Thursday, 30 January 2014


Guys...agghhhh I thought I could squeeze in a make or two before I hit Amsterdam this Saturday. I overestimated a number of things, mainly my time and motivation. Work has been sucking me dry and not in a cool Vampire Lestat kind of way.

So, I'm off to the Dam for a week for work and it's going to be quite relentless, BUT I'm gonna try and maintain my loyal service to you all by Instagraming and Tweeting cocktails, wines, food (most probably cheese as that's all this veggie usually gets) and any other fun I may get dragged into.

When I get back, I promise to sew something!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Chanel Cardigan: choosing a pattern

As mentioned in my 'New Year, New Dixie Lou' post, one of my sewing resolutions for 2014 is to make a Chanel style cardigan. I have always loved this iconic jacket and want to make a version that is chic yet something I can depend on to throw over t-shirt and jeans. Anything that makes my trips to Sainsbury's a little less banal, dahlings!

To help me on my way I am using Claire Shaeffer's new book, The Couture Cardigan Jacket. I got this for Christmas and it's a beautiful book. I'm a huge fan of anything that comes from the mouths of Shaeffer and Susan Khalje and have spent a small fortune on their publications. When making my wedding dress, I paid a crazy amount for Khalje's out-of-print Bridal Couture, and it now sits smugly on my shelf barely talking to the other books.

Shaeffer's new book really is fantastic. It not only offers an insight into the world of Chanel construction, but also comes with an instructional DVD. I'll be sure to reference it a lot in my project, so you can ascertain if this is something you'd like to buy. But in the meantime, here's some buttonhole goodness from page 56.

My first task is to choose a pattern. In her book, Claire suggests her own Vogue pattern, V8804. As I've been wanting to do this project for some time, I had already selected a pattern before I received the book. But, no biggy, I ordered V7975, which I think is pretty similar.

I am going to choose option B. I like the length and it has the features Claire suggests are crucial to the Chanel cardi: two-piece sleeve, princess seams, jewel neckline and patch pockets.

I am going to start on my muslin asap and in the meantime my next Chanel Cardigan post will share my fabric hunt. As a vegetarian, I won't be using traditional wool or boucle, but will be looking to source some synthetic/cotton tweed to do the job. This means my options are limited but they're not entirely rubbish either. I think I may have found something quite special... until next time!

As soon as you set foot on a yacht you belong to some man, 
not to yourself, and you die of boredom.
Coco Chanel 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Looking for that LBD? Vogue 1360 ain't half bad

It's my first official make of 2014 and my latest post for Minerva!

This time around I decided to make a wardrobe staple: the little black dress. January/February is the busiest time of year for my job and I have a lot of meetings as well as our huge annual exhibition in Amsterdam. So, I needed a little number that I could both work and play in. Office in the day, cocktails at night - you know how it goes, Spoolettes!

I chose Vogue 1360 as I liked the idea of making it in a ponte/double knit. Something soft and comfortable yet with some stability and minimal crease factor.

The dress has princess seams on back and front, a godet in the front skirt, and includes concealed zipper, lining and a back facing.

Now, because I chose to make my version in solid black you'll struggle to see the details here. Also, I've been so busy with work I had no time to schedule a photo shoot with Mr S, so we're on automatic and indoors here people. Hopefully you can still see why I love this dress.

Here are the deets:

I made this dress in Minerva's Roma ponte fabric. It's a heavy weight knit in a blend of polyester, rayon and spandex. I pre-washed it as normal and allowed it to dry naturally over my clothes airer. For tips, Carolyn has a short blog post on working with ponte here.

For the pattern, I used the measurements ON THE FLAT PATTERN and not the envelope. Following those, I used a size 12 on my bust and hips tapering into a 10 at the waist. I wanted my version of this dress to fit closer than the picture on the model.

I didn't bother to make a muslin and it was fine. The only correction I made was to the hip line. I shaved off approx 1/4" each side by just sewing a new hip line. I found the original hip line was too...well hippy and made me look wider. Ain't got time for that!

