I absolutely love the movie The Man From U.N.C.L.E. from 2015, and I especially love the costumes. The character Gaby, played by Alicia Vikander, has the best trendy 1960s outfits throughout the movie, along with fantastic hair and makeup. After seeing the movie a few times (like I said, I very much so enjoy this movie...), I decided that I needed to make myself a dress like hers. I ended up finding a fantastic vintage pattern by Simplicity, and decided to do a classic coloour block for this dress. I chose green and white because of this dress that she wore in the movie.
I also wanted to make this dress because of my growing interest in the Cold War. After going to Germany last year and seeing the Mauermuseum (at Checkpoint Charlie), I learnt so much more about the era after WW2, and it made me even more interested in not only the politics of the time, but also the fashion. I also recently found tons of olds family photos of my grandma in the 60's and 70's, and she wore so many beautiful dresses! My grandmother was very trendy, so she was always wearing the newest style! She has tons of photos in Go Go boots and mini skirts.
The Cold War is a very interesting (and scary) time, and I was especially interested in learning about the Berlin Wall. The Mauermuseum also has a fascinating history since it was actually set up very soon after the Wall was built. Founded by Dr Rainer Hildebrandt, he thought that it was important to talk about the non-violent fight for human rights. He chose to talk about that directly beside an affront to human rights. The museum grew as the Wall stayed up, and has been updated to include what happened after the Wall fell, as well as more recent genocides and affronts to human rights.
The museum has many artifacts such as cars, a hot air balloon, and a mini submarine, that show how hard people worked to get rid of the wall, and to get around (or through) it. Many people helped East Germans escape to the other side, and there are so many brilliant stories.
The building of the wall started on August 13th of 1961 by the GDR (German Democratic Republic, which is East Germany). The people living in the GDR had been revolting for a long time. At the end of the WW2, the US, Britain, and the Sovient Union split Germany. The country was split into 3 zones with Berlin in the Soviet section. Berlin was also split into zones, with the US, UK, and France taking the West side of the city and Soviet troops controlling the East. When the tensions arose between the countries, the Soviets decided to block off the roads, rails, and water access to West Berlin. Starting in 1948, they hoped that the other countries would be forced to give their section to the Soviets. The response by the UK and US was to airlift food, fuel, and water into Berlin from airbases in Western Germany. At the height of the airlift, planes were landing every 45 seconds at the Templehof Airport. By 1949, they had won this crisis and the blockade was lifted. In 1953 the people of East Berlin had a revolt that was stopped with Soviet tanks. The Soviets struggled to keep their side of Germany because of their cruelty and lack of supplies (East Germany was starving).
Checkpoint Charlie is the most widely known checkpoint between East and West Germany. Many demonstrations were held there, and there were many successful escape attempts there. While the wall was up (between 1961 and 1989) more than 5000 people escaped across the Berlin Wall. The longer the wall was up, the harder it was to cross. One woman was smuggled out in the seat of her boyfriends vehicle (the cut a hole for her to sit literally inside the seat, and she almost suffocated in the small space). People also got through in speakers, over on hang gliders with a Trabant motor, with hot air balloons, as well as under in tunnels. The most successful break through was in a tunnel when 57 people made it through in two nights in 1964.
There were also many unsuccessful attempts, and many people died trying to get to West Germany. In 1962, a man named Peter Fechter bled to death. He was shot by Soviet guards and after 45 minutes of agony with no help, passed away beside the wall. This started a huge protest when onlookers could see and hear him, but were unable to help because he fell onto the wrong side of the wall.
I think that this is a hugely important part of history to learn about, especially since it is so close to us (the wall was only taken down on Novemeber 9, 1989).
To learn more about the Wall and its history, the website for the Mauermuseum is here. You can also hear more about the Berlin Airlift through this website here. Some other movies and books about the era that I found very interesting are Bridge of Spies (with Tom Hanks), Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder, Wings of Desire (released in 1987), and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carre. If you have any more to add to the list, let me know!
