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email me at charliesewingvintage@googlemail.com

Saturday, 22 May 2010

tea dresses and tea at four on the lawn...

Dear readers here is the first draft of my vintage inspired tea dress (thanks and credit to my tutor Maria here). It's a very simple shirt dress and I've deliberately kept things simple because I don't suit fussy stuff really and because this will be a tea dress I'm planning on a floral print (more on that later). The design has panels from the shoulder to add height (I'm on 5'3" so I need all the help I can get), you may just be able to see that I was considering a panel from the sleeve (faint line on the left bust) but I hope that you can also see that this doesn't create the illusion of height as the eye isn't led upwards in the same way. The dress will be flared from the hip rather than the waist to slim down the bottom area; I think too much fabric here could just add to the size of my bum, but the flare from the hip will diguise my big hips.

The belt will be wide for maximum waist creation and will be covered in the same fabric as will the buttons. I considered a little puff sleeve but decided against it, again for reasons of simplicity in terms on the lines of the design.

Now fabric. I'm thinking (ahem) Cath Kidston. Let's face it it's a tea dress and it needs a vintage print and who does vintage florals as well as Cath? Consequently, it's going to cost me a small fortune, but hey I designed it surely that deserves a little something extra huh?

So here are my thoughts on fabric: first up there's the rose floral which is very traditional, very English summertime. When I look at this I can hear the clink of china tea cups, feel the soft summer breeze as it wafts across a lush green cricket pitch to the sound of a leather ball on a willow cricket bat and polite clapping from the pavilion. This pattern says 'it's England in the summer and we're taking tea on the lawn at 4pm darhling'.

Number two is still very vintage but not perhaps so bold. To me this an early summer picnic under an oak tree by a sparking stream. It's fresh, it's pretty but it has none of the boldness of the other print. I like it just as much but for different reasons.

Number three will suit those of you with a love of irony: this fabric is called Brittania and depicts British landmarks. On a tea dress it would work so well!

Friends let me know what you think. If I've picqued your interest in all things Kidston do visit her website for more ideas and if I've left you yearning for the English countryside in summertime let me tell you that the sun is fast reaching its zenith, the sky is blue, grass is lush green and so I shall depart for a cucumber sandwich and a pot of tea.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Block and roll

I've been away a while I know! I've had a flooded bathroom and I've started night school both of which have soaked (pardon the pun) up some of my time in recent days. I'll leave the bathroom out of it and focus on the fun stuff namely that I'm back in the classroom (or the studio to be precise). Having completed my first dressmaking course last year I had a good grounding in the basics but lately I've been hankering for something more.

So last Wednesday I found myself with Maria in her studio and the four lovely ladies who are my classmates. We're learning fitting techniques and pattern drafting and cutting. Goodness and I've already learnt so much. Maria has so far taught us to make our basic 'block' which is the most basic fitted, sleeveless shift dress pattern which is fitted to us to within an inch of it's life. You will see here that mine needed quite a lot of work even though this first version was constructed from accurate measurements taken just a couple  of days previously.

Notice that the shoulder seam needed moving forward as it was sitting too far back on the shoulder. This was redrawn and moved by increasing the length of the back and shortening the front by the amount shown here. Additionally I have a very narrow torso and the neck line was way way too wide resulting in the need to increase the darts by the amounts shown by the tucks at the neckline below. I carried out these alterations at my second class on Wednesday and I now have a very well fitted block. Having translated these adjustments onto paper I've taken off the seam allowances and voila I have the basic pattern perfectly fitted to my measurements and from which I can now draft almost any pattern of my choosing. Who would have thought it could be so simple. And I still have six weeks to go!

Next I'll reveal my first sketch of my first attempt at designing... I think you'll love its retro vibe... More to come...

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Inspiration and art

Last year I paid my first ever visit to the V&A museum in London. My husband had bought me the book which accompanied the Golden Age of Couture exhibition (seen here on the right) and I was lucky enough to catch the last few days before it finished. As you might expect this was all about fashion at the point that it was revolutionised by Dior's New Look as Europe and America emerged out of the austerity of the war years. The exhibits were stunning but as I had taken my first steps into the world of dressmaking and fashion I found it piqued my interest even more than usual. Sure I was interested in how the garments looked and the spectacle of the exhibition but I found that I was peering into the glass cabinets to scrutinise the construction of the garments. I wanted to know how they were made. My growing knowledge of the how garments are constructed gave me a whole new appreciation of what I was looking at. At the time as a relative newbie I was struggling to sew a simple shift dress with very little structure to it. So to be faced with the amazing
feats of draping, ruching and fitting seen in these examples by Desses and Zemire (black and white images) was truly daunting but inspiring too.

