Laura’s Fabric Joy!

I’ve been having the best luck recently when it comes to fabric buying. Since leaving England meant saying goodbye to most of my haberdashery – and lots of other sewing goodies – I arrived in St. Louis massively understocked. Fortunately, I have the best husband in the world and, before I got to the US, he had set about getting replacements for all of the most important bits and pieces. But while I needed to make sure that I had a sewing machine ready to go on arrival, the process of rebuilding my fabric supply has been far more slow-and-steady.

I highly recommend fabric shopping to anyone trying to explore somewhere new. Of everything I’ve done to get myself acquainted with St. Louis, searching out off-the-beaten-track fabric shops (and by this I mean not Joann’s or Michael’s) has been an amazing way of discovering different parts of the city. That said, Joann’s has an incredible fabric supply and a constant stream of discounts so it’s also been an incredible resource. Since I’ve really lucked out recently when it comes to fabric finds, I thought I would share some of my favourites with you. These fabrics will be familiar to anyone who already follows my Instagram since I post updates there on an almost daily basis (it’s also worth heading over if you want to have a go at the amazing #sewphotohop challenge through the month of September and get to know some incredible crafters!). But otherwise, here are some pretty fabrics and details about where I found them!

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Just LOOK at this fabric. Genuine 1960s fabric that I totally lucked upon at the incredible The Future Antiques in St. Louis. I had actually visited The Future Antiques before a couple of years ago and picked up an amazing 1940s dress from their stunning collection of vintage clothing. Unfortunately, they’ve had a bit of an overhaul since then and their vintage clothes are no more. But I found a batch of vintage fabric in the back of their sale room – somewhat pricey but all marked down by 40%. I got 3 yards of this fabric for about $20 which felt like a steal to me. I’m thinking that this fabric obviously has to go towards a 1960s make and I’ve been browsing through Love at First Stitch from Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons for the perfect pattern. Still thinking it over though!

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I still can’t get over the beauty of this cotton. I’ve been totally enamoured since the moment I spotted it. This gem is from an incredible fabric store called The Quilted Fox in Frontenac, MO. They have an amazing range of Australian and African fabrics – this ‘Spiritual Women’ piece is from their Australian collection. I think it’s seriously the most beautiful fabric I’ve ever seen and I’m so excited to use it, although simultaneously too scared to commit to anything. Fingers crossed I’ll settle on a pattern eventually. In the meantime, I’m just enjoying gazing at it periodically!

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So technically not a product of my St. Louis fabric search but a delicious find nonetheless. This beautiful viscose fabric came to me from ‘Til The Sun Goes Down as part of my winnings from #vpjuly on Instagram. I totally lucked out and won a £30 spend on the online shop so bought 3 yards of this beautiful ‘Birds on Turquoise’ fabric and seven 1940s basket weave buttons. If you’re looking for some genuine vintage fabric/notions or fabric that has every appearance of being genuine vintage, definitely head over to the shop. Not only was it all super reasonably priced but these goodies got all the way to Missouri from the UK in a matter of days!

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Again not a US find but too wonderful not to share. This stunning fabric was brought home to me from India by my lovely Mum. She travels there a lot for work and used her most recent trip to do a bit of fabric hunting for me! It has a border print so I’ve been umming-and-ahhing over what to put it to but I think I’ve finally settled on the Vintage Shirt Dress from Sew Over It. I’ve had this pattern for ages but never found the right fabric for the job. I can see this Indian print totally working so I think I might mission on with it in the hopes of catching the last bits of summer in the dress!

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The last fabric/notions haul is from the accessible-to-everyone (in the US) Joann’s. I’m not huge on getting my fabric from such large chain stores, simply because I like everything I make to be as unique as possible. But Joann’s have such a wonderful and diverse collection of fabrics that it’s tough not to be pulled in. I found this adorable glittery bicycles fabric in their discount fabric section and took what remained of it. I think I got 3.5 yards for about $15, which is a definite steal. I also had my first forage through their buttons and OH MY GOODNESS they have some amazing ones. Hedgehogs, foxes, and a ridiculous number of Disney buttons. Of course, when I saw the Disney ones I couldn’t stop myself. I have absolutely no idea what these will get used for but they’re currently pinned on my noticeboard for me to admire every time I’m in my sewing room. I just can’t help it.

