Jago and Litefoot visit the Doctor Who Experience

I’m more than happy to admit that I love Jago and Litefoot with all of my little geek heart. For the uninitiated, Mr Henry Gordon Jago, a theatre impresario, and Professor George Litefoot, a police pathologist, are the eponymous Victorian heroes of an audio drama series from Big Finish. They started life as characters in the Talons of Weng-Chiang, a Tom Baker Doctor Who story, and were revived by Big Finish 30 years later.

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“Mammy, why you taking photos of a dress when you could be feeding me my hams?”

I like to literally wear my fandoms but how are you supposed to do this when no appropriate merchandise exists? You just have to make your own, don’t you?

I spent some time mulling over the idea of getting some custom-printed Jago and Litefoot fabric but I couldn’t come up with an appropriate design. Mainly because I can’t actually draw or design. Luckily I came across some fantastic artwork on Instagram by Johanna Jetsonen, a talented artist and a fellow lover of those two intrepid investigators of infernal incidents.I got in touch with Johanna who kindly gave me permission to use one of her creations as the basis for my fabric.

I uploaded the image to Contrado, played with the settings and ordered my fabric. I didn’t find Contrado particularly user-friendly and ended up with less fabric than I’d intended. Next time I think I’ll try another company.

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Jago and Litefoot’s fabric counterparts meet the Ood!

One plus point for Contrado is the huge range of fabric options available. I ordered a bundle of swatches and they’re so much fun to paw through. The colour has faded slightly on the fabric but it has stood up pretty well to quite a few tumbles in the washing machine.

As the fabric was much more expensive than I would normally go for, I had to pair it with Simplicity 2444. I wasn’t going to trust an untried or awkward pattern with my precious! As I ended up with less than 2m of fabric, I also had to get creative. Which is my way of explaining why the back bodice, the binding on the armholes and the random band on the skirt are all in a plain blue fabric.

I think it matches fairly well. It was the best match I could find in my local fabric shop and I was far too impatient to look for something online.

My only complaints with this dress are that, even with the blue band, it’s shorter than I would like and the bodice is also a bit tight. Not sure how I managed that one but I suspect it may have shrunk a tiny bit when washed. I did prewash it but maybe I should have washed a couple of times before cutting.

I made the dress months ago and have wanted to blog about it for ages…I just had my usual problem of needing photographs of it. An opportunity arose last week when my baby brother visited and, as is our yearly tradition, we went to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay? Where better to get photographs of my Jago and Litefoot dress?

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Jago and Litefoot encounter the TARDIS, not for the first time

One of the excellent things about living in Cardiff is having the Doctor Who Experience practically on your doorstep. Well, not my doorstep. It’s more like a 30-minute walk and a 5-minute train journey from my doorstep. Still counts though. They ask you not to ruin the Experience part for others with spoilers so I won’t say much about it except to say that anything involving Peter Capaldi rocks.

As baby brother insists on going to the Doctor Who Experience when he visits every year, I like that they always update the exhibition part with props, costumes and monsters from the latest series. My favourites of these newest exhibits include the painted TARDIS tribute to Clara, Paternoster Gang costumes, and the Doctor’s punk rock outfit.

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Fabulous steampunk details on Jenny’s costume

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If only recreating this wasn’t completely beyond my skills

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Still swooning at this stunning River Song outfit

 

I’m still waiting for the day when a stranger recognises Jago and Litefoot on my dress. It didn’t happen at the Doctor Who Experience so it may never happen. Oh well. The important thing is that I can leave the house liberally covered in Victorian gentlemen and some Ood. And not many people can claim that. One day my brother will claim it though. He’s now demanded a Jago and Litefoot shirt and I can’t exactly refuse given that he’s the one who introduced me to the gentlemen in the first place.

Supreme sewist of stylish sartorial specimens, that’s me.

Idjits

I’m always so darn proud of myself whenever I manage to get a photograph of a completed sewing project. I know it’s hardly rocket science but it’s my biggest stumbling block when it comes to writing about what I’ve been making. Well, that plus I get distracted far too easily by cats and shiny things.

Check it out though: I made a thing, wore the thing, posed for a photo in the thing, and am now writing about the thing. Totally winning at this sewing blog lark.

