Pattern: Marilla Walker Roberts Collection Dungarees
Fabric: Lightweight denim from Merchant and Mills
I made dungarees. The success of said dungarees is debatable, especially when taken into account the sheer effort it takes to shimmy them up and over my hips. But I made dungarees. When fitting the bodice part I forgot to take into account the fact that it would have to be be able to pull up and over my hips… A crucial error which I discovered too late; remedying it involved much unpicking, re-pinning and discreet application of poppers and buttons. Getting the dungarees on now involves not only extreme body contortions but also an elaborate system of fastenings and buttons. Unique you might say. Anyway, I’ve learnt from my mistake and next time shall be less concerned about the fit around my waist and more about the fit over my hips. It’s all about the hips with these dungarees.
I think I’m going to relegate these dungarees to the role of wearable toile – fine for pottering about at home (painting dungars?) but needing a bit of tweaking fit wise before they make the real world cut.
Despite this I am pleased with them and, as much of my spare time is spent pottering, they will most likely still get quite a bit of wear. I actually made them back in April, before heading over to Ballymaloe, so with the benefit of retrospect feel ready to make a new pair, fresh eyes enabling me to view all my mistakes rationally, unclouded by any annoyance.
Also, on a wee side note – 2 posts in one week! On a role!
Finally, after pretty much an entire summer, I have gotten back into the swing of sewing. Since coming home from my 3 months at Ballymaloe Cookery School it’s all been a bit mad (and it doesn’t look like letting up anytime soon – try November…), so it’s taken a wee bit of time to get back behind the sewing machine.
Between shifts in the tweed shop and private chef work it’s been all go – I can count on one hand the spare days I’ve had. But it’s all good – I’m just back from a week cooking on the North Esk for a group fishing which was lovely. They are regular clients – in fact they were my first ever clients five years ago – and it’s always lovely cooking for familiar faces.
Anyway, despite this I’ve managed to squeeze in some sewing and have a few makes piling up on my blogging to do list – a jacket, a floaty flowery skirt, an embroidered top and this, Named patterns Lumme skirt.
I’ve had this pattern kicking about for an absolute age but could never quite work out what fabric I wanted to use for it. After much humming and hawing I eventually settled on this cotton from Dragonfly Fabric – a lovely summery feeling fabric ideal for summer.
The construction of the skirt itself I don’t have much to say about – it was very straightforward thanks, as ever, to Named’s clear instructions.
And to be honest, that’s about all I have to say for now – it’s a great pattern and I will be sure to make it again, perhaps in a heavier weight fabric for winter. I’m all worded out – a busy day serving customers in the shop has drained my chat resources for now.
The last 3 months have been the most intense, best, most self affirming 3 months of my life. They have been full on – intensely so – emotional, exhausting.. I have eaten more softly whipped cream, bread (oh hello there brioche..) and butter than I ever thought myself capable of. OK, bread is a lie – I always knew I was capable of consuming ridiculous quantities of bread. My liver isn’t quite sure what hit it, my jeans are definitely on the snug side of fitted and I have completely forgotten how to apply make up. I have cried over marshmallows, gotten emotional about salad, eaten my body weight in brioche, made cheese, eaten so much wild garlic, gooseberries and rhubarb my insides surely now resemble them, nurtured and diligently fed a sourdough starter (more commitment than a baby I tell you), helped milk cows, started saying ‘grand,’ ‘thanks a million’ and ‘I can’t cope/deal’ (thanks Sheena)… And of course met the most wonderful, eclectic mix of people and made friends for life.
I have never felt happier nor more confident. This year has been a year of changes; in March I drastically altered the course I thought my life was on, pulling the rug out from under not only my own plans but also my ex boyfriends. I had no new plan for the future – no career path, still living with my folks…
I arrived at Ballymaloe feeling quietly discontent with life, stressing about everything and feeling generally a bit flat. I have left with a renewed sense of purpose, happiness and energy for life. Even my skin is happier – I arrived with irritable, eczema prone skin and have left with the clearest skin I’ve ever had (I’ve got to hand it to Darina, an organic diet and raw milk has worked miracles).
