Sunday, 27 July 2014

By Hand London Anna - Purple maxi

I am so happy to share this dress with you, as I absolutely LOVE it! Which is so weird considering when I first saw the Anna dress I thought "It's cute, but it's not for me". How wrong was I?! Eventually I started seeing pretty dresses and thinking "oooh what pattern is this.... Anna? But I thought I'd decided I didn't like it". Fool.

So this is Anna number 2, made much sooner than I had planned to make another, but it was one of those makes that starts with the fabric. I bought this at NyLon2014, on Goldhawk Road, saw this beautiful drapey purple poly for just £2 a meter, and instantly started asking everyone around me what I could make with it (I have a (loose) rule that I can only buy fabric if I have a plan for it). Some genius suggested a maxi Anna, and that was that. I'm very sorry I can't remember who made that suggestion, the whole day was a bit of a blur! But I bought 4m for £8 (WIN!) and then spent £4 on the zip (ugh, stupid overpriced invisible zips) and off I went. The fabric is polyester, but it's like a faux silk in texture and weight. I literally squeezed it into the 4m as it was a little bit narrower than I'd bargained for at 42 inches rather than 45.

Hey cat!

And of course as soon as I got it home I wanted to make that dress. I had a wedding in July, it seemed like a good idea to bump it up the queue!

Despite this being my second Anna, it was not without it's problems. This was all my own fault, but I'll learn eventually. Firstly, I learned the hard way to not forget to trim the inner seams when french seaming:

And I also learned that I should apply any changes I make to the paper pattern ready for next time. Last time, I did the cheats way of fixing a gaping back, but I didn't alter the paper pieces. After fixing my gapey back (poorly) I ended up with this mess:

Oh the shame! The zipper no longer reached the top, so what you see here is where the zipper tape literally ends at the top of the dress. I thought "ahh I'll just pop in a hook and eye and noone will notice. What do you think? Totally nailed it right? :s

Luckily I was part way through a very successful Colette Hawthorn when I did this adjustment, and was enjoying a sewing skills confidence boost, so I took a deep breath, told myself that I am an amazing seamstress and I CAN fix this, poured a rather large So Co and lemonade and I did fix it - redoing the zip in front of The 100 (is anyone else hooked on this?). 

See - fixed :)

Anyway, I debuted the wearing of the dress at my friend Lydia's wedding in Taunton. Sadly I didn't take any photos at the event, but I had a little self timer party in the garden of our B&B. 

The only alterations I made since the first one was to lower the neckline by an inch, and extend the sleeves about 2 inches - I did a narrow shoulder adjustment first time round which took away a lot of the sleeve length and I wanted to add a little back. I also did a rolled hem by hand which took FOREVER but was definitely worth it as it's practically invisible. Now that I sew I can't help but inspect the finishing of other people's shop bought dresses, and was sad to see how many fine fabric dresses at the wedding had been machine hemmed, in that obvious machine hemming way. I guess they don't notice it though, so it wouldn't bother them.

I'm now wishing I took some side view photos so I'd look slimmer. Oh well. 

Sorry for my angry pouty face here - I just thought it was a good shot of the skirt!

I received many lovely compliments about the dress at the wedding, some from those who know about my sewing obsession and some from complete strangers. And even though this dress is miles away from what I normally wear, I absolutely love it, and can't wait to find an occasion to wear it again!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Planning the next projects - A/W makes sneaky peek!

I've recently realised that I spend many hours planning what I'm going to sew, as well as actually sewing. I don't know what the rest of you are like, but it gets messy in my head if I don't have a plan! Unfortunately, whilst I know this, I don't always act on it. But now, with the sewing, I do!

I made my first dress almost two years ago, but it's only been the last year that I've seriously started creating my own handmade wardrobe. I did a similar process earlier in the year for my Spring/Summer wardrobe, and I've upped the game a little for Autumn/Winter.

I read through the Coletterie's Wardrobe Architect and thought it was really excellent, but I couldn't get it to work for me. I can't define many of the styles/influences/cultures that the wardrobes are based around, but I know what I like when I see it, so I needed a looser approach with the same outcome.

