Monday, 31 October 2016

Halloween Fairy Costume ... my tribute to the Boué Soeurs of the 1920s

Halloween Fairy Costume by Karen Vallerius

Halloween Fairy Costume 

I had been saving a special silk dress in a delicate aqua and teal toned paisley for an upcycling project, so with Halloween approaching I set to sewing a Halloween fairy costume, my tribute to a beautiful vintage 1920s flapper evening dress made by the Boue Soeurs in the USA which I had seen on Pinterest .  And of course I was also inspired to witchery stitchery by the Halloween Special on Strictly Come Dancing!

Boho Fairy Dress by Karen Vallerius

Boho Faerie Dress

Ragged ribbon layer skirt for boho faerie dress by Karen Vallerius

The aim was to create an ethereal, faerie inspired boho dress.  The flapper style bias cut under dress layer then has four further layers of diaphanous ragged ribbon skirts stitched in place.  The foundation for the dress is a 30s style bias cut ivory acetate with gently distressed arm and necklines.  Layered like petals onto the skirt are first a vintage aqua acetate which has a nice rustly quality; then a soft grey tulle netting to add some volume; next a gentle teal organza which sparkles as it catches the light; and finally a gorgeous whisper-soft paisley printed silk.  Each skirt layer has been cut into ragged ribbons to give the dress flutter movement and romantic style.

Floral Applique & Butterfly Decoration

Fairy Wedding Dress by Karen Vallerius

The front of the bodice has been decorated with applique soft moss green velvet leaves as well as ragged ribbons, sequin spangles, a flower made from a fragment of antique lace with vintage pearlised stamens, vintage ivory millinery leaves and organza petals.  I also found two little sparkly green butterflies (supplies for Christmas fairy making!) and as they are on tiny clips, they can easily be attached to the handworked floral applique or used as hairclips.

Halloween Make Up

This dress would be perfect for Halloween with a carefully made up corpse bride face - check out this link to the BBC YouTube video for a brilliant Halloween make up tutorial by Lisa, one of the make up artists from Strictly Come Dancing.

Woodland Wedding Midsummer Night's Dream

Of course, this would be divine for a boho fairy bride having a woodland wedding .... a Midsummer Night's Dream theatre costume .... a vintage inspired ballerina's dress .... your own Halloween Strictly Come Dancing inspired ensemble ....

Boho Fairy Dress Tutorial Coming Soon

I took hundreds of photos while I was stitching this fairy dress so that I can put together a tutorial so that you can make your own Boho Fairy Dress!  A bit of editing to do, tutorial should be up later this week. x


Saturday, 29 October 2016

Hallowe'en via Christmas Stitches

Christmas stocking production line by Karen Vallerius

This week I planned to stitch a Hallowe'en outfit but was sidetracked in my little Victorian Christmas boot factory (production line photo shown above).  I am taking a stand at Oakham Vintage Fayre on 20th November and as well as lots of lovely vintage sewing patterns and craft books and supplies wanted to sell some items I have stitched using vintage textiles from my collection.  I varied the design of the Victorian boots this year to include a contrast foot section and button effect front.  I love how this design has evolved from those vintage stockings I stitched in previous years.  As always, it has been lovely using buttons, trims and ribbons from my treasure trove of vintage habby.

vintage embroidered linen Victorian Christmas boot by Karen Vallerius

The Victorian boot above was made using sections of hand embroidered linen from a vintage tray cloth.  The soft green glazed chintz complements the flower leaves prettily.  The tucked and broderie anglaise trim dates from the 70s.  Anyone else remember all those flouncy Laura Ashley petticoats?

vintage textile Victorian Christmas boot by Karen Vallerius

One of the things I especially love about sewing with vintage textiles is that it encourages me to consider colour combinations I would never have chosen.  This vintage bird print cotton in bright blue and orange is a case in point!  Although the juxtaposition of such strong colours could be overpowering, the finished effect is vibrant and cheerful.

chinoiserie bird print wallpaper

As well as Victorian Christmas boot production this week, I also managed to fit in some wallpapering and table painting.  Now, getting ready to make a faerie dress today.  Have made them before so should manage to finish it before the witching hour ....


