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!

 

The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour: My Make (V8997)

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After many months of waiting, my Cocktail Hour make is finally here! I’ve posted before about the fantastic selection of patterns on offer and I honestly had the hardest time picking out my choice. But I finally settled on the gorgeous V8997 and boy did it deliver a beautiful dress…

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In the interests of full disclosure, I’m not a drinker. My martini glass has tap water in it. It was also 10am when I took these photos so it’s just good sense.

When I was looking through the patterns on offer, I knew that I wanted to make a dress where the base pattern wasn’t inherently formal. I wanted a pattern that could work just as well as an everyday dress. That way, I figured I could have some extra fun hunting for a fabric that would take the dress to Cocktail Hour level. V8997 comes with six versions – all super different and perfectly suitable for a variety of occasions. I went with Version A because I loved the romantic sleeves and the floaty skirt. However, there are several options for a fitted skirt, as well as both sleeveless and long-sleeved variations.

I made the dress using a black brocade fabric and it was an absolute nightmare. I’ve never worked with a fabric that has frayed so dramatically and so quickly. Without my serger, I’m not sure that the dress would’ve survived. Fortunately, now that it’s finished, I’m incredibly glad that I decided to persevere with the fabric I picked out. I knew that it would perfectly elevate the pattern – a pattern that would work well in so many different kinds of fabrics, depending on where you intend to wear it – to a Cocktail Hour make.

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Now that I look back at it, there’s actually something super witchy about the fabric. Which just makes it all the better because the stars are the real selling point.

Of the pattern’s various features, the sleeves are absolutely one of my favourites. I was concerned that the thickness of the brocade meant that both the sleeves and the skirt would lose some of their shape but the fabric ended up working perfectly. I think this type of sleeve is a wonderful option for anyone looking to make a more formal dress whilst hesitant to go sleeveless. I always like a bit of coverage because I get cold super easily. I also think that, compared to the other versions of V8997, the fullness of the sleeves works incredibly well with the wide, deep neckline.

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I absolutely love the neckline on this pattern. Firstly because V8997 comes with a choice of cup size when cutting out the bodice. This is such a rarity and takes a whole lot of the effort away from the sewist when attempting to properly size the chest. Although I rarely have to adjust the fit of the bust on garments, I find it a really annoying oversight when patterns take no account of bust-fullness. The fact that V8997 offers cup variations was so exciting for this reason. I also just love the deep V on the front and back of the dress. The V is low enough to help the shape of the sleeves and skirt pop, but still high enough that you don’t have to worry about any inappropriate flashing (versus appropriate flashing which is, of course, fine when consensual).

The width of the neckline helps to balance out all of these proportions and is, to me, one of the features of the pattern that makes it so appropriate for more sophisticated settings. I won’t lie, it’s a pain finding a bra that works with this. My strapless bra didn’t fill out the bust of the dress properly so I ended up just wearing a normal one and pushing my straps to the very edge of my shoulders. This obviously wouldn’t be very feasible when wearing the dress out and about. So I would certainly suggest that, if you’re planning on making this pattern, you account for underwear choices. Finding a strapless bra that works and fitting the dress around it would probably be the best path (if you have a lot more forethought than I did).

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Now all of this is very well and good, of course. But what you’re asking at the back of your mind is what we’re all asking whenever we look at a new dress/skirt pattern – ‘Where are the POCKETS?’ As if this dress couldn’t get any better, I get to tell you that V8997 does actually include pockets!! I had an internal debate for all of 5 seconds about how appropriate pockets would be in a Cocktail Hour setting before I decided that, honestly, women suffer from a terrible lack of pockets in their clothes. Who am I to miss a chance for more pockets when they’re offered to me? Plus, you never know when the opportunity might present itself to sneak some extra canapés away with you.

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Moving on from the various features of the dress, I want to highlight the simplicity of constructing this pattern. It’s labelled a ‘Vogue Easy Options’ pattern and, although I wouldn’t say this dress is necessarily right for an absolute beginner, it’s certainly a stress-free make. The dress itself is fully lined and, as many of you know, I genuinely despise lining garments. Every time I try to do it, I face a million problems. But lining V8997 went surprisingly smoothly. Had this pattern been my first experience with lining, I probably wouldn’t have the massive aversion to lining that I currently do.

I ended up leaving the lining of the skirt unattached at the hem because I liked having it hang as more of an underskirt in order to give the dress a bit of added volume. Obviously this completely depends on personal choice. But I think finding a way to volumise the skirt a little is perfect if you choose the Version A sleeves. I really appreciate the way that the shape of the skirt and the sleeves is so similar in this version of the pattern and leaving the lining loose on the skirt was perfect for really helping these parts of the dress mirror one another.

