Category Archives: Budding Dressmakers

New Video: Get Ready with Me … to see Helen Mirren!


So the other day my friend Danielle and I travelled down to see the magnificent Helen Mirren in the play The Audience. It was the perfect day out. We stopped by Selfridges, Jo Malone, and Space NK, had frozen yoghurt, Sushi for dinner, then saw a well written, witty play with an excellent cast and got our programmes signed by the lady herself.
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Before we left I filmed my first “Get ready with me” video. In this video I’m doing my eye makeup as in the Old Hollywood Glamour look of the day.
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Plus, I am wearing one of the dresses I made myself using the Simplicity 3833 pattern. This dress was inspired by Audrey Hepburn’s second wedding dress. I used fairly heavy woolen fabric. Shame I don’t have the hat to go with it! I also didn’t manage to copy her amazing collar, even though I tried…

 

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Full list of Products:

Base:
– La Roche Posay Effaclar duo
– La Roche Posay Hydraphase UV intense legere
– Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua in B20
– Vichy Dermablend in Opal
– Maybelline Dream Lumi touch in Ivory

Eyes:
– Urban Decay eye shadow primer potion
– Urban Decay Naked palette
– Accessorize Lovely Day palette
– Une Sfumato eye shadow
– Urban Decay Cannonball mascara
– Rimmel Scandaleyes eye liner in Nude

Face:
– Sleek Face Form palette in Light
– Catrice Multi colour blush

Tools:
– Model’s own mini brush set
– Revlon blending brush
– Marks and Spencer retractable powder brush
– Shu Uemura eyelash curler

Clothes:
– Pattern for the dress – Simplicity 3833
– Tights – H&M
– Ankle boots – C&A
– Coat – French Connection

Other:
– Necklace – Swarovski
– Perfume – YSL Baby doll

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Dressmaking: silk blouse with bow collar, part 1

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A while ago I bought this beautiful silk fabric during the sale at John Lewis on Oxford Street. I bought just one metre for £9.50. This pretty piece has been lying in my pile of unused fabrics for too long – I’ve finally planned a project.

I would like the finished garment to look something along the lines of this. This one is by Kate Spade, sold at Neiman Markus.

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I first make a rough plan of how I am going to construct the garment, to give me a rough idea of what the pattern will look like. I also need a visual plan of where the seams will go, or I will mess it up later. For this I used the Paper by 53 app on my ipad.

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Next I will make the pattern using cheap muslin fabric and my homemade dress form. Only once the fit is perfect do I cut the pieces in my actual fabric. Then the actual sewing starts. Stay tuned :)!

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Dressmaking: Sketching on an Ipad

I recently got an iPad mini for work. Among many things, I’ve found that it can be a useful sketch book. I do like sketching on my real sketch book, but it is too big and heavy to carry around all the time. The ipad mini however is pretty small and light.

Without further ado, the app that I have been using is Paper by 53. It allows you to create several notebooks to draw or write in free hand. The app itself is free and comes with a fountain pen tool, but I’ve also bought the ‘draw’ update for £1.49 to sketch with a pencil tool.

The project I am currently thinking about is a ball gown for a college ball in May. I went to the Valentino exhibition in London and the dress that stood out to me most was Julia Roberts Oscars dress. Yes, my taste is fairly old fashioned. I just love the back! So I have done some preliminary sketching and thinking about how one might construct a similar dress.
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fashion sketch mannequin

On the paper app you can duplicate pages, so I’ve drawn a rough mannequin that I just copy for each sketch.

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You can also make handwritten notes. I tend to make a rough plan of the pattern pieces and how to put them together, but only once I’ve finalised the design of the garment.

For the bodice I came up with these two different versions.

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I sew to stay sane

This article appeared in Issue 12 of the wonderful Oh Comely Magazine. It was my first piece of writing to ever get published.

I had my first therapist at 15. I took my first antidepressant drug at 23. I bought my first sewing machine at 24. That was two months ago.

