I Made Shoes!

Well, actually I made espadrilles rather than real shoes and I certainly don’t think I’m going to be the next Emma Hope but I’m really pleased with the result.

One of my favourite Ladybird books as a child was The Elves & The Shoemaker and, having made the first espadrille, I rather wished the elves would come and finish off the second one overnight!

I really just wanted an excuse to mention the book because these were fun to make and it was quite exciting to see the shoe shape coming together.

I ordered the soles from Guthrie & Ghani and followed the instructions available online here.  You know how people say “make sure you read the question/recipe/pattern. properly before you start”.  Well I didn’t and so failed to notice the sentence that said “Important: Mirror-invert the front section for the other shoe”.  I didn’t do that but to be honest I don’t think it made too much of a difference in the end.

I also wish I’d read through Lauren’s blog more diligently and noted the reference to inserting elastic at the back.  More about that later.

I used the fabric already mentioned in a previous post and 20cms of each was more than enough.

The paper pattern supplied with the soles only goes down to a Size 3 (36) so I added in an additional line (in red) for the next size down.  If I make another pair I think I will grade down a bit further as they could do with being slightly tighter.

Both fabrics were quite sturdy so I didn’t bother with interfacing but I think I will probably do this next time as it would result in a sturdier finish.

Sewing the pieces together and pinning them to the sole is very straightforward.  I never use these pins for dressmaking but they are ideal for this purpose as they are much easier to push in.  Take Lauren’s advice and make sure the pins go right into the sole and don’t stick out the other side or they will jab you in the hand when you are sewing!

I spent some time identifying a needle that would be strong and sharp enough to go through the sole and the fabric easily.  Lauren recommended a leather needle but the ones I found looked rather small so in the end I bought this set of five craft needles.  I used the one on the far right which I believe is a sail needle and it did the job very well, although I do have slightly sore fingers today from pushing it through.  I didn’t want the blanket stitching to be too obvious so I used an extra strong thread in a light colour rather than the thicker, yarn-like thread that was used in the instructions.

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Everything went together really easily.  I tried the first one on several times during construction and I did have to overlap the front and the back sections more than the 1.5 cms mentioned in the instructions to get a good fit, hence the plan to cut the two sections slightly smaller next time.

Having finished the first espadrille I realised that the insertion of some elastic between the two fabrics at the back would have made all the difference in terms of keeping it on your foot!  In her blog post Lauren inserted this right at the beginning with the sewing machine but I made life difficult for myself by having to unpick the top of the back section after it had already been sewn to the sole and inserting it by hand.  Not a particular neat finish but I knew I would never wear them if they kept falling off .  I used the 9 mm wide elastic shown above.  It was slightly easier for the second espadrille as I added the elastic before I sewed the back to the sole but still after the outer and inner fabrics had already been stitched together.

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And here is the final result!

I’m pretty pleased with these although I don’t think I’d want to walk too far in them.  The third picture looks like I am levitating off the ground but actually I was sitting down with my legs sticking out to get a better view of them!

W thought he might like a pair but I really don’t want to be sewing all the way round the soles for feet that fit a boot this size!

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I’m thinking stripes for the next pair.

A Delphine Skirt

I’ve had Tilly’s book, Love at First Stitch, for some time but I have to admit that I am a bit lazy and tend to stick to the same well-used patterns. The thought of having to trace off the pattern had held me back from my desire to make the Delphine skirt.

My efforts to buy a suitable material with which to achieve effective pattern tracing have not been particularly successful to date.  The large sheets of white pattern paper I bought from C & H Fabrics were too thick to see the lines through, although I did manage to use them for my initial attempts at a self-drafted vest top.

After all the excitement of finding the Lucienne Day fabric vastly reduced in Peter Jones last weekend I thought I had spotted a product called Pattern Tracing Sheets.  I was sans spectacles at the time and obviously didn’t look closely enough.  When I came to open the packet I discovered it said Plastic Tracing Sheets which is not really what you want to be working with on a warm evening!  Not to be deterred I taped a sheet over the paper pattern and started to trace.  The pen supplied does NOT work!  At least it didn’t for me.  I resorted to a Sharpie but they do not respond well to a ruler – smudged ink everywhere – so I had to do it freehand.  I got there in the end but they were not the neatest reproductions.  I didn’t worry too much as I knew I would have to produce something more acceptable in the future if the pattern turned out OK.  I now have a big roll of proper tracing paper which I ordered from Amazon and which arrived in less than 24 hours.

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I decided to cut out the size 5 despite kyrie_in_kalamityland telling me that would be too big!  I made up a toile in the leftover denim from a previous skirt which I then took apart and cut it out as a size 4!  She was right! I really wasn’t sure the Delphine would be a good shape on me and I’m not 100% convinced but I am wearing it today so I’ll see how it goes.  I think I need to take the waist in very slightly as it has a tendency to stick out at the sides.  The back seems to sit a bit high so I feel like I have to keep pulling it down but generally I’m quite pleased with it.

