Mrs. Marryat Advises: Part II

If you are new to Sew for Victory, you might not yet know about my deep adoration of vintage women’s magazines. Although mostly for the ads (which are SUCH an insight into the life of women from past eras), it’s also a lot about the articles. Dated as they often are, it’s pretty incredible to be reading about the concerns, hopes, and preoccupations of the women to whom these magazines presumably catered.*

Mrs. Marryat is one of the strangest, most fascinating characters that I’ve come across so far in my intellectual journey into the life of the ‘1940s woman’. Some of you long-time readers might remember that she has made an appearance on this blog once before. Mrs. Marryat was the advice columnist for Woman’s Weekly in the 1940s. And although she often comes out with the sort of advice that turns the stomach of my modern-day feminist self, sometimes I do actually learn a thing or two about 1940s etiquette. As an engaged person, this tidbit caught my eye. I thought I would share it with you to answer a concern over which I am sure you have all, at some point, lost sleep:

NOT UNLUCKY

“I am to be married shortly, and I would like your advice as to whether it is unlucky to wear jewellery on my wedding day. My lovely white dress has a square neckline, and I would like to wear a cross and chain to take off the bareness, but I have so often heard that it is unlucky for a bride to wear ornaments of this kind. – MARY.

I can set your mind at rest by assuring you that it is not in the least unlucky for a bride to wear jewellery on her wedding day. Most brides wear a necklace, a brooch, or some ornament; and nearly all brides wear their engagement ring as well on the right hand. So follow out your own wishes and wear your cross and chain, and dismiss any superstitious ideas which have no meaning at all.

Let’s hope this marriage survived, otherwise Mrs. Marryat may have a LOT to answer for…

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*This is by NO means a suggestion that (1) the experience of women has ever been the same across the board, or (2) that the roles often cast on women by society are correct, preferred or acceptable. In fact, I’m vehemently opposed to both of this ideas (see Sew for Victory: A History, if you want to read more about how I reconcile sewing/vintage/feminism as things that I love).

Claiming Your Space

Hi chickadees and chickadudes!

I hope that this week has been treating you well. I’ve been poorly – explaining my brief disappearance from the site. It also means that the long awaited Joan dress is a little more delayed. Fortunately, it’s pretty much done and I should have pics for you soon!

A couple of weeks ago I answered some questions for the awesome sewing social site, The Fold Line (if you haven’t checked it out – you must. It is the home for my group of 20-something sewers and lots of other cool ways to connect with fellow sewers). The fabulous Kate and Rachel who run The Fold Line wanted some info on Sew for Victory to preview on the site. One particular thing they asked for was a picture of my sewing space. Well, it suddenly occurred to me that – as the creative centre for sewers of all levels – the sewing space is a hugely under-celebrated component of the whole sewing process.

I live in a tiny terraced house – about as narrow as a house comes. So creating a space specifically for my sewing was a challenge. Fortunately, a little creative furniture movement and a cool IKEA craft table left me with a perfect area for all of my sewing needs!

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Obviously the ability to develop a designated sewing space depends totally on what you’ve got available. But even if you’re making do with a corner of the dining room table, there are a few essential things that you can do to make sure that the space is your own:

  1. Get good storage for sewing supplies – My IKEA table has a couple of compartments in the legs that I use to store my patterns. But I use second-hand plastic boxes for everything else – mostly for my fabric stash. Just make sure that you’ve got easy access to everything you could need. There’s nothing worse than taking time out of sewing to hunt for your carbon paper/tracing wheel/thread etc.
  2. Sewing books/magazines – I’m always referring to my various instructional books when I need a bit of guidance. So having them on hand is a must. I also have a kindle station set up if I need to Youtube anything (or, more likely, watch Midsomer Murders while I sew).
  3. Inspiration – For me, this is probably the most important thing (other than a sewing machine, of course). I keep my vintage magazines nearby, plus a couple of quirky bits-and-pieces that always cheer me up. Whether it’s sewing-specific inspiration, or simply something to make you smile on a rainy day, it will totally amplify your sewing experience. Trust.

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Whatever you decide to do – and whatever you have to work with – your sewing space should be an area that you love to be. And an area where you feel as awesome as you are!

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Love you all x

If You Like It, Put A Label On It

Hello, my darlings!

A little while ago, I got a lovely email from Anka, who works with the label-making company, Nominette.* She offered me a chance to design my own clothing labels, as a way to get a bit of an insight into the process. Now, I am by no means computer-literate. Simply seeing the effort that goes in to creating and posting on Sew for Victory would show you that it’s rarely without incident. But thankfully, this was wonderfully simple!

