Sunday, 27 November 2016

DIY bikini

In classic me style, I'm writing a blog post about a homemade bikini when the last of the crispy orange leaves are being blown from the trees by cold winds in London and the mornings start with breath visible in frosty air. I'm hoping at least one person from the Southern Hemisphere is reading this and feeling it is seasonally appropriate.

Anyway. I made a bikini! I made it back in May and I have worn it a lot. Here I am wearing it in Spain in September.

The lycra was one of those spur-of-the-moment purchases that totally reordered my to-sew list. I saw it buried in a busy shelf at Dalston Mill when I went to buy some buttons there and I had to have it. It's kind of a galaxy marble print and I am a big fan of rocks and outer space so it couldn't be left behind. I hadn't planned on making myself swimwear until that moment but suddenly a bikini was on the cards.

I looked around at bikini patterns but decided to base the top on my good old Marks & Spencers one that I've been wearing for at least 6 years! I consider it to be perfect for my flat chest as it has secret sewn in cups as well as some tiny pleats that add volume. I bought some cups online but when they arrived I um-ed and ah-ed about whether I should sew them in or not. They were a little on the stiff side and it felt quite strange to be building myself fake boobs.

I've been very self-conscious about having a flat chest since I was a teenager and basically didn't develop breasts when all other girls did. It affected my posture and the clothes I chose to wear. Throughout my teenage years I would wear mega padded bras and I even tried taking some herbal pills that were supposed to make boobs bigger (yeah, obviously a scam but you'll try anything when you're 18 and feel like your body isn't good enough)

Then in my early 20s I saw a documentary on TV which totally changed my outlook. The whole thing consisted of women being interviewed about their relationship with their chests. Topless. There were women of all ages, shapes and sizes all with wonderful, unique boobs, some big, some wonky and some tiny like mine! This made me ease up on my self-boob-criticism. I decided I'd look for none-sculpted bikini inspiration. I really liked this simple one from & Other Stories above and got stuck in to trying to draft something similar.

I made a toile in some scrap fabric. It was way to small so I added some extra shape to the cups.

I printed off the Seamwork Magazine Dakota bikini bottoms but made a few adjustments. I took a couple of inches of the height thanks to Beth from Sew DIYs recommendation, and I cut to a wider size at the leg as my bum is surprisingly big for a small person.

I also took away some of the shape at the leg hole on the back and after cutting them out scooped out a lot at the front too. So... yeah this is almost totally different from the pattern!

I don't have an overlocker so I finished most of my edges with elastic and zig zag stitch.

I wore it first of all on my family holiday in Britain in May. There was an unheated outdoor pool and I took the bikini for a swim every day. But it really came into it's own in Spain. If you haven't been to Spain I highly recommend it. It looks like this:

And the view from our pool looked like this:

And sometimes like this!

The day we did our bikini photo shoot was the only day of the holiday where the sun hid behind the clouds and it actually started to rain. So this is one of the only sunny moments. (I fell in love with that tree.)

And here's a close up.

Oooooh you want to see the bikini, not the tree!

And the back. Oo look at that view. 

But bikinis are not meant for dry land, they're meant for under the water, so take a deep breath...

I'm proud of 'going natural' on the top and feel like an unstoppable mermaid in my bikini. My first foray into sewing swimwear has made me want to make more.

What are your favourite swimwear patterns?

Rosie xx

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Sew Dots - you smashed it!

Sewists! Enormous thanks and massive high fives to you! With your usual energy and verve you got stuck right into the 'Sew Dots, Raise Lots' challenge and donated a massive £781.29 to the RNIB. It's a mighty amount - with Gift Aid it's actually £898 - and you should all feel so proud of yourselves. The money will go to RNIB to help them deliver essential services for people experiencing sight loss. Part of RNIBs mission is to spread the word that they exist, so that they can reach the people that need them, and you have helped to do that throughout October. Between us, we reached 39,773 people through our #sewdots posts on social media. That means more than thirty nine thousand individuals became aware of the #sewdots challenge and hopefully it's purpose. This is wonderful evidence of collective power, and I thank you so much for being part of this.

RNIB have made a great video of people talking about their experiences of sight loss, to tackle some of the assumptions that exist around blindness. Please do watch or listen and share!

