My Handmade Style: Katie from Little Red Squirrel

From vintage chic to clean modern shapes, how do these seamstresses create and communicate their own unique style in their projects? What and who inspires them, from film and music to everyday life. And what’s their dream outfit?

This week we’ve got a vintage style maven in the spotlight – Katie from Little Red Squirrel. I just discovered Katie’s blog late last year and wow – this lady is dedicated to creating truly gorgeous vintage looks. Plus she can rock  red lippy to the max. RESPECT. Katie – over to you.

Katie, I’d put you somewhere between a forties vixen and a fifties sweetheart with your fabulous vintage makes. But how would you sum up your handmade style?


Hi Joanne! Aw thanks, that’s really sweet of you! I must admit I am in a long-term love affair with forties and fifties fashion and the looks from both of these eras do influence my personal style very heavily. I make my clothes pretty much solely from vintage patterns and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I suppose I would say my handmade style is a nod towards the class and quality construction of a bygone age. People say “they don’t make clothes like that anymore”, but that’s what I endeavour to do!

Where do you find your style inspiration and how do you channel that into your me-made wardrobe?

I find inspiration for my clothes from all kinds of different sources. I am a big lover of film and television and find that watching certain things really influences what I want to wear! I went through a big Joan (from Mad Men) phase for a while – although I don’t really have the figure for her look! – and more recently I’ve fallen in love with the 1950s London look of Call the Midwife and Sienna Miller’s Tippi Hedren in The Girl. Can you tell that I’m a sucker for a costume drama?! I also find browsing online at sites like Pinterest can be very inspiring, or looking through old fashioned magazines or books from the eras that I love. If I find a look I like I’ll do my best to recreate it in my own way.


What’s your creative process in deciding what to make? Is it a fabric-based decision or a pattern that inspires you?

Mostly I start with the pattern before the fabric. Once I have an idea as to what it is that I want to make I set about finding a vintage pattern that is both suitable and the right size for me (or near enough so I can scale it up or down), then I’ll move on to my fabric choices.

Who are your style icons and why?

I have quite a few style icons; I admire the looks of classic starlets, for example Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, but I think the person who inspires me the most is Dita Von Teese. I adore Dita Von Teese’s style  because she made it beautiful and sexy to be pale and interesting, something that I’m thankful for! I also love that she dresses for every occasion, not because she’s obligated to but because she just loves beautiful clothes. She is glamorous because she chooses to be for her own pleasure, and I think that’s a wonderful thing.


Are there any particular designers or high street stores that you use for inspiration?


The designers that I draw the most inspiration from are Christian Dior at the time of the New Look (I mean who isn’t in love with that suit?) and Adolph Schuman’s label Lilli Ann, which created some of the most beautiful tailoring during the 40s and 50s. I was given my very own Lilli Ann suit as a Christmas present this year and I cannot tell you how beautiful it is, the construction details are just ridiculous! I cannot imagine how much time and effort was put into making such a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Work like that inspires me to become a better seamstress!

Dior

Lilli Ann

If you had to select one self-stitched garment encapsulates your style – what would it be and why?

It would probably be the matching plaid cape and pencil skirt I made this year. It’s definitely the outfit that I’m most proud of at any rate! This outfit shows a lot about me, my love of vintage style, the new skills I have learned in tailoring and even my obsessive compulsive need to match patterns exactly! I love this outfit and all it’s details and it will definitely set the bar for all my future sewing projects. I just hope I can live up to it!

Why do you sew what you sew? Do you choose projects on a whim or do you look at your existing wardrobe and spot vital gaps to fill? 

During the past year I have pretty much just sewn what I wanted to sew because I didn’t have that much time on my hands for sewing projects as I was travelling a lot. I wanted to enjoy my limited sewing time so I allowed myself to just sew for pleasure rather than  convenience! However, this year I do think I will be looking to fill some of the gaps in my wardrobe, and there are a few!

Do you ever take risks and experiment with your look? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

I took a lot more risks when I started sewing my own clothes, I look back at some of my first ever projects and I wonder what was I thinking?! For example, during my first few months of sewing I made a crepe dress and a pendrell blouse both of which are great patterns but neither of which suit me at all! They have long since been removed from circulation in my wardrobe. It has taken me a long time to develop my personal style – my current look took some work! – and now that I’ve found it I don’t really stray from it. But that’s not to say that in another five to ten years I won’t go through another drastic change!

There are certain looks some of us just can’t pull off… do you have a style bugbear?

I do not have the legs for leggings/jeggings or any kind of skin tight, lycra-esque leg coverings! And also I can’t see myself sewing up a mini-skirt any time soon! I’ve gotten too used to the length of the skirts of the forties and fifties!

What would be your dream outfit, existing or otherwise?

That’s a hard choice, there are so many outfits I’d love to call my own… Well, if I have to pick it would probably be Grace Kelly’s iconic dress from “Rear Window”, a stunning dress from an even better film. Or maybe Jessica Rabbit’s sequined number, just for fun!

Grace Kelly

What other sewing bloggers would you recommend for great individual style?

That’s another hard one, because I read so many blogs! Seriously, I have hundreds on my feed reader, I’m a bit of a blog addict! At the moment I would say that my top bloggers for great individual style would be Pia of stormsmagasin.blogspot.dk for her effortless beauty, Cassie of cassiestephens.blogspot.co.uk for her fabulous individuality, Tasha from blog.bygumbygolly.com for her incredible knitting projects and both Johanna of blog.johannaost.com and Emma of fiercestlilliputian.blogspot.co.uk for channeling such exquisite vintage loveliness.

