corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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Sucker for Sales

dscn6825If you’ve never been on Joel and Son website, then you need to set aside four or five hours, lock your credit/debit card in the glove compartment of the car and lose the keys or give both card and keys to a responsible adult and then be prepared to drool, dream and digest the fabulous fabrics.

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Here’s one for Jungle January – from £495 down to £240 for 4m. Quick girls, quick.

 

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For that special occasion how about the laser cut embroidered butterfly fabric that you’ve been hunting for ages: a mere £2,500 p/m

 

10186bOr for that ever more special occasion how about an ivory lace appliqué on a printed organza with gold anthracite stones dotted throughout;  yours for £7,500 p/m

It does my heart good that such retailers are still around and selling the most special and unique of fabrics. I’m also glad that fabric weavers and mills are still producing these beautiful fabrics. I’d like to be able to buy said fabrics and have loads of occasions to which to wear the finished garments but that is not my life.

Thanks to our U.S. cousins, Black Friday is now a common occurrence in UK and for a while between November and December my email inbox was full every quarter of an hour with ‘offers’. One of the offers came from Joel and Son and like so many of you, I couldn’t resist.

 

Now, while the fabric might be discounted and it’s an offer too good to miss new problem are encountered; what to make and what to wear with it? It’s like being back in RTW land and purchasing that fabulous blouse because it was in the 50% sale but you’ve got absolutely nothing that coordinates with it and therefore a total waste of money. From last summer and Black Friday I have bought but not sewn quite a few metres, including:

2.5 cut length of wool crepe with Lycra, pale coral/terracotta – Dec 2016

4m of fine cotton print in reds, greens, burgundy and shades thereof – July 2015

Cutting into fabric from the hallowed Joel and Son is a daunting experience: you know how expensive it is and therefore you don’t want to waste it or make a Horlicks. I always think long and hard before making anything from my precious Joel and Son stash. I’m the type of home sewer who first thinks about a garment and then seeks out the fabric – when Joel et al are involved, it’s the other way round. Hence some fabric lies in wait for a very long time……until now…….dscn6826

 

The long cardigan is a terracotta fine knit from MyFabrics (probably also in a sale) and although made, I had nothing to wear with it apart from black…..but that’s not the star of the show.

There are high waisted trousers and then there are HIGH waisted trousers and these are they. No longer are waistbands hanging low on the rear but sitting where they should be – at the waist. These ones, however, go way beyond.

Vogue 8604 is a long time in my pattern box. 8604

Wide legged, front and back darts with a couple of front pleats into the bargain, back zip closure and in-seam side pockets. My fabric is somewhat robust, almost heavy althodscn6829ugh fluid and drapey at the same time. The side pockets were made but swiftly removed because they just didn’t sit flat and these trousers need a smooth silhouette.

The high waist is supported by a facing that I interfaced with canvas for extra strength as my post-Christmas tummy needs some restraining.

An invisible zipper in the back would be the best option but as my notions box is practically empty and I couldn’t be bothered going to the shops for a single zip I had to use a regular red one and put it in a lapped style.

To show off the very high waist, one’s top should be tucked in and deciding on a suitable pattern was a small challenge, considering I’ve hardly any buttons hanging around.

I opted for Vogue 7876 – five versions of a wrap blouse. All the pattern options have waist ties to keep the wearer of the blouse decent, but that wasn’t going to work with these trousers. In overcoming the tucked in without ties and acres of ease of the wrap blouse I may just have solved the age old problem of gaping too. Mostly I made version E.

Add buttons! No honestly, it’s that simple. Do not cut out the ties but make your blouse without them and try on. Pin the wraps well to where you think it looks best and bend, stretch, make the bed and change a car tyre. If the blouse is still in place after all this then you’ve got the sweet spot. Pin mark and make two button holes and sew on two buttons – job done!

The buttons are so discreet that no one will see them and you get a very reliable blouse. The space behind the button holes and button is reinforced with fusible interfacing on self fabric as the cotton is very fine. See irrefutable proof below

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To finish version E blouse flared sleeves, I gathered the hems into  narrow bias cut bands. I’m having a 1970 revival at the minute and gathered sleeves are forever in my memory of my early teens’ clothes.

