On last week's episode of the Great British Sewing Bee I was fascinated by the silk map dress that they included in their Make Do and Mend history section. And judging by the flurry of mentions it got on twitter at the time, I'm not the only one that thought it was exquisite. If you didn't spot the dress, you can see it oniPlayer
, at around 27mins.
To the left is a similar example from the Imperial War Museum collection and an original Escape Map. These maps were made from first from silk and then rayon, materials which allowed them to be folded up very small, and thus be concealed more easily. The use of fabric over paper also had other advantages, such as its resilience to tearing and water damage, as well as its 'rustle free' nature. It is estimated that many thousands of British and Allied troops may have used these escape maps to evade capture and return home. More detail about the history of WW2 escape maps can be found here
I have always found maps fascinating. Is it the aesthetically pleasing presentation of information that is so appealing, or perhaps the sense of journey and discovery that is embedded in them?
One of the things I love to collect is souvenir textiles. I like the sense of adventure that they have associated with them and I daydream about the exotic trips that they were acquired on. One of my favourites is this 60s Souvenir Of Aden scarf. It is full of spelling mistakes and shown here upside down (whoops!) but I love the vibrancy of the colours.
The interest in map clearly runs in the family. The very first item my Dad bought at auction were these Bartholomew's Maps from the 50s. They are enormous and weigh a ton, but they are wonderfully detailed. I love their tagline 'The Good Companion - For the Wise Traveller'.
The most treasured map I own is roughly sketched on the back on an envelope. It was drawn from memory by my Grandpa, showing the route he travelled from where he was stationed in World War Two, to the beaches of Dunkirk where he was evacuated. I embroidered it onto a piece of textile art that I made about his life, which you can see below.
Do you share my fascination for maps? What is it about them that appeals to you?
Today I thought I'd share with you some of the resources I have found on vintage knitting and crochet, in my quest for patterns to try out myself.
As with cooking from vintage recipes, making items from old patterns is not an exact science and often requires some guesswork. But if you like experimenting, it can be great fun!
One of the most useful collections I have found is the Victoria and Albert Museum's 1940s Patterns to Knit
. There is a nice mix of patterns - from ones that provide an insight into the wartime effort such as 'The Balaclava Helmet' and the 'Fatigue Cap' (which converts to a scarf) and patterns which would still be very wearable today, like the 'Victory Jumper' and 'Fair Isle Gloves'. I've found the patterns are easy to download and follow. I'm going to try my hand at the Victory Jumper as I just love the combination of blue and red.
The Open Library has several books on knitting and crochet that you can read online. The Art of Knitting
has a particularly good section on knitting stitches, patterns and borders that could be incorporated into all sorts of projects.
The Knitting Reference Library at the University of Southampton has digitised the Richard Rutt collection of Victorian knitting manuals
. Though perhaps the patterns are mainly of interest for historical and reenactment use, there are some rather nice patterns for lace shawls and baby boots which might be worth trying out. Many of the books are lovely just to look at, and interesting to read for their historical significance - I rather took a fancy to 'Ladies Work for Sailors' which contains patterns such as Sea Boot Stockings, Steering Gloves and Comforters. Vintage Purls
, a New Zealand yarn supplier has a good section of out of copyright patterns, including some great 50s examples and super cute baby dresses. Subversive Femme
shares free vintage knitting patterns on her blog, as well as selling copies in her Etsy shop
. She is a self confessed vintage obsessive and has a very enviable wardrobe of vintage originals and handmade garments.
The National Library of Australia has digitised issues of the Australian Women's Weekly
from 1933 to 1982 and searches for knitting and crochet return over 3000 results each. There are some real gems to be found in this collection and I think this 50s cardigan
is rather stunning.
As you can see there is a wealth of places to find free knitting and crochet patterns online, but if you fancy an original paper copy then I would recommend keeping your eye out in the local charity shops and having a search on Etsy
I'm halfway through knitting a 1940s lace pattern snood myself. Are you currently making something from a vintage pattern? If not, I hope I have inspired you to try!
It seems like all things sewing and dressmaking are seeing a massive resurgence in recent years, and the popularity of the Great British Sewing Bee certainly looks to propel it even further.
