Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Vietnam Shopping Spree!

Wandering the cloth aisles in Vietnam.

There’s not much that surpasses the happy thrill of harbouring a healthy stash of gorgeous fabric, ready to be transformed, personalised and worn. Whether it be fabric purchased on a ‘love at first sight’ whim, or a more mindful consideration of textures and colourways, simultaneously assigned to pre-determined patterns, there is a primordial satisfaction in walking away with a new found project in-the-making and a mind filled with pattern-pondering possibilities.

I was lucky enough to indulge my passion for fabric and textiles on a  recent trip to Vietnam and on my travels visited the cloth markets of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An. The cloth aisles are a feast for the eyes, with neatly folded fabrics stacked high in tall, colourful pillars, Expert skill is employed by the vendors to tease out your chosen fabric without disturbing its neighbours ! Sometimes, a well placed foot is required to stabilise a swaying pillar of cloth!
There was an abundance of choice and each design comes in a multitude of different colourways. A certain amount of self restraint is required, but needless to say, I bought a little of something from every market I visited, just in the interest of balance and continuity you understand. I now have the exciting prospect of how best to implement my purchases to their best.

Several of the designs are of a 'Chinoiserie' influence. With regard fabric content, you will be told that much of it is 'Vietnamese silk'. Whilst it does feel amazing and flows through the fingers like water, it tends to share its fibres with a few man-made ones as well. It depends how particular you are really. It is possible to buy beautiful 100% silk scarves as well, (which I treated myself and my mother to).

 The Vietnamese silks can have a beautiful 'shot' effect too, so you enjoy a shimmer of alternating colour in the fabric. There are also several double-sided fabrics such as the pistachio/grey top right below, with which I will probably make a loose fitting dress, using the other side of the fabric as a contrast hem, or binding at the neck and sleeves.
Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries I have spent time in and whilst it had changed significantly since my first trip there twelve years ago, those changes showed encouraging signs of a flourishing and ever evolving South East Asia. Having joined the WTO in 2007 Vietnam is now the second largest rice exporter in the world, (after Thailand) and is also seeing an exciting upturn in its garment and textile industry. It was a pleasure to see this in action and to bring home a few mementos of this burgeoning industry.
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Monday, 27 May 2013

Peplum Part 2.

Peplum Part 2.

Phase 2 of the Vogue 8815 peplum top (made last year in a winter velvet) ~ a more summer inspired version in a fresh floral. Love it ! Really easy to wear.

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The Instant Gratification Skirt!

My wardrobe plays host to an extensive line in simple A-Line skirts of which I am very proud, not least because that is where it all started! It was New Look 6758 that got me out of my confidence funk, to breaking out my Husqvarna machine from its box.
To my mind this pattern is the perfect beginner's pattern with a simple ‘front and back’, no darts and it is up to the user whether they put in an elasticated waistband, a normal zip or conquer the art of a concealed zip at this stage. It also becomes the ideal skirt to make when you need the satisfaction of a fast turnaround!.  It is one for making several times over in your favourite florals and for pulling out on a rainy day for further embellishment. Adding ribbon, patch pockets or velvet panels can all personalise this ultra simple skirt. I have also made it for my Mum in Moda’s delightful Sherbert Pips, ‘Girl on a Tree Swing’.

Sounds: Cheery Chiff Chaffs in the garden
Sustenance: Elderflower cordial


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Burda 7517. I loved this pattern when I saw it, but found that the practicalities of wearing it presented a different scenario!  The pattern leaves a kind of open pleat over the bust line, which pulls out whenever you move or turn. Consequently, I was constantly straightening and adjusting around the seams at the bust. There have been similar comments on some of the pattern review sites and the suggestion that the photo on the pattern does not truly represent the dress. I would go some way to agree with this, but still think it is a very pretty and versatile dress. Just one that needs a bit of personal adjustment and tweaking to get the best fit.
Ultimately, I decided to continue the seam up to the neckline. It is much easier to wear now, with less self-conscious adjusting! I love the concealed ribbon coming out at the waist and it can be worn in countless different ways. It is also the perfect excuse for a VV Rouleaux inspired ribbon hunt.
 I have made it twice, once as a dress, and also as a shorter tunic version, both in a quintessentially soft and floaty, Tana lawn.
Sounds: Fauré, 'In Paradisum'
Sustenance: Pluckley Tea earl grey 
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In search of the perfect A-Line.

Having invested some time in tracking down an A-line dress pattern, I settled on BURDA 7798 with a few little adjustments to get what I wanted. Firstly, this pattern is cut on the bias which gives the dress a bit of a ‘swing’, but not quite the shape I had in mind. (This was easy enough to adapt by cutting it straight). It also includes two panels for the lower front of the dress, though this is not ideal if choosing a heavily patterned or floral fabric which without some careful precision when cutting out the fabric, can make a bit of a clunky ‘join’ down the centre line of the dress. Again, this is easily fixed by cutting this piece on the fold as a single panel.
I also added some extra width to the lower front panel so that I could include a few gathers to the empire line bust. It adds a little something extra and the end result makes for a perfect, easy wearing summer dress.

I have used the pattern again, shortening it to make a tunic version in a Tana lawn, as well as another dress, adding two block coloured panels under the bust and at the hem. Ultimately and with a few tweaks, I found it a pretty versatile pattern and very wearable.

Sounds: Radio 4
Sustenance: homemade cinnamon biscuits
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