Monday, March 28, 2011

Vivian Maier - Her Discovered Work

How have I not seen this sooner?

It all started when John Maloof attended an auction while researching a history book on Chicago. He bid on - and won - a lot consisting of thousands upon thousands of negatives, having no idea what was on them. They turned out to be the work of one Vivian Maier. She was an immensely talented photographer, and the collection contains some of the most amazing 1950s street photography I've ever seen. It's especially incredible when you remember that this was long before digital photography - film was precious, so each one of these pictures was carefully framed, timed and shot individually.

John Maloof has put together a blog in tribute to Vivian, and I believe is working on producing a book of her work.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

{Jewellery Week} How to Make a Brooch Board

My collection of vintage brooches has really outgrown my jewellery box, and I was getting so fed up tipping it out every day to choose a brooch for my outfit that I decided to make myself a display board for them. This is super basic and requires virtually no tools or handiwork.

You will need:
  • Picture frame
  • Felt remnant slightly larger than frame
  • Piece of batting or wadding the same size as frame
I got my frame in a charity shop (for £2.29. Anywhere else you can probably pick one up for around 20p / 20c) - I thought the faux bamboo had a pleasingly retro tiki look. My wadding is an offcut of organic cotton quilt batting (it's quite thin so I used two layers) left over from Joanna's quilting.

1. Open up the back of the frame and remove the backing board, picture and glass.

2. Cut the wadding to the size of the backing board. Cover with the felt so that there is an overlap of about 1/2" or so all the way around.

3. Slot the covered board back into the frame, and secure in place. My board fits very snugly in the frame with the felt. Clip the corners of the felt (I stapled the corners - the board is too hard for the staples to actually go in, but it keeps the felt neat).

Simple as that! I chose not to add any embellishment because I knew my brooches wouldn't fit otherwise, but it would look cute with a gingham ribbon bow at the top (which is what I'd originally planned), or an embroidered border.

While we're here, I thought I'd show you a couple of pieces in my collection you haven't seen before. This heart stick pin is one of the most recent additions - I got it last weekend at an antique fair. The gentleman who sold it told me it was made of perspex from an aeroplane windscreen - was it "sweetheart jewellery"?

The little silver Malay stilt house brooch is a family piece from the 1950s. My mother's side of the family were all colonial, going back generations - my great-great-great grandfather Henry even translated the bible into Tamil. Mummy was born in India, then lived in Malaya (now Malaysia) until independence, when the family moved to England.

Friday, March 25, 2011

{Jewellery Week} Make a 1950s Novelty Brooch

A couple of months ago I was flicking through a run of Woman's Own magazines from 1950 in a local antique shop trying to decide which to buy (at £2.50 each I had to be selective) when I spotted this adorable idea for a DIY novelty brooch. The magazine went into my shopping bag, and the idea was earmarked for Jewellery Week (replacing my original plan to make a brooch from a doll's house miniature hat - which I still think would work great, but I couldn't find any suitable miniature hats). I love how my theme weeks actually make me tackle projects from my 'sometime' list - this week I made my own.

You will need:
  • Coloured felt (or other non-fraying fabric)
  • Matching coloured thread (optional)
  • Freezer paper
  • Fabric glue
  • A few inches of striped ribbon
  • A few inches of craft wire (or a metal hairpin)
  • Needlenose pliers (optional - they're just for shaping the wire)
  • Black thread or embroidery floss
  • Brooch pin back
I used cheap red felt for the gloves - it was quite thin so I cut out two layers and stitched them together. They actually looked cool without the stitching, but I liked the idea. I traced the template for the gloves directly from the magazine, and I've scanned it and included it below for you to print and use. Freezer paper is absolutely perfect for detailed shapes because you can iron it onto the fabric and it sticks. Once you've cut out the shapes, the freezer paper just peels off.

Cording the handle of the umbrella was dead easy - it's exactly the same technique you used to make friendship bracelets when you were little, shown in the diagram below (source), in which the blue line is the wire. Using two or three strands of embroidery floss it works surprisingly quickly.

