Sunday 24 September 2017

A new CC41 dress

After the debacle that was the Dress of Frump, and the not-total-success of the green dress (although as hoped, that has improved with several washes), I really wanted a nice, easy, guaranteed successful project. So I decided to make a new CC41 dress - and not from green fabric. The original is looking a bit tired - hardly surprising as when I checked I discovered that it was made in May 2014. I thought I’d only had it for a couple of years; if I’d made it after the CC41 regulations came into force (confusingly, in 1942), it would have seen me through the war!

Just to explain, the name of the pattern came about when I decided to make a dress based on the one my mum is wearing (made either by her or her mum) in a photograph taken during World War II. In keeping with the original, I then decided to try to make the dress in line with the Civilian Clothing Regulations (CC41) in place at the time.

The inspiration - Mum is second from the left

I made a couple of changes to the pattern this time, to fix things which were annoying me; although obviously not annoying me that much, as I’ve happily worn the original for four summers! I made the bodice front a tiny bit longer at the centre, just between the darts, and I improved the fit of the skirt back by using the technique I applied to Simplicity 1777, namely putting two darts on each side. I also lengthened the skirt a bit. What I forgot to do was take any progress pictures.

The fabric featured in the original Collage of Shame back in January 2016, and I’d had it for a long time then. The small print makes it perfect for a 1940s dress, as it doesn’t waste fabric in matching up patterns. I flew in the face of the CC41 regulations however, and added trim to the collar and sleeves in the form of ric-rac. I could have just machine stitched it down the centre, but I don’t like the way the sides curl up if you do that, so instead I hand sewed it in place, loop by loop. I was especially pleased with the mitred corners in the collar. I cheated with the shoulder pads however, and used modern bought ones instead of making my own.

Ric-rac round the collar

The dress fastens with four buttons on the front, complete with hand sewn buttonholes, and a period-appropriate side placket with press studs (snaps) and a hook and loop at the waist seam - zips were forbidden under the CC41 regulations. There is an in-seam pocket on the other side.


Pockets are always good

Although I started this dress in July, for some reason it's taken until now to finish it. I did manage to wear it this weekend, though - and it's always good to have an almost unworn summer dress in the wardrobe ready to pull out when the warmer weather comes round again.

At last! A successful project!

Sunday 17 September 2017

Flowers - part 1

Only a short post this week, as I've been away for the weekend and am not long back. It's been a hatting-related jaunt; to a flower-making weekend at The Millinery Studio in Huddersfield. The studio is run by Sue Carter and Marie Thornton, who regularly teach at Hat Works.

Yesterday was all about beaded flowers. We began with seed beads threaded onto wire, which was then bent to form flower and leaf shapes.

Examples of simple beaded flowers and leaves

In the afternoon we moved on to making individual petals by joining beads together with much finer wire. We started off with large beads, to learn the technique (there are two examples on the left of the photo above), before moving on to seed beads.

Flowers made from individual beaded petals.

I loved this technique so much that I carried on in my hotel room in the evening! Despite this, I haven't got a completed flower to show, so here's a close-up of one of Marie's beautiful examples.

Beaded flowers on a headband

Today we moved on to silk flowers. Again there were two types, but the technique was the same for both. For the first flower we cut out different sizes of multiple petal shapes, from stiffened dupion silk.

Flower pieces

These are then dampened, and shaped using heated metal tools.

Flower-making tools

'Action shot' of shaping the fabric, and a single petal in the foreground

Once shaped, the pieces had to be left to cool and dry; and this was where Sue and Marie's collection of beautiful vintage china cups came in handy!

Drying the petals in a cupped shape - quite literally

The second flower was made up of individual petals. These were shaped, and then assembled onto a wire 'stem'.

Rose petals, plus calyx and leaf

Again, this is not quite finished: I shall write a separate post about the completed items. There will doubtless be more to come, as I have finally found a use for all those small pieces of silk dupion and leftover packets of seed beads in my stash! Thanks to Sue and Marie for a fabulous weekend.

