Sunday, 27 April 2014

Heirloom clothing

What is an heirloom? One mans trash is another mans treasure and all that! I choose to treat textiles as precious heirlooms and am passionate about representing myself through the cloth I wear.

Most precious to me right now are the 2 Guatemalan garments that I know have been worn and loved by my mum. My parents live in Belize, so I don't see them very often at all. I find it's the small things like these that enable me to feel connected when we haven't spoken for a while.

Look at the crude finish. Proof that this has been worked by hand!
Large embroidery which covers the back
Embroidered front pockets, placket and side vent
Above is an embroidered men's shirt that originally belonged to my grandfather. Although I never met him I remember my mum wearing it almost every day when we were growing up as a kind of cardigan. You can tell how frequently it was worn by how much the fabric has faded in places. The top yoke and collar is very pale and the colour gets stronger the further down the shirt you look. I guess this is to do with the top bit getting more exposure to the sunlight!

The other item I cherish is a Guatemalan hand woven skirt that my grandparents brought back to the UK for my mum when she was younger. I gather she must have enjoyed wearing it, as it looked well worn before I got it. I'm not the same build as my mum was, so have had to let it out slightly at the waist, albeit not very neatly! Shame on me!

Fabric detail - Geometric hand woven motifs
My dodgy waistband insertion!!!
I love both of these items and I feel so special when I am wearing them. They may be a style that is produced widely where they originate from, but to me they are unique. The beauty is in the detail from the softness of the aged fabric to the hand finished buttonholes!

It is my hope that my children will feel the same way as I do, so I have started thinking about what I can give to them. I have made them quilts, blankets and knitwear, but these are babies things that are not entirely useful in adulthood. Will they share my passion for textiles? I will have plenty of handmade clothes for my daughter to choose from if she wishes, but I want to be able to give her something as special as my Guatemalan skirt and shirt.

I started to create my own future heirloom by embroidering this denim jacket. My plan is to add a bit of embroidery every now and then when the mood takes me and wear it inbetween times, so it's an ever evolving piece. I started with something simple enough by first of all embroidering my childrens names to the front button placket. I then added my maiden name to the collar piece (hard to make out in these pictures), which will always mean so much to me. I am really excited at the prospect of this long term project. I don't know what it's going to turn into or what will be added next, but I know it's going to be special!

I draw alot of my sewing inspiration from these items. What do you treasure most?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Double dose of Flora

Here is my entry for the Monthly stitch 'sewing double' challenge (as well as my contribution to the Flora sewalong). The Flora sewalong is still going on, but I have completely fast forwarded and finished already!

This is the first time I have worked with a 'By Hand London' sewing pattern and let me just say how fantastic the fit is. I may not look very model like, but my proportions are very standard when it comes to fitting from the packet. I was a little pesimistic about my current size, so started off making a size 14. Especially as it is described as a close fitting bodice and I've not long had a baby etc..., but a size 12 was plenty big enough. I been a size 12 for the whole of my grown up life, so I don't know why I suddenly thought this had changed, but hey ho!

I want to begin with my second Flora, as it is my favourite. The photos are unflattering as anything though. I don't know why my husband didin't tell me that my posture was so bad and that I was making myself look really fat, but this is what I have ended up with.

It may not look like your standard Flora, because I have drafted on some Kimono sleeves to cover my 'curvacious' upper arms. I have also found the centre front and made a V'neck front zip-up dress. The other style choice I made, which is not suggested on the packet, is to use the straight hem front skirt with the dipped hem back for a new variation. I like the idea of the fishtail back, but am not keen to expose my knees at the front...

The fabric for the top has been in my stash FOREVER! Like 10 years! It is a vintage printed cotton from the 50's/60's and has been waiting for the 'perfect' project. Let me tell you, I didn't waste a single scrap! I literally had enough to cut this bodice and that was it. I'm so glad with how it turned out and feel it's done this precious textile justice. I chose not to line the bodice and bound the neck edge with white cotton bias tape all machine stitched.

The zip is re-purposed from an old Navy parka or something. I can't quite remember the coat I unpicked it from, but I'm sure that was what I did. I hate forgetting stuff like that. I must be getting old!

If anyone would like to see a tutorial on how to add kimono sleeves to a bodice like this then leave a comment and I will consider writing one.

The skirt is a cotton Navy twill with stretch and is a nice weight for this dress. I love the fabric combination and even changed the thread colour for the zip top stitching (wish I got that photographed)

 Oh my god, my bum looks ENORMOUS.

 I had removed some volume from the pleats for this version, as the fabric was not quite wide enough. This was done by simply folding the same amount out from each side of the pleat before pinning it to the fabric.

As far as styling was concerned for these dresses, there wasn't much. I was wearing Navy tights and clogs with my outfit for the day and with both kids asleep and the sun poking out I did not feel I had time to change this. These elements work okayish with the above dress, but look very dodgy with my next offering.

