Designer fabric sales

I went to a House of Hackney sample sale a few weeks ago and picked up these goodies.

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Two pieces of spongey double-faced knit fabric (third from left). I think it might be scuba fabric and it was a steal at £2 each.

I also got a piece of velvet upholstery fabric (far left) which I’ll turn into a cushion and a scrap of satin poly (far right) that I hope to eek out a top from. I love the print and the fabric has a lovely silky handle. It also came in silk velvet and I’m kicking myself for not buying that too.

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My favourite piece is this textured mid weight floral cotton viscose (photo above). It’s got a lovely drape and I saw a jacket there in the same fabric. I paid £10 for 1.5 meters, the jacket was in the hundreds, so bargain!

I recently discovered fabric sample sales and they’re a good place to score some quality fabric. The Harris Tweed I used for my Burda jacket was from a Margaret Howell sample sale. I went to one at Peter Jensen earlier this summer and picked up 7 meters for fabric for about £32. Here’s my haul.

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I’ve blown my fabric diet big time this year. I’ve not done a count yet, but I think I’ve easily doubled my stash this year, oops! But if you’re gonna binge, binge on the good stuff.

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Back to the 80’s – Vintage pattern pledge no. 2

I found this pattern in a charity shop and paid 50p for it. Judging from the photos on the front, you’d think they’d be giving it away. I can see Alexis or Crystal rockin’ one of these frocks. The sleeves are truly hideous, there’s a lot of fabric bagginess going on there.

However I saw beyond this fugly mess of blousey fabric and had a vision of a simple batwing top or dress, once I sorted out those god-awful sleeves. I give you make number two for my vintage pattern pledge.

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As you can see it’s not a dress. I wanted the print to run horizontally and this took up a good chunk of my 2 metres of jersey. I’d like to try a dress next time.

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The only changes I made were to take in the under arm and side seams and shorten the bodice. I ended up tapering a bit too much at the bottom of the sleeve but luckily the fabric is quite stretchy. I shortened the sleeve hems by 7cms to balance out the length with the hem. The hem is a bit on the short side, I seem to overestimate how short my bodice is. Next time I’ll lengthen it by an inch or two and add more ease in the sleeve.

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To finish the top I used a zig zag stitch on the sleeves and a twin needle on the hem. The neckline is faced, something I’ve not come across with knits and I really love this feature. It makes the top look nice and smart. I was a bit doubtful as to whether it would sit flat and I was right. Despite understitching the facing, it kept creeping out. So I top stitched it down, about 2cm from the neckline. You don’t notice it much as it blends in with the pattern.

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I had low expectations when I started out as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to tame those sleeves. I had intended to make a muslin but my top turned out better than expected. I now have another knit pattern to add to my repertoire of Renfrews and Plantains. It’s also very satisfying to sew as, being made from only a front, back and facings, comes together very quickly. I made this on Sunday.

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Thanks to Marie from A Stitching Odyssey for bringing this pattern to the top of the sew pile. Two down and one to go before I complete my pledge. Though that’s looking a bit tenuous given that Xmas is round the corner. Anyone else got a sewing deadline?

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FO: Hollyburn skirt – snatching sewing victory from the jaws of my overlocker

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Denim Hollyburn skirt worn with recently sewn Breton Plantain

This skirt nearly ended up in the bin. I had an accident whilst overlocking my seams and this happened.

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WTF, nooooooo!!!!!!

It was my first time sewing with denim and I was not used to how unwieldy the fabric can be. It snuck in under the overlocker foot and got chomped. And yup, being at the overlocking stage meant that my skirt was in sight of the finish line. I was not having a good day. Plus, the cut was too far in from the seam to skim off at the side seams. After a mild hissy fit, I put it aside as it was too painful to look at.

A few days later, I realised I could save it by doing a bit of applique. The only problem was I’m not a fan of applique. I then had a light bulb moment and remembered seeing funky sewing patches in Liberty’s haberdashery department. So I popped in on a shopping trip and bought this.

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They’re not cheap at £5 a pop and cost more than my market stall denim. But they were worth every penny to save my skirt from the bin. I love the name, does what is says on the tin. I could have gone with more funkier designs but I wanted something discreet as I’m not a fan of embellishment on clothing. One of the mushrooms was large enough to cover the tear but I added both, as one lone mushroom would look a bit sad.

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I ironed and stitched mending tape to the wrong side of my fabric to stabilise the torn area before ironing on my mending patches. I then sewed a few anchor stitches in red thread as I wasn’t sure how secure my patches would be on heavy denim.

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I think it works well and I love the mushrooms. They’re a nice detail and aren’t too cutesy. I added red buttons to match the mushrooms. My original choice was to go with some wooden ones for a 70s retro look. I love the tabs even though they don’t have a function.

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The only changes I made were to line the pockets in a contrast fabric as I didn’t have enough denim. I used a vintage pillowcase I had in my stash. The pretty print peeps out a bit but I don’t mind, it makes a feature of the pockets, which I love.

I also shaved about 1.5 cm from the side seam, tapering up to the waistline so that the skirt fits closer round my hips.  It was also my second attempt at a lapped zip. I completely bodged up my first go and always insert concealed zips as I stick to what I know. This time round I followed the instructions in Tasia’s Sewtionary book and I got perfect results!

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I love this skirt and my sewing disaster ended up being a triumph. Sewaholic’s Hollyburn pattern has a flattering shape, is easy to follow and a breeze to construct. I’m definitely sewing more Hollyburns, perhaps in a softer, more drapey fabric next time. I don’t have many full skirts in my wardrobe and, having worn it for the first time today, am loving the swishiness of it.

