Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

With the refashioning and remaking of men’s shirts, I’ve been mostly making casual and “work” wear plus-sized dresses but that’s not all I’ve needed. One of the other problems with finding suitable plus-sized clothing is when you have an special event or need things a bit more costumey. Last fall I was going to a 20’s themed event and wanted a period flapper style dress. There are some places doing repro dresses, but I couldn’t find anything I liked in my size so making it became necessary. I did a bit of research into period dress styles first to see if I was going to have to invest in a pattern but looking at how big the range of variations was, I decided it was possible to get away with just upping my modding game.

We had a couple of beaded/sequined jackets in the stash and the original plan was to salvage panels from them, mix the panels with silk or crepe fabric and make the bottom from another skirt or a scarf. We had a couple of black silk burnout velvet scarves but went looking and found another silk scarf and 2 large polyester velvet ones.

As I was laying out the various possible parts, and sketching some options, I realized that the scarves were large enough that we could just skip the whole plan of fussing with the beaded stuff and use the scarves as the upper body of the dress. The 2 polyester scarves were quite large and rectangular and had designs that were already very 20’s while the new silk scarf was long and narrow with a great chevron pattern and beading that coordinated with some beaded trim in the stash. I had seen a few period dresses that used a faux scarf detail as the low “waist” so that seemed like a good way to transition to a skirt and complete the dress.


It seemed like a good design concept, but I was concerned about how well it would work out in practice and I wanted to be sure that the fit would be right. Rather than making a muslin prototype, I figured that we had 2 of the big scarves and a pair of possible skirts so I might as well go ahead and make a second dress.

The first step was basic math. I measured the scarf in both directions and then myself, both around the widest section and then down the front to get the dropped waist length. The scarf was quite a bit longer than needed for the top so a section was taken out of the middle, leaving 2 pieces the right length. (and handily with finished hems on 3 sides) I calculated the size for a pair of fabric inserts for the sides. They were a bit narrower at the top, and slightly curved there since that was the bottom of the arm-holes. The thin black crepe that was used for the inserts also made up the bottom of the sleeves. The sleeve tops were done using the left-over section of the scarf. The split-top style really appealed to me since it gives a sense of being sleeveless without actually exposing the upper-arms and is still period accurate.


For the bottom of the dress, I used a pleated black satin skirt. It was small, but I only needed the bottom 1′ or so and there was enough flair to it that it fit just fine. It had some nice button details on the waist band so that was removed and used as the front panel of the transition section. The back was cut from some black satin we had in the stash.

The donor scarf was dark pink/purple as well as black and we had some beaded trim that matched so a line of it was added between the bottom of the scarf and the top of the transition section.

The neckline had to be hand-finished with a rolled hem but I cheated on the inside of the sleeves and did those with the machine.


The whole thing came together really quickly and mostly had simple straight seams. Making the trial version helped out since this one came out a bit bigger than needed as well as too short for me. I also found the beaded trim more of hassle than expected but figured out how to work with it by doing this one. It didn’t help that the trim was on a bright pink ribbon so any spots where it wasn’t perfectly caught are super obvious.

The biggest issue is that the burnout velvet is partially see-through. I’m wearing a sports-bra in the pictures, which is an option, but any black or colour coordinating slip, tank or camisole worn underneath will work.


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The last of the Key racks was were I had the most fun. IMG_6129 The back is the centre part of the panel and a chunk of the original sticker was still on it. While it was no where near intact, it is still partially readable and has a great look. I wanted to keep that but doing so limited where hooks could be placed. I fiddled a bit with using the key hooks but then remembered that I had a few antique brass gears around. These ones hadn’t been used for other things because they all still have their central pivots solidly attached. That made them perfect for my needs and I was able to embed them into the wood backing. Almost all were bent, at the tips of their pivots, or in one case, it was tilted strongly upwards, so they will still work as hooks. The spacing even worked out well enough that the remains of the label show well through the open parts of the gears! While I’m pleased that it turned out to still be a functional key holder, the finished piece has such a great Steampunk vibe to it that I think it is likely to get hung up as pure decoration.

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For the second of the my Key hooks, I wanted to use IMG_6137 some of the longer flat silver ones. I love how their shape is closer to the antique keys and is vaguely reminiscent of a spine. The problem was that, unlike the solid brass keys, many of them will break instead of bending to the curve for a hook. It was a bit frustrating, trying to figure out which ones had the right type of metal composition and shape, that would allow them to be bent (some were too hard for me to handle with the tools on hand) without snapping. I had to make things even more difficult by only wanting ones with specific looks too. Eventually, I was able to get a trio that I liked done. For the accent, it’s simply a large enamelled clock face. This one was a bit too big for jewellery but was in such good shape I didn’t want to use as a background for a collage either. This was a good way to let it shine.

