Wednesday 30 April 2014

Sew For Victory 2.0 - Ding! Ding! All Change!

So today is the deadline for Sew For Victory 2.0. I've not long got back from photographing my finished dress, which I still can't believe I have actually finished, and while I work on editing and cropping my images I thought it would be a good idea to give you update before revealing the finished dress a little later in the week, (a sneak peak will be on Flickr soon) as things have changed quite a bit since my last post!

 So in my last SFV 2014 post, I was just about to make my first muslin of Advance 4599 and go and buy my fabric. I toddled off to Walthamstow Market in search of something lovely and after a hearty lunch of pie and mash I settled on some gorgeous purple crepe. Initially did struggle to find anything I really liked, the problem with having so much choice is it makes it much harder to choose just one fabric, but as soon as my eyes and hands located this gorgeous purple chiffon crepe (side note: I learnt today that 'crepe de chine' is the french for crepe from China, I had no idea I thought it had something to do with shine, doh!) I was sold. It is a tad sheer but at a whopping £1.50 a meter I really could not complain!

After securing my fabric it was time to get cracking on the resizing. I set to slashing and spreading each pattern piece, adding the required inches and with the help of an old duvet cover I made myself a toile/muslin of my altered pattern. Now prepare yourself, for she is an ugly blighter!

So this is my muslin. I am aware that a muslin will never look that good, but the sight of her in all her wonkiness is quite off putting, especially as my alterations seem to have made it way to big and pretty much shapeless. Now either the pattern is actually for a slightly larger size than it states (I am aware there is always a tad of ease), or my personal measurements are way off, or, the most likely scenario, my resizing has gone awry, in a big way!

Also, I realised while fitting this muslin, that my body shape really does not suit a dropped waist, and it certainly does not suit a dropped waist accentuated by a peplum! I would show you pictures of me wearing this muslin but sadly or thankfully, there was no one around to help snap a picture.

So it will come as no surprise, that after spending all of the bank holiday weekend, fighting with this pattern I decided, with just under a week to go, that I had to go back to the drawing board or should that be cutting mat, and move on to my backup pattern, Hollywood 1977.

This pattern also needed resizing but thankfully it was only by 2 inches front and back, and the pattern is much simpler to work these increases on. I made a quick muslin of the top check my measurements were correct and this time they worked out much better!

This last week and a bit has seen me working my butt off to get my new dress finished. It has involved a lot of hand sewing, as I wanted, despite the time constraints, to do the beautiful fabric justice by not rushing to top stitch everything on my machine, but to treat it a little more delicately by hand stitching wherever I could.

 Which is something I have actually found surprisingly enjoyable, especially when accompanied by some relaxing Sinatra!

Wendy x

Saturday 19 April 2014

Let's Misbehave

Hello, hello I have a special little treat for you lovely people today, while I am busy beavering away on my SFV project I have a little filmic interlude that I am sure you'll all enjoy.

Today's post is a guest one from the ever so lovely Emma of Lets Misbehave - A Tribute to Precode Hollywood a beautiful blog which looks at, you guessed it, the Precode era of film. An era of films I absolutely adore, the melodramas, the gangsters, the glamour, the sassy sirens and their seductive eyebrows! But I'll be honest as much as I love the films I don't really know much about what Precode means and how it shaped theses early cinematic gems, but never fear Emma is here to teach us all about it. So dim the lights, grab the popcorn and settle down to learn more.

~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

Misbehaving on Film: 
Everything You Need to Know About Precode

While Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean films are generally seen in the light of ‘popular’ classic movies, pictures from the 1930’s or before are viewed as some kind of irrelevant and archaic art form. Strangely, most people have either heard or seen part of at least one Pre-code film. The original King Kong (1933), Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931) and Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein (1931) feature several iconic and easily recognisable scenes that have become both part of pop culture and the basis for many later horror movies.

