Monday, 28 September 2015

Noisy into Nice, Grey Leather Charity Skirt

I feel that most very long skirts don't seem to work for me.  One example is a great looking, full length leather skirt in pewter-grey from French Connection, which when I bought it I thought would be a perfect addition to my wardrobe.  I love wearing grey and I love leather.  The skirt was a charity shop purchase last year, but although it fits like a glove and I was delighted to find it, I just can't get the hang of the long length hemline and it has ended up being worn only once.  Not least because having all that leather around my lower legs is actually very noisy, as I discovered when walking about. 

Also kicking against a big wall of leather felt a bit restrictive, for I am large-of-stride and tend to steam around with purpose most of the time, which met with a fair bit of resistance despite the generous back vent.  The day I did wear it was to a conference, I spent the whole time being very conscious of how much I was moving around due to the very intrusive flapping noise.  I felt like a leathery-winged dragon clattering around the room.  Not as fun as it sounds.

The leather skirt was therefore destined to be an alteration project.  As you can see it's ankle skimming but the split at the back is quite high, so that's a bonus when thinking about taking it up.  It does fit really well though around the waist and hips too, falling in a fairly straight line all the way down, so I was pretty sure it didn't need any further adjustments. I've been putting it off as I've not been absolutely sure what length to cut it and also because of nervousness about working with leather.  Also altering clothes is a bit boring if I'm honest.  However now autumn is here and I could visualise wearing something like this, it came out of the 'to alter' pile and onto my cutting mat.

On proper, close up inspection the way the skirt is put together made it obvious that it was to be a very easy job to simply shorten the length.  The bottom hem of the leather is just cut across and left raw and unfinished.  The satin lining inside is hemmed but quite cleverly attached to the reinforced leather fold of the back vent where it tucks under, so that the stitching is concealed.  Therefore unpicking it and restitching it would mean no damage to visible parts of the skirt. 

I folded up the hemline to the length I wanted and used tape to hold it in place for trying on.  Word to the wise here!  Sellotape or similar will damage the leather (doh!), so if you do this, be sure to use a tape that is meant for fabric or something non-sticky that will come off with no marks.  I used ordinary sticky tape as it was all I had lying around this weekend, and even though it was only on for moments, it did rip a little of the leather surface off.  I had only a short time in between the usual weekend rush to try this one in the afternoon and mess around in front of the mirror.  As I'd recently been wrapping birthday presents on the bed, the roll of tape presented itself handily to me. Lesson learned about taking short cuts!  Anyway, I decided to go for a length that hits just below the knee as I think this is a flattering length for a straight or pencil skirt but still retains a nice long line.

I measured from the hemline, marked the inside with tailors chalk in several places all around the skirt and then cut across in as straight a line as possible.  You can see from the shot above that, even with a good amount taken off the bottom, there is still a good 10 inches of back vent left.

Here's the new length with the raw hem. Not too bad for straightness, although I think I might have placed the skirt slightly wonkily on the cutting mat for this shot!  Altogether I took 24 cm from the hem, just over 9 inches.  Turning to the insides, I unpicked a few stitches where the lining was sewn to the fold of the leather at the back vent each side.  Then I turned up roughly a double seam allowance of 5/8 inch and zig zag stitched along the hem.  I then added a couple of stitches to attach the lining back to the leather at the very edges, just one centimetre or so, near the vent.

I'm now considering how I might use the bits left over, they seem the perfect size for cuffs or lower sleeve sections on a mixed fabric top or jacket perhaps? I can visualise a cropped length, boxy style jacket with a zip front, in charcoal and grey wool, with this grey leather trim.  Another idea to note for the autumn/winter wish list.

Here's how the finished skirt length looks and I'll definitely be wearing it this season.  It still retains the long, slim line that I like and therefore still makes a statement in this pewter leather, but I think it's much more flattering as well as versatile.  

