Thursday, 13 December 2012

We're Beautiful on the Inside!

 I'm in the midst of gift sewing at the moment. nothing is too complicated as far as construction and stitching goes, but I've been taking extra care with the innards of these gifts. No raw edges or loose threads here!

French Seams

Nifty Buttonholes

Bound seams and even tiny tab!

Here's hoping the other works in progress go as well. Here's what is currently stacked in the IN tray.


(The MW dress has ground to a halt as I look for fabric or try to work out what it will look like, it may now involve a lot of applique work so it's probably not getting done until 2013! - New post on adjusting and second muslin to come)

Friday, 2 November 2012

Chic Expectations - Muslin the First

This is my first muslin for the Matthew Williamson Burdastyle Dress. It's great practice for making the pockets and seams match up in the front, and for sorting out the orientation of the pieces. For example, I already tripped up with the back pieces, forgetting that because of its deep V, the back piece has a very short CB line. As a result, I made have added some seam allowances in the wrong places.

The whole fitting and pinning process was a lot of trail and error and took about 3 hours.

There were a number of size and fit issues that had to be tackled, namely it's far too big. The back is also far too long and baggy. You can roughly see on these photos where I drew in the corrections.

The bodice is too long so I pinned the dress waist seam to my actual waistline and tucked out a horizontal line across my midriff. I've pinned out the side seams to make the size generally smaller ad I've also taken a few inches out of the centre back to make it shorter/accommodate a swayback. There are still a few drag lines in the skirt, but it may be due to the zip being pinned and distorted. I'm going to wait until the next muslin before fixing this.

There was a lot of extra room in the top of the dress around my shoulders; I know that the neckline is supposed to follow the line of the collarbones, and that it will hit the flat part of my shoulders so I taped this in place and then pinned out the excess width in the centre front. There was still a lot of room around the bust and upper bust so I spent some time experimenting with darts to make the dress more fitted. You can see in the photo above there are darts going up towards my shoulders. I decided to take them out and just put them in the usual place for darts.

Granted, I'm still not sure what the exact flat pattern adjustment is for these darts. Do they go up to the armhole like a normal bust adjustment, or do I incorporate them into the gap for the panels...which are darts after all? Or does the pattern shape end up the same regardless of whichever method is used?

So the only major issue that remains is the shoulder blades. I can't reach there without distorting the dress so will be applying a bit of guesswork over the next few days. I reckon it's just a wedge of about 1.5 inches towards the CB tapering to nothing at the armscye...around the blue lines here:

So there we go! Any comments on the muslin? Next up: make another one, and choosing some fabric!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Chic Expectations - Girl Meets Dress Pattern

Sometimes when I look at my finished garments, I wonder whether it's worth showing off the logic and deliberation that goes in to producing something that looks simple from the outside. Surely that justifies making those choices deliberately, rather than simply picking stuff up and throwing it under the foot of a machine? Lately I've been looking for a project that will banish these thoughts, force me to be analytical and exercise some sort of restraint or maturity in what I make. I reckon I've found the right pattern: it's a pretty dress.
So here is is: Burdastyle 9/12 #134

Image source

 It's a close fitting sheath dress with panels instead of darts, a waist seam, wide neckline and deep V in the back. It is completely lined. It's much more structured and complex than the fit/flare dresses I normally would be tempted to make. This project will force me to me to be slow, deliberate, and considered in how I work. I'm planning to document the process here, to help illustrate and justify some decisions and to ultimately stop me from saying "ah sod it, that'll do".

You may have noticed that it's basically directly lifted from the designer's AW12 collection. I want to keep this in mind and basically rip it off as well as possible. One of the reasons I chose to learn to sew was to learn how to rip off much more expensive garments, and seeing the RRP of the actual dress has spurred me to want to make a good job of it.

So here's what needs to be done:

- Fitting: This mainly applies to the bodice, as the skirt only has one real fitting point to be wary of. The pattern's smallest size is an EU36 which is likely to be too big. I'll have to reduce the overall size while keeping panels and design aspects in proportion. I know straight away there will be issues in the shoulders, upper chest and back. So that'll be fun.

