Fabric for Fashion: The Swatch Book

FFF Front

Let’s not sugar coat it; Fabrics for Fashion: The Swatch Book is expensive with the RRP £60. I got it for around about £37 and even then I could only afford it due to the stroke of good luck I’ve had recently.

It is however, for someone like me who doesn’t yet know her batiste from her shantung, priceless.

I am one of those people that walk around a fabric shop hanging her head in shame, confused about the properties of various fabrics and all too often drawn to the cotton blends as I know them well.

I am oh so typically British in my embarrassment in asking anyone anything, my husband refers to it as “the shyness”, wherein if I find myself in a situation where I don’t know something the normal me (friendly, chatty, enthusiastic) reverts to the painfully shy and not wanting to attract attention me that I was in my formative years.

FFF 1

This swatch book is perfect for me for a few reasons:

  • I like to order pretty fabrics online but with limited knowledge I find myself stumbling about in the dark, googling dresses made from certain fabrics to get an idea of drape and weight and then fearing the postman will delivery something that I simply can’t work with (this has, so far, not happened as I have been cautious)
  • I’m quite a tactile person when it comes to fabric. I am also one of those annoying people that keeps you in a fabric shop for too long because I’m busy stroking everything. Shop in Abakhan in Manchester? I’ve probably touched your fabric (don’t worry – I have very clean hands).
  • I find prints and colours far too distracting, often considering them more than how the fabric will hang and drape when the garment is made.

There are 100 swatches in the book and with exception of a few they are in their natural, undyed state.  The samples are a good size, giving you a true impression of their feel, weight and structure and all have a description alongside them.

FFF 2

Each section is accompanied with information on fibres, the basic construction of fabric and weave comparison. There’s a fantastic glossary in the back which helps with the terminology used throughout.

All in all, a great reference book that I know I will use time and time again, will save me many future headaches, make purchasing fabric online so much easier and will add much diversity to my future home sewn wardrobe.

Vintage Lingerie: Historical Patterns and Techniques

When I saw this book on Amazon I knew I had to get it. I had a quick scan through the reviews online and decided to purchase.

I adore vintage styled lingerie (total Kiss Me Deadly addict) but it doesn’t come in cheap. If you want quality, you’re most certainly going pay for it.

When it landed through the letterbox with a comforting thud I tumbled downstairs, pulled apart the packaging and gazed and the beautiful front cover.

VL Front Page

I was aware of the author, Jill Salen, as my cousin’s (then) girlfriend (now wife) had lent me her fabulous book on corsets a few years ago when I was first foraying into making my own burlesque costumes. While the book was amazing, the thought of making a corset was very daunting and I loved reading through but it was packed up and shipped back to the lovely Sarah (thank you!).

But, I digress….back to Vintage Lingerie: Historical Patterns and Techniques.

I am more than happy with its stylistics. The book is laid out in an easy to read way, spaced out generously (I find books that are “too busy” very confusing due to my dyslexia) and sleek and stylish. It covers 30 pieces from 1890 to 1970 and is set up for each piece as follows:

  • The first page devoted to a beautiful piece of vintage lingerie, photographed beautifully and simply.
  • The following page with a description of the year or era, detailing on the fabric, techniques, measurements and embellishments used.
  • Following this is the scaled down pattern, each reproduced on graph paper for ease of scaling up separately.

While this book as an absolutely beautiful addition to my collection I really should say that it is definitely not aimed at beginners.

There are few (if any) instructions for actually making the garments but it really doesn’t feel daunting to me to consider starting to reproduce any of these items, after all using the internet to find clarity on certain sewing techniques is old hat at this point for me!

VL Page 2

There are two comprehensive projects contained in the back on this book, with full detailing and step by step instructions:

  • A black brassiere (1930s)
  • A petticoat (1905)

Neither of these grabbed me as items I would really like to crack on with; there were far more gorgeous offerings in the previous pages (corselette or the Dior style longline bra for instance) but I am sure that is just a matter of personal taste.

At the back of the book is a handy chapter about embellishing and finishing techniques such as scalloping, making button loops, fastenings etc.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for good a resource of vintage lingerie. I have been looking for something like this for a while now and everything else seemed to fall short of the mark.

