Big Vintage Sewing

Sewing and wearing vintage-inspired clothing is something I love to do. I often find these patterns have more interesting construction details and work well in both vintage look and modern fabrics.

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When I heard the line up for McCall’s Big Vintage Sew-along I was really excited. There are so many excellent patterns in there. If you haven’t checked out the full edit head to this foldline summary or see the site www.vintagesewing.co.uk. There are 20 patterns in total, from the 1930s through to the 1960s plus a couple of Gertie’s 50/60s inspired patterns (they’re understandably year-less but stylistically probably just dip into the 60s).

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Over the coming months you’ll see versions of all the patterns cropping up online thanks to the BV Sew-along blogger tour, this will keep the inspiration bubbling and hopefully help you get started.

If you just can’t wait to clock eyes on some vintage dresses, I’m here to help. I realised I’d already sewn four of the patterns from the edit! So take a look at my round up and let me know if you’re tempted to make any of the patterns yourself. I’ve included notes on things to watch out for and as getting the size right with vintage patterns is so important, detailed what size this 5ft4 lady with a 36” bust and 41” hip chose. Right, now you know how bootylicious I am, let’s get started!

(Warning: The pictures in this post were assisted by a professional make up artist and photographer who I coerced into making everything look nice but have not been airbrushed as proof by my sock lines hahaha)

V9127
almond rock v9127 vintage sewing

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When I saw the line art for this dress I knew it had to be mine. I MEAN SWOOOOON! And I can honestly say this dress makes me very proud. I used a berry crepe fabric I bought in Walthamstow market last year and made self covered buttons. I used a coordinating zip and seam binding. I’m not going to fib, this isn’t an easy dress as there are a couple of areas where you really need to focus. The construction is 90% done by pressing under seam allowance and then topstitching the panels together. That much topstitching NEEDS a special foot or you’re going to go insane, unpicking and redoing. The other area to focus on is the pockets at the top of those swan head darts. This is where I had to read the instructions 4 or 5 times. After all my hard work I preferred them basted shut! Go figure.

Notes:
1. I cut two sizes down from my measurements to make a close fitting shirtdress rather than coat dress. This is predominantly a size 6 graded to a 14 at the hip.
2. The skirt was shorted 12cm. I probably should have just shortened by 8cm but too late now.
3. It took three toiles to adjust for my small bust and narrow shoulders, a slight swayback, plus to practice the pockets!
4. My crepe was very light and the dress is unlined so I’d recommend more of a triple crepe or cotton instead.
5. GET A TOP-STITCHING FOOT (I used my stitch in the ditch foot with a right hand needle position).

B5209

almond rock B5209 vintage sewing

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A tea dress can be a wonderful addition to your wardrobe because it easily works for day time and occasions if done right. I liked the effect of B5209 when done in a print even though you lose the beautiful seam lines a little. This dress I’m definitely going to make another plain version. Here I used a Liberty tana lawn from Minerva Crafts (they have some left in multiple colours), white lining with a secret purple side seam zip. With so many intersecting seams, the instructions cleverly direct you to not sew to the end of each seam, but stop and backstitch where each intersection will sit. This allows you to fit each piece together accurately to get the beautiful star at the centre front.

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Notes:
1. The bodice is self lined but I added lining to the skirt to be tights-friendly.
2. There is a BEAUTIFUL underrepresented lip shape curve at the back neckline that is very eye catching when your hair is worn up.
3. A print will help disguise any slightly off alignment seams if you’re feeling the pressure to be accurate but an air erasable fine line marker is invaluable to this pattern.
4. I sewed a 6 around the shoulders and chest but blended out to around a 14 in the ribs and waist I also reduced the gathering on the bust by about 4cm by using the markings for size 6. Finally I lowered the bodice 1cm.

