Under siege. A Geranium dress is started

Gary and Margot 9Nov2014 hands

“Its been a very unhappy week,” I confessed to my husband

“Its been a very unhappy week for Australia,” he replied.

This evening as I slow danced with my daughter, locked in my arms, her head to my shoulder and listened to the sound of her breathing whilst my son played about my knees and laughed and giggled and clambered and shouted… like the cute, noisy little munchkin that he is. I thought about how it really felt like a lack lustre lead up to my favourite time of year. It is a week before Christmas…

Admittedly, “the Siege” (or hostage crisis) that occurred in Sydney earlier this week coloured some of the days that followed. I was up at 2am feeding my daughter when the storming of the Lindt cafe was televised. Like many other Australians I have spent time in the area where the siege took place and worked in Sydney’s CBD at different points in my career. I woke my husband up. We watched it together. We sat in front of our tv contemplating the fact that before our eyes, real time, people were being killed.

I was in Toronto when September 11 occurred and it was very much the same feeling- that sadness- that in the world we live in  people can act in a way, for whatever reason that is truly vile. Senseless violence, needless death. Heavy words for what is essentially sewing blog!

The thing is, the woman who died in the siege was exactly my age. She finished high school when I did. She had three children, the youngest about the age of my son. All week, that woman and her family played on my mind… that on Monday morning when she walked out the door and said her goodbyes to her family, she could have had no way of knowing that she would never see them again. She had probably Christmas plans to look forward to, presents to wrap for her kids if they weren’t already hidden… This might also have been her favourite time of year.

So what do we do in this crazy world when something like this happens? What can we really do? Well.. I started sewing a Geranium dress. This is not a stellar, worldly important thing to do. But it is what I do. Sewing, creating is the activity the has become my anchor in a sea of days. It is a humble act. This dress will be a gift for my baby daughter, a little piece of stitches and patterns that may one day be forgotten… but is really the workmanship of my hands and heart saying “I love you… you have that” even if I can’t ever fully protect my children from some of the awful things that happen in the world. (I also have some sandbox pants (Oliver and S) cut from Birch organic wave for my son, waiting to be assembled…)

My husband has just handed me an omlette on a bagel. He is tired, he has just driven three hours each way to his Uncle’s funeral. He hates cooking. Yes,its been a lousy week, but somehow with these little gestures, these little forms of “I love you” we all get by.

I promise my following posts will be less somber but I want to add something my dad once told me about how he coped after Vietnam… and he almost never spoke about it or the friends he lost. But I am sharing it with you, my reader in the internet abyss… He said “You live your life for them, knowing it could have been you. You were only separated by luck,”

We are all separated by luck, and when this stuff happens I think its really about cherishing what we have and not wasting a minute or an opportunity for a full life, for joy. Life is short, dear reader.

If all else fails, try online shopping. (joke)

Next post: a HAPPY update on my Geranium dress in Liberty red floral…

Now, for a glass of red wine…!

Pretty in Pink – the Puppet Show shorts in seersucker

Just a quick post with some shots of the Puppet Show shorts I made this weekend. Had been so longing to make these and finally succumbed and bought the digital pattern. For the record, I much prefer paper patterns- it is a lot of hassle to sticky tape “tiles” together, but I guess there is another advantage- you can read the instructions on your ipad at leisure.

puppet show shorts with Liberty lining at the waistband

The puppet show shorts with Liberty lining at the waistband

Note: I lined the waistband in Liberty lawn and interfaced the front of the waistband. Everything else which pretty much as per the pattern. I love the look of these shorts but I would recommend making the larger sizes. I made a 3-6 month size and found sewing the cuffs on the shorts quite fiddly because the opening is so small.

the shorts

Hurrah… the shorts being modelled by my baby daughter…

Yes, I am planning to make them again… probably in linen, chambray and twill… ideally to match some of the tops I made in the last 6 months… its just such an adorable style! And the contrast trim is so pretty…!

A second pair… your can never have enough Liberty…

Seriously, I was so in love with the first pair and how light they were on my little girl I made a second pair in the late of last night with all the same modifications… french seams, elastic lace at the ruffle and extra rows of stitching at the top to stop the elastic from twisting. I didn’t actually finish it until this morning but I really want to keep my little girl in these given how hot our Summer weather is.

