30 June 2010

This just has to be the darnest cute shop on etsy!


Shown above are Alphonso the Artist, Frida Kahlo, Ewok, Hedgehog, Groucho Marx, Owl.

Click here to visit House of Mouse!  And while you're there, visit here too :-)

29 June 2010

Favourite Blogs: Sew Retro

Sew Retro gets my FB vote this week. I've been following it for a while, as mentioned previously its a daily visit for me. As I've just become a member of the blog, I thought it really deserved a post here. So what I like about Sew Retro

1. It makes me feel normal to own 300 vintage patterns, most of which are not in my size. In fact it makes me feel like I do not own enough.

2. It makes me drool into my cornflakes with envy over the patterns other people own and the fabric they use and the time they have to do all of these wonderful creations.

3. It is just so lovely to be in a place with like-minded sewers and vintage enthusiasts. There are so many tips, ideas, support, camaraderie and much inspiration to be found here. The only thing is, I found myself thinking, I want to be able to put out a plea for help on projects but that's really a forum think, et voila, a lovely Sew Retro member creates a sewing circle for Sew Retro. Star!

So visit, flow, join, share, post to Sew Retro and prepare to lose far more of your day as you follow people off to their various blog homes...

28 June 2010

Awesomeness! The Simplicity Sewing Book

I love my vintage patterns, I do.  Among the gems on my vintage book shelf are The Singer Sewing Book and this one, the Simplicity Sewing Book.  It's a great reference for all things vintage pattern related including (very usefully) sizing, fitting and period clothing features such as collars and sleeves, as well as reference for hair and make-up and just for its vintageness - a reflection on history.

Even the front cover is thrilling, the beautiful housewife in her stripy apron bestowing her sewing know-how on to the next generation (who looks far too old to be her daughter!).

Then an encouraging foreword on making us "look our prettiest"

Look at the stapling in the side.  Now the real coup for vintage pattern junkies, a measuring and fitting guide from the same era.  For more excellent advice on choosing vintage pattern sizes go to Gertie's blog here.

Now, I hope you find that useful!  Here's some more tips for you...

I notice two things, firstly the ridiculously tiny waists and secondly that last dress is the same as the too-old-to-be-her-daughter girl is wearing on the front cover.  Now for more tips, don't forget your colour, presenting the grandmas of Colour Me Beautiful...


Aren't they a freaky looking bunch?! Here's another useful page for you.  I thought novelty fabric was something that snowmen or easter bunnies printed on it.  Apparently in 1953, this was novelty fabric:

I'm creating a page on my blog especially for this book and will be adding some more sections (collars, sleeves, etc) that you might find of interest.  Isn't it lovely :-)  I'll leave you with this:

27 June 2010

Project: 2am Pants

Last night I made and sewed a proper muslin for what is turning into the longest active project ever for me, my Butterick 9265 dress.  Having finished that (which actually was fairly quick), I didn't feel like doing more to that but I did want to sew/overlock something else.  I decided to make a pair of pants for Mango.  In the hot weather we're getting I've been dressing her in long tunic tops, but they're not quite long enough and I've been thinking crisp, white cotton trousers.... So I set to work, glancing at the clock as I did and seeing it was 2:18am.  Ah, it'll only take an hour and I'm in the mood thinks I!

I drafted the shape off a pair of pajama bottoms of hers and to speed things up, I placed the lower hem against the selvedge edge so they were ready hemmed!  I cut them on a fold so I only had to pieces of fabric to stitch together.  I also wanted to do something decorative to the bottom and being keen to practice pin tucks on the overlocker, I went with 5 rows of tucks on the bottom of each hem.  It wasn't easy, it should have been, but a combination of inexperience and weariness made a bit of a botch job but it looks passable if you practice the 3 foot rule and I've decided it looks better than no detailing!  The weariness factor also caused me to somehow (and I really don't know how) stitch the crotch on the right side of the fabric - twice!!  I also had a nasty incident with the overlock knife shearing off into the leg which was only fixable by taking a good half inch off the fabric (luckily Mango is a skinny'un).  Apart from that, it was a fun little project, mostly because it is so satisfying making stuff for her and I'm pleased with how they look (I can live with the pintucks).  Mango wore them today and did a good job polishing the kitchen floor with them so they've had the wash test on my stitching tonight already!


