In the tech industry, there’s a term “Minimum Viable Product”, which means the absolute minimum you can do to get code out the door. It’s not your best work, but it works.
Like half of London, we had tickets to see Secret Cinema’s performance and screening of the first Back to the Future film, where they recreated the entire 1955 town of Hill Valley, California, complete with about 20 business, the clock tower, full fun fair, a cast of hundreds of actors, you name it. We were also all asked to assume an identity (I was “Tiffany Hyslop, developer!”) and dress in 1955 styles. Now, I’ve only got one 1950s dress pattern (which I made into that Porsche dress a few years back) but it’s too big in the bodice now and would require too much work.
The pink version was the wrong colour for the 1950s and definitely too short, so I bought some striped cotton poplin from Minerva that had the right vibe, and figured it’d be close enough.read more >>
Last week I had the extreme pleasure of attending The Salon Project at the Barbican, an event we booked tickets for months in advance and one I’d been so excited for that I was jumping up and down all day in anticipation!
Why, you ask? Because it was essentially playing dressup in amazing costumes and attending a modern equivalent of the salons that the Enlightenment made famous.
Or in in the official blurb, it’s explained as:
The Salon Project Revisited recreates the exclusive meetings at the heart of what was French society’s golden age – an era of change, excess and inquiry. Your evening begins with a transformation into full period costume by a coterie of dressers and make-up artists, before you emerge into a mirrored impression of a 19th-century Parisian salon. As you mingle with guests, pioneers in their fields will provoke discussion, speaking on subjects at the vanguard of 21st-century thought on science, politics, technology and the arts. Revel in the Salon’s splendour, contrast it with the present and imagine what the future will hold in this beautifully crafted night of fashion and conversation.
You can also view a a great, short video of the performance experience here to get a better idea of how it happened.
To start with, each of us sent our measurements to the team about a month ago – and it was rather more than just Bust, Waist, and Hips! But it was all worthwhile, because when we arrived, a costume selected just for us was waiting on a hanger with our name on it, along with shoes, gloves, jewellery, hairpiece – the works!
We each had our our dresser to help us get the dresses on, as many of them involved corsets which tied or hooked at the back, and elaborate draped pieces. I squealed with delight to see a sleeveless, corseted, dark grey velvet, floor length gown had been chosen for me! How did they know!? My dresser also found me better fitting shoes when my first pair were too small, and I tried on no less than four pairs of gloves before they found ones they deemed acceptable! The dressing team really did have an amazing array to choose from (way more than what was needed each night) so they really hunted to find the best pieces for each person. Then it was time for hair and makeup – the hair lady curled my entire head with tongs before pinning it back and affixing the jewelled feather piece. We ladies got a few minutes to marvel at each other before the gong sounded and we joined the men in the specially-built salon room!
The men were mostly in 3-piece tuxedos, which was more than James wore for our wedding! Doesn’t he look dashing?? He brought his own pocket watch, which was the envy of the other gents!read more >>
How often do you feel a little guilty when buying yet another pattern or more fabric? Nearly all of us have big stashes and feel a little guilty about buying more, but we’re hardly going to stop, right?? I’ve just been alerted by Tracy (whom I met on the Morley College Pattern Magic course, remember?) that there’s an ageing sewist who desperately needs help, which you can provide by simply buying more patterns!
Sounds win-win, right? I’ll let Tracy explain:
My friend’s aunt had to go into residential care last year as she has dementia. She was a dressmaker all her life and my friend has inherited her fantastic collection of sewing patterns (about 200), along with some fabrics and her handmade dresses. The patterns are mostly from the 1950s and 1960s and include Vogue Couture, Vogue Paris, “ordinary” Vogue, Simplicity, Style, Maudella – mostly unused. It’s mostly women’s but also some children’s and a few men’s patterns. I did post on my blog about them a while back with some photos – which show the quality of the stuff she had.
Every penny, after we pay for the stall, will go towards her residential care – so if anyone fancies some guilt-free adding to their pattern and fabric stash we’d appreciate it. I’d also like to think she would be happy knowing that her collection would go on to be used by a new generation of sewers.
The stall will be at the Vintage Fashion Fair, at Cecil Sharp House, NW1 on the 14 April from 11-5. Afterwards Tracy will post any unsold patterns onto Etsy or eBay so I’ll try and mention the link to that once it’s up.read more >>
I (silently) set myself the challenge to sew one garment from each issue of Burda magazine (aka BurdaStyle) in 2012, and I’m proud to say I completed it! I’m not the sort of person to make New Year’s resolutions, or proclaim lofty goals to everyone who’ll listen – I’m more the sort to quietly commit myself to something, and see if anyone notices what I’m up to before the completion… I do know that Kristy has also been keeping up with the Burda challenge this year, and it’s been fun to see which patterns she’s chosen from the same issues (and on occasion we selected the same pattern!).
