Summer Dahlia

Colette Dahlia Version 21 Colette D1 Colette Dahlia Pattern EnvelopeI was worried that Version 2 of the Dahlia would be too inappropriately revealing for my advancing years but the black dress on the Colette website must have been made of something slinky for it to drape so attractively.  My cotton lawn recreation had bit after bit trimmed off the bodice and still it looks kind of … frumpy.

1 Uh Oh, back of Dahlia V2 in the mirrorThe first sign of this not being the quick project I’d imagined came after the neckline bias was partially applied when I checked the back view in the mirror.  1 Trim 7cm off the neckline backThe bra straps and the dress straps were so far from each other!  Ugh, racer back!  In a previous project – my much worn Frida dress – I saved the situation with bra keepers but that was clearly not going to work here where the fabric and the straps were thin.  Instead, I measured the disparity and trimmed the neckline down by 7cm which seemed to do just the trick. Colette Dahlia Back ViewFront neckline trimThe front presented a similar problem so I cut 3.5cm from each side (grading to the middle of which I only lost 1cm) to bring the dress straps in line with those of the bra.  This gave me the chance to fix something else I noticed looked wrong with the bodice front: the instructions specify gathering fabric only at the centre of the neckline but this just makes the boobies look too far apart from each other 😯  I re-sewed the gathering stitches and distributed the fullness across the entire front neckline.  Much better.

1 Armscye acheFinally, the armscye was too high and really cut in.  I trimmed it down by 1cm and the dress was no more comfortable so I did it again, this time cutting another 2cm.  That’s some change!  If you ever have to do this alteration, don’t begrudge the time this takes as it’s quick and makes all the difference between the outfit getting worn or sitting in your wardrobe.

Oh yeah, and the zipper…  Because the waistband has a facing, there’s rather a lot of fabric going on in the seams at either side of the zip and I struggle to get it pulled up and down in the waistband region – a problem I also have with my winter Dahlia.  I thoroughly suggest you avoid this by handstitching the waistband facing to the zip fabric, which would also enable you to interface it for more structure.

1 MitraljezAfter Nicky recommended a trip to Shoreham-by-Sea to see the houseboats, I pushed the kids into the car for a mini adventure mid-half term and that’s where these photos were taken.  My son soon spotted his dream home!1 Ideal home exhibition

The day was warm and sunny with a gentle breeze that, alas, seemed to fill up my skirt from below and make it rise around me like a lifebelt!  Not that I want to put you off Dahlia, but be prepared to make some adjustments if this is going to be something better than a casual summer dress you can buy in a shop for a song.  I’m so making this again out of some slinky black fabric so I can swing my way through summer 😉

1 mumm

Shoreham Houseboat Grand Entrance

1 cat botherer1 summer dahlia plus cardie

Cowgirl, Restructured

Levi 921 Restyled into Jean Jacket

Back View Jean Jacket Levi 921The idea of making a jacket out of jeans came from a picture found on Pinterest. I had a very worn pair of Levis, kept in case I needed to paint the walls (or something), so I thought I’d use them to see if it could be done. And yes, it can.  Though for full-length sleeves, you will need to start off with longer legs!  Alternatively, you can leave out or use less fabric in the ruffle.  1 Jumbo Topstitching

Levi  921 were my favourite ever jeans.  My jaw virtually dropped when I first saw them (in 2002 or 2003).  They had so-called ‘jumbo stitching’ and were a very deep blue (though later faded); the waist curved in and the rise wasn’t too low.  They felt great too.  The denim was proper cowgirl stuff, pulling the saddlebags in tightly (‘saddlebags’, if you don’t know, are the plump bits that look like hips but are lower than the bones and are actually formed from buttock overspill! 🙂  )  jumbo stitchingThe style wasn’t available for long unfortunately.  For the best part of the decade, boot-cut, stretch denim reigned, followed by the leggings-like skinny jeans we mostly wear today.  But I still buy a nearly new pair of Levi 921’s on Ebay sometimes.

Have you ever fallen in love with a design, or a product, only to find it discontinued?

Making a Jacket out of Jeans.

These notes are a supplement to the original instructions (follow the Pinterest link).

Ancient Pair of Levi 921If you want to give this a go, measure the waist of the jeans and your ribcage to make sure the waist will fit yours when the jeans are upside down.  Having said that, wearing this buttoned up (as in the last picture) just makes me feel a bit corseted so I prefer it like a bolero.

I made my first cut by measuring my waist to armhole length then cutting this from the waist down to the hips of the jeans, after first adding a seam allowance.  I put in bust darts but they weren’t necessary; in fact, the less done here, the better as you’ll preserve the rough-hewn denim effect.  For making the sleeves, I took a narrow-fitting sleeve from a dress pattern in the stash and cut them by working upwards from the hem of the jeans.

Most of the construction seams were done with matching blue thread.  Yellow topstitching was applied afterwards for decorative effect.

