Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Fabric free-for-all for Londoners

I'm planning a big fabric give away session as I need to cut down on my embarrassingly large fabric collection. This will be a physical give away happening in the 3D real world, and probably a bit of a social session too.

Stitchers of London! If you are interested do email me on diycouture [@] googlemail.com for the details.

This is all that needs to go. I would love it to go to good homes where it can fulfil its destiny.


Rosie xx

Sewing reflection; a year of personal projects

I began this year with a lot of fabric and a lot of ideas about what I would like to make for myself. Trying to maintain an element of realism, I wrote out what I thought was a moderate list of sewing projects I would be able to complete in 2013.

The year has truly flown by. I have been buried in a massive freelance project for the last four months (hence the lack of blog posts) and was in denial about Christmas right up until it happened. At the beginning of December I read Kathryn's post about her impressive year in sewing and started to feel a little glum that my accomplishments were so few.


Since then, I've been gathering mental evidence of the things I have made this year and realised that they do in fact add up to a list, even if it doesn't quite match the one I initially wrote down when 2013 was shiny, fresh and new. Inspired by Karen's post about her shirt achievement, I decided to record here the things I've made this year, as a sort of visual reminder.

My major sewing resolution for 2013 was to make and wear a dress, which I ticked off quite early in the year in honour of my sister's wedding ceremony. More about that here.


My sister also had a separate wedding party, for which of course I felt I must make a whole new outfit. I self-drafted a shirt from some beautifully crazy fabric I got in Walthamstow. I was so proud of myself for calculating extra fabric for the front overlap, so that the pattern would match, but I forgot to add extra to the collar stand. The results of this error are clearly shown in this photo - wonky collar alert!

This photo can also be found under the encyclopaedia entry, "The face of a vegetarian when surprisingly confronted with a roasted animal."


Later that spring, I spent more time making this cloak than I have ever spent on any other handmade garment. And look! I haven't finished it! I felt quite disappointed with my lack of pattern matching, so lost the heart to add buttons. Looking at the cloak now I don't think it's so bad. Adding buttons will go on my 2014 list of things to do.


With the weather still fairly cold, I whipped up a sort of long sleeved vest, based on a body suit I have. I do wear this every now and then but still haven't finished the neckline as I was a little baffled about how to do so. I think I'm going to make some bias binding from the same fabric. Any suggestions from those of you experienced in the ways of stretch would be most welcome.


When the hot weather struck I discovered I had no appropriate clothing and got into making shorts. As well as the two pairs documented here, I made this plain ol' black pair, which I wore almost every day on holiday in Portugal.


Having developed a small obsession with the colour lime green, I started a fourth pair of shorts in this zingy shade, but sadly they remain unfinished. Another project for my 2014 list.



In summer I also made a dress for my colleague Patricia. We sit next to each other in the Bag Books workshop, usually wearing dirty jeans and oversized t-shirts with our hair covered in sawdust, though it is not unusual for Patricia to accompany this look with a pair of six inch stilettos.

She sketched out a picture of her fantasy dress - which she envisioned in red - and I decided to take up the challenge and make it for her.


I exercised my artistic license along the way and it emerged without a spot of red to be seen. The dress is a Dr Frankenstein mash-up of the By Hand London 'Charlotte Skirt' pattern and Vogue V8240 with a self-drafted mega peplum for good measure.

Patricia and I have very different tastes and ways of dressing and it was a lot of fun to make something to suit her style rather than my own.


I Autumn, my friend Alastair got married and I decided to knuckle down and make a dress for the occasion. I had no spare time so made this tiny, seasonally inappropriate number on my lunch breaks at work.

When the wedding date arrived it was a cold, dark, windy London night and wearing an exotic mini-dress seemed nothing but absurd, so I opted for trousers. Hopefully this will come in handy in the Indian summer of 2014 that I predict we will have!



In summer, I promised Offset Warehouse that I would make a top using some of their beautiful African fabric. This is one of the many projects that I struggled to find time for and have only just completed it. There will be a tutorial for this simple summery piece on their blog soon.

