Showing posts with label sewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sewing. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Or can we agree that we're all just monkeys with suitcases trying to seem like people?

Evening! I hope this Wednesday evening is treating you all well. Mine is - after a tedious day at work and my train home being cancelled for the second day in a row, I went and had my hair done and then went to the pub and had some fancy gin. Yay! What's even better is that I have fancy gin here at home, so more gin. Yup.

Anyway. I'm having a tedious week at work but an otherwise busy and awesome July. I've been squeezing in sewing time when I can find it - after fabric shopping in Paris and London, and having been given some lovely fabric as gifts, my stash is getting a bit out of control. I have managed to sew a couple of my Paris fabrics, and I have a sewing day planned for tomorrow so, you know what that means. I will have more room for shoes in my flat.

The area of Paris we were staying in - just off the Rue Clignancourt and near Avenue Barbès - is a great place to buy African wax print cottons. The area is an important cultural centre for West African immigration in Paris so there are lots of beautiful fabrics available to buy, and lots of inspiration in the form of ladies wearing amazing outfits. I had good success in Tissus Toto last year so I made a beeline for both branches this year, and they did not disappoint! The first piece of fabric I bought was with Lynne in mind as her Sew Dolly Clackett prize. I bought a 5m length and split it with her. I believe she's planning to make a Deer and Doe Belladone with hers, and here is what I made with mine...

Le Comptoir Général dress - Colette Patterns Lily bodice with a circle skirt, worn with Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon globe shoes

The very large-scale print seemed to call for a circle skirt, but I wanted to try something new with the bodice. I've owned the Lily dress pattern for over a year but I think I was put off it by my difficulty with fitting the Peony dress. I thought that fitting this wouldn't be quite as tricky due to the princess seams. I didn't toile it for that reason and the fit is okay - I cut the size 4 and took the princess seams in underneath my bust. The fit isn't perfect, but it's not too bad.

You can probably see from this photo that the fit is a tiny bit off under the arms. But whatever. The other thing I would alter about the fit if I were to make this again is to lengthen the bodice by an inch. I am pretty short in the torso and this still hits me just above my natural waist. I guess that works with the skirt that's drafted to go with the pattern, but when it's attached to a fuller skirt a slightly longer bodice would be a bit more flattering.

If I'm making it sound like I'm on the fence about this dress, I'm not! Despite a few small niggles, I'm really happy with it and I think the style works really well with the fabric. I really enjoyed sewing it - the instructions for putting the bodice together and attaching the neckline flap thing were typically excellent, and the fabric was gorgeous to work with. I've been thinking about getting an overlocker - and I might in the next few months - but I really enjoy finishing seams by turning and stitching them. For some reason, that was really enjoyable with this dress. I bound the hem with pink bias binding - I had bought it for the inside of the hem, but that little extra stripe of pink at the bottom seemed like a nice touch.

Although I am pretty accustomed to dressing up in everyday life, this dress does feel extra dressy for some reason. It might be to do with the vibrant colours or the bold print, I'm not sure. Maybe I'll feel differently about it when I wear it with sandals and a cardigan, though. Either way, while it might not be as Holy Fuckballs Amazing as the actual Le Comptoir Général, it's a nice reminder of that fabulous place. They have a shop on their mezzanine called Le Marché Noir, which sells secondhand clothes imported from African countries, fabrics and handmade clothes and crafts. Nic and I had a little potter around it on one of the days and it's very cool - but I had already basically blown my day's budget on fabric by that point, so we didn't buy anything. Still - it was excellent inspiration - especially the handmade dresses. The maxi dresses and panelled skirts have already inspired a few other creations, which you'll see on here before too long. The last four dresses I've made have been made from wax block print cottons. I just can't resist those beautiful colours and prints!

Inside Le Comptoir Général on a rainy day - and testing out the sepia function on our camera

Anyway, I'm going to leave you with one more photo. I was going to show you a picture of the back of the dress because the neckline flap looks really cute at the centre back seam. But I can't bring myself to do it because I have a seriously goofy back. I mean it! I always have photos taken of the back of a garment because, you know, I think it's the good sewing blogger thing to do. You know, it's good to see what the back looks like. But fuck it. I look enough of a doofus from the front without my back trying to steal the show. I thought I pulled stupid faces - but I actually have a stupid back. DERP. So here's one more of the front. And, in respect to the comments on a previous post, I'm also going to include photos of some of the other fabrics I bought in Paris. Then I'm going to go and make a Sloe Gin Fizz and watch the S1 finale of Blue Bloods because we got to the end of S2 of Hannibal and S2 of Elementary and are out of good crime shows to watch. TEN FOUR. COPY THAT.

