Sunday, 15 November 2015

1940's Couture Wedding Dress from Greensmith Downes, Edinburgh.

Bloody Hell! Talk about best laid plans! I have been the living embodiment of "gang aft agley" the past few weeks.  Sorry not for posting for a bit. I am mid-move so everything is up in the air (or in a box). So with all my machines out of action I would like to show you a bridal set that is probably the jewel of my vintage stash. I think that it really is museum worthy. It is an original late 1940's couture wedding dress, designed and made at the top Edinburgh department store, Greensmith Downes.

Dress tied at the back. Such a beautiful shape!

Please forgive the crinkles on this dress. It has been in the box a long time and I am too scared of damaging it to give it an iron. It is made of ivory heavy silk satin and the fabric is so fresh it could have been made yesterday. Whoever made this really knew what they were doing as the hip pleats add some volume to balance the busty shape. The sleeves are shaped at the bottom into peaks and have high sleeve caps and shoulder pads. Actually I don't know the actual date of the wedding this was made for but the dress looks more mid-1930's to me in shape and style details. The lady who wore this was in her late 90's when I got this and that was about 5 years ago so any help dating it from all you vintage experts would be very welcome. This dress was sewn bespoke for the original owner. It was too small for my dress form which is about a modern size 8. You would really need period style undergarments to wear this one.

The going away outfit was also purchased from Greensmith Downes and comprises a "Peggy Allen by Jean Allen" ivory jewel-trimmed shift dress and jacket. I have no idea what kind of fabric this outfit is made from. It looks like a kind of gauze but has a stiff hand. It is almost see through and is lined in a similar but more lightweight material. There is a close-up below. Any ideas? The Jean Allen brand is most famous from the 1950's but I have found 1940's examples with the "Peggy Allen" label.

 The outfit is finished off with a matching  "Jane Shilton"handbag. There are a couple of bits of the trim inside and I don't know if they are for repairs or instead of dress clips for another dress. The bag is immaculate inside and out. Actually the "Jane Shilton" moniker is a bit of a 1940's clue as they were "Alexander Shilton" until he returned from WWII and married his secretary, Jane.

The whole set comes in its original box in which it was stored directly after the wedding and was never worn again. The box stayed unopened until I was gifted this by the son and daughter-in-law of the lady this was made for. It was a wonderful and exceptional gift.

They were also very kind and gave me some of their great-grandmothers tapestries and embroideries including a finished but not made up bag from the Victorian era but I will post about them another day.

I couldn't find a huge amount of information online but Greensmith Downes was at one time THE best department store in Edinburgh, even posher than Jenner's. I asked my Mum, who is in her mid 80's, and she remembers it but wasn't ever in it as she said that it was too posh for people like her and that her family would have never have been able to afford to shop there. It was located at 133-143 George Street, a glorious Georgian street that runs parallel to Princes Street in Edinburgh. I think that it closed down in the 1960's.

Anyway I hope that you enjoyed my rubbish phone pics, bit of Scottish fashion history and crumpled clothing.  I will be finished moving in 2 directions at once in the next week or so, dividing my time between Birmingham and Glasgow from about the end of the month (le sigh). The saddest thing is that I will be packing up my studio in Newcastle. I have had such a good time there and met so many wonderful, talented people. There will be tears.

Bye for now. The packing fairies and I are sending you all best wishes!


Sunday, 18 October 2015

My "New" Vintage Coat and Jumble Sale Finds

Life is definitely getting in the way of blogging at the moment. However, not all of it is work-related. Two weekends ago I went to a jumble sale in Morpeth. I had spotted the poster for it on my first visit and was really excited to go, especially as it co-incided with the Morpeth Food and Drink Festival that I didn't even know was on until we got there. Result!

I found vintage fabric. Yippee!  It is brown and blue. I seem to be following the trend. Plus some crocheted dollies for my massive  carefully curated collection and lots of vintage cutlery. The fabric is a very lightweight cotton, semi-transparent but it has a stiff hand. I am not sure if it is a voile. I think that the pattern looks very Liberty-esque although it is not (I think).