The photos are taken at the Wonderland Sculpture (which us locals call the Big Head... creative, I know) outside of the the Bow Building.
After making my last dirndl (made using this pattern), I liked wearing it so much that I decided to make another, just with a few different details.
The print is my own on muslin, three different owls with a navy fabric ink. There are so many beautiful dirndls, with different necklines, skirt lengths, and trims. One of my favourite trims is box-pleated ribbon, so I decided to do that one this one. I also took away the bottom ruffle, the sleeves, and shortened the skirt a bit. I decided to take the sleeves off to give the option to put blouses under (very common in classic dirndls so you have the chance to change the look, as well as make sure that you don't have to wash the dirndl too often, just the blouses). At some point I would like to make a lace blouse to put underneath as well.
I also made an apron to put with the dirndl. I chose a wide ribbon that matched the one on the neckline for the waistband, and cartridge pleated quilting fabric. Cartridge pleating is one of my favourite ways to gather fabric, I love how much volume it gives as well as the way it looks (very neat and tidy!). I based this dirndl off of many examples that I saw while in Germany.
When visiting my family in Wettmar, they had a video of the people living there in the 1950's. The video was just a home video of real life in Germany in the 50's and 60's, and lots of the ladies who were doing yard work and house work were wearing dirndls! There was tons of variety of fabrics and styles that they wore, and every age wore them (except for some of the fancier girls who were wearing pencil skirts and heels). I loved this, and wanted to make a bit of a contemporary version for myself by making my own print.
The interesting thing with dirndls is that they can be used in every circumstance. For every day work, the sleeveless ones are great so that you can have multiple plain blouses with different sleeve lengths to wear with it. That means you don't wash the dress as much, so it lasts longer. Blouses are easier to wash and cheaper to replace. The aprons are also a good way of being able to wear the dress multiple times. In fancier situations (even weddings!), they are able to use lavish silks and brocades, put on nice trim (including embroidery), and wear lace blouses or add fancy sleeves. They also lower the neckline and either shorten the hem, or make it floor length. They also add beautiful silk or lace aprons.
Since I wanted mine to be better for every day, but still be able to dress it up, so I made mine out of muslin but made it sleeveless so it depends on what I wear underneath and what shoes with it to dress it up or down.
These pictures were actually taken at the industrial part of our city, funnily enough! As you can see, we live in a pretty agricultural area, so farms are sometimes right in the city. If you turn around, however, there are factories!
If you want to see some modern day companies who make beautiful dirndls, Lena Hoschek is well known for hers, and I also love this company.
Thanks for reading!
The bees skirt is made from quilting cotton and hand stamped with bees (more photos here), made using a Butterick pattern. The shorts and halter are made using a Simplicity pattern and quilting cotton.
One more post will be up soon of the last few pieces in my Mexico Collection!
The Crooked Saints dress is a self printed muslin (printed with succulents, skulls, bees, and owls), and made using a 1950's pattern from Vintage Vogue. The Spanish styled dirndl is made using quilting cotton and a Patterns by Gertie pattern.
Come back soon to see more photos of the other outfits in me Mexico Collection!
Since I made a Berlin collection after visiting Berlin this spring, I decided that I needed a Mexico one as well. This was a bit different however, since it wasn't as much inspired by the area I had been in as it was by the desert part of the country and New Mexico. The area where we live is very dry, and we are close to Drumheller, which is a desert type area. I was inspired also by Paraguay, which is where my grandparents are from. We recently visited my grandma and went through some of the old photos they had from Paraguay and when the first moved to Canada. I was inspired by my grandmas very trendy outfits from the 60s and 70s, so I based much of my collection off of that. I also based it off of All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater, The Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar, as well as Frida Kahlo and her clothing exhibit that was recently at the V and A.
Although my grandparents grew up in the same place (Loma Plata), they had very different childhoods. My grandpa grew up quite poor and started working at a very young age. Although he never finished his education, he was a brilliant man. He knew multiple languages and could take apart and put back together an engine as a kid. He drove around South America as part of his job. My grandma grew up in a wealthy family. I look quite a bit like her when she was my age.