There were some roaring successes, a few fails (both my fault and not), and some that I changed my mind on only after months of wear. So I thought it was worthwhile to have a look through all the projects from this year, and my thoughts on each looking back from now…
Link to original post: Great Basic – Grey Flannel Trousers
At the time I said: There’s nothing particularly earth-shattering about this design, but I just thought it looked nicely versatile, and something I could wear to business meetings as well as just team with a teeshirt if I fancied it.
My thoughts now: I don’t think these look as nice in the photoshoot as they do in real life. I genuinely love and adore these, and have worn them pretty much nonstop, at least once a week to work, since I made them a year ago. I wouldn’t change a single thing about this pattern, and the silk pocket linings fill me with glee everything I slip my hands inside. I really do need to make some more of these!
Link to original post: The Blue and Black Burda February sheath dress
At the time I said: But really, I just love this dress! It’s so comfortable, and I’ve gotten so many compliments even in just the two occasions I’ve worn it in the past week. I also like it because it reminds me both of my beloved September dress pattern but also of traditional cheongsam dresses…
My thoughts now: I think the pattern is fabulous, but the fabric I chose was too thin, and the upper chest is a bit lumpy where Burda tried to tell me to have a facing when it should’ve just been sewn closed. I wore this a few times a month over the summer, but the short sleeves keep it from being in all-year rotation. I’d really like to sew this pattern again in a ponti jersey, like my other favourite dresses.read more >>
Last week I told you all about this dress – the pattern details, how I traced all fourteen of those curved, monster front darts, the things I omitted, the things I changed, and the things I’d want to know if I were you, sewing this for the first time.
So if you want to know all the geeky details (including the UK shop where I bought this lovely sage green marl ponti roma jersey!), then you best read that post, because this one’s going to be light on words and heavy on photos!
What I will say again is that this is a reprint of an original pattern Burda printed in 1956, but graded up to the normal Burda size range and included in the the November Burda magazine (or you can purchase it as a pdf here if you missed the magazine).
I’m stupidly happy with this dress – it’s the exact right snug, clingy, long sleeved knit sheath dress that I love to wear in winter. For the past two winters, my favourite dress has been the purple September 2010 Burda cover dress and this dress reminds me a lot of it, with a similar fit and feel.read more >>
It’s a reprint of an original pattern Burda printed in 1956, and one of my favourite running features that Burda magazine have been doing this year. Since the company’s had a very long history, it makes sense that they should look into their archives, dust off a few gems, grade up the sizing to their usual modern range, and translate the instructions!
Contrary to popular belief, this particular one is not a maternity dress, despite the fact that the model clearly looks like she’s “showing”. I can assure you that I do not look pregnant in it one bit, so let’s move on with the catty remarks…
In any case, I finished this one on Sunday night, but considering that it gets dark at 4pm here now, I won’t be able to do a photoshoot until this weekend, meaning you won’t see it on me until next week. By which time I’ll have probably forgotten all the construction details, boo!
So by way of a reminder, I thought I’d type up my thoughts now, then you’ll see the finished design next week. So the “Tell”, then the “Show”!
1. The bodice has seven monster, curved darts, all of which needed to be accurately marked onto the fabric. If you have carbon paper, I suggest you make good use of it, but for me, I remove the inside of the darts with scissors, then thread trace each dart with silk basting thread so I can see it on both sides. Then repeat for the other bodice piece. This took a few evenings, but it was important to get them right, as it’s the focus of the entire dress!read more >>
I’m pretty sure this isn’t supposed to be a painter’s smock, but that’s certainly what this feels like to me! In the October edition of BurdaStyle magazine Burda call it a “retro short coat” – a reprint of a vintage pattern that originally appeared in 1952. From the magazine and original sketch, it reminded me loads of a coat Bel wore to the country house party in the first season of The Hour, so I was keen to make it to inject some vintage styling into my usual modern wardrobe.
(It’s available to download from Burda’s English site if you like it, or just fancy reading the instruction pdf)
I made it here in some silver-grey linen gifted to me by Veronica when I was in Paris. It’s nice fabric, but I think the colour isn’t helping the smock comparisons! Maybe it needs something brighter…
Burda’s patterns are very nearly always well-made, but this one in particular is impeccable drafted (well, except for the curved collar), with tons of inset corners that joined up perfectly. It’s one of those patterns that’s a joy to sew, when everything matches up and just comes together like a little puzzle – match up corners and notches here, a bit of gathering there, pieces join to be the Centre Back in unexpected ways – that sort of thing! If I wanted to be picky, there’s some generous gathering across the back, but there wasn’t quite enough gathering on the front seams for my liking. Personally, I’d rather the gathering be concentrated in a smaller area than have it be wide and hardly any gathers.read more >>
A lot of sewers like to “Sew with a Plan” (SWAP), but I prefer to call this a “Shortlist” rather than a “Plan”, so I’m free to still change my mind and add/remove items as I go along! My main goal here isn’t so much to create a capsule wardrobe that can be worn together, but more to use up fabrics and/or that have been in my stash for a while that I’d really like to just wear.