I am excited for the future; I have so many plans to travel, to work… I won’t go into too much daily detail about the course – there are other far better blogs which do that (check out Miriam at bakemystyle.com). But I will say this; if you get the chance to go to Ballymaloe, go. Don’t even hesitate. It is by far the best money I have ever spent. I have learned more than I can comprehend at this moment in time, from teachers whose knowledge, patience and sense of fun is second to none. I have eaten and worked with the best quality organic, local and free range produce and seen first hand the impact using such produce has on both your cooking and your own personal well being. I have left with so many ideas and plans for the future; not just dreams but actual real life plans.
Rory O’Connell (teacher at the school) sums up perfectly the whole ethos of everything I have learned in his book ‘Master It,’ writing: ”To cook well, it helps if you love and value food, as this is where it all starts. I cannot separate the cooking from what I am cooking. I feel bound to do well by the ingredients… By cooking them well I honour the soil, the waters, the air, the planet, the efforts of the farmers, fishermen, producers and purveyors – everyone who got the ingredients to my kitchen.” This is what the school is about and this, fundamentally, is what I have taken home with me; a renewed passion for food and its origins. Roll on whatever life throws at me next.
Granted I now need to sleep for at least a week, but Ballymaloe, you’ve been a blast – thanks a million.
I have a backlog of sewing to blog about, but, alas, I ran out of time to get photos of it all before I left for Ireland. In this backlog there is a pair of Marilla Walker’s Roberts Collection dungarees, a sunshine yellow, elephant patterned tunic dress, the Saltmarsh skirt from the Merchant and Mills book, an Aztec print pleated midi skirt and a stripy By Hand London Anna hacked into a peplum top. These are all hanging in my wardrobe at home, all finished in the last few weeks before I headed off to study at Ballymaloe Cookery School for 3 months. For, as I mentioned above, I am currently in County Cork, right in the very south of the Republic of Ireland.
After much humming and hawing I enrolled on the Ballymaloe Cookery School 12 week course last summer, and set about spending the 12 months between then and now working like a crazy lady to save the money I needed to go. I was lucky in that, on moving back home, my parents didn’t charge me rent, meaning that I could save every penny I earned (except tips, tips are for fabric and shoes…).
And so, my endless weeks cooking at shooting and fishing lodges, for dinner parties and for folk on holiday has paid off. I have made it to Ballymaloe, where I shall study, intensively, cookery from the very basic to the more complex. For, although I already cook regularly for a living, and have done so throughout my years at Uni, I feel the need – in order to progress further – to really cement what I already know and to increase and grow my abilities as a cook; for there is so much I have yet to learn. As cliche as it may sound, I do not know where the last year has gone – it has flown in and I am super excited to finally be here!
Sewing therefore shall be taking a wee bit of a back seat for the next 3 months, to be replaced by food (to my mind still a very creative outlet). I don’t want to abandon blogging though and, although this is primarily still a sewing blog, I want to also use it as an place to record my time at Ballymaloe. It’s not going to become a foodie blog, never fear, but there will be food featured heavily for a while, with full sewing service being returned sometime in July.
I am currently yet to meet the other folk on the course and am sat in Cork airport waiting to meet a few off a flight. We start properly on Monday, and I will no doubt be back with another post sometime next week with a proper speel about the course and (hopefully) how amazing it is!
Pattern: Named Pattern’s Vanamo Cocktail Dress (just the skirt part)
Fabric: Linen viscose blend from Fabric Godmother
As I’ve probably mentioned before, I studied painting at art school, graduating last July. During our end of year Degree Show in June I was (to my great surprise) selected to exhibit in the Royal Scottish Academies annual New Contemporaries exhibition (RSA:NC) which showcases the work of (apparently) ‘up and coming’ young Scottish artists just graduated from the five art schools in Scotland. Needless to say this is an amazing opportunity and I was – and still am – completely gob smacked to have been selected.