B6582
almond rock B6582 vintage sewing

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This pattern is so lovely because it’s modest but interesting and has a surprise dip in the back. After two years in my wardrobe is comes out for weddings, parties, dinners out, work meetings and events, and once, a trip to the ballet! In a complete disregard for the pattern directions I used a viscose from Minerva Crafts. This makes the gathers at the shoulders very pretty, and the skirt extra swishy, but makes the back facing roll out occasionally. This dress is constructed using a partial front and partial facing to create the wrap effect in the upper chest.

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Notes:
1. I had to do a major hollow chest adjustment and full tummy adjustment, plus make the pattern a little more petite.
2. The outer fabric and facing is joined together BEFORE the shoulder seams are sewn, it’s suspicious but trust me, it leads to a neat finish.
3. While viscose is lovely, I’d definitely suggest something less fluid.
4. If you check out my blog there’s a tutorial for making a coordinating belt which is great to finish the look.

B5748

almond rock B5748 vintage sewing

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OOH this one, I’m excited even introducing it. This pattern is great fun to wear as the bodice is flattering, the front cut out and scoop back are both eye catching, and the circle skirt is amazingly big! I used a 60”-wide Liberty carline poplin, which isn’t as nice quality as tana lawn but has a good weight and the print is so lovely, the fabric base doesn’t matter as much. I used a soft cotton lawn as the bodice lining, hemmed with bias binding and installed a lapped zipper.

Notes:
1. This is an great pattern for a beginner as it’s easy to fit and construct, especially if made in a cotton poplin which handles well, is often the standard 60”-wide and comes in so many prints.
2. Bias tape is an excellent way to hem a circle skirt as it stretches to fit the curves. 99% of the time I machine hem circle skirts as life’s too short to sit and hand sew such a large area.
3. Wouldn’t this look good with a bow made from rouleaux loops!

So if you enjoyed all this vintage craziness from me, look out for my BVSA post on the the 15th!

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Elsie Overshirt

Hello campers!

I’m loving blogging again. So here’s something else from my huge backlog of finished garments. The pattern is the Elsie woven overshirt from Style Arc patterns.

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How Style Arc works is that you get a single sized pattern delivered in the post or you can choose a multi-size pdf pattern from their Etsy store plus there are multi-sized paper patterns on Amazon.co.uk now.

The paper patterns have the instructions printed on the same sheet as the pattern pieces so you have to make sure you don’t throw them out accidentally! And only the key directions have illustrations. Sizes range from 4 to 30 and prices are in Australian dollars.

My favourite part is that every hardcopy pattern order comes with a Free bonus pattern. Such a good idea!

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I ordered Elsie, plus the Posh Top. The free pattern was the Fern Top which wasn’t quite my style so I passed it on to Katie who made this wicked version. Let’s just say that Posh didn’t work out well so you won’t be seeing that one.

Elsie is described as a square shaped shirt with reverse revere, patch pockets and roll up sleeves. There are safari tabs and buttoned cuffs on the sleeves as well. It says to make the blouse is crepe, viscose, silk etc. I chose a random printed viscose from Barry’s in Birmingham and paired this with some white shell shank buttons from my stash.

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The viscose wrinkles so badly!! But the top sews up really quickly. The revere is sewn in three separate pieces, attached to the front edges, then flipped out and top-stitched in place.

The safari tabs are a good touch too. I’ve always wanted a shirt with them but turns out they tickle when the sleeves are unrolled and the tab is loose on the inside.

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I’m not massively in love with the high-low hem trend but this one actually pleases me a bit. It’s not too dramatic, I like the split seam and it helps cover my rear a little.

So I better just got to say it. I picked the wrong size. This is size 10 but I really don’t have the shoulders for it. This was sewn as the straight size (no alterations) but now I know the fit I’ll do a small shoulder adjustment and maybe a small bust adjustment too. It’s fine wearing a top underneath. I’ll probably do that even after shrinking the sizing.

style arc elsie blouse almond rock

 I’m still pretty happy with it and have made plans to make a silk version using some gorgeous blue silk with soft pink print that a family friend kindly gifted me.

