Category Archives: sewing

“Granny-pannies” or when french knickers just won’t do.

1950's style viscose and nylon lace

Spent yesterday trying to drown my head-cold in Beechams Cold & Flu blackcurrant (tastes like medicinal Kool-Aid yummmm) and ignoring how vile I felt by trying out 3 new knicker drafts Ive been developing based on the bottom half of the Dorothy Lamour inspired swimsuit pattern I made this last summer … success! and 4 new pairs of “granny-pannies”; three pairs in a lovely soft pink viscose jersey and daisy lace from Ditto fabrics (they don’t sponsor me – it’s just a great fabric shop close to home) and one in a stretch silk satin from my stash.

I think high-waisted 1950’s style pants are great for occasions where French knickers are too airy …

Stretch silk satin

And yes, I totally agree that it would have been nice if I’d changed the bobbin to pink…

Continue reading “Granny-pannies” or when french knickers just won’t do.

What I Did On My Summer Holiday…

…wait a minute, I worked all summer. The joys of being freelance. When work’s on offer I feel obliged to take it as there may not be more around the corner.

Well, that’s how I used to think but I’m older and wiser now and less keen on hammering myself into the ground.

Still, the summer months were back to back jobs and just whizzed by without much time for anything else (like keeping my blog updated!)

Here’s some of the work I did from early July through mid August:

3 showgirls for a tv advert I love doing retro style showgirl costumes like these (and couldn’t resist trying out a Photoshop film strip action on the photos)

Next I made …

5 Gold “Icons” for Top Hat the musical (clockwise: Queen Elizabeth, Aphrodite, Brunhilde, Cleopatra… and missing is Joan of Arc as the gold paint on her armour wasn’t dry when these were taken.) These took me and a fab prop maker I work with 3 weeks … with a few very late nights by the end.

Somehow in among those jobs I finished a private wedding dress I’d started in the spring….a rather gothic-y number in black lace, silk & cotton tulle and Italian gold lamé. Definitely has a 1930’s feel to it as well. In motion the 8 soft tulle godets are very frothy and floaty. At the last minute the bride asked to have the scalloped edging from the lace fabric appliquéd all the way around the hem which does weigh it down a bit but still moves beautifully. There are 16 black glass buttons down the back and tiny seed beads stitched on the neckline of the dress and bolero and at the under bodice seam. Hardly noticeable but little details like that make it that much more special. It was worn both to the civil ceremony two weeks ago and a couple of nights after to the party. I’m looking forward to the pictures of it in action! The girl who wore it has pale blond hair and intended to pin it up with blood-red roses. The lamé was so fab that I bought a few metres for myself to make a glam 30’s style bias dress in. Personal Project 2,536 …

There were a few smaller jobs squeezed in those weeks as well… nothing special though.

After all that I had a small collapse, stayed at home for 3 weeks, caught up with family and life…and of course did some sewing for myself.

I’m saving that for my next post.

Oh, and finally I received some simply gorgeous pictures of the 1930’s style wedding dress I posted about making here .

 

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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Hot Off The Press…Literally

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A bright little Bridal outfit: turquoise silk blouse with a beaded collar and a short coral silk skirt; four tiers of pleats. Finished just minutes ago and waiting to be collected and will be married in on Saturday.

And I’m posting about this because why exactly you may well be wondering…

•Guilt.
A few new people have recently subscribed  -Hello there and thank you!
yet I haven’t made a new post in weeks… though a few are pending; for instance I’ve been working on those promised instructions for drafting and making 30s/40s style French knickers. Honest.

But mainly been spending most recent weekends in the garden instead of in front of the computer even though the summer so far here has been pretty wet.

•Beading.
And remembering how easy and fun it is to do.
Years ago I’d seen some instructions on Victorian edging beading techniques and though I’ve long since lost those exact ones some of it obviously stuck in my head and after a few minutes of messing about a number of possible beading patterns came flooding back to me.

Since seeing even the simple pattern I did on this collar a few people have asked “how?”

And this weekend I will do a how-to post, I promise, hand on heart!

• And lastly I really wanted to see how doing a post from my iPhone worked.

Quite well actually 🙂

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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.



A very green coat.

Ready for an Easter parade I am in my exceedingly green coat. It’s a colour that cheers me to look at… but I need to be in an exuberant mood to actually wear it.

