Monday, 2 February 2015

Sewing my Anna Peplum hack!

I plan on making an Anna Dress for my cousin's wedding in May. I though I'd give the bodice a try first to check the fit and make a peplum top with a self drafted peplum. Ambitious but totally doable! I chose this black rose print fabric on sale from John Lewis and dove  straight in!

My measurements fell directly between a size 12 and 14 so I cut out a 14. Once I tried this the top just looked very baggy but the waist was correct so I traced the 12 top and graded out to a 14 for the waist and recut the fabric to this. This fixed the excess fabric at the top bar that included in the design. I sewed the bodice up apart from the zip and then used a top I already own to draft a peplum to add to the bottom.

And it turned out OK! I french seamed all of the inside and it looks beautiful! I think I still need to cut a slice out of the neckline of the dress as it has some excess fabric there which can look strange. I thought I might have to lower the neckline very slightly but in actually wearing this I realised that I didn't need to, it didn't catch my neck at all.
After I made the peplum I realised that I hadn't allowed enough space in the rear so added these little panels to either side of the centre back seam to make it wearable - I had my first major sewing error in the cutting of these panels when I cut into my already sewn right back peplum piece by accident! Thankfully I had enough material to cut a new piece and the extra panels, but it was pretty gutting!
Next I'm going to try a simplicity pattern that I got free with Sew Magazine which has a few options, dress, top, trousers and jacket. I'm going to start with the top because I love a good peplum and I'm in need of a few more formal work tops and if I find the right material this could work out as one.
And if you were wondering the amazing lip colour is a Lord and Berry Lip Pencil in shade 7805 - Vertige. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Sewing plans for 2015

I've also bought two other sewing books to have a go at:

The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers and Laura Stanford - I don't want to waste my off cut material where there is very little of it so I thought I could use it to make underwear - this book does not cover underwired bras however, I think as an introduction to sewing lingerie it is great - and not intimidating for a beginner who knows their way round a sewing machine. I very much need to start on something which I will succeed at to give me the motivation to carry on!

Famous Frocks The Little Black Dress by Dolin Bliss O'Shea: The exact opposite as above this is a book with 20 dress patterns designed so you can recreate famous dresses worn by celebrities in every decade from the 1920s onwards. This is probably a book I will reserve until I have a little more experience however, I really liked the lines of some of these patterns and enjoyed reading the front of the book. I also would like to make a dress to wear to my cousin's wedding in May so perhaps that will come from this book.

I also picked up a Fashionary notebook from the V&A a while ago (currently on sale!) which I have just started to use - this notebook is brilliant for anyone who wants to draw out their clothes silhouettes and try ideas with colour but isn't confident drawing people silhouettes. Each page has a dotted outline of a woman in pink dots which you can then draw the clothes on top of.
Here are some ideas I put together for the By Hand London Charlotte Skirt pattern and also the Megan dress by Tilly and the Buttons. And I am definitely not an artist - so anyone could use this.

I have a few patterns collected from various places that I am itching to get on with:
The By Hand London patterns I picked up from Anthropologie while they were on sale about a year ago and the other two came from magazines. I don't think the Simplicity pattern is in my style at all so that one might be donated elsewhere. So plenty to start with! I also downloaded the pdf for the Emmeline t-shirt by the Little Tailors but unfortunately when I printed it at my parents' house over Christmas the printer failed to print the first half of the pages so I am now a little stuck until I can get that.

I am really looking forward to expanding my basic skill set this year and starting to make some basics that I will be able to incorporate into my capsule wardrobe for both work and casual wear.

Friday, 2 January 2015

So I started to sew clothes!

Wow I like a title which explains the nature of a post.

Just before December started I decided to make use of the sewing machine bought for me by my Grandma and make some clothes. Some back ground here - we were taught textiles for 3 years in secondary school and I was absolutely terrible at it! At the time I couldn't see the point of learning something non-academic and I had not yet learnt how to persevere with something I wasn't good at straight away. I remember making the most horrendous pair of pyjamas when I was 13 and I haven't tried to make clothes ever since!

However, I find fast fashion repellant and although a lot of fabric has the same ethical issues and fast clothing you do take out a step in the chain and don't spend your money funding people to exploit sewing workers. I also am a slightly odd shape (petite, small waist, large hips) that means that ready-to-wear clothes can be tricky to get in the fit that I would like.  I think I also have quite a defined style in terms of the colours and shapes that I know suit me which should help with choosing patterns.

I started by getting Tilly Walnes's book 'Love at First Stitch' as having flicked through it there are detailed step by step instructions with clear pictures and although you learn by making the garments which come with the book - not all of which fit into my personal style, the techniques are transferrable. So far I have made the Margot pyjama bottoms in a quirky cotton fabric from a shop on Goldhawk road, and the Megan dress and Delphine a-line skirt (with invisible zips) in a textured fabric also from Goldhawk Road. This is midway through construction of the dress:

Although I did make a muslim for the dress the bodice still wasn't quite right but it was good practice! The fabric was £6 per metre and I used just under 2m for this.

I don't have any pictures of the skirt as I got the interfacing all wrong so the waistband stood away from my waist and looked very strange! But I did learn how to do french seams and got the invisible zip to match at the waist.

