Monday, 29 June 2015

Venice Trousers

A couple of weeks before I was to go to Venice on a work related trip (lucky me!) I knew I wanted to make something cool, practical and stylish to take with me. I would be walking around all day, it would be hot in late June and also the mosquitoes were likely to be anticipating the arrival of my pale, hitherto uncovered ankles.  

Trousers were the way to go, a loose style, slim at the ankle and skimming everywhere else.  The last Sewing Bee publication, Fashion with Fabric has a jumpsuit pattern hack that enables you to just make the bottom half, with a drawstring tie and slightly dropped waistband. I matched this pattern with some fabric I already had in waiting, some soft black, grey and pale peach viscose in a bold design with a good drape.

I think I managed to sew these in about 2 hours, they were so straightforward and the loose style meant no fitting or fiddling about with a draft or toile beforehand.  I did then take the side seams out though and insert some pockets, which I rushed to do a few hours before I left for my flight.  But I need somewhere to put my hands when I'm wearing very loosely fitted trousers and a couple of deep pockets were an easy (if a bit of a last minute) addition.

They proved the perfect all-day-long trousers, matched with a floaty black cotton shirt from H&M and my neon stitched New Look high tops. During a 10 hour stint of walking in the heat, sitting in the shade, standing for long stretches gazing at artwork (hands in pockets), getting caught in a ferocious cloudburst and running for cover, then drying out again, these pants stayed cool and crease free.  

There was lots of pocket action, making me glad to have added them, with tickets, map and a camera on quick rotation at all times.  Venice is almost impossible to walk around without stopping to take photos every 20 steps or so. 

Then taking a wrong bridge and getting lost because you're too busy looking up at another beautiful balcony. And then deciding to go with the wrong direction for now because it looks so interesting and hey, look through that doorway!  Let's go through... I'll find my way back eventually.  

Combine 3 days of that combined with the Biennale and pavilions upon pavilions of artwork from the four corners of the world and that's a very full 3 days.

I love Venice. And now these trousers will always remind of that trip.  The Venice Trousers.

I would quite like to make the whole jumpsuit in this fabric, so if I can find some more of it there will be a full length version of me in peach and black zigzags.  

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Flame Lace for a Wedding

I thought you weren't supposed to wear lace at someone else's wedding? This was a thought expressed by a friend of mine after I mentioned making a lace dress for my cousin's wedding in May this year. Oh dear, was this going to be one of those all too familiar 'not appropriate' sartorial decisions? Like the time I 'just popped to the allotment' on the way home from the office one day, wearing Vivienne Westwood. I had only intended a very quick visit to water the tomatoes in my greenhouse as it was a warm evening, but you know it was a beautiful evening and I got into the moment, started clearing a patch of brambles, and ...well I'm never one to let clothing get in the way of life needing to be lived.  Designer threads or not.

So anyway, the thought of wearing lace at a wedding hadn't crossed my mind as being not the thing to do, especially as there are so many beautiful lace creations around in the shops and lace having something of a renaissance in modern clothing design. I wanted to make something special to wear as it was to be a big family occaision and there's nothing like a bit of a do to set my needle a'quiver. I'd already bought a pattern, Simplicity 1606, which is a layered, lace overlay dress based on a vintage 1950s style. Taking my friend's comment on board, the challenge was to find a fabric combination to give enough twist to the traditional style as to be unmistakably not bridal.  

And here it is. Deep coral lace with a burnt orange satin as the underlayer, shot through with an astonishing acid yellow grain. When the light hits the two together they absolutely flame! Impossible to photograph but a wonderful combination that makes every movement send sparks while you're wearing it.  

The pattern is probably one of the most ambitious I've attempted yet. After giving myself a three week window to make it, plenty of time to knock up a dress in the light spring evenings (ha!), it soon became apparent that it was actually two dresses. Three including the lining. It  has a strapless fitted bodice, boning front and back and boy those full circle skirt hems were a looooooong way to sew around!

The bodice actually came together like magic and the boning was more straightforward than I'd feared, especially with the help of some really good online tutorials from fellow sewists.
I ended up freestling the skirt section a bit as I hand sewed the lace layer over the satin along the zip at the back. I finished the back neckline with a gold button and ribbon loop.

