Friday, 30 September 2011

Online fabric shopping - yea or nay?

I live in London, a large city that has a wide variety of fabric stores that I love to shop in.

So, you would think that I would have no need to venture into the world-wide-web to feed my fabric buying habit. But I do buy fabric on the internet. In fact, I buy quite a lot of fabric on the internet.

Shopping in a real, bricks and mortar, store is, without a doubt, a very enjoyable experience. For me the main advantage of buying fabric this way is the obvious one - you can actually feel the fabric so you can judge how it is going to drape and behave as a garment and you can be certain of the exact colour and texture. And there is, of course, the pleasure of that instant gratification - you walk away with a bag in your hand and your head full of sewing plans for your lovely new fabric.

"I'll just take a quick look in here!"

However, I think that there can be a downside to shopping in a store. The array of fabrics piled high can be quite overwhelming so that it can be difficult to consider options and decide on the best purchase. When time is limited it is easy, on impulse, to buy something pretty and colourful although you would really be far better off picking out a less flamboyant, but more useful, solid wool. Another problem that I sometimes encounter is the pushy sales assistant. In some stores the assistants will happily leave you alone to browse but in others I have found that from the minute I step through the door I am accompanied by a person who is keen to show me anything and everything they can. As soon as I touch (or even let my eyes linger on) a roll of fabric, the fabric is pulled out, unrolled and its virtues exclaimed upon. In this situation I tend to feel that I have two choices - buy a lot of fabric that I'm not absolutely sure about or flee empty handed.

When shopping on the internet, although I am denied the opportunity of touching the fabric, I can spend as many hours as I like, at any time of day or night, checking out the stock. Some internet sites, such as Gorgeous Fabrics, and Vogue Fabrics (which are two of my favourite sites) have a 'wish list' facility which allows me to gather together fabrics I like on one page. I can then see how they look together. I can get out patterns, think through what fabric will work with what style and I can check exactly how much yardage I will need. I don't have to press the 'buy' button until I'm good and ready.

Another plus side of internet shopping is that the reputable online stores give you accurate information about the fibre content of the fabric and the recommended care instructions. In real life stores, especially the discount ones, you usually don't get any of this information - the fabric is rarely labelled and the sales assistants can sometimes be, quite frankly, woefully uninformed or wilfully vague.

Of course, when ordering on the internet you have shipping costs to pay (and possibly customs duties if ordering from abroad) so these have to be factored in when considering the cost of the fabric. And then you have to wait for your fabric to arrive at your door.

"What was it that I ordered ... I seem to have forgotten?"

However, I don't mind the wait so much because when my parcel does arrive, it's very exciting - it's like getting a present from somebody who has perfect taste and knows exactly what you want!

So, I enjoy shopping in both real and virtual stores. I guess what I am saying is that I just love to buy fabric! But what about you? Do you like to order on the internet or do you have to feel the fabric before you can commit? I'd love to know ....

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Simplicity 2497 Cynthia Rowley dress!

My latest make is what I like to call an easy-to-wear dress in an all-year round print fabric (which, by the way, is a silk twill designed by Phillip Lim).

Simplicity 2497 by Cynthia Rowley

In the coming months I am planning on wearing it with boots and a cardi but I also have visions of throwing it on with some shiny gold sandals when summer finally returns.

How this dress came about is interesting. I didn't feel like fitting a new pattern so thought I would rummage through my very large box of patterns that I have made previously to see if something caught my eye to make again. As I went through them I was saying "No, not that one, not that one, never that one ....... oh, hang on a minute, what was that?" I backtracked to take another look at this pattern

I made the dress with the ruffle on it almost two years ago (blogged about here). I do love the dress but I didn't feel the need for another one, especially as it is rather low cut (even after I raised the neckline!). There is a limit to the number of places I go to that require a ruffley low cut dress. However, until last week, I had completely overlooked the fact that there is another view for this dress (shown in the bottom row of the line drawings on the pattern envelope). Instead of the ruffle it has a faced neckband, which means the neckline is at a higher, more respectable level. I decided that this version, but without the puffy sleeves, would be exactly right for my nice designer print.

When it was almost done I got the feeling that the dress needed just a little something extra to give it a bit of punch and a more 'finished' look.

"It needs a little something!"

I was thinking of doing some topstitching in heavy black thread around the neckband when I remembered that I had some sew-on jewels in my stash. I purchased these a long time ago for nothing in particular but I felt that one day they would be 'the perfect thing' for something.

Just the thing - a little bling around the neckline!

So, my tip of the week is this. Don't forget to take a close look at your pattern stash - sometimes you might be surprised to see that a pattern you had dismissed has got another view sitting, unassumingly, in the corner just waiting for you to notice it and turn it into a dress you really like!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Vintage Simplicity 4175 finished!

In my last post I mentioned that I have been working on a dress made from a vintage Simplicity pattern so, without further ado, here it is, finished!

