Un peu short

Say hello to my favourite sewing project from this summer — shorts! I drafted my own pattern and made a few muslins to get the fit right, so I’ve now got a good block that I plan to use to make some trousers. I wanted a high-waisted style and to get a good balance between slouchy and fitted. The other thing I’m happy about with these shorts is that the fabric comes from a vintage skirt bought at a ‘brocante’ so no new fabric was required, and I was even able to recycle the zip from the skirt. All in all I had a lot of fun working on these shorts as they were something I really needed (for the crazy hot weather), I got to play around with fit, learn new construction methods, and refashion something old.

I had so much fun in fact, I made a second pair (see below)! From leftover chambray from my Archer shirt from years ago — bought in Leuven in a fabric shop called Pauli Stoffen. It felt good to finally use up the rest of that fabric!

Now autumn is on the way (yes!) I’ll be wearing both pairs (not at the same time) over tights and leggings.

The other thing I want to mention about the making of these shorts is that I followed this brilliant tutorial from Closet Case Patterns for the Jenny shorts pattern religiously when it came to construction order for the zip and pockets. I just love the way the method has the lapped zipper integrated into the pockets. Seriously, bookmark that tutorial.

Before: a vintage skirt that was way too small for me.

Close up of Heather’s brilliant construction method, and my slightly shoogly sewing 🙂

The second pair!

More lapped zipper swooning…

My Brighton and Hope Dress

Communicating with a higher power or blinded by the light?

This was one of those sewing projects. You know the ones. You’ve got a ‘deadline’. Say, a wedding in Brighton that’s been planned for months in a few days. And you decide that now is the perfect time to start an un-thought out sewing project to make for it! Sometimes this approach is a recipe for disaster for me, but this time luck was on my side and I’m really happy with this new dress.

The fabric has been in my stash for a few years now after buying it in Paris at one of the shops near the Marché Saint-Pierre. It’s a woven, has a sort of canvas-y feel, and has just the right amount of stretch in it. I can’t remember how much it cost but I don’t think it was very much and I bought 3 metres of it (in a burst of ‘I’m in Paris, oh pretty fabric’ enthusiasm). It’s an unusual shade of pink (which doesn’t capture too well in photos) and I think that is why it took me so long to make something with it. It feels like the kind of fabric that doesn’t deserve half measures. It needed to be a dress really!

It’s also interesting going back through the fabrics I bought a few years ago and looking at them with a more critical ‘environmental eye’. Even though I think (hope) I’ve always been ‘conscious’ about how much fabric I’m buying etc., over the last few years I’ve definitely got way more uncomfortable with the lack of information on the exact provenance of all the piles of textiles piled up in my apartment. I’ve no idea where this came from really (beyond the Paris shop where it ended up), what was the dyeing process used to get that deep pink, and I’m not sure what types of synthetic materials are woven together to get that nice stretch.

But the pattern itself is a pattern hacking act of recycling though!

p.s. not my litter!

I was about to buy some new patterns recently and then I decided to reorganise my pattern shelf and look again at the patterns I’ve only made one or two times. It can be so tempting to buy new patterns all the time but I think it is good to get a balance between buying new patterns (and supporting all the wonderful indie businesses) and getting the most out of the ones you already own.

I’ve recently been re-wearing my BHL Flora dress after reworking it (‘reworking’ sounds a bit over the top as I really just lengthened the hem) and I was reminded of how perfect the fit of the bodice is. It is fitted but still has room for lunch. So I took the bodice and altered it to this more ‘corsety’ shape. Then I made some longer straps and drafted an A-line skirt with added flare. I was tempted to go for a circle skirt but I wanted the skirt to hang closer to the body. As the fabric is quite structured it still has that ‘fit and flare’ circle skirt effect but it would be interesting to make this dress in a soft, flowing fabric which would hang differently.

This dress is really fun to wear and after wearing it to the wedding I’ve also been wearing it out and about too. I didn’t get the chance to take pictures in Brighton so these were taken in Brussels in the glaring heat of this endless sunny spell.

