4 April 2010

First foray into sewing vintage patterns

Praise be, I have FINALLY finished my first vintage sewing project!


I used Simplicity pattern 4255, from 1953, with some £4/m poly-cotton lawn from John Lewis. My parcel tape dress form came in handy for checking the bust and waist size on my Swedish tracing paper muslin, which I had to take out by 2cm. Using the tracing paper as a middleman did lead to Chinese whispers between the original pattern and the cut out fabric, particularly as I'm not a very accurate cutter. Is there a secret method to cutting out fabric? When wielding scissors is it better to be bold or careful? Don't worry about your responses sounding too obvious (I realised for the first time that I was holding the scissors upside down - oops)!

The main stumbling block I discovered with working from vintage patterns is the language that they use. I wasted a whole precious free evening after work staring at one particular sentence in the instructions, reading it out with different intonations and in different accents to try to make it make sense. In the end I just ignored the instruction, carried on and worked out what it meant by which bit of the blouse was left flapping about (turned out to be the bit where the top of the front facing met the shoulder seam).

Another thing that took three million years was finishing the edges. The brevity and flippancy of the instruction "slip-stitch bias facing in place" belies the toil that such work involves. First I had to figure out how to make bias tape binding (my first attempt wasn't cut on the bias - doh! The clue is in the name!); then baste it to the edge (which I read as "sew", hence the tiny stitches - no biggie); then slip-stitch - by hand, it turns out - the other edge of the binding to the inside, which took forever - one sitting of Wim Wenders' Alice in the Cities and a couple of episodes of Seinfeld, to be exact. But I admit that it does look rather neat. Are there rules for when to cut corners and forego the bias binding for a quicker method?

And here's the finished blouse! The problem with the early 1950s V-shape is that - unless I walk around with my arms sticking out like the good ladies on the front of the pattern, it bunches up at the sides. I don't really want to take it in though as it'll diminish the drama of the shape. If you look at the pattern you may also notice that the collar is supposed to be more Elvis and the cuffs were originally twice as big. But when I styled it like that my loving boyfriend said I looked like "an alien queen ... in a good way", yet as that wasn't quite the look I was going for I toned it down with the help of my trusty iron.

I also baked this weekend - a sewing enthusiast cliche, perhaps, but not something I do very often, honest! Mmm... cakes...

[Soundtrack: 'Devil's Spoke' by Laura Marling / smelltrack: daffs]