Sunday, 18 September 2016

The University Chapel Project - September 2016 update

After a break for the summer, the Chapel Stitchers got together again last Friday to see what progress had been made. We have some of the embroidered names/signatures to apply to the back of the altar frontal, and Kath had also embroidered the start and end years of the project, but really this meeting was all about the kneelers.

Names and dates

The kneelers group have been busy over the last couple of months. Both the tops are almost completed.

Completed dove

The sides are coming on as well, with shading to match the outlining of the doves, and the Amber Cross on the front and sides.

Completed side

On the back are the initials of all those involved, plus the year.

Back, needing one more set of initials

The next meeting will be at noon on Friday 21 October, in the usual room.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Ynys Llanddwyn

No, it's not some sort of typing error. Yesterday I had a day off from trying to finish Simplicity 1777, and instead took a trip to one of my favourite places; Llanddwyn Island on Anglesey.

Llanddwyn Island seen from Newborough beach

Map of Wales and close-up of Anglesey

My Welsh pronunciation is a source of merriment to my Welsh-speaking colleagues (although to be fair, so are the attempts by all the other non-Welsh-speakers in the office), but very roughly, this post's title should sound like 'inis hlandwin'. Ynys means island, and Llanddwyn translates as "The church of St. Dwynwen". You can read more about St Dwynwen here.

To get to Llanddwyn you go to the village of Newborough, then carry on down a winding track through the forest.

Newborough Forest

Eventually you come to the car park, where you'll find these three sculptures, based on island landmarks and designed by pupils of the local school.

Carvings of local landmarks

Then it's a walk through the dunes and the marram grass, and onto the beach.

Marram grass holds the dunes together

The beach

As you can see, the sun wasn't shining when I arrived, so this doesn't really do Newborough Beach justice. It's over a mile of golden sand, lapped by the beautifully clear waters of the Menai Strait. The water was lovely and warm, and while I didn't go for a swim this time, I did go for a paddle. (Admittedly, spending holidays in my formative years on Scottish beaches may have skewed what I define as 'warm'!)

Llanddwyn is only an island at high tide, but I always check the tide times before I go - I know from bitter experience that if you are sitting on a rock waiting to cross, it can feel like an awfully long time until the waters drop enough!

And what rocks they are. Where the island joins the beach, and around its coast are pillow lavas, formed by undersea volcanic eruptions.

Pillow lava outcrop

Looking across the Menai Strait to Snowdonia

The sharp rocks made navigating the narrow Menai Sterait extremely hazardous, so a small beacon, called Tŵr Bach was built on the southernmost tip of the island. This was replaced by a larger lighthouse, called Tŵr Mawr, which was modelled on the design of Anglesey windmills.

Tŵr Bach, which now houses the modern light

Tŵr Mawr, with Snowdonia in the background

Llanddwyn also became the base for the pilots who guided ships through the Strait. Cottages were built to house them, and two of these have been converted into a small museum.

The pilots' cottages

The cottages and lighthouse (and sun!)

The island is part of the Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve, and home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Sadly at this time of year there weren't a lot of flowers for me to photograph, but I did find plenty of these snails.

Teeny tiny (and pleasingly alliterative) stripy snails

The beaches are fenced off, to keep the sheep and ponies which graze the island from straying onto them. Humans can reach them through these lovely gates. It was only on this visit that I finally noticed that the carvings on the gates are all slightly different.

Gate leading down to a beach

And another leading back

Near Tŵr Mawr there is also this bench.

Carved bench overlooking the sea

The inscription is from verses by the 13th century Welsh poet, Dafydd ap Gwilym.
"O Landdwyn, dir gynired. O benyd byd a’i bwys", which translates as
"From Llanddwyn, a place of great resort. Through goodness, for the world, and its significance".
Many thanks to Dave Nelson for the translation.

St Dwynwen's church was once an important place of pilgrimage, but very little of it now remains.

All that is left of St Dwynwen's church


The church, Tŵr Mawr, and St Dwynwen's Cross

From there it was a walk back along the beach to the car park (if you are staying at the nearby campsite, there is a lovely walk through the woods which comes out right by the island), and then home. I always enjoy going to Llanddwyn, and yesterday was no exception.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Where I work

I am at heart a curious nosy individual, which means that I always love reading about other people's workspaces. So it seemed only fair that I should share my own. (Plus, let's be honest, I've just had a massive tidy-up. It will never look this neat again, so I wanted to show it off!)

Centre stage, in every way, is my work table. Years ago I did a short pattern drafting course, and the main thing I learned was how much easier everything is if you have a table at the right height. My table is 91cm / 36" high, and is so comfortable that a lot of the time I work standing up. It's a conference table from IKEA, and at 110cm by 195 cm / 43" by 77" is great for cutting out as well.

General view of my workroom

My sewing machine lives on there most of the time, so I needed a draftsman's chair to seat me at the right height. Fortunately very close to where I work is a place which sells refurbished office furniture, and they had exactly what I needed. There is a slot in the table for cables, and the foot control drops through there. It rests on a handy wooden plinth which my dad made for me years ago, when Mr Tulip and I lived in a house where the loft ladder didn't reach the ground (long story, don't ask!)

