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“Yep, I made it myself!” – Guest Post over at Fashion by Mimi

Mia Holt is a lovely young lady I met while she was working as Christmas temp at Lush Cardiff. This girl not only had some major skills with the hatboxes but also a shared passion for all things journalism. She’s pretty much proof of what an undergraduate making routes into journalism should be doing, using her Summer to pursue various work placements local and further afield. (A younger me should certainly take note!)

When she called for some guest posters on her blog Fashion by Mimi, I was more than happy to step up to the mark – I haven’t really had a chance to rant about sewing for a while, so it came surprisingly easy when I got down to it! Check it out here! If you have any interest in fashion at all, then her blog is well worth a read; she has a clear passion for what she writes about, and is always searching for ways to take her grassroots blog to the next level. So pop on over, and make sure you say hi! After all, we bloggers love a comment or two.

As for the sewing – it’s coming along! Currently in the midst of drafting my own pencil skirt pattern, details of which I will unveil shortly…

The joy of vintage patterns

Until now, I’ve always purchased my vintage patterns online. Sewing patterns are not items commonly found in Cardiff’s charity shops, which normally host scores of rejected items from Primark instead. The vintage and retro shops I have previously frequented in the city centre don’t tend to extend their stock to the kind of goodies those vintage-savvy seamstresses amongst us would be searching for. Yet I recently came across a beauty stocked to the brim with all kinds of vintage goodies, sewing patterns included, tucked away in one of Cardiff’s old arcades, renowned for housing unique shops and boutiques.

The arcades have always been, for me, part of Cardiff’s charm, and I’m not the only one who thought so. Photographer and journalist Amy Davies took up a project to document Cardiff’s arcades with the Cardiff Arcades Project, and the photographs are just beautiful! The shop which caught my eye, A Vintage Affair, has been documented through photograph in a post here.

Understandably, I spent about an hour being distracted by A Vintage Affair’s clothing, jewellery and accessories dotted around the shop. Popping into vintage and second hand shops normally scares me a little bit, possibly because of experiences had in various second hand shops in Germany, which were always so small I felt my every move was being scrutinised! Luckily this wasn’t the case here, and when I did speak to some of those working in the shop, I found they were lovely and approachable anyway! My favourite kind of shop.

Eventually, I came across the vintage patterns in the corner of the shop, kept in boxes overflowing with not only patterns, but also sewing and knitting magazines. There’s something quite unique about rifling through (sometimes) decade old patterns by hand. While I’ll always love the Internet for leading me to discover some beautiful vintage patterns in the past, you can’t quite beat actually touching the wrinkled, often ripped, packaging, surrounded by that musky smell of patterns pre-loved. This particular shop had stacks and stacks of vintage fabric, a sorely tempting prospect, but I thought better of it considering the extensive stash I’ve built up at home!

I did, however, come home with three well-worn patterns, all of them shift dresses, although each one comes with a little twist! The tucked bodice detail on the Style 1804 panel shift dress pattern was very tempting. I doubt I’ll go for the long sleeves – with the puff sleeves and all, I can’t see it being a little much overall. The vintage Butterick 4029 sports some varied neckline choices on a simple shift dress, while the collar on my other Style number 1937 is to die for.

Thanks to the Vintage Patterns wiki, I found out Butterick 4029 is a pattern dating from the 1960s, and one a fellow blogger has already whipped up to great effect, using the pointed collar design I’ve been quietly coveting. Kitty stayed faithful to the design portrayed on the pattern envelope,

While my two Style patterns were absent from the list, the back of 1937 tells me it’s also a ‘60s pattern (1967 to be exact), and I’m assuming the same of 1804, which is missing dates. If anyone has any idea of when this pattern was made, I’d be grateful, as I’m neither a historian or a vintage pattern expert! The only real clue I have is the front of the pattern states it was designed by a ‘Vanda Harvey’, and a quick google brought up an artist of the same name who doesn’t seem to have contributed to the world of sewing patterns.

I have a few other things to get through before I get cracking on these patterns. Which do you think I should go for first?

Disaster!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I managed to get the graduation ball dress finished on time, meaning I had a fabulous dress to wear to the do. Now, I had noticed a fair bit of spillage on the dress, which was a shame as I’d originally planned to wear it to a wedding the following Saturday, but figured it would come off in the wash. However, I did notice a bit of discolouration on the dress as well. I somewhat foolishly assumed it would come off in the wash, despite the gnawing feeling this would not be the case.