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There’s something Agatha Christie about the style of trousers; totally cruise ship, lounging and swanning with cocktails and cigarette holders.

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So, the first outfit of 2017 is completed: trousers, blouse, cardigan and leftover’s scarve. I keep putting my hand on my waist, just to show you where it is as it can get lost in the high waist.

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Thanks to Thornberry for promoting the outfit-not-orphan sewing idea and if we all did this, then there would be no more random fabric purchases or 50% off RTW blouses in our wardrobes that don’t go with anything else, well, maybe…………..

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I’m glad I saved the patterned cotton for when I needed it and when I had a fabric that coordinated instead of sewing some random stuff.

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I’ve informed my husband that I have a new outfit and that I’m ready to wear it out to dinner anytime……. really, W. anytime at all!

A review of Pantone’s new colours revealed that this shade of red/terracotta/coral pairs nicely with teal and sea green  etc – my goodness, don’t I have a coat in that colour?

fd0720234bfb0150a538293f1cac9831What are your opinions of trousers waistlines, if you have one? I mean, for years I swore I’d never wear elasticated waists and, guess what?


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The Woman on the Tube Train

Not quite The Girl on a Train, but will show that you can get inspiration for sewing from anywhere – trains, the Underground, books, TV, movies, each other……

Not blogging doesn’t mean not sewing: I’ve been doing the latter but not the former so in an attempt to rectify that here’s a few recent makes.

First up is the Anderson blouse from Sew Over It. Inspiration for the pattern came from Gillian Anderson’s character in The Fall. Her wardrobe consisted of silk blouses, dark pencil skirts and Louboutins,  ’cause you know how easy they are to wear all day, every day!

Previously I made this blouse in a very fine pale peach wool but the colour was all wrong for me and although it was a thin wool there was no drape and the whole thing was a waste of fabric and time. Needless to say the pattern went to the back of the pile.

I read lots of reviews about the Anderson blouse and every one of them stated that a fluid, drapey fabric is a must: there’s also a consistent wardrobe malfunction with the front wrap over – with varying methods for dealing with this – from wearing a camisole to wrapping the fronts high up to the throat. Here’s a super version by Heather but I don’t think one sewer didn’t make some alteration or adjustment to the pattern. The conclusion from all this research is that is a blouse that MUST be worn tucked in…. and tucked in tightly! If you don’t like tucked-in stuff, then this is not for you.

I came across this digital print poly satin on Croftmill in greens and pinks and decided that I’d give the Anderson a second chance. My notions box is quite depleted at the moment, so any pattern that doesn’t require buttons, zips, hooks and eyes is an attractive option.

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Leaving off the drawstring hem and cuffs, this was quickly sewn up on the serger and as long as I stand erect with shoulders back and the fronts well tucked in, the front doesn’t gape at all.

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Always there are leftovers so I decided to line a coat with them…….

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One day while I was visiting London earlier this year, a woman got on the Tube and sat opposite me. She had on an apple green jumbo corduroy coat, 1970s style, a black shift dress and apple green opaque tights. The coat looked so lived in and comfortable that I quickly determined that it must have been a favourite item in her wardrobe. She wore it so well – casually stylish; effortless.

Once home the hunt was initiated for jumbo cord in green – found at long last on Croftmill. Not in apple green but sea green instead.

The pattern is Vogue 1266: semi-fitted, lined, slightly flared coat, above ankle length, princess seams, two-piece sleeves and back centre split. Lots of variations with collars, pockets and cuffs.

I went for view B – double breasted but with the front welt pockets with flaps from view A and the cuffs from view C. You need a whopping 4m of fabric for this coat.

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I just love the way the corduroy nap creates different shades of green.

