Saturday, November 27, 2010

Welcome and the winner is.....

The Vintage Vogue giveaway is now closed! Wow,that went quicker than I expected. I thought that would run for a few days more at least. I should've realised the pulling power of Sew Retro. It really is a fantastic sewing community blog!
So welcome to all of you. I hope you enjoyed your first visit, and to those of you who are "staying", hope I can keep you entertained, informed or inspired. If I can do all three,well I'll be a happy bunny indeed!

The winner of the Vintage Vogue pattern is May Made, (a newbie like me!) so well done to you!! Would love to see the dress as and when you make it.

I have a few more giveaways like this planned in the near future, so watch this space.......

Weekend Wonders....

I've been unable to get into my sewing room (STILL!) for the last few days. Firstly due to my being ill and then, when I started feeling better, J & The Little Tornado came down with it. So I've been busy giving cuddles, mopping foreheads, and generally holding the fort. This has however afforded me plenty of time to have a good old rummage around blogland. So I thought I'd share some great FREE patterns I came across. All of them possible over a weekend even if you only have a couple of hours! (I live in hope!)
Clockwise from top left:
FREE knitting pattern avaialable at Purl Bee, a fabulous knitting blog with bags of free patterns and tutorials  A real gem.
FREE pattern for an "upcycled" Christmas favourite at Martha Stewart's huge site (careful you don't get lost!)
FREE tutorial for gorgeous handmade gift bows at  How About Orange, a mindbogglingly great blog (image used is from a completed project at Twig & Thistle, another lovely blog)
FREE pattern download for this fabulous top available at Sew Tessuti. Look out for it to the right of the main blog post. It's a great blog full of ideas and inspiration. Loving the Japanese Pattern books on sale there and they seem like a great bunch of people too!

Love to hear from you if you end up making any of these.....have a great weekend!


You may or may not have seen the Laura Ashley dress I refer to in a previous post, as being one that I totally love and feel fab in. Well one of the reasons is the construction detail. (The devil is in the detail!) The way the seams draw the eye in at the waist and then out again at the hips. Optically narrowing the waist and essentially tricking the eye. I do love a bit or dressmaking trickery. Although with the Laura Ashley dress it felt more like sorcery it felt so fab to wear. (Still not enough to get me to post a pic of me wearing it, ha ha! I HATE having my photo taken!).

Anyway, since I found the magic dress last year I've been wanting to make one (ok, loads) myself. Shown here is a sketch that I did at college last year, (apologies for the standard of sketching, it was a very quickone!) to try and explain it to my tutor, with a view to drafting a pattern myself. Alas, drafting the skirt and bodice blocks took up what was left of the course and I never drafted my dream dress pattern.
But what should  I stumble across on my trusty Ebay the other day, but this little gem (£5.52inc P&P and in my size too!) from a 1970 issue of Woman's Weekly. I know!!  It's like destiny isn't it?! So all I need do now is decide on my ideal fabric and find my way around the pattern itself. So if anyone has any fabric ideas and/or any knowledge of the quirks of Woman's Weekly patterns that I should know about, would love to hear from you! This one's going straight to the front of my "to do queue".......

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vintage Vogue 20 follower Giveaway.....

Being new to this, (blogging) and having had just a taster of what inspiration is out there, I've been keen to seek out like minded individuals. Other bloggers with whom to share ideas, tips, tricks and learning curves!! So I thought, if I were to give away something that I would love to receive, then anyone who's going to want it, is pretty likely to be on the same wavelength, and have something similarly delicious to share!

So, I decided on this Vintage Vogue Pattern for a gorgeous 30's inspired evening gown. It's been in my stash for a while. It was one of those "just had to have it" purchases that I knew I'd be unlikely to actually make. (It's the wrong size for a start!) But I got it  for a snip and the picture on the front is just soooo beautiful. (I'm such a sucker for pattern envelopes!) I love it. But, now it's time to pass the love on....

Vogue Vintage  2609, this is a reissue of an original 1934 design and now out of print.
Close-fitting and flared dress, floor-length, has bias collar, shoulder straps, front extends into capelet with contrast facing, hemline godets & side-snap closing.
Sizes 6, 8 and 10 are included with respective measurements of
bust 30.5, 31.5, 32.5; waist 23,24, 25; hip 32.5, 33.5, 34.5.
Pattern is uncut and complete.

