Friday, 29 August 2014

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier

So last Saturday I enjoyed a jaunt down to London organised by the lovely Roisin and also attended by the equally lovely Amy, Emmie, Janene, Jen and Katie. Predictably (and most enjoyably) we kicked off the day with a trip to Goldhawk Road, pretty much visiting each and every shop. I didn't go crazy, choosing quality over quantity for once, and snapping up some divine sandwashed silk crepe.

Then we headed over to the Barbican to gawp at The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. Oh my, what an excellent exhibition! It was much larger than I expected and I couldn't stop marveling at just how many of his designs I recognised not only from the catwalk, but also from all walks of popular culture! Admittedly I didn't know an awful lot about the man before, but I picked up so much about him on the day which Janene sums up beautifully here.
I went a little snap happy to be honest (you would have too), so I'm just going to share my absolute favourites below, which really are a tiny taster of what was on show.

I was particularly enamoured by the structured lingerie...

These ethereal creatures stole my heart with their floaty gowns and haunting faces. In fact, the moving faces projected on many of the mannequins was one of the highlights of the
 exhibition for me...some of them were exceptionally cheeky!

My love of animal prints is well documented, so no wonder I was drawn to this masterpiece! Despite the realism, it was actually hand-beaded in *just* 1,060 hours...the detail is exquisite!

It's hard not to have a soft spot for the very iconic nautical line which inspired the popular fragrances...

Mr Gaultier himself even made an appearance to tell us a little bit about the exhibition...hehe!

Lastly, how could my inner Sex Pistols loving punk not be drawn to these!?!

Janene has set herself the challenge of recreating this super cool jacket...can't wait to 
see how it turns out!!!

As you can imagine, a great day was had despite my train journey woes (which I won't bore you with even though I love a good moan). I stupidly didn't take any group shots or selfies...but here's some photographic evidence of Roisin and I enjoying a Gaultier-themed cocktail.

Do you have a favourite Jean Paul Gaultier line or era?

Monday, 25 August 2014

The Blog Hop

Hello friends! Today I'm partaking in a bit of blog hop fun after being nominated to play by my super cute friend - Amy of Almond Rock. Amy and I have shared a hotel room before and if my piglet-style snuffles at night haven't put her off being my friend, then she's made of strong Yorkshire stuff, as well as being wonderfully charming and a very clever little seamstress! I've no clue where The Blog Hop begun (do tell if you know), but the premise  is nice and simple with just four questions to answer and two nominees onto pass the baton to.

Why I write

I predominantly started writing this blog to keep track of my stitching progress, but have dabbled in writing before because I find the act both cathartic and enjoyable. Since starting A Stitching Odyssey over four years ago, it has become so much more than I ever imagined. I now feel like I'm able to give a little back to the sewing community, whilst sharing snippets of my life outside of stitching as well. For me though, the most rewarding and addictive part of writing is the interaction with my readers. Each and every comment makes me feel fuzzy inside and the advice offered is always priceless. So thank you all for making all of this so worthwhile!

What I'm working on

Oh boy, what aren't I working on? I always have a massive queue of sewing project, which inevitably get bumped by pattern testing commitments, shiny new pattern releases and the like! Back in February though, I pledged to put my extensive vintage pattern collection to good use, by sewing at least five of them by the end of 2014. So far I've managed just the one, so with well over 100 of you joining me in my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge - the proof of which is on Pinterest - I need to make some serious progress during the latter part of the year.

How my blog differs from others of its genre

I could never claim that my blog is unique or special in any way, because there are simply too many talented, witty and creative people out there doing great things. However, one non-stitching thing I do like to share with my readers is updates of our home improvements. The boyfriend and I bought our first ever house back in October 2013 and we've been chipping away at the outdated decor ever since. Progress is slow, but it's a really rewarding process, especially when the transformation is as dramatic as our living room was. Next up is a full reveal of our dining room!

My writing process

Having a hobby I'm passionate about definitely helps to keep me focussed and has made writing this blog seem effortless. I must admit that I've been a little more sporadic since my commitment to writing for Craftsy back in April. I don't regret my decision because it's been a great learning journey, but I'm still trying to find my feet in terms of balancing the two a bit better. As a general guideline I try to blog at least once a week, usually about a finished make, a work-in-progress, a quick tutorial, or a review of some sort. So no, there's no real method to my madness...but I do try to keep posting as consistent as possible.

