Friday, 30 September 2011

Sew 50s, Crochet 50s

Had a happy day's hunting in the September sunshine yesterday and found this quaint little 50s sewing booklet in one of my usual haunts!  Sadly it doesn't contain any patterns, but has some nice illustrations and I reckon I can put together a pattern for the workbox/basket on the cover - I love the folksy decorations they have used.

Bit of a 50s theme going on right now - I received my latest Etsy purchase, a vintage 1951 crochet booklet.  Now, my hooks have remained in my workbag lately, but these brilliant evening gloves are calling me ...

Just had to share one of my other finds yesterday, a brilliant little vintage embroidered velvet jacket, I reckon Turkish embroidery made into a bolero c. 1930.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Karma Kittens have lost their mittens ... and hats, and bags, and ....

Oh yes, my Karma Kittens are going to have a whole WARDROBE of clothes as befits two little glampusses whose favourite shop is Kittybiba, who love reading Kittyjackie and who listen to Kittybolan on their radios ...

Sorry for my kitten 70s inspired nostalgia trip there!  I am visiting two special little girls in a few weeks' time and have decided that the little kittens will accompany me.  Test puppet #1 in the middle was stitched out of scraps from my felt box.  I have decided the body of this kitten - although perfect for hands aged 3 to 7 - was a bit too small, so have upped the body size.  As is usual for my craft projects, influences come from most decades since about the 30s.  The head shape is 60s, the heart shaped nose 80s, the body shape 70s and the little flower which will be perched jauntily on each ear 30s!  The puppets can be sewn by machine or hand, and have embroidered whiskers and mouths and irises on their eyes.  The head is lightly padded and stitched over the shaped neck section which will allow the heads to nod, shake, etc.  Haven't started on the clothes yet - mittens, of course; handbags; I thought ponchos would be cute and maybe a little kaftan to tie in with the 70s theme; will definitely have something made from a hankie, possibly a dress or nightie, so that all those cute vintage hankies can be put to good use.

I am going to ask Evie & Lilly to think of names beginning with "K" for the Karma Kittens.  Must reassure their Mummy that I won't be bringing any live animals with me, only two little kittens who can be safely put back in the toy box after play.  Miaow!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

DIY Taxidermy - a flapper essential perhaps??

One of my favourite books for browsing when I have a few hours to spare is my Concise Household Encyclopedia from around 1930 (as with so many books of this era, it is undated).  I simply adore the wide range of articles.  I love the illustrations and house plans which make me think of the beautiful country houses on the further reaches of Metroland in the Chilterns countryside.

Amongst the household essentials - cooking, mechanics, managing servants, sewing, etc - and a few interesting craft articles - making artificial flowers, bag making, barbola work, leatherwork, metalwork - is an article that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Makes one wonder whether any small furry within several miles of this book was safe!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

My life in stitches

In honour of being awarded a "Versatile Blogger" award by my blogging friend (hope you don't mind my calling you that) and talented craftswoman Urban Rustic , I thought for my seven facts about me I would list seven of my most prominent crafty sewing life stages.
1. Age 5, sewing a pair of white cotton, lace trimmed pants for my "Michelle" baby doll.  Michelle came with a pair of red legging type tights and a white angel top.  My best friend Caroline had her own Michelle and we stitched away together.  I admired Caroline greatly.  A precociously artistic age 5, she could already draw a straight line without a ruler!

