corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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The Only Park Lane

DSCN7260A long, long time ago I bought a dress pattern from Merchant and Mills: the company started in 2010 and  I’ve a sneaking suspicion that I purchased the pattern not long afterwards. It is stored in a sturdy cardboard tube and the pattern pieces are equally sturdy manilla card that require weights and not pins to hold them to the fabric. It will last for years and years. I never made the dress. There were no pattern reviews, no Google images (apart from M&M’s, below); I was a little wary and then I lost the whole lot!

Quite recently I relocated The Park Lane and just happened to have a very fine windowpane wool that didn’t have a pattern partner, so the two were paired together.

The dress is simplicity itself: sheath style, shaped shoulders that elongate into short sleeves, funnel neck and comes with a tie belt, in-seam pockets. I don’t do belts on loose dresses as they create folds and gathers on my considerable sway back and looks terrible – belt was ditched. I ditched the pockets too because this fabric is practically transparent and the black lines of the window panes showed through to the right side.

 

However, without a belt the dress was even looser and, quite honestly, shapeless. There are two little dart/pleats at centre front which are relatively pointless – I added three more on each front, total of 8.

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I get to keep the shift style but with the extra pleats I get a bit of shaping at the waist and creates some construction interest too.

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I like this dress. It’s not weird, far-out dressing, just a classic shape with a wee bit of unusual that might make someone look twice – in a nice way!

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I have a small dilemma that you, dear readers, can help and advise on. I made the dress straight from the pattern and this is the length (which I personally like).

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Here it is pinned about 6″ shorter.

Which looks better?

It is difficult to raise one’s arms as the whole dress lifts up; I’m not planning on cleaning out the high kitchen cupboards so it’s not that much of a problem.

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I went with matching the horizontal windowpanes. They match up (mostly) at centre back and side seams.

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Merchant and Mills no longer sell this pattern and I’m truly wondering if this is the only one ever made – please let me know if you’ve made it too or know somebody who has.

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Should I sew another one?

 

 

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Special Days

Honestly and truly, every day is special – there’s absolutely no doubt that we all have bad ones but somehow we wake up tomorrow, pull on our big-girls’ pants and deal with it. I’ve been lucky and very recently had the most amazing few days away with some very special people, so let’s start with Day 1 and move on from there.

Day 1

I’ve known for ages that one of my students won Outstanding Student of the Year (Public Services), an international competition organised by Pearson with nearly 1000 nominees and over 1,000,000 possible entrants. There was a media embargo until after the actual ceremony.

Alarm set for 5.00am. I already packed the night before and my outfit sewn and ready for the awards ceremony in London, hosted by Baroness Garden of Frognall in the Churchill Room in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster.

Arrived in London and headed straight to Cosmetics a la Carte for a professional, last-all-day make-up. Cost a small fortune but this is definitely a time to treat myself.

Whirlwind day of receptions, awards, ceremony, fun and networking. So many talented and inspiring young people. Mine is called Clare and we wore matching dresses.

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She is very special, battling illness while studying and then achieving the highest grades possible. A truly humbling experience to teach a student like this and so proud of her.

My dress is Burda 04-2016-119 worn with a light weight bright pink coat, which is a Merchant and Mills Haremere jacket made long. It’s unlined to cope with London city heat so all the raw seams had to be Hong Konged.

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I actually wanted to go for a ‘This old thing? I just threw it on” look: sort of understated, not obvious but still part of an outfit. To achieve this I half-lined the sleeves with dress fabric so that when the cuffs were folded back the cuff lining matched the dress. and when I don’t wear the two together, just unfold the sleeves. It’s a smarter alternative to a cardigan and more relaxed than a jacket.

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I actually got more compliments about the coat that I did my dress – perhaps the colour did it – it’s not easy to overlook. It’s looking a little the worse for wear after a full day wearing in London heat and humidity and then being unceremoniously stuffed into my travel bag.

20.30 Took the train from London to Preston for an extra few days of relaxation and enjoyment with my long-time friend Caroline. Did a bit of hand sewing on my Six Napoleon corset on the journey. Caroline and I re-connected last summer after 20 odd years apart and we haven’t looked back since.

Stayed up to 4.00am Friday, chatting and laughing like we were teenagers.

Day 2

Relaxing, lazy day at Caroline’s home  – I’d been up and on the go for 23 hours. Time to unpack, settle in, finish some conversations from the previous day ( same day). Watched Wimbledon and made plans.

