Sunday, July 27, 2014

Richard Nixon? I can't believe I'm dead. There was so still so much left on my bucket list. So many different kinds of buckets I wanted to own. Buckets.

Heeeeeeey! Hi everyone, happy Sunday! It's been a lovely sunny weekend here at Casa Clackett - I went to Stratford yesterday with Sarah and Char and bought some amazing Liberty fabric and some cheese (the cheese was for Nic) and I've been teaching today. We have a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge and basically things are pretty sweet. Everything is lining up for old Dolly Clackett.

So, I'm still plugging away here trying to catch up with unblogged stuff I've made. This time you're getting two for the price of one, because I decided to take part in the Outfit-Along hosted by Lladybird and Andi Satterlund. I'm still not a stellar knitter but, having finished three Miette cardigans since December, I quite fancied the challenge and downloaded Andi's new Myrna pattern. I was able to knit it fairly quickly - I think in total it took me about two weeks - and I really enjoyed knitting it. It's not perfect - it's really far from perfect - but as it's only the fourth cardigan I've ever knitted, I can't be too upset about that!

Myrna cardigan by Andi Satterlund and Bedelia dress - Vogue V8998 in African wax cotton, worn with Maguba Rio clogs

Okay. Let's get my criticisms out of the way first. I should have made the cardigan a little bit longer - maybe about an inch - so that it hits my natural waist. As it stands it's a little bit too short. Also, I fluffed it a bit around the waist. I got right down to the ribbing, and then I had to frog the whole thing up to the armholes because I had got something twisted around (I don't know if there is a technical term for that. So Sorry, So Not A Real Knitter) and then when I was knitting the neckband, I think I might have missed some stitches or something, because it is tighter on one side than on the other. Sigh. You can see in the photo above there that it's coming up a bit higher on one side. That's exacerbated by me standing with one shoulder way up higher than the other, but it's there when I stand straight as well.

There's that dopey back again. Check out my keyhole, though.

So, being totally real, I might not wear this cardigan a lot. If at all. BUT I really enjoyed knitting it. It's a really good project for someone like me - it's quick because it's knitted mainly in stockinette, but there's enough shaping and lace work for it to not be really boring. I also learned new stuff - knitting and finishing the keyhole wasn't hard but it was an interesting challenge, and I LOVED knitting the sleeves - which are knitted and shaped using short rows. Myrna is a gorgeous pattern - a bit quicker than the Miette and maybe even a bit easier (you know, it would be if I hadn't made some silly mistakes) and I think probably easy enough to customise when I make it again. I'm thinking of knitting this again in a bright blue - similar to the blue of my dress - I just need to find the yarn. I used Rico cotton yarn for this cardigan and I have to admit, I kind of hated it. I'm not sure about the colour, and it's so fluffy! Pink cottony fluff everwhere, including in the back of my throat while knitting. Yuck. So, while this particular Myrna isn't a solid winner, the pattern itself totally is. Also: MYRNA. Myrna Loy is one of my favourite actors.  This is my desktop wallpaper, and it has been since 2007:

I want to be Myrna Loy when I grow up

It's hard not to get frustrated with the fact that I'm not that good at knitting, yet. I'm pretty good at sewing, and I can make the dresses I make fit me (mostly) and look pretty cute (mostly) and I usually know what I'm doing. This is not at all the case with knitting and I have to keep reminding myself that I've not been doing it for very long. Anyway - I just have to keep going and will try to stretch myself with each project. I certainly enjoy the process, even if the effort/benefit ratio isn't on my side yet.

"Should I put this picture of my not-very-good cardigan on the internet? Yeah, fuck it, probably."

The dress, now. The dress. The fabric might be familiar, and that's because it's the exact same as the fabric I used for the Ankara dress, which I posted about last week. I bought the navy/orange colourway of this fabric on Goldhawk Road and the shop had this blue/pink colourway, and a red/yellow one too. Anyway, I bought the blue in the shop but then when I got home regretted not also buying this one. So at, like, one in the morning, I went online and bought this fabric on ebay and some Swedish hasbeens from Asos. And then I went to sleep, feeling happy to have spent too much money on frivolous things.

I'd be standing up straight if I wasn't too busy trying to get knocked down. Maybe.

It's another Vogue V8998, this time with the 8-gored circle skirt that the lady in the neon yellow neoprene dress on the pattern envelope is wearing. Only, without the horsehair braid in the hem. The fit on this dress is still not perfect - I'm kind of stuggling to get that inset waistband not to wrinkle, but again this is sort of exacerbated by my total inability to stand up straight. In honesty, though, this is the kind of thing I am pointing out because I think that I should. It's not because it bothers me at all when I'm wearing the dress. It doesn't.

You can't see the wrinkle in this photo but WTF is going on with my crazyface?

I enjoyed sewing this version of V8998 much more than the partially gathered skirt version I made at the John Lewis Sewing Bee. It's more time-consuming because of all the panels, but I have to say that I cannot fault Vogue's drafting. This skirt fitted together really beautifully and with no bother - all the notches in the correct place and all of that jazz. As with the Anna dress I posed about the other day, I worked as methodically as I could with the skirt pieces, starting from the centre front and working outwards. It's even more important here, I think, because these pieces really DO look all the same! The pattern calls for a full lining but, do you know what? On an 8-gored circle skirt?

I lined the bodice and called it a day. And I guess I caught up with memes from two years ago because I'm so cool.