This collection was inspired mostly by 50s and 60s fashion, and was made entirely out of linen and cotton to keep cool. I used a few Vintage Vogue and Simplicity patterns for the collection, which is made up of 7 pieces - a Mexico styled dirndl, a 1950's tiered dress made out of self-printed muslin, a linen skirt (that I made a few summers ago, but adjusted it to fit me better this summer), linen 1960's shorts with my corset cover, and a three piece bee set, which included my bee skirt, and a matching pair of shorts and halter top. I decided to make a dirndl for this collection because of our Mennonite heritage. Loma Plata is a Mennonite village, and my family has that background on both my mother and fathers sides. The two sides of the family are quite different because my dads side is more traditional with German and Ukrainian culture (since the Mennonites moved around, mostly through Eastern Europe), while the other side of my family has more Spanish culture mixed in. The two cultures don't seem to mix, but they often do since so many German families moved to South America during and after World War Two.
This post is just a bit of an introduction, stay tuned to see more pictures of each outfit over the next few weeks!
I have been trying out different ways to naturally dye fabric, since I would love for my garments not to be wasteful and to be good for the environment. I use quite a bit of unbleached muslin, so I wanted to try out some new colours for it. I have already done lots of tea staining (it just makes the perfect cream colour!), so the other day I tried a method that I have seen in books. This involved steaming fabric with rose petals folded in it. The final product wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it is very pretty! I think next time I will try with deep red rose petals in the hopes that it will make a pink or lavender colour.
To try it, I just used a small section of unbleached muslin, which I dampened. I then arranged rose petals on it in a random pattern. Once I was happy with where the petals were, I folded and rolled the piece together and tied the ends with strings. That was steamed for a few hours, and then left to cool. After it was cool enough, I unrolled it, took out all of the petals, and left it out to dry.
Have you ever tried natural dyeing? How did it turn out?
I made a second dress inspired by In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai quite a while ago. The first dress that I made (more photos here) was made using a pattern from Patterns by Gertie out of a quilting cotton for more of an everyday look, and I decided that I wanted another, fancier version. I love how this pattern fits me, and I think it looks so similar to the beautiful dresses that the main character, Su Li-zhen, wears in the movie.
The first In the Mood for Love styled dress that I made I just realized recently that I had only posted a video of the making of the dress, as well as a few posts on my instagram (here). I later realized that I didn't even get any photos of this dress once I finished it! Which is funny because I wear both of these in my everyday life quite regularly.
This dress is shaped with 12 darts with a slit in the side, and I used a silk dupioni for this version.
Thanks for reading!
The more that I have been working on my sewing, and the more opportunities that I have had meant that I needed a little more help in the studio. After lots of research (mostly done by my mom), we decided on a Janome. My sewing machine is also a Janome, and I love it- I find it very easy to thread and work, and it can sew through almost anything. The sewing machine I have has also last for years- it was my moms before I started sewing. When we went into the shop, I was looking for a smaller machine (I don't want all of the extra details, or a computer panel, just the basics). There was another machine that was a little smaller, and cheaper, but it was a manual threader which is much more difficult and takes more time. This machine (which is the Pro 4DX), is a model that they have been making for years, is very easy to thread, and has fantastic reviews. I am so excited to have this extra piece in my sewing room, I know that it will help me so much!
Because I got this extra piece, I needed a place to put it. My sewing machine sits on top of a beautiful old sewing machine given to me by a family friend. It is an old Singer machine that I am hoping to get it to work so I can sew some things on this machine (which is from the early 1900s). Unfortunately, I didn't have the table space on it to fit another machine. Luckily enough, we just happen to have another old Singer machine in the house. Ours is a slightly different make, but just as beautiful, and I am so excited to have it in my sewing room (I used to pretend to be sewing on it all the time when I was a little girl, so dreams are coming true here).
While we were in the city, I also picked up a few patterns. I am so excited about these, as I will be using all of them to build up my wardrobe (I have the hope that my whole wardrobe will be made by me except for sweaters, shoes, and such). I even have the fabric for pretty much all of the projects that I have planned, so hopefully they will be quick to finish!
