Friday, 28 December 2012

Radio silence

Seems I fell off the grid for a while in the run up to Christmas. Sorry about that! Normal service will resume in the new year. Until then, I hope you're all enjoying the festive season. Here I am starting on my second bottle of wine on Christmas day, sporting my made at the last minute dress.


Dress details:

Fabrics: Dark teal green ponte roma jersey, stretch black lace overlay

Pattern: Franken-patterned. A modification on my self-drafted pencil skirt, plus a random loungewear pattern for the bodice.

Notions: Stretch lace hem tape, 1/2" elastic waist stay

Monday, 26 November 2012

Top Honours and a new skirt

At last, another outfit post! These are two new things I've finished up recently (well, technically three, but we'll get to that). First let me apologise for the shoddy photos. My house is dark at this time of year and there are few spots that I can set the camera up at a distance from me that will actually fit a full body in shot! And I have about an inch of roots on my hair. Heh.

I finished up the Top Honours jumper I'd been knitting. As I mentioned in my previous post on it, I ran out of white for the contrast, which had come from mum's stash, so I took it with me when I visited earlier in the month and finished it up there.

This pattern is from the early '40s, and has a slip-stitched pattern across the yoke and sleeves.


I quite enjoyed making this one up. The grey yarn was a charity shop find that is acrylic, with possibly a small amount of wool in it. I  knit the body in the round up to the armscyes, which of course made it go faster: I knit much more slowly on purl rows. From there I changed to straight needles, and also went down a needle size to tighten up the tension across the yoke and make it a little smaller to account for my quite narrow shoulders. I also added a shoulder opening on the left side with a row of buttons to make sure I could get it over my head!

I chose simple white pearl plastic buttons for the shoulder fastening. and did four rows of garter stitch picked up along each shoulder edge to make the placket:

The skirt is made from a wool/poly blend suiting in a lovely dark burgundy and black small check. I used my self drafted half-circle skirt pattern, added a wide waistband and straps. The straps are sewn onto the back of the waistband, cross over at the back and button onto the front waist. I also added side-seam pockets. Since I've started adding pockets to skirts I get really frustrated if I wear one that doesn't have them.

Naturally, it wouldn't be possible to go through a project without some sort of cock-up. I forgot to check the width of my lining, so didn't buy enough! Ordinary plain linings are a standard 60" normally, the same width as my fabric, so the though never crossed my mind when shopping for it, but I went for a fancy herringbone weave viscose lining, which was only 52". Gah. So I made myself a slip instead. At least the colour matches perfectly.

I added a lace applique that's been sitting in a box since I unpicked it from the front of a corset a couple of years ago. I handstitched around the edge and again about half an inch in, following a line in the pattern of the lace. I then cut away the fabric from the back and whip-stitched the cut edge. Voila! Cutaway lace insert. I quick hem and elastic waist, and I have a new half-slip I can wear with other skirts too.

I'm already working on something new- a navy houndstooth pinafore dress, as well as a knit for little one. It being that time of year, I've started on Christmas makes too, some of which I'll share soon.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Don't blink

So, my two year old is a Dr Who fan. Her excitement at the TV adverts for the most recent series was probably way more than my own, and she knows most of the characters and monsters by name. She's my beautiful mini-geek! For one of her gifts for Christmas, I'm making a set of crocheted Dr Who toys to go with a purchased TARDIS toy. This is the first one, a Weeping Angel. While there are a couple of patterns around, none were quite the right scale, so I wrote this one up myself.

These directions are written using UK crochet terms. For conversion to US stitches, this page is very useful.

dc =  double crochet (US single crochet)
trc = treble/triple crochet (US double crochet)
2dctog = 2 double (US single) crochet together: decreases one stitch.
st = stitch/stitches
ch = chain
Rd = round
Where a number of stitches is given, work one stitch in each stitch of the previous row the stated number of times. E.g. 5dc = work one dc in each of the next 5 stitches of the previous row.

