Brighton & Bank holiday sewing

We had a long weekend here in the UK this weekend, and I’m pleased to report that I made the most of it! On Saturday, James and I made an impromptu trip down to Brighton, and we stopped off at Lewes on the way down. Our main objective in Lewes is always the Harveys Brewery shop, but I also discovered The Stitchery just across the road upstairs in the Riverside Centre, which stocks a wide variety of fabrics, embroidery floss, yarn, and haberdashery. I checked my handy “sewing shopping list” on my phone, and bought black waistband elastic and trouser hooks, both of which I needed. Very sensible of me, I know.

But the real temptation was walking right past Ditto in the North Laines in Brighton, and I told myself I was only allowed to buy ONE fabric there, so it’d better be a good one! In the end, this gorgeous butter yellow floral silk charmeuse won out over a similar yellow coloured, textured, ex-Blumarine crepe.

Florals really aren’t my usual fabric choice (and I would’ve never bought it from the terrible photo on Ditto’s site), but in real life, I was just captivated by it, and I’m thinking I’ll need to pair it with some edgier like jeans or my leather skirt to diffuse the twee-ness.

After our big day on Saturday, on Sunday we didn’t leave the boat at all! I spent most of the day doing sewing stuff, starting off with fusing all the interfacing onto James’s reversible smoking jacket pieces. I find fusing interfacing to be really boring at the best of times, but it’s beyond teeeeedious with a mini ironing board and mini iron! Once that was all fused, I then moved on to hand basting all the pocket placements (it’s a fantasy jacket, so there are five pockets!) and then basted the bound buttonhole placements, too.

Temporary sewing

While our boat is in drydock for maintenance, we’re temporarily living on a very kind neighbour’s boat. Packing for a month (though possibly 2 weeks) was a challenge in itself, as you want to to give yourself choices (in clothing, entertainment, comforts, and cooking), but yet you’ve still got to physically move everything, so you don’t want to overpack, either.

I brought the bare minimum of sewing supplies, which for me means my JL Mini sewing machine, which is great for travel and beginners alike (speaking of, I have a friend who’s selling her identical red JL Mini as she’s upgraded to a fuller-featured machine. If anyone’s interested in buying it from her for £30, please leave a comment and I’ll put you in touch!).

I also brought a few patterns and the fabrics to go with them, and I set up a temporary sewing station in the bedroom we’re staying in:

I thought it was quite amusing that the only place in the boat that was suitable for sitting and sewing was a pretty dressing table, and my boudoir sewing station inspired me to start one of my transported projects last weekend – another Ruby Slip!

My first Ruby Slip was seafoam green with brick red lace and I loved it so much that I knew I’d be making another. If you missed the discussion then, Sherry offered a free pdf pattern and fantastic photo tutorials, which I highly recommend, even for beginners, as it’s beautiful and quite easy to sew (especially if you choose a thin cotton lawn).

To match my sewing station, I set up a pressing station in the kitchen, with a travel iron and mini ironing board which live on the boat.

A seafoam green Ruby Slip (and matching panties)

The Ruby Slip is a free pdf pattern and comprehensive set of tutorials over at Pattern Scissors Cloth, and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was just the most perfect pattern ever for me and I had to sew it ASAP!

I had 2m of seafoam green silk in my stash that I’d bought at Bhopal Fabric on Brick Lane over the summer (at £6/m), so I took a swatch of that along with me to MacCulloch and Wallis just before Christmas to buy lace specifically for this. Their lace selection isn’t great, but I totally fell in love with this stretch lace, made up of seafoam green, grey, and brick-red flowers, and it was the required 18cm for the pattern. It was pretty eye wateringly-expensive at £14/m, but I ended up with a silk matching lingerie set for £40 exactly, so I think the economics of my decision were sound.

