corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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Sewing the 70s

When the 1970s started I was seven; when they finished I was 17. The world was going to hell in a handcart (not much changed there then) but they were the very best years of my life (so far)…..

I began the decade as a child and left it as a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. These were my formative years – personality, temperament, style, likes and dislikes were all set in concrete during the ’70s. – which might explain a lot……  My happiest and lasting memories were formed and the trials and tribulations of the world did nothing to dissuade my youthful, energetic optimism for the future. Years and years later, my optimism is still not dampened although it’s not so youthful nor energetic these days. God bless all of you who marched for Women’s Rights this weekend! Thank you. I think we will be marching a lot over the next four years…..

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Recently I watched Divorce (HBO) on TV. The storyline is not the most addictive aspect of the series, however, Sarah Jessica Parker’s clothes are. I watched every episode just to see her wardrobe. Apparently, they bought genuine vintage 1970 dresses, ripped them apart and remade to fit SJP with slight style updates for 2016.

This is also a Sucker for Sales post – Craftsy had a January sale and usually I ignore all offers from America because of the import tax. There was a time about six years ago when I started sewing seriously again that I, and I alone, managed to sustain the UK economy with my fabric purchases from USA. Every. Single. Time. All my packages were caught at customs and wouldn’t be released until I paid the import duty. Then I found some UK and EU fabric sites and used these instead. This time next year I might have to leave off the EU sites as there will now probably be import duty applied to all purchases from Europe – thanks everyone who voted Out!

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Anyway, I got 3m (sorry, yards) of three rayons for a song and reckoned that if I had to pay the tax, it would still be a good deal. From a great distance I psychically draped a tax-invisibility cloak around the Craftsy box and it worked! No tax, no import duty, just delivered virgin-like to my home.

Way to start 2017!

I might be a wee bit stupid here but can we get rayon in the UK?

This fabric is fab. Drapey, robust, opaque with deep printed colours, presses well, slight fraying but nothing excessive – I love it.

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This one today is an Italian crepe in green with a blue border print. Just had to put that border print to good use….

If you’re still with me at this point, here is the actual sewing inspiration in a nutshelldscn6856:

1. 1970s

2. Sale fabric

3. Wardrobe from Divorce

Not having a genuine 1970 dress pattern at hand I hacked one together. There are certain characteristics that define The Dress and I tried to incorporate these into my (first) Sewing The 70s frock. Based upon extensive Internet research these are the essentials for an authentic 1970 frock –

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  1. Patterned fabric – no solid colours
  2. Flared A-line skirt – tending towards half-circle, although gathered/pleated skirt is also acceptable
  3. Neckline detail – collar/tie/lace
  4. Defined waist – two-piece dress in other words
  5. Belt – covers the waist seam and helps 4
  6. Sleeves, preferably gathered/puffed – full

I took Kwik Sew 3782 imgres-1for the top and a four gore skirt using the border print at centre front and just stuck them together literally with the sewing machine. Had to shorten the top and used the skirt waistline as a guide.DSCN6852.jpg

I also used the border print at sleeve hems for a bit of continuity and at centre back on the button belt. The neck tie is cut from the blue border too. I also added a few other things.

Single welt front pockets, with inside stays to stop them from flopping around inside the dress. Secured at side seams and across the centre front.

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Can you see the pockets?

Changed the length; because I like this midi length, it suits my legs and the 1970s either had very high or very low, so a little bit of of the 21st century added.

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More 21st century with an invisible side zip closure.

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Additionally I made a button belt to cover the bodice/skirt seam. Just completes the dress somehow although a purchased belt would also serve the purpose just as well.

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Finally, I just had to have new shoes that reflect the 1970s aesthetic and match my new dress.

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1117035Clarks Cass Pop in bottle green and I really do hope they are named after Mama Cass – a V&A 1970 inspiration style and, of course, bought in the January sales.

Oh and green tights to match….

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The first of my Sewing the ’70s. What’s that you say? Are there more……?

