Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Film Noir Dress

Hello! I've been away from the land of Blogs for a while because of life and stuff. I've just moved house - the first time in 20 years! - which has disrupted my sewing and knitting out put. But I made sure I made one last thing before the big move, which I'm sharing with you now.

I've had this pattern for ages, and while I always loved it, I never really felt I had the right look for it until now. According to the Vintage Pattern Wiki, it's from 1951 - it definitely has that haughty, Parisienne fashion look about it from that time:

Simplicity 8424, 1951

And even better, I had a length of black, grosgrain-type fabric I acquired during the swap at the Sew Brum meet-up which Claire from Sew Incidentally had donated.

The finished dress has a feel of something a no-good dame from a film noir would wear. Or if you're familiar with the work of artist Ryan Heshka, it kinda has the pointy-boob, big hip thing going on that one of his scary women would wear:

Mean Girls Club - Ryan Heshka

And here it is:

As you can see, I decided to pursue the film noir theme to its logical conclusion and take some shadowy photos in my new back yard.

Apologies for the wrinkly look in the photos - there's something about this fabric that just resists all ironing. I've tried steam, heat, spray starch, alone and in combination - it just doesn't want to know. Hence the crinkly lapped seam in this photo:

But it's still a great dress to wear. I particularly love the pockets, which sit away from the body and make your waist look smaller:

Close-up of pocket
Other details:

The buttons at the neck are covered in the same fabric as the dress:

I reinforced the base of the button facings and the pocket seams with embroidered arrowheads:

It's hard to see, being black on black, but there's an arrowhead on the left!
And I lined the skirt in red, as well as finishing the hem, as always, with matching bias:

The only fitting adjustment I made was adding some extra room in the bust; other than that it all went together pretty well.

This dress is surprisingly comfortable to wear; I might even make another one, if I ever get my sewing things unpacked... Anyway, it's great to be back on the Blog-wagon - see you soon!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Crimplene Capers

Ever have those times when you set out to do one thing, and end up discovering something else on the way? I did exactly this about a year ago when I set out for Ikea one day. Living in London, I don't bother with a car which on the whole is fine, except for when you want to go to Ikea. On this day it just so happened that there was some insane road construction happening en route, which meant the bus stops were all moved around. I walked around for what seemed like ages and was just about to turn around and go home when I decided to look for this infernal bus stop on a side street. That's when I came across Cannon Street Jersey Fabrics. I'd heard about the mythical 'jersey warehouse of North London' from several other sewists - could this be it? 

Ikea was long gone from my mind by now. I wandered in; it was a large warehouse with bolts of fabric piled upright in no particular order. A lot of it was jersey, but there were some wovens too. What really stood out were the rolls of crimplene type fabrics sprinkled throughout. I was really taken with their 70's goodness, but as is always the way when you come across surprise fabric, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to make or how much to buy. So I randomly went for some charcoal coloured wool weight sprinkled with silver stars, for about £2 per metre.

Close up of the Crimplene - the silver section on the left is the back
This sat around in the stash for a while until I felt inspired to do something with it. Then I got I flash of sewing inspiration and decided to make this:

Butterick 6950
Believe it or not, this is one of my few TNT patterns - no practical trousers or sensible skirts for me! I've made versions of it before here and here. This time I made the shorter version - here it is:

The flared skirt and puffy sleeves actually take up more fabric than you'd think, so it was a bit of a squeeze getting the pattern to fit into 2 meters. Corners had to be cut. For example, the hem had to be faced with lining so I could get as much length as possible out of it:

Hem facing
And I had to do some sneaky piecing together at the corners of the side seam:

I also had to forgo the tie at the back, and reduce the sleeve band to about half it's size. But other than that it all went together pretty well. I've never sewn with this sort of fabric before and wasn't sure about seam finishes or whether to use stretch or plain stitches. It's slightly bulky when there are several layers, so my beloved French seams were out of the question. But my new(ish) overlocker came in handy for seam finishes:

I've worn this dress loads since I made it; it just somehow works for lots of different occasions. It's been to a gig, a nightclub, a hen do, and several dinners.

And that's it- see you soon!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Minerva Bloggers Network - Butterick 5298 and the Tartan Challenge

It may be spring, but there are still some chilly days - going jacket less still isn't quite a possibility. That's why I decided to make Butterick 5298 to wear on these in-between days.

As you can see, it's a re-print from Butterick's archives of a swing jacket from 1946, I loved it the moment I saw it - the wide shoulders, the deep cuffs and wide sleeves - what's not to love? And I love anything swingy and swishy. I also wanted to re-create a dressy looking Pendleton-type jacket, with a more feminine look to it.

Source - Vintage Vixen
As for fabric, I loved the working with the fabric I used on a previous Minerva project of mine, my Christmas tartan skirt, and it's the perfect look and weight for what I was trying to achieve. And despite being warm and soft like wool, it's actually a clever mix of polyester, acrylic, and rayon, so there's none of the scratchiness that comes with wool.

