A beautiful sunny day in London and a sewing meetup - what could be better. Today’s meetup was hosted by lovely Claire from Sew, Incidentally. Not only does she sew - she baked biscuits for us, she made sure we were welcomed, she made sure we were fed, she orchestrated the swap - she just ‘shepherded’ us with great warmth.
We gathered in the ticket hall of Goldhawk Road station. There was nervous, excited energy. An elderly gentleman asked if it was some sort of tea party and said he wished he could come along!
We hit the shops for an hour of fabric shopping. I managed to find some lovely printed silk, which the shopkeeper told me was MaxMara - a bargain at £6 a metre. I want to make another version of the high flying birds top, but with long sleeves.
After shopping session one - we gathered together and made our way to Liz Cafe for lunch. The staff were very happy to have us invade their little cafe - with a mixture of amusement and ‘OMG, it’s an army of people’. The food was lovely. It was really the quiet before the
Claire co-ordinated the swap - fabrics on one table & patterns etc. on another. I managed to find a 1960s shift dress pattern, small pieces of green linen and teal linen, as well as a lovely chiffon-type print.
After the swap Claire thanked everyone for coming & we gratefully applauded her. We also applauded the cafe staff for having us.
I didn’t go for the afternoon shopping as I was very happy with what I managed to buy and my swaps.
Thank you everyone. An extra big thank you and hug for Claire for organising this really fun day! I hope there will be many more.
This is a garment I still have from my high school sewing. A pink baby’s dress. It was part of my portfolio of coursework to be assessed for my O Level in needlecraft and dress. The brief was to make something that had some element of handsewn needlework - like embroidery. I chose smocking.
It’s very strange and lovely to be able to inspect something you have sewn decades ago as a sixteen year old. What strikes me are all the details in this dress. It must also have been very fiddly sewing something so small (especially the sleeves).
The dress has:
I think about the craft revival that’s happening now and sewing back then. I went to a state school, but it had a sewing room and sewing was on the curriculum. There were sewing workstations around the sides of the room, pressing equipment, bins of scrap fabrics, and the opportunity to learn to make clothes with a knowledgable teacher, who came to work in clothes she made. This isn’t the case in schools today.
I started to make clothes again in 2011 and this has been significant for me personally. Returning to sewing clothes felt soothing. Stitching fabric together and making something functional and beautiful felt like making a connection to something fundamental inside.
Sewing is a skill that has a history of being pass down from previous generations, usually via women - grandmothers, mothers, aunts. I think this dress makes a connection from myself as a sixteen year and now as a woman in my forties. When I discovered the sewing blogging community, it felt like I could contribute something to this passing on of sewing.
PS. The back of this dress is so sweet.
I added 1cm to the main body, top and the side panel pieces. The top panel piece I also made more rectangular. I seem to have made a mistake with the main body piece - so it was a bit shorter than I had wanted. The straps are about 33mm wide.
The fabric is needlecord which was left over from my Celebrate dress. The floral print cotton was a freebie that I got in my goody bag from Rachel’s meetup. I used it for the bag lining and the underside of the bag straps. I used stiff interfacing to give the bag body, so it retains it’s shape and isn’t floppy.
The construction of this bag is quite clever, especially the zip in the top panel. All the seams are finished as you go along. It’s a bit hard to explain, but if you look at the illustrations in the book - you will get a good idea. I decided to stitch the bag together from the outside, so I had to be extra neat (a bit like top-stitching). I think it turned out ok - it gives the bag seams a nice boxy shape.
This bag is quite roomy and I’m going to use it as a handbag. I’m glad that I could use up scraps and also found a use for the free floral fabric.
I used a lightweight dark denim fabric that I bought at Rachel’s meetup. At first I thought it was chambray, but on closer inspection - it actually has a diagonal weave, which would make it denim. It really is lovely - a rich dark blue/black colour, which has a liquid sheen to it when the light catches it.
I used red gingham piping on the front and back yoke seams, and at the waist seam. It’s not perfect, a bit uneven in places - if you look closely. I found it quite difficult to decide where to put the piping, or if it was too much or not enough. I think next time I might use piping on the wrap edge instead to accent the cross-over. I think this time I wasn’t too confident about adding piping and trying to sew the facing as well.
