The Michael Barry Fund

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I am incredibly proud to announce that I have set up a fund in Michael’s memory with The Brain Tumour Charity called The Michael Barry Fund, and I wanted to tell you a little more about why this is such an important cause and my plans to raise money for vital research.

Michael Barry Fund_portrait_rgbA few weeks after Michael died I received an email about a petition which was soon to be debated in the House of Commons on the issue of funding for brain tumour research. I was feeling brave that day so I clicked the link and started to read, and I couldn’t believe the statistics. Despite brain tumours being the biggest cancer killer of under 40s, less than 2% of the national spend on cancer research in the UK is allocated to brain tumour research, and there has been little change in prognosis over the last 40 years. I read so many stories of other bright young people just like my Michael whose lives were cut short by this cruel disease, and I felt desperately sad and incredibly angry. But as I began to research further, I saw stories of other families devastated by the loss of their loved ones who had gone on to set up funds in their honour through The Brain Tumour Charity to keep their memory alive and to keep fighting, and suddenly I felt less alone.

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I want there to be a future where no more lives are lost to this cruel disease, and so I am committing to fundraising for The Brain Tumour Charity through The Michael Barry Fund in the hope that there might one day be a cure. I have so many fundraising ideas in the pipeline, and I hope you might join me in raising as much as we can for this incredibly important cause. To start with, I am aiming to release a range of products soon which are based on Michael’s own designs and sketches, and I am also working on a number of fundraising events such as gigs, creative workshops and craft/vintage fairs. There is a lot to do and life has been so hectic lately, but I will share more when things are up and running.  If you have any fundraising ideas of your own please do let me know, whether it be taking part in a sponsored walk or run, organising your own event or designing a product we can sell – the more ideas the better!

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Creating The Michael Barry Fund is a huge part of my vow to live positively for my wonderful husband, who I miss every second of the day, and has given me a focus and purpose which I know will help me to keep going. It can be hard to know what to say or do in the midst of such tragedy and people often tell me they wish they could do something to help. I hope that The Michael Barry Fund will provide an opportunity to not only be part of the fight to defeat brain tumours, but also unite every one who knew and loved Michael in a positive way.

If you would like to know more about the fund and our story, we now have a dedicated page on The Brain Tumour Charity’s website – click here to read more. I have also set up a Facebook page and a Just Giving page for the fund, and will of course be using my own personal Instagram page and this blog to share news and updates.

Lucy x

Making My Own Wardrobe: The Bridesmaid Remix Emery Dress

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I have a very special dress to share tonight. It’s an Emery dress made out of the bridesmaid dresses from our wedding!

When we were planning our wedding, we chose a candy pastel colour palette and I spent quite some time searching for ideas for the perfect bridesmaid dresses. Then one day as I was shopping in Oasis and I spotted the perfect dress – a cute prom style in the perfect shade of candy pastel pink, with a gorgeous floral print and hints of other pastel shades. The only problem being that the wedding was still a year away. Three of my gorgeous bridesmaids were growing teenagers, but the off the rack dresses would only be around for this season. So rather than passing up on the perfect dresses we decided to buy some extra in a range of sizes to make sure there would be something to fit everyone, with the added bonus that I had two dresses left over to keep after the big day.

[Wedding pictures by Shell de Mar]

I was going through all of my wedding keepsakes recently and found the spare bridesmaid dresses. They were both too small to fit me so have never been worn, and it seemed a shame to keep them hidden away in a box. I decided to try and use the material to make a new dress I could wear.

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I unpicked the skirt from each dress, and fortunately the original dresses had very full skirts and so I had lots of material to work with. I was able to cut out the bodice, sleeves and bow using the material from one of the skirts, and use the second skirt pretty much as it is but gathered instead of pleated as in the original dress. I used a candy pink lining and a pink exposed lace zip to finish it, because you can never have too much pink right??

