I was recently offered a copy of the Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews Magazine for review and to share with you all and I couldn’t resist. The cover drew me in and the subject matter is so intriguing. I suppose there are people out there who haven’t heard of Downton Abbey…but I’m not quite sure how you could escape it. lol I’ll fully admit that I watched the first season but have only watched one episode from the second season. I definitely need to catch up. I think they are up to season four already!
But watching one season, heck watching one episode, was enough to grab my attention when it came to reading about costume design inspiration. So I was ready to dive into this magazine. And it did not disappoint. I interviewed Editor, Amber Eden about a few of my favorite pieces from the magazine and I hope you all enjoy it!
1. Amber, I so enjoyed this magazine and all of the lovely creations it in. I’ll be honest and say that one of my particular favorites is the cover image. It is effortlessly elegant! And the genius that it can be created in lace for an “Upstairs” look or cotton for a “downstairs” look makes the pattern so versatile. Given that it is an overlay, what type of pattern would you recommend for the dress underneath? And do you have any recommendations for where I might find a lace fabric or chiffon to use for the pattern? I live in small town America and it is difficult to locate delicate fabrics here.
For the dressier version, I would recommend a slip dress or short/cap sleeve sheath dress. For the cotton version, try it over jeans and a short sleeve T shirt or a solid color knit dress. I bought the cover fabric at Metro Textiles in New York City. Kashi is the owner and he is delightful and affordable and will send swatches.
2. Another stunning favorite of mine is the “Maid’s Day off Coat”. The luxurious velvet looks beautiful. I’m a bit intimidated to tackle a 3/4 length coat like this. What would you say is the level of this pattern, beginner, intermediate, advanced? And do you have any tips on putting this piece together?
For me, a coat is not any more difficult than a lined jacket–it’s just longer with heavier fabric. This coat is intermediate level, but I took on making a tweed trench coat when I was just returning to sewing, and it’s still one of my favorite pieces that I own. I always encourage beginners to reach beyond their comfort zone. For tips, I recommend interlining for warmth (that’s a lining that goes in between the fashion fabric and lining and is sewn to the fashion fabric to create on piece.) I also recommend fusing to give stability to the coat fabrics, and fusing the yardage rather than the individual pattern pieces. The end result will be nicer. And take time to learn how to steam and mold wool. With this technique, you can sculpt a lovely collar roll, for instance.
3. The details in this magazine are so beautiful. What was the most important kind of detail that you wanted to be sure was included in the shots of these pieces? The location? The jewelry? Hair and makeup? Or something else?
Location, hair and makeup and styling all compete for importance. But we have lots of experience with the latter two, and this was our first location shoot. So finding a place that was both affordable and gorgeous was our biggest challenge. I would say that we got very lucky. The location is a Long Island Gold Coast estate from the Gatsby whose grounds have become a great dog park where I regularly take my dogs. I just happened to ask if the parks department leased out the interior, and they did! For a song!
4. The luxury of the “upstairs” pieces is of course alluring, but there is no denying the sweet simplicity of the “downstairs” ones. I love the Maid’s nightdress in particular. I’m already thinking of scouting out some vintage lace for it from an antique store. What do you think makes this look so timelessly appealing?
The inspiration for this was based on historical sketches of the era, but it’s amazing how timeless the classic nightgown can be. With a bit of vintage lace, it captures another time and with a newer fabric, it looks completely modern. The nightgown’s basic shape has certainly remained popular through the decades and continues to be both alluring and practical.
5. As a quilter, I am particularly drawn to the table runner and Legacy Cot Quilt. These items are both inspired by decor of the time, but do we know the actual quilt patterns that would have been popular at the time of Downton Abbey? I imagine they would have been found in the Downstairs rooms, but would we have seen quilts in the Upstairs rooms?
These quilts are all modern interpretations and while there are certainly loads of historical quilt patterns from that time, the artists can have very loose interpretations. I know that with these two projects, they did a certain amount of research for inspiration. The Legacy Cot Quilt is created from the very popular Andover Downton Abbey fabric line. I visited Andover in New York City and learned how much research and work was put into researching the fabrics, so they are definitely historically accurate. Quilts were certainly valued for their warmth and beauty both upstairs and downstairs in a drafty manor.
Thank you Amber for that lovely interview!!