Monday, December 15, 2014

He was one of the good ones. Like Clint Eastwood in a beard, but fatter.

Hello hello! I hope everyone is grand. I'm not too bad: tired and eagerly anticipating finishing work for Christmas, which I do on Wednesday. Before that I have to get through two days of what will most likely be an absolutely hideous meeting, but then it's going to be PURE PARTY CENTRAL over here. By which I mean: a lot of sleeping and knitting, some drinking, some sewing, and then more sleeping. Hurrah for the holidays!

I have had a busy few weeks. This time of the year isn't party season for me, but it's a very busy time at work and of course it's just a busy time socially. I was in London last week for another (slightly different) Two Days of Basement Meeting Hell and was able to make the most of it by having drinks with colleagues and a lovely evening out in a fancy bit of London with Nic. My hotel was in South Kensington, so we had a wonderful meal in Rocca on Old Brompton Road. The food was delicious and the evening was surreal and fun - Nic and I were maybe the only people in the restaurant without a hereditary peerage - or at least that's what it felt like - so it was a bit like being in our very own episode of Made in Chelsea. Very pleasing indeed. I'm staying in the same hotel this week so I'm sure we'll get out for an equally fun meal and, best of all, I can have a cinnamon bun from Gail's for my breakfast. That might sound trivial, but it's thoughts like that which are helping me face what are going to be a very difficult couple of days.

So that is the craic there. I'm running on fumes at the moment so I will be very glad to get through the next few days and then I hope I can get back into the swing of sewing and blogging, you know? I have a few fun projects lined up for over the break, including a McCalls 6996 shirtdress in red Liberty Carline poplin - see Mary from Idle Fancy and, obviously, Heather B for my inspiration. I made a toile of the bodice a few weeks ago and I need to revisit it, but I'm saving myself for when I can sew this dress at my leisure. It's considerably more involved than my usual sewing and, while it's not my first shirt dress, I'm hoping to learn some new techniques. Mainly I'm looking forward to having the time and mental energy to do that, so roll on the holidays!

I also have plans for at least two more By Hand London Kim dresses, which are just so much fun to sew. And it's a Kim dress I have to show you guys today! You've already seen one - but it was my second one - the Scarlett dress. I was a one of the testers but had so few comments to make on the drafting that my test version is very close to the finished pattern - so I'm going to blog it.

Together Alone dress - By Hand London Kim dress in wave print cotton from Birch Fabrics, worn with Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon shoes

Yeah I went straight for the full-skirted version because OBVIOUSLY. I was paired up with Josie from Fabric Godmother, who provided the fabric. I chose this Japanese-inspired wave print from Birch Fabrics. It's a bit different for me in that the print was smaller, but there was something about it that I just kept coming back to when I was picking the fabric. The print is stunning:

And there are my pin-tucks, which I admit are almost totally lost in the print. I knew they would be, too, but I wanted to sew the pattern as instructed so, pin tucks it was. I like them but they're fucking time-consuming on a skirt this wide, and a bit fiddly over that distance. I think I would only sew them again if they were going to be more obvious on the skirt.

Actually the pin tucks were the only bit of the pattern I had any trouble with. I (again) doubted my tape measure with this dress and cut this dress in a size 10. I didn't toile because I think princess seamed bodices are easy enough to fit on the fly, but I had to dismantle the bodice of this dress once I made it and sew it in the size 8. Job done, and I'm really happy with how this dress fits me.

It's not perfect - as you can see, the neckline does stand away from my body slightly. That may be a little bit to do with the fabric choice - this is a pretty crisp medium-weight cotton - but it could very easily be solved with a bit of cotton tape in the neckline. There's a wee bit of excess fabric under the bust, which could be solved by adjusting the princess seams at that point. But you know, nothing major. Oh, and I like the back, too:

That's not too bad, right?

I have made three and a bit Kim dresses since I got the pattern - I say three and a bit because I combined the Kim bodice with another skirt - so the pattern is already well in rotation. It's a fair bit lower-cut than I usually like - being so short, it's something I'm often a bit self-conscious about - but I must admit that I really like the shape of the neckline on me and it's hardly obscene, is it?!

I have even worn this dress to work with a cardigan, and I added a scarf for when I was in meetings and wanted to look a bit more formal. My workplace has a pretty relaxed dress code though and to be honest, the print on this dress is so much less 'conversational' than a lot of my clothes that no-one passed any remarks on it. All good!

