Thursday, October 10, 2019

Adventures in England - Nature, Painting, and Fashion

Hadiran's Wall, UK
Chris and I have recently returned from a vacation in Cumbria, UK, visiting the famously gorgeous Lake District.

We rented an airbnb cottage for the entire length of our trip. It was a converted byre of a 17th century farmhouse set off the beaten track.

Wood Farm Cottage, a lovely AirBnB
Most of the days were spent walking in the countryside. We visited Hadrian's Wall, climbed up Gummer's How for an incredible view of Lake Windermere, and ambled around Aira Force taking in the natural spaces.

A chunk of Hadrian's Wall

Painting atop Gummer's How with a view of Lake Windermere

A Gummer's How Cow - omg they were so cute!
I took mostly tweeds with me and put them to good use. I bought a few choice pieces from Walker Slater earlier this year and have been waiting oh-so-patiently for colder weather. It also rained several days, and my 1940s style raincoat was put to good use.

Walker Slater waistcoat and trousers, thrifted shirt, and Royal Vintage "Rosie" boots.
The whole of the Lake District is peppered with painfully quaint and beautiful cottages, pubs, and farmhouses, but there are also grand hotels and former estate mansions too, many of which were best-admired from the decks of the many historic steamers and ferries still operating. We rode the 1930s steam launch Teal between Bowness and Ambleside and down to Lakeside a couple times, but my favorite trip was on the tiny private 1902 steamer Osprey, which launched from the Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats and tootled around islands and far shorelines, quietly puttering along under coal power with its original 1901 two-piston engine.

1901 Steam "Osprey."

Tootling around on "Osprey." It was peaceful and lovely.
My favorite historic house visit was to the Blackwell Arts & Crafts House, a truly gorgeous 1901 manse on the shores of Windermere, full of that wonderful Arts & Crafts aesthetic. There were huge open medieval-inspired fireplaces, hand-painted wall coverings, carved woodwork, stained glass and idyllic window seats. It was peaceful and beautiful on a rainy day. I could've stayed there all day.

The bridge house in Ambleside - the original tiny house built in the 16th century on a former bridge.

Backstreet doodle in Bowness...this must've been a pub.

Rainy-day car painting of a typical Cumbrian farm.
All in all it was a wonderful off-season trip to a beautiful place. I did a few paintings, but I could've drawn and painted 12 hours a day and not captured the scope and detail of the beautiful little villages and rawness of the landscape. Guess that means we'll have to go back!

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Thursday, October 3, 2019


I Made a Vintage Style Raincoat...Somehow

I live in the desert.

We get, oh, a handful of days of novelty rain per year  and so a raincoat is not something that regularly factors into my wardrobe.

So it is conundrum when I go to those strange, alien-like lands where rain is common and plentiful. Now, before I start this off, I need to say that, yes, I did have a raincoat before I decided to make this one in 3 days, but it had some issues. 1. It had no hood, ffs, and 2. It only came down to high-thigh level. I've searched at length for a vintage-style raincoat that is a longer length, has a hood, and is truly waterproof without being made of shiny PVC. Nothing checked all my boxes (and I'm first to admit I'm picky and usually disappointed with 83% of clothing I buy from elsewhere), so I decided to make my own.

Enough with the prattle, on with the project ...

My chosen pattern and the fabric, a gore-tex-like semi-breathable and very waterproof fabric.
I used Hollywood 1777, a 1940s "coat-dress" pattern. It seemed simple enough but in hindsight I recommend a pattern without a waist seam...something big and tent-like. I didn't follow the pattern exactly: I added in-seam pockets and the ever important hood, which I traced off a regular knit hoodie and added a fish-shaped gusset.

I traced off the hood shapes from a hoodie. I was worried about the hood being too small/close, so I added an extra gusset into the center seam, which gave plenty of extra space.

Here you can see the gusset - its wide at the front and tapers to a point at the back/neck edge, so no extra length had to be dealt with when setting this to the neckline of the coat.
My raincoat is made of a "Gore-Tex-Like" fabric, plain-weave rayon for the lining, and almost all of the seams are taped with heat-adhesive waterproofing tape. The gore-tex-like fabric is lightweight, matte in finish, breathable, and epicly waterproof, and it was available at my local Mill End shop, along with the seam tape. The rayon came from Nicole, who is herself a magical genie with all the best fabrics and somehow willing to part with some of this.

Goretex with rayon bemberg (plain weave) lining, which was breathable and comfortable. I originally got cotton for the lining but we all decided it would be too "sticky" when trying to put the coat on over other clothes.
The finished coat front with the extension, snaps, and belt.

I added width to the side seams of the pattern to adjust for my measurements and ease, which probably would've worked fine for a dress, but for an overcoat it all came up a bit small. I ended up adding two rather wide pieces to the front to create enough of an over-and-underlap to keep water out and to be able to easily close the coat. This worked fine but I didn't do a great job in the finishing (shhh...just don't look at the hem...eeeee).