Over the last 6 months I've already been thinking about what colours, fabrics and patterns I want in my Autmun/Winter wardrobe so I've already started building the stash as I've seen pretty things at good prices. At the time I scolded myself for buying things I'm not intending to immediately use, but actually it's a good way to spread the cost out over the year. (There - I justified it!)

So, this is how I plan my seasonal wardrobe. Maybe you might find ideas here to help you plan yours, I don't know, but please say hi and leave a comment as I'd love to hear about other methods of planning out there!

Stage 1 - Pinterest

Whilst I've fallen out of love with Pinterest as I eventually found I did a lot of pinning and that was about all, it works as a great tool to plan projects like this. I do a google search, and search a few online fabric shops to find the colours I want in my palette. I pin them all. I knew what colours I wanted months ago, so this exercise is just about getting them all down together, checking that they work together, that there's a good balance of tones, etc. Sometimes new colours I hadn't thought of get thrown in (like the orange), sometimes I realise something won't work with the others and I get rid of it.

Then I move onto patterns. Which favourites do I want to remake in heavier fabrics, which new patterns do I want to try, and very importantly, what gaps does my wardrobe need filling? It's great having a tonne of beautiful handmade skirts, but if you don't make tops too, or you make tops that only suit trousers, then you'll soon encounter problems.

Next up, shoes! I know this isn't dressmaking, but it's important you have the right shoes to go with your outfits. In the past I've always been a very safe shopper, buying items that will go with everything, which resulted in a lot of black shoes. There's no room in my life for black right now, so I need a few new bits. I add them to the pinterest board.

This time, I went one step further and added tights and jewellery too, as I missed the jewellery step last time and realised I had little that fitted the look I wanted.

Stage 2 - Spreadsheet

This is a new stage to the process, but it worked really well to match up patterns to fabrics. I recently organised my stash and made these little tags, once again inspired by the brilliant ideas from the Coletterie. I decided that I wanted to stash-bust, and especially to use up leftover fabric from past projects. Making these in a different season to before is a great idea, as you don't feel you have multiple items of the same fabric if you only see one in your wardrobe at a time (I store out of season clothes in the loft).

So the first step here was to list the patterns that I want to use, note which ones I already own, and how much the others will cost so I can budget. Then, I thought about what colours would work well for tops and bottoms, how they might suit each pattern, and what I have enough of in my stash. Once again, I'm thinking about what my wardrobe needs as I build this list -  I realised that I love both dresses and separates, but I make a lot more skirts than tops, so I decided to add more tops to the equation, and culled some of my skirt plans.

In the end, I decided on about 15 items, and I can actually make 8 of these with existing patterns and fabric I already own, I just need to buy thread/zips/buttons, etc. For the others I could make it up as I went along, choosing colours and fabric types, and setting a guideline cost for the project.

Stage 3 - Drawings

The spreadsheet plan is great, but it's hard to visualise it all in words, so I like to draw all my plans out.

This makes it really easy to see how the items might work together, and quickly see if you've been a bit generous/stingy with certain colours, or types of clothes. This winter I want a lot of deep, earthy colours, but I don't want to be too dark, so I'm throwing in a lot of cream and camel items to keep it light. Neutrals are more important than the flashy colours, but it's very easy to forget that and just sew a heap of fancy things!

I love this stage the best, as it gets me really excited about all the lovely new things I'll soon get to make.

Stage 4 - Order

Last time I made a clear list of the order I would make things. I don't think it worked that well. Sometimes you find the perfect fabric for the item 6 spaces down the list, but just cannot find what you want for item number 2. Also, new ideas pop up constantly, and it's nice sometimes just to put the list aside and make something else entirely (for example, since doing these plans last night I've decided I NEED a Deer & Doe Bleuet dress. Right Now). Otherwise, I feel like I'm "not allowed" to, and then I feel animosity towards, well, sewing!

