The Hunt For Red October Finds an Innocent BHL Polly Top and…David Bowie’s Pants!?

Red By Hand London Polly Top and CulottesThe Sewcialists on Twitter began chatting about life, love and the pursuit of happiness, as you do, when out of that, came an idea to sew colours.  October then became Sew Red October, and here is the uber-fabulous badge that Gillian made:RedOctober Badge

Polly-By-Hand-London

Free Pattern – By Hand London Polly Top

I also discovered that the lovely ladies from By Hand London created a pattern called the Polly Top.  It’s terrific, a great stash buster, and I will be sewing it again in other colours, for sure.  And, it’s FREE!  You can find the link to download it here.  They’ve also included a how-to video so it’s perfect for beginners or anybody wanting to follow along with visual aid.

The smallest size was a bit too large, so when printing it out in Adobe, instead of selecting ‘actual size’, I reduced it to 94%.  I did not want to lose the length, however, so measured how long the smallest size would be, and added that amount to the reduced pattern pieces.

Printing at 94% & Adding Length

Printing at 94% & Adding Length

The great thing about this top is that you can showcase a colour / pattern or fabric that you may never wear because you don’t like it on you personally, since the piece in front is small and doesn’t touch your neck/face.  You can use either contrasting or matching bias binding for the neck and armholes and I opted to make my own bias tape (my first time) out of the striped fabric.  I used a bias tape maker for this and it was very simple.

Making Your Own Bias Tape Using a Bias Tape Maker Tool

Making Your Own Bias Tape Using a Bias Tape Maker Tool

By Hand London Polly Top different anglesCulottes and Poly Top TwirlingVogue 8136I have always liked the practicality and the swishy factor of culottes, so wanted to make a pair.  I used a vintage pattern from the 1970s, Vogue 8136, which has a yoke, back zip and are high waisted, something I don’t normally wear, but I like the look with the yoke and wide leg.  I believe it is likely we will be seeing more culottes in fashion.  There are dozens of vintage patterns out there, or if you are interested in something more modern, Megan Neilson has recently developed the Tania Culottes.

Sewing Machine Needle Tip:  The fabric I used for the culottes was a tightly woven sueded polyester/microfibre and I kept getting many skipped stitches.  I was using a small size (75/11) Universal needle.  But, for this type of fabric you NEED to use a Sharp or Microtex.  The Universal needle has a slight ballpoint and it was not piercing and catching the fabric so the stitches were not taking.  As soon as I changed to a larger sized (90/14) Sharp, I had no more skipped stitches.  Culottes Gauchos Split Skirt I used the striped fabric from the Polly top to line the yoke and the pockets of the culottes.  So they do match the top, but since it’s all on the inside, only you and I will know it.  Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone. Lined Yoke and PocketsYoke and Pockets LiningThese culottes have quite the leg girth, so if you stand certain ways, It is difficult to tell if it is a skirt or trousers.  I plan on making them again but reducing the size of the leg pieces to emphasize the ‘culotte factor and make it more obvious.

Is It A Skirt??  Nope!! It Is Culottes.

Is It A Skirt?? Nope!! It Is Culottes.

–Do these trousers remind you of anyone?–

That's The One!!

That’s The One!! David Bowie in his infamous trousers designed by Yamamoto Kansai in 1973.

Today’s blogpost has been brought to you by:  The Colour Red!  While doing this Sewalong, I realized that I have absolutely nothing in my wardrobe that is red, except for one winter coat.  What about you?

Red, a primary colour that is the hottest of the warm colours, Rainbow over the Muldrow Glacieris the highest arc of the rainbow and is also the longest wavelength of light.  It is the colour of fire and is associated with heat and warmth. Coals-Heat-FireRed is the color of blood, and as such has strong symbolism as life and vitality. It is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love.

Red is one of the first colours to be used by humans as art such as prehistoric cave drawings or body painting.

Cave Drawing Altamira, Spain

Cave Drawing Altamira, Spain

In an archaeological site in South Africa, Pinnacle Point, ochre coloured iron oxide tools were discovered dating back to 170,000 years ago.  Before synthetic dyes were created, the colour red was produced by drying and crushing tiny insects called Kermes Vermilio (hence, vermillion red).

Being the color of physical movement, the color red awakens our physical life force. It is the color of sexuality and lust while love is expressed with pink.  Red is a very emotionally intense color. Red is energizing.  It excites the emotions and motivates us to take action.Red Tag Sale

It signifies a pioneering spirit and leadership qualities, promoting ambition and determination. Red is the colour most associated with courage and can give confidence to those who are shy or lacking in will power.

It enhances human metabolism, increases respiration rate, and raises blood pressure. The color red can stimulate the appetite, often being used in restaurants for this purpose. It also increases craving for food and other stimuli.Red Dining Room Country Living

It has very high visibility, which is why stop signs, stop lights, and fire equipment are usually red.  It is the universal colour for danger.  Danger SignsRed brings text and images to the foreground.

source: Damir Sagolj Reuters

source: Damir Sagolj Reuters

In heraldry, red is used to indicate courage.  It is a colour found in many national flags (77% of all flags include red) and is commonly associated with socialism and communism.

