Another Anniversary, Another Dress

By on August 30, 2012

My husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary last week, and I just whipped this little number up (I’ve always wanted to be able to say that!) to wear out on our first child free over-night out in two and a half years.

The pattern was frankensteined using a modern strapless sweetheart bodice and a skirt from a 60s dress pattern that was shortened significantly. Obviously, I wasn’t going for vintage authenticity this time, just trying to hang on to a bit of my fading youth….

It is a great fit and the fabric is really cool. I used two identical 40s (?) feed sacks I purchased at an antique mall in Maryland when I visited my mom back in March.

So, the fabric is definitely vintage, and cutting into 70 year old fabric is a bit nerve wracking. It’s always a fun learning process though. I first ironed  my clean fabric, and then carefully inspected it for stains and holes. There were several. I marked each with a bright purple disappearing ink pen, and then folded my fabric and made sure the grain was straight. I pinned the pieces to my pattern, avoiding the purple marks on the top layer as much as possible, and then I gently flipped the fabric to see where the marks were on the bottom layer before cutting. I was unable to avoid a few faint stains, but as I placed them in inconspicuous areas and was aided by the busy print of the fabric, I am glad to say they are not very noticeable.

The other fabric consideration I made was to fully underline all of the pieces using a good quality cotton muslin. As little coverage as this dress provided, I wasn’t going to take a risk with 70 year old fabric that might tear and reveal even more than I intended!

I also put spiral steel boning in the bodice, moved the zipper to the side seam, lined the bodice,  included a waist stay, and sewed the zipper and hem by hand. Of the waist stay and boning, I must say I don’t think I would have been comfortable in this dress without them. I am one of those gals who always thought I didn’t meet the requirements for holding up a strapless dress, if-ya-know-what-I-mean. Thankfully good engineering kept everything in place.

We had a great time, and I felt like a million bucks in a dress that was exactly what I wanted it to be, which is exactly why I sew.

More photos and info can be found on my blog, Farmhouse Garden.

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Melaina Buller Top- Sewing from Film Inspiration

By on May 19, 2012

Did anyone else love the movie Shag? My sisters and I used to watch it over and over when we were young teens. I have always loved the music, the dancing, and the clothing, which was all represented very well (the film is set in the 60s, but was released in ’89). Don’t put it on in expecting a great plot and well written dialogue, though.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I was browsing vintage sewing patterns, as I have been known to do every day for an hour, and I came across this summer top pattern that looks just like a top Melaina (Bridget Fonda) wears in the movie.

Courtesy of the Vintage Pattern Wiki
Image Vogue.com


Of course at first I wanted to buy the pattern- any excuse, you know? But then I got to thinking and realized I could make this without that pattern. My current vintage pattern collection is nothing to scoff at, and I knew I had to have something I could use as a foundation for this simple top. Enter Simplicity 6500, a simple, button back, darted bikini top.

Love that Vintage Pattern Wiki


Once I rustled up my pattern, I traced it out (I use soil separator paper for pattern tracing) leaving plenty of extra room to extend the bottom. The I estimated how much length I would need to add for the desired, midriff length and drew in the added length (about 3″). I extended the bottom darts and made the waist larger by adding fabric in at the side seams and making the waist darts smaller. Then I cut, using what little fabric I had left from this piece to make ruffles and bias tape.

 From there, it all came together without much ado, the hardest part being getting the ruffles pinned across the bodice evenly and distributed somewhat evenly. When I make the next version of this in check, I will draw guide lines before I stitch, pinning the darts shut first. And, I will remember to interface the button placket. You would think that I would remember this sort of thing by now. All in all, the wearable muslin is kinda cute though….


In order for this blouse to be 60s and something that I would be comfortable wearing, it has to go with appropriately high waisted shorts. These are the bottoms from the bathing suit I finished up a couple of weeks ago, and I have plans to make a few more pairs of shorts in varying lengths. What is that thing about “the best laid plans of mice and men” again?

I also need to make the neckline a little higher in front and more of a bateau shape. Still, overall I’m pleased. It wasn’t that long ago I wouldn’t have dreamed I could sew anything up without a real pattern. Heck, it wasn’t that long ago I couldn’t sew at all. Look at me now, ma! Top o’ tha worlddddddd……..

Also posted at my blog, Farmhouse Garden.