As with the Ankara dress, I did consider using piping to pick up either the hot pink or the navy of the stars. But, it seemed like print was busy enough as it was, so I left it. I used a hot pink zip, but I'm not going to show you because I already have one dipshit photo of my back in this post and I think that's quite enough. I will show you my shoes, though, because holy shit I love them:

Maguba 'Rio' clogs in rose pink from Lotta From Stockholm - these are currently on sale! (and those aren't affiliate links, by the way, so click away)

I've been wearing clogs pretty much constantly this summer, having bought some Betty clogs from Lotta in May, a couple of pairs of Swedish hasbeens since (and have another pair on the way, welp!) and some beautiful gold clogs from Atelier Scandinave when Nic and I were in Paris. It's been so hot that the idea of wearing any closed-toe shoes just does not appeal, and I find the wooden sole to be very kind to my feet on hot days. I've had a few people ask about breaking clogs in - and I will say that the only ones I have had to break in have been the Swedish hasbeens, which seem to have very stiff leather. I put these Maguba clogs on and they were immediately comfortable, and I have been wearing them loads since. I love this shade of pink, too, and I think they look really cute with my dress - so obviously I thought them totally necessary to complete my outfit for the Outfit Along. Logic.

In terms of a complete outfit, though, my entry to the Outfit Along definitely isn't totally successful. However, I have also knitted a hot pink Miette cardigan which will look perfect - but I can't really count it for this challenge as I started it months ago. I will blog that soon, but I did want to show you my Myrna, even if it does fall a bit short. It's all part of the process. My next one will be better!

I'll leave you with the name inspiration for the dress. Nic and I binge-watched S2 of Hannibal and, if you've been a reader for any length of time, you'll know how much I love Scully. Bedelia du Maurier isn't quite Scully-level awesome yet but I feel the character is getting there. Also: THAT HAIR.

"My tasting notebook? Oh, do fuck off."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stop eating people's old french fries, pigeon! Have some self respect! Don't you know you can fly?!

Yo, friends. What is UP. I've been catching up with myself this week, after having a couple of busy weeks. Nic and I went to Lancashire this past weekend for a wedding, which was tremendous fun. The wedding was at Hoghton Tower, which is apparently the second most haunted house in England. We didn't see any ghosts, and didn't take any proper photos, but had a great time all the same. Even though three out of the four taxis we had to take over the weekend were driven by people who had apparently no knowledge whatsoever of the local area. None. One of them managed to get lost in the car park of our hotel for ten whole minutes. Good times.

Hanging out at our castle. You know. As you do.

Anyway, that's the craic with the weekend. It was good and I didn't drink too much, and I managed not to have a rage stroke on the train journey home from Preston on Sunday. All good things. I made a new dress to wear to the wedding (not yet photographed) and have managed to squeeze in a bit of sewing this week too (also awaiting a photograph) Actually, I was feeling a bit crappy this afternoon but seeing that written down and reminding myself of what I've managed to achieve over the last few days has cheered me up a bit. So I guess I should get on with my project backlog because you know: IF YOU DIDN'T BLOG IT, IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

I'm still heavily into the old African wax cotton and this is one of two more dresses I have to show you that have been made from it. As with the Le Comptoir Général dress, I made this one from beautiful African wax cotton that I bought while in Paris. Oh! And on that note - go and check out what Lynne did with her Parisian fabric! I bought this 5m length from Tissus Toto on Rue Clignancourt after extensive - if somewhat incomprehensible - discussions with Monsieur Toto about which colourway I should buy (I didn't find out his name, like, but this is what Nic and I called him. Much the same as we call the proprietor of Royal Fabrics in Leamington Mr Royal Fabrics, and the owner of Kang's corner shop Mr Kang. Except, Mr Kang is actually his name) To be honest, I had my heart set on this pink and blue colourway I ended up buying, but bless him, he wanted to make sure I was making an informed decision. That shop is so fucking awesome. God, I miss Paris.

ANYWAY. Most of the fabric I bought in Paris was without a specific project in mind, but this fabric was already earmarked for another By Hand London Anna maxi dress. I'll tell you why: just before the pattern was released last year, I was totally gutted to have to miss their Club Tropicana party. Cruelly, I had to work that day (a Saturday!) and it was one of the worst days I have ever had at work. Anyway - I saw photos on instagram and blogs and that, and in them, Charlotte was wearing the most AMAZING dress. Yeah. It was an Anna dress in wax cotton. You can see some photos of it in Rachel Pinheiro's post about it here. So this idea has been percolating for about a year. I had the extra impetus to finally get it done when I knew I'd be attending the By Hand London Kickstarter party this month, so I finally made it happen. w00t.

Barbès-Rochechouart dress and (unseen) pink Maguba 'Rio' clogs

So. There is a LOT of pattern going on in this print, isn't there? It's kind of wild and I must confess that after I had cut the pieces out and started to sew them together, I worried a bit if it would be too much. It is kind of too much, to be honest, but I am really happy with it. I don't shy away from bold prints or bright colours, and this has a bit of everything.

I'm really happy with this dress, for lots of reasons. I love the fabric and, having made approximately 7,000 Anna dresses and dropped two dress sizes, I have pretty much nailed the fit, I think. There is a bit more ease around the bust now than I'm used to, but I can live with that.

I thoroughly enjoyed sewing this dress, as well. The wax cotton is excellent to work with - as I have said in previous posts, it has a bit of body but it behaves well. It doesn't fray that much and it presses well and it's just pretty nice to handle. It's good to wear, as well - the day of the BHL party it was HOT AS BALLS and although you might think that a slightly weightier cotton would be claustrophobically warm to wear, it wasn't. This dress withstood travelling across London on the tube at rush hour admirably well and I even got a compliment from a fellow traveller, who stopped me at the top of the escalator at Bethnal Green tube station to tell me how much she liked my dress. I call that a score. People aren't usually all that friendly on the tube.