After having washed it, I’ve come to the horrifying realisation that something may well have bleached the fabric, and there are tonnes of very noticeable splashes of pink/purple all over the dress. As you can imagine, I’m less than pleased. Sure, I could always remake the dress in another fabric, but I really don’t have the funds to accommodate that, so I’m in somewhat of a pickle.

I have no idea what could have caused this – the fabric is a combed cotton I’d pre-washed before sewing the dress. It looks an awful lot like bleach to me. A possible solution could be to just throw caution to the wind and get the entire thing bleach-splashed, though I worry about how that would look. Alternatively, I could potentially dye the entire thing with a fabric dye, but I don’t know if that would evenly balance out the colour of the dress.

Has anyone ever had this problem before? Any thoughts you guys have would be greatly appreciated!

Cutting it fine…

We’ve all been there. That deadline is looming and yet somehow your project is nowhere near done. There’s no question of my being able to meet deadlines; I may have been working right up until the deadline in some cases, but I’ve not yet had an instance of turning in an essay or a piece of work late just yet, and I don’t plan on starting anytime soon!

Where self imposed deadlines are concerned however, I’m a little more fickle. Unfortunately, this has been the bane of my sewing output for some time now, and I’m not the only one. Instead of rushing to finish whatever project I have on the go, I’ll more often than not leave it unfinished for weeks after my proposed deadline.

I was determined this wouldn’t happen with the latest item, the Grad Ball dress, and my work on it set off to a fantastic start. Now that I’m living at home, I’ve decided my brother’s room is to become my sewing room – that is, just as soon as he buggers back off to university. Luckily for me, he was off visiting his girlfriend the weekend before last, giving me plenty of space for cutting out my pattern pieces. Things were going swimmingly.


Then disaster struck. I woke up a day or so later nursing the most horrendous sore throat I’ve yet experienced, and thus began feeling well and truly sorry for myself. How I’ve managed to be running here there and everywhere while at Swansea without getting ill, I don’t know, but it seemed like it had caught up with me a week before graduation. Talk about crummy timing.


Turns out I had a nasty case of tonsillitis, thus followed more days of my feeling sorry for myself and looking pathetic in my fluffy pink dressing gown, nursing cooling cups of tea I couldn’t quite face drinking due to the pain in my throat. Cutting it fine is an understatement; I was up against the clock anyway with just over a week until Grad Ball and the dress nowhere near finished, and now I had wasted a few days being poorly, it looked even less likely I’d have a me-made creation to wear as planned.

Thank god my procrastination gland stopped working, because a few nights sewing like my life depended on it and I’ve just got some finishing bits and bobs left on the dress. In a way, I have a bit more confidence now in my ability to get things done. With so few projects completed of late, it’s nice to have pulled this one out of the bag against the odds.


On top of that, I somehow managed to also finish the scallop waist skirt for graduation as well. I guess when you’re up, you’re up! I’ve been in touch with my lovely photographer friend Martha to sort out some sort of photoshoot for the garments, so I’ll have a proper post for both up as soon as we’ve done that!

The Wannabe Hack Skirt

Photo by Martha Moreno

This academic year hasn’t been completely devoid of sewing activity. Sure, this skirt may have been progressing on and off for a couple of months, but I eventually managed to get it done in time for my interview for my postgraduate course in journalism, hence why this skirt will always be ‘the wannabe hack’ skirt to me – a nod to the Wannabe Hacks website, which publishes tips and advice for wannabe journos such as myself. I’ve even had an article featured on there before!

It was important to me to wear at least one garment I had made to the interview for several reasons. I’m sure any fellow seamstresses will agree, there’s a degree of confidence which comes hand in hand with wearing an item of clothing you’ve hand-crafted. Even if the outside world won’t necessarily notice, there’s something different about what you’re wearing, especially as you haven’t picked it out from a sea of different sized versions of the same shirt/skirt/dress/insert garment here. After such a long period of sewing abandonment, actually wearing something I’d made to such an important interview gave me a bit of a buzz.