Clipping under the seam allowances in progress, which is when I decided I'd need front extensions for this to fit loosely like an overcoat and not snug like a dress.
I constructed the outer shell first, taping every seam as I went. I trimmed, pressed, and adhered the tape over each seam using no steam and a press cloth. I originally bought 10 yards of the seam tape but had to go back for more. It's amazing how much length is in the seams of what appears a basic pattern!

Here you can see the seam tape applied. So the seam allowance is trimmed, pressed open, and the tape heat-adhered over the top. You have to do the tape at every step not after it's all done.

The tape isn't pretty and it kindof feels like "oh my gosh, this is going to look all puckery on the outside," but the goretex is weirdly forgiving. Just get that tape on there. The armscyes were the biggest pain in the tookus - everything else was pretty straightforward.
I had some problem-solving to do with the edges. The idea is that everywhere there is stitching water can enter, which makes cuffs, front edges, and hems particularly tricky.

For the sleeve cuffs, I sewed the lining and outer fabric right sides together at the cuff, opened it out and taped the seam, then pulled the lining up into the sleeve, hand-stitching the armscyes of the lining in the tailor's method.

Once the outer shell was constructed, I bag lined it around all edges save the hem - here you can see it all inside out with the facings and lining ready to stitch on along the front and neck edges.
I ended up not taping the hem. I figured that it was way down there and not at high risk for water ingress, so I just serged the edge, turned it up, and top stitched it. The lining at the hem gave me the most trouble and it's not really level. I hemmed it by machine and tacked it to the main seam allowances of the outer fabric with loose-ish thread loops, which mimics the seam finish used on my London Fog rain jacket but not done nearly as well.

A bit of luck - may hood came out great! The dress pattern is collarless and I sortof wing-and-a-prayer'd the hood onto the neck edge and was pleased to find it came out perfectly. It's my favorite part of the coat.

OMG it worked!
For the closures, I opted for snaps instead of buttons and buttonholes. My buttonhole attachment on my machine is dodgy at best and I didn't want to ruin the hard work and good luck I'd had in making this thing. I'm pleased to say the snaps work great and it's very quick and easy to get the coat on and off.

I was warm, dry, and fashionable on the days it rained. I could also sit down on the damp benches of the historic ferries and steamers when everybody else fled inside because I was the only one with a raincoat long enough to cover my derriere (lol).
So the verdict? Does it actually work in the rain? Yes! I'm writing to you from the UK, where it rained all day and I stayed nice and dry.

Have you been thinking of making your own raincoat? Here are my tips for success:
  • Fabric choice is important. There are lots of waterproof fabrics, but not all are breathable; some are a bear to sew and require special presser feet, and some shred in the seams. I highly recommend Gore-tex (or in my case, off-brand gore-tex) and it was a pleasure to sew and is wonderfully waterproof. For lining, rayon is the standard. Cotton is too "sticky," silk is very warm. A slippy polyester isn't a bad idea but it won't be as breathable.
  • Tape those seams! The curves seams are trickiest, but otherwise it was no big deal and does not add noticeable stiffness to the finished garment. I have no idea what brand my tape was, but Goretex seam repair tape is available on Amazon.
  • Choose a simple pattern. My pattern had way more seams, and way more work, than it needed. A 1940s straight-cut coat would be perfect, or a 1950s swing coat. Nice, long, straight, simple seams. Belt these and you're good to go. Insta-vintage, easy-to-make.
  • No pins! Pins leave holes, which means water can get in. Instead, I used Wonder Clips and they worked perfectly.
  • Account for ease. Make sure there's enough ease so you can get your coat on over your clothes. 
  • No hood? No problem. There are tons of free diagrams and patterns online for hoods of various shapes and sizes. It's easy to add a hood in lieu of a collar, though there are also designs that have hood+collar combos. A little trickier, but doable.
  • Study how professionally-made raincoats are finished, particularly around the hems. Try to reproduce these finishes.
  • Consider pockets. I felt the patch pockets included with my 1940s pattern weren't a good choice for a raincoat because their openings face upwards and they could fill with water. In re-considering, next time I would do a tilted patch pocket or a shaped in-seam pocket.
mission accomplished - 1940s style raincoat made, worn, loved.

Have courage! You can do this! Heck, I did it in 3 days with zero idea of what I was doing, which means you can definitely kick ass making your own raincoat. Grab a pattern, order some materials, and get stitching, and be ready for everyone to covet your fashionable new rain slicker and ask you where you got it. <3

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Pattern Review: Decades of Styles #3011 1930s Stardust Skirt

Hey Everyone!

Abby here, and today I want to share with you a very quick pattern review for Decades of Style's #3011 1930s Stardust Skirt.*

Before I get into the review - here's the finished skirt on the first day I wore it:

Outfit: BCBG Blouse (10+ years old), 1930s Stardust Skirt in a wool blend, Black and White Peggys (no longer available but you can get them in Navy & Brown!) & a small Tsubasa snoot <3

To start, I have to say that I absolutely adore this skirt, and I'm so pleased with the finished product. Even if there are a couple of very small things to keep in mind while making up the pattern, the Stardust skirt was a very fast make and is a very flattering shape. I love the gores at the front of the skirt add a bit of swish and glamour to the finished product. I felt very chic wearing it around the office on Monday, and am already planning on making another one.

