Monday, October 28, 2013

Blogger Meet-Up


I had a fabulous day on Sunday.  I got to meet to Jennifer Lauren, who you may already know from her wonderful sewing blog.  We went to Edinburgh Fabrics where we each picked up some goodies, then we hit up the W. Armstrong and Son vintage store and ended with a fresh scones and tea at Anteaques, a lovely tea shop and antique store all rolled into one!  It's the Edinburgh version of Mood Fabrics and Pret A Manger.

I felt like we could have talked forever--she's so lovely.  Enjoy the rest of your trip, Jennifer!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

W is for Wool

Ah, wool. My absolute favourite type of fabric!  I think nearly a third of all my sewing projects use some form of wool.  It's perfect for Scottish weather and fits with my style preference for tailored garments.  In fact, I think it might be the most amazing fabric ever....

Here is what the Simplicity Fabric Guide says about wool:
Wool is somewhat of a wonder fiber.  It drapes beautifully, cuts cleanly, won't fray and holds its shape in a finished garment.  It is also a quite forgiving fabric: Pins won't mar the surface, seams rip out invisibly and just about any trouble spot can be pressed and seamed into submission.
Wool fibers are very resilient.  They can be bent back on themselves 20,000 times without breaking, and can stretch up to 50 percent when wet and 30 percent when dry and still bounce back to their original shape.  Able to absorb 30 percent of its weight in moisture without feeling damp or clammy, wool is also a wonderful temperature regulator, making it a great option for jackets, coats and other outerwear.
Here's some of the various types of wool fabrics I have used in past projects:

Wool Flannel:


The 'Spring Suit' using an EvaDress reproduction of a 1931 McCall pattern

Medium-weight Wool:




The 'Shades of Purple' Outfit using a 1970s Simplicity pattern

Light-weight Wool:


'39 Steps to a Perfect Dress' Ensemble with Gabardine jacket using a 1937 McCall pattern

Gabardine:




The 'Famous Hooded Princess Dress' made with a 1940 McCall pattern

Wool Crepe:



The 'First Crepe of Summer' Dress using a 1940 McCall pattern

Tweed:




Cashmere:



The 'Angels Culottes' made from a 1970s Simplicity pattern

Wool Jersey:



The 'Aviator Dress' made with wool jersey sleeves and viscose dress material using a 1946 Advance pattern

I've definitely tried lots of different types of wool.  I particularly love lightweight wool--it's hard to walk past that aisle in the Edinburgh fabric shops without 'oohing and ahhing' and touching all the fabrics.  I'm a recent convert to both wool crepe (which is oddly expensive here in the UK compared to all the other fabulous wools) and wool jersey (also in short supply).  And I have yet to dive into some Harris Tweed.  I need to save up to get some of that delicious fabric and support this local industry!!

Have you seen Karen's recent post on Wool with all the fabulous resources?  I love all the different varieties of wool.

What about you? Can you get nice wool locally?  Which type of wool fabric is your favourite?  Any wooly projects on your sewing horizon?

Monday, October 21, 2013

McCall 3980: The "Wish Upon A Star" Nightgown


I've been wanting to make a 1940 nightgown for some time now. It just didn't feel right to be lounging around in sweatpants and mismatched tops when I knew I could sew up something that I would really enjoy wearing around the house--something that would make me feel glamorous and yet, would still be comfortable!

The 1940 McCall catalogue is full of wonderful sleepwear and housecoats and I can't wait to sew them all up.  Check out my pinterest board of the sleepwear patterns I've currently got in my collection.  McCall 3980 is one of my favourites:


The lines are so flattering, and I just love the sleeves on view A.  On a recent trip to Mandors Fabrics in Glasgow, I picked up this A-mazing fabric that is a brushed cotton/twill/viscose mix.  Intrigued?  I certainly was.  It is super, super soft on one side and has a nice sheen on the other.  AND it is a nice light dress weight but still retains the body & warmth of the brushed cotton/twill.  I knew immediately that I wanted to use it for McCall 3980.


The fabric suits the pattern perfectly! I graded the pattern down slightly in the bodice, added more length for the sleeves but left the skirt pieces alone (since you can adjust the skirt fullness with tie-backs).  The fabric was very easy to sew with, and I made it so that the super soft brushed cotton is on the inside and the side with the sheen is on the outside.


