Style Arc Talia trousers

posted in: WIP (work in progress) | 29

Lots of people have suggested I try Style Arc, an Australian based company that sells modern looking, mainly casual wear patterns.

The pattern: Talia Woven trousers

Talia Woven Pant
Talia Woven Pant

I decided to give it a go as I really wanted to make some pull-on trousers that I thought might work well for my new country life style.

I bought a pattern for a pair of woven trousers with a straight waist band at the front, and elastication at the back. The photos looked nice and I ordered a size 8 which corresponded with my body measurements.

As you will know if you have used this company they sell paper and PDF patterns. I decided to try paper as the price was similar. The patterns are fairly pricey – around £12 for a paper pattern posted to the UK from Australia. But they give you a free bonus pattern, so while you don’t get much choice this works out at £6 each which isn’t bad.

I found the drafting and instructions OK but a bit sparse. A friend suggested that the patterns are outsourced to Asia which doesn’t make them bad, but may explain why they have something of an “industrial” feel.

I measured the pattern pieces (which only come in one size) and the hips were a little bit small for me, and the waist a little bit big. I wasn’t sure what to do about the waist as with an elasticated waist item the actual dimension needs to be large enough to pull on over the hips. I added a little bit to the girth at the hips/thigh but decided to risk it in terms of the waist measurement.

Fabric choice

The fabric I used for these pants, having written up why I like corduroy, was the left over piece I had after making Gus his cord trousers. I really liked the fabric which has a soft vintage feel in terms of colour and texture.


This was a straightforward construction. The side pockets are quite nice but pretty straightforward. With them being pull ups there was no fly to deal with. One of the bloggers I follow, Paola of La Sartora, made these pants up too and mentions there is a pocket tutorial on the website.

Unfortunately the first version was horrible. The trousers were just too big and the elastic at the back did not really bring them in sufficiently.

Style Arc
Style Arc pants made up

The problem was two fold.

  • The pattern needed altering for a relatively slim waist without losing the ability to slide the trousers on. As all the gathering in is at the back this is a fairly tall order given my dimensions. I want a hip of about 40″ so there is sufficient ease, and a waist of about 26″ which is fairly snug.
  • The problem was worsened by the type of fabric I used. The corduroy is rather thick and doesn’t gather very easily.

So how did I sort this out?

I removed the whole waist band, and I took a little width off at the waist at the sides, but this was limited due to the side pockets. I took a little more off the CF seam (rather than putting in front darts). I created two darts at the back and put an invisible zip in at the CB. When I tried them on (first picture) it was obvious that the legs were too full.

Instead of a waist band I made a facing, and because I was at Rainshore with no overlocker I used bias binding to finish the facing. This lovely William Morris print from Liberty was made by my friend Linde.

Facing, edged with Liberty bias binding

They are a nice comfy fit and will work well as country pants. Not “pull ons” as I intended but certainly not too hard to get into. I think they look better with a jumper over them. I will model them on our next visit and share better pictures shortly. I have been away in France this week for the conference so am behind with my blog!

In beautiful Cannes, south of France where the sun always shines

Overall this is not a bad pattern. It was my mistake for using a fabric that was not ideal. They do have quite a high waist and the legs are pretty wide. I am not sure they would be much better in a lighter cloth given my dimensions, but I may give it a go in the summer.


Corduroy – suitable for men, women and children

Apparently corduroy started life as a type of Fustian. I remember clearly reading about both fabrics in one of my GCE O level books, The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy.

The man was of fine figure, swarthy, and stern in aspect; and he showed in profile a facial angle so slightly inclined as to be almost perpendicular. He wore a short jacket of brown corduroy, newer than the remainder of his suit, which was a fustian waistcoat with white horn buttons, breeches of the same, tanned leggings, and a straw hat overlaid with black glazed canvas. (p1)

I also remember reading about Fustian in Frederick Engels in that it was the most easy way to distinguish the rich from the poor – Fustian in the 19th C included corduroy, jean and moleskin. He notes that linen and wool are now hardly used for the clothes of the poor, and that cotton (not grown in the UK) has replaced both. Men wear fustian (heavy cotton) trousers and jackets. In fact the poor came to be known as “fustian jackets”, whereas the middle classes wore woolen broadcloth. In the Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 he notes that cotton is really not the most suitable fabric for a workman’s outfit, especially given the cold, damp climate and lack of heating within the home.

