Monday, 31 January 2011

Old Movie Madness: Mildred Pierce (1945)

Now this is a film that I would describe as posh-noir, sharing many film noir characteristics but being altogether more slick and well put together than a lot of noirs I've seen and with a proper storyline too, plus it stars Joan Crawford, what could be better? (Bette Davis in my opinion, though she wouldn't have suited this role  ;-)  )

The film opens with a man being shot and falling to the ground, before he dies he utters one word "Mildred".  when the murder is discovered the police believe the killer to be Bert Pierce, Mildred's first husband.

Under interrogation by the police Mildred relates her life story, which we see in flashback.

As Mildred starts her tale we see her married to Bert Pierce, who leaves her for another woman.  Mildred and Bert have two daughters together - Veda and Kay.  Tragically Kay dies from pneumonia brought on, it is alleged, by their sudden fall into poverty and so Mildred clings to her elder daughter Veda for dear life.
Veda is a snob of a girl, constantly asking her mother for money and sneering at their reduced circumstances and so Mildred takes a waitressing job in secret.  After finding her food is a hit she strikes up a deal with an old admirer and a local playboy to rent a property at a huge discount and open her own restaurant.  the restaurant is a roaring success and Mildred opens a chain across the country.

Despite giving Veda all the money she needs a a better lifestyle than she has ever had before the girl is still unsatisfied and frequently clashes with her mother about her working class roots.  After Veda marries a young man only to divorce him for a large sum of money weeks later their relationship sours and Mildred kicks Veda out of their home. 

Mildred leaves town for a while and returns to find her daughter singing in a nightclub - Veda still refuses to come home and so Mildred resorts to marrying the high class but poverty stricken Monty Beragon to improve her social standing and finally Veda agrees to return to live with her mother.

Monty and Veda get together behind Mildred's back and con her out of her business.  Veda, who thinks Monty is going to divorce her mother and marry her, shoots Monty in a rage.  Her mother, ever protective, confesses to the murder.

The film ends with the police having worked out who committed the murder after all and Veda being sent to prison.

This film reminded me somewhat of Stella Dallas, a story of a working class mother's love for her child forcing her to take extreme measures to make the child happy.  However where the daughter in Stella Dallas was a loving and innocent thing, Veda is pure evil and so instead of finding Mildred's sacrifice noble I found I became increasingly irritated by her love for a child so ungrateful and downright spiteful.

I also have always had trouble with seeing Joan Crawford as a sex symbol.  Despite a great bikini figure, as displayed in the movie, I just find her features too heavy and hard for them.  Mannish in a way that glares with her character apparently being a beauty.  This is clearly just a matter of taste however.

It is a great film for suits and hats.  Both Mildred and the older Veda sport some amazingly big shoulder padded ensembles throughout the move, and I am dying to try the full wave bang with victory rolls style Mildred wears for much of the film.

New Years Revolutions - my one month progress

1)Smoking - Well, I'm still puffing away.  I still intend this year to be the year I do it but I have decided to postpone this one until after my holiday in March.  One cannot go to France, drink fine red wine and not puff on a Gauloise or two.

2) Shopping:  I am still suffering from December's massive shopping splurge and all I have bought since then is a couple of knitting books and a very cheap bra from What Katie Did.  I was feeling quite proud until my laptop spluttered it's last yesterday evening and I had to fork of £400 for a new one.

3) Weight loss:  Well, I have been eating better and definitely ingesting fewer calories foodwise but I think I have been replacing them with wine, hence no weight loss to speak of.  I'm stopping drinking in the week and am starting Pilates and doing more walking.  I will lose an inch from my waist.  I will!

4) Knitting: well this is coming along great guns.  I have started a 4ply, Fairisle project and so far it is progressing well.  Go me!

5) Hair styling:  hopefully you have seen a couple of my recent efforts on here.  More to come soon!

6) Meditating:  Absolutely no progress here whatsoever.  Must try harder.

7) Decorating:  no progress here either.  This is going to wait a while until I clear the laptop debt.

8) Blogging: not going too badly.  Need to get a decent camera so that I can post more stuff.