Being surrounded by too much of the colour red can cause us to become irritated, agitated and ultimately angry. Too little and we become cautious, manipulative and fearful.

In Eastern cultures such as China, red is the colour for good luck, prosperity and joy and is traditionally the colour for weddings.  In Indian culture it symbolizes purity and is often used in wedding gowns.  In South Africa, red is the color of mourning, representing death.  In Central Africa, Ndembu warriors rub themselves with red paint during celebrations.  red-roses-photoSince their culture sees the color as a symbol of life and health, sick people are also painted with it.  In Russia, the word for “red” means beautiful.  In the Middle East the colour carries symbolism of Danger and Evil.  According to Greek mythology, the red rose originated from the blood of the slain Adonis, Aphrodite’s lover.  Red became both the universal symbol of lovers, as well as nature’s cycle of life and death.

source: catholicpressphoto.com

source: catholicpressphoto.com

In the Catholic religion, cardinals wear read and its one of the most iconic colours of the clergy.

The colour red can provide:

Energy:  it boosts our physical energy levels, increases our heart rate and blood pressure and prompts the release of adrenalin.  Action:  it is fast moving and promotes a need for action and movement.  Desire:  it relates to physical desire in all its forms- sexual, appetite, cravings.  Passion:  it means a passionate belief in an issue or undertaking, including passionate love or passionate hate or anger.

root chakraRed is the color associated with the Root Chakra, which is the first chakra, located at the base of the spine and groin area.  This chakra deals with life at the level of practicality and allows us to be grounded and connected to universal energies. It is responsible for maintaining the body’s heat and has a relationship with the circulatory system.

Red-Green Colour Blindness Test.  Can you read this?

Red-Green Colour Blindness Test. Can you read this?

Many kinds of mammals, such as dogs and cattle, have dichromacy, which means they can see blues and yellows, but cannot distinguish red and green (both are seen as gray).  Some humans also have what is called red-green colour blindness.

Katherine Hepburn was a ginger

Katherine Hepburn was a Ginger

Red is the rarest hair colour and between 1% and 2%, or 70 to 140 million people around the world, have red hair.  It is caused by a recessive gene and both parents must pass it on.

Put some red in your life when you want:

  • increased enthusiasm and interest
  • more energy
  • action and confidence to go after your dreams
  • protection from fears and anxieties

Kitty has made no appearance in the photoshoot!!!!!  Fear not.  I have compiled collages of him as a baby kitten in a SuperKitty costume with a bright red cape!  Because that’s the kind of Kitty he is.Super Kitty

Kitty.  Super Sewing Hero.

Kitty. Super Sewing Hero.

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That 70s Dress: Diane Von Furstenberg

Designer Diane von Furstenberg at Home

Diane Von Furstenberg looking like art. source: Corbis

The September Monthly Stitch vintage-challenge-badgechallenge was to sew something from Vintage Patterns.  I chose the iconic 70s dress maven Diane Von Furstenberg’s knit dress pattern from Vogue (V1547).  There was also a challenge called Fall For CottonFallForCotton200where you were to sew a vintage inspired pattern using only cotton fabrics.  So, I chose only cotton knits for both of the dresses. Diane Von Furstenberg Knit DressesIn the 1970s, Diane Von Furstenberg launched her signature versatile, easy-breezy wrap dress, that came to symbolize freedom and strength for a newly empowered generation of women.  It symbolized the New Woman, the then-revolutionary concept of competing in a man’s world while looking feminine.

Diane Von Fustenberg and Andy Warhol.  source:  Harper's Bazaar

Diane Von Fustenberg and Andy Warhol. source: Harper’s Bazaar

By 1976 she had sold over a million of her signature knit wrap dresses and landed on the cover of The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek, the latter dubbing her “the most marketable woman since Coco Chanel” (http://www.dvf.com/timeline-70s.html).

Von Furstenberg has been the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America since 2006 and the year before was honored with their lifetime achievement award.  A 1970s DVF knit wrap dress is represented in New York’s Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My mother, in the 1970s, used a DVF wrap dress Vogue pattern 1549, with collar and cuffs, to sew a dress for herself in a geometric black and white printed knit.

DVF 70s collared and cuffed knit wrap dress

My mum’s DVF knit wrap dress she sewed in the 1970s

Her version is almost identical to one DVF wore on the cover of Vogue Patterns magazine from 1976.

DFV on Vogue Patterns Magazine

DVF on the cover of Vogue Patterns, 1976

V1547 – Version B

For my short-sleeved belted version of the dress, I used ‘Germania’ by Jay McCarrol for FreeSpirit, Westminster Fibers brown geometric polka dot fabric.  It is a cotton knit that I purchased in the quilting section of a home decor fabric store.  And, after sewing the dress, I do wonder if this fabric is more suitable to quilts, blankets, etc. because I had a horrific time while sewing it.