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So there we have it! It’s been such a pleasure taking part in The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour. As with the Big Vintage Sew-Along, proceeds from the patterns in the Cocktail Hour selection go to The Eve Appeal. This charity raises awareness of and funds research into the five gynaecological cancers. I think we can all agree that this is an incredibly worthy cause. So please be sure to take a look at the patterns on offer and make a purchase to back this fantastic organisation. You can also take a peak at the choices of the other fabulous bloggers who have taken part, which is a wonderful way of getting some extra inspiration. Make sure to post some photos of your makes and use #sipandsew so that everyone can enjoy your beautiful garments!

 

Getting Creative With Your Clothes

First of all, thank you for all of the comments on my last post. I was so happy to read that so many of you find sewing to be such a help. I’m a real believer in the fact that any activity can be turned into an opportunity to practice self-care. Even something as simple as brushing your teeth can be a chance for some mindfulness meditation. So it’s no wonder that something as creative and involved as sewing can provide such a wonderful avenue for managing our day-to-day struggles. Sewing gives us boundless opportunities to pour ourselves into creating beautiful clothes. And there is so much that we can do give them that extra special edge.

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about learning to sew has been the ability to make my clothes a truly individual creation. When I’m working with any pattern, one of the first things I do is try to come up with ways that I can make the garment totally personal to me. This extra level of creativity is, to me, one of the most important ways in which I connect to sewing as an activity that really lifts me out of the doldrums. And over the course of the past two years, I’ve come up with a few go-to ways to add that extra bit of quirkiness to my makes. In the name of both creativity and self-care, I wanted to share some of them with you today. So here is a list of my favourite ways to get super creative with my makes:

1. Highlight Shapes and Break Up Busyness with Piping

My first foray into piping was for the Big Vintage Sew-Along last year. I’d never thought about using piping before but the shape of my chosen pattern was just screaming for something additional.

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The dress’ front panels are perhaps the most interesting thing about the garment. To make the whole thing in one fabric would essentially hide this detail. Sewing some piping into these front panels ensured that the shape was one the first things you notice when looking at the dress. Plus it gave me an opportunity to really develop my colour palette. I was keen to replicate the sailor-esque colours that were so popular during the 1930s. Paired with the white buttons and blue crepe fabric, the red piping really hammered home the authentic 1930s look that I was shooting for.

Piping is also a super effective way to get creative when trying simply to break up a busy garment. I had this problem when I was sewing up the Simplicity 1221 vintage apron. I had chosen a really beautiful fabric that I was super keen to use. I also knew that I wanted to make the version of the apron that had big ruffles attached to the sleeves. All-in-all this promised to turn out an overly busy creation where the details were lost to the distracting fabric.

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The way that I contended with this was a return to my trusty piping method! I attached some white piping in between the front panel and the ruffled straps. This super simple addition served to give the eye a bit of a break from the dots, flowers, and strawberries.

Piping is definitely one of my favourite methods for really getting creative with patterns. It’s simple to do and always looks super effective. Not to mention, everyone will be super impressed with your skills!

2. Choose an Extra Interesting Lining

I honestly hate attaching lining so much. It really is the worst thing. I’m working with lining on my Cocktail Hour project and it is seriously horrible. Somehow I always have issues getting the lining to match up with the shell fabric correctly. Just about the only time it has gone right for me was with the Beignet Skirt. This skirt was one of my first makes, inspired solely by the fabulous fabric I found to use as the lining.

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I discovered this William Morris fabric in my local fabric shop while I was living in Colchester, and I was honestly blown away by it. Looking at it, I knew that it would be too busy as an actual garment (although I’m sure there are a lot of people who could actually pull it off!). But as a lining, how perfect! I remember posting this make and getting comments about why I would hide away such a fabulous fabric. But, honestly, it never even occurred to me that I was hiding it. As far as I was concerned, I knew that it was there. And this extra secret detail was exactly the sort of thing that made sewing such a perfect creative outlet for me!

I’ve hoarded the remnants of this particular fabric ever since and recently used it on my Tyyni trousers as another cute hidden curiosity!

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So if you’re looking for a seriously easy way to give your garment that extra bit of quirkiness and you have lining or pocket opportunities, definitely think about fabric choice. It’s your chance to go a bit crazy and use that gorgeous fabric that you weren’t quite sure what to do with!

3. Experiment with Colour-Blocking

I’ve only just started working with the potentials of colour-blocking (and I’m not even sure that my approach really counts). When I picked up my amazing Harry Potter fabric, I was pretty well settled on having a go at making the Zadie dress from Tilly and the Buttons. One of the best things about this pattern is the neat use of shapes. As with the Big Vintage Sew-Along dress, I knew that the shape would get lost in using the same fabric for the whole garment. But, since the Zadie dress demands knit fabric, piping wouldn’t really be an option. So I set about finding a plain fabric that would complement my fabulous Harry Potter knit.

