Dreaming of a Green Christmas

1 ho ho ho1 bamboo shoot dressRight now you’re probably so busy that you’d rather jump off a cliff than see another ‘happy holiday’ message which might require a reply. But in case you read this, whenever that may be, I’d like to wish you a merry Christmas, if you’re having one, and a contented end to the year.

The time coming up to Christmas seems to make me less not more merry. The sewing space usurped by the Christmas tree…. My routine – usually a source of certainly and contentment – hi-jacked!  And the shopping queues and bodies crammed in non-moving traffic chugging out smoke, and the landfill of unwanted tat… It’s just not green enough for my liking.  But to talk of these things only throws up accusations of ‘Scrooge!,’ and the pointing out that I have so much to be thankful for.  Which I do.

IMG_2948So hey, let’s look at the bright side: at least I didn’t have to join in with the manic search for things to wear. I’ve been around long enough to know what suits me and how to make it. And how long it’ll take to make! So for this Pattern Magic Bamboo Shoot dress, which I made in time for my Christmas party, I even enjoyed the little luxury of an adrenaline rush which I threw in by finishing the dress just before it was needed, sewing the lining to the zip half an hour before I was due to leave the house (not that I didn’t have Blue Velvet as back-up!).

1 dinner

And here’s some other things to be grateful for and to enjoy:

Tomorrow will be my first Christmas Day with mum and brother since 1990!

A long phone call with my uncle who lives in Canada, and a shorter one with my dad in Croatia – short because he’s notoriously taciturn though what he does say is often very funny!

Going to see the Amazing World of Escher at the Dulwich Picture Gallery with the also amazing D.  We might even find the sense to leave the kids at home!

TV, especially who-dunnits, no-internet time, and jigsaw puzzles (thanks for the reminder, Kate!).

Eating through the mountain of food I’ve been lugging home and squirreling away.

A week of lie-ins with the Blogstalker snoozing between my feet.Blogstalker Snoozing

Making Stollen (me) and Bolognese a la Marcella Hazan (D).

And to stop me going stir-crazy after all those calories… long runs on the soft (read: ‘muddy’) edges of South London, some on my own, some with friends.

As for the clothes sales at Twixmas…  Let’s just say if you spot someone who looks like me delving into binfuls of bargains…  it’s really not me!

Hope you get the chance to enjoy some of what life has shown you is good for you.  And thanks for reading the blog and keeping me going!

Love, M

Bamboo Shoot Tote

For the Pattern Magic Challenge, I’d like to make a garment featuring the Bamboo Shoot Bodice and being slightly overwhelmed by the task, I thought I’d get to grips with the design by trying it out in its simplest form: 2D.  Putting it on one side of this tea-dyed calico tote bag enabled me to make those folds and to see what happens behind the scenes (i.e on the wrong side) without the added complication of darts getting in the way.

Of all the Pattern Magic designs, the Bamboo Shoot seems to be one that’s both eye-catching and universally appealing.  It’s also simple, or simpler than it looks.  If you’re thinking of giving it a go, do!  Just be prepared to first try it out on paper, lots of it.

Drafting the 2D Bamboo Shoot Pattern

I’ve prepared this tutorial not as a definitive guide but as demonstration of what I did, should you need a bit more than the instructions in the Pattern Magic book.


Step 1 

Cut out a piece of paper the same size as the area in which you want the design to appear.  Make a note of the measurements (you’ll refer to them in Step 4).  Draw the bamboo lines, extending them to the ends of the paper (if you were working on a bodice, you’d only go as far as the bust point as the book specifies).

A note on the positioning of the lines:

The lines should intersect at 45°.  I’ve made my parallel lines 5cm apart.  If I were designing a bodice for a size 12 frame, I’d space them closer together at 4cm.  On a petite or larger frame, 3.5cm and 4.5cm might be more in proportion.

Step 2

Cut along the lines, almost all the way to the ends of the paper.  Place on a larger sheet and spread, leaving gaps of equal width (mine are 2cm).  Pin to the target paper.

Step 3

Trace around the top layer.  I’ve used a highlighter, half on, half off.

Step 4

This is where it gets interesting… and kind of fun.  Unpin the original piece.  Start folding, making long straight folds along the lines, working top right to left then down.  

This becomes similar to the process of french-plaiting hair, where you have more material to deal with the further you go down.  When the area gets too crowded, unfold and cut the paper on the fold lines.  I’ve coloured the fold lines orange to help me see where I’m going.    

Towards the bottom, the area between the fold lines can be cut away.  Refold the paper, using pins to keep the sections in place.  The wrong side will eventually look almost as neat as the right side.   

Measure the area: it should be the same size as the original piece, before you began cutting it. 

