Sunday, 26 January 2014

Notionally Speaking: Vintage

I'm thrilled to be launching a brand new series today. A while back I pondered what would happen if I posed a challenge to fellow bloggers. What would they come up with if I gave them a single word related to sewing that they randomly selected from a list and asked them to write a post. That's it, no other guidance - they can take the post in whatever direction they like. Thus, Notionally Speaking was born. I'm delighted that Marie from A Stitching Odyssey agreed to open this series. Which direction will she take? Read on to find out more...

Notionally Speaking

I'm so excited to be the 'opening act' for this brand new series and I couldn't be happier that I drew lucky number 13 from Claire's list of possible words - vintage! By definition, vintage are items produced over 20 years ago and as early as the 1920s...older items are usually referred to as antique. Which is quite a scary thought really, as items from the 1990s are technically considered vintage...*shudder*! I believe this definition applies to sewing patterns as well, which unsurprisingly is what I'll be chatting to you about today.

My particular brand of poison are styles form the late 1930s right through to the early 1960s...and I have countless patterns to prove it. So what exactly is the attraction? For me, it's five things in particular.

1. Glamour

Images 2-3

Like them or not, the styles of these eras are undeniably glamorous and feminine. They appeal to my inner lady who would love nothing more than to have the time to regularly set her hair in pin curls, adopt an excellent posture, put on a pretty dress and literally look like a million dollars...even if it's not particularly comfortable or practical!

2. Detail

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I don't know about you, but one of the reasons I started sewing my own clothes was the desire to create something unique. And from a stitching point of view, vintage sewing patterns are just the ticket with so many unique and interesting details. Even though the styles are often adopted by the high street, it's these details that are so often missing.

3. Artwork

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The envelope artwork for vintage sewing patterns is in a different league to modern patterns. The attention to detail is incredible, right down to the hair, make-up and accessories. The clothes themselves are depicted in such wonderful colours and prints, and you can almost see the fabric's texture. I think this alone, regardless of whether you intend to sew the patterns up or not, is what makes them highly collectable. If I didn't think it would be slightly unfair to my boyfriend, I'd love to display mine all around the house!

4. History

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Owning a vintage sewing pattern is like holding a tiny yet fascinating part of history in your hands. I get nostalgic daydreaming about the previous owners and their lifestyles. Were these women selfishly sewing for themselves like I do, or did they have others depending on them too? I especially love it when patterns come with the original recipient's name and address on them and I get goose bumps reading old notes scribbled on the envelope. Sometimes you get really lucky and a pattern arrives modified pattern pieces cut out of I've enjoyed pouring over the news and adverts from Thursday 31 July, 1947!

5. Contemporary

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Now, I realise that certain vintage styles are a little too fussy for some people's liking, but it often strikes me how contemporary many of them are. Such simple, clean lines and truly timeless designs. In fact, it's not that often that you see much on the high street that's original. Nine times out of ten when I get excited about cool design details, I later discover they actually originated in years gone by. At the risk of sounding cliched, nothing seems original nowadays!

Having said all this, I've actually sewn up very few of my vintage sewing patterns. Mainly because so many exciting, new indie patterns keep popping up, but also because they're not necessarily the most practical. I know for some people, instructions and terminology are also an issue. However, with so many excellent online tutorials and sew-alongs I truly believe that anyone can pick up the skills and techniques needed without too much trouble. As for the issue of practicality, try using a more casual fabric type in a fashionable colour or modern print, and you can always omit some of the kitscher details for a cleaner look.

Writing this guest post has actually reignited my passion for vintage sewing patterns and I vow that this year I'll put some of them to good use. Look out for an outline of my plans on my blog soon! Anyway, I sincerely hope you've enjoyed this little foray into vintage sewing patterns and that you've been inspired to dig out some of yours or have a go for the first time.

Thanks so much for having me Claire, I can't wait to see what the rest of this series has to offer!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

So 2014, what do you have in store?

Learning and improvement. Those are the two words that I will be focusing on for 2014, for sewing anyway. 

I've been thinking about what I could focus on. I've already promised myself I wouldn't set a challenge that requires a set number of items. While I loved my challenge last year, it did become a little stressful and I rushed the pattern choices at the end. I may not have bought some of them if I didn't feel the need to complete it. 

