Sunday 29 December 2013

Dec 29th 1940 - London's Longest Night

I stumbled on this documentary a while ago and thought I would share it all with you all. It's not very festive I know but I thought as it's 73 years to the day from the longest night of the Blitz I thought it would be interesting to experience.

It holds a little more importance than just interesting history for me as my dad was born in London in early 1940, so he would have been about 8 months old when the blitz began. Though he may not remember it clearly, I think of my poor Nan, who had just had her first child during such a turbulent time, I can only imagine her daily anxiety and fear for their safety as they sheltered under their Morrison 73 years ago tonight.

Wendy x

Thursday 28 November 2013

Sew Desirable

As always seems to happen, the moment I have to be super frugal and think about others, with Christmas around the corner, all I can think about is spending money and my own selfish desires. I have not been helped by the fact pattern companies large and small have been releasing the most fabulous patterns, with a wonderful vintage style lately. So my remedy is to share them here, to hopefully cool my ardour and in turn save my pocket.

First up is Burda Style there have been some lovely patterns recently and the fact that you can download them in an instant is wonderful, but oh so very tempting!

These high-waisted wide leg pants have a lovely vintage look. This is a slimming cut that gives you an hourglass silhouette with a tucked in shirt. Vertical pleats give swingy wool crêpe a little structure. The blouson jacket is a classic style that looks gorgeous in leather. This functional jacket has effortless luxury thanks to soft nappa leather. Try the shape in faux leather if you like!

Just look at this flying jacket and amazing wide leg trousers, from part of their new Aviator Collection. For me this is an outfit that dreams are made of to look like a cross between Indiana Jones and Amelia Earheart, I mean what's not to love! Fear of flying be dammed!

Update a classic silky blouse with pleated breast pockets. This is a great silhouette for fabrics with some drape. Tuck it into a 1940s inspired skirt for a modern touch. A well-fitting A-line skirt is just as feminine as a tight pencil silhouette. This style has a nipped in waist that you can belt to show off your waist. Get a sharp look with a crisp white blouse, heeled Oxfords, and a military canvas belt.

 And just think how much more awesome this outfit would be if this crisp white blouse was under that jacket!


Crêpe de chine turns a classic trenchcoat design into a special evening layer. This piece makes an elegant finish to fall outfits. Slip a silk scarf in a coordinating print around your neck for an elegant touch.

Now I made great claims last year about making a winter coat, so far I have made the Gertie coat but it's in need of some serious alterations before it's fit for public viewing, but that doesn't stop me dreaming about making a stunning 1940s style trench coat, now does it!!


Get a retro 1940s feeling in these high waisted wide leg pants. This menswear style looks pretty paired with a feminine, fitted top. Go with a high-heeled loafer or spectator to amp up the vintage charm.

If I had spotted this pattern before starting my Fall for Victory Lightfileds Slacks then I would have saved myself a fair bit re-drafting, as being wide legged, high waisted, pleated at the front aaaand having side pockets, it is exactly what I was after!

Attend a garden party or high tea in this beautiful vintage-inspired dress. Plenty of tucks, gathers, and ruffles give ladylike charm to this lovely design. Pair it with lace-up boots for a Gibson Girl vibe, or make it modern with pumps and a cardigan

This dress is so 30s, I just love it, I think it would look even better in a block colour so that you can fully appreciate those pleated panels.


This feminine shirt has sewn-on bands and a charming bow. It will pair perfectly with a nice pair of pants or a skirt! The full skirt is ideal for a day out! It has side pleats, a deep centre inverted pleat, and a unique waistband.

This is so classic an outfit it's just perfect. It has the style of Ulyana Sergeenko to it, with the long full high waisted skirt, coupled with a simple crepe top, it's delicious!


My next lot of pattern lust goes to By Hand London a fabulous little independent pattern company, I love the attention to detail they include in the pattern descriptions.

An effortless dress featuring double pleats at the bust, kimono sleeves and a panelled a-line skirt. Variations include both slash and v-neck options, plus midi and maxi skirt possibilities and a dramatic thigh high split. Super quick and simple to make, cut it short for the perfect festival dress, or make it worthy of the red carpet with a maxi skirt and thigh high split.

