Advance 6993: A Wearable Muslin

By on March 11, 2013

I have been wanting to at least try to make Advance 6993 ever since I picked up the pattern at a local antiques mall.  However, the pattern calls for something like 6 and 1/8 yards of fabric for the simpler version, which had rather put me off from making it.  But… Joann’s had a sale on their cheapest cotton ($2.49 a yard!), so I of course jumped at the chance to make a “muslin” of the dress pattern to test it out!

 (Dress pattern plus chosen fabric– my choices were limited by needing more than 6 yards of it!)

(The pattern had two newspaper clippings tucked inside when I bought it… obviously the previous owner had clipped a few inspirational ideas!)

(And here are the pieces, so you can see what I was getting into.  There is a lot of skirt.)

The main thing I was struck by as I cut out my pieces was just how much skirt there is for this pattern.  It’s about one and a half circles when it’s all put together, and it’s expansive.  I was very happy that this pattern included pieces for all the facings, and they were relatively easy to put together.  Many a time I’ve started sewing a vintage pattern and come to instructions that tell me to face an armhole opening with a bias strip that I was never instructed to cut!

So, how did it turn out?  Well…

I LOVE it.  The fit is insanely flattering, and the skirt is HUGE and twirly.   I actually ended up cutting off 8 inches of skirt before I hemmed it, because it was just too long for a cotton day dress.  I probably could have left it an inch or two longer, to compensate for the fullness.

Two twirl pictures to get a sense of the scale and movement of the skirt.  It’s REALLY fluffy.  I’m wearing one full petticoat and one light petticoat here, but really it can easily accommodate two full petticoats without much trouble.  I ended up putting in a very narrow twice-folded hem instead of the deeper hem the pattern suggests because I didn’t really relish the idea of trying to press out the fullness of one and a half circles.  No thank you!

I made a few small alterations to the fit, as well:  I ended up taking in the side seams by about an extra half-inch, and I sewed the armholes closed higher than the pattern showed, as there was quite a bit of bra visible from the side when I first tried it on!  I also ended up taking in the top back (rather inelegantly) by tapering the piece towards the top of the zipper, it was gapeing badly at first and falling off my shoulders a bit as a result.

Next time I make this, I’m going to graft on some sleeves from one of the other Advance patterns I’ve sewn.  I think I’ll also leave the skirt an inch or two longer.  Oh, and I’ll remember to start pinning the zipper from the TOP of the opening, so I’m not closing the top inch with hooks & eyes.

I will need to make another one, and probably soon… I don’t think it’s considered good form to wear the same dress four days in a row!

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1950s | Skirts

Butterick 7720: A Skirt too Small

By on October 24, 2012

Hello again!  As you may or may not remember, I found this pattern a while ago devoid of instructions, and wonderful We Sew Retro community member Twisted Poppy came to my rescue with the pattern for a very similar skirt.  So, I forged ahead.

I was using a lime green wool remnant I’d picked up for free somewhere.  I believe I have several skiens of matching yarn lying around at home (yes, really) that I suppose was intended to make an outer shell or a matching sweater.  Anyway, laying out the skirt took all the fabric I had.  It was good that I wanted to shorten it a little , as I was having some trouble getting everything to fit without doing so!  I was using the novelty-print 50s skirt in the back as my length reference.  I made up a good bit of the construction, attempting to follow the order given on the pattern pieces.  I also improvised my interfacings–I ended up using interfacing for the waistband, button tab, and pocket welt.  I tried a few different buttons on the decorative tab, but ended up going for a fabric covered one to match the skirt fabric.

Totally cute, right? (the white balance is a bit off, it’s really a little yellower than this)   I even managed to successfully create a kick pleat:

And I used some old hem tape I got from my grandma’s sewing room for the bottom hem, another first for me.

Still have to get the hang of finishing edges cleanly.  But I LOVE the little pop of black contrast!  But, as I am sure you have noticed, there is a problem with this skirt.  The pattern envelope says “Waist 24″… and this girl here, she does not have a 24” waist.

That’s about as far as it will go!  And unfortunately, the vintage zip I’m using isn’t quite the right color.  So, what to do?  I’m currently in the process of losing some weight, so maybe it’ll fit properly by springtime.   On the other hand, I could also try to find a fabric I liked that went well enough, unpick the side seams, take off the waistband, and insert two slim fabric panels on the sides.  Or I suppose I could give it to a tiny woman who likes lime green.  I’m leaning towards option 1, keep working on the weight loss and hope to shrink into it!  In the meantime, I might grade the pattern up just a smidge and make myself another one.