Sherry has done an incredible job going through all the ins and outs of lace cutting, bias silk sewing, how to do an FBA, etc, but I did get a surprise when I found that 18cm lace is not wide enough for the side front:

Since I went out and bought the lace specifically for this, I was a little annoyed, but I was also feeling flu-ish so I sat down with my copy of Bridal Couture and hand-pieced some lace from my scraps to make up the missing corner. It involved a ton of tiny hand stitches in both seafoam and brick to get everything to match seamlessly, but I’m pleased with the end result (she’s since posted some ways of dealing with narrow lace).

I also wanted to demonstrate how much you need to pay attention which cutting lace. I was paying heed to all of the scallops in order to get them in join up nicely at the seams, but I totally didn’t see that my motif was off at first. Happily, I had enough to re-cut that piece to have a nicer join over the seam (seen on the right).

Right, all that aside, and let’s see some finished photos! But, er, not modeled on me since there’s see-through lace and I’m not an exhibitionist. So you’ll just have to take my word that I squealed with delight when I first tried this on, because the fit is just perfect! The bias skirt really just hugs my curves without being tight, and everything just fits like it was meant to be. I made the “short” version, and the hem lies about 3-4 inches above the knee, which is perfect for me.

The silk chiffon maternity maxi gown

I finished Holly’s silk gown on New Year’s Eve, so this is officially my last project from 2011. If you recall, it’s Burda 08/2008 #125 and is one of the designer maternity patterns from this issue (and in my opinion – a really nice maxi dress whether you’re pregnant or not!).

We muslined the bodice portion of this (minus the drape pieces) back before Christmas, and made a few changes: taking a few tucks out of the neckline here and there, and increasing the bust space on the standard size 44.

I totally missed the chance to finish this for her Boxing Day birthday, but I figured I’d be still in time for any January parties before the birth in late January, and we were even scheduled to go over for dinner last Friday, where I was going to bring the dress along and sew up the hem on my little red machine after we ate (the hem is just raw here, as I can’t do that without her wearing it).

Upcoming Fall 2011 sewing – the fabric

I posted about my Fall sewing pattern plans weeks ago, but I never quite got around to showing off my lovely Fall fabrics at the same time, and then I went and bought a little more since I sewed through enough of my stash over the past year to make space for more.

Indeed, the first two fabrics were bought long enough ago from the superlative Ditto Fabrics that I’ve actually already used them!

This grey stretch wool suiting is finding a life in my Draped Jacket and Skirt Suit you’ve heard so much about lately, and I’m sure you remember this peach silk habotai from my recent blouse, right?

Well, the day after I bought the above from Ditto’s website, we determined I’d actually be going down to Brighton later that week, so I stopped into their store on the Saturday morning and picked up two more fabrics (along with a good gossip with Ditto’s lovely owner, Gil!).

Peach silk shell blouse

As I mentioned last week, I made this blouse the weekend we got back from Hungary. It was a really quick make, with only a few seams and minimal closures, so even including some thread tracing and french seams didn’t really lengthen the project time. In other words, it was exactly the sort of project I needed right after a holiday!

Burda 09/2010 #110 is the sleeveless version of this top and one of the, oh, eleven must-sews for me from this September 2010 issue. It’s been one of my absolute favourite issues since the moment it came out, so it was nice to make something other than the cover dress for once!

I mostly made this to coordinate with my upcoming grey wool skirt suit, but with our unexpected hot and sunny October (29C/88F!!!) in London, you’ll get it see it worn now in a summer style, paired with my silver tweed KnipMode skirt. I imagine the weather will cool off enough by the time I finish the suit that you’ll get to see it layered underneath the jacket as I intended!

A silk chrysanthemum Sorbetto blouse

Every now and then I mention a few people from my personal life when they enter into my sewing world for whatever reason, but regular readers will probably recognise the name of “Neighbour Helen” more than most. As a neighbour, close friend, and convenient fashion industry alumni, she’s helped me assess muslins, balance proportions, learn how to rotate darts, and she even drew the amazing illustration for my free ruffled wristlet pattern!

