A winter Malvarosa in wool

Sometimes I become obsessed with a shape or a pattern or a fabric. The Malvarosa by Pauline Alice was this sort of dress. I kept seeing versions of it all over the internet and I went from being mildly interested in the dropped waist loveliness of it to being consumed, day and night with potential versions. Okay, so I’m exaggerating a wee bit. But I couldn’t wait until spring to make the beautiful and unique capped sleeve version.

Before I start a project I like to look for inspiration from fellow sewers and bloggers, from designer catwalks and ready-to-wear copies. For the Malvarosa dress I started with the pattern designer herself. I loved Pauline’s feminine versions of the dress. Although she has a girlier aesthetic than me, I love her chic-with-a-touch-of-retro look.

I also loved some of the more exaggerated shapes like this one worn by Victoria Beckham:

I love the hem on this one.

If Alexa Chung wears it, it’s a safe bet:

Sooooo, anyhoo… I picked up some windowpane check wool blend suiting from Ohlsson’s Tyger and decided to go for it. I chose to line the bodice instead of using facings. I figured the wool my not be pleasant against the skin and I like the look of a lined dress. My intentions were good. Execution? Err, not so much. I ended up with a tube of fabric when I tried to turn the bagged lining. Even Scott got in on the action, trying to figure out how to turn the bloody thing right side out. I ended up having to cut a centre back seam to make it work. I was following the online tutorials correctly, but I hadn’t noticed that the dresses in the demos all had a seam down the back. Another thing learned.

I did a lot of unpicking on this dress. So much that I was worried that the whole thing would just unravel and disintegrate. I must learn to read through all of the instructions before starting. Pauline’s instructions were clear and easy to follow. IF I HAD READ THEM in the first place.

It all worked out in the end and I love the dress. I decided that it deserved a special hem and having found a whole box full of vintage bias tape at the loppis (flea market,) I chose to try a red bias facing. I LOVE this finish. It was easy, although I had to serge the unravelling raw edge first. The bias tape forms itself perfectly to the curved edge of the hem and there is a flash of colour when the skirt moves.

I used the instructions in this pdf for the bias facing.

So here’s the bloody dress:

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20141123_140921Doesn’t the forest behind our garden look pretty? It was a bit cold…20141123_140912

This is what my winter Malvarosa cost:

Pattern $10 (I’ll use the pattern again for certain!)

Fabric  $25 (I still have almost a metre left over.)

Lining   $5

Bias tape  $1

Total: $41

Will I wear it? Yes! Money well spent.

A Green By Hand Anna Dress

Sometimes the fabric comes before the pattern. As soon as I saw this weird cotton lawn at Ohlsson’s I knew I wanted to make a long dress.

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From a distance it looks floral, vaguely asian, but close up it’s just plain bizarre. Skulls? check. Checkerboards? Check. Handprints and dinosaurs? Yup. Just the kind of fabric that screams long elegant dress.

I chose the long version of the By Hand London Anna dress. I probably should have lined it but it works without. It was also my first project using my serger. I’m slightly scared by the speed and potential violence of my Bernina 700D, but man is it ever cool.

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Behold my innards. And geeky library book about serging.

I love the way the dress turned out. Iona kindly took some photos at a T-Bana station.

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You know, maybe I’m completely deluded, but I feel that I look way cooler and sexier in real life than I do in my sewing blog photos. Trust me, k?

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The Anna dress sews up like a dream and the bodice is just sooo pretty. I’ll be making another long one next summer for sure. It feels like wearing pajamas while looking elegant at the same time. Perfect.

Supermarket Snobbery, a New Obsession with Sewing… and Vintage Bernina Love

This June I bought my first sewing machine. It was an impulse purchase at Lidl. For those of you who don’t live in Europe, Lidl is a German discount supermarket chain. In Sweden (and the UK) some people are embarrassed to shop at Lidl. It’s not very glamorous. Selection is very limited and the staff always seem to be incredibly stressed out, but Lidl is CHEAP!

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was a bit of a supermarket snob when I first got to Sweden. The more expensive grocery stores, like Konsum are just so cute and friendly and what I imagined Sweden to be like: organised, super-clean, typically Scandinavian design on all the house brand labels. And yes…expensive. Scott tried to convince me to try Lidl. Keep in mind this was during the long dark Swedish winter. The conversation went something like this:

-But Lidl is really cheap.

-I’m not shopping there. It’s depressing.

-They have great sausages.

-That’s not helping your case.

-They have this ever-changing mystery aisle in the middle of the store with all sorts of crazy cheap things, like power tools or art supplies or women’s shapewear!

-ARE YOU SAYING I NEED A GIRDLE!

I had to admit, the mystery aisle intrigued me. Weirdly incongruous cheap things had greater pull than winter-induced snobbery.

A few weeks later I had a sewing machine. A Singer 2250 with a three year warranty for about $115 plus tax.

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Not bad huh?

I sewed a couple of things on the Singer.  Mostly too embarrassing to show here. It’s pretty basic and a bit plasticky, but it did the trick…meaning it fueled a new obsession with sewing.

And it wasn’t long before I started dreaming of a sexier machine.  Little did I know that an older man was soon coming into my life. A sexy European…

I found him in Myrorna thrift store near Hötorget in Stockholm. He was sitting all forlorn and lonely in his original case. My heart started beating faster as soon as I spied him:

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Yup. A 1965 Bernina 730 Record. Original foot pedal, accessory box with drawers and 7 presser feet. For 170 Swedish Kronor. Thats $28.

I dragged him out of the store as fast as I could. And I mean dragged. This mofo is heavy. A nice Swedish man helped me carry him to the station.

He smelled a bit like cigarette smoke when I got him home and out of the case, but man. He’s a beaut. A little oil and a new grounded plug and he was purring along like he’d just come off the assembly line.

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Check out that Swiss engineering. The red dots are the oiling points. those discs in the middle are the 21 built in decorative stitches.

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How cute is the swing-out accessory case?

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The removeable table extension is cool too. I’m in love.