Monday, 3 August 2015

The flies-on-the-windscreen top

I made this on Saturday night after returning from a week's holiday. It's the much-later-spawned-unoriginal-twin of a gorgeous top that I spotted in Adrianna's Instagram feed. The date on Adrianna's photo tells me that I somehow first saw her t-shirt 65 whole weeks ago, which means that while time has flown, the Liberty/jersey stripe combo has stuck to my brain like a fly to a windscreen* for over a year. Adrianna used a different Liberty print, but combined it with this exact stripe (which is now available in the UK for those who want to take the mustard-striped baton and run with it - we could have a dressmakers' uniform! [Sorry, Adrianna...I'll stop now. Please forgive me for stealing your beautiful idea and then suggesting we uniformise it. That is a dreadful idea].

On the matter of the mustard jersey, I have long-admired the knits I've seen from Girl Charlee, so was completely delighted when I spotted that they'd opened a UK online shop a few weeks ago! The mustard jersey above is slightly more stable than I usually like to use (not because I like to perversely  challenge myself while sewing with knits, but because sometimes a very stable jersey can mean you sacrifice on the drape a little). However, they have lots of other drapes and weights to keep me happy on that front. Last night, I made a top from this fabric, which seems almost identical to the fabric I made this top from, photo below. It's fine, soft, semi-sheer and has the most incredible drape. I also have a sample of this fabric and it's top of my wish list - a really similar light drape, but less sheer and a gorgeous colour that would work well for going into Autumn (I know it's August, but it seems to be hurrying along so rapidly that I'm already thinking about the cooler weather).

Staying on matters jersey-related, thank you so much for your lovely responses to my Tilly & the Buttons giveaway post. Courtney, please get in touch and I'll send Tilly your details! Courtney said: I loved this post. It was like a trip down memory lane. I read it because I had just seen these patterns, have a few in an online shopping cart, but was delighted to find all of the book discussions too. I loved Judy Blume (just started Unlikely Event), Beverly cleary, Francine pascal, e.b. white but my favorites were Laura Ingalls Wilder and L. M. Montgomery. Fave book was a Little Princess which I acted out in my dollhouse for years. I was probably as flummoxed by the British terms in that as you were by khakis and mayo.

We went away with family and friends last week and possibly picked the worst week weather-wise in the last three months (although we still ended up playing cricket or rounders on five days out of seven). However, the heavy rainfall and enormous sofas were very conducive to reading and I tore through To Kill a Mockingbird, a book choice prompted by my father referencing Atticus Finch several times when we went out for a drink one evening a few weeks ago. I absolutely loved it. Similar to Kathryn Stockett's The Help, I found it a curious but wonderful thing to read a novel centred around challenging subjects that simultaneously has the feeling of being a warm cocoon of a book.

I then read In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume's latest book, a fictional story based around the three plane crashes that did really happen in 1950s Elizabeth, New Jersey. My sister had bought us both a copy before we knew we'd be going away together and I loved reading in tandem (the last time we did this was in 2011 on a plane home from Russia together) and it was comforting that both of us had a little bit of the book left to read so that even once the holiday was over we stayed in the same place mentally for a while longer. We both really loved this book, although it's not the best one to read before flying, so I'd save it for after a summer holiday if you're considering buying or borrowing a copy.

While we were away, staying just outside Winchelsea, we visited Dungeness twice. I'd never been before and found it completely fascinating. It's classified as Britain's only desert and has a barren bleakness that seems more characteristic of parts of America than anything I'd ever seen here - perhaps because there's a sense of there being a rare excess of flat space, less often found on our small island.

Dungeness is part beach, part desert, part wasteland and home to both ramshackle houses and cutting edge design. Sculptures are carefully created from things scavenged from the shoreline and sit alongside well-tended, but wild, gardens. It's a place that has the feel of wilfully mismatched crockery - a thing which you instinctively love or loath, but in this case, I really loved it. And just like crockery, if it's mismatched enough, it ends up somehow feeling cohesive and even the abandoned shipping containers felt like a valid part of the landscape. There are few boundaries and we walked around with a sense of utter curiosity about the estate's inhabitants: were they mainly recluses or creative geniuses (or both?); was there a strong sense of community or did people move there to be alone? Could you just build a house anywhere and how did they define the boundaries of the land?

These were two of my favourite houses.

Oddly, the day after we arrived home, my mother-in-law rang us to let us know that there was a programme on television featuring some of the houses in the Dungeness Estate and so we were able to find out a little more.

If you're ever in the area and you haven't already visited, I really recommend going!

