Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Swirl Sew-along : Part 1 : Cutting Your Fabric

Well isn't this exciting!  We are finally starting our sew-along!!!

First of all I want to say I have been completely overwhelmed by the interest in this sew-along.  I expected maybe 20 people would want to join me, but its actually around 120!  I have struggled to keep up with the demand, and I have to say thank you to everyone for their patience while I got through it all.  So once again, thank you!!!

Now, lets get going!!!

My first instruction is:


I know there are a lot of people that skip this step (especially those new to sewing) but I'm here to encourage you not to.  We will more than likely be mixing different fabrics here - using different bits and bobs to embellish our dresses.  You really need to pre-wash all of it.

You may remember this Christmas dress from a few years ago:

Well, because I was in such a rush to make four dresses that weekend, I didn't prewash the fabric I used to make the halter strap and the bow.  Guess what happened.

The first time I washed it, the dye from the red fabric ran all down the front of the bodice and on to the skirt.  I have washed it several times now, and its faded enough to wear, but it doesn't bear close inspection.  I have also heard other horror stories about pant legs that shrunk up, fabrics that shrunk differently and caused warping in the design, and more colour run stories.  So lets just all be safe and wash it!

Now the lecturing is over, the fun can begin!

Cutting Layouts.  I have to confess that I never follow these things! As long as the grain arrows are pointing in the one direction I just fit them where they fit!  I haven't had a problem to date!!  But I know there are people that like these things, so here are the ones from the original pattern instructions.

Now - there is one piece that you don't need to cut out - the Bodice Trim Guide piece.  It is a guide only, so we don't need to cut it out.  But don't lose it!  We'll need it sooner than you think.

I also want to talk about something that dawned on me last night while I was supposed to be sleeping (don't you love that!).  Please put on something that fits you well and get your tape measure, and measure from the shoulder seam, down over a boob to your waist (it will be a slightly diagonal line).  Particularly you ladies with large boobs, and you ladies with short torsos, and you ladies with long torsos.  Ok just everyone do it.  Write down what the tape measure says.

The pattern has a shoulder to waist measurement of 17".  Now, the fit is supposed to be a bit blousy (trust me, they look better that way), so if you measure 15" or 16" I wouldn't change anything.  But if you measure. 14" or anything over 16" I would change the length of the bodice pieces to give yourself an inch or two of space.

Take your scissors and chop the bottom of the pattern off like so:

Overlap it however much you need to, lining up the centre front side:

Tape it together then take your scissors again and cut the side so you have a smooth line not that jagged line.  Easy!

Get another piece of paper and put it behind your two pattern pieces, lining one edge up with the centre front.  Then space the two pieces apart how ever much you need to.  Tape it together.

Cut off the excess paper and cut the side so you have smooth line.

EVERYBODY - Don't forget to do the same thing for the back bodice piece, and the back bodice facing piece.

UPDATE TO COME - it seems those of you with an XL pattern may have to add their excess in a slightly different way.  I'll add to this post in about 24 hours with instructions for you ladies.

Also, while we are thinking about making little adjustments, you might want to cut the skirt pieces a little shorter depending on how you like to wear your skirts.  The pattern will give you a skirt that is approx 30" (if you do the hem like I'm going to show you).

If you don't know how long you normally like your skirts, go and grab your favourite dress out of your wardrobe (or more likely, the washing basket).  Measure down the side seam (so you know you have a straight line) from the waist to the hem.  Then add an inch to that measurement.  That is how long you need to cut your skirt pieces.  Make that change now (if there is one) before you cut your fabric.  It will save fabric and effort later!

I think thats enough for our first post!

Get cutting ladies!!!


By the way, if you haven't joined and would like to, its not too late!  Comment here, or send me an email to sewretrorose(at)

Friday, October 24, 2014

My New York Holiday : Chapter Six

At the end of the last chapter we had had a fabulous (and late) night of cocktail drinking at some amazing New York Bars.  Guess how I felt the next day....

