Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Zinnia in red with black

Dear readers, have you ever been ambushed by a pattern? A pattern that simply wants you to make it, in spite of yourself? You're not even sure if you like it, and yet it whispers of the perfect fabric in your ear - that exactly-right yardage you have in exactly the right weight, just sitting there waiting for a plan? When that happens, what do you do?

Well I measured my lovely red fabric up against every possible dress pattern in my stash, desperately trying to make the yardage stretch to something else. Something that would really do the print justice. But in the end, the random inspiration that put together Anneke's red silk cotton and Colette's Zinnia skirt won out.

And what do you know? I really, really like it.


When the Zinnia pattern was released, I was unconvinced almost to the extent of disappointment. It was just a bit plain, a bit unexciting, a bit just-another-gathered-skirt. But, having caved to the inspiration by which I was hijacked (and to instant gratification, damn you Paypal), I think I was missing the point. Those things are the point. The Zinnia skirt is those plain, unexciting, perfect-skirt things done very, very well.

This is view 3, which is designed specifically for lightweight/sheer fabrics (with the shorter length of view 2). One of my favourite things about it is the edgstitching along the pleats and the waistband - it's a small, subtle touch, but to me it elevates the look well beyond any improvised pleated skirt I  might have dreamt up for myself.


The pattern instructions are, as usual for Colette, very clear and understandable. However, I did find them a bit lacking in good options on the zip insertion. They would have you insert an invisible zip sewn to the lining and outer skirt layers together, explaining that this is for the sake of a clean finish on the outside of the skirt if you're working with sheer fabrics. This is true - but you're likely to get bunching along the back, disturbing the swishy lines which are the whole point of using floaty fabric in the first place.

So I used Grainline's tutorial for an invisible zip with free-hanging overlay instead. I know pattern instructions can't include everything, but I think in this case - where they're deliberately tailored towards a certain finish - a clearer pointer towards different zip options, along with the reasons why, would be a small but significant improvement.

Forgive the blurry picture, but I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out on my first attempt ever:

Now, not for the first time in my sewing career, I managed to put the button tab on the wrong side. Does anyone else get this? I simply cannot visualise left and right properly when I'm putting things together inside out, right sides together, this that and the other. It's like I get a kind of spatial dyslexia. I only realised when I came to put the skirt on: I instinctively wanted the button to be the other way round.

I also instinctively wanted a plain, cropped, fitted black sweater to wear with it. Bummer: I didn't have one.

Do you remember, before sewing, those treks round the shops, looking for a specific item of clothing? I do. They were rarely successful and never fun.

So I made another instant-gratification sewing purchase (bad Jo! bad Paypal!) and made myself a Renfrew. Size eight at the top, graded through size 12 at the waist, cropped off shortly thereunder. It is a cheap poly sweater knit and it is perfect. When it dies - as it will, because it was very cheap and I sewed it at high speed on the serger - I'll do it again with fabric that's worth it.

So comfy, so lovely, the whole thing just so gloriously DIY.

And there you have it: I have been properly ambushed by two patterns I never thought I'd like.

UPDATED to add:  have you seen Hanne's Zinnia? I LOVE the shorter length - my next one might have to be a mini! Unless it's a midi, I like that too. There may have to be more than one...


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Darling ranges: Shanghai nostalgia

 Oh hello there :-)  How do you like my light fitting?
So yes, I am perhaps the last sewing blogger to get round to making myself a Darling Ranges dress. Which is all the more ridiculous because I have been sitting on the pattern for a year, and have long known that it would suit me rather well.  I was put off by a fear of buttonholes, and by the frustrating process of trying to decide upon the right fabric. Turns out that an automatic buttonholer really is that easy, and that you know the right fabric the very instant you see it.


It's poplin from - yet again - Berger. It grabbed me first of all because of the kind of toile de jouy style, but then different and, crucially, white on a black background: I feel much more comfortable wearing darker tones. Also, I could just see the scale of the print working for this dress, and the fact that it's an easy-to-handle cotton (for all those buttonholes) meant my mind was made up in about 3 seconds.  Plus, I could straight away envisage the buttons. The Chien Vert obligingly stock the exact ones I imagined - cut glass with just something sort of chinoiserie about them, no? I love the little hint of sparkle they give when I look down :-)

In the end, this dress was astonishingly easy to make. There's very little in it that's complicated, fear of buttonholes aside. The result is so good that it's intensely satisfying and I doubt I'll be able to resist making at least one more.  Before I do that, though, I will have to sort out some fit issues - I made several bodice muslins and in the end just went with my best option so far, but the busy print is disguising a lot. I know others have had trouble fitting the dart on this and I found the various blog posts on it really helpful, so I took pictures and will add my own to that soon too. While I'm at it I'll be soliciting advice on how to fix what's not quite right!

