Monday, 14 October 2013

I got a package in the mail today! Vogue Special Design 4831

I'm so excited today!  I just received Vogue Special Design 4831 in the mail from an Amazon seller.  And let me tell you, I definitely did not pay this much for it!  I didn't even know people sold vintage patterns there until recently.  I guess Amazon really does sell everything now.  I don't have any immediate plans for this beauty at the moment, but I'm very excited to make it some day.  I'm particularly attracted to the print version with short sleeves- the long sleeves seem like almost too much fabric.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Thoughts on Scanning Vintage Patterns, Starting a Personal Digital Fitting Library & Advance 4786

Let me introduce you to Advance 4786, an evening dress pattern with the option for a sheer or lace upper bodice and a draped skirt.  I can't get over how modern this dress looks-  the shaped drop waist (as in, not just a v-shaped) is something I've never seen on any other vintage dress pattern that I can think of.

Shorten it up, add some straps and you have a summer dress.  Or even just make the skirt on it's own.  The back isn't quite succumbing to "coffin clothes" syndrome, but it does look like it could use some more drama to match the front.  I'm not sure a matching drape in the back would be welcome (...let's avoid gathers at the fullest part of the behind, thanks...), but a shaped back bodice/yoke would be a nice touch.

Anyhow, onto scanning vintage patterns.  This summer, I had the great good fortune to be working somewhere which a) had a plotter and b) had plotter with a built in scanner.  Because of this  a) I was able to print some patterns for free without cutting and pasting (YAY!) and b) I was able to scan a bunch of my oldest and most likely to be used patterns.  Many of these are 90-60 years old, and are so delicate I can't stand using them- both because they rip and that's a pain to work with, and because they rip and they're a piece of history.  The best way to scan the pattern pieces would have been to use a large format flat bed scanner, however those are few and far between, not to mention scarily expensive.  The work scanner was one like these below, only oler.  The scanner feeds in a u-shape.


I ended up using a clear plastic protective sleeve (which came with), meant for scanning drawings which have trace paper taped on top.  I put a blank page in first so the pieces could be seen more easily as the scanner was pretty grungy from transferred ink inside.  This gave me a scanning area of 2x3 feet, which isn't anywhere near large enough for many skirt pieces as you know.  Happily, the pieces can be folded once and still be easily seen, markings and all.

What I plan to do after this, is to use AutoCAD to trace these and do preliminary adjustments digitally according to my body block.  I should mention that a step I would like to do before that is to scan a traced copy of my plastic wrap-and-tape body pattern (post on this to come later, and idea courtesy of Kathleen from Fashion Incubator- awesome site!), and overlay to two to get a good idea of what changes need to be made.  The idea is to eventually get a few patterns of various styles that fit well scanned and CADed to make a "library" of sorts.  Once I have that I will be able to find a similar pattern in the library, and overlay on the new scanned pattern for an even better idea of what I need to do to get a better fit.

Any thoughts?

Monday, 9 September 2013

T.A.R.D.I.S. + Time Vortex Lino Printed Fabric

This is a project that I had been wanting to do for sooooooo long!  For those of you who aren't up on your sci-fi British television, and more specifically the show Doctor Who, the T.A.R.D.I.S. is the time traveling spaceship belonging to a human looking alien with two hearts who has a particular soft spot for Earth.  It looks like an emergency police call box, is partially sentient (and has named herself Sexy), and is a magnitude larger on the inside than on the outside.  The Doctor, a companion and potentially a variety of friends (Oh Jack, why do you never show up anymore!) go on various scary/heartwarming/mysterious adventures though space and time.

Anyhow, this all started when on a whim I searched Doctor Who on Spoonflower, not expecting to find much of anything.  Instead I found pages and pages of results. Now, I would love some mildly tacky TV theme fabric, but at $17.50/yard (yard! not even a proper meter!) plus shipping it was all a bit too rich for my tastes.  I have to say though, the 10th Doctor apron fabric and the tesselated TARDIS are pretty hard to resist.

The two lino stamps on the left for the TARDIS and light rays, and a foam stamp for the vortex on the right.

Instead, I headed to the art store and bought all the pieces needed to carve some lino stamps and some water based screen printing ink in silver and gold.  A few evenings were spent carving the stamps, and now I can print as many TARDIS-es as I could ever want.  MWAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!  HAHA!!!!  HAHAH!!!!!  *cough, cough*  (I may have gone an bought some metallic blue paint.  You know, for cards, and white fabric, and, well, everything and anything else that may ever need a TARDIS on it.)

The next stop was the fabric store to look for some appropriately blue all natural fiber fabric.  I was wandering everywhere from the upholstery to the quilting sections muttering to myself and making the sewing store ladies scratch their head.  I had never really looked at the content of broadcloth before and had just assumed that it was just cotton so that was where I headed first.  It was only 60% cotton and the rest was polyester.  I was lucky enough to find exactly what I was looking for in the end.  It's not heavy enough to be quilting weight, but it is heavier than broadcloth.  Is there a name for that?

