Happy Halloween!

Usually I forgo any celebration of Halloween. As someone who doesn’t even deal with the dark particularly well, a holiday devoted to all things spooktacular is not really up my alley. But, being engaged to an American and having lived in the US for a while, I’ve reconciled myself to compulsory Halloween celebrations every year.

If you aren’t part of Team Reluctance, I do hope that you’ve had a wonderful day full of some appropriately spooky sewing!

Laura x

P.S. Normal blogging schedule will resume next week. I’m coming off of the back of a LONG work week – hence my blogging absence.

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Sew for Victory: A History

Happy Wednesday, lovely people!

While I continue working on my Beignet skirt (progress has slowed a little while I’ve been stuck in IT training), I thought I would take the opportunity to give you a little insight into history behind the blog name!

If it’s not already clear from the vintage-inspired style here, I LOVE history. I spent five summers working as a tour guide in a stately home and, even though my career life is totally unrelated, I’m still pretty much taken with all things historical. My decision to take up sewing was totally motivated by a desire to dictate my own style – inspired by the eras that I love and without reference to current fashions and trends. So, when starting this blog, I thought what better than to take a dip into one of my favourite periods – the 1940s – for name inspiration.

sew_for_victory

The Sew for Victory campaign finds its origins in the Second World War, as part of America’s efforts to mobilise women to become involved in the war effort. It rings with similarities to campaigns here in the UK, like the famous ‘dig for victory’ efforts. For me, titling the blog in honour of this historical chapter has two purposes. The first is, clearly, to get across that this is a sewing blog, with a vintage theme. The other ties with my day job as a PhD Human Rights researcher. Sewing – as with other ‘domestic’ pursuits – has an aura of the problematic about it when it comes to talking about women’s rights and their advancement. Obviously, it’s tinged with the idea of domesticity, and reminds us of a time when women didn’t have a choice but to become specialists in these activities. As a feminist who also has an interest in these traditionally domestic interests (I LOVE to bake and knit #granny), I used to find it difficult to reconcile my love of the 1940s housewife image with my unwavering belief in gender equality. But what we, as modern sewers, do differently is make a choice. We’re empowered because it is our decision to be business women, or academics, or mothers, or sewers, or artists, or scientists. We choose. I choose to sew and bake because I love it. I choose to pursue an academic career in a male-dominated field because it is my right to do so. And if I choose to forgo that career to work full-time as a mother, that it also my choice.

There is no superior path. Only choices. The Sew for Victory campaign is a relic from a time when women didn’t have a choice – but they used the space they had to mark out territory in the wider world. They used the avenues open to them and pushed for more. And I want this blog to be a reminder to me that I owe my choices to those women. So, in that sense, I’m sewing in recognition of the victories won, but also the victories that we’re still waiting for.

Whether you’re reading this because you’re a sewer, non-sewer or my mother (hello Mama Clarke!), and whether you’re a woman or a man, you’re so so welcome here. I love this community and everything I’ve already learnt from it – in such a short space of time. So thank you all for being here, taking the time to read my musings on life, and sticking by my side while I sew for victory.

Love you all x

Learning to Line

Happy Sunday!

I hope that you’re all having a great weekend. Mine has been spent catching up on sewing the Beignet skirt – after a successful trip to the fabric shop to find some replacement lining. It’s quite literally the most fabulous material I’ve ever come across – I’m so in love!

Bird lining

I think that it works well because the pattern is too busy for me to use on a whole project. With peek-a-boo pockets and a full lining, this is a good pattern to use with some cool lining fabric. Having never lined anything before, I’m on a bit of a learning curve. So far, so good. I’ve put the pockets in and they look super cute. My new machine is also making finishing seams a synch. I’ve never used a proper serger so I can’t compare – but having gone through frustration trying to finish seams with a zig-zag stitch and ordinary foot, this is SO much better.

Overlocking

That said, I’ve probably spent over 50% of my time on this project finishing seams. It’s something I’ve totally skimped on in the past, mostly because I couldn’t be bothered. But given how amazing a finish it’s giving, I think the time is worth it!

So yes, the skirt is progressing well! I’m hoping to get a good bit more done today and hopefully have it done by mid-week. Fingers crossed!

—–

In other news, I’ve been reading my copies of Woman’s Weekly. I thought I’d feature a couple of highlights here. Firstly, this ad:

WW Ad “You are anxious to ensure that once this war is over, she makes up for the loss of so much childhood joy. You will look to her health first and make sure that ‘Milk of Magnesia’ is your stand-by…”

There’s also this absolute gem. An advice column from 1944 – ‘Mrs. Marryat Advises’:

Mrs. Marry Advises

“I wonder if you can help me? I feel very depressed and discontented. I am eighteen years of age and a shorthand typist. When I was seventeen…I wanted very badly to join the Services, but my parents and my employer stood in my way. Since then my best boy-friend has gone in the Navy. He promised before he went to write to me, but I have written twice and received no reply. I know he is a poor letter-writer, and he is very shy. Should I try to forget about him…? Several of my girl-friends are in the Forces or on War work and I seem to be doing so little for the war effort. This depresses me very much, What should I do? – Doris”

I absolutely love reading through these little insights into the lives of women in the 1940s!