But the Pre-code era is much more than monsters and gore, it represents the modernisation of American society through the burgeoning feminism ideology, organised crime (ie. Gangsters), financial depression and a left-wing political movement and a mini sexual revolution. This great combination of history, strong and determined women and the positive view of criminals brought a unique period heralded by Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, James Cagney and the first words of the divine Greta Garbo.

But what is Pre-code? Contrary to its name, Pre-code, which is generally classified as between the years 1929 and 1934, is not actually before – hence pre – a code at all. In actuality, the era in Hollywood was officially governed by a code or a series of guidelines setup by the major film studios as a kind of self-censorship. Named the Motion Picture Production Code – or the Hays Code – it was created originally in 1922 and updated in 1930 to account for sound pictures. Overseen by Presbyterian elder and Postmaster General, William H. Hays, it acted to prevent more stringent and strict government regulation. Late in the silent era, several provocative and anti-religious films, such as Cecil B Demille’s orgies in Manslaughter (1922) and The Ten Commandments (1923) and The Godless Girl (1929) fuelled fundamentalist religious and virtue group’s fears that an unrestrained Hollywood was corrupting American children. More alarmingly, the incidents and rumours of debauched parties and illegal drug and alcohol consumption within the film community only added to the fears. Occurrences, such as the Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle murder trial and the death of director William Desmond Taylor - whose sex life and drug addiction was revealed to the world - made some Americans believe Hollywood was not only immoral on films but in reality.

This code seemed to placate the religious critics who ceased their boycott of several Hollywood films as well as prevent government censorship. However, the guidelines were simply well-placed smoke and mirrors. Hays, far from being an unbiased mediator, was employed and paid by the films studios, up to a gigantic $100,000 a year. He acted as the studio’s spokesperson and by preaching American values and purity, they hoped the interested parties would ignore the sin, sex, and playfulness that was on the screen. Also, they had another ace up their sleeves; namely, by appealing the churches and the government by introducing the plot tactic of justice. Through this avenue, the main protagonist could steal, sleep-around, murder, and drink as much as they like as long as they paid for it at the end – mostly via a tragic death scene.

The code functioned to keep institutions out of Hollywood but wasn’t a substitute for enforceable legislation. So instead of cleaning up Hollywood, the MPPC operated as protection and, thus, a green light for filmmakers to include a wide range of sex, violence, drugs, organised crime and negative depictions of police and political establishments in their pictures. The list of dos and don’ts just provoked film-makers like naughty children to behave the exact opposite and with barely any actual restrictions, it was a free for all. Thus leaving film lovers and historians alike with delicious examples of blatant code breaking. Such as:

The Code: “Complete nudity is never permitted. This includes nudity in fact or in silhouette, or any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture.” 
The Code Broken: Musicals were a great method for directors to include seductive nude or nearly nude scenes and dance choreographer/ director, Busby Berkley, was a common offender. He used interesting camera angles and geometric patterns to fool censors into thinking the chorus girls were more clothed than they actually were.

An obvious example is in Gold Diggers of 1933, when during a musical number, the dancers become drenched and need to change. They undress in levels behind a translucent screen that leaves little to the imagination.

The Code: “The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.” 
The Code Broken: Actress, Norma Shearer, has more of a reputation today as the typical ‘good girl’ but in the Precode era she created roles that broke the boundaries of acceptability. Her two best films, The Divorcee (1930) – which she won the Oscar for Best Actress – and A Free Soul (1931), challenge the definition of marriage and fidelity.

The first questions the ultimate gender double-standard; whether it is appropriate for a wife to be philander if her husband can? Shearer stars as a cuckolded wife who gives her husband some of his own medicine, by cheating as well. A Free Soul represents a different take on modern relationships by showing an affair between a spoilt society woman and a gangster that involves sex with no marriage. Both films definitely challenge the Hays code definition of appropriate sexual relationships and the sanctity of marriage.

