Festive diamonds Anna

Firstly, quick thanks for the kind comments on my coat. I wrote that post the day I finished it when the woes of making it were still quite raw, so I was probably a bit more harsh on it than it deserved. Reading the lovely comments and actually wearing it all week (it’s become my daily coat) have made me very fond of it. Hurrah!

Onto a much more breezy sew, my third BHL Anna dress, with a festive spin. This dress started with a pin:



… which sadly leads to a dead Etsy link, but it was enough to spark the idea of a copycat. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not really a vintage style kind of sewist or indeed person, but I fell head over heels for this 1950s frock. The washed-out black silk, kimono sleeves, ruffly skirt and of course that fab geometric diamond pattern over the waist. Siiiigh. The silhouette immediately said Anna to me, so that was my starting point for recreating my take on it.

Anna dress
BHL Xmas
BHL Xmas
Appropriately, I wore it to BHL’s Christmas party bash last week, which was held even more appropriately on the fabric mecca of Goldhawk Road in a cosy Polish restaurant. BHL sure do make a good party frock pattern, I think about half us at the dinner were in BHL creations! It was a lovely night, as anything social involving sewists always is. Thanks Kathryn for snapping these photos in front of the impressive Christmas tree for me.

Anna dress

I should really have used a silk for this dress, as it says right in the description that my vintage inspiration is made of silk georgette. But the idea of creating the patchwork detail in diaphanous silk made me shudder, so I went for a rather sturdier cotton sateen in black and beige from Minerva (this is my Minerva network project so the fabric was provided for me). It’s my first time using sateen and I love it – it’s got a nice heavy drape, takes stitches and pressing beautifully and looks a bit formal with its sheeny finish.

Anna dress

To copy the dress, I cut the Anna bodice straight across about an inch shy of the end of the tucks. I folded the tucks out of the lower piece (and the darts out of the back) then joined the front and back together to make a wide strip, which formed the pattern piece for the diamond panel. I used this tutorial to cut and piece the diamonds and some strenuous maths to make sure I had the right size template to fill the length and width of the panel. With such a colour contrast accurate sewing was key, so I really took my time to get all the points lining up. The final panel got backed in a plain piece of fabric to hide the raw edges. When it came to sewing the bodice back on I just box-pleated at the notches to retain the effect of the tucks.

Anna dress

I used the Anna’s seven-gored skirt but chopped about six inches off the top so it was a bit wider than my bodice edge. Then I lightly gathered the top edge to fit the bodice, so I got a nice flared shape with minimal bulk around the waist. I’m quite pleased with this simple pattern mod and will probably use it again – a bit fancier than just whacking a plain gathered rectangle on.

Anna dress

This dress was really fun to make and wear and it’s a good one to have in the wardrobe for semi-dressy occasions. I’m looking forward to seeing more Christmas party outfits in blogland!

Tobacco toggle coat

Tobacco cat

I finished the thorn that’s been in my sewing side the last few months: my new coat. Please don’t look too closely; it is far from my finest work. But I am sharing anyway in the hope that you might learn from my follies.

Tobacco cat

This was a right pickle of a sewing project. I think I rivalled Jenny in the hand-wringing, internet-consulting, and nearly balling the whole thing into the bin on multiple occasions stakes. I’m somewhat amazed I have something remotely wearable to show for my efforts at all. But wearable it is, and Josh took these nice photos on our Saturday stroll so all is not lost.

Tobacco cat
My problems basically stemmed from bad choice of pattern and failing to toile first to realise my mistake. I started out with Vogue 2692 (an OOP 90s pattern, I think) which I thought was a nice simple relaxed shape and quick win of a sew. HA. I should have paid more attention to the fashion sketches on the pattern envelope and single other example of this coat on the internet, which pretty clearly show a loose fit, dropped shoulder and baggy sleeve – not what I was going for at all. Halfway through making it up I was stuck with these ginormous ill-fitting twisted sleeves and an extremely low armsyce already cut out of my lovely wool. Agh.

