Spring = Shirt Dresses + Sleeve Failures

I’ve been a super busy bee over the past couple of weeks! I’ve managed to acquire even more fabric since my last fabric haul post, so I’m practically swimming in cottons. But oh my goodness, my newest fabrics are some of the sweetest I’ve ever seen! With all this fabric overflowing my sewing spaces, I’ve been attempting to make a dent in my growing stash. And where better to start than with my favourite fabric of all time (I know I say this about pretty much every new fabric I buy):

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But seriously, is this not the sweetest? Bien sûr! I got this gem after seeing it on The Foldline’s Facebook page and ended up ordering it from a US-based stockist (saving on the postage!). Fortunately, this particular fabric seems to be available from a few different places so I had no problem getting hold of it. If you’re interested, the fabric is called ‘Le Map’ and is designed by Dear Stella. I got mine from New Arrivals Inc. who mostly seem to cater to babies, but needs must. They have a 20% off voucher for joining their mailing list and I had the fabric within about a week of ordering. So definitely recommended!

As soon as I got this fabric, I wanted to set to work! Fortunately, I had the perfect project in mind. I’ve been messing around with plans for a Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress for ages now. I think I’ve had the pattern for about two years. But no fabric ever really jumped out at me as being entirely appropriate. I have a lot of difficulty pairing fabrics and patterns. It’s beyond the level of just thinking that a fabric would work for a pattern. I have to really feel like they go together – it’s the fabric/pattern equivalent of pairing soul mates. I’m like a matchmaker, except that there’s so much more at stake with what I do (I joke, of course. People are just as important as fabric). This is why shopping for fabric with a pattern already in mind is always a nightmare for me. It takes forever. I swear, my skeleton will eventually be found in an aisle at Joann’s.

As soon as I had the Paris fabric in my hands, I just knew it was time to dust the cobwebs from my Vintage Shirt Dress pattern and finally put it to work.

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I’ve been working on the dress this week and it’s coming together a treat! As expected from Sew Over It, the pattern has proved very easy to follow so far. I decided to make the version with sleeves because I always love a sleeve. I’m not sure why but I really never wear anything sleeveless. That may need to change now that I live somewhere that gets 100F summers, but we’ll see.

Of course, this project hasn’t been without its problems. I spent most of the day yesterday trying to figure out issues that I was having with the sleeve cuffs. This is the first time I’ve found any instruction from Sew Over It to be vague enough that I end up spending ages trying to decipher them. The problem was in hemming the sleeves. The instructions tell you to turn the sleeve under to the wrong side and match with a notch on the inside seam. My mistake was in matching the raw edge of the hem with the notch (then spending ages pressing and sewing it) when I was supposed to match the sleeve’s actual edge with it. Essentially this meant that I had two sleeves with short hems and, when it came to turning the sleeve back to the right side in order to get a proper cuff, I had barely any fabric. Enter much unpicking…

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The line of stitches is about 1cm from the edge of the hem (which is where the notch is). So, as you can see, there is definitely not enough fabric to turn back to the right side in order to make a cuff.

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The seam gauge makes this photo look like a police evidence photo and I only just realised it.

This is my current status. I’ve unpicked and have now turned the hems under properly. Finishing and attaching the sleeves is on today’s agenda. I’m hoping that I might actually get around to doing the buttons/buttonholes, in which case I’ll only have the hemming left to do!

Despite my sleeve issues, I’m seriously loving this pattern. It’s come together really quickly and easily. I just love Sew Over It patterns. They’re always so clear (with the exception of the sleeve hemming) and well illustrated. Plus, the Vintage Shirt Dress has lapels! What could be more exciting?!

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So that’s where we are! My plan is to get this dress finished by the end of the week and hopefully have photos up on Sew for Victory soon after. I’m off to see An American in Paris in a couple of weeks (one of my favourite Gene Kelly films!) and I can’t think of a more appropriate outfit. I’ll be a Brit in America in Paris fabric, watching An American in Paris. Perfection!

 

 

Fashion Revolution Week: Who Made My Clothes?

We’re now in the midst of Fashion Revolution Week and I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about this amazing movement. If you haven’t heard of it, Fashion Revolution is an organisation that is working to change the way that we think about our clothes and the ways in which they are currently produced. Looking for greater transparency from manufacturers, Fashion Revolution encourages all of us to ask ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ by getting in touch with brands for information and becoming more conscious of our purchasing habits.