The back works perfectly well, as the vent goes to well above the back of the knee, where you can see the upper and lower sections of leather have a seam line.  So it still looks balanced as well as being easy to walk in and unrestrictive.  The almost straight sided design of the skirt means that, even with over 9 inches off the hem, it still falls perfectly nicely without hanging in awkward folds or needing the side seams taking in.  

Its great to have something that I've brought back into use again and a garment that will go with so many other things in my wardrobe.  No more flapping around either, as this skirt now  thankfully seems content with being seen and not heard.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Autumn Leaves Charity Dress

Often I will see something in a charity shop for a bargain price, snap it up and then it will sit in my wardrobe waiting for it's time to come again in the limelight.  I bought a wonderful Marlene Birger dress and a vintage handbag from a local charity shop way back in 'summer dress' season for less than a tenner, and then promptly sent them both to the back of the wardrobe.  There they have remained, in clothing Narnia, where all the out of season or out of favour clothes live until they are recalled.  

The dress is a beautifully flowing, pleated silk creation with black sequins around the waist, a button back and small embroidered embellishments here and there.  The neckline is gathered in pleats also and a broad waist band defines the silhouette nicely in a flattering hourglass shape. The fabric is in shades of deep browns, greys and bright teal featuring a pattern of large autumn leaves.  You can see a big horse chestnut leaf in skeletal form at the bottom hem here.  

The silk does a fairly convincing, season-appropriate, autumn-leafy rustle when moving around too.  I think the fitted bodice shape and pleating from the wide waistband is just gorgeous and I wish I could find a pattern to reproduce something like it. I may have to undertake some serious research into finding either a near-as-dammit pattern or cobble together a separate bodice and skirt section to get the look. 

I dare not unpick the dress to copy it, that would be a leap of faith to far in my own sewing skills.  That brings back memories of a time when I unpicked a much loved, stuffed toy dog given to me as a child.  I had every intention of making another identical one for a young relative, as I had loved the fifties style velvet doe-eyed puppy from my own childhood.  Why didn't I just make a different dog?  What possessed me to disassemble the already perfectly adorable dog?  Let's just say it didn't work anyway and my poor patchwork doggy's remains have been languishing in a carrier bag ever since, in about 48 completely unidentifiable pieces. And no I'm not adding it to my next 'seasonal wish list of sewing' list!

Back to this bargain purchase, which has been reintroduced to the world as it seemed perfect for an event I attended at the end of last week.  It was a day to night affair, beginning with visits in the afternoon that involved quite a lot of walking distance between different venues, followed by some fairly swish networking and then a party.  Combined factors equalled the need for footwear that could carry me some distance, a day to night outfit, weatherproof layering, and a reasonably polished turn-out for cocktails and dancing.  No mean feat for one outfit.  I think this one covers all the bases and looks reasonably well turned out even with boots.  I photographed this outfit in a rush before catching the bus to the event in the afternoon and so unfortunately the boots got missed off the shot.  However they are black, pointy and with a mid heel and fairly pedestrian as boots go, so I don't feel you're missing out on anything. 

The high neckline and cut away shoulders are flattering on me as I'm broad shouldered.  The neckline pleats are also a nice feature and the arm holes are finished with bias binding.  I think the bodice section could be quite easy to reproduce with the right basic pattern.  The button and loop back fastening is a nice feature, although there is also an invisible zip at the side seam.

Dresses are a good bet from charity shops I find. Good finds especially are special-occasion-wear that is offloaded by their original owners without being worn very often.  Even fairly expensive garments bought at great expense are often jettisoned, as the pressure to wear something new and different for each wedding or party demands each new purchase is quickly resigned to the scrap heap.  Those that don't make it to eBay are usually in need of a button, a zip or a few stitches to repair them, which can be but a few moments work.  In this case the Marlene Birger beauty was in need of a handful of replacement sequins around the waistline, where they form a zig zag pattern.  As they are fairly generic black sequins that can be found in pretty much any haberdashery, the repair job was quick and simple.  

The designer label, quality of the finish and fabric is likely to have made this dress beyond the reach of my pocket when it was new.

