Monday, 27 January 2014

Children's Carnival Costumes

I know, this is mainly a blog about vintage sewing and all related things, but I am also a "modern" sewer for my children and for those of my customers. There is one thing I have never really done before: costume sewing. I made a kilt for my little son and a Scottish inspired medieval skirt for my daughter and me last summer for the Highland Games. But I had not so much opportunities, as the examples for those garments didn't allow too much room for my own imagination and fantasy.

So when my husband told me it would be nice to attend at the annual masquerade parade for carnival this year, it was quite a challenge, as carnival in my region is very early. OMG, it's so soon after Christmas! I had to hurry to chose the costumes and order the materials. My daughter, as usual recently, wanted to be a princess or an elf, and as my little son has not yet an opinion of his own (not to mention that he still doesn't talk), I decided to make toadstool costumes for both. For my daughter a kind of toadstool princess, and my son would be a sweet little toadstool boy.

I had no pattern, so I took some inspiration from the internet and created some simple base garments which could be "upgraded" into mushrooms.
I used mainly fleece to make the costumes warm and cozy. First I made an overall for my son with some appliques on the lower part, so it looked like grass growing up his legs. There is even a lucky shamrock on his bottom. Both, the toadstool and the shamrock, are symbols for good luck in my country, and my son's name is Irish, so it's perfect. The overall was large enough to wear several layers of underwear, as temperatures are still very cold here, and we even had some snowfalls during the night.

My daughter absolutely wanted a skirt. She's very girly currently, and she likes ballet, so I decided to make her a tutu. I cut strips of white and red tulle and knotted them on an elastic band. It looked really poofy in the end, and she was totally in love with her new skirt from the first moment on...

The biggest challenge was the hats. My son's hat had to be smaller, so it would not disturb him while sitting in the pram, but her's should be large to keep the proportions of a real mushroom. I didn't use a finished polka dot fleece, as I wanted to look the pattern more natural and irregular, so I had to cut lots of white "dots" and sew them on the red fabric. After stuffing my daughter's hat, I tried it myself on and realised it was too heavy. My husband had a brilliant idea, and we used an inflatable swimming ring as stuffing.

The parade should be held on Sunday shortly after midday, but on Saturday afternoon I realised I had forgotten  two important things: the crown for the princess and the bags for the confetti. For the bags I used a red fleece with withe polka-dots which I sew to a base of very thick crafting felt. I cut the crown from the same material in yellow to create a crown. I added a velcro closure, so the crown could be stored flat while not in use. As I am a very crafty person, I also had some nice rhinestones in different shapes and colours at home which I sewed on the crown.

We had a lot of fun during the parade and afterwards at the children's carnival party. There was even a contest for the best costume, and my children won the first place, but unfortunately we had left earlier as the little ones were too tired, so we didn't win the award. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Vintage Patio Dress Pattern

Recently, browsing through Pinterest I found a pinned picture of a wonderful vintage dress with a tiered skirt trimmed with lots of rick racks (or ric-racs). I soon found out that this was a so-called "Squaw Dress", fiesta dress, patio dress, whatever... How I love these photos!

A quick research led me to an amazing post on squaw dresses (though I don't like this name) on the blog of Lil' Vintage Homemaker (actually there are 3 posts about this subject). A picture research brought up a huge number of squaw, fiesta, patio dresses in all colour combinations. So much inspiration!


As it happens, since I was a teenage girl, I am very much interested in Southwestern culture and lifestyle. My interest was focussed on the Native tribes of the Southwestern region. No wonder that I also have some beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry. So I realised that, having become a vintage lover as well, I need such a dress to wear with my jewelry. Or the other way round. Immediately.

I found some vintage dresses of the same type on Etsy, but most of them unaffordable, not in my size, or with glittery silver ric-rac trims. (I don't like glittery stuff on my garments. I prefer to wear some jewelry.)
Nonetheless, some silver and turquoise jewelry is almost a "must have" or rather: "must wear" when you wear such a dress.

I had more luck when I searched for a similar pattern.

The embroidery of these two dresses looks almost like a necklace...


Apparently, from what I could guess of the patterns I found on Google, this style was very popular from the late 1940s to the late 1950s or very early 1960s the latest. The skirt was usually combined with a blouse with kimono sleeves, short or long, or a short-sleeved peasant blouse.
On most patterns there's at least one design with ric-rac- trims.

This last picture shows the probably latest pattern - from 1961 - featuring a this kind of dress.

I found this gorgeous one on Google, but it was nowhere for sale... Sad face.

So another look at the Etsy marketplace brought up several results. In the end, I decided to buy this one,  Advance 6760, as I really wanted the blouse with kimono sleeves in the first place with the tiered skirt. I have a separate pattern for a peasant blouse, as seen on one of the patterns shown above, already.

Today it arrived, and I was so excited! While I was feeding my little ones, I was reading at the same time the sewing instructions. Some people read the newspaper, I'm reading sewing instructions. I am so in love with this pattern!

It offers a variety of possibilities. Make a blouse of the same fabric, so it looks like a one-piece dress, or make some more matching more blouses in different colours so you can change the look of this skirt or dress completely.
The separate skirt is also called "broomstick skirt", maybe because for all witches it's most useful to have such a comfortable garment for a ride on the broom. Ha, again, this pattern is just suitable for me in every way!

