Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cape style

You might have seen the latest fashion news that capes are "in"?

Stella McCartney has been showing capes for autumn / winter.

I have to admit to having a penchant for the poncho-esque. At University, I made myself a floor-length wool felt cape with a hood. I was a drama student, remember! But the fabric wasn't wind-proof and unless I wore a coat underneath, I froze, which kind of defeated the purpose. And it was very heavy!

It was my "French Lieutenant's Woman" look, exacerbated by my long red curls and wan expression. Ahem. Apparently there is talk of a remake of the film. But I digress.

I have been thinking about sewing a rather shorter capelet for the coming season. I reckon it could be a stylish alternative to a hand-knitted shawl, for the office. Possibly not suitable for Committee-wear, but hey, it might liven up proceedings!
This 1950's interpretation is rather fab, don't you think?
So much lighter and shapely. Not a hint of being wrapped up in a blanket!
Of course, I would need the wiggle dress to go with it.
Just the thing for Self-Stitched September!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sencha plans

I was lucky enough to win a copy of the Sencha blouse pattern from Karen in a blog-comment contest - woo hoo!

My two recent forays into vintage-pattern blouse making, the Sandpiper and the Polka Dot, were both inspired by the Sencha, but so many sew-ists seemed to have problems with the fit of this blouse that I was wary of it.

But now that I have a copy of my very own, it would be churlish not to give it a whirl!

I want to make version 2, which has those interesting diagonal pleats at the neck. I have half a plan to cut out a heart shape between the pleats, as a cheesy peekaboo feature... but that might be a bit much!

The stated fabric requirements are clearly over-generous. A sleeveless blouse cannot possibly take 1 7/8 yards of material! However, since so much fabric is sold by the half-metre these days, (over the internet at least) I will probably have to go for 1.5 metres, even though a metre would almost be enough.

I am thinking of voile. It needs to be light and drapey. What a great excuse to buy something from Anna Maria Horner's "Little Folks" collection! I can't decide which of these to buy.
It is almost pay day. Maybe I should buy them both!
Even though my daughter thinks one is dingy and hippyish and the other looks like curtains!
It is hard work living with the fashion police.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

First Dotty Sock

Actual knitting progress!

My first Dotty sock, pattern by Carrie Sullivan, part of her Woods Family Collection, all of which I intend to knit.
The yarn is Fleece Artist merino in "Cosmic Dawn". I am using 2.75mm dpns and 56 stitches as it is more like a sportweight than a fingering yarn.
It is a really easy knit. The dots are gradually spaced further apart as you move down the foot, a subtle difference that adds a certain something.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Great Tidy-Up of 2010

There has been tidying on an unprecedented scale.
This is the back of the farmhouse as it looks today.
A week ago, it was surrounded by junk and that sunlit grassy slope was in total darkness due to overhanging branches.
FL hired the local farm labourer and his John Deere monster truck to clear the place.

We now have a pile of logs to be cut for firewood.
There is also a 12-foot pile of old doors, pallets and a boat(!) to be bon-fired when the wind is in the right direction and the neighbours are all out.

And a pile of scrap metal, cabling and pipes to be taken away. The collection has been booked!

The side of the garage is now a clear concrete slab. I want to site my chicken coop here!

And indoors, I have boxed up my knitting magazines and sewing patterns.
See what it says on the box? "Carpe Diem"! Seize the day!
There's a whole new burst of energy around here.
P.S. Boxes from Lidl: 2 for £2.99

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On the Needles

Now that the pressure is off on sewing a dress to wear to the wedding, I have diverted my stitching-stress to knitting!

My mother was here last week, so we took the obligatory trip out to Touched by Scotland at Oyne, for a lovely lunch, and then into the adjacent Wool Shed. I spotted my shawl yarn straightaway! It is Drops Alpaca in a colour I can only describe as being like a red geranium. You know - that sizzling pinky red that attracts sunlight even on a cloudy day? I thought it would draw the colours of my shoes and dress together.

I am still a bit of a lace novice, so decided to stalk my Ravelry chums for a good pattern. I decided on Percy (Rav link) after seeing Karie's version (Rav link). I have cast it on four times so far, and had to rip it back every time. This does not bode well! However, I have learned from my mistakes and I think I know what I am doing now. I know that Chart B will be my undoing, but I am going to make this my big holiday knitting project, so should have the necessary time and brain-power to devote to it!
A much easier knit is my Dotty Sock (Rav link). I started this on my day trip to Edinburgh, and the train journey proved to be perfect for knitting. I have turned the heel already!
The yarn is Fleece Artist merino in Cosmic Dawn. I have had it in the stash forever, and it is a real treat to knit with such beautiful colours. Loving it!
Woo hoo - I got my sock mojo back!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FO: Owlet Dungarees

This weekend's sewing project was a pair of baby dungarees.

Because someone went and had a BOY when I had only a GIRLY knit "in stock" (tsk! how inconsiderate!), I decided it would be best to sew a little something for the newborn... you know, before he reaches school-age.

The pattern was free from the Kokka website. You can find it here.

It is presented as a diagram with Japanese instructions, but it was easily drafted on squared paper.

These dungarees are supposed to fit an 80cm baby, but I reckon they are a lot smaller than that. The legs seem quite narrow and there isn't much nappy space. It is entirely possible that I was supposed to add a seam allowance before I cut the fabric... um... I didn't. They will fit sooner rather than later!

Rather than bias-binding the edges, I faced them with contrasting fabric and made a pocket out of owl-print cotton.

The prints came from Fabric Rehab as part of a pack of four fat quarters. Overnight delivery!

I widened the underarm slightly and then drew it back in with a tiny elastic insert, just to add a bit of shaping. I used to do this when I made dungarees for my kids.

I rather like the shaping of the straps, which are cut as a continuation of the back piece, and curve round the shoulder to fasten at the front with a couple of buttons.

I added contrast turn-ups to the bottom of the legs. Just because.

Navy buttons and top-stitching.

Half the width of 80cm long cotton from Edinburgh Fabrics. 60cm would have been enough.

Perhaps half of a fat quarter of zig-zag and a tiny piece of owlet-print from Fabric Rehab's Scandinavian Owl Bundle. It is really soft!
Navy buttons from Eeeebaaay (again!)
Pattern: Nano Iro 2009/06 (pdf link) .

Would I make them again?

Probably. But I would add an extra centimetre round the edges next time. I am also not sure if they would be better with snap-closures between the legs, for easier nappy changes. I didn't add them to this pair, because I do remember that if trousers were a bit snug round the bum, the poppers used to un-pop when you picked up your baby, which was annoying. It's funny how it all comes flooding back!

These were done in a few short hours, even allowing for pattern-drafting time.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My (vintage) Dress For A Wedding

It just arrived, and I had to show you! Please forgive the backdrop!
My Dress For A Wedding from Upstaged of Leeds.
It is a 1950's "tulip" dress with a label saying it was "styled by Paul English". The fabric is a shimmering brocade which goes from midnight blue through purple to pink for the roses. I think I will get away with my red shoe-boots as they have pink binding on the roses and round the ankle.
The dress has a stiff underlayer to give that shape. I might add a short net petticoat . It has been altered in the past and the seam above the waist is just tacked closed at the moment. I need to take it in a couple of inches, but it's not going to be difficult, as it has the original stitching lines to follow.
Now I just need to knit a shawl....!?!

Friday, July 16, 2010

FO: Fifties Polka Dot Blouse

Well, would you believe it - I have some curves!
Seriously, folks, I am so used to being pretty much straight up and down that this 1950's silhouette comes as a bit of a shock!
The shaping is achieved with the help of shoulder pads, pairs of waist darts which go in and out again (there must be a name for these), and more darts on the shoulders.
The sleeves are double-thickness fabric, so have a certain amount of weight, which adds to their shape.
And of course, there is that cheeky peekaboo neckline with a little bow.

The back is simpler, with single waist darts, and back-buttoning.
I love these buttons! I saw them on Tilly's blog and had to have some. I wouldn't say I went all the way to Edinburgh just to buy them, but they were definitely top of my shopping list on my recent day trip!

