December Ends

Worthing beach, December 2014

With the year drawing to a close we took a late afternoon walk on Worthing beach. The landscape to the east was coloured in soft pastel shades of blue with sandy brown footnotes.

View towards East Worthing, December afternoon.

The prospect to the west was a palette of grey flecked with silver and gold as the sun descended lower onto the horizon. Tranquil tones and a tonic for the senses as we mark the close of the old year and the dawn of the new.

Walking on Worthing beach at low tide
Shimmering views to the West
Man digging for worms on Worthing beach
A happy New Year from Ivy Arch!

Scarlett et Marguerite Baba Yaga dress

Baba Yaga dress, made by Ivy Arch

Introducing my first Scarlett et Marguerite Baba Yaga dress! Scarlett et Marguerite is a boutique and fabric store based in Nancy, France, which also designs and sells its own patterns for easy-to-sew clothes. Their aesthetic reminds me of 1970s Clothkits, far-out Gudrun Sjödén and 1980s Camden Market bohemian chic. Theirs is a world of unashamedly colourful homemade clothes in easy-fit shapes, embellished with all manner of brocades, ribbons and pom poms, sewn together with love.

Baba Yaga dress in Carolyn Gavin's Petite Fleur fabric, made by Ivy Arch

The Baba Yaga is one of their most sewn (and blogged) sewing patterns. I've craved making one myself all year long but put off buying it mainly due to the high cost of postage from France (almost as much as the price of the pattern itself). Eventually, a timely year-end discount code persuaded me to take the plunge and order it online. Once ordered, the pattern was delivered quickly and arrived in a delightful package - a joy to receive! It even included a Scarlett et Marguerite sew-in label to add to the newly created dress. The written instructions are only in French but the illustrated diagrams were clear and when in doubt I used Google Translate to decipher anything I wasn't sure about. 

Carolyn Gavin's Petite Fleur prints

Extra special fabric was required for this folkloric design and Carolyn Gavin's gorgeous Petite Fleur collection of organic cottons was just the thing. I used three different prints in a navy/red colourway; Swallow Garden for the main dress and sleeve panels; Poppies for the dress border; and Floral Impressions (a navy/white stem print) for the front and back panels. I spent even longer deliberating on which ribbons to use for the centre back trim before settling on a red gingham (for the time being).

Baba Yaga dress made by Ivy Arch

Baba Yaga is an easy pattern to sew and rewardingly quick to put together. I love the puff sleeve cuffs which have four darts to give them shape. There's room for personal interpretation here too – embellishment is encouraged! I closed the front neckline on mine to make the front sit flat and added (essential) side pockets. I'm wearing it here with my Gudrun Sjödén Cirkus print leggings and red shoes – a combination as flamboyant as the myth of Baba Yaga herself.

Baba Yaga worn with Gudrun Sjödén Cirkus leggings

One hundred (and more) ukulele bags

The very last uke bag has left my sewing machine! I have made well over a hundred quilted ukulele gig bags and appliquéd ukulele tote bags since sewing the very first gig bag for my Flea. I've sold them at music festivals, craft fairs and through shops in the UK. Through Etsy I've shipped many out to happy customers all over the world to countries as far flung as USA, Canada, Sweden, Australia, Scotland, Germany, Norway, Czech Republic, Japan, New Zealand and even China.

Ukulele gig bags made by Ivy Arch

There are just a few remaining appliqué uke bags left for sale (some in my Etsy shop and a few in shops in the UK) but all the uke gig bags have now gone to new homes. 

Quilted ukulele gig bags by Ivy Arch

I have enjoyed making every single one of them, delighted in carefully packaging them up and sending them out, and loved receiving emails and hearing kind feedback from happy customers. 

Appliqué ukulele bags by Ivy Arch 

All good things must come to an end and I'm marking the close of the year by saying farewell to my ukulele bag production line. Here's to new exciting sewing adventures in 2015!  

Avant Garden Fantasia Tova

Tova in Avant Garden by Ivy Arch

Possibly the finest frock I've made this year, or my current fave at least. As promised, it's my second Wiksten Tova, this time in Fantasia fabric from MoMo's recent Avant Garden collection for Moda. This colourway is Aqua Skies, the print is so splendid! I was overjoyed to find MoMo's designs in my local fabric shop – Worthing's Eclectic Maker. They had both the cotton, and linen/cotton mix varieties of these prints. I chose a linen mix as it felt more suitable for autumn/winter wear and also bought a small piece of contrasting Poppin Poppies print for the yoke.

Avant Garden Tova details
Front and back views, Avant Garden Tova
 Wiksten Tova collar and back
The Tova was a quick make a second time round, this time I lengthened the sleeves a little and decided not to add a cuff as it felt too bulky in this fabric. I added pockets into the side seams, made with the Poppin Poppies contrast fabric. They're hidden away from sight but make me very happy indeed!