It needs a little bit more fabric than many other full skirts as all these tiers as ruffled. I was trying to calculate how many yards of ric-rac trim I need to buy. On the pattern it says one spool of 100 yards - I still will have to figure out the exact amount. Otherwise this project will cost me a fortune!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Vintage Wrap Top Tutorial

While I was having a look around Pinterest (a dangerous ground, as I usually forget time and space and duties...), I found these lovely photographs. They show a woman wearing a wrap top, a very simple one, and I think any skilled sewer could create a pattern fitting her measurements.

I'm not sure when exactly this pictures where made, but to my guess it could be late 1940s or early 1950s.

Look at the second picture, where the base pattern of the top is clearly visible. So easy!

I will certainly try this with a piece of cotton knit fabric, but I'm sure any other lightweight fabric will do.

Just cut a rectangular piece, sew the seams and hems, make an opening for your head according to the one shown in the photo.

To close the front panel, just add two thin bindings, to close the back panel in the front, sew-on a wider binding made of the same material, long enough to make a bow.

Super-easy and so nice for warm summer days!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Vintage Inspiration - Italian Movie Goddess Sophia Loren

This post has nothing to do with the fact that my husband is Italian. As a child, I often watched what is called today "old movies", and we also watched the Italian ones. Sophia Loren was of course in some of them, and I always admired her. She was so - Italian. I loved Italy as a teenage girl, and of course I had a weakness for Italian guys. (In Switzerland, we have so many Italian immigrants, they are almost part of our cultural identity.) 

According to me, she is a very beautiful woman, but she has the kind of beauty that doesn't fade with age. She has charisma, and from what I can judge, she should not be reduced to her looks, as I think she also is an interesting woman who worked a lot for her success. I think she could write books about growing up in war-time Italy, in a very poor place.

And I envy her for her figure!

Here are some pictures I found in the internet from my preferred eras to show her in some amazing outfits.

"Sex appeal is fifty percent what you've got and fifty percent what people think you've got."

A very young Sophia in the late 1940s.

In 1949, as a 15 year old girl, she attended to a beauty contest. Sophia is the girl in the middle with the white two-piece bathing suit.

Well, at 15 I looked rather different... And I think women today should look like this and not like some of those anorexic so-called super-models and movie starlets. Sorry for being so frank.

I love this skirt. I realised only on the other pictures of this session that the pleats with the dark border pattern open up to plain fabric. A pity there isn't any coloured version of these photographs...

And look at the amazing closure of the blouse!

How much I would love to have such a bathing suit. Alas, I have not Sophia's long legs and her very female curves...

This dress is so sweet. I think it would suit any woman.

"Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical."

Very subtle make-up, and lovely hair-style.

This outfit is just wonderful. Very simple, yet very elegant: a lace top over a bodice. If I ever cut my hair, I try to get such a cut.

"If you haven't cried, your eyes can't be beautiful."

Wonderful dress, great jewelry.

A blonde Sophia...
This dress is my favourite! I'm in love with the dropped waist, the embroidery, everything, including the Venetian scenery...

"A woman's dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view."

"There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age."

This summer dress is fabulous as well. The printed fabric is a darling and would look great with any dress pattern.

Both dresses are wonderful. The first one is probably made of silk. Amazing pin-tuck detail of the neck-line! However, I was wondering when women began to shave their armpits... 

Sophia the kitchen goddess! With red hair! She even looks good when she is covered with flour. 

"Everything you see I owe to spaghetti."

If I am ever going to make a black dress with a white collar, it will look have to look like this!

"It's a mistake to think that once you're done with school you need never learn anything new."

This last and blurry picture is outstanding. It shows Sophia cuddling a very young Elvis Presley. Sophia, la mamma!

"When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child."

Friday, 10 January 2014

My Vintage Pattern Collection

As I wrote probably before, I started collecting vintage sewing patterns about 5 years ago when I was looking for a pattern to make my own wedding gown. What started as an impossible quest for a pattern I had once seen in a Vogue pattern review in the 90s was the discovery of a whole new world for me. I found Etsy, a most astonishing and amazing marketplace for almost everything a sewer's and collector's hearts desires. And I fell in love with vintage sewing patterns.

And I ended up with a couple of vintage patterns, the beginning of my own collection. I soon somehow got a little bit addicted to those incredibly beautiful designs. Each and every one was so amazing. Soon some 40s pattern were added to some of the 50s. My mom used to be a sewer too, and she gave me her patterns from the 60s and the 70s. Even she had made her own wedding gown, and she still had the pattern.

Even though I'm not so fond of those eras, I kept them, as they mean a lot to me. There are many designs for children's dresses my mothers used for my sister and me.

So my collection constantly grows. Whenever I have some money left, I have a look around my favourite online marketplace to see if there is something I like. Needless to say that there usually IS.

I would like to "share" my collection with other that have the same obsession. I will put my collection on some Pinterest boards - just have a look! Maybe you have the same patterns or have a question - you are most welcome to contact me and ask!

And you will of curse find the links on a separate blog page as well!

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