Weird Winter Centaurée

Winter Centaurée

This was a funny little experiment in pattern hacking/self-drafting. I’m not sure how I feel about the result – it’s a bit odd! Basically it’s a cold-weather-appropriate spin on the Deer & Doe Centaurée dress. I knew I wanted to try this hack as that bodice is simply too nice to only wear in summer (previous versions here & here). Fact fans: Centaurée is the much less pretty-sounding ‘knapweed’ in English – all D&D’s patterns are named after plants and flowers. I think this dress is definitely more knapweed, ha ha.

Winter Centaurée

It was a pretty straightforward hack to convert it from sundress to smock-ish dress. I traced off the Centaurée front bodice pieces and removed the seam allowances, then overlaid these onto my bodice block to see what kind of modifications I needed to make. I realised that the bodice’s top seams are basically a horizontal princess seam, with the darts rotated to the centre and side instead of up and down. Here’s briefly how I altered my block:

centaureedraft

1. Rotate darts to the lower armsyce and centre front, using the Centauree pieces as a guide.
2. Snip through the rotation apex.
3. Round off the sharp corners.
4. Cut the bottom into a separate piece, using the Centaurée pieces as a guide. At the last minute I also cut the top piece diagonally to reflect the original neckline – 8 piece bodice, yo.
Then just re-add seam allowances and sew per the Centaurée. The back and sleeves are straight off my block.

Winter Centaurée

So I’m not sure what is making the dress feel a bit weird. I think it’s partly the fabric, which is a double-faced lightweight corduroy I bought from Miss Matatabi. It’s lovely fabric – I originally bought it for pants but changed my mind – but something about it with this dress is giving me a gothy/grungy vibe which isn’t very me. It was great to sew with though and I love that the dress looks lined thanks to the stripy backing, which I’ve also turned back on the cuffs.

Winter Centaurée

It also fits well, it’s nicely made and comfortable, so it’s not those things. Perhaps it’s the design itself and the Centaurée really doesn’t want to be a sleeved dress? Anyway it was fun to kind of reverse-engineer the pattern and figure out how to draft something like this, so I’m pleased I made it, and I have worn it despite my reservations. I may well have a go at a v2 sometime – I’m thinking a cheerier floral or chambray would be nice. What do you think – odd or cool?

My favourite UK eBay shops for fabric

Fabric shopping on eBay UK

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I find eBay can be a great source for those hard-to-find cool dress prints – for me that obviously means a nice geometric print in muted colours in a crepe or viscose, like I used for my Holly dress. eBay is a good place to turn to if you don’t want to spend too much and have a bit of time to trawl through lots of listings. However, I thought I’d help out by sharing my little black book of UK-based saved sellers, who generally offer a really good range of lots of my go-to prints and fabrics. Here we go:

ebayshop1

Cheapest Fabrics UK – their bio claims “WE SPECIALISE IN PRINTS !!! PRINTS !!! PRINTS !!! AND MORE PRINTS !!!”, and I can’t argue with that. Chiffons, georgettes, viscose and knits.

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Favourite Fabrics – Your best pal for cottons including quilting, lawns and some cutesy printed chambrays.

ebayshop3

Kat’s Fabrics – A good source for Liberty Tana Lawns in largeish pre-cut lots. At roughly £30 for 3 metre cut it’s a good deal.

ebayshop4

Neotrims – loads of trimmings and an impressive spectrum of rib knit trims, plus other plain knit fabrics like sweatshirting.

ebayshop5

JK’s Fabrics – a wonderland of viscose prints, perfect for frocks!

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The Fabric Company Ltd – another good one for viscose and jersey prints. My first Holly fabric is from here and it washes like a dream with zero wrinkles.

ebayshop7

The Textile Centre – good for knits, especially florals, and a bit of other stuff like lace and scuba fabric.

ebayshop8

The Trim Bay – super prices on zips, overlock thread, bias binding and all that fun stuff.

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In Fashion Fabrics – I believe this is run by the same company as the Tissu Fabrics website (which has just had a nice facelift), and I’ve been very happy with the quality of their knits despite the low prices. A real go-to for plain and printed knits of all weights, swim fabrics and linings.

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African Fabrics and Designs – does what it says on the tin, lots of lovely wax prints.

All photos yanked from the respective stores! Just to point out, I haven’t ordered from all of these stores so I can’t comment on quality or service from each one specifically. Also, I’m not being compensated at all for sharing the links – I just thought someone might find them useful. Always happy to enable fabric shopping :) Have you seen any you’d snap up?

