Saturday, 19 April 2014

Shine on you crazy print: the Lola Woven Pant

I've been wanting to make a relaxed pair of summer trousers for a while. A pair that I could chic up with some heels, but dress down with some flats or sandals. My thoughts were pockets (always pockets), relaxed around the hips, tapered ankle - that kind of thing.

A while back I ordered the Ziggi jacket from Style Arc and there was a promotion in which you received the woven Lola pant free. Cash back!

There was a colourful display of bold prints at the SS14 fashion shows and I thought this vintage fabric, inherited again from Mr Szabo's Grandmother, would work nicely with the Lola pattern. I made them with my trip to Brazil in mind - hopefully Rachel approves!

I ordered a size 10 from Style Arc. If you're unfamiliar with this company, the patterns come in one size and you order based on your measurements. These trousers have pockets, an elasticated waist and a tapered leg.

I would say this is a very straightforward make, although a beginner may scratch their head a little over the pockets - Style Arc patterns include minimal instructions - be warned!

The only criticism I would give this pattern is regarding the instructions for the waistband. To reduce bulk, the waistband has a front panel of fabric that is NOT elasticated. Pictured below.

The instructions tell you to cut the elastic to your preferred measurements. However, that must be incorrect because when you apply the panel, you're adding extra length as you only stitch it to the rest of the band using a 3/8" seam. My first attempt failed and the waistband was far too loose. It could have resulted with me being inadvertently entered into Miss Bum-Bum 2014 in Brazil! Nobody wants to see that.

I ripped off the waistband (fun) and tried again. This time, I cut the elastic a lot shorter in length to compensate for the panel. Bingo! I couldn't find any mention of this in other reviews, so I'm either stupid is as stupid does, or other bloggers were like, yey, trousers, who cares about that waistband shit!?

Other than that, this is a quick and easy pattern which gives a really great fit. I didn't have to make any alterations and i was impressed with how nicely they fit across my bum-bum. Length was fine as well. The beauty of these trousers is definitely that elasticated waist. Call me frumpy, but me and Elvis are excited about elasticated waists - more grilled peanut butter sandwiches less button popping stomach constriction!

I finished the seams with my overlocker except for the pockets which I simply zig zagged.

I have plans for a second pair in a lovely grey Cupro that I picked up in Goldhawk Road. I'm thinking those will look nice with a white linen or denim shirt. Have you tried this pattern or anything from Style Arc? How did you get on? And more importantly, the elasticated waist...yey or nay?

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Thank you for being a friend Dolly Clackett

As Rod said at the beginning of The Faces live cover of Macca's Maybe I'm Amazed, "if you don't know this song, I don't know where you've been."

If you don't know about the Sew Dolly Clackett sewing challenge doing the rounds, then yeah, like my beloved blonde boy from Highgate said, where have you been?! Our gal, Roisin, is getting married to the lovely Nic in May and in a fitting tribute to their nuptials, Sarah at Rhinestones and Telephones created an awesome competition to make a dress in the style of Roisin. The winner is picked by Roisin and gets lots of fab stuff.

I must say I've deviated from the challenge guidelines just a bit. When I think of Roisin, I think about Alan Partridge and Toblerones and tuck dancing drunk in my hallway, but mostly I dream about the retirement home we'll be living in along with Rehanon and Lauren. What gin-infused days those will be.

Stay Golden, Roisin!

I ordered this amazing Golden Girls t-shirt from Miami. A true perfectionist, only the best would do, and this company out there in Florida had the colour, design and fit I wanted to show off those silver sisters. 

To get the 'Dolly Clackett' look and still make a dress I cropped the t-shirt and added it to a gathered skirt made out of the infamous 'swimmers' fabric as sported by Roisin in her beautiful Anna dress. I chose the blue version as I felt it went better with the t-shirt. 

