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April 2014
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all change

this blog is now archived. for anyone interested in following my progress since starting college i have a new blog here:

new category :D

so i’ve been away a while, but i haven’t been totally lazy all that time ;)  i went to art school :)

just coming up to the end of my first year, and remembered how much i enjoyed reading mithi’s blog a few years back.

so give me a little time and i should have some updates ;)


it’s been a while…

sketch sunday

pitifully little sketching this week :oops: but at least i can say i don’t shy away from the tricky stuff: M drawing.

factory folds

what a wonderful smell :D

du barry 5136: this tailored dress has a yoke and fly front cut in one. shaped pockets trims the front of the skirt. back of blouse has two inverted pleats below back yoke. fig i: has upper collar made in contrast and bishop sleeves are used. fig ii: has short sleeves with tucks at lower edge.


if i needed it confirming, this is the project that confirmed it: i will never make a seamstress. the clue’s in the name, -stress. it’s not making things for other people in general that’s the problem, i’ve bombarded my nearest and dearest with enough homemade tat to disprove that. but those have always been a surprise, they didn’t carry the weight of other people’s expectations. it’s making to commission that apparently takes a lot of the fun out if it.

also, making something apparently small and simple that is actually all kinds of stuff you’ve never done before doesn’t help. the pattern (burda 9990) had mock welts. personally i can’t think of anything crueller to inflict on a 4 year old than pretend pockets, so i had to make them functional. despite my many mini-trials with the bound button holes it still took a bit of brain bending to get my head around the process. then a bit more brain bending to get around the fact that i’d cut past the opening and into the main fabric on the first pocket :cry:

i stitched up the cut as best i could, but i wasn’t confident about the repair holding. neither was i confident about the strength of the pockets themselves, as the lining fabric is thin (in future i’m making a huge effort to find good quality lining, this stuff was horrible to work with) and the structure of the welt pocket – clipped right into (past :roll: ) the corners – weakens it further.  i also wasn’t happy that the pocket lining was showing through the main lining. happily, i solved all the above problems with an interfacing fudge :)

i didn’t bother to look it up, as i’m sure there’s a million reasons why it shouldn’t be done, but at that point i Really Didn’t Care. the denim has a very soft hand so i’d interfaced the whole of the front pieces with a dark fusible. so i took a patch of the same interfacing and fused it over the whole of the back of the pocket, simultaneously reinforcing the pocket, reinforcing the repaired cut and masking the pocket lining. clever huh? (now you can tell me why it shouldn’t be done because it is Too Late To Do Anything About It :P )

the buttonholes, which had been giving me the heebeejeebies all the way through, were slightly less trouble than i’d feared. i did have to unpick and restitch a couple of times, but i didn’t cut through any threads when i opened them. they’re a little stiff cos i clear nailvarnished them in the hope of keeping any fraying under control.

overall i’m pretty happy with the finished product, all the fussy cutting i did at the beginning has really paid off, i’m happy with where the horses are sitting, which i think is the standout first thing you notice. will have to report back re sizing (i combined differing height/chest measurements). i’ve sized up the recipient next to my 3-yo and i’m hopeful that the way it fits on her (i had to beg her to take it off :D ) indicates it should be a good fit on him.

it’s just a shame that the process was so tortuous. it turns out that i’m mostly in it for the journey.

sketch sunday

not my busiest sketching week. i never got round to doing any more on the shoes, i had to remind myself that these are supposed to be sketches rather than finished drawings. this is the most successful of the few i have managed to do, i think the choice of materials (square conte crayon) was appropriate to the subject, i wanted to sketch it in ink but i knew i’d make a terrible mess. i didn’t quite manage to get the shading effects i was after with the crayon, but i’m happy enough with the result.

i have been busy with other things, which partly explains the lack of sketching, i finally broke my block on the buttonhole-project, which i’m really hoping to get finished this week, and i had a day out in london, epic post to follow …

sketch sunday

a rather experimental sketching week this week, resulting in a pretty shocking set of sketches :D the best i can bring you is yet another half finished piece (after 2 hours work). i may try to finish this off tomorrow, if they don’t get moved in the interim. i got lots of compliments on these last night.

my experiments included:

- taking my sketchbook with me on a day out = truly dreadful sketch of pier in time it takes a 3 yr old to eat an icecream. i struggle with complex things as i never know what to include and what to leave out and end up putting in too much, usually.

