I See Crazy Patterns

Sewing as illness

Pretty Poly?

Can Crimplene ever be cool? I mean, anyone who remembers the mid-’70s should know that wearing it’s a clammy business, but my question is meant in a philosophical sense.

I have often thought of it as a highly underrated fabric.  What could be better than a dress that doesn’t crease? Until Stella McCartney or someone knocks up a dress that can fill in SORN applications or end the career of Bill Tidy, nothing.

Anyway, I loved Simplicity 5961 so much that I had to make it again. Research revealed that I actually can’t wear that Minnie Dress, so I went to Walthamstow Market and picked up a yard of orange cotton and a yard of turquoise cotton. When I got it home I realised that it was thin enough to spit through; so thin that it took on the colour of whatever lining I put behind it (you didn’t expect me to have the right colour lining did you?)

So I decided to make a dress out of one of the pieces from the fabric mountain in the back room. And there it was. CRIMPLENE! A pale blue, heavily textured (until I started ironing it, at least) yard or so with a white geometricy-type pattern on it, purchased from eBay during my great Crimplene phase of 2003 (shortly before I realised Crimplene was a disgusting fabric and swore never to make anything from it). This is what happened.




So, Crimplene pros:

  • Doesn’t crease
  • I like the idea of a fabric manufactured by ICI
  • Nobody else will wear it

Crimplene cons:

  • Static
  • Flammable
  • Image problem

Incidences of me being set on fire have dropped dramatically since 2004, and so I’m willing to brave the Cons. I’m obviously a fashion leader, not a follower, so any image problem is YOURS to be frank.

I’m travelling a lot this year, and so I really could do with a dress that I can just crumple up into a ball (and potentially set on fire). First of all, I’m going to the Edinburgh fringe – can I wear this without becoming one of the acts?

17/08/2009 Posted by | Sewing | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Minnie Dress

Oh no. At one of the later Sewing Circles, as Director was about to bugger off to Leeds, leaving the sinking ship, I sat with a pile of red/white polka dot cotton and wondered what to do with it.

We mulled over what the perfect dress might be like. With the polka dots. Short sleeves. Empire line. White collar perhaps. Director kindly let me borrow this gorgeous pattern, Simplicity 5961 (vintage, not to be confused with the currently-in-print apron pattern):



It was hard to see how this one could go wrong. The result looked oddly familiar:



Oh bloody hell.


05/08/2009 Posted by | Sewing | 10 Comments

Come On: Vogue!

Today I am delighted to have my first guest blog from an original member of the Cleveland Park Avenue Sewing Circle (founded 2007, motto: Buttons! Bows! Wahey!), Ms Mikki Francis.

Perhaps best known as Director of Doublewahey (founded 2002, motto: Doublewahey!), Ms Francis is a keen placketer who shares here her experiences with the stylish Vogue 6937 ‘Easy To Make’:


She writes:

No date, but I’m delighted to see that it was purchased in John Lewis on Oxford Street – their haberdashery always sends me into a frenzy of excitement!
Sleeveless version in yellow printed cotton (I think), vintage fabric bought from eBay for about £4 some time in the last year.  Lightweight white cotton for placket and collar.  Vintage green buttons on placket.
As for “Easy to Make” – hmmmmm  – well the placket had to be blind-stitched on, which took me a full 45 minutes, I’m not the most patient hand-sewer in the World.  Also, the zip goes in AFTER the sides and shoulders have been stitched together.  After an aborted attempt to sew it in through the neck hole, which ended in a lot of unpicking and a lot of holes in the fabric where I accidentally stitched the zip to two bits of dress simultaneously, I decided to sew this on by hand too.  Hey-ho.
However it ended up being a fairly good fit, as I made the effort to use the Adjustoform dummy for the first time (a bargain at £40 secondhand from eBay), which is a whole lot easier/less painful than trying to stick pins in a dress that you are actually wearing at the time. 


Having said that I haven’t actually worn it yet, because despite the boyfriend’s assurances that it looks nice, I have a fear that the trapeze shape is best avoided by anyone who isn’t actually trying to defraud people into giving up their seats on the tube.
Still – wahey!

Thanks very much indeed to Mikki for this account of the assembly of this sought-after Vogue pattern. It’s a beautiful dress in a lovely fabric and ought to be worn pronto. I too have a fear of trapeze/tent/similar dresses, but I do really like them. (Dare you to be the first to smock! Are you a mod or a smocker?)