The Code: “Dances suggesting or representing sexual actions or indecent passions are forbidden.”
The Code Broken: As a director, Cecil B. DeMille, loved pushing the limitations of film and censorship. His picture, The Sign of the Cross (1932) starring Claudette Colbert and Fredric March, is filled with dozens of code breakers.

These include implicit graphic violence, paganism, blasphemous dialogue and loads of near naked woman. The most shocking scene involves an exotic dancer, played by Jozelle Joyner, who performs an extremely paganistic dance called The Dance of the Naked Moon. This includes grinding and moving up against the female Christian character, Elissa Landis, in an overtly sexual way.

The Code: “Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.”
The Code Broken: Surprisingly Precode movies were filled with inferences to ‘sex perversion’, a euphemistic and discriminatory phrase for homosexual characters and behaviours, but there is a handful of intriguing examples. Filmmakers generally used the ‘dandy’ or a male effeminate character for humour or lightness without clearly identifying the person’s sexuality. However, two major films show the flattering use of lesbian conduct, namely, Queen Christina (1933) and Morocco (1930).

Both female leads, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, project androgenic personas by the use of male suits and clothing with neither portrayed negatively. ‘Sex perversion’ is explicitly alluded to in these movies with Dietrich and Garbo both showing the earliest examples of a female kissing another female on the mouth. Strangely, even though the scenes flagrantly ignored the rules and were somewhat condemned by censors, neither the public nor critics generally had any problems with them.

For the next four years before a mandatory guideline was created, the code was the most ignored legislation since the Prohibition and inadvertently shaped an era in which sin, provocation and honestly was the order of the day.

~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

Thank you, Emma, for a fascinating insight into precode films! I know I will be adding all of the above to my watch list! If you enjoyed this pop over to Emma's blog to find out more, I am certain you won't be disappointed!
Wendy x

Friday 18 April 2014

Sew For Victory 2.0 - My Plans

Well, I guess I should tell you all about my Sew For Victory 2.0 Plans.

I must confess this year I felt a little uninspired as what I should make, normally I have a vague inkling as to where I want to go with any of the challenges before I commit, though my plan often changes, but this time I was stumped. After seeing my brothers holiday snaps from China, I hit upon the idea of a 1940s Oriental style dress and when I caught sight of the Maria Dress by Trashy Diva it was love at first sight, and it instantly became my inspiration for this years SFV project!

Image Source: Pinup Girl Clothing Maria Dress
Isn't it wonderful! It's made from black rayon crepe fabric (and I've just spotted they also do a yellow one which is just as adorable) it has cap sleeves, a waist accentuating dirndl skirt, and the thing that captures me the most is the mandarin collar and oriental chrysanthemum embroidery on each side of the chest, which makes this dress so striking. 

Image Source: Pinup Girl Clothing Maria Dress
My dress is going to be very much inspired by rather than a copy, I am going to change the skirt to a more slimline one, and add my favorite 1940s design feature the peplum, to achieve this I am hoping to use Advance 4599 from my pattern collection, which I believe, though there is no exact date given, dates from about 1947 and I think captures the oriental style I am looking for perfectly.

I am going to attempt view 1 with a single peplum
I say I am hoping to as the eagle-eyed will have already noticed that the pattern is for a 30inch bust, and well mine is a good ten inches away from that measurement! So it will need some intensive resizing if I have any hope of making it work. My pattern is all traced, thanks to a few lunchtime crafting session and tonight after I hit publish on this post, I will attempt to alter it to fit my ample dimensions!

Model buses make quite good pattern weights!
All being well, I will head out tomorrow to buy my fabric, ideally the teenage goth in me is drawn to black crepe, which if I have time I will embroider on, but I've decided that I am going to go out with an open mind and see what I can turn up, so watch this space! I should say that I do have another pattern which if it all goes haywire I can fall back on (a pattern that only needs a few inches added, and is made up of only four pieces, plus a peplum so will be much simpler, I think) but I am optimistic, I have three whole days to work on it so, as usual it's fingers crossed!

