Alexander McQueen sample sale?!

A friend went to a meeting in the building where, last night, there was an ALEXANDER MCQUEEN SAMPLE SALE!!! (this is for 2013)

I only just found out. Googled it. And realised I cannot make it there today or tomorrow. I’m gutted. Maybe next season. Definitely next season!

In the meantime, anyone who can go, should!

If I read the comments on that posting page, you need to print this image and show it at the door. It is your invitation. Enjoy!! And share the loot using #seamstressSophie ?

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Indestructible travel card holders: coming soon!!

Ok. So maybe not “indestructible”. But if you use one of my travel card holders and it falls apart (you know, how the plastic ones do?) within a year of purchase, i’ll make you an identical new one for free! Yes, this applies to sit-on-it-daily young men too. No guarantees on the cards contained though!

If you opt for the rip-stop canvas one, guarantee extends to two years.

I’m slightly overpromising here, as I’ve only made two holders in my life. A quick and dirty v.1 prototype, and a v.2 iteration with improvements. Both are made in ripstop canvas, and refusing to look anything but cool and grungy and solid.

Two weeks ago, while paying for a pub lunch with colleagues, one of the guys noticed my little holder. He loved it and would happily buy one if they were on sale as he uses the format constantly, and has to replace it every month or so. Last week, another friend made the exact same comment. Uses it a lot, but it falls apart. Two days ago, rewind, play. Another friend. Railcard holder this time. Similar destructive scenario. Seamstress Sophie had to step in…

Therefore, a decision has been reached and is now being made public. I will be making travel card holders in three formats “solo”, “twosome” and “threesome”. Materials will involve leather or ripstop canvas for the outer, and fabric for the inner pockets, because leather would make it too thick. No plastic.

When will these be available? Ummm… I’m not sure. I will aim to make a few prototypes for people to test for me during October.

I already have three volunteers, and would love 2 more. Ideally, one would be a woman, so I can get more feedback on the handbag-fishing scenario. Leave a comment if you’re interested and I’ll get back to you!

Here are the sketches.

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This post was also published on http://exintaris.com/seamstressSophie.

The teal silk dress

A long overdue post, because I finished the dress and wore it in July.

This dress posed three huge challenges.

1 – I’d never worked with sandwashed silk before, and it’s a very delicate fabric

2 – I lost my trusty shift dress pattern, and had to create a pattern using my own body measurements from scratch

3 – My mother’s sewing machine was eating my fabric and tearing holes in it last time I used it. She confirmed it was “broken”, and so I was left with needing to hand-stitch every single part of this dress.

How did it go? Well let’s just say I’ve never worked harder in my life on a dress. And I made a friend’s wedding dress last year! This was harder. Less stressful, because I did have a backup plan for what to wear… But harder, for the three reasons listed above.

How did it go? Scroll past the photos to read a short version of the highlights.

I was lucky enough to have found, a few days before leaving, this amazing book on pattern making. It’s very simple, has practically no instructions, but for someone who can solve complex mathematical equations and likes building IKEA things without instructions (or, ok, confirming her guesses before ending up with a table instead of a bookcase…), it was enough.

One of the photos above shows me being creative and trying to use baking paper as my pattern paper. An excellent idea. Except I pulled the paper out of the roll, and had about 30cm in my hand. It was empty. And as I started this on a Sunday when shops are closed all over Greece… well… I was lucky to find some IKEA craft paper nearby.

The first version of the dress had no straps on the shoulders. Seeing how it sat, however, I had to do something, and decided to add straps. I made them by hand, each stitch done by hand, and flipped once I was done. I used an interesting trick and stitched thread inside the tube. I’d attached it at one end, kept it inside the tube I was stitching (while inside out), and when it was ready to flip, I used that thread to pull it inside-out! Worked like a charm 🙂 Of course I had to be careful and not tug at the thread until I broke it. It was more about using it to help ease the fabric through. It made a huge difference though!

The fitting was a bit difficult, as I had limited assistance from my mom. She likes things very loose, I like them well-fitted. In retrospect, having had dinner in the dress and danced for more than 5 hours wearing it, I should have made it a little bit looser. My stitches held beautifully (I was more surprised than you are), and the dress looked amazing.

Another trick I used to help the cowl drape properly. I noticed the dress was falling backwards. Normal, given how I’d cut it. So I decided to weigh it down on the front. I made tiny pouches from the same fabric as the dress, put three loonies ($1 coins from Canada) in each, and stitched them closed, and to the base of the straps on the front of the dress. I had to secure them on the sides, too, as they had a tendency to dangle and get in the way. They held really well through the night, and even through the subsequent handwashing of the dress. I didn’t have to tug at my neckline, it stayed where it was supposed to be, which was great!