As previously mentioned, it was the end of the bolt, and it ended up being in three pieces.  I printed the two larger pieces in the pattern in the first photo, and then printed the ends of the short piece in two different types of border prints as seen the right photo above, and the photo below.  When I had started out, the plan was for a fluffy maybe layered, maybe not, gathered skirt, however I'm not happy enough with the print to wear it out in public.  I really want to, but I think these are slated to be epic pjs worn around others only when I know they are aware of, or share my obsession so when I inevitably start scampering around singing the theme song, or make the dematerialization noise they won't be too, too startled.

So in the end, was it any cheaper?  Extremely.  Admittedly, the printing process from fabric purchase, to washing, drying, ironing, stamp carving, stamping, to ironing again took several days and was more labour intensive than expected, and the print is nowhere near perfect.  However, it is definitely unique, an actual random pattern, and quite pretty if I do say so myself.  I tried to cheap out and made homemade felt stamp pads, and while they worked, I had to either stand on, or kneel on the stamps to get enough pressure to have decent transfer.  Also, because I was standing, and would occasionally lose balance while on the stamp, it would tip and leave a mark from the wood block as well.  I have since purchased a brayer and will hopefully be printing a "good" version of this fabric for a dress or skirt in the future.

For about 4m of fully printed fabric:
$15.00        -lino handle and blades
$7.00          -30x15cm sheet of lino
free             -blocks of scrap wood and gorilla glue
$4.00          -on sale100% cotton fabric (reg. ~ $8)
$2.75 x 2    -on sale Speedball water based screenprinting ink in 75cc tubes in gold and silver (reg. ~ $6)

And to conclude, I leave you with a song I unexpectedly found while searching the work server, The Timelords with their song "Doctorin' The Tardis".

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Drafting Your DIY Donut (or Doughnut) Stuffed "Animal"

Last post I shared Mr. Donut and promised to make a tutorial on how to make one for yourself- so here it is!  I do have to apologize because I only have the one process photo.

Things you will need to make the pattern:
  • various pieces of round household dinner ware (or a compass)
  • ruler
  • tracing paper/news paper

What you will need for the actual stuffie:
  • base colour fabric
  • icing colour fabric (something shiny!)
  • leg and hat colour fabric (felt is a good choice)
  • bugle beads for sprinkles
  • fabric covered buttons for eyes
  • stuffing 


First, find a large circular object with the diameter matching the size you would like the finished donut to be, for example, a dinner plate.  Trace around it and mark the centre.  Draw a circle (using a glass in our case) the same size as the desired hole.  Mark where you would like the arms and legs to go.

Next, copy the body piece, then mark out the shape you would like the icing to be, making sure to stay within the seam line.  This is actually the hardest part of making the entire pattern!  Avoid making the blobs similar shapes and sizes and it will look more realistic.

The last piece for the body requires a little math- this is that magical strip in the hole that gives this toy its shape.  Measure the diameter of the inside hole of the main body piece.  Using this number make a rectangle with d*Pi as the width and 5cm (2") or so as the depth.

The arms and legs are the same and shape and essentially tubes with a little bump at the end.

Lastly, the hat is made of one big circle for the brim, a rectangle for the "stovepipe", and a smaller circle for the crown.  Make the small circle first.  Using the same math as above, calculate the width the rectangle needs to be and make the depth as tall as you would like the hat.  Draw the larger circle.

Add 1cm or similar seam allowance to all edges on all pieces and cut them out.

Number of each pattern piece to cut.  Interfacing is in ellipses (brackets)

Main body x2 (x2 if using a stretch or less stable fabric)
Main body rectangle x1  (x1 if using a stretch or less stable fabric)
Icing x1
Legs x8
Small hat circle x1
Big hat circle x2 (x1- just do one piece)

How to sew it all together:
Interface what needs interfacing.

Sew the "sprinkles" or bulge beads onto the icing piece, making sure to avoid going closer to the edge than seam allowance+1/2 your sewing machine foot.

Bugle beads are these things.  They're essentially your average seed bead that has been let long instead of being cut into more square shapes.  They can be a variety of lengths.  You should be able to find them at your average craft or beading store.  Ideally you want a mix of colours because we're imitating sprinkles.

You'll find out that most regular hand sewing needles won't fit though the beads, but there are two solutions to this.  a) Buy beading needles or b) string a bead onto the thread, re-thread the needle, sew on the bead, move to the next spot, un-thread needle, start over.... Guess which one we did?   Yeah, foresight is not our forte apparently.  Sew the eyes on now too.

Clip the seam allowance of the icing piece and press them under.  The clipping lets you make smoother curves.

Sew the icing onto one of the main body pieces by top stitching around the outside edge.  Baste them together at the hole.

