Stones and diamonds

Dress details- a design by worth...

Dress details- a design by Worth…

I can’t remember exactly when I fell in love with sewing, but like many moments of love I am sure that the “moment” exists for all of us bitten by the bug. To be honest, it was probably more falling in love with vintage fashion to which sewing and knitting for myself provided a doorway. It took sewing from a “craft” that people to do on a weekend to an amazing world in which so much knowledge could be acquired.


Whenever that moment happened, my thirst for more knowledge followed. This included the acquisition of many rare and hard to find texts on fashion history and dressmaking over years (and knitting, another passion) that now occupies an entire wall in my (cubby hole) “studio” and a cabinet in our dining room. They come from a variety of sources… estates, online auctions like ebay, church sales, fellow dressmakers and seamstresses that have onsold their own collections… every pamphlet and book holds such pleasure, lost fashions, a doorway into a world that once existed.


It was a matter of time before I opened my own etsy shop. I remember sitting in mothers group with another mum who liked to knit marvelling at what was available. And to think I could share some of the out of copyright gems in my collection that way too? It seemed an obvious step.


Fast forward four years later, I am now full time stay at home mum and part time shop owner… these days it has become a great way to meet and interact with so many other great people in the global crafting/ knitting/ dressmaking community. I am so so so awed by the talent that exists out there, by the people who quietly achieve great beauty by making art works that are not destined to be seen by scores in museums, but are bestowed as gifts to their family or friends or become cherished garments for themselves. And my heart fills with a feeling I find it hard to name when they contact me sometimes years later to show me their finished work. Maybe that feeling is joy. Maybe it is pride. But I do know I feel happy that a pattern that was deteriorating with the sands of time in my sewing table drawer or bookshelf is living a life and being enjoyed by someone whether its in Australia or the US or Scandinavia or the UK…


Unfortunately, there has been a down side. When you have a store on the internet your name and offerings are out there. What this means is that someone who has never met you, doesn’t know you, has never bought from you, has no intention of buying from you who may just dislike the fact you are in the reproductions business can find fault with what you have to offer.


I’m not going to bother getting into are “reproductions of out of copyright work is evil argument”, because if they were, Pride and Prejudice would have died at least a century ago. And lets face it, anyone who has been victim to the dark and smouldering looks of Mr Darcy knows that would be a travesty!


But I have one particular product which has proved very contentious because quite separate to any reproduction available in my store, there are apparently others available for a lower price as part of subscriptions and memberships or for “free”. These are someone else’s product, reproductions of the same original out of copyright book.


What this means is that someone can say, completely ignorant of the time or work you’ve put into your product “she should be offering that cheaper or for free,”… because (I assume) the original material is in the public domain and someone else has tried to offer the original content in a different way. Forget the fact that you spent forever agonizing over what software would be best to make the reproduction, did the legal copyright legwork, that you refused to shrink file sizes to trade off easy instant downloads with high resolution, easy to view imagery, that you traded off time with your kids to spend weeks touching up the document page… by …page. And my poor husband, he is the real sucker, I reeled him in to help me with the technology when it wasn’t doing what it was doing and his time was totally unpaid. (Okay… Its nice to be loved).


Seriously, I can’t compete with “other” versions of this book, because mine is a different product and its been created by me with a view to making it as user friendly as possible. I don’t imagine that everyone expects that every copy of Pride and Prejudice is going to be the same quality in digital or original format.And frankly when you are talking pattern schematics, I think quality is all the more crucial. I personally don’t want to waste my valuable sewing time and thats what I’ve had in mind when I undertook a reproduction.


Which product? It actually doesn’t matter. The fact that there is someone out there willing to write up on a public forum to one of my customers- all of whom I value endlessly- that it “sucks” that you sell your product at all because someone else is offering another version… well, it really does turn that great joy to sadness. It was like someone saying “I have no value for your time or what you have to offer and no’one else should either.” My car broke down today (the last day before a long weekend with tons of traffic) with a six month old baby and an active three year old to entertain, this felt so much worse. It was both random and personal.


But you know, it doesn’t matter what business you are in and how much you love it, there is always going to be someone that will push and shove to be the first to throw stones. In that sense my etsy shop hasn’t just been about pursuing a passion or meeting other great people, its actually been a fabulous exercise in business- learning about what distinguishes one product from another – and what is worth my time in selling.


