Monday, April 7, 2014

Weekend in London: A Full Report

I'm back from a very fun but busy weekend in London. Saturday kicked off with a trip to Walthamstow market for some fabric shopping. As soon as I got off the tube at Walthamstow Central who do I spot: Rachel from House of Pinheiro. Now I've never met her in person but recognised her immediately from her blog. For a moment I froze being torn between saying hi but seeming like a creepy stalker or ignoring her, which somehow seemed rude to me. 

What's the etiquette when you bump into sewing bloggers on the street? Is there one? I mean if I saw, say, Kate Moss on the street it would be considered quite the opposite of rude to say hello.

After some split second deliberation I opted to say hi and introduced myself despite the risk of seeming like a stalker. Rachel did seem a little baffled and confused but graciously invited me to come along with her and her friends on their fabric shopping trip. I was glad to be around people who knew where they were going, because I had little idea of where to find all the secret fabric haunts. Luckily, everyone turned out to be really nice, which alleviated my feeling like a stalker.

Photosource: House of Pinheiro's Instagram 
I was glad I finally got to see what Walthamstow market is all about, but couldn't really find the kind of fabric I was after for some of my future planned projects. I left the market a couple of hours later having bought only a miserly piece of tailors chalk for 50p.

Next, I made my way to Chinelo's Free-hand Pattern Cutting class, picking up some food on the way, and almost arriving late, because I keep underestimating the vast expanse of the London transport system.

Our class was filled with students ranging from beginner to experienced sewers and Chinelo had her work cut out for her, running back and forth between students to lift the weight of confusion.

Chinelo & students at work

Rachel being measured by a student, whose name I don't know

Lovely lady, whose name I didn't catch, next to Rachel and Kerry
I enjoyed learning an entirely different approach to pattern cutting, but feel I need to practice and understand this method a bit more before finding its benefits or drawbacks as compared to my method of cutting patterns. I definitely enjoyed the process of drawing directly on fabric without the need of making paper patterns first.

I was super exhausted after the class and spent the evening with a friend dosing off to The Big Lebowsky.

My second day in London started with a generous sleep in and some coffee before rushing off to the V&A to meet fellow blogger Inna for The Glamour of Italian Fashion exhibition.

The show featured some spectacular clothes and was very inspiring. Unfortunately, photographing was strictly prohibited so I can't show you any of the beauties we saw, but can only recommend that you go see the exhibition for yourself if you get a chance. 

After the museum Inna & me had lunch & coffee together. Inna is a lovely person. I'm really happy I met her. It's so nice to speak to someone with shared interests. We have already agreed to meet again! However, we talked so much that we completely forgot to take any pictures of our meeting.

Tiredness caught up with me in the late afternoon and I said goodbye to Inna, made my way to the coach station and rested a while before boarding my bus back home.

Back home I feel really inspired to finish the Chinelo dress, for which there wasn't quite time enough in class. So back to my sewing machine it is.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bogged Down by Too Many Sewing Projects

I have numerous sewing projects and blog posts on the go at once at the moment. This makes it really difficult for me to just focus on one thing and actually get it done. My mind is everywhere at once and nowhere at the same time. I'm working on a dress for myself, which might or might not work out the way I envision it....

...then I'm also working on a men's shirt for an upcoming birthday....

....and another one for another upcoming birthday. Phew!

Yes! Foxes!

Then I'm also planning my April "A Year in Indie Patterns" project and find myself very uninspired, while simultaneously planning my next bra project.

Do you sometimes feel like that? I just wish I could go to a magical sewing and blogging cave where time stands still and I can finish each project in leisurely fashion one at a time. 

Alas, time does not stand still and the only way I can get myself out of this muddle, is by precisely just doing that: one thing after the other. Step by step.

As I once read, "we underestimate what we can do in one year, and overestimate what we can do in a day". This is so true. When you want to do too much in one day, nothing gets done, but taking each step slowly at a time suddenly magically gets much more done than you ever thought was possible.

