Sequin Top

Hello all! Today I have something to share with you that is without a doubt the sparkliest thing I have ever made. Sequins have never really called out to me until I saw this beauty at Minerva Crafts and I thought it was high time that I tried out a new to me fabric. You can read all about the making process on the Minerva Crafts blog here.

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Thanks so much for reading and to Minerva Crafts for supplying the all of the components for this make!

Lauren xx

The Refashioners 2018: Linen Buttondown Dress

Hello all! The theme for The Refashioners this year is ‘inspired by’ and I took a dress donated to me by Grandpa which was much too big for me and made it into the button down dress I’ve been lusting after all summer. You can see the inspiration image on pinterest here.

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You can see a picture of what I started with below. It was much too big in the bodice and the waist so I decided to remove the bodice, take it apart completely, cut out a new one, take in the skirt so it fit at the waist and then reattach skirt to the bodice. Easy! A few years ago I would have instantly chopped a fair bit of length off the skirt but I love the length of the skirt as it is now.

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I had just enough to cut out a strapless princess seam bodice from my existing front and back pattern pieces, then it was put together. I tried it on and made a few tweaks so that the fit was as good as I could get it. Then it was time to tackle the skirt.

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The skirt was a bit more complicated to alter than it could have been because the pockets got in the way a bit. I ended up having to take them out so I could take the skirt in properly and heavily debated putting them back in, but it was well worth the extra time. I do wish that I’d made the pockets a bit bigger though because fitting my phone in them is a bit of a squeeze.

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The only problem with the length of the skirt is that there’s quite a lot of fabric in it, which in turn makes it quite heavy. The weight of the skirt then dragged down the bodice, making the waist seam uneven. To battle that I added in a ribbon waist stay to stabilize the waist seam, anchoring the ribbon at each seam, fastening with a couple of hooks and eyes in the centre front.

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The insides were all overlocked and the top edge bound. I think that there’s possibly too much fullness in the centre back of the skirt but I’m not worried enough about it to change it. I wonder what would have happened if I had pleated out the excess in the skirt instead of removing it at the side seams. It would have meant that I wouldn’t have had to take the pockets out and then put them back in. Oh, the gift of hindsight!

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This dress premiered for a concert at the Royal Albert Hall and it was just perfect for the occasion. It’s one of those pieces of clothing that motivates me to walk a little taller and dare I say, even strut a little. The power of clothing eh!

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Thanks very much for reading and to Portia for hosting the refashioners again this year!

Lauren xx

Tartan Dress

Hello all!

Today I have to show you a dress I made all the way back in January for my trip to Vienna. It came back out of the wardrobe for my trip to New Zealand, because it's pretty wintery there at the moment and I finally have some pictures to show you!

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This tartan wool was donated to me by a friend and it had to be a shift dress due to the amount of fabric that I had. I chose to drape it on the stand because that would give me the maximum control over the placement of the checks. I decided to have the baby blue stripe at the centre front, with a darker stripe on either side. The shaping is achieved by fish eye darts hidden in the darker stripes and through the side seams. I pinned the side seams to fit the mannequin quite snugly but when I tried it on it was far too tight. I wanted a nicely curved silhouette but I didn't want it tight so I loosened the side seams considerably. The lovely thing about this wool is that it moulds to the body beautifully. 

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The back was slightly trickier to fit, and in the end I had to sacrifice the check matching to get the darts to draw in the fabric where it was needed. At least I could match it up horizontally and luckily I don't have to look at the back. 

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Once the fitting was all sorted it was pretty quick to put together. There's a zip in the side seam as to not disrupt the check in the centre back and the armholes and neckline are bias bound. I deliberately drafted the armholes quite low to allow for wearing thick jumpers underneath. The hem is turned up the minimum amount possible, but it's still a pretty short dress. I figure with thick tights I can just about get away with it. Looking at the zip now it's definitely not straight, and this was before I'd learned how to do them properly (thank you Closet Case Patterns for that tutorial) so that's something to really concentrate on in my next dress. 

