Fall 2012 Knitting Fashion Preview

The English Rose hat pattern by the Red Fox and Gown.

I really have no idea where the summer has gone. I think she was a late bloomer and rather shy. Hints of autumn are in the trees and air. I’ve been busy working on design projects for the fall in my other venture, The Red Fox and Gown. Specializing in modern hand knits and pin up fashions, there’s a lot to do. Right now I’m working more on the knitting side of things.

Star Slouch Hat

Among the trends for Fall 2012 are knits of all kinds. I’m having fun designing knitting patterns for easy-to-knit patterns for beginner and intermediate knitters. I also have ready-to-wear items available for purchase.

Edinburgh Mittens.

Morgan Hat.

So far, I have a collection of hats available, along with mittens – just the things you’ll need for fall. There are several more designs to come. If you’re curious to learn more about what’s going with The Red Fox and Gown, check out the blog for news, contests and more.

What are you doing to get ready for fall? What is your favourite accessory this coming season?
x Rena

BurdaStyle Summer Sewing Contest: I’m in the Top 10!


I’m so excited to have made the top 10 finalists selected by BurdaStyle’s judges. Now the winner is selected by votes over the next few days. Please vote for my Retro Rocker Playsuit (based on adaptations of 2 BurdaStyle designs) here – my user name is darkhorse and it’s the blue striped and black playsuit:



x Rena

Rockin’ Retro Romper – BurdaStyle Variation Playsuit

My finished romper playsuit.

Here’s my entry for the BurdaStyle ‘Summer Sewing Challenge’ – I’m calling it the ‘Retro Rocker Tonia Playsuit with Cut Out Bustline’. The romper is a bit big for my mannequin, but I’m camera shy, so please forgive me.

The front of the romper in all its glory.

I have had visions of retro style playsuits dancing in my head for ages. When I saw the challenge, I thought it was time to step it up as a self-taught sewist – more than anything, to challenge myself and the limits of my poor sewing machine (did she ever yell, whew!). This has been the most advanced project I’ve ever dared take on. Suffice it to say there’s been blood, sweat and tears poured into this project that’s obsessed me – with no small amount of heart!

BurdaStyle’s full skirted dress with cut out bustline.

BurdaStyle’s Tonia shorts.

I fell in love with the retro style dress on BurdaStyle with the cut-out bustline, and I knew that had to be the base for the bodice. I’ve also been coveting the Tonia shorts for a long time. I decided to put them together for a custom playsuit romper based on these two patterns as a true variation and did some sketching. The playsuit prep involved some pattern grading (up) and pattern adjustments to unify the two patterns – and to the right size. I also wanted the romper to have some real edge so I added black shorts for contrast with black piping and a black external zipper, along with lavender and blue striped shirting fabric.

My playsuit sketch based on the two patterns.

The playsuit is fully lined and I used fuchsia Hong Kong seam finishes to keep that rock and roll feel going. I added extra pleats at the front of the shorts and an extra pair of darts on the reverse of the sorts. I eliminated the fly due to the rear zip. I added the striped shirting to the hip yoke for fun and also the shorts cuff.

My striped fabric rose pin.

I also made a fabric flower pin that I think looks great with this playsuit! I might be addicted – I want to make a 4-5 gore wrap skirt to go with this based on the cut out bustline pattern. I’ll be sure to post it when I get to it – what retro style playsuit wouldn’t look awesome with a cover-up wrap skirt?

And FYI here’s my BurdaStyle page on the project.

Exposed zipper on the playsuit.

Happy summer romping!

x Rena

PS – If you want to see more pics or have any questions, just leave a comment!

Make Your Own Bra: Lingerie Series Part I

Fabulous lingerie. Source: Agent Provocateur.

Love Agent Provocateur and Victoria’s Secret? Love making things? I get so excited about the idea of sewing my own lingerie, particularly bras, that I want to hop from one foot to another. Odd behaviour aside, I know I’m not the only one fascinated by the idea of making my own lingerie. Who doesn’t want their own custom made stuff? Starting with bras, I will write a series that will hopefully inspire you to make your own intimates. Consider these a sort of tutorial in the spirit of my earlier corset posts The Art of Corsetry and Corset Making. I admit I haven’t tried bra making myself, but I have it up there on my to do list.

Quick, get measuring!

Where to begin, you might ask? The very beginning, as with everything sewing, is measuring. Accurate measurements of your body are key – you might want a helper with the measuring tape if you haven’t measured yourself before. My tip if you’re measuring is to wear lightweight form-fitting clothing, and if you’re measuring on your own, use a full-length mirror to make sure the tape measure isn’t going all crooked on you. Measure twice to make sure the tape measure is level across your body and that you’re getting an accurate measurement. Here’s a helpful diagram:

Taking your measurements. Source: Blush Lingerie.

Basic measurements you’ll need include: 1) Full Bust; 2) Underbust; 3) Waist and 4) Hips. Once you have these measurements down, then you’re ready for the next fun bit – picking out a pattern.

