Tag: Sewing

Friday’s Fabric Focus: Can We Really Trust Organic Fabrics?

Organic GOTS certified cotton
Organic GOTS certified cotton

I’m a fabric-aholic! Self confessed and unashamed.

I started this blog as a way to share this addiction to sewing and fabrics, but particularly my love of fabrics.

Fabric Love

There’s something about textiles that I find irresistible and I’ve built up quite a sizeable fabric collection over the years. I began acquiring bits and pieces of cloth, here and there, long before I started sewing.

I’m coveting batiks from Singapore and Malaysia; silk from Thailand; cotton wax prints from Namibia, Africa; denim from Japan; silk from Italy; Breton striped jersey from Brittany, France; boiled wool from Austria; lace from Switzerland; Welsh woven wool; German jersey – the list goes on and on! I even have ostrich leather given to me by a German ostrich farmer!

I’m as curious as Curious George and like my little terrier dog, have a nose for sniffing out fabric manufacturers wherever I go!

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Switch to Sustainable Textiles

Since moving to Germany and having children, I’ve got more interested in sustainable fabrics particularly those made in Europe. I studied sustainability in Sweden a few years ago which added fuel to my organic-textiles-choosing fire, but sustainable textiles aren’t always easy to find on the high street and tend to be pricier than non-organics.  Frustrated with the lack of choice, I started going to international fashion fabric trade fairs to dig deeper.

Findings

What I found has raised more questions than it’s answered. The organic textile world isn’t as clear-cut as we’d like to think it is. Yes there are a wide selection of organic and sustainable fabrics are on offer and the variety and number is expanding every season and now also includes additionals such as buttons and thread.

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All encouraging signs, but it starts to get murky when we try to define what we mean by ‘organic or sustainable’ textiles and clothing in the fashion industry.

What’s in a Label?

The problem is we don’t have a global brand, global label or global governing body that can certify that a fabric or piece of clothing is organic. Fabrics and fashion are produced all over the world, across many different countries, making it almost impossible to have transparency in every step of the production process.

GOTS and CERES certified organic cotton
GOTS and CERES certified organic cotton

For instance, I was browsing the site of my go-to online sustainable fabric supplier today – Lebenskleidung, winners of the Global Source Awards 2013 for best sustainable fabrics supplier to the fashion industry. When checking out their ‘made in Germany’ linen, I noticed that the linen plant was actually grown in northern Europe and only the cloth was woven and finished in Germany. Just like all ‘Italian-made silk’ starts life as raw imported Chinese silk that’s dyed and printed in Italy and finished with ‘Made in Italy’ labels. Don’t worry, it’s all legit and above-board. I’m telling you this, not to discredit either, just to illustrate it’s not always as clear-cut as it first appears.

What does ‘Organic’ or ‘Sustainable’ Mean?

Here lies the problem – it can mean all sorts of things. It can mean the plant was grown organically, or it can refer to the production or the social conditions of the workers or all of these things at once but it can’t be assumed that a textile or garment labeled as sustainable or organic was necessarily produced in an organic or sustainable way for its entire life cycle – that global label unfortunately doesn’t exist at the moment.

A couple of years ago, German Federal Development Minister Gerd Mueller announced he was going to initiate a global organic textile label, unaware of the complexity and inter-relatedness of the fashion industry and the almost impossibility of the task.

At last count, there were roughly a dozen labels developed and managed independently, each one dealing with a different part of the value added chain. And all of them work well, unfortunately not together.

Until a global sustainable textile label can be created, the hope for the future is that these existing different sustainable labels can unite forces and work together to improve the standards and the overall sustainability of the fashion industry and organic-ness of our textiles.

Friday’s Fabric Focus

I’ve started Friday’s Fabric Focus to discuss the different organic textile labels as well as to feature fabrics and fabric sources I find locally in Europe.

Now let me know what you think

Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you sew with organic fabrics or buy organic clothes? Which organic labels are you familiar with? Please let me know in the comments below.

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How vomit and spilt tea got me into the world’s leading textile printing design studio (and how you can DIY your own designer prints)!

First the back story that led to this serendipitous turn of events.

It was the end of last summer and we were heading to Munich Fabric Start, an international fashion fabric-trade fair in Munich, Germany. We were combining our fair visit with the start of our family holiday because we planned to head south anyway and wanted to reduce our time on the road.

Autobahn heading south
German Autobahn

The intention was to leave before the start of morning rush hour. The autobahn towards Munich is notorious for congestion and we hoped that if we left early enough, our two young children would continue sleeping in the car, and we’d be able to cover some miles before they woke up.

