My first foray into sewing a swimsuit

I actually made this Sandpiper swimsuit last year but have (obviously) only just got around to photographing it for the blog. I bought 2 lots of fabric at the same time, so expect at least one more Sandpiper in the near future.

This is the Helen’s Closet Sandpiper Swimsuit – it’s no secret I’m a bit of a Helen’s Closet fangirl! I thought about using the Axis Tank and the pants pattern I used to make all my underwear (can’t remember which one it was now!) but since there are some specific techniques with sewing a swimming costume – like the elastic and lining – and because Helen’s instructions are always so great and comprehensive, I thought it was worth plumping for a proper pattern.

I made the size 6 and had to make loads of changes! I realised when I cut out the second version recently, that I cut out the wrong size. I looked at the high bust measurement and thought it was the full bust measurement. I took it in about 4cm off the shoulders, 2.5cm at the armpit, out to 6cm from the side seams at the waist, 3cm off the crotch seam and 2cm off the pants side seams! I did think this was a lot of adjustments – which obviously it is when you’re an idiot and cut out the wrong size! Luckily this was kind of a wearable toile!

I bought this fabric (and the other one) from an online shop I’d not used before – Fabriques. The fabric is fine but doesn’t have super good stretch – I’ve since bought some other swim fabrics from Sew Me Sunshine and Hey Sew Georgie and they feel much nice and have more stretch. It does the job but it’s pretty difficult to get off once it’s wet!

Attaching the swim elastic was a bit of a learning curve! It isn’t very even if you look closely. but when it’s on the body you can’t really tell. It looks quite scrunched up when it’s not on the body – which I assume is normal?

I’m very inspired to sew my second (and third and fourth ehem) versions after the Sewing Bee this week. I love seeing everyone’s different interpretations of the briefs on the made to measure challenges. But I would probably have lost because I don’t generally like lots of flouncey or intricate details in most garments – but especially in a swimming costume! Have you been inspired to sew a swimming costume after watching the bee? (I’m not sure I could sew one to a strict time crunch, though!)

Traveller Coat for Winter?

Now that the weather is finally getting warmer, I thought what a good time to share my new Winter coat I made back in February!

I knew I wanted to make a new coat this year as my beloved Honetone coat was really starting to wear out. It was made from pretty cheap fabric from one of the Sew Brum meet ups and there were a couple of things that I didn’t love about it in the end (apart from literal holes in the fabric), like a lack of a full collar – it had lapels but no collar. And the lapels never sat quite right but I’ve learnt more about how to make this happen that I knew then so I was hopeful I could do a good job this time, and get a nice finish!

Also using 100% wool fabric helps with pressing – synthetics do not press as nicely in my experience. The fabric – the wool and the lining – were from Fabric Godmother. I have never been disappointed with the quality of their fabric and since this was a sizeable investment in time, as well as money, I didn’t want to cut any corners.

I used the Bella Loves Patterns Traveller Coat pattern as it had the masculine details and vibe I was looking for in my new coat. It was soooo many pages so I went the extra mile and got it printed at Netprinter (which I think I saw was now closing?!). There are 2 heights for the pattern and since I’m 5’3″ I made the one drafted for exactly my height! I made the size 8 with no fitting changes – since it has a dropped shoulder, I thought that would remove the main place it might look wrong if it didn’t fit properly. Obviously this was a risk since the fabric was expensive and I didn’t want to mess it up.

The pattern calls for a lot of interfacing and I just went for the iron-on style for ease of use and ease of getting hold of it. To help the lapels lay back nicely, I ironed on the interfacing with the lapels in the position they sit in when worn – it was a bit of a head-scratcher to figure out which way that was! I saw this in a Bernadette Banner video from an expert tailor – they talked about holding the fabric in the way you want it to lay when you do pad stitching to attach the interfacing.

Sewing the whole coat from start to finish did take a good while – which was what I wanted to do. This isn’t a quick sew! I started it in January (when I finally got the guts to cut into the fabric) and finished it in February, during a week I had off from work to use up my annual leave. It was nice to spend a good chunk of time working through all the steps.

The pattern calls for quite a bit of top-stitching which helped the fabric to sit flat, since it was quite bulky and spongy in places without it.

I decided to go for a bright yellow contrast lining – because why not! I actually quite enjoy the flash of yellow in the vent as I walk. Speaking of the vent, that was the part of the pattern that was the trickiest for me to understand – I think I was overthinking it. When I actually started to do the steps, it finally started to make sense!

I’m not going to lie, I’m really proud of my coat. I’m glad I invested in good quality fabric and took the time to do everything carefully and I hope it will last me a good few years. I have a bit of each of the fabrics left so hopefully I can do some repairs in the future if I need to. I also feel really cool wearing it. Although I love the warm weather we’re finally getting, I’m also a bit sad that I won’t be able to wear it for a while until it gets cold.

