Monday, 23 June 2014

New pedal pushers

I got this amazing check fabric down the market the other week! There are actually two 5yrd pieces here in a White and Black, as well as a Navy and White. It reminded me so much of some prints I had loved from a past Topshop Unique collection that I immediately bought both pieces (and promptly left them behind due to fabric buying high and child distraction). Luckily I was seduced by a linen on my way out and the man reminded me of my blunder. I honestly don't think I would have noticed if I hadn't gone back...phew!

For those of you not familiar with Reading (where I live), there is a random fabric stall out on Wednesday mornings. It seems to sell production surplus fabrics that are all cut to approx 5yrd lengths. There is an overflowing £1 remnant table that must be sample lengths (judging by the tickets stapled to them). If you are lucky you can find 3 yard pieces, but it is an odd mish mash of cotton sateens, shirting fabrics, lycra and more all tangled together. The 5yrd pieces are roughly £1 a yard for cottons, viscose and any fine fabric, £2 a yard for linen and wools £3. No, they do not cut any of the lengths shorter! There are lots of rolls, which they do cut, which are priced as you ask and then there are a load of African wax prints. Worth a look if you're local and into sewing.

Below are images of aforementioned Topshop collection. I love the mix and scale of checks. Heaven!

It  looks as though Whistles have had a similar idea too. I love these trousers and the monochrome dressing. Not sure I can possibly look this slick, but I like the idea.

Coupled with my love for this fabric, the perfect trouser pattern appeared on ebay the other week! I have been looking for a pattern for AGES to make some summer time equivalents of these.

My faves
This grey pair are wool and too warm for now, but these have definitely earnt their keep in terms of price per wear. I bought them about 5/6 years ago from French Connection for a whopping £75 (seemed like alot of money then), but I didn't even falter, because I knew I would wear them FOREVER. Well, this is all well and good in the winter, but what about the summer? I am not a shorts kind of girl, so this longer length in a fine fabric is a good alternative.

Pattern with potential!
Look at these Whilstles trousers! They are fab and I really want them now that I have seen them.

 Instead though, I will settle for these...

I cannot believe how well the pattern matching panned out. I must confess that (partly due to the cost of the fabric) I did not spend too much time on this. The only advice I can give is to take the time to pin the 2 layers of fabric together on the first stripe at the bottom of the folded length. I do this when ever I cut stripes or checks and have a quick squiz to see that the check is pretty much lining up on the selvedge and then start pinning my pattern pieces. This has always worked out quite well for me in the past and is much quicker than cutting each piece individually.

matching behind!

Here are some cloes-ups of the print. I cut the front pockets on the bias, so that I didn't have to worry about pattern matching. This was totally inspired by Kathryn's tartan skirt. It just seemed like a good, fuss free idea that I have been storing away for a special occasion like this.

Director of photography

I finished these this morning and after photo's didn't actually take them off. I did change my shoes though as the clogs were not really relaxed garden attire...

Speaking of garden attire, I put together this bunting the other day to brighten up the lean to a bit. It is made up of crochet granny squares that I made ages ago. When I was living in Bristol and armed with a student card, I picked up a load of different coloured net strips from a recyling/arts centre. It is the edging that is left over from the production of synthetic net/tulle. I crocheted with it using a large hook and couldn't decide whether or not they should be coasters or something, but turns out they make ideal garden decorations. Yippee!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

I've shown you mine now show me yours!

Following on from my swimsuit post, I just want to say a big thank you for the positive comments! It has certainly been very liberating to put such 'real' pictures of myself out there. When I first pressed 'publish' on the post I was cringing inside, but on reflection I don't quite know why. I'm just a normal woman looking healthy and shapely.

Why do we get so hung up on our body image? If I'm ok with sitting on the beach in a swimsuit then what's the difference between that and showing it on my blog? Well, I guess on a beach I'm surrounded by loads of people and not the centre of attention, but I'm out there and not cowering away in the shadows. The positive comments make me want to encourage everyone to follow suit.

Channel your inner Marilyn and show the world what 'real' women look like!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Sporty summer sewathon - meeting my nemesis!

I feel like I have climbed Mount Everest and sauntered back down again! I feel dead chuffed with myself today, as this weekend I finished putting together my handmade swimsuit.

This is all in aid of the Sporty summer sewathon being hosted my Karen of 'Did you make that?'. There were 2 challenges here for me. The first was the making of and the second was the photographing of.

I must say now that I honestly don't hate my body and when I get dressed and look in the mirror I am happy enough with what is staring back at me, but when it comes to being photographed I cannot stand it. I wish I had a professional photographer, hair and make-up artist, good lighting etc... to help get me through it, but alas they all had the day off!

