Accessories | Applique | Burlesque / Pinup | Embroidery

A new year’s project

By on January 5, 2013

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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1950s | Accessories | Applique | Vintage Sewing

A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

By on December 30, 2012

This year for my soon to be family I decided to make them each a little something.  In my opinion homemade gifts can be the best option.  I wanted to make something cute with and old school feel to it.  What I ended up making was pears.  Now the funny thing was, when I went to Michael’s they had the perfect cards.  So, I made my pears to match.

 

The pear ornaments are consist of felt, embroidery floss and ribbon.

 

Below is the template for the pieces.  Feel free to save them or print them out.  When you do print them out be sure to choose full page option so they will be the correct size.

 

To make the ornament, I chose 2 contrasting colors of felt and white felt. One color would be for the main part of the pear, and the other for the small circle.  The white was for the medium size circle, and the leaf.

 

Once I cut all the pieces out of the felt, I sewed the small circle to the larger circle.  I used a modified blanket stitch.

After that I sewed the circles to the front piece (of the pear cut out) using the same modified blanket stitch.

 

I then, sewed both the front and back pieces of the pear together using a blanket stitch.   Lastly, I sewed a ribbon to the back and wah-la a pear ornament!

 

Some optional additions can be the leaf at the top.  I added small rhinestone to mine to give them a little sparkle.

Let me know what you think and I would love to see what others come up with for this pattern!

 

Happy Crafting!

Nikki

To see more, check out my blog at http://retro-phile.blogspot.com/

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1940s | Applique | Dresses | Embroidery | Vintage Sewing

A Labour of Love

By on November 17, 2012

I saw this vintage dress on FabGabs.com and fell in love. I had to have something similar so set about recreating it.

 

My pattern is a hodgepodge from other projects- sleeves from a 40’s style evening dress I made for a client, bodice slashed and spread from a slim fitting shirt block and bias skirt developed from a 30’s style pj top pattern I made myself earlier this year. I have to admit I am pretty darned pleased with the results.The main fabric is a heavy satin backed silk crepe and the velvet is a silk & rayon mix. How to re-create the embroidery posed a small problem as hand embroidering it wasn’t something I wanted to spend weeks on and not something I’m very good at anyway. So I came up with a cunning plan… and re-purposed a lovely embroidered upholstery sample I had. To do this first I cut out the areas of embroidery I wanted to use leaving a good margin around the stitching edges and ironed BondaWeb on the back to stabilise it. Then I trimmed very close to the embroidery, lightly ironed it in place on the velvet yoke and pockets and lastly blanket stitched all the edges in place with silk buttonhole thread. I did try a sample first without the BondaWeb but the  embroidery started to fall apart as I was edge sewing it so some kind of stabilising was definitely needed. This is my version:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making it didn’t go entirely smoothly. I had to reset the left sleeve three times before I got it to hang the way I wanted. Then a certain amount of messing about with making different size shoulder pads and what best to round out the sleeve cap with (felt in the end, rather like in some jackets) was needed. The hem has been done twice. After the first time it was an inch too long to wear with a particular coat so knowing it would really bother me I did it again. Doing the multiple rows of shirring was a bit tedious too. Even so I’m intending to use the pattern again soon with some rayon flower print fabric as the shape is very flattering to wear. It should all go much more easily second time around!

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1950s | Applique | Embroidery | Skirts

Mad Tea Party Skirt, planning part one

By on October 17, 2012

Hello hello!

I have An Idea for a circle skirt, which is probably terribly misguided, but I’m going to do it anyway, which is why I am asking the lovely WeSewRetro community for guidance.

 

Joann Fabrics has the most adorable teapot-print novelty fabric, which I’ve been dying to make a skirt out of.  Unfortunately, the teapots seem too directional and busy to make anything but a dirndl out of, and I’d rather have a circle skirt.  SO, I formulated a plan.  I ironed some Heat n Bond Lite iron-on adhesive to the back of some teapot fabric and cut out about 50 little teapots.  I plan to make a black cotton circle skirt (the patterned one above is just for proof of concept, not the eventual home of the teapots) and applique the teapots to it.  I’m thinking I can do this by ironing all the teapots on for placement and then going around each one with a narrow zig-zag.  Is there anyone with applique-ing experience who has a better idea?