Here are a couple of close-ups of the details on the shoulders and the belt. I really love the epaulettes(?) on the shoulders – I like the little loops they sit through, the buttons, everything!

What’s the most involved garment you’ve ever made? Sometimes it’s nice to take extra time to make something really well finished I think. Obviously quick makes are fun, but slow ones are fun in a different way.

Refashioning Arden Trousers into Shorts

Inspired by The Refashioners returning this year, I decided to actually work on an idea that had been in my mind for a while – to replace some items in my wardrobe I never wore with some I actually might.

2 Summers ago, when I was living with my sister she have me some leftover linen she had from making some dresses. My favourite go-to casual trouser pattern is the Ardens by Helen’s Closet but there wasn’t quite enough of any of the fabrics to make a whole pair, so I made colour-blocked pairs, using 2 of the colours on each pair of trousers. I liked the idea but they were hard to pair with things and I honestly felt a bit silly wearing them. I still had some of the fabrics left so I decided to use the Arden Shorts hack on the Helen’s Closet blog and make them into shorts in a single colour.

Here are the 3 pairs of original trousers:

As you’ll see below, there wasn’t enough of the cream linen left to make another leg so there are 5 pairs, not six.

I went for a 3.5in inseam which is what Helen suggests – and I checked it against my Dawn shorts and they are 3.5in too. They feel a little long standing but reeeaaaly short sitting down so I didn’t want to go shorter. I found I had to stitch the front pockets into the hems or they hung out the bottom of the shorts – which is a look, but not the look I was going for (I feel like it’s more for super short denim shorts?)

I had to cut out the pieces that were missing in each colour – either another full leg, with one of each pocket, or for the double blue pairs, 2 fronts (with 3 pockets) or 2 backs (with pockets). Because the hem is wider that the original trouser leg in the hack, I also traced off a hem piece for the existing pieces, which I sewed on the bottom of the relevant leg piece, having cut them shorter (but with added seam allowance). I also had to cut some of the front pocket pieces in 2 halves because I didn’t have pieces of fabric big enough left to cut them out in one go – and it was more important to cut the leg pieces in one go.

Anyway, without further ago, here are my 5 new pairs of shorts – just need Summer to finally arrive in the UK so I can finally wear them!

The above pair of trousers became the below 2 pairs of shorts. This is actually the pair of trousers I wore the most – but that’s not saying much. It was probably 3-4 times max!

I actually had quite a lot of the denim blue linen in my stash as it’s the same fabric I used for the Ilford Jacket I made for my brother in law. I was hoping I would have enough to make a matching shirt to have a Summer co-ord set but alas there really aren’t any pieces big enough to cut out a shirt. Sigh.

I think I maybe wore this pair of trousers once. I still like the colour combination but they just didn’t work with anything in my wardrobe.

I particularly like the mint colour. I’m realising, however, as a result of Me Made May that grey is not a colour I generally love in my wardrobe. Though maybe on the bottom half it’s okay – just not near my face as I feel like it washes me out.

I don’t think I wore this pair at all after taking these original photos! As I mentioned above there wasn’t enough of the cream linen left to make another leg. I have kept the scraps – maybe I’ll think of something to do with them one day?

This is a slightly lighter dusky pink linen than the fabric I used for my wedding suit but I still like it. I love bright obnoxious pink, but also this more muted shade.

It was a massive pain unpicking all the stitching and overlocking but I hope I will get more wear out of these shorts than the trousers – I maybe don’t need over 5 pairs of shorts in my wardrobe, given I live in the UK but I’m hoping at some point in the future to go travelling to warmer climes so then they will come into their own.

Do you every re-asses makes and decide to harvest the fabric rather than giving away the garments? I do both definitely – but I was glad I’d kept the remaining scraps in my stash or all of the fabric would have been wasted!

Dawn Jean Shorts

Last Summer I went on holiday with my university friends (to attend the wedding I made this outfit for) and I realised I didn’t own any shorts! This seemed like a terrible oversight – and was very gladly remedied since the week we were away – in the UK – was boiling hot!

I bought this relatively light-weight denim at the same time as I bought the blush pink cotton/linen I made the suit from. It made them nice to wear when it was so hot as the denim isn’t too thick!

I made my standard size 4, which is the size I’ve made all my dawns in (and I’ve made 2 more pairs I haven’t shared yet!). I did my usual adjustment of taking and extra 2cm off the back seam, tapering to the standard seam allowance at about 10cm down. I maybe need a little more room in the bum, though, as these are a little hungry! I have one other pair that does this and they are also from a light weight denim so maybe the pattern needs a certain weight of denim to hold it’s structure?

What’s slightly funny to me is that they look kind of long in these photos (though they don’t feel long on!) and they are sooo short when I’m sitting down! Something to bear in mind if you spend a lot of time seated – you might want to add a bit more length!