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In terms of changes I'd make, the neckline is just slightly too high so I'd lower it just a tad. Other than that I'm absolutely in love with the fit of this dress. It skims my body just how I wanted it to, giving me some shape but not being super tight. I'm quite picky with tartans but I love the colours in this one, and it definitely does a good job of cheering me up on those cold winter days. Depending on how slippery my tights are the bottom half of the dress sometimes rides up when I walk so next time I would consider adding a lining. 

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Now I just need to figure out how to make a paper pattern from this dress so I can make some more!

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Thank you so much for reading and to Edward for taking these photos at the beautiful botanical gardens in Wellington!

Lauren xx

Stripey Top

Hello all! Today I’ve got to share with you a new top of mine for this months Minerva make. A good navy stripe is very hard to come by so when I saw this one I pounced. I wanted an off the shoulder crop top to add to my wardrobe so that is what I made!

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You can read all about the making process on the Minerva Crafts blog here

Thanks for reading and to Minerva Crafts for providing the supplies for this project!

Lauren xx

Summer Ball Dress 2018

Hello all!

Today I have to share with you the summer ball dress from my third and final year of university. I'm not going to lie to you, this years dress was a bit of a rushed affair. The thing is, I had a plan. I was going to make a scuba dress which would take a couple of hours at most and at 2 days before the ball I had plenty of time. However, after I'd cut out this scuba dress and the moment I tried it on I knew that I looked like sausage meat in a floral scuba casing and needed a plan B. At the same time I was having this realisation my boyfriend had just cut out the tie I was helping him to make out of the scraps of the teal silk left over from a BHL Anna dress I made a few years ago. I knew that I wanted a dress out of the scraps of the scraps of that teal silk, and suddenly it was 3pm the afternoon before the ball and I had until midnight to draft, construct and finish the dress. Totally doable right?

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At first I wanted something drapey, but without access to a mannequin it just wasn't going to work.  I did try to use myself as a human mannequin, but I'm not that flexible and don't react well to having pins stuck into me. This meant that it had to be drafted on paper. I looked at the patterns I had and the BHL Holly jumpsuit jumped out at me. I ended up using only the front bodice piece from the pattern (mainly because I'd lost the back bodice pieces) and splicing together  side back and centre back pieces from a strapless bodice block I had laying around. The skirt is a quarter circle skirt drafted with the BHL circle skirt calculator. 

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I managed to squeeze out the dress from the scraps left over and then it was time for construction. The bodice was sewn together and then the skirt attached. The straps were pinned on and then it was time to work out the fit. I fiddled around with the drape of the pleats in the front bodice and ended up tacking them down where I wanted them. I don't think that there was quite enough space so next time I would add more room in. Excess width was taken out from each underarm and down the centre back for a snug fit. What I could not get rid of were horizontal wrinkles in the back bodice, which had I had more time and fabric I could have pinned out the excess and recut. Sadly at this point it was 9.30pm and this was not going to happen, so after a bit of a paddy I had to make peace with them. There's a lapped zipper in the centre back which isn't ideal but I was lucky that I had one lying around to use. 

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Then it was time for the finishing touches, bias binding the armholes which continued into the straps, and bias binding on the hem, both of which were slipstitched so the finishing would be as invisible as possible. I spent the next hour or so doing little alterations just to minimise the wrinkles as much as possible, then it was midnight and time to call it a day. 

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I found it really frustrating to finish a garment which was less than perfect, because over the last couple of years I've really made the effort to perfect fit and it felt like a backwards step. However, sometimes you've got to cut yourself a little bit of slack and admit that that's the best you can do in a tight situation. I wore my dress for summer ball and had a wonderful wonderful time which is what mattered. 

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Thanks for reading and to Edward for taking the photos on a beautiful beach in Hawaii!

Lauren xx

Black Dungarees

Hello all!

