An ode to black

I wonder if you’ll indulge me in a little rant here?

I read a post the other day talking about someone’s experience at one of the big US sewing conference things, where a speaker gave advice along the lines that black should never be worn at all by anybody.

What the?

Quite apart from the fact that I think there is no call for anyone to tell anyone else how they should dress – DRESS HOWEVER YOU LIKE PEOPLE (I call this the Tilda Swinton principle, because, well, Tilda Swinton is THE BOSS) – black is fantastic. It can be dramatic or fade into the background. It is versatile. It goes with pretty much everything. It makes other colours pop. If you have an office tan like me it is the difference between ‘porcelain’ and ‘pasty’. Black is the best. Besides, I’m a designer by day therefore wearing black is practically mandatory.

Maybe this waxing lyrical is all a little overkill, but honestly, life is too short to have people arbitrarily blanket statement out an entire colour. Rules, schmules. If you like black, wear it. If you don’t, then don’t. </rant>

Black Renreau – Apr 2014

In case you hadn’t guessed, I like black. I am gleefully planning a mostly monochrome winter wardrobe as we speak. This dress is one of the first items from that plan. I have been in desperate need of some comfy-yet-pulled-together items and a knit dress seemed to fit the bill perfectly. You are spoilt for choice for knit dresses these days (the Lady Skater or Colette’s new Moneta amongst many examples*) but being too lazy to paste together PDF pages I went with a mashup of my tried and true Sewaholic Renfrew, the neckline of the Plantain and the gathered skirt from Deer & Doe’s Sureau dress. I can’t take credit for this combination – Deer & Doe’s Eléonore made a similar thing here and she and I seem to have the same issue whereby an a-line skirt on a knit dress isn’t quite flattering.

Black Renreau – Apr 2014

This is a pretty easy thing to put together if you are comfortable with knits. I used a quite solid merino (with a touch of elastane), almost a double knit I’d say, which was super easy to handle, and is nicely warm. To make the skirt section have more body I added around 20cm of width, and I gathered it on some elastic to keep the weight off the top. I use Sewaholic’s method of treating knits like wovens, in that I always sew my seams twice, first with the sewing machine and then the overlocker, because I’ve found it makes things last longer and helps with keeping everything lined up. This takes a little longer, but with practice I find that I can make something like this in an hour and a half. I don’t even bother with a twin needle hem, because my stretch stitch is small enough that it looks fine as a finish (also, I am lazy).

Black Renreau – Apr 2014

I love this dress. I’ve already made up another variation just because it feels like otherwise I’ll wear it out too quickly. Can we have three cheers for lovely dresses that feel like pajamas?

Outfit details:

(*There are so many very, very similar versions out there. I am actually quite surprised that so many companies are bringing out what is essentially the same dress but all power to them. I should note I have bought the Lady Skater and the Moneta for no apparent reason other than, quite frankly, that I’m a sucker for new product. I’m sure they will be lovely when I make them but I really didn’t need either of them because I could just make the same thing with what I already own. But anyway, I do like supporting indie designers so…)

While I’m here, a little housekeeping…

It’s that time of year again: Me Made May. I’ve always watched with interest over the last few years but have never taken part before. But this year, I think it is time to take the plunge! Realistically I think the best way to handle it is to do a couple of round up posts so I’m not bombarding people, and I’ll probably Instagram my outfit every day.

I do wear something I have made most days, so in that sense it isn’t as much of a challenge as is intended, but the challenge for me will be a)taking photos and b)finding out what it is that I actually wear, and what I don’t, and why. It will actually be really interesting to record this data and I’m hoping that it will give me a clearer picture of what I actually need in a wardrobe.

So, without further ado:
I, Amy of What Miss Amy Did Next, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear one me made item each day for the duration of May 2014.

Also, The lovely Emily of Dressing the Role has nominated me for a Liebster Award (I’m so excited!). I think I will save that for another post as this one is pretty long now, but I’m looking forward to answering the questions. Thanks so much Emily!

