Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My Winter Coat- the four year old UFO!

Or is it five years? It's been so long I can't even remember. As the weather has turned colder my thoughts have gone to Autumn and Winter wear, and I determined to finally finish up this long-abandoned project.

When this fabric came into the shop I fell in love with it instantly and knew I wanted a coat made from it, preferably full length. I had a very precise idea in mind of what I wanted: princess seams, full skirt, with a velvet shawl collar and wide band at the hem. At the time I struggled to find a pattern that was what I wanted and in my price range (being a poor student then), so I used Simplicity 2818 as a base. It had the basic style lines that I wanted, so I made the sleeves full length rather than the flounced cuffs, extended the fronts to allow for button closure, and drafted a godet piece for extra flare at the hem. I got up to the point of cutting the lining out and just couldn't face it, and somehow the project got abandoned for years. I really despise cutting linings, heh. Slippery evil fabric.

Upon opening the box I was also faced with a mass of crumpled pattern tissue, along with something that had double-sided sticky tape on it that had turned into a hideous sticky mass. I had to iron it under greaseproof paper to melt the glue apart!

The last week has been spent figuring out what to do next, then taking a few steps backwards in the construction. First up, I ripped the collar apart to redo the interfacing. In a way I'm really glad this has languished for so long, as it means I can now make a better job of it than I would have four years ago and employ some newly learned techniques for a better finish. Like pad stitching, for example!

Next, I added welt pockets, another first. I used cotton twill for the pocket linings, and followed the instructions in my copy of The Reader's Digest Step-By-Step Sewing and Knitting. I picked up this book from a charity shop for a pound- bargain! One of the welts ended up slightly wonky, but for my first attempt I'm very pleased with the result.

Last night I finally cut out the dreaded lining. I'm very very glad of my scissors on all those long edges. Micro-serrated blades make cutting the slippery fabric so much easier. The lining is a deep purple/black shot taffeta, that is remarkably difficult to photograph.

I now only have to do the bound buttonholes, sew in the lining and hem it. I can't wait to get this thing finished, and not just for the extra cupboard space!

The coat as it stands now. Pardon the rubbish photo:

Friday, 14 September 2012

Lingerie inspiration: Fabulous '50s Ads

A selection of images from my personal collection of '50s magazines, and some Flickr favorites. First up are a selection from my 1950s French fashion and craft magazines.

  Unusual zigzag seam lines between satin and lace panels.

 A glamorous strapless satin longline bra, perfect for plunging necklines.

A beautifully simple bandeau bra and knickers

Sultry lace appliqued slips

 More interesting seamlines, this time a sideways V shaped side panel.

Possibly the simplest seaming for a bullet-shape silhouette.

These are a few from my Flickr favourites, always a good source for some inspirational browsing.



Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Pencil skirt to knickers pattern: A Tutorial

One of the main things I'll be making during this series is knickers, of various types. To begin with, I made myself these waist-high leopard print ones, from a self-drafted pattern.


I drafted the pattern for these by using my pencil skirt block, and making a few alterations, and decided to share the process with you all. For the sake of clarity, I did new photos using a mini-pattern to demonstrate.

You will need:

Pattern-making paper
Cloth tape measure
Traced copy of a pencil skirt pattern or fitted skirt block, with at least 1 pair of darts on front and back.

Your base pattern should have little or no ease drafted in, and no seam allowances. If starting from scratch, you can simply draft a skirt block without ease or seam allowances. If using an existing pattern, make sure to trim away any seam allowances. My pattern had 1" of ease at the waist, and 2" at the hip line.  To remove this, I folded under 1/4" along the centre front and centre back lines, then trimmed the side seams by 1/4" at the hip line, tapering up to nothing at the waist. If you are unsure how much ease you have built in to your pattern, use it as is and make a toile to remove the ease at the fitting stage. My pattern had one pair of darts on the front, and two pairs on the back: the darts are used for adding shaping to the pattern pieces later.

My base pattern:

Marking front and back lengths

The first step in converting your pattern is to mark the lengths. For this, you will first need to measure your crotch length.

Find your waistline by tying a length of elastic snugly around your middle. Move around, bend from side to side; this will settle the elastic on your true waist. Take a tape measure, and measure in a U shape from your waistline at the front, down between your legs and back up to the waist at the back, holding the tape quite snug to the body. For reference, my measurement here was 30".