From the top down, in no particular order:
- KnipMode 12-2005 #10 – I’ve got some non-stretch denim aging in my stash from a few years ago, and I love KnipMode’s style lines for these. My wardrobe is in desperate need of more jeans, hence why there are two pairs in this Shortlist!
- Altered Burda 06-2012 #129 – Now that my stretch satin from Gorgeous Fabrics is in hand, I can finally make the final version of this dress after completing the drafting and muslins back in July. read more >>
- Construct and attach the sleeve linings to the rest of the lining
- Interface the jacket hem
- Attach the lining to the jacket around the front facings and neck edge
- Construct the skirt lining and baste to the skirt at the top edge
- Attach the waistband
- Machine-hem the skirt lining
- Machine-stitch some grey lace tape to the bottom skirt edge
- Anchor the lining to the seam allowances at the underarm
- Baste and hand stitch the jacket hem
- Hand stitch the lining hem to the jacket hem
- Hand stitch the sleeve lining hem to the sleeve facing
- Baste and hand stitch the skirt hem
Remember my my pinup sheath dress? Well, I made good use of the remaining 2 meters of so of the ex-designer charcoal grey flannel and made a midi skirt with it!
I used this vintage New Look/Maudella midi skirt pattern I bought in Sheffield not long ago:
I made View 2 (seen in my attempted tech drawing above), and the pattern pieces for it and View 1 were already cut to size 18 (my size, judging by the pattern, eep!), which made it easy to just lay on the fabric and cut. There are only three pattern pieces (skirt panel, yoke, and waistband), so it was a really quick skirt to construct, though the hem sat ready to be handsewn for a week or two before I had time to do it!
At first I was concerned that the front and back pieces were exactly the same, but I haven’t noticed any problems in the fit while wearing it. I think this might be down to my pancake butt, but someone with a more pronounced derriere might have issues.read more >>
My next two sewing projects to share with you both use the fantastic, charcoal grey, ex-designer poly/viscose/lycra flannel that Neighbour Helen gifted to me just before they set sail for the continent. If I didn’t have the fibre content tag still attached to the fabric, I’d assume it was a cashmere or wool flannel, it’s that lovely!
The first use of the flannel is actually already finished and could’ve been spotted in the swankier parts of Spitalfields on Saturday night – an amaaaaaaazing sheath dress from Burda magazine:
I’ll avoid a long story to explain the Why, but you’ll have to wait til next week to see the photos. But trust me when I say it is a truly stunning va-va-voom dress!
Then this weekend I decided to jump right in and use up the remaining ~2m or so of the flannel and make the vintage Maudella midi skirt pattern I bought in Sheffield a few weeks ago:read more >>
I’m beginning to feel like my draped suit (Burda September 2011 #126 and 127) is dragging on forever, so it’s good that I am making progress in the few snatched snippets of time available to me over the past few weeks. I hope you’re not getting too bored yet!
We were out of town this past weekend, up in Sheffield visiting two very good friends of ours in their new place (a house with his’n‘hers sewing machines! We slept in a room with a vintage Bernina!). It’s about a 3.5 hour drive from London, so there was ample time in the car for handstitching, but it did require some planning ahead to get the suit in a state ready for it.
Going back to my earlier To-Do list from last week, I was able to finish the following on Friday night before we left:
I also prepped about 5 lengths of grey and pink thread with beeswax before leaving so that I wouldn’t get horrible tangles while doing all the handstitching. I never used to bother with beeswax, but it seriously does help cut down on the excess tangling, so the time spent waxing and pressing the thread in advance really does save you time and frustration in the long run.