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This dress still isn’t finished due to various construction issues. But I love the black fabric against the mustard yellow. Once again, it stops the garment from looking too busy, while also drawing the eye to the shapes. Not to mention that it is yet another way to achieve that additional level of creativity with a pattern. There’s something incredibly satisfying about looking at a pattern and thinking up ways to make it even more interesting! I’d be super interested to see any examples you have of using colour-blocking. This is something that I’ve only just started to think about – and I do struggle a bit with knowing whether or not colours really fit together. So I’m always looking to you fabulous sewists for inspiration!

4. Work with Patches

This discovery was very much a happy accident. If you were following the blog back in spring, you’ll remember that I was working away on the muslin for my wedding dress. This project, more than any other, really honed my skills when it came to achieving perfect fit. Unfortunately, at the very end of the project (I was literally trimming down the back seam as a final step), I accidentally cut through the main fabric on the back of the dress. This left a massive hole right in the centre-back.

Needless to say, many tears and much sadness followed. But then a thought occurred to me. Why not just patch it?! Since it was a pre-wedding dress make in navy blue – with white polka dots – I figured that dotting some red heart patches around the dress would be a fabulously appropriate addition. I was honestly terrified that it would make the dress look super kitschy but it ended up working perfectly!

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I’ve become such an advocate of cute patches. And they were super easy to make. I simply drew some heart shapes onto paper (for a more complex shape, you might want to find a template online), attached them to the fabric and cut out the number I wanted. I attached iron-on interfacing to them in order to stop fraying and then top-stitched them onto the dress. The whole process took me about an hour and I honestly couldn’t imagine the dress without them!

I haven’t seen a lot of use of patches out there. So, once again, let me know if you’ve used any in the past. One of the great things about using patches is that there are so many available to buy online! The hardest part is deciding where they might be appropriate to use. So if you have any inspiration to provide, please send it my way!


So there we go. Some quick and (relatively easy) tips for kickstarting your creativity. For me, this goes hand-in-hand with last week’s post about sewing for self-care. While making the pattern as written is still a super joyful process, I honestly get most involved in finding ways to add a truly personal touch to my makes. Not only is it the perfect method for developing your sewing skills, it is also a great reminder of how fantastically creative you are. Happy accident or purposeful decision, be brave and take a chance!

If you have any of your own tips to share, please leave a comment or send me an email. I’m always looking for new techniques to try out!

 

The Cocktail Hour: An Update

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You might remember that, at the start of the year, I announced that I would be participating in The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour! Well, many months later, my reveal is actually approaching! I’ll be posting on 17th November about my finished dress – and finally showing you all the pattern that I’ve been working with.

Thankfully, my Cocktail Hour project has been just the motivation I needed to kick-start my sewing again. After the endless disasters of the Zadie dress (which is still not finished because of various construction issues), I’ve been having a seriously hard time getting myself to sit back down at my machine. But I finally took myself out fabric shopping in the hopes that I would find just the right fabric to get me moving again! So here’s a little fabric teaser for the dress that you’ll be seeing here in a couple of weeks…

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Stars for days! Cocktail Hour appropriate, while still sufficiently Laura! This gem was picked up from Joann’s and, although the fraying is already a pain, I’m super happy with this fabric choice. I can’t wait to see how the finished dress turns out.

If you’re feeling in the mood for a challenge or need a bit of sewspiration, definitely check out the great collection of Cocktail Hour patterns. It’s an amazing selection and the proceeds from sales of the patterns are going to The Eve Appeal – so you’re also helping out an incredibly worthy cause! Here are some of my favourites:

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If you decide to participate (which you absolutely should!), make sure to post your makes with #sipandsew so that we can all see them. And stay tuned on 17th November to see my make!

Vision Board: The 1950s Daytime Date

Happy Monday, gorgeous ones!

Now that my 1940s apron is all done, I’ve been trying to settle on a new project to occupy those – increasingly rainy – autumn days. Fortunately, I had suitable inspiration from Rosie of DIYcouture. Rosie works for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), a British organisation that provides a variety of vital services to people with vision impairment. Every October, the RNIB runs a ‘Wear Dots Raise Lots’ challenge and, with her amazing sewing skills, Rosie has decided to put a new spin on this by launching her own ‘Sew Dots’ challenge. Rosie’s asking that anyone wanting to participate sew something with dotty fabric, post a picture of their make with #sewdots, and donate a bit of money to RNIB. It’s a wonderfully innovative way to raise money for such an important cause. If that hasn’t already sold you, there are also some amazing prizes on offer!

As soon as I read about the challenge, I knew that I needed to get on board. One trip to the fabric store later and I ended up with the most gorgeous dotty fabric. Not only that, I had the perfect make just shouting out to be used – the fabulous Vogue Vintage Patterns 1953 design, V1043. Using the pattern and fabric, I decided to make up a new Vision Board with a complete 1950s look. I’m calling this ‘The 1950s Daytime Date’ – perfect for walks in the park, trips to the cinema, or a quiet cup of tea with that lucky someone.

