Sunday, 21 June 2015


Hey it's officially summer!  As I type kids are preparing to run out of the classrooms, teachers ready to let loose and I get a chance to quaff free champers get inspired by all of the amazing design work on display at the end-of-year shows in London.

My hubby is an architect who teaches at a university here, and after a long slog of a school year (mine of course, by association) I love having the chance to revisit that annual feeling of achievement and relief that's in the air - even if I know scant little about architecture.

So this year I made a dress for the event.  This heavy stretch cotton waterlily fabric is from the Stofftraum in Basel where I also got the fabric for my Edinburgh dress.
I think i'll just stand over here and drink some wine...

The pattern has kimono sleeves and a slightly tulip shaped skirt with a couple of volume-ifying tucks and pockets.  I already have a couple more on the go in different fabric and colours.
I'm no expert in architecture or fashion, but I do love when our interests meet.   (Kind of like how the best architectural bookshop in Basel is next to the fabulous Stofftraum - kismet!)

 Or, as the lovely Elsa Schiaparelli says in her autobiography:

"[Shchiap] felt that clothes had to be architectural: that the body must never be forgotten and it must be used as a frame is used in a building."

It's something to work towards in every new sewing year...

Happy sewing x

Sunday, 7 June 2015

summer wrap dress

Hello everyone, I just thought I'd share my latest make!  It's the base pattern from the pink pleated dress I drafted on my Kimmy Schmidt week-end (still waiting for another one of those...!)  This time a wrap dress with a button closure rather than a side zip and using a much heavier weight fabric - light blue denim.   I also angled the hemline a bit on the wrap, and turned the waist darts into princess seams.
The denim was stiffer than I anticipated so I used this method to soften it (minus the tennis balls and sandpaper step), and it worked surprisingly well.  
For my pink dress, I used the same bodice base but with waist darts rather than princess seams, and "grew" pleats of fabric to the center front, and folded one by one before fastening at the waist.
My scarf is a piece of really lovely Italian cotton I found in a remnant bin a few years ago and have always been too scared to take scissors to.  I finally added a micro hem and it's no longer languishing in my fabric stash, but my favourite sunny summer scarf.  Should have done this years ago!
 I think the best thing about yesterday, other than wearing my new dress and scarf was finding this masterpiece on a floating barge bookshop:
What a find.  The author has done such a fabulous job of linking styles together using pictures from different eras.  I can't wait to sit down with it and a cup of tea.   Or a gin and tonic.
I hope wherever you are, your week-end is sunny!
Happy Sewing x

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Sunday, 31 May 2015

shocking pink

Has anyone else read "Shocking Life" - The V&A published autobiography by Elsa Schiaparelli? 

 Elsa, or "Schiap" as she calls herself, was an Italian fashion designer in my favourite design era - the 1920s and 30s - and although her name is less known than her contemporaries like Coco Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet, Schiap had a real impact on both the fashion of the time and today, being one of the forerunners for things like visible zippers, the wrap dress, tennis shorts, and this shade:  "shocking pink"

The Autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli
I got a few pages into the book and had to put it down to pull out this almost neon pink fabric I purchased well over 5 years ago and never did anything with.  I went with that simple silhouette I love and return to again and again, but this time with bracelet length sleeves and a slightly flouncier and more playful skirt, with a light pink satin panel at the bottom.  
 Schiap's story is a real engrossing read, and despite her success she had more than her fair share of sadness and knock backs in life.  Unbelievably she had no formal training in fashion and practically fell into design through a mixture of her social circle, luck, talent and sheer industriousness.

 (Not everyone has the particular good fortune of having personal connections with a knitwear factory and an invite to a lunch party that includes a New York buyer for Strauss, to help launch a career....!)

But Schiap saw her opportunity and took it, giving us so many design gems along the way.  (We can talk about the Lobster dress another time...)
This passage struck a particular chord with me, it might do the same for you:

"Dress a most difficult and unsatisfying art, because as soon as a dress is born it has already become a thing of the past.  As often as not too many elements are required to allow one to realize the actual vision one had in mind.  The interpretation of a dress, the means of making it, and the surprising way in which some materials react - all these factors, no matter how good an interpreter you have, invariably reserve a light if not bitter disappointment for you....A dress cannot just hang like a painting on the wall, or like a book remain intact and live a long and sheltered life...[it can become] an indifferent object, or even a pitiful caricature of what you wanted it to be - a dream, an expression." 

On that note, please read Schiap's book.  And - happy sewing!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Edinburgh dress

So here it is!
I went for the single pattern in the end, partly out of simplicity and partly out of necessity (as always time was running out), but if I had more of this stuff I would love to make the other version too.
Apologies for the terrible hotel room lighting below...  We were at a wedding in Edinburgh and I wore this to the party the night before.  Behind me is the most beautiful view of the city, right in front of the Scott monument.  Had it not been so freezing iced cold I would have taken these pictures outside, but had to stay warm and cover up with my giant trusty trench. 
Happy sewing! x

Thursday, 21 May 2015

fabric art

I got to visit a beautiful fabric store in Basel, Switzerland a few weeks ago - Stofftraum.  I was on the look out for some Swiss dot fabric (cheesy?)  but dropped quite a few francs to take home this repeat floral cotton print.   This pictures don't do it justice but it's a mix of blues, greys, greens and golds and looks hand painted - I was very close to framing it!

I went for a simple shift dress but the big decision was with the pattern placement.  I really underestimated how the placement of a repeat pattern can change the look and feel of a dress.

When I look at the one on the left I think modern and fresh, maybe even edgy (?) while the one on the right makes me think pretty, ladylike, elegant....
It took me a long time to decide and even my hubby waded in, and my mom and sister from across the pond.
Which would you choose?

Sunday, 10 May 2015

a coat for mom

Happy Mother's Day to all the gorgeous mommy makers out there! 
 I hope you are reading this with a glass of bubbly in hand and your feet up (or on the sewing machine pedal!)
 Today is a good day to let you know how in awe I am of your talent and creativity, the way you juggle making, blogging and creating beautiful homes for your families, and that magic trick you have at finding 10 extra hours in a day.  One day maybe you can share your secret with me.

In honour of the most important lady in my life, my teacher, cheerleader, confident and purveyor of fine vintage hand me downs, here are some pictures of a coat I made for my mom. 
It's the Burda 3/2012 pattern I made for myself previously and the first time I have made a proper garment for someone else.  It's an easy one if you are thinking of doing the same.

Love you, mom xxx

Saturday, 25 April 2015

glorious green

Every year about this time I become obsessed with green, just as thousands of versions of the gorgeous shade start to dot the urban about colour therapy.
You might know I also became obsessed with coats this past winter, and this 'coatigan' is the last in my series.
  While I was drafting this I also became obsessed with drop shoulder styles, and found myself following people down the street to get a closer view of their coats (really sorry if that was you...)
I'm not totally satisfied with this one so I'll try it again at some point -- until then I'm making dresses!
Happy Spring!