Saturday, 29 August 2015

Aldeburgh Seaside and Some Autumn Planning

There are very few places I'd rather be, rain or shine, than at the British seaside.  Ironically I now live pretty much as far as you can get from the sea in any direction (which admittedly isn't that far given that the British Isles are really tiny weeny dots of islands in the middle of rather a lot of water).  But I do spend quite a bit of time daydreaming and pining away for it. Having been born and bred along with the rest of my family for generations on the coast in the north of England, and having lived there for the first 18 years of my life, there is definitely still salt water in my veins.  I love the amusement arcades, joke shops, fish and chips and fairground as well as the long stretches of sand and rock pools to explore with nets and buckets.  I still have a long-time recurring dream of being a seagull and flying over crashing waves.

For this reason there is always a week or so kept sacred in the diary every year for an uninterrupted stint of family time replenishing our sea air and saltwater intake.  We've already had a week in Cornwall during August, only just surviving some unseasonably wet and windy blasts of weather in our tent.  Last week it was the turn of beautiful, colourful Aldeburgh again to receive our affections. Aldeburgh to me is on the genteel end of the scale of seaside fare, not like the brassy 'kiss me quick' brand of seaside that I grew up with.  At Aldeburgh there is also the beautiful Suffolk surroundings to explore and a number of thriving, pretty little towns that offers plenty of diversion for both me and the rest of the family.  It's somewhere that has become a regular haunt.  

Once again, there was some pretty wild and woolly weather to contend with, which meant that most outdoor activity consisted of running for cover, leaning against the wind, battling with brollies and so forth.  Here was the view of the beach road from under my umbrella.  Even for the seagulls, it was pretty wet!

There was no Wifi to distract me in our little home-from-home, so I had lots of time to read books and do some planning for what I'm going to tackle next in my sewing studio.  As a result, here is a list of Autumn projects that I'd like to get my teeth into:

Goddess dress to finish - this has a definite deadline of 10 September as it's my Made Up Challenge Pledge!  I haven't done anything further on this since my last post, as I've been on holiday, but I'm itching to get this floaty-light summer dress finished while the sunshine lasts.  Here's a reminder of where I'm at with this.  Just pinned and basted together at this point while I experiment with attaching a lining.

Next I want a blue chambray shirt - This will be from the same pattern as the one used in the Shirt Therapy post and I already have some light blue cotton ready to go.  This will go with lots of other things in my wardrobe I imagine and I like the idea of customising a bit with pockets, contrasting inside collar etc.

Tweed fitted jacket with Swarovski crystals - I'm looking forward to this one! I'm intending to make something in homage to Alexander McQueen and the beautiful tailoring in Savage Beauty.  I have the princess seamed jacket pattern already cut out, some fine wool tweed ready to go and at the moment the idea is to embellish the jacket quite heavily somehow.  There's quite a bit of embellishment in designer AW 2015 collections also, so I'm looking for inspiration from here too.

Blue keyhole tank top - This will be the same as the Coral Tank and Acid Yellow Tank already made and posted.  I've worn these to bits already this summer.  Now I need one in blue.  Simples!

Floral fabric trench coat  - I have in mind a smart trench coat for the coming colder days and already have some interesting fabric in mind.  I would like a classic trench coat pattern and might try to find an old, discontinued McCall's classic from eBay.  Either that or there is a Burda Style one that looks quite similar.  This will be my first coat and the challenge for me is really exciting to think about.  This is the fabric I'm currently favouring for the trench.

Next up would be a Rigel bomber in navy or plum luxe fabric - I love my gold Rigel posted here and have worn and worn and worn it.  As bomber jackets continue to be a wardrobe staple and appear in the AW 2015 collections too (they go with EVERYTHING!) I want another one.  Possibly several more actually.  I'm thinking either in navy, or one of the deep masala reds that are everywhere for autumn.  Here's a reminder of the gold one.  What a happy jacket this has been!

Now here come a list of craft and home furnishing projects, which I usually don't have time for (and will probably stay at the bottom of the priority list!), but that I would like to get around to:

Cushion covers for studio - I have a sofa and big wing back chair to lounge about on but no cushions yet.  I'd like to custom make some sewing themed ones and have lots of ideas.  It would also be a good way of using up scraps and bits of left over fabric.  As ever though I am time poor, especially when it comes to anything that's not a jacket or a dress!

New cushion covers for the house - We're currently refashioning one of the sitting rooms (that makes it sound as though we live in a mansion!  We have two living rooms in actual fact). I feel the need for smart new accessories.  Must be orange!  Must be mid century modern feel.  Probably in a graphic print.
Door stops for kitchen and toy room - both of these rooms have doors that bang shut all the time.  It really annoys me and so need soft but heavy door stops to minimise floor scraping and door slamming respectively.  