It is really hard to find any images of working men in corduroy because

  • the poor were rarely able to afford a photograph
  • initially photographers were not interested in recording social history or “ugly” things
  • the pictures that exist tend to be “snaps” rather than quality pictures
  • there are more pictures of women than men
  • there are more US pictures than UK pictures available on the internet
  • some of the men below may be wearing fustian or corduroy
Workmen in Fleetwood, on a break
Workmen in Fleetwood, on a break

Corduroy still has a working class, slightly rebellious character and became fashionable in the 1960/70s, especially in universities, as men changed out of woolen suits in something more comfortable, but also fairly warm and durable.

But there were times when this unpretentious fabric made its way into high fashion. If you make anything with corduroy here are a few tips

  • The wales – the ribs that run down the fabric – vary in size from 3 wale or jumbo cord (just 3 wales per inch) to pincord, which features as many as16 wales per inch.
  • Make sure the wales run evenly down or across the garment – consider cutting each piece separately so the wales run along the grain line of the pattern
  • You can get pure cotton, or mixed fibres, or cotton with a bit of elastane in it. If you are using an elastance product use a lightweight interfacing around pockets, zips, waistbands etc.
  • This is a fabric with a definite nap so make sure all the pattern pieces run in the same direction. I prefer it in a downwards direction.
  • A needleboard is a marvellous thing. I used one in college and they work brilliantly. I don’t have one. I would say press on the back side with steam rather than too much pressure, but cord is not too prissy and will spring back in the wash.
  • Use a slightly longer stitch length as the stitches can sink in. It is hard to upick!
  • Use a slightly thicker needle than usual to cope with several thicknesses

Some of the coolest men look amazing in Corduroy. Some of my favourite actors play on the sensuousness, ruggedness and comfort of corduroy. It is soft to the touch, and creases in an attractive way. It is similar to denim in the sense that it improves with age and wear, imprinting the body inside on the outside over time.

So who should wear it and how?

  • Corduroy has universal appeal for casual wear and is ideal for children, men and women
  • It is a warm version of cotton so works well for autumn outfits, especially in natural shades, especially the browns. Personally I dislike the very bright or printed versions for adults, but each to his or her own
  • A pincord shirt can be a nice item on a man or a woman seeking a warmer shirt
  • Great for garments that get quite a lot of wear eg trousers, although they will wear out across the seat and at the knees
  • As the material is somewhat bulky, trousers and skirts often work better in slimmer styles. Gathering only works with the lightest weights
  • If you are very slim corduroy can add useful bulk, but overweight people should think carefully about light-reflecting and chunky fabrics like corduroy
    corduroy culottes
    Cord Culottes
  • Juvenile styles such as mini-skirts, dungarees, overall type garments, baby doll dresses, and shorts all seem to work well in corduroy
    Alex in Mini skirt
  • The stripes are flattering worn in vertical direction, making the wearer look taller and slimmer.
  • Tailored items look a bit dated these days but good quality 1970s vintage cord items can be fun suitably mixed with modern items. Also companies like COS create corduroy suits for young men that want to wear a suit for work but don’t want to look too grown up or formal. These can be worn with casual shirts, T-shirts or trainers for a dressed down look.
  • Corduroy caps and hats are horrible and should never be worn.

The Textured Silver Pendant – Jewellery Making update

posted in: Finished projects | 17

The Jewellery making course continues and we have recently finished the most amazing pendants. I really love this design. The first week we were shown three examples of this square, textured pendant in various sizes. The photograph shows different textures – a leaf and a sort of honeycomb pattern, and a further botanic pattern. It is such a simple and elegant piece with no fiddly findings or holes in the piece. The chain just fits between the layers. I bought enough silver bullion produce one larger and one smaller pendant. Nick chose to make the smaller one for his daughter Charlotte, so I decided to make the larger one for myself.

First terms projects Jewellery making
Two rings and a pendant

Before we started on the silver pendants we were supplied with some copper squares to try out different textures before committing to our final design. The textures are created by pressing a firm object into the metal, under pressure.

The rolling mill is a very nice old machine that you feed the metal into, closely aligned with the material you want to create the texture with. It’s a bit like a mangle that we used to squeeze the water out of sheets and items we were washing at home.

I used wire, feathers, leaves, lace, linen, paper clips, netting and fine sandpaper cut into shapes. I was keen to try to achieve something sewing related, getting quite a nice effect with linen and lace. After a while of trying all these different effects both Nick and I went for natural forms – feathers (me) and leaves (him).

The pendant has a front and a back so it is possible to do two different textures. When the pieces come out of the rolling mill they were quite distorted and no longer square. It was necessary to file them down so that they were square and matched. We used a set square to achieve this effect. Then they are curved by bashing them into a mould, silver solder is applied to the four corners of each piece and finally they are heated so that the solder melts and bonds the two pieces of silver together.