It took me some time to find the best needle for the job. I suffered at the evil witchery of skipped stitches...I swear I heard them laughing at me. In the end, my pack of Organ Super Stretch needles (size 90) did the job perfectly. Later skipped stitches! My tip here is, collect needles! Whenever you're out or making an online order just keep purchasing them packs, all sorts, even if you don't need them. One day, trust me, you will!

I used a 2.8 stitch length and a tension of about 2.5. I didn't change the pressure of the feet but I did use a walking foot with a straight stitch. Insert the concealed zip was easy peasy and left a lovely finish.

Overall, sewing this dress up was pretty straightforward. There are a few pattern pieces to contend with and the tricky godet section, but they weren't as bad as I thought. The pattern cover says this is 'Easy' but I would have to disagree. I think there are some awkward parts that could confuse or get a beginner into trouble - so take your time if you're inexperienced, but do enjoy working with ponte. It's so forgiving and helpful!

The lining is made out of stretch lining, like a tricot. I've never worked with this before and I definitely need practice at it. I had to change my needle again - this time to the super stretch size 70. I still got skipped stitches, but I discovered that slightly stretching the lining really helped prevent them.

One nice feature of this dress is the back facing made out of the ponte. I really like this part as it gives the dress a lovely, professional finish along the back neckline. It's easy to insert and is attached to the lining on a curved seam. I clipped mine to encourage neater turning. It is then hand stitched to the zip tape.

The lining is attached by the neckline and lower armholes first, understitched and then the fabric and lining shoulders are finished in one continuous seam. The lining is then hand stitched to the upper armholes to finish. 

I didn't alter the hem. I found the length was perfect for me as well as being the right length to wear in a professional environment. The hem is hand stitched while the lining is machine stitched and left to hang loose (you can tack it to the seams of the dress). 

The shoulders and armholes are my favourite feature of this dress. I love the shape and angle - it gives what could be a plain LBD a bit more of a chic appeal. The dress feels super comfortable to wear and the lining gives it that extra bit of luxury.

I'll be wearing my new LBD with red lipstick, tights, black heels and statement necklaces. I also tried it on my with my new trench coat and it looks fierce! Excited to pair up that sexy combo for sure.

If you fancy making yourself a little comfy LBD, then don't forget you can buy my kit here!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Good things happen on Elvis' birthday

First off, happy birthday Elvis! Of course I'll be jumping out of a cake later and singing him Marilyn-style birthday wishes, as long as he doesn't take over and sing over me again. Honestly, EAP, butt out and just eat that fried banana and pb sandwich I made you!

Yes M'am!

To keep up with my resolutions, I took a late lunch today and went for a walk in Greenwich park. As I mentioned in my New Year's post, I live right near it and I have been a fool for not capitalising on this as much as I should.

On leaving my flat I decided that I'd slow down my pace and not think about an end point. I had an hour to just walk and take in the sights and get some inspiration. And boy, did it prove worthwhile.

*If you're not a fan of animals or greenery or prefer it when I mainly talk about sewing then it's cool, you're dismissed :) Otherwise, yey, let's love animals and parks.

As I was walking through the park, I heard some really obnoxious screeching. I looked up, expecting to find an angry crow or gull, but on closer inspection I saw two colourful birds. As I looked closer, I discovered that they were wild parakeets! I couldn't believe my luck at this spot, although at the time they were being a bit mean bullying a squirrel. However, it was cool to see these birds in Greenwich in January!

This is a bad picture as I just had my phone and London is, well, grey, but there they are!

Next up on my Dr Doolittle expedition, I ventured to Greenwich Park's deer enclosure. Yep, it has Red and Fallow deer. Usually, when I run past they're nowhere to be seen, but today they were all out. So fabulous.

As I stopped to take a picture, so many squirrels were coming up to me to see if I had some lunch. They're pretty tame as park inhabitants so I got some good photos. I really digged this guy's ombre fur colouring.

While I was taking a picture of him, I heard more rustling. Looking up I spotted a FIELD MOUSE! I was beyond excited. I watched him for ages, but couldn't take a photo for fear of scaring him away. If you google field mouse, you'll see they are the cutest things with big ears and big black eyes. What a treat to see.