Anyway - I took my time sewing this dress. All of the skirt panels look really similar and my advice to anyone making it is to be really conscientious about making all of the notches on the skirt panels. Also, it totally helps to have a system for assembling the pieces, if that makes sense. I worked from the centre front panel outwards and that stopped me from getting confused. I turned and stitched all of the skirt seams (I pinked the bodice seams) and I used a french seam to attach the skirt to the bodice - basically because it looks pretty and also it seemed like it might be a little bit more stable. I was kind of stressing the day we took these photos so there's none of the back (LOL, as if I'd use them anyway due to my derp back) but I used a concealed zip.

As I'd bought the fabric in Paris, I thought I'd accessorise with some awesomely tacky Eiffel Tower earrings - they're so big and heavy they'd make Pat Butcher be all LOLWUT - and a matching necklace. These were a gift from Mrs Needles at my surprise hen do. She tells me they're all the rage in Dalston. Finally, I'm down with the cool kids. 

Pat Butcher Fucks Given = None

I made this dress to wear to a party and it's definitely not an everyday dress. But I have worn it since its debut - in this lovely hot weather, having a comfortable and fun maxi dress is really useful. Nic loves it when I wear a maxi dress, as well, so I have been wearing it a bit more often because it makes him smile. Maybe that makes me a bad feminist but please be assured: I wear whatever I want. 

Crucially, this dress really fulfilled its party potential. It wasn't the only Anna in the room that night, and it wasn't even the only Anna on the dancefloor, but I like to think it held its own as I danced around the room with the elegance and poise that everyone associates with me:

Um, yeah. As I always say when I post an Anna dress - this will not be my last one. I did actually buy other fabric in Paris to make a maxi dress, and this is my default pattern. But - it is good to branch out occasionally - do any of you guys want to recommend an excellent maxi dress pattern to me? I know crowdsourcing is lazy as shit, but I genuinely am interested to hear your recommendations!

Right. This lady has got to move. I've had a long day and I need to go and lie down. More soon, though. See you then!

*Dramatic Eastenders drums*

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Who 'grabs' a coffee? Unbelievable. He thinks he's on ER.

Hola! It's Thursday and I've been having a stressful week. Ugh. I have Kate Bush on the stereo now, though, and Nic and I are going out for dinner tonight with our friend Lauren so, in the words of Kate... wowowowowowowowowowWOW... unbelievable! Or something.

I have a new dress to post about today but before I do, I'm going to interrupt with news about a fabric sale. My friends at the awesome shop Berylune have been stocking a small selection of Cloud 9 fabrics for the last few months, and at the end of the month they're planning on having a summer sale to make room for a new fabric order. The sale isn't starting in the store until Saturday 26th July, but the girls have offered readers of this blog an online pre-sale starting today.

As I said, there's a small selection of fabric available here, and if you use the discount code DOLLYSALE you'll get 35% off your order. You could buy the gorgeous Blossom Festival by Rashida Coleman-Hale, for example - I made this dress with it:

Aoibhneas na Bealtaine dress

I've not been paid to advertise this sale, and I'm not getting a cut of the sales, or anything - this is not a sponsored post! The ladies at Berylune are good friends, and these fabrics are pretty sweet, so I'm pretty excited about this discount code. Happy shopping, folks!

Anyway, back to dresses. Or at least, dresses you haven't seen before. After feeling a little bit meh about that Vogue V8998 I made at the John Lewis Sewing Bee, I thought I'd go back to the pattern. I have actually worn the Darkness Falls dress a few times since I blogged about it and I like it a bit more now, but I still wanted to try the pattern out again at my own pace. I had bought some more beautiful African wax cotton - this time from A-Z Fabrics on the Goldhawk Road - and it seemed like a good match.

Ankara dress - Vogue V8998 bodice with skirt from Gather Mortmain dress, worn with Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon shoes and vintage wicker bag

I bought this fabric when I went to Goldhawk Road with Sarah and Char after I came back from Paris. I was just in a wax fabric place, I think. There were a few different colourways to choose from in this print, but I loved the way the royal blue and orange looked together so I bought four metres. I mean, afterwards I couldn't stop thinking about one of the other colourways so I bought that too, but this is the one that really grabbed me. I prewashed the fabric which was a good idea because the dye ran a fuckload - unfortunately ruining some other fabric that was in the machine along with it. But that's okay. It's only fabric.

I bought the four metres in two two-metre pieces so I subbed in the pleated skirt from the Mortmain dress instead of any of the skirt options available with this dress. It's pretty fabric-hungry! I think they're a good match and I was able to get this dress out of one of the two-metre pieces. I made the same adjustments to the bodice as I did for the Darkness Falls dress and lined the bodice only with white cotton lawn.

Bodice Dorp. Hey there, Starry Boobs!

I sewed this dress one evening when Nic was out, and it was pretty quick to come together. The wax cotton was really nice to sew with - it has a fair bit of body to it, even more so than the stuff I bought in Paris, but this means it's easy to press and very easy to work with. I used an orange zip and some orange bias binding to finish it. Just for the craic, like.

Dress innards

I didn't line the waistband - um, not sure why, actually - so I used some bias binding to finish the seam. And, as you can see, I used bias binding to hem the skirt. I did briefly consider using it on the outside of the dress but it seemed like there would be just too much going on if I did. Like, this fabric is loud enough.

