Monday, November 28, 2011

The Blonde Phantom

Life's been overwhelming these past months and it doesn't look like it's going to be any less overwhelming the next couple of months, as my days as a student are numbered. On November 19th, however, I had a belated Halloween party to go to. It's been ages since I last went to a Halloween party, so I just had to make my costume myself. Add to that my rekindled love for sewing and my love of all things mid-century, I picked something that was fitting for my prefered fashion eras, my nerd factor and my ever-growing stash of vintage sewing patterns. What I ended up with was the 1940s crimefighting superheroine the Blonde Phantom:

The Blonde Phantom, whose real name was Louise Grant, was one of many female super heros introduced in the 1940s to get girls more interested in comics. Introduced in 1946, she wasn't superhuman, she was just athletic and a skilled markswoman. She worked as a secretary for a private detective named Mark Mason, whom she wanted to aid on his cases and thus created her alter ego of the Blonde Phantom. As is often the case in the world of comics, Mark Mason had only eyes for the Blonde Phantom and no interest whatsoever in Louise Grant, the secretary, but he eventually learned that they were one and the same, so he married Louise and they started a family.
The Blonde Phantom always carried a .45 caliber pistol and being the nerd that I am, I of course had to get hold of something that was not only a .45 caliber pistol, but also appropriate for the time period. I quickly decided on getting a softgun version of a Colt M1911:

As the name implies, this pistol was first made available in 1911, where it was adopted by the US Army. It was subsequently adopted by the Navy and Marine Corps in 1913. Due to its service history, it's probably one of the most easily recognizable handguns in existence.

Getting my main accessory was easy enough, but then I had to find a 1940s dress pattern I could use for her highly impractical crimefighting outfit. I eventually settled on frankensteining two 1940s patterns; Simplicity 4657 from this seller on Ebay and a mail order pattern from Midvale Cottage on Etsy from an unknown company, but numbered 2167:

So I'd found the patterns I needed, now I just needed to make them work together and that mainly meant transfering the armscye of the Simplicity pattern to the mail order pattern, so that I could use the sleeves from the Simplicity pattern. I'm a pretty low-tech kinda gal, so I just traced off the mail order pattern first and then placed the tracing paper over the relevant piece of the Simplicity pattern and matched it to the shoulder of the mail order pattern. My frankensteining of one of the armscyes ended up looking like this:

Both patterns are unprinted, so the Simplicity pattern has a seam allowance of ½" everywhere, except for the armscye and sleeves, which have a ¾" seam allowance. The mail order pattern, however, has a ½" seam allowance on all edges, including the armscye and sleeve. Seeing as I was in a bit of hurry, I added to the seam allowances of both patterns so I ended up with a 1" seam allowance on all edges in case of any fitting issues.

Please do excuse the puckering around the armscye! I was in a hurry and figured I'd be able to live with it as the dress was a bit of a prototype and was just gonna be worn for this one event. The sleeves have a great design detail with the fabric being gathered:

It was very easy to do and I'm guessing it can be easily transferred to other patterns, so for your consideration, the instructions for how to do this sleeve:

The original neckline of the mail order pattern wasn't wide enough to match the one the Blonde Phantom sports, so I had to alter that as well:

While I'm happy enough with the depth I achieved from the alteration, I'd like to make the neckline wider if I make a deluxe version at some point:

For the bare midriff, I first sewed the side fronts to the front. Then I figured out how wide and how high I wanted the cut-out to be. I then folded the front of the dress down the middle and used the waist markers from the pattern to figure out the position of the cut-out. Using a tailor's crayon, I marked the key spots and then drew the shape of the cut-out by hand. After cutting into the dress, I took the piece I'd now removed from it and used it as a base for a facing that I reinforced with heavy duty fusible interfacing, which I then sewed onto the dress. I also did a topstitch around the cut-out to further help it keep its shape:

My model for the close-ups is a teenage dressform, so the fit on myself was actually much more snug, which you should be able to see from the last picture in this post.
I think my makeshift cut-out technique worked quite well, so if you'd like to use this nifty 1940s design detail for a pattern that doesn't already feature it, just get your ruler, tape measure and tailor's crayon out and play around with it. Of course, you should make a muslin, which I would've made if I had had more time and if my fabric actually had been expenssive; the fabric I used was a very cheap nylon, so I figured I' d be able to live with myself if I ruined it completely :P

As you can tell from the pattern illustration of the mail order pattern, I needed to add some length to the pattern pieces. I figured out the desired length of the gown and simply added the missing inches to the tracing paper, making sure that the flaring of the skirt also increased and was in keeping with the angle of the original flaring.