Step 1 The rear part will be stretched, bagging outwards so unpick the centre back seam and restitch to a flatter shape

The Beginning – The rear part will be stretched, bagging outwards so unpick the centre back seam and restitch to a flatter shape

Step 2 - Stich front pockets closed and cut away pocket bags

Don’t flap – Stich front pockets closed and cut away pocket bags

The Finetuning – Decide how much fabric to use in the collar and where to apply it. I experimented with some packing paper.

What do you think? I would like to try this again, with a different style of jeans and a neckline/hemline not so dictated by the original seams.

By the way, Happy Birthday to Moonchild Blogstalker who turns 10 tomorrow!It's the Blogstalker's Birthday

Cowgirl, Restructured

Familiar Faces

Three years ago when I started blogging, it seemed a futile business.  By sharing knowledge, I wanted to contribute something to the internet – after years of take – but most posts would take hours to produce, especially tutorials, and I rarely knew whether anyone read them.  I began to think each post a message in a bottle tossed into the ocean, fingers crossed.

Kate DaviesKate of Fabrickated, who’s been blogging pretty much daily for just over a year, must have felt like that too but she quickly gained a readership of those who, like me, appreciate her well-informed and all-encompassing advice on style.  I like to see Kate’s creative output too, as it’s varied and bold.  I mean, discharge pasteSilver-leaf beetles!?  Well, last Friday I made my way to Kings Cross to meet her.  Though her PA led me straight to her office, I’d have recognized Kate very easily if I’d have had to pick her out in a busy crowd at the station.  She looks just like in her blog!  Not only that, she was wearing her painted silk camisole in colours I’ve come to associate with her.  (Kate on the other hand realised I was a bit of a tich!)  Although we knew quite a bit about each other, meeting in real life helped fill up lot of non-sewing gaps.  Kate very kindly took me for lunch by Regent’s Canal – a former running haunt of mine but much changed after development.  We were a couple of doors away from Central Saint Martins so afterwards we popped in to see some of the students’ exhibits.  Most of it was decidedly zany like the fuzzy gloves, each studded with painted red screws, which we tried on.  Kate and I both love, and feel very lucky to live in, London.  I’ve a lot of admiration for the work she does in enabling the city to be a home to so many.  I went home feeling like I’d been on a bit of an adventure.  It was an unexpected high and evidence of how through blogging my world has grown.

Elna 6200 Decorator's TouchBack at home, Elna was waiting, fresh from her two weeks’ recuperation at World of Sewing.  Here’s a list of the treatments she received, with apologies for the jargon:

Remove ‘play’ from bobbin race and gears

Reset tension

Fit new bobbin hook cover

Check timing and hook and needle clearance

Delinting, degreasing, oil and lubricate

Stitch test, Clean down

[And finally… ] Electrical safety test.

In the 8 years I’ve had this machine, I’ve ignored some warning signs and the work was well overdue.  It cost £148.56 with a guarantee of 6 months.

She now sews with a creamy purr, whereas previously she had a tendency to squeak and whine.  Alas, despite my surge of creativity, my task this weekend was to put Elna to a most basic drawstring-bag job.  This is to replace the tent poles bag belonging to his school which son lost on a camping trip and for which he’d otherwise be charged some deposit money if not replaced.  Luckily, the job was a quick one as I had the ideal instructions: my first ever blog post, Nosebag!

Elna and Maxine

elna maxine

mullet free zone signThe dress on the left belongs to a client who bought it for £5 at an H&M sale (why, oh why wasn’t I at this sale?).  The original hem was all one length – a bit nunny – which didn’t do justice to the rather sensual upper half of the dress so the client asked me to convert it to a fishtail.  Some of you would call this kind of hem a mullet but I absolutely refuse to work with that term!  I haven’t seen the dress actually worn by the client yet.  In the photo it’s a bit wind-blown but otherwise I think it looks great and I enjoyed my little job.

a back viewI’d love to copy this design and make it for myself in some interesting drapey fabric as everything about it appeals to me.  The centre front panel is stretch mesh; the arrangement of the spaghetti straps is beautiful and the back isn’t overlooked either.  Elements of the design would translate well into a swimming costume or a jumpsuit too.  But where to start?  Do you have any recommendations for software that would convert a drawing into a technical one or what to use to make a paper pattern into a PDF?

Soon as I was asked to do this, my Elna stopped working.  As my client mentioned she sews too (but didn’t fancy tackling a curved hem), I asked if I could use her machine.  She messaged me to say yes but that her ‘Maxine’ is a very basic one.  I thought,  “Uh oh, what kind of a budget make is Maxine?”  but this turned out to be a mobile phone auto-correct for Janome.  Phew!

