Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Khaki Cropped Trousers and a Love Sewing Mag Star Make!

It's been a busy week with a couple of great sewing hits! Here's the first success, a new pair of summer trousers in khaki green cotton.  Cut, sewn and straight into circulation hot off the machine.  They were off to work meetings shortly after this picture was taken, so a smart and sober ensemble for you here.

I've already made these exact same trousers in blue here, and as they are such a great fit it was only a matter of time before they were reproduced.  I love some of the khakis on the high street just now as it is a colour that can be dressed down, or dressed up.  It is a colour that can work with brights or look chic with sober neutrals. So I scooped up a metre and a half of plain cotton poplin from my local market at lunchtime, along with matching thread, and onto the top of the project pile it went.

Of course back in March when I made the first ones, I had a to take a deep breath, grit my teeth and brave the weather in order to bare even a few inches of ankle.  But now we're in balmier months these should see plenty of wear.  Of course the forecast today is a 'high' of 10 degrees and rain, but what the heck, I'm wearing them anyway.  

There's not much more to say about the pattern itself than I have already done back in the last post (see here for pattern details and more about construction).  With the first pair I made, I cut a size 12 and was prepared to let out the seams if necessary as this is a slightly dropped waist that sits below my natural waistline. I always find a 12 to be rather tight on the hips in this style if I get the legs narrow enough, or if the waistline is right then the legs are baggy and too big.  I've adjusted this waist:leg ratio to perfection now with this pattern.  

After much dithering about with various button colours and styles, I decided to choose plain black ones.  Very unlike me!  But I wanted the trousers to be quiet and versatile and not have shouty embellishments this time. Nice, well behaved buttons they are.

The cotton poplin is a tiny bit creasy for trousers.  However it is also really lightweight and summery, as well as being very iron-friendly, so I don't might a bit of late-in-the-day crumple.  I should say, the above photo was taken before I'd ironed that waistband down properly and got rid of those pesky wrinkles.

I had a black zip of the right-ish length, chosen from the various sizes/colours/ages in my zip collection.  The pattern actually asks you to insert a longer zip than you need, and then cut the bottom section off.  So I could have used up any roughly long enough zip of the right colour.  The fly construction does a great job of concealing the zip although for some reason when I was sewing this one in, I didn't managed to get it quite as far behind the fly as the first attempt, possibly because the zip itself was much narrower than most of the others I've used.  (For my blue version of these trousers, I was testing the pattern and so used a very non-matchy beige zip of roughly the right length from my stash.  It is really well hidden and is only when doing something particularly athletic that you can see a glimpse of it!).  I'm not too worried about this one, it is reasonably well concealed apart from the tiny black zip-pull at the top.  

It's lovely to have a tried and tested garment that really fits well and that can be sewn together quickly and easily.  It's also pretty much become a wardrobe stable, so I might even make a pair in black!  How practical am I being just now eh?!  Don't worry though, it can only be a matter of time before you see me prancing around in a pair of eye-achingly bright or busy patterned ones.

But for now, a very wardrobe-friendly khaki set of trews is suiting me just fine.  And a good chance to show off my slightly less sensible new leopard loafers. Grrrr!

Onto the second success of the week and that is, my Colour Block Top made back in March, which was chosen to be Star Make by Love Sewing Magazine this month!  Go me!  I am extremely proud to be in print and delighted to have won a fabric bundle to play around with.  I'm especially pleased as it's a top I wear regularly and so I would also classify it as a 'star make' of my own.

Right, off to defy the weather forecast in my new trousers and shoes.  By pure will and sewing power alone I will banish the rain and summon the Summer.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Can I take your orders? Table Top to Crop Top

In the last post, I wrote about having purchased an old cotton tablecloth from a charity shop with the intention of turning it into something else, possibly using it as a wearable toile to test a shirt pattern.  Charity shops are a great source of fabric for experimenting with for low cost. Well here it is.  Can you imagine its original, humble form?  Those workaday, dishcloth hues are a bit of a giveaway once you know!

The tablecloth was part of a charity shop, scrap fabric haul that I purchased for £2.50 (that was for all the fabric I could stuff in a carrier bag); and this was a basically white square of fairly loose weave cotton/linen type fabric measuring just over a metre.  It has a pastel coloured check design woven through in pink, yellow and blue with a wide panel around the edge. I knew when I saw it that this well worn table covering would look and feel great as a summer shirt.  There was no doubt that this modest table dressing had seen better days though, perhaps having served some hard time in a cafe or as a picnic cloth.  I had to cut carefully around some worn through patches and unravelling threads.  But you simply cannot purchase by the metre the kind of fabric that has the patina of years of washing and wearing, leaving behind such a super-soft texture. 

