Thursday, 25 April 2013

Stuff I did when I wasn't here (with apologies for title nicked from The Bloggess)

While I've been cracking on with keeping the shelves filled at the Emporium, you may have noticed I've been a bit quiet recently (damn, I hear you cry, she's back). This is because I've been beavering away with various other creations in the meantime. So to prove I'm not lazy, here's what I've been up to...

This spring has been frock-coat-ageddon as I've been helping with costumes for various plays at my local haunt the South London Theatre. April saw my most ambitious task yet as I made a tail coat for the character of Branwell Brontë in Polly Teale's Brontë. It helped that a) the director of the play is an all-round sewing ninja herself and chose and cut the pattern, so all I had to do was fit it and sew it together, and b) the character in question was being played by Significant Otter himself, so I had a live-in model to stick with pins.

Still, it was pretty tricky considering I very rarely dabble in clothesmaking. Significant Otter is, basically, shaped like Johnny Bravo, which resulted in lots of extra fitting around the waist and some serious shoulderpad action up top. And I have resolved never to work with velvet again, mostly because of the quite ridonkulous amount of fluff and fuzz it created in my sewing machine, on the floor, in my hair and all over my pyjamas (yes, I sew in my jammies, what?). Turned out rather dashing in the end though, I think:

Picture by Philip Gammon. (NB this was part of the play, not an emergency onstage hem repair. Honest)

Buoyed by this, and while waiting for some fabric to arrive for some custom orders, I decided to have another crack at making something for myself. My sartorial leanings are eclectic but generally err towards the vintage. The problem with genuine vintage patterns, however, is that they can be fiendishly difficult to make and fit - something I don't have the time, patience, or dressmaking experience to be doing with. The joy of bags and purses, you see, is that they don't have to fit actual humans. Give me a complicated buckle fastening or a folded strap and I'm all over it, but ask me to grade a dress pattern and it's tantrums and tears before bedtime.

Enter my saviour: Eliza M ( The UK-based Eliza M creates patterns based on staple vintage styles that do away with all the complicated stuff and are simple enough for beginners and intermediate sewers to approach without fear.

This was my first experience with an Eliza M pattern but I will be buying many more - I really can't recommend her enough if you have vintage tastes but modern skills (i.e. you are not an actual sewing wizard like Anne on the Great British Sewing Bee. Incidentally, does anyone else think that 75 years of experience is basically cheating? She was like a sewing Yoda).

I chose the 'Pussy Galore Blouse' (stop sniggering at the back), and a cheap, £6.99 a metre cotton lawn from my local haberdashers in a cornflower blue with white swallows (or possibly ducks. or geese? pigeons, maybe).

The pattern itself comes in a clever A4 slip folder which means no more stuffing bits of tissue back into suddenly-too-small envelopes. I was immediately heartened by the final instruction:

Clearly, these are my kind of peoples.

The instructions are for the most part simple and clear, although I had a bit of an argument with the facing on the inside of the neck, which at one point turned into an Escher-like puzzle and I was in danger of creating the worlds first Mobius-blouse. However it resolved itself eventually and I came out the other end with an Actual Thing:

It's got arms and buttons and everything!

The fit is a tiny bit off, but that's more my own inexperience than anything, and I did mess up the collar a bit, but it doesn't show because of the whacking great bow at the front covering a multitude of sins.

All in all it took me a couple of evenings and not all that much swearing at all. I'm now mulling over which of the Eliza M trouser patterns to attempt to complete the outfit.

So if you've been scared off vintage dressmaking because you wouldn't know a princess seam or a pintuck if it smacked you in the face, fear not! Eliza M is there for you. Go for it, my sewing paduans!

In other news.....this is the fabric I was waiting for. Yup, they now make Star Trek fabric. Bow down in awe.

The middle one is currently available as a made-to-order phone cover , but if you have a burning desire for a Star Trek/Star Wars purse, Kindle cover, bag, teacosy (maybe not the teacosy), then head on over to and get in touch.


  1. why aren't you on the sewing bee????? You made a frock coat!!!!! YOu are amaaaazing!

    1. If all the tasks on the sewing bee were about frock coats and handbags, I'd nail it. Oh, and also they would have to give me several weeks to do everything and not ever, EVER look at the insides of anything. And I would require wine. So, all in all, I don't think I'm what they're looking for. Thank you for the vote of confidence, though!

  2. The coat turned out amazing and soooo smart!

    As for the blouse, you def. need to do the trousers too - it looks really good. It's very satisfying when you've made something by yourself, that you can wear. I made a succession of nighties at school (and a hideous bright yellow blouse, but we won't go into that....); I love wearing those nighties, because I made them. Even their little imperfections were special.
    It's been ages since I made myself any clothes... The other week I found a blouse and a skirt suit, which I'd been making years ago, but never finished. Of course they wouldn't fit now... But maybe it's time to make myself a skirt for summer or something. If the Lemur Lady can do it, I can too... (star trek skirt, anyone?)

    1. Thank you! It really is very satisfying wearing something you have made, even if it is a bit wonky. And most of the time nobody but yourself knows about the wonkiness anyway. PLEASE make a Star Trek skirt. The world needs more Star Trek skirts.