Curvy Pencil Skirt, Fabrickated, Sewing

Sewing: Curvy Pencil Skirt

This week’s sewing challenge was set by Kate of Fabrickated.  She sent me a pattern for a curvy pencil skirt.  Regular pencil skirts work for women with a fairly straight body shape – minimal difference between waist and hip measurements.  The curvy pencil skirt was designed for women with a 12″ difference between waist and hips.  Apparently Marilyn Monroe had a 13″ difference, so we are in good company!

Kate sent me a self-drafted pattern that I printed out onto A4 paper.  I then had to cut it out and stick it all together before I could start.  I chose a wool mix fabric.  Here it is all ready to cut out.


The skirt was pretty easy to make.  I decided to line it – which I may have done last around 20 years ago!  The lining took me a little longer  than making the skirt itself as it is a bit fiddly – especially around the invisible zip.

IMG_1597I am really pleased with the final result and here I am wearing it with my last project – the pussy-bow blouse.  I am building up a nice new wardrobe of self-made clothes.  Since my first attempt in January, I have made 2 wrap dresses, a vintage-style circle dress, a circle skirt, two pairs of PJ bottoms, a denim skirt, a pussy-bow blouse and now this curvy pencil skirt.  My next project is a short-sleeved wrap dress.  It’s all cut out and ready to sew.  Then I am on to boring blinds for our conservatory next.  I am sure I will squeeze in a few clothes, otherwise I may loose heart and not complete the blinds!

IMG_1606Here is a close up view – the fit is pretty good.  After lining it is a little tight on the waist, so next time I will bear that in mind.  I won’t be able to wear it if I am going out for lunch!

Great pattern Kate, I shall be making this up again.

Alexander McQueen, Fabrickated, Savage Beauty, Tartan

Member’s Monday – Review of Savage Beauty at the Victoria and Albert Museum – by Kate Davies

Today’s blog is brought to you by Kate Davies – I’m quite in awe of this lady, she expertly blogs daily, makes gorgeous tailored clothing and if that were not enough, she is CEO of a large business.  She is a great example of someone who lives life to full and uses every minute of the day productively.  That’s how it looks from my perspective anyway!

If you can, do go and see this exhibition. It is startling, shocking and visceral. Featuring a vast selection of clothes and accessories designed by the late British designer Alexander McQueen, arranged artfully in themed rooms, soundtracked and lit to make you feel detached from reality, and submerged in his world. Most of the mannequins have their faces obliterated with masks or metal cages, and you can’t help but be affected by the violence inherent in these the designs.

Lee McQueen was working class, the son of a taxi driver brought up in a high rise flat in Stratford, East London. He started as a tailor aged 15, went into theatrical design, and finally entered the world of haute couture following an MA at Central St Martins. He committed suicide the day before his mother’s funeral in 2010, aged just 40.

Some of the clothes are very wearable – the beautifully sculptured tailoring on show will appeal broadly. The jacket that morphs into short dress with side splits. The subtle detail of red lining under the flap pockets, and the gorgeous buttons from waist to neck.

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On the other hand some of the outfits are so outlandish it is unlikely that they could actually be worn. And yet. They are inspirational and beautiful, appropriating animal parts and incorporating them into costumes. They make you wonder about the extent of the human imagination and what else could possibly done to a coat, dress or jacket.

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His “Widows of Culloden” Fall/Winter 2006 especially appealed to me. McQueen “designed from the side” celebrating the curvature of the spine – evident in this first dress. He carefully cut the commissioned McQueen tartan so that the bias cuts match perfectly. The more traditionally influenced kilt on the right is arranged over a lightweight lace blouse, embellished with black embroidery. Both dresses reveal silk tulle petticoats and are beautifully draped.

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This collection is so exciting – with its 19th century silhouette  and antique lace, wonderful natural elements taken from the Scottish countryside – feathers, stag antlers, birds nests, fur. All McQueen’s design work was deeply autobiographical (in this case celebrating McQueen’s Scottish roots) and his themed catwalk shows changed fashion, style and, perhaps, the way women feel about dress.

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There is a debate about whether McQueen was a misogynist, or if he made women feel more powerful than before. I am not sure what I think. But I did enjoy the exhibition very much and I would recommend it. If you come away with strong feelings about dress, image, design, art, clothes and beauty it will have been successful. I plan a couple of follow up posts – and visits – on AMcQ in the next few weeks.

At the V&A Museum, South Kensington until 2 August 2015. It is vital to book beforehand (tickets are around £15), or go with a V&A Friend to get in free.

Body Shape, Colour, Fabrickated, Fitting, Lyn Bromley, Sewing

Lyn learns to sew!