Anyway, that’s just about it for now. I hope you like these fabrics as much as I do! They’re all still waiting for projects because I am so indecisive. The more I love a fabric, the more difficult it becomes to actually commit to using it. Hopefully it won’t be another year before you see any of these fabrics on a finished garment!

Oh and Happy Labour Day to all of my US readers. I hope you’re enjoying some beautiful weather and an extra day of summery fun!

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My Sewing Room: A Tour

Unless this is your first time reading Sew for Victory (in which case, hello and a massive welcome to you!), you’ll know that I only recently moved to the US and in to a new apartment. After many months of the nomadic lifestyle, I’m finally settled in one place and have actually managed to set up a permanent home for my sewing projects. It’s amazing how much it has transformed my motivation to sew. Big tip – if you feel yourself losing that precious sewjo, it is always a great idea to revamp your sewing space. However big or small the changes (and however big or small the space) some adjustments can make it a far more attractive place to be. Paint your table a new colour, add some inspirational pictures to the wall, find a new storage system – there are so many quick and inexpensive things that you can do. If you have any particular tips, feel free to share in the comments!

Now that everything’s finally in its place, I thought I would share some pics and details with you all. I hope that you enjoy!

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The table (a LINNMON/FINNVARD combination) and chair (a VAGSBERG/SPORREN combination) are from IKEA, of course! A wedding present from my lovely brother and his girlfriend. The table I picked was their longest variation – I had some concerns that it would look far too long but it actually allows plenty of space for my sewing machine and serger, as well as lots of room either side for my cutting mat and other bits. It also makes for a great cutting table, given the length. I’m honestly so happy with it. And the chair’s surprisingly comfy, too!

There is also just so much natural light that I barely have to use my overhead light (unless it’s dark, of course). Such an advantage of the apartment’s massive windows.

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Since we rent, I can’t actually paint any of the walls. So I’ve compromised by decorating with my favourite inspirational pieces and some pretty stickers. The noticeboard has also come in super handy as somewhere to hang postcards and my favourite packs of buttons. I’ve been using some heart pins that I got from Joann’s to stick things on the board and they’re working super well. Plus they’re incredibly cute!

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The parts of my sewing library that I use pretty regularly are on my windowsill. I also have some bits and pieces (mostly older books and magazines that I want to protect from sunlight) in my massive cupboard.

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Side note: a regular book holder (I got mine for about £2 on Amazon in the UK) is AMAZING for patterns. I love being able to have my pattern propped up and so accessible. It’s far easier to use than having it lying flat on the table, since you can actually read it and sew at the same time. If your pattern instructions are in a book, it works even better! Honestly one of the best investments I’ve made.

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I bought a cheap stand-alone clothing rail for hanging my me-made clothes. I found the lack of a designated rail such a problem in my previous sewing spaces. I would hang everything in the wardrobe and, since I’m constantly making alterations and changes on things, I found that I was constantly having to go back and forth to the bedroom to pull garments. With the clothing rail, I have all of my clothes and ongoing projects in one place. I also have a built-in rail inside my sewing room cupboard, which I use for hanging non-me-made clothes that are in my alteration or fixing pile.

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One of the biggest selling points of this apartment for me was just how incredibly this room was suited to sewing. The cupboard, especially, was ideal storage. It came with a cork board already installed on the back of the door which I’ve been using to hang my threads and bobbins (the hooks are long enough that I can fit both the thread and its matching bobbin on there, which is a great way of keeping them together). Obviously my thread collection is being rebuilt since all of my notions had to stay in the UK, so there’s not much going on right now!

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I love love love this cupboard! The apartment itself is from the early 1900s and this cupboard totally speaks to that. It has steps built in and many shelves far above where I’m currently storing. There is just SO MUCH SPACE. At the moment, I’m working on rebuilding my fabric/notions collections so there’s still plenty of room. But I love that there is so much potential and it makes everything so easily accessible!

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So that’s about it! It’s been a journey to get to this place and my husband has been so incredibly understanding of my need to have a designated space for my sewing – in fact, he never questioned what this extra room would be used for! I’ve worked on my sewing in such an array of places – a dining room table, a narrow hallway, an annex. It is just such a luxury to have somewhere to go and sew without interruption.

