Sunday, 14 January 2018

#VintagePledge - 2018 plans

After four fabulous years, the #VintagePledge is taking a well-earned rest for a while. But I've decided that because it gives me something to aim for (if not always achieve!) that I'll make a pledge of my own anyway.

I could keep making the 1940s and 1950s styles which I love, but I've decided this year to push myself to do something different. I've somehow acquired quite a few patterns from the sixties, seventies and (heaven help me) eighties, and it's time to actually do something with them.

So my pledge this year is this:
During 2018, I, Black Tulip, pledge to make up at least three of my vintage patterns from the period 1960 - 1989.

Obviously one candidate high on the list is Vogue 9004.

Vogue 9004, 1984

So that's the 1980s covered, what about the other decades? Here are some of the possibilities.

Although this was clearly a pattern aimed at young people, by today's standards it's a very conservative look.

Butterick 4384, 1967

Last week some friends were complaining about the lack of pockets in women's clothing - certainly not something you could say about Vogue 8194!

Vogue patterns from (L to R) 1965, 1968 and 1971-2

I keep putting off doing the alterations for this pattern because I know that it's going to be tricky, but I really should give it a go.

Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress, 1976

I have absolutely no use for a floor length dress, but I am strangely tempted by the long versions of these two!

Simplicity from 1972 (L) and 1977

Finally my favourite brand of the 1970s and 1980s; Style. As with the Simplicity patterns, there is a real difference in the look of these two, despite only being a few years apart. 2828, with its raglan sleeves and no waist seam, is so of its time.

1974 (L) and 1979

So all in all, I have plenty of inspiration to choose from.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

And now for something completely different

I can safely say that I never thought that knitting would feature on this blog; it's just not something that I do. But never say never. . .

It all started last month, with the Sale Arts Trail Christmas Bazaar (Sale being a place on the outskirts of Manchester). My friend Bronwen Simpson was there selling her beautiful hats and scarves, so I thought I'd go along and have a look. Another stall had items made from super-chunky merino yarn, including scarves with big buttons. They were lovely, but a bit too chunky for my taste. Also I must admit that dry-clean-only items don't really fit into my life. Then on a stall selling turned wood pieces I found a bowl full of big wooden buttons, and Had An Idea.

My last (and indeed only) attempt at knitting was way back in the early 1980s, when I made a sweater. It was (intentionally) baggy, had very little shaping, and was made from a chunky and very fluffy yarn, which disguised a multitude of errors. I love looking at the beautiful knitted items which bloggers such as Juliana and Tasha post, and am in awe of their skill, but couldn't imaging producing anything like that myself. But it struck me that I ought to be able to manage a basic scarf.

The first problem occurred when I went to my local fabric and wool shop, and was overwhelmed with choice! I didn't want anything too expensive for a first attempt, so eventually I decided upon a chunky, multi-coloured acrylic yarn in blues and browns.

Wool and buttons

I bought some needles as well (6mm) and set to - and the results were just as you would expect for something which I last did 35 years ago, and to a mediocre standard then. So I ripped it out, and did the sensible thing of practising with a ball of double knitting yarn which for some unknown reason I had lying around.

Once I had mastered the idea of a basic knit two purl two rib, I had another go with the proper yarn. Much better.

In progress

I was spending most of Christmas and New Year at my parents' house, and this was a far easier project to take with me than any dressmaking. What I did need to do before Christmas was master the art of knitting and talking simultaneously; my parents deserve more than monosyllabic grunts!

I was surprised at just how quickly I got into my new hobby; whenever I had a spare couple of minutes, I would find myself picking up my knitting to sneak in a couple more rows! I made the buttonhole by casting off a few stitches, and casting them back on in the next row - I have no idea if this is the correct technique.

Button and buttonhole

The length was based on an existing fleece scarf, and I used the remaining wool to make a fringe. There are all sorts of crimes against tension going on along the scarf, but I'm still thrilled with the end result.

Finished!

I did quickly get tired of carrying my work around in a plastic carrier bag, so between Christmas and New Year I made myself a knitting bag from a couple of cotton remnants. A couple of people have given me knitting needles they no longer use, so as there's some fabric left over I'll make a bag for those as well.

Knitting bag. The handles were the most expensive part!

As a seamstress and a knitting newbie, I underestimated the stretchiness of knitting, so the button and buttonhole are further down than I would like. The button has to be wedged in the V of my coat.

Holding the button in place

No matter. The 2X2 rib makes for a toasty warm scarf. Even better, the button stops the ends from flapping about with an unbuttoned coat.

