Three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content, and sufficient Champagne.‏

How do you like my dress?

 IMG_5145I am as yet undecided. Not because of the overall look of it – I love the fit (although it could do with a few tweaks), the shape, the material – and the way it looks (and makes me feel – like a classy bird, for once). But because there are several places where I bodged this dress, and this dress does not deserve a bodging. It deserves careful handling and perfect execution.

But let’s start from the beginning. This was a challenge set by my Sewing Bee several months ago – we decided we would all make a classy cocktail dress in time to go out for pre-Christmas cocktails together, which was such a lovely idea I couldn’t resist.

It took me ages to decide what dress to make – I ummed and ahhed about what made a dress a cocktail dress (not helped by the fact that my usual cocktail attire is not unlike my usual attire – i.e. holey jeans and New Balance), before remembering I’d bought Burda  6043 – a vintage style shift vintage reissue a while back which fit the bill perfectly. I love the early 60s silhouette and the way the ladies on the front could have walked off the set of Mad Men with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other.

The next decision was fabric. It needed to live up to the elegance of the dress, but also comfortable enough to move in. As we all know, one too many cocktails can often lead to dancing. Shameful behaviour.

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When I saw this “Annalotte” dress from Kathryn at Yes I Like That, made in the self-lined Prada stretch crepe from Minerva Crafts, I thought that this was the one. I was originally going to go with black for the LBD, but something about the modest cut of the dress made me worry it would look a bit funereal, so I went for the purple “Aubergine” colour. I rather riskily bought it sight-unseen, and didn’t bother with a sample, as the reviews I’d seen convinced me it would be ok – and luckily it was! The fabric was £11.99 a metre. I bought 2.5m (am still beginner enough to plan for major balls-up in my cutting), but I think used less than 2 in the end.

The fabric is gorgeous, as you might expect from something with Prada in the title. It’s matt on one side, with a silky lining. I decided to use the silky side for the bodice, and the matt for the skirt section of the pattern, which makes for a lovely contrast.

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Totally derpy pic – for some reason I was hiding my phone behind my back.

 I pretty much followed the pattern as is – cutting out a size 14 I think (this was before Christmas, and my memory is not so good after the “Christmas Cheer”). I shortened it by about 4 inches, as it says it’s drafted for a 5’6’’ tall woman. I am not that woman. I ended up with a very small hem, but I like the length on me. I only lined the bodice, as I didn’t think it needed a lining in the skirt, especially with my fancy-ass self-lined fabric. The fabric is also quite thick, so I thought two layers in the skirt would be too much.

 

IMG_5146 So about that bodging. Here’s a little list.

  • The little point in the bodice won’t sit smoothly – despite me resewing it several times –  I can’t work out how I would fix this in the future, but perhaps it was just inaccurate cutting from the start.
  • I don’t like finishing the armholes with a bias binding, but I’d already sewn in the lining and zip so had left it too late to finish them another way (this is why you should always read a pattern from start to finish before you start wielding the scissors I guess!)
  • The back bodice doesn’t line up properly at the back ­and I don’t know why!!! I ended up having to hand sew this to fix it. It’s still not perfect but it’s not so bad that anyone else would notice unless they were intently watching me walk away.
  • I used some bad bad interfacing. It’s probably not the interfacing’s fault, but more that I need to learn about interfacing and what kind to use, as the stuff I’ve got is so stiff it’s like paper. This doesn’t actually bother me when I’ve got the dress on, luckily, as I can’t really tell. It’s more that I know that it’s there.
  • I could do with pinching a bit of fabric out of the front bodice as it has the tendency to gape a little (one of these days I will probably make a toile. But not today). It wouldn’t need a huge amount taking out, and again, no one else would probably notice – I just found myself fiddling with it a little while I was out. Until the third cocktail, and then I didn’t give a cr*p.

But at the end of the day (or the start of the next), none of the bodging really mattered – we all had a great time at the Hide Bar in Borough, which has some of the most interesting cocktails I’ve come across in my long history of cocktailing.

So I guess the moral of the story is, if you have something you’ve made you’re not sure about, get drunk and wear it anyway.

Although technically this post is all about the cocktails, not the bubbly, I couldn’t resist this quote from Dorothy Parker from her poem Inventory.

Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper.

So you may have guessed from my earlier posts that I have a problem with expensive fabric and luxury haberdasheries? Well, helloooo Liberty sale. 

Oops.

Oops.

But look how beautiful they all are! All in a soft drapey lawn.

So after my bank manager had had a stern word, I then set about working out how to use them – top/blouse patterns for a metre of fabric anyone? Well, you’d think it was an impossible ask, but when, during a visit to the guys at the fantastic Crescent Trading off Brick Lane with my Shoreditch Sisters, they let out the secret that fabric requirements on patterns should be taken with a pinch of salt, I began to wonder…

My First Liberty Lawn make (I feel this deserves a fanfare) was the camisole from the GBSB book. I omitted the frilly placket (is that the right word) and buttons, and decided not to make my own bias binding (I couldn’t bear the risk that I would mess it up, as I’ve never made it before, and think of all that lovely Liberty lawn all forlorn and unusable if I did), but happily I already had some in my stash which matched perfectly.

Totally need a better mirror for my selfies.

Totally need a better mirror for my selfies.

This was a really simple and quick sew (if you don’t include the time it takes to print out the pattern and tape the thing together. Maeby helped with this), and it was really satisfying to be able to cut this out and make it up in less time than it took for one team to do ball sportsing better than another team done did kick ball sportsing. Or something*.