Also, I have a general question… the teapots have three background colors: bright red, medium red, and burgundy.  Should I applique them all with the same color thread, or should I pick up three colors and match the thread with the teapot?

Thanks so much for your help!

 

 

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1940s | Applique | Lingerie | Pattern Drafting

1940’s style french knickers. DIY

By on August 27, 2012

French knickers-a.k.a.tap-pants, petti-pants…. whatever you call them I love them, wear them and keep making more. These are my most recent efforts:

 As a rule I draft my own patterns and while doing these it occurred to me that there is no reason anyone else couldn’t do it too, to their own measurements. It’s a simple skirt block turned into a culotte block. Cut it out in soft thin fabrics, gussie-up with lace and there you have pretty french knickers. The pattern is also the basis for making 20’s/30’s style pyjama bottoms similar to those I made to go with the 1930’s style top I posted a pattern for on my blog a while back.

 

So to that end I’ve written a knicker  drafting tutorial for the DIY pattern-making inclined. At the end is included how to turn the pattern into an elasticated-waist wide-leg 30’s lounging pj style as well. There is also a brief text-only knicker sewing tutorial that accompanies it.   However, in a couple of weeks I’m hosting a full french knicker sew-along for those who’d like more pictorial step-by-step sewing instructions. (If you don’t wish to draft your own I even posted a pattern in two different sizes UK 10&14 (US 6&10))

   The lace bow appliqués..fun to do!.. were inspired by an article in 1939 Marie Claire magazine I bought a few weeks ago.

To make them you take a length of lace, tie it into a bow and tweak it about until you like it. Anchor it with a few pins onto your ironing board and gently press it flat. Carefully place and re-pin it in position on your fabric. I used a small straight stitch to sew it on…without basting first. But I will admit basting would have been a good idea; all the pins really got in the way and there is a big risk of breaking a machine needle. A minor miracle but this time I didn’t.

 

 

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1950s | Applique | Embroidery | Skirts | Vintage Sewing

Felt cactus applique skirt! (using Simplicity 1659)

By on August 12, 2012

Hello fellow sewers!

My boyfriend & I just took a road trip from Northern California to Austin, Texas and along the way we drove thru Arizona. I had never visited Arizona before and was extremely excited to see the saguaro cactus & gorgeous desert landscape! I instantly had the idea to make a cactus skirt for the occasion! I drew inspiration from vintage tourist items, especially the Mexican tourist jackets!

I used Simplicity 1659 (again) as my basic skirt to start out with…

Simplicity 1659

I knew that I wanted to cut the cactus from felt & appliqué them to the skirt using a blanket stitch. Here is my quick sketch of the basic idea…

Before i cut the cactus out of felt, i drew on my skirt with chalk to get a basic idea of the layout.

Next, I drew the shapes of the cactus on my felt with chalk & cut them with a rotary cutter.

Then, I pinned my cactus to the skirt over my chalk layout & began to blanket stitch them to the skirt. This was very time consuming, but also very relaxing.

Finally, I added some details to each cactus by top stitching with my embroidery floss.

 

Here are some finished shots!! I just loved wearing my skirt in Arizona! Some of these photos are taken at the Hotel Congress in Tucson, AZ…if you haven’t been there, i highly recommend it! It is decorated in an art deco southwestern theme & the rooms are as they were in the 1930s..amazing!

 

I can’t wait to use this technique for another project!

-Tina

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1920s | 1930s | Applique | Lingerie | Vintage Sewing

Lingerie in Profile: A Beautiful Lace Bra

By on June 10, 2012

Today over on A Few Threads Loose I posted about a wonderful piece of vintage lingerie from my personal collection. I wanted to share it with all of you over here at We Sew Retro as well because it was just too pretty not to!

This 1930’s bra has many hand made details but has a size 34 label so it was most likely made for resale at a very nice shop. The straps, rosette and binding are all silk ribbon, and the lace is incredibly soft.

Notice the lovely tricolor petals on the silk rosette and these little center pleats to give fullness to the bust… a lovely but futile attempt with a bra that reveals nearly everything.

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