So there we have it! Can’t wait to snap some more pics and put more garments on the blog. I’m remembering more about why I started my blog and needing a creative outlet from my work. Now my work is very creative and so driven towards a whole community of sewists, it’s nice to come back to my own little space to be a little selfish, just to share my own sewing.

style arc elsie blouse almond rock

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New York New York

So if you follow me on social media you’ll have seen a few of my pics of New York where my partner and I had a fun mini break during March.

I thought I’d give a little rundown of the stitchy highlights in case you were interested!
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So the day my issue went to the printers I fled the office and whizzed down to London. In publishing this is generally the best time to take a holiday. This was my second visit to New York but my first since taking up sewing.

We flew from Heathrow and landed in NYC Thursday lunchtime. It was fantastic weather! Totally unseasonal, it was 24° so I got changed into a dress and strolled around Central Park in the sun.
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We stayed in the Empire Hotel (yes the Chuck Bass hotel) which was only a short walk from the park. And a quick stroll up to the statue of the garment worker and also button and needle statue.

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Friday was a special day because I got to visit the McCall’s head office and have a tour. The team was wonderful and explained how they work which had quite a few similarities to my office though on a bigger scale. I’m going to run a piece on the team in the magazine soon. I wore my Liberty wildflowers Vogue 1102 dress in honour of the day.
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The office is decorated with wonderful illustrations and sewing ephemera and mannequins of all sizes fill the corners. Obviously I can’t reveal too much as I was able to see some upcoming collections that need to stay secret for the time being. But seeing pattern draping in action was a thrill.

After that we went to the World Trade Centre and memorial which was incredible moving and emotional. Plus we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge just before sunset.

Saturday and Sunday involved lot more touristy trips using our City Passes to hit every major landmark/museum/gallery. Plus we got to see Mathilde on Broadway which was fantastic!
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I was so excited about Monday I barely slept. This was the day I met up with Karen, Sonja, Charlotte and Emma Jayne! Plus Peter joined us for a little bit too which was fantastic. The only bad thing was the rain! We headed to the garment district visiting Mood fabrics first. Its pretty overwhelming as bolts are stacked so high you have to either know what you’re after or rummage. Swatch is uber adorable though!
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In a bid to avoid panicking I decided to look for cotton eyelet as it’s so rare in the UK. And once I’d picked some out I looked over the scuba. I bought two lengths, enough for dresses and stopped there.
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After that we braved Elliott Berman and were again overwhelmed with choice. Technically they sell wholesale but they don’t mind selling small lengths in the shop. I chose some silly galloping horses/llamas on viscose (Karen bought the same print in a different colourway on jersey). Plus some viscose challis from France in a stunning floral design. Its so light and cool to the touch. I’m in love.
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Next we went to an amazing notions place and I found a perfect complimentary colour zip for my eyelet. Emma Jayne found the perfect colour metal zip for her coat project too! Winning!! They also had cool things like corduroy bias binding and colourful gadgets

Surprisingly this took a lot of time and we called it a day at that! Charlotte and I picked up our other halves and the four of us had an awesome pizza lunch then headed out to the ice hockey as a group later that night! It was a pretty epic game in fact and we all got free bobbleheads to bring home hahah.

Tuesday was our last day and we tried to fit in the final touristy bits including present shopping and one last dash into Mood. I picked this silk that is so pretty in person. It has embroidered small blooms as well as the large watercolour flowers. It was labelled “famous designer silk”. That’s a bit weird when they name everyone else but hey whatever.
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So there you go! They were my sewing related highlights. Sorry I don’t have a super specific garment district guide for you, I just really wanted to go to Mood having seen it so many times on Project Runway hehehe.

It was really great to hang out with such lovely people and even better that all my purchases fit in my suitcase home!

