A retrospective: what I learnt about sewing, personal style and vintage fashion in 2012


Today I am featuring two recently finished projects, the first a bias cut skirt from a 1970s pattern (really ugly illustration but effective design) and an apron from a 1950s simplicity pattern. These were great projects. (I always water the plants in heels by the way. No, not really)! I added a silk cotton batiste lining to the skirt with Hong Kong seam finishes, hand stitched into the waist band. The apron gave me an opportunity to figure out how to use my ruffler foot on my beloved elna SU.


As 2012 comes to a close, its natural that I should cast an eye back. It has been a wonderful year. We watched our baby boy bounce and bounce and become quite the little boy. He takes great pleasure hurtling things across the room, pounding objects on the table and screaming gleefully. It is wonderful to be reminded of how beautiful innocence is and he has retaught my husband and I how to “play”. Some of our most fun moments have been throwing his beach ball around our living room and inevitably hitting light shades and picture frames… but, oh! What fun we had. What beautiful memories.

And what of this “new” hobby? Its not really so “new” anymore (how did it quickly become a couple of years)? What did 2012 teach me?

I learnt a lot about sewing, patterns, fashion and my own sense of style. These are my ten top pointers (based on what I have learnt)

  • Not all patterns are good patterns. Take the time to really look at the pattern details before you start. I love, love, love some of the gorgeous vintage pattern illustrations but artists employed their talents to sell patterns. Turn the pattern over and take a good look at the line drawing, the notions and the likely method of construction. Is it likely all the “instructions” are there, or are there steps/ features you are going to want to add to make it a better, more suitable garment? Eg. A lining, will a strapless bodice be supportive enough without boning.
  • Be discerning about your projects. If you have thousands of patterns (cough, cough) you aren’t going to be able to make them all. But you can be selective about which ones you choose, which ones you can wear years into the future (occasionally tweaking if your body changes).
  • Basting and redoing something that isn’t quite right, isn’t time wasted. If you leave a project or turn a blind eye because something doesn’t sit well, the time you have already invested in making the garment is wasted. Anything you invest time into, you want to wear. Go the extra mile if you have to.
  • Muslins are, in the spirit of the above comment, an investment for special garments. To an extent it may make the process longer but if you end up realising the style doesn’t suit you, you have also spared your fabric. I made an apron without a muslin, but the design is pretty simple and the fabric didn’t cost $500. Additionally, if you perfect the fit, you can reuse the muslin and make the skirt, dress etc again.
  • When fitting a muslin or garment on yourself, take photos and study the photos. There are things you just aren’t aware of when you are wearing a garment or when its on a mannequin.
  • Don’t be afraid of the iron. It is your friend. I have always associated irons with domestic drudgery (“run, run…!”), but when you’re making a garment and take the time to press through the different steps, it’s a wonderful feeling to see how professional and polished it starts to look.
  • Don’t be afraid of working on projects simultaneously, it can be very efficient to cut several muslins at once and move each project through the same “phases”. This has been great for me as a time poor mummy. But DO keep track of what you have started and don’t let half made bits and pieces sit on the shelf too long.
  • Don’t be afraid to “go bush” with the pattern. If you start making it up and realise it might look better if you do something differently if you don’t follow the pattern to a “T”, then try it! But, depending on the fabric (cost, frailty, likelihood of ravelling) do think about doing this with the muslin process (which really is liberating).
  • Wear you projects. Flaunt them! Be proud. Probably the most important point. If you don’t want to wear them, then something has gone astray in the process. Think about going back. You are making something beautiful. For you. And isn’t that awesome feeling what its all about.
  • Once made, take the time to store and care for your garments properly, buy decent hangers, garment bags etc if necessary. Your special garment is special, it was custom made. There are people who go through life never having the opportunity to wear a properly fitted garment created with them in mind.

So can’t wait to make new “new vintage” style projects in 2013… including french knickers (tap pants) from the 1940s, a Pierre Cardin 1960s suit and any number of 1950s dresses. Though I think I also need to make a blouse to go with my newly made bis cut skirt… (style ideas anyone)?!