Back view. I don't hate this photo. Yay! Also I didn't show you the scoop back the last time I made this pattern so, now you know. You might be able to see that the zip doesn't match exactly at the top but it's only slight. I was more concerned about matching the waist seam, which always feels a bit trickier with an inset waistband like this.

Now, the only issue I have with this dress is that I don't have orange shoes. I never thought orange shoes would be something I might need. Also I don't have an orange cardigan, which, ditto. That said, I think that as the weather gets cooler I'll be able to wear this with black accessories - god, maybe even opaque tights in the winter. Ugh, I hate thinking about tights. I might still look for a cute orange cardigan - although, does something like that even exist?!

So yeah, that's the Ankara dress. I'm pretty pleased with it, even if finding accessories for it might be a bit of a challenge - I mean, it is pretty unlikely that I am actually going to buy orange shoes to go with it. I really love the print, though, and apart from some slight wrinkling going on there under the bust I'm very happy with the fit. I just need to work out what to make from the other two metres I have of this fabric. Shit. Maybe I should buy some orange shoes.

I certainly like this pattern a lot more now than I did when I initially sewed with it. I've since made another one of the versions - it's currently hanging up, waiting to be photographed - and I think this pattern has a lot of potential. It's certainly made me more willing to give Vogue Patterns a try - maybe not some of the truly hideous ones that Lladybird blogged about yesterday. I don't especially want to end up looking like a refugee from the video for Walking On Broken Glass by Annie Lennox - but there's definitely potential in some of the designs.

John Malcovitch, you dog

I find it somewhat hard to believe that Hugh Laurie has the blues.

All right. I have stuff to do (ironing, mainly. Yuck) so I'm going to say goodbye. Catch you on the flippity flip!

Monday, July 14, 2014

I found Aliens scary too. That Sigourney Weaver is a sweet girl but she really shouldn't go without makeup.

Afternoon, friends! I've had the day off work today, Nic and I are just back after a lovely long walk in the countryside and, if the rain holds off, we're going to the fair this evening. I don't ask for much out of life, really. Just the odd spin on the waltzers and maybe some candyfloss will do me. I have a stash of coppers too that I might put into those nudgy machines. It's all excitement in my life right now, what can I say?!

In fairness, Nic and I did have a pretty lovely weekend of fun in London. We headed down on Friday afternoon, checked into the Re Hotel on the Hackney Road and then hustled to Shoreditch High Street to meet Jo and Alison for dinner at Pizza East. From there, we took the train to Peckham to party the night away with the By Hand London girls to celebrate their successful kickstarter. It was a really fun night - although I would probably have been best to avoid the vodka jelly shots, and Nic definitely would have been best to avoid them - and I even had a new dress for the occasion. I'll give you the full reveal in a separate post, but I think this photo probably gives you an idea of the kind of night we had...

Not even sure what we were dancing to here - I think it might have been Smooth by Rob Thomas featuring Carlos Santana!

With my dearest Rehanon

Our weekend in London had a dual purpose - to go to this party, but also to go to the wedding of two very dear friends, JP and Hannah, in Hackney Town Hall on Saturday. Saturday morning was bright and hot, and Nic and I dragged our tired and emotional (not hungover, oh no) selves out of bed and along to Broadway Market for breakfast. We bought coffee, pastel de nata and toasted sandwiches, and took them to a bench in the shade in London Fields. It was gorgeous. The toasties were amazing, by the way - vegetarian haggis, cheese and rocket - and came from Deeney's.

The wedding was beautiful. Much like our own, it was simple and small, with a short registry office ceremony. Afterwards, we all travelled back to JP and Hannah's flat for a party and lunch, before ending the evening at the Clerkenwell Green. It was absolutely lovely. I had long planned to make a dress to wear on the day, and had initially earmarked some of the fabric I bought in Paris. However, I got a very exciting piece of post from one Ms Heather B last week and it kind of jumped the queue. You might recall that Heather was one of the Sew Dolly Clackett winners, with a frankly breathtaking By Hand London Anna/Christine Haynes Emery dress mashup:

Photo borrowed from Heather - you can read her post about this dress here.

I mean. I KNOW. Let's leave aside the issue of the CHERRY SHOES for now (because, OMG) and focus on the dress, shall we? That poppy border print totally and utterly stole my heart. I would have flown to wherever Heather lives and wrestled Froggie for this dress. But I didn't have to, because when Heather saw this fabric for sale again she surprised me with two yards of it. I couldn't quite believe it when I opened it, and all I can say is a massive thankyou to Heather for not only being such an inspiration, but for being so unbelievably kind. Because the dress I made with this fabric is - along with my wedding dress - probably the prettiest dress I have ever made.

I was on strike on Thursday and spent the day sewing. I wore the dress to the wedding on Saturday and  we didn't bring our camera, so I had to put it on today to get some photos of it. Also, I just wanted to wear it again because I love it so much!

Poppy Heather dress, worn with Swedish hasbeens heart sandals and Ollie and Nic apple bag

After the fabric arrived, I spent a fair bit of time debating what exactly to do with it. I knew that I was going to be reasonably limited by the yardage and the fact that it has such a distinctive border print. I was very much inspired by the way Heather placed the print on the bodice, but I didn't want to make a straight-up copy. Also, I didn't want to take a gamble on beautiful fabric that was such a thoughtful gift. I decided to go with what has become a total banker for me, the Emery dress.

