Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reverse Victory Roll!

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! I hope you enjoy a safe celebration. Mine will be pretty quiet, but I will raise a Diet Coke to you all!

My hairdo in this pic is a reverse victory roll. I got the technique from this video from Aya of Strawberry Koi. She has tons of awesome hair videos!

Pattern Shopping for Good!

Want a good excuse to pick up some fabulous vintage patterns? Denise at The Blue Gardenia is having an excellent year-end sale. Buy three patterns or more and you get 33% off your entire order! Carolyn wrote this sweet post about Denise and helping out our community of sewists and vintage pattern sellers. It seems Denise has gone through a bit of a rough patch, as her husband's job was affected by this lousy economy. As someone who has been in the same boat, I wanted to help out too. And in this case, helping out meant getting some truly excellent new patterns! Wanna see?

The pattern above is a Vogue Couturier suit and blouse pattern from 1954. I love everything about it. Here's a line drawing, too. Look how the skirt curves down on the lower back!

I'm also thinking it could be a stand-in for Vogue S-4240, the VoNBBS suit, which has still not turned up in my relentless searches.

Now look at this cool 40s frock. I just love that subtle curve at the waistline.

And how about this glam two-piece lounging ensemble? I saw a quilted silk floral robe from the 40s in a vintage shop in Arizona, and I'd love to make one of my own from this pattern. Perhaps with coordinating silk pants? Also: check out the amazing shoes on the chick on the right.

Okay, now go pick out some of your own! The sale lasts until January 7th.

P.S. You might be interested to know that she has Vogue 7101, the sheath dress from VoNBBS in a bust 32. That's the one I made in red satin! It's a fabulous pattern.



Coat Vlog #8: Hemming the Lining

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As requested, here's my method for hemming the lining on my coat. Do let me know if you have any questions!

P.S. My idea that I would get the buttonholes done today was pure fantasy . . . I'm shooting for Monday instead!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Self Portrait with Victory Roll

Jeff got me an iPhone for Christmas! I'm enjoying playing around with it - taking self-portraits, blogging, ordering burritos. (Yeah, there really is an app for everything.) Anyway, I thought I'd share this little pic of me in my office with a fancy new hairdo - a victory roll! I absolutely LOVE this look. I got the inspiration from this simple video tutorial. Also, you can kind of see that I'm wearing my teal Peter Pan collar blouse. It's so cozy.

Anyway, I hope you'll forgive the self-indulgence. I'm just enjoying my new toy. (Thanks, baby!)

Coat Countdown

Readers, it's freezing outside. A warm coat interlined with lambswool would really hit the spot right now. Alas, I'm still constructing the lining/interlining on my lovely red coat, and I feel like I've been on this step for ages now. But I know I'm in the homestretch. Hallelujah!

The goal is to get the lining attached by Thursday. Why Thursday? Well, I'm going to have the buttonholes done professionally at Jonathon Embroidery in the Garment District, and they're only open weekdays. And Friday is a holiday. So that leaves tomorrow night to get that lining in there. I'm feeling optimistic, obviously. (I also want to do at least one more vlog for you, showing how the lining goes in.)

So . . . we'll see. But I thought I'd give you this little sneak peek in the meantime!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'll Get You, My Pretty

Oh yes! You will be mine, Bernina Aurora 430.

I got to try out one of these bad boys while I was in Arizona - my mom has a Bernina dealer within walking distance of her house! (The cruel irony is that she isn't interested in Berninas at all; she's a Pfaff girl.) I absolutely loved using this machine.

I've been contemplating an upgrade for a while now. I've sewn on a Brother PC-420 for almost two years, and I haven't been completely happy with it. It has all sorts of bells and whistles, but the stitch quality is quite poor. The length is almost always inconsistent, especially when basting. So Berninas were at the top of my list to consider since they're known for their stitch quality.

My test drive definitely didn't disappoint! The stitches were lovely. Here's a scan of the little sample I made. It's variegated thread, hence all the different tones. You can click to see it bigger!

Aside from the quality of the stitches, what I really liked was how intuitive it felt to use. I could see myself adapting quickly to this machine.

The drawback is, of course, the price. I was quoted $1999 at my local dealer here in New York. I've been budgeting, and with some penny pinching, I plan to be the proud owner of a Bernina Aurora 430 by the end of March. With the amount of sewing I do, I feel it's time to invest in a high-quality machine. (Funny quote from my mother: "I would have told you not to buy a Brother! Not that anyone asked me . . .")