Tobacco cat

I ended up re-cutting the sleeve and armsyce using a pattern I knew fitted – vintage Simplicity 6682 as used for last year’s biker coat (which I’ve worn plenty this year too, it’s holding up great). Of course I needed to add on more fabric to the low-hanging armsyces to bring them up a bit, so for a dirty fix I sewed on some little underarm ‘gussets’ to raise them. Since the original sleeves were far too wide I could fit the closer-fitting new pattern piece onto them and just cut off the excess. Amazingly that all worked out alright and I could use my spliced-up pattern for the lining, which thankfully I hadn’t cut yet.

Tobacco cat

After all that, at least the fit worked out pretty nice – it was kind of what I had in my head from the start. I think any success of this coat really hangs off my fabric choice, which is an absolutely luscious brushed tobacco wool that I got in Dalston Mill. I’ve been after a brown wool coat for ages so was very excited to find it. It was an absolute dream to work with, feels so warm and snuggly to wear, and I am annoyed at myself for not treating it better.

Tobacco cat

By the point of getting the fit right I’d given up on the original pattern and forged ahead with some made-up-as-I-go-along design choices re pockets and fastenings. I pinched the slanted welt pockets from the Papercut Rigel bomber (which is bang at the top of my to-sew-next list now thanks to Sonja!) and decided to fasten it with handmade toggles right at the end.

Tobacco cat

The guts look quite swish! The lining came from my Mexico trip. I managed to colour-match it to my coat fabric from memory which I’m quite impressed by, and I’m also pleased with the quality for what I paid for it (something like £2.50 a metre) – I’m sure it has a natural fibre content itself as it pressed nicely and didn’t have that polyester burning smell, but it did fray like crazy. The sleeves are in a satin bought locally for easy slipping on and off. I didn’t want to lose any more length from hemming so made a bottom facing from my last scraps of wool, which got attached to the lining before stitching to the outer all around the edges. I bagged out the sleeves per Jen’s tutorial which always works a treat. (Jen, incidentally, is releasing a toggle coat pattern imminently which I am obviously kicking myself for not waiting for!)

Tobacco cat

A few more little details that weren’t so disastrous… I pressed all the seam allowances open and topstitched along both sides of the main seams. I added a facing to the inner hood because I don’t really like the lining coming right up to the edge. And I made the toggle tabs myself after failing to find any readymade ones I liked. They’re just triangles of faux leather sandwiched with suede cording and topstitched around. The toggles themselves are from Liberty, where for some reason they were £3 each as opposed to around £7 everywhere else, and they’re good and chunky.

Tobacco cat

This coat undoubtedly has many, many flaws. It’s lopsided through the shoulders thanks to my merry hacking; the pocket placement is a bit uneven; the sleeves might even be slightly different lengths; there’s no interfacing anywhere so it’s all unstructured and collapse-y; it’s all wonky when fastened. But honestly I still rather like it, and I learned a lot about how not to make a coat. Frankly, I will never be the kind of sewist who gets excited by roll lines, pad-stitching, horsehair canvas and all those fine tailoring and couture techniques. No matter – this coat fits well, fills its function, and will get a lot of love both this winter and hopefully for a few more to come. I’m glad we came out the other end as friends, coat.

Icy winter wedding frock

Self-draft dress

Classic sewist situation: a family wedding at the weekend with people who know I sew and will definitely ask if I’m wearing a me-made… so naturally a new frock was called for, since I don’t have a stock of fancy frosting dresses to pull out for special occasions. I didn’t have much time to make something, so stuck with an easy but statement fabric and guaranteed fit by using my block with minimal adjustments.

Self-draft dress

As it turned out I nearly didn’t make it to the wedding at all due to a suspected case of norovirus (which was luckily a false alarm) though I was feeling decidedly peaky all day anyway, hence these rather rushed photos and my sallow face. Shame as the wedding was set in beautiful grounds and it was a nice day for mid-December.

