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.

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Busy little bee

I know, I know. There has been a severe lack of posting going on with this blog of late. That’s because I’ve been busy actually sewing things. And finding other ways to procrastinate. But now, as soon as my terribly, painfully slow internet connection decides to let me access them, I have photos for updating what has been going on. I know – novel.

First there was the dress I made as a Christmas present for my niece.Last year she got a version of a ballet outfit – I say a version, because all of her dress ups are things that can be worn over other clothes – and she loved it. This year, I decided to go for a princess theme, based on Simplicity 2817.

Untitled-1

Her mother and I both try and avoid branding her too much, so she was never going to be Snow White or Cinderella. Plus, her favourite colour is purple, so that had to be in there somewhere. Add to that the fun of making something for a 3 year old who is the size of the average 6 year old, and you see where things might go wrong. Except it turns out that the only major problem was the length of the dress. I’m not sure if it was down to the lack of pouffy underskirts, but this dress was looong. As in I ended up having to take up about 15cm (6 inches for those who are still imperial), even after a deep hem. But she was thrilled with it, and refused to take it off – insisting that she must be called Princess A–. Incidentally, the pose is all her own doing. I told to stand still so I could take a photo and this is what she came up with.

Apologies for the terrible photo - that's what you get using a camera phone on a sunny day.

Apologies for the terrible photo – that’s what you get using a camera phone on a sunny day.

My other major tasks have all related to the Historial Sew Fortnightly (aka HSF). I’ve already mentioned the spencer that I planned. Turns out, I may have overestimated my pattern drafting abilities. Even working off the Janet Arnold original – which looks to be child sized to me, and may just fit Niece – I struggled to get something workable. So I ended up making my first attempt at draping.

On the whole, it came out pretty well, I think, even if the jacket is not, technically, finished. OK, it’s not finished at all, but you get the idea. The eagle eyed may notice one of the reasons why it’s not finished. I got a little distracted during the process and decided to makeover Esmeralda, my trusty dress form, so that she resembles me a little more closely. There will be more written about this at some stage, but suffice to say that hours with iron-on wadding, pins, and poplin caused me to evaluate my own natural shape in a fairly confronting manner. But they did also produce an increased likelihood that things will fit me better in future (except the hips, where I ran out of wadding…nothing seems to be getting finished at the moment).

Which of course leaves the question of what else I have been doing. Well, here it is. There was the bonus challenge for HSF, which I finished but never got around to photographing and posting. It’s a slip, planned for wearing under many a dress that I have daydreamed about, using up some gorgeous stretchy silk from the stash.

slip

I’m not entirely certain if this is late 1920s or early 1930s. I think I lean towards 1930s. Either way, it’s an entirely practical garment that is so unflattering I refuse to wear it in front of a camera. Esmeralda is otherwise occupied at the moment as well, so she has also refused to wear it.

I have been planning ahead with my HSF challenges. Or attempting to. There’s the UFO challenge up next. Of course, I have many UFOs. So I’ll not only be finishing the spencer jacket, I’ll be selecting something from the pile of period appropriate items that have been languishing in my UFO basket for years, in some cases. This is my task list for the next week or so –

UFO pile

Yep. I’m going to be busy again.

The Place Holder

Once again, my technology has stymied my blogging. This time it’s a failure of my internet provider. So I can’t show any pictures of the fabulous 50s blouse that I’ve been hand sewing for the past week, on and off (what can I say, my hand sewing moves at glacial pace. But still faster than my home internet right now).

But in the mean time, I thought I’d at least tease with the pattern.

Image

 

I’ve gone with the bottom left option, in a floral/striped cotton. So far, it’s looking good, apart from one minor issue with the facings around the neck. I’ve had to do some fairly serious re-sizing to get the pattern to fit me – I wish I could say that I was a 32″ bust, but sadly I’m not – and forgot to add to the back facing to compensate, so there’s an infill in the facing. Part apart from that, it’s been a breeze to put together, and I’m loving it. Fingers crossed, I’ll have some internet at home to upload pictures soon…