Way back in April I found out that I was going on tour for 6 weeks. I had to fit everything into a carry on case so the most capsule of capsule wardrobes had to be worked out. As a dresser on a show the dress code is all black. Long sleeves, full length trousers, as little skin as possible. Space was at a premium which meant that it wasn't worth bringing many clothes that weren't black. I ended up packing 3 pairs of black bottoms (jeans, dungarees and trousers) and I only ended up wearing the first 2. The trousers just weren't comfortable enough to be worth wearing for the long days that I was working. In terms of tops I brought 4 or 5 black tops, 2 coloured t shirts and a patterned shirt (that I am incidentally wearing in the pictures for this blog post). I brought my polar bear pjs but ended up not wearing them because sleeping on the tour bus was too hot, so I ended up grabbing some sleep shorts while I was on tour. It worked swimmingly as a capsule wardrobe because black on black automatically goes together but was extremely boring and I missed having fun with my outfit choices. Anyway, I'm finally getting round to blogging the dungarees I made for tour. 

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The fabric is a black bottom weight stretch cotton that the man at Leicester market found for me. I think I paid something like £8 for 2m. It's very pleasant to wear against the skin and the stretch content meant that I could be as flexible as I needed to be, especially when my work was so practically based. Cutting out was very straightforward and it sewed together beautifully.

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Patternwise I nabbed the bib from Closet Case Patterns Jenny Overalls and plonked it onto my self drafted trousers which you can see other versions of here and here. I wish I'd taken out the front darts because they look a bit silly on dungarees, but I think the leg proportions are perfect. I love a good rolled up hem on a trouser at the moment!

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Pocketswise I have the bib pocket and the front pockets which I made sure were deep enough for my phone. I ran out of time for back pockets, but I did cut them out so maybe one day. The bib pocket has stretched out a bit because I've shoved my phone in there so often so next time I'd stabilise that bit with some twill tape.

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I didn't use dungaree buckles to attach the bibs and the straps because they wouldn't be appropriate to wear backstage so I sewed buttons to the bib and buttonholes to the straps and they fasten that way instead. 

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They got washed a lot over the 6 weeks because they were pretty much 50% of what I was wearing and I love how the edges of the bib are ageing. It just gives the garment that little bit more depth. 

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Overall they were a tremendous success and I feel very Mamma Mia in them (which is obviously only ever a good thing). If I can find the right fabric I'd love to make some more summery ones, or go full Mamma Mia and make some navy dungarees.   

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Thanks very much for reading and to Ed for taking pictures in the beautiful San Fransisco botanical gardens!

Lauren xx

Closet Case Patterns Charlie Caftan

Hello all! 

For this months Minerva Crafts project I wanted to make something to combat this crazy heat that we've been having. The Charlie Caftan is as light and breezy as you can possibly get before stripping down to a bikini so this was what I decided to make! 

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 You can read all about the making process over on the Minerva Crafts blog here.

Thanks for reading and to Minerva Crafts for providing the supplies for this project!

Lauren xx

Exploring British Fabrics

Hello all!

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Following my dissertation on making an outfit from British materials I have become passionate about keeping my carbon footprint as small as possible. I like knowing exactly where my fabric has come from, and that it is ethically produced. I would like to make using British fabrics more accessible to the home sewers of today and I have made this survey to see whether there is any demand for this. 

I would be much obliged if you could take a second to fill out my survey and let me know what you think to the idea!

The link to the survey is here.

Many thanks,

Lauren xx

Jenny Overalls

Hello all! 

Sorry it's been long time no blog. I was working as a wardrobe assistant on tour for 6 weeks and in the last month or so I've been busy finishing my degree! Now uni is over I'm excited to make all of the things and to show you everything I've made in the last few months! First up, I have these Jenny Overalls to share with you which I tested for Heather Lou way back before Easter.

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First of all, let me tell you about the fabric, which I think takes these overalls to the next level. The fabric is actually a tablecloth I bought in Perth, Australia when I visited there with my family many moons ago. I really wanted to use the border print to its full potential and have a lot of fun with it while doing so. This did mean the cutting out took forever, but it was well worth it. 

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After the cutting out, it all went quite smoothly and it was very satisfying to watch everything match up. I'm really really pleased with how the bib turned out. The pocket is almost invisible! The colours in this print are all of my favourites. 

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The only thing I'm going to alter is the slight gape in the waistband at the centre back. I'm going to take a dart out of this pair, but for my next pair I'll do it properly.