2. From the ages of 5 to 10, I really was the quintessential Blue Peter child, and I cut, glued, stitched and stuck my way through the second half of the 60s.  I loved the Jean Greenhowe toy designs in Woman's Weekly magazine and made the peddlar doll out of a clothes peg (still making peg dolls today - see my peg fairy above!), various rag dolls and one memorable Christmas, several families of hamsters which quickly took over the house.
3. Aged 11, we were let loose on electric sewing machines in our "Dress" class with the fearsome Home Economics teacher who referred to us as "my gels".  I made a cord pinafore, a skirt, a blouse and by the age of 16 was making a lot of my own clothes.  Sadly, in those pre-mobile phone & digital camera days, I really don't have any photos of me wearing them. 
4. By the age of 20, when not decked out in Laura Ashley or Marion Donaldson, I was wearing my own design gypsy type skirts along with vintage fair isle cardis, checked shirts & granny coats & jackets I had bought at jumble sales.  I was studying in France & one fellow student, trying to insult me, told me that I was dressed in the way that French women dressed 40 years ago.  I was delighted!
 5. Fast forward to 1985, I sewed Clothkits suits & jackets to wear to work in the City.  I had made numerous curtains and some enormous ruched Austrian blinds for windows in my first flat in North London.  1988 saw me stitching two little bridesmaids' dresses in pink satin & embroidered organza using patterns from the Ann Ladbury bride's sewing book.  Sadly the dresses probably lasted longer than the marriage.
6. In the 90s I was tremendously in awe of my adorable French neighbour, Yann, who made ballgowns, wedding dresses, costumes - I was even allowed to help with stitching on a few sequins when the going got tough.  He even stitched amazing velvet chokers decorated with tiny diamonds for an antiques dealer friend of his.  My own stitching pulse was a bit weak during those years.
7. Finally, late noughties, I started stitching again.  Happy in the deep English countryside with my darling Mark and my dear little dog.  Tentatively at first, with items such as my deco daisy corsages.  Gradually some more projects, like my jewellery .  Then I found Sew Retro and my stitching story began over.  Thank you fellow stitchers for inspiring me anew. x
Hope I haven't bored you with my stitching story!  I will award my five blogging awards in a separate blog as I need to consider my main influences (has been a mega busy week as I was at the Autumn Fair in Birmingham - wow!)

Friday, 9 September 2011

Sew 40s - The Retro Sewer with the Pearl Earring?

Move over Scarlett Johansson, I say, there's more than one of us can look enigmatic with a scarf thingy wrapped around our head and a pair of pearl earrings.  OK, OK, I know, I don't really have quite the same photogenic qualities as the divine SJ, but I sew wanted to show you my little vintage 40s snood-esque hat creation.

Yup, the 40s Hollywood Pattern (#1505) had barely arrived from the US before I was selecting a vintage scarf to use to make the hat (that's what they call it)/snood confection.  I had forgotten how slippery silk can be to sew, and given that I am a needleworker of the pin-and-pray persuasion, there were a few scarey moments.  Basically, the construction is a bit like a half apron with most of the curved bit gathered up into 6" of elastic and the tie ends wrapped round your head and tucked into themselves.

Once I had - literally - tied my head in knots, I realised my short bobbed hair is not sufficiently luscious to fill up the snood bit at the back - I contemplated putting some rolled up socks in there to pad it out a bit (no cheeky comments please!)

What did I learn?  Even if the pattern says Sew Simple, it can be a bit of a faff constructing even a relatively basic garment when following instructions which make the word "brevity" seem like OTT gobbledygook.  Although there is only one main pattern piece with tie ends attached (which are wrapped round your head), I think it would be better to have a long front edge and ties combined then stitched onto the snood section.  Maybe the snood section doesn't need to be so long, definitely could be shorter.  I am going to attempt to draft a pattern which could be easily made from a square headscarf (I used a shawl type scarf for this) as I think there are lots of 40s fans who would like a snood but cannot knit or crochet.  Will be giving my redrafted pattern a try in lace/net/chiffon type textiles, probably decorating them with embroidery and/or flowers.  The pattern has a cute blouse, dickie & jerkin which I will attempt in the future.

Thanks for reading! Happy retro sewing everyone. Karen (aka brocobelle )


Saturday, 3 September 2011

VPBA (Vintage Pattern Buyers Anonymous)

My name is Karen and I am a Vintage Pattern Buyer

Ebay, Etsy, Amazon, I'm not fussy ... browsing page upon page of listings until I have morphed into a 51 year old doppelganger for a teenage boy hooked on World of Warcraft; jumble sale or thrift shop, I'll be there bent double over an old shoe box full of vintage patterns

Hubbie says it's like the tulip bulb mania of the 17th century, that thousands, nay millions, of crazed VPBs get high on buying and collecting vintage patterns

Recently, I have gone cold turkey and haven't bought a pattern for, well, at least FIFTEEN WHOLE DAYS (maybe it was only because I was outbid on ebay and not a case of iron-willed self control)

But today, whilst browsing Etsy I slipped off the wagon and bought the most fantastic 40s pattern ever!  (It's not the one pictured above - that is one from my current guilty hoard).  The minute I receive it from the States I will be making the item and posting it up on Sew Retro.  Heck, I might even compound my shame by having a photo taken of me modelling the garment.  That's got you wondering.  Anyway, until our next VPBA meeting....

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