corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


55 Comments

Second Home (Mexico)

Get a cup of tea…..

There are many things I’ve never done in my life so far – I  have never travelled beyond the equator; been to the continents of Africa, Australia, Eurasia; nor even across the Atlantic Ocean. This summer I managed to accomplish one of those nevers: at the ripe old age of middle I managed to cross the Atlantic and for the very first time in my life set foot on USA soil, albeit for a few hours stop over in Atlanta airport on my way to Leon, Mexico.

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Leaving Mexico

I haven’t been beyond UK borders for years. For 10 years or so as a family we took many holidays all over mainland Europe but generally speaking that’s just like being at home except for a different language and warmer weather; travelling to Mexico is culturally unique. I feel a trifle guilty showing you my suitcase because I did not sew everything I packed.

There are occasions in our lives when you have to make decisions and sometimes buying holiday-one-off clothes makes a lot more sense. My suitcase compromised a mix of RTW and sewn. I cannot foresee some of my Mexican wardrobe ever being worn in the very near future – I mean temperatures of 26 degrees and above are relatively unknown in my part of the world – and so I truly wasn’t prepared to spend money, time and effort on sewing things when I could buy them in the summer sales. This one of the reasons that I never signed up for 100% 12 months of sewing my own wardrobe. You never know what life will throw at you, offer you or knock you sideways.

In May this year I was diagnosed with yet another malignant melanoma – good grief, it’s my third! If not identified and cut out, this is a 80% death sentence. Wear the sunscreen people!! A temporary, damaging sun tan is not worth it. Take it from a bottle if it’s that important to you. My gratitude to our British National Health Service cannot be expressed enough. Obviously……

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Proudly displaying my newest “I’m still alive” scar

So when I received an invitation from ReAnn to visit Mexico my first thoughts concerned my life, health, skin, potential sunburn and subsequently the consequences. I have typical Irish, Northern European skin – pale, freckly and my delicious blood is a gourmet meal for every flying insect

 

Decisions to travel were – Yes, then No it’s too risky – life’s short and all that sun is dangerous:  then YES! Life is really and truly too short so take all and every opportunity whenever they present themselves.

Thankfully when the husband was asked if he wanted to come too he gave the right answer – No!

So off I went solo.

 

Packing philosophy

Choose a base/primary colour and add co-ordinating colours to ring the changes.

Slide1My base colour was royal blue, it is surprising how many colours coordinate with this principal colour and the co-ordinating ones were neutrals of white and natural linen. I had a little bit of space left in the case so in went one black and a couple of patterned items.  Mostly my clothes were solid colours but I did add these few patterns for variation.

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I bought two items while I was there – an expensive designer linen step-in skirt (a perfect opportunity for another blog post) and some khaki shorts from the tenguies (market) simply because I didn’t own a pair of shorts.

DSCN7751Merchant and Mills Bantam vest in lime green rib

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I packed two pair of shoes – flip flops for pool and early mornings, one pair of blue flat sandals and I wore the leather lace-up shoes for travelling because I don’t like moving through heavily populated areas such as airports and underground stations with my toes exposed in case of back-stomping and trampling.

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You will excuse me, I’m sure, that I do not model the entire suitcase. Everything that I packed was worn and most pieces at least twice, although I had the advantage of having a washing machine. Some items of clothing are very old and have been blogged before and it was ultimately very beneficial and gratifying that I had already spent the time making them, just waiting for their day in the sun. The olds include:

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Donna Karan wrap dress

See the lotion on my pale Irish legs? (Emm delicious). This photo was taken last year after the Donegal midges attacked. The DK dress was worn at dinner one night and turned out to be a ‘signature’ look – see below….. I had a posh meal out at the Insitutio while a world renowned classical guitarist played and who happened to know I was from Ireland and played a little ditty with Latin influences. God bless him.

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Self drafted T-shirt dress with beading

This self-drafted, beaded neckline dress was  worn for dancing the night away to what else but ‘the blues’. I went dancing with Jan to a Blues night uniquely sung in Spanish with the most adorable lead guitarist. I even got asked to dance.

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Sateen patterned cotton trousers, so old now that I cannot rightly remember when these were made. The new additions were a hybrid Alabama Chanin/ CfPD Bias top in white cotton jersey.

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Location is someone’s exquisite bathroom….

DSCN7752The white cotton CfPD Spiral Top with a little waist tie detail and needs an ironing…..

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My version of Monsoon blue and white striped cotton trousers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A homemade copy of Oska summer linen dress, made in a fine checked natural linen and the base pattern was StyleArc’s Toni.

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Another modification of the Toni was the black muslin over-dress.

