Friday, 31 August 2012

Refashion Friday Inspiration: Contrast Collar Sleeveless Shirt/Blouse

This blouse maybe one of those creations that looks better on a body than a mannequin, but you get the idea. It's a super simple denim shirt remake with some subtle features and proportions that aim to transform the original masculine, boxy garment into something more feminine and sexy. 

The original denim was re-cut using a standard fitted blouse pattern. There are bust darts and darts that bring shape to the waist in the front and back, all of which create a curvy silhouette. As with almost all of my shirt/blouse refashions/remakes, the original hem has been retained, accept this time I've gone for a longer length which would look ace with leggings or capri pants. 

I've cut the armholes so that a lot of shoulder is showing, which I feel is a really sexy feature. The small contrast Peter Pan collar in ditsy floral Liberty print was self-drafted and applied to finish the neckline to bring some cuteness without (hopefully!) being too juvenile. Maybe it's because I grew up in the 1990's, but I feel the contrasting combination of faded, tough denim with delicate, feminine florals works well. I added a ditsy floral sash belt-tie to emphasise the nipped in waist even more. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Handmade Hen Party!

Last weekend all my favourite women in the world congregated in Brighton. The reason for this pleasant occurrence was my hen do! With a month until the Big Day, seventeen women came to celebrate over two days. With a distinctly handmade, crafty and stylish flavour to the weekend, I thought the readers of my blog might be interested in what went down... 

After many of the 'hens' congregated at my flat we went for a blustery walk along the seafront and popped into 'Platform', a two week event organised by my mate Sarah Rock Cakes to feature and sell the work of ten of the most talented local artists, photographers, print-makers and designer. 

We then headed over the road from 'Platform' to Super+Super HQ to meet up with the others.This is, of course, the place I share some desk space though on Saturday we weren't there to do some work, we were there to get our craft on! The Super+Super girls offer all sorts of hen do options. We chose to do screen printing. 

We started out creating stencils on brown paper. I'd printed off a lot of stencil designs during the week to add to the pile of other starting points Super+Super already had and the hens could either use one of those, a combination or those, or totally free-style our own designs. 

Most of us chose to use the existing designs as a starting point so we traced these onto tracing paper. We then flipped the tracing paper over and used the pencils to rub over the lines so the designs transfer onto the brown paper.

Some of the designs required a bit of help from the printing expert Georgia to turn into printable stencils. It was fun to see all my friends who comprise of different occupations including accountant, graphic designer, scientist, solicitor, jewellery designer, theatre producer, communications manager, librarian, wine importer, journalist and full-time mum among others, all getting creative and doing the kind of things most of us hadn't attempted since our school days. 

If we look a bit miserable in these photos, I promise we weren't: we were just concentrating hard! And yes, there was one craft knife-related injury! 

When the brown paper stencils were ready, we headed in smaller groups to the basement to get printing. The anticipation was pretty high, as you can imagine! 

With pinny donned and canvas tote bag in position on the printing table, the stencil and screen were placed on top and the printing ink was introduced. A couple of pulls and the bags were newly adorned with our images.

Interestingly, the three women in attendance who have had children all made their bags for their kids or for carrying their kids belongings. The hens who don't have kids all made them for ourselves!   

All the bags came out really well, even after the introduction of cava and wine into proceedings (although we did instil a strict 'no wine until you're done with the craft knife' rule). And we had the best cake I may have ever tasted which was a lemon curd sponge home made by Amy, one of the Super+Super girls. I haven't stopped thinking about that cake since Saturday. Home made cake never fails to blow its shop-bought counterparts out of the water, don't you find?

No strangers to creative endeavours, Kirstin and Rehanon (pictured above) made some fine specimens. But one of my favourites was Scientist Ruth's simple but powerful design (pictured below). What more is there to say?!

Printing veteran Michelle drew a design so inventive that I'll be surprised if she doesn't get stopped in the street and asked where she bought her bag (pictured below). 

My own design (pictured below) was a simplified version of a stencil I found online. I also managed to get a couple of extra swipes in and put my design onto some emerald coloured jersey fabric I happened to have stashed under my desk upstairs. I hope to make a T-shirt or vest top with it soon.

Just as I thought we were wrapping up the proceeding at Super+Super to move on to the next bit, the ladies surprised me with two absolutely wonderful gifts. One was a fabulous photo book packed full with photos from nights out, holidays, parties and special times I'd had with my various hens from the 1990s until recently. I can't tell you how much that book means to me. Capturing some of our dodgiest haircuts and outfits, that book will never fail to delight!

The other gift is equally wonderful: an incredible necklace handmade by Kirstin which includes the date of the hen do. Since Saturday I have only taken the necklace off to sleep! It's so awesome and special and it'll help me remember the time all my favourite women came to play.

After heading to our digs, debating what to wear and applying alarming quantities of make up and hair spray, we reconvened at the stunning Art Deco Brighton Ballroom. There we were treated to a delicious three course meal, wine and a fantastic cabaret and burlesque show.     

The handmade quality of this section of the weekend is limited, but I did wear my self-made leopard rockabilly dress and the lovely necklace made by Kirstin 

At 11pm the central tables were cleared and a DJ began to provide us with tunes for making shapes to.

