The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Victorian London is brought to life every Christmas season at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair.

As someone who enjoys elements of bygone eras, I have been intrigued by this event for years. This weekend, I finally decided to make the two-hour drive and brought along my teenage daughter and her girlfriend. We had a blast.

Held in a large exhibition building in Daly City (just south of San Francisco), the Dickens Fair creates a Victorian-era streetscape complete with shops, food, and entertainment. Modern elements of the building are camouflaged, and the floor is strewn with straw.

A clock on the street.

A clock on one of the buildings. The design of the event is beautiful.

A shoppe sign.

A pub sign. Food and beverage choices included spiced nuts, meat pies, fish and chips, pasta, Greek food, pastries, a large tea shoppe (reservations recommended), and several pubs.

One of the stage shows.

There are a number of stages with shows throughout the day.

Hundreds of engaging performers in period costume as well as several well-known Dickens characters are found throughout the event, and attendees are encouraged to dress in costume as well.

Gentlemen dining at one of the establishments.

This is one of the many tableaus that actors stage to add atmosphere.

The Ghost of Christmas Past helps Ebenezer Scrooge recall happier times at Fezziwig's Dance Party.

At Fezziwig’s Dance Party, we saw the Ghost of Christmas Past taking Ebenezer Scrooge on a trip to remember happier days.

We saw Queen Victoria several times throughout the day.

Of course, Queen Victoria reigns over the Dickens Fair. She and her entourage made several appearances.

As I don’t have any Victorian garb, I opted to wear my Clara dress and a pair of riding boots. I almost brought a shawl, but thought better of it. It turned out to be rather warm inside.

Next year, I plan to FILL my shopping basket with purchases.

Next year, I plan to FILL my shopping basket. There are a wide variety of goods available, including Victorian-style clothing, jewelry, candles, soaps, and antique books.

Together, this all makes for a charming holiday outing. Now that we know what to expect, we can’t wait to go back next year to see more of the stage shows, sample a wider variety of the food, and buy more gifts.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair runs for two more weekends this year at the Cow Palace.

You can find the rest of my photos on Flickr.

 

My new vintage-style blouse from Butterick’s 5846 dress pattern

For my latest project, I started off with dress pattern Butterick 5846 and turned it into a blouse. I love how this blouse came out, particularly since I my last attempt at a project had a sad ending.

Here’s my new garment:

Front

This is a quilting cotton, so it’s a little heavy for a blouse, but it’s soft. I love-love-love the colors.

Back

And the back.

Here are some of the fun details:

Top-stitching.

The pattern calls for top-stitching all over the place, which I liked.

Buttonhole.

The vintage buttons are fun and a good match.

As a reminder, here is where I started:

I think this will make a great blouse.

I originally had this darker green thread selected for the top-stitching, but as you can see, I ended up going with a bright yellow-green instead.

How a dress became a blouse

I decided the 1930s-40s lines of Butterick 5846 would be perfect for the vintage-style fabric I found that only had enough yardage left for a blouse. I made some adjustments to the pattern to turn the dress pattern into a blouse pattern and then made a few other changes just to customize it:

  • I made the bodice longer. The bodice originally ended at the waist seam with a total of 12 tucks into that seam. I extended the tucks an inch (the better to hide behind a waistband) and increased the bodice length about 9 inches.
  • I changed the gathered sleeves to regular set-in sleeves. Gathered sleeves are not the best look on me. I liked the sleeves on New Look 0134, which I had recently made, so I wanted to substitute those. I measured the armhole sleeve seam on New Look 0134, and it was a perfect match for Butterick 5846. Once I eased them, the sleeves went in beautifully. Love them.
  • I made the collar a little larger to better reflect vintage styles. Vintage blouses tend to have bigger collars than today’s blouses. I made a line bisecting the point of the collar, then drew a new point an inch out from the original one. I then blended the lines into the original collar where it joined the neckline and at the shoulder. It’s a subtle change, but it gives me confidence that I can do pretty much anything I want with a collar shape.
  • I turned the two-piece yoke into a single yoke. I couldn’t figure out why the yoke had a seam at the shoulder — until I was tracing it to make it a single piece. If it’s done in a plaid or a stripe, the lines on the front part of the yoke will be at a weird angle. That didn’t affect this print, and I was already tracing, so I continued on and made the yoke one piece. It was a simple matter of overlapping the shoulder seamlines and tracing.

Construction changes

I still don’t want to deal with my serger (which probably only needs to be serviced), so I am all about tidy seam finishes that don’t require one. Since I practiced flat-felled seams on my recent ill-fated project, I used them all over this blouse. I love the way they look.

Flat fell

How slick are these flat-felled seams? They were a little tricky here at the armhole seam, but I made them work.

