Thursday, 31 May 2012

The way I work

Pattern storage is becoming an increasing problem and I'm wondering how others without limitless cupboard space deal with it. When I'm drafting a pattern myself, I tend to keep every element of the pattern's development and each toile made, to keep my options open should I decide to backtrack and restart the process from two steps earlier. Each new version of a pattern draft gets its own A4 envelope where imaginative names such as 'princess seams top, version 4' or 'top with the pintucked yokey bit, version 3' is scrawled on the front and the pattern pieces and any relevant toiles are folded inside. The envelopes are than placed in a drawer that is now so full that each time I open and close it more patterns fall away down the back and the entire drawer has to be removed to retrieve them.

When I've finally settled on a pattern (this seems to rarely happen), I rename it in a way that I think will help me know which pattern pieces they are in a year's time - such as naming it after the first proper fabric which the garment was successfully made up in, or the first place to which I wore it. So this top was called 'Citrus voile top' and this top, which was slightly more voluminous than the versions that had gone before it was named 'Rye top'. In an ideal world where I was thoroughly organised, I'd take a photo of the finished top and stick it on the front, but the world is yet to become ideal. I'd also think up better names which made me momentarily feel like a hipster when I opened my drawers, rather than someone with the most chaotic, idiosyncratic filing system in the world.

When each finished garment (or abandoned garment - there are many of those too) may be the result of three toiles and four or five envelopes of pattern pieces I can see that I'm heading toward some kind of horrible implosion in terms of storage methods, space and naming strategies.

How do you organise your patterns and toiles - self-drafted or shops-bought - I'd love to know.

Florence x

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

God of the Garden (ahem!)

Last summer my husband's big project was building a pizza oven in our garden. By the time December came, the gloom of winter was already hanging heavily and he felt in need of another project. Which is why, on Boxing day, when the earth was cold and heavy he dug his spade into the ground and began the huge task of levelling our garden. He told me yesterday that he can still remember stamping the spade into the earth for the first time and feeling utterly overwhelmed by how many times of doing this he knew must follow.

Our garden had always sloped peculiarly across our plot of land and this sloping horizon felt discombobulating and so he decided to level it between Christmas and New Year. The children helped a little each day, once my father called over and spent an afternoon digging, but mostly we glimpsed this shovelling through the windows from the warmth of inside, as this bleak lone figure dug and shovelled, saving every earth worm that he came across in the process. It was the kind of work I can imagine being given to convicts, although this one had the luxury of working his way through Desert Island Discs podcasts as he dug. It was meant to be just that, a simple levelling task, but somehow as he dug our plans became grander and eventually took in most of the garden.

By February, we began to go on jaunts to reclamation yards in search of oak sleepers with which to edge the garden and create raised areas and for paving blocks for new patios and paths. These yards are frosty, odd places at that time of year and it was hard to imagine the things in them as part of a summer garden, but I think even so, we loved these outings and our heads bubbled with ideas and excitement.

A lorry came soon after and craned twenty-five oak sleepers to the front of our driveway. Just carrying them around to the back of the house was back-breaking. We wondered at how one cuts an oak sleeper to size. We considered buying a chainsaw, but didn't want to spend the money on something we'd never use again, so he cut each one to size with a hand-saw.

We decided to create a second, sunken patio around the pizza oven. More digging and then creating two sets of steps from sleepers and paving blocks. Two tonnes of hardcore and sand were dropped on the front of the driveway and then three pallets of paving blocks, at which point a friend came to the rescue, delivering an old wheelbarrow which we could use to get it all to the back of the house. The hardcore and sand formed the base to the patio and path and then the paving blocks were put into place. If the digging had been tiresome and back-breaking, the tamping down of paving blocks was even more mind-numbing. The tamping to make them perfectly level (I was all for a haphazard English cottage garden at this point, but my husband was wielding a spirit level) seemed to go on forever and my husband bought a second mallet so that we could tamp simultaneously.

