Category Archives: Inspiration

and so into 2013

we go…
Into 2013

The New Year walk was walkedGlynde, the locals were wished all the best for the 2013,

the neighbours

2013portraitand the official beginning 2013  portrait was snapped.

The Christmas tree is now on the recycling heap and ornaments have all been lovingly packed away. Every year there are loud protests ( SOooo embarrassing Mum!) when The Angel of ‘Happinosh’, Bad Santa and the Rude Rocket are brought out and hung on the tree but they are among my favourite Christmas decorations and will always have pride of place… secretly I suspect the offspring are rather pleased that their toddler-art is still cherished.

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And finally the last crumbs of the holiday baking mountain have been consumed and I can but hope my waistline returns soon to its pre December measurement.

IMG_1608BiscottiBaked Alaska

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I have a New Years Resolution? Not really other than something safely vague about doing more exercise …..

 

With one thing and another this season seemed very subdued. Toning down Christmas commercialism is certainly welcome… and maybe next year even the perfume manufacturers will get the idea that less is more and we won’t be treated to the likes of Brad Pitt droning on for Chanel  in the hands-down absolute winner of worst perfume ad of 2012! It was good for a laugh the first couple of times I saw it but by NYE the entire family could recite the words. Not good.

Anyway I do wish SewVeraVenus readers a Very Happy New Year and leave you for the moment with this helpful idea from 1947 for brightening up your January outfits:

1947 Complete Book Of Sewing by Constance Talbot

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 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.

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French inspiration from August 1939


Last weekend I bought the 1939 August of issue Marie Claire magazine in a antique market

from 73 years ago this month!

It has these lovely illustrations of men’s holiday fashions in ice-cream colours which really caught my eye.

Just one month later WW2 was declared.

In the same issue is this article of ideas on using lace as appliqué on ‘bibelots” (I’ve always loved that word)

Inspiration hit and I made…. wait for it…… more french knickers of course.

Serendipity in the form of some lovely soft turquoise-y blue silk broadcloth I bought only the week before.

To make lace appliqué bows you tie a length of lace into a bow and fiddle about with it on your ironing board sticking pins in here and there until it has the shape you like and then you press it very flat.

Carefully re-pin it in place on whatever you will be sewing it on. Flat fabric is easier than an already sewn garment because of having to turn it every which way while sewing.

You can either hand baste it in place first (the methodical way) or go straight to sewing it down (the impatient way) though the pins will really get in the way.

I used a small size 2 straight stitch and was very grateful my machine has a presser foot knee lift!

You could cut some sections of the backing fabric away after sewing which would look lovely and airy- in which case either a tiny machine zig-zag or close hand-whipping the lace edges down would be better.

Continue reading French inspiration from August 1939

Are you going to the pyjama party?

It’s a sew-along with tutorial on sewing some pj bottoms from a modern Simplcity pattern or a link to drafting your own.
What a good idea…. and just the push I need to make myself some lovely new pjs that I won’t be embarrassed to open my front door in as it seems that when ever I have a pj-day my house is suddenly transformed into Grand Central Station.
I’m opting for using my own patterns as I just happen to have a similar little top I drafted for myself a number of years ago and a number of loose trouser patterns that will do for the bottoms. Continue reading Are you going to the pyjama party?

House of Wenger, 3-sided Italian Stitch and a final word on knickers…

A few months back a friend very generously lent me these gorgeous pleated silk knickers to photograph for my reference files. Going by period illustrations and saucy photographs of the time  I would date them as from 1925-1930. (clicking on any pictures will open a large version)

Silk pleats!

Think of the ironing. Though I imagine the woman who originally bought these hand-made silk undies from the House of Wenger in Philadelphia in the 20’s had someone to do it for her…. Continue reading House of Wenger, 3-sided Italian Stitch and a final word on knickers…

1940’s Copycat Coat

Circa late 30’s or very early 40’s I think…

The original coat doesn’t look all that fab here but it was just one of those things that you try on and go “Wow!”.  So over two months last Autumn I made a version for myself.

-First step was a re-drape of one side of the coat in muslin directly on top of the original to give me the basic shape and style lines. There was a lot more shaping under the arm than you can see in this photo and some tricky cutting near the pocket and I wouldn’t get that accurately if I worked on the flat from a modern coat block. Re-draping is fun anyway and I always learn something new when copying old garments with this method.

-Second step I transferred the muslin pattern onto paper and made corrections from measurements I’d taken from the coat. Then I made a toile from the corrected pattern. After fitting it on myself I decided to add an extra pleat on each side of the centre back pleat and to have them start right at the waist instead of a bit below the belt.

Third step etc- All seemed good enough to get on with my real fabric finally, a sturdy wool cavalry twill. The body went together reasonably easily though the curved dart that goes into a little horizontal seam at the top of the pocket was a real fiddle to do. The sleeves were a twisted disaster however… never did quite figure out what went wrong with them but I had enough fabric left (phew!!) to recut. To get them right I used one of my own modern basic sleeve patterns altered to the proportions of the original coat sleeves.

I like a snazzy lining in a coat and found this silk twill fabric that still makes me smile on the grimmest of days.

To build up big enough shoulder pads I used two mens suit pads in each side.
I didn’t like where the top two buttons hit my chest so left them off as well as leaving off the arrows on the end of the front darts.

