Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Yellow Culottes and Sunshine

So it's been hot these last few days, time for some proper summer work clothes.  These are hands down, one hundred percent, no contest the most favourite item in my spring wardrobe just now.  Yellow culottes.  Totally indispensable and I can't imagine having ever lived without a pair.  Also, you know when you get something new and it just goes magically with loads of other stuff you already have and revitalises umpteen new outfits?  Well these are that thing. 

Here they are with a long sleeved breton top.  And again with a striped wrap blouse and blazer. Mix, match and mix again.

Here we are with a cropped top and leather jacket. In fact I knew this was going to be the case before I'd even finished them.  As I tried them on with pins still in the waistband and no fastenings or finished hem, I had this 'yes!' moment.  And, because I'm impatient and wanted them to move straight from the sewing machine to being on my actual person instantly, I was in a mad rush to finish hemming and button sewing.  

So much so, that I was still sewing on the back button at the same time as feeding the small persons in the family their breakfast and getting ready to catch a train for meetings.  Small wonder then, that as soon as I sat down on said train, the button popped off!  I spend the rest of the day praying the zip was sturdy enough to keep my lovely culottes from submitting to gravity and heading to the floor.  I also resolved to finish things properly before I skip off to a meeting two hours away from home.  Or take a portable sewing kit with me for on the move repairs.  

The pattern is Butterick B6178 and was free with last months Love Sewing mag and it really is so easy I managed to throw them together in a few hours (throw being the word here, see above reference to them falling apart!) and there are very few pattern pieces to cut.  The shape is flattering being high cut with a wide waistband and no fuss around the front or rear except for a couple of shaping darts (there are other versions on the same pattern pack for a more pleated pair for extra volume).  Here they are on Friday with a  scoop neck powder blue tee shirt and a little vintage jacket.  The jacket is a Louis Feraud picked up in a charity shop a couple of years ago, I love the cornflower blue colour with this butter yellow.

I did make a couple of minor changes to the pattern recommendations, one being replacing the hook and eye closure with a button and loop.  I just didn't happen to have a suitable hook and eye about the place and I don't mind the extra detail of a back button closure here.

The only thing I would consider changing in the future with this particular design is the back zip closure.   I think an invisible zip would look much neater and although I'm happy to wear this version, as the pattern described a basic zip technique, I would always usually do an invisible zip or a completely exposed one.  As it happened these culottes were a quick weekend make using stash fabric and a zip I already had lying around, which is fine as a 'wearable toile, as they owe me nothing. 

But that colour!  Pale sunshine, mustard or maybe butter yellow.  The colour is slightly brighter than the photos here show, my phone camera has washed out the colour as the sunshine was beaming so brightly in the garden last week.  The fabric is actually some mystery viscose type that has been languishing in my stash for about 10 years and was given to me by someone who probably had it for quite a while before that even.  It's practically vintage.  I did wash it first, so hopefully sorted out any potential shrinkage or colour run, and it behaved beautifully when being cut and sewn up.  It does fray madly though, so I did have to be careful how much I handled it before finishing the edges.  

And so off they went around the country for three days in their first week after being made as I practically refused to take them off.   That's why they are looking a bit creased in this photo, which was taken after I returned from a whole day wearing them at work. This weekend they were wheeled out again but dressed down with a black swing vest top and flip flops.  I can see them with khaki, white, even sugar pink would be clashy but totally doable. 

So for a quick make and a fun relaxed spring garment, on duty and off duty, these are the business.  

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Customising and Embellishing - Ribbons and Pom Poms and Studs Oh My!

A couple of weeks ago I spend a few days away on an early summer getaway to Mallorca and had an amazing time exploring beautiful Alcudia.  We stayed in a lovely spa hotel, overlooking beautiful Alcudia Port and enjoyed three days of gorgeous sunshine, delicious food and total relaxation. 

I only took hand luggage with me and if you read my last post here you can see what I made to take along.  It occurred to me though, when I was considering what other essentials to pack, that there are plenty of ways to take a few simple holiday bits and bobs and customise them to make them unique and truly your own.  I like to mix up hand-sewn items with high street  or thrift items generally and I also like to combine them, by embellishing or altering ready made garments to create a bit more interest.  Or I like taking inspiration from something I've seen someone else wear, or in a shop, and then improvise creating my own version.

I thought I'd show you a couple of customised pieces that I spent a few happy hours stitching, gluing and embellishing, specifically to go with my holiday outfits.