And as a bonus: it’s not a Simplicity 2444! The bodice is a princess seam bodice from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book and the skirt is just some gathered rectangles. This was my first time trying princess seams and I have to say I’m quite taken with them, especially how easy it is to make fitting adjustments. They work quite well with this floral print but I’m not convinced I’d like the seam lines breaking up a more structured print.

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Idjit dress. Yes, by the way. That is a cat on a leash.

This was also my first time trying a Gertie pattern. Partly because I’ve seen mixed reviews online about her drafting, partly because the patterns need to be traced and I’ve been far too lazy for that. I’ve got all her books but mostly just use them for flipping through and swooning.

Tracing patterns is something I’ve always assumed will be a horrendous task and one best avoided. Turns out it’s actually pretty quick and easy…although, to be fair, I was only tracing a handful of straightforward pieces. Once everything was traced and cut out, sewing up the dress didn’t take much time at all.

Overall I’m glad I’ve added Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book to my collection. I’m very taken with her aesthetic and I like the idea of mixing & matching the various bodice and skirt patterns provided. The princess seam bodice is still the only one I’ve tried out though so I can’t testify for any of the others, although I’ll hopefully try out some more in future.

Obviously I need to make several more of this one first though. I’m nothing if not obsessive.

Fabric? I bought the fabric during a John Lewis sale back in January and I have a feeling it’s an Amy Butler print. Whether it is or isn’t, I love the colours and it sewed up really nicely.

Why is there a cat on a leash? My cat is a precious, pampered little madam who isn’t allowed in the big, scary outside world by herself for fear she’ll get run over by a car or bullied by the gang of neighbourhood cats who seem to live in our garden.

giphy-2.gif.gifWhy the Idjits dress? Because I’m a damn idjit, that’s why. I’ve rarely bothered making muslins in the past but am trying to turn over a new leaf and do things properly at the moment. So I did actually make a muslin for this dress and marked up some changes on the pattern pieces once I’d got a fit I was reasonably happy with.

Yet when I came to make this version, it somehow turned out at least a size too big in the bodice. Now I know full well that I haven’t managed to drop a dress size in  the intervening weeks so god only knows what I did wrong. Hence idjit.

Also, I was watching Supernatural when I was making the dress and I love me some Bobby Singer.

Irishing up St Paul de Vence

I was lucky enough to spend last week in the beautiful south of France with my best friend and, along the way, I even managed to get some photos of a recent sewing project. That’s right: I made a thing, wore a thing, and wrote about it.

#totessewingblogger

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Cathleen Ni Houlihan dress – works well with pishachio gelato

Confession time: I have already made dresses in two other colourways of this wax print fabric (red with yellow stars and blue with pink stars) and that should have been enough. But, being the good little Irish colleen that I am, I couldn’t resist this green and orange version. Now I just need a white cardigan to wear with it and complete my sartorial tricolour.

I don’t have much to say about construction (it’s my usual and much-loved Simplicity 2444 pattern with a pleated skirt) so I’ll focus on the location instead.

We stayed in Antibes for the week, which is a really handy base for visiting other towns along the Cote d’Azur, including St Paul de Vence, a medieval walled village perched high between two valleys.

It’s really straightforward to get from Antibes to St Paul de Vence (and vice versa) on public transport. Train or 200 bus to Cagnes-sur-Mer and then the 400 bus to St Paul de Vence. Do not convince yourself that there are other, easier, quicker, smarter options. There aren’t. And I don’t want to talk about why I know that.

Shut up. No, you shut up.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, St Paul de Vence. It’s quite a touristy spot so not the best option if you want to experience the ‘real’ France.Or if you want to avoid American tourists. I know I’m a tourist too, but there’s a hierarchy. I’m Irish and we get to look down on the American ones. Especially the ones standing in the door of the restaurant where we ate lunch, loudly declaring “well, we could grab something here to keep us going until we get to McDonalds.”

If you’re down with that kind of thing though, it really is a lovely spot to visit on a sunny day. Plenty of narrow, winding streets to explore, lots of little galleries and shops, some fantastic gelato, and every so often you get to round a corner and become re-acquainted with the stunning view.