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I was sewing these up post haste for a party and ran out of time to put the back pockets on and I do miss them. I think that they are quite necessary to break up the rear view. 

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I really love the fit of the bib around the bust. It curves so beautifully without any gaping. 

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All in all, I think that these overalls are the jazziest piece of clothing I have ever owned and I love them to pieces. I'd like to try them next time perhaps with a slightly more cropped length. 

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Thank you so much for reading!

Lauren xx

Off the shoulder floral dress

Hello all! This months Minerva project is a bit of a departure from the norm for me. A fitted silhouette is something I have avoided as I was always conscious that my figure wasn't a typical one that would suit a more fitted shape.  However, trying new things is good and I wanted to give it a go with this dress. 

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You can read all about the making process over at the Minerva Crafts blog here.

Thanks for reading and to Minerva Crafts for providing the supplies for this project!

Lauren xx

Polar Bear Pajamas

Hello all! I'm going on tour  and I wanted some fun pajamas to wear on the tour bus, which is where this panda jersey from Minerva Crafts came into play. They were very quick to sew up and I used two well loved patterns from my stash: the Grainline Lark tee and the True Bias Hudson pants. 

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You can read all about the making process over at the Minerva blog here. 

Thanks for reading and to Minerva Crafts for providing the materials for this project!

Lauren xx

A British Oufit: The Whole Ensemble

Hello all! This is it, my British bra, pants, shirt, trousers and shoes are finished. The process has been quite a huge learning curve and I'm so pleased that I've had the time and the opportunity to explore local fabrics, natural dyeing, learn how to knit and to make shoes amongst many other things for my dissertation. 

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The silk shirt really is the wardrobe staple that I wanted it to be, it's only major drawback being that the fabric is slightly sheer. There are a couple of niggles with my self drafted pattern and those would be that the cuffs are too tight, the sleeves are slightly too short and the hem is slightly too long. I'm really pleased with the insides of the shirt which are pretty much all french seamed. 

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The buttons work super well, and I love the rustic element that they give to the shirt. Next time I'll love to make some Dorset buttons with a wire ring base and thread wound around it. 

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Working downwards, the trousers are possibly my favourite part of the whole ensemble. I love the amount of ease in the leg, and the high waistline. Khaki green is a really versatile colour in my wardrobe and I wear them all the time. I like the slightly cropped length, and I think it works well with the clogs. 

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I would make the trouser pockets slightly deeper next time just to give me a bit more room. A friend pointed out that they look quite empty at the back, and I agree that some welt pockets would work well.

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I'm very pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the clogs look, but I think they will need a bit of breaking in so my feet don't get torn to shreds. I'd love to learn how to do shoe-making 'properly'.

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And finally, the jumper! I'm so proud of this jumper. This is the first thing I've ever knitted and I would hope that you wouldn't be able to tell. I do wish that it was just a bit longer, and that the neckline was less open so the shirt wouldn't look so silly when worn underneath it. I think that the neckline has stretched since I started knitting it so I need to research how to prevent that in the future. The neckline does look wonderfully elegant when worn on it's own, but it just looks silly when layered. 

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I love how the colour scheme of the outfit has worked out. The different colours in the jumper add another dimension and I think it works really well with the khaki of the trousers. The neutral shirt and shoes are really versatile and blend in seamlessly with the two stronger colours in the outfit. 

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So there it is, my complete British outfit. To learn about the making process you can find all of the relevant blog posts here. Thank you so much for following along with the whole process, to everyone at college who helped me out and to Nicki from This is Moonlight for giving me the inspiration for this project. It's been a lot of fun. 

Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Making the Trousers

Hello all, today is the final 'making of' post before the final reveal! I had my weld dyed wool and silk lining and it was time to get cracking with the trousers. As I didn't have a zip at my disposal (not British metal) I had to come up with another type of fastening. I looked at a couple of options, and found the technique that Megan Nielsen uses in her Flint trousers pattern with a concealed pocket opening to be my favourite.