It was such a fast pattern to put together that this was literally the only "in process" photo I thought to take! 

Now let's get into the nitty-gritty:

One thing I really love about Decades of Style's patterns is how they always start with "This pattern conforms to a fictional standard size...", reminding all of us that it's not about a number, but about how the garment fits your measurements that matters. I also appreciate how this connects us to the pattern company on a human to human level, instead of customer/business. The women behind Decades of Style are real people, just like us, and they get the struggle. The pattern is printed on standard pattern tissue paper and is marked for a 24" - 40" (61cm - 101cm) waist with finished garment measurements printed on the pattern. According to the pattern, there is about 1 inch (2.54cm) of ease added, and so going off my hip and the ever-fluctuating waist measurements (seriously... it can change up to 3" (7.6cm) in just the course of a day!) I decided to cut out the pattern for a 28" (71.1cm) waist.

Decades of Style #3011 1930s Stardust Skirt Pattern
1930s Stardust Pattern by Decades of Style 
Decades of Style #3011 1930s Stardust Skirt Pattern
Pattern illustration of the skirt (Here)

I'm sure for many of us, the dots, dashes, and combinations that exist on patterns can be overwhelming, and I appreciated that Decades of Style states on the pattern that it's a good idea to trace over your size with a highlighter so that way you don't accidentally miscut. Sometimes I'll do that, especially if it's a complicated pattern, and so having that gentle reminder ensured that I did go about and highlight my cut lines before I started hacking away. Because there is such a broad range of sizes printed on the pattern, some of the dash/dot patterns start to look the same and blend together when you're cutting, so highlighting the correct size really helped prevent miscuts!

I love the "stardust" gores that add that perfect bit of flair to this skirt. You can also see how far the back piece wraps around the front.
The instructions for the pattern are short and to the point. It's a very straight forward skirt to construct, especially if you've made any sort of skirt before. Stitch the darts, stitch the side seams, insert the zipper, add the waistband and hook & eye, and hem it. Hooray! Skirt completed! Seriously, I think the actual construction of this skirt took about 3-4 hours.

With the different panels, I found that all the notches for the side seams matched up nicely. Since we're dealing with some bias, I made sure to stitch all my seams from the waist down to the hem, to make sure any odd stretching ended up down there instead of at my waist. The pattern gives instructions on how to insert a regular zipper, but I opted to insert a concealed zip - mostly because my brand new concealed zipper foot showed up the night before, and I was eager to test it out (Side Note: If  you're on the fence about a concealed zipper foot for your machine - do it - it made  inserting this zip a 1000x easier).

While I understand that concealed zips are a modern closure, it did create a very smooth and professional finish for my skirt. Something to keep in mind with this pattern is that the zip is on the right side instead of the left. This is because of how the skirt is patterned, with the back of the skirt wrapping around to the front on the left. Don't be tempted to insert your zip between the back and gore, as you'll end up with a zipper right in front of your left hip bone. (I am really glad I committed to following the instructions on this one and didn't decide to go rogue - even though I briefly considered it because a right-side zip felt odd.)

Right side of the skirt [not] showing the concealed zip

The one thing that I'm a bit curious about is that when I went to try on the skirt before adding the waistband was how much larger it was at my waist than what I was expecting. My skirt ended up growing by almost 2 inches from what the finished garment measurements said. I don't know if this was because of my fabric, which is a bit of a loose weave, a result of parts of the seams being on the bias, the pattern actually being a bit larger, a mix of 2 or all three. Either way, I ended up taking in every dart and side seam a 1/4" (64mm)  just at the top 1" (2.54cm) to nip it in at my waist a bit more. This adjustment meant that I had to take a lot out of my waistband so it wouldn't end up like a spaghetti noodle monster wrapped around my waist. Not a big deal, but definitely something to keep in mind when you make up your version.

On the left side, a decent size dart gives shaping at the hip.

The back is fitted by darts and hangs very elegantly (and also curses to you rogue white thread!)
 Once the waistband was attached, I hung my skirt up for 24 hours to allow the hem to hang and any odd wibbly/wobbly bits to show themselves (spoiler: they did). There is a 2" (5cm) allotment for the hem, which is what I did, and it came out at a very nice length on my very short legs (I'm 5'4" (1.63m) but with very short legs more in keeping with someone around 5'1" or 5'2").

And there you have it! Like I said, I adore this skirt, and if you're someone who is looking for a project that is easy for beginners, perfectly vintage, and also delightfully modern (hooray for the midi-skirt trend!) the Decades of Style #3011 1930s Stardust Skirt Pattern is an excellent choice!

Decades of Style 1930s Stardust Skirt Pattern is also officially Pupper Approved™. 

*This pattern was privately purchased and is not sponsored in any way. <3 
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