I also found a a nice 1960's modernist necklace. It is by the Danish jewellery designer Jorgen Jensen, not to be confused by the son of jeweller Georg Jensen although they had the same name and at one time they worked at the same silversmiths. Jorgen Jensen designed mainly in pewter and produced some lovely modernist pieces. You can see the difference between the two designers in this Pinterest board. Mine is in pewter with turquoise-coloured stones or maybe glass. It is lovely and was a very good buy at 50p!

 I also bought a little metal bag, an Anna Sui one. I don't now if this came in a gift set  or was a freebie with perfume but I love the colours and the design.  I am not normally a fan of anything logo'd but I will make an exception for this. I like little cocktail-style bags so am very glad to welcome this one to the pile.


So now to my vintage coat. It is a Aquascutum blue boucle wooden top coat. Is it a swing coat? I don't know. It has a slight A-line shape, probably would have been shin-length (both not on me though) and has the traditional bracelet sleeves you would associate with this style and age of coat. It is really warm and cosy. I am in love with this colour, it is such a departure from my usual black.

This is possibly the worst crappy phone photo of me ever, it was just after 6.30am on my way to work. I have no make-up on, look ridiculously tired and the lighting is awful. Definitely channeling my inner Penfold. Still you work with what you have and I needed to post. With all the crazy going on here I have had no time at all to take photos. I am definitely moving though by the end of the month so hopefully I will have a lot more time for sewing, blogging and taking lots of pictures after that.

So have you been lucky finding things? Are you sewing with the Winter in mind? Or even taking photos at ridiculous hours of the morning?

Sending you all some warm and wooly best wishes from the frozen soggy North!


Saturday, 26 September 2015

Postcards from the Edge

I have been away again, this time in France. La Rochelle to be precise and a couple of places past there into the countryside, Velluire and Vix. No leisure trip for me though, just work and to be honest although it was scenic I wasn't feeling the love 100% being a bit wiped out. Been really pushing it the last few weeks. 

La Rochelle is quite a pretty place. It has a nice harbour and has the biggest marina in Europe apparently.

It definitely has a chequered past though, having been a stopover for slaves bound for the US and furs back from Canada.

I found a lot to like about the place. The locals were very helpful and didn't laugh at my schoolgirl French but the place was a bit of a tourist trap. 

There  was some fun art about the city from eco-whales to peturbed horses...

..... to beautiful mosaics in the train station and a rock lobster (couldn't resist)....

... and even phantom windows.

Velluire was nice but there was no one in it and lots of empty houses. No shops, no bars and only the hotel, which was shut when I got there. The hotel was on the banks of the Vendee and was in a nice spot. It would have been a lot better without the two bloody massive spiders in my room. Their bodies were the size of a small conker! Needless to say that night I got no sleep. I am still as jumpy as a cat.

 I did manage to pick up the Burda Plus and the Ottobre Woman Autumn/Winter 2015 sewing mags while I was away. There are some great t-shirt/hoodie patterns in the Ottobre for Sprogzilla. I am off now until the middle of next week so will try to get some sewing done and prepping some fabric. I have some dinosaur print knit fabric that I have been hoarding that I will use for the T.


Anyway in other news, this morning I was looking online for fabric for a winter coat. We then decided to take a mystery run out and ended up in Morpeth, a little market town in Northumberland. There were so many charity shops, although to be honest there wasn't that much in them bar George and Primani. They were very expensive, especially the Salvation Army "boutique" and the Relate shop. The latter was so dear for some things that it was seriously in line with some of the more OTT vintage shops, however I did find a 1950's/60's Aquascutum bouclé A-line coat in a nice dark blue. It is in immaculate condition and was quite a bargain even if i did cost me £40. I normally balk at paying that much for anything in a charity shop but I couldn't have bought a jacket from Tesco's for that. It does me no favours but it is very warm and I love the colour. Photos to come as I it was dark by the time we were home and I still feel a state.