Yay, lampost head!

Tête dans les nuages

After making my first Closet Case Patterns Kalle shirt, I knew I wanted to make more!

For this version I changed the collar though. In my first version, the collar was kind of in my way so I decided to forego it this time round. Instead of using the band collar included in the pattern I drafted my own band collar/’visible bias facing thing’ so that I could get it exactly where I want it. It took aaages to get this right and I hand sewed it on in the end, but I’m really happy with the result. Here is a pic of the work in progress:

The fabric I used for the shirt was salvaged from an old sundress that I bought in New Look years ago and didn’t wear anymore. I always loved the cloudy fabric so didn’t part with it. I’m so glad I cut it up and managed to get the Kalle pattern pieces cut out from it.

It is as light and airy to wear as it looks. And it feels so good to make something you love out of something you didn’t.

I’m more motivated than ever to get through my piles of ‘things to rework’/‘UFOs’/fabric scraps. I find it quite oppressive having them in boxes in my apartment yet I just can’t part with them or donate them, and of course I can’t bin them!

I recently had one of the most therapeutic days ever though which I think only people who sew will understand. I keep all my fabric scraps that are big enough to be used again, so that is a lot of bits of fabric that – let’s be honest – won’t all get used again anytime this side of ever. I spent a few hours going through the fabric scraps and forced myself to only keep some of the really special remnants where I had a specific idea in mind of what to do with them.
The rest I used to stuff a cushion I made. It is so nice to look at the cushion and know that both the outside (made from the same fabric I used for a Belladone dress a few years ago) and the inside are nods to my past sewing projects. Such a good way to scrap bust and reduce waste!

From this….

…to this…

…to this!

Zero waste! 🙂 🙂

A new (old) summer dress

Have you looked at your UFOs and/or unworn past sewing projects recently? Here is a very short story about how my new dress of dreams was reborn from a simple alteration.

I found a big kafkan/kimono thing in the fleamarket. It was horrible but the fabric was dreamy. I wish I had a picture of how it was – you’ll just have to believe me.

2) Then I cut it up and made a BHL Flora dress wearable muslin out of it. I did wear it a bit but it quickly became one of those dresses that never gets worn. It looked ‘unbalanced’ to me, I always wanted the skirt to be a bit longer, and I was constantly pulling it down. And for some reason I made the skirt lining longer than the actual skirt which looked a bit silly in this case.

3) With the rest of the fabric I tried to make some Grainline Maritime shorts which were a massive fail because I didn’t check the fit.

4) I never got around to sorting them out and the shorts sat in my UFO pile for 4 (!!) years. The dress lingered in the wardrobe.

5) I catch sight of the dress and think ‘aaaw this dress is too nice not to wear, hold up – why don’t I just try and make some kind of hem extension thing with the fabric from the UFO shorts – this is so obvious, I could have done this four years ago!’
Some unpicking and careful cutting later to eek out just enough fabric and I have a lengthened dress that I love love love.


Moral of the story – sometimes it’s the small changes that make all the difference. #Deep
The End.


Going down the street in my Kalle shirt

I wanted to make something I really needed in my wardrobe and at the same time make it using some of the ridiculous amount of fabric scraps of varying sizes I have leftover from years of past projects (four boxes full to be precise). I was also really in the mood for a pattern that holds your hand with great instructions that you can follow to the letter and tick off the steps in manageable chunks.

Enter the Closet Case Patterns Kalle shirt! I’ve been a big fan of Heather Lou’s blog for years but (shockingly) I’ve yet to sew one of her patterns – until now! I knew Heather’s instructions would be shit hot good and I wasn’t disappointed.

I squeezed the pieces for view A out of bits of green and red linen. I just about had enough of each colour but I had to get creative and do some colour blocking as I didn’t have a big enough piece for the whole back pattern piece – but I really like the finished effect! And it feels good to make a dent in those boxes of fabric scraps (see musings about sewing, sustainability, and fabric). It’s also a good challenge of your creativity to restrict yourself to using up what you have already to make something. What will I make with the much smaller pile of even tinier bits of this green and red linen I now have?!

