Making My Own Wardrobe: Sunflower Marigold Jumpsuit

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Whenever a new dressmaking pattern is released, I’m always desperately hoping it will be a fab new dress shape, and secretly a little bit disappointed if it’s anything else. But, the latest release by Tilly & The Buttons changed that, because as soon as I saw the Marigold Jumpsuit I knew I had to give it a go!

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Outfit details: “Make your own sunshine” jumpsuit – made by me in navy sunflower print viscose from Ebay using the Tilly & The Buttons Marigold jumpsuit pattern /  Necklace – Punky Pins / Sandals – Lotta from Stockholm

Over the past few years I’ve become a lot more comfortable with my personal style and one of the biggest realisations has been that I prefer wearing dresses above everything else. I now literally own one pair of jeans, a handful of skirts and tops, and the rest of my wardrobe is dresses. But there was something about the shape of the Marigold I couldn’t resist – sweetheart neckline, peg trousers, comfy but cute style? All the elements of the design appealed to me. And it’s not really that much of a departure since one of the reasons I love wearing dresses so much is that a dress is an instant outfit, and this applies equally to jumpsuits. I’ve also been wanting to push myself out of my sewing comfort zone and try some new techniques, and this pattern offered the opportunity to try lots of new things – slippery fabrics (I’ve only ever sewn with cotton before), invisible zips and making trousers!

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I’m so glad I decided to try it as I love the design. It’s SO COMFY to wear I might never take it off. The sweetheart neckline keeps it feeling pretty and girly, and I think the peg trouser shape works well for us ladies of more petite height! As with all of the Tilly & The Buttons patterns I’ve tried before, the instructions were super easy to follow and made all of the new techniques I hadn’t tried before seem like a doddle.

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The fabric is a very drapey viscose which caught my eye on eBay because I can’t resist anything with sunflowers these days. I bought it because it was super cheap and I wanted to try out the design with no pressure in case it didn’t suit me or I messed it up, but it’s turned out to be an incredibly wearable muslin. There are a few parts I need to perfect on the next attempt, just little things like setting the zip a fraction too low at the top, but nothing that will stop me from wearing it.

Unsurprisingly, I’m already planning my next Marigold and I have a fabulous ice cream print lined up. I’m also very tempted with a lot of the pattern hack suggestions team Tilly shared as part of the Marigold sew along so I’ll be having a play around with ideas – I’m definitely intrigued by the Marigold / Bettine combination. I’m thinking of making some in block colours too that I could wear like dungarees. Too many ideas, too little time!!

Lucy x

 

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A sort of Book Review: It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too)

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The internet can be a wonderful thing in leading you to stories of those people who have walked a similar path, like this new book by Nora McInerny Purmort. This is a little different from what I usually post here as I haven’t written a book review before, and this really isn’t a “proper” review but more of an opportunity to talk about a very poignant book.

Lately I’ve been battling a tidal wave of feelings as some of the numbness of the first few months without Michael has started to wear off. Whilst I’m filling my days with making fundraising plans, setting up the new studio and sewing colourful dresses, I’m feeling everything in new ways, especially late at night when everything is usually amplified. I don’t imagine this is unusual at this stage, and it is also good since I know I need to feel all of this and let the grief come out because that’s how much I love him and that’s how much I miss him.

On one of my “I can’t sleep so I’ll scroll through Instagram until the early hours” nights, I stumbled upon a quote posted on Emily McDowell’s feed taken from the introduction to a new book called It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too). It read that the book was intended “for people who had their life turned upside down and just learned to live that way. For people who have laughed at a funeral or cried in a grocery store.” I have done both, so I clicked through to read more and discovered that the author and I have something very tragic in common – she is a young widow who lost her husband Aaron to brain cancer, and has written an inspirational memoir about their love and her loss. I bought the book immediately and on my next sleepless night I started to read. Two days later I’d finished it. I laughed, I cried, I sobbed, and somehow this book helped me to start putting the feelings that are engulfing me into some sort of order by saying all the things I was trying to.

Whilst I have been open about many aspects of my life and loss on this little corner of the internet, I find it hard to talk about the difficult parts and so choose to focus on writing about trying to be positive and keep living in the wake of tragedy. The difficult parts are however very present and very real. So to discover that someone has been brave enough to write about her own very similar experiences from a sincere yet positive perspective, and to have done it with such dignity showing complete love and respect to her husband, her son and their story, has been so helpful to me.

