Thursday, 4 November 2010

Sew Far So Good


I made this skirt today, in fact I made two skirts today. Pretty amazing for someone who three years ago needed help stitching a button on. I went to grammar school so my education was purely academic. I left school able to translate Virgil's Aeneid from Latin and to recite Pythagorus's theorum by heart but if you'd asked me how to hem a pair of trousers I'd have been clueless.

I bought this 1960's crimplene with lurex from a jumble sale ages ago. The vintage fabric on the skirt the dummy is wearing is also from a jumble sale.

What happened? For years Jon always had to do the sewing but in February 2007 The Guardian gave away a craft guide and I was blown away. Crammed with fool-proof instructions for making everything from a stylish new dress to fabric scrap purse, I followed the guide and handmade things successfully for the first time in my life. From there I braved a dressmaking pattern and the rest is history. My efforts aren't always succesful but those that work out are doubly rewarding.

The dressmaker's dummy was £1 from a charity auction.

I buy all my dress-making patterns, fabric and haberdashery second-hand. There's always something you can chop up, old bedsheets, tatty old curtains even outsized ladies skirts. When it costs pennies it isn't the end of the world when it goes wrong. I'll often buy old clothes at jumble sales just for the zips, buttons and trims.

This 1972 Style pattern was what I used to make my skirts. There's only three pieces to stitch together.
Ebay is a great source for vintage patterns, sometimes you can pick up a job lot of mixed patterns for under a fiver. At jumble sales and car boots check out old tins and wicker baskets, they are often crammed with coloured threads, buttons and bias binding. I've never bought a reel of cotton new, it's amazing what people discard.


Using vintage fabric, a vintage pattern, vintage zips, hooks and eyes and vintage thread both skirts cost less than £1 to make. What's stopping you?

59 comments:

  1. Ah,Vix,my legendary minx!! Wonderful skirts!I love those simple shapes,and the 70's patterns are best-esp as they tend to fit my body so much better than modern patterns!
    You've inspired me to do a similar post,darling,if you don't mind!Much of my material is opshopped,too.
    Mmmmmm.Love!!! Helga xxxXXXxxx

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  2. Good going, Vix! Excellent to see. I love to see other peoples sewing projects. As you know, I am a vintage fabric and pattern nut..I rarely buy new and it is amazing what people discard, you're right. I still have that Guardian craft supplement...I use it for teaching.xxx

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  3. This gives me hope that one day I won't be so hopeless! I can hem things up, and sew on buttons... but that is about it. I have made a skirt from a pattern once a long time ago, but that was with help so I'm not sure I could do it again. More than anything, sewing machines scare me, I'm always sure I'll break them!

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  4. Love the high-ish waist on that skirt. I always refused to sew as I didn't want to be identified with feminine accomplishments. I was much too radical to sew, cook or clean. That's what men are for!

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  5. I am really interested in sewing but how do I go about buying a sewing machine? is there a particular brand that is good? What should I be looking for? Any tips will be really appreciated :-)

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  6. You are so inspiring! I took a sewing class a few months ago and made a cute pillowcase. It turned out great, but I don't own a sewing machine and therefore never kept up with sewing. :(
    Your skirt came out so lovely and I absolutely ADORE your idea of using vintage patterns and fabrics to create something gorgeous! Now I'm kind of inspired to browse thrift stores and find a used sewing machine. What kind of sewing machine do you have?

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  7. Oh you are a constant inspiration Vix! Brilliant beautiful skirts! And I had the Guardian guide too, it was great :D

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  8. SNAP! I made a skirt today too! 1940s pattern 19??? black taffeta with a metallic smell from the watermark process, which means a skirt and a headache, my husband came dowstairs and rather pointedly opened all the windows - I hadn't noticed until then....