I hope you're having a lovely week whether you're working away still or off on summer holidays,
Florence x

* For clarity: my husband asks what on earth I mean by flies sticking to a windscreen and says that this has never happened to him and that he doesn't believe this is a common phenomena that others will understand. You possibly have to have met with a plague of flies while driving through the Australian outback to see the highly-adhesive way in which they can stick to a windscreen on impact, but I have a memory from childhood of looking on in horrified disbelief as the bloodshed and bodies collected to gradually obscure my father's vision of the road. Once you've seen such a thing, you will understand the true sticking-power of a fly (or similar flying insect - I was about 7 years old, so can't be held responsible for recalling the exact type of flying bug). I'm unsure why the fly-windscreen analogy came into my head while writing this post, especially when Adriana's top was a very welcome thing that stuck in my head and no blood was lost in the making of the top, but it now seems to have dominated the post, so it may as well make it into the post title (I wonder if other people who write a blog also have a very specific order that they do things in? My order is invariably photos, writing and then finally a title. I'm almost incapable of writing until I have one photo on the screen, even if it's unrelated to what I'm writing about. Kelly, one of my lovely sponsors, once asked me about a 'blog post schedule' and I realised that it's rare that I know when or what I'm going to write about until I've opened a window to compose a new post).

Friday, 24 July 2015

A giveaway: Tilly & The Buttons Agnes pattern + online workshop place

This is going to be an uncharacteristically quick post, due to it being the last day of the school term before the summer holidays begin, which means that time for work/blog posts/eating surreptitious chocolate brownies with my husband/sewing is rapidly dwindling. Today, I have a few things to share with you (well, in reality, just one of you, but I always find hope and anticipation can feel like a gift for the time that they last, so hopefully that makes the sharing more widespread!).

I know that when I first began sewing with jersey, it almost felt like learning to sew from scratch again - so many different rules apply and I also found that so many previously unencountered tools, needles and tapes can help to make things easier. So, as well as the Agnes pattern, Tilly has also recently launched an online workshop and if you're new to sewing with stretch fabrics, teaming a specific pattern with a tailor made workshop would, I imagine, be the perfect way to launch yourself into jersey-land without the steep learning curve of trying to work everything out for yourself. Slowly. Ruined garment by ruined garment. As I did myself several years ago.

So, Tilly has very generously offered both the Agnes pattern (printed or PDF, whichever you'd prefer), along with a place on the online workshop (to be used at any time, in your own home) to one of my readers, anywhere in the world! I think that equates to a value of around £56/$88USD, so it's a rather lovely giveaway.

So, how to enter. Last weekend, I met Judy Blume, who wrote the backdrop to my (and nearly every other girl's of my generation) early teenage years with Superfudge, Are you there God? It's me, Margaret, Deenie, Tiger Eyes and, most famously, Forever. Judy Blume was in London at the Young Adults Literature Convention, in conversation with Patrick Ness. As I also love his books, it was a huge treat and Judy, now 77, sparkled and delighted the entire audience and my cheeks ached with smiling throughout their discussion. Afterwards, we had our books signed (my sister bought us both a copy of her latest book for adults, In the Unlikely Event) by Judy and continued in our ridiculous levels of delighted starstruck beaming.

Aside from Judy Blume, between the ages of about eleven and thirteen I also loved Francine Pascal and Paula Danziger, authors who delivered papery slices of America, a place which seemed infinitely cooler than England (and seemed to have more summer camps, more fun, more proms, more boys, more romance and more of everything 'good' in it). These books discussed all manner of rites of passage that largely went un-talked-about in everyday life, but for as much as they clarified, they also confused, presenting cultural mysteries to be solved: like why didn't we have any 'ky-ha-kee pants'? It felt like we were missing out on a whole range of clothing as it was what every American girl seemed to put on before going off on a casual date. I later discovered how to properly pronounce the word 'khaki' and learnt that Americans call trousers 'pants' and was disappointed to realise it just meant sludge-green trousers, which I never would have worn; In Francine Pascal's book, 'Love, Betrayal and Hold the Mayo', with no internet to consult, my sister and I were left puzzling over what 'mayo' might refer to and why one would need to hold it, and it wasn't until our twenties when this term started appearing on English menus that it finally dawned on us that the book we'd read all those years ago was just curiously requesting 'no mayonnaise' in its title.

Either way, these books ultimately left me with the idea that the world would be a much, much better place with a boyfriend in it and so I studiously kept one (although not the same one) by my side for much of my teenage years. It wasn't until hearing Judy Blume talking about censorship at the weekend (her books were banned in many libraries following Ronald Reagan's election), that I began to wonder how different those years would have been if my own choice of reading material had had a substantially different focus.

I'd love to know which book or author made the biggest impression on you when you were growing up and perhaps maybe even contributed to the person you were at that time? And if you weren't much of a reader, was there a film that you remember loving?