The waist buttons holes are self-welted and though the sleeves are done with a proper button vent on the back seam I never actually did the buttonholes on them… and have been roundly told off for laziness by a tailor friend. I will do them …some day. All the under stitching on lapels and fronts was done by hand . I am lucky to have the use of an industrial steam iron as the cavalry twill is tough stuff to press and don’t think I could have managed with my home iron.

Just as a last note on the pleats: each individual pleat is seamed to the next one. It is more pieces to cut out and sew together but really helps the back of the coat keep its shape. The lining is not pleated however, it is just an A-line shape in the back.

I absolutely love this coat and consider it one of my most successful makes to date. I’ve worn it a few times this June even, can you believe it? Not the warmest summer here so far…

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Now I’ve Started I Just Can’t Stop…

…making swimsuits that is. And this pattern from the late 50’s/early 60’s is a real gem

I can see this in solid colours as well as other prints. It’s a fast and easy thing to sew.
Making it up in lycra is definitely worth a shot too.
As a full length all-in-one for hot weather off the beach? I think that could be fab. It’s such a good shape and fit I may even make a little linen dress from it as well

I really like a pattern that has possibilities of going much further than what is on the envelope.

The fabric used here is a hand printed cotton from India and I lined it with black cotton lawn just to keep the inside neat. I pre-washed both.

Instead of buttons up the back as suggested I inserted an invisible zip. I can get in and out of a garment with a back zip on my own but cannot manage buttons and asking for help can be awkward. Can anyone really do buttons up the back themselves?? I can’t even do bra hooks in the back…

But getting back to Butterick 6536 . It’s sized for 32 Bust/26 and a half  Waist/35 Hip. And it fits me at 34/28/38. That ease thing in commercial patterns again. The 1940’s swimsuit I made a couple of weeks back was true to the pattern size. And this one, though pictured as being form fitting, looked positively baggy and not very nice on my daughter who is very close to the Butterick 14.

But that’s a good thing it was too big for her because it’s MINE now all mine! Fits me just like the illustration. The only thing I would change on a second make is to scoop the back lower and make the channels for the side gathering strings as strips sewn on top rather than hand stitching little eyelets. I’m not after authenticity of make, it’s the retro silhouettes I love.

In exchange for losing a swimsuit the daughter has selected a June Havoc Hollywood dress pattern from the 1940’s, an off the shoulder top from the 50′ and a playsuit from the 70’s plus fabrics from my stash cupboard, and  I get to make her all that.

Hmmm, somehow not a even deal here.

Dreaming of Dorothy Lamour

For me the ultimate beach-babe is not off Baywatch and isn’t remotely like Bo Derek .

No, I’ve always held Dorothy Lamour as being the ultimate queen of Glamour Beach.

(Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable do figure in there too as style consultants).

So I got the Dorothy hair style down but the swim suit was missing.

But no longer…

(sound of a fanfare here and a ta-da!)

Move over Dorothy, Vera’s gonna kick some sand in your face.

Lamour 2 piece

This is the most recent proto-type: I’m on version 2 of the pants and version 6 of the bra. It still has pins holding the straps on and a couple of construction issues to iron out but basically it’s the swimsuit of my dreams come to life.

The lycra is swimwear quality (apparently not all lycra is made equal? … something I need to find out more about)  and I lined the bottoms in power-net so don’t even have to remember to hold my tum in all the time- the suit does it for me. The bra cups are backed with a seamed cotton cup for better shaping than lycra alone would give though I’m going to try them in the power-net too just to see how that works… that would make the whole suit stretchy and more modern in construction.

There’s light nylon bones in the sides of the top so it doesn’t crumple and plastic swimwear clasps to close the back band and neck strap. The bottom cut is a little shorter than the one Dorothy is wearing but is still proper ‘big pants’ and I’m loving the modesty panel. Possibly the most flattering suit I’ve put on in recent years.

And a 1 piece version in the works too.

I’ll have a red one, a black one, more print ones, a stretchy lace one, a gold one… one for every day of the week!

Taking the plunge 1940’s style…

Project ‘Swimsuit’ is finally under way.

All last summer I talked about making some retro styled beachwear for myself, daughter and friends.

Did I actually get around to it ? weeelll,  I sketched ideas, collected some 1940’s and 1950’s patterns and original garments for reference… and then suddenly last summer was over.

But amazing early warm sunny weather has hit the south coast of England this last week and my thoughts turned once again to sun and sea.

 I saw this 1940’s pattern at the Vintage Pattern Lending Library  and decided it was the answer to my annual beachwear problems

The cotton fabric is from a French Connection skirt I bought 6 years ago. I always loved the print but finally the waist just became too tight so the skirt landed in my scrap bag only to be recently rediscovered and recycled into this swimsuit.

The top is bagged out with a lightweight black cotton poplin and that is what I used to make the shorts that attach under the skirt as well.As the fabric was limited cutting out was tight. The waistband is pieced from 3 scraps and I narrowed the band on the bottom of the bodice to be the same width as the waistband. My skirt finishes 1&1/2″ shorter than the pattern which was just too long for my 5’4″ height and I saved a bit more on the cutting layout by not including the 2″ hems allowed for on the pattern. The fit was perfect and the pattern for the shorts underneath could make a great pair of flat front wide legged trousers at a later date.

A cotton swimsuit will be quite a different experience from a lycra one especially in terms of drying out time after a dip. I’m ready to put up with some dampness in exchange for style though.

All in all I’m really pleased with the outcome and full sail ahead.