Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A smocked sundress

A little while ago I tried out some smocking samples to learn the basic techniques for traditional hand smocking (also known as English smocking), and this week I finally got round to putting these into use on a dress for the little one.

This dress began life as a strapless summer dress with a cherry applique I made for myself a good five years ago. Having pulled out the summer dresses at the start of this scorching hot week, I realised it hadn't been worn in two years. The style just wasn't something I'd wear anymore, but it would be perfect for the smocking I wanted to try out! 

I removed the skirt, which was a pleated, slightly A-line two panel skirt. I squared the top edge, and cut armscye shapes from the side seams. Three evenings' work later and we have a completed dress. The gingham was very easy to smock thanks to its inherent grid pattern- no need for any tedious marking for the pleats. I kept with the red colour group for the smocking threads to tie into the existing cherry applique, using six strand embroidery thread. 

For the back, I cut it into a seperate bodice and skirt, shirred the bodice with elastic by machine, and reattached. A narrow yoke finishes the top edge of the front, and I added bias binding to finish the armscyes and form tie straps.

This should fit her for a good year or so!

Recipe: Summer fruits flan

This light, fresh cake is one of my favourite summer desserts, that would be perfect for parties or just as a little indulgence. The base is a fatless sponge, topped with summer fruits and quick-set jelly.

For the base:

2 medium eggs, separated
2oz plain flour
2oz caster sugar
1/2tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to Gas mark 4/ 180ºC/ 350ºF
1. Whisk egg whites in a large bowl, adding sugar slowly, until almost stiff. Add in the yolks and whisk a little more, until the mixture forms soft peaks.

2. Gently sift in the flour and baking powder, and fold into the mixture. Turn into a lightly greased 8" flan tin with a raised central area in the base. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly, then turn upside down onto a plate. This should give you an indented top into which to place your toppings.

Tip: If you don't have a flan tin (like I didn't), you can adapt a normal round sandwich tin by cutting a couple of layers of thick card in a circle 1" smaller in diameter than the base of the tin. They should be around 1/4" or so thick in total. Place this in the centre of the tin, then line the tin with foil, making sure to press it into the groove around the edge of the card. Grease the foil, and turn your mixture into this.

3. Once the cake has cooled completely, top with your choice of fruits. I went with strawberries and rasperries, but you could use anything here!

4. Prepare a sachet of quick-set jelly as per the pack instructions, and spoon over the fruit once cool and beginning to thicken. I used Green's Quick Jel in red. Place in the fridge to cool for at least an hour. Serve with lashings of cream or vanilla ice cream!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Me-Made-May, Week 4

Ok, so I have no seperate post for week 3. Aside from what I wore for the Haworth 1940s weekend (post to come), my only other me-made wear of the week was my black and blue striped tee from week 1's post. 

This weeks weather was termed a "mini heatwave" by the weather forecasters. We've had sun and high temperatures most of the week, so out came the dresses- I've worn me mades almost all week!

Day 1

Leopard print halter dress- Simplicity 2647

One of last year's very well-worn makes. This is the second incarnation of this pattern after I wore my first one to death. It has a mock wrap front with pleated cascade detailing at the left side, and is one of my favourite patterns for summer day wear. The shape and cascade details make it super flattering and it's made in jersey so it's comfortable and easy to wear too. I plan on making another one at some point this year too!

Day 2

Red halterneck full skirted dress
Cream embroidered polycotton petticoat

Another one of last years summer makes, this dress is made from a red polycotton with a woven stripe and pulled thread pattern. It has a simple fairly fitted bodice with gathers at the centre bust, and a six gore full skirt. I didn't have the fabric to line it when I made it and never got round to adding it into the skirt, so it gets worn with the underskirt for both modesty and added oomph. I actually really like the effect, so it's all good.

Day 3

Today I wore the black polka dot dress from week 2, only without any cardigan. Far too hot for knitwear!

Day 4

Red hawaiian boatneck '50s blouse
Refashioned black lace skirt

Apparently my face does this a lot when I'm playing with our daughter...

This was the first wear for this blouse and overall it's very nice to wear. Comfortable all day in spite of the hectic activities- food shopping in the morning followed by an afternoon in the sun at nanna and grandad's house. The skirt is a refashion from a floor length satin and lace tiered skirt from my gothy teen years. It had suffered through several years of clubwear and was a little worse for wear- I had to stitch up a good few ripped seams in the satin and fully replace the (7 yards!) of lace hem trim. It's now a much more wearable length though, and surprisingly cool to wear despite being 100% nylon.

Day 5

Today I wore my blue spot 1940s dress, with the white belt pictured in the original post. I definitely need to stabilise the neck edges!

Day 6

I wore the black lace skirt from day 4 again, with a simple cream strappy top. I didn't leave the house today so cool comfort was needed.

One bonus of hot, sunny weather seems to be that it makes me dress a lot better. There's no room for jeans in the temperaures we've had this week!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Haworth 1940s weekend: Street scenes and photo sets

Last weekend was the annual Haworth 1940s Weekend, which the little one and I attended with my sister and a group of friends. It's a weekend of reenactment, '40s themed fun including everything from swing dances and marching parades in the streets through to vintage markets and vehicle displays, and it all takes place in one very small rural village in Yorkshire.

I spent most of the day fighting a pushchair up the massively steep, cobbled main street that was the centre of the event, so only managed to get a few street scene snaps. It was unbelievably busy on the day I went!

Since I took so few of my own photos on the day, I went hunting for ones others had taken too.

