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Digital-print Cowl neck top

31 October 2014, 12:42

Every now and then, I feel like I really crack a garment – I end up with something that truly blends the most perfect fabric with the perfect pattern. I wasn’t entirely sure until I wore it for a day, but this top really nailed it! It feels 100% designer, special, and yet me at the same time.

The cowl-neck tee pattern is from the October 2014 issue of Burda magazine or available to buy individually as a pdf, and it came in three versions – a plain top (which is the one I made) – a tee sliced into various colourblocks, or a plain dress.

But this garment is really all about the fabric, and the pattern itself plays a supporting role. In fact, most of the time, care, and attention to the entire process was in placing the pattern pieces! Look what I had to start with:

I bought this digital print lycra from Ditto Fabrics when I was down in Brighton this summer (an Italian designer offcut that I snagged for £15!). Originally I thought I’d have the main body in the trompe l’oiel knitted houndstooth as that was what drew me to the fabric, but the houndstooth portion wasn’t quite long enough for the front and back, so I placed those over the “lace” portions and cut the sleeves from the houndstooth instead.


Worn with my Colette Beignet skirt I made back in 2010 that’s sadly, a bit too big for me now (it’s really relying on cinching that belt!

I used a size 40 for the first time here, which is my “new” Burda size since I’ve lost a few cm through training, and the fit is just as I’d like it, really. I loooooove the slim fit sleeves in particular on this pattern. They’re extra long here, too – it’s noted in the instructions are that the sleeves are 10cm longer than normal. I wasn’t sure if I’d keep them extra long or not, but as I was laying out the sleeves, I saw that the piece overlapped into the lace print area nicely, creating a sort of cuff-effect at the sleeve that I really liked the look of:

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Minimum Viable Dress (and speed sewing tips!)

28 August 2014, 11:58

In the tech industry, there’s a term “Minimum Viable Product”, which means the absolute minimum you can do to get code out the door. It’s not your best work, but it works.

Like half of London, we had tickets to see Secret Cinema’s performance and screening of the first Back to the Future film, where they recreated the entire 1955 town of Hill Valley, California, complete with about 20 business, the clock tower, full fun fair, a cast of hundreds of actors, you name it. We were also all asked to assume an identity (I was “Tiffany Hyslop, developer!”) and dress in 1955 styles. Now, I’ve only got one 1950s dress pattern (which I made into that Porsche dress a few years back) but it’s too big in the bodice now and would require too much work.

So instead, I picked a modern dress with a 1950s feel – the Simplicity Cynthia Rowley pattern (1873) which I had already made in fuchsia and really liked the fit of.

The pink version was the wrong colour for the 1950s and definitely too short, so I bought some striped cotton poplin from Minerva that had the right vibe, and figured it’d be close enough.

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Donna Karan denim-look leggings

25 August 2014, 16:34

Yikes! I actually made these leggings back in early July, but then it was so hot and sunny for weeks that I couldn’t bear to do the photoshoot, even though I was wearing them in the evenings a lot. The impetus for these was that my beloved pleated “denim-look” leggings had come to the end of their life through heavy use. I’ve been trying to find the time to sew a new pair of denim-look leggings over the entire summer, even buying in the fabric ahead of time so it was all ready to go, but alas, other work had gotten in the way.

But then I finally had some spare time so I pulled out my denim-look jersey and Vogue 1378 – the Donna Karan separates pattern.

I’d made these leggings a few months ago in grey ponte, and I really like them – except for the floppy ankle opening things. Those really annoy me, limit my shoe choices to heels, and generally just don’t work for me. So I’d already altered the pattern by overlapping the two ankle pieces and drawing a new seam line where they intersect, and I used the modified pieces here.


Seen here with my new Yellowtail Camisole – more on that later this week!