I did do gold jeans top-stitching on these as I wanted the jeans feel for them. I also did the zip fly variation – you can follow Megan Nielsen’s Ash Jeans sewalong for the instructions for this. The Dawns are drafted with a button fly and while I like that on my first ever pair of dawns, I don’t love it on the only other pair I did a button fly on – I’m just more of a zip fly person I suppose!

I may make another pair of dawn shorts in the future – maybe out of a cotton drill or something a bit more summery than denim – though of course, as I mentioned, this is a light weight denim. I do also have some pairs of linen Arden shorts planned so I’ll see how many pairs of shorts I really need in my wardrobe before I commit to make more dawn shorts! I slightly don’t feel like I need any other trouser patterns in my stash than Dawn and Arden! They’re so much my go to’s!

I think I need to plan another summer holiday so I’ll get some more wear out of these! Any warm/hot places you love going? I’m open to suggestions!

Fashioning Masculinities Exhibition

Last year the V & A had an exhibition called Fashioning Masculinites which was all about the history and evolution of menswear, using art as well as clothing to illustrate the changes and themes. I managed to go in pretty much the last week and I’m so glad I made the effort as it was super interesting.

Like some previous fashion exhibitions I’ve been to, the clothes were arranged in themes rather than purely oldest to newest. So the first room was all about underwear – the shirt started off as underwear and evolved into more visible, but still underneath other layers, and then into outerwear.

I liked how much the exhibition touched on gender expression, including displaying binders alongside boxers and briefs.

I also appreciated that it wasn’t just British/European fashion, but clothing from other countries too, like this Jama from India. It’s hard to believe it’s over 170 years old too, it looks brand new!

in the underwear room there was some discussion of Victorian prudishness, and I particularly liked this leaf that was made to cover up the genitals of a copy of Michelangelo’s David! Lol!

But I think my absolute favourite thing in this first room was this trompe-l’œil Jean-Paul Gaultier jacket. When you stand close to it, it just looks stripey, but stand back and you’re treated to a very sculpted nude male body!

I loved how the exhibition made it clear that dressing flamboyantly is nothing new, and has been happening for centuries!

I couldn’t believe how intricate this breastplate is!

So below it looks like 2 versions of the same cravat, but in fact the brown one is carved from wood! It was once owned by Horace Walpole, who used to wear it to greet guests to his house. I’m not gonna lie, I kinda want a wooden cravat/tie now.

The amount of work that must have gone into the fabrication on this jacket, was pretty astounding!

And this outfit is even more ornate – and it’s been toned down!

Below you can see a modern garment that was inspired by the above outfit. This is why I especially enjoyed the way the exhibition was arranged. It made the connections through time much clearer to see.

OMG this was one of my absolute favourites! I kind of want to try to recreate it for the Dressmakers’ Ball – but obviously I wouldn’t be able to do that amount of beading/embroidery so I’d have to find some suitable fabric I could use instead. Either way I think I definitely want a cape, even if I don’t recreate this actual outfit.

So beautiful!

There was a rainbow section, where the outfits were arranged by colour, which I particularly enjoyed – because who doesn’t love a rainbow of clothes!?

This suit was worn by Harry Styles – I had to wait a while before I could get a photo of it because it was definitely one everyone was taking photos of, and a lot of people were taking photos of themselves with the suit.

I particularly enjoyed the juxtapositions in this section.

So good! I would wear either of these outfits!

I love the green tartan suit, below.

The section on how military uniforms have inspired fashion was especially interesting – like we know when a detail is ‘military inspired’ but seeing them side by side made it even clearer where those influences came from.

I freakin’ love this photo – and they used it for the cover of the exhibition book, which I think was a great choice. I did treat myself to a book – and because it was like the last week or so, it was reduced – score!

An actual outfit worn by actual Nelson!

There was a quite large selection of tuxedos and black suits – but they were pretty much impossible to photograph! They had on worn by Gary Oldman on the red carpet – complete with the glasses he wore in the pocket!

I couldn’t not include a slightly crap photograph of a Marlene Dietrich suit, though.

After the black suits and tuxedos – through history and as fashion on the red carpet – there was then a small display of how men’s evening wear has evolved somewhat for the younger generation.

It was very cool to see this Gucci dress worn by Harry Styles in person! I mean I’ve seen the photographs from Vogue, but actually seeing all the detail and layers and work that went into making it was pretty amazing. Whenever I see proper couture clothing, I realise why the ateliers are the best in the word and why the designers are so sought after.

Another Billy Porter outfit – I remember seeing this for the first time on the Oscars red carpet and thinking it was amazing. I still think it’s amazing. He really does have genuinely great style!

The last outfit in the exhibition was a dress from Drag Queen Bimini Bon Boulash, who was one of my favourites on her season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Who couldn’t fall in love with her with lines like ‘the nipples are the eyes of the face’!

I do really love going to fashion exhibitions – they always give me so much inspiration and knowledge I didn’t have before. I think the next one I’ll be going to (hopefully, if I can get tickets) is the Chanel exhibition, also at the V&A. It opens in September I think.