So what have you been sewing? Found any gems on your travels? What's your ceiling for buying vintage?

Happy Weekend!


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Made Up Initiative Pledge - The Fómhar Cowl

Hello! This will be a super-quick post today as I am working. I was working till late last night too so I have not had a chance to sew up the second Simplicity 7308 skirt that I have cut out and was planning to make yesterday. Buggeration!  I am using fabric that has been in my stash for about 12 years.

Do you read the 'Did You Make That" blog? If so then you will be following the lovely Karen Ball's brilliant fund raising online event for the National Literacy Trust, the Made Up Initiative. The idea was to donate to her Just Giving page and pledge to make up an item by the 10th September. I pledged to knit up a scarf using my hand dyed wool and I did!

I used a free pattern that I found on Ravelry. It is the Emerald Isle cowl pattern from Linda Dawkins and can be found on the Natural Suburbia website.  This is a quick easy pattern but boy did I mess it up. I had to rip it down twice as I got completely lost and kept knitting the wrong rows. Always happens when you are in a hurry. Tsk. 

I made a couple of alterations to the pattern, I cast on 200 stitches to make it a bit longer. Good thing I did as I can barely loop this it is so not stretchy and I used 150g of yarn rather than the recommended 100g - I like my scarfs chunky. The bamboo yarn I used was not at all springy and stretchy like wool is so I think that I would use a different yarn type next time I knit it. It is a lovely pattern and one that you would be able to see better in a less variegated colour way. Haven't had time to wash and block this yet so I think that the pattern may stand out more after that.

In keeping with the Irish theme I have called this scarf "Fómhar", which translates as "Autumn", as the colours remind me of fallen leaves. It is a bit less red in real life.

Anyway, thanks to Karen for the kick up the **** and for organising such a great fundraiser. Books are my friends, teachers and constant companions. I just can't imagine how poor life would be without being able to read.

On that note I had better go look busy. Have a fabulous week, lovelies!


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Vintage Pattern Pledge Garment No. 3 - 70's Crimplene Maxi Skirt

Hello! Have you had a good week? I hope so. I have been doing a lot of travelling, a little sewing and a fair bit of knitting in the sunshine (thank you 3-hour rail delays).

Remember back in the Summer 2014 I picked up some crimplene? Well I have finally found a good use for it. This stuff is crazy. I have no idea what the pattern is, maybe some Martian forest? Anyway, the colours are great so I decided to make myself a skirt from Simplicity 7308,  a pattern from 1975. The fabric is actually patterned in reds and purple/pinks but the lighting above has made it turn brown. Apologies for the crappy photos but I have not had a chance to get out and about to take any others.

The pattern is for two skirts, a 4-gore and a 6-gore, both in an A-line shape and with two length options which makes it very versatile. I know that I will use this one lots and have bought some new fabric for the 6-gore version. I made the Size 42 , View 2 and I have to say it is a bit roomy. Crimplene is a bit stretchy though so I will reserve my final judgement until I have made it up again in a woven.

Behold, the skirt in all it's static glory! This was a breeze to make. Only three pattern pieces and a centred back zipper. I had a fairly good match lurking in my stash so didn't have to buy anything extra. The pattern was a couple of quid on eBay and the fabric was not much more. I used a press cloth to flatten the seams before overlocking them as I didn't want to melt the fabric onto my iron.



This pattern is long. I haven't taken a hem up yet but it is almost down to the floor on me. I am almost 6-foot, plus I am wearing heels, so they liked their hems big and their skirts long in '75. I was toying with the idea of taking it up an inch and adding some lace. Maybe in version number 2. Yep, I love this pattern so much that I can see a few more on the horizon. My favourite skirt is an almost identical St Michael one in flowery velvet and since I have expanded too much to wear it I will have to make some proxies instead.

