Pay day sewing treats for me

Ooh isn’t it nice when you can treat yourself to a few wee knick knacks  you desperately want need? I paid a little trip to John Lewis at lunchtime today (oh WHY have they put the haberdashery beside the children’s toys, WHY?) to pick up some sewing fripperies essentials. I just thought I’d share them with you:

Gadgets 'n' gizmos

Item 1: A seam gauge

I’ve wanted one of these for ages. What can I use it for? I don’t know yet but I’m going to find out. Doesn’t it look immensely anachronistic? It’s practically surgical!

Item 2: Proper hooks and eyes

Because I’m sick of bending the rubbish pound shop ones I currently have when I rip them out of their string-tied packet, and because I currently appear to have two eyes for every hook. I think the cats have developed a taste for them. They sure love those glass-headed pins…

Item 3: Rivets/grommets/eyelets

What the heck do you call these little fellas? In any case I’m going to make some fabulous belts next year (hopefully) so I’ll need me some reinforced holes to poke the thingy through.

Item 4: Button box

This rather ugly little compartmentalised box is going to transform my ragbag of thrifted and gifted buttons into a colour-coded haven of orderliness. That is the hope, dear readers. The reality will be three colour coded buttons in each bit and an overflowing ‘spare’ bit. But we dream.

Tonight I’ll be working on the second of my mystery Xmas presents. After wrestling with the first one, punching the wall, re-reading the instructions 100 times and then working it out myself (note to Butterick – please make your ‘easy’ patterns easy to understand for beginners?) the second is proving a cinch. Hope to share the results with you next week after I present them to the unsuspecting recipients.

I’ll also be wearing mostly leggings tonight as I make my first ever croqui, as recommended by the Colette Sewing Handbook which I’m steadily working my way through. (I keep re-reading bits as it’s so.damn.good.) You wear tight fitting clothes like leggings and a vest top, take a picture and then trace around your outline so you get a realistic view of your body. You then use it as a template for designs and inspiration. Ali from Wardrobe Reimagined has just done it and it looks like such a good way of working out whether you’ll suit a particular style or just coming up with ideas and sketches for future projects. I may share, if the results aren’t truly dreadful…

What are you up to this week? And have you treated yourself to any new sewing gadgets or gizmos. Ooh do share – I love a gizmo.

Vintage dress parade!

One of the loveliest things to come out of writing a blog about sewing, (apart from the community, the inspiration, the camaraderie etc etc I could go on etc) is that occasionally your friends and family read it. And then they do something utterly lovely and give you free stuff because they realise you might appreciate it, or can so something with it! I have been the lucky recipient of no less than EIGHT vintage or vintage-style dresses in the last month. One from a chum and a whole bagful from my mother-in-law, who used to collect vintage dresses from boutiques in and around Norwich. Thanks Ann and Mel!

I’m just completely head over heels in love with all of them, whether I can wear them or not. This weekend I decided to have a bit of a sort through them and figure out whether I can wear them straight away or whether I have to fix them up a bit, whether I should harvest them for fabric and notions,  or simply marvel at them and stroke them lovingly once in a while.  And here they all are, modelled so perfectly by my dress form (well, I’m sick of seeing my ugly mug all the time) ;-)

Ready to wear… or almost

Floral sixties shift

This is a gorgeous slippery little silk shift from Blanes, which according to the Vintage Fashion Guild website was ‘a very middle-range British company, active in the 1950s and 1960s – making good quality day and evening wear’. It fits like a glove. The background is much more golden than the image suggests. This will be beautiful with a little cardy and wedges come summer.

Fifties-style handmade dress

This was donated by my friend Mel. I think she said her friend made it but I might have to check that out with her. In any case it’s very well made with full lining and matching covered buttons. I love the little embroidered polka dots on it and the colours are so cheery. There’s a little tightness at the bust but nothing a safety pin won’t fix.

Embroidered forties dress

This is my absolute favourite from the whole collection. It’s one of the most elegant dresses I’ve ever laid eyes on. Just look at those little heart buttons and pretend bolero detail. The fabric has give, so although this dress is a little small for me (did people in olden times just not eat very much, like ever?) I can squeeze into it. I’ll need some serious foundation underwear though! Sadly there are a few holes in the dress but I’m hoping they’re fixable.

Crushed velvet dress

Look at this little knockout! Complete with padded and underwired bosom. This is from a label called ‘Images’. I haven’t been able to find out much about it yet. Anyone recognise the name? I’m finding this dress quite difficult to date but I love the crushed velvet – and that bust. Instant chest – yay!