I know it's hard to believe my back could look dopier than my face, but you'll just have to take my word for it.

Heart print cotton lawn - I bought this 3m coupon in Coupons de Saint Pierre, I think it was €15. I think it's twee as fuck, but I love the colours.

Chinese vase print cotton poplin and floral cotton voile, both also from Coupons de Saint Pierre

Pineapple print cotton poplin, bicycle print denim and blue and pink polka dots, all from the same place. The bird print cotton lawn was from Dreyfus and I think it was the only thing I bought on the whole trip that I had cut for me!

Star print wax cotton and random hot air balloon poplin, both from Tissus Toto. I've already sewed the star-print cotton, but I have to get photos of what I've made! If you want a preview, you can see it on my instagram.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there's no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value.

Happy Friday, everyone! Regardless of what is going on in my week, or what is going on over the weekend, it's hard not to feel cheerful on a Friday. Today is especially good because I'm working from home in the sunshine, I don't have to go into the office tomorrow (as I previously thought I'd have to - but my manager told me I could give it a miss) I've had one pair of awesome shoes delivered and another are on their way (don't look at me like that, I don't even care) and I have beautiful fabric and time to sew over the weekend. What could be better than that?!

In my teens, Friday night was also my night for going out. From about 16, my friends and I spent most of our Friday nights, the very odd Saturday and the occasional Wednesday night at a local nightclub. It was called Clubland or, if you were a culchie, "Clublands" or if you were old and a culchie, "The Clubland" I think most of us have a place like that in our past - somewhere with sticky floors, cheap drinks, excellent (if occasionally questionable) music and many happy memories. I've had three significant boyfriends in my life, and I met two of them in Clubland. I met a fair few insignificant boyfriends there too.

Friday nights were called Backtrax, and the DJ's name was Andrew Gold. I say "was", it's quite possible that Andrew Gold is still DJ-ing away because Clubland is still there. Anyway, it was free in before 11 if you had a voucher - I had loads because I stole a whole bunch of them from the DJ booth one night - and shots were £1, and the music was 70s-90s and indie. You could predict the songlist each week - Andrew Gold has a playlist that he stuck to - and most of my favourite songs are still songs I danced to at Clubland. Most of our wedding reception playlist was solid Clubland classics. To give you an idea of what it was like, watch the video to At The Indie Disco by The Divine Comedy...

The Divine Comedy are my all-time number one favourite band, and this song is from their last album, Bang Goes The Knighthood. Nic bought me this album for my birthday a few years ago and it's been on constant play basically ever since. I especially love this song as it encapsulates a very happy time in my life, and Nic and I had it as the last dance at our wedding.

All of this is a very long preamble to showing you a dress I made! But basically it's because I'm a child of the 90s. I don't necessarily approve of 90s fashions coming back - the decade was not kind to us, fashion-wise - but as soon as I saw this fabric I wanted it. It's 90s in a good way, just about!

At The Indie Disco dress - By Hand London Elisalex bodice with a gathered skirt, worn with Miss L Fire Bluebird sandals

I'm pretty sure teenage me had a dress very similar to this - I think I bought it in Heatons in Monaghan! In any case, one of my favourite things to wear when I was 17 was a cropped t-shirt with a sunflower on it, and bell-bottomed jeans that had belonged to my friend Clare's mum in the 70s, with Gola trainers with rainbow laces. STYLISH. I wore that outfit to Clubland - along with a shoulder-length lilac wig I bought on a market stall in Blackpool when I went on holiday there with my best friend Emma and her family when we were 16 - a lot. So yes, when I saw this fabric, I really wanted to make a 90s revival dress from it!

The sunflower fabric is a Timeless Treasures quilting cotton. I bought it with a voucher from an online store and it was pretty overpriced - I think they were asking something like £16.50 a metre for it, but I had a voucher so I thought I'd get it anyway. The fabric took nearly two weeks to arrive, despite the fact that I paid for next day delivery, and the customer service was so rude and aggressive I'll never buy from this store again. It's a shame and it very nearly spoiled the fabric for me - don't you hate it when that happens?! But, the power of 90s nostalgia eventually won me over, and I am really happy with my finished dress.

