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!

Tyyni Cigarette Trousers (Named Clothing)

The past week has seen some serious gains in my sewing productivity. After a wedding and another move, I’m finally settled with my husband in an apartment of our own! And, along with all of the other major advantages of our new place, I even get my own sewing room – I’ll be putting a photo tour up on Sew for Victory soon! Needless to say, I’ve been sewing up a storm since we moved. For a while now, I’ve been working on my very first pair of trousers. I’ve been super scared of making trousers because I’ve heard so many stories about tight crotches and flappy thighs. It just felt like there’d be so many different measurements to contend with. Not to mention, shopping for trousers has always been my least favourite thing. I have bigger hips/bum measurements in proportion to the rest of me and have always struggled with finding trousers that fit my butt but don’t gape massively around my thighs. Obviously, this is a big argument in favour of making your own trousers. But shopping for them has always been such a nightmare that it had basically deterred me from even attempting to contend with my own measurements.

Boy do I regret waiting for so long! I decided that I wanted to take a leap by making a pair of trousers, while still trying to keep the style on the vintage end. So, after searching around for a while, I settled on the Tyyni Cigarette Trousers from Named Clothing. And I could not be more impressed with how this pattern came together…

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Hey! An excuse to wear my favourite hat!

For how afraid I was about the complexity of trouser sewing, I still can’t express how easy this pattern was to construct. I used a PDF version that – magically – actually glued together without any problems (I am too used to having to manipulate the pages together to get the lines to match up!). I graded out a size at the hips/thighs which was super simple to do. The only thing to watch for is how this impacts the zipper flap – but use a curved ruler and you shouldn’t have any problems. Given that the fit was my major concern, I made literally no modifications other than the initial grade out. And I’m incredibly happy with the final sizing. The trousers have just enough ease to be comfortable and allow perfectly for moving around/sitting. I took them on an outing to see a documentary at the local art museum and sat still in them for 90 minutes without any comfort issues.

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Having a great time with my hat.

Since the trousers are high-waisted, this is probably the main area to be concerned with when assessing comfort. Had I reduced the size even slightly, I can imagine that the waist would have cut into my stomach pretty badly. Since I used a heavier trousering fabric – I can’t remember what blend it was exactly but it has an almost velvety feel to it – and the waist is reinforced with interfaced facing, it’s got a pretty stiff structure to it. This obviously means that, when sitting, the waist has the potential to be pretty problematic if you cut it too small. Just be sure to watch for that!

Speaking of the waist, literally the only issue I had when sewing up this pair of trousers was with the facing for the waist. No matter how desperately I tried to get the facing to fit on the waist, the facing was obviously two-ish inches too small for the waist line. I have absolutely no idea how this was the case. I double checked the cut for the facing from my pattern piece and honestly couldn’t see any discrepancy in my fabric pieces. I spent about two hours trying and trying again to get it to work. I thought that perhaps I was folding the fly wrong or placing the facing incorrectly. I tried easing the two together in every conceivable way. But every time, I was coming up very short with the facing. In the end, I cut out another two inches from my fabric and added it on to the facing piece that I had already constructed. It attached totally fine after this and everything looked great – so I’m still not sure what the issue was. It’s much more likely that this was my problem, rather than an issue with the pattern. But I wanted to mention it so that you don’t make yourself crazy over it if you end up with the same issue!

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I also really want to mention the shape of the final garment. I was genuinely quite concerned about how flattering the finished product would look on my body. I still have crazy insecurities about my bum/hips which, despite working hard to discard what I know are ridiculous and society-imposed rules about body size and shape, I struggle to shed. I’m definitely doing much better about it but I still find myself trying to avoid anything that I feel emphasises those areas of my body. The Tyyni trousers are not ones that serve the shape I traditionally look for – I generally go low-waisted and actually a bit tighter to my body. But I am amazed by how great I feel in these trousers! I love how they look – the darts give them a beautiful shape and I honestly feel like they’re super flattering. So flattering, in fact, that I was happy to throw on a crop top and go.

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Also, side note on the pockets! What a fantastic excuse to whip my William Morris fabric back out. Those of you who’ve been reading Sew for Victory since the very beginning will remember this fabric from the lining of my Beignet Skirt. I’ve been looking for a way to use up some of the remnants and HELLO POCKETS!

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I’ve sewn many different patterns that I’ve felt I would make other versions of in the future. Mostly, however, I struggle to find occasions that make a lot of the patterns wearable on an everyday basis. These trousers have a definite vintage flair to them but are probably the first thing I’ve made that I could see myself wearing on a super regular basis. I will definitely be making more versions of the Tyyni trousers in the future – they are just so easy to put together and the finished product is amazing. But, in the meantime, I can see myself pretty much living in this pair. So, if you’re looking to make your very first pair of trousers or are just looking for a new pattern, definitely go for Tyyni. Named Clothing have made trousers a super and surprisingly simple sewing endeavour!

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!

No Snow, All Sew

Sweetpeas!