Unpin and your pattern is revealed! 

When I added this pattern to the tote, I started off with a copy of the bag pattern: 

I drew the Bamboo Shoot lines as in the process above, extending them right up to the seam allowances (if it’s easier, you can cut off the seam allowances then add them back on in the final stage).  Here’s what the pattern looked like with the middle cut out (Blogstalker enjoying himself in the role of pattern weight….)

Sewing the Bamboo Shoot

One advantage the paper pattern has over the fabric version  is that you can use pins to keep the folds in place and behaving.  When it comes to sewing the pattern, the instructions in Pattern Magic specify:

I’m hoping this gentle control of the folds will be enough for my garment to hold its shape.  It didn’t seem enough for the folds of the tote so I backed my fabric with iron-on interfacing.  Whilst this fused the folds permanently to their backing(and provided the calico with some desired stiffness), I don’t suggest doing this to a bodice as it’ll ruin the softness of the original design.  Some kind of lining will be necessary to protect (and hide) the business-at-the-back side of things.  And, I suspect, the garment will have to be one for the more delicate end of my wardrobe.

Pattern Magic Challenge

The deadline for the challenge is mid-November so if you’re feeling brave and inspired, get in touch!

Pattern Magic Challenge

Calling all adventurous, experimental and courageous sewists! Oh, and anyone fascinated by Tomoko Nakamichi’s Pattern Magic. Have any of you made stuff based on the ideas in the books? How did it go? If you haven’t, would you like to give it a try, with a bit of hand-holding in the form of a group sewing challenge?

The Inspiration

When I bought the first Pattern Magic book, I hoped that this much praised and beautifully produced tome would throw some light on the relationship between the two-dimensional pattern and the three dimensional body. To some extent, it did that, but mostly I was awestruck by image after image of possibilites in garment design.

Some achievable, as I’d like to think these lumps and bumps on a bodice might be.

A dress for Björk, perhaps? She used to be in the Sugarcubes, you know.

Then there was the outlandish. This design of the Otoshiana almost freaked me out, bringing back supressed memories of Ring, the only genuinely creepy horror film I’ve ever seen!

I can laugh about it now, but only because I showed the book to my pattern-cutting tutor and far from being frightened, she reassured me that the pit would make a handy holder for one’s lunchtime Lucozade.

Other designs, such as the elegant Bamboo Shoots bodice, made me wistful for the day when I’d be grown up enough to attempt this pattern-drafting feat.

And as I waited for that day, guess what?! Two more Pattern Magic books came out….

Now I was taunted by even more designs of blatant originality. Like the Knots.

Some with a twist on the sophisticated and classic.

Some familiar but, er, more confrontational.

And some plain bonkers, like the Stingray. What a glorious celebration of fish and hips!

The Challenge

If you too have had enough of looking at the pictures and feel ready to try out one of the ideas in the book, then I’d love you to join me. Your project can be as simple or as complex as suits you. The only requirement is that your creation is inspired by what you’ve seen in one of Tomoko Nakamichi’s books.

Maybe you have a teen with endless legs that can accommodate the Shar Pei-like folds of the Apple Peel leggings?

Or how about incorporating a detail from the books into one of your already tried’n’tested patterns. The Pocket Vanishes?

Or one of my favourites: a modern take on the leg of mutton sleeves.

You’ve got plenty of time to decide, maybe even to practice.

Here are details:

The Deadline

Email me your images by the end of Saturday 10 November GMT. Your message should include your name, a link to your blog or picture gallery, and maybe a picture of the Pattern Magic design that inspired you (and I’ll email back to confirm receipt).

If you wish, tell me:

Why you chose that particular design,

The fabric you used,

How much drafting experience you’ve had,

Any other tidbits of info you’d like to share.

The “Catwalk”

I’ll compile our creations into a review to be posted on Wednesday 14 November.

The Button

If you’d like to display the Pattern Magic Challenge button in your blog, copy the text in the box below and paste it into a text box of your widget area.

Pattern Magic Challenge


In the meantime…

Please leave a comment below if you’d like to take part so that we can keep in touch – or, if you’ve already had a go at Pattern Magic, let us know how it went. As my blog is relatively new, I’d be very grateful if you could forward the details of the challenge to Pattern Magic enthusiasts you may know, as well as pattern-drafting students and fans of clothes that get talked about. I’ve taken part in some very lively and creative group challenges this year and though I realise that a Pattern Magic challenge might be intimidating to some people, this needn’t be an overly ambitious project. Give it a go and you never know – you might just get a sensational Christmas party outfit out of it!

“No, no hoodies. Oh, I am sorry… I thought you were wearing a hoodie”.