Caroline is a photographer. Recently, we took one of her images and had it digitally printed onto silk. I hand rolled the edges and we both now have scarves that no-one else in the entire world has – that’s special.

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It’s not upside down – it’s a reflection!

Day 3

Darwen –
Day out to meet Mags at Minerva Crafts.

Such lovely people there: a family run business who were more than welcoming, friendly and very patient with us.

49ebbdc43fe9f5e69ec693ba019dd0afWe pulled bolts of fabric from the shelves, mixed and matched and generally created a little bit of mayhem on the cutting table. We advised other shoppers – only when they asked mind you – and had a lot of fun. We all bought loads: Caroline got some grey/taupe jerseys in animal-like prints; Mags got a stash and I got enough for an autumn outfit. We had a light lunch followed by a wander around the speciality food market.

Mags is fabulous; honest, stoic, funny and very, very stylish. I’ll be honest, I was getting a bit fed up with blogging and taking photos and all that stuff but meeting her has re-invigorated me and has made me grateful for those special Internet friends who become real ones.

Day 4 & 5

Hanging out, day trips and shopping – just lovely. Then home again.

Day 6- 9

Hooray, back into the sewing room. I love travelling and going away but there’s nothing like coming home either and doing what I love best. Sewed like a mad woman and before the end of the week I had sewn all of Caroline’s Minerva stash. I did add the odd bit of lace and cotton jersey but from 2.5m, I managed to get three tops and 1m ponte made a perfectly coordinating pair of trousers.

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Mainly the top pattern is Tilton’s Vogue 9057 (first and last) and the trousers are Vogue 8837 , another Tilton.

Caroline wore her first incarnation of this top at our day out at Minerva so I know it fits and suits her. The black and animal print (second) is Vogue 9193, another Marcy. Dead easy to sew as the sleeves are cut on but the pattern pieces are cut single layer and are therefore huge.

 

 

DSCN6354I was on a roll so I just kept going and added a few bonus but coordinating items to Caroline’s wardrobe.

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The light grey knit is a layering piece (the fabric is from my Minerva stash) and is actually the top half only of Vogue 9193. The pattern doesn’t actually tell you to do this but it works really well. So well in fact that I think I need one myself.V9193

The knit top will also go over any of Caroline’s other tunics too. It wasn’t easy to sew though,  the fine silky knit fabric had a mind of its own. I did my best not to stretch it out and used some leftover animal print jersey as a stabiliser around the neck, sleeves and hem. The ‘underneath’ tunic is made from other leftovers and here you can see where the top and bottom meet. There’s a built in pocket on the left hand side. If you sew this top, just watch out – the side seams on top and bottom half do not line up, the bottom half is offset (see the tech drawing). Ask me how I know this because I’m so smart I don’t have to read the instructions….!

All of Caroline’s Minerva fabric has now been sewn, posted and quite possibly already worn as Mr Postman was especially swift this week.

That’s you all up to date until next time…

 

 


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SWAP A2, A3 & A2 Again

I’ve been away from blogging for a week or two so just to remind you that this is SWAP combination A.

Thank you all so much for such generous comments on Jungle January coat – it’s a welcome relief from forced coordination wardrobe planning.

In the silent weeks I made this.

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It was part of SWAP and the cornerstone of combination A – 3 garments that make an outfit and based upon my colour scheme of heather.

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Simplicity K1465 made in a ‘found’ mixed wool fibre tweed in pink and olive green houndstooth. The fabric came from an antique shop in Greyabbey and what you got was what you got. The pattern is a straight mock wrap skirt with a 360 peplum and a frill along the edge of the wrap. Fully lined, completely and utterly understitched, frill hand stitched down at crucial points; there isn’t a seam or join that isn’t sewn at least twice. The peplum and frill were laboriously hand frayed. The finished skirt length was totally determined by the amount of fabric.

Looked like this…

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Along the way I sewed a Paco Peralta Draped Top (A3) in olive green wool crepe to wear with the skirt. il_fullxfull.292016701I’ve made this many, many times before. This time I added a little back neck opening with a button closure. Otherwise, nothing’ s changed and it’s still a very stylish and classic contribution to any wardrobe. In fact, I don’t think I’ve made a SWAP in the last 3 years without a Paco Draped Top being part of it. It’s a foundation and at the same time an embellishment.

