Claire and Cherry Pie

Beccie from Sew Retro Rose

June’s fabulous interviewee is Beccie Leathley; vintage enthusiast, sewer and blogger over at Sew Retro Rose.  Beccie blogs engagingly about making beautiful clothing from vintage patterns and has a loyal group of followers who eagerly participate in sew-alongs.  They also love to check out (well for me it’s more like drool over, don’t know about you!) her latest projects which she posts updates about on her Facebook page.

Beccie Leathley

I haven’t had the opportunity to meet Beccie in person yet but have heard lovely things about her from mutual friends and fans so I’m quite looking forward to the day when we do get a chance to meet.   I did however meet one of Beccie’s loyal readers who is also a regular participant in sew-alongs, at the Yarra Valley Rockabilly Rumble event/fundraiser earlier this year when I interviewed Lady A Broad.  She showed me her phone gallery full of photos of beautiful dresses she had created from sew-alongs and patterns Beccie blogged about, including one she had altered the pattern for the neckline and bust herself.  She was wearing something on the day that she had made from a vintage pattern using beautiful vintage fabric that we decided might be from the early 60’s but weren’t completely sure – I need to brush up on my fabric dating skills!  I bet Beccie could tell us when it was produced.  She told me how much she enjoys being part of the sew-along community and how helpful and nice Beccie is.  I’m so sorry I can’t remember your name (I have a terrible memory for names) but if you’re reading this, I loved your dress and look forward to seeing other creations at future events in Victoria!

So there you go Beccie, if you didn’t know it already you have some lovely people following your blog!

Now you’ve heard what her friends and blog followers have to say about her it’s time to find out a little bit more about Beccie from herself.

Let’s start at the beginning (a very good place to start!); why did you start using vintage patterns and what made you decide to start a blog about your sewing endeavours?
For me, the whole story starts with a coat. I was in an airport on my way to an event, and this magnificently dressed woman walked past in the most amazing princess seamed coat – vintage by the look of it. I just HAD to have one! After looking online I realized how expensive they were, and I remembered that my Mum had a sewing machine, and I used to sew basic things, so I purchased a pattern on Etsy and went at it!

The blog stemmed from my need to share what I was doing. None of my friends sewed, and my husband wasn’t in the least bit interested, so I thought I’d write a blog to record what I was doing. I had no idea that other people might actually want to read it!

The coat that started it all - I can understand why!

The coat that started it all – I can understand why!

What do you enjoy the most about sewing vintage patterns?
The variety. If you want to sew vintage reproduction clothing and you limit yourself to the re-released patterns from the big 4, you won’t have much to work with. I also love the bits of history you sometimes find included with the pattern.

So true!  I ordered a vintage playsuit and coat pattern from Etsy a while ago and when I opened it up I found pieces of a gorgeous, green Chinese silk brocade cut up and pinned to some of the smaller pieces – it was a lovely surprise 🙂

What do you love most about mid-century vintage clothing?
I love how figure flattering it is. I have an hourglass shape and modern clothing just wants to hide it – why? I also love the colours and patterns, and the fact that if and when I do come across someone wearing the same thing, it’s a celebration (vintage twins!) rather than something to be disappointed about.

What did you find the most complicated and the most challenging skill to learn with sewing from vintage patterns?
Dealing with an unprinted pattern is probably the most complicated bit. Those little holes are telling me something… what is it again? No matter how many times I look at the instructions I know I will need to look again.

 Resizing patterns can also be complicated, depending on the construction of the garment, but its pretty straight-forward once you get the hang of it.

What is the most difficult project you have attempted so far?
Probably my self-drafted version of Simplicity 1168 – a 1950s Hawaiian sarong wrap dress pattern. It’s a rare pattern, and when I couldn’t find myself a copy, I used the pattern envelope illustration to draft my own version. Given that I hadn’t tried drafting before, I was really pleased with the way it came out.

I remember this fabric!  It came with a white background or a black one from Spotlight - excellent choice!

I remember this fabric! It came with a white background or a black one from Spotlight – excellent choice!

I have since splashed out and bought the original pattern.

The pattern

Is there a particular book or resource that you couldn’t have done without on your vintage sewing journey? What have you found that has been the most helpful.
Hmmm… no there isn’t a book or other resource that I’ve referred to consistently. I tend to just make things up as I go along and if I really get stuck I google it.

