Thursday 25 February 2016

Finished: Vintage Topper

This week I finished making my vintage Topper (Simplicity 3451) and it's already proved to be a useful little cover up.

Hmmm those cuffs look a bit big...
Because Toppers aren't supposed to be fitted, I made a quick muslin to check the fit. My pattern has a lovely 1950's swing shape, but it's a difficult one to pull off if you're short and curvy. Making a muslin was a wise move as it highlighted the fact that the original pattern was too wide for my build. I took quite a bit of width out of the side seams up to the underarm to make it less swingy - about 2.5" on each side. I also narrowed the sleeve width by 1" and re-drew the back neck curve about ⅝" lower as it was weirdly high. I'm talking evil queen from Snow White here ….

The shape is a very simple one with a high, fold back collar (see above!), shoulder darts and wide kimono sleeves. I made View 2, the reversible version, so construction was relatively straight forward - I made up two complete Toppers then attached them right sides together around the neck and front edges. There was a fair bit of hand stitching involved but for once I actually quite enjoyed it. The sleeves and hem were turned under and catch stitched down and the bottom edges and sleeve edges of both coats were then joined with an invisible ladder stitch. The hand stitching took two episodes of Desert Island Discs (Kathy Burke and Charlie Watts) to complete, which was a nice interlude.

The only part that could have caused difficulty was attaching the neck and collar areas. Luckily, it's the same principle as attaching a collar and facings - the key thing to remember is to clip up to the stitches when instructed, which allows the fabric to turn a corner and not get caught in a big lump! Here's a close up of how the back collar looks when it's joined together.

When it came to choosing fabrics, I tried to recreate the chic navy and white combo of View 2 on the pattern envelope. I used Seriously Soft Navy Twill and Navy and White Birdseye Wool Mix, both from Fabworks. This was my first time ordering from them and I was impressed: good quality fabrics, very reasonable prices and excellent customer service and delivery. I'll be back!

I only had two pattern pieces to contend with, but crikey they were big - I always forget how massive kimono sleeved pattern pieces are, especially with extra wide sleeves! I managed to squeeze the pattern pieces onto two metres of each fabric by cutting the navy twill on the crosswise grain and the Birdseye fabric in a single layer.

Because the soft navy twill was described as drapey, I assumed it would be lightweight and therefore a good contrast with the thicker Birdseye fabric. In actual fact it's pretty heavy, and as a result, my Topper is a bit bulky! I don't mind though, it's only meant to be worn as a cover up and it's super cosy and warm.

I'm not sure if it's the bulk or the colour, but the navy and white Birdseye side just doesn't look as good as the navy side. I haven't taken a photo of me wearing it as I don't like how I look in it (like a Michelin man actually) but here's what it looks like on my dummy.

It does, however, make a damn fine lining fabric.

Looking at the photo above, I definitely need to work on my nonchalant bitch face, it's not a patch on the original.

Jon telling me to give him my best 'evil bitch' look didn't help...

One second later….

I've already worn it a few times - it worked perfectly in a draughty cafe yesterday and will be ideal for wearing in the car when my son plays football.

And on a final note, making this Topper counts as the 'suitable for winter' part of my cunningly worded Vintage Pledge 2016. Yah!  x

Monday 22 February 2016

Vintage Pledge 2016

As March is fast approaching, I thought I'd better officially sign up for this year's Vintage Pledge before the year runs away with me. The Vintage Pledge, now in its third year, is co-hosted by Marie at A Stitching Odyssey and Kerry at Kestrel Makes in a bid to encourage us to sew up some of our beautiful vintage patterns more regularly. Last year, I made a rather rashly thought out pledge to sew up a vintage halter neck top pattern, which I then had to abandon. But I did still end up sewing three garments from vintage patterns last year, so I don't consider it a failure. 

 For this year's pledge, I've chosen to be purposefully vague:

"I, Jane, pledge to sew up two vintage patterns in 2016 - one suitable for summer and one suitable for winter." 