Investment buying pieces that you will wear time and time again and sewing garments that I will equally love is much more my style.  Most of the garments in my wardrobe will be rotated around year in, year out.  I have garments that have been gifted, handed down, found and re-discovered, all of which hold memories and have history.  I love fashion, but I like clothing with style even better and even though some of the things I make are fairly 'statement' (and sometimes quite loud), I usually choose classic shapes that will stand the test of time. Something that is old, past season, preloved and refashioned will always be more interesting to me and more rewarding to wear if I believe it fits well, is beautifully made and I still like how it looks on me.  

My vintage python bag came out to play too, also a charity shop find and possibly harking back to the sixties or seventies with its prim structured form, combined with slightly psychedelic, hand tinted copper and teal colours.  There is actually some slightly snakey print on the dress too, as you can see in the above shot, so the two chime quite nicely together.  The bag has gold clasps at the top which come together with a very satisfying and efficient snap, sits on little gold studs at the base and has a soft, camel coloured suede lining, so it has been well made of it's time.  

The dress pleats look very crisp here on the bus stop shots.  This silk forms very tidy folds indeed gathered at the waistline (hidden underneath my leather biker jacket here), but a design feature to remember for future home sewn garments.

This bag also acts a bit like a tardis, in that it looks neat and demure, but holds an enormous amount of essential work-a-day cargo.  In my case the luggage stowed on board included two phones, bunch of keys, lipgloss and compact, pocket diary and pen, large purse, tickets and business cards, mints, an umbrella, two birthday cards and a pack of tissues. One great thing about the vintage handbag is you can stuff it to the very gills with everything but the sink, and it will remain totally unfazed.  No bulging, bursting or unsightly overspill with this stout leather frame. No wonder the Queen likes a nicely structured bag, (she favours Launer), capacious and revealing nothing of its contents.  It's also clear why lady spies in old 1940's film reels carried these things around as standard issue. I reckon you could have stashed a litre of vodka, a complete change of clothes with matching wig and fedora and a fully operational undercover surveillance unit and nobody would be the wiser!

Dress by Marlene Birger from charity shop
Python bag, vintage with no label, from charity shop

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Last of the Summer Roses, Simplicity 2446 Fitted Blazer

This is the very last flush of blooms from my favourite old rose in the garden.  It smells amazing and has clambered right up into the apple tree, which is also jostling with the gigantic fig tree in a bid to get up to the light. A real last autumnal fling. 

Continuing with a love of all things floral then, this is a jacket featuring a riot of cabbage roses.  With a black background and shot through with electric blue and khaki green foliage, the red and white flowers completely cover this fitted blazer and I love the contrast of blowsy, rambling blooms and sharp-as-a-tack tailoring.  It's a real, no holds barred, eyeful of a jacket and is exactly the sort of thing I love to make. This was actually made a while ago and I haven't got around to taking photographs of it to put on the blog until recently.  Well that is, I had taken the indoor shots on the dress form, but not any of me wearing it that actually came out properly.  It's a devil of a jacket to get a good photo of.  When I had tried to selfie on a timer, which is my usual method of taking photographs of myself wearing things, for some reason the pattern seems to confuse the camera.  

This fabric is a cotton sateen with a really good intensity of colour.  It was a bit of an investment because I loved the print and paid more than I normally do for fabric when I don't have a clear idea at the time what I want to make. The flowers are very random and with a big repeat across the material, so pattern matching was thankfully not too much of an issue when cutting out.  I lined the whole thing with a really luxurious, electric blue satin that makes the whole garment feel beautiful to wear.  The photos taken here indoors, on my dress form actually do the colours better justice than the outdoor shots.  The lining is a fabulous colour and picks up on the blue in the leaves.

