Me made somedays

DSC_1343_editFirst up, who would have thought there were so many former (or current!) Sylvanian Families fans out there! Thank you so much for all love on my silly little post about dressmaking for tiny bears, it really made my weekend. I was even featured by the lovely Harriet in her ‘Lazy Sunday Links‘ round up, which is a serious honour, and I am extremely grateful.

I wanted to share a few photographs today that show another ‘me made’ outfit in action. Although serious, regular, obsessive dressmaking has only been my thing for the last few months I am already building up a small collection of me made garments that I wear a lot. I mean every day a lot. Chris took these photos for me ages ago, and to be honest they’re not the best shots of me. I really wasn’t feeling photogenic that day! But the outfit is a winner, and one of my favourites at the moment. Take one edgy mini in grey wool and add a classic striped top: fashion magic.

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Yeesh, more awkward pos-ang. Anyhoo, do I even need to tell you whose shirt pattern this is? Yet another Coco to swell the ranks of the global army. I myself command a modest battalion of six so far, although two of those are scheduled to be dismantled because, well, they need rethinking.

Capital Chic Manhattan skirt

The skirt is another Capital Chic pattern, the Manhattan mini skirt, which I knew I had to make the moment I saw it. This is the A version, slightly shorter and with a chunk taken out of the front hemline. I actually had a bit of a nightmare getting this skirt to fit properly. Clearly I’m just too generous in the Kim Kardashian department for conventional skirt sizing, and normally the styles I go for are pretty free over the hips. My first attempt – the size 12 – was too small across the hips. So I cut the size 14 instead, and still ended up having to let the side seams out by 1cm on each side. Once I’d made those adjustments of course the waist was too big, so I took the excess out of the back seam when I fitted the zipper. This has made a slightly strange dip in the back waistband, bit as I am a scruffy little otter who always has her shirt untucked, I don’t think anyone will notice.

Speaking of zippers, let’s have a quickie close-up…

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That chaps is my first ever exposed zip. Not too shabby huh? This is also the first time I have lined a skirt, using a simple white cotton from my stash. When I started to really work on smartening up my dressmaking skills, I had only ever sewn in zips by hand in a really rough and ready fashion. Now I bet even the most fiddly of zip insertions couldn’t phase me! (Although please don’t test me on that).

Getting dressed in the morning has always given me far more pleasure than it should, and putting together outfits combining clothes that I have made is a whole new level of euphoric awesomeness! These pieces may be very simple, but they give me enormous pleasure.

Tiny bears

I felt like having some silly fun today. It’s a Saturday, I have to go and get a rabies jab this afternoon (travel stuff), and just generally because. Earlier this week I was thinking about the very first garments that I made and as I suspect was the case for a lot of people, the first clothes I made were not actually for me. Then I started rummaging through my photo archives, and this post was born!

FamiliesCollage_editI started, as I imagine many people do, making outfits for my toys. Specifically Sylvanian Families. My parents gave me my first family of bears when I was three shortly after they were first launched in the UK, and this started a fifteen year love affair with tiny bucolic animals. Even after (I thought) I was too grown up to play with the houses and furniture, I still used to sew things for them. Today my collection of some 150 plus figures is carefully stored in a box at the top of my wardrobe, one family per sandwich bag. As with all collections I don’t really know why I’m keeping them – they are too precious to pass on to my own children, who can have their own if they are so inclined – but these tiny bears were the defining obsession of my childhood and it would be too awful to part with them.

My clothes started with evening frocks for the mothers, which were very simple: a rectangle of something pretty for the skirt, gathered to the waist with straps made of ribbon and a press stud or a hook-and-eye to fasten. I also went through a phase of cutting up my old t-shirts and using the stretchy knit to make a few body-con numbers. Step aside Alaia, I’ve got this.

Mamasfrocks

These sexy outfits were accessorised with matching stoles and home-made necklaces, using scavenged beads and scraps of elastic. Later on I started to experiment with layering silk organza, bought in remnant bags from the local fabric shop, over a sturdy felt base. In reality this dress, and indeed the one shoulder pink number as well, would probably cause some serious flashing problems for its wearer, but at the time I thought those designs were so glam.