I have made a couple of sleeveless Emery dresses before but the bodice isn't drafted to be sleeveless. I made a couple of adjustments to the paper pattern and made a toile of the bodice. I brought the shoulder seams up and I re-drew the armscye to take out the ease that's been drafted in for the sleeves. I also added about 1/4 of an inch to the underarm so it wasn't cut too low. I didn't need more than that because I had brought up the shoulder seams. I was happy with the fit after these adjustments so, heart in mouth, I cut into my fabric.

I just loved the look of the multi-coloured dots graduating down into the green of the print, so I cut the bodice pieces first. Cutting this way meant a bit of a sacrifice of the border print on the skirt - there wasn't enough of what remained for the border print to work the same on the front and the back skirt. I reasoned, well, the front of the dress is more important to me. Also, you know, it wasn't really a sacrifice because I think the back looks pretty cool as well:

As discussed in a previous post, I have a derp back. Annoyingly, you can see my zip at the waist seam, which I promise you can't when I am standing straight.

I did waver a bit about whether this would look better at the front, but basically I decided that I wanted all the colour up front. Looking at this photo - derp back aside - I think I made the right choice, but I am also pretty pleased with how the back looks. Hurrah!

Goofy side view

The dress was really enjoyable to sew. I lined the bodice and used the old burrito method to get everything neatly enclosed, and I turned and stitched all of the exposed seams. The fabric was particularly enjoyable to sew with - it's a really crisp medium-weight cotton with a bit of body to it. I believe it's a Milly cotton, and it was so nice to wear, as well. It held up beautifully throughout a long and hot day in London on Saturday and I felt great all day.

Heather bought the fabric from Elliott Berman Textiles, and it came beautifully packaged, wrapped in mint-green tissue paper and tied in a bow with some lovely lace trim. I wanted to do something special with this dress, so I used the lace to finish my hem:

The piece of trim wasn't long enough to go around the whole hem, but it had two edges with this scallop trim so I cut them off and that doubled what I had available - which turned out to be just a little bit more than I needed. I sewed it to the right side of the hem, and then pressed the whole thing up and catch-stitched along the tops of the scallops. This took ages - longer than most hand-stitched hems; it took six episodes of Dawson's Creek to finish - but I'm so glad I did it, because I really love the way it looks inside the dress.

I have another wedding to go to this coming weekend, but sadly it's going to be a lot of the same people that were at JP and Hannah's wedding, so I don't think I'll be able to wear this again. I'm just going to have to sew something else, as this dress is pretty memorable - especially as I made Nic a matching pocket square out of the tiny bit of fabric I had left over! As I say, we didn't bring our camera on the day so I didn't get proper photos of our outfits (Nic wore his wedding suit again, and looked gorgeous) but, as we were walking through London Fields, I was able to get this little iPhone photo of me in camouflage against a wildflower meadow:

I wore it with different shoes on Saturday - some more Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon shoes*

So that's my Poppy Heather dress. It's actually skipped the blogging queue - I have quite a few other things to blog about - but I think you can see why. I love it not only because the fabric is so beautiful, but because I am so touched by Heather's thoughtfulness and generosity in surprising me with it. It's been said many times that sewing bloggers are a wonderful bunch of people, and I find new evidence to support this all the time. Thank you so much, Heather. I shall have to find something equally fabulous to send to you.

Okay, I'm going to have to go in a minute to get to the fair. That candyfloss isn't going to eat itself, is it? But I am going to be self-induldgent and end on a couple of out-takes...

Nic told me to pull a cute face while showing my bag. Well, just look at the super-cute bag instead. I bought this just after our wedding after eyeing it from afar for aaaaaaages. It's pretty impractical, although it holds a surprising amount of stuff. I bought it from Aspire Style in Warwick.

Honestly not even sure what's happening here. I'll never be a fashion blogger, that's for damn sure...

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Or can we agree that we're all just monkeys with suitcases trying to seem like people?

Evening! I hope this Wednesday evening is treating you all well. Mine is - after a tedious day at work and my train home being cancelled for the second day in a row, I went and had my hair done and then went to the pub and had some fancy gin. Yay! What's even better is that I have fancy gin here at home, so more gin. Yup.

Anyway. I'm having a tedious week at work but an otherwise busy and awesome July. I've been squeezing in sewing time when I can find it - after fabric shopping in Paris and London, and having been given some lovely fabric as gifts, my stash is getting a bit out of control. I have managed to sew a couple of my Paris fabrics, and I have a sewing day planned for tomorrow so, you know what that means. I will have more room for shoes in my flat.

The area of Paris we were staying in - just off the Rue Clignancourt and near Avenue Barbès - is a great place to buy African wax print cottons. The area is an important cultural centre for West African immigration in Paris so there are lots of beautiful fabrics available to buy, and lots of inspiration in the form of ladies wearing amazing outfits. I had good success in Tissus Toto last year so I made a beeline for both branches this year, and they did not disappoint! The first piece of fabric I bought was with Lynne in mind as her Sew Dolly Clackett prize. I bought a 5m length and split it with her. I believe she's planning to make a Deer and Doe Belladone with hers, and here is what I made with mine...

Le Comptoir Général dress - Colette Patterns Lily bodice with a circle skirt, worn with Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon globe shoes

The very large-scale print seemed to call for a circle skirt, but I wanted to try something new with the bodice. I've owned the Lily dress pattern for over a year but I think I was put off it by my difficulty with fitting the Peony dress. I thought that fitting this wouldn't be quite as tricky due to the princess seams. I didn't toile it for that reason and the fit is okay - I cut the size 4 and took the princess seams in underneath my bust. The fit isn't perfect, but it's not too bad.