My local fabric shop didn't have any black and white stripe ribbon, so my umbrella is striped in sky blue. Winding the ribbon around the wire is a bit fiddly. I adhered the end of the ribbon to the end of the wire handle with fabric glue, waited for that to dry, then squiggled more glue up the back of the ribbon before wrapping it. I had difficulty gathering the ribbon for the frill (partly, I think, because my ribbon is fairly low quality) so I just tied a 'bow' and glued that on instead.

And there you have it, a cute 1950s novelty pin! I was so excited I had to wear it before the glue was even completely dry, and made Matin take photos despite having promised him a day off picture-taking. I was also really pleased with my hair - I did it in some sort of French twist thing, which despite the best efforts of a surprisingly brisk southeasterly held up remarkably well. (Apologies for the slightly vacant expression - the sun was reeeally bright!)

What's also great is that this basic design lends itself to so many variations on the theme, too - I'm already picturing a pair of pastel coloured gloves with a little lacy parasol for a summery version. Or gloves in white felt overlaid with ivory lace, with a black and white striped umbrella for a "My Fair Lady" twist.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

{Jewellery Week} Outfit Post

I hadn't especially intended my outfit to be a "Jewellery Week" edition. I just thought I'd wear my pink wool skirt because the weather is absolutely glorious - almost the perfect balance of warm and cool (if it were just a couple of degrees warmer I think it would be spot on). Then I pulled out this top to wear with it because the greys and pinks pick up the colours of the skirt. I rarely wear this one because the neckline is so wide it exposes my bra straps (which I prefer not to, even though it's pretty acceptable in the modern world). Then - brainwave - I realised I could dress clips to secure the top to my bra straps! Hey presto, modesty preserved.

After trying out a couple of necklaces it occurred to me that I could continue with the jewellery week theme, so I added my beaded collar (admittedly I did not make this myself, it's a vintage one). After that I figured I might as well go the whole way, and I added a brooch to my belt buckle.

Outfit details: Beret, charity shop; Top, H&M via ebay; 1950s wool skirt, etsy; Vintage pearl collar, ebay; Shoes, purchased in Thailand; Lucite bangles, various; Dress clips, car boot sale; Belt, charity shop; Brooch, gift from my sister.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

{Jewellery Week} Dress Clips

There's a whole world of jewellery that's fallen out of fashion since around 1950: Dress clips. Dress clips had a heyday in the 1930s and 40s, but have been rather neglected since. They can come singly or in pairs, or sometimes in the form of a "Duette", where a pair can be fastened together to form a brooch.

How to wear dress clips

Dress clips can be worn in much the same ways as brooches, except that by their nature their primary use is to accent a neckline.

♥ Fasten a pair on either side of a sweetheart neckline.
♥ Clip into the pockets of a jacket, as worn by Ella Raines, 1947.
♥ Add interest at the point of a V neckline, as seen on Betty Grable, 1949.

♥ Clip at the collar of a shirt dress, as worn by Barbara Stanwyck.
♥ To accent the strap on an asymmetrical dress, as seen on Gene Tierney.
♥ Wear two on the same side of a V-neckline for a twist on the usual.

♥ Clip a pair into the top of a collared dress or blouse.
♥ Dangle from a velvet ribbon to make a statement necklace, a la Ann Miller.
♥ Use a single clip on one side of a V-neckline.

♥ Wear an oversize clip to add drama to a wrapover or surplice bodice.
♥ Clip a pair to the shoulder straps of a glamorous evening gown (source).
♥ Wear in the corners of a square neckline.

Vintage celebrity photos from Morning Glory Antiques.

Improvise dress clips

If you're still looking for the perfect pair of Art Deco dress clips but want to try the look, vintage clip-on earrings can do double duty as dress clips.

Sparkly hairclips would also work just as well. You could even make your own by attaching beads, buttons or a lightweight broken brooch to a clip back (you can get clip-on earring backs on ebay or etsy).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

{Jewellery Week} Beaded Collar Tutorial

I'm so excited to have the very gorgeous and stylish Brittany of Va-Voom Vintage contribute a guest post today. We've both been inspired by Casey's adaptation of a beaded collar as a necklace or dress accessory, and Brittany has put together a tutorial to make your own vintage-inspired beaded collar.