 

I cut my usual 14 but ended up doing alterations by nipping in tight at the waist and raising the shoulders/sleeve heads by about 2″. I wanted a more close fitting coat.

dscn6802It’s not perfect – I messed about too much with the front princess seams and they’re wrinkling and stretched but then I also wanted a coat that looked like I’d had it for years and had that well worn look, just like the woman’s on the tube.

dscn6813This is intended as an everyday coat not special occasion and I’m hoping that with more and more wear it will soften and mould and last for years.

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There’s a puckering/wrinkle in two places on the hem that I just can’t figure out. It looks like the lining is caught but it’s not and there are no stray stitches either. Another good pressing may be in order.

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c57d989594c64506123ee3b90765053fIt billows out as I stride along and reminds me somewhat of a WW1 great coat.

This coat was worn by officers and was usually made from heavy wool and tailored specifically for them by their Savile Row tailors.

Obviously much better made than my humble version but there’s a historical link here. Check out the development of the trench coat, for example.

I had contemplated adding epaulets and a belt but was too impatient to get the coat finished and worn that I never did.

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Now, you all knew that the coat came first, didn’t you? dscn6811

I haven’t done a Best /Worst 2016 post but this coat, despite all its flaws, is definitely one of my favourites; the Anderson blouse  – not so favourite…….

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And to finish the 2016 sewing blog posts : Cat endorses WW1 great coat/1970s corduroy inspired by woman on a tube train coat.

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Thank you very much for all your support,encouragement and feedback in 2016.

Thank you also to all of you who read my previous post and donated to MS. Truly, you are generous and big hearted.

Here’s wishing everyone a very Happy New Year and may all your sewing dreams come to fruition in 2017.


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It was 50 Years ago today……

…. I was three years old and a flower girl at my Auntie Jean and Uncle Lewis’s wedding. My mummy made me a blue velvet dress to wear and someone lent me a white fur stole with matching muff. I wore white knee socks like a big girl (and scowled like one too!) accessorised with my beautiful Sunday best black patent shoes with buckles (not shown). I wore Chanel No 5. Only joking.

dscn6768Standing directly behind me is my daddy who was Best Man and on my left, my eldest cousin and idol in a red coat- see, she has knee socks. Beside her and behind a gate post is my second eldest cousin, also my childhood and continuing idol. On my right is the bride and groom; totally in love and eyes for no one other than each other. 50 years on from that day, Jean and Lewis are still together, still devoted to each other and because of that I got another two cousins! Auntie Jean is the youngest of six siblings, my mother’s youngest sister. A family of three boys and three girls – all the boys are dead but the girls are showing no signs of giving up just yet! And they are either in or heading towards their 80s, but Jean’s the baby.

The photograph is therefore 50 years old and the version you see here is a photograph of a print of the original photo – hence the quality, but you get the idea.

To celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary, my Uncle Lewis has invited the whole family to the Slieve Donard hotel for dinner – and bed and breakfast!slieve-donard-resort-spa-newcastle-ireland_010720140930446342

The hotel resides beneath the Mourne Mountains in Newcastle and is right beside the shore – what could be a better location?

view-of-slieve-donard-co-down-northern-irelandMy lovely Auntie Jean spends most of her time these days in a wheelchair because she has MS (Multiple Sclerosis). My own bridesmaid suffered the same disease from the tender age of 22 and is now dead. She was tall, beautiful, elegant and stylish and actually put me in the shade, even on my wedding day, but I could never resent a single moment we spent together. She stood totally unaided beside me as my witness and best friend. Julie is the one in blue. Isn’t she gorgeous?dscn6769The 50th wedding celebration is not only in honour of the golden couple but also to raise money for MS. It is a devastating disease that seems to be common ( in that I know of loads of people with a diagnosis) in Northern Ireland. Auntie Jean’s son, Ian, my youngest cousin 46, has also been stuck with this incapacitating illness: he is an award winning press photographer, who was also our wedding photographer – his first private commission. And what memorable images he took that day and how unaware we all were to what the future held. These are photos of the photos, if you know what I mean? Relaxed, genuine captures in time of each special moment.

