Or just a lovely dress if you look like a breadstick?
Fabric: Grey suiting from the usual place. I have no idea what this stuff is made of, but there’s a lot of man-madeness going on there. It’s stiff and stretchy at the same time, if that is ever possible. It was half price and I bought the most humongous piece for just under GBP 7.00, made trousers from it and still have enough for a skirt after this dress.
Pattern: Simplicity 7073 (1975)
Notions: Thread. Bias tape made from those curtains. 1 invisible zipper in white, from stash
Time to complete: once traced, less than 6 hours
First worn: Saturday 26.05 for a long day of much partying!
Wear again: Yes. This thing really won me over.
Cost: I’ll call it GBP 2.00 to account for the zipper.
I must have mentioned this already, I have gone a little crazy buying vintage patterns lately.
I have only recently cancelled a saved search on eBay. You see, whilst I love coming home from work and finding an envelope waiting for me, maybe too much of a good thing is for real. I haven’t counted how many I have, but I know I have enough. Dresses, tops, trousers, skirts, underwear – for my current skill level I have all basis covered.
I tend to work on a pattern in stages: check the pieces are all there, read instructions to check for anything odd, compare pattern pieces to body measurements, trace with adjustments, cut (at last!), sew.
On Wednesday I realised I was at the initial stages with too many patterns, and that meant no real sewing was happening. So I went back to Simplicity 7073, which I had traced last week:
There are two sets of the main dress pieces: A and B for the round neckline, and C and D for the square neckline. Unfortunately A and B were missing from the envelope (the vendor has apologised profusely) but I spent an evening widening the hip part and reworking the flare of the skirt for C and D.
Once again I omitted all the facings. I did the bias tape trick, but the other way around – sewn them from the wrong side then folded over to the right side and finished with top stitching. Meaning it looks like this:
Because I wasn’t using the facings nor the sleeves, and because I have my own TNT way to insert a zipper, I got rid of the instructions after “Stitch CB seam to small dot.” I have a semi-industrial table machine, meaning no chance of freearm, so I prefer to insert the zipper sooner rather than later.
I also chopped off about 5 inches from the skirt just to make it as long as the one on the envelope (just how tall are those fictional ladies?). Forgive the creases, this was after 8 hours of walking, sunbathing, dancing and assorted partying:
I wasn’t really sure about this dress.
I finished it out of principle (Pig-headed? Moi?).
I kept telling myself that if I saw something like this in a shop I wouldn’t be mad about it, but I would still buy it to wear to work.
Still, I fell progressively out of love with it. I didn’t even pink the seam allowances, let alone neaten them on my machine. But as I wore this yesterday, first at a barbecue at my friends’ and then at the world’s most nerd-tastic wedding reception, it won me over.
It’s not as close-fitting as the envelope, and I am fine with that, as I don’t like sweating in man-made fibres. I don’t like sweating full stop, actually. I also don’t like a close fit in case I fancy eating a lot. Which I often do.
There is something slightly odd about the front, because I didn’t quite cut it on the fold but at least 5mm away from the fold line.
I don’t mind the square neckline at the front but I find it completely unnecessary at the back.
And yet, thanks in part to the strange stiffness of the fabric, this looks pretty awesome on me.
It flares and skims in all the right places. The skirt is my favourite length, right at the top of the knee. It brings out the best of what I’ve got. I’ve got lots, and this dress emphasises everything just right. Does anyone ever get used to the amazement of something that might not be perfect but fits just right?
It’s also perfectly appropriate for work, but the trims make it less boring and suitable for leisure time too. I am glad I have finished it in time for the, erm, “heatwave” that is gripping the UK at the moment!
Incidentally, yesterday I finally managed to attend a wedding without having to nurse a broken heart at the same time. That happened in 2009, 2011 and earlier this year – just don’t ask me about it!
Instead I had a magnificent time with some truly special people.
It was also a steampunk wedding, with some awesome outfits. The budding seamstress in me was blown away, but I managed not to freak anyone out by closely inspecting their dress whilst in the middle of the dancefloor.
And actually, the state of my own heart doesn’t matter – I love a good wedding!
Seeing people you care about being deliriously happy.
Families brought together from far and away.
Being so close to the love, the courage and the hope that you think it might one day work out for you: there is nothing like it!
The next one this year is in July, and it will be another very special affair.
In the meantime, I don’t like the thought of a June without weddings, so if you know of anyone who’s getting married in June and has room for an extra-awesome extra guest, drop me a line!
I promise to make a dress for the occasion.
Finally, a decent-looking week of running:
This week looked like this:
͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ | M | Tue | W | Th | F | Sa | Su | TOT | ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ | | 5 | | 5 | 3 | 8 | | 21 | ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞
All workouts started at 6AM or thereabouts.