Do you sometimes feel bogged down by too many projects floating around in your head and on your sewing table? Any strategies for getting yourself back on track again?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: In-House Patterns

Today I have another review for you. As you might have seen earlier this month, I have been testing a pattern by In-House Patterns in March and also featured and interview with Alexandra, the brain behind these digital sewing patterns.

Stern face :) probably inspecting the sky for oncoming rain clouds

I chose to test the Belle Bow Blouse as I really liked the style of it. However, I was obsessed about making this into a dress, rather than making it up as a blouse. So, I decided to simply lengthen the blouse and only sew down half the length of the waist tucks to get more flair at the hips.

But changing the blouse into a dress then also seemed to necessitate a lining. so I ended up drafting lining patterns as well. I tried to stick to the instructions as much as I could but had to adapt some of it to make it possible to sew the lining neatly into the dress.

So now, what did I think of working with this pattern....? Here is my review:

REVIEW: In-House Patterns


Belle Bow Blouse, PDF Pattern, CAD $10


In-House Patterns is Canadian digital pattern company, which currently carries a small range of PDF sewing patterns that are drafted for hourglass figures with a D-cup. 


DRAFTED FOR A D-CUP - What I really liked about this pattern company is that they offer patterns for a bigger cup size. Obviously, this doesn't suit everyone, but I suppose this is why there are so many different independent pattern companies out there. Each can cater for a different niche market and I think In-House Patterns have found themselves their own niche and I'm sure that many sewing ladies appreciate this. However, to be more inclusive, In-House Patterns has also released a pattern that comes with various cup sizes to choose from; and they might make more.  

INDUSTRY CONSTRUCTION METHOD - Alexandra, who runs In-House Patterns, has many years experience in the fashion industry and has therefore chosen to provide industry construction methods in her pattern instructions. Unfortunately, I could only partially follow these instructions when making my Belle Bow dress, because I changed so many things about the pattern. However, I can tell you that the pattern at no time called for hand sewing and generally assumed a little previous experience with sewing. But there were clear diagrams with every step, so an ambitious beginner can probably tackle the pattern as well. 

NO UNIFIED SEAM ALLOWANCES - Since this pattern is drafted with industry sewing methods in mind, the seam allowances are not a unified 1.5 cm throughout, like in most home sewing patterns, but varied depending on the type of seam. This is similar to the patterns by Islander Sewing Systems and means that you absolutely have to reference the sewing instructions or else you don't know with what seam allowance to sew.

DETAILED SIZE CHART - I liked In-House Patterns' detailed size chart. It doesn't only have the usual bust, waist and hip measurements, but also shoulder width and back length measurements, which ultimately make it easier to choose the right size and alter the pattern if necessary. Seeing that my pattern size was drafted for a back length of 43 cm made it easy for me to alter it to fit my shorter back. 


I was quite happy with the pattern, especially since I did not have to do an FBA at all! Woohoo! I would certainly get more patterns from In-House Patterns for that reason alone. But unfortunately, so far there aren't that many styles available. I'm looking forward to seeing the fall collection that Alexandra is working on. 

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If you have made up a pattern by In-House Patterns, share your review and/or project via the A-Year-in-Indie-Patterns Pinterest Board. Just drop me a line via email or in the comments with your e-mail address, so I can add you as a pinner to the board. Would love to see other people's results with these patterns!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The "Get me an Ice Cream Van" Dress

I made another Hawthorn! I made this one as a sample for work as I will be teaching an evening class on the Hawthorn pattern in a few weeks' time.

This time around I made the dress version as I did not really like the peplum top version I made last time.

I picked some pink and white striped seersucker from our fabric selection in the shop and topped it off with some white bow buttons - because pink and white stripes simply weren't cute enough on their own. Obviously.

My colleague wants to get me an ice cream van to match. What do you think? Would you buy an ice cream from me?

The dress fits really well. The waistline is a little low maybe, but that's really the only complaint I have. Since I had already made a version earlier this year, this one went together like a breeze; and seersucker is super easy to work with too.

