Category Archives: Travel

Dos Alders in Mexico

I’ve just got back from a short holiday to Mexico; it was our third time there as it’s probably my favourite country in the world (vying closely with Japan!). In the week prior I decided I needed a couple of new holiday dresses, so spent some very enjoyable evening and weekend time sewing up some simple frocks ideal for the spring heat. I also did a few crafty things out there and a spot of fabric browsing!

(Yep, I found a sewing sign!)

I dug out an old PDF that I haven’t used for a while, Grainline’s Alder pattern. Thanks to past me I had View B adjusted for fit as I’ve made it twice before – one, two – plus an uncut copy shop version of View A which I decided to try this time. I applied similar fit and style adjustments to View A: converting the collar to a V-neck (Jen’s tutorial here), a small FBA and swinging out from the hip to add more needed pear-shape space. I’ve made so many simplifications to the pattern that it’s now only two pieces!

Both dresses have the same construction: French seams throughout (well, there’s only the shoulder and side seams so hardly a huge effort) and self bias tape to finish the neckline and arm edges. Some hate it but I quite like making self-bias and it always seems to behave better than any bought stuff. I’m that weird sewist who likes doing buttons and buttonholes too so this was quite the dream sew. They both have my little custom labels that I designed and had made by Nominette too.

Onto some in-situ holiday snaps… (sorry these look kinda pixelly? Something weird going on with my exports.)

The first one is in a beautiful lightweight but opaque printed linen from The Fabric Store. I ordered this fabric actually expecting to use it to make some cushions, but once it arrived the drape and smooth handle were so lovely I couldn’t resist a dress instead. (And I have enough left for those cushions, yay!)

I spent a while at the cutting stage trying to get the print lined up across the seams and centre front. Giving myself a B+, it’s pretty darn close!

These pictures were taken in the lovely suburb of Coyoacán, fitted with scented flowers, cobbled streets and colourful walls.

The second one is made from Kokka double gauze that I bought in Tokyo last spring. This abstract print was far less critical to match! I adore the colours in this fabric and it’s butter soft.

Happy to report it was both heat- and cycle-friendly! I can’t wait until the English summer or another holiday to wear these again.

Onto some other crafty stuff I did over there. One day we did short workshop in the lovely San Angel area to learn about alebijres, the richly-decorated little folk animals you find in every Mexican craft market, and to paint our own versions. They have an interesting history that merges pre-hispanic traditions with the work of one of Diego Rivera’s proteges, Pedro Linares. I made a little pink ‘n’ green kitty and Josh painted the crazy lightning lad.

We also took a class on another day to make a small weaving using yarns mainly dyed with natural products such as indigo, cochineal and flowers. This took place in the Chapultepec Forest and was also really fun and relaxing. We booked both of these days (along with some other trips) on Airbnb experiences, and I really recommend those as a way to meet locals, hear their stories and maybe do a little holiday crafting.

The artisan markets are full of wonderful crafts too. I brought home a lovely blackwork Otomi embroidery like in the right-hand photo above, which I’m going to hang on the wall. You can read a bit more about Otomi’s history and how it’s made here.

Finally, I did a spot of fabric shopping in the city of Puebla, a couple of hours east of Mexico city, where we decided to spend a night fairly last-minute. It was a good decision as Puebla is a beautiful place, with an amazing antiques/flea market, stunning old churches, and plenty of fabric shops!

Like most Mexican cities, similar shops tend to clump together along a street or block, so there were several fabric shops conveniently next to each other around Calles 2 Ote and 8 Pte towards the north of the small city centre. Josh handily entertained himself by going to buy tacos árabes, a local speciality (another interesting read), while I poked around a few of the stores.

There were the usual suspects that I encountered on my first trip to Mexico, the large chains called Parisina and Modatelas. These usually contain haberdashery and other crafting / misc household stuff too, and the fabrics are mostly synthetic and very bright! However I did spot some nice rayons, linen blends, ‘crepe ghost’ whatever that may be, and traditional style woven stripes and smocking.