Divide this number in half: so for me, 30/2 = 15".

On the front pattern piece, measure down your half crotch length minus 2" at the centre line. This would be 13" on mine.

On the back pattern piece, measure down half your crotch length minus 1" at the centre line, so 14" on mine.

Next, measure down your side from the waistline to where you want the hem of the knickers to sit. I went with 9". Mark this on your side edges on both pattern pieces.

 Next, we draft the gusset. On the front pattern piece, mark 3" down from the first length mark at the centre front line. At these two marks, draw a line 1.5" long at right angles to the centre front. This will be the half-width of the gusset.

Marking the leg openings

Draw in the curved hem edge for the front. The curve should be quite wide and shallow for some distance from the side, curving more sharply down towards the gusset. Continue the curve into the gusset area, beginning to curve back out again. As you can see, I took a few attempts before finding a good line.

Next, draw in the ends of the gusset, curving them outwards . In the image below, the left end of the gusset will join to the knicker front, and the right end to the knicker back.

Now cut the gusset piece out, following the curved lines. This will leave an inward curve at the bottom of the front body piece. Line the gusset up with the crotch length mark of the back piece, and trace the curved seam line on. Draw in the hem line of the back piece. I curved outwards on this piece for extra coverage.

Cutting the panels

You are now ready to cut the pattern into panels. First cut along the curved hem lines we just drafted, and discard the lower parts of the skirt pattern. Your pieces should look similar to this:

This is where the darts come into play. On the front piece, extend the forward leg of the dart down towards the hem in a straight line. Cut along this line. Cut away the inside of the dart and discard.

These two pieces will become your front, and part of the side panels. Repeat the process for the back in mirror image, as follows. If your pattern has two darts, like mine, you will cut the dart closest to the side. Extend the rearward leg of the dart towards the hem, and cut as for the front.

If your pattern only has one dart, the back piece needs no more alteration. However, if you have a second dart, it needs closing. Cut away the inside of the dart, and slash the pattern from the point of the dart to the side seam in a couple of places. This is how I cut mine:

Tracing the final pattern

Take the slashed back piece. Rotate the parts so that the dart is closed, and the edge has a smooth line. Trace the piece, rounding out the curved edge over the spread sections.

NOTE: Spreading the pattern like this creates a little extra length along the seam edge. We will need to adjust the side piece in the next step.

For the side panels, there are two options: keep them as two pieces with a side seam, or merge them into a single side panel. I did the latter, as my side seam wasn't especially curved. Overlap the two side seam edges, matching the top and bottom corners quite closely. Trace around the two pieces as one, smoothing out the curves.

If you slashed and spread the back, you now need to amend the length of the side panel. Line up the side-back piece you cut away with the spread and traced back piece. Start at the waistline, and check the length down towards the hem edge: the side piece will be short.

Measure how much extra length is needed, and add this onto the corresponding line on the traced side panel. Draw in a new hem line.

Trace the front piece, and the gusset piece, flipping the gusset down its centre line to make a whole pattern piece. Mark the front and back edges of the gusset: I added notches to the front edge as well as "F" and "B" on the relevant ends. Add your preferred seam allowance to all edges, and cut out.

The completed pattern!

I highly advise making a toile to test your pattern before using any precious materials. My leopard print ones were made from a scrap of fairly low-stretch single jersey left over from a dress and some 9" wide embroidered stretch tulle that I have a large length of. Sew up the major seams and try on for fit. Mine needed to hem line raising about an inch on the back piece, and taking in a half inch on the two back seams. The fit will vary widely depending on the fabric you use: those with more stretch will likely need to fit more snugly, while a less stretchy fabric like my single jersey may benefit from being looser fitting.

I finished the edges with picot elastic at the waist, and some narrow stretch lace around the leg openings on the jersey panels, leaving the shaped edges of the tulle as they were.

I'll be making up a couple more pairs in different fabrics this week to match my two lace camisoles from the previous post, so I will report back with more pattern testing soon!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Underneath it all: Lace Camisoles

Among the fabrics I pulled out for my lingerie sewing there are a few large pieces of stretch lace and mesh. Two particularly nice ones were these: a white lace with a floral stripe pattern, and a black mesh embroidered with pink spots, which I thought would make up beautifully as camisoles to provide an extra light layer in colder weather.