I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to share my space with you. If you have links to any blog posts or photos of your own sewing area, definitely drop them in the comments. I always love to have a nose at other people’s spaces!

My Vintage Life: The Story Behind Singin’ In The Rain

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There is nothing I like better on a lazy weekend that pulling a film out of my collection of classics and losing myself to it for a couple of hours. As a form of escapism – and education on vintage style – there really is no better resource. Although my collection of films is growing – and with streaming services the choices are now pretty unlimited anyway – I always find myself returning to a favourite handful. And, of all of those favourites, there is none so comforting, joyous, and all-around amazing as the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain.

I love Singin’ in the Rain. It has everything I’m looking for from a classic movie – beautiful costumes, the most incredible dancing, a wonderful plot, and a truly knockout cast. It’s a film that’s been on virtual repeat throughout my life. It has been the background witness to many watershed moments and milestones – my constant companion through years of schooling, work, travel, and relationships. And, as time has passed, I’ve learnt increasing amounts about the stories behind the film’s production and release. As a homage to this incredible classic, I thought I would share with you today some of those gems of information that have added a layer of depth to my Singin’ in the Rain experience.

So join me for this week’s My Vintage Life and the story behind one of the world’s favourite classic movies.


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Singin’ in the Rain was a production that emerged from within a stream of musical endeavours by MGM. It was the work of co-directors Gene Kelly (also one of the film’s main stars) and Stanley Donen, as well as the producer Arthur Freed. Freed came to the film from a long legacy of assisting in the production of film musicals. Originally working as a songwriter with his writing partner Nacio Herb Brown, Freed wrote a number of bestselling hits throughout the 1920s and, in 1929, was taken on by MGM to assist in the production of the studio’s very first musical The Broadway Melody (ring any bells for Singin’ in the Rain fans?!). Throughout his history with MGM, Freed assisted in the production of a number of stand-out musical hits, including Judy Garland’s Babes in Arms and Meet Me in St. Louis. It was Freed who, in 1948, conceptualised a musical film that could utilise songs that he had written with Brown in the 1920s. For this new film, Freed decided to use the title of one of these songs – Singin’ in the Rain.

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The film was novel in that it was not an adaptation of a Broadway musical. However, it was initially supposed to be worked as an adaptation of the plot from the romantic silent film Excess Baggage (1928). It was down to Ben Feiner, one of MGMs writers, to develop an outline for Singin’ in the Rain from this starting point. Unsatisfied with Feiner’s work, however, Freed turned to an alternate team of MGM writers – Betty Comden and Adolph Green. As guidance, Freed provided simply the title for the film and the songs that he wished to include. From here, Comden and Green had total creative freedom to develop a story that would work. It was Comden and Green who decided that the focus of the film should be on Hollywood’s response to the development of Talkies in the 1920s.

To direct the resulting film, Freed settled on Stanley Donen. Donen had formed a firm friendship with one of MGMs favourite stars, Gene Kelly, when Donen was just a 16 year-old working as a Broadway dancer. Although Kelly was substantially older that Donen (he was 28 at the time that they met), a firm friendship began that enabled Donen to make his way into the world of film-making. Donen credits Kelly with equipping him with the contacts and knowledge of Hollywood that would see him directing major stars – Kelly and Fred Astaire included – while still in his 20s. Before working as a director, however, Donen served as a choreographer, working on one of my favourite musicals – Anchors Aweigh. Following Kelly’s break from Hollywood to serve during World War II, Donen and Kelly decided that they wished to direct a film themselves. In 1947, they worked with Freed to produce Take Me Out to the Ball Game – a film that Donen and Kelly choreographed. It was Freed who provided Donen and Kelly with their much desired opportunity to direct by charging them with the film On the Town in 1949.