Update: I posted a picture of the proper flower-shaping tools because, let's face it, they look great. But you don't need to spend a fortune. Sue and Marie aren't known as "The Millinery Magpies" for nothing; they have assembled a collection of household objects which do the job just as well (just be careful how you hold them, as the handles get hot). Melon ballers, ice cream scoops, even a honey dipper with a ball-shaped decoration on the handle - you will never look at metal kitchen utensils in the same way again!

Bonus DIY tools photo for Cate!

Sunday 10 September 2017

A very vintage day out

I've been to Stockport for the day. Nothing new there, but for once I wasn't hatmaking. I had expected it to be a short visit, but it turned into much more.

The original plan was to finally go to the Vintage Village, a vintage fair held in the covered market hall. Even though it's been held every month for several years now, I'd never been. Initially I wasn't sure if I'd be going this time either, as I realised on the train over that I'd forgotten to bring a map. Despite the fact that I've been to Stockport several times for non-hat-related things, I don't know it very well at all; in fact the only places I recognize are the Hat Museum and the brewery (the latter purely as a landmark, I might add). So I set out from the station in what I thought was the right direction, and hoped.

Found it! The market hall

I had a good look round the fair, and bought some (more) vintage patterns, then on the way back to the station I called into HatWorks to buy some brim wire. As you do. I was chatting to Sue, one of the lovely staff there, and she mentioned that the Plaza cinema was open as part of Heritage Open Days. So off I went.

The Plaza

The Plaza is a magnificent Art Deco cinema; opened in 1932, converted to a bingo hall in 1967, and lovingly restored to its 1930s glory this century. To see lots more photographs of its construction and history, click here.

Much of the original Egyptian-themed décor was simply boarded over when the bingo hall conversion took place.

'Egyptian' in a loose sense of the word

Part of the foyer, with original doors and seating

Other items, such as the carpets, sweets stand and booking kiosk were recreated from photographs.

The sweets kiosk, with rather less elegant contents than in the original

The ticket kiosk isn't used, but does have a period telephone

One item which had survived almost unscathed was the magnificent Compton organ with its illuminated glass panels.

The organ when not in use

The organ pipes are actually behind the large panel to the right of the picture below. The panel on the left has nothing behind it.

Lit up, along with the illuminated orchestra pit rail

View of the auditorium from the Circle

On the first floor is the café restaurant, with its original Lloyd Loom furniture.

The café

The Plaza is a theatre as well as a cinema, and the backstage area was open for the Heritage Open Day. Because the whole building is built against a cliff (Stockport rivals Edinburgh for hilliness), backstage is actually underground - during the Second World War one of the directors temporarily moved his family into the dressing rooms when their home was destroyed in a bombing raid!
Sadly they didn't let me in here

At the other end of the building, right at the top, is this very narrow door.

Clearly projectionists had to be thin

This was the way to the projection room, also open for the Heritage Open Day. Up here are two 1948 projectors, rescued from a skip and restored. Two were needed because a reel of film only lasts 20 minutes, so a movie would consist of several reels, played seamlessly on alternate projectors.

The projectionist explaining how films were shown

The projectors are still used for 35mm film, but most modern films are shown on the modern digital projector just visible through the door on the right. Doubtless more efficient, but far less romantic!

Even more amazing was the last projector in the room; the 1928 'talkie' projector. The thing at the bottom which looks like a record player - is a record player, of sorts. The sound was separate from the film itself; on a big shellac record which had to be cued up to the film, was very fragile, and wore out after it had been played 40 times. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before this technology was replaced.

The 'Peerless' projector with Vitaphone turntable

I had a fabulous time going round the Plaza, and my short visit turned into a very long one. A huge thank you to Sue for telling me about it; I would have missed a real gem otherwise.

Image © Stockport Plaza

Sunday 3 September 2017

Wiener Werkstätte ensemble - pictures

My historical sewing has had to take a back seat for a while, as I just have too many other things to do at present. But a couple of weeks ago I had the rare treat of a free day, plus I was due a haircut, which meant that my totally non-historically-accurate fringe (bangs) was long enough to be tucked out of the way. So, I decided to do something that I’ve been meaning to do for ages, and photograph my complete Wiener Werkstätte ensemble; dress, hat and bag.

