Blogging break

So I thought I would pop on here to let you know (if anyone’s still reading!) that I’m taking a bit of a break from the blog – as you may have already guessed!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that my father died 2 weeks ago (on September 2nd). He had been ill for several years with a rare degenerative brain disease called Corticobasal Degeneration. He had also had kidney cancer a couple of years ago (almost 3 actually, now I think about it) and at the end of last year they discovered the cancer had come back, but this time in his lungs. It was decided not to treat the cancer this time as his system had weakened significantly and it felt that it wouldn’t be in his best interest. I saw him in July and he looked really ill then, and he steadily declined over the Summer. It is, obviously, sad but at the same time there is some relief that his suffering is over.

As I’m sure you can understand, writing about the things I’ve made would take energy I just don’t have at the moment. I hope to be back in October, and I hope there are some people still out there when I return! I am still making things, so hopefully I’ll have some fun things to share.

I made shoes!

I know there are still some things I’ve not yet made (like jeans, a proper Winter coat or underwear) but I have made shoes!

As you’ll know if you read my last post about my prize-winning outfit I made for the New Craft House Summer Party, I made some slightly crazy silver espadrilles from some fabric I was given at Christmas. I’d seen these espadrilles popping up online and saw that they were for sale at Guthrie and Ghani.

I used some quite stiff white cotton twill I bought in Birmingham (which I had in mind for a specific project, but I haven’t got around to making it yet and thought i could spare a little bit of the fabric for the shoes) as the lining and I also used some pretty thick, papery interfacing to add even more structure to the liquid-y silver viscose foil.

I discovered in cutting out the silver parts of the shoes that using pins left a mark on the silver fabric, so I improvised for the sewing part and used paperclips to hold the various layers together to sew them – I maybe could have just held it with my hands, but the silver fabric is quite slippery and a little stretchy so I didn’t want to chance it, especially because unpicking would have left a mark.

I can take very little credit for knowing how to make these – I totally relied on this YouTube video by Makery. They tall you through adding seam allowance to the pattern, stitching the shell and the lining together, and then how to do the blanket stitch all around the edge.

I hadn’t done blanket stitch for years and years so I kind of had to re-learn how to! It probably means it’s not the neatest it could be, but by the end of the second shoe, I definitely felt like I was getting the hang of it. I used topstitching thread, doubled, following the recommendation of the YouTube video.

There are also some little running stitched holding the front to the back on each side of each shoe – this was one of the quickest parts of the hand sewing! I love running stitch!

One really good tip on the video is to hide the knots from the thread on the inside, between the layers of the sole. You can just about make out one knot, below, which I haven’t quite managed to hide!

The only slight problem with the shoes is that the heel has slightly collapsed, and they don’t stay securely on my feet. I suspect this is because the fabric has slightly stretched out of shape.

I’m pretty pleased that I managed to make shoes, to blow my own trumpet! I feel like it was the shoes that swayed the win for best handmade outfit at the party. I don’t think these will get many more wears this year as the weather is sure to turn cool very soon, but hopefully next year I can have them in semi-regular rotation in my Summer wardrobe.

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New Craft House Summer Party Outfit

Last Saturday I went down to London for the New Craft House Summer Party and it was ace!  I knew it was going to be good when I spotted this on my way to the venue:

And of course I basically forgot to take any photos all evening – I think that’s the mark of a good party, though! I saw some people I’ve met before and lots of new people too, and it was so lovely to hang out with fellow sewing people. Sewing people really are the best.

It was great to catch up with Nina of Nina Lee Patterns – and her patterns are now in paper form! I don’t mind a PDF, but I would much rather have a printed pattern – I like having a nice object that I can handle, especially when they’re this beautiful. I’d had my eye on the Portobello Trousers and Carnaby Dress for a while so I’m really pleased to have them now in my collection. Now I just need some fabric……

You should definitely check out the hashtag on Instagram – some people did remember to take some photos! And speaking of Instagram, if you follow me there you will already know this, but I won best handmade outfit! Here I am flanked by the 2 honourable mentions – Girlswear and ZoeSews. They both looked brilliant!

I have literally never won anything in my life before, so I was pretty chuffed! I think part of what swung it was the number of items I made! I decided to go for separates instead of a dress as – though I like a good party dress – I’ve made a few in the last year or so for specific parties and then I don’t really wear them again. Though I’m not sure how much wear I’ll get out of a shiny silver top! With black skinny jeans, though, it could look cool.

