english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Dior Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

When I saw that the theme of the Refashioners this year was ‘Inspired By’, there was only ever one garment I was going to make. I love visiting fashion exhibitions and have lots of fashion reference books, and there are brands (Biba) and decades (30s-40s) that I’m fascinated by, but there are only two actual garments which I love inordinately: Scarlett O’Hara’s curtain dress & Christian Dior’s Bar suit.

I’m a huge fan of the Refashioners and devour the blog posts every year, but have only participated once before (the 2015 men’s shirt challenge). My project for this year actually started with last year’s men’s suit challenge, and I’m very happy to have brought it to fruition a year later. (I still have a selection of jeans – old ones Phil was chucking out – from the 2016 challenge which will also eventually get refashioned).

This time last year I was in a hectic period at work and had decided that I wasn’t going to add to my to-do list/stress levels by taking part in the Refashioners, but then I popped into a charity shop during one lunch break and came away with a British wool suit, made in the UK, which was too good to resist. The suit consisted of a jacket and waist coat. I posed in it for the pre-refashion pictures below last year, and Phil told me that I looked like three children stood on each other’s shoulders trying to buy alcohol.

The Refashioners Pre-Refashion Men's Suit

The Refashioners Pre-Refashion Men's Suit

I always intended to refashion the jacket into a version of Dior’s Bar jacket and I made a first attempt at fitting the body last year, but it turned out way too large and I had no time to fine tune the fit, so the jacket ended up hanging on my wardrobe door for a whole year. When Portia announced the theme of this year’s Refashioners, I knew it was time to return to the jacket – and to go a step further and try to recreate a whole ‘look’.

My favourite (and also the most famous) photo of the Bar suit was taken in 1955 (or possibly 1957) by Willy Maywald, modelled by Dior house model Renee, and shot in Paris (more on that later). As you can see from the original photo below, the full outfit consists of the Bar jacket, plus skirt, gloves, hat, and shoes. I’ll go into detail, but for information I refashioned a jacket, skirt, petticoat and hat. My gloves were new as I couldn’t find suitable second-hand gloves in a local charity shop and didn’t want to pay what was being charged online. My shoes were second-hand and are 1950s originals purchased on eBay (for £30).

BarSuit

Once I had decided to recreate the outfit in the photo, I set about finding the other components. I found a suitable skirt (shown pre-refashion below) during another lunch break charity shop trip. The skirt met my criteria for a black pleated skirt and, as an added bonus, already fit me at the waist. To modify the skirt for my refashion, I simply removed 6 inches from the bottom and turned it up by another 2 inches to create a nice deep hem.

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

To give the skirt volume, I used an existing petticoat I bought on eBay years ago but have rarely worn, partly because the shaping never seemed quite right. This project finally convinced me to take my scissors to the petticoat and alter it to my liking – which was as simple as reducing the length of the top layer of tulle (the picture below shows the petticoat after I’d taken my scissors to it). While we’re on the topic of undergarments, the minuscule waist in the original photo suggests a corset, but I had no desire or intention of trying to reduce the size of my waist.

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

The hat was a bit more of a puzzle. If I had been starting out with new materials, I would have been tempted to try crocheting a hat out of raffia (inspired by Emily’s bag), but there was no way I was going to find raffia suitable for crochet in a charity shop. I decided my best bet was to look for woven bowls, and spotted the bowl below in the window of a charity shop while on holiday with my family in Dorset. As you can see from the photos, a refashion was in order since the bowl was too large, flat, colourful, and far too heavy, to use as a hat in its original form.

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

Once all components of the outfit were ready, one further element was required to recreate my inspiration image – location. I knew that the original Willy Maywald photo had been taken in Paris, and could tell that it had been taken along the Seine, so Phil and I decided to take a trip to Paris to recreate the photo! This wasn’t quite as extravagant an act as it sounds (well maybe just a bit), as we’d been talking about taking a short break and the photos decided the location for us.