DFV brown polka dot knit dress front and backTrying to unpick a stitch resulted in an almost immediate hole or would leave an obvious white spot from the needle holes since the back of the fabric is white and it also kept stretching completely out of shape.DVF brown polka dot knit dress Go Kitty (2)I could not get the overlocker to sew it properly, it kept jamming the machine, so I used a sewing machine.  But, using the triple stretch stitch or the knit stitch, the sleeve bands stretched 2 inches while I was sewing them on.  So, they do not lie flat and are not tight enough. When I tried a regular straight stitch, it would not hold together and slid back and forth on the thread as if gathering and then would break almost immediately.

Hello Kitty!

Hello Kitty!

I decided to wash the dress and put it in a hot dryer (even though I had already pre-shrunk) to see if it would help tighten up the fabric.  No, it did not.  But, what it did do was wrinkle like the dickens.  So, I had to iron every inch of my easy, breezy, simple knit dress.  Does this sound almost like blasphemy?  So, all in all, it did not turn out the way I had hoped, but it still works for a very casual, almost sweatshirt-like dress.  If anybody has any ideas about using this kind of fabric for fitted garments, or if indeed, it is not meant to be used for this purpose, please do share.

Reasons to Love the 70s.  Can You Think Of Any More?

Reasons to Love the 70s. Can You Think Of Any More?

V1547 – Version A

DVF blue knit dress front and backFor the long-sleeved version with the scarf tie, I used a four-way stretch cotton knit jersey.  I was nervous that it would be too stretchy and have even worse problems than the brown fabric, but it actually sewed up just fine and drapes really well.  It feels fabulous on, the fabric is very thin and silky with a heavy drape and ‘swishes’ nicely when I walk.

Oooooh, Swishy!

Oooooh, Swishy!

I am going to make a buckled belt for it out of the same fabric to offer up an alternative silhouette.  DVF blue knit dress front with scarf tie vintageThe scarf tie is perfect in this fabric, with such a heavy drape, it stays around the neck and being a thin fabric, folds easily and neatly into place.  DVF blue knit dress scarf tie (2)DVF knit wrap dress side with scarf tieAlthough you won’t be able to tell, I’m wearing Oscar de la Renta perfume, a classic fragrance that debuted in 1977.

DVF blue knit dress cat bombed polaroidWho Loves Kitty? DVF brown polka dot knit dress Who Loves Kitty (2)

Still Loving the 1920s – Drop Waist Dress

1st photo courtesy of:  Ar Baurial, Sept. 1929; 2nd photo courtesy of Yours Truly

1st photo courtesy of Ar Baurial, Sept. 1929; 2nd photo courtesy of Yours Truly, Aug. 2013

After sewing and researching my Great Gatsby 1920s/30s Beach Pajamas, I really fell in love with 1920s fashions.  I wanted to make a drop waist dress this time and found a free online pattern for a Great Gatsby inspired top by Sew Be it Studios here.

Drop Waist Dress PatternsWhen I printed it out in adobe, I shrunk the pages slightly and used the “fit to page” option.  I cut the X-Small, and it was still far too big.  I had to take off approximately 10 cm (4″) from the back (2″ from each side of the back pieces) and I also made it longer so that I could wear it as a dress, with a slip, or as a top, on its own.Climbing a Tree postage stampI inserted a centre lapped zipper in the back, but did not lap it very much (on purpose) as I wanted to see the line of navy down the back that the zipper adds.  I liked the design element this provided.  However, I was not sure how to ‘end’ the zipper at the bottom, since it was not lapped right into the seam allowance, so I just tapered down to nothing on both sides.  I need to research how to insert an exposed zipper and next time, will insert it properly.1920s Drop Waist Dress BackI also added a vintage gold button and fabric loop closure at the top of the back of the dress.  I finished the seams with lace seam binding.  I’ve never done this before and really liked the effect, especially with the dainty floral fabric pattern.

Seam Finishing with Lace Seam Binding / Back Zipper and Vintage Button with Fabric Loop Closure

Seam Finishing with Lace Seam Binding / Back Zipper and Gold Vintage Button with Fabric Loop Closure

1920s Drop Waist Dress with ShadowsI think it is definitely reminiscent of the 1920s and reminds me of this vintage dress from the 20’s that I found online.

Drop Waist 1920s Dress with Underslip1920s amongst the flowersThe pattern called for use of a lace netting in semi-circular shaped pieces on the shoulders, but I thought these would look too costume-y and it would also be difficult to wear a jacket over top of them.  So, instead, I sewed the pieces out of the dress fabric, two for each shoulder, then turned them right side out after sewing them together. Pleated Shoulder PieceI pleated them first, ironed them flat and basted the pleats, then sewed them to both shoulders.

1920s Drop Waist Dress Climbing a TreeOf course, Kitty became interested in the tree photo shoot and started to stalk the scene.1920s Drop Waist Dress Climbing a Tree with KittyCat Bombed UP A TREE!!  Who Else Can Say That?

Cat Bombed UP A TREE!!  Who Else Can Say That?