Sunday, September 30, 2012

M is for Make Do and Mend

This wartime slogan encouraged families not to waste anything. Severe shortages of new clothing and fabric were widespread (due to lots of reasons including the sinking of ships carrying supplies, the refocus of the garment industry to making uniforms and the shortage of fabrics available that weren't diverted for the war effort, etc.).  Clothing rationing was introduced in 1941 in Britain and each year, everyone received only 66 coupons.

Here are a few sample coupon values for some common garments:
  • Non-wool skirt — 4 coupons
  • Wool or wool-blend trousers — 8 coupons
  • Non-wool dress — 7 coupons
  • Stockings — 3 coupons
  • Pair of boots or shoes — 5 coupons
  • Non-wool fabric, 44″ wide — 2.5 coupons per yard (from Fashion on the Ration, Cargo Cult Craft)

 Image from the Imperial War Museum, London

In 1943, the Ministry of Information began the "Make Do and Mend" campaign through a series of publications to help women and families get the most out of their existing clothing due to the  severe shortages during the war. The Make Do and Mend materials encouraged refashioning or making new clothes from old ones, mending any existing faults, and reusing fabric and yarn material to make new things. 

Clothes had to last longer in order to save precious coupons, so they needed to be taken care of and washed and ironed more carefully. Nothing was thrown away, especially if it could be made into something else.  These booklets are full of great ideas for refashioning and reusing.  My favourite is making a woman's suit out of a man's suit as seen in the photo below:

Image from 'Make and Mend for Victory' booklet, at Cargo Cult Craft

The entire booklet, 'Make and Mend for Victory' is available for download at Susannah's blog 'Cargo Cult Craft'.  It's a great read and full of inspiration!

 Image from the Cargo Cult Craft blog

Also, check out Charlotte's Make Do and Mend posts over at her Tuppence Ha'Penny Vintage blog.

Shelly over at New Vintage Lady is also hosting a month-long Make and Mend sew-along.  Here's the details:

Definitely check out the New Vintage Lady blog, it's one of my favourites!

Do you have any refashioning or mending projects on your list?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

L is for Lace

la la la lace. Another fabric I underestimate.  Amazing things can be done with lace.  Check out these beautiful vintage patterns for some lace inspiration:

Pattern available at Anne8865 Etsy Store

Awhile back, a fabulous blog friend and I copied a few patterns in our stash and sent them to each other.  This pattern (Simplicity 3406 from 1939/1940) was one of the goodies I got from the lovely Eileen who blogs over at Eileen's Basement.  It's definitely on my list of outfits to sew.  I just love the lace insert on the sleeve cuffs and down the front of the blouse:

Pattern available at SavageSpiders Etsy Store

1950s lace overlay blouse pattern, available at CynicalGirl's Etsy Store

1960s lace dress, available at StripedKat's Etsy Store

I even have my own lace sewing project.  You may recall that on more than one occasion this past year, I talked about making some garments from 1910s patterns.  I've started an Edwardian Era blouse based on the Wearing History's 1910s Blouse and Giumpe pattern.  Here's my progress so far:

I absolutely love the Wearing History patterns.  I bought both the lace and the teal taffeta-like fabric at a curtain and home furnishing fabric store.  I was attracted to the repeating bows in the lace pattern.  I may even finish this blouse sometime before the next Titanic centenary :-)

Lauren is currently hosting a giveaway for a reader's choice of pattern and e-product from her pattern store!  Go to this post to enter the giveaway.

I'll leave you with a few lace sewing tutorials:
  • Suzie over at It's a Stitch Up wrote a great post about her experience sewing with lace.
Any lace projects in your future?

Monday, September 24, 2012

K is for Knits

K is for Knits...this somehow reminds me of the Monty Python skit about the 'knigets', K is for 'Ka-Nits'.

Right, moving swiftly along...

