Kelina

I’m always cold in the Bay Area, so instead of wishing the weather to be warmer by wearing lightweight cotton dresses, I have decided to be more practical and start making things in flannel and wool. This dress is a wearable muslin I made from an inexpensive cotton flannel that I had in my fabric stash. After wearing it a few times, I am afraid to wash it since it already has several nicks where the thread has pulled through the other side. I wore it on a chilly night in San Francisco, and I was still cold even in a heavy parka. But cotton flannel is still heading in the right direction, so I think that the next few things I make will be flannel. This wearable muslin has served its purpose of being a practice garment for fitting, and I will certainly wear it again, if it does not disintegrate when I hand wash it.

McCall's 2481 vintage sewing pattern, front

Front, vintage McCall’s 2481 in cotton flannel.

There was a time when the majority of my dresses were A-line and modish, and I am thinking of making more of these. This dress has some of my favorite features: a scooped boat neck and A-line. It is one of the fastest things I have sewn recently, and the simplest pattern. What do you think? Maybe the sleeveless jumper with the cut-out in a solid color flannel, to be worn with a long sleeve high neck shirt under it?  Or two-toned color blocks made by the princess seams, the sides a darker color?

McCall's 2481 vintage sewing pattern

Vintage McCall’s 2481 sewing pattern from 1970.

The Fit

I would fit this dress slightly differently next time, and make it a little larger all around. I made the dress without any alterations to the pattern, since the standard body measurements were correct for me. I didn’t even bother to shorten the back waist length by the usual inch, since the fit looks so tubular. I did this partially since I have made several A-line dresses in the past and they turned out bell-shaped, gigantic and tent-like – see the photos of Style 3070, at the end of this post.

Actually, the fit is pretty good, and if I made McCall’s 2481 again, I would make it slightly bigger all around, especially in the hip and skirt by two or three inches. By adding just a few inches, I’d be careful to maintain the A-line, without going in to a flared skirt. I would also shorten the back waist length by an inch and a half. The center front seam contributes slightly to the bust shaping, which is a nice touch that is visible in the small plaid. When the darts come out of princess seams, it can be a hassle to alter, so I was relieved that they fit right exactly as the pattern had them. Another interesting feature is that when the dress is viewed from the front the skirt appears pretty straight up and down, but view it from the side and the fullness of the skirt is all in the back. I sometimes have to alter patterns for a sway back, but this pattern can easily accommodate a sway back, even as snug as this size is on me.

I’m thinking that my next version of this dress will be two-toned, in one way or another. I’m leaning towards dark blue and green.

McCall's 2481 vintage sewing pattern

Side, vintage McCall’s 2481 in cotton flannel. It was bright, and I’ll try not to squint next time.

Vintage McCall's 2481 sewing pattern, sewn in cotton flannel.

Back, vintage McCall’s 2481 in cotton flannel.

Style 3070

A while back, I made the A-line dress below. I’m showing it here as an example of how illustrations and standard body measurements are often horribly, horribly wrong. This is one of the patterns I mentioned above with sizing so far off that is more of a tent dress than an A-line dress.

Style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, 1970.

Style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, also from 1970.

The sizing runs large – there is at least 3 to 4 inches of ease beyond normal! This is not a slim cut dress. The illustration looks like a slim cut dress, but it is not. My bust measures three inches larger than standard body measurement for the size, and there is still plenty of ease in the bust. If my bust had been the actual measurement quoted for the size, presumably the dress would have been about six or seven inches too big in that area. My waist and hip are the exact measure of the size, but the dress is tent-like in these areas – easily four or five inches too big, if not more. The illustration looks like it has relaxed semi-cap sleeves, but the actual sleeves are certainly not cap sleeves at all, and they bunch up under the arms like t-shirt sleeves. It might not be obvious in the images, but this dress is huge. It could be a maternity dress.

style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, example of bad fit

Aarg! Bad fit and grading problems! Front view, Style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, from 1970.