You know what they say though, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’ and ‘never work with children or animals’ and we were dealing with both!

Our low maintenance pooch!
Our low maintenance pooch!

Our dog was no trouble, she sat obediently in her little travel box ready to go. It was the kids who threw the proverbial spanner in the works. It wasn’t their fault, I never should have told them we were going on a trip. They were raring to go and wide awake at the crack of dawn and busy sabotaging our attempts to get ready! We ended up leaving late, instantly derailing our schedule and then as soon as we hit the road, we were gridlocked in the morning traffic.

Stuck on the hot tarmac, in the glare of the summer sun, it didn’t take long for the kids to overheat and before we could shout ‘sick bag’, both had simultaneously projectile vomited all over the car! It was well over an hour before we made it out to a service station for a clean-up, by which time the kids were screaming and our nerves were frazzled.

austria scenery

The traffic congestion continued all the way to Munich, with toilet visits, snack stops and dog-exercising breaks consuming the rest of the day. Finally, just as were reaching our destination and our arduous journey was almost over, I dozed off, exhausted from it all in the passenger seat and spilt the hot of cup of tea I was holding all over my lap!

On arrival, I grabbed the first clean self-made thing I could find from my luggage and changed in the back of the car in the trade-fair car park. At this point, it was a race against the clock as I sprinted like a maniac into the halls with just an hour to go before the trade-fair ended, not exactly the calm, collected and professional entrance I’d hoped for!

me in munich fabric start

Panicking that I wouldn’t be able to find my fabric partners in time in the sprawling labyrinth of  booths, I mistakenly hurtled through the wrong company door. Before I’d even realised my mistake, I was stood motionless, mesmerised by the wonders before me! I’d inadvertently stumbled into fabric-lovers heaven! I was surrounded by rows and rows of the most exquisitely printed Italian designer silks you’ve ever seen!

Italy's top designer silks!
Italy’s top designer silks!

Serendipity! Sometimes the universe throws you a curve ball when you least expect it!

Fortunately the Italians are a friendly sort and after a little small talk about beautiful fabrics and the joys of parenting, I wound up being invited to visit their design studio.

Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como, Italy

Situated a stone’s throw from the shores of beautiful Lake Como in northern Italy, Avantgard has been a pioneer in fabric printing for over thirty years! Since it was founded as a design studio in 1975 by Fabrizio Navarra, these printing masters have been serving the top Italian fashion designers and leading the world’s fashion trends with their unrivalled expertise in textile design.

Avantgard printing designer, Como, Italy
Avantgard design studio, Grandate, Italy

Their secret formula for success and world domination in their industry:-

– Proximity to the famed city of Como, one of the oldest textile centres in the world with a high concentration of textile designers and a tradition of working with silk;

Leopard printed silk
Leopard printed silk

– Exclusivity! With Avantgard, it’s possible to create and print a unique, one-off design on just one metre of fabric! Of course it’ll cost you a pretty penny, but these guys are about quality over quantity!

Exclusive printed textiles ready for delivery to Italy's top fashion designers such as Prada, Gucci and Roberto Cavalli, to name just a few!
Exclusive printed textiles ready for delivery to Italy’s top fashion designers such as Prada, Gucci and Roberto Cavalli, to name just a few!

– A wealth of archival designs to draw inspiration from! Avantgard started as a design studio where designs were hand-drawn on paper and textile prints were made from hand engraved screens. Over the years, the company has built up an invaluable and irreplaceable library of designs to refer back to and build on in the future;

Avantgard hand-drawn design archive
Avantgard hand-drawn design archive

– Printed fabric samples can be provided on demand, saving time and money thanks to investments in cutting edge technology and the company’s eagerness to stay ahead of the pack and meet all their customer’s textile design needs.

Digital textile printing at Avantgard
Digital textile printing at Avantgard

The company has evolved into a technically superior operation where computer generated designs are directly transferred onto fabrics by specialised printing machines that perfectly regulate coloured dyes on natural fabrics such as cotton and silk.

Digitally printed silk fabric
Digitally printed silk fabric

Oliver Dietrichs, sales manager and my guide for this tour, demystified the Italian concept of Pronto Moda for me. The general gist is: Avantgard prepares a small selection of designs for the big names in fashion such as Prada, Roberto Cavalli and Gucci to choose from. The fashion designers then select their favoured designs and get worldwide exclusivity on them, meaning the design is taken out of Avantgard’s main design collection and saved for the sole use of the fashion house. These exclusive designs are then showcased to the world in the New York and Paris fashion shows.