 Coco Chanel, mother of invention, image from here

I have a confession to make, I seriously underestimate knits and I think I need to start rethinking their appeal.  You see, I don't associate knits with vintage fashion.  Which is obviously a serious mistake because vintage fashion provides some of the best examples of beautiful knits.

First, a bit of a definition.  According to my Simplicity Fabric Guide:
Knitted fabrics are woven from a continuous length of yarn that's manipulated into interlocking loops to create a flat fabric.  The looped construction provides the fabric with much more give and flexibility than its more rigid woven cousins.
For the longest time, I associated knits only with jersey.  But according to the Fabric Guide:
Jersey: This single knit fabric takes its name from the Channel Island that bears the same name, famous for its fishermen's sweaters.  Characterized by plain stitches on the face of the fabric and purl stitches on the back, jersey is found in a variety of fibers including wool, cotton, silk, nylon or blends.
How could I write off an entire family of fabrics?  Especially with such amazing examples such as those designed by Madame Grès who did some amazing things with silk jersey:

Dress, 1940 designed by Madame Grès, from the Met Museum Fashion Archives

Evening gown, 1978 designed by Madame Grès, Green silk jersey and green silk velvet

It is actually Coco Chanel we have to thank for the extensive use of knits in women's wear.  During the war years, when scarcity was widespread and many fabrics were hard to come by, she bought  some jersey fabric and started designing and sewing with it.  This must have been quite ground-breaking as jersey was only used in undergarments and underwear up until that time.  Another reason that Chanel is high up on my list of sewing heros!

While we are on the subject of knits, or Ka-Nits, one woman who knows a lot about knits is Steph who blogs over at 3 hours Past the Edge of the World and I am super excited that she is starting a pattern line called 'Cake'.

According to Steph: 

What’s Cake?  Well- many of us who sew like to make fun stuff: dinosaur costumes, fluffy dresses, excessively quirky 40′s frocks and all manner of clothes which don’t see much wear.  These garments and projects are the “frosting.”

Many sewists use the term “cake” to refer to useful sewn items- pencil skirts, knit tops, knit dresses, jeans: the kind of utility and casual clothes that everyone needs.  Why shouldn’t sewing and wearing those kinds of clothes be great fun?  Why not get the most from your sewing time (and $$) by making garments you LOVE to wear all the time?  Do knit tops and jeans have to be 100% utilitarian and boring?

I don’t think so.

Right now, Cake Patterns by The Consulting Dressmaker is in production.  The first pattern, Tiramisu, will be available by early November and closely followed by others.
Check out Steph's blog this week for the Tiramisu Circus and Pre-Sale!  And sign up for her email alerts for new patterns, here.

In closing, are you a Ka-Nit convert?  Or do you stay away from those funny creatures?  And I'm curious, who's your sewing hero?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

J is for Jackets

 Oh, how I love jackets.  They are a necessity year-round in the Scottish climate.  When I went back to see how many jackets I had made from vintage patterns, I was shocked.  I guess it should come as no surprise given that I find them a 'must' for my wardrobe.  I plan on making many more!  Here's a peak at all the jackets I've made:

1. 'My Marlene Suit' jacket using McCall 3260 from 1939, 2. 'Deco the Halls' tunic, 3. McCall 8501 used to make my 1935 jacket/cape, 4. the '1935 Cape', 5. my '1931 spring suit', 6. EvaDress pattern used to make the 1931 suit separates, 7. McCall 9156 from 1937 used to make my 'Birthday Dress Suit', 8. my 'Birthday Dress Suit'

More 1930's jackets:
1.  McCall 9089 from 1935 used to make my '39 Steps' dress, 2. my '39 Steps to the Perfect Dress' and jacket, 3. my 'Art Deco Love' dress, 4. Butterick starred pattern available as a reproduction from EvaDress used to make the 'Art Deco Love' dress and jacket.

1930's patterns have the best jackets!  In fact, it's hard to find a dress or separates pattern that doesn't include a jacket pattern.  I especially love the collarless jacket look (which is also super easy to sew). 