The skirt was dead simple. I just used the width of the fabric (approx 54"), stitched up the one and only side seam, overlocked and then gathered the waist using 3/4" elastic. I then added the t-shirt in the same manner, using a zig zag stitch throughout. I'm wearing a belt in the pic, but here's what it looks like without:

Golden gathering

In true Dixie Lou prison style, I've rolled up my sleeves, got a tattoo and added coral lipstick. I'm also wearing my new favourite shoes - my Mel 'Popstar' wedges that I bought in New York. We all know how Roisin loves her Melissas! 

And of course my entry wouldn't be bona fide unless it was taken in front of a front door and some steps, amirite?

Here's to Roisin and Nic - I'd like to wish them a beautiful, wonderful wedding day and many happy years of cava, NYPD Blue and burritos to come. Love you Ms Clackett xx

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

NYC, a tattoo and a whole lot of fabric

I can't believe it's taken me this long to sit down and write a post about my trip to NYC. I blame jet lag, laziness, work, laziness... blah blah blah, the usual, but here I am.

So, where do I start on telling you all about one of my favourite trips ever? I know I instagramed and tweeted the hell out of my stay, but there are so many intricate details and events that I want to share. How about you ALL come round my house for a Don Draper esque slide show. I'll get out the Kodak carousel and the bourbon! Okay.. maybe not, so we'll have to make do with this blog post for now. Apologies for length!

I started out on my big adventure on Wednesday 12th March. That night, after checking into my cool little pad in the East Village (the young punk in me was literally screaming) I met up with my dear friend, Kirsten, for posh beers in a bar called Proletariat on St Marks Place. I walked in to pretty much an empty bar save for the barman and.... yep... Rod Stewart on the stereo. Talk about walking into the right place right time.

The next day, I was on my own so I decided to get a big brunch (I heartily recommend The Smith) and afterwards walked on to Soho to find Moo Shoes (the only vegan shoe shop in NYC) and Babycakes (vegan cupcakes).

Both were fantastic and lived up to my expectation. Along the way I found some awesome vintage shops (so much better than UK) but my will power was strong; my aim was to head to Century 21 in the financial district for some CK underwear. Little did I know I'd find an Oscar de la Renta bikini for $30! Back of the net!

The cold wind had finally beaten me so I headed to Tribeca Grill (Robert De Niro's restaurant) for a light bite and glass of wine. I always have to go there when I am in NYC in the sheer hope he walks in and wants to marry me. You never know!!!

After my hilarious sighting of Jon Bon Jovi (yes! really!) in Tribeca Grill (I was two large glasses of wine down by this point) I headed to meet Sonja at a Craft Industry Happy Hour - I had such a fun night, I can't talk about this enough. As soon as I walked in I saw Sonja and it felt like meeting an old friend - she's incredible. I  also met the legendary Marcy (who is even more beautiful in real life) and we bonded over our deep love of The Boss. I also met the lovely Jennifer from Workroom Social and Amanda. I got drunk on crazy punch, made friends with the crafty Dr McGee and ended the evening with Sonja and Marcy hailing me a cab, NYC style. Boom.

The next day, feeling a little delicate, I had brunch with Jennifer and the adorable Trice. After that, Trice and I walked around Midtown and despite it being freezing, the sun was shining and New York looked super pretty. I existed on coffee and sunglasses while Trice kept me upbeat by just being lovely. That afternoon, I admitted hangover defeat, and headed back to my apartment to rest and wait for the arrival of my roomie... LAUREN!

Omg...what can I say? Best roomie ever. We got on so well and had such fun staying in our little East Village crib, making our way round the city (walkers unite!), getting our Nyquil on, realising we both loved the same obscure German punk band, falling in love with the cutest barman ever and buying crap loads of fabric. So, Lauren this is for you <3

The weekend that followed was so amazing. We started off walking to Devra's apartment on Saturday morning for a brunch. I was so excited to meet more people and it was the first day that NYC was bearably warm! I was so lucky that I got to meet the elegant and wonderful Carolyn as well as Peter - talk about being a bit star struck! I wore my Rigel Bomber and latest structured knit t-shirt to fully mark the occasion and received lots of compliments - thanks everyone!  