Give us some Pixies and some Roses and some Valentines (and we're in heaven) Give us some Blur and some Cure and some Wannadies (we'll dance forever)

Construction-wise, nothing to say. It's an Elisalex with a gathered skirt, which is a lovely and comfortable combination. I used a lapped zip, which I inserted the Sunday before our wedding at the Berylune sewing social! I initially flirted with the thought of making this much more midi in length - but to be honest, it looked far less 90s-inspired and more like I'd robbed it from Clarissa Darling's wardrobe, so I chopped it to just below my knee. It actually looks sort of better with heels, but I'm just flat-out wearing my Bluebird sandals all the time at the moment so there we have it.

We've got a table in the corner that is always ours, under the poster of Morrissey with a bunch of flowers. We drink and talk about stupid stuff, then hit the floor for Tainted Love, you know I just can't get enough...

Wearing this dress makes me want to go out dancing, but sadly nowhere has ever really lived up to Clubland. I've never been in a nightclub since that has a tree in the middle of the dancefloor, a plaster panther in a cage or 'caves' - booths made from fibreglass to look like caves, complete with dodgy cave art. I've never been to anywhere else that does 'Blast Off' - at midnight for some reason, they lowered the light-fittings to the dancefloor, pumped in some dry ice and then raised them again. It was quite a spectacle. I've never been to anywhere else where the last song was Hey Jude and the challenge was to stay to the end of all the na na na na na na nas before the bouncers threw you you. Happy days.

She makes my heart beat the same way as at the start of Blue Monday, always the last song that they play at the Indie Disco...

In the absence of all the things that made Clubland so unique, I'm away here to dance around my living room to Mr Jones by Counting Crows, another Clubland classic. Happy Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Well, I was born Mary Patterson, but then I married and naturally I took my husband's name. So now I'm Neil Patterson.

Hello! It's taken me rather longer to get back to blogging than I intended. I had a weekend of socialising and binge-watching season 2 of Hannibal, and binge-reading Red Dragon so my head was in kind of a weird place. I don't know who is the trashier writer, Thomas Harris or Bryan Fuller, but together they make something sort of sickly and awful but also kind of amazing. Ugh, either way, I need to lay off the serial killer pop culture for a while!

So anyway, I'm back today to show you the rest of our photos from Paris. Don't worry, not all of them, just a little flavour of our holiday. The sun is shining and I'm listening to jazz so I'm feeling a little bit nostalgic, I suppose!

As I said in my last post on the subject, Nic and I mostly stayed within walking distance of our lovely little flat on Rue Feutrier. We did go further afield occasionally - we got rained on in the Latin Quarter (again! The exact same thing happened to us last year as well) and we took the metro and the RER out to Vincennes to go to an outdoor jazz concert at Parc Floral, but I confess that was the extent of our travels.

What I wore on our first full day in Paris - Bernie Dexter Frenchie dress and Miss L Fire sandals. This grafitti was all around Montmartre, and in different colours. I took this photo on Rue Muller, but we saw this everywhere. It was so cute!

The Sacre Coeur, seen from Square Louise-Michel. I know this is a total tourist photo, but wevs. Before we went to Paris, Nic and I watched Sandrine's Paris. It was excellent, even with the hateful faux-Amélie editing, but Sandrine was pretty disdainful of both Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur. Much like the Eiffel Tower, I get it that Parisians might think this monument is ugly. It's rowdy up at the top and it smells of piss, and the guys selling those hideous friendship bracelets are a bit aggro, but I love it here. Every time we got a glimpse of the Sacre Coeur from one of the surrounding streets, I felt a bit of a thrill.

One of my Paris-themed dresses, in Paris! This is the Pasteque dress (Christine Haynes Emery dress) worn with gold high-heeled clogs from Atelier Scandinave, and blue Hell Bunny cardigan. I've often heard that the people in Paris are unfriendly and rude, but nothing could be further from my experiences. It is a bit touristy to wear Eiffel Tower print dresses in Paris, but I received so many compliments on this dress, and got so many smiles! And not just from fellow tourists - I wish my French had been good enough that I could have more graciously replied to the girl in the Patisserie who said, "C'est jolie, votre robe!" These photos were taken on the steps above Rue Paul Albert, which I really think is my favourite place in Paris.

Rue Paul Albert

On the Sunday of our stay, Nic and I headed out to Parc Floral to listen to some jazz. When we were setting the date for our wedding, when we could go on honeymoon was a consideration. Well, I had to fit it in around work, too, but the fact that we could go to some Paris Jazz Festival gigs in June was also a good reason for bringing our wedding forward to May. This gig did not disappoint - firstly, the weather was gorgeous and Parc Floral is an amazing venue.

