Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Oooooh ..... look what I got!

Christmas is such a lovely celebration, isn’t it? Spending time with friends and family, entertaining and visiting and feeling thankful for all life’s pleasures is such a nice feeling! And getting presents!!! I got so many nice things this year but what I’m keen to show you, of course, is my sewing and fashion related gifts, which were all from my lovely husband, Mr. Fabulous.

Firstly, something practical - a pressing mitt and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with this. I’ve already tried it out and can report that it really does work! I’ve put my hand in it and wooshed loads of steam over it and didn’t burn my hand at all. I’m very keen to use it on a real garment. I think, however, the nicest thing about this present is that I didn’t ask for it. Mr Fabulous ventured into a sewing supplies store all on his own and, with some consultation with the store owner, worked out something that I didn’t have that would be good to have! Isn’t that amazing? I have no idea what David Beckham bought for Victoria or Tom Cruise bought for Katie but I bet it wasn’t half as nice or as thoughtful as my pressing mitt!

I also got four wonderful books to add to my growing library. The first one (pictured next to my pressing mitt), called Patternmaking for Fashion Design, by Helen Joseph-Armstrong, is a real technical bible, of over 800 pages. It offers “detailed yet easy-to-understand explanations of the essence of patternmaking”. For those who want to make their own patterns from scratch this is an amazing book but it is also full of useful information for people, like me, who want to understand how commercial patterns are drafted and learn how to alter and adapt them.

The next two books are real inspirational ones. Forties Fashion - From Siren Suits to the New Look, by Jonathan Walford is full of wonderful photographs and fascinating information about how “fashion was considered not a frivolity but an aesthetic expression of circumstances in the 1940’s”. I’m really going to enjoy reading this one.

Mrs O The Face of Fashion Democracy, by Mary Tomer is a truly fabulous source for those of us who admire Michelle Obama’s sense of style. This is where I have to say thank you to Carolyn, of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, because it was reading Carolyn's blog post about this book that motivated me to put it on my wish list. Now that it is in my hands, I can assure you that I am not disappointed. I have been poring over every page and am already thinking about how the patterns in my stash can be adapted so that I can ‘steal’ some of Mrs O’s style.

Lastly is The American Fashion Cookbook – Over 100 Recipes of Favorite Designers, by the Council of Fashion Designers in America. Now, if you love fashion and like to cook, this is one for you! The illustrations are great fun and a lot of the recipes really look to me like they’re going to be worth cooking up – I’m planning on making Michael Kors’ ‘Grandma Bea’s Pot Roast’ and Diane von Furstenberg’s ‘Saturday Night Chicken’ pretty soon. To be followed by Cynthia Steffe’s ‘Apple Crisp’. However, I had better be a bit careful dipping into this book because, after all my Christmas feasting, my waistband is already feeling a little tight. Much more food and my carefully altered and fitted TNT patterns are going to have to be redone several sizes larger!

So, lucky me! Do you like what I got? I'd love to know what you got …………..

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

this crazy behaviour has got to stop!

Having recently returned from New York with enough winter fabrics to keep me busy for many months (or years!), what have I now done? Yes, I’ve just taken delivery of more fabrics! And some of them are definitely also ‘wintery’ and, at a distance, do look quite similar to fabric that I already have.
Any non-sewers must, of course, be seriously questioning my sanity but I am hoping that all my sewing friends out there will understand how this might have come about. I subscribe to a U.K. based fabric club, called Chrysalis Fabrics. I’m sure you’re familiar with the kind of thing – I pay an annual subscription for which four times a year I get fabric samples that I can order from. Having returned from New York my December samples were waiting for me and, although I tried very hard indeed to resist, it was just no good. Diana, who runs Chrysalis, has a very good eye for picking lovely fabrics. Let me show you what I just had to have

Left side from top to bottom: Golden Wheat pure wool with feint herringbone pattern. Mahogany 98% wool, 2% elastane. Marl grey 90% wool, 10% cashmere. Slate Grey, Burberry pure wool with a very tiny check.
Right hand side: Dove grey/black/ivory 92% polyester, 2% spandex. Lime/magenta/ivory/black viscose. Absinthe silk with slight crinkle finish

This is how I’m justifying the new purchases. Firstly, the winter fabrics, on the left hand side, can be categorized as ‘good quality basics’ – a must for any stash. Secondly, the right hand row of fabrics could definitely be utilized for spring/summer – for which I really must be prepared! Thirdly, well, I just love them.

