Frumpy to flirty

For those who don’t follow my sewing blog (apologies to those who do) here is my latest project…

1-before and after1

I adore charity shops there seems no end of inspiration. It might just be my own obstacle, but am fearless to alter items bought secondhand that I would hesitate to alter new!  Thrift store or charity shop seem to bring out my adventurous  side- especially if there are only a few pounds at stake!

Sundress before frontThis dress caught my eye – I knew the style was not right for my body shape but the fabric thrilled me so much I bought it anyway. It is your standard maxi sundress – with a shirred top, you can find lots of dresses like these at the moment, even in charity shops.

Summer sundress fabric

As you can see this fabric is wild! Lots of different colours going on – including different coloured backgrounds. the great thing is that there is no directional design, it all seems to flow freely, which makes pattern cutting easy.

Sundress before

You can see from this picture why this dress style doesn’t work for me – the uni-boob is not a flattering look! My waist has completely disappeared and as this dress falls from my boobs, it has added excess inches around my whole body! As if I need any more inches adding! lol.

Sundress skirt length

Look what happens when I lower the gathering down to the waistline, it already looks a lot more flattering. It is a very generous skirt, there is lots of fabric to play with – and definitely enough to make a top half! While the shirring is a great scale for bodice, it is a little too wide for my waistline- so I shall shorten it and remove the top edge.

Vintage 1950's pattern

My inspiration for this re-fashioning came from a vintage 1950’s pattern –   the gypsy top element to this dress pattern is a delight! When I was growing up in the 1970’s gypsy skirts and tops were everywhere I loved swirling around in my circular skirt – an enduring link with hot summers and gypsy style remains with me today. I love the way the puffy sleeves give a bit of balance to the full skirt in this pattern it emphasises the hourglass shape. It is unashamedly girlie!

New Look top 6277

Given my love of gypsy tops, it won’t surprise you that I had this pattern in my stash! I wanted the bottom left style – intending just the top section to be used for this re-cycling dress. Somewhat less of a square neckline than the 1905’s pattern- but the sleeves would more likely cover dreaded bra straps! (Monster bra straps are a necessity for the larger bust!)

New Look no longer sell this pattern, but there are a couple of similar ones that would work just as well. New look 6892, or New Look 6891.

Take largest pattern piece and measure the overall length  this will determine how much fabric you need to cut off the bottom of the skirt. As mine is a maxi skirt I had plenty of fabric to play with so I ended up with a circle of fabric that was just a little bit longer than my top pattern piece.

The key here, is not to un-pick any seams: as it will reduce your overall available material. I folded the fabric over with a seam running straight at a fold and then cut the bodice piece with  the centre front at the ‘fold’.

My fabric was so wild that the original seams disappeared, even though one old seam ran across one of my sleeves at a corner edge, the material still remained intact. The pattern matching was easy, but I did make sure the pattern pieces went in the direction of the dress, e.g. the top of the pattern piece was at the top edge of the fabric.

Upcycled dress neckline with decorative elastic edge

The main feature of a gypsy top is the gathered edge that is either elasticated or gathered by using a cord. I had this delightful heart shaped lingerie elastic, so gently zig-zagged it on to bring the neckline in.

If you are using any of the patterns listed above, shorten the bodice and back to just below the waistline, then add the dress to the lower bodice edge. The shirred section is now the waistline.

It is just a case of then finishing your hem edge, we are so used to seeing overlocked edges I decided to finish mine in black.

1-DSC03781

I don’t think this dress is far from the original 1950’s pattern inspiration – more importantly it makes the most of my waist which is more flattering.

As an re-vamping overall I am very pleased with the results – so much so that I am going to scour the local shops for more!

 

Me Made May 2016

Susanna Di Milo

Original pledge on my sewing blog on the 30th April but no-one seems to find my sewing blog – ;-(

please visit if you can, thanks!
I, Susanna of made for mi pledge that I shall wear a home-made item twice a week during May.

I also pledge to make at least two items in May using fabric from my stash.

Thanks Thimberlina for telling all!

Forties style

 

Dresses used fabric economically
Dresses used fabric economically

Remember that wonderful dressing up box we used to have as children? Well the great thing is that we can have this feeling every day. The wave of Vintage style I believe is our desire to go back to dressing in a feminine way, and possibly some of the old fashioned values.