Edited to add:  I am working on losing weight, for myself, because I want to be healthier and would really like to have less fat on my lower belly, rear, and thighs.  It is an ongoing project, I’m not just starting it because this skirt is too small.  It is also not up for debate.  I understand the desire to make supportive comments, but in this case, “don’t lose weight!” is not a supportive comment.   Thank you for understanding.

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1950s | Applique | Embroidery | Skirts

Mad Tea Party Skirt, planning part one

By on October 17, 2012

Hello hello!

I have An Idea for a circle skirt, which is probably terribly misguided, but I’m going to do it anyway, which is why I am asking the lovely WeSewRetro community for guidance.


Joann Fabrics has the most adorable teapot-print novelty fabric, which I’ve been dying to make a skirt out of.  Unfortunately, the teapots seem too directional and busy to make anything but a dirndl out of, and I’d rather have a circle skirt.  SO, I formulated a plan.  I ironed some Heat n Bond Lite iron-on adhesive to the back of some teapot fabric and cut out about 50 little teapots.  I plan to make a black cotton circle skirt (the patterned one above is just for proof of concept, not the eventual home of the teapots) and applique the teapots to it.  I’m thinking I can do this by ironing all the teapots on for placement and then going around each one with a narrow zig-zag.  Is there anyone with applique-ing experience who has a better idea?

Also, I have a general question… the teapots have three background colors: bright red, medium red, and burgundy.  Should I applique them all with the same color thread, or should I pick up three colors and match the thread with the teapot?

Thanks so much for your help!



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1950s | Dresses | Pattern Sizing | Vintage Sewing

Advance 5971, a “wearable muslin”!

By on September 20, 2012

Hello again!  I finally have pictures of the Advance dress that I was complaining about so bitterly a few months ago.  Here’s the pattern envelope again:

And here’s my version!

Since the pattern I have is (nominally) a little too small for me, I wanted to do a muslin first.  On the other hand, if it happened to fit, I wanted to be able to wear it.  So, I made up the bodice out of leftover fabric from one of my first circle skirts and added a little length to the lower edge of everything so that if it ended up being the right size-ish, I could just tuck it in to the waistband of the skirt and pretend it was a dress.

As it turns out, the bodice DOES fit, which is a bit surprising since it lists the bust measurement as 29″ on the envelope!  Either a gremlin switched out pattern pieces or this pattern has a heck of a lot of ease.  Of course, I’m not big-busted by any stretch of the imagination, but with a gently-padded bullet bra, my measurements come in a lot closer to 34″ or 35″, and this top wasn’t THAT snug.

I ended up extending the zipper placket all the way up to the bottom corner of the underarm gusset, as I felt like the snugness of the top made it a bit difficult to put on.  Once it’s zipped, it’s just fine… but wiggling into it is a trick.  It does pull a little across the bust/upper back, but I’m pretty happy with it anyway.  Speaking of gussets…

I think I managed some pretty successful First Gussets Ever.  I really love how much more range of motion they give… I will be on the lookout for more gusset-sleeved patterns in the future.

General sum-up?  I really love the finished result, even though I hated some parts of the construction process.  I’ll definitely wear it again, and I might even consider making a full dress with this pattern… although it may need a few small sizing tweaks.  I’ve got a few more (less over-exposed) pictures of it styled on my blog here, as well.



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1950s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Butterick 7139: “Quick & Easy” Morning Coat

By on August 19, 2012

Hello, hello!   I’m about to start making a second version of Butterick 7139, but I figured that I should start by showing you my first version:

(I don’t really write about sewing on my own blog, so these pictures are extracted from my various other posts)

I picked up the pattern for Butterick 7139 at my local antiques mall, and I think it’s an ideal housedress for summer and travel.  In its natural, unbelted state Butterick 7139 is a muumuu, which makes for lovely pajama wear:

But with the addition of a belt it becomes quite a presentable dress for errands, unexpected guests, and unreasonably early morning trips to the airport.

This is one of those unreasonably pesky patterns that has you use every last scrap of fabric while cutting out your pattern pieces and then asks you for bias facings for the armhole openings.  My bias strips were not quite bias-y enough, and have a tendency to try to flip outwards… I’m tacking them down now so they won’t do that anymore, and I plan on drafting properly shaped facings for my next version.  I also shortened my first draft considerably… too much, actually.   I would prefer it between 2 and 6 inches longer… so perhaps the original length wasn’t so far off!  I did find that the neck opening on the pattern was too small for me.  I just opted to leave off the top button and buttonhole, and let the collar fall open naturally.  I might add those back in on my next version, but I doubt I will actually be able to button it!

