Being into making clothing definitely makes me notice textiles wherever I am. In London, I often use the proximity of the tube as an excuse to stare at strangers and try to work out how their clothes are made. When shopping, I check labels for the fibre content of the fabric and turn garments inside-out to see how they are finished. It’s an obsession.
I found myself doing the same thing on a recent trip to India. I looked at my taxi driver’s kurta and wondered whether it was handmade. I videoed men making alterations in the back of market stalls.
Since labour is so cheap in India, tailoring is much more commonplace. I had hoped to bring some fabric home and noticed some lovely silk in the shop where some friends were having dresses made.
Mukesh, the owner, quoted me the price (the equivalent of around £4/m if I remember correctly) but then said that it would only cost 200 rupees (around £2.50) for him to make something up for me. In the end, I asked him to make me a reversible wrap skirt.
In a single night, he made three Indian style outfits, two pairs of trousers and a top as well as my skirt. Plus he may have had other commissions to work on. The skirt alone would have been a huge source of stress for me, so it was nice to have someone else take that on.
My skirt is such a fun souvenir of the trip, even though I’m pretty scared of destroying it.
A taxi driver in Mumbai mentioned that Zara has a big factory there. Having an experience of the low cost of labour only adds to my growing sense of unease about the fashion industry. It’s hard to have another big thing to worry about, over which I have little control. Even if I made all my clothes, I have no idea of the conditions under which the fabric is made. Growing, spinning and weaving my own cotton seems like a bit of a stretch.
What I do feel I can do is renew my pledge to try and avoid the lure of fast fashion. I want to be mindful with my purchases and try to buy investment pieces where possible. I will continue to purchase second-hand when I can. I will also try not to have a ‘fast’ attitude to the things I make. I only want to create items that I know will be worn a lot, and try to waste as few raw materials as I can.
I just about finished sewing my dress in time for the wedding. If I ever mention starting a garment with less than a week before the event I am due to wear it, someone please slap me. This dress jumps straight to the top of the list of most complex garments I have ever made. The difficulty was due to a combination of altering the pattern and working with tricky and costly fabrics. However, as has fortunately been the case often in my craft life, she who dares wins!
My initials are MEAD, so I was kind of tickled by this sign.
This was my first time lining a dress. I underlined the bodice and lined the skirt with lovely navy viscose. I stupidly cut the skirt lining too short, so I had to fudge lengthening it with some ribbon. I didn’t make the best choice in selecting velvet ribbon- though pretty, it’s much stiffer than the fluid viscose- but actually it looks okay under the voile.
For the first time, I added snaps to the dress to stop my bra straps peeking out. It worked pretty well! Here you can also see the guts of the dress- probably the best wrong side finish I’ve ever achieved.
This was such a fun summer wedding. So much so that I forgot to take any pictures except the few next to the sign on the way! Thankfully Glory posted this candid picture that shows the back of the dress.
I love how the scooped back turned out. I will most likely incorporate this change into any further Southports.
Here are my two lovely Southports.
I really struggled when it came to what I wanted to wear to this wedding. I have a couple of beautiful silk dresses that I have worn to other friends’ weddings, but this is a younger wedding and I wanted to wear something a bit more fun. I was also keen to make something. I had planned to make my Liberty Macaron, but I went off that idea quite quickly after finishing the toile. Even though most of my clothes are quite quirky, when it comes to lines, I like classic simplicity. Somehow a sweetheart neckline didn’t feel right.
I spotted some beautiful viscose on Fabric Godmother, featuring a cute cocktail print, and thought it would make a great maxi Southport. I vacillated about whether and how much to get, and in the end it sold out before I could buy any. I was sad about that, but the fabric was cream and I was definitely uncertain about wearing a full-length white dress to someone else’s wedding. After some more looking around, I came across this rocket-print fabric that I had spotted on Fabric Godmother before. Soon, two metres were winging their way to me.
I am slightly worried that I am insane. My previous attempt at working with silk was an absolute disaster. I have also never worked with a sheer fabric. I have less than two weeks to learn a lot of new skills, and any mistakes will mean ruining the costly fabric.