Creating new work for the show hasn’t been without it’s dramas – working alone (in all weathers, in a stable, in your parents garden) is totally different to working alongside friends and course mates in shared (and centrally heated…) studio spaces at uni and takes a whole lot more motivation and self belief. It’s very very easy as an ‘artist’ (see, I even struggle with identifying myself as such – do I really deserve the title?) to allow self doubt to creep in and convince you everything you create is terrible. Whilst this did happen at uni, the support of other people all going through the same thing was really helpful. Saying that, although it couldn’t replace actually being in the studio with them, I don’t think I could have made the work for the show without the constant long distance support, pep talks and reassurance from the wonderful Emily and Jenni, who were both also showing in RSA:NC. (They’re work is totally amazing.)
Anyway, enough sappiness from me, all I’m trying to say, in a long winded manner is: a) if you were in Edinburgh in March and went along to the show, yay! b) I couldn’t create the paintings I do without the support of my lovely arty friends, and c) there was a fancy opening night so I made a fancy outfit.
And so, the fancy outfit: Named’s Vanamo 2 piece cocktail dress. Fancy, but not too fancy – an ‘I can still breath, move, walk and talk’ sort of fancy.
First off – and I’m going to be smug about this – check out my pretty near perfectly pattern matched front and back centre seams. Cutting was a painstaking and slow process, carefully measuring and lining up pieces, but oh so worth it. It would take a very beady eyed so and so to notice the little bits out here and there (due to size adjustments and what not) on the back seam when I’m wearing the skirt. Besides from the pattern matching, and thanks entirely to Named’s wonderfully clear instructions, the skirt came together with little hassle, the main hassle being (besides pattern matching) from the fabric, which frays like mad. But what can you do, it’s gorgeous fabric.
I should also just point out though that my side seams don’t match – I didn’t have enough fabric to worry about them and, quite frankly, is anyone really going to notice?! So long as the front and back were matched ok I certainly wasn’t going to also worry about the sides. Life’s too short and all that.
Secondly, and I should really mention this: the top. I have not, strictly speaking created a 2 piece cocktail dress, just the bottom half of it. My intentions were to make the entire outfit but a) I felt the fabric was just too much for a two piece top and bottom, I simply couldn’t envision in my minds eye it working, and b) I spent so long starting and stopping the skirt I ran out of time to make the top. No kidding, it took me almost two full months to complete this skirt, not because it was hugely challenging and took me hours to work out, no, I’m simply super good at procrastinating. I can’t tell you how many garments I started whilst making this skirt; some finished, most still incomplete. I’m going to blame it on being super creatively inspired at the moment, spurred on to create lots of fabulous things: it sounds better than admitting to having a wandering attention span.
In true procrastinator style it’s actually taken me over a month to get around to blogging this outfit – the opening was the start of March… But it was such a whirl I didn’t manage to get any proper glammed up photos on the night, so have had to make do with some hasty Sunday afternoon photos instead!
One of my paintings from the show is now in London, ready to be exhibited at the ‘New Scottish Artists’ show, hosted by the Fleming Collection. It’s a show featuring 15 Scottish art graduates from last year so it’s very exciting (and very surreal) to have been selected to show in it. If you’re in London between the 21st April and 6th May do pop along to DRAF Studio in Camden – it should be a really diverse and interesting exhibition (and it’s free..).
Pattern: By Hand London’s Elisalex dress with a gathered skirt
Fabric: Birch Fabrics Faxosmile Fox cotton from Billow Fabrics
Spring has been a bit of tease here the last few weeks, hinting at warmer days to come by showing off blue skies and snowdrops in the hedgerows, only to wham bam change in an instant with squally showers and wintery rain. This time of year can be a bit wearying can’t it? Winter never seems quite done with us, and the transition between seasons seems slow and indecisive. We are sick of the cold and rain, of wet muddy fields and bare gardens. However, on this,the first official day of Spring, things are looking up – it’s been a lovely sunny week, with days starting slow and foggy only to give way to brilliant sunshine by mid morning. Evenings are stretching out and the countryside is beginning to slowly green up. Things are looking brighter!