One weekend in amongst all this was spent constructing a greenhouse, a birthday gift from my husband's mother, and from then on the monotony of garden work was broken up by learning how to grow vegetables, discovering what to plant when and enjoying picking packets of seeds from this couple's website (and some low-level bickering over how many chilli plants a family of four needs, when only one member of the family eats chillies. Having consulted a friend on the matter I think that the need to grow hot vegetables is a man thing). The greenhouse is raised at the back of the garden and we marked out a garden path leading down to it with my daughter's colourful knitting wool.

As we worked on the garden each weekend our little boy took advantage of this barren mud garden and built traps for bugs, made obstacle courses from garden canes, set up see-saws with planks of wood and dug holes just for the joy of digging holes. It was the kind of industry that comes out of complete boredom and lack of entertainment. I have so many photos of him from this time, in fact it's been difficult to find garden-in-progress photos that don't include the children as they generally grubbed around us for almost the entire time. Once the path had been put in place my father gave the children rides in the wheelbarrow and hurtled them up and down it to shrieks of delight. Again, I have so many photos: it seemed the whole time as though I was collecting memories for the pot.

And finally, it is finished. Last week the grass was laid. This is the only thing that my husband didn't do himself.

Or I'd thought it was finished. I arrived home yesterday to find that my husband was digging up the buddleia on the left of this photo as he thought around a logic problem with his work: this means more planting and the painting of a window frame that the buddleia had obscured.



To either side of the trellis that arches over the step I've planted a rose and a clematis, which hopefully in a month or so will be starting to cover the frame.

The path turns toward the greenhouse at the end of the garden, flanked by raised vegetable beds (which have been covered in netted frames in the battle my husband is forced to wage against our cats in an effort to protect his vegetables). A garden bench will eventually take the place of the grow bags on the right.

My husband used left-over bricks to create a zig-zagging path that goes behind the greenhouse to a hide-out for the children.

And last week we made a rockery beneath the trees in the hope that thirstless alpines might be the thing to thrive in this dry, shady spot.

Since the grass was laid it has been sunny every day. We have sat and drunk tea on the patio each morning and excitedly looked for signs of new growth in the greenhouse before we start work. In our lunch hour we have lain in the garden or played quoits. And there has been a lot of football after school. It feels like such a calm, tranquil place to be now that all of the hard work is done.

We also obsessively check on the growth of the laurels at the end of the garden. They are the slowest growing plants in the entire world. I bought them four years ago from an independent nursery who told me that not many people know it, but laurels grow as fast as Leylandii, but don't incite the same fear in neighbours. I don't believe this is true. But they have finally grown a foot in the last month and we are feeling excited about the day when our garden feels entirely secluded.

And finally last weekend, my husband lit a fire in the pizza oven for the first time this year and we enjoyed stone baked pizzas for dinner.

It is an odd thing to be with someone from when you are very young. I met my husband at university seventeen years ago - he liked blowing smoke rings, listening to obscure bands, and not washing very often.  I remember pouring shampoo onto his head as he ate one evening so that he would be forced to wash it off. His big draw was that - as I told his mother at the time - he had cheek bones to die for. He was also the kindest person I'd ever met, who could make me laugh until my stomach ached (actually my sister is both of these things too. I think I may have found a male version of her in these ways). It comes as a complete surprise to me when he does things like single-handedly landscapes our garden, because they're not a part of the character of the person I first met, but are new bits that present themselves little-by-little each year and take me completely by surprise in the best kind of way.

Our friend Ben teases me that I make my husband sound like a God when I write about him here. I think I probably do...but that's only because I think that he sort of is (although it should be said, to appease Ben, that my husband has a GREAT many faults and short-comings that are too numerous to be listed here). But really, our friend Ben reads my sewing blog, brings home-made cheese cake when he visits, has carved toys for our children, and hand-makes truffles for our birthdays, so I think he may be throwing stones from a greenhouse.

