Thursday 28 April 2016

Presenting: Amber Moon

I've mentioned in various posts over the last few months that I was taking a burlesque course leading up to a performance. In mid-April, that performance was a reality. Amber Moon got up on stage in a proper professional cabaret venue, wiggled her bum and took her clothes off in front of a roomful of friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. And I'm going to tell you all about it. 

Here she is. This is my second Anna dress, and my first stage costume. I'd wanted to make a full-length Anna since I knew the pattern existed, and when I saw this faux silk up for sale on the Sew Over It website, I knew what I wanted my costume to be. I stressed for weeks about whether it was going to work, but I wore it on stage and it came off when it was supposed to, which is about all you can ask of it. I thought I might have static problems because it's polyester, but it's fine. 

I was stressing about this performance for about a month beforehand, and I started stressing about it again almost as soon as it was over, but when the lights went down on the night? I was Amber Moon, and Amber Moon did not give a shit. Amber Moon was the second-to-last act of the whole night (which I was terrified about beforehand) and spent the whole show prior to going to stage drinking pink champagne and yelling, "They have to cheer and applaud no matter WHAT I do!" at everyone that walked past me. By the time I got on stage I, a chronic anxiety sufferer, wasn't even nervous. Forty per cent of my choreography went out the window but Amber Moon knew it didn't matter. Three and a half minutes my glitter-encrusted self walked off stage in octopus-tentacle pasties, all "yeah. Yeah you all cheered my boobs."

I got this dress out of two and a half metres of fabric, but I had to do quite a lot of weird folding to get there. I'm pleased that I managed it, because buying three and a half metres of fabric always feels like too much of an extravagance. I hadn't used this kind of fabric before so some of my seams are puckery, but I was on stage so by virtue of the five foot rule it's fine. 

 I realise the slit is actually knicker-revealingly high, but it's a burlesque costume. When I made the dress I put the slit where the pattern instructed, but it didn't look right for what I was doing so I unpicked several inches of it. When I decide to wear this for a non-burlesque occasion I will sew the slit up to a less indecent point.

Also you will notice that the fabric hump at the neckline is much less of a thing in this version than in my coral one, so I think that was just a victim of heavier material and bias binding. On this one I just turned and stitched the neckline hem so I'd have as little bulk up there are possible.

I should have made the back a V-neck, but I didn't. Since it is literally impossible to get out of a high-backed dress in an elegant and attractive way, for the performance I pinned the top edges inward so that the zip would be at a height I could reach.

You're getting a ton of photos and I'm not apologising. Amber Moon must be appreciated, even without all the glitter and shiny things she had on the night (that I definitely didn't panic-buy in Accessorise a few hours before the show, nope). 


This pattern is still awesome. I was looking at By Hand London's sewalong posts and they have a tutorial for giving the Anna dress three-quarter length sleeves, so I'm going to be trying that. I'd really like to have a couple of these for daywear. 

And finally, for your amusement, an action shot of Amber Moon's triumphant debut, courtesy of

Monday 25 April 2016

OCMPP part four: bodice block

Check me out, getting all my projects posted within the two months again!

I bought the Sew Over It Vintage book on the pretext that I was going to make the pouffe as a Christmas present, which I then did not do (I was already making pyjamas, aprons, make up bags and stockings, and it seemed like a bit much). So the book has been sitting on my sewing table, and I keep picking it up and thinking that several of the things - 1920s top and dressing gown in particular - would be cool things to make and I should get on that. Which I have so far not done. In order to make anything else in the book, you need to draft a bodice block. Take four measurements, draw a few lines on a piece of paper, cut it out, make a toile. It seemed easy enough, though apparently not easy enough for me to try it several months ago when I first thought about it. Anyway.

My first attempt looked like this:

Yeeeaaah. The instructions tell you to measure from collarbone to waist to get the length. So I did that, without it occurring to me that measuring down the middle of my body fails to take two fairly substantial things into account. I sort of wish I was the kind of person who wore tops like this, but I am not. So I added five inches or so to my block and had another go.

Better. This is a perfectly serviceable top. I might even finish all the edges and wear it if I can decide what it would go with (my wardrobe doesn't have a lot of items that would match a loose drapey T-shirt).