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With the number of disasters and atrocities occurring across the world, it’s easy to wonder why this issue should matter. But it does. The ways in which our clothing is manufactured – and our disposable approach to our wardrobes – has created a cycle of human rights violations and environmental harm that only grows in scale each year. Many of us can recall the 2013 factory collapse in Bangladesh, in which over 1000 people were killed whilst making clothing for some of the world’s biggest brands. Fashion Revolution estimates that 75 million people are employed across the world to make our clothes, with 80% of these being 18-35 year old women.

This is an issue about which I’m incredibly passionate. My professional and academic background is in human rights and I’ve worked in a variety of contexts that have exposed me to the tremendous violations that occur to support western buying habits. Most of us are in touch with issues like blood diamonds (thanks, in large part, to Leonardo DiCaprio, of course!) but, since diamonds are relatively easy to forgo in our daily lives, changing our diamond-buying habits doesn’t challenge us to adapt in any remarkable way (although buying certified conflict-free diamonds is incredibly important and so valuable towards reducing harm perpetrated in these contexts!) . Our choices have an effect. There’s no getting away from it. But working with this knowledge doesn’t demand perfection. Acknowledging that the labour behind our clothing often promotes the most dangerous working conditions, child labour, and incredibly low wages, does not require that we all start making everything we wear. There are so many ways in which we can work consciously towards promoting fair and safe working conditions for those employed in garment-making industries across the world. We can buy from brands that conduct screening and checks of their global manufacturing facilities. We can check that brands have explicit policies on ensuring their products are free from child labour. Even sending an email to a clothing brand that you purchase from, asking them how they guarantee adequate working conditions from their manufacturers, can make a difference.

It’s unacceptable that anyone must sacrifice their dignity by working in squalid and dangerous conditions, simply so that we can spend £5 on a pair of jeans that we’ll be done with in a matter of months. And this disposability is a problem. Fashion Revolution cites that people in the US throw away 14 million tonnes of clothing a year, around 84% of which goes to landfill. So the planet will also thank you for a more conscious approach to fashion choices!

It’s all too easy to slip into apathy on these issues. After all, the scale of these kinds of problems can very quickly lead to thoughts of ‘what difference can I make, anyway?’ Believe me, I’ve been there. But if many years spent working on issues such as this has taught me anything, it’s that change and accountability truly does begin with our own choices. I spent years working in depth on places that had experienced some of the most unimaginable human rights atrocities – from genocide to child soldier recruitment. As inexplicably horrendous as these events are and were, I maintain that the gravest atrocities facing us are those that are practiced as the most insidious and globally-accepted. This has everything to do with the industries that we support – such as garment making and electronics – and the violence that is practiced daily against both people and planet. It’s not our fault that we’re party to this. A great genius of global industries is their ability to point us away from the problematic and divert our attention through convenient and on-trend products. But, when something sits with us as not quite right, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and do what we can – whether this is sending emails, making different choices in our buying habits, or spreading our knowledge to those around us.

There’s no getting away from the fact that we are global citizens. We reap so many amazing benefits from this position without even realising it – travel, food, and products. Working with Fashion Revolution and helping to promote their cause is just one way in which we can help to give back on this. So head over to Fashion Revolution’s site or join everyone (including me!) on Instagram, asking major brands ‘Who Made My Clothes?’

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Clémence Skirt (Tilly and the Buttons)

Finally, some photos of my Clémence skirt! The skirt has been sitting on my mannequin for a couple of months, totally finished. But, thanks to St Louis weather, I really couldn’t find a good opportunity to take pics – and I was determined to get the photos while I actually took my skirt out for a spin! Fortunately, we had some beautiful weather last week and I finally got the chance to pop on my new favourite skirt for a picnic with my hubs.

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I’m not really sure what my hopes were for this skirt. I had picked up the fabric last year on sale and knew that it would make a perfect skirt for the summer. However, in a pattern that’s becoming frustratingly familiar to me the longer I’m in the US, the fabric proved too narrow for almost all of the sewing patterns that I had in mind. Le sigh. I’d yet to sew up any of the patterns in Tilly and the Buttons’ Love at First Stitch book but figured I’d have a flip through in the hope that one of them would work with my fabric. Lo and behold, the Clémence skirt was perfect!

