Corduroy Contemplations: Ottobre Art Teacher Dress and another Esme

Ottobre Art Teacher Dress in Needlecord made by Ivy Arch

It's two years to the month that I made my first Ottobre Art Teacher dress and I can't fathom why it's taken me so long to reprise this super sewing pattern. The dress is a very quick sew and easy and comfortable to wear. It's perfect for the autumn and winter months and I think would work well in heavy linen, flannel and denim as well as corduroy.

Art Teacher dress in printed needlecord by Ivy Arch

This is my third Art Teacher dress (I made a second one in fleece) and I have to say it's pretty perfect in corduroy. The fabric is a Japanese cotton needlecord bought from Worthing's More Sewing last week.

Colourful corduroy Art Teacher dress

It had been a while since I visited the More Sewing shop and the selection of colourful quality fabrics they now stock is a delight. On my recent visit the small shop was packed with women attending a dressmaking course and I'm sure the convivial atmosphere contributed to my carefree fabric splurge. I also bought some turquoise printed corduroy from which I made another Esme dress.

Turquoise corduroy Esme dress made by Ivy Arch

Rainbow Forest Fen Dress

Rainbow Forest Fen Dress by Ivy Arch

I made this Fen dress back in May but wasn't entirely happy with it at the time so it hung unworn and unblogged at the back of my wardrobe. Sorting through clothes for autumn I tried it on again and felt entirely differently about it. This time round the thick linen/cotton mix fabric with it's bright print of rainbows, clouds and forests seemed to perfectly fit the season, and the cut and shape of the Fen dress felt comfortable and perfect for autumn layering.

Fancy Tiger Crafts Fen Dress made by Ivy Arch

The fabric is another purchase from Worthing's Eclectic Maker. It's by Momo for Moda Fabrics and is from her Rainbow Forest range.

Fen dress pocket

The Fen's neckline and boxy fit had initially felt too wide and baggy across my small shoulders, but worn with a vest or t-shirt underneath feels comfortable. I love the dropped hemline and the gathered waist, and I adore the pockets.  

Fen dress details with rainbows, flowers and trees

Fancy Tiger Crafts have made two gorgeous winter versions of their Fen pattern and I'm now tempted to make another, in cozy plaid flannel too.

Shoegazing in the autumn garden

Happy 7th Birthday Wukulele!

Happy Birthday Wukulele!

The Autumn Equinox seems a fitting time to share my celebratory photos for Wukulele's seventh birthday party uke jam which took place at Worthing Rowing Club last Sunday.
Wukulele party time at Worthing Rowing Club

We are the longest running uke jam in Sussex and probably the jolliest (definitely the most likely to wear party hats). Over the years members have come from far and wide and some have happily gone on to form their own uke jams in neighbouring towns, growing our ukulele community. Wukulele continues to attract newcomers and new strummers and today we are in as strong voice and as purposeful in pluck as at our very first uke jam seven years ago!

Happy Birthday Wukulele! Celebrating 7 years of ukulele joy in Worthing

You can read our story, see more photos and download our world famous free ukulele songbooks here.

Happy Wukulele!

Autumnal Inspiration at Gudrun Sjödén

Geranium jacquard knit cardigan by Gudrun Sjödén

Gudrun Sjödén's Autumn 2016 collection is inspired by the Big Apple of New York and takes us on a journey through the urban streets of Chinatown, to the industrial market area turned cultural hub of the Meatpacking District, and on to the leafy roof top gardens of Brooklyn where I feel right at home.

The pick of the season: Gudrun Sjödén's Geranium wrap cardigan
Gudrun Sjödén's wonderful Geranium wrap-around cardigan in moss green
worn with her Apple tunic in artemisia
Gudrun's beautifully printed Apple Tunic in linen/cotton
Apple tunic in artemisia from Gudrun Sjödén's Autumn 2016 collection

Her knitwear is particularly strong this season and my favourite piece (so far) is the Geranium patterned jacquard-knit wraparound cardigan which comes in three colourways of pomegranate, moss green and black. I love this garment so much but found it impossible to choose between the pomegranate and the moss, eventually deciding to have both! The cut is so flattering and cosy, perfect for layering at this time of year. It even has a perfectly practical patch pocket.