Finally, I added the Blonde Phantom's trademark sun symbols, which I bought from this seller on Ebay , to the dress. Here is the one placed atop the slit ending just above the knee:

Here's how it looked on me:

I wish I'd had time to do my hair a little and I also wish I'd gotten hold of some latex paint to make a custom domino mask. The fabric was also much too lightweight and I spent no time whatsoever doing any nice finishing to the seams. Oh well, there's always room for improvement, I guess ;)
I did get a lot of lovely compliments mized with puzzled looks from people, since they had no idea who I was supposed to be; the only one who came even remotely close to guessing it was a fellow golden age comics fan. I wasn't exactly surprised, though, as I knew it was a very nerdy costume, so I had promised people cookies if they were able to guess it, but claiming I was Zorro's girlfriend and, worse yet, Wonder Woman (seriously?! That's a whole lot of disrespect towards Wonder Woman right there, comparing her to the Blonde Phantom, a mere human!) will not make me get my recipe book out for you >:P
When I was younger, I'd often make my own costumes, but I never knew much about the construction of garments and I think it was a great experience to be able to apply my sewing skills to this nerdy project; it's fun to make an approximation of a superhero outfit like this and be able to make it with costruction and design details appropriate for the era the character wearing it belongs to :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Me from A-Z

Too busy with my thesis to do any sewing lately, so thought I'd participate in this little game I've seen on several blogs :)

A. Age: 26 according to my birth certificate. 12 according to my sense of humor. 70 according to my general behavior.

B. Bed size: Don't have a bed at the moment, just a couch.

C. Chore that you hate: Cleaning up after cooking.

D. Dogs: Grew up with German shepherds, dachshunds, Irish setters and a Jack Russell terrier. Would love to have an English bulldog some day :)

E. Essential start to your day: Watching the news and listening to music.

F. Favorite color: Everchanging! I've embraced so many more colors after I started sewing again, but red has always been and always will be a favorite.

G. Gold or Silver: Whichever matches my outfit best.

H. Height: 168 centimeters.

I. Instruments you play(ed): Bass and drums. I used to sing as well and still do occasionally.

J. Job title: Student assistant.

K. Kids: Nope. Not in a hurry, either.

L. Live: Just north of Aarhus, Jutland, Denmark.

M. Mother’s name: Inger.

N. Nicknames: Grandma, Log Lady and Nigella.

O. Overnight hospital stays: When I was born, but that was just routine.

P. Pet peeves: Being on escalators that are moving downward. They freak me out! D:

Q. Quote from a movie: "You've got red on you."

R. Right or left handed: Right handed.

S. Siblings: Three half siblings. Sisters Jane (46) and Emely (44) and brother Kim (40).

T. Time you wake up: Depends on what I've got to do that day and what I did the night before.

U. Underwear: Simple cotton undies and What Katie Did.

V. Vegetable you hate: Celery!

W. What makes you run late: Not being able to find my cell phone or keys.

X. X-Rays you’ve had: Teeth.

Y. Yummy food that you make: Sin City breakfast tacos, guacamole, tuna melt, chocolate pistacio fudge and Thanksgiving dinner. I love cooking.

Z. Zoo animal: I love just about all animals, but I've always thought zebras were extra cool for looking like they're still in their pajamas. Or an old timey prison outfit. Or like they've got stretch marks all over. I often refer to them as "accordion horses" :P

Monday, July 18, 2011

Simplicity 1201

Here's one of the other garments I made during my blogging hiatus. I made this a couple of months ago when the weather started getting warmer here. Generally, I've felt a need for more separates, so expect to see more blouses and skirts in the future!

The pattern is Simplicity 1201, which I bought from Roses Vintage Sewing on Etsy:

And here's how my interpretation of view 4 looks (as well as proof of how tired I am today, lol!):

The blouse fits quite nicely, but the very wide neck and the stiffness of the yoke and the likewise ties sorta gives it a life of its own in the yoke area. It probably doesn't help that I've got it tucked into a pencil skirt in the photos, but it does hang much nicer when it's just over the skirt or pants instead, but this was the only skirt I had available to wear with it today (hence I need more separates, lol!)