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I bought a few plain white T-shirts, a swimsuit, a cover-up. I didn’t pack enough loose tops even though I’d made them, such was the temperature. Lesson learned.

At least now I have stuff that will travel the world with me wherever I go in the future- I have a wardrobe for all seasons and all temperatures.

 

 

 

 

IMG_0694So anyway, poor ReAnn felt a little under the weather one day and I set off to visit Canada de la Virgen (ancient pyramids) all on my own.

On the bus to the archaeological site this couple asked me if I had had dinner at a place the night before and that they remembered me because of my lovely blue dress (the DK). They then ‘looked after’ me for the rest of the day.

See – sewing has many unknown and undocumented advantages!

 

 

 

 

Then one other day as I was sitting by a fountain and waiting for ReAnne who was having her hair cut some American ladies walked by and commented that I should have a photograph taken. I gave them my phone and this is it. We met them again later that day.

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On another day ReAnn and I had a fabulous day tour around Guanajuato.

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I wore my black muslin over-dress with white cotton shift and white linen trousers and she wore a plain black dress too, both of us in total contrast to the colourful houses – we must have looked like two devotees of some religious sect together. Apparently Guanajuato was the backdrop for some Disney animation film recently but my days of watching such genre has become temporarily dormant.

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One evening we went to a really bad fashion show which I would not have missed for all the tea in China or all the Tequila in Mexico – it was so bad it was good!

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On Tuesday morning I shopped at the local market and had the best meal of the entire visit – a whole fried fish, crispy on the outside and creamy white on the inside. We were the only gringos at the long table. Perfect.

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I had tequila. Salt and limes included.

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I helped ReAnn fit and finish her Vogue 1442 dress.

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I advised and assisted Kathy with fitting and understanding the instructions for her very complicated Vogue 1424

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For which she very kindly gifted me the best present ever – a cactus pincushion.

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And within an hour of unpacking, my cactus had fruit, just like the real thing.

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I regularly sent home pictures of Car of The Day from San Miguel.

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There was art, churches, markets, eating, walking, talking, cooking class (thanks to ReAnn for the following photos), characters, sunshine, scenery, mountains,

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When I had 30 mosquito bites, I stopped counting!

I didn’t have altitude sickness (6000ft), I didn’t suffer jet-lag, I didn’t get sunburn, so a few irritating insect bites were a small price to pay.

Believe me, I saturated myself with insect repellent, Avon’s Skin So Soft – you name it, I lathered it on and the wee sh*tes still found the areas that I hadn’t covered – between toes, fingertips, thumb.

Other wildlife included Silence of the Lambs sized butterflies (moths) in the bedroom.

IMG_0760Amazing hummingbirds….honestly, can you ever imagine an Attenborough thingy visiting your garden???

 

 

 

 

I had an absolutely brilliant time in Mexico – a unique lifetime experience for which I wholly and truly have to thank ReAnn and will probably never have ample opportunity to repay ….and of course, sewing which was our initial reason for contact.

I have henceforth decided on a new acronym: AFS = away from sewing machine! What was the first thing I did on my return home??? You guessed it.

Suitcase still packed and I hit the sewing room………there was no time to suffer jet-lag.

Take life’s opportunities NOW.

Do not wait until next year, next week, next month, tomorrow……..and if ever anyone says to you that sewing is a solitary, isolated activity – here’s absolute proof that it is not and if anyone ever offers you anything – take it!

 


52 Comments

Zippy

Here’s how another One Thing can lead to another, which can lead to many more…..I just love the trail of thoughts and ideas and discovering where they all end up. Starting points……

Mags sent me to Croftmill for grey ponte at £7.00 p/m: Elaine sent me to Kaliyana for asymmetrical zip jacket and the Anti-Suit: one of the lovely ladies from our Sewing Away Day donated a fine grey spotted cotton jersey: Julie wore a jacket on the same day that had droopy back pockets and was so casually impressive and understated that I want one: Anne showed the most beautiful Chanel suit this week: many, many other blog active sewers have been showing and telling their cropped/wide leg/trousers/culottes. I put in the hours of planning, cutting and sewing.  Armed with a bag of assorted open ended plastic zips, some almost-matching thread, some patterns and a bit of flexible time – this is the result from my too short half-term break.

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Many patterns were gathered, edited and then finally selected to the finalists – Vogue 8641 five easy pieces, Vogue 1550 Paco Peralta, Vogue 8559 Marcy Tilton, self-drafted Three Bears T.

I’ll start with the jacket as it is a wee bit impressive, even if I have say so myself because there’s no one else writing this. We’ll call it an idea in progress.

