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

Blue Velvet

1 Silk velvet and applique lace collar

A few weeks ago I ran in a race where the ground was a variety of mud hitherto unknown to me.  Greased it seemed, this particular stretch of North Kent coastline.  Running felt like passing across rugs being swiped sideways from under me.  I made it to the finish but by then my mind had dismissed the whole experience as a bad dream.

Next year I’m gonna give this particular race another go, with spikes in my shoes!  And once the winter party season is here again, I’ll also give silk velvet the proper attention it deserves because, like with the run, getting to the end of this dress was achievable but at compromise to quality. Stitching lines drunkenly meandered left and right. Bust darts bore no resemblance to their name. And as for that uneven hem?  Not only shoddily sewn, I failed at cutting too: the hem truncates my legs exactly at that thickened point where the quad muscle and thigh fat gloopily combine.  Lovely.

The trouble is I had to rush.  Two parties loomed on the same weekend with two days of sewing available and I hadn’t a stitch appropriate to wear.  In the realm of the Great British Sewing Bee – a TV programme which should be rated 18+ for scenes of sustained peril –  two days might seem aplenty.  But when you feel the necessity for French seams and put in a lining, then have to clear your entire fluff-ridden work space to serve meals to a horde of ingrates….   Oh dear

1 Front collarPattern: the block, bodice and skirt. Waist darts changed to ease, shoulder dart moved to bust.

Neckline shaped to fit the lace collar (from Etsy.)

Fabric: silk-backed velvet (£12 a metre) from Unique Fabrics, Goldhawk Road.  You’ll find the silk velvets in a small corner of the basement which glows: amethyst, jade, tanzanite.  I went for sapphire this time.  The lining feels lovely and is either from Unique Fabrics or their sister shop two doors along.1 back collar1 Back collar and closure

Fastening: back opening, button and thread loop.  Excellent thread loop tutorial here.  This is my favourite bit and I wish I had a decent photo.  In the top one, I’ve raised one arm to pull up hair.  The light was gloomy for the second.

Clarks Chorus ThrillShoes: Clarks “Chorus”.  Gorgeous, sumptuous, comfy.  But heel height is all wrong for me.  I might send them to the Shoe Collection at Northampton Museum – every donation tells a story!

Links: Debra H has brilliant tips not for just sewing silk velvet but also washing it, pressing, marking, interfacing…. none of which I read before making my dog’s dinner.  Colette patterns published a tip yesterday about fabrics that drift.  Let me know if anything worked for you.  And of course, Prof. Pincushion.

Rescue package: The double hem is hand-sewn so it shouldn’t take long to unpick and redo after claiming some extra length.  As Debra suggests, I’ll use an organza bias strip to sew to the edge, then flip to the inside and catchstitch.  With a bit of luck, it’ll give this floppy, wayward fabric a soft but defined edge.

1 Jacobite GentlemanIs this a keeper, do you think?  If yes, what do you suggest I style it with (is the mad hair a bit much?  I can straighten it, you know!)?

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!

Achtung, Dahlia!

1 Colette Dahlia by Sew2pro1 Colette Dahlia Pattern EnvelopeI bought this pattern almost immediately upon its release and tested it with a muslin.  However, just as I was about to finish the real thing, the machine and I got turfed out of my sewing space to make space for a Christmas tree and associated clutter.

The photos on the Colette Patterns website show a Version 1 of the Dahlia in a rich green modelled by a dark-haired beauty bearing a resemblance to Nigella Lawson in her Italianate edition.  One day, if the occasion demands it, I will make a jewel-coloured Dahlia just like that and try to claim some of that La Dolce Vita glamour but it’s winter now and I want warmth – to compensate for a neckline so wide, it’s guaranteed to make the baps freeze!1 La Dolce Vita

Materials

1 Inside out Lined DahliaThis mock-wool (ok, polyester) at £8 a metre comes from A Crafty Needle in West Wickham.  The lining is black acetate.  I think lining is essential and makes the dress look more substantial than the rather droopy one on the pattern envelope.  This adds hours of sewing time and renders it more of an intermediate than a beginner project, particularly as I lined the kick-back pleat (using my tutorial).  For the black binding, I used leather (phwoar!) by cutting 4cm strips from a soft black offcut in my Wested Leather bundle.  It has a matt texture that goes perfectly with the grey and black in the fabric.  I wanted to keep as much length as I could so instead of hemming, I used home-made cotton bias tape which, though not visible from the outside, complements the neck and sleeve binding.