For some reason my child just will not look at the camera anymore!

One of her favourite hobbies is emptying boxes, evidently we don't pack them correctly.  First the pasta packets on the floor, then the contents of the washing basket.  Cherub.

Project: The Button Hat

So I wanted to enter cute kid into a super cute photo contest ruling that she must look "cute as a button".  So adding my twisted logic into the equation I took a cereal carton, scissors, masking tape, an awl, poster paint (coloured with food colouring!), a length of cord and my child and created this.  It didn't win any prizes but sure was fun to make!

Project: Simplicity 9064 - Designer Fashion- Misses' Evening Dress in Three lengths - 1970

At the time I was I playing with plaid for my walkaway dress, I also made up this dress from the below pattern.   The original pattern was for a rather swell looking evening dress but I have turned it into something that could be worn day or night.  The kind of thing that you could wear to the office and the add some jewels to go out after work in, say if you didn't want to carry a change of clothes.


Its a very straight-forward simple design. the pieces are cut in the fabric, then in the lining and these two layers are stitched together in individual pieces and then stitched together to form the dress as opposed to having the dress and lining separately.  I chose suit-weight polyester in dark navy (I've lightened the photos below to make it clearer) and replaced the metallic braiding with blue and green tartan ribbon around the bodice line and neckline.  The ribbon quite subtle and pretty but now when I look at the dress I'm tempted to take it off and replace the bodice ribbon with daisy chain, what do you think?


26 June 2010

Project: Butterick B4790 Retro 1952 - The Walk-away Dress

This dress has much fame which I did not know about when I commenced this project, I just though it was unusual and pretty and I love the way the straight skirt and full skirt are all part of one dress the goes over the head and wraps around the waist.

A few years ago I went to Ceilidh event in Scotland and we were instructed to dress in tartan.  Not owning anything appropriate and wanting something that would benice to dance in. I chose this Butterick pattern because I wanted a vintage style dress with a skirt that would twirl beautifully.  I liked the underskirt of this dress design thinking it might protect my modesty if the skirt twirled too high and as it doesn't have a seam at the back it doesn't restrict movement.  

I found some great linen in a cream and black plaid print which is very cool on the skin and easy to sew and teamed that up with a gorgeous black jersey crepe which swirled wonderfully (unfortunately it proved a little too heavy and I now have to do some repair work to the bias binding at some point).  If you want to read reviews of making up this pattern and see what others have done with it go here and here.  Pictures of the (almost) finished item:

Edit 26.06.10 I have just commented about about this dress here.  I thought I should copy it across but it is a critique of the pattern that I didn't put into my review at SPR, although I might change that now:

I gave this dress a pretty sharp review at Sewing Pattern Review then felt a bit guilty and softened it up since it had so many fans.  I made mine in a heavy jersey crepe for the full skirt and linen for the pencil skirt dress and despite putting all that weight into the full skirt do not have these probs but I have others!.  I am thinking why and I believe it is because:

a) the waist curves round and fastens exactly on my waist and there's a good 11 inches between that and my hips (I am hourglass) so its securely held in place.  Also I am only using a button and loop on the back so its not too tight around the hips which would cause it to rise up.  The under-dress fits me like a glove actually, I'm thinking of converting it into a dress of its own.

b) the front and bust darts are in line with my apex - a fluke due to being low-busted - and my full bust fills the bodice with no FBA done.  I can see why that would be a problem for someone who is small busted, masses amount of extra fabric. The problem I have with the bodice is above my bust there is excess fabric but that is a very simple fix, I just shorten it at the shoulder seams and voila, perfect fit.

