Tuesday 29 March 2016

A Simple 1920's Dress

I have never really liked the fashions of the 1920’s, having mostly seen the latter half of the decade, with its severe, skinny, almost masculine lines and boyish hair. Though some women make it look smashing, it’s not “me”. I like soft lines, traditionally feminine hair, and longer skirts. At the same time, I remember when I was given a low waisted dress as a girl, and feeling like the girls in Astrid Lindgren’s “Alla vi barn i Bullerbyn” (“The children of Noisy Village”), with all of the perceived romance of history, though of course I had no words for my feelings then.  But as we are invited to a 1920’s themed birthday party this summer, my imagination was caught. After looking at lots of fashion plates and photos of real women of the early 1920’s, I’ve come to appreciate that part of the decade. Not sure if the unfitted, low-waisted silhouette would work for me, but at the same time feeling it would most likely make a very comfortable dress for the days when my usual dresses with their tightly fitted bodices doesn’t feel tempting, I decided to make a very simple one, working both as a trial run and an everyday house dress.

Inspired by the dresses worn by the farm wives of Bullerbyn, I used a checked cotton fabric that my mum gave to me many years ago. I used the sketch by Jen Thompson as a starting point, but changed it to my measurements. I also made it all in one piece by removing the shoulder seams (inspired by several dresses in period photos), and made darts at the shoulders for a little bit of shaping. I made it front opening, and made the sleeves longer. 

I trimmed it with the dress fabric cut on the bias, and added pockets to the side seams, because having pockets is a good thing. The pockets are easily hidden in the pleats on the sides of the skirt

 The bias trim at the waistline continues as ties in the back, as I wanted something to take focus away from my too-big-for-the-1920’s behind. 

  Most of this project went smoothly, but for one thing. I was ready to start on the buttonholes late one night, but very wisely decided I was too tired to safely begin such a project. You can imagine I was a bit annoyed when I still managed to mess up the top buttonhole the next morning. After some thinking I managed to mend it tolerably well, but it’s still visible if you know what to look for. Ah well. The buttons were scavenged from an old, worn out cardigan.

 The whole dress was hand sewn, as my sewing machine is still out of order. I doubt we’ll have the funds to repair it this year, so The Greatness of Hand Sewing is the working theme for 2016.

I did not make a period appropriate brassiere at this time, but might do so in future, as it would greatly improve the look. Not that I look particularly wrong; there are plenty of pictures of ordinary 1920’s women with visible curves and a non-flattened bust. It would seem not everyone could afford or be bothered with being that fashionable.

Getting my hair in an acceptable style for the early 1920’s took lots of looking at period photos, some thinking and experimenting. My hair reaches past my tail bone at the moment, so it had to be one of the long-hair-posing-as-a-bob kind of styles. These are also abundant in period pictures, and noticing the similarities and differences was fun. I tried to comb the front of my hair really far down my forehead, but it would slip back again. Over all, I think it turned out all right, though I might need some styling product to make it stay longer than for a short photo shoot in my garden. The shoes was an old charity shop find, probably from the 1990’s, but a decent mimic of 1920’s styles.

  Having seen how it looks on me, I’ve decided that I sort of like the early 1920’s. Even though it’s so loose and completely unfitted, not something I usually find flattering on me, I did feel nice in this dress. There just might be more 1920’s for me in the future.

Monday 21 March 2016

Cushion Covers for Spring

As spring was approaching I wanted new covers for the sofa cushions. With this in mind I had eyed an old apron that I made many years ago when just starting out making historical clothing, but has since been demoted to the fabric stash for not being period enough. It had a print of green checks on an off-white base, with flecks of beige giving it a "rustic" feeling. It just didn’t cut it as a 19th century apron, but I thought the green would work well for spring cushions. Said and done, I cut down the apron, stitched up the covers, and added three green buttons from stash for closure on each. That sorted the two larger cushions, but I had three smaller ones that needed new covers even more. 

 I raided my stash, and found a piece of cotton blend upholstery fabric that I was given a while back. There seem to have been a problem with the loom the day it was made, as the woven in flowers are rather ugly – I have another piece of that fabric, where the flowers look as they should, but I have other plans for that. I don’t mind; in this age of wastefulness it feels good to put all fabrics to use, even the imperfect ones. The colour worked well with the green check, picking up the off-white and beige.

  I made the covers with a deep overlapping in the back so they would look nice even without additional closure, as I didn’t feel like making more buttonholes. As I only had just enough fabric for the covers without the deep hems I wanted, I faced the openings with strips of beige check cotton fabric left over from lining the bodice of my insanely pieced dress a few years ago. Though it doesn’t really show, a detail like this makes me glad.

 The fabric had a few heavy dark stains that wouldn’t go away in the wash, and I didn’t have enough material to cut around them. As a solution I made a self-fabric appliquĂ© flower with an orphan button from stash as the centre. The placement is a bit odd, but it’s way better than the stains.

 So now our old sofa looks pleasantly light, airy and ready for spring, just in time for Easter. 

The beige theme continues, as I'm working on a checked white and sand coloured 1920-23-ish house dress. More on that later :)

Thursday 10 March 2016

A Collection of Muggle Money

I was going through some boxes of stuff, putting some of the contents away, donating what could be liked by others, and tossing out the rubbish, when I came across some foreign coins that have been picked up when abroad. Not that my travels are extensive, but I’ve been to Scotland, and unsurprisingly all of the Nordic countries but Iceland. When looking over them I wondered what on Earth I should do with them – there was so little of every currency that exchanging them would cost more than the value of the money themselves, and we’re not likely to go abroad for a while. And then, while looking at the British coins and remembering how fascinated Ron Weasley was with the shape of the fifty pence, it hit me – why not make a small framed collection of Muggle money!

Said and done. I took out an open frame I’ve been meaning to give a makeover (it was a white shabby-chic thing), and painted it black. I covered a piece of thin cardboard taken from a corn flakes carton with a scrap of green velvet from my stash, and embroidered “Muggle Money” on it, through the cardboard and everything for stability. 

Then I played with the coins until they made a nice composition, and glued them into place. I finished with gluing the velvet covered cardboard to the back of the frame (not using too much glue, in case I want to give it another makeover in future), and that was that. 

It will make a nice addition to the decorations of my now annual Harry Potter Halloween party. I'm sure Arthur Weasley would approve.