I used Simplicity 8090 for the pattern, zoning in on view D (the left hand photo on the pattern sleeve below) as it offers a shirt-type, pull on cropped top that can be squeezed out of absolutely minimal fabric .  I cut a size 12 in view D after doing some quick body measurements. The top is actually a faux-shirt, in that it has no front opening placket at all, just a v neckline with a closed front seam.  It has an collarless neckline and an interesting deeply angled seam on either side-front.  You can if you wish add decorative front buttons to make a more convincing shirt-like look, although I've chosen not to add buttons for now.

The sleeves were supposed to be elbow skimming, but as you can see I was eeking them out of extremely limited remaining inches of fabric, and so I ended up with a slightly shorter version.  I did try to think a bit creatively about where the coloured panel of the table cloth edges would lie on the finished garment, and I'm quite pleased with the result, even though the options for fitting the pattern pieces on the cloth were fairly few.

One of the issues with a well worn piece of woven fabric like this, is that is has warped quite considerably, probably due to frequent hot washing, with the check pattern now somewhat uneven.  I cut the back section on the fold from the centre of the cloth rather than cutting two pieces (I didn't want a centre back seam as instructed by the pattern). Partly this was to save a couple of inches of seam allowance and partly because the top doesn't really need a centre back seam, unless you're introducing the centre back tab as one of the design details.  Again I left this tab detail off, as I was looking for a minimal finish.

The wandering weave is clearly visible in some places and required some careful lining up at the centre front especially.  Eagle eyes will notice more success in some places than others!  But its still better alignment than some off-the-peg garments I see.  I used the smaller pink and white squared check from the centre section of the cloth to form the larger back section of the shirt where no matching was required, and used the woven panel edge of the cloth for the front pieces.  These broader stripes at the centre-front add a nice design detail with the stripes running down and mirroring each other, bringing the colours to the fore.

There is a facing around the neck and down the front v shaped neck opening.  This is under stitched and then I loosely tacked it into into place at the end, stitching in the ditch on the seams to keep it from rolling inwards.  This makes for a nice clean edge to the neckline.

The sleeves went in very easily and the soft fabric moulded into shape well.

This fabric could easily take a little steam from the iron and a bit of heat for a neat sleeve head.  I think this cloth has been no stranger to a hot wash and press.  It has taken the heat, and stayed in the kitchen.  I'm quite pleased with the pattern alignment on the sleeve.

I love the design of this particular top, with one really deep dart at each side front section, and a swing back.  It is quite sticky-outy at the hemline when worn, even with this drapey fluid fabric.  A crisper more structured fabric would probably produce quite an architectural shape.  The dart in the front is a nice feature when cutting into the check.

The back is made entirely from the centre section of the cloth, making it a contrast to a more colourful front, with only the square check design.  Each square has a little waffle-like weave in the middle.  And if ever there was a piece of cloth with a back-story to tell, then I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when these threads were in their original use during breakfast, lunch or dinner.  What conversations took place over the years this was spread between hungry diners?

Especially as I think this particular species of tablecloth looks as though it might have been privy to less genteel, delicate chitter chatter and more hot gossip in a local caff, punctuated with ketchup and a strong, sweet cuppa!

If you remember back to the last blog post, I wrote the whole back story of this table cloth.  A friend and I had attended a high street fashion show which was brilliant fun and gave us a catwalk level view of some of the most popular styles of this spring/summer season. Some of the styles had been put together from vintage and second hand pieces as well as high street, high fashion and I have been becoming more and more interested in looking into where our clothes are made and how they are sourced, right from bolt of cloth to clothes hanger.  Now I know I could never give up my high street purchases.  But I love the fact that I can mix it up with up-cycled, redesigned and rediscovered clothes and fabric.

So despite being 'only' a wearable toile and an experiment to see what this pattern might look like, am in inordinately chuffed with this little top!  It is deliciously soft fabric that feels lovely and cool for summer days and the cute, cropped swing hemline is just right for high waisted jeans.  

Not too much chance of showing flesh unless I'm really stretching up high (not unheard of admittedly, especially when lifting the small adventurers up or down from trees, climbing frame etc). 

I think this also counts among the more practical and wardrobe friendly items I've made the year too. No retirement any time soon for this hard working cloth.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Catwalk VIP to Charity Shop Hop

When my friend Michelle asked a few weeks ago if I'd like to go 'VIP' to a fashion event, there was always only going to be one answer.  I've never been to a real live catwalk show before and although I've always taken a huge interest in what goes down the runways from the world of high fashion and couture, it's always been a you-tube experience for me, not being a celeb-style fashionista and all that.  

It was Nottingham Fashion Week, and there was a live catwalk event on Saturday, showcasing an edit of the high street looks right now, ranging from Primark to Jaeger, Whistles to H&M, open for a modest ticket price for anyone to attend and get a taste of the Anna Wintour experience.  There were also a couple of vintage and pre-loved items on show too from local shop, Braderie.  A real mix of styles for men and women included themes like nautical luxe, botanicals, think pink and monochrome, gave us a flavour of this season's popular looks.  There were some classic pieces too, including the ubiquitous wedding outfit inspiration ('tis the season after all for the wedding guest outfit quest) and a section showcasing boho looks and festival inspired styles.  Boho, gypsy style is not my bag I admit, (even so I thought one cropped, bottle green lace jumpsuit just looked just wrong on every level to me) but most interesting to me were the different ideas on styling.  

