Denim jean dress, figs and blackberry cough syrup

I had made one of these dresses for Fashion Revolution to give to Cope Charity Shop to sell in April, and meant to run another for myself, and finally I did in August from some left over denim.

These jean dresses are a quick make. I possibly could have taken my time and worked out where to blend in the bust dart, and maybe sneak some pockets into the seams – but I didn’t…. as worst sewing habit is my race to the finish.

Before I sew denim I prefer to hot wash jeans to get the grain a bit more settled back. For this style dress, I rip the legs up near to the seam along the straight grain (boot cut or straight leg will give most fabric). Iron and trim any long threads, and I over-locked the rectangles. Starting with a triangle, I built up a large patchwork, and then lay my pattern piece for the dress on top. Cut, ironed and flat felled the seams, sewed darts, dress, zip – hem and done! I used a simple A-line shift dress pattern. (I did not take any photos of the making but have drawn a diagram as I had been explaining it before – and referring to log cabin block made not sense to the person as the did not do patchwork.

 

Other than that – I have been doing some drawing, and putting some order in the garden as a lot of plants which were packed already, were even more squished…. so I have split chives, fennel, rhubarb and hydrangea, as well as summer pruning. and wondering what to do with the ever abundant crop of figs!

Growing up the biggest sin in our family home was waste, and this was generally about food, which obviously makes sense. Any wanton waste was viewed with suspicion, and good clothes being unworn or let got to rags without care was either a crime or a sin. Little wonder I see mending as a necessity.

However  I must admit, some clothes were always beyond redemption. When my teeny-tiny aunt mentioned to my father that she had a fitted sheepskin coat she no longer wore and ‘would the girls like it’, my dad was delighted. He brought the coat home not thinking his 2 daughters were now fine strapping girls in their 20s. To my ultimate relief there was no way that coat fitted, and of course by then the bigger dilemma here for my dad was to have to give it back to the aunt defeated or to somehow re-home it, as apparently ‘they (sheepskin coats) are very warm and so expensive. It would be pure criminal to throw out a coat like that’.  (to this day I think my aunt figured it fitted us as I know the wardrobe it languished in later).

So with echos of ‘its a sin to throw that out’ and ‘you cant waste food, sure thats a sin’  I am in a bit of a bind when it comes to these figs and they generally end up in the compost heap. I am not riddled with guilt as such but now determined to find a better use for them than compost.

I planted a Brown Turkey Fig tree as it grows in Ireland, and seems to be the only one sold.  Now after growing them I know they taste bland or wooly regardless of the amount of sunshine in the summer (I was sure this year’s heatwave would do it…but no). I still have to find a recipe that will work for them.

WIN_20180916_15_32_58_Pro

This years experiment of this fig tart seems a winner. I did a variation of this recipe, where the figs are roasted in honey and orange, and then put into a tart with frangipane poured over. It is the most successful of the recipes tried so far, even though it only uses 6 figs. (The roasted figs on their own do not taste as good and need the additional support of the pastry and frangipane mix). I am still on the look-out for more recipes as this is the only one so far that seemed to work.

If anyone has any recipes or tips for Brown Turkey Figs – please do tell ….. This tree is a seriously heavy cropper!

My best make for August was my Blackberry Cough syrup. I swear by it and did not get a chance to make any last year so had to battle winter sniffles without. I was determined to make it this year, and made a double batch to be sure. I have the recipe below if anyone would like to try it. I take a few teaspoons in boiling water as a night time drink I does smell of vinegar but tastes fine, and so soothing for a sore throat.

WIN_20180821_20_55_24_ProBlackberry Cough Syrup

MAKES 1.5pints (the jars above contains 3 pints)
1lb blackberries
1lb honey
8oz sugar
1/2 pint wine vinegar

Cook blackberries over gentle heat until juice runs, then boil to a mush. Sieve out pips (to a separate clean saucepan). Add the honey, sugar, and vinegar and bring to boil again. Skim off any scum and pour into warmed very clean bottles. (lasts for about 2 years…..)

 

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Fashion Revolution, Chevron Patch Skirt

It has been rather hectic the past 2 months, sewing, working and home renovations.

