Swinging back to the 60’s I catch up with Australian based blogger Catherine from Sewing in the 60’s (http://sewingthe60s.blogspot.com.au/). Catherine has an eye for the bright, beautiful and vibrant prints of the era and utilises her sewing ability’s to reproduce garments that translate well to the modern figure and modern day wear. On reading Catherine’s blog it’s clear to see she has a passion for exploring Australian and New Zealand fashion history and sharing it with her readers via her pattern, fabric and outfit choices.
Hi Catherine, Can you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little about yourself?
Hi everyone! I’m Catherine – sewer and writer of the blog Sewing the 60s and I live in Sydney Australia. I currently work as a team coordinator for an Aussie Telco and blogging and sewing is my creative outlet. I’ve sewn since I was a kid, being brought up wearing my mum’s handmade dresses to church and watching her make outfits for herself. My blog has been running since May last year and the main focus of the content is 60s fashion, pop culture, music and of course sewing!
I had noticed for a long time many wonderful blogs written by 1940’s and 50s lovers, but none of them really appealed to my own passion for the 60s. There were of course lots of 60s blogs out there, but not many that mixed both a love for the 60s and sewing together – and so my blog was born!
I also had a profile on Burdastyle for many years but I didn’t feel like the site was as dynamic as it had been when it first started so I decided to create my blog based on the things I missed. I’d always appreciated the efforts of bloggers like Gretchen Hirsch (Gerties blog for better sewing) and Tilly from Tilly and the Buttons and the amount of work they had put into popularising home sewing and so I wanted to be able to share my creations with the internet, with lots of music, fashion and cultural history thrown in!
When did you realize that you were drawn to the 60’s era and how did that lead to the reproduction of the garments?
I remember being drawn to the 60s from when I was very young. My mum had lots of her own bits and pieces that she’d kept from her childhood in the 60s and when I was about 10 a friend’s mum commented on me looking like a flower child after I’d plaited and adorned my hair with flowers. I went home and asked my mum what that meant and ever since I’ve loved everything about those 10 years in history!
Once I started working and could afford my own clothes, I actually preferred wearing 50s style clothing and would spend lots of money on T.U.K shoes and wiggle skirts, but at some point and I can’t remember exactly when, I picked up the mod look and then it all went from there. I love the girly dollybird look and the neat mod style but sometimes I will venture into the hippie side for a day.
I’m quite picky and couldn’t always find exactly what I wanted in the vintage shops and on top of that most of the best 60s dresses are made for the tiny waif like girls of the post war generation so I resorted to sewing my own dresses, coming up with the designs myself or copying what was in movies and photos. I got myself a proper vintage pattern in 2008 and have loved sewing with them ever since!
Is your love of the 60’s reflected past the sewing of garment? Ie: House interior, car etc.
When I first moved out of home, I had bought some nice mid-century furniture from the local opp shop in great condition, like my bedroom cupboard which I think is actually a dining room sideboard and also my dining table. But my most prized possessions are the little decorations like candle sticks, jars and other ceramic items that I’ve picked up for next to nothing at opp shops
I’ve also started making an effort to build my record collection. It’s very small at the moment but I’m happy with what I have so far. I also love listening to 60s and 70s music more than modern music so sometimes I’m a little out of touch, but every now and again a new band with an old sound will pique my interest!
Where do you like find your inspiration from when researching a particular garment?
Usually my inspiration comes accidently while searching Pinterest, Tumblr, movies or books. I sometimes spot something and then try to figure out how I can replicate it. Finding a matching pattern and the perfect fabric are such an exciting part of the creative process!
Sometimes it’s the reverse – I’ll buy fabric and I’ll love it but not really know what to do with it until an image suddenly comes to my attention and I’ll excitedly push the project to the top of my sewing list.
What advice can you offer to novice sewers who would like to use vintage patterns?
Be sure to check the sizing when purchasing vintage patterns. Most are only sold in one size per envelope. Unlike modern patterns where you get a range of sizes on one sheet of paper and can cut different sizes depending in your measurements, you don’t get that flexibility with the older patterns.
Vintage patterns also tend to be smaller – I’m normally a size 12 in the current sizing but in vintage patterns I’m a 12 or 14. It depends on what year the pattern was made and what company. A lot of the pattern makers went through a new sizing change in the mid-60s so there’s not a lot of consistency from one year to the next.
Also be careful when opening up patterns that aren’t in their “factory folds” as they can tear easily. If you want to make adjustments to the pattern it’s better to trace of a new piece on tracing paper rather than cutting up a precious vintage pattern!
And lastly the best place to find your first vintage pattern is at the op shop. There are usually gems hidden in the boxes for around 50c each and these are probably better to start with rather than accidently ruining a special one you bought on the internet. And look for “Jiffy” and learn to sew patterns as these are usually very quick and easy to make for beginners
How has blogging about your experiences in sewing 60’s garments opened the vintage community to you?
As I mentioned earlier, there were always plenty of 40s and 50s bloggers around and I sort of started to think that I was out of place in the vintage community. Blogging about the 60s has made me realize there are lots of 60s lovers too and some even like multiple decades! I’d love to bring the 60s up to a similar level of adoration as the previous years and help bring out the other aspects of the era other than just the idea of Mad Men or hippies at Woodstock!
I definitely feel more part of the vintage community now that I know other people enjoy it as much as I do! Whether you’re writing about one era or the other, vintage sewers tend to appreciate each other’s technical skills and dedication to historical accuracy regardless if it’s 1860s or 1960s. Websites like We Sew Retro are great for sharing and getting to see styles from all years even if you don’t normally visit the posters blog.
I haven’t been to a Vintage show yet, but I know I’ll no longer feel out of place in my psychedelic tent dress among all the beautiful ladies in their tea dresses and victory rolls!
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All images by Catherine / Sewing in the 60’s