Periodically the Sylvanian Families Club (I told you I was obsessed) would publish dressmaking patterns, and I have hoarded these religiously. In fact I should really copy them onto card before the tracing paper disintegrates completely. Through these patterns I learned how trousers are constructed, how to get even gathers in a skirt, and how to make a dress bodice that fits over large rabbit ears. These were some of the last outfits that I made, but they are some of the most sophisticated.

GrandmaBearandCo

Grandma bear arrived in a job lot of figures that I bought from eBay, and the poor dear didn’t have a stitch to wear. So I rustled up a lovely liberty print frock for her, along with a lacy shawl and even a pair of specs, made using a paper clip and some ribbon. That was always the fun part of working in miniature; even the tiniest scraps could be made into something wonderful!

The morning after

Don’t you just love a lazy Saturday? I am often so busy at weekends that I forget how brilliant it is to wake up when you want, do what you want and when, and to have time for all your personal rituals.

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DSC_1394_editDespite a late night on Friday I woke up early this particular Saturday, and after a longer-than-usual shower complete with some sale treats from the Body Shop (the raspberry body scrub is to die for), I wiggled into a sweatshirt and the softest, comfiest skinny trousers I have ever owned and went off to get my hair cut.

DSC_1415_editOne hour later and freshly chopped I flagged down this handsome reprobate on the high street and we went in search of brunch. Our little corner of South London isn’t exactly a destination brunch location, but we have some gorgeous local cafes that do a mean full English, with more gems springing up all the time. Recently the local pavilion in the park was given a full renovation and turned into a lovely cafe that has become very popular very quickly. And with good reason!

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DSC_1361_editMy hairdresser, who is a guru of local gossip and recommendations, suggested I try the veggie breakfast. One mention of grilled halloumi skewers and I was sold. Accompanied by a scalding hot latte and fresh orange juice.

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DSC_1363_editThe outfit is fairly representative of what I like to wear at the moment: usually a mixture of my own makes and some ready to wear pieces. As niche as it may be a neoprene sweatshirt (in this case Capital Chic White Russian) is definitely one of my staple wardrobe pieces! I’ve worn this sweatshirt so many times, and the fabric is starting to wear in really nicely. I’ve found that cheaper ‘scuba’ fabrics can develop runs and pulls really easily and end up looking a little naff after a few outings. More neoprene-y fabrics tend to wear more like leather jackets (or indeed wetsuits!), developing creases and rumples that all add character.

The trousers are a new buy from Charlie May, my favourite womenswear designer. Buying one of her pieces is always an investment for me, one that requires a little saving up or some creative accountancy, but for me the effort and the wait are totally worth it. Oh my, these are so comfy, and to keep Chris happy they have ‘bits missing'; apparently this is a theme with my clothes, from things being backless to knee-less to crotch-less (ok, not that last one). I felt that since the sweatshirt was inspired by Charlie May’s AW14 collection it was only fair to wear it with an actual piece from the collection!

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DSC_1403_editI dub this look my ‘morning after the night I spent singing on stage with Damien Rice’ look. Y’know, because that’s I roll on Fridays.

For those who haven’t seen my endless enthusing about this on Twitter, and Instagram, and Facebook, I should probably explain. My choir (London City Voices, in case you’re wondering) was summoned to provide backing vocals for the final night of Damien’s world tour at the London Palladium. During the final number all 73 of us snuck quietly on to the back of the stage behind a gauze, which was lit from the front so that the audience couldn’t see us. During the final song – Trusty and True – we started singing, the lights came up on us and suddenly the audience could see us. And this being the era of the smartphone, they photographed and videoed us! Thank you instagram for this blurry memento of an incredible night.

A photo posted by Lizzy Harley (@songofthestitch) on

 

Our entire performance was acoustic, as there was no space for the mics once we were on stage. Luckily we’re quite a noisy bunch. Mind you the crowd gave us a run for our money – 2,500 people can make a hella lot of noise if they choose to! Getting a reception like that is definitely a highlight of my choir career. Singing makes me feel so alive, and there is no buzz quite like live performance.

As for the afternoon, well what would you do with an empty Saturday afternoon with grey rain beating on the windows? Get the sewing machine out? Of course you would. And I did.

Hope you’re all having a fabulous crabulous week, and I shall see you all at the weekend. xx

A pile of pyjamas

What’s your go to comfort sewing?