I go dancing to a wonderful venue in Brighton, it is set up just like a 1940’s dance and I really enjoy dressing for the occasion. I am at heart an old fashioned girl, I love to look feminine, I love hats, wool coats and summer dresses and I find it so wonderful that at last we can all dress in this style and for it to be accepted. I still get some rather odd glances at times but mostly I am thrilled that many people will compliment me in the street!

The difficulty I have is deciding what style I like, I do enjoy the victory rolls and fabulous music of the 1940s and love swing dancing, but I also enjoy the upbeat notes of the fifties which leaves me smiling just listening to it and the sheer joy of spinning with a circle skirt! Then again, I’ll watch Downton Abbey and swoon at the gorgeous cloche hats….

Being able to sew opens up a whole heap of possibilities, there are many wonderful retro stores available now, but I find its the detailing that really hits the note for me. So after that rather lengthy introduction here are some elements that might help you to ‘revamp’ a modern dress and introduce elements that can give you a more authentic look.

 

Single breasted, four gore skirt
Single breasted, four gore skirt

As you can see from this pattern the jackets were single breasted, skirts were made up of several pieces, often with seams at the front sides and back, this cut allowed the maker to cut more economically, as the pieces would be smaller.

 

 

A big feature of forties fashion was a yoke

A big feature that stands out in most of the forties fashion was the shoulder yoke, it reflected the male shirt, but was softened by details like bows and cuffs. Dresses had shorter sleeves (also an economy of fabric) finishing just above the elbow.

Use of drape
Use of drape

Forties fashion diverges – American Patterns was cut off from the influence of Paris, did not have the same restrictions as in Britain so you can often see more generous cuts and elements of the 30’s bias cut in US patterns at the time.

If you want to make your dress have an authentic forties feel, look to the sleeve cap, often this was full giving the sleeve a boxy look (a good balancer if you are pear shaped). You can see it more in the knitwear designs from that period.

What ever you decide, the important thing to remember is to have fun

ttfn xx

Overlooking the overlocker

A few years ago I was offered an overlocker with a horn cabinet but it took a great deal of courage to plug it in and use it.

An overlocker looks completely different to a sewing machine, all those knobs, dials, spools and strange names like upper looper and lower looper – it was quite an intimidating machine.  When I did venture enough courage to give it a go, the sound was tremendous and it went at such a pace – I found it ran away with me.

No wonder it was cheap, as soon as I began to rely on the nicely finished edge, the overlocker would break requiring patient re-threading – only to have it break again. In sheer frustration I decided to buy a second hand baby lock evolve which had ‘blown air’ threading and have never looked back since. Threading requires no more than putting it down a little hole and watching it whizz out the right side when the button is pressed. It is the threading that makes the cost of an overlocker more expensive, but it depends on how often you change the spools.

An overlocking machine gives such a professional finish to all home sewn projects, the beautifully neat edges make the home made outfit difficult to distinguish from shop bought – except of course beautifully fitted!

I had not really got much more beyond that with my overlocker until I saw this manual from Julia Hincks. It shows just how versatile these machines are, you can make tee shirts using the overlocker alone, as it handles stretch fabrics with ease.

This book opens up all the possibilities of the overlocker, making it more than just a companion to the sewing machine. The book explains how to make the most of the machine not just techniques but also additional feet and other tools. I did not realise that you can get beading feet for overlockers as well as bias binding feet. It also explains how to get the lettuce edge finish that looks fabulous on sheers and lightweight fabrics. 
Another useful section in this book is the fault finding and adjustment section – she highlights some of the common problems with thread tension and more importantly how to correct it, to create a balanced stitch. 
This is definitely one for the sewing room bookshelf, an excellent guide book and one that unlocks the many potential uses of these wonderful machines. 

A little bit of spring in the kitchen!