And then there are the GREAT customers, the ones that send those fabulous photos, that make you smile, that get in touch and share their own amazing abilities. One such customer named Letha has just started her own etsy shop Knitting and Donkeys including a product made from one of my patterns… a gorgeous little shrug. Well done Letha! Great job! And thank you.


Life is full of stones and diamonds. Chin, chin… Here is to the diamonds.

letha shrug



Baby doll delicious

Baby doll… I loved the ones Samantha sometimes wore on the show “Bewitched” watched so many times in my childhood (and gulp- adulthood)! 1960s style!

Admittedly, at first I thought it would be a little bit extravagant to use 2 metres of Liberty lawn (Isle of Wight design, FYI) for a nightgown but then decided that if I wore it a few times a week through the Summer, it was exactly the kind of garment that deserved the best fabric. Buttons were custom made by moi.

Believe it or not, the hardest part was choosing the trim- I went with the lace I chose after perusing pinterest of 1950s and 1960s baby doll nightgowns- I liked the more modern feel of the Isle of Wight Liberty lawn design with the feminine, lace frills!

Two sick kiddies beckon… but here it is… ready for many night of cocoa ! Voila! I would love to make a nightgown or bed jacket next…!






Baby doll on my mind…


Sewing time has been very limited of late.. But I am determined to finish a baby doll nightie by this Sunday… Here is the pattern, the liberty lawn and trim…

Who doesn’t love a baby doll nightie???

Here is some more late 50s to early 70s inspiration from my collection of patterns and catalogues… Enjoy!







1940s fashion… Decisions and inspiration


Of these which would you make? Planning my sewing year and as I succumbed and bought some gorgeous vintage rayon, I am having a hard time deciding. Maybe the far left pattern, top right blouse?
Anybody worked with vintage rayon? Dream or nightmare? Tips and tricks please…?!
Next question, what are your favourite movies for 40s fashion inspiration. So far on my list I have: the Notebook, Pearl Harbor, Casablanca… Any must see movies to add from the era?

A new special addition at Vanessa Loves Vintage on etsy

Its Australia day weekend here in Aus and it feels like I have spent most of the day “working”… Many years ago I chanced upon an elderly seamstress and acquired a number of items from her own collection of vintage patterns. You know, pretty Australian Home Journals from the 40s and 50s, a gorgeous 40s Vogue Counter Catalogue from 1947 (it was the first of a number of treasured volumes) and a very special dressmaking book from the 1950s, designed for the home seamstress who wanted to draft their own patterns. I feel such a bond with other seamstresses…  Especially those who worked through the years of austerity during World War II- who doesn’t admire thrift, talented workmanship, the skill to make something from nothing in such times? At the time it seemed very dear but I knew from all the gorgeous designs I was going to treasure it… forever! The book was similar to Lutterloh and imagine how wonderful to know it is out of copyright and in the public domain.

So its taken me a while to reproduce it, but I FINALLY added it to my etsy store as an ebook today. For 225 pretty patterns including evening gowns, halter dresses, lingerie and childrens wear, I think its a value buy!

Anyway, here is the eye candy… All of these designs are in the book. The book shows you how to draft each corresponding pattern piece. It does assume a healthy knowledge of garment construction. I wish I had the figure for some of those Claire McCardell style bathing suits!!!

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Everyone loves a vintage apron… (A work in progress)!

image …not least of all because they are relatively quick sewing projects that can be worn frequently… I don’t have enough so thought Mccall 1279, which first became available in the 1940s was a great choice… And I so love ruffles. This pattern was sold by Mccalls well into the late 50s, a testament to its popularity. Here is the work in progress. I was going re-make it sans bows but you can see the overlap creates a slight pucker so it’s a necessary design detail. For anyone else making this, I added a small square of iron on interfacing to each corner of the slit (wrong side) to reinforce it. Still deciding about lace trim on the ruffle… The pink version on the top right is so girly… Yes, I also used my beloved ruffler foot. The fabric is a cotton floral by Riley Blake. I hope to finish it before tomorrow night, weekend activities permitting. Will definitely make my little girl one in the next few years in a smaller size so we can match! As was fashionable in the 50s… Super easy pattern to draft for a little one, just use one of your little girls skirts to get an idea of the width and depth you want.

Vintage apron patterns, featured in Mccalls catalogue November ’57


Vintage patterns eye candy…  And info for anyone trying to date their apron pattern… The image on the top right is McCalls 2184, the model looks a bit like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, doesn’t she? I think it shows the “Audrey effect”.

I definitely need a cobbler… I would walk through the house cleaning up and collecting toy cars in my pockets! ;)