Sunday, 25 February 2018

Not-so-famous names

One of the things which intrigues me about the 'designer' vintage patterns in my collection is which names have stood the test of time, and which have vanished without trace.

Vogue Couturier patterns seem to have started off claiming to be 'couturier designs', without actually naming the couturier in question. Then in the late 1950s while Vogue Paris Originals continued (unsurprisingly) to be the pattern line for French designers, other named designers started to appear in the Couturier line, complete with the country in which they were based.

'Michael of England' was actually born in Ireland. Michael Donnellan was head of Lachasse before starting his own house in 1953.

Michael of England, 1957

I've not been able to find out much about 'Giovanelli of Italy', possibly because he may also have been known as 'Giovannelli-Sciarra'.

Giovanelli of Italy, 1960

Like Michael, 'Galitzine of Italy' was not actually born in the country which appears on the pattern envelope. Irene Galitzine was born in Russia, but her family had to flee the country before she was two years old, and settled in Rome.

Galitzine of Italy, 1968

As well as names I had never heard of, Vogue patterns can offer up some surprises in terms of longevity. I tend to think of Molyneux as a designer of the 1930s and 1940s, so was surprised to find that the house still existed in the late 1970s.

Molyneux, 1977

It's not just Vogue patterns, either. While Butterick Young Designers Mary Quant and Jean Muir are still familiar names, Gerald McCann is less well known, certainly in this country.

Butterick Young Designers, 1967-9

A year ago I had no idea who Mia Fonssagrives was, either. I came across her name at the World of Anna Sui exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum last summer, where her career was credited as a major influence on the young Sui. She is still a designer, but now of jewellery and sculpture. Curiously the name came came up again at the recent Louise Dahl-Wolfe exhibition, also at the Fashion and Textile Museum, where this photograph of her mother, the model Lisa Fonssagrives, was on display.

Mia Fonssagrives, 1967

Partly because the name was familiar, and partly because I've just finished reading Fashioning Memory by Heike Jenss (about dressing in 1960s style), this pattern is going to be my next sewing project - and the first in my 2018 pledge to make up patterns from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The 'chimneypot' hat - part 2

Finally it was sunny enough to take some pictures!

I posted about making the block and the hat here, this post is all about the trimmings.

This was the reason for wanting to use a rust-coloured hood for the hat.

Half-made cockade of folded ribbons

I'd made this on the Ribbon Cockades course at Hat Works ages ago, but had never done anything more with it. But as soon as I saw the hoods, I knew that this would be the perfect trim. I had a little of both shades of petersham ribbon left, so made up a few more sections. I also found some tan-coloured petersham in the museum shop, which I used for both the hat band and covering the centre of the cockade.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to curve the hat band tightly enough to fit round the crown, so had to add some (entirely decorative, obviously) pleats at the front. Looking at the photographs now, I can see that it also needs a little light dampening to shrink the top edge.

The completed cockade, attached to the hat

The finishing touch was the veiling. I knew that I had some some spotted veiling of exactly the right shade in my stash. I think that it came from the old Barnett Lawson (the days when you could hunt around in the back of the shop) - sadly they no longer sell this colour. It's beautifully soft as well, and drapes perfectly.

Several of the hats in my inspiration image had full veils, but I decided just to add a small one at the front.

1940s hats with veils and without

Even this provides several options for how to wear it. It can be pulled down over the face . . .

Showing the full veil

It's easier to see through than this photograph suggests!

Bunched up on the brim . . .

Bunched up with a slight overhang . . .

. . . or bunched up completely

Or it can be folded round the brim, and the excess tucked under the crown.

Wrapped round the brim

Possibly my favourite

Whichever way, I'm thrilled with the end result. Now I just need a dress to go with it!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Knitting inspiration

The chimneypot hat is finished, but I've not yet had an opportunity to take any photographs. So instead here is a slightly belated post about my birthday present from my lovely friend F.

Warning: extremely picture-heavy post ahead!

Woot! To say that I was excited by this would be a major understatement

All three books were published by Odhams Press Limited, and have the same endpapers in different colours. At least two were written by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster (the title page is missing on one). All have sections on knitting for women, men, and babies/children, but it's the women's items which I'm focusing on here.

None of the books have dates in them, but I think that "Knitting For All Illustrated" is the oldest; probably 1940 or 1941. There is a section on 'Re-making and making do', which begins, "Wool is scarce and precious now", but other than that there's little to indicate that there's a war on.

Each section begins with an illustration.

Morning clothes

Most of the items are made in a single colour of wool.

