Ban the bomb

Like many others who took part in #rigelbomberjanuary, the Rigel bomber jacket had been languishing in my ‘to sew’ pile for months. A collective online sew-a-long was just what I needed to push me into finally making it. (I did make this jacket in the first month of 2015 so I hope that it can still count as a #rigelbomberjanuary effort – despite the fact that I’m posting this in mid-February!)

(Tree sticking out of head – photography fail 1)

(Oh hi, Emily in the mirror – photography fail 2)

The fabric I used came from a cut-up old second-hand jacket. As it was quilted it was essentially already lined so I didn’t want to add a ‘real’ lining. I left out the facings and I finished the inside seams with my overlocker and added some black bias binding to neaten them where possible.

Close-ups of insides:






I omitted the welt pockets (I know – the best bit!) as I didn’t want the pocket bags wafting about. It’s a bit ironic that I didn’t make them as the welt pocket feature was actually one of the reasons why I bought the pattern in the first place and I was really looking forward to learning this new technique! I’ll need to incorporate welt pockets into a project soon to make up for it!

“OK I admit it – I was too lazy to add the welt pockets. What you gonna do about it?”

I was also slightly unsure about the finished zip placement in relation to the neck ribbing. I was worried I’d got it too low, but after much analysis of other Rigels online I think it’s more or less in the right place. The ribbing is not quite parallel but the print and grey ribbing are forgiving colour tones unless you are as close as in this photo.



While the bomber would definitely be better with the welts it’s still great with out them. Now I know that I like the Rigel on me and that it is super easy (yes, I was a bit apprehensive about the ribbing) I might plan a more thought-out version and source my supplies accordingly. But in the meantime I’m looking forward to swanning about the mean streets of Brussels in this once the days get warmer.


I don’t know about you, but I sure feel part of a global hard-as-nails super cool sewing gang when I’m wearing my bomber! How does your Rigel make you feel?

(Tree still sticking out of head – photography fail 3)



One fine day at the beginning of January I was wandering in the Marolles when suddenly I was stopped in my tracks by what I saw before me –  a new sewing shop on the corner of the street!
I couldn’t walk by without popping in to find out more. Over a cup of tea and a slice of bread and honey, I learn about the work of the four women who run this sewing space in the heart of the Marolles.

Un beau jour, début janvier je flânais dans les Marolles et tout d’un coup je suis coupée dans mon élan par ce que je vois devant moi  – il y a un nouveau magasin couture qui fait le coin de la rue ! Obligé que je rentre dedans pour en savoir plus. Autour d’un thé et une tranche du pain au miel, je découvre ce qu’elles font exactement les quatre femmes qui gèrent cet espace couture au cœur des Marolles.


The project was founded by Liliane Malemo and Juliette Berguet a year and a half ago, before Béatrice Flameng and Maia Rosangela joined the team, completing the line-up and giving Orybany its current aesthetic. It’s both a shop and a workshop; it’s a place for making and a place for selling creations from their own ethical labels.
Oryginis‘, run by Lilianne and Juliette, is a womenswear label with an emphasis on high-quality fabrics. ‘Marcel‘ is run by Béatrice who specialises in women’s (and sometimes kids) accessories made from second hand materials. And finally there is ‘Ethika‘ run by Maia, a buyer who sources interesting brands selling organic wares.
At Orybany you can also take part in sewing workshops.

“The Orybany ethos is that we take a different approach to consumption. For us this project was an awakening. We hope to appeal to people who appreciate organic and ethical products or to people who are just looking for something a bit different, those who think outside the box,” says Béatrice.

Orybany a été fondé par Liliane Malemo et Juliette Berguet  il y un an et demie, ensuite Béatrice Flameng et Maia Rosangela ont rejoint l’équipe, et voilà Orybany comme c’est aujourd’hui est né. À la fois une boutique et un atelier ; c’est un endroit de fabrication et de vente de créations des leurs marques différentes.
Oryginis‘, par Lilianne et Juliette, est une marque de vêtements et d’accessoires pour femmes réalisées à partir de matières nobles. ‘Marcel‘ par Béatrice, est une marque d’accessoires réalisés à partir de la récupération.
Et le troisième marque de la maison c’est ‘Ethika‘ par Maia
, une ‘buyer’ qui cherche les produits des petits marques bio et éthiques intéressantes et les amène au magasin pour les vendre.
Chez Orybany il y aussi les ateliers
de couture.