It’s also good to notice the attention to detail (use of vintage buttons) and also the determination (hand-sewing, not for the faint-hearted) and general joie de vivre. An example to us all.

Wahey indeed!

03/08/2009 Posted by | Sewing | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sewing for a Go-go

My friend Jo is a member of the excellent Actionettes, an all-female glittery dance troupe who perform synchronised dances to 60s girl group pop.

At one stage it was suggested I should join them, but this plan never came off partly due to my dancing style which has been compared with a pensioner in charge of an aged lawnmower.

I am (only just) more at home helping with the costume end of things (a bit).

Some time ago the Actionettes bought a large amount of rather unique vintage fabric with flamingoes all over it and each made outfits from it. As time has gone on and more Actionettes have  joined, the piece of fabric has got smaller and smaller, until a couple  of weeks ago Jo asked me if I could make a dress out of some of the remain fragments (slivers, even) of it. Jo is a very petite lady and so it was just about doable. It was to be one of those daring bare midriff dresses that not all of us can carry off (hiss), but armed with Simplicity 7631…


some bangles from Claire’s accessories and two bottles of champagne (crucial), the following emerged:



Again, it doesn’t really bear much resemblance to the original pattern. Had to cut the middle out of it, add buttons and loops up the back (because you can’t really put a zip through the bangles) and of course insert the bangles (with related loops), but I would recommend this pattern I think.

Best of all, I understand it had its Actionettes debut last night and lasted the distance, thank goodness. Those routines are rather energetic. RESULT.

Many thanks to W-Jo for allowing me permission to use the photos and to W-Mark for watching the Clangers as the dress took shape (and to both for champagne).

02/08/2009 Posted by | Sewing | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

For Fox’s Sake

Ah Simplicity 7133. Bought for a time in the future when I thought men, women and children would be able to wear corduroy jumpsuits and play a normal part in polite society. I liked it so much I bought it in both my sizes (Fat-arsed Lady and Fat-arsed Self-indulgent Lady). Eventually, I started to make it in orange corduroy (which knocked me over the luggage limit, San Francisco c2004  – in anticipation of the Great British Corduroy Famine, which to my surprise never quite materialised) .


Then I realised I was in danger of looking like a Guantanamo Bay inmate. Even in another colour…could anyone but Diana Rigg carry it off in everyday life? I thought about it a lot.

Then my friend decided to do a fun run (in aid of Australian Bush Fire charities, hence flag…). So I made the body of the costume (flag not included) with it in brown velour with white fur:


It did work quite well, but I had to mess with the shoulders (as in the pattern they are sort of ‘button-over’ ones, like dungaree shoulders) and add sleeves. Oh and the legs were rather capacious. Come to think of it, it was completely rehauled. It bears about as much resemblance to its original form as Joan Rivers does. But…it lasted the fun run without too many problems (I suspect my friend was being polite though, as by then it had turned into an off-the-shoulder number).

The fox head was my own pattern mind. Here’s the original styling:


I’ll get onto the ridiculous gingham effort soon enough…


28/07/2009 Posted by | Sewing | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bow Selector (thanks W-Mikki)

I do like Simplicity 5924. Especially the view three, with the ridiculous collar.


Never made that one though…Stuck to view four. Three times. In brown with cream polka dots (£1.50 a metre, Brighton, 2008)…



In a sort of denimy/lilacy colour (£1 a metre, Walthamstow Market, c2001) with a bow from pink linen (that I made the top of yesterday’s ludicrous gingham number from):




And finally in a sort of unusual ribbed yellow synthetic fabric (from some sort of sale in San Francisco 2004):




And since you ask: No, I don’t like ironing. Not at all.

Potential difficulties: Er…floppy bow…and joining the collar up properly at the back.

Only really wear the brown version of these three though…never gone near the yellow one.

26/07/2009 Posted by | Sewing | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pink Industry

This one was doomed from the start. Yes that’s right. Maternity. I do like my pies though, so I thought I’d be all right.


But look!


There are four seam lines! And even the smallest one is generous, to put it mildly. You’re meant to sew the smallest one, and let it out bit by bit as you expand. As the pattern says, These stitchings may be ripped out when necessary, allowing for extra fullness.