There are so many things that I love about this pattern. First and foremost, it’s a super easy introduction to making your own patterns. It talks you through measurements, seam allowances, and the various aspects of drafting the skirt as a pattern for yourself. So you won’t find the pattern in the pattern library included with the book – you have to draw it up yourself. The downside to this is that you obviously need some extra tools – tracing paper and long rulers being the main necessities. But I found it super rewarding to draw up the pattern for myself, so I definitely consider it a bonus that the Clémence pattern offers a really basic introduction to doing this!

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The pattern itself is incredibly simple. It’s made up of just four patterns pieces – the front and back skirt, plus two cuts for the waistband. The shape comes entirely from the gathers used around the waist. Using a stiffer cotton, I found that these gathers gave an incredible amount of volume to the entire skirt – a volume you would normally need to achieve with either an underskirt or the use of horsehair braid on the hem. Using a fabric with some stiffness to it definitely helps the gathers gain this shape.

I also really enjoyed the way that the Clémence pattern introduces beginners to some new techniques. The use of gathering is not necessarily something that beginner sewists would have encountered previously and the instructions included alongside the pattern are a super effective introduction. You will also be guided to ‘stitch in the ditch’ for attaching the waistband, meaning that the waist of the garment – with the gathers and invisible stitching – is a real focal point for the skirt.

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Glittery bicycles and balloons are the best!

The pattern also gives super detailed instructions for using french seams. Confession time – I’ve somehow avoided ever using french seams on anything. I guess I just haven’t come across them with the patterns that I’ve used before. But now I’m obsessed! They are such a clean way of finishing a garment – I’ve honestly never made a skirt that looks as tidy on the interior as my Clémence skirt. Normally, I’d turn to my serger for seam finishes but I think I might be a sometimes-convert to the french seam in future!

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I think the most complex part of the Clémence pattern is the insertion of the invisible zip. But isn’t zip insertion just one of those skills that really takes work to perfect?! I know that, even after two years of sewing, I still don’t have zip insertion down perfectly every time I make a garment. This pattern doesn’t offer particularly detailed instructions on inserting an invisible zip but look to trusty YouTube and you’ll find all of the guidance that you need!

What an incredible pattern this is for beginners! However, even a non-beginner stands to benefit from revisiting the techniques included with this pattern and, ultimately, you definitely won’t regret the opportunity to make such a super cute skirt. The whole pattern sews up in an afternoon and would make a really effective stash-buster because the fabric requirements are so reasonable! With warmer weather on its way, this would make such a great project for just about everyone – plus you get to buy a book with so many gorgeous patterns, which is just an amazing bonus!

So whip out some of that cute cotton you’ve been hiding away and have a go at the Clémence skirt. I know that I’ll be checking in again soon with 50 new versions!

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I Love Fabric!

It’s been a hard couple of weeks. Adjusting to life in a new country is definitely tougher than I expected when I moved here. Now that I’m almost a year on from the move, I was anticipating feeling a lot more at home than I do. But starting your life over again is no joke and trying to build one for myself is taking its toll. Fortunately, I have an amazing husband who knows exactly the right way to cheer me up – by taking me fabric shopping! So with a couple of new projects in mind, we headed over to Joann’s so that I could pick myself up with some fabric devotion. As always, I was in heaven.

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SO much fabric joy! Am I the only one who pretty much always fabric shops in person? I mean, I order the odd thing online – but mostly just fabrics with really cute patterns that I can’t resist. Otherwise, I much prefer a trip to the fabric shop. I guess I’m always worried that what I order online won’t turn out to be as good in person. Although I know you can order swatches, I’m also incredibly impatient when it comes to waiting for fabrics to be delivered. Also, when I’m feeling not so at home here, hunting out new fabric shops or returning to favourites is a sure way to make me feel more comfortable. It’s exactly the same feeling of ‘at home’ that I get whenever I go into a bookshop. I know, I’m super cool!

