Biggish smalls

One of the hardest things I find about dressing up in vintage (or vintage inspired) clothing is finding the right undergarments. Have you tried to find a nude coloured slip lately? One that isn’t a suck-it-in job, or made of terrible polyester, or one thats longer than upper thigh length? Maybe its just Wellington, but I never seem to be able to find what I need! Happily, I can make my own vintage inspired underthings, and play around with some different techniques while I’m at it!

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I had planned to just make up a pattern for a slip, its not exactly a difficult shape! Then the January version of Seamwork magazine came out, and I decided to just lengthen the Savannah Camisole. I cut the pattern at the lengthen/shorten line, and inserted the extra length I wanted to bring it to just below my knees. I found some nude cotton/lycra in the Fabric Warehouse sale, so that was handy! The whole thing only took an hour to cut out and stitch, so the quickfire patterns promised in Seamwork do seem to be fast!

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I didn’t add lace, because I didn’t want it to show through my chiffon dress. Instead, I bound the arm holes and neckline with self bias tape, which extended into the straps. To make things a little bit less utilitarian, I tried my hand at some hemstitching, guided by the tutorial in the same issue of Seamwork. A single winged needle has been sitting in my sewing caddy since I first borrowed my machine from Nana, and I never knew what it was for until now!

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My antique Bernina doesn’t have a huge number of fancy stitches, so I sewed two rows next to each other. It was quite a chore to try to get every third and fourth stitch through the same holes as the row above, but I managed! I should have used a machine embroidery thread instead of just standard cotton, but I still think it looks pretty. Delicate and understated, and not going to show through my dress!

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The other undergarment I’ve finished this week are a pair of white silk/lycra tap pants, possibly the oldest unfinished object in my sewing room! I started these in a sewing class nearly two years ago, but ran out of time to finish them. They’ve languished in a drawer ever since, very slack of me! When I tried on my cream linen Holly Trousers, I realised I would need more than just nude underwear underneath, so I dug these out to see what needed to be finished on them.

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All they needed were the snaps and hook and eye to be sewn onto the placket! I was so happy! The sewing definitely leaves a lot to be desired, but its nice to see how much I’ve improved since I made these. I think they were probably my first attempt at french seams, so they’re better finished than a lot of my early efforts!

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I feel like I should excuse the rubbish photography in this post, it was a very gloomy weekend in Wellington! The pale fabrics I used were super difficult to photograph against our white walls, and I couldn’t get my camera to focus for a full length shot of the slip. Annoying, but at least its only a boring slip not a gorgeous dress I spent weeks on!

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Frills and (potential) fails

I have a big weekend this weekend! Its the Wellington annual swing dancing extravaganza, and its going to be awesome! Four days of classes and workshops, four nights of themed balls and all night after parties. The Saturday night ball has a 1950’s theme (the theme of the whole weekend is Back to the Future, because its October 2014, of course) and I realised last week that I hadn’t put any thought into what I was planning to wear to any of the events. So…

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Complete with Stepford smile!

…before you get too excited, I didn’t make the dress. I borrowed it off one of my lovely friends. I did, however, make…

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…the petticoat! I know, its a bit of a soft option, but last week I was stuck at work late every day, and my last assignment was due of Suday, so I didn’t have much time for sewing. And I was really hopeful that I might have my Malu coat finished, but I’ve hit a bit of a block with that, so no joy (more on that later).

I’ve never sewn with tulle before, and I don’t think I’ll be in a big rush to do so again! What a pain in the arse! At one point, it looked like I had exploded the Royal Ballet in my sewing room. Monsieur wandered in to see what I was up to, looked around in horror and then slowly backed out of the room again. Anyway, I used a pretty basic petticoat ‘pattern’. I measured the length of the skirt (25″), decided I would make life easy by having a 5″ wide panel of chiffon around the waist, and cut 10″ wide strips of tulle for the floofy part of the skirt. I found the blush coloured chiffon in the scrap bin at The Fabric Warehouse for $5, it had some pretty major flaws in it but there was plenty of fabric to get the waistband out of it. I doubled it over, to strengthen it up a bit, and ran some elastic around the top. Each layer is twice as long as the one above it, so the chiffon layer is 1m long (sorry for the mixed units!) and the next tulle layer is 2m, and the bottom layers are 4m. Easy peasy!

