Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Why have one piece when you can have two?!

Keen observers of my Instagram feed may have noticed a recent obsession of mine - TWO PIECES!

Two pieces are often better than one. In my opinion, this isn't just true for cake!

The perfect outfit for wandering around a vineyard in the South of France!

I've been an avid fan of the look as far back as the 90s...

.... this perfectly illustrates my next point. There is something about removing a waist seam that makes an outfit a little more daunting to wear. I'm no stranger to a bold head-to-toe print, but wearing a matching 'outfit' can seem a little try hard. Take note 90s Vic; a matching headband may have been a little too keen!

Having said that, I love the versatility of a matching top and a skirt. Together they can be dressed up with heels or dressed down with sandals. They can also be worn separately giving your wardrobe great variety and a surplus of possible outfits! I often pair the skirt with a simple tee and the cropped top with plain skirts, jeans or shorts.

It has taken a couple of wears (and a number of 'fished' compliments!) for me to feel comfortable in the complete outfit. But... I think I am about there!

This fabric was a gift from a very dear friend a couple of years ago, long before I could sew. Appallingly, it began life in my home as a table cloth! I've pulled it out of my airing cupboard dozens of times since, but due to its sheer nature, I felt I neither had the skill nor inspiration to do it justice. Finally, inspiration struck, and I was ready to attempt my dream boxy crop top and full skirt combo regardless of my lack of stature and elegance! I thought at least I could wear the ensemble separately if my woes were a reality! 

The fabric is a finely woven cotton consisting of two square borders framing the blue and white print in the middle. I simply cut off the top border for the waistband, then down the sides on either section so I had a front and back piece with the border running just along the bottom. I pleated the skirt, finished the side seam with a french seam and the zip seam using the fold and stitch method. I lined the skirt with a simple short circle skirt cut from some leftover black poly-crepe. I liked the idea of the floaty sheerness for most of the skirt, but I needed a decency veil! I finished the lining hem with cotton bias tape from my Grandma's stash (I love giving vintage supplies new leases of life).  

I managed to just about match the pattern across the french seam!

I cut the crop top from the scraps left over from the skirt. The middle section remained uncut, which had the border print running down either side. I played around with the placement of the crop top and decided I liked the aesthetic of the solid black line running down the middle of the border which wrapped around the hem to the side seams. I managed to match this on the back piece and even included the selvage as a reminder of where the fabric originated. The crop top is fully lined and hand stitched at the bottom hem. The idea was, that if all else failed, I would have a crop top I could wear inside out that would still feel like an 'outfit' because of the complementary lining! 

Since this outfit, the obsession has continued.....

I made a matching Pineapple two piece for my fellow Maid of (dis)honour. She certainly has the poise and stature for this kind of outfit so I was happy to use her as a canvas for the idea!

I take commissions, so if you'd like a two piece too head to SEWVEE and drop me an email.

Here is the proof!

I made myself a sneaky Pineapple top too (these are available on my Etsy shop).

In true frivolous nature, I made another two piece for a (failed) trip to Ascot for a friend's birthday! We ended up sitting in a pub garden all day (fine by me!). I never need an excuse to make a new outfit. I had a brightly printed cotton and linen blend in my stash that my lovely chap bought for me a couple of months ago. I dived right in.

Clearly no issues with having a massive target on my chest!

Pretty happy with my pattern matching along the back seam.

I opted for a bright cotton lining - you can never have too much colour!

I've worn the skirt several times since the weekend with simple tees.

 I've now perfected my pleating technique by tacking the pleats together 6/8" down by hand before attaching the waistband or bodice. Nice neat pleats!

Thank you for joining me on another picture heavy ramble! I'm off to spend some time with my lovely little Grandad who is visiting from Whitby (up naawwwtthh). 

He says Hi!

P.S What I said about coming across as too keen - FORGET IT! I made Jude a matching pineapple dog bandana for Lola...


Monday, 18 July 2016

Lady Pickle met Mr Darcy

The cogs in my head have been turning planning the events of this past weekend for around ten years. I am a little bit of a blabber mouth, so it has taken everything I have to keep these plans under wraps as they became reality. It was even more difficult to keep my sh*@t together as it all unfolded on Saturday.

My best pal, my Biotine - we share a love for nature, biology and a general enthusiasm for life. We bonded after a mutual friend bailed on a shopping trip and left the two of us to it. Hours of silliness followed, parading around the streets of Oxford, with pick 'n' mix fangs for teeth and fried eggs for eyes. These bouts of silliness haven't stopped, and we are still best friends 15 years later. I had met a kindred spirit, the kind you want to hold close for a very very very long time. We have shared, laughed and cried together, and I am very grateful for the support she has shown me in all areas of my life.