I’m glad that I made it out of a cloth that I have no problem giving away. I altered it to fit me, wore it a few times, then took it back out to the original pattern sizing so that I could give it to someone who it would fit.

Since I had recently made several A-line dresses similarly oversized like this, I decided not to alter the McCall’s 2481 for the plaid flannel. The sizing looked about right on the standard body measurements and also when I measured the pattern pieces. And it was about right, so next time I’ll just make it slightly larger all around.

Sizing done wrong

Something must have gone wrong in the drafting of Style 3070, or some bad math involved in the pattern grading. Or maybe this pattern company always has this type of fit. For example, Burda sewing patterns are horrifically oversized and misshapen on me, even if the measurements are correct. In fact most contemporary sewing patterns have atrocious fit on me, and they are terrible, horrible nightmares to fix. The biggest problem is the wrong armscye fit, but there is also the too-big shoulders, arms, back and waist. And, hip too small. What is left? The bust measurement is correct, but the fit all wrong, bunching above and below the bust. I’m much better off with vintage patterns or drafting my own.

To see more that I have made, and for more opinion on pattern sizing and grading, please check out my blog, WesternSpinster.

Style 3070. It might not be obvious in these images, but this dress is huge. It could be a maternity dress, there is so much extra cloth in the front.

Back view, Style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, from 1970.

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McCall's 6121 front

My travel mug has a sweater that matches my dress. McCall's 6121, front.

For the holidays, I made a green and red dress. I picked up this wonderful festive green fabric while in Ghana, West Africa, and it has served me well for several projects. I started with a sloper from 1961, and I turned the tight round neckline into a boat neck with a slight scoop. I laid out the pattern pieces so that the medallion and the “V” would be in the front of the chest, the dark blue edging along the waist, and the other medallions strategically placed.

I have not decided if this dress is hideous, or it is so kitschy that it is totally fabulous. I like the nice cap sleeves and snug bodice of McCall’s 6121, so I have made this basic pattern with all sorts of alterations, such as different necklines, collars and cuffs, princess seams, or as a button-up shirtwaist dress, etc.

Technical

This pattern was a snap to put together. The darts make it easy to fit any shape. Since I am shortwaisted, I shortened the backwaist length by one inch. Next time I might shorten it by an inch and a half. I raised the bodice front dart by three-quarters of an inch. Then I raised the side front dart by half an inch, and at the same time re-angled it and shortened this dart length. If I had not raised and re-angled the side front dart, it would have intersected the bodice front dart.

McCall's 6121 vintage sewing pattern from 1961

McCall's 6121 vintage sewing pattern from 1961. Notice that I changed the neckline.

Also notice above, my travel mug has a sweater that matches my dress. I always match all of my accessories to my clothing (shoes, purse, and hat) so I absolutely cannot have my travel mug a glaring mismatch.

For more information on this and other projects, please visit WesternSpinster.com.  Happy New Year, may the coming year be filled with joy and laughter!

McCall's 6121 back

McCall's 6121, back.

McCall's 6121 side

McCall's 6121, side.

McCall's 6121 holiday dress

All I need to make this a true holiday dress is a Star of David on my head and some ornaments. McCall's 6121.

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Past Pattern 801 blue stripe dress by Kelina Lobo

Past Patterns #801, fan front bodice, 1844 – 1850s. – The skirt is big and fun, made with nine yards of cloth.

Retro way back to 1840 – 1860! A while back I made these two historically accurate reproductions of Victorian dresses. I used Saundra Ros Altman’s Past Patterns #702 and #801. Past Patterns’ tagline is “The Historical Pattern Company Dedicated to Accuracy” and it is true – Past Patterns always has excellent patterns with very informative and detailed construction notes and historic notes. I did not encounter any fitting issues with these two. None of these photos show these dresses with the correct accessories, so I really should go out and take some new photos.

-KL

You can find more information about Past Patterns below:

Past Patterns #801 – fan front bodice, 1844 – 1850s.   – According to Saundra Ros Altman’s Past Patterns, “This fan-front bodice and single skirt were fashionable between 1841 – 1847. It may also be worn as an 1850s gown because daguerreotypes abound of women wearing the fan-front bodice in the 1850s.”