My two nominees to keep this fun little blog hop going

Joelle from The Handstitched Files. I only 'discovered' Joelle after being paired with her for Kerry's Spring Sewing Swap 2014 and I'm so happy that I did. She's a Swedish architect by day and is just as creative by night - sewing, knitting and embroidering to her heart's content.

Louise from In which a bit of an enthusiast sews six patterns in a year. I had the pleasure of meeting Louise in person and I can confirm that she is one of the most enthusiastic person I've ever known! I'm fascinated by her fast progress as a new-ish stitcher juggling caring for two young children.

So make sure you check out both Joelle and Louise's blogs next Monday (1 September) to see what they have to say about their writing habits!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Two-Tone Singlet

Like many of you no doubt, I was recently(ish) contacted by Teach Me Fashion, a talented mother and son duo from Australia who create sewing patterns and accompanying video tutorials. They wanted to know if I would try out their free Two-Tone Singlet and tutorial, and considering how cute the pattern is I didn't hesitate to oblige!

The Two-Tone Singlet is perfect for using up leftover fabric so I smugly put the remains of my second Lilou dress to good use. I may or may not have sparked a bit of an online debate by originally referring to the print as 'tribal', so I'll go with 'geometric' to avoid knickers getting in twists this time. Whatever you want to call it, I love this viscose and want it in all available colourways!

The pattern is quite boxy, but it has some pretty cute design details which make it fun to sew and wear! The interesting panelling is open to endless variations in terms of fabric matching/contrasting, and I like the sweet pleats on the lower half of the back. The right angles are tricky to sew though, especially in slippery viscose, and mine are not even close to being perfect! I think I just about got away with it due to the busy print.

Despite how adorable I find this pattern, I'm not sure it suits my larger bust. Sure, it's floaty and comfortable, but it's not exactly flattering on me. If I decide to sew it again there are two main things I'd change. First, I'd lower the neckline a tad as I find it sits unnecessarily (but not chokingly) high. Then, I'd raise the armholes by a lot! I'm kind of annoyed I didn't automatically do it on this version, because I could tell from the version on the model that they looked way too low for my liking. Nevermind, you live and learn!

I must say, I'm really impressed by Teach Me Fashion! Although not all their designs are to my personal taste, they have a neat range consisting of dresses, a skirt, leggings, trousers and a coat, which you can pick up from their Etsy shop. What sets this mother and son duo apart though, are their accompanying video tutorials, which are pretty great. They are cleanly shot and straight to the point, with no unnecessary frills and pointless chatter! 

Have you experienced Teach Me Fashion yet? What do you think to their approach?

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Home Improvements #2 - Dining Room Sneak Peek

After what seems like too long, I'm ridiculously excited to share a cheeky glimpse of our dining room! I don't want to give away too much yet as we're still waiting for our table and chairs, curtains and prints for the walls ;o)

Below's a little reminder of what it looked like before and you can revisit our extensive stripping back process. Hopefully this taster alone proves just how far we've gone to transform what was a depressingly dark room!

Aside from stripping back the old wallpaper and carpet, one of the biggest and most rewarding jobs was getting rid of the cat-puke-yellow which all the woodwork, cornices, door and radiator had been painted in. It took a lot of sanding, multiple coats of white paint and even professional stripping of the door, which we then varnished to match our other downstairs doors. 

My personal favourite transformation has to be the fireplace though! We found it quite ugly and very out of place with what we had planned for the room, so my boyfriend came up with an inspired idea to make it look more sleek and contemporary. I know it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I seriously love how it looks now!

So why has it taken us over two months to decorate just one room? I know it sounds like an age, but we were mostly slaving on it during our free weekends, as we both work full-time. The stripping is relatively fast, but once you get to the decorating, there's a lot of waiting in between coats of paint to dry! And as usual, we had our fair share of disasters that cost us precious time (days) to rectify, including:

  • Picking an Exorcist green for the lower walls, but being in denial until one side of the room was painted. We had to wait for it to dry, cover it with white, wait for that to dry and then start again with our new colour.
  • Thinking we were done with the mantle-piece only to have to 'peel' off the original five-ish coats of paint we'd applied! This heartbreaking blunder was due to the fact that we thought we could get away with just one coat of undercoat. The wood/varnish kept 'bleeding' into each layer of paint, staining the white. We ended up applying too many coats of paint, leaving the mantle-piece tacky. It took us an entire afternoon to strip the whole thing back again!
  • Applying two coats of varnish to our newly painted floorboards, only to watch in disbelief as they turned nicotine-stained. Without wishing to sound too dramatic, this was pretty soul-destroying! We had to sand down the varnish (by hand), spend time investigating better products, spend more money on a more suitable one and re-varnish. 

