A month of #dresslikeacrayon

It’s has been SO nice to see #dresslikeacrayon resonating and taking off a little bit with other people on Instagram during January. I started it primarily to kick myself into re-sharing outfits and thinking about new sewing plans, so for other people to get on board was a huge bonus. It ended up being incredibly inspiring seeing how other people crayoned; I found a lot of new folk to follow and added a lot of ideas to my sewing list!

I have to give a shout out to some of the most dedicated crayoners in particular: jessiejessyg who I think was the most frequent hashtagger and most dedicated to complete-crayoning with a really eclectic range of outfits. KatieKortmanArt who again really took the theme to heart, especially with bright colours, and invented the crayon box dance! And Charlotte who shared some wonderfully textural outfits as well as a cute armful of crayons.

Personally, the crayoning theme largely achieved what I hoped. I was able to look at my wardrobe with new eyes, combine items that I hadn’t considered before, and come out with quite a clear idea of what I might be lacking in terms of adaptable pieces that my wardrobe would benefit from to unlock a load of new outfit combos. I also learned what I already expected; that since I gravitate towards a fairly constrained palette anyway I had a fair amount of crayoning choice and it definitely often reduced the time it took me to decide what to wear. I also learned that I CAN wear bright(-ish) colours and not feel horribly self-conscious. The red and green crayon outfits were some of my favourites, even if I didn’t feel completely myself in them..

That said, the theme became really difficult to follow the crayoning theme over the last couple of weeks as it got really cold and my only completely full-length pants, and winter boots, are black! So I did end up either defaulting to boring black-crayoning quite a bit or my usual pair-anything-with-black outfit formula. I fully expect to keep crayoning all year round, and I think it will only be easier and more fun in the spring.

What has been added to my sewing plans as a result? Definitely pants in more colours to pair with my collection of sweater and tops. Tan/brown was a really popular colour on the hashtag and I am scouring the world for the perfect shade of corduroy for wide-leg trousers. Likewise I’m fond of the idea of more powder blue, which seems to span a nice area between the logistical difficulties of wearing full-on white and the ubiquitous boringness of denim. And more jumpsuits/overalls! I wear my small collection of all-in-ones so frequently and they are the first thing I turn to on indecisive/nothing-to-wear days. Instantly dressed, layer-able for all weathers, instant crayon.

I have saved just some of the posts from the hashtag into colour-themed Instagram stories which you can explore from my profile, and I highly recommend browsing the hashtag for a dose of colourful crayon inspiration. Thank you so much to everyone who’s taken part, it’s been such a joy to ‘host’ and kick off this fun theme. Keep at it!

Two frosting frocks

I’m a million miles late joining the fun #sewfrosting challenge started by Heather and Kelli before Christmas, but I finally got around to photographing two fancy dresses I’ve made in the last couple of months, both of which have been successfully party-tested already.

First up a jazzy dress I wore for my birthday party last weekend. I bought this amazing outer space embroidered tulle from Stonemountain & Daughter last year (it still seems to be in stock!). It cost me an absolute fortune in shipping and custom fees but luckily it was worth it. I only got 1.5yds so had to do some very careful cutting to get the midi length dress I wanted with decent pattern placement. I had basically zero scraps and the shoulders with no embroidery are eating riiiiight into the selvedge, heh.

I wanted a dead simple pattern and used this Stoff & Stil pattern that I threw in out of curiosity in a recent fabric order. They have an awesome range of patterns for cheap prices in very cool, wearable styles. They come single size, and unusually come pre-cut in whole (non-halved) pieces and made out of a lightweight fabric-like material. I imagine you could tissue-fit the flat pattern with pins very easily prior to cutting. I liked working with the pattern a lot, the grippy fabric pieces made cutting really easy and the nice big bellows envelope makes it easy to re-store the pieces.

I had to adjust the fit as the size that fitted my hips was way too big on the shoulders and chest, so I sliced down from mid-shoulder to hem and overlapped the pieces, tapering to less as I went down. Otherwise the fit is great and will likely become a TNT for simple tee dress shapes.

I thought carefully about seam and hem finishes in this very transparent tulle. I tested French seams but they looked pretty horrible, so in the end decided to overlock then press and topstitch down to one side. Similarly for the neckline and sleeve hems I overlocked the raw edge, finger-pressed it back twice and topstitched. The hem is still raw! I confess I was finishing the dress five minutes before I got out the door for my party but hey, sometimes fuss-free (non)finishes are the best and who’s looking that closely when you’re covered in sparkly planets and stars.