Sorry Sonja, I think you were just entering hyper speed

After a great brunch, we all headed to.... MOOD! This is my favourite shot of us en route to the fabric mecca.

Girl band

Me and Amity in the elevator to Mood. 

I love Wanette!

So, I bet you're all wondering what I bought... well, let's just say I am glad past Clare decided to take a big ugly backpack as her carry-on bag, because that little star carried most of the fabric home including 4 heavy yards of awesome striped knit. The quality felt amazing and I haven't really found anything as cool as this back home. I also grabbed some plaid flannel for another grunge shirt later this year.

The Mood loot (note the metallic silver
linen for a soon to be Whistles copy) 

Also from Mood, this lovely coral vinyl 

From elsewhere in the Garment District 

I also couldn't resist these foxes

Sunday, Lauren and I decided to forego any other plans and head to the garment district again. We met up with Trice, Devra and Sonja and toured the shops that were open. Little did I know we'd fall head over heels in love with SAM, one of the owners of the fabric stores. Sam was quite coy at first until we convinced him to throw a pool party at his house in Long Island. Our summer plans were going swimmingly (hee hee) until he whispered to me his wife was round the corner! Oh well, Mrs Sam, you snooze you lose!

Later that day we did some touristy stuff like Tiffany's, F.A.O Schwarz and checked out the fancy dresses in Saks.

Monday, St Patrick's Day, we headed to YEP the garment district again. Another visit to Mood was in order as well as Pacific Trimmings. Seriously people, this place is a gold mine. There are zips with rainbow coloured teeth, bindings like you've never seen before as well knit ribbing I thought were only in my dreams. I bought this awesome knit ribbing for another bomber. I couldn't leave it behind and at only $6 a strip, BARGAIN!


Monday was particularly cold, so Lauren and I felt it was only right that we stop, have lunch and a pint of guinness before she had to head to the airport. I really could have sat at that bar all day, but we had to get back to Carolyn's office, where she was kindly storing our luggage for us. After a sad goodbye to my roomie, I waited for Kirsten to come and collect me and whisk me off to a new life in Brooklyn.

Ahhh I loved Brooklyn. I have so many nice memories from that second week. From hanging out in Kirsten's apartment listening and watching Ryan Gosling (how I didn't know Ryan was in a band is beyond me!), to eating her perfect salted chocolate cookies PLUS my second week also provided a pivotal point in my life.

On the Wednesday, after much deliberation I decided to go ahead and keep my appointment to get a tattoo... a TATTOO. Originally, I had big plans for a TCB logo nestled in the flowers I laid on Elvis' grave last year, but on the morning of my appointment, I suppose I had this radical change of heart. Don't worry, I still ADORE Elvis, but as much as I am obsessed with that man, my gut instincts told me that what I really needed was to get a tattoo based on my passion for animal rights. It's my daily fight and just made sense.

So, that's how my new buddy Jeremy was born. I got the ferry to Staten Island by myself, walked into Bound for Glory tattoo studio and an awesome vegetarian tattooist from New Jersey (named Jeremy) worked on a great design, combining my love of art nouveau, rabbits and the animal rights slogan - 'Never Be Silent', all while C.W. Stoneking was playing.

Jeremy spoke in classsss tooooday

The design is based on a mixture of Alfonse Mucha, Watership Down and Mackintosh font. I love Jeremy's interpretation and so glad he made sense of my pre-tattoo nervous rambling. If you're in the NYC area and are thinking of getting a tattoo, I really recommend Jeremy (Miller). He's at Bound for Glory tattoo studio and his portfolio is amazing - JT you're the bestest!

I regularly receive negative comments, judgement, bewilderment and even teasing about my vegetarianism and my strong belief in animal rights. It staggers me as this is my life choice based on kindness, health and environmental concerns, so I can't see what is so annoying or crazy, but as the slogan says, I'll never shut up or bury my head in the sand about it. Jeremy is here to stay - permanently!- and he's a motivator for me to continue to be a strong person, confident, and to do what I can to live a kinder life.

