Sew Now, African wax print, and an English country house

This post comes to you in three parts! We’ll start off with Sew Now magazine:

A new sewing magazine! I first saw that Sew Now was about to launch on their Instagram account, and I was excited enough to take a special trip to Tesco on release day. I mean, I love sewing magazines… the ideas, the free patterns, the fabric porn… and I don’t know any sewists here in Sheffield, so it’s lovely to remember that I’m part of a community. Of course, blogging and social media remind me of that too!

I actually think this magazine offers something a little different from the others on the market, because it includes more Ready To Wear fashion. That’s great for me – I don’t think I’ll ever have a wardrobe that is 100% me-made. I admire sewists who make everything from their shoes to their pants to their plain white tops, but I don’t know where they find the time… I think I’ll always supplement with a trip to the shops now and then!

Even if you are one of the incredible people who makes absolutely everything, I still think it’s great for styling inspiration – I sometimes find it hard to visualise what I’ll wear with things I haven’t even made yet. And it’s not just clothes – they have a page of homewear along with a pattern for making chevron cushions. Cool, eh?

It does still share a lot of great features with other sewing magazines, like coming with a free pattern. Which brings me neatly to part two: the Zoe Dress and Top from Simple Sew Patterns.

When I saw the free pattern through the packaging in the shop, I wasn’t really fussed. Nice enough plain dress, I thought. Won’t make it, but I want to see what’s in the magazine.

Fast forward three hours, to me wrestling my cat off the pattern as I traced it. I guess I just didn’t look properly in the shop, because as soon as I took it out of the packaging, my mind started racing. A loose but still flattering dress… nice with a belt… good with tights and boots or bare legs… what about that red wax print in the cupboard…?

The wax print is what really convinced me. I had been planning on making it into a Seamwork Adelaide, but the idea of using it for the Zoe really grabbed me, and I decided I’d best listen to my heart.

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And wow am I happy! The only adjustment I made was an FBA (of which more in a later post), although I did also take a big ol’ seam allowance around the waist to add a little shaping. I love the neckline, the way the sleeves sit, the length… I just love it!

The dress came together very quickly, and would be great for a beginner project – no zips, no buttons, no set-in sleeves… and the original doesn’t even have darts, so unless you make an adjustment like I did, you can get straight into sewing the main seams. I think a lot of people would want to shorten it though – I’m 5’8″ (173cm) and it comes to just under the knee on me.

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As you can see here, there’s a centre front seam that gets topstitched – along with the centre back seam, facing, sleeves, and hem. I used sparkly gold thread – it’s hard to see in these photos, and I actually think it’s surprisingly subtle (but nice!) in real life… and I was worried, because the thread is seriously spangly. Here’s a close up:

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I think the dress looks lovely with bare legs/nude tights, but it’s getting a bit chilly for that here in the North of England… so I decided to go with purple-y tights. I’m hoping that it’s obvious they’re meant to clash and not match… what do you think? The coolest part is that they match the lining of my jacket!

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You might have noticed that these photos are really good. Well a friend of mine, Katherine, does some freelance photography, and I cleverly inveigled her into taking these for me… or, well, she offered and I said yes. If you are interested, you can contact her at katherine.payne@cantab.net

Have I had giant gold gates installed in my garden, I hear you ask? Erm, no. Let’s move on to part three: Chatsworth House.

The house served as the inspiration for Pemberley, Mr Darcy’s house in Pride and Prejudice. In fact, you might recognise the house from the 2005 film adaptation of the Jane Austen classic, or the Duchess, another Keira Knightley film based on the life of the fifth Duchess of Devonshire, who lived at Chatsworth. I must say I haven’t ever read that book or seen those films – but hopefully some of you have!

 

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It’s hard to tell in this photo, but the house is MASSIVE. In fact, only part of it is open to visitors – the Cavendish family still live in the other part. It also sits in its own estate with gardens, a farm and farm shop, holiday cottages…

I’m lucky to live close to Chatsworth, but it’s worth a trip even from further away. If you’re making a weekend of it, the town of Bakewell is only a couple of miles away – a really cute English town with old stone buildings and famous pies and tarts. There are also endless opportunities for hiking, climbing, and bouldering nearby.