The book says that the block isn't meant to be tight fitting, and it's not kidding. This is actually smaller than it's meant to be - the block as drafted doesn't include seam allowance, but I forgot that both times so had to make the top smaller in order to sew it together, and it's still pretty damn roomy. I'm a tad concerned about other patterns in the book that instruct you to make the block bigger for a looser fit. This is already the loosest thing that's existed in my wardrobe for years. However, I really want that 1920s top, so that's going to be the next one I attempt (I don't know when, but it's next).

Overall, a success, providing we ignore this bit:

Ladies with boobs: MAKE YOUR TOPS LONGER. This has been my PSA for the month. 

Saturday 23 April 2016

Me Made May

Through reading basically all the sewing blogs ever, I have been made aware that Me Made May is a thing. This will be the first one I've ever been able to do, and I'm going to do it. So I got Instagram, because that's where it happens and where all the sewing people are in general (follow me @the_slapdash should you be so inclined).

I intend for this to serve three purposes:

1. The obvious intended purpose of getting me to wear stuff I made every day
2. Building the habit of taking photos every day
3. Providing a record at the end which I can look back over and see what I wear most and how

I did the pledge thing, which is as follows:

"I, Jen of Sewing and Slapdashery and @the_slapdash, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '16. I endeavour to wear at least one item of handmade clothing each day for the duration of May 2016."

I'm planning to post my photos on Instagram daily and in consolidated weekly posts here, and also write a whole bunch of dreary analysis on style and wardrobe gaps because you know I like that.

I hope this will be good. Clothes, analysis, and the opportunity to indulge in a little shallow narcissism? I have high hopes.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Creative Sewing: Butterlex

See, I told you I was building up to something.

This is the bodice of the By Hand London Elisalex dress combined with the skirt from Butterick 4443 (remember that? When I used to make that dress all the time?) and also pockets from the Sew Over It tulip skirt.

I think I had it in my head that because I'd done a full bust adjustment, the Elisalex bodice would just fit me now, and that was not the case. I had to take in all the princess seams - at the waist on the front and all the way down on the back - and put darts in the back neckline, which was gaping enormously. Before my next use of this bodice I'm going to make a couple of adjustments to my flat pattern pieces. I originally used the Elisalex short sleeves, but they're not actually that short, and I decided that not-quite-elbow-length sleeves looked a bit weird on this dress, so I shortened them to be actually short.

(Also apparently I didn't quite zip it shut all the way, but I'm not going to redo a photoshoot for that)

I think the lining is meant to be machine stitched at the neckline and hand-stitched everywhere else, but I (as usual) used the machine wherever I could. The Gnome attached the lining to the main fabric behind the zip tape and to just inside the seam allowances around the armholes, so all I had to do by hand was sew the lining at the waist seam.

Blue pockets! (See me recreating my Cordova colour combination. One day I will find the very best use for this, and that will be a happy day.)

This has been an odd one, because when I first tried it on after putting the zip in I decided this hadn't been a great experiment and I didn't like the dress very much. My opinion then shifted so gradually as I took in the seams and put in the neckline darts and hacked several inches off the sleeves and hemmed it to a slightly more flattering length that when I put the dress on at the end, I was genuinely surprised that I rather liked it. This is a totally cute work/being presentable dress. Go me!

I don't know if I'll make this particular combination again, but this was an excellent introduction to the world of Frankenstein patterns. I had a lot of fitting issues with this one, but the actual Frankensteining was really easy. Stupidly easy, in fact. I haven't decided what my next mash-up will be, but it will be happening soon. Why settle for what's in the packet, right?

And finally, me running out of ideas:

Monday 18 April 2016

OCMPP part three: Tulip Skirt

I had two tulip skirts on my To Make list, and this is neither of them. My mother bought me some cool floral stretch denim, so of course it had to become one of these skirts as well. And I made it before my planned ones because... well, the fabric was a present, and it would be rude to leave it just sitting there.


I had a vision of bright pink pockets, bright pink zip and bright pink topstitching, but I had to forgo the zip because I couldn't find one in the right shade of pink. The zip is now white, but that's also fine because:

Pink and white spotty pockets! (These photos don't really show the bright pink topstitching, but trust me, it is there.)

I really like having one of these in denim. It doesn't crease as embarrassingly quickly as my previous two. I also really like it with this top, and I have visions of my future wardrobe being entirely composed of tulip skirts and cropped jumpers to mix and match at will. That would take a lot of the work out of getting dressed. 

