Tuesday, 4 December 2012


The turban: the grand-dame of headwear. Oh yes.

After reciving a lovely hank of Fibrespates Scrumptious 4ply in Dandelion & Burdock, I had to choose a project worthy of it's luminous deliciousness. Legwarmers, cowl and wristwarmers were all considered but put asunder as soon as I came across the DROPS designs Edith Piaf hat.  Super simple to knit, but brilliantly effective, this pattern uses double strands so the finished had is luxuriantly warm and weighty.

I've been wearing it non-stop... just need a 70s kaftan and the lounging lady look will be complete!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The highs and lows of a November weekend

The highs... Oxford's Chrismas Lights Night Market

The lows... accidentally letting go of Freya's much loved balloon! (bad, bad Mummy!)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Basic tailoring - oh my!

Last night was knit club night.  Good progress was made with Project Turban (more on this later!), the wine and chocolate flowed, and we compared disastrous brother stories. But the icing on the cake for me was being given a book that our hostess's mother in law had been clearing out.  

Basic Tailoring from Time Life Books (1975) looks pretty unassuming from the outside, but check out the title page for Chapter 1 and you'll understand why my heart skipped a little stacked heel beat. What could be more jolly than a kalaidescope montage of a 70s suited couple!

 I  have fallen in love with this book! Yes, the content is good - great step by step guide to tailoring with a bit of suiting history thrown in for good measure, but for me, the content comes second to the amazing images from a time before Photoshop...

  ...when men were maxing out the bow-ties and feeling mightily flambouyant with their evening wear...

"Hey man, I am loving that bowtie." "Why thanks, I made it myself."
Wooosh! Many an evening was spent running down hills with arms outstretched in the 70s...

 Billy Connelly in a hunting jacket? Suits you sir
Right, I'd best be off - I've got my work cut out convincing Mr Loulabelle that we need matching capes...

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Dressmaking - the next step

Have you lost confidence in sewing your own clothes, or started something but then been bamboozled by the pattern? Come and join me for an Intermediate Dressmaking Course brought to you by Pinworks at Oxford's Darn It & Stitch.

Bring along a pattern of your choice and we will guide you through.

A great way to build up your sewing skills and confidence in a small group.

Mondays: November 12th, 19th & 26th
December 3rd,10th & 17th
7 - 9.30pm
£175 pp

Sewing machines will be provided. To find out more or book your place email hello@pinworks.co.uk or call Darn It & Stitch 01865 242 779

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Making up for lost time

 Smiliest baby in all the land. Cow parsley prettiness in an urban sprawl. Demise of the White Flame. Marvellous Macaroons and Chilli jewels at East Oxford Farmers Market. Princess, pirate and her pink castle. Walking with purpose, resplendent in home knits. Feast for the eyes at Comma Shop.
On the boardwalk. Bags at Old Fire Station. Floral feast at Oxfork. Discovering bubbles. Busy in a blur. Tatoo-tastic. Splashing. Snails. Big girl cuddles. Best buddies. Recreating Totorro.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Mistress of the fly

Ha! Fly fronted trouser, I scoff at you!

I have just completed my first fly fronted flare (try saying that after a couple of glasses of Rioja) and am feeling really quite clever!

I used a 70s McCalls pattern which came from a car boot fair without instructions. Out came my trusty friend the Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, and together, we worked out how to add "some" inches to the waist (Eek, did a size 12 really have a 25" waist in the 70s? Who was eating all those Vienetta's?) and how to fashion a pretty decent fly.

Whoop whoop, I'm so pleased I did a little victory dance in the garden...

...(oh alright then, I'll be honest, this wasn't really a dance, just me getting a bit confused with my camera's self-timer). Still, nice trousers, if I do say so myself.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Dressing for summer

The spell of warm weather we've had lately took us by surprise a bit and I realised Freya's wardrobe was made up mostly of long sleeved tops and cardigans. She was starting to look a bit red in the face, so time to whip out the sewing machine for a quick summer wardrobe.

I found some amazing lobster fabric (in Darn it and Stitch) but thought a whole crustacean be-decked outfit might look a bit like theme dressing. Instead we went for a top in light brown and white stripes with lobster accents. The pattern we chose (Mccalls M4756) has a slightly more severe shape than I'd anticipated - next time I'll adjust the neckline to make it more scooped. So, I think the result is ummm, interesting, but hopefully in a good way - you're definitely not going to find this baby on the high street.  An added bonus is hearing Freya referring to her LOB-ster top  - with fruity Rowan Atkinson style pronounciation!

top and leggings: made by mummy, banana: model's own
the perfect outfit for a quick getaway
One of the quickest and easiest things in the "oh help we've run out of clothes" section of my head, is the elasticated waist skirt. I've been thinking about writing a tutorial - it's pretty self explanatory but in an emergency it's always good to have the "working it out for yourself" bit taken out of the equation! I'll let you know when I finally get round to it! There are a few different variations, but this time, I went for two vintage fabrics and ricrac combo. The bottom section fabric was a bit stiffer than the top section which means it doesn't gather up quite as much and creates this kind of sticky-out/bell shape. Totally unintentional, but I like it!

