VINTAGE VISIT: downton abbey!!!

My MIL came to visit us last week and one of our cultural excursions was to none other than Highclere Castle, otherwise known as DOWNTON ABBEY!!!!!!! The castle is only 16 miles from our new place so we had to go, plus my mum and MIL like Downton as much as I do. After cream tea (tea with scones, jam and clotted cream) in the tea room, we did the tour of the house and gift shop (!) and then lunched in the gardens shaded underneath the trees. 

Of course I couldn't miss the opportunity to photograph one of my makes, a Sewaholic Lonsdale. I used a neon green abstract floral quilting cotton I got on sale. I absolutely love the fit of this dress- I already bought the Saltspring to make next as the pear shaped sizing is perfect for me. I decided to cut a size 4, despite my measurements being a size 6, as the finished measurements would have been too roomy for my taste. I like to just knot the ties in the back as a bow won't fit underneath my denim jacket but it's great to have options.

Zeke approves of the ties for fiddling with, luckily the knot is secure! 

The length looks great with heels but I do find it a little unflattering in flats (no pun intended?). I do want to make the maxi length if I can find a fabric with a nice drape that is affordable enough to buy the 3.4 metres it takes. I can't decide whether to make another flora, another lonsdale or trace out the saltspring. So instead I keep watching season 2 of Orange is The New Black!

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EXTRAS: bhl flora in fauna

I picked up the BHL Flora pattern at the Knitting & Stitching show in London and paired it with some printed cotton I had in my stash. I wasn't sure how it would fit as I have only made the Anna dress so far by BHL so it started as a wearable muslin. The fit came out pretty good, a teensy bit roomy in the bust as usual, but not enough to spur me on to do an SBA for the next one. I was so pleased with it that I wore it to the Christening of my cousins little girl. The floral print was a good match for a garden party and felt very summery.  

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The wrap bodice gave me the perfect opportunity to use a brooch I bought last year and haven't had anything to go with. The colour is perfect for the fabric and does a good job of holding the top together. I did use the twill tape method suggested on the sewalong and will do it again on any future wrap styles. I finished the hem with white ready made bias tape and machine stitched a deep hem which is lost in the print, admittedly I have since made a Flora skirt in a solid and used the same technique as the circular hem is so wide I can't face hand stitching it! I will make this dress again for sure, but I have a few other unopened patterns I am itching to do first- Sewaholic Lonsdale coming soon!

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EXTRAS: curtain jamie shift

You might recognise this print from Sew Classic Kristin's Betty Draper dress. That's because we bought it together ages ago in the NYC garment district. Mine was a curtain panel in our Brooklyn apt before I recycled it to make this Jamie Shift from the Burdastyle Vintage Modern book. 

I didn't have enough fabric to do any print placement, hence the off centre mirror design. I had to underline too as the light ground was too sheer. I wanted to have a free hanging lining but I was worried the seam allowance would show through around the armholes and neckline. After having made another dress since this, also with a lighter ground and the seam allowance is not visible really, I would probably just do a shell and lining to omit the facing as it feels a little bulky underlined.

 I cut a size 38 as is my standard size for Burdastyle but the chest seems very large to me, I tried to take it in at the side seams a smidge but then it was too tight across the back so I must need an SBA, drag. I think it's still wearable but I wish the fit did the print justice! It's also verrrrry short on me (I'm around 5'7") so I will consider this a wearable muslin and will make any future Jamie's a couple inches longer too for modesty at the playgound. Can't deny the comfiness of this style though, and it's very Megan Draper-esque!

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EXTRAS: forties style tea dress

I wanted to work with some straight up cotton after having used a lot of slippery fabrics lately. I found this really cool printed cotton on sale at Beales and already had a pattern in mind- Simplicity New Look 6183. I used the bodice from view B paired with the sleeves from view A for the most forties style possible. When I first tried on dress after setting in the sleeves I was a little unhappy with how dramatic they looked on me compared to the illustration, but they grew on me after wearing it a while. I think the flared hem balances it out nicely too.

