Slow burner? Vogue summer 2012 patterns

The sewing blogosphere and its feline helpers have already reviewed the new Vogue patterns, and in the main the reaction has been one of disappointment. And on first glance at the collection I had to agree. It didn’t even strike me as particularly fugly, just uninspiring. There is one honourable exception in 1305. I don’t think I’m very likely to make this, but it’s spectacular nonetheless.

Vogue 1305

After a few days I went back to it and had a closer look. Turns out there are a few things I like after all, they just aren’t the designer or vintage numbers.

Take 8808. The sample appears to have been made up out a pair of curtains, but imagine it in a solid colour. The long version would be both glamorous and comfortable. The knee length version would make a great day dress.

Vogue 8808

And then there’s 8814, another really verstaile, simple style – and heaven, it comes in custom cup sizes so no FBA.

Vogue 8814

I’m still going to wait until the sale though.

Yet another review of the new Vogues

Like half the sewing blogosphere I’d been waiting impatiently for the spring Vogue patterns to come out. They’re now up on the US website although as I write this they’ve yet to become available in the UK. But that’s OK, this time I think I can wait.

First impressions of the collection? What was the photographer thinking with those poses?

Doesn’t that hurt (1286)? She seems to be putting all her weight on one knee. The other foot isn’t in contact with the floor!

Is she trying to do the Eagle in four inch heels and a tight skirt (1280)?

How many cans of hairspray were involved (1281 and numerous others)?

What, you wanted to hear about the actual patterns?

There are a lot of lovely designer dresses there, including the three above, but somehow very few of them are ‘must-sews’ for me. There are a lot of dressing-up clothes there. I haven’t got a wedding to go to until June so I won’t be making any of the above any time soon.

Of the day dresses, two really stand out for me: 1285 and 1287. 1285 is a smart mock wrap dress, although I’d make it up in something a lot less transparent.

Vogue 1285 envelope photo

1287 has pockets and pleating and why on earth did they make up the sample in a fabric that hides the style lines? Not that it doesn’t look beautiful, but go and look at the line art. There’s more there than the photo shows. However it isn’t a million miles away in style from my favourite Vogue 1220.

Vogue 1287 envelope photo

The Very Easy range is often a bit blah, but this time they have this wrap dress 8784, which looks like a real classic. In fact it strongly resembles the sadly out of print Vogue 8379 but with a bonus extra skirt option.
Vogue 8784 envelope art

So in conclusion, I think this is a strong collection but not one that I’m going to rush out to sew. The ones I might wear are very similar to patterns I already own. This time I can definitely wait for the sale.

The Dressmaker’s Dictionary

I’m slightly surprised to realise I’ve never yet blogged about one of my favourite sewing reference books, The Dressmaker’s Dictionary by Ann Ladbury. I was lucky enough to find it in a second-hand bookshop soon after I started sewing and picked it up in the hope of finding instructions on on zip insertion that made a bit more sense than the ones in my sewing manual.

There are no less than eighteen pages about zips, with some excellent advice on how to get good results. Some of it is a little dated. The instructions for invisible zips use a regular zip foot and give the impression that special feet for invisible zips are rare commodities only available with Pfaff machines. But most of it is still relevant and I regularly use her tips for getting a good zip insertion.

Having bought the book to learn about zips, I then discovered the section on fitting. This was a revelation. Up to this point my attempts at fitting had simply been to lengthen patterns at the adjustment lines. The Dressmaker’s Dictionary has pages of diagrams of wrinkles and how to tweak them away. I read that section through several times and learnt a lot.

My first two sewing books were ‘Yeah, I made it myself’ by Eithne Farry and ‘Sew U’ by Wendy Mullin. Both are written in a distinctly chatty, cosy style. By contrast, The Dressmaker’s Dictionary knows the One Right Way To Do Things and intends to reform any slapdash habits the reader may have. A clear personality comes through in the writing: confident, expert, and full of strong opinions. The author tells us firmly that boat necklines are ‘not particularly flattering’, facings should never, ever be interfaced, and understitching is counterproductive. I can’t say I agree with everything in the book (or perhaps my pressing skills are not yet up to making my facings stay put on their own) but she’s always entertaining to read. This is not a dry reference book. In fact it’s great fun to browse through, partly because of the writing style but also because it covers such a huge range of topics. I usually find something new to me when I pick it up.

Sadly it is no longer in print, but second-hand copies seem to be plentiful on UK Amazon. If you see a cheap one, grab it. I strongly recommend it.

P.S. just catching up with comments…thanks for the advice about white fabric! Molly asked what pattern I’m going to use. It’s Vogue 1239 which has become one of my favourite dresses ever. It’s a way down the project list but hopefully come the spring I’ll be tackling it in white.

The power of making – V&A exhibition review

Last weekend I went to the V&A’s Power Of Making exhibition with my husband and mother-in-law. I hadn’t really read the blurb and guessed it would be all about handcrafts. We’d originally been intending to go to the much larger Postmoderism exhibition but didn’t have enough time for it, whereas Power of Making was nicely sized to fit in between lunch and meeting up with more family afterwards.

I was wrong about the handcrafts. There were quite a few handmade items in the show, but there was also a large section about 3D printing, and many of the objects on display clearly involved some industrial processes. In fact I’m still not entirely sure what the unifying theme of the exhibition was meant to be as everything in the V&A is some kind of ‘artefact’. If you want nature untouched by human hands you go down the road to the Natural History and Geology Museums. I think the best description of it was one on the exhibition website: just ‘a cabinet of curiosities’.

So what curiosities were there? There were three or four unusual bicycles, including one made from steam-shaped mahogany, and one entirely encrusted in Swarovski crystals. One thing that really sticks in my mind, just for the ‘ewww’ factor, is a cake made in the shape of a baby. It’s beautifully done with sculpted marzipan painted very realistically. And it still grosses me out slightly every time I think about it. At the highly practical end of the scale there were lovingly made non-art items such as a drystone wall, a flute, a saddle, and a government red box. (Did you know red boxes have the locks on the bottom so that ministers can’t walk off with them unlocked? Clever.)

For sewists there were two particularly interesting exhibits. The first is a system for making spray-on clothes, and the second is a full length black leather evening dress covered in what must be tens of thousands of sharp pins. They were described as ‘dressmaker pins’ but they’re more the size of macramé pins. Not the sort of thing you could wear on the tube; in fact not the sort of thing you could wear at all, but utterly spectacular.

So it’s not the best exhibition at the V&A I have ever seen, but it’s so eclectic it has something for most people. There were lots of other weird and wonderful things I could mention, including a giant gorilla made from coat-hanger wire and an L-shaped briefcase. There were a lot of people there with their kids. I think it’s worth a look if you’re in the area. I’m still hoping to make it to Postmodernism at some point too.