The next day some hens had to leave early but we were then joined by Mumma E, and my mother and sister-in-law to be. Hangovers were soaked up by piled of sandwiches, scones and cakes at the Metrodeco teashop. Say hi to Mumma E!

I can't emphasise enough how nice it was to be with these lovely women over the two days. Thanks to them I'm looking forward to the wedding more than ever because we will be altogether again with even more special peops. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The State of (Sewing Pattern) Independence

Something that particularly enrages me is that concept that mass-produced products are inherently and unquestionably 'better' than the equivalents made in smaller quantities or by alternative means. The desire to dispel this myth is a common thread that runs through all my current endeavours; whether that is providing a platform for crafters/designer-makers to promote and sell their handmade wares with Brighton Craftaganza or developing sewing patterns, providing inspiration or sharing knowledge to help those interested in creating/recreating their own wardrobes.

I could probably write a whole essay on this topic if provoked, but simply put: it can be argued that most societies (in the First World at least) perpetuate the idea that large companies, often corporately owned, produce the best products or services we could get for our money. And with this message being pushed to us from all angles from a disturbingly young age, it's easy to fall into the belief that the sheen of mass-production equals quality in all respects. But if we think about it for more than a minute, we can often finds ways that this belief falls apart.

Take sewing patterns, for example. Most of the sewers on the blogosphere use commercial sewing patterns from 'the Big Four' at least some of the time. We are used to their format and we know what to expect from them when we buy them. They are easily available and often quite cheap to buy. However, the growing proliferation of smaller, independent sewing pattern companies are proving that they can compete on some of these aspects, as well as offering us much more than the Big Four can in a variety of other ways. 

Independent sewing pattern companies can often respond more directly the the requirements of their customers and they usually have a closer connection with them. For example, if you were having difficulty with one of the construction steps in a Colette Patterns pattern, you could email them and someone would most likely get back to you before the week was out. If you'd like to make a suggestion for future Sewaholic patterns, you'd easily be able to email Tasia and start up a conversation. Who would you contact at Vogue patterns with either of these topics? Would they bother to respond? I don't know. I'm not trying to criticise the customer service of these big companies, I'm just highlighting the faceless-ness that goes hand-in-hand with their businesses.

Plus the production models that the independent pattern companies implement in comparison to the high-volume Big Four also allow for (arguably) more interesting designs and niche ranges. The 'independent's' can focus on specific body shapes: Sewaholic cater for pear-shaped figures, Suzy has the petite market in her sights, Megan Niesen has some great maternity wear styles, and it's only a matter of time before taller, plus-sized and full-busted women have a specific independent company focused on their requirements, if they don't exist already! My goodness, there may even been some soon specifically for men's wear!

And whether you're a fashion-forward kind of chica always with an eye on the trends, or you prefer clothing with a more retro/classic/rock/sporty/girly/country/insert-your-own-adjective-here look, there's probably an indie range with your kind of bent. The Big Four can't easily compete in this arena because they rely on selling large quantities of the same design, so more innovative and less mainstream styles probably wouldn't shift the units they need to. 

Make Bra, pattern #2610

I find the variety of the actual products a joy as well. For example, so much thought and planning has gone into the presentation and packaging of Papercut Patterns that just owning one is a pleasure before you've even begun your sewing project. Wiksten has the genius to create both paper and downloadable PDFs of her styles so the consumer can decide what format and price point works best for them. DIY Couture has even done away with the traditional sewing pattern and instead presents the styles in easy to follow instructions and diagrams to help you recreate them. It is nice to be able to financially support these endeavours and innovators directly. They also invariably enrich the online sewing scene so much more than the Big Four by putting time and love into fabulous and informative blogs and even offering some patterns to their followers for free!

There are so many independent pattern companies and happily more seem to be springing up all the time. I have included links to many of them in alphabetical order in this post, and illustrated it with some gems from their ranges. A more comprehensive list of independent sewing pattern companies can be found on 'A Good Wardrobe' blog here, which I thoroughly recommend you check out. 

I'm not suggesting that we all stop buying patterns produced by the Big Four, I'm just trying to encourage sewers to perceive the independent companies as being at the same level as, and in some areas above what we have come to accept as the traditional format for consuming the patterns our sewing projects start from. 

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Slinky Breton Top. Plus: Me-Made-Outfit of the Week

New Slinky Breton Top
Pants (knickers)

Today's post is another double bubble post to document both my favourite self-made outfit of the week and a new creation. This is the outfit I wore all day whilst working at my new desk space and then later to attend the private view of 'Platform', a show consisting of 10 of Brighton's most talented artists and designers organised by my compadre Sarah Rock Cakes (pictured below left). I tried to make this outfit a bit less casual for the evening with the addition of red lipstick. I don't think that worked particularly well but I was very comfy all day!

And onto the top itself. It's a simple self-drafted bateau neck Breton top with 3/4 length sleeves. The fabric is a really drapey and slinky jersey. I probably would have chosen a more substantial jersey/knit fabric if I wasn't committed to using what I already have rather than going to the fabric shop for my projects. But actually the drapey quality makes this top feel lovely to wear.  

It also ended up being a looser fit than I intended, but that's good because perhaps I need to be coaxed out of my usual predictable garment silhouettes. A looser style will work well with my sailor jeans and my new (to me) second hand 70's style high waist flared jeans. 

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