Sunday, 12 July 2020

Hadestown at Henley: The Persephone Dress

A toast to the world we dream about, and the one we live in now...

Today I have something wacky to share with you: a jacket and a [formal-ish] dress. I don't remember when I realised that I had to fully embrace the Hadestown theme, but when the idea got into my brain it wasn't going to leave until the outfit had been made.

It all started one a cold winter night when B and I went to see Hadestown at the National Theatre. It was a good show, a really good show. A really, really good show. I became obsessed with Hades' costume (and proving that his suit had sparkly pinstripes) and then found a good Playbill article highlighting some of the costume features across the cast. Once I knew for sure that Hades definitely has a sparkly pinstripe suit I was determined to find that fabric. I didn't need to have a project for it, I just needed to own some sparkly pinstripe fabric. For the stash. You know.

Separately, some rumours started emerging at work that our team might get to attend Henley Royal Regatta (2019, obvs). We were asked for our opinions. I was skeptical, I am not a boat person (nor a horse person, not a golf person, nor a ski person) and didn't want to be the only loser in the Stewards' Circle. But, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something completely outside of my ordinary. I sucked up my worry and signed up.

It's worth noting that I had kept this little sewing habit hidden from my colleagues since I joined the team (well over a year at this point). This would be the event where I get outed as someone who makes their own clothes. The reveal (so to speak). No pressure.

There is a dress code, and I needed to find a way to fully respect it while also feeling confident in whatever I ended up in. I needed a fairly formal long dress, and probably something to cover my shoulders. For several months, I didn't give it much more thought. I browsed ideas idly and tried to think of something good that wouldn't be too much fuss to make. This deadline was fully in the middle of of millinery-tutu-summer dancing-volunteering madness* so while I had a fair amount of notice, I had very limited time to dedicate to the make. You guess what happened next.

The Dress (Persephone)

Ah, Persephone. I found it hard to get my head around her as a character - the fact that trashiness was a positive trait only came across after reading the Playbill article (amongst others). But her energy and exuberance is, literally, intoxicating.

I didn't start the dress design with Persephone in mind. I had been obsessed for a long time with the idea of a lace or embroidered net dress. This seemed like a good opportunity to use up the floral net remnants from my Molly Gaiters (honestly, a pretty trashy fabric). The embroidery design was all over eBay and RTW summer 2018 so I figured it would be relatively easy to get more and make a whole dress. I also figured that it might be a design that other people had seen before in RTW - therefore 'passing' potential scrutiny.

I had the net draped over my mannequin for a while and tested different fabrics/colours as underlinings. I had a vague idea that a green would make it look like the dress was growing a meadow, and the flowers on net would stand away a little. I shoved some green babycord remnants under the net and then left it in place for a few days. It was pure coincidence that the (soon to be) Hades Blazer was already partially constructed and also resting on my mannequin.

I think this was the first time I had the idea of the Hades/Persephone vibe. I yawned and went to bed. Never make important design decisions at 1am.

Anyway, the underlining fabric is a cotton sateen from Goldhawk Road. I tried to find a good colour match to Persephone's dress, this was the best I could do. It's very yellow, so I am a little worried about how it will fade. In Persephone style, I think these fabrics are probably quite cheap and trashy.

The bodice is underlined and has facings, but I wanted the skirt to be stand out more and have a visible separation between the green and the net. So I only joined them at the waist here. The net is hemmed with horsehair braid and it's a little bulkier than I would have liked. I mis-calculated the skirt length and I needed to turn it up one more time than I'd originally planned. I guess if I ever plan to wear this dress with heels, there's a little bit of excess length I can let out.

The pattern is a mashup of Vogue V8875 and the By Hand London Anna Dress. The skirt is drafted for a giant, so I removed 3" length and also turned the hem up an extra time. I added inseam pockets and am very pleased with them!

***This is how NOT to do pockets in a net/mesh dress***

I was working to a hideous time limit on this dress and the insides are mostly overlocked. Still, there were a few construction mishaps.

