Friday, 8 August 2014

Femme Fatales in Progress

I've been really busy over the last few weeks working on an illustration project. You may remember last year I drew a short comic about mice. It was for Bordertown, a little journal with poetry, art and short stories that Mr Macska and some classmates had to do for assessment at uni.

Well, they had such fun doing it that they decided to do a second issue just for kicks! I thought I'd do some drawings for it, and as the journal has a neo-noir theme (and my favourite thing to draw is glamorous ladies) I decided to do a little cocktail booklet with classic cocktails, each illustrated with an archetypal femme fatale.

The femme fatales I chose were: The Dame, The Seductress,The Showgirl, The Cabaret Singer and the Dragon Lady. I wish I'd had room to add in The Gun Moll too, but I didn't have enough time or space.

Here's the inking process of The Seductress. I started with a pencil sketch and then added the lines with a fineliner. Over that I did some ink washes. I decided that the picture was a bit too pale, so I made the cushions black so that the her figure would really pop, rather than fading into the background.

I bought my first Copic markers for this project because I wanted to add a little colour to each drawing. Also a white Posca and and white fine liner for something else...

A close-up of the negligee coloured in with pink Copic markers. I love the way you can blend them, and will definitely be doing some more experimenting with these.

Here are some comparison photos of the pencil sketches and the inked drawings (still in progress). I really wanted to do a girl in a cocktail glass, so she became my Showgirl. 

For my Cabaret Singer I found some fantastic reference photos of black jazz singers from the 40s and 50s with really glamorous outfits. The hairstyle, which I adore, is taken from a photo of famous jazz singer Sarah Vaughan.

I had so much fun drawing her outfit! I found two tutorials on how to draw sequins here and here, and did a bit of each. I used my new white Posca pen and a white fine liner, and then also did some extra bits in Photoshop afterwards.

This one was going to be my dame in a detective's office, but I ended up using her for the little cover of the booklet. I'm really pleased with the way her face came out as I don't often draw in three-quarter profile (it's hard!).

This drawing is based of course on Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American movie star who was best remembered for her stereotypical "Dragon Lady" roles. That bead curtain took so much longer to draw than I thought it would! I think this is the one that I'm most pleased with composition-wise.

Next time I'll show you the finished drawings and some photos of the launch party!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Catherine Cardigan

Here's my newest knitting project, the Catherine cardigan. It's a rather nice longsleeved cardigan with a deep v-neck, four buttons at the waist, and a garter stitch collar and revers. I'm knitting it in Classic 5 ply in Poseidon from Bendigo Woolen Mills. It's actually a bit scratchy and splitty as it's a crepe yarn, but I loved the colour (and the price!).

The pattern is from this Patons knitting booklet, which I think was given to me by a friend who was clearing out some old vintage pattern books and magazines. From the look of the patterns, I imagine it's from the early to mid 50s, and they all have wonderful old-fashioned names, like 'Ursula' or 'Joyce'.

I've added the pattern for Catherine below, click on the pictures to see them much bigger. It's a very easy pattern to knit, as it's mostly plain knitting with alternating knit and purls on every fourth row. Unfortunately it only comes in a 34" bust, and although the deep v-neck should give some leeway, it does have extremely tight ribbing at the wrists. I'm actually thinking of re-knitting the sleeve I've just done and adding at least another 4 stitches at the wrist.

I've scanned the whole booklet so I'll post that soon.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Sensible Sewing: Skirt and Half Slip

Earlier in the year I realised that what I really needed to be sewing was sensible things: plain, mostly black things that would go with all the crazy patterned stuff in my wardrobe. Well, finally I've managed to finish off two garments. The first is this sensible skirt. I made it out of black polished cotton which unfortunately had a bit of stretch in it so it was pretty annoying to sew with. Also, I decided that big pleats would look good, but every time I have to iron this skirt I curse myself! Nevertheless, it's been an absolute staple in my wardrobe over autumn. I just modified my usual (made-up) dirndl skirt pattern.