Ready for upcycling

Scarlet fifties dress

I love love love this dress so much, it kills me that I can’t get into it. But the fabric is absolutely gorgeous and I’m pretty positive there is enough to make a half circle skirt. It’s from Richard Shops, which was a British high street chain started in 1927 and enjoying its heyday in the 60s apparently. This has a fifties feel to it, with the neat collar and cut off sleeves. Ooh I don’t know if I can cut it. It may have to be a wardrobe lurker for a while. Further inspection shows a rather large seam allowance so maybe… watch this space…

St Michael dress

Recognise that label? Those of you old enough to remember being forced by your mother to try on clothes in the middle of high street department stores will – it’s Marks and Spencers!  (How did mums ever get away with that? I never see that happening these days.) Love the pattern on the fabric – very whimsical. Not sure what kind of fabric it is though – maybe viscose rayon? Whilst the neckline and shaping around the bust is really flattering my torso is too short for the extra band around the middle so I’m going to see if I can remove or shorten that in some way.

Ready for harvesting

Eighties squiggle dress

Look at this cheeky little number! It’s so jaunty and so wonderfully eighties! The fabric is awesome although I have no idea what it is – it feels like a stretchy cheesecloth – maybe crepe? As you can see from the label it’s by Carla Bower for Radley who designed for the company through the 70s, so perhaps it’s a little earlier than I first thought. The buttons are fantastic. Sadly the dress is a little tight for me – I’d be worried about the buttons at the back popping open all the time. So it’s going into the fabric stash. Hopefully I’ll find something suitable so I can use both the fabric and the buttons as they work beautifully together.

And finally… a wardrobe lurker

Pleated forties dress

God I love this dress, but it doesn’t love me. It looks stunning on the dummy but I look like a sack of spuds in it :( It’s much too beautiful to cut into – look at all those pleats! Sigh. Maybe I need to think about this one a bit more. There’s no label on it, and every pleat has been hand sewn. Can you imagine? Love the neckline too. This one will sit like a gorgeous but untouchable goddess in the wardrobe while I figure out where to go with it.

What about you? Any vintage treasures that you can’t wear but can’t bear to part with? Maybe I should keep some of these dresses as a piece of history to hand onto my own daughters? Actually that hadn’t even occurred to me until I wrote it! Probably because my only female baby is a cat and she never shows much interest in clothes unless she’s trying to destroy them…

It’s just all about me, really

Confession: I’m a sewing stalker, a plagiarist, and a green-eyed monster.

When I spotted a post from Scruffy Badger Time, pondering which winter dress she might knock up next, I immediately honed in on two patterns she was mulling over: the New Look 6000 and the Simplicity 7845. Within minutes I’d found them and bought them. Immediately the frothing at the mouth receded and my WANTTHATWANTTHATWANTTHAT bulging eyes had sunk back into my skull. Happiness was resumed and smugness had settled like a warm blanket around me… until next time…

Check these babies out.

New Look 6000

I absolutely love this pattern. It’s very Joanie, non? Specifically View C. I have a dark green fabric I could use for this – it may be crepe (not sure about my fabrics yet). But then I’m looking at the purple-blue colour of View A and thinking hmm might be time to hit me up some new fabric as an early Christmas present to me from me. Why, thank you me!

And what about this little darling?

Simplicity 7845

The neckline on the middle view fits all the boxes I currently adore: vintage, feminine, gamine. Ooh be still my beating heart (and related pulsatile tinnitus – more of that in another post). I found it on Etsy. Even with shipping from the US it came in around standard pattern price (about £12). I recently bought a really heavy sort of satin from Walthamstow market with a fabulous sixties vertical flower print on it. It’s almost curtain material and could be stiff enough to create a really dramatic neckline. And look at that hairdo! A dress like this requires some serious up-tresses.

The sewing monster has been placated even further today – Amazon has announced it has finally despatched my Colette Sewing Handbook. I’ve waited patiently (snarled, yapped, nipped and grizzled) throughout the sweet Colette posts on the Meringue and the Taffy and the Licorice. Now they will be mine – all mine! Can’t wait to get my little paws on it. What about my UK friends? Anyone else got the book on order? Have you got your copy yet?

In  other news I’m working on two top secret projects for an early Christmas present so I can’t give you any details yet. Suffice to say I’m struggling with a neckline that doesn’t seem to match up and calls for ‘pivoting’ in the most illogical fashion. I only hope it works out as I ain’t got no back up plan…

Oooh, snoods you sir

Many of you will have been following the snood-around-the-blog-world that’s been happening recently, kicked off by Did You Make That and a free pattern and taken up by countless other bloggers and knitters around the world (well, in the Northern hemisphere at least). But another very special lady has also taken up the yarn challenge. One whom none of us know much about, other than that she can knit beautifully, and she’s very generous with her time. Oh, and that she’s Handmade Jane‘s mum!