Florence x

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Sponsor Introduction: Eclectic Maker

I'm really excited to introduce my newest sponsor, Eclectic Maker, as they have some wonderfully unusual fabrics that, brought together in one place, instantly drew my mind back to my favourite book of quilts (more on that later). The stack of fabrics pictured above is the latest range from the Victoria & Albert museum. They are reprints from the archive of Édouard Bénédictus's work, who died in 1930 having not only left the world with a catalogue of his beautiful designs, but also with the invention of laminated safety glass (he was a chemist as well as a designer). I adore the colours and the prints and, as a collection for quilting, they encompass a wonderful mix of large prints, small prints and contrasting colours.

We've recently completed re-landscaping our garden (a project which my husband began on Boxing day) and the only thing remaining is the addition of a quilt to on which to lie on the lawn. I'm seriously considering this collection as the basis for the quilt. It has enough dark shades in it to make me not worry over it being used outdoors or being the site of picnics and I imagine the greens and blues blending in chameleon style, adding, rather than detracting from the calm, but vibrant colours outside.

From Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making

It's these fabrics and the range of Martha Negley, Philip Jacobs and Kaffe Fassett that the Eclectic Maker have chosen to stock that drew my mind to thoughts of the aforementioned favourite quilting book, Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making. Before being given this book as a gift by my sister-in-law I'd been ignorant to the appeal of Kaffe Fassett fabrics, finding his prints out-dated, sometimes garish and frequently lacking in subtlety. Jane Brocket's book changed my view of them completely and the way in which she uses the fabrics of Martha Negley, Philip Jacobs and Kaffe made me appreciate this trio of designers' work in a whole new light. Jane Brocket's skill doesn't lie in fancy piecing or intricate designs (which I think she'd freely admit to), it comes in a unique ability to combine colour and print unexpectedly and deliciously. Her quilts don't look new, or cutting edge. But they do look breath-taking, stunning, inspiring and everything that I'd ever aspire to pour into a quilt.  

From Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making

It is the book that has taught me much about colour and this book is now the spirit level which I keep in my mind when I dream up imaginary quilts in my head. Faced by creating a quilt for the garden, rather than for the house where I'm tied to thinking about how it would blend with the existing decor, I feel happy to indulge in a 'what-would-Jane-do?' strokey beard moment. I often do this when I feel I lack the skills to deal with a situation: faced alone with a mouse that a cat has brought in, I pretend I am my matter-of-fact rodent-fearless friend; in a situation when I feel suddenly gripped with such panic that my instinct is to close my eyes until the crisis has subsided of its own accord (occasionally this approach could result in death), I pretend I am my husband or mother who are always calm in a crisis. Sometimes, it really helps to try and imagine something through the eyes of someone who you know to naturally possess a better capability for dealing with a certain something, because it's amazing what you find lives inside yourself, without it being an intrinsic part of your personality.

From Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making

I adore these Martha Negley prints which the Eclectic Maker stocks - they are more painterly than anything I would ever usually be drawn to, but when I look at Jane's quilts I have more of a sense of how I can imagine using them.

But lest you think that the Eclectic Maker has confined itself to the styles I've talked about above, I feel I should run through some of my favourite collections that they stock, as they offer a vast number of ranges.

This collection by Patty Sloniger isn't new, but I find it no less lovely each time I look it at. I think its bug jars and insect-mottled trees make it a perfect choice for a young boy and it makes me smile at how it celebrates the best parts of my own little boy's childhood (the collection does include lots of pinks too, but it's the greens, blues and greys that I adore).

For even younger children, you may remember in this post how I fell in love with Ed Emberley's collection for Cloud 9 when I saw it pre-release several months ago. I think the Eclectic Maker have the whole collection.

You wish to go and have a root around and winkle out your own favourites though, so click here for a general overview of the ranges they stock. Like many places, they've also stock quilt batting and haberdashery, making it a one-stop shop. Hurrah.

Finally, a winner for the beautiful dress patterns offered up by Christine Haynes in my last post. Congratulations to dear Pipany. I'm so pleased the magic finger stopped with her as I do believe she is often intending to make something just for herself, but never quite finds the time - I will pass on your email address to Christine and she'll post your Derby dress pattern to you very soon.

