Do you ever think there are a finite number of silhouettes and styles? 

For me it seems that fashions have exhausted themselves.  There doesn't seem to be anywhere to go to create ground-breaking women's clothing.  All bases have been covered. So the only way to appease the questionable "need" for something different each season, is to go back to previous decades and find ways to make those fashions more palatable for now. 

I'm pretty sure that 10 years ago, if you'd have asked anyone if 80s fashion would be resurrected, they'd have shuddered and thanked all the things that there seemed zero chance of that happening.  Yet, as we are aware, we are well and truly in the midst of a huge 80s throwback; wide shoulders, neon, high waisted trousers, dungarees, high necked shirts, turtle necks, culottes, and: All. The. Ruffles.

And I have to say, that whilst I have no desire to repeat the shocking pink polka dotted ra-ra skirt with shoulder padded cropped jacket of my pre-teens, I really like the refined 80s details that are on trend right now. However long that may last for. See I don't hate fashion, I'm just intrigued by the way in which current trends draw on prior ones. I suppose this is like fine art or music - all good creative things must take inspiration from somewhere.


I have never in my life worn ruffles. After the ra-ra skirt aberration, I was generally attired in a such a way that, combined with my height and then lack of curves, I was the girl who periodically, and to my horror, got mistaken for a fella. Pink ruffles were categorically NOT entertained.

But now they are.

This confection of a blouse is Simplicity 4122 which I got from Christine Haynes' destash earlier this year. It is very very similar to the Republique du Chiffon Suzon shirt, which I kind of prefer but when you snap up a pattern for a dollar, you kind of feel you ought to stick to it.  The main differences with this are the mandarin collar, the lack of bust darts and the way in which the ruffle is dealt with where it joins the placket. There are also various variations, some with sleeves - this is View F. 

I made a muslin, as I regularly do with tops, which resulted in a few minor changes. I did a forward shoulder adjustment, as well as lengthening the shoulder seam and placing the back pattern pieces quarter of an inch from the fold to accommodate my broad shoulders. And then design wise, I made the ruffle deeper as I wanted more of a statement - more like this. I didn't add to the bodice length as I normally would as I liked the slight cropped look.

I have worn it a lot since I finished it in July but realise looking at these pictures there are some issues.  I used red and white striped cotton (that looks pink) voile (I think?) and a white rayon challis to line the yoke. I obviously stretched the latter whilst sewing as the whole yoke pulls out of shape around the neck. I also failed to take into account, when widening the ruffle, about button placement, so the button that meets the ruffle had to be stitched on top of it. I am pretty sure the bottom of the placket lines up but it doesn't appear to in these photos.

And the rolled hem on the ruffle.  

Oh. My. Word.  What a total pain in the backside that was.  I decided to try and use a rolled hem foot which I've used once before when it worked like a dream.  

This did not. At all. Shouting and throwing things might have happened.

I will here on in revert to my foolproof rolled hem method.

The things I do like? The immaculate (!) bias binding I did on the armholes, the neat collar, and the 90 degree points on the top of the placket.  I've finally realised that trimming and poking through does not a neat corner make. But folding and pressing the excess along the seamline at the corner and using that to push the corner out gets a much better result - I discovered that here a while ago, but it took me a while to get the knack of it.

I haven't had a single nice comment about this and I get some funny looks when wearing it, but despite all of that, I like it.

I think I'll make it again, but in a more dynamic, less saccharine colour/ print, lengthening it through the chest a little and perhaps adding darts to remove some of the excess fabric around the bust. Or I could just bite the bullet and buy Suzon ...

So my first foray into ruffles, whilst not an unbridled success, is positive and I already have a second ruffly pattern in the offing. And I think ruffles have come far enough that I can ignore the comments about Spandau Ballet that my husband makes, as those of a person who is not at all, even remotely, fashionly clued up. Love him.

See you soon x

Seasonal Wardrobe Fatigue

At the beginning of summer, I'm so excited to not have to worry about layers and just be able to throw on a dress and sandals and head out.  By the time it comes to September, I am so utterly sick of every single dress I own and long for more 'interesting' combinations of clothing - that involve separates and layers and scarves.  

Don't get me wrong, summer is my time. Heat and the constant need for sunglasses and sunscreen fill my soul with light and if I could live somewhere where it was constantly warm I would jump at it.  Despite or perhaps because of hailing from the British Isles and all the weather systems that entails, I have no need for rain or cold. At all. (The latter is pretty hilarious given how goddamn cold it gets in this city).

That said, I definitely see the fun and interest in all four seasons, but I'm not someone who wishes them away (well perhaps in April, when it's still below freezing and winter has been going on for a lifetime - but that's my fault for living in NYC.) I do, however, constantly wish for interesting clothing arrangements.  