I'm already hard at work on my topper, which takes care of the winter part of the pledge, I just need to decided on a summer pattern. Interestingly, all three patterns I sewed last year (herehere and here) were ones I'd used before, so it would be good to step outside my comfort zone. One thing I'm reasonably sure of is that it won't be a dress pattern. I already have at least two summer dresses in the pipeline for this year and in all honesty, I don't think I can accommodate many more. My total dress tally is probably far fewer than lots of other sewing bloggers, but it's still more than enough for me! So I'll be concentrating on separates pattern, with these three currently on my shortlist:

Vogue 8696 from 1955 - a sleeveless version of C would make a very chic bow blouse.

McCall's 4168 from 1957 - which has a lovely gathered waist and shoulder detail. 

The wild card is McCall 8061 from 1950. These 1950's shorts are almost identical to a red pair I own from Vivien of Holloway - with a high waistband and patch pockets to the front. The problem with my VofH shorts is the sizing: the waist to hip ratio is 12 inches, and in order to get a comfortable fit around the waist, the hips are ginormous. I ended up taking in the inner and outer seams to reduce the hips, which sort of works but they don't look great on. It would be good to make a pair that actually fitted properly!  

I'll let you know once I've made my mind up. Which pattern do you think I should make?!  x

Friday 12 February 2016

Liberty trim cardigan refashion

My favourite piece of knitwear is a fitted, red John Smedley cardigan. It was a birthday present from my husband about five years ago and I LOVE it.

First outing of my beloved cardigan in 2011,  pictured with my gingham twin
and long time sewing pal Scruffy Badger

Being red, it goes with almost everything in my wardrobe and being from John Smedley, the quality is excellent. After almost daily wear, the wool isn't the slightest bit bobbled, but sadly the poor old cuffs have suffered. I don't know what's happened to them, maybe somebody fancied a nibble or they caught on something in the washing machine (most likely scenario), but they're basically knackered. I've tried to repair the damage a few times but it still looks a bit ratty and I don't wear it out of the house any longer.

It's been at the back of my mind to try to rescue the cuffs in some way, but nothing really struck me until my recent visit to Liberty. On display was a selection of cashmere jumpers and cardigans with Liberty print cuffs, oooh!

When I saw them I could almost hear the lightbulb pinging on in my head! I set to work…

I'm pretty good at donating small, scraps of fabric to my children's schools, but Liberty scraps I keep, so  I had a fair few designs to choose from. A navy Glenjade print left over from my Liberty Afternoon Blouse was the perfect contrast against the red. I didn't need much fabric either, just 29cms x 10cms for each cuff. 

I looked at a few tutorials online and read various cuff instructions before coming up with my own simple method of making and attaching them. Once constructed, I sewed the cuffs to the sleeves with a zigzag stitch and finished the seams with my overlocker. I then top stitched the edge of the cuff to the seam allowance to anchor it in place.

Oooh Liberty cuffs!
Yes, my long sleeved cardigan now has three quarter length sleeves, but just look at how awesome they are!

I'm so pleased I was able to rescue my beloved cardigan with style! Obviously you could use any fabric, but Liberty fabric is so timeless and classic, I think it really adds a certain something. I'm now tempted to give a few boring jumpers the same treatment just to spruce them up a bit!

Have a great weekend. x

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Topper Talk

What is a topper? Well, apart from a gentleman's hat and a splendid comic I used to read in the seventies, a topper is a woman's loose-fitting coat. Popular in the 1950's and 1960's, toppers were usually short, made from lightweight fabrics and worn as a light cover up, a bit like a glamorous cardigan. During my topper research, I uncovered several different styles:

Some have set in sleeves, separate collars and pockets.

Some earlier versions are collarless and could be belted.

This coat pattern also comes with a topper jacket option on the right.

There were even knitted versions!

But the most popular one seems to have been a short, swing style with kimono sleeves.

I think they're a lovely, stylish alternative to a cardigan, so I've decided to make one. This decision was speeded up slightly after I was very kindly given a copy of vintage Simplicity 3451 last week by Ashley.

