Sew It and Sea

 

Remember my Lamour swimsuit from a few summers back? I finally got back to that pattern and over the last 4 months in between costume work and wedding dresses I’ve developed a whole little range of retro styled swimwear and thought I’d give a preview of some of the pattern styles I’ll be releasing.

For the last two weeks while free of commissions I’ve been working my socks off testing, sampling different sizes of the grades, trying out different fabrics. The gold halter suit & the sparkly turquoise and tan are both patterns designed for lycra. The turg/tan number has been my choice of beach wear these last couple of weeks …even though the sparkles keep coming off and making me look like a hardcore fan of body glitter. There’s 2pc versions of both.

 VaVoomLamour

 

The other patterns are for woven cottons; the bodices can be used with skirts to make fab sundresses too.  Optional mini skirts are in the works to join with the tops so the suits can even become vintage style swim-dresses if the little pants aren’t your thing. 

I may even do some ready-to-wear suits… already been making a few for friends who don’t sew and have a couple of factory possibilities to check out. Anyway that’s all even further down the road. 

Sizes you ask? I hesitate to give size names as they vary so much from country to country, company to company. However the 6 graded sizes I’ve had done cover busts 32″-42″/84cms-104cms, hips 35″-45″/ 91cms-109cms.

Amourette Jolie 2pc Amourette as Dress

So far the patterns are finished. The grading has been done.

I’m 1/2 way through adding seam allowances, grain-lines, info,  checking notches match and make the patterns into size nests.

Still to do:

Write sewing instructions (someones gonna have to tie me to a chair for a week  2 weeks for that one!)

Illustrations for the envelope & pics of real women in the suits (the fun stuff!)

Oh and of course getting them printed on light weight pattern paper.

Oh, yeah, the website : getting a proper shop set up.

Arrrggh all of a sudden I feel a little overwhelmed.

Never mind, I’ll get there.

Stay tuned ;)

Sew it and Sea!

 

HiHo Sewing in the US of A I go.

Well hello from southern New Mexico where ostensibly I’m on holiday visiting my mum. But not to sew for two whole weeks??
I m p o s s i b l e.
Weeks before my arrival I’d been lurking on USA ebay and won some lovely vintage patterns and had them sent to my US address. It was nice to be able to buy a few Hollywood patterns particularly which I don’t come across on UK ebay that often. Believe me when I say I wasn’t planning at all to sew on my visit, honest I wasn’t!

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I lasted a mere 6 days. The vintage patterns were whispering to me. I shouldn’t have been left alone in the house! A rummage in my mums well stocked fabric cupboard produced various summery possibilities notably a biscuit coloured linen/rayon mix fabric- Oh my, just perfect for the Hollywood pleated hip shirtwaist. How could I not begin immediately? Using my mums left handed scissors almost put a stop to it all as I’m right handed. Then I discovered the kitchen scissors were right handed and cut the linen reasonable well so I was off to an almost flying start.

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As to making it: The most perforations on a pattern ever. Tailors tacks? Phooey, I’m on holiday! I merrily dotted away with a regular lead pencil but then read that the pleats got formed by folding and matching all on the outside so the pencil dots all ended up on the right side. Oops, well they erased pretty much and what didn’t blends into the speckled weave. Those pleats into the horizontal front (they also form bust darts of sorts) and back armhole slashes had me confused at first – talk about minimal pattern instructions – but I finally figured them out. One of those construction things that once it’s been done it makes perfect sense. The linen started ravelling a lot but using cotton bias binding tape over various seam edges put a stop to that. Once the pleats had all been sewn and the 4 bound button holes made putting it together was a cinch.image

So, a few long afternoons later voilá! Worn today ….with a bias slip underneath of course and my first pair of Remix shoes. Been wanting a pair for ages. They’re comfy as anything and sure to be worn for years. Fabrics for the Butterick skirt and Hollywood shorts and bra will be coming home with me too giving my mum an excuse to restock.
As if anyone ever needs an excuse to buy more fabric.
And a Good Thing I travelled with a spare bag.

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(click pic for link to remix site)

It hasn’t been totally sewing though. Today I made an English cream tea for some American friends … tried out the Paul Hollywood Great British Bake-off scone recipe as I didn’t have my usual with me. Turned out terrifically. I think it may replace the recipe I’ve been using for the last 15 years.

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(click pic for link to recipe)

Sewing on holiday isn’t a Bad Thing, is it? I also started crocheting an afghan, cooked other nice things, helped with a huge closet clean out… maybe going to need a rest when I get home. :)

I have a bias

towards slips. I am a slip convert, a slip missionary even.

