blogging | sewing + vintage patterns | knitting | vintage style | hair styling | make up

If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to contact me and I’ll try and get back to you a.s.a.p.!

How do I make my own blog? What software do you use to create your graphics?

For this blog, I use the highly customizable version of WordPress. It’s a downloadable software used to configure and run a blog on your own web space. So you’ll need a web host to store all the files. However, if you’re looking for something a bit less technical and free, I’d highly recommend Blogger and WordPress’s hosted version. Neither are quite as customizable as the self-hosted blogs, but I find both are great for beginner bloggers. Another popular blogging software and host is Typepad, although I am not as familiar with it.

To create the graphics (header, footer, sidebar graphics and collages), I use Adobe Photoshop CS3. For the many elements, I use a variety of images and bit and pieces I’ve either scanned myself or found online from free sites (search “digital scrapbooking free” or “digital scrapbooking vintage free” for tons of resources!).

What camera do you use? How do you take your portrait and outfit photos?

I upgraded last year to a Nikon D5000, which is a digital SLR camera. I have had so much fun learning all the settings (which I’m still figuring out–a year later!). To enhance my photos and create a certain mood/coloring, I use a variety of “actions” that work within Adobe Photoshop as well as playing with settings like “clarify”, “brightness/contrast”, “saturation” and “color balance”. Some I’ve made myself, and others I’ve downloaded from websites like DeviantArt and Pioneer Woman (sets 1 and 2). Many actions will help up the saturation, lighten or clarify images as my camera doesn’t always capture things accurately!

A tripod is indispensable if you want to take self portraits or even a high-quality still life. I use the a tripod I inherited from my grandfather; it’s a big, old, heavy tripod. But I’ve seen really inexpensive ones at camera shops and Ebay. Also check places like your local Freecycle and Craigslist for budget friendly tripods. I also recently purchased a remote for my camera, which makes taking self-portrait style images a snap!

How did you learn to sew? What resources would you recommend?

I have been literally sewing for as long as I can remember! My mother sewed and so I learned at a young age by sewing scraps together into Barbie clothes. I taught myself many aspects of sewing (including rudimentary pattern drafting) through books, which are my biggest resources! As a teenager, I interned with a pattern designer/seamstress for a short time and signed up for a few, miscellaneous classes. Learning the art of sewing, for me, has been a very organic, self-directed method. Sometimes this has involved huge mistakes, spending weeks searching for solutions, or having projects completely fail. But I view these as learning experiences and part of the thrill of sewing! You can read more about my sewing background on this post.

How can I learn to draft my own patterns?

Pattern drafting is a fun skill to learn; I’ve basically taught myself how to do it (although I had a few weeks internship with a pattern designer/seamstress when I was a teenager). I would definitely recommend seeing if you can find any books in your local library system, or getting them inter library loaned. One of the books I started with, that shows how to draft slopers (the basic patterns you need to create the more complicated designs) is “Pattern Drafting for Dressmaking” by Pamela Stringer. It’s out of print, but a lot of library systems have it. Currently I most often use and refer to Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich for pattern drafting (read the review I wrote here). I also have found some helpful information on drafting slopers from these websites: Basic Pattern Block, Drafting Patterns, Draft a Skirt Sloper

As for the “slicing and dicing” the patterns into more complex designs, I love the resources available on Vintage Sewing (they’re free!) and books I’ve picked up over the years second hand.

I want to use vintage sewing patterns but everything I find is too big or too small! How do I make them my size?

I know that conundrum all too well! Most of the vintage patterns I own are not the perfect, out-of-the-package size for me; I have to grade them up or down to get my correct size. It’s a pretty simple technique to learn, and all you’ll need is some paper to trace the pattern on (never adjust your vintage pattern–you don’t want to wreck it!), a ruler, yardstick, scissors and a pencil. For pattern paper, I like using “banner paper” sold at office supply stores (usually in the mailing supply aisle) for a small price. I wrote a post on using vintage patterns in 2009.

