The Curtain Coat: Stylish Dress Book 2 - pattern X

Stylish Dress Book 2 - Coat Dress X - Peter Hall Candida

Two weeks into my not buying clothes for a year challenge and Volume 2 of the Japanese home sewing guide Stylish Dress Book: Simple Smocks, Dresses and Tops is providing a welcome distraction from thoughts of shopping. 

I've had two large Peter Hall 'Candida' screen printed cotton curtains in my collection of vintage fabrics for some time. This ornate material was originally printed in five different colourways (I have the brown and orange versions but am keeping my eyes peeled for the green, blue and red). I've made ukulele gig bags from this fabric already but saved some large pieces intending to make something for myself out of it one day.

Stylish Dress Book's coat dress pattern seemed perfect. I used the orange Candida print fabric for the front and back yoke and cut the body and sleeves from the autumnal brown piece. Something went wrong in my drafting of the sleeve pattern and the first sleeve came up very small. I retraced and recut the piece adding extra width to the sleeve head which I then gathered to fit the arm hole.

Coat dress X details - Stylish Dress Book 2

I love the finished result and can't describe how wonderful it feels to be clothed in this elaborate fabric. In my rich and interesting fantasy life I'd be wearing the coat to the opening of Saloua Raouda Choucair's Tate Modern exhibition as part of Shubbak Festival, but as my hectic schedule routine doesn't allow, instead I'll be wearing it to cycle along Worthing seafront, pop into Morrisons supermarket and then collect my daughter from school. If you see me out and about in this fantastic coat, do wave and say hello!

Peter Hall Candida coat dress

Giving up clothes shopping for a year

It was my 44th birthday this week and to mark the occasion of reaching this bingo-tastic age, I've decided to give up buying clothes for a year.

Three things prompted this decision:
  1. Finding an abandoned copy of The Guardian on a train in January and reading about Rebecca Smithers doing exactly this last year. I've been thinking about this article ever since.
  2. Discovering the Stylish Dress Book Japanese home dressmaking phenomenon.
  3. The Bangladeshi clothing factory collapse
Reading Smithers's article I immediately thought it was something I wanted to try too, but couldn't actually imagine giving up the fleeting thrill of a fantastic vintage find, or a root around Primark for a cheap instant fashion fix. I love clothes and always have, but after 28 adult years of acquiring stuff, I think the time has come for me to stop buying and take stock.

I have enough long sleeve tops, cheap vests and socks accumulated in the last few years alone, not to mention rails of dresses and jackets amassed over the decades to see me through at least five winters to come! Of course I can manage one year without buying more.

Two weeks ago a clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed killing 1127 people who died while working in appalling conditions to produce clothing for Western high street retailers. I simply don't want to be complicit in our society's need for increasingly cheap, fast fashion any more. Making more of my own clothes this year has reminded me how much work and skill is involved in producing even the most simple of garments and whenever I return to buying clothes I pledge to only buy products produced in fair conditions – whatever it costs.

Until then I'm following Smithers's lead and will stop buying new clothes for a year. I won't buy any new hosiery, no underwear, no shoes or boots or handbags, no 'preloved' or secondhand items and no accessories – this includes brooches and scarves (my weakness). Instead I will make do, mend or make things myself.

I've started telling friends and acquaintances about my mission and already two have also pledged to join me. And we're not the only ones.  

Others who stopped buying clothes for a year:
Rebecca Smithers 
Leona from Manchester
Sarah Peck from San Francisco 
All the folk who've taken part in The Great American Apparel Diet

Or, if you have money to burn (approx £1,933 that is) and no sense willpower, you can enlist a specialist life coach who will take the money you may have spent on buying clothes and in return they will motivate you not to shop! I think that's how it works anyway. Just like this.

Or do it my way and just stop buying clothes all by yourself. I'll let you know how I get on.

Super cute lavender bags available now in my Etsy shop!

I've just listed a whole new bunch of lavender bags on Etsy. I made them from Suzy Ultman's Put A Stamp On It design cotton – another beautiful Robert Kaufman fabric. Regular readers will know it's a favourite fabric in my house!


To see more or to buy, visit the Ivy Arch Etsy shop now.

Eclectic Owls in the Ivy Arch shop

Eclectic owl

I've been busy sewing owls. They started off as birthday presents for my daughter's friends, then seemed the ideal thing to make for Donna's new retro-fantastic flower shop and have been so popular I've made some to sell in my Etsy shop too. Now, you may think the last thing Etsy needs is more owls (according to this highly unscientific study they're the fourth most plentiful creature on my favourite handmade marketplace), but I'm sure you'll agree these owls are particularly lovely.

They're available in two shapes and I made them using up some of the precious smaller offcuts of rare vintage fabric left over from bigger projects, combined with contrasting bold contemporary prints. Original fabrics used include designs by Peter Hall, William Morris, Naito Shoji, Lecien Japan and Robert Kaufman.

Retro owls, handmade by Ivy Arch

They're upcycled toys and I love making them as every different fabric combination seems to give each one a distinct personality. Ivy Arch vintage/modern owls are available to buy now.

Vintage fabric owls