Saturday, 18 July 2015

Light fantastic

For us a barbi usually means camping. Not this time, the setting was Maison Talbooth an uber-posh place in the lovely corner of the Suffolk/Essex border known as Constable Country.

They have the lushest dense lawn, like carpet but nicer. Me and my shadow are showing off Butterick Retro 5603, which I made around April and have worn lots. I would recommend this for a beginner, and because it can be made with 3 yards of 44" wide fabric it's not an expensive affair.

The fabric is an exuberant summery number, a cheap cotton lawn from Goldhawk Road. It was about £15 for 3 metres.

And a petticoat of course.

Constable Country is another name for the Dedham Vale AONB (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty). East Anglia has three AONBs and this is the smallest and only one that isn't coastal. Gary's mum lives here and we visit quite a lot. It's only seven miles from our door in Colchester, and but it's another world.

The food was as splendid as the setting. In typical English style the evening turned chilly, so the men had their coats on and the girls huddled by the giant heaters and only threw off our covers for pictures. 

I starved all day then ate paella, steak and a ton of salads, including something I thought was humous but on second helpings realised was horseradish! By the end I could hardly bend to sit down. Ah well, that's greed for you.

This year has been quite busy making wise so I am not short of new outfits to parade around in. Hurray for summer I say. Hope it's as lovely wherever you are.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Playing out

I may not be going on a far flung holiday this year, but am I down hearted? Nope. My biggest sewing project to date is finally done, and we have another camper van too. Summer is a state of mind and my mind is now fully on summer.

East Anglia has more coastline than any other part of the UK, we have country parks and campsites galore. Who needs abroad? Here we are at lovely Cudmore Grove country park on Mersea Island, where fields and woods meet quiet beaches.

The perfect setting for a four piece summer outfit.

With 60s style glasses and vintage Mexican hat on a windy beach.

My four piece set:
  1. Open front skirt with wide waistband, one bound button hole, 5 hooks and eyes
  2. Jacket, worn open, or closes with hooks and eyes. 
  3. Shorts, in stretch cotton with back zipper and high waistband
  4. Fitted sleeveless top in stretch cotton 

After Braque - printed cotton by Makower found on ebay.

Materials and patterns used:
  • Jacket and skirt - Makower cotton "After Braque" - 3 metres. 
  • Contrast blue poplin, John Lewis - I metre from stash 
  • Blue cotton & spandex fabric for shorts and top - 2 metres from local fabric shop
  • 50s Advance 6260 - bodice used for jacket
  • 40s Anne Adams 4075 - skirt with added waistband
  • Simplicity 1590 - shorts
  • Advance 6710 - fitted top

Making notes: 

The choice of the After Braque as my main fabric was a bonus. It has so many blues it's easy to find fabric to match for the contrasts and the additional pieces.

First scallops, first collar, first bound button hole, and first trouser/shorts! There was so much learning on this make. Stretch cotton with spandex was another new to me experience. Really comfy, easy to sew, useful for so many things - my top didn't need any closures because of the stretch.

Total time taken: 5 weeks (at least).

Taking your skirt off on a windy beach !

Safe away from the sea.

A fine end to the day.

The verdict

Five weeks is a long time to be sewing one project, but overall I am delighted, all the pieces can be used alone so you can actually count it as 4 outfits!

The sleeveless top has been taken in a a bit more since taking this pictures. I think the front of these shorts also looks a bit roomy, while the back is a bit snug! Well I don't mind actually, but I will try and fix the fit if I do another. I have come to the conclusion that trouser patterns either fit you after a couple of attempts, or you move on to the next one.

If like me you've always wanted a set like this, I'd say have a go. It may be time consuming, but I just started and in a fairly haphazard way and it came together. I may add to it, a pair of trousers with my remaining cotton spandex, and perhaps a long sleeve blouse. I also need to add pockets to the skirt! This game could go on and on.

I am posting this as part of the Four Piece Vintage Inspired Mini Capsule Wardrobe on Flikr. Fortunately it's much easier to wear than to say. I was about half way through this set when the group was formed by Rochelle from Lucky Lucille. Suddenly I was no longer alone in my mad project! Hurray.  I can't wait to see what everyone else is up to.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Bewitching Sportaville skirt

I have discovered my super-power at last. I can make my bottom half disappear in a field. 
This picture has been dubbed the Floral Predator, and it's a fair description. The skirt is a restored 1950s Sportaville and the fabric is a scenic print by the French firm Marignan.

The backdrop is our local bluebell woods. Apparently Tim Burton has a house around the corner.

Dearest little dears. 

That vanishing trick is down to this amazing print. I was searching Ebay for projects when it caught my eye. This sumptuous print is on a soft cotton barkcloth. I counted 7 colours, and I bet it cost a bomb when it was new.

