In progress: vintage dress

Ages ago, I wrote about starting on my next sewing project: another 60s dress, this time with sleeves, made out of a pair of vintage curtains. A colleague’s wedding is coming up in a couple of weeks, so I’m going to make sure I get it done in time for that. I just need to attach the skirt to the bodice and insert the zip now. Once it’s done, I’ll be sure to share some photos of it out and about. But in the meantime, here are some photos of its construction.

So that’s what’s happening in my sewing room. (No, not a real one!) Do you have any long term projects on the go?

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PS I still haven’t blogged about the new house, but one of the things I’m loving about it is how much softer the light is. Much easier to get decent pictures!

 

Wednesday yarn-along: vintage jumper

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What I’m knitting: vintage striped jumper

As you can see, I’m not making much progress with my 1947 jumper. Lately I’ve been in the mood for reading, so I’ve read several easy books over the past couple of weeks instead of knitting. My only knitting has been on the train to/from work. Hopefully now that the Great British Bakeoff is back I will be sitting in front of the TV knitting. 🙂

What I’m reading: Gargling With Tar, Jachym Topol

I walked past this at work and got sucked in by the great cover. It’s quite different from what I usually read in many ways. It’s set in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and focuses on an orphan as he adapts to the changing regimes. I don’t know anything about this period in history, and don’t generally read books that have military as main characters so it is a bit of a leap for me. I will probably ending up reading more widely around this period so I can have a better understanding of the context.

How about you? Are you reading a comfortable book or something that stretches you?

Finnish finds

Is it horribly consumerist if I admit how much I love finding souvenirs? I don’t mean tat (though not pictured here is a kitschy Christmas ornament, because how could we not buy an ornament in Finland?), but beautiful & useful things that I know will remind me of special moments. For example, when we went on our honeymoon, I bought some lovely cotton yarn & made a cardigan; now every time I wear it I think of Keswick and our first trip as husband & wife.

I guess, for me, getting souvenirs is okay as long as they do serve a purpose and capture the spirit of a place. We got lucky in Helsinki. Like I said, it’s a city that loves its secondhand goods which made for fun shopping! As always, all of our purchases were secondhand (apart from 2 skeins of yarn and a few buttons I found).

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To be honest, I don’t know quite what this children’s book is about, but aren’t the illustrations amazing?! We couldn’t resist. I always think it’s nice to have children’s books in foreign languages, as you never know what it might inspire kids to get interested in. While we don’t have kids yet, we have nieces and godchildren and hope to have our own someday.

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My crafty purchases were these buttons and this 3-ply hand-dyed Finnish yarn by Riihivilla. It’s gorgeous yarn, a bit redder than it appears in the picture, dyed with cochineal. I think it’s lovely that it was dyed with natural ingredients, though it is perhaps not suitable for vegans. I bought the snowflake buttons in Hakaniemi Market, and found those gorgeous red buttons in a charity shop across the street from the flat we rented. They’re a very lightweight metal and, while I’m not sure exactly how old they are, I think they are from the 1940s or before based on the paper (which has a gold border similar to some 1930s buttons I have). I really like that the buttons somehow capture the Russian side of Helsinki’s history.

 

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Also found in Hakaniemi Market were these two vintage pieces. The dark vase was designed in the 1970s by famous Finnish designer Erkkitapio Siiroinen. I think it was a bit of a bargain, and we do think it’s lovely, though I have to admit it we haven’t quite found the right place for it in our flat yet.

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This coffee cup is basically my new obsession. I spotted it looking lonely on a back shelf and was instantly reminded of a couple of pieces I saw in the Design Museum. Surprisingly, it did turn out to be by the same designer, Friedl Kjellberg. Now I can say for the first time ever that I have a favourite designer. The cup is rice porcelain, which is just very thin porcelain with portions carefully cut out with a razor; the item is then glazed to make it translucent yet solid. This particular pattern was made between the 1950s and the 1990s, so I have no idea how old it is. I assumed it would be out of our budget, but (un)fortunately it was cracked so the dealer gave it to us for free!  I was unreasonably thrilled about this, because I have to say I love everything about this cup (apart from the crack). It is light, simple, elegant and delicate — all my favourite things. I haven’t collected anything for years, but I really think I might start collecting pieces by Kjellberg. Is that weird?

