Thursday, 21 November 2013

I met the Pope of Trash, and made a new sleazy dress for the occasion.

Remember this post? The one where I pretty much ended up collapsing to my knees and wailing "WHY GOD? WHYYYY?" at the top of my lungs after royally ballsing up a great many times?

Well yeah, I tried again. Only this time it worked!

Hell yes. That's bright.

I had a stroke of luck, and the first time I visited the Liverpool branch of Abakhan Fabrics after moving here, I evidently had a stroke of another kind and bought another piece of the same cursed fabric which had led to the crushing of my dreams a few months before. I used iDye again, and despite the high synthetic content I used the all-purpose dye in bright yellow, and just ran it through a hot wash in my machine.

Here's the finished article! I added pom-pom trim and black facings to the petal bust and skirt drape as planned, and made a little kitty ears hat to match! I felt very Poison Ivy wearing this! You too can look fabulously feline in a kitty ears hat of your very own at and if any of you fancy one in the yellow leopard print, I have a little left for custom orders.

I wore it with my cropped fake leather jacket and some 1950s deadstock vintage black velour killer stiletto heels, and off I trotted with le boyfriend in tow to see John Waters! The performance was part of Liverpool's 10th Annual Homotopia event - a celebration of all things LGBTQ which even from the limited bits of it I experienced, seems a hell of a lot more inclusive and community-focussed than the commercialised 'pride' events of certain other cities *ahem*.

The Liverpool Echo gave the performance a great writeup, and I had such a good time! His Highness was as witty and acerbic as you'd expect him to be in person, keeping everyone enthralled and amused (and feeling a little bit guilty for laughing at some of his more ribald anecdotes), every bit the expert raconteur.

Then we got to meet him! Squeals of delight! The queue for book signing and photographs was rather long, luckily there were only about 25 people in front of us. Mr. Waters was charming and funny, sent get well wishes to a friend who'd been unable to attend the show due to an operation, signed a book for him, and one for myself of course! He sent me on my way with a fantastically bitchy joke I won't repeat here, and a sly wink!

PS. I read the whole book the next night, and will certainly be buying his new book when it's out next year!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Our gorgeous new family member! (don't worry, it's not about babies.)

We adopted a dog! This beautiful girl is Cindy, who joined our household from Dogs Trust Merseyside a few weeks ago, and has settled in very well.

After my little Scamp died in November, Aerospace Boyfriend and I decided to wait a while after moving before we looked for another dog, so that we could be settled in and so I could be ready.

We went looking for something like a Jack Russell or Staffordshire bull terrier, but as soon as this big gorgeous girl rolled over for us to scratch her tummy I fell in love!

Unfortunately Cindy was born deaf. Due to this and to her being 30kg of spring-loaded adolescent dog, she spent 13 months of her short life living in kennels. We were prepared to take on the challenge of adopting her and settling her into a proper home, but honestly she's been hardly any trouble at all. The only casualty was my amazing 1950s fawn lamp, she got stuck in our bedroom one afternoon and knocked everything off my dressing table. I was so upset, but I'm over it now our lovely girl is feeling more secure.

As she's very short coated, my mum has already been knitting for her and I've bought some leopard print waterproof fabric to make her a doggy raincoat for long Winter walks, so stay tuned for some ridiculous pictures of a huge dog in flambuoyant yet functional jackets!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

I moved, and a lot of stuff changed.

Hello all. Some of you may have noticed my long absence... well, I'd like to believe I had a few regular readers anyway.

So why the radio silence? I moved to a new city, moved in with my boyfriend, set up a sewing/millinery workshop at home, got a new website for the business, lost my best friend (she didn't die or anything; she just fell out with me spectacularly), and I had some sort of commitment/quarter life crisis thing.

I am now resident in Liverpool... here it is:

Except I haven't actually seen that bit yet. That's the city centre waterfront, I live in the suburbs and haven't had much chance to explore yet, despite having been here for a few months.

I have a garden!

Complete with punk rawk laundry. It actually looks smaller here; it's about 8x20 metres, it's bloody huge and we have to cut the entire thing with a strimmer (that's a weed whacker, for you Yankee doodlers).

I'm trying desperately not to become some sort of vapid suburbanite. Our next door neighbour mops and disinfects his patio, he doesn't even have a dog.