What I learnt:
– You CAN make a dress entirely by hand. But you really don’t want to. It takes forever.
– If you’re going to dance in a dress and feed in a dress, leave yourself a couple of inches of room for it.
– Making a pattern from body measurements involves some guesswork and 3-dimensional magic (which I’m not sure I possess)
– You can make a gorgeous silk shift dress with barely 1m of material (at £15/m, this is a bargain dress!) and it looks stunning. I did spend a good 20 hours making it though, so your call.

Final sketches and draft handmade pattern for a new dress

I want to make a dress to wear to a friend’s wedding this weekend. Yes. This weekend. In 5 days. I’m not sure I’ll manage, but my sketchbook looks more optimistic.

I have the fabric, the zip, the matching thread and the dress idea.

Alas, mother says the (terrible anyway) sewing machine we have here is broken. And, more critically, i do not have a pattern to make the dress with. So here i am exploring designs, taking measurements, and trying to make my first ever pattern from scratch. Well. First ever non-jersey pattern.

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(Also posted on exintaris.com)

Blue and green pencil skirts

So one of the things I realised recently is that i need a green, blue, or teal pencil skirt in my wardrobe.

Mostly because i am developing an allergy to the non-colour black. I have been avoiding it in shoes successfully for years, and i’m trying to get back to it on the clothes front.

My first step, therefore, was to go on polyvore and compile a list (ok, a board, fair enough) of some existing pencil skirts in various colours, to get an idea of what i was attracted to.

Here is what i found:

Blue and green pencil skirts

Dagmar neon pencil skirt
net-a-porter.com

Slit skirt
windsorstore.com

A Wear midi skirt
$34 – awear.com

Teal pencil skirt
$74 – glam-net.com

Zara skirt
zara.com

Printed pencil skirt
$22 – newlook.com

how I let out a pair of tuxedo trousers

Well this is going to be a bit embarrassing for someone…

Last week, The Man and I were going out with a friendly couple. It was my best friend’s birthday, and she shrieked ecstatically when I suggested, months earlier, that we go to Herr Kettner’s Kabaret to celebrate. We immediately decided to dress up to the nines for it. With a background in theatre and neither of us being particularly shy, we kindly suggested to the men that they might like to take the gentlemanly way out and wear their tuxedos. Both complied very happily. I have to say, I’m completely smitten with mine, he looks _so_ ridiculously handsome in a tux! You’ll get to see if you agree later.

First, the alteration!

The night before, The Man was smart enough to try on his tux and see how it fitted. He looked dashing, and immensely uncomfortable. Then he tried sitting down. I feared for his mirrored wardrobe. Since the last time he’d worn it, he’d clearly had a few too many late evenings at work and heavy dinners followed by cake. (mmm… cake….) With Kettners Kabaret being in less than 24 hours though… this was a disaster.

So I looked at the trousers. They seemed designed to be altered. There was a single straight seam running up the seat of the trouser. No belt loops, nothing complicated.

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So The Man had a few options:

  1. Wear the tux as it is and risk embarrassment while being seriously uncomfortable
  2. Wear something else (but at last minute, what??)
  3. Take the tux to be altered somewhere near work (but where? And can they turn it around in half a day?)
  4. Go buy a new pair of tuxedo trousers and hope the black colour matches
  5. Give me the trousers, let me alter them, and I can bring him the tux to work before we go out

For some strange reason, despite a mild googling session for options 3 and 4, he was brave enough to go for option 5.

I’ve replaced a zip in a man’s trousers before. The front zip. It was a royal pain and incredibly fiddly, but the trousers were as good as new. And I have altered about 3 pairs of my own trousers (the devils had belt loops in the back, I cheated and removed them) when I lost weight. I was never going to throw away bell-bottomed blue-grey waist-high trousers! Nor navy blue velvet boot cut ones! Never in a million years! So they went from a size 14 (UK) to a size 10 (UK). So I’d done it before. But a tuxedo? On the day of the party? Jesus no!

Thankfully, I was working from home on the Friday, so I logged on a bit earlier than I would have otherwise, and used the more generous lunch break that earned me to do the alteration. It did take about 60-90 minutes, but I was going slowly, I was way too scared to mess something up.