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Sewing Room Swoon

Recently I shared my sewing room in the magazine and thought it should definitely appear on the blog too! I hope you like this peek into my sewing space. I know how lucky I am to have a dedicated space to sew, and although it feels like an indulgence at times, it has made me so happy in the short year I’ve had it.

Forgive the low light in the pics, these were shot in Jan!

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This room is on the middle floor of my townhouse in Leeds. It’s a great size room and is definitely nice and warm, but it doesn’t get the best light and the view isn’t the prettiest. I’ve done my best to make it look lovely inside instead.

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The main feature of the room is the cutting table, made by my partner. He used four Kallax units from Ikea, added a large MDF top and used ikea metal feet to raise the table to the perfect height. Underneath I use large baskets to store all my fabric, zips, and interfacing, as well as mugs of chalk pencils, tracing paper and bias binding. The whole thing is over 1m wide and 1.5m long, meaning I can cut delicate fabric single layer without them trying to escape. The only problem is that my cat Chewie thinks it’s the perfect sleeping spot so I have to shoo her away when it’s time to cut out projects. Then she just moves to another spot for a nap!

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I’m fortunate to have several machines. The Janome SMD4000 is my main machine, then there’s the machine I learnt on – a Toyota Jeans Machine. I also have a Singer 14sh754 overlocker and two vintage Singer machines (a 1939 hand crank and a 1970s machine set into a table. My dad is a great antique hunter!). Having all my machines in a row means bouncing between each is easy and I usually keep the Janome and Toyota threaded in different colours in case I need to work on multiple projects at once.

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My gorgeous pink mid-century inspired chair has a pretty scalloped back (Very.co.uk) and I’ll sit here when it comes to hand sewing and unpicking. The vintage glass cabinet was a gift from my partner’s grandmother and it makes perfect storage for yarn, ribbon, button tins and boxes of sewing patterns. (Orla Kiely tins, Selvedge yarn)

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Decorating is still a work in progress but the majority of my wall space is used for spool racks. I chose polka dot wallpaper from Prestige Textiles (in Graphite – my first ever wallpapering attempt! Under the careful eye of my mum) as an eye-catching feature when you first enter. My most-used scissors hang from a pretty coat hook from BHS for easy access and fun quotes and pictures keep me smiling while I work. (Vintage decorative dressmaking stand, Korbond pear pin cushion, Sasse and Bell spool holder). A vintage sewing-themed calendar from SewDirect.co.uk adds retro inspiration and an illustrated portrait I was given for my birthday shows me wearing my favourite handmade dress (artist @andsmile). My plan is to frame some of my vintage patterns and add a bit more shelving space and then the room should be complete!

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After years of working on my dining table and cutting out on the floor, it’s so nice to have a separate sewing space. I do miss Mr AR though, so we regularly run up and downstairs to see each other and take it in turns to brew up!

I hope you enjoyed having a peek in my sewing room. Hopefully the next time I share it the walls won’t be as beige or sparse heehee!

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Liberty Ballet Dress

And I’m back!!

almond rock liberty jersey ballet dress dixie diy

In a short summary, I was locked out of my blog over Christmas (I hate you Go Daddy) and then have been really really struggling to get photos of my finished makes during this horrible winter. But now I’m breaking through this by getting something shot and up on the blog, even if the photos are quite as I’d like.

almond rock liberty jersey ballet dress dixie diy

This is a Dixie DIY ballet dress. It was a fantastically quick and easy make which is perfect for my hectic schedule at the minute.

The fabric is a Liberty jersey from Abakhan Fabrics that I picked up online. As always the quality of Liberty fabrics was exceptional. It’s a little spongy, medium-weight and with lovely vivid colours.

almond rock liberty jersey ballet dress dixie diy

I top-stitched all the hems with my twin needle and used my overlocker to construct everything. The whole dress took maybe two hours in total.

So there we go. The silence is broken! I’ll be back again soon with something new.

almond rock dixie diy ballet dress liberty jersey

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