Since the beginning of fashion history, ladies have used removable accessories to create different looks in their wardrobe. Depression era and wartime fashions demonstrate the importance of using a few lovely frills to make the most of what you have. A vintage beaded collar is a perfect accessory for dressing up a simple frock or cardigan. A decadent collar may also be worn as a necklace.

For this tutorial, I have designed 3 different beaded collar styles, based on original vintage pieces. Beading takes time but it's a lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon or quiet evening at home. The peter pan collar (level 1) is the easiest while level 3 is the most difficult beading pattern. Download and print the PDF patterns and instructions below. You can customize the look of these collar patterns by using different fabric colors and various types of beads. Happy beading!

Beaded Collar Instructions

Monday, March 21, 2011

{Jewellery Week} Ways to Wear Vintage Brooches

It's theme week time again! This week is all about jewellery. Vintage costume jewellery can be very affordable, and - thanks mainly to car boot sales - I have a growing collection. Brooches are one of my favourite accessories (although in planning this week I've decided I need more necklaces!) as a quick way to dress up any outfit and make it suddenly look like you've put hours of thought into it. Brooches needn't be confined to the lapel, either - here are a few ideas for unique ways of wearing them.

From Woman & Home magazine, September 1950

  • For a touch of sparkle at the neck, pin a light brooch to a velvet ribbon worn as a choker (as shown above).

  • Secure a floating chiffon handkerchief at your wrist (as shown above).

  • For dramatic emphasis wear a sparkling brooch on the pocket of a trim, tailored jacket (as shown above).

  • To addd a touch of Parisian chic to your outfit, toss a scarf around your neck and fasten it in place with a brooch.

  • Take inspiration from Emma Pillsbury and attach a brooch to a bead necklace - wear it a little off-centre for quirky style.

  • Dress up a plain belt with a brooch. Pin it to cover the buckle, or slide the belt through the brooch clasp.

  • Add glamour to a simple clutch or evening purse with a touch of sparkle - pin it over the clasp, at the top, even on the strap, for a unique look.

  • A brooch worn at the hip adds an unexpected detail to your outfit.

  • Group themed brooches together for a twist on the standard look. Bombshell Bettie rocked this look ages ago and I've been waiting for a chance to try it since - and yesterday I finally added two more celluloid nautical brooches to the boat I've had since last summer.

  • You can even wear brooches in your hair - fasten to a fabric Alice band, or pin it in place in your updo (you'll need kirbigrips / bobby pins to hold it in place, as the pin itself won't keep it secure).

So I'm challenging myself this week to utilise at least some of these techniques. If you join in too let me know and I'll add a link to your blog!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hat For A Doll

Just to show that fabulous finds can show up in the most unexpected of places, I found this hat while searching doll hats on ebay for a miniature straw to make a brooch. It was listed as "hat for a doll", which indeed I'm sure it is, judging by the length of the head elastic - but doesn't it just make the most perfect 1940s tilt topper? I'm not sure how old it is, but by the spun cotton fruit and the velvet embellishments it's certainly old, not later than 50s I should think, and likely rather earlier.

On the spur of the moment we visited the village of Amberley, another picturesque Sussex village. This county is such a lovely place to live. After ambling through the village (an amble through Amberley - get it?) we sat and watched the ducks and the moorhens on the pond for a while. Then had a clotted cream tea in the utterly delightful village tea room. The owner bought the building in 2006 when it was in a state of neglect, and set about sympathetically restoring it and converting it into a tea shop.

The hat isn't the only item of newness in the outfit. I've been searching ages for the perfect pussy bow blouse, i.e. one that isn't polyester. Vintage style blouses are notoriously difficult to find - all modern blouses seem to have an open neck, and all 70s/80s blouses are in polyester. Finally I discovered French Connection blouses - perfect for the retro look, made in the lightest cotton voile with adorable puffed sleeves.

Outfit details: Vintage doll hat, ebay; Blouse, French Connection via ebay; Vintage button earrings, made by me; c1930s rhinestone dress clip, car boot sale; Bakelite and plastic bangles, various; Belt, ebay; 80s/90s skirt (part of a suit), charity shop; Handbag, charity shop; 1940s style leather shoes, purchased in Thailand (I'll be listing similar in my ebay shop soon, but I only got one or two pairs in each style as they were a little more than I normally pay wholesale so I wasn't sure how well they'd sell at the price I need to put on them).

