Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My First 1940 McCall Gown!

I am super excited to let you know that I'm guest posting today over at Mandors, The Fabric Store blog!!  For those of you that have visited Scotland, you will know that Mandors is one of the best fabric stores in town (with stores in both Glasgow and Edinburgh).  So you can imagine how thrilled I was when they asked me to sew up something using some of their fabric and to guest post about it!  I decided to sew up my first 1940 McCall gown pattern!!  So, check out my version of McCall 3865 here....

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday Tales: Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle

     This tale comes to us from Germany, and was collected by the Brothers Grimm.   I've taken some liberties with it, adding, if you will, a few modern aspects to the wooing and the "happily ever after."   I didn't want to tinker with it too much but felt compelled to make a slight alteration (in the original version, the spindle, shuttle, and needle become relics, locked in the treasury - honoured but unused, which I thought was a shame).   In the historical context, of course, it meant that the poor young woman's fortune had changed and she would never have to work again.  Since this is a sewing blog, I put a bit more emphasis on her love of sewing and weaving, and gave her tools their due in the end. 
     True Love indeed brings great happiness but I don't believe it should be at the cost of giving up your craft or other things you love and dream of doing.  Those things can only enrich and enliven your togetherness.  Enjoy!
  - David

     Once upon a time there was a young woman who had been orphaned when she was very little. She lived with her godmother, in a little brown cottage on the outskirts of the village.  Her godmother earned her living with spinning, weaving, and sewing, which she taught the young girl, who soon became as skilled in her craft as she.

      When the girl was fifteen years old, her godmother took ill, called the child to her bedside, and said, "My dear daughter, I must leave you soon. I leave to you this little brown cottage, that will protect you from wind, rain, and snow; and also a spindle, a shuttle, and a needle, with which you can earn your living."  She then laid her hands on the girl's head and blessed her, saying, "Keep God in your heart, and it will go well with you." She soon closed her eyes and drifted off into her final rest.

      The years passed, and the young woman took comfort in her spinning, weaving, and sewing; all of which seemed touched by her godmother's blessing.  There was always an abundance of flax in her stores, and every piece of cloth she wove, yarn she spun, or garment she made was admired and paid for handsomely.  Due to her skill and the joy she took in her crafts, she was never in need, and always able to share with her neighbours.

      At this time the King's son was traveling throughout the country in search of a bride. His father wanted him to marry a wealthy member of the court, but the King's son was a thoughtful young man, who cared not whether his future wife was rich or poor, but wanted in a wife only someone to love who would love him in return. Since he did not find love amongst the ladies of his father's court, he set off on horseback one day, saying, "My wife shall be the girl who is at the same time the poorest and the richest."

      When he came to the village where the girl lived he asked, as he had done throughout the countryside, who was the richest girl and the poorest girl. The villagers named for him the richest girl, and then said that the poorest girl was the one who lived in the little brown cottage just outside of the village.

      The rich girl sat in her doorway in all her finery, and when the Prince approached she bowed before him. He looked at her, said not a word, and rode on.

     When he arrived at the poor girl's little brown cottage she was not standing in the doorway but instead was sitting at her spinning wheel and diligently spinning. She looked up, and when she saw the prince looking in she blushed all over, closed her eyes, and continued to spin.   She had heard how kind and thoughtful he was, and of his bravery and good deeds, but he was also very handsome and all these things combined in her mind to great effect: Her heart beat quickly, and the yarn was uneven in places but she continued to spin until the Prince had ridden nearly past her window.  He smiled and wished her good morning, then continued on, thinking that she had not been interested in him.

     As soon as he was past the cottage wall, the young woman stepped to the window and opened it, breathing in the fresh springtime air and watching the Prince ride down the dusty road as long as she could recognize the white feathers on his hat.  She sat back down in the kitchen and continued to work at her spinning, thinking of his warm smile and wishing all along that she could somehow bring the King's son back to see her again. Then an idea occurred to her, and she sang:

"Spindle, spindle, go on out,
And lead the Prince back to my house."
      The spindle immediately jumped out of her hand and bounded out the door. Amazed, she stood up and watched it as it danced merrily across the field, pulling along a glistening golden thread behind it. Before long it had disappeared from her eyes.  Because the girl no longer had a spindle, she picked up her shuttle, sat down at her loom, and began to weave. 

