Saturday 31 March 2012

OWOP - my week!

One week, one pattern, three skirts and many costume changes.  The week of wearing variations on the same tried and trusted pattern is now up and the pattern (Colette Ginger) has been well and truly worn to death.  Here's how I got on:

Day One
Denim Ginger worn with refashioned blue rose top and a green cardigan.

Spring officially sprung today, so the whole family hopped on a train and headed to Brighton.  Whilst the boys frolicked on the beach, I sloped off to Zoe's Craftaganza for an hour.  It was wonderful - by far the best craft fair I've ever been to, with a really cool mix of sellers.  I bought loads, caught up with Zoe, bumped into Kathryn and had the pleasure of meeting Rehanon and Laura for the first time.  What a fab day! 

Day Two

A nice combo if you're feeling a bit old fashioned, which I was that day, lounging around reading vintage magazines and playing with my old buttons....

Day Three
Red crepe Ginger worn with an L K Bennett polka dot blouse

There's something about top-to-toe red that really puts a smile on your face. I loved wearing this outfit, hooray.

Day Four
Denim Ginger worn with rabbit blouse

The high waistbands were beginning to be a bit tiresome by this point so out came my rabbit blouse.  It's short enough to wear untucked but still fitted enough to give you some shape.  

Day Five
Red crepe Ginger worn with Peter Pan collar Pendrell

I was pleased that these two pieces went together so well as I love red and aqua.  You may notice I've added the sleeves to this blouse.  I wore it once in its sleeveless state and felt dreadful, just really frumpy.  Every time I caught sight of my reflection I felt about 100 years old.  I don't know what it is but it looks way more youthful with sleeves (they are frilly after all). 

Day Six
Apple print Ginger with a white T-shirt

The apple print came in quite handy here for jazzing up a boring top half.

Day Seven
Denim Ginger with stripe top and cherry brooch.

A nice nautical end to OWOP. It was so sunny too, I got to wear my fab new Clarks shoes, God how I love them!

Some random thoughts....
  • Although it's the most casual of the three, my denim Ginger is also the most versatile.  There's virtually no top that doesn't match this madam.  
  • The red crepe Ginger felt the most dressy of the three. I don't know if this was the fabric - it certainly feels a bit floatier than the other two.
  • The apple print Ginger was the trickiest of the three to style.  Yes, it's a print, but the colours are also quite unusual to match (aqua and dark brown).  It was the most comfortable skirt of the three to wear though - it's the only one with a proper slippery lining.  Maybe I should keep this in mind for future skirt making?

Overall it was a really interesting exercise and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  BUT, quite early on, I did feel that I'd restricted myself by choosing a skirt pattern, doh! Versatile as it is, next time I'll go for a top pattern so I can style it with skirts AND trousers.  Funnily enough, I went straight for the trousers when getting dressed this morning!

Thanks Tilly for organising such a great initiative, I'm now looking forward to spending the day reading through everybody's thoughts on OWOP. Oh yes, and going to see a street dance 'crew' with my son of course....!  x

Monday 26 March 2012

Mad Men Dress Challenge - The Big Reveal!

Ta-Da.... I've finished my Mad Men dress, just as spring has sprung.  
I chose this bright blue Joanie dress for the challenge, as I wanted to add a fitted shirt dress to my wardrobe.  I took it slowly, adding a few of my own touches, and I'm pretty happy with how close it looks to Joan's original number.
So, down to the nitty gritty.  The pattern is vintage McCall's 3779 from 1956 - a fitted wiggle shirt dress with kimono sleeves. I love the style of this pattern, especially the clever contour darts around the waist - they create curves where curves don't exist and nip in any that are a bit out of control!  It's the same detail that was used in my Roobeedoo top, which, incidentally was another vintage McCall's, they certainly knew how to cut a flattering pattern in the 1950's. 

I didn't make a muslin (tut tut), the only adjustment I made to the paper pattern was to shorten it by three inches - the original length was virtually ankle length on me! When I first sewed it up it looked absolutely fine, but it just didn't have that Joan va-va-voom factor I was looking for. This is where the kimono sleeve shape really comes in handy.  Because there's a centre back seam and the underarm seam and side seams are one and the same, I was able to make the following adjustments to the dress without it looking completely butchered: one inch taken from the top arm seams, one inch from the centre back seam to the waist, and an inch off the side/underarm seams, tapering down to half an inch at the waist.  I also took another three inches off the length (yes, I'm officially a midget).  I've made a copy of these adjustments, but I'm pretty sure my next version will be similar to the original, roomier pattern I sewed up.
I HATE wearing my hair up - you can see how uncomfortable I look!
The buttons are self covered and I made my own belt with a covered buckle, using a belt and buckle kit from A Fashionable Stitch (a one inch 'Rita' if you're interested). The dress needed a belt to match the Joan inspiration picture, but I personally think the dress is more flattering without one.
Hair down and no belt - that's better.  Look at how big my hair looks after I've taken my up-do down....
....and look how flat it looks one minute later!  Yes, I have the world's straightest hair.
For fabric I used some cheap as chips 'bi-stretch' from Calico Laine.  I found it difficult to match the colour, plus I needed something with a bit of stretch and this seemed to tick both boxes.  It was fine to work with, and at £3.50 a metre, I made the entire dress for just over a tenner. But… it's pretty cheap and nasty fabric at the end of the day.  I think the style of the dress is classy enough to disguise this, but I know it.  I do regret not using a wool or double knit, but it's a pretty close match despite this. I'd love to make an Autumnal version in a double knit and there's already a summer polka dot version in the planning stages as we speak!

It was a real pleasure to make this dress and I had a lot of fun trying to recreate Joanie's overall look for the pictures. I've also really enjoyed following everybody else's progress and reading all the research other bloggers have been doing into different character's looks.  This has probably been the most enjoyable challenge I've been involved in so far - I've had a big grin on my face during the whole process! So massive thanks must be given to Julia Bobbin for organising such an interesting and fun challenge.  Don't forget to check out her blog from 1st April, where she'll be showcasing all the other amazing Mad Men dresses that have been created worldwide.  I can't wait to see them all.

Happy Monday! x

Sunday 18 March 2012

Marilyn Exhibition

On Friday, I visited the Getty Images Gallery, just off Oxford Circus in London, to see its Marilyn exhibition.  The exhibition is to commemorate 50 years since the death of Marilyn Monroe, and showcases some amazing, behind-the-scenes candid photos of her at work and at play.  But that's not all…. exhibited alongside the photos were a number of original dresses and costumes worn by Miss Monroe herself. The beautiful, beautiful dresses were amazing and a real sight for sore eyes.  There was so much to love about them: the 1950's styles, the tailoring details, the fabrics, the handcrafted beading and the fact that they were all indisputably Marilyn Monroe-shaped.  It really was a privilege to see such gorgeous vintage tailoring up close. Here are a few of my favourites:

 Red sequined dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Flapper dress from Some Like it Hot

White silk and chiffon gown with handcrafted beading from The Prince and the Showgirl

Costume from Bus Stop

Negligee from Niagara
Black silk with an appliqued pink rose at the bodice.  Up close, you could even see that the straps had worn away to reveal something that looked a bit like actual horsehair.  Would that kind of material have been used to strengthen straps in the 1950's do you think? I'd love to know if anybody is knowledgeable about such things.

Pink Linen Halter-Neck Wiggle Dress worn in Niagara

This was the most casual dress and I totally fell for it.  It's quite unprepossessing on the dummy, but just look how different it looks when worn by the lady herself....

It's a fab exhibition and is on until May 23rd, so definitely worth a visit if you're in central London.

In other, slightly less glamorous dress news, I've almost finished my Mad Men Challenge dress.  I've made my covered buttons and matching belt (oooh) and just need to sew the buttons on and hem it. Wahay.  x

Thursday 15 March 2012

My recent earring fix

Good afternoon! Now you may or may not have noticed, but I hardly ever wear earrings.  There's no particular reason why I don't - maybe it's because I tend to wear my hair down all the time, so my ears and what's in them mostly go unobserved? I don't know. I own maybe three or four pairs, and style-wise, they're all as plain as my name.  So in a surprisingly out-of-character move, when I clapped eyes on these be-jewelled, dangling lovelies last week, I knew I had to have them IMMEDIATELY.  

