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.*

IMG_5784

IMG_5786

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:

IMG_5793

IMG_5800

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!

Inspire a Style: Gene Kelly

Gene Bow Tie

Since starting Sew for Victory, one of the most consistent questions I get is about the origins of my love of vintage style. Obviously the word ‘vintage’ means different things to different people. For me, it’s representative of various eras – although the 1940s is where I find most of my inspiration. One thing I consistently associate with the idea of ‘vintage’ as a style and a lifestyle are the classic films that brought me to a love for these periods long past. Of all the stars in all the films, it is Gene Kelly who taught me that 1940s Hollywood isn’t something that has to remain solely on my TV.

Who?

Many of you will already be well acquainted with Gene Kelly. Born Eugene Curran Kelly in 1912, Gene was not originally destined to grace Hollywood with his incredible dancing and acting skills. He studied economics and law at university, eventually dropping out to teach dance and work as an entertainer. After a stint on the stage, it wasn’t until 1941 that Gene gained a contract with Hollywood giant MGM. His first starring role was alongside Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal. From here, he eased into a lucrative film career, perhaps best known for his roles in An American in Paris (1951) and  Singin’ In The Rain (1952).

Gene’s incredible dancing skills – putting him up alongside Fred Astaire as one of the greatest dancers in Hollywood – and his easy charm turned him into a Hollywood legend. His athleticism is absolutely clear to anyone who watches his films. As the era of Hollywood musicals faded so too did Gene’s career at the heart of the film empire. But he had firmly embedded his name in the history of 20th century film. He died in 1996, aged 83.

Gene Dance

Why?

It is obviously a little out of left-field for me to pick a man as a style inspiration. One of the clearest principles of style from the 1940s – and other ‘vintage’ periods – is an obvious distinction between genders. However, we are now firmly in an era where these restrictions do not (and should not) apply. It is always a good idea to look outside of your conventional boxes and see what you might find!

To me, Gene Kelly is totally representative of the 1940s Hollywood fashion of the male film stars. Smart and refined, this is a style that is all about clean lines, high-waisted trousers, and accessories. The use of accessories by men (tie clips, bow ties, caps) has seen something of a resurgence over recent years, albeit by a select part of the population. When we look back to the male film stars of the 1940s, it becomes clear from where this resurgence finds its inspiration.

Beyond this, what I really love about Gene Kelly’s style is the fact that – even with its refinement and elegance – there is an easy-going fun that you can’t escape. Perhaps it is partly in the attitude of the characters he plays, or the fact that he can’t go five minutes without breaking into song and dance, but this is a style of almost lazy chicness. Gene Kelly is the epitome of ‘wear the clothes, don’t let them wear you’. And that fact is sufficient to warrant him a place as a true style inspiration.

Gene Sailor On the Town

Gene Kelly in 1949 musical ‘On the Town’

What?

So where to start in replicating this style? Apart from whipping up your own tuxedo (no easy feat, I’m sure), there are a few key ways in which its possible to draw some direct inspiration from the gorgeous Gene Kelly.

One core part of Gene Kelly’s wardrobe is a blazer-style jacket. Made up in linen and paired with a waistcoat, this would be the perfect addition to any 1940s garment line-up. Burdastyle’s 01/2014 #125 blazer pattern is a wonderful example of a 1940s style blazer pattern, with a fabulous front chain fastening as an added vintage detail. If you decide to go this route, be sure to join Male Devon Sewing’s #blazerof2016 challenge and bring Gene Kelly’s fashion legacy fully into the modern age!

For waistcoats, you needn’t look further than Simplicity 4762 for a variety of options. If you have a penchant for knitting needles, you could go a step further and whip up a cashmere or wool slipover (also known as a sweater vest). Free Vintage Knitting provides a variety of vintage knitting patterns for men’s vests. Worn with a collared shirt and a pair of wide legged trousers, you really don’t get much more 1940s!

Finally, make sure to take a look at my bow tie tutorial for a quick and easy route to making up your own personalised bow ties. Bow ties are such an effective way to add that vintage style to any outfit and are definitely the fastest way to replicate Gene Kelly’s fabulous style with your own crafting skills.

Gene Flat Cap

So whether you’re searching out this style for your fella or yourself, be sure to remember that everything should be done with a light touch and a light heart. Watch Singin’ In The Rain while you sew and I guarantee that lightness won’t be far beyond your reach.

“You dance love, and you dance joy, and you dance dreams. And I know if I can make you smile by jumping over a couple of couches or running through a rainstorm, then I’ll be very glad to be a song and dance man.”

– Gene Kelly (1912 – 1996)

How To Make a Bow Tie – Tutorial

Happy Sunday, lovelies – and a happy Mother’s Day to those of you in the US!

My brother finally arrived into town on Friday, motivating me to get the bow ties sewn and finished up. Fortunately, they went down very well, making the effort more than worth it!

In the end, I referenced a few different tutorials and found that I had to muddle them together in order to get the best results. For those of you who are interested in making this simple, but truly effective, nod to vintage fashion, the rest of this post is a tutorial detailing the steps that worked for me.

