Friday, 24 April 2015

Bathroom DIY On A Budget

Hello lovelies! Things have been a little slow on the sewing front, but your interest in our home improvements since I posted our living room and dining room renovations, has inspired me to share our bathroom project.

First, let me start with a disclaimer: this is not our dream bathroom, not by far. Compared to the rest of our house, the bathroom is pretty modest, but we don't currently have the funds to gut it and start again. So we set out to achieve maximum effect with minimum budget!

We decided to leave the fairly inoffensive suite and wall tiles for now, but the shabby blue walls/ceiling and the depressing lino flooring really had to go. So we lightened the walls and ceiling for a brighter look, and we went for modern-looking flooring.


We made some other subtle, yet significant changes too. We painted the wooden sideboards/door-frame white, varnished the door in a slightly darker shade, replaced the bathscreen with a slicker one, added some simple storage, and added some life in the form of plants.

I hope you agree that despite no major or structural changes, we've managed to transform our little bathroom. And it really was DIY on a budget, costing us less than £200 for the whole lot! 

  • Our most expensive purchase was the £99 semi-frameless bathscreen from Homebase.
  • Our best bargain was the flooring, also from Homebase. We paid a mere £12 for a pack of 36 textured vinyl tiles (sadly out of stock), an 80% discount on the original price! They were expertly installed (laid sounds so wrong) by the boyfriend's dad...our DIY guru and saviour!
  • The paint was on offer at Wilko's and we used Frosted Steel on the walls, Pure Brilliant White on the ceiling and Quick Dry Satinwood on the woodwork. 
  • Finally, we got our functional storage from Argos (here and here) - we're toying with the idea of adding a wall cabinet above the toilet, but I tend to favour minimalism in decor. 
  • The wood varnish we had leftover from other projects and the aloe vera plant and orchid were gifts. 

What do you think to our bathroom DIY on a budget? Are you working on any home improvements at the moment?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Scuba Skater Dress

By the end of last year I was feeling rather burnt out, so I decided to take a break from the Minerva Blogger Network and other sewing commitments. Luckily, Vicki agreed to irregular contributions from me and it feels good to be back!

I felt like coming back with a bang, so that explains this crazy little number. This dress was inspired by two sources: wanting to use more of the black quilted jersey I made my Bad Girl Violet out of, and a scuba skater dress I bought online. Sadly, as is often the case, the RTW dress didn't fit very well so I decided to draft my own version. 

I say 'draft' in the loosest sense here, because I essentially traced around the RTW dress, added seam allowances, compared my pattern pieces to ones I know fit me well and then made any necessary adjustments. What drew me to the RTW dress was the crazy scuba print (which Minerva has a good selection of) and the panel detailing. Interestingly, the RTW dress was single-print, but I wanted a try out the bodycon look in an A-line shape that suits me better.

Sewing with scuba jersey was everything I hoped for and more. I used a ballpoint needle and increased my stitch-length slightly, but its stability meant no fiddling with tension and no battling with slipperiness. I'm particularly happy with how the panelling turned out, especially the square corners on the bodice. They were surprisingly easy to sew, because both jerseys I used are nice and flexible, at the same time as being stable. 

With hindsight I probably would add the panelling detail to the back bodice too, as the dress currently looks a little unbalanced, but I'm going to claim it's a deliberate design statement!

This is hands down the most RTW-looking piece of clothing I've ever made, and I don't know how I feel about that. On the one hand, the fact that it looks like something I could buy from the highstreet makes me think that I should have just bought it from the highstreet! Why bother making something if it's not going to be a bit different and unique? As demonstrated by the inspiration RTW dress though, buying from the highstreet doesn't guarantee a good fit, which is something I feel I've definitely achieved with this dress. On the other hand, it's pretty cool that we have such a wealth of fabric choices at our finger tips, giving us the opportunity to re-create any look our hearts desire!

How do you feel about RTW-looking handmade clothing?

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

#VintagePledge Stash Interview with Petit Main Sauvage

Hi friends! Today I'm delighted to share an interview with you, as part of April's schedule for the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. In showcasing her vintage pattern stash, Lauriana of Petit Main Sauvage, also takes us on a journey of the fascinating sewing landscape prominent in the Netherlands!

Hi! I’m Lauriana from Petit Main Sauvage (and French speakers, I know the grammar is wrong). Before I get stuck into this interview, I think I should tell you a little about sewing and patterns here in the Netherlands. I don’t think the situation is unique, but it’s definitely different and it has contributed significantly to the character of my vintage pattern collection. When I was a child, my mother sewed for us and for herself. For children’s patterns, she subscribed to a magazine called Knippie (the children’s version of Knipmode, both of which still exist) and for herself, to Marion (which ceased in the 1990's).

