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

Harriet Bra and Pants

Hello all! Today I have a new underwear set to share with you. I'm going to call this my first 'proper bra' because I've only previously made bralettes and this is my first time making an underwired bra. 

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I went to Amsterdam in September, and a big motivator behind the trip was getting to go to the lingerie fabric shop there. I ended up walking about an hour and a half out of the city centre to get there and almost got blown away by the wind but it was worth it when I found the shop and the treasures it contained within. I spent a long time looking through all of the fabrics for 'the one' and this dark pink-purple stretch lace was the winner. It was however, very hard to match everything else. The straps were the closest match that I could find, and a purple powermesh was the best match for the lining and band. 

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I was given the Cloth Habit Harriet Bra pattern for my birthday so there was no excuse but to start making! I measured myself as a 28B (which is my regular size) and got cracking. I quickly established that the bra cups were too small, remeasured and cut out the 28D cups. I left the band as it was to save fabric, but next time I'd cut out the 28D all round. I'm not going to lie, it was very exciting to have to size up to a D cup and I told all of my friends. 

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After I cut out the larger cup size everything went together swimmingly. Below you can see the insides. I love how neat the finish is, but I wish I'd bought matching channeling in Amsterdam. I did buy rings and sliders while I was there, but I can't find them now so just sewed the straps straight onto the bra. I might add some metal rings and sliders later. The only alteration I made to the pattern was to cut the back band out in laces as well, as I wanted the entire bra to be lace. 

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For the pants I wanted the scallops on the waist and leg holes but wasn't quite sure how to go about it as it's quite a narrow lace. I ended up cutting out some boy short type things but the lace was too narrow and they sat far too low. I took a chance and added a gusset which actually did the trick perfectly. 

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I lined the pants completely with viscose jersey scraps left over from a minerva project because I wasn't a fan of the concept of see-through pants. Although the scalloped edges are obviously already finished I wanted to stabilize them with some elastic and figured out an ingenious way to also enclose the gusset seam allowance within that (shown below). The elastic also did the trick of securing the lining. 

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So that's my new set of underwear! This is actually the first underwire bra I've ever owned, so I'm looking forward to taking it out for a test run and seeing what I think to it. As a first impression, I'm so impressed at how flat the bridge sits, which is obviously thanks to the underwires. The pants are also a bit of a new style for me so we'll see how comfy they are in comparison to my normal ones. I have some lace and elastic left over but not enough bra strapping so I think I'll make another pair of pants to match the bra. Maybe in a more standard brief style though. 

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Thank you very much for reading and to Abby for taking the pictures!

Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Making the Shirt

Now I have my shirt buttons all ready to go, it's time to move onto the shirt. I could have easily chosen to make a wrap shirt and called it job done. However, I really wanted a white classic shirt in my wardrobe. This meant making my own buttons (see previous blog post), but I knew that it would get worn infinitely more. Plus it would be good to have a decent shirt pattern in my arsenal. 

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I used the classic shirt block from Winnie Aldrich's basic patterncutting book and made no alterations on paper. I cut it out in the main fabric which was silk habotai. It was somewhat of a novelty at this point to be able to use the fabric straight away without any long dye processes beforehand. The closest I could get to British silk thread was thread outsourced from Turkey but with the finishing done in Macclesfield, UK. I tacked it all together for the first fitting, and in the fitting I raised the back neckline, raised the sleeve so it sat more at my shoulder and pinned out some of the excess width in the sleeve. You can see the original sleeve on the left side of the shirt and the altered sleeve on the right. 

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For the second fitting I drafted, cut out and attached the collar and cuffs with the updated collar measurement. In the fitting I pinned out some more excess at the underarm and in the sleeve so it would hang evenly. Excess was also pinned out of the cuff and the sleeve width. 3cm was taken out of the side seam. I found it surprisingly tricky to get my shirt the right amount of 'oversized'. 

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I had a quick 3rd fitting after these changes were made and the only change I made was to add 1cm to the sleeve and cuff width. 

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Then it was time to get cracking on the construction for real. I started with burrito-ing the yoke and quickly learned that top-stitching and silk habotai do not play well together. 