Back to the swim suit! I originally had in mind a bikini (see here) with very high waisted shorts, but I could not visualise it and did not think it was going to work for me. I put together the bottoms and got the fit right, but then deviated from my plan and started to look at RTW swimsuits for inspiration. I like the look of the v-neck as it helps to stops me looking too broad on the top and I wanted an open back with not too many straps as I didn't want too many dodgy tan lines (if I were to go on holiday ever!). There was lots of interesting RTW details like peplums and frills that I was tempted by, but thought it may just add too much bulk to my already curvy shape.

 The top was added by draping it directly to my body for a good fit. I don't have pictures, but I wore my bra and the shorts part, marked the centre front grainline on some swimsuit lining fabric and pinned this taught across my torso/chest lining the centre front with the centre of the shorts/bra. I then marked the side seams, neckline and waist I wanted on one half with water soluble pen. Once off the body I folded the piece down the centre front and cut out with added seam allowance. I made a paper pattern before going further, but this formed my lining and was used as the template for the main fabric. All edges have swimsuit elastic added to prevent any gaping and the straps/ties were made by sewing tubes from thin strips right sides together and then turned back through.

How best to photograph the behind with the dodgy leg dimples!!!

What about that fabric? I don't even know what drew me to this neon leopard, but I was in the queue in Fabricland and remembered I wanted some swimsuit fabric, so just grabbed it along with a nude coloured one for lining. I really like it actually and don't think it's bad for £6.99p/m.

Here some inside shots to show how the panels are joined. I have not included a gusset just yet and was wondering if it is even essential. I'm not sure what to do with that, so may leave it off and put one in the next one.

I feel that this was a great challenge and a really good start towards swimsuit perfection. I must admit that I do feel good in it as the fit is great! The problem I have always had with RTW is that I seem to be too long in the body for most costumes so largely resort to bikinis. I do not really feel comfortable in a 2 piece anymore though, so this offers a good balance of coverage without being too mumsy. This is definitely more of a wearable muslin, as there are tweaks to make such as include a built in support on the bust and add the gusset (as previously mentioned), but hopefully this will make it into a swimming pool sometime soon. I might just go and test it in the bath quickly first!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Mum made kids stuff!

I've finally done it, I've started making clothes for my children! Now that me-made May is over and the change in weather is upon us I have bitten the bullet. The children need weather appropriate stuff and I cannot seem to justify buying it all new from the high street when I know that I am perfectly capable of making things myself. I'm not saying I'll never buy new, as vests, socks, pyjamas etc... seem a bit beyond my time and motivation at the moment, but I'm definitely going to push myself to make as much as possible.

I started out with the shorts. Heavily inspired by Jenna's Sunny Day shorts (free Oliver and S download) I downloaded and cut the pattern to the 18-24 month size for my 21 month old son. Let me tell you, these are super quick to make. I admit that I am a quick sewer, but I ran my first pair up during Eastenders on Tuesday night and have made 3 more pairs since.

Below is the first pair made from some denim left over from this dress, but he was in such desperate need of them that they have been worn before I could photograph them. There may be a bit of food on there if you look close enough!

This is a slightly 'posher' pair in lovely linen (FYI £2p/m from local market) with a back pocket (saved from refashioned t-shirts further down)

These are just for fun! My son loves trains and is obsessed with Thomas the Tank engine, so I chose this cute train print cotton from Fabricland. I have actually made 2 pairs and they are great for just scrubbing around in the garden.

I managed to make all these for approx £3 investment. Not bad considering that 1 pair from a really cheap shop would cost about that! I have more planned for baby girl, but perhaps with elastic round the bottom of the legs for a bloomer effect.

Now on to the refashioning. I have kept a load of my sons clothes aside for my daughter, because you quickly realise when you have babies that their clothes hardly get worn before they grow out of them. For the most part I think that they are fairly non-gender specific, but some of them have potential to be a bit prettified. You also realise with babies that you needn't have bought any clothes for the first 6 months as you get gifts from everyone (even people you've never met). It's like this big amazing secret that no-one shares, so it's only now really that I'm thinking what I can do for Maria as her girly wardrobe is suddenly looking a little sparce (not that she minds!)

I kept back these plain t-shirts from last summer which, although servicable, are a bit plain.

I made a simple bow out of a scrap of fabric and pinned it to the front and machined flat
Ta dah!
For all the t-shirts I removed the front pockets, neck binding and sleeve hem. I simply overlocked the raw edges.

Above is a free hand cut bird, machine appliqued and embroidered with a repositioned button for an eye (securely attached) and below is a machine appliqued heart. Both used some Liberty scraps I got free with a Mollie Makes subscription, so no further financial investments, yippee!

So, some quick and dirty, but practical sewing. I loves it!