Giant poppies in Parc Floral. I guess they must water them with champagne or something, idk

There were two gigs - one was a guy playing the xylophone on a stage that was set up on a barge on a lake - no kidding - and the second, main gig was the jazz violinist Didier Lockwood. Nic and I initially set up camp near the jazz barge but had to move, mainly because the woman behind me was trimming her husband's toenails and I wanted to boke. SERIOUSLY. We moved closer to the main stage, set up in the shade of a tree and whiled away the afternoon reading, drinking champagne and snoozing, all with the soundtrack of an amazing live jazz gig. That day was like heaven - it was so perfect it was slightly surreal. The only thing that could have been improved on was our champagne could have been colder. But still. Talk about first world problems.

We had made the rookie mistake of not having a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge, so bought this on the way. It was a hot day and I suppose that carrying the bottle around fizzed the champagne up. I had only just unwrapped the foil when the cork popped out and straight up into the air. It must have gone about ten feet up because it took ages to come down - long enough for the people sitting around us to give us a nice (possibly sarcastic) round of applause!

What I wore to Parc Floral - Boum! dress (which I have altered since I made it, as it was too big. I took it in at the side seams) and those gold sandals again.

Drinking champagne was kind of the theme of the honeymoon. We drank a lot of champagne. But you know, if you can't drink champagne on honeymoon in Paris, what's the point?! I liked that you could buy champagne by the glass in most bars and cafes, but of course the quality of what you got varied. In this photo, I'm drinking a glass of Moet in the rooftop bar at Galeries Lafayette. Nic and I went for a wander down through the 8th toward the Gare Saint-Lazare without realising how close by Boulevard Haussmann actually was - it's about a twenty minute walk from Montmartre. Anyway, once we realised we were near some of the grands magasins, we decided to have a browse around Galeries Lafayette. It's free to get up onto the roof terrace here and the view is beautiful - you're high enough up to see for miles, but close enough to be able to see things in detail. As we were there, it seemed a shame not to indulge in some accidental glamour and have a glass of champagne.

Rue Caulaincourt - this photo taken from the terrace at Le Cépage Montmartrois, on Square Caulaincourt

Nic and I spent a lot of our time in Paris just walking around and looking at things - and then sitting outside cafes and looking at things! We'd been to Le Cépage Montmartrois on a previous visit to Paris and caught it a busy time. This time our experience of this cafe was much better and we went back a number of times to drink Sancerre and watch people going about their days. Well, I say watch people - mainly I was looking out for cute little dogs - there were so many cute little dogs in Paris!

Nic enjoying a glass of wine outside Le Progrès on Rue des Trois Frères

Place Jean Gabin - apparently, he was born in Montmartre!

Montmartre in the sunshine.

Sunset on Montmartre - I can't remember which street I took this photo on, sorry!

Colline d'Asie on Rue André del Sarte. Nic and I ate here twice in the space of 24 hours and had the same thing both times - vegetarian Bobun. Paris isn't the best place for eating out as a vegetarian - or at least, not if you want to eat traditional French cuisine. We had a few favourite places from previous visits (Au Relais Gascon on Rue des Abbesses for really tasty salads and Trattoria Pulcinella on Rue Eugène Sue for pizza) and we were able to have lots of picnic lunches and dinners, but this place was a real find - and just around the corner from our flat, as well!

What I wore... actually, I think I just wore this on a random day of fabric shopping and pottering around Montmartre - Aoibhneas na Bealtaine dress and 'Betty' clogs from Lotta from Stockholm. Actually, most days in Paris counted for me as 'fabric shopping and pottering around Montmartre'. I bought a lot of fabric. Our apartment was five minutes away from this...

Dreyfus - 'le temple du tissu', according to Dominique Corbasson - taken from Rue Charles Nodier. I won't show you all of my fabric purchases because I bought well over 30 metres of fabric - but here's a little taste...

Cotton poplin and cotton voile, both 3m coupons from Coupons de Saint Pierre on Place Saint Pierre. I think I'm going to make a maxi dress with the floral one - I got chatting (in halting French) to an elderly lady in front of me in the queue, and with the lady behind the till and they both agreed that it would be a pretty dress. As she left, the elderly lady wished me "bonne couture!"

What I wore on our last day in Paris - the Nana dress, blue Hell Bunny cardigan and those Atelier Scandinave sandals again. And a baguette, obviously. Nic took photos of me in this dress on the same steps last year, as well.