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I chose to do tower plackets on the sleeves, but I think in hindsight they are a tad too heavy for this fabric. They are neat though, and I am proud of them. Silk organza was used as interfacing.

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I french seamed all of the insides as delicately as possible, including the sleeve heads. 

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The collar I did using the method I learnt from this blog post years ago. It never fails to give me a neat collar.

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I cut strips of organza bias binding and used that to finish the hem.

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After referring to my shirt making book I marked 7 buttonholes down the centre front of the shirt. The first is 5.5cm from the top of the buttonstand and the rest 8.5cm apart. Then there is on horizontal button in the middle of each cuff. I don't like the fact that the buttons are unevenly spaced at the top. I think it looks messy and that I can't measure accurately. I'd space them evenly next time. 

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And that's my shirt finished! Now it's just the trousers, jumper and shoes to go. 

Thanks for reading!

Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Making the Buttons

Buttons turned out to be a harder part of the project that I had anticipated. I researched glass buttons, ceramic buttons, commercially made wooden buttons, pearl buttons, horn buttons, pewter buttons and shell buttons. The only truly British buttons that I found were pewter buttons, which are too heavy for a silk shirt. This meant that I had to go DIY, and I had a go at creating my own wooden buttons, with my wonderful friend Zoe by my side. 

The first step was to go to the Scenic Arts department with my twig of choice. We cut it into tiny discs with a band saw and then drilled two little holes into each disc. 

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Next was to sand down all of the rough edges and to remove the bark on the edges. I quite liked how it looked, but I didn't want it to snag on the delicate silk fabric. The buttons on the bottom are before sanding and the buttons on the top are after sanding, and you can see how much difference it makes. 

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The last step in the button making process was to waterproof them. I soaked the buttons in Thompson's Water Seal (made in Sheffield) for a few hours and that should be enough for them to survive the washing machine. 

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I'm really proud of my little buttons and think they look so good! Here's a sneak peak of how they look on the shirt.

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Thanks for reading and to Zoe for helping me out with these!

Lauren xx

Elephant Onesie

Hello all! For the entirety of my (admittedly short) life I have coveted a soft snuggly onesie to curl up on the sofa in. Luckily Minerva Crafts had the perfect fabric to make the snuggly onesie of dreams, so that's what I chose for my February make. 

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

Thanks for reading, to Bethan for taking the pictures, to MK for trimming all of my loose threads and to Minerva Crafts for supplying the kit for this make!

Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Making the Pants

When the bra was finished it was time for the other half of the underwear. The main challenge here was again not being able to use elastic. I wasn't worried about fastenings because I could easily make a self fabric drawstring to hold them up. I used British grown silk again, but this time from a different supplier. The plan was to use the rest of the dyed fabric that I made the bra from, but I severely underestimated how much I needed and as a result didn't have enough. I chose to dye my fabric with red cabbage and you can read all about that process here.

I drafted the French knicker pattern from Pattern cutting for Lingerie, Beachwear and Leisurewear by Anne Haggar. From the get go I dropped the waist 10cm and lowered the side seam hem by 1inch. I then drew in the design lines that I was after and cut them out of Calico for a first fitting.

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For the first fitting I topstitched cotton tape on the waistband point of the panties to thread a drawstring through. The only alteration I made was to pin the excess out at each buttock.

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I adapted the pattern and made the second toile out of a drapier fabric to get a truer idea of how the panties would look in the final fabric. Truth be told, I probably should have started in a drapier fabric and skipped the Calico all together. I pinched yet more excess out of the buttock in this fitting and also took some ease out of the buttock to make them more slim fitting.

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I cut out and tacked together the panties out of the final fabric for the last fitting. I tacked them together by hand because I didn't want to leave machine holes when I unpicked the garment to sew it again for real. There were no changes this time so then I got on with putting these together for real.

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As with my bra, neat finishing was very high on the agenda. The centre front seam was pressed open and each SA was finished individually so that I'd be able to thread a drawstring through the waistband later. The centre back and side seams were french seamed and the inserts were hand flat felled. The leg holes were bias bound. 