I have another me within my head and sometimes (actually, many times) she is 100% right but I have developed the ability to totally ignore her. She had severe reservations while sewing this skirt but I carried on regardless of her little voice that kept saying ” No. This isn’t you. This isn’t your style. You will never wear it.”

And what do you know – she was right again! I hate that.

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So, I unpicked and cut and salvaged and saved what I could and ended up with a straight skirt without peplum or frill or mock-wrap and too short.

Undeterred, or maybe foolishly, I couldn’t leave the blasted thing alone.

Also along the way I sewed a pair of winter Strides in olive green Donegal tweed – both pattern and fabric from Merchant and Mills.DSCN6064

As usual after every make I had a little bit of tweed left over; this was added to my not-peplum-anymore skirt.

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I made some pleats like this:

Sew a big long ring of fabric, overlock the edges and hem. Hemming must be done before pleating. Mark out regular divisions – I used 1″.

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Concertina the fabric to the marks and pin. Then tack securely.

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Press extremely well with a damp pressing cloth and lots of steam on both side of the fabric.

I sewed the pleats to the lining and catchstitched the lining to the skirt.

The skirt’s side seams were rounded to reveal more pleats. And this is the ‘new’ skirt

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Swishy hemline with an apron-effect top skirt….

that goes with my pink fleece jacket

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as does the new Strides

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I have absolutely no idea what part of SWAP is done or has to be done or even what part of SWAP I’m working on – I just seem to be sewing clothes in a couple of colourways and hoping that I’ll end up with 3 + 3 +2 +3 coordinating garments.

My first item, the pink coat, was cut down and altered into a short fitted jacket and now the peplum skirt has been completely refashioned using pleats. I’d save a lot of time if I just managed to sew it right first time!

I actually think I’m doing APWS – a plan with sewing rather than sewing with a plan.

With these four things plus the grey Vogue trousers I now have five garments – almost halfway there.

 

 


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Culottes and Tops and etc

I have not been idle – I’ve been sewing.

To make up for a week or two lack of blogging here’s a basement bargain post with not one, not two, not even three, but many things! Everything piled on top of one another, so get ready for a strip-tease. I would have put that in this post’s title but just knew I would garner unwelcome visitors – and on that subject but not quite – many welcomes to all new followers and supporters’ club members – hopefully you might get an idea or two that you can use in your own sewing…. and that obviously extends also to my long-term readers and dedicated followers: without whom this entry in my sewing diary would not have been possible.

Let’s start at the top: StyleaArc Mason coat in navy 2X2 acrylic rib; edged with sparkly denim cording and closed with a homemade contraption using two buttons and a bit of string. Scarf made with leftovers [see below].

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The buttons look brown but they’re not – they’re blue/black. Just sew a bit of coordinating string onto one side and make a loop for the other button to “loop” through.

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Underneath, same fabric as cardigan made using Vogue 7876 (OOP) but not as a wrap shirt but as a jumper with sides sewn closed and asymmetrical front hem.

 

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Underneath the jumper, Namedclothing Fran shirt, cut without front button closure, so front piece all-in-one cut on the fold; scooped neckline with three cowl necks. Fabric is a printed panel from myfabrics – fine cotton voile in navy and white print with yellow border.

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The pattern pieces were placed carefully to position the border print on the hem and sleeves.

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Cut rectangles of fabric to fit neckline, fold and sew together. Treat as one piece.

Underneath that, Merchant and Mills Bantam vest; made in same fabric from a second panel but longer than Fran and so creates a double border hem look. Hemline was squared off and side splits added. Hand rolled hems.

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Below waist, the actual star of the show – the Vogue 2807 Montana culottes – without your help would probably never have been made.

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My original problem was the vintage pattern was a size 10 and I wear a size 14. Kim and Natasha came to the rescue big time including providing me with actual measurements from the original size 14 pattern and detailed instructions about re-sizing patterns. In the end, it wasn’t as difficult or as laboursome as I’d thought it would be – add a cm or so to the pattern edges and reduce the pleats by a bit. I know this is not precise or scientific but hey, look! I got a pair of culottes that are sort of in my size range.

Fabric is from The Cloth House, London [see previous post]. With legs together, ladylike, the culottes look like a skirt from the front. The pleats on centre front and back act as distractors from the crotch.

