Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Refashioners 2017 #suitsyou

Its Refashioners time again and this year I m part of the blogger line up... eeekkk!  I had a ball last year and am still  amazed I won...  so that set the bar pretty high for what i would come up with this year.

The task this year? Refashion a mens suit.  Luckily my husband has good taste in suits and had a wonderful Burberry number that had a big rip down the leg.  I'd had it in the cupboard for quite some time, so the theme this year was spot on!  I absolutely love the fabric, the details and as I deconstructed, wow I was in awe of whoever made this.  True craftsmanship.
The thing that impressed me the most was the shear number of layers, textures and details in creating the shape and support around the collar and sleeve.  Look at this - the sleeve head had no less than 7 layers of different fabrics.  Needless to say I kept as much of the tailoring intact as I could or reused it.  I kept the shoulder tailoring largely intact.  I couldn't do the same for the sleeve head as it was totally the wrong shape, but I unpicked and re-used several of these layers to add shape to my jacket.

Deconstruction time... as always, it takes way longer than you think when you want to do it well and preserve the pieces intact.  At this stage I hadn't fully decided what pattern to make. I wanted to assess what I had to work with first.  Even though the jacket was huge relative to my size, strangely it was awkward to work with to create a new jacket in a different style...     Messy as always

So lets talk style. My intention was to create a new jacket in a much more relaxed, casual shape.  Here is my inspiration:

I wanted a very simple pattern to use as a very basic structure that I would then free style from.  I chose the Ollie Bomber jacket- I've made it before for my son so I know its super easy and I felt I could hack from that.   I started with the lining.  The lining of the original jacket is something really special with so many lovely details I wanted to keep.  So  I carefully positioned my lining making best use of the original, keeping pockets & all.  I especially love the fact the sleeve lining is stripy!

I made up the lining to check fit.

Fit was pretty ok so I went ahead cutting the rest...  😞 I dug out the trousers which had been in my picnic hamper of scraps for at least 6 months.... the moths had got to them before I did - I held them up to the window so you could see- the whole trousers were covered in  moth holes  AARRRRHGGGHHH.   Wish I'd kept them with the jacket in the wardrobe. So plan B.  I didn't have enough fabric just using the jacket.  So I found a different pair of contrasting trousers, also worn through on one knee.
I used the contrast trousers for sides in the back jacket, the waist, cuffs and neck tie.   I had to do some adjustments around the neck and spent time pinning the waist till I got the  slight 'bomber' shape I was looking for:
Then I simply sewed it all together, fitting along the way.  As you see here (inside of the jacket front), I left alot of  the tailoring in place.
Instead of the usual bomber neck line and zip, I added in a long neck tie, made from the trouser legs and snap fasteners.

Here are some of my favorite details:

I loved the buttons on the original cuff, so I left them, pleated either side for shape and added a cuff band.  I used Prym snaps for the fasteners.  I really love them (they are from Minerva) and  are quite unusual with the pattern on them.  They are a dream to install with the Prym vario pliers.  One other detail is that at the bottom of the necktie I left in the tape that was on the inside turn-up of the leg!  I needed all the length I could get so I used the full leg + hem allowance to create the tie.

The Pockets can actually work two ways.  I think I like the effect above the best, but I can also untuck the flaps and it then looks like this.  Which do you thinks looks better?  I was also tempted to put snaps on the pocket- but resisted.
The neck can be worn either neatly tied in a bow, or can be left open/loosely tied.

Which do you prefer? I can't resist a bow...
So another years Refashioners complete and again I loved it- both years  I have found I learn so much and its so nice to push myself to make something I wouldn't have thought of otherwise.  I'm so excited to see what everyone else has made!!

To stay up to date with the Refashioners 2017, see all the other inspiring refashions  AND find out how you could win an amazing prize (and trust me its AMAZING!)   go to

Monday, 14 August 2017

Shanghai & Silk

I recently had the good fortune to visit Shanghai - a business trip, but my sister in law recently moved there so I extended over a weekend to hang out.  To my delight she had done some research into fabric shopping, cue an excursion to the Shanghai Fabric Market.