Although it was August, it was pretty cold last weekend so I wore my trusty Victoria Blazer, made a few years ago from some mystery black fabric. One of the really nice things about the party was that I had a quite long chats with Elisalex and Charlotte from By Hand London, as well as Zeena, after whom the Zeena Dress is named.

I think the main ‘party’ elements to my outfit were the shiny, shiny Inari Tee I made from some (I think) viscose foil from Ray Stitch. I’m pretty sure this is the fabric as I know it was from Ray Stitch and the photos on their website look about right.  I was given it for Christmas and immediately thought of making a boxy tee out of it. After mentioning I might make some changes to the Inari after making my first sort-of-practice one, in the end the only thing I did was to use only a tiny hem instead of the 2cm one the pattern suggests – I overlocked the lining and the shell together then turned both layers up together by 0.5cm. Oh yeah, I lined it with some white polycotton in my stash as I thought this fabric may not be that nice right next to the skin! This also gave it a bit more structure as it really is drapey – it almost looks liquid. BE WARNED if you buy this fabric, though, that you cannot put pins in it or unpick stitching without leaving marks. It’s like leather, once it’s marked, that’s it. I used paperclips instead of pins to hold the seams together while I sewed each bit.

Oh and I also used the fabric to make shoes! I’ve seen these espadrille kits popping up online and I thought what could be better than a crazy shiny silver pair of shoes!? I’m hoping to do a separate post on the shoes, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Suffice it to say I think the shoes swung the win for me!

The culottes are Butterick B6178 that came free with Love Sewing magazine a month or two ago. It seemed there was definitely a time when everyone was making them on Instagram and I liked the pattern more and more, the more versions I saw. I feel like I’m often a bit behind with trends and like them a year after everyone else, but I think culottes are still on trend! Yay! I made the size 12 and although they are a tiny bit big on my waist, I’m impressed that for a big 4 there wasn’t inches and inches of ease built in! I chose the size based on my waist measurement, so that would be my tip if you’re going to make these.

The fabric is this gorgeous viscose challis (called Dillie) from Fabric Godmother. It took me ages to find a fabric I thought would sort of go with the silver and this was the best I came across. I was definitely inspired by Sarah from Like Sew Amazing’s gorgeous jumpsuit which she made from the same fabric. The only change I made to the culottes was to use an invisible zip instead of the dress one the pattern suggested. It made more sense to me to use an invisible one so it would be….well……invisible! I also found a hook and eye from the stash I found inside the vintage sewing box I bought a while ago.

The final thing I made was this necklace. (If you’re counting, I made 5 things if you count the shoes as one – crazy? Probably). I used the tutorial Helen from Stitch My Style did a little while ago, though the fabric I used was probably too thick as it doesn’t look as chic as hers does. The fabric is some seriously old stuff I had left in my stash from one of my earliest makes – a bright yellow skirt which I never wore. I thought about making it in the viscose, but I thought that would be just too matchy-matchy, though I ended up with a pretty matchy-matchy outfit anyway! I used marbles in the necklace as I didn’t have any beads and there aren’t any local shops that sell beads. I used the large marble that came in my bag in the middle, then smaller ones up the sides. I also had to piece the fabric as I didn’t have enough, but the seams are covered by the knots. I really like this method of making necklaces from leftover fabric, so I might try it again – but with thinner fabric I think!

(Wow, you can really see my grey hairs here!)

I’m quite pleased with this as an outfit, if I do say so myself! The culottes also look good with a normal grey t-shirt, which feels a bit more every day than the shiny one! I’m hoping it will be warm this bank holiday weekend so they will get some wear!

There has, however, been a slight tragedy with the silver top since I wore it to the party. I had a sticker on my top, and sort of at the time thought ‘should I stick this on my top?’ and then I thought it would be fine. I then forgot the sticker was on there for a couple of days, when I noticed when I put the top on to take photos. I took the sticker off and it took some of the silver with it. I’ve circled it below so you can see – it’s a bit more obvious in real life than in the photo đŸ˜¦ I have an idea, though. I bought some silver shiny embroidery thread to do the hems, so they would match the fabric, so I’m going to maybe try a yoke of embroidery to see if I can cover the mark. I don’t want to not be able to wear it again – that was the whole point of making separates! If anyone has any other ideas/any embroidery design ides, I’m all ears! Maybe I’ll end up wearing it to the New Craft House Christmas Party (as they’re mentioned they might organise) in its new form!?

I’ll leave you with this, to make you laugh hopefully! I think this is my favourite outtake so far – lol! I have literally no idea what is going on here, I mean wtf?!