Pattern Matching

1 Zip side seamColette has produced a free how-to-match-plaid tutorial which you may find of use but with a more complicated plaid where there is a horizontal and vertical repeat and not necessarily a symmetry along the lines, you must proceed with caution before cutting (or else...!!).  I found it impossible to facilitate a match in the bodice and yoke seam  on the zip side, but I don’t think it shows (what do you think?  See right).  The match is almost spot on in all the more visible seams, i.e. in the skirt seams and the sleeves to bodice.

Yoke Bias

My only major dislike of this dress comes from the decision to cut the yoke on the bias, as suggested by Colette, with the yoke lining (same pattern piece as the yoke) cut on the straight grain.  In theory, on the outside, this adds interest to the layout of the plaid whereas the straight inner layer makes the waist sturdy without the thickness that may have come from interfacing.  In practice, when putting the yoke and the yoke lining together, I found they were no longer the same size!  I had to sew on an extra piece to the yoke lining  or it would have literally fallen short.  If you examine the photo, you may spot that the waist is bit bleurgh – it could be tighter.  If you’re after the interesting diagonals, I recommend applying some light interfacing before the yoke is cut.

 

Raglan Sleeves1 Another Dahlia

These were 2cm too wide at the neckline, the excess jutting up from the shoulders, but as this was discovered before the neckline binding was applied, the fix was very simple.  Sew 3 rows of gathering stitches onto and within the seam allowance then pull to fit.  This results in a nicely cupped shoulder line with no puckers or gathers visible.  If you’re square of shoulder, gather evenly across the shoulder piece.  If your shoulders are more rounded, concentrate the gathers onto the sleeve front.

Sizing

Instinct and research told me to sew down a size so I made a 4 (this being the U.S. size).  It fits perfectly so if it helps you to know, I’m 36-28-38.  Add an inch to the last two if it’s Christmas!1 Po Faced Dahlia

 Yeah, I know, I should cheer up!

 

Santa Pins

1 santa feetsI’ve always envied Santa his chunky, fur-trimmed booties :-)   Several years ago, I was asked if I’d take part in a Christmas Caper where in return for racing some 6km while dressed in festive gear, I’d be given a Christmas Pudding and a chance to share some mince pies and mulled wine on the way home.  What’s not to like?  I used this as an opportunity to convert some cheap Christmas stockings from the market into open-bottomed boots which cover up my trainers.  At the time, my sewing skills were really basic but the boots looked just as cute as Santa’s and were easy to run in.  After a rather muddy outing last year, they needed to be remade so I’ve turned the project into a tutorial for anyone who likes the idea.

There are many ‘Santa Runs’ taking place during the weekends this Christmas season: it’s a popular, fun way of fundraising and getting kids to try distances of 2km – 5km.   But the costumes fall short of suggesting creativity or a carnival atmosphere.  1 Peek SantaTypically, the choice consists of papery, disposable Santa or elf costumes (landfill fodder),  whereas for those wishing to be more feminine (including cross-dressers), it’s fairies or red camisoles trimmed with white marabou feathers.  Now I understand most people lead really hectic lives these days and are too busy to sew but, hey – you’d think they’d prioritize…!!

You will need:

Two stockings, ribbon, elastic,

Two stockings, ribbon, elastic,

2 Christmas Stockings – mine are from the 99p Stores

1.5m – 2m of red ribbon, 2.5cm wide (an inch) or red bias binding.  The cheap stuff from the market will suffice.