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First I needed a basic trouser pattern which I found in Winnie Aldrich's basic pattern cutting book. This I drafted to my measurements, cut out and sewed up in calico for a fitting. It turned out rather too tight at the hips (illustrated by the drag lines around that area) and a little gapey at the centre back (excess pinned out). 

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The next step was to take them off, give myself some more room in the hips and pop them back on again. When this fit issue was remedied I moved on to the width of the legs. The width of the left leg was pinned closer to the leg than the right one and I decided that I liked the slightly looser leg. I also sat down in them just to be sure that they were comfortable to sit in. 

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The shaded area below is how much I shaved off the width of the leg. 

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In the holidays I ended up using this pattern to construct my checked trousers and to give it a bit of a trial run before I committed to my very expensive fabric. I ended up taking in the crotch slightly which I did in my final pair, and I also slimmed down the legs a bit. I left the legs as they were before this alteration for the final pair though. I think they hang much better in a weightier fabric. 

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After the holidays I was then ready to get cracking on the real thing. The outer and the lining pieces were all cut out and put together. I french seamed the pockets with the lining so I wouldn't have wool rubbing against my skin. I made leather buttons from some of the leather scraps left over from making my clogs. They are actually quite irritating against the skin, so next time I would find something else to substitute them with. The buttons are only seen on the inside because they only thread I had available to me was the white silk thread that I used for my shirt, which would have been a logistical nightmare to dye. 

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In the picture below you can see how the fastening works in practice. I ended up adding the ties at the last minute as a fix to stop the pocket from gaping slightly and I love the little design feature it brings to some very classic trousers. 

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It feels very luxurious to have a pair of silk lined trousers, and next time I would find a slightly heavier weight silk as the wool can sometimes still feel a little prickly through the lining. First both the lining and the outer hems were attached to the cuffs but that was a bad idea because it resulted in them hanging very oddly. Now the lining and outer are hemmed seperately and are joined with swing tacks at the side seam and inseam. 

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I had slight issues with the trouser cuffs, and realised after sewing them that they really needed a bit of negative ease to look any good, so out they came, width adjusted and in they went again. 

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That's the last element of my outfit completed! Next you get to see the final ensemble worn so you can see how everything fits and looks together. 

Thanks for reading,

Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Dyeing the wool (trousers)

Hello all! It's time to document the final element of my British Outfit; the trousers. I sourced my wool from Middle Campscott Farm in Devon for £30.50 per metre. The natural colour of the wool is a pale cream and I knew immediately that I would have to dye it, partially for aesthetic reasons and partially because cream trousers are practically an open invitation for stains. I looked at lots of different options for dyeing my wool, including onion skins, oak galls, leaf printing and woad. The red onion skins gave a lovely rust colour when I tested them but that was to a ratio of 8 onions per 10cm square of fabric. However, I was not up for the peeling, or eating of that many onions. Oak galls would have given me the dark black colour that I was after, but by the time I was hunting for them they had just gone out of season and the only supplier I found sourced them from Germany. Leaf printing did not work very well, perhaps due to the texture of the wool, the leaves used or my inexperience. Woad would have given me a lovely blue but would have cost me £40 for the shade of blue that I wanted for 2m of wool and involved chemicals that I did not want to use. 

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Red onion dye sample

This left me with one option: weld. I had first counted weld out of the equation as it is primarily a yellow dye, however theoretically I could use iron to make it more of a khaki green colour. I bought 500g of it from woad-inc to match my 500g of fabric and got going! Before I did anything with the weld I had to make my own iron water as I hadn't found any iron oxide that was produced in the UK. This meant that I had to make my own. Later on I discovered that you can buy some from The Outside Dyer on Etsy. I popped down to the scenic department at uni and procured some rusty nails which I stuck in water for a week or two until the water was a gold-y brown colour. 

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I added the fabric to a pot of water, strained in the iron water and simmered for 10 minutes. Next time I'd add the iron water before the fabric because I felt that the iron concentrated on certain parts of the fabric so the dye was not as even as it could have been. I had silk fabric in there with the wool as that was going to be the lining for my trousers which I wanted to be the same colour. 

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Next it was time to start the weld dyeing process. First the woad was bundled into muslin and placed into boiling water to simmer for 1 hour and left overnight. You can see the colour difference of the water in the pictures below.