Firstly, the mesh fabric. Do you remember I said it was all over the place in summer 2018? Wel, unfortunately, by spring 2019 the supplies had mostly dried up! I bought this off eBay and though I ordered 3 metres, I received 3x 1m lengths instead. I took it up with the seller but they were having none of it, so I had to use what arrived. The issue here is that the Anna skirt is a fabric hog and I'd gone from having comfortably enough fabric to calculating where I might need to piece the skirt (don't forget it's a border print, therefore directional). Eventually, it all fit and I only had to get creative with how/where the bodice was cut out.

Secondly, I wanted to be nice and neat with the skirt seams so I french seamed them all. I looked at it afterwards and they were very thick/ugly, so I cut all of them out.

Thirdly, you remember that I said I wanted to use the remainder of my Molly Gaiters fabric? Well, I diligently matched the embroidery design on the new fabric, made up the skirt, stood back to take a look and saw a big problem. It's a different net!

I'm glad this was the CF skirt panel - it meant there was only one real solution: cut it out, find a big scrap of fabric and recut the piece. I was not very confident there would be a piece the right size, but I got very lucky. I assembled most of the skirt before attempting to cut out the bodice, and this really paid off here. If I had cut the bodice first, there would have been no big fabric scraps for the replacement skirt piece.

The dress closes with an invisible zip in the CB seam - it finished well but the zip is slightly too short and so there is only one way in/out of the dress.

Anyway - this is the Persephone dress. I think it ended up okay, though I can't decide if it's a bit dumpy/childish or not.

Next up: the Hades Jacket


*More on that later

Monday, 22 June 2020

Nani Iro Pleated Wave Skirt

2019 was the year of my second trip to Japan, my second trip to Nippori Fabric Town and my second haul to bring back to the UK. You may remember I posted a roundup of my previous haul (you can read it here) and I'm tempted to do the same again soon. There's just one small issue - I'm still working my way through the first batch of fabric!

On my first trip to Japan I made a small pilgrimage to the Nani Iro store. I had my heart set on a wave print for a waterproof coat (maybe with a large skirt attached). But, I came away with 3m of the Five Senses blue print on canvas. I was looking for a slightly different print with more pronounced brush strokes, but I couldn't find it on the day and so I came home with this. The Five Senses print stayed in my stash cupboard for over 2 years while I tried to work out what to do with it. Eventually on the 2019 August Bank Holiday I dragged it out and was determined to make something with it.

My brain was slightly fried at the time and I wasn't up to following a pattern, so the make had to be relatively simple and have relatively simple pattern pieces. I settled on a pleated rectangle midi skirt. The straight hem edge would show off the border print, the rectangular pattern pieces would give me a low waste cutting layout and the repetitive pleating would soothe my tired brain. If you're curious about the length, I am slightly in love with the Japanese fashion for skirts that fall below the knee.

So this skirt is made of the following pieces:
1x Front
2x Back
2x Inseam pockets (2 pieces each)
1x Lining
1x Waistband

I dithered a lot on whether the outer skirt should be 1 piece or 3, but in the end the 3-piece approach won. I knew I wanted pockets and a CB invisible zip and it seemed much easier to insert them into seams compared to the slashing/facing approach. The lining is only one piece, and has a seam at CB to accommodate the zip.

To retain the flow of the print (not quite pattern matching, but similar) I marked the centre of the fabric and used that as the Centre Front. The side/back panels are essentially cut off each end of the fabric. It looks alright. I don't really remember construction but I think I pleated each piece first, then inserted the pockets, then sorted out the seams. All the pleating was done with a fork at the machine (somewhere between 3:1 and 4:1 ratio). I think maybe the pleats would look better if they were a bit bigger/wider, but I only really have a limited selection of forks.

I used the selvedge to hem the lining and bias tape on the outer hem. The seams are French-seamed.

The waistband is pretty poor, but it does the job. I wanted a soft waistband, so there's no interfacing but now it twists a bit. I also wanted to do something clever and insert a partial elastic to allow for some sizing flexibility - but it doesn't look great. I will need to try again on something else. Oh, and my topstitching/stitching in the ditch leaves a lot to be desired here.

Side seam (I promise) with nothing in the pocket

Side seam. Proving there is a pocket!
In all honesty, I love this skirt. It's so fun and bold. It's so full because I pleated all 3m to my waist, and it has some superstar invisible pockets. It was out of rotation for the winter (except Xmas?) but I feel it will be a really good one for the British spring/autumn climates.