Jane’s lovely mum made non-knitter Jane her very own snood. And then she made her another one, which Jane promptly offered as a giveaway on her blog. Which I won – hooray! Now I can join the snoodathon without lifting a finger. Jane’s package greeted me as I arrived home yesterday with this pretty little literary postcard and a lovely message.

Snoods you sir

I absolutely love it! It’s so soft and warm. I can’t wait to take long winter walks with it. The colour is absolutely gorgeous. I think teal may be my favourite colour in the world.

Thank you so much Jane and please thank your wonderful mum too.

The mists and mellow fruitfulness dress

It’s a beautiful autumnal afternoon here in London. This morning we drew the blinds to see a mist wafting through the streets. What a gorgeous time of year. I’m so happy to have finished and named my new dress: The mists and mellow fruitfulness dress! I’m wearing it to a wedding next weekend which is a big deal – I’ve never been so bold as to wear one of my dresses to a big ticket event. Here goes…

The pattern is McCalls 2401 which I made earlier this year in a green polka dot. The fabric is a beautiful 100% vintage silk from Liberty which I picked up at a vintage fair for £15.

McCalls 2401: Mists and mellow fruitfulness

I was determined to make this dress as nice on the inside as it is on the outside, so I turned and stitched the seams where I could (side and sleeve seams) and pinked the rest of them.

Inside view

It was only when I was putting the finishing touches to the dress that I realised I had a beautiful vintage buckle which I bought in Norwich earlier this year. It was so easy running up a little belt. I think it just adds that extra special detail.

Vintage belt buckle

The fabric was very keen to fray, especially round the hem. I originally decided to bind the edges with a soft pink bias binding before hemming normally but once I added it I loved the little shot of soft pink at the bottom and decided to leave it there. Plus I like this length. Bonus!

Can you see the binding?

I have a peachy grey fur stoll to wear with it and I need to get some fancier tights. I’m slightly worried about creasing but I’ll be wearing a slip on the day so hopefully that should reduce wrinkles.

I only wish I knew how to add lining to dresses. This frock is crying out for a lining to really give it some longevity and feel more sturdy. One day…

Forgive those under-eye bags – it was a late one last night!

In other news – yesterday was the best sewing-related news day… ever. I got an honorable mention from Tilly about the blog (hooray!), the postman delivered my Minoru pattern (whoop!) and I won Handmade Jane’s giveaway for the most gorgeous snood, inspired by Karen’s snood-around-the-world and knitted by Jane’s very own mum! Unbelievable. It doesn’t get better than that, does it?

Right, I’m off to have some butternut squash soup. Yum.

On the home straight

My goodness this dress is taking its own sweet time… but nearly there now. Just the sleeves and the hem to finish off.

Liberty Silk McCalls 2401 full

Remember I had some awful water stains on the fabric early on in this project? Well after a root around the internet for advice on removing water stains from silk, I found a great tip. Just boil a kettle and take the lid off so lots of steam is rising up and the kettle keeps boiling. Hold the stained fabric above the kettle (making sure not to get splashed by boiling water of course). The stains just magically disappear! Genius! I’ve not got rid of every single one yet though – I need a weekend and lots of daylight to do that.

Liberty silk McCalls 2401 bodice

I’ve found the silk to be medium tricksy. No slippery ways or anything – just has a tendency to fray quite a lot. I’ve also used some of Tasia’s tips on finishing seams, although I have to say mine aren’t quite so perfect. I’ll share pics and details once it’s completely finished. Apologies for the creases in the fabric. For obvious reasons I’m rather afraid of using the iron on this at the moment!

As the nights are drawing in my mind is increasingly turning towards Christmas and how ill-prepared I am. I haven’t bought a thing yet. We’re doing a not-so-secret-santa this year amongst us siblings and partners so it’s certainly easier just buying for one person instead of five (not including the husband, aged p’s and nieces and nephews of course). But I’m thinking of knocking up a few wee handmade gifts as little treats too. I’ve bought a bag of ‘flex frames’ (they’re those bendy metal snap-shut things that you get on kids purses and glass cases) so I’m thinking of doing some mobile phone covers using up some fabric scraps. Plus I’ve just bought some heat-protective wadding so maybe a pot holder/oven glove? I blame Crafty Christmas Club. I had no  intention of making handmade gifts but now I feel like it’s absolutely essential! I shake my tinselled fists at you Tilly Buttons!