Here’s how to enter:  leave me a comment on this post telling me your favourite thing about vintage patterns. OR, even better, share a link to something you’ve created.  THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED

The giveaway’s open to all countries and will close as soon as we hit 20 followers (You can join on the left using Google Friend Connect but you don't HAVE to join to enter the giveaway). I’ll pick a random winner out of anyone that's clicked to follow the blog or left a comment or link.
Thanks everyone for all the inspiration and look forward to meeting you in Blogland!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Under the weather......

Nothing got done yesterday. I literally spent the whole day in bed with some kind of sickness bug and a banging headache. J took on the mantle of keeping The Little Tornado entertained.   Still feel a bit wobbly & feverish today, but I find it really difficult to lay down and do nothing. I used to be fantastic at lounging around, even when I wasn't ill. But since I've got older and become a mum, it seems as if there's always something I ought to be doing. Anyway, today I have an empty house and am committed to rediscovering my inner layabout............

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ruthless Pattern Purge..........

I had a bit of a moment today and went through all of my dressmaking patterns. Sorting them into baby,childrens, mens and ladies and then into eras. (50's, 60's etc) I then went even further and sorted out the ones that are in my size and that I can feasibly make without embarking on pattern manipulation marathons!
All in all I've slimmed my collection down by about 20-25 patterns (hey! That's a ruthless cull in my eyes!).

Phase 2 will be to catalogue the pattern envelopes in ring binders, (numerically or by era, not sure yet) sort and check the pattern pieces are all there (no doubt iron and repair the envelopes and pattern pieces. Yes I am that sad) and store the patterns themselves seperately in brown enevelopes.There's some great ideas on The Domestic Diva's blog, that I'm sure I shall incorporate! Now I have a dedicated sewing space I can get to preserving my vintage patterns so they don't deteriorate any further. In my defence, most of my patterns were "rescued" by me and in pretty poor order when I got them! Besides, there's something satisfying about ironing pattern pieces and smoothing out dog eared pattern envelopes!

Sounds like a pain in the ass I know but long term it'll be worth it I think. Already today I've discovered near identical patterns that I've purchased because I didn't have a clear idea on what I actually had in my stash!! You know what they say, "tidy stash, tidy mind".....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Laura Ashley Dress - Neckline Facing Repair

I've had this Laura Ashley dress hanging in the back of my wardrobe for a while, waiting for me to lose a bit of weight.  I just adore it. The cut, the seaming, the neckline, everything. It's the most delicious teal coloured crepe, with a retro shift vibe. Great with leggings and slouchy boots.

I've lost almost a stone on the Scarsdale diet since the end of September and now the outer shell fit perfectly (I can't tell you how excited I was at this!) but the lining seemed to be a whole size smaller so I took to it with my scissors and removed it, Wore the dress that day, felt fab, then popped it in the laundry basket and thought no more of it.
But then disaster!!! Nooooo!!! Once it had been washed, what was left of the lining (I'd left some around the neckline to act as facing but in my eagerness to wear it, had not secured it) had frayed into oblivion and now the neckline was rolling out, making it unwearable. Gutted, but determined to rescue it I embarked on a little "make it up as you go" repair. This is how it went...

I created a pattern for a new neck facing by tracing the curve of the neckline onto tissue paper, measuring the width I needed and  drafting the pattern piece using these as a basis. I decided on a contrast floral fabric from my remnant stash, then pinned the pattern piece, and cut out the new neck facing. There wasn't enough of the original facing /lining left to attach the new facing to in the usual manner. So I decided to top stitch the new facing from the right side of the fabric. (As luck would have it I had some machine silk twist in a good colour match).

To begin with I rolled the neckline back into place and basted it down. I then began to attach the new facing to the WS of the neckline. WS's together. First by pinning (to check fit) and then by basting, turning under as I went.
Sounds like a lot of basting I know. But basting is my best friend! I'm rarely happy with my first attempt at things and it just allows me a bit of room for trial and error before I commit to the machine! So I ended up with 2 rows of basting visible on the RS. I also pinned the loose edge of the facing down to stop it getting snarled up in the feed dog, and to keep it smooth and flat.