Jewellery making textured pendant
Copper sample and back and front of the silver pendent

The soldering process is quite delicate so our teacher Paul helped ensure we didn’t over do it. Then the pendants go into a barreling machine that polishes it to a high shine. It includes water, soap solution and small steel ball bearings (shot) and other particles to polish the silver. It is possible to use a blackening material to bring out the detail but we liked the shiny silver appearance.

I am loving the course and finding it such fun. I really enjoy working with Nick, Jo and Jeanette. I am keen to do another term to embed my learning and to get to designing my own things. We still have three weeks to go and the cabochon stone set ring awaits.

Jewellery making Morley
Nick, Jo and Jeanette – Team Jewellery One

The Cotswolds and the Wool Trade

As I have mentioned before we have moved, at the weekends, to live in the Cotswolds. And although I come from a Cotton Town I now find myself in the heart of the ancient wool country.

The Romans introduced sheep with exceptionally long fleeces into the Cotswolds, now a rare breed the Cotswold Lion. And these sheep defined the way of life of this area for 2,000 years. Even the name Cotswolds is thought come from “Cots” means sheep enclosure and “wolds” are the hillocks of the area. By the end of the 12th century the “golden fleece” was being exported to Flanders to be woven into some of the finest fabric. It would be no exaggeration to say that the rich churches, manor houses, beautiful architecture and important public buildings were all brought about by the productivity and quality of the local wool.The wool, from a million medieval sheep on the Cotswolds, was extremely high-quality and a profitable European export. Italian merchants in particular clamored to buy wool from the Cotswolds. By early medieval times, it was said “half the wealth of England rides on the back of a sheep.”

Cotswold Lion

On our walk last week, with the Cirencester Ramblers, we saw 17th century weavers cottages (now owned and rented out by the National Trust) in Bibury. William Morris called Bibury “the most beautiful village in England”. In fact if you have a British passport have a look at the inside front cover – this “typical” row of English cottages is printed there, in three colours. Such is the symbolic representation of the wool manufacturing trade in the wealth and success of our country. If you walk around the small, medieval villages with market places and narrow lanes you can easily imagine how 20,000 sheep would be driven to market. And lots of sheep, lamb, wool and weavers references can be seen in place names. The wool churches are magnificent and were built by wealthy wool traders throughout the area. Look for sheep in the stained glass windows, or brasses set into the floor featuring the different wool marks.

Weavers cottages

Our local church, St. John the Baptist, Cirencester is one of the biggest and most beautiful wool churches in the area. It celebrates its 900th anniversary this year.

Cirencester Cathedral

For the wool trade the Cotswolds have a number of natural advantages – a fairly damp climate that helps to create a fine textured wool, rivers and streams of clear water to transport, clean and process the cloth, teasels (to card to wool) grow abundantly nearby (including in our new garden), woad and black walnut (used as a dyestuff) are common, and Fullers earth (used to clean, whiten and shrink the cloth) is found locally too.

Cotswold Teasles
Cotswold Teasles

In fact the woven Cotswold cloth became even more in demand than the raw wool material.  In the middle ages the wool crafts moved from individual cottage industries – where it was spun and woven in the home – to being based in towns. The monasteries were involved as well  producing fulled cloth (thickened and felted by being walked on in troughs while being doused with Fullers Earth). I recently read Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth which provides an interesting story about female wool traders. Until the Industrial revolution the processes of making wool and weaving it into cloth were separate activities, with individual weavers working from home. By the early part of the industrial revolution (1750-1820) there were nearly 200 Cotswold mills producing woolen fabrics. The fulling process was now mechanised and the faster flowing rivers were used to drive the mills.

During the Tudor period broadcloth from Gloucester was exported in its natural, undressed, state. In addition teazles were used in factories to raise the nap of the woolen fabric. By the end of the 18th century a factory in Gloucestershire would include fulling stocks, a gig mill and, perhaps, a dye house and shear shop. At this point in history every gentleman in Europe wore a coat made of West of England cavalry twill. The remains of some of these factories in our new area provide a tempting opportunity to learn more and I will visit and report back when the weather improves.

To make a piece of broadcloth the following four processes were used:


Wool would be sorted into different types and grades; this was one of the most skilled jobs and would be the best paid. The wool from the sheep would include lots of leaves and dirt as well as the natural oils from the sheep. It had to be washed. Usually this would be done with soap and alkalis such as potash or ammonia. Originally this alkali would be human or animal urine. The alkali helped to clean and soften the wool and made it easier to dye. After washing the wool would be rolled and then dried using steam heat. Next the wool was ‘opened’. This meant that the woollen fleece was broken down into workable fibres. The machinery used to do this depended on the type of wool. A machine called the Fan ‘Willey’ with sharp metal teeth was used for good quality wool which did not need much opening. Next the fleece is combed (or ‘carded’) to make the wool fibres in the wool run in the same direction. This is important prior to spinning. Carding used to be done by hand, but from about 1790 machines were introduced.