Then, in the in the car ride up to Sheffield and back (and, err, also in the KwikFit waiting room while we had new tires put on) I was able to:
I just love how that hot pink satin piping turned out! You can also see my lace hem tape on the skirt here. This was a pack of lace tape I’d bought at the Amish dry-goods store in Perry County last year, paying 50 cents for it, and with a 1986 copyright on the package!read more >>
I have a new style crush – The Hour, a new BBC drama starring Dominic “McNulty” West and Romola “her that wasn’t Keira in Atonement” Garai. Yes, there are a lot of comparisons with Mad Men, but it’s a fantastic show in its own right, and being set in 1956 London, barely out of rationing and in the publicly-funded BBC, means there’s a lot more quirk and ragged edges than you find in the ultra-slick Madison Avenue counterpart. The best part is that this series isn’t even about fashion – it’s about the shift in the purpose of television news around the time, where it went from being a government puppet supplying newsreels to a subversive, investigative element in its own right. It’s a riveting, wonderful show, and James is just as addicted as I am.
Still not interested yet? Well, you soon will be – American viewers, set your DVR of choice to record BBC America on 17 August at 10pm Eastern, because I have a feeling the style blogs are going to go nuts for this once it’s gone international (and UK viewers, you can watch the latest episode tonight on BBC2, or watch the previous episodes on iPlayer as it’s a series catchup show).
The thing I love most about the fashions on show here are that they’re not what you imagine 1950s fashion to be – this is as far removed from June Cleaver as you can get! Just like Mad Men changed our view of 1960s fashion from hippies and go-gos, The Hour takes us out of the mentality that the 1950s was all about Dior’s New Look silhouette. Think more British vintage style – impeccable pencil suits with nipped-in waists, stylish blouses and power dressing, plus a nod here and there to more noticeable 50s styles like the teddy-boy “Grease” look and even a Marilyn Monroe-a-like!read more >>
Remember the vintage dress pattern I graded down to my size a few weeks ago?
Well, I made up a muslin with my grading changes in place, and though I didn’t get any photos of it on me, I did get some on Susan. I realise that diagnosing fit issues on a dressmaker’s dummy is particularly futile, though, so you’ll just need to take my word for it!
On first glance, the worst issue is that there is way too much fabric in the upper back, but also I think I may need to raise the waist seam by an inch, and narrow the shoulders by an inch or so, too.
The skirt length is d-o-w-d-y so I’ll need to shorten all those panels, too (happily I’ve got a “lengthen or shorten here” line on both the bodice and skirt pieces).
While the sleeves themselves fit nicely, there is an unholy amount of excess ease in those sleeve caps, omg. So I’ll need to shave down those caps to take a good few inches out of there.
It wasn’t necessarily the list above that made me lose enthusiasm for this dress, but I can’t really put my finger on what it was. But it turned out that doing all the boring grading reawakened in me a desire to conquer pattern drafting, which I dabbled in when I received “Metric Pattern Cutting” by Winifred Aldrich last year, but didn’t get far.read more >>
One of my big tasks this weekend was to finally get cracking on my upcoming vintage tab dress, Style Print 1543. It doesn’t have a copyright date, but was estimated to be from the late 1950s/early 1960s by the vintage gurus on Pattern Review. I’ll be making the button-tab view in blue, but since this pattern is for a 42” bust, I’ve got to grade down the pattern to be closer to my 38-39” (depending on the bra!) bust.
My first step was to trace the pattern pieces (read more about my pattern tracing method here) so I wouldn’t have to cut or damage the vintage tissue. Those blue enamel coasters from my mom are the most perfect pattern weights! They’ve even got a nice felt bottom to them.
This pattern has seam allowances (called “turning” here!) included, but they also mark all the seam lines! Heaven! Since I’m going to be altering the pattern anyway, I just traced on the seam lines to make life simpler.
Surely this is the best of both worlds, right? You can choose to use the seam allowances or not (though I understand how this would be impractical on multi-size patterns!)
As I was unfolding all the pattern pieces, I found it really interesting to see the fit alterations the previous seamstress had made. She:read more >>
One of my highlights of our weekend in Paris was seeing the superlative Madame Grès exhibition at the Musée Bourdelle. For me, this was higher on my Must-Do list than even visiting the Montmartre fabric shops, and I was so glad that this museum is open on the weekends, and even located very close to our friends’ flat, too.
Madame Grès originally wanted to be a sculptor, so it makes perfect sense that the dresses were shown in a sculpture museum, and intermingled amongst the various sculptures on display.
I went on a Saturday afternoon, and the museum was filled to the brim with middle aged women and young men, all taking a multitude of photos on their cameras and phones. Had I known it was allowed, I would’ve brought our DSLR, but as it is, you’ll have to settle for the limited detail from my iPhone…read more >>
I’ve got many, many more wedding photos to come, but as I was slowly going through all the photos from friends and our professional photographer, I realised that there were a lot of parallel poses between my grandparents’ photos and ours.
Big thanks to my Dad for taking the time to scan in my grandparents’ wedding album in hi-res format, and also to our truly INCREDIBLE and AMAZING wedding photographer, Paul Tanner. I’m pretty sure he was the best money we’ve ever spent.