So there you have it.  Still 11 months to go, but progress is being made, if slowly.

how are you going with yours?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Old Movie Madness: Monkey Business (1952)

Another knitting movie - starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers as a married couple of long time standing.  Cary plays Dr Barnaby Fulton, a scientist working to great a youth drug.  He thinks he has cracked it with his latest potion but really Esther, one of the monkeys they are testing the formula on, has slipped her own concoction in the drinking water.

After taking the potion, he has a drink of water to take away the taste and Esther's potion takes control, he starts acting like a 20 year old, having a youthful short hair cut and buying a loud jacket and a sports car and whisking his bosses secretary, played by the very lovely Marilyn Monroe, off on a day of adventure.

When he wakes up the effects of the potion have worn off and intending to try again he prepares a second dose.  His loving wife Edwina, concerned that he might repeat his behaviour and get into more trouble quickly take the dose herself, and also horrified by its bitter taste, quickly takes a draught from the water fountain.  Edwina is then affected in much the same way, playing practical jokes on those all around her, whisking her husband off dancing and then getting dramatically over emotional when he disgrees with her.

Again the potion wears off after a sleep and the two head to the lab to decide what to do.  Tired from their long night and the aftermath of their wild behaviour they drink a lot of coffee to face the day - using the water from the founctain.  This time they regress to the age of 10 and leave the office, having an argument on the way.  Edwina falls asleep and the Dr befriends a group of young boys who help him take revenge on his wife's former boyfriend who she called when angry with him the night before.

When Edwina wakes up to find a baby beside her (a neighbours child who has crawled in) she believes it is her husband and runs to the lab to beg his boss to find the antidote.  the boss and the other scientists all need a strong drink, but mix it with the water and all regress to childhood. 

Eventually everyone realises that the Doctor isn't a baby and the water has the formula and everyone lives happily ever after.

The film is daft, let me get that out of the way.  Really, incredibly, silly - but hey, what was I expecting huh?  It really doesn't make any sense and the monkeys do creep me out just a little - especially the very long close up of a monkeys face flipping its lips up and down.  That is probably just me though.

There are a lot of wonderful things about it.  Cary Grant just being, well, deliciously Cary.  Ginger Rogers fantastic acting both as an exceptionally devoted wife and a stroppy 10 year old girl is fabulous to behold, and Marilyn...oh she just looks divine in this film.  Especially in the pompom fringed dress.  Lust.

The costumes were by Travilla, Marilyn's favourite designer, the influence most evident in Marilyn's pleated dress (below) and make up was by Ben Nye.  It is no wonder everyone looks fabulous.

It is a bit of fluff, but fluff with a good heart and with some very wonderful moments.  Definitely worth watching.

Turning a bad day good(ish).

I had a fantastic night out last night, at the hen party of one of the most utterly beautiful and funny women I have ever had the honour of meeting.  Several of the Vintage Mafia were there to wish the glamourpuss well and although I was drinking I was home abed by midnight like a good little Cinderella.  Though it is usually me that changes into a pumpkin at midnight rather than my coach and horses.  One of the side effects of too many gins.

Here is a terribly blurry pic of last nights outfit - slightly too small two tone grey 40's suit and persian lamb hat.  I really must get a decent camera and tripod, and try a bit harder to lose my Christmas weight.

Sadly I don't have any photos of the night but the official club night photographer did take a few snaps of us so if these ever rear their ugly heads I'll be sure to post here.

Given I had been such a good girl I was most displeased to wake up with a crashing headache and actually cried when I realised that the wash I had put on before going out contained the full knit sleeves of the little blue jumper I had recently finished and that they has felted beyond repair.  I have no memory of putting these in the washing machine, they have been living in my knitting basket for the past week or so and I simple can't understand it.  I swear I have mischevious pixies in this flat.

Look at my poor little sleeveless jumper - I was all ready to sew it together too.

 To make myself feel better I decided to have a day in watching movies and being domestic.  I find I have to do this with at least one of my weekend days or I just feel exhausted.  I watched Monkey Business and Mildred Pierce (reviews to come) and did a good few rows of my Fairisle knitting which is coming along beautifully so far.  Though I'm only on the two colours bit rather than the multicoloured circular needle bit which I am dreading.