Roll on a few years and my Biotine has met a lovely chap that is prepared to pick up where Mr Darcy left off. She returned from a holiday in Seville last year with a beautiful stone adorning her finger and I jumped for joy (after I'd stopped wailing that is!).

It only seemed right to give her a send off into married life fit for Elizabeth Bennet herself! So my fellow Maid of honour and I got to work.

We found this knockout of a property nestled in a charming little village in Somerset. The property more than lived up to our expectations and couldn't have been more perfect.

Seriously, there was so much beautiful vintage crockery I was expecting it to burst into song, Disney style, at any moment.

Anyway, it is about time we got to some sewing! The Bride-To-Be needed a gown fit for such a grand house so I got to work with an old curtain a client kindly gave me. I browsed google for some inspiration and settled on a princess seamed empire lined bodice and a skirt with sweet little tucks and gathers to create fullness at the side and back.

I sketched up my design and rather than drafting from scratch I searched through my pattern stash for something to base it on. I settled on the By Hand London Elisalex bodice, a simple princess seamed design - the perfect canvas. Luckily I am currently making dresses for myself and the other bridesmaids including the Bride's sister who happens to be very similar in size. I dived in and traced off a straight size and held it up against myself to give me a rough idea of the bust line. I simply added seam allowance to the bottom of the bust and hacked off the excess of the bodice piece tapering the length towards the back. I drafted a simple gathered sleeve for the bodice, and I was half way there.

For the skirt, I separated the second curtain from its lining (I've kept it in my stash for future toiles). I measured up from the hem edge at my desired length and squared off to the full width of the curtain. The length was a total guess. I have clearly spent long enough in the Bride's arms to know the exact place my face nestles in her bosom to get it right!

I gathered by hand either side of the back seam and added simple tucks aligned with the side seams of the bodice. Then comparing the length of the waist seam on the bodice, I gathered the excess into the back and sewed it on.  Retaining the original hem meant I only needed to finish the neck, sleeve hems and back seam with gold bias binding from my stash. 

For the fastening, I wanted to stay true to the era and decided against a zip. I went for a matching ribbon at the neck and waist. In total contradiction I secured the middle section with era inappropriate velcro, I couldn't face sewing in so many hook and eyes! 

I decided to make a 'Bride-to-be' sash too. I purchased some light pink poly-cotton, a colour that features in the wedding colours and the Bride is particularly fond of. I cut two 30x80cm strips, turned them inside out and sewed around all edges except one of the short sides. I turned them right way out, pressed and pinned the unfinished seam edges together at an angle that sat well on my shoulder. I then placed some pink lace along the front sandwiching it between the seams and finished with a french seam. I cut out and appliqued on some letters cut from scraps from the lining of the bridesmaid's dress, basted the sash closed at the bottom and sewed on a pearl to cover the line of stitches.

With the leftover lace, I made a matching garter.  I sewed on a matching ribbon creating a casing for the elastic and decorated it with a bow tying the initials of the bride and groom together in true sickly sweet fashion!

What outfit is complete without a bonnet?! I had an old sun hat lying around so I played around with the shape I wanted. I simply cut the hat in half, and bound the edges with satin binding enclosing some pink chiffon gathered at the top and bottom edge of the rim. I then used some poly satin from my stash to make back of the bonnet. I cut a rectangle about 40x62cm, folded it in half and sewed up along the long raw edges. I then created a channel using lace and ribbon (similar to making the garters) for elastic at the folded edge. I then sewed together the short ends forming a tube.  I finished the edges on my overlocker and pressed up1.5cm.  I sewed this down creating a casing for some string to gather it together at the back. This was then sewed along the base of the rim of the hat, and I added ribbon about half-way along the rim so the bonnet could be tied under the chin. 

This whole process went so well I decided to make 11 more for each of the hens! On the day I tied these into one of the trees in the garden for decoration before the Hens were told to collect them on arrival. 

Soon it was time for the Bride's arrival....

I dressed her in her outfit as any good lady in waiting would.

Best Pals in matching sandals and me-made clothes.

She finally met Mr. Darcy...

... just in time for tea!

A big thank you to my fellow Maid of (dis)honour, The Mother of the Bride (Mrs Bennet) and Carey for making everything come together, and my plans come true!

Story time with Mrs Bennet

To the other Hens - thank you for wearing your bonnets so diligently.

Right- It is six weeks until the wedding and I've got three Bridesmaid dresses to finish.

Thank you for reading and for your support,

Vic x

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Peacocks made me do it.

There is nothing like making the most outrageously garish dress to make you want to shout from the rooftops. I live in England so opportunities to actually wear the dress in question are severely limited by the weather and lack of occasion. Therefore, the internet will have to be my stage. Failing that, my bewildered neighbours as I glide around the living-room doing the housework in her! 

