I made a hat. And went on a march. And before that I made a skirt.

I haven't really been sure how to write this post. I absolutely want to tell all the lovely people who relate when I say sewing keeps me sane, and come here to read about fabric and stitching about the sumptuous velvet skirt I made (see details below). But, also, given that the majority of lovely people who do come here are women, I have to mention the stunningly powerful thing women all around the world did last weekend. The Women's March.

I knit a Pussy Hat and I got on caravan of buses and I went to DC. To show that I am not prepared to accept the archaic, bigoted and dangerous policies of the new administration. To show solidarity. To stand with the millions of other women, and men, who feel that basic human rights and equality are at stake.

I have always seen myself as a well-informed, liberal person who is not afraid to stand up to defend myself when required. But mostly, as a white middle-class woman, there aren't so many times that is required. I protest vehemently on Facebook (to other mostly white, middle-class people), I've marched a couple of times for things that matter to me and I always exercise my right to vote, but I've never actually "needed" to be politically active. 

And then I went to DC and I realised that whether I need things or not, is not the point. I am a woman, so I should help defend the rights of all women. I am an immigrant, a privileged, white immigrant, so I should be helping defend the rights of all immigrants, especially those who don't have the "benefit" of my skin colour or background. I have never had an abortion but I know many women who have and I should defend their right to do with their body what they choose with the same ferocity I defend my own right to choose what happens to my body. I have children who I was lucky enough to carry and give birth to in a country where pre-natal care is free, non-judgmental and available to all (that being the UK not the US). So I should speak up so that others have that right no matter where they live or who they are. 

Somebody enabled me to have all of those things. They didn't just happen. People, women, protested, sacrificed and were well aware that the changes they achieved might not happen in their lifetime; but they did it because it was right. 

For the first time in my life I understand that it's not enough to just nod and agree and talk. If I believe in true equality for everyone; believe in the fact that a human being can not be illegal; believe in keeping others' minds and hands off my and my daughter's bodies, then I have to DO something.

And so I'll be doing. And when I'm not I'll be sewing. (Because I'm a woman and we can do and be anything and everything.)

Here's the pretty skirt (details at the bottom):

The Sewing Stuff:

  • Top is a modified Named Clothing Inari Tee - I used the V neckline from Papercut Patterns Sway dress as the template for the neck. I made a facing to correspond to that and omitted the sleeve cuffs.
  • The sandy black silk charmeuse is from Mood Fabrics.
  • The absolutely beautiful fluid, shiny, mushroom grey silk velvet for the skirt is from Chic Fabrics, which I believe is sadly closing. It was only $15 / yard.
  • The pattern is adapted from a 1970s shirt dress pattern (Vogue French Boutique 1860 from the Renata line) that was my mums and I also used for the skirt of this dress.
  • I added a 1 inch elastic waistband, stretching and serging the elastic to the waistband and skirt fabric, before folding the waistband in on itself to create even gathers.
  • The pockets are lined with dark grey cotton voile.
  • I finger pressed all the seams and steamed them with the iron and catch stitched the hem.

I hope my political enlightenment wasn't too much for a sewing blog and to see you soon. xx


Evolution of style

I had this lovely, incredibly stylish, incredibly modern great aunt, my Auntie Bennie. She was an exceptional lady.  In her late 80s she was fit and healthy and still going shopping with her granddaughters and spending a heap on the beautiful well-made clothes that she loved to wear. It is clearly in my genes - she was my mum's aunt and my mum and I definitely share that trait.

Anyway, the point of telling this is that a while before she died, she told me that she was eighty-whatever but really didn't understand that as she still felt like she was 19.

I really didn't get it at the time, and I'm not quite at that wonderful age yet, but I am starting to get a feeling for what she meant.  I really don't mind being 41, but at the same time, I can't quite get my head around the fact that I am.  I don't feel any different to how I did when I was 19.  Yes, those 20 plus years have seen me do lots of things and I'm much more worldly and experienced, but my feeling of my place in the world and how I respond to people around me is very similar to that of when I was 19.  

I still think that anyone who is famous must be older than me.  

I still find it easier being told what to do rather than being the one in authority (which can be tricky sometimes as a mother.)

I still have many of the same hang ups as that very naïve fresher at university (and my relationships with my friends from those days hasn't evolved much beyond that.)

And one of the things I have found the hardest to get to grips with over the last few years is how my personal style has needed to evolve as I get older.  I try very hard not to put myself into a bracket when it comes to the clothes I wear - I love to have different looks for different moods - but sometimes I now think twice about whether a particular style is really appropriate for me at this stage in my life.  It's not just about hemlines and length or lack thereof.  It's about overall silhouettes; how an armhole may be cutaway; a really low neckline; is it really appropriate for me to wear a crop top (coming from someone accustomed to 90s clubbing in a mini skirt and crop top that really was essentially only a bra this is difficult to let go of); is something I'm making or wearing just a little bit too trendy and a little bit too young for me?

And then there's the converse.  I have this photo taken at the birthday party of my friend's son.  It was just before I had children, I was in my mid 30s and clearly was struggling to figure out my style.  I'm wearing a uniform of ill-fitting jeans, a white round neck t-shirt and some shapeless long cardigan thing and the ubiquitous scarf around my neck and I look dreadful.  I look older than I am now and so uncomfortable in my own skin.