I can’t wait to get cracking with my first project from this, although I will definitely be making a toile, sewing in a cheap fabric and then making the final in something a little more luxurious!

VL Page 1

Oh and I am very tempted to purchase Jill Salen’s next book Vintage Swimwear Patterns: Historical Patterns and Techniques, but that’s for another time when my purse is a little fatter I think!

Butterick 2475: all Sewn Up

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You may remember my post from January where I said I’d be getting on with the start of this Joanie inspired outfit by starting with the green pussybow blouse. It appears to have taken me an inordinate amount of time to complete. I have (in my defence) been quite busy with other things though; the prep for two interviews in two weeks for jobs I didn’t get (unfortunately), babysitting for our lovely friends’ adorable six month old and visits from old friends; it’s all meant that I haven’t been able to crack on as I would have liked to.

BUT here we are and finished in all it’s splendour is my blummin gorgeous 60s blouse a la Joan Harris (nee Holloway).

Joaniegreen

So where did I start? Having never made a blouse before I wasn’t entirely sure what material to go for. I decided on a trusty poly-cotton which meant the drape would be a bit stiffer than the one shown in the picture but I did want the collar to be a little stiffer, and as I wasn’t sure how this would all play out I thought not splashing the cash on fancy fabric would be the best option.

Butterick 2475

I went about cutting the pattern, fabric and interfacing out and I was quite happily thinking “less pieces, less work than a dress”. Ah, the young sewing fool inside me.

At the end of the first day I’d made the bodice and the collar. It dawned on my when I finished that I’d absolutely breezed the collar this time, I think I’ve been so caught up in worrying about the set in sleeves that I appear to have somehow mastered collars without thinking about it. Pretty good eh?!

Butterick 2475

Then it was sleeve making time. I should state, at this point, I have never made a full length sleeve, the previous ones I’ve made have been short/cap sleeves.

Butterick 2475

So this was a bit of a learning curve.

A sleeve with a cuff turns out to be very confusing when you get down to the cuff part. In the picture above are the markings to make the shirt fit to the barrel cuff. The part that I’m about to start stitching is the reinforced part which is then turned inside out and makes the opening that you then attach the cuff to.

All looks great on paper, all does not make sense once I’ve sewn it and pinned it.

It took me half an hour to figure out what it was meant to look like from the illustration on the instructions and the consequent consultation with my husband, to figure out if I was having a particularly bad case of dyslexic brain. Turns out his dyslexic brain was not computing either.

But with fiddling, and pressing, and a few minutes break away from it I had that all too common eureka sewing moment where it clicked. I finally pressed it, attached the cuff and hoped for best. It turned out pretty well and meant the second sleeve was a breeze.

Butterick 2475

Then it was on to the dreaded time.

The set in sleeve time.

The time of doom.

Now, I made a little list of goals at the beginning of the year (some have totally fallen by the wayside already) and one of these was to master set in sleeves by the end of 2014. So when I went into this part of making the blouse I did so with a new determination that I would not simply settle for “that’ll do” and I would set these sleeves in over and over until I got them perfect.

Plenty of people gave me advice (thank you everyone for all of your helpful tips and guidance) but I really owe massive thanks to Clare at www.sewdixielou.com for spurring me on when I was halfway through ripping the sleeves out for the second time (and on the verge of having a little cry) who simply said “I never use gathered way hate it. I do it by hand gently easing larger fabric pinning every 1/2″. Then when happy pin in between pins then baste by hand. Remove pins check how it looks then machine”.

Now, this may strike you as odd (but probably goes a long way to explaining more than bit about me) but I never considered for a moment that I should use any other method than gathering.

It’s what everyone had shown me; books, sewing tutorials online, pattern instructions. All gathering. It’s a rule right?

Wrong. I am learning more and more that sewing is about finding what works for you and just because people say you should do it this way, it doesn’t mean you have to do it this way.

In the end I went for a bit of both, I gathered a little and then pinned and pinned. I sewed from the inside of the sleeve ; calmly, slowly, gently and smoothed as I went. Et Voilà! A perfectly set in sleeve!

Butterick 2475

So overjoyed was I that I ran about the house and told Tim he should come and look, at which point he did and we embraced and then I did my little happy dance (literally). Then I proceeded to set the other in, with no problem at all and then made Tim come back every five minutes to look at my beautiful set in sleeves on my fantastic blouse.

