Sunday, 31 July 2016

The University Chapel Project - July 2016 update

Oops! Amid all the excitement around getting my Vintage Pledge entry done, and then trying to make a summer dress while it was still "summer" (calendar-wise, if not temperature-wise), I nearly forgot to post this.

At the dedication service, image © University of Chester

The latest meeting of the Chapel Stitchers was on 8 July. After the push to get the altar frontal finished, this was a chance to review other progress so far, and work out what still needs to be done. All four of the burses are complete, apart from adding some details to the cream one to make the cross stand out from the background. The top cloths for the altar are also made up. Kath has finished the green chalice veil and will do the remaining three (red, cream and purple), while I will make the green stole.

Because we are now making both a pulpit and a lectern fall for each communion set, we need three more pairs of hands. Sharon and Barbara are currently working on this (I was going to say 'have it in hand', but decided against it!).

Obviously we hope that the frontal will be part of Chapel for a long time to come, so it was agreed that our names should be recorded on it. Kath gave out pieces of fabric for us to embroider with our signatures (or name, if your signature is illegible!), and these will then be attached to the back of the frontal. Christine is also going to embroider the phrases which inspired her design.

The kneelers are coming on apace, and we agreed on the cross design which will appear on the sides.

The next meeting will be at noon on Friday 16 September, in the usual room.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Hello Blackbird

(Of course it should be, Bye Bye Blackbird, but that doesn't really work as a post title!)

New Look 6723, aka the Blackbird dress, is finished.

Finished at last!

Once I'd finished wrangling the zip, it was pretty straightforward. Because I couldn't find any lining remotely the same colour as the fabric, I'd just used white. But then I worried that it would show at the edges, so added narrow facings around the neck and armholes. This was more work in terms of sewing down the edges, which I did by hand, but it gave a neat finish.

All neat and tidy at the front

Slight mismatch at the back, but I can live with it

I also added in-seam pockets because, well, pockets. I used the pattern in Vogue Sewing, and went for the version which is sewn into the waistband rather than just hanging loose.

The joy of pockets

I decided that the dress would hang better with a belt, but couldn't find a suitable buckle, so just made a tie belt the width of one row of trees.

Simple tie belt

The hem was done by my usual method; overlock the edge, then turn it up once and hand sew into place.

I really like the neckline on this dress - unfortunately I didn't think to put my hair up, so it's not all that clear. This is definitely a 'make again' pattern.

I can see this getting worn a lot

Next it's back to vintage, and my first go at a pattern featured in the Vintage Sew-Along; Butterick 6582.

Coming soon (I hope)

Sunday, 17 July 2016

It's been that kind of week

You know, THAT kind

So there I was, trying to get the blackbird dress finished for a friend's birthday party. The bodice is lined, with the sort of lining which you sew on round the neckline and armholes and then pull through, so that all the edges are neatly finished. I'd never tried this before, but was pleased with the end result.

The zip should be put in towards the end, but because I was using an invisible zip I decided to do this step earlier. So I attached the skirt backs with about 2.5cm / 1"of stitching, and put in the zip. Then I laid the dress out flat.

All was not well (see top left)

There was a twist in the left shoulder of the bodice. I thought that I'd just zipped it up wrongly, so undid the zip and turned the left back though, so that the shoulder was flat. And got this.

All was even less well

I'd managed to twist the zip while in the process of setting it in, and the only solution was to unpick one side completely and start again. While on a very tight deadline.

And the really annoying thing? I've got form in this area. I've made exactly the same mistake before, with the Vegas Night dress back in 2012. Which coincidentally I was making to go on a night out with the same group of friends. On an even tighter deadline.

Lesson learned - if going out with these friends, do not try to make a new dress! I wore New Look 6070 instead.

On the plus side, I can now reveal the Secret Sewing Project. Earlier in the year I was thrilled to be asked if I'd contribute something to this year's Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge 2016. The result was the 'Rosalind dress'; Butterick 6877 in a fabulous double-helix print cotton.

The secret's out!

The full details are on Marie's A Stitching Odyssey blog here. It had its moments, many of them involving pattern matching, but I'm really pleased with the end result. A huge thank you to Marie and Kerry for the invitation.

The Rosalind dress

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Pattern possibilities

When I was telling my friend A about my upcoming studies, she asked if there was going to be a practical element; would I be making up some vintage patterns as part of my Masters? That's not part of my current plan, but when I was working on the Secret Sewing Project (details coming soon) I was aware that some of the pattern instructions were very different from what I'd expect from a modern, Big-4 pattern. This got me thinking that it might be interesting to make up a selection of patterns from different periods in the twentieth century and see what, if anything, has changed over the years.

So more as eye candy for now than a definite project, here are some possibilities.

The choice wasn't hard to narrow down here, as I currently only own two 1920s patterns. There is no date on them (a common theme throughout my vintage pattern collection), but they both make reference to a 1923 patent, so must be later than that.