Water water everywhere

One of my favourite parts of any project is that bit in the middle, when most of the separate pieces are done and ready to be sewn together. It’s usually at this point that I pin them to my dummy, stand back and do a little dance of glee and excitement.

McCalls 2401 in Liberty silk

It’s at this point I think, that I sense the pure potential in a garment or project. It’s all made up and looking perfect in my mind’s eye (and my own, if I squint a little and shake my head a bit so the unfinished seams don’t spring out at me), and whatever little mistakes I make putting the zip in, finishing the hem, adding the facing don’t exist… yet.

So stop for a moment and imagine how I felt when I saw this, late last night.

Evil water spot

Yep – water marks on silk. Beautiful vintage Liberty silk. How can something so innocuous do so much damage, I ask you?

Any damage to the interfaced facings is fine – it’ll all be on the inside so I can live with that. But pressing the darts front and back (the iron was on a silk setting too!) inflicted the most awful stains to the dress. I’ve been researching how to remove them and I’ve got a couple of methods to try out. I’ll start from the top and move onto the next one if the previous tip doesn’t work.

  1. Rubbing the silk with another piece of silk, going in the direction of the grain. I have no idea how this will work but I’m willing to try it out.
  2. Holding the damaged area of silk above a boiling kettle so the steam removes the stain, and drying flat.
  3. Immersing the item in a lukewarm bath of water with a small amount of mild detergent, rolling in a towel to remove excess moisture and then leaving to dry naturally.
  4. Hanging my head in shame, beating myself until bloody with the damaged item and then taking to my bed with the cats for a year until the memories recede.

But what is the point, dearest readers, of being part of a caring, sharing blogging community all interested in the same thing, if you can’t holla for help occasionally? Consider this a yodel.

Have you ever experienced this? How did you get rid of the water marks? Do you have any tips for pressing silk, considering I still have to finish the item and put in a zip and it’s scaring me half to death? Is a year in bed truly the only way out of this? Do bedsores hurt? Help!

Paying my dues to the pattern blues

Faced with the self-realisation that I am a sewing slattern, brought on by last week’s tussling with a certain Peony we shall not mention, I decided to turn over a new leaf this week and make a bladdy muslin.

It was inevitable really, since I wanted to adapt the pattern anyway. I’m hoping to transform Simplicity 4082…

Simplicity 4082

…into something resembling Trudy’s elegant jacket in Mad Men. Given that I’ve never adapted a pattern before I’m pretty circumspect about the whole thing. But if we don’t try children, how can we ever lean how to f@$! things up as adults, huh?

I started by checking out the back of the pattern to work out which size to cut. According to that I needed to cut out a size 12. But when I looked at the pattern pieces it was obvious even to my untrained eye that these pieces were humungous. Come on Simplicity – at this rate you’d have me in a deflated beach ball. So I chanced my arm and cut out a 6 which looked way better, although even still slightly billowy and boxy.

Simplicity 4082 - before the chop

I wanted to create that nice curved edge that Trudy has on her jacket opening, as well as reduce some of the extra roominess under the arms and around the shoulders. So I got my pencil and my scisssors out – and this is where I’m at for now.

Simplicity 4082 - after the chop

Simplicity 4082 back pleat

I think there’s a lot more still to do if I want to try and copy Trudy’s jacket. Mine is still very roomy, and those shoulders (is that a raglan sleeve?) don’t fit the Trudy brief, nor does the pleat at the back. Or the high neckline. Hmpf! I’m slightly worried about veering too far off-pattern though. What do you think? Should I ‘channel’ Trudy rather than try and copy whole-sale? Does that way madness lie?

Completed project: Colette Peony

Ever since it arrived on the Colette website, I’ve wanted to try the Peony. I instantly fell in love with the simple sweet shape, the boat neck, the 3/4 length sleeves. So I’m happy to say I’ve finished my first (but definitely not my last) attempt. (Excuse bemused expression at husband antics with camera in first photo)

Peony 1

I decided to add piping at the waist, as the pattern notes suggest, and I’m really happy with the result. It makes it seem even more vintage-y for some reason. I’ve not done the belt that came with the piping – I’ve used my bow belt from the Betty Blue Beignet instead as the colours work so well together.

Peony 2

For fabric, I used a vintage bed sheet which I bought from a fair for £4. Yep. This dress cost £4 to make. If you count the pattern and notions then it was still less than £20!