Here’s what I did to my block to make this dress:

soft pleat dress

1. Rotated the shoulder darts into the waist darts on the front bodice. Cut the front and back bodice with about 1″ extra ease at the side seam.

2. Cut the skirt front and back with about 1″ extra ease at the side seam too, tapering out to about 3″ extra at the hem for a gentle A-line.

3. Instead of sewing all the darts as normal I just folded and stitched them down between the notches as soft pleats, all tucked towards the centre. Easy!

Self-draft dress

Since the dart placement already matched on my skirt and bodice block, the pleats match up nicely too.

Self-draft dress

The fabric is lovely stuff that I bought as a 1.75m remnant at El Palacio de las Telas in Mexico; I’m not sure if it has a bit of silk in or it’s all synthetic. It was drapey enough for the soft pleats yet sturdy enough to be fairly easy to work with, and didn’t require lining which saved a bit more time. I didn’t have loads of spare fabric to play with but tried to do a cool print placement on the front at least, with the dark area concentrated in the centre.

Self-draft dress

It’s got a mix of serged and French seams, a side invisible zip, and blind hems on the hem and sleeves. The bias-faced neckline is slipstitched down by hand.

Self-draft dress

This dress was supremely comfortable to wear, due to the good fit and little extra ease I added. Definitely a frock I can roll out again for other occasions, and I may use the same pattern again in a more casual fabric for a day dress.

Crimson and Clover

Papercut Clover

This charming earworm wouldn’t leave my head the entire time I was sewing this dress, so I had to don some appropriately-hued accessories it photograph it with. I’m sure you recognise by the distinct bodice detail peeking out that it’s a Papercut Clover dress.

Papercut Clover

I didn’t buy this pattern right after it came out, but was slowly persuaded by so many pretty ones popping up: see Fiona, Rachel, Devon and Hazel. I bought a hard copy directly from Papercut in New Zealand as I really like their packaging and pattern paper, and sewed it up in the evenings this week.

Papercut Clover
Papercut Clover

This was a test run to check fit and construction, but I finished it pretty much as final and it turned out perfectly wearable, hurrah. The fabric’s a cheap poly crepe from an Abakhan dash, with the bodice detail and sleeves in a random black silk from my stash. I haven’t seen anyone do a contrast sleeve version yet but personally I think they help to balance the bust detail rather nicely. Fitting is pretty easy with such a relaxed shape and it seems true to the size chart for a slightly oversized fit. I cut a small with zero modifications and don’t think I would change anything next time.

Papercut Clover

You’ll notice I did give the dress a permanent waistline, simply by sewing a line of elastic on the inside right around where my waist hits. There’s no chance I’d wear this style loose and I don’t really like wearing belts, so adding a perma-cinched waist seemed a good idea. I like how it blouses out a bit but beware it makes the skirt ride up and appear shorter: I didn’t shorten it from the pattern at all which is rare for me.

Papercut Clover

It’s easiest to try the dress on, cinch with a belt and mark where it sits at the side seams and CF/CB, then connect the marks with a straight line to sew over with the elastic. You could also still wear a belt over the elastic and it’d stay nicely in place – I hate when belts shift around.

Papercut Clover

Overall the dress was a quick and easy sew; the hardest bits are the curved hem and getting a nice joined-up seam on the bust detail. Just one thing to nit-pick with the pattern: the bust detail pieces end in a sharp point rather than having a bevelled-off seam allowance (like the D&D Centauree’s do) so it’s kind of hard to gauge where to position it against the bodice edge to sew at the 1cm seam allowance. It seems like the point should run off the edge of the centre front, so I’ll probably just square it off on the pattern piece.