I made the trousers earlier this year, also using fabric from Offset Warehouse, so I'm pleased to say this outfit is 100% ethical and 100% homemade.


With Christmas undeniably looming into view I got to work on presents. I made this pair of trousers for my sister from a vintage pattern. They came out absolutely enormous at first so I had to take off a lot of fabric at the side seams. I plan to make these for myself but need to spend a bit of time working on sizing before hand.


I also downloaded Tilly's 'Mathilde Blouse' pattern and made it for my Mum. Though I have the Sinbad & Sailor 'Dove Fitted T' pattern sitting on my computer, this is the first time I've got together the gumption to actually go ahead and use a Pdf sewing pattern. I must say, I really enjoyed the experience.

This is what it looked like at the beginning...


... and this is what it emerged as in the end : ) What a lovely Christmas fairy! I turned the tucks into pleats instead and also used binding to finish off the bell shaped sleeves, rather than gathering them into more traditional blouse cuffs.

I'm happy to say my Mum felt right at home in the top. Thank you Tilly!


Finally, the project to end all projects; my winter coat. I can't even remember when I started working on this it is so long ago, but slowly, slowly, the monster is rising up from a leopard print swamp.

I'm aiming to make this a super warm beast that fairly cooks me alive it is so warm, so I have added an interlining made of micro fleece. It's almost too much for my poor little machine to handle, but together we are just about managing to push onwards. I hoped to have this finished by the stroke of midnight tonight, but I still have a full lining and button holes to go. Hopefully, this will be the first project I complete in the new year.


 So, thank you for inspiring me to reflect Karen and Kathryn. It is so easy to charge onwards without a lingering backwards glance, but with all this retrospection, I am now actually rewarding myself with a pat on the back rather than castigating myself for not achieving my goals!

I already have a mental list of sewing projects to complete in 2014, and I look forward to ticking some of them off as well as making things that right now I have yet to imagine.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

An adventure in DIY fashion

 A couple of years ago it came to my attention that Basso & Brooke, the super cool clothing brand famous for their bold and brilliant prints, were running a dressmaking workshop. The workshop involved a champagne breakfast, a morning spent designing a digital print and the afternoon spent sewing the printed fabric into a dress. How exciting, I thought, a catwalk brand opening up their processes and inviting people to make their own 'versions' of the brand's signature garment, truly from scratch. How ambitious, I thought too, to fit all this into a day, after consuming champagne for breakfast!

Most full-day sewing workshops in London cost somewhere around the £100 mark, but when I looked at the price of the Basso & Brooke workshop, I did a double take. It cost £3,800.  In a roundabout way, that moment spawned the fabric design competition that I ran with The People's Print earlier this year, and blogged about here. The idea was to conduct a vast experiment into totally bespoke, totally accessible clothing.

Lou Davis - Indian Adventure
Amelie Regrepsillik - Adventures can be found everywhere
Rachel St - Deep Sea Mountian Goat
This experiment has been an adventure from start to finish. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who made dazzlingly creative patterns and entered them into the competition. I hope everyone that contributed enjoyed their own adventures in collage. You can see all the entries here. Above are three designs that I personally loved. I would love to make a shirt in any of these fabrics.

After much deliberation, we picked three designs that we felt best met our original brief.


I was hoping that I could tie the three fairly disparate digital prints together with styling and accessories. A key inspiration was Mat Maitland's animation for Kenzo, where animal prints mix with psychedelically coloured patterns. If you haven't seen this video, watch it now, you won't regret it.


So I could decide on the appropriate fabrics to get printed and exactly how much of each to order, I dropped the designs into illustrations then sent the files off to be printed at Be Fab BeCreative.
It was very exciting to receive the package of fabrics. The designs looked so much more lively on beautiful, bouncing woven fibres as opposed to a back lit computer screen.


The first fabric I cut into was the 'Underworld Discovery' print, drawn and collaged by Momoko Fukuhara. I did my very best to match the patterns. I like to think that May Martin, judge of The Great British Sewing Bee, would be proud of me!