I made this dress in July and have pretty much worn it non-stop since, and consequently my relationship with it has soured and we're pretty close to breaking up, or at least putting ourselves 'on a break'. (I just watched 'How to be Single' on a plane, and for some reason Rebel Wilson saying 'OK, Season Three Ross' won't leave my brain.)

And now having looked at photos of it, I don't actually really like it that much on me. I clearly need to increase the armhole depth and the length hits me at the worst possible fat-knee place.

But before the relationship reached that stage of disgruntled overfamiliarity, I was utterly in love with everything about this dress. It is very simple, but incredibly flattering (at least so I thought) and in such a fabulous, take you anywhere (as Annie (my mum) would say) fabric, and so easy to throw on, feel pretty and go. Oh and the construction instructions are just brilliant.  Really, really good.

So, she is Ruby by the marvelous Tessuti made in a denim shirting from lovely Caroline of Blackbird Fabrics. I can't tell you how perfectly the fabric met my vision.  

I love a beautifully packaged independent pattern as much as the next sewing nut, but I also love how Tessuti are so honest with their patterns.  They are hand drawn and graded with no frills instructions but brilliantly drafted and the instructions always teach me something.

I've never used stabilising stuff when sewing before, but this pattern has you use it all around the neck and the armholes to ensure nothing stretches.  And it works a treat, there are absolutely no gapes anywhere.  I'll also, usually avoid visible bias binding like the plague, but it just works on this pattern and (shock, horror) I actually enjoyed every moment of putting it together.

I made very minor alterations to the pattern.  I decided to include a centre front seam as the fabric wastage would have been ridiculous if I'd cut both front and back on the fold. (I didn't put the seam down the centre back as I wanted to sew the keyhole and facing as instructed.) The seam is barely noticeable and then when I saw that a CF seam had been used on this awesomeness - after I'd finished the dress - I felt like the coolest kid. (I will be copying that next summer.)

I widened the neckline slightly and I added a load of length and then promptly took it all off again when hemming - this seems to be happening a lot; not sure what is going on with my deluded understanding of how long I am.

I love the cutaway shape of the shoulders - which is so flattering (if it's not all wrinkled due to being too high), and how, even though it trapezes out from under the arms it manages to hang in such a way that it shows some sense of your waist.  Perhaps this is because the side seams are essentially cut on the bias. I'm not sure but it's fab.

And with that I'm done writing about summer wear.  I made a lot more than I managed to blog, but as Morgan so eloquently writes, I don't need to sew all the clothes and I don't need to write about them all either.  

The love affair with this dress was all consuming and intense, but now I'm ready for trousers and shirts and myriad jackets and sumptuous scarves. Until May, by which time, I'll be all over her again like a rash. 

And that, my lovelies, is Seasonal Wardrobe Fatigue.

Much love

See you soon x

ps: it's been a bit sporadic of late, but Noble & Daughter turned 2 this week!

Oh hello there, LTNS*. And Mara's dress

So. It's been a while.  

(Every time I start a sentence with 'so' now, I can feel the eyebrows of a friend who reprimanded me for such grammatical terribleness hitting the ceiling.

Ah well, it's my party ...)

I've missed this little space, I didn't intend to drop out completely, and I have sewn a few things over the summer, but mainly I've been doing life.  

Life that includes awesome things like the BEACH, and long afternoons of kids playing in mud in the park, and watching Great Britain absolutely kill it at the Olympics, and going on vacation to England and drinking with old old friends, and meeting special babies, and hugging my family.

Life that also includes horrible things like spending three days in hospital with my five year old who, thanks to a fractured ankle earlier in the year, ended up with osteomyelitis in July. She had to endure MRIs and surgery and endless prodding, not to mention the utterly detested IV. And we had only walked into Immediate Care to check out her slightly swollen ankle. 

Thankfully she's recovered brilliantly and is now getting to grips with Kindergarten. Sob.

Consequently, sewing and writing about sewing got pushed from its position near the top of the 'most-important-things' pile for a couple of months.

And now it's nearly autumn and I have all these summery things I want to share, but given that it's still been 30+ degrees and about 80% humidity, I think I can write about summer sewing for a little while yet.

So, (there it is again Mike) shall we take a moment to look at this Mara Hoffman beauty;

Isn't this the most perfect summer dress: cool and breezy but also fitted and spaghetti-strapped, demure yet also not, stripes, mid-calf, gorgeous textured cotton. And feature pockets.  

And also $300.

I almost, almost put it on the plastic.  It's just so pretty.  

