Thursday, 29 November 2012

Takes Me Back

A little while ago my parents told me to go into their attic and see if there was anything I'd like to have! What? The attic is a treasure trove of old stuff, sentimental relics, unwanted items but too good to give away - probably like much like everyone else's attic.

Along with a few too small patterns, I did find this fabric: I'm guessing it was made in the 1970s; it is blue with little flecks of red and yellow, a slight stretch, knobbly on the outside and a smooth sheen on the inside and I wouldn't wear it within 10m of a naked flame! You know the stuff?
I'll call it polyester but it probably had a specialist name back in the day. It won't catch fire - it'll MELT!

Just shy of 2m I knew I could knock something up from it.
I choose Vogue 8825.

Firstly this pattern reminds me of the 1970s, especially the sleeve design, wide sleeves all gathered into a long cuff and what better fabric to use than a 1970's man-made, non-biodegradable, industrially produced, oil based product? Cutting edge for its time no doubt.
I was about 12 then - memories just starting to form - and the enthusiasm of youth to propel me onwards.

 "Polyester' knit dresses from the '70s.

Secondly, I like the style - mock wrap bodice front, straight skirt, tie belt,  puffy sleeves that are part and parcel of the back and an easy shawl collar. And it's rated easy! And you get the trousers thrown in too.

The pattern comes as a tunic length or dress - I had just enough fabric to make the dress but not enough to make the ties, so they are single sided with a narrow hem for finishing. I would have liked it to be a little longer too but free fabric that's 40 years old is hard to come by.

 Oh, wearable, wearable.

It takes me back to when I was child and my mother made all my dresses from nylon, Crimplene and other polyester derivatives - almost anything as long as it wasn't natural.

 Oh the 1970s!
Elvis and Janis Joplin were still alive; we started to learn about this country called America where everything was in colour while we lived in black and white and fashion was, well, just weird, if not high waisted!

The world was never going to end back then.......

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Hour is Nigh

Let me tell you about a BBC drama production, especially for those of you who live outside the UK.

It is called The Hour and it is set in the late 1950s around a news and current affairs programme at BBC's Television House, London, called, funny enough, The Hour. The second series is currently on our screens at the moment and to be perfectly honest with you I'm not too sure of the story lines - I only watch it for the clothes!

Beautiful late 1950 fashions - pencil skirts, suits, wide-legged trousers, hats, cocktail dresses, full skirted dresses - it's fabulous.

 I'm not even too sure about the characters' names, but on the left is the foreign affairs correspondent who wears trousers (shocking) and shirts, just like my Katherine Hepburn inspiration for SWAP 13. No one messes with her: her wit is rapid and her put-downs relentless.

Beside her is the heroine of the series - the producer of the The Hour. Her clothes are what I'd like my wardrobe to look like and she wears these fitted dresses and stilettos with such ease and comfort while trying to get a television programme on the air and the presenter is in prison and such dilemmas ruin her day. She comes to work in her emerald green cocktail dress from the night before and changes in the office into this amazing blue fitted suit with yellow silk blouse. That's the type of life she leads.

I managed to get some crappy screen shots this week to show you the clothes.

The protagonist is the main presenter of the The Hour - his name is Hector - who is public schooled, well connected, served as an officer in the recent WWII, married money but is a womaniser, alcoholic and not very dependable. However, his long suffering wife has the most glamourous wardrobe you've ever seen.

And  just where have we seen this dress before?

Oh, it's Vogue vintage 1043 and look, here I am wearing it too. Even if I say so myself - I think mine fits better

Then Hector has a bit of a fling with a younger woman and she is bringing the start of the glamour of the very early '60s into the show.

And there's this other journalist, Freddie, who has married a French girl and she is introducing the easy, relaxed and casual fashion from Europe - short hair, skinny pants, big shirts, but I couldn't get a picture of her and her style. She looks like and dresses like Audrey Hepburn - my other SWAP 13 inspiration!

In typical BBC style the show covers heavy social issues like racial discrimination; high level corruption in the government and police; the pressure of a current affairs TV show and so on. It is not as superficial as Mad Men bed hopping and as bucolic as Downton Abbey but could well match both of these for costume design.

I have one tiny gripe though - INVISIBLE ZIPS!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Giveaway Winners

Thank you all once again for reading, commenting and enriching my life thus far.

The random draw for the the Birthday Blog Giveaway is as follows:

Number 1 - The Skirt Kit - Janice: May you have fun making this and even better times wearing it.

Number 2 - The fabric - Jacquianne. Remember to post whatever you make for us all to see.