So, for as long as I can remember, sewing patterns came on pattern sheets and had to be traced. I don’t think I had ever seen a pattern envelope until I was about 23. As far as I know there have never been any Dutch producers of such patterns. In fabric stores, we can buy the usual ‘Big Four’ plus Burda, but only the latter comes in a translated version and we have to pay full price. Obviously, English is no problem for me and availability has improved dramatically over the years with the increase of online shopping, but that didn’t undo the early discouragement. So, when I started looking at vintage patterns, I wasn’t very surprised that instead of the envelopes I saw on other people’s blogs, I mostly found magazines with pattern sheets.

How and when did you start collecting vintage sewing patterns? 

I don’t even really know…it just sort of happened. In March 2011 (thanks to the blog, I could find that out) my aunt, who sometimes volunteers at a charity shop, brought me a small stack of 1960’s and 1970’s Marion magazines. And not long after that, the market stall with second hand stuff where I buy things like gloves suddenly had two 1950’s magazines. After those coincidences, I started actively looking for vintage patterns, pattern making books and fashion magazines on our local Ebay-offshoot. 

How many patterns do you have, and how do you store them? 

The vast majority of my vintage patterns are in magazines and I also have a lot of vintage fashion and ladies’ magazines without patterns (although there is the occasional ‘draft your own’ pattern in those) and some pattern-enlarging systems and vintage pattern making instruction books. That variety makes it impossible to count actual patterns. All those magazines and books came in all kinds of different sizes, so there is no simple solution to storing them. I mostly just keep them stacked like this in the bookcase in the living room. Those thick volumes on the shelves above are bound vintage ladies’ magazines. 

What attracts you to collect the patterns you have? 

I learned pattern making before I started collecting vintage patterns so the main reasons have always been inspiration and education. I don’t find it particularly difficult to draft a pattern based on a dress in a picture, but I’m often curious about how exactly it would have been done at the time. How much ease did patterns include? Are those big collars separate pieces or were they cut on? And how did they make those fairly fitted kimono sleeves so they didn’t restrict a lady’s arms? You can learn a lot of these things just by looking at vintage patterns and many more by making them. The answers aren’t always satisfying though. Freedom of movement, for example, was sometimes just sacrificed for style. Those fitted kimono sleeves without underarm gussets, for example, are restricting. I couldn’t come up with a clever solution for that because there isn’t one. 

I also use vintage patterns to try and explore new eras. I think I’ve figured out 1950’s is for me and I could do 1960’s mod or 1970’s if I wanted to, but I really need some help with the older stuff. For that reason, I actually love having piles of magazines rather than separate patterns. This way I get a clear look of the general fashion at that point in time instead of seeing just one great design. When starting out with a new-to-me era, that really helps me to ‘get my eye in’ before I choose what I’m going to make. And I also have three or maybe even four different ‘make these patterns in your size’ systems. To me, those are very interesting because finding patterns that fit us is the endless quest of any seamstress and finding great short-cuts for it is kind of a holy grail for sewing and pattern making teachers. I think it is very interesting just how many attempts to solve that issue were made pre computer-era. With such a system, any pattern in the book could be in my size.

So far, I’ve sewn successfully using the Frohne system and I have made something using booklets from the Dutch radio course “met naald en schaar” (“with needle and scissors” mid-1950’s to early 1960’s). I was rather underwhelmed with the latter. Frohne uses miniature patterns which you enlarge using a special tool. It’s like the better known Lutterloh system (which I want to try out this year), the tool is just very different. I’ve blogged about it here

The Dutch booklets form a sort of ‘pattern making for dummies’ series. You are supposed to start with a very simple, straight, dartless sloper and then follow the instructions for different styles given in each booklet. From my pattern making experience (both drafting my own and trying to use this system), I think that’s a terrible idea which has you guessing at the exact position of bust and waist and hip every time.

Do you have any favourite style eras? 

My favourite era to wear is still 1950’s or to be precise, from 1948 when the ‘New Look’ was accepted by the general public to somewhere in the mid-to-late 1950’s (no exact year there) when the increased availability of nice fabrics made designers lazier when it came to normal clothes. I especially adore the dressy afternoon looks from those years. However, I’ve been using both my collection and the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge to get out of my comfort zone. I love last year’s 1920’s dress and I really have to sew more from that era. I also adore pictures of 1930’s dresses, but I’m still very unsure whether I can make that look work for me.