Elan bra patterns. Source: Vena Cava Design.

Bra pattern. Source: Kwik Sew.

Hunting down a bra pattern isn’t as easy as  you might think. Sometimes they’re quite dated when you find them, but often times you can’t find them at all from the major pattern makers. I’ve put together a list of some of your best bets for patterns, including Elan (through Sew Sassy), my top pick for stylish lingerie patterns, Kwik Sew, and Netherlands-based merckwaerdigh on Etsy. Etsy is a great source for vintage bra patterns in general and worth checking out. Be sure to keep in mind that vintage sizes are not the same as modern sizes and you’ll need to rely on your measurements to check out the pattern measurements for the right fit. If you’re experienced at sewing, you may want to make your own custom bra pattern based on a sloper as described at BurdaStyle, one of my favourite websites. There’s a few bra patterns available at BurdaStyle too, some of them free!

Poly satin fabric. Source: Bra-makers Supply.

Bra kit. Source: Sewing Chest.

Once you’ve sorted out the pattern, your next trick is to figure out materials. Often, you can get pre-made packages of bra materials from the vendor selling the bra, for the quickest route. Sometimes tracking down notions can be an adventure, although I personally think it’s a lot of fun – but remember, I also like to hop from one foot to another, so my idea of fun can be a bit twisted at times.  Basic materials you’ll need: fabric with some two-way stretch (like a stretch tricot / satin), bra elastic, underwire, hooks and eyes, bra adjusters, padding (optional), interfacing (optional), ribbon (optional), and/or lace (optional). A few major online lingerie supply shops are Sew Sassy, Bra-makers Supply and Sewing Chest.

Then the real fun begins – sewing! Be sure to go through your instructions carefully and if you like, you can prepare a sample muslin or toile of your bra before using your expensive good fabric. You can even get a toile kit from Sewing Chest. This is a great way to make adjustments before beginning the real deal.

Bra making tutorial. Source: Threads Magazine.

I found a couple of great tutorials for you on bra making. I love Threads Magazine and I’m always so pleased to see what they have online – the Threads tutorial is not to be missed. Hilarious as it is helpful, the Make Your Own Damn Bras tutorial is also really helpful if you have a bra that you love that you want to copy. There’s also a helpful bra tutorial on Instructables.

Have any of you made your own bras before? If you haven’t, are you ready to try?
x Rena

Those Pin Up Girls…: A Romp Through History

I’ve posted her before and I likely will again – pin up girl and chair!

Pin up girls have been around for a long time. They’re first officially known from the 19th century. But I bet they’ve been around longer than that, and if you look carefully at cave art paintings and the Venus figurines found archaeologically from Europe 35,000 years ago, you can see that people have been pondering the female form for quite some time. I bet there were even Neanderthal pin ups that we just haven’t found yet.

From nearly 30,000 years ago, the Venus of Willendorf was one of the original pin up girls.

While pin up girls may be controversial in some quarters, there’s no question that people have been admiring women’s figures for a very long time indeed. Some argue that pin ups objectify women, others say that it celebrates the female body and sexuality. I think that today we definitely idealize the 50s/early 60s as a time of innocence, although despite delighting in Mad Men episodes, I don’t think I would have done well in the social norms of the time. But gee do I love the 50s fashions! The pin up girl popularized the playsuit and did wonders for halter tops.

Hottie Betty Grable strikes a pose in this famous image.

Bettie Page in Playboy 1955.

So who were these pin up girls anyway? During the time of peak popularity during 40s war time and the early 50s, celebrities such as film stars were idealized. Betty Grable comes to mind right away, as does another Bettie – Bettie Page, a 50s pin up model.

The pin up is the cousin to the burlesque performers, and arguments can be made that they’ve been around for some time too – although it’s much tougher to provide archaeological evidence for their fine moves and artistry. But I can tell you they’re known since at least the 19th century.

A Varga girl.

The Varga girls from the 30s and 40s were some of the early pin up girls, so-named for artist Alberto Vargas who did a big part in popularizing them in select mens’ magazines of the period.

Puppies and surprises – life of a pin up girl.

Pin up surprised by… the wind?

Yes, definitely surprised by the wind.

And by the 50s we have the pin up girls that most typically come to mind, looking innocently naughty while being surprised by… puppies, overflowing bathtubs, you name it. Pin up girls decorated workshops, cheered up troops in wartime and provided a sampling of sexuality during a conservative time. The waning of the pin up girl came by the 60s, with more liberal social values, the rise of rock and roll, tv and communication, and the sexual revolution all led to the demise of the pin up. Women could be openly sexual in mainstream society by the late 60s and 70s.

Dita von Teese, modern pin up girl.

Katy Perry strikes a pose.

