vintage glass

Vintage glass is one of my weaknesses, a predilection I share with the great Amanda Jane Jones. I’m betting you’re a Kinfolk fan, so you know her fabulous graphic design work; and you likely already follow her on her sweet blog, so she needs no introduction. Instead, let me introduce Amanda’s tried & and true, a collection of vintage glassware.

vintageglass2.s.jpg

My love for vintage glass began at a very young age. My momma would keep all my drawing pencils in an old jar that belonged to her granny. I’ve kept the tradition, and whenever I see one, I generally have to buy it. They are used all over our home — holding toothbrushes, scrabble pieces, pencils and pens, hair pins (you name it, it’s probably in a jar!). In addition, my husband and I travel quite a bit and like to collect bits of nature from the places we visit. For instance we have one jar filled with white coral from the white sand beaches of the Philippines. Another holds jagged rocks we collected at the base of the Matterhorn in Switzerland. The jars, in a sense, hold little memories mixed with pieces of our everyday life and that’s why I love them so.

amanda jones' vintage glass

Such beauties. Thanks Amanda!

barber’s chair

One of those best-kept local secrets emerged this winter. A brilliant hairdresser in my village, who not only is related to dear friends, but has been cutting my own mother’s hair for many years. I was completely oblivious, and worse, I’d been missing much more than fine haircuts. On a cold night I took one of my long-haired children to be beautifully shorn, and talked with Lutine about her exquisite collection of tried & trues.

salon chair

Lutine’s pair of vintage barber’s chairs are Belmonts, icons of 1950’s style. One craves a haircut (or a head massage) just looking at them. Dentists take note. They’re in gorgeous condition, built to last, and they have a fascinating object attached to them.

salon chair with dogs

Not the dog. Though every hairdresser and barber ought to have such a fine example.

salon chair with barber's strop

The barber’s strop. The long piece of leather hanging off the arm rest, there. A razor strop is used for honing a blade, particularly a straight razor, which requires alignment between uses. Very cinematic, stropping. In Treats from the Edwardian Country House I’m quite certain Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall receives a proper shave with straight razor, hot cloths, fine oils.

salon chair with sleeping dog

More glorious tried & true’s from Lutine’s Salon very soon. (Now, in fact.)

vintage suitcase

While redesigning my studio space with my very organised sister this weekend, I set eyes on our mother’s suitcase, bought in the 1960’s, which I’d restored this summer. It was a little worse for wear when I found it.

1960's suitcase

Amazing what a magic eraser, sodium bicarbonate, and a handful of dried lavender can do for a moldy suitcase. Isn’t it handsome? This case is one of my favourite shapes and is particularly difficult to find at a good price, as everyone else loves them too.

traveling sewing lessons

Traveling sewing lessons! I’ve folded all of my best small scraps in and hung ribbons from the pockets, which have useful bits and bobs tucked away in them too. Mostly the case moves round the studio when I’m running the ‘old school’ lessons. Lately these are for a group of small tailors and seamstresses, but soon for all ages. There are lots of parents who tell me they’d like to learn old skills along with their children! You? I’ll be teaching further afield in the coming months, so let me know if you’re interested. If you’re far away, there are more movies and projects coming very soon. My sweetheart is here with me now, and we’ll be shooting soon! Hurrah. Someday it would be great fun to take this case on another long trip round Europe and Canada, as it did in its younger days.

drawstring frock

Following a pattern for dressmaking is an education in itself. I’m very much a new seamstress, and have only recently started working from patterns instead of improvising. I scoured pages of vintage patterns, searching for a dress that might be casual, elegant, and very simple to construct.

1960's drawstring frock

The 1960’s drawstring frock looked perfect to me. I decided to make the sleeveless variation for a cocktail dress, though I’d love to make another version for everyday wear in the autumn.

drawstring frock

The pattern arrived in the post. I do love Etsy.

drawstring dress

Best to wash the fabric first, to prevent shrinking later. For the smocked dress, a glossy, warm smoky grey cotton. For the drawstring, a very light, pale linen, leaning hazily toward the cooler spectrum. Ecru.

1960's drawstring frock

1960's drawstring frock

Careful measuring and altering, pinning, marking, notching and cutting of the pattern. Half a century on, the sizes are all different, of course, so it is worth measuring and adjusting the pattern as needed! My mother, an experienced seamstress, showed me how. Easy!

drawstring frock

A pattern that was considered easy when many people sewed their clothes, now seems quite complex. When things begin to come together it is pure joy! Such a delight to see how clothes were assembled fifty years ago. I loved learning how to construct the facing around the arms and the neckline.

1960's drawstring frock

I did make one change (I can never resist) and that was to substitute a cord for the flat tie, and a round, eyelet buttonhole to match it. I tell you, handstitching the buttonholes took more time than the entire dress! Next time I will be faster.

1960's drawstring frock

I like to wear the linen drawstring frock with my red wedges. It requires a half slip, which is a vintage turn in and of itself. I think I might be ready to try something more difficult next. A jacket?

1960's drawstring frock

honeycomb dress

Pardon my absence these last, long weeks of summer. I’ve been finding my way along an unexpected path, and I very much needed to settle in. The story of how I’ve returned to live in Canada is a bit curious; full of serendipitous accidents, sudden changes, strange realisations. Despite falling in love with beautiful England, we were pushed along by chance and circumstance, and find ourselves beginning life in Canada again. It feels right to be settling on the Pacific Coast, though we are keenly missing my sweetheart, who is traveling the world yet and living with us whenever he can. Such a strange life! Best laid plans and such. We are very blessed to be with family, and can catch our breath and watch what dreams are unfolding. Now I’ve unpacked the boatful of belongings that led the way back, and nestled us into our space for now. I hope to study traditional skills that my adventuring life never left time for – I will share them with you. Though I’ve been reeling from the changes, I have made a few things. The first piece I’ve been wanting to show you is a frock that I designed and constructed on my grandmother’s 1950’s singer, to wear to my dear cousin’s summer wedding.

gathering-dress

Like the honeycomb smocked pillow I once made, I gathered the fabric into pleats;

smocking-dress

Then handstitched in a pattern to smock the gathers.

shirring-dress

After some gymnastics in sorting out the tension, I sewed the shirring elastic in rows along the remaining width of the fabric. Have a look at the shirred linen cushion I made as a study for this kind of piece.

honeycomb dress © elisa rathje 2012

Done! I threaded elastic into a gusset along the top edge to help it lie flat. Then I simply stitched the seam and hemmed the piece.

honeycomb dress © elisa rathje 2012

At the wedding, near an island vineyard. I’m so pleased with the sculptural qualities of the glossy cotton. The honeycomb dress is a lovely, simple thing to wear on a beautiful summer evening. What do you think?