The process here is to take the prepared fleece and to turn it into yarn that could be woven. At first spinning was done by hand – gradually different types of machines were invented to make the process faster and standardised. The early spinning jenny was hand operated, but during the 1820s they became commonplace and in factories in Gloucestershire some spinning jennys had 80 spindles allowing significant amounts of production to be achieved by very few operatives.


The first process is to warp the weaving machine – winding out the warp thread to create a ‘chain’ for the weaver to work on. The warp is then sized – a glue is applied to stabilise the cloth while it is being manufactured. Weaving would be carried out originally by hand but the flying shuttle was introduced in the 1760s in Yorkshire, but did not become common in Gloucester until the 1790s. This is because the quality and size of the Cotswold product was superior and required boarder looms, and this meant that hand loom weaving lasted longer in this part of the country.


Again the product would be scoured using urine or similar products. Fulling and milling – basically soaking the fabric in water to allow it to felt to a greater or lesser extent, was originally done by hand, or by feet, to thicken, clean and soften the cloth. Milling machines came in, in about 1840s. The fabric would be air dried on long, flat, stoves.


Heavenly sweater by Ankestrick

posted in: Finished projects, knitting | 30

We spent last weekend in lovely Lancashire, where my mother lives. Nick and I went up with my (other) son George and his wife Bianca.

I mentioned that Mum had had a nasty fall. Thank you for all your kind words, and I thought you might like an update.

A fortnight ago Mum’s carer arrived to find her unconscious on the kitchen floor, in a pool of blood, with a head injury. It must have looked like a frightful crime scene. Everyone thought it was the end for my 88 year old Mum. Luckily, very luckily, she wasn’t badly hurt – no broken bones and no brain damage. Despite her face being black and blue for a week or two, a scan and a blood transfusion during her precautionary hospital stay, she is back to normal already – this cat with nine lives (she had previously crashed her car into a wall and come away with a little cut) recovers fast. At the weekend she looked amazing and was back in business, with only a rapidly-healing wound on her forehead. Bianca and I did  her hair and makeup before we went out for dinner.

The car journey up there and back takes around nine hours, so I had plenty of time to press on with my current knitting project – the Heavenly sweater from Ankestrick.

Heavenly by Ankestrick
Heavenly by Ankestrick

I really like the simple T shirt styles presented by young Berlin designer Anke. According to Yarn Stories:

Anke has always been a knitter but, for her, the turning point to making it her profession was discovering the Contiguous Method developed by Australian Susie Myers, where a jumper is knitted in one piece without sewing up and with a superior fit. She spent time focussing on this technique, always in search of the perfect cut and fit and has developed it further to the so-called Slanted Contiguous method.

Hmm. That is beginning to sound both interesting and scary. Something to investigate, experiment with and learn from as we go along.

What I have discovered is how much I like the all-in-one approach – knitting a jumper in one piece so that when it is finished, it is actually finished rather than looking like several pattern pieces that need sewing together. The smooth finish of seamless appeals too – like a pair of modern tights compared to old fashioned seamed stockings. To my mind the point of knitting, as opposed to sewing, is that it can achieve a seamless finish. Also the top down approach allows you to judge the finished length by trying the jumper on while it is still on the needles. Then you can use up the remaining yarn rather than having lots left when you could have been more generous.

Checking the length on a top down jersey
Nearly finished: Heavenly sweater by Ankestrick

The Heavenly is knitted from the top down – otherwise the construction is rather similar to the Lorelle (bottom to top) in that it has a fairly wide open neck, (albeit higher at the back due to short rows), a yoke, raglan sleeves, and an absence of ribbing. Some of the most challenging shaping is done at the start. You can see the little holes caused by the radial increases in the front chest and the back (whereas the sleeve increases are introduced both sides of the raglan “seam”). Then the boring, but for me rather enjoyable, stocking stitch – which is mindless with circular needles. The plain jumper is decorated at neck and hems with eyelets which can be threaded through with narrow velvet ribbon. I don’t have any but like the idea of a toning or contrasting colour.