If you’re new to this site, let me back up a minute and explain what went on here. First of all, yes, I sewed my own wedding gown. But that would be too easy (ha!), so I decided to sew it from my grandmother’s gown.read more >>
Check back on Sunday around noon (London time) for wedding dress photos!
Around the end of August, I got an MMS (photo text message) from my bridesmaid Pip’s boyfriend Rob of a brown case next to an assorted pile of clothes with the message “Saw this and thought you might be interested.”
I replied with “Ooh what’s inside? Have you got a model no or year? And does it work, or Need Love?”
To which he said “No idea at the moment. It’s in the window of a charity shop, I’ll check it out on Tuesday.”
And I said “Ah I can’t really justify a 3rd machine! But if it’s a vintage Singer I’m interested (I’ll pass on any others, so don’t spend too much energy on it!)”
And since I never heard anything further about it, I completely forgot about our conversation (conveniently still saved in my phone though!) until they presented it to me as a wedding gift!read more >>
Finally I can give you another progress report on the wedding gown! Don’t worry, as you can see below, I’ve been continuing to work on it on my weekends and Wedsnesdays, so I’ve got a lot of progress to cover!
For the first time I got to turn my attentions to the skirt, which is exactly as it was when it was attached to Granny’s dress, albeit separated from the bodice at the (very gathered) waist seam. But there was a prominent blue stain in the centre front (CF) panel at about thigh-height from the blue tissue paper it was wrapped in for 60+ years, so the first step was to unpick and remove that entire panel. I then moved the two triangular sections that had been on either side of it together to form a new CF:
I actually prefer the way these two look together, forming a beautiful triangular, almost art-Deco detail at the CF!
But back to the bodice, where I had completed prickstitching along the entire neck and arm edges. I just free-handed this without my post-it guide and I actually think this looks better than my zipper insertion!read more >>
Ok after that little lingerie diversion (and a day spent being filmed for BBC1!), we’re back on the wedding gown!
First up was a quick fitting of the shell with all the boning pieces inserted and the waist stay hooked. And I can breathe a sigh of relief, because it’s looking good. A tiny bit of horizontal pulls around the zipper (which can be fixed by laying off the ice cream a bit) and a bit of boning show-through at the centre front (which I’m going to hold off worrying about for now, but I may just shorten that boning piece so it stops below the bust).
So I can push on ahead, safe in the knowledge that there’s no major fitting issues…
First up – I sewed on all 13 original covered buttons along the right side’s zipper, matching up with the original satin loops I placed along the overlap during the zipper insertion step.
On the surface, these look like ordinary covered buttons, but look at the underside!
I’ve never seen buttons like this before in my life! Instead of a shank with a hole, there’s a mound of stuffed fabric to sew through! What a strange vintage detail! I’ve learned so much from taking the original gown apart…read more >>
…in which I work with more piping than a plumber and more basting than a Thanksgiving dinner!
When I last checked in, I had cut and prepped all the pieces of the bodice, so it was now the point in my plan to sort out the piping if I was going to do so (and you’ve probably rightly concluded from the title that I did!). I had about 80cm of piping from the original dress’s waist seam, but I realised this wouldn’t be enough to pipe both sides of pieces #2 and #7 like I’d planned. So before I could do anything, I had to make some piping!
Luckily, the dress’s collar pieces were nice and long and on the bias, so this was a piece of cake. I cut four strips of 5cm wide and joined the edges together to make one long strip, then inserted my 2m of satin rattail and ran the whole thing through the sewing machine with the zipper foot.
But as I’ve already established, I can’t be making errant needle holes nor can I afford to use the seam ripper any more than what’s absolutely necessary, so in order to get the piping inserted perfectly on the first try, some hand basting was in order.
First, I basted the piping to one of the pieces, aligning the piping’s stitches with the basted seam lines:
And I did that for all four piped seams:read more >>
I finally got the muslin fixed and finished! Thanks for all your advice, though I haven’t had a chance to reply to hardly any of you, for which I do apologise…
Muslin #3 changes –
- Unpinned the shoulder change, took off the waist stay, and since it seemed to be pulling everything upwards before, I reasoned that it must be too low. I repinned it a little higher and everything seemed to sit nicely and correct those weird problems it threw up before.
- I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – I detest Rigilene boning! Only someone who hates women could’ve come up with those tiny, needle-like implements of torture. My spiral steel boning for the finished dress arrived and it just feels wonderful.