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Shall we start a sewing challenge Sewing the ’70s? (motivation/inspiration)

 

 

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CCN (CoreCouture News)

The opportunity for photo taking of finished items has yet again escaped me this week so here’s a newsletter of sewing, plans, ideas and other stuff. There’s lots of links to really interesting sites, so settle down with a cup of tea or a cocktail (recommended by Mrs Mole  and The Material Lady), stick the needles in the pin cushion, ensure you have reliable broadband and indulge.

p01s0x1qFirstly, the Great British Sewing Bee. Technically, Northern Ireland isn’t in GB, it’s in the UK, so any sewers from here are politically illegible to participate. I’d thought of throwing my hat into the ring for the next series just to have the chance of sewing uninterrupted for  two days – bliss. But the challenges aren’t really the type of clothes I want to make and you all know that if your heart is not in a project it’s doomed to failure. Also, I’m not competitive at all. I like sewing things to the best of my ability but my elbows aren’t sharp. I mean, I entered PR’s fitted shirt contest but that was really only because I happened to have completed a fitted shirt. Having said that, I love this TV show. After every programme, I stare into space and think “What would I have done?”.

This can be a challenge in itself: I review my patterns for wrap dresses or which ones would be suitable for velvet trousers; images-2what fancy dress costume would I have made out of a pillowcase and a mis-matched sweatsuit?; I don’t have patterns for prom dresses and for the foreseeable future I never will! But a winter coat in just 6 hours! I can only think the finishing and the inside seams must be a mess.

The stylish and creative Marianna of Sew2Pro fame, has set a challenge too this week – choose a garment from the show that has inspired you and you have 1 week to make it! She has also managed to locate the programme’s accompanying book’s publisher and they have very kindly posted all the patterns for FREE download.
014pppI’ve got the patterns for the draped top and the 1930s blouse, but I’ve no material nor a well stocked haberdashery in the room next door and the week has run away from me so unfortunately I’m unlikely to participate. I will make the blouse at some point but right now I’ve other things to start and finish…..

 

 

 

 

 

SWAP ’14 is drawing to a close – by the end of April I have to have another three things made: a jacket, a blouse and a knitted cardigan. I started the cardigan ages ago knowing that I am a slow knitter  – it’s Noro Kirara, a multi-coloured yarn of silk, angora, wool and cotton. Quite fine and most suitable for spring/summer.

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I’ve got a printed poly satin ready for the blouse in the blue/green colour set but in reality it is another rainbow fabric that will go with lots of things.

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The jacket will be a rather rushed affair methinks, not tailored but a relaxed casual throw-on made in blue fleece or sweatshirt material and hopefully lined with the same poly satin as the blouse. I owe so much to Coco Chanel’s ideas!

We had a rush of lovely spring weather a little while ago and so the summer dress patterns were dusted off and I began yet again the Dress Quest. I like to think of myself as having some influence – my offspring, students, even maybe one or two of you but I am now beginning to think I might possess powers beyond human as every time, I mean every time, I start to sew a sleeveless cotton dress – it rains! The temperature drops and I regard my burgeoning summer wardrobe with despair. If I make a coat, the sun shines.

Anyway, ignoring my apparent and inadvertent influence on the weather, I ordered the spring/summer Marfy catalogue. There seems to be a current surge of interweb interest in this Italian pattern company or else I’m late to the party  and it appears that many others have quite a bit of influence over me so I bought the book. Euro 20 and you get 20 Free patterns! That’s quite a bargain when you consider that the full retail price of a Vogue is about £15 – 20.

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DSC01265I could never figure out the fascination with Marfy patterns – the sketches all look like cartoon girls dressed as wedding guests to me and there’s no technical drawings. You can say that I’m not competitive but I am a trier. I traced off one of the free dress patterns – 0303 – and have got this far.

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The main fabric is a pale airforce blue, quite a substantial cotton and the collar is a paler light blue fine shirt linen. There are no instructions with any Marfy patterns, so thinking and figuring out time are essential – no good for the GB Sewing Bee then – but I’ve enjoyed the problem solving and technical know-how. Mine’s lined too and I probably over-complicated the make, but heck – put it all down to experience.