Pattern:

  • I used the Men’s Bow Tie pattern from Sew Like My Mom, available for free through Craftsy.

Materials:

  • 1/2 yard (or 1/2 metre) of fabric – this should be a medium weight fabric and non-stretchy. I used cotton poplin.
  • 1/2 yard (or 1/2 metre) of medium-weight, iron-on interfacing
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Fabric marker (tailor’s chalk, or even a biro will do – shock horror!)
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • Fabric scissors
  • Chopstick/blunt ended skewer/knitting needle

Instructions:

Step 1

Step 1

Cut out your pattern pieces (fabric and interfacing). If you use the pattern I linked to above, cut out all pieces on the fold of the fabric (despite what it says on the pattern). This will leave you with two pattern pieces from your fabric, and two matching pieces of interfacing.

Step 2

Step 2

Pin your interfacing to the wrong side of your fabric pieces and iron on. Be careful not to get the interfacing glue on the ironing board (and don’t, as I did, iron over your plastic pin heads and melt them).

Step 3

Step 3

Pin your fabric pieces together, right sides together.

Step 4

Step 4

At the centre of the length of your bow tie, make marks 7cm apart (that’s roughly 3 inches). This will serve as a gap for pulling your bow tie through to the right side.

Step 5

Starting at one of your marks, sew around the length of the bow tie, leaving a 1/4 inch seam allowance. If it helps, mark the seam allowance prior to sewing. When you reach the corners of the bow, raise the foot and pivot to help keep an accurate seam. Finish sewing when you reach your second mark (preserving the gap).

Step 6

Step 8

Snip off the corners of the bow tie and cut notches around its length (without cutting through the seam line!). Try to keep the notches as equal distance as possible from one another. This will help the bow tie lie flat when you turn it the right way round. I won’t lie, this was by far the most time consuming part of the whole process. But it’s unavoidable if you want the finished product to look as crisp and shapely as possible.

Step 7

Step 9

Now for the tricky part! Start feeding the ends of you bow tie through the gap that you left open. It can take a while, particularly since the length of the tie is so narrow in comparison to the bow. Use a blunt-edged tool to help feed it through (I used the blunt end of a skewer, because I’m a scavenger when I’m in Missouri). Use the tool to help push the corners out, making sure they have a shape and definition that you’re happy with.

Step 8

Step 10

Now slip stitch the gap closed. This can be fiddly. If you aren’t sure how to slip stitch a gap like this (my previous experience was only with slip stitching a hem), take a look at this great tutorial from Professor Pincushion.

Step 9

Step 11

Iron! Now I know that this violates the law of sewing that says pressing is always the right way. But I found a method that worked excellently for getting the perfect shape: iron along the seams of the bow tie and, while still hot (not so hot that you burn yourself!), rub the seams between thumb and finger. This ensures that the bow tie doesn’t come out completely flat (it basically gives it a little volume, which helps the shape when its tied), and also gives a really defined curve to the tie and the bow.

Step 10

Step 12

Done! Enjoy your gorgeous, self-made bow tie!

*Any questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email at laura@sewforvictory.co.uk*

New Projects: A Birthday Surprise!

Hello sweet ones!

First of all, I’m sorry for my lengthy absence from the site. It’s been an insanely busy couple of weeks with sewing-unrelated tasks (mostly PhD stuff, now that I’m coming up to my final year!!). I’ve barely even glanced in the direction of my machine, which should tell you something. Fortunately, I have a trip to the US coming up this week and will be with family for a month. I’m hoping that will give me some time to recuperate and tackle my backlog of sewing projects,

That said, I have one project in particular that I’ll be dealing with over the next couple of days – my first, albeit easy, venture into the world of menswear. As a birthday surprise for my little brother (I say little but he’s only 18 months younger than me), I’ve decide to whip up a couple of bow ties.* As you might have guessed from this, I’m not the only member of my family with a love of vintage style – my little bro has a definite penchant for a good looking neck tie and matching pocket square. So I figured that my sewing skills could be put to use in making him something unique (not to mention that it saves this impoverished student a few pounds).

After a bit of online venturing, I found a couple of fabrics that I love and should suit the summer in New York vibe that my brother will get to enjoy in a couple of months!

IMG_2486

I’ve done a bit of searching around and have found a couple of free bow tie patterns that look reliable. However, I’ve struggled to find a detailed step-by-step guide for putting the bow tie together. So I’m planning on putting a tutorial up on here – logging my successes and (hopefully not too many) failures. This promises to be a quick and relatively easy make that could be a great option for anyone looking to create something for birthday or christmas presents. So I will return shortly with some tips and lessons learnt.

And just to prove that my brother has been a lover of bow ties since his infancy, enjoy this adorable photo of him with my dad!

10473612_10205797251324746_1867349187322885035_n

* This post is a testament to my conviction that my brother doesn’t read Sew for Victory. But obviously, if you know him, don’t give me away!