There are some lovely images to be found on Flickr by searching "Haworth 1940s", including a lot from previous years: these are some of my favourite sets.

       - Haworth 1940s Weekend 2012- some beautiful detail shots and black and white images

       - Haworth 1940s Weekend- more lovely black and white shots

       - Faces from Haworth 1940s 2012- stunning set of portrait shots

       - This set is also very eyecatching, with a nice mix of images that really capture the mood of the weekend

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Bow headband tutorial

I fell slightly off the Me-Made-May wagon last week. I paid a visit to the family over the weekend, so the days before were a bit hectic and travelling by train with a toddler in tow demands comfy, easy-wear clothes. I did, however, have a lovely day out at a major 1940s event while I was there, so more on that in a later post! For now, I have a tutorial for my bow headband.

This is a quick and easy headband with a 50s feel. It was done in half an hour and is a great way to use up those scraps and small pieces of fabric you can't bear to see going to waste.


Non-stretch fabric, light or medium weight (you need to be able to gather it), cut to the following pieces:

6" x 17"-  Main band
3.5" x 8"- Elastic casing
6" x 6"- Bow
2" x 3"- Bow middle
6" length of 1" wide elastic

Matching thread and hand sewing needle

1. Fold the main band, elastic casing and bow middle pieces lengthwise, right sides together. Sew the long sides of each with a 3/8" seam allowance to form three tubes. Press seams open.

Tip: Use the handle of a wooden spoon to press on when pressing seam allowances of tubes open

2. Turn these three tubes right sides out. Lay them down with the seam on top, in the centre, and press. This will put the seam at the centre back of the band.

3. Fold the square piece for the bow in half, right sides together. Sew along one short end, the long side and half way across the other short end, securing thread ends by backstitching or tying off. Trim corners of seam allowances and turn right sides out through the opening. Slipstitch the opening closed and press piece.  Your four pressed pieces should look like this:

Top to bottom: Main band, Elastic casing, Bow middle, Bow

4. Find the centre of the bow piece and mark with a pin. Fold in half bringing the long edges together. Then fold each side down again, forming a three-folded M shape. Pin. 

5. Sew one raw end of the bow middle piece to the central fold (on the back of the bow), centering it on the marking pin. Wrap the bow middle around the bow. Fold the raw end under and stitch down. You should now have a secure bow, gathered at the centre.

6. Lay the main band seam side down, and position the bow at the centre. Pin, then carefully hand sew, stitching the edges of the bow middle to the main band. If you like, you can also sew the ends or corners of the bow down so that the bow sits flat against the band when worn.

7. Next, slide the elastic into the casing piece, tacking the ends in place with a 1/4" seam. The casing will gather along the length of the elastic. 

8. Sew a gathering thread along the ends of the main band, and pull up to match the width of the elastic casing. 

Sew the main band to the elastic casing, right sides together, with a 1/2" seam. Trim seams and overlock or zigzag edges. Topstitch seams from right side, with seam allowances turned towards elastic.

 Finish of wrong and right sides

Monday, 14 May 2012

Me-Made-May, Week 2

Day 1:


Outfit details:
Me-made dress- Polka dot cotton from New Look 6675
Cardigan- hand knit by my mum from a vintage 1950s pattern.
Belt- charity shop 

I'm really glad to get some wear out of this dress. It was my first 50s style dress made nearly 5 years ago, but the straps were never quite right so it's only ever been worn a few times. I think it came out of the box twice at most last year. I pulled it out when I was assessing my me-mades for this challenge, and finally decided to do something about those damn straps. A half hour's unpicking and redoing and it's wearable and ready to be loved again!

Day 2:

Today I made up a quick headband from some scrap fabrics, so wore that as my me-made item with a cherry print cowl neck top and jeans.

Ugh... roots

I have a tutorial for this to follow too!

Day 3:

1940s tie-front blouse- pattern by Mrs Depew
Cherry bow headband from day 2

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Stitchcraft Sept 1956: Summer bouclet blouse

Today's free pattern comes from my copy of Stitchcraft, Sept 1956, and is for a short sleeved blouse in a good range of sizes from 35" up to a 42" bust. It has a V neckline with narrow contrast stripes to the yoke and sleeve bands. 

The pattern calls for steel grey and white, but I plan on making this one up in a nice bright jade green or light turquoise shade with white for summer. What colours would you choose?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Me-Made-May, Week 1

Keeping on track with my three days a week target!

Day 1:

Me-made items:
Keyhole neck t-shirt. Refashioned from the skirt of a £2 sale bargain dress.

Day 2:

Me-made items:
-Wine red high waisted pencil skirt. (Self-drafted, stretch herringbone poly suiting)
-Silk slip. (Cream/black pin dot silk)

Day 3:

A cold and rainy day spent inside, so I threw on a hand-knit to do some cutting out in the chilly dining room
- 1950s Lee Target cardigan, in dark teal acrylic 

Hopefully the weeks to come will bring some more inspired outfits and better photos. It's been a bit of a lazy week this week!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A little splash of summer

To bring a little cheer to the still grey and gloomy season, I'll share a few of my favourite 50s swimwear ads. Here's to wishing for better weather, better legs and a better beach to enjoy them on!*

*not that I'm likely to get any of the above anytime soon!

 One colour three ways in red...

 Or yellow

Super-flattering ruching and clever use of stripes

I love the fun prints and feminine skirts of these two

A crazy pose and cute ruffles-

Apologies for the lack of sources or dates on these- I forgot to save links as I found them.