Ian is a husband and a father to a gorgeous and clever daughter but he now lives in residential care. Ian cannot eat, drink or swallow; cannot dance or walk, not even stand; cannot read because he can’t turn the page; cannot scratch an itch; and can no longer take photographs because he can’t even press the shutter and yet everytime I visit him, we have a laugh and reminisce good times and make fun of our family traits.

Julie was the same; never complained, never moaned, just had a very optimistic view of life and relished every moment with a smile.

If you feel so inclined, you can make a small donation to MS through Just Giving

This is a sewing blog, so let’s get to the sewing……..

What better way to celebrate a Golden Wedding Anniversary than to re-create what I wore 50 years ago as a flower girl?  I made a grown up version of my blue velvet dress. Looks like a sack on the hanger …..

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The pattern is from Bootstrap – asymmetrical off-shoulder dress and custom fitted to me. 44849mainThis really is the way to go – type in your measurements and you get a pattern that’s perfect – no adjusting, alterations etc, just cut and sew.

As the wedding was in the mid 1960s, I wanted to link to that era and this design seemed to fit the brief as it had a slightly vintage look. It probably fits better into the late 1950s but we are always 10 years behind the rest of the world in Northern Ireland. I also used Google images for inspiration of the fashion of the time.

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The fabric is from Croftmill and is described as the richest possible dark navy blue – perfect – not black but nearly, it’s still blue and because it’s velvet it has every shade in between. This is a cotton velvet because it is so much more stable and resilient than the silk version. If you read advice about sewing with velvet, you’ll be told not to press, use a walking foot, use a million pins, sew once and don’t rip out, etc etc etc – it’s enough to put you off sewing with velvet at all. Look, just buy the stuff and make a dress – it really doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just make sure the nap (pile) all smoothes down the same direction when you place your pattern pieces, so you will need more fabric than usual, at least 1/2 metre.

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Yes, I’ve made mistakes but we all know that only another sewer will notice the errors. I pressed, I ripped out, I used the normal amount of pins and I did not use a walking foot. If you do nothing else, you MUST use a a velvet pressing cloth. This is just a scrap of the same fabric and when pressing seams flat place velvet to velvet and gently, gently steam press. Be wary of pressing hems and sleeves. I do know that once pressed, the velvet pile will never recover. Go on, ask me how I know that??

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Because this is a party dress, I moved the centre back zipper to the left-hand side – I mean who wants to spin round and round at 2am in the morning trying to pull a zip down that you can’t reach to get out of the dress. Mind you, I suppose you could always sleep in it.

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When I make a dress I like long panels, from shoulder to hem, in other words no waist seam that cuts the dress in half. This dress has a waist seam at the front only. I disguised it with a half belt, sewn into the sides and blinged up with a pearl and diamond cabochon. (DH has advised to remove the pearl – opinions please.)

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I sewed the back split closed – there was no need to fiddle around with lining as I can walk just fine without it.

dscn6790The dress is fully lined and if I could take back time, I would underline it actually – but I didn’t, so just move on. The hem is very narrow deliberately. I like this length, so I sewed a wide band of lace to the very edge and slip stitched this up.

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The sleeves were lengthened to 3/4 length, this is December after all, but they looked a little clumsy and heavy. I sewed three little tucks so that they became slightly gathered above the elbows and reflect the gathers in the front bodice. It creates an uneven sleeve hem so the lining needs to be tucked inside to mirror the shape.

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Off the shoulder dresses may be sexy and dramatic but create a whole new category of underwear problems. A bog-standard bra ain’t gonna work. Do you bdscn6789uy special undergarments, do you adapt existing bras? The number of YouTube videos I watched on how to insert cups into dresses reached record breaking numbers and in the end I opted for the easiest, and possibly the best solution, hand sew a couple of bra strap tabs with poppers and then wear my favourite bra. Job done.

 

 

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No-one has lent me a white fur stole to wear this time round and I think I’ll leave the big girl white knee socks off too…….