Florence x

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A new range of dress patterns & give-away

A few months ago I stumbled across a photo of a dress named Chelsea and read that author and dress designer, Christine Haynes, was developing that dress as part of a new range of dressmaking patterns to be released this year. I'd rather fallen in love with this prototype so I wrote to Christine on Twitter asking when her new patterns might be available. Happily, we quickly dispensed with limiting ourselves to conversing in 140 characters and began chatting on email and Christine offered me the chance to give away one of her patterns as soon as they were released. Hurrah!

The way that these patterns came about is slightly unusual and I thought, if you don't already read Christine's blog, that you may enjoy learning a little more about Christine and her dressmaking, so, to accompany the giveaway, I asked if she might answer a few of my questions. I was so delighted by Christine's answers - which I found inspiring and full of warmth - and I hope that you enjoy reading them just as much as I did when they first landed in my inbox!

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post saying which pattern you'd most like to win and Christine will post a copy out to the randomly chosen winner. I'll give details of where you can buy the patterns at the end of the post.

Firstly, thank you so much for offering up your patterns as a give-away for my readers. As soon as I saw these patterns I fell in love with them and I've enjoyed doing a little research and discovering how they came about - so here are my questions:

The Chelsea Dress

1. I know that you produced a sewing book of garment patterns published by Random House a few years ago, but this leap into producing your own clothing patterns independently is a little different and came about in an unusual way which showed a huge amount of ingenuity and determination on your part (not to mention handmade thank you's). For those that don't know the background, could you share a little about how you've got to the point of these dress patterns being a happy reality?

Sure! After my first book was published I thought I’d do another one immediately. Fortunately that fell through, because in hindsight, I was not ready to do another book right then. At the time I was disappointed, but in the end it was the best thing that happened to me. I started teaching and getting more and more writing offers from magazines as my book was being published. The ready to wear collections dwindled as the teaching and writing took over and before I knew it I was teaching all the time.

In teaching I came to realize that what I really wanted to do next was a line of patterns, not a second book. But I didn’t quite know how to do that. I had a couple of conversations with one of the big four companies and considered going through them as other designers have done. And while it never seemed quite right, I knew that I couldn’t do it all on my own. I am a one-woman business without a spouse income to help support everything, and I just didn’t have extra to do something this big.

Then one day I heard about Kickstarter and it changed everything. For those readers not familiar with it, Kickstarter is an online fundraising site for creative projects. People like me are very unappealing for banks, especially these days. I also don’t have any credit cards to do it that way, and I don’t come from money, so borrowing it all was out of the question. But I did think that I knew enough people to pool a tiny bit from each person to raise enough funds to print the first two patterns, and I was right! My friends, family, students, and complete strangers donated over $6,500, which is just under what it cost me to print the patterns, instructions, envelopes, pay my illustrator/designer, buy the fabric for the samples, and pay everyone involved for the photo shoot. I did have to kick in some of my own money too, but their support nearly covered it all!

It was an amazing and very challenging experience. While it takes a ton of diligence and marketing, it can really work. I know of others that have used Kickstarter too for their creative projects. It’s a pretty amazing invention.

2. How do these patterns differ from those in your book, Chic & Simple Sewing?

When I wrote my book, I was focusing entirely on a seamstress who had possibly never sewn before, or at least had never sewn garments before. I kept running into friends who were really good at sewing accessories or quilts but were afraid to try to make clothing and I found out that it was due to the fears of fitting. So when I designed the outfits, I wanted to strip the garments down to the most basic and simple shapes possible: rectangles, squares, circle skirts and such.

It is not an all-inclusive guide to sewing, but rather a way to make modern outfits with minimal sewing experience. I received some negative reviews from readers who wanted much more from my book than it was meant to be, but it was never meant to be a sewing bible. In hindsight, I’d do many things differently, but you live and learn and move on.

