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.

Holly dress, and a how-to

Holly dress

Ahoy-hoy! I’m in beautiful Mexico right now, but I have a little project from earlier this month to show and tell – it’s another By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit dress hack, and I’ve also guest posted the tutorial on BHL’s blog. Scroll to the bottom for a link…

Holly dress
Holly dress

I love how this version turned out! My paper pattern tweaks from first time worked out well, though looking at this pic I could probably go down a size as it’s a bit loose above the waist, which shows up more in this crisper fabric. BHl have done an amazingly comprehensive sewalong for Holly by the way, with all sorts of useful fitting tips from swaybacks to the dreaded neck gape.

Holly dress

I think the fabric really makes this dress. It’s a Ghanaian wax cotton that I bought from a lovely lady at Spitalfields Market; only 5 or 6 quid for 4 yards. Wax is so nice to work with, especially when you have to do any kind of folding/pressing since it holds a crease so well. A wash with fabric softener before and after sewing really helps it to relax into a soft and comfy cotton, and it stays surprisingly un-creasy all day. I used to feel a bit uncomfortable in garments made from stiffer woven fabrics, but I think getting the fit/ease right means they feel a lot better to wear. I don’t get changed into sweats when I get home after wearing this, a sure sign that a garment is comfy!

Holly dress

The fabric also let me do one of my favourite things: get nerdy with print placement! I ran the directional print horizontally on the bodice and vertically on the skirt, doing my best to centre and mirror the design across the fronts. The darts get pleasingly camouflaged into the geometric print rather than breaking it up too much. The blue stripes across the waistline and down the button band weren’t intentional but have become my favourite feature. I totally zoned out when it came to matching the side seams and sleeves though, ha.

Holly dress

Such nice tidy guts, mmm. I finished the neckline with bias again instead of facings. This is a bit of a slovenly confession but I only very recently started threading my overlocker with 4 threads instead of 3, literally because I couldn’t be bothered to re-thread that one extra spool when changing colours. Turns out the 4-thread looks way neater and has a much stronger finish, so consider me convinced.

Holly dress

Soooo, if you want to see my walkthrough on exactly how to draft and attach the gathered skirt to the Holly bodice, I’ve done a tutorial as a guest post on the official Holly sewalong, so pop over to the BHL blog and have a read.

Holly dress

This is the LAST button-down dress I have to show for a while, you’ll be pleased to hear. It’s so hard to pick a favourite from all the ones I’ve made recently, but this one has racked up the most wears (and compliments) so far. I wore it to the SewBrum meetup and it’s come out to Mexico with me – I’ve been doing very well on wearing handmades here, as well as a bit of fabric shopping… update soon!

The Knitting & Stitching Show

Knitting + Stitching show

I had a very nice day out today at the Knitting and Stitching show, held not too far from me in Alexandra Palace. Here are some of my highlights!

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

It was lovely to say hello to the Sew Over It gals who’d brought their range of sewing patterns. Have you heard they’re opening a new shop in Islington (a skip away from me)? Great news!

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

A lot of my money went to The Eternal Maker, who have a superbly curated collection of the nicest quilting cottons around, along with lots of pettably soft flannels/knits and some dreamy Kaufman chambray and linen. Charming service too! I’ll be sure to order from their website more often.

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

It was nice to see Merchant & Mills there, who had brought a selection of cloths, notions and patterns.

Knitting + Stitching show

Shibori-dyed beautifulness from Changs, who were also selling fabric by the FQ and metre.

Knitting + Stitching show

I was rather tempted by these procion and indigo dye kits from Art Van Go – one to add to the Christmas list.

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

Liberty loveliness at Alice Caroline. My rummaging threw up a couple of scraps of the Graham Coxon print I’ve been after for ages! If you see yardage of this in the green or blue anywhere please let me know.

Knitting + Stitching show

M. Rosenberg / Stitch Fabrics (they have a shop in Wanstead, east London) have loads and loads of John Kaldor and ex-high street jersey knits – lovely stuff at £6-10 per metre, with friendly service.

Knitting + Stitching show

Here’s what came home with me: some John Kaldor knit from M. Rosenberg, The Merchant & Mills Dress Shirt pattern, Liberty scraps from Alice Caroline, FQ of shibori from Changs, Burmese trim, and some Cotton + Steel tiger print. Plus a couple more secret things for presents!

Knitting + Stitching show

It was a great day out, even though my bank balance is now wincing a bit. The Knitting & Stitching Show is on for the rest of the week until Sunday, so do pop up if you’re local.