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Myself, I’m a bit of pyjama addict. Is there anything better than slogging in from work, pulling on some comfy PJs and a big soft sweater and pouring a glass of wine? Hell no there isn’t. But the perfect pair of jam jams is a tricky beast. For me the chief criteria are extra length in the legs and an elasticated waist. My ‘jama bottom stash is also one of the few areas of my wardrobe where I’ll allow a bit of flamboyance, namely funky prints. My every day wear is largely block colours, but for chillin’ like a villain you can’t beat a splash of paisley, some cheeky tartan or even some cute little elephants.
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PJs are actually remarkably hard to photograph when you’re not wearing them. But some days I feel much happier behind the camera than in front of it, so I have to be a little creative!
My current pattern au choix for jimmies is Margot from Tilly’s book Love At First Stitch. I tend to make them a size larger than needed, because who wants close fitting loungewear? So far I have experimented with a slightly stiffer dress weight cotton (comfy but a little rigid), brushed cotton tartan (so schnuggly) and the lightest floatiest paisley cotton lawn.
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The latter came from a recent trip to the Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham. I was in town for work, attending the Conservative Party Conference, and felt it would just be rude not to visit. If you are ever in Brum you have to go. The choice can be a little overwhelming – imagine floor to ceiling of non-stop fabric, spread over four floors – but take your time, remember to breathe, and just enjoy the experience. Having a mental shopping list can also be really helpful; certainly trying to limit myself to PJ fabric and grey wool stopped me from getting too overwhelmed, although I still spent a lot more money than I was intending to!
I was also hoping for some neoprene and some classic breton stripe jersey, but no joy. They have an amazing selection of plain knits, but fewer stripes. Oh well, I did eventually find my perfect stripe!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some serious lounging to do.
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Perfect Coco

Sometimes you have one of those wonderful sewing days where everything just works. All the techniques come together, the fabric behaves itself, and you are left with a beautiful, classic garment that has a permanent home in your wardrobe. Welcome to the club stripy Coco dress, you are one of us now.

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DSC_1363_editI’ll be honest, I was a little nervous. I was sewing away from home (visiting my parents for the weekend), on an unfamiliar sewing machine (my Mum’s) and trying out a new technique for the first time (twin needle hem finishing).

Perhaps I was simply being extra cautious. Perhaps my Mummy’s sewing machine is just superior to mine (it is, it moves the fabric like smooth magic). Either way, this latest Coco came out perfect. And I thought they couldn’t get much better than my stripy top. I may not wear very many bright patterns, but it seems that me and stripes were just made to get along!

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DSC_1357_editSimple and straightforward, just how I like my fashion. I’m on a bit of a Coco mission at the moment because they will be the perfect garments to take travelling next year. Jersey can be squidged into the tiniest available suitecase space and still come out smiling, and it’s a lovely, light, breathable fabric for hot climates. My Coco dresses are also absurdly simple to wash, and I’ll feel happy trusting them to strange out of the way Malaysian laundromats (something I have had to learn the hard way in the past). I have already tested out my red Coco in Croatia, where it kept me cool and shaded from the sun whether I was sight-seeing in Dubrovnik or cycling beside a salt lake. I’ve promised a run down of everything I plan to sew for my travels next year (coming soon – the pile of patterns on my sewing table is growing daily), and Cocos in various shapes and sizes are likely to feature prominently!

Actually on the subject of construction, this is my most professionally finished Coco to date. I used my overlocker to sew up the seams, as I’ve done several times before now, but instead of a zig zag stitch to finish the sleeves, neckline and hem I used a double needle instead. The result is a deliciously sleek, professional-looking finish. The fabric is a medium weight ponte di roma from Fabric Godmother – something like this, although sadly it is now out of stock – that, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I had spent many hours trawling the internet for. At £14 per metre this is the most expensive Coco I have made to date, but it is entirely worth it!

DSC_1362_editI think this jumper deserves an honourable mention today, as I have been wearing it pretty much non stop since it arrived. It’s from a Swedish brand called Stylein, who are just redonkulous at making really cool knitwear, like this open back jumper. Sadly it is not available online anymore, and I found mine second hand on Depop. For any knit buffs out there, this jumper is worked all over in garter stitch, but the pattern has been rotated by 90 degrees so that the rows run vertically rather than horizontally. There is some shaping around the armholes, but otherwise the construction is absurdly simple. If I ever finish my other two jumpers I might try to replicate this one!