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

 

Me-Made-May & Giveaway

“I,  Marianna of Sew2Pro, hereby pledge allegiance to the worthy cause that is Me-Made-May.  Each day in the month of May ’13, I shall wear at least one garment made by myself.  And should the skies curse us with the same cold and ceaseless rain as we bore almost every day of May ’12 (grits teeth), I shall be covered; for I shall finally sew replacement lining for my old RTW coats and one leather jacket.  It’s my most procrastinated project ever!”

To kick off M-M-M, I’m wearing the latest Laurel (review here) with which I’ve entered the Laurel Contest.  Have you seen how many entries there are!?  They’re an imaginative, creative bunch, these sewists who favour independent patterns.  In other words, I don’t stand a chance of winning!  But I love my new dress.  The fabric, Zen Charmer from Alexander Henry, is from 2008, a stash treasure, and I hope I do it justice even as I currently wear it with flip-flops, horrendously neglected winter feet and leggings 😯 …. 

Are you taking part in Me-Made-May ’13?  Others’ outfits can be seen on this Flickr page.

But you’re here for the Giveaway!  Wow, that one was complicated.  Here are the results:

Laurel: Patty

Lily: Janey

Jasmine: Caroline

Clover: Sophie

Guys, I’m emailing you for your addresses.  Everybody else who commented on my previous post, thanks.  I’ve never had so many compliments. 

Oh, and if anyone has any good tips or links for sewing lining replacements, please pass ’em on!

Viva Frida

Every year, I make myself a Feelgood Dress of the Summer.  Last year, it was the Burda 7378, now being worn almost daily during this current spell of a well-deserved British Summer!  For this year, I’d long ago earmarked Burda 7493.

I liked the tabs and buttons of View A, but felt that my chosen fabric needed simplicity so I left out the pockets and the topstitching.  Though I noticed that the pattern was marked “of average difficulty”, with a 3/4 rating, I just kind of optimistically assumed that this referred to the jacket…

The Fabric

My fabric: 2 yards of a cotton poplin from Alexander Henry via Ebay.  The print is called Viva Frida and features colourful images inspired by Frida Kahlo, her art and her life in Mexico.

There are many images of flowers and plants, there’s a Diego Rivera face in a cactus, love hearts as well as slogans saying “Amor Calor Dolor Dador” (Love Warmth Pain Giving) and “nada vale mas que la risa y el desprecio” (Nothing’s worth more than laughter and contempt).

It’s the kind of fabric you go for if you’ve always wanted tattoos but were afraid to ask.  Or if you don’t mind slightly shocked strangers stopping you in the street saying “where did you get that dress…?”  I’d used the fabric once before, years ago, to make a much loved version of New Look 6459.  But washing and UV exposure had taken their toll.  Compare the old and the new:

The Pattern Review

I was surprised that B7493 hadn’t been reviewed more widely, seeing how the model  on the envelope looked so lovely and happy wearing it….  SPR  had a couple of write-ups and these gave clues as to where the problems might lie:  

1. The waist fit 

2. The neckband

To which I’d also like to add:

3. The neckband, the Sequel.

Waist

If your figure is hourglass or pear, you might need to make a muslin as this dress is better suited to the figure with less of a waist/hip differential.  I made size 12 which left almost no ease at the hips and I reduced the waist from armhole and hip by a total of 5cm.  

Beware that the bodice and skirt (and all the side panels) join together an inch above the actual waistline.

Also be aware that since the dress doesn’t get its neckband till later, it won’t stay up when you’re checking the fit.  I considered pinning it to my bra straps but at the back I couldn’t reach.  In the end, I stuck it to myself with parcel tape.  Consider having a friend around…

On the plus side, the panels in the design do seem to create in a nice, figure-hugging effect.  And if you get it perfect, the whole thing is enhanced by tab and button.

Neckband

The outer part of the neckband is interfaced, the inner isn’t.  I suspect that since it curves and is on the bias at times, it stretches.  Sewing it to the interfaced piece (already attached to the dress) will require all your intermediate sewing skills to come to the fore.  No matter how much care I took, the folded edge always seemed 2cm bigger (sewing the armholes by the same method hadn’t created any problems).  Solutions: choose the lightest interfacing and apply to both neckband pieces and press, press, press: never slide your iron.  Alternatively, staystitch the inner neckband straight after cutting.

These options came too late for me.  My solution was a couple of tucks on the inside:

But what’s that on the right?

Ah, yes, another neckband issue.  Once the dress is completely finished, you put it on and get this:

A bra strap miles away from the neckband!  Only recently at Sew Ruth’s I’d read about creating a system with which to keep straps hidden.  It seemed the only solution here, bar going bra-less.  Luckily I had tiny snap fasteners and matching ribbon in my stash but the curved shape meant I had to put four of these in: two at the front and two at the back.Though the system works, you can tell that the neckband is strained somewhat. 

Worse, it means that I’m going to need a personal dresser to clip in the back straps for me…. 

 

Other Pattern Modifications

Side Zip – in order not to cut up my fabric too much (and risk the graphics repeating too closely), I put the zip in at the side and left out the centre back slit.  This means that to get into the dress, I have to put it on over my head (I’m studying the Houdini method for tips on how to do this easily).  It also means that the tabs have to have buttonholes so I could put them on last.

Conclusion

A less than professional execution of a dress that was challenging to make and might be more challenging still to wear.  But I think it looks good as a smart summer dress.  What do you think? 

Me-Made-May’12

I, Marianna of Sew 2 Pro, will endeavour to wear at least one made-by-me garment each day for the duration of May 2012.’