That's Kim. The next one I have planned is going to be a border print one, in this outstanding Michael Miller flamingo fabric I have just bought from the Village Haberdashery. I know. It's not even officially winter yet and I'm still/already sewing summer clothes. Not sorry.

Right. I'm going to motor now because I've got stuff to do. I'm going to leave you with a photo, though. I got new glasses on Friday. I'm short-sighted and have worn glasses since I was a teenager, but I only rarely wear them out of the house because I didn't like the glasses I had. I finally had an eye test a few weeks ago and picked up two new pairs of glasses on Friday. I've been making an effort to wear them all the time and getting used to them is weird. The prescription is stronger but also being able to see clearly over distances is not something I've been used to, so it's kind of been like being drunk. Or like Father Jack when he sobers up. I'm still not sure if I like how they look in photos, but I might start wearing them in photos anyway.

So TL;DR. I got new glasses and now I look like this:

DORP! No, not really. They're not too bad, are they?!

Right-o. See you all later. I need to figure out why I'm still on this feckin island.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Now's not the time to discuss this, but I will need to eat your umbilical cord.

Hello strangers! What's happening?! I've had a few weeks' break from both sewing and blogging, but I thought it was time to break that streak. I'm still figuring out what I want to do with the blog but it was good to get back to my sewing machine. The break from sewing wasn't intentional. The weather has turned cold and the sewing/dining table is next to the window; work has been busy; we've had a friend to stay; the weekends have been busy and, to be totally honest, I was in a bit of a rut. That's kind of what contributed to the blog break - although I love wearing the dresses I sew, I was getting a bit bored of sewing them.

A couple of weekends ago I went to London to meet up with Lauren on her last day in the UK, at a sewing day at Tilly's studio in West Dulwich. I had brought a project with me - I wanted to make a toile of McCalls 6696 (which I did) - but mainly I was interested in drinking prosecco and gossiping. It was such a blast to finally meet Lauren and to spend the afternoon with lovely sewing friends. And, you know, prosecco. Always good. While I was there, Tilly very kindly gave me a copy of her new pattern, the Francoise dress. Now, I would not have bought this pattern myself - not because I don't like it, but because it is very different to what I usually like to sew or wear, and I guess I'm not very adventurous. Indeed, even after I had been given the pattern I wasn't sure if I would sew it. I had a little think, and as I had some suitable fabric lurking in my stash, I thought I'd push myself out of my stylistic comfort zone and go for it.

Miss Piggy dress - Tilly and the Buttons Francoise dress, worn with Irregular Choice Dippy Daisy shoes

So... a bit different to my usual attire, right? I'm not totally sure what I think about this dress on me. I don't know how much of that is down to it being different and being short - I don't really do short skirts! Nic likes it though, so there's that. It's pretty cute, but there are a few issues with this dress that are also making me unsure about it. I For one thing - I cut the wrong size. I measured myself carefully and looked at the finished garment measurements, but chickened out of cutting the size that most closely matched my measurements - 2 - and cut the next size up - 3. I ended up taking it in substantially at the side seams and at the raglan seam on the back yoke and I increased the waist darts substantially. It left me with a wearable dress that has some minor fit issues I'd be happy to live with in a shop-bought dress.

As you can see, it's a little big across the upper chest. The bodice is also a little bit long in the back. I did take some photos of it but they're horrible, so you'll just have to take my word for it! If I make this dress again I'll start with the correct size and take a wedge out of the lower back.

Still, sewing Francoise did get me out of my sewing rut. I might not wear this dress a lot - it's not going to be very practical over the next few months - but I like it and I'm glad I made it. I enjoyed sewing it, too.

The fabric is cotton sateen with a slight stretch to it that I bought in A1 Fabrics on Goldhawk Road a number of years ago. It's been sitting in my stash ever since and I had forgotten how bright pink it is. It is totally and utterly Miss Piggy but, as she is totally awesome, that's no bad thing.

So anyway, that's my Francoise dress. It's not really my style, but is good to branch out occasionally. I mean, check it out. I have knees!

That's the craic with me. I'm away for work this week and next week, but then I'm finished work for the year. Nic and I are spending Christmas in Leamington for the first time ever this year and I'm very excited about it. It will be a bit weird not to be at my parents' house, but I am really looking forward to creating our own Christmas traditions. I'm hoping that many of these new traditions will involve champagne.