I have seen so many beautiful versions of this dress all over the blog-o-sphere that I can't wait to make my own, it's so simple and so elegant with a wonderful 40s style, perhaps without such a high slit!

The Georgia Dress is a super sexy knockout dress with fitted cups and a panelled skirt that hugs the waist and skims the hips. Variations include a choice of slinky shoulder straps or a wider, nautical style faux collar. Keep it demure with a knee length skirt, or show off those pins with the mini!

I love this simple because it's the perfect little black dress, and could be so easily worn for work or for a party, and we could all do with a dress like that!


Next, we have a pattern from another indie designer, this time, Blue Ginger Doll, an Australian based pattern company, with a small but utterly pretty range of classic patterns.

Mae is a romantic 1940s inspired blouse. Featuring a flattering scalloped front neckline design, kimono sleeves and fitted front and back waist darts for a flattering feminine figure. 

Mae has to be my favourite of the bunch, it's got them most gorgeous scalloped neckline and flattering Kimono sleeves, which would easily make it a wardrobe favourite.


And last but not least, there is the new 1950s style Gertie Pattern for Butterick!

There is nothing to say about this other than, I love it!!

Wendy x

Sunday 24 November 2013

Fall For Cotton - Lightfields Blouse and Slacks

Last Sunday, the weather was reasonable and I had a willing photographer to hand, so it meant I was finally able to get some good pictures of my Fall for Cotton Lightfields ensemble! 
About blooming time!

So you might remember, though it was a while back now so you would be forgiven if not, that I had fallen head over heels in love with some outfits in ITV's recent ghostly drama Lightfields worn by Eve Traverse one of the main characters.

I had become besotted with a little black and yellow striped blouse and a pair of bottle green wide legged high waisted slacks, so I set about recreating them for my fall for cotton projects. The patterns I picked to recreate these garments all needed some alterations to make them more like the originals above, and I think I have pulled it off! I was yet again quite surprised  how very simple it was to achieve, I have often put off making things for fear that I didn't know how to do it properly, and end up creating a huge unwearable mess, but making these garments has proved to me yet again that it's all about looking at things logically (ooh now I sound like Spock), as long as you think it through and take your time in the pattern stage, it's deceptively simple to create what you're after!

 Right, first up let's have a closer look at the blouse...

For the blouse, I used a cheap black cotton for the collar and cuffs which accentuate the beautiful pink striped fabric for the main body perfectly. The main fabric came from the lovely Blue Zinnia Vintage on Etsy, this fabric is just gorgeous to look at and even more gorgeous to work with, it is lovely and soft but still very much holds its shape, a real gem of a 30s fabric, and perfect for copying Eve's blouse. The pattern, Economy Design No.154, was not quite so perfect, it needed a few tweaks to get it as near as possible to the Lightfields version.

The yokes on the front of the blouse were much higher than Eve's blouse so I lowered them enough to make them in line with the back yoke. I found this actually quite easy, even though the bottom front sections are much wider than the yoke pieces (they gather up into the yoke for a bit of bust room) I just lengthened the yoke pattern to match the rear yoke, added a seam allowance and then dropped the front panel down by the same amount and it all worked out OK.

The other alteration was to the sleeves. Firstly I took out some of the height to the sleeve head to reduce the puffiness a touch. Also, the sleeves on the pattern are designed to taper in towards the cuff, now I have particularly chunky biceps (it's all biscuits, not land girl style muscles!) so, on making this pattern in the past I have always found this super uncomfortable and hideously restrictive. Thankfully Eve's blouse actually has some gathers at the cuff band, so I was able to taper the pattern out at the cuff and give myself a bit of room. I also followed a great tutorial from Sure Fit Designs to add a bit more space around my upper part of my arm, it all worked out really, really well, I can lift my arms into any odd unattractive position I desire and my blouse doesn't try and stop me!

