What do Marilyn, Liberty, Selfridges, Laduree, Westwood and TopShop have in common?

… they all were part of my (lovely) weekend πŸ™‚

Saturday involved homemade english breakfast, a short (first ever) visit to the National Portrait Gallery (wow!), tea at Laduree, shopping at Liberty (!!) and a lovely movie with George Clooney. That, and changing a handbag lining. But more on that below.

Marilyn dress finds owner

Finally, after many tribulations involving flights, post offices, mailmen and snow, The Marilyn Dress has found its rightful owner!

This is my friend, N., modeling the dress. The feedback I got was that it’s going to be tough to find the right bra for it (indeed I have no idea how Marilyn herself pulled it off – or kept it in, as it were…), and that the skirt’s fullness (720 degrees of material sewn into 360 degrees of waist) is wonderful and very glamorous.

Now all we need is a Hollywood-style evening to wear it to. Us girls should get our diaries out and coordinate some massive charity ball or something, because we’re not rich enough to afford such an event on our own money. However, we are definitely good at getting things done and having fun (and 3 of us have already coordinated large events). So maybe later this year we’ll have some interesting news, born from a random comment while walking around Knightsbridge, dreaming of when we’d get to wear our lovely evening dresses…

Shopping at Liberty: Vivienne Westwood rocks!

As for Liberty… Well… I came across this stunning Vivienne Westwood dress… And I couldn’t resist. The pictures are from net-a-porter (where it was overpriced AND sold out), that’s not me!! It’s my first designer dress, and I’m very very excited to have added it to my wardrobe. I’ll be peeking at it for construction tips in the future, me thinks πŸ™‚

Selfridge’s inspiring window

On my saturday-shopping-in-London day, I came across this window at Selfridge’s on oxford street that truly inspired me, and I had to share it.

I’ve said this before, but I’ve just finished losing weight (reached my target weight last week!!!) and as a result I have a bit of a messy wardrobe. There’s various shapes and sizes, and I need to go through it and toss things. Most acquisitions having occurred since I started working full time 5 years ago (which is when I started piling on the pounds) are often of a hide-my-shape nature. Despite always being fond of body-con, once you reach a well-padded size 14, you want to hide, even in body-con clothes.

So a lot of the stuff I have is darker, boring, drab… And I want to rejuvenate it. Because I’m in the best shape I’ll ever be (30 years old, with a body tighter and smaller than when I was 16!!) and I want to enjoy it while it lasts (aka before children and serious old age happen). And this quote on the Selfridge’s window about sorting through your clothes and making sure you love each and every one of them hit a chord. Because when you love your clothes, getting dressed in the morning becomes joyful, and you spend the rest of the day in the afterglow of knowing you are wearing lovely things and looking your best. I would like my clothes to mirror my new self: to be the best, and happiest, they can be.

TopShop handbag lining

In more practical news, a handbag I have been using for maaaaybe 2 months (tops) has already fallen to shreds. Well, the lining has.

TopShop’s leather handbags are usually very well made and quite solid, but this one seems to have been the exception that (hopefully) confirms the rule. Within 3 weeks the lining had already started to tear. You see, whoever created the handbag thought that it would be smart to line it in the flimsiest, most shreddable light little cotton… For the record, sir (women know that lining needs to be _solid_), you are a twit. And please don’t do it again.

So now I have a choice. Go hunting for my next handbag and spend another Β£50-100, or change the lining. Naturally, being offered to customise a handbag interior, I pounced. You see, I LOVE pockets. And I love special linings. So I’m replacing the awful TopShop material with a reinforced colourful silk one. Plus London Fashion Weekend is coming up next month, so I should hold off shopping around until then (there’s some great things there!)