I love to add pockets whenever I can, is there a particular feature you love to add in to your sewing projects if it’s not there already?
I think everything should have pockets. Pockets, pockets, pockets. So yes, like you, I add pockets.

Yay!  Pockets are the best

Is there a particular vintage style or trend that you would love to see become mainstream again?
Just caring about your appearance. Wearing pajamas to the shopping centre just demonstrates that you don’t respect yourself or the people who have to look at you.

Is there a style or trend that you are really glad isn’t part of mainstream fashion?!
Gloves. Gloves and iphones just aren’t compatible. If I was forced to wear gloves every day I would get so frustrated!

I adore gloves and have a bit of a collection but yes, wearing gloves every day would be a bit much!

What is your favourite vintage style or trend?
Matchy-matchy would have to be my favourite vintage style. I love matching everything to my dress – shoes, bag, hat, bangles, jewellery, etc. I love looking well put together.

Hydrangea outfit

This one was particularly memorable, mostly because of the giant hydrangea bunch on my head…

Oh my goodness yes!  Matching everything is fantastic, I like the way you think (and dress!) 😀

What is your favourite material to work with?
Vintage textiles are my favourite to use – rayon most of all. Modern fabrics are great, but there is something about using the things that they would have used back then that really gives an authentic look.

You have so many beautiful vintage patterns, do you have a favourite one?
My favourite tends to be the last one that arrived in the mail! Honestly though, I have a deep love for that coat pattern I bought, the one that started my whole journey. I have used it a lot and it always makes a fabulous garment.

How do you store your patterns?
I store them in clear plastic envelopes called Doculopes. I write the era, pattern number and description along the top edge, and then store them in filing boxes. Which reminds me, I’m kinda behind on doing this….

Roughly (incase you don’t have an exact idea!) how many patterns do you own?
I would say more than 100 and less than 150. I think….

If you had to pick just one, what is your favourite sewing project out of all the projects you have undertaken and why?
Just one?
I would have to say the Mermaid Tail I made for the Sherbet Birdie Studio wardrobe (check out the Sherbet Birdie Facebook page). That kind of project really lets your creativity take over, and you don’t have to worry about it being wearable as such. It was great fun.

Mermaid tail

How the mermaid tail started

What it looked like when I delivered it to the Sherbet Birdie studio

What it looked like when I delivered it to the Sherbet Birdie studio

Ok wow, I can see why that would be a favourite!  Check out those scales <3

Beccie the mermaid - image by the extraordinary Sherbet Birdie

Beccie test shooting the mermaid tail the day before the Mermaid shoot by Sherbet Birdie – image by the extraordinary Sherbet Birdie

I think we can all agree that the tail is completely amazing and Beccie makes a fabulous mermaid!

Why did you start sew-alongs?
Someone suggested it to me actually.   I posted a photo of the swirl wrap dress pattern on my facebook page, and someone suggested I make a copy for them, and that somehow morphed into hosting a sewalong. It ended up being much bigger than I anticipated. I thought I would get about 40 people buying the pattern to join in – it was more like 240, and I get one to two requests a week even now.

But it has been a wonderful way to connect with the people that read my blog. I’m really glad I did it.

I love that you love Christmas and get really caught up in the Christmas spirit, often making several outfits for the holiday, one of which I featured in my post; ten tips to creating pinup perfect skirts! How many outfits do you plan to make for the festive season this year?
Its going to depend how I’m feeling as Christmas gets closer, but it will be at least one. I have been collecting vintage Christmas fabric since last Christmas – some of it is REALLY special – and I can’t wait to make something wonderful with it.

Picking a favourite Christmas outfit was tough but this one with the santa shoes and the giant Poinsettia wins

Picking a favourite Christmas outfit was tough but this one with the santa shoes and the giant Poinsettia wins

Santa shoes

Matchy matchy again, I love it!  And I’m excited to see what you make this year with your special fabric.

You probably get this all the time but looking to the future (if you can share that with us!) do you have any plans to open a store, release a book or develop your own series of patterns?
Yes, I do have some plans, but I can’t let you know what they are right now. I’m hoping to be up and running early next year though, so look out!

Ooh that sounds exciting, can’t wait!!
I don’t know about you but I love learning more about people and the things they do, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Beccie as much as I have and are as intrigued as I am to find out what she has planned for the future – bring on next year!


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