McCall pattern 6245 from the 1950's, size 18 (36 bust) reduced by 5 inches to fit me. It is a printed pattern with 5/8 inch seams and good clear instructions. There are even three separate pattern pieces to build your own shoulder pads - but I used modern ready-made's.
It is a good length for tucking in to a high-waisted skirt or wearing out over low-slung jeans. I actually shortened it by about an inch to fit it onto my single metre of fabric.
The fabric is a cotton seersucker, bought as a "sample" from eeebaaay for the princely sum of £2.40! They have a very similar plain white with a white polka dot at Remnant House fabrics of Harrogate at the moment - they call it a "burn out" fabric.
Buttons from Edinburgh Fabrics (no website), Nicolson Street Edinburgh. They are exactly the same size as the dots!
I used a smaller pin-dot evenweave cotton fabric to make the facings, as I thought
it would add crucial stability. No Vilene used.
I am very pleased with it! I like how it is a genuinely vintage style, which nevertheless goes with modern clothes like jeans.

Will I make it again? Almost certainly, though it is such a distinctive shape I need to change it around a bit next time, maybe by making the long-sleeved version for the autumn.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

FO: Nexus Socks for FL's Birthday

A month late, or eleven months early, depending on your point of view (thanks for that India!), here are FL's birthday socks.
The pattern is from a back issue of The Knitter magazine, and was not charted, so I found the first socks a bit tricky until I got my head round the fact that the three "waves" were moving across the sock to meet on the upper foot, and gradually eliminating the side lace panels.
The wool is Yarn Yard "Croft" which has a great man-sock tweedy twist. I used a contrasting shade for heels and toes which was a wise move as I would have run out of the green otherwise.

"You want me to sit where?!"

Male models, eh? They just don't understand!

Nexus socks from The Knitter Issue 14.
2.5mm dpns.
Yarn Yard "Croft", 75% wool, 25% nylon

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vintage dress-shopping

Very busy here, with golfing guests and school holidays. No time to blog!

Edited stitching highlights:
  • I have finished FL's birthday socks, exactly a month late! Pictures soon.
  • I have started another pair of socks.
  • I have made most of my polka dot blouse and it is looking good.

In Dress-For-A-Wedding news:

  • The Toast dress was 4 inches too large all over - sent back
  • "Matching" shoes did not match - sent back
  • My daughter found me the Perfect Dress, but it is out of stock! - email sent, no reply yet
  • We scoured the vintage shops of Edinburgh - found nothing
  • We both tried on the same dress: she looked stunning... and I would have needed Gok's Magic Knickers (no way!)
  • I came across an enchanting vintage dress shop in Leeds who are going to help me find my ideal vintage 1950's dress! I am totally over-excited about this! They are sending me some photos today and I already think I know which one I will choose! A purple brocade tulip dress - gasp!

Pictures of everything soon!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Back on the Vintage Clothes-Horse

I am not one to be defeated by mere details.

That Vintage Dress was not to be, and I need to accept it and move on. I found loads of lovely dress patterns in the current New Look pattern catalogue, so I might yet make a dress for wedding-wear.
The Toast dress is somewhere in the postal system and will be tried on, appraised, and a decision reached. The "matching" shoes I ordered turned out to be green, not blue. Hmmm.

So... back to sewing. I am still on a back-buttoned blouse kick. I have worn my sandpiper blouse four times to work already, with different necklaces. It is fab with my granny's long glass cube beads - very flapper-ish!
I found this second vintage pattern at Etsy when I was looking for a Sencha-like style with sleeves. I decided to use my bargain polka dot seersucker to try it out, since £2.40-worth of fabric is made for experiments. And my original plan for a bubble-hem top was just toddler-chic madness.

I am having to size it down a few inches. It is intended for a 36 inch bust, but measured flat, the pattern was heading towards a 42 inch outcome - um, no, not for me!
I made a 5/8 inch pleat (doubled) front and back at the outer edge of the neck, all the way down, so losing a total of 4 x 5/8 x 2, which advanced arithmetic tells me is a total loss of 5 inches from the garment's circumference.
There are a gazillion darts to shape it further - well, 8 actually, but it feels like more when you are tailor-tacking. I had to move these over, to allow for my re-sizing, or they would have ended up in odd places. The original shows the darts made on the outside of the front, but I thought this looked weirdly deconstructed. It might have looked better on plain fabric, but it didn't work with the spots.

