We Sew Retro

Saturday, 17 December 2011

A Christmas Deviation

Festive Salutations my crafty Friends!!
I love Christmas...little disappointed we aren't having the kind of snow we had last year, after we've moved to pretty Ramsbottom, but there's still hope.
Anyway, I decided to make my own wreath out of random bits I had lying around:

I was going to add more little bits but it would never have made it onto the front door, as I've also given myself the task of printing my own wrapping paper and making my own cards. I used an embroidery hoop and scraps of fabric as well as ribbons, buttons, and feathers. Anyway, I'm pretty happy with it, and I can always add/adjust it next year if I want to (although Mr Kayaking Bear is staying put).

Have a lovely Crimbo my deers,
Helen xxx

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Step 4 - Have I got it right...dun-dun-DUUUUNN!

So now the bit I've been equally longing for and loathing....cutting the real fabric and making up the coat outer layer according to my redrafted pattern.

As I have said previously, I chose a cappucino coloured mohair knit jersey, so obviously had to use a nap layout. I decided to do things the long way around and cut each side out separately, rather than cut on doubled-up fabric.

I'll hold my hands up and admit that I accidentally forgot to snip a couple of notches whilst cutting out even after bothering to mark all of them on my paper. Oops. Anyway, It's alreet cos I snipped the sleeve notches and they are the ones that matter the most in this pattern.
Then for careful marking, tacking and stitching of the shoulder darts:

And finally, ta-daaaaa... I'm pretty chuffed with this. It is actually a very easy pattern to follow, even if it does look unusual to start with. And as others who have used this Folkwear pattern will comment, the basic coat makes up very quickly:

I'm getting the faux fur, and lining materials this weekend (as well as any other little fancy bits for embellishing the back), so will try and keep you posted soon enough,
loving stitches xx

Step 3 - The Redraft

Right, so after fiddling about with muslin, pins and shears, I was finally happy with my toile. I only adjusted half as I thought it was pointless fiddling about getting the other half exactly the same. I then carefully undid the stitching down the back middle seam to separate out the altered half of the toile and transfer it to paper. I used a combination of the original pattern (for accuracy) and the muslin toile to mark out the new pattern pieces. I had a dart on the muslin toile, but this nicely laid itself out flat on the paper, so less hassle there.

Then all marked out, it gets cut, et voila:

Woohoo, now comes the exciting bit, cutting out the real fabric and sewing up the outer layer of my coat....eeek!
See you soon fellow crafters

Monday, 28 November 2011

Step 2: I hate muslin

  1. it's got wobbly edges.
  2. it won't just sit still while you cut it, especially if you lack a proper cutting table and are crawling around on some crappy laminate floor.
  3. even without obvious signs it throws little bits of cotton up in the air, and my poor eyes and nose wouldn't stop itching.
Anyway, I've managed to prepare a toile of the Poiret coat. The assembly was unusual but very easy. It's one of those patterns where you look at the pieces and think...'what the hell?'  but then with one line of sewing it magically works. Even with some initial shortening just to fit it on the muslin, the coat in its unaltered state drowns my teeny frame:

Now, this would be perfect for some leggy model, but it's a little overkill for a shortarse. So I put it onto Betty and started to adjust one half of the muslin. My idea being, if I can get one half perfect I can then draft a new pattern on paper from that half.

So you can see, that I have adjusted the right-hand side of the coat and ended up adding a very long dart just between the armpit and bust. This was necessary to get the coccon shape and draping I wanted from the front to underneath the bum. Many thanks to Richie for holding the sleeves out and posing in the background (x).

So when everyone is striking at school on Wednesday I intend to take in my toile, undo it and mark it out on thin paper ready to cut my fabric. My next big challenge then is the collar and finding the right faux fur that won't aggrevate my eczema, but will feel snuggy and lush.

Cheers ears xx

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Step 1: Turn Around....

Okay, so as always, I love to give myself a challenge, and really work myself to the bone. And therefore, I've decided to do a mix of machine and hand embroidery to decorate the back of my coat. I've actually been inspired by projects the students are doing at my school. My year 9 group are currently making photo frames inspired by Gustav Klimt's patterns, whilst my colleague is looking at Karen Kamenetzky with her GCSE students. Without knowing it, these inspired me and that's when I doodled my orginal design (whilst in a meeting, but it's okay, because apparently doodling can help you retain information).
Here's a couple of examples of my inspiration:

So I decided to be good and prepare properly, rather than trying to wing it, because I trust my gut instinct, and my gut tells me that if I take my time this coat could be the best thing I have made to date.