- Applying pattern alterations: I'm still getting used to taking 3D alterations and applying them to the flat pattern. Applying the alterations will also mean making at least 2 muslins (mockups in cheap fabric) and a lot of paper patterns.

- Fabric choices: The dress is loud, the fabric needs to be loud. It needs to be a light drapey fabric with some sort of stripe/linear pattern, and a lot of colour. Some of my research on the original dress shows the fabric to have a very high sheen, and it almost looks like a silky oilcloth. This is something I am not prepared to copy, as I don't know enough about sourcing fabrics to even approximate something like that.

And then at some point there will be the stitching of the actual thing.

Stay tuned for the first fitting post!

And if you live in London, it turns out the designer is selling his sample wares in Mayfair at the end of the week...yaknow, if you've got that kind of money to drop on prototypes.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Feeling the Effects of Fringe Thinking

Fringe Thinking: (noun) The effect on memory, perception of time, and ability to distinguish separate events as experienced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

I just got back from my first real theatre show since Edinburgh; and as the lights went down, I found myself wondring "how long can a physical theatre contemporary adaptation of Uncle Vanya really last?". Luckily, it was just about the length of a Fringe show, I'm still not sure if my attention span is back to normal. Meanwhile, it could be fun to quickly mention a few shows which had a particular memorable effect while at the Fringe.

Leaving, Limbo, Landing
This was an outdoor physical theatre show by Caroline Bowditch and East London Dance. The show explores the reasons and motivations behind why people choose to leave their home towns, or countries, to move elsewhere. I found it interesting because I'm sure one of the performers was deaf, and some of the choreography integrated sign language. The costumes, designed by Anny Grewcock, were also very striking. Made out of uncommon materials including bubble wrap, hessian sacks and postage tags, the costumes also involved a lot of interesting shapes that were well fitted and morphed as the performers moved. I'd definitely like to take creative inspiration from Grewcock and translate some of them into my own future projects.

Finnish electronic acapella. Sixteen quid. This show was a good reminder that you get what you pay for. The show struck a particular technical cord because of some mad wizzardy in getting singers to sound like the actual instruments. Now, although this is seriously impressive, does it undermine the whole idea of an acapella group? In a full length show, would they strip down the effects so we can understand the processes behind the performance? And surely the sound engineer deserves a little more recognition?

Departure Lounge
This show was completely unexpected. It's about four British lads stuck in an airport departure lounge, waiting for a flight home from Spain. Everything from the stripped down set, the costumes to the style of the songs and the subject matter, is completely alien to my concept of "musical". Perhaps that's why it's so easy to remember.

What do you think? Are there any shows which have had lasting effect on you?

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Barnstormers Comedy Club 21/9

Kevin Precious
Sean Percival
Kate Lucas
Martin Beaumont

This isn't your normal standup comedy night. Barnstormers takes place in the Winchester Discovery Centre, one of those trendy learning resource centres with a functional public library, gift shop, cafe and  a proper performance space.

Obviously this isn't like other dark, underground, beer-soaked comedy clubs. This is an affluent area of Winchester with a comedy night in a functional public library. There are no stag night parties, jaded businessmen, lads on the lash, or rowdy students. Compere, Kevin Precious, was obviously presented with a challenge when he found out most people were happy to strike up a dialogue and were relentlessly nice. This could also be something to do with the lighting: the audience remained fairly well lit throughout the evening, due to the shallow stage area and fairly bright wash. It's not a gig well suited to shying away from the compere. It took a while to find some humorous suggestions, but Precious succeeded in building up with some great situations.

Shaun Percvial, who must be older than he looks, was refreshingly crass with jokes about his crap home town, bands on drugs and cigarette warning messages. Kate Lucas was truly something unexpected. Her sweet and petite stature, coupled with her self-depricating and friendly spoken introductions, present a striking contrast to her often dry, bitter and grotesque songs. If she moves beyond these short standup sets, it will be interesting to see how she'll diversify from her fairly dark material.

