Saturday, 8 October 2016

Sew Dots prizes

Thanks so much to everyone who has already pledged to participate in my #sewdots challenge to raise money for RNIB, who provide all sorts of services to help people with sight loss live independent lives. You guys have already raised £100, which is 20% of the target, and absolutely amazing. Thank you.

To join in the challenge, you just need to sew something dotty in October, share a picture of it somewhere on social media with the hashtag #sewdots and donate some money to RNIB here.

Not only will you be doing something amazing and using your sewing powers for good, you'll also be automatically in with a chance of winning a glorious sewing prize. And here is what the winner will receive...

A dotty goody bag from Barley at Fabrications, which will include fabric and a craft kit.

Two sewing patterns of your choice from the amazing Tilly & The Buttons, who I wouldn't hesitate to call The Queen Of Dots. Have you seen her new Rosa Shirt pattern? I want it!

A pile of sewing books from Laurence King. These aren't actually the books you'll get (I actually stole this picture from Tilly's blog!), but no doubt the selection will include some of their English translations of Japanese sewing books...

... and also my own book, No Patterns Needed!

In case your sewing library isn't bulging enough already, Wendy Ward has very kindly donated her brand new book 'A Beginner's Guide to Making Skirts' into the mix. This book isn't even out yet, but it looks AMAZING. It contains step-by-step tutorials for making 24 different skirt designs in Wendy's signature super modern, wearable style.

You'll also receive a very generous 10 metres of beautiful dotty fabric from Fabric Godmother.

3 metres of eco fabric from ethical fabric shop Offset Warehouse, who source beautiful fabrics from around the world that are kind to people and the planet.

£25 to spend on whatever takes your fancy from Sew Over It's incredible shop. This really is a sewist's wonderland, stocking fabric, sewing patterns and gorgeous haberdashery. This very generous voucher will give you the freedom to go wild and treat yourself!

And finally, 2 metres of bespoke fabric of your choice printed by Contrado. Yes that's right, design your dream fabric using their simple online tool and have it printed on the fabric of your choice (excluding neoprene). I was kindly shown around the Contrado factory earlier this year by Chris, who owns the business. Their range of fabrics is mindblowing, from quilted sweater jersey, to French Crepe to waterproof fabric that would enable you to make your own raincoat.

Big, endless thanks to all the businesses that have kindly donated their products to make this prize such a biggy!

Anyone entering the #sewdots challenge will be in with a chance of winning all these goodies and frankly I will be very jealous of whoever does! The winner will be chosen totally randomly on November 1st from all entries, so please pick your dotty fabric and get sewing to raise money, raise awareness and win prizes!

Rosie xx

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Polka dots can't stay alone

When I think of dotty fabric, I pretty much think of your classic black on white - or the inverse - dots. I think of a straight up, evenly spaced, perfectly round polka dot pattern. The kind of dot Minnie Mouse makes her dresses from (I'm assuming she sews). Something like this cotton blend from Truro fabrics.

White fabric with black dots

I've conducted a bit of dotty fabric research now, with the aim of inspiring you to get sewing for 'Sew Dots, Raise Lots' and my mind has been altered. Oh my. I have clearly had extremely conservative experiences with dots. There is a whole world of inventive dottiness out there that I never imagined. I'm displaying some of it here for your delight. In the words of Yayoi Kusama - a lady who really knows her dots - "polka dots can't stay alone..." Take that to mean what you will!

I'll start with a fairly straight up polka dot though, with these Japanese dotty fabrics from Fabric Rehab. The twist on these being the interesting colour selections and combinations, like tubs of ice cream by the seaside. Mmmmmm.

Sticking with small dots and Japan, this denim coloured double gauze from Miss Matatabe is very tasteful. She also has it in baby blue and a lovely purple colour.

Offset Warehouse have an actual dotty denim and amazingly it's reversible, with one side showing a dark denim and the other a much paler denim. Dotty jeans anyone?

I also spotted (unintentional pun!) this dotted black denim. The dots on this are much smaller and seem to create a nice textured look from far away.

Sticking with fairly tasteful, low key dots, I love the look of this dotted grey jersey from My Fabrics. It looks like it would make a great Autumn sweater or even tracksuit bottoms. Fabric Land seem to have a similar fabric but in a nice maroon colour and a dark blue too.

I started thinking about textured dots, as RNIB's 'Wear Dots, Raise Lots' campaign promotes awareness of the important role of braille in communication. I found this amazing work by Tiffany Loy, who has built tools to emboss fabric in a unique way.

The closest available fabric I can find is this soft fleece-like fabric with raised dots, again from My Fabrics. It comes in a range of colours.

Another textured dot is the classic Swiss Dot fabric. Fabric Godmother sells a lovely range of these, including this minty blue and a pure white if you want to look like you're swanning around in a holiday homes brochure.