The seller described it as a former Sportaville skirt, the British makers of quality separates from the 1940s through to the late 70s. Sadly all that remained of this one was the three panels of fabric, and a scrap of waistband with the original label attached.

The three former Sportaville skirt panels, each is 34" wide by 26" long.

The Sportaville label on the restored skirt .

Re-making can be harder than making from scratch. I stabilised the top edge with bias binding, which stopped it fraying and going off grain but made it bulkier to pleat. Next time I will remember my silk organza. After trying 4 different pleats all of which looked awful, I turned to Etsy and found a similar barkcloth skirt with stitched down pleats, which I copied. I have left the it un-hemmed as it was only 26" long, and it still had the original over-cast stitching to stop it fraying.

But how do I know this fabric is by Marignan? Well I have bought this print before, several years ago, again on Ebay.

Scenic print fabric by Marignan

Waterfall close up 

Grand Teint Meuble Marignan - 'Grand teint' apparently refers to the quality of the ink

I was similarly bewitched by this print too. The indigo and lavender on pale yellow have a kind of other-worldly look. It's a metre plus of furnishing fabric, but I have a feeling it will never be used to make anything. I think I will frame it and put in my stairwell. I now assume this is 1950s too.

Sportaville made their reputation using this kind of high quality fabric, but it's always hard to find out who actually printed them. As well as restorer I feel like a bit of a detective. Marignan were manufacturers from what really seems to be a by-gone era, the quality they achieved was quite supreme, but I think even they would be astounded to see how great it still looks.

When you can see it.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Make it quick

Earlier this year someone offered me some sewing work on a film shoot, it was a student film but it was pretty cool. I was sewing 10 hours a day for three days, it was all simple stuff but against the clock. I was a flurry of hands, scissors, cloth and I loved every minute. It felt like being on the Great British Sewing Bee. One of things that pleased me most was my collection of precious sewing scissors all proved indispensable. When my serrated shears (£50 to replace) went missing for half a day of the project I was beside myself, but they re-appeared thankfully.  

Anyway, sewing against the clock was productive. I usually indulge my vintage sewing habits with tracing, fitting, muslin making, re-sizing, and more tracing before actually making stuff. It's the only way I have ever done it so I never thought much about it. After the speed-sewing trip I felt the need to remove some of that faffing about. And here is the result.

Green on the green in Cambridge.

Unprinted 1950s/60s Blackmore 9128 for wide skirt dress with a cummerbund. 

The fabric for this project was a jungle/floral pattern, probably 1960s. It was 3 metres long but only just worked out to be enough. The Blackmore pattern is probably late 50s or early 60s. The total cost for both fabric and pattern was £2.

I always do a muslin for a fitted bodice, but this was not quick enough, so instead I used a tracing off the Emery pattern from last year, and compared it to the bodice of this pattern. I adjusted the shoulders and the back bodice, both of which were shortened by half an inch or so. I think I also changed the back bodice dart. It took all of 10 minutes.

Fiddling about with cummerbunds.

The cummerbund was a bit of a different story, but I had this piece of fab chartreuse fabric in my off-cuts stash and it's such a nice match. The amazing Laurien describes how to make this simple belt. It's made from two pieces of bias fabric cut to fit your waist exactly, you rely on the bias cut to make it comfortable. There are two pieces of boning at the left and right waists, which you have to gather the fabric around (quite fiddly) and finish it with hooks and eyes. My belt is thinner than it should be due to lack of fabric, and I think I should have added some stiffening as it's too soft and it rides up. I do like the effect though, and it's more comfortable than a belt so I think I will be making more of these.

I put in my standard lapped zipper, then finished with a machine hem. All done in a jiffy and pretty satisfactory. In fairness, this faff-free approach to a fitted bodice is only possible if you have done a similar one and the adjustments are directly transferable. But there's going to be a bit more speed sewing this year.

But for now now I'm going back to my first ever trouser project - which is now on it's 4th muslin. On with the faffing!

Friday, 24 April 2015

I couldn't act, but I could swing through trees.

As a home sewist with a love of vintage, I find sartorial inspiration in the strangest places. Terrible 1950s jungle films for example. 

Now, I spent a lot of my childhood in fantasy jungle scenarios, some side effect of a million Tarzan films and Jana of the Jungle I should think. If I'd had access to Sheena Queen of the Jungle  I'd blame her too. The title of this post quotes actress Irish McCalla who played Sheena. She had what, in the mid 50s, they'd call 'physical prowess'.

In my jungle I did quite a lot of tree swinging. I had leopards as pets, swam in clear lakes and probably even had chocolates (it counts as a tropical food). In the 1950 gem 'Mark of the Gorilla'  which stars Johnny Weissmuller as Jungle Jim, the jungle has a similar sense of reality. 

