Sunday, 30 November 2014

A Dress for My Brother Pt 1.

Ha, that got you looking! Well this weekend I have actually almost finished a dress for my brother who is 6' 8" and built like the proverbial brick outside toilet. Just to satisfy your curiosity he is going on a night out with the rugby club that he plays for and they are all going dressed as women. What are they like? Why do big burly blokes feel the need to don ladies attire at the least opportunity for such events?  
As an aside and before I am flamed to death, don't get me wrong I think that anyone can wear anything that they damn well like and as a corset maker have made many garments for people of both genders in all manner of silhouettes. Just commenting on this, especially in a traditionally very masculine sport like rugby. I see this as a kind of pantomime with humorous elements, there is after all a lot of good precedents in the theatre: pantomime dames and men playing women in traditions like Kabuki, etc.. As a Scot, our national dress, the Kilt could be construed as a skirt too but only if you are a) a very good runner and b) probably not English.  I have been told it is very comfy. 

I wonder when/why dress became so prescribed according to gender? Many cultures have, what appears to be, unisex *styles* of garments like robes and kaftans. Anyway enough, I am digressing from the subject as usual. So finally as you can imagine he would have found it quite hard getting something to fit him so he asked me to make him a dress.

The pattern that I chose to start with was Burda 6947, a plus-sized dress pattern for a dress in two lengths and a matching bolero. I made the long version in a size 30 (to fit a 54 chest). I cut the pattern apart in the middle of the armhole and added 3cm, tapering to 2cm at the front and 3 cm on the back piece. I also added 2.5 inches at each of the two other lengthen/shorten points on the pattern. Yes, I am terrible for mixing metric and imperial on a whim but hey, that's just how I roll.

 Don't get me wrong, this dress was plenty long to begin with. I am almost 6" in my socks and when I held the unaltered pattern up to me it was pretty close to the floor, so if you are shorter then please bear this in mind.

I had to lay out the fabric on the (8ft) print table in the Print Room at the studios. I did smooth out all the pattern wrinkles, honest. Apologies for the mess but I was not precious about this fabric as this dress is one-wear only and the crushed velvet that I used was only about £3-4 a metre. Luckily, I had about 10 metres of this in black that I had bought in for making Halloween costumes a few years ago. Appropriate as this stuff is the Devil's own to work with. It is slippery, it rolls, it won't lay flat without wrinkles and it looks awful. Still a million hot, sweaty and statically-charged goths can't be wrong.

Poor defenseless hydrocarbons died for this stuff! (Photo nicked from here)

I did not cut out the facings. I used 1" black bias cotton binding and sewed one edge down on the outside, turned it, basted it flat (haha) and stitched it down. It looks okay from a distance. I didn't bother with any of the darts, smoothed out a little of the curve on the front pattern piece as it looked a bit strange without the dart there, made the front a bit more of a pronounced sweetheart which I then gathered by zig-zagging over a piece of 1" elastic to ruche it. Then I ran out of thread!  I started with a big spool from Gutterman that was half full and also used two bobbins full. This dress is a thread hungry beast. Probably because I used a fine zig-zag to stitch each seam then used that stitch that looks like an overlocker stitch, just in case of self-destruction.

Anyway, since I ran out of thread Part II will have to wait until later in the week. I have to still attach some sparkles and some feather trim so watch this space.

Before I go though, I have to say that the pattern was very easy to put together and that everything fitted beautifully. As a general rule I really like Burda patterns and this is no exception. I can't comment on the sizing or the fit though. 

Have a great week!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Vintage Book Review: McCall's Sewing in Colour (1964)

To be honest my life is overrun with books. Since I was a tiny child (I learned to read very early) I have been a voracious reader, devouring every tome that I could lay my grubby little hands on. Since then not a lot has changed - still got the grubby hands - except I no longer scare myself with books of ghost stories just buy mostly sewing books. I have quite a few now and like to pick them up on my travels as often as I can. 

McCall's vintage sewing - written when brown polyester ruled the world

My copy of  "McCall's Sewing in Colour" is from 1964. I picked it up on eBay for a song. It is quite a thick hardback book, about 300 pages, and as the tag line states covers " Home Dressmaking, Tailoring, Mending and Soft Furnishings". There are lots of line drawings and several colour plates with great photos.

60's sheets for the win!

