Project Updates!

After the super momentum that I achieved with my Cocktail Hour dress, I’ve been feeling seriously motivated to work my way through some new projects. So I thought that I would give you an update on my works in progress and everything coming to Sew for Victory over the next few weeks!

At the moment, I’m working with some seriously fabulous fabric picked up from Joann’s. It’s part of Gertie’s collection, and I had visions of 1960s dresses the moment I laid eyes on it.

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At $16.99 a yard, it’s definitely expensive. I love Joann’s for the MANY discount vouchers on their app and I exploit these every time I visit but, unless I’m working with a 50% off coupon, $16.99 is pretty steep (especially given that any 1950s/60s-style dress is going to take 4+ yards, which will leave you over $50 out of pocket for one dress). Fortunately, I hit Joann’s when they were having a sale specifically on Gertie’s fabric line and I think I ended up getting the fabric for around $6 a yard. Far more reasonable.

The only issue I have with this fabric (other than cost) is the 43″ width. This is something I’ve come across time and again, particularly at Joann’s. Am I the only person losing it with the fact that fabric manufacturers don’t account for the fact that EVERY pattern gives cutting layouts and fabric requirements for 45″ and 60″ fabrics as standard? Why on earth would you make a 43″ fabric? Please do enlighten me if you know. Normally it isn’t too much of an issue but it caused me such problems with this pattern. Every piece of the pattern, except for the two cumberbund/cummerbund pieces, had to be cut on the crosswise grain. Manipulating the fabric to account for this, plus cutting on the fold where I had to, I ended up dramatically short on fabric – despite the fact that I had originally purchased 1/2 yard extra than required to account for any issues. I had to go back and buy an extra yard (not on sale) which obviously cost me an additional $16.99. Since I’m working with the circle skirt version of the pattern, every inch of fabric is absolutely necessary. I was finding that I couldn’t follow the cutting layout on the pattern because two pattern pieces wouldn’t fit on the width of the fabric – being 2″ shorter than the standard 45″. I recognise that this has turned into a massive rant but I’m seriously baffled as to why fabric that sells in a nation-wide chain wouldn’t be standard size?

Anyway, moving on from that outburst. I really am seriously in love with the fabric itself. The blue is so gorgeous – the photo doesn’t do it justice. I’m about half-way through the make and it looks so wonderful. I think that this is going to be a truly fabulous dress! The pattern is one that I got free with a magazine ages ago. I wanted to go with a 1960s pattern that offered the standard silhouette but also looked different from anything I’ve made before. The bodice and sleeves are definitely a departure from my previous makes, so we’ll see how it turns out!

Aside from the 1960s dress, I also have plans for a couple of other fabrics that I’ve picked up over the past few weeks. Although obviously not keeping with the vintage theme, I couldn’t resist this Beauty and the Beast stained glass fabric. I’ve seen it floating around on Instagram for a while and have been desperately in love with it. So I picked up a few yards for myself and am still debating on what to do with it.

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Isn’t it sweet? I’m thinking potentially another Sew Over It Betty dress? But I’m worried that it would look too busy. My default with any heavily patterned or busy fabric is to set it aside to become a circle skirt. But I have about 4 yards of this fabric and I’m really not sure what to do with it. I want to stick to vintage-style patterns so, if you have any suggestions, let me know!

I’m also planning another 1960s make for the brocade fabric that I picked up as a back-up for my Cocktail Hour dress. It’s super cute!

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As much as I love it, I might wait a while to grapple with this one. If you read about my Cocktail Hour adventures, you’ll know that working with the brocade was a total nightmare. It frayed like nothing else. This 1960s-style fabric is beautiful but already fraying all over the place. I think I need to get a couple of other (nice and east cotton-based) projects out of the way before I decide to brave the brocade again!

So that’s most of the news regarding my ongoing/upcoming projects. I am also working on a big super-secret side project that I’ll be chatting to you about within the next month or so. In the meantime, I have a variety of plans for Sew for Victory. As well as the usual posts on my makes (as they occur) and some new My Vintage Life posts, I’ll be publishing another Sewing for Self-Care post. My last post seemed to create a lot of interest and I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks reflecting on your comments. Since it’s a topic that’s very close to my heart, I have a lot more to say about it. So watch out for that. I’ll be back on Friday with a new installment of My Vintage Life.