The fabric is a printed cotton poplin, which is very comfortable to wear. Here's a close-up of the fabric so you can see it in more detail:

I bought enough of it to make another blouse and I have most of that pattern cut out, so it probably won't be ages before I make that one.

The pattern was pretty simple to put together as I bought it in my preferred vintage size, but I doubt I'll make the yoked version again. I intend to make the one with the bateau neckline at some point, though :)
If you like this pattern, then you'll be happy to know that it's quite easy to get hold of and usually rather affordable too. As a matter of fact, there's a couple for sale on Etsy at the moment.

Thank you for reading! :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

McCall's 4395

I completely lost my mojo after I had blogged about the Christmas presents I made for my family, but now I finally have something to blog about again! As a matter of fact, I have made three other garments and am finishing up a fourth garment, which will all be blogged about separately once I get the chance to take some pictures of them. I also have some time consuming tasks at the moment, such as a new job and writing my master thesis, but now that I don't really have the time to sew, I of course have a bigger need to be creative and sew up some new clothing. In fact, after I started my new job, I felt a bigger need to create things that were more office appropriate. Not because there is a strict dress code at my job, but rather because I feel more comfortable being at work in something that is more subtle, while still being truly 1950s and thus completely me.

Onto the new garment!

I love a good sailor dress as much as the next guy and I have had this pattern, which I bought it from Midvale Cottage on Etsy, for well over 18 months:

Here's what my interpretation of view B with the trim detail of view C looks like from the front:

Showing my face on my blog is a first for me and it needs a little bit of explaining. Originally, I was not comfortable with having my face out there on the internet. However, back in March, I was wearing my interpretation of Butterick 6710 to a rockabilly party in my local area and a young woman, whom I had never seen before, approached me to let me know that she had read about my dress on my blog and that she thought it looked amazing in real life as well. Naturally, I was quite baffled to be recognized like this, but it was such a positive experience that I decided that I might as well drop the Headless Horseman act and just take pictures that include my head from now on ;)

For some reason, I forgot to have someone take a picture of the back view of the dress when I wore it, so I just took one once I was back in Denmark again:

The picture is a bit wobbly, so here's a close-up of the back of the collar:

According to the pattern instruction sheet, the ribbon trim was not supposed to cross, but I actually like the look of crossing the ribbons and it was also a lot faster and easier to attach the trim this way. Working with the pattern was a positive experience all in all, even though I had to finish the dress in a bit of hurry in order to be able to wear it to a concert with the very talented JD McPherson in Hamburg. I was very happy with the results and other people seemed to like it as well as I got several compliments :)

Thank you for reading!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Christmas presents

Boy, have I neglected my blog and my sewing! These past few months have been filled with exams and lots of other events that completety drained me of all my energy. My sewing mojo also seemed to vanish altogether. I did, however, manage to make some Christmas presents for some family members and that helped restore some of my mojo. With no exams in sight for the next 6 weeks, I'm looking forward to relaxing and having time to do what I love most, namely being creative. I hope you still want to follow me and my vintage sewing adventures :)

Onto the Christmas presents!

I really love Christmas, it's my favourite time of the year. The holiday spirit, the decorations, the classic films and music, the food and the time I get to spend with my family is just a combination like no other. I've always loved giving presents, in fact I like giving presents more than receiving them! Seeing as I have received so much positive feedback for my sewing projects from both my family and you guys, I thought homemade Christmas presents might be a good idea.

For my sister, Jane, I made an apron using this pattern, which I bought from this seller on eBay:

I made view 2. Here's Jane, wearing her present:

It was very straightforward to put together, I didn't even have to use the instructions. The only alterations I made were to face the ties as I thought I added a nicer finish, and, when attaching the ties to the waistband, I made little pleats instead of using gathering stitches as I've never cared much for gathering stitches. If you like this design, you'll be happy to know that you can get a reproduction pattern featuring the tiered aprons from this pattern as well as another lovely vintage apron design.
I used all cotton and I picked different shades of blue for the apron as blue is my sister's favourite colour. She's a mother of two and loves cooking and baking, so she was extremely happy with her present and she just can't stop wearing it :D

For my mother I made an eyeglasses case using this pattern, which I got from Midvale Cottage on Etsy:

And here's the result:

For the floral decoration, I used this craft pattern, which I also got from Midvale Cottage:

For my father, who loves everything about nature and wildlife, I also made an eyeglasses case:

I got the pattern for the deer appliques from this pattern, which I bought from this seller on eBay:

Both eyeglasses cases and their appliques are made from felt. I used textile glue to attach the appliques. It was fun to make something that was so easy, but the best bit was how happy the recipients were!