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In the morning I removed my bundle and replaced it with the fabric to be dyed. This was then simmered for 1 hour. 

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Then I rinsed all of the excess dye out of the fabric and hung it to dry. I ended up putting the wool on the spin cycle in the washing machine because otherwise it would quite frankly have been a slip hazard with all of the dripping that was going on. I was really quite pleasantly surprised with the experiment, considering I had done no trial run I was really pleased with the colour achieved. 

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Next up, the making of the trousers!

Thanks for reading,

Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Knitting the Jumper

Hello all! Today I'm going to share the process of knitting my first thing ever. I've dabbled in knitting before, but never more than a few rows of something or other. I remember thinking when I was little and had learned to french knit, that it was all I needed to know, and then I could just sew each row together to magically make a jumper. Obviously it's easier to just learn how to knit, and that's why I included a knitted jumper as part of the British Made outfit I'm making for my dissertation. This way I had to learn how to knit, with no opting out. 

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When I first decided that I wanted to knit a jumper, I wanted to make this fancy (obviously machine knitted) crossover jumper found on pinterest. When I started looking for a pattern I soon realised that as a first project I needed to keep it simple if I had any hope of completing it. I then decided to go for a cropped jumper with long sleeves. Easy, right? Apparently not. The closest pattern I found was the Netherton Pullover from Issue 1 of the PomPom mag. It's very simple, knitted in the round with ribbed cuffs, neckband and hem. I did briefly research drafting my own knitting pattern but soon found that it would be a complicated process that I did not have the time or expertise for, unfortunately. This is something I would like to explore in the future though. 

I used 500g Bluefaced Leicester wool which I had already dyed with elderberries. This cost me the pricely sum of £45.48. The first step was to take the hanks that had been dyed and wind them into balls. Thanks to all of the friends that helped me with this step. Below you can see Paul and Liam winding like pros. 

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I started the jumper in November and finished it in January, so in total it took 3 months of knitting in the evenings and travelling. I did do a lot of ripping out and starting again though, so I reckon without that it would have taken 2 months. As a novice knitter, I did have a fair few difficulties. This sweater starts with the neckline ribbing which was fun, and fairly painless to do. Next was short rows, and I did not have fun with them. I had many difficulties with making one left, and so did a lot of making one right instead, which made the raglan seam a bit messy as a result. Looking back at the picture below, the neckline has stretched out a fair bit since the picture was taken, and I wonder what I could have done to prevent that. 

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As I was trying to keep the project as simple as possible I thought that I would skip the zigzag detailing at the bottom of the body, just knit down as far as I wanted, and the ribbing and then the body would be done. This didn't work out at all well for me because I didn't realise that the decreases for the ribbing were in the last row of the zigzag stitch pattern. So I had to unrip all the way to where the zigzags started and just knuckle down and figure out the stitch pattern. I'm really glad that I did work out the zigzag because it looks really pretty and I'm actually quite proud of it. 

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When the body was done it was time to get cracking on the sleeves. The sleeves on the pattern are 3/4 length and I wanted full length so I just kept going until I thought it was time to stop. Unfortunately I completely miscalculated this length and so had to rip back to before the rib started, add some more length and then finish off the sleeves again. I didn't do the zigzags for these as was indicated on the pattern because I wanted to see if I could add the decreases in without the stitch pattern, and I managed it so that worked out well. 

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When I tried on the jumper after it was finished I had 2 main issues. The first being that the wide neckline looked silly over the collar shirt that I needed to wear underneath it. The second was that it was too short in the body. I couldn't see any way past the first hurdle, but I could try and lengthen the body by blocking the jumper so that's what I did. I washed my jumper and pinned it to a towel, stretching out the body as much as I could. The issue I had was that the towel was not stable enough to keep the jumper flat, and foam would have been a better material to have pinned the jumper to, offering more resistance. I managed to add 4cm in length to the body and 5cm to the sleeves which I wanted to give a bit of extra length to. Since wearing the jumper I still found it too short and so I washed and blocked it again, managing to add another 4cm to the length of the body. 