Do you have any resources to recommend for learning to refashion clothes?

My favorite, go-to book for for inspiration, ideas and how-to’s on refashioning vintage (or anything that needs a little zing!) is The Yestermorrow Clothes Book by Diana Funaro (1976). Sadly, it’s out of print, but sites like Ebay, Amazon and Alibris usually have a copy for sale.

Where do you find your vintage knitting patterns? Is it mostly via the internet? What kinds of yarn/substitutions do you suggest/use – I know acrylic wasn’t available until fairly recently.

Most of the vintage patterns I knit with on a regular basis are from booklet reprints available from Iva Rose. I also search the internet for any websites that might have free patterns available (because I always love free!); a few of my favorites: and Vintage Purls. Try searching “free vintage knitting patterns” on Google; it’s amazing how many resources are out there! I am also a member of Ravelry and there are quite a few vintage patterns available on or cataloged there as well.

Yarn substitution can be the tricky part, and something I haven’t fully mastered yet. I always start out by Googling the yarn name and brand; sometimes there is a forum post or webpage that has some basic information on the yarn that can help. A good website is Wise Needle, which sometimes has yarns recorded that are matches for those I’m seeking information on. If that fails, then determining the weight of the yarn by the gauge listed on the pattern is the next step. I’m slowly learning to familiarize myself with what weight yarn is knitted on certain needles, and results in a certain gauge (I spent a lot of time browsing around Knit Picks and figuring matches of their yarn to whatever pattern I’m working on, based on needle size and gauge). It’s still hit or miss for me–especially in the area of ordering enough yarn for a project! My best suggestion, especially if you’re new to vintage knitting, is to visit your local yarn shop–the people that work there are usually very experienced knitters and can offer some great pointers if you’re stuck!

As for fiber content, I tend to stick with mostly natural fibers, and some blends. Websites like KnitPicks help make my knitting addiction and love of natural fibers affordable!

Do you have any tips on starting a vintage wardrobe/look on a budget? Is it possible?

I’ve always had to populate my wardrobe on a limited budget, so I’ve had to learn to scrimp and improvise quite a bit. To be honest, I do a lot of sewing at this point to help fill in gaps in my wardrobe. But, if you don’t sew, thrift stores are amazing places to find pieces that work really well. I’m always on the lookout for classic cardigans (fitted with round necklines and long or bracelet length sleeves), knee-length skirts that sit at the waist, or shirtwaist dresses that pass for 40s/50s. It helps especially if you can hem something–I’ve taken many 80s and 90s dresses and just shortened them to a more “mid-century-appropriate” length and no one is the wiser as to their true youth! One thing I love to be on the lookout for is luxurious little pieces like coats (it’s still easy to find coast from the 50s and 60s), hats, brooches (there are still lots of vintage ones floating around out there for a song!) and “old lady” handbags.

As for shopping at “proper vintage stores”, I can’t always afford the gorgeous pieces from the 40s or 50s that I dearly love. So again, I’ve learned to tweak pieces that come from slightly later decades, or keep my eyes open for genuine 40s/50s pieces that may need a little mending (and are priced accordingly) in order to make wearable. I’ve managed to pick up a few things both at brick and mortar stores, and Ebay and Etsy are good places to keep your eyes peeled for bargains too!

I think of all the aspects of vintage dressing, the shoes are often the most expensive. Which is probably why I tend to mix a lot of more modern shoe styles into my wardrobe (also it’s because I love shoes–so I really can’t stick to one decade’s shoe silhouette!). But, I have found some really amazing shoes that are lady-like and vintage-esque at discount stores (like Marshalls, Target, Ross, DSW’s clearance room, etc.) for a lot less. You can also find cheap knock-offs and such on Ebay (just search for “pin up shoe”), but as I’m getting older I’m cherishing comfort and a well-made shoe more and more, and am willing to save up to wait for something a bit better made!