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I know we all have extra expense at this particular time of year but, you know what, we can walk, talk, dance and we can relish in our pure physical ability, however clumsily, to enjoy life – even if it’s just to thread and use a needle. Don’t forget, if you’d like to contribute to support MS click here. I’d ask you to NOT buy those two metres/yards  to sit forlornly in your stash but instead give the £/$ 12-15 to MS instead.

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Many, many thanks. My Auntie Jean, cousin Ian, bridesmaid Julie’s legacy and countless others will benefit from your generosity and kindness.

 

 

 

 

 


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A/W ’16 Mustard

My husband, before he became my husband, used to tell a very rude joke and the punch line was “mustard, custard and you, you big sh***!”  Anyway………he doesn’t tell the joke anymore and my next outfit for autumn/winter is complete.

Same trousers as the burgundy ones but this time with added inseam side pockets and turn ups at the hem.dscn6753

I like cropped winter trousers: they remind me of plus fours and country living, and I can wear either boots or shoes. Worn today with the shirt you’ve seen before.

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Johnny Rotten as an English country gentleman

 

All fabrics are from Fabworks – I’m Fabworks head to toe today! (Not sponsored by them btw).

18 TwistThe trousers are Donegal tweed: Warm, mellow, sunflower, saffron and turmeric tones weave through this gorgeous Donegal Tweed herringbone, evoking memories of relaxed autumnal strolls and the resting evening sunshine. Woven with the ever-present charcoal warp to form a reassuring background of chevrons; the Donegal yarn sitting in the mellow sunflower and mustard warp has pale straw, saffron and honey coloured flecks. This 100% new wool has a reassuringly soft texture, but remains a medium weight with a great handle and drape.

I mean, really, how could you not not fall for that?

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An easy method to elasticate a waist is this:

  1. Measure the elastic to your waist, stretching a little, and sew the ends together to make a band.dscn6678
  2. Quarter this band with pins and then match each pin with the four seams, front, back and sides.
  3. Serge or small zig-zag this band (yes, that is bra strap elastic) to the inside of your garment, lining up edge to edge.dscn6679
  4. Fold the elastic over to the inside and zig-zag in place to form a waistband.dscn6683

Neat and easy

The trousers are lined too. The lining is slip-stitched to the ‘waistband’ and hides the serged edges.

Even neater.

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As Sunflower Chunky Ribbed Knit is a beautiful knitted all wool fabric from Avoca, it’s a superb, brushed fabric with a medium weight soft drape and handle, and due to being knitted rather than woven it has a good natural lengthwise stretch with some stretch on the width too! The beautiful sunflower coloured yarn with darker and lighter tones throughout, has been knitted in a double row ribbed construction that has alternating fine black bands knitted in between to create the chunky rib affect.

See what I mean? I fell for that one too.

The jumper is hacked from a Burda pattern for a cardigan. I prepared the pattern many, many years ago before I understood and realised that patterns require an organisational system  of their own. I can’t bring to mind the actual pattern number ….It’s the one with the girl standing in front of a barn door……..

I used the raglan sleeves and the back yoke and front (with a centre seam) but I just made up the V neck front and added a small patch pocket. I also made front and back different lengths and put small slits at the sides to mark the step.

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It was fun mucking about with the stripes on the pattern pieces creating some interest and directional movement. The sleeves are bias cut, the back yoke and pocket on the horizontal, the fronts and lower back on the vertical.

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To keep the V neck as a V, I faced it with some cotton bias binding as a stabiliser. The fabric doesn’t fray but I thought that narrow cuffs would be a nice finishing touch on the sleeves. All seams are serged just in case.

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And of course there were leftovers and cut-offs. I used these up in the form of a beret and a couple of scarves in preparation of anticipation of a cold winter.

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Other things….

The postman brought some lovely things recently, mainly courtesy of a Vogue pattern sale. Fabworks also sent me the checked cotton shirting (far right) after I ordered and paid for it.

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One plus one together makes this, not 2.

The selvage was too good to cut off and throw away so it was used as a trim on all edges; cuffs, collar, button band and hem.

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I had fun with the stripes on this fabric too and I do hope you notice the almost perfect alignment across the fronts!