Another go-to toddler style is the classic elasticated sleeve and neckline peasant dress.  Over the last couple of weeks I've whipped up 2 dresses and 2 tops.  My model is starting to get a bit tetchy about having her photo taken, so I have only managed to get a shot of one version. For this one I used the same fabric for body and sleeves but added a bow - for the other top and the dresses I've been using contrasting fabric for the sleeves.
Freya perfects the "London look"
Finally, the black and white leggings, and rose leggings in the top pictures are another McCalls pattern (M6388). Amazingly quick and easy - I'd definitely recommend making your own leggings if you, like me, get annoyed that they always come in packs of two where one is funky and the other one is pink. By my calculations I will be able to fill an entire chest of drawers with pink leggings by the time Freya is 5.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Wowsers, check out these trousers!

Trousers - a word that has never been the same for me since it became a 3 minute mantra during a tipsy conversation with an Australian in Chile.  Anyway....

After making way too many baby trousers in my pre-Esther nesting frenzy, the lovely Emily from Oxford's Shop at the Old Fire Station commissioned a small range. The reversible trousers in my original post were based on a fab pattern from Made by Rae.  Using someone elses pattern for commercial purposes is of course a big no-no, so I drafted my own trouser pattern (higher back, deeper crotch, longer leg with more shaping etc) and added details such as leg pockets and cute bum appliques. I used 4 different fabric combos - 2 girly and 2 unisex in sizes 0-3 months and 3-6 months.

I really enjoyed drafting my own pattern - of course, it's something I do with bags all the time, but drafting clothes patterns from scratch has been something I've done much more of since having the girls - maybe it's because baby clothes use up so much less fabric that the risk of disaster feels less significant!

So, if you're in Oxford and passing the Old Fire Station take a peak at my baby pants! Oh, and if you're ever at a loss for something to do, try saying "trousers" repeatedly for 3 minutes.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Yoga bags

On a post-baby quest to relocate a pelvic floor, I recently rediscovered my love of yoga. Dusting off the yoga mat I decided a new mat bag would definitely help get me more bendy (procrastinating, moi?). 

I've now added a range of vintage fabric yoga mat bags to my shop - they might not make you bendy but they will make your mat look pretty!

Monday, 3 September 2012

This week I will mostly be stroking the latest additions to my vintage fabric stash...


Friday, 31 August 2012

60s fashion knits

After the intimidating lady knits of the late 50s, let's head over to the 60s for a look at Patons Fashion Knits no 13. This is much more in my comfort zone - both in terms of style (safely back in a world of clashing colours and funky tights) and knitting ability. It's double knit and aran a go go from here on (phew!)

First up we banish the trauma of the 50s 2 ply lace dress with this infinitely more realistic version knitted in chunky yarn. Still likely to reveal every single biscuit you ever ate, but at least you could knit it within a year and it looks great in a sketch.

I love these his and hers apres-ski sweaters. Not sure I'd be able to convince Mr Loulaballe to adopt the Roger-Moore-at-play look but I'm definitely up for going solo with the lady version.

This red snow cape ticks all the boxes for me - cosy, all-enveloping and the perfect way to create an air of mystery (you could do all sorts under there - read a book, wash the dishes, strum a small guitar).  Okay, so I know this is very wrong, but I am also strangely drawn to the "attractive brushed helmet". It would give my children nightmares, but snug in my helmet of wooly check, the fearful pleas to "take the scary hat off, mummy" would be nicely muffled.

Unfortunatley, here is where Patons Fashion Knits starts to get the better of me. The stockings and pillar box hat are definite yes for style, but how do you keep a hat like that on your head, and as much as I love the green and olive stockings, I fear my attention span would reduce them to ankle socks.

Finally, I had to share this housecoat and long johns combo. The pattern says it all really:  "slightly crazy, but very chic... makes an amusing outfit for a winter evening at home". hmmm...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Knitting for Ladies

Last week I got my knitty little hands on another batch of vintage patterns - it's been a while since our last vintage knit post, so I reckon it's time for another review of the highs and curious lows of knitting moments from the past. I say moments, but some of these beauties would take me years to create!