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Outfit details: “Bridesmaid remix” dress – made by me with material from my bridesmaid dresses using the Christine Haynes Emery dress pattern /  Earrings – Lorelai Lorelai / Orla Kiely Angelina Shoes – Clarks (now sold out) / Tights – eBay

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I am delighted with how it turned out. The fabric is just dreamy and I was always a little regretful that I didn’t buy one of the dresses for myself, so it means I now get to wear one of my special memories from the best day of my life.

This is my fourth version of the Emery dress and it is easily my favourite of all the patterns I have made. I first saw the Emery dress pattern on Sarah’s blog A Million Dresses (for anyone who hasn’t already read Sarah’s gorgeous blog, she has a whole wardrobe full of the most beautiful handmade Emerys) and I was smitten with the style, but didn’t imagine it was something I could ever achieve. The idea of setting sleeves terrified me! But, when I decided to give dressmaking another shot, I couldn’t resist buying the pattern and giving it a try and I’m so pleased I did. It’s the sort of dress you just feel special in, and the four I have made are easily my most worn handmade items so far. The fit of the pattern was perfect straight out of the packet in my standard size so I didn’t have to make any adjustments, and it’s the ideal balance of being nicely tailored and well fitting but also really comfortable to wear. I also learned a lot from making this dress – Christine Haynes has a brilliant sew along on her blog with lots of clever tips and tricks, and I picked up lots of “proper” dressmaking techniques.

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And the sleeves? Not so scary after all – I think the idea of easing the fabric to try and attach a sleeve that is larger than the hole it’s going into without any gathering made no sense to me until I actually tried it. So far I’ve only made the short sleeved version but this is mostly just because of the time of year – I’m imagining lots of gorgeous woodland prints and jewel coloured patterns in three quarter sleeve versions for Autumn. I also love the versatility of being able to add a collar and/or a bow – the recipe for perfectly cutesy vintage style dresses, which is exactly my vibe.

The fabrics I have used for my Emerys so far (from left to right) are:

  1. Cotton & Steel Fernbrook Mint from M is for Make
  2.  Cotton & Steel Picnic Basket from Fabric.com
  3. Cotton & Steel Zephyr Citron Breeze (Metallic) from Miss Matatabi
  4. From my bridesmaid dresses

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In addition to my four dress, I have also made two Emerys for my Mum – one in a fun cloud print and the other in a turquoise floral double gauze with a contrasting stripe around the hem. For her birthday this year, I bought Mum three lengths of fabric with a promise to make them into whichever style dresses she wanted. After reviewing my handmade wardrobe so far, we settled on the Emery for her first two, and she loves the shape as much as I do. She says it feels like a proper “Sunday best” dress, and I completely agree. And can we just take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous Cotton & Steel cloud print? I am beyond excited to see all of the new Cotton & Steel designs launching this week at the quilt market. I’m definitely becoming a fabric geek, if there is such a thing!

I’m now finding it hard to resist only ever making Emerys, and I think it will always be my pattern of choice for my absolute favourite fabrics.

Lucy x

Making My Own Wardrobe: The Sausage Dog Mortmain Dress

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I’m really enjoying taking part in Me Made May for the first time this year and sharing my daily outfits over on my Instagram account, as it’s the perfect opportunity to take all of the dresses I have been sewing up lately out for a spin. Tonight I’m showing off a Mortmain dress I finished this week in this gorgeous Cath Kidston sausage dog print. I’m also going to include a little round up of the Mortmain dresses I have made so far at the end of this post, and a few thoughts on the pattern (which is fast becoming one of my favourites!).