Start with Marcy Tilton’s 8559 (OOP) cardigan-wrap top; no side seams and cut on the fold, no back seam either. A waterfall front, centre back seamed collar and shoulder seams. Clever pattern placement can easily incorporate selvedge edges too, although using the dark grey ponte fraying isn’t an issue and raw edges are abundantly on view. I added a whopping 9″ to the length, then got to work on adding zips!

Three zips on either side. Hopefully they form some sort of design feature on their own but they are also functional – an infinity jacket? I had to press gang Doris into modelling today because, quite honestly I couldn’t have been bothered. Hopefully you’ll understand why in a just a moment.

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Left open and unzipped, the zips provide a bit of weight to help the fabric drape (ha – I like to believe this is similar to Chanel’s chain on the bottom of a jacket – dream on….).

Zip 1 – short centre fronts. Zip 2 – bottom right edge matching with a right hand side princess seam location. Zip 3 – 45 degrees on right hand side and shoulder width on left.

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All the zips zip into one another; that is, zip 1 will zip into zip 2; zip 2 will zip into zip 3 and so on. This multitude of zips allows for a multitude of closure options; exaggeration of the draped front and hemline, cowl necklines, loose or square body shape.

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Zip 3 zipping into zip 3 pulls and is quite difficult to do up so I might have to rethink the position of these ones. However, I can close zip 1 with zip 2 or zip 3 for yet more variations.

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If zips do not provide enough variations for your taste, then add a sewn brooch to merely clip various points of the jacket closed to suit your mood and the weather conditions.

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But wait, that’s not all. Being very impressed with Julie’s jacket, I added a deep strip of leftover fabric to the back and sides of the jacket matching the raw edges to provide those covetous voluminous back pockets and I also managed to get two at the fronts too. They will be very handy to hold emergency rations such as Kendall Cake and Mars Bars.

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And because this ‘pocket’ band is on a different grain there is a gentle shading that I always find attractive in unique clothes. Other waste selvedge cut offs were added to the sleeves as mock cuffs, adding weight and extra finishing.

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I did experience the dreaded jersey wobble – which could be an acronym from suburban New York for cellulite but I mean the stitching of a zip to stretch fabric. Is there a remedy? I know I could have added interfacing but this is an unlined jacket and visual evidence of reinforcing would be unacceptable. All suggestions welcome for both problems……….DSCN7564

The tunic top was quickly made from the donated cotton jersey in Vogue 1550. There’s nothing fancy or notable about this, apart from the fact that IT IS Paco Peralta. I didn’t add the signature inserts but did manage to do admirable mitred corners on the side drape points.

The pale grey ponte was put into use as a pull on pair of trousers from Vogue 8641 (OOP). Again, not too much to declare about these apart from adding two, shaped patched pockets on the front and cropped, more because of fabric restrictions than trends.

Finally, I just had to make use of the leftovers and cutoffs and managed to sew a Three Bears T (see link above) that became more of a sweatshirt. It has two layers below the bust seam that allows for minor variations of styling. There’s a few raw edge seams to follow the theme, such as cuffs, hems and bust line.

I don’t like the matchy-matchy trousers and top – too much like PJs. It looks much better with a dark grey bottom and believe me, I have many dark grey trousers to wear with this.

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So, there you have it – four pieces that became an outfit and what’s better, they can all be worn with existing wardrobe items that hopefully coincide with Oska and Kaliyana aesthetics.

This has got me thinking of joining SWAP this year although I am late to the party. My primary colours being grey and adding highlights of whatever colour I like because grey is such a neutral. Is there a colour that does not wear well with grey?

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This style of dressing is definitely not form fitting, no pencil skirts or slim-line trousers here but so comfortable, transitional and, dare I say it, unique?

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I mean, how many of your jackets have back pockets?

Now, in which pocket did I put that Mars Bar?


11 Comments

Back to Black

My goodness! Thank you all so much for all the very constructive, knowledgeable and well thought out responses as to the “what length of dress” question. I have read every one and will follow the majority – I shall henceforth shorten the Park Lane. What I did like from your suggestions was that I should make this dress again in a solid colour and try the longer length. Mrs Mole (God bless ‘er) suggested that I not only shorten the dress but rip out the side seams and re-create the entire thing! Maybe…..all good ideas are not out the question, only my time and inclination to do them.

Anyway, back to other stuff. The black and white/ivory combination has got me on a roll.

I never wear solid black close to my face – it makes me look half dead – so I normally drape a coloured scarf or something around my neck to break up the mono-colour. I’ve recently taken to sewing tops in black/white and every shade of grey in between. This is in reaction to colour and encouraged when I bought a pair of black RTW trousers……

This was also an opportunity to catch up with those Interweb favourites – Fave Top, Grainline Hemlock T plus a few others. Quick easy sewing and easy comfy wearing.

Ink splattered jersey from MyFabrics made into Hemlock T.

