Sneaky peeks….jackets and skirts and shawls oh joy!

Today is rainy and miserable so I thought I’d cheer myself up with some crafting updates.

First up – progress on my Victorian walking jacket.

It’s slow going – I’m finding it hard to get the back of the neck to sit right and the problem with pinning something on myself is that every time I reach up to put in a pin I either stab myself or the whole thing moves around and I’m left taking random tucks. My method has been:  *try it on, squint critically, take it off, baste like my life depends on it, try it back on, wince, take it back off, unpick. Repeat from *.

I’m happy with bits of it. My embroidery has improved no end (considering I had zero embroidery skills at the start of the project, that’s not really very hard).  And the sleeves bring me joy. This may not look like very much to you but to me it is the pouffy sleeve of dreams (and of the late 1880s).

Authentic 1880s style

Authentic 1880s style – with a hint of my Mimi blouse by Tilly and the Buttons underneath

If I can persuade someone to take better pictures I’ll post better pictures soon. Once I’ve finished wrestling with the lining anyhow. At the moment, the lining looks like it’s making a mad dash for freedom. I had a mad idea of wearing it to the Roehampton graduation ceremony next week but I’m not sure if it’s going to happen…maybe the elves will finish it if I leave it out overnight?

Next Up: Vintage find of the week is this skirt kit.

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Yorkshire Fine Woollens & Tweeds Skirt Kit

That’s right, a skirt kit, complete with lining and a zip and its own little sew-in label.

It cost me the princely sum of eight English pounds in a charity shop in Putney.  It’s a thing of wonder – mostly wondering where the hell it came from.  I haven’t been able to find out when Yorkshire Fine Woollens & Tweeds were producing these sort of kits or if there was a wide range of them.  There’s no company trading under that name now so I’ll have to do a but more investigating.  If anyone has any leads on skirt kits, please let me know!

This is definitely going to become a skirt though – I’m thinking a sort of Miss Jean Brodie style thing. The kind of skirt you can wear on a sit-up-and-beg bicycle with a basket of fresh bread and terriers on the front. Or the kind of skirt that you wear with thick boots and a scowl.

This past month, I’ve been taking part in a Terry Pratchett themed swap organised by Louise Hunt of Caithness Craft Collective and I’ve been busy getting a little package together for my swap partner.  I like listening to podcasts and audiobooks but I find I can’t use the sewing machine if I want to listen at the same time.[1] So over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a fair bit of knitting too – well, designing really. I’ve designed my first ever lace shawl.

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Blocking the shawl…

I’m ridiculously pleased with myself about this – it brings elements of Estonian lace and English mesh lace together and it’s inspired by…well, I can’t reveal that just yet.  This is just a sneaky peek after all. I’m in the process of writing up my scrawls into an actual pattern that I will publish on this blog soon.

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[1] My friend Jess once said my sewing machine makes a sound like a drunk person rearranging furniture – there might be something wrong with it but then again it’s ALWAYS made that noise so it might be OK.

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Making a Victorian Jacket: a full size toile and a lesson in sleeves…

So…I promised to show you how I got on with the full-sized toile for the Ladies’ Street Jacket from the National Garment Cutter Book of Diagrams.

Ladies' Street Jacket from the National Garment Cutter Book of Diagrams

Ladies’ Street Jacket from the National Garment Cutter Book of Diagrams

In January I made a tiny toile as a test-run which was really helpful but I’m really glad I made a full-sized toile to get a sense of how the garment fits and hangs.

I learned a lot from making this.

THE FIRST THING I learned is that the pattern wasn’t as hard to draft as I expected.  Once you started with a right-angle at the ‘A’ point on each pattern piece – usually found in the top right corner – all you have to do is follow the measurements down the sides of the pattern and measure everything in relation to the A point.

'A' point on each pattern piece

‘A’ point on the front pattern piece

Once you have the basic pattern drawn out, it’s time to start adjusting.

I have a long torso.  Like a dog, I am taller when sitting down, so I added 3 inches to the waist length all around (so on the front pattern piece above, the 16 ½ measurement is moved to 19½ and then the shaping is put in as usual.  I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do but it seemed to work).

Width-wise, I was lucky in that the pattern seemed to be made for a 34”(ish) chest so I planned to take slightly deeper tucks in the back panel than the pattern suggested to bring it a little closer to my size.

So I cut everything out.

All the pattern pieces (except the collar.  Because there was no pattern for that.  Scunners.)

All the pattern pieces (except the collar. Because there was no pattern for that. Scunners.)

And then cut the pieces out of scrap canvas.  And then I basted.  And basted.

And tried it on.

That’s when I learned THE SECOND THING.

The second thing I learned is that Victorian ladies had tiny arms.  Like T-Rex tiny.

Either that or I have arms like a spider-monkey.

Maybe it’s a bit of both.

So the sleeves had to be adjusted.

And the armscyes.

And the shoulders.

The shoulder was a joke…it just slumped off the sides like a bad cat.

So back to the drawing board and the cutting table.

And I consulted with the hallowed oracle….Vogue’s book of Smart Dressmaking from 1936.

Vogue's Book of Smart Dressmaking (1936)

Vogue’s Book of Smart Dressmaking (1936)

The book is brilliant – it has everything an amateur like me needs, including very prim advice about ‘developed’ figures.

I’m sure the author didn’t mean ‘developed’ in the sense of ‘more highly evolved’ but that’s what I’m taking it as.  I have much more developed arms than the Victorian lady who wore this jacket.

Using their handy guide to fixing dodgy sleeves

I did a combination of 1 and 5…

Cut the sleeves horizontally to add length

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And cut the sleeves vertically to add width.

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I re-cut, re-basted and did a second fit on the left-hand side of the jacket.  I wanted to leave the right side as it was at the first fit so I could compare and if worse came to worst, go back a few steps.

I shortened the shoulder line and deepened the armscye by taking an inch off the arm-hole edge on the front and back pieces.  I also shorted the top of the side-back piece by an inch but kept the original shape as much as possible.

Here’s the second fit.

The shorter shoulder sits much more naturally and the extra width in the sleeve makes a huge difference to the way the sleeve sits overall.

However, because the shoulder is shorter, the sleeves sit higher and they are even shorter than I thought they were.  Even after I added 3 inches to the sleeve length they are still ridiculously short so the next version (the final version) will have to add at least another 4 inches to the lower part of the sleeve and the wrist section.  I won’t do another series of horizontal cuts because I think the elbow is sitting pretty close to where I want it.

I also added the rever on the left side and made a collar (the pattern somehow neglected to include a collar so I had to draft one…basically a long rectangle) to see how they sat.

I’ve shaped the bottom hem of the jacket a little more than the original pattern so that it follows the line of the rever and curves up and around to meet the flare at the back.  It’s a strange shape but I like it.

The next stage is to get some fabric for the finished thing.[1]  And make hard decisions about colour and trimmings.  I think this jacket could very easily go too pirate.  Much as I love the weird medallions in the original pattern I’m not sure I want to stick eighteen doubloons to myself.   Does it need piping?  Maybe some embroidery?  Contrasting or complimentary lining? Do I want to go full-on steampunk?  These decisions are harder than basting.  I’ll be going back to Ripper Street and the V&A catalogue for some inspiration.

[1] Woo!  Best bit of sewing.