1950’s Sewing Patterns – A brief history

8991jy23There is a trend today for making your own clothes, with programmes such as “The Great British Sewing Bee” encouraging would be sewers to throw caution to the wind and have a go! However this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon as sewing patterns have been in existence since the 1860’s.

In wartime Britain, women could save hard earned family money by making their own clothes. Trims were relatively inexpensive and could be used time and time again on different outfits and updated as and when required.

The main dressmaking pattern manufacturers included Butterick, Simplicity, McCalls and of course Vogue. These American companies are still in existence today. Women’s weekly magazines such as Woman’s Own all published patterns too, so pattern availability wasn’t a problem.simplicity_1655

In the 1950’s a wide range of skirt styles were on offer to make, however tops were always nipped in and fitted to optimised the desired for narrow waist.

There was also the introduction of “Easy to Make” sewing patterns and with the arrival of shift dresses towards the end of the 1950s many women ran up these patterns in no time at all as the pattern was so simple. Many different versions could be made and adapted to both winter and summer needs. Furthermore as the decade went on, new fabric and became available and better quality zips and trimmings came into existence.

vintage%20sewing%20pattern%20-%201950s%20junior%20misses%20one-piece%20dress%20and%20jacket%20simplicity%201157%20size%2011%20bust-f91435In the 1950’s one of the most coveted items for women was the Singer sewing machine. Singer began to recover from the effects of the war in which production was ceased and in 1952 introduced model 206, its first zigzag machine. These machines are quite sought after and occasionally you spot them in antique shops now for a small fortune!

Vintage patterns are particularly in demand today and there are a good choice online. Some manufacturers also now provide modern sewing patterns based on the vintage 1950’s feel. I have tried Vintage Vogue patterns and have successfully produced a lovely dress from using their V8789 1957 original dress design pattern.  At present I love the American sewing manufacturer Colette who produces some lovely retro/vintage designs, including the Ginger skirt and the Sencha blouse.  I have also made several tops from the Sorbretto 1950’s style sleeveless top pattern.


If anyone  has tried any of these modern “vintage” patterns that has successfully worked out for them, then please let me know!

1950’s dresses – A brief history

imagesP86OHRPGI think sometimes that I was born in the wrong era. I feel much happier in a dress with a fitted waist and a full skirt. Not necessarily over the top with a petticoat underneath (I do the school run!) but something that makes me feel feminine at least. Jeans are comfortable and practical but they don’t make me feel good about myself.

I adore the 1950’s. Everything I like and am drawn to is mainly from this era. I love the clothes, the kitsch and the home styling!

My favourite 1950s icons include Audrey Hepburn (she will be covered in a future blog), Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. Hollywood glamour became popular in Europe with these icons.  To me they look feminine, dress fashionably and smartly and actually have a womanly figure rather than looking like a stick insect!imagesTR07WJ6G

The 1950’s were all about the waistline with an emphasis on a thin waist, defined hips and a larger more defined bust. In short a more feminine silhouette than had been seen for many years. Dior’s “New Look” defined women’s wardrobes and women’s figures were given the illusion of an hourglass shape with a nipped in waist and a full skirt, adding definition to the body.


With the end of World War II, came a feeling of freedom, especially in terms of fashion for women. No more fabric rationing and a new choice of material and patterns from which to have fun making clothes with. There was now an availability of different fabrics, especially in the USA. Excess fabric was used to create full skirts, pleats and petticoats etc. Cottons, linens and silks were still used but were expensive and difficult to find, hence the rise of the synthetic materials market, most notably nylon, polyester and acrylic. These new fabrics revolutionised fabric care, with even a quick wash and possibly no ironing required!


I like the 1950s because even today it appears timeless. The return of full skirts, capri pants and flat ballet shoes all feature heavily in my wardrobe. Okay, I do admit that I tend to stand out in the school playground, amidst the jeans and parkers but then again I get compliments on how I look and so many people comment on my dresses and how they wish they could wear them! Well, why not? It’s the easiest thing in the world in the rush of a morning when you can’t decide what to wear to put on a dress in the summer and a dress with leggings and boots in the winter. I always remember one of Gok Wan’s fashion programmes in which he said that he never understood why so little women wore dresses as they were so easy and versatile to wear. So try wearing the 1950’s style dresses for yourself  and see if you are convinced!

Knitted Clangers!

As a child of the 1970’s loved the Clangers, my favourite character was the Soup Dragon. It sounded such a brilliant name for a dragon to have. To my surprise my young son loved the Clangers too (we bought him all our childhood DVD’s) so imagine the excitement when CBeebies decided to bring the series back in an updated format. Now he is Clangers mad!  For his birthday a couple of weeks ago my mother in law knitted him a clanger. Despite all the expensive lego this present is by far the favourite.image

I thought I might have a go at making a companion Clanger for him and searched for a suitable pattern although knitting is not my strong point!  Have fun with the pattern!


Sewing for curvy people? Not always successful!

Bettine_sewing_pattern_cover_mediumI started dress making when my son went to school and I was at a loose end.  I had always been creative, making curtains, cushions etc. but I decided I wanted to have a go at making my own clothes.  I enrolled on a sewing class and have never looked back.

Not everything has been successful, there has been quite a lot of learning on the job.  I now know that its best to make a “mock up” of something you fancy trying, rather than wasting precious fabric.  However, I haven’t made any clothes for a few months now (summer hols etc) and I completely forgot my “mock up” rule!

I purchased the Bettine dress pattern from Tilly and the Buttons.  I’ve made a couple of Tilly’s things before which have always turned out well.  However, not so this pattern.  I am a size 10 but curvy which fitted in with size 2 of the pattern.  I was going ahead really well and the dress was mostly made, when I suddenly thought, I’d better try this on to see if it fits.  I couldn’t even get the dress over my head!  I had picked a cotton gingham material and there was no give in it at all.  I altered the seams, but still nothing.  So frustrating.  I measured the dress compared to the final measurements as given in the pattern and they were correct, but not for my size!  I simply can’t do anything with it at all and my lovely gingham dress is looking at me, all forlorn!

I googled reviews of the pattern and quite a few did say that it was only made for those women who weren’t curvy or busty.  Wish I had read this before and saved my time and my fabric!

One of the reviews pointed me to a website tailored especially for those women like me, the Curvy Sewing Collective.: http://curvysewingcollective.com/

They are a group of women with ideas and advice on sewing and patterns for curvy women.  Their review page is quite good and gives pictures of how they have altered patterns to suit different figures.  Following on from this, I’m now going to give the Dahlia dress pattern from a Colette a go!  Remembering to do a “mock up” first!

Sew Brum -Saturday 31 October 2015

I had an interesting email from my local fabric store, Guthrie & Ghani in Moseley (you may remember, Lauren Guthrie was a finalist in the Sewing Bee in 2013) about Sew Brum, coming up in October.  http://www.guthrie-ghani.co.uk/events

Sew-Brum_Charlotte_550pxSew Brum is organised by the sewing blogger Englishgirlathome  http://englishgirlathome.com/sewbrum/ and promises to be a lovely day of visiting fabric shops in Birmingham such as the Fancy Silk Store and my absolute favourite, Barrys. Lunch will be provided from the street food stalls at the Moseley Farmers Market and finally we all reconvene at Guthrie Ghani for tea and cake.  What more can you wish for on a Saturday!  Visit englishgirlathome’s blog to sign up for an exciting day!


Hanging floral hearts – tutorial

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I decided to have a go at making these lovely hanging heart decorations after having some left-over fabric from the Cath Kidston designed “Rosalie” range from Ikea.  The first couple of efforts weren’t that successful as I couldn’t quite figure out after stuffing the heart, how to sew it up neatly so it looks seamless.  However, after some trial and error I finally came up with a method that works that I would like to share with you.

Firstly, decide how big you would like your heart to be.  Mine are usually 10cm x 10cm, but you can make yours as large or as small as you like. Make a paper template.

IMG_0863Cut out 2 squares of matching fabric 2cm bigger all round than the size of the heart. With right sides together, sew a 1cm seam down the centre.  Open up the fabric with right side facing down.  Now you will need another square of fabric, either the same, if you want both sides of the heart identical, or choose another colour.  Place the new square of fabric on top of the square with the seam, wrong sides together and pin to secure.

IMG_0867Place the heart template on top of the sandwiched fabric and draw round it with a fabric marker (or pencil, if you don’t have one to hand!).  Machine stitch over the drawn template.  You could even do this in a contrasting stitch if you like.

Once finished, use pinking shears and cut round the heart with about a 1cm gap all around.

IMG_0868You will then need to unpick the original sewn seam in order to stuff the heart.  Unpick a good inch to enable you to get the stuffing in.  Once stuffed, neatly sew up.  IMG_0869

Finally, using a large darning needle, thread your choice of ribbon and just below the top seam of the heart, insert your needle so it goes through both sides.  You may need to insert some pressure here!

Once you have the required length of ribbon, cut the ribbon and tie in a knot.  Hey presto!  A hanging heart.  IMG_0871 (2)


imagesGFYRVV38 I love buttons!  The prettier the better, I actually love the display of pretty buttons on a button card too.  I started collecting buttons when I was a child and built up quite a collection!  Nothing vintage or historic, just a few here and there, however the fascination with buttons has never left me.

96521123869c7a7c66d9da5b300567dfApparently, one of the earliest form of buttons were “Satsumas”, a ceramic button originating from Japan in the 16th century.  There were very detailed and as you can imagine, they are highly collective and expensive!  However, evidence of buttons has now been discovered in bronze age sites in both China and Ancient Rome.  Functional buttons (used for fastening clothes) came into existence in Germany in the 13th century and popularity has grown since then.

Queen Victoria, after the death of Prince Albert, wore jet buttons as a sign of mourning.  However, jet was fairly unaffordable to the majority of people and reproductions were made of black glass.

imagesNTSX546WButtons come in different sizes and are usually collected by material, theme (scenes of country life), usage (military uniforms) or historic importance (world fairs).  They used to be made from a variety of materials, including stone, pottery, jet, bone, wood, shell, bronze and gold.  Nowadays, they are made mainly of plastic or metal, wood and seashells.

If you are new to collecting then firstly it is important to sort your buttons out by materials and separate the plastic ones from the metal ones etc.  This is because certain materials do not sit well together and may rust.  Also you could start by mounting your buttons on mat boards, which has the dual purpose of showing them off and also keeping them safe.322dae6e7756aa81f9268287b4e7f664

There are many displays of buttons in art galleries and museums across the country to inspire you.  The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has an extensive collection.  The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (local to me) also has a nice little collection too.  If you are interested in collecting buttons, then look at the website of the British Button Society, that has useful information and links.  You can check if there is a button club near you! Worth a look too is the National Button Society of America with its worldwide followers.

Vintage Teacups – a short history



I am obsessed by collecting vintage teacups.  My house has shelves and a lovely old welsh dresser stacked full of them.  I simply can’t resist!  Any opportunity to visit a vintage/antiques shop/fair and I’m there, searching for teacups.  Its a popular hobby as I’m told to believe.  It also helps that it’s a generally cheap hobby too.  Especially when looking for treasures in flea markets/car boots etc.  Okay, if you are searching for a particular manufacturer or a design, then yes, you can pay quite a bit of money, however generally, teacups are as cheap as chips.

IMG_0802Although always being a bit of a magpie and liking pretty things, my odd bit of a collection transformed itself when reading “The Vintage Teacup Club” written by Vanessa Greene.  Its a lovely book about 3 women coming together by way of collecting old teacups.  Lots of lovely descriptions follow and yes, of course, it has a happy ending.

Teacups were first used in China from about 220AD and in Europe from the early 1600’s.  Tea was originally sipped from small bowls, however as this was not ideal for the tea drinker, not to mention a bit awkward! From this, teacups progressed into cups with handles on which were much easier to sip from.  Tea cups are different from coffee cups in that they are generally wider and shorter. They often come part of a teaset, including a teapot, sugar bowl and cream jug.

Tea time in England really took off with the Victorians, where teacups and teasets in general were given as gifts.IMG_0803

Teacups in China and Japan are continued to be made from clay and porcelain, whereas in India, they are manufactured from glass and stainless steel.  In Europe and the UrK, china is the most popular material.

If you are looking to start a collections, then have a look at Royal Doulton, Limoges, Wedgewood, Meissen, Aynsley (my favourite), Royal Crown Derby and Colclough.  There are quite a few others too.  Teacups generally come in a variety of patterns, designs and colours, just take your pick! As mentioned, they are generally low cost to buy.  However, they are of course delicate objects, so no dishwasher please! Instead, handwash delicately in luke warm soapy water and leave to dry.

Have fun collecting!

Crinoline Lady China

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I think that I am obsessed by crinoline lady crockery.  My weekends seem to consist of visiting vintage or antique shops or even better, if a vintage fair is on that weekend.  I think it all started with my mum collecting Crinoline Lady china, generally produced by Sadlerware.  Everytime anyone went on holiday we would scour antique shops for anything resembling the pretty crinoline lady.  Over the years she amassed all sorts of items, from teapots to teacups and jam servers to cake stands.  Even now I still see the occasional piece of crockery.  The trouble is that I can’t remember what items I have!  Some treasured pieces are on display at home, but there are a few items that are stored in the loft.  I keep meaning to make an inventory, but never seem to get round to it!

Pink, retro and typewriters!


I saw this in a shop in Derbyshire and fell in love with the baby blue colour.  It’s an old Imperial 200 typewriter, all in full working order as far as I can see, although I haven’t tried it out yet.  This lovely thing currently takes pride of place upon my mum’s old welsh dresser, now adorned in Annie Sloan baby blue paint.  They are a match made in heaven.

IMG_0725My Kenwood Patissier pink mixer!  It goes very well in my retro kitchen with my pink Smeg fridge!  I love looking at it when I am cooking plus it’s a great time saver when I’m making cakes (which happens to be quite often!).  I remember growing up in a kitchen with a well used and well loved Kenwood Chef.  It wasn’t pink though!

IMG_0339Ah, the delightful Miss Penelope Pitstop.  My canvas of Penelope hangs above the TV, so when I’m bored with watching programmes, I can reminisce about my childhood favourite and how I always wanted to be like her. Any visitors to my house tend to go straight for her in amazement!  To my delight, my son now loves Wacky Races!