The pattern in Simplicity 2446, a lined, princess seamed, single breasted blazer with front pockets that has lots of scope for a really fitted construction or a slightly more relaxed style if you prefer.  There are two front buttons and three on each sleeve cuff, I used a charcoal grey and black, horn-look buttons that disappear, as I felt any more contrasting colours might be headache-inducing.  The pattern allows you to make a short or longer, riding jacket style and I opted for the shorter version in this case to fit the fabric length I had.  There is no back vent in this version, just a shaped hemline for a smooth silhouette.

This was the first really fitted jacket I've made in recent times, although I have made lots of different styles in the past such as boxy, biker style and military.  This one was a good challenge to get the construction really spot on and practice some rusty tailoring techniques, especially around the collar and lapels.  There wasn't enough fabric to move the sections around very much, but fortunately no horrible pattern clashes occurred.  I think the two white roses on the lapels could have been better placed with hindsight and if the quantity had allowed for it, but at least they're facing in different directions, so I'm happy to let that go.

The instructions on the pattern requires that you baste up the jacket first inside out to check the fit and ensure any issues are sorted out before you rip it apart and stitch it together.  Instead I cut a complete toile first in calico, cut and scribbled all over it, and then transferred my alterations onto the fabric.   I was glad I spent the time on this drafting element as there were quite a few tweaks and alterations required that although small, were necessary for a good fit around the shoulders and waist.  I took the princess seams in a lot at the waistline and through the back. By the time I'd got the draft as I wanted it, I was very happy to transfer the whole thing onto my precious roses.  

After that, the main jacket sections came together very simply and the collar and sleeves followed.  Each stage needed careful pressing to ensure the lines stayed sharp and true.  A tailors ham came into its own here, giving me a firm, rounded shape to press against for the shoulder areas.  The pockets are quite far forward on the front of the jacket, but they're a nice feature with the flaps over the top.

The back is fitted nicely across the shoulders and through the waist and hips but still has plenty of movement.

After wearing the jacket out to test drive it, I did go back to it and take out the shoulder pads as I felt they were giving me a little too much breadth (I have a broad back and so whilst liking  a nice structured look, any more additional centimetres across the width unbalances me).  This meant unpicking the lining again at the bottom hem, venturing back inside to pull out the pads, then taking in the seam slightly on the top of the arm hole to bring it in a little where the pad was no longer filling it out.  It didn't take too long and fortunately I had some help from my mum, who was staying with me at the time and who is an absolutely wizard at this sort of thing. It was completely worth the last extra tweak after all the work I put into making it in the first place.  There is nothing worse than making a garment and then leaving it to be forgotten in your wardrobe because there's something not quite right about it.  I think the shoulders still look nice and structured in any event, due to the fabric having a bit of body.

I can throw this on over a t-shirt and jeans, step into a pair of heels or high tops and look like I've made an effort. Pairing it with electric blue, red or bright coral pink and it's disco!  Oooh look, it's nice to have fancy lining to flash!

Being a Yorkshire girl at my roots, I also like to feel that wearing red and white roses at the same time might be a small sartorial gesture of friendship towards my northern neighbours!  It's also rugby run-up season too, so Rich might be pleased to see me doing my bit through sewing and sporting a rose for the team?!  Or is that too tenuous a link?  In the interests of promoting peace, tolerance and sporting spirit through clothes then, I will wear my autumn roses with pride. 

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Goddess Dress - 'Made Up Challenge' completed

I don't usually do flounces, well not unless I'm forced to (friends and family may disagree and say I'm always flouncing about, but don't believe them!).   But here's an interestingly shaped dress with two sets of ruffles at the sides that demand a bit of a dramatic turn.  This snowflake patterned ruffle dress is now named by me the 'Goddess Dress'.

I spent quite a while looking for a dress pattern that could accommodate extremely fine silk in white and yet not look too bridal or too fussy. Oddly the outsized ruffles on this Burda Style pattern (103A, The Ruffle Dress from May 2015), looked to me quite contemporary and not froufrou as you might imagine them being, which might be something to do with the way they are so exaggerated against the pared back style of the dress itself. Here's the line drawing as I showed before, so you can see where those flounces sit on either side of the body of the dress.  The front and back views are virtually identical, except for two tiny bust darts.