My second sensible sewing piece is this silk half slip. I always wear a half-slip under my skirts, especially under gathered or circle skirts - you never know when the wind is going to blow suddenly and reveal your unmentionables to passers by! I used Gertie's tutorial for a Vintage Inspired Half Slip

 For the fabric I cut up an old silk sundress that I never wore, and trimmed it with some red lace that I had lying around. It was super simple to make, and now I'm thinking of making some more half slips for winter out of old slips that I have that are too long or too tight around the waist, but have pretty lace edging.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Some Goodies

Wheeee! New makeup! When Ms Edgeley went to New York recently I begged her to bring me back some makeup, as it's so much cheaper in the US than it is here. So I was very happy to get my hands on this Smashbox Full Exposure palette, and a YSL Rouge Pur Couture Mat lipstick in Rouge Rock. For my eyes, I really wanted some neutral colours to play around with and I like that there are both the warmer browns and beiges in this palette as well as the cooler colours. I'm not particularly into shimmery stuff but all the reviews I have read say that the glittery colours (the top row) are not very strong so maybe they will just add a touch of glam for the evening.

The lipstick is lovely, it doesn't have as much staying power as a MAC matt one (I usually wear Russian Red) but I've been applying it over the top and then just re-applying the YSL during the day and it is much more moisturising on my lips. I think the packaging looks pretty elegant as well, which is one of the drawbacks of MAC which really resemble a bullet.

Another thing that arrived from overseas was this pattern. It's Simplicity 4530, a shirt pattern from 1953 with the sleeves and collar cut in one with the shirt body.

There's the option of short cuffed sleeves or three-quarter sleeves gathered into a cuff. Two darts and the front and back waist. The collar  is quite unusual as at the back it sort of overlaps itself - you can see it on The Makings of an Urban Rustic. Hopefully I can find some time soon to have a go at sewing if for myself.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Aztec Pin Ups

Last weekend I went to see the new Aztecs exhibition at the Melbourne Museum with my father. It's well worth the (rather steep I thought) admission price as there are some real treasures on display, including some arresting statues and beautifully made pottery. They've done a good job showing visitors' what daily life was like, with some very detailed (modern) models of people in a market, and a miniature floating market garden with tiny little vegetables and tiny people looking after them.

Along one wall is a reproduction of a Diego Rivera Mural of the Aztec market Tlatelolco (the original is in the Palacio National in Mexico City). The picture above is a detail of this, showing a courtesan who I thought was rather striking.

Dancer with Toucan, 1942

Then I remembered these lovely paintings of Aztec pin ups from the book Mexican Calendar Girls. They are by a German artist called Armando Drechsler who arrived in Mexico City in the mid-1920s.

Goddess of Fire, 1952

There's not much information (at least in English) about him, but apparently he worked in oils and specialised in painting for calendars. Mostly women in traditional dress, as well as some beautiful and fanciful paintings of Aztec princesses.

Princess with a Puma, 1942

These highly romanticized paintings of Aztec beauties appealed to a sense of Mexican nationalism that embraced pre-Conquest mythology and ethnic traditions.

Xiuhcoatl, 1942

This painting shows the mythical serpent Xiuhcoatl, here shown as a beautiful woman.

The model for this painting is mostly likely the actress Anna May Wong, here shown as La Malinche, the interpreter, advisor and lover of Hernán Cortés. She is a controversial figure in Mexican history as she is seen as both the embodiment of treachery, and also as one of the founding figures of Mexican history. 

Anna May Wong

Finally I just want to add this painting, which is actually a Mayan princess, but it's so beautiful I thought I should include it. I love the combination of the quintessentially 1930s Hollywood glamour with the exquisitely detailed Mayan sculpture and jewellery. You can tell that Drechsler really studied these artifacts.

Mayan Princess, 1942

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Cropped Jacket from 1954 Finished.

I finished this bolero/cardigan ages ago but the weather was too warm to take photos. The pattern is a Cropped Jacket from a 1954 issue of Housewife magazine, and can be found it on Vintage Chic.

The instructions, though brief, were quite clear, and it knitted up really quickly. I used Rustic 12 ply from Bendigo Woollen Mills (unfortunately discontinued) in Cinder Fleck.