I am rather impress that I managed to get most of the stripes to line up throughout the blouse the only place I am disappointed with is the front button band if you look closely you will see I just missed it lining up, but you know what, I love this blouse too much to worry about that, this is already a firm wardrobe favourite!

So on to the slacks!

I used a really nice weight bottle green corduroy from a seller on eBay, and I chose three patterns from my stash which together I hoped would create the look I was after. The main body of the slacks was taken from Simplicity 3688, I re-drafted the front pattern piece firstly to add in the front pleat which I copied from Simplicity 4044 which meant adding an extra inch to the width (which other than fancy scalloped waistband is the only real difference between the two patterns).

Next, I needed to create the side pockets, for this, I used Gertie's Capri Pants pattern as a guide to the shape and depth of the pocket, I soon realised that adding side pockets is remarkably easy. To be honest, it's something you don't really need to rely on a pattern piece for as long as you know how deep you want it and what shape you want the outer curve, it's really quite easy to draft a couple of extra pieces from the existing pocket-less pattern! I can do a tutorial if you like, it's certainly something worth knowing!

I was a little concerned about the fact that these slacks have a lapped side zip which runs through the pocket area I had just created, I have always struggled with theses blighter and so after a few attempts resorted to just a simple set in zip, I think it looks OK, though looking at these images I've noticed I really need to add a hook and eye at the top of the zip, and if I am not mistaken those Lightfileds slacks have got the same construction!

Only changes I would make for my next version would be to make the pockets a little deeper, can only fit your dainty hankie in them, very ladylike, but not very me! And perhaps to taper a little width out of the leg as they are just a tad too wide for my liking, other than that I am as pleased as punch with them, and delighted that I have finally gotten around to showing them off!

Wendy x

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Knit It - Turban Tuesday

Just a quick post today about a quick make. I was inspired by Jo who blogs at Objects of my Affection's challenge to join in the Turban Tuesday fun!

I made one of these turbans from the free pattern by Elisa McLaughlin a few years ago, in a lovely royal blue to match my thick winter coat see it here. Both my coat and headband have now seen better days so I thought it was about time that I updated at least one of them, I went for the cheapest option and knitted myself up another turban, it was very easy and very quick, it took about three hours!

 This time I chose some DK mustard wool which as before I doubled up (knitted with 2 strands) to make it nice and thick and warm on the ears. I also added 5 stitches to the cast on this time, to make it a little wider and so that it stays in place a little better than my last one did.

I do love a Pixlr filter for making my skin look uncharacteristically blemish free!
 It is certainly much more striking version than the dark blue one but I love it just as much, OK maybe a little more! 

Happy Turban Tuesday!
Wendy x

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Things To Make & Do – Wild West Terrarium

A few months back I needed to make a quick birthday present for my friend Alan, you know the drill you think 'Ooh I must get something really nice for their birthday in a few weeks' then promptly forget until a few days before. After I calmed down from the panic, I realised there was something I could make that would be really quick, would incorporate something of Alan's past into his present (boom, boom!) and be, fingers crossed, something that he would love!

I worked with Alan for many years before he retired. We spent many a pleasant afternoon listening to his stories and old radio plays such as Round The Horn and The Goon Show whilst sipping tea and clicking away at our computers. Some of his most enthusiastic tales were those of his love of playing Cowboys and Indians when he was little in the 50s, so I knew a gift that incorporated this would be a tick in the box. I also knew that before working for our company he had worked at Britains (another scale model company famous for toy soldiers and the like) so I knew that some Britains scale model cowboys would make that a double tick!

So with all of this in mind, my plan was to make him a Western Terrarium, I had made myself two a year or so ago now (they are here on Kollabora), and knew all it would require was a quick trip to the DIY store and a few bits from eBay, which luckily I already had.

Western Terrarium
This is a really quick make, which cost very little and I think looks great!

What you’ll need:
  • A large glass vase, or storm jar
  • Mini cacti - or two depending on size of vase
  • A handful of clean gravel/Compost – Houseplant compost is preferable but not essential
  • Sand – I used children's play sand as it had the perfect colour
  • A scale model or two, this could be anything at all!
  • Spoon or small trowel for inserting the soil and sand
So let's begin...