You might remember my annoyance with the back facing on my last Hawthorn, which made me come up with this quick embroidery fix. This time around I eliminated the facing altogether and just used a strip of bias tape at the back neckline. Much better and so much more professional looking. As a clever commenter pointed out, there is a tutorial here by Megan Nielsen if you would like to try this for yourself and need some help with it.

The dress is so airy and light and comfy, it needs to be worn with a properly hot Mediterranean summer to match. The British early spring drizzle just doesn't quite cut it. I'm positively freezing in these pictures. Hey, but I'm wearing pink with white bow buttons, so I have no complaints really!

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And on another note, the winner of the In-House pattern giveaway is CarmencitaB! Congratulations! And thanks everyone for entering!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Visit to the Bath Fashion Museum

A couple of weeks ago me and Mr. Starcross had a rare day off together during the week and decided to drive to Bath. We'd been planning this trip for months and I was so happy we were finally on the road!

Besides seeing the incredibly impressive Roman Baths, wandering the streets and visiting local shops and cafes, we also went to the Bath Fashion Museum.

The Bath Fashion Museum is known as one of the best collections of fashion in the world (yes, I said world!) and we were certainly not disappointed. We saw an exhibition of Georgian fashion followed by an opportunity to dress up. Normally they only let kids do that! I was delighted to find that the costumes were in our sizes too!

Mr. Starcross and me taking a mirror selfie in our Georgian costumes

Another section of the museum showcased some behind the scenes insights and a display of fashion through the 1800s. It was really well laid out and documented and I know feel I have a much better sense of the development of fashion through both the Georgian and Victorian periods.

It was especially interesting to see how the nineteenth century went from Jane Austen style, largely white and pastel coloured, empire dresses to fuller skirts and bustles with darker more serene colours towards the end of the century - the Oscar Wilde period, as I think of it.

This is one of Queen Victoria's dresses

Another great display showed some transitions in fashion in the twentieth century and some Bellville Sassoon pieces and accompanied fashion illustrations.

I love the Mermaid scallops on this Bellville Sasoon dress

I was delighted to see how closely one of Bellville Sassoons design resembles my own Nougat dress version.


Bath was great and is so worth a visit if you haven't been before. The city makes you feel like you are on the film set of Pride and Prejudice and has a truly unique feeling to it. Lots of majestic open spaces, and yet quite cosy.

Have you visited the Bath Fashion museum? Have any of you been to any other must-see fashion museums, exhibitions, etc. in the UK that you recommend? And have you heard, I'm planning a museum visit to The Glamour of Italian Fashion at the V&A on Sunday, 6 April, and am looking for people who'd like to join me! It would be super to be going to the exhibition with other sewing fanatics enthusiasts!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Meet up for The Glamour of Italian Fashion at the V&A on Sunday, 6 April?

As some of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen, I have booked up to a Freehand Pattern Cutting Class taught by Chinelo from The Great British Sewing Bee. I'm really excited!

The course will take place in London on Saturday, 5 April. I'm taking the train up to London especially for that weekend and to get the full London experience I'm also going to visit the V&A. Love going to the V&A!

The exhibition The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014 opens at the V&A just that very weekend and I have bought tickets to go on Sunday, 6 April, at 12.30.


Then I thought, wouldn't it be much more fun to go to the museum with others from the sewing community!

Come to the museum with me!

I would be really excited if some of you would like to come to the museum with me! What could be better than having a meet up of like-minded sewing enthusiasts and at the same time see a brilliant fashion exhibition?

So, if you are in, get your tickets quick before they are sold out. You can buy them online here. Make sure to book for Sunday, 6 April, 12.30 pm.

Meeting point will be 12.15 outside the main entrance of the V&A on Cromwell Road.

Drop me a line via e-mail starcrossDOTsewingATgmailDOTcom or leave a comment on this post, if you are planning to come and see the exhibition with me!

I would be really, really happy if some of you could make it :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

In-House Patterns: Interview + Giveaway

It's March and time for another round of pattern testing in "A Year in Indie Patterns". This month I have chosen to test a pattern by In-House Patterns, a Canadian digital pattern company founded by Alexandra, a fashion industry insider.

