1960s | Dresses

Grapesicle Dress

By on May 12, 2013

So there I was minding my own business when I thought, “Hey! That bright purple stretch cotton shirting in my stash would make a GREAT wiggle dress!”

Of course I had to do it. The Sewing Gods must be obeyed.

I combined two patterns in my stash – I put the bodice from 5808 (dated 1960) on top of the skirt from 5507 (dated 1961). This was a great instant gratification project – about $15 in supplies and a day and a half of labor. Even better, it allowed me to check off one of my resolutions as I’ve been meaning to make a wiggle dress for ages! Of course, what happens when don’t make a muslin is that you discover that the bateau neckline is about an inch too wide on either side… after it’s been faced and understitched. (This is at least the third bateau neckline I’ve had problems with, maybe someday I’ll learn!) Rather than undo all that hard work, I took a couple of pleats on either side of the neckline to rein in the extra material. They coordinate with the double pleats in the skirt so I’m calling it a design element.

The purple color is really hard to photograph – it’s a bit grape-ier in real life. And I am hard to photograph too!

All in all, I’m really glad I made this dress for myself. For one, it was really nice to have a new dress for Mother’s Day! For another, I’m gradually getting over my fear of my giant hips. I was really surprised to learn that I don’t look like Barney the Purple Dinosaur in such a form-fitting dress. Actually, while I used a material with a wee bit of stretch, I didn’t really need to – there is plenty of ease in the hips. Once I get the neckline issues worked out, I actually have some vintage brocade that would make a SMASHING wiggle dress!

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1940s | 1970s | Blouses

Seventies-Does-Forties Blouses!

By on January 9, 2013

After my resolution post yesterday, several of you pointed out that separates might allow me to fit more vintage sewing into my decidedly non-vintage lifestyle. An idea so genius it’s no wonder I didn’t think of it myself. So I hauled out some fabric originally earmarked for dresses (dresses that weren’t going to get sewn or worn any time soon) and whipped up a couple of blouses. I used my go-to blouse pattern, Simplicity 7896 from 1977:

Simply by cutting the collar piece down, View 1 can work for just about any era. (I love the tie-collar version as well, it’s very ModCloth.) I realized after I made them that I should have cut the sleeve caps a bit higher, for a more Forties look, I’ll have to remember that for next time. (And the wide sleeve cuff would have been a no-no during the age of fabric rationing but it’s my favorite kind of sleeve so I kept it in.) This pattern is SO EASY to put together – I made one blouse yesterday and the other one today.

Blouse #1 with Windham ‘Feedsack’ fabric (you can have my novelty quilting prints when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands)


And Blouse #2 made from Kaufman ‘Betty Dear.’

I’ve got enough yardage left over that if I REALLY regret not making dresses, I should be able to make a skirt for a two-piece dress effect. In the meantime, these look GREAT with my thrift-store Forties-style denim trousers!

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Vintage Sewing

Sewing Resolutions 2013

By on January 8, 2013

The only kind of New Year’s resolutions I make are sewing resolutions, because those are the only ones worth keeping.  I’m not talking about grand sweeping statements like “I’m not going to buy any more fabric” or “No more vintage patterns! I mean it!” because those are utterly silly and will be broken by the third week of January anyway. But I have some goals that I think will help me grow and stretch in the coming year.

1. Actually wear my vintage dresses sometimes. I have this amazing me-made wardrobe (and about fifteen pairs of wonderful shoes) and yet all I ever wear are jeans, T shirts, and the same ratty sneakers I’ve owned since 2008. My dresses only get to come out and play for church on Sundays, and that’s 3 hours out of 168. Can you ladies give me some pointers on integrating my vintage wardrobe into my everyday life?

2. (Not really a sewing resolution but) Acquire some really nice crinoline petticoats to replace this cheap scratchy made-in-China thing I’ve been wearing. I’m drooling over Malco Modes, which come in a rainbow of delicious colors and several different lengths.

3. Use something beyond quilting-weight novelty cottons. Yes, I love me a good novelty print as you may have noticed. But my stash also includes: red lightweight wool suiting; red faille with a vintage-Hawaiian-postcard print; 100% linen ($2/yard on clearance) with a wonderful 50s-inspired barkcloth print; some actual vintage fabrics in pristine condition, and probably other thhigs I’ve forgotten. And speaking of which:

4. Make something out of silk. I actually have not one, but two lengths of gorgeous silk dupioni (one lipstick red and one shocking pink) that I’ve been stashing for ‘someday.’ But I don’t think ‘someday’ is going to come if I sit around and wait for it – time to grab the bull by the horns, so to speak. The corollary to this resolution: Get my husband to take me somewhere where I can wear a silk vintage gown.

5. Sew this pattern:

It was a gift from my mother, and a more perfect dress for Joni you couldn’t hope to find, but I am having a dickens of a time finding the right fabric. I had a cotton/linen blend at one point but it wasn’t right so I sent it back (bless you Fabric.com and your generous return policy). I usually use Kona for this sort of thing but I don’t know. Maybe a nice sateen? And what color?

6. Be mindful in adding vintage patterns to my stash. I own enough patterns at this point that I’ve got all the basics covered… no, I do NOT need yet another early-Sixties shirtwaist pattern! Anything new that I bring home needs to have a new and interesting design element, like an asymmetrical pocket flap or a portrait collar or bows. Note: Any pattern  under $5 is exempt from this ruling.

7. (Probably the most difficult one of all) Stop being afraid of my figure. Have you noticed that most things I sew for myself are full-skirted shirtwaists? There’s a reason for that, and that reason is my giant hips. 🙁 But Christina Hendricks is hippy too, and she looks AMAZING in all those fitted dresses they put her in on Mad Men. It probably wouldn’t kill me to don a wiggle dress or a pencil skirt once in a while – I think my husband actually like it a lot!

Fellow sewists, what are your Sewing Resolutions 2013?

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1960s | Dresses | Kids

One for you and one for me!

By on December 31, 2012

Hello all! I’ve got two projects to share with you. One was a last minute Christmas gift for my 4 year old cutie. I made both dresses – girl and doll – in a single day, it was right before the kids got out for Christmas break so I had to hustle! The girl dress is a vintage Simplicity, probably from the early 1960s, and I used a modern reprint for Bitty Baby’s matching frock. Fabric is Lecien ‘Flower Sugar,’ one of my all time favorites.

Both dresses came together really fast, and for once, my evil buttonholer made 4 good buttonholes in a row without skipping or jamming! It’s a Christmas miracle!

It’s hard to get a 4-year-old to hold still to get a decent picture, but here she is on Christmas morning!

Once I was done with all my Sewing For Others, I decided to make something for myself. (Gasp!) One of the best ways to ease the post-Christmas letdown is with a novelty print shirtwaist.

I was trying out a new pattern – Simplicity 5745 from 1964 – and while it came together nicely, it was huge in the bodice. Maybe I really am a B36 and not a B38… that would be nice. Still, it’s a fun dress and pairs nicely with a crinoline and pearls.

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1960s | Dresses

Liberty Shirtwaist

By on October 6, 2012

Have you heard about the Liberty of London Lifestyle line? Liberty prints on quilting-weight cotton at a more affordable price? I was all over that as soon as I found a shop that had them in stock. I got 4.5 yards in the teal/mustard/fuschia colorway and  they are DIVINE. I couldn’t let these glorious prints sit in my stash; I had to make something right away.

I’ve used Simplicity 3580 before when I made my New Year’s dress and I like it but I don’t love it. I am still on the hunt for the Perfect Shirtwaist Pattern (I have a bit of a shirtwaist fixation) which has everything that I want. I re-drafted the collar on this one since I couldn’t get it to lay right on the previous version. However, I had forgotten that the shoulder seams also don’t match up right. Oh well. Even with adding pockets in the skirt seams and hand-hemming, this dress only took a couple of afternoons to knock out.

Here, have a low-quality cell phone bathroom mirror shot!

All blurriness aside, I LOVE THIS DRESS. I can’t believe I have reached a point in my sewing ability where I can cut into Liberty fabric (that was only $14/yard but still) without having a complete nervous breakdown. I can’t wait to wear this dress EVERYWHERE.

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1950s | Children | Dresses

Salvaged dress completed!

By on September 13, 2012

The mouse disease dress is completed! I suppose I should have shown you the pattern on my previous post, so you’d know why it was so important to me to salvage it.

Cute, isn’t it? The material is actually a vintage bed sheet from a thrift store – I love sewing with bed sheets, especially poly-cotton percale because it makes a dress you rarely have to iron! This one had a muslin-type weave, which makes for an interesting texture. I actually salvaged all of the bits I used for this dress – lining material cut from a length of muslin I used to use as photo backdrops, and vintage buttons from another dress of mine that sadly got irreversibly stained.

I let Betsy choose the style she wanted – she chose no collar, no waist sash, and a bow at the neckline. Since I dispensed with the collar I decided to line the bodice instead of facing – I’d have sleeve facings to contend with as well as the neckline, and kimono sleeve facings never lay right in my experience (unless you tack them down by hand – who wants to do that?) Lining it was incredibly quick and easy – I’ll always do it that way in the future.

I think B. was right on with her embellishment choices. It looks similar to the one on the pattern envelope, but it’s a bit less twee and a bit more sophisticated – not that there’s anything wrong with dainty little collars, but she’s nine-and-a-half and wants to look mature! As it is, this looks like something I’d make for myself, if maybe in a different print.

She’s even got the ‘vintage-pattern-haughty-lady pose’ down pat – the girl just needs an invisible chair or something to lean on. 😉 I am so proud!

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Vintage Sewing

Things That Are Gross, Volume One.

By on September 12, 2012

On a whim, I decided my daughter needed another dress, and by amazing coincidence I like to make dresses! Who knew? I had a perfect pattern from a huge eBay lot, and while all the pieces were present, when I opened them up I found that…

SOMETHING had been nibbling on the pattern tissue! Gross!

I have three questions for you:

1) Is it weird that I am totally using the pattern anyway? (I patched over the holes with some fusible interfacing.)

2) Am I going to get some weird mouse disease, or what?

3) What is the grossest thing YOU have come across while hunting down, using, and generally loving on vintage patterns? I can’t possibly be the only one!

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