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Overall I'm really proud of this jumper. I do like that when knitting if a mistake is made it is never irreparable. It just takes a lot of time, patience and energy to go back and do it right. I think I have just enough yarn left over to make some matching socks. 

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Thanks for reading, and to everyone who helped me on this incredibly out of my depth project!

Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Dyeing the Wool

Hello all! Now it's time to tell you about the making of the penultimate part of my outfit, the jumper. But before I could even start to learn how to knit, I had to dye the wool. The wool is Bluefaced Leicester Roving which is a DK/worsted weight and I bought 5 x 100g hanks for £45.48 which would be enough for my jumper. After reading through Jenny Dean's book, 'Wild Colour' I bookmarked all of the colours that I liked and then worked out which were available to me. The quantity of plant matter you need for natural dyeing has to be equal to the weight of the fibre so this essentially narrowed my choices down to one ingredient: elderberries. Luckily in the summer the hedgerows were full of them and I could easily find the quantity that I needed for no money whatsoever. (Many thanks to Andrea for pointing me in the right direction to find them.)  

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First I washed the wool and made sure it was thoroughly wet. While it was soaking I crushed and simmered the berries for 1 hour and strained off the dye liquid.

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I added the dye liquid and alum (the mordant) into the pot, added the wool and simmered it for 1 hour. Then the heat was turned off and the dye was left to soak in the fibres as much as possible overnight.

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Below you can see how much dye the wool had taken after a couple of hours. 

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All in all, I have mixed feelings about how it turned out. The ratio of berries to fibre gave me very muted colours. Next time I'd increase the ratio of berries. There's some surprise blue in there which I wasn't expecting. This could be because the alum was added to the dye pot, as opposed to mordanting the fibre beforehand. It could also be because I didn't untwist each hank before I put it in the dye pot. If all 5 hanks were just in 1 loop as they are on the washing line in the dye pot I don't think they would have fit and I would be concerned about them getting all tangled together. It is something to consider next time though. The mixed colour palette has grown on me and I think it looks very nicely variegated once the jumper is knitted up. 

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Thanks for reading,

Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Making the Clogs

Hello all! This is the point in my British Outfit project in which I go properly out of my depth. I have never attempted shoes before, and here I am attempting to do it with British materials, making the job at hand 100 times harder. When researching making shoes I decided that I had 3 options: clogs, ballet pumps or espadrilles. Ballet pumps were quickly out of the equation because glue is heavily featured in their construction. I decided that espadrilles would be my best bet if I could just source some British rope. Unfortunately, as far as I could find out, British rope does not exist. This left me with one option: clogs. I was very much inspired by Carolyn's clog making and decided that if she could do it, I could too. This meant that I had to try and find some British wood. Luckily I had to look no further than my Dad for this information. A keen cricketer, he was quick to point me to Hunts County Bats, a company that makes British cricket bats from British willow. I gave them a ring and a lovely man named Tony invited me to his workshop and said he'd see what he could do. 

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The first step was to  draw around a template of my foot that I had handily prepared. That guideline was then used to trim the block to the rough shape of my foot. 

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The next step was to cut in the heel and the arch, and also gently shape the top of the shoe. This was very much guesstimated as we had no point of reference. 

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When we had the shape that we wanted, Tony sanded them down using an electric sander to make them super smooth. You can see the difference it makes in the picture below, (left shoe sanded, right shoe unsanded).

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And there we have it, my beautiful clog bases! I can't thank Tony enough for his help. Without him this would have involved many hours of struggle, and I think this whole process took less than an hour.

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I oiled my clog bases with linseed oil (Thank you Dad for having it in the cupboard all ready to go) to make them a bit more waterproof and give them a nice shine. In the picture below the bottom clog has been oil and the top clog is unoiled. 

