Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's only rock and roll

We had a few more big earthquakes yesterday. Not really what we needed two days before Christmas. Luckily, no one was seriously injured. Since there's not much you can do in these situations except keep calm and carry on, we spent Christmas eve eve eating blue cheese stuffed olives and pepperdews and watching telly (which was still sitting on the floor where it had fallen during the quake).

I'm not heavily into the whole Christmas thing (we don't even have a tree) and I hate Christmas songs but Tim Minchin's White Wine in the Sun pretty much sums up all my feelings about it. I hope everyone has an enjoyable holiday however you celebrate, and manages to drink some white wine (or other beverage) in the sun (or snow if you live in the Northern hemisphere).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Australian Home Journal 1955

Sorry about my absence. It's been busy. I got a job as a research assistant for the summer. Fun, fun, fun! No, seriously. I love doing research.

Anyway, I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey. All the way back to 1955. This is the cover of an Australian Home Journal from April 1st 1955. I have a few of these which all used to belong to someone named Watson (she wrote her name on the top right). Sorry the pictures are taken with my camera. My scanner died. Hopefully you can click on the pictures to make them bigger. ETA: If you right click and go to 'open in a new tab' you can make them bigger and see the text. Apparently, blogger now has a weird thing where you can't make the pictures bigger by just clicking on them.

Inside they have pictures of the patterns that you could order by mail. I want all of them.

Alongside the patterns are little paragraphs about the lastest trends. Example:
"The New Line? The question in every woman's mind just now is, 'What is going to happen about Dior's 'H' line and his even newer 'A' line, and how much will they affect styles out there?' As yet no one knows the answer. The matter is controversial."

Controversial? If you say so.

How amazing is that dress on the left with the buttons and the pleating?

Aside from all the pretty dresses there are also some ads that make my feminist self nauseous. There are a disturbing number of these for laxatives/diet pills. This is only a small sampling.

'Tonic reducing globules' sounds way scary.

Least you think these were only aimed at adults, here is one for the kiddies. The ad actually says, "They're not habit-forming". Oh, that's so reassuring to know little Joan won't become addicted to laxatives.

On a less scary note, this ad on the back cover tickles me because you can still buy Arnott's milk arrowroot biscuits here. They are yummy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sail away with me honey*

I'm pretty sure I've expressed my love of novelty prints about a million times before on here. One of the best places to get vintage style novelty prints is in the children's section. Ages ago, I found some awesome sailboat printed fabric in the kids fabric section on Trademe for $7. I was going to use it to make a skirt but then I saw this sailboat print shirt by Milly (it costs US$230 which is like NZ$300!!!).

Image from here

I wanted a more 50s style than the Milly shirt so pulled out Butterick 9405. I've already made this pattern twice so it went together pretty quickly. I made view D.

What on earth is that woman at the front doing?

I did darts at the front instead of tucks but that's the only change I made. I did french seams where I could because I am obsessed with them.

Vintage Butterick  9405

I actually finished this a little while ago but the print made it a total nightmare to get an okay picture of it. I tried three times to take photos but the bright white background of the fabric made all the pictures blurry.

Close up of Butterick 9405

I used some vintage buttons that I love but haven't been able to use until now because there are only three of them. It closes with a snap at the top because there's not enough room for a button.

So my fabric + notions cost less than $10 vs the $300 Milly version. I think I win.

*Incidentally, I don't like sailing or going on boats because I get seasick. My face turns green and I think I'm going to die.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Well, you must tell me, baby, how your head feels under somethin' like that?*

I love leopard print. I'm sure it started when I was about seven and my Mum made me a little black jacket with a faux fur leopard print collar. I wore that thing until it fell apart. I have been seeking the perfect leopard print jacket ever since. I do have a faux fur leopard coat, that was given to me by a friend, which I love. The only problem is that I can only wear it in the depths of winter because it's so warm. I wanted something that could be worn in spring, summer and autumn so I could have leopard print for all seasons.