I've recently embarked on a mission to improve my sewing skills through making a garment for myself each month. I plan to mainly use vintage fabrics and upcycled materials, and to recreate patterns and looks based on garments from the past.
For my first project I thought I'd start with something nice and simple - making a 50s style circle skirt from a 60s floral tablecloth. It was a joy to make and I have learnt a lot along the way. Here's how I made it I you fancy having a go too...
First find the centre of your circle by measuring the halfway point across from edge to edge several times.
Next, you need to do some more maths, but I promise it's not too scary! Measure your waist circumference, then divide it by pi, and again by two, to find out the radius of the circle you will need to cut out of the fabric for your waist. If that all seemed like gibberish then here is an example using my measurements:
Waist = 24 inches
Divide waist measurement by pi - 24/3.14 = 7.6 Diameter
Divide diameter by two - 7.6/2 = 3.8 Radius
To mark your waist seam on the fabric simply draw a circle with this radius centred on your mid point. I used the trusty 'pencil tied to some string' method to draw mine. Next mark your back seam for the zipper from the centre point, straight down to the hem. I didn't allow for seam allowance at the waist, as I found this was equalled out by the take up in circumference by the radial seam need for the zip.
You are now ready to cut your fabric along the lines you have marked and move onto the sewing. Zigzig along your zip seam edges, or overlock them if you're lucky enough to have the equipment ;-)
This was the very first project I've done involving a zip and I used this tutorial on Make It Love It
. Basically, you sew up the entire seam, tape on the zip (I hand basted it for extra security), then sew either side of the zip close to the teeth, and then unpick the seam from the top to reveal the zip. I found that though this took more time than other methods, it resulted in a good finish.
To finish your skirt you can edge the waist with bias binding, or you can make a waistband like I did. Cut a strip of fabric (with seam allowance) longer than your waist measurement and double the width you want your finished band to be. Cut a matching piece of interlining or stiffening fabric. I embroidered my waistband for added detail.
To attach it to the skirt you can either pin it and sew right sides together and then 'stitch in the ditch' all the way round, or, as I did, hand hem the inside raw edge, so that no stitching is visible. I then finished the waistband ends by hand and stitched on two hooks and eyes to complete the skirt.
And here I am modelling it in all its glory! It must say I am rather pleased with it and it does twirl beautifully. The fullness of the circle also creates a lovely drape.
So there you have it! What do think of my first foray into dressmaking?
Have you made any clothing recently? Don't forget that the second episode of The Great British Sewing Bee is on at 8pm tonight... Enjoy!
I love that shopping is a big part of my job running this business. I get to seek out vintage treasures that are hidden away and find them new homes that can appreciate them again. So often I wish I could know more about the person that used to own the items I find for our shop and the stories behind the
This week's favourite finds are just that. I bought these dresses over Easter when I was away in Oxford. When I walked into the shop I saw this on the mannequin and knew I had to have it!
It's a Liberty print design for Sambo's Dollyrockers. It has a psychedelic print and a drop waist shape so is perfect for rocking both the Sixties and Twenties looks that are so on trend at the moment.
Seeing my enthusiasm for this dress, the extremely nice shop assistant directed me to two other dresses which had been brought in by the same woman.
Isn't this a fantastic print! I've dubbed it pixelated paisley.
Well you certainly wouldn't 'spot' anyone else wearing this dress! It's been handmade so its completely unique.
I would so love to know more about the person who owned and possibly made two of these dresses. She certainly was a woman after my own heart - we share a love Liberty prints, bold colours and eccentric dresses! The 60s is one of the eras that I would most like to go back to and the sheer fun of these dresses shows why.
Unfortunately none of these fab dresses are my size :-( I could try adjusting them but I don't want to spoil them. So I will be looking for new owners for them that will love them as much as I do. I'll be bringing them along to my next event at Off The Rails
at St Andrew's Church on Saturday April 13th. If they're not snapped up there, they'll be in my Etsy Shop
Which of the three dresses do you like best?