They come from a new online shop Harmony and Rosie, set up by Kate. Kate's passion is for all things old, from the beads she uses to make her jewellery to the fabrics she transforms into cushions and purses.  All jewellery is made from vintage and antique beads, dating from the 1920's to the 1940's (the beads in my earrings are from the 1930's). 
Harmony and Rosie
The beautifully made cushions and purses are made from whatever vintage fabric she can get her hands on - monogrammed sheets, rose printed eiderdowns, even vintage grain sacks.  Prices aren't cheap, but if ever there was a case of you get what you pay for, then this is it. You can really see the love and attention to detail that has gone into making everything. The packaging is particularly thoughtful too - all jewellery comes in handmade pouches made from 1930's/1940's cottons. Like this one that my earrings arrived in.
To celebrate the new venture, Kate is offering a 15% discount on all orders until Friday 23rd March.  Just quote 13579 on the coupon code to buy.   

Back to my earrings....I've fallen for them hard. I love the colour of the beads (obviously), the little flower at the top and the fact that they look a tiny bit like cherries.  They're so glamorous and so pretty!
I may even have to make myself a dress especially to showcase them.  I'm thinking of making V1011 from my latest haul, for a friend's big birthday later this year. 

It's not an everyday dress, but for a glamorous do it will be perfect, perhaps in a classy grey crepe fabric?  Ooh, I'm so thrilled with my purchase, watch out though - this may be the start of a mid-life dangly earring-wearing phase...!

Enjoy your Thursday. x

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Here's to Sewing Bloggers...

I'm ridiculously late to the party as usual, and you've probably already read about the Oh Sew Brixton! meet up on Tilly's, Karen's and Joanne's blogs.  But if you haven't, then you'll want to know that last week, almost exploding with excitement, I met up with the above three lovely ladies, along with Alana from Lazy Stitching for a FAB night of sewing, eating, drinking and chat at Oh Sew Brixton.  Alas, my photography skills were severely hampered by my need to stuff my face with cake, and the only one that was even vaguely showable was this one of Tilly hard at work embroidering her racoon!  
I've had the pleasure of meeting Tilly, Karen and Alana before, so it was like meeting up with old friends. I hadn't met Joanne before though and she's as delightful and funny as she comes across on her blog. I can't wait for the next meet-up. I really did have the best time and wish it could have gone on for a few hours more.  The evening was to celebrate International Women's Day and raise money for Oxfam so we all set to making 'things' from scraps of fabric. I made a phone holder with this lovely rose print I found....

...then I made another one in wool, for winter use, just in case my phone gets a bit chilly you understand....

Thanks so much to Tilly for organising it and to Fiona from Oh Sew Brixton! for hosting such a wonderful evening.  

In other news, I've been on the receiving end of the most incredible generosity from sewing bloggers recently. Without having to extract even one pence from my purse, I'm now the proud owner of this amazing haul of vintage lovelies:

First of all, Zoe sent me two patterns after the Brighton de-stash meet-up.  

She'd bagged them herself, then decided they were more my style than hers so passed them on to me!!!  How thoughtful and lovely is that?  They are most definitely my style and I love them both, thank you Zoe, you're an angel.

Then Steph sent me this beautiful 1940's blouse pattern as a thank you for letting her copy my kimono wrap pattern.  
So thoughtful and very much appreciated, thank you Steph, I love it.  View 3 reminds me of my Roobeedoo Top, but my lazy streak is nudging me towards view 2, mostly because it's made from two scarves. Can't WAIT to make that one!

Then I won three 1940's and 1950's patterns from Andrea at Invisible Flower in one of her super generous vintage pattern giveaways.  I entered for a few batches but this was the one I really wanted to win, how lucky am I?! Thank you Andrea, I've already picked out the fabric for the PJ's.  Strangely, the blonde girl with plaits looks just like I did when I was a teenager….

And as if that wasn't enough excitement for one lifetime, never mind one month, I won another giveaway!!!!  Yes, this vintage red polka dot Minnie Mouse skirt is now mine. 