Anyway, that's me for this evening. Catch you all on the flippedy flip!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I hope there was enough shark meat in the refrigerator for one of your sandwiches.

Hola! What's up, my friends? All good here: after a fucking crazy week last week I had a very restful weekend and, so far, this week has been moderately good. Maybe my expectations are lowered but to be honest, I think they're lowered all round. Nic and I watched the Liam Neeson film Non-Stop over the weekend, partly for the lols, but I ended up genuinely enjoying it. Yeah, it's silly, but Liam Neeson having a shoot-out with bad guys in a depressurised airplane cabin? That was awesome. And I love Liam Neeson. Even when he's in bad films (such as The Grey or The Phantom Menace) or flat-out hateful ones (such as Batman Begins or Love, Actually) he's always the best thing about them. I was going to find a funny Liam Neeson meme to put here, but I haven't seen Taken so none of them actually make sense to me. Ah well.

Yeah. So, the craic. That is it. I did also clean the kitchen, make two different dinners and bake a cake over the weekend. I clearly had some sort of psychotic break because spending time in the kitchen is not something I'm normally interested in - luckily Nic is the domesticated adult in our relationship - but mainly I spent the weekend reading and sleeping and trying to keep warm. Despite my best efforts, I can no longer ignore the fact that it is cold now and I have to wear tights and my eleven million pairs of sandals are going to have to wait until the milder weather. I'm still going to photograph finished sewing projects outside - lighting and all that - but, yeah. It's cold now.

I wore and photographed this dress the weekend before last, when it was still pretty mild. I very rarely buy sewing magazines, mainly because I'm not at all interested in sewing children's clothes, homewares, quilts or accessories, but I did buy last month's Sew magazine because the pattern that came with it is one I've wanted for a while. It was kind of stupid really because the magazine is (in my opinion) not worth reading and I could have bought the pattern cheaper on sale somewhere. Eh. The magazine was a bit of a diversion, and the pattern is pretty cute. It's Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity - 1873:

Now, I have to say, I was primarily attracted to the technical drawings of this dress. I don't know about you, but I think there's something really sad about the envelope image, although the fabric is lovely. The skirt is pretty cool: there are a few panels, which gives it fullness and body, and I like the pleating. I didn't have enough fabric to do this, and I mainly wanted to try the bodice out, so I used a simple gathered skirt on my version. I will go back and try the skirt, though!

The Cat's Pyjamas dress - Simplicity 1873 with a gathered skirt worn with Poetic Licence The Right Stripe shoes

The fabric is 'Cherry Jubilee' by Michael Miller and was a surprise gift from Sarah when she was clearing out her stash a few months ago. It sat in my fabric box for a fair bit while I tried to decide what to do with it. Although cherries aren't christmassy, there's something about this fabric that seems festive to me, so although the dress I made is sleeveless it does feel a bit seasonal to me.

Back view. I don't hate this!

The pattern itself was grand to sew. I took a chance at not toiling this one because I don't usually find I have to do much to Simplicity patterns to get them to fit me. I sewed the size 10 based on the finished garment measurements but it ended up - well, not being too big, exactly - just big enough to look a little bit frumpy. I went back after I had finished the dress and took it in at the side seams. It's not an ideal fix but, as I hadn't made a toile, I'm happy to treat this as a wearable toile. Next time, I'll toile the size 8 and go from there.

Bodice. I look a bit bald in this photo and, welp, there's a dart there that could have been pressed better. But do you like my cherry earrings? I got them in a shop in Folkestone and I think they might be made out of that Fimo clay.

There will be a next time. Despite the few issues I had - which were mine, not the pattern's - I really like this bodice block and I am looking forward to trying it out with the skirt from the pattern. It's not vastly out of my comfort zone, of course, but I like the lower neckline. For a pattern I got for 'free' (except not really) I think it's all good.

I accessorised this with green rather than red because - well, mainly I think because my red cardigan was in the wash.

Although I love the fabric and I like the idea of this dress, I don't love it overall. There's nothing really wrong with it and I am sure I will wear it - especially as I was so touched to receive the fabric - but I'm not sure that it's very flattering. There's something about it that feels a bit off that I can't quite put my finger on. I might feel differently after I have worn it again - maybe I will like it better if I wear it with red - but, in any case, I enjoyed sewing it and they can't all be winners all the time, right?