I did french seams as I had made a muslin so knew this wouldn't need adjusting and took the time to do a handpicked hem, which I have been doing a lot lately. I think when I do french seams it seems a shame to have a machined hem whereas when I overlock all the seams it's more of a RTW style so I feel less guilty! I did serge the zip seam allowance and neck facing as I prefer that to a folded edge. I love the gathers at the princess seams in the bodice area in this pattern. I ended up unpicking the waistline as it wasn't as smooth as the muslin. I always think I won't mind a little puckering and sewing for myself should be fun not a chore! but then it really bugs me so I have to redo it. The brooch is from my Gma's jewellery collection which was passed down to me, I think she would have liked this dress as she was a model in the forties!

The back view is pretty plain, I didn't worry about print placement as it is so crazy anyway, I just made sure the direction was all the same. I hope I wear this dress despite the fact that I have to pull it down occasionally (maybe a padded bra would help?!) Overall I like the style and love the fabric, I might even buy more and make something else, possibly a Sewaholic Lonsdale... I also like having a go to forties dress for any vintage festivals I hope to go to this summer. I am definitely more of a summer sewing gal, bold prints and bright colours not to mention iced coffee as my hand sewing beverage!

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VINTAGE VISIT: york and fairfax house

I haven't posted in my vintage visit series in a while but last week we went to the historic viking city of York, I remember going there as a child and it was really fun to see it again and take pictures this time. 

Zeke fell asleep in the pushchair so I was able to run into Fairfax House and see their exhibition of Georgian accessories. I immediately thought of "The Duchess" of course! They also have an amazing gift shop where I got some gifts for upcoming birthdays.

Above left: false eyebrows- historically made of mouse skin! beauty patches, cheek plumpers- which were worn on the inside of one's cheek, and the Ariel style bra was labelled as "breast pads". Above right: quilted silk cream jumps- worn beneath an open jacket or gown.

Above: mid eighteenth century stomacher- embroidered cream silk and linen, attaches to the bodice of a gown. I love floral detailing like this, embroidery is on my long list of things I want to learn along with knitting and quilting.

Above left: "pet en l'air" in undyed cotton- more feminine style riding habit Above right: riding habit in grey and blue cotton.


I really recommend York as a beautiful city to visit. We loved the Jorvik centre, their small but fun museum with a ride through a viking village. The city centre is full of girly boutiques and tearooms that were not toddler appropriate but would be perfect for a girls day out!

This is pretty much how all our day trips end...

I am currently working on my 40's style tea dress and it is such a pleasure to sew in cotton again!

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BEHIND THE SCENES: "atonement" inspired dress tutorial

After a really busy month I have finally put the tutorial together for my "Atonement" inspired dress. If you missed the post on what materials you will need you can find it here. I made four alterations to the pattern Vintage Vogue 2859: 

Slash and spread skirt: the pattern I am using is much narrower in the hem than the "Atonement" dress I am recreating, so to add some fullness, although not as much as the original as I find it to be a little too dramatic for my taste, I used the slash and spread technique. Draw three evenly spaced lines, not including seam allowances, vertically down the front and back skirt pieces starting at the lengthen/shorten line down to the hem.


Cut along the lines. Spread the sections out evenly with around 2" in between each section when you pin/weight the pieces down to the fabric. The larger your gaps the fuller the lower part of the skirt will be. 


Cut the fabric on the bias: dresses were often cut on the bias in the 1930's as it gave a very flattering, slinky silhouette. Invented by fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet, bias cut means to cut the fabric on the diagonal, 45 degrees to the warp and weft threads as opposed to cutting the fabric on the straight grain (parallel to the selvedge) or cross grain (perpendicular to the selvedge). Lay the pieces out as per the cutting diagram but rotate them diagonally 45 degrees to the selvedge. I didn't cut the insert or the straps on the bias as they need to be sturdy enough to hold all the larger pieces together without stretching.

Reverse insert: use the matte (wrong) side of the fabric for the diamond shaped insert on the centre front of the bodice to emulate the original dress.

Make sash: as shown in the diagram below use the remainder of the fabric (I bought five metres total) to create the sash by squaring off the sides with a snip and tear and cut the piece in half length wise. Sew the two long strips together at the ends to make an even longer rectangle and hem all around. Tie around the waist and then wrap around the hips and knot in the front. 

After making these pattern alterations just follow the pattern instructions for the construction of the dress!


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