Number 3 - The patterns - Go to Sewingelle. Sew like the wind

Thank you all for joining in and I only wish I had presents to give to you all. I'll contact the names above and the items will be in the post at the beginning of the week.

Thanks again for reading this blog and helping me on my way through sewing tribulations and life in general.


Thursday, 22 November 2012


Maybe unlucky for some, but this (next) year I'm really going to try hard and complete the Sewing With a Plan thing going on over at Stitchers' guild.

While all these enthusiastic sewers were posting their patterns and fabrics and ideas, I hadn't a clue even where to start.

The 2013 SWAP is supposed to be easier than previous years':
Two distinct collections - 4 or 5 pieces in each one.
One bridging garment to tie the two collections together.
About 11 garments in total.
Sewing starts on the 26th Dec and finishes some time in the spring. I haven't got as far as the finish date yet, seeing as I was having difficulty just getting started!

Ordinarily, sewing 11 things in three to four months would not be a major issue, but when you have to plan, organise and then stick to the schedule - it becomes a very daunting task.

I had a breakthrough last weekend. This is what materialised in my head during church on Sunday.
Perhaps divine inspiration, but first I tackled the colour scheme.

There is no point in selecting colours that I won't wear but I have bits of navy and plenty of neutral/browns, so anything made for SWAP will coordinate with existing wardrobe items. Looking at the end date of the SWAP, it will be spring so the clothing should be adaptable enough to see out winter and into early spring. Cool blues for winter and warm sand for spring.

Then I had to come with a theme - or at least two themes for the two collections. I started with City and  Country, Chic and Casual, Day and Night and so on and gradually and gently these initial ideas formed into two distinct styles that represent two 20th century icons....

Audrey's collection is dressier and smart and definitely feminine but I'm also including the cropped, fitted pants from 'Funny Face'. She liked to wear Givenchy.

Katherine's collection is looser and more casual and veers towards the masculine - wide legged trousers, shirts, waistcoat but also a shirt waister dress. She preferred Valentina

The bridging item will be a trench coat (rain mac), as worn by both women and completely gender free.

I like Chanel. So between all three of us we might just cover three couture houses in one sitting.

Now all I have to do is select the patterns and find the fabric and start sewing at the end of December.
I am determined to use only the patterns I already own - I'm not buying any new ones, so there may have to be a bit of mucking about done.
Chaos sketching - perhaps a better name for my collection.

I don't have much of a fabric stash at the moment, which I'm a little bit glad of. I'm back to buying for a purpose (BFAP) so this time round I can choose the right fabric for the right pattern and not try and make do. I'm not aiming to recreate the clothes of Audrey and Katherine exactly - just use them as a style guide. I'm also hoping that some of Audrey's can be worn with Katherine's and vice versa.

Other news this week:
My removed moles did a tour of the laboratories, the research units and the clinic and ended up being so annoyed at all that travel that they went bad. One was dysplastic (cells thinking of moving to the dark side) the other was full blown malignant melanoma (cells that are already paid up members of the dark side).

Here are some things that I am extremely grateful for:
1. Living in the UK with the wonderful and attentive National Health that doesn't cost me a penny.
2. My eagle-eyed consultant who spotted the baddies and cut them out 
3. The nurses, Sharon, Michelle and Helen who kept talking the whole time and kept me comfortable
4. The 23 sutures in my right thigh to hold the second incision closed until mother nature does her work. This latest scar will be a beautiful lazy S shape. Unique I think.
5. The fact that the doctor was concerned about her sewing abilities after she heard I made my own clothes. That was funny - she even had me take a look to offer some constructive feedback on her stitching ability.

So I'm off work for another week or two while I recover, get my head around this latest news and perhaps put some things into perspective; and I will sew like a maniac when I can use the foot-peddle leg again in a day or two.

This gives me plenty of time to think about SWAP 13 and I'm afraid to say, internet shopping!

I said I wasn't going to buy any more patterns, but in the email tray was one from Vogue saying how they'd extended the OOP sale and I just had to take a look. And when I took a look, I bought!

I thought I'd spent a grand total of $6, the patterns being $0.99 each but the total came to $157. I had to email them immediately. Apparently something went wrong with their computer and I got my refund. Which sort of makes it feel I've saved twice. Nice.

So lots of fabric BFAP and some new (old) patterns on their way. But I can't sew these yet as the SWAP doesn't start until after Christmas.

I can't twiddle my thumbs until then - any ideas?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


I really didn't intend to make a coat.