Continuing the hand made kids theme here are some gorgeous hand knits from my mother in law. Lucky kids!

For Maria
For Evan (then Maria)
Ta ra for now and have a good weekend!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Grayson Perry fabric - what it means to me!

I got some positive comments about the fabric I used for my me-made bra in the last post, so I thought I would talk about it a bit more! This pleases me, because A, I get to ramble on a bit with no particular direction and B, I get to tell you about myself and my likes a bit more!

The fabric that I used was a Grayson Perry print called 'Sissy' that he created in a collaborative project with Liberty's. There was an artists collection released in this year (I believe was 2010, but can't really remember and have done no real research...) that included six of the most prominent contemporary artists at the time. I was completely oblivious to this when I bought it and, although I had heard of Grayson and even admired his 'character', I had not really paid that much attention and certainly had no understanding of him as an artist.

I had recently moved to Reading, was jobless and was invited to London for the day by my (now) mother in law. The only thing on my mind at the time, was that I really wanted to go to Liberty's. It was getting near christmas and I really wanted to buy a couple of glass baubles to put on our first christmas tree. Whilst there I also wanted to pick up some fabric, so when I saw these prints my mind was quite literally blown. Like I said I was jobless, so 1.5 metres at full price was a fair investment to be making at the time.

Roll on a couple of years... Channel 4 showed a really great documentary, presented by Grayson Perry, about class distinction in the UK and how our roles in society are defined by where we live, the objects that we surround ourselves with, the way we dress and socialise etc... It was a fascinating view as to how we all fall (subconsciously) into these working/middle/upper class stereotypes. BTW, middle class is a distinction that applies to alot of people and is divided into many sub-stereotypes in case you were wondering. If you thought that the way you live is unique then think again! Many people around the country are probably mirroring how you live in some way or other, but this is not the point! This TV series inspired me and actually made me fall in love (not literally) with the artist. I googled him and ordered books, read his biography and went onto ebay to see what was around. It was on ebay that I finally joined the dots and connected Grayson Perry with my Liberty fabric and I was so over the moon that the piece of fabric that was so precious to me was also connected to this new fascination.

I actually feel like I own some of his artwork, as all of the characters and symbols are recurrent themes throughout his work. They all symbolise different things, but ultimately link back to him, his childhood, his desire to dress in womens clothes etc... FYI, I actually really like some of his dresses!

Here is a snippet of another print I have stashed away that I bought from ebay last year (photo courtesy of ebay!). I've only got half a metre, but I'm not sure how easy it will be to cut into this piece now.

Grayson Perry has definitely joined my list of totally inspiring creatives and being able to link him with the fabric just enthused me even more and probably placed him higher up that imaginary list. The (now, not so imaginary) list goes as follows:
  • Picasso - Sublime skill and energy
  • Elsa Schiaparelli - A couture astist in every sense
  • Grayson Perry - For his honesty as an artist
  • Jean Paul Gaultier - For his fabulous sense of humour in fashion. Wasn't he great in Rapido?
  • Vivienne Westwood - Amazing use of shape and form with an aggressive edge in terms of message or style.
  • Jaskson Pollock - What can I say? There's something so divine about the colours and the marks!
Look at that list! Going back to Grayson Perry's documentary, you could say that this is very predictable and almost bland in it's obviousness, but these people inspire me every day!

Ramble over!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Hepburn Flora

This is a Flora that I made during me-made May, but didn't blog.

The fabric is part of my Goldhawk road haul. That road (or the 2 shops we went in before my money ran out) is great! I was very cautious and only bought 1.5 metres of this knowing I was only buying it because it was a print that featured in Tilly's book. I made this up quickly because I didn't want it to linger in my stash for too long, frightened it would get stuck in stash limbo.

Do I love it? Hell yes!

Now, this is the forth Flora tank bodice I have made since April. I am seriously attached to this bodice. I have added some little tied spaghetti straps to allow for easy breast feeding access (again!!!). I know that I will not be feeding forever, so do not want the practicalities of my clothes to spoil their appearance in the mean time. This is an adequate enough solution and may be a bit of a faff tying and untying each time, but I really miss wearing pretty dresses with closed bodices.

The feel of the fabric (which is a cotton/silk voile) is so smooth. It is lovely to sew with too, which was a relief! I used a fine needle and it went through my machine like a treat! I have french seamed the skirt, which is lined with a white cotton lawn from my stash and fully lined the bodice with the same white lawn. I always have some of this put aside, as it's great for underling and lining bodices, but a bit sticky on tights for skirts. The dress is so delicate and light. I think it looks much more expensive than £6p/m it actually cost.

Due to the small amount of fabric I made no attempt to pattern match and was one of the reasons I changed the pattern direction for the skirt. Make the most of what you've got is what I say! I also managed to use a vintage metal red zip from my 'big bag of zips'.