Florence x

Ps. Tilly has just released two gorgeous new patterns (using woven fabric and unrelated to this giveaway). I'm really tempted to make a pair of these for my teenager. The other pattern is this one - perfect for a beginner as it has no darts or zip or button fastenings, but looks chic and minimal, rather than beginnerishly simplistic in finish!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A uniform

I think that I could happily make about twenty different versions of this top! I actually made this one well over a month ago, but I ended up sacrificing a few of the details that I had planned due to not having quite enough fabric - such as a full collar and rounded plackets - so I ended up posting about the subsequent version first, as it was closer to what I'd originally envisaged.

The fabric I used for this first version was Heather Bailey's Momentum rayon, which is quite dreamy and has that rare quality of being opaque, but also being incredibly fine and drapey, without the special occasion delicacy of a crepe de Chine. It's perfect for everyday wear. I love it. The only place I could find it in the UK was Clothkits and I bought their last 95cm (this top really is made from just 95cm - I barely had an inch left!), but I've since realised that Fancy Moon also stock it. I love how wearable this print is - very much designed with dressmaking in mind, rather than quilting.

The blouse is self-drafted and I'm really happy with the fit. It's quite long, with a deeper hem at the back, as well as a box pleat at the back yoke (I'm not sure you can see it too well here!). This means that the blouse can be relatively fitted through the chest, but flare out with a little more room over the hips, to accommodate a naturally-occurring bustle (which I believe would have been the envy of many Victorian ladies who had to settle for artificially constructed wire or wooden ones, which I imagine must have proved very tricky to sit upon! Thankfully, mine has none of these design flaws).

It's so comfortable that I can see myself happily pulling on one of these tops a lot - although not in a comfy pair of pyjamas way, but just in terms of it feeling full of details that I love and very wearable. I recently read about a woman who has taken to wearing a self-imposed work uniform to simplify the process of getting ready each day. Her story resonated with me: I love clothes (in the obsessive, heart-racy way of loving them), but equally I also don't want to spend much time getting ready in the morning. I realised that over the winter, I'd naturally taken to wearing an unofficial uniform myself: I don't think I wore anything other than skinny black jeans from September to April this year. They felt perfect for everything from dog walks to going out in the evening and all I needed to do was to pick out a jumper from my limited colour palette of navy or grey options, which meant that dressing took less than two minutes each day.

The uniform of black jeans were all Baxter jeans from Topshop bought up over the last three or four years (sadly, now discontinued and reincarnated under the same name, but in a completely inferior and unwearable form, which makes me wonder why they've called them the same thing), which I dyed black every few months to make up for the constant washing, as while I've never been someone who feels the need to wash jeans every two or three days, sadly Nell hasn't yet learnt the art of not splattering mud over her walker during a wet winter, so frequent jean-washing was a necessity.

This shirt has five button holes and I was pleased to discover that my machine (I think I've had it since January, but I've only started trialling its perfection as a dressmaking companion more recently.) makes them beautifully with very little input from me! I'll have to tell you all about my machine in another post as I truly love it and would definitely recommend it.

Right, I think that's everything. Do tell me about your own uniform if you have one.

Florence x

Monday, 6 July 2015

A tutorial: planning out and sewing a neckband

Over the weekend, I drafted a top and, with no pattern or sewing instructions, was left pondering how long the neck band should be and exactly how I should install it. I've sewn on neck bands in tops that have a central opening before, but never a loop neckband on a boatneck t-shirt. But freakily, this turned out perfectly, so I thought I might write up what I did (sorry, no step photos as I only thought to tutorialise this afterwards).

  • Sew the shoulder seams together. 
  • Lay the top out flat with the neckline sitting as smoothly as possible.
  • Using a soft tape measure standing up on its side, measure around the neck (on the fabric, rather than the paper pattern pieces as jersey can stretch or slip around a bit while cutting), being careful not to stretch the jersey as you do to avoid getting an inaccurate measurement. Mine was 22" Cut the fabric for the neckband an inch smaller than this measurement so that it can stretch to fit perfectly with no neck gape, so mine was cut at 21". I didn't actually add any seam allowance on as my material is really stretchy and I was only using a small seam allowance, so in reality, my band was 1.5" smaller than my top's neck. You may want to adapt this to your own preferences.
  • To get the width of the band, decide how wide you want the finished neckband to be - mine is 3/8". Then decide how much of a seam allowance you want - again, mine is 3/8". Add these two figures together. That gives me 6/8". Now double this measurement (as your neckband has two sides to it). This means my neckband needed to be cut 1.5" wide x 22". 
  • Lay the fabric down and see which direction has the most stretch. Cut the neckband along the maximos stretchios direction of the fabric. 
  • Fold the band in half along the length, wrong sides together, and press with an iron.
  • Always use a ball-point needle for sewing knits. 
  • With right sides together, sew the two short ends of the neckband together to make a loop.
  • On the neck line of my top, I marked the centre front and centre back and both sides to get four perfectly even quarters. The sides aren't necessarily in line with the shoulder seam, as the back and front pieces won't always have a neck that measures an identical length on these two halves - worth keeping in mind as the four quarters need to be even.
  • On my loop, I marked the centre (directly opposite the join) and then placed the centre and join together, to find out where to make the other two marks to give four even quarters. 
  • Next, placing fabrics right side to right side and aligning raw edges, pin the join on the loop to the centre back of the top, and then pin, lining up markings at the other three points.
  • Now stretch the neck band perfectly evenly between the four points and pin in place. 
  • I used an overlocker to sew the band to the top, but a sewing machine with a stretch stitch or zig-zag stitch would be fine. 
  • I then pressed the seam allowance toward the top (away from the neck band) and understitched it in place to avoid it flipping up. This is the line of stitches you can see just beneath my neckband. 
  • Optional: sew a band of self-fabric or ribbon across the inside back of the neck to cover the join in the neck band on the inside of the garment. 