Flatfelling in progress on the left and a finished french seam on the right. 

Flatfelling in progress on the left and a finished french seam on the right. 

When all of the seams were finished I folded down the waist twice to make a channel for the drawstring.  I top stitched it down by hand because I was very wary of distorting the delicate fabric with the sewing machine (especially as these were cut on the bias.)

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The final step was to make a little gusset which was tacked onto the crotch area of the pants. Ideally I would have used a cotton jersey, but that wasn't an option so I just went for matching silk. 

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And my pants are finished! I'm so proud of the insides. I tried to make them as delicate as possible and I think I succeeded. 

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Thank you for reading, the next post in the series will be talking about the shirt portion of the outfit!

Lauren xx

Checked Trousers

Hello all! Today I have some new trousers to show you. I bought this fabric at the same time as I bought my Padme fabric. It's a double sided wool coating that I found a remnant of sitting on the side of the longest (and narrowest) fabric shop ever. It's quite thick, but I couldn't get it out of my head that it would make great trousers, especially for my fast approaching trip to chilly Vienna. The fabric is also incredibly soft and cosy, not at all itchy or scratchy like you would expect wool to be. It was £30 in all, which is a lot for me to spend on fabric, but the quality was there and I know that I'd be paying much more than that for some wool trousers on the high street. 

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 I used the high waisted trouser pattern that I had drafted for my dissertation as a bit of a test run. I ended up taking out a bit of width from the legs to make them more slim fitted. I'll be honest, the fit of the trousers in these photos is how they look on the 3rd wear, so they've bagged out a bit at this point. Straight out of the wash they are more fitted.

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Obviously the big challenge about this fabric is the check matching, which I'm actually pretty proud of. The only thing that isn't completely matched is the waistband, which can't be done because of the darts in the front and back of the trousers.

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 There's a metal zip handpicked into the side seam and a giant popper keeping the waist band together. I tacked the side seam shut, sewed in the zip and unpicked the side seam afterwards, and yet the zip is still perfectly visible. I wonder if I should overlap next time, in expectation that the fabric will pull away from the zip a bit. The waistband is far too thick for a buttonhole which is why I went for a popper, which I haven't had any issues with while wearing it. It might be better to replace it with a hook and bar though.

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 I cut each piece separately so I could make each front and back completely identical and to make pattern-matching as easy as possible..

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 I haven't quite decided what to do about the length. Currently they work with shoes and boots, but I think they would work better with boots if they were cropped slightly. I've considered cuffs, but the fabric would be really too bulky. Pockets would be fab, but I think the steamlined look just suits this fabric better. I think I'll add pockets to my next pair though.

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Thanks for reading!

Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Cabbage Dyeing

Hello all! I'm back to talking about my dissertation today. After I made my bra, it turned out that I didn't have enough of the dyed fabric for knickers as well. I wasn't overly keen on white knickers so I got the dye pot out again. If I'd anticipated this I would have chucked the fabric in with the wool that I dyed with elderberries over the summer to get a beautiful purple. However, this was not anticipated so I decided to experiment with red cabbage for the foremost reason that it was readily available to me in Morrisons supermarket and also very cheap at 80p per cabbage. I thought that I'd have a hard time finding red cabbage that was specifically labelled as grown in the UK so first looked around all the grocers, market stalls and home food shops. They had no idea where their cabbage was from, and when I got to Morrisons I was pleasantly surprised so find their cabbage labelled 'Lincolnshire red cabbage, grown by George Read'. I've popped a picture below of the final product, and then I'll take you through the process. 

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I used the basic recipe for natural dyeing from Seamwork magazine which consisted of simmering the plant matter in a pot to extract the dye for 1 hour. Remove the plant matter, add the fabric which has been pre-soaked in water for 1 hour and simmer for another hour. I ended up simmering the fabric in the dye for 3 hours and left it in the pot overnight so that it would absorb as much dye as possible. I found that it was best to put just enough water in the pot to cover the veg, because the less water there is in there, the stronger the dye will be. 

