Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Amy Butler Cameo dress: Simplicity 2363

Amy Butler Cameo dress: Simplicity 2363

I spend entire evenings mooning over fabric shop websites and a recurring destination is Eclectic Maker's Going, Going Gone page of top quality fabric sale bargains. Spying a selection of Amy Butler fabrics there, I cycled over to Worthing's best fabric store the next day and snapped up the end of the roll of the Tea Rose Cameo print also buying half a metre of Hopscotch Cameo fabric to go with it.

Simplicity 2363 - before sleeves
An armless Simplicity 2363 - this dress can also be finished sleeveless

With such precious prints I wanted to make a dress pattern I knew well, and one that would suit, so returned to Simplicity 2363 - a pattern I've used again and again.

Posterior view: Simplicity 2363
Back view: Simplicity 2363

The finished frock is bright and summery, the material crisp and soft. I like the bold giant pom-pom flowers of the Tea Rose fabric, it makes for a really happy dress!

Simplicity 2363 details: sewn by Ivy Arch

I proudly wore my new creation to Wukulele uke jam on Sunday, accessorised with my Amy Butler Lotus ukulele case. I've made three of these uke gig bags, sold two but couldn't resist keeping the third for myself.

Ivy Arch Lotus ukulele gig bag

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Save The Elephant with Gudrun Sjödén!

Save The Elephant!

Every year more than 35,000 elephants are killed for their ivory. If the ivory trade continues at this rate the largest land mammal on our planet will be extinct within 10 years.

Inspired by the plight of the elephant, my favourite clothing designer Gudrun Sjödén is working with conservation network Ivory for Elephants (IFE) to help save the elephant in Africa. As part of her African animal themed autumn collection Gudrun pays tribute to these creatures with an exquisite range of elephant print designs and is donating £5 from the sale of every Elefant top to IFE to support their work in protecting elephants and rhinoceros, and reducing the ivory trade.

Gudrun Sjoden's Elefant top
Gudrun Sjoden's Autumn 2014 collection

8 Facts About Elephants:

1. Elephants can hear one another's trumpeting calls up to 5 miles away.

2. Elephants can get sunburned, so they protect themselves with sand.

3. Elephants are pregnant for 2 years. Imagine!

4. Elephants are scared of bees.

5. Elephants are herbivores.

6. An elephant's brain is similar to a human's in terms of structure and complexity.

7. Elephants care for the wounded and grieve the deceased. 

8. Elephants have one of the most close knit societies of any living species. A family can be devastated by a death, especially of a matriarch and some groups never recover.

To buy a Gudrun Sjödén 'Elefant' top visit Find out more about the Ivory For Elephants project at The classic BBC radio documentary Touching The Elephant has just been made available on CD.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Window Dressing: Harriet's Curtains - Stylish Dress Book, Y

Stylish Dress Book - dress Y

Harriet is a friend with an eye for print and pattern. We share an enthusiasm for novelty fabrics (see the Garden Gnome Party Dress I made for her daughter) and I was delighted when she kindly gave me the offcuts of the fabulous Antique Seeds cotton she made her wondrous new kitchen curtains from – to use as I wished.

Antique Seeds by Blue Hill Fabrics
Harriet's kitchen curtains in Antique Seeds by Blue Hill Fabrics

There was just enough material to make some panels and trim for a dress, so once again I returned to a sewing pattern that's a staple of my summer wardrobe - Dress Y from the first volume of The Stylish Dress Book.  A quick rummage through my wardrobe tells me I've made 7 of these dresses to date but hadn't sewn a new one this year... The Antique Seeds print went really well with a ditzy multi-coloured floral cotton bought at Worthing's Wednesday Market. I used Harriet's curtain fabric to make the bodice front side and back panels, and a matching border along the hem. I added pockets to the side seams - an essential improvement to this great dress design.

Stylish Dress Book Wear With Freedom: dress Y
Harriet's kitchen curtains

I'm ever so happy with the end result - it's the perfect attire for picking ripe pears in Harriet's garden.

Harriet's lovely pear tree
Medieval sleeve, SDB dress Y

Saturday, 2 August 2014

WW1 Centenary: Poppies and Produce in Beach House Park

WW1 floral tribute in Beach House Park, Worthing

Worthing's Beach House Park is an ideal place for quiet contemplation at any time of year. Monday 4th August is the centenary of the start of the First World War and to commemorate this event a bold giant poppy made up of small red flowers has been planted on the circular mound at the back of the War Pigeon Memorial. Tall red poppies have also been planted amongst the shrubs on the rockery. It's a beautiful sight.

