Thursday, 27 March 2014

Flat White

The whole reason for the timing of our trip back to NZ was prompted by the wedding of one of my cousins.  It was such a lovely reason for the trip, especially because Mark and his wife were married at exactly the same place that my husband and I had our wedding.  It brought back so many special memories.

So, of course, I made a new outfit.  The wedding was held in the middle of summer and outside (at the Redwoods Forest in Rotorua).  Also, we landed from Scotland the day before, so temperature wise we were going from single digits to double digits in a matter of hours (albeit multiple hours!).  Also, I only wanted to take three pairs of shoes (+ running shoes) for our four week trip, so the ones for the wedding had to be able to earn their keep!  These were all the thoughts going through my head when I chose an outfit to make.  I wanted something light and breezy that wouldn't crease too much in my bag (I didn't know if our hotel would have an iron!!).  So quite a tall order.  

In the end, I went for an OOP Vogue pattern (2862) - photo below - and a simple blouse.  Both were made from fabrics of a cotton/silk blend to get that lovely sheen whilst being good for travelling - creases fell out whilst being hung in the bathroom as we each showered.

There isn't much to say about the skirt - it went together quite easily.  I had made it before though, so I knew to avoid the MAJOR design fail that I reckon it has: the top edge along the waist is simply folded over, sewn, folded over again and sewn again.  Yup, that's right: a rolled hem along the top edge.  Instead, I basically made two skirts and joined them at the waist edge.  I put in a little bit of iron-on interfacing along the top edge to give it more strength.  I also put interfacing along the length of the zip to make it go in more easily.  I omitted the thigh-high split - after all, that would just have been a pfaff. 

The skirt sits really high on the waist - as you can see from the photos below.  This is also at the un-hemmed length (in truth, I'm still to hem it and don't know that I will - I have tidied up that bit that is longer than all the others).  These photos aren't that flattering, but as they show how lovely the drape is on the skirt I have swallowed my pride.  


Now, moving on to the blouse is the same pattern.  The keen eyed of you may have noticed a certain similarity with the dresses I've been posting the last wee while.  Yes it's the same, and yes I can sew other things! ;-)  However, doesn't it serve to show how much of an impact material has on an item?  The simplicity belies the fact that three different fabrics were used in this top and that it took ages!  The sleeves are plain silk satin (they feel lovely!).  The outer is silk chiffon with sequins all over it - white and transparent in random squiggles.  The lining is a poly satin, basically because I didn't want to spend any more money.  The top was made in two parts and sewn together around the neck edge, before setting in the sleeves as if there was only one layer.  The lining has a rolled hem, whereas the outer is bound with strips of silk (not bias - again spending cash only when and where needed).  The keyhole neckline is closed with a button and simple knotted loop.

These photos were taken a couple of days after the event.  On the day I wore my hair down and some make-up, but it was still a much more relaxed outfit than I normally go for at weddings.  However, I loved it.  

Is it bad manners to say something flattering about oneself?  Would you please excuse me if so?
It's just that I've noticed that little pig's tail like curl on the left side of my neck.  What a cute wee thing that is.

This pretty much sums up my thoughts on the holiday (and life in general) from the first flat white through to the plane ride back from Dubai.

So what is a Flat White?  My favourite type of coffee.  No place does them quite like my hometown - Wellington.  Well, not to me anyway.  They are possibly the junk food that I miss the most - coffee that doesn't taste bitter or leave you with jitters.  Amazing.  I know some people approach coffee with a certain amount of very off-putting snobbery - just like wine and anything else that can be (mis)used to show status or some other rubbish.  I just prefer flat whites because I really like the taste of espresso but drinking black coffee makes my tummy hurt.  I am so high-brow it hurts.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Jungle Fever….OR…Rumble in the Jungle

 Dear friends,
After the darkness comes the dawn, and after my floral failure I needed a pick me up.
Cue this simple and effective make that I already love.  This was so, so simple to make, out of only two pattern pieces.  I’ve made a sloper of sorts for a blouse pattern, which I used here to turn into a dress by extending the length.  It has no sleeves (obviously!) and the shoulder seams are just randomly gathered and sewn together to bring them in a little closer to be more flattering.  This also made the neckline a bit more of a slash than the jewel cut that it really is.  

So simple to do if you’d like one too my dears - just take a pattern for a blouse that fits you well and extend the pieces to the desired length.  Add in a little extra material if you need/desire it – I simply added an extra couple of centimeters at centre front (could also do centre back), and then put a pleat in the front down to waist level.  Pulled in at the waist, I like to think this is the epitome of simple, yet chic dressing.

This is also low on fabric requirements - just need to the length.  Be careful to remember that two pieces are needed.  So if you are using 115 cm wide fabric, think about whether you are wider than about 110 cm at your widest point (or 145 cm for 150 cm wide).  If so, just get double the length.  I got 2.2 m so that I could line my dress with the same fabric, and I'm 169 cm tall - for point of reference.  I just sewed up two versions then sewed them together around the neck and sleeve edges before sewing the side & back seams (if I remember correctly), et voila.

A keyhole opening at the neck (closed shut with a thread loop) provides enough ease to get it over my head and bust.

It’s a bit of a muu muu without the belt, but will NEVER be worn like this so it doesn’t matter.  Got to think about the finished, styled result.
Here is the pleat I described above - made by simply placing the pattern piece 2 cm in from the fold line instead of on it, thereby creating a bit of interest and width in the skirt area.  I sewed it down to waist point, after which the fabric runs free.

Zoomed out, without cropping, this is the location of my photoshoot (rather too grand a title for this I think!), which gives a little glimpse into the oasis that is my Mother’s garden.  (Please excuse my pondering face - my camera, tripod and remote are all new and I'm learning!)