Sewing machine setup

As you can just see in the background, the ironing board is right by my worktable.

Because it's so high, there's plenty of storage space under the table as well.

Space to sit and work if I want to

Room for even more boxes at the back!

The shelving is Ivar, also from IKEA. I love it because it's fully adjustable, with holes for the shelf supports at 3cm / 1¼" intervals all the way up the uprights.

The current layout of my shelves

The two large plastic boxes on the left hold my vintage patterns. The instructions and pattern pieces are stored in large manila envelopes in hanging files, while the pattern envelopes themselves are in the ring binders underneath.

When I last posted a photograph of my books, I actually missed out a shelf. Here are the whole lot, complete with an extra shelf which holds a couple of really large books, some vintage magazines, and my pattern drafting paper.

All the books

Talking of pattern drafting; the organiser for my rulers and curves is possibly the best thing I have ever made.

Everything to hand for pattern drafting

The storage units for the plastic boxes are both from Storage 4 Crafts. On top of the one on the right are my notepaper block and bookplate stamp from Venice, and my pen holder from the now sadly closed Shambellie House costume museum.

In the opposite corner, on a desk acquired from Mr Tulip some years ago, is my overlocker. In the drawers underneath are my non-vintage patterns. As you can see this is also notice board corner, with ideas/inspiration, pictures I just like to have around, and my always useful Universal Pocket Patterns.

Overlocker, flatlocker, and a lot of cork

Also pinned up here as a reminder is an article about why you should never hold a pin between your teeth. I can honestly say that I have not done this even once since I read the article four years ago, but it doesn't do any harm to leave it there.

Finally, there are some things that you just get so used to having around that you don't even notice them. A couple of years ago a friend came round to cut out her latest project on my work table, and eventually asked, "Erm, why do you have a stepladder in your workroom?" The answer was that I got so tired of fetching it every time I wanted to photograph something on the table for this blog, eventually it just ended up there!

Not the obvious sewing room tool

So that is it, my workroom in all its glory.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Simplicity 1777 - pattern alterations (and gripes)

It's been years since I've used a modern Simplicity pattern. In fact, when I came to write this I thought I'd try to work out just how many years. This is the last non-vintage Simplicity pattern I used, and it's dated 1993.

So old, it qualifies for the Vintage Pledge!

I know that I used it more recently than 1993, but sadly I also know that I'm (ahem) not exactly the shape I was then. I'm also a lot fussier about fit. In short, I needed a more recent pattern which I could use to work out fitting alterations. 2146 was already in my pattern stash, and an ideal shape.

2011, so in the stash for a mere five years

I made up the plainest version of the dress in my favourite toile fabric frost fleece, drew on the bust, waist and hip lines, and tried it on. As with Vogue and Style patterns, I need to shorten the bodice at both the waist and bust to get it to fit properly.

Once I'd got the fitting alterations sorted out, I could start on the actual pattern.

Circa 1943, according to the Simplicity website

I must admit I'm a bit bemused by Simplicity's 'Retro' patterns. On the plus side, they've clearly gone to a lot of trouble with the envelope artwork. In most cases they've included photographs so that you get a better idea of what the finished dress will look like. Plus the photographs have been styled with at least a nod to period shoes and hair. And in a nice touch, either the artwork has been re-coloured to match the fabric or fabric has been specially printed to match the original illustration.

1940s - much better length

1950s - not quite sure why this is 'Vintage' rather than 'Retro'

1960s - apart from the hairstyles

I'm even prepared to forgive the fact that the dresses on 1777 are a bit short for the 1940s, especially the red one. I assume that this is to make it look more appealing to a modern audience, although I'm not sure why the same rule wasn't applied to 1587.

But. . . For a start, it really bugs me that unlike Vogue, Butterick and McCalls reissues, there is no date on the patterns, just a decade. Surely Simplicity must know the issue dates of their own patterns? Just labelling a pattern '1940s' is a bit vague. After all, both of these photographs are from the 1940s, but are very different looks.

Fashions from 1942 and 1947

On top of that, reading the instructions it's obvious that the dress is constructed using entirely modern techniques. Now I appreciate that I'm a sewing nerd, and that Simplicity are aiming to appeal to a broader market than just sewing nerds, but if on the vintage section of your website you claim that, "You can produce garments that look exactly as they would have done if they were made decades ago", then it would be nice for the instructions to include at least a few period methods as well as modern ones.

Anyway, rant over. I'm going to make a mix of the two styles shown, with the round neck and ¾ length sleeves. I've lengthened the skirt, and redrafted the pattern to fit me; hopefully I've got the proportions of the gathered bits right. So now I'm going to try making it up using techniques I've learned from some of my vintage patterns, for a truly 'retro' look. Details coming soon!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

#vintagepledge - Butterick 6582 completed

Butterick 6582 done!