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Robert Kaufman Aster Blouse

I feel like it’s been a while since I made something I didn’t totally like, so I guess I was due a ‘meh’ make and unfortunately it’s made from some beautiful Robert Kaufman fabric (called Storm Drown I think) which I got from Guthrie and Ghani when I went shopping in Birmingham a couple of months ago.

I definitely think part of the problem was my fabric choice – it’s quite a stiff cotton, and I think the Colette Aster would do better in a fabric with a bit more drape – even a slightly more drapey cotton would probably improve things.

But there is also the problem that I obviously did something rather wrong when sewing the button bands as the blouse ended up really quite big on me – hence the sad/perplexed photo below! You can also just about see in this photo that the neckline does not go to a point, but is flat where the button bands meet. It is not meant to look like this.

Of course, since it’s not a super fitted make, I didn’t try it on until I’d totally finished it – lesson definitely learned for next time! I made the size 6.

I did realise, though, that it fit much better – like the darts were vaguely near my boobs which they hadn’t been before – if I folded the button bands back by each band’s width (if that makes sense?!). I think my mistake was to not turn them back on themselves enough times, so the shirt ended up too wide.

So after finishing the whole blouse, I took off the buttons and turned the bands on both sides back on themselves and top-stitched them again! I then re-did the button holes – which was super fun given how much my machine enjoys sewing them, not! Then I stitched the buttons back on and there was definitely an improvement.

I don’t think the neckline sits very nicely on me, though. Again, this could be because of my fabric choice, I don’t know. I don’t generally wear or make things with v-necks so I probably could have guessed this might not be the best shape on me,  but I was seduced by the versions in the pattern photos, particularly the long-sleeved (I think) chambray one – it looks really chic on the model.

I dislike the back neckline less than the front, though it does look a bit weird to have all the shirt shapes like a yoke and pleat, but no collar!

I did learn a new skill making this blouse, though, and that was to make my own bias binding using a great tutorial by one of my sewing crushes, Helen from Stitch My Style. It meant I had loads of bias binding, so I’ve still got some to use next time I’m making something and don’t realise I don’t have any shop bought stuff and can’t be as lazy as usual! I don’t have one of those gadget things for making bias binding, so that is definitely now on my to-buy list!

Aside from the neckline sitting a bit funny, one of the other things I’m not super keen on with this pattern is the sleeve length. For some reason they feel a bit frumpy – they’re not proper short sleeves or 3/4 length sleeves, they finish literally at my elbow and I don’t know why, but I don’t really love it đŸ˜¦

I’ve been wearing it (yes, even though I don’t love it, I’ve still worn it a couple of times for work) with the little cuffs folded up and I feel like even that little change makes a bit of a difference – it’s probably all in my head, but never mind!

So all in all this was a semi successful make, which I don’t think is helped any by my looking quite washed out and tired in these photos! Luckily I have some of the fabric left so hopefully I can make something a bit more successful from the leftovers – it’s a shame to waste such lovely fabric on something I don’t totally love. And to think I was moaning that I didn’t have much to say about some of my recent makes, because they’ve been relatively simple and successful. I guess the lesson is be careful what you wish for!

 

Outtake! Mid-blink. And what is my hand doing!?

Designer Inspiration: AndrĂ© Courrèges

I realised it has been a while since I wrote a post about a designer I love, so today I bring you AndrĂ© Courrèges. I thought I’d try a slightly different format, too, and put the whole biography at the beginning (it’s all copied from Wikipedia, the shame!) and then put all the pictures, so you can skip the words if you just want to swoon at some amazing 60s fashion!

AndrĂ© Courrèges was a French fashion designer who only died last year but was one of the main designers of the 60s whose designs were influenced by modernism and futurism. He also “defined the go-go boot and along with Mary Quant, is one of the designers credited with inventing the miniskirt.”1

“At 25, after studying to be a civil engineer, Courrèges went to Paris to work at the fashion house Jeanne Lafaurie. A few months later, he went to work for CristĂ³bal Balenciaga.

In 1961, Courrèges launched his own fashion house. He became known for extremely simple, geometric, modern designs, including the “little white dress” and pants for women. They were often paired with low-heeled white ankle boots, a style that became known as the Courrèges boot, and evolved into the popular go-go boot.