Finally, Martin Beaumont is a king of one line gags. He's visibly at ease with a set he's done many times before, and can pause to anticipate, accommodate and enjoy the reactions of the audience. Incidentally, he did the same set at Salisbury and it also went down well. Polished, deadpan, acting as if he's the only sane man in his town full of puns and people losing their memory, Beaumont is a comedian you could easily see perform the same gags a second, third or fourth time and they'd still be leave you with the giggles.

(On a side note, I'm trying to pick the blog back up...and write many more reviews of live shows. Still getting used to noting down impressions and writing reviews. Hopefully this will be the first of quite a few! Also, there are a few projects on the way so watch this space)

Friday, 6 July 2012

A Kick Up The Arts

Now would be a good time to let people know that I'll be working at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

In a fever of anticipation I've ordered a load of programmes for the various festivals and events in the city and the first one arrived today! It's the main Fringe brochure which you can see online here.

Of the things that caught my eye, perhaps the most surprising was the fact that Mick Foley is doing a show.

 (Image source)

That's right, CACTUS JACK, MANKIND, the guy who was thrown through the roof of a cage onto a bed of thumbtacks! Why not? He must have some pretty good stories to tell, and he's probably pretty articulate when he's not jamming a sock down someone's throat.
But on a different note, I've decided to create a bucket list of shows to see (or attempt to see) and things to do in the city.

Here's what there is so far (in no particular order):
The Durham Shows: Shows from Shellshock, the Revue, WitTank and  DULOG
Student Revues: Obligatory Oxbridge Revue shows
Jay Foreman: Musical comedy who was featured last year on BBC 4Extra with a song about food
Nick Pynn: Slightly "out there" instrumentalist
Nina Conti: Ventriloquist who used to be part of the sketch show Blunder
Ma Biche et Mon Lapin: Some French puppeteers who seem interesting
Tartuffe:  Because Moliรจre is great

Sadly there's no evidence of Milton Jones, Andy Zaltzman or Matthew Bourne shows in the programme. Oh well.

Does anyone have any recommendations for shows, venues or performers? Anything that is cheap/free worth a look? Any dance, theatre, cabaret or music? Or anything else to do in the city? Good places to eat?

Monday, 4 June 2012


Hello blogosphere!

For the first project on this blog, I decided to take a leaf from the book of loud shirts and attempt the Amy Butler Liverpool. 

For those unfamiliar with the  pattern, it's a shirt/tunic with a choice of sleeve and hem lengths. There are a total of eight darts, the centre back has a french seam, and you can include/omit waist ties.

I made an XS in tunic length, 3/4 length sleeves with the ties. 

The project covers two of my major sewing resolutions: move away from knit fabrics and unfitted garments. Although they're comfy, it's time to learn something new!

So to start of this adventure into fit, I made the vertical darts bigger and raised the bust darts by about 1/2 an inch. There was also a petite adjustment, making the distance between the bust and the waist smaller. 

The shirt fits pretty well through the bust, waist and hips but there is still excess fabric in the upper chest and across the shoulders. This could be due to any number of different things, and I'd welcome some advice on the matter.

It also looks like the hem is not completely level. It may be a trick of the camera's position, but I'll have to look in to making the back a bit longer next time.

The sleeves also seem to be a bit too loose around the biceps, but I'm super pleased the cuffs fit without any alterations.

The other problem is an odd gaping between the bust and waist buttons. Normally this seems to happen in the bust in ladies shirts. I'm wondering if this is due to button/buttonhole placement being slightly off? It could be fixed with an invisible button in between, we'll have to see how things go on that front.

Overall, I'm pleased with my first shirt, there were a lot of new techniques to practice here, and I took a lot of extra time making sure any visible stitches looked good and were consistent. Pretty good result!

Fabric: quilter's cotton, bad choice for a summer shirt. 
Techniques practiced: buttonholes, fitting, french seams, mock french seams.
Interesting arty-farty link of the day: Umberto Eco talking about lists