With the Lorelle, because the jumper comes up from the hem up,  the sleeves are constructed separately and attached and integrated into the yoke. With Heavenly you create a place for the sleeves to go on the way down and then knit them, also from the top down. This way is just as good but it does get a little bit twisty as you knit the relatively short rows of the cuffs. I did try using the double pointed needles, but I found them very awkward and a few stitches slipped off the ends as I struggled. The Magic Loop works better for me.  But all’s well that ends well and I really like this sweater.

I knitted the extra small as the jersey has a fair amount of ease but I didn’t want flappy. Also I resisted the A line flare.

I ordered 7 balls of Lang Cashmere yarn which was a stingy reaction to the pattern, but I ran out on a Saturday evening. As we were in Lancashire, I reordered one additional ball online at about 6pm on a Saturday. And, blow me down, if the solitary ball wasn’t waiting for me on our return on Sunday evening! Excellent service Love Knitting. I stepped out of the car having just run out of yarn, unpacked our bags, joined the eighth ball and finished while watching a film on Sunday night.

I popped into playgroup to meet Esme and the children, wearing my new jersey.



Post-SWAP: Making new plans

No sooner had she crashed out of SWAP than she was already making new plans. Like the jilted lover she deal with her grief by shouting “NEXT!”

I mentioned on Saturday that I hope to create a few items for Gus this year. A bomber jacket, a pair of shorts and some trousers, and a proper pair of jeans. I have loads of time now!

I also have some plans for myself.


  • Heavenly jumper in petrol blue cashmere. I have started this and aim to have it finished by Monday 13 March so I can take it to France. Progress so far:

    The colour of the sample is much truer than my photo shows – it is  a proper petrol blue. It is a top down jersey with a yoke, similar to the Lorelle. I will show it to you next week, assuming I finish in time. It takes 8 balls of wool so I am planning to knit one a day. That should be do-able.

  • The Fara Raglan colourwork jumper

    I got a bit stuck with this as I was behind on the jacket for Gus. But once I finish the Heavenly I will get back to it. You can see that my colour bands are a bit tight, although improving. Dear knitting-readers have advised steaming once knitted so I will try that.

  • A second Ankestrick jumper also in cashmere – this time brown and green. I ordered the yarn from Love Knitting (they had a good 25% discount). They have to bring them in from America so I will have to wait a little while. Hey no problem…!
  • use the remaining green cashmere yarn from Gus’s jumper to make something for myself.


  • I have caught the red bug from Stephanie. I think I need a red coat. I found some beautiful red fabric from Paul Smith (wool and mohair) in Simply Fabrics. I have to be careful with my reds. While I need a true red, or one with a little blue in I don’t look good in the most strident shades. I chose this red as it seems to have just a little bit of softness to the colour (slightly pinky). I plan to make the Burda coat 08/1012. I have made this for my daughter Esme (in brown) and she has worn it to destruction. It is a nice coat with an asymmetric fastening. It’s (to my mind) much prettier than the Paul Smith pea coat which doesn’t look very classy with it’s too obvious buttons and bulky shaping.
  • I want to make some cord trousers from the left overs from Gus’s pants. If I wear them with the green jumper we will look like twins. Ha ha. I don’t have a beard (well just the odd, stray hair!)
  • I would like a comfortable dress. This Burda dress is very pretty with its pleated asymmetry. Maybe made from the blue/brown fabric I showed you recently or something a bit lighter. Spring is coming.
  • I want to make a trouser suit, as trailed earlier. I bought the McQueen pattern. And some blue-grey mohair, again ex-Paul Smith. This is a major project, even more exacting than the jacket I made for Gus. I would ideally like to make this in a tailoring class where I can get some help with the fitting and construction (although this jacket uses that same stretch jersey interfacing!).

    Does it all work together? Yes, sort of. There is a blue/brown/red/green theme. Luckily because all my colours work well together (cool palette) I am not too worried. But the plan goes from super casual (the pull up pants) to the formal McQueen designer trouser suit. It’s definitely not a SWAP, but – with no particular time frame – that’s my plan and I hope to stick to it.

Sewing with a Plan 2017 #12 – decision time

Thank you for all giving me your advice on the MANSWAP – where I try to create an 11 piece wardrobe for my son in four months (now two).

I have four out of 11 garments done. If I was pacing myself that should be five and a half by now.

This week I almost completed item four – the Vogue 8988 jacket. I am pretty pleased with it. Gus too. He says he will wear it, which is very pleasing. I have learnt a great deal from this project about fitting and construction. My tailored pockets are passable and improving.

I used some good quality shoulder pads and sleeve roll to make the shoulders look really nice. I lined the sleeves with a decent, firm acetate lining and overall I think the fit is good, especially given the long hard road to get there.