Do you know that these days many women don’t own even a single slip ?!

Maybe because they think slips are prissy and redolent of prudish sensibilities: “The more fabric between your body and the world the better!”

Or perhaps they are haunted by memories of scratchy cotton-organdie slips that granny/aunty/mum made them wear under Sunday best ? 

There are some very contemporary and excellent reasons to wear a slip:

-A slip can help mask bumps and lines from your other underwear thus making your dress look smoother and hang better…especially under an unlined dress.

-A slip in cold weather can keep you warmer.

-A slip in hot weather keeps your dress from sticking to your body thus giving the visual impression of ladylike coolness.

-A slip can prevent unfortunate revealing moments caused by weather events like a surprise breeze or being back lit by sunlight

-In her 1950 Sewing Simplified book  Mary  Brooks Picken writes “Wear your dress proudly: When your dress is finished, the last stitch taken, hang it where you can see it. Consider when and with what you will wear it. If you haven’t the right slip, make one at once.”

And well, they just make for nice dressing/undressing wear.

Arm poses optional.

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Are you beginning to think  “hmmm, well yes a slip might be nice…”

One more hurdle to jump. Welcome to the Slip Shopping Minefield-in one corner is cheap floozie’ wear…

 and in the other is crazy expensive ‘designer’ wear (and for that kind of money I’d rather buy shoes or even go on a weekend mini-break)

There is a simple solution and I know you could see it coming a mile away:  D.I.Y.

VVcream bias

VeraVenus Bias Slip Pattern

Just added to my FreeStuff page is the pattern for this cut-to-cling bias slip in 3 sizes (33”-39” bust, 35″-41”hips)  with basic sewing instructions. I’d say making a bias slip is intermediate sewing. However you learn sewing by doing so have a go with some inexpensive easy fabric regardless of your skill level.

There is quite a lot of sewing info in my French Knicker tutorial on cutting flimsy fabrics, doing french seaming, pin hems, attaching lace etc. all applicable to sewing slips too.

The pattern can be adapted to make a gorgeous nightgown and is also marked  for cutting off to make a camisole as well.

VVbiasNightie

Before you rush off :

1) DO TEST (ie toile/muslin/prototype) the pattern FIRST to check fit. It is cut to fit neatly. The 3 sizes are nested so you can see how I did the grading and so could grade up yourself even further for larger measurements.

2) DO Choose appropriate fabric, one with a good bias stretch i.e. not a taffeta or a dupioni or firm cottons or polys that don’t give on the bias much. Silk crepe de chines, georgettes and charmeuse generally have a good bias stretch but certainly rayons, thin cottons, and many polyester fabrics work perfectly well cut on the bias too. My own most often worn bias nightie is made from cotton. You can blend one size top with a different size hip. For example  my hip measurement is on the border between Size1 and Size2 so  I used Size2 hip line for cotton or less giving fabrics as it gives me more ease and the Size1 for very bias stretchy silks as I do like a clinging fit in a slip. That’s why trying the pattern out first to see how it works for you is important before using a special fabric.

3) DO Pre-wash your fabric first. Silk, rayons and cotton especially can shrink a little with washing and better that this happens before you spend hours sewing something than after. Pre-washing gives silks a nice vintage feel. I put mine through a super short machine cycle and then hang dry and give a good iron on the wrong side after. If you’re in doubt wash a small sample and check the result.

Go.

Download.

Have fun sewing!

Flash Valentine 1940s Undies Pattern Give-away

I have an unused reproduction pattern for a 36 inch bust, 40 inch hips (produced by The Vintage Pattern Shop) of this 1940s bra, slip and knickers to give away. The draw is open from now, Thursday evening,  until midnight Feb. 14th UK time.

If you are interested just leave one comment below and on Saturday afternoon (UK time) I’ll do a random draw and announce the winner and pop it in the post next week.
Weldons Pretty Undies no.50

I’ve been collecting vintage lingerie patterns and magazines with their original free patterns for a couple of years now and have a nice little collection growing. Also I finally started making a photo record as I have bought duplicates a couple of times now!