Phew, that's one busy Autumn ahead.  I'd better get cracking then!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Burda Style Ruffle Dress - What I'm Pledging.

When blogger Karen Ball threw down the gauntlet to fellow sewers with the Made Up challenge, I was up for it straight away!  Karen is the face behind the sewing blog Did You Make That and is an accomplished and enthusiastic sewer herself. The Made Up challenge is all about sewers pledging to make something completely new by the 10 September and at the same time each of us donates a contribution of roughly the same amount of money as the cost of a pattern, to the National Literacy Trust.  It's an inspiration born of Karen's two passions of children's publishing and sewing.  Coming from a publishing background myself, in children's non-fiction, and also being a sewing fiend, I jumped on board.

Now, me being ever one to be motivated by a deadline, I soon knew what to pledge and that was the Burda Style Ruffle Dress all set to go in my project pile.  I had been distracted slightly in the last few days by thoughts of another cosy Rigel Bomber Jacket, what with all the rain and cold wind that have been around.  I had even thought of pulling out the wool tweed and setting about making a hacking jacket.  Hmmm, woooool, nice and warm!  But no, given the deadline and the thought of a much needed push to make one last summer dress, despite the chilly weather, the Ruffle took up position on my cutting mat and off we went.

The starting point for this project was this fabric, which I bought some weeks ago when the wonderful Cloth House in Berwick Street Soho was about to close down. They were moving lock, stock and barrel to their shop further up the street and had a sale of rolls and rolls of fabric all at ridiculously low prices.  A whole rack of ends of rolls of excellent quality material for only £3! I happened along the road at just that moment (ahem, as you do! As you know, I am magnetically and unconsciously drawn towards fabric sales) and in a flash bang wallop  3 metres of cream and silver grey silk were mine. As well as 4 metres of pure wool fine check in brown, destined now for a tailored style tweedy hacking jacket for autumn. I also grabbed some bonkers stripy synthetic stuff that is stiff as a board and sort of shiny and frankly still baffling me as to what on earth it will end up being used for.  Retina-ache inducing, striped, nylon taffeta. Thoughts on a postcard please....

So I needed a pattern that could work with fine floaty silk, it's extremely transparent too and I wanted a dress to make the most of these qualities without being too girly cute or fussy.  The photo at the top of this post is actually of the fabric folded double, with the shadow of the flower print on the other side showing through, giving you an idea of how transparent it really is. 

This is the dress I've chosen after spending quite a long time trawling through patterns online to find one that could accommodate all the fabric's trickier qualities, and still be something I'd actually want to wear.  It's the Burda Style 103A Ruffle Dress from May 2015.  The picture on the pattern cover is quite slinky; a very tall and willowy model, posing on some sort of vintage motor and the whole shoot beautifully styled and lit.  This is why it's ALWAYS worth looking closely at the actual line drawing, which will show the real construction and true shape of the dress.  You can see that the shape of this dress is actually a rectangle essentially, with two very small darts at the bust to give a tiny bit of shape around the top, and big old flouncy wings attached front and back on either side.  

Now this could, under the wrong conditions, make you like a tent that has come undone in a gale of wind.  This is not the usual shape I'd go for myself, being more likely to choose a fitted style or something to give me a bit more shape.  Fit and flare are my two favourite words when it comes to dresses.  Sacks are not my go-to style and neither are belted dresses for the same reason unless they are fitted, in that they tend to make me look pretty shapeless.  However with such very fine and floaty fabric, I'm hoping the drape will do the talking and I'm relying on the movement and 'hang' of the fabric to bring the dress to life.  I'm pinning my hopes on this looking cool and body-skimming - not making me look like a ghostly galleon in full sail.  

The first experimental pieces put together with pins on my dress form look promising so far and some nice flow is starting to happen at each side. We shall see!

My studio is currently having building work finished at the moment.  I popped in quickly to take these shots on the dress form in between the builders doing joinery.  The spare room is occupied just now also, which is where I would otherwise have been doing this project.  Fortunately the occupant is my Mum, who is giving me the benefit of her vast sewing knowledge and helping with the construction - bonus!  So I've fitted my sewing into fairly limited time and space this week; one or two evenings snatching a little time and kitchen table space to crack on with cutting out and working out the piecing together.  All the more reason to have a deadline to work to, and a motivating cause.  

Monday, 17 August 2015

Under Canvas in Cornwall - Camping at Porthleven

I'm just back from Cornwall and a challenging week under canvas at Porthleven!  We stayed at a National Trust affiliated site, Penrose Campsite, (the link is to a review of the site), which was a real find considering we left it very late to book anything at all.  The campsite is situated high on cliffs, in fields that form part of the Penrose Estate, which is a lovely stretch of coastline.  We arrived in thick fog, which rendered most of the lovely views invisible, but the next day saw the home sewn bunting hoisted, the sunnies on and proper camp life commenced.