For the patterns, I am coming from both the knowledge of what I did right and what I did wrong on the book, as well as 5 years of sewing teaching under my belt. I have really learned what my students want and need from their patterns. Unlike my book, these first two patterns are not for someone who has never sewn before, but they aren’t terribly difficult either. I wanted to find that sweet spot where the seamstresses are experienced enough to not need super basic instruction, but had enough of a foundation to not need extreme explanation.

The Chelsea Dress

3. Could you tell us a little about what's been involved over the last year as you've launched your pattern company?

It’s been such a learning experience! Since I wanted to begin with my two most popular designs from my ready to wear days, I already knew I wanted to start with the Derby Dress and the Chelsea Dress, but I didn’t really start changing them into the sewing patterns until after the Kickstarter campaign ended. I didn’t want to jinx anything!

Once the funding was secure I began redesigning the original patterns to be more body-friendly and started to design the alternate views. After I was pretty sure what the changes would be, I started making various versions and then eventually the final samples. I then did casting for the photo shoot and secured all the details for that day. In the midst of all this, my illustrator/designer finalized the cover design so that would inform how the photographs needed to be done. Once the shoot was over, it was onto the final designs for the envelope, writing and finishing all the instructions, and sending everything to print!

4. Your aesthetic completely appeals to me - I love the gathered yolks, empire lines, Peter Pan collars and ruffles that are sprinkled over your vast catalogue of work [Christine has produced many ready-to-wear collections in the past] - where do you gather inspiration from and how much alteration and re-jigging goes into taking a first pattern draft into a final wearable garment?

First off, thank you! I’m so glad you find the designs appealing! There are a few bloggers I hoped would like the patterns, and you were on that list. I’m glad I was right about that!

If there is one time and place that informs my designs the most, it’s France in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I love the intersection of prim and proper and naughty like how a Peter Pan collar can add an element of sauce to a dress. But I never want to look like I’m wearing a costume and I am not a fan of the word “retro”. I’m not into kitchy, rather I like classic and timeless vintage-inspired outfits.

For me, some designs can be right from the get go, and others I really have to work at. And some just need to go away! Not every idea works. When I was doing ready to wear, I didn’t have to worry too much about how anyone else would put the garments together since I was doing all the sewing myself. Once I started designing for others to sew I found there to be a lot more re-jigging. I can always hear my students in my head while finalizing designs!

The Derby Dress

5. You initially chose to develop the Chelsea and Derby dresses into sewing patterns. The Chelsea dress looks like it's changed quite a lot along the way since your initial concept - what processes did you go through to come up with the final designs.

Both designs went through a lot of changes, and all of those were in order to make the patterns more body-friendly for a wider range of body types, and to offer more mixing and matching between elements. There are two views for each pattern, one that is closest to the original design and one variation.

The original Chelsea Dress

For the Chelsea Dress, the original design was changed in very small ways for view A. The ready to wear version had an overlapping seam in the front of the yoke. I added a Peter Pan collar and finished it off with a 3-button closure. It also had elastic at the hem of both the long and short sleeve versions, which I took off and replaced with a simple folded hem. View B of the Chelsea Dress was designed with a V-neck and bow on the yoke, and a band at the hem, which I thought gave lots of options for mixing and matching. This way you could do view A yoke with view B 3/4 sleeves and hem band, etc. to make it totally custom.

The Derby Dress went through the most changes. The original version had a straight neckline with a full ruffle that was gathered with elastic inside a casing across the bust. The ties were sewn into the casing and tied into bows at the shoulder.

The Chelsea Dress

I knew I wanted the dress to be more body-friendly and more flattering to ladies that wanted to define their waists. So I changed the front of the dress into three panels with princess seams and changed the back into four panels so the drape was still fluid but not just a gathered rectangle. I also changed the neckline to a curve and added a smaller ruffle to the curve for view B. That way the ruffle didn’t interfere with the bust or waist. I also changed the straps to go into the back of the dress since I personally found it annoying to wear the ties under a cardigan, which is key for layering for cool summer nights.

