Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Your Own Exceptional Talent


Last week, I finally remade a top that fell at the last hurdle two years ago when I realised I'd forgotten to interface the button placket. I don't really know how I forgot, but I do remember that when I came to slice those button holes open they inevitably looked like wild beasts had mauled them. I'm grateful that my 2019 version, above, was more of a success.

On the subject of failure and subsequent success (a tenuous link as I have way bigger failures up my sleeve than ruined buttonholes),  I've been working my way through the archives of Elizabeth Day's How to Fail podcast recently, which is all about embracing failure and looking at how it helps to shape people's subsequent successes. The interviews, which are vulnerable, funny, and often moving, are like overhearing a discussion between two friends, in part because the interviewees often are Elizabeth's friends, but also because most talk with startling honesty. In theory, it's obvious that failure is a normal and inescapable part of being human (as opposed to a unique sign of uselessness), but I'm not sure I truly believed it until listening to all these interviews. 

My favourites so far have been Jessie Burton (novelist), Dolly Alderton (journalist), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (creator of Fleabag and Killing Eve), Gina Miller (the political activist who successfully took the government to court on Brexit-related maters), David Baddiel (comedian), and David Nicholls (novelist), but they're all amazing.

This would be good listening at any time, but particularly heartening in a week where I wondered if maybe the ONLY thing I was any good at was doing buttonholes second-time around. This was later upped to perhaps I'm good at doing buttonholes second time around AND naming songs, when my husband and I were sitting around the table working, and took a few minutes' break to play Name the Song. That makes it sound like a game where we take turns, but we don't - it's one-sided game where my husband goes through his iTunes library and plays the first note of a song and I have to name both the title and the artist. We are both always delighted by how awesome I am at this and I would say it's one of my exceptional talents. The only downside is the realisation I can't actually use this talent out in the world in any meaningful way. I would love to know what you'd consider your own exceptional talent to be!

On Saturday morning, my sister texted me with the words, 'Regretting your colour choice?' and a photo she'd taken of a car, just like my own, but in the most startling shiny gold (it looked exactly like these - do click through because it's hard to believe a car could be so shiny or so golden until you see it with your own eyes). A few years ago, my son showed me some YouTube videos about cars being shrink-wrapped in coloured vinyl (he always seems to know the ones that will suck me in - it was mesmerising!) and I'm pretty sure that's how it was done, as it was way too shiny to be spray paint. 


Anyway, when my sister's text came in, I just happened to be sitting with this fabric on my knee, so was able to tell her that I can actually cope with my car not being so fancy (fyi: it's black), because I'm about to make a sparkly gold leopard print jumpsuit - consolation in anyone's eyes, surely? Those are not words I ever thought I'd find myself typing, but I feel oddly remorseless. 

Florence x

Fabric notes: The top photo is a lovely drapey viscose by Atelier Brunette, called Moonstone. The gold-car-substitute fabric in the bottom photo is a cotton jersey from Guthrie & Ghani, found here.  

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Pattern Drafting Failure


Several years ago, as I walked out through the door after my final lesson on pattern cutting at The London College of Fashion, our lovely teacher called after us, 'Use it or lose it, ladies'.

Her voice comes into my head now, when I realise I haven't used it and now the hundreds of hours of pattern cutting knowledge I'd once accumulated seem to have fallen out of my head while writing my book and madly English paper piecing everything in sight. I can now see there would have been real merit in taking some time out from those things occasionally to do some maintenance pattern drafting, but I'd thought it would be like riding a bike. It's come as a shock to find my bike feels so rusty I can barely turn the pedals, and that as I've stood with my old tools to hand - french curve, tracing wheel, flexible ruler - it's taken me a while to remember even the basic principle of drawing a vertical line to denote the centre front or centre back of my pattern.

I recently bought a jumpsuit (this is only my second jumpsuit, but I think if you find a nice one, they're such good things I can imagine never wanting to wear anything else again), but I knew even before I wore it that they'd used the wrong kind of jersey with no stretch recovery, and that it would seat horribly. And it does.

You might question why I've kept it if I could see the fault before wearing it, but there are three reasons: before sitting, it's basically the best jumpsuit I think I'm ever likely to find in terms of fit; I can wear it judiciously on days when I will mainly be standing up or am with good friends who tell me how great it looks from the front and accept my wish to move through their house with my back to the wall, but also subsequently of the sight of my behind when I stop bothering to use the 'wall cover method of movement' after a few glasses of wine (this one has already happened and I had a thoroughly lovely time wearing it); finally, because I want to use it as a basis for recreating the pattern so that I could make many more versions. It's actually the third reason that was the deciding factor in keeping it.


Rubbing off the patterns from garments already in my wardrobe used to be something I could do with relative ease, so it's come as a shock to find myself struggling with this now. The trouser part of the jumpsuit was fairly plain-sailing after various forgotten drafting principles had slowly come back to me, the arms too, but the bodice has proven to be something of a disaster and has sat on my cutting table threatening to be abandoned entirely. But I so don't want it to be, because it would be so good to have a version to wear on sitting-down days, which in truth are far more a part of my life than standing up days.

Just in case there are any dressmakers out there who can help, here's my problem: when I rub off a pattern like this, I end up with a completely dartless bodice block. I transfer the points were any sewn darts sit and then study the inside of the original garment to work out how big they should be. The darts in this garment are quite big - totalling 4" each along the side seams and 2" each at the waist, and although I'm finding it easy enough to put one dart into my dartless block, two is presenting something of a nightmare for me as it then upsets with the line of the first dart. I think I could fudge this if the darts were smaller, but they're massive and refuse to be fudged. If anyone has come across a tutorial for putting both a waist and bust dart into a dartless block, I'd be eternally grateful if you could tell me where, as I can only find one or the other.

My only other option seems to be to take the jumpsuit apart and then literally trace the pattern pieces off (literally is in italics as my sister always teases me when I use this word, so it delights me to highlight it for her, even though she may not read this far as she prefers non-technical posts), but I'm loathe to do this as I don't want to take a perfectly good-but-with-saggy-bottom garment apart and risk it not going back together again quite as perfectly.

It feels like I'm ending this post on with a depressingly unexciting dressmaking cliffhanger and I can't think of a way to dressing it up as anything more, so I'll just sidle away from this blog post, back against the wall style...

Florence x
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