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1970s | Children

Toddler Tennis Dress and Sewing “in the Flat”

By on May 14, 2012

Yesterday for Mother’s Day, my sweetie pie husband gave me the day off. He cooked all of our meals and cleaned up too, and I was free to get some good sewing time in. I made a dress for the baby in a cute little retro print synthetic knit I found thrifting for a quarter.

For the second time now, I sewed an entire garment “in the flat.” Does anyone else do this? What the heck do I mean? Well, the instructions for the pattern I used, Butterick 5976, would have you sew the side, back and shoulder seams, then attach the collar and facing, insert the zipper next, and then ease in the sleeves and hem them (those tiny little sleeves!) before hemming the dress bottom.

Here is what I did:

  1. Serged the shoulder seams together and pressed them backward
  2. Eased in the sleeve cap and serged into place
  3. Serged sleeve hem and hemmed/stitched the opening of the sleeve while flat
  4. Sewed the collar as usual. Serged bottom of facing and attached facing and collar to dress
  5. Understitched facing and instead of tacking stitched facing to shoulder it in the ditch through the top of the shoulder seam
  6. Serged both sides of back seam separately then sewed to zipper bottom position. Inserted zipper, and hand slip-stitched facing edge at top of zipper
  7. Serged side seams and sleeve seams all at once. Pressed seams toward back. Alternately (to allow for small adjustments later) you could serge front and back individually and sew
  8. Serged hem and hemmed it

I don’t know if there is any reason not to sew this way, but I have been finding many aspects of construction easier when garments are sewn in the flat- especially kids stuff. Um, and zippers! If you are machine sewing a zipper, it is way, way easier to sew it flat without all of that extra fabric in the way. And why fuss to fold and hem a tiny sleeve when you can just sew it flat? Yes, this does make a seam that ends at the armscye, but isn’t that seam hidden by the child’s arm anyway?

 I’d really be interested to know if anyone else sews this way or has tried it, or if anyone knows of reasons why it might be a bad idea.

Another neat part about this project, for me, was that it was constructed mostly on my serger, which I have used a lot for finishing, but not construction. I imagine this method of sewing flat made the serger construction easier, as there were curves to sew but not circles.

 Now that I’ve rambled on, here are some pics of my little munchkin in her new dress.


Courtesy of the Vintage Pattern Wiki


She is wearing my shoes 🙂


It is great how she is so excited to wear a dress I have made her. Sometimes she comes to me with a shirt or scarf and says, “Mommy, I made this for you!” It won’t be long before we’ll have a little sweatshop going!

Also posted at my blog, Farmhouse Garden.

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1950s | Dresses

Have you seen this pattern?

By on April 16, 2012

I found this home sewn vintage dress in a thrift store recently, and I’d love to see the pattern it was made from if it looks familiar to any of you. I found this similar pattern on the wonderful Vintage Pattern Wiki, and it is close, but no cigar.

Simplicity 1077 ©1955

Here are a few pics of the dress.


It has a drop waist, a rolled collar, a full pleated skirt, set in sleeves, and a band at the waist with a tie to the left hip. I’m sure you can probably see all of that with your own eyes, but stare at it for a few minutes and it might just blur into a whole lotta plaid! If it looks misshapen, that’s probably because I had to pin it to my dress form, as it measures 32″ bust, 25″ waist, and 34″ hips, and I’m pretty sure I was born with larger measurements.

Any ideas? Your input is greatly appreciated!

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Vintage Sewing

Ketchup… Catsup…Catch Up

By on February 15, 2012

I have been playing catch up over at my blog, as I have been doing far more sewing, sewing related craft projects, and machine maintenance and rehab then blogging. I just posted up pics of 8 sewing projects I have (mostly) completed. These are without my usual 10 page paper relaying details of construction and such, because I wanted to get them all out there.

Here are a couple of pics.

Simplicity 6473 in 2011

Copyright 1980, it is only just as vintage as I am.
Some of my pics are pretty bad, but I could have posted this one….
Oh, wait, I just did.
I made these as well as a few garments from other vintage and modern patterns, and I at least said whether I liked or disliked the finished product.
I also bought ANOTHER vintage sewing machine-
 I bought it a couple of weeks ago, and although it needed a little tuning up when I received it, it now sews a perfect stitch. This was a fun project, and I learned so much- I even took apart and cleaned the motor! Girls rule!
Finally, to keep my faithful Kenmore from getting jealous, I gave her ugly old case a dream make over.
Don’t worry, no patterns were harmed in the making of this case. The tissue is mostly from an ugly modern vest pattern, and cover art is reprinted from the Vintage Pattern Wiki. I used a couple of stray pieces that I pulled out of vintage patterns during counting- an extra back neck facing piece here or there, but nothing usable.
There is a little more about all of these subjects on my blog, as well as a free vintage scalloped apron pattern pdf that I shared as part of Debi’s Sew Grateful Week. Seeing as all of your inspiration and Sew Retro are things I am grateful for, I thought I’d share it here too!
Thanks again all!