1. Ensure that your both your vase and gravel are clean, before adding a thick layer to the base of your Vase. I washed my gravel by leaving it some boiling water for a bit and then rinsing it under the tap once cooled.

2. Remove cacti from its pot and arrange in the vase, add a layer of compost, to support the cacti. Be careful, I chose the cacti with the least amount of prickles for this vase, but it still got me!

3. Next, add a thick layer of sand. You will find over time the sand will work its way down the sides of the vase hiding the soil, which may mean you have to add more a little later on.

4. Finally, arrange your chosen figures, and if you desire a bit more realism add some gravel.

Then you are done! Time to sit back and enjoy!

Tips for aftercare:
When I researched terrarium making the general rule was not to use cacti. Boo! Now,I have had no problem with my ones so far, but Cacti do thrive in conditions where they are flooded with water which is then followed by a drought. This is difficult to achieve in a small moisture retaining vase. I get around this by watering once every 3 weeks or so and using a squirty bottle (it was recycled from a hair dye kit, washed thoroughly) to aim the water directly at the roots give it a good glug, this way it's not filling the whole vase and so gives the cacti enough water to make it happy.

If I had given myself a little more time I would have loved to have fashioned some tombstones out of polymer clay, to give it that added touch, but either way Alan was as pleased as punch with his unique gift and told me he remembers working on the technical drawings for some cowboys during his time at Britains, so it could well be he had drafted one of these! 

Wendy x

Thursday 7 November 2013

Knit It - Victory Beret

I headed down to the Isle of Wight a weekend or so ago to celebrate my mums birthday and also to watch my little brother take part in the Great South Run. I had a lovely time, though it was a bit more stressful due to the wild and windy weather we had, not being the most sea fairing of folk I did struggle with the four ferry trips on increasingly choppy water needed to get there and back and there and back again over the weekend!

My brother did very well in the run and beat his time from last year even with the strong winds, which made me feel very proud of him and all the other amazing people who take part in such events, raising money for charity. So much so that in my swell of emotion I think I agreed to do a 10K with my brother next year! Considering I struggle to even run a bath, this could well kill me, but we will see, I do like a challenge!

Whilst on the Island I had been hoping for some lovely weather so that I could coerce my brother to take some snaps of my newest knitted, as it was there was only a 5 minute window of sunshine and typically on the one day I hadn't done my hair, but my locks are not the attraction here it's the knitting your supposed to be looking at and this is a very special bit of knitting indeed!


...- .. -.-. - --- .-. -.-- Victory ...- .. -.-. - --- .-. -.--

Pattern: Victory $5.00 on Ravelry
Designer: Tasha Moss
  • Style Craft Special 4 ply:  50g Midnight (1011)  Deramores
  • King Cole Big Value 4 ply : 50g Red (667), 50g Green (675), 50g Mustard (671)
  • I've forgotten the brand but also 50g of White
I was contacted by the lovely Tasha from by gum by golly in September asking if I would like to take part in a bit of test knitting for a new style 1940s Beret/Tam pattern she was planning to release. I as you can imagine was over the moon with the opportunity, firstly the chance to help on such an amazing project was too good to refuse, and secondly, and much more selfishly, it meant I could finally have a bit of fabulous 40s Fair Isle (say that three times, fast) for Meee!!

My, this pattern is so gorgeous! This is not just any 1940s style fair isle beret oh no, this is a very well designed 1940s beret. Just look a little closer at the pattern, and you'll see a sweet little row of V's for Victory around the brim and above that a row of Morse Code which spells out the letter 'V' for... you guessed it Victory! What a wonderful touch! Plus there's lots more wonderful fair isle goodness to keep your eyes and your hands interested!

Something just as wonderful, is the fact that the fair isle pattern has plenty of 'breather' rows, by this I mean there are here and there a row or two of plain one colour knitting, which after following the fair isle pattern for a while (which is never more than two colours at one time,so never too taxing) comes as a welcome little holiday for your hands and more importantly your brain, and then it's back to the pattern work which your now looking forward to again.