What to expect?  The place is effectively a shopping mall over many floors (I didn't even go to them all) and basically the focus is on tailoring.  There is lots of fabric and lots of mannequins with tailormade clothes.  Most stalls are offering tailoring services - you pick the fabric and the style and they make it.  But most will also sell you the fabric- so don't be put off.  There are lots of different types of fabric- but suiting/wool and silk are the majority.  I personally didn't pay much attention to anything other than silk.  I wasn't planning on carrying heavy suiting fabrics around with me - but the beautiful silks, thats another matter!!    Just giving you a screen shot of photos from google of it to give you an impression:

The silks there were gorgeous.  Great quality and stunning designs- in lots of different styles. Be warned its not cheap cheap.  But for great silk, I found it acceptable.  I paid 200RMB per metre for most of these 3- which is around £22 p/m.      This is what a typical stall looked like...
I'm regretting not buying the bottom purple one...  I ALMOST did, but decided I'd spent to much.

Tip - have cash.  Across China credit cards are not so reliable (Everyone uses Wepay/Alipay  on their phone).  Tip 2- bargain.  They will be prepared to negotiate downwards a bit- in one place we got it from 260 to 200RMB  (maybe I still overpaid vs what a local might pay but I found it a fair price for the quality). By the way, didn't see any drinks places or anything, so take what you need...

So... onto my purchases!!  I bought 3 silks, all heavily patterned of course...because I just don't really do plains.

This first one has the feel of what I call a regular silk (sorry, I really should have better knowledge on how to describe the different ones!)  but its really quite thick & sturdy for a silk with a matt finish- so I m hoping it will be good to sew with.  I love the colours and little birds on it.  I m planning a skirt.
 This one is so, so soft with an amazing drape. I think it would make an amazing bias cut dress or maybe a blouse.

And finally this one is 97% silk with 3% stretch.  Its more shiny than the other 2 and lighter weight.  I just loved the design- so many details with all the flowers and little bugs in there - do you spot them?!  It looks designer, I feel like I've seen it somewhere... anyway its quite busy so I just bought 1 metre to make a top.

 I was so excited by this one, I cut into it the day I got home!!  After much thought on the plane, I decided to go for just a really straightforward top with a few ruffles.  I used my regular top block to make a simple shape with front darts.  I then made ruffles for the sleeves and round the bottom with what I had left!!    I would have preferred to finish the top with a facing but I didn't have any fabric left so I used a contrast bias binding for the armholes and neck - which works ok actually.

I'm super happy with this top- I m sure I will wear it lots.  The silk feels amazing and actually to my amazement it was a dream to sew! I actually avoid sewing silk- my previous adventures have been frustrating and difficult (silk pulling out of shape, impossible to unpick, pins plucking it...) but this first one was perfect to work with- maybe thats a sign of quality!  

So to round up, what were my overall thoughts on Shanghai?  I really liked it.   It was a short visit, but I found people really friendly and with the help of a smart phone, getting by was much easier than I expected.  Of course it was wonderful to catch up with my sister-in-law and have a guide who had already found some great places too!   We ate some amazing food- they have a great selection of brunch places and all the regular types of food you would expect in such a major city- and some brilliant bars.  It feels a really safe place to walk around and has a real buzz about it.  I found people had a real sense of living in the now- a mindset that anything was possible and felt people really valued and embraced self expression.  Anything goes when it comes to fashion there!  But boy was it hot and humid!  The first day I was there we had tropical storms all day long (hence the amount of time I spent in eating & drinking establishments) and then it was nearing  40 degrees, with high humidity for the rest of my stay- and frankly, I m not designed for that climate!   Hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures with Chinese Silk & seeing my purchases. Any more tips for Shanghai let me know as I'm sure I'll be back there at some point in the future.
Estelle x

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Memade Orla Kiely Skirt

I picked up 2 different Orla Kiely fabrics at Fabrics Galore, London recently.  I can't resist the bold prints of Orla Kiely and I'd never come across their fabrics for sale before, so I snapped them up!  They are truthfully furnishing fabric I think, relatively heavy weight. But I couldn't resist making a skirt out of the first one.  I pre-washed it to check it washed ok and it did - it frayed massively (note to self, should have overlocked the edge before washing) but it was fine, phew!  Let the plans commence.