You pay to enter the house and gardens, but a stroll in the grounds is free – and you get to see some lovely fluffy sheep!

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That’s the river Derwent, cutting through the grounds… there’s a beautiful bridge as you come in, which makes for wonderful photo ops.

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That’s me of course, Katherine of the beautiful photos, and Joe, our friend who was visiting from London. We decided to show him one of the gems of the North, and we got really lucky with the weather: it was chilly, but the sun was shining on the river – and on the gold leaf around the windows of the house…!

They also have the best road sign I’ve ever seen outside the house…

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Inside is as grand as outside – think carved wood, fancy furniture, silk wallpaper, paintings, statues… My photos from inside were rubbish, but Katherine got some good ones of the main hall on her phone… beautiful eh?

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I loved the tiles – I took some pictures of my favourites. Sure wouldn’t mind having some floors like this in my house:

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Apart from being beautiful, the house is very historically interesting. The house was originally built in 1553, at the behest of Bess of Hardwick, but the original building went out of fashion and was completely rebuilt from 1687 onward. The house has belonged to the Dukes of Devonshire (from the Cavendish family, so you will hear them called Devonshires and Cavendishes, which I think is pretty confusing…), and the twelfth Duke still lives there.

And boy do they have some cool statues (these are Katherine’s pictures again):

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So! I feel I’ve bombarded you with both words and pictures, so I’ll leave it here – with a quick note that I haven’t been sponsored to say anything – I’m just an enthusiastic fan.

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Emy Sews Vintage Casual

One of the many things (and there are many) that I love about wax print fabric is that it comes in lengths of six yards (5.5m), so there’s always plenty of fabric to play around with. You’ve seen this particular pattern before, because I used it to make my friend Simo some shorts, and then I had enough left over to make myself a skirt.

Ta da! The pattern is from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual – and I LOVE this book. Love, love, love. If, by some miracle, you haven’t heard of Gertie, you should go to her blog, stopping on the way only to order her books. The first one is called Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing, and I also x4 love it. Each books comes with patterns – shirts, skirts, dresses, jackets, trousers… all with a serious vintage vibe and a multitude of suggestions for personal touches. But you know, even though I want to make almost all of them, the patterns aren’t my favourite part of the books. My favourite part is the sheer wealth of sewing information: drafting! Fitting! Tailoring! Honestly, I find a new little bit of information every time I pick it up.

The pattern I used was the Flared Skirt. In the book it’s made in striped sateen, and Gertie also gives two variations: an A-line mini skirt and a quilted skirt with flannel lining that is on my to-make list. The pattern is very simple and the instructions are very clear, so this is a quick make. I actually think if I make it again I’ll add a waistband so that I can tuck tops in easily if I want to.

Hey guess what? I pattern matched. This is the centre front seam in the middle of the blue bamboo thing. I was very impressed with myself, because pattern matching usually just makes my brain sore and I give up.

OK, so I had a bit of a hemming nightmare. I actually don’t really know what happened, but instead of being even, my hem pulls up at the sides. Hmm. I think this is because I didn’t have anyone to help me measure  pin, and I haven’t yet investigated in a mannequin. I don’t think it is too noticeable when I wear it and am walking about, so I haven’t lost any sleep over it. Next time I’ll recruit an assistant!

One thing I really liked about the hem was the finishing: in Gertie’s book, she suggests using “hem lace”, but unfortunately I can’t seem to find a UK stockist of that. If you know one, please comment IMMEDIATELY and let me know. I did, however, find some really cute lace-topped elastic in a charity shop for £1. I think it actually might be knicker elastic? I decided it would do as a stand-in, and I think it looks really cute.

So there we are, a skirt that, thanks to the English weather, I am unable to wear for the majority of the year. But I am very pleased with it anyway!

You might have noticed that I made matching bangles and earrings – a “how to” is coming on Quick Tricks soon!

Shorty get down – Simplicity 1370

Are you ready for some more wax print? I first wrote about this type of fabric in my Matilda visits Cameroon post – but you haven’t seen the end of it on this blog.