England is in the grip of what the locals consider a heatwave, and whilst this Italian goes “pppffffft” at the thought of calling 24C a heatwave, I know my body well enough to not want to run in the middle of days like these.
I love early mornings in this weather – everything is perfect for running. The temperature, the humidity, the lack of traffic. The only downside to it is the fact that I spend the rest of the day being insanely hungry and scoffing anything that doesn’t scream and only moves a little bit.
My pregnant friend is very busy at the moment and unable to meet me, which is a shame, since she wouldn’t judge me. She’d simply keep up with me, donut by delicious donut.
In other news, this editorial from The i Paper tells you all you need about the Jessica Ennis being told she needs to lose weight. Yeah, right. I’d love to spend a day watching the high-ranking official in UK Athletics whilst they follow Jessica’s training schedule. And eat salad.
But I digress.
Five minutes into the, erm, heatwave, the indigenous folks were already complaining that it was too hot. These are the same folks who were complaining about the constant rain two weeks ago. It’s just as well that Towel Day happened to fall during this heatwave, since Marvin is alive and well! We all know someone like him.
I also managed to cycle to work twice this week. Two days a week is a target I consider realistic, since my new ride to work is very different from my old one, slightly longer and a lot scarier, so I am quite happy with the result.
There’s a whole other blog post of wild partying and sewing (yes! You read that right!) screaming to be written, so I best move on to that!
One of my favourite Improv games to play (but not necessarily to watch) is called Alphabet. The game is a scene made of 26 lines of dialogue. The first line starts with a given letter (eg P). The reply to that line must start with a Q, and so on, until the whole alphabet has been covered. After Z comes A.
Sounds like fun? Imagine how much more fun this will be if you had not been taught the English alphabet as a child!
In fact, imagine how much this would be if you had been a taught a 21-letter alphabet!
By rights, I should hate this game. And yet, in my many runs of workshops with ComedySportZ, I have never turned down an opportunity to play it, even in the showcases.
It’s like wading through treacle. It makes my brain hurt. I never, ever ever get it right. And yet I will always jump at the chance to play it. It’s ridiculous fun, and my inability to remember which letter goes after which is now legendary. There was one instance when a fellow workshopper sat on the side and wrote down the alphabet as it emerged from the scene. It was pretty hilarious.
Incidentally, the Hungarian alphabet has 44 letters, so I presume they dedicate entire shows to this game, or just call a draw and tell people to go home when it gets too late.
I have decided to call this blouse The Alphabet Blouse, because just like that game, it contains something that makes my brain hurt, and that I should really stay away from. And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is gathers.
I have tried to understand how they work, watched several videos about how to do them and felt pretty odd. I mean, these things are on lots and lots of beginners’ patterns, so they must be easy. What is wrong with me?
I still don’t have an answer to that question, and I am still not sure on which side of H I am supposed to put J and K. But I can do gathers! And mighty fine they look too:
Fabric: check polycotton remnant, just under a metre, less than GBP 3.00. I picked it up at my usual remnant place because I needed to spend over a certain amount to pay by card, and because I felt my life needed more checks. It probably still does, but I have discovered I obsess over matching the checks at the seams, so I might not do checks for a bit.
Pattern: Vogue 9200, bought on eBay for around GBP 2.00 still in factory folds. I can see myself making this again, so I feel it was a great investment. I have gone a little crazy buying vintage patterns in the past couple of weeks.
Year: The pattern isn’t dated but I am thinking Seventies, perhaps late Seventies.
Notions: zipper, about 60p, thread
Time to complete: Cut on Friday night, gathered on Saturday night, finished on Sunday. Probably around eight hours of an absolute beginners.
First worn: today at the office (yes! That’s my work toilet in the picture!)
Wear again: oh yes!
The other thing I am very proud of is how I matched the checks around the zipper:
Not bad for a beginner if I say so myself!
And a better view of the gathers:
I omitted all the facings – I have been experimenting with using bias tape (here and here) and I am very happy with that technique, at least for the time being. I think my bias tape was smaller than the seam allowances though, because it feels a little tight at the armscye after a long time wearing it.
I have also skipped the fastening at the back of the collar ties, and I am happy with that since I feel the collar is too wide, and it would look costume-y if a collar that size was standing up.
I also did not finish the CB seam underneath the zipper, and I widened the bottom of the pattern to make room for my hips.
When I making this again I will have a wider neck opening at the front to do away with the zipper. And I am definitely making this one again, I love it!
Have I mentioned I am on Twitter?
Not in the past two hours?