Wendy x

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Knit It - 'Your Victory' Jumper

 Your Victory Jumper Knitting Free Pattern Knit for victory Wendy Bayford

Well, it must have been a miracle with all the things I had going on in January, but I did actually finish my Victory Jumper before the deadline, OK it was right up to the wire at 9pm on 31st, but none the less it was finished and I am rather proud of it, and the fact I persevered despite a pair of sleeves that would not behave themselves makes it even more miraculous!

~ Your Victory Jumper ~
Home Notes 1945 Via the V&A Knitting Archive
Size: 32-34″ bust
Ingredients: UK Size 10 & 12 needles
Yarn: 3 ply yarn I swapped for some Stylecraft 4 ply in Midnight, Red & White
Knit stitches: Knit, Purl, S1 K1 PSSO, K2Tog, YO (wool forward) & pick up stitches

Your Victory Jumper Knitting Free Pattern Knit for victory

The pattern is for a 33-34" bust so I added and extra 18 stitches to the cast on to make it up to about a 38-40" bust, there is quite a bit of negative ease in this pattern (stretch across the row) so I could have probably added a little less, but it's nice to have a bit of extra room  to breathe!

 Your Victory Jumper Knitting Free Pattern Knit for victory Wendy Bayford

I cast this on on Christmas day and was pleasantly surprised at how quick the wavy pattern knits up, it is really very simple! It is worked over 9 stitches K2tog, K2, YO, K1, YO, K2, Slip 1 K1 Passo.  As well as being very easy to remember once you get into it, its also very easy to correct if you make a mistake, generally in my case it was missing a YO, but with a bit of rejigging it was simple to correct, ripping back was not so easy as those yarn overs are a pest to get back on the needle.

Your Victory Jumper Knitting Free Pattern Knit for victory

I flew through knitting the body. To both the front and back I added an extra 2 inches to the length which obviously meant it took a little longer on the needles but it was no hardship. The sleeves I started with great optimism, I usually knit both sleeves at the same time, it probably isn't but it feels quicker that way, with this pattern however there was too much tangling of various yarns going on, I am a bit of a tangle queen when it comes to colour work, so I gave that up after the ribbing.

Your Victory Jumper Knitting Free Pattern Knit for victory

As I worked through the pattern I became more and more baffled as to how long these sleeves were supposed to be. The instructions stated:
 "Change to No. 10 needles and ptn., inc. 1 st. at both ends of  every 6th row until there are   88 sts. Cont, in ptn. until sleeve measures 5.5 ins. from the beg."
Which would mean 8 rows of increase rows, but if I did that with my tension I would have 7" of the sleeve before the shaping, Ugh! So I ripped it back and worked my increases a little more often than once every 6 rows, then commenced the shaping. This with the way the pattern is seemed to be more tricky than it should have been I am sure on some rows I ended up with more stitches than I should have. Ugh!!!!

Your Victory Jumper Knitting Free Pattern Knit for victory

In the end I decided to wing it and try to line the stripes up, on the shaping with the stripes on the armholes on the body, this mean that my sleeves have ended up much puffier than the original pattern and they were supremely fiddly to fit, but at least they are in and all the stripes line up!

Your Victory Jumper Knitting Free Pattern Knit for victory

Though it took me three weeks worth of evenings and weekends to fight with them now they are done I am actually really happy with them, but it will be a while before I tackle anything with sleeves with stripes again!

Your Victory Jumper Knitting Free Pattern Knit for victory

So that's it my Knit for Victory finally out there in the world, only two months late!

If you liked this then do check out Retro Reporter's version she used the Clara sweater Pattern which is a redesign by Rohn Strong, it's totally gorgeous! Plus there are lots of amazing projects to inspire everyone on the Flick Group.

Right now on to Sew For Victory!!
Wendy x