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Tripping Hither, Tripping Thither. The psychedelic Iolanthe dress

So about 18 months ago I found a Russian site on Etsy that purported to sell actual designer fabric. I bought some D&G playing card fabric off it, that while absolutely lovely for what I used it for (This very simple skirt here) I wasn’t sure quite how authentic the fabric was. However when I saw they had panels of jersey with an art nouveau print of a late 19th century play bill for the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Iolanthe, I took the risk again and bought the four they had left.

When they turned up I’ve got to say it was the nicest quality jersey I have ever seen and I wanted to be very careful with what I did with it. On the one hand I wanted to show off the print, but on the other I wanted something a bit fairyish to complement it (one day I will grow up and stop seeing themed dresses as cool, but that day is not today). So I sat on it for a few months (not literally) until I had finished my Strawberry Thief dress and realised that actually exactly the same pattern (a Kitschycoo patterns lady skater dress with an elongated skirt and added bell sleeves) would look quite elegant with this fabric.

So I made it in about March when there was still snow on the ground…… and absolutely hated it!

It looked nice enough on the hanger….

But every attempt I made to accessorise it for winter looked horrific…..

With white leggings and a white thermal- basically just nope!

But as the temperatures rose I acquired a pair of khaki jeggings from Evans * and a couple of friends persuaded me to give it a try again.

So I did, & was over the moon with how it looks….

So I wouldn’t say I’ve worn it a lot since then, but it has become part of my summer wardrobe, & I was feeling the love for it enough that it was what I wore on the second day of Fantasy Forest Festival, a new fantasy themed festival at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire that I went to in July. (Whet I wore for the first day is coming up and is truly spectacular if I do say so myself)

Pictures taken in my parents garden before setting out for the day.

It goes through the washing machine and dryer very nicely, and although I don’t wear it often it’s something I am quite happy with now.

I’m still not sure the colour scheme is me though. I don’t really feel comfortable in lemon yellow, & I’m really not sure that the paler cream band round the waist is in any way flattering on someone whose stomach bulges outwards. But I absolutely love the fabric, & despite my reservations I expect I’ll get a bit of use out of it anyway.

* incidentally it’s one of those things you don’t think of when you are thin. It is virtually impossible to get cool coloured leggings and tights if you are plus size. When I was looking for these leggings I found endless pairs of lovely ones on Asos and marks and Spencer but were there any in my size? Hell no! So in the end jeggings has to do as they were the nearest I could get. I still haven’t been able to track down a plus size khaki long sleeve top or thermal!

The curse of the never ending cushions.

I don’t usually make home decor stuff. The last time I made cushions was several years ago, and I wasn’t very adept at it, zips looked sloppy and the finish wasn’t very professional, but our collection of cushions over the years had been getting rattier and rattier and we’ve been seriously delayed moving house, so I needed something to re-engage me with our flat, so I decided to give cushions another try.

Now near my parents in Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire is a shop called Sam Wilson Studio (website here ) where the lady who runs it (Sam Wilson obvs) designs the most beautiful folksy rural screen prints which she prints into fabric and homeware. My intention when we got a new house was to splash out and buy loads of stuff from her, but it would involve saving up as her stuff is very expensive and we don’t have room in the flat for more stuff right now.

However when I was in there earlier this year, just to browse wistfully really, I spotted two pieces of two of my favourite fabrics as remnants, one was 90cm and one was a meter and they were cheaper than usual, I can’t remember exactly how much, but the materials including backing and zips for the entire project came to about £100, so I’m guessing about £30 each. And the fabric amount was small, but the pieces were really wide.