I think that’s enough blabbering for one day! Off to watch Orphan Black

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An ode to black

Time machine: my first Belladone

If all was going to plan, I’d be posting about a bunch of pencil skirts right now. But life likes to throw you some curve balls sometimes, and I’ve had only 10 minutes of actual sewing time in the last few weeks (the horror!), let alone any photoshoot time. So in the meantime let’s hop in the way back machine and have a look at my first Belladone.

Ikat Belladone

I feel like I raved enough about how much I like this pattern last time, so let’s take a small moment to rave about this fabric instead: ‘mmmmmmm, Japanese cotton ikat’. I paid a stupid amount of shipping to get this fabric (and one other piece) from B&J Fabrics in New York because: overtired fabric addict with ipad at midnight, but it is (almost) worth it. A beautifully soft and texture-y cotton that apparently the camera has trouble focussing on.

Ikat Belladone

Of course, in a fit of idiocy, I decided that it was entirely possible to line the whole thing, bodice included. This went about as well as could be expected, by which I mean I unpicked various parts over and over again and made some weird fabric origami. Don’t ask me how I got it to work in the end because I couldn’t actually tell you – the only thing I remember about that dark, dark time is that to make it work I ended up hand sewing the unattached shoulder sections of the bottom back into the rest of the shoulder under the lining. It’s not pretty, but it worked. Maybe at some point I will fiddle around with some cheap fabric and see if it is actually possible to line it all, but not for a looooong, looooooong time (because of course my brain still tells me there must be a way).

Dodgy nighttime photos of dodgy lining
Dodgy nighttime photos of dodgy lining

I had to make another very dodgy adjustment as well – given I have terrible posture I had to take a dart out of the back bodice to stop it gaping – thankfully I could hide it under the top back pieces and just hand sew it down. Perhaps the third time I make it will be the time I get it right first go!

There will be a next time for sure – I think this pattern is really cute and it could be really nice in wool for winter. Or, perhaps I’ll embrace my nerdy self and make a Tardis dress (I have the fabric and everything). The world needs more nerdy dresses.

Ikat Belladone

Outfit details:

Time machine: my first Belladone

What? More hot pink?

Hot Pink Chardon – Jan 2014

Told you I was addicted!

I’m going to blame Pinterest for this (I blame Pinterest for everything really) – I had visions of this wintery all-black except for a hot pink skirt outfit and of course it had to happen NOW. Never mind that it wouldn’t be winter for months and months and months. I had spotted the perfect hot pink fabric a few days earlier and let it go (such a doofus)… well lets just say another trip out to The Fabric Store was in order (sorry not sorry husband).

The skirt is a Deer and Doe Chardon, size 38 (honestly, I really should be doing a size 40 but I am in denial) in a hot pink linen that looks like a hot pink crumpled mess if you just look at it sideways. Put it this way, I won’t be sewing with linen for a long, long time this drove me so nuts. As I intended it to be a winter skirt, I decided to line it and instead of being sensible and just making a simple A line lining I just did a mirror of the skirt pattern, treating them as one at the waistband and around the zip. It turned out pretty ugly indeed (hence, no pics) because this linen likes to grow while the lining liked to shrink, but it will do the job. Who looks at the insides anyway?

Hot Pink Chardon – Jan 2014

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I love anything done by Deer and Doe patterns and this skirt is no exception. This is the fourth one I’ve made and it comes together beautifully (when you don’t try and muck about with stupid linen) and is flattering and cute. Also: pockets. I love pocketses (just imagine I am saying this like Gollum, because I totally am).

So: bring on winter!

Outfit details:

And, as this is my blog and I’ll post pics of my dogs if I want to…

Hot Pink Chardon – Jan 2014

At least it isn’t dog butt. I’ve just deleted 500 photos with intruding dog butt.

What? More hot pink?

A whole bunch of Plantains

See what I did there?