Anyway, onto the dress. Is this fabric not the most amazing thing ever??! I bought 3 metres of it from Billow Fabrics – it’s a quilting weight birch organic a cotton called ‘Faxosmile Fox.’ They do a heavier weight cotton canvas in the same print too, and my mum has used this to make an overnight bag, which is fabulous. However I really fancied making a dress with it, specifically By Hand London’s Elisalex dress but with a gathered skirt. I’ve made several Elisalex dresses in the past and each time have had to do some serious tweaking to stop it gaping across the back (entirely due to my narrow shoulders). This time I really wanted to get the fit perfect. After making countless toiles I finally cracked it. By taking a V shape out of the back – about 1” each side and raising the back by another couple inches so that the top wasn’t sitting across the pointy scapula bone on my back, but slightly above it, the gaping problem seems fixed and as well as no longer feeling loose, the shoulders no longer slip down my arms. Victory!
The other great challenge with this dress was pattern matching. I wanted it to be pretty spot on at the CB zip as well as round the skirt and bodice side seams. Due to the curved nature of the princess seams on the bodice I was less worried about getting it 100% matched but wanted it as near as possible. I’ll grant I’m maybe a couple of mm out at the back but really, who’s going to notice that?! The important straight seams match up grand and the princess seams, whilst not a dead perfect match are as good as they’re going to get.
I’ve already worn this dress several times and, due to the 3/4 lengths sleeves can see it as the ideal all the year round dress – great with tights and little boots but also with bare legs and clogs. Whilst I’m all for having a simplified wardrobe full of key basics and neutral layering pieces, every now and again you just have to whip out a bold print like this!
Anyway, that’s enough from me – I have a skirt to hem and a zip to add onto a stripy Anna dress I’m working in at the moment. Have a good week folks!
Fabric: Libre Needlecord in olive from Fabric Godmother
Pattern: By Hand London’s Charlotte Skirt
February seems to have decided to end on a high note with beautiful clear sunny days (albeit also very cold). Dare I say that it’s even beginning to feel a bit Spring like with snowdrops out and crocuses pushing through. As I think most people are, I’m heartily sick of winter, so this little glimpse of Spring and brighter months to come is most welcome. It’s been a busy old few weeks – I’ve been working in a tweed shop, which fits in nicely around my private cooking work, and I’ve also been finishing off two paintings which are being exhibited in Edinburgh in March. We delivered the paintings on Monday so now the countdown has properly started for the opening night this coming Friday (to which I will be wearing a me-made skirt..).
I made this particular skirt a couple of weeks ago, using fabric I bought a couple of months back from Fabric Godmother. You would be forgiven for thinking that such fabric is really quite ugly – I understand – I can see were you’d be coming from. Olive green and beige matched with an Art Deco style print on needlecord fabric is hardly everyone’s idea of a beautiful print, but, on this, and in this fabrics case, I beg to differ. For is it not simply lovely!
I love the pattern and colour of it and, while I concede a dress would probably have been a bit much, as a skirt, and specifically a short pencil skirt, it is perfect. Incidentally, my mum has bought two metres of the mocha colourway to make a dress and it is entirely suited to this; once the green is removed from the equation it really becomes rather lovely dress (as well as skirt) fabric.
