Oh, this old thing? – Vintage finds and alterations

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Who has been watching This Old Thing? The lovely Dawn O’Porter has really inspired me to rekindle my love for vintage clothes, so I thought I’d share a few of my experiences with you.

A few years ago I bought a dress advertised as a ‘vintage black lace prom dress’ on eBay. I didn’t pay too much attention to the details (naughty!) as I was too excited about finding the dress and it being in my size and it being a bargain! When it arrived, I tried it on and it was down to my ankles; it looked more ‘Bride of Dracula’ than the 50s prom dress I had in mind. Consequently, the poor dress was shoved to the back of my wardrobe for a very long time.

A few years down the line I had a sewing machine and I needed something fabulous to wear for my New Year’s Eve party. I remembered the dress and thought maybe I could do something with it. I imagined it being shorter and wasted no time hacking about 20 inches of the bottom. The original hem was very simple; it had just been turned up and secured in place with a neat row of stitches on both the lace overlay and the lining underneath. I replicated this at just below knee-length, added a super fluffy petticoat et voilà:

Vintage prom dress
Vintage prom dress

I felt like a million dollars and so very smug with myself because nobody else in the world would have the same outfit as me.

After watching This Old Thing, I was inspired to recreate that moment of turning a treasure-chest bargain find into something that worked for me…

Yesterday had a night out planned with the girls and I panicked in the morning when I realised I didn’t have a stitch to wear. On my way to the shops for an emergency shopping spree, I though it wouldn’t hurt to pop in a few vintage shops just in case there was something amazing before resigning myself to the high street (boring!).

I found this beauty in Oxfam Original for a mere tenner!

Oxfam Original dress
Oxfam Original dress

My boyfriend was nearly sick when I took it off the rail (it’s a rainbow skirt maxi dress with a velvet top). It screamed 80s (I think), but I saw the potential in it and defiantly tried it on. It fit so nicely at the top but the length was too dated. I imagined it knee-length and hooray I had a dress! (and avoided the overcrowded high street shops on a Saturday afternoon – phew!).

I hurried home, chopped 17 inches off the bottom of the skirt, did a quick 1cm hem (again just replicating the original)…

Chop chop!
Chop chop!
1cm hem
1cm hem

did an awkward pose…

Strike a pose!
Strike a pose!

…and I was all set! My friends were pretty impressed with my efforts too:

Girls night out
Girls night out

Now I’m hooked on vintage again and this little bad boy is on the top of my reading list:

This Old Thing
This Old Thing

Until next time, wear vintage! It’s fun!

Lauren

[Soundtrack: ‘This Charming Man’ by The Smiths]

Brigitte

Coucou!

So I decided to make my first piece from Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes; the Brigitte scarf.

Brigitte Scarf
Brigitte Scarf

I can’t remember what material the fabric is, but I picked it up from the remnants section from Abakhan, Manchester. It’s a beautifully soft navy and white silk blend or satin. I should have tested the fabric with my walking foot before constructing the scarf; but, I was too excited and just went ahead and sewed it with a regular needle and sewing foot.

Regular stitching can pucker delicate fabrics
Regular stitching can pucker delicate fabrics

I did find it tricky to work with such a delicate and slippery fabric. It dragged slightly under the pressure of the needle; but, luckily it turned out alright when I made a bit of tension by pulling it slightly as I guided it through. You live and learn!

A great tip is to invests in a mini iron and ironing board so that you can quickly press your seams as you go along without having to leave your sewing desk. Do test the heat though, and maybe use a cloth to protect your fabric if needed. Yes, I learned the hard way (I melted my first attempt – oops!).

Press at your desk!
Press at your desk!

I followed Tilly’s clear instructions from start to finish, and once I got over a few hiccups I was on my way to having a beautiful handmade accessory. The final step was to add a neat row of stitching to the opening after turning it inside out and giving it a good press:

Finishing stitches
Finishing stitches

So here is the finished scarf, looking slightly less glamorous on my head than it would on Brigitte Bardot:

Channeling Brigitte Bardot
Channeling Brigitte Bardot

Lessons learned from this make:

  • Use quality thread
  • Use a fine needle
  • Maybe use a walking foot next time
  • Test the heat of your iron to avoid melting beautiful fabric

Do you have any other tips for working with delicate fabrics?

Gros bisous!

Lauren

[Soundtrack: ‘Moi je joue‘ by Brigitte Bardot]

Learn to crochet and knit for a granny-chic twist on your wardrobe and home.

Hello creative kitties,

I have been feeling very inspired to improve my knitting and crochet skills after reading Granny Chic, which my dear sister Jade Barnes bought for me.

I mastered the basic stitches a few years ago after pestering my mum to teach me. Eventually her patience paid off and I’ve made a few projects since then. Nowadays I dedicate much more time to crafts, so it seems like a good time to share some of my experiences so far on my shiny new blog.