Poppin Poppies pockets

A happy Tova

Tova Time: My first Wiksten Tova

Wiksten Tova in Liberty Pick & Mix Tana Lawn by Ivy Arch

There are scores of lovely homesewn Wiksten Tovas in the blogosphere. It's a clean and simple looking design that seems to suit everyone. I think the popularity of this sewing pattern somewhat put me off having a go at making one myself. It also looks similar to several other sewing patterns I've made (front yoke, three quarter length sleeves, gathers below the bustline) so I thought I could probably do without it, but eventually curiosity got the better of me. 

Blue Tova by Ivy Arch with Liberty print yoke and trim

I used a lightweight blue printed cotton to make the Tova dress, with a small leftover piece of Liberty Pick and Mix Tana Lawn for the yoke and sleeve trim. I also cut out some contrasting patch pockets to give the Tova more of a 1970s feel (with this sewing pattern in mind).

Wiksten Tova details

I made a few modifications: I narrowed the stand up collar; interlined the front yoke piece to give it more body and sewed up the placket a few centimetres at the bottom to slightly close up the front. This also stops the front neckline gaping too much and means I can wear it without a vest underneath, modesty assured! 

Wiksten Tova by Ivy Arch

The fit of the Tova is superb. Very happy with this one, I've already sewed a second – watch this space for Tova #2.

An Anti-Beige Ottobre Art Teacher Dress

Ottobre Design Art Teacher Dress in fleece by Ivy Arch

Getting through the colder months with greying hair and sun starved sallow skin – without looking completely washed-out and middle-aged – is a challenge best tackled by wearing more colourful clothes. So having bought some crazy coloured chevron fleece fabric from Brighton's Fabric Land (unsure whether to make cushions or clothes with it), it dawned on me that making a fleece dress in this bright material would solve so many problems.

A very bright fleece Art Teacher Dress

I've made it into another Art Teacher Dress from Ottobre Design's Autumn/Winter 2014 magazine.

Feeling fleece-tastic!

As before, the pockets in this dress design are perfect, and lovely and soft to the touch in fleece. I cut the multicoloured chevrons in different directions, machine finished the hem and sleeves with a fancy topstitch and used bias binding for a neat neckline.

Art Teacher Dress details

Fleece is so quick and easy to sew – no fraying seams! And did I mention how warm and cosy it is? Fleece fan John Shuttleworth would be thrilled to pieces with such a sensible fabric choice, I'm sure. I still have enough fabric left over to make four cushion covers (for Xmas presents), so will be spreading the fleece love this Christmas. Fleece Navidad indeed.

God bless the fleece, it brings you inner peace!

Elfish Sewing: Stylish Dress Book 1 - Dress E

Stylish Dress Book 1: Dress E made by Ivy Arch

Sometimes the best homemade dresses are the ones that take the least time to make. Dress E from Yoshiko Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Book: Wear with Freedom fits this description. It's a simple pull-over-the-head tunic with neat front pleats and two patch pockets – a gift for beginners and seasoned dressmakers alike. 

Dress with front pleats: Stylish Dress Book 1 illustration

I've made it twice before, first in a plaid suiting fabric and again in blue cotton paisley. The shape is flattering, it's comfortable and easy to wear.

Two versions of Dress E in blue paisley cotton (left), and plaid suiting (right)

With two metres of Poppy Europe bird print corduroy and half a metre of emerald green needlecord, I was raring to go. As before I lengthened the sleeves to three quarter length but this time also lengthened the hem to fall just below the knee to make it less of a tunic and more of a folk dress.

Dress E: Stylish Dress Book 1

I experimented with cutting out the upper back panel in green, then trimmed the pockets and added cuffs to the sleeves to match. 

Dress E: back view

The combination of brown brightly printed fabric trimmed with emerald green reminds me of the classic 1960s/70s Ladybird book The Elves and The Shoemaker. It's a book I read dozens of times as a child and spent hours studying the hand drawn illustrations (by Robert Lumley). I no longer have a copy but remember details on every page. The cover has two elves in patched clothes sewing and hammering a huge pair of emerald green shoes, and on the final pages the elves (wearing bright green suits made for them by the shoemaker's wife) are shown skipping out into daylight. I'm on the hunt for an affordable replacement copy of the book, but in the meantime will channel that good elf feeling in my new corduroy dress.

Dress E, Stylish Dress Book 1

Make It Perfect Poppy Tunic – with modifications

Poppy Tunic in Soft Cactus Lasting Leaves, made by Ivy Arch

Since I made this tunic at the start of the month the weather has turned a tad chillier and so I've only had occasion to wear it once. I really should have chosen more seasonally appropriate fabrics but found an unexpected bolt end of Soft Cactus Lasting Leaves combed cotton in a local fabric shop and couldn't wait until spring to use it!

