Saturday, 31 December 2016

Rosalind and the Collage of Even More Shame

So, it being the end of the year and all that, my original plan was to revisit January's Collage of Shame and remind myself which fabrics had actually made it from stash to finished item.

The evidence

It didn't take long, because the answer is - one. Just one. So now everything else on the collage is 12 months older, and therefore even more shameful.

The lucky winner!

This fabric got made up because Marie and Kerry invited me to contribute to the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge July Extravaganza, and I knew that I wanted to make up one of my vintage patterns rather than a re-issue; without this prompt my total could have been a big fat zero!

The end result is called the Rosalind dress, after Rosalind Franklin and her work on the double-helix structure of DNA.

Most of the details about the dress are in the post on Marie's blog here, but I thought I'd write up the pocket construction as it caused a lot of frustration but produced perfect 1950s pockets.

First the flaps are made up.

Symmetrical pocket flaps

Then the flap and the pocket front are sewn onto the centre front panel of the skirt. I used plain white cotton for the pocket fonts, as the main fabric would have been too bulky.

The three pieces sewn together

Then the pocket front is flipped to the inside, and the pocket back/ side panel of the skirt is attached. I was pleased with the pattern matching, but initially completely mystified by the line of the skirt side seam.

Showing the extra fabric in the pocket

Once the sides are aligned, the 'jutting pockets' of the pattern description become clear.

The shape of the flaps keeps them clear of the side seam

When I was in London at the start of the month I visited What Katy Did, and bought some fabulous Splendette earrings and some stocking with green seams, so this seemed like a good reason to take some more photographs of the dress.

Showing off the earrings

And the stockings

So now the question is; can I do better in 2017? Because let's face it, I'd be hard-pressed to do any worse!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

The entirely literal jumper hack

Years ago there was an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun in which John Lithgow's character railed against the misuse of the word 'literally'. As a pair of grammar nerds, Mr Tulip and I entirely agreed with him. I think I'm safe with the title of this post however. Not only is it about a hack as in a nifty solution to a problem, but it also involved chopping said jumper apart with scissors.

As I've mentioned before, the bodices of standard size clothes are always too long for me. This isn't an issue with fabric clothing, as I mostly make my own, but woollens are a problem. Making my own isn't an option, as I can't knit or crochet for toffee.

To make matters even worse, knitwear from the 1940s and 1950s tended to be shorter than today's styles, so I have absolutely no chance of finding anything to go with the sort of clothes I usually make.

1940s knitting patterns from Vintage in a Modern World

But then the wonderful Lauren of American Duchess mentioned in her blog that she'd shortened all her sweaters, and included a link to a how-to post. I really wanted to have a go, so off I went to the local charity shops.

I found this red, fine-knit, number almost straight away. Tucked into a skirt, it doesn't look too bad.

Vaguely 1950s

But worn over the skirt, it's supremely unflattering.


For hacking purposes, it had the advantage of being the same colour as one of the two spools of woolly nylon thread I own (woolly nylon is vital to the job). I won't go into details of what I did, as it's all in Lauren's post.

I must admit I was a bit nervous before I started. Not about Lauren's instructions, but about my ability to follow them. Taking scissors to knitwear has the potential to go horribly wrong, but I reasoned that even if it was a complete disaster at least Barnardo's had gained a fiver out of it.

The one thing I will say that if you don't have a needle threader, buy one before you try to set up your sewing machine (yes sewing machine, you don't need an overlocker/serger) with the woolly nylon - or prepare to go mad. The only other thing I'd add is don't worry if your seams look a bit stretched and rippled immediately after you've stitched them; the steam iron is your friend here.

I'm thrilled with the end result. At last, a jumper that's the right length! Thanks Lauren!!

Now I really don't like those before and after pictures where the 'before' features a glum, unkempt model with appalling posture, and the 'after' shows the same person standing up straight, with a radiant smile and perfect hair and make-up: the implication being that the 'Acme Wonder-Wotsit' can fix all these things, and probably make you a nice cup of tea as well. So I tried to keep my 'after' pictures as close to the originals as possible, including keeping the large button, which I will remove.


Well, when I say 'as close to the originals as possible', there was one teensy, weensy change in some of the photos. See if you can spot it.

. . .

. . .

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

A tale of two skirts (and one cat)

As well as the usual approach of selling fabric by the metre from rolls, my local fabric shop also sells remnants by weight. They are sorted by type, and priced by the kilogram.

Craft cotton remnants

If a piece is too large the staff will cut it for you, but there does have to have at least one metre left. This means that sometimes I end up with odd leftovers which aren't really big enough to do anything with.

Recently I wanted to make another skirt; one which would go with my red and black swing coat. I found the perfect wool mix remnant, but I was going to have about 60cm / 24" left over, and no idea what to do with it.