- loose pen drawing = not as bad as i expected sketch of feet, you can at least tell what they’re meant to be :D

- first try at white conte on black paper = a sketch of a candle that was about as far as it’s possible to be from what i envisaged. i had fun playing with blending, and i’m reasonably happy with how i solved the problem of representing a diffuse glow (scraped the crayon into powder over the paper then blended), but i still need to work out how to make the mark i want from the crayon

so it was a relief to return to familiar old pencil drawing, where i’m marginally less at sea, although i’ve still a lot to learn about not just picking the 4b cos it’s the only one you have next to you at the time. the shoes could have done with a lighter touch, i haven’t left myself very much wiggle room in terms of available darker tones.

i’ve had a wonderful time researching this weekend - quilts and tattoo flash and captain scott and platinum printing. the latter two related (well, all related actually, but the last two more directly so) and involving massive amounts of drooling over the ponting portfolio. oh to be a very very rich person indeed who could dream of owning such an incredibly beautiful and poignant set of images <wistful sigh>

(btw please excuse crappy phonecam pix, will replace them when i can be arsed to drag my proper camera out. i’ll try to do some more work on the shoes before then too).

good news everyone

yes it’s back again :D

now you’re all reading this post in professor farnsworth’s voice :D

and even better news, i found more bell pincurl clips on ebay. yay. if you’re after some it’s worth setting up a search, they seem to come up fairly regularly.

buttonhole blues

i’m totally stalled on a current project for a dear friend thanks to my utter failure to make reasonable buttonholes. note to self: surprise people, never promise stuff in advance, it makes you look bad :facepalm:

trouble is, the buttonholes on my machine are unreliable (or at least i can’t make them work reliably). i wonder if something’s come misaligned because the rows of stitching seem very tight, and i ended up slicing through the side threads on my last couple of sets :(

i tried topstitching thread, with a heavy needle and reduced tension, but the tension’s clearly still awry cos i’m getting nasty – and unpredictable – snarls on the back.

i tried bound buttonholes using my magic doofer, but i’m not having much luck at getting them a) the same size or b) reliably tight, rather than gaping. to say nothing of the unholy mess it makes of the wrong side, and i’m sure bodgingly hand sewing the backs isn’t supposed to be the answer :?

i even tried hand sewing, for that bespoke look :D and whilst i think the front has a certain rough charm (this was my first try), the back is hideous.

and so i’m beginning to think that the very first buttonholes i did, with regular thread on the machine, are actually the best of a bad bunch. i briefly considered whether i could get a vintage buttonholer to work on my machine, in case that would be any better, but i think it’s probably lunacy. i did however get a tip from this recent tutorial (thanks susan!) to try two passes, one with a longer and the other with a shorter stitch length. i like the way this looks on the samples, so i’ll have a go, knocking down the density accordingly. and then i’ll just have to have a very steady hand indeed when i open them. gulp.

i mentioned to a (non-sewing) friend that i’d been battling with buttonholes all morning. she looked aghast and asked if i was really that much of a perfectionist that i cared how the buttonholes looked. i admitted somewhat shamefaced that yes, yes i was, but i was rather taken aback by her horror. please someone out there reassure me you understand …

in other news, i’m off to see the quilts next week. i expect to return full of renewed inspiration, with another million projects i just have to start right now this minute :roll:

sketch sunday take 2

i rather like this. it’s about an hour’s work, would have taken another to finish. i was enjoying it and would happily have done more but i was losing the light so i decided to drink the rest. cheers :D

sketch sunday

i’ve been really throwing myself into getting a grip on my portfolio this week. i’ve realised i have a lot to do. it’s going to be loads of fun doing it.

i’m keeping a sketchbook with a drawing a day, this is my favourite this week. i’m also working on a couple of conceptual/experimental pieces. i’ve not really done this before and the wide open spaces are alternately intimidating and invigorating. it was a good excuse  to dig out my polaroid and check whether the film is still usable, which – in certain conditions – it is :D

i really like the sketchbook thing. producing new stuff is good, and if it’s only sketchbook work that frees it to not matter if it’s not very good. and it makes a change to do something that’s complete in a few minutes, in contrast to most things i make that take weeks. and it’s nice to piece those little things organically together into something bigger (hopefully!)
and then i have a little light reading …

life drawing

i’ve finally got round to taking pics of the life drawing i did last year.

it was such a good thing to do, although the class was expensive and i think i might have gained more from the process with a different tutor. i’ve been assured by various people who should know that drawing can be taught, and i would have welcomed more direction. i do feel i progressed through the course, although i lost momentum rather towards the end.

i forgot to date anything as i went along and now i don’t quite remember what order i did them, i’ve put them in the closest i can manage to chronological order in the gallery.