The lovely Zoe of  'So, Zo...' recently created this free multisized pattern, downloadable as a PDF, which fit the bill perfectly and I'd been wanting to try out.

These were amazingly quick and easy to sew up, and would probably only have taken me half an hour each if I didn't have an inquisitive toddler trying to help at every turn! I made them both the same way. The side seams were stitched with a short, narrow zigzag, with a larger zigzag to overcast the edges together.  I added picot elastic to the top edge, turning it to the inside for a cleaner finish with just the picot loops visible and using a three-step zigzag stitch. 

I finished the hems with a stretch lace border, which was simply sewn on top of the raw edge with a three-step zigzag.

Not to be worn as outerwear!

Coming up: How to draft high waisted knickers from a pencil skirt pattern.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Underneath it all: A series in lingerie making

Introducing the first in a series of posts following my latest sewing addiction: lingerie. I decided recently that my underwear drawer is in a pretty poor state: two bras that fit and aren't worn to bits, and about eight pairs of knickers. Terrible. I plan on spending the next few weeks remedying this situation, with a range of projects.

As hinted in my last post, I already have a good pile of materials ready to go. Several yards of allover lace and embroidered tulles, a good stack of border-embroidered tulles from 4-8" wide, and various silks and satins that have been in the stash boxes for far too long.

Add to that an assortment of picot elastics, stretch and rigid narrow laces and we're good to go.

First up, I will be making up a couple of vests (to use the British term- you may call them camisoles, singlets etc) from this free pattern from 'So, Zo...'. It takes less than a yard of fabric plus some elastic, and is multisized. 


I will also be joining in Vera Venus's French Knicker Sewalong, which is scheduled to take place this weekend. Again, the pattern is free to download in two sizes, or you can follow her instructions for drafting your own from a skirt block.


I'll be starting with some luscious cream silk with tiny black pin dots, and black lace to trim. Yummy!

I have a tutorial or two of my own lined up for good measure, and there will be lots of pictures of the finished pretties as well as some inspiration posts. I've also started a new Pinterest board here to collect images as I go. This will be an ongoing project over the next few months, so I won't be sticking to a schedule with my posts, but I will aim for hopefully one post a week.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

August shopping: Stash and sparkly things

Shopping this month has been a bit more productive. I've just come back from a visit to see the family, which always has the bonus of a trip to an actual fabric shop or two thrown in, as well as an afternoon digging through the local flea market in town. I never appreciated it when I lived there, but since getting into vintage more I really miss having the flea market close by. It's something that is sorely lacking in this corner of the country for those of us who don't drive. Add to that my two Modes et Travaux  magazines posted previously, and it's been a good month! On to the goodies.

First up are a few sewing patterns. The Simplicity one was a lucky eBay score, dates from 1965 and is unused. I love the loose tie neck. The Pins and Needles pattern is borrowed from mum, dating from the '70s but with lovely 1940s styling. The other two are from the flea market, 50p each.

These three Stitchcrafts and a lacy sweater pattern came from another stall on the market that I regularly buy things from.

I actually got these buckles a good few weeks ago- the only vintage sewing notions I've ever found in the charity shops up here. The top-right one is a plain rectangular cream one, the camera flash has washed it out a bit!

These two lovelies were, again, from the flea market. The stallholder had recently acquired someone's collection of over 1200 1950s brooches! I was rather spoilt for choice just with the few dozen on display, but settled for these two beauties: an enamelled and marcasite-set pink lily (?), and a pale blue enamel and rhinestone flower spray.

Then, of course, there are the fabrics. This first pile is all dress fabrics. Top to bottom: Red woven check cotton; black and cream striped viscose jersey; wine red and black check wool blend; navy and black houndstooth, and some plain denim. I have plans on some level for all except the red cotton check- that one was a pure "oohh, pretty" buy. It may well get put away for a summer dress next year.

There seems to be a chequered pattern emerging in my current fabric tastes!

The other fabrics are raided from a box in my mum's garage, from a stash of lace gifted to us by a friend of hers who designs lingerie. These are for my upcoming lingerie-sewing spree, which I will be doing a series of posts on starting this week! Left to right: pink spot on black embroidered stretch tulle; white floral stripe stretch lace; pink on black trellis pattern embroidered tulle; chocolate brown and cream embroidered lace, along with matching 6" wide border lace (top).

Should be enough to keep me busy for a couple of months!