We ended up spending a long time searching through the various fabrics at Joann’s. I had a couple of projects in mind and was hoping to find some fabrics that would work. The first project is a new version of the Decades of Style Belle Curve dress. This was one of my first makes (ambitious, I know!) and remains one of my favourite me-made garments. However, in my eternal Laura wisdom, I decided a couple of weeks ago that I should try to tidy up my original version. Since I was super new to sewing when I made it, there were quite a few problems with the construction. None of the issues were a particularly big deal, but mostly I was getting annoyed with the wide, unfinished seams and a lot of subsequent fraying. Since everything was already constructed, I didn’t want to risk serging. So I decided to take my pinking shears to the seams and have a go at both trimming them down and stopping the fraying. As careful as I thought I was being, I ended up snipping through the body of the side of the dress – right by the amazing sunburst darts – and leaving a hole big enough that there’s no fixing it (flashbacks to my wedding dress muslin, anyone?!). Needless to say, I was pretty distraught. However, the dress was definitely in need of many alterations. I’ve lost a lot of weight since I originally made it and, with the way the dress is constructed, it would’ve been impossible to alter. So I guess my accident was actually providing an opportunity for me to revisit and remake one of favourite patterns!

I knew that I wanted to stay super plain with the fabric. The best part of the Belle Curve dress is undoubtedly the darts and using a patterned fabric would only make this detail much harder to see. So I decided to get a couple of drapey fabrics in bold colours that would work super well and show of the unique details of the dress pattern.

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Green is probably my favourite colour and I couldn’t resist this gorgeous bottle green. My original version of the Belle Curve dress was in green and it looked stunning. I’m not sure if I’ll use this fabric for my next version since I want to try something different but, either way, it’ll certainly be put to good use!

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Purple! I don’t think I’ve made any purple clothes so far, which is strange because I absolutely adore purple. This is definitely a super bold purple but I think it will work incredibly well with the pattern. I can’t actually remember what sorts of fabrics these are – I think they’re poly blends. But they are perfectly drapey with a silky underside, which will work very well against the skin. I can’t wait to get started!

I’ve also been putting together plans to make some shorts. Summer in Missouri is pretty crazy and temperatures can get up to 110F (I think that’s over 40C). Since I’m came over from England, clearly my wardrobe was very underprepared for such temperatures. I’m determined that this summer will be much more comfortable than the last, so I’m putting my sewing machine to work for the cause. Fortunately, one of the lovelies that I follow on Instagram (Erin from My Poetic Memory) posted a photo of some shorts she’s whipped up recently. All of the pairs looked gorgeous but she had a version of the Chataigne shorts from Deer&Doe that left me particularly in love (I was the personification of the heart eyes emoji, for sure). After searching out the pattern for myself, I knew that I needed to put this on my project list! Since I was especially in love with the styling of one of the models for the pattern, I decided to try and replicate the look by finding some faux suede to create some beautiful shorts:

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I’ve never sewn with faux suede before, so I’m excited to give it a go! I think these shorts will be amazing – although perhaps not made with the most cooling of materials. Just an excuse to buy even more fabric to make new versions!

So that’s a summary of my recent adventures into the world of fabric. I’m so excited to get started on some new projects (especially because Me Made May is coming and I need to get some more stuff together!). Fortunately, my Ginger Jeans are almost finished – just the jeans button, rivets, and hemming to go! So I’ll have those to show you soon.

For now though, I’m wishing you a wonderful weekend full of sewing and happiness!

Sewing For Self-Care: Moriah’s Story

Welcome back to another Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story post! I’ve been so overwhelmed by the response to this series and particularly the willingness of such an amazing collection of sewists to share their stories. Talking about mental health, in any form, can be a daunting task. Doing so in an unfiltered, globally accessible forum – as with blogs like mine – takes the challenge to another level. So I want to take a moment (acknowledging that it isn’t nearly enough) to thank all of the beautiful and courageous souls who have shared their stories on Sew for Victory so far.

This week’s contribution is an amazing addition to the conversation surrounding sewing and self-care. Moriah offers an incredible insight into the many ways that sewing has helped her with her mental health – particularly around the types of body image issues from which so many of us suffer. So, without any more chatter from me, I’ll hand over to Moriah!

*If you’d like to contribute your own story to this series, details can be found at the bottom of the post.*


My name is Moriah Conant and I blog at www.thelordismyteacher.com.