Lastly, I made view G from this pattern, which I also got from Midvale Cottage on Etsy:

And here's what my interpretation looks like:

Yes, I admit it, I'm a crazy cat lady! I'm not kidding myself, though; I know my cats only found this "stocking" even remotely interesting because of the fake mice I'd stuffed inside it, hehe.
It is made from yellow felt and accented with deep red rick-rack trim and firey orange swarovski rhinestones. Again, a very straightforward item to make :)

The presents were so well-received that I'll definately make more items for friends and family in the future. My brother and his girlfriend are expecting their first child, so I'll soon be an aunt for the third time; this has got me thinking about making stuffed toys from vintage patterns. Other than that I have several gorgeous patterns and equally fabulous fabric lined up; I'll probably not get it all made this year, but it's always nice to have something planned and ready ;)

Thank you for reading, I hope I'll be back with a new post soon!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Butterick 5919

With much delay, I'm finally able to post my latest interpretation of a vintage sewing pattern. I must admit that three exams in three days takes it toll, but all in all it went well. I passed both my interpretation exams, so now I'm done with the interpretation part of my education - yay! I won't know the results of my financial translation exam until late November, so I have my fingers crossed.

I've been watching all episodes of the latest take on Agatha Christie's classic stories about Miss Marple, starring Geraldine McEwan (and later Julia MacKenzie) as the crime-solving spinster, and I must admit the costumes are fantastic. Most of the feature-lentgh episodes take place between 1950 and 1952, which are some of my favuorite years for fashion.
One day, I was watching the new interpretation of 'Sleeping Murder' and I completely fell for the pink shirtwaist dress with white polka dots that the character Gwenda Halliday wore at one point:

Sophia Myles as Gwenda Halliday in 'Sleeping Murder'.
No copyright infringement intended.

The series have had a lot of criticism because the plots of the stories have been changed quite a lot, so if you'd rather not see Agatha Christie's stories altered, you should steer clear of this series. If you don't mind the alterations, however, you're in for hours of classic 'who dunnit'-fun and great costumes :)

Anywho, here's the pattern I found in this shop on eBay:

And here's my interpretation:

Unfortunately, the pictures don't show the gorgeous bubblegum pink colour of this cotton fabric, but if you want to know what the colour looks like, it is actually the same shade as the fabulous vintage prom dress that was sacrificed in the 1980s film 'Pretty in Pink'. There's a picture of it in the post Gertie did about the sewing scene in the film over at Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing.
The pattern was very straightforward to use. I didn't do any major alterations to the pattern, except my usual shortening of the hem by 2", and I also ended up using five buttons instead of the three suggested by the pattern. The reason why I increased the number of buttons was because I had some vintage 1980s white enamel snap buttons that were roughly the same size as the polka dots on the fabric, so I thought it would be a great idea to 'hide' them by placing them on the polka dots :P

I was a bit worried how the scalloped pockets would turn out, but I think they ended up looking great. Here's a closer view of one of the pockets:

I had previously heard of how tricky scalloped edges were to do, so seeing as I was hoping mine would turn out well, I decided to document the process.

Firstly, I ironed on some fusible interfacing on one of the two pieces required to make a pocket and I drew the scallops on with a pencil:

The original pattern piece for the pockets had had its seam allowance trimmed off around the scallops, so it didn't have its original rectangular shape, but I reconstructed the seam allowance when I re-traced the pattern.

After I had sewn the pocket pieces together, I did the slashes between the scallops as shown in the pattern instructions:

I don't know if it makes any difference, but I always use an old fashioned razorblade when I have to slash fabric.

The next step was to trim the seam allowance. A friend had advised me to do multiple clips around the scalloped edges at this stage, but my pinking shears managed to achive the same effect:

Here's how the pocket looked after I pressed it:

Maybe I was just lucky with how my pockets turned out. I do, however, think that the combination of using a stiff fabric with fusible interfacing was a big help to get them to look good.

Thank you for reading :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Vintage Sewing Giveaway - Vote for me!

Hi everyone! Turns out I'm one of the five finalists in the Vintage Sewing Giveaway over at the Vintage Patterns Wikia. My entry is Butterick 6710:

I'd really appreciate it if you'd vote for me here.
Thank you :)