View B has the ruffle, is longer for more modesty, and has a self-tie for waist definition. For view A, I added a Peter Pan collar at the neck and a gathered ruffle at the hem. Again, this provides mixing and matching options. You could do view A’s Peter Pan collar, but make it the length of view B and add the belt at the waist. It’s yours to customize!

6. I love your pattern images - each look is individual and distinct while remaining a cohesive group - how did you decide on the fabrics to be used for these flagship dresses and will this aesthetic run through future pattern releases?

Thank you for the compliments on the photos! I tried really hard to make them cohesive, yet individual. It is super challenging! I had the hardest time selecting fabric for the covers. Originally I wanted to design and print my own fabric, but I started to really stress out about time and it was getting in the way of my creative brain moving forward with the designs. I was very leery of using another designer’s fabrics on my covers, and yet I didn’t want to choose something totally generic like solids and polka dots. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those! I just wanted more personality, especially for the first patterns since this was setting the tone for all that will follow.

So after a lot of debate, I decided to use Liberty of London lawn fabrics. They are my absolute favorite to work with and I knew they’d strike the right balance of sweet and girly, while still remaining classic. The only fabric on the cover that isn’t Liberty of London is the pink and white stripe used on the contrast of view B of the Chelsea Dress, which I used because I wanted it to be clear how the grain went on each of those elements since some are straight and some are on the bias. I’m not sure if I’ll continue to use Liberty of London for future patterns, it all depends on the design of the garment, but there will be a relationship aesthetically between all the pattern covers.

The Derby Dress

7. Can you tell us about the photo shoot day - that must have been a big day for you?

It was an awesome day because I had a fantastic team! My pal Bob Lake who is a professional photographer agreed to do the photos, but the only catch is that he lives in San Francisco and I live in Los Angeles, so I had to plan everything from afar and trust that it all would work out when I got there. Thankfully, it did!

I booked three models on a totally open casting call and they were all amazing. Sometimes models aren’t what they advertise themselves to be, but all of my ladies were great. I also booked Shana Astrachan of Fox & Doll who did the hair and makeup for me. She does a lot of brides but also did the recent Mod Cloth campaign, so I knew she’d be perfect for what I needed.

The day of the shoot always goes by like a flash. The girls show up, the hair and makeup artist arrives, and we start fitting and preparing the ladies. All the while, Bob and his amazing wife Jenifer were getting the lighting set up, which was entirely done in the back of their house. They are renovating their home so we had the back of the house to make into a giant light box.

For the look of the photos, I wanted a white backdrop because of the design of the envelope covers. I also really like the look of Japanese sewing books and how minimal they are, so that was the look I was going after. The shoot went super smooth and afterwards Bob, Jenifer, and I celebrated with beers and a trip to the thrift store!

The Derby Dress

7. Any realistic dressmaker anticipates that most patterns may need a little adjustment to fit perfectly, but what kind of body shape and stature of person is likely to get the best fit first time around with your patterns? Are your patterns graded and cut to a standard manufacturer's specifications (such as Simplicity) or are they particular to your own company (as with Colette Patterns which cater for curves)?

My sizing is pretty much my own, but they are closer to Colette Patterns or Sewaholic than say the big four (Vogue, Simplicity, McCall’s, and Butterick). The patterns are designed with curves in mind, but not quite as curvy as Colette Patterns.

I would say that the best body type to get good fit out of the envelope is someone that is proportionate, but not too curvy. But that largely depends on the design of the garment, as some have more give due to the shape than others. I design with a B cup and with some consideration for hips, so it’s best for an hourglass figure, but if you’re very top or bottom heavy, there might need to be adjustments made. To accommodate for more curves, I increased the ease in the designs from size 10 to 18 so there is more give in the garment the larger the woman.

The Derby Dress

8. Many of my readers, myself included, dip into pattern drafting themselves as well as using patterns created by others, so I know some will hopefully be as interested as I am in the nitty gritty of your work - do you prefer draping on a dress stand or flat pattern cutting when it comes to drafting a pattern?

