New Vogues and an ambitious resolution

So the summer 2011 Vogues are out, and every other sewing blogger has been picking their favourites. I’m always fascinated to see the collection through other people’s eyes so I hope you’ll put up with me posting mine.

I have a very bad habit of going on a mini spending spree when the new patterns come out and then not actually making up all of the ones I buy, so this time I have tried really hard to pick things I think I really will get round to sewing and wearing. In three months time you may point and laugh!

I think this one, Vogue 1239, is my favourite pattern of the new ones, and funnily enough probably the one I’m most likely to buy and then never sew. It looks fantastic but I’m not sure how wearable it is. The model looks like she works in a sterile room. I work with computers, which suck up dust like little vacuum cleaners and shed it when you open the case.

Vogue 1239 pattern photo

Then there is Vogue 1250. Can you ever have enough cowl-necked knit dresses?
Vogue 1250 pattern photo

I am tempted to make 1240 for a wedding I’m going to this summer. I’m not sure if it’s the pattern or the fabric that appeals to me though. I do like a black and white print.
Vogue 1240 pattern photo

Finally I think 8727 might be a good starting point for my skull print fabric. I like the full-skirted views. I haven’t got nearly enough fabric for them, so the skirt would to have to be adjusted to fit onto my yardage.
Vogue 8727 pattern photo

So there they are. I’m pleased I got it down to four. What are your favourites?

In search of skull-print fabric

There is a very talented webcomic artist called John Allison whose work I’ve been reading for, erm, more years than I like to think about. One of the things I really like about his creations is the clothes the characters wear. His ladies are usually very fashionable or very cool or both.

Last summer he did a picture which included one of the characters from his old webcomic Scary-go-round wearing a maxidress in skull-print fabric. You can see the picture at the link below.

So I’ve been keeping an eye out for skull-print fabric ever since. MacCulloch and Wallis had some a while back but I dithered and it sold out. Since then of course I have realised that their fabric is exactly what I wanted and I was a fool not to buy it while it was available because I’ve found nothing else as good anywhere since. Other places have skull prints but they are not the same.

So on Saturday I was fabric shopping on Goldhawk Road in London, having long ago given up looking for skull prints. And there it was in the window of one of the smaller shops: the exact same fabric. At about a third of the price, too. So I snapped it up. Now all I have to do is draft the pattern.

Skull print fabric

This may be slightly easier said than done as the fabric is only 45 inches wide and the print runs along the crossgrain rather than the straight grain so there’s not as much length to play with as I would like. Still I’m sure there’s a way to make it work.

Morplan’s catalogue of dreams

I pinched this post title from a friend of mine who once described the Argos catalogue as ‘the catalogue of dreams’. For those not in the UK, I should explain that Argos is a UK retailer that sells just about anything you can think of. You pick your goods from a huge catalogue rather than browsing in a shop. We always used to have a copy of the catalogue at home and as a child I found it fascinating. They have a website these days as well as the catalogue, but browsing on the web is not the same.

I’ve recently discovered a similar thing for sewists. Last year I ordered a huge roll of tracing paper from a company called Morplan. They mostly seem to supply fittings and equipment to the retail clothing industry, but they’ve got a good range of things that home sewists might be interested in. This tracing paper will keep me going for years.

And last week they sent me their full catalogue in the post. Who knew there were so many different kinds of carrier bag? Or coat hangers? And that’s before you get to the sewing stuff. More things for marking fabric than you can shake a stick at. Curious gadgets for making pattern pieces.

Forget sewing, I’m going back to put large red circles round my favourites.

Falling off the wagon

I was going to sew from my stash for a bit. I wasn’t doing too badly: I made the neoprene skirt, and I have cut out and started sewing a knit dress (of which more later) from a piece of blue doubleknit I have had for a long time. But the opportunity to go to London arose this weekend and I couldn’t pass it up. I need fabrics for making warm tops to go with all the skirts I’ve made recently. Well that’s my excuse anyway.

I didn’t have a lot of time in London so I stuck with the West End so I knew I’d be able to get the things I was looking for there. I set out to get black wool jersey for a top, grey wool jersey for a dress, and black neoprene, also for a dress.

I started out at Cloth House on Berwick St. The service was great; really helpful and not at all pushy. A really nice man pulled out all the wool jerseys for me and then had a look at my pattern, Vogue 1087. After we’d decided all the grey ones they had were the wrong weight for the pattern, he suggested a beautiful blue one that was just right. I wouldn’t normally go for blue (something to do with having had a blue school uniform I think) but this one is lovely.