Finally, what’s on your sewing table right now?

I’m so excited about the sewing I have planned for 2013, I have a lot of fun, new projects up my sleeve! My first project for the New Year is going to be my first ever pair of self-sewn trousers, something I have been wanting to do forever. Hopefully they won’t be too difficult, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see!

(Ed – 2013 update! Katie did make those trews and here they are! Marvellous – yes?)

Thank you so much for inviting me to take part in your “My Handmade Style” series, Joanne! It’s been a real pleasure.

Why thank you Katie for taking part and letting us have a peek at your stunning vintage wardrobe, as well as introducing us to some amazing new blogs.

I think this is more ‘me’

First up, thanks everyone who commented on my winter coat muslin. You’re all so funny and lovely and clever. I laughed, I cried, I nodded vigorously throughout.

The overwhelming consensus was that this coat is not working for me at all.  The collar is too big, the raglan sleeves too low, the swingy voluminous shape too voluminous for my small frame and the length waaaay too long. Plus, there was some very sage advice involving swelling bosoms, breast feeding and avoiding complex sewing while heavily pregnant.

So taking all that on board I’m going to put my winter coat plans on ice until next year. Any tips on storing three metres of beautiful expensive wool without getting perma folds in it?

And in the meantime, I’ve purchased… this!

Simplicity 7805I decided that something more fitted would suit me and my frame (even if I do end up a bit chubbier) and I love anything with an empire line. When I saw this I just thought of Moonrise Kingdom and fell in love instantly. I’ve actually bought it in a Bust 36 to accommodate any potential extra boobage I might be lucky enough to get.

Isn’t View 1 totally adorable with that double collar?! God I so want this coat to be made up now. But patience is a virtue and what a fantastic goal to get me back in shape post partum.

A nice sit down

Greeting crafters! Hope you’ve been making the most of your weekends so far. I’ve literally just finished a project and I just had to write it up because it’s one of those projects that makes me bloody proud to be crafty (and cheap).

So I was looking for a chair that would be ideal for nursing in, and I found a beautiful Ercol rocking chair on eBay going for a song. I eventually won it for £41 and it was delivered last week. It’s a gorgeous chair and the cushions are so comfortable… but they were a bit… eighties shall we say?

Original cushions

The original cushions – grim!

Pretty grim huh? It was time for a makeover.

I had this lovely vintage cotton I picked up at a market in Crouch End a few months ago. I’d been saving it for cushions but when I realised how beautifully it went with the dark wood of the chair I was committed.

Vintage fabricI just traced around the original cushions directly onto the fabric, noting where the zips were. I used some ready-made piping I had in my stash and hey presto, three hours later, we have a transformation!

New ercol cushionsI’m so so chuffed with this! It’s weird that a little project like this can make you so happy isn’t it? I can’t wait to get crocheting in this later tonight!

Do you find little projects can have a completely out of proportion impact on your sewing mojo? What’s been your proudest crafty moment recently?

Warning: This post contains fabulous vintage fabric

The Shop, Brick Lane

Shelves bursting with fabric

Hello pop-pickers. Have you all recovered from the style-fest that was the weekend? Not only did we see a multitude of amazing OWOPers on Tilly’s post; we also had the most glamorous round-up of Mad Men dresses ever from Julia Bobbin. My, these posts just keep on giving – every time I go back I see something else I want to sew or another blogger I want to add to my reader. Thanks to both Tilly and Julia for a dazzling end to March.

In other news, I went for a wander around Brick Lane on Sunday with some friends who were staying with us. If you haven’t been over there in  a while and you like vintage clothes, great music and fabulous food, I can heartily recommend it.

We dandered down the main drag, pottering off into little streets to explore tiny boutiques and hidden markets. There’s tons of stuff to do, see and buy. One shop I recommend seeking out is just off Brick Lane at 3 Cheshire Street. Called simply The Shop, it stocks an amazing range of vintage fabrics, clothes and trinkets, plus lots of gorgeous Scandi-style linens for making up adorable aprons. I’m looking at YOU House of Pinheiro with your fantastic vintage apron tutorial! Plus The Shop has one of the biggest range of silk scarves I’ve seen in London. That’s a pic above of some of the shelves – good for a rummage.

Here are my finds:

Floral cotton poplin

1 metre of seventies-style floral cotton poplin, to be used for cushions in the living room. I’m thinking hot pink neon piping. Just £3.50.

Peach square

2.5 metres of this man-made fabric (not quite identified) from Rose & Hubble – to be used for a dress I think. Crucially – it doesn’t feel nasty. A snip at £9 for the lot.

Silk dupioni

My favourite – just under 2 metres of this gorgeous silk dupioni. I’ve been looking for a checked silk dupioni for ages (I was thwarted trying to buy some of this from Harts – they informed me it had sold out over three weeks ago but rather annoyingly seems to still be on the site hmph) and whilst this is a different colour scheme from what I wanted I think it could be a very pretty dress or a luxe tulip skirt? A bargain at £7.50.

I love finding vintage fabric – any tips for other shops/markets in London? Share ’em!