Just realised that with the exception of the shoes, this entire outfit is second-hand - how eco am I?

Hair is once again in Casey's romantic braided updo, my new favourite style (I'm getting better at it). Photos by Mr. Matin (he's getting better at it, too).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Make Do and Mend for March

Save your clothing ration coupons in March by converting your husband's old pyjama top into a blouse, fashioning a hat from a strip of fur and some veiling, adding a new collar and cuffs of ribbon to a worn frock, and restyling an old tam o'shanter into a new hat. Oh, and don't forget to pop down to the hardware store for inspiration!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Erawan Falls, Kanchanaburi

Erawan Falls is a seven-tiered cascade some miles outside Kanchanaburi and is one of my favourite places in Thailand. It's about a thirty minute hike to the top level (or slightly longer in wedge heeled sandals) in tropical heat. The humidity is unmitigated as little breeze can penetrate the jungle.

Though the lowest tier is the most impressive (especially in the rainy season), it's worth the climb to higher levels as each stage brings new delights: the third tier has the highest drop; the fourth has slippery smooth boulders you can slide down into the pool; at the fifth the water tumbles into a large swimming pool; the seventh, top tier is perhaps the most magical (not least because most visitors have already given in to the enticingly cool pools along the way), consisting of a multitude of short drops.

Watching the water spilling over smooth granite into serene pools of preposterously blue, clear water you feel like you've somehow stumbled into Narnia, or some Tolkienesque Elven kingdom.

I stopped for a dip (in my 'new' early 60s Jantzen swimsuit) at the fifth tier, then had another swim when I got back to the bottom. The water was the absolute perfect temperature - cool but not too cold - I could have stayed in there all day!

My hair is supposed to be in the 1910s style from Casey's tutorial, but for some reason it didn't work as well as last time and kept unwinding itself until I ended up looking more mid-Victorian, or possibly seventies hippie. Still, in the jungle who cares?

Peasant blouse, purchased here in Thailand; Shorts, made to measure on my last trip here. Embroidery (used in the first photo collage) by melysbaby on flickr.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bridge over the River Kwai and the Death Railway

Japanese forces overran much of Southeast Asia in 1942, seizing Burma from British colonial possession. In order to supply its troops in Burma the Japanese planned a railway line from Thailand (under Japanese control) to replace the long voyage by sea, which was vulnerable to submarine attack. About 60,000 Allied prisoners of war - primarily British, Australian and Dutch - and 180,000 conscripted Thai, Burmese, Tamil, Chinese and Malay labourers were forced into work on the project. About 16,000 POWs and an estimated (the Japanese didn't keep records) 90,000 Asian labourers died for the 258-mile track, earning the Death Railway its nickname.

The bridge that currently spans the river Kwai is not the wooden structure immortalised in Pierre Boulle's book and the subsequent film (which was filmed in Sri Lanka). The wooden bridge was intended only as a temporary measure while the permanent concrete and steel bridge was under construction a few hundred metres upstream. Both bridges were completed in 1943.

The curved sections are original; the square sections replace the parts destroyed by Allied bombing raids in 1945.

Although by the end of the war much of the Thailand-Burma line was in poor condition, part of the railway was relaid by Thai Railways and is still in use. You can take a journey from Nam Tok (Waterfall) station along the original route, including sections of original wooden trestle constructed in terrifyingly hazardous conditions on a sheer cliffside by those POW and civilian labourers.

The route is fantastically scenic, offering beautiful views over the Kwai River, but as you think about the incredible human suffering that went into the construction - clearing a path through dense jungle (and if you've ever seen a bamboo thicket you'll be even more in awe), and working 18 hour shifts cutting gullies into solid rock with dynamite and basic tools - it's a journey laden with emotion.

Although I've visited this POW cemetery (the largest of three in the area to which the remains of thousands of POWs were relocated from their temporary graves along the railway) before, it still knocks me for six. Rows and rows of headstones of thousands of men, almost all aged between 20 and 35, who died so far from home. It makes it all the more sad that they died not fighting for what they believed in, but cruelly worked to death.

Kanchanaburi should be a compulsory stop on any Thailand itinerary.


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