But . . . this means a strict moratorium on shoe and fabric purchases, readers! I will be avoiding sites like Zappos and Re-Mix like the plague. (Ack! I just went to Re-Mix to get the URL, and there are cute new shoes! Gold ones! Help!) The two loopholes I've allowed myself for the fabric rule are 1) I'm allowed to buy linings for projects already planned, and 2) I can purchase fabric needed for upcoming VoNBBS projects.

Wish me luck! Also, any advice? Have you ever planned for a big machine purchase like this one?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Accoutrements: Pin Curls!

Well, we're back home in New York, safe and sound. We had such a lovely holiday! Six whole nights at my parents' home in Arizona with lots of food and fun. I tried to entertain everyone by sporting a different hairdo everyday, all of them learned by watching tutorials on YouTube. This is one of my favorites, a classic pin curl set.


Here's the video I watched to learn the technique. I set the curls on dry hair, and used a styling putty as a setting lotion. I left them in while I slept, and voila! Lovely, lush curls. I modeled my 'do as we walked around Jerome, a magical former mining town near my parents' house. After its mining days, Jerome became a ghost town, but now it's filled with charming little shops, galleries, and restaurants. I stopped into Magdalena's Bazaar, my favorite boutique, and came across this lovely purple flower hair pin that I knew would be the perfect accessory for my curls.

I've been experimenting with lots of other retro styles - I can't wait to show you the results!

P.S. I must have been a very good girl this year, because I got the Threads archive DVD that I was longing for. It's truly amazing!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Accoutrements: Style and Beauty Picks!


This is a new little feature that I've been cooking up. As you may have noticed, I'm more of a laid-back (lazy?) vintage-lover. I don't do my hair in elaborate retro styles or wear girdles and sky-high heels every day. But lately I've started taking more of an interest in the art of "doing" vintage: the hair, the makeup, the shoes, the accessories. Accoutrements will be a new series of posts about products and tools that I discover as I go.* I hope you enjoy it!

1. The shoes!

I've been obsessing about 40s-style shoes, like the babydoll pumps and high-heeled loafers you see on pattern envelopes.


It's hard to find pumps with a good thick heel like these, but I've been searching! My latest purchase was this pair.
Aren't they cute and oh-so-40s? I love the little pleated detail on the vamp. But the best part is that the low platform on these makes it feel like you're wearing flats! They are amazingly comfortable. They're made by Bella Vita, and I've noticed a couple others to put on my wish list from this company, like these peep-toe platform slingbacks and these cute perforated leather pumps.

2. The lipstick!



Red lips are crucial to the retro look, and I'm a sworn MAC Russian Red devotee. Matte lipstick can be drying, though, especially in the winter. I came across this cool "liquid lipstick" from Cosmoholic in an airport drugstore, and it's a lovely winter alternative. Rockstar Red is a great true red color. It goes on with lots of gloss and the pigment lasts a long time. Plus, it smells like vanilla and feels good on chapped lips.


3. The hair!

My other foray into vintage styling is attempting some fancy retro 'dos. So far, I've tried pin curls, 50s faux bangs, victory rolls, and a 40s pin-up look. (Pictures to come!) YouTube is an incredible wealth of knowledge. Here are a few of my favorite video tutorials:

That's it for this edition of Accoutrements! Come back for more tips as I work on my rocking retro look!

*I suppose I should mention that these are personal picks, not advertisments of any sort. Though, if anyone wants to throw some cash or swag at me to review products . . . let's talk!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Preserving Vintage Patterns: What's Your Take?

Readers, I have a confession to make: I haven't been very good about caring for my vintage patterns. I pin them to my fabric, Scotch-tape any holes or tears, and make alterations directly on the tissue. (I can just see all you preservationists cringing as I write this!) According to many enthusiasts, the correct way to care for vintage patterns is to trace them off immediately and then neatly store them in a dry environment.

I'm coming around to seeing their point. I do want these patterns to be around for others to appreciate in the decades to come. I used to cavalierly proclaim that vintage patterns should be used and enjoyed, not stuffed away in a drawer. But the truth is that even if you're tracing them off, you're still using them and enjoying them. It's just an extra step that lazy seamstresses like myself would rather avoid.