I have been planning a Mexico dress for a long time, and I finally have a set plan for it! I originally was going to do a tiered skirt with a white blouse (similar to an outfit that my grandmother has a picture in when she lived in South America). When I found this pattern from Vintage Vogue, I thought it was perfect. It has the tiered skirt look that I wanted, but with a twist. I am planning on printing my own cotton to make this with, with the skull (like a sugar skull), and a rose in bright colours.
The next pattern that I got I have been admiring for years. I actually had planned to make this for graduation last year, but I ended up buying something and altering it instead. When I saw the Vogue sale at the fabric store (which is why all of these patterns pictured are Vogue), I thought that it was the perfect time to get this one. I haven't decided what fabric to use for it yet (silk to make it fancier? Or wool suiting for more of a winter style? Or perhaps muslin for a summer suit?), but I am very excited to make it, and I am hoping to make a few different versions of it.
This is another one that I have been planning for a long time, however I had not chosen out a specific pattern for it yet. When I saw this, I thought that it would be perfect! I have been wanting a nice pair of cigarette style trousers for years, and when I picked out this wool suiting from Bhatia, I thought it would make an adorable pair. I had originally planned to use the wool for a cocoon coat, but I decided that I would use these more often. I also would like to make a linen version of the shorts for this summer.
This pattern was a little bit of an impulse buy. 1940's patterns are a bit of a soft spot for me (I love the interested details, and how they managed to use as little fabric as possible while still using interested seam lines and such), plus the dress with the full sleeves reminded me of the Fendi ad that I think is stunning.
The last pattern that I got a few days ago came free with a sewing magazine. This one comes in a few lengths and sleeve lengths, and I thought that it would be perfect for a Wes Anderson styled dress. I chose a coral cotton to make it out of, and was inspired by Suzy from Moonrise Kingdom.
I also have a few patterns coming in the mail- the dirndl dress from Patterns by Gertie, as well as a few Vintage Simplicity patterns. Two of those are 1960's mod styled dresses, one is a 1940's skirt suit, and the last is a pattern for 1930's tap pants and bralette.
Other than shopping, I have been getting lots done. I won't share the majority of what I have been doing yet until I get photos, but I will give you a sneak peak. I also altered my 1930's wool skirt, since it was large at the waist. It was a quick fix, but I have been putting it off for months since alterations aren't my favourite. There are a few more things I need to alter, so I am hoping to do that soon.
I am completely fascinated with moths, and after seeing Crimson Peak, I got the idea to use a print on one of my dresses. In Crimson Peak, one of the running themes is the black moth versus the butterfly.
Since watching that movie, I was very interested in moths. I love how hearty they are, and also how beautiful they can be. While butterflies are the well known pretty insect, moths can also have beautiful, colourful wings.
My fascination is a little bit darker than them just being pretty and tough. The theme in the movie (if you are not familiar with it) is that the main character is a butterfly, while her husbands sister is the moth- she is the villian in the movie.
I loved the theme, and also the visuals of the giant black moths on the walls of the mansion.
I also love the scientific illustrations of insects, and specifically of moths and bees. This is where I got my idea to stamp the fabric with moths, and I got the pattern from the wallpaper in Crimson Peak. Guillermo del Toro wanted the main theme to be throughout the whole movie, even where you don't notice it. So the moth is on some of the wallpaper, engraved on chairs and furniture, and in many other places, such as embroidered on clothing. I liked how it was there but not completely obvious, so I took the pattern from the movie to stamp onto my dress.
We went into Calgary to get the pictures, so while we were there I picked up another pair of DSign Step shoes (since I love my other pairs so much). We went into Inglewood to get the pictures for this dress, which is the oldest area in Calgary.
The dress is made from a Vintage Vogue pattern from the 1950s, and the fabric is a cotton blend.
