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.


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 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.