Tag Archives: dressmaking

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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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?

Into 2012 we go… and a free mini cape pattern

Halfway through January already…. so hows that New Years Resolution working out for ya?

The papers have been merrily trumpeting the fact that most of us, if we even made one, will have given it up by the end of this month!

Well I made two and so far so good:
1st: Don’t Over Complicate Things aka Keepin’ It Simple
This can be applied to just about everything in life from sewing to relationships.

2nd: Finish What I’ve Started….. This applies particularly to the backlog of projects I started last year- that rouleaux shouldered dress (still love it and really want it to be ready for Spring), still more lace needing hand-whipping onto this black satin kimono and My Big Project: SewVeraVenus Lingerie. Yup, really fell behind on that one…. my apologies to all of you patiently waiting for the1940’s bra pattern I mentioned in the Autumn. Anyway I now have graded sizes from 30A-DD through 36A-DD and will be running a Birthday Give-Away of five patterns at the end of January to celebrate both a year of (very sporadic) blogging and another year of my life. If you are a subscriber you will be the first to know 🙂

2011 wasn’t all unfinished business though: in November I moved all my working equipment down from a London studio into my home. A major undertaking as I hadn’t realised quite how much stuff I had amassed. Anyway took a month to settle in but all put away now and a nice work-room to be in. I think my husand has just about gotten over losing his study… and now I have the option of working either home or away and it’s a huge improvement when working on my personal projects as the kitchen table really wasn’t great for sewing especially when family was making cups of tea around me.

Also VeraVenus™ is now officially trademarked so I can add the little™ letters after it, woohoo!

But back to sewing matters: the day before New Years Eve I decided I needed a new dress and whipped up this one:

New Years Eve dress

It’s based on the 1930’s bridal dress I made last spring and a project that had been lurking in my mind for some time and I had to get it in before that ‘finish the old before starting the new’ resolution kicked in. Setting a tight time deadline usually gives me the needed shot of adrenaline to stop messing about and get on with things. I had some pale lavender-grey fur scraps leftover from a costume job which I pieced together to make the square shouldered 30’s/40’s style shoulder cape to wear with it… just what the velvet needed.

Blue felt 1930’3-1940’s style capelet

Lastly for now, as a Happy New Years gift to SewVeraVenus readers this other cape pattern, as seen in this blue felt version, can be downloaded from my VV Free Patterns page. It could look great made in wools, felt, fake fur, even linen or heavier cottons… leave it plain or embellish like mad.

(NB:It is a pattern only, no instructions are included… but easy to make)

Happy 2012 sewing!

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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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.



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.

Rouleaux obsession

1940s dress with rouloeu decoration on the sleeves

My current rouleaux obsession has started because of this lovely early 40’s dress. I’ve borrowed it from the costume house I often do work for as I’m feeling the need to make  a similar one for myself.

I’ve made the dress pattern, readied lengths of rouleaux from my fabric and figured out how to make the lozenge shapes. The fabric I’m using is a pale stone colour cotton/linen blend. Lots of applique work ahead!


The satin dress below is an original a client bought from eBay. Lovely but just too tatty in the flesh to wear on her wedding day. I’m recreating it for her in heavy silk satin but re-using the original leaf collar. I suspect that is from yet a different dress even as the satin colour doesn’t match the satin of the dress body.

Really rather glad I don’t have to remake that .

And sew to begin…

 

These pics  are of a romantic lace wedding dress I designed and made last summer that I was particularly happy with.

It was vintage in feel if not strictly adhering to a particular decade.

Top layer was french lace hand pieced together so as to appear seamless. Under layer was a heavy silk crepe lined in a light weight silk satin and all was supported by a built in cotton tulle corselet. The 3 metre silk tulle veil was edged with a tiny zigzag stitch and had 36 lace flowers hand appliqued on near the front and back edges. All in all  200 hour make.

A happy ending for my part, only the beginning of the story on theirs.
the inside matters-cotton tulle corselet , lightly boned which supports the whole dress..

 

 

Appliqued cut out lace flowers with a tiny glass bead in the centres which caught the light just enough.