Nominette Label

And here’s how the final product came out. I am super happy! The logo was made with a little help from my lovely fiance, but really was as simple as deciding what I wanted it to say and choosing the font. Once uploaded to Nominette, I got the chance to play around with the colours – both those of the taffeta label and the logo itself. I wanted to go for a vintage feel, since vintage is typically the direction of my makes – so I ended up choosing a beige label, with dark brown thread for the logo. It came out exactly how I wanted.

The labels came this morning, so needless to say I have spent most of the evening sewing them on to my handmade clothes. Every one that I put on feels like a little affirmation of the effort that went into making the garment. And it gives it that professional touch.

So, if you’re looking to add a little something to your clothes – either for yourself or as a reminder to those lucky recipients of your homemade gifts – definitely head on over to Nominette!

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*I was provided with a set of self-designed labels in exchange for an honest review of the product.

Sew for Victory: A History

Happy Wednesday, lovely people!

While I continue working on my Beignet skirt (progress has slowed a little while I’ve been stuck in IT training), I thought I would take the opportunity to give you a little insight into history behind the blog name!

If it’s not already clear from the vintage-inspired style here, I LOVE history. I spent five summers working as a tour guide in a stately home and, even though my career life is totally unrelated, I’m still pretty much taken with all things historical. My decision to take up sewing was totally motivated by a desire to dictate my own style – inspired by the eras that I love and without reference to current fashions and trends. So, when starting this blog, I thought what better than to take a dip into one of my favourite periods – the 1940s – for name inspiration.

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The Sew for Victory campaign finds its origins in the Second World War, as part of America’s efforts to mobilise women to become involved in the war effort. It rings with similarities to campaigns here in the UK, like the famous ‘dig for victory’ efforts. For me, titling the blog in honour of this historical chapter has two purposes. The first is, clearly, to get across that this is a sewing blog, with a vintage theme. The other ties with my day job as a PhD Human Rights researcher. Sewing – as with other ‘domestic’ pursuits – has an aura of the problematic about it when it comes to talking about women’s rights and their advancement. Obviously, it’s tinged with the idea of domesticity, and reminds us of a time when women didn’t have a choice but to become specialists in these activities. As a feminist who also has an interest in these traditionally domestic interests (I LOVE to bake and knit #granny), I used to find it difficult to reconcile my love of the 1940s housewife image with my unwavering belief in gender equality. But what we, as modern sewers, do differently is make a choice. We’re empowered because it is our decision to be business women, or academics, or mothers, or sewers, or artists, or scientists. We choose. I choose to sew and bake because I love it. I choose to pursue an academic career in a male-dominated field because it is my right to do so. And if I choose to forgo that career to work full-time as a mother, that it also my choice.

There is no superior path. Only choices. The Sew for Victory campaign is a relic from a time when women didn’t have a choice – but they used the space they had to mark out territory in the wider world. They used the avenues open to them and pushed for more. And I want this blog to be a reminder to me that I owe my choices to those women. So, in that sense, I’m sewing in recognition of the victories won, but also the victories that we’re still waiting for.

Whether you’re reading this because you’re a sewer, non-sewer or my mother (hello Mama Clarke!), and whether you’re a woman or a man, you’re so so welcome here. I love this community and everything I’ve already learnt from it – in such a short space of time. So thank you all for being here, taking the time to read my musings on life, and sticking by my side while I sew for victory.

Love you all x

An Introduction

Sewing

Hello lovelies!

Welcome to Sew for Victory – an attempt to document my adventures through the world of sewing. I would love to pretend that I am a crafting expert who will be presenting fantastically perfect pieces of clothing to you. Unfortunately, the only way that this could be further from the truth is if I didn’t actually own a sewing machine (I do, so I figure I’m at least one step ahead of total ignorance). To date, I have successfully completed two projects – albeit with many many wounds (both physical and emotional).

So why start a blog and exhibit my lack of knowledge to the world? A couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m hoping that, through the blog, I might actually manage to connect with other sewers for inspiration (and, let’s be honest, a whole heap of advice). But also because I’m hoping that my experience may have some value. As a long-time blog reader, I know how easy it is to be daunted by the number of experienced and awesome sewers out there. I hope that through starting this blog as a real amateur, I might be able to provide some reassurance to other sewers who are just starting out.

Although sewing is a relatively new endeavour for me, it’s something I’ve been trying at for a while now. A deep deep love of vintage fashion and a loathing for exploitation in the clothing industry (I’m a PhD Human Rights student, which might explain this) both moved me to start out. But after a traumatic early experience of trying to sew knit fabric (a truly amateur mistake), I abandoned my sewing machine and threw myself into every sewing manual I could find. At a certain point, however, I realised that such a book-based approach to sewing kind of defied the point of the craft. I have now picked back up the needle, put down the book, and am ready to go.

So world, be gentle with me. And let’s get sewing!

Laura x