I had scraps from the Marilyn dress and from my Medieval gown, and I used them to make me a new reinforced lining. I’ve put on 2 small internal pockets and one larger zippered one, and I plan on making a small makeup/whatnot pouch to match the lining for carrying some bigger clutter necessities I always have with me (swiss army knife, permanent marker, hand sanitizer, lip balm…)

Here is the lining with the pockets attached. Tonight I will sew it into the bag, and add a bottom, so I can use it tomorrow. Yey!! Not only do I end up with a more functional bag, but I save money, have fun, and improve the bag a hundredfold! A peek of beautiful lining makes the difference between quality designs and high street junk. Have I mentioned that Sewing Rocks!!?! πŸ™‚

Coat revamp

As everyone can tell by glancing at any thermometer, or just the trees and sky, winter is upon us. The jumpers invade drawers previously occupied by light-coloured tops, you trade your light jacket for a winter coat, and sandals for shoes and boots. In my case, however, it’s not quite as simple as that. I’ve lost more than 16kg since last winter, and so my winter coat doesn’t fit me. I’ve gone from a size 14 toΒ  size 8 (or 10, depends on the store) and now i look like I’ve borrowed my coat from a relative. Being insanely bored of it after 3 winters doesn’t help much either. Well, it’s 2 coats really, but this one I’ve had nearly 3 years now. So I decided to alter it.

Originally, it’s a very straight charcoal grey coat with 4 buttons down the front and a little black fur collar. I haven’ tbeen able to locate any “before” pictures though… And I didn’t think of taking any before altering it. When I say altering… Given that it’s my only coat and I seem unable to find a good coat on the market, I didn’t want to cut into it or undo any seams. So this had to be a superficial alteration. I went with sticking a zipper on top. Something I saw on another coat on the high street, and I thought looked quite nice & funky.

Coat revamp. Neck detailI bought 1 long zipper, a 15cm one, and two 13cm ones. I took off the coat’s buttons (they were almost falling off anyway after 3 winters’ worth of wear), sewed the button holes shut, and applied a nice big zipper down the front, while pulling it tighter to get a slight nearly-double-breasted kind of overlay for improved warmth.




Coat revamp. BackThe medium zipper went on the back, like a mini-belt, again pulling the coat a tiny bit to cinch the waist a little more and give it shape, from the tube-like thing it was. The 2 smaller zippers will go on the sleeves for decoration andΒ  a bit of narrowing, biker-style. That way less air will go up them, and I won’ t be as cold, either!!

I’m quite proud of the alteration, as now it almost looks like I have a new coat, and I have to admit that it’s quite a bit warmer. I’m surprised by how much.The alteration was made very easy by the dressmaker’s doll. I put the coat on it, pinned the lapels into their new position, and hand-sewed the zipper on. Easy peasy. Really!

Coat revampI’m glad to have done it. My ambition was/is to make myself a winter coat, but I have been unable to find fabric.

So now I’m looking for coats at various places, but nothing seems to be warm enough. HOBBs has good quality, but at exorbitant prices (above Β£300), REISS has a beautiful design, but at Β£300 for something with 60% wool and no cashmere, they have to be kidding. And everywhere else has rubbish fabrics. Except Laura Ashley. There are 4 coats there that I’d consider wearing. They go for Β£150 each, and are 70% wool, 20% polyester and 10% cashmere, which is a great combo for an everyday coat. Hope I can figure this out before it gets too cold!! Any tips either for coat fabric or actual warm winter coats are welcome! I am considering going to an outlet mall. Has anyone been?

Birthday dress: take 2

Birthday dress

Birthday dress

It’s done! It’s done! I’ve shrunk the dress!!

And a HUGE thank you goes out to Dana for lending me the amazing dressmaker’s doll, without which this would not have been possible.

I have managed to achieve a brilliantly snug fit, without it being too tight or too loose. And for the kind of fabric I’ve used (fairly stiff) this is exactly what is needed for the garment to sit properly and look like it’s made for me. I’m SO happy!!

Tonight is a double birthday party. My boyfriend and a good friend are celebrating together tonight. And in order to look nice, I decided to wear my birthday dress. Thing is, from April (my birthday) to october (these birthdays) I’ve lost 10kg! So I had to take out quite a bit of fabric.