     Now the spindle danced ever onward, and just as the thread came to an end it reached the Prince.  "What is this?" he cried. The golden thread glistened in the sun.  Intrigued, he turned his horse around and followed the golden thread back down the road.

Illustration by Elizabeth MacKinstry from The Fairy Ring by Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora Archibald Smith 1906. New York: McClure, Phillips & Co.

     Not far away, in the little brown cottage, the girl was seated at her loom and sang:

"Shuttle, shuttle, weave so fine,
a pathway to this house of mine."
      Just then, the shuttle jumped from her hand and skipped out the door, weaving a carpet before the threshold more beautiful than anyone had ever seen before. Its borders were made up of every type of flower in vibrant hues. In its middle, against a golden background, there were rows of green upon which does, hares, and lambs were jumping about. In between, stags and deer stuck out their heads. Birds in rich colours sat above in the sun-dappled leafy branches. The shuttle continued to jump back and forth, with the dazzling carpet springing up behind it.

      Because her shuttle had run away, the girl now sat down to sew. She held her needle in her hand and sang:

"Needle, needle, sharp and fine,
Prepare this house for the suitor of mine."
      Then the needle jumped out of her fingers and flew about in the cottage with blinding speed. The table and benches were soon covered with rich, kelly green cloth, the chairs with deep blue velvet; and silk curtains hung at the windows.  The needle had scarcely made its last stitch when the girl looked through the window and saw the white feathers on the Prince's hat. The spindle had brought him here with its golden thread. He dismounted, amazed at the resplendent carpet that led to the threshold of the little brown cottage. When he stepped into the kitchen she was standing there in her simple dress, but she was glowing in it like a rose in a bush.

      "You are the poorest, but also the richest," he said to her, bowing. "Come with me, if you will, and you shall be my bride."

      She reached out her hand to him, which he took gently, looking into her eyes and smiling again.  He led her outside, lifted her onto his horse, and took her to the Royal Palace where very soon afterward, their wedding was celebrated with great joy by royalty and commoners alike.

     Although now a Princess, the young woman continued to take joy in her crafts, and the spindle, shuttle, and needle became treasures of the Royal Household; honoured for their role in bringing the young couple together and the lush fabrics they helped to create.  The Royal Couple became known for their generosity and happiness, and their palace was the most colourful and luxuriously decorated court in the history of the land.  The richness of the decorations, clothing, and cloth woven in the palace is still spoken of to this day.

Grimm, J. and W., 1857. Spindel, Weberschiffchen, und Nadel.  Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales -- Grimms' Fairy Tales), 7th ed. no. 188.  Göttingen: Verlag der Dieterichschen Buchhandlung.

 Wiggin, K. D.  & Archibald Smith, 
N. 1906.  The Fairy Ring.  New York: McClure, Phillips & Co.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tuesday Tales: The Sprightly Tailor

     I thought I'd begin this series with a Scottish tale, from a collection of Celtic stories published by Joseph Jacobs in 1892.
     The story concerns a tailor who is commissioned by the Chief of the MacDonald Clan to make a pair of trews, whilst spending the night in a haunted church.   Trews ("Triubhas" in Scottish Gaelic) are tartan trousers trimmed with buckskin, traditionally worn as part of Highland Dress during the winter months or for horseback riding, for which a kilt would be...em...impractical.  Often, trews consisted of trousers and a vest, sewn into one piece.

  Portrait of Sir John Sinclair (sporting a pair of trews) by Henry Raeburn.
Note the buckskin cuffs and inseam.

