Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Interview: By Hand London

These stylish girls and their beautiful patterns definitely don't need an introduction. They've been the talk of the blogosphere from months, so I'm sure you've already heard about By Hand London patterns. But if you want to know a bit more about the company from one of its creators, here's a few words from Elisalex. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? When did you start sewing?
Charlotte and I were actually at school together! We went down pretty different routes however after we left - I trained as a shoemaker and set up my own sustainable-high end shoe label, Nina Dolcetti, while Charlotte studied Classics and ended up working in marketing roles at various London startups. Sewing for me has been a long love affair; even as a child I had an insatiable need to make stuff! I messed about with my Mum's sewing machine a lot as a teenager, but it wasn't until I studied shoemaking though, that I realised my love of craftsmanship and decided to start really honing my skills. Charlotte was always a thrifting and customising expert and has had the sewing bug for the last couple of years, simply out of a desire to have more control over her style and is fast becoming a very skilled seamstress!

How did you start By Hand London? What pushed you to begin making sewing patterns?
By Hand London all began about a year and a half ago when Charlotte randomly got in touch to ask my opinion on a hare-brained scheme she had been cooking up. At the time I had just decided to pack in the whole shoes thing and had been mulling over some new ideas of my own. We met up and talked over a coffee (or three!) and realised pretty quickly that we wanted to join forces - what followed was months of late night skype-scheming, plans for world domination, and three ideas and two business plans later, By Hand London sewing patterns were born. It was then that we met Victoria - recent fashion graduate and London girl - in a stroke of internet matchmaking perfection, having advertised for an extra pair of hands getting things started. And then we got to set about creating our patterns! It's not been easy, that's for sure! It already feels like we've had some great successes as well as some seriously hairy moments. But we are so very proud of what we have created, and are so excited for everything yet to come.

What are your main sources of inspiration? Your favorite designers or style icons?
We find that our inspiration comes from so many different avenues, and especially since the three of us have our own very unique styles! We look to sewing blogs as well as fashion blogs, vintage fashion as much as contemporary, and of course, our friends and girls we see around London town. It's because of this diversity of style and influence that we decided to personify each of our patterns, basing them on a real girl we know and who's style we admire.

What has been your biggest challenge with By Hand London?
There's not really been one distinct thing; I think when you're starting out on a new venture the main challenge is finding your rhythm as a business - setting yourself achievable goals and deadlines, each finding and settling into our individual roles within By Hand, and also being supportive of each other and understanding each other's external commitments i.e. part-time jobs and kids!

Where do you see your pattern company in the future?
At this point while it's all so fresh and new we feel like we're bursting at the seams (ahaha!) with ideas and plans for the future and we definitely want to expand the By Hand brand beyond sewing patterns. Before we take over the world, however, we want to really get to grips with what's going on right now, continue to better ourselves and our products and really get to know who our customer is. But ultimately, sure - world domination! Mwahahahaaaa!

Thanks Elisalex! Very inspiring, right?
And guess what? The girls have very generously sent me one Elisalex dress pattern and one Charlotte skirt pattern to give away to my readers!
In order to win, just leave a comment below telling me which pattern you'd like the most and your email address, so I contact you.
The giveaway ends on March 6th, 11:00pm GMT.
Good luck!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Di Tutto Boutique 02/2013

I mentioned this new Italian sewing magazine in my last (tragic) review of La Mia Boutique, but it looks like I was wrong on a lot of things.

First of all, this magazine is not published by the same people of LMB: different publishing house, different city, different everything. Well, not everything, the stylist of this magazine is the same man who worked on most LMB issues I've reviewed on this blog (isn't it that a little weird?).
Anyway, it was a legitimate mistake; why would you name a new magazine so similarly to an already existing one? It's confusing! It sure was for the 3-4 newsstand guys I asked this magazine to, they would all pull out LMB.
Furthermore, "Di Tutto Boutique" doesn't really mean much in Italian ("di tutto" means "everything", so "boutique of everything"?! Weird.).

My second mistake was, this magazine doesn't focus exclusively on patterns for knits. Again, a legitimate mistake because of the subtitle "Taglia e Cuci", which in Italian means "serger", but also "crafting/sewing" in general. I really think they could have put more thought into choosing their name.

That being said, this magazine is not bad at all. There are patterns for everyone: women, men, children and plus size women (hence the "di tutto", I guess).
The designs don't strike me as particularly bad or good, and I can't judge the quality of the patterns themselves since I haven't tried one yet. There are less patterns than in Burda and LMB, but the price is inferior as well.
Since this is the first issue, I'll include more photos than usual to give you a better idea of what's in it.