The dress pattern is available for download here and requires you to print it off, piece it together and then cut out and add your own seam and hem allowance. I mostly use ready printed paper patterns so this was a good exercise in doing a a download version, having relatively few pieces to organise.

I decided to line the dress as the silk is so transparent.  Also I hoped a lining would give the main section a little more substance. I made essentially two identical main dress sections, one in the silk and one in very fine, off-white polyester, to sew together at the shoulders and then treat both silk and lining as one piece of fabric from there on. I used the neck facing pattern pieces over the top for a neat neckline.  The ruffles at either side are one single layer of silk each, as are the oval shaped side pieces inserted under each arm-hole. I left out the interfacing (well, totally overlooked it would be more accurate).  With hindsight the side sections could probably have done with a little reinforcement to support the zip but it's not a major issue.

The dress has an invisible zip at the side, concealed in the shaped side sections, to leave the body of the dress uncluttered and simply shaped with the two darts.  I don't have an invisible zip foot, but you can insert one with a normal zip foot and there are tutorials to show you how to do this online (I used the burda style magazine step by step tutorial here). Ironing the zip flat before starting really makes a difference when inserting with a normal zipper foot.  Then it's just a question of getting as close as possible to each side of the zip band's teeth.

I wanted to introduce a raw quality to the edges of the ruffles to add a bit more contrast of rough with pretty. Instead of using a neat turned hem along the long side of the ruffles, I used a small zigzag stitch and left a minimal, visible fraying edge. Hopefully the stitching will be enough to keep the fray in check and I know I'll only ever be gently hand washing this garment so it won't have to a stand up to any harsh treatment in that respect.  Another difference in my version is that I hand stitched the neck facing down, using invisible stitches through all the layers close to the neck edge, to stop it from creeping around and being visible. The bottom hem of the lining is also hand stitched.  

It's also worth noting with this dress pattern, that it includes pieces where you can see both the front and back of the fabric, the ruffles as you can see in the photos here lay both right side and reverse side against the dress as they waterfall down, so that you need to be happy with the reverse side showing.  In this case, the silk is very similar on both the right and reverse sides, with the grey flower design being only slightly less prominent on the reverse.  Unless you look hard you simply can't tell the difference.  

The newly renamed Goddess Dress is my contribution to the Made Up Challenge!  A brilliant idea from sewing blogger Karen Ball over at didyoumakethat to raise funds for the National Literacy Trust.  I pledged to make the dress, in my blog post here. A great incentive to get the garment cut, sewn and completed in what would have otherwise been quite a busy few weeks, what with holidays and then back to school preparations for September.  The whole project was put to one side for a short while as I entered another online challenge (the PR Sewing Bee posted here), as I thought I would have plenty of time to do both.  Ha!  Famous last words!  An horrendously busy week at work meant burning the midnight oil to complete the dress, but I'm still here with a completed garment, breathless and staggering at the finish line.

It also means I now have something suitable to wear for my friend's birthday party coming up this weekend.  We are supposed to wear or bring something 'Goddess' related and as you know I'm never one to shy away from a dressing up challenge, however much it stretches the realm of reason or imagination.  I think this dress has enough Grecian lines and etherial floaty-ness to fit the bill with a little bit of other-worldly accessorising.  Even if the person wearing it is very much of this world and without much resemblance to a deity or boasting supernatural powers.  Could I make an attempt at Xena Warrior Seamstress maybe?  Could I make those white floaty ruffle-wings look like Princess's cape from Battle of the Planets?  
As part of the bird-themed G Force Team (fearless young orphans from the 1970's protecting earth and the galaxy), Princess' alter-ego was a swan, she rode a motorcycle and threw bombs from a specially adapted yo-yo!  That's who I wanted to be when I was young and a huge BotP fan.  Although I know I'm now stretching the theme of goddess into animated superhero territory, but that's really more my style I think.  I'll stop there.