The pattern is gathered at the shoulders and the front and back bodice waists.  The shoulders are attached with a lapped seam.  The waist comes up into a v-shaped lapped seam in both the front and the back.  I almost ended up sewing a pin in the front waist (since I had a pin holding the facing down on the inside)...until I figured out what was happening!!  Eeps!

The sleevecaps are gathered as well.  The front neck is faced and folds down into a soft collar with small ties.  There are larger ties that are sewn into the side seams for the waist.  The sleeves are gathered at the wrist and attached to a sleeve cuff.  I made a narrow hem on the opening and then sewed on a button (perfect matching buttons from the stash--huzzah) and made thread loops for the button closure.


The ties on the side and the slightly lower neckline mean that I can get the nightgown on without any other closures.


Oh, how I love the early 1940s styles!


The nightgown is super comfortable and I feel much more elegant.  Isn't it funny how your dress affects your mood?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

New Glasses!


So happy to show you all my new retro-inspired specs! I used to wear contacts all the time and then would switch to glasses (a very outdated pair--bad, I know) for lounging around the house at the weekends or at the end of the day.  But I found myself wearing those outdated glasses for longer stretches of time and knew that it was time to get some new glasses!  I also knew I wanted a pair of retro-inspired glasses.  This pair is from Boots Opticians and is from their own line.  What do you think?


I also picked up a lovely fair isle sweater from the Edinburgh vintage store, W. Armstrong & Son.  I got it for super cheap because it was missing 4 buttons.  Easy fixin'!  I got some cute peach coloured buttons and but those on instead!  I love Fair Isle and someday I will get around to learning how to knit...until then, I'll keep scouring the vintage shops for these gems!  A lovely reader recently shared some local history of the Fair Isle knit with me.  Part of the popularity of Fair Isle knitting in the '40s had to do with rationing since regular knitting yarn was rationed but skeins of darning wool were exempt.  Here's a neat page of some first-hand testimony of rationing from the BBC website.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday, October 18, 2013

V is for Velvet

Thank you for your lovely comments on my last post about my most recent 1940 McCall make!

Today, I'm focusing on one of my favourite fabrics, Velvet.  Velvet is so lush and comes in different weights and textures, and is such a perfect fabric for special winter occasions!  It is, however, a bit sensitive to treatment, especially ironing.  Here's what my vintage 1950s sewing book says about ironing velvet and velveteen:


I don't actually have a velvet press board and I use other napped fabric (often pieces of the same velvet I am pressing) instead.  This works well on cotton velvet but may not work on other types of velvet like silk velvet, which I imagine would be more sensitive.  I've never actually sewn with silk velvet, but I really want to give it a try--maybe a nice holiday dress?

Here's a photo from my 1940s singer sewing book about how to steam velvet seams.  I use this method a lot when working with velvet:


Another close-up of a velvet pressing board:




So far, I've made two velvet dresses.  Both of the dresses were made from velvet curtain fabric that I had found in charity shops.  The first one I made from a 1939 McCall pattern:


I love the dress but the velvet is quite thick and warm--perfect for winter.

The other dress I made from a 1950s Butterick pattern:


The cotton velvet has a nice weight for the full skirt and this velvet dress gets much more wear because of the holiday/festive colour!

I have two patterns that would be fabulous in velvet, especially silk velvet:


The first one is a 1940 McCall pattern and the second is from the early 1930s.

I'm curious, have you ever sewn with silk velvet?  Do you use a velvet pressing board?

Monday, October 14, 2013

McCall 3662: The 'Sew Bossy Top'


This top is also called "Summer, Please Come Back"!  This is my first creation as part of The Sew Bossy Initiative:

It was dreamed up by Heather from Closet Case Files and the lovely Oonaballoona.  The key concept is that you partner up with another sewist and send them sewing goodies YOU want to see them sew (hence the bossy bit...).  I knew instantly that I wanted to partner up with the one and only Cassie Stephens, art teacher and sewist extraordinaire! If you haven't check out her blog, you MUST. She inspires me, keeps me laughing and makes me want to change careers all at once!