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  9. Hi there-you are truly a stylish inspiration my dear, the skirts are just fabulous, I do love the cut, style and material and they look gorgeous too, well done indeed! I do have my mums singer machine, but am wary to try it, lol!! x

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  10. You clever thing they are wonderful and I love that fabric!! Th way you went about it all is the best I think; just get stuck in and make something you quickly learn don't you!
    Kandi x

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  11. The Guardian craft guide is here!
    http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/guides/craft/0,,1998461,00.html
    and there are SCADS of projects in the archive

    YAYYYYY!!!!!!

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  12. I love your skirts Vix, that material is so gorgeous! Have a great night xxx

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  13. Anddd ... can I also recommend Cloth Magazine - they have ze website

    http://www.clothmagazine.co.uk/

    awesome!

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  14. Well done, they both look great! (esp love the one that you're wearing)
    I CANNOT wait to get my cheap sewing machine for Christmas!

    x

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  15. I am very impressed with your self taught skills, I would love a sewing machine and dummy, sometimes I have a go at things but they usually end up at my tailors to fix after I mess them up LOL!

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  16. I LOVE THE LUREX FABRIC! WELL DONE MAKING TWO SKIRTS - HOW CLEVER ARE YOU!!!

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  17. Wow, great job.:D Skirt is amazing.:D

    ***** Marie *****
    allthingsmarie.com

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  18. Dear Vix, they're fabulous! I love the high waists. I'm like you were I can barely sew on a button, although if I put my mind to it I probably could make something. They tried to teach us to use a sewing machine at school. I just used to put my foot down too hard and all the fabric ruched up. I was transferred to extra art so my plan worked!

    You're brilliant with all the things you create, I never fail to be impressed xx

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  19. The more I know about you, the more amaze I am. " skirts in one day...Speechless again...
    I do a bit of sewing, crochet, knitting and embroidery, but never, ever 2 skirt a day. Wowwwwwwwwwwwww.
    As I said: you are WONDERFUL!!!
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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  20. the last skirt I made was my school skirt, we used to have a regulation A line, 4 panel skirt and we could buy the grey material in the local haberdashers, and then make the skirt. my mum made me a new one every year along with knitting me a new school jumper every year

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  21. Well done - those skirts look so well made. Although I went to a grammer school we girls were given a choice to study either 'O'level Cookery or 'O'level needlework - my mam said I had to go for Needlework because no one at home would eat the fancy type of dishes we'd have to make in cookery and she wasn't going to waste money buying ingredients for things that we wouldn't eat :D xxx

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  22. Wonderful! They both look amazing and that pattern is the best. I love the old Style patterns they are simple and the cuts are great xx

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  23. 2 skirts! Well done!
    Love the material you've used. Very pretty.

    I've made the odd thing, mainly whilst at uni but I don't think I'm as good as you.

    xxx

    p.s jewellery swap I'll drop you an email early next week and we'll get it going. :) Exciting.

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  24. I'm flabbergasted that you couldn't sew 3 years ago! There's hope for me yet!!
    I can turn up a hem or take something in but other than that, i'm a complete hit and miss ;)
    I shall keep practising...maybe someday i could brave a proper pattern!

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  25. Wow! Knowing you is like peeling Onions ... One layer after another ... one talent after another! It looks good!

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  26. I must get back with the sewing machine - I think I was intimidated by the pattern on my last project and it's still in bits on the dining room table, oops! Do you find patterns difficult to use? I don't know if I'm just being dim or whether it's something that you have to be shown how to do before you get the hang of it!

    Anyway, I LOVE both of those skirts. Wonderful fabric and the shape is great.

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  28. Wow...they look great. I too am an poor sewer (although you clearly no longer are) and a grammar school girl hence my education was also heavily academic. I wish I could sew better so maybe you can be my inspiration x
    PS - the above delete was me rewording things

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  29. Wow it looks great... they both are looking nice.I'll buy it to my gf.

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  30. The skirts are lovely ,well done clever girl and two!! ,you look super ....love Jan xx

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  31. Oh and ,what a pretty smile today ...love agen Jan xx

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  32. Wow, Helga is right - you are legendary - and inspiring. Those skirts are brilliant. Funnily enough, I'm planning a skirt post soon but sadly I haven't made any of them.