For my version I used the odds and sod of leftover yarn from both my brother and my dad's pullovers, all acrylic and all 4 ply, making this a stash buster which is great, though there is a downside which is the acrylic doesn't hold the shape quite as well as the lovely Exelena wool used on the original (no lovely crease) but I'm OK with that. It also is a little bigger due to my forgetting that my gauge increases when knitting in the round, I did my test swatch on DPN's, but due to having short needles I realised I was going to have to move on to a circular or quickly lose my marbles as well as my stitches.

Victory is a very quick and fun little beret to knit up, I genuinely believe that it could be done in a weekend if you put your mind to it and have done some colour work before. Mine, in fact, would have been finished much sooner if I hadn't decided to be all grown up and have a nice glass of wine one evening whilst starting the crown decreases, all would have been fine if I had still been working on the main section, but I had reached the crown and well it gets a bit more attention grabbing and so it turned into a bit of an odd-numbered-dropped-stitch-sweary-mess which had to be undone the next morning so I could start over again! Don't drink and decrease people it can't be done!

I am very happy with my new beret & here you get a sneak peak of my latest serger dress!
I think you can tell that I love it, I did worry it might be a bit too bright as I was working on it but now it's done I think it's wonderful and there is no way I am going to get lost in a crowd. It's certainly perfect for long country walks in the crisp autumn air!  I must say I am already keen to knit another for the Knit for Victory challenge...something to go with my Lightfield's Blouse..pinks and blues, I think I'd better get knitting on a treadmill...hum...that's certainly a challenge!

Wendy x

Wednesday 30 October 2013

The Home Front – Blackout Accessories

The clocks went back by an hour this weekend here in Blighty, which meant a lovely extra hour snuggled up in bed, sadly it also means as much as I hate to concede to it, the gloaming wintery nights and dreary early mornings will gradually be drawing themselves tighter around us over coming weeks, so I thought it would be the perfect time for  another Picture Post from the Imperial War Museums archive collection. This time, we are going to take a glimpse at what life was like during the wartime blackouts and see what precautions people could take to keep them safe and sound in the blackness.

Preparations for war had begun as far back as 1937 the Air Ministry predicted that if war was declared, Britain would be subjected to sudden night air attacks from Luftwaffe bombers, which would lead to high levels of civilian casualties and mass destruction to towns and cities. To counter this threat the government decided that if all man-made lights were extinguished, this would mean that the enemy who was identifying their targets using pre-war maps and up to date reconnaissance photographs would find it much more difficult to hit their intended targets as any identifying landmarks would be shrouded in the blackness. Blackout rehearsals became routine from early 1938, householders were told to check their homes for chinks of light while the RAF monitored the areas from above, these test showed that vehicle traffic was the main problem, even vehicles driven with just sidelights were still clearly visible from above and highlighted the road pattern below.
(Image Source)
To achieve this nationwide blackout it was necessary and a patriotic duty for every citizen to play their part. Ensuring that the rules were strictly followed was vital, so the home office appealed for 300,00 ‘citizen volunteers’ to be trained as A.R.P wardens to enforce the rules and impose fines to those who did not comply. So at sunset on the 1st of September 1939 two days before the official outbreak of WW2  the UK was plunged into complete utter darkness.

(Image Source)
Street lamps were extinguished, homes were fitted with blackout curtains and paint to ensure that no ambient light escaped from chinks in their windows, trains were fitted with dingy blue lights which made it barely possible to see your fellow passengers and because the stations were also blacked out it became increasingly difficult for passengers to determine firstly what station they were at, and secondly, which side of the train they need to alight to actually step on the platform. On the roads, vehicles were permitted to use lights as long as they were properly  covered with a metal hood, which only allowed thin slits of light to shine upon the approaching road and even the amber glow from a cheeky night time cigarette was banned. The people did what they were told and ‘put that light out’!