Find the inside rectangle for the main body and clip the seam allowance on both edges (in my photo I haven't done the other end yet).  Align one end of the long edge of the rectangle with the main pieces, good sides facing, and while curving the rectangle to the shape of the hole, sew.  You should start 1cm away from the beginning of the piece, and end 1cm from the end.  Once sewn around the hole, manipulate the pieces so the inside tube is inside out (good sides in).  Align the short ends of the tube and sew shut.  Turn it right side out again and it should look like the photo above.

Sew the arms and legs together leaving the top of the tube (not the blobbly end) open and then stuff.  You can add beans to the ends of the appendages for a squishy feel and a bit of weight.

Pin the top and bottom main body pieces together good sides in (the inside tube with stick though).  Make sure to place the legs and arms are in this seam at your markings and with the open end pointing outwards and the leg/arm itself sandwiched between the two main body pieces.  Sew it all together.

Turn it all right side out and stuff.  Pinch the area around the inner hole shut and hand sew shut. You now have a donut with arms and legs!

The hat is a separate part.  Step one is to sew the two brim circles together with the piece with interfacing between the two.  Top stitch around the edge three times for decoration, (1 will do otherwise).  Sew the hat rectangle into a tube and clip the top and bottom edges.  Turn the tube inside out and centre it on the crown circle.  Sew them together.  Turn the cylinder right side out and stuff.  Tuck the edges of the tube in, centre on the brim circles and hand stitch together.  Sew the completed hat onto the donut where you wish!

That's it- you're done!

Advance 2327

This is one of my favourite patterns- Advance 2327 from what I would guess is the mid/late 30's.  I am going to make this up one day just for the puffed tulip sleeves if nothing else.  What is interesting about the pattern itself however, is that the pattern layout asks for the skirt pieces to be pieced on doubled fabric, no matter what width of fabric, instead of cutting each out whole on an unfold piece.  Have you ever come across that before?  Is there a reason for it?


section of the pattern layout

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Adventures of Mr. Donut and Simplicity 8643

I introduce you to...... Mr. Donut!

A while ago, a friend of mine showed me a story by her 7 or 8 year old sister titled Mr. Donut.  You see, Mr. Donut is in a band (along with several other food related characters) and is kidnapped by Mr. Evil Cookie.  Key points of the story to the adult readers included phrases such as "It was time to take drastic measurements!" and written elevator muzak.  Earlier in February it was the little sister's birthday and after seeing another stuffed "animal" I had made (another long convoluted story which will become a post at a later date never fear) asked if we could team up to make Mr. Donut come to life.

I said yes of course.

So I started thinking... how to make a donut shape?  The first thought is to just make to rings and sew them together, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it would just make a squishy flying saucer shape unless there were a whole bunch of darts somewhere.  And then I went to Value Village and guess what I found*...

Such a sexy pattern.  The Oreo actually is worth contemplating with accent blanket stitches in yarn for the pattern on the cookie bits.  And look!  There's even onions on the hamburger.

I present to you Simplicity 8643.  Yes.  Ridiculously large food shaped cushion patterns from the 70s.  WHY?  Why would a large, brand name company made a concerted effort to make sure that the average home sewer could create what every family needs including a hot dog bun large enough to smother the 5 year old and bury them wrapped up in it under the porch before the neighbours realized and then say that Jamie went of to boarding school.  *ahem*

Look Ma, I'm eating a donut on a donut!

In any case, it was the answer to my prayers.  Honestly, I didn't really need to buy it because just looking at the pattern layout told me the answer, but how could I resist?  I give you my oh, so elegant construction photo.  Because nothing says classy like an arm pastry tutu with a girdle.  Instead of darts, just add a tube to the inside to give it that depth you need!

"elegant construction photo" of top half

The "pastry" fabric was a stretch woven mystery fabric with a slightly brushed nubby feel (interfaced to stop it from stretching), the legs and hat are felt (the brim is interfaced) and the icing is a shiny something or other.  Sprinkles were hand sewn on as the very first step and are made out of 4 different colours of bugle seed beads.  We were thinking of putting some beans in the ends of the arms and legs but it never ended up happening.

Mr. D gets his hat sewn on by K (the friend)

So there you have it. Stay tuned for a tutorial on how to make your very own Mr. Donut!

(As a side note, while checking out, the chashier was telling me about how her home ec. class all made these sorts of things when given a pillow assignment and it must have only been in early 2000 because she wasn't that old.  Which is weird, but anyhow.)

Hello and Welcome!

This blog has been started as a cross of sewing diary and cork-board... and no, not only coats.  I've always done a tiny bit of sewing, but now as a non-standard size person (tall) and as I'm (pretty much) an adult and in need of nicer clothes that actually fit for work I'm hoping to do more.  In addition, I've started to collect some older vintage patterns.  I find the fact that geometry in addition to a flat piece of floppy cloth can make such amazing shapes which is why I would love patterns even if didn't sew a thing.  The patterns are mostly from the 30's and 40's, as well as some newer and older, which I would like to share with the wider world for posterity- and as eye candy of course!