You can probably see from this photo that the fit is a tiny bit off under the arms. But whatever. The other thing I would alter about the fit if I were to make this again is to lengthen the bodice by an inch. I am pretty short in the torso and this still hits me just above my natural waist. I guess that works with the skirt that's drafted to go with the pattern, but when it's attached to a fuller skirt a slightly longer bodice would be a bit more flattering.

If I'm making it sound like I'm on the fence about this dress, I'm not! Despite a few small niggles, I'm really happy with it and I think the style works really well with the fabric. I really enjoyed sewing it - the instructions for putting the bodice together and attaching the neckline flap thing were typically excellent, and the fabric was gorgeous to work with. I've been thinking about getting an overlocker - and I might in the next few months - but I really enjoy finishing seams by turning and stitching them. For some reason, that was really enjoyable with this dress. I bound the hem with pink bias binding - I had bought it for the inside of the hem, but that little extra stripe of pink at the bottom seemed like a nice touch.

Although I am pretty accustomed to dressing up in everyday life, this dress does feel extra dressy for some reason. It might be to do with the vibrant colours or the bold print, I'm not sure. Maybe I'll feel differently about it when I wear it with sandals and a cardigan, though. Either way, while it might not be as Holy Fuckballs Amazing as the actual Le Comptoir Général, it's a nice reminder of that fabulous place. They have a shop on their mezzanine called Le Marché Noir, which sells secondhand clothes imported from African countries, fabrics and handmade clothes and crafts. Nic and I had a little potter around it on one of the days and it's very cool - but I had already basically blown my day's budget on fabric by that point, so we didn't buy anything. Still - it was excellent inspiration - especially the handmade dresses. The maxi dresses and panelled skirts have already inspired a few other creations, which you'll see on here before too long. The last four dresses I've made have been made from wax block print cottons. I just can't resist those beautiful colours and prints!

Inside Le Comptoir Général on a rainy day - and testing out the sepia function on our camera

Anyway, I'm going to leave you with one more photo. I was going to show you a picture of the back of the dress because the neckline flap looks really cute at the centre back seam. But I can't bring myself to do it because I have a seriously goofy back. I mean it! I always have photos taken of the back of a garment because, you know, I think it's the good sewing blogger thing to do. You know, it's good to see what the back looks like. But fuck it. I look enough of a doofus from the front without my back trying to steal the show. I thought I pulled stupid faces - but I actually have a stupid back. DERP. So here's one more of the front. And, in respect to the comments on a previous post, I'm also going to include photos of some of the other fabrics I bought in Paris. Then I'm going to go and make a Sloe Gin Fizz and watch the S1 finale of Blue Bloods because we got to the end of S2 of Hannibal and S2 of Elementary and are out of good crime shows to watch. TEN FOUR. COPY THAT.

I know it's hard to believe my back could look dopier than my face, but you'll just have to take my word for it.

Heart print cotton lawn - I bought this 3m coupon in Coupons de Saint Pierre, I think it was €15. I think it's twee as fuck, but I love the colours.

Chinese vase print cotton poplin and floral cotton voile, both also from Coupons de Saint Pierre

Pineapple print cotton poplin, bicycle print denim and blue and pink polka dots, all from the same place. The bird print cotton lawn was from Dreyfus and I think it was the only thing I bought on the whole trip that I had cut for me!

Star print wax cotton and random hot air balloon poplin, both from Tissus Toto. I've already sewed the star-print cotton, but I have to get photos of what I've made! If you want a preview, you can see it on my instagram.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there's no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value.

Happy Friday, everyone! Regardless of what is going on in my week, or what is going on over the weekend, it's hard not to feel cheerful on a Friday. Today is especially good because I'm working from home in the sunshine, I don't have to go into the office tomorrow (as I previously thought I'd have to - but my manager told me I could give it a miss) I've had one pair of awesome shoes delivered and another are on their way (don't look at me like that, I don't even care) and I have beautiful fabric and time to sew over the weekend. What could be better than that?!

In my teens, Friday night was also my night for going out. From about 16, my friends and I spent most of our Friday nights, the very odd Saturday and the occasional Wednesday night at a local nightclub. It was called Clubland or, if you were a culchie, "Clublands" or if you were old and a culchie, "The Clubland" I think most of us have a place like that in our past - somewhere with sticky floors, cheap drinks, excellent (if occasionally questionable) music and many happy memories. I've had three significant boyfriends in my life, and I met two of them in Clubland. I met a fair few insignificant boyfriends there too.

Friday nights were called Backtrax, and the DJ's name was Andrew Gold. I say "was", it's quite possible that Andrew Gold is still DJ-ing away because Clubland is still there. Anyway, it was free in before 11 if you had a voucher - I had loads because I stole a whole bunch of them from the DJ booth one night - and shots were £1, and the music was 70s-90s and indie. You could predict the songlist each week - Andrew Gold has a playlist that he stuck to - and most of my favourite songs are still songs I danced to at Clubland. Most of our wedding reception playlist was solid Clubland classics. To give you an idea of what it was like, watch the video to At The Indie Disco by The Divine Comedy...

The Divine Comedy are my all-time number one favourite band, and this song is from their last album, Bang Goes The Knighthood. Nic bought me this album for my birthday a few years ago and it's been on constant play basically ever since. I especially love this song as it encapsulates a very happy time in my life, and Nic and I had it as the last dance at our wedding.