« La philosophie d’Orybany est que on essaie de porter un regard diffèrent – de regarder au travers la consommation. Pour nous ce projet a été une prise de conscience. On espère intéresser aux gens qui apprécient des produits bio et éthiques ou des gens qui cherchent quelque choses un peu diffèrent, » dit Béatrice.



What I really appreciated, aside from their creativity, enthusiasm, and humour, was that the Orybany girls are not unaware of the contradictions that are unavoidable when trying to set up such an ‘ethical’ project, as Liliane explains:

“We’re aware not everyone can afford the clothes we sell; of course it is cheaper for people living on the breadline to buy ‘fast fashion’. It’s a luxury to be able to make choices like buying organic products. But just because it is hard to compete with fast fashion doesn’t mean you should not try to construct an alternative. At the end of the day cheap clothes still come at a price. We’ve tried our best to make the prices affordable while at the same time taking into consideration the financial realities of working in design – and especially ethical fashion. Sourcing fabric is a big expense, and we have to make a living too.”

One advantage of working together is that it makes it easier to face these financial realities.

“Collaboration was certainly a way to reduce our costs,” continues Liliane. “Working as a designer like this on your own would be near impossible! And together we can fill up a whole shop! But the biggest advantages are the creative ones that working in collaboration with others brings.
Everyone brings something to the table – Béatrice really inspired us as she showed us that everything can be transformed if you put your mind to it. And Maia’s experience is crucial as she really knows what will sell and what won’t.”

“We have had to get used to being together, to collaborating and compromising. We get along really well because we don’t cross each other’s boundaries. We complement each other because we don’t step on each other’s toes creatively; each of us has quite distinct areas of work so we are not competing with each other.”



Ce que j’appréciais beaucoup – sans parler de leur enthousiasme, créativité, et humour, – c’était le fait qu’elles sont consciente des contradictions qui sont difficile d’éviter en montant un tel projet dit ‘éthique’, comme Liliane m’a expliqué :
« On n’ignore pas que nos produits ne sont pas accessibles aux gens avec des moyens réduits – bien sûr c’est moins cher pour ceux qui vivent sous le seuil de pauvreté d’acheter des vêtements dit ‘fast-fashion’. C’est un luxe de pouvoir acheter des produits bios ou éthiques. Mais même si il est très dur de faire la concurrence avec ‘fast-fashion’, ça ne vaut pas dire qu’il n’y a pas de la place pour construire les alternatives, en espèrent que un jour ces alternatives seront les normes. Les vêtements pas chers ont un cout quand-même quelque part. On a fait notre mieux de faire que les prix soient abordables tout en tenant en compte des réalités financières de travailler dans la création – et surtout l’éthique – le tissu c’est une grande dépense, par exemple. On doit pouvoir gagner notre vie aussi. »

Travailler ensemble alors c’est un moyen de faire face à ces difficultés financières.

« On s’est toutes mis en collaboration bien sûr pour diminuer les charges, » continue Lilianne. « En faisons-nous même ça aurait été impossible ! Ensemble on arrive à remplir tout une boutique ! Mais ce sont les avantages
créatifs qui nous inspirent le plus. On apporte toutes des compétences différents – Béatrice nous a vraiment inspiré en nous montrant que on peut tout transformer si on s’applique. L’expérience de Maia est essentiel ; elle a une super connaissance du marché donc elle sait nous dire si une création va intéresser aux clients ou pas. »

« On a du toutes s’habituer au fait de travailler ensemble, de la collaboration, et du compromis. On s’entend super bien parce qu’on a du respect pour les limites de chacune. On se complète parce que on ne marche pas sur les
pieds des autres en matière de la créativité ; chacune travaille sur les projets très diverse en fait donc on n’est pas en concurrence.»




I love discovering these types of projects. So much respect for people who got for it with their creative ideas!
Good luck girls!

J’adore découvrir ce genre de projet – j’ai beaucoup de respect pour des gens qui osent monter un tel projet ! Je leur souhaite beaucoup de succès !


For more info / Pour en savoir plus :

50 rue de Tanneurs, 1000 Bruxelles

Check out this beast of an industrial overlocker! / Quelle surgeteuse !

