Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Little Blouse That Could

A few weeks ago, the lovely Debi over at My Happy Sewing Place put out a call for votes on what to make for the Gatsby Summer Afternoon. She has a fantastic collection of 1930s patterns and had narrowed her choice down to five; four dresses and a blouse pattern which was to be worn with a simple 30s skirt. Debi is a super talented sewer so you know no matter what the poll result, it's bound to be amazing. While the dress which won is adorable (McCall 7403), I can't help feel the sweet little Art Deco blouse didn't get a fair go. Let's face it, it's not really in the league of the dresses but there is a certain charm about it.

During my fledgling years of sewing, I purchased Butterick 5268 from the Vintage Fashion Library. As you can see, it's marked as a beginners' pattern, just what I was looking for, and the cap sleeves were an unusual detail. Not being too confident in my skills, I found some cheap ($1 per metre) cotton at the local Spotlight so I wouldn't be too upset if I made a mess of it. 

It's been a good five years since I made this blouse so I'm a little hazy on the construction details, but one thing I do remember is not needing to interface the sleeves. As it turned out two layers of cotton were stiff enough to stick out all on their own, they really didn't need the extra help. Luckily I had extra material to recut a couple more. Due to my inexperience there were a couple of other issues but overall it was fairly simple and this blouse has become one of my favourites. I wear it a couple of times each summer, either with wide-legged pants or a wiggle skirt, and it draws a compliment every time.

Should I ever have the chance to make another one of these blouses, I think I'd go for something in a printed satin for evening wear. Devine!

- Tamara

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

To market, to market to buy...?


What a great start to the week, my new camera arrived yesterday! I've decided to upgrade slightly so I think it's gonna take a few days to figure out how to work it. I will read the instructions before using...

In other news, this Saturday was spent wandering around the local market in Kilmore. It's one of my favourites because it is quite small and while the traders rotate throughout the region each weekend, there is a man in Kilmore I can never find at any of the other markets. He always has interesting bits & pieces but I like him for his vintage knitting patterns. Sadly there weren't any on offer this weekend but I did score a few of his other treasures.

My meager haul consisted of two books, a jazz CD, a small box and some sewing notions. The CD will likely head off to the second-hand shop, it's a bit too brassy for my liking; one of the books is a memoir and the other...

Twentieth Century Teenagers by a Friend of Youth.
"Teen time is wonderful time! It can also be a trying time" states the blurb inside this little book by the Daughters of St Paul from the 1960s. It covers a range of issues facing the so-called modern teenager and with chapter headings like: How's your popularity rating?; Getting to know you better; Can you mix well without drinks?; Have you spotted the pros & cons of the "Gang"? I really couldn't go wrong for 50c. Plus, just look how cute the cover is!

Speaking of cute... Check out the graphics on this box for Original Mitcham Lavender
by Potter & Moore! So pretty.

And, leaving the most exciting find for last...

Six sequin & beaded flowers still on their original card! An absolute bargain at $5.

Oh, how I love our country markets.

- Tamara

Friday, 26 August 2011

What Shall We Wear?

Another quiet week here at A New Ball of String. While I have been sewing up a storm (it's been more like a sun shower), my camera packed it in last week and I've been waiting for the postman to deliver my new one. It seems to be taking forever! I've conquered Butterick B5281 (last Friday's post) and am in the process of attaching the cuffs to beautiful 40s long sleeved blouse so I'm hoping to be able to show them off next week.
Until then, it's Fashionable Friday! This week I'm pleased to be sharing some more pages from The Weekly Times magazine section. I particularly like the decorative headlines of these lovelies. Enjoy!!

Happy Friday everyone!!

- Tamara

Friday, 19 August 2011

Li'l help, please?

I'm currently trying to finish this dress, Butterick B5281, and am really struggling with the neckline.

Believe it or not I have read the instructions, several times, and I still can't tell if the neckline should sit on an angle or straight across. Version A appears to be on an angle but Version B (short sleeves) looks to be straight. The line drawings on the back are no help either. Then there's the pleats on the shoulder; they tend to create a curved edge rather than what appears to be square. Arrrgh!!!

I'm already on my second try at squaring off the neckline but, as you can see from the pic above, I'm making a right mess of things. Has anyone else made this dress? If so, any suggestions on how to finish the neckline? It's driving me nuts!!

Thanks in advance!

