Why Hello, Miss Ashley! How was your trip?

Summer is rolling around, slowly but surely. The stores are stocking their Christmas Trim and no doubt we will so be bombarded with Santa’s merry smile, blasts of air conditioning and hot, hot days.

After three weeks of travel, a new pattern arrived in the mailbox today- the postman thankfully did not try and jam it into our humble little brick mailbox opening but in the open air slot- good move, Mr Postie! The pattern is a 1970’s McCalls “Carefree Pattern” by Laura Ashley (5058). Good news- no zips! So I could probably whip the sundress up in an afternoon. Its simple, classic, strappy and billowy. It has that I-want-to-board-the-yacht-now look and where is the flower for my hair? Yes, perfect for long Summer afternoons and hanging out at the house with my husband and soon-to-be born baby.

Patterns can be very special things. They live lives. This one travelled from Guernsey in the United Kingdom and the seller attached a note about when she bought the pattern, shortly after she was married in the UK in the 1970s. And now the pattern is mine, as hubbie and I approach our first Summer as a married couple. I thought the note was lovely, especially in the circumstances.

Chop, chop, time to make it up! Or perhaps, I should more appropriately say, snip snip!

I have the most perfect blue and pink floral 1960s broadcloth for it that I have been saving… now that came from somewhere called Fogtown, somewhere in America…

How I do love Vintage.

McCalls Laura Ashley Vintage Pattern 5058

The Last Post… before the big day? Maybe, baby!

The thing about collecting, is that the idea of ever parting with that which you collect is… well… mortifying! I read a book years ago called The Orchid Thief about a man who was totally obsessed with a certain species of orchid that only grew in the deep dark swamps of Florida. (Incidentally, orchids can live for hundreds of years, did you know)? The point is, as a collector, that which he collected became an obsession. I am not quite at the level, but I can appreciate the desire to hunt out and find what you’re looking for…

As time passes I am beginning to wonder what kind of patterns I like best, if there is a particular designer or style etc etc. Some art collections are purely assembled on the taste of the individual. Right now, my collection seems to gravitate towards the Vogue Couturier, Vogue Americana and Vogue Paris Original patterns of the fifties, sixties and seventies.

This week I splurged and got myself an advance Happy-Birthay-to-me and a Good-Luck-In-Labour pressie (why not)??? Some people go buy a dress or get some earrings. I put in a bid on eBay for a particular pattern and won (a bargain, no less).

I now own a Schiaparelli. A Vogue Paris Original Model Schiaparelli which in my mind is not only a beautiful dress pattern, my size and rare, but museum worthy… An italian designer on par with Chanel, Schiaparelli was one of the first couturiers to sign up with Vogue post World War II. These patterns are as rare as hens teeth and a pattern dealer can charge a small fortune when they surface… I will be sending up prayers that the pattern arrives safely in my cloying hands! I will have to think seriously about preservation!

Belinda Bellville’s Couturier Design evening gown 2112 finally arrived in the post this afternoon (blogged about it a few weeks ago). So pretty a dress. As baby has not arrived as yet I will have time this afternoon to copy the pattern for use.

I am far from an expert seamstress but this is the way I handle my vintage patterns. Open to any other ideas for pattern care from more seasoned and experienced vintage pattern lovers on the web…?

1. Copy the pattern, particularly if there are deteriorating pieces, as a back up. This can be a time consuming process. I use butcher’s paper and do most of it freehand, I also transfer some of the instructions onto the pieces, particularly if the original pattern is not a more recent  “printed” pattern but perforated. Note: always label the pieces in case at some point in the future they get mixed up- I have a few projects on the go at any one time and it is possible;

2. Use weights, not pins if you decide to just use the original pattern during the cutting process- this helps keep a double layer of fabric more steady in most cases when you cut anyway; I don’t use dressmaker’s weights, which you can buy, I use regular paperweights;

3. If sewing a 1950s pattern, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at a 1950s sewing reference book. Sewing books vary depending on the fashion of the time, I find some are more elaborate about styles and techniques that were contextually relevant to the period the pattern was made/ the garment was designed.

So thats it for todays installment. Miss Bellville awaits. And I await baby still!

Glamazon and the Sea of Violets

As I type this, I am getting my behind seriously whooped at scrabble. For anyone that knows me, this is not the norm. In fact, as it is hubbie beating me, it is entirely forgivable, not least of all because after a moments notice when we had been up for less than ten minutes, and coffee offered into his hands I gave him a pleading glance… and he indulged me…. and off we went on a Saturday morning adventure to I-will-not-tell-exactly-where… except to admit we found the little treasures I had been hoping for….

Why sew vintage style dresses and not yet vintage fabrics and notions? In fact, this is a challenge I have sort of set myself as I learn to sew… virtually nothing I use is “new” as in from the mall, but “new” in the sense that it may have been sitting in someone else’s sewing basket for thirty, forty or fifty years, waiting to be transformed into something… special.


The first of this mornings finds I have dubbed “Glamazon” because the sheerness of the Georgette (made in Japan) reminds me of a figure billowing in blue, etheral layers moving soundlessly in a moonlit Summer garden… perfect for a full skirted 1950’s evening dress or a 1970’s layered Dior (think the original Stepford Wives movie).

Violets, violets, everywhere!

The second gem has to be one of the prettiest dress fabrics I have ever seen… suitable for a serious case of frock love. The fabric undulates with violets and promises to fall on the bias for a super special occassion… I will have to think seriously about the pattern before putting scissors to this divine fabric.


The third and final piece to rave about, I am not sure what to do with yet, because it is quite small and one really just wants to stare at its subtle hues… a short panel of grey kimono silk with peach woven subtly where the design erupts in clusters of elegant, reaching trees. Do I dare ever cut that? No wonder it was stashed carefully away for at least four decades. The the original owner clearly threw out their TV and spent their evenings staring at it. Or maybe that was just saved for a special occassion. Okay, maybe not, but I know they loved it.

Throw in a few zippers and I don’t mind being beated at scrabble or losing a turn because at thirty four, I can’t spell “skier” (I thought there were two “i”s), alas.

But the hubbie is sweet and patient. As well as improving his scrabble game with a sixty point lead and no letters left in the bag! So this is modern day romance….

Its a great day to be alive.

Belle du Jour

Swingin' Sixties.... Yeah Baby! 😉

It was a stroke of bad luck that brought a turn of good luck… and how I came to chance upon some fabulous new patterns for my collection. Long story short, I lucked out and chanced upon some wonderful 1950s and 1960s designs. Unfortunately the Jean Muir Vogue Couturier Pattern was incomplete (not disastrously if I want to make the pattern up myself, three panels for the skirt were missing but I could probably figure it out) but it compromised the value of that particular find from a collector’s viewpoint. The overall find of about 12 or so new patterns was wonderful, particularly after I watched a gorgeous Guy Laroche dress pattern I had lusted after disappear into the abyss after its temporary life on eBay for a mere $150. Yes, I was being somewhat tongue in cheek. But it WAS gorgeous so I can understand SOMEONE out there just HAD to have it. I’m just not THAT naughty at this point!

From a soon-to-be-new-mumma standpoint, I am ravenously hungry, it seems all day long and I wonder if our little one is angling for a growth spurt before he is born. I need more food! Fruit, sandwiches, then more fruit… but I think he wants ….the chocolate ice-cream!