Make It Perfect Poppy Tunic with modified yoke

The dress is a modified version of Make It Perfect's Poppy Tunic. It's a simple sleeveless design available as an instant PDF download, which is a cinch to assemble as it has essentially just four pattern pieces. There are some beautiful versions of the Poppy Tunic on the web, especially by Jane at Lempo Bee and Laura at Craftstorming

Back yoke detail - laborious but lovely

I love the contrast yoke but felt that it looked too small and short in the original design to suit my pear-shaped proportions so I lengthened the yoke on the front and back pattern pieces, then widened the hemline border panel to balance out the dress. For yoke and border I used the left over lining fabric from my Uptown Coat. I added pockets into the side seam – my default side seam pocket pattern piece for these situations is from Simplicity 2363, the shape is just right.

Front yoke.

The Poppy Tunic is a beginner's sewing pattern but I found attaching the home-made bias binding to the front and back yoke panels very fiddly to do and this part took me ages (the written instructions are clear but it was a process I found tricky). However, the end result definitely justifies the swearing and sighing involved and it does make the tunic look lovely. I may have to make a knit or corduroy version to see me through the winter but know that come spring this one will really come into its own.

Make It Perfect: Poppy Tunic

Checking In, Checking Out: Stylish Dress Book 1 – Dress V

Stylish Dress Book 1: dress V by Ivy Arch

Returning to Stylish Dress Book: Wear With Freedom – the mother of all Japanese dressmaking books – I found there are still a good number of dresses in it that I haven't made, so turned my attention to tartan shirt-dress V. I like the loose shape of this design and the gathered lower front panel. The shirt collar looks great on the twenty-something Japanese model pictured, but experience tells me that wearing a sharp shirt-collar with my own short grey hair and middle-aged face is a dispiritingly dowdy look. Instead, I redrafted the neckline with a simple scoop shaped front, drafted a facing, and took out the centre front button panel replacing it with a centre front seam. 

Tartan shirt dress V, Stylish Dress Book

I used two and a half metres of a checked suiting fabricanother £4 a metre bargain from Worthing's Wednesday market. The book suggests you use 2.8 metres but I managed to match the checks at the side seams and had some fabric left over, so consider their estimate generous. I shortened the front hem so that the hem line dips lower at the back, it makes the shape of it feel a bit more sprightly in this heavy fabric.

Stylish Dress Book 1: dress V

Gathering and stitching the front panel was fiddly but not impossible and the rest of the dress was not problematic until I burnt a small hole in the centre front when pressing it with a too-hot iron. Curses! I repaired the hole but decided to sew the front pocket over it dungaree-style for peace of mind. The pocket has since come into its own as a handy place to transport my mobile phone. I added a second small pocket the back of the dress, consistent with the improvised dungaree pocket on the front, and finished the pockets and hem with some embroidered braid.

Back view, dress V

The dress has been such a hit that I have worn in three days in a row - unprecedented behaviour from someone who is not averse to changing outfits twice in one day.

Hitchcock film poster lavender bags in the Ivy Arch shop

New in my shop this evening are a batch of Alfred Hitchcock film poster lavender bags. They're made using material from Robert Kaufman's novelty Classic Horror Film collection. The Cinema Series depicts posters from Hitchcock's films with sharp graphics and good quality printing on 100% cotton fabric. I've backed them with black and white polka dot cotton fabric and stuffed them with super fragrant dried lavender flowers from Provence. 

Hitchcock lavender bags in the Ivy Arch shop

My favourite has to be Saul Bass's iconic Vertigo poster lavender bag with its iconic hand-cut lettering against a bright orange background and stylised figures spiralling into a white vortex. I can assure you that any anxiety and disorientation induced by this image will soon be soothed by the fragrant notes of lavender within!

Saul Bass's Vertigo poster - as a lavender bag

Ivy Arch Hitchcock lavender bags include Psycho, The Birds, Rope and North by Northwest. All are available to buy now in my Etsy shop.

Stashbuster Patchwork Cushions

Stashbuster Patchwork Cushion by Ivy Arch

Patchwork is ideal for using up scraps of fabric left over from other projects. I can just about bear binning the overlocking offcuts and fraying cracklings snipped away while dressmaking, but feel uneasy throwing any other pieces of material away when there is the possibility they could be used for something else one day. At the end of each project all my fabric scraps get chucked into clear plastic sandwich bags and are stored in a big box along with the hundreds of other small bagged up remnants I've collected.

Patchworked pieces from dressmaking offcuts

I decided to start putting those leftovers to use and make some new cushion covers. I whiled away two evenings selecting fabrics from my remnant stash and carefully cutting out three score and four squares. For backing I used the remaining pieces of Gudrun Sjödén's organic eco cotton (which had been patiently waiting for their moment since I made these ukulele gig bags) and some beige polka dot cotton left over from making my daughter's Hello Tokyo quilt. I made simple envelope backs so that the covers can be easily removed for washing.

Ivy Arch patchwork cushion
Patchwork from remnants, colourful and cheery!
The cushions are backed with Gudrun Sjöden remnants and leftover crafting cotton.

Measuring and cutting out the squares is a meditative process but for me the great pleasure of machining patchwork is seeing how quickly the finished pieces come together when you do start sewing. The colourful finished cushions are designed to bring cheer to even the coldest, greyest November day.

Patchwork pileup