Then with a simple straight stitch and my lustre thread, I top stitched around the whole neckline from the RS. I have discovered a little trick recently that works really well for me. I find my overcasting foot fantastic for keeping topstitching close to the edge and even. It's a really reliable guide, and if you're a wobbly stitcher like me, it pays to have a reliable guide!

Once I removed the basting and pressed, I was happy with the finish on the RS. But the stitching had missed the edge of the facing in a few places on the WS. (I'd also forgotton to check the bobbin thread. Should've been white, but hey ho, I can live with it! I should've said it was "for the purposes of demonstration" shouldn't I?!)

So I ended up doing another row of topstitching a bit further in to make sure that it caught the facing properly on the WS. From the RS it looks fab, I'm really happy. From the WS, well, it could be better but that's why I'm still learning. I secured the top folded edge of the facing (where the first row of machine stitching had missed it) by hand with a concealed catch stitch.

I then pinned the ends and lower edge of the facing, and  basted in place (yes, MORE basting. Crikey it's like cooking a turkey) with the edges folded under; ready for hand sewing. (Which I love by the way. I find it quite therapeutic in a meticulous kind of way).

Using a concealed catch stitch all the way around, I then removed the basting stitches and pressed; and overall I'm pretty happy with the result. Yes it would have been better to use white or pale blue bobbin thread, and it would have been better if the first row of topstitching had caught the facing (hell, it would have been better if I hadn't hacked the lining to oblivion in the first place!) but these are all things that I've now learnt, and hopefully won't be repeating! So all in, a modest success, I think!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Little clothes.........

I discovered this fab little book on one of my charity shop  trawls a while back. (It cost me £1.50) It appealed to me straight away because the illustrations are so gloriously 70's. The pictures throughout are a weird mix of supercute and slightly creepy!

I've always thought that little girls can get away with "vintage style" much more readily than little boys can.  One look at some of the outfit choices for boys in this book, gives added weight to my theory! I mean! I just couldn't do that to my little tornado!

That said,  it is a great little book with some great little patterns in it that, with a few tweaks here and there, will be just fine for The Little Tornado.
I dug this book out again recently,because I've decided to make some cotton "baggies" for him.  I love, love, love the tartan baggies from Mini  Boden. But the rate he goes through them is just not human! (Oh yeah, that will be because he literally IS a tornado!)

So I decided if made them myself, I have a ready supply of suitable fabric in my stash, and I can just keep churning them out as and when required. You can't really see them properly in the picture as they're hidden under that rather fetching dressing gown.

They're bog standard pyjama bottoms, and depending on how they scale up, I may or may not have to add a bit of width to them. These could work out as a very worthwhile use for all the smaller remnants of fabric. I shall have to wait until I get a chance to get into my sewing room again. If I don't get back in there soon I think I may just scream!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

These are a few of my favourite things........

Inspired by Casey's "Found Art" posting on her Elegant Musings blog (an artful thing in itself and well worth a peek), I got to thinking about the objects around our home that I love to look at. The things that give me a warm feeling every time I walk past them or catch a glimpse as I dash about on some errand or another.

I've always understood "Art" to be something that elicits an emotional response from the viewer.  It seems natural to me therefore, for everyday objects, to be works of art in their own right. Things of beauty, not because they were designed primarily to be beautiful, but because they are beautiful to me. They remind me of things, people, places. Conjure up images. My little collection of Poole Twintone soup bowls in it's ice cream shades put's me in mind of an elegant 1950's tearoom overlooking the coast....

......and vintage patterns. Each of them a work of art. Beautifully illustrated, every one. Envelopes crinkled and dog eared beacause they've been used. Because someone spent hours lovingly making the dress detailed on that cover. Maybe a mother making a dress for her daughter, the dress she wore when she had her first date at the drive thru, with the man she would later marry.  Maybe, just maybe, some thoroughly modern Millie with a taste for vintage, is wearing that dress today, as she posts her latest blog offering from her iphone...

I'm a bit of a button junkie too.  I could quite happily plunge my hands repeatedly into an old biscuit tin full of buttons, letting them catch the light as they fall through my fingers, in a shower of yumminess (not a word but it should be!!). Makes me feel like a kid in a sweetie shop. Just in this jar, imagine how many garments (now long disposed of and only the buttons saved) are represented. Each of them worn by an individual with a story to tell. Look at it like that and you don't just have a jar of buttons, but a jar full of the stories of people lives, and how can that fail to elicit an emotional response?