When I signed up for this group project, initiated by the sustainable sewing blogger So Zo What Do You Know, I little anticipated what big parts in my wardrobe would be played by a coat, boots and a brolly.  Hang on, didn’t I actually see one parent in the playground wearing gloves?! 

Never again will I smirk when I hear the folk say: “Never cast a clout till May is out.”

Elizabethans

The day the Queen came to town, I wore the dress I named after mum to Queen Elizabeth I.  This picture was taken at a fashion booth, one of many, that was on display during the visit.  My coat, brolly and bag were temporarily put on the floor, causing a small security concern. 

Along with Trash! this dress featured heavily in the first half of the month and I don’t want to see it again till October, although I discovered it teams up nicely with a Pipetto Originals belt that I wear with jeans sometimes.

Pleated neckline top. Benetton Coat, Levi 921

Pleats

Saturdays saw me in my two pleated tops.  Here’s Number 1 worn whilst hassling the McCulloch & Wallis dummy (as is my custom).

And here’s Nicotine Surprise, worn with a nearly camouflaged doggy.

My fascination with pleats was indulged some more when the warm weather returned.  Here’s the Lime Burda 7378.

Schoolrun Skirt

Probably the Me-Made outfit I wear the most in the summer.  I made it some 3 years ago by adapting the Basic Skirt Block into an A-line.  The fabric is an old, discontinued print from Alexander Henry called Zen Charmer which seems equally popular with the kids and the mums. 

Every year I buy a simple top or two to wear with this skirt.  This year, in the spirit of Me-Made, I trimmed a H&M T-shirt with some black crochet-type lace that I didn’t know what to do with for years.  I’m not sure if this mini-project was executed entirely professionally (notice how the T-shirt stretches out where the lace has been sewn on), but seeing a bit of skin through the lace is a nice effect.

New Look 6459

Recently, I made a smart, new version of this pattern but here are a couple of the oldest dresses I’ve ever made.  In fact, I’m thinking of retiring them as the fabric is old and the zips not up to close scrutiny.  The problem is that I still love them so I wear them on hot days at home when I’m burning dinner and I’ll probably give them one last holiday in the scorching sun.  In other words, they’re beachwear!  And the halter necks helps with the tanning.

NL 6459 in faded Viva Frida fabric (by Alexander Henry again)

And in Tattoo by Alexander Henry.  This dress is now 5 years old.  How many RTW dresses would put up with so many summers of use?

Heartbreak

If it hadn’t been for Me-Made-May’12, I wouldn’t have had the camera out in the garden on that first warm Sunday of the month (13th), when we also happened to snap my daughter carrying her kitten Blackadder: the only picture of the two of them together.  Blackadder was killed days later and we miss him more than I can say.

Dear Blacky,

Thank you for being a part of our family and adding so much love and fun to our days.

I’d hoped we’d have years. What a fine lapcat you’d have become!

Enjoy your sleep.

M&C xx

Peggy Georgia

The dress that inspired my part in the Mad Men Challenge is the one worn by Peggy Olson in the picture below, right.  I don’t remember her wearing it in the show.  This girlie, voluminous style is more often associated with Betty Draper (left). 

But I wanted to make a dress out of a fabric I’ve had in my stash for quite a while.  It’s a cotton print by Alexander Henry, a big-scale design named “Georgia” inspired by the work of the US artist Georgia O’Keeffe.  I’m 5’4″ so I did worry that the large, carnivorous-looking flowers would eat me up.  But those flowers and the blues and greens are the very reason why I love this fabric so much.  Had the risk payed off, this would have been my favourite dress ever!

The pattern was drafted on my pattern-cutting course.  I took my tutor’s advice and used pleats rather than gathers to add volume to the skirt.  Gathers might have produced a more child-like, stouter look.  I made a bodice toile which showed that the design was too generously proportioned, but no matter how much I kept trimming off here and there, the dress still feels too big for me.  Maybe the large print really can’t work.    But I enjoyed making “Peggy Georgia” and had a great time with my mum who did her best to take decent pictures of me wearing it. 

I don’t know what will happen to this dress.  I could take it apart and make a different garment out of it.  Or should I keep it for the right occasion?  What do you think?

Nicotine Surprise

For a while now, I’ve wondered how to create one of those pleated necklines so often seen on Ready-To-Wear tops and dresses like this.  Were the pleats a part of the pattern?  Could I pleat the fabric first and place the basic block on top afterwards (er, no…)?  Where would I place the pleats and how wide should they be? 

My questions were answered by my pattern-cutting tutor who showed me how to adapt my bodice block into a pattern for a wide-necked, pleated top that would need no zips or closures.  I sewed the top impatiently one weekend afternoon, desperate to see how it would turn out but not holding out much hope for making a wearable garment.  No money was spent: the thread had been a giveaway and the green bias tape was a remnant so old that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thrown it away!  The fabric – a beautifully printed Alexander Henry poplin – was also a freebie.  I doubted that I’d ever be able to create a wearable garment out of it, on account of its strange background colour which I can only describe as Nicotine!  So, imagine my surprise when this first draft, my glorified calico, turned out to be quite graceful and a real pleasure to wear.    

My Nicotine Surprise is not without its faults.  The poplin is too stiff to show off the design to any advantage.  The pleats point downwards towards the bust point whereas ideally they should radiate out like sun rays from a circular neck.  Also, the next time I make this top, I’ll place the neckline on the bottoms of the pleat stitching, so that their construction is entirely hidden in the seam allowance. 

All I need is a trip to Goldhawk Road for the right fabric and lots of tracing papers to show you guys how to do it too!