In the meantime though, this version is fine (I wouldn't think twice about buying it from a shop, fit issues and all), and I absolutely LOVE wearing it. It's so comfy, flattering, and treads the line between casual and dressy perfectly. You can just throw it on and be ideally dressed for almost any occasion - which is why there have to be more, in different colours.

Here it is from the back - and this was also my first ever attempt at a photoshoot in public...

Apparently I was unconsciously channelling Paunnet in the woods there.

This was by way of practising for an even-more-public set of picture taking, because the other thing that sprang to mind the moment I saw this fabric was a wonderfully appropriate photoshoot at one of Brussels' most unexciting tourist attractions, the Chinese Pavilion and Japanese Tower. I happen to live about 15 minutes away, and thought this would be a great way to start adding some pictorial interest to my posts.

Turns out that if I want to do that, I need a proper tripod pretty urgently. Gorilla tripod on the ground isn't a good technique - why is there nothing to wrap it on, just where you want it? And speaking of techniques, my photography skillz in general could do with some serious improvement if I'm really planning to ramp things a bit. Needless to say, for now I'm scaling down the exotic photos ambition level a bit :-)

And why Shanghai nostalgia? Well, about 10 years ago, G and I lived there for four months, on a student exchange program. We loved it so much that we spent a good part of the subsequent five years attempting to move ourselves back to the region, this time with employment. Various dashed hopes later, we pretty much buried the idea when the kids came along, but the far east, China and Shanghai in particular hold a very special place in our hearts. It's an absolutely fantastic city and we had a truly amazing, if brief, time there. These days I don't know if I'd want to return, or whether the pace of change means it'll all be bewilderingly different: we know for a fact that our college, surrounded by fields at the time, found itself in just another suburb within about a year.

The print on this dress, of course, looks not much like Shanghai, which styles itself as a city of looming skyscrapers. But the temples, parks and pockets of the past are still there, and what I really love most about this dress is that little nod it gives to the time I spent discovering them.

:: :: ::

Well this isn't the only thing I've made while I've been not-blogging in recent weeks - I've been on such a roll sewing I couldn't stop to sit at the computer. Next up: a finished #sewredoctober make, just in time before November! And then I'll be picking your brains, please, about the fit of this bodice...


Friday, 4 October 2013

The (pattern) hunt for #RedOctober

It's Red! It's October!

How do you like my fabric there? Actually, it's not my fabric - it's Anneke's and she kindly donated it to the swap at the great Belgian meet in July, and I swiped it because silk cotton yes please. Thank you Anneke! Here it is being red with some red October leaves:

So, another irresistible twitter challenge, and luckily not a very challenging one: make something red. In October. Hey presto, #RedOctober! I even have matching red lining already, so basically this should be easy. Except.

Except, what oh what shall I actually make with it, people? I tried draping myself in it, in case that inspired a revelation. It didn't, unless you count "don't wear that print on your boobs" as revelatory.  Plus I seriously had a photo taking disaster.

How hard can it be?? I only wanted to show my face for once!! Hello!

Anyway, now I'm thinking this:

I've got about a 1.5 m square of fabric, and as I'm on the short side I think it should be enough. Plus, it's an excuse to buy another pattern. Although, this one didn't grab me at all when it was launched - funny isn't it how the fabric speaks inspiration into things?

Look how light and floaty...

Anyone got any better ideas that might save my pattern cash??  Or just, y'know, better ideas.

Are you doing #RedOctober? What are you making? Can I see your fabric too??


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Cherche couturière

Spotted this afternoon:

Wanted: seamstress with experience in making ready-to-wear, full time.  Alicia.


Five minutes from my house in one direction, 30 seconds from our local playground in the other. I'd apply myself, were it not for liking my current job which also happens to come with good fringe benefits. (My inner teenage self is cringing that I even thought that, let alone wrote it out loud. So unacceptably bourgeois have I become, and I don't even care).

Would you do it?