I mean, I’m hardly a precision sewer, but how are you meant to get a nice fit when you can do that? Of course, when I’d made it it was bloody massive, so I had to hack hack hack away at the fabric.

But, even taking this aside, there are three main problems:

  1. Gingham sends me into a frenzy. I understand it’s like this for all women
  2. As a child I used to ask my mother for permission to build Lego into a different colour scheme to the pictures on the box
  3. I’m over six.

So…I went for version 2, the one on the left. And then thought that a matching headband was a good idea. So I made one. Then I realised I had some shoes in the same stuff. And good God, the lining of my pink patent bag was wrought from the fabric too! It was all too perfect. Then I left the house.

Doesn't she look *humiliated*?

Doesn't she look humiliated?

Look at that placket work.

Look at that placket work.

At least Annabel's nailed to the floor and so was spared these.

At least Annabel's nailed to the floor and so was spared these.

I got laughed at the full length of Walthamstow market* and back. I’m used to attracting comments and a bit of joviality, but nothing compared with the effect I achieved that day.

Nothing as wonderful as the comment my friend got from a tramp though. (‘F*** me, it’s Bertie Bassett!’)

(Deep down, though, I still don’t get it. Everyone should dress like Sindy. Why can’t they see it?)


Pattern: Simplicity 6462

Fabric: Pink Irish linen (quite expensive, always creased to buggery) and £1 a metre pink gingham from Walthamstow market

Construction date: Summer 2006

Worn: 3 times (only once with accessories)

*The longest street market in Europe.

25/07/2009 Posted by | Sewing | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ovoid Colour Scheme

So here we have Simplicity 5824. Mid-’60s. Look what they’ve done. Ruffles and polka dots, the bastards:


Yes, you’ve all been talking about it: the ruffle came back ‘in’ this year. People went mad! Certainly put all that Michael Jackson stuff into perspective.

So I’ll be ‘on trend’ for six months which is rubbish really – being 40 years out of date looks deliberate – looking two years out doesn’t. Pah sod it.

Anyway, my most recent attempt at the ruffle was undertaken in June this year and is modelled here by Annabel who maintains her elegance and dignity in the most frivolous of garments: 



Anyway, here’s the breakdown of this exquisite garment:

Pattern: Simplicity 5824 (mid-’60s)

Assembled: June 2009

Colour: Classic fried egg combo of yellow body and off-white ruffle collar.

Fabric: Some yellow crepe which I bought from John Lewis nine years ago and a bit of cream stuff that was lying around.

Amount of times worn (as of 24 June) : 1

Likelihood of being worn again: 1,000-1

It’s not even the first time I’ve made this dress either. Bloody hell. What am I doing with my life?!


 Ah that’s right…I’ve been drinking cava and squinting.

Stats for second dress:

Pattern: Simplicity 5824 (mid-’60s)

Assembled: July 2007

Colour: The ever-popular lime green with white dots

Fabric: Some £1 a metre stuff from Walthamstow Market c2001

Amount of times worn (as of 24 June) : 1

Likelihood of being worn again: 1,000,000-1

24/07/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slavic Cat: wants you as a new recruit

I’ve just accidentally purchased some Polish chocolates. It’s not an experience that lacks resonance. Every now and again, members of my family (Polish before it was fashionable) would come back from Katowice with tales of Communist austerity and a job-lot of Prince Polo (a chocolate wafery thing that would end up in with the Lego). Since then, of course, Slavic cocoa products have become  standard fixtures in every shop in London. In terms of palatability though, I am not sure that the stuff has improved one jot since 1978.

I’ve had to put on my square Polish 7″ of ‘In the Navy’ by the Village People to calm me down.

Polish flexis: If only they’d caught on in the same way. Ever since my aunty Sandra and I danced along to this piece of cardboard in 1979 nothing has evoked in me the same sense of marine hi-jinks as a rotating, faintly boz-eyed cat staring into the distance as it struggles to adopt a consistent worldview.

'But...but...I'm afraid of water!'

'But...but...I'm afraid of water!'

Sadly, I think market forces may have spelled an end for these marvellous cultural artefacts. Something else Adam Smith failed to anticipate in The Wealth of Nations.

29/06/2009 Posted by | Nostalgia | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment