Saturday, 30 July 2011

Vintage Heaven


Yesterday, I had one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had in a long time.  I spent the day at the Vintage Festival 2011 on London’s South Bank with my dear friend Emma. As we both had a rare day without our children, we decided to cut to the chase and head to the 250 stall Vintage Village, rather than spend £60 on a ticket for the indoor activities at the Southbank Centre (a lot of which admittedly did sound fab).

I’m not joking when I say it took us the entire day to get round all the stalls (we take our vintage shopping seriously!)  I’ve never seen such an array of amazing clothes, trinkets and people in one setting. We decided to dress up in vintage style gladrags: I wore my Oolong dress and Em wore a poppy print repro dress based on a vintage pattern). I’m glad we did, as lots of people had made the effort and it really added to the excitement of the day


and the stall holders were all suitably attired


So what did I buy?  Well, I managed to find these two little gems at the back of a box on one stall and a couple of metres of lovely dress fabric.


A pretty green Deco dressing table set which I got for a song, according to Emma, who’s very knowledgeable about such things.


Look what I found hiding on a tableware stall! 


Yes, a couple of pieces from the Midwinter Red Domino range, which I’ve been collecting for over 20 years.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out what attracted me to this range! And finally a cherry brooch.  I remember wearing a similar one when I was a little girl on my favourite outfit (cord pinafore, tights, polo neck jumper) so I was over the moon to find this.



All this scavenging was making us thirsty, so we stopped for tea at the beautiful vintage themed tea rooms.
Emma and I taking tea




Purses depleted and feet hurting, we decided to head home.  On the way out we spotted Albert, the most stylish dog in the world…..


A perfect end to a perfect day. x

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Has sewing changed my life?



‘Has sewing changed your life’? asked Tilly in a recent blog post. Tilly is writing a paper on the impact taking up sewing has had, not just on her own life, but on the lives of other sewists too.  Interested?  Then hop on over to her blog to find out more.

To come back to her question, my answer would have to be a resounding yes. By coincidence, I was one of Tilly’s interviewees for her Stash Amnesty! series a few months ago and her first question was “when and how did you decide to take up sewing?” Here’s my reply:

Like a lot of other sewists, I was taught to sew at school by two very critical, impatient teachers who almost put me off for life.  I’ve always loved clothes and fashion and was increasingly frustrated at clothes not fitting properly, so learning to sew has been on my wish list for years. 

Then, three years ago, my younger son was diagnosed as autistic.  After a very stressful year waiting for his special needs statement, we eventually got him into an amazing school where he’s coming on in leaps and bounds.  When he happily started school, it felt like an enormous boulder had been lifted off my shoulders.  With that worry lifted, I realized I needed to focus on something different, something that I would really enjoy.  So, in September 2009, I signed up for a beginner’s class in clothes making in Shepherd’s Bush.  I loved it from the very first cIass…I only intended to do one term, but I stayed for the whole year…. you know the rest!

So yes, sewing has changed my life, let me count the ways…

1. Learning to sew gave me a new focus and stopped me dwelling too much on having a disabled child.  It’s very easy to feel sorry for yourself in this kind of situation, and whilst I think we all need to wallow in a bit of self pity from time to time, sometimes you’ve just got to pick yourself up and get on with it.  Sewing has definitely been a more productive and positive use of my mental energy. 

2. I gave up paid work nearly 10 years ago when my first son was born.  This was a very deliberate decision and one that I’ve never regretted, but in my experience there are bits of your brain that are just not used as much when you’re at home with children. Sewing has allowed me to flex a bit of brain power and it feels great. The fact that it’s a creative part of the brain is even better – the sense of achievement when you finish a garment or navigate a particularly tricky area of pattern instruction is immense!

3. Sewing my own clothes has made me accept the shortcomings and imperfections in my body. Don’t get me wrong; I’m in the happy position of being quite content about my body and size. It’s just that I’m now in my forties and have had two children, my body is quite different from the one I had in my twenties. I can choose to sew styles that show off the best bits and skim over the worst bits.  This is a choice you don’t always get with shop bought clothes.

4. As well as making more of my own clothes, I’ve made a conscious effort to buy fewer items of clothing from shops.  This has not only saved me money but has really made me think about what I was spending my money on before.  It’s been a good exercise in economy and being a better consumer.

5. I like to think I’ve always had a ‘look’ that was particular to me.  This has been a bit suppressed in recent years, probably because I haven’t had the time or energy to think about it.  Sewing has helped me re-discover my look and I love it!  I really enjoy making clothes that express who I am and what the real me looks like. This has also given me more confidence than I think I had previously.

6. Sewing has allowed me to make my own money for the first time in ten years.  When I gave up work, I also gave up earning my own money. I’d always worked and had my own separate money, so along with the drop in income, this was one of the most difficult things to accept as a stay at home mum.  About a year ago I started selling my own creations at craft fairs and open houses.  And although it’s never going to be a living wage (I’m far too lazy for that), the feeling of making my own money from items I’ve lovingly sewn with my own hands is indescribable. I’ve even started seeing a few bags I’ve made and sold being sported by strangers in the park!  

7. And finally, since I started sewing I’ve discovered the most supportive, friendly and welcoming on-line community I could ever hope to meet.  I’m blown away on a daily basis not only by the talent of fellow sewists out there but the willingness to share and give back to the sewing community.  Having a blog and connecting with like-minded people in the blogosphere has had an important and very positive impact on me.  I’ve also been lucky enough to meet several in real life, which is always an absolute pleasure.  There’s never been any worry in my mind that I wouldn’t get on with people at these meetings.  Why wouldn’t we get on?  We’ve all got so much in common and so much to talk about!  The only downside is there’s never enough time.

My thoughts on this are a bit rambling but nevertheless its something I feel really strongly about. Put simply, I love sewing and love the positive changes it’s brought to my life.  Have a happy day. x

Friday, 22 July 2011

Musings on frillies

Knickers seem to be flavour of the month at the moment (both Dibs and Roobeedoo have both posted about their awesome handmade smalls recently) so I thought I’d jump in too.  My contribution comes from a slightly different but still glamorous angle!  A while back, Gertie posted about the wonders of the longline bra: they provide an instant hourglass figure and a great foundation for retro clothing.  Suitably fuelled up, I tried to find one in the UK, but my search proved fruitless, until yesterday…..


Whilst on a junk shopping mission with my husband in Portobello Road, we took a shortcut through an arcade of shops and came upon What Katie Did.  Oh. My. God. To put it simply, finding this shop was like finding the holy grail for somebody (like me) who likes nice underwear and vintage style.  They have a fabulous selection of glamorous undies and corsets, including an impressive shapewear range AND a longline bra!!! 

Ah, the lovely longline bra….it gives you a fantastic shape and, as they say on their website, a hint of a bullet shape but not too much, perfect for a subtle 1950’s sweater girl look.  What more could you ask for? The bra I bought is from the Glamour range (of course!) and is only available in black (or vintage peach but this has to be specially ordered).   As well as being impressively upholstered, it’s SSOOO pretty.  Because all their underwear is inspired by vintage styles, the measurements tend to run smaller than current sizes.  For example, I’m a 32 bra size but needed a 34.   They also come in a good range of back and cup sizes: 32 to 38 back and B to F cup sizes.  I also bought a matching pantie girdle (don’t you just love that term?!) 
Everything is available online, but if you live in London, it’s well worth a trip to the shop itself.  
It’s kitted out in a gorgeous glamour girl style and the manageress – Vicky – was really knowledgeable and helpful.   I’ll definitely be back for a return visit.  Well, I have just gone six months without buying clothes, I need some kind of outlet!

So there’s my knicker story, not quite as impressive as making my own, but hopefully a useful link if you fancy treating yourself to some gorgeous smalls.  Have a great weekend. x

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Ginger Super Skirt


If you fancy a bit of stash busting and about two hour’s sewing, here's what you do - make yourself a Colette Patterns Ginger skirt.  I’ve been meaning to make one for ages but couldn’t quite decide which fabric to use.  Then I saw Lauren's fab denim version full of attitude, and my mind was made up.  I absolutely love Lauren's Lladybird blog, the clothes she makes are right up my street (lots of gingham and polka dots) and her attention to detail is second to none.  She’s also made the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen....  Now that I’ve embarrassed the poor girl to death, I’ll move on to the Ginger skirt.

This is a great pattern for a beginner: very few pattern pieces, simple, clear instructions and, for me, anyhow, a good fit.  If you’re thinking of sewing your first garment then I’d highly recommend it.  There is an invisible zip but don’t let that put you off, just read on!

On my bottom half at least, Colette patterns are a very good fit – I cut a straight size 8 and it fitted perfectly with no adjustments.  The Ginger is a high waisted A-line skirt with a retro look about it.  For those of you who are interested, it also has a very flattering midriff as it tends to pull you in around the stomach area (always a good thing in my case).

I used a dark denim from my stash that was left over after I made my boys a beanbagBecause the denim is quite thick, I used a thinner cotton for the inner waistband facing.  Unusually for me, I went for a print type that doesn’t usually interest me.  
That was a joke, I had a light blue polka dot in my stash and couldn’t resist!

The only bit that might put a beginner off is the invisible zip.  On my dressmaking course, my tutor taught us how to insert an invisible zip using just a standard zipper foot.  The garments I’ve made using this method have all been OK, but it’s always a bit trial and error with lots of swearing.  For this make, I decided to splash out and buy myself an invisible zipper foot. Wow, what a difference, it makes things SO much easier and neater.  I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to buy one but I’m now a true convert.  The only slight nagging feeling I have is the combination of slightly wussy, weakling child invisible zip coupled with sturdy workman’s denim.  I should probably have used a more robust zip – I’ll let you know how it fares…

Sorry vintage McCall’s 7978 your reign as queen of the A-line skirt patterns is officially over.  You’ve just been usurped by the Ginger.  I’m finding it difficult to imagine a day when I WON’T be wearing this one! x

Monday, 11 July 2011

Oolong unveiled


My brother got married at the weekend and I finally got to wear my long awaited Oolong dress (my previous posts documenting the making of this dress can be found here and here).  I LOVED wearing this dress and am so pleased with how it turned out.  It's probably one of the most flattering dresses I own - I think because it skims your curves instead of clinging to them!  I took quite a lot off the length as I wanted it to be properly knee length (and I'm short) and this seemed to add to the overall 1940's look.  



I don't usually plaster my blog posts with so many pictures but I make no apologies for doing so today because I love this dress so much!  Here one from the actual wedding:

... and here's a peek inside my clutch bag, yes, I couldn't resist making a matching purse! 
It was well worth the teeth gnashing of my earlier posts to have a finished dress I was so delighted with.  Thanks everybody for all your valuable advice and encouragement.  I'll just say it one more time, I love this dress..... x

Friday, 8 July 2011

My six months are up!


Six months ago in a flurry of New Year’s optimism, I pledged to refrain from clothes buying for a six-month period. This week, those six months are up and I’m very pleased to announce that I’ve stuck to my pledge!  Yippee!

