Sunday, 31 May 2015

shocking pink

Has anyone else read "Shocking Life" - The V&A published autobiography by Elsa Schiaparelli? 

 Elsa, or "Schiap" as she calls herself, was an Italian fashion designer in my favourite design era - the 1920s and 30s - and although her name is less known than her contemporaries like Coco Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet, Schiap had a real impact on both the fashion of the time and today, being one of the forerunners for things like visible zippers, the wrap dress, tennis shorts, and this shade:  "shocking pink"

The Autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli
I got a few pages into the book and had to put it down to pull out this almost neon pink fabric I purchased well over 5 years ago and never did anything with.  I went with that simple silhouette I love and return to again and again, but this time with bracelet length sleeves and a slightly flouncier and more playful skirt, with a light pink satin panel at the bottom.  
 Schiap's story is a real engrossing read, and despite her success she had more than her fair share of sadness and knock backs in life.  Unbelievably she had no formal training in fashion and practically fell into design through a mixture of her social circle, luck, talent and sheer industriousness.

 (Not everyone has the particular good fortune of having personal connections with a knitwear factory and an invite to a lunch party that includes a New York buyer for Strauss, to help launch a career....!)

But Schiap saw her opportunity and took it, giving us so many design gems along the way.  (We can talk about the Lobster dress another time...)
This passage struck a particular chord with me, it might do the same for you:

"Dress a most difficult and unsatisfying art, because as soon as a dress is born it has already become a thing of the past.  As often as not too many elements are required to allow one to realize the actual vision one had in mind.  The interpretation of a dress, the means of making it, and the surprising way in which some materials react - all these factors, no matter how good an interpreter you have, invariably reserve a light if not bitter disappointment for you....A dress cannot just hang like a painting on the wall, or like a book remain intact and live a long and sheltered life...[it can become] an indifferent object, or even a pitiful caricature of what you wanted it to be - a dream, an expression." 

On that note, please read Schiap's book.  And - happy sewing!

Saturday, 30 May 2015


I nearly called this the 'stag weekend' dress because I spent a weekend locked up in my flat drafting this pattern while my other half was away in Dublin celebrating. (Whoop!)'s not often I get to spend 48 consecutive hours designing, dreaming, pattern drafting and sewing - but this is the result.

In fact, I can't even remember if I brushed my teeth or ate anything other than cheese on toast, but I do recall that the whole series of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt played on Netflix in the background until 3am, and I'm still not really sure if she went back into the bunker or not.

I bought this super lightweight pink suiting for $1 a metre at a Fabricland blow-out sale, which I think makes it the most economical dress for a wedding I have ever made.

I'm happy with the overall result but it's one pattern I can't stop thinking about. Specifically, should I have cut the first radiating pleat on the bias or straight grain? (It's on the bias). 

Any ideas?

Happy sewing everyone!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Edinburgh dress

So here it is!
I went for the single pattern in the end, partly out of simplicity and partly out of necessity (as always time was running out), but if I had more of this stuff I would love to make the other version too.
Apologies for the terrible hotel room lighting below...  We were at a wedding in Edinburgh and I wore this to the party the night before.  Behind me is the most beautiful view of the city, right in front of the Scott monument.  Had it not been so freezing iced cold I would have taken these pictures outside, but had to stay warm and cover up with my giant trusty trench. 
Happy sewing! x

Thursday, 21 May 2015

fabric art

I got to visit a beautiful fabric store in Basel, Switzerland a few weeks ago - Stofftraum.  I was on the look out for some Swiss dot fabric (cheesy?)  but dropped quite a few francs to take home this repeat floral cotton print.   This pictures don't do it justice but it's a mix of blues, greys, greens and golds and looks hand painted - I was very close to framing it!

I went for a simple shift dress but the big decision was with the pattern placement.  I really underestimated how the placement of a repeat pattern can change the look and feel of a dress.

When I look at the one on the left I think modern and fresh, maybe even edgy (?) while the one on the right makes me think pretty, ladylike, elegant....
It took me a long time to decide and even my hubby waded in, and my mom and sister from across the pond.
Which would you choose?

Sunday, 10 May 2015

a coat for mom

Happy Mother's Day to all the gorgeous mommy makers out there! 
 I hope you are reading this with a glass of bubbly in hand and your feet up (or on the sewing machine pedal!)
 Today is a good day to let you know how in awe I am of your talent and creativity, the way you juggle making, blogging and creating beautiful homes for your families, and that magic trick you have at finding 10 extra hours in a day.  One day maybe you can share your secret with me.

In honour of the most important lady in my life, my teacher, cheerleader, confident and purveyor of fine vintage hand me downs, here are some pictures of a coat I made for my mom. 
It's the Burda 3/2012 pattern I made for myself previously and the first time I have made a proper garment for someone else.  It's an easy one if you are thinking of doing the same.

Love you, mom xxx