I am not formally trained in patternmaking or fashion. Instead I went to art school and studied studio art, so I come from a very organic and free form place when doing anything creative. That being said, I’m also realistic that there needs to be a balance between the technical and the creative or else you won’t have straight seams and such.

When designing a new garment, I always first start on the dress form. I’ll do some draping, do some rough cutting, stand back, and tweak and mess with it for a while. Then I go back and forth and back and forth a lot. It’s like a dance! Once I’m feeling pretty good about where it’s going, then I draft a paper version of it as close to how I think it will be. That’s where body measurements start to come to play to make sure I’m consistent. I then cut a muslin from that pattern and baste it together. From there I do that same drafting and muslin cutting over and over until I’m 100% happy with it. In the middle of all the tweaking, I try it on a model friend to make sure I’m getting close and to get her feedback. Then I make a final pattern in oak tag and make the final garments for the photo shoot.

When it comes to sizing, I don’t think that grading is something to do in a casual way since it’s really mathematical. It needs to be precise! So once I’m totally done with the pattern, I hand it to a company that traces it digitally and does all the grading for me based on my specs. They give me a printout of each size so I can cut them out and make sure all the pieces are still lined up. They then email me the files and I do some tweaking and send them off to print. Phew!

The Derby Dress

9. What's next for you? I'm already eager to see what you might release next, so hearing about anything in the pipeline would be most exciting.

The most immediate plan I have is a vacation! After all this work I’m taking a break to recuperate, rest, and get inspired for all that awaits me this summer and fall. I’ve hardly had a day off since Christmas! I have a friend taking care of shipping, and I’ll have technology with me, so all will carry on as normal, even though I’ll be hiding away in France for a spell.

This is already up, but the other big thing I’m in the middle of is my new Craftsy class! I had the pleasure of working with them on my class The Sassy Librarian Blouse, which are two variations of a 1950’s inspired top. If your readers don’t know about Craftsy, it’s an awesome online site for craft video classes of all kinds. You buy the class and then the video is yours to watch anytime, forever. The pattern is exclusive to the site and is a downloadable PDF. So you print the pattern, and then follow along with me on the videos as I guide you through making the tops. The students have access to me and can ask me questions along the way and I’m there to help them, no matter where in the world they are. It’s pretty amazing! I suspect you’ll like the pattern, as there are things like cute collars and bows!

I am also already in the midst of a dress pattern for the fall. I probably will only release one pattern this fall. I’d love to do another Craftsy class as well and I found that this spring doing six patterns (two variations for Craftsy, and two variations of two dresses for the patterns), was just way too much for me to do in addition to teaching and all the other work things I have going on, so I’m going to make sure I get a day off each week!

10. The pink shoes that the models in your images are wearing: I adore them! Would you be able to share who makes these beauties so that the entire Christine Haynes patterns look can be replicated?

Those shoes were one of the best happy accidents! I knew that using my friends Bob & Jenifer Lake’s home as our shoot site would provide me with great prop options, as Jenifer has awesome style and their home is filled with all kinds of vintage goodies. When I arrived for the shoot, I was still somewhat undecided on the shoes the models were going to wear, but I had brought some basic heels that I hoped would just more or less go unnoticed in the shot so the dresses would be the focus. But then I scoured Jenifer’s shoe collection and I had two other directions to go in: clogs or cute rain boots. Being in San Francisco and in their vintage home, I almost went with the rain boots and a more rustic backdrop. But then I had the models try on the dresses with the clogs and I was smitten.

The pink shoes were a find that Jenifer got while in Sweden last summer. My first question upon seeing them was not “who made them?” but rather, “you did get me a pair too, right?” Nope! But luckily enough they worked perfect for the shoot. The pink shoes are by Eurostep Fegen and the dark blue clogs are by Troentorp. As far as I can see by searching the web, the pink Eurostep Fegan clogs are not available online, but the Troentorp are and they have a cute pair of sandals that are close to the pink ones I used by Eurostep Fegen. There are also other similar shoes out there, so you can probably get really close to completing the whole look without getting those exact ones!