Cassie sent me an entire care package complete with adorable letters from her art students about Scotland!  Included in the package was some amazing feedsack fabric that I knew instantly had to be made into McCall 3662.

Oh, I forgot to mention that both Cassie and I were about as unbossy as you could get with each other. We preferred to use the Sew Bossy Initiative to send international care packages...but of course, there is still some fabric left and I expect to get a bossy email about how to use it. lol...


McCall 3662 is one of the coolest patterns in the 1940 McCall catalogue.  I bought it from Cynical Girl on Etsy.  Mary's shop is one of my absolute favourites on Etsy--a treasure trove of vintage patterns. Plus, Mary has been amazing in helping to organise the vintage pattern sellers on Etsy and runs the Vintage Pattern Marketplace! Yay for independent patterns sellers!

I ended up having enough fabric to make view 1 which ties at the back and also has a bodice neck tie.  Both views 1 and 3 hit about mid-waist in length, which is actually perfect with high-waisted trousers (such as those in Simplicity 3688):

I am modeling this top in Bangkok!  How fun is that?  I went there for a very short trip for work. Before you get too excited, I didn't actually get to do any sightseeing because my trip was too short and was fully packed but I can't wait to go back for a proper holiday at some point!  These pictures were all taken by a lovely hotel employee in the courtyard of the hotel.  I just loved the palm trees and greenery and thought it would make the perfect backdrop.  The nice thing was that it was very warm in Bangkok--perfect for McCall 3662.  Plus, I could pair it up with a cardigan for the colder air-conditioned indoors (and for my real life in Scotland..hahaha)

Here's a close-up of the amazing feedsack fabric design:


I graded this pattern up six inches and I actually think I made it a little bit too big as it gapes slightly at the bottom front.  I will fix this on other versions as I definitely want to make all of them!


Hopefully, there will be some warm weather destinations in 2014 so that I can make views 1 and 3.

Have you heard of The Sew Bossy Initiative? Are you participating?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

U is for Underlining

The ABC's of vintage sewing series is back--and we are in the home stretch, picking up the alphabet again with the letter 'U'.

Underlining is a common vintage (and modern) sewing technique in which two pieces of fabric are sewn together and treated as one.  This is often done for several reasons:

1. Stabilising loosely woven fabrics:



Using underlining for stabilising fabrics was a revelation to me!  I am often drawn to wonderful silky tweeds or handwoven fabrics--many of which are delicate or tend to unravel easily.  Once I learned I could underline these fabrics, my sewing world changed!  I could now use these fabrics even in very tailored garments such as the 'Kitten Dress' which used Butterick pattern 2181 from the 1950s.



2. Add bulk/warmth to fabrics:


I often think of interlining being used more for adding warmth, but you can also use underlining.  I tend to like to use underlining on thin fabrics like the poly-blend fabric I used for my 'Paddington Goes to Scotland Dress' from the 1960s.  This pattern actually recommended underlining and I'm glad I did it, not just for warmth and adding bulk but also to have a nicer feeling fabric against my skin!


3. Prevent garments from being see-through:


I use underlining a lot when sewing with white--to prevent the final garment from being too see-through.  In these instances, I usually just underline the bodice like I did in my 'Hawk's Eye View Dress' which I made with a Japanese textured cotton fabric for the bodice.

Underlining Resources:

Have you underlined any projects recently?  What's the main reason you underline your garments?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Which gown to make?


Thank you everyone for your wonderful support for the Weaving Destination social enterprise! We still have some 100% organic handwoven fabric and beautiful silk and cotton scarves available. Check out the Etsy shop.

I received some very exciting news this weekend.  The training course I attended called 'Ingenious Women' that sparked Javita and I to start the Weaving Destination social enterprise, has been shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Award!


This is basically the higher education equivalent of the Oscars!  Javita and I have been asked to attend and I am OVER THE MOON!  It's a black tie awards ceremony to be held in London at the end of November...yipppeeeee

The most important question is which 1940 gown to make?  I've narrowed it down to the short length version of McCall 3730 or the full length McCall 3914:
Which one do you think I should make?  I can't wait!!!
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