  • So yeah, they got bought.
  • So then I nearly had a panic attack about how much I’d spent, especially since my track record with cushions isn’t great. But I got back to my parents and had a good look at the genuine Sam Wilson cushions they had and realised they were actually fairly simple. The zip was just an invisible zip and the backing was a contrasting plain of white linen look fabric. & actually they should be quite straight forward to replicate.
  • & then the wheels in my head started turning and I realised if I made cushions with a plain backing too I could get 6 out of each piece of fabric instead of three. Assuming of course I could get a suitable backing. & luck was on my side. Mum took me down to The Fabric Hut, the home furnishing store in Stratford-upon-Avon (whose website I cant link to because safari is throwing a tantrum because for whatever reason their website isn’t secure enough) and in the sale section for £15 a meter was a perfect woven stripe effect plain cream fabric. It’s a slightly denser weave than the Sam Wilson stuff but it worked perfectly. So I bought two meters. & ordered a job lot of white and cream invisible zips off the internet.
  • So then I had to make the damn things.
  • I didn’t get off to the best start. I made the first cushion cover upside down with the zip at the top rather than the bottom 🤦🏼‍♀️
  • So that one went to a friend at knitting group as I only noticed after I’d finished and because it’s an invisible zip I’d have had to rip the entire thing to pieces to correct the mistake.
  • But in the end I got 11 functional – indeed pretty damn near perfect cushion covers out of the fabric. The grey ones are 45cm I think and the pink ones are 40cm as there was slightly less of the pink fabric and both pieces shrunk by nearly ten centimetres when I’d prewashed them.
  • So here are pictures of some of them…..
  • The grey ones with hares on them….
  • Top: the first three that were finished including the one that didn’t work
  • Bottom: all the surviving ones
  • The fabric I used as a backing.

    Three of the pink ones – I didn’t get photos of all of them together.

    And the 5 we are keeping for us on the sofa and chairs in the living room – excuse the dodgy photoshop job on the wall behind the sofa, it needed a new lining paper at the time and what was there before I blurred it out was even more distracting.

    So yeah, we’re keeping 5 for our sofas. I bout the cushion pads of amazon and they are dreadful. I am really pissed off actually, cuz they will need replacing very soon and it’s such a waste. I have since been reliably informed by someone who does this semi professionally that apparently Dunelm Mill is the place to get cheap decent quality cushion pads. We have one very near us, so at some point I’ll go there and replace the damn things.

    The other 6 are going to be given as gifts at some point. & I am really happy. All told the materials cost £100 which is a lot of money but I got 11 functional cushion covers out of that, and finished ones very similar retail on the Sam Wilson website for £40 , so it’s actually a massive saving , & if I’d spent the same money on finished cushions I’d only have afforded two and a half.

    Anyway, I am still unable to sew because the flat is still up for sale 😢 We are going anyway whether we sell or not in a couple of months as we can just rent the place out, but it’s most frustrating. Typically at the point when I haven’t got access to my machine a ridiculous number of my clothes have given up the ghost and need mending. I’m also reasonably well at the moment so I’d welcome the occupation.

    btw: when I’ve previewed this it’s coming up with some weird bullet point thing. I have no idea where that cane from or how to make it go away. It isn’t showing up on editor so I’m very sorry I have no way of fixing the formatting.

    Odds and sods

    So this week I’m going to post about two things I made that don’t really warrant an entire post by themselves…..

    Firstly last year I adapted a lolita dress I got very cheap to fit me when it was originally far too small. It took me till well into this year to get proper pictures though.

    I’m not sure what the formal name of this dress is (lolita dresses tend to have names- often fairly random and highly imaginative ones) but it is by a Chinese brand called Infanta. It’s several years since it was released and I clocked it pretty much immediately as a dress I was very interested in (I saved it on my tumblr back in the day in several iterations) but it was a lot harder back then to get Chinese lolita dresses sent to the uk and I couldn’t justify paying full price for something I was clearly going to have to rip apart to fit me.

    But I was overjoyed when I found it on the lolita sales community last year for not very much money in really good condition.

    So this is the front, this is just what it would look like anyway, you can’t see any of my adaptions on it…..

    It’s worn with a bell sleeves top and necklace I made myself, the wristcuffs were a free gift with a dress I purchased and the flowers are probably H&M from back in the early 00’s when H&M for about 3 years was the place to go for cheap good quality silk flowers. The headband is Topshop, also several years ago.

    & here’s the back, this is the bit I altered…

    It’s hard to see because helpfully I’m wearing black with black, but there is a panel of shirring in the centre back. I unpicked the side seams of that and inserted panels of a matching crepe backed satin on either side, making the gathers at the back of the skirt looser to fit.

    So now I’ve done that successfully I’ve got another two lolita dresses lined up that I intend to adapt the same way.

    The other thing I made that doesn’t really warrant its own post is yet another Sewaholic Renfrew Top, this time in Liberty jersey for my husbands mum.

    This is it on its recipient…..

    I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t slightly too big, I ended up taking measurements about a year before I got round to making it , but Jon’s mum said she likes it so that’s ok.