Until then, have a fabulous week. And Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers!

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The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour: My Make

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After many months of waiting, my Cocktail Hour make is finally here! I’ve posted before about the fantastic selection of patterns on offer and I honestly had the hardest time picking out my choice. But I finally settled on the gorgeous V8997 and boy did it deliver a beautiful dress…

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In the interests of full disclosure, I’m not a drinker. My martini glass has tap water in it. It was also 10am when I took these photos so it’s just good sense.

When I was looking through the patterns on offer, I knew that I wanted to make a dress where the base pattern wasn’t inherently formal. I wanted a pattern that could work just as well as an everyday dress. That way, I figured I could have some extra fun hunting for a fabric that would take the dress to Cocktail Hour level. V8997 comes with six versions – all super different and perfectly suitable for a variety of occasions. I went with Version A because I loved the romantic sleeves and the floaty skirt. However, there are several options for a fitted skirt, as well as both sleeveless and long-sleeved variations.

I made the dress using a black brocade fabric and it was an absolute nightmare. I’ve never worked with a fabric that has frayed so dramatically and so quickly. Without my serger, I’m not sure that the dress would’ve survived. Fortunately, now that it’s finished, I’m incredibly glad that I decided to persevere with the fabric I picked out. I knew that it would perfectly elevate the pattern – a pattern that would work well in so many different kinds of fabrics, depending on where you intend to wear it – to a Cocktail Hour make.

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Now that I look back at it, there’s actually something super witchy about the fabric. Which just makes it all the better because the stars are the real selling point.

Of the pattern’s various features, the sleeves are absolutely one of my favourites. I was concerned that the thickness of the brocade meant that both the sleeves and the skirt would lose some of their shape but the fabric ended up working perfectly. I think this type of sleeve is a wonderful option for anyone looking to make a more formal dress whilst hesitant to go sleeveless. I always like a bit of coverage because I get cold super easily. I also think that, compared to the other versions of V8997, the fullness of the sleeves works incredibly well with the wide, deep neckline.

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I absolutely love the neckline on this pattern. Firstly because V8997 comes with a choice of cup size when cutting out the bodice. This is such a rarity and takes a whole lot of the effort away from the sewist when attempting to properly size the chest. Although I rarely have to adjust the fit of the bust on garments, I find it a really annoying oversight when patterns take no account of bust-fullness. The fact that V8997 offers cup variations was so exciting for this reason. I also just love the deep V on the front and back of the dress. The V is low enough to help the shape of the sleeves and skirt pop, but still high enough that you don’t have to worry about any inappropriate flashing (versus appropriate flashing which is, of course, fine when consensual).

The width of the neckline helps to balance out all of these proportions and is, to me, one of the features of the pattern that makes it so appropriate for more sophisticated settings. I won’t lie, it’s a pain finding a bra that works with this. My strapless bra didn’t fill out the bust of the dress properly so I ended up just wearing a normal one and pushing my straps to the very edge of my shoulders. This obviously wouldn’t be very feasible when wearing the dress out and about. So I would certainly suggest that, if you’re planning on making this pattern, you account for underwear choices. Finding a strapless bra that works and fitting the dress around it would probably be the best path (if you have a lot more forethought than I did).

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Now all of this is very well and good, of course. But what you’re asking at the back of your mind is what we’re all asking whenever we look at a new dress/skirt pattern – ‘Where are the POCKETS?’ As if this dress couldn’t get any better, I get to tell you that V8997 does actually include pockets!! I had an internal debate for all of 5 seconds about how appropriate pockets would be in a Cocktail Hour setting before I decided that, honestly, women suffer from a terrible lack of pockets in their clothes. Who am I to miss a chance for more pockets when they’re offered to me? Plus, you never know when the opportunity might present itself to sneak some extra canapés away with you.

