Delia Grinstead

 

1 Pencil mummy“She noticed she walked differently now, not with her usual bouncy gait but more levelly, because of her slim skirt.”

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler

March’s been rough.  Slight but cutting professional disappointments, rubbish progress with my running, gloomy weather, mess from renovating work and, inevitably, finishing my coat to a standard that doesn’t satisfy.  March is always a month I  struggle with because my birthday is at the end and in the run-up I tend to evaluate my achievements of the past year and find them underwhelming.  Which is why it was absolutely wonderful to have been treated to a novel by one of my favourite authors, Anne Tyler, serialised on Radio 4, in 10 episodes that I was able to “rewind” whenever I missed anything because I was running the sewing machine too noisily (Anne Tyler is my literary equivalent of chicken soup).  1 Pencil sideI read ‘Ladder of Years’ when it was published  in the 1990s and again more recently so there were no surprises in the plot but, oh my, the first half of this story never fails to amaze.  It goes like this: while doing the family shop, Delia Grinstead is asked a favour by a handsome stranger.  He’d like Delia to impersonate his girlfriend so that his glamorous ex – who happens to be in the supermarket shopping with her new partner – is made jealous.  Delia complies, her life gains a bit of momentum and the next thing you know, she walks out on her family and starts a new life as a secretary in a different town!

Both the narrator and the actress reading Delia have wonderful voices which I could hear in my head as, for the purposes of this photo-shoot, I minced in my new pencil skirt imaging myself an efficient, unapproachable secretary on her coffee break.  I occasionally think of “doing a Delia” myself, i.e. taking a long walk to a new life.  No way am I going to.  It’s just a revenge fantasy I pull out when I’m having a bad day :-) But I’d like to know: is this normal amongst women who disappear into family life and Anne Tyler just picked up on it, or did the author plant the idea in my head!?

Another case of pencil

I couldn’t resist making this skirt out of my coat wool and lining.  Just when I thought there were no further observations I could make about this pattern, a few cropped up during the making so here they are in case you’re making a pencil yourself.

Drafting

  • To create the siren silhouette, use your basic skirt block but narrow the hem by a total of about 8cm compared to the widest part (the hip).  This difference is easier to achieve if the skirt is long.  Here’s a chart of measurements for a RTW version: Boden pencil skirt.  You can see how the hem and hip circumferences vary and also depend on whether you choose the long (L) or regular (R) length.1 Pencil skirt, inside out
  • Of course, a skirt that’s narrow at the hem will be hard to walk in so you will need a slit or a kick pleat.  Here’s my lined kick pleat tutorial if you’re making a skirt with lining.  Inside out, the final result looks like this:
  • Another way to lengthen the distance from waist to hem is to raise the top with a grown-on waist.  It’s a flattering option for those with a high waist but I’m wary of this for myself on account of the widest part of my hips being 30cm lower than my waist.  I’d look high-waisted but stumpy.  On the other hand, with a heart-shape-hipped figure, it would emphasise long legs.  Which hip shape are you?
click on pic for source

click on pic for source

 

Waistband

If your wool skirt has a waistband, I recommend using Petersham ribbon.  Wool next to skin can be scratchy as I found on my previous make when I kept pulling up my tights so skin and skirt wouldn’t be in contact.

Pattern placement

If you’re using large scale checks like these, consider their placement tactically according to body parts you wish to emphasise or hide.

  • dark bands of colour should go across the widest part if you want your hips to appear narrower, and vice versa.
  • consider at which part of the squares your hem line will lie.  I find that cutting a square in half creates an impression of shortness.  The ideal is three quarters down a pale block.  Unless your legs are really long and you don’t like that (who are you?!)

P. S. I love drinking from this mug my friend gave me.  Not just ’cause of the buttons but the china is lovely too.1 Mug

Mender Be!

1 capris

1t hole in carDo you rush from one new sewing project to the next while turning your back on an ever growing pile of not-quite-wearable items that could be put right in an hour or so?  Do bits of your children’s uniforms go missing at school because you can’t be bothered to sew on name tapes  – it’s too boring?  And has your husband been asking for months when you’re going to stitch up that hole in the car flooring which you gouged out driving in killer heels?!

