"" the girl who makes things: September 2017

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Culottes of flowers

A while ago I made a resolution not to buy any more flower print fabric. And then I completely broke it. The trouble is, the way I feel about floral fabric is similar to the way I feel about beautifully displayed patisserie cakes. I know I don't need them, but I want one. Plain fabric just doesn't get my heart racing, even though it's far more versatile and I'd probably wear it more. It's the carrot sticks of the fabric world.
Feira dos tecidos in Rossio, Lisbon is one of my usual haunts for interesting patterns at low prices. The off-cuts of slightly spoiled fabrics are thrown into bargain buckets and sold for 2-6 Euros for a metre or two. I found this drapey viscose and fell in love. I had vague plans to turn it into a skirt or pair of trousers.
This summer the trouser shape de jour seemed to be culottes. I wasn't so sure about how this style would suit me so I did a bit of 'virtual shopping' (going into shops, trying on clothes, turning them inside out to see how they're made and then putting them back on the rail). I particularly liked the culottes with an elasticated waistband. So comfy! As I don't have ready access to paper patterns in Portugal I had to make do with a pattern I already had, Simplicity 1520 pyjama trousers. The trousers made a good base for what I had in mind, all I had to do was widen and shorten the legs.
I'm pleased with the outcome of these culottes but I haven't worn them as much as I wanted to. The simple truth is, the large flower design is too loud for my slightly minimal sartorial tastes. I'm quite a shy person and big, bold patterns make me feel too noticeable. And there's the paradox: sometimes I don't like wearing what I really want to sew.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

A botanical Kielo dress

Bom dia qeridos. You know you've been out of the UK for a long time when the rain makes a refreshing change from the intense heat. I've finally finished work for the summer and now I'm back in Yorkshire for a much needed break. Getting a bit more free time means that I've been able to take stock of some of my sewing projects. 

You know, the hardest thing about updating this blog is taking the photos. I'm not a natural model, in fact I'm intensely camera shy and I'd rather just stick the clothes on a mannequin, but that would hardly be authentic. So in a fit of productiveness I gathered up my recent items and snapped a few pictures. I'm afraid you'll just have to put with my goony face. First up is this Kielo wrap dress.

This was the first Named pattern I ever bought and it sat on my shelf for three years. It's one of those patterns that looks incredibly simple, but for some reason I kept botching it up. In my first attempt I drew out the pattern pieces but forgot to add the seam allowances (I think Named now include them). In my second attempt I had no idea how to handle stretchy fabric and cut out three decidedly wonky pieces. Everything went in the bin and I didn't touch the pattern until June this year when I took a deep breath and started again.

Thankfully, experience has taught me a lot about how to handle stretchy fabric (thanks to some online tutorials) so my third attempt was a resounding success.

I had a particular destination in mind for this dress, an August wedding in Wales. I found this gorgeously soft cotton jersey in Feira dos Tecidos in Lisbon. It's very thin so an underskirt is needed. What I really love about it is the botanical print which reminds me of those detailed drawings botanists used to make in the Victorian period. It's a floral design without being chintzy or twee.

The whole project didn't take much time, about half a day. The design is simple and consists of just four pattern pieces. The instructions were minimal so I had a few doubts about how to finish the armholes, but I believe that Named has updated most of it's patterns so this might have changed. It's possible to add sleeves too if you follow the company's instructions here.

The wrap effect is created by wrapping the two 'wings' of the dress around your body with a waist tie. I haven't seen any ready-to-wear dresses in the shops which are anything like this design so it really feels like a special piece. And isn't that the point of dressmaking? To make clothes which are unique? I wore it to the wedding and got lots of nice compliments, I just hope the summer lasts when I go back to Portugal so I can wear it a bit longer!