Here it is in action during me-made May!!!

I think I may wear it as a skirt quite alot actually, but it sits better with a bodice attached than it would with just a waistband, as it does not move around.

Anyway, I have seriously digressed, as the whole point of showing this was to say that this is my submission to the 'Hepburn project' over at Rhinestones and Telephones. I think the bodice is very 'Audrey' who, incidently, is my ultimate style icon. Style personified! I mean, she was muse to Hubert de Givenchy for crying out loud! I hope to make some wide leg 'Katherine' trousers too, but no pressure on that one! This is an informal challenge with no deadline and the only real goal is to create great wearable clothes with the the two 'Hepburns' as the inspiration. Who can resist dressing like such stylish women?

Sporty Summer Sewathon (for the non-sporty)

Have you heard about the Sporty Summer Sewathon over at 'Did you make that'? Sport is not something I am generally into (I don't drive, so am forced to walk alot which I feel justifies the lack of any other sporting actitivities), but swimming is a sport and I will drop myself into a swimming pool from time to time!

There is alot of great handmade swimwear being shown over the internet at the moment. I'm thinking particularly of Lauren's incredible 'Soma' bikini! Now, I am no way going to try and replicate that in style nor pose. Lets just be honest here! She looks amazing and I have got a mum tum and dimpled legs so no standy uppy photos, but I'll work around that. I'm going for something with a bit more coverage that will probably have such a high waist on the bottoms that I may as well wear a one piece.

This is the pattern that I am going to try...

I have already toiled the shorts and am happy with the fit as they are, but have yet to try the bralet top. This all brings to mind a make that I completed last year, but never blogged about. I made a soft cup bra from a self drafted pattern and posted it on Kollabora, but felt far too shy to blog about it and was not into posting pictures of myself in my clothes until fairly recently (boring, everyone wants to see clothes on someone don't they?). Well now I feel ready to share!!!!

Why am I sharing now? Because I think that if all else fails with my selected pattern then I can at least use this as a fall back. It is also a great way of creating a pattern at home. I tried a couple of free downloads and was really depressed by the amount of alterations they would have needed I felt there must be a simpler way of getting your exact fit. This is not meant to be a tutorial, but more of a guide as to what I did to achieve the end product...just in case you wanted to give it a go!

How to start? Basically I put on a well fitting soft bra that I already owned and  pinned some calico to the cup (creating darts where it needed shaping). I marked the outline of the cup, centre front, cup seam across the apex (creating a lower and upper cup piece) and lower dart. The pen marks have not been photographed whilst pinned to me, but you can kind of see them in the next photo.

I then cut around the pen line marking the cup outline and centre front and created a back piece by stretching the bra out, pinning it to the floor and measuring how long it needed to be. I used the original bra as a guide to the shaping on this.

 The above toile now forms the pattern, so I cut across the apex pen line. For the upper cup leave the pins in the darts and cut along the folded edge of them and along the pen line. Do not unpin and transfer this shape onto paper. For the lower cup cut along the folded edge of the dart, stopping at the dart tip and do not unpin. Transfer this shape to paper and mark the wedge size hole as a dart to be added in construction. Neaten any shapes once drawn onto paper.

Below is my paper pattern with a 1cm seam allowance added.

Cut and sewn in the outer fabric, which is a non-stretch Liberty print lawn.

Lined with a  very fine cotton, which has been sewn along the top edge only and pleated where the dart is instead of sewing along the dart.

I have looked at the construction of my own undies for construction tips and stitched some elastic to the facing side of the under arm edge with zigzag stitch. This then turns back to the lining and gets top-stitched in place with another row of zigzag. I stretched the elastic as I went, just guessing the amount and this method seemed to work ok, but I'm not sure if it's the 'official' way.

I then stitched the apex seams of the lining and outer cups together on the inside to keep it all in place. Not sure if you can see this clearly from the picture.

Some side binding to cover the raw edges of the cups and back piece (elastic added as before). I used some wider elastic for the bottom part of the bra, as this seems to sit better against the body and had more elasticity.

A mix of woven and stretch for the straps with no adjustment.

So there it is! The order of construction went as follows:

  1. Stitch together bra cups in main fabric(repeat for lining)
  2. Join these pieces together along the neckline edge and understitch on lining
  3. Attach elastic to underarm
  4. Stitch the apex seams together of the lining and main fabric on the inside
  5. Attach elastic to top edge of back piece (I did main fabric only)
  6. Attach front back pieces together along the side seam
  7. Attach elastic to bottom edge of bra
  8. Attach back fastening
  9. bind side seam on the inside
  10. Attach straps as required
Like I said this is a guide only to be interpreted as you like!!!! I hope that this is useful!