Gudrun Sjödén's Autumn 2016 collection
Geranium cardigan in pomegranate with copper eco-cotton dress

The cardigan looks wonderful with everything but I've paired it here with Gudrun's Apple printed cotton/linen tunic in artemisia pale green, and a copper coloured eco-cotton dress with a seersucker texture from her Basic range which has a warm orange tone that I know will give me a real lift on grey autumn days.

Autumnal loveliness at Gudrun Sjödén's Covent Garden store
Warmth, colour and loveliness at Gudrun Sjödén's Covent Garden store this autumn 

Spanish Tile Esme Dress


Painter Laura Gunn's latest Valencia fabric collection for Michael Miller Fabrics features this amazing Spanish Tile design alongside other richly printed fabrics in her signature floral motifs.

I bought two and a half metres from Worthing's Eclectic Maker sewing shop – my go-to local destination for colourful, top quality fabrics. The material was almost too good to cut into! I decided to make another simple Esme dress to best show off the print and was mindful to carefully pattern match the patch pockets so as not to break up the tile pattern.

Laura Gunn's designs for Michael Miller are printed onto quilting weight cotton but I think they are ideal for dressmaking too. Last year I made a quilted coat using three different fabrics from her Garden Wall range so can testify to their wash and wearability – essential as I know this fabulous dress is going to get a lot of wear.


Fisherman's Blues: Merchant & Mills Top 64


Merchant & Mills Fisherman's Dress by Ivy Arch

A trip to Rye, East Sussex saw me heading straight for Merchant & Mills shop and headquarters. I had resisted buying their sewing patterns this far as to my mind their clean, simple designs look similar to many of the patterns I have previously made from Japanese sewing books. Their 'workwear' aesthetic also seemed a bit dour for my tastes and I was not wholly convinced would be flattering to my greying hair and middle aged pallor. However, I was prepared to be persuaded.

The shop itself is presented along the lines of a traditional drapers shop, or tailor's supply store circa the industrial revolution, with letterpress printed boxes of neatly packaged pins, needles, scissors and other sewing paraphernalia; heavy bolts of fabric in muted tones and natural fibres piled high on a wrought iron legged table in the centre of the shop; and cabinets full of tools, buckles and notions. The shop conveys an air of utilitarianism and serious craftsmanship, a romanticised ideal of authenticity being found in industrial mills, shades of greige and Shaker chic.

Merchant & Mills Headquarters, Rye, East Sussex

Fabrics stocked included some viscose and cotton jersey alongside the expected Irish linen, tweed, oilskin, denim and boiled wool in hues of blue, oatmeal, mushroom and grey. I also saw Indian block print cottons in subtle prints of indigo, grey and brown, as well as some brighter coloured linens. It took me a long time to choose a fabric that I felt I'd be able to wear with confidence back in my 21st century technicolour world but I eventually settled for a three-colour striped block print summer weight cotton. 

The Top 64 by Merchant & Mills

The sewing pattern I chose was Top 64, a simple loose-fitting tunic based on a traditional fisherman's smock. I had been forewarned that the sizing of Merchant & Mills patterns runs large, so for a perfect (but still generous) fit I cut the pattern across three sizes with the top part in size 10 grading out to a 14 across the hips. I shortened the sleeves and lengthened the hem to make it into a dress and cut my fabric with the stripes running in opposite directions to create more visual interest. The pattern was easy to follow and the dress enjoyably quick to make.

Ivy Arch: Merchant & Mills Top 64 as a dress

The finished frock is beautiful! It fits well and is has proved one of my most popular makes with the Instagram crowd. I haven't worn it out yet as the hot weather has seen me reaching for my usual colourful clothes, however this will be perfect for formal wear and who knows, may herald the start of a more subtle approach to dressing. Perhaps.

Fisherman's stripes

A Groovy Kaftan

Ivy Arch Far Out Esme Kaftan

The joy of sewing new dresses exceeds the routine of photographing and documenting them and so I have a small backlog of 3 new frocks which I shall endeavour to photograph and blog soon. Garments that don't make it to the blog usually still appear on my Dresses Made Pinterest page and often as a snapshot on Instagram, so do check in there if you want to see my latest concoctions.

Alexander Henry La Strada Fabric, 2008 Collection

This dress deserved more than a brief snapshot as I have used a most magnificent fabric! It's an Alexander Henry cotton print called La Strada. The internet tells me it's from their 2008 collection but it has just made its way to C&H fabrics in Chichester. With it I made my first Esme Kaftan - the long version of the Esme Dress and cover star of Lotta Jansdotter's Everyday Style sewing book.