Everybody wants copies of the top designer prints
Everybody wants copies of the top designer prints

Immediately after the fashion shows, Avantgard sells copies of the designs with modifications to other companies because everybody wants copies of the top designer’s prints. It’s the nature of the fashion business. Computers aid the process of producing variations on the designer’s theme by enabling Avantgard’s in-house designers to manipulate images and tweak the original designs to make the copies.

Unfortunately, the services of Avantgard are beyond the reach of average wardrobe-DIYers like me! The company mainly deals with agencies – business to business only!

Textile printing
Textile printing

If you’re hankering after exclusive designer prints, hope isn’t completely lost though. DIY textile printing will be within the reach of the rest of us if the fund raising efforts of the entrepreneurial By Hand London girls gain enough traction. They’re planning to buy their own computerised textile printing machine. So go over now to By Hand London and show some love for the sewing community by donating some cash – every little bit helps – then we’ll all be able to try our hand at fabric designing!!

UPDATE: The By Hand London girls have reached their Kickstarter campaign target and will be getting the textile printer!

 

Perfect Pattern Parcel #2 – A Little Girl’s Capsule Wardrobe and Welcome to my new site!

Hi folks, it’s Perfect Pattern Parcel (http://www.patternparcel.com) time again and this time the little one’s in our life are getting in on the wardrobe-building action!

But before we get to my pattern reviews, I’d like to welcome you to my new site! It’s really exciting to finally have my own domain and I’m looking forward to the possibilities that this platform offers. I hope it’s onwards and upwards!

Ok back to the patterns and what a fab selection the Pattern Parcel gals chose this time!

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I have two little girls and I’m totally ecstatic about PPP#2! With this expertly curated collection of patterns, you have a complete little girl’s capsule wardrobe and what’s more, with a little pattern tweaking and imaginative fabric choices, I can see these patterns working all year round! There are wardrobe staples for everyday wear and some cute dress and blouse patterns for fancier occasions.

For my first outfit pick, I went with the Celestial Tee from Figgy’s patterns and The Hosh Pants from LouBee Clothing.

top and pants

You see my little girls are action girls. They’re always whizzing round on their scooters and bikes and so their everyday outfits of choice are pretty simple – things they can easily dress themselves in preferably without complicated fastenings (did I mention how independent they like to be!) and can wear with ease. T-shirts, leggings and jeans get the most wear – things they can run around in and cake dirt on!

Hosh pants in Liberty Art Fabrics babycord and Celestial tee in organic cotton single jersey
Hosh pants in Liberty Art Fabrics babycord and Celestial tee in organic cotton single jersey

I think the Celestial tee and The Hosh Pants fit these requirements perfectly, although I hope my daughter doesn’t cake too much dirt on these!

The Celestial tee was super simple to put together. I used an organic cotton single jersey and an organic cotton rib jersey for the neck-band. Next time I make this, I’m going to try gathering the neck rather than doing the pleating to see how it looks, but either way, I think this front detail gives the top a cute girly look. It’s a great basic that I’m sure I’ll be making again and again.

coral t-shirt and pants side view

The top has the same hi/lo hemline as the Dixie DIY Summer Concert Tee that was so popular in PPP#1 and I think it has the same relaxed vibe. I made this pattern up in age four for my three-year old and it is a bit wide around the neck but she can get away with it and hopefully it’ll see her through to next summer as well.

The Hosh Pants by LouBee Clothing in Liberty Art Fabrics baby cord cotton
The Hosh Pants by LouBee Clothing in Liberty Art Fabrics baby cord cotton

The Hosh Pants were also easy to make. The pattern suggests using light to mid-weight stretch woven fabrics so I used a baby cord cotton from Liberty Art Fabrics from my stash. I really love these pants, so practical and stylish. They’re like a skinny jean cut with nice slim legs but with enough ease to not restrict movement. An ingenious design!

The Hosh Pants waistband
The Hosh Pants waistband

They have an elasticated waistband but what really sets them apart from most elasticated waisted kid’s pants IMO is the waistband shaping. The waistband is lower at the front and the elastic is only in the back waistband piece. This dip in the front nicely accommodates my three year olds little baby Buddha belly (we can all associate with that problem, right?!) so the elastic doesn’t cut her in half which often happens with regular elastic waisted pants. The elastic section is also adjustable.

Adjustable waistband in The Hosh Pants
Adjustable waistband in The Hosh Pants

I’m a little jealous of these pants, I wish they came in adult’s sizes, I could do with a little adjustability myself these days!