Paris by night, seen from the Sacre Coeur

Thanks for sticking with me through such a self-indulgent post! I promise that's the last of the Paris photos for this year. Well, unless we go back at Christmas, that is. I'm not promising that we won't. I might have sewn through my fabric by then, you see.

I'll be back later in the week to show you some sewing. Before I go, though, I drew the winner of the Sew Over It trouser pattern, and it's Norse Otter! Congratulations - I'll be in touch to arrange to send you the pattern.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Would it be bad to have a Martini with my muscle relaxant, or bad in a good way? Introducing Capital Chic Patterns

This is a slightly different type of post today. The normal schedule of ridiculous shoes and silly facial expressions will resume shortly, but today I wanted to talk a bit about a new independent pattern company. My lovely friend Sally - you might know her as Charity Shop Chic - has been working hard behind the scenes this year and her first collection of sewing patterns goes live today under the banner Capital Chic Patterns.

I count myself very lucky to know Sally in real life. Not only is she witty, clever and warm, but she is both an incredibly talented seamstress and a very sharp dresser. Her style is very different to mine - if I'm the froth and sugar of a pina colada, or one of those drinks with sparklers in them, she's the elegance and sophistication of a dry martini. Sally's style is smart, grown-up and totally cool. So I'm thrilled to help her announce the launch of her first line of sewing patterns.

If you follow Charity Shop Chic already (and if you don't, DUDE, sort that out immediately) you'll know that Sally is a talented pattern drafter who has a taste for innovation. This is reflected in her first collection, which is full of classic styles with a modern twist. Capital Chic patterns will take you from work to the cocktail bar, as the cocktail-themed names of the patterns suggests!

It won't surprise you to learn that the beautiful Martini dress is the star of the collection for me. This is far from my usual style but I love the elegant lines and the surprising detail of the crop-top style bodice. The Martini dress features some more intermediate sewing techniques, such as inserting boning and adding a zipper guard. I have a few weddings coming up this year and I already have visions of drinking a smart drink in one of these gorgeous dresses!

I won't talk in great detail about all of the patterns in the collection - Sally does this much more eloquently herself - but the other pattern that has (surprisingly) stolen my heart is the White Russian sweater. It's designed for pre-quilted fabric and comes with the option to applique or quilt a fox or a lion onto the front. I mean, how COOL is that?!

What I am most excited about, however, is the mission statement behind Capital Chic Patterns. These patterns are aimed at intermediate to advanced sewists who want to stretch themselves a bit. I'll be the first to admit that this isn't something I will readily do with every pattern I sew, but I do always want to learn more and to grow as a seamstress. It's to Sally's credit that she's ready to supply to this demand, and with detailed step-by-step instructions so that none of these techniques are too scary!

Also, I mean. COME ON. Who wouldn't want to look as cool as Sally? I know I certainly would.

Disclosure: I was not paid to blog about Capital Chic Patterns and I have not received any compensation for this blog post. I'm blogging about it because I think it's awesome, and Sally is a good friend and I'm really proud of her!

Congratulations, Sally! You rock!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Question 17 was the three part question. The answers were Blue Peter, Wheel of Fortune and This Morning.

Hello dudes, me again, here to bring a little bit of excitement to your lives. I'm good that way. I hope this Tuesday afternoon finds you well. I'm grand - I got to spend the weekend doing some of my favourite things - drinking champagne, sewing, hanging out with friends and teaching.

So I'm back to show you another project that was completed a while ago. Try not to be too shocked, guys, it's another Christine Haynes Emery dress. I know. One of the things I really like about this pattern is how the simple lines mean it is a great canvas to allow gorgeous fabric to shine. So, when I found my perfect anchor print fabric, I knew it had to become an Emery dress.

Anchor print fabric from the Bartholomeow's Reef collection from Moda

And this fabric really IS the perfect anchor print. I squealed a bit when Annie from The Village Haberdashery put a picture of it on instagram, and I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I bought some straightaway. It's one of those prints I feel like I've been searching for ever since I started sewing. I have this beautiful anchor print dress from Vivien of Holloway, and basically I've been wanting to make a more everyday-friendly version of this.

Because gorgeous as it is, a halterneck dress with a boned bodice isn't the most casual of dresses (mind you, I have worn this dress to work in the past - with a cardigan on - but it's not hugely practical, even for me) This moda cotton looked like a perfect casual alternative, and it proved to be even more lovely when it arrived. It's technically a quilting cotton, but it has the softness and drape of a really soft chambray, so it's perfect for dressmaking.