    I have about 4m of this jersey left, in two different pieces. I’ve ended up acquiring three lots of it, all from different places, but it all seems to match. I’m not sure what to do with it though. In comparison to other liberty jerseys, like the one I made this dress out of, it is very very thin and drapey. It’s quite hard to work out what to use it for.

    The staring eyes.

    A few months ago I posted about this top , made with Stoff and Stil jersey with eyes on it that ended up in my mother’s wardrobe not mine because as the jersey had pretty much zero stretch, it ended up way too small.

    Well eventually, after mucking around for several months having zero enthusiasm for the project, I remade it. I added about an inch to each side of the pattern and under the arms. (sewaholic Renfrew incase anyone’s wondering. I have made this many times before – hence the over confident cock-up with the first one)

    It fits fine but it still feels a little close because of the non stretchyness of the jersey….

    So I’m really happy to have that back. You can’t really see that much difference with the first version, but it doesn’t ride up at all and it feels a lot more comfy…

    As well as the top though, I’d like to talk about the skirt I am wearing in most of the pictures.

    This started out life as a Violet Fane Oracle skirt. Well it still is, except it’s had a new waistband out of heavy navy cotton in order to fit my measurements (which are somewhat larger than was required to fit into the original skirt) I removed the purple and gold bow from the waistband and I had a load of navy crochet lace left over from my Strawberry Thief Dress so I wacked that round the bottom to match the new waistband.

    Here are some pictures of the skirt with a better outfit…..

    Sweater was Topshop nearly ten years ago now, base top is probably Laura Ashley, the galaxy cat necklace is Curiology and the Lapis and purple Pearl necklaces were made by me.

    To be honest I haven’t got round to doing a lolita co-ord with this skirt, its fitting rather well into my everyday wardrobe and it washes ok, so I’m just wearing it for casual.

    After the disaster trying to sell last year our flat is now back on the market, which means no more sewing for me for the next couple of months. However I’ve got loads of knitting and jewellery making lined up to keep going with.

    I’m also months behind on updating what I’ve sewn on here so I’ve got plenty to keep posting anyway.

    Me Made May and Who Made My Clothes?

    So every year for the last ten years there’s been a challenge called Me Made May in the sewing community, started by Zoe of the Sozowhatdoyouknow blog, where the aim is to pledge to wear your me made clothes as often as you can – from some people pledging that every item they wear should be handmade to others pledging to wear handmade three or four times a week, depending on circumstances and the size of their handmade wardrobe. A lot of people document what they wear on Instagram and it’s a good way of taking stock of ones wardrobe and working out what the gaps are and stuff.

    However in recent years it’s become massively a bit of an Instagram tradition, & has become one of the main ways one connects with new friends on Instagram through appreciating each other’s sewing styles.

    I’ve taken part the last 2 years and really enjoyed it however this year I’ve been agonising over whether to take part or not. On the one hand for reasons outlined below I really don’t want to, on the other hand it’s throwing away a massive chance to interact with sewing community to not do.

    Now the reason I started sewing was because I put on weight really quickly due to some medication and was absolutely appalled by what was available in the shops at the time for larger women to wear. Shapeless tunics, overcutesy pastels and the ubiquitous 50’s style rockabilly look seemed to be the only things plus size people were supposed to want to wear.

    I’d always been a bit of a glam rocker and a goth and nothing that fitted my particular aesthetic was available to me. Basic things that were the height of fashion for regular size people would not pop up in plus size until several months/years later than everyone else – a classic example is this Black velvet skater dress I made 4 years ago.

    Autumn 2015 they were everywhere in the shops, but could you find one in plus size?could you heck! So I made my own.

    So even though I enjoy the social aspects of Me Made May I’ve never had a time when I don’t wear what I make on a daily basis anyway.

    However in recent years the situation for me in regards to high street clothing has improved dramatically. A lot of high street brands have extended their normal ranges up to a 20 or 22 – which puts me just back into their size range (Which makes me privileged cuz ladies who are size 24+ are still screwed) Brands like Asos and Simply Be do actual fashion conscious clothes for plus size people, & I’ve been very lucky with second hand shopping, on apps like eBay and Depop, but also in local charity shops finding pristine condition clothes by brands such as Colectiff and Seasalt that I’d not be able to afford first hand.

    I am also fortunate because the town nearest my parents has a large branch of Laura Ashley and a Marks and Spencer both of which are legendary to me for having all the size 20/22 clothes left in the sale for insanely cheap prices. – last time I was up I picked up a £70 Laura Ashley dress for £15!