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 This was the cabbage after it had simmered in the pot for an hour and the dye had been extracted from it. I didn't use a mordant for this process, because I'm intrigued as to how well the colour is going to hold up after repeated washing in comparison to the other fabrics that I have dyed with a mordant.

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 You can see how the colour of the fabric changes throughout the dyeing process. The first picture is straight after being dunked in the dye, the second after 3 hours of simmering and the 3rd after being left overnight.

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 Below I've included a picture of how the sample (right) and final fabric (left) compare. I used a ratio of 1 cabbage to 15cm square of fabric for the sample and a ratio of 4 cabbages to 40x140cm piece of fabric. It's funny that the final fabric is darker, because there's less cabbage to go around the larger piece of fabric. The sample is also more pink toned.

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Thanks for reading! Next time I'll be writing about the making of the knickers.

Lauren xx

Brocade Birthday Dress

Hello all! This month's Minerva make is a bit fancy. It was my 21st birthday last week and I wanted to make something special to wear. I love black and gold as a colour combo so I chose this metallic brocade to make my dress with. When it arrived however, I was a bit stumped as to what to do with it, as the scale of the print was much larger than I expected. From then on the design consisted of breaking up the print as little as possible. You can read all about the making process on the Minerva Crafts Blog here.


Thanks for reading, to Bethan for the photos and to Minerva Crafts for providing the supplies for this project!
Lauren xx

I made a hat!

Hello all! I have another, slightly off-piste thing that I made to share with you. After watching the recent BBC adaptation of Howards End I found myself incomplete without a beret of some description. You can see a picture of the main motivator here. One day I’d like to knit a beret much like the original specimen but when I was sorting through my sewing patterns and unearthed a hat pattern who was I to stand in the way of fate?

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It took no time at all to cut out, being made up of a circle for the top and a doughnut shape for the underneath. One of each was cut out of the main fabric, lining and interfacing. I used some black wool from the stash for the outer and a wine coloured lining for the inside.

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For the hat band I used an inch wide cotton tape that was folded in half and topstitched onto the inside circle of the aforementioned doughnut. The pattern said nothing about elastic but I want this hat to stay on my head so I added that into the band just in case. (After being worn around a windy Vienna I was very glad of this forethought). 

 

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After a quick trying on before adding the band I wasn't a fan of how the hat was sitting. I should note that I wasn't entirely sure how it should sit, being fairly new to the world of hats, but I knew that something had to be done if it was ever to be worn. I decided to rip out the interfacing which just made the whole thing far too stiff, and plump instead for a more floppy effect. I also made the head hole a bit bigger so it would fit on my head a bit more.

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After the hat was done I decided that it was lacking a pompom, so I hunted out some black wool from the back of the wardrobe and made a pompom with the side of 2 cardboard doughnuts. This was then sewn onto the middle of the hat. When I look at the pompom now could have been a bit mightier, but I love it just the same. All in all, the process took me an evening and was a perfect palette cleanser before tackling some more involved makes. I still haven't decided whether I like how it looks on my head, but I do know that it keeps me warmer than I would be if I were not wearing it, so surely that makes it a winner.

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Thanks for reading!

Lauren xx

Padme Battle Costume

Hello all! Today I have a project that's a bit different (and a bit tighter than usual) to share with you. My friends have a costume party for their birthday every year and we all have to show up dressed as something beginning with the letters M, K, P, R or J. (The first letters of all the names of the birthday folk). Last year I made a leotard and tutu with a tenuous 'Prima Ballerina' link. This year I went more feisty. I went for Padme, after recently re-watching the Star Wars prequels and admiring her character. As per usual, I had a limited time and budget, which narrowed my costume choice down quite considerably. I went for Padme's battle outfit in Attack of the Clones which had some interesting details, but was still pretty achievable fabric-wise, drafting-wise and construction-wise. 

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When I met up with ClaireVicki and Bea for fabric shopping in London I found this off-white lycra fabric that seemed perfect for the job. I think I bought 1.5m for £10. I also bought white strapping and a buckle for the belt, which I tea dyed later along with fabric scraps for the pouches so they'd match the more beige colour in the reference photos. The only other material I bought was duct tape for the armbands. The whole outfit cost less than £15 to make. 