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After appointing Donen and Kelly to direct Singin’ in the Rain, it was down to the team to decide how to bring the film to fruition. This included making a decision about the eventual cast. Kelly’s involvement in the film’s development – and his proven record as a major musical star – made him a clear choice. However, casting Kelly’s sidekick – Cosmo Brown – proved a little more contentious. Initially, Freed hoped to cast Oscar Levant, a close friend and star of An American in Paris. But Kelly and Donen resisted the idea. Although undoubtedly a talented musician, the directors questioned Levant’s dancing abilities. Freed refused to consider anyone else. Fortunately for Kelly and Donen, the issue was resolved when one of the film’s writer’s, Adolph Green, mistakenly believed that the role had already been taken away from Levant. When Green approached Levant to offer his apologies, Levant was incensed and, recognising the conflict was unresolvable, Freed agreed to recast the role as per Kelly and Donen’s wishes.

Kelly and Donen had already settled on the actor Donald O’Connor as their perfect Cosmo. They did not, however, have such an easy time deciding who would play opposite Kelly as the film’s female romantic lead, Kathy Seldon. It was MGM’s head, Louis B. Mayer, who settled the dispute. Debbie Reynolds – just 18 years old and newly introduced to the film industry – had recently caught his eye. He signed her up to work on Singin’ in the Rain without discussing the decision with Freed, Kelly, or Donen. Kelly was not impressed. In his own words:

“Mayer said she was to be my leading lady in Singin’ in the Rain. That statement hit me like a ton of bricks. He was forcing her on me. What the hell was I going to do with her? She couldn’t sing, she couldn’t dance, she couldn’t act. She was a triple threat.”

This opinion perhaps explains Kelly’s resulting treatment of Reynolds during the making of Singin’ in the Rain. Reynolds has often referred to Kelly acting harshly with her and being particularly critical of her dancing abilities. One particularly famous story relates how, following an especially harsh set of insults from Kelly, Reynolds hid underneath a piano. Fred Astaire found her crying, offered her reassurance and some assistance with her dancing. There was an obvious conflict of personalities and talents. Donen became increasingly critical of Reynolds’ attitude, calling her “…a royal pain in the ass. She thought she knew more than Gene and I combined – she knew everything and we knew nothing.”

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Following the casting of Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont, Singin’ in the Rain was able to begin production in 1951. From here, it became the film that so many of us know and love. Of particular note during filming was Donald O’Connor’s performance of Make ‘Em Laugh (one of my favourite parts of the film). Improvising the performance in its entirety, Kelly recalls of O’Connor:

“It was all improvisation, it was unbelievable. We had twenty minutes of it that we threw out. The difficulty of doing choreography for it was that Donald was a spontaneous artist and comedian, and he never could do anything the same way twice.”

On the song’s title number, Singin’ in the Rain was initially intended as a joint performance by the film’s three leads. But Kelly insisted that the piece would make for a better solo number. It is widely reported that, during the shooting of the sequence, Kelly was extremely unwell. The song was shot on the MGM back lot, using strategically placed back lighting in order to ensure that the rain would be visible on camera. Not only was Kelly suffering with a fever during the shoot, the simulated rain meant that Kelly’s soaking wet tweed suit shrank while performing.

The film’s final product was completed for $2.5 million, more than $0.5 million over the initial budget set. Surprisingly, the film was not met with any particular critical claim or reception. It did not garner a Best Picture nomination in 1953, instead having to be content with Donald O’Connor’s Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and Jean Hagen’s Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. However, the film’s reputation grew after release and it is now well-deservedly reputed as one of the greatest American films of all time.

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Singin’ in the Rain is such a stand-out film. It honours one of the most interesting periods in Hollywood history, while simultaneously demonstrating some of the best musical talents on offer.  It showcases excellence on all sides and the history behind its production only makes it more interesting from the perspective of avid viewers. So I highly encourage you to take some time out this weekend, have a watch, and enjoy one of the greatest films of the 20th century (and probably ever). Have fun!


For anyone who wants to read more about the making of Singin’ in the Rain or delve a little deeper into the history of those associated with the film, I recommend taking a look at:

  • Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and his Movies by Stephen Silverman
  • Debbie: My Life by Debbie Reynolds and David Patrick Columbia
  • Unsinkable: A Memoir by Debbie Reynolds
  • Singin’ in the Rain by Betty Comden and Adolph Green

 

 

 

Project Updates!