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Moving on from the various features of the dress, I want to highlight the simplicity of constructing this pattern. It’s labelled a ‘Vogue Easy Options’ pattern and, although I wouldn’t say this dress is necessarily right for an absolute beginner, it’s certainly a stress-free make. The dress itself is fully lined and, as many of you know, I genuinely despise lining garments. Every time I try to do it, I face a million problems. But lining V8997 went surprisingly smoothly. Had this pattern been my first experience with lining, I probably wouldn’t have the massive aversion to lining that I currently do.

I ended up leaving the lining of the skirt unattached at the hem because I liked having it hang as more of an underskirt in order to give the dress a bit of added volume. Obviously this completely depends on personal choice. But I think finding a way to volumise the skirt a little is perfect if you choose the Version A sleeves. I really appreciate the way that the shape of the skirt and the sleeves is so similar in this version of the pattern and leaving the lining loose on the skirt was perfect for really helping these parts of the dress mirror one another.

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So there we have it! It’s been such a pleasure taking part in The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour. As with the Big Vintage Sew-Along, proceeds from the patterns in the Cocktail Hour selection go to The Eve Appeal. This charity raises awareness of and funds research into the five gynaecological cancers. I think we can all agree that this is an incredibly worthy cause. So please be sure to take a look at the patterns on offer and make a purchase to back this fantastic organisation. You can also take a peak at the choices of the other fabulous bloggers who have taken part, which is a wonderful way of getting some extra inspiration. Make sure to post some photos of your makes and use #sipandsew so that everyone can enjoy your beautiful garments!

 

Vintage Sewing Treasures: Notions Galore!

As you probably know, I have a total obsession with hunting out the best antique and vintage shops in an effort to lay my hands on some perfect sewing-related finds. I’ve found these escapades much easier to arrange since I moved to the US, where an antiques mall is never far away and typically stocked with vintage sewing patterns and notions.

On a recent trip to my all-time favourite antiques mall – the Antique Mall of Creve Coeur – I scored some of the most incredible bargains. The beauty of antiques malls (at least, the ones I’ve been to) is that they host booths from a variety of antiques dealers – all of whom specialise in different things. I’ve yet to walk into one where I haven’t found a selection of vintage sewing patterns and other sewing goodies on offer. And the Antique Mall of Creve Coeur is always incredibly well stocked with more notions than I could ever need.

I wanted to share my latest haul with you. I actually got all of these bits a couple of months back but it’s taken me forever to get around to writing a post as I’m working my way through a backlog of posts and projects (blame a mischievous pup who demands most of my attention)! Anyway, on to notions, notions, notions!

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All of this for about $10! While I typically find that vintage sewing patterns can get super expensive (usually depending on how old they are), hunting for vintage notions is an easy way to indulge your love of all things vintage while making sure that your bank account stays reasonably intact. Shopping for vintage notions is where antiques malls come in particularly handy. Since there are a number of sellers, it is easy to locate booths where prices are low.

One of the other great things about visiting antiques shops is that they often offer opportunities to buy in bulk…

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This jar must contain at least 40 lots of bias tape, elastic, and lace. And all for about $8! This seller had another jar of the same size containing assorted buttons and belt buckles. I was super tempted but, in the end, thought I would be much less likely to use them. I have a button obsession but I couldn’t see myself finding a use for mismatched buttons. Unless maybe I just start my own vintage button collection!

Some of the cutest bits from this bargain jar…

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Vintage packaging is honestly one of my favourite things. Am I the only one who feels this way?!

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Anything floral is a bonus!

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And so much lace! I have no idea what I’ll do with this. Sewing lace onto garments is something that I’ve yet to do.

As you’ll have seen from the first photo, I also got myself a few packs of vintage buttons. Here’s a close-up of those beauties:

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I’m not sure what projects these will go towards. The buttons on the far left would obviously be super appropriate for a coat, so I’ll probably save them for whenever I’m feeling ambitious enough to get into coat-making! I tried to keep my button selections relatively neutral so that I’ll have plenty of options when it comes to actually using them. For now, though, they’ll sit in my collection and look pretty!