Birmingham University Campus

The Massive Uni Clock Tower

Campus Art

We went to Birmingham last week. The move looks inevitable now so my colleague and I took a little time to investigate the surroundings and a lot of time to investigate the restaurants. I may have bought some fabric from Fancy Silk Stores. As it was a Wednesday the Rag Market was shut. We were gutted as we were looking forward to a good explore. Shoddy planning on my part and it won't happen again I can tell you. I think that this beauty is destined to be a pair of trousers. It is probably 100% petrochemicals but it has a beautiful weight and drape.

I have been a bit naughty and bought a load of new and vintage patterns off eBay. I am only buying ones now that will fit me so that there is a good chance that they will make their way into useable garments later this year. This skirt sees me having sewn my quota for the Vintage Pattern Pledge but as I like the patterns so much I can definitely see a few more on the horizon so i am planning to double it to six garments by the end of the year.

Anyway, apologies for the rushed post. I will take better pics of the skirt when I have sewn version 2. This week and last have been stupidly busy and there is no sign of it abating in the near future. Hopefully I will be able to fit in some sewing round it all! Stress!!

Hope that life is good!


Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Winner and the Quilt Top

Hello Strangers! I didn't mean to leave it so long since my last post but have been working too much a lot plus I was a bit ill for a week and wasn't up to anything much bar being sick and sleeping. Sorry for the "too much information".

Anyway, I had a whole day in the studio yesterday and I pieced together the quilt top for Sprogzilla's quilt/throw thing. Sprogzilla helped me lay out all the pieces and we chose where they all went together. I know that there will be quilting purists out there that are sighing at my shoddy piecing but this was never going to be a block party. Pieces were chosen for colour and design just because we liked them. We tried to offset the pieces and sometimes it even worked.

We have zombies

And ponies and it has glow in the dark stars. 

What more could you ask for in a quilt? Maybe better photos in natural light. The colours are much deeper and more vibrant than in these pics.  I am now on the hunt for a nice solid grey to make a border round the edges and as a backing. I also need to get wadding but I think that this will have to be an online job. Any recommendations very eagerly received! There is not much round here, they don't even have the thin cotton stuff I am after in John Lewis or Fenwick's.  At the moment my top stands at 42 inches by 72 inches. I am hoping that the final size will be 48 inches by 78 inches. I have not picked a design for the quilting yet but I do fancy chevrons as this will look quite modern on the back.

So anyway for the news that you have all been waiting for, the winner of the Patrones magazine is (as drawn by Sprogzilla)....wait for it...... Mim! Thanks to everyone for leaving a comment and I will drop you a line to find out where to send it to. Apologies again for sending this late.

Finally, I am off to Birmingham for a flying visit on Tuesday so am going to take full advantage of being there and have a look at the Rag Market. I have taken photos of the backs of all the patterns I need fabric for so hopefully I will find some to make one of the 70's skirt patterns I have. I seems to have tons of 1.5m lengths of things but very little in bigger sizes. Shows you how old most of my stash is as I would be hard pressed to squeeze at top out of 1.5m these days.

I hope that all is good with you all and I'll report back on what I find in Birmingham.

Take care and have fun!


Monday, 10 August 2015

Vintage Shopping and Dyeing Bamboo Yarn with Fibre Reactive Dye

Hi Lovelies! If it has been a bit quiet on the blogging front it has certainly not been here at MOR. I have been working really, really all hours of the day and night a lot in the last couple of weeks, albeit a little half-heartedly as I am just not feeling the love at the moment.  To try to get me out of my grump I took some time off.  We had to drop the car in to get looked at in Whitley Bay just in time to go to the auction at Featonby's. I didn't buy anything but it was fun to go.

We did go into just about every charity shop, Sprogzilla was none too happy, but we came away with some lovely finds. We found some vintage crochet doillies and embroidered tray cloths (to add to my huge collection), some knitting needles, a very funky knitted suit pattern and a tattered and manky Singer sewing pamphlet that looks like it is from the 1930's/40's.

Beautiful Illustrations

After the car was done we drove down to Marsden and had tea and cake in the Marsden Grotto before going for a paddle in the sea. It was surprisingly warm for being overcast but the water was freezing.

