Monday, 14 August 2017

Shanghai & Silk

I recently had the good fortune to visit Shanghai - a business trip, but my sister in law recently moved there so I extended over a weekend to hang out.  To my delight she had done some research into fabric shopping, cue an excursion to the Shanghai Fabric Market.

What to expect?  The place is effectively a shopping mall over many floors (I didn't even go to them all) and basically the focus is on tailoring.  There is lots of fabric and lots of mannequins with tailormade clothes.  Most stalls are offering tailoring services - you pick the fabric and the style and they make it.  But most will also sell you the fabric- so don't be put off.  There are lots of different types of fabric- but suiting/wool and silk are the majority.  I personally didn't pay much attention to anything other than silk.  I wasn't planning on carrying heavy suiting fabrics around with me - but the beautiful silks, thats another matter!!    Just giving you a screen shot of photos from google of it to give you an impression:

The silks there were gorgeous.  Great quality and stunning designs- in lots of different styles. Be warned its not cheap cheap.  But for great silk, I found it acceptable.  I paid 200RMB per metre for most of these 3- which is around £22 p/m.      This is what a typical stall looked like...
I'm regretting not buying the bottom purple one...  I ALMOST did, but decided I'd spent to much.

Tip - have cash.  Across China credit cards are not so reliable (Everyone uses Wepay/Alipay  on their phone).  Tip 2- bargain.  They will be prepared to negotiate downwards a bit- in one place we got it from 260 to 200RMB  (maybe I still overpaid vs what a local might pay but I found it a fair price for the quality). By the way, didn't see any drinks places or anything, so take what you need...

So... onto my purchases!!  I bought 3 silks, all heavily patterned of course...because I just don't really do plains.

This first one has the feel of what I call a regular silk (sorry, I really should have better knowledge on how to describe the different ones!)  but its really quite thick & sturdy for a silk with a matt finish- so I m hoping it will be good to sew with.  I love the colours and little birds on it.  I m planning a skirt.
 This one is so, so soft with an amazing drape. I think it would make an amazing bias cut dress or maybe a blouse.

And finally this one is 97% silk with 3% stretch.  Its more shiny than the other 2 and lighter weight.  I just loved the design- so many details with all the flowers and little bugs in there - do you spot them?!  It looks designer, I feel like I've seen it somewhere... anyway its quite busy so I just bought 1 metre to make a top.

 I was so excited by this one, I cut into it the day I got home!!  After much thought on the plane, I decided to go for just a really straightforward top with a few ruffles.  I used my regular top block to make a simple shape with front darts.  I then made ruffles for the sleeves and round the bottom with what I had left!!    I would have preferred to finish the top with a facing but I didn't have any fabric left so I used a contrast bias binding for the armholes and neck - which works ok actually.

I'm super happy with this top- I m sure I will wear it lots.  The silk feels amazing and actually to my amazement it was a dream to sew! I actually avoid sewing silk- my previous adventures have been frustrating and difficult (silk pulling out of shape, impossible to unpick, pins plucking it...) but this first one was perfect to work with- maybe thats a sign of quality!  

So to round up, what were my overall thoughts on Shanghai?  I really liked it.   It was a short visit, but I found people really friendly and with the help of a smart phone, getting by was much easier than I expected.  Of course it was wonderful to catch up with my sister-in-law and have a guide who had already found some great places too!   We ate some amazing food- they have a great selection of brunch places and all the regular types of food you would expect in such a major city- and some brilliant bars.  It feels a really safe place to walk around and has a real buzz about it.  I found people had a real sense of living in the now- a mindset that anything was possible and felt people really valued and embraced self expression.  Anything goes when it comes to fashion there!  But boy was it hot and humid!  The first day I was there we had tropical storms all day long (hence the amount of time I spent in eating & drinking establishments) and then it was nearing  40 degrees, with high humidity for the rest of my stay- and frankly, I m not designed for that climate!   Hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures with Chinese Silk & seeing my purchases. Any more tips for Shanghai let me know as I'm sure I'll be back there at some point in the future.
Estelle x

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Memade Orla Kiely Skirt

I picked up 2 different Orla Kiely fabrics at Fabrics Galore, London recently.  I can't resist the bold prints of Orla Kiely and I'd never come across their fabrics for sale before, so I snapped them up!  They are truthfully furnishing fabric I think, relatively heavy weight. But I couldn't resist making a skirt out of the first one.  I pre-washed it to check it washed ok and it did - it frayed massively (note to self, should have overlocked the edge before washing) but it was fine, phew!  Let the plans commence.