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The boys are back in town ... Messrs Pfaff and Juki

Pfaff and Juki by Karen Vallerius

Yes, they are finally out of their boxes!  My lovely Pfaff sewing machine and Juki overlocker (serger) survived our house move intact.  In fact, I didn't even need to rethread Juki, just pulled the thread guides up and he was off and overlocking like a demon.

The sewing I had to do this afternoon was very boring, just adjusting waistbands and hems on jeans and joggers, BUT I have a very exciting sewing tutorial planned for the next few days, something simple yet effective which you can easily complete in time to wear it for Hallowe'en.  If you cannot wait and want a clue as to what I will be teaching you to make, then click here to visit an earlier post showing one I made earlier x


Thursday, 13 October 2016

Needlework Illustrated - My Fave Vintage Sewing Magazines

Vintage Needlework Illustrated magazine by Karen Vallerius

A few of my favourite magazines

My all time favourite vintage sewing magazines are the Needlework Illustrated magazines from the 40s to 50s.  I have been collecting these for a few years now and my collection is coming along nicely.  I often will buy job lots of the magazine on ebay if that lot contains a particular issue I am missing from the bookshelves!!  That's why I often list my "spares" for sale.

Make do and mend Christmas Gifts

And of course, my favourite favourites, you know what I mean, are always the Christmas issues. This vintage Needlework Illustrated magazine is no 194 and dates from winter 1948.  As such it has lots of great knitting, crochet and sewing projects so that wonderful gifts could be made with love for all the family

Vintage Needlework Illustrated Christmas Gifts by Karen Vallerius

Of course, these are perfect examples of the continuing make do and mend trend and often use bits and pieces to create lovely gifts.  And of course little girls were expected to learn to sew and these magazines have a children's sewing page - this issue features an apron to sew for Mummy.   Also patterns for the obligatory knitted sweater for Dad and knitting bag for the female members of the family.

Vintage 40s fashion jewellery

There is a great feature in this magazine showing some fashion jewellery to make.  As well as the sequin floral spray above (sequins are threaded onto wire for the outline of each leaf and petal), there is a necklace made from folded squares of plastic!

Bright Toys for Santa's Sleigh

I am always surprised at the bright colours used in vintage sewing projects.  Some TV set & props designers would have us believe that the 1920s through 1940s were a dull old time of drab shades.  But just look at these lovely little gifts including a darling doll on a swing and little dog in his basket and see how the coloured felts and wools just pop with Christmas joy.

1940s Christmas gifts by Karen Vallerius

And of course, the essential spill holder to light those stoves and fires!

1940s Elegance & Style

In spite of the shortages, it was every 1940's fashionista's desire to look stylish.  Even if she had to stitch and knit everything herself in the absence of easily available ready to wear.  Isn't this elegant lacy top made up of small crochet motifs the epitome of elegance?

vintage 1940s crochet top by Karen Vallerius

And just look at the detail on the bodice front of this dress, very Vera Wang.

vintage 40s ball dress

Radio times ... embroidered radio programme cover

vintage 40s floral embroidery from Karen Vallerius

Evidently this gorgeous brightly coloured floral embroidery design was inspired by an arrangement of flowers in the window display in an antique store!  Even though these original magazines are often missing their original embroidery transfers, you can successfully recreate the design if you carefully trace the outline and then use a transfer pen to print it onto your textile.

Over to Santa and his helpers

I hope that this look through a vintage 1940s needlework magazine has inspired you to make some of your own Christmas gifts this year.  I would love to hear what projects you are working on.


