Let Them Wear Hats!


cropped ship hat copy

Last weekend I attended a workshop at my home away from home – the V&A.  Intended to celebrate the opening of the new European Galleries (which incidentally I thought were beautiful!), the one day workshop started with Marie Antoinette as fashion inspiration but quickly spiraled off into pure, over the top, puffball fun!


The workshop was led by the founder of Pearls and Swine Millinery, Bink (check out her work here), and we were each given a sinamay teardrop shaped base with a large sailing ship cheerfully glued onto it.  From there we were free to choose from a large array of flowers, rubber cakes, birds, feathers, fluffballs, and other wacky pieces.  With Bink there to guide and advise on placement, balance, and colour combinations, everyone in the workshop turned out a truly unique piece of headgear.  Bink has a lovely, warm energy and was very generous in sharing what she has learned over the years of creating incredible hats.


The other participants on the workshop were also really friendly and willing to talk about other people’s ideas, offering gems of wisdom from their own experience.  One lady started millinery 15 years ago, and is now 75!  She created a beautiful hat, and said she was there to push her boundaries as a hat maker, and try something new.  How inspiring – I hope I am still pushing myself artistically at 75!

Some of the top tips I picked up?

Invisible thread is your friend!  Although it is very hard to use single strand, so use a double thread.  This helps to prevent the thread constantly slipping out of the eye of the needle.  Sadly it doesn’t prevent your thread getting caught up in your ship’s rigging!




We stitched a row of fake leaves all around the edge of the hat base, which gave a lovely finish to the hat.  Although you don’t see the leaves really, what they do is prevent you seeing the ugly sinamay edge, without having to balance elements precariously on the edge of your hat.








Stitch fake flowers together first, then stitch them to the hat.  Creating bunches of elements off the hat is easier than trying to stitch individual elements.





To wear a large hat without it ending up on the dance floor, twist some of your hair into a small clip and anchor the hat comb into the tied back hair.  This gives more stability than pushing the comb into loose hair.

I would say the ONLY part of this workshop that I didn’t like was at the end when we went to have our pictures taken in the new gallery.  If I was wearing a ship as part of a fabulous outfit I would go anywhere, but walking for 10 minutes through a crowded museum in blue jeans with a ship and a load of flowers on my head was rather embarrassing!


The new European galleries themselves are beautiful!  I particularly like the way elements of fashion, home decor, art and everyday objects are placed together in the displays.  It gives me a real sense of the feel of the period, as opposed to seeing clothing in one location, furniture in another etc.



Pearls and Swine are planning to offer additional workshops like this, and not just in the capital so be sure to keep an eye on their FB page for more details.  It is certainly a must do!


Simplicity Star Sewist Contest Entry


Here it is!  My entry for the Simplicity Star Sewist contest.  Although I am pretty new to blogging I was excited to see a sewing contest just for bloggers so I wrote off for the pattern.

I decided to enter the Best Dressmaking category and soon New Look 6145 arrived in the post.  It is a simple shift dress which leaves you with lots of options to customize and embellish.

dartThe first thing I did was adjust the pattern for fit.  I usually need to make a short back adjustment, so I took the back up a little and increased the side bust dart in the front to keep the side length the same on both front and back pieces.  That done, I decided to make a few changes to the design.

Instead of the vent in the back I put in a box pleat instead.  I also changed the collar, drafting a two piece pointed version.  I then embellished the front of the dress with embroidery and raised appliqué.  Finally, instead of using facings on the dress I decided to line the dress with a light cotton.

The dress is liningmade in a cream cotton/linen blend and lined with a light white cotton.

The lining was done with a great technique I learned last year where you draw the armhole lining and dress first out the front hem, sewing from under arm seam to shoulder seam, and then repeat pulling the lining and dress out the back hem.  This results in a lovely finish with no raw edges anywhere.  Everything is contained within the lining.

The embellishment on the front of the dress is done with two different techniques.  The flower centre, petals and thin leaves are embroidered in satin stitch, Romanian stitch and double knot stitch.  Then the larger leaves were appliquéd onto the front, slit in the back and filled with wadding to create a raised surface.


back pleat


The small box pleat at the back is created with a scrap of vintage fabric that a friend gave me while sorting out her stash in order to move house!  It is a lovely loose weave cotton with a spring-like print.




So there it is!  Fully lined, embellished shift dress which I plan to wear this weekend on a vintage hunting trip down to Brighton!

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Clashing Pattern Shift Dress

After spending a lot of time on more complicated projects, I felt the urge to sew up something quick and easy.  With spring in the air, my monthly Prima magazine came through the door with this easy-peasy colour block dress pattern.DSC04934

The fabrics are two that I found at my local Rolls and Rems last year, and they are fun, quirky patterns that I just felt needed to go together.

DSC04933The pattern made up quickly, although when I make it again I think I will make the bottom block a little shorter, and let the top fabric come down lower.  Currently the fabric change occurs right at the widest part of my hips and despite the loose fit I think it makes me look a little boxy.   What do you think?  Would that problem be fixed by bringing the top block longer down, or the bottom block further up?



And then of course there is the British weather to contend with!  Spring may be in the air but it hasn’t hit the ground yet, and the day after I finished this was decidedly chilly.  But what to put with this dress?  In the end I went for spotty merlot coloured tights, which I claim, pick up a tiny bit of merlot present in the dress (and yes I am referring to the colour – not an unfortunate sewing room/drinking incident!).  Not sure if you can see that in the photo, but trust me – it’s there!


So next time – change the blocking, perhaps add a little more shaping, and I’ll be using two fabrics with some pinks and greens in.  Now – come on weather!


What are you sewing for spring?