    As a result my wardrobe is completely heaving right now with beautiful good quality expensive looking shop bought clothes that I didn’t pay very much for.

    And I barely wear them. I much prefer wearing my handmade stuff instead!

    Which leads me to the other online fashion blogging initiative going on this month

    #whomademyclothes

    Started by Fashion Revolution a campaigning group for greater sustainability and better working conditions in the fashion industry. The aim of the initiative is to question your behaviour as a consumer and try and do what you can to shop more ethically and minimise your impact on the environment.

    So obviously making your own clothes, especially as I do where a lot of my fabric is deadstock (stuff that would otherwise be thrown away by big garment manufacturers) from the market stall on lewisham market, is a good way to not exploit people and the environment.

    Also I would like to think that because I make it myself and also because as a plus size person making a good wardrobe has been more difficult I don’t throw away clothes or only wear things once or twice and I mend things and look after them and at the end of their life I pass them on to someone else or at the very least the recycling bank.

    However I’ve got all these beautiful shop bought clothes I’m less enthusiastic about wearing. I could work on replacing them with stuff I’ve made myself, but there’s really nothing wrong with them. & even though it would give me a sense of satisfaction having a 100% me made wardrobe it certainly isn’t doing my bit for sustainability or the environment or honouring the amount of work that went into making those clothes in the first place just to discard them – even if I gave them all away ethically, what the planet needs is people consuming less it doesn’t much matter if you bought them or make them yourself.

    So I’m not sure about Me Made May this year. Cuz actually for my personal wardrobe development what needs a good airing is the ready to wear not the handmade. But I doubt anyone would be very impressed if I hijacked the #memademay hashtag to do that, & I’m a millenial damnit, it goes completely against the grain to not join in on social media challenges.

    So I’ve decided next month I am going to try and wear things in my wardrobe whether me-made or shop bought that don’t get an outing as often. Obviously if at the end of the process they are uncomfortable or impractical or I just really don’t like them I’m not gonna beat myself up about giving them away. If the stuff I wear is something I’ve sewn it’ll get a Me Made May hashtag, if it’s shopbought it’ll get a Who Made My Clothes? one.

    & I probably won’t get as many new friends as I would if I just did Me Made May, but I’ll actually be doing something productive for the environment. & taking selfies and dressing up in pretty outfits is always fun!

    The Vampires Auntie Christmas Dress

    So I’ve been stalking the Vampires Wife on social media for nearly a year now and dreaming of Liberty Tana Lawn or floral velvet maxi dresses. But making one was a massive time commitment when we were in the middle of selling our flat, & I would need to do a mock up version and these things are fabric hogs and finding very long lengths of fabric to practice with at the stall on Lewisham Market can be tricky and although I have a couple of lovely suitable patterns there was nothing in jersey. So I never got round to it.

    Until literally the week before Christmas when I saw a post on McCalls Instagram (which I have stolen to replicate below) and was blown away….

    Now Vogue V9264 is a pattern I’d completely overlooked. Largely because of the utterly frumpy granny style style line drawings of the dress on the pattern front…

    And the even worse cheap looking crushed velvet Kardashian style number that was the main demo version I’d seen at that point on the internet.

    Neither of which were prepossessing looks that got me interested in that pattern.

    But within ten minutes of seeing the post on Instagram (above) I had ordered the pattern and was planning a version of it for my next make.

    Luckily I had the right yardage of a perfect velvet jersey knocking around in my stash as well. I bought it from Maggies Fabric in lewisham market about a year ago and I’d sat on it having no idea what it wanted to be.

    & two days later the pattern arrived and a project was born. To give myself extra pressure I intended it to be ready for my friends Christmas vinyl dj set four days later.

    But I needn’t have worried it is one of the simplest patterns I’ve played with in a long time and at a straight size 22 it is pretty much spot on fit wise.

    I even had time to hang it overnight to let the weight of the hem settle before hemming it.

    So here are photos. Literally I loved this dress so much it got worn 3 times in 8 days (and washed in between – which was somewhat a miracle cuz at the time we had a rather crappy washing machine set up)

    I debated properly ripping off Vampires Wife by adding a ruffle round the bottom, but overall I’m glad I didn’t.

    I love this dress! I am planning two more versions of the pattern in different lengths and fabrics and I keep trying to find opportunities to wear it – which is quite difficult actually, even though I tend to be the queen of spectacularly overdressed for the occasion, it’s a bit extra for my everyday wardrobe needs.