I really like the resulting shirt, and the only modification I made was to redraft the hem so that the dip is not as exaggerated. I find the collar is slightly too tight around the neck on me when buttoned up. So I’m going to try and make it a bit looser for the next one.

I was first drawn to the Kalle shirt pattern as recently I’ve seen a lot of people wearing shirts with this dipped hem style and the loose contemporary cut. As I was finishing the shirt this week I was thinking about how interesting the sewing world is, both as its own entity but also how it lives alongside the more ‘mainstream’ fashion industry. As I was thinking about this I was listening to some podcasts. Fittingly, an episode of BBC Woman’s Hour (if you don’t listen to this programme I highly recommend it!) came on which looked at the shift towards online retail over the last 15 years and the knock-on effect this has had on town centres in the UK and the people employed in the retail sector.

It kind of stopped me in my tracks as while I don’t support the environmental and social impact of fast fashion and the way it pushes us to over-consume, I also don’t want to see town centres turn into desolate ghost towns (or for people to lose their jobs).

I was really nostalgic listening to the older people they interviewed who were describing how their town centres had changed as their favourite shops have disappeared. It made me think of the social importance of ‘going into town’, ‘going up/down the street’, or ‘going round the shops’. I remember the first time I was allowed to go ‘down the street’ in my small hometown with my best friend as a child. Even though we were just going to Woolworths it felt like the biggest step into adulthood. I remembered going round the shops with my Granny in her town and how she knew everyone and would get all the news from people as we went round. I remember being a teenager in the pre-internet age and going round ‘the shops’ on a rare trip to Glasgow and how it felt so exhilarating as it was a way of exploring the world beyond your own immediate experience – stand out memories were hanging out in Borders books (RIP) and spending all the money I had in the world (£70) on a black duffle coat from Cult – I LOVED that coat.

But whereas big cities still have relatively buoyant shops, and some smaller towns have thriving small businesses, these tend to be in more affluent places. There are a huge chunk of medium-sized towns where the town centre has simply died as it can’t compete with the bigger shops in a nearby city and because of online shopping.

The programme didn’t actually talk about the environmental impact of the shift to online deliveries at all which I think was a big oversight. While online shopping has brought about lots of benefits to many people who might not have been physically able to get out to the shops easily before, I can’t help but think that generally speaking if you are going to consume fast fashion then it is better to do it in a physical shop where goods are delivered in bulk, rather than having thousands of individual van deliveries being made to each customer’s house – and back again when people send things back. Of course, online shopping is not just about clothing, we now get all sorts of things delivered from the internet (including fabric and patterns!) when just 15/20 years ago we would probably have got them from a bricks and mortar shop.

I don’t think the solution is about trying to go back to how town centres looked in the 1980s/1990s/2000s, but we can’t just leave town centres to rot either.

In Dumfries, Scotland – very near where I grew up – there is a really interesting initiative called the ‘The MidSteeple Quarter’ where residents are campaigning to buy-out abandoned properties in the town’s neglected town centre with the aim of turning them into a hub of social enterprises and small businesses. In Scotland many rural communities (such as the famous Isle of Eigg) have been left with no other option but to fundraise huge amounts of money to buy their way out of a feudal system of land ownership which is still a hugely controversial issue in Scotland. But while land reform issues tend to focus on remote areas, if the community group in Dumfries succeeds it would be the first community buy-out in Scotland of a high street!

I think this sounds so brilliant and it would help bring back more jobs to the town and simply improve community life by creating places where people can come together.

I’m imagining a near future where going into town/round the shops involved both visiting shops selling things people really need, but also other community initiatives that bring people together over activities that are not just about shopping. I’m imagining repair cafés, sewing cafés, places where you could go and learn pattern cutting…

Imagine if schemes for textile collection and re-distribution to locally-based sewing businesses were common features of high streets – maybe I would have somewhere to take some of those fabric scraps in my four boxes!