Vintage Simplicity 4175

I used a Liberty of London silk fabric. The busy flower print makes it a little difficult to see all the details in a photograph so here’s how Simplicity describes it:

This “Simple to Make” dress is styled with soft pleats at the shoulder and at waistline of skirt front. A forward shoulder seam is featured and both views are sleeveless.

The pattern envelope is a bit worn and torn but the pattern pieces were in perfect condition.

No, my bust isn't 32" - this needed some grading up!
When I first started on this project I thought that I would make the view on the left with the tie at the neckline. However, as the work progressed, it became clear to me that a bow on top of everything else going on with this dress was going to be just a bit more than my short frame could carry. But, of course, I did put the buttons down the front.

Yes, that's 12 buttons!

These are also vintage (I blogged about their purchase here) and they are purely decorative. The pattern instructions tell you to use a lapped zipper or snap fasteners for the side opening but I used an invisible zipper. As is often the case with vintage patterns the armholes are supposed to be faced. However, as I was suspicious that the facings would flip out and annoy me, I decided to bind the armholes with bias strips from the dress fabric. Another change I made was to add a lining to the skirt.

Inside the dress - the skirt is lined

The unlined silk worked beautifully for the bodice because it needs a soft fabric for the pleats to drape nicely but I wanted the skirt part to be a little more robust. I think it worked well. Also, as you may have noticed, I chopped a good few inches off the length.

One design feature of the pattern that I did stick to is the self-made matching belt. This was my first attempt at belt making and I must credit Casey from Elegant Musings for her very excellent tutorial which helped me enormously.

Fabric belt made with purchased buckle

So, although I think my 1952 dress is in keeping with the intended style I have to confess that it is not perfectly authentic because I have given it a few modern updates in the construction – I hope you don’t find that too shocking? I enjoyed working with this pattern and love many of the styles from past eras. I do plan to make some more vintage patterns but I could never see myself going exclusively vintage - I am way too tempted by the latest fashions and relative ease of use of the modern, multi-sized patterns. How about you? Is vintage your thing or is it the 21st century all the way for you?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Still hanging on to summer ....

The weather has turned blustery, the days are getting shorter. The blogosphere is buzzing with plans for fall sewing. And what am I doing? I am looking at my large pile of summer fabrics.

Did I really buy all this fabric?

Where is that sassy sundress I was going to make? What happened to the cute shorts? Why haven't I made those luxurious loose linen pants I decided on? How come I never made ..... oh, never mind. So many patterns, so much fabric, too little time!

As I am not quite ready to plunge straight into winter wools I am working on what I am calling a transitional piece. Here's a sneak peak

Eugenia goes vintage!

I am feeling pretty excited about this one. The pattern is dated 1952, the buttons are also vintage and the fabric is a Liberty of London pure silk (purchased in the sale but still at great expense!)

Although it could very obviously be worn as a 'summer frock' (and I am still hoping for an Indian summer), I think that the subdued colours will allow me to wear it as a fall outfit paired with my black boots and a little cardi.

What about you? Did you actually get to make all the wonderful garments you planned for the summer? Are you sitting there feeling, dare I say it, rather smug as you move on to the new season. Or, like me, are you sadly staring at a huge pile of unsewn fabrics and wistfully thinking of all the clothes you should now have hanging in your wardrobe? I’d love to know …..

Friday, 2 September 2011

Vogue 8603 and how a zebra wears her stripes!

My latest make is one of those great wardrobe staples - a pencil skirt made in an animal print. Classic styling in a fun fabric.

Zebra print pencil skirt

The pattern is Vogue 8603 - for a variety of lined, straight skirts with princess seams and a back zipper.

Vogue 8603

The version I made has a gathered panel at the bottom of the centre back (which isn't shown in the picture above).

Inside the skirt - the back

I have made this pattern before in plain black (blogged about here) and really like the fit, so when I purchased this zebra print cotton fabric I knew straight away what I wanted to do with it.

Zebra stripes run from selvedge to selvedge

It was only when I came to cut the fabric that it dawned on me that if I cut the skirt on the lengthwise grain (in the usual way) the zebra stripes would run horizontally around my body. Now I'm not a great stickler for those rules that dictate what different body types should wear but I have to admit that, as I am short, I do tend to find that horizontal stripes, especially on a skirt, have the effect of making me look shorter and wider than I want to look.

Out of interest I thought that I would check out which way a zebra wears her stripes. It turns out that she wears them vertically at the front and horizontally at the back.

Tell me honestly, does my butt look big in this?

So she looks taller at the front, but wider at the back. However, I doubt very much whether zebras waste much time worrying about body image, they have more pressing things, like not getting eaten by a lion, to worry about. 

So, anyway, I decided to cut my skirt on the crosswise grain and wear my stripes vertically - I'm trying for tall and thin! What about you - which way do you like to wear your stripes. Do you think it makes any difference? Do you care?

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