I’m struggling with adjectives here because it feels uncomfortable to say a book about such personal loss is “incredible” or a “must read”, but it is so beautifully and honestly written from such a fresh and modern perspective that it needs a fiercely complimentary adjective. The author writes openly about love, life and loss, and does it all with a sense of humour and balance which makes this book poignant to some yet accessible to everyone, mixing in anecdotes from her life to give context and meaning. It is very much about the tragedy the author has lived through and she tells their story in such a way that you feel as though you experienced it all too, yet she carefully avoids going into much medical detail or telling too many stories of cancer and hospitals. She also talks freely about the way tragedy changes not just your life but also your relationships with others, with a reflective and insightful awareness of her own interactions with friends and family, all of which has helped me greatly. She does all of this with warmth and wit, and by the end feels like a close friend who you’ve shared a bottle of wine with whilst talking about your lives. Although obviously our stories are different and I am not trying to compare, there are some inescapable similarities, from diagnosis following an out-of-the-blue seizure to twice brain surgery, chemo and radiotherapy, as well as showing inspirational strength and positivity in the face of illness to keep living how he wanted. Because of this, I wish I could send a copy of the book to everyone in my life to help them understand what it’s really been like to have lived through the past few years, yet somehow have coped.

What I like best about this book is that it is a love story, and one that I am proud to say I can relate to in so many ways. If we put cancer to one side, so much of what the author is writing about is meeting someone wonderful where love suddenly becomes easy, who loves you for who you are and yet makes you a better person, and who shows you that life can be happy and full no matter what happens if you are open to it and work at it. It’s also about losing that person, and being equal parts a crumbling mess and a picture of strength because you loved so hard and so deeply that you can’t be anything else.

Since losing her husband a year and a half ago, the author Nora has not only written this book, but she has also set up a non-profit called Still Kickin raising money through sales of t-shirts and apparel which goes to help a new “hero” each month who has been dealt a crappy hand in life, and founded the Hot Young Widows Club (whose name is intentionally uncomfortable). The club is described as being “for the group of women, larger than you know, who go through life everyday carrying along the ghosts of the life they had and the life they almost did” and is intended both to get people talking about the uncomfortable topic of grief and bereavement at a young age, and to support all of the members who never wanted to be members but life had other ideas. She is extremely inspirational, and just reading her story has already given me so much more energy and drive to try and make a difference in my own small way through The Michael Barry Fund for The Brain Tumour Charity.

So, I wanted to take the opportunity to say how grateful I am to the author for sharing her story, and to tell everyone to GO READ THIS BOOK!

(And if you’d like to read more about the author’s story, there was an excellent piece in The Guardian recently to promote the book, and I’d highly recommend taking a read.)

Lucy x

#growsunflowersformichael – June Update

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I’m so happy that so many of you are taking part in the #growsunflowersformichael challenge, and the hashtag is filling up nicely! Thank you to everyone who has joined in and shared pictures! I’ve also created a Facebook page for the challenge here, so if you’re a Facebook person please give it a like and share your pictures there too.

I thought I would share a little round up of everyone’s pictures so far, and also show you some of the beautiful bespoke sunflower gifts I’ve received from my lovely Instagram friends recently. I’ve said it before, but I’m so grateful to have found such a lovely and talented community on Instagram. You’re the best!

First off, here are some progress shots of my sunflowers, which are looking mighty good if I do say so myself!

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Since planting the sunflowers out in the area of the garden we have designated as “Sunflower Parade”, I’m trying to remember to take a picture on my phone each week to track the change in height, and they are certainly starting to shoot up. The 3 in the centre are different giant varieties (Pike’s Peak, Kong and Giant) and they are certainly living up to their name. I’m also growing a couple of red sunflowers which are keeping up with the giant varieties so far, so it’s anyone’s race! They’ve all now graduated from barbecue skewers to proper supports, which in time will have to be upgraded to taller and stockier bamboo sticks.

And here are some of the lovely pictures you’ve all been sharing on the hashtag:

It makes my day each time a new picture pops up on the hashtag, and I’ve also been lucky enough to receive some very special sunflower happy mail over the past few weeks.

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The lovely Emma of Fairytale Collars made me this amazing bespoke sunflower collar. It was such an incredible surprise! The design is so detailed and I love wearing it. I’m a big fan of Emma’s gorgeous collars which have taken Instagram by storm over the past year. It’s always exciting to see when someone comes up with a unique product idea and Emma has created the perfect brand and is constantly coming up with cute new designs, so it was a real privilege to know Emma made this one especially for me. Thank you so much lovely!

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I first discovered Zabby Allen’s super stylish and colourful instagram and blog through Lucky Dip Club. She’s a crafty queen and amongst lots of other things is the editor of the Lucky Dip Club magazine Girl Planet, which is one of my favourite parts of the LDC boxes this year. Zabby recently surprised me with a set of personalised “M & L” sunflower prints, which are beyond perfect. I love the bright retro colours and design, and I know Michael would have loved these too as he was a sucker for a good piece of wall art and had a real appreciation for great design. They are now taking pride of place on the wall in my new studio (which I will share more of soon!) and making me smile every time I look up from my desk. I’m the absolute worst at taking photos of things in frames, so these pictures really don’t do justice to Zabby’s incredible design. Lesson learned – take a picture before framing next time! Thank you so much Zabby!

Thanks for reading and please keep sharing your pictures using #growsunflowersformichael – I love seeing them!