Saturday, 8 October 2016

Granny Chic Dottie Angel Frock in Laura Ashley

Dottie Angel frock in vintage Laura Ashley textiles by Karen Vallerius

I have wanted to make a Dottie Angel frock for a while, and wondered how it would look using some of my favourite vintage Laura Ashley textiles, so when one of the online pattern suppliers I use had a Simplicity sewing pattern sale, I quickly ordered Simplicity 1080 so I could try out this Dottie Angel pattern.

my version of this Simplicity 1080 Dottie Angel frock in vintage Laura Ashley textiles

I had read some online reviews on making up this pattern and several had commented on the pattern instructions referring to the use of bias binding to trim the arm and neckline seams.  I omitted this and simply overlocked the seams and then topstitched them flat.  I found the ties rather l-o-n-g so would probably shorten if I make this again.

neckline detail of Dottie Angel frock in vintage Laura Ashley textiles by Karen Vallerius

Above shows a close up of the neckline which I simply overlocked, then pressed under flat and topstitched to finish.

button detail of Dottie Angel frock in vintage Laura Ashley textiles by Karen Vallerius

You will see from the photo above that I used a vintage 1980s Laura Ashley skirt for the main "body" of the frock, and as this skirt had a button front with adorable self covered buttons, I simply cut the front as one piece from the fastened skirt so that the frock was made with a button front.  I adore the vintage Laura Ashley textiles and cannot resist buying garments (and the good thing is when you restyle clothing the original size does not matter!!!) when I am out vintage shopping.  

hemline detail of Dottie Angel frock in vintage Laura Ashley textiles by Karen Vallerius

For the contrast hem panel I used an earlier piece of vintage 1970s Laura Ashley cotton in a pretty duck egg blue and ivory floral.  This is actually a slightly heavier weight cotton than the floral skirt but this did not really matter as it was used for the hem section.

pocket detail of Dottie Angel frock in vintage Laura Ashley textiles by Karen Vallerius

The pockets were cut from a vintage 90s/00s Laura Ashley floral shirt in a size 8!  I cut them from the sleeves so have plenty of fabric left for future upcycling projects.  To be honest, I found the pocket construction outlined on the pattern a little odd, but I stuck with it and was pleased to find some toning vintage bias binding in my habby stash to edge the pockets.

back view of Dottie Angel frock in vintage Laura Ashley textiles by Karen Vallerius

You can see that the ties seem quite long, maybe I would make them a bit shorter next time.

I was attracted to this pattern as it reminded me of a pinafore pattern I stitched way back in the 1980s. I made the pinafore in burgundy cotton and then stitched a two piece skirt and blouse in burgundy and blue brushed cotton so I could mix and match the blouse with the pinafore, or wear the checked garments together like a dress.  

I totally LOVED Laura Ashley clothing back in the day.  I would catch the bus into Oxford and queue outside the shop in Little Clarendon Street and when the doors opened, we would all flock inside and swoop on the rails of new frocks.  In truth, I spent a lot of the late 70s and early 80s looking like an extra from the early episodes of Downton Abbey!  They say you shouldn't wear a style if you wore it first time round, but I guess that hasn't stopped me yet.....

Dottie Angel frock in vintage Laura Ashley textiles by Karen Vallerius


Sunday, 2 October 2016

Top 5 Vintage Shopping Tips for Restylers

Top 5 Vintage Shopping Tips for Restylers by karen vallerius

vintage shopping by karen vallerius

Of course I know that you already love vintage style, so you keep your eye open at all times for that fab thrift shop find.  One of my own best ever discoveries was a chinoiserie silk flapper dress in Sue Ryder in Kings Lynn.  Isn't it just divine?
vintage flapper dress by karen vallerius

But if you are planning a MAJOR all out vintage shopping expedition, then in this little vintage shopping guide you will find my Top 5 Vintage Shopping Tips to inspire you to shop with even more vintage savoir-faire and style.These tips are specifically aimed at stitchers who are looking for vintage garments and textiles to restyle, rework and adapt.  Check out the end of this post for a couple of bonus tips for those who want to wear their vintage purchases sooner rather than later!

The Basics

Top 5 Vintage Shopping Tips for Restylers by karen vallerius

1.  Check opening times online and double check Facebook pages to see if there are any visitor discounts or incentives.  Some organisers allow early entry before the marauding hordes if you pre-register, always worth being the early bird.  More time for cake and coffee later.  Or maybe just more time for shopping ....