i’d love to do more, but i can’t justify the cost of the classes. i am going to make a big effort to keep up a sketch book though, in fact i hereby reinstate sketch sunday :)

further adventures in pincurling

hmm this is starting to veer quite a long way off topic, but i couldn’t not post about my latest toy (courtesy of taste-t vintage).

it’s a bell kurl klasp kit which promises “perfect pin curls in half the time”. well i don’t know about half the time, it took me a good hour and then some to put them in, but they’re not a very long way from perfect i reckon, allowing for the fact that this is only the third time i’ve attempted pincurls and didn’t follow any kind of pattern for the direction of the curls.
i found the bell clips stay in much better than the spring loaded clips i got from superdrug and are way less fiddly than kirby grips. they also limit the amount of hair you can put in each curl, which helped me not to get lazy and make them too big, which was very tempting towards the end. i didn’t have enough to do all my hair since it’s so long (i could have used larger sections if i didn’t have to squeeze all that length under each clip), i used kirbies at the back.
i did the set on dry hair, using a gel spray to dampen down to the ends, and wound each curl around an eyeliner tube. i gave it a final squirt over with more gel and left it in all day. i could have got away with half as long i reckon, the wavy clips not only make sure the curls aren’t crushed, they also improve airflow to help it dry quicker (hence “half the time”). i’d be interested to see how long a wet set would take with these. my hair is naturally pretty straight and has never taken well to any kind of curling so i am super impressed with how well this set took, it’s still going strong after being slept on. above is before brushing out, and below is the finished product after a lot of brushing.

so now i can do it, i need to work out what to do with it. i didn’t have much luck styling the curls into waves, so i just rolled the sides back and clipped which gave a nicely fortiesish vibe without being too stylised (whilst i love some of the more “costumey” styles on other people they’re just not for me). apols for fuzzy webcam pic it’s the only one i have. also apols in general for rather odd pictures, trying to take hairdo pics that are also as anonymous as possible for internet purposes isn’t at all easy!

i’m going to do some more foraging around for ideas on what to do with my newfound curls, if anyone has any suggestions of places to look i’d be ever so much obliged :)

questions questions

debi tagged me for some questions, sorry it took a while to get round to answering!

1. Which pattern/vintage style have you been thinking about lately? no pattern in particular, but my mind has been drifting 30swards, for sure. there’s a line where vintage tips irredeemably into costume, and to my eyes that line falls at some point in the 1930s, i’m just trying to work out where.

2. What is one place that you really want to visit that you haven’t been to before? finland. fuelled mostly by a lifelong love of tove jansson. i urge every parent to read the moomin books to their kids. along with being great fun they have an unexpected depth, a darkness. and if you’ve not got kids try her adult fiction/autobiography that’s only recently been translated into english, the winter book, or the summer book. plus i want to see the northern lights :D

3. How do you relax? i’d love to say running, yoga and meditation (which i do, sporadically, natch), but to be truthful i mostly have a drink :oops:  after seeing the state of the lovely dylan moran on the telly last night :eek: i’m planning to revise this strategy sooner rather than later.

4. What is your favorite holiday? camping. we have a very nice tent.

either at a festival (ideally without the kids!) or in reach of somewhere like avebury. this summer i will get my kids to uffington.

5. What is one sewing skill you want to learn/try out? tailoring. i have a secret ambition to weave the fabric for a tailored jacket. oops. not so secret now.

6. Can you knit? Crochet? Any other crafting talents? my various dabblings are detailed over thattaway>>>

my most unusual “talents” are probably knapping flint (making knives by banging rocks together) and being able to count in binary on my fingers. i’m not sure i can really count that as a craft, although i for one welcome our new robot overlords.

7. How long do you spend reading blogs (per day or per week)? i only check a couple of blogs, maybe a couple of times a week, alhough every now and again i’ll go on a blog binge and hop from one to another for hours. i used to read a lot of blogs but i found it stifled any kind of creativity tbh. now i plough my furrow in blissful ignorance of what most of the rest of the world is up to and it suits me very well.

i spend literally hours a day on forums though :eek:

i know i should pass this on now, but as i said i don’t know 8 other blogs :oops: so i’ll post some questions here, in case anyone reading wants to answer – i’d love to hear :)

  1. what craft project are you most proud of?
  2. what song instantly takes you back to being 18?
  3. what was the last exhibition you went to see?
  4. if your craft room was on fire what would you save?
  5. best dr who?
  6. starter or dessert?
  7. favourite waste of time?
  8. if you went back to school/college what would you study?