I did like the fact that I could wear it with these shoes, though:

Yes, they have detachable cherries on them! I know, right?

Actually, maybe the issue with this dress isn't the dress itself. I enjoyed wearing it and felt pretty good in it. I think where I started to feel ambiguous about it is when I thought about writing this blog post. I'm getting a bit bored of blogging about sewing, to be honest. It's mostly because I like to sew and wear very similar things. I'm absolutely fine with that and, for the moment, I'm not looking to go for anything especially more challenging or complex. But I AM getting a bit tired of blogging everything. I've been blogging here for five years now and I don't think I'm ready to stop - but I do feel like I need to make a change of some kind. I'm just not sure what.

Apologies for the outpouring. Who knew a dress could prompt such navel-gazing, eh?! I think I just need to take some time to regroup and recharge and think about what, if anything, to do next.

I do have one idea, though:

Right lads, I'm away here. Goodnight!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

This leak business is symptomatic of the moral decline of this country since the fall of the last Conservative government.

Yeeeeeeooooo! Howdy folks, what's happening? All quiet on the Dolly Clackett front: I'm deeply immersed in another very intense week at work. I have a lot to cram into the next few weeks, which I've planned for, but there are a couple of unnecessary annoyances that have driven me to distraction over the last few days. Actually my stress levels are not what they might be given the circumstances - one of the things I have learned over the last couple of years is how to manage this better and I have become a bit better at not losing my temper when people are being totally unreasonable. All the same, I will be ridiculously relieved to get to Friday tomorrow, you know? I'm going to try to start the Friday festivities a little early tonight by having a long bath with a drink and a book.

So, that is the craic there. I haven't had much time for anything outside of work this week at all. It's been okay, though. Nic and I had a lovely weekend and we had our friend JP to stay with us at the start of the week too. Our friends Amy and Barney called round on Sunday night to drop off an Ikea Expedit unit to us that they no longer need, which meant we were able to rearrange our living room slightly. Nic now has his records all neatly arranged and I'm not kidding when I say that every evening since has seen him sitting on the floor to look at them and tinker with the arrangement of them.

Like this, but with a beard. He's looking at them right now, in fact.

Anyway, as I said - we had a lovely weekend. It was my friend Lauren's birthday last week and we celebrated this by going to the pub on Friday night and drinking prosecco (standard) and spending Saturday afternoon doing a treasure hunt town trail thing in Leamington. I was not at all hungover, thanks to the magic power of chips in pitta bread in chilli sauce after the pub, and it was a dry and mild day, perfect for wandering around Leamington and trying to follow the clues in the booklet. I had a new dress to wear, as well. I actually made this a couple of weeks ago but hadn't had the chance to wear it. Then, as I was falling asleep drunk and full of chips on Friday night, I had an idea of how to wear it and what to name it. Yeah I know. Laugh if you want, but I happen to think that chips are brain food.

Scarlett dress - By Hand London Kim dress worn with red cowboy boots from Office

So, the dress! This is the new pattern from By Hand London, the Kim dress. The pattern isn't quite available yet - it's being released on 29th November - but I was one of the pattern testers, so have been able to sew the dress a bit earlier. This is obviously the version with the gathered skirt. However, I omitted the pin tucks along the hem on this one. I did sew them in my test version (which I will post at some point over the next few weeks) but with a printed fabric the effect is sort of lost so I didn't bother with this one. I won't review the pattern except to say that I found very little in my testing to comment on and I believe the finished pattern will be pretty similar to the version I tested. On my first version I sewed a size 10 and had to go back and take it in along the side seams and under the bust, so for this version I sewed a size 8. The only adjustment I made was to sew a slightly larger seam allowance at the side seams and to take it up substantially at the shoulders.

I bought the fabric in A1 Fabrics on Goldhawk Road at some point last year and it's been languishing in my stash ever since. It was fairly cheap, I think it was £4.99 per metre, and I bought two metres. I was able to get this dress and some bunting for my sister out of that two metres so I'd say that was £10 well spent!

Bodice view - you can see the lovely rose print a little bit better here. Also the close up on the "eating chips in bed at 1am face" I'm sporting here

There's something about this bodice variation - with the straight neckline, rather than the sweetheart variation - that really reminds me of a dirndl. But more than anything else, it really called one TV character to mind for me: Scarlett O'Connor from Nashville.