It appears that since I took up sewing about a year ago, after not having sewn for a long, long time, I have built up quite a stash of both fabrics and patterns. When I last sewed regularly, in my teens and early twenties, I seem to remember that I did it differently. In those days I would go to a store, buy a pattern and, at the same time, buy the fabric and notions then I would make the garment. Only when that was done would I go and buy another pattern and more fabric. Is there anyone out there who works this way? It seems like a rational and organized way of doing things but, somehow, I find that very difficult to do. I like having fabric, looking at it, touching it and thinking about all its possibilities.

However, before Mr Fabulous notices that our home is turning into a branch of a fabric warehouse, I think one of my New Year’s resolutions has to be to either stop buying so much fabric or to sew faster.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and enjoy the great pleasures of good food and spending time with loved ones. Season’s Greetings to You All.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

my festive plum dress

Before you gasp at my sewing speed (which isn’t actually very speedy at all) I need to tell you that I didn’t make this dress in the last week since my return from New York, I actually completed it just before I went. However, with so much going on, this has been my first opportunity to get Mr Fabulous out in the garden with a camera so that I have a picture to show you.

A few weeks ago I was passing through the fabric department of John Lewis (the only department store left in the United Kingdom that sells fabric) and spotted this beautiful plum coloured, 100% wool crepe and just had to have it. I thought it would make a perfect holiday season sheath dress. The pattern, which I highly recommend, is McCalls 5927

This is the one I used for my ‘sheath dress with a little bling’ but, as you can see, this is a more restrained version. The construction is the same, except that for this one I omitted the neck tabs and jewels. I was aiming for a ‘little black dress’ that can be dressed up or down but in a festive plum colour. I wanted something stylish but respectable. In New York I accompanied Mr Fabulous to a business dinner at the Harvard Club where I wore this dress and didn’t get frowned at, so I must have got the respectable bit right!

A word about wool crepe – this was my first time using this fabric and I loved it. It didn’t slip around, has a nice drape and took to steaming into shape beautifully. Now you know why I purchased two more lots of wool crepe while I was in New York (at a considerably cheaper price than I paid in John Lewis!). Why didn’t I know before how wonderful it is to work with? I’d love to know what kind of fabrics you have had some good experiences with?

Since I’ve returned from New York I haven’t had the chance to do any sewing at all. It’s all been about jet lag, unpacking, dental visits, calling in the electrician and Christmas preparations. Lack of sewing has been making me quite tetchy so I’m going to try and get some done soon ……

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I'm back from New York City ......

…... with a suitcase fit to burst! We had such a wonderful time. Here’s me in line at Tkts and on the High Line along with a couple of seasonal views of Times Square and the Rockefeller Plaza.

We saw some great shows, ate in some excellent restaurants, met with friends, visited some exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum, experienced some wonderful warm sunshine weather as well as a bit of rain and a chilly wind. And, of course, I went shopping in the garment district -

The above picture shows just some of the shops I visited. I must have been in at least a dozen and when confronted with so much fabulousness of fabrics it’s very difficult to think straight! But what you want to know, of course, is what fabrics did I decide upon? Looking at them, now that I’m home, it’s clear that I was very much in winter mode –

Top row from left to right: black wool with beige circles and dots woven in, from Mood; a fine wool suiting with grey and pale blue stripes, also from Mood; a grey wool crepe, from New York Elegant Fabrics; a black wool crepe, also from New York Elegant Fabrics.
Bottom Row from left to right: silk charmeuse in a lovely black and brown print, also from New York Elegant Fabrics; beige wool tweed with gorgeous flecks of pink, green and gold (which don’t show up in the photo very well), from Paron Fabrics and, lastly, a silk charmeuse with some stretch in a black, brown, cream and peacock blue print, also from Paron.

I also picked up a few delectable trimmings from M & J Trimming and Pacific Trimming –

At the moment, I have no definite plan for any of my purchases – my mind is whirling with dress, jacket and blouse possibilities for all of these – but I’m feeling very excited and motivated by my new stash treasures. Of course, realistically, I’m never going to get all of this made up before the winter ends (never mind about all the other winter fabrics in my stash!) but I’m planning to throw off my jet lag and get my sewing machine out pretty quickly to make a start on it – that’s in between the card writing, present wrapping, pudding stirring, cookie baking and turkey stuffing that I’m going to be doing. Don’t you just love the holiday season?!!!

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