I do still have one concern about simply storing patterns away for future generations. I think we need to be working towards having a digital archive of vintage patterns that would include pdfs of each of the pattern pieces. Because sooner or later, the tissue paper is going to disintegrate and no one will be able to use the patterns, even just to trace off of them. I've decided on my personal contribution to this digital archive, which is very exciting but in a secretive stage so I can't tell you anything about it. (Sorry! But trust me . . . it's going to be good.)

Anyway, what are your thoughts on the matter? How do you care for your vintage patterns? Are you an avid preservationist or a devil-may-care type?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Retro Foundation Garments: Yea or Nay?

Let's talk lingerie, shall we? It's common knowledge that foundation garments of eras past (particularly the 40s, 50s, and early 60s) were much more involved than today's. They were meant to shape the body into a particular silhouette, and this often included wearing 1) a girdle with garters to cinch the waist and slim the hips and 2) a longline bra, which had the effect of lengthening the torso and shaping the breasts into a high, often decidedly pointy form.

People who write about wearing vintage fashion today often insist that adopting these foundations garments is absolutely essential to achieving a proper retro silhouette. My question for you is: do you agree?

In my point of view, this is a strictly personal preference and it doesn't mean that you're doing vintage wrong if you decide to forgo these undergarments. I went through a phase where I was curious about trying retro foundation garments, so I bought a Rago girdle and a longline bra. My personal opinion on the girdle was a big thumbs-down. Aside from being intensely uncomfortable, I found it to actually create more lumps and bumps with all the hook-and-eye plus zipper action. The longline bra is definitely something I can get behind, though. For special occasions. With my satin sheath dress, it definitely smoothed out my torso and eliminated any bra bulges. But believe me, it's definitely not something I would choose to wear on a daily basis.

Personally, adopting retro foundation garments also becomes a bit problematic body image-wise. I've definitely fallen prey to the belief that if I just find the right girdle or waist cincher, I'll look just like an illustration on a 50s pattern envelope. I find it better to just focus on finding clothes that are flattering to my body type rather than trying to squeeze myself into a fictional ideal. Anyway, the great thing about sewing vintage is being able to adapt retro designs to a modern silhouette. And this means no girdles for me - hurrah! (I am, however, a big fan of high-waisted Spanx (especially the tights), and I wear them with my pencil skirts for a smoothing effect.)

For a differing perspective from mine, check out Couture Allure's posts on foundation garments and how to shop for them. She's a bit of a purist when it comes to these matters . . .but then, she's also writing about fitting purchased vintage garments, not garments sewn from vintage patterns.

What do you all think? Retro foundation garments: are they a yea or a nay for you?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

We're Off! (I Hope)

There's tons of snow on the ground here in New York, but if all goes well, Jeff and I will be in lovely, warm Arizona tonight. We're leaving for a week of much-needed vacation with my family. Hurrah!

I still have a couple posts scheduled to go up this week (and they're pretty cool, if I do say so myself), but it will be a little quieter than usual around here. Jeff has insisted that I refrain from blogging while on vacation . . . we'll just see how that goes! I'll be back to my regular posting next week.

I wish you and your loved ones the loveliest of holiday seasons, with lots of good cheer and many blessings. As always, thank you for reading!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Coat Vlog #7: Interlining for Warmth

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Interlining is a subject that caused me a lot of distress when I was first approaching this business of sewing a tailored coat. But it all boils down to just two major things you need to figure out: 1) what kind of interlining to use and 2) how to attach it.

To figure out which type of interlining to use, I took a swatch to the store with me and tried layering it with a couple different options. I opted for lambswool, which is very warm and will keep me from freezing as I walk back and forth to the subway each day. Next, I decided to attach my lambswool interlining to my lining pieces and then sew them all together as one, which is the method my tailoring book recommended and it made the most sense to me. Watch as I demonstrate each step in this video!

I purchased my lambswool at Greenberg & Hammer here in New York. You can order from them by mail, if you're interested.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Coat Vlog #6: Hemming!

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Welcome back to the coat vlog series! In this episode, see how I tested hemming methods and then watch as I demonstrate pressing up the hem and easing out the fullness of the flared skirt.