Firstly a very quick fix and a look that is currently very popular, an embroidered patch for my old denim shorts.  For me cut off denim shorts are an absolute summer basic and despite their humble appearance, this particular pair are about as customised as they get!  They were once favourite jeans, which after being downgraded from everyday wear to allotment attire, became so dishevelled they didn't even pass the deliberately 'worn in' look and just became downright unsightly.  I cut them off, stitched the seam rips along the (ahem) crotch area (I'm blaming that barbed wire fence that looked lower than it actually turned out to be!) and then when the zip eventually broke I unpicked and replaced it.  So far so customised.  

For this season's brand new look for these old bruisers, I added an embroidered heart to the back pocket.  This is just cotton embroidery thread, some cord and the whole thing has a denim backing that I've then hand applied with slip stitching to the shorts.  Much love to you my old amigos, I will get another season out of you yet.

Next I specifically wanted some shoes to go with a particular outfit for evening.  They needed to be black, not too high for strolling into the local town or down to the beach bar, but with a bit of interest.  Getting black strappy sandals with a mid heel and a bit of pizazz about them is a challenge this season apparently (limited black sandals to be found anywhere) and on a strict budget proved nigh on impossible.  So with a plan in my head (plans are always brilliant when they're in my mind's eye) here is what I purchased instead.. ... 

Basic sandals, some black grosgrain ribbon, pom poms and some mini-pom trim.  The piece of black leather is from my stash, but I could have bought a small piece of fake pleather very cheaply if needed.

I had a vision, inspired by some rather expensive high-end high street beauties, that pom-poms and leather tassels would take these rather workaday sandals up a step from 'meh' to 'ooh la la'.  Here's what I did.  

The mini-pom trim was first machine stitched onto the grosgrain along one edge of the ribbon and then each ribbon section cut to slightly longer than the sandal toe-strap.  I turned each cut edge under and stitched across.  This was applied to the toe strap with fabric glue - I used the type of glue that will bond securely to leather.  Then apply stationery to secure.

Once this was in place I used three larger pom poms on the top edge of the ribbon, glueing them in place and used more mini-pom trim across the ankle strap, using fray stop on either end to make sure no stray threads were going to unravel.  I used the fabric glue to apply it to the strap.  You have to use a bit of testing here to make sure your little mini poms can go all the way up to the buckle, but won't get snagged in the fastening itself when you put the shoes on.  You have to bear in mind the ankle strap needs to go through the buckle and you don't want to be hauling those cute little poms through there when you're trying to take your shoes off at the end of the night!  I tried them on to see which buckle hole I need to use, and trimmed off a couple of poms accordingly. Everything needed to be held together securely for the glue to bind properly, and so my shoes ended up bristling with more bulldog clips and, when I'd run out of those, wooden clothes pegs.

Lastly I made a leather tassel, in the same way I've shown on on the blog previously.  Those of you who look at my instagram will know how much I like a tassel and having already be-tasseled everything from key rings to my ears, it was only a matter of time before my footwear were to receive the same treatment.

This was looped over the buckle at the side and the tassel is large enough for a statement, but not long enough to drag along the ground.  Done!  Fabulous one-off footwear for an absolute fraction of the cost of a designer purchase.  Boom!  I could of course happily begin with sandals in a bright colour, and apply more coloured trim for a really funky pair.  The world is your pom pom.

Safe to say I got the bug after bedecking these specimens and couldn't resist having a go at another pair of shoes, but something for everyday.  In this case I found a simple and cheap pair of denim pool slides, perfectly functional and I'd have been happy to wear them just as they were actually.  But I thought, how much more fabulous to Gucci them up a little?!  In this case, the inspiration came from Gucci's recent collection of sandals and wedges boasting pearls, studs and rope embellishments (which for the real deal would go north of £650).  Here are my slides, before and after their treatment.  

I added red rope, red sequins, gold studs and seed pearl trim by stitching each strip in a band along the denim.  The great thing about fabric shoes is you can stitch anything you like to them.  I could have used patches, embroidery, even machine stitching on these.  I used a tiny bit of fray stop on the edge of the rope, to stop the strands parting company and then used hand stitches to secure it firmly at either end and along its length.  These studs are amazing, purchased from the wonderful 'Kleins' in Soho, London.  They come in a wide band and you can just cut them in strips however you like.  These are antique gold and have a fabulously detailed, textured surface.

The seed pearls are on a secure strand and so are easy to apply with stitches in between every other bead.  These little slides were just brilliant on holiday and happily took me from poolside to beach and then from bar to dinner.

There is a slightly addictive quality to customising though, which I think comes from the sheer speed at which you can change the look of things and get a satisfying result.  It's definitely much quicker than making from scratch and you can apply a bit of personality to any garment, shoes, bag or other accessories.  However I think the less is more approach pays off here and having one or two embellished items at a time is plenty.  Lest I risk looking as though I've been dipped in fabric glue and thrown in the bargain bin at V V Reuleaux.  Having said that, I can think of worse fates for a custom-addict.