All of this is a very long preamble to showing you a dress I made! But basically it's because I'm a child of the 90s. I don't necessarily approve of 90s fashions coming back - the decade was not kind to us, fashion-wise - but as soon as I saw this fabric I wanted it. It's 90s in a good way, just about!

At The Indie Disco dress - By Hand London Elisalex bodice with a gathered skirt, worn with Miss L Fire Bluebird sandals

I'm pretty sure teenage me had a dress very similar to this - I think I bought it in Heatons in Monaghan! In any case, one of my favourite things to wear when I was 17 was a cropped t-shirt with a sunflower on it, and bell-bottomed jeans that had belonged to my friend Clare's mum in the 70s, with Gola trainers with rainbow laces. STYLISH. I wore that outfit to Clubland - along with a shoulder-length lilac wig I bought on a market stall in Blackpool when I went on holiday there with my best friend Emma and her family when we were 16 - a lot. So yes, when I saw this fabric, I really wanted to make a 90s revival dress from it!

The sunflower fabric is a Timeless Treasures quilting cotton. I bought it with a voucher from an online store and it was pretty overpriced - I think they were asking something like £16.50 a metre for it, but I had a voucher so I thought I'd get it anyway. The fabric took nearly two weeks to arrive, despite the fact that I paid for next day delivery, and the customer service was so rude and aggressive I'll never buy from this store again. It's a shame and it very nearly spoiled the fabric for me - don't you hate it when that happens?! But, the power of 90s nostalgia eventually won me over, and I am really happy with my finished dress.

Give us some Pixies and some Roses and some Valentines (and we're in heaven) Give us some Blur and some Cure and some Wannadies (we'll dance forever)

Construction-wise, nothing to say. It's an Elisalex with a gathered skirt, which is a lovely and comfortable combination. I used a lapped zip, which I inserted the Sunday before our wedding at the Berylune sewing social! I initially flirted with the thought of making this much more midi in length - but to be honest, it looked far less 90s-inspired and more like I'd robbed it from Clarissa Darling's wardrobe, so I chopped it to just below my knee. It actually looks sort of better with heels, but I'm just flat-out wearing my Bluebird sandals all the time at the moment so there we have it.

We've got a table in the corner that is always ours, under the poster of Morrissey with a bunch of flowers. We drink and talk about stupid stuff, then hit the floor for Tainted Love, you know I just can't get enough...

Wearing this dress makes me want to go out dancing, but sadly nowhere has ever really lived up to Clubland. I've never been in a nightclub since that has a tree in the middle of the dancefloor, a plaster panther in a cage or 'caves' - booths made from fibreglass to look like caves, complete with dodgy cave art. I've never been to anywhere else that does 'Blast Off' - at midnight for some reason, they lowered the light-fittings to the dancefloor, pumped in some dry ice and then raised them again. It was quite a spectacle. I've never been to anywhere else where the last song was Hey Jude and the challenge was to stay to the end of all the na na na na na na nas before the bouncers threw you you. Happy days.

She makes my heart beat the same way as at the start of Blue Monday, always the last song that they play at the Indie Disco...

In the absence of all the things that made Clubland so unique, I'm away here to dance around my living room to Mr Jones by Counting Crows, another Clubland classic. Happy Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Well, I was born Mary Patterson, but then I married and naturally I took my husband's name. So now I'm Neil Patterson.

Hello! It's taken me rather longer to get back to blogging than I intended. I had a weekend of socialising and binge-watching season 2 of Hannibal, and binge-reading Red Dragon so my head was in kind of a weird place. I don't know who is the trashier writer, Thomas Harris or Bryan Fuller, but together they make something sort of sickly and awful but also kind of amazing. Ugh, either way, I need to lay off the serial killer pop culture for a while!

So anyway, I'm back today to show you the rest of our photos from Paris. Don't worry, not all of them, just a little flavour of our holiday. The sun is shining and I'm listening to jazz so I'm feeling a little bit nostalgic, I suppose!

As I said in my last post on the subject, Nic and I mostly stayed within walking distance of our lovely little flat on Rue Feutrier. We did go further afield occasionally - we got rained on in the Latin Quarter (again! The exact same thing happened to us last year as well) and we took the metro and the RER out to Vincennes to go to an outdoor jazz concert at Parc Floral, but I confess that was the extent of our travels.

What I wore on our first full day in Paris - Bernie Dexter Frenchie dress and Miss L Fire sandals. This grafitti was all around Montmartre, and in different colours. I took this photo on Rue Muller, but we saw this everywhere. It was so cute!

The Sacre Coeur, seen from Square Louise-Michel. I know this is a total tourist photo, but wevs. Before we went to Paris, Nic and I watched Sandrine's Paris. It was excellent, even with the hateful faux-Amélie editing, but Sandrine was pretty disdainful of both Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur. Much like the Eiffel Tower, I get it that Parisians might think this monument is ugly. It's rowdy up at the top and it smells of piss, and the guys selling those hideous friendship bracelets are a bit aggro, but I love it here. Every time we got a glimpse of the Sacre Coeur from one of the surrounding streets, I felt a bit of a thrill.

One of my Paris-themed dresses, in Paris! This is the Pasteque dress (Christine Haynes Emery dress) worn with gold high-heeled clogs from Atelier Scandinave, and blue Hell Bunny cardigan. I've often heard that the people in Paris are unfriendly and rude, but nothing could be further from my experiences. It is a bit touristy to wear Eiffel Tower print dresses in Paris, but I received so many compliments on this dress, and got so many smiles! And not just from fellow tourists - I wish my French had been good enough that I could have more graciously replied to the girl in the Patisserie who said, "C'est jolie, votre robe!" These photos were taken on the steps above Rue Paul Albert, which I really think is my favourite place in Paris.