I used Prym Wonder Tape to temporarily stick my other seams together before sewing the rest of the top (it washes away afterwards). This stabilises the knit fabric, dispenses with the need for pins and stops hems from resembling the wavy edge of a lettuce leaf. It's amazing stuff. I only discovered it last year when someone on Instagram mentioned it to me and it's revolutionised things for me! 

The slub jersey fabric is all kinds of amazing. It's really fine, very drapey, but somehow not completely unstable. It looks like it's going to be outrageously transparent when it's just a piece of fabric, but once it's sewn together, it doesn't look that way at all (although it's definitely not bottom-weight fabric). This top cost me just £7.50 to make. Or it would have done if I hadn't won a £25 gift voucher to spend at The Village Haberdashery and spent part of it on this fabric! If you tag anything you make with #tvhhaul on Instagram, you'll automatically be entered into a drawer each month. I'd completely forgotten I'd done this, so when Annie emailed me with my voucher there was much joyful spending and no dignified saving; my fabric arrived the next day. 

Finally, I think I stumbled across Abby Glassenberg's blog, While She Naps, a few years ago and ever since have admired Abby's well-researched posts that cover everything from how much fabric designers get paid (and how poorly many are treated in terms of funding quilt market), how craft book publishers are diversifying and possibly upsetting their authors in the process, or discussing the way gender often seems to define how a sewists work is perceived in our industry. Abby has a knack of turning ideas that only rumble at the peripheries of my thinking, and delivering them as fully-formed observations that drop, crystallised, into my lap, giving substance to something that I later recognise as having made me feel a certain way, but which hadn't progressed to being thought through at any deeper level. In short, I really love her fearless blogging voice; she tackles the things that others in our industry shy away from talking about and has a refreshingly direct approach.

So, being something of a fangirl, I'm delighted to be featured in Abby's (less controversial!) 'The Pattern that Changed My Life' series, where she asks people about a pattern that's been pivotal in their journey as a sewist. I didn't even have to think twice about my choice, although I could easily have picked one related to dressmaking and one to quilting as they feel such different disciplines. Do go over and read if you have a few minutes to spare.

Wishing you a lovely week,
Florence x

Monday, 29 June 2015

A third Miz Mozelle dress

Back in 2011, I made two versions of the Miz Mozelle pattern - one a totally unwearable toile (but I think this may still be my favourite version, as I love plain fabrics) and one from Liberty stretch silk satin. I've been meaning to revisit this pattern ever since, but time flies and suddenly four years have passed by. As evidence of this time-flying point, another whole week slipped by after I'd finally finished making this third dress, while it sat waiting for me to make the belt to go with it - a ten minute task that I struggled to fit in. It's often this way with sewing - whether it's binding a quilt or hemming a dress, the bulk of the sewing seems to be something that one can power through, only to be left feeling overwhelmed by the final stitches.

Anyway, it's finished now and the hurdle of the belt has been jumped not once, but twice. For after making the belt, I decided that it needed shortening the next day.

I made a few changes this time around - one of them being that I added a few inches to the length as I am not a big fan of my knees and know that I'll wear it more if it's this length, the second was to massively reduce the side seams on the bodice section of the dress. When I tried this on, mid-make, and asked my husband what he thought, he suggested that it was 'billowing' at the sides on the upper portion of the dress. This is the style of the dress and personally I quite like it, but I decided to take in the sides using basting stitches to trial his suggestion and I did quite like the effect, so decided to go with it for this version. You can see the photos below of my various Miz Mozelle's for billow-comparison purposes - this version is a lot more fitted across the bust.

I used an Art Gallery Fabrics jersey that I bought months and months ago for this latest dress. It's lovely - very soft, nice to sew with and a colour and print that feels really wearable. I like that it's clamshells, but that the overall effect is one of confetti or blossom. Or something else that feels quite light, happy and speckled. But I think I still love wearing unpatterned fabrics best.