Vogue 8988
Almost complete Vogue 8988 jacket (button-hole and button still to be done)

With just two months to go seven garments is almost one a week. The blue jacket took me at least three weeks just to sew. A second one would be quicker – maybe one and a half weeks if all the planets were aligned. If I had a few spare days leave I could take off time to do this project.

I could include a RTW item (say a shirt) and make a quick T-shirt. So while I think finishing on time would still be technically feasible it would involve too many sacrifices and compromises. I would have the satisfaction of getting the boy’s wardrobe done. And I know I would be really proud of it. I really like what I have made so far, and I am learning a great deal that will help the remaining garments go more quickly. But I think on balance I am going to call it a day in terms of SWAP. I did, briefly, play with the idea of submitting what I have been making for myself, plus a few other items I can knock off fairly fast. But no. I have nothing to prove and I am in this for fun, and for learning. Competition (except against myself) is irrelevant.

So that is the end of the SWAP time-table for me. I think I will make up more clothes for Gus, and I will write them up as I do them, but I want to knit, and read, and make myself a few items. So right now the pressure of a time-table makes little sense.

Over time I will be contributing to Gus’s wardrobe, and Gus (who is helpful, engaging, patient and kind) will be helping me to develop my skills. I really appreciate his willingness to be featured on these pages and you will hear from him again.

By Christmas I plan a more modest wardrobe for my son, as follows.

Gus’s wardrobe

  • A second, tailored jacket (However Gus finds the style of the navy jacket “old-fashioned” which I guess it is – maybe classic).
  • A painted silk bomber jacket (Gus and I are both looking forward to this project)
  • Blue trousers (Brenda’s kind donation)
  • Tailored summer shorts (Gus actually “needs” these)
  • Jeans (I am keen on the learning involved in this project).

The two tailored shirts are “nice to have” but I think I might prefer to just buy them. These cost about £25 from Uniqlo and I know home-made will not be superior. So until I get the shirt-urge maybe I can let myself off for now. However a perfect white shirt is something I do want to make at some point as I think in many ways it is the garment that sorts out the really good constructors from the also rans (that would be me).

Uniqlo men’s Oxford shirt

I don’t feel upset or worried about “giving up”. In fact I would say Gus and I are both relieved.

However I am a little bit disappointed. You see I love SWAP precisely because it is so challenging. Although beginners will find they can use it to organise their sewing it really appeals to what might be called “advanced” seamstresses. People who make their own patterns, fabric and plans. People who enjoy the more challenging “plus difficile” patterns, vintage designers or things like corsets. People who find the whole idea of an 11 piece “me-made” capsule wardrobe a fabulous idea – a little bit like being a proper designer. People who think about it for up to a year before they can get started. It seems to me (apart from one year one outfit which is also appealing for more advanced sewists) we need challenges to stretch and test us rather than just “here is something I ran up in a few hours” (which has its place too). So I am disappointed not to be continuing, but also a bit relieved because I can now do a few other things that I enjoy.

Over the next year – as I make a few more things for Gus, and myself, I shall be silently thinking about SWAP 2018 – to create a plan that is challenging and achievable, and within the rules.

A “business casual” trip to France

posted in: Organisation, Style advice | 13

Every year there is a conference in the South of France for the property industry. Even though I have worked about 26 years in this industry I have never attended the event. It just seemed a little inappropriate to go on what could be seen as a luxury event.

However sometimes business demands that one goes to events like this and I booked to go with my colleague. We plan to fly to Marseilles (with only hand luggage) and then drive, and we are spending three nights in an Airbnb to keep costs down. We have organised a couple of lunches for our local authority partners and there will be many meetings, breakfasts, events, drinks parties, one to one meetings (including one on a yacht), gala dinners, speeches, etc. As you can imagine my mind turned to my wardrobe.

If I was a man this would be an easy-peasy decision. I would travel in a dark suit and take three or four white shirts and a perhaps couple of ties. Maybe include some jeans and a T-shirt for travelling home, plus trainers and shorts so I could run along the beach.

For me it was a lot more challenging as I want business casual but I also want thoroughly professional and convincing.

I thought I would share with you what I have packed as it is an interesting exercise in putting together a capsule wardrobe. I have to admit that this selection is mainly RTW but that is just how it is this time. Most of what I am taking with me could have been hand-made.

Firstly for a short trip I would always choose separates as this gives maximum flexibility. The fabrics include wool, cotton, linen, and jersey.