I was given a complimentary press pass to the show.

Bossed: Darling Ranges

Darling Ranges

Sorry, back to buttony dresses after a brief diversion! This was actually the very first one I made, which kickstarted my little obsession. You have the lovely Amy of Almond Rock to blame, because we did a Sew Bossy swap and this dress is the result of my lovely swap package. We decided to do Sew Bossy together because we have pretty similar taste in fabrics and projects. And yup, safe to say I pretty much love this dress. Amy picked me the Darling Ranges pattern, some monochrome slinky viscose and some pretty pearl buttons.

Darling Ranges

As I mentioned, the fit of the Darling Ranges was pretty great on me out of the packet. I cut the size S which matched my upper measurements – hips too big like normal but the gathered skirt is forgiving – grading to XS at the shoulder. I made a couple of my normal adjustments – raising the waist, shortening the skirt – but I’m very impressed with the fit out of the packet otherwise. It’s kind of loose-fitting but doesn’t look oversized, since the shoulders and bust fit well. I left off the optional cinching waist ties since I like how it looks as it is.

Darling Ranges

I’m definitely more of a round than v-neck person but decided to sew the pattern up as written in the spirit of Sew Bossy. It’s a little bit lower than what I’d usually go for, but it doesn’t gape at all. I’ve tacked it closed just above the top button.

Darling Ranges

I’m not usually an in-seam pocket fan as I think they add hip bulk and make skirts hang funny, but went ahead and added them here. I can’t keep my phone in them without distorting the skirt, so maintain they’re useless except for awkward hands. Umm, and looking at these photos I’m going to check the sleeves are the same length because they look way off here (I just rolled and tacked them down).

Darling Ranges

I feel quite chic in this dress – it’s rather Whistles, no? And it gained my first ‘I love your dress, where did you get it?’ compliment from someone who doesn’t know I sew: definitely a Bossy Win. I can see even more Darling Ranges in my future (I like the look of the dartless tunic variation) after a bit of a break for something different. Be sure to hop over to my swap partner in crime Amy’s blog and see what she made with the kit I sent her.

Autumn planning: Coco-Sandra

Jeans

The weather has been so uncharacteristically lovely in London that it’s really hard to start thinking of autumn sewing – I haven’t even packed away the summer dresses just yet as it’s still in the low 20s (70s to you ‘mericans). Nonetheless I have started identifying wardrobe gaps and sewing up some things to cover them. I think this outfit is basically what I’ll be wearing from November til April: a Tilly Coco with Style Arc skinny jeans.

Jeans

The Coco first: I cut a size up from my previous ones for a more slouchy feel, teamed with the three-quarter sleeves and an added draped front pocket (cut with sloped sides but sewn in a straight vertical line, if that makes sense). The fabric is a stashed remnant of a fairly thick, very stretchy jersey. It’s all overlocked together and the hems are all just turned back and stitched with lightning stitch: a two hour jobby.

Jeans

The jeans are my third go at the Stye Arc Sandra – after a too tight and too loose pair, these are pretty great. I made up them in a brownish stretch denim I got in Ecuador.

Jeans

The sewing process, to be honest, was not particularly fun. The fabric didn’t want to press at all and topstitching was painful… I tried using a proper topstitch thread and needle and it wasn’t happening at all. Don’t even talk about twin needling. Hence the topstitched detailing ended up pretty, ah, minimal – I didn’t even do the leg or crotch seams, and the waistband is stitched with non-matching regular thread. Meh.

Jeans

The fit around the waist and hips is great, but there are some odd drag lines going on around the back knee. Honestly, you fix one problem and another pops up.

Jeans

I was determined to get a really nice non-sagging, non-creasing waistband this time. I interfaced both the inner and outer bands with a good quality medium/heavy interfacing from Ray Stitch which seems to have done the trick. The one bit I often seem to mess up is the very centre of the waistband ‘winging’ upwards at the top corner, creating a messy overlap when buttoned. Hence I added two buttons to keep it from flapping.

Jeans

The front fly is my tidiest yet; I incorporated the fly facings onto the front pattern pieces and used the directions from Burda 7017 which are definitely my favourite (though I’ve been meaning to try this method which looks even easier).

Jeans

I even managed to correctly sew the pocket yokes into a Spanx-style extension that goes all the way to the zip. It’s been nice to dip back into jeans-making after a spate of sewing frocks. I need to bash out a couple more pairs as I’ve chucked out all my ill-fitting RTW ones!