I can’t wait to get going on the other patterns in this Pattern Parcel. My older daughter has already requested the Hanami dress by Straightgrain and my younger daughter wants to have the Caroline Party Dress by Mouse House Creations and I’ve got a pair of the bonus shorts pattern cut out, ready to be sewn up. I can see I’m going to be kept busy!

All in all, this is a great set of patterns, so don’t miss out! This offer is for a limited time only. You snooze, you lose my friends, so head over to www.patternparcel.com now!

Please leave a link in the comments below, I’d love to see what you make from PPP#2!

Happy sewing,

Christine

 

 

Perfect Pattern Parcel #1 and Dixie DIY Summer Concert Tee

Carnival must have worked its winter-banishing magic because cold weather seems far behind us now and the sunny spell has me itching to get cracking on my 2014 summer wardrobe.

As luck would have it, just as I’d begun excitedly daydreaming about patterns and fabrics, lovelies Jill (Made with Moxie) and Rachael (Imagine Gnats) approached me to get involved with the launch of Perfect Pattern Parcel #1! The timing couldn’t have been better and I couldn’t have been happier to lend a hand!

Perfect Pattern Parcel (http://patternparcel.com) is an initiative that supports indie pattern designers, donates to children’s education charity and supports the sewing community by offering great deals on patterns – we get to choose how much we pay for each Pattern Parcel! (See the bottom of this post for all the deets.) It’s a win, win, win all round!

perfect pattern parcel blog button

Perfect Pattern Parcel #1 includes five fantastic PDF patterns.

Parcel 1 Collage

For my first pick from the PPP #1 bundle, I went with the relaxed Dixie DIY Summer Concert Tee because, despite the good weather, I can’t prise myself out of my jeans just yet – I’m a Brit brought up in cooler climes who needs easing into summer – very gradually!

Dixie DIY Summer Concert Tee in Italian viscose jersey
Dixie DIY Summer Concert Tee in Italian viscose jersey

The Dixie DIY Summer Concert Tee pattern is a ‘loose fitting knit t-shirt with scoop neck and drop shoulders. Hem cropped in front and long in back. Cool enough for hot summer days and hip enough for a music festival.’

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We haven’t quite reached ‘hot summer days’ yet, so this is how I’m layering mine up in the meantime – with a self-made vest and jacket.

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I used a drapey Italian viscose from my stash to make this. The pattern suggests using almost two yards of fabric but my fabric was wide enough to need only one metre. Patterns requiring one metre or less of fabric are my absolute favourite kind, just perfect for using up remnants or expensive fabrics that you can only afford the tiniest bit of.

Organic cotton ribbing used for neck and sleeve bands
Organic cotton ribbing used for neck and sleeve bands

I used an organic cotton rib knit for the neck and sleeve bands. I made the sleeves into bands instead of hemming them because I’m a bit lazy and it just seemed easier. I sewed the hem of the tee and topstitched the neck and sleeve bands on my regular sewing machine using a zig-zag stitch and a jersey sewing needle. I used my overlocker for all the other seams, but you could also easily make this top using just a regular sewing machine, provided you use a jersey sewing needle and a stretchy stitch such as zig-zag.

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The beauty of this pattern is that it takes no time at all to whip up. In fact, once you have your pattern cut out, you could have this sewn up in the time it would take you to watch an episode of ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’!

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I made mine in the smallest size XS. I lengthened the front piece by about ten centimetres and the back piece by about seven centimetres and took in each side by a couple of centimetres to cut some of the fullness. It’s still pretty roomy but that’s the breezy nature of this tee. I also lengthened the neck-band to fit the neck opening because my fabric isn’t very stretchy.

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It’s a relaxed fit but I’m sure that as the weather heats up, I’ll be glad of a bit of ventilation and of course, it’ll be perfect for when I’m hanging at the summer music festivals!

(BTW – if you’re wondering why I’m jumping around like a fool in these pics, it’s because I’m really uncomfortable posing and in reality, I’m rarely still for long. So I set the camera on self timer, put my favourite tunes on and had a little dance party! Don’t know if it improved the photos, but at least I had more fun!!)

To get your mitts on this and the other patterns in this parcel, head over to Perfect Pattern Parcel now and name your price! But hurry the sale ends on March 21st 2014.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a fabulous giveaway to celebrate the launch of this worthy venture, with some really great prizes, so don’t miss out!

Thanks so much Jill and Rachael for bringing me on board for this launch. You picked a cracking set of patterns for this first Parcel, I was spoilt for choice about which to make first! And I now feel all virtuous for helping out in aid of such worthy causes that are also dear to my heart! I wish you lots of success with your new venture!

