Category Archives: vintage patterns

Culottes anyone?


I’ve been thinking about culottes a lot recently. I’m still a little bit over skirts, not that I wore many last year. But perhaps this is because I spent ALL of my 20’s in knee length skirts of various descriptions, with the odd mini thrown in for good measure.

I quite like the idea of culottes for summer. They can be shorter than pants, and roomier with pleats or gathers, which strikes me as a cool and comfy solution for the hot weather. I love the longer ‘tea length’ culottes that I’ve seen more of lately. Culottes just scream sophistication to me. They have an elegance and versatility that allows them to be paired with shirts, or dressed down with T’s.

It seems I haven’t been the only one with culottes on the mind. Karen Walker presented these beauties recently. Also loving that shirt by the way.

These green ones are simply fabulous. Just look at the depth of that hem! They were spotted by Stylesight blog. There were a few other pictures on this site too.
 

 
I like the cropped top and fluid pleats of this version from Tibi’s 2014 RTW collection.

 
A few other designers also presented culottes in their shows recently, including Chanel and Marc Jacobs. But by far, the most frequent results of my search all came back to vintage patterns. And so that is what I used as my starting point.



My plan was to make some culottes out of white denim. I wanted a bulky, pleated pant, similar in length to the versions above. But at some point, I had a change of heart and opted to use a gorgeous grid patterned, cotton sateen instead.

You might remember the long shirt dress I made in the black colourway of this fabric a few months ago. I loved the way this dress turned out so much that I immediately raced off to purchase the other colourway from Tessuti Fabrics. I’d initially planned on making a pair of high waist, skinny, capri pants with it, which I still think would suit the fabric beautifully.

The vintage pattern I started with was Simplicity 5433. I had to alter it in the following ways: 

 Pattern pictures 021
  • I reduced the waist size
  • I re-jigged the pleats in the front to match the new waist size. I also wanted a slightly different pleat look than the original pattern so I factored this into my changes.
  • Added two pleats to the back.
  • I only stitched the side seams to the pocket base, leaving both legs with long slits up the side.

 

 

If you can, please try to ignore the disgracefully mismatched gridlines of the waistband. I had an awful time lining up this fabric, although I only have myself to blame for this. I should have washed, dried and ironed the fabric before cutting in order to straighten up/block the fabric. But as a sometimes lazy seamstress is apt to do on occasion, I skipped this step and regretted it later! I did try to compensate with two gorgeous vintage buttons and a perfectly lined up waist band flap (that you can’t actually see in the photo). Does it work…?

Anyway, I think these pants are the bees knees right now, especially when teamed with my new top. And for those of you who don’t know, my eldest daughter’s name is Coco. I stumbled across the T-shirt online and just couldn’t resist purchasing it for my daughter’s recent birthday. It got the desired response. Coco literally popped with excitement when I wore it for the first time!



Smocked frock

Miss very-nearly-Four had a moment of despair when no dresses could be found in her wardrobe, so we delved into one of my treasure chests for a bit of distraction. And just look at what we found!

 
 

No, I didn’t make this beautiful little dress. It is a wonderful old hand-smocked frock given to me by my mother-in-law a little while back. Just look at all the hard work that has gone into the smocking and French seams throughout. As you can see there was a little existing damage I will need to repair, but I only noticed this once I was dressing Harper, and at that point, I was unable to back out…

 

 It’s probably more than 30 years old but it looks like this little frock is going to clothe another generation. My little girl was immediately smitten with it. Needless to say, she also got a lot of attention whilst out on our walk to the shops yesterday.

Marc Jacobs playsuit vintage Style

It all started with an impulse purchase of some Marc Jacobs cotton knit, which was both gloriously soft and lightweight. I planned to make the playsuit in this vintage Style pattern.

 


I actually love everything about this playsuit, so the only modification I planned was to size it down a little and possibly lengthen the legs to keep them in proportion for my 5″10 frame.

The project didn’t get off to the best of starts. I prewash most of my fabrics, and thought it would be a good idea to do so this time too. Now, I am not sure if my memory fails me, but I am pretty sure I took home fabric that had a sharp white background covered in black, purple and blue flowers. In any case, I got a bit of a shock when I hung it up, as the background was now grey. I just didn’t love it anymore, not at all!

So my excitement dipped a bit as I commenced the cutting. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to cut my fabric late at night. I somehow managed to lay out my pattern pieces in such a manner that would leave me short of half a leg…genius! I could have slapped myself! So now I was not only short of fabric for my playsuit but I would inevitably be left with a significant remnant I no longer really liked, nor trusted to wash with my whites.

Problem solving mode kicked in and I shortened both legs to make a shortie style playsuit instead. It wasn’t exactly what I was after, but I figured at the very least, it would make some lovely pyjamas! Because although I wasn’t too fond of my grey-scale fabric, it still has the most delightfully soft hand.