Not hungover (surprisingly) but VERY tired with hair that didn't dry.  So yes, I actually went out on the streets of New York in rollers.  Hang my head in shame!

In my defence, I didn't spend very long on the street - just long enough to put my suitcase into the hands of the bus driver and board the bus - and it was 7am... so not too many people noticed.  We were up early and on a bus because we were headed out of New York City into Massachusetts to go to the Sturbridge Vintage Fashion and Textile Show, and the Brimfield Antique Show.

Sturbridge and Brimfield (which are really close together) are about 5 hours from New York City... and the bus ride was pretty quiet... we were all either tired, hungover, or both.  But we found a second wind when we hit Sturbridge, because it was time to SHOP!

The show was in the same hotel where we were staying, so we were able to leave our bags and head straight there.  I will say that it was a bit confusing because there was two rooms... but no signage to say there was two rooms.  I thought it was just the small one and wandered around and was really happy I'd seen it all - then someone said there was a big room... OH MY GOD!!!  There were some truly amazing things.  I fell in love with some incredible victorian and edwardian clothing that I just wanted to take home and display as art.  So divine!

You will notice that there aren't many photos... thats because we were all distracted and didn't take any!!!

I bought quite a lot of things, but the most important thing was this.

A bakelite "MacArthur Heart" brooch.  For most people, this is the most collectible piece of bakelite in existence.  It was featured on the cover of Life magazine on the 28th of April, 1941, and sells for A LOT when it comes up for sale.  I got a pretty good deal on mine, but it wasn't cheap...

I now need a copy of this magazine...

Most of us were done well before the show closed - we were just too tired.  Thankfully our hotel was in the most beautiful location, and our rooms opened up onto this view.

About half the girls (including me) sat around on chairs in the sun and chatted and watched the world go by... it was such a peaceful time after the noise and constant buzz of New York City.

After a good nights sleep we were up early again the next morning to head to Brimfield.  None of us really knew what to expect, other than it was outdoors, it was massive, and there would be a lot of walking to do.  I had purchased a special outfit.

A vintage rayon playsuit and a vintage straw hat

This is my first playsuit, and I love it!  I didn't know how I would feel about showing this much leg, but I was so comfortable all day!!!  And can I say that that is saying something - because this day was the hottest day they had all summer... and it wasn't technically summer anymore!

Brimfield basically turns itself into a giant outdoor antiques mall for 6 days, with stalls lining about 1 mile of road, and then out from the road quite a distance.

I have never seen anything like it!  You could pretty much find anything.  Marianna and I gave up on trying to see everything and decided just to shade-hop instead.  If a stall had shade, we would look at it.  If it didn't, we weren't going there.

We found a stall (there were a few actually) that sold freshly made lemonade - oh god it was so good!  We went back for a second one later in the day on our way back to the bus!

We managed to find somewhere air conditioned for lunch - and we found Joy!

This has got to be the worlds biggest salad...

Right when we needed to be boarding the bus, a massive rain storm came through - it had been building for a while and dumped down at about 1.30pm.  It did serve to make everyone get back to the bus as quickly as possible!!!  Everyone had had an amazing day and had found plenty of treasure.  Show and Tell on the bus as we headed back to New York City was lots of fun!

That night I decided to take it easy and bought myself a bottle of Verve Cliquot and sat in bed and enjoyed it and some chocolate chip biscuits after a much needed shower.

So, have you ever been to Sturbridge or Brimfield?  Ever had fresh lemonade?  Ever sweated so much that your hair dye has run into your shirt and your hat?  Ever had a bottle of Verve for dinner?


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Announcing a SEW ALONG!!!

UPDATE! I have now opened an Etsy store to sell this Swirl Dress Pattern PDF.  You can find it here.

I'm taking a break from my holiday posts to announce a sew-along that I hope you will all want to participate in!  I'm pretty excited about this, and I hope you are too.  We are going to sew a Swirl Dress!

Now, for those that don't know, Swirl dresses are quite possibly the most wonderfully designed and comfortable dresses on the planet.  I own several, and I live in them on the weekends.