I have a budding stash. A spring-like apple green linen which might end up as this Vogue 1381 – Ralph Rucci with lots and lots of topstitching.V1381

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And a muted pink and cream polka dot which might end up as Rachel’s Brasilia dress – another free pattern which she designed and has very, very kindly shared with us all. Go to Rachel’s Pinterest board to see all the wonderful variations of this super pattern.

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Both fabrics are from Chrysalis.

 

 

The very talented and versatile Beata from Red Point Tailor commented on a post a little while ago so I went to have a look at her  blog offerings. Thankfully I did because she makes sumptuous glass jewellery – like boiled sweets for your ears, neck and wrist. I ordered some blue stud earrings ostensibly to wear with the Ziggi jacket but will be lovely with the Marfy dress and a green glass bracelet for the green linen dress. I have the accessories – I just don’t have the clothes yet!

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Easter holidays are looming on the horizon and this is the time I generally use to settle down and do some serious sewing. In between the church services and the choir practices, I sew.

Apart from finishing SWAP and the Marfy dress and maybe a few unknowns, I also plan to make another StyleArc Ziggi biker jacket. I love my first one so much that it really has to have a companion. With all those pastel, muted tones being used for dresses, I decided I needed to ‘harden’ them up a bit and have got some black. The main jacket will be in black distressed leather-look, with black suede sleeve tops and yokes and a black and white swirly lining. The black leather-look fabric is also from Chrysalis.

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It seems that material shops in the UK do not sell the same zips in different lengths! But I learned from the first Ziggi that on the finished jacket if the zips are similar it’s OK, they don’t have to be exact copies  of each other. I’ve opted for brass teeth this time to try and warm up the black. I don’t wear black so it’s a strange choice for me.

Is your tea cold or your cocktail glass drained? Go and get another one because you are now about to enter an exclusive world of fabrics. No poly satins here! Sheer utter indulgence and fantasy……

It was always my aim this year to sew with very good fabrics but make fewer items and somehow so far I haven’t seemed to get round to it sticking with that idea. DH has a notion for me to make a classic navy wool crepe dress – the type of dress that stands the test of time, day to evening, perfectly fitted, style not fashion. So when I wasn’t sewing, working, leafing through Marfy or reading, cooking or cleaning this week I Googled ‘wool crepe UK’ and this came up – click on the logo for the treat of your life……see you in about an hour or so……..

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Guipure lace at £600 p/m anyone?

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Suiting with 24K pinstripes at  £1, 500 (it’s on sale, it’s normally £1,900, so hurry) – that’s the per meter price by the way.

Hand sewn sequins on silk, laser cut motifs embroidered on chiffon, brick wall silk lining and trims and embellishments that bring tears to your eyes. Unique, luxurious, absolutely fabulous fabrics.

 

Thankfully, for us mere working mortals there is a remnant section and a bargain basement. My finger slipped and I bought 2m of black and ivory wool patchwork fabric and 1m of a loosely woven black and ivory herringbone wool. No sooner had I ordered the fabric, it had arrived at my door – really, less than 24hrs!

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I buy a lot of my fabric online: sometimes it comes in a cardboard box wrapped in brown paper, sometimes it comes in a plastic envelope, sometimes it’s folded and sometimes it’s rolled, but look at the way this one came…

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Each length of material folded around tissue paper and inserted into protective bags sealed with a Joel & Sons silver label; two woven labels for sewing into the finished garments; a handy tape measure for my handbag; a pretty little postcard thanking me for my order and my definite belief that I will shop again.

Finally…. and if you have any money left….

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Just very recently I found a linen weaver who is still in business and only 40 mins drive away. I haven’t made it to the factory shop IRL yet but I plan to do just that some time over the Easter break. So until I do here’s a sample of genuine Irish linen available online. Not cheap at £50 p/m but then again it is 3m wide! Have I read that right?