On the basis that ‘if a job’s worth doing . . . ‘, I also wore all the period underwear I’ve made; my Edwardian chemise and (adapted) drawers, petticoat slip, and 1911 corset (all of which make this the most hyperlinked blogpost ever). The last item wasn’t really necessary as the Wiener Werkstätte, like the Aesthetic and Rational Dress movements in the UK, advocated not wearing corsets. But I was determined to go the whole hog, and I suspect that at least some of the Werkstätte’s clientele would have been reluctant to abandon corset-wearing. To finish the whole look off, I wore my American Duchess Astorias, and Edwardian stockings.

The results were . . . OK, but I’m a long way off happy with them (I did have fun messing around with filters on the photos, though!). I see it more as a learning exercise, and it shows how much I’ve got to learn about historical costuming.

The original dress (image © MAK) and my version

None of what follows will be news to anyone who does a lot of period dressmaking, and it all pretty much echoes what costumers such as Jennifer Rosbrugh regularly say on their blogs, but in no particular order here is what I discovered from the exercise.

First up, I wish that I’d used better quality fabrics for the dress. Even though I have no reason to wear it, if you’re going to put that much time making something, it’s not worth skimping on materials. I was far happier with the feel of the underclothes, which were made in period-appropriate fabrics.

It's a bit too shiny!

Which brings me on to the discovery, made very early on, that the chemise pattern (Truly Victorian Edwardian Underwear pattern TVE02) was not designed for dresses with wide necklines. Even with the alterations I made to lower the neckline, it was well and truly visible. For the sake of the photos I replaced it with a modern vest top (see the ever-excellent Frock Flicks for why I had to replace it with something).

Unboned sections of a corset will go where they want to go, and there’s nothing you can do about it. In this case I had clearly made it too long, so the top inch or so folded over, and resisted all of my attempts to make it lie flat. Unpicking and reshaping the top edge is fiddly, but do-able. 

Despite all the arguments I found when I researched the subject, I remain unconvinced by the combination (no pun intended) of long straight skirts and closed-leg drawers. They must have been a nightmare to do up after a bathroom visit.

The hat brim is too floppy. Much as I like the scalloped edge it definitely needs stiffening, either wire or brim reed. I shall have to take it to one of the Hat Chat sessions at the Millinery Studio for remedial work; although getting it on the train may be interesting!

The brim edge is lovely, but will have to be covered up

By this stage, the brim was buckling a bit

Far and away the most successful element of the whole outfit was the petticoat slip, made from a pattern in Frances Grimble’s The Edwardian Modiste. This was drafted to my measurements using a scaling system, and fits beautifully - so much so that I even photographed it! I can see that if I want to make any more clothes from this period, the Edwardian Modiste patterns are the way to go.

Fringe looking dreadful, slip looking good

Although there is so much of this outfit that could have been done better, I'm working on the basis that all of the items I made were for challenges in the Historical Sew Monthly, and one of the mainstays of the HSM is the "pursuit of greater historical understanding". Simply knowing that it could have been done better, and having some idea of how, is a start.

I do look a bit too chirpy in the pictures as well. Most of the models in the Wiener Werkstätte archive photographs look rather gloomy - sometimes with good reason.

If I was wearing that flowery-swimming-cap hat, I'd look glum too! (image © MAK)

Clearly I need a small dog

For me the most interesting thing about the whole exercise was how totally alien the whole outfit felt to wear. I regularly 'dress like my grandma' using patterns from the late 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, but even when I go for the whole 'look' with period hair, stockings, hat etc, it still feels like only a very small variation from normal dress to me. This felt like 'dressing up'; definitely something from another world. But I’m aware that I was born in the mid-1960s, so would 1930s clothes feel like another world to a younger person? Or was there some fundamental change in clothing, say after the First World War?

That aside, I’ve left the most important thing I learned from this to the end. If you are wearing a long-line corset and shoes which fasten with buttons, there is a definite order in which these items need to be put on. Very definite.

Trying to use a button hook on shoes when you can't bend is doomed to failure!