Me-made Malta

Me made in Malta

The Dress That Nearly Wasn’t, dress!

We only just came back last week but wow!… our trip to Malta seems a lifetime in the past.

First time any of us had ever visited the island. Or at least spent any quality time there. And the first time ever we have all been abroad, together as a family! So it was a very precious week indeed.

We stayed in the north, in Mellieha in a beautiful villa with a private pool. It was hot hot hot, even on the day of the storm. Such a fierce one in fact that my eldest daughter’s flight had to make an emergency landing in Sicily, poor love! But all was ok in the end and we certainly made up for lost time when she eventually touched down!

I’m not going to harp on what larks were had or how divine the country is; it’s fascinating history or how peaceful and it was and how immensely friendly the Maltese are… I am simply using this post to express how delighted I was at having some functional me-mades in my suitcase.

It will probably come as no surprise that the top one, and the two following below are all based on the Elisalex dress by By Hand London!

Love of lawn dress

For the Love of Lawn dress. And a rare picture of me and my lovely, care of smallest dort!

vintage rose Elisalex dress

Vintage Roseprint Elisalex Dress

First Summer dress

First Summer dress: Simplicity 2442

70s Dress in Blue, McCalls 2399

70s Dress in Blue, McCalls 2399: A rare picture with my teen son, Alfie

The ubiquitous scabby doorways are so fabulous for showcasing outfits! I wish I could find just one street load of these in London. Ones that wouldn’t have a grumpy resident chasing you off their doorsteps would be a bonus too!

Asides from the usual swimming, sun-worshipping, reading, eating and drinking (sometimes we just changed the order), I did actually manage to get a little sewing in too.

A lickle bit of hand embroidery on a shirt that shall be revealed in all its entirety at a later date:

embroidered initials

Hand embroidered initials

I’m bracing myself for normality next week: kids back to school (yay!) and me back to work (boo!) And I’m getting excited about Autumnal projects. This chilly weather can do all it likes to try and dampen my spirits but it will not triumph over the joy of sewing new things that will keep me warm!!

Happy sewing, peeps! x

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For the love of lawn

Red rose print cotton lawn dress

What have you ByHandLondon girls done to me? How am I ever going to make another dress that doesn’t involve an Elisalex bodice?

red rose cotton lawn dress

To be fair, it was the fabric that led the dress time. A three metre bolt of cellophaned gorgeousness that has patiently lain in wait for about 18 months at the bottom of Fabric Mountain. It is a rose printed cotton lawn. So silky soft and so very light, in need of a failsafe design. I haven’t seen this print anywhere since and I wasn’t about to bugger it up in a moment of madness. So, having made some fine fitting adjustments to the Elisalex-with-FBA-test-garment, I was able to go straight to and cut.

red rose cotton lawn dress detail

I toyed with a sleeveless version but having seen a few with sleeves and knowing that I wouldn’t suffer the consequences of plastic under pits, I had to give it a go.

I knew the bodice would be an even better fit than the last one as this fabric has a magical elasticity about it. Not a strand of spandex to be had. Just to do with the fineness and high yarn-count of the weave I think. It really is such a luxurious material. I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to use any.

red rose cotton lawn dress over shoulder

I used the whole 60″ width of the fabric to create the gathered skirt but it looks and feels half as poomfy as the vintage rose version. Just because it is lighter. Further confirmation that at some point I must make a full on layered petticoat. I say ‘make’, because I know I will find it impossible to go buy one, even though I am wincing at all that endless, time-consuming, middle-stare-inducing gathering involved!

red rose lawn dress in the park

The sleeves were easy enough to set in. Well if you inset them the right way round that is! I was wondering why, when I tried it on, the sleeves insisted on twisting round. I thought at first that the FBA had reduced the armscye somwhat, but oh no. Just a tired, dippy moment last night.

Note to self (and to anyone else who has ever made the same mistake): 
2 notches on a pattern piece indicate the back; 1 notch indicates the front

I had the moment of clarity, as I often do, standing in my blurry morning haze, under the shower head. A Eureka moment, kind of. So, following this one, I ran downstairs in a towel to check the notches on the sleeve. A bit tricky when you’ve clipped all the seams (doh!) but sure enought, that’s exactly what I’d done.

red rose lawn dress

You’d be forgiven for thinking that that was the end of my dippiness. But oh no no no. Having unpicked them and swapped them over, I then proceeded to pin the hem edge of one of the sleeves to the armhole. Can’t believe I openly admitted that. But better out than in, I say!

red rose lawn dress profile

Quite a bit of hand stitching re bodice lining to armscye and waist seams and hand hemming. Only because I feel like I’m cutting corners if I do otherwise. But I have temporarily machined the sleeve hems just because at that point, Mr O was politely tapping his foot with a camera round his neck.