Saddell Castle was built between 1508 and 1512 from the ruins of Saddell Abbey.  It was the seat of the Clan MacDonald for a hundred years, and still stands near the shore of Kilbrannan Sound, near Saddell, Kyntire, in Argyle and Bute.
Saddell Castle 2012 by Hchc2009, Courtesey Wikimedia Commons

I'm not certain about the hand print that appears at the end of the tale, but perhaps Debi and I will visit the Castle and see for ourselves.    For now, without further ado, I give you Tuesday Tales:

The Sprightly Tailor Illustration by John D. Batten

     Once, long ago, The Great Macdonald sat in the wintry hall of Saddell Castle, keenly aware of the draught that blew along the stone floors and up under his Great Kilt.  Being a great and proud Chieftain, he bore his discomfort silently until it became unbearable and he had to admit that a change of costume was in order.  He called for a local tailor, and the Laird commissioned him to make a pair of trews.  Now, many men and women in power tend to be a bit whimsical, especially when dealing with their lesser subjects, and so it was with The Great Macdonald:  To make the commission more interesting, he offered the tailor a large reward if the trews were to be successfully hand sewn overnight in the haunted church nearby.   The tailor, being of stout heart, agreed, and after taking the Chieftan's measurements, set off away up the glen at dusk to spend the night sewing in the old church.  He lit his candle and chose a nice gravestone to sit on and work until the wee hours.  He set to his work, thinking of the great reward the Laird had offered him.

     He worked nimbly well past nightfall, when at the stroke of midnight, the air around him grew exceedingly chill, and the candle flickered wildly.   The ground began to tremble beneath him and he looked up in fright to see a great spectral head rising up from the stone floor of the church.   The eyes of the spirit bore through the tailor and his blood ran cold with fright.   A great, booming voice addressed him: "Do you see this great head of mine?"    The tailor was frightened but the promise of the reward stilled his nerves and he returned to his stitches.   "I see that," he replied "but I'll sew this!"

     The spectre continued to rise from the floor and soon the head and neck were visible.   The voice erupted once again "do you see this great neck of mine?"   And again the sprightly tailor answered, "I see that, but I'll sew this!"  His fingers were shaking but he deftly stitched the seam of the trews, working as quickly as he could.  The head and shoulders were now looming above him.  The giant apparition spoke again: "do you see my great shoulders?"   The sprightly tailor continued stitching at a faster clip and again answered, "yes, I see them but I'll sew this!"

     In little time the spectre's chest, then waist, and thigh emerged, and each time the ghost questioned the tailor and each time he answered.   He was nearly petrified with fright but continued to sew faster and faster, thinking only of the reward that awaited him.   The giant began to raise a leg from beneath the stone floor just as the tailor finished the final stitches.  The sprightly tailor lept up, blew out his candle and fled from the haunted church as fast as his long legs would carry him.

     The giant ghost emerged from the floor and with a blood-curdling howl, pursued the tailor, who clutched his finished tartan trews for dear life as he fled down the glen to the castle, thinking only of the great reward that awaited him if he lived to present the finished trews to the Chieftain.   Soon he saw the gate of the castle and doubled his speed.   The monster roared for him to stop but the sprightly tailor fled fast as a jack rabbit into the safety of the gate, which was hastily lowered before the ghoul could gain passage.   The monster roared with rage at the escape of its quarry and slammed its mighty fist into the castle wall just above the gate.   You may still see the giant's hand print, if you'll only look hard enough.

     The sprightly tailor presented the trews to the Laird and gained his well-earned reward, for The Great Macdonald paid the tailor well, never noticing that many of the stitches were exceptionally long.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday Tales: An Introduction

     I am very excited to introduce a series of guest posts from David called 'Tuesday Tales'.  These posts will explore sewing and needlework in Faerie Tales (or Fairytales :-)--especially those from Scotland and the British Isles.  David is a great storyteller and I always love hearing him recount old Gaelic tales and I know you will love it as well!!  Thanks so much, David for sharing your knowledge and love of Scotland with us!

  Once upon a time...

     Stories, Fables, and Myths make up a large part of our cultural heritage.  They help shape our understanding of the world as children, and feed our imaginations, weaving themselves into our dreams as we grow up.