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We found a cafe/restaurant with a small balcony which was ideal for drinking coffee and gawping at the view. I use the word ‘gawping’ carefully because that’s exactly what it feels like. Less ‘taking in the scenery’, more ‘brain unable to deal with the fact that a view like this even exists.’

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It was a lovely day on the whole and a good start to a week of sunshine, coffee, sea, lounging about, and eating my own body weight in bread and cheese. Went far too quickly of course so now I’m adjusting to being back in the real world. The one where I have to actually go to work every day and do chores and generally be responsible…*

 

*It’s Saturday so actually I’ve mainly been reading on the sofa and listening to Postmodern Jukebox all afternoon

 

 

Indescribable eldritch horror

I do love me some Lovecraft. Yes, the man was a racist dick but I’m going to go all lit crit on this one and claim Roland Barthes’ death of author as my defence. ‘Ol Howard Phillips did indeed have some nasty points of view but damn did he also write some good stories. So let’s just separate out the two for now and talk about sewing.

That’s right, all I want to do is write about a nice dress that I made. Apparently I need to do this through the prism of horror fiction and French literary theory and that, kids, is why I’ll never make it as a sewing blogger.

It’s all down to this fabulous Cotton & Steel fabric. I know it’s an octopus but anything with tentacles makes my mind go straight to ‘Lovecraftian eldritch horror’ and that, kids, is why I’ll never make it in the real world either.

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Look at those eldritch tentacles and their derpy little faces!

To cut a long story short, I bought 2 metres of the fabric and I made a dress. Not only that but I also took photos of said dress for the purpose of writing about it. Wonders will never cease.

The pattern is my old faithful Simplicity 2444. Fitting is my downfall when it comes to sewing. Construction is easy enough to figure out as you go along but it’s a lot trickier to figure out fitting just from books and online tutorials. I’ve made enough versions of this pattern though that I’m mostly comfortable with how they turn out.

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How is one supposed to stand for these things? And keep one’s eyes open at the same time? It’s impossible.

I thought I was at least. Until I saw these damn photos and that hard-to-miss bodice wrinkle. That has kind of thrown me, to be honest. I can be far too self-critical for my good but it’s easy enough to ignore sewing imperfections when all I’m doing is briefly glancing in the mirror. Photos are a different matter though.

For now I’m going to try not to let this get me down. So it isn’t perfect, screw it. It’s not like I’m competing with anyone. I still took a flat piece of fabric and turned it into a wearable tentacle-covered garment. Hurrah for me.

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The face of a woman who just wants to go back inside and drink tea 

I don’t make many changes to the pattern, other than taking out some fabric on both front and back necklines to prevent them gaping. And I tend to go with a pleated skirt rather than gathered because a) I suspect pleating adds less bulk around my waist and b) I seriously hate gathering fabric.

This dress is all about the fabric though. I do love it so despite the fact that it freaks my mother out. It’s apparently ignited some sort of latent fear of tentacles in her. Note to self: do not take dress to Ireland next month.

I’m going to end with one of my favourite book covers. I already own several Lovecraft volumes but couldn’t resist picking this Penguin deluxe edition up last year purely for the cover.

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Fancy Victorian Cthulhu with his little monocle

 

Atomic Tabbys

First off, I have been sewing. I promise. I’ve just not been blogging about it. Laziness? General ineptitude? Nope. I’d just underestimated how much I HATE having my photo taken. But I’m going to cop on and try to document my backlog of finished items from the past few months. Starting with THE BEST FABRIC. EVER.

I don’t buy a lot of fabric online, mainly because I get overwhelmed by choice. So many fabrics! All so pretty! How can I choose a fabric when I want them all? My stupid brain works on the principle that if I can’t have ALL of the things, then I can’t have any of the things.

Sometimes there are exceptions. Sometimes a fabric comes along that is special enough to make me forget about all the other pretties. Presenting Michael Miller’s Atomic Tabbys.

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Look at it! In all it’s adorable atomicky tabbiness. The swanky orange kitty showing off its behind…that one kitty licking its paw. BEST. FABRIC.EVER.

