In the pink

It seems that I am destined to overcome the lack of pink in my wardrobe at the moment. First it was the hat. Now it’s a dress. It’s not necessarily going to be the most attractive thing in my wardrobe, once it’s on, but I’m attempting to make it at least period accurate to the 1920s – it is, after all, to go with the hat of good and evil – and decorative in it’s own right.

The decoration in progress

The decoration in progress

This insistence on decorative features has seen me questing through the inter webs for 1920s embroidery motifs. I should clarify here. The last time I attempted any kind of actual embroidery, I was not yet a teenager. Actually, I think that’s the last time I had much pink in my closet, as well – it went so well with the blonde hair I had as a youngster that my mother couldn’t resist it. My mother attempted to teach me embroidery, about the same time she attempted to show me how to knit and crochet. The results were similar. After an initial burst of interest, I put down the half finished item – can’t even remember what it was, but I seem to recall a blue bow as the feature of the design – and never picked it up again. My patience for this sort of thing has improved dramatically since then, as has my hand work, but I was not sure of what I would be able to pull off working only with half remembered instructions and a vague idea of several stitches. Even so, I figured keeping the design fairly simple would be best. That was how I came across a fantastic little French blog, Tricots et Broderies d’Autrefois (which I think, in my school girl French, loosely translates as stitching and embroidery from other times…although I could be very wrong about that…), laden with period appropriate embroidery designs..

Sounds promising, yes? There were so many options at first glance that I was a little overwhelmed, though. Not least because my French is rusty enough to slow me down in navigating the details of things other than pictures. There were enough pictures to leave me thinking, “Ooh, that one! No, that one!” for a good half hour, though. A closer look revealed that most of my favourites are fancy letters. Not sure about you, but I wasn’t keen on monogramming a house dress that I’m figuring will only get used as a cover-up to keep me from getting covered in threads when I sew, an elaborate apron, if you will (after it makes its appearance as part 2 of the HSF Pink challenge, of course). I picked out one of the floral motifs, though, and headed off to Spotlight for some purchasing. 45 minutes later I walked out, bamboozled by the array of colours in the embroidery threads wall and wanting to go back in and buy them all, and all the toys that were further down the aisle which I wouldn’t even allow myself to do more than admire from a distance. I was also extremely proud of myself for only leaving with two things that hadn’t been on my purchase list. Spotlight – when they have a sale, they do it properly. So hard to walk away from 30-70% off fabrics… But I digress (as usual).

Thank god I had the forethought to trace out the dress pattern before starting the embroidery. And to put the whole design on the pattern piece at once. Because I sat down on a 38 degree day, buried myself under a mountain of cotton broadcloth, and emerged several hours later, hot but satisfied with progress. Except I didn’t quite realise it was several hours. And I wasn’t finished. It would be another 5 hours before I would be able to put it down, cut the piece out properly and take a photo or two to share my progress.

So there you have it. On the whole, I’m quite pleased with the look of it. I kept to simple stitches and think I managed to hide my lack of practice with this skill reasonably well. You can’t see the hours, sweat and swearing that went into it – although you can still see the outline of the embroidery hoop, because I have yet to iron it.

And now I have actual paying work piling up that can no longer be put off, so my time for procrastinating with this dress is over for the moment. It will be finished. But first I have the more prosaic task of dog bed covers. The work of an itinerant sewing machinist is varied, to say the least.


The problem with making one thing…

…is that you need something to go with it.

Now that I have my snazzy cloche hat all ready to wear on the disgustingly hot days we’ve been having here in Melbourne this summer, I find myself wanting a full outfit to go with it. So i’m looking into making myself a 1920s-ish day dress, using one of the many retro cotton prints I have in my stash. There are, once again, a couple of problems with this idea.

The first is styling. I love 1920, but finding images of something to be made in cotton is a nightmare. For some reason,t he early twentieth century is a period that I’ve glossed over in my own library. I just straight from bustles into the late 1930s. Hitting the inter webs for inspiration turns up a whole lot of party-appropriate outfits and some gorgeous suits, but limited supplies of summer-y everyday-wear. I did, however, find this piece of loveliness.

1920s Arts & Crafts DressIt seems to do just what I want, but the simplicity of the style means that it needs the embroidery. I’m far too impatient to be able to sit down and accomplish that, even if I wasn’t using the search for a unicorn like this to avoid doing things like what I’m being paid to do. Anyone for altering the hem on a meringue wedding dress by hand? No? Yeah, unicorns it is…


Something  like this is also quite sweet and, apart from the cutwork, which I figure can be achieved by other means, probably quite do-able. But here we start to run into the second major problem with me making myself a 1920s dress. As deceptively simple as the designs are, they are made to flatter a particular figure type. Boyish, athletic, slim. A figure type which is decidedly not me. I’m more…well, I’ll flatter myself and say Christina Hendricks. Which all means that these little dresses would hang on me like a sack. Comfortable? Probably. Attractive? Well, it all depends on hoe you like the side of your barn to look.