Thursday, 28 May 2020

Project selection - mid- 2019

Maybe you don't acutally care when these were made. Maybe my system of bulk-drafting and queueing posts helps to plug the gaps. This post was drafted in autumn 2019, but I'm only just getting pictures of the projects. Thanks for your patience!

I'm currently on a comedown from several horrendously busy months and am going through all of the standard behaviours of introspection, grumpiness, achiness and tiredness. All that jazz.

I won't bore you with details (yet). There has just been a lot going on, and for longer than usual.

The main thing you need to know if that it did involve makery. I have some amazing stuff to show you over the next few posts. Today is just a batch of quick and simple projects. These were mostly made to scratch and itch or to blow off some steam.

Star Fleece Hat and Snood

On the eve of the hottest day on record in the UK, I just needed to make a cosy winter hat and snood. These are Empress Mills scraps, leftover from a 2018 Xmas gift. I was so impressed with the weight of the fleece that I kept the scraps to see what I could make with them. Plus, I quite like the stars pattern.

The snood is a rectangle with the ends sewn together. Not sure if it's optimal, but it does work. The hat is the Skull Cap from Amy Butler's Blue Sky Hats pattern, plus a band of arbitrary thickness.

They both have blue loops inside. It wasn't necessary, but it makes me smile.

Vest Tops and Pants

No photo. I keep churning these out when needed. One day I won't be stitching mismatched scraps to do so.

Repairs to B's Quadras

Here's an interesting thing: B hoists his trousers up by the belt loops. Does anyone else do this? Anyway, this led to one of the belt loops bursting its stitches. So I sewed them back down and reinforced the others. I also trimmed some stray basting threads.

True love is not repairing something, folding it up and putting it tenderly away in the recipient's wardrobe. True love is doing the repair, chucking the item on the floor on their side of the bed and treading on it a few times so they don't suspect that you've touched their stuff while they were out.

I'm genuinely beginning to think these jeans are cursed because the stitching has burst on the inner leg as well (similar to a rip on B's RTW jeans) recently so the jeans are back in the repair pile. I guess I should be glad that they get worn a lot.

Plain Grey T-shirts

The dark grey one is made from the loose fit block from Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear. I really like it and think I nailed the neckline on this one.

The light shirt is the Strip Tee from Madeit Patterns. I got the pattern to make a gift and was keen to try it for myself as well. I've been practicing my overlocker flatlocking and I think it came out really nicely on the t-shirt. The pattern is simple and fun,but a bit of a fabric hog. I just got my size out of 1m of fabric. The drawback of this pattern for me is my own lack of big boobs or wide shoulders. I can feel like I'm swimming in it. It is very comfy to wear.


Another "hottest July on record" make. I made some blue shorts during the summer of 2019 and though they see quite a lot of use, I was getting quite grumpy about wearing too much blue. The pattern is Kwik Sew 3384, which I made once before back in 2010? (Eurgh). It's actually a knit pattern, though it does have a a woven sibling which calls for a zip (Kwik Sew 3433?). I only own the knit version. My fabric here was a woven fabric so I just redrew the side seams to fit over my bum and kept the elasticated waist. I think it worked pretty well. The fabric was part of a gift haul brought back from India.

Orange Cardi

At some point in 2018 I got a bit excited about zero waste sewing patterns and bog coats. Don't ask me why.

I had some leftover Christmas fabric and Threads posted a link to an old tutorial for exactly this kind of thing. I tried it out - nothing to lose. I made this at a time when I thought I was spending an unhealthy amount of time wearing my dressing gown. The big advantage with this orange cardi is that I can also wear it beyond the end of the garden path.

That's it for now,


Thursday, 21 May 2020

Distractions pt16 - Here comes the sun

Time for another quick update. My future sewing space looks like this:

The electrical cabinet has been built and we just need to paint it. You may remember I was calling the old one my nemesis. This one is a bit smaller and looks like a useful sideboard, but it does mean I need to rethink the size of the obstacle in my work area. I'm still no closer to making any decisions!