Laura x

Woman’s Weekly Wisdom

Hello sweeties!

I hope that you’re all enjoying your week. My sewing productivity has slowed a bit since finishing off my vintage blouse – I think that I needed a bit of time to recover from those plackets! Fortunately, I’m getting back my mojo with Colette Pattern’s Beignet skirt. Cute cute cute.

Beignet Pattern

I’m making it up in a navy blue corduroy that I’ve had lying around for a while – mostly in the hope that it will make a great complement to my vintage blouse. The pattern calls for some lining, which I decided to work in mustard yellow. But my attempt to order the right thing online totally failed and, rather than looking mustard yellow, the lining I was sent is VERY pumpkin orange. Not quite what I’m going for. So I’m going to head down to the local fabric shop tomorrow for a rummage and see if I can turn up something more appropriate!

In other news, I’ve been totally absorbed in the copies of Woman’s Weekly that I bought a couple of weeks ago. One from 1944 and one from 1946!

Woman's Weekly Covers

I wrote before about how obsessed I am with old books and magazines. These are just incredible. The 1944 one is especially interesting for all of the war-related ads and articles. I’m a little bit hypnotised by the Woman’s Weekly Whispers page – which seems to be a version of modern magazines’ ‘From the Editor’ letter.

Woman's Weekly Whispers

Look at those cute illustrations!

From this page, I have learnt many nuggets of wisdom. Including this little gem:

“It’s pleasant to think of a little touch of colour for your best dark frock. How do you like the notion of a flat ice-blue bow added to each pocket? The secret of a really flat bow is to cut the ribbon or material into two pieces. Make the loops the required size, stitching them through the centre. And then tie the other piece tightly round – to form the ends. You’d be pleased by their neatness, if you made your bows this way.”

Fabulous!

Vintage Blouse: A Tale of Triumph

Well, after many tears (and a few curse words), I have finally finished the Great British Sewing Bee’s Vintage Blouse.

GBSB Blouse 2

It was my first time working with a chiffon fabric, which presented a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, my amazing new sewing machine has automatic tension adjustment, making the whole process a bit easier!

I actually really love this pattern. The fit wasn’t difficult and the vintage accents are just perfect – the necktie, the large sleeves, and the plackets. All of these brought their own learning curves, as I faced down with a range of new sewing techniques. I am now a master of french seams and less technically-challenged when it comes to continuous bound plackets! Whoop!

Would I whip up this pattern again? I think so, although perhaps with a satin or silk fabric. The instructions that came in the book were great and easy-to-follow. And the final product certainly looks plenty vintage!

GBSB Blouse 1

And now it’s onto the next project! I’m torn between a few options but this evening shall be spent making a decision and getting started.

Thanks for all of the support (particularly placket-related). You are fabulous!!

Laura x

Placket Problems

Two days ago, the world was a simpler place. I was enjoying some calm constructing of the Great British Sewing Bee’s gorgeous vintage blouse. This was until my pattern demanded that I understand the point of a continuous bound placket and how to construct it. I faced three main problems: (1) I had no idea what a continuous bound placket was; (2) I decided to try and figure it out from working through the pattern, rather than actually looking for advice elsewhere; so, (3) I didn’t realise that a placket is a separate piece of fabric, and instead tried to manipulate one out of just my sleeve piece. If this all sounds confusing, you have a taste of my life for two days. I’m sure anyone in the Essex area heard my cries of frustration.

Weeping quietly into my fabric, my wonderful fiancé stood over my shoulder – ‘does this pattern piece say placket?’ he asked, handing me a piece of tissue paper discarded on the floor. And with that, my problem was solved. I finally realised the common sense necessary to Google for a video tutorial and am preparing to tackle my plackets properly this evening.

Oh the adventures of an amateur sewer! I swear 80% of my time is spent trying to decipher patterns and avoid pinning the fabric to my skin. But I feel that it’s worth it for that 20% of actual sewing success! Despite my placket problems, my blouse is coming on a treat. I’m still worried that the floral pattern might be a little outside of my usual style, but with a plain navy skirt, I think it’ll look tres jolie.

GBSB Blouse Sleeve

Look at those shoulder gathers! I’m so proud!

I will keep you posted on the progress of my plackets 🙂

Laura x

No Rules but Vogue’s Rules

Since throwing myself into sewing, I’ve spent a good amount of time rummaging through charity shops trying to hunt out any craft-related goodies. Surprisingly, perhaps the the best place to look for vintage-inspiration is amongst old books and magazines. One particularly successful shopping trip last week left me the proud owner of Vogue’s 1932 Guide to Practical Dressmaking. 

