Friday, 17 December 2010

A Non Needlework Post and a Late Christmas Recommendation

I'm not a big nails person, but every now and then I like to make an effort. The excellent Wah Nails opened down the road from me last year, and since my first visit in February, I've been a lot more interested. The pictures above are from my most recent visit, on the 10th - aren't they fab! And they seem to be lasting - the pictures above were taken after 3 days of washing up, sewing, cooking, and generally being clumsy with my hands. They're starting to wear out now, after a week, but I think, overall, not bad for wear and tear.

Also, while surfing the net looking for Christmas presents (mostly for myself......), I found the most brilliant publisher on Ebay. I wanted to treat myself to a copy of 1940's Hairstyles by Daniela Turudich to replace the PDF I downloaded from Vintage Passions Just Like Mine (thanks La Dama!). But there is no way I'm paying £99.00 on Amazon (approx $150 USD)!!! After following a few leads on various blogs, etc, I found out this book is an abridged version of a book by Ivan of Hollywood, originally published in the 1940's. And guess what -you can buy it from Bramcost Publications for about £12.00! Maybe I'm the last person to find this out, but I ordered one straight away. It hasn't arrived yet, but if it goes well, I shall definitely be ordering more, as they specialise in re-printing vintage craft books. There are loads of tasty titles - I like the look of the 'Chic Hand Knitted and Crochet Creations' from 1932. Check them out!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

I should stick to sewing......

I recently finished these gloves after working on them on and off for about a year, and I have to admit they are not my best work. They're warm, and the long length is great in this weather, but they're a bit lumpy and baggy. I just don't have the patience with knitting that I have with sewing, and become too eager to start, therefore neglecting to get my tension just right. But I vowed that this blog would be a document of all my projects, good and bad, so these will be the first on the 'less than perfect' list.

Well, back to the drawing board. I'm going to try these fingerless numbers from The Butterfly Balcony - the finished results look pretty good. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Check out Dama's giveaway!

Check out La Dama 's blog - she's always inspiring, and now she's doing a cool giveaway:

I want the compact!   X X X X

Friday, 3 December 2010

I need some elves!

As usual, I've decided to take on far too much for Christmas, resulting in scenes like those above - that's me passed out on the sofa, surrounded by a multitude of knitting projects. As well as finishing off my neverending gloves (I think I've been working on them for 2 years), I've resolved to make armwarmers for both my mother and mother in law, a snazzy new dress for Christmas, and my warmest winter coat is on it's last legs, so I'll need to replace it. But for now, it's all about wool!

I found a great site that compiles patterns from all over the web - Knitfinder. Last winter I made these great armwarmers, called Spirogyra, which you can get here. And this is what they look like:
Armwarmers in action!
And they're really quick to make, with no sewing up because they're knitted on 3 needles - perfect! I will sew anything, but sewing up hand knits drives me crazy!

So, as the title of this post suggests - if anyone has any spare elves, pixies, trolls, or even gremlins, send them my way, 'cos I'm gonna need 'em.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Cool Christmas Fair

For those of you anywhere near London, try to make it down to the Bust Christmas Craftacular this Sunday at York Hall in Bethnal Green. I always try to go to their fairs because they are quite frankly brilliant! I always find the selection of stalls truly inspiring, and it's a perfect place to find something for those people on your Christmas list who have everything.

I just hope the weather doesn't take a turn for the worse - they've predicted snow......

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Trousers - can one length ever fit all?

Which length?

The Anne Sheridan trousers are done! Well everything except the length. Here I am with a selection of shoes I want to be able to wear the finished trousers with, but I think it will be impossible to accomodate all. From left to right, we have red brogues, blue mid-heel peep toes, 4 inch silver slingbacks, and my treasured 40's style Terry Dehavilland wedges.