With Simplicity 4896 - not at all historically accurate, but super-warm

I've had to create a new 'knitting' label for this post, but I doubt if this is the only time I'll use it!

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 review

It's that time of year again. The time when I come to review what I've made in the last 12 months, fret that there won't be much to write about, and surprise myself with just how much I've done.

This year I was even more worried than usual about how little there would be. My college work takes up a fair amount of my time, and a longish bout of depression in the spring left me not feeling like doing much at all.

But despite all this I'd somehow made more than I remembered.

First up, hats. After the excitement of completing my first hat in 2016, I made several more this year (and have even more blocked and waiting to complete). As well as finally finishing my silk percher hat and experimenting with straw, I made felt hats from the 1920s, 1940s and 1950s. Thanks to Sue Carter and Marie Thornton of The Millinery Studio for their excellent tuition, and to Bronwen Simpson of Hat Works for everything she does organising classes and Open Blocking days.

Clockwise from top left: 1940s, 1950s, 1950s straw and 1920s

Beaded silk percher hat

Much as I love drafting my own patterns, there's no denying that it does take time, so I don't do as much as I'd like to. However, I did manage to create a late 1950s/early 1960s pinafore dress, and make a few improvements to my CC41 dress pattern.

Pinafore dress and CC41 dress

Self-drafted patterns don't count towards the Vintage Pledge, but I did sort of fulfil my promise to make up three of my vintage or reissued patterns. Only 'sort of', because the original plan was to make all three items from a selection of my patterned stash fabrics. Simplicity 4896 was made from bought fabric, and Butterick 6620 was made from plain stash fabric. Only the infamous Dress of Frump was made from fabric which I'd earmarked for the Vintage Pledge.

This year's Vintage Pledge; the Dress of Frump, Butterick 6620 and Simplicity 4896

Despite the epic fail of Simplicity 1587 I have not, after all, given up on green clothing. As I had hoped, the stiff green dress made from New Look 6093 improved no end after a couple of washes. And I'm still chuffed that I was able to rescue my green and blue cotton skirt. But the item which I think received the most compliments of the year was the dress I remade for the British Heart Foundation's Big Stitch campaign. That was something I'd never done before, and had never thought of doing - and it was great fun.

Green success, and the Big Stitch remake

Who knows what the New Year will bring, but here's hoping for a great 2018!

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Ghosts of Christmasses past

Despite Vintage Gal's words of encouragement, I'm not a lot further on with Style 4649. So instead for this week's post I decided to just go for pretty pictures, and look at Christmas outfits in some of the Winter/December-January issues of Vogue Pattern Book that I have.

Warning: Readers of a sensitive disposition may want to stop before they reach the 1970s!

Beginning in December 1952, all is poise and pearls and fabulous hats.

Black jersey fabric from McCulloch and Wallis [sic]

The editorial a year later suggests that the reader will have made outfits for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and a post-Christmas event in January. And party dresses for the children, and presents. Phew.

Lots to do in 1953

December 1957 is back to poise and elegance, but no hats.

Dresses with back details

The 1958 edition suggests that at a mere £5 each (approximately £81/$108 in today's money), the reader could make every one of the 10 dresses in the article for the party season!

Bargain frocks!

What I can only describe as 'mad hair' dominated the 1966 issue. I couldn't decide which photograph to use, so here are two of them.

Vogue 6922

Vogue 1652

Four years later, even though it's only the start of the 1970s, it's a very different look.

Vogue 7644

1973, and it's all about lurex knits and wide trousers.

So shiny! So brown!

The 1970s are sometimes described as 'the decade that style forgot'. And sometimes with good reason.

1975. There are no words

Moving swiftly on (but not necessarily for the better), I hadn't realised that what we now think of as 'Eighties style' had actually begun by December 1979.

Bill Blass for Vogue, 2286 and 2304

Two years later, and while I don't particularly like the dress, it is nice to see an older woman feature in the Vogue Pattern Book, long after the demise of Mrs Exeter.

Vogue 8182

Finally, an image is from 30 years ago, December 1987. I made a number of items in the 1980s which I wouldn't necessarily want to admit to now, but at least I can say that I never made a bubble skirt!

Vogue 1992, Bellville Sassoon

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Step away from the shiny

I really shouldn’t do it. I ought to know better by now. It ends badly every time, but still I persist.

Yes, I’ve been sewing satin again.