Quite a lot has already been written about this pattern online so I probably don’t have anything useful to add.  It is a great, simple pattern which goes together really well.  What I am VERY impressed with is Tilly’s tutorial on lining this skirt.  I can’t believe I’ve never lined a skirt this way before!  I have always hand sewn linings into skirts and not been completely satisfied with the results.  I thought I’d try Tilly’s method with this practice version of the skirt and it worked like a dream.  It is so neat and tidy.  I’ve not yet stitched in the ditch to secure the waistband to the facing as I was sewing the hem first thing this morning so I could wear it today!   I also needed something to take my mind off W cycling 25 miles to work, having cycled home last night leaving his his car at the office.  He took one of his famous short cuts this morning so it took longer than expected!  I’ll finish off the skirt properly over the weekend.  I might also be adjusting the hem slightly – I’m not sure whether it is the dodgy mirror in our ladies’ loo or my rushed sewing that is making the hem look wonky!  Further inspection in a different mirror has confirmed that the hem is level but that the stiff nature of this fabric has developed an annoying sticking out area on the hem where I’ve been sitting on it.  Hopefully this will not be the case with a different fabric.  I might have to wear it at standing up occasions only.

The pictures of the lining are awful because the colour has completely bleached out but they do show the lovely neat finish which can be achieved with minimal effort.  No more hand sewing for me!  I did find stitching the lining to the zip tape a bit tricky but I think this will improve with practice.  I expect everyone else has been doing this for ever but, if not, definitely give it a try.  If I make another Delphine it will be in this fabric which I originally purchased for this purpose.

Another thing I’ve never done before is download a pattern which then has to be assembled.  In her last post trishstitched pointed me in the direction of the Mandy Boat Tee from Tessuti Fabrics which is a free pattern.  It is now printed out, stuck together and awaiting some fabric.  It wasn’t as much of a faff as I thought it would be.

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The espadrille soles arrived.  I had ordered the size 3 and they were TOO BIG!   My feet are TOO SMALL!  I’m going to keep them (I mean the soles, obviously I’m keeping my feet despite their ridiculously small size) but the smaller (child like) size arrived in the post this morning and I think they will be OK.  The picture is actually of the larger size.  The flowers were for my birthday and I thought they went together rather well.

My final purchase in London at the weekend was from Muji and was made to resolve the problem of storing all the accessories for my sewing machine.  After having to borrow a spare post thingy from Kay at Clothkits for the extra reel of thread when using a twin needle I embarked on a clear out and not only did I find the post that had been supplied with my machine originally but I also retrieved the triangular tool for unscrewing the foot plate (I had recently resorted to a knife for this purpose), the button hole foot and the darning foot for machine embroidery.

I now have this on my sewing table.  Three little plastic drawers with everything visible and accessible.

Have a good weekend.

Birthday Treats

I’ve just had one of the best birthday weekends ever! W and I went to London and he and his lovely girls had planned everything. We ….

Stayed at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green where they have retained many of the features of the original building.  Our room had decorative windows and a tiled fireplace with a photograph on the wall showing how the room had looked before the renovation. I should point out this was our second room.  I never unpack straightaway because on the fairly rare occasions we stay in a hotel W always finds a reason for us to have to move and this time he was right because we ended up with an enormous bath in our bedroom which was lovely.  There was also a kitchen and a washing machine but I went nowhere near either of them!

Went to supper with J at the Japanese Canteen in Bethnal Green on Friday night. J and I had the hot stone bibimbap with tofu. It was really good but possibly not the best choice on the most humid evening of the year so far. The hot stone dish, in which the cooking is finished at the table, was almost incandescent and hadn’t even cooled down enough to touch by the end of the meal!

All met up in Covent Garden for coffee and then brunch at The Delaunay in The Strand on Saturday morning. Beautiful place, scrumptious pancakes with blueberries and crème fraîche.

imageWent to see High Society at The Old Vic on Saturday afternoon. A complete surprise arranged by the girls (goodness knows how W managed to keep it a secret for weeks!). Fabulous.

Had drinks and supper at the Young Vic.

Made a quick visit to the Museum of Childhood on Sunday for breakfast and a look at the dolls house exhibition.  It was a two minute walk from our hotel  There was also The Alice Look display with its beautiful dress by Josie Smith using fabric printed with the book’s text. The website link includes a paper doll to print out.

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Lunched at Rabbit on the Kings Road on Sunday. Really delicious, beautifully presented food and definitely worth a visit. This is not supposed to be a restaurant review blog so I won’t go into too much detail but there are some photographs below. The three brothers who own Rabbit, as well as The Shed in Notting Hill, have a farm at Nutbourne which is very near us so perhaps one day they will open in Chichester.

Shopped for fabric (well I did, W sat on a sofa).  This involved the haberdashery department at Peter Jones as so many fabric shops in London are closed on a Sunday. I’m hoping the espadrille soles will arrive from Guthrie & Ghani today so here’s the fabric I chose to make them from, floral for the outside and spotty inside. Or possibly the other way round.  Just 20cms of each so if the espadrilles are successful they will certainly work out cheaper than shop-bought.

I have always loved Lucienne Day’s fabric designs and several of them have been reprinted for John Lewis as dressmaking fabrics. At £22 a metre they were quite pricey but – hurrah – they are now reduced to £5.50. I bought two metres each of these.  There were other choices and I’m now wishing I’d bought more.

The predominantly pink one is called Symphony and the other is Sequence. They were both originally designed in 1954 for Cavendish Textiles. I think to do them justice they will need to be made into quite full skirts, although not too flouncy as I am a bit short for anything really big. Perhaps Tilly’s Clémence skirt from Love at First Stitch?  Or a proper vintage-style frock.

Back to reality today sadly but it was a weekend to remember.