It’s been a while since I did one of these posts – mostly because the mayhem of everyday life had basically eliminated my sewing time. Since being in my new place, however, I’ve been totally reinvigorated with the urge to plan projects and actually make progress on my ongoing makes. This is largely thanks to having my own designated sewing space, which is no longer just a sea of boxes and bags of material. I’ll be writing a more detailed post all about my sewing space – and tips on making your designated sewing area work for you – very soon. In the meantime, a sneak peak. From this…

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To this…

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It’s truly a perfect little space. After 8 months of moving from place to place, it’s wonderful to finally be somewhere permanent where I can invest in my sewing set-up! This room was the site of my recent triumph with the Tyyni trousers – one of my favourite patterns to-date and certainly one of the most wearable.

Since my foray into trouser-making, I’ve actually been reflecting hard on the direction of my sewing. Sew for Victory and my decision to take up sewing in the first place were very much a product of my love for vintage fashion. I wanted to have the skills to make vintage clothes with complete freedom – and without the associated price-tag of reproduction or genuine vintage clothes. Vintage fashion is what I love to sew. However, I have been finding problems with wearability. There are many people who feel comfortable – and look amazing – decked out in 1950s clothes, hair, and make-up on an everyday basis. I’m not one of those people. My style has split personalities. Special occasions definitely call for me to root through my vintage makes for something appropriate. But, otherwise, I typically go for optimal comfort or what I would identify as a more European style of dress. To stop it getting a bit dispiriting looking at a rack of me-made clothes that I don’t get as much use out of, I’ve decided to alternate my makes – one everyday item to every one vintage piece. While I’m going to try to keep the everyday makes as vintage as possible – similar to the vintage flair of the Tyyni trousers – I want to strike a better balance with my sewing. I think that this approach will let me continue to make the vintage clothes that I love so much, while also ensuring that I build a wardrobe of more wearable items. If any of you have grappled with similar issues, definitely let me know how you struck a better balance in what you sew!

Anyway, enough soul searching and onto my current projects. When I decide to make something, it’s typically the case that I’ve stumbled upon a pattern I love. Turning this on its head, my current make is instead inspired by a fabric that I fell head-over-heels for as soon as I saw it. For any Harry Potter fans out there, you’ll understand why…

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The cutest fabric in the universe. As you can see, I decided to have a go at making the Zadie dress from Tilly and the Buttons. I’ve loved the look of this pattern for ages but have always avoided knit fabric. In fact, until this fabric turned up, I didn’t even realise that it was knit! After my success with trouser-making, however, I’m feeling extra brave and ready to take on the challenge. That said, I came up against a problem almost immediately. I took great pains to research every aspect of working with knit fabric. When it came to cutting, I made sure that I treated the fabric as well as I possibly could. To ensure that I cut perfectly on grain, I even followed and pinned the ribbing up the fold. It took me forever. Then, after cutting out my pieces and getting ready to sew, I realised that I had cut my skirt and bodice pieces upside down.

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Many, many tears ensued. I think mostly because I was so disappointed in myself for making such an elementary mistake. I’ve never worked with one-directional fabric before and it hadn’t even occurred to me that I would need to worry about cutting my pattern pieces appropriately. And my sadness only got worse when I found out that the company I’d ordered the fabric from was out of stock. My husband spent an entire evening trying to source it from elsewhere – making calls and sending emails – but we found nothing. In the end, I figured that the only way forward would be to either scrap the project entirely or to try and make it work on the fabric that I still have. I managed to recut the bodice pieces from some remnants. The skirt was the real issue. In this instance, I had to reshape and resize the pieces to fit on the existing pieces of skirt fabric – basically turning them upside down. I mocked up a version with some cheap knit fabric to see if it would work and it seems like it should – although it’s difficult to gauge on this particular pattern because there are a lot of different parts to the dress. So keep your fingers crossed for me and hopefully I’ll have a dress to show you before long!

To keep me from getting too depressed about my silliness, I’ve also had my eyes on a project to come after this one. For those of you who are on Instagram (there’s a link to my profile in the sidebar for anyone interested), you might have already seen the Sewing the Scene challenge. This challenge is asking participants to sew a garment inspired by a film or a TV show. I’m definitely feeling the potential here and I’ve been searching around trying to settle on something that I could make. There are just so many options! If you’re planning on participating, definitely let me know. I’d love to hear what you’re up to and follow your process.