We put up lots of shelves for all our gubbins...

I dyed my hair blue...

I started making 1950s inspired bags, available on my shiny new website alongside all my fancy millinery at

We adopted a super cute lazy leopard gecko...

...and I went on loads of adventures in my little orange tent, trading at festivals and weekenders.

That's a very brief catch up... I've been really busy and it's been kind of hard to keep up with everything without having to think about blogging too! More sewing/website/lizard/Summer fun details to follow soon, ladies and gents.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Catching up! Sewing news.

Hello all,

I have been super busy these last few weeks, but have still managed to get quite a lot of sewing done, and yet more sewing planned.

I made the melon dress as promised from my last post, here it is! Excuse my sweaty demeanour - this was at the end of a three-day psychobilly festival and I was a little worse for wear.

As you can see it's a little... bursty. The lining shrank when I steam ironed it, and I'd stupidly cut it out to my pre- Christmas measurements. I'm about 1" bigger all over now, but as it's such a close-fitting dress to start with, an inch unfortunately makes all the difference. I will be making efforts to rectify this situation over the next couple of months with copious amounts of exercise and salad.

I also made myself this black and red taffeta sarong dress, you can't see how gorgeous the fabric is here so I will get a better picture this week. The fabric was mainly left over from a commission dress I made for a friend to wear to the launch of the latest in the Style Me Vintage book series, and it's just lovely, so authentically 50s with its tiny flecks of shiny black and red on the black base.

I also joined the SewToday Club for £7.50 a quarter, for that price you get a magazine every month, any two patterns free when you join, plus 50% off all Butterick, McCall, Vogue and KwikSew patterns. They also regularly have buy 1 get 2 free events for their members, one of which started less than a week after I joined, so I have ordered five patterns so far.

So far I've been scooping up Gertie's patterns, and I can't wait to get started on them. Here's what I've ordered:

B5882. How could you not?! It's gorgeous... the shelf bust is such a nice feature. Apparently a lot of sewers (as in sow-ers, not suw-ers. Ewww.) are waiting with bated breath for Gertie to do a full bust adjustment for this one, so keep an eye on her blog if you're amply endowed up top. Tits ahoy!


B5895 - I got two of these, one for me and one for my sister Ginny over at Buttons and Bobbins. I've got a modern capris pattern but this one looks to have a more vintage-styled higher waist, and the simple retro blouse pattern will be really useful for Summer and would make some super cute Hawaiian print tops.

B5814 - I wasn't sure about this one, so I looked at some pictures online of other people's dressmaking efforts with it and decided that my misgivings are mainly down to the envelope photo - the dress itself is lovely but the styling isn't quite right, and the model, bless her, isn't really filling out such a bodacious garment. I think once you put someone with some bigger curves in there and add some more vintage accessories this dress will be a killer.

KwikSew 3491 - This one could look a bit dodgy at first glance, but disregard the hideous violet/greige ensemble the model is wearing, and look at the construction, and you have a perfect little 40s/50s Ike Jacket, a bit like this one:

Via the Vintage Pattern Wikia

This 1940s Hollywood pattern was the one that Tasha at By Gum, By Golly! used in the Sew For Victory challenge, and it looks great. I'm more of a 50s than a 40s girl though, so the later style knitted bottom band and zip front of the KwikSew pattern are just fine for me. I'm envisioning it in a yellow and black or red and black extra large check or tartan, and maybe a black twill version with a big back patch design for a more rockabilly look.

I've also got my beady eye on this brand new release of a 1951 pattern from Butterick, no. 5880. I'm hoping to buy this, Vogue's new mens suit pattern (for Aerospace Boyfriend now he has conferences and stuff to attend, and now Vogue have finally brought out a suit that doesn't look like something out of Miami Vice), and whatever else tickles my fancy before the 3-for-1 offer is up.

It's just lovely, and a bit easier to wear that my usual boob-bearing, boned, skintight affairs. So just to make sure it's still utterly unsuitable to wear in polite society, I've been utterly stubborn, or perhaps utterly stupid, and decided to attempt the fabric dyeing that failed so comically in my last post, and make it from that. I went into my usual fabric shop for trimmings, and lo and behold, sat on top of the bargain basket was another piece of the dreaded white leopard print fabric. I bought a shade lighter of the yellow iDye, and it is running on a 90C cycle in the washing machine RIGHT NOW. I don't know if I even dare look. To be continued...