I bought McCall's 5525 on sale. If I hadn't seen a few versions of it on the internet I never would have got it because I think the fabric/styling on the pattern envelope is hideous. This is why I don't like modern patterns. I can't look past the ugly pattern envelopes. Vintage ones are so much prettier. I also found the perfect leopard print cotton sateen at Fabric Vision (which is now gone). I think the fabric cost me $45 for 3 metres. I almost didn't get it because I am so miserly and that seemed like way too much money. Then the pattern and the fabric sat in my stash for about a year. I'm not really sure why I didn't have the motivation to sew it up but I'm glad that I waited. My sewing skills have improved exponentially in that time.

McCalls 5525 leopard print jacket and matching hat

I started this the other week and even though it has a lot (over 100 I think) of steps it went together pretty fast. I followed almost all of the instructions and only changed a couple of things. I raised the pockets because, I don't know about you, but I don't find inseam pockets starting at my thighs to be very comfortable. I also made them bigger because they were teensy. It's like they don't actually want you to use the pockets or something.
I also used the sleeves from view D because I like wearing bangles and full length sleeves are not very conducive to this.

McCalls 5525 jacket and matching hat

I made the tie belt (I'm wearing it in the above photo) but I probably won't use it because I quite like the A-line shape you get without it (top photo). I used a red lining fabric and I like the way you can catch a peek of it when I lift my arms or put my hands in the pockets.

McCalls 5525 Jacket and matching pillbox hat
Argh! I'm losing my hat

I had some fabric left over so I thought a matching pillbox hat was in order. I made a pattern from one of my vintage hats and used a combination of the instructions here and guesswork.

I made a frame out of buckram which is a stiff fabric used for hatmaking. I then covered it with the leopard fabric and lined it with the same red as the jacket is lined with. I haven't quite finished. I need to attach some elastic so that it actually stays on my head.

I'm so happy with the way they turned out. I love them. I think they look really 60s. I've already worn the jacket twice and will be wearing the hat once I buy some elastic.

*Under my brand new leopard-skin pillbox hat? Pretty good, Bob Dylan, pretty good.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Or as it's more commonly known, bakelite. To me, bakelite, sounds like some sort of weird diet cake mix or something but it's actually one of the earliest plastics, developed in 1907 by Leo Baekeland. It used to be used for all sorts of things, from radios to fittings, but most importantly jewellery. I'm a little bit obsessed with bakelite bangles. The carved ones are especially swoonsome. No diamonds or gold for me, I'll have plastic, thanks.

Bakelite Bangles

Because they can be ridiculously expensive, I only have three bakelite bangles (the top ones). The carved orange one is my favourite. The colours have food related names like creamed spinach and pumpkin. They do look good enough to eat, after all.

Fun fact: if you rub bakelite it smells like a science lab because it's made with formaldehyde.

I had my last exam yesterday so now I have some serious sewing/reading/relaxing plans. My sewing plans may or may not involve a leopard print jacket.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lilac Wine

Dress from Dashfield Vintage

I bought this early 60s dress from Dashfield Vintage a while ago to make myself feel better about all my tests and essays. I don't own anything lilac because pastel colours don't suit me but I loved the gathered neckline.

Image from Dashfield Vintage

It's a little bit big, but nothing a belt won't fix. The print is of leaves, which is a slight departure from my usual flowers.

One more exam to go and then I'm free, for a little while anyway.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sewing Lingerie Part 3

Remember, ages ago, when I said I was going to try making my own underwear? I didn't forget, I just got distracted by other things. I bought the book, Kwik Sew's Beautiful Lingerie from Trademe a while ago. Some of the patterns in it are questionable and they are all sewn in some pretty dreadful late 80s/early 90s fabrics but I tried to look past that and found some of the patterns are actually quite good.

I had been thinking about drafting a pattern for a pair of high-waisted knickers (I refuse to use the word panties. It makes me shudder.) because almost everything I wear is high-waisted and modern knickers always sit way too low. All the high-waisted knickers you can buy here are granny type ones that are beige and usually made of something synthetic (double shudder).
This pattern from the Kwik Sew book was pretty much the exact shape I had in mind.

I made them from a stripey stretch cotton from the cheap table at the fabric shop. The edges are bound with fold over elastic which was $8 for a bag with 20 metres in it (bargain!). They were so quick and easy to put together. I used Zoe's tutorial for the construction. I've made three pairs and they have fast become my favourite underwear. They are really comfortable and they look cute on.