In my head I'd seen the finished dress with either teal, blue or gold shoes, however my beloved tangerine suede heels were too perfect and the temptation to go matchy matchy was too great to resist! Even at the risk of looking like I'd been dip dyed bodily in a vat of orange.  

I cooled the whole thing down with this cornflower blue, Louis Ferraud vintage jacket.  This pure wool jacket has really good strong lines and good structure, a perfect foil for the sweetness of the lace.  Also a welcome extra layer for an early May wedding in the chilly north of England. The jacket is actually one part of a fabulous skirt suit that I found in a charity shop a couple of years ago. A gold belt and bag were also vintage, both thrift finds, that finished the look.  This Ear cuff felt like a more contemporary alternative to a fascinator or hair piece, the gold and blue feather cuff was from H&M.

I absolutely loved wearing this outfit and it worked perfectly for the whole day, from chilly church to chilled cocktails, dinner in the beautifully decorated village hall and mostly for dancing with that full, double skirt to swish around in.  

I can see the dress being restyled down for warm summer days, with flat, strappy sandals and a faded denim jacket.  Flaming gorgeous!

Yellow Rigel Bomber

Here it is, the finished bomber jacket from a design by Paper Cut Patterns, a New Zealand based company producing some really great sewing patterns for self sewn clothes with a little bit of edge.  I love the classic bomber design and have been eying up plenty of fabulous ones in high street shops and from designers. I particularly liked the more luxe fabrics and finishes, floral prints and bright colours that appeared last year and continued into Spring 2015.

The fabric I chose is a truly fabulous piece of bright yellow satin, panel printed with an oriental design and woven through with coral, black and green.  It appeals to every magpie sense I have in that it is colourful, shiny and bright with tons of unusual detail all at once. This is not a jacket for sneaking around in hoping not to be seen. It does not blend politely into the crowd. It absolutely is not subtle in any way.

I have had the piece of cloth folded carefully in a linen chest for nearly ten years, after it was given by a relative who brought it back as a holiday souvenir from somewhere in the far east. It briefly saw the light of day as a bed spread in our old house, but it was really too loud to induce sleep or relaxation and also too slippery to stay on the bed in a functional way, so back into the darkness it went. Until now.

Just look at the detail! There are lush bamboo gardens and temples and rockeries! There are tiny figures hurling spears at each other! Children are playing table tennis in traditional costume!  Children are practicing martial arts on each other! Turn around and my astonished onlookers are bathed in the warmth of a setting sun as I leave them speechless with jacket envy!

The fabric is probably a synthetic mix and it slipped and wriggled around like a live thing under the needle as I pieced it together. It also hated the iron and I very nearly melted the front right panel even on a cool setting. Note to self, don't use the front pieces of your garment to test the heat of your iron.  This very nearly ended in disaster, as I'd carefully cut out each piece to show a different scene in exactly the way I wanted, and also to balance the colours across the whole garment.  There was very little fabric left after I'd randomly cut out each cameo scene.

The lining is a simple black lightweight satin for the front sections, with cream satin for the sleeve lining and back to add some contrast.  The black stretch knit for the neck, waist and cuffs was from Plush Addict, who supply some really nice quality ones in many different colours.  

It has been a source of some wonderful and uplifting moments, one of which inspired me to finally get around to starting this blog properly. I was travelling to London for a meeting recently and arrived into Kings Cross St Pancras station, London when I met, quite by chance, a fellow sewist and creative soul who stopped me to ask about what I was wearing. After half an hour of chat with a completely lovely stranger about personal style, living life creatively and the wonderfulness of the colour yellow, I went on my way feeling totally inspired.  In various moments during that day of meetings (and moments snatched between workshopping my brain into loops in a gloomy, sunless basement) I had vowed to finally put pen to paper and write this post about how thoroughly happy sewing and style can make a person.  

It is a coat of double happiness, a golden coat of many colours and a bit like the equivalent of actually wearing a smiley icon. 

Sunshine in every stitch.