Friday, 1 March 2013

Dye, Dye, My Darling... in which I try iDye and FAIL HORRIBLY.

Today was possibly the most disappointing day I have ever had in my years as a dressmaker. My dress didn't even get to be stitched together *sob*.

Last week I bought these glorious fabrics in the bargain bin at my local fabric shop. When you buy from the baskets, there's usually one piece and you'll never see that fabric again. You want it, you'd better be prepared to impulse buy, and fight a tiny Asian grandmother to get it.

Fabulous, right? The melon one, you'll be glad to know, is safe. I cut out my dress parts from it, bought some garish yellow trims, and you should be seeing the finished article in a couple of weeks. The leopard one however did not fare so well. I decided that I would make a bright yellow leopard print version of my usual sarong dress pattern, with black trims, black petal bust, and black lining to the draped overskirt. I could see it in my mind; this thing was going to be my new favourite outfit in the world, to be debuted at next week's Bedlam Breakout psychobilly weekender. I wasn't sure of the fibre content, so I used a Dylon hand dye in sunflower yellow. Trusty old Dylon eh? Nope.

It turned out a colour which I will politely refer to as pale lemon, but would prefer to (rather impolitely) refer to as I-boiled-this-in-a-bucket-of-my-own-piss yellow. Although annoyed at having spent £3.10 to turn my fabric such an insipid shade, I remained upbeat as we could now determine that the fabric had a high synthetic content and would need to be dyed with something suitable for polyester and nylon.

Picture by Dixie DIY

This is what I found. I think it's the only product available on the UK market for home dyeing synthetics, but it looked pretty good anyway. I did some research online as to what other bloggers' colour results had been for each yellow shade, and picked out the yellow iDye Poly and iDye for natural fabrics in 'Golden Yellow', as directed by the packaging in order to colour a cotton-synthetic blend fabric.

The instructions stated that the iDye Poly, poly colour intensifier, and iDye natural should be chucked into a pot of hot water together to dissolve, the fabric added and brought to the boil, and a US cup of salt added.

This is what it was supposed to look like. Via Live the Fancy Life

Problem 1. I didn't own a pot large enough to fit my whole 2.5m of fabric into. I decided to cut out all the parts of my dress, adding an extra 1/4" to each seam allowance to account for any shrinkage, fraying or wonkiness which may occur. The fabric had already been dyed and washed once so shrinking or twisting wasn't likely, but pre-cutting your pieces before dyeing is a risky strategy. It all fit into my largest pot, so I began the dyeing process.

Problem 2. The instructions said that in order for the dye to bond to the polyester fibres, I needed to keep the mixture at a 'rolling boil' for 30-60 minutes. My pot never came to the boil - it was always on the edge of simmering. This was probably because I was using a stoneware crock pot, not a metal pan, but I'm a woman living alone - I don't own a 12 litre stew vat! Frankly, the fabric looked alarmingly orange as soon as I put it into the dye bath. I thought it would rinse out to yellow, and persevered. Because the mixture never boiled, I left it in just over an hour.

Oranges and lemons... balls.

I rinsed. ORANGE. Not even orangey-yellow, ORANGE. These pictures don't even show the full horror of just how exceedingly jaffa-hued it was. I put it through a normal wash cycle at 40C with an extra rinse. Oompa Loompa. I put it through a 60C intensive wash cycle. Colour of a pornstar's palms.

I decided it was time for desperate measures. I filled the sink with warm water and added 60ml (1/4cup) of household bleach, followed by the damp fabric pieces. Nothing. I doubled the bleach and agitated it for ten minutes... the water turned yellow but the fabric looked unchanged. I ended up with 300ml of bleach in the sink, and a mild chemical burn on my hands (no, I don't own rubber gloves. If I did they'd no doubt be orange by now). The fabric faded by a couple of shades, so I chucked it into the washing machine, thinking the residual bleach coupled with some heat and agitation would loosen the dye from the fibres. I whacked the temperature up to 90C.

Who ya gonna call?