Scarlett wears this red dress when she first performs at the Opry. I'll probably wear something similar myself for my first performance.

I actually find Scarlett to be an almost unbearably irritating character. I don't dislike her as much as I dislike her songwriting partner, Gunnar (we call him Bummer) but she's very dull. I do like her style, though. It's mostly romantic dresses with full skirts, worn with wide belts, chunky belts and work boots. It's not a look I could totally carry off (I'm not all that keen on wearing belts) but it works for her. She's annoying, but she's pretty cute. And, you know, her hair isn't even close to being on the Rayna Scale of Awesome, but I like her hair too.

So, yeah. It might be totally lame, but this outfit is inspired by a character I don't even like. My chunky cardigan is from Mango and the boots are pretty old. I bought them seven or eight years ago after watching Wonder Boys - Katie Holmes's character is pretty annoying, but she has some lovely red cowboy boots.


Obviously the fabric and general style of this dress are pretty summery, so I might not get much wear out of it until the spring. I like the way it looks with the cowboy boots and I'm sure I'll wear this combination again over the autumn, although obviously I'm looking forward to wearing it with sandals in the warmer weather.

Gratuitous out-take. Don't even know what I was doing here but I look like I'm about to fall over.

So that's the Scarlett dress. I really like the Kim pattern - once I had figured out the couple of little fitting tweaks I needed to do it's a very straightforward and quick dress to make. I sewed this dress - including hemming it by hand - one evening after work. I like a bit of fast sewing! I think there's also a lot of potential for variations - this is another lovely bodice I look forward to pairing with different skirts. All round it's a thumbs up from me for Kim!

Right-o, I have been looking at a computer since about half eight this morning. Time for me to get my gin and tonic and my book. Goodnight!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

They lie in wait like wolves. The smell of blood in their nostrils. Waiting. Interminably waiting. And then...

OH. Hi everyone! It's taken me rather longer to get around to blogging again than I meant to. This past week has genuinely kicked my ass. I've been super stressed and uptight about work. It's silly really because work is fine but for some reason this week it all got on top of me, and it ended up with a long rant and tears on Tuesday afternoon and more of the same on Wednesday. Today was much better - although I was flat out all day, it didn't seem so bad because I have tomorrow off. Hurrah! Also, yesterday afternoon after I had finished for the day, I spent a few hours sewing. That always makes me feel better. Tonight I have a lazy dinner, a film and a big glass of wine planned so I hope that will complete the job of de-stressing me!

Because of my lack of blogging time - not to mention the lack of daylight hours in which to take photos - I have once again a bit of a backlog of projects to share. Here's a dress I made a few weeks ago: my second version of the Deer and Doe Belladone dress. The one I made the summer before last is now much too big and to be honest, it was never a fantastic fit in the first place. So, I recut the pattern and cut into some printed denim that I bought in Paris in May. A Parisian pattern and fabric from Paris? MAIS OUI. SO FRENCH.

La Bicyclette dress - Deer and Doe Belladone dress in bicycle print denim, worn with Swedish hasbeens braided sandals

I've been thinking on this dress for a while and, unlike most of the rest of the fabric I bought in Paris, this fabric was bought with this pattern in mind. It's just taken me ages to get around to it! If the fabric looks familiar, you might have seen it on Lauren. I bought her a 3m coupon of this fabric too, and she made herself some Maritime shorts with it. The fabric is adorable and was such a bargain - I got 3m of 150cm wide fabric for either 10 or 15 euros and, you know, it has bikes on it!

Fabric detail with added lens flare.

The fabric itself was lovely to work with, and the Belladone pattern is enjoyable to sew. I'm not thoroughly in love with my finished dress though. This is going to sound stupid, but I think I've decided I'm not all that keen on the cut-out at the back. It doesn't help matters that, try as I might, I couldn't really get the fit of it right on my back. And you know, for those of us who suffer from Derp Back Syndrome - well, it's probably not a great idea to draw attention to how derpy our backs are!