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Vintage Sewing


By on January 8, 2012

I found this sweet vintage fabric yesterday while thrifting and flea market hunting. I am always on the lookout for retro and vintage sewing patterns, notions, fabric, and, ahem, machines. I have gotten to the point where my stash cabinet doors and drawers won’t close, and I have two too many machines (let’s not even go there with patterns). But who could resist 3 yards of this Fun-Shus fabric for only $2?

Sorry the pic is so dark and crummy, but I took it at night.

I am guessing that this is a 50s or early 60s fabric. It is a 39 inch selvage, and the company Fun-Shus sold shoes from sometime in the 50s through the 70s, from what I could find online. Do any of you know more about this? Wait, let me rephrase that. I don’t know diddly about vintage fabric, but I’d like to learn. Can any of you enlighten me on the age of this fabric?

Wouldn’t it be great as part of a play suit?

The fabric was kind of smelly and had some slight discoloration, but it soaked it to get the smell out, and I’ll probably wash it gently in the machine before I use it.

In other fun sewing news, I also found a bunch of new-old patterns yesterday. Prepare yourselves for another terrible photo….

I know I don’t need them, and I won’t keep them all, but I just can’t leave them in some dusty old bin along with cat applique old lady sweatshirt patterns.  They might be thrown away if they don’t sell- I found one local thrift shop was using them for *horror* WRAPPING GLASSWARE! So, it’s not really hoarding, it’s more like Social Services for Vintage Sewing Patterns. Yeah, that’s right.

I hope you are all having wonderful vintage sewing adventures too, in your parts of the world (just make sure you don’t accidentally wander on my turf! I kid, I kid! )!

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Vintage Sewing

49er for 2012

By on January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!  I just finished up what is probably my favorite garment that I have made so far, a 49er style jacket, and I thought I’d share!

I have a vintage 49er, but it’s old, and sad, and moth eaten. So, I made a new one using this pattern.

Here is what I sewed up….


Thrifted wool blend- $2.00 for 1 1/2 yards 60″ wide

Thread from stash

Vintage mother of pearl buttons from Flea Market- $2.50?

Fusible interfacing- Barf!

This pattern was absolutely perfect- when I first received it, I compared the pieces to my real 49er, and I can say that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that someone at McCall’s had simply taken a 49er apart and used that as the pattern for this jacket. It is a near exact copy (there is a slight size difference in the pockets).

This was quite a project for me, as I have never sewed with plaid before, and I am just experienced enough to know that I need to try to match the plaid without really knowing how. So, I spent all of my free time for two or three days just prepping and cutting the fabric to the best of my ability. Overall, it came out pretty durn well, and I am really happy with how the side seams and sleeve seams match up.

I am also pretty pleased with the bodice front symmetry, and pocket and cuff symmetry that I somehow managed on this first go with plaid. Now that I’ve patted myself on the back a few times, the only place I wish I could have matched better is the front facings, as I forgot they would always be rolled out at the top. Well, I had only a yard and a half of this fabric in a 60″ width, so I had to make due. I really love this jacket, so I’m not going to (figuratively, yuk yuk) pick it apart, and I say that about the facings only as a reminder to help in the making of other 49er knock offs.

In a nutshell, my advice on working with plaids (now that I’ve done it a whole one time, y’all) is to take your time and cut them carefully, and if you have a limited amount of fabric, as I did, you will want to focus on matching the pieces in order of importance- the front bodice pieces first, next the back on the fold, then sleeves, pockets, etc.

From there, I followed the instructions closely (for the first time in a long time!) and hand basted EVERYTHING! I am learning that what seems like a lot of work actually saves time in the long run and obviously can lead to a more polished finished garment.


I’m glad to have a new, warm jacket- the weight on this is perfect for layering, and I’ll probably have it on under my heavy wool coat tomorrow-  it’s snowing right now!

More riveting ramblings on construction are at my blog, Farmhouse Garden.

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