So I was very saddened to hear that she and her husband are moving their barge to France in a few weeks’ time, to travel through the French canals for the foreseeable future (ok, saddened and jealous!). Since it was also her birthday, my gift to her was to make her a silk blouse of her choosing.

She chose the gorgeous chrysanthemum silk that was leftover from my blouse and I even let her try mine on, but she felt my top was too blousy for her and requested a simple shell instead.

So I turned to the new (and free!) Colette Patterns Sorbetto top!

I made a few changes, though – the most obvious is that I eliminated the central pleat (which would have been too busy with the large scale print), and I lengthened hem by 3” as others said this came up short.

The silk chrysanthemum blouse

As I discussed in my post on “pedestal fabrics” last week, I’ve had a ridiculously gorgeous silver and black chrysanthemum print silk in my stash ever since AllisonC gifted it to me two years ago when I was about to go into hospital.

But I’d brought it out again recently and thought about how I’d best like to wear it and I decided that I love and wear my silk blouses so much (and my birthday blouse in particular!) that I should sew this into a blouse to get the most wear and love out of this “pedestal fabric”!

In this case I chose to use the same pattern as my birthday blouse, Manequim Feb 2011 #158, because it fits great, I love the style, and I knew it worked well with a drapey silk.

You know what? I am so happy I took the plunge and cut into this fabric, because I just adore this blouse!

A drapey colourblock top

I’m a big fan of the occasional “quick knit top”, but this time around, I wanted a knit top with a more challenging design to give my brain more of a 3-D spatial workout.

I was really intrigued by the pieces for KnipMode June 2011 #15 when I first saw the magazine, and even after tracing it out and laying the paper pieces together, I still wasn’t 100% sure how they were going to fit together.

I thought it best to make this up using scrap fabrics (just in case!), so I pulled out a couple of those awkward, less than 1m offcut fabrics from my stash:

To be honest, while I enjoyed the challenge of constructing the design, I wasn’t so sure about how the design would look on me throughout the entire construction. But as soon as I tried it on for the first time, I was struck by how well my colourblocking worked, and how nicely Jonathan Saunders the look is!

I get to tick three separate SS11 trends here – colourblocking, muted hues, AND volume! All in one top!

Lowering the Pedestal

Can we take a moment to talk about “pedestal fabrics”? You know the ones – you saw it in a shop, it was too gorgeous to not buy, but now it’s too gorgeous to cut into? And now that you’ve put it up on that pedestal, it just sits in your stash, making you sigh with its beauty but ashamed that you haven’t used it yet…

I don’t often have this problem, but I have recognised that I’ve done this with a particular silk in my stash, a ridiculously gorgeous silk in a silver and black chrysanthemum print. It was a gift from AllisonC when I was about to go into hospital, and I initially didn’t cut into it because I’d gained some weight from my illness and I didn’t want to waste it on something that wouldn’t fit in a few months.

But I’ve been back to my usual size for a good year now, and it continued to sit in my stash, until I finally cut into it this weekend. It took some doing, but here’s some thoughts that helped me overcome this:

  • In what form will I wear this most? In my case, this was a good 2m of silk, so I kept thinking for ages that it had to be a dress, so I’d use the whole yardage. But then it occurred to me that I don’t often wear my silk dress because it’s so formal, and it’d be a shame to sew this silk only to not wear it very much. I thought about what I wear most often in similar fabrics, and it’s definitely blouses. So even though a blouse won’t use the whole yardage, I’ll wear it much more often than a dress, and I can always make something else with the rest.
  • It doesn’t have to be ground-breaking. You’ve already got fabric you love – that’s half the battle in a successful garment, so you don’t have to do a new, experimental, or technically challenging new pattern to interest you. Use a pattern you already know you love and fits you well, and then you don’t even have to do a muslin, either. Since it’s already a tested pattern, your chances of failure are greatly diminished.