Most unusually, the sleeves are actually doubled: the bottom edge is the fold of the fabric and the shoulder seam is enclosed by the inner layer. It would be a disaster in heavier material.

So far, I am really pleased with how this is turning out. I only had a metre of fabric and I had to shorten the body to fit it in - though I could have chosen not to double the sleeves, I suppose.

Hopefully, there will be a FO at the weekend!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Vintage Affair

If you are looking for a summer holiday read, you could do worse than pick up a copy of "A Vintage Affair" by Isabel Wolff.

My daughter read it first and passed it on to me.

She recommended it to me for the descriptions of wonderful vintage clothing, and she was right: if only there was a real life shop which sold these garments! Three 1950's prom dresses "like cupcakes" caught my imagination straightaway.

The plot is pretty much unbelievable, hanging on a series of incredible coincidences. The characters are less well drawn than their clothes: the men are literally "suits" and the women are held together with safety pins. But it kept me up til midnight in a single binge-reading session. A good one to leave behind in a holiday cottage to brighten someone else's vacation... which is exactly how my daughter came across it in Morocco!

Also in the picture: my little "Sew Eco" purse. I can't find the pictures I took as I was making it. It is half-sized as I didn't have a copier handy to blow up the pattern times two. It is perfect for my sewing accessories: embroidery scissors, tailor's chalk, quik-un-pik, measuring tape, and a packet of pins. The zip-pull is finished off with a bead and a little leaf. Cute and practical!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Thoughts and plans

Thank you for all the lovely comments on our three-year-diagnosis-anniversary. It felt like an odd thing to celebrate, but it was the proper thing to do. Just a glass of wine at home, but the occasion was marked.

The Vintage-Dress-of-Doom is niggling away at my brain. I felt like such a failure when I ran away to the Toast online summer sale. In my defence, it was midnight and I had had some wine (see above). And of course, the red rose shoes won't work with a blue and orange dress... so I had to go to the TopShop online sale for those! (Turquoise suede wedges!)
And FL was there at my shoulder cheering me on! But as I have said to him many times since then: I can always send them back for a refund. I will try the whole lot on, and if it is not the Dress-of-Dreams, the Shoes-of-Sublime-ness, they are going straight back. Because I just don't buy things on impulse, especially not expensive things!

The wedding-of-the-year has caused me so many silly traumas. First there was the Hen Do invitation (a spa day followed by a meal at the poshest place in town), which I am thankfully now unable to attend because we are off on holiday that day - phew! And then the whole: what will I wear, OMG what will FL wear?! saga. I am not a "keeping up with the Joneses" type of person, but the knowledge that one of my colleagues will be wearing a Vivienne Westwood dress just freaked me out. Have you seen FL's suit? He bought it in a charity shop about ten years ago. It has moth-holes in several strategic places. And he refuses to buy another one, because he says: "I am on my way out"! (Don't worry - I am working on him!)

The more I look at the Dress-of-Doom, the more I think I must be supposed to double the whole thing back on itself and create a multiple-layered bodice. But this would affect the fabric choice for the final garment: you couldn't use anything other than completely opaque fabric or you would have the most hideous shine-through. So that's the rose-print off the menu. Sigh.
So maybe I need to look for a tried-and-tested modern pattern, or at least a less challenging vintage design.
Or just enjoy the luxury of having a Toast dress.

Public Service Announcement:

Meantime, for those of us who have not lost our sewing confidence, there are many autumn / winter fabric bargains to be had on eeebaaay. You can pick up some beautiful pure wool coating in a rich jade green, or raspberry wool crepe, or diagonal-ribbed wool in an expensive-looking dark cream (you can't make me call it "beige", sorry!) all from "Favourite Fabrics", all at good prices.
Personally, I was seduced by a bargain pack of 5 single-metre lengths of wool suiting in various midnight / charcoal stripes, from British Fabrics. I bought one of these packs about 4 years ago and made three skirts and a blanket, all of which are "keepers". This time, I am thinking more creatively and plan to piece together different lengths to make a panelled jacket and mis-matching skirts, or maybe even a pair of knee-length wool shorts. Self-stitched September, anyone?
ETA: No sooner had I written about planning a shorts suit, than I came across this. WOW!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Vintage anatomy... or why you need to make a muslin

Why Roo - what a big skirt you've got!