Wishing to know more about this new-to-me pattern company, I contacted Alexandra and asked her for an interview and she promptly agreed to answer all my nosy questions and also generously offered up a pattern for a giveaway to one of my readers. See the bottom of this post for details on how to enter.

Now without further ado, here is my interview with Alexandra:

Alexandra, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I grew up on a farm in small town Saskatchewan, Canada. My mom had always sewn for my sisters and I so it was natural for me to pick up a few sewing skills at a young age. I had always loved creating fashion so I decided to make it a career. After obtaining a Bachelor Science in Home Economics with a major in Clothing and Textiles from the University of Saskatchewan, I went on to specialize in Fashion Design and also completed a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Fashion Design from Ryerson University. After completing my schooling I worked in the Canadian fashion industry for about 18 years as a designer, pattern maker, technical designer and fit technician.

The Belle Bow Blouse 

I read on your website that you have a degree in fashion design and work in the fashion industry. Do you still get time or have an interest in sewing your own clothes? 

While I was working full time in the industry I had very little time to sew and now, between In-House Patterns and teaching at a local design school, I still find it difficult to find the time to sew for myself. Most of my sewing projects involve developing new patterns for In-House Patterns or projects for my courses so the only personal sewing I do is when I test my patterns in my personal size.

What made you decide to start your own digital sewing pattern line?

I started In-House Patterns with some forward thought about a future outside of the fashion industry. Although I enjoyed working in the industry, I was looking for more variety in my work and saw an opportunity to improve the sewing experience and final results for the home sewer using my experience with production sewing methods.

The methods used in pattern making and construction in the fashion industry are easier to execute and give more professional results in the finished garment. I wanted to bring that to the home sewing industry.

The Cool Cowl Tank

Your patterns are designed for an hourglass shape with a full bust. Why did you decide to size your patterns with this shape in mind?

I chose this body type to solve my own personal fitting issues first of all, but also for everyone else out there like me. The hourglass figure with a full bust is a challenging figure type to fit since we are very curvy and the pattern needs to accommodate that. Most sewing patterns and retail apparel are developed for a B-Cup and I felt there was a good opportunity to satisfy a need and improve the sewing experience for the curvy girls out there. I do plan on developing more patterns for a variety of bust sizes. I currently have the “Blossom” blouse which includes patterns for A, B, C and D cup sizes. This provides another level of ease for my customers because it eliminates the need for bust size pattern adjustments.

The A, B, C, D Cup Sized Blossom Blouse

What level of experience do we sewing hobbyists need in order to tackle your sewing patterns and can they be adapted for a smaller bust size?

In-House Patterns are designed for sewers with some previous experience but I have some customers who consider themselves to be beginners getting amazing results. It is important to read all of the instructions included with the patterns since they are made using fashion industry techniques which require specific seam allowances and sewing methods. This is what makes In-House Patterns different from many of the others out there.

All patterns can be modified for smaller or larger cup sizes, it's just a matter of learning how to make the correct pattern adjustments which vary based on the style of the garment. I have detailed pattern correction instructions for bust sizes posted on the blog for each of the styles currently offered.

What inspires the style of your patterns?

My inspiration is drawn from vintage and modern sources. The hourglass figure was celebrated in the 1950's and women were portrayed as very sophisticated and elegant so I find I am most inspired by that period of fashion but I love the simplicity and comfort of modern clothing so I try for a mix of the two.

What is the future of IN-HOUSE patterns? Are you planning on releasing any more patterns in the near future?

I've got a million ideas for the future of In-House Patterns! For right now, I am focusing on building the pattern line and providing as much value as I can to my customers. I am currently developing new patterns which I plan to release in the fall of this year.

Thank you very much for the interview!

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Alexandra is generously offering up a Claire shorts PDF pattern - perfect for the warmer weather coming up - to one of my readers.

To enter the giveaway leave a comment to this post by Sunday, 23 March 2014. The giveaway is open internationally. 

Please don't forget to leave a contact e-mail address.

Good luck!

Will you be testing along with me? Or have you already tried one of Alexandra's patterns? Do tell!