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Stash bustin – barkcloth cushion

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I made this cushion from some vintage barkcloth in my stash. I picked it up my at my first ever sewing meet up. I was thrilled to get it as I’m a big fan of barkcloth.

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The fabric was originally a curtain but being vintage needed delicate handling. I found this out after washing it in the washing machine, when lots of little holes appeared. I loved the fabric too much to chuck it out, so I patched the under side with lots of iron on mending tape. I salvaged the best bits of fabric and used as much as I could for the cushion.

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I used some shantung silk for the back, as I didn’t have enough fabric and it looks great with the barkcloth. I reinforced the barkcloth by underlining all pieces with some cream cotton. Hopefully this will take some of the strain. It now sits on my second sofa. Do you have one of these? The one that no one sits on, that ends up being a dumping ground for stuff. Usually, ahem, my sewing mess.

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FO: Breton Plantain – sewing with fine knits

SAM_5190 This is my fourth plantain top this year, I’m absolutely addicted to this pattern. You’d think with it being my fourth iteration, everything would be plain sailing, but no, my machine had other ideas. It did not like my fabric one bit.

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I used a lightweight jersey, which had a similar weight to the fabric I used for my first plantain, which sewed just fine. However, I soon learnt this fabric had a silky handle, like bamboo knit. I bought it from Belle Fabrics last summer and it’s slightly pricier than the jersey I usually buy from the market. But I soon learnt that price does not necessarily make for an easy sew.

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The fabric had a tendency to get chewed by the feed dog at the beginning of a seam and my machine did not want to sew a zig zag. I kept getting skipped stitches, which I rectified by sewing over the section again. The guts of this top aren’t pretty.

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The real headache started when it came to finishing my hems with a twin needle. I had a bit of material left to play with, and hoped to save some of it for pockets or trims on another project. But I ended up using every last scrap, trying to get my machine to play ball.

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Pinned like crazy to get the stripes to match up!

My machine would not sew more than an inch of stitching without skipping stitches. I changed the stitch length, tension dial and foot pressure without success. So after a bit of googling, I decided to replace my twin stretch needle with a ball point and stabilise my hem with Wondertape. I searched all over London – it seems ball point twins are rare and eventually found some in Borrovicks on Berwick Street. I got the Wondertape in John Lewis.

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It did not work immediately and there was more frustration to come before BINGO, my holy grail of two evenly stitched parallel lines appeared. I think it was the Wondertape that made the real difference rather than the change of needle.

Here are my tips on sewing and finishing knits:

  • Silky lightweight jersey may need stabilising. Practise first on a piece of the fabric you are using and try Wondertape
  • Apply Wondertape on top of your overlocking stitches and use your twin needle to stitch on top of this. This adds another layer for the needles to get stuck into and ensures a neat edge on the underside
  • Use your fly wheel when twin stitching over a bump e.g. where lots of seams meet at the neckline
  • Slow your stitching down
  • Use a longer stitch length and loosen the thread tension

Although this top was a complete faff to make, I learnt a lot about how to deal with fine knits. Sewing with knits is usually a breeze but they can be a bit temperamental. However, knits are so comfy to wear, easy to fit and come together so quickly that it’s worth putting in the extra time. I adore Breton stripes and I love this top.

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FO: Simplicity 2931 white seersucker top

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I’m backed up with sewn makes to blog about. This top was made in the summer for my holiday. One of my goals this year was to revisit patterns I’ve already made before. You save time on the fitting and it makes good sense to use a pattern more than once. I previously made this top Simplicity 2931 (view F), in a gorgeous orange paisley Liberty lawn.

Simplicity Liberty 2931

Simplicity Liberty 2931

And view C from the same pattern in a poly cotton. Both are pre-blog.

Simplicity 2931 - view C

Simplicity 2931 – view C

This time round I used some seersucker bought from Belle fabrics in Leigh-on-Sea last summer. I love white cotton tops but only have one in my wardrobe which gets worn to death.

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I used some Cath Kidston bias binding to add contrast to the yoke. The binding is just folded in half and sewn along the seam line.

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There’s not much else to say really. Only that I should carry on revisiting patterns and sew more white tops.

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Horst exhibition at the V and A

Summer Fashions, American Vogue cover, 15 May, 1941. © Condé Nast/Horst Estate

Source V&A

Last week I saw the Horst photography exhibition at the V&A. Horst was a fashion photographer who came to prominence in the 1930s working for Vogue. Most of his work is in black and white and shot in a studio setting. He was a master at lighting and composition and his most iconic photograph is The Mainbocher Corset. Looks familiar? Madonna clearly paid homage to Horst in her Vogue video.

Source V&A

Towards the latter part of his career Horst started to work in colour and there are some lovely 50s era Vogue covers in the exhibition too, as well as travel and still life photography.

Dress by Hattie Carnegie, 1939. © Condé Nast/Horst Estate

Source V&A

As an added bonus, the V&A displayed a few dresses from their costume archive. I adore 1930’s evening wear and these were Hollywood starlet A-list glam. I don’t think they’d look out of place on the red carpet today. All the dresses are haute couture and the detailing is exquisite.

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My favourite is this one.

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I love the diamante bows on the dress on the right.

If you are interested in fashion photography or period costume, this exhibition is a real treat. It’s on until the beginning of January so there’s still time to catch it.

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