My summer uniform 2019

So, it feels like summer is slowly coming to an end. Time to take stock on my summer wardrobe. First of all, I love summer, it’s my absolute favourite season to sew for! So it’s not surprising that my sewing output for summer clothes is pretty high, which gives me a lot of garments to play with and figure out my ideal summer style. And guys this year I really figured out the formula for the perfect outfit!

Give me a pair of Persephones (long or short), a loose fitting top (preferably a Roscoe or a Blaire) and a pair of comfortable shoes. This really is my ideal summer uniform. (That and linen sack dresses, a love that’s well documented on this blog). I’m so glad that I’m finally at a stage where I’m this happy with my wardrobe, in terms of shapes but also fabrics and colour scheme.

It won’t come as a surprise to any of you that the Anna Allen Clothing Persephone Pants and Shorts made it on the list. These are my fourth and fifth pair and they go perfectly with the rest of my wardrobe.

I’ve been dreaming about a natural white pair for ages but couldn’t find a good quality natural bull denim. Then during the move I realised that I had enough heavy weight bull denim left over from my Tello Jacket to squeeze out a pair of Persephones. And by “squeeze out” I really mean squeeze out! I didn’t even have enough fabric for a second pocket. Instead I decided to make it a feature and topstitch the one pocket. I’ve been meaning to try that out, as I find the pocket bags move around too much for my taste. I have to say I love the look. Though if I do this again, I will move the pocket slightly over towards the fly front to give it a more balanced look.

There is not much I can say about the construction of the Persephone at this stage. You can read about my adjustments here and here. The one thing I will mention though is that I batch-sewed these together with the shorts and it was amazing how quickly they came together. To speed up the process I decided to go with a top-stitching colour that would coordinate with both the natural white and the terracotta fabric. On top of that I finished the seams with a zigzag and used a triple stitch with the same thread to get the look of a top-stitching thread. That way I didn’t have to change threads at all. This is such a fast way to produce two garments at the same time! And I love the contrasting top stitching on both.

I paired the white Persephones with a True Bias Roscoe Blouse. This blouse had been on my to-sew-list for ages but I only managed to sew it up for the first time earlier this year. I can’t believe I’ve waited so long! It’s the perfect blouse; so easy to wear and I just love those sleeves. I also really like how it looks in this linen fabric which gives the blouse a bit more structure than intended, and I’m totally into it. I will definitely need to make more of these.

A quick note on this colour. I’m completely obsessed with anything khaki/olive lately. This blouse though was originally a mustardy colour (see here). I loved the original colour but unfortunately the fabric faded like crazy in the wash and looked really worn out. To put the blouse back in rotation I decided to just dye it in a colour that I had lying around (Dylon hand wash dye in olive green) and I couldn’t love it more. It’s like having a brand new garment, and it goes so well with these Persephones.

Another favourite pairing is the Persephone with my trusty Style Arc Blaire Shirt. I made this back in 2017 and it’s been in heavy rotation ever since. The fabric is some white linen that I dyed with avocado skins and pits. If you are interested in the process, you can read about it here. Even though it’s been worn on repeat for more than two years now, I’m really happy with how the colour has held up. I’ve washed it a good number of times on a gentle cycle and the colour has not faded much. It has changed slightly in hue though through all the sun exposure and is now a little bit warmer in colour. I actually love the fact that natural colours shift and change over time.

This pairing of garments is so great for hot summer days. The linen of the shirt keeps me cool and comfortable and while the shorts are short the high waist balances the shortness nicely and I don’t feel too exposed.

The fabric for these shorts is actually the same as my long pair of Persephones. I had to play another round of pattern tetris to make them work with the piece I had left over. Luckily these shorts don’t use up a lot of fabric; great for scraps!

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about these shoes. If you have followed me on Instagram or have seen me in real life this summer, you know that I’ve been wearing these leather Huaraches non-stop.

There is a little back story to these shoes. The Germany based shoe company CANO Shoes reached out to me last year to ask if I would promote their Kickstarter campaign. As you’ll know, I rarely do collaborations and in that case, they didn’t have a product for me to test, so I felt uncomfortable to promote a product that I didn’t know. However, I had been looking for the perfect pair of Huaraches for years, and never really found any that were ethically produced, easy to purchase in Europe and fit my style. So in the end I decided to back their kick-starter with my own money for a pair of their Huaraches as a reward. Lucky for me they managed to raise enough funds and when I got back from Japan this May, these Mara Huaraches in Natural Cognac were waiting for me.