The pattern was a 9.65€ find at a local vintage fair and with my new zeal for old patterns I was impatient to try it out. So late one evening at the costume studio I quickly chalked the pattern lines on to my pre-washed linen, lengthened it, cut it out and dived into sewing. The water was cold! Caught out again by the generous amount of pattern ease in a vintage pattern plus it being a bit too big anyway I needed to make a fair few alterations as I went along. That was the night I accidentally got locked in the building and so had not much else to do but to keep on sewing until someone with keys could come back and unlock the front door. I got a lot done by the time I was actually let out.

It’s unlined and the seams are all edged with bias cotton binding. Happily linen is forgiving and easy to work with so all my un-picking and messing about with the fit wasn’t too obvious in the end.

Spring coat

Vintage kimono fabric used for facing and to cover shoulder pads
7 rows of Top-stitching on collar, cuffs, pockets & hem.

It’s a great shape pattern and I will make it as a jacket next for a summer suit with a pair of trousers like these Vogue 5757 I think.

I now pronounce you finally finished.

1930

 

Seems like I’ve been working on this forever … but wedding dresses often do. The first toile fitting was just before Christmas and the fabric didn’t arrive until the end of January so it hasn’t been that long really. Getting fittings scheduled is usually the problem. We will have done a total of 5 to get this just so.

Anyway, ultimate try-on and collection tomorrow. Hooray! It’s funny how brides-to-be often say they don’t want a veil, but somehow get more in the spirit of things towards the Big Day and for this we’ve ended with a veil and a tiny cape cover-up as well.

The satin is a fairly weighty 240gm. All seam and hem edges are bound with bias georgette strips and I mounted the bodice on silk georgette as well but left the skirt unlined. With a pair of Spanx underneath not a vpl in sight . Perfect. It fits the bride like a Jean Harlow glove. She’s having a soft waved & rolled 1930’s style hair-do with white flowers pinned in the back and the 3 metre veil will just fall from there.

This job has been a real pleasure, such a gorgeous style to make.

(Pic of original vintage dress in my Rouleaux Obsession post

A peek inside- tiny blue bow for good luck.

 

Little cape cover-up

 

The wedding day.

Pedalling furiously on the upcycle

Shoe Print Top

The idea is about treating scarves as simply another fabric and using them to spark up what could otherwise be a rather plain sewing project. Uses for scarves: cuffs, collars, frills & ruffles, applique´s for spot adornment or to create an all-over-print, bindings, facings, yokes and plackets. I’m sure I missed a use or two there but you get the idea. AND it’s a good excuse to go diving into huge boxes of vintage scarves the likes of which Beyond Retro and To be Worn Again are so fond of. The ones you don’t cut up you can wear. Anyway I think it’s a great way to stretch a remnant of a solid colour fabric that isn’t quite enough to make with on it’s own into something much more fun and unique.

Circular frills made from a scarf
The Green Skirt From Hell

This skirt was one of those projects where if something could go wrong it certainly did. It is a side shoot of this project. I simply wanted to proof the skirt pattern before cutting out the full dress and as I can always use another skirt in my wardrobe  it seemed like a grand plan to whizz it up in a remnant from the stash.

So:

1)pattern incorrect. Check. (hip shaping bad, godets not long enough)

2)fabric problematic. Check. (silk marocaine quite shifty, cut edges fuzz like mad, if there’s a teeny speck of oil from the sewing machine it absorbs it into a spot 10 times bigger)

3)me having a totally bad day. Check.

Not an auspicious beginning. But the professional in me triumphed over my tantrum-ing inner child and I fixed the pattern issues, un-picked and re-sewed seams as many times as necessary to get the hip shape right, the hand picked zip flat and the seam edges from fraying away. The triple top-stitching lines I did on either side of the seams will stay as they are… I’m not proud of them (that’s why no close-up pic) and wish I’d done them on my trusty Bernina Minimatic (which though more than 50 years old sews like a dream) instead of my monster Brother industrial. Even the hem is left down & topstitched multiple times as a finish – the silk was just too spongy to turn up nicely with the 6 godets it has and when all else was done I hand washed it and all the oil marks came out. So yay me and I won’t be polishing the furniture with jade green silk rags after all.

IheartBagPS- I ♥ my new bag from Urban Outfitters: it cheered me up a lot and I can always hold it in front of the bad topstitching if anyone gets too close.