What’s the oldest pattern in your collection and have you made it? 

My oldest pattern, like most of my collection, is not a single pattern but a magazine with a pattern sheet. It’s Gracieuse magazine from 1 July 1918 (which is actually the second-oldest of my Gracieuses but the oldest doesn’t have its pattern sheet).

And the patterns included (each in one size only), are for things like these. I haven’t made any of these. I think this is an interesting transitional era in fashion, but not something you can easily merge into an everyday wardrobe.

Can you pick three favourites and have you made them? 

That’s such a difficult question! I’m just going to pick three patterns I really like and feel I should try and make (and ones I could make because I have the pattern and it should be near my size). I like both these dresses from the autumn of 1929, from Gracieuse but it’s the one on the right I really love. These are almost perfectly between 1920’s and 1930’s in silhouette and full of interesting details. And I always love unusual skirt shapes.

Then, there’s this amazing evening gown from Beyer’s magazine from January 1937. Or, lacking occasions to wear such things, at least that cute capelet/jacket.

From around 1950 but undated is this pattern. One of the very few single patterns in envelope in my collection. It’s an unprinted pattern and there are no instructions, which is common in my collection. In the magazines, all they tell you is how much fabric you need and a rough order of construction. I love the collar, the pleats, the pockets and just the whimsically suit-like design.

Is there a pattern you think you’ll never make, but will never get rid of? 

To be honest, I’m no good at getting rid of patterns. Because I use them mostly for inspiration I just like having a lot of magazines to look through. This question brings one particular magazine to mind though: La Femme Elegante for winter 1949. I have a few more issues of this magazine but those are from the late 1930’s and come with normal pattern sheets. This one is quite enthusiastically illustrated and includes some pretty over-the-top designs. Great designs and there’s an unusually high number of them on the pattern sheet. But that’s the problem.

La Femme Elegante has come up with the most unlikely draft-to-size system. You are supposed to take a giant piece of paper and fold and fold it creating little rectangles (32 high and 32 wide) sized according to your bust circumference and height. You should then use those to copy the miniature patterns. They claim this will give you a perfectly to size pattern. I don’t even think you could manage to fold a piece of paper that many times and even if you worked around that (using math rather than folding to get the rectangles) it’s still a pretty sketchy method.

Where do you get your patterns from?

I find the vast majority of my patterns on Marktplaats, an Ebay-owned auction site here in the Netherlands. Vintage patterns are not hugely popular here so prices don’t get crazy and, of course, I don’t have to deal with international shipping. On the other hand, it’s very hit-and-miss and it would be nearly impossible to look for a specific pattern here. Most of my collection came from people who were selling the stuff they found when clearing out grandmother’s attic. Those people are usually happy to sell to an enthusiast, seamstress and collector rather than to a trader.

I’d like to thank Marie and Kerry for all their efforts for the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. I really enjoy it.

Thank you so much Lauriana! This was such an interesting read and you have a very enviable selection of patterns. If you're reading along and want to join the #vintagepledge, you can sign up here. For inspiration check out our dedicated Pinterest Board and find out more about April's generous offers from Adele Bee Patterns and Simplicity here.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March #vintagepledge Roundup & Giveaway Winner

Hello! Just popping in to wrap up the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge for March, before handing over to my awesome co-host Kerry for April's fun!

March's #vintagepledge Posts

#vintagepledge in March & Giveaway - A Stitching Odyssey

Remnant Kings Giveaway Winner

Not only did Remnant Kings offer a 10% discount throughout March, they also offered up a £15 voucher to use either in store or online. And the lucky winner of the voucher is...

...Sophie, The Cake Hunter!!!

Congratulations Sophie, I'm already looking forward to your John Kaldor trousers :o) I'll email you shortly with further details.

Share Your #vintagepledge Makes

Kerry and I would love to add your makes to our dedicated Pinterest Board, which is already shaping up to be an incredible source of inspiration this year! You can get in touch by leaving us a comment, emailing us or by using the #vintagepledge hashtag on Twitter. 

We can't wait to see what you make!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Psychedelic Francoise Dress

I made a bonkers Tilly and the Buttons Francoise Dress and I love it! After testing Francoise last year, I was so taken by her simple, yet sweet lines, that I promptly vowed to make another asap.