Readers, I’m in very fine company for this blog tour, so go and check out the other bloggers’ sites and see plenty more reviews of these fabulous patterns –

One Little Minute | SeamstressErin Designs | One Girl Circus |casa crafty | the quirky peach | Kadiddlehopper | Sew Caroline | Groovybabyandmama |Fishsticks Designs | the Brodrick blog | verypurpleperson |sew a straight line | Adventures in Dressmaking | true bias | Idle Fancy | La Pantigana | Crafterhours | Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy Crafts | Max California | SewBusyLizzy | la inglesita | Diary of a Chainstitcher | four square walls |Lauren Dahl | Sewbon | mingo & grace | Dandelion Drift | VeryShannon | Sanae Ishida |buzzmills | Sew Jereli | Figgy’s | Froo & Boo | a happy stitch | Disaster in a Dress | Things for Boys | mama says sew | sew Amy sew | Made With Moxie | imagine gnats

About Perfect Pattern Parcel:
Put together by two entrepreneurial makers driven by their internal voices and one self-taught hacker with an “if you build it, they will come” mentality, and Perfect Pattern Parcel was born. We are passionate about supporting independent designers in their craft and fostering a community of makers to grow. Our mission is to offer high-quality pdf sewing patterns written by indie designers while supporting children’s education.
About Donors Choose:
Donors Choose is an organization that matches up the needs of teachers and their students for specific projects with willing donors. The funds raised from each Pattern Parcel sale will go to help K-12 students in minimizing educational inequality and encourage a community where children have the tools and experiences necessary for an excellent education.
About Parcel #1:
Pattern Parcel #1 includes sewing patterns for women that are modern classics, featuring both flattering silhouettes and garments that are comfortable to wear. From a new little black dress to weekend play wear, the patterns in Parcel #1 have got you covered.
Support Indie Designers
Independent designers create patterns that are innovative, imaginative and in line with current style trends. Their patterns encompass a broad range of sizes and fabulous “out of the envelope” fit because they’re thoroughly tested by real people. With detailed and well-explained instructions, these patterns often teach as you sew. Independent designers are approachable, providing support, suggestions, publishing additions to your favorite designs, and hosting interactive sewing events. When we are patrons of indie designers, we are supporting small, mostly women owned, businesses. We are developing the community around us. We are helping to making dream come true.

Fancy Dress Costumes – Part Two – ‘Yes little Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!’

Fairy/princess type bits and pieces for my children!

P1300129_2This is the second installment of my Carnival makes for my children although this costume isn’t so much of an outfit, more a collection of accessories that can be worn together or played with separately.

P1300162 The main piece is this tulle skirt. I used the tutu pattern from Liesl Gibson’s book ‘Oliver and S Little Things to Sew’ to make this and followed the instructions pretty much word for word. Although I may have skipped a couple of steps such as finishing the ends of the ribbon because my little daughter was so desperate to wear it that she literally ripped it from the sewing machine mid-sew!

It was easy enough to make but it has five layers of tulle all folded double so ten layers effectively and one of my layers had a sparkly treatment to it which makes it a bit thicker than the other tulles and when layered up, this tulle put up the fight of its life to escape! I learnt that working with tulle requires the patience of a saint which evidently I don’t have!

P1300064 To accessorise the skirt, I made my daughters a crown each. As with the previous costume, I used wool felt for the band reinforced with a hat band inside and with an overlap and velcro fastening at the back. I used up trims from my stash to embellish them. This was the first time I’d sewn sequins but I found this YouTube video really helpful.

Sewing on sequins by hand is easy and surprisingly addictive! Sewing these led to this!

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Every fairy princess needs a wand so that was the final piece of this outfit. I used wooden sticks 6mm in diameter bought from my local DIY shop to make the main handle of the wand and two star shaped pieces of wool felt sandwiched together to make the wand tops.

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I sewed the sequins on before I sandwiched the pieces and sewed them by machine together and hand-sewed the bells on last. The wooden stick is encased in a grosgrain ribbon that was folded over and sewn together to make a tube which encases the stick.

I enjoyed making these pieces even though they took a fair bit of time and my little daughters were really happy to receive them. My little daughter was whizzing down a slide in her tulle skirt shortly after she first put it on – I’m learning that you can’t be too precious about things you make for children!

Ahh Carnival, we’re going to miss you – till next year!

Fancy Dress Costumes – Part One

I wanted to share a couple of costumes with you that I made for my children to wear for Carnival season. Firstly because I’m happy with how they turned out, but mainly because they were just so easy to make!