I also took a good look at my new 40's knitting book.  I now own three vintage knitting books by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster - and this one is Practical Knitting Illustrated.  It has plenty of patterns for men, women, children and the home as well as detailed knitting instructions and details on resizing patterns.

I particularly love the last photo which shows each sketched person smoking.  Ah the good old smoky 40's!

These books are well worth the purchase and crop up on eBay all the time.

I also made a cake for the first time in ages, using this recipe here.  It turned out pretty well.  I always think cake mix tastes better than the finished cake though and my fancy schmancy silicone spatula (actually it is cheapo but y'know) doesn't leave any mix in the bowl.  Look.  :-(

I'm now eating cake, drinking tea and watching Antiques Roadshow and feeling much happier.  Still annoyed about those damned sleeves though!

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Vintage Drinker: The Luigi

I have finally treated myself to a lovely Boston cocktail shaker for my Art Deco bar and I have some gin and orange juice so, while my very good bottle of wine just smashed on the floor of my kitchen I can still have a little nightcap.

The Luigi was created in 1925 by Luigi Naintre of the Criterion, London.  Proper vintage like. 

The classic recipe is as follows:

Luigi Cocktail
1 Teaspoonful Grenadine.
1 Dash Cointreau.
The Juice of 1/2 Tangerine.
1/2 Dry Gin.
1/2 French Vermouth.
Shake well, with ice, and strain into cocktail glass.

Now, I don't have tangerine juice and I'm sure it would be much subtler with that, but I do have some Tropicana.  Ha!

Look at this lurid beauty!  It really is that bright.

It has a sort of sweet and sour flavour to it, not unpleasant but not something you could drink many of, thankfully, as I'm hoping for an early start tomorrow.


Monday, 24 January 2011

Old movie Madness: Curse of the Cat People (1944)

I have finally gotten round to reviewing the “sequel” to my first Old Movie Madness post, the terrific “Cat People” starring Simone Simon.  I watched this some weeks ago but not wanting to swamp my blog with movies posts I put it to one side.  I’ve decided not to swamp you anyway.

This film shares many cast members, Simon herself as well as Kent Smith and Jane Randolph, playing her former husband (Oliver Reed) and his new wife Alice.

Since the last film the pair have moved away from the city and have a young daughter, Amy (the looks-spookily-like-me-as-a-child Ann Carter) who is having trouble at school due to her dreamy nature.

Oliver is determined that Amy will give up her dreamy ways, which remind him so of his former wife Irina, however the local children will not play with her and her only friend becomes the spirit of Irina who appears to her in their garden.  

Amy also makes friends with an elderly woman living down the road, the woman’s daughter lives with her but the parent claims she is not her daughter but an imposter.  This relationship mirrors Amy’s fears that her parents will not love her if she does not succeed in making friends.

The film, while very watchable, suffers terribly from the decision to market it as a sequel to “Cat People.”  Yes, it shares the same cast but the story has nothing to do with the previous film and could easily have been independent from the previous movie.  In fact this might have done it some favours at the box office as I’m sure I  would have felt somewhat tricked if I went to the cinema expecting feline women slinking around in dark suits and got a little girl in a frilly dress skipping around her garden.

The film was heavily edited to add in cat references to try and please the viewing public and it seems that as a result some key pieces of the storyline were removed – this would account for the disjointed quality of the film.

There is not much to comment on in terms of clothing in the movie, sadly enough.  Irina, when she does appear, seems to be wearing some kind of 40’s take on a Medieval gown and then the rest of the film mostly features children.  I’m not interested in children’s fashion, I hated being one and don’t want any of my own, so this aspect didn’t do a thing for me at all!

All in all I did enjoy it, the acting was just the right side of hammy and the child just creepy enough for me.  Truthfully, there is something very frightening about the way it looks into the darker side of childhood psychology, I could relate a lot to Amy and her problems making friends and I did find this aspect of the film genuinely moving.  It is a film that has stayed with me since I watched it some weeks ago.  Definitely worth a look.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Old Movie Madness: The Philadelphia Story (1940)

I told you I'd watched a lot of movies today.

The Philadephia Story is based upon a 1939 play and is a comedy based around a woman (Katharine Hepburn) torn between three men - her fiance, her ex-husband (the ever dapper Cary Grant, who donated his fee for the film to the British War Relief fund) and an attractive reporter (Jimmy Stewart).

Tracy Samantha Lord is a Philadelphia socialite who divorced her former husband CK Dexter Haven when he did not live up to her high expections (he was an alcoholic) and is now set to remarry.  The hacks at "The Spy" want to cover the wedding and blackmail her former husband into getting the scoop.  Dexter arrives at her home with writer Mike Connor and photographer Liz Imbrie, claiming they are friends of her brother who is unable to attend the wedding himself.

Tracy quickly discovers their plan but decides to let them stay after discovering that if they do not get a story about her nuptuals they will instead print a scandal about her father and dancer.

Tracy starts to have feelings for the young repoerter Mike and gets incredibly drunk and goes swimming with him.  He carries her back to her room but they are seen by both her fiance George and Dexter.  Angered by George's lack of faith in her Tracy ends the engagement and Mike offers to marry her.  Tracy turns him down and remarries Dexter instead.

I have to admit to really enjoying this movie, though it is really just fluff - Katharine Hepburn, as usual, was utterly marvellous, her nasal high society twang a voice I'd love to be able to mimic but sadly can't (you should hear me, it is highly amusing).  She had fabulous comedy timing and her hungover recoil from the bright sun made me laugh out loud.  Jimmy Stewart did a marvellous job of playing drunk and Grant - well - he is just Cary Grant.  Handsome and sexily at ease even under stress.  Sigh.

For me though there were two real scene stealers; Virginia Wiedler as Tracy's younger sister Dinah, visibly loving getting to ham things up and Ruth Hussey as Miss Imbrie in a series of incredible suits and hats and a remarkable hairstyle that I'm just dying to try.

And I will be hankering after this dress for ever.

The film was remade as "High Society" in 1956 starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

A really marvellous and gentle movie, well scripted and deserving I think of its 6 academy award nominations.  Jimmy Stewart won for best actor, deservedly.

Old Movie Madness: I Married a Witch (1942)

I've spent the entire weekend in the flat watching films and knitting.  I'm having a reclusive weekend and I have thoroughly loved it, despite the side effect being that time seems to have raced by.  I cannot believe it is Monday again tomorrow. 

One of the movies I watched today as the early 40's comedy, I Married a Witch, starring Veronica Lake and Frederic March.  I must admit to never having seen a Veronika Lake film before and I'm not sure if this was the one to make me like her.

The film starts in Salem where Jennifer (Lake) and her father are burned at the stake and buried under and oak tree after being convicted of witchcraft by the Puritan Wooley.  Jennifer curses Wooley and his descendants to marry unhappily for eternity.

270 years later the tree is struck by lightning and the pair escape as white vapours and float around the modern day looking for trouble.  Coming across the young Wallace Wooley, an aspiring politician and soon to be married descendant of their captor, Jennifer decides to wreak further revenge upon him by making him fall in love with her.

She needs a fire to regain her body and so the witches set fire to the Pilgrim Hotel. The hotel clerk tells the fire brigade that all guests are safe and accounted for, however when Wooley passes by he hears a female voice and runs into the building heroically.  Inside Jennifer has transformed into the ridiculously glamorous shape of Veronika Lake, with full peekaboo hair.  She is naked, sadly wreathed in smoke, and Wooley gives her his coat and carries her from the fire.

Unfortunately Wooley fails to fall for her charms and after stalking him quite determinedly she finally decides to give magic a try, concocting a love potion by singing badly at a cauldron.  Unfortunately Jennifer drinks the potion by mistake and falls head over heels for Wooley, crashing his wedding and finally persuading him to elope with her.

Wooley's political career seems to be in tatters, but Jennifer proves her supernatural powers by giving him a 100% win at the election.  In disgust at his daughter's show of love for the descendant of their sworn enemy her father removes her powers and attempts to trap her back in the tree which held them.  Love is stronger that witchcraft however and Jennifer returns to her husband, trapping her father forever in a bottle of liquor, where he seems quite happy.

All in all it is a daft little film, an average script and little attempt at acting from Miss Lake, however simply being so aesthetically pleasing seems to be enough to carry this lightweight yarn.  Famously March and Lake disliked each other intensely and this does come across, with the two main characters showing little on-screen chemistry.

It is all very predictable but as such is a perfect film to while away just over an hour on when you don't want something you have to concentrate on.  As mentioned earlier Veronica Lake's hair is utterly perfect throughout and it is easy to see why so any women of the time wanted to emulate her.

Worth watching as a bit of fun on a rainy day but nothing special.

So, could Miss Lake act?  Recommend me some of her other movies so I can see for myself.

Friday, 21 January 2011

On the needles: the Debbie Bliss Landgirl Fairisle jumper

OK - I'm attempting one of my New Years Resolutions and am facing my knitting fears, three of them at once.  4ply wool on small needles, colour work and, and, the DREADED circular needles too.

My wonderful knitty chum Katie of My Vintage Dresser has helped ease me through the pain by offering me advice with reading the pattern and recommending me the pattern and yarn.

So, what am I trying to knit - well it is a darling modern "vintage style" pattern from Debbie Bliss.  A beautiful natural coloured short sleeved sweater with a Fairisle yoke, shown in the centre here.

This is a bargain bundle of patterns, just over £5 for some real beauties, and in my eyes this is the pick of the bunch.  The patterns are available at Hejhog, here.

The yarn suggested, Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply (also available at Hejhog at a very reasonable price), is just a dream to work with.  Soft on the hands and springy, and is making even the acres of K1, P1 rib a pleasure (well not quite but I'm not screaming at it like I usually do).

So far I have knit 3.5 inches of the back ribbing and am yet to start the colourwork, so stay tuned for the inevitable mistakes and stresses to come.

If I can pull this one off I'll be properly impressed with myself.

Wish me luck!

Drumroll please! And the winner is....

Yes it is 21 January and time to announce the winner of the wonderful vintage sewing book.

The lucky winner of this fine tome is:

Natasha De Vil over at Tea Love and Anarchy

Natasha, congratulations - I need your address to put this little baby in the post to you. 

I hope you have fun using it!

Monday, 10 January 2011

How to buy vintage online - tips and tricks.

I have spoken to a few people recently who have told me that they are scared to buy vintage online either because they are worried that items won't fit or because they are new to vintage, so here is a little guide to help the vintage beginner take their first steps
Step 1:  Know your stuff.
 Before I really started buying vintage seriously I tried to learn as much about it as I could.  One of the best ways is to become a member of The Fedora Lounge - the best online resource for vintage information about the golden era (it mainly covers 30's - 50's with a little 20s and 60's thrown in for good measure).  I am sure there are similar sites for other decades too.

 I also bought a very useful little book - "It's Vintage Darling!"- and it is largely thanks to this compact but incredibly useful guide that I can now identify a 40's dress at 40 paces.  The lovely Retro Chick is also a fan and her page links to Amazon - so clicky here.  I just wish I hadn't written all over my copy it as it seems to be out of print and the price is high!  


There are also lots of other great books available - I personally am hankering after this little number.

I also find watching movies from my chosen era really helpful, though I suspect these cinema wardrobes are responsible for my addiction to over-the-top hats!

Spending time in vintage shops also helps, examine the clothes in person, get a feel for cut and style and fabric prints of your era.

Step 2: Sizing.
We all know sizes vary between different modern retailers so it’s no surprise that vintage clothing sizes vary even more…while it is common knowledge that Marilyn Monroe wore a size 16 in the 1950’s it isn’t often realised is that this is equivalent to a modern UK size 12.  Also many vintage clothes were handmade and thus fitted to the makers particular measurements rather than confirming to a standard “shop” size.
This can all be confusing and as such most vintage items on eBay are listed with the garment measurements rather than just the original size. 
 How to measure yourself:
You will need a tape measure a pencil, a full length mirror, a piece of paper and, if you aren’t too flexible, a  friend…
Step 1 – measure yourself and write it all down:

Bust: across the shoulder blades at the fullest part of the bust, do not hold the tape too tight or you will squash your boobage!  Not a god look when wearing a dress.
Waist: around the thinnest part of your torso – don’t suck your tummy in or breathe in, this needs to be a realistic measurement!
Hips: Around 7-8 inches below your waist at the fullest point
Sleeve and leg length – from shoulder to wrist and front inside leg to ankle

Shoulder to waist can be important too - a lot of vintage dresses are pretty shortwaisted.  (Thanks for the tip Lolita!) 

The pic below should help.
 peculiar genitalia they gave her, poor love.
Step 2 – measure your clothes and write it all down

Take similar measurements from a couple of your own garments, ones which fit you well.  

Step 3Compare!

Look at the difference between your measurements and the garment measurements, the garments will be slightly larger and the difference will give you an idea as to how much bigger than you a garment should be to give you a comfortable fit.

Step 4 – Compare again!

This time compare your measurements with those of the garment you are looking to buy – try not to be tempted by too small or too large items as few vintage sellers offer refunds for items which simply do not fit.

Step 5 - ….and repeat!

You size will change over time – so please ensure you are aware of your current measurements when buying vintage.
How I measure garments:

I measure my garments laid flat, and then double where appropriate:
bust measurement is taken from underarm to underarm;
waist measurement is taken across the garment at the narrowest part of the waist (note if the waist is elasticated I give the measurement of the waist unstretched and the measurement of the waist fully stretched );
hip measurement is taken across the garment, 7 inches below the natural waist
length measurement - depending on the type of garment this is taken from neck to hem, shoulder to hem, waist to hem etc, this is included in my listings
outside arm measurement is taken from the shoulder to the wrist;
inside arm measurement is taken from the underarm seam to the wrist;

Step 3: Dealing with sellers 

My eBay seller chums are going to spank me for this but I am very cheeky when it comes to buying online and recommend using the same approach, but carefully.  I frequently ask for extra pictures and measurements, for a discount or whether I can pay in instalments.  It doesn't always work but extra photos can be absolutely key in determining the condition of a garment. Of course if a garment is reasonably priced it can looka little cheap to ask for the price to be lowered, so please only do this when you feel a price is a little high!

Step 4 (thanks Kim Bombshell): Bidding methods

Bidding early can work against you, driving a price up much higher than an article is worth.  I always prefer to use a snipe site:  the benefits are twofold.  Firstly the site makes your bid for you, in the last secons of the auction, so you don't sit up all night in your flat in London waiting for a US auction to end (yes, I have set my alarm for 3am to bid on eBay before...).  Secondly, you put in your max price when you set up the snipe, therefore it is much easier to keep your spending in control.  I perfer ezsniper but there are loads out there - just give it a google!

Step 5:  Sometimes it is worth taking risks

Some of my best purchases have been those little 99p buys that had a blurred photo and a sparse description.  Sometimes it is worth taking a risk and the more you train your eye the better you will be at huting down those online bargains.

Please tell me your vintage shopping tips and tricks!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Old Movie Madness: Stella Dallas (1937)

OK - it is official, I have fallen completely in love with Barbara Stanwyck.  What an incredible actress.  She was capable of great comic timing, quick fire dialogue and in this role, a delicate but strong pathos.

The film begins showing the young Stella (Stanwyck) trying to catch the eye of a ruined heir, who is now running the local factory.  She has ambitions above her station and wheedles her way into his affections, resulting in marriage.  Her brashness just isn't suited to the circles he mixes in however, and the pair run into trouble just days after the birth of their daughter Laurel (Anne Shirley) when Stella wants to go dancing and falls in with a party crowd.

The pair separate with Stephen (John Boles, looking very suave) going to work away and Stella and Laurel remaining at home.  Stella loves her daughter with a passion and bring her up to be a wonderful and kind young lady.

As Laurel grows she begins to mix more in her fathers circles and falls in love with a very well off young man.  Her father has fallen back in love with an old flame but, keen to see her daughter happy, Stella agrees to them going away to live near him and the object of Laurel's affections.