Ok, so that last one is a bit specific :-) but if the above ring true, then  you’re like me.  When you could be like Lesley, who first fixes something from the unglamorous pile.   In ‘Mending is Good for the Psyche’, Lesley says: the mending can be anything big or small, sometimes the thing I mend is very quick, it depends on how much time I have, but I feel justified in moving on to other more exciting projects having completed my ‘work’.  How sensible is that, not to mention virtuous!  I’m thinking of adopting Lesley’s strategy though it’ll take some discipline.

Here’s a quick embellishment project in which I mended a situation.  Last year, I bought some Primark jeans and I’ve been looking at them ever since.  Initially attracted by their colour and cheapness, I tried them on in the changing room and they seemed to adequately cover my backside – a rare treat in low-rise skinnies.  Unfortunately, within minutes of putting them on for wearing (i.e. walking and sitting down, rather than standing in a changing room) the fabric, which is a cotton and polyester mix with 1% Lycra, would stretch and stretch turning the jeans saggy and turning my mood instantly to drab.  It seemed cruel to pass them on to a charity shop for some other schmuck to buy, thinking she’d grabbed herself a bargain, so I eventually pressed them flat inside out and sewed 1cm into the outer seam, from the hip rivet to just below the knee.  So now they fit better, like slightly wrinkly running tights, but with spring in the air, I no longer needed tight jeans.  I needed something frivolous and summery, like these jeans cut into capris that I spotted on Pinterest (click on pic for tutorial): 1 original plan

I planned on using leather instead of bias binding (I hear you’re getting sick of my ever-giving bundle of leather.  Me too!).  Unfortunately – and I wonder how I didn’t foresee this – leather straps when folded like bias strips end up really thick and don’t tie so well…  So then I thought I’d do a button trick recently pulled by  Tialys, so I cut the ties, closed the keyhole and covered up raw edges with two buttons.  This looked well cute but now the leg openings were so tight around my calves, we had to call an ambulance!  1 Warts and all

Once I was cut free, the capris were shorter still, but I remade the keyholes further up and used straight 3cm leather ribbons as ties.

I just about got away with it.  I think!

 1 Side capris

The tutorial

- The optimal hem length for capris is below the widest part of your calf muscle.  For me, this would mean an inside leg length of 54.5cm (but my final version is above the calf muscle, on account of things going wrong…). Never cut at the widest part of the leg.

- This is a straight-forward hemming with bias binding procedure without finesse; you probably don’t need a tute at all, but if you’re a beginner and something’s not clear, just ask!

- To make denim bias binding for the keyhole, I used the leg cut offs.  I had to join two pieces to have sufficient length of binding for each keyhole.

- For the topstitching in the final step, I used tough upholstery thread and a new (sharp) leather needle.

- This would look charming with 3cm double-sided strips made of patterned lawn/poplin  or denim on the reverse.

Ok, here we go:

4cm denim bias binding made of cut offs

Step 1: make 1cm bias binding out of 4cm strips. Length required = length of keyhole plus 2cm, more if you can spare. One for each leg!

Draw a keyhole shape on bottom side seam.  Try on the jeans.  If the keyhole stretches too much, redraw.  Stich along line to staystich then cut close to the stitching line.

Step 2: Hem jeans to desired length *not shown, sorry * Draw a keyhole shape on bottom of side seam. Try on the jeans. If the keyhole stretches too wide once your jeans are on, redraw. Stich along line to staystich then cut close to the stitching line.

1 strips of leather or ribbon 3cm by 19cm approx

Step 3: Prepare strips or ribbons, 2 for each leg. These are leather: 3cm by 19cm each. Fabric strips can be shorter as the knots will be less thick.

1 pin leather with bias binding to keyhole

Step 4 a): Pin right side leather to right side garment. Pin bias binding to the wrong side, 1cm folded under

1 wrong side

Step 4 b); view on wrong side. Stitch along 1cm line. Before reaching opposite end of keyhole, arrange second leather strip right sides together as in Step 4 a) and fold bias strip under 1cm then stitch to end.

1 rightside, pinned for topstitching

Step 5: on right side, pin and topstitch the bias binding. Fold strips/ribbons back over the keyhole and topstitch. Use contrasting thread if you like.

1 leather ribbon capri embellishment detail

Finished: a bit rough-hewn but quick and effective.