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Grey Donna Karan leggings (Vogue 1378)

7 May 2014, 12:59

I don’t sew many “Big Four” patterns these days, but when I do, they’re invariably Vogues, and even then, they tend to be the designer patterns. The Big Four are really bad value in the UK, for starters, but then I also hate fighting with massive sheets of tissue paper, playing the “how much ease?” roulette, and dealing with outdated construction techniques. Give me a magazine maze to trace or pdf to tape together any day!

But I do love great and interesting seamlines, so when the Donna Karan coordinates pattern, Vogue 1378 was announced, I immediately wanted to make those leggings (the wrap top? Meh. I’ve seen a thousand like it).

Since there was a sale on Vogue patterns a few weeks before I was due to visit my parents last November, Stacy very kindly bought it for me at sale price (even without shipping, it was like a third of what I’d pay here) and it was waiting for me when I arrived! Thanks Stacy!

But for all the aforementioned reasons, I never quite got around to making it until now – the thought of unfolding all that tissue to trace the tons of pieces just made me choose other patterns instead. But eventually I realised that I really needed some basic, all-around trousers, so out they came! By my measurements, I should be a size 16, but I opted to throw all caution to the wind and make a size 14 instead, as I wanted them to be close fitting, like leggings. Having gone down a size, I now think the ease is just right – not stretched tight, but not baggy either.


(Photos shot whilst holidaying in the medieval Breton town of Dinan, in France! Paired with my Manequim birthday silk blouse)

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A colourblocked Cynthia Rowley satin jacket

13 November 2013, 12:00

Last week I mentioned a few projects I’d been working on, including a little satin jacket to wear with both my purple Matthew Willamson birthday dress and my swirl sheath dress. Well, the Welsh wedding was over the weekend and we managed to squeeze in some photos in the hotel room before the big bash so you all can see how it coordinates with the Matthew Williamson sheath!

As I mentioned before, the pattern is the same Cynthia Rowley Simplicity pattern I used for my fuschia party dress – a simple, loose, open jacket with dropped shoulders and wide sleeves.

I didn’t have enough of either satin to make the entire jacket in one colour so I decided to colourblock it. Since there weren’t many seams in the jacket itself, I just drew some extra seamlines onto the pattern pieces for my colourblocking.

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Burda magazine November 2013

29 October 2013, 11:34

Woo! I knew if I waded through enough mediocre issues we’d get to a good one again! This November issue is the Fall fashion spectacular I’ve been waiting for, and it’s so good I’m even lusting over half the Plus pattern…

First to catch my eye was these foldover trousers, sized for Tall ladies. They really remind me of my KnipMode foldover trousers, which I still wear every winter and still get compliments on!

I love this biker jacket with its off-centre zipper and dramatic collar! It simultaneously reminds me of both my purple MyImage coat and that designer Manequim leather jacket (which I still want to make!), though this is designed for ponte knits in the body, and stretch leather in the sleeves. On closer inspection of the instructions, I noticed it’s unlined (apart from the sleeves) so that big collar is only just one layer of jersey. Also, I think the collar looks way more wearable in the catwalk comparison photo than on the model!

Here’s an example where it pays to really have line drawings and photos of a pattern – I initially loved the tech drawing, but when I saw it on a live model, I realised those pleats right over the hips would probably not be the most flattering…

From the Little Black Dress feature, I really like this sheath dress for stretch wovens – the slim, zippered sleeves are a particularly nice detail, and a great way to show off some short, posh zippers (hello Riri!). The vertical skirt seams might be a touch overkill though, but they don’t appear to be for shaping anyway so could be eliminated I imagine.

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My Matthew Williamson birthday dress

29 March 2013, 13:23

Thank you all so much for your patience! I finished sewing this dress in time for my 34th birthday on Monday (and I proved it by showing you dressform photos and talking in depth about the construction process!) but such a rich, dark colour really requires daylight to shoot properly, and today was the first opportunity we’ve had.

Another reason I wanted some great photos of this is because it’s an incredible pattern with some seriously striking design lines and beautiful details, and frankly, it deserves to be seen properly! In fact, it’s a true designer pattern, and from Matthew Williamson, no less! It was printed in the September 2012 issue of Burda magazine, but you can still purchase it as a pdf download if you missed it and want to make your own!