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  33. Vix, those are fabulous although I'm equally, if not even more impressed by being able to do anything associated with Latin. I'd hoped that when I did my undergrad there'd be more Latin but there wasn't. Loving all of your money saving hints and tips. Xx

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  34. The skirts are great! And it is amazing what you can pick up cheaply pattern-wise. And button-wise! I have a half made dress I must get back to. Hopefully you've inspired me enough to get me to it this weekend!

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  35. OMG, Vix, this is Awesome !!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I too am on a sewing/crafty binge :)
    With AAdd, my piles-o-stuff are laying all over the place!
    Rod keeps tripping over the stuff.
    Sending questions your way this weekend :)
    Love U
    Reva
    A parcel is being filled as well ;)
    I am so scattered, i hope it arrives before u leave.
    I am very ditzy and scattered.
    Must make a list !
    XXxxxXX
    Reva

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  36. Crimpolene with Lurex sounds like a very seductive fabric, doesn't it? A perfect choice for your skirt. I love it / them!

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  37. Hiiiiiiiiiii-waister!! The skirts look great, I picked up a similar bulk lot of crimplene fabrics a couple of days ago, but for resale, I just don't have the inclination to sew properly. Maybe when I'm retired.xx.

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  38. great job..I can sew for shit..I really adore the fabric colors so exoticos.

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  39. wow! kudos to you! and those bangles are a perfect match with the skirt you are wearing;) thanks for the welcome... we've missed you as well!

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  40. Dear Vix,
    Wow, you are looking mighty fine today I must say!
    Fabulous creations, I love the patterns on the fabrics too.
    As you know I'm a bit of a freestyler myself when it comes to sewing, I think it's mainly because I'm just too impatient to follow a pattern.
    I've been a sewing nut since I was a kid, my mum was always sewing, so I guess it was a case of the old ‘monkey see, monkey do’ scenario ;)
    At my school we did have wood work & sewing lessons but the sewing teacher was an extremely strict old spinster that was never bleeding satisfied, the only thing I got REALLY good at the three years I was in her class was unpicking stitches :(
    I much preferred making shelves, carving lamp bases & tooling leather with the awesome & much more free spirited woodwork teacher.
    I made another one of my shapeshifters yesterday, sewing is so much fun!
    Lot’s of love,
    Jem
    …xXx

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  41. Those skirts are awesome, fantastic pattern and fantastic seamstress talent without the stress!
    xx Comtesse xx

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  42. Hey Vix, those skirts are great, well done! I have so much vintage fabric piled up and do I get around to making anything, nope. Mind you I do run my own business so that's my excuse but this year I even set up a sewing area so that when I do have the time I have the space, fingers crossed and thanks for the reminder to just get on!

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  43. The skirts look great. What a brilliant buy on your mannekin, I'm looking for one of those ... :0)

    Shirl xxx

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  44. Love the skirt, the fabric is perfect for it. I rescued a 1970s denim skirt earlier this year that looks like that.

    I used to buy a lot of old fabrics at my job, mostly dark solid colours and small pieces of party fabrics, I still buy fabric but I don't think I really need to.

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  45. hi vix,

    lovely fabric! and you did a great job,too :)

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  46. What lovely skirts, well done Vix x

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  47. Fabulous Vix !
    I adore the fabric !
    (And, as ususal, you're lovely !)

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  48. Yet again you have inspired me Vix!
    I have a love/hate relationship with sewing, I studied it at college for so long it frustrated me and I lost love for it. BUT dressmaking is an area I have never really explored to a great depth.
    I always fear making something that doesn’t fit, proportions and measurements scare me, but as you have rightly said when fabric and materials are so cheap to pick up second hand, it’s not the end of the world if it all goes wrong.
    Both skirts are stunning, the fabric is so beautiful and the one you are wearing looks a perfect fit, I really like the waistline xx

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  49. Incredible fabric, incredible work, and the skirt looks incredible on you! I can't believe such cute circle skirts take only three pieces. Even the maxi skirt? I'm having trouble envisioning how the pattern pieces would lie on typical yardage to get that length and fullness without more pieces. like gores.

