Sunday, 27 May 2018

The hand-cranked hybrid

It's only taken me 14 months (about par for the course, unfortunately), but I've finally got round to making up Simplicity reissue pattern 1777 in the style of the original, 4463. I used the modern pattern because I've already done all the necessary fitting alterations on it, but as much as possible applied the 1943 construction techniques. You can read about how the patterns compare here.

Simplicity 1777, made the 1940s way

Last time I made this pattern up I used a drapey rayon fabric. This time I made it up in a 100% cotton fabric from Til the Sun Goes Down.

The background is actually a very dark red

To be honest, the fabric is probably a bit too crisp for the style - I'm very bad at choosing correct fabrics; I just get distracted by the pretty - but hopefully it will soften up a bit over time.

All these pleats and gathers really need something a bit softer

The only pattern piece I redrafted was the bodice centre front section; I made it slightly wider at the top, to compensate for the seam allowances of the front opening. The buttons are sewn right onto the edge of the opening on one side, with buttonhole stitch loops the other side for fastening. The buttons are modern, but have a slight Art Deco feel to the design.

The buttons are also dark red, and a perfect match

The bodice and skirt backs were cut on the fold, minus the seam allowance. Instead of a centre back zip I put in a side placket with press studs, and a hook and bar at the waist. As ever I added an in-seam pocket on the other side, even though neither the original pattern nor the reissue has one. When I made up 1777, I attached the bodice to the skirt using the period method of turning under the seam allowance on the bodice, laying it over the skirt, and sewing through three layers of fabric. In fact the original instructions only use this method for the dress front. The bodice and skirt backs are joined by placing them right sides together and sewing the seam as normal.

The placket and the waist seams; back on the left, front on the right

The other big change was the addition of the tie belt. This was stitched into the side seams, in front of the placket and pocket openings. Unsurprisingly, it makes a big difference to the fit of the dress. (Some people have commented online that the dress made as per the reissue instructions is a bit baggy, and I had to pull in the sides of my first version quite a lot to get it to fit.)

Back view showing the tie belt

Side view - the tie improves the fit no end
So that's the hybrid element, what about the hank-crank? Well, I neatened all my seam allowances using my overlocker, but the dress construction was done on my 'new' sewing machine, my 1917 Singer. It has been cleaned, polished and oiled, and various lumps of compacted fluff have been removed from its innards. So of course I wanted to make something with it, and a 1943 pattern fitted the bill nicely.

My beloved 1986 Jones won't be supplanted any time soon, but nor was this a one-off experiment. There's something oddly soothing about using a hank-cranked machine, once you get used to only having one hand to manipulate the fabric (and stop trying to press a non-existent foot control!) Plus, accidentally hitting pins because you didn't stop in time becomes a thing of the past. The only thing I missed was having the distance from the needle marked on the bobbin plate, but handily one of the oiling holes is ⅝" from the needle, so I used that as a gauge.

It's clearly a machine which has had a lot of use. The decals are completely rubbed off in places, and there are a few small pits in the enamel, but for me this just adds to its charm. Judging from the newspaper inside the wooden base (presumably to catch drips) it was last oiled in 1968! But once I'd got the tension set correctly, it works beautifully, and it is very satisfying to think that I am the latest in a long line of people who have used this machine to create something.

My first (but doubtless not last) hand-cranked creation

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Howarth 1940s Weekend

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Although it was my fifth one as a widow, it's still not the easiest of days to get through. And people talking about weddings wasn't going to help.

Which was, all things considered, unfortunate.

The only solution was to go out and do something. So I headed over to Yorkshire, and the Howarth 1940s weekend. This event has been running for over 20 years and takes over the entire village; visitors are encouraged to come in costume, and many do. As this was my first time visiting I can't say if the competing attractions of the royal wedding and the FA Cup final kept many people away, but the place was absolutely packed.

Most of the action took place on Howarth's picturesque, cobbled (and steep) Main Street. The Home Guard were based at the bottom.

That's a lot of camouflage

This lady must have regretted posing for a photograph; she was stuck there for ages as we all took snaps!

Running repairs

I have no idea what these chaps were doing, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves!

Judging from the bottle, wine may have been involved

Slightly further up the street were military and civilian vehicles.

Vintage cars

Nurses by a military truck

Lots of the shops entered into spirit of things.

My kind of shopping!

It was impossible to get a good photo of Main Street, as it was always full of people. This one was taken late in the afternoon, when things were getting a bit quieter. It gives some idea of just how steep the street is.

Can you believe that people cycle up here? For fun?

Just to prove that I really was in Howarth, and not just any Yorkshire village.

The Parsonage gets a 1940s look

The Parsonage, from the churchyard

There were a few utterly bemused tourists around, who had come for the Bront√ęs, and hadn't realized that there was anything else going on!

You would be confused, if you saw this!

As is obvious from the photographs, it was very sunny and very warm. I didn't think a rolled hairdo would survive the drive over, so had just put my hair in a snood. As the day wore on, I came to regret not wearing a hat to keep the sun off. Certainly I was grateful for the fact that I'd worn my 1943 Simplicity pattern dress, which is made from a thin rayon: for the lovely lady in the Rosie the Riveter costume I was talking to about it, the details of making the dress are here.

