Vintage Sewing 101: An Introduction

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Welcome to a new post series – Vintage Sewing 101 – here at Sew for Victory! I’ve been planning this out for a while and am super excited that it’s coming to fruition in 2018. As long-time followers of the blog may remember, a while ago I came across one of my best vintage finds to-date:

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This eight book set, published in 1953, is a complete sewing course intended to take you from clueless to crafty. The series is the most informative instruction guide I’ve seen when it comes to vintage sewing techniques and I’m still surprised by its comprehensiveness. For a while now, I’ve been using the book series as a curiosity. It became something that I would refer to for inspiration or simply to get back in touch with the vintage side of things. But I’ve barely scratched the surface of what these books have to offer.

In order to better understand the world of the vintage seamstress, I’ve decided to work my way through these books one-by-one and get to know every aspect of sewing in the 1950s. I’ll be teaching myself the techniques, applying them to my projects, and getting acquainted with a whole host of skills that have been lost to modernity. Aside from getting a better understanding of vintage garment making, I’m really hoping that this challenge will help me develop my own approach to sewing.

It’s always struck me how (relatively) simple sewing can be in today’s world. There’s virtually no need to learn to sew by hand – I’m living proof of that fact because I’m still absolutely terrible at hand stitching anything – or understand the hows-and-whys of the process of making clothes. I’m incredibly guilty of following pattern instructions without really considering the details behind what I’m doing or how everything comes together. While part of me would be perfectly happy to go on this way, I’m ambitious in my sewing and I want to expand my knowledge as much as possible.

I’m also hoping that this series of posts will help all of you reading them to learn alongside me. Having read through these manuals, there are a whole host of skills and techniques that I’ve not encountered before and certainly never considered integrating into my sewing. I want to see where our modern approach to sewing might benefit from a return to old methods. At the very least, I might finally learn how to do some hand stitching!

So, what better way to begin that at the beginning, with the promises made by the course itself:

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“Every woman – and man – admires the woman whose clothes are a perfect blend of individuality, good taste, and current fashion. Whether she wears expensive dresses with  famous couturiers’ labels, or is, herself, a clever stylist – the effect is the same. But it is all the more to her credit if her own nimble fingers and ingenious contrivings have stretched a small budget and touched with magic her own home fashioned ensembles.

You can be this woman. Your hands can create detail-perfect garments, accessories and home decorations which will add dollars to your savings. Besides, it’s fun! All that is required is willingness to learn – and determination to do.

This is the first of a series of eight books designed especially for the woman who wants to ‘sew with distinction’ – quickly and easily. The key to all of the ‘magic’ is here – in simple, completely illustrated, short and to-the-point instructions. Each book is a successive step towards your goal – and each is arranged for quick reference back to any forgotten topic, in years to come.”

Already this sewing course appeals to me. It promises the ability to “sew with distinction” (although whether this means I’ll sew well or distinctively, I’m not sure) in a way that is both quick and easy. Since I have both willingness and determination – which are apparently all that I need – I feel very prepared for everything that this vintage sewing journey will ask of me.

I hope that you’re all excited to join me. The first proper post is going to be a trip into the world of vintage sewing tools and I’ll be seeing whether I’m properly equipped by 1950s standards (*spoiler alert: I’m not*).

Bow Ties (Self-Drafted)

Continuing the Christmas theme, I wanted to do another post about the gifts I made (largely because I’m super proud of myself for making something for someone else!). This post is dedicated to the bow ties that I made for my little brother. This isn’t the first round of bow ties that I’ve made for him – I posted about the others way back in 2016. Since then, I’ve refined my process considerably and drafted my own bow tie pattern to correct some of the issues that I had when I made my previous batch.

*My lovely parents got me a portable photo studio for Christmas, which I’ll be posting about soon. The photos in this post were all taken in my photo studio – partly because I was testing it out and partly because I didn’t want to corral my brother into modelling the bow ties for me.*

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I’m super obsessed with these bow ties. The fabrics are absolutely beautiful and both 100% cotton. I got them from The Quilted Fox, which is an independent fabric seller here in St. Louis. I’ve been working with a few of their fabrics recently and I’ve honestly never come across a better or more unique selection. I picked these fabrics out for my brother because I wanted to give the bow ties a distinctly vintage feel whilst also ensuring that they would be unique, statement accessories. The photos below offer close-ups of both fabrics:

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I’m so happy with how these came out. Given that the previous bow ties were made a year and a half ago, this project has really allowed me to track my sewing progress. Even down to planning out the appropriate seam finishes and figuring out how to achieve the perfect shape, it was very obvious to me that my sewing skills have evolved dramatically. This was only reinforced by my brother’s reaction when he opened his gift, which was along the lines of: “Your last bowties were good, but these are on another level.”

If you’re interested in making your own bow ties, there are a tonne of resources online. It’s such a quick and easy thing to put together but makes for a wonderful gift. My previous bow tie post includes links to some resources and a tutorial. Although I’ve now created my own pattern to avoid some of the pitfalls I encountered before, I’m still using many of the same techniques for construction that were detailed in that post. I plan on sharing my bow tie pattern soon (once I can figure out how to digitalise it) so watch out for that and other related news coming soon!

Hello to 2018!

Happy New Year, lovelies! I want to say a massive thank you to all my readers for walking with me through the peaks and troughs of 2017. I know that it was a tough year for lots of us – and, in many respects, for the world at large – but we’ve made it out of the other side and have welcomed in a new year. I truly appreciate every one of you for helping to make Sew for Victory happen, keeping me inspired, and offering so much help and encouragement when it’s most needed. As cliche as it sounds, there is no way that I would still be blogging and sewing with any regularity if it weren’t for all of you. I think the best way to start out any new year is with a whole lot of gratitude for what’s been and what’s still to come – I’m definitely grateful for this blog, being able to sew, and for this little community. So THANK YOU!