Firstly, sorry for my blogging neglect this month. I’ve been away from my sewing machine, and a stream of family events have totally soaked up my December. Fortunately, things are a little calmer now that the holidays have passed – although I still have 10 days of time in the US!

That said, I’ve had a super successful Christmas sewing-wise. My family have totally embraced the hobby and have taken it upon themselves to give me gifts that would held me move forward with new projects and skills.

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From my fiancé’s lovely parents, I got a couple of sewing-themed books: ‘Couture Sewing Techniques’ by Claire Shaeffer (which I’m already knee-deep in) and ‘Everyday Fashions of the Forties’. The second is an amazing collection of illustrations, photos and ads from Sears Catalogues of the 1940s. Also pictured are two gorgeous vintage brooches bought for me by my mum and the photo’s background is 3m of a 1940s fabric from my parents. Needless to say, I’m insanely excited to find a pattern worthy of this material!

Knowing my love of old magazines, my fiancé got me three American magazines from the 1940s (two Woman’s Day, and one Better Homes and Gardens). He also got me a couple of old sewing manuals, providing tips on various vintage sewing techniques.

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And finally, my fiance’s parents sorted me out with some extra accessories! Pictured on the right of the photo is a tomato pincushion – I’m told this is an American staple!

So there’s no doubt that I did very well this year, and I can’t wait to get back home so that I can start putting everything to use. For now, I’m contenting myself with a stroll through the magazines and books. The collection of 1940s Sears Catalogue photos has been providing me with some extra inspiration for future makes. A few dresses have totally caught my eye:

Aren’t they divine? I just need to find some patterns that will work!

Anyway, my loves, I hope that you have all had a fabulous December, whether celebrating Christmas, another holiday, or just relishing in the winter weather. I’ll be back shortly with a few new patterns that I’ve collected, plus some insights into the domestic life of the 1940s. In the meantime, have a fabulous New Year’s celebration – I’m massively looking forward to getting to know you all even better in 2016!

Laura x

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Me and Mama Clarke doing some vintage hat shopping!

My Vintage Life: The Essex Secret Vintage Fair

Happy Saturday!

I hope that you’re all having a fab weekend so far! I’ve spent my Saturday morning at the amazing Secret Vintage Fair in Colchester. Only a 15 minute walk from where I live, I was obviously extremely excited to pay a visit and see what the fair had to offer. I wasn’t disappointed. There were a whole range of vintage and vintage-inspired items – clothes, books, Christmas decorations. Clearly, I was in heaven.

I also found just about the greatest coat of all time. I’ve been debating what to do about the whole coat situation for a while now. All of my coats are hand-my-downs, a bit rat-eared, and not really fitting with my vintage-inspired wardrobe. Now that I’m sewing my own clothes, I’ve been on the look out for a coat to match (I’m not yet brave enough to even think about tailoring my own coat). Pocket Watch and Petticoats is an amazing shop, based in Ipswich, that sells vintage reproduction clothing. I’d come across them before at a vintage market, where I lucked on a gorgeous leather jacket. Lucky as I am, I found them again this morning at the Secret Vintage Fair and purchased the new love of my life…

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It is just beautiful. Plus, it has this amazing faux-fur and lace neck cuff.

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When I saw it, I melted. And fortunately, I have a very understanding fiancé!

Other key vintage purchases included some Homemaker magazines from the 1960s. I love love love trawling through these for insights into life ‘in them days’ and any tips on dressmaking (from the pre-digital sewing machine era).

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We also found these cute-as-a-button miniature stockings, made from vintage fabric, by Laura Love (best name ever) of 13 Stitches (she also runs a teddy hospital, which is just the most adorable thing ever). The stockings will be going on the mantlepiece later today in celebration of the fact that it is ALMOST DECEMBER.

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A successful Saturday in anyone’s book. Now time for tea and a rummage through my magazines!

Have a fantastic day!

No Rules but Vogue’s Rules

Since throwing myself into sewing, I’ve spent a good amount of time rummaging through charity shops trying to hunt out any craft-related goodies. Surprisingly, perhaps the the best place to look for vintage-inspiration is amongst old books and magazines. One particularly successful shopping trip last week left me the proud owner of Vogue’s 1932 Guide to Practical Dressmaking. 

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This amazing little book has turned out to be an invaluable resource. With detailed descriptions of old-school sewing techniques and some cute illustrations, it’s a brilliant insight into using vintage sewing patterns. With this at my side, I’m actually feeling much braver when it comes to delving into my growing stack of vintage patterns! Particularly since I’m now equipped with the only rules that matter:

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One of the most fantastic things about these old sewing guides and vintage magazines are the ads. For me, these provide perhaps the best picture of era-specific styles and beauty secrets. SO much love!

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With that, I’m off to continue with my current project. Inspired by the fabulous Lee Made It, I decided to take on a pattern from the Great British Sewing Bee’s most recent publication. I settled on this gorgeous vintage-inspired blouse, ready to use up a wonderful sheer fabric that I bought a while back:

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So far, so good. Although I’m finding it impossible to backstitch without the fabric catching and have been securing by hand instead. Any advice on making my machine more cooperative on this?