I made mine in some lusciously soft and supple “Ravissant Duchess Satin Plum” that’s been in my stash for three years just waiting for the perfect use, and paired it with a floral lining fabric gifted to me from Veronica when I was in Paris last Spring. Personally, I think these two make the most perfect pairing, even if it’s only me who sees the inside!

As I said on Monday, this pattern is a step up from the usual Burda patterns – more like a Vogue Designer pattern in all its wonderful details, but with the usual precise Burda drafting. I really wanted to do this dress justice, so I did quite a few things the long way, like the fell-stitched sleeves, walking vent, and all the matching seam intersections!

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Birthday dress - just a peek!

25 March 2013, 15:14

Happy birthday to me! I’m 34 today, and to celebrate, I’ve been making myself a special sheath dress designed by none other than Matthew Williamson from the September 2012 issue of Burda magazine!

If you’ve been following along, then you know I’ve been super busy for the past few weeks and it was a bit touch & go whether I’d finish this dress in time to wear to my special Mystery Birthday Dinner tonight. I’m proud to say that I did finish it in time, thanks in no small part to the snow cancelling our Saturday afternoon plans and giving me time to huddle down and sew! (It did not cancel my run though – we still ran 19 miles in the snow & fierce winds)!

Unfortunately I didn’t finish in enough time to take daylight photos last night (plus it was snowing sideways & not exactly ideal photoshoot weather!), so I can only offer you some dressform photos right now, but hopefully we’ll be able to get a few shots of me dressed up before dinner tonight.

But — while everything’s fresh in my mind, I thought I’d tell you about the construction of the dress, and how I handled some of the trickier aspects of it.

I decided I didn’t want to fiddle about with a muslin for this dress, so I did the next best thing and sewed up the lining first, just to double check that my sole alteration of raising the waist 1”/2cm was right, and everything was okay.

After that I cut out the shell and facings from the purple duchesse satin, and the next hurdle was to attach the curved facings to the curved neckline and sleeves of the lining. The neckline wasn’t too bad, but the sleeves were a total bear! For this reason (and a bit that became apparant later, too), I’d recommend sewing the side seams dead last, after the lining and shell are joined at the neckline and sleeve edges, and then sewing the side seams. This means you can attach the facings flat, for starters…

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My Satin & Lycra Weekend

19 March 2013, 16:06

My weekend mostly went like this…

Saturday


On Saturday morning I got up for a 2hr 45min (16+ mile) run in the rain with my two good friends, Chris and Juell. We got soaked, ran along Regents Canal to Camden and then through the heart of the city and back through Shoreditch to home. We were soaked to the bone, but had a great time and I furthered my knowledge of myself, my glycogen storage capacity, and my stomach’s ability to digest medjool dates as a gel alternative. That, and I feel a bit more confident now that I’ll be able to finish Copenhagen marathon now, having dialled back my expectations after being ill for so long.

Then Saturday afternoon I set out to do some more work on what will be this year’s Birthday dress (it’s next week, aaah!), the Burda Matthew Williamson sheath dress from the September 2012 issue:

The above uses the official photo from when I bought the “Ravissant Duchess Satin Plum” from Fabric.com three years ago, but below you can see the actual colour and exactly how much gorgeous lustre it gives off in the light. On the inside, I’m using a lovely floral lining fabric gifted to me from Veronica when I was in Paris last Spring.

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Fall/Winter 2012 Sewing Shortlist

30 October 2012, 13:34

A lot of sewers like to “Sew with a Plan” (SWAP), but I prefer to call this a “Shortlist” rather than a “Plan”, so I’m free to still change my mind and add/remove items as I go along! My main goal here isn’t so much to create a capsule wardrobe that can be worn together, but more to use up fabrics and/or that have been in my stash for a while that I’d really like to just wear.


(Click to enbiggen!)

From the top down, in no particular order: