Archive for January, 2010

The Saturday Shoe, The Elder

I usually post and lust after pretty shoes of early modern history … but we have been wearing shoes for thousands of years.  As you can imagine, they looked rather different then:

Looking at shoes so often, I was curious about what the oldest shoes found were.

For one thing, they’re far older than I expected – these were carbon-dated to around 7,300BCE.  The Great Pyramids of Giza weren’t even a twinkle in a culture’s eye.

I’m not entirely sure they’d be comfortable, but I suppose woven bark is slightly more comfortable than bare feet!  Or some heels, for that matter!

If you’d like to know more about them, read this research from the University of Oregon.


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Stays are in progress!  Proper update with pictures to follow …

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I think I mentioned a while ago that I had managed to get my little mits on a sewing box of sublime beauty and perfection.  Well, I finally got around to taking photos and now I can tell the tale of the sewing box that was fated to be mine.  Sometimes what you want manages to find you.

I’d been looking for a nice sewing box for a while, particularly after seeing The Boy’s Nan’s gorgeous old cantilever one.  It was so pretty that even The Boy commented on how nice it was.

At first I flirted with the funky prints at John Lewis, but they were quite expensive (£50 for the largest) and a bit … well … plasticky.  Plus, when I finally had the money to spend on one, they’d sold out.  They did have cantilever ones, but they weren’t very well-made (the one I saw in the shop was very wobbly and was already missing a handle!) and they were a bit chunky and nothing like the lovely architectural lines of the old one I’d seen, and were even more expensive than the owl one.

So, I decided to keep my eye open and get one when I found The Perfect Sewing Box, expecting it to take months, perhaps even years, to find The One.

But when I went back to work after Christmas, it just so happened that my friend in the office had a cantilever sewing box.  It just so happened that she was planning to sell it on Ebay, but had been putting off listing it because it was big and would be a pain in the arse to post.  And, it just so happened to be almost identical to the box I had fallen in love with at The Boy’s Nan’s house.

I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was after a nice wooden sewing box but hadn’t found one yet.  “I’ve got a sewing box,” she told me and it turned out she was selling it.  And it turned out that it was almost identical to The Boy’s Nan’s one.

And now it is mine (my precioussss!) and I love it.  It’s so incredibly handy and spacious and not rickety or missing any handles.  Sometimes things just fall into place – I love it when that happens.

I have to give much thanks to The Dreamstress for her tutorial on how to make Grandma’s Button Boxes with folded paper.  I made a handful of these for various bits and pieces.  And I am so geeky thatI also made one each for my presser feet and wrote on it which foot it is, in case I forget!  I already had some origami paper in rather small squares, which are the colourful plain and patterned ones.  Then, in my box of crafty bits I found a second hand book with fun 70s fantasy illustrations in it that I rip bits out of for cards and collage, so I tore some squares of my favourite illustrations and folded some boxes out of that.  If you try this, I have to warn you that the paper in the book I used (fairly standard mass market paperback paper, fairly rough, not too thin) wanted to tear more than fold, so try it out first and be more careful with papers like this than you would be with newer or origami papers – they might behave quite differently!

I am a bit obsessive about organising and organisation, so I did really enjoy going through my sewing bits, which had been kept in lots of smaller boxes dotted around the flat, working out where they should go (machine part in one place, thread in another section, hand-sewing and general tools in another section, etc) and putting them in their new home.

I even managed to make use of the little acrylic box my i-Pod Nano came in – it’s on the right full of bobbins, and the reels of cotton are in a bigger version of The Dreamstress’s button boxes with the offcuts from the other boxes slotted in as dividers (they are quite stiff considering how thin they are).

I think sewing boxes are one of those things that are so personal – surely no two people fill their boxes in exactly the same way?  I rather like that idea!

And lastly, when The Mothership gave me my sewing machine, she also gave me a little bag with all the original presser feet and bobbins in it, as well as this mystery item:

What is it?

I have no idea what this is and Mum doesn’t seem to remember, either!  It isn’t in the manual for the machine, and after a quick look in a sewing book, I thought it might be a slightly odd-looking magnetic seam guide, but it doesn’t seem to be magnetic.  If anyone can enlighten me, I’d greatly appreciate it!

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Working on the Zombie Antoinette costume this weekend has revealed that a prominent feature of all future sewing will be the avoidance of zips.  They are complete little bloody &*^£$&*^%”%£^£*£&*£&*”£^&(%!%!!!!!

I don’t know whether it was my not-so-epic sewing machine skills or the slippery fabric or a combination of the two, but after four attempts I finally managed to get the little bugger in and it was still quite a wobbly mess.  So no close up photos of the zip, but you do get a picture of the dress so far.

Perhaps hand-sewing the zip would have been less painful.  If ever I go near zips again, I’ll try that.  That’s a big ‘if’ though.

I’m also going to have to adjust the front as it sits really oddly, which servs me right for not basting the princess seams before sewing them (Me: ‘it’ll be fine with pins’; Dress: ‘Ha!  That’s what she thinks!’).  I’ve tried it on and pinned that adjustment, so it just requires a little stitching, which is going to uber-messy inside, so I’ll do it by hand to try and minimise that.

Ah, poor Zombie Antoinette, once so full of promise!

I say that, but I have learned a lot from this project:

1. Take your time with pinning – though basting is sometimes preferable.

2. Don’t sew when you’re tired and/or fed up with the project, you’ll only screw it up.  (I was exhausted when I was working on the zip and got a bit careless, which is a big part of why it took so many attempts.)

3. Things are only worth sewing if you Love them (and I mean Love with a capital L.), otherwise you’ll get fed up with the project (see above).

4. Think about seam and hem finishes before you start the project, not half-way through.

5. Check in books and on teh interwebz for tips and techniques, such as princess seams.

6. If you really insist on using that horrible polyester satin (as I have done!), then you’re probably better off cutting the pattern with a rotary cutter.  (I think this would have helped immensely with that problem on the front and the fit/seams in general – I’ve had to work with a rather small seam allowance because the fabric shifted and stretched as I tried to cut and draw the pattern pieces.)

And in the spirit of Lesson 2, I’m going to be sewing tomorrow evening.  If I’m still fed up of my cadaver queen, I’m going to get going on a project I’m uber-excited about – the staaaaaays!

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Here you are, dear reader, he promised pictures of yesterday’s pretties (or, to thieve The Dreamstress’s phrase, Pogey Bait!).  We set off early on the bus to get to Heanor and hit the Antiques Centre and plenty of charity shops.

First off, some true sewing pogey bait – a few bags of mixed buttons:

Vintage (and not so vintage) buttons – black and silver-coloured.  (50p for the bag!)

Brassy buttons.  (30p)

I love these blue stripey ones – very sailor chic!  (Also 50p)

These are for Top Secret Plan Number One – more information on this soon.

I also found a pretty little linen table mat to place under our key bowl to protect the antique mahogany chest of drawers my Mum’s giving me (pictures of that when it arrives!):

With pretty corners:

As I live with two boys (The Boy and the Flat-Mate-boy), I didn’t want to push it by getting anything flowery or too doily-esque, so I thought this was a good plain one.  (And, yes, it needs an iron!)

And some more sewing pogey bait:

A bag with all these for £3 – bargain!  I do love a good bargain.  And all the pretty colours!

And I bought a couple of things for Top Secret Plan Number Two – the selling of pretty vintage things on Ebay:

I have a bit of a thing for pretty brooches, so when I see nice ones, I want them!  But, a girl can only wear so many brooches at once and I can’t really justify having a million of them (unfortunately) and I could do with making a little extra cash.  Soooo, I am going to try my hand at Ebaying – we shall see what happens.  I figure I get to go bargain-hunting and enjoy buying pretty things, but don’t have to live with the guilt of spending the money!

I particularly love the first brooch and was quite tempted to keep it – I love how it’s a bow and arrow as well as a bow (of the tied type), rather fun – but I must be strong!  Plus, I’d rather sell something I love and feel that I’m passing on something gorgeous for someone else to enjoy.  It did give me a rather nice surprise when I looked at the back more carefully – it’s by Kigu, a company well-known for their gorgeous compacts.  To make sure I don’t try to keep it, I have already listed the first one (my first Ebay listing!), plus I think it’d make a great little Valentine’s present – Cupid’s bow and arrow!  If anyone has any tips (on Ebay selling, vintage costume jewellery or anything like that), I’d be more than glad to hear it!

I did get to buy one thing for myself that wasn’t second hand or vintage, but was a sale bargain:

They also double up as my (late) Saturday Shoe offering.  I do love leather brogues – they’re so, so comfortable.

So, I got to have a fun day and start my attempt at being a business-woman – wish me luck!  It’ll be nice if I can make a little money outside of an office and on my terms.  Let’s see how it goes …

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Antiquing (and not the kind with flour)

Guess who spent a long and tiring, but very fun, day at charity and antique shops???  And got some pretty things!  Pictures coming shortly – for now, sewing …

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Net is stiff and sticks out, which is great for making petticoats.  The petticoat for my vintage 50s dress is net.

Tulle is soft and drapey, which is great for making flowy skirts like this one.

They are not the same thing.  Therefore, do not advertise fabric online as “tulle” when it is net.

Yes, my “tulle” arrived today, which I was really excited about, so I could get working on the project this weekend.  Except it isn’t tulle, it’s net and is far too stiff to use to make a skirt that doesn’t look ridiculous.

I’m really annoyed.

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