sweden

We’re an ecletic bunch here at WeSewRetro.com, and I think it’s enormous fun to get to know a bit more about the people behind the sewing. This month’s featured member is the lovely Pimpinett who burst onto the site with her New Year’s dress.

Read on to get to know her a little better (and if you are not completely charmed by her troll, we can’t be friends anymore…)

How long have you been sewing and why did you start?

I began making clothes for those tiny trolls you can put on the top of a pencil somewhere around first grade. I’ve been interested in clothes, specifically anachronistic and old-fashioned clothes, since I was a kid and began reading costume history at an early age; I remember finding R. Broby Johansen’s Body and Clothes in the school library.

By my early teens that hade sort of got out of hand to a point where I was making miniature crinolines, bonnets and sunshades for the wee things, but I didn’t begin to attempt making things for myself until I was in my late teens – such long, boring seams!

I rarely show these to people, they sometimes creep people out, but we’re all sewers here, I’m sure many of us started out making doll clothes.

The main reasons I eventually started were the usual ones, I think; boredom with the clothes that were available to me and fit issues. I made a nun’s habit, without a pattern or any actual pattern-making or sewing skills, really, for a festival at 20. That was my first serious attempt. It turned out quite well, and I got some actual schooling in sewing and pattern drafting a couple of years later.

I find working with existing patterns frustrating, and although my own pattern drafting and draping skills are a bit limiting sometimes – I hardly ever do more complex pleated or draped cuts or details, for instance, although I like them – I really enjoy the drafting process the most.

What sewing machine do you use?

Mainly a Pfaff Tipmatic 6122, which is one of the last really great Pfaff models, according to a Pfaff enthusiast I met somewhere; but I’m a bit of a vintage machine hoarder. The Pfaff is strong and reliable and although it has quirks, like every machine, I’m very happy with it.

I also use a Singer 201, a 40′s model, for precision straight stitch – pipings and zippers, especially. It does only straight stitch, but it sews the most beautiful straight stitch I’ve ever seen, and gets much closer to bulky edges than the Pfaff does. It’s an unbelievably strong, beautiful and reliable machine.

I also use a vintage Husqvarna, one of those lovely green late 50′s or early 60′s models, as a back-up when the Pfaff is cranky.

I found a ton of interesting Swedish bloggers via your site and am now convinced that Sweden is a hotbed of retrophiles. Previous featured member Erika suggested Sweden’s vintage scene is heavily influenced by a passion for sustainability. What’s your take on it?

I think it is a factor for a lot of people, yes, although not everyone. Personally, I see it as one way of trying to limit my footprint, so to speak. Thinking about how little of the money I would pay for a new, off-the-rack garment actually goes to the person sewing it, or the person weaving the fabric for that matter, or the person exposing themselves to chemicals in the dyeing process, is a mental exercise that motivates me to try to use the enormous privilege I have, as a citizen of a very wealthy country with a high level of social security, in a better way.

Limiting my consumtion, thinking about what I buy and why I buy it, and trying to buy vintage or sustainably produced products when possible are important steps. This is one area where comparatively easy for me to be good, too; I am a collector of random stuff,shopping makes me as happy as it seems to make everyone else in the Western world happy, but I shop mostly old things and used things, or make my own, and if else I try to support small businesses.

Fabric is difficult to shop responsibly, though; the cheaper local fabric stores often don’t even know the exact material contents of the fabrics they’re selling, let alone how sustainable the production is. I recently promised myself to try to quit buying cheap fabric, out of frustration with the quality issues, mainly, but that’s probably a good idea from a sustainability standpoint as well.

You’re a bit of a perfume hoarder. Which are your favorites?

That’s a hard question. I can’t say that they’re all my favourites, but the majority of the fragrances I own have a relevance of some sort for me. It varies a lot, though, there are seasonal variations and a sort of development of my taste and sense of smell, too – I gradually learn to appreciate more and more things that I didn’t get anything much out of before. This sense of growth and development is a great part of what keeps me hooked, I think, and it’s immensely satisfying in a purely sensualistic way as well, of course.