As usual, when we set off on the long drive south, our car was bursting with four of us plus one large size pooch and camping gear and so a fairly limited, mix and match selection of clothes was the order of the day when packing.  It seemed we were even more squashed then ever this year as the smaller people are getting bigger, and they also want their fair share of stuff.  This year also saw the addition of a HUGE table and two benches, snaffled up in a camp sale by Tricky, who insisted it folded up to practically nothing.  

Note the moody sky rolling in over our tent.  That sky meant business let me tell you.

So anyway, I had thought quite carefully about clothes this time instead of flinging in everything except the kitchen sink and here are my 5 top tips for packing with limited space when you still want to give yourself some style options for each day.

1.  Scarves.  I'm talking silk, cotton or linen ones here that pack up small.  Probably not woolly knitted ones, unless you really, really feel the cold (and I'm totally with you here if you do!).  A couple of these will take up virtually no space in a bag, can be changed around depending on size from neckerchief, wrap, beach cover to hairband even, and give you a different look each day.  Choose one in a bright colour and one neutral shade at least, so that you change them around.  These are the ones I took; a black and white zebra print one in cotton (Stella & Dot), one in bright pink silk (vintage, given to me years ago) and one in blue and white silk (charity shop find).

2.  Think 'Outfit' over 'Item'.  Ok let's say for example, and totally hypothetically, that you've bought a beautiful yellow panama hat from the Reiss sale with a sweeping, wide brim (that will crush at the mere hint of an overstuffed bag or wilt in damp and rain), and you can't wait to wear your beautiful hat on holiday.  If you are like me you will prioritise this over anything remotely practical and pack it first, along with a number of other individual items that are lovely in themselves but don't necessarily compliment each other.  

This is where you have to resist, step back and think about whole outfits for each day/evening that you know go together, require little space and won't cause you headaches when you get on holiday and find half your bag full of clothes now clash in a non-cool way.

3.  Jumpsuits and dresses are good.  They are essentially one item that covers all of you. Zero thought needed.  Accessorise at will and layer up/down as required.

4. Think light layers.  When short of space, I go for light, non-bulky clothes to layer up or down rather than taking heftier items.  Especially when camping, you do have to think about the potential for a good few degrees of temperature change between night and day, and a selection of cotton or silk vest tops, t shirts or tunics in coordinating colours will be more versatile and interchangeable than one or two big, thicker items.  I tend to go for greys or blues as they suit me and go with virtually any other colour to pep them up a bit. Oh, and waterproofs for your essential last layer for a rainy day.  

Here was the view from our tent when we arrived.  Cold, wet fog.  Layers were applied pronto for the first evening. Brrrr!

5.  Now you've got your capsule camping bag of layers, make room for one lovely thing that feels special. I ended up taking my second best panama hat as a compromise. You want a bit of individuality and to feel good after all, even if you're fighting for survival under canvas in the wilds of a Cornish southwesterly.  Oh my goodness, did we experience the wrath of the Cornish summer storms this week!  Brooding skies were never very far away, as was a bracing and rather unseasonal cold wind.

Tricky says we need a wind-break next time we go camping.  He's suggested I sew one rather than buy it, designed to go with our camp colours (red, blue and pink).  This sounds like a lot of 'straight line' sewing to me, which is a bit uninspiring and takes aaaaaaaages.  Plus it would have needed to be some substantial fabric to withstand the force 8 gale that descended on us on Wednesday night.  On the other hand, something about the idea of a very unique 'statement' wind-break sort of makes it seem worthwhile!  We spend a lot of time on the beach, at all times of year, so I can see it coming into good use with maybe a matching carry bag too.  I see another sewing project joining the list.

Porthleven revealed itself to be a great base for exploring and the town itself has a good selection of pubs, restaurants and little shops to keep you fed and topped up with treats on a wet day.  This little bakery, the Horse and Jockey, served the biggest cornish pasties I have ever seen!

Deliciously hot, substantial and well deserved on a cold and rainy summer teatime.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Charity Playsuit 1970's Style

I have always been a huge advocate of re-using, up-cycling and up-styling, and to this end am an enthusiastic charity shopper.  What started as an occasional visit to charity shops looking for vintage pieces when I was younger, became a weekly habit when I went on maternity leave a few years ago and couldn't afford to indulge in any serious clothes buying for myself.  Since then I try to concentrate on looking for high quality garments or things I couldn't otherwise afford to buy new every day of the week.  Vintage pieces are hard to find now, but still possible, especially if they require a bit of mending or altering.  Similarly, good quality high street or designer pieces can be found and are worth snapping up even if they require a bit of attention in repair.  I was lucky to find this 1970's style, three quarter length playsuit in pure silk from Whistles at the end of last summer.  One of the straps had pulled loose, but otherwise it was perfect.  An easy fix!