Now we'll start looking at some more adventurous dots, as there are people out there designing fabrics with unevenly spaced or shaped dots. Crazy I know! I like this dotty jersey, where the dots look almost like bubbles.

Sticking with knits, some designers are taking their dots to the next level. This is a knitted jacquard from The Village Haberdashery and yes, some dots have been replaced with pictures of leopards THAT ARE DOTTY.

I love a good pattern mashup, and this polka dot gradient/floral mix from eBay is glorious! It's chiffon. I see it making a wonderful, seasonally inappropriate maxi skirt!!

To take it back slightly to the tasteful, there are some lovely 'handmade' looking dots out there. This is a design from Spoonflower. That slightly blotchy look really softens the classic hard edged polka dot.

Taking the handpainted dot one step further is this lovely ink splash type design in deep indigo, again from Spoonflower. I haven't announced the grand prize for the Sew Dots... challenge yet but hint hint it might include a couple of metres of printed fabric in a design of your choice from the brilliant Contrado, giving you a chance to realise your dream dot fabric!

Also pushing the boundaries of the perfectly symmetrical dot is this lovely 'grape spot' cotton from The Village Haberdashery...

... and this almost ikat-looking blurry blue dot polyester. I definitely see a pair of trousers made in this.

And even bigger and splodgier, this beautiful linen/rayon blend from Miss Matatabe, with olive green watercolour spots.

And to finish up, this Liberty 'full moon' design stocked at Fabrics Galore. It is named after the moon, though I definitely see fruit! I think this print might push the concept of dots as far as it can go before they actually stop being dots!

I hope this has provided some dotspiration for your projects!

Rosie xx

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Sew Dots

This is me in the first shirt I ever made, back in around 2008 I reckon. It has a lot wrong with it - the dots don't match up, I cut the sleeves without placing them on the fold so they're half as wide as they should be (whoops!) and the collar is actually falling off. But I still wear it! It's one of the first pieces of clothing I retrieved to wear to work after I moved house on Monday.
I work at RNIB -  the Royal National Institute of Blind People - a UK charity that supports people with sight loss with a huge range of services, from emotional support to campaigning for public environments that respect the needs of blind and partially sighted people. A large part of what we do involves communication, which can be challenging in this visual world when you can't see. We run a Talking Books library, a transcription service that will translate any printed material into audio or braille,and a host of services around supporting people to use accessible technology. I work on a project called Online Today, which helps people with sight loss use digital technology.  All of these services mean that blind and partially sighted people are not excluded from everyday communication. 

RNIB run a campaign every October called Wear Dots Raise Lots to highlight the impact of Braille and to raise money for their services. Braille is probably the most famous system of raised dots in the world. It was invented by Louis Braille in 1829 when he was just 20 years old.

Braille has shot into the 21st Century in style. Many of my colleagues use refreshable braille displays, which connect to smartphones via bluetooth and are used to both input and read text. Braille is an important communication tool as it gives users absolute accuracy over text they're writing and reading. Unlike audio, which can be open to interpretation, every single punctuation point and spelling error can be picked up using Braille.

For the 'Wear Dots Raise Lots' campaign, RNIB encourages people to hold dotty parties, or coordinate with colleagues and pick a 'wear dots' day for the office. When I heard about this my immediate thought was obviously "I'm going to sew myself a head-to-toe dotty outfit." Maybe a bit like this...

Then I thought, I bet my virtual sewing friends would feel very similarly to me - why just wear dots when you can take it to the next level and sew dots?

If 200 of us donated the price of 1 metre of your average polycotton, we could raise more than £500. If 200 of us donated the average price of a sewing pattern, we could raise more than £1000. I've made a JustGiving page to make donating easy. We sewists are a unique bunch. Determined, energetic, practical and forward thinking. Yes, we make our own garments with a needle and thread in the 3D world, but we have embraced the digital world too. We'll hold our dotty party online throughout October.

Pick your spotty fabric, get sewing, and share your creation on Twitter or Instagram before October 30th with the hashtag #sewdots.

Everyone using this hashtag will be entered automatically into a draw to win a brilliant prize including many different sewing goodies. I should really have finalised the details of this by now but I moved house on Monday and I haven't quite got organised. Rest assured, it will be a great prize and I'll announce it soon!

In the mean time, here is some dotty inspiration...

I think this Commes des Garcons polka dot cardigan could easily be made using the Driftless Cardigan pattern from Grainline Studios...

Polka dot dungarees are on my list of #sewdots potential makes. I love this dungaree type dress.

Polka dots are obviously not the only kind of dot out there. I fancy these oversized dots in Marimmekko's classic Kivet design.

Here they are in action.

Dolce & Gabbana brought an Andalucian flavour to their dots in their Spring 2015 collection. Swoon! I reckon this look could be created with a By Hand London Charlotte Skirt.