The transparency also necessitated an under-layer which I hadn’t really considered; in a pinch I wore an Inari knit dress I made a while ago. It’s not ideal as it’s looser fit and the ties add some bulk, so at some point I’ll make a simple close-fitted tee dress to wear underneath.

Here’s the dress looking cool under a blacklight in a bar, and doing some serious karaoke, my two preferred birthday activities.

I used the same pattern before Christmas to make a mini dress for my company’s Christmas party. It had a ‘red, green and/or sparkly’ dress theme so this excellent snake-y sequin fabric I bought a year or so ago (also from S&S but sold out now) was perfect. It is also quite sheer so I’m wearing a black Ogden cami slip I made a while ago underneath.

This was my very first time working with sequins, but luckily it was a gentle introduction! Crucially the sequins are pliable enough that they could be cut and sewn straight through, no need to remove them from the seam allowances. I finished the neckline with purchased black bias tape facing, which I handsewed down – stitching into the mesh means the sequins cover it and it looks invisible. The other hems are rather shamefully just overlocked and left plain. I tried the same bias finish on one of the sleeves but it made it flute out weirdly, and actually I like the weightless look and near-invisible finish of the black overlocking.

The great thing is this simple tee shape is so comfortable and forgettable to wear, but the fancy fabrics make them still feel special. That’s ideal frosting for me!

Sewing room rejig

I last shared my sewing space back in 2015. Nothing has massively changed but between Christmas and the new year we had a clear-out, reshuffle and redecorate so I thought I’d take some new photos!

The most noticeable change perhaps is my new greeeeen wall (even though it looks more blue in the photos for some reason). This was quite a rash decision and I didn’t even sample the colour or anything; luckily I like it and it only took a few hours to paint. I may take my project photos in here from now on as the light is really nice in this room, so expect to see plenty more of it soon.

The plywood desk and shelving unit I had made back in 2015 are still holding up well. I painted the backboards of the shelves white as they always looked quite overbearing in the ply; they blend much better into the wall now. I’ve moved my fabric into a separate unit as having stuff boxed away looks tidier up here. The lower shelves hold frequently needed stuff like interfacing and machine feet, and up top is lesser used stuff like quilt batting. My PDF patterns are stored as before in Muji divider files.

The deep compartmented drawers I designed for the desk are so useful for all those bits and pieces you need on hand: chalk, safety pins, fastenings and so on. I also kept my trusty sewer’s friend the Ikea Raskog trolley to store bulkier things like threads and pressing hams. The clip LED light is useful for detail work, especially as my overlocker light is blown and I don’t know how to change it, ha ha.

The other larger thing we changed is moving the trundle bed we used to have here into the other spare room and making this a joint ‘hobby room’ for Josh and me. Josh homebrews so he needs a lot of kit as well, which is in this chest and tucked to the other side of it – there’s an ugly but necessary black fridge and a load of unphotogenic demijohns, ha. Still there’s more floor space now which is really useful for cutting out large projects.

I had this little unit already, it stored books before but it’s the perfect width to store fabric. Each length is wrapped around a comic book board to keep it tidy. The lower shelves hold scraps, PDF overflow and back issues of my beloved Threads magazine.

I’m really pleased with how the little refresh turned out, it’s already motivating me to sew more! The days are slowly getting longer and brighter as well so hoping I can get back into taking project photos as it’s been ages since I shared anything. It’s been so long that WordPress’s post editor has changed which is taking some getting used to, anyone else finding it a bit difficult?! Hope you liked seeing my room anyway and ask if you have any questions!

Desk and shelves: made locally
Paint colour: Leyland trade, mixed in-store (no name, sorry!)
White box shelves: Argos
Peg board: Block Design
Boxes: mostly old Ikea
PP storage drawers and files: Muji
Chest of drawers: Ikea
Rug: La Redoute
Wall art: Laurie Maun, Tom Abbiss Smith, Alex May Hughes & vintage
Trolley: Ikea

Dress like a Crayon

I have a fun little idea for January dressing and sewing plans to get me back into taking photos, identifying potential wardrobe gaps, and trying out different ways to pair up my clothes, as well as brightening up a rather dark month. Dressing like a crayon; that is, wearing the same colour outfit from head to toe.