Plantain tee – Jan 2014

Who would’ve thought anything could replace the much-beloved Renfrew in my affections? But Deer and Doe’s new (free) Plantain tee is just lovely. How lovely? Well, over the last week I’ve made four of them, and I’m tempted to make more.

There’s a lot to like about this pattern. Not to mention it’s an easy make, and the elbow patches are completely adorable. The scoop neckline is very flattering (and not too high for once) and the looser fit below the bust helps those of us who still haven’t quite undone the effects of excessive Christmas eating. The instructions looked comprehensive though I didn’t use them, and there weren’t too many pages in the pdf to stick together (thank goodness). And being a tee, you don’t need too much fabric – with a wide width you can get this out of a metre, depending on which sleeves you use. Considering that it was free, Eléonore has put a lot of work into this and it is of exactly the same quality as the other patterns in the line.

Without further ado, here’s my four versions…

Plantain tee – Jan 2014

Version 1: Short sleeve in cotton/lycra knit

With bonus pup, of course. As a toile, I made up my first Plantain in a stormy grey cotton/lycra knit from I-don’t-remember-where (a sure sign that my stash is out of control). This is a straight 38, because I like my tees to fit pretty snug and I’m happy with the fit (I do note in the photos that I’m getting some wrinkles that suggest I need a little more bust room, but I’m going to put that down to the excessive Christmas eating I mentioned before). It’s pretty hard to wax lyrical about a plain coloured tee shirt but this is a wardrobe basic in one of my favourite colours that I’ll wear over and over.

Plantain tee – Jan 2014

Version 2: Three-quarter sleeve in merino knit

For my second, I used a lovely deep-navy slinky merino, which unfortunately hasn’t photographed well (rainy day equals indoor super grainy not-colour-accurate images I’m afraid). I added in the elbow patches in a grey marle merino, edging them in blanket stitch and I’m really happy with the result. This is my absolute favourite of the four and I can’t wait for actual cool weather so I can wear it everywhere.

Plantain tee – Jan 2014

Plantain tee – Jan 2014

Version 3: Long sleeves with embroidered details

For my third, I wanted to play around with the elbow patches and try something new. After seeing a few inspiring things on Pinterest I wanted to give embroidery a go (and I’m guessing that calling this embroidery probably is horrifying to anyone who is actually talented in the art form but you gotta start somewhere) and so I decided to attach the patches using a little star-style stitch. Along with the hot pink it is all a little bit cutesy but I still like it. You’d certainly see me coming a mile off in this thing.

Plantain tee – Jan 2014

Plantain tee – Jan 2014

Version 4: Long sleeves with leather details

This version is in another lovely merino from The Fabric Store. As I already have a long sleeved grey tee in a very similar fabric (though honestly, who can have too many of those?), I added in some leather details and I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any trouble with my sewing machine sewing leather – just used a leather needle and went sloooooow. I’m itching to sew something completely in leather now. Just bring on winter so I can wear it.

Plantain tee – Jan 2014

There you have it – a whole bunch of Plantains. A tee shirt pattern mightn’t be the most exciting topic ever but it is something you will use over and over again, and I call that a win.

Outfit details:

Bonus puppy-getting-in-the-way!

Plantain tee – Jan 2014

A whole bunch of Plantains

A summer uniform

Deer & Doe Datura and Moss mini

Excuse the lack of face in these photos – they were taken on New Years Day, and I was feeling very blah after all the hard partying I did on New Years (by which I mean I watching a movie at home with the Mister).

Grainline Moss Mini

I love this skirt – Grainline’s Moss Mini. This is the 5th version I’ve made (I think) and I wear them all the time. It is just the sort of pattern I want to see – one for an item that I will buy from the shops. This version is made from great denimy-texture linen remnant I had left over when I made a Deer & Doe Chardon skirt (you really can squeeze a Moss out of a small amount of fabric – less than a metre, because of all the small pieces). The pockets and waistband facing are also linen, scraps I had left over from a dress I made last year. The only problem I have with it – and I don’t know if anyone else finds this – but everything I’ve made from linen lately has just grown and ended up way too big. I cut the exact same size as my other versions which fit fine, but this one is just hangs off me. Shrinking it up in hot water helps for about 5 minutes but after that… Super annoying.