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 I found the Padawan's Guide an invaluable reference to see the costume close up and work out all the design features. I used my leotard block as a base and drew on the design lines. I then cut along all of those lines and the resulting pieces became my pattern pieces. The construction of the top was actually really straight forward. I expected to have trouble with all of the corners (all 6 of them) but they all went absolutely fine. The seam allowances were topstitched down with 2 rows of topstitching. The whole thing was a tad tight so I re-sewed all of the seam allowances as tiny as I could and then it fit fine. I do wish that I had done tiny French seams on the outside of all of the top panel seamlines just to make them a tad more pronounced. My only issue with this top is that the lycra is slightly too see through to wear without a bra, but there isn't enough of the back of the top to cover a bra with all of the rips. I tried lining the top with a beige double knit but that didn't do much. In the end I resorted to just sticking foam cups up there, but I'd quite like a less obvious solution.

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 For the back of the bodice I cut the rips whilst looking at the production photos. I wish I'd cut the lower rip a little wider so you could see more of the claw mark. I made myself a little lycra armband for the arm with no sleeve just less the width of the duct tape and I put the duct tape over the top so ripping it off after the party wouldn't be agony. (Shout-out to Paul for doing my armbands on the party night and to MK for felt-tipping in my wounds)

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 It turned out that the leggings were actually the tricky part. I made the mistake of cutting them with the stretch going upwards, instead of around the legs, which meant that I couldn't even get them over my calves, even with all the SA at a minimum 1/8".

I didn't have enough fabric to recut, so another solution had to be found. As there's 4 panels in each leg (I added in a centre front and back seam to each leg in accordance to the production photos) I took out one of the panels in each leg, cut a wider one and added that in the smaller panels place. The fit above the knee is now pretty good, but the adding in of a wider panel has completely distorted the legs so the seams twist around the leg instead of standing straight. I'd quite like to re-do the leggings with the stretch going in the right direction if I can get hold of some more fabric. 

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 After various discussions about what I could add to my belt I kept it simple with a phone case on one side and a place to hold my gun in the other. Surprisingly at uni my stock of toy guns was non-existent so my brother kindly posted one of his nerf gun collection from home. Ideally I would have sprayed it silver, or found a slightly more streamlined model, but beggars can't be choosers. A drinks cup holder would have been great, but I feel would have caused more issues than solutions. The shoes are actually a new addition to the outfit. On the night I wore cream slipper socks because it was a house party and I didn't have anything else suitable. Obviously these shoes aren't perfect, but at least you can say that they co-ordinate, and they can be worn outside of the house.

So, that's my Padme costume. I actually love it to pieces. I think it looks really fierce, and it was a really fun challenge to construct.

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Thanks so much for reading!

Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Making the bra

Hello all! Today I'm going to talk through the process of making my British bra. Many many hours of hand sewing went into this bra in an attempt to make the insides look as good as possible. 
Firstly, the thread I used for this project was an old Dewhurst Sylko wooden reel found in the back of a cupboard. It's labelled as a silk substitute made in Great Britain with fast dye. The shade is D.25 Violet, which luckily contrasts beautifully with my bra fabric. The silk substitute is likely to be rayon or polyester and the dye used was definitely a chemical one. Unfortunately the thread is the only product that I have had to compromise on so far as none appears to be manufactured from start to finish in the UK and be able to be used on a sewing machine. Of course I could have used the fibres from my fabric and sewed it all by hand, but I don't have the time to for that to be an option, so a thread that was at least partially manufactured in Great Britain was as close as I could get for this item of clothing. I will be exploring different thread options with the other garments still to be made as part of this project. 
When it came to cutting out in the final fabric I was very conscious of where I placed my pattern pieces and tried to keep the splotches of colour as evenly spaced as possible. The sewing lines were tacked in place using the aforementioned thread. 
 I tacked the whole thing together for the final fabric fitting and the only changes I made were to take in some excess at the side seam of the cups and add some length to the straps because the back was riding up slightly.
Below shows where the excess was pinned out. The new lines were tacked in and resewn. 
To finish the inside edges I folded the SA once and then again to hide the raw edge, and this fold was slipstitched down. In retrospect they do look a bit wide and I wonder whether I could have made them any smaller and more delicate. To finish the bottom edge I used a strip of self-fabric bias binding. I understitched it by hand because I didn't want the sewing machine to warp the delicate silk. The bias binding was then folded up twice and slipstitched into place. 
 For the top edge, the best way to deal with the corners was to press down the SA of the main fabric and then slipstitch the edge of the fabric to the edge of the bias binding which gave me a lot more control around the corners. Again the bias binding is a bit wide, and a thinner version would have been more delicate.
 I used this tutorial from Kat Makes to make the bra clasps from the DIY hook and eyes that Zoe made as explained in the previous blog post. And just like that, my bra was finished.
Thanks very much for reading!
Lauren xx