- Tamara

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Proud & Humble

This is not the kind of memento you'd hope for when you get to meet someone you admire...

In March this year, Irish rockabilly singer Imelda May was touring Australia and I had the opportunity to meet her while she was in Melbourne. One of the photographers where I worked was doing a photo shoot at the ABC Radio studios - a hop, skip & a jump from work - and, being a fan, I simply asked if it would be possible for me to tag along. Too easy!!

The day of the shoot, I had decided to wear an early 1940s chocolate brown skirt I'd made, with a purchased blouse (which fell apart after two wearings); I was looking quite the vintage chick. In fact, I was even complimented on my look - complete with hand wave - by a lovely fellow who offered to let me in the building to wait.

During the shoot, Imelda chatted happily about lipstick (MAC Ruby Woo is her preferred shade) and the ease of creating her trade mark quiff and our 15 minutes were gone before I knew it. Just before she jetted off to her next interview, she was gracious enough to autograph both my CDs and pose for some pics, which pleased me no end.

As we were getting our best fake smiles on for the camera, the photographer decided to tell Imelda May, a woman I have admired for several years, that I sew and had made the clothes I was wearing. While I was quick to distance myself from the blouse, I happily laid claim to the skirt. "Oh!" Imelda exclaimed, "Me Ma was a seamstress! Let's see how it's been finished." She then promptly bent down to check the hem of my skirt! Thank the Lord this skirt had been properly finished; it's fully lined, all edges have been overlocked (serged), and the stitches on the hem are all but invisible. Phew! Although, these days I bias bind all my hems, it gives a much neater finish.
So, the moral to the story dear Readers: Never, ever leave your garments unfinished, even if you think no one will see, because you never who might like to take a peek!

Thanks Imelda, you rock!!

- Tamara

Monday, 15 August 2011

Here comes the Sun...

Due to my fragile state, this weekend has been a very quiet one indeed. That said, we did manage to get out of the house on Saturday afternoon, be it to go to the cinema but it was a nice change of scenery. It's been a while since Mdblm & I have been to the movies and we were in agreement that Captain America would be our next viewing. There really aren't many cinemas close by so we decided to take a trip in to the 'big smoke'.

The Sun theatre in Yarraville originally opened in 1938 and was a single screen 1050 seat cinema - the most luxurious in the area. It enjoyed many successful years until, due to the advent of TV, popularity of film dwindled and The Sun was eventually closed in the early 1980s. Today, the theatre is home to six boutique cinemas, all detailed in the art deco style and many with original details. What better place to see an old skool superhero movie set in the 1940s?

Captain America was showing in 'La Scala' - one of the smaller theatres which has super-soft leather couches so it was just like being at home, or Gold Class but without the excessive price to go with it. Perfect! I wasn't able to take many photos inside the building but if you're interested, more can be found here. 

Detail of lead light in hallway and molded architraves

As for the film itself, we both really enjoyed it. It was just over 2 hours long with no sex scenes or swearing and no overblown special effects to cover a lack of storyline. Now. I've not read the comics or seen the cartoon so I have nothing to compare the story or characters to, for me it was just good old fashioned fun. I loved the set design - the 'Future World' at the fair was a nice touch - and the costuming was fantastic.

In fact, Peggy Carter's military blouses have inspired me to get back to work on my own 40s blouse. Like most of my UFOs - It's nearly done.... 

- Tamara

Friday, 12 August 2011

Fashionable Friday

Well what a crappy week this has been! I've barely been able to get out of bed, let alone eat and I've been forced to live in my pyjamas for the last four days. Take away the nausea and staying in my PJ's all day is living the dream. Oh how I wish this week had been a dream! My current attire pretty much sum up my state of being... 

I love you Mr Hargreaves but you're really not helping.
Never fear though, I am on the mend and should be back sewing early next week. Until then, let's take a look at some much prettier bedroom attire from the mid 1930s Weekly Times Pattern Service.

Happy Friday everyone!!

- Tamara

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The 500 Days of Summer Project

Greetings dear Readers!

Sorry for the extended radio silence this week, we've had some hardcore sickness happening in this house and today is the first day I've had enough energy to switch on the computer. Mdblm has had the flu for nearly three weeks now (it finally appears to be receding) and me, well I have somehow managed to get myself a nasty dose of gastro. I will spare you the gory details, it has been most unpleasant indeed, but I'm afraid I've not been able to do any sewing what so ever. That said however, I do have a couple of back-up post for such occasions...