That’s enough about me. Where do you stand on souvenirs? Do you still get them, and how do you choose them?

Independence Day and a new favourite dress

Happy 4th of July, lovely readers! I was out and about yesterday, so I didn’t have a chance to post. P1020374

Even though I’ve lived in the UK for over 6 years now, and it’s nearly home, a big part of my heart is still in Missouri. It’s hard not to be a little homesick on the 4th of July, the most American holiday of all. Usually there’s loads of fireworks, watermelon, BBQs, and the occasional bonfire. Some of my favourite memories are of setting off fireworks in my friends’ yards.

I always try to celebrate the 4th in some way, with American food and sparklers. This year, though, it really snuck up on me. I had the most English Independence Day ever, but it was still lovely! A friend and I went for a picnic on Rodborough Common, with salad, bread, and homegrown peas, followed by ice cream.

I wore a vintage cotton dress recently given to me by another friend. It is definitely my new favorite. It fits perfectly; I always think when vintage clothing fits perfectly it’s meant to be. Even though I’m not buying clothes this year, I thought as it fit perfectly and was a gift I’d go ahead and take it.

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60s sleeveless dress: victory!

It’s official – I’ve sewn my first dress! What do you think?

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I am pretty pleased with it. For me, the most important thing is that I will feel comfortable wearing it in public in spite of its many imperfections. I’m going to debut it on Thursday at a friend’s birthday dinner. 🙂 Fingers crossed I don’t get any judgmental looks.

I’m also proud that I was able to make it through such a long, detailed project without giving up. A deep-seated perfectionism (which I’m trying to learn to suppress in the interest of greater contentedness) means that I often get impatient because I think I should be able to do things perfectly the first time. Rationally I know that’s ridiculous, but it’s still hard not to think that way sometimes. Making this dress over the span of months meant I was able to step back when I was feeling a bit crazy about how it was going. I think I will carry on with this approach for a few years. Maybe I will sew home items like cushion covers quickly, but I will be taking my time with any garments I attempt!

There are still things I’m not happy with about this dress, and there is a long list of imperfections:

  • The zipper – I used a lapped zip, which I had a nightmare sewing in. I wasted so much thread sewing, ripping out, and resewing. I managed to insert it in the end, but it is a little bit visible around the waist. I’m sure this is because of the skirt lining, which means there is variation in thickness around this area. Sewing over this area was really quite difficult, so in the end I was just glad to get the zipper attached there at all! The fabric over the zip is also not as flat as I would’ve liked. Next time I will definitely be focussing on the zip more.
  • Visible handstitching – It’s obvious where I attached the linings and hemmed the skirt. I handstitched the hem in herringbone stitch to match the lining, because I thought topstitching wouldn’t really suit the style of this dress. I regretted it by the end, particularly as it turned out to be fairly visible. I guess it’s partly down to my inexperience, but also partly because of the thin, shiny fabric. More practice required before the next project!
  • The skirt/hem – I am not convinced it’s straight! I was lazy when cutting the fabric, so it wasn’t all actually an even length with to begin. Measuring from the top was really difficult because of the gathering on the skirt.
  • Armholes/shoulders – Do they look awkward? I am not sure they fit as they are meant to. In future I will investigate armholes so I can do a better job with them.
  • Loose stitching in random places.

 

All that said, there are many things I am very pleased with. I think I’ll end this post with the positives:

  • Fit – Pretty good, right? The effort expended on the bodice was worth it in the end. The back really fits quite well. Going strictly by the pattern, it should be tighter, but I deliberately allowed a bit of ease. I don’t like really tight clothes because they feel so restrictive.
  • The actual zip – It’s a vintage zip, one I suspect is also from around the time the pattern was designed (or up to a decade later – definitely pre-80s, anyway). Even if it isn’t contemporary, I think it suits the rest of the dress.
  • The fact that it’s nothing like anything else in the rest of my wardrobe – I don’t often wear such bright colours or shiny clothes, so this feels like a proper party dress to me!