My mother has a friend, who has a friend who used to make soft furnishings for hotels until he retired earlier this year. Since then he has been clearing out the warehouse and workshops and every so often a piece of fabric ends up in our house. Most of the curtains we own are the same as those hanging in local 5* hotels.

The latest donation was a single curtain - more like a panel - 60" wide and approx 2m long. No obvious right or wrong side and a fairly heavy and substantial weave. Not too many natural fibres are contained therein but heck, it's free!

After my speedy sewing of the straightforward and simple Pattern Magic pieces, I was in the mood for instant gratification - well I'm like that most of the time really.

Out comes Vogue 1137 - this is fast becoming a favourite. I made a dressier version here.

Ignore all the reversible stuff and just go for a single layer coat with finished inside seams. The pattern is for an evening/opera coat. Doesn't sound too simple does it?

Believe me, this is the easiest and quickest yet most dramatic patterns I've ever sewn. Kimono sleeves so you know what that means - no easing! And I even eliminated the centre back seam this time too by cutting on the fold. I kept the selvedge edge of the fabric at the front opening, so not even a bit of interfacing or facing. Cutting on the fold and using the selvedge edges also meant, no straight of grain measuring either.

One collar, two shoulder seams, two sides seams, two pockets, two added cuffs (with selvedges), three hours sewing and done!

No buttons or zips.

A tiny bit of hand slipstitching the collar in place.

Hardly any scrap leftover.

1, 2, 3 -  Too simple!

It's like a big blanket. Cosy and surprisingly warm. You could put a week's groceries in those pockets.

I think that the Pattern Magic challenge has changed my perception - simple shapes, minimal sewing yet producing shaped and pleasurable clothes. You didn't think of that, Marianna, when you came up with the idea!

Don't get me wrong, you know I love a bit of tailoring and hand padstitching but I'm fast becoming enamoured with the idea of simple pattern shapes and what can be made from them without darts, seams and interfacing. Not necessarily 'easy' patterns, more like 'interesting'.

Do you have 'interesting' patterns?
What is it about them that you like?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Birthday Giveaway

Well, it's been one whole year.

Thank you all for contributing so much - encouragement, compliments, a few laughs too. Lots of new friends, interesting things to read and watch and so much inspiration from you all. To mark your support and friendship in blogging tradition there shall be a GIVEAWAY to celebrate.

1. Party Skirt Kit

All cut out (waist 30", hips 40"), marked and ready to sew. Alterations to a smaller size would be possible as it is a mock wrap with long waist ties. I reckon this would also fit a UK size 16 with smaller seam allowances. All you need to add to complete the project is the zip and thread.

The fabric is a woven wool with silver lurex threads and I'm sure a bit of poly for extra stength. The ties are silver poly satin. they attach to the wraps at the front and tie at the back.

There is a hidden zipper in the fold and this is also sewn up into an enclosed seam - hence the mock wrap.

 The pattern is from Centre of Pattern Design and is based on a Chanel design. Instructions are rather scant but if you'd like this and get it, I'll try to write them out in a sensible and coherent way.

I bought the fabric online but I don't suit the colouring, hence I'm handing it over to someone who will sew it and wear it with love. This is NOT a UFO, it's a kit (thanks Ejvc).  Match this skirt with black, red purple - anything really, for a super Christmas/New Year party outfit.

2. Wool and silver fabric. If you don't fancy the skirt kit, then how about making one to your own specifications? Fabric is 60" wide and you have 2.5m to play with

 I'll also throw in an odd shaped piece of the silver poly satin. There's a good meter here but not square. Clever seamstresses will be able to knock up a celebratory draped sleeveless top in no time at all - use a COOL iron.

3. The patterns. It wouldn't be a giveaway without the patterns!

Donna Karan top & skirt. I've made the top, so it's cut to size 14. The skirt is uncut. Two-way stretch fabrics only

 Marcy Tilton trousers (pants) and skirt. Both patterns cut to 14. Easy make

Sandra Bettzini floaty top. Cut to 14. Can be made with stretch, silk or chiffon.

Koos coat, uncut. Size 14-20 - Good luck with this one!!!!
Hopefully there's something here for all hemispheres, winter and summer. Of course you can always put them away until the season is right.

Just take a moment to comment indicating which you would like to have to add to your stash, 1, 2 or 3. You can select one or all - your choice. Today is the 16th November 2012 9.00pm - the giveaway will remain open until next Friday, 23rd November 2012 9.00pm. Will post anywhere and make sure I can contact you via email if you win. Open to anons too. Names in a hat technique will be used to draw the winners. - Good Luck!

And just to show the difference 12 months can make - here's the very first pic I posted - Dreadful!