Here’s a little show-off of what I’ve got so far ( I’m particularly pleased with my Weldons magazines; it was the one with the pink cover and eau de nil lingerie that opened my eyes to these as collectables) :

IMG_2722 IMG_2724IMG_2726 IMG_2723

That’s all until the draw :)

Uh-Oh Lutterloh

A few months ago I was very generously gifted not one but two Lutterloh pattern books on cd, from 1940 and 1941. That very same week on eBay I bid on a Summer 1949 supplement being sold from France. Amazingly I won it for not too much. So completely and utterly spoiled for choice and unable to decide which design to start with I photocopied a number of my favourites and randomly drew this one to be my first Lutterloh make.  That fine cotton hummingbird fabric I posted about back in April was used for it – and going by my self-imposed ”one out-one in” stash rule I can now buy a new fabric ;)

I resisted the impulse to edit my pics to make my waist look as small as the illustration… or to make the illustration look as realistic as me.

So without more ado here is my Lutterloh 1949 make:

VVlutterloh dress2 VVlutterloh dress1Lutterloh was started in Germany, 1935,  and is still going strong today. It’s similar-ish contemporaries were a French system called Eclair Coupe Paris and The Haslam system which I think was American. This is a YouTube video of the Man From Lutterloh demonstrating with a simple waistcoat how it all works (14 minutes long if you have the patience). I find the principle totally intriguing and would love to distribute my own patterns in this miniaturised way but I’m quite sure the method is copyrighted up to the hilt so will be sticking with the old multi-page cut n’ tape pdfs for now.

So how did my try at Lutterloh go? Well, drawing the pattern out was dead easy like the advertising says. But…and this is a big, HUGE  ‘but’ : there are no seam allowances included on the patterns, no real indication of grain placement, and no facings or lining pieces. Also there are absolutely no sewing instructions or finishing suggestions, no hints of what to interface, line or even where to put openings to get the garment on and off.  So, basically, if you don’t know how to work out all of that or really don’t relish the challenge of learning and experimenting I wouldn’t recommend rushing off to buy one of the (expensive) reproduction vintage booklets on Cd that are available. There are some lovely styles from the French system sold singly on Etsy by Mrs.Depew Vintage which could be an inexpensive way to experiment if you are so inclined. Someone else on eBay in the USA sells whole collections of vintage Eclair-Coupe  Paris on Cds at a (in my opinion) very reasonable price. If it does appeal I recommend you consider arming yourself with a good sewing and  perhaps a fitting book as well.

How accurate was the pattern once drawn out? Actually not too bad at all. The sleeves needed no alterations other than shortening to suit me and the skirt just a little adjusting to hang well. I did add a good amount more fullness into it than the pattern had though. The bodice needed the most alteration as the shoulder height and pitch were really wrong on me, the armhole needed moving in an inch and the vertical under-bust dart was in a bad place so I finally just took one of my own basic bodice blocks and made a similar pattern with it, knowing then that all elements would fit me. I’m not at all sure if the bodice problems were due to me being a bit careless with how I marked my initial pattern points or what. I’ll have a better idea when I tackle a second style.

I made a muslin mock up first which as well as highlighting fit issues was a huge help in deciding how to finish edges and where to locate the zip. I opted for one in the left side seam instead of a centre back one, and made the left side under-wrap  pass through a slot formed by leaving a part of the right dart open…rather than the usual side seam opening, which I thought was kinda clever *pat on back*.  The neck edges are finished with a narrow self bias binding. The three extended sleeve darts definitely needed some support so some very stiff Vilene cut in crescents shapes then sewed into the armholes did the trick. The belt ends are just closed in the back with hooks and bars.

I’ve read on the internet that while Lutterloh Co. is still a very active company in producing contemporary styles they aren’t interested in reproducing the vintage books. I also have gleaned that the company is fairly hot on copy write infringements- it seems ok for people to post pictures of the styles but absolutely not of the actual patterns. Google ‘Lutterloh patterns’ for all kinds of further info.

Anyway it’s an interesting pattern system, a fab way to access unusual vintage patterns from 1935 onwards and like I said (while gazing at my badly organised shoeboxes bursting with vintage pattern envelopes) until you draw them out on paper they take up virtually no space!

Lutterloh maybes

Ah, and what about the fab chunky platform shoes I’m sporting in the pics you ask?

Audley 'Dingo' shoes

Ok you didn’t but I’m telling anyway- they’re from Audley, London, bought as a ‘my foot is better’ celebration. After my stupid, stupid foot breaking accident of last September (and I never wore those stupid wide legged trousers again!) I lived in sensible, supportive, lace-up walking shoes for 8 whole months. Nice with trousers but dreadful with dresses. I’m also still doing foot strengthening exercises and lots of foot massage and can see a pair of ‘Joan’ shoes from ReMix in my future to go with my next up Lutterloh make planned in brown wool crepe with brown velvet applique leaves:Lutterloh1941

Next day edit:  The urge to do some digital surgery became too great this morning so here is me as a Lutterloh Lady :)

2LittleLadies

Two Little Ladies From Lutterloh

Frank Lutterloh, the current head of the company has just started a Lutterloh blog as of Sept. 2013 featuring both contemporary and vintage clothing made with the Lutterloh system. Should be interesting!