There are a lot of techniques that I would like to improve or try. You can see some of them below although this list is by no means exhaustive!

In addition to techniques, I really want to improve my knowledge of fabrics – how they are constructed, what are their properties, how best to sew with them and try working with it, which fabrics work with what. You get the picture. 

Then there is the battle we all have – fit. While the majority of my items fitted last year, I know they all could have been better. I suspect that Fit for Real People will be glued to my sewing table this year as I work out the alterations I should be making. 

As if that isn't enough already,I still have the issue of being happy with my style and wardrobe. Every workday morning I open my wardrobe and ask “what have I got to wear?” I know that many others have been discussing making a wardrobe that you are happy with and I think I will be joining in. The Colette Wardrobe Architect exercise looks quite good and I’ll be following along with interest. 

How do I tackle all of this without feeling overwhelmed? I’m going to try and roll as many of these as I can into each garment I make. I will plan the items more carefully to check that the pattern, the fabric and any details added are ones I will actually wear. I will continue to make, and spend longer on, toiles to check the fit. I will learn more about the fabric before I cut and build in technique(s) into the process. For example, I plan to sew the Robson coat this year. This offers the chance to consider fabrics I haven’t used before, or to mix them. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to improve my topstitching as well as making bias binding (if I can’t improve with this pattern, I have no hope!). 

This means I will probably slow down this year. I would rather add fewer, better made items to my wardrobe than a lot of quickly sewn and less thought through items. That said I do have plans for a couple of new series to feature on the blog. One is still in development, but the other will be launched next weekend. I can’t wait to share it with you!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Completed: The Cadbury Ceylon

Do you ever get a thrill of excitement when you put on something you made? I did when I put on my completed Ceylon this morning. Not even a chilly January day, taking photos in front of curious tourists by the Sheldonian Theatre, could dampen that feeling! I finished this dress very late in 2013 and it was the item that completed my 20:20 challenge, although it is not the last to be shared with you. 

Colette Ceylon

I have wanted to make this dress for a long time. Adam bought me the pattern as a Christmas present in 2012 and it sat patiently while I looked for the right fabric and decided on whether to add trims and other design features. I looked for inspiration from other bloggers and the ones that called out to me most were those made in solid colours. I do have a soft spot for solid colour dresses. However, I wanted to add a little bit of detail and chose a lilac thread for the edge stitching and button holes. I used the purple fabric I bought in Croatia. I'm not fully certain what it is but it feels like a medium weight cotton with a bit of stretch. It was very easy to work with. It cut easily and glided through the machine. The only problem I noticed was it can mark if you press it with too high a heat, I had to use a lower setting than normal with cotton. I've also discovered it creases easily so please excuse the slightly crumpled look in the photos. 

Colette Ceylon

Like most Colette patterns, it was straightforward to make. The instructions were clear and I didn't get lost once. It doesn't follow the conventional way of piecing a garment together by matching the right sides. To stitch the pieces together you press under the seam allowance, overlap the pieces and then edge stitch together. It is an easy way to create a dress but take your time on matching the pieces together. Luckily I have managed to get an even distance on all of the pieces. My seams are finished with an overlock stitch in the same lilac thread as the edge stitching. 

Colette Ceylon

I did deviate from the recommended number of buttons for the dress. The pattern calls for 16 buttons. I wanted to make fabric covered buttons and the ones I had were one inch instead of 3/4 inch. I decided to drop the number to 10. This is the first time I have tried to make fabric covered buttons and ouch! My thumb nails were sore for a week after completing them. I definitely think there is an art to creating them and you certainly need a lot of patience. However, these were a breeze compared to the button holes. Yet again, my machine gave mixed results. It did a few perfectly, some were half completed and some less than that. I must have ripped out about six of them before deciding to finish off the incomplete ones by hand. It took a while but it was more satisfying than continually ripping out the thread. It also took the stress off the fabric. I don't know why I'm having these problems. I make perfect practice button holes in exactly the same fabric and interfacing combination but as soon as it touches the dress, it all goes wrong. Does any one have any suggestions or have similar problems? 