Peony 3

Making it up was a wee bit more complicated than I thought it would be – but to be absolutely honest with you – it was all my own fault. Yet again I failed to make a muslin to check the fit. I picked out a size 2 on the pattern as it most closely fitted my bust and hip measurements (although the waist was a little on the small side for my liking) and cut away with gay abandon. I always justify this to myself by saying it’s a  ‘wearable muslin’ but who am I kidding? I still get surprised/frustrated/feel bad when it inevitably doesn’t fit perfectly. I should just do the groundwork first, make a muslin (even if it’s just the tricky bits like the bodice and waist) and make sure it’s right. But here it is: I am a sewing slattern.

Peony 4

It was only after I put in the zip and tried it on that I realised it was too big. The waist was at least an inch too big, which was really weird since my waist is not, I repeat not, 26 inches. No way. I’d already put my piping in around the waist so I thought I’d try another method of reducing the size without undoing all my work. Sewing purists – you may want to look away now…

Have they gone? Right. I unpicked the zip and cut the seam allowance off both sides at the centre back. I know – that can’t be the right way to do it can it? It must be breaking all sorts of sewing rules and I’ll be going to sewing hell where I just have to sew darts all day for eternity. But I did it and it helped a bit. So what if my side pockets are just a centimetre or two closer to my bottom? That’s fine – I’ll just reach further backwards to put my hands in. It’s exercise. Eliminates bingo wings. Fact.

Ah but it wasn’t enough. The waist still stood out a bit, making me look like a small child wearing her sister’s cast offs a year too early.It was time to unpick and redo the darts. Unpicking the piping was just a tiny a bit soul-destroying. I’m not saying there were tears dropping on Mrs Seam Ripper but there may have been a sniff or two. At this point I should also mention that Karen of Did You Make That stepped in after a plaintive comment from me on this site and gave me some great advice and tips on adjusting a toile and pattern. Plus, just talking to someone else about fitting issues seemed to lift the cloud and make it seem less stressful – cheers Karen!

Once unpicked, I increased the waist darts on the bodice, gathered the skirt a little more and put it all back together again. Amazingly – it seemed to work although there are some issues with the darts and the bust which I need to address. I also still think the neckline is a little too wide for my shape so I will definitely be making use both of Karen’s tutorial and Tilly’s tips next time. There will be a next time! This is such a cute little pattern. It’s really open to little personal touches and embellishments. I highly recommend it. Just be sure to measure up first…

Lovely label from Bridie

Mind your head: Work(s) in progress

Ooh I wish I had some reveal pics to share with you, I really, really do.  But I’m just in the middle of a couple of projects… almost there! I’m installing the invisible zipper on my Colette Peony dress (made from a sixties double bed sheet picked up from a vintage fair for just £4!) and hemming it tonight so fingers crossed there will be a big reveal on the weekend. Here’s a sneaky peek in the meantime…

Peony preview

I’m humming and hawing about whether to do the belt or leave as is. We shall soon see…

I’ve also cut out the pieces from my vintage Liberty silk for McCall’s 2401. I had to hunt around for just the right shade of thread to match the fabric. Another sneaky peek of fabric and notions.  A small tip but a tip nonetheless: I use old shoe boxes to store fabric that’s been cut which I have yet to sew up – it holds everything together in one place.

Mccalls #2 boxed up and ready to sew

Finally, I’m terribly excited to announce I’ve just pre-ordered Tasia of Sewaholic‘s Minoru Jacket pattern! I have to say I really love this coat – it’s so flattering and could be so incredibly funky with the right colour combinations of fabric and lining.

Minoru jacket

It’s labelled as suitable for an intermediate stitcher but I’m hoping the sewing prefects won’t see me at the back of the class with my tongue sticking out the side of my mouth in concentration, trying desperately to keep up.  You can pre-order a copy now and get free shipping until November 10th. This will be my first Sewaholic pattern so I’m really looking forward to making it up. I’m sure Tasia has the same attention to detail as Sarai from Colette patterns, plus she’s planning a sewalong in January – a perfect project to while away dark winter nights and plenty of time to find the perfect fabric and perfect a muslin. This coat is ideal for brisk January walks isn’t it?

When sewing thoughts are not running through my head, driving thoughts are. You might remember I passed my driving test in September, so the husband and I have been looking for a car. Just something cheap and easy to run around London in (i.e. go to Ikea every weekend from now to Chrimbo). We think we’ve found ‘the one’ but it’s not for definite yet. If we do, pictures will be provided. Maybe I should stitch something for it as a sort of welcome-to-your-new-home present, like a gear stick cosy. Ooh a gear stick cosy – what a fabulous idea…. but is it legal?

What’s on your sewing table?