The issues I had were:  While the underskirt fitted perfectly, the waistline of the full skirt appears to be slightly lower (shoulder seams fine).  This meant that when it is wrapped round front it is too low and awkward and the gathering at the waistband added a lot of unflattering bulk at my hips. To resolve this I pull the full skirt part up a bit but then that causes the armholes to gape.  This was already a slight problem because of the extra length in the bodice and the pattern might benefit from the bust darts being angled down from the lower armhole instead of where they are.

I had fabric related issues too. The weight of the crepe pulled the dress apart at the bias tape and the hooks and eyes on the front so I have to repair the bias tape trim and find a different fastening (I originally intended to do buttons and loops but ran out of time so probably will do that with black elastic loops and an inner ribbon for support).  

On the plus side, when I dance in it the full skirt swirled out beautifully with the underskirt protecting my modesty.  However I was concerned at times that the underskirt doesn't quite extend enough round the back an I might flash a bit more flesh than I'd like when the full skirt drops away...

In summary, if I remade the dress I would extend the front panel where it meets a little to prevent this strain and then trim it back as necessary and instead of bias tape loops I would use elastic to make loops.  I would extend the sides of the underskirt to provide more coverage at the back and if necessary add horsehair braid to the hem to keep it down and wrapped round.  I would also move the bust dart to the armhole and shorten the bodice at the shoulder seams.

25 June 2010

Friday's Spoils

Well today has been a real treat for me... look at all the goodies that arrived!

Of course pride of place goes to the Brother 1034D overlocker, but I have to admit - I'm still a little afraid of it!  I've had it out the box, stroked it lovingly, looked through the accessories, watched the video and I've already read the manual several times because I downloaded it, but I haven't actually plugged it in yet... that'll be later!

The free gift with it wasn't bad at all, two pairs of scissors, snippers, measuring tape (can never have enough of those, can never find one when looking!), 2 boxes of needles, looper threading tools (yay!) and 12 cones of thread (which unfortunately failed the stress test so no seaming with them but its 60,000 yards of free thread and I'll use it for basting or finishing non-stress seams).  I decided to order extra thread to match the projects I'm working on.  So I have gorgeous colours of purple, yellow, red, pink and green.  It's not a top brand and will probably be a bit linty but it is strong and at £5 for four cones of 5000yds I'm happy as singing fig with it so far!  I reckon I could just as easily become a thread junkie as a fabric one!

Also arriving today was an A1 cutting mat I won on ebay for a bargain price of £10.51 (plus £6.49 p&p).  I also purchased a set of french curves to replace my orange cardboard one I templated myself!

And also off ebay a 25m unravelling reel of 20mm elastic and some 22" concealed zippers in assorted colours (there should be 10 but one was left behind :-(  Also I was disappointed with a couple of the colours but that is the hazard of buying online!  I must find a decent haberdasher near me.)

Mango helping to unpack the overlocker:

Then munching on meringue while watching Molly do happy dance around the room...

Sorry about the poor photo qualities, I think my lens needs cleaning and the light was too bright.

The overlocker is here!

Oh my gosh, my overlocker has just arrived this minute!  If you  don't hear from me for a while it'll be because I'm either overlocking everything in sight or I'm hitting my head on the wall in frustration!

Like a kid on Christmas eve...

3:20am in the UK and I can't sleep, I'm so excited about the arrival of my overlocker tomorrow! Since Mango gets up at 5am I have to go try....

24 June 2010

Hold the Front Page!

Two bits of news.  First I've got round to adding some pics and details on my 9265 project page .

Secondly I am anxiously awaiting a new arrival!  My very first overlocker will arrive on Friday (it could have been yesterday but I ordered it 45 minutes after their courier had been, boo hiss!).

After reading many, many glowing reviews I am getting the Brother 1034D.  I really can't wait to get going with this baby which is good considering I've always been afraid of them and have avoided them as if they were a monster which 4 heads!  When I look at overlockers I think, wow that's a lot of thread to tangle, but now I am looking forward to getting creative with it and churning out those lovely pro seams, locked, finished and cut in one go (am I being overly optimistic here?)!