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However, in these I can ride a bike, straddle a horse and sit in the most unlady-like fashion should I so desire.

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These are very low slung…they sit way below the natural waist, although my resizing attempt may have had an undue influence in that. But they do have fab side pockets with a single welt and no side seams! The pockets are created between two darts…..bit scary all that sewing and slashin and reinforcing corners etc.

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These culottes aren’t full or cumbersome around the legs and I’m pleasantly surprised with the pleats both front and back in that they don’t add that much extra width to the widest part of my body. Of course, you may see things from a different perspective and I appreciate that. The pleats are sewn down about 5″ which keeps them in place; the remainder pressed with a damp press cloth to retain the creases.

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The culottes aren’t lined, so underneath them is this little trouser petticoat – Vogue 8888 –  French knickers cut long and whipped up onimgres the overlocker with elasticated waist until it threw a tantrum and I threw it out the window!

I kept them narrow so that I can wear them under other unlined winter wool trousers.

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To identify front from back – add a little bit of ribbon or tape when you sew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And underneath the trousers’ petticoat….

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nah! only joking!

 

 


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2 Piece Leftover Skirt

With little bits of leftover fabric I’ve made knickers, wrapped scraps around cheap bangles for matching accessories, made flowery brooches, sewn up scarves in all shapes and lengths, made belts and if I have enough (0.5 – 0.75m) then a sleeveless T-shirt / vest.

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I hate to hoard cut offs and love to use them instead, so when I finished the latest Merchant and Mills outfit I had absolutely tonnes of fabric left over (well, relatively speaking, of course).

Because the Curlew dress is bias cut I had all the corners of the denim coloured wool/linen/cotton but only a little bit of the super soft Haremere coat alpaca – still, it’s too good not to use. But what to do?

One day quite recently I sat in Carnaby Street and watched the world go by.

What struck me was the confidence, individualist and independent dressing styles of the people passing by. Admittedly, some of the ‘styles’ would not suit everyone but on my return to provincial Belfast I noticed how ‘same’ we all dress: nothing shocking or unique; nothing that stands out. There’s not a Wow! factor. I also recently wrote about wearing a dress that I seldom wear because it’s ever so slightly ‘out there’ but have now decided I shall hereafter actually wear what I sew  – The Over 40 (50!) and not dead yet approach. So the other day I dug out a dress made a couple of years ago, hardly ever worn and put it on. It’s not an unusual or weird garment, just a dress and therefore, dressy and sometimes, I need a little bit of extra confidence to wear such an item.

V2401DSC00359Vintage Vogue 2401. The interesting thing is the skirt – a swishy back and sides that wrap over the front panel. Ah-ha! A front panel and separate skirt…….

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Maybe not, so here’s what I did…….

With total disregard for grain lines, nap and weave I patched the bits and pieces together of the cotton/linen until I had big enough bits to (almost) fit the dress skirt pattern – back and sides. The seams were overlocked to stop fraying. The alpaca scrap was squared off and extra panels in cotton/linen added at the edges.

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Folded pleat in pattern piece to fit the fabric

I removed 3″ from the top of the skirt when cutting out and the length was dependent on the amount of fabric I had.

Sew the back to the sides and finish the front edges: make some shaping darts in the flat front panel: wrap the back over the panel and tack in place.

When I made son’s Letterless Letterman jacket I bought way too much 1X1 cotton rib so this became the waistband.

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Sew the 1X1 rib to the top of the skirt and overlock for neatness and extra security. Now there are three different fabrics.

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And the final product is a very wearable skirt that fits right in my navy A/W ’15 wardrobe plans.

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The sides are longer than the front but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest – only adds to the wrap-around look.

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I have to step into the skirt instead of pulling over my head because of the restriction of the woven fabrics at hip length but hey! it’s my skirt, I made and I know its flaws and weaknesses and I know how to put it on.

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There’s the wrap or rather the overlap of side to front. In real life I’ll be wearing navy opaques.

The off-grain, not quite bias gussets at the sides. As with all half-circle, full circle or bias cut skirts, let it hang overnight before hemming to let gravity do her job and let the bias drop to get an even hem.

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And with the matching coat….

DSCN5740The scarf is made, of course, from leftovers from a recently made blouse which is nearly finished – just have a few more buttons to sew on. Soon…….

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The rib waistband can be worn high or folded down, depending on how fat I feel on any given day.

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Don’t throw those scraps away

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