Then this happened. So, yeah, turns out thick bleach foams in hot water. At least I can be sure that my washing machine's innards are utterly germ-free now.

Finally, I took the fabric out of the washer. It was still sodding orange, but it had definitely become lighter, and would probably be just about acceptable when it dried. Then, ULTIMATE HORROR!

Yep... the print which had survived four washes, two dyeing attempts, being just under boiling temperature for over an hour, and being soaked in a sink of toilet-strength bleach for half an hour, had given up the ghost and come off in the final wash, turning a vile shade of rusty brown. I was utterly dejected, and my dreams of the perfect dress went up in a puff of smoke. Just as this fabric will be doing when I burn it in the garden tomorrow and dance around nude, wailing at passers-by and smearing myself with its (no doubt bright orange) ashes.

By the way, the fabric, multiple dyes, salt, and copious amounts of electricity used cost me about £20. Bargain bin fabric? I think not.


Friday, 22 February 2013

New Hair! Adventures in pastels...

I've wanted pastel hair for ages. Lauren over at Bobby Pin Blog did a very helpful series on pastel hair colouring, including the shampoo cap method which I had not tried before. Pastel Hair was very de rigeur in both the 30s and 50s, although as with all high-fashion, high-maintenance looks, it was only worn by the very daring.

1935 Image via The Vintage Baroness

Here are a few of my hair inspirations ;)

I've been using purple toner to get my hair platinum blonde for ages, so I did have some idea about how long to leave things on and what could go wrong. In the past I've found that if I used a purple-hued conditioner on my blonde I ended up with grey or blue streaks where parts of my hair were more absorbent, whereas using a shampoo cap with purple in it worked really well. My favourite thing for this is Touch of Silver shampoo, just leave it on for a couple of minutes to get platinum blonde on bleached hair, or ten minutes if you want a violet rinse effect like ol' Dame Edna up there.

I decided to go for a mint green shade, primarily because nobody does it and because it's the best colour ever!

This was the first attempt...

I'd cut a couple of tiny samples out of my hair after bleaching it, and done a strand test using Directions Apple Green dye mixed with shampoo for one strand and conditioner for another. The test using conditioner looked best, but I was afraid of it looking a little too yellow, like washed out lime, so I ended up using approximately 100ml of conditioner, 1/2tsp. Directions Violet dye (to tone the yellow out) and 1tsp. Directions Apple Green, applied to damp hair after shampooing and combed through for ten minutes. I didn't mind the result but altogether thought it was too pale, and too blue rather than green.

Here's attempt 2. I was less cautious this time, and decided to apply the mixture to hair that had been shampooed then dried to leave it more absorbent. I used about 150ml of conditioner, about 1/3tsp. Directions Violet, and 1.5tsp. Directions Apple Green. This was the colour of the mixture:

And here it is slapped onto my head. I used a tinting brush and applied it in small sections from front to back, then worked it through with a wide tooth comb.

Whoops! Try not to splatter it everywhere when combing through. I got it on the wall, carpet, a plant, and all over the back of the sink.

Here's how it came out! I looked crazed or blurry in every single one of these photos. This shade matches my eyebrow pencil a lot better, which in these pictures is Barry M no.20, available online but I *think* it may have been discontinued as it is no longer stocked in the shops. They do a proper mint green but it's very white-based. I'll probaby use it in the corners of my eyes to pick up the hair colour, but as an eyebrow pencil it was too pale and made me look really pink.

Then, feeling suitably green, I went round to my lovely wife Sera's, and cooked her some delicious vegan burritos! We also got some fancy desserts from M&S, I had a peach Melba jelly (It's vegan!) Yay!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Vote for me and my fat bits!

Hello my darlings. I've entered a little competition on facebook and would love it if some of you voted for me! It's a contest to win a free photoshoot with the very talented Ebony Holden Photography. I'm currently in third place, but some of the other girls are proper models with fan pages so I need all the votes I can get! CLICK HERE then 'like' the picture to vote! Thank you!

There was a massive furore around the picture earlier this week - some random man felt the need to make derogatory comments about the size of my body, personally I wasn't bothered at all but lots of lovely ladies leapt to my defence - it's nice to know people are willing to stand up to prejudiced idiots.

Photo by Alt. Studio.