Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Some Patterns feel obligitory

One of the things that has become very apparent since I started working with retro and vintage patterns is that some designs, no matter how flawed, seem to be obligatory to make. For example Butterick 4790 also known as the “walk away dress”, or as we have dubbed it the “deceptively evil dress from hell”, and this one Butterick 4792 or what we call the “boxy dress”.

Not quite as evil as it’s spawn of Satan cousin the walk away dress, the boxy dress has a way of unflattering even the most flattering figures. Perhaps it is just that the fit is hard to get right but in all bar one of its inceptions that I have seen on my troll through sewing blogs and review websites, every case makes it’s wearer look like they have a box sitting on their hips.

This is me in my version, a black and white masterpiece. Originally it was meant to be all in the spots but apparently the skirt requires much more material than I had anticipated – the outcome was using the white material as the top and the spots as the skirt, though I think I like it like this.

On the top of the list about the positives of this pattern is that the gathering of the skirt, which leaves flat sections across the front and back and side seams allows for a very elegant flow, the downside, if you aren’t be anally retentive about reading the pattern directions it is very easy to miss that you are meant to leave these sections ungathered. The pattern also comes with a sew in crinoline type thing but I omitted that not wanting to have to sit on tulle for the benefit of a few centimetres of lift.

On top of the long list of negatives is the top half. Sure it looks in the drawing like it should be a very interesting feature piece, with its awesome reverse halter look. It seems to be flirty, unique and by instructions simple enough for the most basic seamstress to complete with ease. Realistically, here is the picture now available on the butterick site, as you can see even a professional seamstress (as I assume the people who do the outfits for these shots are) can’t manage to get any bust/waist definition in there.

Now Ange made her version first, and she warned me, “it’s very boxy” she said. Now given that I have a hefty 8 inch difference between bust and waist I thought it would be impossible to cause me to lose bust definition, surely that was just crazy talk.

So I set forth and created this pattern, and overall I must say I was pleased with the result. There are few errors (really only one and you can’t see it in the picture anyway – its a puckered gather in the skirt I did not notice until AFTER I had hand stitched the entire lining in place and I was NOT going to unpick for one teensy almost invisible pucker), and the white top, spotty bottom with a red belt I think looks nice and classic – but as the photo proves, I too look boxy in this style.

Having now written this post though I am consumed with an idea, I wonder if it would work better in a stretch fabric? I guess I could always find out after my next Cabramatta excursion... so long as I go before August.

Tune in soon as I will force Ange to write a long expose on the evils lurking behind the “super easy” walk away dress.... that is once she finishes it, yeah a project over 12 mths in the making.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I got this awesome material from Etsy.

As a bit of background I love yellow, it is my most favourite colour in the whole world, and also just about the worst colour I can wear. It makes me look washed out and sickly. As such I am always on the look out to find ways to incorporate yellow into my wardrobe without it being unattractive. My husband on the other hand loves brown. Does not matter what its for, clothing, interior design, anything can be brown and a winner in his books.

So I saw this material which is both yellow and brown and snapped it up all 4+ yards for an awesome $35USD postage included. When it came in I could not be happier, it is light and airy, with a slight sheen and I think absolutely gorgeous. Plus it is vintage, but just what vintage I can't tell. (there will be another post like this going up as soon as I get a picture of the offending fabric).

So if you have any idea or would like to hazard a guess, the seller indicated that it was either 40's or 50's and I want to make the right vintage outfit out of it (no sense wasting vintage fabric on the wrong era).


Friday, June 18, 2010

a bit about me

Hello I am Ange. I, Like Hef, like vintage stuff and sewing.

So let me tell you of the beginning of this. In the beginning there was costumes. This was what Hef started sewing because buying them is very expensive it's much better to make costumes if they are going to be individual. So she would supply all her friends with costumes also and she would want other people to sew their own rightly so, and so I started sewing. Costumes was very much Hef's passion and I was like sure if you want to teach me then I don't mind.

Then one day we went to a party and Hef wore her vintage dress she had just bought from the vintage fair. It was a 40s woolen dress that made her hourglass figure that she has stand out amazingly. She had her hair in victory rolls and I went "Wow. Want." So I started researching.