     Sewing, spinning, weaving, and clothes-making often figure in these stories; the spindle that brings on Sleeping Beauty's hundred-year slumber, the fashioning of clothes and shoes by helpful Elves, or the wool pulled over the eyes of the foolish Emperor by a pair of conniving weavers.

Illustrations clockwise from top left: The Princess and the Goblin by Charles Folkard, Sleeping Beauty by John Dickson Batten,
The Princess and Curdie by Charles Folkard, The Elves and the Shoemaker by Rie Kramer, The Emperor's New Clothes by Monro Scott Orr

     There are many such tales woven into the cultural fabric of the British Isles, and stories of enchanted needles, spindles, magical articles of clothing, yarn, thread, and cloth often figure in local legends.   For example, the Scottish Clan Macleod, the traditional keepers of Dunvegan Castle and hereditary owners of the Isle of Skye, possess a silk banner that they claim to have been a gift from the Faeries, and credit it for their excellent fortune over the centuries.

Dunvegan Castle in the Mist: Photo by Klaus with K, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

    I've been enjoying discovering Celtic Faerie Tales whilst living here, and have several books of these myths and legends, including one of tales translated from Gaelic compiled by a young American studying the language (as well as Social Anthropology), published in 1911; a parting gift from a good friend as I left to trace many of those same paths, a hundred years later.

     I'll begin my series of guest posts next week with one such sewing-themed story from Scotland, and will follow with others in the coming weeks, until Debi is able to resume her usual posting schedule.   It will be a challenge to summarise these stories, for the joy is in the telling, and many hints of the "lives" of these tales can be found in the details they've accumulated over the years.   I will, for the sake of space, keep it as brief as possible, and link to full versions of the tales where I can, for those who wish to discover these rich tales for themselves.

     I hope you will join me next week for the first Tuesday Tale:  The Sprightly Tailor.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sew Weekly Reunion 2013

Boy, have I got exciting news!!  The gals are back and we hope you'll join us!!  Adey and I were talking recently about how we missed The Sew Weekly.  Back in 2011 (was it really 2.5 years ago???), Adey, Sarah, Mena, Veronica and I sewed up an outfit a week based on a common theme.  In 2012, it got even bigger with over 100 regular contributors all sewing weekly.

We thought it would be fun to host a reunion.  A super big thank you to Adey for organising everything.  Everyone is welcome, whether you originally participated in the Sew Weekly or if this is new to you.  Come grab a button and check it out at the Sew Weekly Reunion blog.

Looking forward to sewing up a challenge with everyone!!

Friday, July 12, 2013

McCall 3744: The 'Summer Days' Dress

I was itching to make another 1940 McCall dress and wanted something that would transition from summer (yay! summer in Scotland) to autumn and spring.  I had this amazing blue linen fabric in my stash and McCall 3744 fit the bill perfectly.  David helped me pick the pattern for the fabric.  Linen holds the tucks beautifully and there are no buttons (which often tend to sag over time if sewn in linen), just a great streamlined silhouette:

You can see from the pattern cover that you can choose version A with a slide fastener closing (aka zipper) or view B which a button closing.  It comes with long cuffed and uncuffed sleeves and short sleeves.  I decided to sew up view B with the short sleeves and I ended up leaving the button off the yoke front because I liked the neckline better when it wasn't so close to my neck.

This pattern was featured in the June 1940 McCall's magazine:

Here's what the magazine says:
McCall 3774: Dime dots are the smart ones.  Dotted prints are probably more important than ever before.  The dotted rayon-crepe dress has the favorite high collarless neckline and the new slimmer skirt.
hmmm...note to self, find some dime size polka dot crepe fabric...

But back to the linen dress...  The yokes and waist seams are all lapped seams.  Lapped seams are much easier to sew in linen because the fabric holds a crease really well!  The dress also has two sets of tucks on the front bodice which line up with two sets of tucks on the skirt front.  The tucks actually hide the fact that there are skirt front and skirt side pieces.  The pattern also has my favourite types of 40's sleeves--darted sleevecaps!