Best not upset the photographer, hey?!

red rose lawn dress on the kerb

The dress that nearly wasn’t

. . . but I’m so glad it is!

Spotty rose dress

Following on from the vintage rose print dress, I fully intended to make the next one from some gorgeous red rose cotton. But I knew I should improve on the fit of the bodice beforehand. I’ve turned once again to my trusty Elisalex bodice pattern. Why fix it if it’s not broke, I say!

I’ve taken the advice from the By Hand London site to perform a full bust adjustment. Something I never thought I would ever need to do for me. But on closer examination of my last version, and the one before, the upper bust was defo a tad too big whilst the fabric was more than snug over ‘the girls’. I’ve always gone by bust size and increased the waist, but never thought to go down a size and increase bust and waist. More than anything I plainly couldn’t be arsed! I must also learn to take bust measurements with whatever bra I mostly intend to wear!

Well. Big fat lesson learned. I now have a properly fitting bodice pattern that fits under arms, across chest, over bust and waist. Not bad for 2 years of (not) trying!

properly fitting bodiceAnyhows. This is not the reason that this particular dress didn’t happen. This spotty rose fabric has been sitting in the bottom of stash mountain for eons. I bought it from a charity shop and quickly decided it would only ever be suitable for a toile after doing a burn test.

Let’s just say I nearly burned down the kitchen in the process. Once the flames died down and the stinky fumes dispersed, my science test revealed that this fabric was totally synthetic and was never going to be acceptable in sweaty weather.

So I used it, with my dramatically altered bodice pattern to make a toile. Really not bothered if at first I didn’t succeed. I really didn’t want to cut into the lovely red fabric without knowing the alterations worked. But they did. Clearly. And all of a sudden I can forgive the fabric for being so unnatural! It’s amazing how blurred one’s vision gets when one is blinded by a darned good fit! I really must learn to be so snobby about fibre content!

front view of spotty rose dress

That said. I am still holding out for some 100% cotton gingham. How hard can it be? A sleeveless number in poly is fine but I can’t imagine having a sleeve, however short, in such close contact with my pits, in summer!

I wore it out to the park today in a sticky 26 degrees. Extreme test for a plastic dress. But because the skirt is so full and the fabric is so thin, it was remarkably cool.

Wearing the dress in Ravenscourt Park Gardens

Smelling the roses

I am still going to do the red rose version but I’m so pleased with this Brucey bonus one that I landed up with in the process! It has a 1950s vibe to it and of course is the perfect base dress to accessorise with a pair of crazy heels.

spotty rose dress

These heels being of the pink, furry leopard-print kind, of course!

sitting pretty on the doorstep

spotty rose dress

And I think you’ll agree that Mr Ooobop worked his magic as usual!

All is rosy in an Elisalex

Elisalex in red roses dressHooray for Elisalex! I want to shout it from the rooftops! I am sooooo happy with this dress. Does it show?!

We had the loveliest day yesterday. Sunshine, park-life and the company of great friends. And the perfect day in fact for an Elisalex showcase!

Elisalex dress in rose print

This is the first independent pattern I have purchased. I’m mostly persuaded by the charm of a vintage pattern but having seen lots of gorgeous examples modelled recently I was totally sold on this dress.

Those girls over at By Hand London have my total respect. Not only does this dress look amazing on everyone who wears it, I kid you not when I say what a joy it is to make. Just one test garment and boom, on to the real one! No faffing, no head scratching and no time-consuming fussiness about it.

I know a few of you have voiced concern over the shape of the tulip skirt – and I have to admit, I did waver myself – but believe me, I am not of minimal hip or butt for sure and although the shape is all about that area, it flatters beyond belief! This is also the most easy to wear dress ever. Not out of place for a picnic but would also go down a treat at a wedding or a party or a shopping trip…

Elisalex dress in rose print

I made this one with a great score of stretch cotton fabric that I shared with Dolly Clacket, whilst on our Goldhawk Road shopping trip organised by House of Pinheiro. It’s totally machine washable and has enough stretch to fit so comfortably without losing shape anywhere at all. It was a dream to sew. Hardly fraying at all. The skirt is nipped in at the hem so that little bit of stretch helps for bigger walking steps too!