A British Outfit: DIY Hook and Eyes

Hello all, for this post I'm going to hand you straight over to Zoe!

Hello! My name is Zoe and I’m one of Lauren’s classmates. I’ve known Lauren for 3 years now as we started our time at Rose Bruford together. Hopefully you’ve all been keeping up with Lauren’s ‘A British Outfit’ series as this is what this post is all about!
The silver hook and eyes on top were made by Zoe and the bottom hooks and eyes were the reference point

At the end of our course, as you may know, we are required to do a dissertation style project which can be practical. The variety of things that have been chosen to be researched this year has been fascinating but Lauren’s research area has particularly interested me. It’s a concept that’s never crossed my mind before but has been a fascinating process to watch! As a result I have naturally offered my services for anything she may possibly need. One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen come up so far has been acquiring things that are now completely made overseas.

One day I walked into our workroom to find Lauren and one of our lecturers slaving away with some pliers and a great deal of frustration over the topic of making hooks and eyes for one of Lauren’s garments. After watching for a while, I and another classmate sat watching quite intently with a burning desire to give it a go. After around half an hour of sore fingers and mild swearing, I added my attempts to the pile for elimination once everyone had produced their finest work.
My attempts at making hooks and eyes
Unsurprisingly, from every angle the pile of our finest work looked incredibly sad. None of us were expert metal workers or mass producing machines. After having a long hard look at all of the attempts, the final decision was made and my hooks and eyes were the most normal looking. One of our other colleagues described mine selection as ‘the ugly ones from a regular box’ which was quite bittersweet and very funny.

Anyway, Lauren figured you would love to know how I did it! One thing to remember before going into this project is that your hooks and eyes won’t be perfect. You aren’t a machine. Each one will be unique but that’s part of the beauty.

This is what you will need!
Wire (British/country of choice). One metre should be enough for practices and then the real deal. Ormiston wire very kindly send me a sample to play with.
Tiny pliers! The main pair of pliers that we used were borrowed from someone who got them from a Christmas cracker.
Hooks and eyes for reference
Second pair of small pliers (optional) I’ve put a second pair of pliers as optional because at some points when I was trying to even out what I’d made, it was easiest to hold the fastening with one pair and bend with the other.


To make the hooks
Step 1. Make a guide.
To make the hooks and eyes around the size of a standard box, I made the guide around 2cm with a third mark at 2.5cm long. Remember this is a rough guide! The picture below doesn’t have the third guide mark, at the time I just guessed.

Step 2. Holding the wire
Pick up the end of your wire with your pliers. To get the best shape here don’t let the wire pop out the other side of the pliers. If you can start the end of the wire in the middle of the pliers jaws.

Step 3. Making the loops
What you need to do here is curl the wire as tightly as possible around the jaws of the pliers. This will give you a tight loop that you will use to see the hooks and eyes down with. Once you’ve made the first loop, hover the wire over your guide and cut the wire at the 2.5cm mark. After this repeat step 3 to make the second loop on the other side. Your curled wire should sit roughly within the 2cm guide nicely. Unless it’s quite a lot out this isn’t a big issue if it doesn’t fit. You may need to tighten the loops you make by using the pliers to push the loops into the long bits of wire This is what mine looked like after tightening the loops.