We took the photos on a Sunday morning, and on the previous Saturday night Phil and I walked along the banks of the Seine for a couple of hours looking for a suitable spot. We determined that the original photo had been taken on one of the ramps leading down to the Seine from the path above. We became extremely picky with our comparison of these ramps against our criteria (height of wall, cobbled, wide pavement, trees either side, etc.). We didn’t find a ramp which looked exactly like the ramp in the original photo (it my still be out there somewhere…), but we did pretty well.

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

To avoid writing an epically long blog post, I’m going to discuss the details of my jacket and hat refashions in a separate post or two, and finish here by revealing my finished outfit, photographed beside the Seine. For reference, I used Gertie’s Butterick pattern #B5962 as a starting point for the jacket, but very much working with the existing features where possible.

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

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Wedding & Weekender Vogue 9253

Vogue Patterns V9253

I thought it was about time I blogged a finished garment. This is my Vogue V9253 (i.e. that Vogue dress with the really low neckline which everyone raises). I made this to wear to the Sewing Weekender, and to Phil’s sister’s wedding, which was two weeks later.

Vogue Patterns V9253

It’s no wonder this pattern has been so popular; as everyone has told you, it’s a quick and easy sew, it has a flattering fit since the bodice is fitted but it’s loose from the waist down, and it would work in a wide range of fabrics. I think it would make a great winter party dress in a heavier weight fabric like a crepe or velvet, however, I already have a Trend Patterns 70s Dress cut out, which I was planning to wear to last year’s Christmas party, and am hoping to actually sew in time for this year’s.

Vogue Patterns V9253

I love the look of this fabric, but it is a lesson in buying good quality fabric. This is a polyester which cost £2 per metre from Birmingham Rag Market. I love the print, but the fabric feels cheap – it’s sweaty in hot weather, it’s already started to pill (after approximately four wears) and snags easily. Since this was my first time making the pattern it’s not a huge loss, since it basically acted as a wearable toile, but how much better to have made it in a fabric which would last for years. I would say lesson learned, but the Rag Market is so tempting, and SewBrum will be here in a month’s time, so no promises!

Vogue Patterns V9253

I made some exceedingly rookie errors, which may have been due to me trying to sew quickly to finish this before the Sewing Weekender, or may just have been due to me being generally a little absent-minded. I sewed, and overlocked, all the way up the skirt back seam, meaning that I needed to unpick my stitches to insert the zip. I then repeated the same mistake on the bodice, and because the bodice is fitted there then wasn’t enough seam allowance left to insert the zip and for the bodice to fit. I didn’t have enough fabric or patience to re-cut the bodice, so I cut some narrow strips and attached these to either side of the bodice back seam – voila a bodice which fits. I also completely forgot that the dress was supposed to have waist ties until I found them hanging over the back of a chair while packing to leave for the Weekender. I wore the dress without waist ties at the Weekender and added them before I wore it to Lucy and Jack’s wedding; I think the dress works fine with or without ties.

Vogue Patterns V9253

I had an early start yesterday, catching a train to Leeds for Sew Up North. Today I’ve done the opposite, and spent the morning on the sofa, blogging and watching The Fashion Fund on Netflix (recommended, it’s like Project Runway, but documentary as opposed to reality show). I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to everyone at Sew Up North, and am really inspired to sew as a result of seeing what everyone was wearing and my fabric purchases. Today’s task is to make some progress on my Refashioners Project – I’m determined to finish in time to participate in the challenge, and am not letting myself work on any other sewing projects until it is complete, as added motivation.

Vogue Patterns V9253

Vogue Patterns V9253

Vogue Patterns V9253

Vogue Patterns V9253

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018


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The Sewing Weekender 2018 Wrap-Up

The Sewing Weekender 2018

Ahh, I love a good meet-up. I’ve just booked my train ticket to Leeds for Sew Up North this weekend, and before too long passes and the memory fades, I wanted to blog a few thoughts and a few photos from the Sewing Weekender.