A dress for Katrina

‘In the bleak midwinter’ there is no better place to be than beside the sewing machine. And over Christmas while at home in Scotland I spent a bit of quality time with my Mum’s machine, with a chocolate coin or two and a cup of tea never far from reach.

And in the spirit of the season I decided to partake in some un-selfish sewing for a change; a dress for my wee sister, Katrina.

And here is Katrina herself wearing the finished item – ta da!


I’ve wanted to make something for someone else for a while and I knew the first person I wanted to test out my skills on was my sister: you can be honest with your family members and they can be honest with you so I think they make for suitable guinea pigs! Also, I know she thinks you can never have too many party dresses so I thought it would be a nice present for a special sister.

But, unfortunately she lives in Glasgow and I live in Brussels. That made it tricky to take her measurements to draft her basic blocks. Luckily my number one blog reader (hi Mum!) stepped up to the challenge and took the measurements and emailed me them.

From these I drafted a basic bodice block using the book ‘Pattern Making (Portfolio Skills)’ by Dennic Chuman Lo. I made a dress for myself using his block method a while ago and I was pleased with the results and the fit so I thought I’d give it a go. Incidentally, I think it is good to try different ways of drafting blocks and compare the methods as you go. I think you can also mix methods. For example, I used a different way of calculating the dart suppression than the one used in the book – I used the method I learnt on the pattern drafting night class I took at Cardonald College in 2007 (wow, seven years ago…). I still have the workbooks we got from the class and use them from time to time.
Another trick I used that wasn’t part of Lo’s instructions was asking my Mum to take my sister’s measurement from her shoulder to the fullest part of her bust. I learnt this from Hanne’s blog and I think it really is the secret to a good fit at the bust as it helps position the bust point correctly.

From the block I drafted the bodice pattern. I wanted it to be a fairly simple style – side darts at the bust and front and back waist darts. My plan was to sew it up in the main fabric in Belgium and then check the fit when I got home for Christmas. If need be I could then make the necessary adjustments to the pattern and sew it up again (I have about four metres of the fabric I bought for the dress which came from the Parvis Saint Gilles Saturday market).

But luckily – much to my amazement and relief – it fitted really well at the bust, the back wasn’t perfect but we decided that we could live with it by adding two darts at the neckline. I think there was a bit of excess fabric at the waist too.


But all in all I was so so pleased that my ‘experiment’ had worked and particularly about how well the pattern fit my sister exactly at the bust. (Sorry, Katrina, for making you stand with your arms out with fabric pinned to you while I excitedly danced around you saying things like ‘yay, what a great fit!’ and ‘it’s a Christmas miracle’!)


Then in the spirit of keeping things simple I drafted a simple half circle skirt to join to the bodice. I used the method I outlined in this previous post. I lined the bodice with some really nice greyish soft cotton that I got for five euros a metre in Maison des Tissus on Chaussée d’Ixelles. I also added some yellow piping at the waist seam to jazz things up a bit.


The (self-imposed) challenge was to get the dress finished by Christmas Day so I could wrap it up and give it to Katrina but I didn’t quite meet my own deadline. I got it finished before the end of my trip home though….bar some hand-sewing to neaten the lining hem and a few zigzag stitches to tidy the insides of the seams – thanks Mum for finishing those tasks off for me! 🙂

So all in all it was a real team effort! Thanks, Katrina, for being a lovely guinea pig and for enduring the cold temperatures throughout this grueling photoshoot. I hope you like the dress!


Here’s to more sewing, pattern drafting, experiments, and learning in 2015!

A trip to the Fabric Sales


Did you know that metres upon metres of fabric await in a 350m2 warehouse space on an industrial estate in Rostelaar, just outside Leuven?

Neither a shop, nor a market, the Fabric Sales is more ephemeral than that – it’s a stock sale that takes place 3 days a month, just 10 months of the year. The concept is simple: the fabrics on sale are overstock from renowned Belgian designers sold on to both those working in the fashion industry themselves and people like me who enjoy making their own clothes, at affordable prices.

The range of fabrics on offer when I went in November was impressive. I came away with some grey thick knit and some ribbed black jersey – both were fabric overstock from Belgian designer Raf Simons.

