2.  it would look cheap made of this wrinkled fabric.

So I took some paper with me to the sewing class that I’m taking (maybe more on this later?) and copied an extremely simple dress pattern from one of the Burdastyle magazines lying around. It was simple as it only consists of 5 major parts (2 of them are the squares that make the skirt up).

Image source: Burda Magazine 2010/11

But how does a rather boring classic dress turn out to be a hopefully head turning backless dress one might ask…

Well, once you try it on you just start playing with it. You cinch in the waist here, pull the skirt up there, and the next thing you know you’ve replaced the zipper with an elastic band and cut out the back part almost completely. Obviously the fact that the zip broke the moment I tried to pull it up speeded up this process.TheSecretCostumier - backless dress previewAt least I knew it then and there that there is no way I am using another zipper in this dress, and probably saved myself a lot of time as it is very unlikely to arrange a zip in a way that it can hold up the upper part of the dress from below my waist. Or so I think with my very basic engineering skills.

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