I loved this combo below.   Simple Breton stripes, bomber and narrow jeans for him.  Gorgeous pleated red midi skirt for her with a sports-luxe style cropped top and bomber.  With some tweaks (taking the quite so cropped top out of the equation) I already have a similar skirt that has been unworn and unloved for some time, so may be resurrecting it and blatantly copying this look.

Also these caught my eye.  Pleated satin pantaloons anyone?  Not sure what they are actually, (plus fours?  knickerbockers? breeches?) but I thought they looked really fresh and I could visualise them a bit more grown up with a little fitted jacket on the top, rather than denim.  

The jury might still be out though.  They might bring to mind a Vivienne Westwood 'pirate' punk vibe, but I'm willing to concede they may be veering more into Gem from Swashbucklers, children's tv presenter territory (for those who have CBeebies aged kids). I have no idea if I could even begin to make these, I mean where to start with pleated-all-over trousers?  But I'd be tempted to have a go.  Even if they ended up in the kids dressing up box.

So what did we do next?  Track down the best pieces in the high street shops for a retail splurge?  Raid the racks of contemporary pleated plus-fours?  No, we hit the charity shops.  Oh yes!  Thus inspired we had a happy afternoon nosing around the thrift shops in Hockey, Nottingham.  One of my favourite haunts for vintage and pre-loved clothes, there is always a good chance of finding real treasure here.  

Sue Ryder offer a whole dressmaking section of their large shop too, which is packed with vintage patterns, fabric, trimmings and sewing ephemera.  A whole haberdashery in itself, with buttons and ribbon, lace and thread, bolts and scraps of fabric as well as books for inspiration.  I could quite honestly have run amok here, for this reason alone.

A dangerous, trunk load of temptation indeed!  And more so because the shop assistant encouraged me to take as much as I could stuff in my bag.  I came away with £2.50 worth of an eclectic mix of quite large scraps, and also a few nice lengths of black cotton poplin and lining materials.  Some pale pink satin moire and 70's style printed cotton flannel also made their way into the swag bag. Most notable though was this huge length of what I am pretty sure is sari fabric in grey poly-mix.  I love the smokey shades and drape and although it is a bit damaged, there are at least 3 metres of it with a nice panel design on either end, so plenty to play with.

Another good find lurking in the trunk was an old, faded linen table cloth. Clearly having been washed a zillion times it has a lovely soft and worn-in feel to it.  If I can manage to squeeze a little summer top or shorts out of this former table cover I will be very happy.  More of that another time.

The second treasure that I unearthed was in Oxfam; this navy blue short sleeved shirt.  I'm not usually drawn to cute prints or novelty fabrics.  They look nice on other people, but they're just not my style.  This shirt with a mandarin collar and embroidered design came home with me for a whole three pounds sterling, and I love it.  It doesn't have label, apart from a small tape inside showing fabric content (rayon), but it has been nicely constructed and well cared for.  

I mean, who could resist a shirt with tiny, Chinese gymnasts on it, perfecting their poses in cross stitch?  Well not me.  There are even flying birds, splashing fish, temples and mountains in the embroidered design, mirrored perfectly on either side.  Sweet.

I think I was drawn to it partly because I was wearing my Chinese, panel print Rigel bomber jacket on the day.  (What was I saying about not wearing novelty fabrics?  Ok, clearly that's a big fat fib then so I take it back!)  I wore this bomber particularly to the fashion event as I wanted to show off something I had actually made, and to fly the flag for handmade garments and recycling fabric in a world of fast fashion.  There has been much talk recently in the online and offline fashion world about bringing more attention to where our clothes come from, who made them, what conditions are like for those people and where fabric is being sourced.  Fashion Revolution was asking people to question, back in April during their week long campaign to raise awareness, "who made my clothes?"  It's a good question.  Even for those of us that can say proudly "I did" for some of the time, it does prompt further enquiry into where fabric comes from and how it is made, dyed, shipped and sold on.

This little golden jacket was made over a year ago, was the first thing I ever blogged about that I'd made myself, and is constructed from a satin bed spread.  Don't get me wrong, I love the high street and don't think I could ever make from scratch my entire wardrobe.  But I absolutely support home-making, up-cycling, reusing and remaking as part of the every day mix.  

Now, pairing this with a breton stripe may be a pattern clash too far for some I accept, but a classic breton goes with anything right?  It seemed like a good idea at the time anyway, early in the day with the sun beams beaming and spring in the air.  That was before it dropped about 10 degrees and started snowing again by lunchtime.  Oh dear, clearly a bit of a wardrobe fail there on my part.

So altogether (blizzard conditions aside) a great fun and a very inspiring day, from catwalk to charity haul.  Ever made or re-designed something purchased from a charity shop?  I'd love to know!