I wanted a matching bra so the sew-along at A Few Threads Loose was perfect timing. The pattern is the Pauline Bra from Anna's Etsy shop, Mrs Depew Vintage. It's a pdf copy of a bra pattern from the 1940s. I used the same stripey cotton and some black stretch cotton of a similar weight.

I used the unfolded fold over elastic for the straps because it looks similar to the wide ribbon used on my vintage bras. There's no underwire or anything but, let's face it, I don't actually need it.

I'm really happy with the way it turned out. They kind of look like a bikini but a cute one, so I don't mind.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sort of Spring

Sorry about my lack of posting. Uni is kicking my butt at the moment. I have two tests and an essay due this week. Anyway, it's sort of Spring here now. By 'sort of' I mean we get a couple of sunny days and then back to gloom again. This is typical of Christchurch. I'm not complaining mind you, I like gloomy weather. I quite like Spring too but I don't like what comes after. Summer means hayfever and constant sunscreen application for me.
In honour of the start of Spring I thought I would make a weather appropriate skirt. I actually finished this a couple of weeks ago but was too lazy busy to take pictures of it.

Spring Circle Skirt

It's the same self-drafted circle skirt pattern I've sewn a million times, because you can never have too many circle skirts. The fabric is from my stash. I bought 4 metres of it at Spotlight a few years ago. I was going to make a full skirted 50s dress but then I thought the combination of full skirt, pink, roses and spots (there are little cream spots on the fabric) would be too girly even for me. I am not much of a fan of pink in general so it must have been a moment of temporary insanity when I bought 4 metres. I do like it as a skirt though. With a skirt I can tone down the pink with a black top and docs.

I lined it with some white cotton because it makes the colours stand out a bit more. I also added some petersham ribbon to the waistband because it looks pretty and it probably strengthens it or something. All the seams are french seams. Even though you can't see them because it's lined, I don't care. I just love how neat they look.

If you squint you may be able to make out the spots on the fabric. The camera washes out the colours a bit. They are brighter in person.

I have a ton of Spring sewing projects in my mind and hopefully after this week I'll be able to start working on them.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Garage Sale

Last week, I went to a garage sale at Brumby's place. She had an assortment of fabric and vintage clothes (my version of catnip). I came away with two bags of stuff including a gorgeous 50s bag and two pairs of vintage shoes. Since I have trouble finding new shoes in size 5, I always snap up any vintage ones I find in my size. A salesperson at the shoe store once told me that if by some miracle they actually make a particular style of shoe in size 5 the store only ever buys one pair. Weirdly enough, I quite often find vintage shoes in size 5 or smaller. They seemed relatively common in the 50s/60s. I find this fascinating. Did people just have smaller feet then than they do now?

I also got some fabric. See the two different red vinyls? Perfect for making some more bow belts. The mint green gauze-y fabric is so pretty and there's enough to make a dress.

I got a dress and a wicker basket too but forgot to get a picture of them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I actually made something and I bought a dress

I've been wanting to make a bow belt ever since I saw the tutorial over at Casey's Elegant Musings. I loved the original patent leather belt that the design was based off. I looked for some vinyl at the fabric store but they only had thick furniture weight in matte colours. I also kept a lookout when opshopping for a leather skirt or something which I could cut up and use. I didn't have much luck until the other day when I found the skinny patent belt in the picture below. I had bought the large patent belt ages ago but I didn't wear it much because it was too bulky. The colours were a perfect match so I figured I could use the small belt as the base and cut up the big one to make the bow.

I cut a strip along one side so it had one of the rows of stitching from the original belt on it. I planned to do another row of stitching along the other side but after sewing some practice bits with a leather needle and a teflon foot I wasn't sure that my machine (an 80s Brother) would cope with it. My Elna is in getting a service at the moment otherwise I would have used that. I have read that people use Supermatics to sew leather shoes together. I am impatient and I didn't want to wait the 10 or so days it will be before I get my machine back so I just decided not to do the other row of topstitching. Once I folded it up into the bow it wasn't actually that noticeable that only the top edge was stitched.

Peg to hold it while the glue was drying

I used some random glue we had at home that said it could be used on leather. Since I didn't actually have do any sewing, it was simply a matter of gluing all the pieces together and letting them dry. I glued a button in the middle because I tried a tab but the thickness of the material made the bow look all squashed and funny.