This make seemed to take me a long time, although it wasn’t too complex. Doing little bits here and there, amidst distractions and lapses of focus. Working on this dress took many ‘outings’: sewing on Clapham Common; hemming the sleeve on the tube on the way to work; hemming the other sleeve at my desk during my lunch break, and hemming the skirt at the London Dressmakers Club meetup at the Royal Festival Hall.
The adjustments I made were:
When I was adding the piping to the seams I realised that my sewing machine seam allowance markings are in imperial (inches) but I measure in metric (centimetres). I know it’s only a fraction difference, but when you’re trying to insert very skinny piping, it really makes a difference. So now I know!
This dress looks surprisingly smart (for denim) - so I think I could wear it for meetings etc. The red gingham stops it looking too serious - it’s reminds me of candy sticks.
I named this dress after Tom Odell’s amazing “Another Love" from the album "Long Way Down". There are songs that become soundtracks to your life and this one captures the mood during the period I made this dress.
Thank you to sylkotwist for nominating me for the Liebster award. It’s very lovely of you! The blog award is for up-and-coming blogs - to introduce new blogs to new readers. I’m going to take sylkotwist’s example and not worry too much about the rules regarding the numbers of questions and further nominations.
So here goes:
1. If The National Gallery offered you a painting free of charge for your lounge, which would you take?
It would be either a Rembrandt or a Vermeer. Rembrandt was a genius. Vermeer didn’t make many paintings in his life, but I love the stillness of them. So, I think it might have to be a painting about love “A Young Woman standing at a Virginal”
2. If you could have a me made fashion show, which fashion designer would you like to share the catwalk with?
3. You have discovered a time machine under your sewing table (just behind the scrap bag). With clothes in mind, which year would you go back to and why?
I actually found this question difficult! Too many choices. I have liked sewing from patterns from the 1970s and the 1940s, so they would be obvious choices. But, I think I would like to travel forward and see what the future holds for dressmaking and clothing. So, anytime in the distant future would be my (final) answer.
4. You have been given a bolt of your dream fabric and the help of Patrick Grant to make a dress. What pattern would you chose?
I seem to be drawn to lace overlay dress patterns. I own this beautiful 1940s pattern that I got for a bargain from Past Caring, a vintage shop in Islington. I also really like this Amazing fit dress, but I don’t have the pattern (yet). It really is a fantasy make, as I don’t have the lifestyle for it.
5. If you had a free flight to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
and a half. If you could bring back one item of clothing …
I’m nervous of flying! But if there was a magic carpet instead I think I would like to visit my parent’s homeland of China. I’d like to see for myself what it’s like. My perception is shaped by my parent’s stories, not always happy ones & the media’s image of China. I’d hope to feel some connection to the history of where my ancestry is.
My item of clothing - a traditional quilted jacket. Or, some silk fabric.
Random facts about me
I nominate these blogs
My questions for you
I look forward to your answers & thanks again Amy for my nomination.
Today was a lovely sunny day in London.
When it’s sunny I don’t like being inside. But I also really wanted to work on my dress.
So, I spent the morning doing all the sewing that I needed on my machine, whilst Sunday Brunch was on the television. Then I put everything into a bag along with some snacks and headed off to Clapham Common, to do some sewing in the sunshine. I spent the afternoon pinning; trimming down seams; tacking seams, piping and interfacing to facings. Lots of prep work basically. I felt very absorbed and only looked up a few times. There were families out with their children - running, flying kites, playing ball games; groups of friends tucking into a picnic and singing happy birthday.
I’ve been feeling up and down these last few weeks. It’s important to remember to keep doing things that makes us happy. For me one of these things is sewing. One of the reasons I started sewing again was that I find it soothing, a way of connecting to something. Stitching things together - making pieces fit together, to become whole again. I guess there’s apt symbolism there.
The title of this post is a comment a man made to me as I was passing by. I was looking up at the sky - looking for the sun which was hidden behind the clouds. He said:
"There’s only clouds up there…"
I felt a bit annoyed because he interrupted my train of thought, but also because I think he is wrong. The sun is always there - shining down, even when we can’t always see it.
I had a nice afternoon sewing in the sun.