I recently made up this Butterick pattern in denim and have worn it non stop, so it was the obvious choice. This is my first sewing after 3 weeks holiday, so i was dying to get back behind the machine with a relatively quick, indulgent and fun project.

So it was a straightforward make. I worked hard to pattern match behind the pockets and I did my best on the pleat from to have a complete pattern repeat either side, which works quite well.  I was unsure with the waist band whether to do the pattern across or down - but doing down, it would never perfectly match the skirt due to the pleat, so I went for across.

 I wanted a different style of pockets so it wasn't too intrusive with the pattern so I free-styled that and chose to put some piping at the top of the pockets as a feature:

The only other deviation from the pattern that I also did with my previous version was to add some shape to the waistband.  The pattern piece is a perfect rectangle- which personally I don't think works - I m not sure anyone would have a perfectly rectangular waist when the band is so thick.  So my technique here is to sew the front waistband to the front skirt  and shape off the waistband following the line of the skirt (so effectively cutting a triangle off each corner).  I repeat for the back, then sew the front & back together in one go.

The final details I wanted to share are on the inside.  I had a dust bag for an Orla Kiely handbag so I cut that up and used it as the facing fabric for the waistband as well as the inside of the pockets.  No one else sees it but it makes me happy to have the iconic stem print on the inside too.

I did alot of topstitching - I was undecided but the fabric felt like it needed it for stability, especially down the side seams and around the front pleat, so I also did some top stitching on the waist band too.  Probably not everyones cup of tea, but I m quite happy with it- gives it a more informal vibe and I m hoping strengthens the seams too.

And finally,  I used bias binding on the hem.  The fabric frays heavily so needed properly finishing and was too thick to double turn up- so this seemed like the best solution.

I m so happy with this skirt.  I love the pattern and the colours and the style of this really fits me perfectly.  I love skirts that fit snugly on the hip, have a bit of body and also have pockets and this ticks all three boxes.


Friday, 12 May 2017

BHL Anna dress & top hack

I had my eye on the ByHandLondon Anna dress pattern for a very long time  and then was very lucky to receive it along with the Sarah Shirt and Elisalex dress as part of my Refashioners prize win last year. Truth be told, the only reason Ive not made it before now is, firstly I never buy 4 metres of fabric - I always buy without a plan and usually buy one or two metres.  And, well its a pdf.  Thats a lot of pieces to stick together for that long skirt!!  Anyway, I got a wonderful gift of some hand printed Indonesian Batik - 4 metres to be precise!!  and I found a good printers near my office to print it out.  So yes, Anna could finally happen.

I knew I would love this pattern, the slightly wide sleeves, fitted bodice and A-line skirt are my perfect shape and I wasn't disappointed at all.  Straight up there to the top of my favourites pile!!

Its also a straightforward make.  I played around with it to get the fit of the top right, but once I had that good, it was very straightforward.

I specifically made this Anna dress for a trip to Athens and it really is an ideal summer dress- especially for one who gets so easily red!  It covers perfectly whilst being very cool.

I loved the shape of the bodice so much, I wanted to create a top out of it.  The bodice is quite short, so it needed some hacking to evolve into a top.  I had a few attempts and got it right on my second.  I basically just overlaid my Anna pattern on my usual top block and extended it downwards to merge with the block.  I then for the front, I drew a line extending the middle of the darts, then continued down the darts, tapering in towards the bottom.  

This is the back overlaid with my block - as you can see, its perfectly easy to extend and even the dart is almost perfecty aligned!

I did the same for the front and here you can see how i extended down the darts.  The thicker markings just before it tapers in is where the bodice goes to. By doing it like this I found the darts create a nice curve on the body (well on mine at least!)

And I ve made two so far- one in jersey, which I made a lot smaller due to the stretch and one in Tana Lawn- which is made to the usual size.  On the tops I also added turn backs on the sleeve for added emphasis, which I really like - just an extra strip of fabric sewn on & turned back to finish them off.