I’ve another hardly worn pair of jeans – flares from Boden, in fact — that I’d like to restyle.  If you have any nice ideas, let me know!

Coat Progress

1 McCalls 5766 Half Done1 Front pleats and pattern matchingDuring the last couple of weeks, the shops have filled with light garments and accessories in the colours of bright skies, blue-tinged grass and lemon mousse.  In every palette is a reminder that Easter is on the way.

And here’s me sewing my woolly winter coat.  Oh well, it’ll be finished by next winter :-)

This is half of the sewing finished and most of the hard thinking over.  I wanted to show you pictures of the half-decent job I’ve done, in case it’s all doom and gloom later.

The bodice is interfaced throughout even though the instructions didn’t ask for it: very light fusible interfacing on the side bodice front and light calico at the back.  There’s a risk that this might make the finished garment a bit formal and stiff-looking.1 back view inside out

1 Trimming interfacing to slim down the seam allowances before catchstitchingAnother deviation from the instructions: I cut away the interfacing or calico from the seam allowances to reduce bulk then pressed the waist seam open (rather than up, as told) with a herringbone stitch locking the seams back.  So far all the seams have been finished like this using a grey silk thread which was a joy to discover – so light and never visible on right side of garment.  And I’ve developed a fetish for the herringbone, in fact: it’s rather good-looking for a hand stitch and I like going left to right for a change.1 Herrinbone stitch

Oh look, the roll line tape!  1 tape on roll line

I suspect it isn’t doing anything functional but it sounds good.

Remember how when I introduced you to this fabric and pattern (in Shrek), some of you wisely warned that I was heading for pattern-matching hell if I chose to go ahead with a check.  It did take a long time to decide, before cutting, where to position the squares and the lines in relation to the garment edges and stitching lines but to tell the truth, I enjoyed it in – much the same way I loved this 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle my kids got last Christmas :-)   1Check coats

The hardest decision was where to place pattern piece 1: the front bodice (with the lovely lapel) which was the first cut.  Horizontally there were options but the vertical placement was harder so while shopping, I looked at RTW coats and those worn in the street to see if there’s a convention as to where to place the vertical edges (typically button closure  fastening or zip).  If you look at the coats above, this line never seems to be on a box edge, but somewhere in the middle.  Only when I’m finished will I know if I did ok.1 McCalls 5766 Techncal Drawing

I’ve had to compromise in matching the pleats to the check design. I could make a match by folding in slightly more fabric on the front  but doing this to the back just never added up (you did warm…)  so I had to drop a pleat with now just two at the back instead of four (see techie drawing).  Let’s hope none one notices.

1 McCalls 5766 minus a back pleat

A tailor once told me that with wool being so expensive, if ever a cutting apprentice made a mistake and wasted any, he or she would be shamed and the cost would be deducted from the wages (is it any wonder they all want to work in graphic design and IT now!?).  Through a lack of concentration I did waste a couple of smaller bodice pieces which at £12 a meter I could laugh off but this better not happen when I come to cut the sleeves as the man from Bromley market has reached the end of his last bolt!  There’s plenty left of his other wools which are interesting but the colours are duller and more wintery, whereas mine looks like it loves the early spring sun.1 daffs

I might need a blouse in ‘daffodil’ next!

1 McCalls 5766 Finished Pocket

1 Marking checks on pattern piece

Shrek!

1 Zany McCalls 5766

Muslin McCalls 5766 back and frontI can explain….

1 McCalls 5766 Pattern EnvelopeThis isn’t some garish costume I made for one of the courtiers in “Shrek, the Musical”.  What I’ve done is used old children’s room curtains – originally dyed  to match cheerful IKEA Mammut furniture – to make a muslin for McCall’s 5766.  This is an out of print coat pattern I first  came across when Anelise made it.  Hers is a fantastic version in red fur, no less!  I needed a winter coat and after reading some good reviews on SPR, I bought the pattern second hand (but unused) through Ebay.  Mine is the combination AX5 (sizes 4-12) and I made size 12.  This has a finished size of 38″ (97cm) in the bust, exactly the same as my RTW coat that I wear all the time and which is size 10.