Here’s the pattern envelope and the fabric I got (at $2.50 a yard! yay!) for the next version.  I’m planning on leaving off the pockets still (I’m not too taken with them) and I think I’l going to just do the capped sleeve version again, but I’m not entirely sure… what do you think of the puffed sleeves?  Likely to look weird?  The drawing on the envelope isn’t much help there.  Also, what would you do for buttons with this fabric?   I’m going to take the finished garment to the fabric store to look at buttons again, I guess, since I wasn’t really sold on anything when I bought the fabric.  Any other helpful hints or advice before I dive into the Morning Coat, v.2?

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1950s | Skirts

Wanted: Butterick 7720 Instructions

By on July 28, 2012



Hello!  Thanks so much for the help with my last pattern… I’ve gotten the bodice entirely muslined, and I have pictures to post, but a query on my current project right now.

I picked up Butterick 7720, a simple 50s pencil skirt pattern, for $4 at a local antiques mall.  I just happen to have a chunk of green wool that I think will make a perfect pencil skirt.

However, there is a small problem…  The pattern’s previous owner seems to have accidentally swapped the instructions out for the instructions of Simplicity 2698, which is not exactly helpful.


The only part that seems likely to give me much trouble is the pocket, which apparently occupies a chunk of the skirt.

I could probably work it out on my own, but I was wondering if anyone had made Butterick 7720 or a similarly constructed skirt and could shed some light on the pocket insertion.

Thanks very much!


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1950s | Dresses | Pattern Drafting | Pattern Sizing | Shirts | Vintage Sewing

Advance 5971, pattern woes edition

By on July 14, 2012


Hello again!  Thank you all for the very warm welcome.   I’ve been working on a bit of a “wearable muslin” for the bodice of a dress pattern I picked up a while ago.  I’m using up remnants from one of my circle skirts, and if the bodice turns out properly I plan on adding some ballet loops so I can stick the two pieces together and wear them as a dress.

So.  I have a question.  Have you ever been sewing along and looked at your pattern and realized the pattern writers must have gone out to lunch and left a team of monkeys to finish writing the pattern?  Because this has been my experience with Advance 5971.

Here is the pattern envelope illustration.  To be honest, I have a couple problems with it.  First, and perhaps more importantly, it seems to think it is a pattern for a person with a 29 inch bust.  The illustration does not come anywhere close to depicting the amount of ease in this pattern!  I was sure I’d have to make some creative adjustments to size it up, but first I compared the bodice pieces to the bodice pieces for a 34 bust 60s sundress pattern I’d made earlier.  To my great surprise, they were very nearly the same size!  The pieces for the smaller pattern were a smidge smaller, but so were the seam allowances, so I forged ahead.  I DID skim the instructions ahead of time, but apparently not in enough detail, and for whatever reason the pattern images of the collar did not quite click…

Um.  Look at Step 9 for me, if you would.  Step 7, too, I suppose… although that I was able to figure out eventually by ripping out the seam I’d sewn until I got it back to where I was supposed to have stopped.  Because, you see, from the pattern picture I had not figured out that at this point the pattern (written by the aforementioned monkeys) would have me do some impressive sewing origami to end up with A ONE-PIECE COLLAR.

Pardon the lack of finishing inside, I’m sure I’ve committed a minor sewing crime.  It’s evident that my corner turns are less than entirely smooth… but everything seems to have worked out okay in the end.  However, I’m not really sure that the amount of swearing is worth actually making the entire dress ever.  Also, I can’t work out why the monkeys (who may have gotten into the pattern drafters’ liquor cabinet) would have you sew the center front seam of the bodice BEFORE doing all of the fiddly neckline work!  I think this pattern would be much easier if you waited to sew the center front seam until AFTER you’d assembled the collar.

I’m also a little skeptical of this sleeve finishing… I think there ought to be a better way to do it.  For now, though, I’m just following the pattern… which has you attaching the cuff to the outside of the sleeve and then sewing a layer of bias facing over it, turning the facing to the inside, and slip stitching it down.  It makes for a very bulky cuff edge.

Do any of you have advice or suggestions for dealing with this pattern?  Is anyone else planning on sewing Advance 5971?  Or just inebriated monkey pattern stories?  I’m going to add a strip of fabric to the bottom to cover the raw edges, put in a zipper, and stick the ballet loops on, and we’ll see how the whole thing looks.


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