Mini tutorial. How to “shrink” a dress: With the dressmaker’s doll, this was a piece of cake. I put the dress on the doll inside-out, and using some white (or any contrasting colour) thread, I basted (hand-stitched with very loosele-spaced stitches) down each side, evening out the excess fabric into the new, slimmer shape. Before going in with the thread I used pins to make sure i’d block out the fabric evenly on each side (instead of pulling it all to one side!). Worked like a charm.

I then tried on the dress (right side out) to make sure I’d gotten everything (I had) and sat at the machine to put in 2 long seams down each side of the dress. Easy peasy. I also decided to remove the side slits I’d put in, and to re-hem it at a different length. So I sewed all the way down (inside of the slits, so they were cut away with the excess fabric), flipped the dress, put it back on the doll and hemmed it. Simple stuff. And the result is in the picture. A gorgeously fitted dress!! I may post pictures of it after the party tonight.

Let the good times begin!!

Pink dress: Sleeve time!

Pink dress, inside out, sleeves pinned to place

Pink dress, inside out, sleeves pinned to place

Yes ladies and gents. It’s SLEEVE time!! (Again)

This time I will do this completel by hand, and then head to the machine. So any little bits that don’t want to overlap perfectly will end up in the underarm (for one) and I will be able to twiddle the sleeve’s shape all the way to the end. Hurrah!!Β  It’s going to be a bell sleeve, so this is quite spcial.

The dress itself is more or less made on the very simplistic pattern of my blue jersey dress. I took measurements, laid the fabric out flat, and drew the measurements out.

This was easy with the back piece. The front piece needed several darts. See my colleague is much better endowed than I am (I’ve been called “planche-a-pain” (breadboard) in the past) and adding the baby bump to that, there was quite a bit of fabric that needed to fit _around_ her person. So a bit more calculating and measuring for the front piece. Which came out significantly curvier than the back piece, of course. (See pic)

Pink dress (cut)

Pink dress (cut)

Tonight comes the challenge of sewing on the sleeves, fixing one pair of darts, and making the all-important grey-and-pink tartan belt, which is going to pull this look together πŸ™‚ I hope I manage. For now I’m struggling with repeated BSDs (Blue Screen of Death) and a document that needs re-updating. The full-time job isn’t particularly crafty… Which is why the rest of my life is!

I’m wondering if I would have the time to make myself a dress on thursday night to wear on Friday for a Birthday party. But I don’t think I can pull it off, despite my increased abilities. I think I will stick to shrinking the dress I’d made to wear for my own birthday back in april. I’ve happily lost nearly 10kg since then, and will need to amend the dress accordingly! Exciting times!

First fitting!

First fitting has gone well!
Brought in the (very) pink dress, and my friend tried it, and it fit nearly perfectly!! It needs to be made narrower in a couple of places, but YEY! First fitting for a dress for someone else has gone well!! Brilliant!!

OMG ponies!!

Am 1/3 of the way into pulling together the biggest challenge of a dress yet πŸ™‚ It is PINK (photos to confirm the pink-ness to come shortly) and is for a pregnant colleague of mine. So the challenge is… well-rounded πŸ™‚ I’m quite excited to be making a dress for someone other than me. It’s all the fun of making it, plus someone’s grateful for it, and happy with it other than just me!! It’s brilliant πŸ™‚

Blue jersey dress: DONE!

Blue Jersey dress: DONE!

Blue Jersey dress: DONE!

Hemmed it last night by hand, put it on, and had a friend who’s staying over snap a picture of me. The first picture was with the night-darkened window as a backdrop, so the dress didn’t show quite as well. Had to move to the wall. Those prison guards know their business!

I’m very excited about wearing it out and about next week.

Also, last night, I made 2 little pouches for runes. My friend is studying them and needed pouches for 2 sets of them. They came out quite professional (even though they’re still missing a ribbon) and I’ll be posting a tutorial for them soon. They’re incredibly basic, and quite possibly the best place to start if you’re only now learning how to use a sewing machine.