Back in January, I had been wondering what to do with my sample sews and had considered taking a stall again at the market. I also wanted to do something for Fashion Revolution week. I find fashion revolution week (when viewed in the context of sewing)  rather poignant as there was a time when sewing and sewing machines represented a type of freedom for women as they got their own machines and worked as home sew-ers, and now these sewing machines ‘enslave’ so many other women ( With fast fashion you trap a generation of young women into poverty. 75 million people are making our clothes today. 80% is made by women who are only 18 – 24 years old. – forbes)

So I thought I would approach one of the shops I frequent, Cope Charity Shop.

Cope Charity Shop is really beautifully presented, and you have to remind yourself you are in a charity shop as it is laid out so well, it really has a boutique-shop feel, and they take great care in the shop with the displays, I always admire how fancy it always looks. They also have a reduced rail (€1 rail) where I buy a lot of clothes from, and I asked if they would like to have these makes and sell them in fashion revolution week.

Luckily, Allison Currah, the manager, liked the idea. I gave her the general idea of what I had (mainly blue and white makes). Allison kindly arranged everything else including the display and the publicity,  and arranged some great photos of the makes. This is one of the press releases here. Cope Charity Shop have also been doing daily tips this week for fashion revolution – which I think is great as I think the fashion revolution message is a rather dour message in the face of so many bright cheap clothes.

Allison had previously offered un-sale-able denims, which I originally was reluctant to take (they were the ‘synthetic’ indigo and cheaper forms), but ended up re-evaluating this, and though using this denim would be a good challenge and also a more realistic upcycle that the choicer pieces in wool that I normally nab at the charity shop.

So I drafted up a patchwork skirt. I originally planned a few different types but thought in the end to stick to one and make a few.  I adapted a skirt block by moving some darts to make equal size panels and then adding a 45 degree cut. As its denim the bias angle is stable, and I like these skirts made up either as a high contrast sew, or a tonal.

I made 6 extra denim pieces for the event, although I had planned about 12! 4 patch skirts, one Anna Sui Vogue and a Chevron dress. I also was time poor and with builders on the way to renovate our home so in the end.

The pattern for this is on craftsy for free download, with the sewing instructions. I did not get to take many photos of the process but I do hope the ones I have with the directions are clear enough to follow. The pattern does not have seam allowance in it, and have each panel on an A4 sheet so it will be easier to download, size and add seam allowance (I hope).

front and back 1

Its a nice sew (I think) as it was a tidy cut as each piece is small, and it lends itself to being sewn in stages, which is rather handy as I was distracted by all building works

Home Renovations – Not too much to say on this, except someone who lives in this house and is not me, who thought it a good idea to live in a house while builders were in excavating, and putting up steel and tearing out bathrooms and kitchen leaving a fine layer of dust everywhere (including my lungs) . I now feel like Lady Macbeth constantly cleaning my hands any chance I get.

Most of it has been fine but there were a few shockers (bathroom joists were failing fast –  The builder did comment, that it was most unusual, and he never saw one so rotted through, like all the way rotted……, and from his tone, I  don’t believe this was seen as an achievement in any shape or form.)

Now its all coming away, I am distracted by the wallpaper underneath…. and I do hope in 2 weeks time it will be hot and cold water, and no more takeaways…….

 

 

 

double denim skirt – The refashioners 2016

My workroom has become awash with denim……between the last few makes, I have also been picking up more jeans from ‘the euro rail’ (yup the local charity shop had to reduce all jeans to 1 euro to clear them out a few weeks ago….on one hand I gain by getting so much raw material so cheaply, but on the other hand it shows the levels of overconsumption…)

I had been meaning to try a skirt, as I have a good few dresses for winter, but want to try a skirt so I can mix and match with trousers and sweaters.  I had doodled about some ideas, and in the end the main contenders were…………………….

the refashioners 2016 Upsew Skirt ideas

It was pretty much playing about with some graphic shapes, the first being ‘the drawing exercise’ (is it a silhouette of a couple or a candle-stick…) and  then going between 2 colour and 3 colour options. I decided to go for the jigsaw idea, though now with hindsight, I probably would have found drawing 3, 4 or 9 easier with the straight lines.

 

The dark denim was from a dress I did last year from a pair of jeans, I didn’t wear it much and figured most of it would go into making the skirt.  The light denim was from another pair of jeans from ‘the euro rail’ (the reduced rail).   I used an a-line skirt pattern I had, and divided it into 3 parts along the dart lines.  I added the shapes to one side, and added seam allowance onto that.

 

 

The centre front and other side ended up being joined together and cut rather crudely from the dress front and dress back as there was insufficient fabric.  It is not on grain but the seam line is relatively evenly matched and I figured I could get away with it given the fabric weight, and weave.