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It was really difficult to photograph, its so…ephemeral

I decided that I needed two layers of tulle in the bottom layer, as the cotton of the dress is quite heavy, and I wasn’t getting the fullness I wanted at the bottom of the skirt. More gathering! I wanted to cry a little (I was very tired). Happily, I realised just before I started that Nana had bought a gathering foot for her machine, so that made everything so much easier. It has a hole through the length of the footplate which you thread a length of cord through, then sew with a zig zag stitch and it keeps the cord perfectly centred! It was brilliant, I don’t think I could have brought myself to do another layer if I was just sewing lines of basting stitches…

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No petticoat….petticoat!

I’m looking forward to dancing the night away in my floofy dress! Though I must remember to wear a slip under it, that tulle is bloody scratchy…

Also, if anyone is interested in the type of dancing I do, this is it! Balboa, being danced by two of the incredible teachers we have coming to teach this weekend. Can’t wait for their classes!

So, sewing oracles of the internet, I need some advice. This is my unfinished Malu coat so far

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I’ve done all the construction work, except for the sleeve cuffs, hem and topstitching, and I just feel like it isn’t fitting in a very flattering way! I’ve already shortened it to mid thing, as I looked like I was drowning in the knee length version. I would take the curved shaping at the hips, but then I’m afraid I won’t be able to sit down in it! Looking at these photos, I wonder if I just need to take in the the centre back seam and put some shaping in it? I don’t wan’t it to be too fitted, or it will be restricting to movement, but I also don’t want it to look like a ski jacket. Help, please and thank you!

Underneath it all…

Its really cold! I’m huddled on the couch, watching a torrential bombardment of hail out the window. Hope it stops before I have to walk to the bus stop tomorrow morning…
Happily, this week I’ve made myself some extra layers to get me through the rest of winter!

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This is the first non-indie pattern I’ve sewn for ages, though it is one of Gertie’s (from Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing) so maybe it can be counted as a partially indie pattern! I like to wear a camisole at work, as scrubs tend to be a bit breezy, and I thought some merino ones would be nice. I decided to make a trial version up in some soft cotton jersey I had in my stash first, incase it didn’t fit or wasn’t comfortable.

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Yes, its dotty! But its going under clothes, so I figure it doesn’t count…
(The bandaid is from my accidental attempt to cut the top of my finger off with a bread knife. Who knew bread knives could be so sharp?)

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I did the majority of the sewing on my machine, using a zig zag stitch. This is how the lace needed to be attatched, and I was feeling too lazy to be switching between machines all the time! The camisole came together pretty easily, though the front half ended up a good inch longer than the back half! I don’t know if that was a mistake on my part or not, I suspect it probably was…

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I used proper bra strapping and rings/sliders, which looks nice and professional, but I don’t think I’ll bother next time! I’ll just use a fixed length of bra strapping or the stretch lace. I probably won’t put the stretch of lace under the bust either, I’ll just sew the body to the bust pieces. I was astonished how difficult it was to find 1.5″ lace elastic in Wellington, even when I did track it down it was only in black, red or a dodgy puce colour. I may need to turn to the internet for my next versions!

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I had a bit of fabric left over, so I thought I might as well have a crack at making a pair of matching knickers too! Sadly I didn’t have enough of the wide lace to trim the top of them, but i had enough of the knicker elastic I used along the top back seam of the camisole. I haven’t tried them on yet, I thought it was a bad idea to wear them to work incase they’re uncomfortable! If they fit and are wearable though, I’ll never waste money on a pair of plain cotton knickers again…its daylight robbery!

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I’d love to have a crack at making a bra one day as well, I saw on the Sewaholic blog that Tasia was talking about maybe one day releasing a bra pattern, which would be awesome! I think I would need the hand-holding that you get with an indie pattern to feel brave enough to attempt it…