Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Isn't she lovely? Vintage clothespeg fairy

My clothespeg fairy, dressed in scraps of silk from a torn 30s evening dress and antique lace, didn't make it to the top of my cherry tree this year (sorry for the break with tradition, but we no longer have a "normal" Christmas tree).  She alighted on one of my favourite antiques, a china letter rack discovered at a brocante in the deep French countryside.  Had a quiet, cosy day yesterday with hubbie and little Chum.  Hope you all had a happy Christmas day.
Chum seems to like his new cushion I made for him - had a mad dash of sewing on Saturday and completed four cushions for us as well as Chum's new cushion.  I bought a pillowcase, cut and wadded a piece of my furnishing textile to fit on one side then attached it to the pillowcase.  The idea is that I now have an easily removable cover so I can separate it from the pillow within for washing (I always find pet cushions a bother to launder and so many of them have covers which cannot be removed).  And it just so happened that a standard pillow was just the right size for a seat on the pine monk's bench which is my little dog's seat in the living room when he is not curled up in front of the log fire .... my little dog, a heartbeat at my hearth ...


Monday, 24 December 2012

Have a Cool Yule

Have a lovely festive season, hope you razzle dazzle with the best of them. x

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Sew 40s Ruffle Scarf reworked from Vintage Satin Paisley Scarf

What to do with a vintage St Michael satin foulard in a divine paisley in rich tones of turquoise, taupe and lapis which sadly has several areas of perfume staining to the centre?  Plus, could I turn it into a longer style scarf as I must admit I don't tend to wear square scarves these days?  I loved the colours and textile of this scarf, and fancied trying to make a ruffled scarf, so yesterday evening out came the scissors, the rule and some narrow elastic.  I wanted to make a 40s inspired ruffled scarf (a bit in the manner of the ruffled dickies of the time) to wear with my latest purchase of a fab vintage style faux fur jacket.

I cut two strips off two sides of the scarf, each along the hem and each 23cm wide.  I then joined them in the middle.  Next I hemmed the long cut side of my scarf (now approx. 134cm long).  Back in the 70s, I made many a ruched bodice sundress by hand winding thread elastic onto my sewing machine bobbin.  But this time I couldn't find the thread elastic, so I took a narrow elastic, pinned it at the centre of the short edge, set the machine to a zigzag stitch and stitched away as I pulled the elastic out.  This was a classic example of my "sew it and see" approach, and I know that at times the central elastic gather is a bit off centre (next time I will mark a straight line down the centre) but it actually turned out OK.  Lastly, I stitched the two short straight edges together to join them at each end of the scarf as I thought it looked better rounded off in this way rather than just straight seams.  Really pleased with result and will be wearing later today.
I am going to make a flower corsage from the remainder so will be posting that soon.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Ruth Wyeth Spears - Heroine Worship

Of all the authors of my vintage needlecraft books, I guess the one I would most like to meet has to be Ruth Wyeth Spears.  Her can-do approach, clear & jaunty illustrations and opinionated style of writing (she seems to have been in little doubt that she was right!), leave me breathless.  She is so comprehensive in her instructions - want to stitch fur? repurpose worn clothing? make 10 different types of pockets?, then look at her Better Dressmaking book. I wish I could have just a little piece of her self confidence.  From my internet searches, I gather she was one helluva business woman too, and her articles were sold to newspapers in many corners of the world, not just the USA.  I am not sure if she wrote for Workbasket magazine, but I have just bought a grand total of 33 copies of said publication on ebay, so sitting here waiting for them to arrive so I can spend some happy evenings reading through them and looking for vintage inspired craft projects to try.


Monday, 19 November 2012

Sewing for Stitchmas!

Busy stitching away as I have a table at a craft fair to raise funds for West Norfolk Young Carers.  My usual mix of reworked vintage textiles, always difficult to judge how many items to make!  Don't want to return home with loads of unsold stock, but then again there might be a rush on corsages/tea cosies/stockings/lavender hearts, who knows??