First up, patterns for women. The first issue is 20's inspired (just in the styling) and features some cute formal dresses. I like most of them, but you need an occasion to wear these to... Not exactly cake material.

And in the middle of the children patterns (sorry I didn't include any, but not having kids, I find them extremely boring) we have a random, badly photographed dress with a nice cowl and a seemingly interesting skirt.

The men patterns are quite nice, they look like modern, interesting pieces that a man could actually wear.

Finally, plus size patterns. Again, I'm not head over heels about these, but they're well designed garments with some nice details.
I wish they used a curvier model, you can't really tell these are plus size clothes. Also, WTF is up with this stylist and gloves? They're in every single shot except for one. They make sense in a Gatsby-inspired photoshoot, but with a jersey dress? With a PANTSUIT??

Please let me know if you're interested in reviews of Di Tutto Boutique, because as much as I love ranting with myself, I can do it off the blog.
I also mean to try and get in touch with the editors to ask them a few questions about this new magazine, so if you have any questions you want me to ask them, leave a comment.

Also, if you're one of the 1200+ Russian gals who come here for the magazine reviews, please stop by and say hi! I get a huge traffic from you but you're invisible!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Knit Banksia + Denim Kelly

Oh my gosh, this feels like the first "hey-look-at-what-I-made" post in forever (if you're not counting the dress I made for Marie, which was a bit of a different story).

To get back into the rut, I present to you a cute, casual outfit made of two of the most awesome patterns in history: the Kelly skirt and the Banksia top, both by Megan Nielsen. I've already made both and declared my love for them here and here.

Both garments have been finished (and worn) for a long time, but I hadn't been blogged yet. They don't look at their very best paired together, but as much as I love them, I don't think they were worth a post each.

I finished the Kelly skirt just after the first one, using some denim generously gifted to me by my neighbor (yes, the same saint who gave me this dress).
This time around, I made the mistake of adding a button close to the hem... too close to the hem, actually, because this button won't stay closed. Lesson learnt. Although it didn't stop me from wearing this skirt to death both last summer and this fall/winter. An incredibly versatile piece.

The knit Banksia was actually finished around Christmas. I used Megan's awesome tutorial and it worked like a charm. If you like this pattern as much as I do, TRY IT, you will love it!
This was actually one of my first attempts with knits and it went quite well. I don't know why I've always been (still am, a bit) so frightened by knits...
The finishing on the inside is not perfect, I really need more practice. My machine doesn't love knit fabrics, but I'm sure we can make it work.

This post is also a great chance to invite you all know to vote for Megan in the Modern Craft Project. She can win a lot of money to invest in her sewing patterns, and she really deserves it. I've been voting for her everyday! You can vote her here or go here for more details. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

La Mia Boutique 02/2013

Hello, guys!
Long time no see, huh? My life has been a bit messy lately and I've neglected the blog, but I'm back!

And speaking of disappearances, La Mia Boutique is back after 3 months. I didn't really understand why they were gone for so long, they were very vague on their Facebook page. The most reliable explanation is that they moved and they released a new magazine, I guess.

Anyway, in the editorial at the beginning of this issue (which I actually took the time to read, hoping to find some clarity), the editor in chief says they're back with a lot of changes: a new, young stylist, new graphics (which I totally hadn't noticed), new columns (on fashion, makeup... does anyone read those?) and they chose to give the magazine a more modern edge.

Now, this is all I wished for a change in this magazine for a long while, and I was very excited after reading this editorial.
But then I started flipping through the magazine and I started to be more and more horrified and disappointed with every page.

Is this their idea of modernization? This stuff comes straight out of a catalogue from the 90s.
A cheap, badly styled catalogue.

Their new stylist defaults to harsh hair and heavy makeup, super clunky, cheap-looking jewelry and  generally matronly looking outfits just like his predecessor, so has anything really changed?

Moving on, we have weird proportions and a tacky dress made in the most dated fabric they could find.

Have I already said clunky jewelry, tacky dress and harsh makeup?
I'm all about back cut-outs, but this is exactly how to make them look vulgar.

This issue is not all bad (patterns-wise), but after the promises they made on Facebook for two months and in the editorial at the beginning of this issue, the quality of their product is just not keeping up.

And to confuse things even more, they started publishing another sewing magazine called "Di Tutto Boutique", which, from what I gathered, is more focused on pattern for knits.
I'll see if I can find a copy to review, but after this, I don't have high hopes...