1t zero maria cornejo lab coatThe shape is very different from the coats that have been all the rage the last season or two – which I call the Manta Ray because they bulge out in the middle.  Lovely as they are, Rays do my short arse (pardon my Yorkshire!) no favours.  McCall’s 5766 follows the empire line which I’m not sure is any better, to be honest.  There are several questions I have before I proceed and I’d very much appreciate your thoughts.

I think we can all safely agree that the biggest problem is the sleeves.  1 McCalls 5766 Techncal DrawingView C is the only full length in the pattern.  Shortening them would help (they’re 4cm too long and possibly too wide).  But my initial verdict trying on the balloon shape?  Zany.  It’s a look that can be offset by wearing dainty high heels but I’d like to be able to wear this coat with flat boots without looking, er, medieval.  Though I like Views A and B, coats that need to be worn with long gloves don’t suit my lifestyle much.

Do you think it would be a cop-out to make just plain old straight sleeves?  I’m worried that it would make the coat plain.  Is there any other full length sleeve shape that you suggest?  And those shoulder pads are too big, aren’t they?

1 Instructions McCalls 5766The instructions were easy to follow.  I didn’t use any interfacing but as there was plenty of curtain, I made the whole coat, including attaching the lining, to remind myself of what to do.  Since starting this blog, I’ve done a couple of tailoring courses (one blogged here, the other was here) but I have never utilized the lessons learnt by making an actual tailored garment.  This coat project was picked with the aim of adding tailoring techniques to improve on a basic.  The add-ons will be:

a) A sleeve head (or sleeve roll?).  This is a folded strip of flannel or domette attached to the top of the sleeve seamline to smooth out the outside appearance at the top of the sleeve.

b) A strip of interfacing fused to the hem to sharpen that bottom edge.

1 Pinned Roll Line on Muslin McCalls 5766c) Taping the roll line.  This inside strip is stretched over the roll line with the effect of making the front of the garment subtly concave, thereby following the hollowed shape below the shoulder.  The roll line on this pattern isn’t marked but I’m following the instructions in this Tailoring guide (from Morplan) to determine and mark its position.  Basically, you pin the roll line, press it, then copy its position onto the pattern.

Anything else you’d suggest?

1 Tailoring By Apple Press, 2005 Creating Publishing InternationalAs you can see, the facing of the coat has rolled outwards (See the first picture?   The facing’s yellow).  I notice my RTW coat suffers from this too. It’s something I’ll have to prevent when it comes to doing the real thing in wool.  Do you have any tips for making the outside of the garment roll inwards?

Finally, I’m not happy with the lower half of the armscye.  I think it’s too big and cuts too deeply into the bodice.  Should I extend the bodice into the sleeve and make the underarm higher?

1 Sleeve C and Armscye McCalls 5766

1 Blogstalker fabric-sittingI’m also including a picture of the fabrics I intend to use.  Yup, it’s gonna be a plaid-matching nightmare which is all the more reason why I needed a muslin – to show where the lines would lie.

But do you think there’s enough fur here for such a big collar?

I’m kidding.

Thanks for reading!

Skin Traps

1 Embrace your inner evil

1 SleeveIn the last two weeks I’ve been busy with two projects, both picked on the spur of the moment and causing other plans to be put aside.  Both turned out to be epic fails.   The first –  a Renfrew hacked into a dress – I will go into on another occasion when I’ve dusted myself off the defeat and remade it.  The second is this self-drafted T-shirt with leather elements, initially inspired by this gem I found via Pinterest.  Of course, I had to experiment and make the design more complicated and that’s when things went wrong.  Twice (that is, in two places)!  But I’m glad I didn’t jettison the whole thing into the bin.

1 Wested Leather bundle of offcutsI don’t suppose you’ve ever wondered where Indiana Jones‘ brown leather jacket came from?  Well I’ll tell you anyway.  :-)  It was made by Wested Leather, a company and workshop near here, in Kent.  I bought online one of their £5 bundles of off-cuts.  I wasn’t sure what I’d get; I was told to expect a mixture of black and brown.  I ended up with this: the biggest piece being a half (front?) bodice in thick brown leather and the other pieces smaller and finer.

