Sewing for Paris! #1 La Petite Robe

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Reality and fantasy are converging - and they're meeting in Paris!

Can you tell I'm excited?! And this is my new dress to celebrate!

Merchant and Mills, linen, Vanessa Pouzet, la petite robe, as-it-seams

It all began when an invite popped into my inbox  from Annika at Nah Connection saying, "What about a 'real meet-up in Paris?" 
My heart said '"oui", then my head said...'how?'
But when you want something you make it happen.
And then you sew a new dress.... 

Merchant and Mills, linen, Vanessa Pouzet, la petite robe, as-it-seams

So the theme of this post is 'Fantasy and Reality'. And my fantasy was to have an incredibly stylish City Break Wardrobe, and to ditch my usual child-friendly jeans for a weekend of Parisian Chic...
This pattern, Vanessa Pouzet's La Petite Robe, seemed the kind of understated simplicity I was after. And it's French!

Merchant and Mills, linen, Vanessa Pouzet, la petite robe, as-it-seams

This is actually the third time I've sewn this pattern (fourth if you include the muslin) But I'm blogging them the wrong way round - you'll have to come back for  the next versions, which are so different. 

The pattern is just Parisian perfection. 
It's so simple yet  beautifully constructed, with a lovely yoke and lining so there is not a single exposed seam anywhere. 

I only modified it by adding 'in seam' pockets - which perhaps affect the stylish line of the skirt , but I NEED pockets in a dress.

Merchant and Mills, linen, Vanessa Pouzet, la petite robe, as-it-seams

The fabric is grey linen from Merchant and Mills, bought from my local shop Herringbone (and it is simply heavenly). The colour has a kind of softness, an uneven weave that means it's going to look better and better every time I wash it.

And now the fantasy is about to become reality. And of course, I don't  have a 'Weekend City Break' Wardrobe ready to go. It looks like it's going to be rainy and cool, and the vision I had of being that stylish woman on the Champs Elysees in spring sunshine, is a fantasy.  But that's fine by me.

Because the reality is even more amazing. A dozen women have made something incredible happen. 

There have been endless online messages and excited comments, but now we're finally about to stroll the boulevards, and shop for French fabric.
What could be more fun!?
Especially when you look who's going to be there!

We will be 14 women from nine different European countries: 

And we've been a great team! Between us we've bagged some fantastic prizes to giveaway. Honestly the fabric, the patterns! There are some serious goodies up for grabs very soon. Do make sure you pop back in a week or two. And there's plenty of Paris excitement . Pop over to Anneka here for her pre-Paris creation.

I am so honoured to be included, but I'm also slightly nervous. 

This whole adventure has made me think about our online world, where reality and fantasy blend seamlessly. 
Blogging is about sharing creativity but I often wonder, just how 'real' is it all? 
This little blog has been a gateway to making online sewing buddies, but meeting up in real life is going to be so exciting and different. For a start they will actually see the crooked zip on the back of this dress!

So before we meet, I have some confessions, because our blogs present the 'edited versions' of ourselves.
Firstly, this is not my sofa. I don't live in a spotless, tidy house, in fact the opposite. It's cramped and cluttered, I sew on my kitchen table,  and there isn't much spare cash, my fabric stash is a real indulgence.
Secondly, I am not chic and stylish. This is me, rather self-consciously pretending to be a model.

And I am actually delighted to be meeting these friends in reality. It's going to be such a thrill to actually  talk sewing, and fabric.... 

Oh and stroll down the banks of the Seine and gaze at the Parisian skyline and drink coffee and eat proper croissants.
The full update will be on its way! 
(As well as a little more Sewing for Paris!)

Merchant and Mills, linen, Vanessa Pouzet, la petite robe, as-it-seams

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A waistcoat, Japanese sewing and nostaglia

Friday, 17 April 2015

'Quality not quantity' has been my mantra for sewing in 2015. I've been trying, mostly, to be less 'slapdash' and to develop my sewing skills. And I'm so proud of this little waistcoat.

Akiko Mano pattern, Robert Kaufman Herringbone

My first ever welt pockets! Not quite Saville Row tailoring but good enough for a five-year-old. This waistcoat is another pattern from my new favourite book; Linen, Wool, Cotton Kids by Akiko Mano. The first was this skirt - which was easy. I'm slowly working my way through these patterns and love them all. Look out for more to come. 

The pattern is fairly simple, although those welt pockets took a little bit of figuring out. But once I'd worked it out and everything clicked into place, it was so satisfying. Sizing seems a little odd in this book, I sewed age six skirt for Missy (age five) and it was way too big in the waist, so made age five in the waistcoat. And while the chest is plenty big enough, it looks a little short to me, although lots of friends have said they like that look. Perhaps it's meant to be short.

Akiko Mano pattern, Robert Kaufman Herringbone
Akiko Mano pattern, Robert Kaufman Herringbone

The fabric is Robert Kaufman cotton herringbone in sage, bought on a whim as a remnant from my treasure trove local shop, Herringbone in Nailsworth. It's just gorgeous fabric. It's cotton and washable, but looks almost as if it might be expensive wool tweed. The waistcoat  and pockets are lined in orange shot cotton, which looks fabulous with that soft green.