Oranges & Lemons, Almost A Miss and Summer Fabrics Waiting.

photo from http://spitalfieldslife.com

and round and round and round in my head went that song the entire time I sewed this dress. GaaaH!!!  I’m about as far from being a London cockney as a transplanted-to-Brighton ex-New Yorker could possibly be.  My children learned the lyrics in school and I learned from them as we marched around the South Downs singing this at the top of our lungs. Gave the livestock quite a fright.

The other week a local fabric shop gave me a couple of meters of this lovely citrus fabric in exchange for having pics of my results to show off on their FB page. (as I checked the link worked I saw some fab new dalia patterned cotton just in…. look away now!) But anyway, fabric in exchange for pics is a win-win situation in my book. I even have a glass necklace of oranges bought on a long ago trip to Venice to accessorise with. But now I cannot get that damn song out of my head.

I haven’t sewn from a vintage pattern for a while. This was nice quick dress to do and helps justify my growing pattern collection, sort of. Yeah ok really not at all but I do better with my fabric stash… that is a fairly constant one fabric in to one out. Vintage patterns are roughly ten patterns bought to one used. Not so good. Thankfully the often silly prices of vintage patterns do help me keep a check on myself.  Catherine of  The Makings of an Urban Rustic has recently been making herself some pretty full skirted summer dresses and they reminded me just how much I like this silhouette. And even though, baby, it is still really cold outside some new summer clothes seem the way to sew. I’ve been trotting out the same ol’ dresses for a few years now as the English summers make their half-hearted appearance.

Makower cotton fabric

Makower Oranges & Lemons cotton fabric

Now jumping back to the 1940’s, the second version of the Bloggin Blues dress is underway (pattern corrected, copied out and in the post tomorrow Villblomsten :)  ) This time in a rayon challis print. It’s very different than my original effort isn’t it?!  At first I was seriously not loving it & had to leave it for a bit. The fabric is very limp and the print is a little too reminiscent of a flannelette nightgown I once had. But I soldiered on as I had to at least check the pattern was in good working order. But then styled with a red buckle, a scrap of red velvet for buttons, a red handbag and visions of a dash of red lipstick on the day-  and no miss but a hit! It needs its back belt, red buttons and loops, shoulder pads, a hem and she’s done.  It hasn’t quite got the punch of the first BB dress but is very wearable and I’m sure I will.

Print version

fabrics in waitingHere are three highlights from the big pile of fabrics I’m determined to use soon: the hummingbird fabric, quite new, is destined to become another full skirted sundress. That’s easy. The embroidered raspberry chambray has been brought out 5 years running but I still haven’t used it-  a bit of an eyeful colourwise?. Maybe the slim skirted version of the 60’s style I just sewed or possibly just a shirt. Which ever, it’s crying out to be worn someplace sunny to keep it from looking too garish… so not surprising if it ends up back in the fabric cupboard for yet another year.  And then there is the crazy daisy punched linen I bought a couple of years ago. That’s gonna be a tricky one. Not least because it’s white so a guaranteed Pimms spillage magnet. Also the construction techniques will be difficult regardless of the style it gets used for. But when I’m next up for a challenge it’s the fabric I’ll reach for.

Some of you may well be wondering “where does she wear this stuff?”  Well, what can I say… I’m the best dressed walker on the South Downs and you’ll certainly hear me coming-“…when I grow rich say the bells of Shoreditch. When will that be say the bells of Stepney…”

Beret Success- hat pattern review

I actually haven’t sewn anything since before Christmas which for me is almost like not breathing but a break every now and then is good even I admit. Instead over the hols I baked like crazy (umpteen batches of biscotti and a Baked Alaska) and just this past Monday returned to the UK  from a couple of weeks in southern New Mexico- though I did finish a blouse while I was there but that doesn’t really count and it still needs buttonholes. So yesterday, after tidying up my workroom which suffered from family invasion while I was away, I wanted to make something simple that wouldn’t tax my jet-lagged brain and would get me back in the sewing groove.

This little 1948 French beret pattern from Mrs. Depew was just the ticket.