That aside, I’m pretty sure I’ll be making more Clovers sooner rather than later. It’s a great one to chuck on and feel instantly dressed as well as super comfortable. I love the blouse length option too and I’m interested to try lengthening the sleeves a bit. You could maybe say I’ll be going ‘into the Clover, over and over…’

Fabric shopping in Paris

Paris

Wahey, another city fabric shopping guide! I spent the weekend just gone in lovely Paris, a mere skip away on the Eurostar. Three hours from door to door and we were there, and I’m left wondering why we don’t take advantage of that fact more often. I actually bought the trip for Josh for his 30th birthday present; coincidentally it was the same weekend as a big Parisian/London blogger meetup, but unfortunately I didn’t get to join the fun – partly because of the boyfriend in tow and partly because I had a horrendous cold the entire time, hence had to take it pretty slow. You bet I still managed to fit in a bit of fabric shopping though!

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My first stop was Anna Ka Bazaar, stockist of one of my verrry favourite fabric lines Atelier Brunette. It’s a dinky shop, one wall lined with bolts and the other with pattern books, remnant packs and notions. Amazingly I didn’t buy anything, albeit mostly because I already snagged some of the Halo viscose I was after in M is for Make‘s Black Friday sale.

Paris
Paris
Paris
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I stumbled across my second stop by chance, an extremely beautiful and well-stocked mercerie (haberdashery) called Entrée des Fournisseurs. I don’t typically get all that excited about trims, but this place had so many utterly beautiful ones. From pre-made velvet piping in beautiful shades, to neon elastic, to Liberty bias binding… I could hardly take it all in. Plus there was a dazzling array of buttons as well as a small selection of fabrics including Liberty lawns and more Atelier Brunette.

Paris
Paris
Paris
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Paris

Up next was Lil Weasel, set in the gorgeous Passage du Grand Cerf shopping arcade. This is a super-sweet and well-stocked little shop, with a few wools and quilted knits, quilting brands like Dashwood and Echino, more Liberty and AB, and a good selection of indie patterns. I did not leave empty-handed.

Paris
Paris

My final stop was Rue d’Orsel just south of Monmartre, which contains quite a few fabric shops including Coupons de Saint Pierre and the huge fabric department store Tissus Reine. Saint Pierre rather reminded me of Abakhan or Rolls and Rems, with a jumble of fabrics separated by price and fibre type. It was quite hectic and very busy (as were all the fabric shops around here) so I didn’t linger too long.

Paris

Bonus spot: some fun 30s sewing magazines on the flea market. I also bought an adorable vintage baby sewing machine!

Paris
Paris
Paris
Paris
Paris

The Musée des arts et métiers (aka the Museum of Awesome Old Machinery) is well worth a visit too to geek out over old sewing machines and looms. Maaaaan I want that mother of pearl-encrusted one.

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Here’s what came home with me: a small selected of beautiful trims from Entrée des Fournisseurs; and gold dotted charcoal grey wool (for a Papercut Riger bomber) and petrol blue quilted knit (for a snuggly sweatshirt) from Lil Weasel. I can’t wait to sew these up! So this wasn’t the most comprehensive roundup of what Paris has to offer fabric-wise, but pretty good for 48 hours. And I now I realise it’s so close and easy to get to I’m sure a repeat trip won’t be too far away.

London Fabric Sample Sales

Just a quick one to let you know about two fabric sample sales happening in London in the next couple of weeks! I’ve had amazing luck shopping at fabric sample sales lately; I find they are a great way to pick up luxurious fabrics and interesting prints for a bargainous price.

alinesale

A-Line London has a sale next Thursday and Friday in Shoreditch – with luxury end of line fabrics promised at low prices, it should be a good one for winter basics.

hohsale

House of Hackney has more sales this and next weekend. The last one was amazing: here’s my haul which cost around £35 for about 10 metres of silks if I recall.

If you’re local, see you there! If you aren’t – sorry ;)

By the way, I am off to Paris tomorrow so any last-minute shopping tips there are much appreciated.