The pattern is from 1950 and comes in two lengths, the shorter version having a mandarin collar. I'm going to make version 2 which is fully reversible. Ashley has already made a lovely version from polar fleece here, which I was tempted to directly copy, but I've decided to try out some different fabrics. I really like the navy and white colour combination of version 2 on the envelope illustration, so I'm going to try and re-create it. The fabric's ordered and I'm in the middle of making a toile - look out for an update soon! Have you ever made a topper?! x

Sunday 7 February 2016

Liberty Fest

Photo credit: Lazy Daisy Jones
Friday was a very happy day for me as it involved all things Liberty. First off I met up with fellow blogger Ashley from Lazy Daisy Jones to visit the Liberty in Fashion exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. I've been wanting to pay a visit for ages and I'm so glad I made the effort. It was great to see the fabrics up close and be able to examine the beautiful, subtle design details of the garments on display. Here are a few of my favourites:

Early 1920's silk blouse
1930's dress in a bright floral print
1930's and 1940's dresses
1940's dress - love the waist detail
My favourite dress from the 1970's section
Liberty shoes!
There was also an accompanying display in a side room featuring the work of Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell, who designed for Liberty between 1961 and 1977. I loved the mood boards in this room - such an explosion of colour and print.

After the exhibition we repaired to the Liberty store on Regent Street for lunch, then hit the fabric and haberdashery section. A few things caught my eye...

Liberty print sewing machine
Knitwear with Liberty print cuffs
I have a beloved John Smedley cardigan that's badly frayed at the cuffs after almost continual wear for the past six years. A Liberty print cuff seems like a perfect solution.

We also saw this amazing Tilly and the Buttons Francoise dress made with peacock feather Tana lawn. Extra fabric peacock feathers were appliqu├ęd onto the dress.

I wasn't planning on buying anything but Ashley twisted my arm right up my back and forced me to buy a metre of this Lilac print (not really!) I love the colours and I can see this turning into a cute summer top.

All in all, a fabulous day. 

The Liberty in Fashion exhibition runs until the end of February and I'd highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in London. x

Tuesday 2 February 2016

A colour block White Russian

Today I made a sweatshirt. Not the most exciting garment to talk about I'll admit, but this one turned out way better than I was expecting, so it gets its own blog post!

My plans for sewing a sweatshirt were hatched after I was sent some rather lovely Andover Jersey samples by the Village Haberdashery. I wanted to see what two different colours would look like used together and the idea for a colour block sweatshirt was born. The pattern I used was the White Russian from Capital Chic, which I've sewn up once before here. I made a few adjustments last time for a closer fit and made some further tweaks for this version: 

- Increased the sleeve length by 5cms. 
- Lengthened the front and back pieces by 6cms.
- Added 1.5cms to the side seams.

Looking at these photos there's one other adjustment I'll made next time round - reduce the size of the neck band. At the moment, there's a slight hint of Vicar's Dog Collar going on! Apart from that I'm pleased with the final fit - the additional bit of room means I can wear an extra layer underneath without everything becoming too tight for comfort.  

The pattern specifics sweatshirt fabric, but the 100% cotton Andover Jersey knit I used was a perfectly good substitute. It's a medium weight knit fabric with a decent amount of stretch and good recovery. There was a bit of curling up after I'd cut the pieces, but nothing a good press couldn't sort out and overall it was a lovely quality fabric to work with. It's obviously not as cosy as a sweatshirt knit, but it still has a good weight to it and feels pretty warm and toasty too! It's worth noting that the fabric is wider than average (178cms), so I only needed 75cms of each colour and still had plenty left.

The Andover collection includes some gorgeous bright colours, but me being me, I was drawn to two of the more subdued ones for my sweatshirt: Cypress for the body (it appears to be out of stock at the moment) and Celadon for the arms and neckband. Both colours are a bit greener in real life than they appear in these photos and I really like the two together, they're very serene!

I think for my next version I'll be brave and mix up prints and solids together. Here are a few gorgeous versions that have inspired me:

Rachel's super classy Geneva sweatshirt 

Winnie's cool floral Linden sweatshirt

Josie's amazing faux leather Linden sweatshirt
They make me want to sew another one immediately!

This is the last thing on my cold weather sewing list to be completed and I'm amazed I've actually made everything on it. I suppose the threat of not being warm enough is a pretty good incentive to get sewing. Now that all my practical, cold weather basics are out of the way, I might just have to start thinking about summer dresses…! x

Fabric was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own.


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