1940's jackets:
1. 'C'moooooooon, Poil Swing Jacket', 2. McCall 3619 from 1940 used to make the 'C'mooooooon Poil Swing Jacket', 3. Simplicity 3529 from 1940 used to make the 'Faux Bunny Love' jacket, 4. 'Faux Bunny Love' jacket
My 1940's jacket sewing projects are more outerwear than layering wear (like my 30's jackets).  I just love the jacket over coat look that was popular in 1939 and 1940 (a perfect example is the Simplicity 3529 pattern that I made my faux fur jacket from...)

My only 1950's jacket (and it's really a bolero...):
1.The 'Perfect Day Outfit', 2. Simplicity 3879 used to make the bolero for the 'Perfect Day Outfit' and later to make the halter for the 'Now or Never' outfit. 

Boleros count as jackets, right?  I love them, especially the 40s and 50s variety.  Great for everyday outfits or for dressing up.  This next year, I'm hoping to tackle some of the super fabulous late 1940's (i.e. New Look suits) and 1950's suits with really neat jacket details.  Love that look!  Of course, you can never go wrong with a teeny wing-cuffed bolero (though I must admit it's a bit more frosting than cake sewing).

Some neat jacket sewing tutorials and links:
  • A whole host of jacket sewing tutorials available here.

Tell me, are jackets a big part of your sewn wardrobe?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I is for Ironing

 Thanks so much for all your lovely comments about the ABCs of vintage sewing series. I read all the comments and they mean so much to me! I am really enjoying doing the posts and am so glad that you are enjoying them as well!

Today is all about ironing.  That quintessential step in sewing.  Actually, as my vintage sewing book says, what we do for sewing is actually called 'pressing' and not ironing.  But as I've already got a 'p' in my alphabet, I'll just go for ironing ;-)

I just love these step-by-step instructions from my 1943 Minature Fashions: Simplicity Sewing Book:


I must admit that I've never done 1, 4 or 6.  I'm actually intrigued by number 4.  What about you? Are you strictly a number 3 sewist or do you go all out with your pressing?

Now I have no excuse as we just got a fancy iron (well, fancy for us).  It was a great groupon deal and I really like it:

 It's a Quest Steam Generator 2000W and it's been fantastic so far.  My only minor complaint is that it makes a lot of noise when it first starts steaming but other than that it's works like a charm.

Here's a shot of the other side:
I'm curious, what iron do you use?  Do you love or hate it?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

H is for Haberdashery

hab·er·dash·er noun  

British : a dealer in notions 
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I love vintage sewing notions.  Everything from vintage buttons to seam binding to trims and laces.  I thought I would make a list of some of my favourite online haberdashers for today's post.  Hope you enjoy!

A Fashionable Stitch: Sunni has one of the best online sewing shops around! This is my go-to store for buckle kits (among other things).

 Rita Belt Kits in various sizes from A Fashionable Stitch Shop
D. Raphael Vintage Sewing Goods: A gem of an online shop offering a wide variety of antique and vintage sewing ribbons, lace, trims, and notions. Many date from the Victorian and Edwardian eras; but their goods range all the way from the 1800s through the 1970s.

Spinster Emporium: A great online vintage Haberdasher.  They sell sets of vintage buttons, vintage buckles and trim.  Located in the UK.

Honiton Lace: This amazing online shop specializes in Honiton Lace but also stock all the other main collector laces from throughout Europe (specializing in 16th to 20th century).  While I've never been in the market for antique lace (at least not yet), I do love having a browse at all the beautiful collars and lace pieces.  Based in the UK.

The Old Lace and Linen Shop: Based in Florida, this amazing online store offers a wide range of lace and linens (including vintage clothing).  They have some amazing 1920's lace collars that are absolutely amazing.

Lots of Buttons: A site dedicated to buttons. Though not all vintage, this site has a large variety of great buttons. You can find everything here!  I especially love the braided buttons.