I have to say these are great shoes. They took maybe a week to break in, but now they are the most comfortable pair of shoes that I own. They are perfect for summer as they let your feet breathe but still look like a closed shoe. And in my opinion they go with everything, trousers and dresses alike.

So when CANO contacted me again, because they are having a summer sale, I decided to collaborate with them after all. It’s a beautifully crafted product and I love their mission on transparency and sustainability. If you have been looking for a pair of leather shoes for summer you can get them here.

And if you are more interested in making shoes than buying them, I encourage you to check out their Instagram where they regularly give insights into the shoe making process (check out their highlight on boots, so fascinating!).

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts and opinions are my own. If you use the above links to purchase a CANO product, I will receive a small commission from the sale with no extra cost for you.

Top 5 Highlights of 2017

I’ve been loving all the end year reflection posts, so I decided to join Crafting Rainbow’s Sewing Top 5 again. As usual I don’t have that much sewing output for 5 hits and 5 misses so I’ll just focus on my 5 hits of 2017.This dress has become such a wardrobe staple. It’s perfect for any occasion, which is all down to the fabric. It’s made in a medium weight sand-washed raw silk that is amazing to wear. The fabric barely wrinkles so it’s perfect for travel and has been on all my work trips this year, even to Colombia. The shape is simple but works in summer as well as in winter layered over tights and under a cardigan. Now I just need to get back to Goldhawk Road to pick up some more of this fabric.This linen Blaire Shirt was my absolute summer favourite. I was lucky enough to spend some time in Venice this summer and three weeks in Germany, which meant that I had a proper summer for a change. To cope with the high temperatures (especially in Venice) this shirt was ideal. On top of that I had so much fun trying out natural dyeing with avocado for the first time. It was much simpler than I expected and I love the final colour. I can’t wait for next summer to dig this shirt out again.Some more linen…This Highlands Wrap Dress was a surprise favourite this year. While I’ve been wanting to make the pattern for a while, originally I had another fabric earmarked for it. Then I changed my mind and made it up in this linen twill on a whim. The original colour was a weird off-white which I knew I wanted to dye. With some dye getting lost in the post, the colour turned out a lot weaker than intended and more of an orange than the intended terracotta brown. After some initial doubts I’m now loving the colour. I wore the dress to a beautiful autumn wedding and to our company’s Christmas party this week and both times felt great in it.This coat has been such a long time in the making (read all about the odyssey here). There are so many firsts with this one: first winter coat, first time using proper tailoring techniques on wool, first time attending a sewing class. I thoroughly enjoyed the slow process and taking my time with each step. The final coat is a perfect winter staple, I’ve been wearing it non-stop. And the lining just makes me smile. Also, if you really want to impress someone with your sewing skills, make a coat. I’ve gotten so many comments on this one already.

Last, but definitely not least, I have to, of course, mention my wedding dress. This was a slightly challenging project, as we had a secret wedding and I didn’t have anyone to fit me. To get around fitting challenges I decided to work with simple shapes, and it worked out quite nicely. I decided to go for separates because the thought of having a white dress hanging in my closet unworn made me sad. These pieces I can wear separately in day to day life. The lace top I’ve worn since with a leather mini skirt and the skirt is now pink thanks to an Avocado dye bath, though still waiting for a second outing. The silk slip underneath comes in handy for my many unlined dresses. The wedding also gave me a good excuse to splurge on nice fabrics and I really enjoyed working with the silks as well as with lace for the first time. And of course the pieces bring back memories of a perfect day down in Cornwall.

So looking back at all this, what have I learned?

  • I love high quality natural fibres. Many of these pieces are on my favourites list because the fabric is hard wearing, versatile and lovely to wear.
  • I enjoy taking my time on bigger projects. I really enjoyed making that coat and practising proper tailoring techniques.
  • Sewing classes are fun and there is so much to learn. Next on my list is a pattern cutting class.

I hope you all had a successful sewing year! Enjoy your Christmas break!

Blaire Shirt Number 2 – The Avocado Edition

After finishing my first Blaire shirt, I knew immediately I wanted to make a second version. This was exactly the piece of clothing that was missing from my summer wardrobe. With a short trip to Italy coming up, I had some pressure to finish this quickly.