Needless to say, it wore a bit thin (for him- certainly not for me) after the 50th time, saying that though he was very chuffed for me.

Next up were buttonholes and buttons, which I forgot to buy.  I finally located some small-ish ones and add them to the cuffs and the front of the blouse with a pop stud opening at the top (which is covered when the collar is done up) and here we are, the finished article.

Butterick 2475

Butterick 2475

Butterick 2475

Butterick 2475

Butterick 2475

I really feel like I’ve made sewing skills progress with this blouse.

I have learnt sleeves with openings and cuffs; I have finally managed to successfully set in sleeves and I’ve made a new type of collar. Wholly happy.

Footnote:

As I have said blouse so much in this post I’ll leave you with this little clip from Bottom. I can’t think about the word blouse without thinking about Ritchie giving his famous chat up likes a whirl “my what a lovely blouse you have on”!

The Wardrobe Architect: Week Five

The Wardrobe Architect

Dare I say that this week has been my favourite?! I find it hard to see in black and white and I love colour. This week we were asked to consider the words we came up with previously, the colours we wear and the colours that are in our stash.

I feel like I have a little head start with this as around about a year ago I decided to try and ditch the black outfits I wore at work (it is far too easy to dress in black at the office) and splash some colour about.

Many of the dresses I have made while blogging here have been work appropriate, it’s something I try to keep in mind when I make a new item or put an outfit together.

So, with the above in mind I went to the Robert Kaufman website and looked at the Kona colours as I know they’ve got fantastic block colours (I’ve used them before for sewing). I decided to put together a palette from there. This is what I came up with:

colours

No surprises for  me really, I know what I like; bold, bright and warm colours. I’m not one for wearing pastels, being pale I think they look a bit wishy washy on me and I prefer something that is a contrast to my complexion.

This exercise was good in two ways, it cemented some thought I’d had about my preferences and it let me have a nosey at the fab fabric Kona colours (my purse will grumble). I’m Looking forward to week 6 already!

Stacey Stitch Gets Social & 12 Month Pattern Giveaway

You may have noticed I’ve done a little overhauling on the blog recently. Not only do I have a fantastic logo/header thanks to the amazing Lucy Blue and a new layout, I also have those lovely new buttons with links to my social media accounts.

Here they are in button form if you’d like to click and link up:


Vintage Sewing Pattern Give-away

In addition to the little online housekeeping I’ve been doing some at home too.

You may have read my post about my new sewing area.

I decided a couple of weeks back to go through the vintage sewing patterns I have and sort them into things I would make/things I haven’t made/things that aren’t my cup of tea/things I’ve made but wont make again.

As many of these were given to me I would like to return the favour and pass them on to someone who’d like them, so keep your eyes peeled because as of this month I’ll be offering up a different pattern from my collection for one lucky winner in every month in 2014.

January’s is this lovely Economy Design dress, which was the first dress I made when I started sewing a few years back. The give-away will begin on 30th January and end a week after, good luck!

Economy Design 212

A Joanie Start to the New Year & Wardrobe Architecture

The Wardrobe Architect

I loved this post on Coletterie encouraging us to take charge of our wardrobes this year.

I definitely fall into the category of someone who acquires things I don’t use, buys fabric because it’s on clearance and regrets it,  and goes for something because it’s close enough!

I’m really looking forward to the follow up posts, hopefully this will help me with a little management and structure when I’m compiling my list of what to sew and what not to sew this year.

And on that note (and before I get too sensible about things) I’ve decided that the next thing I am going to sew will be this fabulous Butterick pattern for a blouse. Mostly I have decided to do it in green because I have the wonderful outfit my beloved Joanie (have I said how much I love Mad Men?!) wore a couple of series back which I really want to emulate.

I’ve bought some plain green cotton, which might be a little too heavy but we’ll see, either way it’ll work out as a good practice or something I can go swishing about the office in.

I start this weekend, wish me luck!

Butterick 2475

Joaniegreen

 

Simplicity 3877: All Sewn Up (The Christmas Edition)

I’ve had this gorgeous pattern since July and have been looking for the perfect excuse to make it and what better than a Christmas party at work? The scene is set, there will be a brass quintet and nibbles and drinks in the Atrium of our building, now all I need to do is make an entrance in something very festive.