Vogue Guide

This amazing little book has turned out to be an invaluable resource. With detailed descriptions of old-school sewing techniques and some cute illustrations, it’s a brilliant insight into using vintage sewing patterns. With this at my side, I’m actually feeling much braver when it comes to delving into my growing stack of vintage patterns! Particularly since I’m now equipped with the only rules that matter:

Vogue's Rules

One of the most fantastic things about these old sewing guides and vintage magazines are the ads. For me, these provide perhaps the best picture of era-specific styles and beauty secrets. SO much love!

Vogue Ad2

With that, I’m off to continue with my current project. Inspired by the fabulous Lee Made It, I decided to take on a pattern from the Great British Sewing Bee’s most recent publication. I settled on this gorgeous vintage-inspired blouse, ready to use up a wonderful sheer fabric that I bought a while back:

Vintage Blouse

So far, so good. Although I’m finding it impossible to backstitch without the fabric catching and have been securing by hand instead. Any advice on making my machine more cooperative on this?

My First Dress

Good morning, poppets!

Today, I can declare victory over my first ever dress pattern – the Eliza dress from Eliza M.

Elise M Dress 1

For an amateur sewer, this pattern was amazing. Simple, easy to understand, and pushing my skills just enough. I had decided that my first foray into vintage sewing would probably be best served through a vintage-inspired modern pattern – and Eliza M has a great selection on offer! I made the dress up using the above sky-blue cotton with white polka dots. Super fun to work with!

But I don’t want to paint this like it was all sunshine and roses. There’s a fair bit of jerry-rigging holding the thing together. I learnt, for example, why it is SO important to iron out the coils of your zip (to avoid sewing into your zip by mistake). I also found that the bust darts ended far too high, leaving the dress looking a little *cough* nipple-y. I managed to deal with this by slashing the darts open and ironing the apex over a tailor’s ham – but next time, I think I’ll just try to lower the darts on the pattern (ooooo….adventurous!!).

Overall though, this was a fantastic pattern that made me feel sufficiently proud of myself! I’m already planning to make it up again using a different fabric! So YAY, first real sewing endeavour successful. I will leave you with more photos, showing my response to my fiancé shouting ‘STRIKE A FIERCE POSE’ at me, while snapping like paparazzi.

Elise M Dress 2                               Elise M Dress 3

Meet My Machine

Constance

Well hello there, beautiful.

What better way to start out than a post celebrating the wonder that is my new sewing machine? My previous sewing adventures have all happened on a less-than-friendly Brother machine – literally the cheapest one I could find on Amazon. But with my recent successes and determination to conquer the sewing world, my wonderful (patient) fiancé decided that I could invest in a good upgrade. With that the lovely man swept me off to the local sewing machine dealer, for a long lesson in the sewing machine market (I now know so much – go on, test me!).

I’d totally gone in with the idea that I’d come out wielding a much better Brother machine, or perhaps a Janome. But after trying the amazing Britannia Instyle 65, my mind was made up. Whoop! So here she is. My new baby, christened Constance (after my hero Constance Lytton – I will explain at a later date!). I am looking forward to this new partnership, which I think of as something like that of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain (I am, clearly, the comic relief).

See you soon, with an update on my ongoing projects!

Laura x

An Introduction

Sewing

Hello lovelies!

Welcome to Sew for Victory – an attempt to document my adventures through the world of sewing. I would love to pretend that I am a crafting expert who will be presenting fantastically perfect pieces of clothing to you. Unfortunately, the only way that this could be further from the truth is if I didn’t actually own a sewing machine (I do, so I figure I’m at least one step ahead of total ignorance). To date, I have successfully completed two projects – albeit with many many wounds (both physical and emotional).

So why start a blog and exhibit my lack of knowledge to the world? A couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m hoping that, through the blog, I might actually manage to connect with other sewers for inspiration (and, let’s be honest, a whole heap of advice). But also because I’m hoping that my experience may have some value. As a long-time blog reader, I know how easy it is to be daunted by the number of experienced and awesome sewers out there. I hope that through starting this blog as a real amateur, I might be able to provide some reassurance to other sewers who are just starting out.

Although sewing is a relatively new endeavour for me, it’s something I’ve been trying at for a while now. A deep deep love of vintage fashion and a loathing for exploitation in the clothing industry (I’m a PhD Human Rights student, which might explain this) both moved me to start out. But after a traumatic early experience of trying to sew knit fabric (a truly amateur mistake), I abandoned my sewing machine and threw myself into every sewing manual I could find. At a certain point, however, I realised that such a book-based approach to sewing kind of defied the point of the craft. I have now picked back up the needle, put down the book, and am ready to go.

So world, be gentle with me. And let’s get sewing!

Laura x