I found a free pattern online for a 50s dress and started using all the sewing knowledge she had given me to make the dress. I didn't let her know just incase I failed terribly. I also wanted to see if I had the knowledge to do it all on my own. I did! and that was my first dress.

Since then Hef and I have joined forces and have a whole tonne of patterns between us as well as dresses. We have also branched out from 30s to 70s. My loves are more 50s and 70s and sometimes 60s as well but sometimes you'll find a nice dress in another era and it will be good.

I now have a good stash of material and I want to make a coat and gloves and a scarf cause we are in winter and all.

My latest is a 50s dress that is in the making is a winter long sleeve green in a stretch that looks a little like linnen. It will have a cape over the top in a grey wool lined in the green and I want to make a scarf and gloves out of the grey.

I also have plans for a black coat which I have started tracing.

Pictures to come.

So that's me and my history.

The Workwear Project

Recently (as I am want to do at intervals) I went a little crazy on Etsy. I mean 20 new sewing items including 18 new patterns crazy, but what can I say the AUD$ was strong. The large bulk of these purchases were 1940's patterns, a couple of 50's, a couple of 60's and 70's and one or two 30's but over half were 40's patterns.

I probably should explain the 1940's interest, since I started on the 1950's silhouette, it seems strange to move back to the less "pretty" more practical 1940's patterns, but I bought and made a 1940's retro reproduction pattern from butterick, and I found that besides being able to make the pattern in less than half the normal material requirement of the 1950's patterns, the silhouette was feminine without being "girly", flattering without the poof, and suddenly the 40's seemed to be my era, and collecting of the patterns begun. Though sometimes I wish it was the 70's I loved as the patterns are not only cheaper but more readily available.

In any case, I received the 18 or so patterns from various sellers, raided the fabric stash that at present I will call cloth mountain, and decided to start with the making of Hollywood pattern 1268. I forgot to look for it's print date before I left home this morning, and the wiki, has not got it listed (though funny on wiki the blue outfit is green weird).

Now for an Etsy Review - this pattern was bought from Vessangel. Service was fast and efficient, in total I bought 4 patterns off her and they came in plastic sleeves with cardboard backing to keep them in good condition despite the travel an the price was reasonable.

The pattern consists of a jerkin with waist slashes, a blouse with a bit neck bow and a box pleated skirt.... and I love box pleats. The picture is of the actual pattern i have, so at size 18 it is my measurements almost to a tee. Bonus no resizing needed.

My thoughts were that this would be a great pattern to wear to work and I had all the required materials. White cotton for the shirt, I have 75m of this (long story involving toga's.) so any project that can help soak up some of that slack is ok by my hubbies standards, the Jerkin could be the left over black cotton sateen from a project last year (7m of it was left over but I traded out 3.5 to Ange and made a shift with the rest, so the 1.5m left over was perfect for this jerkin) and for the skirt (and little belt likely) I could use a plaid I bought a heap of (no idea how much but it is 150cm bolt about 1.5inch radius of material and I got it all for $15) which is a black/white/cream/bone combo.

This post actually comes a little late as I have just about completed the jerkin, however I won't put up any pictures until the whole thing is complete... maybe a couple of weeks. I am trying to take my time and do things right for a change, which isn't easy with a perforated pattern.

Wish me luck


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FA Meeting

Hi, my name is Hef and I'm a faric-holic.

I have more fabric than a small fabric shop. Buckets and Boxes and Piles of fabric abound my 'sewing' Room. Folded, on Rolls, scrunched into bags, some cut out ready to make something that I have just given up on.... I am surrounded by it, but I can't stop myself from buying more.

I have about 10 shades of black in cotton varieties - from poplin to sateen, not to mention the 75m of white poplin. I have stripes, spots, bugs, checks and plaids. I have reds, greens, pinks, purples, browns, greens.... I even have some strange silver stuff thats kinda shiny/wet looking, 7m of it, and I have no idea why I bought it, it really isn't me.

So in an effort to save my marriage, sanity and money - I will be swearing off buying any fabric for the months of August through to Novemeber. My fabric hording partner if crime, Ange will be joining me in this cold turkey attempt to cure a truely horrible addiction.