The industry that produces leather is a notorious pollutant and – being a hippyish type –  I take no pride in being mad for it.  But to me, there is no good-enough substitute: the shoes and boots that with wear adopt your shape; the feel, warmth and durability of a leather jacket or jeans.  The look of the grain; the softness of suede.  Most of all, I love how leather smells.  Is there anything more heady?  When I opened the package, my living room turned to nirvana and all the time I was working on this project, the cat (who stalks me) and I operated at a heightened level of exciement.    8O

1 Back viewFor the pattern I drafted a blouse from my block.  A bust dart provides shape and ease replaces the front waist dart.  The back has contour darts (the back looks a mess!)

I used my corner-pleat sleeve tutorial to draft the sleeves, then made another pattern with added style lines that would enable the insertion of some small leather pieces from the bundle.

But just as I thought I was done, I looked in the mirror and saw…. the love child of an American Football player and Darth Vader.  My shoulders were HUGE and not in a sexy Alexis Colby way either.  I sewed down some of the corners, thereby ruining the square geometry but just about getting away with a less conspicuous look: – the result you see here.

t 1 Floppus EpicusSewing the neckline caused more problems.  The needlecord and the leather wouldn’t fold under equally –  and it didn’t help that I could press the cloth but not the leather.  This is what the shirt looked like last week, when again I thought I was done.  Each photo accentuated the dog’s dinner of a neckline, with a pulling to the side.   I simply couldn’t take the risk of wearing it like this and having people say: “Did you make that yourself?” while wearing a disgusted expression.  But I couldn’t throw away, not after all that work.  Besides it still smelt good!  So I unpicked the neckline, exposing holes in the leather that would never heal. :roll:   I trimmed off some of the distortion (you may notice an unevenness in shoulder width) and made bias binding out of needlecord  as I didn’t have enough matching leather for the purpose.

1 sideIt was an adventure!

I’ll be wearing this next week to a gig, when one of my favourite bands rolls into town.  No one will see the imperfections – it’ll be too dark.  But boy, will those jutting shoulders smell good as I push through the crowd!

A Simple Dart Throw

1 Skirt back

1 Back on dummyIf you’re playing around with your basic skirt block and thinking of moving the back dart from the waist seam where it’s typically found, there aren’t that many places it can go.  This is why so often we make the dart just disappear into figure-hugging princess seams!  In making this pencil skirt, I moved the dart onto the centre back, halfway between the lapped zip and the kick pleat.  It’s very long and the angle is sharp: not a particularly attractive feature.  So why did I bother?

The answer is: this is a muslin and the first step towards something more difficult.

1 fishtailA couple of posts ago, I asked for your ideas on skirts and Ruth suggested I make a close-fitting pencil with a fish tail.  I went straight to Pinterest to look for mermaidy images and found one particular design that appealed, which you see on the left. Unfortunately I haven’t the original source for the picture.  My version will, I hope, be subtler with less fabric involved: more like what you see here in fact.  But first I needed to be satisfied that the simple elements work and give a good fit.

1 Pencil skirt1 Front darts

Hm, I might need to make it longer and more narrow at the knees but that’s easy enough.

This makes a useful addition to the wardrobe and cost nothing.  The zip was salvaged; the fabric a leftover (from Vogue 1247) and the lining fabric just appeared as I was trying to stuff some drawers shut!

Check this out: something weird happens when I put the skirt front down on the table. See how it refuses to lie flat? It’s like this skirt wants to turn into a wok!

1 Skirt back on tableI suspect this dart placement is  good choice if you want to hug a fashionably big bottom.

It’s all about that bass, I’m told.

How to:

If you’re not familiar with moving darts using the slash n’ spread method, you might benefit from this crude tutorial.  The process is really easy.  You do need 2 large lots of paper.

Step 1.  Make a copy of the skirt back.  Extend the waist dart so the dart point is at the base of your bottom.

1

1

 

Step 2. Draw a line from the dart point to the centre back seam.  Cut along the new line, then cut along one of the original dart legs.

2

2

Step 3. Close the waist dart.  The new dart will open.  To complete the pattern, pin in this position onto another paper layer.  Draw around.  Remove original.  On the new layer, fold the dart closed and pin in this position (I like to pin darts down).  Draw seam and hem allowances all around and cut out pattern.  Unpin dart.

3

3

1 Got it

Links:  Excellent Lapped Zip Tutorial: Part 1 and Part 2.