This add basically says it all.  You walk into it, do up the button, tie it around your waist and look fabulous and feel comfortable all day!

And what I really love about them is that they are all so different!  They come in novelty prints:

This is a photo of Solanah from Vixen Vintage
And I'm pretty sure this dress she is wearing is now in my wardrobe!
(we have a vintage dealer friend in common - FabGabs)

All have pockets:

If they are in a plain fabric they are embellished:

They used different fabrics for the skirt and the bodice:

Basically, they are just all round fabulous!

This same dress is also in my wardrobe I'm pretty sure
(via another friend in common with a shop - Simply Vintage)

So how is this sew-along going to work?  I recently purchased this pattern on Etsy:

And I have just spent the last day and a bit turning that pattern into four different sized pdf patterns that I can send out to each of you that wish to participate.  The sizes are as follows:

SMALL : Bust 32"-34", Waist 24"-26", Hips free
MEDIUM : Bust 36"-38", Waist 28"-30", Hips free
LARGE : Bust 40"-42", Waist 32"-34", Hips free
XLARGE : Bust 44"-46", Wasit 36"-38", Hips free

Please note that these measurements are your measurements, not the measurements of the garment, and the fit is quite adjustable given that it is a wrap dress.  If you are between sizes its going to depend on how you like your fit - fitted? size down, blousey? size up.

By now I'm hoping that you are super excited and want to find out how to get yourself a copy of the pattern and join in the fun!!!

I am going to give everyone a couple of weeks to get organised, so the sew-along will start on the 29th of October.  There is going to be a small charge of US$6 to get a copy of the pattern in an attempt to recover my time and materials in making the pattern.  I hope everyone is ok with that...

To join in, comment below with your email address and I will send you an invoice for the US$6, or, send an email to sewretrorose(at) with your email address.  When you've paid I will email you the pattern.  EASY!

I really REALLY hope that everyone joins in the fun.  When all the instructions are posted (I think I'll do three posts a week) I'll give everyone a couple of weeks to finish and I'll do a blog post with photos of everyone's finished dresses.  OH! And I'm going to make a facebook group for everyone that joins so that we can all talk and ask questions and post photos and make friends!

Please join in!!


Friday, October 10, 2014

My New York Holiday : Chapter Five

At the end of the last Chapter, Joy, Tracy and I had struck out on our own, had a fabulous dinner, and visited a scary tiki bar.

Day two was Marianna's birthday and we went out SHOPPING!

Happy 30th Birthday Marianna!!!

First stop for shopping was the Brooklyn Flea Market.  Luckily we got there early, because before too long it got bloody hot!  We wandered the stalls that sold all kinds of things - jewellery, clothing, buttons, fake bakelite (that was sold as real - not happy!), shoes, handbags, etc.  Even big stuff like homewares and furniture!  We wandered around and found some great bargains, and kicked off the shopping part of our tour with a bang.

 Super sad face that I couldn't take these signs home...

I found the cutest french bulldog that smiled on command!  So I had to take a selfie with him!!

He has his own Instagram page - @oatmealthepup

Next we visited some stores - flying visits though,  I think the most time we spent in any one place was 20 minutes.  I visited Dusty Buttons for the last time *sob*

Here is the adorable Hannah - love her!

And we got back to the hotel with enough time to head out for Marianna's birthday dinner at 21 Club - which was fabulous, but nowhere near as fabulous as the group of us that went to The Plaza for cocktails afterwards!!!

We were the loud, raucous Aussies in the corner - drinking and laughing and having a fabulous time until 'the ugly lights' came on.  Then we attempted to leave, but kept getting waylaid by things to have photos taken with... like (another) vintage telephone!

The funny thing about this telephone is that you could hold it up for about 30 seconds without dialing anything, then someone would pick up and ask if they could help... at which point we would giggle and hang up.  All of us had a go at this, and I was convinced that when the security guards were approaching us, they were coming to kick us out... No!  They were coming to have their photo taken with us!!

