24 October 2013

bias cut silk velvet slip dress

I was very taken by the sumptuous glamour of Louis Vuitton's Fall/ Winter 2013-14 show. Dainty floral silk slips worn as evening dresses, 70s boudoir heels, black lace detailing, fluffy vanity cases and sultry, sexy hues of charcoal, mauve, coffee and pale silver. Winter is so often dominated by sobriety and androgynous cuts; I'm glad to see an injection of colour and assured femininity into this winter. I love the slip worn as a daytime look. It playfully alludes to the night, but not the cold harshness we associate winter nights. It evokes luxury, cosiness and sensuality and is grown-up without being dull.

Here is my version, available at Asos Marketplace, and on Etsy (with customisable options) in sizes UK 6 to UK 12 --

The dress is made from a lustrous 100% silk velvet in a rich purple tone. Geometric inserts on the side panel contrast with the slinky bias cut and soft fabric.

I love how the silk catches the light. It looks different from every angle and would be a fabulous piece for the festive season (thinking far ahead, I know!). And the bias cut means there's a little extra give, perfect for the season of overeating.

How would you choose to style the slip dress?

Alix x

1 October 2013

pleated tartan mini skirt

We've all heard the news that tartan is back. I was skeptical for a while; after all, one can end up looking like a member of t.a.T.u or at the other extreme, Clarissa Dickson Wright (a lively and robust woman but by her own admission not a fashion forerunner). And I couldn't make a tartan skirt without a nod to the 90s, this time in the guise of Cher from Clueless. Kudos to any blond who manages to pull off wearing canary yellow --

I was after a school games skirt look - to think that I would ever be nostalgic for the hideous hockey skirt of my school years! - hence the choice of navy and emerald tartan. You can just get a peak of my new friend, who has kindly agreed to model for me. Meet Brunhilde, who I found hiding away in the back of a charity shop!

Making the pleated culottes this summer I realised just how time consuming and faffy pleating can be. But tartan has the wonderful property of providing a pre-printed grid, which hugely speeds up making nice straight pleats and also cutting in straight and perfectly on-grain lines! This project was pretty breezy (no kilt pun intended) and cheap to boot.

The hardest part was calculating the number of pleats and the width of the waistband. I used the fabric and worked backwards to the pattern. This is because I wanted to avoid the green vertical stripe showing so that the pleated section was predominantly blue, which meant a slightly fernickety pleat width of 2.63cm. And I had to have an odd number of pleats so that the front section could be one pleat wider. When the skirt block is drafted the side seam is usually shifted up to 1.5cm to the back - it just looks nicer this way, and makes your behind look smaller - so half the length of a pleat, i.e. 1.3cm, on either side was about right. I wanted a thickish waist band so I settled on 29 pleats, finished length 76.3cm, which was nicely just above the hip bones. I used my skirt block for the waistband closing the darts to make single front and back yokes that would keep the tartan pattern visually intact. When cutting I matched the pattern across the centre front of the yoke and the pleated section so that the horizontal green stripes would be evenly spaced from waist to hem.

I really love how the skirt turned out. I am definitely making another one in knee-length, probably in a black wool I have in my stash. Of course, that tasteless part of me is still pulling in the direction of a matching jacket like Cher's above. Perhaps a pair of over-knee socks will be enough to sate that side of me...

Alix x

26 September 2013

silk cherub cowl top

I am not usually the silk blouse type. But when I saw this incredible silk charmeuse on Goldhawk Road I could not pass it by --

You may recognise it... have a look at the top of the page (I had to immortalise its greatness somehow)! It is a Marmite fabric, I will admit: you either think it's wonderful in its audacity and over-the-topness, or you think it's utterly vile. I am in the first camp.

Now, if I were still a lucky student with May balls to go to after my exams this would definitely have been transformed into a full-length, jaw-dropping, OMG-is-she-really-wearing-that?! dress. Instead however, I decided to make a sleeveless blouse with a cowl front to show off the beautiful softly draping quality of the fabric.

Paired with what a friend refers to as my butcher's skirt.
No animals were harmed in the wearing of this skirt.

Side seam detail: French seams and inner facing
I made a deep facing inside the top so that when the cowl drapes you can't see the back of the fabric. It also gives the cowl a little more body so it sits better. I used a facing on the back too so that when the shoulders are pushed back--because this is definitely a top for good posture!--there is no naff back of the fabric on show. A facing at the back solved the problem of how to finish the curved neckline. I was reluctant to use bias binding to cover the raw edge as it would have made the pattern look fussy at the top and I didn't want to do a bias binding facing as I didn't want any stitching visible on the outside. 

View of front inside facing
View of back inside facing. The back has two tiny darts at the armhole on the top and the facing.