Pullover and sleeveless jerkin

This knitted dress is from the 'afternoon' section, but what I really noticed is that the hat is a similar shape to my chimneypot hat.

Now I just need to knit the 'frock' to go with it!

On the subject of hats, this fez was designed to be worn three ways - and I think that all three of them would look ridiculous on me.

Not top of my to-knit list

Some of the knitted underwear is very practical, some less so. Clearly at this time silk yarn was still available for making this bra and knickers.

Love the fluffy mules!

Close-up, showing the bra shaping

The thing which really caught my eye was this housecoat - it appears in the Vintage Knit book which I bought from Skoob last month. I can't imagine ever knitting it, but it was lovely to discover that I've now got both the original pattern and the modern version.

"You'll be getting up earlier in the morning to put it on"

At the back of the book is a 'how to knit' section. The individual topics are each headed with a drawing of a little wool person.

Click on image for a larger version

Things are altogether more serious in "Complete Home Knitting Illustrated". The foreword makes reference to coupons, so the book was obviously published after the introduction of clothes rationing in 1942. Far more of the items are made in several colours of wool, to use up oddments.

Contrasting sections, and a fabulous hairdo

Stripes use up small amounts of wool

There's not just knitting inspiration; sometime I really want to make the skirt on the left.

Great  (if wasteful?) use of check fabric

Silk underwear is nowhere to be seen; it's all wool.

At least she's still got stockings

Even the hat has a military look to it.

Glengarry-style cap, and another wonderful hairdo

Not everything is military and severe though. There's this pretty cardigan with a square neckline, for example.

Lacy cardigan for 'between seasons'

The section on re-knitting is greatly expanded from "Knitting For All Illustrated". I wonder, did anyone actually try this idea of replacing worn parts of a fabric dress with knitted sections?

Dress with knitted sleeves, back, and front yoke

Despite its title, "Practical Knitting Illustrated" is positively frivolous compared to its predecessors. Gone are references to shortages, rationing, and re-using wool. The New Look has not arrived in the illustrations yet, so I'm guessing the date is around 1947-8.

No contrasting sections to be seen here

Making a striped jumper from oddments is the closest this comes to 'making do', and even then the pattern suggests what colours to use.

Narrow stripes

Worn with a classic cardigan

Knitted underwear is a thing of the past, too. Instead there is a three-piece beach suit; a bra top and shorts for swimming, and a skirt to go over the top for sunbathing.

Sunny days ahead

It will be a long time before I'm proficient enough to try knitting any of these patterns, but it's nice to have the ideas. Thanks to F for a wonderful present!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

The 'chimneypot' hat - part 1

Of all the courses I've done at the Hat Works, the Make-Do and Mend course, where we made our own hat blocks and then hats, was my favourite. So when it was run a second time, I couldn't resist the chance to do it again.

First time round I had used the tutors' pattern for a hat block, but this time I decided that I wanted to be more adventurous and make my own. A quick search on 1940s hats provided lots of inspiration images, both family photos and studio images.

1940s wedding photos - unfortunately I forgot to note the sources

A selection of more formal shots

From these I decided that the two things I wanted were a tall, narrow crown, and a soft dent in the top of the crown. I had some ideas of how I might create a block to achieve this, but wasn't sure if it would work.

I forgot to take any in-progress shots, but the crown started life as a cone shape in paper. I drew on the top and bottom edges, cut out the shape, tidied it up a bit and then used this pattern to cut the card. I cut a second card piece, ½" lower and slightly narrower. Later I realised that I should have drawn this second piece with the vertical join line in a different place, but it wasn't an insurmountable problem. I taped the smaller piece of card together, and drew round it to get the shape for the block top.

The top was taped in place, and the shape stuffed with newspaper to make the block. Then I taped the larger piece of card round the outside, and added a sausage of rolled-up newspaper round the inside. this was taped into place, and the whole thing covered with tape.

The completed block, with dented top

Side view

As soon as I saw the range of felt hoods available, I knew that I wanted one of the rust ones because I had the perfect trims for it at home. It was a good choice; the hood turned out to be  one of the nicest and easiest to work with that I've ever used. Some hoods just don't want to play ball, but this one was perfect. I needed to shape it to be flattish at the top, then pulled into a far narrower cone than usual, and then to splay out again for the brim. A big ask, but it came together effortlessly. I thought that I would need some sort of weight to hold down the dent in the top, but it just stayed in place.

Blocked and ready to dry

There is no denying that the end result does look a bit like a chimneypot, though!