It was my first time to make anything like this but the good news is, you don’t need special patterns to make costumes, you can just adapt ones you already have in your stash. Also I made these costumes for my young daughters but they could also easily be adapted for adults too.

First up, here’s fancy dress costume Part One.

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My daughter wanted a native American costume and there are many fancy dress patterns available, Burda has a big selection of Carnival costumes for instance. I was after a more subtle look though, something that could be worn everyday if my daughter wished and not look too out-of-place.

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Instead, I chose to use the Citronille Patterns ‘Henriette’ model no.175 dress pattern from my stash as the basis of my design. The button placket gave me a chance to add detail to the front of the dress and showcase some of the striking ribbon and I felt the style of the dress was reminiscent of native American dresses.

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Also I wanted to use a simple shaped dress that wouldn’t compete for attention with the embellishments and really let the fringing, ribbon, buttons, and other details, shine.

The pattern was fairly straightforward to make although the instructions were in French so I had to rely on the illustrations for some of the explanation. It worked out ok though and there was always Google for the bits I just couldn’t get my head round.

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Carnival here is always in February or March when it’s usually still cold, so for practicality and warmth, I went with wool suiting fabric to make the main body of the dress.

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The headdress was a bit of a labour of love! The main part of it is a strip of wool felt cut to the length of my daughter’s head circumference plus about five centimetres extra on one end for the overlap where it closes with velcro.

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I hunted high and low to find the feather trim and I went to the extraordinary lengths of ordering proper hat bands from Japan to line the inside of the felt band to strengthen it! The hat band has made the headdress durable and stable though so I think it was worth it! (And thankfully the others I ordered have been used on other projects too!) I plaited wool for the fringing and sandwiched it all together with ribbon on the outside.

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I’m really pleased with how this outfit turned out and my daughter ended up wearing it to a ton of different events ranging from themed birthday parties, to Kindergarten parties and just general dress-up play at home. It’s been a really useful little outfit to have in her toddler’s wardrobe!

If you haven’t made a fancy dress costume before, I urge you to make one because it’s just so much fun! I loved picking out the trims and thinking up ways to make it look more authentic. However, I warn you, trims can be very expensive – for this dress and headdress, the trims cost double the price of the main dress fabric! As an alternative to buying them new, I suggest seeing what you can find in charity shops and flea markets to make some savings.

Have you made a fancy-dress costume? Did you use a pattern or just your imagination? Where did you find your materials? Spill the beans in the comments below.

‘Helau, Alaaf!!’, It’s Carnival!!

If Project Sewn or the new season of The Great British Sewing Bee haven’t whet your sewing appetite yet, then I offer you something a little different to get your creative juices flowing!

Check out all this hand-made goodness!

Hand carved and hand painted wooden German Carnival mask
Hand carved and hand painted wooden German Carnival mask

Mayhem has descended on the little southern German town where I live!Carnival street parade

Carnival street parade 

You see it’s Fasching – or carnival time!Hand-made German carnival costumes

Hand-made German carnival costumes

A festive season when excessive consumption of food, drink and fun is de rigueur and creativity abounds, as all and sundry clad themselves in fancy dress costumes.

It’s a long weekend of living it up before Ash Wednesday, when the Christian Lenten fasting period begins!

Fasching or Carnival street parade

Fasching or Carnival street parade

Yesterday on Rosenmontag, costumed townsfolk took to our streets and led a parade of music, merriment and ….

Hand carved wooden masks and hand-made carnival costumes
Hand carved wooden masks and hand-made carnival costumes

MISCHIEF!

Mischief!
Mischief!

There was no escaping the carnival fervor!

Carnival parade drummers
Carnival parade drummers

Live music sets the upbeat atmosphere of the carnival parade and gets everyone’s toes tapping and the carnival participants greet each other by shouting ‘Helau, Alaaf!’.

Wooden carnival masks to drive out winter and 'scare' away evil spirits
Wooden carnival masks to drive out winter and ‘scare’ away evil spirits

Carnival celebrations are intended to drive out winter and all of its evil spirits – hence the ‘scary’ masks!

Sweets for the children
Sweets for the children

My little girls love it because they get to dress up and eat lots of sweets!

Elaborate hand made carnival costumes
Elaborate hand-made carnival costumes

But check out the costumes! They’re nearly all hand-made!

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The attention to detail and love that has gone into these is palpable!

Hand appliqued jacket!
Hand appliqued jacket!

The carnival participants go to great lengths to make their costumes. These garments and accessories are labours of love and I get it! On a cold winter’s day, all this creativity was enough to warm the cockles of my sewer’s heart!