And now for my favourite work of art of all. Truly a masterpiece and perfect in every detail. Never fails to elicit an emotional response (occasionally exasperation!) but most often it's awe, amazment and complete admiration. How many works of art can you see every day, yet never fail to catch your breath at how beautiful they are...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Simplicity 2472 - Cynthia Rowley Dress........

So this is what I am currently working on at college. I bought the pattern on Sewing World's site. (Great prices & offers) The fabric is from a stash of sewing supplies that I acquired though Freecycle. I love the plum tones of the florals, especially warming for the winter months. It has a lovely vintage feel about it and puts me in mind of mulled wine and Christmas markets!
The style is pretty simple, (I wanted a fast make) and one that I know I'm comfortable in. The dress is cut in only 2 pieces with integral sleeves, and binding on the neck and cuffs. It was mainly the binding that I wanted to learn through this project. For some reason, I'm fine with facings but I've been a bit scared of bias binding up until now; and actually it's not at all difficult! This is my first ever attempt at a neck binding, and all things considered, I'm happy.
I'll get another opportunity to practice binding when I finish the sleeves. At the moment, I'm in the process of gathering the sleeves. Having sewn the 2 rows of gathering stitch within the seam allowance, my tutor showed me this neat little trick of anchoring the threads in a "figure of 8"around a pin. How clever is that?!

Then it was just a question of pulling the loose ends and working the gathers along evenly until the width of the cuff matched the length of the cuff binding piece.  I'm hoping to complete this on Wednesday at college, and will try and remember to take my camera for stage by stage photos. I've only part gathered the first sleeve, have yet to gather the other sleeve and will need to do the cuff bindings on both sleeves, sew up the side seams, finish the seam allowances and then hem it. Sounds alot to do in a couple of hours, but I think it's possible! (Ahh, optimism!!) Watch this space........

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Teacup Candles..........

Following on from my "Friday's Swag" post, today I thought I'd have a go at turning my vintage teacups into candles. I've never tried any form of candlemaking before, and was pleasantly suprised by both the finished result, and how easy it was. I can feel a bit of a Christmas production line coming on.........

To begin with pop a pan of water on the hob to boil, place the wax pellets into a metal mixing bowl (you could also use glass) and place the mixing bowl  over the pan of water.  Once the water had started boiling, I turned it down to a simmer and the heat began working it's magic on the wax pellets in the bowl. Within a few minutes, they go from white, to a clear liquid as they melt.

Whilst the wax melts, cut the wick to the required length, dip one end in the molten wax and push it into the little metal "wick retainer". Hold for a few seconds so the wax sets and the wick should now be held pretty securely within the wick retainer. Put a couple of teaspoons of the molten wax in the base of the teacup and push the wick retainer into it. (mind your fingers as the wax is still hot!) The wick should now be "set" into the base of the teacup.

In preparation for pouring the wax into the teacup, the wick needs to be held straight and upright whilst the wax sets.  To achieve this I wedged the wick between two knives, but tying it around a knitting needle would probably work as well. I guess it depends on how much wick you have left to play with and what you find easiest.

Once the wax is melted and ready to pour into the teacup,  you could add some scent or essential oil to the wax to perfume your finished candle. The kit that I had bought had a little bottle of cinnamon scented essence included.  Perfect for Christmas! But I guess you could add most essential oils, (lavender, ylang ylang, patchouli, citrus to name but a few) and tailor it to whatever occasion, mood or preference you like. It is best to add it JUST before you pour the wax into the teacup (give it a qquick stir), since the perfume evaporates whilst it is in contact with the hot wax.  As soon as it is poured and begins to set, it "locks" the perfume in.

It's probably a good idea at this stage to carefully transfer the molten wax to a jug to make it easier to pour (especially if you're as accident prone as I am!). The kit instructions said to fill 3/4 and allow to set for 30mins, then top up with the rest of the wax.
I'll admit I'm impatient and ended up pouring the whole lot in at once, so my finished candle dipped in the middle a bit, with no wax left over to level it.

