Friday, 24 June 2011

Is it a crime to actually use vintage notions?

Last weekend I went to a small vintage sale, it had all sorts of lovely things and amongst them I was very happy to find some sewing treasures

Vintage sleeve board, buttons and 5ft folding ruler
I particularly love the sleeve board because, unlike my modern one, it is very heavy and absolutely rock solid.

Underside of sleeve board
Somebody has re-covered it very nicely so it is both decorative and extremely useful.

But on to the main subject of this post. The vintage buttons.

They are French and the woman who sold them told me that they dated back to late 19th or early 20th century. As she handed them to me she asked

"Where will you display them, are you going to frame them?"

My answer was "I'm going to use them".

She looked startled and anxious. "What do you mean? What are you going to use them for? You're not going to take them from their cards are you?"

"I plan to sew them on to a dress that I am going to make and, yes, that will mean taking them from the cards."

I suspected that if she hadn't already taken my money, and handed them over, she would have refused to sell them to me. Now I do understand her feeling that lovely vintage items should be treasured but I don't believe that this sentiment should preclude actually using them. I promised her that I would only put them on something appropriate - I am thinking of a 1940's style dress (and I do have an original pattern that would be perfect - but more about that at a later date). My feeling is that these buttons were made to be used and loved and enjoyed and that sewing them to a dress is a happy thing for them.

There's a woman out there committing crimes against buttons

What do you think? Should vintage things be preserved intact and only used for display? If I callously take my lovely buttons from their cards will the vintage police swoop in on me? Or is it ok to actually sew with them? I’d love to know what you think .....

Friday, 17 June 2011

Vogue 8664 - hot dress alert!

You may not have noticed this pattern - the pattern envelope is quite understated, a couple of drawings, no photograph of the actual dress - so I nearly passed it by. Except for the fact that it is one of those Custom Fit patterns that gives you separate pieces for A, B, C, D cup sizes and I'm a real fan of those. So I bought it and, feeling the need for a classic sheath, made it up:
Every woman needs a little red dress!
I really like how this pattern turned out - I think it has a kind of Mad Men meets Roland Mouret look!

In my opinion it has a wonderful cut. The fit is well-judged, just the right amount of ease, and I really like the midriff piece: it adds waist definition without being uncomfortable. The neckline is interesting but not too low. I also think that the skirt is pegged perfectly - not too tight for comfort but it tapers in just enough to give it some va va voom. On that note I should probably mention that my DH LOVES this dress. If you’re looking for a sleek sheath, you might want to snap this pattern up.

Vogue 8664
What's more it is classified by Vogue as Very Easy to make. Which it is. The trickiest part of the construction is the attachment of the sleeves. Here’s a tip - when marking up the pattern it is important that you differentiate between the large and the small dots at the lower corners. 

Cap sleeve pattern piece

At first glance the sleeve pattern piece might look symmetrical but it isn't and the folks at Vogue have been smart in putting a large dot at the back and a small dot at the front to be matched with the bodice pieces. Take notice of these to ensure that you don't accidentally try to sew the sleeves in back to front. (I bet you're thinking that's exactly what I did. Well, as it happens, I didn't, but I have been caught out by this kind of thing before so have, hopefully, learnt my lesson!). Personally I make tailor's tacks using a different coloured thread for each of the dots because they show on both the right and wrong side and are easily removed but using different coloured chalk would also work. When it comes to sewing the sleeves, ensure that you match the dots exactly and then the sleeves will go in perfectly.

Sleeves good, arms not so much!
A note on the fabric I used – it’s 100% wool, called Gabrielle Gabardine, purchased from Vogue Fabrics, and I lined it with bemberg rayon.

So, I love this pattern. Will I make it again? I think I might!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Oh, for heaven's sake, not that dress again!

When I returned from my vacation in Miami, in March, I showed you some of the things that I had sewn especially for my trip. However, I have to confess I didn't quite show you everything I had made. It's not that I was holding out on you so much as that I thought to myself, "how many pictures of me standing under a palm tree in Miami do my readers want to see?" Especially as what I didn't show you were dresses made from patterns that I had used previously. But now that's exactly what I want to talk about. TNT (Tried and Tested) patterns.

So, here I am, in Miami, wearing my third version of Vogue 1179

Vogue 1179
I whipped this up in a poly-lycra, called 'Falling Leaves', from Gorgeous Fabrics. My first two versions of this pattern were for the fall/winter season (blogged about here and here).

but I do think that when made up in a brightly coloured fabric, this pattern also works as a casual, comfortable summer dress.

And there's more! Here I am wearing my fourth version of Simplicity 3503, a pattern that I think is pure gold.

Simplicity 3503
Here are my other three versions (originally blogged about here, here and here).

I love how you can get some very different looks from one pattern and, no apologies, I am already planning yet another rendition!

When you are sewing up a storm, with a deadline ahead, I think that there is nothing more valuable that a TNT. But do you think that sewing the same thing again and again is a little boring? Personally I feel happy that I have reached a stage in my sewing experience where I actually have some trusted patterns to fall back on. I know they fit, I know how to make them. However, I do also love to try new patterns, new styles and face new challenges. And, of course, I am always hoping to find another TNT to add to my collection.

How about you? Do you only want to sew something new and different or do you have one or two, or more, TNT patterns that you love and often turn to? I'd really like to know ....

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Does this dress look odd?

I loved the look of this 'easy' knit dress pattern, McCalls 6319, and was very keen to make it. There's a lot that I like about the finished look

particularly the asymmetric neckline and the draped pleats of the skirt. However, although it may just be me, I do think that there is something odd about this pattern.

McCalls 6319
I confess that I did notice it when I was cutting it out but, in my enthusiasm, I didn't really think hard about what it would mean in reality. Let me see if I can explain.

The skirt and bodice are sewn together then the seam allowances are used to make an elasticised casing. Nothing unusual about that except that the dress is designed so that this 'elasticised waist' finishes up an inch above your real waist. This is what the skirt front pattern piece looks like, I have outlined the marking for the waistline in red, so you can see how it falls below the seam line that joins it to the bodice.

Now you might think that this wouldn't actually matter because the draping of the bodice would allow the elastic to settle into your waistline but that doesn't happen because the bodice is lined and the lining pattern piece is quite a bit shorter than the outer fabric. This means that although the outer fabric drapes, the lining inside doesn't and it keeps the elasticised casing above your real waist. As per the pattern recommendation I used tricot for the lining and, although it is stretchy, it doesn't stretch enough to allow me to pull the elastic down to the waist, where I think it would feel more comfortable. Does all of this make any sense?

It might be, of course, that this wouldn't bother you (that model on the pattern envelope doesn't look at all bothered!) but if I were to make this pattern again, I think I would make the lining the same length as the outer fabric or I would lengthen both the bodice and the lining or I wouldn't line it or ...... oh, I don't know but I'd do something different! Sometimes things don't work out quite as you expect them to but at least I have learned something in the process and I don't think this is too disastrous?
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