I recently made up this Butterick pattern in denim and have worn it non stop, so it was the obvious choice. This is my first sewing after 3 weeks holiday, so i was dying to get back behind the machine with a relatively quick, indulgent and fun project.

So it was a straightforward make. I worked hard to pattern match behind the pockets and I did my best on the pleat from to have a complete pattern repeat either side, which works quite well.  I was unsure with the waist band whether to do the pattern across or down - but doing down, it would never perfectly match the skirt due to the pleat, so I went for across.

 I wanted a different style of pockets so it wasn't too intrusive with the pattern so I free-styled that and chose to put some piping at the top of the pockets as a feature:

The only other deviation from the pattern that I also did with my previous version was to add some shape to the waistband.  The pattern piece is a perfect rectangle- which personally I don't think works - I m not sure anyone would have a perfectly rectangular waist when the band is so thick.  So my technique here is to sew the front waistband to the front skirt  and shape off the waistband following the line of the skirt (so effectively cutting a triangle off each corner).  I repeat for the back, then sew the front & back together in one go.

The final details I wanted to share are on the inside.  I had a dust bag for an Orla Kiely handbag so I cut that up and used it as the facing fabric for the waistband as well as the inside of the pockets.  No one else sees it but it makes me happy to have the iconic stem print on the inside too.

I did alot of topstitching - I was undecided but the fabric felt like it needed it for stability, especially down the side seams and around the front pleat, so I also did some top stitching on the waist band too.  Probably not everyones cup of tea, but I m quite happy with it- gives it a more informal vibe and I m hoping strengthens the seams too.

And finally,  I used bias binding on the hem.  The fabric frays heavily so needed properly finishing and was too thick to double turn up- so this seemed like the best solution.

I m so happy with this skirt.  I love the pattern and the colours and the style of this really fits me perfectly.  I love skirts that fit snugly on the hip, have a bit of body and also have pockets and this ticks all three boxes.


Friday, 12 May 2017

BHL Anna dress & top hack

I had my eye on the ByHandLondon Anna dress pattern for a very long time  and then was very lucky to receive it along with the Sarah Shirt and Elisalex dress as part of my Refashioners prize win last year. Truth be told, the only reason Ive not made it before now is, firstly I never buy 4 metres of fabric - I always buy without a plan and usually buy one or two metres.  And, well its a pdf.  Thats a lot of pieces to stick together for that long skirt!!  Anyway, I got a wonderful gift of some hand printed Indonesian Batik - 4 metres to be precise!!  and I found a good printers near my office to print it out.  So yes, Anna could finally happen.

I knew I would love this pattern, the slightly wide sleeves, fitted bodice and A-line skirt are my perfect shape and I wasn't disappointed at all.  Straight up there to the top of my favourites pile!!

Its also a straightforward make.  I played around with it to get the fit of the top right, but once I had that good, it was very straightforward.

I specifically made this Anna dress for a trip to Athens and it really is an ideal summer dress- especially for one who gets so easily red!  It covers perfectly whilst being very cool.

I loved the shape of the bodice so much, I wanted to create a top out of it.  The bodice is quite short, so it needed some hacking to evolve into a top.  I had a few attempts and got it right on my second.  I basically just overlaid my Anna pattern on my usual top block and extended it downwards to merge with the block.  I then for the front, I drew a line extending the middle of the darts, then continued down the darts, tapering in towards the bottom.  

This is the back overlaid with my block - as you can see, its perfectly easy to extend and even the dart is almost perfecty aligned!

I did the same for the front and here you can see how i extended down the darts.  The thicker markings just before it tapers in is where the bodice goes to. By doing it like this I found the darts create a nice curve on the body (well on mine at least!)

And I ve made two so far- one in jersey, which I made a lot smaller due to the stretch and one in Tana Lawn- which is made to the usual size.  On the tops I also added turn backs on the sleeve for added emphasis, which I really like - just an extra strip of fabric sewn on & turned back to finish them off.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

My watson jacket

I fell in love with the Papercut patterns Watson Jacket the minute I saw it!  I spent a long time considering fabrics, in the end I bought this wool from Fabworks Mill shop. Its a great fabric and I m really happy with my choice for this project.  Its a lovely grey/blue colour with flecks of different white/blue shades throughout and a thin black stripe.

