29 September 2010

The Betty Draper suit

Spot the difference:

Pretty close, eh? I scored this pattern - Simplicity 7032 from 1967 - for £1.50 from a Brighton antiques shop. I'm thinking of making the three quarter length sleeved suit to wear to the synagogue bit of my cousin's barmitzvah and then wear the two pieces as separates in everyday life. So I'm on the hunt for a nice but easy-to-work-with fabric in a sober colour. There's a maroony-auberginey gabardine in John Lewis, the same fabric as the red I used to make the Hollywood starlet dress. But I'm open to suggestions on fabric types and colours (although I'm a bit scared of wool) - thoughts, please! The pattern isn't lined, and though I've never lined anything before, I think it'll be worth working out how to do so for this suit.

[Soundtrack: 'Betty and Dupree' by Chuck Willis]

19 September 2010

Bath Fashion Museum

I recently spent a lovely day in Bath with my mum, which included a trip to the Fashion Museum. Thought you might like to see my snaps...

Woven silk dress, 1742.

Woven silk court dress, 1760s. Ridiculous.

Cotton embroidered gown, 1795. An open robe put on like a coat over a petticoat, 
before dresses were invented to go over the wearer's head.

White cotton muslin dresses, 1800, when cotton was new. 
The one at the back has tiny glass beads on it.

Cream satin wedding dress with handmade lace and whalebone corset, 1900. 
Apparently the bride's waist was tightened to 20". Ouch.

The museum allows you to try on corsets and crinolines. 
Couldn't quite get my waist down to 20" (blame it on the iced bun I ate on the train). Oof!

The museum also has some great 1960s pieces. 
Shame the mannequins look like old grandmas!

Bath is a very picturesque city with a quaint tea shop on every corner. We also made time for a dip in the eponymous baths, bien sûr, but you'll have to imagine that bit as I didn't want to get my camera wet.

And finally, here's my mum posing with her favourite sweeties, flying saucers. She's laughing because a man had just sprinted right through the photo!

[Soundtrack: 'Splish Splash' by Bobby Darin]

15 September 2010

Stash Amnesty! featuring Rachel Red Lips

The blogosphere has spoken, and Stash Amnesty! has become a regular feature. If you didn't read the last one, Stash Amnesty! is an interview piece with another blogger, allowing us to take a sneaky peak at their sewing stash. This month I'm interviewing the delightful Rachel Red Lips from Portland, Oregon. I only discovered Rachel's blog fairly recently, but was immediately sucked in for about three hours, jumping between posts on thrifting, pattern drafting, scrummy vegan food, music, and tons and tons of pretty pictures...

What's your sewing area like?
Rachel: "My sewing studio is in a turret room, which is basically a six sided room with a sloping ceiling. It's pretty spacious with wood floors and though I wish it had bigger windows, I feel lucky that it has three small ones that light up my desk area. I have a little white desk for sewing that I struggle to keep organized, built in shelves for my collection of vintage fabric, and a "wallpaper" collage of rose illustrations. Portland is known as the city of roses, so I love being reminded of that while I'm cooped up on a sewing spree! I have space to hang a couple beautiful garments to keep me inspired, so I usually display my recently completed sewing projects there. It's still a pretty new space for me so I am in the midst of designing a drafting table for pattern making, ironing, and cutting out pattern pieces...right now I do this all on the floor!"

When did you first start sewing? How did you learn?
Rachel: "As a small child I spent my days drawing little dresses, parading around the house in outfits concocted from my stash of dress up clothes, and even declared myself a "hearts and stars kinda girl" at age three. I taught myself basic sewing in high school on a vintage Singer machine that belonged to my mother's aunt, cutting up thrift store and band t-shirts and reconstructing them into cute little wonders. 

"When college rolled around, my mom suggested I try fashion design. A lack of confidence pushed me away from designing clothes but my mom was perceptive enough to see the direction my heart was headed. Throughout college I dabbled in altering clothing, but wonky bobbins and crooked hems still left me feeling unsure of myself. Finally in February, I took the plunge and signed up for a sewing class with a local woman who taught mostly home sewing. It was basically an open sewing hour, I'd bring in hems or vintage patterns and she'd help me through the steps to achieve the look I desired. I loved it so much that pretty soon I started taking classes twice a week! Since moving to Portland I've been trying out different sewing studios to find a good fit, I particularly love Modern Domestic and am hoping to start courses at the Portland Sewing school soon."

Talk us through a few of your favourite items in your stash...

Rachel: "I've only ever sewn from vintage patterns, since they are so cheap and adorable. This is the entirety of my pattern stash, it's still quite small!

"I have a little collection of lingerie books that I covet. The pink one describes in detail how to sew 60s era lingerie, the others are Fashion in Underwear by Elizabeth Ewing and Agent Provocateur: A Celebration of Femininity.

"I've collected all my notions at thrift stores and estate sales! I love vintage snaps, hooks and eyes, and closures. I love vintage lace and trim. I love vintage thread and colorful doilies!"

You're a talented thrifter! Do you prefer sewing garments from scratch or adjusting thrifted pieces?
Rachel: "When I started out I really just wanted to reconstruct thrift store finds to sell in my online shop, Red Lips Vintage, but lately I am eager to make vintage inspired garments and lingerie! I do, however, love to alter thrifted pieces for myself! There's nothing like remixing a dress to flatter your own body and then going out to flaunt it!"

Where do you look for sewing inspiration?
Rachel: "I am oh so inspired by bombshells, pin-ups, and femme fatales of the past. I love Art Deco fashion illustrations, Vargas prints, and vintage photos of babes on the beach."

What sewing projects are you working on or planning at the moment?
Rachel: "Right now I'm hoping to find a use for all this leftover fabric from dresses and skirts I've hemmed this year! I like making fabric flower hair pins and fabric garlands to hang around the house with scraps. Since I also have a stack of thrift store dresses that need reconstructing, I'd love to get the motivation to finish that up once and for all. Lastly, my collection of vintage trim is definitely going to be incorporated into the dresses I make with my new pattern making skills!"

Thank you, Rachel, for showing us around your sewing world - you're an inspiration!

Readers, check out Rachel's blog and her shop, Red Lips Vintage. If you'd like to feature in a future Stash Amnesty post, get in touch!

12 September 2010

Pyjama bottoms

So the simple project I chose to ease myself back into sewing is done, and it really was easy - McCalls 5248 in some cheapo floral cotton scored from a fabric shop in Brighton. I made the pyjama bottoms only, as a stretchy camisole or old t-shirt is my PJ top of choice. Little tip: I threaded the drawstring by taping one end of the ribbon to a pencil and shuffling it through.


There's room for improvement though. Next time I'll cut the waist a bit lower so it sits on my hips. Also, I made the same mistake as the ill-fated pedal pushers (still haven't finished those blasted pedal pushers!) of not measuring my (ahem) back crotch curve before cutting them out, so they're a little snug on my derrière when I sit down (what do they say about people who make the same mistake twice?).

I'm going to have very little internet access for the next two weeks, so apologies in advance for not commenting on your blogs or replying to emails straight away. I have lined up some blog posts though, so I won't be completely silent. See you anon!

[Soundtrack: 'Two Sleepy People' by Fats Waller]