Sensible separates . .

. . . and a luxurious evening coat

I've got a bit more choice here.

The 1930s was probably the high point of unrealistic pattern envelope illustration, so these drawings need to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

No-one is that shape

I can't imagine ever wearing this outside the privacy of my own back garden, but it would be fun to make!

The onesie, Art Deco style!

Until recently I'd never come across Du Barry patterns, but all of the ones I've seen so far I've really liked. This would involve a lot of redrafting to make it my size, but I think would be worth the effort.

The frilled edge is too apron-y for me, but I like the plain version

I know there was a war on, but this is a truly minimalist pattern, lacking even facings. I'm intrigued as to how it would actually make up.

Just four pattern pieces?


From no facings to what are very probably the Facings From Hell. One day, when I am feeling supremely calm, I want to have a go at this.

Looks like an ordinary blouse, but wait . . .

Just look at those pattern pieces.

Yes, I am slightly insane. Why do you ask?

I cannot lie, I'm a sucker for 1950s sheath dresses. The way the curve of the bodice edge carries on into the left pocket really makes this dress for me.

The perfect curve

Also Vogue, but far simpler. I'm not keen on the stripes, but I love the black and white version.

Sunglasses practically a requirement

Equally simple-looking is this archetypal 1960s dress with interesting back detail.

Realistically, I'm not sure if this shape would do me any favours

And we're into what are for me the 'Style Years'. The latter part of the 1970s was when I started making my own clothes. Style patterns were far and away my favourites, and I used them a lot. And then I threw most of them out in a clearout - sigh.

Wraparound skirt in three lengths

Late 1970s does 1940s revival

There is a whole separate post to be written about my enduring, if slightly guilty, love of some 1980s fashions (please note the word 'some').

This pattern is undated, but various online vendors are selling it as a 1980s pattern. I bought it from George Henry Lee (now sadly renamed John Lewis) in Liverpool, but never made it up.

Better late than never

I cannot be clear enough on this point. I may have worn dresses like this in the 1980s but I never, ever had hair like this! I'm not even sure if it's physically possible without poking your finger in a socket.

Nice dress, shame about the hair

I only own one pattern from the 1990s. Having just googled '1990s dress patterns', I think I know why. I absolutely loved the dress I made from this pattern, though, and it's a strong favourite to make again.

One of my favourite makes ever

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Back to school

I was going to leave this post until later in the year, but then I decided that I couldn't wait.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for some time (thank you!) will know that I'm a widow and that my husband Adrian, aka Mr Tulip, died of Motor Neurone Disease in March 2014.

For much of the 20-plus years that we were together we were work colleagues as well as partners and best friends, so we spent a lot of time in each other's company. As a result there's been a big, Mr Tulip-shaped, hole in pretty much everything I've done for the last couple of years.

Recently I decided that I wanted to take on something new, something which I wouldn't have done if Adrian were still alive*. The problem was that I had no idea what that might be. Then a couple of things happened at once.

First I came across this article in the Guardian about North Ronaldsay, the northernmost of the Orkney Islands. I went there years ago when I was in Orkney researching my undergraduate dissertation (on nineteenth century Orcadian agriculture, if you must know), and reading the article reminded me just how much I'd enjoyed completing that dissertation; formulating a theory, doing all the research, and then writing it up.

A few days later Professor Deborah Wynne, who organizes the Textile Study Days run by the University of Chester, sent out an email about a new programme of postgraduate study which was starting in the autumn and which could be geared towards textile-related studies. Intrigued, I sent off for more details.

So to cut a long story short, 30 years after I got my degree I'm going back to being a (part-time) student! In October I will be starting a Masters by Research in Gender Studies. The main part of an MRes is a 28,000-word dissertation, and while I haven't firmed up the details yet, I know that this will be on some aspect of women and home dressmaking.

I must admit that even though the offer letter is pinned on the notice board in my workroom, I'm still a bit stunned to find myself in this position. I had never remotely considered going back to studying. But when the opportunity came along, it just seemed ideal. The course is designed to be accessible to both people who are working and those returning to academia after a break, so suits me perfectly. Plus, I've always had an interest in dress history (for example, while on a university field trip in the 1980s and supposed to be doing something else entirely, I spotted Nancy Bradfield's Historical Costumes of England in a bookshop window, and snuck off to buy it!), and this finally gives me a chance to do something with it - and read some of those books properly.

The result of over 30 years of 'research'

When I was telling my friend C about it she said, "You sound really excited", and that's not something any of my friends have been able to say about me for three years. Roll on October!

* - Just to be absolutely clear, if Adrian were still alive and I had wanted to do this, he wouldn't have objected in the slightest. He was always massively supportive of everything I did. But I wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking on something which will use up so much of my time; it wouldn’t have felt fair on him. But I hope that he would be proud of what I'm doing now.