I’m also worried the dress won’t turn out the way it looks in my head. The fabric is darkest navy and I’m just not sure the whole thing will work.
- Eliminate button band again
- Cut back bodice neckline to match front bodice neckline (perhaps even an inch deeper) to give a dressier effect
- Fully line bodice. I still haven’t fully decided whether I will be underlining or lining. At the moment, I’m thinking underlining because I don’t want the seams to be visible through the sheer fabric. But then how will I finish the neckline and armholes? Will the bias binding finish work through two layers? This is so complicated! I need to keep reading up on this. Current plan is to underline and use bias binding to finish.
- Add modesty lining to the upper part of the skirt
- Eliminate pockets. These are two words I thought I would never type, but I don’t think they are a good idea in such a light fabric. Also, because the dress is sheer, you would be able to see the contents. Also also, the Southport directions don’t seem indicate to finish the side seams, and I need French seams to finish the silk voile. Update: I just didn’t see the instruction to finish the side seams when I made my my previous Southport. Comment about French seams still stands.
- Remove 2cm length in a curve on the back bodice. Add scant 1cm length in a curve on the front bodice. Really, I probably need to do an FBA, but that’s for another time.
So far the cutting has gone okay. 2m was only just enough to squeak out this dress. If you are using a directional print or making a size bigger than about a 4, you will definitely need more. I also cut the selvedges as part of the pieces for the skirt front as I had practiced a seam finish that incorporates them.
The underlining was pretty fiddly. The silk is actually okay to work with as it is textured. The viscose is more tricky, being drapey. It just takes lots of time to smooth etc. I hand-basted the front and back pieces.
I found the bias binding finish even more annoying the second time! It’s just really fiddly. Not helped by using satin binding, but I thought that would be better suited to my fabric. Even more infuriatingly, the neckline doesn’t really sit flat. Pressing helped a bit. Maybe it’s because I didn’t clip the seam allowances.
Fortunately I took a break after writing the above paragraph. Things seemed less negative when I came back to the bodice, and the bias binding one the armholes went much better.
I’ve got to say I’ve enjoyed learning and trying out some tailoring techniques on this dress. I’m cautiously optimistic about the result.
- Adding length to the bodice in a curve also adds width to the pattern piece! I nearly got in trouble because the waist sections of my bodice and skirt weren’t the same length when I came to join them
Fabric: 2m silk voile, 1.5m viscose for lining
Pattern: Southport dress (maxi version)
Part of my bank holiday weekend was spent at Sew Over It Clapham at their silk camisole sewing class. I chose to make mine from some lovely blue ombré silk I bought on the Goldhawk Road. I wanted to learn how to work with silk, which has always seemed a daunting prospect.
I was between sizes so I decided to go a size down. My Betty dress, another SOI pattern, came out large all over, so I hoped I’d be safe. I was also very tight on fabric because using an ombré limited where I could cut out my pattern pieces. This is something I need to remember if working with an ombré fabric again.
This pattern introduced me to French seams, which were actually easier than I thought. I got super focused while sewing, as usual, so I only managed a picture of the one on my facing. Also it’s a dodgy iPhone pic even though I took my camera along especially.
Will our intrepid hero end up with a wearable top?
Will her nemesis, Professor Perfectionism, turn up to rain on her parade?
Will she poke herself with that unpicker?
Find out next time in the continuing adventures of the Crafty Crusader!
I fell in love with the knitting pattern for this cute top in the summer and excitedly bought yarn. Here’s how it should turn out.
Photo from Ravelry.
Unfortunately, the colour of the yarn was a real let-down compared to the pictures on the website and the company does not offer returns. Boo.
After a few months of sulking, I decided to cast on with the caveat that I will overdye the top if I still don’t like the colour when I am finished. The top is knitted in pieces and this is my progress on the back.
I cast on the extra stitches for the sleeves on Monday so I think I’m getting there with the back of the top. I need to do some careful measuring once I finish. My gauge is off and I couldn’t be bothered to knit a second swatch so I’m knitting in between sizes. I think I want a bit less positive ease than stated in the pattern. But I also don’t want the top to be too tight. Knitting involves so much maths!