Without further ado, I'd like to announce that the randomly selected winner of the grand sewing prize is Linda Hinds with her beautiful dotty Karen Drape Dress. Yaaaaaaaay Linda! I haven't been able to get hold of Linda to let her know about her awesome luck, so if anyone knows where she can be found apart from Instagram please tell me, or tell her!

I am so glad that I handed over the choosing of a winner to a computer, which thankfully as of this day have no emotions. I wouldn't have been able to personally select a winner as every single entry into Sew Dots was absolutely amazing. I was pretty much glued to my phone for the whole month making yelps of amazement and joy when another incredible creation popped up. I spent the evening of October 31st in the cinema and I did have to keep sneaking off to the toilet so I could make yelps of amazement and joy in private!

Anyway, you are all great. Here's just a small selection of some of the amazing things you made displaying a huge diversity of dottiness.

There was innovative mixing of large and small dots from Gabby at Gabberdashery who used this cool print to make a Tilly & The Buttons Coco dress that has a distinct 1920s feel in my mind...

... and from Sheona at Sew Shesho.

There were simple monochrome dots...

...cute blue dots...

... smart dots...

...turquoise dots...

... dots from head to toe from Kath Webber, who I believe can normally be found behind crochet needles rather than a sewing machine...

... possibly the cutest dotty dress in the world from Lisa at Tiniest Stitcher...

...dots on a Peter Pan collar from Jenny at The Wardrobe Architect (who actually made an awesome dotty dress too)...

... vintage dots!! Oh WOW!...

...dots that look both high fashion and extremely comfortable from Amelia at Thrift Make Sew...

... a typically experimental make from Melissa at Fehr Trade, using dots in the form of laser cut holes to make a sculptural jacket that she then wore to a Sikh wedding... 

... raised textured dots in keeping with the theme of Braille, from Victoria at Pocket For Sweets...

... and from Sam at Sew McRazy...

... hand painted dots from Kate at Sewing With Kate. She turned plain fabric from her stash into dotty fabric and donated the money she would otherwise have spent on buying fabric. What a gerat idea.

There were double dots from Mady at The Wardrobe Project...

... and finally beautiful intergalactic dots from Dominique Major.

Big dotty thanks to all of you for getting the dots out and being so bloody brilliant! Who'd be up for sewing dots and raising lots again next October? Let me know if you think that is either a bad or good idea in the comments below!


Rosie xx

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Sew Dots prizes

Thanks so much to everyone who has already pledged to participate in my #sewdots challenge to raise money for RNIB, who provide all sorts of services to help people with sight loss live independent lives. You guys have already raised £100, which is 20% of the target, and absolutely amazing. Thank you.

To join in the challenge, you just need to sew something dotty in October, share a picture of it somewhere on social media with the hashtag #sewdots and donate some money to RNIB here.

Not only will you be doing something amazing and using your sewing powers for good, you'll also be automatically in with a chance of winning a glorious sewing prize. And here is what the winner will receive...

A dotty goody bag from Barley at Fabrications, which will include fabric and a craft kit.

Two sewing patterns of your choice from the amazing Tilly & The Buttons, who I wouldn't hesitate to call The Queen Of Dots. Have you seen her new Rosa Shirt pattern? I want it!

A pile of sewing books from Laurence King. These aren't actually the books you'll get (I actually stole this picture from Tilly's blog!), but no doubt the selection will include some of their English translations of Japanese sewing books...

... and also my own book, No Patterns Needed!

In case your sewing library isn't bulging enough already, Wendy Ward has very kindly donated her brand new book 'A Beginner's Guide to Making Skirts' into the mix. This book isn't even out yet, but it looks AMAZING. It contains step-by-step tutorials for making 24 different skirt designs in Wendy's signature super modern, wearable style.

You'll also receive a very generous 10 metres of beautiful dotty fabric from Fabric Godmother.

3 metres of eco fabric from ethical fabric shop Offset Warehouse, who source beautiful fabrics from around the world that are kind to people and the planet.

£25 to spend on whatever takes your fancy from Sew Over It's incredible shop. This really is a sewist's wonderland, stocking fabric, sewing patterns and gorgeous haberdashery. This very generous voucher will give you the freedom to go wild and treat yourself!

And finally, 2 metres of bespoke fabric of your choice printed by Contrado. Yes that's right, design your dream fabric using their simple online tool and have it printed on the fabric of your choice (excluding neoprene). I was kindly shown around the Contrado factory earlier this year by Chris, who owns the business. Their range of fabrics is mindblowing, from quilted sweater jersey, to French Crepe to waterproof fabric that would enable you to make your own raincoat.