If ever something had my name written all over it, then this skirt is it! I won it from Charlotte over at Sew Far Sew Good and it's perfect. Thank you! 

I'm so, so lucky to have such incredible friends.  Here's to sewing bloggers! x

Monday 5 March 2012

Kimono Wrap Top - second time around

When I buy fabric, it's not always apparent what it should be made into. Some fabrics shout out exactly what they should be as soon as you clap eyes on them.  For others, it's more of a slow burn, with ideas coming and going.  I prefer to wait until the perfect combo presents itself, sometimes this happens whilst I'm on the bus, when I'm asleep (yes, I dream about fabric...) but sometimes it's when I see a garment on another sewing blog.

That's what happened with the 2m of blue/grey wool mix I found in the bargain bin of my local fabric shop over a year ago.  I've had lots of ideas of what to make with it but it was only when I saw Stephanie's blue knit wrap top that the penny actually dropped. There's a bit of a story the end of last year, I sent one of my vintage patterns (Advance 7701) to Steph to copy, after she put out a plea for a 1950's wrap top pattern.  
It was only after she made up her version that I knew what my wool fabric was destined for. I would make another wrap top from Advance 7701, but this time in wool - a kind of kimono cardigan.  As a further little twisty turn in the life of this pattern, Steph has now created her very own Kimono Wrap Top pattern using the original vintage pattern as a starting point.  Her pattern is available for sale on Craftsy.  I can't tell you how happy this makes me!

Anyway, Advance 7701 was the first vintage pattern I bought and the first one I sewed back in November 2010.

I struggled a bit with the instructions and seem to remember the whole process taking a long time. The end result was a wearable muslin that happily has been worn a fair few times.  Second time around and it was like I was sewing a different pattern. Everything suddenly made perfect sense and the cutting out and sewing was a doddle.  It just goes to show how sewing on a regular basis really does improve your skills, whether you're using vintage or modern patterns, or even just making a few cushion covers - it's all practice.  The whole process of cutting out fabric and following instructions don't seem quite so daunting when you're doing it virtually every day.
MUCH happier this time round! Can you tell?
So in summary, it was a smooth, easy make.  I did think of lengthening the ties -  the ties on my first version refused to go very far round my distinctly non-1950's waist and I ended up wearing it knotted at the front here, without any actual wrapping being done. I still like it worn that way, but it's a bit of a shame not to wear it the way it was intended. This time round, I banked on the wool having more stretch to it and it did.  Way more stretch actually, it wraps around and ties quite easily.  It's a simple pattern - there are only three pieces and one of those is just a tiny rectangle for the back collar.  The main piece is absolutely enormous though, so you can really only cut it from fabric with a decent width to it.  The only other change I made, which I copied from Steph, was to hem the edges of the top instead of using bias binding, which saved a lot of unnecessary fiddling time. 

Verdict?  I love, love, love it.  The colour, the kimono sleeves, the vintage look of it and the cosy, cosy feel of the wool mix.  I know I'm going to wear this a lot, especially as it goes so well with my high waisted sailor trousers. The fabric's quite light so I'm fairly confident I'll be able to wear it in the summer too.  Yippee! A great outcome for my bargain fabric.

How about you?  Do you always know exactly what you're going to make with your fabric or is it a long, tedious process?  I'd love to know. Happy Monday. x

Thursday 1 March 2012

Supermum strikes again.....not!

It's World Book Day today - where school children get to dress up as a character from their favourite book.  You may remember in my last post, I was procrastinating about making my son a pair of Tintin pantaloons.  Well I'm pleased to report that in order to deck him out as his hero, ALL stops were pulled out.  Us paragons of motherhood need to lead by example, so here's a rundown of the rocky path I had to venture down to get there.....

1. Open wardrobe and find white shirt, blue jumper and white football socks.
2. Purchase a pair of brown shorts. 
3. Toil away for several minutes, even as many as five, to sew elastic around the bottom of each leg.  

Can somebody pass me my award now please?

Here's the cub reporter in all his finery:

Tintin strikes back.....

In case you think we live in a violent, gun-loving household,
can I just point out that Tintin is quite often shown carrying a revolver!

Right, just off to polish my halo now.   x


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