The pyjamas went really well but then they are not fitted!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Why is giving up shopping so hard

I desparately want to start saving money and buying only a few high quality items. Prefereably these items will be packaging less classics that I will use for at least a couple of years (clothing) or longer in the case of homeware. We already made this choice by investing in our beautiful Denby Halo dinner set that we can add to as we go rather than buying a cheaper set then upgrading in a few years time.
In some ways now is a time when we are allowed to buy things, we are setting up our life together and there are plenty of things we dont have (neither of us owned a veg peeler previously!) There are also choices to be made - do we want something functional that we can afford now or can we wait a few months and buy the version that we really want? Do we really need that item at all (we have decided only to buy a Yorkshire pudding rack and use that to bake all smaller treats). There is an element of space efficiency in this too - the storage space in our flat is minimal so we are big fans of clever storage solutions like the lakeland plate shelf and a bakeware rack.

I have dramatically reduced my clothing expenditure by planning a capsule wardrobe and sticking to it fairly religiously. This means I only buy pieces which make me look amazing (note not pieces that look amazing on me), and are in my current colour scheme and style. This means that all of my clothes get some love in their season. Once I have this set up it will be relatively self sustainable unless I decide I want a dramatically different colour option. However clever marketing and the habits of a lifetime make me want to shop and spend money. As I have this under control in my clothes choices it has leaked over to makeup. I am a sucker for a new lipstick. Thus I have an incredible lipstick collection of which about 1/3 really suit me (there are of course more which look OK. I plan on giving away the 2/3 to friends (although not that many of my friends are too into lippies). Then I can reclaim my muji storage and use it to house my sewing supplies.

Spesking of crafts- I like to think of myself as a crafty person and it is very easy to accumulate craft supplies with no project in mind just because they are pretty. No more, I will only be buying stuff once i have a set project in mind and only enough for one project at a time. My next big thing is to learn to make clothes, hopefully finding a more sustainable way of clothing myself and also increasing my control over what I wear (no more will I be unable to find what I want in the shops).

I think the key is removing yourself from temptation. Not browsing the shops at lunch or online, not reading a multitude of beauty blogs all advertising the latest high end lipstick. Instead I plan on retunring to an individual sense of what I need and how much I can afford to spend. I think sadly of all the items that I have in a pile to send to friends, used once or twice at most. Hopefully this will be enough motivation to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Reducing food packaging waste

The most obvious first step for me in reducing waste is eliminating food packaging from our weekly shop. We currently live in Acton and are fairly close to both a Saturday farmer's market (at Notting Hill Gate) and also two bulk grocery stores (one in Maida Vale and the other on High Street Kensington). 

This weekend I went to the farmer's market to see what was available there and was pleasantly surprised. There was plentiful veg, bread and meat (sadly all the meat was pre packaged) and also a stall selling mushrooms and one selling bacon and egg sandwiches.  I picked up some mushrooms and a handful of tomatoes to try and will take Stuart back next weekend to do it properly. We definitely would need to take some smaller fabric bags to put the veg in to avoid the plastic ones on offer at every stall.

I then made the trip north to Maida Vale to investigate the Dry Goods Store, only to discover that it was closed until the 2nd September while the owner recovers from a broken foot. However from what I could see through the window it looks pretty good- rows of dispensers. After a little search on the Internet it turns out they do a good coffee as well! Here is the (pretty rubbish) photo I took while I was there.

I am so excited to go back and do a proper scout out of the shop.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Going Zero Waste

I recently acquired the book Zero Waste Home. It is a how to manual for reducing the amount of waste that you produce- both that for landfill and for recycling. Since I live in a one bed flat in relatively central London some of the suggestions seemed pretty unachievable at first glance - one of the main methods that is advocated is composting! We have since worked out some plans around this that I am very excited to share.

What we plan to do:

-shop in locations where you can take your own jars to  avoid packaging (luckily for us someone else has done the research for our part of London- see the app Bulk)

-plan meals; be conscientious about how much food we buy and how quickly it will go off, to reduce food waste, use tops of vegetables to make soups and juices

-install a small indoor composting system for items that we cannot use in another way, which we will use the products from to supply our large number of house plants

-buy secondhand where possible

-I will maintain my capsule wardrobe; making considered choices which are trend free and therefore longer lasting 

-I aim to move to a capsule makeup collection however it will take a while to implement this as I attempt to use up all of the products I currently own


The important question is why move to a zero waste aim at all. I studied Ecology at university and have a good understanding of our overuse of the natural resources available to us and also the horrors of landfill. If we can only send 1-5 litres to landfill every year we will be making some significant change. I also hope to inspire some thoughtfulness in my similarly minded friends as to changes they could implement to reduce waste.

We will share our trials and let you know our success and things that don't work for us.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014


Moving flats is hard (albeit probably not as hard as moving houses) and part of the reason for that is the temptation to underestimate it- oh I'm only moving flat how hard can it be.

I have just moved from East to West London. I moved in one weekend and I moved by tube (London Underground). 

My boyfriend helped me out and between us we did 4 trips on the underground. In the first I actually forgot the keys to the new flat and ended up sat on a tube platform for an hour while my man went to fetch them! 

My tips:

Pack in advance so you have a good idea of how many things you own - and be ruthless about throwing things away or donating them

Rope in your friends- one more person would have made it all much easier

Be aware of when you need to rest and do so- you won't make much progress if you start snapping at each other

Pizza is a great dinner solution- clich├ęd but true

Don't overload suitcases and boxes- if you can't carry it up a set of stairs you need to repack! - especially important if moving by public transport

And - most importantly - enjoy your new flat!

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