I think it's going to be a really useful cardigan for winter, as it's quite warm and has that lovely shawl collar, but the three-quarter length sleeves stop if from being too hot, and it's the jackety feel of it is a bit smarter than a cardigan.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

French Maid

This is a birthday card I made for Mr Macska. I don't know why I went with a French maid particularly, he loves France and I always think that a sexy lady is the best thing to put on a birthday card (plus the most fun to draw). 

I used this photo by Carmine Worx as my reference, as I thought the costume and pose were pretty cute. 

Carmine Worx's DeviantArt page (warning: explicity nudity)

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Call the Midwife - Nurse Trixie

A while ago I did a post about some of the outfits in the BBC series Call the Midwife. While I previously covered Nurse Jenny's very classic and conservative wardrobe, this time I'm going to look at Nurse Trixie.

Trixie is the most outgoing of the four nurses. Fun-loving, flirty and sophisticated, she smokes Sobranies and loves dancing and dating. Compated to Nurse Jenny's classic, conservative wardrobe, Trixie's style is glamourous  and vampy. 


Trixie wears a lot of sweaters or finely knitted jumpers. The stretch knits allow her to show off her lovely figure, and teamed with tight pencil skirts they are quite sexy. I just love this scene of her singing to a wooden spoon in the kitchen!

This sweater-blouse is black with fine yellow stripes at the front, and a wide central stripe. It has a little collar, and I imagine it zips or buttons at the back. Trixie has paired it with a black pencil skirt and a velvet or suede belt with a brass buckle. In this view it looks like the belt is moss green, but I'm not sure if that's it's real colour or not. 

In this view you can see the way the stripes become v's at the shoulders. I think the sleeves and body are worked in one, and this is how they get the shoulder shaping. It's such a cute top.

In this close-up you can see her matching yellow earrings!

Although her wardrobe is more glamourous and sexy that Jenny's, Trixie never wears anything tacky or revealing. Her clothes are actually quite covered-up, for instance this lovely black sweater with the high neck and pretty openwork lace insert.

Paired with a long straight black skirt, the outfit is quite demure but the combination of black and her startlingly platinum hair is suggestive of a film noir femme fatale.

This shows another example of one of Trixie's sexy black sweaters, this time with a lace appliqued v-neck filled in with sheer black. I think she's wearing it with black pants in this scene. I like the combination of 

Another glamourous black sweater, seen briefly at the end of the season. This one has a zipper neckline with two balls or pompoms dangling from it, a wide collar and what looks like bead or rhinestone detailing on the front.

I love this sunray neckline jumper that Trixie is wearing here. You can see that it zips up the back which is how the neckline can be so high.

The colourway of black with white, caramel and two different blues is really effective and looks great.

And look what I found! Forties Style for You has a free download of this pattern which is for pretty much exactly the same jumper! You can even make a matching cardigan.

This is my favourite of Trixie's sweaters. The colour looks great with her blonde hair, and I love the flattering draped neckline.

Another green sweater, this time with a casual outfit of black pedal pushers and flat pointed shoes. The button detailing on the collar is a nice touch.


All the girls at Nonnatus House have dressing gowns for those late-night suppers around the kitchen table, Trixie's is cosy and flattering at the same time. Pale blue with a pattern of yellow and magenta roses and fern sprays, it has a contrasting black sash and interesting teardrop shapes piped on the wide shawl collar and on the hips (pockets?).

We catch a glimpse of Trixie's underwear when the girls strip off for an impromptu dip in the pool. Of course Trixie wears black underwear, the little minx! Here she has on a lovely black lace longline bra.

She pairs it with matching black knickers with lace side panels. I also like the lemon yellow bustier on the girl in the background.

Party Dress

Of course Trixie's "going out" dress is black too! I just love this dress which is extremely 50s with its three-quarter dolman sleeves, stand-up collar and full, pleated skirt.  It has covered buttons down the front and seems to be made out of a fabric which sparkles somehow.

You can see the "sparkly" quality of the fabric better in this screenshot. I wonder if it has a nylon thread woven into it to give it that shiny look. 

Look at the great handbag Trixie's got, so cute.

I had to get a shot of these beautiful shoes. Don't you love the pointed bit at the front?

Well that's it for Trixie's outfits, but I am borrowing the DVDs for season 2 from a friend so hopefully I'll be able to look at more of Jenny and Trixie's outfits soon.