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I also picked up this pack of needles. I’m pretty sure that these won’t ever actually be used but the pack was about 50 cents and, as I mentioned earlier, I am a serious sucker for vintage packaging. When I saw the ‘war economy pack’ note on the back, I couldn’t resist! There’s something about vintage items like this that really makes me feel that I’m holding onto a piece of history. I’m sure this intersection with history is what make most of us vintage lovers develop a love of vintage in the first place.

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Some hooks and eyes! Again, in large part because I couldn’t resist the packaging. But I’m sure that these will actually have some serious utility.

And, finally…

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This fabulous hat pin. I’ve actually got a growing collection of vintage hats, some of which have a really hard time staying in place. I’ve been on the look out for a hat pin for a while and this one was a steal at $1. The fleur de lis design is particularly classic. I’d really like to grow my hat pin collection so fingers crossed that future antique hunts will turn up some more!

So that’s it! $10 and many vintage notions later. I massively recommend paying a visit to some local antiques shops if you’re on the look out for sewing patterns, fabric, or notions.  Alternatively, there are great places online – I love Etsy! – that also stock these kinds of items. If you have any alternative recommendations, be sure to pop them in the comments. I’m continuously on the lookout for new places to shop for my favourite sewing goodies! And, if you’re ever Missouri way, be sure to send me a note so we can go antiques shopping together!

Getting Creative With Your Clothes

First of all, thank you for all of the comments on my last post. I was so happy to read that so many of you find sewing to be such a help. I’m a real believer in the fact that any activity can be turned into an opportunity to practice self-care. Even something as simple as brushing your teeth can be a chance for some mindfulness meditation. So it’s no wonder that something as creative and involved as sewing can provide such a wonderful avenue for managing our day-to-day struggles. Sewing gives us boundless opportunities to pour ourselves into creating beautiful clothes. And there is so much that we can do give them that extra special edge.

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about learning to sew has been the ability to make my clothes a truly individual creation. When I’m working with any pattern, one of the first things I do is try to come up with ways that I can make the garment totally personal to me. This extra level of creativity is, to me, one of the most important ways in which I connect to sewing as an activity that really lifts me out of the doldrums. And over the course of the past two years, I’ve come up with a few go-to ways to add that extra bit of quirkiness to my makes. In the name of both creativity and self-care, I wanted to share some of them with you today. So here is a list of my favourite ways to get super creative with my makes:

1. Highlight Shapes and Break Up Busyness with Piping

My first foray into piping was for the Big Vintage Sew-Along last year. I’d never thought about using piping before but the shape of my chosen pattern was just screaming for something additional.

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The dress’ front panels are perhaps the most interesting thing about the garment. To make the whole thing in one fabric would essentially hide this detail. Sewing some piping into these front panels ensured that the shape was one the first things you notice when looking at the dress. Plus it gave me an opportunity to really develop my colour palette. I was keen to replicate the sailor-esque colours that were so popular during the 1930s. Paired with the white buttons and blue crepe fabric, the red piping really hammered home the authentic 1930s look that I was shooting for.

Piping is also a super effective way to get creative when trying simply to break up a busy garment. I had this problem when I was sewing up the Simplicity 1221 vintage apron. I had chosen a really beautiful fabric that I was super keen to use. I also knew that I wanted to make the version of the apron that had big ruffles attached to the sleeves. All-in-all this promised to turn out an overly busy creation where the details were lost to the distracting fabric.

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The way that I contended with this was a return to my trusty piping method! I attached some white piping in between the front panel and the ruffled straps. This super simple addition served to give the eye a bit of a break from the dots, flowers, and strawberries.

Piping is definitely one of my favourite methods for really getting creative with patterns. It’s simple to do and always looks super effective. Not to mention, everyone will be super impressed with your skills!

2. Choose an Extra Interesting Lining

I honestly hate attaching lining so much. It really is the worst thing. I’m working with lining on my Cocktail Hour project and it is seriously horrible. Somehow I always have issues getting the lining to match up with the shell fabric correctly. Just about the only time it has gone right for me was with the Beignet Skirt. This skirt was one of my first makes, inspired solely by the fabulous fabric I found to use as the lining.