Once we managed to get out the door, we wandered back to our hotel to go to bed - ready for the next day's adventures!

Day Three of the shopping tour was technically a free day, but most people had signed up for the behind the scenes tour of the Radio City Music Hall.

It is an amazing building!  And so beautiful!!  Unfortunately they were filming The X Factor there at the time and because of that we weren't able to see the whole building, and weren't able to take photos in a lot of places (like the auditorium!), but what we did see was gorgeous.

*cough* wasn't supposed to take this one *cough*

This was in the ladies bathroom!

After the tour ended, I hightailed it to the Museum of Modern Art where I was meeting my cousin for lunch and a wander around the gallery.

That's Mandy and I in front of some 'art'.  And yes I am putting that in inverted commas deliberately.  I just don't see how three white canvases with black borders is art.  I also don't see how any of the following is art.

A shovel hanging from the ceiling...

A rubber mat...

A stack of bricks...

And my personal favourite

Some wrinkly green canvas pinned to the wall.

Who are they trying to kid here?????  However, I did see the following, which made it worthwhile.

Mandy and I had a really good time - we laughed and laughed and laughed.  I'm sure a lot of the stuff that we were laughing at wasn't supposed to be funny... but we found it amusing!!!

After my visit with Mandy I had just enough time to get ready to go out for the Birth of the Cocktail tour!!!  I was really looking forward to this night, and let me tell you it was action packed and didn't disappoint!

Our guide was taking is to some of the historically important cocktail bars in the city, and giving us some history about cocktails.  She also asked us if we wanted to have a drink on each stop.  We said yes.  Then she said that we would have to drink them fast.  We pointed out that we were Australian, and that should tell her that there would be no problem with the speed of our drinking.

We started off at the Algonquin Hotel where famous literary types formed a club called the Round Table.  We ordered our cocktails and sat down for a history on the location.

Just after we arrived I received a flash flood warning on my phone, and when we'd finished our drinks and tried to leave, it was teeming with rain!  Really really heavy rain!  Joy went to get us 45 Minute Umbrellas (so called because thats how long they last for) and some of the ladies decided to go back to the hotel.  I took my shoes off (they were satin) and decided to forge on.  Not long after we got out the door the rain stopped - but there were so many puddles!!!

No, I'm not levitating - I'M JUMPING IN PUDDLES!!!

But I didn't really think that through, because then I realised I would have to walk all the way to the next stop in bare feet...  in New York.  Next stop was The King Cole Bar.

Where we all scoffed another cocktail.  I also borrowed someone's hand sanitiser and sanitised my feet before putting my shoes on.  Because of the rain delay we had to cancel going to a couple of our stops, but we were having a marvelous time!  Next one required a ride on the subway!

My first ride on a New York subway!  And something was obviously hilarious... but I can't remember what.... (no surprises there!)

Our final stop was a coffee shop...


Hang on - there was A SECRET DOOR!

Before I knew it we were ushered through a secret door into a fully themed prohibition era bar called Bathtub Gin that was so dark I couldn't get a good photo of the interior!  But it was incredible.  They had reserved us the best seats in the house too... right in front of a massive copper bathtub.

This required very little coaxing.  What can I say, I was having a great time!!!

But the bathtub wasn't for patrons.  No, it was for an incredible burlesque show that we had front row seats for!  This bar seriously had everything - entertainment, great food, great drinks, amazing surroundings, attractive waitstaff...  It had it all.  I would go back there in a heartbeat!!!

Before we knew it it was time to head off back to the hotel.  Someone, who shall remain nameless (*cough* Kimberley! *cough*) INSISTED that we have another drink in the bar, so not needing an awful lot of arm twisting, a small group of us did.  And thats where I will leave this story for now.

So, have you ever been in a giant copper bathtub in a swanky bar?  Ever wondered at what the hell constitutes art these days?  Ever jumped in puddles as an adult? Ever taken a selfie with a dog - and a random dog at that?