The clothes are mainly red/deep pink, petrol and beige, but this is not a strict palette. My blue jacket and navy shoes mean I have three shades of blue going on here, plus brown one day for a change. I have to wear some of the tops twice, but because I feel the need to change for the evening they will not be worn for more than about 16 hours. At a push I could launder the tops because we are staying in a flat not an hotel. I have used hotel laundry services before.

The “wildcard” is the pleated, calf length green skirt that I only added at the end as an after thought. I don’t really need it but it gives a little glamour. I will pack some silver jewellery to make a bit more of the outfits, but other than underwear, wash bag, Kindle and phone this is all I will take.

I have chosen clothes which are

Day 1 Travel day 

Get up early to catch a 7am flight, arrive in Marseilles and drive for 2.5 hours to Cannes, straight to lunch. Outfit worn with petrol tights.

Day 1 Evening (white blouse (worn over beige T if cold), calf length full green skirt, navy tights and navy shoes)

Day 2 Day (white shirt, beige culottes, blue jacket, navy tights, navy shoes)

Day 2 Evening (Petrol blue skirt, red top, red tights and shoes)

Day 3 Day (Brown polo neck jersey, beige culottes, brown belt, brown tights, navy shoes)

Day 3 Evening (white shirt with red T over the top, beige culottes, bare legs and red shoes

Day 4 Travel Day (deep pink T shirt, green skirt, petrol tights, blue jacket and blue shoes – or whatever looks cleanest)

Looking professional but also comfortable in another country, when the weather could be very warm or pretty chilly is challenging. I am assuming I will be inside for most events but I will have to walk (quickly) from one event and venue to the other. Having comfortable, flat shoes is must. My evening shoes do have a very slight heel but are comfortable. I will probably take a coat or warm jacket too, but will decide on which one closer to the date depending on the weather forecast. I would be interested in any feedback on my choices or what you would do about a coat/raincoat/warm jacket.

Maybe I just need a nice elegant sweater. Shall I make this one? Heavenly by Ankestrick in DK petrol blue cashmere? If I drop the SWAP I could make it by 14 March. Difficult decision!


Brown and Blue

Jenny the Lilac Cat reacted to the Trump post last week by asking

The entertaining GQ clip suggests ‘brown and blue is a winning combination’. As my fashion guru do you agree?

I am with GQ on this. “Brown” and “Blue” are of course a wide range of shades and hues. GC was specifically proposing a fairly deep brown tie with a navy men’s suit. And here is a photograph of my daughter’s wedding. Shane chose a brown tie to wear with his smart navy suit and I thought it looked terrific. Absolutely spot on.

So what are the rules on wearing brown and blue together?

Let’s consider the two colours. Blue, a primary, is the cool colour. All the cool colours have blue in them. Brown on the other hand is not in the rainbow as it is not a pure colour. It is made up of a primary, plus the opposite (on the colour wheel) secondary colour. For example red (a primary) and green a secondary and red’s opposite or complementary colour) blue and orange , or yellow and purple. Effectively this means it is made from the three primaries coming together – red, yellow and blue. Brown therefore is a colour that can be warm or cool. Warm if it has lots of yellow in it, cool if the blue is stronger. Think of the sort of browns that are ochre and mustardy – these are the warm browns and the colour we probably think of when we think of brown – tan leather, donkey brown or tobacco . Orangey browns are also fairly warm – the gingers for example.  The blue browns can look more like taupe – a little smoky given the addition of lots of blue – in their light incarnation these are the lovely, neutral stone colours. Then there is dark brown, almost black. This is a cool colour.

So which browns pair well with which blues, and for whom?

For someone with warm colouring the yellowy browns are a great basic, especially if your hair is light brown, with a yellowish or reddish tone. The yellowy browns are set off very nicely with the warmer blues (teal, petrol and blues with a bit of yellow in them).

If you have cool colouring then blue is great basic in all its incarnations. Use a cool brown, like Shane’s tie above. Wear dark brown shoes with a navy suit. Or a brown Alpaca hand knit with a navy T and dark jeans.

Cyrene front view

If you have deep brown hair and blue eyes and a clear pale complexion you may have bright colouring, for you the bright blues look good with brighter browns – the cool versions. This is the colouring that really rocks the bright navy dress with tan accessories.

Muted people really can work these two colours together, especially if both of them have a greyish undertone. Lovely grey-blue with taupe – perfect.

Light colouring is set off well by lighter shades – all the pale blues, stones and light creamy browns.

To my mind deep brown and deep navy are the perfect combination for someone with deep colouring, ideally set off with white. Shane has deep-cool colouring and looks great in a dark navy suit with a white shirt and dark brown rather than black accessories. So much fresher and more interesting. With deep colouring two or more deep shades can look really nice together, eg maroon and navy, black and brown, forest green and deepest brown.