Amber Moon made her triumphant public debut a week ago and it was awesome. You'll be hearing all about it in a couple of weeks.

I did manage to make one of the ones I said I would as well, because I keep my promises, dammit. The fifth skirt is cut out as well, but I have STORIES about that one so it'll have to wait. 

Before we go any further, the radical difference in the quality of my hair is due to a fancy pre-shampoo product I got given. I'm torn between feeling delighted that there is a product out there that can begin to control my perpetually misbehaving hair and annoyed that now I'm going to have to buy a stupid expensive hair product for the rest of forever. Sigh. 

This is my simplest tulip skirt. It's a mustard cotton twill with a little arrow print, and I got the skirt out of a metre of fabric, which I'm quite pleased about. I left the pockets out, mostly because I forgot about them. I may come to regret this. 

I used a triple stitch to do navy topstitching on the hem, which hasn't quite come out the way I pictured it, but eh. Never mind. I don't spend a lot of time looking at my own hems so it's unlikely to bother me much. I put in a navy concealed zip too. 

This was the outfit I wanted and I really like it. I feel like the mustard and navy combination is one that my wardrobe was seriously missing. Initially I wanted a plain mustard skirt but I've come around on this print; it adds interest to the skirt without being distracting. I will get a lot of wear out of this, as I will with all the other tulip skirts both current and future. Yes, future. You're going to get really bored.

We will end on what I like to call "the confused flamingo":

(Once I was dancing with someone at a social and he spent the whole dance giving me "feedback" and corrections and explaining what I should be doing. On the last beat of the song I did exactly as you see in this picture. "What's that?" he asked. "I'm a confused flamingo," I told him. He backed away and I never had to dance with him again. The confused flamingo has its uses.)

Thursday 14 April 2016

Creative Sewing: cropped sweater

Hello and welcome to my first weak-ass attempt at a pattern hack!

I knew I wanted more cropped jumpers. Almost everything I make ends up being high-waisted, and most of the tops I own were bought to go with jeans, so I have a wardrobe mismatch. I spent a little while looking at long-sleeved cropped jumper patterns before I realised that I already made the cropped sweater from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual before and it fitted reasonably well, so all I'd have to do is draft some new sleeves. It couldn't be that hard, right?

...holy crap, this skirt is wrinkled. I swear it never looks like this in real life. Apparently I have a special wrinkle-enhancing camera.

This is the leftover fabric from my spotty Tiramisu. I say leftover, I specifically bought more fabric than I thought I'd need so that I could have both a dress and a jumper made from this stuff. It is so soft and lovely and comforting, and I wish more jersey fabric was like this. Most of the stuff I see is either really lightweight or heavier ponte, and I crave that bit in between that I can never find.

To draft a new sleeve, I more or less Frankensteined together the sleeve head of the current piece and the long sleeve from the Sew Over It cowl neck top. It was not at all scientific and I didn't actually draft a new pattern piece, I just laid one over the other and cut it out. Now that this particular experiment has been a success I probably will go back and draft one - I'm much more likely to make and wear versions of this top with the long sleeve than the shorter one and doing the weird Frankensteining every time is going to get tedious.

This is my "please don't start raining yet" face. 

The book uses ribbed bands to finish both the sleeves and the waist, but I only had black ribbing lying around and I didn't want that look for this jumper, so I just hemmed the sleeves with my twin needle in the usual way and used the main fabric to make a band for the waist and it seems to be fine. It's probably what I'll do for future versions unless I really want the contrast look.

This is a definite success and I wear it all the time, particularly with my various tulip skirts (as you will see on Monday). As soon as I find more of the right kind of jersey, I will be making more of these. The longer sleeve was really easy to do and I now feel quite comfortable altering the length of any given sleeve. Drafting a sleeve for something that's sleeveless would definitely take more work, but one step at a time. I'm slowly building up to more impressive things, I promise.

And to finish off, please enjoy this picture of me being absolutely terrifying.

Creative! (I don't know why he puts up with me)

Monday 11 April 2016

OCMPP part two: Anna

I have wanted to make an Anna dress since I discovered the existence of Anna dresses. I discovered the existence of Anna dresses approximately seven minutes after By Hand London stopped selling paper patterns, and since I didn't have a printer I just watched hundreds of beautiful versions float past me with ever-mounting envy. I even spent a very frustrating morning looking at every single online shop that delivered to the UK to see if they still had any Anna patterns in stock, and I found every single one of the BHL patterns except Anna. That was an annoying day.