I've found this dress varies from fabric to fabric: while I'd found the keyhole on my blue version far too big and bra-revealing, on this version, after I had perfectly bound and buttoned the keyhole, I then unpicked it all and made it bigger as it looked rather prim. I was able to cut it to the size the pattern dictated and somehow my bra is not revealed. I think the blue jersey was definitely something of a super-drape fabric and may have been being pulled down by its own weight, which was oddly heavy, despite its fluidity. It is indeed quite a strange fabric - as I wrote in my original post, it was being sold off very cheaply for dying people's hands blue. And it also smells and feels a bit swimming costumey. It wasn't just the gaping keyhole that made that toile unwearable.

My daughter took a few photos at the weekend - this one made me laugh when I saw it - she was attempting to use a camera angle to make me look taller... I think she was successful in her mission.

And here's another, accessorised by golden retrievers, only one of them mine!

I'm not sure that this print is still available in the UK, but Annie now has other Art Gallery Fabric knits in stock of an identical weight and drape - if you're interested, it's a very stable knit to sew with. However, I'm still hankering after a dress that resembles the blue swimming costume dress! I'm considering remaking it in a bamboo jersey, which is super drapey, but which has the disadvantage of being slightly more tricky to sew with and very fine - it's what I used for my Homage to Johnnie dress, below. I wish bamboo jersey were just a tiny bit thicker though as it can be unflattering if you wear non-seamless underwear with it and I'd quite like dress no.4 to be suitable for sitting in the garden with dogs, rather than going to weddings (the former not being such a thoughtfully-chosen-underwear-occasion).

If you happen to know of any interesting plain knits, I'd love to hear!

Florence x

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A cautionary tale

My darlings, today, I offer up a cautionary tale about following your instincts and not pressing things like a wild boar when your snout is twitching alarmingly with an unusual sense of vigilance.

For several months, while working on quilt-related projects, I have had a sense that my iron may be overheating and working as a lone agent, blithely disregarding any heat settings that I tried to impress upon it. At times, I had been surprised by how sharply something had been pressed; by the slightly piquant scent that a fabric had produced under its soleplate; or by the brief untouchable heat of some cotton directly after pressing, in my normally asbestos-proof hands. But, for some reason, I chose to remain blind to the extent of my iron's independent spirit, because that would mean buying a new one. Or using the general household iron for my sewing, which is all the way downstairs and which has never come into contact with fusible interfacing or Bondaweb, and so is pristine.

However, right at the start of my most recent dressmaking marathon (which has now come to a halt due to work commitments, but as I was so briefly prolific, I still have many garments to show you that were made during that stint), I made the unfinished top which appears at the top of this post, at which point I was made more fully aware of my iron's behaviour. Whilst for machine quilting, I use cotton thread, for dressmaking, I favour polyester thread, as it's stronger and more willing to give a little under the strain of one throwing impromptu body shapes...or just reaching for a packet of pasta from a high shelf. When I had sewn the pin tucks on this shirt, not wanting to erase my heat-sensitive markings for the placket, I had finger-pressed them into place, before constructing the placket. Placket completed, I had given it a firm pressing, before continuing on with installing the sleeves.

However, just before sewing the binding to the cuffs and neck, I decided to try the garment on. I am, admittedly, often label-intolerant, but even for me, I was surprised to be feeling so princess-and-the-pea about what had appeared to be a simple, soft cotton when handled. While it feels inappropriate to even type this word, I think it's necessary to convey the full extent of my discomfort. There was chafing. It felt like a plain cotton top constructed by own hand was inexplicably chafing and scratching my chest. With claws. And I had no idea why. Even more shockingly, as I took it back off over my head, I could hear the unmistakable sound of stitches splitting.

When I turned the top wrong-side-out to look at what the source of the abrading might be, I saw what you can see in the photo above. For a moment, I couldn't understand quite what had happened, but let's walk through the molten devastation that my iron had left behind on the shirt placket. If you look at the raw edges, you'll see that where there were once fully-formed zig-zag stitches*, there are now just the broken traces of stitches that have been sizzled away. Where stitches had once been neatly locked in place with some careful backwards and forwardsing, there now sits unsightly baubles of smelted polyester. Threads hang loose, where stitches have split. To touch, the remaining stitches are more like brittle staples, than a soft, fine thread. There is devastation inside this top.

I never really believed people when they said that polyester thread can melt at high temperatures. I have spent a lifetime ironing both handmade and shop bought clothing with wild-boar-enthusiasm (to be clear though, because this does need clarifying when making such a statement: I have never pressed creases in my jeans) and nothing has ever come close to melting. But I see now that I was wrong to be so carefree. With an iron that reaches extreme temperatures, all things are possible.

On the positive, this top was the wrong style for this fabric: it didn't drape nicely and between bust and backside created the dreaded lampshade effect, where I really aspired to an egg-timer (of the traditional sand-filled variety). So the trauma of the over-zealous iron feels easy enough to move on from and thank goodness that it revealed its true nature during the making of a top that would ultimately have sat at the back of my wardrobe had it been completed without disintegrating.