Finally brown and navy can both play the role of neutrals – they don’t shout “colour” at us. This means we tend not to tire of them. They look elegant and classy. Most neutrals look well together. Also I want to say there is no rule about about any colour not being suitable for pairing with another one. If you follow the rule that colours stick to others in their “set”, as above, they will always look harmonious together.

I have some nice fabrics that contain both brown and blue. I look forward to making these up at some point!

And here am I (cool-bright-light) in light navy, cool brown and white. This colour blocked circle dress made a virtue of the fact that each piece was huge and had to be cut from sections. I put two of my favourite colours together, offset by white.

Circle Dress by Fabrickated
Draped Circle dress

So in response to Jenny L I agree with GQ on this – blue and brown can be a winning combination.

MANSWAP #11 – the suprising construction techniques of the Vogue 8988

When I was taught the rudiments of traditional tailoring at college we were told that this was quite different from “soft tailoring”. I am not sure this word is still used much to describe the difference between proper tailoring and the quicker, easier methods of jacket construction which owe a certain amount to industrial methods.

Traditional tailoring

  • Use of duck, canvas, horse hair and other types of interfacing to create the shape of the garment
  • Mainly hand stitched using a variety of specialist stitches
  • The use of pad-stitching to create the roll of the collar and the break of the lapel
  • Collar construction is complex, uses steam, bias cut and pad stitching to mould and create 3-D shapes
  • Collar, stand and fall are uniquely constructed and created to provide a great fit and a lively appearance
  • Hand-stitched button holes
  • Traditional approaches – methods similar to those adopted centuries ago

Soft tailoring

  • Fusible interfacings
  • Collar and facings stitched together by machine and usually with one pass
  • Lined, but usually machine stitched and “bagged out”
  • Very little hand stitching, if any
  • Basic method is derived from factory production techniques

Up until now I had never made a soft tailored item. Many of the vintage patterns I have made I have used traditional tailoring techniques – pad-stitching, hand sewn linings etc.  Vogue patterns are usually based on soft tailoring approaches, although there are some patterns that provide what they call “couture” techniques. Some times there are two options – a more involved approach and a quicker version.

The pattern I used for Gus’s jacket is soft tailoring. This is not an approach I have tried before so I had lots of learn.

V 8988 Front

Fusible, stretch, jersey interfacing

This was the most surprising ingredient. I had to order it specially from Amazon. The instructions included insist this product should not be used on non-stretch fabrics. It worked quite well in fact and was a bit of a revelation. I would say this product stabilises the fabric rather than creates shape and structure. The jacket is really very soft. The interfacing is used on the front and back facings, the collar and the pocket flaps, and at the hem lines. It is very quick as it sticks on with a hot iron and I am not complaining, but it is very different to tailoring.

Unlined jacket

I usually line everything – jackets, coats, skirts, dresses. Usually not trousers but that is because I have tended to use cotton fabrics for trousers. But anything in wool I would line. So I was pretty suprised that this jacket is not lined, apart from the sleeves. I bound the CB seam with some home made bias binding but otherwise the design is such that most of it is enclosed, French seamed (yes – I was suprised too!)

Mitred cuffs

This was a great fun technique.

No pad stitching on the collar or rever

What can I say – big disappointment, but it seems to work OK under the circumstances.

Four pockets

I must have done a few jetted, or welt, or flap pockets in the past, but I had to learn again when I made Gus’s trousers (the double welt pocket). This time I had to do a couple of welt pockets with flaps, a slanted flap and an inside double welt pocket. That was such a challenging piece of work that made up for all the time saving with the stretch interfacing. One of the pockets I did four times! I made so many silly mistakes. Mainly because the kids were around and making a racket and I lost my concentration. Anyway the experience was positive, they look sort of OK and I am much more relaxed about doing these tailored pocket types.

Also I need to make a few alterations at this stage. There is too much width across the back at the underarm. I will put the sleeve in again, taking a little out of the back and the sleeve. Otherwise the fit is not too bad. I am going to take a little out of the back – a little a CB and a little bit more at the sleeve from the pitch point to the underarm seam.

V 8988 Back

In the meantime I have been looking at my button collection, which has recently grown.

I have been buying second hand leather buttons whenever I see them as they are such a great classic button that looks nice on a jacket. I have put them on a few of my own jackets. I like the old ones with a well worn look. My friend Bridget brought me some as a present the other day when they came round for dinner (and two Vogue knitting books). I love the way people in the sewing community do this – it is so kind and always a thrill. I think I will use the dark brown ones. What do you think?







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