The pdf contains the instructions for drawing out the pattern for the simple, nicely proportioned small beret and the cute bird ornament. Sewing instructions are very minimal but really it isn’t hard to construct.

beret4

 

The two things I changed were making the head opening a few centimetres larger (maybe french women had little heads in ’48 or maybe I just have a big one) and I shortened the length of the birds body by 1-1/2 cm so to my eye at least it had more of the same proportion as the illustration. I also lined my beret. The birds wings are two layers of suede fused together so not to be floppy and I wish I’d done that for the tail too. If you make this hat yourself doubling up the bird fabric is something to bear in mind depending on what you use. The edge stitching is also something I decided to add just to make it a little more tailored in feel to go with my newest Miss L Fire shoes ( :) on sale)

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Now my suede-trimmed  tweed suit (a version of a vintage late 40’s suit which I had to copy for a film in November and that just happened to fit me too- occasional perks of my job)  that I made just before all the baking started is accessorised and ready to go … just as soon as my Christmas waist goes away and I can button the skirt again that is.

Will I make this beret again?

Most certainly. This first one took about four hours to make with my messing about some but will take half that in the future. I have some red velvet lined up for a loopy bow one and some turquoise suede to make a second bird beret in. A black felt one with a sequinned or beaded bird could be fab too I think. All in all a successful make.

Now I’m going to whizz up a little black satin dress based on my 30’s PJ top free pattern to wear tomorrow night to a White Mink evening…. because of course I haven’t got a single frock to wear!

Singing the Blahblah Bloggin’ Blues

Had a bad case of the blogging blues these last couple of months and had to just walk away and think for a while. Blogging was supposed to be an enjoyable thing but became a stress and an obsession instead. I have enough of those already. It got so I couldn’t make anything without thinking about whether or not I ought to be photographing my progress, jotting down the steps and writing a tutorial. And how often did I check my stats?? Sheesh, talk about a creativity killer. Can’t say I’ve come to an understanding with myself about what I’m doing here on WP or why or for whom… but hey I didn’t hit ‘delete this site’ so even if not exactly back in the saddle at least I’m walking alongside the horse. And I have been sewin’ up a storm while singin’ those blues and at the end of the day making clothes is my passion and I just have to keep sight of that.

So.

A while ago while idly perusing vintage dress sites looking at pix of dresses hoping for some inspiration I came across this red beauty on FabGabs.com (site now under reconstruction) and it was love at first sight!

photos by FabGabs.com

So I made a version for myself. It’s made from a heavy silk crepe I’ve been hoarding for years just waiting for the perfect moment to use it and has a velvet yoke, sleeves and pockets. The embroidery is cut out from an upholstery sample, first BondaWeb-ed to stabilise it and help stick it in place on the velvet and then blanket stitched with silk buttonhole thread all around the edges. The pattern itself is a cobbled together job- draped bias sleeves from a 1940’s style evening dress I made a private client a couple of years ago, skirt, also bias is a lengthened version from the 30’s pj top I put a pattern up for (DIY page) and the bodice was adapted from a fitted shirt block. The 4 rows of shirring at the top and bottom of the bodice to control the fullness is a technique I really like and don’t use enough. In a panic I discovered I was down to my last fabric buckle covering kit and they are so hard to find these days… Vogue Fabric site has them in USA and Amazon.com. But they won’t ship them to the UK for some reason so had to warn my Mum in New Mexico a packet of a dozen is headed her way which I’ll collect in January. Phew, panic over :)

I’ve used the cut-out embroidery technique before on this georgette and velvet kimono I did for Making Magazine (a UK craft mag I do sewing projects for quite a lot)

That’s a pic of one of the  18″ square upholstery fabric swatches a friend who works in a posh interior design shop gave me and the image below shows how I machine stitched it on. Going around all the edges with blanket stitch is somewhere on my to-do list….. someday. Anyway I think it’s a good cheat for adding embroidery onto clothes for those of us who don’t embroider.

French Knicker Sew-Along Day 1: ready, steady…

…sew!

Day 1- today covers cutting out, hand sewing on lace motifs, sewing french seams and how to attach a continuos side seam placket with either a hand or machine finish.

Day 2- tomorrows post covers adding a waistband with either a fabric or elastic (ha, didn’t expect that did you!), machine appliquéd lace hems and motifs, machine pin-hemming, hand-made button-holes and other closing options. More

Lounge Lady

“Yes, ok, you can come to the pyjama party too!”

‘Lounge Lady’ pyjamas sounds so much nicer than ‘Lounge Jockey’ pyjamas

(what my family has dubbed them because of the print on the fabric :( )

What ever you’d like to call them, they are finished!! More

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French-Knicker Sew-Along PDF

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