On to looking forward into 2018. I’m not much of a believer in resolutions. The idea of a ‘fresh slate’ is hugely appealing and this, I think, is why so many people love the opportunity to resolve on new habits for the year ahead. My problem was that every resolution offered an opportunity for self-flagellation when I eventually failed to keep my promise. To turn this on its head and still take advantage of the fresh start that the new year offers, I decided to turn resolutions into goals. Although, in many ways, this is just a language switch, the idea of a ‘goal’ instead of a ‘resolution’ feels more achievable and less intimidating. Goals change and adjust with circumstances – resolutions do not. This approach has worked for me over the past couple of years, particularly with the huge number of unexpected and dramatic changes that have come my way.

Along these lines, I thought there would be no better way of starting off 2018 on Sew for Victory than sharing my sewing goals for the New Year. It’ll be interesting to check back in as we move to 2019 and see what I managed to achieve – although, as I emphasised before, these goals are totally fluid and will probably change as the year progresses. So, here we go…

1.  Sew More!

2017 brought a huge amount of instability. I started off the year by leaving my house, moving in with my Nan, and saying goodbye to my (then) fiancé for an indeterminate amount of time. Although I set up a sewing base at my Nan’s house, the four months apart from my husband were mostly focussed on immigration and trying to get through the whole process. Fortunately, we were reunited at the end of May and got married in July! Shortly after that, there was more immigration stuff, moving to a new apartment, adopting a dog, and then the Christmas holidays. To say that it’s been a whirlwind would be an understatement. But I’m a big believer in viewing challenges and difficulties as opportunities to learn. In that light, 2017 was a very opportunity-filled year!

Unfortunately, with all those happenings, my sewing and blogging fell by the wayside for large chunks of the year. Although November and December have allowed for some stability and a chance to refocus myself on these things, I’m going into 2018 feeling that I need to make a concerted effort to do more sewing. Since I’ll be balancing this with my professional goals (more of that to come soon), I’m taking a carefully planned approach to ensure that I am able to give attention across the board. As such, I’m setting aside a couple of days a week to focus on my sewing projects – making sure that I have a good turnover of new makes and plenty of opportunity to build and consolidate my skills!

To help me along, I’ve been thinking about the different patterns that I’d like to try and get made in 2018. Here’s a few of them:

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2.  Find A Vintage/Everyday Wear Balance

This definitely relates to my first goal. One of the things I started thinking about more in 2017 was the nature of my makes. Since I was sewing a lot less, I wanted to ensure that I was using my time to make garments that I would actually wear regularly. I wear all of my vintage makes but tend to keep them for special occasions, parties etc. Going into 2018, I’m hoping to focus on making more patterns that are vintage-inspired but wearable on an everyday basis. Since I’m not working in an office, this means garments that will work when I’m walking the dog, at my sewing table, or just generally pottering around the house. That said, I will never move away from my love of circle skirts and gorgeous frocks, so there will certainly be more of those on the way too.

On my list of patterns to make for everyday wear:

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3.  Blog More

Grappling with all of 2017’s changes, my blogging schedule had fallen victim to procrastination. My goal moving forward is to return to a three times weekly posting schedule (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). I’m hoping that this will add some level of predictability for all of you but also that it will help spur me on with my general sewing activities. I started this blog as a way to record my sewing journey, warts and all. To me, sewing and blogging are basically intertwined. They run parallel to one another and help to move me forward. So 2018 will definitely be a year of more reliable blogging and attention to Sew for Victory!

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My as-yet empty January sewing Bullet Journal spread. Filling blank pages is one of life’s under-rated joys!

4.  Worry Less And Pay Attention To Self-Care

If you’ve been reading Sew for Victory over the past couple of months, you’ll know that I’ve been emphasising a ‘sewing for self-care’ angle. I started sewing as a way to combat my anxiety and panic disorders and, even though these thing are now only shadows in my life, I still maintain that sewing is an incredible self-care opportunity. My first Sewing for Self-Care post – and my Holiday Survival post – both detail the ways in which I use sewing to remain attentive to my own needs. That said, I still fall into old thought patterns and behaviours that absolutely don’t serve me.

Moving forward into 2018, I want to stay super on top of my self-care and continue to use sewing as a central feature of my self-care regime. In doing this, it’s incredibly important to ensure that the self-care tools themselves don’t become sources of anxiety. This requires a lot of introspection and honesty. For example, I use yoga to keep me on track. For a while I was practicing daily but found that I would get incredibly anxious and down on myself if I failed to practice or missed a day. The whole process then became self-defeating. To manage this, I decided to reduce my practicing to four times a week – meaning that I could switch days around as needed. Voluntarily opting out of some days also allowed me see my yoga practices as less of a concrete thing and meant that I could start paying attention to what I actually needed on a daily basis. Some days I need it, some days I don’t. The same can be said of sewing. Particularly when we’re putting our efforts out into the world via blogging or social media, it’s vital to ensure that we don’t allow these activities to slip into something anxiety-inducing or stressful.

2018 will be a year of super self-care!

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As per my Sewing for Self-Care posts, I love having a list of reliable activities that will always serve as a pick-me-up.

So those are my four goals for 2018. Plenty to be going on with and to think about over the coming months. I feel confident that they are all achievable but they’re also subjective enough to accommodate changes and the inevitable challenges that life brings. If you have your own sewing goals set for 2018, be sure to share in the comments. I’m wishing you all the most incredible and peace-filled New Year. I hope 2018 will bring you all that you’re looking for.