Well, I am Twitter’s very own Purkinje Ninja. At least until Denis Noble decides to join and wants the name, in which case he can have it in exchange for answering a few questions about The Music Of Life.
But I digress. A few days ago I tweeted this:
Righteousness aside, this subject is quite close to my heart.
I run a lot, and mostly on the streets of my lovely South Manchester suburb. I run in lycra short and tight tops, since I have a lot of weight to shift and get hot very quickly. It’s very common to see me flash past in a lycra triathlon onesie, which incidentally is my favourite piece ever of workout kit.
When I run past people who are not running I always get very extreme reactions. Kids seem fascinated. Sober men are fascinated too, but in a different way – the lycra, the hips, the biology (so said the boy scientist). The reaction from the inebriated folks stood outside pubs deserve their own blog post (some day).
Women? Well, women just shoot me evil looks. Big, disdainful, haughty evils. The size of the evil is always directly proportional to the apparent lack of fitness of said female.
If she is also in the middle of smoking a cigarette, the sheer size of the evil look will cloud the sky, bring on thunder and the sound of spooked horses.
Why? No idea. And no time to ask them, I have a marathon to run in 5 months and I am out doing something I enjoy. I do care a little bit though, since I posted that tweet the other day. It makes me sad, I guess.
Fast forward to this morning, when I woke up really early and pondered riding my bike to work in time for a treadmill session at 6AM, when the gym opens.
Instead I went for a street run, because it was just the most perfect morning. It was quiet, and yet I ran past a lady stood at a bus stop, I smiled and she shot me an evil. Oh well.
I got home, picked up my stuff, put an old fleece over my sweaty running gear and cycled to work in the sun singing “Yellow Submarine” in the worst Italian accent I could muster (did myself proud).
I got to work, parked my bike and discovered that I did not have my ID card. The one that opens the door to my office, but more importantly the door to the gym.
You know, the gym. The place with the showers. Where you go to stop smelling and start resembling a human being that can go to work next to other human beings. That place.
I pondered cycling home and back to the office, but that would have taken too long and it would have exposed me to the worst of the traffic.
I pondered asking reception / security, but even at 7:20AM there are too many people that I don’t want to see me in my sweaty glory.
Eventually, in the glaring morning light of the empty car park, against the silhouette of the smokers’ shelter, two shadows darkened my path – SMOKERS! With ID cards! That opened the gym door!
I put up with them squinting to recognise me in my sport sunglasses, helmet and old fleece, borrowed an ID card and ran inside to get change, ever so grateful to avoid a very smelly day.
So there you are, I need to re-direct my righteousness or better still silence it altogether.
I have always thought that the moral high ground is a lonely place. But today I discovered it can also be very smelly.
There’s a conversation I often remember.
Late 1990s. Over a landline:
Me, in tears – But why does my life have to be a Spain song?
My best friend, smiling – Because life can often be a Gus Gus song.
Turns out I’m no Becky McDonald. I missed out on my chance to walk up to somebody’s face and shout out that their wife/ best mate / car mechanic has had them bamboozled for years, with a whole pub for an audience.
Because some of the people I care about are not as disenchanted as Steve McDonald. They are nice. They will stand by their car mechanic and I know that the best option, the only option, is to walk away singing Pink Floyd out loud.
This week looked like this:
͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ | M | Tue | W | Th | F | Sa | Su | TOT | ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ | 5 | | 5 | 3 | 5 | | | 18 | ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞ ͞
More or less back on track. Saturday long run was replaced by normal 5-miler on Friday because I was feeling way too cranky not to. The run and plenty of sleep did the trick.
I have also managed to cycle to work twice and into town and back yesterday, clocking up 24 miles on the bike this week (go me!).
Yesterday I also cleared the small plant beds on either side of the front door and moved furniture around so I will no longer be sewing in the kitchen. I like the idea of having a private creative space and the room I am using now has its own autonomous source of heat, which is great (yes, still waiting for Spring over here. Best not to talk about it).
I have made a pajama top and a 9/10 of a blouse, probably 8/10 since I am going to have to remove and re-attach the zipper again.
Looking forward to picking up some speed on the treadmill next week!
As of today, my life is exactly the same as it was two years ago, andit’s pretty awesome one if I say so myself.
It’s not easy to explain to people sometimes, but: same house, same job, long way round. Very happy.
Work hard, live in the moment and remember that no one knows what’s going to happen, so when everything looks awful you might as well smile. It might be the only thing that makes a difference, and it always will.
While I was in Italy last month, I took a trip to the open-air market, a massive (by the town’s standards) affair that takes place every Tuesday and Saturday.