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I’ve been sewing for almost 13 years, and it is a huge positive in my life.

Sewing and Mental Health

One of the first memories that I have of sewing was during a summer that my older sister/best friend was spending with our grandma.  We’ve always gotten along well and my sister is a great support, especially when I am struggling with my mental health.  Eight year old Moriah was pretty upset about her sister being away for so long.

To keep me occupied one day, my mom suggested sewing a quilt for my beloved dolls. Together we cut small squares of scrap fabric, sewed them into rows, and then into a small quilt.  It was amazing to see these wrinkled scraps of fabric become a beautiful and useful object.

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Apparently we still own the little doll quilt!

Needless to say, I was hooked.  Sewing provides me with something to do with my hands on the hard days that I can’t quiet my mind.  I make the rules, I control what I’m making, and where my focus is.  Doing something constructive with my hands allows me to makes positive choices for my mental health.

In college I was always busy and rarely had time for sewing.  About a year ago I picked up embroidery (again) as a way to sew on the go.  That revamp of a hobby became an Etsy shop that I run (www.owlofit.etsy.com).  My small embroidery projects are portable, do not require a lot of time investment, and provide a way to be creative when I don’t have much extra time.

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My Etsy shop is a good way to fund graduate school, do something that I love, and boost my mental health.

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I’ve also done some fun projects for myself.

Sewing and Body Image

I think most people can relate to struggling with body image to some degree.  For me, I lost over fifteen pounds over the course of a few months (about two and a half years ago). Even before this loss I didn’t have any weight to spare. It’s frustrating to try everything that you can to gain weight and still feel like your clothes are falling off of you.

It wasn’t until almost two years later that I finally connected the dots between the weight loss and a medication that I was taking. Thankfully, when I brought that up to my doctor he made some adjustments and I’ve now gained back that weight.

It is an amazing feeling to create a garment specifically designed and fitted to my unique body.

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This bodysuit is one of my most recent makes and it took several pattern adjustments to make it fit but it paid off!!

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This is a Barrett Bralette (pattern from Madalynne Intimates).  I love the way it turned out.

Sewing and Self-Confidence

I love saying, “Thanks! I made it.” Every new project reminds me that I am capable of making things and overcoming challenges.  Failing, learning, and growing also helps the perfectionist in me to give myself grace.

There are few things that get me more excited that a sewing project that turned out great.  Even when plans don’t turn out so well, I can learn from what went wrong.

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This is my beautiful niece in a beanie and leggings that I made for her.

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My cat Wednesday also likes to give her help and input with my sewing.

If you want to hear more from me, check out my blog www.thelordismyteacher.com !

Thanks so much to Laura for allowing me to share some of my story with sewing.


A massive thanks to Moriah for sharing her amazing story! Definitely take a look at her blog – The Lord Is My Teacher– to follow along with her journey. You can also buy some of her incredible makes via her Etsy Shop – OwlOfIt (seriously, the embroidered hats are amazing!

If you’d like to contribute your own story about using sewing for self-care, please get in touch. You can email me – laura@sewforvictory.co.uk – or message me via Instagram/Twitter – @sewforvictoryuk. Alternatively, make sure to check out my original postintroducing this series and starting this larger community conversation about using sewing for self-care.

Vintage Sewing 101: Lines Can Be Friendly!

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Welcome back to Vintage Sewing 101! First of all, a big thank you for all of the feedback on my Vintage Sewing 101: You and Your Figure post. I’m glad that so many of you enjoyed it and could laugh at the ridiculousness along with me! Obviously it was necessary to take a bit of a break from this series after such a keen appraisal of my body situation but now we move forwards into the rest of what our 1950s sewing course – Sew with Distinction – has to offer.

Fortunately, the next couple of posts will be moving us away from judging our own figure flaws and into the world of 1950s fashion. This week’s post will be looking at lines. I’d never thought too much about lines in home sewing – or in fashion generally. That said, I have always understood the conventional wisdom that horizontal lines broaden whilst vertical lines narrow. Sew with Distinction takes us far beyond this basic understanding of lines and their effect on clothing. So strap in and get ready for some learning…

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I do appreciate our introduction to this topic via cartoon (particularly after the heaviness of the previous post) – even if it does remind me a little of how I used to force quite irrelevant Clip Art into school projects. Yet Sew with Distinction manages to relate it all back. As the manual explains, “Just as a magician fools his public, so also (within limits) can the clever designer achieve illusion – by making discreet use of the camouflage afforded by line arrangement.” It’s nice that they manage our expectations from the get-go. There are, after all, limits to what camouflage can achieve to hide the terrible flaws that we spent an hour analysing in front of the mirror, as per the instructions of the course. I also enjoy that using clothing to flatter is compared to “a magician fool[ing] his public.” So deceptive of us.