It is so easy to dismiss dressmaking and design as 'just sewing' but if you take the time to look at what can really be achieved in the field you
don't have to look far to see
that those that have excelled in it have
produced nothing short of art.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

My mum

This is my late mum. I miss her lots. My mum was in her twenties in this picture and she was quite a girl. She was a single career girl who took foreign holidays with her girlfriends and who whizzed around Italy on the back of glamorous Italian boys' scooters.
Don't get me wrong she was always a lady but she was having her fun. She was an independent woman in a time when women were required to have a man's signature on a loan agreement. I was about fifteen years old when I first stumbled on these photographs of a woman I struggled to recognise as my mother and I felt like I was peeking into very adult world that was forbidden to me. When I first read the beautiful poem Before You Were Mine by Carol Anne Duffy it instantly struck a chord.

Now that she's passed away these images are wonderful treasures of the woman who is my mother and who embodies in this photograph everything that I love and admire about her. She was so glamorous and confident and that dress - wow Mum that's a great dress honey!

My mum has bequeathed me many things, a feisty nature, a sense of fun and my creative streak (she was an artist, a painter - and she was outstanding although as with so many talented people she was never aware of it). Sadly she did not bequeath me that dress and so I'll never know what happened to it but in homage to my fabulous mother who has given me so many things I'll make this dress and find just the right fabric. Thanks Mum for the inspiration.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

At last I've finished Vintage Vogue 2962. This has been a long and drawn out process. Initially I made a lot of progress but I struggled to sew the gathered 5yds(!) of skirt to the bodice. I managed it in the end but I was worried that I'd damaged my beloved machine and/or bent a needle in the process. Prior to this struggle I came across some problems with the loops to be used for the back fastening. The pattern just doesn't allow for these to be long enough to be sewn securely into the back seam. In addition the back didn't fit properly and gaped at the side seams. So I eventually put in button holes instead of loops and this had the effect of pulling the back in for a better fit with no gaping.

Do I love it? - I'm not sure. But I'm very glad it's finished. Next time I'll make this for evening wear in a lovely voile.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

McCall's Sewing in Colour

If you haven't already discovered Gertie's new blog for better sewing you'd better get out of here and get on over and check it out - Gertie's inspirational blog is well known and well loved. Her inspiration is Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing and if you read her blog regularly enough you'll know that sewing each of the outfits in the Vogue book is the basis of her blog.

Now I've long wanted a similar manual because Gertie knows how to do things that I don't, like altering patterns for a better fit in ways that are more than the routine lengthening and shortening that most of us can work out for ourselves. No, Gertie knows how to really fit a garment and I want to too. But buying old school sewing books that tell you all this stuff are hard to come by and modern books are short on detail. So I was over the moon today to discover McCalls Sewing in Colour (1965) in my local second hand book store. It's my holy grail and I intend to spend my weekend indulging myself. But before I go I just want to give you a flavour of why these books are so enchanting. The first section of the book details for the modern, mid- twentieth century woman, how to build a wardrobe and in particular what to wear for each occasion. Here we have advice for what to wear when shopping: 'By this we mean in a city department store. Slacks and shorts are taboo. Again simple dresses and and suits are best.' Folks - a suit to shop. Goodness! Here in the UK many supermarkets have recently banned shoppers from turning out to shop in their pyjamas which I can understand - but banning slacks... I can't wait to read on.

My best friend

I love my sewing machine. It was a Christmas present last year and it's a marriage made in heaven. You only need to ask most people about their relationship with their PC to know that reliance on machines can be problematic, but I've never wanted to throw this particular machine through the window or smash it to pieces in a fit of frustration and rage. No, my Janome 7025 enables me. I took a dressmaking course last year and I noticed that all the students had very noticeable and varying relationships with their machines. There were those of us who had a reliable partnership who could trust their machine to work with them and not to screw up just when we needed them most, there were those whose relationships were high maintenance who had to go through a lot of persuasive techniques to get their machines 'onside' and then there were those clearly heading for separation where the machines clearly had no respect whatsoever for the feelings of their partners and regularly left them in tears and humiliated. Janome and I became inseparable.

How are things between you and your machine? Are you compatible or heading for separation?