CC's Buttons: Another button shop! This online shop has a variety of vintage buttons, some multiples but many one piece items.
Acme Notions: This online shop has a range of vintage notions including buttons and buckles and they also sell vintage tape measures, scissors, etc.

The Gatherings Antique Vintage: This amazing online store sells offers antique vintage schoolgirl sewing samplers, plus antique vintage sewing tools such as sewing boxes, bags, books and catalogs as well as vintage notions.  They have some amazing vintage buckle and matching buttons sets for great prices!

Button Mad: While not necessarily a vintage shop, this great online store handmakes all their buttons and many remind me of 1940s style buttons.  I just adore them.  I have these adorable buttons that are waiting for the perfect outfit:

 Who are your favourite online haberdashers?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

G is for Gathers

 Illustration from my 1954 Singer Sewing Book

Gathering is without a doubt one of my favourite sewing techniques.  It's super easy and can be used in so many ways!

Here's some eye candy examples of gathering (all of these vintage pattern cover images are from the Vintage Pattern Wiki).

I love both of these patterns.  You can see the subtle yoke gathering in Hollywood 1930 but I really love Advance 1892 that has gathering along the centre seam but also on the waist sides. Super elegant!

Vogue 7999 shows gathered sleeves and a gathered bodice to skirt and Simplicity 2484 is a 1940s staple, the peasant blouse.

The 1950s is definitely the decade that inspired gathering to become an artform.  Just look at Advance 8270 (LOVE this silhouette) and Simplicity 3135 has such lovely sleeve and neckline gathers.

Here's some more gathering goodness from my 1954 Singer Sewing Book:
Some great examples of shirring (which is just two or more rows of gathers to achieve a decorative effect).  I love all of these but perhaps my favourite is the evening coat with the shirred sleeves.

I use gathers a lot in my own sewing, here's a few examples from different vintage sewing patterns:

My 1939 'Royal Wedding' dress from McCall 3554; My 1940 McCall 3638 dress

 My 'Midcentury Madness' dress from Style Print 1283; My 'Tiptoe through the Tulips' dress from Simplicity 4209

Here are some of my favourite gathering technique resources:

  • Gertie put together a great 2-part tutorial on adding shirring to a bodice back (part 1 and part 2)
Are you a fan of gathers?

Monday, September 10, 2012

F is for Fagoting

Fagoting (or Faggoting in the UK)/ noun: embroidery in which threads are fastened together in bundles 
Pronunciation: /ˈfagətɪŋ/
Or more simply put, fagoting is a method of joining hemmed edges by crisscrossing thread over an open seam.

I see this detail a lot in 1930's blouses and dresses.  A couple of years ago, I lucked out and found three early 1930's collar patterns (for very cheap) and all of them included fagoting:

Not only did I get these lovely patterns but I got a few surprises as well!  Including this completed collar (which must have been from another pattern):

Look at that beautiful detail!  I just love it!  I have plans sometime soon to sew up an outfit to match this great yellow and white collar (maybe for the spring?).

But that wasn't all, there was also this beauty:
It's a long, almost necklace length collar piece.  Another stunning piece of craftmanship.  I want to incorporate this into an outfit as well!

After spending some time examining those two finished pieces, it inspired me to try my hand at it!  I used McCall 392 version A and did a bit of a trial run.

Here is the result of one of the triangles (this is the back side):

The technique is surprisingly easy but I was definitely aided by using the very easy Colleterie blog tutorial on how to sew a fagoted seam.  I really love the way the stitching looks when using this method.  I'm still deciding on actual colours for the final collars and cuffs and of course, a dress to match but it's was really great learning a new technique.

Here's a bit more on the technique from my 1954 Singer Sewing Book:

I really like how this spiral stitch looks.

Here's the method that the Colette tutorial teaches:

I also really want to make the leaves collar from McCall 392.  Here's the pattern pieces that the previous owner has carefully attached to brown paper and already used:

I'm definitely intrigued! Another project for the list ;-)

Have you ever done any fagoting stitchwork?  Ever heard of it before?
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