Charming poster. 
"Zoologists come here from all over the world to study the animals" says Jim. I am not surprised. Lions, tigers, panthers, snakes, crocodiles, apes and eagles will rarely gather together like this, it's a unique opportunity. 

The poor animals aside, it's oddly entertaining. There's ever-wooden Johnny, gold-hunting Nazis dressed as gorillas, talking parrots, and a 'European princess' character with an exotic accent and a nice line in hooped earrings. Plot? Er, something like that, let's get to the outfits.  

'Those gorilla costumes are so elegant but they put me in this gypsy top thing.'

So what were they wearing in the jungle in 1950? Nicely fitted jackets, beautiful gypsy tops, full skirts with wide waistbands and pockets, stylish hair-dos and, of course, high heels. Expect to see them all here soon, apart from the heels. Well maybe some platforms.

I saw this on TCM rather than You Tube (my usual source of gems). I couldn't find Mark of the Gorilla on there, so I've taken a clip from my TV. Never mind the quality, it has the parrots and my favourite outfit. I will leave you with that. 

Have a happy weekend.


 Sunday by the fire material.

Friday, 10 April 2015

A bit of perfection

Mersea Island is one of my favourite local beauty spots. It's a proper island, but only just, separated from the mainland Essex by a very tiny strip of water called The Strood. It has marshlands and wildlife, houseboats, good sea food, shops including a butcher, two delis, a cafe and charity shops. So basically, it's a bit perfect.

With all the sky and open spaces Mersea is a suitable place to appreciate weather, and we were promised "blood rain" and "Sahara dust" today, according to the Telegraph (echoed a bit too seriously by Radio 4).

I didn't see any blood or any rain, or combination thereof, but check out the Sahara dust in these pictures!

I've got the skirt, now I need the matching houseboat.

Ok, sand, plus some Sahara dust. It was a bit murky I grant, but really not much more than usual.

This skirt was my bank holiday project. It's made from a 1950s panel, one of those do-it-yourself kits which were quite popular then. It was over 2.2 yards long and around 34" wide. It has lots of body which is good for crisp pleats. I think the print is of Hong Kong or another exotic island, so very appropriate to the setting.

These long panels are so simple to make up. You put in a seam in the back, pleat it up (or gather it if it's soft fabric) add a zip and hem it. The end. Even so, it took a day and a half as I hemmed it twice by hand. The first was narrow and it just looked messy, so I took it out and added some wide bias binding to the edge and that added some weight.

I used 2" from the blue border for the waistband. Pleats wise, once I put in the seam, I folded it and marked the centre front and the two sides. I put in 2" box pleat at the front, then added knife pleats, making sure there were the same number of pleats to each side.

Close up of the skirt print.

I have done very little sewing so far this year just lots of dreaming, and some mending. So a simple skirt is the perfect way to start the year off, a year which will be mostly full of separates. There will be blouses, there will be skirts and my first trousers.

And a jacket. The jacket will not be simple at all. Firstly, I have never made one. Second, I am hoping to copy this one:

It is the ideal jacket for me. It's has a nipped in waist and it's short. But it's also at least 3" too small. I decided to copy the pattern, and looking at how the jacket is made I will first add 3" extra width to the front which has 6 pieces, and if that isn't enough I can add more to the back which has only two.

I have copied the pieces onto Swedish Tracing Paper, pinning it piece by piece onto a cardboard cutting surface, with the paper underneath and using dots which were then joined together. If you ever need to copy something, get one of these boards and about a thousand pins. It was tedious but the Swedish Tracing stuff made it easier. It's really easy to draw on and doesn't slip around as much as paper. It's soft and it can be sewn together like fabric, for fitting. But it is hard to get hold of so I use it sparingly.

The jacket front has three panels, a centre one, the one with the sleeves, and a curved piece which goes under the arm and joins to the back pieces.

I transferred the pattern onto normal paper (so I could keep the originals) then I slashed them and added 0.5" to each piece (in red) which will make up 3" across the two sides.

And now I have a muslin of the jacket bodice cut and pinned and placed on my dummy. 

A side view. The vertical seams end where they should.

My dummy is a such a lady she insists on being fully clothed. Actually I am too lazy to take this dress off her at the moment and it's good to have an added layer when you fit a jacket, that's my excuse anyway.

With the original over the top you can see the added width (without a seam allowance).
Next I need to sew it up, try it on and tweek it. It has so many panels fitting should be easy-ish.

As I am making the whole thing up as I go, it may come to nothing, but I am going to learn a lot at any rate.

And to finish, we have Mersea Island's cake shop and second hand shop, which are next door to each other. They should have a connecting door so you can go in through the Cake Hole and out through the Poop Deck. Absolutely perfect.

Linking to Sewingadicta Share in Style, freestyle edition.