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

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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.

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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).

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

  1. VKM, love this post!! I’m inspired to get out my machine in 2013; maybe you can share some tips and tricks! Writing and sewing…cooking too?? Have a wonderful new year and remember to be equally happy at sight of Big Brother and not just Tailor’s Clapper!!

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