Vintage Style Swim Costume

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY: In my earlier post I mentioned two things that helped make a difference in my sewing – having the right amount of patience and the space to sew in. It also helps to do a bit of study and have some level of awareness in how clothes are constructed and the order they are put together in, as well as looking at the fine details in garments put together by others. How did was that facing stitched on with the zip, what sort of hem did they use, how did they finish the seams – I desperately want to use Hong Kong seams on my next project – how was that petticoat attached, how did they do that welt pocket? And the list can go on and on, often dependent on you skill level, interest and particular level of curiosity.

The project I just finished was a 1960s swim costume, a two-piece. It was fairly easy considering I have never made a swim costume before. I did not use a stretch fabric, but instead went with the last of a nice vintage-esque fabric I bought here in Budapest at a store named Special Tex, which in and of itself is a store to post about one day. It is a digital printed fabric and a bit of a cotton sateen I believe. I lined the top and bottoms with a white fabric that will provide a bit of shape, but not stick to the body if wet necessarily, allowing air to get in. It is a white synthetic of sorts and I have used it as interlining on a couple of other projects.

Needless to say, when it came time to put the shorts together the zipper was the part that took a bit of a redo. I noticed as I was basting the zipper in that the tops did not match up perfectly. The top right side was appearing about a quarter of an inch shorter than the top left side of the shorts. Break out the seam ripper and unpick part of the facing to bring that down a bit and even it up. I think that was a bit of an amateur mistake. I should have noticed that prior. That corrected I put in the zipper.

Swin Costume under construction
Top under construction

The top was not so much a challenge, but again, it did help to have some awareness of the order to apply things like the halter straps to the top when stitching in the lining, completing the band around the lower bust line, etc. And, while the buttonholes in the back made me a bit nervous when it came time to put needle to fabric (I did about four or five tests prior on scrap fabric the same as the swim costume) I crossed my fingers I hadn’t just ruined the project. It’s not perfect, but they did come out nicely. I later went over them again as a precaution using a sturdier thread and it made a big difference.

New skill obtained on this project was using my Singer to sew on buttons. I hadn’t tried this before as I don’t actually have button holder. However, I put on the darning plate, lined up the button and needed and used the hand wheel to give it a go. It worked! I love hand stitching buttons on but if a machine can do it why not?!

So voila! The project is complete and waiting for the thermal baths here in Budapest to open so I can wear it.

Vintage Vogue V9255

Hungarian Revolution of 1956

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY: Every so often you come across a few sobering reminders of the the past atrocities here in Budapest. The holes you see in the memorial are actual bullet holes from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The other photos are from a similar memorial across the street also marking bullet holes. Meanwhile, the Americans and Brits were in the Middle East either stirring the pot or trying to put a lid on it between Israel and Egypt – depends on who you follow. 

Wikipedia says “over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees… Many were arrested. Eventually, 26,000 were sentenced and imprisoned, 13,000 interned, and 229 executed.”

The latest book I read, Journey to a Revolution: A Personal Memoir and History of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, by Michael Korda is worth picking up to get a recollection from someone who was on the ground to experience the revolution.

IN MEMORIAM 1956 October 25th

IN MEMORIAM 1956 October 25th

Sewing Projects

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY: My first winter in Budapest was one of settling in and sewing. Reviewing the various articles of clothing I made, I admit to being surprised that my skills have improved somewhat over the years, in spite of the time away from the sewing machine. I have not sewn since leaving New York the first time, and even then at least a couple years prior to that.

Antique Singer treadle sewing machine.
Singer hand crank treadle sewing machine. An antique toy but it works!

If I had to analyse why my ability to sew has gotten better, I would have to pin it on two things (pun somewhat intended). The first reason is my patience. When I used to sew outfits and dresses for myself I would bash through them as quick as quick can, often frustrated if a dress was incomplete after a day’s dedication. My motivation was to get to the end as soon as possible. The instructions made it seem easy enough. I hadn’t yet learned to properly finish my seams or add in zippers, use all the attachments my machine provided or the various stitches on offer. I stayed as far away from buttonholes as possible. What’s changed in the last 15 years, approximately, is patience. I now enjoy the journey as much as the destination, and I think the results speak for themselves.

The second contribution to my sewing proficiency are my tools. The sewing room of my past was a cramped living room with the sewing machine typically perched on my coffee table in the middle. I would find pins woven into the carpet, threads tangled in my vacuum cleaner, a small box my mother gave me the sole container of my hotchpotch mix of sewing paraphernalia. Not much of a collection. Since moving to Budapest and having a bit more space to spread out, I now have a dressing room / sewing room combination. It is complete with a large sewing table I keep fairly sparse to allow room for cutting fabric and patterns out. I have a rotary cutter and healing board, saves the hands from cramping in scissors when cutting out small details. My measuring tools include many measuring tapes but also a French curve, a long ruler with the average seam allowance marked, a hem gauge and a curved ruler for adjusting hips and curves in patterns. My dress form is good for a model and get’s the fit close.

More sewing post to come.

Postcard from Mumbai

MUMBAI, INDIA: One day I will get back to New York and sift through my all belongings. If nothing is ruined, especially personal papers and such momentos, somewhere in a box buried deep there should be a postcard from India. It will be from the mid 90s from DL, who I was dating at the time. I distinctly recall that postcard being of the Taj Palace Hotel, a national landmark of India and its colonial past.

Taj Palace Hotel, Mumbai
Taj Palace Hotel, Mumbai

At the time I was unaware of what I was looking at, India seemed so far away. It would take years before I even thought about getting my first passport and traveling outside of the US, and probably over a decade from that time before I even considered trying to work outside the US. Even as much as two years ago I would not imagine living in India. Travelling here for holiday – it was “on the list” but not at the top. Continue reading “Postcard from Mumbai”

The Cow That Anne Bought

UDAIPUR, INDIA: Taking up her usual perch at Rainbow Cafe, Rosie is easy to spot, it’s the best seat in the house after all. She has a constant reservation of two alcoves which overlook Lake Pichola. I don’t plan to spend my entire evening at Rainbow but the charm of the lights dancing on the lake from the other side and flickering of fireworks keep me planted. Seems like as good of a place as any to spend my Diwali night.

Happy Diwali
Happy Diwali

We are joined by another local expat about 45 minutes after I arrive, Anne Vilsbøll. Anne is a Danish artist and lecturer whose made her second home here in Udaipur for as long as Rosie. Anne has a curious way about her, reminiscent of the Europeans we used to meet in the early 90s down in Key West. They are a breed of expat I have not seen since, except in rare glimpses like Anne. The world has changed since those carefree days. Continue reading “The Cow That Anne Bought”