If using ribbon, press on gentle heat so the ribbon is folded in half.

1.5m of elastic, 2.5cm wide.

Optional: Extra ribbon and jingle bells for attaching at the back (my bells are from old musical instruments by the Early Learning Centre)

 Method

Step 1 -  Slice off bottoms of stockings so they're at their widest.  Stitch where the seam has been cut.

Step 1 – Slice off bottoms of stockings so they’re at their widest. Stitch where the seam has been cut. Sew ribbon around the base of boot, sealing raw edges. You don’t have to be too refined; this is not your showcase!

Step 2  -  Unpick approx. 2.5cm of stitching at top of boot.  Sew over broken seam then fold over to base of trim and sew to form casing.  Cut elastic to fit your calves.  Insert elastic into casing and sew edges of elastic together. Close casing.

Step 2 – Unpick approx. 2.5cm of stitching at top of boot. Sew over broken seam then fold top to the base of trim. Sew, forming casing. Cut elastic to fit your calves. Insert elastic into casing and sew edges of elastic together. Slipstitch casing closed.

Step 3 - measure two strips of elastic to fit the ball and heel of your trainers, pluas seam allowances.  Sew the elastic pieces to base of boot, along the ribbon seam

Step 3 – Measure two strips of elastic to fit the ball and heel of each shoe, plus seam allowances. Sew the elastic pieces to base of boot, along the ribbon seam.

Step 4 (optional) - Attach bells at the back. Having gone to the trouble of sewing your booties, you want to attract as much attention as possible while wearing them, not pad by silently!

Step 4 (optional) – Attach bells at the back. Having gone to the trouble of sewing your booties, you want to attract as much attention as possible while wearing them, not pad by silently!

If you run on pavements and roads rather than mud, you’ll get several wears out of these.  You won’t trip (honest!) but you won’t break any speed records either.  One secret reason why I really like them is because, as with traditional Doc Martens, their chunkiness makes the rest of the pins (legs) appear relatively slim.

Now, can someone please point me in the direction of a Santa beard tutorial? 1 Santa feet

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.    😯

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

Bloghopping

Pleated gotas de amor fabric, Alexander HenryOr to give it its original title – “Writing Process Blog Hop“. My turn at a blog circular of distant and unknown origin (I could Google it I suppose).  This asks nominees just four simple question which the writer then passes on to others.  The invitation came from the energetic and ever-vibrant Ruth. Ruth’s answers and some of the others I’ve seen make an interesting read.  A common reason given as to why we write is we feel that after years of helping ourselves from the Internet (Life’s Eternal College), it’s time to give something back. But if you want more, here goes:


Why do I write what I do?

I’m filling time by developing new skills.  After going on a pattern-cutting course three years ago, I designed and made a skirt for a friend (she was about to go on holiday, didn’t know what to wear, didn’t have time to shop).  I got high on the uncertainty of “will this work or not” followed by the relief of a job well done and decided to maybe become a dressmaker for others.  Sew2pro is a record of the projects in my transition from amateur to pro.


What am I working on now?

Oh at least four things :roll:

River Island Lace Collar dress1.  A close-fitting version of this velvet swing dress from River Island.  I do love it but the colour of the original is too close to my skin tone so that from the distance I’d appear nude.

Plus, the style of the collar is a bit “Jacobean gentleman”.

My version will be in lilac/grey.

The lace collar from Etsy has arrived…

1 Lace collar from Etsy

1 gotas de amor fabric

2. There are a few parties coming up, beginning with one on 1st November: the Day of the Dead, when I want to wear a skirt made out of this Gotas De Amor fabric.  Possibly a pencil skirt (with a long, turquoise-blue satin-lined kick pleat at the back) but please feel free to suggest other kinds!