I think the absolute best advice I can give you for building a vintage wardrobe on a budget is to train your eye. Learn what the silhouette for your favorite decade looks like, variations, and details that read “vintage” (just take a look at the vintage inspiration category to get started). Once you have a good sense of the aesthetic sense of the era, you can learn to pick things out of a rack of thrift store dresses and see either a complete gem or the potential in something with a little tweaking.

What got you into dressing vintage? How long Have you been dressing vintage for?

I have been interested in vintage style for most of my life; I grew up watching a lot of classic films, so the glamor and manner in which women always looked pulled together inspired me! My mom also had quite a few books on collecting antique clothing, and I’d spend hours looking through those and dreaming of wearing the gorgeous dresses. I didn’t know many people who wore vintage (or vintage inspired) garments on a day-to-day basis until I was in my late teens, when I started becoming a bit more interested in exploring the possibilities of wearing vintage inspired looks. It wasn’t until I was about 21 that I really started to strike out into vintage dressing and acquire a few pieces here and there to mix into my wardrobe. I began by mixing pieces from the 1910s to 1970s with my general look (at the time very bohemian/artsy), and as I got more comfortable with wearing unusual pieces, I started to hone in on what decades I liked best and accent my outfits with period-appropriate makeup and hair do’s. So I’d say I’ve been dressing in a vintage manner, in earnest, for the past 4 years.

Do you have any tips on doing a wedding on a budget?

I did a bunch of posts on my blog during the planning process, and we were featured on the Martha Stewart Weddings blog as well (the piece talks a bit about our budget-friendly wedding). My best piece of advice is approach your wedding creatively. I cannot stress this enough! We knew from the beginning we didn’t want a traditional, out-of-the-box wedding, which is partly why I decided to handle the creative side of things to personalize it. My mom helped quite a bit with sourcing things as well as keeping things running smoothly. We basically ignored much of the common recommendations when it came to planning; passing by things like vendors and caterers, instead doing much of that ourselves and with the help of friends and family. Small things like finding my wedding dress at a vintage shop, opting to serve “little bites” instead of a full-course meal (the ceremony was in the middle of the day, so there were no expectations for a meal), making my own invitations, and decorating the venue ourselves the day before, really added up in the end. I even utilized Freecycle to get some lights to use in the reception area decorations! It’s all about making the most of what you can afford, and using some touches that really make things pop. People will remember those things, not the fact that you didn’t have an open bar, dancing or a live band.

Can you share the diagram for your “Middy” haircut?

Unfortunately, the diagram I used is from an out-of-print book, 1940s Hairstyles by Daniella Turdich. I would recommend seeing if you can borrow a copy from your local public library or through an inter library loan (a service done for a small fee; ask your librarian about it). A similar diagram is online here as well.

What is your favorite, go-to shade of red lipstick?

I often find myself reaching for a tube of MAC’s Russian Red again and again! I find it a good, vibrant red that isn’t too orange, and also has a matte finish. I usually line my lips first with MAC’s Creamstick Liner in Red Enriched first. It really helps make the lipstick long lasting and the color a bit deeper.

How do you groom and maintain your eyebrows? Tips on recreating vintage eyebrows?

I maintain and shape my brows the old fashioned way: with a pair of angle tip tweezers! (The idea of waxing/threading is kind of like pedicures for me… I know I’ll get addicted to having someone do my brows and can’t afford to! lol.) I aim for a fairly natural, “fat” curve that is able to go 40s (a gentle and long, but slightly angled shape) or 50s (a highly arched shape and somewhat thicker). My natural brows aren’t very long, so I use an inexpensive brow liner pencil to fill in and extend the line (NYC brand; available at most “big box” stores for around $1). I then go over my brows with a powder that closely matches my brow color (just eyeshadow!) to set the pencil lines using a small, angled brush. Finally a bit of translucent powder makes sure everything is set and stays in place.

As for shaping the brows, I use inspiration from \movie stars of the period. Most often though, my daily look is closest to Lauren Bacall’s brows (circa mid 40s).


October 2, 2010 · 0 lovely thoughts
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