The Florence blog tour

florence landscape

I was invited to take part in the Florence Christmas blog tour by Olu of Needle and Ted and decided to give it a go because a winter shirt for H had been on my list since I made this one for S at the beginning of the autumn, and, when I showed H the pattern she really liked it (the version with ruffles that is, she definitely did not like the bow tie). I had mixed feelings as I almost always use self-drafted patterns for the girls – it means I can make the style just how I like it and get the custom fit right for a slender built child. The main reason I opted in though, was that the pattern contains a piece that looks like a Fibonacci spiral and there was a creative challenge element attached to the tour which I couldn’t turn down. The challenge in question was to make your version of the Florence Christmas themed. Given that H had ruled out the bow tie version the style of the frill-fronted shirt instantly brought Mary Poppins to mind, and what could be more Christmassy than that? (I don’t know about everywhere else in the world but growing up in the UK, for better or worse, memories of Christmas day are inseparable from Dick Van Dyke’s cockney chirps). For me the best thing about the film is the costumes – particularly the children’s, but the Florence definitely belonged to Mary.

I was to keen to make a shirt that was wearable beyond Christmas and something that H liked rather than just a costume. I had a picture in my head – delicate monochrome umbrella print on crisp white poplin. Of course the only umbrella print fabrics I could find weren’t delicate or monochrome so I ended up trying to print my own. (I also couldn’t find any poplin but used a lovely cotton shirting instead)

fabric stencilling

Printing fabric is something I’ve been meaning to try for ages so I experimented making a stamp from lino and mounting on a piece of wood. It worked okay (the stamped umbrella’s are on the right hand side of the top picture ) but I really didn’t like that the print was uneven and not crisp so I cut out a stencil from acetate and used a sponge (tied with an elastic band) to apply the paint (these umbrellas are on the left of the picture above). The effect was much cleaner as long as there wasn’t too much paint on the sponge and I didn’t dilute the paint at all. I used Marabu Textil paint which was very thick but adding water did not work as the paint seeped. I also experimented with some other stencils including one made with a snowflake punch (it worked so well it inspired my inner creative demon to insist on a second project which you’ll see later in this post).

I marked out my pattern pieces first so that I didn’t waste time printing fabric I wasn’t going to use. (The irony of me talking about saving time in a project where I insisted on stencilling hundreds of individual umbrellas all over a shirt isn’t entirely lost on me).

Once the fabric was printed, heat set and the pieces cut out, construction could begin. This, is where I faltered. I opened the instructions and looked, and looked. It’s been an age since I followed pattern instructions for children’s wear and I thought about just putting the pieces together my own way as the instructions looked quite long. Luckily I decided against this and took the time to read all the steps properly and I’m so glad I did. The instructions had looked long because they were detailed and well explained (I particularly liked the hints as to where things were likely to go wrong and how to avoid those things). Also the construction of the yoke was new to me and an absolute joy – I shall definitely be using the technique again. For me, one of the main reasons for using a pattern is to learn new techniques (it is how I have learnt to sew) so I was really delighted by this pattern.

I followed the pattern for Style Option 1 almost to the letter. The only variations I made were to:

  • Cut a size 5 but using the length of size 7 – I also added an extra 2cm to the size 7 sleeve length to compensate for the shoulder and sleeve head grade (as suggested by Anna). This was to make the shirt fit a very slender H better. The adjustment worked well and the shirt has a fairly slim fit anyway.

trim detail

  • Use a mini pom-pom trim instead of rik rak as suggested in the pattern. I don’t love the look of rik rak, so thought the pom-poms seemed a good alternative. In the pattern the rik rak is applied to the front of the frill and covers the raw edge of the frill which is pressed over to the front. The pom-poms were attached to quite a thick band and as I still had the ‘delicate’ vision in my head I wanted this thick band to be on the underside not the front so I pressed the raw edge of the frill to the back. When it came to stitching it into place though, trying to sew a neat line that trapped the raw edge, the band of the trim (but not the pom-poms) proved impossible. I didn’t want to solve the problem with multiple stitching lines or zig zag stitches as I thought it would look clumsy, so I decided to sew one seam to trap the raw edge neatly on the machine and then sew on the trim to hide the edge by hand. It took ages and rik rak looked a whole lot better to me by the end but the finished look was close to what I had imagined.