Pretty much all that was left at the end

I asked Mum for suggestions, and she wondered if I could possibly squeeze a second skirt out of it. With some very careful cutting out, I did!

Work skirt

Non-work skirt

All of which makes for a very short post, so . . .

I've been aware for a while that one thing which this blog lacks is cat pictures. Cats seem integral to sewing. They make sure that your pattern pieces don't blow away - by sitting on them. They highlight which book you need to consult - by sitting on it. They stop your fabric from sliding off the table - by - well, you get the idea.

I don't have a cat, but I do get to fuss over my friend F's cat, Teddy, when I visit. Last week when I was over, not only did I have my camera with me, but Teddy had kindly positioned himself in front of one of the cushions I'd made for F last year.

Not that he was keen to pose for the camera.

Not wanting to be photographed

Really not wanting to be photographed

Oh alright then, if you must

Teddy is a Norwegian Forest Cat, which means that he is very fluffy indeed. (I must confess that when F first told me he was a 'Wegie' I thought that she'd got a Glaswegian cat, but we soon cleared that up.) He is also very long-bodied; I sometimes wonder if under all that fluff there are actually two cats welded together!

Stretched out

He's not the most athletic puss you'll ever meet, so 'action shots' were definitely out of the question.

This was as active as we got

Sometime I'll have to take my sewing over with me, just to see if he sits on it!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

1920s Jazz Age Fashion and Photographs

Warning: this is possibly the most picture-heavy blog post of all time.

Last weekend I went down to London for a few days, to be extremely cultural and go to lots of exhibitions. So cultural in fact, that I didn't even go to Goldhawk Road! (Truth to tell, this was largely because I'm nowhere near making up everything I've bought on previous trips, and even I realized that the last thing I need is more fabric.)

Top of my list to visit was the Fashion and Textile Museum, to see the exhibition 1920s Jazz Age Fashion and Photographs, so I dropped my case off at the hotel and headed to Bermondsey.

The Dolly Sisters, photographed by James Abbe

When I got off the tube at London Bridge I was amazed to see Cate, who writes the fabulous Vintage Gal blog. We follow, and often comment on, one another's blogs, but we'd never met. She had come up to London with her mum for a few days, and once she'd got over the shock of being accosted by a total stranger on the London Underground we discovered that we were all heading to the exhibition.

Cate looking fabulously elegant as always, me . . . less so!

We joined a guided tour of the exhibition, and then went for lunch in the museum café. It was lovely to go round the exhibits with someone who takes as much interest in these things as I do, and to have a good chat afterwards. Plus, I was able to examine Cate's amazing jacket in detail, and get some tips for my 1930s suit. Thanks Cate!

The exhibition begins with a display of drawings by the (female) American fashion illustrator and costume designer, Gordon Conway.

Fashion illustrations for 'The Tatler' and 'Britannia and Eve' magazines

All of the clothes on display are from the collection of Cleo and Mark Butterfield, and what a collection it is. Almost nothing is behind glass, which allows you to get a really good look at the details - my favourite sort of exhibition!

The exhibition is set out as a series of scenes, each with a title. It starts with a selection of opulent coats and capes.

Scene: At the theatre

Next it moves to a more intimate scene.

Scene: In the boudoir

Amid the lingerie and pyjamas I spotted a little figure. Gina, does this remind you of anything?

Silk pyjamas, and a boudoir doll

From silk to cotton, and a beautiful display of organdie dresses in sorbet-like colours.

Scene: Picnic at the lake

These afternoon dresses are in more muted colours.

Scene: Time for tea

I loved the embroidery on this dress (and the fact that I could get close enough to see it in detail).

Chemise-style dress, c 1925

It isn't all pretty pastels, there are outfits in bolder colours as well.

Scene: On the cruise liner

Suspended over the stairs is a seated figure.

Gold lamé and matching shoes

Upstairs the exhibition moves from day to evening wear.

Scene: In the night garden

Scene: Chinatown at night

Scene: Cocktail hour

The brown velvet dress with its swirl of diamanté trim seemed to be a favourite of everyone who saw it. As someone who Doesn't Wear Black, I particularly loved it.

Please, no drool on the dress

The final 'scene' is a wedding, with a bridal dress with a twist; it's not white.

Scene: A wedding

Silk and lamé wedding dress, 1920

The bride, Barbie Lutyens, and groom, Euan Wallace

The exhibition also has a series of small displays in cases. These include collections of 1920s accessories such as hats and stockings, and some advertisements from the period.

Fans, bags and smoking paraphernalia

Apologies for the poor quality of this photograph, but I just had to include the bizarre method of applying lipstick - I can't imagine why it didn't catch on.

Stencil your lips!