I also decided to ditch the pockets because who needs pockets in their pyjamas anyway?! I regret skipping the pockets now because it didn’t turn out too bad after all. I am pretty sure I will use this pattern again, but I will aim to make the long leg version next time, and I would also put a thin band of elastic in the top of the back bodice piece instead of the button.

This dress was made for twirls!

 

I’m actually very comfortable with how I look now. I can’t change who I am and I love myself exactly as I am (although this wasn’t always the case!). Some people would say I am incredibly lucky. I am blessed with those tall, lean genes that we see in so many magazines, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t dreamt of being smaller or curvier, or bustier in the past. As a dietitian and mother, I spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to convince girls and women that they can’t all look the same and to love the body they were given. Make it healthier, yes! But to love and embrace themselves for the way they were born. 

Having babies, in particular girl babies, played a massive role in making me reassess the way I judged and treated my own body. I realised that if I couldn’t speak aloud about the things I loved about myself, to accept my flaws, as well as compliments with aplomb, then how was I ever going to teach my daughters to do the same. Every time my daughters call me a princess or tell me I am pretty, I make sure I say thank you and agree with them wholeheartedly. Over time, you start to believe what you say. But what makes me the happiest of all is to hear my daughters talk about themselves and their bodies with such love and confidence. I know they are young yet, but I am hopeful we are getting off to a good start for a body-loving future.

Now, the point of this post is not to analyse the intricacies of body image, but rather, to introduce you to my latest creation…the product of my fabric splurge! How I got off track in the first place was because this dress is just made for curves, of which I clearly have none. It is a significant departure from my usual style of relatively fitted clothes. But it is also a style of dress that I have secretly always wanted to own. Slinky, trapeze dress, thank you for finally finding me. I think we are going to have lots of fun together. Especially since I have discovered that I can solve the problem of my missing curves by swishing and twirling and never allowing this wonderful dress to sit still. So if you see me twirling down the street, you will know why. This dress is made for curves or failing that, big twirls!


 


On the sewing side of things, I was a wee bit nervous about getting stuck into this project, not only because of the decadent fabric I was using, but because the type of dress I was making was outside my comfort zone. Most things in my wardrobe are quite fitted. I also wasn’t entirely convinced that my fabric choice was going to be able to sufficiently ‘modernise’ the vintage pattern I had chosen to use. View B by the way! But with a lowered front slit opening instead. I am still thinking of adding a little seed bead cord/tie to fasten or loosely tie the front edges. I love the sleeves at the moment but I can convert the dress back to a sleeveless option if I want. It has fabulous big pockets and I love that it is tea length. Although after seeing my photos, I realise I should have made mine a smidgen longer. 


Making the dress was a great experience. I learnt a few valuable lessons. Viscose is tricky! At least, long lengths cut on the bias are tricky, but not unmanageable. I needed to take my time, pin carefully and baste often. I also learnt about the power of patterns. NEVER, ever disregard the pattern. Now I knew this gorgeous fabric had a pattern, but I thought it was random enough to skip matching the circles. I also didn’t think I would have enough fabric to match them. But now I look at my completed dress, and the mismatched pattern is a little bit of a disappointment to me. At the very least, I should have thought to reposition the blues and greens at the centre front instead of the sides, since they are my favourite colours. You can see my mismatch below.


But on a positive, I also learnt how to fit sleeves into the armscye better, specifically fitting them for my own body shape. Sleeves have always been a great source of frustration to me. No matter how carefully I attach them, they still never quite fit me properly. So I referred back to a great little book I had read in the past. Apparently, with forward pointing shoulders like mine, I need to rotate the sleeve cap forward a bit and redistribute the ease accordingly. Amazing! This was one of those lightbulb moments that make all the frustrations of sewing worthwhile. Now, I finally GET it and will look forward to lots of perfectly fitted sleeves in the future! 

 
 

The back to front switcharoo

So my last fabric dyeing session wasn’t a great success. I decided to have a go at creating some floral designs on a light cotton/silk voile. Somehow, my hand decided to draw monster flowers, rather than the delicate buds in my minds eye. I also realised later that I hadn’t mixed the dye thoroughly enough and you can see grainy ‘dots’ of dye all through my flowers. You can only just see this dotty effect in the photo, but in real life it is quite an obvious flaw in the semi sheer fabric.

I can’t bear to throw away fabric, so I decided to make a summer nightie for my daughter using the pattern below. I chose to make the sleeveless nightie in View D, albeit a little shorter.

This is probably the oldest pattern I have ever attempted. The instructions were very clear and the tissue pieces were so delicate with several parts missing. I must also admit that I rushed through this project and didn’t take the time to transfer the markings from the paper correctly (well those that hadn’t been lost in time). I also skipped the ribbon seam binding because I didn’t have it at hand. The dress may have looked a little better with the ribbon, but I still don’t think it could have salvaged the nightie. But hang on…what happens if we turn the nightie around?! It’s just fabulous Mummy, all problems solved, and I especially love the big flower at centre front!