Poppies at Worthing's Pigeon War Memorial

Equally impressive is Beach House Park's WW1 Allotment Bed, planted in May by Paul Eustice and Worthing & District Allotments Association. I've been watching its progress with delight and it's wonderful to now see the vegetables growing in abundance having survived weeks of drought, the recent flash floods and the ravages of local wildlife (insect, animal and human). The allotment has been designed to grow the food varieties which were available at that time.

WW1 Allotment Bed, Beach House Park, Worthing

During World War 1 Victory Gardens were encouraged for the first time in Britain as a means for the population to have food at a time when it was in short supply. In common with much of the country, many parks and green spaces in Worthing were turned into allotments including Denton Gardens (opposite Beach House Park) where the local police force were given plots to grow potatoes. East Worthing was known for its tomatoes, grapes and cucumbers.

WW1 vegetable patch, Beach House Park

A hundred years on, some the varieties planted in Beach House Park's WW1 commemorative allotment are still widely used by allotment holders and growers.

Beach House Park, Worthing in August

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Baggy Trousers: McCall's M6514

Baggy Trousers: McCalls M6514

Slouchy, loose-fit harem style pants are everywhere right now and they got me thinking of a beloved pair of peg-leg paisley cotton trousers I wore in the 1980s. They were homemade from fabric bought at Stourbridge market and I wore them with an oversized bobbly brown jumble sale jumper with socks and sandals. Perhaps it's the flush of perimenopause that makes me want to recapture my awkward youthful essence, or maybe my style hasn't really changed much since then, but it's an outfit I want to wear all over again.

M6514 pleat front elasticated waist trousers. Comfort here I come!

McCall's M6514 was the only pattern in stock at C&H Fabrics that looked approximately like it could satisfy this urge to run up a pair of baggy trews. I cut out a size 14, mindful that a smaller size wouldn't fit comfortably over my girth and rear, but needn't have worried. The design and sizing turned out to be über generous and I had to reduce them by 4cms width from hip to calf to stop myself looking like a one-woman MC Hammer revival.

McCall's M6514 trouser details

The McCall's pattern suggests stretch knit fabrics but instead I used an African wax print cotton which is closer to the look and feel of my original 1980s baggy trousers. Once I'd cut out the pattern they were a very quick and easy sew (just like it says on the packet) even taking into account necessary alterations. 

McCalls M6514. Satisfactory baggy trousers

They have a flat waistband at the front, are elasticated at the back and have deep curved pockets - so comfortable to wear. They came up very long in the size 14 so I've given them a permanent turn-up hem (stitched down at the side seam) which also smartens them off nicely. I love them!

Jazz pants

Friday, 25 July 2014

Teville Gate in the Summertime

Teville Gate, Worthing in bloom

Teville Gate is one of the great mysteries of Worthing. A vast derelict space right in the centre of town, it's the first sight you see when arriving from Worthing's central train station. No one can fathom why this huge prime piece of real estate full of potential has remained empty for so long. Our Conservative council still seem to favour it being turned into some sort of money-spinning entertainment multiplex experience, though one of these proposed schemes fell through and the current firm appointed by them have failed to raise the £150 million capital needed to fund the colossal twin-tower design hotel, conference centre, 9 screen multiplex cinema, 86,000 square foot supermarket and parking space for 967 cars that the council would dearly love to see. Perhaps just as well, it sounds ghastly!

Teville Gate in the summertime - boarded up and weeds growing high

I think it's a shame this site wasn't considered for the new secondary school our town needs. The as yet un-named Secondary Academy is currently being built in Broadwater, an area already congested with traffic to the north of Worthing, some 20 minutes walk from the railway station. A central Worthing location for the new secondary school would have much better suited the needs of more members of the community, bringing life and learning into a massive empty, neglected space; and it would be an environmentally friendly initiative, being a location much better served by public transport. The council could have looked into funding an educational centre of excellence right in the centre of town instead of building another entertainment and shopping complex with enormous car park. We already have two large supermarkets with car parks within walking distance of Teville Gate, four cinema screens and plenty more empty car parks in the town centre. Enough already!

