28 January 2010

V&A and Liberty fabrics

Woah nelly! The Victoria & Albert Museum in London has teamed up with Liberty to produce limited edition cotton fabrics replicating designs from the V&A's quilts collection. These little gems below are from designs dating from the 1780s to 1830s. More on the V&A website, where the fabrics are available to pre-order. Planning to make a dress out of... Seed Head! No... Ikat! No... can't... choose...



'Seed Head (Red)'





26 January 2010

Silent movies party

There was some good fashion going on at my Silent Movies party at the weekend - here a few pics...

24 January 2010

My sewing box

Last night my school friends gave me the best birthday present ever: a beautiful, HUGE, tiered sewing box, filled with an array of little gorgeous things that I can't stop drooling over.

When they gave it to me I was a little tipsy and thought maybe I was having an elaborate dream about the perfect present. But when I awoke this morning the box was still there.

Check this baby out!

[This post was written to a soundtrack of 'Tossin' and Turnin'' by Bobby Lewis and a smelltrack of jasmine tea]


20 January 2010

Fashion hints courtesy of the movies

While I'm a johnny-come-lately to sewing, my long term interest/hobby/passion or whatever you want to call it is film (I'm sure there's some kind of analogy there between the stitching of fabric and the suture of imagery, or something else pretentious that I can't quite articulate).

I'm having a birthday party next week and I've picked silent movies as the fancy dress theme. I won't reveal what I'm going as (it's a surprise!) but while getting myself in the mood for the knees up I thought I'd share with you a clip from E.A. Dupont's PICCADILLY from 1929. Check out Anna May Wong's dreamy fur-trimmed coat!

I'd highly recommend the film if you haven't seen it (DVD available from the BFI). Watch out for my favourite scene, in which scullery maid Shosho (played by Wong) is caught dancing on the table in the kitchen of the night club where she works. You can probably guess what becomes of her...

You can find this clip and more from the BFI National Archive on the BFI's YouTube channel.

[This post was written to a soundtrack of 'When I Grow Up' by Fever Ray and a smelltrack of a bacon bagel (don't tell the rabbi)]

16 January 2010

Recent acquisitions

I received some beautiful - and beautifully wrapped - fabric in the post the other day, purchased from Saints and Pinners. The package was so pretty I had to take a snap before I opened it.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, yesterday the pattern I intend to pair the fabric with arrived too - it's the Sencha blouse from Colette Patterns, a website I was led to by Casey's review of the Ceylon dress (a pattern I hope to progress on to in the next few months - a personal sewing target!).

The pattern instructions seem to be written in English rather than in impenetrable sewing lingo and there's even a glossary of terms at the back. It's presented in booklet style with a wallet fold to keep the pattern pieces neat and tidy (no more scrunched up facings lurking at the bottom or the envelope!).

I'm reeeeally excited about getting started on this but I'm trying to save it up until I've finished the dress I'm working on at the moment, which is a second attempt at the first dress I made, with a few little adjustments and embellishments.

I'm having trouble finishing the seams though, as the cotton I'm using is quite thin and tends to get caught on the zig zag stitch. The teacher on the dressmaking course I did recommended using an overlock foot, but when I asked if they had one in John Lewis, the sales assistant looked at me as if I were a loon and said they're "very obscure". Is this true? Do you have any tips for finishing seams? Preferably something that doesn't take too long!

Ooh and while you're answering that one, maybe you can take a look at the picture below and settle a question I keep asking myself when sewing darts: just how wonky is wonky?!

5 January 2010

A set of collars which could be slipped on at a moment's notice would be a boon to everyone (apparently)

I went out on a fabric shopping expedition to Columbia Road at the weekend, ready to spend a small fortune on tailor's scissors and yards and yards of yellow polka dot fabric to play around with. Alas, the shops I wanted to go to were closed (still recovering from the New Year, I guess), but while browsing a second hand shop which, at first glance, sold nothing but china tea sets, under a stack of old magazines I found a sewing book from 1946 called 'The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft'.

From my meagre sewing knowledge it appears that most of the tools and techniques required haven't changed much over the years (apart from the sewing machines, which are hand operated  in the book!), so this should prove a useful instruction manual as well as a curiosity.

The book has a real sense of post-war feeling about it, combining a 'make do and mend' ethos with a palpable hunger for glamour. For example, it includes hints and tips on perking up boring sleeves and fashioning an array of snazzy detachable collars to add to old garments.

While some of the designs are a bit dodgy, others are quite gorgeous. I particularly like the yoke and front pleating on this top and the wrap around skirt. The book makes everything look really simple to make and, while this may not quite turn out to be true, it has inspired a bit more confidence in me than the pre-bought patterns which seem to be written in a language I haven't quite got to grips with yet.

Speaking of naps...

1 January 2010

Look, I made a dress!

Hello blogosphere!

So... the idea behind this blog is to track my progress (or not) in the world of sewing, starting from the position of a complete beginner.

I've always loved clothes from the 1920s to the 1960s but don't have the patience to trawl through overpriced vintage clothes shops in the hope of finding a non-putrid gem that vaguely fits me. I've recently become sucked into the world of fashion blogs, developing friendship crushes on American "thrifters" (that means charity shoppers in English, I do believe) and finding inspiration in their words and pictures. From there, I stumbled upon images of vintage dress patterns which made me drool all over my keyboard (not literally, that would be hideous) and gave me the itch to start making my own frocks.

I'd never learned to sew before as I started secondary school at the same time as a new feminist headmistress who replaced home economics with IT (which is a good thing, obviously). And while my mum went to fashion college and often took me to the Victoria & Albert Museum to draw the dresses when I was a little girl, the sewing machine always seemed to be a boring Sunday night trouser altering machine rather than something I could get to grips with and learn to love.

Anyway, I decided to give it a go and got a sewing machine from my mum for Chrimbletide and spent the last few days on an intensive Introduction to Dressmaking course at Oh Sew in Brixton.

For my first project, I used Easy McCalls pattern M2401 with fabric sourced from Cloth House on Berwick Street. It's very near my office, so I imagine I will spend many a lunchtime ogling pretty prints.

In spite of such disasters as wonky darts, pin-shredded fingers and nearly sewing my armpits up, I loved it. And here she is, my first ever homemade dress!


I couldn't resist adding some little bows to the sleeves, inspired by Sarai of Colette Patterns.

I can't wait to get started on my next project!