This time round I wanted to try something new: natural dyeing. I’ve been following other sewists on their adventures and was particularly intrigued by dyeing with avocado skin. First of all it would be super easy to source (I love guacamole) and second it produces the prettiest shade of pink. This blush colour is one of my favourites (I’m such a millenial!). I did some research online and came across this tutorial here by Rebecca Desnos. It’s very thorough and uses soy milk to increase the absorption of the plant dye, which sounded like a simple method. I didn’t follow the instructions exactly, due to time pressure, and skipped a couple of steps. So here is what I did. Please keep in mind that I am no expert at this and I haven’t tried any other methods, so there might be better approaches out there.

I started with some plain white linen that I got from Ditto Fabrics, they don’t seem to have the exact one online anymore but it looks like this is a similar linen. When it arrived it was a little bit heavier than expected, which wasn’t an issue for the design but meant that I had to collect more avocado skins. According to the tutorial, you should use the same weight in avocado skins as you have in fabric. After collecting avocado skins for a couple of weeks (storing them in the freezer) I was still shy of the 300 grams of skins that I needed. Since dyeing with avocado pits works as well, I decided to just use 5 dried and cut up pits together with the skins of 10 avocados.

I prepared the fabric by first putting it through the normal wash and drying it. Then I let it soak in a mixture of soy milk and water over night as instructed, put it through a spin cycle in the washing machine and let it air dry. Next I dipped the fabric again in the same soy milk mixture (only a quick dip to avoid washing out the first layer), put it through a spin and dried it. The instructions then tell you to repeat this step a second time. Since I didn’t have the time for a second round, I skipped that step. I also skipped the step of storing the fabric in a plastic bag for a week before using.

Then on to the avocado dye. I defrosted the skins and chopped up the pits, which I had peeled first (probably not necessary but easy to do when the pits are dried). I added them to an aluminium pot and filled it two thirds with water. Next I put it to a boil and let it simmer for roughly 2 hours. The skins quickly broke down and the water turned a brownish red. After letting it cool down, I put the mixture through a muslin lined sieve. Once heated up again, I added the fabric and a little bit more water to cover it sufficiently. As you can see the pot was a little bit small for all the fabric, so I made sure to move the fabric around a lot to avoid blotches. The fabric quickly turned pink and after an hour or two of boiling the fabric in the dye bath I let it cool down again and sit overnight in the pot with a plate holding the fabric under water. The next day I took out the fabric, put it through the spin cycle in the washing machine and let it air dry.

The colours turned out beautifully. The linen didn’t take the dye as much as some pieces of sand-washed and dupion silk, which I had thrown in to test the colour on other fabric. Since I was more going for a blush colour on the linen I was very happy with the outcome.

Before rinsing it the fabric is supposed to sit for a week. Impatient to start my shirt, I worked with the unrinsed fabric, which wasn’t a problem, it only slightly smelled of avocado skin. Below some pictures of the process and the final swatches.

Construction-wise I sewed up the Blaire shirt with exactly the same alterations as my first version. Again I was short of fabric and thus had to simplify the design. As in the other version, I finished the hem with a contrasting facing. This time a Melody Miller cotton that I got from Miss Matatabi. The buttons this time were reclaimed from one of my husbands worn out work shirts.

If you’re interested in the colour fastness. Once the shirt was done, I put it through a gentle hand wash and a week later through a 20 degree cycle in the washing machine. Both times it didn’t loose a noticeable amount of colour.

I love this shirt so much! It was the perfect thing to wear on scorching hot days sightseeing in Venice (below a photo in action, a little bit rumpled from carrying around a backpack all day). I also really loved the fabric dyeing process, I now want to avocado dye everything! Unfortunately there is only a certain amount of pink garments a closet can take and I fear I have reached that point. I might have to do some research into other natural dyes next.

This is also my first finished garment for the Summer of Basics, a make-along initiated by Karen Templer of Fringe Association. The idea is to make 1 garment a month for 3 months, June through August, with the goal of filling in basic wardrobe gaps. This definitely filled one. I’m now trying to decide on my other two pieces. I’m thinking Closet Case Ginger Shorts and a pair of espadrilles but I’m not 100% sure yet.