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The next step was to source some leather for the uppers. It proved to be a bit of a minefield to find leather that fit the requirements that it had to be British made with no chemical processes. It turns out that most leather (even if it is manufactured in the UK) is Chrome tanned, which is a chemical process that is quicker and therefore more cost effective than the more traditional technique of vegetable tanning leather. When I did find British veg tanned leather, it still wasn't feasible to use it for my project because most leather suppliers sell leather by the hide. I only wanted a square foot for the uppers of my sandals and couldn't afford to pay the £100+ that these hides cost. Luckily I found the company Tanner Bates who produce handmade leather goods using traditional skills, who agreed to supply me with a foot of oak-tanned leather for £30, which was much more within my means. 

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Whilst I was looking for British leather for my uppers I came across Thomas Ware and Sons, who supply English sole leather. I thought that I was all set for soles with my wooden clog bases, but I contacted them anyway and they very kindly sent me samples of their different soles: full soles, half soles, heels and insoles. I decided to attach the half soles and heels to my clog bases to give the soles of my clogs some more grip, and to prolong the life of my shoes. Unfortunately the only way to do this is glue, and this is where I had to compromise. I used Evo-Stik contact adhesive which is at least manufactured in the UK if not made from British materials. The way it works is that you apply the glue on both of the surfaces you want to adhere to each other, you let it dry until it becomes tacky, and then stick them together. Then I trimmed off the excess leather with a stanley knife which was quite a painful process, especially near the heel of the shoe.

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The next step was to work out the design which was very much directed by the lack of fastening needed. I could have easily gone for a slip on design, but I like having my heel supported and I needed these to be wearable for me.  After I looked at some inspiration images on Pinterest I played with bits of paper until I had what I wanted, and then cut the shapes out of leather.

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After I cut the leather out I found it really hard to try and get the fit right on the shoe base. In the end I had to resort to using my tutors unicorn duct tape to try and get the leather to stay where I wanted it to, but then this needed moving when the nails were hammered in. There was no way of marking the strap placement on the wood which made the whole thing a bit of a struggle. 

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Next it was time to nail the leather to the wooden base. I was originally very proud to find British made iron nails but then I was informed that they weren't suitable for my shoes and that they would split the wood. Ring shank nails were recommended to me as an alternative (the ring shank acts a bit like a screw and makes sure that they stay in the wood) but unfortunately these nails are definitely not British made. I'm quite sad about this, as this is the only element of my entire outfit that isn't at least partially British. However, there was no other way to get the leather to stick to the wood so that compromise had to be made. 

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I was very much a novice when it came to hammering in my nails. Hammering nails in straight is hard! Sadly, when I was hammering in the nails on my second shoe it went too close to the top and split the wood (as you can see in the far left picture below). After a bit of a cry and a phone call with Dad I popped down to the scenic department to see what their advice would be. Luckily Michael knew exactly what to do. We got the wonky nail out, stuck down the splintered wood with PVA glue (I know not British but it was an emergency) and then drilled a new path for the nail which wouldn't split the wood again. The middle picture below is just after the repair and the picture on the right is after it's all been sanded down. Almost as good as new!

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In the picture below you can see how the nails look on the shoes. Some of them are straighter than others, but it was a very steep learning curve. I'm really angry with myself that I sharpied the cutting lines on the back of the leather. I completely forgot that the wrong side of the material would be seen. Pencil would have been just as functional. 

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I cut a very thin strip of leather to act as a cord to tie around my ankle as a strap. Unfortunately it doesn't tie very well and I think the thin width of the tie is very much at odds with the widths of the leather strips on the rest of the shoe. I'm thinking about making some fabric ties for the ankle straps instead.  As the clog bases are handmade, they are very much sisters and not twins. This meant that it was nigh on impossible to make the crossed leather on the front of each shoe look even. Even though it measures even, it still looks a bit off which is frustrating.

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 The clogs have probably been the trickiest aspect of my British outfit so far, purely because I was going into the whole thing blind, with very little knowledge and experience. I am very proud of them though, scars and all, and I look forward to seeing how well they wear in the  next month or so. 

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Thank you very much to Dave and Michael in the Scenic department who were there for me everytime I had a question or dilemma. Your recommendations were invaluable. Thank you to Alex for lending me a sharper knife and to Amy and Bethan for holding my shoes down while I hammered the nails in and for taping my feet when I asked them too. 

Just the jumper and the trousers left to go!

Lauren xx