Sunday, 13 June 2021

More blasts from the past

The skirt I was making is now on pause. The front looks fine, but the fit at the back is truly dreadful. As it's not the weather for a wool blend skirt, and I'm trying to lose some covid pounds anyway, which will affect the fit, it has been banished to the naughty corner in the back of the wardrobe for a couple of months. It's galling, and I must admit that I've put off starting a new project while I nurse my damaged pride for a bit. But at the same time, it's a useful reminder that - whatever stories of relentless success we may see or choose to portray on social media - we can all have sewing failures, even with years of experience to draw on.

In my case those years of experience number over 40, and this latest debacle prompted me to think about some of the things I've made in that time. The very first one was, unsurprisingly, from a Style pattern. I made view 3. The pattern dates from 1975, when I was 11, but I think that I made it a couple of years later than that. I have a memory of hearing Baker Street on the radio for the first time while I was cutting it out, which would place it in 1978, which seems right. That said, I have no idea why I was making a short-sleeved top in Scotland in February!

Not the obvious choice for a Scottish winter

The pattern is long gone from my collection, but when I found it online recently, I couldn't resist buying it. I could remember the fabric I'd used (both Mum and I suffer from the affliction that we can't remember what we went upstairs for, but have an encyclopedic memory of every item of clothing we've ever made), but have no photos of me wearing the top. Then remembered that I might have some of the fabric. . .

Some time in the mid-1970s I saw an article about English (paper piecing) patchwork in a magazine, and promptly decided to make a quilt - starting with something small and working up from there has never been my strong point! At that time, in Britain at least, patchwork was still very much about using up scraps of old fabric rather than buying new specifically for a project. It was perfect for someone like me, who enjoyed sewing but didn't have much cash. Dad made me a template for the fabric and paper hexagons, out of very thick plastic. He also provided a steady supply of thin card, in the form of old punched cards from the I.T. department where he worked. If you look closely at the photo below, you can just see where some of the numbers have been punched out.

The card pieces are still in place round the edges

I decided on a colour scheme of browns and other earth tones - hello, 1970s! A lot of the fabric was from old dresses, and there are some atrocious colour combinations in there as I had to work with what I could get. I bought the cream and terracotta fabrics as and when required; unfortunately, this meant that overall size of the quilt was determined by John Lewis suddenly stopping selling the terracotta! I never actually got round to backing the quilt top, which makes this by some margin my longest ever unfinished project.

The 'completed' quilt top

Initially, I didn't realise that I should sew the hexagons together with the right sides innermost, so there are a couple of motifs with very visible stitching.

Oops! I also used cream thread throughout

As time went on, and I ran out of old dresses, I haunted my local fabric shop for small remnants such as this brown striped cotton.

Almost pattern matched all round

The leftovers from new dressmaking projects were added to the mix, too. This was the fabric I had used for Style 1144.

The centre is a scrap of curtain lining!

Style 2580 is from 1979. It used an absurd amount of fabric, and the leftovers made it into the quilt.

I made view 1. So. Much. Fabric.

And this (the green) is the fabric I used

The next year, I acquired Simplicity 9773. This was a favourite pattern, which I made up several times - possibly because the end result took far less ironing than the Style 2580 blouse! One version was in this green check.

A very 1980 illustration

Apparently I liked green blouses?

It's nice to have the memory of these clothes preserved in the quilt, as I have no pictures of me wearing either of these blouses - a reminder of how few photos we took in the pre-digital age*. I lost a lot of photo albums in a house move years ago, but given some of the hairstyles I sported in the past, I had concluded that this was probably a blessing in disguise. Then last week my mum unearthed some old photos of me (erm, thanks Mum), including this one.

The hair!!!?! June 1984

I have no recollection of this picture being taken, but I remembered that I'd made the top I'm wearing in it, so of course I had to look the pattern up. And, courtesy of the wonder that is CoPA, I found it.

Simplicity 6277, 1983

It's a total change from the fitted blouse of 3 years earlier. I made views 2 and 3, and the neckline was so wide that I was able to just sew the buttons through both fronts and save myself hassle of sewing buttonholes. For old times' sake, a copy of this pattern is now winging its way to me from Canada. I very much doubt if I'll make it again, but at least I wouldn't have any fit issues with it if I did!

* - Recently, I was discussing with a friend things from our childhood which would seem incomprehensible to Young Persons Today. Not being able to see a photograph until you had taken 23, or even 35, more and sent them off to be developed was high on our list!


  1. What a great quilt! I love that orangey floral near the top of the close up photos. My gram used to make quilts from clothing scraps too. I have a polyester wonder of a quilt from her that is clearly made from polyester clothing from the 1970s. :)

    As for Incomprehensible Things, to the list I add: 8-track players, record players more generally (and how you had to put up the button in the middle to play a 45), cassettes, phones with cords and rotary dials, VCRs, film cameras (yass to the fewer photos on film and waiting for pictures to be developed!), and a whole host of things I'm forgetting right now.

  2. A few years ago I bought a car; my daughter asked to be the first to sit in it as I drove it home. About five minutes in, she asked "what are these bars on the side of the door for?" I replied (busy trying to learn a new car in traffic), "No idea. Push it and see what happens, but don't open the door." And then suddenly there was a loud squeal from the back seat. "Mummy! It's a crank! And when you spin it, THE WINDOW OPENS!"

    She asked all of her friends round to see my magical new-fangled car window openers. And they were jealous--since it turns out that hand-crank windows can't be locked shut by the driver. Brand new and incomprehensible...roll up windows.