The end of my trip was as cool as the start. Kirsten and I hung out as much as possible - I can't thank her enough for letting me stay so long and for being the perfect hostess. She's such a gorgeous person, I'm already wondering how I can see her again. Here's us just casually drinking prosecco on her balcony in Brooklyn (this is my prosecco face) with our new plant friend. Really, Lena Dunham, you have nothing on us.

On my last day in NYC I explored Williamsburg in Brooklyn, finding the Trash Bar, which was so awesome. I sat at the bar talking to Nick the barman about The Cure and he serenaded me with Robert Smith and New Order as he poured me more beer and tequila shots - which is why I ended up doing this.

Girl band 2

Since I got back I HAVE been sewing, honest. I've been working on some secret sewing and also finished a wearable muslin of the Style Arc woven Lola trousers, which I tried out in Barcelona at the weekend. I will do a blog post on this asap as I really like this pattern and have plans for another, dressier pair in cupro.

So, apologies for the long post, I am off for coffee...I suggest you take a nap or hey leave me a comment saying, Clare, no more long posts PLEASE.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A textured tee for brunch in NYC

Greetings from New York City everyone! I am in a constant state of excitement and having the best time. AGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH (this is basically my main vocal sound right now).

Past Clarey was an organised little bunny and saved a blog post for during her NYC trip - you know, just in case the constant overload of pics on Instagram and Twitter is NOT enough.

While planning what I wanted to make for my trip here, I was perusing the latest collections for S/S 14. One of my favourites, as always, is the collection from Whistles; metallics, pink feathery prints, pastels and structured t-shirts? SIGN ME UP! I have been on the lookout for fabrics that I can use to make similar pieces for the Spring.

On a recent #Spoolettes meet-up in my manor (South East London) I found some awesome white textured knit. This is from Sakhi fabrics in Lewisham and set me back a mere £6 p/m. The knit has a small textured diamond pattern and I knew it would be perfect for a structured t-shirt that I could wear with jeans or skinny trousers.

For the pattern I used Megan Nielsen's Briar but I cut the hem straight and also went up a size. I've used this pattern a couple of times before to make a short and long-sleeved top and was confident that a size-increase would give me the slightly oversized/structured look that I was after. The only change I made was to raise the neckline and lengthen the sleeves.

I really like the Briar as a basic t-shirt pattern. It sews up extremely quickly, the fit is great and it's easy to adapt into a different style of your choice. It's definitely my go-to t-shirt pattern.

I put this together quickly with my overlocker and cut the neckband as normal. I wondered if I would have to cut the neckband shorter as I had raised the neckline, but it seemed to fit nicely. In future, I might try a shorter neckband to see if I like it a little more taut.

To hem, I overlocked the raw edges on both the waist hem and the sleeves, turned up the hem allowance and then stitched using a slight zig zag stitch.

Here's a picture of the neckband close up so that you can see the texture of this knit. I have more of this left over so I think I might try and dye it a pastel pink colour. Stay tuned to see if that's a disaster or a success!

I wore this top with my normal skinny jeans and pink docs (underneath my new bomber jacket of course!) to brunch in New York on Saturday. I was fortunate enough to be invited to brunch at Devra's apartment on Saturday and I had such a wonderful time meeting new and familiar faces from the US sewing community. It was such a great day that it deserves its own blog post, so stay tuned for that when I return to England.

In the meantime, I hope you like my stab at a structured t-shirt. Have you sewn with any unusual knit fabric lately and what styles/outfits have you spotted in shops/magazines that you'd like to recreate with your sewing skills?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Moody Blue Jumpsuit

I'm so fed up of sewing and embroidering jumpsuits for Elvis (seriously, how many sequins and studs does this one Eagle really need dude?!) I decided to take a break and sew my own. He's sulking in the Jungle Room with a milkshake, but I gave him some karate films and promised to name my jumpsuit after one of his songs.