My next treat was a big pack of dogs out playing. One of them was an Old English Sheepdog who was just adorable. I tried to chat to the dog walker, but she was disinterested, WHICH was a good thing because as I was stroking the sheepdog I said "awww you're the Durex dog". UK readers will immediately get my faux pas. The paint company, DULUX, always had an old English sheepdog on its advertisements. So yeah...mega cringe at basically calling this dog the condom dog.

I had such a great time in that one hour. I felt so inspired and the fresh air and slower pace did wonders to calm my mind and make room for some inspiration. I thought about my Chanel cardi, how I'll start that and possibly blog the entire process to eventually become a new menu tab on my blog; I felt motivated enough to decline the sofa's sweet charms tonight and instead start on a sewing project; I even felt the courage to start running again and am choosing tomorrow to get back out there. I have an awesome running book from the lovely Rehanon to help me on my way.

Thanks for reading a non-sewing post, but all these lovely things seemed too cool not to share...I'm sure normal service will resume soon!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

New year, new Dixie Lou?

Well, maybe not a completely new Dixie Lou, but I am hopeful I can make some more positive changes in 2014. However, more of that later.

Firstly, Happy New Year everyone! As some of you know, I went away for Christmas to Canada and Arizona for New Year's. Despite missing my family lots and lots, I had a wonderful time away. I met up with my Toronto Spoolettes Gillian, Catja, Sara and Andrea who all came to meet me for drinks and a cheeky tequila. We had such a laugh and I can't wait to see them again in the summer. Here's a few photos of us up to no good:

Toronto Spoolettes and me with a drink in my hand as usual

Catja and Gillian

Me, Sara and Andrea

Love this pic. Catja's food came with three VERY generous
helpings of salt, which we mistook for coconut

So what's new for 2014?

During my trip away and my sofa-bound days recovering from jet lag, I have thought a lot about the new year and what I want it to bring me. Sewing wise, I have read some inspiring blog posts, such as Rochelle's, about refining sewing output to fewer, yet better constructed & fitted garments that will be worn more frequently. I really like this approach and it's something I have been considering too.

Looking back to 2013, I think some of my projects were rushed, lacked focus, were too ambitious, or were hardly worn. This makes me sad, as one of my reasons for sewing is to not perpetuate the problems associated with disposable fashion. So, for my first sewing goal, I want to develop more of a focus to my sewing; define my personal style and create a sort of 'capsule' collection which adheres to that style, and one which I end up wearing far more frequently (my initial ideas are below). I am not putting a number on my output for 2014, but I am very much okay with it being a smaller number with the intention of all the makes being executed as professionally as possible...uhhhh don't look at me like that Don, I'm serious!

In terms of what I want to make, I am craving a long-term project. When I made my wedding dress in 2012, I loved how it was an extensive project carried out over approximately 6 months. I learnt how to work with delicate fabrics such as high-quality lace and satin, as well as couture techniques, which I have continued to use in regular sewing. I've been wanting a more 'studious' project and so my second sewing goal will be a Chanel style cardigan jacket. For Christmas, my in-laws got me Claire Shaeffer's new book, which I have been coveting since news of its release. I am beyond excited to start on this! I am undecided on my choice of boucle colour as yet, but initially I am thinking blacks & greys to ensure maximum wearage.

On completion expect some Coco style celebration!

One thing I should mention is that before I can get started on this, I have a promise to keep. At the end of last year, things got so hectic that all my sewing promises to Mr S went out the window. I have declared that January is his, so I'll be sewing his new shirt, boxer pants and PJ bottoms that he's been waiting for. We have all the fabric (especially some fun flannel from Toronto) and patterns, so hopefully these projects shouldn't take too long. Technically this should be sewing goal #1, but I can't be THAT selfless right? So, count this as my third sewing goal.

Speaking of jackets, I also have the Style Arc 'Ziggi' jacket as my fourth sewing goal, which, as far as first impressions go, I am crazy about. I am looking forward to taking my time working on this classic piece. The brunette loves her jacket so much her face dropped off!