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I discovered this William Morris fabric in my local fabric shop while I was living in Colchester, and I was honestly blown away by it. Looking at it, I knew that it would be too busy as an actual garment (although I’m sure there are a lot of people who could actually pull it off!). But as a lining, how perfect! I remember posting this make and getting comments about why I would hide away such a fabulous fabric. But, honestly, it never even occurred to me that I was hiding it. As far as I was concerned, I knew that it was there. And this extra secret detail was exactly the sort of thing that made sewing such a perfect creative outlet for me!

I’ve hoarded the remnants of this particular fabric ever since and recently used it on my Tyyni trousers as another cute hidden curiosity!

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So if you’re looking for a seriously easy way to give your garment that extra bit of quirkiness and you have lining or pocket opportunities, definitely think about fabric choice. It’s your chance to go a bit crazy and use that gorgeous fabric that you weren’t quite sure what to do with!

3. Experiment with Colour-Blocking

I’ve only just started working with the potentials of colour-blocking (and I’m not even sure that my approach really counts). When I picked up my amazing Harry Potter fabric, I was pretty well settled on having a go at making the Zadie dress from Tilly and the Buttons. One of the best things about this pattern is the neat use of shapes. As with the Big Vintage Sew-Along dress, I knew that the shape would get lost in using the same fabric for the whole garment. But, since the Zadie dress demands knit fabric, piping wouldn’t really be an option. So I set about finding a plain fabric that would complement my fabulous Harry Potter knit.

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This dress still isn’t finished due to various construction issues. But I love the black fabric against the mustard yellow. Once again, it stops the garment from looking too busy, while also drawing the eye to the shapes. Not to mention that it is yet another way to achieve that additional level of creativity with a pattern. There’s something incredibly satisfying about looking at a pattern and thinking up ways to make it even more interesting! I’d be super interested to see any examples you have of using colour-blocking. This is something that I’ve only just started to think about – and I do struggle a bit with knowing whether or not colours really fit together. So I’m always looking to you fabulous sewists for inspiration!

4. Work with Patches

This discovery was very much a happy accident. If you were following the blog back in spring, you’ll remember that I was working away on the muslin for my wedding dress. This project, more than any other, really honed my skills when it came to achieving perfect fit. Unfortunately, at the very end of the project (I was literally trimming down the back seam as a final step), I accidentally cut through the main fabric on the back of the dress. This left a massive hole right in the centre-back.

Needless to say, many tears and much sadness followed. But then a thought occurred to me. Why not just patch it?! Since it was a pre-wedding dress make in navy blue – with white polka dots – I figured that dotting some red heart patches around the dress would be a fabulously appropriate addition. I was honestly terrified that it would make the dress look super kitschy but it ended up working perfectly!

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I’ve become such an advocate of cute patches. And they were super easy to make. I simply drew some heart shapes onto paper (for a more complex shape, you might want to find a template online), attached them to the fabric and cut out the number I wanted. I attached iron-on interfacing to them in order to stop fraying and then top-stitched them onto the dress. The whole process took me about an hour and I honestly couldn’t imagine the dress without them!

I haven’t seen a lot of use of patches out there. So, once again, let me know if you’ve used any in the past. One of the great things about using patches is that there are so many available to buy online! The hardest part is deciding where they might be appropriate to use. So if you have any inspiration to provide, please send it my way!


So there we go. Some quick and (relatively easy) tips for kickstarting your creativity. For me, this goes hand-in-hand with last week’s post about sewing for self-care. While making the pattern as written is still a super joyful process, I honestly get most involved in finding ways to add a truly personal touch to my makes. Not only is it the perfect method for developing your sewing skills, it is also a great reminder of how fantastically creative you are. Happy accident or purposeful decision, be brave and take a chance!

If you have any of your own tips to share, please leave a comment or send me an email. I’m always looking for new techniques to try out!