This Saturday we had the pleasure of attending From Cambridge With Love
at the Cambridge Guildhall. Despite the snow and rain we had a fabulous time and are very grateful to all those who braved the weather to come and see us.
We met some delightful fellow stallholders and here are a few of my favourite picks from their wares.
Mouthwatering cakes were on offer from Biscotti di Debora
. I had one of these tiramisu cakes and I can tell you it certainly did not disappoint! Further temptation was provided by Harry Specters
handmade luxury chocolates. Not only were they beautiful and delicious, but the fact that the business is a social enterprise supporting people with autism, made me feel even better about eating them!
Moving on to retro homewares, I spotted these two tea themed lamps. Annabel from Bellaboos
makes these quirky lamps by drilling into vintage china, and the bright red shade by Skylark Designs
has been embellished with cute teacup appliqués.
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It was great to find so many of the fellow stallholders were also Etsy Shop owners. These fun textile delights are from Bruise Violet Designs
and Wee Island
and you can see more of their creations in the links to their shops above.
As well as the stalls, there was lots going on throughout the day with face painting by E & K Occasions
, photography by JHarris
, retro hairstyling by Chelsea of Sitting Pretty
and live music that never failed to get me singing along! We also met poet Emmalena Ellis
who was offering previews of her upcoming book and poetry writing workshops. I was very envious of her music themed tapestry jacket. Isn't it great!
So finally onto our Retrovert stall. We had all sorts of vintage delights on offer; our quirky range of vintage clothes, an abundance of accessories, elegant china and of course a few bargain items too! Many of the items we sold were fitting with the awful weather. We said goodbye to a fabulous 60s sheepskin coat, a hand crocheted blanket and my beloved umbrella brooch
And I'll leave you with a few of my favourites from our very own stall. There's nothing like a gorgeous new cake stand, a kitsch clown and some dancing couples to make me smile!
From Cambridge With Love returns to the Guildhall on May 11th and it would be great to see some of you there. I'm looking forward to it already!
This Saturday 'From Cambridge... With Love' makes its debut at the Guildhall. I for one am very excited!
Here's what the creators have to say about this brand new handmade and retro fair: "A vibrant and fun event showcasing the very finest of Cambridge's local produce, artisans, handmade, retro homewares, independent retailers. This isn't just a fair - but an event for all ages. If shopping isn't you thing then try out our gorgeous tearoom, cupcakes, live music, workshops, beauty bar - and much much more!"I particularly like the sound of the truffle making and retro hairstyling demos. Head on over to their Facebook page for tantalising glimpses of what's to come.
I think the best thing about this new event is that it will showcase the amazing array of local talents that we have. I find you can get so much more out of buying from independent retailers - the story behind their products, attention to detail and just a more personal touch.
I'm busy getting ready a fabulous range of vintage fashion, accessories and jewellery for my stall at the event. I'm going to be optimistic about the arrival of spring and bring my collection of very pretty print dresses that can't wait to get out in some long awaited sunshine!
Hope to see you there! Sophie x
With the imminent arrival of spring and the promise of St Patrick's Day, I've got my mind on glorious green. Emerald Green, chosen by Pantone as the colour of 2013, is said to be "Lively. Radiant. Lush… A color of elegance and beauty that enhances our sense of well-being, balance and harmony." and I rather fancy we could all do with a bit of that!
The favourite item I own in this verdant hue is a velvet cord coat that I have had for years. It's not vintage, but it has a classic seventies feel to it don't you think?
When it comes to using emerald green in both in your home and your outfits, I think it's great partnered with florals for a natural look.
Combining green with its two base hues can create different moods. Put it together with yellow to create a bright and energising look, or go for a softer style by wearing it with blue. I love to combine emerald hues with other jewel tones and can never resist the classic Suffragette combination of green and purple.
So there's a few ideas of how to use emerald green in your home and wardrobe. What do you think - is it a colour that you will experiment with?
If you can't get enough of glorious green, here's my latest Etsy treasury
featuring fabulous UK and Ireland sellers to tempt you further...
