Tribute August: Handmade by Alison Skirt

This month I have been co-hosting Tribute Month on the Sewcialists blog (with Inge) so last week I knew I had to get my tribute posted in time. And then technology didn’t like me editing photos and then didn’t like me uploading them. So this post has been a very long time coming, especially because the inspiration is from January this year!

My inspiration for this make was Handmade By Carolyn. If you read her blog (go and have a look now…) you might be a bit surprised by the connection; we don’t wear the same silhouettes and we definitely don’t wear the same colours, but I still find Carolyn super inspiring. She makes everything she wears (including shoes!!), she spent a year drawing sketches of every handmade outfit she wore, and she sews investment pieces that are well made and well thought out.

The pieces that really caught my eye were her Alabama Chanin skirt and top. 

The overall look is really far away from something I would wear, but I loved the process of creating the fabric; One layer of fabric is stencilled in a pretty design and appliquéd to another under-layer, before the paint is cut-away to reveal the final intricate fabric. SO clever and so, so time-consuming.

I really liked the idea of creating my own fabric, and I especially loved the thought of playing with tone-on-tone designs, but I thought it would be best to stick with what I knew – regular embroidery- to begin with. When I saw the Sewaholic Gabriola skirt I knew that the panels would be great for playing with some subtle designs.

d

Well maybe not so subtle! I was tempted by this amazing pink linen on Goldhawk Road and convinced to buy it by Fiona. If Carolyn has her trusted colour palette she revisits, bright pink is definitely part of my regular summer wardrobe! I measured the panels on my finished blue skirt and then played around with lots of swirls, coils, butterflies, birds and paisley patterns (all from Doodle Stitching CD) to come up with a pattern, which I then traced onto the pre-cut fabric with carbon paper. The embroidery was done with chain stitch, back stitch and some French knots; the first panel was really fun to do, but it was trickier making sure the second panel was symmetrical enough.

c

Once the embroidery was all done, sewing up the skirt was really quick (despite the long seams) since I had previously cut and interfaced all the pieces. I was worried how the linen would survive washing so I pinked and top-stitched down the seams and used my new-to-me overlocker around the hem before turning it up. In hindsight I could have taken the hem up a teeny bit more, as there have been some slight mishaps caused by tripping over my feet while wearing this.

a I couldn’t find a zipper to match the fabric at all so got a clear invisible zipper but it broke just after I inserted it (I’ve had another invisible zipper break recently, where the teeth ripped away from the tape, so maybe it is time I learned to do regular ones nicely). I was desperate to finish the skirt, following an emergency trip to get extra thread while hemming it, so decided to go for a deliberately contrasting lace zipper.

bThis definitely was a quicker option than the Alabama Chanin process Carolyn has used, but it was probably the best way to ease myself into the idea of creating my own bespoke embellished fabric. I should confess that I had originally planned to embroider the back panels but abandoned that idea while midway through the first front piece, so maybe it was best I didn’t start with embellishing an entire garment!

I timed this make for the end of the heatwave and sadly the weather in the UK is VERY autumnal at the moment so this skirt probably needs to go away* until the spring, but it was so much fun and so swishy to wear for a couple of weeks over summer.

*I only wear maxi dresses and skirts in the summer, but I have seen them advertised for autumn/winter. I would love it if someone could explain how one wears a maxi skirt in drizzly, cold weather without it getting super messy, and without the need for wearing heels!

 

Oonapalooza Birthday Maxi Dress

Technical difficulties meant I couldn’t blog my Ooonapalooza dress in time to be counted on Oona’s round up but I’m still excited to show you all this year’s birthday dress.

birthday a

There is a lot of love in the sewing world for African wax print fabrics, but usually the colours or designs aren’t me. Until I saw this fabric in one of the shops off Walthamstow market; purple, pink and turquoise! The poor woman in the shop had to search high and low for a piece of the fabric, until she decided to just give me the piece hanging on display. butterflies and oonapalooza 207

Sticking with the Sewcialist theme I knew I had to make an Anna maxi dress. At the By Hand London Kickstarter party there were so many wax print Annas I had to copy the cool kids.

butterflies and oonapalooza 243

With so many panels on the skirt I knew pattern matching was going to be tricky. I shortened the skirt pieces and they just fit on the fabric along the cross-grain. I folded the fabric so that the top cut edge matched the bottom layer as much as possible, then laid out the skirt pieces in the order they would be sewn together.

fabric layoutBecause the print is so zig-zaggy and jagged I think it worked! The back skirt pieces don’t match perfectly but they are close enough and the dress is busy enough it isn’t too noticeable.

birthday c

 

Having made Anna before (and done extensive fitting previously) this was pretty straightforward to make. I added a waist band as I think it looks better on me, and made the front slit start a good few inches lower down. It took time because the pieces and seams were so long and I did lovely French seams everywhere, which I then top-stitched down (and top-stitched on the other side of the seam too!) so each seam took double triple the time. I bound the neckline, armholes, hem and waist seams with purple bias binding so the insides are as nice as the outside.butterflies and oonapalooza 208

This is my first Anna maxi and I loved how elegant it looks, but super practical – the front slit allowed for sitting cross-legged on a picnic blanket and running around playing frisbee.birthday b

And of course, the skirt has awesome swishy, twirly-ness!butterflies and oonapalooza 305