28 August 2013

velvet off the shoulder top

Posting about the velvet column skirt a couple of weeks ago stirred within me the desire for, you guessed it, more velvet! Check out what I knocked up the other night--

I used an off-the-shoulder top I already have as a pattern, making the pieces a little wider to compensate for the smaller degree of stretch in the velvet. And the wonderful thing is that stretch fabrics are so forgiving when it comes to fit - you don't need to be too exact. When I put it together the sleeves and the body were a little big but no problem: I just lopped a centimetre off at the side seams.

I also have some news for my next post. All I shall say is that I have a new sewing buddy and leave it at that...


14 August 2013

tie-up shirt

When I used to dream about being able to draft my own patterns, I fantasised about producing tailored shirts. And as I mentioned in my previous post, I absolutely love crop tops. Crop top + tailored shirt = sleeveless tie up shirt. It was a gentle introduction to drafting/ making a shirt without the fiddle of sleeves and cuffs.

I bought the sheer, floral embroidered fabric on a whim a couple of months ago and had thought about using it for a ball dress by backing it with a nude fabric to make a bodice that would blend into a bias-cut, white, crepe-backed-satin skirt... but that was 1. very complicated without a dress form to drape the skirt on; 2. brilliant white is not a sensible choice where greasy food, alcohol and muddy ground are involved; and 3. in white there's always the risk of looking a bit desperate for a proposal. And anxious singleton is yet to find its sexy angle.

Instead, the fabric has had a more modest outing as contrast front and back yokes on the tie-up shirt. I really like the way it frames the collar and the satisfying contrast it makes with the block of white of the button stand.

I adore self-covered buttons. If I ran the world only self-covered buttons would be permitted.
Because the yokes are sheer, I had to do a lot of handstitiching. Usually I'd be happy to have my bias binding sit a millimetre or two beyond the stitching line on the inside, stitch in the ditch on the front, and catch the binding on the inside. But when the fabric is sheer you don't want to see the clothing equivalent of an underbite. And same goes for the collar. I had to pick up my humble needle and thimble, and face my fears.

The origins of my sewing endeavours were in textiles class at school where our teacher was an ex factory machinist then pattern cutter for an Italian tailoring company and she put a big emphasis on sewing the industrial way: 'Mass production techniques only, girls!' Hand-sewing was for wimps and amateurs. When I contemplate sewing something by hand I see my textiles teacher shaking her head with a face that says, 'Only dinosaurs still sew by hand!' and I am flooded by a sense of inadequacy and shame. Slowly I have been coming to accept the presence of hand sewing as a mark of pedigree in a garment. Making the tie-up shirt I realised hand-sewing is one of the luxuries of making your own clothes. But enough of my guilt-assuaging aside!

Shameless self-aggrandising moment: check out the topstitching on that collar!

I love this shirt so much that I am considering making a non tie-up, proper shirt-length version. I am even prepared to do more handsewing.

Alix x

11 August 2013

velvet column skirt

As well as an unhealthy love for velvet, I am also a die hard lover of the 90s look. This winter, in a bid to keep warm and try to look good at the same time (barely reconcilable objectives in my mind), I rifled through my stash to see what I could come up with. And it was my lucky day. I had a good metre and half of panne velvet leftover from a ballgown I made a couple of years ago. And so the velvet column skirt was born! Then, when the weather picked up in spring, something even better happened. "Tummy tops", as my friend calls them, or crop tops as they are more commonly known, made a big comeback. My 90s homage was complete...

Eat your hearts out TLC

The skirt is just a simple darted pencil skirt drafted from the block I made at the LCF last year. The velvet is a little stretchy so I made it with no ease (if you want figure-hugging with stretch fabric go for negative ease) so it would fit snuggly but not be tight. It had to have side slits of course: side slits give any long skirt a 90s girl band vibe...

It was one of those projects that only takes a couple of hours to rustle up, with no stress, fuss or even unpicking, and I have had so much mileage from it over the last six months. It is easily the most worn of all the things I have made.

Alix x

2 August 2013

beach dress + holiday

Another summer, another trip to France. And as every woman knows, a holiday calls for a whole new wardrobe. Well, all the summer clothes I prematurely bought in April finally saw the light of day, but I also whipped up a beach dress after finding some fantastic abstract print cotton voile on a trip to Goldhawk Road (for me, a holiday in itself).

The beach dress at Argeles Plage, France

Taken in the lady of the manor's bedroom in the chateau (more about that below!)

I designed the dress primarily with the beach in mind. It had to be long to cover up sun-beaten skin but very light and airy. I wanted to be able to pull it on easily so it had to be free of fiddly fastenings (I figured a zip would have been too stiff and heavy for the fabric any way). Hence why I chose to make a tube with an elasticated waist and a simple tie up halterneck. I chose a halter neck design to compliment my bikini. I always wear halter neck bikinis and now I am further bound to that with this beach dress: I don't know about you but I think there is no greater sartorial clumsiness than a halter neck with bra straps showing!

* * *

But enough about the dress. Check out the chateau I was lucky enough to stay in for four nights--

What I learnt is that living the life of a princess really is tiring. It's no wonder princesses seem to spend their whole time swooning or bolstered by a mass of feather pillows in splendid four-poster beds. It just takes so long to get around the house! A chateau is not a place in which to forget something upstairs. By the time you get back downstairs a few hundred endangered species will have died out.

Where's Wolly - can you spot me? 
I'm on the right, middle window ;)


may ball dress (well, sort of)

Yes, it's that time of year again, when I suddenly decide that it is imperative that I create a new ball dress. And of course, it has to be pink. 

This year I was determined to do another self-drafted pattern. The design was very much dictated by the fabric. I picked up this amazing saturated pink trieste from John Lewis. Now for the shocking truth. It is 100% polyester. No silk here peoples. And then I thought I must at least make the most of one of the benefits of polyester: namely, it makes wonderfully crisp and lasting pleats. I also wanted to jump aboard the palazzo pants/ culottes bandwagon. So pleated culottes and matching bodice it was!

I drafted the culottes using Sai's tutorial. The one thing I changed was the length of the crotch. I plotted a few centimetres short of my actual hip arc measurement as it seemed to me that the crotch would turn out very saggy otherwise! I added 2cm inverted pleats from the centre fronts and backs all the way to the side seams and a narrow waistband. The culottes fasten with a hidden zip at the side seam and a small popper at the waistband. As you can see I put it at the right hand side. Now having tried on other trousers since I realise they should fasten on the left hand side. I'll remember that one for next time! I so love the culottes I'm thinking about making them in black, but slightly less voluminous to make them more casual.

The bodice was adapted from a bra pattern I had already made using gedwoods' tutorial over at Burda. I have been longing to use the techniques in my much loved copy of Claire Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques. The bodice is supported by a corselet made of two layers of fine net with underwired bra cups and plenty of boning. Not ideal for making the most of the endless food available at a May Ball, but now I know why Victorian women never slouched!

Alix x