Flowers in the Rain: Gudrun Sjödén Kamelia raincoat

Kamelia raincoat: flowers in the rain

Last Saturday I headed for the wonderfully colourful Gudrun Sjödén Monmouth Street store, excited to get to see the new Spring 2014 collection in person. Sjödén's spring collection is strong on print design and a must-see for any fellow fashion fabric addict. There are graphic and naïve pattern motifs inspired by Nordic artists Tove Jansson, Vera Nilsson and Siri Derkert; Pre-Raphaelite organic floral patterns embellished with embroidery and smock stitching; bold colourful earthy prints inspired by women pioneers and the rich colours of Sub-Saharan Africa. These fantastic fabrics have been cut into beautiful, functional and wearable designs – don't take my word for it, go and see them yourself! Perhaps the most perfectly practical of all Gudrun's garments this season (and essential given the current wet weather) is the Kamelia raincoat. As brand ambassador I'm lucky enough to get to road test this garment and am keen to share my findings.

Gudrun Sjödén Kamelia raincoat
Gudrun Sjödén Kamelia raincoat and Chilli eco-cotton shawl

The Kamelia raincoat features a floral print on a soft organic cotton fabric – it has a smooth 'brushed' to the touch texture which is backed on the inside with a water-repellent material in a deep orange colour. It's a lightweight garment with a generous hood secured by drawstring and toggles, has a popper fastening centre front and two generous front pockets. It's available in three colourways. 

Happy hoodie

Deciding which colour to pick took me a good half hour of trying them all on and much musing. At first my eye was drawn to the 'dala red' but I eventually to decided leave my Schiaparelli pink hued comfort zone and venture into 'neutral' territory. There aren't many fashion designers that could get me to look twice at what is essentially a beige mac, but then Gudrun Sjödén does neutrals like no-one else. The 'dark neutral' has a burst of citrus light, bright orange in the trailing flower design with a dot of magenta that completely transforms the surface of the garment. I decided that the colour tones were a good match for my greying brown hair and the coat felt simply sumptuous to wear.

Gudrun Sjödén Kamelia raincoat

I've worn the Kamelia raincoat every day for the past six days and it has kept me dry in cold pouring rain, cool in warm windy drizzle, has endured a two and a half hour train journey on a packed train (from which it emerged uncrumpled) and today was christened by a seagull on Brighton beach (easily dab cleaned with water and a tissue)! The hood stays up and keeps my ears warm in strong winds but importantly still gives good visibility when turning my head to cross the road. The medium sized coat is roomy enough to wear with two jumpers underneath but with its A-line shape also hangs beautifully if I wear it over a dress. It's a coat that's too good to keep just for rainy days. 

Gudrun Sjödén London store

With Patience and Love: Yoko Saito Log Cabin Bag

Yoko Saito Log Cabin quilted bag

Japanese Quilting Piece by Piece is an enchanting book of quilt artist Yoko Saito's patchwork designs for bags, pouches, cushions and more. It explores traditional patchwork techniques of log cabin, hexagons, baskets and stars and the exquisite projects in this book all look like love-worn heirlooms passed down through generations. There's a wealth of information and techniques to try but the outstanding project for me was the cover design log cabin bag – I had to make one!

Japanese Quilting Piece by Piece

Saito's colour palette is muted – Japanese neutrals that draw you in and invite you to examine nuances of colour and texture. She suggests using the wrong side of a piece of material to tone down the strength of colour or pattern. I struggled with this part. I decided to use a selection of offcuts of some Japanese printed cottons. I love the prints and textures of these fabrics and intended to use them on their reverse side but couldn't quite bring myself to embrace taupe, so instead turned them mainly to their right sides, with a few slices of reversed pieces and some tiny squares of jewel-bright 1960s cotton. However, the beauty of this book is that it encourages you to experiment with each project, to improvise and make the bag your own, so artistic licence with the colour palette excused...

200 rectangles cut out and assembled into blocks

This was my first piece of improv quilting and I found making the bag a slow and meditative process. First I cut out 200 rectangles to assemble the patchwork blocks needed, then spent blissful hours sewing the shapes together. The process for making the rest of the bag was familiar as I've made many quilted, padded gig bags before but assembling and constructing my fabric in this way was new to me and something I want to do more of.

Improv quilting by Ivy Arch

quilted lines

My finished bag lacks the precision and refinement of Saito's own, but I absolutely love what I've produced. The bag is small but sturdy, incredibly tactile and seems to have a spirit and character of its own. 

Yoko Saito log cabin quilted bag details
Yoko Saito Log Cabin Bag - with colour!