Past Patterns #702 - 1850s – 1863 dart fitted bodice with full pagoda sleeves - According to Saundra Ros Altman’s Past Patterns, “…full pagoda sleeves [were] fashionable from the late 1850′s to 1863 …modified pagoda sleeves were popular from the late 1850′s though 1863.”

I have more sewing projects on my blog, WesternSpinster.

Past Pattern 801 dress sewn by Kelina Lobo

Past Patterns #801, fan front bodice, 1844 – 1850s. – Why did I have to hold my arms over the fan front? The fan front turned out well, but unfortunately you can’t see it in this photo. I know, I know, the hairstyle is not historically accurate 1844 – 1850s, and only vaguely late 1860s in silhouette.

Past Pattern 702 pagoda by Kelina Lobo

Past Patterns #702, 1850s – 1863 dart fitted bodice with full pagoda sleeves – This bodice is nicely and accurately fitted, showing off a lovely hourglass figure, especially when viewed from behind, and it has the characteristic dropped shoulder seams.

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Advance_8617_view_1_1958_vintage

View 1, Advance 8617, from 1958 – I made this dress first. It has gussets in the sleeves.

Here are two sheath dresses I made from a vintage 1958 pattern, Advance 8617. The yellow “tropical dress” has kimono sleeves and the fitting is more relaxed in general, and I think it is better for it. The blue dress has gussets in the sleeves and a more fitted bodice. The original 1958 pattern was much too big and I re-sized it to my size. My weight has shifted slightly since cutting the pattern, so the fit was longer perfect, a good learning experience for the next dress.  (Don’t wait 8 months between cutting and sewing!)  I ended up taking in the bodice side seams a little and lengthening the darts slightly.

Advance 8617_view3_1958_vintage_sewing_pattern

View 3, Advance 8617 from 1958 – my “tropical dress.” I made this dress second. The kimono sleeves give it a more relaxed fit. Notice that the waist falls in the right place in this version.

What I found in the test run with this pattern: This dress is best in a very lightweight cloth with good drape, especially silk, chiffon or rayon.  The pattern is more roomy than expected, leaving space to take it in or let it out later.

The inspiration was Joan’s dress from the accordion scene in Season 3, Episode 3 of Mad Men, see photo below.  But obviously I am not shaped like Joan, and few people are.

Tropical dress – I imagine myself wearing this dress lounging on a warm and breezy veranda sipping hibiscus cooler.  Since I’d be lounging, who needs a belt?!  So I set aside the belt hardware and I did not make the self-fabric belt.  But maybe I will make it later.  What do you think?

Blue dress – I like the shorter sleeves and the more fitted upper body, but the extra time to do the gussets was not really worth it.  Short cap sleeves or very short kimono sleeves might look just as nice and save a lot of time.

To see much more technical detail on alteration and fitting issues, please go to WesternSpinster.com

-Kelina

Advance 8617_view_3_1958_vintage_sewing_pattern

View 3, Advance 8617, from 1958 – my “tropical dress.” I made this dress second. The kimono sleeves give it a more relaxed fit. Nessa has the best expression in this photo! She looks skeptical.

Advance_8617_View_1_1958_vintage

View 1, Advance 8617, from 1958 – I made this dress first. It has gussets in the sleeves and a more fitted bodice. This blue cloth is a more retro look, but the yellow West African print was probably around in 1958.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joan_accordion_Season_3_Episode_3_Mad_Men.

Joan’s accordion scene in Season 3, Episode 3 of Mad Men.

Advance_8617_vintage_sewing_pattern_from_1958.

Advance 8617 vintage sewing pattern from 1958. The very stylized illustration make it look like Joan's dress, but the actual dress is a bit different. Also notice that the sleeves in this illustration look much shorter than in the complete dresses. I did not change the sleeves for these dresses.

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