Horse tail hair!
Horse tail hair!

The man behind this mask told me he’d carved and painted his wooden mask himself and the hair around the mask is a horse’s tail, given to him by a butcher from deep in the Black Forest. His outfit also included sheepskin, foxes tails and cow’s horns!

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I marveled at these costumes and props and all the hours of sewing and planning and creativity that have gone into them!

I loved them all!

Helau, Alaaf!’

Project Sewn, Final Week – ‘Signature Style’ – Simple with a sprinkle of sparkle!

So it’s the fourth and last week of Project Sewn and what a competition it’s been! The finalists outfits this week are out of this world! I absolutely love the wearability and effortless chic-ness of Alida’s outfit – I want all of it including her fabulous hair! The creative tour-de-force that is Oona just blew me away again –  her dress and coat left me speechless! Uber cool! And finally only a statuesque Brazilian beauty such as Rachel could pull off that amazing sculpted dress with all its fasinating design details! How inspiring it’s all been and what a pity it’s about to end!

As in the previous weeks, the general sewing public are invited to get involved by posting a pic of their ‘signature style’, an outfit that reflects their personal style and sewing ability.

Republique du Chiffon Viviane dress
Republique du Chiffon Viviane dress

This challenge got me thinking about my own personal style and how I express this with my sewing. My sewing skills are still somewhat rudimentary and with two small children to take care of and a dog, I don’t have endless time for sewing. So I definitely prefer sewing simple designs that are comfortable and practical to wear for my active lifestyle, aren’t too taxing and time consuming to make and which I can choose to enhance either with fancy fabrics or with embellishments. My latest make is a prime example of this.

Viviane dress by Republique du Chiffon
Viviane dress by Republique du Chiffon

This is the Viviane dress pattern from French independent pattern company, Republique du Chiffon. It’s a simple style that is easy to sew up. It pulls on over the head so there’s no need to worry about zips or buttonholes, it just has a simple loop and button at the back of the neck. You can choose to make either a top or a dress from this pattern, which you buy as a PDF download and print out.

Scalloped quilted yoke
Scalloped quilted yoke

I think this dress has many endearing features such as the elbow length sleeves and the dropped waist but it was the quilted yoke that attracted me to this pattern. I love the scalloped quilting lines and wanted to emphasise them in my dress.

Sequins!
Sequins!

I’m blaming my daughters for the sequins! It’s carnival time here in Germany and I’ve been working on costumes for my girls which involved lots of hand sewing of sequins and well, I got a bit carried away!

Quilted yoke and bust darts
Quilted yoke and bust darts

I don’t know yet if I’m happy with the result but I don’t really mind because I had a lot of fun trying this out and I enjoy experimenting – nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Plus that yoke isn’t just decorative, it’s functional too! Oh yes, it’s this dress’s secret weapon, it’s a Trojan horse, if you will. You see this baby is working double duty because it’s stuffed with this:

Organic wool!
Organic wool!

Wool! – pure and unadulterated complete with bits of straw, fresh from the German organic sheep farm it came from. And boy does this make a difference to the warmth of this dress! It’s toasty! I may have to work a bit of this insulation into all my winter garments!

Dress fully lined with viscose lining fabric
Dress fully lined with viscose lining fabric that needs pressing!

The dress is fully lined with a viscose lining fabric. I actually treated the top of the dress and the lining as one to sew up because it all got too complicated with the yoke attachment and the sleeves.

P1300102If you’re unfamiliar with Republique du Chiffon, then go and check them out, they’ve got some great French chic patterns and have just released a free dress pattern to kick off the launch of their 2014 pattern collection.

For oodles more French inspiration, also stop by the Republique du Chiffon fan blog, where you can see the wonderful creations that have been made by fans of the Republique du Chiffon patterns.

Pattern recap

Pattern used – Viviane dress by Republique du Chiffon PDF download. Made in Size 36

Fabric used – Wool suiting, linen for the yoke, organic wool batting for the quilting, viscose lining and sequins – all from stash!

Pattern Difficulty Rating – Easy

Don’t forget to exercise your democratic right and cast your vote for your favourite outfit over at Project Sewn!

Have you added any secret details to any of your hand sewn garments? How would you describe your personal style?  What’s the most experimental thing you’ve made? I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment below.

British Tweed Cowl Neck Dress

This is Burdastyle #118A 10/2012 and the first version of my Anglomania dress. I made this dress using British tweed wool with a herringbone pattern bought from the Hollander Stoffe Market, when it swung by my local town a couple of years ago.