There were several stalls selling haberdashery and trimmings, but only two that sold fabric. One had interiors fabric for a ludicrous 6 Eur/metre, made even more ludicrous by the fact that it was double width (about 280cm /110in wide).
But – the man was impossibly rude. I waited patiently for my turn for about 15 minutes because, well, I have lived in Britain for the past ten years. And when it was my turn he deliberately chose to serve someone else, so I politely said goodbye and left.
I do this on a regular basis whilst in Italy, because if people aren’t rude then the shopkeeper / stallholder will be, and they feed off each other’s rudeness.
What is amusing is how this baffles both the proprietor of the business and the other customers. There are only two options in Italy for being ignored in a queue: a.continue to wait patiently or b.shout and have an argument. My choice of c. say goodbye in a normal tone of voice and leave
just fills Italians with all kinds of wonderment.
Well, tough. I have obviously lived up here for way too long.
(No I haven’t! I love it here. Let’s make the second decade as much fun as the first!)
So I said goodbye to interior-fabrics Rude Dude and returned to the other stall, a mixture of remnants and bolts, all very expensive but some of them rather pretty.
I picked up two remnants, one a pale blue with a rose print and one a heavy knit that resembles denim:
According to the stall holder both remnants were two metres long, because he charged me 10 euros for each one. Compared to my usual Abakhan prices this is simply insane, but I really felt it spoke to me (in a Paul Weller kind of voice) and it was a nice, heavy fabric that I think contains some cotton.
I put the fabric in my Pinarello bag (I had just bought a present for a triathlete friend) and moved on to Pescheria, where I was due to meet Mum for a rather decadent lunch of seafood and Prosecco.
Whilst on my way there, I realised I was going to walk past the second best newsagent in town after the one in the train station. If there were any sewing magazines I hadn’t bought during my stay, they were bound to be there.
And they were! The man sold me a copy of Modellina Facile Speciale No.2:
This is actually an offshoot of Moda Diana (originally Diana Moden), which I bought during the same trip, only the patterns are even simpler.
The cover claims all patterns are in sizes 42 to 52, but the truth is that each one comes in three sizes: Italian 42/44, 46/48 and 50/52.
Not that you would want them to have more sizes, because this is what one and only pattern sheet looks like:
Someone posted one of these on Pattern Review with the title “And you thought Burda was bad!” and I can only agree.
Most of the patterns appear frumpy at first, but that’s down to them being executed in atrocious prints and very simple. They’re actually not that bad, especially when you are a beginner like me.
Whilst I waited for Mum I fell in love with one of dresses. I thought it would look great in a de-frumped version in the very same blue knit that I had in my bag.
As the plan took shape I started thinking Mod Generation: The Who, A Town Called Malice. I told there was some Paul Weller somewhere!
As Mum and I sat down to lunch, I showed her the overview page in the magazine and asked her to guess which one I liked.
She picked it out straight away:
After lunch -and a lot of coffee- I decided to woman up and face that pattern sheet, and traced the dress pieces. I traced the 50/52, because it was the closest to my hip measurement, but I knew full well that the 46/48 had enough ease to fit me. Still, I am fairly new at this game and it made sense to me to cut the bigger size and be able to take it in later.
Fast forward a good three weeks, and last week I spent a lot of time tracing different patterns from various sources, but very little sewing was done. In the end I remembered about the dress and the fabric, so on Wednesday night I set out to cut out the pattern pieces.
I was right about this being big – it’s sized for a 1970s DDR javelin thrower, if you know what I mean.
The pattern has no seam allowaces, and yet I didn’t add any, although I did use a 1cm guide on my machine instead of my usual 1.5cm (5/8″).
The fit of the skirt turned out great, the bodice -which was adapted to take into account the narrower skirt- still had to be taken in a whole extra inch on each side. I went to see an amazing band called Alabama Shakes on Thursday night, meaning that this was finished on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.
I wore it for the first time last night, to see Mike Kiwanuka at The Ritz:
The hem is not that wonky at all, it’s a mixture of my posture and my friend holding the camera in an, erm, interesting fashion.
I love this dress and I am completely chuffed with how this turned out! Want to know how chuffed?
This morning I pulled out one of my favourite RTW dresses – knit fabric, below knee, short sleeves. I noticed that the top of the neck needs to mending, but since I was in a rush I wore my brand-new me-made dress instead! When I realised what I had done I smiled to myself all the way to work.
This is my “Stop dreaming of a quiet life” Mod dress (have I mentioned I love Paul Weller in the last two hours? No? That’s just remiss), my Diamond Jubilee dress (red, white and blue) and somewhere there is a picture of my Grandma B. wearing a blue pinny with red trim. I cannot find so you will have to take my word for it.
Click here for the PR review.