Florence x

* I made the top with french seams throughout, so it felt too tiresome to drag the overlocker out of hibernation just for a placket, hence the zig-zags.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Your makes: the Ring-a-Roses EPP

I thought I'd share some of the beautiful English paper piecing that I've seen in progress (and even finished!) for my pattern, Ring-a-Roses. I've really enjoyed seeing these, not only because they're completely stunning, but also because when I'd written the pattern, having spent weeks working on my own version, I actually found it really hard to disconnect myself from it and re-imagine it in other prints, so it's been a real delight to see it coming to life in other ways.

I adore this completed version by Jilly, known as @the_observation_station, on Instagram. I also love Jilly's EPP pot, below, which seems a perfect colour-match! Jilly started off using a much darker central piece (you can see this below) and then suddenly opted to change it for a pink centre - I hadn't seen that it was a problem until she did this, but the moment I saw it with the pink, I loved it even more. Also note the gorgeous fussy-cut whales that feature in this EPP. It's funny how the tiniest of things can provide so much 'light' within a project - when viewed from a distance, the tiny snatches of turquoise water just above the whales' heads, introduce a whole other element of colour that really lifts everything up.

Another completed beauty, this time from @marmitemiss on Instagram. She used Katy's (from I'm a Ginger Monkey) Priory Square fabric. I love the pops of black in this one. Although particular fabrics have been repeated on specific pieces, this Ring-a-Roses isn't fussy-cut to showcase a certain part of the print repeatedly - I really enjoyed seeing how the pieces connected to one another without the visual link that fussy cutting often provides and was delighted that repeated fabric use alone creates a kaleidoscopic effect just as effectively. I love it.

I also adore the way it's been quilted to emphasise the sense of the circle the appears on the edge of the first round of piecing. Here's a close up: 

@AggieG2 on Instagram, is still part-way through constructing her Ring-a-Roses, but I really love the fussy cutting she's done on the larger flowers. 

I only spotted these this morning, but they took my breath away. They're by @zedlesley, again, via Instagram. I'm not sure what fabrics Lesley has used, but the way she's fussy-cutting them gives her rosettes the most wonderful 1970s feel, that makes me think of Orla Kiely designs. I can't wait to see these coming together.

If you have any photos of your own in-progress or finished Ring-a-Roses I'd absolutely love to see - you can either email it (flossieteacakes at gmail dot com) or tag me on Instagram or Twitter. Instagram has a habit of only showing the last fifty or so interactions and if I don't check in regularly, it can occasionally mean I end up missing something that someone's @-ed me in because of this! If you've @-ed me with something you've made from one of my patterns and you don't get a response, it will be because I haven't seen it, so please do feel free to tag me again! Or hashtag it with #flossieteacakes and then it will be tagged permanently, so I'll definitely see it at some point.

I thought I'd do a round-up of makes using the Three Bears' Sleeping Bag Pattern soon too, as they will look utterly adorable all lined up with creatures in them in one big collage. If you've made one, I'd love to see, so please do get in touch.

Wishing you a lovely weekend,
Florence x

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Summer 2015: Fabrics for Dressmaking

Thank you for all your enthusiasm for a post about dressmaking fabrics in the comments to my last post. A few people asked me to go into as much detail as possible as, like me, you buy your fabrics online, where it's often difficult to get a proper sense of weight, drape and opacity, so with only the smallest encouragement needed, what follows is a quite ridiculously geeky analysis of the merits of each fabric! Enjoy.

I should preface this post by saying that I'm obsessive about drape because I believe that this is the key to making flattering clothes that make me feel happy when I wear them, rather than like a miserable dumpling, which is what a poorly chosen piece of cloth can do to me. So these are the things that will run through my mental checklist when I'm considering a fabric now: Will it hold the shape if the garment is more structured? Will it skim, rather than cling to, the more lumpy areas if it's a more flowing fabric? Will it stand proud like a pelmet lampshade between my widest points of bust and bottom, rather than following the curve into the small of my back?

I also consider opacity too, as there are varying levels of translucency, the acceptability of which depends upon the garment and also the wearer's willingness to be revealed! So here, my questions are: Will this show my tummy button (arg! Transparency is never a quality that I'm enamoured with in a fabric)? Will this show my bra? Will this show my silhouette even when there's no sun? Will this show my silhouette when there is sun? Will I feel well-covered on a day when I'm feeling like I'd rather not have even the merest hint of the contours of my stomach visible? Could I use this for a pattern that features pleats or gathering to make it less revealing? Could I interline this fabric with something of a similar weight and drape to make it more modest?

While it's not really possible for a fabric to have an intrinsic 'poor drape', it's possible for it to drape poorly for your intended style of clothing, so I'll try to share as much information as I can about what styles I think each fabric may suit.