Yarn and book, needles and hook.
Yarn and book, needles and hook!

Some knitting and crochet patterns, such as the ones featured in Granny Chic, require you to have mastered the basic skills before attempting to make the projects. If you are a beginner, I would recommend that you dedicate time to learning the basics by investing in some supplies and a book for beginners. Also, follow free online tutorials such as :  learn to knit and learn to crochet. Then, like me, you will soon be able to move on to more advanced patterns like the crochet tea cosy made by a fellow craft blogger, which is featured in Granny Chic. I can’t wait to make this! Watch this space.

“So if you too have a fondness for vintage fabrics, yarny goodness and forgotten finds with a tale to tell, then this book will be your cup of tea.” Granny Chic.

Please don’t feel intimidated by the terminology and don’t be too quick to give up; with a bit of perseverance you’ll be knitting, purling and casting-off before you know it. Remember that crafts should be fun! I went along to a Creative Stitches and Hobbycrafts show last year and ended up taking part in a knitting competition to find the person who could knit the most stockinette stitches in three minutes. Some of the older ladies had years of experience and sparks were coming off their needles! I didn’t come last, thankfully, but more importantly it was such good fun; it’s the taking part that counts.

Once you have grasped the basics, why not start with a really easy project like knitting a little hat for the Innocent Big Knit campaign? Innocent put the little donated hats on their juices and smoothies and share a percentage of the proceeds with Age UK. The doddle hat is a perfect for beginners. Here’s one I made earlier:

(Drum-roll please…)

My very 'doddle' hat!
My very first ‘doddle’ hat!

Or why not experiment with the basic stitches and design your own creations? I made this colourful and cosy snood by using 5mm knitting needles and a couple of balls of multicoloured double-knit yarn. I cast on stitches until I reached the desired width of my snood and then used a knit 2, purl 2 pattern to get a ribbed effect until I reached the right length before casting-off. I then used the same yarn and a darning needle to attach the two ends together, et voilà:

Knit 2, purl 2 snood
Knit 2, purl 2 snood

Or you could get festive and start making Christmas decorations by following patterns such as the ones featured in Twenty to Make Mini Christmas Knits? Here’s my attempt at making the heart tree decoration:

Blanket stitch tree heart
Blanket stitch tree heart

Finally, why not store your supplies in an eye-catching knitting bag? My mum made this one for me using retro floral-print thick linen and plastic handles purchased from a local haberdashery store. I stitched on the daisy chain trim to make it even lovelier.

Retro-inspired knitting bag
Retro-inspired knitting bag

I do hope you have enjoyed my insight to getting crafty with wool. Please feel free to share any tips and resources for improving in the comments section.

A très bientôt !

Lauren

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.

Bonjour!

This post is all about creating an inspiring and organised sewing space to keep you motivated and to avoid frustration during your projects.

Here’s what my ‘sewing area’ used to look like in my crowded little flat…

Old sewing space

(…it’s the tiny desk in the corner by the blinds if you are struggling to see it through the mass of Christmas shopping on the floor).

I did manage to make some nice pieces (see below) despite the lack of space, but the finishing wasn’t as neat as it could have been and the perfectionist in me won’t let me wear them anymore until they are just right. For example, I rushed my first attempt at bias binding and hemming, and the result was a bit wonky.

Party Dress
Work Christmas party dress in black taffeta, made using Vogue Vintage Pattern V8789
Sundress made using Vogue Vintage pattern V8788
Sundress in floral cotton, made using Vogue Vintage pattern V8788

In a nutshell, my previous attempts at making beautiful garments were hindered by an inadequate sewing space, my tendency to rush by setting myself unachievable deadlines, and attempting patterns that were (if I’m honest) just too advanced for me. It got to a point when sewing felt more like a chore than a hobby.

As soon as I admitted all this to myself I instantly felt better about sewing again. I also felt inspired to rekindle my love for sewing after reading Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes.

“Whether you’re sewing on the kitchen table or in your very own craft room, you’ll want to make your space both practical and pretty. Having easy access to your tools, keeping things organised and having a beautiful space that inspires you to create can make a huge difference to your sewing productivity.”  Tilly Walnes.

By this point my boyfriend and I had moved in with his parents to save up for a house, which meant I had even less space to play around with! I decided to follow Tilly’s advice and also go back to basics, always measure twice and cut once, and vow to never again set myself a silly deadline.

We invested in a suitable desk from Ikea to house my machine and other equipment, and a storage unit to keep my fabric organised. Here’s the finished setup:

My new sewing space
My new sewing space

So now I’m all set and ready to make beautiful clothes again. I’m going to start by making some key wardrobe pieces from Love at First Stitch so keep an eye out for more posts soon. If you have any sewing storage tips then please do share. Feel free to ask any questions you might have about my sewing equipment and thank you for reading.

Until next time,

Lauren