It all began when I went to a Kerry Taylor auction in September. There were lots (no pun intended) of lovely 1930s and 1940 clothes, including several blouses in pastel satins. And it struck me that this was exactly what I needed to go with my 1938 suit (when I eventually make it). So somehow, by the time I got on the train home a couple of days later, a length of lightweight pale peach satin from Cloth House had slipped its way into my luggage.

The inspiration. Image © Kerry Taylor Auctions

Now I’ve not completely forgotten my previous traumas with satin. There was of course this, and the Dress of Frump™ was made from satin as well (although to be fair, that was the least of its problems). So I exercised some restraint, and chose a simple pattern.

Style 4649, 1944-5

One of my problems with satin is that I’ve never been able to machine sew it without the seams wrinkling, so I decided to sew this blouse entirely by hand, and see if that helped. It did, but because the fabric frays so much, every seam has to be neatened. So in effect, I sewed the blouse twice.

Inside view, showing the neatened seams

The front (piece B) is cut on the bias, and gathered with rows of small stitches at each shoulder. Because there is a curve across the top, the two gathered sections are at slightly different angles. One lies perfectly, the other - not so much!

Bodice front, showing the rows of gathering stitches

The 'good' side, gathered and pinned to the bodice back

I have left adding the pleats to the bottom of the bodice until the whole thing is made up, and I can decide on the best place to put them. The pattern calls for small shoulder pads, and I will probably make these myself because bought ones will be too bulky with such a fine fabric.

The neckline and back opening are finished with a bias facing. I’ve not tried this before, but fortunately Making Clothes for the Older Woman has a section on how to do it. The pattern instructions don't mention stay-stitching the neckline first, but attaching a bias strip to a bias neckline sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, so I have added stay-stitching.

The current state of affairs

Although the whole thing has gone reasonably well so far, I’m not feeling the love on this project. It’s become one of those things where I’ll find any excuse to do something other than sew, and I’m really not looking forward to tackling the facing. It will be impossible to prevent the stitches holding the facing in place from showing, so the best I can hope for is to make them as small and regular as possible. Any hints or suggestions will be gratefully received!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Blasts from the past

I've lamented more than once on this blog that I disposed of lots of my dress patterns in the past. Sometimes I'll come across a familiar image on Pinterest and think, "I had that", and wish that I still did. So when I acquired two 1980s Perry Ellis for Vogue patterns earlier this year, it really got me thinking about a couple of my former favourites.

The first one was a very loose-fitting Perry Ellis coat. I replaced the single button fasten with a large press stud and made it fully reversible, with a purely decorative button on each side. I loved the end result, and literally wore it until it wore out. Because it was a designer pattern, it proved easy to find the details online.

Vogue 1213

The second was a dress, and this was much harder to track down. All I could remember was that it was another Very Easy Vogue pattern and was loose and straight, with a V neck, long-sleeved or sleeveless options, and an attached overbodice. I made the long-sleeved version in a plain teal fabric, lined the sleeves with the same fabric in dark red, and wore it with the sleeves rolled up so the lining showed. Because the neckline of the shortened bodice was lower than I was comfortable with, I added a small false front, also dark red. This was another make which got a lot of wear.

The closest pattern image I could find online was this one.

Vogue 9235 - note the fullness of the dress

Now I've had a few dressmaking mishaps in my time, but I was pretty sure that I'd never accidentally made a maternity dress!

So the mystery remained unsolved, until I was flicking through a 1984 issue of 'Vogue Patterns', and there it was. My dress. Apparently made up from a tablecloth, but my dress nonetheless.

Vogue 9004, in a bold fabric

Although the coat is from 1983 and the dress from 1984, I must have bought them a few years later. Vogue patterns were beyond my student budget, and I know I made the dress for work.

Vogue 9004, looking more restrained

Now that I had the dress number, naturally I was curious to see if the pattern was available anywhere. And lo, it was. Unused, and almost my size. I also happened to find the coat; unused and in my size. . . .

Reader, I bought them. They are now sitting on my worktable, where I can admire them and occasionally pat them.

Given a) the current weather and b) the fact that I've already got Butterick 5716 and Simplicity 4896, I'm not really in need of another loose coat with almost no fastens on it. But the dress is another matter. Especially when I had a hunt though my stash and found these.

Teal crepe and a dark red silky lining - hmmm

I may have found my Christmas holiday project!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Making clothes for the older woman

"In the world of to-day it is terribly hard for the older woman to look her best, in something that fits and suits her, is up-to-date and does not cost the earth."