Please remember that these are my own, very subjective, thoughts and that others may have different opinions as to suitability, so it may be worth reading around before purchasing anything. If you've used any of these fabrics yourself, please do leave comments with your own thoughts or even links to what you've made. I think we all like seeing as many sample garments as possible before committing to buy. Let's begin.

These two prints are both from Cotton & Steel's new range of rayon fabrics, going under the collection name of Frock. They are utterly dreamy and tick all the right boxes on so many levels: they have the most incredible, flowing drape; they feel like cotton sateen, but without the sometimes nasty sheen and slipperiness; they come in wearable prints that won't make you look like you're wearing a quilt; and they are opaque enough to avoid a sunlit body silhouette and will gracefully skim over any lumps and bumps.

When you hold it up and move it, Frock rayon undulates and billows in the most wonderful way: there is life in this fabric.

Bearing in mind that most fabrics will show some light when held up, this is the barely perceptible outline of my hand when held up behind the fabric, below - this seems like a nicely opaque fabric to me. However, what feels almost completely opaque in top half of the body terms, may not feel quite so modest in dress terms and, as I'm yet to make a dress from this, I don't feel entirely confident saying that you could definitely make an unlined dress from it. But if I was to, I'd make a Miz Mozelle dress from it as the drape would suit this style so well. In the UK you can find these prints at M is for Make or the The Village Haberdashery. In the US, you can find them at Hawthorne Threads.

I have always been a big fan of Heather Bailey's designs and she's recently produced a line of rayon fabrics (and a few voiles too) for FreeSpririt, entitled Momentum. This is a shirt that I made in one of the rayon prints, below (I'll do a full post on the actual shirt at a later date). It's a really glorious fabric - I have craved a material that will produce a button placket that flops casually, rather than standing to attention like a regimental soldier and this shirt demonstrates that rayon has this ability. It shares all the qualities of the Cotton & Steel rayon, although the Freespirit designs look to have been printed on a white rayon base cloth, which means that if the neckline drapes open, or if a sleeve is rolled up (as you can just on the edge of this photo), then it can mean that you get a bit of this white reverse side showing. I personally don't have a massive problem with this and I'd happily buy more prints from the range, but it's something to be aware of when thinking about what pattern you'd use it with. I bought the last 95cm that Clothkits had, thinking they were the only UK stockist, but I've since seen that Fancy Moon also stock many of the prints from the collection. In the US, you can find them at Hawthorne Threads.

Next, this glorious swiss dot (although I've always thought of something with raised tufts as a 'dobby'), which comes in this blue and also a greyish black. This is really perfect for a light summer top and has a lovely softness to it. The drape is good (although obviously not as flowing as a rayon), in part because it's so thin.

In terms of opacity, again, I've photographed it with an artificial light source a few metres away, out on the landing (exactly the same set up as with the rayons) and with my hand behind it. You can see that this is an incredibly sheer fabric. I think it would suit something with some pleats or gathers if you want to avoid feeling entirely naked.

For reference, I recently made a top (similar to this top which I made years ago) in some white dobby that I had in my stash, which I don't feel entirely comfortable in - you'll note from the picture, that not only can you see the pattern on my bra, but you can also see the outline of my body and even the belt loops on my jeans! I can't tell if I'm being prudish here - I wouldn't have thought twice about this a few years ago, so I'm not entirely sure why I mind about it now - but whatever, it feels like it doesn't offer quite enough coverage. I bought this white dobby locally several years ago, but I notice that Annie has something similar in stock that may or may not be slightly thicker.

I imagine that this blue Swiss Dot may well be easier to wear because it's a darker fabric, however, I'd still consider interlining it (given my sudden desire for my clothing to double as a nun's habit), which worked well on this top, pictured below - you can see from the sleeve, which I didn't line, how thin the fabric was when used alone. However, it's really important to find a lining fabric that has a very similar composition and weight if you don't want to completely alter the drape of your main fabric. I used the thinnest, softest cotton I could find to interline this top - I bought it from The Cloth House, although I have no idea if they still stock it now.

On to Atelier Brunette. Atelier Brunette have the most incredible range of dressmaking prints. These French prints are small-scaled, subtle, chic and I want to wear practically every single one of them. When it comes to designs, in my eyes, they blow everything else out of the water. Alice stocks a fine selection of them, here. The compromise comes in the drape. I've made a couple of tops in Atelier Brunette's Cotton Cambric over the last few years and unfortunately I've always mismatched my pattern to the fabric and ended up with something fundamentally unflattering (one of which was a version of the white dobby top, above, in the cotton cambric pictured below). These fabrics, in my nit-picky opinion, aren't quite right for patterns that require any drapiness. I could share photos with you of them doing that aforementioned thing where, in profile, they stand proud like a pelmet lampshade between my widest points of bust and bottom, rather than following the curve into the small of my back, but I'm too appalled by them to put them on the internet for fear of them ending up on Pinterest outside of the context of 'I know this is hideous'. I really believe the cotton cambric fabrics need a pattern that is quite structured. Colette's Laurel blouse (this is the pattern used for the navy blouse above) would be perfect, as it has darts at the front and back and a really neat, fitted shape.