I saw the film 500 Days of Summer last year and loved, loved, LOVED it!! If you've not seen it I won't give the story away, but Zooey Deschanel's character Summer wears some awesome, vintage style clothing. From here the "500 Days of Summer Project" was born. In the film, Tom comments that Summer wears "60s clothes" but that's a bit too new for me, so I decided to use patterns from the 40s & 50s. I've not made much progress but I've already several suitable patterns in my collection and just a couple more to find.

The first completed outfit is from the rooftop garden party scene towards the end of the film...

This late 40s repro pattern, Butterick B5214, is very similar...

And here's my version...

it's a bit too short for my liking but it's a pretty good representation, don't you think?


Friday, 5 August 2011

Sewing by Numbers

I had hoped to get this post up yesterday but after 3 or so hours of intense hand sewing my eyes jut weren't up to looking at the computer. So here we go....

I found this pattern, Advance 4463, on eBay earlier this year and was so taken by the design features I just had to have it. The only drawback was there were no instructions. Being the sort of person who doesn't tend to follow instructions anyway, I wasn't deterred.

Advance 4463, 1940s day dress.
The perfect material presented itself a month or so later in a Spotlight store, a heavy cotton of navy with green stripes made up of tiny dots. It is actually quilting fabric and was only $3 per metre so if it didn't work I hadn't lost out too badly.

Construction of this dress was surprisingly easy. I used the image on the front and line drawings on the back of the pattern envelope as a reference and just went for it. I did, however, encounter a couple of problems; I had real trouble getting the points on the bodice square, I think I sewed & unpicked three times and had to settle with the last pass because the fabric had frayed too much. The other problem wasn't skill based, it turns out there is an error on the back of the envelope.

The problem is with joining the shoulder front section to the blouse. According to the line drawing, sides numbered 3 & 4 should be matched and sewn, but if you follow this the top shoulder seam heads up at an odd angle, rather than lying straight. As usual, I sat and looked at the fabric pieces, turning them round and round, trying to figure out exactly how it would work and I just couldn't see it. Thank the Gods for Mdblm!! He pointed out if I pieced it together as suggested, my lines (on the fabric) would be heading in the wrong direction. It was obvious when pointed out but I'm not one for thinking outside the box. The solution: turn piece C 90 degrees counter-clockwise (sew shoulder section side #4 to blouse front section side #3). Sorry if this makes no sense, I couldn't work out how to draw it onto the diagram.

The hours of hand sewing done on this dress mainly involved the button holes. For some irrational reason I have a real fear of button holes. It's silly really, my machine does the stitch but it's not automated so I have to judge the size as I sew. I've not had much success in the past and my fears were holding me up so I decided to sew them by hand. While they were very time consuming, I'm pleased with the result; they're nice & neat and I had much more control over the size.

The tacked shape of button hole

Hand sewing in action, reminiscent of my recent embroidery attempt

And here's the finished article...

Dress worn with belt as suggested on envelope, I'm not sure I like it.
Catching the last rays of the day....
I really like how this dress turned out and it's so comfortable I'll likely get a lot of wear out of it when the warmer weather finally gets here. Not to mention I've managed to get all the lines to match up this time. Woohoo!!

So tell me dear readers, are you a stickler for instructions or do you prefer to sew by feel? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

- Tamara

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A wonderfully busy weekend - Part 2

This weekend was also Melbourne Open House - an event held in conjunction with the Melbourne City Council which gives members of the public the chance to see behind the facades of some of Melbourne's art deco gems and new 'eco-conscious' buildings. With only one day to see the buildings on my list, Mdblm & I set off at 9am, an insanely early hour for a Sunday, and made a beeline for the one building we missed last time, the Mission to Seafarers.

The Mission's exterior, built in 1917
The funds to build the complex were raised by the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild; a dedicated group of ladies who cooked for the visiting seafarers and even organised dances in the main hall.

Correspondence from a sailor to his 'Dear Little Melbourne Girl'
Next we visited the Regent Theatre's Plaza Ballroom...
The illuminated sign for the ladies powder room - the bathroom itself was most disappointing.

Then the Myer Mural Hall and its art deco staircase....

Next, the foyer of the Manchester Unity building....
You had to book for the tour of this building so we had to settle for the entrance.

And finally, the Grainger Museum...

Phew, what a weekend!!

- Tamara
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