Twist on a farm dress

by laurien on November 10, 2013 · 7 comments

in Vintage Sewing

There are times when you can already see a finished dress before you even start; you know the fabric, pattern, and the way it will fit. What details you’ll add, how you will look in it. This dress started out this way–I had this marvelous 30′s inspired cotton and waited until I found the right pattern to join it–the pattern I had envisioned for years. AS soon as I pinned it together, however, I was immediately disappointed. While the dress somewhat resembled the pattern illustration, it lacked the girlishness and the feminine qualities that drew me to it in the first place. Instead, it looked like an average farm dress, and I felt my heart break. One of my friends even went as far as to say that it was something Grandma Walton would wear. So the the challenge for me was how to bring it back from a dress I hated to one that I would probably (hopefully) wear. I really wanted to save it.

So I added the velvet trim around the collar, which shaped I revised into a curved, flirty one instead of the block triangle shape it was, and I liked the definition it gave the collar, and rescued it from getting lost in the fabric pattern. Ditto on the sleeve cuffs and the pockets, which I drafted separately, inspired by some Morrocan tiles I had just seen. The original hem was dreadful, and I took a cue from one of my favorite designers to give it a wide, sweeping scallop. That got trimmed, too. Yep, I may have gone a little trim crazy, but overall, I like the dress much better than the terrible disappointment it once was. Although I still have the original version of the dress I wanted in my head, and will try to find more of this fabric.


1956 pattern

by laurien on October 6, 2013 · 15 comments

in Vintage Sewing

Finally finished this dress in Amy Butler Nigella sateen cotton. It’s a great weight for this pattern and for a fall dress. My first shot at pockets– they needed some adjusting and tacking here and there, but overall, I faced my fear and I will be happy to tackle them again.

Pocket detail

The buttons are vintage jet, faceted and I had just enough.


I made this dress for the wedding of friends recently–it’s from a 1956 Butterick pattern. I adjusted the yoke on the waist–the somewhat scalloped, swinging drape look wasn’t exactly what I wanted, so I just straightened it out. The fabric is a light blue silk dupioni that’s been washed and air dried–it created wonderful texture if you just leave it alone and don’t steam or iron it. The sheen stays, but it’s sort of puckery and looks very 19th century to me. I also added two panels on the skirt for a fuller look, and then ruched and sewed up the hem to give it a swag look on the bottom and on the sleeves. I had a great, really old piece of chantilly lace hanging around, and I tried it inside the neckline, so it stayed. The dress looks rather Miss Havesham-my now, and all I need is a rotten wedding cake, a spiderweb cape and lots of clocks. I’ll be all set!!

Neckline and antique lace



1936 pattern

by laurien on July 13, 2013 · 10 comments

in Vintage Sewing

I thought I’d be able to whip this dress out in a couple of days. I’m a bad estimator. From a mail-order pattern from 1936 (maybe Marian Martin, but probably Farm Bureau), the instructions were vague and I figured most of it out on my own. Fabric is cotton voile, very light for summer, with a nice 1930′s pattern ( a little Deco, but….); collar is antique charmeuse silk from a WWII wedding gown I had a scrap of. The major stains on that fabric are on the underside of collars and cuffs. I was able to score the Bakelite belt buckle from a flea market vendor in NYC. Unsure about the flower–if I should go frilly with the old lace inserted or just plain. Fits well, little adjustments here and there, the pattern size is a bit too big for me. MYy dummy loves wearing this dress. Everything looks better on her!