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A while ago we found a large group of keys. IMG_6130 My primary area of interest was the antique skeleton keys but the lot also included quite a number of more modern ones as well. (and by “modern” I mean from this century) The later keys just aren’t a style I like for jewellery, so aside from the “Key to My Heart” painting series, they hadn’t been getting used. At the same time they came in, we also found a pair of solid iron ring mandrels. Having the mandrels meant that I could shape some of the softer keys into hooks and make a group of “key” hooks. (and yes, the terrible pun was part of the appeal) I wanted to keep them small enough that they would fit in a range of spaces since most key racks are used in tight spaces. I also wanted the finished pieces to keep the vintage feel of the keys. To do that, I ended up cutting up a back panel from an antique clock that I found in the stash. It gave me three panels that were small enough to be hung anywhere but big enough that each could fit enough hooks for a usable key rack as well as some decorations. For this one, I went with a trio of brass keys and a dark brown accent piece. The flower is a fairly newish, resin piece but has a great antiqued finish and was cast from an antique sculpture so the keys end up feeling like the newest part of the whole thing.

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Once the frame was all rebuilt, repaired and refinished, silmirrphoto 2 all that was left was deciding on the mirror. While we considered going with an antiqued glass, it was decided that the ornateness of the frame didn’t need any more going on so we went with a plain, flat mirror. The large amount of variance in the widths of the inner frame lip, as well as trying to avoid any possibility of future strain on the frame, were why we didn’t go with a bevelled mirror. The lip widths were as wide as over an inch in some areas but the typical ¼ inch in others so even a deep bevel would be mostly covered in spots. All together, with it’s new finish, the mirror is now hanging in it’s new home. The darker tones tie to the slate front of the Victorian marble fireplace it sits over and the silver leaf co-ordinates with the rooms chandelier. I also love how the Persian carpet in the room features similarly shaped birds. A fitting space and a new life for an beautiful old frame! The photo of it in it’s new home is the work of Dave Kimmel. You can see more of his work on his website.
The rest of my posts about this project: part 1, part 2, part 3

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After the physical reconstruction was done, img_5499 it was prepared for the gilding. It had been gilded, when first made, but had been hit with some gold paint, at least once, so there wasn’t enough left to salvage. (and the client wanted a different finish) There had also been quite a bit of damage to the compo base that covered the wood of the frame and so that needed to be evened out. Once the surface was smoothed and stabilized, it was sealed with a base coat in a dark brown/grey. Then the frame was gilded with silver metal. That is a multi-step process in that, after the base is prepared and sealed size is put on, as a glue, then the metal leaf is applied. Next it is cleaned and polished down. (and any missed spots are filled in) After that, there is an application of a an antiquing wash and then the whole thing is sealed. The antiquing wash is necessary since it brings out the details and gives depth to the flat, bright silver of the plain leaf. (you can see how bright the plain leaf is in the photo) Since we wanted it to be closer to the pewter tones, the antiquing wash was altered to more of a blue/black than the usual brown.

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We get a wide range of art coming in. Some are easy enough to judge,
painting in terms of what they are and relative value while others are more of a challenge. This watercolour has turned out to be one of the most frustrating. Mother found it, terribly badly framed, with no information on it at all. I took it out of it’s acidic mats and ugly frame, hoping to find out more. Taking the mat off revealed a signature, and also showed that it had been glued down to it’s backing board. (*shudders* terrible thing, done in the style of about 100 years ago) I had hoped that knowing the signature would help me find out about the artist, since I find it hard to believe that someone who was working at this level isn’t “known”. Even with the signature, I have yet to be able to find out anything about the artist. Part of it might be the spelling. “O. Schertling” seems the sig most likely but while I’ve tried it and a range of related options, none have come back. Part of it is that it’s hard to tell what exactly the middle, longer letters are. Nothing comes up with the obvious options and I’ve even gone and looked up older styles of both German and Dutch writing to see if that would help, (both were guesses based on the style of the art and the signature) and that has also been a dead-end. It’s become a bit frustrating and I’m pretty much at the point of giving up on finding anything out about them. In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter much since it is likely one of the pieces we’re going to keep for ourselves, but if anyone has any knowledge about the artist or suggestions on where to look, I’d welcome the help.

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