However, Guthrie & Ghani recently sent me a sample of Atelier Brunette's viscose and it couldn't be more different in terms of drape. This is the finest, silkiest, deliciously drapey little sample of perfection that you see below. I would love a top made from this. It is very, very thin though. So I'm imagining it may be best worn either with a fine black camisole beneath it or lined with something incredibly thin, as I've done with the navy spotty top earlier in the post. Photos don't really do justice to how lovely the viscose fabrics are. Be careful when shopping for them - some AB prints appear in a few different substrates, so double-check that you're buying the one you're intending to. Both Guthrie and Ghani and Backstitch have several viscose prints in stock.

Next, this rather unassuming-looking indigo denim chambray from Robert Kaufman's Chambray Union Collection (for those who aren't familiar with it, this collection is based mostly around blue chambray fabrics in a wide variety of weights, so each fabric is slightly different, but they seem to share a general awesomeness). I don't know how to photograph this adequately to convey quite how wonderful it is, but when I first felt it, I thought it may be the loveliest fabric that I'd ever touched. It's ridiculously soft and silky in a way that belies its utilitarian appearance and is the most perfect denim colour. Hold it up to the light and it doesn't have the dense opacity you'd expect it to though - perfect for completely non-revealing unlined tops, but I'm yet to decide whether I'd go for an unlined skirt. If you think that I'm paranoid about the skirt issue, you may like to revisit this post.

Next, Robert Kaufman's Cotton Chambray Dots in Royal. This fabric is much less drapey than many in the Chambray Union collection and although it's very soft, it has a structure that makes it totally unsuitable for drapey tops. It would be far better for light, bottom-weight items. I'm imagining that it would be perfect for something like an Emery dress where the bodice is more structured and the skirt can take a bit of body, or equally, a Laurel dress, which has a fitted shape without any flounce.  I am bitterly regretting my choice of colour here, as while I would have worn the Indigo, when it arrived I realised that the Royal colour that I'd chosen is totally out of my colour comfort zone as it's very bright! The top part of the photo shows the right side of the fabric, the more subtle side is the reverse side (I guess I could use the reverse, but I'm less keen on the sheen on this side). If anyone who has a more diverse range of colours that they like to wear would like two metres of this, it cost £33 new and I'll happily part with it for £25 in the UK including postage. It's been pre-washed and smells deliciously of fabric softener! 

I know I talked about this in my last post, but I don't want to leave it out of this round-up as it's incredibly lovely: Indigo Dot, another fine part of the Robert Kaufman Chambray Union collection. 

Indigo Dot is wonderfully soft. It's perfect for shirts, blouses or tank tops and I'd consider making a really gathered skirt from it, or a lined straight skirt. It's a floppy fabric, so if you're looking for something with a stiffness that will hold its shape, this isn't it. 

Finally, I know that some of my readers, for ethical and/or health reasons prefer to shop organic for their fabrics, so I thought I'd also tell you about some fantastic fabric that I bought a few years ago. It's an organic navy cotton sateen fabric that is just pure loveliness without any of the high-sheen slipperiness that cheap sateen can have. It's almost completely matte, in fact.

Because it's such a dark fabric, I'm afraid it's really hard to give you a sense of weight or drape through photos, so I'll try and describe it. It's definitely opaque enough for unlined dresses. It's incredibly soft, but it has a mid-weight to it that means it also has some substance. I'd happily make a Brumby skirt from it, but I think it may feel a bit too thin for a Moss skirt (I'm working on the basis that a straight, short skirt made in a fabric that's not substantial enough may look akin to a creased rag by the end of the day, whereas a more flared skirt would carry this fabric off perfectly). Again, I'd avoid a Laurel dress for the same reasons (although a Laurel top would be fine), but imagine that a Crepe dress or Violet blouse would work nicely. Organic Cotton Plus have impressive credentials as organic trailblazers within the US fabric and cotton farming industry, so are definitely worth looking into.

Finally, just as I was about to post this, I received a serendipitous subscriber's email from Hawthorne Threads sharing news of a rayon chambray addition to Robert Kaufman's House of Denim collection.

It really does feel like the world is suddenly just exploding with amazing dressmaking fabrics. After sharing all this glorious fabric temptation, I feel compelled to also share with you the thought that I try to keep in my own head in the face of all this. It will not run out. And if this is what's appeared in just the last few months, that must mean that even more good things are bound to be on their way! Sometimes though, after so many years of struggling to find beautiful dressmaking fabrics, it's hard to keep this at the forefront of my thoughts!

Florence x
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...