Skirt One, Skirt Two

1 JCrew Cheetah Wool ScarfRecently I’ve  noticed some very tempting Ready-to-Wear pieces of animal print labelled ‘Cheetah’, such as this ferociously expensive scarf from JCrew.  I assumed Cheetah was a just a fashionable way of saying Leopard and wondered if this faux fur I bought could be called Cheetah too.  faux leopard

But there’s an obvious difference I find, very scientifically explained here.  Cheetah fur – which looks slightly dishevelled compared to that of a sleek leopard – has spots of solid dark brown whereas leopard spots are ‘rosettes’ with a paler brown pooled inside.

Purry furry skirtThe interesting thing about my fabric is that it’s imprinted with a wavy texture which takes the nap in different directions.  I can’t help but being reminded of a certain IKEA mirror often present in student houses or in speedy home makeover programmes.  It’s called Krabb.  Oh look!  Like a right opportunist, I’m in IKEA standing next to Krabb and smiling cheesily while wearing my finished skirt!

I once snapped up a mere remnant of this fabric and made a mini as one of my first ever blogging tutorials.  It wasn’t my favourite garment but it was tactile, cute, the colours were warm and pleasantly glowing and I wore it till the lining shredded and the zip went.  This time, there was a whole bolt of the stuff in a shop on the Tesco side of Goldhawk Road.  I could have gone all-animal and made a long, curly wurly coat (and maybe I should) but instead, I bought a 1.5m and went A-line.

And there was enough to make a gathered skirt with a waistband for my daughter too.  Like the Krabb product, this was cheap, cheerful and in a pair.  But best not to be seen side by side!Leopard girl

1 cheetah hil

You want to get some meatballs now

A Dress with Teeth…

Galarija Mestrovic… and a back story too.

1t SharkeezMy son turned 4 just after my daughter was born so the preparation for his birthday party in the year 2004 were somewhat bare bones.  Luckily, in the supermarket I found the best birthday cake ever!  It was very blue with the icing made to look like the sea and, swimming in it, a shark!  And dotted around, arms and legs.

The cake was very popular, not just for the torn limbs and the shark.  If you ever find yourself entertaining and want to drive your guests wild*, may I recommend you serve artificially coloured blue food?!  Wanting to repeat this serendipitous success, I’ve looked for Shark Attack Cake many birthdays since but the supermarkets no longer sell it and the shop assistants, when asked, look doubtful that it ever existed.

1 dress with teethHowever, a while back in Goldhawk Road, I found a fabric that immediately made me recall the fabled, gruesome product.  I bought it to make my son a Hawaiian shirt or some Bermudas but after suggesting this a couple of times, I got the impression he was totally indifferent to the idea.   So instead, for her 10th birthday I made my daughter a dress.

It’s basically two rectangles, the total width at least double the waist measurement plus seam allowances.  The dress is held up by two sets of rouleau  strips. The top edge is first finished with a rolled hem (I used a zigzag stitch, which looks like little teeth!).

Rouleau strips and zigzag roll hem

 The shirring begins 1.5cm below bodice edge, though with a toddler or a smaller person, you can start at 1.2cm and if making for an adult, then 2cm might be more in proportion, depending on the person.  The rows of shirring here are spaced 1.5cm apart, though once again, you should keep this in proportion if you’re making a dress for an adult.  And there’s no reason why the same ‘pattern’ couldn’t be used for a shirred bodice of a maxi dress.

Shark dress with extra teethYou might want to trim your dress with some teeth like I did.  I used two strips of bias in a silvery grey and bagged them after lots of zigzagging.  It added a few hours to the project which were worth it as this definitely gives the dress an edge!

If you’ve never tried shirring, it’s easy: normal thread on top, shirring elastic wound into the bobbin.  Experiment with scraps to get the right tension then draw your lines onto the right side of fabric and sew.

Tip: to keep the elastic inside bobbin when you begin winding, affix the end of elastic thread to the top of the bobbin case with a tiny sliver of Magic Tape.

Tip: don’t use grandma’s shirring elastic that you inherited with her haberdashery box.  Elastic has a shelf life so buy fresh!

My daughter wore the dress so much all summer that its red has begun to fade!  She wore it on the day of my son’s 14th birthday when we visited the Aquarium in my home town.  And look what happened there!  My dad got eaten by a shark…

Nice to be back!