As I'm incapable of making a decision without exhaustively researching, I turned first to my vintage sewing books, the oldest of which was published in 1946:

Guess what? No mention of trousers until the late 1960's, and then hardly anything. It doesn't seem that trousers (or 'pants' or 'slacks', as the Colonial publications call them) were decent to discuss among lady-folk until the 1970's. The best advice (and most hilariously stuck up) I found was in 'The Art of Sewing - Basic Tailoring' published by Time Life in 1975:

'Whether the trouser line is cuffed or cuffless, it must fall in precisely the right place. If too low, it may get stepped upon; too high, it will expose a gauche ring of sock'

Just to make sure, I next looked at some vintage fashion plates and some classic Hollywood photos:

It seems long, but not covering the shoe completely, is the most authentic length for the era.

I pinned one leg to suit the lowest shoe:

Trousers with flat shoe

Then I pinned the other leg with the highest shoe:

Trousers with wedge sandal
After all that deliberating and indecisiveness, there was only about 1/2" (approx. 1 cm)difference! Why didn't I just do this in the first place and save myself some time!

Anyway, now the trousers are done and I love them. I won't take you through the making from start to finish, as there are other blogs that do that much better than me, such as Gertie's new blog for better sewing, but here are some of the details close up:
Left hand button closure (with magician's assistant hands!)

Close up of the buttons

Right hand pocket

Until next time - take care!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Anne Sheridan's Trouser's

I recently caught 'I Was a Male War Bride' on telly, much to my enjoyment. I've always been aware of the film, but had never managed to see it. A quick summary of the plot: Anne Sheridan is a feisty lieutenant in the U.S. army, based in a chaotic post-war Germany, who falls in love with a French officer, played by Cary Grant (who makes no attempt at a French accent, but then he's Cary Grant, so he can do what he likes!) They decide to get married, and realise that the only way to negotiate all of the red-tape and beaurocracy thrown at them is for Cary Grant to declare himself Anne Sheridan's 'wife'.

Watch it if you need cheering up, as the chemistry between the two leads is infectious - there are some scenes that seem to be totally improvised, as they're so natural. The locations are real, so you get to see the destruction suffered by Germany first hand, and to reinforce this upheaval, there is a large chunk of the film featuring Anne Sheridan in charge of a motorcycle, ferrying around Cary grant in a sidecar, much to his discomfort.

And so to Anne Sheridans trouser's......

I haven't been able to stop thinking about them, and so have resolved to make a pair as similar as possible. As you can see from the pictures above and below, they are quite wide, flared from the waist with a single pleat, and best of all, a button fastening at the left side.

Side closing detail
Side view
I've trawled through my patterns; unfortunately, I don't have any trouser patterns from the late 40's (the film was made in 1949), but I think if I adapt some wide flares from the 70's, and adjust them in the fitting stages, it could work out. I know they look horrible, but I've decided to use these patterns:

Detail of simplicity pattern
I think if I combine the waist/fit of the Burda with the flare of the Simplicity, it could work out. At the worst, I'll end up with a pair of 70's Bowie-style flares, but that won't be such a bad thing:

The Thin White Duke

Actually, that waistcoat is quite cool - maybe a future project......

I've been to my beloved Dalston Mill Fabrics, and picked out a lovely red twill - total cost £8.50. Why red? Well, I already have a few pairs of wide black trousers; navy would have been too nautical; I don't like brown (I had a brown school uniform, hence the dislike); green or khaki would have been too army-surplus. And besides, I don't have any red trousers!

So now I have to decide on buttons......

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A lovely surprise!

How lovely! I've been out of the loop for a little while, what with work and the boring stuff in life taking over, but how happy was I when I finally found time to open up my blog to find I'd been nominated for an award by Vintage Passions Just like Mine. Thank you, Dama, and the rest of you - check out her fab blog!

The conditions that come along with this reward are:

1. Accept the award. Post it on your blog along with the name of the person who awarded it along with a link to their blog.

2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have recently discovered.

3. Contact those bloggers and let them know they've been chosen.

So here are my favourite 15, in alphabetical order:

1 - the1939clothier
2 - 1950's Atomic Ranch House
3 - AbleGrable
4 - Betty's Vintage Musings
5 - The Butterfly Balcony
6 - Diary of a Vintage Girl
7 - Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing
8 - Get Some Vintage-a-Peel by Miss Peelpants
9 - moon-doggie
10 - Snoodlebug
11 - Straight Talking Mama
12 - Tea with the Vintage Baroness
13 - Temperamental Broad
14 - The Vintage Housewife
15 - Vintage Passions Just like Mine

Take some time to have a look at as many as you can, as they are all brilliant, creative, witty people.

See you soon!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Leopard dress - finished at last!

Finally, I've finished the dress. I don't know where the time went, but the final stages seem to have taken me ages. But I'm pleased with the overall result:

Finished leopard dress

And here's the back view:

I'm really pleased with the v-neck at the back. I'm thinking of adding an apron and spooky make-up and wearing the whole ensemble as 'Zombie Housewife' for Halloween!

See you soon!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Something to cheer you up, and some leopard dress progress

Fabric Label
I found this lovely label wrapped around a roll of black polyester lining in one of my favourite local shops, Dalston Mill Fabrics. I thought it was such a pretty, cheery piece of ephemera, I had to have it, which they didn't mind (probably thought I was a bit mad), and decided to share it with all of you, to cheer you up on these rapidly darkening Autumn days.
Now for some dress progress -
15th September -
I bought a meter of yellow lining from Dalston Mill Fabrics (that's when I found the label above). Went straight home and cut out all the pattern pieces.

18th September -
Get loads done! I sew the darts in the bodice and skirt, then the side and back seams of the skirt, using my favourite French seams, so it's all neat and tidy inside. I also sew the shoulder and side seams of the bodice, using the same technique.

21st September -
Making great progress - I really want to wear this dress by the next weekend. I sew the sleeves together, complete the hems on the sleeves, and attach them to the bodice. I also attach the bodice to the skirt.

23rd September -
I put the zip in by hand, then pin the facing to the neck.

Sewing zip in by hand

Placing dress on my new dress form
I love my dress mannequin! It's totally not my size - she's like a size 8 and a bit shorter than me, I'm like a 10-12 - but it's great to have something to have my work hang on, instead of keeping it in a bag, getting all creased-up.

Dress back - deep V
I've also deviated from the pattern a bit, and added a deep V-neck at the back. I've always loved outfits with something going on at the back - swing coats, fishtails, etc.

Next up - finishing the neckline, lining, and hems.

See you soon!

Friday, 17 September 2010

1 pattern, 3 dresses

After years of collecting, I have stacks of old patterns, ranging from the 1930's to the late 80's. But there are certain patterns I always gravitate back to, either because they are a joy to make, or they fit me really well. The pattern below is one of these:

Simplicity pattern 6555, circa 1966
I've made the shorter version twice without havibg to make any changes - it fits beautifully! I also love the unusual daigonal seams at the front:
Diagonal seams detail
 And here I am with the 2 versions - on the mannequin is a Halloween Alexander Henry fabric I bought while on holiday in San Francisco, and I'm wearing a black brocade purchased locally. Don't they look different?!
The same dress, 2 different fabrics
Next up - leopard! I've always loved it, and it seems to be in fashion at the moment, so it seems my timing is right. I picked up a couple of metres of this lovely stuff the other day from my favourite 50p stall; total cost £3.00. Bargain!

Detail of leopard fabric

Check back to see my progress!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Fabulous Finds!

I love finding cool stuff in the street! For some unknown reason, this mannequin was left on my street with a bunch of other rubbish. I had a quick look at it, seemed like it was in good shape, so I took it home. There were even some pins and a needle stuck into it, so whoever threw it out must have been using it for home dressmaking. Well, I'm more than happy to give it a good home!
My new dress form
It's not my size, but when I get time, I might pad it out in the bust, waist, and hips so that it reflects my size. I remember my sewing teacher at school telling us how Hardy Amies had permanently padded dress forms  in the sizes of all his regular clients, eg The Queen, stored away. If it's good enough for Liz, it's good enough for me.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sober work skirt, with a surprise! - Part 2

After much slaving over a hot sewing machine, here is the finished product -
'Miss Needles, take a letter'
So let me take you through the rest of the process......