 

Don’t know yet for sure what I’m going to make from all this gorgeous stuff but you can bet that when I start sewing with wool the sun will be shining and the temperatures will rise!

 

 

 

 


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Tick Tock

This week on BBC we were all treated to the Great British Sewing Bee (Tuesday 8.00pm) – an elimination contest of sewing your own clothes – not designing like Project Runway – but picking a pattern, fabric, notions and making something within a time limit. Then the public scrutiny of your work either on a mannequin or a real live model. And every week one or two contestants are sent home.

BBC iplayer link here. I don’t know if this works beyond the boundaries of the UK so I’ve added a Youtube link here.

There’s also a great article in the Telegraph here, that tells you a bit more about the contestants and the judges.

In typical British style the show is not flashy, it’s made on a budget but there is something homely and comforting about The Sewing Room and the poor contestants have to have their coffee in the Cafe across the road – like the BBC couldn’t provide food and drink! The British contestants have all become friends and there’s no bitchiness or slyness, no off-camera comments about each other. Each one is modest about their sewing abilities – refreshing after the narcissism of Project Runway.

You may recognise one or two of the contestants too:
Tilly, from Tilly and buttons,
Ann Rowley from Stitchers Guild

First challenge was to make an A-line skirt in 3 and half hours: everyone had the same pattern but they had to choose fabric from an astounding built-in haberdashery wall, cut and sew, included the insertion of the dreaded invisible zip. If there was any time left, they could then ‘personalise’ their skirt.

They then had one hour in which to re-fashion the neckline of a white cotton top.

Finally, the biggy of the week was to make a day dress, perfectly fitted to a real live size 12 person in 7 hours. Each contestant choose their own pattern and fabric and had time to practice at home first, but the model was only available on the day.

Sitting on my sofa watching the show, I began to think about how long things take to do.

I’ve never worked to a deadline in sewing – to me that’s the kiss of death. Making something for an upcoming event or occasion puts undue pressure on the completion inevitably leading to mistakes and poor construction. Sewing is about taking your time and doing a bit now and again for the pleasure and fun of it. If the dress is finished in time to wear to the theatre, then that’s a bonus, but not a pre-requisite in my sewing world. This may explain my growing disillusionment with SWAP, as the deadline of end of April is fast approaching.

But, if faced with the challenge of ‘doing’ something within a time frame, how many of you know how long things take?

There are some things I do know about my sewing…..
This takes me one hour, from cutting out to wearing.

This takes 100+ hours ( I only know this because I’ve documented it before)
Sometimes, it takes me days just to pick a fabric……..and then I change my mind about the pattern……
Just selecting buttons is a Herculean task for me.

But we all know that one mistake can hold up the whole process by hours – ripping out, picking out all the little thread ends, re-cutting, re-sewing, pressing. Also sewing at home has all sorts of other distractions and rarely do we get 7 straight hours to only sew. One of the judges Patrick Grant is a Saville Row tailor (and lovely to look at BTW) who produces bespoke suits – but only 300 a year!  


Part of sewing for yourself is the pleasure of slip-stitching a hem – not machining it; to change your mind as you go along – add a lining, different buttons, shorten etc; and there is design involved too. Choosing fabric and notions to match a pattern and your body shape are all part of the process. Being forced to work within a time limit obviously restricts all this.

It’s easy to sit at home, watch this show and shout at the TV –
“That zip is way worse than my efforts!”,
“Look at the state of that hemline!”,
“Awful fabric – it’ll never work!”
“Cut the threads off that would you?”
“Why didn’t anyone just make a jersey wrap dress?”
“Don’t do that – it’s too complicated!”

Watch the show and all these will make sense to you.

But if you had to….

How long does it take you to insert a zip?
Previously bad examples of my zip insertion , without time pressure!

How long would you need to sew an A-line skirt, hemmed and ready to wear? (and lined!)

What could you produce in a glorious seven dedicated hours from the sewing room?