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  1. Inspiration: India Flint and Secret Lentil

    Have I mentioned lately how much I love the work of both India Flint and Secret Lentil?  

    I've been following Helen of Secret Lentil for years (which sounds a bit stalker-ish now I come to think of it), but haven't quite managed to buy anything from her yet. A few years ago I saved up very hard for a dress that I loved, and somebody else bought it THE DAY BEFORE I got paid. I'm still a bit sad about that.

    I always have to fight this vague feeling of "oh well I could make that myself anyway", because of course I do have a mountain of cotton jersey and an overlocker right here, but obviously it's not as simple as that. I start with patterns and plans and write myself instructions. Helen builds imaginary clothes that live in her head. How cool is that?! 

    India Flint I learned about when I bought her "Eco Colour" book, and tried out a few experiments with natural dyeing. India's clothes have a strong connection to the location where they were created, having been dyed by the plants, earth and water of the places where they were made.

    I have lots of plans in mind for future plant dyeing projects, and I have a freezer filled with sumac and rhubarb and raspberry leaves, and avocado stones and skins, just waiting to come out and add colour to something. Where I get stuck is with the thought that I need to design the "perfect dress" before I can dye it, otherwise it'll be a waste of cloth and plants and time and water and heat. 

    (Don't tell anybody, but... sometimes I wonder what I could come up with if I just made whatever I liked, and didn't spend so much time worrying about what other people might want to buy.)

  2. eternal magpie organic cotton wrap top

    I had a very small piece of the spotty/stripy organic cotton jersey left over, so rather than re-burying it in the depths of the stash never to be seen again, I thought I'd use it up straight away. 

    This top is loosely based on Burda pattern 7107, which appears to be out of print. I say "loosely based" partly because I didn't have quite enough fabric to make the tie as long as the pattern required, and partly because I read the instructions and then completely ignored them. 

    eternal magpie organic cotton wrap top

    I wanted to make a little summer wrap top that would tie under the bust, to add a bit of shaping to the dresses for those of us that suit a higher empire waistline. So far, so good! It does that beautifully, I think. 

    Unfortunately, despite checking the measurements three times, and cutting out the biggest size on the pattern... it's too small for me. The two sides of the front don't meet, let alone wrap, which is really disappointing as it's otherwise absolutely perfect!  

    eternal magpie organic cotton wrap top

    It's pictured here on my lovely mannequin who is wearing a size 8-10 dress, and measures 88cm (34¾") around the fullest part of the bust. As you can see, the fronts now wrap over by a couple of inches, and the ties are just long enough to knot at the back if you don't want them hanging down at the front.

    eternal magpie organic cotton wrap top

    I've popped this one into the sample sale, so that someone smaller than me can pick up a bargain! 

    What do you think though? As tops go... is this the sort of thing that you'd like to wear over one of your summer dresses? 

    I'm definitely going to have to draw up a new pattern for something in this style - not least because I want to make one which actually fits me! 

  3. eternal magpie organic cotton 1950s vintage style cardigan

    So many people sent messages when I entitled a blog post "selfish sewing", protesting that sewing for myself rather than for stock wasn't selfish in the slightest... so I'm going to call this one "self-care sewing". 

    I'm going to a local business seminar, and I've been stressing out about it. (Nothing to do with the seminar itself, everything to do with having been ill for a few days on top of my usual fibromyalgia/endometriosis/colitis combination.) I knew that if I spent today worrying about it I'd end up making myself too ill to go, so I needed a project completely unrelated to work, to take my mind off it. 

    Enter this cardigan which, contrary to appearances, is actually a 1950s jacket! 

    Simplicity pattern1319

    The pattern is Simplicity 1319, a re-issue of an original 1950s design. This is actually the long version, view A, although it only sits an inch or two below my waist. I wilfully ignored all of the recommended fabrics and pulled out this organic cotton jersey from my stash. It's two layers knitted together - the little white spots are a single stitch pulled through from the striped layer. Because I knew that the facings would show, I decided to reverse the fabric to make the most of the two different sides. 

    I decided to fix the folded-back front facings in place with two vintage buttons, also from the mountainous stash. The photo is actually a bit misleading - the hem of the facings doesn't bag like that when there's actually a person inside the cardigan! If I'd followed the instructions and lined the jacket, the facings would have formed a sort of a pocket - not secure enough to put things in, but a place to rest my hands. I may yet go back and cheat that with a bit of topstitching... I'll see how it goes.

    I think this cardigan will be perfect to wear in this sort of peculiar in-between weather, where it isn't warm enough for a jacket, but it might turn out to be a bit breezy in the shade. It also feels a bit smarter than some of my knitted cardigans, making it an excellent piece of "smart-casual" wear. I'm going to wear it to the seminar... hopefully I'll learn something useful while I'm there! 

  4. eternal magpie reusable face wipes

    A friend got in touch this week and asked whether I'd thought about making re-usable face wipes out of the scraps of my dressmaking fabrics. 

    The short answer was yes, I'd thought about it... but I hadn't got any further than that because I didn't want to buy any new towelling fabric to make something that was supposed to be using up leftover bits! Then I remembered that I had an old towel stashed away for exactly this purpose, so I thought I'd give it a go and make a few experimental ones to try out for myself.

    The top side is leftover fabric from an old cotton duvet that I chopped up to make a dress, back in January. I decided to make them square because it seemed slightly wasteful to cut the corners off to turn them into circles... but I think that circles would have been quicker to sew, and used a bit less thread. I'm also not very good at turning corners on my overlocker, so some of them aren't very neat and tidy. I added the fancy topstiching simply because my machine has embroidery stitches and I don't often get to use them, so it seemed like a nice thing to do. Again, I'm not very good at turning corners, so a lot of these are pretty wonky! But they're just for me, to see how they are to use and wash, so I don't mind too much. 

    My main thought so far is oh my goodness the fluff! Sewing towelling is even worse for fluff than velvet, and I didn't think that was possible. But they were fairly quick and easy to make, and I'll report back on how they are to use as soon as I've tried them out. 

  5. eternal magpie orange kids dress

    How gorgeous is this happy photo of little N, jumping in her favourite dress?

    I can’t tell you how much I love receiving messages like this one.

    On the days when I’m sure I’ve made quite enough dresses now, and sales are slow, and I wonder about making something else... sometimes a lovely photo pops into my inbox and keeps me going. 

    More lovely photos of happy people in comfy dresses coming soon!