This Flora is a very lovely wearable muslin really. I did not want to waste fabric in toiling this dress, as I didn't feel much could go wrong, so dove straight in with this onto some 'real' fabric. You cannot see the detail at all in this sunlight, but it is actually a pale blue and white spotted grosgrain type fabric on the top with a plain cream grosgrain for the bottom. Both are fairly dressy fabrics, but I was not concerned about ruining them as one was very cheap and the other was almost unusable sized scraps.

I bought the spot fabric from Misan about 10 years ago when a friend worked for the company. She let me into their stock room and I picked out a few pieces of fabric, which I got at a major discount. For some reason I only picked up half a metre of this and have since cut it up to make a cushion, which remained unmade. Luckily the scraps were big enough to squeeze the bodice out. The quality of this fabric is incredible and I only wish I had more to play with.

The cream on the other hand was bought from a local market for £1. It was such a bargain that I didn't feel scared to use it.

I opted for the straight/low hem as per the above version as I think this is quite pretty and tried out the tank top. I really like the fit, but think I need a little jacket or cardi to cover my arms.

There is an invisible zip right there!

Close up of the fabric

This muslin was going so well that I underlined the bodice pieces with a white cotton lawn and even made a charmeuse silk lining. I just need a wedding to go to now!

Note: I made the lining by folding out the pleats on the pattern pieces completely so that it does not have as much volume as the outer skirt, but still retains some fullness and the hem shape.

P.S. - If you want a dress that's quick to make then this is it. Seriously!!!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

I made a bag!

Turn around Kidston and look at the bag I made!

I have made numerous bags in the past, but this is by far the best one! I think the difference with this one is that I took the time to draft a paper pattern and thought a bit more about the finish from the outset. My usual tactic is to just measure and cut out shapes direct to the fabric, which does not work out so well, because the initial planning stage somehow gets forgotten. Weird, seeings as you'd think I'd plan more to go straight to fabric!

Anyhew, back to the bag! I recently had the pleasure of holidaying in Wales and whilst there found this piece of John Lewis oil cloth at a car boot sale. It is almost a metre length and cost £2.50. I love buying things like this on holiday, as it my ideal kind of souvenir.

I'll not go into construction detail right now, as I may create a PDF pattern for this at some point, so don't want to bore you un-necessarily. I will however point a few of it's key features if I may...

I have piped the bottom and side panels with a brown/white fine stripe cotton, as well as bound the front pocket

 I added some buttons and hand-sewn buttonholes to the strap to make it slightly adjustable. The thing I dislike most about bag construction is the amount of hardware you are expected to have, so I wanted to be able to use materials and techniques that are easily accesible.

 I also added a little cotton tab to seal off the end of my zip, as I ended up using an old open ended one from my stash (no, make that my mum's stash)

Top stitching to keep seams down and attach the shoulder strap, plus my label (of course!)

Fully lined in the green colourway of the piping fabric

Underside detail...

I covered the connection of the piping with a fabric tab, but one side of the piping has retracted back slightly.

 More topstitching...

 I have acheived quite alot considering my initial plan was to make a portable change mat. Funnily enough, I have managed to squeeze a change mat out of my fabric, but got distracted by the bag, so it remains an UFO for now.

Fashion Revolution Day 2014

Here is my inside out outfit for fashion revolution day! I have not gone through my hand-mades to pick out the garment with the nicest finish, I have chosen to chuck on what I would have been wearing today anyway.

This dress gets worn all the time and is more like a housecoat than a dress sometimes (a housecoat I wear to work, take on holiday etc...)

I self drafted and made this shirt dress about 4 years ago and it's so me. I'ts comfy, light and airy and has seen me through 2 pregnancies. I have repaired it, bleached a few areas (by accident) and have a new repair to make, but it is going nowhere near a landfil site or a charity bin. This is the complete opposite of fast fashion. To me this dress illustrates perfectly the point of have less, be more selective! Or as Madame Westwood says "Buy less, choose well, make it last"

Do you know who made your clothes or what conditions they were working under? To find out more about Fashion Revolution day and increase your awareness of what goes on within the fashion industry go here.

 My mini photo shoot with my gorgeous baby! She's a much better model than me anyway!


Awaiting repair...

Monday, 21 April 2014

My Albion

There are a whole load of Albion's out there and this is mine!

This is more of an experiment than something I was hankering for. I want to make one for my husband, but just wanted to have a run through before tackling it, as it's quite different to my normal makes.

I did play around with this project and kind of made it up as I went along. Nothing was set in stone as far as I was concerned.

I decided that I wanted a Lilac denim, so rather than search for the perfect fabric, I bought some natural coloured heavy weight denim and dyed it myeself at home with a couple of packs of machine dye. This was not the most successful dye job and is patchy and uneven all over, but I don't care. You can't really see how uneven the colour is in the pictures, but trust me, it is! I think that pre-washing was my mistake funnily enough, as the denim creased badly once wet and picked up more colour in those areas.

Now, yellow and lilac is a colour combination that makes my mouth water. I absolutely love it! I was originally intending to line the jacket with a yellow cotton, use a yellow zip and topstitch the whole thing in yellow. This all got scrapped apart from the topstitching when I realised I might look like a childrens TV presenter! Although, now I'm starting to think it could've worked...