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Christine, and for kindly offering my readers the chance to win your patterns. Your patterns are beautiful and I'm so excited to watch their inevitable success and see how they will be sewn up by others. They will certainly be appearing in my own wardrobe!

Thank you for allowing me to tell your readers about my patterns! And I look forward to seeing what you do with them. I know your creations will be adorable!

Christine's patterns are available in America here where they're on offer with free domestic shipping until May 31st. If you're anywhere in Europe, I'm excited to tell you that Alice of Backstitch will soon have the patterns in stock and you can find them in her shop here - if you register your interest Alice will send you an email as soon as they arrive with her.

And don't forget to leave a comment here if you'd like to have the chance to win one of the patterns - just let me know which one. This give-away is open internationally.

Florence x

Monday, 21 May 2012

Peter Pan and pintucks blouse

A while ago I informally consulted various fashionistas and the unanimous answer to the question I posed to them was that Peter Pan collars should always meet in the middle and shouldn't be applied to a design where the neckline is intended to be worn open. This presented something of a problem for me: I don't like patterns right next to my face with no neck showing as it all feels too busy, but I was desperate for a Peter Pan collar on a floaty, floral blouse. So I decided to respectfully ignore the advice I'd solicited and throw pattern drafting caution to the wind.

I drew a gentle curve to the central placket as it goes upward, to stop the collar from falling together at the neck. I love wearing pintucks (you might remember my pintuck blouse from last summer), so added some in here.

Several toiles later and I felt optimistic that an open Peter Pan collar had a case for being legalised, but I'd really love to know what you think? Does it work or should the collar be omitted?

I feel inexplicably compelled to share with you that this is a 'best side' sort of photo as my skin is currently a retched hormonal mess, which seems bitterly unfair when I am so many years away from being a teenager...I think it should be an either or situation - but unfortunately things don't seem to heed to the rules of fairness in my head on these matters. Soooo, back to stitching! I used a very narrow self-made piping from plain white voile on the collar edge to give it a little bit of definition.

I am utterly in love with this fabric. It's an incredibly fine cotton voile and I adore the china blue print, which is so easy to wear with jeans and everything else in my wardrobe, as so much of it is blue. I'd usually share a link, but unfortunately I bought this fabric locally and haven't seen it anywhere on the internet.

I think despite the numerous muslins, I still cut into my proper fabric too early. I made some changes to the width of body of the top on the final version, transferred them to my pattern and then cut it. However, I think I've shaved a little too much off and it now lacks the flow over the bottom and hips that I'd hoped it would have. It looks fine on my mannequin...but she doesnt' actually seem to have a bottom and hips for the fabric to catch on!

I'm unsure whether to add the width to sides, or whether to draft in a small gather beneath the yoke to add some hip-accommodating volume. The blouse isn't perfect, but it's entirely wearable, but I shall still be revisiting both the pattern and the fabric to attempt something closer to what's in my head. I was really happy with the way it came together though - I usually bind necklines, but in this case I drafted a front facing and an inner back yoke and constructed it in the same way that you would a man's shirt.

People who follow me on Twitter will know that the making of this blouse didn't run smoothly. I tend to first sew the seams on my machine and then lockstitch and trim the seam allowance on my overlocker. As I fed through the seam allowance of the sleeve, unbeknownst to me a sneaky bit of sleeve was hiding. My overlocker sliced straight through it's lovely almost-finished sleeveness. I felt such a disbelief that rather than a torrent of swear words falling unbidden from my mouth, I started laughing. It was the laughter of one truly shocked and horrified. Perhaps Rochester's Bertha had a similar sewing disaster and wasn't mad at all, for I'm sure I was momentarily rendered just like her. But clearly I have a quicker bounce-back rate than poor Bertha, for I abandoned my sewing, went and made a birthday cake for a friend and by the time my husband arrived back home with children and birthday friend in tow I was doing my best impression of someone in possession of her sanity. I later unpicked the sleeve while we chatted, which made the trauma of my actions less painful and thankfully just enough fabric was left for a new sleeve to be cut.

Florence x
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