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The third Sewing Weekender took place during August at Murray Edwards College in Cambridge. It was the largest Weekender yet, with 100 attendees (including 5 speakers & experts, 3 organisers – that’s me, Kate and Rachel – and 92 attendees). 24 of our attendees had attended before, and it was lovely to see a mix of good friends and familiar faces, but also to meet some friends in person for the first time, and to know that different people are managing to get hold of tickets, given that they sold out in no time yet again this year.

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

To squeeze in one hundred attendees we were split across two rooms, coming together for tea and coffee breaks, and for lunch in the College dining room on Saturday. As in previous years, attendees worked on a sewing project (or two) of their choice. I’m always impressed that attendees manage to finish projects during the weekend. I think I’m quite a slow sewer, and am sure I would be slower than ever when there is so much opportunity to procrastinate talking, drinking tea, listing to talks, and attending workshops.

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

I’m also always impressed by how beautifully dressed our attendees are. Being surrounded by 100 sewists is a great opportunity to see a range of patterns made-up and ‘in the flesh’ (The Closet Case Patterns Jenny Overalls were a favourite this year). In previous years I have planned but failed to make an outfit specifically for the Weekender, but this year I was determined to, and I managed it! We had a warm, but intermittently wet, weekend, and the V9253 dress I made was ideal for swanning about the College.

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

When you organise an event, I find that you can never believe quite how quickly it speeds by, after such a long lead time preparing for it. I’ve been really lucky to work with Kate & Rachel (of The Fold Line), who make organising the Weekender very easy for me! One of my main tasks is receiving all of the lovely goodie bag booty from our sponsors, and hiring a big van to drive it, plus irons, ironing boards, and decorations, down to Cambridge. Setting up takes the three of us an age, but this year attendees pitched in when it was time to pack up, and with everyone boxing up a Janome sewing machine each, we were packed up in no time!

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

Our speakers were, yet again, total pros, giving insights into caring for your me-made (and RTW) garments (Harriet), the history of sewing pattern magazines and the development of the Maker’s Atelier magazine (Frances), setting up and running a fabric shop (Sheona), and practical advice on getting a book deal (Karen).

One of the many amazing things about the sewing community, is being part of a community of people (and mostly women) who are doing so many interesting and inspiring things. From sharing beautiful sewing projects and blog posts, publishing great podcasts/vlogs/newsletters, and organising events, through to making the commitment to start businesses, develop patterns, and write books. One of the other amazing things about this community, is that despite its members being busy, smart, and ambitious, they are also nice as pie. I’ll leave you with pictures of some exceedingly friendly faces, and hope to see you at a meet-up soon.

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018


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September Sewing Zine Vlog

Vlog Logo - September Sew Zine

I’ve just published a short vlog with some favourite sewing (and the odd knitting) related things I’ve spotted recently. All being well, I’m hoping to make it a regular series.

I used to publish lists of some of my favourite finds on the blog, but the vlog seems an ideal way of sharing them.

I’ve had a lovely quiet Sunday morning filming and editing; hopefully it will make for ideal Sunday afternoon viewing. I’m now going to get back to work on my refashioners project, accompanied by tea and a (admittedly complete bilge) Hedy Lamarr film.


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The Sewing Weekender 2018 Attendee Vlogs & Blog Posts

The Sewing Weekender 2018

It’s already been two weeks since the Sewing Weekender. I’ve finally finished editing the photos, and will post some pictures and thoughts later this week, but lots of attendees were quicker than me.