Barista cuffsTo familiarise with Maxine before tackling the fishtail, I spent a few hours fixing a dress of my own.  This is something I made 2 years ago by hacking into the Anna pattern.  My dress was originally ochre with brown cuffs which, I discovered, looked exactly like the Costa uniform – it’s clear that subconsciously I want to work there and live off Flat Whites and Carrot Cake…   close up of anna dartsAfter I dyed it brown, the dress became one of the most wearable things I’d ever made (blogged here) but I soon splashed bleach on it while cleaning the toilet.  I was so upset.  I needed to go darker to disguise the mess so black it had to be.  This meant the brown zip had to be replaced and all the stitching had to be redone a millimetre or so inside the original construction seams and also on the hem and the neckline.  Otherwise, any strain on the seams and the brown stitching would show  just like when someone with brown or red hair dyes it black and a few weeks later they get ‘hot roots.’ 

a close up of 3 stitchingsIn this photo you can see three colours of stitching on one of the waist darts, right to left: ochre, brown and black.  This may seem rather a lot of work for rather an unremarkable-looking dress but I love it for so many reasons.  It’s warm (pincord) and therefore perfect for those days at either side of summer.  Its softness makes me very huggable when I wear it (apparently) and as it’s so simple, it’s great for showing off any jewellery.  And for getting a bit of sun on my arms.

But yes, it would have been quicker to make a new one.  Do you think it’s worth doing jobs like this or is it simpler to start anew?

The Most Expensive Curtain Ever

 

mascaras de pelea fabric by alexander henryLucha libre curtainsLast year we completely renovated our son’s bedroom – it’s the room with the blue-tiled hearth I use as a backdrop in some photo-shoots.   However, I never got round to making curtains for its semi-circular bay window.  My son insists he doesn’t need curtains as he likes to lie in bed looking at the sky and the plane trees in the distance and yes, I take his point, but what about the electricity cable and the streetlights…?  As we had a very important visitor coming to stay in that room, the impending arrival gave me the kick to make the room a bit more homelike.

Firstly, the newly plastered ceiling needed a curtain track affixed to it.  In order to save the £230 track-fitting fee, we did the job ourselves.  It was horrible, fiddly work with much planning and marking and it blew all the daytime hours of Damon’s entire weekend and some of mine too.  It was the first time I had to make sense of tiny diagrams in the instructions by using a magnifying glass.  Shame on you, Swish 👿  Cutting curtain lengths on floorboardsNext, while Damon moved to the task of renovating the bathroom only to unearth plumbing horrors, I set about estimating the fabric amount required and ordering samples.  The curved window, typical of British 1930s’ suburban houses, was wider than it looked: 4 metres.  This meant the required width of the curtain would be between 6 and 8 metres.  Taking into account the pattern repeat and the  ‘drop,’ I’d need about 16 metres.  I wanted cheerful fabric rather than something grown-up so I opted for quilting cotton (which comes with a tremendous choice of colours and patterns).  At £12 a metre from Frumble, a bolt of 16 metres cost £192.  Which isn’t why this is the most expensive curtain ever.

mascaras de pelea fabric curtains alexander henryThe lining fabric came from the local curtain supplies store.  It’s crisp, white and since it’s cotton-rich, I hope it won’t be prone to mould spots come winter and condensation on the glass.  The lining and 10 curtains weights came to another £70.  Which isn’t why this is the most expensive curtain ever….

mascaras de pelea curtain makingCurtain-making isn’t my forte.  All that I know – which, apparently, is called the ‘bag-method’ – I learnt from Readers Digest Complete Guide to DIY.  The fact that my work will undoubtedly be subject to scrutiny makes it all the more nerve-racking.  But it’s dynamic work too.  The cutting up of the panels, the measuring and the marking  required so much getting down to the floor and up again that after three days I felt like I’d been to a yoga retreat!  There’s something rewarding too in all that flat geometry.  I love the point at which the lining and fabric are turned right side out and the side edges get a hot press: the lovely smell of steamy, printed poplin.  And hand-hemming more than 6 metres, though time consuming, really means you’re quite quick and neat by the end.

mascarasI did run into big trouble getting my panels to match up, both horizontally and vertically.  Unlike during the previous curtain-making occasion, my walking foot (even feed foot) simply wasn’t up to the job.  Something was wrong.  Normally, I’d slow right down, sewing centimetre by centimetre and checking for accuracy but there just wasn’t time… we had a very important visitor coming… So I kept going, sometimes with luck on my side, often not, but a passable effort.  If anyone points out the misalignments such as these, I’ll wrestle them to the floor I think.

NicoThe curtains were finished the evening before our important visitor arrived… which meant that a strapping 16-year-old exchange student from Munich (to the right of the picture) got to sleep soundly underneath the most barmy curtain he’ll see in his whole life, probably.   It was when the excitement was over that I realized the machine’s stitches weren’t forming properly.  I’ve taken Elna in for a repair which will cost £150.  Which still isn’t why this is the most expensive curtain ever…

No.  You see, my son wasn’t sure if he liked this choice of fabric quite as much as he liked Star Wars: Imperial Storm Trooper .  But I couldn’t bear those dull colours.  So, in order to sway his decision I said “If you choose Mascaras de Pelea, I’ll take you and the whole family on a holiday tour of Mexico!”

🙄   Anyways…

nacho libre