    On an interesting side note, I was browsing Depop a few days ago and came across this baby from Topshop….

    Apologies to anyone if this is their photo, but I think it’s the original Topshop catalogue shot.

    Now all the fabric from Maggies on Lewisham Market is deadstock and samples largely from high street stores, but occasionally from high end designers, but I usually have very little clue what the high street brands actually do with it – if they even use it at all. So in this case it was rather nice to see Topshop’s version. I actually quite like it. I suspect it would have been too short for me to have bought it though, & I just squeeze into a Topshop 18 (their sizes run larger than average) so I’m not sure I’d have found one to fit anyway.

    I haven’t been very prolific with the sewing since Christmas. I’ve made a top for someone else, a dress I’m not too keen on, & I’m currently working on quite a big project fairy goth dress for a festival I’m going to in summer so I haven’t got all that much to show. We’ve been having to do quite a lot of adulting though, our flat sale fell through, Jons uncle has died and Jons dad is ill, so I haven’t had very much time to dedicate to sewing. Hopefully things will speed up a bit over the next few weeks.

    The John Lewis leopardprint dress.

    Happy New Year everyone,

    Back to blogging the stuff I made before Christmas but did not get round to posting about – actually for some reason I went completely nuts with the sewing in December and made three things so there’s a good reason I didn’t blog everything in time. I am having a massive break from sewing at the moment as Jon had 2 weeks off work, then we were dealing with the house move – it’s fallen through, I’m a bit sad but the amount we were being mucked around it’s totally for the best. And now Jon has come down with a cold so he’s been at home for most of the week and today is his first day back at work, so I’m using it to catch up on admin jobs and hopefully will be back to the actual sewing next week.

    Anyway, back to the dress….so the idea for this particular dress came from two chance happenings coming together simultaneously.

    The first is that I was down the fabric stall on Lewisham market looking for a specific shopping list for some long term projects, and while I was there Maggie, the lady who owns the stall, tipped out a new bag of fabric. – She sells deadstock and samples from some very well known high street stores and independent designers – which is how I get such gorgeous stuff off her- and anyway, some of the stock comes as large bags of random from the high street clothes companies workrooms. So this particular bag there wasn’t actually very much of interest in it, it was mostly very small pieces, apart from a 4m length of the most beautiful leopard print jersey. So I had it off her pretty much before it even hit the stall.

    Then I got an email advert from John Lewis with a really nice but very simple polo neck leopard print jersey dress by Ghost selling for like £95!!!! I took one look, sniggered and knew immediately that I could make my own version with pattern pieces I already had in my stash and the £12 of fabric I’d just picked up off lewisham market!

    So of course because it’s my version it has a cowl neck rather than a polo neck and it has 3/4 length sleeves rather than full length ones, but for £12 I’m rather proud of it.

    The pattern I used was a mashup of the Sewaholic Renfrew Top and the Colette Patterns Moneta dress . I’d love to say it was my idea but I’ve seen several people do it on Instagram so I just ripped off the idea from there.

    I’ve made literally dozens of the Renfrew top over the years so it’s a pattern I’m very comfortable with, I only made one Moneta dress in the past and it was a complete utter disaster , I used a crappy cheap jersey, the neckline stretched out of all recognition and I didn’t get on well with the weird elastic gathering method of constructing the skirt. But that was two and a half years ago, my sewing has massively improved since then, I was using a decent quality jersey this time and I totally ignored the instructions for the gathered elastic, gathered the skirt using two rows of long machine stitch (ie my usual way) and attached the elastic to the bottom of the bodice instead.

    & I think it’s worked wonderfully. My one remaining gripe with the Moneta is the skirt is not as full on the plus sized versions as it appears to be for thinner girls. But I love the fact it has pockets – a sad omission on most women’s ready to wear dresses- and I think what I’ve ended up with really suits me. I now have plans for two more in different jerseys I have in my stash.

    So onto the pictures….

    We took these on the balcony of Jon’s brother’s block of flats when we went over for an early Christmas celebration.

    I’m particularly pleased by the way the gradient stripe lines up between the bodice and the skirt, because it was completely unintentional and it didn’t even occur to me to try pattern matching, so I’m really glad it matched itself!

    It pretty much hasn’t been out of the wash since it got made. I’ve now set up an entire Pinterest board to stalk top end highstreet dresses, as clearly this is an inspiration method I completely need to be trying again.