"Our choice . . . suddenly contracts sharply. There are only two or three (sometimes fewer) that are any kind of fit - and that's not saying much. Of these two or three not one, probably is the colour, style and price we really want."

Both of these quotes could easily come from any number of contemporary sources; it is only the spelling of 'today' which provides a hint that they do not. In fact, they come from a book which is almost 70 years old.

Yes, my friend F has been at it again, finding another gem in the charity bookshop where she volunteers. Making Clothes for the Older Woman, by Agnes M Miall, was published in 1948. Post-war austerity is very evident in its pages, from the declaration that it is printed "in complete conformity with the authorised economy standards", to its references to clothing coupons and remodelling old clothes. It is a world away from a throwaway society; clothing and fabric purchases had to be considered with care, and made with a view to lasting as long as possible. More than once the author points out that clothes which fit badly will wear out faster than ones which fit well.

There is some information on basic dressmaking techniques such as making belts and plackets. There are also handy hints: I especially liked the idea of buying two thimbles from different manufacturers, because each one will become annoying to wear after too much use in slightly different ways, so you can swap between the two to sew for longer - especially useful at a time when domestic sewing machines were in short supply. But most of the book is about adapting bought patterns to fit older bodies (rather than fit the bright young things who appear on pattern envelopes).

The author starts with six basic figure types.


For each type there are notes on what styles to wear and what to avoid. The chapters on fitting then explain the alterations required for each type, for example, "Leonora and Penelope may need the kind effect of a little fullness over the bust".

This approach could become horribly twee, but actually it works. The overall effect is one of a cheery, no-nonsense, good friend wryly pointing out that neither you nor she have the figures you once had, but that there's still plenty that you can do to look your best. Not all of the advice has stood the test of time (for example, the idea that a puffed sleeve is a good look), and some of it is brutally honest - but isn't that what good friends are there for?

Most of the illustrations are line drawings, but still clearly explain fitting faults.

I've certainly had skirts which hang like that

Based on the author's advice, I thought that it would be fun to go though some of my patterns from 1947 and 1948 and look for styles suitable for the different figure types.

First of all, a couple of no-nos.

"Square necks, by the way, almost without exception are unbecoming to the woman past her first youth." So that's this pattern out of contention, then.

Vogue 6336 - 1948

'Slacks' are, "risky garments . . . for all older women", so these culottes may be the same.

McCall 6768 - 1947

These out of the way, I looked for something which would suit each type.

Petite Leonora "can easily look dumpy" if she wears clothes with too many horizontal lines. A dress and a full-length coat looks better on her than a suit, but if she does wear the latter then it should be "unelaborate, but not of a schoolgirl plainness". This suit with its waist detail seemed to fit the bill.

Butterick 4022 - 1947

At the other end of the scale, Juno looks best in "severely cut suits" and in tailored dresses. "Diagonal lines are good", which makes her the perfect candidate for this dress.

McCall 7078 - 1948

Editha's squarish figure benefits from "button-through designs with their unbroken line all down the figure". She should wear striped fabrics, but never those with a crosswise pattern "except in small quantities for contrast". The illustration on the left ticks all of these boxes.

McCall 6752 - 1947

While these three types are either tall or short, Marianne and Augusta are average height; 5'3" to 5'7" (1.6m to 1.7m). Marianne wants to take attention away from her bust, so requires a "bodice as plain as possible, with lengthening vertical lines" and "interest concentrated on the skirt". With this in mind, she might want to make the skirt of this dress a little fuller, but the shaped pockets do add interest.

Simplicity 2137 - 1947

Augusta is the reverse, wanting to draw the eye to her upper half with "shoulders judiciously but not extravagantly widened, interesting collars and upper sleeves". The neck tie and unusual 'sleeves' of this dress should do the trick.

Vogue 6268 - 1947

This just leaves tall, slim Penelope. As she gets older, her slenderness is in danger of becoming "scragginess" (hard to imagine this being seen as a problem in today's society). She "needs clothes that fill her out a bit, give her width in proportion to her height". Among the things she can wear are blouses with horizontal yokes, and skirts with hip yokes (which are to be avoided 'like the plague' by other figure types).

I couldn't find any vintage patterns in my collection suitable for Penelope, but the reference to the perils of hip yokes reminded me of something. Yes, Penelope might actually be the person who could carry off Simplicity reissue 1587, aka the Dress of Frump™.

Simplicity 1587

Finally, I'll finish with a quote which I think all vintage dressmakers can agree on, regardless of age or figure type. "Practically all dresses look better over a slip than over just knickers and brassiere".