Rue Paul Albert

On the Sunday of our stay, Nic and I headed out to Parc Floral to listen to some jazz. When we were setting the date for our wedding, when we could go on honeymoon was a consideration. Well, I had to fit it in around work, too, but the fact that we could go to some Paris Jazz Festival gigs in June was also a good reason for bringing our wedding forward to May. This gig did not disappoint - firstly, the weather was gorgeous and Parc Floral is an amazing venue.

Giant poppies in Parc Floral. I guess they must water them with champagne or something, idk

There were two gigs - one was a guy playing the xylophone on a stage that was set up on a barge on a lake - no kidding - and the second, main gig was the jazz violinist Didier Lockwood. Nic and I initially set up camp near the jazz barge but had to move, mainly because the woman behind me was trimming her husband's toenails and I wanted to boke. SERIOUSLY. We moved closer to the main stage, set up in the shade of a tree and whiled away the afternoon reading, drinking champagne and snoozing, all with the soundtrack of an amazing live jazz gig. That day was like heaven - it was so perfect it was slightly surreal. The only thing that could have been improved on was our champagne could have been colder. But still. Talk about first world problems.

We had made the rookie mistake of not having a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge, so bought this on the way. It was a hot day and I suppose that carrying the bottle around fizzed the champagne up. I had only just unwrapped the foil when the cork popped out and straight up into the air. It must have gone about ten feet up because it took ages to come down - long enough for the people sitting around us to give us a nice (possibly sarcastic) round of applause!

What I wore to Parc Floral - Boum! dress (which I have altered since I made it, as it was too big. I took it in at the side seams) and those gold sandals again.

Drinking champagne was kind of the theme of the honeymoon. We drank a lot of champagne. But you know, if you can't drink champagne on honeymoon in Paris, what's the point?! I liked that you could buy champagne by the glass in most bars and cafes, but of course the quality of what you got varied. In this photo, I'm drinking a glass of Moet in the rooftop bar at Galeries Lafayette. Nic and I went for a wander down through the 8th toward the Gare Saint-Lazare without realising how close by Boulevard Haussmann actually was - it's about a twenty minute walk from Montmartre. Anyway, once we realised we were near some of the grands magasins, we decided to have a browse around Galeries Lafayette. It's free to get up onto the roof terrace here and the view is beautiful - you're high enough up to see for miles, but close enough to be able to see things in detail. As we were there, it seemed a shame not to indulge in some accidental glamour and have a glass of champagne.

Rue Caulaincourt - this photo taken from the terrace at Le Cépage Montmartrois, on Square Caulaincourt

Nic and I spent a lot of our time in Paris just walking around and looking at things - and then sitting outside cafes and looking at things! We'd been to Le Cépage Montmartrois on a previous visit to Paris and caught it a busy time. This time our experience of this cafe was much better and we went back a number of times to drink Sancerre and watch people going about their days. Well, I say watch people - mainly I was looking out for cute little dogs - there were so many cute little dogs in Paris!

Nic enjoying a glass of wine outside Le Progrès on Rue des Trois Frères

Place Jean Gabin - apparently, he was born in Montmartre!

Montmartre in the sunshine.

Sunset on Montmartre - I can't remember which street I took this photo on, sorry!

Colline d'Asie on Rue André del Sarte. Nic and I ate here twice in the space of 24 hours and had the same thing both times - vegetarian Bobun. Paris isn't the best place for eating out as a vegetarian - or at least, not if you want to eat traditional French cuisine. We had a few favourite places from previous visits (Au Relais Gascon on Rue des Abbesses for really tasty salads and Trattoria Pulcinella on Rue Eugène Sue for pizza) and we were able to have lots of picnic lunches and dinners, but this place was a real find - and just around the corner from our flat, as well!

What I wore... actually, I think I just wore this on a random day of fabric shopping and pottering around Montmartre - Aoibhneas na Bealtaine dress and 'Betty' clogs from Lotta from Stockholm. Actually, most days in Paris counted for me as 'fabric shopping and pottering around Montmartre'. I bought a lot of fabric. Our apartment was five minutes away from this...

Dreyfus - 'le temple du tissu', according to Dominique Corbasson - taken from Rue Charles Nodier. I won't show you all of my fabric purchases because I bought well over 30 metres of fabric - but here's a little taste...

Cotton poplin and cotton voile, both 3m coupons from Coupons de Saint Pierre on Place Saint Pierre. I think I'm going to make a maxi dress with the floral one - I got chatting (in halting French) to an elderly lady in front of me in the queue, and with the lady behind the till and they both agreed that it would be a pretty dress. As she left, the elderly lady wished me "bonne couture!"

What I wore on our last day in Paris - the Nana dress, blue Hell Bunny cardigan and those Atelier Scandinave sandals again. And a baguette, obviously. Nic took photos of me in this dress on the same steps last year, as well.

Paris by night, seen from the Sacre Coeur

Thanks for sticking with me through such a self-indulgent post! I promise that's the last of the Paris photos for this year. Well, unless we go back at Christmas, that is. I'm not promising that we won't. I might have sewn through my fabric by then, you see.

I'll be back later in the week to show you some sewing. Before I go, though, I drew the winner of the Sew Over It trouser pattern, and it's Norse Otter! Congratulations - I'll be in touch to arrange to send you the pattern.