3. I’ve pinned the fabric into pleats (casual, rather than measured) onto the dummy here as I’m experimenting with creating my own version of the outfit worn very gorgeously by the Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley below (click on picture for link to the original article).  It’s a kind of Dior look which I’m not sure I’m slight enough to pull off or if I can get away with it considering my (lack of) height.  Jess Cartner-Morley Powerdressing Guardian 17 October 2014

My version will be dark, between red and black, but equally glossy.  I’ve got the chunky watch already, the perfect shirt and – despite Jess’ advice – I will wear pearls.  Or mother-of!  Wish me luck with fabric shopping.

4. I’ve yet to write about the two skirts I made recently.  Tomorrow promises to be sunny so it’s photoshoot time.


How does my work differ from others in the genre?

It’s only about stuff I’ve sewn – and often designed.  I rarely ruminate, there are no reviews of the latest Burda Magazine (but do let me know if it ever stops being ‘orrible) and I’ll never just show some stash.  Sometimes I may sneak in some talking cat photos (after all, we all have our weaknesses) or the odd exhibition review, but only if it involves stitching.


How does my writing process work?

I decide what 6-8 points need to be made in a post then I chew them over while I go for a run.  I ask myself how to put them in order.  Back home I write incoherent, incomplete sentences – often while doing several other jobs – then I start tidying up the text.  Typically, one or two points get trashed for the sake brevity and flow, but if I’m lucky a kind of narrative emerges.  If I’m doubly lucky, I might even get an amusing or original title for the post.

Yeah I know, not this time :-)


My nominees

Kate of Fit and Flare.  Kate has infinite knowledge and often reminds me that good presentation is an essential part of wellbeing rather than some vain preoccupation.  Kate, who works like a dynamo, has written her bloghopping post already.

Tialys who somewhere in south France sews, sells and looks after a charming menagerie of rescue animals :-)

I also invite you to view the world of the illustrator and photographer Nicky Linzey who, like Ruth, I’ve come to think of as a good friend these past two years though we’ve never met.  Each of her posts is like a deep breath of the kind of fresh air we don’t get much of in Sarf London!

Sureau II: The Pumpkin

2 mjI know what you’re thinking: “What has she been eating?!?”  But it’s not me, it’s this dress!  In it I feel immediately transformed into a member of a strict religious sect.  Hiding a pregnancy.1 Sureau Pattern Envelope

Deer & Doe Sureau with added collar

1 Sureau placket with self-covered shank buttonsThis version of Deer & Doe’s Sureau is a size smaller than the one I made before: 36 in the bodice and 38 in the skirt.  It fits very well.  To avoid the Maoist simplicity of the original pattern, I once again added cuffs to the sleeves and a collar but this time with pointed tips.  I also reinforced the back of the button placket with another layer so the shank buttons are sewn into proper buttonholes and don’t ‘sag’.  I think this was a good upgrade which adds a bit of couture to a basic design.  For the collar, I’d award myself the mark 3/5 as it doesn’t quite sit flat.  I’d have persevered and cut it again to perfection had I more fabric and if the design was more flattering.  But the only way I’m gonna wear this dress is if all my other clothes and dressing gown get burnt in a fire.

1 batikPart of the problem was that I had so little fabric and this dictated the length of the skirt.  Look how it cuts across the legs with the knees at their thickest.  The fabric is beautiful: a rust-coloured cotton batik with cream-gold and black.  It comes from a collection my mother acquired when living in Indonesia some years back and I’m very grateful that she entrusted me with it.  Earth tones don’t suit me generally but I thought with the remains of a summer tan and some reddish tints in my hair (Sun damage?  Chlorine?  Not sure.) that I might be able to get  away with it.

5 mjAfter these photos were taken, I changed back into my normal colours and felt a genuine sense of relief that I was myself again.  This might however work as a giveaway!  If you know of any pale, over-attractive blondes, redheads or dark-skinned girls with a 28″ waist approx who need to play it down with a bit of pumpkin frock, send them to me!

P.S.  Have you read the Colour Analysis posts on Fit and Flare blog?  Kate is a great help if you’re after some virtual research into what colours may suit you and why.

autumn leaves in Shortlands