In February I acquired a printer, and one of the first things I did after getting it home was buy myself a copy of this pattern. I was VERY EXCITED. And also a bit worried that this would be the thing I always worry about: the amazing pattern that looks amazing on everyone except me. But it would be fine, I counselled myself. I could do this. This was going to be a happy dress for Happy Jen.

I dare you to rain while I'm wearing this dress. I dare you. 

When purchasing my extremely inappropriate for March in England fabric, I bought the 2.5m the pattern claimed to require for the midi version. By messing around with the layout I only used about half that, which was fortuitous, as it turned out.

For some reason I decided I was going to cut a straight UK 16 and not bother doing any alterations to it. This was a very, very stupid idea, as I discovered when I tried on the bodice. It was the most hilarious not-fit I've had in my entire (admittedly short) history of dressmaking. My boobs got seriously squashed, the back wouldn't close, and trying to pull it shut made the neckline jump straight into my throat (somewhat painfully, I might add). I grumbled, swore a bit, left the dress on a table for the best part of a week, then came back and unpicked the stupid bodice.

Thanking Past Jen for her excellent fabric-saving skills, I added a 2.5in FBA to the front bodice piece and recut it. The 2.5 was an educated guess rather than a diligently calculated measurement, but Bodice 2.0 was much better. The proper amount of boob space without distorting the waist. I was very pleased.

The other thing I learned from Bodice 1.0 was that I really did not want that neckline facing. It was bulky and annoying and straight-up refused to stay inside the dress. So I took advantage of the fact that I'd had to unpick everything, threw the facing away and replaced it with bias binding (I had a package of bright orange binding sitting on my desk from a previous aborted project). I also used bias binding on the hem, because why not.

(I haven't stitched the zip tape down yet. It's not a priority, it's April. Where the hell am I going dressed like this?)

I love the fit on the bust and waist, the shape of the skirt. and the overall silhouette of this dress. I do not love the weird hump of fabric I get at my collarbone whenever I raise my arms. Is that something that can be eliminated through fitting adjustments? I could just make the V-neck version in future (and I will try that), but I prefer the boat neck shape for this pattern. More research required.

I will definitely be making more of these. I've already made a maxi version (coming your way very soon), I'd like to try a jersey version, and I suspect I will be making an Anna for at least one of the summer weddings in my calendar. Yes, I know I don't need a different dress for each wedding. What's your point?

Thursday 7 April 2016

UODPH review

I thought it might be useful for me to look at the things I've made with a couple of months' hindsight. I'm not going to literally review everything I've ever made, because that will get dull, but I'm already grouping some of my makes into batches, right? So to start off with, here are my current thoughts on the products of my Unnecessary October Dress Pattern Haul.

1. Tiramisu

Indisputable success. This is great, and I've worn it a lot. Literally the only bad thing about it is the itchy stay tape in the shoulder seam.

2. Wren

I have never worn this and I am never going to wear this. But it was a good test run, and my second attempt is one of my favourite dresses ever. If I can persuade myself to take apart something I've made, I'll take the top off this and have it as a skirt.

3. Cambie

Two problems with this dress. It could have done with a full bust adjustment, and it is the stupidest colour ever. I mean, it's a nice colour, but it goes with literally no other colour in the world because it's such an optical illusion. This should be a great work dress, but I don't generally go around with bare arms and there is no colour of cover-up that works with it (though I do wear it to work on a fairly regularly basis with a black jumper). I should make another.

4. Elisalex

I wore this at Christmas, and it's a Christmas dress in my mind now. It's also quite heavy. Again, I should make another. I have a mash-up dress using the Elisalex bodice in the works, and you'll be seeing that fairly soon.

5. Moneta

I like this dress and I wear it fairly regularly, but I don't think it's going to last very long. The fabric isn't great quality and it doesn't have much recovery, so it's actually quite difficult for me to tell what I think of the pattern in and of itself. 

Best: Tiramisu
Worst: This particular Wren dress
Would remake: All five (what, ALL FIVE out at once? If you did the voice in your head, we should be friends), and I've already remade two and a half of them.
Biggest overall problem: Fabric choice