All these hiccups aside though, I couldn't be more delighted with what we've achieved in this room! And  I can attest that hiccups make for good lessons learned!

So, what do you think so far? I hope you're as excited as me about the big reveal...

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A special guest blog for Sue Ryder!

Hi friends, just a quick one today to signpost you to my guest blog over at Sue Ryder! I'm Sue Ryder's first ever guest blogger in fact, so I'm very honoured. I wrote about spotting the potential in charity shop finds,with both my stitching and home-owner hats on, so hop on over, especially if you fancy drooling over some stunning vintage furniture.

To the lovely folk at Sue Ryder - thanks for having me!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Tribal Print Betty Dress

A few weeks ago, the very lovely people at Sew Over It kindly sent me two of their patterns to try out - the Betty Dress and the Ultimate Trousers. I'm too chicken to try out the latter yet due to my body issues, but I was straight in there with the dress! I love Betty's 1950s inspired design with its fitted bodice and full circle skirt.

But I think my favourite feature of this dress is the V-shape back bodice neckline. I'm a sucker for back detail, especially when a dress is demure from the front and also because I'd rather keep the ladies covered up without being too boring.

I would have loved a pretty floral print for this dress, but nothing in my stash was wide or long enough, because Betty may look ladylike, but she's pig greedy - she demands 3m of 140cm wide fabric or 4.5m of 115cm wide fabric. So there, you've been warned! 

As it turns out, I love the cotton sateen I ended up using. The tribal print keeps my Betty from looking too cutesy and I really like the vibrant green background with inky blue print. Plus, the fabric has the expensive feel and drape of lawn, as well as that lovely sheen.

The construction is so easy and the instructions are nice and clear. It really takes no time to make, so I'd highly recommend it to someone looking for a quick, yet impressive, fix! Can you believe that in the 4.5 years I've been sewing, I'd never made a dress with this kind of neckline/armhole facing before?!? I know it probably doesn't beat a fully lined bodice, but if your fabric is a decent weight and not transparent, then this does the trick pretty nicely.

I almost made a straight size 10 and I'm very pleased with the fit. I say almost because I pinched 2cm out of the back bodice neckline, to counteract the gaping due to my really narrow back and shoulders. It's an easy adjustment to make, just be sure to do the same for your facing pieces too! Next time, I think I'll also pinch out 1-2cm from the front bodice neckline too.

I love me a voluminous skirt and I see a few more Betty dresses in my future! I find sleeveless styles much easier to pair with a cardigan in the colder months.

Have you tried Betty out yet? What do you think?

P.S. Have you enjoyed the cheeky little peek of our near-finished dining room (minus furniture and accessories of course)? I plan on regaling you with our trails, tribulations and plenty of pictures soon!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Taking Time to Stop and Smell the Roses - Lilacs & Lace joins the #vintagepledge!

Boy have I got a special treat for you today! The crazy-talented, queen-of-vintage-stitching Laura Mae from Lilacs & Lace has kindly joined in with my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge (#vintagepledge) and is sharing intricate details of her journey with her beautiful Vogue 4203 dress! If for some unthinkable reason you're not familiar with Laura Mae's blog, you really must check it out - I promise you'll be hooked! I hugely admire how she embraces couture techniques, which she generously shares with her readers, alongside many other tutorials. How she manages to be so productive when creating such quality makes is a mystery to me! Laura Mae's blog is also a great source of inspiration posts, none better than her own makes. I love how she creates the most exquisite dresses (here, here and here to name a few) and even manages to give modern patterns a vintage twist (here and here). Oh, and she's an expert knitter too!

Hello, fellow sewing enthusiasts! I  am so excited to be participating in the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge! Thank you, Marie, for having me over to your online home for a visit!