The contents of this book are a bit different to some others that I own from the same period. There is a lot of emphasis at the beginning of the book on picking the right pattern for your lifestyle and figure type which just goes to show that nothing much changes, even from 50 years ago. We were still fretting about whether a pattern would be right or not. There is even the age old discussion about stripes. I love a horizontal stripe and wear them often. Ain't nothing going to make me look smaller so might just go with it. I want to be stripey!

Would our bums look big in those spots?

There is quite a lot of pages on choosing fabrics. This is useful and I suppose that apart from fit it is one of the major culprits in pattern failure. Plus a section on colour.

I am in love with this colour palette. No black too. Very strange

To give you a flavour of the book the chapters headings are listed as:

1) Building a New You
2) Keystone to Fashion
3) The Raw Materials

4) Fabric Facts

Yes, I keep my stash in my spice cupboard.

5) The Tools of the Trade
6) The Easy Rules of Pattern Alteration
7) Groundwork for Action

Feelin' hot, hot hot!

8) Blueprint for the Professional
9) Construction Data - Stitches and Seams
10) Construction Data
11) Design Details
12) Important Closings
13) The Personal Touch

14) Tailoring Talk
15) The Three R's- Repairing, Remodelling and Remaking
16) The Decorator's Touch

My eyes! It burns my eyes! Could you sleep in this room?

So the big question is would I buy this again? The answer is yes. There are better books with regard to sewing process tuition and the styling is obviously from the land that Pinterest forgot but it is a nice read and I am glad that I bought it.There is something in this book for everyone, beginners and seasoned hands alike and not a "how to a make a pillowcase" or pair of PJ pants to be found. Something a lot of modern books should keep in mind. There is a lot of info to be had in sewing books from this era, especially if you want to take your techniques to the next level, and you could easily buy two or three for the costs of one new one. Plus, I think reading these old books is fun but then again I read sewing patterns on the train!

Hope you are having the best time.

K xx

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Prison Drawings and Funky Fabric

Hi All, sorry for not posting for a couple of weeks. It was Mum's 81st birthday last weekend so Sprogzilla and I were in Edinburgh. However, no trip out with Mum is complete without an assault on the shops so we hit Glasgow for a wander about.  I left a shattered Mum and Sprogzilla having a very welcome cup of coffee and snuck in a quick foray to Mandor's fabric shop, my spiritual home. I love this place so much. If you are interested the lovely blog, Kestrel Makes has a very comprehensive and recent review which you can see here,

The ladies are about 10 inches high. Subtle it is not.

I bought this fabric. It is awesome, in every sense of the word. It has had mixed reactions from the people I have showed it to but I love it and that is what counts. Someday it will be a pencil skirt, when or if I ever get some sewing time again.  Work is a bit mental at the moment but I asked if I can work from home a bit so my first day was Friday. Not a train in sight! Yipee! 

Another reason that I wanted to work from home was that we were hosting an exhibition down at the Studios on Friday night. Earlier this year we had a bit of a shake up down there which very sadly left us directorless. Three of us put in a proposal to take over, out of necessity, and have been running the place for the last 3-4 months.. One of the things we have done is to use one of the big empty studios for a "pop up" workshop and/or gallery space. This was our first event since taking over and it was a great success.

"The Prison Drawings" was an exhibition by graffiti artist, The Taffy (yes, he is Welsh) who
was arrested and sent to prison for 22 months for spray painting trains. I am sure that there are many conflicting views on the rights and wrongs of graffiti but to me this seems a little extreme when rapists and murderers walk away with little more or less in the UK every day. Anyway, enough of my views and back to the event.

The studios were transformed for the night with our big blackboard wall at the entrance, normally reserved for notices and stuff, completely transformed. It was beautiful, although I think that it ended up decorating the back of many unwitting people's jackets as the night went on.

There is actually a door in this wall!

I was amazed at just how tiny and detailed the drawings were. I had a lovely discussion with accessories designer, Melanie Kyles about how they would be fantastic embroidery designs. Apologies for the rather rubbish camera phone photos, I didn't have my glasses on, big mistake as I was squinting at people all night.

The windows of the space were decorated too. I think that this is a much better view than normal.

There was a very cool video installation of a scrapped bus being spray painted and a pretty fabulous ghetto house DJ playing a specially chosen soundtrack. I felt a bit old to be honest, with the place being mobbed by young hipster-types but the music was great.
There was even a little mock-up of a prison cell that you had to peep through a window to see.

Anyway, another completely non-sewing related post but at least it has fabric in it. We will be doing more stuff and I promise that one of the first exhibitions of the New Year will be sewing-related, honest.

Hope you are all having a great week!
K xx