But then I saw that 1) the lining was polyester and 2) the stripes didn't match up at the side seams (which for $300 they really should), that 3) the back was shirred and 4) I don't have $300 to spend on a dress, and I decided that I could make a dress that approximated the look of this but didn't have the three things that I didn't like about it.  And for once also save myself a bunch of wonga. 

As an aside, I have to say that the thing that ultimately decides it for me on whether to buy RTW or not is the fabric. Not just the quality and fibre but the print.  It can be very hard to replicate something you see because you simply can't find a print or texture or drape that comes close to the thing you lust after.

But I did find some fabric (in Mood of course) that came within a mile and so I made this:

It's a slubby black and white linen rather than a waffley blue and white cotton but by using the wrong side, it comes close to the lovely fresh blue of Mara's dress.  The linen is a little heavy but actually, I think, works quite well with this style, giving a more structural look.

Next up was the pattern.  I couldn't find a pattern that came close, (although Republique du Chiffon released something similar when I was mid way through construction in May), so I did a bit of cut and shut with an out-of-print top pattern and the skirt from a vintage pattern and pockets from somewhere else.  I want to say Brumby but I'm pretty sure it wasn't as those pockets are so much bigger. This is the problem with it taking a long time to make something and then even longer to write about the details. (Plus having a memory like Dory.)

The top is McCalls 6325 which I remembered from this post and tracked down a copy on Etsy. I based it on view D but obviously added a skirt rather than the hideous handkerchief hem affair (for the record, in case you were interested, I irrationally HATE handkerchief hems). And the skirt was from a dress pattern of my mum's from the late 70s, Vogue 1860, which gave just the amount of gather and flare I was looking for.  (I really have to make that dress in full, it's so lovely.)

And the technical bits:

I made the bodice following the instructions, adding an inch to the length and narrowing the straps being the only real changes.  I followed the instructions for my size, but as you can see the cups aren't a great fit (even though I did make a muslin!) and I should have used bigger, or done something to make them deeper as they're not really form fitting.

I was super careful to match all the stripes across the placket and at the side seams.  I decided not to on the cups, mainly because I liked the way the mis-match on Mara's dress highlights the style lines.

The bodice is fully lined with some white cotton shirting which gives it nice structure.  I came a little unstuck with working the lining around the end of the placket. This doesn't open fully as the view I was making does, and I couldn't find a way to neatly enclose the end of the placket so it's just serged.  It doesn't look great on the inside but it works and actually holds everything securely in place.

The skirt was very simple. I initially thought I would pleat it rather than gather as that is more flattering on me, but the weight of the linen, the contrast of the fullness with the very fitted bodice and the casual nature of the dress changed my mind. I went all out with the stripe matching on the pockets and then gathered it and attached it to the bodice.

I didn't bother to recreate the separate wide band on the bottom of Mara's dress as I'm not entirely sure of its purpose and don't love the awkward break it creates in the stripe.

The buttons are self-covered and are functional, but as I forewent the back shirring and therefore stretch on the back, I needed to find an additional way to get the dress over my hips and / or shoulders, so I inserted a zip on the side seam (rescued from an old dress I might add.) This wasn't as difficult as I thought it was going to be but I did redo it a couple of times to get my stripes matching.

I hand-stitched the lining to the zip tape and hand-stitched the lining down to the waist seam. And, as I don't really need to undo the buttons to get it on and off, I think I will stitch the plackets together to keep them sitting straight, as they pull out of shape at the moment.

Verdict? I love it.  I need to shorten the straps as they keep falling down and I would like it if they joined the bodice slightly further apart, but I couldn't do that without changing the shape of the bodice top, which I wasn't convinced I could make work. The linen is a little heavy for the dress I had in mind, but the structure creates something quite different that I like.  And I kind of wish I'd used the right side of the fabric as the black and white would have been more dramatic. 

Sewing is a funny thing. It feels like it should be very precise and that you should come out with exactly what you envisaged, but for me it often feels like my 'A' level art projects. Something, namely my (in)ability, creates some kind of math aberration where ingredients in, does not necessarily equal ingredients out.

I think the heat is short-circuiting my brain, so it's probably best I go lie down.

I hope you have all had wonderful summers and wishing you much joy with a whole plethora of patterns and cosy fabrics for your autumn sewing.

See you soon(er) x

*LTNS = Long time no see.

ps: Thank you so much to the sweet-souled lady who sent me an email in the last couple of weeks.  She was just checking in, checking to see if I was OK as I haven't blogged in a while.  We don't know each other - other than through social media - and I was so touched that somebody took time out of their life to reach out. I know in the past I have wondered why someone has been so quiet and not thought to check in.  I wish I had.