Saturday 18 October 2014

Modern life

Two street drinkers outside the Co-Op. The man is hanging on to the wire crate holding all the cardboard boxes to help him stay standing up. Swaying, he gives some money to the woman. As she goes into the shop to calls out to him: "What do you want if they haven't got goat's cheese?"

Saturday 30 August 2014

More upcycled vintage curtains...

And as they originally were:

A little scarf can go a long way!

I make clothes, cushion covers, purses and bags all the time but I honestly cannot remember the last time I went into a fabric shop and bought a length of fabric to make something!

Although many charity shops have been picked clean and all the best stuff has ended up in fancy vintage shops now, there’s always a basket of scarves, and you can make a simple garment out of a couple of these. Scarves come in different sizes, from small  “pocket squares” to sarongs, but a common size is  just under 70 cm square, and these are ideal.

The weight of the scarves dictates the success of the garment. Your fabric your scarves are made of needs to be the same weight  – although not necessarily of the same type. If the scarves are very old, check that they have not thinned through wear or exposure to the light, or the fabric may tear. Look for moth damage or cigarette burns – if you are being economical with fabric there is no margin for wastage. Finally, if you are not sure you’ll have enough fabric, buy an extra one to use for facings (the linings inside the garment that make sure the neckline  and armholes lie flat).

I find my sewing patterns in charity shops and fleamarkets. Originally I bought them for the illustrations of the envelopes. Go by the measurement, not the dress size as sizing has changed considerably over the years.

What particularly I like about these scarves as a source of dressmaking fabric are the prints. When choosing scarves to re-make have a good look at the print and, as well as working out how the colours and prints are going to go together with two or more scarves, consider the placement of the print. As these scarves are not designed to be worn flat, rather they would be tied to go around the neck or folded to be worn as a headscarf, the print is often more dense around the edges than in the centre. This dictates where you will put your pattern pieces.

For this shell top (below) I wanted to use the areas where there were more leaves and to incorporate the border and the rolled edges of the scarf rather than hide them in the seams, so I put the side seams of my pattern piece right up against the edge of the scarf. The rolled edge prevents fraying and means I can get away with the tiniest of seams. You might like to use the zip foot on your sewing machine to sew tightly up against the rolled edge or baste the seam first (this is a good idea anyway as the silks and rayon fabrics usually used for scarves are slippery to sew).

As a rough guide, two 70 cm scarves can make a sleeveless top or a simple skirt, or a dress or a shirt for a small child. The only things you will need to buy are a lightweight zip and a small amount of iron–on interfacing (although I often skip this and sew the facings down, pressing them first to make sure they lie flat).

Two smaller scarves can make a cushion cover. These are, on average, 40 cm square. All you need to do is sew in a zip then sew around the remaining three edges. You can get away with using lighter weight silk scarves than you could for clothing if you back them with iron-on interfacing first. You can also use damaged scarves by making a patchwork of the good bits of different ones.

Any offcuts that might possibly be left after all that make great linings for purses and make-up bags.

Silk screen prints on upcycled  wallpaper and fabrics are available at her Etsy shop:

Thursday 31 July 2014

The beginnings of my vintage life

When I was 14 I used to spend my Saturdays in Attica, a second-hand shop (this is pre-"vintage") in The Haymarket, Newcastle, lingering over the full-skirted 1950s dresses. The rails were bursting with them and they were £15 each. Why I never bought one, I cannot tell you. I spent so much of my time in there it's a wonder the owner never once said to me "Oi, you – buy something or get out!"

I remember a particular beauty with big orange roses all over it. Years and years later, I finally got a similar one, and I've just sold it on eBay. I never wear it, but it's such a difficult thing to finally let go of. Goodbye, lovely frock, I feel genuinely sad.

At the time I did buy: old leather hatboxes to use as bags, men's pyjama trousers which I wore as trousers with the flies sewn up and the hems rolled, men's pinstripe suit jackets with the back cinched in with a row of carefully-aligned kilt pins, defunct watches which I took apart and re-made as brooches (how very steampunk – I was ahead of my time!) and those kids' plimsoles (we always called them "sandshoes") with the elasticated inserts on the front.

Attica moved to the other end of the city and will be closing at the end of August.

Saturday 26 July 2014