This said, the course does offer some genuinely insightful ways for using lines in your garments in order to create particular silhouettes. As the introduction to the section notes, you can use various forms of lines – including through the placement of pleats, tucks, and the colour/pattern of the fabric itself – in order to achieve certain effects. As Sew with Distinction goes on to note, this works because of the way that the eye travels when it’s faced with particular scenes. Essentially, our eyes work over dominant lines and tend to breeze over blank (or “uninteresting”) spaces.

So how do we use this information when we’re designing our own garments? The course begins by considering how we can use lines to broaden certain proportions…

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As I mentioned earlier, it’s pretty conventional wisdom that horizontal lines increase width, whilst vertical lines increase length. The course also notes that horizontal lines shorten proportions. The diagram accompanying this offers three different ways in which lines are used to widen/broaden. Figure 1 shows “bands of trimming” that suggest a wider chest and hips, with a smaller waist. Essentially, the lines are used here to give an hourglass shape. Figure 2 apparently depicts “evenly spaced vertical lines which create a horizontal eye movement.” I’m not sure I quite agree on this one since it seems to fly in the face of what we were previously told about vertical versus horizontal lines – plus, I really do feel like these lines elongate the figure rather than broaden/shorten it. But that could just be the illustration and/or my eyes. Figure 3 shows the use of “a horizontal accessory” in the stole and hat. I really like the phrase ‘horizontal accessory’ and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to incorporate it regularly into conversation.

Alternatively, Sew with Distinction suggests that we might use lines to heighten out figure. Of course, there are accompanying illustrations…

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The course doesn’t go into any detail on these three figures, noting only that “height is added, and a slenderizing effect is given.” Of all of these, I love the third illustration most. I spent a good amount of time (definitely more than I should) trying to figure out what’s on her head. I’m guessing it’s supposed to be a feather. But it reminds me of the spades suit on a pack of cards. Or the hand on a clock. I think I’ve just stumbled upon the ultimate guessing game (suggestions and guesses welcome in the comments!). And while I agree that the accessory certainly adds height, I would probably suggest that the price paid in dignity is simply too great.

Moving on…

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Fortunately, all of this talk about lines only takes up two pages. So if you feel yourself getting sleepy, stay with me because we’re almost done – and who knows what we might learn along the way?

Our next point of consideration is lines that divide. This definitely isn’t something that I’ve ever thought about. Before reading this section of the manual, I would honestly have thought that you were talking about crop tops (I do love a crop top). But apparently crops weren’t big in the 1950s, so let’s see what we’re dealing with instead:

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Sew with Distinction describes: “When lines divide an object into unequal parts, the eye is attracted to the larger parts rather than the lines.” This makes sense, of course. Figure 1, for example, demonstrates that “we notice the widths of the outer portions – and the lines result in making the figure look broader.” Alternatively, Figure 2 divides the body into equal sections meaning that the eye follows the lines and elongates the figure. Figure 3 (the one that definitely confuses me most because I don’t understand what this style is supposed to be at all) “shows how a horizontal line (ordinarily broadening in effect) can be shortened by being divided by a vertical line.” I don’t even understand the description. I guess the horizontal line is divided by the vertical, which is supposed to have the effect of lengthening the figure? I don’t even know if I paraphrased that correctly. But I’ll go with yes. Finally, reflecting my waning interest in this whole to-do, Figure 4 “is less interesting because the jacket line divides the figure exactly in half.” I feel you, Figure 4.

However, now we get to talk accessories!