The pattern is Simplicity 1370, and I really like it – the shorts are nicely high-waisted, with a back zip. I searched for an awfully long time to find a pattern with a back or side zip – I think the shape it creates is SO much more flattering, especially if, unlike Simo here, your stomach isn’t the flattest. I also think the legs of the shorts come out at a great length (Simo is about 5’7″, or 170cm, for reference) – they’re definitely short, but they don’t become indecent as soon as you dare to sit down.

And the construction? Easy! The fiddliest part is getting the waistband neatly attached so the side seams line up, and for me, doing the lapped zip at the back. Why oh why can I not sew a neat lapped zip? Is there some secret? (Non sewers –  that’s the kind of fastening where a little bit of material hides the zip.)

I have to say, I don’t understand what skorts are about. Do you?? I also haven’t used the skirt part of the pattern because I think it will be a super awkward length on me and no one else has “commissioned” it yet!

Look at that fabric! I love the super vibrant colours. As with the fabric for my Matilda dresses, this one comes from Middlesex Textiles – they don’t have the same print any more, but they have some other corkers, so go and check them out. I also think their prices are very reasonable.

This pattern – and this fabric – will feature again in future posts, so keep your eyes peeled! Oh – and please forgive me the terrible pun in the title.

Matilda visits Cameroon

I love a good wax print. That’s the type of fabric usually associated with West Africa – bright, bold, huge patterns. Actually, they first found their way over to the world’s second largest continent via the Dutch – who themselves borrowed a printing technique from Indonesia to produce the patterns. Actually, there’s some pretty fascinating history behind this fabric, including a lot of menacing colonialism – you can take a look at this guest post on Beyond Victoriana if you want to know more.

Troubling history or no, these prints remain very popular in Africa, and I love them too. One of my friends, the stylish and beautiful (and half-Cameroonian) Simo, is also a fan, so I offered to sew her something if she bought the fabric. Here’s the material we picked – this is a UK site, but if you’re somewhere else, just give Dutch Wax Print or African fabric a Google – there are some beauties out there.

Originally, I was planning on making her some shorts or maybe a fitted top, but when the fabric arrived, the print was much bigger than I expected, and the cotton was quite stiff, even after a wash. I decided it would be better to take advantage of the body in the material, so I began flipping through my patterns and back issues of magazines. It didn’t take me long to find just the thing.

Is that beautiful, or is that beautiful? (Abandoning humility here.) I found the Sewgirl Matilda tunic in Issue 13 of Love Sewing magazine. Unfortunately, although you can buy the back issue of that magazine, I can’t find a copy of the pattern for sale. Sewgirl does a similar Agnes tunic, or Sew Simple have a free pattern called Brigitte available to download that is a similar shape.

The Sewgirl Matilda was lovely to work with. At first I got confused with the construction of the pockets, but I think that is my inexperience rather than faulty instruction! The dress is made up of seven pieces, plus a few extras for the sleeves, pockets, and facings. Construction was very easy – the fiddliest bit was probably topstitching the seams (actually if you look closely, my topstitching is quite wonky, but it’s a learning curve…). That part is optional, but I thought it helped pull the dress together (especially as I didn’t pattern match).

Check that covered button!

Actually, I loved this dress so much, do you know what I did?

I made one for myself. I am normally a bit scared of shorter dresses, but I think this one is very flattering, and I don’t feel like the world might be seeing my bum at any moment (always a concern).

Wax Print fabric usually comes in lengths of six and twelve yards (5.5m and 11m), and making one “small” and one “medium” dress used up the whole lot, apart from scraps – so I’d allow about three yards (2.25m) for a dress. And whilst we’re on the sizing – if you use the Matilda pattern, there are only three sizes: small, medium, and large. The magazine gives finished measurements, but only for the bust. The medium fits me (I usually wear as UK size 14 or 16) beautifully, but I had to take in the small a few inches at the waist to fit Simo. If you’re worried about sizing, go for the Simple Sew pattern – they have a bigger range of printed sizes, so it will be easier to adjust.