It was a long drive there and back, but a very good day, and certainly achived the aim of keeping me occupied.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Colwyn Bay Forties Festival

Better late than never - here at last is my write-up of this year's Colwyn Bay Forties Festival.

Sadly the weather on the Sunday was not at all good, so most of my time was spent admiring the indoor displays. These have expanded a lot since my last visit in 2016. As well as the pop-up museum, which was full of everyday objects from life in the 1940s, there were lots of display boards about various aspects of life in wartime.

'Washing day' in the pop-up museum

One of the display boards

Best of all from my point of view, Weddings of Yesteryear were there with a fabulous display of 1940s wedding dresses and memorabilia.

I loved the neckline details on this dress

So glamorous

Cardboard 'cakes' were hired out by bakers once food rationing began

It wasn't just white wedding dresses. This bridesmaid's dress featured beautiful embroidery and beadwork.

Bridesmaid's dress with flowers, birds and butterflies

Close-up of the bodice

Embroidery and beadwork on the skirt

My favourite though was this smart blue and white ensemble. I couldn't work out whether the blue details were applied, or if the white fabric was cut away.

So 1940s!

Close-up of the bodice

Several of the shops had created 1940s window displays.

Taped windows, and period items for sale in the hospice shop

The staff in the Glass Lounge Coffee Shop really looked the part, with 1940s clothing and hair. I went in there for a warming cup of tea, and met a group of photographers who had had the same idea. As a result I can finish off with that rarest of things, a photograph of me which isn't taken in my back yard! Thanks to Sue Harris of Ellesmere Port Photographic Society for the image.

Dress my own design, hat from Heritage Re-loved, snood from Apple Tree Vintage

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Festival of Vintage, York

It feels like an age since I went to the Festival of Vintage at York racecourse, but actually it's only a couple of weeks ago. As I mentioned before, I dressed up for the occasion. I felt quite self-conscious setting off from the hotel; but the closer I got to the racecourse the more people I spotted in similar dress, and by the time I joined the queue to get in, it was wall-to-wall vintage.

I've only previously been to local vintage fairs in Chester and Liverpool, so nothing prepared me for the scale of this. Outside there was a large display of vintage cars to be admired.

Admiring the cars . . .

They also provided a backdrop for lots of photos.

. . . and posing beside them

Inside, one building was devoted to the dancefloor and to modern reproduction clothing. This was where I got my 1940s hat, from Heritage Re-loved.

Re-modelled from an old plush hat

The main building contained four floors of stalls selling vintage clothing, furniture, accessories and homewares. The first thing I looked for was vintage handkerchiefs, as I'd decided that amid all this vintage, blowing my nose on a paper tissue just wasn't right!

Once that was attended to, I could have a proper look round. I tend not to pay too much attention to clothes stalls, as they won't fit (too long in the body) and I prefer making my own. There were a number of stalls selling paper patterns (they weren't always prominently displayed, so I had to keep my eyes peeled), and I came home with quite a selection.

Paris Originals from 1964 and 1976

I really like Vogue patterns from the era where the word 'Vogue' was printed in blue. The blouse in the centre is a particular favourite.I'm sure the hat will look ridiculous on me, but it has to be tried.

1965, 1967 and 1961

I've also got a soft spot for Style patterns from the 1970s and 1980s, because Style was the brand I tended to use then. I'm intrigued by the idea of 'half' sizes on the patterns on the left and right; given the bust measurement, surely it would have been easier to label them sizes 17 and 15 rather than 16½ and 14½?

1974, 1975 and 1979

Finally I can't imagine ever making up these patterns because a) I just Don't Do Frills and b) it's a jumpsuit, but I liked them anyway.

1962 and 1976

Over lunch I met three lovely ladies called Joy, Jen and Emma, who were beautifully dressed in 1940s, 1960s and 1930s outfits respectively. They had been to the Festival of Vintage before, and strongly recommended going to the fashion show. This was organised by Clare from The House of Foxy, and included both vintage and reproduction clothes. The House of Foxy website shows the reproduction clothing far better than my photographs could, but these are some of the vintage pieces.

Vintage clothes in the fashion parade, starting from the 1930s . . .

. . . and going up to the 1960s

This dress drew gasps all round when it appeared, as the three-coloured chiffon back drape floated so elegantly.

The chiffon seams were beautifully done

As well as the patterns and hat, I also bought a handbag. I’ve wanted a 1950s summer bag for a while, and this one fitted the bill perfectly. The multi-coloured decoration on the front means that it will go with pretty much everything.

With 6" ruler, for scale

It’s exactly the sort of shape I was after.

The back is all woven

Showing the clasp fasten and handles

Inside it has a zipped section on one side and a pocket on the other.

Zip pocket at back . . .

. . . and plain pocket at front

The original label was literally hanging by a thread when I bought it, and has now come away altogether, but I'll re-attach it.

Made in Miami

On the day before I had bought three old pattern catalogues for research purposes (don't ask), so I had a lot of luggage to stagger home with, but it was a great trip.