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Outfit details: “Billy & Baxter” dress – made by me in Cath Kidston sausage dog canvas fabric using the Gather Mortmain dress pattern /  Hair tie – Modcloth (last year) / Dog on Wheels necklace – Tatty Devine (an awesome Christmas gift from Michael) /  Dot to Dot Shoes – Irregular Choice

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When Cath Kidston launched this sausage dog print last year it was love at first sight for me – I have a real soft spot for sausage dogs and although I don’t yet have a real life version (maybe some day…) I have all manner of sausage dog inspired accessories, along with a sausage dog shaped cushion we bought on our honeymoon in New York who Michael affectionately named Billy, and a cute little sausage dog cuddly toy called Baxter. As you can tell, names always had to start with a B in our house to go with our surname Barry!

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Sadly Cath Kidston didn’t make a dress in this print, so when I saw this fabric pop up on ebay back in January I immediately snapped it up to create my own version.

The fabric is a fairly heavy canvas which is not really intended for dressmaking, but I thought it would suit the Mortmain as it holds the shape of the box pleats well. I took a little extra effort over the finishings for this dress to make sure that the canvas holds up – I lined the bodice in pink cotton, and finished all of the remaining seams with pink bias binding. It was worth the extra effort as I love this fabric so much I wanted to make sure the dress lasts and canvas can otherwise fray around the seams, and it is quite satisfying when the inside of the dress is almost as pretty as the outside!

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This is the fourth Mortmain I have made now and I love the pattern. When I started getting really interested in dressmaking at the end of last year, I spent quite a bit of time browsing dress patterns online looking for shapes which are similar to my favourite ready to wear dresses. One of my favourites is the Lucy dress by Emily & Fin as I love the fitted waistband and flirty skirt, and the Mortmain is a very similar shape so it was an obvious choice. I also like that it is categorised as being for “ambitious beginners” – perfect for me!

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Now that I have finished my fourth version of this dress, I wanted to share some thoughts on the pattern.

  • I made my first Mortmain (far left) with no fitting adjustments. The dress mostly fits very well, but there was some excess fabric around the neckline and shoulders which is a common problem for me as I am quite narrow around the shoulders. I don’t like my dresses to be too close fitting as I wear dresses every day and prefer to have a good amount of ease for comfort, but I did want to get the neckline sitting flat.
  • I’ve been gradually working on tweaking the bodice each time to get a better fit. To achieve this, I’ve taken out a few centimetres from the shoulder seams, then added it back in lower down in the bodice to stop the waist sitting too high, and moved the darts down accordingly. For the sausage dog version, which was my latest make, I also used a larger seam allowance around the armholes to narrow the shoulders, and tapered the side seams from a 2.5cm seam allowance at the top to the regular 1.5cm at the bottom to pull in the sides. Both these tweaks have made the neckline, shoulders and arms sit much better. I know these are probably not the proper methods to adjust fit, but I am still learning so for now I am trying to just make easy alterations to the pattern as I go!
  • This is the first dress pattern I have made with pleats, and I like the sharp box pleats and the fullness it gives to the skirt. For the yellow owl print dress (second from right) I switched things up by gathering the skirt instead of pleating it, and I might make a few more like this too.
  • I now fully line the bodice even though the pattern doesn’t call for this and uses facings instead. I tried this for the first two, but I find facings a little annoying sometimes when they flap up, and I much prefer the feel and finish of a fully lined bodice.
  • The pattern uses an exposed zip, which is perfect as I have become slightly obsessed with these beautiful lace zips – they are now a trademark feature on all of my dresses!

All in all, I have found the Mortmain to be a really lovely pattern to sew. It is perfect for beginners who want to make something more fancy but without too many fiddly parts to trip up over, and I love the silhouette of the dress. I will be making many many more!

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In case you are interested, the fabrics I have used for my Mortmains so far (from left to right) are:

  1. Cotton & Steel Homebody Button Jar in aqua (from Miss Matatabi on Etsy but not currently available there)
  2. Cotton & Steel Mustang Metallic Arrows Navy
  3. Japanese owl print barkcloth (from Miss Matatabi – not available in this colour but similar here)
  4. Cath Kidston Sausage Dog canvas

Lucy x