    My mom had the sense to take me to an early sewing class or two at the local fabric store. I remember making a hideous bright yellow long sweathshirt with kelly green trim. Well, it was stylish in the 80s. My grandmas were also avid sewers, and Gram Cloud in particular let me use her old-fashioned sewing machine to make Barbie doll clothes from some patterns I'd bought. Then, I wasn't in the school orchestra, so I attended home economics class instead. Learned to do more patterns and needlework.

    It wasn't a sexist system, though -- once the home ec unit was over, we moved on to woodshop class, where I learned to work a bandsaw and drill press!

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  50. Love the skirt. I'm not great at making things but may attempt a first go on a sewing machine over Christmas x

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  51. What a great pattern on that fabric. I am impressed you are pretty much self taught and within three years have come so far in sewing. It is very rewarding isn't it. I must say reading your DIY posts has got me itching to get the sewing machine out again and super impressed that by using 100% vintage things (including the paper pattern!!) you are able to sew even more cheaply!

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  52. Thanks for your kind comments, Vix! To answer the hair color question: I did recently do a dark brown color rinse. I've fluctuated among dark brown, medium brown, and golden auburn brown since about 2000. It depends on my mood, what wardrobe colors I want to shift into, and how lazy I've been about touching up the color. I think I'm naturally a medium golden *and* ashy brown with red hints in sunlight. It's confusing, which has led to years of uncertainty about my best clothing color palette.

    To answer the lipcolor question: I'm realizing that I'm happiest with a stronger lip, even though it requires more careful application and touching up during my errands. I'll be using reds and burgundies more this season, I suspect.

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  53. "I left school able to translate Virgil's Aeneid from Latin and to recite Pythagorus's theorum by heart but if you'd asked me how to hem a pair of trousers I'd have been clueless."

    You are just WONDERFUL Vix!!!...and oh god you're talented... I'm in awe of you! The skirt is gorgeous, I LOVE that cut and on you it's phwoar!!!

    Also... I am in awe of how you manage to do everything...and post and comment on other posts! It's almost 3am here and I'm exhausted from reading all my favourite blogs. So exhausted i haven't actually commented, just visited and read and absorbed.

    Thank you so much for being so 'loyal' Vix... even if I haven't commented for ages due to my current lack of time management skills, you still find the time to leave comments on my posts. I really appreciate that. I have lost many commenters because of my inability to get my act together.

    ps. I may not comment but I always read and admire

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  54. I'm so impressed, Vix. The skirts are amazing and I do remember this Guardian booklet - must have it lying around somewhere. (Sarah has just changed to a Grammar school, do you think I need to top up her sewing education?) xxx

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  55. Fabulous!! 3 pieces?? I am still stuck on making tote bags and hemming dresses, but I think you've given me the kick in the butt that I need to attempt a skirt!

    Looking lovely, as usual.

    xx Claire

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  56. Vix! I simply had to drop in to tell you that I went to Koshy's for lunch earlier this week! My dad knows the owner, so he stopped to chat and I told him my English friend Vix loved the restaurant and he was so flattered! :-)

    Those skirts are absolutely magnificent, by the way!

    Hope that visa is sorted and you're on your way this side of the globe soon!
    xxx

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  57. those skirts are absolutly perfect. i love the high waisted waistband and cute flared cut. you're mvery talented.
    i'd love to have one of them in my closet.

    wardrobexperience.blogspot.com

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  58. Better late than never re commenting i suppose! Just followed your link here and feel very inspired. I too had an academic education - except for some hand sewing and knitting in primary school, which was quite traumatic (was crap at it and was punished by nasty old teachers) and i have avoided it ever since. Now i think if i come at it slowly and under my own terms, maybe i can do it too! Thanks for this post.

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Love from Vix
xxx