- No one actually came up with the fix I needed for piece #3’s weird bubble. As it turns out I just needed to flatten the curve a bit below the inset corner. (Before and After are below)
- There’s no way I’m muslining the skirt. It’d literally take a whole week of sewing time to even approximate the panels on the existing skirt, plus the drape and weight of the muslin fabric is totally different, and it won’t achieve much of anything I won’t learn in the actual skirt attachment anyway. End of story.
- Yes, I know about wearing proper undergarments. I’ve been wearing the bra I intend to wear on the day all along (though I got sharpie on it during my muslin marking process so I need to buy another copy of it, boo.). I was not being serious about the push up bra.
So with the muslin done, on with the dress itself!! Hurrah!
First step was to lay the pattern pieces onto the wrong side of my flannel underlining, fuzzy side down (I’d been transferring all my changes onto them and I prefer paper with no seam allowances over muslin with allowances). Once pinned in place, I then chalked the seam lines, waist, centre back and fronts, and the two notches onto it. Then I cut out the pieces with eyeballed seam allowances (when you’re dealing with seamlines, the size of the allowances are largely unimportant).
Next I laid the flannel pieces onto the wrong side of the satin, pinning only in the seam allowances because all the pin holes show on this fabric.read more >>
I’m no big fan of muslins and fitting tweaks, so the title is really reflecting my impatience at still being in the fitting stage. I want to get on with the fun stuff! But I also really want to get the fit and design perfect here as I can’t really go unpicking the vintage satin (the needle holes remain), so here I am, still soldiering on, though hopefully not for much longer…
Yesterday was my day off so I devoted pretty much the entire day to this dress. Right after breakfast I made up Muslin #2 (not shown because no one was around to photograph me), which incorporated the neckline changes and better-drafted add-on straps. There’s no photos, but essentially, I just needed to pinch some fabric out in three places, which you can see here shaded in orange on my pattern pieces:
So I made those changes to my paper pattern, unpicked pieces 1 and 3 from the muslin, cut new ones out, and reattached them, bringing us to Muslin #3. And I was pretty happy with the fit, apart from a bulge above my right breast which I immediately knew the cause of and fixed it on the paper pattern.read more >>
So you’ve already seen a bunch of detailed photos of my Granny’s gown (from 1949) laid out flat, but I wanted some on a real person so you could really see the style lines and how it falls. And this way I can get some nice Before and After shots when I refashion it into my gown for September.
Big big big HUGE thanks to my neighbour Kate who not only fit into this tiny dress (respect!) but actually humoured me and let me take photos of her in it to post to the internet (Secretly, I think she had fun!). Kate’s also engaged and I was thrilled to learn that she’s not having wedding colours, either!
So let the vintage dress photos commence!read more >>
When you last heard about my wedding gown, it was two years ago(!!) and I was leaning towards turning my Granny’s gown from 1949 into something with a cowl neck, deep back, and sleek lines, using Vogue 2965 as my starting point.
But recently I’ve been looking more closely at the fabric I’ve got to work with in my grandmother’s gown, and my recent cowl sewing adventure has reminded me that cowl necks need pretty huge amounts of fabric, can’t easily be pieced together, and on top of that, the silk satin in her gown is more of the heavyweight duchesse variety than something very drapey that would cowl nicely. And while I love a low back, it does make things awkward for bras and any sort of shapewear, too.
So I had a bit of a wake up call and told one of my bridesmaids to keep reminding me that “This is just one dress. It is not all dresses.” (thanks, Stacy!). Yes, I like cowls. But I also like other things, too. And I do not need to put everything I like into one dress!read more >>
This might possibly be my longest running project-to-post duration since I drafted and sewed up this cute wristlet last February using some scrap leather and some vintage lingerie fabric for a lining. I made it as a gift for a neighbour who wanted to remember a dear departed friend who left her a stash of vintage fabrics, and I loved the resulting wristlet purse so much that I felt compelled to share it with all of you! But I had problems digitising the pattern so it languished… but recently I was inspired to take another stab at it and I love the way it turned out!
The great thing is that because it’s a small purse, you can really make this out of leather scraps, or even an old leather skirt or jacket from a charity shop (thrift store or op-shop)! Or it doesn’t even have to be from leather at all, it’d work equally well in corduroy, denim, or even felt! And because it’s a wristlet, you can keep your hands free for drinks & canapes, or for beers & barbecues!
Download the free pattern by clicking the image below!
To anyone linking – please link to this page, not directly to the pdf file!
I hope you all enjoy this and please email me any photos if you make one for yourself! I’d rate this as an Advanced Beginner project just because of sewing the zipper, but it’d make a GREAT first leather project if you’ve never sewed with it before.
Text instructions are included in the downloadable file, but I wanted to provide photo instructions to make it easier for beginners to sew this, too. But when I put the photos in the file itself, it turned out way too big so I compromised and I’m offering them here instead!