It was with great excitement this Saturday that I set off on my bike to Ta Bouche for the very first Cam Blog Meet. Bloggers both local and not so local (one intrepid traveller came all the way from the Isle of Wight!) gathered together for a meeting with fellow creatives. I didn't know what to expect, but in turned out to be a fabulous afternoon of chatting about life, craft, baking, and all sorts!
The day was made even more exciting by the goody bags that Claire from Claireabellemakes
had put together for us. She had clearly spent a lot of time making them and had procured some very generous donations from various companies. I didn't manage to take any photos of the day, but you can find some on Claireabellemakes
, Miss Dotty
, Emma Block
's posts about the day. Instead, I thought I'd share with you the lovely gifts we received!
First up, a handmade button ring from Claireabellemakes. These make really nice gifts and I am looking forward to wearing this floral one with my vintage spring dresses. You can find Claire's handmade accessories in her Etsy Shop
and also come and visit her stall at From Cambridge with Love
on the 23rd March, where I'll also be bringing my vintage wares.
More handmade loveliness came in the form of Lush 'Dirty' Soap
. The name at first put me off a bit, but it does smell lovely and minty and happens to be one of my favourite shades of blue. I also discovered that this soap is palm oil free, so gets a tick from me for being more eco friendly.
I also love my washi tape from washitapes.co.uk
and this will definitely be featuring in the wrapping up of purchases from my Etsy shop
from now on.
It was fantastic to get together with fellow creatives and chat about our crafting achievements (and failures!) Crafty Glitten
and Suzie Makes
have both recently adventured into dressmaking and their enthusiasm has got me itching to do get on with my own. I am planning on starting with a nice and simple circle skirt (which I am sure will end up not so simple!)
Following on with the craft theme, we were treated to a taster from Crafty Creatives
, who have a monthly box subscription service. These bits and bobs will be making their way into my supply stash until I come up with something to make with them. I can never have enough buttons!
I am also looking forward to trying this little treat from teapigs. It smells quite delicious and you can see that it really is a tea with quality ingredients.
I think I will enjoy my 'super fruit' with a more in depth read of Homemaker Magazine
. It is beautifully designed and full of upcycling ideas and vintage homewares, so couldn't be more suited to me.
I'm sure all my fellow attendees would agree that the first Cam Blog Meet was fabulous and the standards have certainly been set high for the next one! I can't wait.
Last week our great city was home to its first ever major fashion event Cambridge Style Week. We were lucky enough to be a part of it and here's how it went:
Retrovert's Pop Up Shop
We had lots of fun choosing what vintage fashions to showcase on our stall. We went for a mix of classic vintage labels - Horrockses, Frank Usher, Lee Bender... and out there vintage pieces like this 70s velvet coat and a psychedelic backless jumpsuit for the more adventurous fashionista! We couldn't resist taking a collection of vintage bags and purses and also debuted our collection of vintage jewellery, which went down very well. A personal highlight was Mum winning a Scudamores season ticket for punting, so expect to see us out on the river this summer in our vintage apparel!
Our Fellow Boutiques
It was a pleasure to have the company of inspiring local businesswomen throughout the week. Alison from TweedVixen
was showcasing her quintessentially British fashions made from tweed with a contemporary twist. A particular favourite of mine was a purple tweed shoulder bag, which got snapped up by a lovely visitor to the fashion show on the last day. They still have a fabulous version of the bag available in red, which you can find here
. Belynda from B Jewellery
was there with her beautifully handcrafted jewellery made from silver and semi precious stones. I loved her upcycled rings made from old silver spoons. There was also a bold and bright display from jewellery maker Caterina Wills
and an array of stunning dresses from Georgia and Susan of GD Designer Style Hire
Also showcasing their local businesses were Wendy from Design Essentials
and Cambridge interior designer
Mary with a contemporary interior display. This was complemented by floral designs from the lovely Claire of Waterbaby Flowers
. I just love the way they injected colour into the set and took on a sculptural form to complement the homewares around them.
And now onto the catwalk shows....
Best of British
The first night kicked off with a Best of British Gala and you can see my favourites from the night in my previous blog here
. As a business that loves knowing at least 90% of what we sell was made in the UK (albeit some years ago!) we thought this was a great theme to start of the event. Fittingly, my mannequin donned this fabulous 60s mod dress in red and white that was made in good old Great Britain.