Monday, 12 November 2012

Treasured textiles - The Foundling Museum

Part of my love (nay, obsession) for repurposing vintage textiles came into being when I sat stitching little lavender pillows out of embroidered tray cloths which had been worked by my dearly loved Nan and Auntie.  I could not bear to hide these textiles inside a rarely opened drawer, unloved and never used.  I wanted them to become part of my everyday, treasured threads that link me to my past.
I met with some new "colleagues" today, and we got to talking about the albums of textiles from the Foundling Hospitals.  I was pleased to find this amazing link to the Threads of Feeling exhibition which was staged by the Foundling Museum.  Read it and weep, folks, read it and weep.x

Friday, 9 November 2012

Corsages of course

Last November my Nan (92 & still keeping well!), gave me a huge old biscuit tin of buttons which she had saved for me.  I am sure quite a lot of the buttons even pre-date my arrival in the world!  I have been stitching corsages both to list on ebay/etsy and also to take along to a craft fair at the end of this month and of course, these buttons make great corsage centres.  I have designed the corsages using petal shapes from some of my vintage 30s and 40s needlecraft books - a mixture of vintage textiles and modern felts which I like.  Lots of other sewing at the moment - gadget cosies, tea cosies, little love hearts, tiny boot & bird decorations - so apologies for lack of posts.  Some photos of my makes follow.  Hope everyone is well. K. x



Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Stitching the stash ....

Over the last year or so, the stash has gotten seriously out of control.  It has moved from the capital site of the huge Victorian housemaid's cupboard which is its rightful home and started to colonise the small bedroom and set up camp in large plastic storage boxes and on hangers on the two clothes rails.  If I don't get some of it stitched up soon, risk losing husband and small dog amidst the textiles.  Above is a very simple but nicely shaped sewing or knitting work bag cut from a tablecloth and lined with a hot pink 70s floral dress cotton.  I drafted the pattern from the drawing of a workbag in a small advert in a vintage 1930s sewing magazine. 
The bag sits comfortably on the arm and is a nice size.
Even though they are smaller, my attempt at making small gadget cases out of pieces cut from vintage 60s mod scarves is proving more of a challenge.  I am currently experimenting with some different construction techniques and different waddings (either garment foam or pressed wadding) and I guess because of the wide variety of different textiles I have cut from the scarves - silks, wools, mixes of same - as well as the different weights of linings (I am using up a big batch of salesman's samples of Japanese textiles from the 70s), although the dimensions are the same for each case, they are turning out slightly differently sized (which I am finding SOOO frustrating!)
Anyway, a photo of the cases in production:
Some more ribbons delivered this morning so about to stitch some relaxing, straightforward lavender hearts using vintage fabrics from the stash.  I love making small hearts as I can use even the smallest scrap and turn it into something treasured.  I have booked a table at a craft fair at the end of November in the hope this will provide an incentive for my ongoing stash stitch up.  Happy stitching everyone. x


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sew 50s - South Pacific halter from rescued Hawaiian shirt

Never able to resist buying an "interesting" piece of textile - no matter that in this case it was in the form of a Hawaiian shirt with more than a few rips and tatters - this palm tree beach print had always suggested a South Pacific inspired outfit.  Sadly there simply wasn't enough for the bathing suit which I wanted to make - it would have needed a contrasting textile to enable me to cut out the crotch and I felt that was an avant-garde effect I wasn't really after!  I had bought this lovely vintage 50s halter top pattern - Butterick 6136 - a while back and realised it would be just right for this project.
The pattern needed some long bias strips to face the edges - and again, there wasn't enough textile to complete this.  My solution was to make the halter completely reversible and use an old denim shirt I had kept since the 90s for the reverse. 
The halter fastens with buttons on the back and to solve the problem of button fastenings on both sides, I used a tip from one of my vintage 1940s needlecraft books.  This 40s tome suggested working a set of buttonholes down both edges of a garment and then stitching the buttons onto a length of ribbon so that the buttons would fasten through both sets of buttonholes and could simply be moved to the other side.  The original suggestion was to enable buttons to be removed easily before laundry back in those days when everything was so scarce.  Although I didn't progress any further in the sewing competition I had entered, I was at least pleased that the expert judge told me she had never seen this method of button fastening before & she had learned something new.  She was also impressed by the matching sandals I made which I will feature in another post. 
The halter is a bit on the small size for me (a vintage size 16 and 34" bust!!) but the pattern seems quite generous and also gives good coverage of the bust, plus the waist section is really cute, so I am going to try to size the pattern up so I can make it to wear.
Below you can see photos showing a close up of the palm beach textile, illustrations of the button solution, the reverse denim halter and also the original "donor" garment.  Hope you are all enjoying the bank holiday weekend, sunshine or not!



Sunday, 12 August 2012

Easy like Sunday morning (in the garden)

Rushed outside today, dew still on the grass, pink hydrangeas rustling their petal petticoats beneath the rambling leaves of the passionflower.