So here it is, step by step. And I should warn you. I cheated.

First off, open the seam up. There were some elastics from the elasticated adjustable waistband that you’ll find in all good men’s trousers. I had to snip off the seams attaching those before being able to open up the seam properly flat.

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This is the seam all flattened and open.

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This is where the cheating happened. A professional seamstress would most likely have unpicked the seat seam first, then reassembled the garment. I, however, am not a pro. I’m an engineer. So I went for the duct-tape solution. I used the existing seam as my “tacks”. Instead of needing to align the fabric and pin it or tack it in place, I used the old seam for that, and just ran the sewing machine with a new seam just next to the end of the seat. See how beautifully made the trouser seams are? Love the finishing! This is part of how I could tell they were built to be altered.

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Then I unpicked the old seam. That took a _while_. I had to be very careful not to unpick the inner (new) seam at the same time!

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When that was done, I had to pull the elastics through a bit more, and re-attach them to the reinforced panels of the waistband. That was a bit tricky, as you don’t have much clearance to sew around that spot.

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The last step remains undocumented, and involved doing a few little stitches to secure the waistband in a folded position.

I also don’t have a photo of the trousers from the back or anything. I didn’t think of it. They looked flawless though! You wouldn’t have been able to tell that anything had been done to them!

And since I’ve been so terrible at showing you the trousers, maybe this will make up for it. I’m not shy by any means, and like I said neither are my friends. So here is a photo of the four of us, at Kettner’s Kabaret, to whom I also dedicate this post. Without that insane absinthe-soaked, burlesque-dancing, ukulele-singing, vintage photography-taking night, this blog post would never have happened. Well. Not in June, in any case.
I tried embedding the photo i wanted using Pinterest but their code didn’t work here. So here is the link to the photo if you want to see where it’s hiding in my pinterest boards.

And here is the photo itself.

The Man looks happy, doesn’t he?

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I’m applying for the Great British Sewing Bee! Will you?

sewingbee

I haven’t yet seen the last episode (it’s sitting on my iPlayer, faithfully), but I will be applying for the next season of the Great British Sewing Bee, mostly because I would have loved to meet every single person in this first season’s four little episodes. That and I think I’d learn a lot from seeing others work. I’ve been doing all of this alone for my entire life. Time to move on.

Apply for the Great British Sewing Bee >>

oyster card holder v2.0 (more pocketses!)

After having done it once, and seeing that the two pockets I’d made weren’t enough for the cards I was starting to need to carry (driver’s license, M & S card, oyster card, credit card, some cash and a few business cards), I decided to make a second version with more pockets. I’d especially liked the diagonal pocket, so I made two of them.

I cut out the pieces carefully, even though I didn’t bother measuring them.

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I then pinned the edges of the pockets so I could get nice angles on them.

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This side will have one full-length pocket in which I will hide the oyster. See it never needs to be removed to be used, it can work through the oyster card holder’s fabric, which means I can put it in the nearest-to-the-outside pocket, and hide it completely from view quite safely.

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After stitching all around the flipped “innards” of the holder, I cut the edges closer to the seam with crimping scissors. This means that when I flip it inside-out, the edges will be less poofy. (what do you mean, “poofy” isn’t a technical term?)

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Ta daaaa!

As I was making it, I decided to add a strap. I cut a length of fabric about 5cm wide in the diagonal of the fabric to make sure it will have some extra stretch, and stitched it inside-out along the long edge. This made for a tube, which I trimmed close to the seam and flipped inside-out to get a simple strap. I then anchored the strap between the “innards” (green pockets of the inside) and the blue rip-stop canvas outer, and made sure it stayed put when I stitched around the edge.

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This is the oyster card holder v2.0 in use.

 

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Handbag design: more sketches

Our task for last week was to draw out the handbags we had thought up. These are my simple sketches for the bags in the small range I’m thinking of.

First off, there is a classic design, loosely inspired by the Birkin bag, with two short handles and one long strap to hold from your shoulder or from across the body.

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Then there is a basket-like laptop bag, which I would like to make in neoprene. It’s thick, solid, and protective both against bumps and water. Perfect for a laptop bag. It doesn’t look supremely professional, but it depends if you’re a scuba-diving web designer or a cycling city girl… errr… yeah. I’d have said city boy, but I don’t think men would be attracted to this shape.

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Next up, the holdall. I love going away, and this is what my ideal duffle bag for a weekend getaway would look like.

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Ok, I have no idea what I was thinking when I doodled this. It has pockets though!

 

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