I woke today to a mini-flood in the garden. It had rained all night and then it rained on and off all day with the heaviest deluge saved for the early evening which is the time of week when I do racewalk training at the local athletics track. As my coach worried if lightning was going to strike us, I did only 2km, splashing through the submerged innermost lane, mostly to give my young training partner Izzy (now, she is very talented) someone to chase on her 5 laps in preparation for an upcoming county championships.
The whole day felt subdued. Humidity, awful traffic and an ironic sense of an impending doom as the nation headed out to vote in the referendum. If I wasn’t such a stickler for driving smoothly (I have a hybrid car…), I’d have driven into a man who, walking with his family, stepped out to cross the road without looking, ballot papers in hand, heading for a school being used as polling station. ‘In or out?’, I felt like shouting after him – to find out if I should have driven faster! 😈
I’d voted days before by post, to remain. When the referendum was announced I was slightly more than half in favour that we should remain but as I listened to the arguments of both sides over the past months, my feelings strengthened to an almost certainty. This was after listening to the economic arguments and opinion from family and friends as well as due to a sense of gratitude to the EU I feel for nudging us to clean our environment. (On the other, the UK leads in driving improved standards of animal welfare which is where I wish it to influence other EU countries).
It’s been an interesting time with many people raising their political voice in a debate they feel they can understand, like voting used to be!
Despite the subdued mood, I had fun today as I worked with my friend Jo on drafting the Six Napoleon bodice for her. The plan was to graft together the Elisalex and Charlotte Skirt Patterns – a process which results in what I understand is called a “Frankenpattern”. Jo and I started sewing at the same time – by coincidence – about ten years ago, starting with simple projects negotiated around raising small children (we met at a weekly mummy-run playgroup at the local community centre which we in turn organised). I remember how surprised I was to discover I had a fellow sewist in my circle – it wasn’t so trendy then! Not only that, but Jo told me her parents had given her the old Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, the very book I’d borrowed from Greenwich Library to teach myself with.
Jo, who’s quite a bit busier than me, has no experience of drafting but she is big a fan of By Hand London because the patterns fit her straight from the envelope. Even so, we had our work cut out for us. The Elisalex bodice is a bit short of the natural waist and the Charlotte skirt (which has more darts than I’d have asked for!) sits low. We had to fill in the grey area in between. We used lots of brown greaseproof paper for tracing and Sellotape for sticking it together. The messy, parchment-like paperwork indeed looked like skin of a monster!
I love visiting Jo. Every corner of her home arouses my curiosity so that I feel compelled to go around asking ‘who made this!?’ and ‘where did you get that?’ and ‘how does this work?. Your typical nosy foreigner basically… Not that Jo’s home is cluttered! Just indicative of a happy, busy, creative family life.
When Jo quickly made up the first toile on her Bernina and put it on, she shouted: ‘it fits!’ But of course, it wasn’t to be. The front looked good enough but when she turned, the back told a different story. Masses of gaping at the neck and not enough width below the waist (the bit I’d filled in!). The hem was a big ragged too!
As we sat in the basement kitchen for draft 2, a mystery guest, in a tuxedo, watched us nonchalantly from the garden. Jo thinks he was looking for mice among the ferns.
Toile 2 fitted better but this time there was horizontal excess at the back so we pinched out a massive 4cm swayback (Jo has a cracking figure, very shaped, with long and slender limbs). With this sewn up in a dart, we pinned the bodice onto the dummy and carved it up using the Six Napoleon sketch as a guide as to where to place the seams.
Toile Number 2. Cotton fabric, vintage Laura Ashley
We cut along these lines and when I left Jo, she was pinning the pieces to paper and drawing 1cm seam allowances all around.
We’re not aiming for a close, corset-like fit for Jo. She would like to wear this as a top only, over a skirt or with jeans. This threw up some interesting dilemmas:
- As a stand-alone garment, will the bodice be too short or will it provide adequate coverage over the stomach and hips?
- The zip is to be fitted onto the longer side of the bodice. Even so, will this opening be wide enough to squeeze into the garment?
- Maybe the zipper should be top to bottom, like an open-ended jacket zipper?
- In which case, can one buy a concealed zipper in this format?
- I’ve been making my own bodice too. After making a mistake when cutting the first pieces of the lining, I gave Jo strict instructions: cut fashion fabric right side up; cut lining fabric wrong side up. So that they fit each other.
- Finally… After making a mistake when sewing my own bodice and lining… In what order do we attach the bodice and lining? Without ending up with the curse that is the infinity loop….! Any pointers gratefully received.
To be continued…