The only worry, working with this fabric was how to line the bodice. Given the stretch, I didn’t want an un-stretchy lining. And given the princess seams I wanted as smooth a finish on the inside as there was on the outside. Given that stretch lining doesn’t appear to exist anywhere on the planet I bit the bullet and self-lined. There was a minor moment of panic when I thought this just might make for too much bulk. Its heavier than your usual woven cotton which is great for the structure of the skirt… but it worked a treat!

This pattern is defo a keeper. Any dress that can be rustled up in a couple of evenings and makes me this happy is worth making again, and again… and again!

Elisalex the perfect picnic dress

Thank you, as always to my wonderful though crazy, dog-biscuit munching, talented photographer hubster, Daniel x

daniel eating dog biscuits

How my Elisalex ‘test garment’ happened!

So much has happened over this last week. Starting with last Saturday when Rachel hosted her massive meet up! There have been plenty of fine reports of that wonderful day so I am going to cheat big time and point you in the direction of here and here oh and here!

I will however post a few of the pics. Just because I think they are great and our photographer for the day, Digpal Singh deserves bigging up because he was amaaaazing!

Rachels meet up

Miss Demeanour and Me

Miss Demeanour and Me

Anyhoos. One of the meet-up missions was to shop till we dropped in the Goldhawk Road. By this time I’d been so excited to meet everyone, I clean forgot my fabric shopping list and got completely distracted by the presence of Elisalex dresses modelled so beautifully in real life by these lovely ladies:

Amy, Roisin (wearing Elisalex) and Nicole

Amy, Roisin (wearing Elisalex) and Nicole

Lovely ladies inc Tara (wearing Elisalex) on right

Lovely ladies inc Tara (wearing Elisalex) on right

So I bought this fabric with the Elixalex in mind. Got a great deal by tempting Roisin into sharing 5 metres of hefty, stretch-cotton floral with me. £12.50… bargain!

floral fabric for actual Elisalex dress

For those who have yet to discover this fabulous dress pattern (I’ve a feeling I might be one of the few!) It is so brilliantly and readily available from By Hand London. I loved meeting the brains behind this fabulous site on Saturday. Meet Charlotte and Elisalex herself.

Elisalex and Charlotte

Elisalex (left) Charlotte (right) also modelling the Elisalex skirt.

I ordered my pattern as soon as I got home that Saturday evening. A miracle given no of G&Ts that were consumed beforehand! And it arrived PDQ. I’m still so busy with work and there was little hope of me achieving anything else this week but I tell no lies when I say how quick it was to put together. The instructions are very clear and it really is such an adaptable pattern that will tranfsorm with any style skirt or sleeve option. And so here is my first ‘test garment’.

Elisalex test full length

I repeat ‘test garment’ because I had no intention of actually wearing this one out of the house. But Mr O insisted, if I wanted him to take the photos.

Elisalex test pleat

Why you ask? Because it’s made out of a Duvet cover! It’s a pretty 100% cotton, Ikea, duvet cover but bedding all the same! LMO insisted on an ice-cream so there was only one thing for it!  Elisalex test buying ice cream A trip to the local cafe, that sells what transpires to be the most delicious ice-cream ever!

Elisalex test licking ice cream

Elisalex test eating ice cream

I’m actually glad I wore it out. It was a good test drive. Whilst I’m completely smitten with this skirt style on everyone else, Mr O’s rendition of You Can’t Touch This, did nothing for my indecision! It does take a lot of getting used to. I kept the length… and it is quite long. But it does mean I have to take ladylike steps with a wiggly walk which I quite like. I also like very much, that despite the blustery weather, the wind could not blow this skirt up if it tried! Unlike my first summer dress of this year! Proper Marylin behaviour in that one! I Love the princess seams.

Elisalex test princess seam

And I adore the shape of the back… just pretend you didn’t see the bra strap!

Elisalex test back

And I just can’t wait to make the real one in the fabulous floral! I would now like to remove this song from my head. So please take it and enjoy!