For now, open the “Jersey Dress tutorial” image to see the tutorial for making a sleeveless or strapless version of the dress in the picture. It’s very basic, and you’d have to try quite hard to mess it up. The only thing you really need is stretchy jersey fabric (Β£7/m and you only need 120cm), tailor’s chalk, and a tape measure. Scissors and a sewing maching are kind of a must, too!

Jersey Dress tutorial

Jersey Dress tutorial

Blue dress: unhemmed, but done!

Blue Jersey dress (almost finished)

Blue Jersey dress (almost finished)

My ploy worked! Hurrah!

Flipping the dress inside out and hand-sewing worked out like a charm!

The only tricky bit was the join under the underarms (quite a bit of fabric there, some last minute embroidery scissor chopping required).

Am fairly proud of this πŸ™‚ It’s my first foray into patternless dressmaking. Well, there were the 2 other incarnations of the dress in strapless and sleeveless versions, but this one adds sleeves and a more complex neckline, so there. Woo hoo!!

Tonight I hand-sew the hem, and I just need to wash it and I can wear it as of next week.

Blue jersey dress (shoulder detail)

Blue jersey dress (shoulder detail)

Very excited!! In great part because I can now move on to the next project, and in this case I have a choice of 2, for variety!

  1. Dress for a friend who’s going to a wedding in the last week of October.
  2. Handbag for me in dark brown. Chanel 2.55 shape in oversize, Dior cannage quilting, dark brown snakey pleather fabric.

Sisyphus' pattern-less sleeves

Are you familiar with Sisyphus? It’s this guy from ancient greek mythology who was condemned to push a boulder up a hill to get it to the top. That was his aim. Unfortunately, the hill was so shaped that as soon as the boulder got to the top, it rolled off and down the other side. So Sisyphus spent eternity in Hades rolling a boulder up a cliff again, and again, and again…

Blue jersey dress

Blue jersey dress

What’s that got to do with sleeves? Well, if you’re attempting a dress without a pattern and with sleeves, a LOT. See I’m making this jersey dress. I’ve made it before. Twice. Once I left it strapless. Once I lifted the fabric up and made it into a square-shouldered straight-neckline sleeveless thing. This one I was hoping to make into semi-raglan sleeves. All this, without a pattern, or any pattern-making skills.

Thankfully I have a book about making patterns, thanks to a great crafty friend of mine. So I used the book to find the base sleeve pattern. Measured everything. Drew it up and all. Then I modified it to be a raglan sleeve, blindly. I had no bodice points to attach it to or to measure from. And that’s where the nightmare began. (A raglan sleeve is the one that extends to on top of the shoulds, and has a seam on the shoulder, and the sleeves are attached to the bodice in a diagonal line from armpit to neckline. A very sexy cut, popular in the fifties.)

I measured, I drew, I trasferred, I cut, I basted, I tried it on. Shoulder was lovely. Arm was lovely. Sadly, they were too far apart from each other with an armhole going from my armpit to (almost) my elbow! *chop chop* come the scissors.

I cut off the raglan shoulder bits, as those were a lost cause. I try to attach the sleeves to the mannequin. Armhole is too far out, giving a modern but undesirably slouchy shoulder overhang. *chop chop* come the scissors.

I undo those seams, then attach them again. Seems better. So I try it on. Sleeves are too poofy on the front, and the back piece is slightly over-extended on one side. *chop chop* come the scissors!

I undo those seams, chop the bodice and sleeves some more, and sit down in defeat to watch tv.

The armholes, all chopped up

The armholes, all chopped up

Thanfkully, la nuit porte conseil, and this morning I figured out what to do. I’ll pin the sleeves at the shoulder and armpit, and attach them progressively to the (now reduced) armholes. I will do this with the dress and sleeves both inside out, so that the resulting dress will be ready for machine sewing after being tried on for verification. Well, anyway, that’s the plan. And if all else fails… *chop chop* come the scissors!! And I’ll have yet another sleeveless dress πŸ™‚