1 Tata

* Note: in some countries, blue artificial food colouring is illegal!

And Add Sleeve

1 Sleeve quarter1 Royal crescent curveDo you like this: instead of a sleeve, a cap is formed from three 25cm strips of fabric in a kind of braid-arrangement looping over or under each other?  I wanted something unusual-looking to complete the asymmetrical blouse and the idea came from a cheap jersey top I bought from H&M  – don’t judge me –  probably in 2011 and which had similar sleeves.  It’s a top I kept in a rag drawer long after it wore out with the idea of copying it some day, but guess what?  I decided during a recent clear out that I was never going to find the time to copy it so I chucked it.  Oh, what a plonker!  1 Sleeve plan

Last week I spent hours puzzling over how to size the pieces and how to fit them to resemble the original’s grace and harmony.  This is Draft #1.  It looks fine but takes some adjustment (fiddling) in order to do so.

1 MaybeA tartan diversion: the pictures above were taken by my mum outside the apartment in which we were staying in Edinburgh last week.  We went there for her birthday and for me to run the Edinburgh Marathon.  Check out my pre-race bin bag couture:  no cheap black stuff for me…1 Binbag Couture

Simple Human bin bags are probably more expensive than some of the fabrics that I buy but they were all I could find under the kitchen sink on a wet Sunday morning.  Besides, the drawstring made such a handy waistband for the skirt!

You might find interesting this sample of Tartan I found in Greyfriars with the explanation of why certain colours made it into the weave.  Click to enlarge the text: it’s a good read.  I wonder what my tartan would have.  Black, of course, then green, turquoise and blue of the Dalmatian coast where I’m from.  Shocking pink is nice too!  What would you choose?  I found my recent hunt for tartan rather disappointing with all colours on offer reminding me of school kilts.

1 Greyfriars Tartan

Sister Salamanca

1 Sister SalamancaThe shops are full of cowboy-style shirts with pearl stud openings and breast pockets, usually in denim or check.  For months I’ve been meaning to make my own version; one that’s a bit badass, like something  the Salamanca cousins would wear with their skull-tipped boots while on a (probably murderous) Saturday night out.

1 Guess whatCue experimentation with designing a cheerful, kitschy sugar skull motif.  I made a copy of the yoke in a pearly-silver fabric and sandwiched it between the yoke and the shirt back (which is in a fine Italian needlecord from Fabric House, again).  The skull and the flowers are cut away from the yoke which is zigzag-stitched to the foil.

1 Salamanca shirt yokeThe sparkly pink and magenta bits used to be the fabric wings of my daughter’s Barbie Mariposa doll: yes, I’m mean!!  The green, sew-on jewels were from one of the haberdashers alongside Walthamstow market and I also used some Gutermann metallic thread.

1 Close up

The inspiration for the design of the actual shirt came from an altogether different telly source: Madonna!  Remember her super video for the equally excellent Don’t Tell Me?  I’m not talking of the check shirt she wears at the start but the clingy  leather (or probably even  latex) number she wears just over half-way through, during the line dancing routine.  Click hereMadonna Don't Tell Me.

Oi, eyes off the cowboys!  You’re supposed to be looking at Madge’s shirt.

Oh I see…. You were admiring the dancing.

Me too :-)

1 PipingFor the body of the shirt, I used an old Butterick 4607 pattern, which I have some reservations about as it’s way oversized (I’m a 12 but made an 8) and a bit on the dowdy side – Madge would not approve.  I changed the bottom edge of the yoke and gave the collar a 70s look.  The sleeves are completely different to the original.  I made them leg of mutton (I wonder if Madge, like me, winces at the mention of the word!), kept the width but then put 5 equally spaced pleats between the bicep and the elbow so that they’re narrowed before widening out again.  I’m particularly pleased to have worked out how to make piped cuff plackets – that was a brain-draining afternoon or two, I can tell you.  1 Cuff

The pearl press studs match the piping and the foil.  To finish off the project, I took a trip to Soho and had the studs inserted professionally at  a cost of £4.40 for 11 by DM Buttonholes.  Much better than hammering them in myself on the chopping board using the steak tenderizer!

Whatcha think?!  If you were a cowgirl broken bad, how would yours look?

1 Reculver Cowgirl

Location: Reculver