Our surprising white flowered runner beans (we had only ever seen red flowered ones!) fighting for territory in one of the vegetable beds - oregano putting up a fierce challenge with sage backing up the rearguard.
Rather crazy corner of the garden which is going to have a major plant move round in the autumn (there was nothing here when we moved in almost 3 years ago) ...

... in the hope that it develops into something more along the lines of my most successful planting above.
And finally the helicopter sized replacement rotary dryer (you may have read the tale of the previous dryer's tragic collapse & demise in an earlier post), and yes, the peg bag is made from vintage French textiles.  Hope you're all enjoying this lovely summer weather. K. x

Monday, 23 July 2012

Sew 1938 - Je m'habille avec rien

Anyone set for the beach this week might fancy dressing in a couple of large knotted "peasant hankies" (or bandanas to you and me) in the manner of this 1938 Marie Claire magazine fashion article.
Currently have one of my scarf sewing projects in production - I am trying to make some 40s camiknickers from instructions in a little booklet, something has gone wrong because the garment at present would fit someone with a 30" bust and 60" hips.  But the bias cutting is lovely, so few measurement adjustments obviously needed & will report back soon!

Friday, 20 July 2012

(Nearly) the oldest profession ...

The first second hand clothing I can remember buying was at jumble sales back in the 60s.  My Nan was a member of various local women's groups (WI, Wife & Home, etc) and I would join her at village rummage sales to look for dressing up clothes and (sadly) garments I could cut up for craft projects and to make clothes for my dolls.  I still have fragments of a 1920s lace patchwork top which was ruined to make clothing for dolls and to use making peg dolls.  Oh well.  In my teens - those heady hippy days of the 70s - I would wear vintage clothing along with my tiered gypsy skirts.  I particularly rememember stitching a dress with ever increasing circles of ruffles out of a huge quanity of Laura Ashley fabric - I would imagine the bottom tier could have circumnavigated the Royal Albert Hall with little problem.

However it wasn't until c2003 that I first turned to vintage clothing as a means of earning some money.  It all started by accident.  We were moving house and leaving London, and I simply had to get rid of some textiles before packing began so I turned to ebay.  The resulting sales were a pleasant surprise and I soon decided to try to deal in second hand & vintage clothing & textiles.  It hasn't always been easy; there have been spells of office temping & summer school & evening class teaching to help me through; but this time round, here in deepest greenest rural Lincolnshire, I have been trading full time for nearly two years.

I always find the social & historical aspects of fashion fascinating.  Yesterday I was reading one of my favourite more scholarly books about vintage fashion - Old Clothes, New Looks - and I realised I am part of a long tradition of women who earned their living trading in clothing and textiles.  From the rigattiere of 15th century Florence; through the brogers or pledge women from the country towns of 16th and 17th century England who bought and sold clothing and textiles from house to house in Chester, Oxford, Leicester, Shrewsbury, etc; and not forgetting the fripieres from France, we have all appreciated clothing and textiles not only for their intrinsic beauty or interest but for the economic advantage they have afforded us.

Before the widespread manufacturing of textile products in the industrial revolution, textile goods were scarce and produced by skilled needlewomen - heaven help the man without a wife to stitch and manage his household linens! - and as such were valued and used to their utmost capacity.

Here in the West, for the wealthy, choosing vintage textiles and clothing is not a necessity.  There has always been a tradition of wealthy and educated Europeans wearing exotic and vintage clothing as a sign of sophistication and eclectisism.  Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris of the 30s created an explosion in the vogue for exotic Eastern costumes. 

The hippy trends of the late 60s and 70s saw individuals sourcing clothing from outside of the mainstream fashion industry.  Which neatly takes me full circle to my own teens in those fairisle cardis and checked Viyella blouses I bought from jumble sales.  Then of course in the 80s, Adam Ant wore costumes inspired by vintage military wear. Don't even get me started on the rest of the New Romantics ...  Plus ca change....


Monday, 9 July 2012

Apres-midi with Cecile and Rosy Cava

Home after a sodden, soggy Swinderby where I didn't even dare take 95% of my stock out of the car for fear of ruining the textiles and jewellery.  After a homecoming journey which took double the time of the outgoing one due to roadworks, unloading some soaking wet stand tablecloths which were put out more in defiance than hope, chucking both them and my wet-to-the-knees trousers in the wash, refuge taken reading my most recently delivered vintage 30s book (edited once more by the elegantly named Cecile David), and breaking into the emergency rosy cava .... cheers!
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