This is my second Charlotte skirt (the first is unblogged) and, once again, the fit is exactly how I want it to be, straight from the pattern pieces, no tweaking required. The only variation I took from BHL’s directions was to skip out the hook and eye fastening at the top of the waistband and instead attach the waistband before the zip, bringing the zip right up to the top of the waistband. I think it gives a cleaner line (besides attaching hook and eye fastenings neatly aren’t my strongest point). As well as the fit, I am most pleased with the flawless (if I do say so myself) pattern matching I’ve achieved below the zip. This was not without much painstaking pattern placement, cutting and measuring, but I have to admit, it’s so worth it. It would have looked completely wrong had it not matched up. I’ve been less particular about matching the sides seams – besides ensuring that the lines sort of kind of match and run right round the skirt – it seems kind of impossible to match precisely the curved seams of a pencil skirt. That’s at least my excuse because looking at this photo I’ve not even done that great a job of running the lines round evenly.. Oh well!
I’ve already worn this skirt quite a lot – to work as well as just generally out and about, dressed down with a slouchy jumper. I really love the softness of the needle cord and foresee many more similar such skirts.
Pattern: Dress with front tuck from ‘Happy Homemade Sew Chic’ by Yoshiko Tsukiori
I have to confess; this is not a new make, merely a rediscovered one. One that has been shoved, out of sight out of mind, totally forgotten about under a pile of fabric scraps, toile fabric and UFOs… What can I say? I don’t remember hating this dress on making it way back in June but I can’t have been that taken with it for it to end up in such a pile rather than hanging, proudly, in my wardrobe. Who knows? June last year is a bit of a haze of finishing uni, degree show prep, late night studio times.. who knows what I was thinking!
Anyway, the dress has been rescued and you know what? I love it. It is the first garment I ever used French seams on so, on reinspection, I was pretty pleased with what I’d done; all it needed was a few tidy up stitches here and there and a good ironing and, hey presto, it is now hanging proud of place in my wardrobe as the ideal comfy everyday dress. The pattern is from a Japanese pattern book I bought ages ago, by Yoshiko Tsukiori. There are some really lovely patterns in this book – really clean, simple shapes which (on taking away the ruffles etc shown in the books illustrations) make some really beautiful everyday garments. I am partial to a looser shaped garment so much of the patterns in the book – as well as a lot of other Japanese pattern books – suit this, although I find I do have to take them in a wee bit to give a bit more shape and avoid looking pregnant. I also added to this particular dress the back ties, simply using the same crochet ribbon trim I used on the pockets, attaching them to the side seams. This helps to add a bit of shape and very loose structure to the dress.
The photos are taken at the bottom of the garden, in a glimmer of sunshine last week. It was beginning to feel a bit like Spring – snowdrops out, everything greening up a bit… But snow at the weekend reaffirmed that winter is still holding on and Spring is still just around the corner, almost here but not quite.
Pattern: Tilly and the Buttons Megan dress, from the book ‘Love at First Stitch.’
Fabric: Monsoon Daisy in monotone cotton from Merchant and Mills
Finally, after receiving her book last Christmas (2014..) and following her blog since she appeared on the Great British Sewing Bee, I have made a Tilly and the Buttons pattern: the Megan dress. And you know what? I love it; the fit is grand, the style is lovely, it can be dressy, casual, dressy-casual – whatever you like, it’s so versatile! I think a sleeveless version would also be rather nice for summer… Following Tilly’s instructions the dress came together with little drama. I French seamed all the seams (apart from the centre back one below the zip which I finished with zig zag stitch – I struggle to neatly French seam below a zip – is it even possible? If so how??) and am pretty pleased with the overall finish. The only slight issue I have with the fit is some slight gaping at the back. Really it’s so slight though that it’s hardly an issue at all and is due entirely to my narrow shoulders rather than the pattern itself.
I think the dress looks rather nice worn with thick tights, boots and woolly socks, all bundled up with a woolly cardi. As suited as it may be to bare legs and clogs (roll on summer), it’s certainly not going to get away with just being a warm weather dress; oh no, I plan on wearing this dress all the year round!
It even looks ok with a lazy pair of converse and tights – as demonstrated in the photos – for if you want that super casual ‘I care but not really’ look, naturally.