I have just had the most fabulous three days. I have been learning to dress-make. Well, re-learning really. I used to make clothes when I was in my teens and early 20’s. Then I got busy in corporate life and didn’t make the time. I love clothes and find the construction fascinating. It made me realize that we often put up with imperfections in our clothing because they are the closest we can get with off-the-peg outfits. The magic of hand-made is that they can fit your form perfectly – no compromise necessary at all.

I spent the weekend with the lovely Kate Davies – she has her own wonderful blog – The intention was to make a wrap dress using Vogue pattern V8379 which Kate has already constructed several times before.

I started by selecting fabric in preparation for my trip – that’s not so easy! I went to 5 different shops to find what I was looking for. I was looking for something cool and bright. Not easy to find during the winter when most fabrics are deep and muted! I eventually settled on a cool pink that is slightly deeper than I would have liked, but it works and was the best of the selection available. I was looking for jersey and there are so many choices – mixes of polyester, elastane, viscose, silk and bamboo. Of course, the man-made options are much cheaper and for a first attempt was probably where I should have pitched it. The choices on offer were not great in terms of colour, so I pushed the boat out and went for a bamboo (95%) and elastane (5%). It is a lovely firm jersey – some of the alternatives were just too flimsy and upon being stretched, did not spring back into shape well. Had I chosen them, I would have had a nice bottom shape in the dress after sitting down for half an hour – not that attractive, although cheaper. I decided on balance, that I would rather pay a bit more and be able to wear the finished product, rather than go for a cheaper option and not really want to wear it. I was also pretty confident that with Kate’s help I’d be able to have a pretty decent bash at it and I always find that if I start out assuming that I am going to succeed, I definitely stand more of a chance of success!

The revelation to me was that we started by taking all of my measurements, comparing them to the standard ones on the pattern and then adjusting it to fit me completely. Quite obvious when you think about it, no wonder my teenage attempts at trousers cut straight from the pattern were disastrous really! We discovered that I am fairly close to off-the-peg, except for a couple of adjustments that were a few inches different – fairly significant and explains why off-the-peg fits in some brands and not in others.

We pinned the pattern and then started cutting out – fairly scary.   At this point there is no going back! My cutting skills need to be sharpened up, but it became easier the more I did, guided by the ever skillful Kate.

The sewing was great fun – it’s so quick. I realized that the preparation, in terms of good planning of where to pin the pattern pieces to get the most out of the fabric, creating marks on the fabric to show where things such as darts, pleats, centre back and front, are really quite important and make for a better finished garment. I made a few mistakes on the machining – catching fabric from behind where it should not have been and getting too quick and sewing wonky lines to name a few!

My favourite gadget was the overlocker. It gives a really professional finish. It is unforgiving through, as it cuts off the excess fabric and stitches at the same time – so no room for error at all. I quite liked this and was happy to take the risk, given the alternative of double stitching, which, for a beginner is also quite tricky. The objective is to sew two parallel lines – keeping them even and straight. This seemed like a bigger challenge than overlocking. I did try both and noticed that where there was the opportunity to try it twice, my second attempt was always better.

The pattern we used was deemed to be ‘very easy’ by the manufacturer. I realized that they actually assume a high degree of prior knowledge. Many of the instructions are brief and not explicit enough, despite my previous experience, albeit a long time ago. My machine skills stood me in good stead, I have at least made curtains and blinds in the last decade, so I remembered how to sew. It was more about being reminded of the pattern markings and interpreting their brief instructions. I am sure there would have been much more unpicking if I had been left to my own devices! The beauty of it was that Kate has at least three of these dresses in her wardrobe, so we were able to look at the finished garment, so I could see what I was aiming for.

Adding interfacing

Here I am basting the interfacing to the collar and neck of the dress.

This was another important lesson. Previously, as a complete amateur, I would have pinned, then sewed. Kate taught me the importance of basting – this is a long running stitch that holds the two pieces of fabric together, allowing the pins to be removed. It really holds the pieces together much better and avoids any damage to the machine by sewing over pins inadvertently. It gives a much better finished item and a step very well worth adding.


Look at that concentration! I loved Kate’s sewing corner – it’s a really inspirational place to be, with everything I needed close to hand – including Kate’s wonderful husband who kept us fed and watered all weekend! It was like ‘Sewing Bee’ meets ‘Master Chef’!

Finished dress

I couldn’t believe how quickly the dress came together in the end. We seemed to be working on it piece by piece and suddenly to whole dress came together. I am delighted with the finished dress – it fits perfectly. Here is the top half – the bottom still had tailor’s tacks in it, so the full-length dress picture is me back at home after a good press.

Wrap Dress

How satisfying it is to make something from scratch.   I shall definitely be dusting off my machine and maybe even signing up for some classes to learn more. Now I have a perfectly fitting dress, I’m not sure I want to compromise with shop bought.

Measuring hem

Thank you Kate for teaching me so much.  Here she is showing me how to measure the hem from the floor up to get an accurate hem all the way around.