6 July 2011

Mango’s Spoils

I’ve been making clothes for Miss Mango using the first of my fabric fandango purchases and I’m pleased to find  I’m still as fond as ever of making children’s clothes. 

They’re a relatively quick fix, from cutting to finished in a couple of hours,  if you’re not doing anything too fancy (me, I can’t recall the last time I made something just the way the pattern tells you). And they look just so goddam cute, you can’t help but smile at the end result.

DSCF2785I have been using vintage Simplicity 7782 printed 1986.  The original pattern is for a “size 1”, Miss Mango is a size 2 so I had to grade the pieces first, relatively quick and painless.  I cut the dungarees and jumper dress pieces.

Now I wasn’t 100% confident in my grading, children are tricky because of course they obtain a fair amount of height as well as breadth between the sizes, most of it in the lower body.  So I browbeat myself into testing it in plain white cotton first before getting going with my lovely Goldhawk Road fabrics.

The proportions looked okay on the sample garment so I had a lot of fun transforming the “plain white cotton” into something far prettier and testing out some features on my “new” machine along the way (I still can’t get it to make a cuppa, can anyone help with that problem?).

The cotton is lovely, it’s recycled from hotel linen (bought from a charity shop) so its 100% cotton, crisp, weighty without being too heavy, holds its shape well, presses like a dream but holds a thumb crease too and is easy to cut.  The best thing about it though is, as I sew, inhaling the scent of fresh laundered hotel sheets (I always love getting into a hotel bed for that very reason). Its two main drawbacks are that pins leave noticeable sized holes and it frays terribly.

I’ve used it a lot in the past for budget costuming and knockabout clothes for Miss M so that I don’t care if they get wrecked!).

So without further ado, exhibit A!

Dungarees_Front_Back  Dungarees_Yoke

I couldn’t like it more, its so girly and fluffy!

The yoke design:


I embroidered this before construction and stabilised it with scrap pattern tissue. It tears away easily and I poke out the remnants trapped in the design with a seam-ripper (v e r y c a r e f u l l y ! ! ! )

Lace-trim – continuous trim into straps around side and underarm:


Seams and hem finished on serger in contrast colour:


I stitched a little label to match, I can’t get over how “finished” adding a label makes it look:


This garments was a labour of love, although it shouldn’t have been.  The lace trim took a while to pin, baste and sew – especially the strap section so that it didn’t get caught in the facing seams.  I slip-stitched the facing and turned the hems up before realising that I hadn’t serged the seam edges.  How could I not have noticed before, they’re in a different colour!  So I undid my handiwork and took the seams to the serger. At 2am this is never a good idea. Even when you tell yourself “5 min job before bed”.  Especially when the knife is switched on.  Classic serger incident. I say incident, more like massacre.


I managed not to cry and cuss. Just. Removed the affected panel appreciating just how many seams and rows of stitching and serging were involved in the construction and hoping I would be able to substitute the damaged panel without having to take much more apart or it being noticeable! I wisely left it quite a lot of hours before tackling the repair and planned it step-by-step in advance so that I didn’t have to take apart more than I needed to!


Exhibit B is the jumper dress in the lovely red flowery needlecord.  This is a great fabric to work with too, again nice weight, cuts and manipulates easily, doesn’t fray.  I bought a metre of it and used just half in the dress (instead of cutting facings, I used bias binding).

Dress_Front  Dress_Back

The wooden buttons:


I had to make the holes horizontal because the foot kept jamming on the yoke seam stitching 5mm buttonholes! (I learned that my lovely machine ain’t too hot on buttonholes anyway after a dozen or so failed attempts. These were both sewn twice, pffft)

Flat-felled seams (yoke and sides – traditional, durable seam for children’s wear), bias tape facing (slipstitched in place on inside) and narrow rolled hem:

Dress_Inside_Yoke  Dress_Inside Dress_Inside_Hem

Another tailored label:


I’ve been thinking about getting a set of labels pre-woven but I real like colour-coordinating them to the outfit. They take 5 minutes to make on the machine and they make me smile so I think I will carry on making my own.

Before I lay this pattern to rest, I just have the dungarees to make again in their original intended fabric, another floral needle-cord. 

N.B.  The washing line is modelling these because Miss Mango refuses to for less than 10,000 raisins. At the moment she is refusing to wear clothes full stop and is in David Bailey mode insisting on being the one holding the camera instead of posing nicely.  But its probably best that she wasn’t let loose with these clothes before I got to photo them - from experience I know that by the time the camera is warmed up, Miss Mango’s clothes will be submerged under a layer of dirt, ink, food and drink (and me too sometimes)!

5 July 2011

There’s Something about Mary…

I recently purchased for Miss Mango a box set of the Mary Poppins stories.  She is a little young for this reading at the moment, but it is one of my favourite children’s books and deserving of a place on her bookcase (and yes, I still read children’s books as an adult, I frequently dip into The Faraway Tree).

It ties in quite nicely with a recent conversation about recreating outfits from movies.  I said that one dress that inspired me and that  I would like to copy is from the wardrobe of Mrs Banks, her “Sister Suffragette” outfit in yellow and blue.

There is so much I like about it. The pastel blue teamed with the bright yellow, the layers of fluffy  chiffon and tulle, the way the petticoat cheekily pokes through skirt front. The velvety soft look of the blue fabric.  As a child/teen watching the film, I coveted that dress.  I still do, so I’m adding to my list of garments to recreate (one day).

Googling for images was very successful as I found this oh-so-handy set of pictures over at The Golden Closet:

The very garment itself as worn by Glynis John in the film and sold through a memorabilia website.  The details say that it is silk chiffon, thats about it.  I find the construction very interesting, I wasn’t expecting the petticoats to be part of a full slip nor for the ruffle collar to be attached. I’m guessing the sleeve ruffles were attached directly to the dress itself?  I wonder where the slip (and dress) is now? 

The site also informs us that costume designer, Tony Walton, received an Oscar nomination for his design.  Unsurprising considering how iconic the film’s costumes are, I should think pretty much everyone can instantly conjure up Mary’s image:

poppins4-715158 keaf45iaxvnufa5u

MaryPoppins  poppins1


Walton’s Oscar opportunity was pipped by Cecil Beaton’s incredible work on My Fair Lady.  I think it’s fair to say Walton never stood a chance.


On the subject of Beaton, have you ever heard the story behind another of his famous monochromatic gowns, from the film Gigi?


Leslie Caron, who played Gigi, reminisces: "When he showed me the sketches, I said, 'Wonderful, especially the white satin dress with the black birds.' He said, 'I was drawing ribbons, but if you want birds . . .' So he put swallows on the dress."

Caron stars in a favourite Golden Era film of mine, Daddy Long Legs, with Fred Astaire.  If you’re looking for great 1950s inspiration (from cigarette pants to ball-gowns) as well as a bit of sugar-sweet Hollywood indulgence, this film has both in spades as it follows Caron’s character's evolution from orphan to wealthy beneficiary.


Hmm, My Fair Lady, Gigi, Daddy Long Legs, the film-makers of yore certainly loved charting the girl-to-women transition in rags-to-riches storylines!

By the way, if you haven’t read the P. L. Travers, Mary Poppins books I thoroughly recommend them.  They’re just full of Poppins magic and charming characters, beautifully tying in gentle moral messages into the behaviour of the children, the film barely scratched the surface.