The revival of the pin up girl in recent years is part of the new feminism reclaiming these old images to portray a feminine ideal, and evoke a nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent time. Vintage style pin up fashion is also going through a revival, including playsuits, beach wear and corsets.

40s Varga girl.

The playfulness of the pin up girl image has been reclaimed. 40s and 50s pin up art is going through a popular resurgence too. And I for one am not sorry for this!

x Rena

Love Vintage Style Fashion? Introducing The Red Fox and Gown

So you’ve probably been wondering where that Rena has gotten to… why isn’t she blogging as regularly as last month? Well, I have a great excuse. I’ve been busy at work getting ready to launch my second Etsy shop, The Red Fox and Gown, a shop dedicated to upcycled and reproduction vintage style fashion.

Upcycled 60s mod style dress with inverted front pleat available from TheRedFoxandGown.

I’ve been sewing up a storm, with a 60s mod dress recently finished, and a 50s princess dress and retro sunsuit in the works. My sewing machine has been busy. I promise to post pictures when everything is done, but here’s some pattern peeks in the meantime.

Pin up sundress playsuit.

50s Princess Dress (short sleeve version).

And I was unable to resist these awesome tags from a seller on Etsy to include with all The Red Fox and Gown creations.

I also have plans to make 40s / 50s style bikini tops, playsuits with shorts and aprons in the near future, so keep checking! Here’s a peek:

50s bikini playsuit.

50s playsuit with shorts.

50s apron dress.

I’ll also do my best to post a couple vintage patterns for you tonight at TheVintageDesignShop! My vintage pattern stock has been flying out the door lately.

x Rena

Fresh Vintage in the Shop: 1 July 2012

We have a small but lovely selection of frocks and skirts for you this week, following technical difficulties last weekend. Things are just about back up and running again, but that means a smaller group of items than usual. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do!

x Rena

Rogue Henna: Did Somebody Say Rouge?

So I’m having a birthday soon. Real soon, actually, now that I think about it. Only seven sleeps! And I’m halfway to a milestone birthday, *mumble*-something years old. My Mom asked me today what I want for my birthday, and there’s always the usual – clothes, yarn, fabric. A pony. An all expenses trip to Europe, ha. Thanks Mom! Just kidding of course… but hold that thought about the birthday wishes.

Hi world, I can see you now… note that hair colour!

Seriously though, my Mom has had another recent good point. My hair does need some attention. I gave my fringe a trim tonight so I can view the world again. Which is admittedly useful. So score one for Mom. Bonus: self-trims are free! Another Mom-point – the silvers are, ah, making a comeback, shall we say. Even I can see it’s getting out of hand and Something Must Be Done.

I do love going down to Toni and Guy and letting them massage my scalp and clip long layers into my thick mane. My hair is nothing if not thick. Maddeningly thick. And it has a natural curl that the length manages to keep under control, otherwise… well, let’s not even go there. I’m feeling unfaithful to my lovely stylist people down there for even thinking about this, but I’m wondering if I can combine a couple of ideas:

♥ My long held desire for dark auburn hair.

♥ Henna – a way to have fun with colour without all the synthetic chemicals.

Brilliant combination of ideas, no? I think I will try to put them together this weekend in time for the birthday festivities. Because it’s always a good idea to make an effort to look presentable ahead of the inevitable birthday photos. Yes Mom, I’m talking to you. I want the dark auburn hair for my birthday, the non-toxic way. And that pony!

I’ll let you know how things develop, but I foresee a trip tomorrow to Lush. Where I will acquire the Caca Rouge Mama. Aptly named because I will need to conscript my Mama to slop henna on my head with great abandon, then wrap that sucker up in plastic wrap overnight and check out the results on Sunday morning. Hey, I could be auburn just in time for Sunday’s vintage listing party and my birthday! What fun.

x Rena

PS – And yes, I’m fully prepared that I may only get some reddish highlights given my dark hair… do you have any henna experiences that you’d like to share?

Vintage Sneak Peek!

Yes, it’s that time of the week again where you get your vintage sneak peek ahead of Sunday’s listing festivities at TheVintageDesignShop. Try and figure out what the pieces are. 🙂

x Rena

Fresh Vintage in the Shop: 17 June 2012

50s appliqued tulips dress.

Here’s this week’s round of newly stocked vintage at TheVintageDesignShop! I have truly covered most decades this time around, from 50s to 90s vintage dresses, and vintage sewing patterns from the 30s to 40s. Click on the image to go to the listing details. Please enjoy!

x Rena

50s floral dress.

Vintage 90s cream floral garden party dress.

80s striped dress perfect for summer.

Vintage 90s blue gingham shift dress by Guess.

Vintage 80s steampunk crushed velvet dress.

Vintage 90s grunge black polka dot dress.

Vintage 70s gingham shirt

30s Vogue coat vintage sewing pattern.

Vintage 40s blouse vintage sewing pattern.

40s skirt vintage sewing pattern.

Vintage 30s sewing pattern by Hollywood Patterns.