Hand Over Hand dress - Christine Haynes Emery dress, worn with Office 'Love Me Tender' shoes

Nothing new to say about the construction of the Emery dress. I'm now sewing a size 2, with the only fit modification being that I ever so slightly increase the width of the darts at the back neckline. I omitted the pockets and used a gathered rectangle for the skirt rather than the skirt pattern pieces. For this dress I wanted to go a little bit shorter than usual as it's nice to get the old knees out in the summer! Oh, and I used a lapped zip rather than a concealed one in this dress - for no other reason than that's what I felt like sewing at the time.

I really, REALLY love this dress and I have worn it so many times since sewing it. It's cute and comfortable and I feel really good in it. I brought it with me to Paris and wore it for a day in Montmartre and an evening exploring the 9th arrondissement.

One of the things that Nic and I were keen to do on this last visit to Paris was to explore as much as we could on foot, and as the 9th arrondissement was within easy walking distance of our flat - just across the Boulevard de Clichy, really, we spent lots of happy hours wandering around the area. Nic read an article written by a Brooklyn hipster who had relocated to Paris which lamented that hipsters had ruined Pigalle - basically saying that people like him had made it easier to find kale in the 9th than prostitutes. Hm. I don't know how true that is, but I thought Pigalle was really cool. Nic and I found some very cool book and record shops - in one of the record shops I bought a 45 of Anthony Perkins singing French chansons, in French. It's weird and awesome, and ol' Norman Bates actually has a lovely voice.

Here I am in Pigalle, wearing my dress with a Hell Bunny cardigan and Miss L Fire sandals

We spent a happy evening drinking in two really cool bars, both on Rue Frochot. The first one, Dirty Dick, is a Tiki bar. I suspect that if you went on a weekend evening you'd have trouble getting in, but on the weeknight when we were there it was quiet and the service was wonderful. I wish I'd taken more photos of the interior of the bar - the Tiki theme is not faint-hearted, from the bamboo furniture to the lampshades made from puffer fish! The barman was English and once he found out that Nic and I were on honeymoon, he treated us to complimentary shots of rum that had been aged in cognac barrels. The cocktails were expensive but delicious, and served up in really fun ways - in Tiki god glasses with flaming sugar cubes in boats made from passionfruit skins!

Rue Frochot

Nic with a flaming drink

All I'm saying is, I wouldn't mind having this mural in my house.

After a couple of drinks we moved across the road to Glass, which was absolutely tiny and really, really cool. I had a negroni, which is their signature drink, while Nic drank boilermakers. I'm sad I can't actually say more about Glass other than it was one of the coolest bars I've been to without feeling like it was exclusive or cliquey - but we passed a happy couple of hours people watching, chatting and listening to the ambient electronica that the DJ was playing. It was brilliant, and it made me long for somewhere similar in Leamington. I suppose I'll just have to go back to Paris.

Inside Glass on Rue Frochot

I have also worn this dress to drink cocktails in a capital city on another, separate occasion! I wore this dress to London on 13th June to go shopping with Sarah and Char and to meet Christine Haynes herself at Ray Stitch. I'd actually already briefly met the lovely Christine, quite by accident, when Nic and I ran into her and her partner on Boulevard de Magenta!

With Christine Haynes on Boulevard de Magenta!

It was such a lovely surprise to bump into Christine in France, but even better to have the chance to meet her properly and chat to her at the Ray Stitch party. I was too busy drinking cocktails and chatting shit to people to actually take any photos, so I'm stealing this one from Christine's blog...

With Christine, Sarah and Char - all in Emery dresses!

So - you know sometimes when you finish a dress and you love it, but then you don't find ways to wear it? Clearly not at all the case here with this dress. In fact, writing about it has made me want to wear it again so I might very well wear it to work tomorrow now. Sadly, I don't think drinking cocktails in it will be an option in that setting, but you can't have everything. In fairness, my job is mad enough without throwing alcohol into the mix! Now, I have the flat to myself this evening as Nic is out at a gig so I am going to take advantage of the peace and quiet and catch up with some trashy television (Law and Order, most probably) and do some sewing. More Paris photos to follow soon, though, so catch you all later!
One last photo because I love my dress. Not sorry.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Well, you were right about one thing. It definitely wasn't Bigfoot.

Hello again! Two posts in one week, I'm really spoiling you, aren't I?!

