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