I've broken out of my comfort zone a little with this shape of dress, it being basically a rectangle with not much shape sewn in.  This is a style I wouldn't normally see as flattering on me but it has turned out ok I think.  I believe the dress works for me because of the fabric though and drapes just enough to give it movement and contour despite the simple lines, and so hopefully doesn't make me look too much like a box.  I probably wouldn't make this dress up in another weightier fabric, because the shape would be too square on my frame. Given the drama of the ruffles I'm less concerned about the shaping of the actual body of the dress.

Now I do have to say that this dress very nearly ended up being hurled across the room on a number of occasions!  Firstly the downloaded burda pattern, despite being fairly straightforward in construction, included very minimal instructions and no diagrams.  I am a very visual person and I did find that where the instructions were a bit lacking, it would have been useful to actually see what steps they were referring to.  A couple of times I felt a bit left high and dry by the pattern and ended up ignoring the instructions altogether and just worked it out for myself.  I think it turned out roughly the same as the intended design, but I have to confess I'm not a hundred percent sure how the ruffles were supposed to neatly attach to the shoulder seams, or whether the bias binding is correctly applied where the side seams and zip meet rather awkwardly.  Then there was the fabric, which is gossamer fine and required a concentration level that I find hard to sustain for long periods of time.  Pulling, fraying, floating off at crucial stages when I needed it to stay still, this stuff was like stitching spiders webs.  Weightless fabric is heavy work that's for sure.  Whoosh!  Off it goes again!

But despite all that, I do like the design.  It makes a statement and the fabric was a good choice in the end.  The ruffles have a life of their own and waft around at the slightest movement or breeze, it was quite difficult getting photographs outside that show them properly!  The boat neck is pared back and unfussy to allow the billowing sides to take the limelight and the longer length allows for a fantastic waterfall cascade. 

Goddess coming through!  Let the flouncing commence!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Fitted Blue Shirt, New Look 6232 Again

Here's the first item from the ever lengthening autumn sewing wish list.  A blue cotton shirt.  This is one shirt I already know I will wear and wear all through the colder months as a wardrobe staple.   I absolutely love the colour of this cotton, almost like a chambray, but with a luminescence that lifts it above a denim blue.  

To be perfectly honest, this has appeared so very quickly off the starting blocks only because of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee 2015 contest.  I had already planned this shirt anyway and had the pattern (from the Shirt Therapy post here) as well as the fabric all waiting to go when I got round to it.  I am however still in the middle of another couple of projects that need finishing off (including one for another online challenge, the Made Up challenge ruffle dress).  This shirt jumped up the project queue pronto when Pattern Review announced that the first stage of its sewing bee contest was to make a fitted blouse.  The stars thus aligned, the shirt presented itself as a perfect fit for the contest and so was cut, sewn, photographed and entered!  Much of this work was done whilst burning the midnight oil over the weekend and fuelled with wine.

The PR Sewing Bee contest involves each required garment being announced to the contestants, who then have 7 days 'against the clock' to make the item according to the required specifications.  Contestants then review and photograph it and enter the review to the website.  In this first round the request was for a fitted blouse with set in sleeves and closures (not a wrap around, no using a stretchy knit fabric either).  You have to describe how the fit was achieved, the closures chosen and any other design details you included.  The judges then decide who stays in for the next round and who goes out. 

I chose to add dark grey, mother of pearl buttons and a contrasting grey collar band, and top stitched the seams.  There really was nowhere to hide with this fabric, which I hope will go in my favour to show the neat and sleek finish I was striving for.  There is an advantage to working with the patterned fabric I normally go for, as it might have done a good job of hiding little mistakes (and lack of ironing!) which I know I'm sometimes guilty of in my rush to wear what I'm making.