What’s your favorite outfit you’ve made?

I’ve picked two; one old, one new.

The old one is this mildly insane pink dress I made for a friend’s 30th birthday party three or four years ago. The dresscode for the party was, rather brilliantly, her, the birthday girl herself and her personal style. Since she has a vaguely Grace Kelly kind of 50′s-inspired style, classic, feminine and preppy with a lot of pink, and I needed a party dress anyway, I somehow arrived at the idea of making this… wildly flamboyant, mostly 40′s-inspired cocktail dress? Shocking pink, with a bustle? I don’t know.

It takes a special kind of party and a special kind of mood for me to feel up to wearing it, but I still like it. I have been toying with the idea of lining the inside of the bustle – the undersides of the three concentric egg shapes that make up the bustle, that is – with a contrastic bright red fabric ever since I made the dress.

The dress fabric is an iridiscent dupioni made up of fuchsia and bright red fibres, after all, so there is some method to the madness, but I’m having a hard time finding a red silk that clashes with the pink in the right way. I’ve been thinking of literally covering the undersides with red sequins or red feathers, too, but I haven’t got around to it yet. (Such long, boring seams..!)

The shoe hat, a very literal homage to Elsa Schiaparelli, since I’m not likely ever to own an actual Schiaparelli hat, is much newer, but they feel made for one another. Possibly because they both reference my favourite designer.

The new one is a uniform, of sorts, although an entirely fictive one. I love uniforms and collect older female uniforms. Mainly ones that I can wear, but I wear them very sparingly and try to take as good care of them as possible, of course, which creates a need for play uniforms that I needn’t be so careful of.

Also, I like a certain tension between authenticity and fiction – I have made several uniform-inspired dresses that don’t look authentic at all, for instance, but I want one or two that fool the eye as well.

This is one of them, and this is the fabric that made me forswear bargain bin fabrics too, by the way. I love the colour, though, and it works, once I decided to interface the hell out of it.

I did a fair amount of old-fashioned tailoring on the jacket, interfaced the whole body with horsehair interfacing and basted practically everything. It paid off, I think. I love the fit. The skirt is less of a success, not being entirely interfaced with horsehair, but it’s alright, it looks suitably frumpy for a uniform skirt and I think I’ll get a lot of use out of it.

The cap is good. I’m pleased with it, and obviously I’m mostly happy with the suit as a whole, since I’m showing it off here.

 

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Didn’t I tell you that troll was completely adorable :D

Pimpinett’s blog is mostly in Swedish, but if you’re using Google Chrome to browse the web, you can translate it easily with a single click.

 

If you’re not using Chrome, Google Translate does the same job with just slightly more hassle.

 

Read about the exploits of past featured members here:

 

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If you’ve only just joined us, you might have missed our first couple of features, on BoPeep and PatternVault.

This month’s lovely lady has been with us as a reader for years, but only recently took the plunge to post one of her creations. And what a creation it was! I think I heard us all simultaneously say “ooooohhh” when Erika made her first post. Despite the hectic Christmas season, she graciously agreed to give us access to the creator behind the coat…

Hi Erika! So, how long have you been sewing and why do you do it?

I’ve known the basics since I was a child, and got my sewing machine when I was 7. It’s a machine my grandmother bought in the 50s, and I’m still using it. It weighs a ton, doesn’t do buttonholes, but it can sew through anything and the stitches are straight and even.

However, while I’ve always known the basics, it wasn’t until I joined the medieval society SCA that I began sewing in earnest. I then sewed for the simple reason of having anything at all to wear to the events, an excellent motivator that effectivly silenced the perfectionist in me and let me just get all those hours of setting the theoretical knowlegde in my backbones.