It fits pretty well – I didn’t want to end up with a tent a la the tunic from the same book, so tried this on when it was pnned together to make sure that it wouldn’t result in any wardrobe malfunctions, and the only thing I would say is that you probably need an extra pair of hands to help you pin the cross-over straps in the right place. (I was pretty bossy and insisted they aligned properly and were symmetrical. Poor boyfriend. But that’s the price you pay for world cup addiction).

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I can see myself wearing this for lazy days in the garden, soaking up the sun. It’s a perfect little quick stashbuster, so I can see myself making a few more of these for some instant gratification.

Today’s quote is from Oscar Wilde.

*I feel like I need to clarify here that I actually do like watching football. But one game every so often is sufficient. By the time we’re halfway through the group stages in the World Cup I thought my brain was going to come out of my earholes every time I heard that “Brazilllll BRAZIIILLLL” theme tune that ITV thought was so catchy and not at all annoying.

The Ancient Mariner would not have taken so well if it had been called The Old Sailor.

Next up was possibly the most complicated pattern I’ve ever sewn – the Kwik Sew shorts pattern. I actually saw the pattern on Handmade Jane’s blog, as one of the ones she was planning to make, and in fact our makes have ended up quite similar!

 

Happy shorts.

Happy shorts.

 

I really love these shorts. They have again come up really roomy – even though I took into account the amount of ease in the pattern when selecting my size, so I definitely think I will go a size down next time. 

Extra space for pies.

Extra space for pies.

I made these up in a navy linen-poly blend (I think) I got from John Lewis, so not cheap, but I wanted to be sure of the fabric I was using to give me a better chance of doing it right, and it coming up as it said on the pattern. I also wanted to go Full Nautical.

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Although the pattern was complicated (for me, a beginner!) – the first shorts/trouser pattern I had made – once I’d taken a few deep breaths and read the instructions out loud a few times, it did all come together properly. This is possibly the first time I’ve made something without any (major) mistakes, proof positive that it pays to take it slow sometimes.

I think I got carried away with the poses.

I think I got carried away with the poses.

The buttons are from John Lewis, and I stupidly didn’t take my tape measure to the shop, so they are slightly bigger than the pattern suggests – but it doesn’t matter. And this is the first time I used the one-step buttonhole function on my new machine (oh, did I mention I got a new machine? After having to reattach the presserfoot mid-sew one too many times on my aunty’s old machine, I decided to regift it to my sister and use my birthday money to splash out on a  new Janome – and I love it!).

Check out those button-holes. Hubba hubba.

Check out those button-holes. Hubba hubba.

I am really proud of these (hence all the silly photos). The bigger size doesn’t matter too much as I can just wear them sitting on the hips rather than on the waist, and they are so comfy. A great addition to my handmade wardrobe.

Today’s quote is by Samuel Butler.

 

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.‏

Not content with my current number of hobbies, and being inspired by the sunshine (sporadic as it is), and the fact that I have my own garden for the first time since leaving home, I decided all of a sudden that I am a gardener. There is no evidence to back this up, however – in fact, the myriad of dead plants left in my wake over the years would stongly suggest otherwise. Never one to let facts get in the way of a good time, I set about digging things up and chopping things down and gleefully planting seeds here there and everywhere.

And then along came Mother’s Day. Last year I made my mum a tote bag from the Cath Kidston book Sew, and this year I wanted to make her something else. Honestly, it’s like I’ve regressed to being a small child, painstakingly painting stones (just what mum needs, gravel) and crushing rose petals to make a delicious (rank) smelling perfume (globulous liquid) and proudly presenting them to mum alongside some burnt toast and weak tea (my mum doesn’t drink tea). Happy Mother’s Day indeed.

Anyway, I must have had gardening on my mind, and – as my mum is a keen gardener, having successfully kept a whole garden of plants and flowers alive for some years now – I hunted around the internet to find something suitable to make.

I decided on this cute little gardening apron from Sew Mama Sew. Isn’t it great? Very easy to make – all it needs is two rectangles of (fairly hardy) fabric, and bias binding for the ribbon – or of course you can use a longer strip of fabric to make this. In fact, it’s plugged as a fat quarter project – something to use up all those small bits of fabric you fall in love with at the haberdashery and justify to yourself as a bargain, despite knowing full well they are too small to make anything useful. The tutorial is all online, and it’s very easy to follow.

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I currently have a bulging, overflowing stash (humblebrag), and so was able to make this out of fabric I already had – an unidentified stiff blue fabric I picked up in a shop on Brick Lane (no idea what I was planning to use this for, but I have reams of it), and leftover patterned cotton from John Lewis, originally used for the tote bag last year. All I needed was some bias binding in a nice contrasting red, and away we go!

This was a really simple make, perfect to do in a couple of hours on a rainy Sunday afternoon. So easy, in fact, I made one for myself too (now I’m practically a professional gardener, and all) out of the other bit of fabric left over from the tote bag – which rather cutely match my gardening gloves. I’m nothing if not twee.

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Too lazy to go out in the actual garden. See evidence of living plant behind.

I ruined *ahem* customised  my mum’s with some rather embarrassing embroidery. Yep. I think I need to recognise my limits. I can follow patterns (to some extent). I can’t do freehand embroidery.

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Seriously. What does this even say.

My mum was dead pleased with her apron, despite Scotland still being too arctic for thoughts of gardening (she tactfully avoided mentioning the embroidery) – and now I have the nifty outfit, all I need now is some greenfingers to go with it.

Today’s quote is from Alfred Austin