Chinti & Parker have explored the dot as hole, rather than solid shape, outlining their large dots as if they were windows (sky scraper comparison courtesy of Patternity) Does anyone else see a Linden Sweater? (Um - yes I am a total Grainline Studios fan girl!!)

I'll be posting more dotspiration from the fashion world as well as my dotty and spotty fabric finds from across the internet in the next few days.

I really appreciate your help on this sewists, and I look forward to seeing your dotty creations!

Rosie xx

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The triangle; a summoning symbol

The last five designs in 'No Patterns Needed' are all defined by the triangle. When I suggested to Laurence King's commissioning editor that I create sewing tutorials based on the simplest geometric shapes, I already had ideas for designs that employed rectangles and circles, but the triangle was just a notion... a looming gap of actual plans. I said I would do it though, so it had to be done!

The triangle is an exciting shape. It seems intrinsically bound up with the two other shapes in the book. Cut a square or rectangle in half and you create a triangle. Divide a circle into segments and they are triangle shaped. The triangle has the stability of the rectangle – it can rest on a flat side – and some of the dynamic properties of the circle – it points upwards and appears to be able to take off like a spacecraft.

Triangles seem to embody enormous structural strength. Buildings made with triangles have been known to survive earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. The geodesic dome is a half spherical structure made entirely of triangles that has been adopted to build anything from Olympic stadiums to off-the-grid personal dwellings designed to endure nuclear apocalypse.

Here's a picture I took of Yeo Valley, the organic dairy farm, that houses some of its cows and equipment in these impressive triangle based domes near where I grew up. I can't help feeling they look a bit like they landed in Somerset from a galaxy far, far away.

The greatest structures on earth to embrace the triangle must surely be the ancient Egyptian pyramids. Dominating the landscape, these massive stone monoliths have survived the weathers of four and a half thousand years.

We know that the pyramids are surviving artefacts of an extremely complex society. Yet despite our knowledge, they are still steeped in mystery, representing a gap in total comprehension. We don't fully know how they were constructed and we doubt theories about the reason for their existence. That gap is filled with human projections. They are giant batteries that charged an ancient electric city. They are windows to space and were used to guide in alien spacecraft. They contain codes that fortell the destruction of planet earth.

Though ancient, the pyramids seem to conjure up the spectre of the futuristic and otherworldly. Rather than a structure in and of themselves, they are described as a conduit, a gateway to step through, a window through which information can be received. This idea of absence seems ingrained within the triangle.

 From love triangles to the holy trinity, this pointy shape is often used to denote a space or situation that humans cannot master. The Bermuda triangle is thought to be a hole into which matter can literally disappear, never to be seen again.

Triangles are employed in mystical symbolism, representing gateways to higher spiritual understanding or the irresistible door to other worlds or dimensions. 

Due to my own lack of practical ideas for triangle based garment designs, a lot of the fashion inspiration I collected focussed on the triangle. While some of it contained physical triangular shaped sections of fabric, like this incredible Christopher Kane dress from his Resort 2015 collection...

... a lot of it contained triangular holes, in the form of triangular neck lines...

... or cut away windows...

...or at least the illusion of negative space.

I couldn't help but consider the sewing triangle par excellence – the dart. Darts are essentially triangular shaped chunks of fabric that are removed from a garment to make it fit the body. I started to think of darts as arrows that point towards the most sticky-out bits of the body. The dart is an extremely useful triangle when it comes to turning flat shapes into 3D ones.

I sketched out a lot of ideas for garments that had triangles as a key principle. I really enjoyed working with the strength and power of this commanding shape.

Some of the designs employed the positive power of the triangle, building clothes from triangular pieces of fabric and using it’s angular lines to create designs that verge on the futuristic.

Here, Kristina wears a version of the 'Four Slice Sweater,' which has become hands down my favourite design in the book.

Kristina wears the 'Four Slice Sweater.' Photo by Victoria Siddle

Other designs use the triangle as an absence, employing it to create negative space. 

Mairead wears the 'Deep V Tunic.' Photo by Victoria Siddle

The 'Triple Triangle Dress' is the most involved tutorial in the book, employing three kinds of triangle - triangular shaped pieces of fabric, darts and a cut away at the waist - hence the name.

Karishma wears the 'Triple Triangle Dress.' Photo by Victoria Siddle

For me, the triangle contains some unknown alchemy. I spoke it's name, and it appeared. By focussing on it's powers, it enabled me to build the structures of five pieces of clothing. Thank you magic triangle.

We are all magi when we sew clothes. We start with nothing, and from our imagination and our labour we build something practical - or impractical - that we step into and adopt as part of our everyday. I hope that my book encourages people to enjoy this humble magic.

Will we ever understand the ancient, otherworldly triangle, standing strong but pointing outwards to realms unknown? Perhaps not, but we can wear it!