Step 4. Creating the point
At this point, it’s time to create the point that will make the hook. Roughly find the middle of the wire and bend the two ends together creating, what I’ll admit looks like quite a phallic shape. The closer in length the two ends are to each other the better.

 Use the pliers to make the point as tight as possible without creating a sharp point. The two loops may start to cross over and if this happens use your fingers to lightly pull them away from each other enough so that they sit close together but don’t overlap.


Step 5. Creating the hook
This is the final step! Find the rough middle of the point you’ve created and bend it towards the loops creating the hook. If the hook is at an obtuse angle, use the pliers on the point end and press to close the gap enough so that it would work as a functioning fastening. And there you have your own hand made hook!


To make the eyes
Step 1. Cut the wire
Go back to the guide we made for the hooks. Cut a piece of wire to be around 2cm long using the guide.

Step 2. Making the loops
Just like for the hooks, hold the end of the wire in the middle of the pliers jaws. As tightly as possible bend the wire around the pliers creating a loop. Repeat this on the other side of the the wire and then nip the ends of the loops to tighten them up.

Step 3. Making the eye
This bit is the hardest bit. Start by putting the middle of the wire in the jaws of the pliers and lightly bending. Move the wire slightly to one side and lightly bend. Repeat this on both side until you have a gradual curve over the eye. Once you’re able to get the loops into the jaws of the fliers both together this step is complete.

Step 4. Finishing the eye
Once the gradual curve has been made, use the pliers to tighten the bottom by pushing the loops together. They don’t need to be tightened up a large amount, just to your personal preference using the premade eye as a reference. And there you have your hook and eye! Good luck with making your own hooks and eyes and hope this was helpful!
DIY hook and eyes on top and reference hook and eyes below
Thank you for reading, and huge thanks to Zoe for putting this tutorial together!
Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Eco-printing silk

Hello all! Today I'm going to share what I've learnt about eco-printing. Eco-printing is the process of wrapping up assorted plant matter around fabric and steaming or simmering it to extract a print. My British-made silk was sourced from Botanical Inks, and I chose the Habotai which I thought was most appropriate for lingerie.
First I mordanted my silk with alum (which I found a UK source for here) and I soaked another strip of silk with iron water to work as an iron blanket which should intensify and darken the colours in the print.
Next it was time to collect the various plant matter, and I did this by walking around the roadside with a massive metal bucket and some snippers. At the end of my expedition I had poppies, dandelions, elderberries, hollyhocks, Queen Anne's lace and hawthorn berries. I scattered these on my wet silk and placed the iron blanket on top. This was then rolled around a stick and tied tightly with string.
Then my bundle was simmered in a pot for 2 hours and let in the pot overnight. You can see how much darker it went overnight! The bottom image of the collage below is the bundle unrolled with all of the plant matter still on it.
Below are the results! The lighter strip of fabric on the top is the silk I'm going to use for my bra and the strip on the bottom is the iron blanket, and you can see how the iron in it has made the colours much darker. The prints weren't as defined as I had hoped for and the berries definitely provided most of the colour. The poppies left no trace at all. If you look closely at the left hand side of the top strip of fabric there's a beautiful amount of definition, and you can even see the imprints of the string. That was the portion of the silk that was on the outside of the bundle. I asked the Printing Botanicals facebook group what they thought of my results and the advice was to bundle tighter, to steam and not to simmer, and to look to leaves for crisper prints. It's sad that I don't have time to experiment further with eco-printing but now it's time to get on with making the bra! I'd love to come back to this technique in the future and really have fun with trying out different leaves and seeing how well they print.
Thanks very much for reading and to Lesley for providing me with all of her dyeing equipment and knowledge to use!
Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Fitting the bra