Yarn: Kettle Yarn Co Westminster in Mermaid
On my needles at the moment is the beautiful Waterlily top. I decided to go with the recommended yarn, which is Islington by Kettle Yarn Co and stunningly beautiful. I chose the off-white colourway as I’m still on a white clothing kick inspired by Olivia Pope in Scandal. It does make me anxious about knitting on the bus though!
I’m adding a little shaping and I’ve just finished knitting up to the narrowest part of my waist. It’s just subtle shaping, no bust darts as I’m also trying to embrace positive ease a bit more this year. I was hoping to have this finished before I go away but since I leave in three weeks that may be slightly ambitious!
I’m also working on some mittens to go with my Peerie Flooers hat. I have lots of yarn left over, but mainly in the brighter colours rather than the background shades. I’ve sketched a template so I can play around with some different ideas. What do you think?
I don’t want the colours to be too crazy as I have a red coat.
As I mentioned in one of the hat posts, the wool is a little bit scratchy and the pattern includes a lining that is knit in much softer yarn (I’m using baby alpaca). I decided to cast on the first glove yesterday. The instructions say to do a provisional cast on, then join in the round and knit the lining, which I thought would take an hour or so. Dear god, it was the most traumatic knitting experience I’ve had in years! I did a provisional cast on once before for my cabled cowl, and used the method on Knitty. When I tried this time, the lining yarn got all tangled with the waste yarn holding my stitches and was a real mess. When I joined to work in the round, it was an absolute tangled disaster and I had to rip it out.
Following a quick Google, I decided to follow someone’s advice and knit a few rows straight before joining to work in the round to avoid tangling. This is the lining so a little untidiness won’t be seen anyway. Somehow I managed to cast on the wrong number of stitches, so I had to frog again. On try three, I worked three rows straight and then joined to work in the round… and managed to twist the edge. Rip it rip it! By this time I was getting pretty irate but I was determined to get this glove on the needles if it killed me.
And zen. Try four finally worked. This time, I knit 7 rows straight to make it easier to join in the round without twisting the edge. I’ve done the lining now and it only took 4 hours.
Although this was a frustrating experience, I hope it will improve my knitting in the long run. I have to do a long provisional cast on for the big cardigan project I have planned for autumn, so it’s all practice.
I’ve been itching to knit a sweater for a few weeks now. I didn’t have a pattern or yarn on mind, but it had to be a jumper and it had to be altered so it would fit me beautifully. I spent a couple of weeks researching. First I found Rolling Rock, a beautiful jumper pattern from a company called Baby Cocktails. I think it’s named after a brand of beer because the beautiful pattern on the back is called bottle lace. I also like to think of the rolling rock that gathers no moss.
The search then began for a yarn that wouldn’t bobble after a few weeks of wear, and in the end I decided to try this gorgeous silk and alpaca mix hand-dyed in Scotland by Old Maiden Aunt Yarns.
Warning for non-knitters: Below the photos will be some semi-technical knitting exposition. Also WIP = Work in Progress.
I added a few mods to account for my non-traditional figure. I cast on in the size that was closest to my upper bust measurement, because I’ve read that this gives the best fit in the shoulders. I then knit different sizes in the front and back to accommodate my bust. I added four vertical darts just under the bust so the jumper would fit closely, then finished knitting in the size closest to my under-bust measurement. Yay knitting maths! One of the best things about top down patterns is that I could try on my jumper throughout the process and make adjustments.
Something else I learned about for this jumper is ease. Seasoned knitters will already know all about this, but ease basically means how closely the clothing will fit. Negative ease gives a tight garment while positive ease will give a loose-fitting or baggy product. I’ve had problems in the past because I didn’t understand this concept. I aimed for about 2 inches of positive ease with this jumper, which is a bit less than recommended in the pattern, but I know my figure and baggy clothing emphasises the fact that I am a bit top-heavy. I’m very pleased with how the waist shaping turned out too. I just started the bottom ribbing today. The sleeves will likely be a bit tiresome but I have to pick up and knit the Henley collar, which will be a bit scary but just the right level of challenge.
I can’t wait to finish this baby!