The Fabric Sales is run by Allison McGreal, whom I met last month when I took my maiden voyage to Rostelaar. She was really lovely and took the time to explain this unique fabric stock sale concept to me, as well as give me some useful food-for-thought on various topics.

It was really fascinating to hear about her visions and ideas for The Fabric Sales – especially as she is not from a ‘home sewing’ background, her experience comes from a more fashion/business perspective. I’m really interested in where the worlds of home sewing and fashion meet: where does one become the other and how do they intersect?

Allison spoke of how she wants The Fabric Sales to be one part of a network that would link up professionals, students, and amateurs at both the local and international level within the fashion industry. For example, if a designer was looking for a pattern cutter they could turn to a database to find out the contact details of people in the
local area who have those skills. This kind of ‘joining-the-dots’ strategy would both help create jobs and support designers starting out.

What inspired the Fabric Sales was the amount of textile waste in the fashion industry. It’s really shocking that for many companies it is actually cheaper to throw out excess fabric than to manage selling it on. And we’re not talking about scraps here – we’re talking about bolts of high quality fabric.

But while The Fabric Sales was born out of a reaction to this pro-waste industry model you won’t see any nods to ‘green living’ in its marketing strategy – what I gathered from talking to Allison is that The Fabric Sales is not trying to specifically appeal to the so-called ‘ethical’ consumer – rather, Allison wants this kind of approach to textile waste to be the norm and not the niche.

Finally, what I liked about buying overstock ‘designer’ fabric is that it is quite democratising – just like our home makes, a very expensive piece of clothing also started life on a fabric bolt.

There is a special Christmas Fabric Sales this Sunday (14th December) from 11h to 17h.

If you are coming from Brussels and don’t have a car (like me!) take a train to Leuven and then a De Lijn bus (number 333, 334, or 335) to Rotselaar (get off at the stop Rotselaar Rotonde). From here it is a 10-minute walk.

Full address:














C’est le temps de la couture: my #SewingFrançoise entry


When Tilly released her newest pattern, Françoise, I knew it would go straight to the top of my to-sew list: firstly, because I’m always on the look out for a good shift dress pattern (I had a go at drafting one myself last year and I made a 60s inspired shift dress as part of Sew it Up in May); secondly, because the pattern is a clear nod to the wonderful Françoise Hardy; and thirdly because Tilly is holding a Françoise sewing competition in which the star prize is a shiny new sewing machine!

I’ve entered two sewing competitions already this year but as yet have not
been triumphant – could this be my time?! 🙂


Let’s go through the details:

– I chose to sew Françoise in a purple tartan wool. I bought it a while ago in Berger.

– I drafted an all-in-one lining to make sure it would be comfy to wear. I drafted and sewed it using the same principles as you would for making an all-in-one facing. The lining fabric is brown satin that has a coating of viscose on the other side – perfect for adding warmth in the winter.


This was very well explained by Tilly and in my last blogpost I wrote about how making this dress helped me realise where I had been going wrong before with SBAs – now I know I must pick the pattern size at the bust based on the high bust measurement. I cut a Size 3 in the bust and a size 2 at the waist and hip. I then carried out an SBA following Tilly’s method. My SBA meant that I removed the bust darts completely.

– I also moved the waist dart by unpicking my muslin several times until I got it in the right place. I found that creating a cardboard cut-out of the waist dart shape was helpful for tracing it onto the fabric.

– I shortened the dress by 3.5cm at the waist ‘lengthen/shorten here’ lines.

– Instead of an invisible zip I used a centred zip – mainly because I thought the fabric would be too bulky for an
invisible zip but I also thought it would be nice to use a full zip to nod to the 60s as I think invisible zips were only widely available to home sewers from the late 60s.

– I also lowered the zip slightly to make space for a nice button.

– I carried out a sway back adjustment as there was a lot of excess fabric in the arch of my back – this is the first time I’ve carried out this adjustment.

Voilà! Overall I’m really happy with my dress. The wool is quite hard to press but I like the really defined lines of the seams and the darts, and how the thickness of the fabric holds the shape of the dress well. I had a bit of trouble getting the lining of the collar not to peek out but you can’t really tell when I wear it, unless you are as close as this photo! Most of all I’m happy with the fit, I really took my time to get it right and I think it paid off.

Wish me luck in the competition!