Deer & Doe Datura blouse

The Datura blouse is a nice simple little make, a cute little loose-fitting top that has the advantage (when dealing with summer temps) of hanging off the shoulders and not touching any skin as much as possible. Of course, this comfort means that The Mister isn’t as complimentary (tough) but I’m pretty happy with it (it certainly doesn’t have the ‘is she pregnant’ vibe that a lot of looser-cut clothing can have).The 2-section design also meant I got to use a small piece of Kokka double gauze I didn’t know what to do with (it isn’t a colour I’d normally wear – there was a version with a black background but I got this one after a missing parcel and fabric-selling-out-in-the-meantime incident), and it did give the opportunity to use some super cute deer head buttons I’ve had forever. I feel like this would work best in a bit more drapey fabric, but the double-gauze might soften up with a bit of washing. I will make more of these – there are some fun combos you could do with the sections.

There you have it – my summer uniform! Not the most exciting outfit ever, but something I’ll get a lot of wear out of.

The details:

Skirt: Grainline Moss Mini in size 6 or 4 (can’t remember), only change was to add back pockets
Linen from The Fabric Store (both types), Made by Unicorns label from Sublime Stitching, Button from M. Recht Accessories

Top: Deer & Doe Datura in size 38, no changes
Black batiste from Darn Cheap Fabrics, Kokka Double Gauze from Patchwork on Central Park, buttons by Made by White (don’t think they make buttons any more though)

A summer uniform

A little neon never hurt anybody

Deer & Doe Belladone

For someone who detested pink as a child, I sure have embraced it in its brightest form lately. I have to confess being a hot pink addict – the more neon the better. I seriously have 2 coats, a shirt and 2 skirts in that colour in the works, plus a whole bunch of hot pink ribbon just waiting to be a garish addition to something. The combo of neutral and neon just floats my boat for whatever reason.

I have been plotting this little combo for a while now – the bound edges of the Deer & Doe Belladone just screamed out for a little neon action, and my summer holidays were a perfect time to make it happen. The main fabric is a seriously lovely and properly dark indigo-dyed linen from Miss Matatabi, which (as she kindly warned me) dyed everything blue – fingers and binding included. Hard to photograph in our lovely harsh sub-tropical sunlight too, but the top photo is pretty accurate as to colour.

The Belladone really is a lovely pattern and I want to make hundreds of them (nay, thousands) – but this version really gave me grief. From my last version I had worked out that I needed to make a ‘you have terrible posture’ adjustment (otherwise known as a round shoulder adjustment I think) and so went ahead and made those changes to the paper pattern at the cutting out stage. And of course, because: irony, that meant the bit that fit perfectly on the first version suddenly didn’t. At all. Unpicking the top crossover section was a massive PITA but I wasn’t going to give up on my neon baby. Half a season of Ergo Proxy later, I had a finished dress. Next time, I think I will leave finishing the neckline to last, just so I can get it to sit properly, to take into account my varying levels of slumpiness.

Deer & Doe Belladone

There is a reason Deer & Doe is one of my top 3 favourite pattern designers – this dress is a perfect canvas for experimentation (hem facings! pocket bindings!), and the back detail gives it that little special something. I made a straight 38 and apart from my dodgy adjustments it fits perfectly. The only issue I have with this dress is I’m afraid when I wash it that the lovely neon binding will get indigo-dyed as well, but time will tell.

Outfit details:
Deer & Doe Belladone dress, size 38
Made in indigo linen from Miss Matatabi
Neon binding from Purl Soho

A little neon never hurt anybody