Finally, here are a few more pictures:

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Thanks so much to my friend Jo for taking pictures while I showed it off to her. 🙂

Still learning to sew: finishing the bodice & gathering the skirt

I’m still working on my dress, but am so happy to say the bodice is done. That herringbone stitch to keep the lining in place was pretty time-consuming, though, so I think I’ll investigate one-piece bodice interfacing/linings in future. Is the bodice perfect? Nope! The armholes definitely could be better; they are a bit on the small side and I have allowed some puckering to happen. 😦

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Also, I have realised that part of my fitting issues may be to do with the fact that the bottom of the bodice *ahem* isn’t entirely straight.

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I know this is a pretty major thing to miss, so I don’t know how I did it! One thing I will definitely need to invest in if I want to continue sewing is something large with a grid on it so I can make sure I’m doing all my cutting with right angles when I need them. Can anyone recommend something?

The only thing now left to do is insert the zip. I will be fitting the zip after the bodice is attached to the skirt. Frankly, I am petrified about putting in a zipper, but I will cross that bridge when I get to it. Sorry there are no pictures of me wearing it at this stage, but because it sits at my natural waist there would be a bit of midriff on show, and I know no one wants to see that.

On to the skirt, which is basically just a large panel gathered to the waist size. Easy, right? Maybe, but there’s a lot of fabric! The pattern calls for 3 yards, plus a lining. I didn’t have that much, so my panel is 2.2m (2.4 yds). Thank goodness, because I have to say I find gathering really tedious. But it does look quite lovely when it’s done, so I guess it’s worth it.

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Easily the hardest part of gathering, though, was keeping the gathers in place. They kept sliding around even after I sewed through them the first time. Next time, on general advice, I will do two rounds of basting. But once I joined the bodice to the skirt (!!!), it looked okay, even if it wasn’t quite as evenly gathered as I would’ve liked.

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Right, that’s it! Next time I will be writing about the finishing of the dress. Hooray!

A handmade wedding: Part 1

Dumbelton wedding May 24, 2014, in Mountain Grove, Mo.

Copyright Taylor Glascock.

Today is our 6-month wedding anniversary, so I thought this would be the perfect day to start a series I’ve been wanting to do for a while. My friend Lizzie at Home, Make, Be has been blogging about the making of her wedding, and I’ve really been enjoying reading it. I also found it really inspiring and comforting to read about couples who did DIY weddings during the run-up to our own wedding, so why not add the details of how we made our wedding to the bajillion other wedding posts out there on the internet? So here you have it: my handmade wedding.

First things first: the pictures in this post are a bit misleading – we did not make our own wedding rings! For me, though, rings are one of the (if not the) most important parts of a wedding, given they’re really the part that becomes most integrated into your daily life. My husband (!) says wearing the ring is what he’s enjoyed the most since getting married. While we didn’t actually make the rings ourselves, they still reflected our attitude toward the wedding, which was to make everything as personal as possible.

R got his ring (pictured above, and yes, that’s a TARDIS for a ring pillow. I knit it myself!) in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham. It’s a simple gold band, but he had already tried on several and really liked how this one felt. Both of his parents are also from Birmingham, so buying it there did have real significance for him.

I am a little fussier…I did look for a ring while we were there, but in spite of all the shops, didn’t manage to find anything. My engagement ring is a very simple solitaire diamond and I wanted a more elaborate ring as I do love a bit of detail. When I started looking at wedding rings online, I absolutely fell in love with the 1920s-1930s bands with orange blossoms and other little shapes engraved on them. I would quite happily have bought one, but I was just too nervous to buy a ring without trying it on. I did happen across one in a jewellery shop, but it was the wrong size and jewellers’ opinions on whether patterned rings could be resized varied and I didn’t really want to risk ruining it.

In the end, I decided to buy a plain band and have it engraved as I just couldn’t find any patterns I really loved. Drawing on the geometric patterns and flowers I saw on the antique rings, I drew up a combination of curved chevrons and a dogwood blossom.

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Copyright Jennifer Dumbelton.

 

 

And there it is! It was actually made by hand as well; we found a goldsmith in Cheltenham who made it and sent it off to an engraver he often works with in Devon. You can’t tell it’s a dogwood blossom, but that doesn’t bother me. It’s just gorgeous, and I feel so lucky to get to wear it every day as a reminder of my marriage. The first 6 months have absolutely flown by and I am looking forward to many more happy months and years.

 

Photo 1: Taylor Glascock and Erin Stubblefield