Esme Kaftan by Ivy Arch, two views!

The kaftan speaks loudly for itself. I intended to keep it to wear at a very special (and I think currently top secret) event at Sussex Ukulele Festival in September, but can't wait until then! Instead I shall enjoy wearing it this summer, thus creating another potential dressmaking opportunity for September's event.

Groovy Kaftan by Ivy Arch

Trapeze Tree Dress

Trapeze Tree Dress by Ivy Arch

Always on the look out for another novelty tree print fabric, this beauty called to me across the floor at Chichester's C&H Fabrics shop. It's a lightweight polycotton, not a fabric I'd usually chose as I've an aversion to the poly, however the print is simply stunning and the price was a steal at £4 a metre.
Tree print dress with petticoat by Ivy Arch

I modified the Esme dress pattern into a trapeze shape and made a simple sleeveless cotton slip petticoat to wear underneath. I decided to give the dress a rising/falling hem so that the petticoat is visible peeking out underneath.

Tree Trapeze dress by Ivy Arch

Trial and error with a contrasting patch pocket resulted in my unpicking a bold first attempt before settling on this camouflaged diagonal pocket, matching the trees as closely as I could.

Tree treats: Ivy Arch dress with You Make Me Design brooch

The dress goes perfectly with my new green tree brooch from Etsy's fab You Make Me Design shop, a present to celebrate my 47th birthday!
Petticoat tales

Upcycled Esme Dress

Esme Dress in African Wax Print made by Ivy Arch

In an attempt to buy less fabric I have rummaged through my wardrobe and sorted out a pile of dresses I no longer wear with the intention of cutting them up and reusing the fabric to make new clothes. The first remake in this project uses a blue African wax print cotton salvaged from a beautiful dress I wore 6 years ago but have now grown out of! While I would love to have been able to squeeze into the original dress again, this is not really a healthy or realistic goal, so thought it was time to give the fabric a new lease of life and make it into something I can wear today. 
Esme dress details

There was not quite enough useable material to run to a full length frock so inspired by this Lotta Jansdotter patchwork Esme dress, I used a contrasting band of African wax print fabric left over from making a pair of loud trousers 2 years ago, to patch the material to the right length.

Ivy Arch's patched together Esme Dress made from reused fabric
Esme patch pocket with fish!

The Esme was super quick to sew and I love the finished result with its clashing prints. The dress is also lovely and soft as the fabric has been well washed and worn. I will definitely be making more of these patched together garments from the discarded dress pile.

Upcycled dress success!

Gudrun Sjödén's Patchwork Perfection

Gudrun Sjödén's sensational Murano knitted coat, Spring 2016

The stand-out piece from Gudrun Sjödén's Spring 2016 collection is her Murano knitted cardigan coat. The Murano is a sensation in all colourways but the lupine with its tones of blue and turquoise makes me want to jump for joy.


Gudrun Sjoden's joyous Murano coat.

The coat is made up of different patterned patches of knitted linen/cotton fabric cut into diagonals and squares and is expertly crafted and assembled. As with all Gudrun Sjödén clothes the colours have been carefully matched with her previous collections and it goes with everything in my wardrobe.

Myller leggings: Gudrun Sjödén S/S 2016

Gudrun's Spring collection is full of strong colours and prints so it was an unusual choice for me to choose a pair of Myller leggings in black. Black is not a colour I normally wear but the graphic surface print of flowers, dots and dashes in shades of grey and cream looks stunning. Of course I then had to buy the same leggings in cyclamen and china blue colours. They all work well with the Murano coat and give a lift to my old familiar handmade clothes too, refreshing my wardrobe in tune with spring.

Myller leggings and super socks by Gudrun Sjödén

In the Spring/Summer catalogue you can also see the results of the Gudrun Sjödén stripes photo shoot I took part in last July in Stockholm. It's a thrill to see these pictures published, a great reminder of a wonderful day spent with lovely people and an experience I'll never forget.

Gudrun Sjödén Spring/Summer 2016 catalogue
Gudrun's clothes are for all colourful women!

By the way, if you haven't already, you must see my friend Myf Tristram's ace sketch diary of our Stockholm trip, and I can't resist sharing Gudrun's video of the shoot below. Happy days for colourful women!

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