The flash on my camera makes it look like there are marks on the bow but it's just the light.

Handmade Bow Belt

I expressed my love of toile a couple of posts ago so when I saw this dress at Small Earth Vintage I just had to buy it. The exchange rate is actually quite good at the moment (for once) so browsing Etsy is dangerous.

I really need to stop slouching

I forgot to take a close-up of the toile fabric but you can see it and the belt slighter better in this picture.

I'm really pleased with the way the belt turned out. I want to make a ton more in all different colours. Maybe red next time?

I'm still working on my purple wool dress at a snail's pace. I can't seem to work up the energy to sew it quickly because, with the warmer weather, I'm probably not going to be able to wear it until next Autumn anyway.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How many is too much?

I recently bought a small lot of 11 vintage patterns for $25. It was a bargain that I couldn't refuse but it got me thinking about whether it's possible to have too many patterns. I have about 45 vintage (1930s-60s) patterns and a few more modern ones. This seems like a lot to me. I wouldn't really say that I'm a collector. I buy patterns with the intention of making them. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I pull out my patterns and gaze adoringly at their pretty envelopes ( don't do that?) but I'm usually planning what kind of fabric I want to use to make them up. I wouldn't buy a vintage pattern that I didn't want to sew.

Another recent purchase

Probably three quarters of my patterns are for dresses. While I do wear dresses almost every day I'm not sure I need another thirty-something dresses in my wardrobe to add to the ones I already have. So, I'm going to make a rule. For every vintage pattern I want to buy I have to get rid of one from my collection. Hopefully, this will mean I can keep it to a manageable size.

How many patterns do you have? Do you think you can have too many?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Two Squirrels Vintage Opening

Today, my Mum and I went to the opening of Two Squirrels Vintage pop up shop in Rangiora (a wee town about half an hour from Christchurch). The owners of Two Squirrels had two lovely vintage shops in the CBD but sadly they were both destroyed in the February earthquake. They have now set up a gorgeous little shop at their home.

The shop is filled with some amazing treasures. The dress I'm holding above was lovely. The picture doesn't do it justice. It has pintucks on the bodice and buttons and loops down the front. I didn't buy it because it was beyond my poor student budget but I will probably have dreams about that dress.

I did, however, buy some lovely fabric and a pattern. Mum got some fabric too.
I love the collar on the pattern. You can't really tell but the polka dot version is scalloped.

We bumped into the always immaculate Helga von Trollop there but in my excitement at all the vintage I didn't get a picture of her.

If anyone in Christchurch wants to visit Two Squirrels pop up shop they are open Fri/Sat/Sun 10am to 5pm and they are situated at 63 Ashley St, Rangiora. They have lots of lovely stuff and the prices are very reasonable.

On the way there we stopped at a few other shops. I got the toile fabric above from Femme de Brocante. It's actually furnishing fabric (because that's what they sell) but I could not pass it up since it was on sale at $10/m. I love toile but hardly ever see it in fabric shops and when I do it's ridiculously expensive. I'm going to make a skirt out of it. I don't think it will be too bulky. I have a dress made of furnishing fabric and I like the way the skirt sits.

We went to a couple of op shops too. I picked up a black lace back button blouse. It doesn't look that great in the photo but it's really cute. The lace is sewn individually in strips onto a cotton bodice.

I also got this old army bomber jacket. Whoever owned it must have been quite small because it actually fits me.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Follow the yellow brick road

I was going to try and finish my dress yesterday but then the weather turned out glorious. I didn't much feel like sewing a wool dress while the sun was shining so, instead, I did something that had been on my to do list for a while. Glittery shoes! I have wanted to try covering a pair of shoes in glitter ever since I saw the tutorial on Rhia' s blog, Evil Dressmaker. I sat on the deck in the sun (gotta get that vitamin D) with some paint, glitter and glue. It was like being back at primary school. Playing with glitter was just as fun as I remember.

I was going to give these brogues to the op shop because I don't really wear brown shoes but I thought they would be perfect for covering with glitter. I had to paint them red first so the brown didn't show through.

I did four layers of the glue and glitter letting each layer dry before doing the next. They dried really quickly because it was so sunny.

I added some ribbon as laces.

The picture below is closer to the true colour. I love the way they turned out. I want a pair in every colour.