Grey DK yarn.
3mm crochet hook
Polyfibre toy stuffing
Pipe cleaner or florist/modelling wire
Grey embroidery thread, slightly darker than yarn. 
Large-eyed sewing needle


I worked the head in rounds joined with a slip stitch, but work in spiral if you prefer.
Work 6 dc in a magic ring,
Rd 1: 2 dc in each dc (12 st)
Rd 2: (dc in dc, 2 dc in next dc ) to end (18 st)
Rd 3: (dc in next 2 dc, 2dc in next dc) to end. (24 st)
Work 5 rounds even, making 1 dc in each dc of the previous round.
Rd 9: (2 dc, 2dctog) to end. (18 st)
Rd 10: (dc, 2dctog) to end (12 st)
Rd 11: (2dctog) to end. (6 st). Fasten off, leaving a tail for sewing.


Chain 7. Dc into second ch from hook, dc to end. Join in a ring. (6 st)
Follow rounds 1-3 as for head, then continue as follows:
Rd 4: (3 dc, 2dc in next dc). (30 st)
Rd 5: 5 dc, 2dc in next dc, 3 dc, 2dc in next, 10 dc, 2dc in next, 3 dc, 2dc in next, 5 dc. (34 st)
Rd 6: (5 dc, 2dc in next) twice. 10 dc. (5dc, 2dc in next) twice. (38 st)
Work 6 rounds even.
Rd 13: (3 dc, 2 dctog) (31st)
Rd 14: Work even.
Rd 15: (3dc, 3dc in next dc) to end. (45 st)
Work even for 10 rounds.
Rd 26: (4dc, 3dc in next) to end.
Work 6 rounds even. Fasten off, leaving a long tail.


Make 6dc in a magic ring.
Rd 1: 2dc in each st
Rd 2: (dc, 2dc in next) to end
Rd 3: (2dc, 2dc in next) to end
Rd 4: (3dc, 2dc in next) to end
Rd 5: (4dc, 2dc in next) to end
Work successive rounds in this manner, doing one more dc before the increase in each round, until your circle is large enough to comfortably fit the bottom of the skirt.

Wings (make 2):

The wings are worked flat in rows. For each row, work to the end and then turn, ready to work the next row. The first four rows are worked in double crochet, then work in alternate rows of treble and double crochet.
Ch 7. Dc in second ch from hook, dc to end. (6 st)
Row 1: 2dc in first st, dc to end. (7 st)
Row 2: dc to last st, 2dc in last st. (8 st)
Row 3: 3dc in first st, dc to end. (10 st)
Row 4: dc to last st, 2dc in last st. (11 st)
Row 5: trc to end, then work 4 trc in a foundationless treble crochet chain
Row 6: dc to end.
Repeat last two rows twice. On the last dc row, continue in dc around the top edge of the wing to give a neat edge. Fasten off, leaving a tail.

Arms (make 2):

Work 6 dc in a magic ring.
Dc in each st for 10 rounds. Next, shape the elbows: turn, 3dc, turn, 3dc. Continue working even as before for another 10 rounds. The number of rounds for the arms is approximate: check their size aganst your body piece to choose the best size.

Making Up:

Stuff the head and body. Using the yarn tails, sew the base into the the body. You can add in a circle of card to give a flatter base if you like. Sew the head to the top of the body, and attach the wings to the back of the body. Next, make the hair using the DK yarn. First sew the flat back area of the hair. Take long stitches, starting at the third round from the top down to a central point at the bottom of the head at the back. The stitches should cover about two thirds of the circumference at the top. Next, make loopy stitches to cover the top of the head. For the bun at the back, make a ring of loopy stitches.

Using the embroidery floss, embroider the face. I just did eyes and a toothy mouth (badly, I admit!).

To attach the arms, first pass the wire through the body at the level where the arms will go, like this:

I used a pipe cleaner bent in half and twisted slightly. The overall length should allow for slightly less than the length of both arms plus the width of the body. Thread the arms onto the wire, then stitch to the body all around the arm edge.

Bend the arms into position, and done! The Ravelry page for this pattern is here. I haven't tested this pattern as I wrote it mostly from memory after completing the make, so do let me know if you come across any errors!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Recent buys: Papery things

Between a few good charity shop finds and a recent trip to the flea market in my mum's town, I've picked up quite a few nice bits recently. To save inundating you with stuff in one go, I'll split it into two separate posts: papery things and sparkly things! First up, the paper ephemera.