So, okay. This dress is a little bit too tight and I really should have done a full bust adjustment. In fact, I think giving myself a little bit more ease at the side seams and a little bit more room in the bust might go some way towards addressing the fit of the cut-out. But let's be real here: I'm never going to sew this bodice again. The dress - while it wouldn't be suitable to wear out to eat a big dinner in - does fit, does comfortably zip up and I can move around in it. And I wear cardigans ALL the time - if I wear this, that back mess is going to be covered up. I'll look like this:

I rarely leave home without one of these Hell Bunny cardigans. I want them to bring them out in every colour. Get on that, Hell Bunny R&D people. Come on. 

So, you know. This is kind of a fail. It's not one I can really bring myself to feel bad about though because I can wear the dress (as long as I don't put on any weight or try to do anything too vigorous in it!) and I enjoyed sewing it. I really like the skirt and I will definitely use this in combination with some of my favourite bodices. The skirt finish is lovely too. The hem facing is very enjoyable to sew and, while I'm usually fairly meh about pockets, I like the shape of these and the topstitching finish.

This is also a (very slightly) different silhouette for me, and I do like the a-line skirt. I'm also keen to sew with some more printed denim because it's comfortable to wear and enjoyable to sew with.

I've just realised that I wore this dress with that plastic heart ring I bought in Antoine et Lilli a few years ago. This outfit is just SO PARISIAN.

So anyway. That's the Belladone dress - not totally for me. I was able to eat two different kinds of cake in it though, so it's definitely not a complete howler.

Right. A large glass of Sauvignon Blanc is calling my name. Later!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

They say that some of his ears are inside his head and when he yawns it sounds like Liam Neeson chasing a load of hens around inside a barrel.

Ah, hello! It's Bonfire night and...well, I'm not out looking at fireworks or eating toffee apples or baked potatoes, or whatever it is people do on Bonfire Night. It's not really a thing in Northern Ireland and, in my thirteen years living in England, I've never really been able to get into it. It might be partly down to the fact that I'm a great big wuss when it comes to flames of any kind. I swear that the reason I've never been a smoker is that I can't even light a match. I know. So lame.

But anyway. I'm fine with all of the above because I've had a long and reasonably stressful day at work, so putting my pyjamas on and drinking gin is ticking a lot of boxes for me right now. I'm also going to have an early night and watch Nashville, which Nic and I just got into a few weeks ago. I know, so behind the curve, but we're both really enjoying it. It's like a combination of Treme and The OC - with Powers Boothe being evil, Luke from The OC as a gay cowboy country singer and an absolutely killer soundtrack. Also, to quote every tumblr ever: OMG CONNIE BRITTON'S HURR THOOOOOOGH

I mean, fair enough. I'm finding it hard to look at your face too, Connie, because omghair etc.

So that's where I'm up to with my week. If I want to get to bed to watch Nashville I need to crack on with this post, right?

I do love trashy TV though, and a recent favourite has been NBC's Hannibal. I watched The Silence of the Lambs at an impressionable age - I think I was 12, maybe - and quickly thereafter read the book, and I have been a Hannibal Lecter fan ever since. I'm not so keen on any of the other films (and I will never have any interest in watching Hannibal Rising) but I quickly became hooked on the stylish, funny and very silly Bryan Fuller show. Also, Mads Mikkelsen. HELLO.

Sharp suit there boss

A few weeks ago Annie from The Village Haberdashery emailed me and offered to send me my choice of fabric from the shop to, as she put it, sponsor a dress. I was more than happy to oblige - the odd freebie never hurt anyone and as I have very happily shopped with The Village Haberdashery in the past, I'm happy to recommend them. I spent a happy half-hour browsing the site and went for this beautiful Echino Decoro Stag fabric in red. Due to my love of Hannibal, I've been after a stag-themed fabric for a while, and this fit the bill beautifully. Also, lookit how cute the little stags are!

Annie sent me two metres of this fabric. It's cotton with a beautifully soft and slinky hand to it - it's a bit weightier than a lawn but just as suitable for garments. Because of the chevron print and the very pretty little stags, I decided to sew a Christine Haynes Emery dress again. I'm sure it hasn't escaped your notice that I love this pattern but it really is a great canvas for a pretty print such as this. 

So anyway, here's the finished dress:

Hannibal dress - Christine Haynes Emery dress in Echino cotton*, worn with Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon shoes

I wore this outfit on Saturday to have coffee and cake with Sarah and it was still (almost!) mild enough to go bare-legged and in open-toed sandals. I have lots of red shoes but I must admit that, given the subject matter in Hannibal, I was really tickled by the idea of wearing these grotesque lip shoes with a dress named after pop culture's most famous cannibal. Small things amuse small minds, I suppose.