For ages I couldn't find a good jumpsuit pattern until Named came along and set all our hearts on fire with their cool and chic pattern collections.

I've had my eye on the Ailakki jumpsuit for some time but never got round to ordering it or even having  an occasion to wear it, but with NYC approaching, I thought well if there's ever a time to knock out a jumpsuit, it's for drinking cocktails in Manhattan right?!

The fabric is a navy/tealish blue cotton moleskin that I got from Goldhawk Road. This is from my favourite shop, Fabric House. I love Rashid and always have a chat with him when I pop in. He was the guy who sold me my wedding lace, so he'll always be a bit special to me and get my money. He let me have this moleskin for £7 p/metre.

Size wise, I used the 12/14 pattern and cut the smaller of the sizes. I made a muslin first from a medium-weight calico. The fit was near perfect first attempt apart from the zip, which was pulling a little taught lengthwise. After some deliberation I decided to try altering the shoulders first. I think most books, Threads etc, always suggest starting with shoulder alterations, and seen as I am quite 'blessed' in the broad shoulders area, this seemed like the solution to me. I ended up adding over an inch extra to the front shoulders, but it completely solved the problem. In doing so I just had to nip in the side seams about 3/8" on both front and back.

I reckon next time, I could go down to the 10 but I erred on the side of caution because of the thicker fabric. The result is quite a nice relaxed fit, which will be perfect as I start doing Elvis karate kicks after a jug of Margarita.

The pattern is labelled as 'advanced' but I definitely think this is easier. The instructions and illustrations are really good and make perfect sense. The only change I would make is the construction order of the pockets. The instructions suggest sewing up the trouser side seams first leaving a 'hole' to insert the pockets. The pockets in this garment are really cool. They have a little panel made from the main fabric, which connects to the back trouser leg. Therefore, when you stick your hand in your pants, people don't see the lining so much. Neat!

I made the pockets as instructed, but then added them to the trouser legs BEFORE sewing the side seam as normal - that is, stitch one to the front trouser side seam, one to the back side seam and then sew from the waist down to the start of the pocket, around the pocket, and then all the way down to the trouser hem. As I reach the start and end of the pockets, I decrease my stitch length to about 1 for strength.

The wrap front of the bodice with peep hole makes your scratch your head a little bit (especially when sewing shoulder seams) but the illustrations are great and as long as you follow them, you won't have any problems.

The pattern uses a 3/8" seam allowance all over including the zip. I finished my leg seams first on my overlocker, before sewing them up with the pockets. The bodice is fully lined and I used a basic maroon polyester, which would be lightweight against the moleskin. The trousers have front pleats, back darts whereas the bodice just has wide front darts. The zipper used is a standard dress zip as you don't need to conceal it - although I guess you could.

The waistband is faced with the moleskin and connects the front wrap pieces. Make sure you mark your notches on the waistband correctly as you'll need them to ensure you centre the trousers under the peep-hole in the bodice.

The only other change I made was to taper the legs in a bit. The ankle width was a bit too wide and flappy for my liking, so I just tapered the trouser side seams in by just under 3/8". The leg length was spot on for me and I am about 5'9.

So there you have it, my Moody Blue jumpsuit. I don't think Mr Szabo is a fan. His theory: "Girls love jumpsuits, but men don't find them very flattering." What do you think? Would you consider making this?

The money shot

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Switchblade sister: The Rigel Bomber

My eyes are the size of raisins, I am a palish grey in colour...guys I haven't seen daylight as I have been so busy sewing some goodness for my trip to NYC on Wednesday. Sorry Roisin, I forgot to tell you!

I had so many plans of things to make but after getting back from a work trip to Munich, time was limited. I had a chat with Elvis in the bathroom (I'm basically like Christian Slater in True Romance) and he said "honey, you got three priorities: make that rubberneckin' Rigel Bomber, that hot potato Ailakki Jumpsuit and me a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich". Never one to argue with my  boyfriend, that's what I've done.