Courrèges was also known for the miniskirt, which he explicitly claimed to have invented, accusing his London rival to the claim, Mary Quant of merely “commercialising” it. Courrèges presented short skirts (four inches above the knee) in January 1965 for that year’s Spring/Summer collection. He had presented “above-the-knee” skirts in the previous year, with his August 1964 haute couture presentation proclaimed the “best show seen so far” for that season by The New York Times. Valerie Steele has stated that Courrèges was designing short skirts as early as 1961, although she champions Quant’s claim to have created the miniksirt first as being more convincingly supported by evidence. Others, such as Jess Cartner-Morley of The Guardian explicitly credit Courrèges with having invented the miniskirt. Alongside short skirts, Courrèges was renowned for his trouser suits, cut-out backs and midriffs, all designed for a new type of athletic, active young woman. Steele has described Courrèges’s work as a “brilliant couture version of youth fashion.” One of Courrèges’s most distinctive looks, a knit bodystocking with a gabardine miniskirt slung around the hips, was widely copied and plagiarised, much to his chagrin, and it would be 1967 before he again held a press showing for his work.

Courrèges’s favoured materials included plastics such as vinyl and stretch fabrics like Lycra. While he preferred white and silver, he often used flashes of citrus colour, and the predominantly white designs in his August 1964 show were tempered with touches of his signature clear pink, a “bright stinging” green, various shades of brown from dark to pale, and poppy red.

In 1967 Courrèges married Coqueline Barrière, his design assistant. They had met while working together at Balenciaga, and worked together as a husband and wife team for the rest of his life.

In 1968 Courrèges sold a share of his company to L’OrĂ©al in order to finance his expansion, which, by 1972, included 125 boutiques around the world. That year, Courrèges was commissioned to design staff uniforms for the Munich Olympics that year. He began offering menswear in 1973.”2

 

 

I thought I’d start with some of his wackier designs! This is surely not at all actually wearable, but I do still slightly love it. I guess you could wear a polo neck underneath and some thick tights or trousers?

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I really like this one too – I think it’s the funnel neck collars and the swingy shape. Again, this would be wearable with something underneath. Or I’m tempted to try to recreate it but with a contrasting colour instead of the transparent section!

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And now onto the slightly more ‘normal’ looking clothes. He has a good line in jacket/dress combos. I’m not sure these would be flattering on me as I have a long body compared to my legs and I feel these would accentuate that, but I do think the models look really cool. Especially with his trademark ankle boots.

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He definitely likes stripes! I like this double-breasted version of the jacket – and it has a matching striped lining to the skirt! Not sure about the hats though….


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 As well as the short/cropped jacket and dress combos above, Courrèges also has a good line in dresses with matching long coats, like this cream and blue number. I love how the piping on the neckline of the dress lines up with the piping on the collar of the coat.

 

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I’m not really a brown person, but I like the combination of fabrics on this one.
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If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I like blue, and particularly navy blue, and particularly navy blue with white/cream, so this is amazing to me. I can’t really see the dress underneath, but I do kinda want to copy this outfit, even though I would probably never wear it!

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But actually this is definitely my absolute favourite of the long coats I found searching for images of Courrèges’ clothes. I wouldn’t make it in red, but I really might add this to my list of makes, once I vaguely learn how to draft things for myself – and learn how to draft something as complicated as a coat! Maybe I could pattern hack something, so I at least have a starting point. Maybe the Closet Case Patterns Clare coat (though it has raglan sleeves)? If you have any other ideas of a pattern I could hack to make this, please let me know! I have plans for another coat this year, but I could make this one early next year and still get some wear out of it!


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The other main category of garments I found when researching Courrèges was, of course, shift dresses. He definitely seems to use really interesting seam lines and shapes to make his stand out from what was probably a very saturated market!

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I do really quite like the scallops on this one. And I like the orange, though it wouldn’t be a colour I would usually wear!

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Fabric choice is definitely key for this cream dress, though, again, there are interesting seam lines and details. He seems to emphasise the seam lines with a sort of piping, as below. Does anyone know how it would be done?

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I put this one in to show how a dress with a massive hole in can become wearable with a polo neck underneath!

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Yellow is really moving up the list of my favourite colours to wear, after blue, of course. I really like the lines on this dress and the modest – for Courrèges anyway – cut out at the neckline. I like the faux wrap style of the bodice too, I think it’s really cute.

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And here is Diana Ross in an amazing yellow dress and coat – I particularly like the coat – and a slightly blue wig!

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Whenever I do one of these posts, I really want to make a copy of pretty much every outfit I find! Which would be the one (or the first one) you would want to make/wear?

 

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