As I mentioned in my last post, I have something of a backlog of projects and adventures to share with you. This is why I am so late in writing about the lovely day I spent at the John Lewis Sewing Bee on 31st May. Yes, it was over two weeks ago. I suck. I know. But whatever, it was a good day!

I was very excited when John Lewis got in touch to invite me to take part. I was initially going to decline as it was happening the day before Nic and I were going to Paris, but when it came to replying I found myself writing OMG YES PLEASE, which was curious! Anyway, although the prospect of spending the day sewing on the haberdashery floor of John Lewis Oxford Street was a bit daunting, it was too exciting to turn down. The whole thing became even more exciting when I realised I'd be sharing the day with fellow Spoolettes Clare, Emmie, Fiona and Amy and meeting two other seamstresses I hadn't met before, Elena and Charlie.

Our brief on the day was to sew a dress using some of the beautiful fabric that John Lewis has produced in honour of their 150th anniversary. I loved all of them and was immediately drawn towards the floral print that Emmie ended up using, but in the end I couldn't resist the mid-century feel of the 'bacteria' print I chose. We had a choice of patterns to choose from and although I had brought my Emery pattern with me (as I knew I'd be able to sew her up in a day) I went for a Vogue pattern - V8998. This was kind of a risk as I have never sewn from a Vogue pattern before but I figured that if I came unstuck with the fitting I had many talented and knowledgable friends on hand as well as the wonderful Sew Over It ladies Lisa Comfort and Freia.

Me, trying to figure out which pattern pieces I need. Photograph by Michael Taylor

We spent some time taking over the haberdashery in the morning cutting out our pattern pieces and fabric - we were provided with an amazing sewing kit, which included some really badass sewing shears. Cutting out my pattern pieces felt like it took ages. The dress I chose had many variations AND was one of those where they have different bodice options for different bust sizes, so as well as having to measure everything to figure out the best one to cut, there were about 17,000 different pattern pieces to navigate. I wasn't on top form that day as I was suffering from a horrible head cold and sinusitis and hadn't slept at all the night before, so I did make one stupid mistake and totally forgot to cut out one of the skirt pieces! Thankfully there was lots of fabric available so when it came to assembling the skirt I was able to just cut out what I needed out of the remaining fabric. Still, I felt like a total dope.

Cutting out that pesky missing skirt piece.

The day itself was kind of a blur. As well as the pressure of sewing a dress to a deadline, there were lots of distractions. Really fun distractions like playing with a new sewing machine - we were given the use of a Janome DC3050 for the day and it was a lovely machine to use - and an overlocker. I've only used an overlocker a couple of times before, so it was fun to finally have the chance to get to grips with one. Of course the biggest and most fun distraction was the fact that I was sewing with friends and the day passed in a blur of chatter and laughter. Lisa and Freia did a good job of keeping us on task - and getting us all started again after a long and tasty lunch in the John Lewis brasserie!

Sewing bee!

I was pretty determined to get my dress mostly finished on the day, and I'm proud to tell you that I did. I totally ignored the instructions - the dress has a princess-seamed bodice, an inset waistband and a 6-gored skirt with some gathering. Nothing outlandish and I was confident I could use my previous sewing experience to work out the best method of construction. The pattern calls for the dress to be lined, but in the interests of speediness, I decided to line only the bodice. I self-lined it, because there was lots of fabric available! Going by the finished garment measurements (once I found them - they appear to be well-hidden on Vogue envelopes) I cut the size 10 with the C cup bodice. I basted it together and - shamefully - tried it on over my dress. Freia and I agreed that I needed to take a couple of inches out overall, so I did this by taking in the side seams by an inch each (although I left the seams of the bust as they were.)

This is my 'concentrating' face

Getting to grips with a new machine and an overlocker was suprisingly enjoyable! - although it made me realise how much I rely on muscle memory when sewing with my own machine! The DC3050 was lovely to use - my own machine is a Janome so I could figure out the basics easily enough - and it was so quiet and smooth! I'm not ready to upgrade my machine yet (I am ridiculously attached to my totally basic little machine, and it does everything I need it to well and reliably) but something like the DC3050 would be a good next step for me, I think. I had very little previous experience with overlockers but I enjoyed using one on the day. I'm not in any immediate need for one, but I must admit to really liking the way my serged seams all looked so I might very well invest in one at some point this year.

By the end of the day, my dress was ready for a zip. I just whacked the zip in as quickly as I could so I could see what the finished dress looked like on, but then I ended up being too tired and overwhelmed to want to go and try it on. Still, it was really pleasing to see what it looked like on the mannequin. I am still not at all convinced that a dressmaker's dummy is for me, though. Those things seriously give me the creeps.