A definite goal for 2014 is trousers. I am really fussy with trousers whether they are RTW or from a sewing pattern. There's a certain style of fit that I like, which I have only ever really got from a pair of Warehouse trousers I bought a few years ago. I like a cropped ankle with a slightly loose slim fit going up the leg - something like this from Whistles or Jaeger. My plan is to both draft a pair and use a pattern. I have both the Lola from Style Arc and Burda 6981 to have a crack at. So, make trousers my fifth sewing goal.

For my sixth sewing goal, I've noticed how much I like wearing shirts. I find them feminine and my best friend when I want to hide or disguise my bum-bum. I want to use my denim from Goldhawk Road to make a spring shirt, but I also want to make a couple of city chic shirts in lighter, silkier fabrics that will look stylish with trousers and/or jeans, oh and under my Chanel cardi of course. Get me!

My seventh sewing goal will be over-sized t-shirts. I wear these a lot but get tired of buying them (see disposable fashion comment above). I want to invest in better quality fabric to make my own lux versions of the over-sized tee. Greys, whites, nudes... my kind of palette to again pair with trousers and jeans.

In terms of dresses, I am sure I will make a few but right now there are not any particular styles I am craving. One dress I do want to make though, as my eighth sewing goal, is my frocktails dress for drinks and shenanigans with the Spoolettes. I have this gorgeous and unique printed lace from Minerva Crafts that I am dying to transform into the classic Vogue 8766 (you'll recognise this as the dress that Ann made on the Great British Sewing Bee):

I'm choosing the middle right for a hint to the 1960s. 

My ninth sewing goal is to make sure I have some sexy go-tos in my wardobe. Last year, I had a few awards ceremonies for work and I found that I was short of fancy dresses. Plus, there's the usual dates with Elvis that crop up from time to time, but I won't bore you with that up-coming schedule. On my list are By Hand Londo's Georgia and Anna. I really loved Fiona's silky version, so I would definitely be looking to make a vampy Anna as I like how it follows the rule of legs or chest - you can't do both - well unless you're Coco and your dress can show everything!

My tenth sewing goal is my quilt. It's my dream to make a full size quilt for our bedroom as a kind of heirloom that we can keep for years and years. Last year, I chose my pattern and collated all my fabric. I am using vintage fabric from Mr S' grandmother as well as lace/satin leftover from my wedding dress. I did start to cut out my squares but for some reason I stalled. After making Mama Delle a quilted table runner for Christmas, I definitely have more confidence in pursuing quilting and am going to treat this as my 'release' from dressmaking. I'll look forward to scheduling in some quilting time as a nice break from garment making.

I think that's about it for sewing goals. These are in no specific order but they are definitely an indication of the road I want to go down. I don't want to be drawn too much to random patterns, but instead want to stick firmly to my own personal style. AND, I want to take my time, not be concerned too much with having something to blog, but having something beautifully constructed to blog. We'll see how that goes :)

My kind of exercise

For my other goals in new year, some are the usual, others are more specific and important to me. Mostly, I want to look after myself more both physically and mentally, making the time to go to the gym, run, and walk just for the sole purpose of a nice walk, not because I need to get somewhere. I live right near Greenwich park and it's incredibly beautiful. I want to to schedule more walks and runs in the park, making sure I truly take in the view and the smells around me.

Last year, I had one of the most positive years I've had in a long time and I want to maintain the hard work I've put into self-development. I want to pursue more Mindfulness practice as well as yoga and relaxation. Sometimes, I drown myself with deadlines and even sewing becomes a pressure rather than my treasured hobby. So this year, I'll be embracing essential oils, baths, and some time in Hawaii with Don ;) Other goals include more reading, more film watching as well as learning something new. I am toying with either refreshing my German or undertaking a tailoring course, if I can find a suitable evening or weekend course. I'd even like to do some carpentry! Adult Education is our oyster people!

Phew...I'm exhausted...maybe I'll just have another cup of tea and some more Christmas chocolate before I start all this good stuff.

Happy New Year everyone and I wish you much sewing joy xx