(Image Source)
A consequence of the new blackout regime was that road traffic incidents increased dramatically, so the government decreed that thick white lines must be painted on kerbs and lamp posts, but this proved to make little difference to the number of collisions. It's interesting to note that by the end of 1939 a mere three months into the war, a reported 4000 civilians had been killed in blackout related accidents, a sobering thought when during the same period in combat only 3 of the British Expeditionary force had been killed in action. In the Jan of 1940 the government relaxed the laws and allowed low powered torches -as long as the were covered with 3 layers of brown paper with a hole the size of a half-penny cut in the middle allowing only a tiny beam of light – to be used to hail buses by shining the torch on to you palm or feet, however, batteries supplies soon became scarce so eventually even this was no longer an option.

To make people feel a little safer during the blackouts the government urged pedestrians to ‘wear something white at night. Policemen were issued with white capes and shops had a run on white coats and macs as well as other accessories and it is at one such shop that we pick up today's Ministry of Information story at the ever so stylish blackout counter in Oxford Streets Selfridges.
A sales assistant, using a stuffed toy, demonstrates a blackout coat for dogs to a customer at Selfridge's department store in London. The coat would make sure that the dog was visible to car drivers and pedestrians during the dark nights of the blackout.
A female sales assistant helps a customer to choose a blackout collar at Selfridge's department store in London.The various styles available were an attempt to make the functional collars a bit more fashionable. The collars would help to ensure that the wearer was a bit more visible to cars and other pedestrians in the blackout.
A blackout walking stick on sale at Selfridge's in London's Oxford Street.
The light in the tip of the walking stick would illuminate the ground sufficiently for the user to see more clearly in the blackout, and to make the user more visible to pedestrians and vehicles. These walking sticks sold for 14/6.
A woman pins a luminous disc to her jacket lapel at Selfridge's department store in London.
These badges were to be worn in the blackout, as a way to make the wearer more visible to fellow pedestrians and motorists on the dark streets of the blackout. These discs were on sale for 2d per dozen.
A female shop assistant displays a white raincoat for use in the blackout. The colour of the fabric of the coat would mean that the wearer would be clearly visible to other pedestrians and to motorists in the dark streets of the blackout.
A display at Selfridge's department store in London advertises the various accessories available for use in the blackout.  Included here are two types of luminous armband, luminous discs and button badges, and luminous adhesive tape which could be added to the edges of clothing. The aim was to make the wearer more visible to pedestrians and vehicles in the blackout
A stand at in the umbrella department of Selfridge's department store in London displays a selection of blackout walking sticks.  These sticks were painted with luminous paint to make the user more visible to pedestrians and motorists on the darks streets of the blackout. These sticks sold for 2/6 each.
A luminous gas mask case on sale at Selfridge's department store in London. These gas mask covers were on sale for 2/11.
A woman pins a luminous flower onto her jacket lapel and consults her reflection at Selfridge's department store in London. These flowers were prettier than the plain button badges and luminous discs that were also available but did the same job: making the wearer more visible to other pedestrians and motorists on the dark streets of the blackout.
A woman looks at her reflection in a mirror as she examines a selection of blackout collars at Selfridge's department store in London. The various styles available were an attempt to make the functional collars a bit more fashionable. The collars would help to ensure that the wearer was a bit more visible to cars and other pedestrians in the blackout.
A shop assistant shows a customer a luminous flower in Selfridge's department store, London.
These flowers were one of numerous blackout accessories available in 1940 to make pedestrians more visible on the dark streets of the capital.
At first people avoided going out at night, but once the winter drew in and the days became shorter it was harder for people to avoid, life must have been extremely difficult for those who had to navigate the streets at night, even with your snazzy new collar or illuminated cane, I don’t think that I would have felt much more at ease at all, it must have been quite an eerie let alone dangerous time, not only did you have the dangers in the dark to contend with there was also the little matter of the bombs!
In case you fancy your very own blackout accessories, I have the perfect pattern for you taken from Home Notes November 1942, are these 'Safety First Gloves'. Knitted in a striking navy blue and white  combination, these snazzy gloves will ensure that you are not overlooked in a blackout!

Be safe, be seen!
Wendy x