Unfortunately Stella's brash personality and dress sense soon cause a stir and, not wanting her mother to realise how she is viewed by the high end folk they are with, Laurel insists they return home.  Sadly, on the journey home, Stella overhears people talking about her and she realises that for her daughter to he happy she needs to let her go.

 Stella in a brash outfit

She forces her daughter away, marrying someone she doesn't love, and whom her daughter loathes,  to push her away and allow her to live the life she always dreamt for herself.

 Tears as she watches her daughter marry

This film is possibly one of the best I have ever seen, I even put my knitting down to pay attention and that is some feat.  Stanwyck puts in a marvellous and heart wrenching performance as the working class girl helping her daughter along.  It is also refreshing to see the working classes of the period not all depicted as drunks - Stella being a firm teetotaller throughout the movie.

It is also marvellously styled, Stella's outfits are outrageous - too many bracelets, too much lace - and they contrast well with the staid classiness of her husbands social set.  Yet despite her brashness she is a kind and loving woman.

An utterly wonderful film.


Thursday, 6 January 2011

My first giveaway! 1940's simplicity sewing book.

And lo, I have reached 250 followers.  Wow!  Thank you everyone.

To celebrate this and also to strengthen my sewing resolve I have decided to give away a copy of the Simplicity Sewing book.

I have two copies of this and am giving away the mint condition copy, it is a stunning magazine - 88 pages of real vintage sewing instructions including:

  • Make the most of your figure
  • Basic sewing tools
  • How to measure yourself
  • Pattern alterations
  • The best colours for your type
  • Embroidery
  • Buttons and trims
and so much more!

It really is a marvellous publication and should answer all your vintage sewing questions.

So, what do you need to do to win?

Mandatory entry: Follow my blog and leave a comment below about why you learnt to sew or want to learn to sew.  Something to motivate me please too - haha!

Want more chances to win? Additional entries:
  • follow @LisaSmuts on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway (including a link) and leave a comment below to confirm
  • Blog about this giveaway (including a link) and leave a comment below to confirm
  • Post this contest to your Facebook page and leave the link.

You have to leave separate comments for each entry. In other words, if you become a follower and tweet about the contest at the same time, leave one comment saying you're following and another saying that you tweeted it. This helps me count the entries!  Also, be sure to leave your e-mail address in your comment so I can contact you if you win.

That simple! This contest is open to readers worldwide.

This contest will run until January 21st. After that a winner will be chosen using a random number generator. The winner will be the person with the comment of the corresponding number. I will then contact the person via the email left and announce on my blog.

Ok - well good luck my dearies!

Knitting - the MAGIC of blocking and a current work in progress

Well hello there!

I thought I'd give you a peek at my current knitting project and rave about a knitting epiphany I have just had.

I recently bought a heap of pdf patterns from one of my favorite online shops The Vintage Knitting Lady and quickly started on the clear "instant gratification" item.  A 1940's blouse that claimed it could be knit in three evenings (Hah!).

It actually is a fairly quick knit, especially if you only do 1.5 instead of 2.5 inches of K1, P1 rib.  I hate K1, P1 rib with a passion, especially on tiny needles.

The pattern doesn't requite much yarn as it is a very loose knit and so I used some unidentified yarn I picked up from the local charity shop.  It came with some vintage 3ply and is a little thicker so is possibly a 4 ply and is definitely 100% wool and such a pretty blue. 

The pattern does not have any tension information and needed to be resized so I took a gamble and used needles 0.5 mm larger than suggested. 

I was worried throughout knitting the back section as it still looked incredible small and when I stretched it it looked odd.  I persevered though in the hope that blocking could sort it out.

This was quite a gamble for me as I have, so far, found blocking to be completely pointless.  However this is the first time I have worked with 100% wool yarn and now I have seen the light, for animal fibres at least.

I soaked the finished piece in cold water for 20 minutes and then  gently squeezed out all of the water and rolled the piece in a towel.  I then pinned the piece out to the size I wanted and let it dry.

In the morning there it was, dry, with even stitching and in the size I was after.  An absolute miracle.

Here is the blocked piece next to the unblocked front piece so you can see the difference.

It's a miracle, a yarny miracle!

I'm still not sure how this will turn out, or if I even have enough yarn to finish it, we shall see.