I don't have anything to add to the many hundreds of words I have already written about Emery and I have my fitting tweaks down to a fine art now. I did have enough fabric to make short sleeves but, as you can see, I decided not to. I thought that going to the effort to pattern match sleeves on a dress that I'll mostly wear a cardigan with was kind of a wasted effort. I did pattern match the back pieces though because even I could see it would be a hot mess if I didn't!

LOOK AT THAT! It's not completely perfect but it's damn close, and that's good enough for me. It was enough that, when I tried the dress on to show it to Nic, he exclaimed, "The pattern matching across the back is SO COOL!" which: 100 points to you, dude and also, success! I have to tell you though - I find pattern matching to be really tedious. I faffed around for ages when I was cutting the fabric out to get it right. Like, as if cutting out fabric isn't tedious enough. So, I'll do it when I can with something like this but it's not ever going to be something I'm anal about.

That also tells me that if I ever need to have wallpapering done, I need to call in the experts.

Here's a little closeup of the bodice - you know, because I usually do that.

I didn't take any photos of the inside of this dress but I lined the bodice with cotton lawn and I hand-stitched the hem. On such a busy print, a top-stitched hem wouldn't been all that visible and it would have saved me time. I really enjoy hand-sewing hems, though. It's nice to sit with a glass of wine and a trashy DVD (are you sensing a theme, here? I love TV) and put the final finishing touches on a special dress by hand.

I've already worn this dress a few times since I made it last weekend. And it's good to know that I would have something suitable to wear should I ever get invited to dinner at Hannibal Lecter's house. Although, I'm a vegetarian so I might be the Freddie Lounds at the table:

Seriously. Nic and I spent so much time watching Hannibal saying one of two things. They were "OMG SHUT UP ALANA YOU SO BORING" and "Man, I'm glad to be a vegetarian." But I do enjoy all of the cookery scenes, all the same.

I'm kind of thinking I need to make a few more Hannibal Lecter themed dresses. So maybe a Clarice Starling dress with either horses or lambs on it. A Jame Gumb dress with small white dogs on or I could do a tuck-dance screen print. Actually, that's where my inspiration ends. Maybe I should leave it at the stags. Otherwise it's just mad, right?

Anyway, thank you again to The Village Haberdashery for the very generous gift of the fabric. Thank you for making my dream of owning a Hannibal Lecter dress come true. I hope that doesn't make you guys feel too weird.

Right. Finished. I can go and watch Nashville now. Night all!

Disclaimer: The Village Haberdashery provided me with two metres of this fabric for free. I wasn't otherwise compensated for this blog post and wasn't asked for a review. I definitely wasn't asked to talk for so long about my favourite fictional serial killer. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

I guess nice just ain't my colour.

YO! It's FRIDAAAAAY! This has been one seriously long and stressful week so I am super pumped that it's finally the weekend, and finally payday. I guess someone (not me) bought too many pairs of shoes this month. So that is the craic there. This week has been pretty stressful, due entirely to some totally unnecessary work nonsense. Ugh. Not from my colleagues, but from a contractor - which makes it kind of worse. Anyway, I'll stop complaining because it's Friday now. YES.

In fairness, the week hasn't all been bad. I managed to sneak in a bit of sewing during the evenings, making my sister some bunting and making a second By Hand London Kim dress - I liked the dress I sewed to test the pattern so much I immediately wanted to make a second one. I will blog both of those once the pattern has been released, which is slated for the end of November. If you want to get a look at what the pattern looks like before then, the girls are running a pre-sale at the moment. I haven't been asked to mention that, or been compensated for mentioning it - it's just a very pretty pattern that some of you may enjoy!