Also, just to be clear on the method I'm using, it's a three inch bias strip of fusible weft interfacing. I cut it with pinking shears (this eliminates any ridges forming on the right side of the fabric), and fused it so that the bottom of the interfacing lies half an inch below the fold of the hem. And then the hem gets stitched to the interfacing. Make sense?

Also, I refer to a "herringbone stitch" a couple times, which I believe is more commonly called a catch stitch. See Kenneth King's two versions here. Here's a picture of the one I'm using, courtesy of Threads magazine.

This stitch is for sewing the hem in place (to the bias strip of weft interfacing) permanently.

Let me know if you have questions!

Supplies for Sewing Vintage

Happy Friday, everyone! This week on BurdaStyle, my guest post is about essential tools for working with vintage patterns. These are the things I've found I can't live without after making half the patterns from Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing. Come by to check it out!

Stop by BurdaStyle every Thursday for a guest post about vintage sewing from yours truly!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A 40s Precursor to the Walk-Away Dress?

Isn't this dress pattern from 1945 interesting? I found the image in the book Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1940s, and it looked awfully . . . familiar. Then I realized that the fundamental structure of it is almost the same as the Walk-Away Dress, which I posted about here. (I also admitted to being a little lukewarm about the potential hospital gown vibe of the Walk-Away shape.)

The 1945 pattern is kind of cool, I think. Is has an neat little collar and I like the waistline darts that radiate outwards. (Click the top image to see it full-size.) Interestingly, the dress was designed by a high school student named Lola Brooks (great name, huh?). She won the Chicago Tribune Teen-Age Fashion Competition and her pattern was produced by Beauty Patterns, a mystery company that I've seen a few other mentions of from the 1940s.

The reason I was so fascinated by the 1945 pattern is that it kind of diminishes the mystique of the Walk-Away Dress of 1952 (above). According to the Butterick Company history, their "simple yet flattering" Walk-Away Dress so took the world by storm that they had to halt production of all their other patterns until backorders for the Walk-Away could be fulfilled. (I admit, I've always been a little skeptical of that story. The intrepid journalist in me would just like a source other than Butterick to confirm it.)

You see plenty of other variations of this kind of wrap-around dress later in pattern history:




I'd always assumed these patterns were all based on the Walk-Away Dress of 1952, which supposedly was a pioneer in the movement of the ultra-simple wrap around dress. But the 1945 design above refutes that notion to a certain extent. Had this kind of dress actually been popular with home seamstresses in the 40s? Obviously, the Walk-Away is the one that stuck in our cultural history, but I wonder who truly first invented this kind of design? Who knows - perhaps a 20s version will turn up at some point. I can certainly see the wrap design blending seamlessly into a drop-waist flapper silhouette. Isn't it interesting how this simple composition could really work itself into any decade?

What do you all think? Do you like the 40s design above? Or could you do without this sort of dress all together?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What a Year!

I was going to post something about, you know . . . sewing today. But then I took a little trip down memory lane in my photo album, and I just felt like sharing these. I hope you don't mind!

In 2009, I spent a lot of time right here, amidst my sewing clutter:

I designed a dress and entered it into a contest, and took second place. (I'm number two! I'm number two!)

Pip was adorable.

And, at times, skeptical.

We went to Hawaii, and I met a Hawaiian cat.

We adopted a new family member. This is the first time I held Henry!

He was a pathetic, skinny little thing. A cab driver found him living on the street!

But he picked up sewing pretty quickly.

Is it just me, or does Jeff get more handsome every year? This is a summer day spent in Central Park.



I started a blog! Remember this little number?



And this one?



My parents came to visit in August!

Jeff and Dad rode the Cyclone in Coney Island, and lived to tell the tale.

Mom and I stuck with the carousel.

Me and Dad on the Wonder Wheel.

Mom and I went fabric shopping, of course.

Mom met Swatch, Mood's friendly mascot.

And then she marveled over the selection at Pacific Trims. They don't have stuff like this in Cottonwood, AZ!


Mom and Dad celebrated their 40th anniversary in June. How cute are they?!

I got a fabulous job. My wonderful coworkers and I spent a fun day volunteering in a soup kitchen. Here's what I look like in a hair net, if you're curious.

This is what I looked like a lot of the time. My right eyebrow grows down, instead of into a nice arch. I should really do something about that. Some sort of eyebrow gel, perhaps?

What a year, indeed. Thank you all so much for being a part of it!
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