Sew that bomber, baby

First up is the awesome Rigel Bomber by Papercut Patterns. It's my first pattern make from this company and I am in love. Bomber jackets are on trend right now, especially in a floral print a la Liberty, and after spying lots of fantastic versions doing the blog rounds, I knew I had to make this. But, for me, I had the most special fabric in mind for the job. 

My husband's Grandmother was a prolific seamstress and had an epic collection of fabric dating from the 1950s to recent years. Luckily, I got to inherit some of her treasure. For this project, I went for my vintage 'posh ladies' that I have been hoarding for ages. Finally, they found their destiny. 

Bad hair day means cool new hat day (thanks Rehanon
for the inspiration chick)

Isn't she cool? Here are the details of the make...

I cut an XS. I read reviews of other makes and checked the final measurements. I knew I wanted a more snug 'authentic' bomber jacket, so went with the smaller size. The fit is perfect zipped up or left loose. 

Some reviews mentioned that the sleeves came up on the short size. I added an extra inch to the length, which are pretty perfect, but next time I think I will add a little more. 

Did someone order the Bananarama tribute band?

Now, my next task was making this NYC appropriate. Checking the weather, it's safe to say that Manhattan is not enjoying the same Spring weather that we've got right now. It sounds pretty cold, so making this jacket as per instructions with no lining is not going to warm the smallest of cockles! Also, reviews have said this jacket is best with a lining anyway, unless you don't mind seeing messy innards (pocket flaps, guts of the welt pocket, seams etc). That shit would drive me crazy so I decided to line my jacket with some very pretty flannel I picked up in Toronto at Christmas. I was saving this for PJs, but sod it - this bomber wants me to take care of business. 

As you can see, I kept the original facing piece but attached this to the flannel lining. I decided to do this as, when wearing the jacket unzipped, seeing the facing looks just that bit nicer and professional than the contrasting lining. To do this, I matched the facing pattern piece to the front bodice and drew around it. I then cut this piece away. From there on, I measured the width and deducted it from the top of the other pieces (raglan sleeve, back). I added a 1/2" seam allowance to the new lining pieces in order to attach them to the facing. I then stitched the lining as normal and then stitched to the facing. Voila! The finished effect is a super snug bomber jacket, I loves it!

Can I also say, I have successfully done my first welt pocket. High five! This wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I practiced first with scraps of the shell fabric. This was a great move as I could see exactly where I went wrong. My second attempt on the real thing worked out great. My advice is to make sure your markings from the pattern piece are super accurate and baste/tack as you go. It's more time-consuming but worth it.

I bought the black ribbing for the waistband, neck and cuffs from Vends in the UK. It's a really good quality and sewed like a dream. The zip is my favourite feature. I found this on eBay and thought it had a cool art deco style look to it, which suited the fabric perfectly. 

I've never worked with an open-ended zip before, but it was surprisingly easy. I love that it comes apart so you can work on each side without getting in a twist. With this in mind, though, it's important to keep checking that you have attached both zip pieces accurately and that they match up. Check, check and then check again. 

Also, when attaching the neckband, really strive for accuracy and test how the zip will look before you stitch it. The meeting of the ends of the neckband when the zip is done up will notice if they're uneven. It's worth re-doing a few times to get a good finish.

I had a couple of issues with the bottom of the front bodice, which meets the ribbed hem, but that was entirely my fault for not thinking through properly how I would attach the lining. I know where I went wrong, so this will be something I'll do better next time. 

I am so pleased with this make and can't wait to rock it in New York. Above I'm teaming it with my favourite Whistles boyfriend jeans, baby pink 3-hole Docs and my new black hat from TopShop. I'm back in the 80s for this shoot, but it's nice here, John Cusack is Lloyd Dobler. 

As for Papercut Patterns, I am so impressed. The packaging, instructions and illustrations are all brilliant. I don't have a single complaint and will definitely consider making more from their range. And I'll be making another bomber, probably floral, for the warmer months. It beats a boring cardi!

<Playlist: Rubberneckin' - Elvis Presley>