Spot the pleated skirt! This is the 'Wild Pink Desert' design by Clemence Riviere.


I made leopard print bias binding for the neckline of the grecian dress.


The collection was slowly coming together.


I introduced some Kenzo-esque elements to the clothes by endowing the cropped cape with tiger print innards...


...and the hoody with a zebra print lining.


This is the wildest of the three designs as you can see. It is called 'I have no fear of heights' and was made by Kerrie Curzon, who is actually a friend of mine from school. I have to say, I didn't influence the choosing of this design at all as I was conscious of my connection with Kerrie. I let Melanie and Emma at The People's Print choose their top designs first and this came up in all their selections. What a corker!

The bright, almost lime-tinged yellow really influenced my styling for the shoot. Right after I took this picture the world grew dark, the sky rumbled and the heavens opened to tip rain upon London. Surely this is proof of the awesome power of design.


I jazzed up a few props for the photo shoot. This chair cost £5 from a cake shop on my road that very sadly closed it's doors and needed to offload all it's candy pink furniture.


I used heavy duty paint to give it some zebra stripes.


My sewing room became something of a prop cupboard for a short time. 


To push the theme of adventure that we had given our collage competition, I had decided to create three worlds in which to set the shoot; desert, jungle and sky. I made clouds for the sky scene using pillow stuffing and foam board.


Here are the fluffy white clouds in my back yard.


Who wants white clouds when you can have pink clouds?


I can't claim any kind of artistic originality for making these clouds. I actually got the idea from my place of work, Bag Books. The workshop manager there, Sophie, has a very creative sculptor's brain and invented a candyfloss page for our story about a trip to the fairground. We paint the stick with a candyfloss scented oil for a truly olfactory experience. 


I also made a cactus with a little help from Bag Books. I used the ban saw there to cut out a shape from forex, which is a sort of thick plastic sheeting.


I made the spikes out of black cardboard and stuck them on with double sided tape.


And finally; shoot day. I pinned fabrics to the wall and floor to create a pattern overload. My model is Charlie George, a dancer who I spotted whilst she was blindfold drawing at a zine fair. If you are curious about this event, click here! I must say it is much easier to ogle potential models when they are blindfolded, though whether this is ethical I'm not sure!


Once again, Bag Books influenced the shoot. I love the fabric we use to make giraffe necks for our story about the zoo, so bought some of my own online. When it arrived it was a lot smaller than I imagined it would be!


I took some of the pictures myself and some (the better ones) were taken by Hailey Ford, who's lovely photography you can see here.


Searching for a drop of water in the desert.


Below, Charlie is posing like a cactus whilst wearing the DIYC tulip skirt and shrug (instructions for the shrug will be available online one of these days, when I find the time to tidy them up).

This shrug looks quite good I think, but it's made of a hideous fabric, entirely covered in beads that are glued onto the base textile. This was extremely hard to sew and left tiny beads all over my house. I don't usually bitch about fabric, but I've seen this stuff on sale in a few fabric shops in London and would like to warn off anyone who is tempted. The remnants of this beast have been banished to my basement.


We conducted a white-wall shoot alongside the 'scenes' shoot to get some nice clean images of the fabric designs. It feels good to pose like a cactus!


Clemence's 'Wild Pink Desert' collage includes an image of her sister, looking though a huge pair of binoculars.


I wanted to include some binoculars in the shoot but couldn't find any, so made some out of cardboard, sticky back plastic and a black and white picture of a desert.


I also painted a white pattern onto these wedges in an effort to leave no surface un-decorated. If Charlie would have let me tattoo leopard print onto her skin I probably would have done it.


Sadly, I didn't make this transparent raincoat, I got it on eBay from China!


So the adventure concluded, with the DIY prints incorporated into DIY outfits up on the DIYcouture website to serve as DIY inspiration.


For anyone keen to design their own fabric, the great tutorial by The People's Print is up online and free to download. Spoonflower and BeFab are both accessible printing companies, working their hardest to provide short-run fabric printing services to individuals. Making 100% bespoke clothing is a great adventure.


And just for fun...