Umbrella print shirt made using Madeit Pattern's Florence

Mary Poppins inspired umbrella print shirt

Mary Poppins inspired shirt made with the Florence pattern

I made the bow tie from Option 2, which was very Mary Poppins, but not very H, so instead of sewing it to the shirt I attached it to a hair clip instead. Completing the outfit is a navy corduroy pleated skirt with the braces detached.

Mary Poppins inspired umbrella print shirt

Creative challenge completed. You can head over to Needle and Ted and see other takes on the Christmas Florence or comment on your favourite.

Florence Xmas Banner

You could also make your own, and by adding it to the Madeit Patterns Facebook page by the end of January 2015 be in with a chance of winning a pattern of your choice.

To coincide with the tour there is also 20% off all Madeit patterns from Monday 17th to Sunday 23rd 7pm EST  with the coupon code Tour20.

20 percent off

Whilst the challenge was finished my inner creative demon wasn’t, -it had visions of subtle white snowflakes on a blue chambray/linen shirtdress. I used the same pattern, but this time made a lot of changes.

To turn the Florence into a shirtdress I:

  • Drafted another collar piece to create a traditional fold down collar.
  • Redrafted the sleeves to reduce the sleeve head eliminating the gathers/puff and removed the blouson by creating a straight sleeve.
  • Shortened the Front, Front panel and Back pieces by taking off approx. 12cm from the bottom of each piece.
  • Lengthening the placket to approx. 71cm
  • Creating a gathered skirt using a rectangle measuring 150 x 51cm

snowflake shirt dress

I used some material I found in the offcuts bin – bought for the bargain price of £1 a metre. It is fairly lightweight and feels like something between a chambray and a linen/cotton mix. To make the stencilling easier I went for a uneven spread or scattering of snowflakes using two different sizes of template. I used a similar construction method to the original shirt including my newly learnt yoke technique, and to finish the look (and exorcise that demon by getting fabric printing out of the system) I made a scarf using a homemade arrow snowflake stencil and this tutorial .

hand printed arrow snowflake scarf

The dress is a big success with H and I can see it getting plenty of wear long beyond snowflake season.

Shirt dress with hand printed snowflakes

25 thoughts on “The Florence blog tour

  1. Fantastic job on the pattern remix. I think the Mary Poppins inspired outfit is so elegant and classic! The shirt dress is very nice, I like the fabric choice (where did you find that bargain?) and I’m very impressed with your fabric printing/stamping. What a great idea!

    1. Thanks! Both fabrics are from my local- Simply Fabrics in Brixton. They are great value anyway but the bargain bin purchase was definitely a good find. The fabric printing was good fun -its definitely worth experimenting – and testing the printing through the wash first.

  2. Wow Toya! These are both so beautiful. The stamping looks amazing and I love how you showed how it looked with two different methods. What a brilliant idea to use Mary Poppins as inspiration.

  3. Well I have to say I am super impressed that you made 2 Florence’s. AND BOTH hand printed. Yep, I’m impressed. I love Mary Poppins and I agree the kids clothes in that film are adorable.

    I love the drawing of London in the background. I can’t believe you let your children draw on the walls 😉 Did you draw the bird? Did I tell you that I’m impressed?

    Both amazing Florence’s, thank you for being part of the tour.

    1. As I said – thanks be to photoshop. H drew the picture about a year ago after a school boat trip down the Thames. I love how Big Ben and the Shard are right next to each other. The bird is also a bit of recycled art – from a much larger illustration I did years ago.
      Thanks so much for organising the tour – as you can probably tell from the post I got a bit carried away and really enjoyed it.

    1. Oh thank you! I am definitely getting inspiration from yours and everyone else’s versions too, and my project pile really doesn’t need to grow…

  4. i’m really impressed by your stenceling! it’s something i wanted to try out since a long time, but didn’t get a neat result. yours looks so perfect, very inspiring! oh and the pictures… they’re awesome!

  5. These are gorgeous! I especially love the Mary Poppins inspired blouse. I might have to try my hand at the skirt too! More things for me to sew! 🙂

    1. Thanks – I was trying to comment on your post but coudn’t sign in through discus for some reason – anyway I thought your fabric choice was beautiful and your sandwiched rick rack looks so elegant – I only wish I’d thought of that and saved myself all that hand sewing!

  6. BEAUTIFUL. I’m quite a patient person but I can’t imagine printing on all those umbrellas and snowflakes. You did an amazing job! Your clothes don’t look handmade at all!

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