Autumn uniform ii: Mountain-Plantain

Plantain + Cardigan

Like my Coco-Sandra, this outfit is another one I’ll be wearing all autumn. I wasn’t going to blog the dress since it’s pretty darn basic, but I snapped some photos of this outfit in the morning when I wore it because I happened to have made the cardigan too. I love a 100% me-made day!

Plantain dress

The dress is a Deer & Doe Plantain tee ‘hack’, which you can find Anna’s tutorial for here. It’s made from one of Leah Duncan’s newest collection for Art Gallery, which I got from M is for Make (though it’s nearly sold out – Finch Sewing Studio have it for a good price too). I was interested to see what the quality is like of the Art Gallery knits, and overall I’m pretty happy with it. I’d call it a light-medium weight, but it’s stable and easy to stitch. It’s got plenty of 4-way stretch and good recovery. Ideal for a tee or babydoll dress really, and I reckon it’d make some pretty comfy leggings too. I’ve washed it a few times already and it seems to be holding up well.

Plantain dress

This was a no-brainer sew – all overlocked and the hem straight stitched since it doesn’t need to stretch. I should really have tried harder with lining up the print because the waistline is a bit skewiff and the mountains are upside down on the skirt and sleeves, ooops. It’s kind of a secret pyjama dress – sooo comfortable – which is why it’s shot to the top of my most-worn list despite the wobbly bits. Must make more!

Cardigan

I made the cardigan pattern myself by tracing off a very beloved Madewell knit that I bought last winter. It was really simple to trace and sew – I made the entire thing from pattern to finishing in an evening. The fabric is a cable textured double-layered knit from Minerva. It’s only £3.99/m and is really snuggly since there are actually two layers of knit bonded together.

Cardigan

It’s got a raglan sleeve construction with the hem and neck bands sewn on afterwards. I topstitched down the overlocking around the neckband to encourage it to stay flipped outwards. I put buttons on for that genuine knitted cardigan effect but didn’t bother with buttonholes since I’ll never wear it closed, ha.

Plantain + Cardigan

Unfortunately it turned out just a little bit too small all over, mostly because I didn’t allow for the fabric I chose having much less stretch than the original cardigan. Next time I’ll just add an inch or so all over and perhaps choose a looser fabric. It’s finally actually starting to feel cold here in London so I think Project Coat will be my next big project.

Saturday Silk Sewathon

Polly-Anna top
True Bias Sutton blouse

I had a fun Saturday, getting reacquainted with my machine after two weeks away (a long time in my books!). Josh was away too, so I stuck some catch-up TV on and had a little silk sewalong. I’ve just started a new work contract which is vaguely in the fashion industry, so my mission was make some slightly smarter yet still comfy tops. Enter some lush fabrics and two brilliant little patterns: a BHL Polly-Anna lovechild, and True Bias’s brand new Sutton Blouse.

Polly-Anna top

I was inspired by the current BHL #Patternhackathon contest to have a go at mashing together the the Polly top and the Anna dress to make an autumn-appropriate top. It’s a Pollyanna! – that name reminds me of that horrendous film that’s regurgitated every Christmas, but I suppose it’s too good not to use.

Polly-Anna top

Hacking the patterns together was very straightforward. I simply laid the Anna over the Polly, lining up at the neck edge and along the shoulder line, and drew Anna’s extended kimono sleeve and underarm curve straight onto the Polly. I also copied over Anna’s lovely neckline.

Polly-Anna top

The main fabric is a black sandwashed silk from Goldhawk Road, with the dull side facing out. I love how it looks and feels, but it was kind of a pain to work with because the rough surface doesn’t feed through the machine that easily – I had a few skipped stitches and ripply seams to deal with. The front panel is a beautiful printed lightweight silk that I actually bought the same day at a local Peter Jensen sample sale which Kathryn and I popped along to in the morning. The Polly pattern piece just fitted onto the little scrappy remnant, so it was clearly meant to be.

Polly-Anna top

I can’t get over how well it fits: I suppose it makes sense since I’d already tweaked both patterns to fit me, but I absolutely love them together. The guts are just as pretty: you gotta do french seams, narrow double-turned hems and self-bias necklines when working with a sumptuous silk. Only the curved panel seam is overlocked, but I bet you could french seam that too if you were feeling brave. Fingers crossed for the competition – there’s a heck of a prize hamper at stake, I hear.

True Bias Sutton blouse

My second make of the day was the True Bias Sutton blouse. Kelli asked me to test the pattern but the dates fell over when I was away in Mexico. I was so disappointed because I loved the design at first sight, so Kelli very kindly sent me over the finished pattern anyway. Yeah, I’m wearing it with my Hudsons, not that they really go together but I couldn’t resist.