The pattern is called Mauverina aqua (Liberty tana lawn) purchased from PurlSoho in New York online earlier this year, when the Aussie dollar was a little healthier!

Another Liberty lawn fabric ... Mauverina aqua

Another Liberty lawn fabric … Mauverina aqua

Beautiful and practical. But thats this mummy’s humble opinion!

The New Chapter- Life after our little girl’s arrival and blooming Liberty!

IMG_6588_2

A first blog post after our little girls birth- she’s three months old and last night was the first night I have had a stretch of sleep longer than 5 hours. Today was the first day I started sewing again… helped along by a purchase of some pretty Liberty fabric at Canberra’s Addicted To Fabric shop yesterday. We also went to some markets this morning and the stalls of handmade baby garments had me longing, longing, longing to get started!

The fabric is Liberty Mauvey (tana lawn) and the pattern was a pretty non descript layette pattern by McCalls from 1991 which I altered to suit my I desires! Ta da… pantaloons, people…!!! I must say I was pretty happy with the pattern matching at the seam at the back… I’d like to say I spent ages trying to do this, alas, it was just a lucky moments when the moons lined up for me… excuse the pun… or abstract flowers in this instance! This project was perfect because its a pretty simple, quick garment but also one my little girl sorely needed. I love Janie and Jack in the US but the pants I had bought for her weren’t as light and soft as I was hoping… these should feel like air and be very comfortable. I also made the elastic in the waist a bit longer than it needed to be so i could unstitch and stitch again… so eventually these might be more “bloomers” than pantaloons as she grows.

IMG_6589_2

A side note motherhood is lovely… most days…! I have managed to get into the swing of caring for a very active toddler and a young baby all at the same time! Thank goodness for the ergo, baby carriers are the best invention ever…!

Our lives have changed since the arrival of our “Little Princess”… for the better. You don’t think your heart can be filled with more love. You think its already full and brimming. And then it happens. You meet child 2. And its falling in love all over again. or for the first time, in the case of my firstborn (son). We adore her. And I cherish every minute of her babyhood. Baby cuddles really are scrumptious!!!

Like I said... scrumptious!

Like I said… scrumptious!

Tips and Tricks- Shawl Collars for shirts and dresses

IMG_6253

My son recently turned three years old. Using an Enid Gilchrist pattern (which appears in a number of her pattern books in the 50s, 60s and 70s) I made this shirt with raglan sleeves and what was essentially a shawl collar. It was fun to custom make it- I used a poplin with little cars all over it with red buttons to match his slacks-  I very much enjoyed see him wearing it on a recent play date.

Admittedly, I didn’t find the shawl collar easy but I stumbled on this tip sheet by Marian Corey (whom I have previously waxed lyrical about)… just in case anyone else is looking for tips and tricks for a similar garment! Good luck…. hope this is helpful.

Marian Corey's tips on the popular 50s shawl collar... extracted from a 1950s (1953)? leaflet.

Marian Corey’s tips on the popular 50s shawl collar… extracted from a 1950s (1953)? leaflet.

Halter tops and dresses- classic “vintage” style for Summer

I am definitely pleased that the weather in Canberra is changing- Spring literally is in the air- its almost like a different scent, the light changes this time of year… free of Winter the options for our weekends broaden. I can barely wait. Today could only be described as glorious. It was a gorgeous day actually. My husband and I made it to a little cafe in Canberra called Elk and Pea (in Braddon)- thumbs up, but do book ahead! The interior reminded me of the industrialised decor that is so popular in the cafes near Venice Beach in LA. It was a great feeling to head to the pool for an hour with my son and then some home to listen to them playing ball together in the garden. Life is made of those simple, magic pleasures. I felt so grateful to be alive.

Anyway back to my passion with vintage fashion… Having read a 1940s LIFE magazine article that has me now quite interested in other designers of the era including Carolyn Schnurer and Tina Leser, vintage style resort wear is definitely on my mind! And nothing is so classic as the halter- or as synonymous with the 1950’s, thanks largely to Miss Monroe!