Simplicity 3877

I bought this gorgeous fabric by for the skirt part and some matching Christmas tree green for the bodice and got to cutting and sewing.

Christmas dress fabric
Now, I didn’t really give myself the easiest time when I was making this. In between visiting family, a weekend away. tying up my last 6 modelling appearances (I have officially now finished – see me below as a Christmas tree), making and wrapping gift, buying and decorating the tress, icing two Christmas cakes,  and a million more things……..I had about three nights to do this and finished up the last night half cut after a Prof took me and the team for dinner.
Chrostmas tree - wayland thor badger dr sketchy birmingham

Thanks to A J Pilkington of Manicks Productions & Dr Sketchy Birmingham for this pic!

I did (again) struggle with the sleeves – which were, again, meant to be set in…but it seems we do not get on very well, so I did my best, tried not to cry (after sewing a sleeve in inside out and having to get the trust seam ripper out again) and took a deep breath. They didn’t turn out too badly BUT I have made it an aim for 2014 to master set in sleeves!

christmas dress

The light isn’t great in this pic so I’ve added the one below as I think it gives a better impression (and it was too cold to be outside!)

Christmas dress

My dress was complete. So what else but make a reindeer decoration to pin to your head? Add to this some sparkly shoes, festive nails, a lovely Narnia based lamppost necklace and a lot of glitter and I was the most dressed up person at the office Christmas do, but then again when else can you get away with wearing a sparkly reindeer on your head?

Christmas nails

Narnia necklace

So on that note; I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, thank you so much for following my blog and reading my posts over the last six months or so and have a wonderful Christmas! I’ll be back soon (unless I cannot reach the laptop from my eggnog and chocolate coma) xx

Simplicity 4697: All Sewn Up

October brought me to towards the purple cotton that I had in my stash, lovely against the Autumn colours of red, yellow and brown. I love Autumn, when the leaves turn and the mornings get frosty and you can smell winter is coming.

I managed to make myself a dress that Prince would be quite partial to (if he was into wearing 60s day dresses) or at least a dress that I could dance about it while humming Raspberry Beret and whilst simultaneously channeling my inner Joan.

The pattern I picked was Simplicity 4679, I was feeling quite up the challenge of a new style of collar and the cross over button front looked interesting enough.

Simplicity 4697
Purple Dress

I feel for the first time since I started this blog that I can say I actually found this quite straight forward, an obvious sign that my sewing skills (or at least confidence in my own ability) has grown.

The collar wasn’t too tricky to figure out. The sleeves weren’t sewn in, rather they’re cut into the pattern, which is something I haven’t come across before.

The main problem was the choice of the buttons. I narrowed it down to four and they were all chosen from my Great Nana Wilde’s button box which I inherited along the way.

Purple DressPurple DressPurple Dress

My Nana Wilde was an amazing lady, she lived to just before her 101st birthday in 2001. She wanted to be a seamstress and she was very good at sewing but being the first girl born in a family of 9 (and all the boys miners) she of course left School at 14 and ended up staying at home to help her Mam out with looking after the boys and the household so she never got to sew for a living.

So these are the buttons that I narrowed it down to.

Purple Dress

Purple Dress

In the end I went for the last ones shown, they do look a little scratched in this photo but I think it’s the light. They look rather lovely on the dress and the others didn’t really suit it when I pinned them on.

So here we go, my lovely purple day dress, Joanie eat your heart out! What do you think? Can’t wait to prance (like Prince) about the office in this little beauty! 

purple dress

Simplicity 4980: All Sewn Up

To kick back into sewing after a little absence I decided as I had a week off that I’d try something a little more testing than usual and went for this lovely pattern with a hidden collar and a soft pleat. I had some blue cotton in my stash so cracked on with cutting the pattern pieces out that weren’t already cut and pining them out.

Simplicity 4980

It wasn’t until everything was cut out that I suddenly realised that some pieces were missing; the collar interfacing pieces. I was very grateful that this was all as they’re pretty easy to knock up, so I cut out the extra bits and ensured they were the correct size.