Emerging Talent - Future Fashion
On Thursday night we were treated to a thrilling show of designs by Cambridge School of Art students from Anglia Ruskin. This sculptural dress is what stood out most for me. It is handmade from nuno felt and the designer, Asia Prusinowska, said it took 3 months to make! You can find some of her wearable art in her Etsy shop
Ethical and Sustainable
Friday night showcased ethical and sustainable fashions, so as an eco business we were thrilled that this emerging area of fashion was recognised. These were my favourite dresses from the show:
I loved the bold batik style print of this dress from online boutique Curious Orange
A turquoise stunner from GD Designer Style Hire topped with a creation by SB Millinery
This was another great dress from Curious Orange with a fab colourful print.
Spring Summer and Lingerie
My highlight from Saturday's finale had to be the eyewear on show from Clamp Optometrists
. I spotted a pair of 50s style cat eye frames that I might just have to pop in and try on!
This was the final tableau that drew much appreciation from the crowd. The brightly coloured underwear was from Bjorn Borg at John Lewis
, though I'm sure that's not what you're looking at ; )
So there you have it! It was fabulous week of fashion and we can't wait for next year. Thanks to everyone involved, particularly Nicky Shepard, for all their hard work putting the event together.
All the wonderful pictures in this post are by local photographer Alex Bright and you can find her photography at www.alexbright.co.uk
If you are looking for a talented and friendly photographer, I would definitely recommend her!
Got some spare time in the kitchen? Then you should make some marmalade.
If you're a fan of this sweet conserve, I promise it will be worthwhile. It tastes so much better than anything you can buy from the shops. Seville oranges, with their bitter flesh and high pectin content, are renowned for creating the best marmalade, and they're only in season until February. So now's the time to get preserving!
How To Make Seville Orange Marmalade
This is a vintage recipe written by my Great Great Aunt Nell, and she had it from Ethel before her, so it is at least 100 years old. There's nothing like a traditional family recipe!
Here's my modern translation:
4 Seville Oranges
1 Sweet Orange
4 pounds Granulated Sugar (I use 3lbs for a more bittersweet taste)
3 pints Water
Wash the fruit and cut it into quarters. With the tip of a sharp knife, or with your fingers if you don't mind getting very sticky, remove all the pips from the segments. If you haven't used Seville oranges before you will notice how they have lots more pips and pith than normal oranges, which is why they are so high in pectin. Place the pips in a bowl and cover with a small amount of water.
Next, finely slice the fruit. I aim for about 1-2mm strips, but you can go chunkier for a quicker marmalade. Place in a large bowl and then cover with the water.
Cover both bowls with a cloth and then leave overnight.
The next morning, strain the liquid from the pips using a fine sieve or piece of muslin. The pectin soaks out of the pips so the liquid should have become very gelatinous and is what will make your marmalade set. Add this to the bowl of fruit and stir well.
You are then ready to start cooking! If you have a big preserving pan (lucky you!) then you can just put it all in and cook for 2 hours on a medium heat. If, like me, you need to split the mixture then use a ladle to separate the fruit and water into two pans. Just remember when adding the sugar later that you will need to add half to each pan.
After 2 hours, the fruit peel should be soft and you can now add the sugar. Do this at a low heat and stir constantly.
When the liquid becomes translucent and the crystals have disappeared, you can start to bringing it up to the boil. This is the point where it is most likely to catch at the bottom and burn, so stir and watch carefully. Keep at a steady boil for an hour and a half.
While you're waiting, pop a couple of saucers in the freezer so you can test the marmalade will set. You can tell it is done by putting a small amount on a cold saucer - if it wrinkles slightly when you push it with your fingernail, then it will set. If not, then keep checking the marmalade every 10 minutes until it passes the test.
Sterilise a few jars by washing with hot soapy water and drying them for 10 minutes in the oven. Then pour the marmalade into the jars and seal.
Scrape out what's left and enjoy the results of your hard work on some bread or even straight off the spoon. Nom!