Thrown in with it I am getting three accessory feet - blind hem, gathering, and piping which seems to be a standard offer at the moment and a load of thread, some scissors and bits aaaaand free annual services. Woot!   :-)

While shopping I was wondering what the difference is between Brother 3034 and 1034, I have it on dealer authority that there isn't really one except a little cosmetics and dealer exclusivity and I noted the feet don't come bundled with the 3034 despite it's slightly higher price tag.

19 June 2010

Three Generations

Sorting and scanning in some old pics this weekend.  Thought I'd share these:

My dad     


My daughter   


Dad & Me

I love our resemblance but glad I didn't get the sticky-out ears!!

Charity Shop: Egyptian Skirt

I used to work next door to a charity shop.  Probably the most dangerous thing the wallet can endure.  I found the skirt below on one of my visits and fell in love with it.  Mostly for the style but also because the fabric appealed.  I would never have thought I would like it nor would I have bought it to make something with... (okay not quite true, years ago I found a very similar fabric and wanted to make bed linen out of it but I certainly didn't want to wear it!).  My favourite things about the skirt is the sash and buckle (it only crosses the front).  Despite all the colours, I actual struggle to find tops to wear it with, I usually opt for brown, the blue is a very strange shade not really captured here, not quite blue, not purple, not dark but not light....


According to the label it is from Lakeland, which to me is a kitchenware shop!  A different Lakeland?  Its dated 1980 which is the year I was born, I kinda like that! What do you think of it?

Favourite Blogs: My happy sewing place...

One of my daily haunts is Sew Retro, a home for like-minded vintage sewing fans.  Yesterday I followed a link across to the blog, My happy sewing placeto read this post.  I found Debi's blog really quite inspiring and found myself thinking again about it today so I thought its got to worth blogging about.  In fact I think I'm going to make a regular blog feature out of talking about other people's great blogs!  Here is what I like about Debi and her blog.

1. Debi's perseverence with her dress.  Made from a vintage pattern, it was ill-fitting and there were many details she did not like about it.  I would have considered alterations, then decided too many were needed so would have thought about breaking down the dress and reusing the fabric.  Then I would have decided I am too disillusioned with the project and disowned the dress, make an anonymous charity donation or hide it somewhere out of mind to haunt me again one day.   Debi sought advice and constructive feedback of sewing friends,  worked through several adjustments to result in a wonderful rags-to-riches transformation into a very pretty, wearable dress.

From this:  To this:  And she used a vintage jiffy buckle too, how cool is that?! 

Its also worth noting that Debi was happy to jump straight in with alterations and redrafting.  I've been sewing 18 years and only now am I bold enough to draft, grade and do major pattern alterations or actually do anything really creative at all (I used to blame work stealing all my creativity and time or some rubbish like that.  Working in theatre costume makes me very lazy as I can wing most alterations as long as they look fine from 10 feet plus away!).

2. She has a great vintage pattern collection and what's more she actually makes them up! I have a moderate sized collection (I think!) of around 300 patterns, I have made up no more than half a dozen in several years, in less than that Debi has a very enviable vintage wardrobe.  These are just two of my favourites:

Blouse & High-waisted pants.  1930s lounge suit.

And I just loved drooling over the frocks in this post.

3. She does her hair! In 1940s styes and it it looks great.  My hair is so unstylable I just don't try.  A couple of years ago I was in a play for charity in a role as a WRVN.  The hair girl gave up on my hair because it just wouldn't old any style.  The year before (60s) I'd had a wig instead of attempting anything!  This post is linked to another great site, Beauty is a thing of the past, that I wish I had known about earlier and is going to be so useful to my work in future.

4. She introduces her blog: "I am in love with vintage fashion. My goal is to create and wear fashions from the 1920s to the 1970s--but I especially love the 1940s."

I could have written that!  So many time I have told myself to clear out of my wardrobe anything that is not vintage, vintage look or made by me but have yet to do it.  Every time I browse through my patterns I get an urge to rush to my wardrobe, empty it out then fill it with items made from my collection.  Maybe that can be next year's resolution?!

Thanks Debi for a truly interesting, inspiring blog, I look forward to following your creative journey.