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Life’s been quite busy recently including a very pleasant weekend spent in London, England. A few weeks ago I flew out early on Friday with plans afoot to spend a lot of money and spend a lot of money I did! The fruits of these purchases to be revealed soon. The highlight of the trip was dinner at Kate’s. Marijana was there too and we all wore our own individual, handmade, couture and unique versions of the Six Napoleon dress. We had a 6Nap party!

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I look like a giant in comparison to my petite and neat sewing companions. Additionally their dresses were so much better than mine. Both ladies are fabulous and I’m so pleased to have met them online and then followed this up in person. Thank you Kate and Marijana, it was so much better than sitting in a hotel room on my lonesome wearing a party dress with no party to go to.

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A/W ’16 Burgundy

All this fabric was bought in July and is only being sewn up now, but then again it was always intended for this autumn/winter’s wardrobe, so I suppose it’s timely. For once there was a little bit of forward planning that might have actually worked out. I’ve been busy doing other things for a few weeks but I’m back home now and – sewing!

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The two fabrics on the right are from Minerva and generously gifted from my very dear friend Caroline on the day we went shopping with Mags. The far left fabric is from Fabworks and the burgundy ponte is a long forgotten purchase from somewhere, just patiently waiting for its time.

Lea wrapped dress already completed and worn multiple times – featured on Fabworks’ Customer Catwalk.

DSCN6504Eventually I actually got started on the A/W ’16 wardrobe, though it has been late because of the mild weather here and a personal reluctance to admit that summer has left.

One pair of cropped trousers – cropped because I bought only 1 metre planned for a pencil skirt and in real life I realised that trousers would be more practicable. (Fabric on the far right).

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Pattern: Vogue 1508, Zandra Rhodes.

I added front welt pockets and, obviously, shortened the length to suit the available fabric rather than style. They are lined, elasticated waisted and although made from polyester they look like  tweed and hence there is no wrinkling or shrinking, or wet-dog smell when wet with rain. I’d just like to point out the relative width difference between the pattern envelope and my actual trousers………

Worn firstly with some delicious silk from Joel & Sons (bought in a sale), and the fabric design and colour reminds me of autumn leaves, firesides and fireworks. This top was made in a very haphazard way – using a basic block and then sewing on the leftovers as a sailor’s neck and front tie and asymmetrical hip edges: just trying to use up every last scrap of this relatively expensive silk.

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Next, the trousers are paired with a fine mesh polyprint (second from right) and made up in McCalls 7247. This pattern is intended for jersey/stretch but I took a chance and it worked.

View D, at the bottom is the one I made.

While I added bands to the neck and cuffs I left them with raw edges so that they fray. Heck, un-hemmed edges are all over Vogue magazine; if it’s good enough for them, it’s certainly good enough for me.

If I wear it with enough panache, then it’s ‘designer’.

 

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I do need to wear my very reliable, RTW and cheap  burgundy cotton sleeveless T-shirt underneath but, heck, it’s winter and it’s going to get cold and your Mother always told you never to leave the house without clean pants (knickers), a handkerchief and a vest, just in case you were in an accident. Hopefully, I’m safe.

Then I added to the burgundy stash and purchased some jersey marl that I think is from MyFabrics but I’ve fallen out with them recently, so they are absolutely last-resort now. This was transformed into a Vogue 9193, a Marcy Tilton tunic.

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Trying to replicate the Tilton sisters, I tried to do a bit of artistic-stuff around the neck  with a double layer loose neck edge, which I’m not quite convinced worked out but then again this is not intended as a spectacular designer top, rather as a normal, everyday pull-on type of top. With the leftovers I sewed up a scarf-like thing, basically a couple of rectangles sewn into a hoop (worn on the right pic) and looks like a cowl neck.

So, one pair of trousers, three tops, a dress and a bit of ponte left to sew. Those of your follow the Vivienne Files will be capable of calculating how many outfits that will make. Personally I just reach into the wardrobe and hope for the best and not an orphan in sight!

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Next, I’ll move onto another A/W ’16 colour……..guesses?