Top 5 Vintage Shopping Tips for Restylers by karen vallerius

2.  As well as your stylish tote shopper, take a couple of those woven laundry type bags Just,In.Case. You can guarantee that the day you are not really going to buy anything, you will find the curtains or quilted coat of your dreams which, even rolled up, will no way squeeze into that usually capacious tote.

vintage shopping basket by karen vallerius

And yes, this is from the woman who scuttled through crowds of bemused Oxford tourists, looking for all the world like I was clasping my wretched bedding to my bosom, when I discovered an antique quilted bedcover at the local vintage market and didn't have a bag that was big enough!  (Gloucester Green, Thursdays 9 to 4pm if you are in Oxford).

If you have one of those massive Ikea blue shopping bags, you know the one that doubles as a 2-man tent, then take it!  Be prepared.

3.  You're a restyler, right, so remember to think outside the sewing box.  

vintage apron by karen vallerius
Cute 50s cotton apron with bright kitsch print?  Summer top maybe.

Divine 70s maxi skirt, too small but textile to die for?  Lots of gorgeous pieced coats and jackets with contrast panels around, take a look at Desigual for inspiration.

Large silk scarf, gorgeous colours and dreamy texture, but you don't "do" scarves?  Tops, kimonos, quilted bags, slippers ... check out my scarf top tutorial and lots more scarf rework projects to come.

vintage scarf top tutorial by karen vallerius

Hop over to my Pinterest boards for pinspiration and lots of lovely vintage textile upcycling ideas.

4.  Examine items carefully.  Hold textiles and garments to the light to check for moth holes and rips.  One of two moth nibbles can be disguised with embroidery, but steer clear of serious infestations. 

vintage clothing care tips by karen vallerius

Check buttons and zips.  They can be replaced but you might get a discount for damaged fastenings. Does the dress have little belt carriers but no belt?  Ask the dealer, maybe it has become separated.  

Carefully look over entire garment to check for stains and fades.  Stains can sometimes be removed with oxy-type stain removers but there is no guarantee.  Again, if they are tiny you can probably work round them anyway.  But fades are usually a no-no unless you plan to overdye or applique.

vintage laundry tips by karen vallerius

5.  Prepare your laundry room before you go!  And no, I am not advocating a return to a 1940s life of housewife drudgery.  It's just that if there is any possibility you might return with a large-ish quantity of vintage textiles (OK, let's get real and just say "when" you return overloaded with purchases), I always recommend laundering all garments and textiles immediately you get them home for hygiene reasons.  

This is simply NOT going to happen if you have several basket loads of laundry already queueing to get into the machine.  

So have your colour run catcher sheets and old pillowcases (to hold delicates) to the ready and never wash above 30C.  Line drying is preferable where practical.

Even if your intended stitchery project is a way off, wash and dry thoroughly before storing.  Clean clothing and textiles are far less tasty for those dreaded moths.

Bonus tips for vintage ready to wear

For those of you who aren't yet ready to upcycle, here are a couple of bonus tips for adding to your pret-a-vintage wardrobe:

vintage lingerie

6.  Leave the lacy bra and skimpy drawers at home and wear a close fitting Tee or crop top and leggings (or big pants) so that if you do need to try a garment on in a quiet corner of a bustling trading hall or scant changing cubicle, you'll spare your own and everyone else's blushes.

how to measure your size for vintage clothing by karen vallerius

7.  Ignore size labels and measure garments with the tape measure you remembered to bring, right? Remember, a 50s or 60s size 16 is generally closer to a modern size 12.  Be sure to know your own measurements and remember to allow approx. 2"/5cm to each measurement for wearing ease.  We don't want any ripped seams when you bend over!

Garments can be quickly cinched in with belts.  But letting them out is a more major endeavour so be sure you will be able to manage it as alterations can be costly.  

Stick to cottons and washable fabrics where possible.  Dry cleaning is an extra cost and some firms simply won't touch vintage items without care labels!  Or they will at a price.  

Been there, worn the vintage T shirt

I have been vintage shopping and stitching since the 70s (yes, I really am that old!) and always love sharing what I have learned (including mistakes and disasters) over that time.  You might be wondering WHERE I go shopping.  Keep watching for my upcoming post on my favourite vintage shopping destinations.

And I would love to hear your vintage shopping tips or your all time best ever vintage finds .... 

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