I managed to avoid fitting a zip (which would be bulky on this delicate fabric) as the cowl leaves enough wiggle room to pull it over the shoulders. The top looks great tucked in but is a little baggy otherwise. If I were to make this project again I think I would make the cowl slightly less roomy and make the tummy area more fitted, and I would acquiesce to fitting a zip in the side seam. But for now, I am very pleased with my continental spectacle (these images don't show it but there's a Monet's water lilies-esque section on another part of the print as well as the Italian cherubs). I just wish all my whole wardrobe had such a sense of decadence, as well as such a sense of humour, as this top. 

That's all for now folks!

Alix x

16 September 2013

hair scrunchies

The 90s revival is in full swing and I am in scrunchie production mode, peoples!

Wrapped around as a scrunchie

All available here on Asos Marketplace or here on Etsy!

Alix x

28 August 2013

velvet off the shoulder top

Posting about the velvet column skirt a couple of weeks ago stirred within me the desire for, you guessed it, more velvet! Check out what I knocked up the other night--

I used an off-the-shoulder top I already have as a pattern, making the pieces a little wider to compensate for the smaller degree of stretch in the velvet. And the wonderful thing is that stretch fabrics are so forgiving when it comes to fit - you don't need to be too exact. When I put it together the sleeves and the body were a little big but no problem: I just lopped a centimetre off at the side seams.

I also have some news for my next post. All I shall say is that I have a new sewing buddy and leave it at that...


14 August 2013

tie-up shirt

When I used to dream about being able to draft my own patterns, I fantasised about producing tailored shirts. And as I mentioned in my previous post, I absolutely love crop tops. Crop top + tailored shirt = sleeveless tie up shirt. It was a gentle introduction to drafting/ making a shirt without the fiddle of sleeves and cuffs.

I bought the sheer, floral embroidered fabric on a whim a couple of months ago and had thought about using it for a ball dress by backing it with a nude fabric to make a bodice that would blend into a bias-cut, white, crepe-backed-satin skirt... but that was 1. very complicated without a dress form to drape the skirt on; 2. brilliant white is not a sensible choice where greasy food, alcohol and muddy ground are involved; and 3. in white there's always the risk of looking a bit desperate for a proposal. And anxious singleton is yet to find its sexy angle.

Instead, the fabric has had a more modest outing as contrast front and back yokes on the tie-up shirt. I really like the way it frames the collar and the satisfying contrast it makes with the block of white of the button stand.

I adore self-covered buttons. If I ran the world only self-covered buttons would be permitted.
Because the yokes are sheer, I had to do a lot of handstitiching. Usually I'd be happy to have my bias binding sit a millimetre or two beyond the stitching line on the inside, stitch in the ditch on the front, and catch the binding on the inside. But when the fabric is sheer you don't want to see the clothing equivalent of an underbite. And same goes for the collar. I had to pick up my humble needle and thimble, and face my fears.

The origins of my sewing endeavours were in textiles class at school where our teacher was an ex factory machinist then pattern cutter for an Italian tailoring company and she put a big emphasis on sewing the industrial way: 'Mass production techniques only, girls!' Hand-sewing was for wimps and amateurs. When I contemplate sewing something by hand I see my textiles teacher shaking her head with a face that says, 'Only dinosaurs still sew by hand!' and I am flooded by a sense of inadequacy and shame. Slowly I have been coming to accept the presence of hand sewing as a mark of pedigree in a garment. Making the tie-up shirt I realised hand-sewing is one of the luxuries of making your own clothes. But enough of my guilt-assuaging aside!

Shameless self-aggrandising moment: check out the topstitching on that collar!

I love this shirt so much that I am considering making a non tie-up, proper shirt-length version. I am even prepared to do more handsewing.

Alix x

11 August 2013

velvet column skirt

As well as an unhealthy love for velvet, I am also a die hard lover of the 90s look. This winter, in a bid to keep warm and try to look good at the same time (barely reconcilable objectives in my mind), I rifled through my stash to see what I could come up with. And it was my lucky day. I had a good metre and half of panne velvet leftover from a ballgown I made a couple of years ago. And so the velvet column skirt was born! Then, when the weather picked up in spring, something even better happened. "Tummy tops", as my friend calls them, or crop tops as they are more commonly known, made a big comeback. My 90s homage was complete...

Eat your hearts out TLC

The skirt is just a simple darted pencil skirt drafted from the block I made at the LCF last year. The velvet is a little stretchy so I made it with no ease (if you want figure-hugging with stretch fabric go for negative ease) so it would fit snuggly but not be tight. It had to have side slits of course: side slits give any long skirt a 90s girl band vibe...

It was one of those projects that only takes a couple of hours to rustle up, with no stress, fuss or even unpicking, and I have had so much mileage from it over the last six months. It is easily the most worn of all the things I have made.

Alix x