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Here, Sew with Distinction is describing how accessories can be used to create lines that focus interest – as with the centre of the bullseye depicted in Figure 1 (it totally had a meaning!). Figure 2 shows the use of “radiating lines” (the ruffles from the belt to the neck) that focus out attention on the centre of the belt. Figure 3 draws the eye to the neckline through an “intricate design which seems to be framed,” while Figure 4 draws the eye vertically to the “diminishing repetition of dominant lines” through the use of tucks.

I think this advice is actually pretty useful. I’m generally not one for using accessories – I don’t wear a lot of jewellery or really any belts. But it’s certainly worth considering that accessories – or additional design elements placed onto the garment itself – can change the way that the silhouette is perceived. Although I definitely maintain that everyone should wear whatever they want regardless of their shape/size, this doesn’t mean that our insecurities should be dismissed or disregarded. Sometimes we want to accentuate certain features and hide others because it simply makes us feel most confident when we do so!

On that note, our penultimate stop on this tour of lines takes us to using them to detract attention from certain features…

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With everything I said above in mind, we’ll breeze over Sew for Distinction‘s use of the word “ungainly” to describe those bits of ourselves from which we might want to distract attention. Because we can want to make out bum look smaller (hello Laura’s insecurities!) without feeling “ungainly” or unattractive if we don’t. But this is just another reminder of why we should be so glad that we can choose to replicate 1950s style without having to actually live in the 1950s.

In terms of distracting attention, the course suggests that “since all things are comparative, we can make the less desirable portion appear larger or smaller (as we choose) by making the part to which we direct attention appear smaller or larger. In short, the only lines which detract attention are those which lead to, or are located, somewhere else.” So basically, direct your detail or lines away from the thing you don’t want people to focus on. With Figure 1, the illustration shows the use of lines to broaden the shoulders and therefore detract from the width of the hips (I think her hips look pretty amazing, honestly). Figure 2 depicts an effort to distract attention from “a too large bosom” by emphasising the waist and hips. And, finally, Figure 3 shows a way to minimise one high shoulder by drawing attention to the other shoulder. Wonderful.

At last, we arrive at the final point, with a few last minute words on our use of lines:

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Looking at these illustrations, it’s highly unlikely that you would accompany them with the purpose intended by Sew with Distinction. The first figure shows us how we might use “Youthful Lines.” That’s right, everyone! No need to look any further because the secret to youth is in the fact that “curved lines appear soft, graceful, and youthful.” Don’t get too excited though because curved lines also “add roundness to the figure which must be avoided, unless your figure is slight.” Bad news if you’re young but don’t have a figure that can be defined as ‘slight’. You’re destined to look old from birth, according to Sears et al.

Have you abandoned the idea of using lines to look 20 years younger? Well, fortunately, you can also use them to look sophisticated, as per Figure 2. Here, “a simple silhouette and straight lines create the impression of sophistication by being direct, obvious, and  – in extreme cases – austere.” I don’t know what would be defined as an “extreme case” but it definitely doesn’t lend itself to me wanting to give this a go. Sew with Distinction does a consistently excellent job of undermining its own suggestions.

Finally, Figure 3 offers use an “extreme case” of what not to do. I so hope that these illustrations aren’t based off of real people because the accompanying description would definitely constitute a direct lecture – “To be effective, lines must be seen. When there are too many lines, or the lines run in all directions without plan, the eye cannot ‘see’ any one line. It just wanders over the whole figure in confusion!” Oh dear. Poor Maude had better give it another go.

So there we have it. More information than you ever knew you wanted about lines! Just the word ‘line’ is starting to annoy me at this point, so I think I had best leave off there. Hopefully you will actually return to join me for the next Vintage Sewing 101 post. Next time, we’ll be looking at basic facts about 1950s fashion and how we might incorporate them into our sewing projects!

The Ultimate Vintage Pattern Haul! (And Some Tips For Buying Vintage Patterns)

As you all know, one of my favourite things in the world is trawling antiques malls in the hopes of finding some vintage delights. I’m super fortunate that, in moving to the US, I’ve found so many amazing vintage and antiques shops – my vintage collection has obviously benefitted where my bank balance has suffered. So when my hubs offered take me out for another vintage hunt, I totally jumped at the chance. We went back to my favourite antiques mall in the world – one that has never let me down – and oh boy did it come through for me. I can only described my resulting purchase as the ULTIMATE vintage pattern haul. Because seriously these patterns are some of the most beautiful – not to mention reasonably priced – that I’ve seen in the wild…