Perfect site for Worthing's new Secondary Academy

However, the current sponsors have just pulled out of the Secondary Academy with concerns about the Broadwater site being unsuitable so at this rate we'll be lucky if the new school gets built at all, let alone by 2015. Meantime, nature is making moves to reclaim Teville Gate herself. In another year or so it'll be ready to enter Worthing In Bloom.

Teville Gate, Worthing
Feet and weeds

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Stylish Dress Book Revisited: Seaside Smock B

Stylish Dress Book: Smock B by Ivy Arch

It's some 16 months since I discovered Stylish Dress Book the title that set me off on what has become a dressmaking odyssey. I've recommended the book to friends and acquaintances many times since and it's a title I always suggest starting with if you'd like to make timeless Japanese style clothes that are contemporary and comfortable. I've made 10 dresses from it so far. Showing it to a friend whose teenage daughter has just started sewing her own clothes I once again felt inspired to sew from this fabulous book.

Stylish Dress Book

This seaside print cotton fabric has been in my stash for a year and I could neglect it no longer so decided to revisit pattern B (a design for a blouse with elasticated cuffs) and make myself another smock lengthened to a dress. This time I redrafted the Garibaldi sleeves, as in the first version I made I accidentally omitted an instruction in drafting the bottom section of the sleeves so my arms lacked the right amount of puff...

Smock B details

Adjustments made to the sleeve pattern, it was an even easier sew the second time round and the finished smock is perfect for this continued hot weather – the fabric just right for being beside the seaside. 

Stylish Dress Book, seaside smock B

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Hello Tokyo Quilt and Cushions

Hello Tokyo Quilt by Ivy Arch

Hello Tokyo is Sydney designer Lisa Tilse (The Red Thread)'s first range of fabric, produced by Robert Kaufman. The range features Japanese Kokeshi dolls, kawaii cats, stylised flowers, spots and circles on colourful cotton fabric in the boldest brightest hues of pink, orange, mint and blue. I came across it last year and have been buying small amounts whenever I could find it at discounted prices, with a view to eventually making a quilt for my daughter as an end-of-school-year gift. 

With the end of the academic year in sight, I took stock of how many pieces I'd amassed and downloaded Robert Kaufman's free Hello Tokyo quilt pattern. The quilt design comes in two suggested colourways, one predominantly pink, the other mostly blue. I used a mixture of both colours, adding in some orange polka dot cotton left over from other projects. My version is pretty faithful to the Kaufman template but I've swapped a few of the blocks and changed the positioning of some of the cute appliqué characters.

Making a Hello Tokyo Quilt
This is the first patchwork quilt I've made and I didn't fully appreciate how much space is needed to make a bedspread sized quilt! I cleared floorspace in the lounge to lay out and assemble the squares, then had to drape the work-in-progress over a chair, ironing board and across the dining table so that family life could resume as normal in between sewing sessions – just about manageable in our narrow Victorian terraced house. (The houses in my street were built in 1870-80s and typically housed Worthing's working people - including dressmakers and manual workers.)

Cutting out and laying out the pieces took hours but once arranged sewing the blocks together was a speedy and wholly absorbing process. I cut out the appliqué characters leaving a 2mm white border, used fuse-a-web to fix them to the quilt then machine zig-zagged around the edges to secure them in place. Next I added a greige polka dot border to the patchwork. I wanted a border that would make the Hello Tokyo fabrics really stand out and this colour also gives the quilt an elegant edge. Then I made a huge inside-out quilt sandwich of the patchwork, wadding and a mint green cotton lining fabric, sewed it together leaving a gap, turned it through, then hand stitched the turn through gap. Finally I fastidiously pinned all three layers together before beginning machine quilting. I sewed around the appliqué shapes, highlighted some of the square patches and channel quilted the head and foot of the quilt to finish.

Finished quilt hanging in the garden

Hello Tokyo quilt and cushions in my daughter's room

The patchwork cushions were very quick and easy to make after wrestling with such a huge object as the quilt - they have envelope backs so that they can be swiftly removed for washing.

Appliqué Ivy Arch cushions in Hello Tokyo fabrics

The finished quilt really brightens up her bedroom – we're both thrilled to bits with it – and I'm now motivated to do more patchwork quilting. Watch this space!

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