Of course with any jacket, cutting out is one of the biggest jobs!!  With the coat, the cape & the lining thats a lot of pieces.  The pattern only asked you to interface a few pieces.  But I wasn't confident that gave enough structure, so I followed what I did in my Francine jacket making process interfacing a lot more.  I didn't cut it very accurately as I was using some odd shaped scraps I had to work around, but I did the top & bottom of all pieces on back & side body, then interfaced the full front pieces.

so first up putting the cape together - easy bit and exciting!
 Next up the bit I found most tricky.  I totally fell out with the instructions, couldn't make sense at all on what was supposed to be sewn where.  You basically sandwich the cape with the side pieces, but its where to align at the top that caused me issues.

So first time round was a disaster, it clearly was sewn in the wrong place as nothing lay flat round the neck and the back was way lower than the front... grrr

The only way I could make it work was by unpicking, sewing the bottom side seam up towards the underarm (that bit should definitely meet!) and sewing the cape to the back as that should also be flat,  then doing this on my dress form to work out where the shoulder bit should come together so everything else works flat.

 So this is what it should look like

then on the next step you are eventually aiming for all the bits to come together neatly.  One side on mine is a lot less neat than the other but you live & learn & I d already done too much unpicking to risk any more on this fabric ( I was already on my second front panel and didn't have enough fabric to cut a 3rd!)

 So much cursing had happened, but when I finally made sense of it, look, its looking good!
 The rest was quite straightforward.  Quickly put the arms in and made up the lining.  I wanted to make a special effort with the lining so I used a chambray grey piping with my new piping foot and Liberty tana lawn lining which looks stunning, even if I do say so myself.

I still lined the sleeves with satin as i find that much smoother for getting on & off and in wear, but the body lining is perfect in tana lawn.

And I didn't forget to sew in one of my tags!   I was tight on fabric so I didn't get the  stripe pattern matching perfectly on the facing, but hey, lets call it a design feature ;)

Attaching the collar was fine, just I had an issue with bulk- Collar, coat, cape all sewn together with 4 of the pieces interfaced makes for a big thick bit!! If I was doing it again I would perhaps look to attach the cape or collar differently so they don't all meet. Or sew the facing of the coat and the back of the collar with a lining fabric thats much thinner to reduce bulk.  But with some good trimming and layering of the seam, its ok. Actually it looks really bulky on the hanger but when you wear it you can't feel or see it.

I bagged the lining following the Closet Case Files Clare Coat directions - see the guide on their website as it worked magic last time and did again here.

So one final thing I should tell you about - fate meets opportunity. I had a small scissor incident and when I cut my 2nd front piece, I got it too short.  Don't ask.  And as I already mentioned, I hadn't enough fabric for a 3rd attempt.  So I shortened the other front piece and decided to engineer a dipped hem.  I absolutely love it. I think its better in style than the original, I m so happy with my mistake (and its not often I say that).  I cut the other front piece to same size as my mistake piece, then I graded the sides down to the original length at the back, creating a sweeping hem line.  I also took it in a bit more at the sides to create a great silhouette on. 

As per my previous coats, I wasn't going to ruin it with sewing button holes on my machine so I basted position of button holes and went to DM buttons in SoHo who kindly did them for me on their industrial machines for £5.  Money very well spent.

So there we go, I love this jacket.   When I started it, I had in mind it would be a lightweight spring jacket as the wool fabric is not so thick.  But actually with the interfacing, lining and the fact it has so many layers, it is rather warm!

Here is the final jacket, on & off.  It looks great with jeans.  I'd recommend this pattern for sure, just have a rough go of working out the assembly of the body/cape before committing your precious fabric. ;)

Now my final thing- I m not sure I sewed the buttons in the right spot.  The collars are equal in size, I ve triple checked but they don't look it on and the front hangs down a bit.  I think I need to redo the buttons, pulling the front further over so the front piece goes higher up under the collar and the collar pieces come closer together.  What do you think?  I already re did the buttons once,but they are not right are they?

Messy Essy Makes