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That’s all for now. I’ll be back on Friday with a new My Vintage Life post – I’m planning a really great one, so I hope you’ll stop by. In the meantime, happy Wednesday!

I Got Married!

As promised, I thought I would post some pictures from my wedding! Although I didn’t end up making my dress (see previous post), I still wanted to share some photos with you. Many of you have followed me and my now-husband through the trials and tribulations of the past few years. After a lot of work and so many months apart, we’re finally closing a chapter dictated by distance and a whole lot of bureaucracy. Thank you to all of you who’ve been here, empathised, and offered your support. Even if I don’t know you personally, I still can’t tell you how incredibly important this little community has been to me. So thank you and now on to some photos…

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The Cocktail Hour Sew-Along

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I’m so excited to let you all know that, this year, I’ll be taking part in The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour! Once again, we’re raising money for The Eve Appeal – an incredible charity that works to raise awareness of, and fund research into, the five gynaecological cancers. It’s an amazing cause and this year’s Sew-Along offers such a fun way of making your own contribution!

This year’s theme focuses on The Cocktail Hour. With this specially chosen collection of Vogue patterns, you can make sure you’re suitably dressed for sipping that evening cocktail while also helping out a great charity. The selection of patterns is gorgeous and really wide-ranging. There are some super cute dresses, divine separates, and even a beautiful pattern for making your own purse! I had such a hard time choosing my make – but choice is always a great thing when it comes to sewing!

I mean, look at those options! So fabulous! There are some amazing bloggers lined up to show off their makes and the pictures have already started coming through. Go to Sew Direct’s special The Cocktail Hour section to take a look at all of the patterns, blogger makes, and dates! My turn will be coming up on 17th November (so quite a while yet!) but I promise it will be worth the wait. I already have some ideas percolating and, thankfully, it’ll be post-wedding so I’ll be able to give all of my sewing focus to this amazing project! Sadly, you’ll have to wait until my post date for a reveal of what pattern I’ve made. It’s all very hush-hush and mysterious!

In the meantime, please consider taking part. Every pattern purchased helps to support The Eve Appeal! If you decide to join along with us, be sure to post some pictures of your makes on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. Use the hashtag #sipandsew and tag @mccallpatternuk so we can celebrate your amazing cocktail wear!

I hope to see your makes popping up soon!

1950s Skirt (Simplicity 8250)

Happy February, beautiful friends!

I’m having a wonderfully productive month of sewing. With my lovely fiancé now back in the US, I’ve had a lot more time to spend working on my projects. Sewing for self care is real, my lovelies. Nothing’s been quite as helpful to my wellbeing as sewing. I’m so grateful to have such a wonderful creative outlet, particularly when times get a little tough. And I’m so grateful to have all of you too! In related news, I’ve picked out my wedding dress pattern so you can look forward to lots of posts about that coming soon!!

Back to business. In my previous New Projects post, I previewed the vintage Simplicity patterns that I would be working on over the next couple of months.* After a fortunate encounter with some tartan flannel fabric in my local craft shop, I settled on the Simplicity 8250 1950s flared skirt as my most immediate sewing adventure. It made for a gorgeous and super speedy project!

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This skirt is a super cute take on the traditional 1950s circle skirt. It offers a quirky scalloped waistband and a centre line that is top stitched to give a sweet little fold. I adore circle skirts – they offer a fabulous vintage silhouette but require really minimal effort to put together. And I whipped up a quick and easy neck tie with my fabric remnants just to enhance that 1950s feel! I particularly love the versatility of Simplicity 8250’s final product. Previous circle skirts I’ve made have always struggled to keep a flattering shape when worn without a gauze underskirt. They look beautiful when filled out with a petticoat but otherwise sit crumpled and flat. This is the first 1950s pattern I’ve come across that creates a skirt that retains a great shape even when worn with no supporting structure underneath.

For comparison, the right-hand picture is the skirt worn with no underskirt. It keeps a beautifully flattering shape.