The 1920s displays were book-ended with what came before, and after.



Needless to say, both Cate and I loved this suit. There may even have been a discussion along the lines of, "I'll distract the staff, you run off with the mannequin"! It has clearly lost its original belt buckle, but is still a thing of beauty, with wonderful details.

Too small and prong-less buckle, and fabulous pockets

Cate is inspired to make her own version, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

So that's the fashion, what about the photography?

The final room contains fashion studies by James Abbe, an American photographer who was based in Paris for most of the 1920s.

Dancer Anna Ludmilla (born Jean Caley), 1927

The Brox Sisters, sharing a hat (and possibly a dress), 1925

Continuing the theme of wanting to recreate items from the exhibition, I'd love to make this hat. It's described as, "green felt with felt gardenia, edged in silver and stitched in silver thread and available then from Louise Marsey".

Gilda Grey, 1925

Finally in this epic post, another hat. This turned up in one of the Pathé News clips being shown. I spotted the pinched detail in the crown, similar to my purple hat, and had to watch the whole sequence several times to get a decent photo!

Hat with folded crown

1920s Jazz Age Fashion and Photographs runs until 15 January, so if you're in London, why not take a break from Christmas shopping or the sales - it's well worth a visit.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Hat news

(And it's a shocker, so you might want to sit down first.)

I have actually finished a hat!!


Warning, this is a long and picture-heavy post. Mostly due to my being so thrilled to have finished a hat.

Way back in February, I went on a course at Hat Works to make a brimmed hat. Through no fault of the tutors it wasn't a complete success for me, and the crown and brim have languished in my workroom, separate and unloved, ever since.

But . . . I don't like to give up completely, so when the course was offered again in October I decided to give it another go.

First of all, we had to measure our heads and choose a suitable brim block. The measuring was easy, but it's really hard to envisage what the finished brim will look like from the block; not least because it's upside down.

Brim blocks

I chose quite a wide brim. This proved to be a challenge, as the wool hood which the brim was made from was a cone shape rather than a flatter capeline. Marie (one of the tutors) and I had to really stretch the hood to fit it to the block.

The gentle art of hatmaking!

Marie assured me that she's only ever had a hood rip on her once. Happily this didn't become the second time, and after a lot of steaming and stretching, and no muttered cursing whatsoever (oh no, as if), I ended up with a blocked brim.

Blocked at last

Then we could move on to the crowns. All of us on the course decided to match our crown and brim colours. The crown I chose was a basic dome shape, so I added some pinched folds on the top to make it a bit more interesting.

Blocking pinched sections into the crown

The blocks were than all left to dry overnight.

The drying cupboard, with my crown and brim marked

The next morning, we started by taking the brims off the blocks. Even though they were now the right way up, it was still hard to envisage a finished hat.

Looking better, but not a lot better
The top of the hat was cut off, leaving a small vertical section, and a petersham band was sewn inside. (Bronwen, who organizes the courses, did a wonderful job of sourcing petersham which matched the hood colours - thanks Bronwen!) Then the outer edge of the brim was trimmed and wired.

Wired and with ribbon band - looking like an actual hat brim

Then we turned our attention back to the crowns; taking them off the blocks and trimming away the excess. This was as far as I got on the course, but the rest could be done at home.

The crown was attached to the brim and a further band of petersham, this time on the outside, added to cover the join.

The pinched folds of the crown

The only problem was that I wasn't entirely happy with the brim shape. Being turned up all the way round didn't really work for me; I felt like an escapee from a mariachi band! (I forgot to take any photos of this stage, honest, so you'll just have to believe me when I say it wasn't a good look.) Fortunately I was able to adjust the stretch of the brim against the wire a bit, and tip part of the brim down at the front. Once I was happy with it, I covered the edge with more petersham, this time folded in half lengthways and steamed into shape.

Then it was onto the trimming. I knew that I wanted to make my trimmings from the leftover felt of the two hoods, but wasn't sure what to do. Happily my habit of never throwing bits away, no matter how tiny, provided the inspiration.

Brim offcut, rolled up for the journey home

I really liked the idea of a spiral of felt, but there was one problem. The way the hoods are dyed leaves a white section in the middle of the felt; either excess shellac or where the dye hasn't penetrated, I'm not sure which. If I used the cut edge of the felt, this would show.

Cut edge of the hood

The outer edge of the hood isn't as crisp, but has colour all the way through, so I used that instead.

Outer edge of the hood

Most of the coil is on the crown, but I extended it onto the brim as well. The ends are tapered so that it appears to run into the hat.

Close-up of the coil trim

I also added a small trim at the back; partly to cover the petersham join and partly to tie in with the fold which ran halfway down the crown.

Back view
I'm really pleased with the end result.

So pleased in fact that I might finally finish my first attempt!