Some of the sockets are still hanging off the walls and I am hoping someone will come and fix that. The floor is in, but it has a protective plastic on top. I'm really glad we specified a lot of electrical sockets in this house!

We have a planned moving date, and so now we just need to balance the needs of painting etc with the packing needs. Our lives are about to become a lot more cardboard-focused. We also ordered our wardrobes and had to do a bit of maths to see if we could actually get them up the stairs. Probability is in our favour, but it could all go horribly wrong.

In sewing news... 

I can't remember whether I've ever complained here about the conservatory sewing space in the summer. I do love it, but it gets direct sunlight all day. It was difficult to deal with in previous years, but I would only spend a couple of days trying to work in there (either sewing or at my desk job). Lockdown over March/April was okay to deal with but the move into summer has become unbearable. The heat means the room is constantly 30+ degrees c, plus the direct shine of the sun has been pretty brutal. The brightness was also making me squint constantly. I spent 3 solid days in a hat to try to cast some shade on my face. Basically, for the past week it has been unworkable from about 11.30am - 4pm everyday. 

So yesterday I cracked and made a sun shade...

I announced I would be late to the daily team coffee break call and pulled a length of thermal curtain liner (it has a plasticky coating on one side, but is breathable) and a roll of cotton webbing from the stash. I stitched ties on to each corner, and at the midpoint of each long side. Basic zig zags, I didn't even trim the threads. This was literally a 10 minute job. Then my bemused colleagues watched me rig it on the video call.

The room is still warm, but this is a huge improvement.

In other sewing news, I have finally managed to take some project photos and you should be due a bunch of actual sewing posts shortly. I need to give a disclaimer that I am very pleased with all of these makes, but I look very grumpy in the photos. I just hate getting in front of the camera to shoot them like this - but it feels like a necessary evil. Please don't be alarmed, and try not to look too closely at my face.

K x

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Distractions pt15 - In which we start to think about the move

This weekend we painted the kitchen. Painting is still slow progress, but hopefully it is still good progress.

I've realised that I should bring my workstation to the new house, repaint it in a lighter colour, and keep using it as it is. I am still struggling to think of how my future desk will look/function, and having a freestanding storage unit with hanging space is useful. I might modify it slightly with some more scrap wood. Watch this space.

K x

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Distractions pt14 - Marathon, not sprint

My mantra this weekend has been to remind myself it's a marathon, not a sprint. The cruel part of my brain has been teasing me by highlighting that no matter how I frame it, I'm back of the pack.

I am so sick of painting. This weekend I was planning to do the area above the stairs, but that got usurped by door frames. The good thing is that the walls and ceilings for the two upstairs rooms are completely done. The bathroom is mostly painted, and next weekend we should have some access to the kitchen/downstairs to paint. We've got so much more to go:

I'm pondering what colour the skirting boards will be. Gloss white is a safe option, but our walls are so pale, it seems like an opportunity to add some interest. It might be something we decide after the floors go in and we can see what colours we're working with a little more easily. Pinterest hasn't realised I need some ideas and is still committed to showing me bathroom designs.

In general, the builders are making astonishing progress. It might not be visible in this image of my future sewing space, but we're nearly on the home stretch now. The bathroom is taking shape, and we have a date for the kitchen to be delivered. The floorboards have been replaced/secured again (feels like some kind of milestone). It's time to start thinking properly about moving in and what we need to get done beforehand (probably all of the painting). I may need to sew some curtains soon too (oh joy).

Stay safe,


Sunday, 19 April 2020

Distractions pt13 - Paint

Oh hey, I completely lost track of the days over Easter. Ooops.

My sewing space still looks like a mass of cables and builders' tea. But we make progress. We have paint on some walls and ceilings. We have the beginnings of a bathroom, and we have a new water connection!

I'm busy trying to draft blog posts and shoot my backlog of projects - there is a big stack of finished projects in my sewing space which I have tactically removed from the clean/dry laundry pile - to prevent me wearing them again. I was hoping to get them all photographed a few days ago on the mannequin (because I didn't want to be in front of the camera that day) and unfortunately the first three projects I selected didn't fit on the mannequin. So, they're waiting for the right moment again.