The problem just kept coming…and coming…and coming.


Sure, there were a couple of things that I could use. Like the hemlines of the 1925 school girls in this photo – especially the one second from the left.


But I was still at a loss as to how to make something  vaguely authentic that wouldn’t make me look like a dreadnought. And I’m still at a loss. I’ve found an excellent chemise instruction page as well as many sites with guides for underwear (although again, noticeably lacking in what to do if you are constructed on more generous lines at the hip and bust), so now I just need to figure out what to put on over it. And, as I glance over at the wedding dress hanging, waiting for me to adjust it, or my job list, with about 4 other things that I should be working on right now, I’m tempted to go back to the start, dig out some of the white cotton that I’ve got in my stash, and see if I can’t resurrect my embroidery skills for an attempt on that first dress. Who says procrastination can’t be productive, after all?

The Garden of Good and Evil Hat


I never intended to complete the pink challenge. I was all lined up for the under it all challenge as my first attempt of the year. That’s the first disclaimer. The second is please excuse my terrible photography. And finally that, in spite of this, it is somehow done a wearable long before the due date. In fact, a quick glance over the Facebook page for this challenge seems to suggest that I’m the first one done. Given my rate of finishing things last year, this is beyond unexpected.

I’ve set myself the challenge this year of using HSF to make things that are actually wearable in a modern context. Or at least adaptable. Much as I love historical clothing, I can’t justify making things that will never get worn. And since I don’t do re-enacting, or work in a field that would let me wear a robe a l’anglais or bustles on a day to day basis (is there anywhere in Australia that would let this happen), this means that challenges I choose to complete will take some thought. Yet this challenge required almost none, and it’s use as a challenge item is something of an after thought.

But, with the summer giving me such a rosy glow I decided I needed a hat before stepping out into the garden to do some weeding. Only I couldn’t find any of the hats I own. I know there are 3 or so somewhere in the house, but their exact location is a mystery. So I headed to Etsy where, in another one of those coincidences that makes me thing this challenge was pre-destined for completion, I had bookmarked a cloche hat pattern on Friday while I was bored on the train. A quick trip into the stash, and I was ready to go.




So why is this the Garden of Good and Evil hat? Well let’s just say that it has a contrary nature to it. The pattern only has 4 pieces, so it should be extremely easy to put together. But the instructions of the pattern – which I was attempting to follow, given that this is my first ever attempt at a hat – were, in some cases, none too clear. Or at least none too clear to me. In the end, I went my own way and was kind of glad I did. Although I cut things carefully, the band somehow ended up a slightly different size to the body of the hat, so there was some easing required. and I added some topstitching to the lining of the brim, just to make things a little smoother. The evilness also came from the fabric. The insides of the hat ended up a mass of threads where the edges pulled as I was working the seams, but the curves didn’t let me do much to tidy up other than snip threads where I found them. I had to go round several times for the finished item to make sure I had caught everything.

Hats are always tricky for my to wear anyway, thanks to a combination of a head circumference at the upper end of the scale (well it has to fit all my brains in, no?) and a seriously ludicrous amount of hair, which both make it difficult to find something that will fit. This combined with my round face makes finding something to suit tricky. I’m not entirely convinced by the outcome with this hat either. It’s a half decent fit, which is novel for me, not having to cram it on and hope for the best, but it’s a style that I have my reservations about how well it suits me. But, it will let me get into the garden to deal with the summer weed infestation that is taking over, without getting too excessively pink (so basically, I’ve completed the pink challenge, to avoid getting pink) and didn’t cost me anything other than the pattern. Good, evil, it’s all here in one handy stash-busting hat.




The Challenge: Pink. Although it doesn’t photograph like it, it really is pink, trust me! Just at the brown end of the spectrum is all!

Fabric: Canvas and craft cotton

Pattern:  Stitchwerx Designs, Darling Dahlia Cloche Hat S106

Year: Pattern is new, styling is 1920s

Notions: The pattern is designed to have a flower on the side. I’m not a fan of that for this hat, which is all about the practicality…

How historically accurate is it? The style is reasonably accurate. It’s all made out of fabrics that would have been around in the 20s, and I only used the straight stitch on the machine – if I’d made it on my 1920s treadle the outcome would have been exactly the same, just slightly slower. The colours I’m not too sure about, but the stripe is not unrealistic, I think. So all in all, not a bad take for a first attempt at a hat.

Hours to complete: 2 and a smidge. I wasn’t clock watching, but feel like writing this post has taken me longer than the hat did.

First worn: Today. Likely to get a few more putting given the weather at the moment. And the pattern may get remade for winter as well, depending on how I feel about this one after a couple of wears.

Total cost: $7 for the pattern. All fabrics are from the stash.