The weather here is stormy, rain taps on the windows while the wind seems to blast round the building, causing alarming creaks and groans; there have been a couple of days this week when the sun has shone and the absence of the wind and rain gives a stillness to the day. 
February seems a bleak month, clumps of snowdrops are a welcome sight on our early morning walks; it thrills me to see the sun rising, the pink fingers streaking across the sky as it lightens from indigo to cobalt and the days are getting longer. 
Going through my stash of fabric scraps the other day I came across this beautiful Clarke and Clarke print, – the vibrant spring colours are just what I needed to remind me that spring is just round the corner. 
It is a simple project to do, use an existing tea towel for the right dimentions and then simply overlock and then bind the edges. I used some ribbon along the bottom third, and stitched a little bow with  a button centre. They are quick and very satisfying to do and since the fabric is a heavy cotton, they are great for drying up. They make a great housewarming present for a friend and are made in no time at all. 

When the red red robin goes bob bob bobbin along!

It was while out on one of my dog walks recently that I noticed just how charming ivy is: the leaf shapes are so elegant, the deep rich green with its darker veins are so pretty creating a lovely patch of  green while all around me the trees are becoming bare. I love the way it flows and softens the lines of the fence where I was walking – the way the leaves grow smaller along the vine. I also spotted some gorgeous variegated ivy in my own garden! 
Nature always has beauty, no matter what the season – frosted ivy was a wonder to behold. It has been there all year, but my focus has always gone to the scented lavender or the bright geraniums, but at this time of the year I begin to see the structure and beauty of those plants who remain the supporting cast in the garden. 

I was inspired by my walk to create a winter wreath, and decided to give ivy the star treatment! 
I really enjoy using needle felting as it allows me to create more realistic natural patterns, I combined them with the multitudes of tapestry wool -I purchase in vintage shops – often a whole abandoned kit can be bought for as little as a few pounds – I keep it in a small suitcase that resembles a box full of colour! 
Christmas Roses or hellebores, are so lovely too – but overshadowed most of the time by the more colourful varieties. However, they flower when winter has its grip and june roses are a distant memory or promises of summer to come while the branches of the roses look stark like winter skeletons of summer plants. 

The robin adds a splash of colour to the wreath, alongside some small red berries. He is created with a combination of felt, wool and merino floss.

It is easy to use the wool to create the wings on the robin, laying them across the body, using the felting needle to fix it. The beaded eye gives a brightness to the robin and gives him a little sparkle.

The felting gives a fluffiness that gives the robin his plumage, and softens his shape a little.

As you can see some of the ivy leaves are simply cut – with the variegation created with simple use of a felt tip pen!

I also laid several different colours of wool to make up the vines of the ivy, fixing all the elements with a hot glue gun. The leaves lay across the wreath, using a pen to push the centre of the ivy leaf to give it a natural shape.

If you want to have a go yourself you can purchase the wreath here, they are from Gisella Graham who I really love. Heidi feathers does a great beginner felting pack here which includes everything you need to start creating your own wreath. If you would like pattens for the ivy leaves and robin just drop me a line or you can sign up for the course I am running at Clothkits on Saturday 30th November.  

Lovely lazy Saturday

Saturday mornings are a pleasure all of their own, it is waking up with that feeling you don’t have to rush anywhere. Weekend breakfasts are lengthy, tea in a tea pot, tea cups and the Guardian Quiz. (Only three correct this week!) I love scotch pancakes (or dropped scones if you prefer), these are extra good for you because they are from my low GI cookbook, I also make them with a little fruit sugar rather than normal sugar. They are filling and mean I can often last out to lunch. 
You simply put two heaped tablespoons of SR flour, Wholemeal Flour and one table spoon of porridge oats and Fruit sugar into a bowl. Add half a teaspoon of baking powder and mix well. Then add two large eggs to the centre, gradually bringing in the dry ingredients, add milk gradually until you have a thick batter. 
Heat a griddle or frying pan, and brush with  a mixture of oil and butter. (Butter creates a lovely buttery flavour to the pancakes, but you have to turn the heat down a little otherwise it smokes). Put a tablespoons of the mixture on the griddle – keeping them slightly apart. Watch the mixture turn from glossy to dull, then turn over to cook the other side. Leave on a kitchen towel to soak any excess oil, delicious to eat while warm. 

I have almost finished curtain wrestling, – I can’t call it sewing there was simply too much material! Double width, 90″ drop and lined with black out lining! I had to sew on the dining room table in order to have support for all the fabric! I shall let them hang for a while and then finish the bottoms. As you can see my beloved Bernina is back in action! 

