Tuesday 26 January 2010

Get your Roks on

Apologies, dear readers, for the delay in blog entries. I thank you for your patience for waiting for my new blog entry inspired by the flower corsage craze, and this rather awesome new frock from Roksanda Ilincic’s collection for Whistles.

Image: whistles.co.uk

Factors culminating therein include me being too busy and too distracted by the respective festivities associated with this time of year…

First there was Halloween, the weekend of which I spent at a mate’s house. Fun, yes, but I still miss the old days. You see, this celebrated festival of fancy dress and tooth-rot, has so far been one of mixed experiences. Taking its inspiration from across the Atlantic, it might now be customary to spend it in risible garb, often inadequate for the harsh weather conditions, pestering the neighbours for confectionery donations, followed by appropriate homespun festivities, but here in my home town, it was only in childhood that I truly observed the momentous occasion with the latter choice of halloween parties, fancy dress, apple-bobbing etc. However, I was forbidden to trick-or-treat, lest it upset/harassed/traumatised the town’s resident grey vote – so my mum maintained anyway! That rule, it seems, has changed in recent years (as soon as I was considered too old – grrr!) So, I vowed that next year I would spend it trick-or-treating, somewhere, somehow and to hell with what anyone thinks, but then, maybe I’m jumping the gun there as well. Perhaps Halloween’s just doomed by sheer divine intervention to be anti-climactic for me, and, whatever I do, will be forever thus. Maybe it’s just because occasions always prove anti-climactic when there’s pressure on you to celebrate them and have fun, and everyone’s on the make, trying to get you to buy into it etc. That’s why my worst day of the entire year has to be New Year’s Eve - and don’t even get me started on Valentine’s Day!

The other nationally-observed knees-up to happen in the past week was bonfire night, aka. Guy Fawkes night, of course, in – ahem – loving memory of the insurgent and his unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, dating back from a time when it obviously must have been considered tasteful to celebrate attempted acts of terrorism. Come to think of it, next to the last few examples I’ve mentioned, does Halloween really seem so bad?

I initially thought my version of the Roksanda Ilincic dress would cut it as a dead garden costume, but with flower corsages in full bloom this season, why limit it to the one occasion when it can have you looking fabulous all winter long?



Okay, this particular verdict is more to cover my back. Both the two methods I’m about to teach have their moments when they get a bit fiddly, but are generally straightforward.


I worked one the Ilincic design for about 5 days, but only for a few hours each day, so I’d say it’s probably doable in the space of a weekend.

The second one took about two days, neither of which entailed working long hours, exactly, but some variations on the theme, which incorporate frills and drapery may take a day or so longer.

The other example in this blog entry, for a rose corsage, also took me a few days, but it may take you longer if you’re doing more than eight roses, which I did.

Total Cost

The Roksanda Ilincic replica should set you back about £16.50-£20. Maybe more if you need to get a leather needle and black thread for your sewing machine.

The rose example I’m leaving open as it depends on the garment you’re customising and the matching fabric you’re using. You shouldn’t find yourself spending more than £10 on wool or jersey, but silk, tweed or duchess satin might set you back more…

Save It!

…Having said that, it should still be less than £350, the cost of the Roksanda Ilincic dress, giving you a Chic Cheat saving of about £330!

You Will Need

For the Roksanda Ilincic dress:

•Navy blue dress or tunic top. Peacocks do the former for £10, prod. no: 40876014.
•1-1.5 metres of black PVC, I got mine from Barry’s Fabrics in Birmingham.
•Black thread.
•Large tube of contact/ all-purpose adhesive.
•Metallic gel pen or marker
•Sewing machine (optional)

For the rose corsage design:

•Plain jumper/ dress/ top… come to think of it, any garment in need of perking up will do, and why not get down to your nearest charity shop for some inspiration – and bargains!
•A metre of matching fabric, I’d also recommend going for one the same colour as your garment to get the romantic, English rose look that’s hot this season, but since it’s a free country, the choice is up to you!
•Matching thread
•Sewing machine
•Iron, better still if you’ve got a steam iron.

Time to get your Roks on…

Image: whistles.co.uk

Look at Roksanda’s design and you’ll see that there are different types of flowers. I devised three methods of making PVC flowers to get this effect:

Flower #1

Draw out a flower pattern about 15cm x 15cm on the wrong side of your PVC using your metallic pen. Cut it out with your scalpel, then stick it down – wrong side facing the wrong side- on your PVC with your contact adhesive and cut the whole shape out, again, with your scalpel.

Repeat with the same flower pattern only one about 10cm x 10 cm in size.

Pin your flowers, one on top of the other as shown in the diagram and secure by hand or machine-stitching the middle of the flower to the dress.

Flower #2

Draw out a flower pattern about 15cm x 15cm on the wrong side of your PVC using your metallic pen. Cut it out with your scalpel, then stick it down – wrong side facing the wrong side - on your PVC with your contact adhesive and cut the whole shape out, again, with your scalpel.

Cut out 4-5 ovals about 7cm long, and 4-5 ovals 5cm long in PVC, then stick them down, glue them and cut them out, as before.

Place the ovals on the flower as shown in the diagram below and stitch them to the centre of the flower. Affix the flower to the dress by hand or machine stitching around the edge.

Flower #3

To create a PVC rose shape, you need to cut out a splatter shape (15cm x 15cm) and a wiggly spiral (20cm x 20cm). Stick them down, glue them and cut them out, as before.

Wind your PVC spiral around its centre, occasionally folding it back on itself, and forth again, to give a three-dimensional hint of petals. Hand-stitch the folds in place and the spiral in place along the bottom.

Attach the new rose shape to the splatter shape by hand-stitching through the centre.

Attach the rose shape to your dress by stitching , either by hand or by machine, around the edge, as shown in the diagram above.

Repeat 2-4 times with each of the flower designs, placing the finished ones around the front of the dress and the back of the collar, as shown in my example.

And for those who’re in for a rosy winter season…

Image: Toby Hudson for Sunday Times Style Magazine

To make a rose you need a long strip of fabric 6cm wide, with no raw edges. To create this, you need to cut a piece 14cm wide which spans the entire length of the fabric. You need to make it as long as possible to get lots of petals and detailing.

Fold your strip of fabric over so that it is now 7cm wide and machine stitch 1cm from the edge.

Turn your fabric inside-out and press it with an iron. Fold the two loose ends, at either side, in on each other and hand-stitch them together so that no raw edges are showing.

Roll the end of your strip of fabric into a small, diagonal cone and secure with a couple of stitches at the bottom.

Fold your fabric back on itself and forth again, as shown in the diagram, below, to stop the cone from sticking out. Stitch in place at the bottom.

Wind your fabric round the cone (tell you what – if it weren’t winter, right now, all this mention of cones would have me seriously craving ice cream! Alas – I digress!) for about two full revolutions – these will be your rose petals. Stitch loosely around the bottom in the way shown in the diagram.

Pull the stitching at the bottom in to create a drawstring effect. Stitch at the bottom and knot to secure your fabric. Then stitch through the top of your rose, in and out of the tip of the cone, and pull, so that the cone goes back into the petals and looks like a small bud in the middle. Also, fold the sides of the petals down.

Finally, fold the rest of the strip around the bottom, as shown in the diagram and secure with some stitches.

Repeat with however many roses you want to add, maybe throw in some frills (See: A View to a Frill entry) or some fabric drapes. You can finish off the edges by folding the fabric back 1cm at the edge, cutting away the excess fabric up to the stitching, folding the fabric back on itself again and securing your fabric in place with top-stitching.

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