I placed the jigsaw shape side over the dark denim, pinned in place, and top-sewed in place – I was more organised with the second jigsaw panel, I clipped the curved edges before I turned it over with a tacking stitched, then pinned and top-stitched  They are not perfect curves, but as it was a bit of an experiment, and a casual skirt, I am fine with this (and given my increasing need for glasses, I probably am well able to overlook it!).  I used a zip from one of the pairs of jeans, and the inside leg scrap from the light denim for a curved waist facing.

Its a knee length skirt, and probably best suited for summer.  Knee length is a funny length for me, I am experimenting teaming it up with different shoes/boots/tops and have not settled on a ‘winter’ look, as tights look a bit odd from the light denim sided….. but I don’t want to cut it short either…..

Iam also thinking of trying some of these graphic skirts for some wools off-cuts, which would work out well indeed.

 

 

 

 

fly by…dress – denim jeans to denim dress


I am slowly building up a collection of old denim jeans as I hope in the future to make cushion covers for a sofa (have to make the sofa) for a room (which also has to be ‘made’) in the house (all on this pinterest board).  In the meantime, I thought a summer dress would be good too.


I had fully intended to make a denim dress using this butterick pattern, and in my head it was going to take no time as I had the pattern and lots of denim …..what could possibly go wrong?

Well, it turns out, not all my denims are the same, and whatever about shade, the fabric weights would have to be the same for this dress, and enough to get the skirt width and moreover, I wanted to make it in the traditional heavy dark denim – so I would need two pairs of jeans to make the dress, and I didn’t find any matching dark denims.  So plan b was called for….. which was just to run up a fun summer dress

Everyone has their own sewing history, and when I was about 15 I started really sewing for myself and it was the total opposite to the sewing I did in school.  My own sewing, was fast fly-by-seat-of-your-pants sewing, a dresses made from old bedsheets and taking in jeans (the original jeggings) – too tight at times and that the seam ripper was used to take them off.   It was also when I started trying my hand making my own patterns (which was a mixture of maths, and freehand cutting).   I remember at the time a relation of mine commenting  that if I wanted to go to fashion college I should learn to sew in matching thread, and while she may have been correct, she was mistaken.  The non-change of thread was my lazy choice and the pattern and trousers were totally made by me and worn by me and I liked them  – they were uniquely mine.  

I do still think that  there is no right way or wrong way to sew anything.  Sewing is just fastening bits together.  There are ways in which the skills of sewing and drafting can be learned in order to execute the concept nearer the vision, but really its just sewing and sewing is creating your own authentic. 

denim upcycle


As I have been doing this blog, I have been enjoying sewing a lot more, and the idea of creating my own handmade wardrobe reminds me of how much I used sew at 16, so that’s why I thought I should try to sew a quick dress for fun, a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants  type sewing, as I think sometimes trying to find the right pattern for the fabric is a bit slow and slightly tedious.  Obviously, I am more cautious about wasting fabric now and I tend to match thread now but I still figured I should try a freehand type cut….so I marked out some measures – and used a sharpie – just to give it the edge!

denin refashion


I marked a bust dart and had narrowest part of dress just below (as in an empire line) and made the hem as long as I could.  I misjudged the armhole (dreadfully), and ended up patching that later.    The back was cut to match the front – except the back skirt was wider as the back legs of jeans were, and the back did not go out as wide on the bodice.  and  I did put some shaping on the centre front seam,(when I put the dress on inside out, pinned at waist and angled out to centre front seam.   (Truth be told, it would have been more efficient to use a block, but I trying to recreate my measure and mark approach from back when – so in effect the photo above is how not to.)

jeans to denim dress remake


I have not put straps on yet, or made pockets but I do see this as either a sundress, or a jumper dress for winter.   The waistband could also make an interesting detail, or the top of the dress and potential pocket could be trimmed with ric-rac, but it may look odd in winter so will defer for a while on that.  There is enough fabric for both!

It also took about an hour and a half, and I am sure my 16 year old self would have taken far less time (I didn’t do fell seams then).   


and just one more thing

as I said in the post earlier, the more this blog is going on the more I am enjoying sewing.  When I started the blog, I figured that I should just do it rather than overly worry on name and layout and concentrate on content and the rest could settle later.   It is now later!!! As I have to even explain the name rudai deata to friends that can speak irish I have decided on a name change so that should happen in the next few weeks……………..