1. We will not buy any new fabric between the 1st of August and the 31st October. (though swapping amongst ourselves and others is fine, just can't hand over cash)
2. we will not buy any new patterns between the 1st of August and the 31st October (again we can raid/borrow from each other or from any other kind sewer)
3. gifts need not be knocked back - and if the gift is a certificate to a fabric store then "new" fabric can be acquired.
4. records will be kept of the meterage we manage to clear out of our stashes, as a reminder as to why we should not hoard.
5. yum cha may still be had at cabramatta if we think we are strong enought to just say no.
6. a photo of the stash will be added for the beginning of the challange.
7. any item completed will be blogged with an indication of how long the stash fabric has been laying around.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Welcome to the Angelic Cow Blog

So what is this blog for, I guess that is important to get out there right at the beginning. I mean I already have a Live Journal to emo out on about anything that annoys me so for what purpose am I, or rather I should say we since this will be a group effort, going to use this blog.

This is a place for myself (Hef) and my partner is stitching crime (Ange) to post about the stuff we have made, patterns we have scored, and hopefully be able to link into and get advice from a wider community of sewers than we currently have.

So a little about us:

That's Ange in the Pink and I am Hef, in the red, obviously.

I did sewing at school, and despite having a mother who sewed really well and made the costumes for the dance school, to put it frankly I sucked and I hated it, dropped it as soon as I was able and did not touch it again until I was about 20.

A friend of mine, who is an awesome sewer, agreed to "help" me make some garb for an SCA event. I often got my mothers "help" on things I wanted sewn, but this friend of mine had a very different view of helping me. Not accepting here's the fabric hand me the garment method of help my mother had often gave I found myself once again behind the evil sewing machine, and what do you know the in the 5 year gap I had gotten much more coordinated, I could even do a straight seam.

Since then I haven't stopped, I have a wardrobe full of costumes in all variety of concept, renaissance to fantasy, Victorian to Elizabethan. Lets just say I went a little nuts on sewing costumes. It wasn't an entire waste though, being a LARPer I had place to use these costumes. Eventually I was sewing costumes for up to 7 people at a time for roleplaying convention weekends. Left is just a small sampling of one such event. (I am sitting in the centre and Ange is the far right) At this one in particular there were 7 pirate costumes and 7 victorian costumes to finish in about 3 months. As you can assume I required a LOT of help to get this stuff done and most of that help came in the form of the girls in that picture (known as the Girlsquad).

Whilst I did most of the actual sewing Ange got into the begininng steps of sewing, tracing, cutting and pinning for me and found that she enjoyed it. Enjoying it so much so that she decided to begin makeing stuff of her own.

I had never branched out of costumes for two reasons. The first it that I did not have enough skill (I thought) to actually wear anything I had made myself and not look special. Secondly and this was the big issue at the end, costume allowed me a lot of creative license. Trims, fancy finishes, nothing was going to be "to much" on the finished product, where as modern clothing meant boring to me.

And so it was Ange my dutiful apprentice that pushed the limits and decided to branch herself into "wearable" clothing, though not the traditional modern patterns, but developed a keen interest in vintage styles, specifically the 1950's. Downloading a pattern from the internet she set out to create a dress on her own, without my guidance, in a 1950's style and this was the beginning of our adventures into vintage land.

So where does that leave us now, with collectively about 5 boxes of vintage patterns, an awesome wardrobe of vintage replica clothing and many a fun sewing day.

So here is a small profile for you:

Name - Hef
Favourite Era - Tie between 1940's and 1960's for everyday and 1920's and 1930's for evening
Sewing Specialty - Fast, with a mind for fixing problems as they arise
Sewing downfall - Things have a tendancey to not look professional due to the not following patterns properly. There is always something wrong with everything I make as I am sure you will come to know.

Name - Ange
Favourite Era - 1950's all the way
Sewing Specialty - Precise and Neat, working slowly through a pattern and unpicking when necessary to get a proper result.
Sewing downfall - A bit to much of a perfectionist and planning ahead can be a problem, otherwise a lack of general experience, I have only been at this for a few years.

For a full story of Anges history in the world of sewing bug her with comments.