Archive for the ‘Vintage’ Category

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Dawson Street bespoke Jacket – and it has a matching skirt!

Inspired by two recent thrifting vintage finds – both of them tweed. The first is a bespoke (made from scratch) lady’s tweed suit maybe from the 50’s or 60’s made in Ireland by a shop on Dawson street which is no longer in existence. Some lovely West Van matron surely must have had it custom made for her on a visit to the ‘auld country.

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Detail – Irish Cottage Industries, 18, Dawson Street Ltd. Notice the flecks of red and green in this stunning twill tweed.

The second is a man’s British Austin Reed ‘Cue’ tailored jacket made with the classic Scottish Outer Hebrides Harris Tweed fabric.  I think this jacket is also from the 70’s or thereabouts although it’s not bespoke. The man’s jacket is very heavy weight fabric with pretty square shoulders – I imagine a rugged young man sporting it as he climbed up a mountain in a sturdy pair of shoes! No MEC gortex or fleece to be found. The jacket is mine now and with some strategic re-seaming and additional darts – I turned it into a lady’s beach walking jacket.

Deconstructed Austin Reed Jacket ...Reconstructed into a lady's beach walking Jacket

Deconstructed Austin Reed Jacket …reconstructed into a lady’s beach walking Jacket. I’m the lady. Oops, forgot to take a ‘before’ shot – suffix to say I removed almost a 2-inch width of fabric from the shoulders (and removed the shoulder pads).

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Detail – Pristine leather button – no signs of wear at all. See the gorgeous colours involved with the tweed?

The fabric (100% wool woven in a ’twill’ diagonal weave) and design is completely classic although I couldn’t find exact design references that matched them online. The Harris Tweed Authority doesn’t actually publish the trade mark numbers online… mine is No. 319214 which I think is one of their more popular twills.

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Harris Tweed ‘Orb’ label. Check out the Harris Tweed Authority – so so interesting http://www.harristweed.org/harris-tweed/love-harris-tweed.php

It would be hard to place both jacket’s exact provenance without time consuming research – suffice to say I was thrilled to find them as both garments are in pristine condition. The top button on the man’s jacket was actually hard to insert into the button hole which indicates it was rarely worn. A wonderful feature of tweed – is that both fabrics come across as neutral at first glance but the closer you look reveals the myriad of colours that are incorporated into the fabric, blues, greens, yellows, grays, etc. So subtle and elegant.


Sheep Shearing for Harris Tweed

The fabric in the man’s jacket is made up of wool that is firstly dyed and spun in a island mill and every yard is handwoven in the home of a Harris Tweed weaver. I would expect the Irish tweed has a similar pedigree. The lady’s jacket has beautiful tortoiseshell buttons and the Harris Tweed man’s jacket has leather woven buttons.

2013-12-04 18.05.04It’s so appropriate that I happened upon both these treasures at the thrift store just as I’m reading an interesting book “The Coat Route’ (Meg Lukens Noonan) which is about bespoke tailoring and ‘slow’ clothing. I had to deconstruct both of my finds and tailor them to my measurements. I used tools originally from my mother’s stash… the Savile Row measuring tape, and her tailor’s chalk.

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Wow, the inside of the lady’s jacket and skirt showed the incredible workmanship that goes into bespoke construction. All the classic techniques were in evidence… wide generous seaming (for potential alterations if ‘yer measurements expanded), beautiful interfacing and underlining and hand sewing on some of the seaming. The man’s jacket even had horsehair interfacing! I managed to get away with only partial deconstruction by undoing the lining only at the bottom of the jackets and at the shoulder seams. Still, it was a lot of work as I had to recut the shoulders and reset the sleeves on both jackets to make them much smaller – but because the fabric is of such high quality the alterations worked out beautifully. I also narrowed the sleeves on both jackets to give proportion and balance.

2013-12-05 17.41.03Wearing the tweed is fabulous – especially in this December cold weather. I feel like I’m right out of Downton Abbey. I definitely prefer the style and function of tweed over our West Coast gortex and fleece.  The design will never go out of style… gets better with age… is ecologically sound because it’s biodegradable, VOC absorbent, non-allergenic, energy efficient manufactured…in other words it’s a fabric for the 21st century.  There is nothing like wearing a garment of this quality – I feel like a million bucks in both of them! My dear mother would be proud of my finds and my commitment to bespoke alterations.


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Silk is such a magical fabric – it is so lovely to drape – takes on natural dyes and mineral dyes like a dream – and can’t help but fall the right way when worn on the body. Here are some images of a few lengths of organza that can be worn as shoulder wraps, swirled around your neck, or slung low over your hips. Some have patterns that have been created by taking away some of the natural seracin silk, then dyeing them in mineral vats. When the silk worms form their cocoons, the resulting fabric that is made contains seracin that gives the silk organza it’s natural crispness. So, by removing the seracin in certain parts by the shibori resist method – makes some parts of the silk softer and leaves the unresisted parts with the original crispness of the organza… adding texture and interest. Each piece has a hand embroidered silk loop closure with a vintage button and glass bead embellishment that allows you to wear it in several different ways.

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indigo, mineral vat & found object print (& my dog biscuit)

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hand embroidered silk loop with glass beads – vintage button.

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the lighter pattern is soft like butter… the darker pattern retains the crispness of classic organza.

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lighter portions soft as air – darker gray crisp – this wrap has visual and actual texture

I leave you with a quote …from 1916. Luckily there are now lots of modern makers that are making natural dyeing part of their practice.

William Morris says “all degradation of art veils itself in the semblance of an intellectual advance.” and nothing is truer than this with regard to the art of dyeing. As a tradition it is practically dead in Britain, and is threatened with gradual extinction all over the world. It will not recover itself as an art till individual artists set themselves to make beautiful colours again, and ignore the colour made for them by commerce and the chemists.

(Ethel M. Mairet, A Book on Vegetable Dyes, 1916)

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My cousin Anita and her partner Ian recently gave me a vintage sewing machine – the Singer Featherweight – that had belonged to Ian’s mother, an accomplished quilter.

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The Singer Featherweight is the ultimate blend of simplicity, elegance and performance.

Featherweight in the 50’s had a different meaning than today – it’s a solid little machine that is lovely and heavy with gorgeous design features. It comes in a small case and when I opened it up it still has the original Singer lubricant on hand and an attachment called the ‘ruffler’ which I can’t wait to try out. It even came with it’s own sturdy little fold up table. It’s so straight forward to thread and use – and is so pretty. Mind you it only has one stitch – straight! Others may like the myriad of functions and stitches available on modern machines but this one is for me. Besides if I do need the occasional zig-zag I’ll pull out my also vintage 70’s Bernina which I guess would be considered high tech compared to the Featherweight.

After threading it up (so simple) my first stitches were perfect even though I suspect it has been a long long time since it was used or serviced. Apparently this little machine is coveted by quilters because the stitches it gives are so even.  A quick google search listed a ton of links and sites dedicated to the Featherweight – there is even a Featherweight Fanatics List.

Beautiful celtic designs on the machine…

Singer Featherweight in action

Gorgeous deco plate

My first project using the ‘Featherweight’  is a memory textile that I’m doing for my father-in-law’s family – R.I.P. Rupert Gomes. The fabric has been eco-dyed and printed using plants from my garden. I’m doing some hand embroidery and incorporating an interactive element with text of all the funny things that Rupert used to say… how about this one…

“If an egg and a half costs a cent and a half, how many hens does it take to shingle a roof with pancakes?’ Whaaaaa? Will post some pictures of the textile when it’s complete.

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