One thing which I forgot to mention in my post about making the bodice was the fitting alterations. I had read somewhere that the Butterick sloper (the basic shape from which all the patterns are made) is the same as the Vogue one apart from the sleeve length, so I took a chance and just applied the changes I'd make to a Vogue pattern - and this worked out fine.

The skirt was perfectly straightforward; just back and side seams, gather, and attach. The only unusual thing is that the centre front section isn't gathered, which gives the skirt a less bouffant look than something like Vogue 8789. Naturally, I added pockets in the side seams.

The centre front of the skirt isn't gathered

The only other alteration I made was to raise the V neck at the back, unnecessarily as it turned out, because I was worried that it would be too low. This then meant that I needed a longer zip.

Ah, the zip. It ages since I've made a dress with a standard, centre-back zip; either I've used an invisible zip or it's been a vintage pattern with a side opening. So to make it less obvious, I decided to hand-pick the zip. Then I had the genius idea of matching the thread to the fabric, so used brown, blue, orange and white threads. Halfway up the first side this idea was beginning to feel a lot less genius-like, but I persevered, and I think the end result was worth it.

Hand-picked zip and hand-sewn belt loops (and slightly off-centre front V!)

Then, because I just couldn't bring myself not to, I hemmed that enormously full skirt in four colours as well! Obsessive? Me?

The pattern includes instructions for a belt (without a prong or eyelets), and I decided to use one of my vintage buckles. I had quite a few of suitable colours to choose from.

Brown and blue buckles

I chose the one on the bottom right, because I liked the size and the shape.

The belt is made out of what my local fabric shop sells as 'buckram'. This isn't the same as the buckram I use for hatmaking; instead it's a tightly woven fabric, coated with stiffener/heat-activated adhesive.

Roll of belt buckram, and hat base of millinery buckram

I used the professionally made belt of the Rosalind dress to get an idea of how stiff a belt should be. In true Goldilocks fashion, one layer of buckram seemed too flimsy, while three fused together was too stiff once it had cooled (it's deceptively pliable immediately after it's been ironed), but two layers was just right. Because the buckram has adhesive on both sides it was impossible to iron the pieces together without also attaching the iron and ironing board, so I tightly wrapped the strips in a length of white cotton, and trimmed off the excess. Then I cut the end to a point and covered the belt with dress fabric, sewing it onto the cotton base along the centre back.

The belt covered in white cotton and then in dress fabric

And there you have it. Another Vintage Pledge make, and my first Vintage Sew-Along contribution (there's another one planned). I have Brocade Goddess at The Modern Mantua-Maker to thank for the neat interior; her dresses are always so beautifully finished that it's really encouraged me to up my own game.

Interior shot

To photograph the finished dress I paired it with my white net petticoat to give the skirt maximum pouf.

Big skirt, shades, and non-period-appropriate shoes

I suspect that the days for wearing sleeveless summer dresses are numbered, so my next project is more suited to autumn wear. But first I'll have to work out what fit alterations I need to make to Simplicity patterns.

Back to the 1940s with Simplicity 1777


Sunday, 14 August 2016

Making Do, and a mystery project

My friend F (of whom more in a future post) volunteers in a charity bookshop in town on Friday mornings, and if I'm around I usually pop in to see her. This must be doing wonders for Oxfam's coffers, as she has developed a sneaky habit of mentioning books she has found in new stock which I just 'might' be interested in (and she's usually right).

This is a recent example of her killer sales technique.

"I saw this, and thought of you" - gets me every time!

This was reissued as a small book by the Imperial War Museum some years ago, but I had never seen an original before. It is a 32-page booklet, with a soft cover of thicker paper. Although the paper is thin, it's far better quality than the paper used for the instruction sheets in some of my 1940s patterns.

The drawing on the next page is just visible at the top

The Make Do and Mend campaign started in 1942, and the booklet was first published the next year. Clearly although the intention was to encourage the public to get as much wear as possible out of their clothes, the information wasn't free; the 3d cover price is 53p / 68 cents in today's money.

Clothing care, mending, laundry, re-use and knitting are all covered

I'm not sure how useful some of the renovation hints actually were. There are a couple of suggestions for re-using garments which are 'worn in front', which in my experience isn't an area which actually gets worn out. In fact, one of the tips for remodelling blouses confirms this.

When the front is the only unworn part

Nowadays there is often an assumption that all women in the past could sew as a matter of course, but the fact that the booklet was published at all suggests that this wasn't the case. Similarly, the fact that the chapter on washing and ironing hints has to include the advice, 'Never iron stockings', suggests that some women were a little vague on laundry matters; perhaps they had lost their domestic help to munitions work.

The owner of this booklet seems to have taken its instructions to heart, though. When I'm sewing I often jot down measurements or alterations notes on whatever scrap of paper comes to hand (and then, all too often, lose it), and clearly I'm not alone in this habit. The back cover has been used for planning out some sort of skirt-related project, but sadly I've not been able to work out exactly what. Any ideas?

Waist and hip measurements, and something to do with diagonal folds

Some sort of skirt diagram