Big, endless thanks to all the businesses that have kindly donated their products to make this prize such a biggy!

Anyone entering the #sewdots challenge will be in with a chance of winning all these goodies and frankly I will be very jealous of whoever does! The winner will be chosen totally randomly on November 1st from all entries, so please pick your dotty fabric and get sewing to raise money, raise awareness and win prizes!

Rosie xx

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Polka dots can't stay alone

When I think of dotty fabric, I pretty much think of your classic black on white - or the inverse - dots. I think of a straight up, evenly spaced, perfectly round polka dot pattern. The kind of dot Minnie Mouse makes her dresses from (I'm assuming she sews). Something like this cotton blend from Truro fabrics.

White fabric with black dots

I've conducted a bit of dotty fabric research now, with the aim of inspiring you to get sewing for 'Sew Dots, Raise Lots' and my mind has been altered. Oh my. I have clearly had extremely conservative experiences with dots. There is a whole world of inventive dottiness out there that I never imagined. I'm displaying some of it here for your delight. In the words of Yayoi Kusama - a lady who really knows her dots - "polka dots can't stay alone..." Take that to mean what you will!

I'll start with a fairly straight up polka dot though, with these Japanese dotty fabrics from Fabric Rehab. The twist on these being the interesting colour selections and combinations, like tubs of ice cream by the seaside. Mmmmmm.

Sticking with small dots and Japan, this denim coloured double gauze from Miss Matatabe is very tasteful. She also has it in baby blue and a lovely purple colour.

Offset Warehouse have an actual dotty denim and amazingly it's reversible, with one side showing a dark denim and the other a much paler denim. Dotty jeans anyone?

I also spotted (unintentional pun!) this dotted black denim. The dots on this are much smaller and seem to create a nice textured look from far away.

Sticking with fairly tasteful, low key dots, I love the look of this dotted grey jersey from My Fabrics. It looks like it would make a great Autumn sweater or even tracksuit bottoms. Fabric Land seem to have a similar fabric but in a nice maroon colour and a dark blue too.

I started thinking about textured dots, as RNIB's 'Wear Dots, Raise Lots' campaign promotes awareness of the important role of braille in communication. I found this amazing work by Tiffany Loy, who has built tools to emboss fabric in a unique way.

The closest available fabric I can find is this soft fleece-like fabric with raised dots, again from My Fabrics. It comes in a range of colours.

Another textured dot is the classic Swiss Dot fabric. Fabric Godmother sells a lovely range of these, including this minty blue and a pure white if you want to look like you're swanning around in a holiday homes brochure.

Now we'll start looking at some more adventurous dots, as there are people out there designing fabrics with unevenly spaced or shaped dots. Crazy I know! I like this dotty jersey, where the dots look almost like bubbles.

Sticking with knits, some designers are taking their dots to the next level. This is a knitted jacquard from The Village Haberdashery and yes, some dots have been replaced with pictures of leopards THAT ARE DOTTY.

I love a good pattern mashup, and this polka dot gradient/floral mix from eBay is glorious! It's chiffon. I see it making a wonderful, seasonally inappropriate maxi skirt!!

To take it back slightly to the tasteful, there are some lovely 'handmade' looking dots out there. This is a design from Spoonflower. That slightly blotchy look really softens the classic hard edged polka dot.

Taking the handpainted dot one step further is this lovely ink splash type design in deep indigo, again from Spoonflower. I haven't announced the grand prize for the Sew Dots... challenge yet but hint hint it might include a couple of metres of printed fabric in a design of your choice from the brilliant Contrado, giving you a chance to realise your dream dot fabric!

Also pushing the boundaries of the perfectly symmetrical dot is this lovely 'grape spot' cotton from The Village Haberdashery...

... and this almost ikat-looking blurry blue dot polyester. I definitely see a pair of trousers made in this.

And even bigger and splodgier, this beautiful linen/rayon blend from Miss Matatabe, with olive green watercolour spots.

And to finish up, this Liberty 'full moon' design stocked at Fabrics Galore. It is named after the moon, though I definitely see fruit! I think this print might push the concept of dots as far as it can go before they actually stop being dots!

I hope this has provided some dotspiration for your projects!

Rosie xx