Bernina Sewing Machine
Today I sew clothes for everyday wear, but with the same eye to historical inspiration, I’ve just switched the 14th century for the 40s =)

Sewing vintage/retro really did start as costume sewing for me. I wanted something to wear to the lindy hop dances, something that would feel “authentic”, so I searched for information on the fashion from the 30s/40s, and slowly it’s gone from dance outfits to my everyday style. In the process I stumbled over the amazing vintage- and/or sewing community online, and what started as a hobby is now a lifestyle.

During this process I’ve discovered not only what styles I like to wear, but also how clothes should fit. It’s become so very easy not to buy RTW, as nothing ever fits as I now want it to.

1570s Flemish gown

I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Sweden. How would you describe the area where you live? Is there a thriving vintage scene?

I guess Sweden isn’t first on most people’s travelling agenda =) I live in northern Sweden, a beautiful landscape that’s light in the summer (literally it doesn’t get 100% dark, although the sun does set, just below the horizon) and dark in the winter.

As winter tends to cover almost 6 months, it’s a good thing I love snow, cold and sewing wool!

Winter in Umeå
Seriously, who would not love winter when it looks like this?

Sweden’s a fairly small nation, with only 9 million inhabitans, but it does have a great vintage scene. Not that many vintage superbargains to be found, but a lot of people dressing vintage. Vintage here is for many closely linked to sustainable living, as a part of making an effort to lessen our impact on nature by consuming less factory-new things.

What is it that appeals to you about vintage sewing?

I love the styles! The 30s with all the interesting cuts, ruffles, pockets, shirrings and overall details is my favorite to look at, the 50s feminine elegance always seems right when dressing up, but for everyday wear it’s the 40s practical, comfortable, downtoned classy-ness I turn to.

I adore all the fun details and techniques that comes with vintage patterns! I’m also partial to the types of fabrics suited for vintage sewing, as sewing medieval taught me that natural fabrics (linen, wool, cotton, silk) are the best to wear and the best to work with.

30s Loveliness

I’ve hesitantly and with great caution recently started playing around with synthetic fabrics – it’s a whole new world! Not totally convinced yet that it’s a better world…

I know you love to Lindy Hop and teach medieval dance…how did you get involved in those two very different styles? Which one do you prefer?

They are indeed very different! But then I really love all types of dancing… When joining the medieval society, it was a given for me to take to the historical dancing being taught. It’s very special, with many choerographies, geometrical patterns done by sets of dancers etc.

I’ve flirted with a lot of modern dances, but when I tried lindy hop it was love at first step. Six years later it’s still the most joy-bringing hobby I know. The jazz, the playfulness of the moves and rythms, the finetuned lead/following, it’s impossible to not smile while dancing lindy!

Dancing

I have to admit, all my other hobbies tends to come second to lindy, one of the reasons why my sewing takes a halt when the dance scene is very intense. I’ve barely even been to a medieval event since the lindy hop caught me… (I have still been teaching medieval dance though)

What’s your favorite outfit that you’ve made?

Erhm… I know I’ve already posted about it, but I have to confess: everyday when I slip it on, I fall in love again with my coat. I love the quality of the materials, the cut of the bodice, the fit and how very comfortable these things makes a coat that weighs a lot when you just hold it.

Coat
Another favorite is a red dress I made in 40s style. I made the pattern myself and the fabric is an organic interlocked cotton jersey. Again, comfort is important, and this dress is the easiest I’ve ever worn. I like the cut on the bodice and I also like the colour. This was my first attempt at working with knits, but I’m certain there will be more knits in my future as this make is my go-to dress for all semi-formal events. Comfort and style in harmony!

Red swing dress

Finally, you’ve got to teach us how to say “Wow Erika, your coat is amazing!” in Swedish ;)

Lol! Absolutley: “Wow, Erika, din kappa är fantastisk!”

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Ok everyone, altogether now “Wow, Erika, din kappa är fantastisk!” Let us know what you thought of the feature in the comments below. You can get to know Erika better over at her blog.

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