My counsellor refers to depression as “that big black dog.” I know that dog pretty well by now. Being depressed is not the same as feeling really sad. Apart from the low mood, there is anhedonia—the inability to experience pleasure. It becomes hard to find anything that excites you or makes you feel good. I stopped dancing, going out with friends, going to lectures. It became difficult to think of a reason to get out of bed in the morning. But then for some reason or another, I got excited about making my own clothes.

The first fabric I ever bought was a gorgeous dark green silk. A tiny local haberdashery shop was holding a temporary silk sale. I thought the opportunity was too good to miss. I hadn’t even ordered a sewing machine yet. I went online and looked for free patterns—very tricky. Eventually I printed off an A4 drawing of a 50s-style dress and took it to the shop. The lady selling the silks spent a good half hour trying to figure out how many metres of fabric I would need for the dress I was vaguely referring to.

One thing I love about sewing is that it allows me to connect with my mum. I told her about the depression and the drugs last Christmas, and ever since it felt awkward to talk to her. It was as if the black dog was in the room, whether we acknowledged it or not. But then I got the idea to learn how to sew, and suddenly we had loads to talk about. I showed her various patterns I was considering. She thought they were all too difficult. I had no idea it was harder to sew a neckline with corners than a round one.

In the end, I ordered a pattern for a fitted sleeveless dress. I didn’t want to ruin my beautiful silk, so I bought a purple Primark sheet to make a practice dress. Armed with a big book on sewing and the instructions that came with the pattern, I gave it a go. It wasn’t easy and I got stuck at times, but with the help of my mum gesticulating via webcam and googling lots of technical terms, I managed to produce a wearable garment.  I have made three dresses so far and I already have the fabric to make three more.

I guess it’s a coping mechanism. The day before a dreaded psychiatric evaluation, I sewed for six hours. I only took a break to eat when my hands started shaking. Then, the other day, I had spent the night sleepless with the black dog, and only made it from my bed to the sofa around three in the afternoon. At five, I made myself set up the sewing machine, even though I didn’t feel like it. But then I started to sew, and kept sewing. When my housemate came home in the evening, he was relieved to be greeted by the familiar rattling sound. His words were, “I was getting seriously worried about you. But now I know you are alright.”

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Dressmaking: A Lotus inspired Dress

This is the first dress I ever designed from scratch, without a ready-made pattern and without copying a famous designer.

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I designed it to go with my lotus tattoo. Random, right? But maybe you can kind of see what I mean.

I used the basic sloper pattern included in the Pattern Magic book. You need to take it to a copy shop to enlarge it to real size.

Rather than including a detailed step-by-step guide, I will use this as an example to explain what I consider the basics of pattern drafting. Obviously I am no expert, but this is how I like to do it.

Basically you cut open all the darts and closed them. This will make more sense to you if you have been reading the book. It is what they do all the time, and in my opinion the one secret to pattern drafting.

The logic is simple: If you want a fitted garment, you need darts. They help shape a flat fabric to a curved body. When you take a standart pattern, the darts will be included like V-shapes. You sew them together and the flat fabric become fitted.

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However, when drafting a pattern you can close the darts in advance. To do this you cut along one side of the V and push the paper pattern together so the dart is closed. Cellotape along the dart. It will look like your garment would if you were sewing the dart together.

Now you will have a paper pattern that should be fitted to your body.

But the problem is, fabric is flat. So you cannot use the “curved pattern”. In order to make it flat again, you need to open it somewhere. An easy way to do this is to introduce a new seam line. For my dress, I introduced seams between each “petal”. In other words, I cut the bodice pattern with all its darts closed into four pieces and added the round tops of the petals to each piece.

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When cut apart like this, each piece will lie flat again, ready to be cut out in fabric. That is the magic of the “open and close” technique!

As this was to be a strapless dress, the body needed to have some weight. You don’t want a flimsy strapless top! So I cut out each petal twice in the blue fabric, and put a thick cotton fabric in the middle as lining. I used some Cath Kidston fabric I bought on sale, it is thick like denim. You can see my homemade dressform in the picture – look for “duct tape dressform” tutorials on Youtube!

I am very sorry I don’t have more step by step photos of the process of constructing the dress, but I made it long before I started this blog!

But leave me a comment if you want more details or have any questions.

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