Stamps and photos by Veronica Funk
I do have a few Germany posts in the making, but for now I thought I would share a short video of the weaving process. As a talked about in my post a few weeks ago, I have been enjoying learning some different skills. I just have a small wooden loom that I have been using for a few months, but I enjoy the size. I was thinking of making small wall hangings once I have practiced a little more by adding embroidery to the finished weavings. Any thoughts about what type of wall hangings I should make?
Travel posts are coming soon, I promise!
After finishing my Through the Looking Glass dress, I wanted a bit of a break from sewing. When I was younger, I always was working on different crafts, and many of them included some sort of fabric or fiber. Over the past week or so, I have been experimenting with some things that I used to do, and other things that I haven't tried but have been intrigued with.
The first thing that I have been playing around with is something that I rediscovered this summer- embroidery. I had dabbled with embroidery quite a few years ago, and lately I have been enjoying it again. I did a piece for my Frankenstein dress in October, and a tree during the summer for a collaboration with a writer, so I decided to make something for my Curiosities collection. I have been making a pair of moths to go on shoes for one of the dresses, and lungs for a different dress, and I have plans for other pieces as well!
One of my other crafts is fabric stamping. I have done it twice before, once for my Frankenstein dress and once for my Bee skirt, and both times I loved how they turned out. I decided to try it again for one of the dresses in my collection, and I am so pleased with how it turned out.
I also rediscovered my fascination with weaving. I got a small frame for Christmas a year or two ago, and after making a square and a half of fabric on it, both of which had terrible tension (that's why I don't knit...), I decided to play around with it again. So far I am loving how meditative the whole exercise is, and I am hoping that my tension improves!
The last thing that I have been playing around with over the past bit is felting. I have never done felting before, but it has always interested me. I got a pack from Michaels that included a needle, mat, and wool to try it out, and so far have made three moths and am planning to make many other things. This is another very calming hobby, and I am so glad that I have tried it out. Keep your eyes peeled for felted broaches and critters on my costumes- I don't think I will be able to keep myself from adding bugs to all of my projects now that I have discovered that I can!
Over the next few weeks, my blog will be a bit quiet since I am leaving for Germany on March 9. I will be sure to write up a post or two of my travels, but while I am gone, be sure to check out my instagram, where I will be posting much more regularly.
Since my Curiosities collection is based on the 1880s, I have most of my undergarments for them from my Frankenstein dress. The only things that I have had to make to go under these dresses were a bustle cage and petticoat. I could have used the bum pad that I made for my Frankenstein dress, but I wanted a more dramatic silhouette, and I have always wanted to make one. I talked about making the bustle cage in the last post, and once that was done I draped a petticoat over it. It is just muslin pleated onto a waistband with a lace bottom.
So far I have made two of the skirts, both of them are very simple. They are draped in the same way as the petticoat, I just draped them over the bustle and sewed them to a waistband.
I have been filming the progress of each of the pieces so far, so I don't have many pictures. I will put out the video once I have pictures of the final products.
I finally finished my 1950's styled bee skirt. I printed the bees onto a striped fabric for this project quite a few months ago, however I did not get around to making it until Christmas time.
This was made with the same McCalls pattern as my scissors skirt (photos here) and a cotton fabric. This is a very simple pattern, but I love how it looks, and it is easy to figure out fit.
I finally finished editing my video on the In the Mood for Love Dress. I filmed pretty much the whole process of me making it, from cutting it out (using a pattern from Patterns by Gertie) to the fnished product. The music is La Valse d'Amelie by Yann Tiersen and Chris Snelling. If you want to see more of my youtube videos, my channel is here
Thanks for watching! I will put up more photos of the finished dress in a post next week
I have been filming the current project that I am working on, which is a cotton dress inspired by the movie In the Mood for Love (I talked about this movie in my Movie Recommendations post). The pattern that I am using for it is one from Patterns by Gertie.
Because I am filming the process, I do not have tons of pictures of the dress as I make it, but I do have a few behind the scenes pictures while I film myself cutting the pieces out. I will post my video up here once I'm done, and as always, I will have the pictures up here as well.
I can't wait to show you the finished dress!