Happy New Year friends! I'm very excited to finally be sharing a 'project' with you that was set in motion last summer when I came across a rather large bundle of beautiful vintage lace. After much consideration, I just couldn't get A Common Thread Project out of my mind, the inspired idea from Mena of The Sew Weekly fame (see all the pretty projects). The tantalising thought of sharing my loot with sewing bloggers internationally and showcasing our different creations was too good to pass up. So I got in touch with eight of many, many beloved bloggers to see if they'd be up for brightening our last two winter months. And guess what...they all agreed! Yipeee!
After totally stealing Mena's idea – why reinvent the wheel – the least I could do was come up with a new name. So I'm delighted to introduce Watch This Lace, with an exciting schedule guaranteed to warm your cockles for the following eight Sundays:
- 6 Jan, UK: Winnie from Scruffy Badger Time - (WTL make here)
- 13 Jan, Greece: Elpida from Madame Pelagie - (WTL make here)
- 20 Jan, UK: Karen from Did you make that? - (WTL make here)
- 27 Jan, Italy: Anna from paunnet - (WTL make here)
- 3 Feb, UK: Jane from Handmade Jane - (WTL make here)
- 10 Feb, USA: Sonja from Ginger Makes... - (WTL make here)
- 17 Feb, Australia: Reana Louise - (WTL make here)
- 24 Feb, USA: Lauren from Lladybird - (WTL make here)
To kick-start Watch This Lace, I present to you my most cherished make to date - The Armistice Blouse from Folkwear patterns. A Common Thread boffins will note that Casey made this as her project too, but I just couldn't help myself – love that gal and the blouse!
Why is this my most cherished make to date? Aside from the beautiful pattern details, I made it using silk that my great grandmother spun/wove with her own two hands in the 1940s. I know nothing about the technicalities of weaving silk fabric - but I do know that she even nurtured the silk worms herself. This is a woman - pictured below with my great grandfather - who raised five children whilst relentlessly working in the fields all day. How she found time to also weave enough silk to leave as a dowry for each of her four daughters is a mystery to me, but then I guess she didn't have a TV to distract her!
Onto the beautiful pattern details! This blouse dates from 1918 and has such a deliciously romantic and floaty feel to it. The reason it's so flattering to wear is the gathered back, which counteracts some of the fullness of the design. This is cleverly constructed by actually gathering the back and then sewing the self-made tie over the gathers.
Of course the over-sized collar and front panel are the real stars of this blouse and lend themselves to so much modification. I kept mine pretty simple though to let the exquisite silk and lace really shine. The pattern calls for functional buttons, but the ones I added - cute little heart-shaped ones - are purely decorative as I can actually slip this on and off without the need for any closures. Bonus!
This blouse is full of unique details, which make it a true pleasure to construct. Just look at these elaborate double cuffs with the added lace and tiny buttons...they make my heart melt! This was my first attempt at cuffs with a placket and button holes, but the clear instructions made it an absolute breeze. Initially I was going to be lazy and simplify the cuffs, but I'm so glad I made them in all their glory.
How did I match the lace to the silk so perfectly? I know you're wondering about this, don't pretend you're not impressed!
Good old English Breakfast Tea is the answer! You can see below the wider lace I used across the top of the front panel was already the perfect off-white colour, whereas the lace I used to trim the collar, panel and cuffs was much whiter. So I simply dunked a tea bag in hot water, topped the jug up with cold water and literally submerged my lace and quickly spooned it out. And ta da...it came out exactly the same shade as the wider lace! For my purpose the key was not to overdo it, but obviously for a darker stain you just need to brew the teabag stronger and leave your lace in longer. If in doubt, try it out on shorter lengths until you achieve the shade you're after.
About the pattern. As I said before, it really was wonderful to work with. I know my decision to work on this slowly and really appreciate the clever construction and elaborate details helped. But the instructions are so clear and easy to follow and I love that the pattern is printed on heavier paper - it's much less flimsy than the traditional tissue paper used and consequently easier to work with. I think the other reason this pattern probably gets the thumbs up from me is that I only needed to make minimal changes to achieve the fit I wanted - I moved the waist gathers and tie up by 3 inches, I added 2 inches to the length and shortened the sleeves by whopping 5.5 inches.
So to say I'm really proud of this make and a little smug is an understatement, but my face hides nothing!
Now I'm all pumped up to feature the next eight Watch This Lace participants...I can't wait to see what they've made! I sure hope you're looking forward to it too!