I have to say the biggest challenge with this shirt, was that the contest required photographs of the inside of the garment as well as the outside.  Now I know that really top quality sewing work should look as neat and tidy on the inside as the outside and all that, but really, in real life, who's looking?  I mean I'm not exactly Antoni Gaudi creating the Sagrada Familia cathedral here (when asked why he spent so long on working on the detail at the top of the spires where nobody could ever possibly see it, he answered that he knew the angels would be looking).  No thanks, angels shmangels, as long as it hangs together nicely, stays together in the wash and looks good from the outside I'm generally fine with a bit of wobbly finishing off on the inside edges and the odd un-snipped thread, as long as I'm sewing just for myself.  I usually just want to finish and wear the thing, not examine it's innards.  So I had to make real effort this time to trim the seams, edge them nicely, remove the (bright red) tailor tack threads that had got caught up in the stitching and so on.  It did look pretty in the end and I can see why fellow sewists get a real sense of personal satisfaction knowing that their garments are beautifully finished inside and out.  A good exercise for me in doing things properly, but I'm not promising to do this again under normal, selfish sewing circumstances!

There was also the time limit.  I don't have a Scooby Doo how the contestants on the telly in Great British Sewing Bee manage to create garments in a few hours only.  I mean how on earth do people stitch so quickly??  It also makes me consider how factory made garments are churned out so quickly and cheaply too, because there still has to be somebody sitting at a machine doing the actual sewing, they don't come together by magic.  I really only had a couple of evenings when realistically I could commit to making this so I really focused down and worked hard, and even then I only just managed to finish it.  I then had to photograph it (in horrible light due to it being 11pm at night, so the shots are not flattering at all!) and then get it uploaded to the PR website in time.  I then had a cliff hanger moment when shortly before the deadline my photos disappeared.  Panic was prevented though by the PR team who were really great and sorted out the problem very quickly. I photographed the shirt again in better light for this post (well, better light being early morning, autumn mizzle) but I actually think the low level daylight does that glowing colour better justice.  

I like the blue colour paired with navy and warm tan as above, but I was first inspired to put together this blouse with the idea of wearing it with black.  Blue and black can look really interesting together I think.  I added the dark grey pearl buttons and grey collar band for this reason as I wanted to darken the look of the shirt.  I quite like the way I imagine the strong blue will look with black leather jeans or my leather shorts (posted here) for an edgier and less traditional look, but we'll see. 

I have to just point out the belt in these photos, which was a bargain find from a local bric-a-brac stall.  It's hand tooled, tan black and dark green leather with a brass buckle and a little matching purse attached, just big enough for a bus ticket and a key, but cute looking!  It still has the label attached stating it was handmade by someone from a leather tooling guild in Lincolnshire.  True artisan workmanship.

So the competition round winner and those who will go through to the next round are announced on September 12th - wish me luck.  And in any event, the shirt will be in constant wear from now until then, which makes it a winner in my book.

Hand made shirt in blue cotton
Navy cropped trousers from Primark
Tan boots from Clarks
Tooled leather belt with purse, a vintage bric-a-brac stall find
Tan leather cross body bag was a souvenir brought back from Spain

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Leather Shorts, Repair to Wear!

I don't ever remember wearing shorts really, apart from in school PE class (shudder!).  I don't think I have ever owned a pair in my adult life.  So I'm straight in at the deep end with these cheeky leather hot-pants!  Ok before I go any further I have to say these are not handmade.  I've snapped them here on my cutting mat as it was a handy background, not because I have created them from scratch, I wish I was that clever.  I bought them damaged and repaired them.  

I have lots of leather trousers, which are an absolute wardrobe staple for me and all of which I love and wear regularly from autumn through to spring.  So I saw these shorts, which are made of the silkiest soft, fine leather, and immediately imagined them with opaque tights and worn with boots and a chunky knit for autumn.  Perhaps a big poncho or shawl over the top.... et voila! They were in the bag.