So this time, I will finish one project, look at my plans, and choose whichever item I feel drawn to to make next. I'm hoping this will allow for a more natural flow of creatively, since the rest of the planning is quite serious.

Stage 5 - Details

As I said before, new ideas often pop up, and sometimes they might be just for details of a project, rather than the whole item. I might feel a sudden need to add a collar to a top, or that long sleeves will work better in winter than 3/4 length. I don't plan the nitty gritty with the rest of the planning, but as I get to that project. It allows for more ideas to get used, I find :)

So, there it is, the plan.

How do you plan your makes?

Monday, 7 July 2014

Closet Case Files Emerald Bombshell swimsuit

Confession: I was supposed to make this last summer.

But the holiday to the beach came sooner than I could cope with and the muslin had been cut but no sewing had commenced. Then, there was winter and no need for a swimsuit so the lovely emerald lycra I'd bought, and the rubber elastic I'd had a friend in bristol hunt down for me in a hurry (fabricland sells it if you were wondering) got shoved in a bag for a while.

New year, new beach holiday planned, and I knew I had to get it made this time, not just because of my previous failings but also the fact I've gained some weight since I last bought a bikini about 4 years ago! Once again I laughed in the face of deadlines, then panickedly started sewing up that muslin with a week to go. Thankfully it was a much faster make than I'd anticipated and on top of that I didn't need to make a single adjustment. I was surprised, as I expected to remove some length, and because I'd cut the pattern a year ago when I had less knowledge of pattern sizes, but no complaints here!

I was so chuffed with the final result. It is easily the nicest swimwear I've ever owned and fits like a glove. The only fit niggles is the crotch might be slightly too wide, as well as the halters which come a little far towards the back. I could have made these smaller in length as well.

Would I make another? Yes as far as successful sewing goes, but living in the absolute middle of the country there's not a lot of occasions for beachwear.

I used far less fabric than the pattern called for. Ignoring the layout plan, I squeezed it into 1.3m of 60" width fabric, which includes the lining as I couldn't find specialist fabric. I cut a size 8 body, but 6 halters/cups. I also measured the elastic and only used 3.5m, and I would have squeezed it out of one spool of thread if I hadn't had to rip a little. I used a light colour for basting so they'd be easier to remove which probably took another spool of the other colour. I found the fabric in Royal Fabrics in Leamington Spa, which was the only place I could find (at the time) selling lycra. The choice was pretty limited to half a dozen plains but luckily I loved this colour, so all was good. I can't remember the price of it, maybe £7-10 a metre? 

So anyway, I know what you really want is to see me in my smalls and I shan't disappoint so prepare yourself for lots of flesh, a little sunburn, and a whole lot of squinting into the sun. I even went to the beach for the shoot, and I didn't even have the "warm-up" cider I thought I'd need to do this, so be proud people!

We took the photos on Woolacombe beach on the beautiful North Devon coast.

Firstly, doesn't this kinda work as a top as well? Yes, yes, off with the skirt!

So here we have it, one bombshell swimsuit in all it's glory! The colour isn't properly represented here I'm afraid, you'll have to believe me that it's a real emerald green, not teal/sea green like it appears here.

Trying out some awkward poses before the swim....

Cellulite shot.

Pervy boyfriend shot, but a nice detail of the back ruching and the modest bottom covering design. Seriously, the teeny weeny bikinis I saw on the beach that day! Unreal.

I am very delighted to report that I went full on swimming that day and the cossie held it's own! Absolutely no problems at all, I was kept nice and snug! The above is what happens when you pull down the skirt bit too much and ruin the ruched effect. Whoops.

I added cups from an old bikini into the halters to avoid smuggling tic tacs and they worked a treat, but they really do need to be tacked down as I skipped this step and found them rising up the cups all day, but it's a quick job (with important results!)

Finally, me with the seagulls. In my head, I'm (a slightly more shy) Rachel McAdams in my vintage swimsuit on the beach in the Notebook. If you're a bird, I'm a bird! God I love that film.

AND.... now I need to make a costume like hers, headband included. Maybe for next summer, yes?