September 2nd -
I finished the seams, ironed them all in place

September 3rd -
I sew the zip in by hand. I chose a nifty red, to add a flash of colour and to match my shiny red lining. I also completed the pockets, which look great!
I cut out the lining and sew the seams. Here's a picture of me ironing it all, looking my least glamourous with pincurls and no make-up!
September 4th -
I sew the pockets onto the skirt and place some vintage buttons I found in a junk shop on to the flaps -

Pocket placed on skirt
Next, the lining is placed inside and sewn over the zip. I sew the waistband together, then pin it to the skirt and sew it in place.

September 6th -
I try on the skirt - lookin' good! I have a special facing for the hem, which I pin in place and then sew. 

September 10th - 
Spend what seems like hours sewing the hem in place. I quickly sew the lining hem, and then the final touch - 2 hooks on the waistband.

So, here's the surprise - 

Remember the Union Jack fabric you saw in part 1? Well, this is what I did with it! As I said, I have to be all sober and grown up for work, but it gives me a little kick to know I've got all sorts of colour and what-not going on underneath. I also lined the pockets with it.

Hem detail - close up
I wore the skirt for the first time today, and had several comments on it, even more when they saw the hem!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Sober work skirt, with a surprise! - Part 1

August 15th -
I work in a fancy-schmancy department store, where we all have to wear black. It's not so bad, but can get a bit boring. I'm tired of some of my work clothes, and decide I need a new skirt.

I've got some fabric lying around which I bought on a whim from a local  market stall for the bargain price of £3. (This stall is brilliant - most of the stuff starts at 50p)
50p stall, Ridley Rd Market, London

Next, I have to decide what to make. I have enough fabric to make something full, maybe with pockets, which is always useful for work. I've often seen pictures of skirts from the 1950's and 60's where the pockets stand away from thr skirt, and manage to dig out a pattern from my collection which does this:

Skirt with stand-away pockets

Next, I compare the measurements of the skirt to what I want. I think the pattern dates from the mid to late 1950's, when skirts were often worn much longer, around mid-calf. I don't really want it that long, and I don't have enough fabric, so I fold the pattern to a reasonable length, pin it to the fabric, and cut it out:

Pattern pieces after cutting out
The Union Jack fabric is going to be the surprise - all will be revealed later......

August 31 -
Start pinning everything together.

September 1 -
Go get some red lining and a zip from my old favourite, Dalston Mill fabrics, on Ridley Rd Market

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Quick studded hairband

I was out the other night, having a few drinks, watching some bands, and noticed a great studded hairband on a girl with green crimped hair. I couldn't stop thinking about it! So the next time I had a day off, I set about making one.

First, I went to my local branch of Peacocks to buy a cheapo plain black head band for £3. It had a flower and some diamante attached, which I cut off. The diamante weren't too bad, so I decided to save them and incorporate them into the design.

Next, I dug out an old studded belt that was too big for me. Cost - £0, as my husband found it in the street! Started attacking it with pliers, and got loads of studs off, as well as ruining my nails!
Old studded belt with studs removed
Then I got some scraps of black fabric, and started arranging the studs and diamantes in a strip, matching it to the headband as I went along. The design seemed a bit sparse - I wanted it full! - so I pulled some studs off of an old worn out t-shirt I was hanging on to. Added these to the design, and started turning the prongs under and sewing the diamntes in place.

The whole design needed something to give it some body/support, so I went on the hunt for some cardboard to glue to the back; I think I finally used a takeaway menu from the recycling! This was glued to the underside of the headband, then the studded strip was placed on top, and the fabric folded around and under and hand stitched in place.

Finally, the underside was tidied up with a black ribbon stitched along the centre. And here it is:

Headband close up