True Bias Sutton blouse

I used the last scraps of the sandwashed silk for the all-in-one shoulder yoke, and another silk that I got from a House of Hackney sample sale for the main. Again it was a small remnant that the pieces only just fitted onto, and then only if I cut on the crossgrain hence the sideways leopard print. I do get an odd sense of achievement from fitting a pattern onto the scrappiest of scraps.

True Bias Sutton blouse

The pattern came together really easily. The instructions are great and I made no fit adjustments, just grading from a 6 at the top to an 8 at the hip. I love the technique for finishing the front V-neck nice and precisely, and you’re instructed to use French seams throughout for a swish finish. The only design tweak I made was to leave off the side splits and level off the hem so that I could French the side seams too. I’m pretty sure I’ll make both of these tops again – just keep me rolling in fancy silk!

Crazy Horses

Burda Horses skirt

Here’s a wee post-holiday warmup project I made in evenings this week and wore today to trot around a lovely sunny London: a bit of an impulse make using some precious stash fabric and an old but new-to-me little skirt pattern.

Burda Horses skirt

Sorry this photo is all contrasty, hopefully you can make out the crazy horse-heads. Do you remember it from my Liberty Shaukat haul way back in May? I’d been planning trousers for it all along, but decided on a whim to use it for this skirt instead. (It’s still on their site in grey, cream or green.) Finding the pattern was funny serendipity. I’d just pinned this skirt and was debating trying to hack a fly-front pants pattern to copy it, then I found Burda 05/2012 #118 which is basically the same and bought it right away. Even the colour of the sample garment is the same (and I really want one in this colour next…).

Burda Horses skirt

The PDF pattern is a scant 15 pages and nicely organised with all the pieces falling onto whole pages so it was quite painless to print and assemble. As usual with Burda patterns, it fitted pretty perfectly on me as is – Burda is definitely my body-double spirit animal that I can generally rely on for a good fit. After a quick toile the only fitting tweaks I made were to angle in the waistband side seams at the top a bit to hug the waist, and to peg in the side seams at the bottom for a little more of a tulip silhouette. The pattern comes with back faux welt pockets but I didn’t think they did much for the design so left them off. Oh and I curved off the front yoke pockets rather than have them straight.

Burda Horses skirt

I didn’t follow the (extremely scant) instructions, instead using my preferred techniques including this Threads video for the zip fly. Seriously, if you have front fly fear just try this one. I find fly fronts 100% easier and less stressful than a regular or invisible zip thanks to it! I took a tip from the Everyday Skirt for the waistband, sewing it to the wrong side of the skirt first, then turning it to the front and topstitching from the right side with the seam allowance tucked under. It avoids the need to catch the inner waistband ‘blind’ which I always seem to mess up. I interfaced the waistband with a med-heavy iron-on, but as you can see after a day of wear it’s already creasing up, hmmph. Any tips on how to make a wide waistband stay flat?

Burda Horses skirt

Generally I’m pleased with the finish on the inside, however my overlocker’s knife is definitely getting blunt because some of the trimmed edges are quite hacky.

Burda Horses skirt

It’s a different silhouette and rather bright for my usual choices, but I’m very fond of it. I definitely want one in a tobacco kind of colour, and I’m also imagining softer viscose versions already. A new TNT in the making?

Fabric shopping & Me-mades in Mexico

Mexico sewing stuff

Yup, it’s time for another instalment of my increasingly random global fabric shopping guides – this time in Mexico City and Oaxaca, where we’ve just got back from. (See also in this series: Ecuador, Tel Aviv, NYC.) Given its rich weaving and embroidering heritage, Mexico is a feast for pretty textiles so there was plenty to see, both to buy in the shops/markets and to admire in museums. I was also really pleased to find I rather effortlessly packed and wore probably about 80% me-mades on this trip, so thought I’d share a few photos of all those things.

Mexico sewing stuff

Mexico City was admittedly not brilliant for fabric shopping, either modern stuff or more local and traditional woven cloths. I didn’t buy anything until we moved on to Oaxaca. The main modern fabric shops are all part of a chain called La Parisina, branches of which can be found just south of the Zocalo in the historic centre, and a couple more slightly north from there at Lagunilla (which is an utterly bizarre area full of tacky bridal shops, though apparently hosts a good flea market on Sundays).

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

I don’t know if was because it was October specifically, but all the shops had large, prominent displays of fun and festive Day of the Dead/Hallowe’en themed fabrics. Pretty cute, but I’m not sure how I’d use them!