Hello all! Today I'm going to share the fitting process for the bra portion of my British Outfit. In the last post I discussed the designing and drafting process, and finished with the first calico toile. I had tacked in where I wanted the design lines to be (as you can see below) but did not cut them as separate pieces, because I wanted to get the basic fit right first. In the first fitting I shortened the straps by 3", lengthened the CB by 1/2" on either side and lowered the CF by 2". The excess at each SF was pinned out in a dart.
I found that when I transferred that dart straight to the pattern piece, it warped it too much, so I divided the amount that needed to go and split it evenly on the pattern piece. I then ended up changing the design lines slightly (10 points if you can spot where!) and cut down those lines to divide the pattern into upper cup and lower cup pieces.
In the second fitting there was still some excess in the right cup, so I adjusted the pattern in the same way I did for the first fitting. After looking back at the fitting photos (above) I decided to use the pattern pieces for the right cup for both cups in the next fitting, because the shape of the left one looks a bit off. Below you can see the difference in the pattern pieces for each side. I ended up using the pattern piece on the right for both cups of the bra.
 For the third fitting I decided to use a drapier fabric that was more like the silk that is my final fabric. No changes were made in this fitting as I was happy with the fit.
Below are the final pattern pieces ready to cut out of the main fabric.
So that was the fitting process for my bra! In the next instalment of this series I'm going to discuss my experiments with bundle dyeing.
Until then, thanks for reading!
Lauren xx

A British Outfit: Designing and drafting the bra

Hello all! I have something a bit different for you today. In the final year of uni I have to do an independent research project, and luckily for me I had the option to choose a practical topic. Very much inspired by Nicki's One Year One Outfit project I aim to find out how feasible it is to create an outfit of clothing that has been made exclusively from British materials. I then want to see how well each garment bears up to every day use and to see how much it would actually cost to sell these garments to the public. Included in this outfit is a bra, pants (or knickers to those under the pond), shirt, trousers, jumper and shoes. I thought it would be fun to blog about the process as I go, so let me tell you all how I got to this bra muslin that you can see below.
If you take a look at modern underwear almost every component is unsuitable for this challenge. Stretch fabrics contain elastane (or lycra) which is a synthetic (or unnatural) fibre. Elastic itself is used to hold the fabric snug against the body. Metal or plastic rings hold the straps in place and metal hook and eyes fasten the bra at the back. I decided to look back in time, right up to the beginning of the evolution of the bra in the 1920s and 30s. The unfortunate thing is that by the 30s elastic had been invented and so was still instrumental in keeping the bra snug against the body, as illustrated by this bra here. However the earliest bras made in the 20s were not made to fit close to the body, but instead just to cover the chest area. This one I found fastens with hook and eyes at the back. I also found contemporary bras made by Cara Marie Piazza of Calyx intimates which are made from naturally dyed silk. This bra from her collection and this 1930s bra were my main inspiration for the designs below, but if you want to see the myriad of vintage bras and sewing patterns I looked at they can all be seen on my pinterest board dedicated to the topic here.
I drafted a bra using the basic bra pattern given in Michael Rohr's Pattern Drafting and Grading which was published in 1961. The lines were simple, it was drafted for non-stretch fabrics and it would be easy to adapt into the design that I wanted. First I had to draft a bodice block to fit my measurements before then using that to draft the bra pattern. I used the bodice block that came with the book, but then had to take a whopping 8 inches out of the bust so it would fit my body. I then decided that it would be a good idea to muslin the bodice up quickly, get it to fit like a glove, and then draft the bra onto it.
Because I'd adjusted the bust to co-ordinate with my own measurements the bodice fit pretty well. The darts were perhaps a little high, but it was decided to leave them as is and see what would happen in the bra fitting.
This meant that I was then good to go with the bra drafting. I stopped at step number three before elastic was added in at step number four. I made the cup a princess seam by cutting down the dotted line between A and C on the pattern pieces and left the back intact.


Michael Rohr's Pattern Drafting and Grading, published in 1961
 The next step was then to trace off the pattern pieces, cut them out in calico and sew them up, ready for a fitting. You may note that the design of the bra below is completely different from my original designs, but it was nice to have a very fluid process and important not to set everything in stone. In the next instalment of this series, I'll share the fitting process. I hope you enjoyed this slightly different content from me. I'm certainly enjoying the challenge that this project brings.
Thanks for reading!
Lauren xx