So only a small sample, but it's something I can see myself just keep adding to; a perfect example of the more the better methinks.
Next to do:
  1. pick up Betty the mannequin from my parents'
  2. Get some musling for a toile
  3. Get some wadding and silk for the luxury lining
If only I didn't have to work full-time, sigh...

Friday, 28 October 2011

And the Coat Begins...

Okay, so I've finally made some decisions about my cocoon coat. I'm not going with either the Decades of Style Parisienne, or the Ageless Sunburst which I'd narrowed it down to. Typically, I've decided to go for a third, previously unknown option, the Folkwear Poiret Cocoon coat:

I intended to make it out of velvet, possibly dark green or claret. So, clearly now I've been to Abhakans with my mum to look at fabrics, I've now chosen against velvet and against green or red. I'm fab at decisions, I just don't know what I'm getting until I see it, and throw all previous plans into the bin (should know by now that for me, gut instinct wins out every time). I've selected a long mohair style jersey in a cappucino colour, so here's an illustration of my planned changes and embellishments:

I'm only petite, so the full-length would drown me, therefore via some alterations and a mock-up in muslin, I will shorten the coat to just below my derriere. I want a large fake fur collar and thought it would look effective to continue the fur trim around the whole edge of the coat, narrowing the trim where the fastenings will be. The embellishment on the back will be done with teal colours using free-machine embroidery, and is based on patterns seen in Klimt's paintings. I have to say a big thanks you to Mummio and Daddio for my new machine which allows me to do free embroidery, and Richie for suggesting teal for the decoration.
I intend to add some warmth (it's cowd up 'ere) using some quilt batting and will line it with some matching teal lining. I need to find out where I last got this (approx 15 years ago, arrrgh!!). Think it's probably Nortex Mill in Bolton.

I'll keep you posted... (have a feeling this will be a big project, but worth it)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Long time, no see...

Hello there, wow it's been a while!
Sorree I've been away for so long, but autumn term back was a nightmare, and now it's started to settle again (prob not for long), I can start living again (prob not for long).
I have done a few bits and bobs, such as sewing some curtains for a friend of mine, and below are some photos of the process.

 Here you can see my lovely new marking pencils, what a godsend they were for measuring out such massive lengths of material.

I cut the lining with the main fabric for ease, and have to say that apart from the fraying, this was a good fabric to work with. It stayed in place nicely when folded, so ironing was much faster.

I will get a picture of the finished curtains on here as soon as possible as the one I took on my phone is crappy quality.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Make Do & Mend...

Never worn because of the
tie waist which made the
bottom flare out too much.

Item #2: Blue check tie shirt
 Next up is a shirt that needs even more doing to it to make it a valuable part of my wardrobe. You see, I'm working my way from the easiest to the most difficult. I'm sticking to my plan, without getting distracted....oooh, Escape to the Country's on TV...

This is a shirt bought for me, and I loved the fabric, but the tie waist and pin tucks just flared out the bottom hem, and as a pear shape I need volume on the bust, not the hips! It is a great addition, or could be, to my work wardrobe, but it needs some minor adjustments.


Pin tucks which helped to
flare out the bottom hem.

The buttons had metal bits on which
I think looked too harsh and cheap.

So, I intend to remove the ties, replace the buttons, and make the pin tucks into full on darts for more structure and shape, which is essential for wee ones like me. Here goes...

Step one: Remove ties. Here I used my quick unpick to remove 3 lines of stitching on the bodice where the ties where positioned. It was really easy and obviously the existing stitching lines and creases remained, allowing me to secure the hole with just one line of very small stitches.

Step 2: Replace the buttons. An easy job, and I've chosen very simple pale blue buttons which have a much softer and more feminine appeal to them.

Step 3: Pin Tucks into Darts. This took a little more time as I had to ensure they were all the same length, but once I got into the rhythm of it, I tacked all 4 quite quickly.
And finally: here's the shirt on....much better:


Monday, 15 August 2011

I heart Manchester

Just showing my support for my wonderful home City. When Manchester was bombed everyone got straight up and carried on, so selfish thugs won't stop us. It is a truly great city, full of the best individual shops, cheap but fab nights out, and most importantly....amazing people. This has been proven by the way we have come together against an ignorant and self-indulgent minority. The broad variety of those charged prove this has little to do with money or background or race, and to suggest this would be patronising to people with little money, or of a different ethnicity, or from a deprived or difficult background. We will never be beaten.

Finally....Make Do & Mend

This is my bag full of clothes I need to mend, adjust, restyle, etc etc. Well, now it's the summer hols, and I have done the holiday and the move, it is time to tackle the BAG. As a side note, it was completely unintentional to put all of these items in a 'use me, re-use me' bag.