One of the highlights of the day was having our photographs taken in the garden on the roof of the building. I'm not sure if this roof terrace is open to the public, but it's just beautiful. Also, it was really nice to get out into the fresh air after an intense day underneath electric lights.

Me and my almost-finished dress, modelled by my much taller, sadly mutilated friend.

The biggest highlight of the day was getting to spend the day sewing with such lovely friends, and in such an unusual surrounding. We had the run of the haberdashery department, and were so well looked after. It was really lovely to meet the shoppers at John Lewis as well - we had some Spoolette friends drop in to see us, and chatted to customers and blog readers alike. It was brilliant!

I love the look of concentration on Emmie's face in this photo.

Organised chaos

The Sewing Bee Gang - from left to right - Freia, Lisa, Fiona, Elena, Clare, Charlie, me, Amy and Emmie

When we had finished and packed up for the day - leaving fairly well laden down under the weight of the fantastic Prym sewing kits we'd been given, along with our dresses, fabric, patterns and notions needed to finish - Charlie, Amy, Elena, Nissa (who had joined us) and I headed to the Irregular Choice shop on Carnaby Street. I had a £100 voucher that was a wedding present from the Spoolettes that I was determined to spend! The ladies helped me pick out some shoes and from there I dashed to Tottenham Court Road to meet my sister Kelly, who happened to be in London for the weekend. We had time for a quick drink and a catch-up before I got the train back up to Leamington. By the time I arrived home I was thoroughly exhausted and fit only to eat some toast and get into bed. My dress would have to wait until I got home from Paris to be finished.

So, when we got back from Paris (and I had recovered a bit from the journey home) I did finish it. I needed to sew the bodice lining down and hem the dress, but I wanted to also re-do the zip as it wasn't my finest hour. I did all of this by hand because I wasn't that fussed on getting my machine out.

Darkness Falls dress - Vogue V8998 worn with Irregular Choice Dippy Daisy shoes

Overall, I'm really happy with this dress. I must admit that when I put it into the bag at the end of the day, I wasn't totally sure if I was ever going to wear it. I didn't especially like the way it looked on the mannequin - but then, that thing is a totally different shape to me, so that's probably why! I'm happy with the fit, too - I know there are some wrinkles under the bust there in that photo, but that is really more my posture than anything else. I seriously need to learn to stand up straight one of these days.

The skirt on my dress isn't nearly as sticky-out as the one on the pattern envelope or in the sample photos - but this is because mine isn't lined, and also the dress in the sample photos is hemmed with horsehair braid. There is a nice bit of fullness at the sides and towards the back - the version I chose to sew has some gathering on the skirt pieces there. It's a very nice dress - similar to my usual style but I think the inset waistband is a bit different - and I'm pretty sure I'll sew from this pattern again. I think I actually need a little bit more ease so will decrease the seam allowances a bit the next time I make this - it's not too tight and it's comfortable to wear as it is, but it might get rid of some of the wrinkling. Or, you know, once the post-holiday chub has shifted I might not need to!

Bodice view. My posture really is terrible, but this photo is nice because you can see the fabric in better detail.

If I sound like I'm not overwhelmed with love for this dress - well, I'm honestly not, although I do like it a lot. I had a great time sewing it and it'll always have happy memories attached to it, and I'll certainly wear it, but it's not my favourite thing I've ever sewn. It does look good with my shoes, though, which are my Spoolettes shoes!

They have flowers on the front...

...and bows on the back!

So, that was my day at the John Lewis Sewing Bee! It was pretty freaking excellent. And I do like the dress really, because the fabric reminds me of one of the scariest ever episodes of The X-Files, and not just because Scully is dressed like this...


Oh! And before I forget - not only did the lovely ladies at Sew Over It invite me to take part in such a wonderful day, they also gave me a copy of their newest sewing pattern - the Ultimate Trouser Pattern - to give away to one lucky reader. I got a hilarious little note with the pattern saying they'll be interested to see how the Queen of Dresses will sell a trouser pattern but, you know, I know a lot of people like to wear trousers. And as trousers go, these are seriously cute.

These cute trousers could be yours! Dog not included.

All you need to do to win is leave me a comment telling me you'd like to win! I will post to anywhere in the world, and I'll leave this giveaway open until next Friday 27th June at 9pm BST. It'll be good. I promise you won't end up looking like this:

Girl, No. Just... no.