Soooo, after ordering the perfect yellow zip, I had to then seek out my next fave, a perfect turquoise zip. In the mean time the yellow one has joined my ever growing zip stash (maybe husband will fancy a yellow zip!).

After making a toile the changes I made to the pattern were to lop 6cms off the bottom hem and the sleeve length and scrap the pocket placements. I shaped the pockets and positioned them on the jacket just before finishing the hem. Oh yes, I also guessed the CF of the jacket and cut off the excess flap so that I could insert a central zip sans flap. I'm not sure why, but alot of indie patterns do not contain a CF reference on the pattern, which is actually quite useful, but this is only a minor gripe.

 I like to roll up my sleeves on most of my coats and this jacket is no exception!

The lining came to me as a flash of inspiration from god knows where! I was literally sitting on the floor of my sewing room trying to decide on a lining and  out of nowhere came this ticking stripe scrap, which has been in my stash for at least 10 years. Not only that, but I somehow made a magical connection with this printed cotton. As there was not enough fabric of either to do a whole lining this worked perfectly. I did not want to abandon the yellow altogether, so did a flat piping detail between the yoke and the main body. I have to say that this is the most attractive lining I have ever sewed and check out my label!

I should probably take more detailed shots to show off a bit more, but I am over this project now. Ignore any dodgy top-stitching!!!!

Friday, 18 April 2014

I'm a loser baby! or at least not a winner...

Ah man, I didn't win! This was the first sewing competition I have ever entered, so I can't be too sad to come second... but soooo close!!!

I have taken this defeat rather well considering how competitive I can be. I mean, how disappointed can you be to lose to someone like Miriam? She is a woman who remains so positive and retrospective about the trauma she has experienced. What an inspiration!

 Please go and read her story here. Congratulations Miriam!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Big Spring Frock - Complete!!!!

I made it! Here it is, my finished article...phew!

I can now confess that I was starting to doubt whether or not I was going to get this completed in time as the days were ticking by and I was struggling to find that elusive 'free' time to knuckle down to some serious sewing, but I somehow got there with days to spare!

I knew it needed to be completed by the weekend, as there was going to be very little/no oppurtunity for photos after this point. This is a wee photoshoot of the dress literally hot off the sewing machine. The weather has not been kind however and the day could not have been gloomier for such a springy dress. Booooo!

My gorgeous suede shoes started to suffer on the soggy grass, so had to be removed for their own safety.

By the way, it was my birthday yesterday and good tidings brought me this mannequin. It certainly makes photographing much easier...

Yes, that is a hand stitched zip you see before you!

I made some alterations to the pattern. Not too many, but see the dodgy seam in the below picture? It went right across the wrong part of my bust and this is without the addition of the band. Those crazy darts would have been visible by the way! I don't think the picture quite conveys how weird it actually looked, but trust me, it was a bit obscene.

I recut the lower bodice pieces extending them by 3.5 cm on top and chopped that much from the yoke. This was an easier pattern alteration than trying to get the seam to sit under my bust. I also added the bow to the front to make it a bit prettier, rather than on the back as the pattern states.

I love the pocket bags in the side panels. They look like the are as deep as the panel, but are in fact normal sized pockets.

When it came to construction, I ditched the provided instructions, which were fairly vague anyway, and did it my way.

Rather than line the bodice in the traditional sense I underlined each bodice piece with a plain white cotton lawn. This not only offers extra support to the seams of this very close fitting dress, but also gives a smoother exterior finish, making it less likely to crease.

 The 1.5cm seams were all folded in half and tucked under, so that the raw edges were contained and handstitched down.

I bound the neck and armholes with bias tape and handstitched this down too. The handstitching is concealed to the interior as it only goes through the underlining and not the main fabric.

I wish I'd covered the inside of the zip with a cotton tape facing. It looks a bit messy to me now that everything else is complete, but that's just picky as no-one else is going to see this.

I think the pocket bags were supposed to be french seamed, but I just sewed and overlocked the seam, as I did for the whole of the skirt construction. Time was running out, so I applied a less refined, but neat finish to the skirt.

I attached a cotton tape to the waist to act as a stay. This was stitched with a slip stitched along the bottom edge and herring bone along the top for a little bit of movement.

The fabric that was sent to me by Offset Warehouse is such a good match for this dress. It is drapey and wonderfully soft. It was such a good feeling to work with an organic fabric, as this is not something I normally consider when selecting fabric. It has a vintage, heirloom quality to it and has produced a garment that I will treasure and wear with pride for as long as I can fit into it.

I could gush all day long about the profound effect it's had on the way I work. I wanted to respect the fabric completely (as I should always) and put a lot more effort into the finish than I normally would. I've never even hand sewn a zip in before!

This dress has been sewn for the purposes of a competition, but I honestly feel like I've already won by being sent the fabric to make this dress in the first place. Thank you Offset Warehouse and thank you Scruffy Badger for selecting my design. This has been, dare I say it, great fun!