And so it begins.

I have decided not to try and do everything in the bag, but focus on the small jobs first, which will motivate me to tackle the bigger jobs, and also to prioritise (rather than get idly distracted by anything and everything as per usual) the items I actually need the most during the winter.

Item 1: Red Polka Dot Blouse
Problem: missing buttons

This is a lovely top that looks very pretty, French and chic when worn and I tend to wear it as part of my work wardrobe. However, big name brands being what they are, the covered buttons were sewn on appallingly, and so after 4 wears and 2 washes, I was down 2 buttons. They only provide 1 spare. Hmmm.

Several months later, I have finally got some replacements. They aren't covered, but to be honest the fabric has such a large polka print that the buttons just ended up looking plain white. I chose simple red classics would maintain the chic, classic style.

Shoddy workmanship

Much better
And so here's one of my favourite tops I can wear again. Yippee!!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Vintage hair

So, everyone thought I was mental when I told them I was getting a perm....well here's the results!

I wanted a soft wavy perm that looked natural and I could wear as I used to have my straight hair, in a graduated bob. I had a violin teacher when I was in primary school, and she was tall, slender with a blonde wavy bob; I always thought she looked so elegant in a classical slightly 1920s way. Just gutted I couldn't have this done before my Holiday, but nevermind.

Chuffed to bits with waking up wavy - straight hair bores me now, perm's are the future!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Off for a break, see you soon

 Right, so I know I haven't been the best, most regular blogger recently (blame end of term syndrome), and I'm about to make it worse by buggering off to Italy, then moving flat (not to Italy).

The Steam Railway Station
Bigtime apologies. However, once I'm settled in Rammy and have got t'internet sorted, I'll be back!
See yer later, crafty alligators

Vintage Stylee

Considered which pattern to use for a pair of high-waisted 1930s style trousers for quite a while, before happening on this pattern. It's not vintage but the trousers have that feel to them and it's easy so I bought some lightweight navy viscose, and set out on creating something other than a dress.

Here are the finished trousers which I think look a lot better than the illustration shows. I paired them with a genuinely vintage lace blouse that a friend gave me. I had a lot of repair to do on the blouse as the lace back was torn in several places. I replaced the back, added tiny seed beads to the bib and created a ribbon tie waist to make it more cropped.

Now I'm all ready for my holiday in Italy! Woohoo!


After many, many, many traumas with the zip and seam tape, I have finally finished the swing dress. I should have known it was going too well...

Anyway, all's well that ends well, and here's the finished article:

I did all French seams and even figured out how to continue the French seam neatly into a zip, a la...

All I need now is curly hair, which will sadly have to wait till after my holiday.
What I learned from making this dress: I hate crepe de chine; I love French seams; hand-sewing a lining is very much worth the time and effort.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Approaching the light at the end of the tunnel...

Nearly there with my summer swing dress. Broke the back of it as finished the lined bodice today. Some parts were quite fiddly and I adjusted the detail at the centre back of the neck to make it lie better.

The left side isn't sewn yet as the zip will be put in there, but tried it on and it fits really well. I didn't zigzag every raw edge as I said I would because it would have taken forever. On the bodice, the lining  helps the edges, and on the skirt I've done French seams:

Aaah, the French really know how to do some things, don't they??
Incidentally, after a random web browse discovered my colouring has warm undertones so I should be wearing more yellow.

Monday, 13 June 2011


Only just gotten round to this one, which I've been looking forward to and dreading in equal measures. The dress will look great but I was not excited about having to cut such a slinky fabric. I'm definately going to take my time with this one!
Anyway, started to cut it and only have a few pieces left to cut and mark. I'm using a little stitch in green to do the markings as chalk won't show too well and I don't want to mark the fabric permanently.

I'm going to zigzag stitch over the raw edges as don't have an overlocker and I want this one to be a keeper.
I'll keep you posted on my progress!!

Wardrobe clearout

I now know what clothes I have!!
This will make my boyfriend laugh as he thinks I have too many clothes, but every woman who sees my wardrobe is surprised at how small my collection is. This is probably because I've rented for the last few years and the thought of lugging around ridiculous amounts of clothes is too much. Plus I regularly change/adjust my style. Anyway, had a good ole sort through and now have a new pile of 'to mend/adjust', as well as a list of items I need to buy or make to complete outfits so I do actually wear everything I have.

I have inadvertently got a very co-ordinated work wardrobe (bottom right) which consists of cream, blue, red, grey and black. This was purely coincidence as everything else is very random.
So off to the shop for black dye to reinvigorate some black clothes, a couple of belts, some tights, and leggings (but not yet, as I've just had an expensive weekend)