This post is going to sound like a big By Hand London fangirl squee, I guess, because I'm going to show you another Elisalex dress I made recently. But I can deal if you can: I like this pattern a lot! As I mentioned in my last post, after buying the Cath Kidston 'Camden' cotton in Belfast, I decided to order a metre of the London buses fabric online the following week. Annoyingly, it's a very different beast ordering fabric online from Cath Kidston - the metre I bought wasn't very well cut and I ended up slightly short. No biggie, but it's definitely one benefit to buying it in the shop if you can. In addition, although both fabrics are listed as 'Cotton Duck', they're very different. The London buses cotton isn't nearly as suitable for dressmaking as the Camden cotton - it's much, much more loosely woven and it frayed like a bitch. Still - I think the end result is pretty cute:

83 Piccadilly dress - By Hand London Elisalex dress, worn with Irregular Choice 'No Place Like Home' heels

I made another Elisalex dress, this time with the pattern's box-pleated tulip skirt. That skirt works really well with this weight of fabric - or at least, it should. This fabric had slightly less body than I was expecting, especially after I had pre-washed it. But anyway, it does hold the shape of the skirt pretty well.

So, this dress wasn't super fun to make. As I said, the fabric really frayed when I was working with it and I was kind of irritated that it was (in my opinion, anyway) of so much lower quality than the other Cath Kidston fabrics I've worked with. But, you know, the buses are pretty cute. And also I have the pencil case with this print on it - so now I have a dress that matches my pencil case. So now that's a thing? Anyway - I think it's mostly a success. I did take photos of the innards this time. The bodice is lined, and I enclosed the skirt seams with red bias binding, and I finished the hem with it also:

Despite my reservations about the quality of the fabric, I am happy with my finished dress. I love the print and the colours, and I really like the shape of the dress. I tried on the barkcloth version of this dress that Cath Kidston sells and while I liked it fine, I didn't love it - I ended up buying the Townhouses dress that day - so I am glad I made my own.

Got to be honest - not sure what I was doing in this picture, but it does show off the shape of the skirt pretty nicely. So, in it goes!

Cath Kidston has a store on Piccadilly, but that's not what this dress is named for. I never really got to know London until I stopped teaching in 2008 and started working for the now-closed QCA. At the time, the agency was in the process of moving its office to the midlands. I was officially based in the midlands office, but many members of my team were based in the London office and I worked there once or twice a week - increasing to four days a week throughout 2010 and 2011.

Apart from a few day trips to London, I'd never really spent any time in the capital so to go from that to suddenly working there was a pretty big shift for this country mouse.  It was often a stressful time - particularly in 2010 and 2011, when I was also dealing with pretty intense anxiety issues - but I really loved working in London - at 83 Piccadilly - and I very often miss the building I worked in, the people I worked with and the organisation I worked for. I'll always cherish that time in my life, though - even with the difficult things that came with it - and I really value the confidence working there gave me when it comes to London. I still work in London occasionally - although QCA is now long-gone, I'm still working in an organisation that is split across multiple cities and with a team who are partly based in London. It's not the same, though. While I genuinely enjoy my job - in fact, in many ways I enjoy it much more than the job I had at QCA - I don't feel the same way about the organisation I work for now.

83 Piccadilly was a pretty awesome building to work in, too. The building I worked in is no longer there - it's been torn down - but it was very cool all the same. One of the meeting rooms on the ground floor was (apparently) bomb-proof. I heard rumours that there were secret tunnels underneath the building connecting it to the Houses of Parliament. It looked out onto Green Park, Buckingham Palace and was across the street from The Ritz and Fortnum and Mason, and around the corner from Bond Street. When gun salutes were fired (I think they're fired from Hyde Park) you could feel the walls of the building shake. And, kind of best of all, there was a roof terrace which was a great place to have lunch and enjoy views over the city. Working there made me love London.

Anyway, that's all very long-winded. I guess I am feeling sentimental today! Here's a picture of the bodice of the dress, just to shake things up a bit:

It kind of annoys me that this fabric has Cath Kidston's actual name on it. Like, calm the fuck down, Cath. You don't need to sign every damn thing, you know.

So that's the craic with this dress. I wore it a couple of Sundays ago to have a stroll in town. From about the middle of October, the Parade is closed off most Sundays for markets. They don't usually start being much good until closer to Christmas but all the same, it's nice to have a look around them. It was - and still is - mild enough to wear a light jacket and my ever-present cardigan with this dress:

I was really going all-out here on the twee accessories with my Ollie and Nic apple bag as well!

Right-o, that's all the jazz out of me today. My lunchtime is drawing to a close and it's time to get back to updating spreadsheets. But after that it'll be time for noodles, and wine and maybe I'll even do some sewing over the weekend! Have a great weekend, everyone.