I've been hoarding this crazy wool crepe for three years - which was sold as a vintage remnant by Croft Mill - and I'm so glad I waited this long to use it. I think Francoise's simple lines are perfectly complimentary and the combination has resulted in a really psychedelic look. Which suits me just fine as I love a retro aesthetic! Originally, I had planned a long sleeved version of Francoise, but realised that could be a step too far with such a busy print.

Once I decided against sleeves, I just knew I had to have a collar...but I was feeling mighty lazy too. My good friend Winnie came to the rescue though, when I remembered the crochet collar she gifted me many years ago. So much quicker than making your own collar and much cuter in this case! Thank you Winnie!

Being relatively narrow, my collar kept curling up, but a quick catch stitch-later and it sits perfectly! Do you like the bright orange bias binding I used to finish the armholes? You can't really see it when I'm wearing it, apart from the odd glimpse, but it makes me happy nonetheless.

I don't have anything new to add about the construction of Francoise that I didn't cover here, but I must reitarte how unbeatable Tilly's thorough instructions are.

Have you made a Francoise Dress? What do you make of the pattern?

Monday, 23 March 2015

1930s Inspiration For #vintagepledge

Hello friends! For this month's Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge inspiration post I'm delving into the 1930s - one of my absolute favourite decades for style - exploring fashion trends in a nutshell and how they were reflected in sewing patterns. I hope you enjoy this little jaunt as much as I have!

Although the 1930s are epitomised by the elegant gowns worn by movie stars, and will forever be remembered as the era of Hollywood glamour, women were dressing more practically than ever before. Coming between the two world wars and directly after the 1929 stock market crash, times were hard. The Great Depression led to cheaper materials and ordinary women could no longer afford the excesses of previous decades.

Everyday Style

A newfound preference for practicality didn't mean a loss of femininity. Form became more important than embellishment while the emphasis was on the silhouette. Clothes were cut to follow the lines of the body in a more provocative way than ever before. 

Necklines were lowered and often framed by wide scalloped edges and ruffled collars. The jabot blouse - with a cascade of frills down the front - became hugely fashionable, alongside the pussy-bow neckline.

Bodices were designed with interesting details like inset pieces and yokes, whilst arms grew in importance as designers experimented with square shoulders and voluminous puffed or flared sleeves.

Waistlines were brought back up to the natural waist, or higher, and were cinched in. Hemlines dropped dramatically and skirts were often detailed with yokes and pleats or gathers.

In light of simpler designs, accessories became especially important as women made statements with their belts, sashes, gloves, hats and costume jewellery. It's fabulous to see the importance of accessories even reflected through 1930s sewing pattern artwork.

Sportswear Influences

Until the 1930s, daywear had been more decorative than practical, but with women of all backgrounds beginning to live busier and more productive lives, clothes became easy to wear and un-restrictive. Day suits were revolutionised by Coco Chanel's use of wool jersey and wide-legged pyjama style trousers were introduced by the Tirocchi sisters. This sportier tailoring, as well as the emergence of activewear and more risque swimwear, reflected the more active lifestyle women were embracing and became a huge hit. As the decade progressed, simple clothes like trousers, sweaters, classic shirtwaist dresses and low-heeled shoes became wardrobe staples.

(Image sources: The Blue Gardenia & Erika with a K)

 Slide Fasteners

Originally invented in 1893, the slide fastener - or zip as we know it today - was finally adopted by the fashion industry in the 1930s and became an instant hit. Elsa Schiaparelli even made a feature of it in her designs, often leaving it exposed. This particular little nugget of information really drove home to me how un-original more recent fashions have been! Buttons also became part of surface decoration, with designers regarding fastenings as part of the aesthetic design.

Hollywood Glamour 

Contrasting simpler daywear, evening attire took on a strong element of escapist glamour. Shoulders and backs were bared in the first halterneck and backless gowns and the bias-cut dress clung to every curve. The latter was a new way of cutting fabric, invented by Parisian Madeleine Vionnet, which flirtatiously hugged the female form.

Hollywood glamour also became attainable in an everyday sense, with the creation of the hugely popular Hollywood Pattern Company in 1932, which featured personalised designs from radio and movie stars. Starlettes knew they had arrived when their headshot featured on a Hollywood pattern cover, entering more homes than magazines and newspapers during the Great Depression.

Do you have a favourite decade for style? What's your take on the 1930s?

Don't forget to check out the dedicated #vintagepledge Pinterest Board, which is well and truly overflowing with your fantastic makes!

Whilst researching this post I found Vintage Fashion hugely helpful and a jolly good read.