Lucy x

Making My Own Wardrobe: Me Made May 2016 #mmmay16

I’ve just finished taking part in my first ever Me Made May, and I am proud to say that I dressed handmade for the entire month, wearing 19 dresses and 1 skirt which were all handmade by me. To put this a little more into context, I’ve made 17 of these dresses and the skirt since losing Michael in February. As I’ve said before, dressmaking has been a very necessary distraction and therapy for me this year, and taking part in Me Made May has been a great part of this.

Big thanks to everyone who has followed along with my outfit posts on Instagram and for all of your likes and comments. As I said over on Instagram on my last Me Made May post, your lovely comments have been especially important to me as I’m missing being able to share all of my makes with my biggest fan and greatest supporter, who would have asked me to do a twirl and told me I looked pretty in each new dress because that’s just the kind of awesome husband he was.

I’ve also really enjoyed seeing everyone else’s makes as there are so many incredibly talented dressmakers with excellent taste in fabric out there, and it’s been fun to meet lots more enthusiastic sewists. It’s a lovely online community to be part of!

So, on to the dresses! I’ve given details of the dress patterns and fabrics I’ve used below, but I haven’t included links because, y’know, 31 outfits is a lot to tag! But please ask if there is anything you want a source for.

Day 1 – Mortmain dress by Gather in Cotton & Steel Aqua Buttons fabric from the Homebody range

Day 2 – Bettine dress by Tilly & The Buttons in apple print double gauze fabric

Day 3 – Mortmain dress by Gather in owl print barkcloth fabric

Day 4 – Emery dress by Christine Haynes in Cotton & Steel Aqua Fernbrook fabric

Day 5 – Flora dress by By Hand London in Michael Miller Atomic fabric

Day 6 – Betty dress by Sew Over It in scallop print barkcloth fabric

Day 7 – Bettine dress by Tilly & The Buttons in Makower Landscapes fabric

Day 8 – Mortmain dress by Gather in Cath Kidston sausage dog print fabric

Day 9 – Emery dress by Christine Haynes in Cotton & Steel Picnic fabric

Day 10 – Betty dress by Sew Over it made from a ticket print duvet cover

Day 11 – Mortmain dress by Gather in Cotton & Steel Arrows fabric from the Mustang range

Day 12 – Elisalex dress in floral print broadcloth fabric

Day 13 – Bettine dress by Tilly & The Buttons in yellow geometric fabric

Day 14 – Delphine skirt by Tilly & The Buttons in Cath Kidston Bramley Sprig fabric

Day 15 – Margot pyjamas by Tilly & The Buttons made from a vintage sheet

Day 16 – Bettine dress by Tilly & The Buttons in apple print double gauze fabric

Day 17 – I took the day off from Me Made May as I was in my dressing gown enjoying a spa break and much needed recharge with my bestie!

Day 18 – Emery dress by Christine Haynes in Cotton & Steel Zephyr fabric

Day 19 – Circle skirt dress made in a dressmaking workshop in floral print fabric

Day 20 – Emery dress by Christine Haynes refashioned from my bridesmaid dresses

Day 21 – Emery dress by Christine Haynes in Cotton & Steel Aqua Fernbrook fabric

Day 22 – Dress with Elisalex bodice (By Hand London) and Emery skirt (Christine Haynes) in Robert Kaufman Sealed With a Kiss fabric

Day 23 – Mortmain dress by Gather in Cotton & Steel Aqua Buttons fabric from the Homebody range

Day 24 –  Emery dress by Christine Haynes in Cotton & Steel Picnic fabric

Day 25 – Elisalex dress by By Hand London in bold floral broadcloth fabric

Day 26 – Flora dress by By Hand London in Michael Miller Atomic fabric

Day 27 – Mortmain dress by Gather in owl print barkcloth fabric

Day 28 – Kim dress by By Hand London in Michael Miller Cats & Dots fabric

Day 29 – Mortmain dress by Gather in Cath Kidston sausage dog print fabric

Day 30 – Dress with Elisalex bodice (By Hand London) and Emery skirt (Christine Haynes) in Tula Pink Freefall fabric

Day 31 – Dress with Elisalex bodice (By Hand London) and Emery skirt (Christine Haynes) in Robert Kaufman Sealed With a Kiss fabric

*****

Phew – that’s a lot of pictures of me!!!

So will I be abandoning all of my ready-to-wear clothes in favour of handmade from now on? Not quite! I love the process of dressmaking and being able to create my own clothes, from choosing the boldest novelty prints I can find, to making something that actually fits (which still surprises me each time I finish a new dress!), and the proud feeling it leaves you with to say “Thanks, I made it” when someone compliments you on your dress.

Having said all that, over the past few years I had built up quite a lovely collection of great quality dresses which I will certainly continue to wear – in particular, anything by Bryony & Co, Emily & Fin and Cath Kidston will always have a special place in my wardrobe! It has made me re-evaluate a few of the lesser quality dresses in my collection which perhaps don’t fit me so well and I will be having a small clear out, but nothing drastic.

I have lots more lovely fabrics sitting in my stash waiting to be made which I have just unpacked at my new studio, and I can’t wait to get sewing in my new workspace.

Lucy x