The original idea came from the Wardrobe Refashion blog, (which sadly is no more) with the focus being more on refashioning existing or thrifted clothing.  In this respect I didn’t do very well, as I managed to refashion a total of (ahem) zero items during this period.  The thing is, I’m just no good at refashioning.  I just don’t have that far-reaching vision for turning old granny clothes into funky, wearable, individual pieces that uber-refashioners such as Zoe and Miss P seem to have in spades. Having failed miserably on the refashioning front, I have at least made all my own clothes from scratch this past six months and spent no money at all on shop bought clothing. This is the total sum of everything I’ve made:

3 x Dresses (including my not yet blogged about Oolong)
9 x Tops/Blouses
3 x Skirts
1 x Pair of trousers
Whoa, that’s a lot of clothes, probably way more than I would have bought in a typical six-month period. But…. all the clothes I've made fit properly and are made in styles that suit my personality and with fabrics that have been chosen by me because I love them.

Even taking into consideration the giant list of clothes I’ve made myself, I’ve still saved a LOT of money during my six months of abstinence. If I’m not buying clothes, I’m not going shopping as much, therefore I’m not spending money on crap I don’t need.  Pretty simple really.

I haven’t missed buying clothes at all, in fact I’m really used to it now.  I still get inspiration from the shops, but most of the time I know I’m looking at something I could make myself, (with added polka dot embellishments of course). Knitwear is the one exception.  I can’t knit and don’t think I’ll ever really want to.  My attempts at knitting scarves with my Nana when I was little always ended in disaster (how did those mysterious holes find their way into my knitting?!)  I was, and probably still am, absolutely useless.  So that’s one area I’ll never be able to craft for myself.  Which is why those of you who paid careful attention to my non me-made clothes during MMJ will have noticed my little weakness for John Smedley knitwear…. 

I’ve decided I’m going to continue not buying clothes for the time being and see where it takes me.  I'll only be sticking to this rule on a very casual basis - if I see something I love, I’ll buy it, but it will have to be something pretty special to have me handing over my cash!  Let's see how long I last.

Have a lovely weekend. x

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sleeveless Top Challenge


After making my first Sorbetto top recently, I decided to do a sleeveless top challenge: the Sorbetto versus the Pendrell.  I felt that the princess seams of the Pendrell would be more flattering to my shape than the basic vest shape of the Sorbetto.  So away I went….

I’ve had some Anna Maria Horner voile in my stash for a while but keep changing my mind about what to make with it.  I struck whilst the iron was hot (literally) and quickly cut out the sleeveless version of the Pendrell (version three). Once sewn though, it was surprising to see just how plain a top the sleeveless Pendrell really is.  On me, it was verging on the frumpy. I didn’t take any photos of the Pendrell in its frumpsville phase, you’ll just have to take my word for it.   

I didn’t want to waste my precious voile, so I needed to do a bit of re-jigging. Hhhmm, what to do? In the end I added a Peter Pan collar and I think it saved the day.  Inspired by ooobop’s lovely dress in this post, I drafted my own collar using this tutorial. To stop the neckline looking too bulky (it was already bias bound) I top stitched the collar down.  It's not perfect, but it still works and at least the collar lies flat. The addition of a collar definitely makes it more wearable.  Overall, I’m pretty pleased with it.

I couldn't resist adding a button


Now that I’ve sewn the two patterns within a week of each other, here’s my list of what does and doesn't work for me with each pattern.

Sorbetto
Barely 0.5 metres of fabric needed
Very quick to sew            
Free download!          
Great for a holiday wardrobe          
Way too short (this is easily remedied though)          
Quite boxy in shape on me
Needs to be tucked in on me to look good 
Cool pleat down the middle            



Pendrell
More like 1.5 metres of fabric needed
Still quick to sew but not in the Sorbetto's league
Pattern is good value, considering this is my third make from it
Too plain on me without added collar or sleeves
Nice and long
Princess seams extremely flattering
Can be worn tucked or untucked on me
Two sleeve options available

In conclusion, I think they’re more or less neck and neck. I think the Sorbetto is better as
casual holiday top, whereas the Pendrell is a more elegant style.  They’re both great
patterns and I’m sure I’ll make more versions of each one.  It was a
fruitful experiment though – I’ve now got two very wearable tops for my holidays. Result!                                               

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