Pimpinett

I finished a UFO that got stuck right after the first fitting, oh, about seven or eight years ago. That calls for celebration, doesn’t it? It’s a fitted suit jacket, aiming for a 40′s silhouette, and it was left unfinished because tailoring is, or was, kind of intimidating; but I really love the fabric, a heavy, bright green vintage herringbone weave in what I’m pretty sure is linen, and I needed a jacket for spring, summer and fall wear, so I went ahead and did it.

There were a few problems, to begin with; I made the pattern a very long time ago and had lost it, of course, so I made a new one from the cut-out pieces for the lining. I also had a couple of remnants of the fabric that I really wanted to make a skirt out of, but the fabric, having spent a number of years in someone’s attic, had a few large sunbleached areas that were unusable and needed to be cut around. I managed to puzzle out a skirt from tiny pieces anyway before I got to work on the jacket, which was stupid, because as it turned out, I hadn’t cut the jacket collar when I cut the rest of the garment. And this green, let me tell you, was not an easy shade to match – for a while I toyed with the idea of making the collar from the only matching fabric I could find, an upholstery canvas, and then covering it with tiny cross-stitching in a matching green mouliné yarn. My mother came to the rescue with a beautiful green silk twill from Burma, though; I sent a small sample of the original fabric with her. The rest of that fabric will hopefully make a nice dress some day.

Also, I had to refit the jacket, again, mostly because I made a false start at it about four or five years ago, did another fitting then and remembered it as being a bit tighter than I like jackets now, for whatever reason. So I put it together with a smaller seam allowance than originally planned to give it some extra ease now, only to find that it was huge on me and needed adjustments in the opposite direction. On the bright side the fabric was lovely to work with, firm but still pliable, with a nice drape for such a heavy fabric. It certainly wrinkles like linen, but that’s mostly only noticeable in the skirt.

The end result is alright for a jacket I made the pattern for almost ten years ago, and a skirt made from impossibly small scraps of fabric. I still love that shade of green and the herringbone texture. I could be happier with some of the details, but I always could, every single time. And I’m getting a lot of wear out of it at the moment. Mission accomplished.

Green linen suit

Suit in action. The snow is gone now, thankfully.

 

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I really enjoy making small cocktail hats and other heavily decorated things to wear on my head. It’s the perfect pleasure project, in many ways; I can whip them up quite fast, usually these things come together for specific parties, they generally don’t require a lot of material, there’s very little fitting, lining and other time-consuming work involved, and it’s fun. It’s as free of performance anxiety as sewing ever gets for me, and it feels festive and playful and exhilarating. I’m not shy about wearing odd stuff on my head, either, so the sky’s the limit, really.

For New Year’s, there was a grand masquerade, and for that you need a mask. I also needed a red sequin evening gown, but the red sequin seaweed fabric got lost in the mail and didn’t arrive until yesterday. Oh, well. Another party, I made a sequinned and beaded red half mask in the shape of a gloved hand anyway – I’m a huge Schiaparelli fan, I love mildly surrealist headwear, and oddly enough my wardrobe didn’t contain a decent mask before this one.

Sketch and base for a mask

I went through a lot of paper copies to get the shape right.

The original idea was to use a lonely actual red leather glove, but that turned out a bit too bulky; I think I’ll try to make a hat out of it at some point instead. So I sketched, cut, folded and ended up with a decent pattern of sorts, which I cut and shaped in this heavy linen/horsehair interfacing. There are two darts in it, so that it follows the curve of the head.

Completed mask base

Nice shape.

Then I added steel wire to the edges, for stability and shape…

Mask shape covered with red cotton

Very three-dimensional.

…and covered the base with plain red cotton poplin, and the inside with peach satin. Outlines of the fingers and glove stitching on the back of the hand marked out, too.

Mask beginning to be covered with sequin ribbon.

This was the fun part, really.

And then I covered the whole thing with sequin ribbon, for plain areas, and red glass seed beads, for contours, shades and outlines.

Mask almost covered in sequins

Almost done.

Strictly speaking the sequinned areas aren’t really lighter than the beaded areas, but I wanted more sequins than beads and when they do reflect light your way, they do it much more brightly, so…

Finished mask.

…I think it worked rather well, anyway. I added a couple of rows of tiny black seed beads to stress the outline of the fingers after this, but it doesn’t make much of a difference; there’s just a little bit more of a contour. It fastens in my hair with four of those little toothed metal clips that are often used on clip-in hair extensions, you know – those are the best thing there is for attaching things securely to hair, even short hair.

The mask being work

This wasn't my first glass of champagne.

And then I wore it, with a marvellously vulgar 50′s dress that I got for New Year’s two years ago. I think it turned out quite well.

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Olive drab uniform

Click for full size.

Hello everyone! It struck me the other day that I’ve been rather productive this year, and I haven’t posted here in ages. This is part of what I’ve been up to.