Have fun in 2013 everyone! Happy sewing! Happy vintage fashion loving!

Importantly, a special heartfelt thanks to my beloved hubbie for his patience, taking photos, occupying the little guy when I sorted through my notions, sat at my elna and “made stuff”. (bisous darling xoxoxo).


The tale of the tailor’s clapper

I have to start this post by talking about how wonderful my older brother is. After much scouring of the internet, I cast my sights on a tailors clapper that could forseeably be delivered to his address in the United States, by messenger bike no less, before it will journey with him on several airplanes all the way home to me here in Australia. Aren’t older brothers… the best?!?!? Of course once upon a time it would more likely have been lipstick or a handbag or shoes or something like that… but now that I have become totally sewing obsessed, its all about the notions! Dare I add he is also bringing home some relatively cheap silk organza press cloths?! Its actually cheaper to buy ready made in the US than to buy the fabric here and make them myself. Let no wool be burnt by these hands. Oh, and Gingher dressmakers shears… I can hardly wait.


In any event, the tailor’s clapper will be much appreciated given that one of my 2013 sewing goals is to make a properly tailored suit. I have chosen a design from the 1960s… and how fine and crisp the edges will now be! have you set yourself any sewing goals for 2013? My sewing goals (think half a wardrobe) include garments that require techniques or skills that are not currently in my repetoire. I love the learning process.

On a totally different note, the dress featured- and its been ages since I have done a “pattern of the day” is McCalls 4355 (featured in McCalls Pattern Book, Spring 1958). I love the retro rose print, so very Summery.

Little Prince has been walking everywhere and beckons (threatens)?! as I type…. so its a short post!

Happy New Year world! Bon Annee!

The Vintage Kitchen… add a little cinnamon, sugar, lucite and bakelite

The last few weeks have flown by with my return to work. Whist my hours are part time I am finding it hard to “switch off” once I leave the office. I think this practice is actually an art form. That said, some nights I am so exhausted, I really don’t have much more energy than is required to cuddle, feed and bath our little munchkin. If leagues of other women have managed this juggling act (says she, valiantly) so can I!

Saturday night, darling husband gave me some time to sew and I worked on a vintage inspired apron that I have been hoping to finish before Christmas. This was of course between researching appropriate finger foods for the little one and investing hours into baking tray upon tray of gingerbread for the coming week, (thank goodness for Annabel Karmel).  Am I the only one to feel like I spend the majority of my free time in the kitchen? Reality check, I do!

bakelite cakeToday however was Sunday and imagine how thrilled I was to find a few beautiful retro kitchen items at a local market. The cake canister was in amazing condition and a little net research confirmed that this little beauty manufactured by a company called “Eon” (circa 1950s) was indeed Bakelite. I bought the coasters from the same person. The “Crystalware” stickers were still on the back stating that they were manufactured in Australia and were a glass-like resin. It would appear that these are actually lucite with bakelite inlay. I LOVE LOVE them, not just because of their vintage value but because of their pretty, sunny quality. All of it so very Mad Men. And I am always on the hunt for a sunburst clock to travel through time with us, on this wonderful journey called life.


Separately, the other week I picked up a Birko. If you don’t know what they are, truthfully I wouldn’t either, except my mother always fondly tells me about when I was newborn, my Father rushed out and bought one as a bottle warmer, despite the cost. He apparently presented it and said “You’ll need this for the baby” In those days these were quite a coveted kitchen appliance, and quite expensive. And now I have my very own (wink).

 A parting thought, I have to mention a book I came across recently and LOVE for all the vintage fashionistas and crafters out there. Its called “Vintage Crochet for your Home” (Coats and Clark) with patterns adapted from the 1920s to late 1950s. I have never crocheted an afghan, dish cloth, doily or place mat… I have always been a knitter with a desire to crochet… this book is full of great ideas and big on inspiration!

Merry Christmas, world.