An inevitable problem for any vintage sewcialist is creating garments versatile enough to be worn in every day situations. This skirt is definitely one that you could consider throwing on for a trip to the shops or otherwise. The tartan fabric definitely adds to that everyday feel – I’d definitely recommend using something similar to make the pattern pop! I did create a deeper hem than that suggested by the pattern – I took the skirt up by 3 inches total. This was really just a matter of personal preference. I wanted something that fell mid-calf because, to me, it’s a little more flattering and adds to the versatility.

Simplicity 8250 is slightly more complicated than traditional vintage skirt patterns, given the construction of the waistband. However, it is totally within the proficiency of anyone who would consider themselves an advanced beginner or beyond. It remains an incredibly simple pattern with enough unique features to make it incredibly interesting. The scalloped waistline is a gorgeous detail. However, be warned that the scallops on my skirt came out much deeper than those seemingly intended by the design of the pattern. This wasn’t intentional – I matched notches and seam lines without any issues, but somehow ended up with some dramatic curves. Fortunately, I like this far better!

Cute, cute, cute! These close-ups also give a clearer idea of how the centre line looks, with its fold. The tartan fabric somewhat obscures that detail in the photos, but it’s definitely a stand-out part of the pattern. The skirt fastens with a simple 9-inch zip on the back – again, nothing too troublesome (unless you’re like me and continue to struggle with zip insertions!).

Overall, this pattern is definitely one that I would recommend. It is an incredibly simple and speedy make but with some gorgeous details that separate Simplicity 8250 from other 50s-inspired skirt patterns. I’ll definitely be making up other versions of this in some different fabrics. I could see this pattern working for office wear or more formal occasions.  If pockets are your bag, the pattern also offers a version of the skirt with some dramatic front pockets and a straight waistband. So there are plenty of options to meet all of your needs! Simplicity 8250 also comes with a cute bolero pattern that I’ll be making up soon, so you get 2-for-1!

As tradition, I’ll finish off with a couple of petticoat pictures. I just can’t resist giving them a ruffle whenever they’re on. I really need to consider expanding my collection so I have a full colour rotation for all my makes!!

* This pattern was provided for me by Simplicity in exchange for an honest review.

Update: New Projects

Happy Monday, sweet ones!

I hope that you’ve all had a wonderful weekend. I’ve had a beautiful couple of days. My lovely mum has been visiting from the US, giving me an opportunity to indulge in a few of my favourite things. A trip to the Charles Dickens Museum and an afternoon watching Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap were highlights, providing an excuse to take my Objet d’Art dress out for a period-appropriate outing!

After posting about my most recent make – V1043 – I thought that I would stop by with an update on my upcoming projects. Simplicity Patterns approached me and asked whether I’d be willing to give my own take on some of their amazing vintage patterns. They expanded their range pretty recently so I was obviously delighted to take a look through and pick out a couple of my favourites. And, oh boy, they’re so gorgeous!

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I’m super excited by these patterns! I really wanted an opportunity to make a couple of separate pieces since I’ve been pretty heavy on the dresses recently. The 1950s bolero and skirt (Simplicity 8250) will hopefully function as pretty stand-alone garments. But obviously I couldn’t resist the beautiful 1930s dress (Simplicity 8248)! First on my agenda is the skirt. This was a matter of chance, rather than conscious choice, because I happened upon a gorgeous tartan fabric that I thought would work perfectly for a bright and beautiful 1950s circle skirt.

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I’ve got a pretty distinct vision for the way the whole outfit should look. Fingers crossed it’ll come out the way I’m hoping. Stay tuned for these makes and a few others I’ve got in mind already. Plus I’ve got some other great content coming your way!

Have a wonderful week, lovelies!

Learning From Vintage Fashion Illustrations

Hello lovelies!

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been dipping in and out of the various vintage magazines that I’ve collected since I started sewing. I love these magazines for the insight they give into daily life of bygone eras and the general concerns of women that lived through these decades. But there are also so many great tips related to sewing, knitting, and crafting your own fashionable garments by hand.

Since my era of choice is the 1930s-1940s, most of my magazines and vintage fashion manuals date from that period. One of my favourite things to peruse when I’m looking for inspiration are the great fashion illustrations that populate regular style features. Since a lot of you email and comment about the general lack of non-contemporary vintage inspiration, I thought that it would be useful to post about a few of my favourite genuinely vintage fashion pictures from the 1940s.