- Another fictive uniform, because apparently I need more of those. I found a wonderful olive drab Prada cotton twill that feels more like a wool suiting, soft with a nice drape to it, bought less than I should have and managed to scrape a short jacket with sleeves to just past the elbows, a plain skirt and a small side cap out of it. It’s finished off with WWII American Red Cross bakelite buttons, and the embroidered Red Cross armband is German.

The skirt is lined, straight with a very slight flare at the bottom that doesn’t show up in this photo, and the jacked is lined with the interfacing, so to speak, a heavy black linen. I wanted this one to be cool and breathable, but still rather structured. At some point I should take out the sleeves and mess around a bit with the fit in the area around the armhole in front, it’s slightly too wide and loose there, but that’s a later project.

Materials

Off-white wool/poly blend, red cotton and galloon.

And then I made another one for a party, a Victorian circus-themed burlesque night. I don’t really do Victorian right now, so I made a cigarette girl kind of outfit; in part because I like the way they look, and in part because I have a ton of vintage Swedish military gold galloon – those heavy gold bands, you know – that I wanted to try out. In the end I was appointed lion tamer, too, so no cigarette tray.

Back of the jacket during the fitting process.

Back of the jacket during the fitting process.

So. Short, fitted jacket with a stand-up collar, puffed elbow-length sleeves and a pleated peplum in the back, short circle skirt and a pillbox hat, simple enough. I put a lot of heavy interfacing in the front of the jacket to carry all the metal the galloon contains, a very heavy vintage linen/horsehair interfacing fabric I found a roll of ages ago, and ended up flatlining everything with white cotton muslin to counteract the slight transparency of the loosely woven wool blend. The jacket is lined with red cotton. The skirt is unlined, although interfaced with the same white cotton as everything else, and has side seam pockets that aren’t as well hidden as I would have liked. I didn’t want to have to carry a bag, what with the lion and all; she was rather frisky and became completely unmanageable by the end of the night. She did win the costume contest, though – unfortunately the prize was a bottle of champagne, which lasted about a quarter of an hour, but still.

Lion and lion tamer

...and the end result. Prize-winning lion and lion tamer.

I’ve actually never made a pillbox hat before, although I’ve dabbled with hat-making quite a bit, but it has to be fairly straight-forward, right? Simpler hat shapes are hard to think of. I still have a large piece of extra-thick red felt left from the shoe hat, so I used that for both hat sides and top. Ended up cutting down the size of the thing quite a bit – I measured one of my favourite hats, a simple 40′s sailor hat, and used the same height and circumference for starters, but it turned out way too large. I flatlined the main fabric with white cotton, sewed the two pieces together, pressed and made sure the stiff felt pieces fit well into it. Then I added the galloon to the outer layer, hand-basted the felt pieces together, pushed them well into the outer layer, tucked the seam allowance into the hat and sewed it to the inside. It all stays in place with a comb attached to the bottom edge.

I will definitely be making more pillbox hats in the future, they’re easy, flattering and satisfying. This was a fun project.

 

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Vintage floral print cotton fabric with bright red, lemon yellow and pale blue violets on a dark blue background.

Vintage floral print cotton fabric, vintage glass buttons and cotton sateen for interfacing.

Far too long since I posted here. Sorry about that. Anyway; I’ve had this vintage floral cotton lying around for many years, 4 x 0,75 m all in all, and now I’m turning it into a dress. I have no idea how old the fabric is, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cotton woven this narrow. Probably pretty old? I got it from a friend who got it from her mother. Its last incarnation was as a curtain, but I think this fabric has been through more than that – when I unpicked the seams I also unpicked a lot of handmade knots and loose stitches in a fairly thick silk thread with tiny bits of cotton wool or wadding of some sort attached to them from the body of the fabric, and it has some wear and tear that simply hanging in front of a window can’t quite account for. A pillow, upholstery? Seems weird for such a thin, flimsy fabric, but who knows?

Skirt of the dress half finished, with interfacing and basting showing.

Dress skirt half finished.

I like it, bright colours and all, and I also have eight vintage lemon yellow glass buttons with butterflies on them, as well as a lipstick that perfectly matches the red violets in the fabric – MAC Lady Danger! - and who doesn’t need more floral cotton summer dresses? So I got hold of a piece of reasonably matchy blue cotton sateen to flatline it with – it’s worn and a bit fragile, so it really needs lining for strength and stability – and drafted a pattern for a vaguely late 30′s-early 40′s-inspired, front-buttoned dress with a simple shawl collar in one piece with the bodice, slightly gathered bust (the lining has darts instead) and puffed sleeves. The print feels appropriate for that period; it’s too fussy and old-fashioned for a 50′s kind of dress, and I’ve been making simple shirtwaist cotton dresses with shirt collars like nobody’s business the last couple of years, so I need something else.

Next project lined up: in theory, I should make a practical, sturdy pair of knickerbockers, in practice I will probably end up making another fictive uniform for the Pride parade - if there is time. I’m beginning to doubt it.

Dress bodice cut, basted, darted and gathered.

Bodice front and back, before I added the collar facing.

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