The back is also really neat in that it has a centre pleat and again a lapped yoke seam.  The back of the skirt is a one-piece plain design:

We took these photos in a semi-hidden area of the city, down one of the secret 'closes' or alleyways.  This one was called:

And this is what it leads into:

Don't these look like fairy tale houses?  This secret close is not too far from Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament.  Definitely a great place to wander into...

I really like the fit of the dress.  It's one of the first ones I've sewn up for the 1940 McCall Project with the slimmer skirt that started to appear from mid-1940 onwards.  I left the dress a bit longer than I normally would--but I think it works well with the dress shape.  I'm planning to make a matching belt too--just searching for the perfect blue belt buckle to match the fabric!

This blue also matches one of my Ness jackets perfectly--so I am all prepared for Autumn as well!

YAY! A fabulous summer dress!  Hopefully the sunshine will stick around :-)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Giveaway Winner

You've probably heard that the weather in the UK has been amazing.  For once we actually have a proper summer here in Scotland! woot! woot!  So I've been a bit distracted... :-)

Thank you all for entering the "Little Dress Kits" giveaway and I've randomly chosen a winner....Congrats to Gaenor who blogs over at By Gaenor!  YAY! Can't wait to see the Car Dungarees.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What I'm Working On...

It's been awhile since I've done one of these posts--usually because I tend to float between sewing projects.  But lest you think I only sew 1940 McCall patterns, I've got a surprise--a modern sewing pattern!  Gasp!  

When I saw the new Simplicity 1755, I knew it was something that would fit into my vintage-inspired wardrobe.  I also couldn't resist the pattern cover with the adorable plaid dress!  There is also the designer's artwork that they faithfully sewed up into a matching dress:

There's another Simplicity pattern I've got my paws on thanks to the folks over at Simplicity....this amazing hat pattern...

When David saw this, he said....'I'd love to make one of those hats for you'...Really?  YES PLEASE! How fun is that?  My favourites?  Views D and E.  

And even with the modern pattern distractions, I've still got a 1940 McCall number up my sleeve.  I'm working on this beauty at the moment, sewing it up in a lovely blue linen:

What are you working on?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sweetheart Dungarees + Giveaway!

One of my best friends just had a adorable and fashionable little girl.  Already at less than a month old, she has more friends on Facebook than most adults and has already rocked leg warmers. I can't wait until she is old enough for me to teach her to sew!

I knew I wanted to sew up a cute vintage-inspired outfit for her.  I was having these thoughts when the lovely Katie from 'Little Dress Kits' contacted me about an amazing business she has that makes sewing for little ones so easy!

I think her business is brilliant.  She puts together super easy to sew patterns for little clothes and gives you everything you need in a sewing kit --from the pattern, to the fabric and matching thread to the cute notions...

Perhaps the most brilliant thing is that the Little Dress Kits are made for people with all levels of sewing experience, including absolute beginners.  No sewing experience necessary for their beginner kits.  She walks you through every step in the detailed instructions.  Plus, there is no guesswork or confusing notations on the pattern pieces.  AND GET THIS....the pattern pieces are printed on sticky paper.  You just peel them off the paper and stick them directly onto the fabric.  No pins necessary!!  Brilliant.  And it worked like a charm.  Plus, the little outfits are made from easy to use fabrics like corduroy and gingham (both have up and down lines on the fabric already--making it easy to cut out).

And look how adorable these dungarees are....and the adorable little pocket!  Arrrrggggg...too cute!  They are also half lined--with the gingham peaking out at the neck...

I love innovative sewing businesses and will definitely be buying her kits in the future.  I really like having everything I need and not having to decide on fabric or notions!

If you missed the giveaway at So Zo's blog, here's another chance!  Katie is so wonderful and has agreed to give away one of her Little Dress Kits.  Just visit her website and leave a comment below with your choice of sewing kit by Saturday the 6th of July.  This giveaway is open to readers everywhere.  Good luck and thank you Katie for the inspiring business and hosting a giveaway!
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