1950s style... eternal

1950s style… eternal

Luscious red

Luscious red- 7454 made up in an early 1950s pattern book (Onondaga silk advertisement)… LOVE the cloth covered buttons…

Below is a 50s Vogue Pattern Book image of 7375 (featured in Vogue’s New Book for Better Sewing- don’t you love the old illustrations in these old pattern books. Art in and of themselves. I actually do have this pattern but making Claire McCardell’s wrap dress pattern is more appealing at the moment. Additionally, whilst I have the book, I misplaced it when we moved house last year. Very annoying… I had really wanted to use the book as a reference. Fortunately, I had made a back up on CD (so I could read it on my iPad using “SPLASHTOP”)… but its probably a little lower on the to do list, especially give it is totally backless… That said, I imagine it would be very quick to make!

Vogue 7375 VPB image

Fine lines, empire lines…! A few vintage sewing patterns I have and love…

There is something so alluring and flattering about the empire line… I like patterns that have a straightforward empire line and those that have a midriff waistline.

Pretty McCall 8437- 1940s glamourarama!

Pretty McCall 8437- 1940s glamourarama!

Simplicity 8243

Below  are a few examples of patterns that feature pretty midriffs with gathered bust lines… I really think this style is so classic. These appearances were in the 1940s, 1950s and 1970s…

photo 4 (1)

Whilst McCall 8437 is made up as an evening dress I think the shorter length in cotton would also be fabulous for a Summer dress in cotton- I particularly like the subtle slit at the back.  The zipper is in the side seam and the instructions advocate the use of grosgrain ribbon for a waistline stay. I have actually started to make this in the pineapple cotton of my last post (to go with the bolero)… most of the bodice pieces have been sewn or basted but I will wait to do the side seams and fully attach the midriff until I can do a proper fitting with a view to finishing it by New Years Eve. Who knows what the second pregnancy will do to my waistline! A small price to pay for a bundle of joy… I will also wait to cut the skirt (but the fabric is all ready and waiting). One modification I will be making is to line the midriff.

If you like this pattern I would recommend it because the instructions are actually pretty good, with notes for sheers (ie hand rolled hems) and velvet… the pattern includes a slip pattern. I think this a gem that will be staying in my collection!

I don’t own this Claire McCardell Spadea 707 (the image is from one of my Spadea catalogues) but it is similar to another McCardell pattern I have and top be honest, there were a few “knock offs” of this Style made by some of the mainstream pattern companies that borrowed many elements odf this dress, so keeping my eye out for them on ebay and etsy…

McCardell 707 from spadea catalogue

 

The flutter sleeve variation on this 1970s Style pattern is a pretty variation too….

STYLE 1157 1970s

In progress: A Claire McCardell bolero, In love: a Tina Leser dress

When my son has a night at his grandmother’s the hours I get to myself are precious- and yet I am torn between domestic drudgery (ie the need to get the house cleaned and vacuumed etc) and to sew or progress my projects. This morning will be a bit of both.. and as with all my projects this one is coming along incrementally.

Not the best photo but you get the idea- the dress beneath the bolero has just been used as a prop fopr this snap but it is a Tina Leser Original hostess dress from the 1950s that I fell in love with

Not the best photo but you get the idea- the dress beneath the bolero has just been used as a prop fopr this snap but it is a Tina Leser Original hostess dress from the 1950s that I fell in love with

Retro style pineapple design on Japanese poplin

Retro style pineapple design on Japanese poplin

The bolero on the mannequin has been adapted from the bolero in SPADEA 1055 by Claire McCardell (late 40s/ early 50s design)? An example of the original dress produced by McCardell can be seen here. I lengthened the sleeve a bit and instead of making it in something soft and drapey I have made it in a retro style poplin that I sourced locally but loved,  (by and large I like Japanese made cottons).

As you can see the bolero isn’t meant to meet in the middle and has piping and a spaghetti strap at the waist. I am still thinking about whether I take the same path with this bolero… it is unfinished, but I do see it being worn over a dress in same fabric or a white tshirt and skirt. In the short term, I plan to use it as a quasi bad-jacket at the hospital after little one is born.

Here is another 1950s bolero I have on my to sew list, for this Summer or next- this one does make an appearance in my 1957 Advance catalogue so i can date it pretty accurately.