Simplicity 4980

It took me three days to finish the dress. I have no idea why I chose something difficult, I have only made a collar on a dress once before and it was wonky and no where near and confusing as this one. My dyslexic/dyspraxic brain and vintage pattern instructions do not mix and I spent a night sewing things the wrong way round and mulling over instructions before putting them to one side only to have a full on EUREKA moment at half 11 at night when it finally clicked in my somewhat befuddled brain. And thus the next day the collar was finished!

it's not perfect but it's as good as it's going to get and i'm actually quite happy....why did I decide to do a dress with a collar.... #sewing

Then followed the sleeves (easy peasy – although my life would be drastically improved by the purchase of a sleeve roll….a rolled up towel isn’t quite cutting the mustard).

And then came the soft pleated skirt. Again, after only doing two pleats on any dress before this was trial and error and basting and re-basting (me and my seam ripper are now very firm friends). Thankfully when I attached it to the bodice it was perfect and I wasn’t again pulling my hair out.

There is a side zip closing, which is new on me too but which I managed to get right the second time round when I had to alter it because the first time I had somehow managed to make the bodice wonky and it didn’t meet where it should have done (ah, hello seam ripper me old chum!).

When I did finish and hem it up I was very proud of what I’d achieved, this has by far been the most technically challenging dress I’ve made and it was  perfect for the vow renewal that we attended on Sunday.

I added a vintage brooch and my Great Nana Wilde’s 60s paste bracelet for the perfect accompaniment. I even got to wear my gorgeous blue Kiss Me Deadly stockings for the first time (if you don’t know about KMD you should!) but enough about my undercrackers, what do you think?

Simplicity 4980

Any tips on making sense on vintage instructions? I don’t know if it is just me, or if it’s just because they were written at a time when most people had sewing skills to a certain degree.

As always, any feedback and help greatly appreciated, thank you!

Footnote: 

I know I’ve been a little quiet of late and unfortunately it’s for a sad reason, my (step) Father In Law passed away a few weeks back and I’ve been concentrating on making Tim as happy as I possibly can and supporting the in-laws in what has been a difficult month or so and obviously sewing has been on the back burner.

Ken always complimented me on the way I dressed and the things I created and I’m ever grateful for the kind words and the welcome he gave me into the family. He was a gentleman to the end, I will always think of him ‘pom pom pom’-ing around the house, making those around him smile and laughing his bellowing laugh.

Simplicity 4675: All Sewn Up

I threw myself in at the deep end a little. Thinking along the lines of “if you don’t try something that looks hard soon you never will” I settled on Simplicty 60s pattern No. 4675 in View 1. I chose a burgundy cotton, which again came from my stash (what will I do when I run out of stash material?!).

Burgundy ruffle dress pattern cut

There are a couple of things that I was a little concerned about and they did indeed prove to be tricky.

The facing on the neck I managed to (just about) get right, it has a tiny gather in it but as I have decided I’ll be making this dress again at some point I’m using this as a test dress, it’s only meant for work as it so so I’m sure I can get away with it being a little scrappy in places.

The sleeves are more than a little puffy for ones which are meant to be set in, but in all honestly I lost the will to live after trying again and again to get them perfect. Advice needed:  can someone please explain to me how I am meant to get them without any gathering? I have read a fair few tutorials, looked at videos and I still can;t get it right. Is it just a case of practice makes perfect or am I missing some vital step here? Any advice would be appreciated.

The zip closure at the top isn’t perfect but it’s the first time I’ve done a zip like this, which is overlapped on one side. I think I maybe just didn’t pin it where I meant to when sewing it in, but again this is something I can improve on for next time. I did find it incredibly fiddly though, I think I just get too excited about wanting to finish something and it all goes to pot.

The part which I thought would be the most tricky, namely the ruffle, turned out to the the easiest out of all of it. Which was a nice surprise! I am finding the simplest looking parts to be the most time consuming. Lesson learnt.

Hopefully the next time I make this dress I’ll be able to correct past mistakes, it’s certainly been a learning curve but overall I’m very happy with it and even happier that I’ve lost the weight to actually fit in it!

Burgundy ruffle dress front

 

Burgundy ruffle dress brooch

 

sleeve failure…but the pretty vintage brooch makes up for it right?

So, honest opinions, what do you think? Any advice, sleeve or otherwise, would be greatly appreciated!