I made the Katherine Tilton trousers V8837 (OOP) for a remotely located friend whose measurements I didn’t have and surprise, surprise, they didn’t fit her, so she returned them. I nipped in the centre back seam and now I have a pair of lounging pants, however still baggy that need a little bit more tweaking but they’re perfect for the sofa and watching box sets.

I had enough Jackson Pollock ink splattered fabric left over for a M&M Bantam – part of the Merchant and Mills Workbook– love this top.

And, would you believe it?  The shawl below is merely the shape of the leftover’s leftover. Just trimmed, hemmed and worn as is. Bonus!

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Then another Fave Top in a multi sized polka dots patchworky  jersey from Fabworks.

And then enough left over for an Ogden Cami. And it doesn’t matter how straight your seams are with this fabric……but STAY STITCH the neck line.

Now on to a more intricate but not difficult top: Bootstrap halter-neck top in a chiffon-like poly decorated with large brush strokes bought from an eBay shop ages ago. Just in case you don’t know this – Bootstrap take your measurements and produce a PDF pattern to fit – no alterations or tweaking needed.

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So, lots of things to wear with plain black or white trousers and I’m absolutely sure will also service red, blue, chartreuse, green, grey, along with the eternal jeans.

Nothing too difficult or complicated about any of these tops which makes them speedy sewing projects and (hopefully) impressive coordinates that add to my wardrobe and versatility.


22 Comments

Batteries not included…

My little big world of sewing blogs is gradually shrinking: and I am wholly admitting my contribution in that reduction. I cannot deny it…. I have been sewing but not photographing, posing nor posting. Life, life, stuff, more stuff, technical stuff and ………….whatever……

Some of my blog-feed sewing posts are from people who have been blogging for 10 (this is totally admirable) and more years but the posting rate is slowing/sporadic/stopped.  I mean, here I am only six years in and feeling that I’ve had enough. I love the clothes I make (mostly). I love the clothes you all make (always), otherwise I wouldn’t do it: do I need assurance and confirmation in the comments section of my blog? Simple answer is – No.

However, I really do appreciate your honest feedback, comments, encouragement and engagement.

Genuinely, thank you all for years and years of reading this sh*t*, supporting and pushing me to go further, try new things, test new skills, designs, fabrics, patterns and techniques.

Would I be the sewer I am now without your contribution? Absolutely and categorically – NO!  

How can I ever repay that? I am constantly reading and keeping up to date with your sewing exploits and although I may not comment, this only means I don’t have the wit and repartie readily available to do so. It most certainly does not mean I don’t appreciate or learn from your experiences.

So, just to show you that I have been busy sewing and not just wasting my time being a mother, wife, teacher, friend, daughter, sister, aunt, examiner, exam marker, blog reader, sewer …..

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I bought some RTW black trousers way back and felt the need to make some  coordinating tops because I don’t really wear black much, so I started with monochrome ( left).  While I was Internet shopping for black/white/grey, of course I just happened to find colours and patterns and my self imposed discipline wavered and my finger slipped. I bought greens and flowers and blue and orange (centre-right).

I have silently joined and followed the Internet/Instagram bandwagon by sewing T-shirts, shirt dresses, camis and pants from popular Indie patterns. I do not have Instagram/Twitter etc etc. Should I? Am I the girl on the sidelines because I don’t have this social media stuff? Because, in reality, I can still cut and sew and wear my own clothes. I have made simple things that took 2 hrs from cut out to wear and a complicated dress that tooks 3 days.

On my bed, in front of your eyes includes – a Grainline Hemlock T (free down load), StyleArc pants, Bootstrap halter neck top, Burda peasant blouse, Vogue DKNY dress 1489 (OOP due to USA licensing regulations), downloadhacked Vogue/Atelier shirt dress, Pirate pencil skirt, Vogue culottes 9091, Ogden cami, good old Sorbetto top , Tessuti Fave Top and another T shirt hacked together from seeing a girl on the bus and whatever else I could make from leftover fabric.

 

If you ever have the chance to download a free PDF – take it! Save the virtual data and print out at your leisure. If you never print out or make the item – so what – nothing lost.

All in good time I will (hopefully) detail each of these items.

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I’m sorry for the hiatus. I’m Internet free for the next five days, no re-charging points, no Wi-Fi or 4 G which also means no electricity and no sewing machine – gasp-gasp-gasp ! Just plenty of fresh air, good company and bracing Irish coastlines.

Perhaps knitting will fill the void…………….. don’t need batteries for that!

If you have a preference for a preview – let me know and I’ll move it to the top of the list.

Since I started sewing for “summer”, we’ve had nothing but rain – C’est la vie.


61 Comments

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.