Talmack for Advance- a tie-at-back bolero

Talmack for Advance- a tie-at-back bolero

 

I appreciate the photos here aren’t marvellous and I would typically show whole pattern images and snaps from my catalogues. However, after I recently found a professional and well known vintage pattern seller was using images from my blog to sell her patterns- WITHOUT acknowledgement I was a bit surprised. I recognised my own work immediately. I was even more surprised (and disgusted) when she said the images were her own and maybe I was “mistaken”. All I wanted was an acknowledgement of the source. Every other image on the page was watermarked except that one.

So blogger beware. The image in question, was of a Givenchy dress  (McCalls 3625)I posted about a couple of years ago.  Same angle, same lighting, same page blemishes, just cropped. Cropping someone’s work doesn’t make it your own… I suppose I was just surprised that someone would do that, put it on their sales website and argue it was theirs… without shame. Fortunately, I do believe in karma. AND I will never buy anything from their online store. So very vintage or not.

So fellow bloggers… maybe watermarking every single image is the only way to go?

Its unfortunate, but until I have the time to watermark images from my catalogues, I cant share them here… sorry fellow sewists!

Anyway, what do you think of the humble 50s bolero? I think they have a place in my wardrobe! Especially with out harsh Aussie sun.

In progress: A Claire McCardell bolero- In love: a Tina Leser dress

When my son has a night at his grandmother’s the hours I get to myself are precious- and yet I am torn between domestic drudgery (ie the need to get the house cleaned and vacuumed etc) and to sew or progress my projects. This morning will be a bit of both… and as with all my projects this one is coming along incrementally.

Not the best photo but you get the idea- the dress beneath the bolero has just been used as a prop for this snap but it is a Tina Leser Original hostess dress from the 1950s that I fell in love with

Not the best photo but you get the idea- the dress beneath the bolero has just been used as a prop fopr this snap but it is a Tina Leser Original hostess dress from the 1950s that I fell in love with

Retro style pineapple design on Japanese poplin

Retro style pineapple design on Japanese poplin

The bolero on the mannequin has been adapted from the bolero in SPADEA 1055 by Claire McCardell (late 40s/ early 50s design)? An example of the original dress produced by McCardell can be seen here. I lengthened the sleeve a bit and instead of making it in something soft and drapey I have made it in a retro style poplin that I sourced locally but loved,  (by and large I like Japanese made cottons).

As you can see the bolero isn’t meant to meet in the middle and has piping and a spaghetti strap at the waist. I am still thinking about whether I take the same path with this bolero… it is unfinished, but I do see it being worn over a dress in same fabric or a white tshirt and skirt. In the short term, I plan to use it as a quasi bad-jacket at the hospital after little one is born.

Here is another 1950s bolero I have on my to sew list, for this Summer or next- this one does make an appearance in my 1957 Advance catalogue so i can date it pretty accurately.

Talmack for Advance- a tie-at-back bolero

Talmack for Advance- a tie-at-back bolero

 

I appreciate the photos here aren’t marvellous and I would typically show whole pattern images and snaps from my catalogues. However, after I recently found a professional and well known vintage pattern seller was using images from my blog to sell her patterns- WITHOUT acknowledgement I was a bit surprised. I recognised my own work immediately. I was even more surprised (and disgusted) when she said the images were her own and maybe I was “mistaken”. All I wanted was an acknowledgement of the source. Every other image on the page was watermarked except that one.

So blogger beware. The image in question, was of a Givenchy dress  (McCalls 3625)I posted about a couple of years ago.  Same angle, same lighting, same page blemishes, just cropped. Cropping someone’s work doesn’t make it your own… I suppose I was just surprised that someone would do that, put it on their sales website and argue it was theirs… without shame. Fortunately, I do believe in karma. AND I will never buy anything from their online store. So very vintage or not.

So fellow bloggers… maybe watermarking every single image is the only way to go?

Its unfortunate, but until I have the time to watermark images from my catalogues, I cant share them here… sorry fellow sewists!

Anyway, what do you think of the humble 50s bolero? I think they have a place in my wardrobe! Especially with out harsh Aussie sun.