To join in the festivities, I thought I would pull out one of my vintage patterns that has been ignored for far too long. Vogue 4203 is a Special Design from 1960 or 1961 (the instructions are dated 1960, but the pattern envelope is stamped 1961). It is often impossible to find any mention of a copyright date, and here I have two for one!

At first glance, this looks just like any other basic bodice/full-skirt/sleeve combo. Upon closer inspection (as is the case with so many vintage patterns) there is so much more to this dress. There are a combination of released darts in addition to the standard fare, a piped waist seam, a skirt that is pleated and gathered for maximum poof, tucks along the sleeve and skirt hems, an included petticoat, and bound buttonholes up the bodice back. Not too shabby, right?!

This particular pattern includes a rather in-depth look at a type of bound buttonhole I have never tried, so just for fun, I decided to skip my usual technique and try out a new one. So out came some fabric scraps!

I have learned so much about apparel sewing from working my way through vintage pattern instruction sheets. You may not get the information spoon fed to you, but there are plenty of reference books to fill in the gaps if you are willing to take the time – check out your local library for some great older sewing manuals, and of course, there are bound to be a few online tutorials to help out as well. If you are anything like me, you will get lost in the world of sewing construction found in the reference book and learn a few more tricks along the way!

Most vintage techniques are not all that difficult, but they do take more time than sending a seam through a serger and calling it a day. Which leads me to my favorite sewing mantra: slow down and enjoy the process! Buck the fast fashion trend, and stitch up something made to last through years of wear and washings.

Making a mock-up of any design is always a good way to ensure you will be happy with the final outcome. Not only is it a wonderful way to check fit, but you can also work through any questions you may have about the construction along the way. I usually end up using my muslin as a fabric pattern.

Take the time to hand baste markings in place once you start working with your dress fabric.

Make your own piping with self-fabric and some scrap yarn.

My muslin was an excellent reminder that a skirt like this needs a foundation in order to look like the illustration!

I love borrowing techniques from vintage patterns that I have worked with in the past. This design is illustrated as a bell shape. I have always found this look intriguing, so I thought it was high time I tried it out. The included petticoat is certainly going to help to achieve the look, but the exaggerated curve starting from the waistline reminded me of a past project.

As a bit of an experiment, I used a technique from a Vogue design from 1954 that adds interfacing to each skirt piece from the waist to upper hip for added stability before darting, pleating, or gathering in the excess width. Pellon was often used as an underlining in vintage frocks to give some oomph to a skirt, so I decided to have some fun with it.

Without a petticoat of any kind, the dress is holding its shape quite nicely, thanks to the Pellon!

I may end up making a petticoat as well, just because they are so much fun to wear, but the dress could certainly be worn without one – all thanks to that 1954 pattern instruction sheet.

Interfaced skirts, bound seams, bound buttonholes, piped seams, hand-picked zippers, nice deep hemlines . . . all of these elements can elevate a basic dress into something really special.

And isn’t that why we sew? To create something with our hands that we can be proud of, that will last for years to come, and is worth the extra effort and time that it takes.

I am off to finish hemming my dress, add a waist stay, and figure out if I will be adding piping to the neckline to match back to the waist seam . . .

Vintage patterns give us the opportunity to build something truly one of a kind with beautiful details and unique silhouettes. And who doesn’t love working with yummy fabrics and oohing and aahing over the gorgeous pattern illustrations?!

Another fabulous thing about vintage is the ability to suit every figure type out there – the variety is incredible. From the easy fit of the 20s, to the ruffled flounces and slinky bias skirts of the 30s, to the structured silhouette of the 40s, to the soft feminine 50s ideal, to the figure revealing look of 60s mod, you are bound to find something you like.

Whatever decade you choose, working with a vintage pattern is sure way to learn a few new things about garment construction!

So have fun with those vintage patterns that are finally getting some much deserved love and attention for your Vintage Pattern Sewing Pledge and do not be afraid to get creative with the construction and enjoy the journey. There really are no rules . . . when you end up with a wearable garment that makes you smile, pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

And, of course, happy sewing to all! 

Wow, is anyone else in as much awe as I am right now? Laura Mae makes me want to be a better stitcher! We're over half way through the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, so to see what everyone else taking part  is up to, check out the dedicated  Pinterest board