For the yoke, I used a technique I’ve been reading about for years but had not had the opportunity to try. The yoke is sewn entirely by machine and then turned out. The trick is rolling up the bodice pieces before you sew. Style Arc’s website has a great explanation of the technique here. The top-stitching on the yoke is strictly decorative.

And here it is on me!

Front of Butterick 5846

My new blouse. Photos by Matt Henry, the 10-year-old.

Back of Butterick 5846

The back.

I am so happy with this blouse that I eventually want to make a long-sleeve version with a white collar and cuffs. And I have the perfect fabrics in my stash. Until I find something else I like, this will be my go-to blouse pattern. It’s already fitted, so the sewing is quick.

Meanwhile, I have this fab blouse and nothing vintage-style to wear with it. But I’m trying to take care of that with my next project. A muslin is underway and going well so far. I’m thinking dark blue denim.

Gemini Note (because it’s not all about the sewing)

After an amazing start, and a horrifying June Swoon, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series for the third time in five years. As much as I love sewing while watching baseball games (three hours of multi-tasking!), I canNOT sew during playoffs. Not with the way the Giants play. I’m too busy clutching a pillow. I’m so glad the season is finally over. My nerves couldn’t take much more, and I have lots of sewing to do!

Mood board: A blouse from Butterick’s 5846 dress pattern

I fell in love with a pretty blue and green print from DS Quilts in the quilt fabric section of Jo-Ann’s a few months ago. I was disappointed to discover that there wasn’t enough yardage left for a dress.

Several weeks later, it occurred to me to make a blouse instead. Fortunately, the fabric was still available. And since I’d successfully made a beautiful teal and navy shirtdress from Butterick 5846, I decided it would be the perfect pattern.

The bodice lines are very reminiscent of blouses from the 1930s and 1940s, so I think it will be a good match for the vintage-looking print. Here’s the mood board:

I think this will make a great blouse.

How adorable is this fabric? The navy blue buttons are vintage. The olive green thread is for top-stitching.

The fabric is a little heavy but nice and soft. It’s not ideal for a blouse, but I hope it will be OK. And since I’ve already fit the pattern, it should be a quick project.

Sew Liberated’s Schoolhouse Tunic was a bust for my full bust

I had high hopes that I could translate all my recent experience in fitting my bust into a version of Sew Liberated’s Schoolhouse Tunic that would NOT look like a maternity top.

Alas, either my skills are not yet up to snuff, or this pattern was not a great choice for my figure. Probably both.

But I did try out some new techniques on my muslin that I’m eager to use again.

First up, this is how far I had progressed when I decided to call it quits:

Ugh. My attempt at a full-bust adjustment screwed up the proportions of this pattern.

Ugh. My attempt at a full-bust adjustment screwed up the proportions of this pattern. I had to lengthen the part above the bust seam to lower the bust point. I also opted for gathers instead of a dart, which was a mistake.

I thought of soldiering on, but I came to the conclusion that a seam just below the bust will not work on my figure unless the area below the seam is fitted, which is not the case with this pattern. So disappointing! It’s such a cute pattern.

The “muslin” was half of an old sheet. At least I think it was a sheet no longer in use. I couldn’t find any holes or stains or other signs of being worn out, but it was near my fabric stash, so I think I had relegated it to the “use for a muslin” pile. Too late now! I still have half the sheet to use for something else.

Although the tunic didn’t work out, I do think my idea to reverse the placket to the front was a good one.

I think my idea to reverse the placket was a winner.

The placket looks really good, anyway. Small victories.

Oh well, the good news is I tried a flat-felled seam for the first time, and I love the technique!

I want to make a shirt for my husband (the sleeves on ready-to-wear are always too long for him), so I investigated the shirts in his closet. Flat-felled seams everywhere! I thought I’d better try one before I make him a shirt.

And so I did. And it was awesome!

I am thrilled with how my first attempt at flat-felled seams came out.

This seam looks good both inside and out, although I may lengthen the stitch when I make my husband’s shirt.

You may also have noticed the embroidery on my muslin. I have an embroidery machine that I barely use. I remembered why when I used it for this project. The machine is in such an awkward spot in my sewing area that it’s very uncomfortable to use. I need to relocate it because it has so many possibilities for garment sewing. Here’s a closeup at the embroidery I picked from the designs already on my machine:

I finally tried using my embroidery machine on a garment.

With all the files out on the Internet for purchase, the options are limitless for enhancing a garment with machine embroidery.

So that is the sad story of my attempt to make Sew Liberated’s Schoolhouse Tunic. But I’m very excited for my next sewing project. And since it’s a different version of a pattern I’ve already successfully fitted, it should be a winner.

Note: Sew Liberated was kind enough to offer me a free pattern after I made their Clara Dress, which I love. I chose the Schoolhouse Tunic, and all the opinions here are mine.