Colette Ceylon

I managed to get the fit just about right. I graded out a size between the bust and the waist. I probably should have done a FBA but it seemed a little too complicated with the different pattern pieces and I had started sewing this at a stressful time at work. The midriff pieces at the front don't quite match up at the bottom and I didn't realise this until I tried it on. I don't think it is too noticeable and is probably because I didn't pay enough attention in matching the pieces at that point. Something to work on if I make this dress again. 

Colette Ceylon

I really like the small amounts of gathering, they are a lovely finishing touch, and I love the interesting neckline. Normally I hem skirts and dresses to hit at my knee but this dress is about 10cm longer. Usually I feel very self-conscious with longer hemlines but it feels right with this one. Overall I LOVE this dress. I feel great in it and I can see me wearing it a lot right through until spring! 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

A fight just before Christmas

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a good evening saying goodbye to 2013 and welcoming 2014. We had a lovely relaxed evening in Derby with some friends, just what was needed after a pretty busy year. I wanted to share the other two Christmas presents that I made. I hope you don't mind seeing late makes from last year - there are a couple of posts still to come!

Dressing gown

First is a dressing gown that my Mum asked for. It came with a few requests - must be made out of cotton (this is a summer dressing gown), long and lilac. Lilac was very important. I chose Kiwi Sew 3644 for the pattern. It is a classic dressing gown with a few options for customising. After a few hours of looking online for the perfect fabric I decided to make most of the gown in Kona solid lilac and Petite Flowers by Petite Street, which is light grey and has different coloured flowers. 

Dressing gown

There isn't much to say about the construction, it was rather simple to complete. I made an minor alteration to the front as the sizes were slightly off - either too big or too small. Cutting out took a while as the pieces are sooooo long! Once I got past that the whole thing came together without a hitch in less than hour as it mostly just long single lines for the seams. The most involved part was adding the cuffs and the pockets. Mum was very happy with the fabric choices and tried it on Christmas Eve - it fitted perfectly. Now we just need the warmer weather so it can come out of the wardrobe. 

Dressing gown

Dad travels a lot and I decided to make him this fabric garment bag that I spotted on Pinterest. The tale of this make is in stark contrast to the dressing gown!

First, there are a lot of pieces. You need to cut almost the same number in the outer fabric, inner fabric and batting. You also need to measure out every piece. I wanted this bag to be waterproof and found some great waterproof backed PU fabric from Remnant House. To give it added interest (and because I don't do plain linings) I chose a white cotton with blue circles for the inner fabric.  

Garment bag

If you are planning to make something like this, I recommend that you read the tutorial thoroughly before starting. I did but still got a little lost midway through as it calls for you to place all the pieces together so you can neaten the edges to the same size. What it didn't say was to then separate them. I got completely confused! I would also think very carefully about your fabric choice. I knew this bag would be thick in places but I didn't anticipate it becoming a monster! It was an absolutely nightmare to sew the entire thing together. It took about 30 minutes for one side and the same again for the other. I had to use a slow speed to prevent skipped stitches and there were moments where I was worried my poor little machine wouldn't be able to cope. Luckily we both survived without any broken needles but my hands still have the many scratch marks from all of the pins needed. This is the reason why my corners aren't as neat as they should be but the thought of unpicking and then pushing my machine to sew that lot again just wasn't an option. 

Garment bag

The tutorial states for batting to be included in the handles. I skipped this part. I tried to make them but I just couldn't get them to turn out right and as I was literally burning the midnight oil I thought it was best for everyone if I left out the batting. The handles seem very sturdy without it. You also need separating zips, which took a while to track down. I'm pleased I used them but I think you can use other heavy weight zips if you can't find them. 

Garment bag

As with my brother's bag I was a little worried about how this would be received. I don't know why as Dad absolutely loved it and showed it to everyone who came round to visit over Christmas. 

Garment bag

I was lucky enough to get sewing related gifts - the Robson coat and Bellatrix blazer patterns, Fit for Real People and a couple of Craftsy courses. I was very excited about all of them and then my brother gave me a belated present. Meet Jessica! I can't wait to test a few items on her. 



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