It's perfect for this spring weather, where the sunshine is starting to warm us up, but there can still be a chill wind. And I just love the nostalgic look, and the unisex style. In a world of leggings sewn in sweatshop and pink and sequins, this seems the perfect antidote. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era, I long for quality, authenticity and clothes that lasted generations.

Akiko Mano pattern, Robert Kaufman Herringbone

I've made an attempt at photography indoors, and it was a challenge to my photography skills - and Missy's patience...

Akiko Mano pattern, Robert Kaufman Herringbone

Akiko Mano pattern, Robert Kaufman Herringbone

So, taking some pics on an early spring walk a few weeks ago seemed a better option. I like to imagine that Missy looks like a little farm girl who could have been living in these valleys a century ago.

Akiko Mano pattern, Robert Kaufman Herringbone

Akiko Mano pattern, Robert Kaufman Herringbone

She ran through the valley, past fields and ponds with her best friend, who of course wore wellies and a fairy skirt for the occasion.... Oh to be five-years-old. 

Akiko Mano pattern, Robert Kaufman Herringbone

Now, what's next in this Japanese sewing? Come back to find out!

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Flip This Pattern - the Brooklyn Franklin dress revisited

Monday, 6 April 2015

Ok, so apologies for being repetitive and if you've seen this before. This is my flipped version of the Brooklyn Franklin dress, and it remains one of my favourite creations. That blue just looks fabulous on Missy. I published this post a couple of months ago, as the final installment of 2014's Take One Dress Series. I'm reviving it (on Easter weekend, naturally) in time for the fun series Flip This Pattern over at Frances and Suzanne.

A Franklin Dress for Winter...

Can I say how much I love this dress?
I LOVE this dress...

When I look at it I can see the tonnes of love, thought and planning, and the year-long series that were all part of the journey to complete this dress.
This is the finale dress in the Take One Dress 2014 series I hosted  last year. There's a full round-up and details here.
In the last Take One Dress post, by Olga at Kid Approved, see here, she set me the challenge of sewing something inspired by this dress. 

My sewing brain headed off in a million directions!
A coat! A matching dress! Some winter shorts! Accessories! The lot. But as usual, I'm big on ideas and short on time.
It was the idea of a winter landscape, that floating figure, and a border print that I loved most, and which formed the basis for my creation. I also decided to sew a dress pattern I've had my eye on for a while, the Franklin dress by Brooklyn Pattern Company- which gently references the 'inspiration' dress with its three-button yoke.

My next idea was to somehow create my own 'border print' with a bit of applique and colour blocking. 
The dress is made in a peacock blue brushed cotton flannel, that is soft, fluffy and fabulous.  This is perfect winter dress fabric, cosy and the colour is so  intense, it sings. 
The panel is grey linen mix. For the applique I needed something more stable than the flannel, which has a bit of stretch and is bulky.

this panel was A LOT trickier than it looks, I drew lots of skyline templates, and decided simplest was best, and then wrestled with drawings of winter trees. How to get fine delicate branches, with my grey linen? I absolutely DID NOT want lots of Christmas trees - just this one. And these winter trees, front and back, were the best I could do. I stopped thinking, started cutting and it kind of worked.

The trees are faced with iron-on interfacing with exposed raw edge,  but the panel as a whole is seamed on to the skirt as I wanted a 'cleaner' line across the skirt. That meant a lot of fabric manipulation, which is hard to explain. (I had to pull the house and tree through a gap in the seam, and iron in place). It was no easy feat. Simply getting that little yellow window in place as the one splash of colour, before I applied the whole piece, was tricky.

The grey panel also forms a hem facing - sadly I forgot to take a pic, (and yes I know, there are tonnes of other pictures. Did I mention I love this dress?..). This means I can let the hem down a bit, which I probably will do, it's a little short. That's my fault, I cut it short, thinking I might sew a 'tunic' but then changed my mind.


I also added 'in seam' pockets to the original pattern, because every girl needs pockets.

 I've been thinking a lot about why I love this dress.

  1. The colour! I am seduced by colour, whenever I try to go 'neutral' it doesn't work. This is a real peacock teal blue. It looks great on Missy.
  2. It  appeals to my unashamed nostalgia... 
  3. ...and a love of Nordic art and style. My very first post on this blog was about Carl Larsson, secretly I want Missy to look like she's just stepped out of a Swedish wooden cottage. Or perhaps stomping through the woods, on a magical adventure that might include a Gruffalo.

A Gruffalo? Oh look.... guess what happened when wearing this dress...(keep going.. to find out)

This dress had a special outing, when our small town was lucky enough to have a visit from  children's book superstar, Julia Donaldson, author of the Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, Snail and the Whale and so much more.
She gave a lovely story-telling session that captivated the children.
And Missy, gamely got on stage to be a 'sheep'. Here she is, on stage with Julia and other 'volunteers' from the audience.

Missy had one line; "Baaa"... It got to her turn, Julia pointed at her to 'bleat', Missy drew breath, paused to remember what her line was, and made everyone giggle when with all her gusto she burst out; "Neigh!"

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