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Yes, yes, yes! I am so much in love. And I got literally all of these patterns from just one seller (and I think I pretty much bought them out!). Not only was I super impressed with the collection but they’re also all in amazing condition. One issue I find in buying vintage patterns from antiques shops is that there’s rarely a guarantee that the patterns are totally intact. I’ve bought a couple in the past that have turned out to be missing several pattern pieces. This feels very much the equivalent of buying a jigsaw puzzle and finding pieces missing – it’s frustrating and you always feel a bit cheated. But I was fortunate to get all of these patterns from a seller who had actually made sure that the patterns were complete! If you’re on the lookout for vintage patterns but are similarly concerned about finding ones that are complete, I have a few tips that might help:

  1. Look online! If you want to guarantee that a pattern is complete, it is probably best to look on Etsy or eBay. Sellers will typically state whether or not a pattern is complete in the description (if they don’t, you can always send them a message to ask). There will usually also be a returns policy, so you know that you can return it if you aren’t happy with the condition! That said, you will pay considerably more for these patterns than you would buying from a shop in-person.
  2. If shopping in person (at an antiques mall, for example), check their returns policy first! My favourite antiques place – where I bought all of the patterns in this post – has a no returns, no exceptions policy. So I always assume a degree of risk whenever I buy something from there. However, the prices are also about 50% of the price of the same items on Etsy or eBay so, for the most part, I’m happy to trust the seller and take the chance.
  3. You can tell a lot from the external condition. Generally speaking, I find that the external condition of the pattern is pretty reflective of what you’ll find inside. In some cases, you’ll be able to have a look through the pattern itself – this is usually the case in charity shops. Often, however, sellers will put the pattern into a sealed plastic folder (as was the case with the ones I just bought). In these circumstances, I will typically just check over the external condition – if the packaging is all torn up and rough, there’s a good chance that some of the pieces will be missing. You can also gauge a lot from the thickness of the pattern envelope – a coat, for example, will typically have a lot of pattern pieces to it so, if the envelope is super flimsy and thin, it probably doesn’t have a lot of the pieces inside!

There’s often going to be an element of guesswork involved when buying vintage patterns but, the more purchasing you do, the easier it’ll become to tell the complete from the incomplete! And yes, I’m definitely giving you license to go out and buy lots of vintage patterns for yourself so that you can learn!

Anyway, back to my pattern haul! I wanted to give close-ups of some of my favourites because I’m just so obsessed with these gorgeous finds. First up:

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Most of the patterns are 1940s but I also found these stunning 1950s gowns! Just look at them! I’m absolutely in love with the bodice on Vogue S-4264 (on the right) – it makes me think of a prom dress! Plus the sleeves are just incredible! Simplicity  2442 is also beautiful. I’m not usually one for sleeveless or strapless dresses but this one is so adorable. It definitely gives me a summer in Havana vibe!

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Who wouldn’t want some vintage swimwear?! I won’t lie, when I first saw this pattern (Hollywood 1775) I thought it was for nighties and dressing gowns. But no. And, honestly, who wouldn’t want to venture into the ocean wearing something this chic? I’ve actually never owned (or seen firsthand) a Hollywood pattern. I’ve seen them pop up on eBay and was always intrigued – largely because most of their patterns feature a Hollywood starlet on whom the pattern is based. However they also produce generic patterns, as with Hollywood 1775. If you haven’t seen their patterns before, it’s definitely worth having a look online because they’re so gorgeous!

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Here we have some gorgeous 1940s dresses! Do I even really need to say much about these? They are both so unique – I mean just look at the bodice on both of these patterns! I think I’ve actually seen the McCall pattern on the left reproduced – at the very least, I’ve definitely seen something very similar as a reproduction.

And, finally, I didn’t neglect menswear. I found a couple of gems:

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I’m pretty well in love with the blazers on the left. They’re definitely screaming Mad Men to me. And, even though I have no infant children in my life, I just couldn’t resist the coats on the right. Every time I look at it, I think of the Famous Five. I clearly have so many amazing cultural influences at work in my life right now.

So there we have it! I honestly can’t believe my luck. Proving once and for all that spending your free time trawling around antiques shops is always a valuable use of your time!