Burdastyle #118A 10/2012
Burdastyle #118A 10/2012

I love using British wool tweeds. The fabrics are so warm to wear and durable. I throw this dress in the washing machine on a wool wash and it’s fine – it just gets softer and more comfortable with each wash! (BTW – not sure if this is recommended. I suggest checking with your retailer before you throw your precious wool fabric in the washing machine!)

Back view
Back view

I also love the richness of the colours. From afar it appears to be greenish blue, but on closer inspection, it has flecks of many other colours within it!

Herringbone tweed
Herringbone tweed

This fabric is just a little thicker and sturdier than the tartan wool that I used for the Anglomania dress and I think it holds the shape of the side gathers and cowl just a little bit better.

British tweed wool fabric
British tweed wool fabric

Anglomania dress in tartan merino wool
Anglomania dress in tartan merino wool

I didn’t line this tweed dress, I chose instead to do a Hong Kong finish on the seams.

Hong Kong finish on seams
Hong Kong finish on seams

I also hand stitched the hem and sleeve hems.

Back view and Hong Kong finished seams
Back view and Hong Kong finished seams and invisible zip

I really like the shape of the dress, especially the gathering at the front, as it hides a multitude of postpartum unruliness! It’s also interesting experimenting with the same dress pattern and using different fabrics to create quite different looking dresses.

Same pattern - different fabrics = quite different looks
Same pattern – different fabrics = quite different looks

Apologies for all of the dress form pics of this, but I’ve been too busy out testing the seaworthiness of this beauty below with my children, to do any dress ‘modeling’!

P1290825I have many projects on my sewing table at the moment that I’ll hopefully be sharing soon. First up is some Carnival goodness for my children.

What’s on your sewing table right now?

Have a good weekend!

Project Sewn Week Two: ‘Make it Pink’ Challenge – The Lady Skater Dress

I’ve just finished this coral pink and red dress, it’s literally hot off the press, so I’m including it for the Project Sewn ‘Make it Pink’ challenge.

Ichy Coo Lady Skater dress
Ichy Coo Lady Skater dress

I’d seen this Marc by Marc Jacobs dress (see below) and fallen hard for the tonal colours and simple shape and thought that the Lady Skater dress pattern by independent pattern company Kitschy Coo would be a good match to replicate this fit and flare dress design.

Marc by Marc Jacobs tonal dress
Marc by Marc Jacobs tonal dress

Here’s my version!

Coral organic single cotton jersey and red organic sweater knit
Coral organic single cotton jersey and red organic sweater knit 

I thought this coral colour teamed with the red gives the dress a vibrant flair. The bodice is made from coral pink organic cotton jersey, with coral pink organic cotton rib cuffs and the skirt is made from red organic sweater knit jersey all from Lebenskleidung.

When you make this PDF download dress pattern, you choose your size based on your body measurements. I was between sizes for the skirt so graded the bodice out to the waistline. I cut a size two for the bodice and sleeves and between a three and four for the skirt pieces.

I would describe the fit of the finished bodice as – ‘swimsuit -like’ which I wasn’t happy with at first but I’m getting used to now! The pattern instructions did suggest sizing up the bodice to the next size if your fabric isn’t very stretchy, which being 100% cotton, mine isn’t but for some unknown reason, I chose to ignore this useful piece of advice!

The sewing up of this is really quick and easy – this was a ‘one evening’ make for me. The pattern comes with extremely helpful and thorough making instructions – you really couldn’t want for more! I sewed the whole thing up on my overlock machine, including the neck-band which was probably a bit reckless for a first attempt but luckily worked out ok-ish!

P1290879_2
Yes, that is Olive Oyl on my scarf!

I haven’t hemmed the dress yet, this is the unfinished length, but I’m thinking I’m just going to overlock it because I don’t want it too short.

I put the dress on today to take these photos, with every intention to change back into my jeans as soon as I finished because it’s was such a yucky cold and stormy day. But these colours made me feel so happy and spring-like that I ended up keeping it on! I layered it up with one of my favourite John Smedley cardigans and a scarf and I was toasty and warm all day.

With John Smedley cardigan
With John Smedley cardigan

This dress feels like a departure from my usual style – not sure exactly what my usual style is, but this seems out of it. However I’m growing to like it. I feel like I’m wearing something too young for me, which it probably is, but it’s nice to wear something a bit girly for a change!

All in all, this was a joy to make (although I didn’t enjoy attaching the neck-band!) and the dress is a cute style.

Again, don’t forget, if you haven’t done so already, go over to Project Sewn and cast your vote for your favourite outfit!

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