Now, I rage against that feeling and spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of ways to dress that fit somewhere between these two parts of me.  And slowly I think I'm making it work and finding my style groove. I certainly feel a lot happier about the way I dress nowadays and I certainly care a lot less what other people think of what I'm wearing. Or what they think about how much I think about what I'm wearing!

However, then I make things like this dress and I struggle to know whether it is something that I can get away with.  And if it is, will I actually wear it as it's pretty far out of my comfort zone.

It's a funny old dress this, it's not demure, but is quite restrained with the high neck and knee length skirt, but then "sexy as hell" to quote my photographer, with the cutaway armhole and skintight bodice.  It involves a lot of stomach holding in but is supremely comfortable and those Named girls have absolutely nailed the drafting. This is the Beatrix Skater Dress from their latest 'Royals' collection. The shape of the back bodice and armhole is just beautiful and the panels of the skirt give it the most perfect movement. I even like the turtle neck, which is not a trend I'm really into. They really are some talented cookies.

I managed to get exactly the fabric I was looking for - a brick red rayon ponte - lots of weight to it and just the right amount of stretch. It's a quick and easy make - I only had to make one adjustment - adding an inch to the bodice length - although I did also do a forward shoulder adjustment, which is hilarious given there is essentially no shoulder seam to adjust.  Dumbass.  

Beatrix dress 4

And then I went to town on my serger. This is where my lack of experience with that darn machine shows.  I just couldn't get the seams not to 'smile' no matter what I did with the tension. It wasn't helped by the fact that I only have navy, white or grey thread for my serger, so the thread peeking through to the right side was sooo obvious.  I couldn't be bothered to spend an age working out how to fix the sergerness, so once I'd serged I sewed the seam with a stretch stitch on my machine, just inside the serging line. So I now have the most robust seams of any knit dress in the history of the world.

The only other construction delight of note was my decision to use fold over elastic to bind the armholes.  I'm really not sure if this is a legitimate use of FOE, but it worked a treat and I imagine will be much less likely to stretch out than any attempt I might have made to use self-made knit bias binding - which just makes me shudder at the very thought of trying to create that.

Looking at these photos (which are a bit grainy I'm afraid), I really love this dress, am super pleased with the finish and the fit. I like that I can make it all fancy with heels and maybe this jacket or cas' (as in the shortened version of the word casual) it down with a denim jacket and flats.  However, I'm still a little unsure how much I'll wear it; I think I can just about get away with it ..?? 

Incidentally, I realised recently that my denim jacket might well be vintage.  I bought it brand spanking new in c. 1994 and it's one of the few things I've held on to, so now I might be officially old enough to have first time around goods that class as vintage. I'm really not sure how I feel about that.  And I'm sure my 19 year old self would think that was completely unfathomable.

So, how old does something have to be to be labelled 'vintage' (and I appreciate that that is used on pretty much anything to sell it these days)?

Do you feel any different to your 19 year old self? (You can only answer that if you are older than 26!) 

And how has getting older impacted how you view your wardrobe? 

And how would you spell cas'?!

See you soon x






Repeat offending: Inari No. 3

I can list on probably two fingers the number of sewing patterns I've made more than once.  But there is something about the Inari dress / tee from Named Clothing that I keep coming back to. So here I am to bore you with details of Inari No. 3.

I'm not sure what it is I like about it.  Well it's the perfect shape, has the perfect hem, is perfectly casual, but also a bit sassy when fancied up in silk, is perfectly comfortable, pretty trendy (ugh I loathe that word but laziness is allowing its use right here), has the perfect neckline and is simple to make.  Oh and it fits with my life so it actually gets worn.  Unlike my many acres of beautiful handmade dresses that don't.

I'm also not sure why I don't remake patterns.  Maybe it's for the same reason I never used to buy more than one of an item.  I'm impatient and like variety and perhaps I've not yet found my tried and true patterns.  Well Inari, you can count yourself tried and true.  Oh God did I really just write that?

I finally made some fit adjustments to this version and either that or the fact it's a knit (or both) have substantially improved the fit.  My earlier versions I graded up at the hip but on this I also added 2 inches to the length to make it decent to wear as a dress, and made a forward shoulder adjustment as well as adding half an inch to the shoulder seam.  

I still find it astounding that it is only in the last six months that I've realised what peculiarly broad shoulders I have.  What on earth was I thinking was causing my jackets and shirts to be so tight across the back beforehand? 

So let's get to the main event here, this fabric.  This is just delicious.  Super delicious.  It's a cotton ponte with a camouflage print in some kind of plasticy stuff.  It's not sparkly as it can look in these pictures and is the same colour as the fabric, just has a sheen that makes the camo print visible.  

As an aside, my son, who is 2, looked at this dress and asked me what it had on it.  I told him it was called camouflage.  He then asked me if they were fast swimmers .... Nope, me neither. And he now asks the exact same question every time I wear it. 

Aaanyway, it's utterly glorious.  

This is one of the few knit projects I've made that I actually like the finish of and I'm sure it's to do with the quality of the ponte and how easy it was to manipulate.  It came from Miss Matatabi and is the first thing I have ordered from her.  I will be repeat customering as the product quality, customer service and faster delivery from Japan than from a few states away is just amazing.  She lives up to all the hype around the webs.

So now I'll leave you with more pictures of perfect fabric and perfect pattern (and terrible windswept hair and eyebags for days) and go off and try to make something that isn't an Inari. Oh and I promise not to bore you with another one, (unless I make the tee version, or it's in really fabulous fabric.) 

See you soon x