Using the exterior fabric, cut out two copies of the purse body, two copies of the flap, one of the ruffle, and one of the strap (or omit the strap for a ruffled clutch). The interior circle from the ruffle is unused and can be turned into a decorative flower by pinching the centre and securing with a few hand stitches. read more >>
This weekend James and I took a trip out to Oxford to celebrate our friend Dori’s birthday. While we were there, she showed me her newest pride a joy, a “Jones” vintage sewing machine that she’d just bought from a charity shop for £4!
It’s a real beauty, with a sturdy wooden case with folding arm and attached wooden base, nice solid steel construction, and a compartment full of random accessories. She was a bit disappointed to learn that it only does straight stitches (no zigzag), but I assured her that straight stitch machines usually do that one thing really, really well and that she still got a bargain.
Included with the machine was a variety of machine feet which I was able to identify, but the true mystery was this tool, which to my eyes really looks like its purpose must be to inject thread straight into a vein!!read more >>
I realise I’m an entire week late for Veterans Day and Remembrance Day here, but I thought that my dad’s vintage 1960s Navy uniform would still be just as interesting today.
(Compare that to his Santa-look these days – he blames it on all the beer and bratwurst when he was stationed in Germany!)
My dad was cleaning out his closet and thought I might like his old uniforms, so he dry cleaned them up and sent over the navy wool dress uniform first (the whites are coming later!). Much to my surprise, his old uniform fit me exactly – it was almost eerie, I tell you! Apart from the arms being an inch or so too long in the cuffed-sleeve top, it’s like it was made precisely to my measurements. And apart from one worn hole in the trousers, they absolutely look like new…read more >>
I recently had a spate of vintage book buying, and I’ve finally had a chance over the last month or so to properly digest them. Most of them were purchased from AbeBooks.com, which I’d used and loved years ago and then promptly forgot existed until they sent me a “come back to us!” voucher out of the blue. Well, it worked because I ended up with Kwik Sew Method Swim Wear and Kwik Sew Method Lingerie, both by Kerstin Martensson, plus The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot, and a reproduction of the famous WWII pamphlet Make Do And Mend (bought from Bletchley Park‘s gift shop).read more >>
My grandmother’s wedding dress arrived safely on Friday! I person, it’s absolutely jaw, droppingly gorgeous, even 59 years later. The preview photos I drew the technical drawing from didn’t do it justice, so I’m hoping these photos on James’s DSLR will help to show some of the amazing vintage details.
The dress is entirely silk satin with no lace, embroidery, or beading (just from a mesh panel around the neckline), and the weave of the silk is still perfectly and soft and so very strong still. Granny told me she bought this in a shop on South Street in Philadelphia in 1949, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you the designer as there’s no label and she’s long since forgotten the details. But the workmanship speaks for itself, and it’s very interesting for me to see that they’ve not wasted any silk where it couldn’t be seen – the mesh fabric is used for all facings, the seam allowances are only 1/2 inch, and there’s no lining.read more >>
We visited our venue (and totally geeked-out at the museum!) on Saturday and met with the wedding coordinator there so we now have a date – the rather auspicious 19 September 2009. Or to put it another way, 19.09.09 (09/19/09 for the Americans)!
Good thing we have over a year though, because we’re going to need every single day of that to save up and prepare for it. Oh my, the grand total was an eye opener, and we’re not being frivolous in the slightest with our plans!
Luckily, then, my grandmother has given me her gown from her wedding in 1949. She’s insisted I use it and NOT be afraid to cut it up, saying she’ll cut it herself if I don’t, or donate it to goodwill or sell it on eBay. I think it’s her way of not letting me get too scared about changing it or treating it like a relic or something. In any case, I’ve seen photos of it, but I’m going to make you all wait until it’s shipped over to me, cleaned, and pressed before I document its “before” state properly.
Until then, here’s my rough sketch based on the photos and my mom’s eyewitness account:read more >>
What a difference a week makes! Spring has finally come to London, meaning I could wear my new dress outside without fear of goosebumps (the reverse – I actually got a bit sunburnt!).