Here’s the view from the same spot outside.  Nirvana.

Here is how I wore the dress on the 16 hour flight from NZ to Dubai.  After boarding in, I took off the belt and settled in as comfy as could be (in economy – one day I might “turn left”).

Happy sewing folks!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Talking Heads: Marketing & Design

Last night I had the great pleasure of going to an event run by Creative Edinburgh in conjunction with Edinburgh College of Art.  It was called “Talking Heads: Marketing & Designand included “lightening” talks from 10 people within the creative industry – all doing different types of jobs and in different stages in their career.

I’ll admit it was completely different from what I had anticipated and quite far out of my comfort zone, however I really enjoyed it.  I chuckled to myself a couple of times during the evening; such as when I filled in the attendance form and found that my graduation date (and University) was nothing like any of the other attendees, and when I saw a juxtaposition of things in a corridor (per below).

You may not be able to read it, but the words on the mini forklift say "Eco Warrior".
Looked so funny (to me) sat next to the Roman Warrior - how we've changed...!

It was great though.  Even if I had only gone to exercise a different part of my grey matter I would have enjoyed it.  However, I actually learnt quite a lot – the evening was applicable to a far wider audience, intended or not.  For instance, here are a couple of things I learned:

  • A lightening talk (in this instance) is a 5 minute presentation regarding a given topic, using 20 slides each of which was given 20 seconds each.
  • Being yourself, and knowing your brand, is so important when interacting on line.  This makes complete sense - it’s just more authentic isn’t it.  This does mean that you don’t have to make the pattern you don’t really like but feel you should because everyone else seems to be making it.  In the words of (the wonderful) Dolly Parton – find yourself and be it on purpose.
  • Milo McLaughlin, Content Producer & Strategist, Clear-Minded Creative taught me that “Your audience is the hero of your story”.  Doesn’t that ring true.  How nice does it feel getting a comment from someone who has engaged with the content of your blog post?  It feels a little like making a new friend or firming an existing friendship doesn’t it?
  • One reoccurring theme from David Mahoney Ilustrator & Community Professional at Behance Scotland was that it’s not about ideas themselves, but about making ideas happen.  This has echoes of Tim Gunn’s “make it work” catch phrase, but also I think it’s wider reaching than that.  We don’t all need to be Westwood, Dior or YSL coming up with amazing, new ideas to be of any worth – the actual creation and realisation of ideas is a worthy goal as well.
  • One of the presenters fainted half way through her (up to that point) interesting presentation.  This surely personifies “the fear” for anyone else that, like me, has to give presentations at work.  And you know what?  The evening went on, it continued to be a success and everyone had nothing but concern for the presenter (who was fine after a little sit down, fresh air and water).  You know what I took from that – not meant uncharitably at all – it was that even if the worst happens, the impact of “the worst” is probably not as bad as feared.  Feels good, doesn’t it?   
  • Vana Coleman, Designer at Half Past Plum introduced us (me) to her office: the Dovecot Studios (  Lush.
  • There is a tannery factory in Glasgow that will dye hides to order… wowzers.  I need to do some research into that little nugget provided by Fi Scott, Founder & Designer at Make Works 
  • There was a lot of talk that was both contradictory and yet made perfect sense: taking control of your agenda and sticking with it, whilst recognising that something useful will be gleaned from even the most seemingly unrelated job.  Maintain your individual creative identity and encourage it to flourish, whilst having it evolve through a consideration and application of other people’s ideas and influences. 
  • James McVeigh, Marketing & Innovation at Festivals Edinburgh finished his presentation, which was the last, with the plea for us to “always be curious and keep the passion in our lives”.  Ain’t that the key to a happy soul?

The other speakers were equally interesting, I mean I could go on and on but that’s not the point I was trying to make.  I’ll leave you with the latest addition to my “Aesthete in Training” folder where I try to find the beauty in everyday things.  This is just one of the corridors in the building in which the event was held.  The lines and materials in this corridor were so pleasing to my eye and made me feel like I was in a cocoon of learning – bliss essentially.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Tartan Army - My Favourite (ever) Make So Far

Please allow me to acquaint you with the item that I am most pleased with in my sewing career to date - my star make if you will!

It is a tartan dress, made from gifted fabric, using a vintage pattern and jazzed up with some sew on stones.  It's a simple princess seamed pattern that lets the fabric do the talking.

If you fancied making something similar, this current Butterick pattern might work: Butterick B5952. Although it is slightly different, but easier to match the tartan as there are less seams - do yourself the favour!

In "researching" for this, I found out that there aren't many a-line, princess seamed dress patterns out there (even in wardrobe patterns).... go figure!

There are a couple of things that make me love this dress:
* the fit - it skims me perfectly, giving shape without being uncomfortable
* the style - it's simple, yet effective; which works well for me
* the material - I love tartan
* the time I took - all the seams were sewn carefully to ensure that the tartan matches
* the balance - perfectly down the middle of the tartan (if only I could show this to Mr Grant on the Great British Sewing Bee!)
* the glitz - that little je ne ses quoi that really makes it me.

My tips for this make only relate to matching pattern, and are basically thus:
* use all the places possible on the pattern pieces to match the fabric pattern: notches, lengthening/shortening line, pocket placement lines etc etc.
* pins!  I put a pin in at each intersection point, checked it on both sides, adjusted if necessary, sewed, checked, then re-did if necessary.  A stitch in time saves nine, or so they say, in this instance it meant that taking my time brought me to the result I was after.

I have nothing more to say, so here are some (many) pictures.  I'm in love.  I wear this at least once a week, to work and to play.  Thank goodness it's 100% wool as it means it doesn't need to be laundered so much!