I actually had a fair bit left over from the skirt (I'm terrible at estimating fabric quantities...) so I only needed a little bit more to complete the jacket, which luckily was still in stock at Minerva.

And it turned out I had just enough! It took 3 evenings of crawling around on the living room floor to get this monster cut out, and I used pretty much every scrap:

This was all that was left...

More than anything, it was tiring cutting this out because of all the decisions that had to be made regarding what would match and what wouldn't. I wanted to match the obvious, such as the centre front and back:

Centre front and yoke matching at the neckline. I marked the centre front with a yellow tacking stitch to help

I also wanted to match the front and back yoke to it's respective pieces. But when it came to side seams and cuffs - forget it! Side seams were left to do what they wanted, and with the cuffs I was sneaky and cut them on the bias, so no matching needed!
Cuff detail

As is always the way with me, I put more work than was probably necessary into the insides of the jacket. I didn't want to use stiff, glue-y interfacings that would affect the drape of the cloth, so I opted for sew in hair canvas. I cut all the pieces - yoke front and back, front facing, cuffs - with the seam allowances removed so there would be no bulk in the seams. Then it was all attached to the pieces using herringbone stitch:

Back yoke with interfacing stitched in place
I also cut long strips of bias and placed them in the sizable hem to add a nice weight:

Bias strips stitched in place, and then hem attached to it
Enough of the detail - here it is!:

And it has pockets!:

Side seam pockets

The collar grows out of the yoke, then fastens with a single button. This was meant to be a bound buttonhole, but I couldn't be bothered, so I sewed a snap on under a button from my stash. 

Despite being loose and swingy, the shoulders of the jacket are very fitted and sit quite snugly, so the jacket sits firmly in place. This is partly down to the curved seams at the shoulders, which round shoulder pads are stitched to:

Pressing the shoulder seams open 

It's all lined with a bright red polyester, which was sewn in by machine, but then attached at the hem by hand. 

And that's pretty much it! If you like the look of the fabric, head over to Minerva and check it out.

See you soon!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Cats with Mustard - Mmmm!

Today you get a 2-for-1 post! I know blog posts have been a bit slow from Needles HQ recently, but it's not for lack of any production, just life getting in the way. Anyway, today I present to you the Disdainful Cats skirt with a hand knitted 1960's tie-neck sweater:

Let's start with the skirt - it's basically the same design as the one I used for my December Minerva project, which involved taking a piece from Burda 122 and sticking it on to the back of a self drafted pencil skirt:

Apologies for creasing...

Close up of back frill
The fabric is a medium weight cotton I picked up at Fancy Silks in Birmingham while on the SewBrum meet-up. It actually came from the furnishing fabrics department - I suppose it's intended for curtains, cushion covers, etc. The cats have a bit of a snooty air about them, so I couldn't imagine having a room decked out in them. Imagine all that judgement gazing down at you. But I liked the colour and feel of the fabric enough to ignore their bullying and make this skirt.

Here's some details-

As with the previous version, I avoided side seams by overlapping the front and back pieces at the side and cutting it all as one, with just a centre back seam. As if by some miracle, the pattern matched up nearly perfectly at the back seam:

Almost perfect matching - take that cats! 

I put in a hand picked zip, and finished off the waistband with a little black button from my stash:

The skirt is fully lined, with the hem finished with bias made from the lining:

Lining where the frill meets the skirt

Detail of the hem
Mr needles was kind enough to be my photographer for the day, but as we started to take the photos an unexpected storm started to build up:

It started raining about 30 mins after this photo was taken!
But it gave me an opportunity to get some action shots of the frill:

Now the sweater-

I love knitting, but I'm less experienced with it as compared to sewing, and I'm often less than pleased with the results. So I stick to socks and scarves, and little things that don't require much fitting. 

But this pattern, from a 1960's 'Woman and Home' booklet caught my eye as something I could actually do well:

I used a 4ply wool and polyester mix by Drops, which I ordered from Loveknitting (It's only £1.50 per ball!) And even though I consider it an 'ugly' colour, I chose mustard because it seemed era-appropriate and I secretly really like it. The only drawback is that the wool is a little itchy, but after washing it seems to be softening up.

The whole jumper is knitted in plain stocking stitch, and other than shaping and a little bit of detail at the hems it was pretty boring to knit. 

Here it is:

I think it's pretty close to the original!

Some details:

Close up of hem
The hem of the body and the sleeves all have this picot stitch worked about 11 rows after casting on. After it's worked, you fold the hem under, resulting in this pretty edging.

Inside view of the hem turned up
Here's a close up of the neck tie:

It's just a long strip with pointed ends that's sewn around the neck and threaded through a little knitted loop on the left.

And that's pretty much it - see you soon!