Most importantly though, sewing has proven to be a large part of the reason I began blogging as extensively as I do now. Arguably, The Siren (a commentary blog about life at Swansea University) would never have happened had I not been blogging every seam sewn during my time in Germany. So I felt it would be more than appropriate to wear a self-sewn skirt to an interview I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for sewing.


Maybe it’s good luck to wear your self sewn items to interviews, because I got in! I can tell this skirt will get a lot of wear during the Winter months at the course, as it’s made from fairly thick woven fabric. A few months after my interview, I asked my friend Martha to help me out in taking some photos of the skirt. Our setting? Brangwyn Hall in Swansea, where I’ll be graduating in a matter of weeks! We took my ‘shoe-case’ (the suitcase I kept all of my shoes) for fun and popped out one late afternoon in May for some photo-fun!

Martha said all good modelling includes triangles... so I became a teapot

Using the Jenny pencil skirt pattern available on BurdaStyle, I created a black and white houndstooth skirt, fully lined with purple silky fabric I had in my stash. The skirt itself is comfortable to wear but a few problems have come up – namely, the fit. I’ve come to the conclusion I’m a weird size, with hips only marginally bigger than my waist, creating some bugbears in how the skirt sits. It rides up quite a lot when I’m walking, and the lining insists on peeking out.


I think I’ve also shortened the skirt just a tad too much; a crime I’m often committing. This won’t be as much of a problem when wearing the skirt in Winter, as a pair of tights make an almost-too-short skirt somewhat more appropriate. I’m planning to create another pencil skirt in the style of Gertie’s orange bow skirt, but this time I plan on drafting my own pattern in the hopes it will improve the fit of the garment. Here’s hoping!

Want to see more photos from the day? Check out the photo set over on my Flickr!

Better Late than Never…

I was very much mistaken when I thought I’d have a lot of time on my hands after exam season was done and dusted. The initial plan was to sew the lovely Mccall’s pattern mentioned in my last post in time for Swansea University’s Summer Ball. Alas, it wasn’t to be. In fact, I wasn’t able to make anything at all. Shamefully, I ended up wearing something store-bought to the Ball; a far cry from last year’s achievement of completing my vintage style dress in time to watch Florence and the Machine rock Singleton Abbey.

Yay feet!

That doesn’t mean I’ve given up completely on my Mccall’s 6350 project. I’ve set myself a new deadline: namely, to get this dress done and dusted in time for the graduation ball later this month. Initially, I was feeling dubious about actually finishing the dress on time, my track record with sewing has hardly been great recently! But with only 6 pattern pieces, if I manage to get past the bodice without a hitch, then I’m sure I’ll hit the deadline just fine.

The fabric is ordered and the pattern pieces all ready to be cut out and sewn together. I’m taking the slightly risky no-muslin path, considering this is a strapless dress which requires a close fit on the bust. Time is of the essence people!

Lush pots = lovely smelling products AND excellent pattern weights

While I’m waiting for my fabric to be delivered, I’ve begun work on a version of Vivat Veritas’ scalloped waist circle skirt, featured as a part of Grosgrain’s wonderful month of free patterns. It may well form part of my actual graduation outfit if it turns out well! Either way, it’ll prove to be excellent practice for the circle skirt on the Grad Ball dress. If past experience is anything to go by, I expect much in the way of swearing, finger pricking and wonky hemming along the way…

The perils of sewing when essays are due…

Procrastination is all well and good, but it’s even worse when your mind can ‘justify’ it by claiming it adds to a skillbase. Such is the relationship between me and my sewing right now. While I should be writing a 2,750 word essay on Anglophone Welsh literature, I find myself wistfully dusting off my beloved sewing machine, searching longingly for dress patterns for a possible Summer Ball dress… this is not the way to boost essay productivity!

View 3 of M6350

It didn’t help when Gertie of Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing posted about this fantastic pattern available from McCall’s. She remarked on its similarities to a dress she’d drafted herself – it just so happens that I’ve lusted after that dress of hers for quite some time! When I made my dress for last year’s Summer Ball, I spent an absolute age trawling through vintage patterns after having been bitten by the vintage sewing bug. My interest in vintage sewing is pretty much down to Gertie, whose insightful blog is full of vintage sewing tips, wonderful creations and thought-provoking posts about key issues relating to sewing, fashion and the wider world. Definitely worth a read.

I feel a future project coming on… after I’m done with this essay that is.