I also got a wonderfully soft and stretchy black wool jersey. This is to make a basic long-sleeved t-shirt with. It didn’t photograph at all well so you can’t get much of an idea from the picture but here it is anyway.

I also got the black neoprene I wanted. I haven’t even tried to photograph that. I’m going to have a go at the Burda dress that’s based on the pattern I made the neoprene skirt from.

Despite having found everything on my list at Cloth House I had to have a look in Macculloch and Wallis. I came away with two pieces. The first is a very drapey, transparent grey sweater knit which I’m going to use to make another basic top, probably with a bit of a cowl neck. The second is a stretchy lightweight doubleknit that’s black on one side and dark green on the other. They’ve had it in for months and I have been coveting it ever since I first saw it in August. It is very soft and snuggly.

So much for not buying any more fabric. At least I have definite plans for all of these pieces except the doubleknit, so hopefully they won’t sit in my stash too long.

Emergency sewing supplies

Being on holiday from work but at home means I have some extra sewing time. However I have no projects lined up after the current skirt (about a third of the way though and progressing rather slowly) as I was intending to go fabric shopping in London after Christmas and see what inspired me, and at the moment the weather in the UK is sufficiently bad that I can’t rely on being able to do that.

This means if any sewing is going to happen over the break it will have to be from my fabric stash, or whatever John Lewis in town can supply. John Lewis’ fabrics are lovely high quality things, but the range is extremely limited and the prices are much too high to take a chance on fabric that’s not quite right, so realistically I’m going to be going through the stash. This is a combination of random bits of impractical fabric I bought on impulse, and the leftovers from the many, many projects where I overestimated the required yardage.

I don’t have a notions stash other than a collection of chunky dress-length zips, so I ventured into town today to buy some emergency notions. Not knowing what I’m going to be sewing makes this a bit tricky, but I came back with two skirt-length black zips, one invisible, one not, and the reel of red thread I need in order to complete the current skirt. I must be able to find enough usable fabric for a couple of skirts in the stash. If I do manage to reduce the stash I’ll report back at the end of the holidays!

Jumpsuit fabric

Vogue 8667 is slowly progressing. But I thought I’d get a proper tailor’s ham for pressing the princess seams, as my usual method of rolling up a towel and using that isn’t very satisfactory. So I’ve been shopping and visited all the usual suspects. Rather to my surprise I haven’t yet found anywhere that stocks them. I’ve tried two different branches of John Lewis, Maculloch and Wallis, and even Liberty. Liberty suggested Morplan (not open weekends) and Maculloch and Wallis showed me an ad for one in Sew Direct magazine, but don’t stock them themselves.

I should probably just make one but I’m not totally sure what to stuff it with!

So after all that failure I went and had a look at some of the fabric shops, and found some very heavy knit fabric in black and a slightly off-white that will work for my 1970s jumpsuit pattern (alas it wasn’t available in chocolate, although I could have gone with orange!)

So that’s me committed to the jumpsuit now. Wish me luck.

Fabric shopping in Glasgow

I can really recommend the fabric shops in Glasgow. Good thing I have a lovely husband who was prepared to put fabric in his suitcase because I ran out of space in mine.

I only managed to visit Mandors and Remnant Kings but that was more than enough. They’re both central, easy to get to, and strangely situated well above ground level.

I started with Mandors. This is huge. As well as dressmaking fabric it sells haberdashery, furnishing fabric, and patterns. I only looked at the dressmaking fabric and there was enough of that to occupy me for a long while. The range was amazing but I think the best things were the woollens. After a lot of agonising I settled on some beautiful red tweedy stuff for Vogue 8667. I never know the correct names for fabrics so it may not technically be tweed. It’s 100% “pure new wool” woven and a lot more chunky and textured than suiting fabric. There are fibres of two different shades of red.

Incidentally what is the difference between “new” and other wool? Do they recycle wool? Is “new wool” the first stuff off the sheep, kind of like extra virgin olive oil? Does it make any difference in practice?

Mandors is quite pricey but much better value for money than the West End in London. Pity the train fare to Glasgow more than redresses the balance! The whole shop is very well organised. Fabric is arranged by type and colour. Every bolt had the price, fibre content, width, and care instructions attached. You take a ticket to get in the queue for cutting and can mark bolts you’ve selected so they don’t get tidied away while you’re browsing for other things. It wasn’t busy enough to justify any of that while I was there but that was a weekday. I suspect Saturdays may be a different matter.

