Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Vintage Vogue

I grew up wearing clothes sewn by my mother. I suppose some people would have hated this, but I loved having a mother who sewed. As I got older and began to appreciate fashion, I started to pick out my own patterns, commissioning my mother to make the garments I wanted. Eventually I was given the task of cutting out the fabric and doing the hand-finishing. But she never taught me to use the sewing machine - probably because it never seemed necessary since she was so very competent.

Unfortunately, I now live an ocean and a bit away from my mother, so I have to do my own sewing. I'm still infinitely less competent than her. I've probably only sewn about a dozen or so garments to date, so I haven't had nearly enough practice yet to know what I'm doing, but I muddle through somehow.

When I moved to the UK I took along a few of my old patterns, including one of my absolute favourites, an Issey Miyake pattern from the 1980s. My mother had made the sarong skirt for me twice - once for high school and once for college.

Vogue Individualist 1693

For some reason this summer I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to have that skirt again, and it had to be in this summer's colour, navy blue.

I found a heavy navy blue Irish linen in a shop in the Lake District (there being no fabric shops in Oxford, I take the opportunity to fabric shop whenever it arises).

The weekend following my return I cut out the pattern. The pattern is so vintage it is an old size 10, about a US size 4 these days. I was worried it would be bit too small, so I added about a centimeter to the seam ends and hoped that would do it (this being a wraparound sarong style, perfect fit is not essential).

I was all ready to start sewing, but to my chagrin I discovered that I only had the first page of the instructions, and no idea how to assemble the pieces! All those years ago when my mother put away the pattern pieces the instructions must have been misfiled, probably with another pattern that she was working on at the time.

My mother was on holiday so I couldn't ask her to look through her pattern collection. Anyway, it was unlikely she would be able to find it - she's gone through many moves since I was in college, and she has a very large sewing room. So I did what anyone in the 21st century would do - turned to the internet.

I didn't have much luck at first - there were several listings for the pattern on ebay, but the sales had already been made. I was beginning to despair, but then I found someone on flickr who had photographed the cover and first page of the pattern notes. I hoped she would have the whole pattern, and emailed to ask if she would be willing to photograph the rest for me.

She turned out to be a craft star, and posted the images on her flickr stream the next day!

It took me several more weeks to find the time to work on the skirt, and several weekends of sewing, but I finally finished it up on Sunday. I learned some new techniques, with mixed success. My first buttonhole was a catastrophe, so I did the rest manually. But I was very pleased with my first flat felled seam. And it fits perfectly.

Since I managed the skirt so well, I'm now feeling motivated to do some more sewing. At the fabric shop where I bought the linen I also picked up a real vintage pattern, a Vogue reprint of a 1954 design. It is another wrap-around - a dress this time (so I can avoid the dreaded zipper). Time to go get more fabric and keep on sewing  (I'll try to find something other than navy).

Vogue pattern V8788