Sprogzilla enjoying the beautiful scenery

Friday, I decided to do some dyeing to pass the time before tackling the jungle that is our garden. To me it really feels like Autumn is on the way so I am hankering after knitting some wooly scarfs. I love the look of all those fancy hand-painted yarns but they are pretty expensive and I am not that great a knitter so for now they would be wasted on me. Taking the cheapskates route out, in the stash there was some Sirdar Baby Bamboo DK that I bought ages ago for £1 a ball. Nice yarn but for me too bland 'n' boring colour. It was however 80% Bamboo/20% Wool so all-natural and perfect for using up some of the Procion MX dyes I have tucked away. Sprogzilla asked if she could help and ended up dyeing a new white t-shirt and some cut-off denim jeans that we had bought for the purpose a few months ago and had pre-bleached to get them a very pale colour.

I made up some saline solution in a big Lidl pickle jar  (classy but the perfect size, plus pickles!) with 250g salt and added about 50g of Soda Ash. I used this solution to dissolve the dye powder in an old wine glass so about 6-10g of dye in about 100mls. This is a lot of dye as we wanted saturated colours. I used Chinese Red, Cerise/Magenta, Yellow and for the wool added in a little black as these were the only colours left. I buy my dyes/reagents from Corkwood Knitting and Craft Supplies in the UK but they are pretty easy to come by all over.

To dye the wool I pierced a hole in an old plastic bottle and pushed through an end. I used a knife so that the end is held when the bottle goes back into place. I then wrapped the yarn round the bottle quite randomly so that the colour would be distributed with no pattern to it. I pre-rinsed the yarn in warm water with a little Synthrapol to get rid of any size or dirt and soaked it for 5 minutes in 5% Soda Ash to "prime". One ball of yarn was enough to cover a 1.5L plastic bottle. This is the perfect size as you get a nice thin layer of yarn. It is also easy to hold without getting all covered in dye and it can stand and drain by itself. Plus it can go straight into the recycling bin after you have used it. Cheap and classy!

After the soaking I stood the bottle up on the draining board to drain and then used a paint brush to add dye in splotches all over the yarn. It ended up in a sort of messy leopard print.  Sprogzilla folded her pre-washed and primed T-shirt lengthwise and secured it with old hairbands. She then used the same paintbrush to "paint" pieces of her shirt in a random way. The shorts she wanted a sort of gradient so just painted on what ever she fancied onto them making sure that both the front and the back were covered.

We left the t-shirt for 6 hours and the yarn for about 7 hours. I popped the t-shirt in a plastic bag and left it outside while I cleaned up. You could also leave it overnight if you like, we did with the shorts. They were then rinsed in cold water until it ran clear and then a warm wash with a couple of teaspoons of Synthrapol in a sink of hand-hot water. I drip-dry outside but you could give them a rinse and spin in the machine. Do wear gloves though as I did a bit of the final rinsing without and now I have magenta pink hands like a big, camp Jumblie. 

This is how the yarn turned out. I really love it.  The colours are very different from the t-shirt even though we used the same dye lots. Dyeing will always be affected by the composition of the fabric. If there is any man-made-fibres in your mix then it may be a bit paler. Cellulose fibres such as bamboo and cotton are best for the Procion Dyes but there are differences in how each fibre takes it up. Also any existing colour will affect the final outcome. For dyeing proper wool you should use special dyes for proteins but you can use the Procion ones just replacing the Soda Ash with white vinegar or some thing else acidic.

Top Tip - Don't be a trumpet like me and take the yarn off the bottles to rinse it or you will end up with yarn spaghetti like I did. Fun unravelling it all though, all 300m of it.

Oh, and just in case you thought I had forgotten I will post a separate post this week on the winner of the Patrones magazine as this one is long enough for tonight and I need to get to bed. Sorry for not posting it sooner. Life is really dragging me down a rabbit hole at the moment.

Until later!

Disclaimer: Just mentioning that this post is sponsored by me, me and only me, plus everything in the above is of course my own opinion. 

No pickles were dyed in the making of this post.