Unfortunately, the BEST FABRIC EVER comes with a price. £12 p/m to be exact. So having just the one metre to play with, like the cheapskate that I am, I figured a short sleeved top would be in order. Enter New Look 6193, a simple top with some darts, a bit of bias binding and some cute sleeves. I’d already made a couple of sleeveless versions of the pattern so figured it’d be safe to match it with my tabbys. And I was right! I’m not often a fan of my own finished items but I heart this top so much. The cotton wrinkles if you so much as look at it but I’ve still been wearing it weekly since I made it.

The pattern is straightforward and comes together really easily. I did learn some lessons from previous versions though. I think it’s designed to be worn tucked in (as per the envelope styling) so is a bit shorter than I normally like my tops. I lengthened this one so that I could comfortably wear with jeans. I also added some extra width towards the bottom (sorry, not up on all my technical terms yet!) to allow me to comfortably shovel cake down my gullet whilst wearing it.

The neckline is a bit on the high side and there is a bit of excess fabric at the neck but nothing unbearable. Just some issues to bear in mind for future versions. The important thing is LOOK AT ALL THE KITTEHS!

As an added bonus, leftover fabric makes for adorable covered buttons!

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I did try to involve my tabby cat in the photos but she was having none of it. Acted like I was torturing her and stormed off to sulk. So, here she is by herself and (presumably) contemplating why she’s stuck with a crazy kitty mama.

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Grunge poppy Renfrew (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sewing with Jersey)

First project of 2014 completed and it’s actually wearable! Cue excited celebratory drinking of tea and nomming of biscuits.

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After cutting my sewing teeth on New Look and Simplicity patterns picked up cheaply at a local fabric shop, I’ve been seduced into the world of independent pattern-makers with my first attempt at Sewaholic’s Renfrew. I was inspired to order the pattern after seeing so many fantastic versions of the top made by sewing bloggers. It was more expensive than I’m used to paying for patterns but definitely worth the extra cost as it was a delight to work with and I can see myself making many more of these in the future.

This was also my first real attempt at working with jersey and I wish I hadn’t waited quite so long. It’s much easier to work with than I expected. I diligently prewashed my fabric, used a sewing machine needle specifically for jersey and adjusted my stitch settings but, other than that, it was sewing business as usual.

I addressed some of the sewing bad behaviours from my last post by finally taking some goddamn measurements. I wrote figures down in a little notebook and everything. Bonus points! I then naturally lost all these bonus points by not actually taking the measurements into consideration. I really could have done with a larger size around the hips than on top but I couldn’t be bothered to think about how to do this (in my defence, it was a Friday night and I was sleepy) so just cut a straight size 12.

Yes, I clearly have not yet grasped the 'decent photos' element of sewing blogging. Give me time.

Yes, I clearly have not yet grasped the ‘decent photos’ element of sewing blogging. Give me time.

Either through luck or my genius sewing intuition, this actually worked out fine. Ok, ok, it worked out fine because of the deliciously forgiving nature of the jersey. I’ve had all sorts of fitting issues with other fabrics in the past but found this time that the jersey just hid a multitude of fitting sins. Score.

After I’d cut everything, the actual garment itself came together really quickly. It’s such a nice, straightforward pattern to follow. I had some problems with the neckband and sleeve cuffs but that was entirely my own fault for not paying attention to grain lines when cutting so I ended up with pieces that stretched in the wrong direction. Attempts to plough on regardless resulted in much swearing and seam ripping. When I finally gave in and re-cut the pieces, everything worked fine.

I haven’t decided how I feel about the hem band yet. I like the idea of it and how it looks when the top is hanging up, I’m just not convinced that it works on me. Adding that little bit of extra bulk by my hips just makes me more self-conscious about that whole area!

The finished top is definitely a long way from perfect. My topstitching leaves a lot to be desired, the sleeve cuffs are not entirely straight, and I’ve not photographed the inside of the top as it’s…ummm…a whole heap of mess up inside there.  Fortunately, the print hides a lot of the issues and they’re all things I can work on for next time. And there definitely will be a next time. I’m all about Renfrews & jersey now!

So far, the top has survived several outings and several trips through my washing machine. The neckline has stretched out a little but not too badly. Overall, for a relatively-inept sewist, this was an ideal project. Straightforward, reasonably quick, and with a wearable garment at the end of it. Ticks a lot of boxes for me!