I liked the smaller shops better; these typically have sections for knit/woven dress prints, costume type fabrics like tulle and sequin, and a wall of more premium cashmere and wool suitings. Prices are mostly in the $50-150 MXN (£2-6 GBP) per metre range, thought probably more for the fancier stuff.

I only bought one thing, this irresistibly silly cat print knit which I’ll use for a simple pyjama top. But it’s still always a treat just to browse in fabric shops while traveling! Here’s a list of some of the shops in Puebla in case you are travelling there:

Telas La Moderna, Av 2 Pte 106
Telas Janina de Miguel Velázquez, Av 2 Pte 310,
Modatelas, Av 2 Pte 304
Parisina, Av 2 Pte 111
Telas Boaltex, Av 8 Pte 116
Telas Rafa, Av 8 Pte 307

Barbados beach dressin’

Holiday sewing

Warning: this post contains a lot of idyllic beaches, warm weather and sunsets. It might not be suitable if you’re lodged in wintery gloom. I’m feeling that myself with an extra post-holiday crash this week if that helps, but I did have a lovely little break in Barbados and managed to get a few new me-mades into my case despite still being an overlocker down. (There are some more photos of my trip over here if you’re feeling brave.)

Holiday sewing

Firstly two more Zippy tops – well, a top and a dress variation – both made from House of Hackney silk that I got in last year’s excellent sample sale. This blouse I just love – what looks like leopard print from a distance is actually amoebas up close. Secret science print!

Holiday sewing

I accidentally cut the dress bodice a bit too high and ended up with empire line, which also made it end up rather short hence the addition of vintage lace trim to the hem. As well as having fabulous designs HoH fabric is so well-behaved and a dream to wear – I hope they do another sale soon.

Holiday sewing

You can barely see ’em, but this is a pair of Katy & Laney Tap Shorts that I made last summer. It’s the same polka dot denim as these jeans, with the plain reverse side used for the front and the dots on the side/back. I love this pattern and was hoping to make a couple more pairs, but I didn’t fancy leaving raw denim seams without my trusty overlocker.

Holiday sewing

This is a Marilla Walker Maya top (with a different pair of Tap Shorts), which Marilla kindly gave me the pattern for. I bought the fabric when I met up with Marilla and a few other sewists on Goldhawk Road in January, it’s a super soft cotton with the pattern woven in; I think I used the wrong side out but I like the stripes. The top took just an evening to sew and I really like the construction method, with wide facing pieces for the neck and sleeves which are topstitched down. It fit perfectly with no adjusting and is so nice and comfy, both in heat and cold (I wore it back at home before the trip too). Winner!

Holiday sewing

Tiger dress! This is my second Pattern Runway Gathered Sundress (the first one’s here). The bodice fits me like a glove with no modifications, and I’m fond of the scoopy skirt pockets with sweet gathers. I just omitted the waistband both times I made it as they do nothing for me. It’s made from Cotton + Steel quilting weight cotton which I’d been hoarding for a while – it’s a bit novelty (and pale) for me normally but I think you get away with that type of thing on holiday. I didn’t quite have enough so cut the side princess panels from a plain black, and tried to tie it in with a black decorative stitch on the hem too.

Holiday sewing

I’ve been trying to get over my invisible zip aversion, so this one has one up the back. Getting a good screw-on Janome zipper foot for Christmas, rather than the flimsy proprietary one I was using before, really makes it easier to sew up the remaining seam accurately. There’s a neat finish inside the dress with a mix of French seams, pinking, and hand-sewing.

Holiday sewing
Holiday sewing

Finally, the reversible Turia dungarees I made my sister for Christmas got an airing – but only briefly because I made a BIG mistake. I didn’t prewash the fabric as I was in a rush to get them made.. after fifteen minutes in the hot sun, they’d bled blue-black dye all over her legs. Aaaaagh! I hope a gentle wash with a colour-catcher sheet renders them wearable. The good news is my sister (extremely impressively as she’s a beginner) sewed up her very own version of the pattern which also got worn on the trip. I just need to wrestle the pattern back to make my own pair!