I am ever so slightly in love with this fabric – I love the block print designs on the fabric Merchant and Mills sell, the handmade quality of the print I thinks adds something really special to the overall pattern. Recently, my interest in textile design and hand dying has grown and I’m itching for the warmer months to come around so I can give indigo dyeing a go – I feel this is probably more suited to working outdoors than in (I don’t want a blue kitchen…). My brothers both gave me books on textiles for Christmas – ‘Stitch Stories’ by Cas Holmes and ‘Screen Printing at Home’ by Karen Lewis – and I’m looking forward to trying out some of the screen printing ideas to create my own patterns and prints.
If you have any interest at all in textile art beyond dressmaking ‘Stitch Stories’ is a beautiful book. I’m particularly inspired by textile artist Rosalind Wyatt – whose work I briefly came across at Uni – and her use of embroidery on garments, very similar to the item of outsider art, ‘Agnes’ Jacket’ by Agnes Richter.
Image of Agnes’s Jacket found at:- www.theguardian.com/music/2012/nov/23/agnes-jacket-jocelyn-pook-hearing-voices. Beautiful, beautiful, yet bittersweet pieces and hugely inspiring. ‘Agnes’ Jacket’ was in fact the starting point and main influence over my final year work at art school, her embroidered jacket hugely informing the direction my work ended up going in. Who knows, maybe I’ll try my hand at designing my own textiles this year? (I am in no way promoting these books for a third party – I just love them!)
Anyway, that’s more than enough of a ramble from me – I’m off to tackle another By Hand London Elisalex dress which I’m working on.
Hope you’re all having lovely weeks, wherever you are!
Pattern: By Hand London’s Elisalex dress for the bodice and Sewaholic’s Cambie dress for the skirt
Fabric: Cotton chambray from Merchant and Mills
This dress has been a long time in the making. 6 months too long; I started it last June (working on it in between degree show and final uni bits and bobs), tentatively finished it in July, and ripped the zip and back seam out in August. The back was gaping, it sat too loosely on my waist, the shoulders slipped…. I wore it once, out for dinner with Scott, and after having to pin the shoulders to my bra straps in an effort to keep them up – something you should never have to do – I decided that the dress was a complete and utter fitting failure. I threw an almighty tantrum at it and that was that, it was doomed to sit, crumpled and unloved, on my unfinished, maybe-I-can-do-something-else-with-the-fabric pile. Until, that is, a few weeks ago.
I unearthed the dress whilst looking for fabric to make a toile and, time and distance having restored my patience with it, I set about restoring what I’d ripped out. This dress would work! I returned the zip, this time taking care to attach it with my shape and measurements in mind, drawing in the waist and shoulders (around about two darts I’d previously put in in an attempt to tighten up the back and stop gaping). I do have dreadful problems with gaping at the back with a lot of patterns – although I have, by some miracle, somehow – and after many toiles – managed to tweak the Elisalex pattern to suit my narrow back. More on that in another post, with another – still being made – dress though.
Anyway, enough about my faffing; onto the dress itself. I used beautifully soft cotton chambray which, whilst lovely, needed a little bit something extra just to ‘lift’ the dress once completed. Enter a length of beautiful cotton lace trimming which has been stashed in a trimmings jar for goodness knows how long. It looks pretty great against the chambray and was the perfect round the waist, defining touch. A touch of vintage pretty to an otherwise practical day dress.
I’m in another National Trust garden for these photos – this time the walled garden at Castle Fraser. Scott and I had a wee gander out to Castle Fraser last Sunday (there are a LOT of castles to explore in Aberdeenshire and I do love a castle…) and, despite being a bit chilly, it was nice to have a potter round the gardens and a walk in the grounds. Although the landscape is still a bit wintery and brown the first hints of Spring were on show; snowdrops are beginning to pop up in the flowerbeds. Not too much time left for winter now!
Anyway, that’s more than enough of a ramble from me for now!