One tip I learned from Maria from Clothkits is that she keeps a little pin cushion on her machine, it is an ideal place! This little lovely was bought at a craft fair quite a few years ago, it sits perfectly on that spot! It might be my imagination but I did not have quite so many pins on the floor afterwards! 

Cake is also the perfect pick me up – the rain might have been pounding on the windows, but you can’t beat a nice home made Victoria Sponge, cuddled up on the sofa, yet another pot of tea close at hand, watching a good film. 
I used cocktail sticks to create a little design on the top. 

It looks like a firework! I used the plum jam I made a few weeks ago, it was nice and tart and a great contrast to the sweet icing. 
The weather outside might be frightful, but home is so delightful! 
Happy Autumn

Vintage simplicity 5244- Cushion pattern

What a find! this lovely pattern was in a small box in a charity shop in Chichester priced at 4 shillings it pre-dates decimalisation but I think it must be more like a fifties pattern. It was thrilling when I visited the gorgeous thru the looking glass and discovered a modern day version for sale! 
I love the look of the bolster cushion it is just a case of finding time!  As I write the three metre by 90 cm drop lined curtains that are hanging across the door of my studio are looking at me reproachfully waiting to be finished! 
Still no more news on my poorly sewing machine, it needs a new board to run the computer element – but I have my daughter’s machine. It is the second time the motherboard has been replaced, it seems the more complicated things are the more they seem to need repairing. The board will hopefully arrive next week and I will be re-united with my dear friend. In the meantime I am learning how to knit cables – will show you when I am done!
ttfn 

Oh no!

This evening my sewing machine just switched off – no power!  I changed the fuse on the plug but it made no difference! I am so concerned it is like losing a very good friend. I shall phone the service department tomorrow hopefully my machine can be fixed.

Update, still waiting for the workshop to get back to me. ;-( but I have borrowed my daughters Janome, which is simply excellent! I am in the middle of curtain making – it feels as if I am battling with armies of fabric! Will post when I am done. 

Style with a smile?

I was reading Afua Hirsch’s article in the newspaper this weekend and I was completely in agreement with her, in this country we all try and alter our body shapes to fit clothes that often don’t flatter or simply distort our shapes and accentuate our least loved features. What madness is this?

Where did we get to this position where women really struggle to accept their bodies and love who they are? I have to admit I often visit clothing stores when the season’s change, just to keep up with what is on trend and often I leave without spending a penny. I look around and see women wearing ‘this season’s colour’ or ‘this seasons’ look’ without giving it any regard to whether it enhances her or not.

I am not bashing women and what they wear, I feel saddened that we all have pressure to fit in, I remember my svelte daughter wearing low slung jeans and a teeshirt that exposed a middle that did absolutely nothing to enhance her beautiful shape, it just made her look like her body was spilling over.

Thankfully the current trend for retro styling has allowed women to express their own sense of style – even if it is the vintage forties with victory rolls, rockabilly chic or fifties flair. There never is a better time to sew because not only can you chose your clothes and fabric that reflects who you are, but you can make clothes that don’t make you feel like you are ‘too big on the hips’ or ‘too busty!’ which is often why I have to return lovely summer dresses, they simply make me look trashy!

The great thing about making your own clothes is that you can choose everything right down to the cut or the weight of the fabric. It takes me back to the dressing up box and the most favourite item of all, a circular elasticated waistband skirt – the waistband moved with me, and it was simply glorious to spin and feel the fabric flow around my legs. That is how clothes should make us feel.

I am just back from Austria and came across shops full of dirndl dresses when I put one on it was like a childhood dream come true! I finally had a dress that I spent my childhood drawing after reading Heidi!  Not only that the blouses can solve my summer dress difficulties, they look gorgeous and feminine without exposing more than I am comfortable with.

My daughter got married and had a ‘steam punk’ wedding it was terrific fun, everyone dressed up in what they wanted to wear and I have never seen so many broadly smiling faces! We all went to the park after the ceremony for the pictures and many people thought we had come from a film set. Dressing up is fun!

If there is one thing I am passionate about it is the desire for every woman to dress to please herself and we can all take part. Next time someone is dressing ‘outside the norm’ encourage her confidence! it might just be me.