Links to the blog posts and vlogs I’ve spotted are below:

Blog Posts

♥ Adelle at Button & Pip
♥ Ann at SewWatts
♥ Karen at Did You Make That?
♥ Kathy at Sew Dainty
♥ Laura at Fabric Magpie
♥ Lucy at Sew Essential
♥ Melissa at FehrTrade
♥ Nina at Tales of the Sewing City
♥ Sarah at Crafty Sarah Sews

Vlogs

 Adelle at Button & Pip:

♥ Charlotte at English Girl at Home (me!):

♥ Harriet at The Little Dressmaker:

♥ Jen at Gingerthread Girl:

♥ Kealy at Voice of a Creative:

♥ Sarah at Like Sew Amazing:


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The Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

The Sewing Weekender takes place this weekend! The final decorations are currently being hung in the venue, balloons inflated, and attendees will be arriving (or breakfasting for those who arrived yesterday) soon.

When they arrive at the venue, attendees will find the following goodie bags awaiting them, thanks to our lovely sponsors. Sewing Weekender totes (designed by Kate & Rachel) containing:

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Sewing patterns courtesy of Crafty Sew & So, Simplicity, & Simply Sewing.

TSewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Additional sewing patterns have also been dotted around the goodie bags, including patterns from Colette in 30 goodie bags.

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Stof and Stil have sent every attendee one metre of fabric, a bag, catalogue and postcards:

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Attendees have plenty to read on the journey home, with magazines from Love Sewing (featuring the lovely Karen Ball, who is one of our speakers) and Sew Today:

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Discount codes have been provided courtesy of CocoWawa CraftsPink Coat Club, Weaver Dee, & Sew Essential:

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Sew Me Sunshine have created sew-in tags for attendees to add to their Weekender projects (plus provided a discount code):

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Prym have provided attendees with handy thread cutters:

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Pavilion have provided a shibori project from their recent release about Indigo dyeing:

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Phew, time to put on my frock and get ready for arrival time!

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags

Sewing Weekender 2018 Goodie Bags


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Quick Sewing for a Busy Month (Shirt No.1)

100 Acts of Sewing Shirt No.1

I haven’t had a lot of time for sewing lately; July-August is always the busiest time of the year for me at work, and there’s always lots going on at home too. Even more so this year, as there have been job interviews to prepare for, there’s a family wedding coming up (I’m just returned home from the hen-do), and the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, of which I’m a member of the GPC, has been busy hosting it’s biannual National Exhibition.

100 Acts of Sewing Shirt No.1

I have however been making time for those hobbies which are more naturally carried out in fits and starts, and while commuting. I recently picked back up a summer, linen yarn, cardigan which I started last year, and am making good progress – although possibly not good enough to actually wear it this year. I’ve also been reading lots of novels.

100 Acts of Sewing Shirt No.1

I was a very bookish child/teenager and studied English Literature at University, so I’ve always previously read large quantities of books. I also read quite quickly; I retain a feeling of self-satisfaction that, when I read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (I’ve only read it once), I read the three books within a week (admittedly, I was on holiday with my family at the time, and don’t think I did much else except eat and swim). These days, I tend to have periods where I devour books, interspersed by sometimes long periods where I stick to reading blogs and magazines.

Amongst the novels I have greedily devoured recently are Nancy Mitford’s (specifically The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate), which I am reading for the first time and enjoying every minute of. The little world they inhabit is completely un-PC, but also completely accepting and affectionate of human nature.

100 Acts of Sewing Shirt No.1

To accompany my ramblings, a quick sewing project for a busy month! This is the Shirt No.1 from 100 Acts of Sewing / Sonya Philip. Sewing projects don’t get much quicker than this – which consists of a single pattern piece – to prepare or sew. Unsurprisingly, this pattern works best in a drapey fabric, and I think the fabric used here (a linen-blend from Sew Me Something) probably has a tad too much body. I’m planning to sew a couple of these tops using some of the completely impractical but (to me) irresistible sequin fabrics I always get tempted by in Barry’s Fabrics; the simplicity of the design should be great for showcasing them, and limit the number of sequinned seams I have to sew.

P.S. Excuse the disheveled hair (humidity) and disheveled shirt (post-suitcase).

100 Acts of Sewing Shirt No.1