Both of these images come from an issue of Woman’s Illustrated published on 1st April 1944 and show some great ideas for detailing on day dresses. The two dresses on the left offer fantastic examples of small additions used to turn relatively simple garments into unique pieces of 1940s fashion. C20,161 is – according to author of the feature, Sarah Redwood – a dress where “the lines of frilling and the front gathered skirt are responsible for quite seventy percent of its charm.” C20,293 offers fabric ruffles attached to the neckline and demands being made in a printed fabric. With my favourite line from the whole feature, Sarah Redwood suggests that: “Like the first swallow, the first printed crepes make one feel happy at the thought of summer just around the corner.” I have to agree with Sarah on that one, although I’m all about recapturing that summer feeling by wearing bright prints year round.

In the right-hand image, we have some great examples of how effectively gathering can be used to capture that vintage style. Both C20,635 and C20,519 use gathers at the neckline to really great effect. This isn’t something that I’ve come across in any vintage reproduction patterns but with some small modifications to the neckline of contemporary patterns could be pretty easily added in. I especially love the scalloped neckline on C20,519 – so gorgeous.

These two illustrations are taken from separate 1944 issues of Woman’s Illustrated and are particularly great for showing the importance of the wrap-style dress to mid-1940s era fashion. These are good examples of evening dresses, particularly when combined with the suggested accessories. I’m not sure bows have truly made their comeback yet but who knows? Perhaps we can be pioneers of the trend. Of CM20,777, on the right, Sarah Redwood says: “The frock that answers a thousand and one different calls is a treasure indeed, and that is the claim we make for this dress. It is a nicely balanced mixture of extreme elegance and extreme ease, comfortable, smart, and undating.” The fact that this dress could be worn pretty inconspicuously today pretty much proves her point.

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My final favourite fashion illustration has to be this one. I adore the shirt dress in particular. And since I have Sew Over It’s Vintage Shirt Dress in line for an upcoming project, its good to see that this contemporary pattern effectively captures a classic style. I also love the neckline of C20,215. Paired with a sparkly vintage brooch, it would be an easy vintage standout.

Hopefully this short journey through some of my favourite 1940s fashion illustrations has given you some food for thought. Perhaps the shape of the garments inspires you, or maybe the pictured accessories and fabric ideas feed your imagination.These gorgeous pictures always help me when I’m trying to get out of a sewing rut or otherwise plan some unique touches to patterns I’m working on. And if these few pictures aren’t enough, I’ll be making sure to write more vintage inspiration posts in the future. So stay tuned!

New Project: 1950s Unique Chic

Happy Thursday, sweet ones!

Thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments on my dress for the Big Vintage Sew-along. I couldn’t be prouder of how it turned out and hearing such super kind feedback has been incredible. As long-time readers of Sew for Victory will know, I have a true soft-spot for late 1930s style and Vogue 9217 was the perfect make to really show off what the era has to offer in the way of fashion.

Working so hard on the Big Vintage Sew-along dress has left me a little drained. Managing such a big project on top of the PhD and general life tasks (eating, sleeping, and talking to my fiancé are obviously important things) was definitely a challenge. But I’m also determined to capitalise on the momentum I’m feeling and have been trying to seek out the perfect project to reinvigorate me with sewing energy. Fortunately, I went to my most faithful source of incredible vintage patterns and found just the right make – Decades of Style’s Objet d’Art dress.

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Beautiful, right? I’m really excited to give this pattern a go and I think it will result in a real statement piece, similar to the company’s Belle Curve dress.

I also had some really good fortune in July, winning a prize via the July Vintage Pledge organised on Instagram by Stitch Odyssey and Kestrel Makes. My darting detail on the Belle Curve dress won me a £30 gift voucher for The Splendid Stitch – an incredible online shop, stocking gorgeous fabrics and sewing knick-knacks. Searching through the stock of fabrics, I happened on the perfect fabric for the Objet d’Art dress – a blue, white and navy shirting that will really help accentuate the collar and pocket detailing on the pattern.

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I’m really excited to get started on this one. Stay tuned for the finished product!