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Pattern: V1043 from Vogue Vintage Patterns*

Fabric: Navy Cotton with Roses from Jolie Angle

Shoes: The Zest Is History (Navy) from Modcloth

Bag: 1950s Pearl White Hand-beaded Clutch from Vintage Meet Modern

Bracelet: 1950s Pearl Bracelet from Miriam Haskell

I’m very in love with this look. Departing from my usual approach to deciding how everything will come together, this look started with the fabric rather than the pattern. That obviously makes sense since I went in search of fabric with the express purpose of taking part in the Sew Dots challenge. But when I saw the Jolie Angle cotton, I really couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than V1043. Although perhaps not super timely given that we’re about to enter November, I just couldn’t help myself!

If you’re looking to take part in the Sew Dots challenge (which you absolutely should!) or just trying to put together a suitably fabulous 1950s daytime look, I hope this Vision Board gives you some inspiration!

* I got this pattern a while ago through a magazine purchase (not sure which one). It doesn’t seem to be available directly from Vogue/McCalls. I’ve linked to a copy on sale via eBay, but there are sellers listed on Etsy too. If you’re looking for this pattern, tap it into Google and you should have some luck!

Inspire A Style: Jacqueline’s Tea Room

Welcome to (almost) autumn!

I’m very excited that we’re now in September. As much as summer is a great opportunity to get out and about in the world, nothing beats the feeling of cool autumn weather and the chance to cosy up with a book (or sewing machine) and cup of tea. Autumn is absolutely my favourite time of year and I can’t wait for when it gets cold enough that pressing my fabric no longer gives me heat exhaustion.

Since I’m celebrating the on-coming autumn, I thought I would share one of my favourite places to wile away autumn afternoons and gather some inspiration for my next sewing project: Jacqueline’s Tea Room!

Who?

Those of you familiar with Colchester will know that it’s a pretty stereotypical English town: streets filled with shoppers and chain stores everywhere. Fortunately, its history (Colchester is the oldest recorded town in Britain) means that it’s a place full of hidden gems. There’s a great castle, fantastic park, and some beautiful buildings. But one of my favourite jewels at the heart of an otherwise pretty stereotypical British town is Jacqueline’s – a fabulous 1940s tea room with enough authenticity to make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.

I actually stumbled on Jacqueline’s when I was out on a trek with my fiancé, shortly after we moved to Colchester. I was feeling pretty miserable after upping sticks from a gorgeous countryside village to be nearer to my university. I was missing the fields and the peace and quiet and, without a car to get around, we were pretty restricted to visiting places that were within walking distance. When we found Jacqueline’s, it felt a lot like coming home. It’s set up to give a truly authentic ’40s vibe, not to mention an incredible selection of teas and cakes. Beyond that, it has given me a huge amount of inspiration when it comes to my sewing expeditions.

Why?

As long-time readers of Sew for Victory will know, my Inspire A Style posts are usually restricted to people. But places can often be just as inspiring when it comes to thinking about sewing projects. Soaking up the ’40s ambiance always places me in a different headspace – listening to period music while surrounded by decor that gives off the era always gets my mind churning over fabrics and patterns.

I would highly suggest that if you find yourself stuck in a sewing rut, you get yourself out into some inspiring places. You’ll spot people, colours, and designs that trigger a lightbulb moment. Or you’ll find yourself reminded of films you’ve seen and books you’ve read that similarly inspire you.  Visiting Jacqueline’s has given me back my motivation on numerous occasions, so trust me and give it a go!

What?

So quite how has this perfect little tea room inspired my sewing? There are so many projects that have drawn their inspiration, in one way or another, from my trips for tea and cake. All my ‘home style’ 1940s creations feel as though they wouldn’t be out of place in this setting. Both my Great British Sewing Bee Vintage Blouse and my recent Big Vintage Sew-along make suggest the kind of atmosphere you find at Jacqueline’s. Jacqueline’s was also the direct inspiration for my version of Sew Over It’s Joan dress, which I made for a special Valentine’s High Tea with my gorgeous boy!

 

And there are so many patterns that I have rolling around my mind that draw on the war-time sitting room feel that I soak up every time I step through the doors. The B4790 Walkaway dress would be an easy way to achieve that ’40s style.

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Or what about the gorgeous V1019 suit dress? So perfect! I think I might have to add this one to my list of projects.

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So much sewing, so little time! But what a good position to be in.

If you end up in Colchester, definitely make some time to stop at Jacqueline’s. And don’t forget to invite me because I’m always looking for an excuse to drink more tea and think about new sewing projects!

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?