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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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

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