Click to enlarge
It's then a question of leaving it to set for 24 hours. It's then ready to light, or wrap up and give as a gift (if you can bear to part with it!) You could glue the cup to the saucer to secure it or keep them as two seperate parts. I can't decide, as it feels wrong to put superglue on something so pretty. Overall, I'm pretty chuffed with my first attempt. My imagination is now running away with me, thinking or all the other things I can stick a wick in and fill with wax.............

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oh, KNICKERS!!! (Tutorial #1)...................

How to make your own pattern for "unmentionables".  (aka Knickers, panties, undies, smalls,etc!)

Click images to enlarge
Firstly you'll need to assemble your equipment/materials. Start with a pair of knickers that you like the style of and want to recreate. Study the construction of your "template" knickers and work out how many individual pieces go into making them. (You're going to need to recreate each individual pattern piece on pattern paper). I kept it pretty simple with these "girl shorts" for my first attempt at this. Nice clear/simple shape without loads of seams and embellishments. They consist of just 3 pattern pieces (Front, back and gusset) and have very few seams

Click images to enlarge
Then you'll need something to make a paper pattern out of. I plump for tissue paper every time, but you can use any kind of paper or card. You can push the boat out and buy special pattern paper, or go eco and recycle some wrapping paper or card. I like tissue or tracing paper, because I find it useful to be able to trace through it. But making your finished pattern in  thin card has it's benefits too. It'll last for ages, and you can use it like a template and trace around it, directly onto your fabric, instead of faffing about with pins. The French Curve is optional. If you're confident drawing smooth curves freehand then go for it. I suck at it though, so always prefer to use a French curve. Same goes for the set square. If you can be accurate without it, fantastic.

Click images to enlarge
At this stage you have 2 choices. You can either unpick all of the seams of your "template" knickers and seperate the individual component parts, and trace round them individually, OR you can leave them intact (if you don't want to waste a perfectly good pair of knickers that is!) and trace round them by turning them over one way, then the other and fiddling about a bit. The latter is alot more fiddly but  at least you won't have to destroy your favourite knickers in the process.  It's a question of what you feel most confident doing  and which method you feel will give you the result you're happiest with.

Click images to enlarge
Firstly, you'll need to lay your "template"knickers out flat, onto your paper/card. Pin or weight them down. Then take your pencil or tailor's chalk and lightly trace around the outline. You don't need to be massively accurate at this stage. as you'll tidy it all up later. Repeat this process until you have a rough outline of each pattern piece that you need. (In my case a front, a back and a gusset).

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So you should end up with a number of rough outlines (one for each pattern piece) that look something like this:

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Now, using your set square and French Curve (or freehand if you're braver than me!) even up the lines and smooth out the curves to create your pattern. Make sure that the pattern pieces are symmetrical or you'll end up with wonky knickers! (And nobody wants wonky knickers!).

Click images to enlarge
I do this by marking a vertical line at the center point of the pattern piece. I then draft just one side of the pattern, (the left in this instance)fold along the centre line, and then trace the lines through onto the right side through the folded tissue paper to create the other side of the pattern piece. This ensures that the left and right sides of the pattern are exact mirror images of eachother.

Click to enlarge
Make sure as you're drafting your pattern, that the pattern pieces measure the same wherever they have to join each other. So if the side seams on the back pattern piece measure 5", then the sides of the front pattern piece should also measure 5". The same applies (in the pattern illustrated here) for where the gusset piece join the front and back pattern pieces.

Click to enlarge
When you're happy that everything measures up and you have a pattern you're happy with, you'll need to add a seam allowance all the way around. There are a number of ways to do this. But I find the one that works best for me, especially around curves, is to use the metal end of my tape measure. In this instance I've added a 1cm seam allowance by working my way around the pattern piece, positioning the 1cm marks on the tape measure along the outline of each piece, and using the metal end of the measure to make a mark. I do this at intervals around the pattern  piece, and then "join up the dashes" to create a smooth line.

Click to enlarge
Once you've repeated the process on each pattern piece, you should end up with a number of pattern pieces that collectively, when laid out, should roughly resemble the pair of knickers you started out with! As in the picture on the left. Woo hoo! So the pattern should now be ready to use, to make your very own pair of knickers! (That tutorial coming soon!) Ciao for now...........