It looks very vintage, with a very authentic 70's colour way of brown, white and yellow, but its actually a modern take on a design classic. Playsuits of all shapes and sizes are everywhere on the high street just now and it's amazing how many ways you can style them, from a casual daytime look with high-top trainers, sandals or platforms, to high heels and jewels for cocktails. These 70's colours and shapes are also everywhere in the shops just now and so I feel very lucky to have chanced upon this 'past season' gem.  Having held onto it from last year and wearing it only a couple of times, it has now come into the wardrobe spotlight again and looks very 'now'.  The length is great, at just on the knee and it has pockets.  I like the way it has been cleverly cut so that the stripes meet in a 'V' on the bodice.  Lots to take note of here when I'm next sewing with striped fabric.

I've put it together here with white, woven leather platform sandals by New Look, also via a charity shop.  I've added some vintage bangles in yellow and dark brown wood.  The shoes were virtually new and seemed straight away to compliment the 70's vibe when I spotted them. The great thing about this silk all-in-one outfit is that it folds away to nothing and is as light as a feather, perfect for holiday packing.  It loses creases quite quickly too, especially if you've got a shower to hang it in where the moist air will do the job for you on those natural fibres.  

This whole outfit top to toe was under £15.  Kerching!  

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Quick Blue and Orange Sorbetto Top

Here is a super-simple and quickly sewn top - the Sorbetto.  A very satisfying thing to make when time is short or you want fast results.  A new top is always lovely to have when inspiration strikes, as it did with me recently, and I needed something new to wear before the day is out!  This is a bus-stop selfie on my way to the office and I’m wearing the Sorbetto with my extremely ancient, battered, navy blue leather jacket. Fortunately the battered bits (worn elbows, slashed arm, faded bits and frayed bits!) can be cropped away in the photos!

I love that jacket though, even more for its age and visible signs of wear and tear and even though I’ve got a brand new and utterly decadent black one from Reiss, the familiar blue bruiser still gets wheeled out from time to time.  I think I’ve had this old jacket for about 20 years now.  It was a birthday present when I was young and had just moved to London, so it has many years of good memories attached to it. It also has the battle scars of many clubs, pubs, gigs and cloakrooms, and generally being carted everywhere and worn to bits.  In fact it might possibly the oldest thing in my wardrobe that I have had from new and still wear (so if my new black one lasts half the time this one has, it will have done well)!

Anyway, back to the new top.  This is a free pattern that you can just download straight from the very popular Collette patterns collection, with the Sorbetto pdf here.  This has been well used by many sewists over the last few years because it’s just so versatile as well as stylish and simple to create.  I followed the pattern just as printed (two pieces only so very minimal effort needed to piece together and cut out) but then added sleeves also.  There are tutorials on the web about how to do this; here is one with a free pre-drafted sleeve pdf ready to download.

The top has no fastenings and is only shaped at the seams and with two darts, so is fairly loose fitting and breezy.  There is a nice box pleat at the front adding subtle detail, but you could actually omit this if you wanted the top to be plain at the front (or if you’re trying to squeeze this top out of a smaller piece of fabric).

Similarly you could customise it by adding buttons, stitching, edging or any other trim to the pleat itself.  The neckline edge is finished with bias binding, again you could customise by using a contrast colour.  You could also very easily adjust the neckline itself to give you more or less coverage at the front and/or back as you wish.  This pattern is a really good place to start for some beginner pattern hacking and you could enjoy having some fun with it. 

The fabric I’ve chosen here is a summery, light cotton print in some of my favourite and most-worn colours this spring and summer, blues and oranges on a white background.  The same material has been used to cut my own bias binding for the neck.  I only needed just over a meter of the main fabric to cut a size 12 in this.  I’d like to make some more of these to take with me on my holidays this year, perhaps in multiple colours to mix and match with cropped trousers or jeans, a grey one with maybe bright bias binding to contrast and definitely one in white too.  Super-speedy-sorbetto!

I've been dabbling with some quite quick sewing makes and also a bit of design inspiration and diy at home (more on that later, involving quite a lot of yellow paint).  This comes after my rather intensive Shirt Therapy blogged here previously. So I've also had time to have some fun on Instagram with a new project set up by the truly inspirational blogger, Catherine from notdressedaslamb.  As a fellow blogger who likes to promote the stylish over 40's woman, Catherine has been kicking against the idea of what is deemed 'not age appropriate' and has set up the hashtag #iwillwearwhatilike celebrating 30 days in August with a different 'banned' item each day.  Here's the original blog post if you fancy looking at the full list what, apparently, you're no longer allowed to include in your wardrobe or apply to your bod after you hit 30 years old.  Then head over to the Instragram group during August and see us all enthusiastically breaking the rules!

Find me on Instagram @studio63designs