So here I am, finally. A little corner of the internet for my giddy ramblings about my love affair with needle and thread.

I should probably introduce myself. My name is Vicki, but I also have been know to respond to Vic, LouLou, Snackpack, Midge, and Big Vic. I live in Bath in a lovely little flat with my fella with gammon shaped ears (they are what did it for me). He deserves a special mention here, and not just for the dress photography. He has supported me at every turn during this journey. From helping me pick out my first ever iron (seriously - I used to think life was too short - PAH!), to surprising me with all of my sewing machines!

This is me 3 years ago picking out the iron of my dreams.
Just look at that ordinary wardrobe - JEANS FOR GOODNESS SAKE.

I started to sew around three years ago like a lot of other ladies during my PhD. So many scientists sew! It all began on my great Grandmother’s hand cranking Singer.

Here she is.....

I was organising my friend's hen do, and I decided to make some little hen gift bags and garters. These were soon followed by a Hen dress (it literally had hens all over it!) and a sash for the beautiful bride-to-be. I COULD NOT STOP MYSELF. A HEN DRESS.

From there on I was an unstoppable sewing force. I worked the Singer hard for six months, before, after a week apart, my chap surprised me with a fully electronic one. I wailed like a Banshee. Seriously, it was like Kirsten Bell being surprised with a sloth all over again. This trait we share - if below a four or above an eight on the emotional scale, we wail. This wail was worth at least a ten.

My love affair with African wax cotton began early. I was bored with the colour and fit of dresses available on the high street. African wax seemed to offer the perfect solution - ALL THE COLOUR. It was the perfect fabric to begin with, easy to handle and it pressed like a dream (yes Mum, this is the alien Vic).

The first dress I ever made for myself. A By Hand London Elisalex.
These girls can definitely take credit for teaching me to sew.

If you follow me on Instagram you will see there have been many MANY dresses since. I graduated from my PhD last week, and I am taking some time out to develop my little business here in Bath. I sell on Etsy and have a bespoke commission based business more locally (website in development - eeeeppp!)


Things have stepped up a gear since I learnt how to draft from scratch. A skill that has brought unmeasurable excitement (wail inducing). I did a course at Bath Fashion College a couple of months ago, and I am SO glad I did. It was the first time I had encountered any formal training and been in a room with so many people that shared my passion for sewing. I can now make dresses to specific client's measurements, and it is so much fun! Being able to deliver exactly what is in a customer's head without the restraint of a pattern is just amazing.

Anyway, back to the driving force behind this post. Seeing as I cannot wait any longer: HERE SHE IS!

I had been tinkering with my bodice block for a while, getting the fit right and playing around with the design. My lovely Pa came back with this jaw-dropping fabric from a wine festival in Bordeaux, and it quickly jumped the to-be-sewed queue. I wanted a fairly simple design to show case the ridiculously gorgeous fabric, so it absolutely had to be a maxi dress. I played around with the idea of bust pleats on my block and made up a toile.

The By Hand London Anna dress was the inspiration here. This pattern only has two bust pleats interrupting the print - such a great canvas for a large print. I wanted to create something even simpler so I went just for one. For the skirt I liked the idea of mirroring the bust detail, so opted for these beautiful box pleats. African wax cotton has such a beautiful weight and structure that it is just calling for design details like these. Even though you can't see the bust details on the dress, I LOVE the shape the box pleats give the skirt.

Print placement was key - I wanted the birds to run down the skirt getting larger towards the bottom. I was careful to get the print running down the front and back, with a sizeable bird on both sides of the bodice (probably compensating for being anything but a sizeable bird). I pattern matched across the zip and back seam (look at those beautiful, wholesome birds running down the back!).

I lined the bodice in this gorgeous striped cotton lawn that I bought during my first ever online fabric order from Fabric Godmother three years ago! Trying to kid myself that this is an everyday dress, I went for stripy contrast side seam pockets too. I used french seams and a hong-kong seam finish to the zip seam using bias binding made from the stripy lining fabric.

Lining from:

I'm not entirely satisfied with the length of the zip I inserted. I was stupidly impatient and only had a 16'' invisible zip in my stash. I sewed it in regardless, thinking I could pull the dress over my head. In reality, this is not as easy as I thought and it requires a second set of hands. I also over estimated the length of my stumpy pins so had to put a rather large hem on the dress which meant losing the bottom peacock's feet. Still, no biggy, just not quite how I'd first envisaged it. Besides, I might grow into it.

I will leave you with some pretty gratuitously moody shots... just 'cause I can, and I made it!

Thank you for reading if you've made it this far, and I hope you will come back for more. I better be off, I'm reaching for the red lippy and this dress in search of a rooftop. I've got some shouting to do.