They are made of extremely good quality, supple leather, that is evenly perforated throughout.  They have a satin lining underneath, are belted and have a couple of funky zips at the front and pockets at the back.  Having been horrendously expensive in the shop, these designer hot-pants were reduced in price to an absolute snip because of a VERY large rip along one of the back pockets.  One of the downsides I guess to being made of such delicate, perforated hide is that it becomes vulnerable to tearing, although how on earth someone managed to make such a huge hole in these I just don't know. You can just see part of the rip here, above the right side back pocket.  I missed it at first, but then when I tried them on it was very obvious.

Repairing ripped leather means matching the edges back together as carefully as possible and trying to make it stay there with the least amount of visible evidence of mending.  It can be sewn back together if you can get the two edges close enough and then zigzag over the join, although of course you will be able to see this join and the stitching if it's in an exposed place.  The other way is the glue it together, adding something to stabilise the edges underneath and help provide a base layer for the glue.  Ideally this underneath layer would be a small piece of leather of similar weight and colour, or a stable piece of fabric that will hold glue.  The photo below shows how far the rip extends underneath the pocket, the entire top right corner has ripped away.

So I can't imagine this garment would have ever been bought by someone who didn't sew, as the damage would have been totally off-putting, virtually making them unwearable.  For this garment it was the last chance saloon before they were written off probably and thrown away. When I tried them on in the changing room, squirming around to see the back of them in the mirror, it was clear that the majority of the rip-line went along the right, back pocket seam and so with a bit of careful repair it might be secured back in place and almost completely hidden along the existing stitch line.  Worth a gamble at the price I reckoned. 

I decided at first to machine sew along the pocket line where I could get away with it and the stitches would be hidden, and then glue the rest of the rip.  However I then changed my mind and went on to hand sew over the top of the existing stitches, partly to make sure there was minimal chance of the needle itself causing further stress to the edges and partly because I didn't want to spoil the topstitching with a line of zig zag.  It would also have meant undoing the lining to get underneath the leather, and with hand stitching I could just catch the leather itself without going through the lining.  I used a small piece of soft black leather underneath the rest of the rip to stabilise the join where the glue was placed.  I used Uhu Textile glue on the underneath, suede side of the leather, and on the ripped edges.  You can dry clean garments after using this type of glue and it won't melt away.  (I've also used Copydex glue in the past to mend leather bags and this works well also, although I've never used Copydex glue on anything that needed dry cleaning so can't vouch for it's resistance to this). You can see below where the rip extends out from underneath the pocket piece onto the side back section of the shorts - the trickiest part to tackle as this can't be hidden.

Here's how the glue looked when I first applied it, you can see it very clearly seeping through the holes.

Fortunately with this particular leather finish, the perforations are already making the look of the leather quite textured, breaking up the surface and making any slight blemish or repair less easy to detect.  This wouldn't be the case with a perfectly smooth leather surface of course, where damage would be very visible against the surface sheen.  Here's a close up of the finished pocket after the glue had dried. You can see the fine seam-line of the rip under bright light, but it's a pretty good finish.  You can't see it at all unless you are very close indeed.

I'm not sure anyone is going to be THIS close to my bum!  Except for you guys, right now!

I'm really pleased with the results and am looking forward to chillier days now so that I can stride out in these.  I can visualise them with a chunky knit jumper and boots, or perhaps a fine cashmere top and brogues.  Even a tailored jacket would work to sharpen them up a bit and give them a smarter feel.  I'm wearing them here with my favourite shawl, which I can see getting a lot of 'air time' again this year.

Excuse the dull blurry photos, in true autumnal fashion it stopped being sunny and started to  absolutely pelt down with torrential rain the moment I got outside to photograph them.

I can't ever imaging toting anything around in the back pocket of these, so they won't be at risk of ripping again hopefully now they're fixed.  Let's face it, by the time I get my ample rear wedged in these bad boy hot-pants, there is barely be enough room for post-it note in there anyway.  So, can you wear leather shorts in your 40's?  Yeah, love 'em!

Black leather shorts by Edun at TK Maxx
Black cashmere jumper (neck embellished by me) from John Smedley
Shearling biker boots from Kurt Geiger
Vintage wool shawl in black and cream check is a hand-me-down