dress fail :(

i had a sudden realisation yesterday when i put on my vogue 1044 “wearable” muslin. it really is too big :( as in unwearably so :cry: the extra is mostly around the bust and shoulders, i really don’t think there are any alterations i can make that would fix it.

i guess before i was too close to the project to be able to assess it objectively, but yesterday i realised that were it rtw i would immediately be reaching for the next size down and i’d try the one below that for good measure, too. which is a little worrysome as the pattern i have only goes down one more size, not sure i can face either buying it again or grading down the one i have.

i suppose i have to put it down as a learning experience. when i first came across the pattern i was planning to sign up for a sewing class – focussing on fitting, oh the irony – but couldn’t really afford it, so i could see the time and money invested in the dress as my diy version of the class. still, it really hurts to know i’ve sunk so much into something i simply cannot use. i’ve made stuff that didn’t quite work out before, but usually it’s been on a much smaller scale, or still been functional even if not pleasing to the eye.

it’s just a shame that my first foray into dressmaking for me in a very long time has turned out to be a rather large purple white elephant. i think i really need to pause and focus on what i can learn from this to take into my next project. this garment sewing is proving to be a steeper learning curve than i anticipated…

quiet round here

innit? not reflecting a total lack of activity, just a lull.

various things are in progress, i’m onto the second front for my cardi, i must get on with ordering some buttons.

i’m also working on a waistcoat that should have been a piece of cake, but has taken some very involved fussy cutting and an awful lot of experimenting with my latest new toy.

it’s a bound buttonhole maker, by rencrest, 1955. i assume it works the same as the widely feted dritz version, but with a lot less competition on ebay :P i’ve worked through a few variations, hence the electrical tape markings, to allow me to work slightly in from the very edge, which works fine for longer buttonholes (for enormous buttons!) but not so well for the 1/2 – 3/4″ ones i need to make.

i’ve been delving further into the 1940s too, fuelled by excessive reading over at the fedora lounge. i was pipped at the post to a rather fetching cc41 bra on ebay yesterday, although tbh i was grateful not only because i am still beyond skint* but also because it would have been a miracle had the thing actually fit. i was planning on rubbing off a copy, which could be tweaked as required, then selling the original on.

*the hollywood pattern book went for a good price in the end, would have been £60+ including uk shipping, thankfully. had it gone for the opening price i’d have been gutted!

i’ve been playing around with pincurls this weekend which has been a whole load of fun. i’ve always gone for “striking” hairdos, which in the past i’ve achieved with cut and colour (i think the only colour i’ve never had is green) and never spent much/any time actually styling the stuff. but i’ve recently chosen an uncharacteristically natural shade (dark brown, not my natural shade, but still… ) so i’m enjoying the chance to spice it up with more unusual styles. it’s going to take a hell of a lot bit more practice before the curls are fit to wear as they are, but i absolutely love the volume/texture it gives my mostly straight and slippery hair. i’ve been able to do this 1940s style, which i adore, entirely ratless which makes me happy :)

i think it’s a sign i’m on the right track that (to me, at least) i look like my grandma :D

returning to radio silence for a while, i expect, i have a birthday party/half term/camping just around the corner so blogging will have to take a back seat.

someone buy this, please!

i absolutely cannot afford to buy this 1935 hollywood pattern catalogue (i’m beyond skint and the shipping is prohibitively high :cry: ), but somebody should because it’s an absolute steal at that start price and then some.

i’ll be hunting down #836 in the wild that’s for sure. the fact i have absolutely no occasion on which i could possibly wear it notwithstanding…

huge sigh of relief

hollywood 1127 arrived yesterday, without customs charges, yay :D

big thumbs up to dress vintage for top customer service.

even bigger yay for the yardage – i’ve seen a couple of copies of this pattern in circulation, but never the back of the envelope. i figured i’d do contrast collar/cuffs if necessary, but with luck i should be able to squeeze the whole thing out of my 3 2/3 yards (actual requirement is 3 3/4 but that includes facings and i could probably skimp on the hem a little). i hoped that being a mid-war pattern it would be pretty economical and it really is, it has pretty much a layout for every size and the pieces are well and truly tretrissed on :)

thing is though, i’ve been leafing through some 1940s pics recently and so many of the dresses have white/collar cuffs i’m beginning to wonder if i’d rather do that anyway…


been shopping again :oops:

i was sold this as original 30s and although i know virtually nothing about the era i’m inclined to believe it, what do you reckon? any experts out there?

whatever it turns out to be i can’t get enough of this print, it’s got all my best colours, it has a wonderful drape (rayon) and a subtle sheen. condition is as new. can you imagine how nervous i’m going to be cutting into it? :D