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

Other than that, all the Parisina branches had similar stuff and prices. There’s a large contingent of gaudy novelty fleeces, lots of very bright poly prints, some more tasteful plaids, and often a smaller selection of wool and cashmere suiting and coating along with a large range of solid coloured poplins, lycras etc. Prices generally range from $20-80 MXN per metre, which is a cheapy cheap £1-4.

Mexico sewing stuff

These super cheerful florals reminded me of Rachel! They felt rather like a starchy waxed cotton, I bet they’d soften up nicely in the wash but too bright for me.

Mexico sewing stuff

Oaxaca also had two Parisina branches a couple of blocks south of the Zolaco. One of them – on the north corner of Aldama and Flores Magon streets – was pretty great; I’m not sure if it actually had nicer stuff or was laid out a bit better or I was just feeling spendy, but I bought a few bits here: some autumnal plaids and a wool mix trousering.

Mexico sewing stuff

There’s also another fabric shop right on Oaxaca’s Zocalo called El Palacio de las Telas, which is set behind a restaurant called El Importador (or they have the same name? it was a bit confusing).

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

This one had classier stuff: a whole wall of cashmere suitings behind the counter, some very pretty floral chambrays and lawns, and lots of dress weight prints. I think some of the fabrics are Japanese imports, like the intricate black/grey prints and Liberty style florals. They also had a wall of laces including some very pricey guipure lace behind glass at nearly $800/m. Prices were a little higher overall, starting at around $85 and up, but I think it was much nicer quality than Parisina. I bought some silk-mix dress prints and some gorgeous floral chambray.

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

Another place worth a mention is the town of Tlacolula, about a 30-minute drive from Oaxaca city. It has a massive – I mean MASSIVE – market every Sunday, when people from all the nearby towns descend to trade, shop and socialise. It was a highlight of the trip, though slightly crazy and disorientating at the same time! A few of the thousands of market stalls sold haberdashery, lace trimmings, and the checked cotton used to make the traditional Zapotec embroidered aprons that the ladies wear to run errands and cook in. (I brought a ready-made one home, you can see it below). I really should have stocked up on lace and zips as they were ridiculously cheap. There was also, bizarrely, a regular little grocery corner shop that we popped into for bottled water which had several bolts of fabric at the back. Take note Waitrose.

Mexico sewing stuff

Onto museums. First and most obviously the Textile Museum in Oaxaca, which is a lovely free little museum housing Irmgard Weitlaner-Johnson’s collection of rare and precious handwoven historical textiles. She spent most of her life travelling to villages in Oaxaca state, collecting and cataloguing a vast variety of indigenous textiles.

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

I especially loved how most exhibits had a typed description of the techniques used and often even a diagram and instructions. You can buy mostly readymade garments and smallish shawls in the attached shop.

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

The Museo de Arte Popular near the Zocalo in DF is a sweet folk art museum housed in a gorgeous whitewashed art deco townhouse. There were some charming embroideries and more examples of richly textural traditional clothing amongst the exhibits.

Mexico sewing stuff

All the huipils reminded me of Marilla’s Maya top pattern!

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

Frida Kahlo’s old house Casa Azul in Coyoacan was another trip highlight. I was pleased to find that the Vogue-sponsored exhibition of her clothing (most of it unearthed from storage after the death of Diego Rivera) was still running, and provided a fascinating insight into the ways Kahlo portrayed her thoughts and feelings through clothing.

Mexico sewing stuff

Check that for embellishment…

Mexico sewing stuff

Finally, here are some me-mades that got an airing on the trip. I love taking dresses on holiday, they roll right down to nothing and work for both heat and cooler weather with leggings/tights. My patchwork dress unpacked admirably non-creasy considering it’s mostly linen, and was great for a hot day in Coyoacan.

Mexico sewing stuff

My Liberty zippy dress, which also packed very well..

Mexico sewing stuff
Mexico sewing stuff

…I wore it take a cooking class in the weaving town of Teotitlan, and the apron I bought.

Mexico sewing stuff

The recent wax Holly dress, worn to the ancient archaeological site at Monte Alban.

Mexico sewing stuff

This is as yet unblogged, it’s a Pattern Runway Gathered Sundress in a dreamy ikat from Cloth House that I made near the end of the summer. I’ll write it up if anyone wants more details on it? I really love it, especially the directional pattern placements.

Mexico sewing stuff

My swimsuit got a real outing in some water, yay! It held up totally great, dried out extremely well and felt great to swim in. (I’m still tinkering with the pattern and also attempted some multi-size grading to make one for my sister, which is proving challenging yet fun to mess around with.) I also wore my other Holly, shibori silk tee and new jeans – I’ve run out of photos though! Phew, back to your regular scheduled sewing soon, and my to-sew list is looking distinctly autumnal – coats, cardis and more jeans here we come.