My theory is this will be a really easy way to not have to think too hard about getting dressed while still looking fairly put-together thanks to the restrained palette. I hang my clothes by colour and tend towards mostly solids in a rather fixed palette these days (green, pink, blue, white and black – that’s pretty much it!), so it will be interesting to see how many whole outfits I can make while wearing just a single hue at a time. In terms of rules, I’m not really imposing any. Any shade of the same colour will do, and if I can include footwear, accessories and outerwear I will do so, but I don’t have a full spectrum of shoes, coats and hats!

I’ll take pics to document my daily outfits on Instagram – though it may not be every day – and other inspiration (all these pics are from my Pinterest board). If you feel like playing along use the tag #dresslikeacrayon on Instagram so I can see your outfit too!

Stripy Tully

I make a lot of trousers, but somehow there’s always room for more, especially of the statement-y and elasticated-waist variety. I think these Style Arc Tully pants fit the bill nicely!

The Tully pattern is designed with striped fabric in mind, as there’s a chance to play with the direction on the ties and cuffs; stripe direction lines are marked on the pattern pieces. I bought this yarn-dyed cotton-viscose from Stoff & Stil with exactly this project in mind.

It’s a great fabric, slightly beefier than a normal dress viscose so perfect for pants. I used the wrong side of the fabric as the orange stripes are slightly darker and I preferred the more subtle look. It frayed like crazy so all seams are overlocked. Oh, and this pattern only takes 1.5m of fabric and it’s very efficient to cut, so very little is wasted – always a bonus!

The pattern was fun to put together and much more simple than it looks, even with SA’s famously brief instructions. There are diagrams that clearly explain how to form the waistline, and I think the front pleat with the ties wedged into it is such a cool yet easy to sew detail. That said, I supplemented the instructions with a few extra steps, like pressing a crease into the paperbag waist edge before sewing up the crotch seam so it’d be easier to re-fold into place later, and seam finishes are not considered at all so I had to overlock as I went. I also continued the elastic across the centre front rather than ending it at the ties, as I preferred the ties to cinch a little closer together.

I cut out the side seam pocket pieces but then forgot-slash-decided to leave them out: the lack of pockets is already annoying me though and while it’s not possible to do my preferred slash pockets due to the waistline construction, I think there might be a way to add side seam pockets and anchor them into the top seam to prevent them flapping about. I’ll either go back and add them to these or consider this for my next pair. Lander-style patch pockets would be another option to explore.

Unusually for me I hardly messed with the design or fit at all other than the noted above. The hip has plenty of ease and the waist is elasticated so no need for much fine-tuning. I only had to take a slightly larger seam and hem allowance on the leg cuffs to get the “7/8” length look as intended on my rather short legs, therefore a longer-legged person might find they come up much shorter than intended.

The fabric and slightly directional design detail of the waist make these at the upper end of statement-making for my tastes, but the comfort and colours make them supremely wearable. I’m definitely going to make another pair in a solid colour, either black or forest green.

Leopard-ish & swishy-ish

This garment was definitely swayed by seasonal trends I’m seeing in the shops and online, probably more so than most of the stuff I usually make. Midi, ruffles, and a print that almost reads as leopard-like, a trend I have definitely not dipped into before. But I likey and, toned down a little to suit my own taste, it’s surprisingly wearable!

I used the Tilly & the Buttons Seren skirt as a basis, which is basically a knee length half circle skirt – you could use BHL’s calculator to self-draft. At the hem I drafted a separate flounce by extending the hem down then slash-and-spreading to add curvy fullness. I pretty much eyeballed the amount I was adding and the end result is not extremely poofy, but as a ruffle/flounce newbie with already quite a bold print for my taste, I think it adds just the right amount of kickiness. Finally I also made the length of the flounce asymmetric, which again is quite subtle but gives a bit of extra interest to the swishy hem.

To finish the waistline I took a tip from m’favourite McCall 7445 and drafted a facing rather than adding a waistband. I find this really comfortable, flattering and easy to fit as you can fine-tune to make it as snug as you like by adjusting the side seams, and there’s no risk of the typical gaping you might get when adding a waistband. I added thin ribbon into the seam to act as a stay and prevent stretching out over time. The little ribbons you get attached to tops sometimes are handy to cut out and keep for this purpose! It’s still comfortable as the ribbon is so narrow it doesn’t dig in.

It fills a real wardrobe gap for these in-betweeny days and lets me pair my rotation of silly slogan t-shirts with a slightly more polished bottom half, a look I am quite into for work. It was a super fast-gratification and stash-busting sew (I can’t even remember the fabric source, it’s been kicking around for so long!), so I expect I may make a couple more as I think it will also work well with tights come the inevitable post-Birkenstocks-and-bare-legs weather.