These all came from the flea market, a surprisingly good haul from a small market that has been turning up less good stuff of late. This is a weekly market in a small town that has been mostly filled with people selling off second hand toys and clothes to try and raise some cash, rather than regular market traders. Fortunately, there are a couple of regular stalls that always have sewing and knitting patterns, and these were still there. I paid no more than fifty pence for any of the items in this post.

First up are a couple of sewing patterns to add to the pile of kids' ones for when the little one is bigger, both 1960s and unused as far as I can tell.

That tempting little mail order envelope on the left was very intriguing. I had a quick glance to see what it contained, but didn't really get to see the contents until I got it home. What was inside?

Embroidery transfers! The postmark on the envelope dates them to 1950. There are three copies of a sheet of small designs, lots of sweet bows, butterflies, florals and a crinoline lady. The large sheet is a tablecloth design with a border pattern and a central design of pomegranates and flowers.

There are also several sheets of different sized smocking dots, which tie in by perfect happy accident with one of my other buys. These came from one of the stalls I visit on every trip, and the lady remembers us (including little one's name) even though she only sees us three or four times a year.

I've been after a copy of the smocking book for a while, since I did some smocking early this year. Copies regularly come up on eBay but never at a price I've liked. Some nice patterns too: a basic gloves pattern, a sweet girl's fair isle twin set, and cap sleeve jumpers in three stitch patterns. Most importantly, these are in double knit weight wool! With a fairly large stitch count too, since they're lacy. I might knit myself the feather and fan one for my next knit I think. Now to choose a colour. Navy? Dark green? Hmm.

The last few things I nearly missed. The stall holder was packing up already at lunchtime and I was on my way out when I spotted a glimmer of 1950s garishness in a box. It was full of beautiful vintage children's books and various other old books. I got these two lovely ones. The book of fairy tales is '50s, and the farm book is likely late '30s or early '40s, judging by the illustration style and the style of clothes the girl in the stories wears. Both a little bashed, but it's to be expected. They've obviously been loved.

Only to be read with mummy's supervision! I also got this lovely thing from the same stall, so I'm very glad I stopped to peek in that box!

These books regularly go for ten or fifteen pounds on eBay, so I did a mental happy dance when I grabbed it. This is a fairly well sought-after wartime knitting book, published in 1941. It's packed full of lovely patterns and information on remaking and recycling old knits and how to make the most of your wool when making garments. The illustrations are beautiful too:

The waistcoat in the top-right is a very tempting piece. I'll probably give this book its own post at some point soon, since it's such a lovely bit of literature.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

So close...

...but not enough wool!

I'm half a sleeve away from completing the "Top Honours"  jumper I've been knitting, and I've run out of white. Drat. This came from mum last time I visited, a small ball that I wound off from one of her cones of machine-knitting acrylic, and evidently I didn't take quite enough. Fortunately I'll be down again next week, so I'll take it with me and finish off in the evenings while I'm there. In the meantime, here's the finished, steamed and ready to sew body and other sleeve:

I'm looking forward to finishing this up; it's been a really enjoyable and easy knit and will hopefully be as nice to wear. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

1940s Jeans: Finally Finished!

They're finally done!

Overall I'm happy with how they've turned out. The reputation of this pattern for its perfect fit is well deserved! My only issue is of my own making. You may remember I added some to the crotch length of the pattern in my toile; as it turned out, I didn't need as much as I added, so they are a little long in the body.  They could also possibly stand to be taken in half a size over the upper hips, mostly at the front where they're a bit baggy over the tummy. No matter: these are designed for comfortable everyday-wear, so a little extra space is probably a good thing.

The fit over the back is better. I took a bit extra in at the darts on the back to account for my hollow back, and lengthened them by about half an inch. 

I also added six belt loops on top of the waistband. After my initial doubt over the colour of the buttons I used, I actually rather like them now they're on there. As a rule, I just don't like brown as a colour. I can think of precisely three brown garments I've owned since my early teens, none of which got worn much. However, this small amount as an accent seems to be acceptable. The tan shade works well with the denim, and is neutral enough to wear with any colour top I might put with them.

There seems to be a small hand counting my buttons in the bottom of this picture!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Haslam System of Dresscutting: Two Books of Draftings

These two treasures are my recent covetous eBay win. As much as I am meant to be saving for Christmas buys, these come up so rarely I just couldn't hold back. There were a good twenty plus books listed as separate lots, something for which I am very grateful, and I allowed myself two. I bid on a few of them, but these were the two I came away with: books number 9 and 21. Though they have no dates they will most likely be late '40s.

