Saturday, 14 May 2016

Matchy Matchy - Flamingo Blouse and Jacket

Hello! Today I'm delving into the 1930's and the 1990's by way of patterns, mixing them all up, and linking them together with the magic of fabric. 

I made a version of the long sleeved blouse below about 20 years ago, before I really understood about altering a pattern correctly to fit:

I remember I added extra width to the front and back, but the armholes and neck were all wrong - I wore it anyway. It didn't really work; I wore it a few times before I gave up on it and just resolved this pattern wasn't for me.

Now I know better - I know how to grade a pattern up to the correct size, and then adjust it for my specific figure. And now I know it's wise to make a muslin/toile, something I never used to do. I was too impatient, and I just thought it was just a waste of fabric.

Out came the rulers and the tracing paper and I traced and slashed and adjusted until I had something that looked right. This was fairly involved, and I'll probably cover it in another blog post. I made a toile out of some old curtains that were in our house when we moved in:

It came out surprisingly well - the fit was pretty good, and just a few minor adjustments were needed, like a wider front facing allowance and so on. 

Now for the fabric, which was this beauty below:

I picked this fabric up from Hamid's on Ridley Road Market in Dalston, for the lovely price of £1 per metre. You'll notice that the flamingos are at a right angle to the selvedge, which I thought was weird; surely you'd want them to run parallel to the selvedge? This meant I had to break all the sewing rules and lay the pattern out on the cross grain - I didn't want sideways flamingos!

I said earlier that I used to find toiles annoying because I'm really impatient - I just want to get to the sewing part and then the wearing part! But the toile was really helpful in that it made the sewing go really quickly - all the fiddly bits had been worked out in the practice run, as it were.

Here it is:

There are some really nice little details on the blouse, like pleats in the sleeve head and the tucks at the shoulder:

Pleats on the sleeve head

Tucks running from the front shoulder to nearly the bust
I didn't really fancy using any of the closure methods on the packet - a zip looked too bulky, and who has time to make all those rouleau loops? I just extended the centre front to create a self-facing band with buttonholes:

Once the blouse was done, I was left with a pretty sizable amount; I suppose cutting it crosswise didn't use as much up? I'm on a mission to reduce my pile of stash fabrics, and I had the perfect use for the rest of it: a jazzy lining for my replacement Burda bomber jacket.

I made version A, but without the unnecessary shoulder/yoke section

I made this jacket once before a couple of summers ago, as detailed here. I absolutely loved this jacket, and wore it non-stop in the milder months - it was the ideal weight for summer evenings. But in a moment of confusion, it was left on a train - the first time I've ever lost a piece of clothing! I did everything I could to get it back, which mostly involved filling out a Transport for London lost property form, but it was not to be. Someone out there has a custom made bomber jacket; I hope they appreciate it!

Anyway - I'd been meaning to replace it for a while. With the weather improving a little, now seemed the right time. And because I had the previous blog post to refer to, I didn't really have to think much this time round. Here's the finished item, made with fabric from the Textile Centre on Walthamstow Market:

I only deviated from my original version in a couple of places. First, I used exposed zips on the front pockets, rather than the welts I used before:

Cheeky flamingos peeking out!

I love exposed zips - so easy, and they look so impressive!

For the second moderation I added a little placket to the front of the jacket, to sit behind the zip. I noticed this piece is usually present on the classic MA-1 bomber jackets and Harrington's, but for some reason is often left off of domestic sewing patterns. I just guess-timated the size and length; I had it stop short of the zip top a few inches, for no reason other than I liked the look of it:

And here's the flamingo lining:

And together with the blouse in all it's flamingo glory:

Again, this has proven to be one of my favourite jackets and I've worn it almost every chance I get. I'm thinking I'll have to make more in other colours, or maybe tackle a satin embroidered version. 

I'm off to ponder all of those possibilities - see you soon!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Never Not Knitting

I'm a fidgety, impatient person. I can't just sit in front of the television and not do something, whether it's sewing, blogging, looking at social media, and so on. It can mean I sometimes find it hard to truly focus - I've been known to sew, surf the web, flip through a magazine, and watch T.V. all at once. And I believe I'm probably succumbing to that modern malaise of being over stimulated, with too many distractions and ideas buzzing around my head to the point where relaxing, even sleeping, can be difficult. 

So knitting helps with this. When I'm tired of sewing, and especially when I want to focus on a film, show, or podcast, knitting is the ideal pastime. It's repetitive enough that it's relaxing, but it fulfills the fidgety part of my personality. I always have 1 (or more!) knitting projects on the go, and since around January I've finished several. But unlike sewing which can be (but not always!) fast, and I almost always document, knitting is slow for me. So this blog post is a catch up on knitting pieces I've completed over the last 6 months or so.

First up is this little red cardigan which I've been knitting for a looooong time - I can't remember how long, but at least a year. I used Drops Baby Merino in red from Love Knitting, which is a 4 ply; being fine, it took a long time to actually get anywhere, but I think it's been worth it in the end because the result is a lovely, lightweight but warm knit. 

The whole cardigan is knitted in stocking stitch, which is pretty boring to execute. I added the little heart motifs around the waist and sleeves myself, just to make it a little less tedious to knit. The inspiration, and actual pattern for it came from here

The other change I made was to knit the front band and neck band all in one with the body of the sweater. I hate sewing knitting up, so the less sewing up the better. The only draw back was that I did the 2 sides differently; you'll notice the line along the right side where I worked a row of ribbing to show the start and finish of the button band, but forgot to do that on the other side. But I'd got too far at that stage, and couldn't bothered to rip it back, so I'm stuck with it.

Next, some unselfish knitting for Mr Needles. He always complains of being cold, but hates the itchiness of wool. I managed to find this Drops Alpaca from Wool Warehouse, which is super soft, ideal for this hat Tin Can knits:

And a sleeveless vest from this pattern:

He wasn't in a mood to model it - this is the best you're going to get.

That kept him warm over the Christmas period!

Back to me - I finished these socks in January, which at first appear fairly plain, but have this interesting afterthought heel. (I realize this is only interesting to knitters, and means nothing to anyone else!) The pattern was from the Knitter, the wool was again Drops, this time Fabel which is a sock weight 4 ply.

There was a little bit of the wool left over from the cardigan above. I hate waste, so I found this interesting scarf pattern from Kidsknits which was quick and easy:

Then, back in June, I started this lovely pattern which I found on the Chawed Rosin blog, which I found through the Vintage Pattern Files. (By the way, shout out to Wendy who runs this blog - it's an excellent resource for patterns, almost always free)

Bernard Ullman Pattern, circa 1965
The detail on the front looks complicated, but was really easy once you get the hang of it. This was one of my fastest knits ever, due to the fact it was knitted in Drops Nepal (again from Love Knitting), which is an Aran weight and so a bit chunkier than all the previous wools. You cover ground fast with this one! Here it is in orange:

Waiting for buttons...

And currently I'm working on these 2:

First, I'm slowly finishing off this jumper, which is a free pattern from Rowan (You have to set up an account to download it). 

This has taken FOREVER for me to get anywhere, not because I don't like it, it's just that I've realised I don't like knitting in cotton. For this one, I'm using Wendy Supreme Luxury Cotton, from Love Knitting. I did also decide halfway through to rip it back and start again because I decided I was knitting the wrong size - you live and learn... Here's what I've done so far:

A front, a back, and one and a half sleeves - not long to go...
And finally - thanks for sticking with me this far! - I've just started this purple cardigan, knitted from a 1950's pattern, again found through the Vintage Pattern Files here

I only started this one about a week ago, and have already made great progress. This is mostly because it's a clever pattern where the sleeves are knitted as one with the body, so the whole pattern is made up of only 3 main pieces instead of 5. Here's a shot of the nearly complete back piece:

Whew! And that's it for knitting for now. See you soon!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

'Pass the Peas' Dress - A Vintage Pledge Mash-Up

Hello! I've just come back from adventures in Los Angeles and Hollywood, where besides visiting Disneyland, eating a lot of Japanese food, and drinking a lot of cocktails, I also managed to do some fabric shopping. For some reason, it didn't occur to me to visit Mood's Los Angeles outpost; instead, I was excited about seeing Islands Fabrics, which is a whole store devoted to Hawaiian and Tropical fabric!

Just a smidgen of what they have on offer!

I was very restrained and only bought one piece, which is the barkcloth-weight leaves in the picture below, bottom right: 

The rest was picked up in the surrounding shops, and there were so many more than expected:

Most of them are earmarked for shirts for Mr Needles, would you believe, but I managed to sneak in one more for myself, the little garden peas print cotton. It was sitting unloved on a pavement at the bargain price of only $2 per yard (had to go back to Imperial for this visit; metric never really did take off in the US), so I felt sorry for it and bought a couple of yards.

At first I saw it as a blouse - it seemed like too much pattern for a dress - but this beauty had been playing on my mind:

This was part of my prize from Vintage Pattern Pledge for 2015, run by Kerry at Kestrel Makes and Marie at a Stitching Odyssey. It seems apt to use the pattern won from 2015's pledge as part of 2016's pledge, so I went for it!

Just one hitch - buying without a specific project in mind had backfired, and 2 yards wasn't going to be enough to accommodate the flared skirt. Solution - use a straight skirt from another favourite pattern, Butterick 8571:

I've used this pattern twice before, once as illustrated here, and once just as the skirt here and it worked out fine both times.

I had planned to take some pretty photos in my garden, doing some gentle weeding or something, but the recent gales we experienced here in the UK have turned my neglected garden into a bit of a mess. But I carried on regardless - here's the new dress in action:

I don't think the change in skirt makes too much difference - it still looks 40'ish. besides the skirt, I also had to adapt the sleeves to a shorter length in order to fit them in. But I gave them a little scalloped detail just as a reference to the original ruched shape:

Inside of sleeve with facing
Speaking of sleeves, I decided to insert the sleeve before the side seams were attached, on the flat, as it were. This was much easier and less fiddly than the usual technique of closing the side and underarm seam first, and the sleeve head came out pretty smooth:

The neckline is the main feature on this dress, being made up of 2 draped and pleated panels which then attach at the centre front and are covered with a little tab:

Before attachment to the bodice...

...and after

I wasn't quite sure how to finish this seam so that it was neat and attractive, and the instructions give you no guidance. I finally decided to bind it with bias cut from the same fabric as the lining:

The hem was also finished with matching bias strips:

I rarely line a dress fully - I get too hot! - and this was no exception. I used a gold poly to line the skirt, which you can see at the kick pleat at the back:

And finally it all gets closed up with a zip at the centre back, which is again a necessary departure from the pattern which saved fabric. But I did stay old-school and put the zip in by hand, with a little hook and eye at the top:

And that's pretty much it. I'm off to learn how to drive this thing!

See you soon!