(And I can see your bra - your mother will be horrified!)

Give us a smile, girl, it can't be that bad... can it?

Can it?

Err... what, please tell me, are those strange flaps under your arms?

They are sewn across the top?!

Turn round a minute, let me see the back view...

Oh my! Where did all that fabric come from?
Size 12 from 1954? Are you sure it's not size 54?
It is supposed to fit a 30 inch bust?

Are you kidding me?!

It looks as if I am supposed to layer up all the excess fabric at the front and back pleats, securing it with a band of petersham round the waistline.
But that doesn't explain the underarm action.
Did 1950's ladies have an extra set of boobs stored under their arms for safe keeping?
I have three words to describe the outcome of this vintage sewing experience:

Friday, July 02, 2010

Sewing news

I have cut the muslin for my Dress-For-A-Wedding, but was slightly disconcerted to find the pattern pieces for the facings are missing from my vintage pattern. I can easily draft my own, but I was feeling so nervous about this pattern that I read this as a Bad Omen - tsk!
It is not going to be an easy sew, as the sleeves are cut as extensions of the front and back skirt pieces, and then side skirts and bodices are sewn in under the arm. Lots of pointy seams and fiddley areas requiring reinforcement. As I am trying to add about three inches to the bust and waist measurements, there is plenty of potential for disaster!

To distract myself (again!) I ordered a couple of new patterns: the Cinnamon Slip from Colette (via Sewbox) and the 1940's overall/ trouser pattern from EvaDress.
I was definitely thinking of Cinnamon as underwear, but it seems that others are wearing it as a dress. I would love to make it up in voile, like this version.

And you have already heard about my trouser inspiration.

I also had a small "win" at eeebaay, and a metre of deep navy polka-dot seersucker should be arriving any day! I have plans for a little summery top with a bubble hem and a big floppy bias-cut neck-bow. I can't find a pattern, but I know what I mean! I suspect I can't draft it to fit a single metre of fabric, but for £2.40, I think it's worth experimenting!

So, as ever, there are more ideas buzzing round my head than I have time free to sew. The school holidays start today, so I am ekeing out my annual leave to give the Girl some attention. The Boy is working part-time. Sunday looks like it may be a good day for stitching though!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

This week...

Thanks for all your helpful comments on my fabric dilemma. I continue to prevaricate, but have requested a sample from Mandors in Glasgow, who replied to my speculative email saying they had some cotton with red and pink roses which might suit. I haven't seen it yet, but have my fingers crossed it will be The One. And last night I actually cut out the muslin to see if I can make the pattern fit. Progress!

Meantime, I failed to meet my self-imposed sock deadline. Sorry FL! But it is on the way.

Cookie A declined my offer to test-knit. A wise woman, that Cookie! Would you pick a woman who admits on her blog that she is a slow sock knitter? Or who has blatantly only ever knitted one pair of socks from your book?! Thought not.

However, there are happy things to report! I received a package in the post from Cecelia in NYC. Look, look! She contacted me to tell me off for listening to mournful music, and offered me a "mix tape" of uplifting songs. How very kind! And look! Not only has she sent me two fab CDs (with a selection which made me laugh out loud), but also a skein of delicious handspun yarn from Jamie Harmon! And there was some tea too - macadamia and coconut?! Mango? Mmmm!Thank you SO MUCH! The CDs are going straight into my car so I can play them and sing along without complaints from anyone, old or young!

And speaking of the young... my son came home safe and sound from Glastonbury Festival. He was helping set up an art installation on the Green Futures Field and got a free ticket - lucky boy! I watched as much of the TV coverage as FL could stand, but I didn't see him. It was "effing awesome", apparently :O

Oh - and I noticed that Ruth Singer's new book Sew Eco is available at Amazon. I did some test sewing for this book a while back and made a very dinky little purse - I must show you, now that it isn't a secret anymore!