If you recall from earlier, I bought a vintage Porsche cotton duvet cover and pillowcase off eBay for £8 (including shipping). It was in great condition and even had a full wraparound print which meant I had a lot more fabric to work with than I ever imagined when I clicked Bid Now…
I decided it’d work best with a suitably vintage pattern, so I decided to use Simplicity 3780, using a bit of careful pattern placement to get the most out of the different printed areas of the duvet cover (so the stripes along the bottom of the duvet became the red halter straps, for instance).read more >>
I was away all day Saturday hiking near Guildford with our monthly walking group, but a friend staying at ours said it snowed back in London. Ugh. It’s still too cold to wear either the silk blouse or the ikea skirt apart from their hurried photoshoots, so of course I’m sewing practical winter clothes to suit the weather…
Ha! Gotcha! No, I’m sewing a sleeveless, cotton halter-top dress, out of this vintage Porsche duvet I bought on eBay:read more >>
If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that my grandmother visited the Pendleton woollen mill in the 1960s and bought two 2 yard remnants of 100% wool navy blue suiting fabric for $6 each (so $12 total). In August, she gave these to me, saying she’d never got around to sewing up anything with them and she thought I’d make better use of it.
The trousers were far more straightforward than the jacket, however, so they didn’t take nearly as much time or seam ripping to complete! I wanted to tie together the satin accents of the two pieces so I opted to add a thin stripe of navy blue satin ribbon to the outside seams of each trouser leg, which I think gives a subtle sheen as I move. The integral belt/waistband of this pattern really evokes a sort of cummerbund, too, and raises this design above just a normal trouser suit.read more >>
I’ve been working on the jacket portion of my tuxedo-inspired suit (the show piece from my F/W 07 Collection) for the better part of January now, and I finally finished it this week. I cut out the pieces for the trousers at the same time to ensure I had enough fabric for both (I do, with about a half yard left over!), but sewing both at once would’ve really just resulted in missing pieces!read more >>
Smocks have been in for the last few seasons now, but I finally got around to sewing this one up last week. I very happily used up some fabrics from my stash, a stripey polyester-rayon with a nice fluid drape, and the remains of an emerald raw silk that’s also been in a top for Gez and the lining of my Yamamoto jacket. The pattern was actually for a 34 inch bust (I’m 38”), but after deliberating whether to grade up the pattern or make a muslin, I did a very un-me thing and opted to throw all caution to the wind and just make it up as-is since it probably had a ton of ease in it anyway. And I’m glad I did, because my gamble paid off – I love the way it fits, and the only time it seems too small is squeezing my big head through the neck opening!read more >>
On Sunday I dragged my boyfriend out of the house at a very early hour in order to get to Anita’s Vintage Fashion Fair before all the good stuff was gone. There were loads of vintage dresses ranging in price from £10-60, mountains of antique jewellery that refused to fit on my very unladylike fingers, and likewise, a beautiful bunch of classic hats that were far too small for my head.
But I’m not one to be disappointed easily, and I was thrilled to see so much vintage haberdashery on show, and at very good prices. I picked up a gorgeous Art Deco style (“style”, because I have no idea when it was actually made) belt buckle for £2, a card of five very mod-looking buttons for £3, and from the only stall selling any dress patterns, a late 50s Butterick dress pattern, 9734, for £4.read more >>
I’ve finally finished the 1930s Day Dress and debuted it at The Big Chill music festival last weekend. My boyfriend is rather fond of crisp linen suits and his beloved authentic Panama hat, so I thought we’d strike the perfect couple pose strolling around the Malvern Hills…read more >>
I’m terribly excited to finally have begun work on Folkwear’s 1930s Day Dress! I bought the pattern and both the vintage-print crepe de chine and the contrasting teal crepe de chine (which you may recognise from the kimono top a few months ago, but I set myself a goal that I wouldn’t make the dress until my measurements matched that of my dressmaker’s dummy, unpadded (yes, I realise it’s adjustable, but bear with me here). I’m happy to say that I’ve lost the 4 inchess off my waist that held the biggest discrepancy between myself and Susan (said dummy), and I’m headlong into a new project, thankfully with enough summer left for a vain hope to still wear it before the first frost!read more >>
As you may have already read, I started work on a sheath dress made from a 1960s dress pattern. I am happy to report that the dress is now finished, though the end result bears little resemblance to the pattern sketch. Mostly because the pattern sketch does not show a sack of potatoes. Once again I fell into the trap of being entranced by the lovely, stylish drawings on the fronts of vintage patterns, choosing to ignore the little voice in my head that knows you can only trust a photograph on these kinds of things.
Last night I started work on this lovely square-neck 60s sheath dress pattern that my mother bought for me at a flea market somewhere in deepest, darkest Pennsylvania:read more >>
I made this in November 2005 with ten day’s notice. My boyfriend told me that his best friend’s birthday party was back on for the weekend. This wouldn’t cause too much alarm in most cases, but this was her 30th birthday and she was renting out a country house for an entire weekend with a black tie catered dinner on Saturday night.
Yes, I said “black tie” – that means I needed a posh evening gown in 10 days!! I don’t have posh money, but I did have a this pattern, Simplicity 5876, for a vintage evening gown that I fell in love with but had no occasion to make or wearread more >>