First up is the Vogue Knitting Book No 52 published around 1958 - so a bit earlier than my favoured vintage era. These knits are much more for the "lady" and perhaps that's one reason why I find them beautiful but unnerving. The other reason is they are clearly aimed at the highly committed knitter. We're enticed to "Make this a Knitted Summer" and in view of our current climate, that still seems like a pretty good idea. But, on the downside, these patterns don't leave much time for beach trips, barbecues or ball games.

 Take for example, this beautiful minimalist two piece dress designed for "off-duty fun". Gorgeous yes, but knitted on the skinniest of needles (imperial size 11/metric size 3), that veneer of whimsical serenity on the models face is actually the vacant glaze acquired from many many many hours of teeny tiny stocking stitch.

Next we have the Late Day Dress - again, beautiful but that my friends, is a lace dress hand knitted in 2ply wool. We can be pretty sure that the butler finished that one off while Madam did some leaning against the summer house pillars (leaning against outdoor structures was big in 1958 it seems).

There are some more achievable styles - for example the striped cardigan blouse - described as "easy to live in" - probably because its knitted in 4 ply so might actually get finished. I think we all agree that "bracelet length sleeves" are much more glamorous than your bog standard 3/4 length.

 The rose cardigan is very pretty but I know my roses would look like blobs of blancmange.

This double breasted jacket blouse is a bit more accomplishable, and "pastels are knitting headlines in the Continent " you know, but I'm despeartely missing the chunky vibrant shades of the 60s and 70s.

 The most achievable pattern - and the one I might actually attempt is this garter stitch dolman pullover with roll collar.  In fact, it's going on The List, so who knows, one day I might actually be able to show you a finished version (although there will be no smoking on speed boats for me I fear!).

Well, enough of the land of ladies, next up is the 60s for some Patons projects that, while still ambitious are at least using double knit wool... stay tuned!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Dungaree delight

These vintage dungarees were one of my favourite pre-Esther nesting-frenzy finds. 10p from a charity shop (seriously, nearly nothing is 10p anymore) and what's not to love about brown and orange towelling. She looks like the cutest little fraggle in them - and an absorbant one at that.

So, I decided to have a go at making a second set from an old purple sweater and some scraps of jersey I had lying around. They were completed Thursday night/early Friday morning in a mad I-really-really-should-go-to-bed-right-now kind of rush, so the finish is pretty horrendous.  But if you just don't look at the inside, then they turned out okay! I used the ribbing at the bottom of the sweater as the trouser cuffs -  I overestimated the length, but actually it worked out well as I like how they look with the rib cuff rolled up.

 Essie seems pretty happy with them...


With a few extra tweaks (introducing a facing, adding a proper cuff, changing the fastening) these might turn into a new pattern for the shop.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A good time in Thame

Yesterday was the inaugural "Day-trip Tuesday" - a new fortnightly, or thereabouts, event dreamt up to keep two vintage and textile loving mums and their babies entertained while baby yoga classes are taking a summer break. Of course, it's also part of a selfless plan to support the local economies of Oxfordshire charity shops (we're all about giving something back!).

Our first destination was Thame, and if every trip is as "successful" as this one, I may well need to clear out a couple of cupboards!

First spot was this adorable pinafore skirt - Freya waved goodbye this morning looking like the most perfect little Heidi ever. She won't look like that when I pick her up, but at least I tried! I'm definitely going to use this skirt as pattern for other versions - it would look fab in a light courdory for autumn/winter.

The next find was this summer dressing gown - much more glam than the drab grey maternity one I've been using. [Note to self:  avoid self portraits in a dressing gown at all costs! Mostly you will look like a total poser or a terrifyingly hideous 'Readers Wife'. This not so great shot, was the last of 36 and that look in my eyes is one of desperation!]

A spot of vintage chintz to add to the fabric stash - a work-related find to make this trip feel less indulgent!

Lastly, a set of 4 dinner plates and 1 side plate at the bargain price 50p each - I've been looking for plates I like for ages as we were down to 2 pitiful cracked white ones from Matalan. These brown lovelies fit in pefectly with our 70s kitchen accessories theme - and even tie in nicely with my prized Orla Kiely butter dish, so everything's golden in the kitchen department!

My fellow shopping friend snapped up an amazing wall clock with a fab 60s/70s face on a leather "wrist-strap". Sounds horrendous, but truly it is a thing of vintage wonderment! 

So, altogether a pretty good morning's work! Our next trip is planned for Witney.. stay tuned for more vintage delights (I hope!)


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