If you haven't come across the Haslam systems before, it was designed as a three part drafting system, requiring a chart of your measurements, a special drafting curve/template, and a set of draftings like these. Having finally got to see the draftings for myself, however, you could easily draft these pattern up without the chart or the template, as they are very thorough with the measurements on the diagrams. The original curve templates do come up on eBay occasionally, though they can be hard to find amongst listings as people so rarely know what they are if they are found out of context. Alternatively, I came across this blog post, where you can download a PDF version to print at home! I love the generosity of the blogging community.

Book number 9 is for "Lingerie: with blouses, skirts, overalls and maternity wear".

There are several dressing gowns and house robes



And lots of lingerie, including slips, bras and different styles of knickers.

I love the pockets of this skirt, and the blouse is a classic 1940s style:

There are also some maternity styles including dresses and smock tops. This lovely swing jacket would be beautiful for non-maternity wear too- it looks so comfy!

Book number 21 is for "Spring and Summer" wear, and has pages of full colour illustrations in addition to the black and white sketches.

The ruffled peasant dress is so feminine and sweet.

Beautiful scalloped details. I'm also in love with the simple shawl collar and clean silhouette of the pink dress below: I'll be on the hunt for some winter fabric to make this one up soon I think.

Suits and coats. My favourite is the ruffled peplum design on the pink jacket.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Butterick 9955: Little Winter Coat Finished

Allow me to show off a little- I love this coat!

After my first post about it here, I managed to get my main machine to an acceptable standard of working. I've put the speed issues down to the motor, which has likely never been properly cleaned in its near fifty years of service. It's quite heavily carbonised on the wire coils and goodness knows how much old oil there might be in there. A good repeated dousing with an electrical contact cleaner spray seems to have freed things up enough that I'm happy to use it, though I still struggle to get it to run at a constant slow speed when necessary. Dear boyfriend has offered to overhaul the motor for me when I decide I can live without the machine for a few days.

Back to the point, it means I was able to get everything done more quickly, and completed the coat in another 3 days of sewing.

First up were the bound buttonholes. I used a black cotton for the binding to minimise bulk as this fabric is very thick. For the openings in the facing, I used the recent Colette tutorial from their Anise coat sewalong running currently. This uses another fabric patch, as you do for the front of the buttonhole, pulled through to make a finished window in the fabric. It's one of those pure simple genius ideas that seems so obvious, but that I never would have thought of myself! Usually the back of bound buttonholes can look a little messy, but these are beautifully clean.

I managed to do the buttonholes and all the major seams in one afternoon sitting, then it was a case of hemming the two layers, and putting them together. I finished the edge of the outer fabric with bias tape and slip-stitched it down, using a gathering thread and lots of steam to ease out the fullness. The lining hem was then catch-stitched onto the hem of the outer, between the layers.

I added a velvet collar to keep the wool away from her face and break up the tartan a little. I made the detachable hood too, which buttons on below the collar, though I have yet to add the buttons- the last little job to do!

And of course, there's that crazy lining choice of hers:

With it's wide swing shape and extra sleeve length from the turn-back cuffs, I think this could easily fit for a few years as a shorter coat too.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Jeans progress and two new brooches

I'm making steady progress on my jeans, though I would have liked to get a little more done today than I did. I just have the inseam, waistband and hems to sew, and the buttons to put on. I also need to try an remember to add belt loops, something I often forget until it's too late to do them neatly. Excuse the poor lighting in my house on these photos.

The buttonholes and button plackets are done, with gold contrast thread. The centre front and back seams actually have two rows of top-stitching in slightly different shades, both vintage cotton threads that were Nanna's.

I also picked up a couple of new brooches whilst running errands in town, from one of the charity shops. True vintage jewellery is a pretty rare thing usually, so I was happy to find these two. I've been after a little flower basket brooch for a while now, and nearly payed several times the price of this one on a few occasions. The leaf has a lovely detailed texture, and is made by "Hollywood", a British brand based in Birmingham in the mid 20th century.

With any luck I might finish my jeans tomorrow so I can show them off to you all! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch Wartime Farm on BBC HD.