I nearly didn’t find Remnant Kings at all. The address is Argyle Street, one of the longest and busiest shopping streets in Glasgow. I wandered up and down searching while my iPhone was insisting I was right on top of it. I couldn’t see it until I looked up and noticed a sign in a first floor window. The entrance turned out to be round the corner from the street address.

Remnant Kings was smaller than Mandors and had a lot less stock, but they had just finished a sale and hadn’t got their new stock in yet. As well as dressmaking fabric they also do haberdashery and a very small range of furnishing fabrics. There is also an odd little corner full of cheap plastic accessories for fancy dress – devil horn hairbands and the like. However there’s another branch that I didn’t visit that specialises in furnishing fabric.

I got 4m of cheap and cheerful poly viscose tartan to attempt my Yohji Yamamoto knockoff and a beautiful black wool remnant with a gold stripe from the bargain bucket that’s going to be a Vivienne Westwood skirt knockoff.

Remnant Kings is a lot cheaper than Mandors but everything’s still well laid out and labelled. Except my tartan but trust me to pick up the only bolt without a label in any shop. In shops where only samples are on display I always pick ones that the staff can’t locate the bolt for. Apologies here to anyone who’s ever been behind me in the queue.

And if that wasn’t enough I found the August Burda in WHSmiths! It’s been quite difficult to get hold of round my way since Borders closed down. There’s lots of really good things in it but that’ll have to wait for another post.

Another shopping list

I know I haven’t sewed up all the fabric I bought in London yet. Much less have I managed to get started on Vogue 8644. But I’m going to Glasgow soon and it would be a waste not to at least go and look at the local fabric shops while I’m there, right?

From googling it looks as though the big two are Mandors and Remnant Kings although there are plenty of others. Suggestions welcome!

I need to come up with a list of things I’m looking for, or madness will ensue. Here is plan A:

  • Something tweedy for Vogue 8667
  • Something silky for the amazing top from Vogue 1195
  • And possibly some tartan because then I might actually get round to trying that Yohji Yamamoto knockoff I’ve been thinking about for years

The problem at the moment is that I keep changing my mind about what pattern I want to sew next. Assuming I ever get Vogue 8644 done. I haven’t had any time this week to get started on the cutting at all. Mind you making lists is half the fun…so I wouldn’t be too surprised if Plan B pops into my head in a day or two, fully formed and bearing no resemblance to the above whatsoever.

Transparent fabric leads to more shopping

I cut my fabric – pale peach coloured cotton – and lining out at the weekend. The fabric seemed a little more transparent than I remembered but I persuaded myself it would be all right because I am lining the dress. I had another worrying moment when I couldn’t find a zip in anything like the right colour but I figured hey, it’s an invisible zip, so white will probably do fine. Then I started wondering if I could add pockets to the dress, but realised they’d show so decided not to. Even that didn’t make the penny drop.

Tonight I cleaned and set up my machine with the right needle and matching thread, and started trying out stitches on some scraps of the fashion fabric. Only at this point did I realise that there’s no way I am going to get away without underlining this dress because the seam allowances show through the fashion fabric! You can see it even when I lay the fabric on top of the lining. I couldn’t get a photograph that showed the effect, probably because I’m working by artifical light, but it’s definitely there to the human eye.

So tomorrow I will be dashing to John Lewis in my lunch hour and hoping I can find something suitable to underline the dress with. I don’t really know what I’m looking for. My sewing books suggest that batiste, organza, and lawn are all suitable choices but I don’t know the difference between them. Also with John Lewis you tend to have to just take what you can get – it’s great there’s a fabric shop close to my office at all, and the staff are really good, but it’s better for very fancy fabric than basics.

Failing getting anything tomorrow I’m going to see the V&A Quilts exhibition with my mum at the weekend, and we’re planning to make time for a bit of fabric shopping in London too. I might even be able to get a zip in the right colour! I find London’s dangerous unless I go armed with a shopping list. I am only looking for two things this time:

  • Jersey in either a very bright colour or a bold print for BurdaStyle 105-05-2010.
  • Orange china silk for a balloon dress that I haven’t found a pattern for yet. I suspect I’ll be combining McCalls 5799 and BurdaStyle 106-05-2010. I’m aware I’ll probably look like I wrapped myself in a parachute but I do love orange and the 1980s.

Maybe the policy of not sewing unless I have a vision of something I really want to wear is paying off. Now if only I could reduce the fabric mountain in the cupboard too.