1950s | Vintage Sewing

Don’t Let the Pattern Matching Get You Down…

By on May 22, 2017

I can’t say for certain that we have all been there, but I know I’m not the only seamstress to have had a definite plan and then once you actually take a hard look at the fabric you have to work with in more detail, you realize the plan is just not going to happen! Such was the case with this dress, as I had planned originally to cut everything with the print mirrored along the center front, but as soon as I laid the fabric out properly I understood that certainly was not going to work out.

The fabric I used to make this dress had some pretty serious downsides going for it. Firstly it was left over yardage from another project that had been languishing in my stash for years, so the piece I had left was an odd shape to start with. The other issue was more of a problem; though the print was hypothetically perfectly mirrored…it was actually off-set by about half a centimeter. I assume this fabric, being flocked (mimicking cut velvet) , was made by printing down a layer of glue in the areas where the black fibers would be, and then applying the flocking powder and then repeating this process along the center of the yardage, and when they did this it was obviously not perfectly lined up. So my original plan to cut this dress with the mirrored center of the print going down the center front of the dress had to be scrapped, for if I cut it like that it would appear as if I had done a very poor job of it since the fabric itself was off kilter.

It is in moments like these, when you have your pattern pieces strewn around you on the floor trying to figure out how to place and fit them on your fabric, that it is very easy to get too frustrated and give up before you have even truly started. I was tempted to scrap the idea of this project entirely, but instead took a deep breath and the time to look at other options. I decided, after much deliberation, to use the white space between the printed motifs to my advantage and cut the center front bodice pieces with their center in the white areas so when they were sewn together there wouldn’t be a jarring break in the pattern along the seam. Next I had to determine what to do with the skirt, and though I knew no matter what I couldn’t get the print to match along the side seams, to try and find an angle where the print would at least sort of flow. I ended up cutting the skirt pieces diagonally, but not perfectly on bias. As Tim Gunn would say, make it work!

Though this dress was a challenge to cut out, and looks different that I had originally planned, I am happy I persevered and still made it despite the puzzle like conundrum at the start.  Lessons learned, don’t get too attached to your original idea lest it not work out, and two- take your time and consider all the possible solutions when pattern matching. Such lessons came in handy recently when making another dress and matching stripes! If only fabric was always printed perfectly on grain and perfectly matched up, but such is not the world we live in.

I wore the finished dress on a recent trip to Paris and if you would like to see more photos, you can check out a full outfit post over on The Closet Historian.

Thanks for reading, and don’t let the pattern matching get you down! 🙂

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1950s | 1960s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Blue Jacquard 1950’s Dress

By on February 6, 2017

I imagine many people here on We Sew Retro are big fans of Gretchen Hirsche’s wonderful fabric designs for Fabric Traditions available at Joanns, and I have seen so many lovely things made from her fabrics around the community! I recently picked up a few yards of the blue jacquard from one of Gertie’s fall fabric collections in the red tag area of Joanns (always check out the red tag area, is it usually full of dated sad decorator fabrics? Well, yes. Are there occasional hidden gems? Also yes!). I decided the shining sapphire blue jacquard would make a perfect 1950’s style wiggle dress and got started right away!

It was really important for this dress to make sure the raw edges of each seam were finished in some way since I knew I didn’t want to bother with a lining. Also with most jacquards and brocades I like to finish the edges no matter what as they seem to looove to fray apart the moment they are cut! So the first thing I did after cutting out this dress was overlock all of the edges with my serger. The bodice is a simple “kimono” sleeve style which is super simple to make up (just 6 darts total and the side seams) as you don’t have to fiddle with setting in proper sleeves as they are cut into the design. I totally recommend this style of bodice for those who have trouble with sleeves! The neckline was finished with a self fabric facing that I tacked down with tiny thread tacks to help it stay smooth. With a center back zipper and hand sewn hem finished, it was ready to wear! Too bad I didn’t make this number in time for New Years Eve as it would make a perfect holiday party dress! Next year perhaps 🙂

For more photos visit the full outfit post over on The Closet Historian!

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1950s | Skirts | Vintage Sewing

Spider Web Taffeta Circle Skirt

By on October 31, 2016

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I really do try my best to buy natural fibers, I’m just not a fan of polyester or acetate, nor nylon or spandex. Then of course there comes along a fabric so fun or downright special that I have to break my own rules… like flocked velvet spider webs on black taffeta! It may not be silk, but this fabric was too great to pass up!

The pattern for a circle skirt is so simple to cut and sew together it’s no wonder the style remains popular among vintage reproduction sewers. The hardest part is the zipper, but then again perhaps zippers and I just don’t get along and other seamstresses don’t fear them the same way I do! The hems on these skirts sure do take ages to finish if you are doing them by hand though.I usually finish circle skirt hems with bias tape sewn on by machine then ironed under and stitched down by hand. It takes two and a half packages of pre-made bias tape to do such a hem, but it is so worth it in the end! No hassle, just time consuming!

 

 

 

 

 

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The skirt has a lot of natural body to it as the taffeta is quite stiff on its own, but of course I still wore it over a petticoat too for maximum flair. Another way to get this kind of body in a circle skirt with a less stiff fabric is to use horsehair braid in the hem, but I didn’t have to bother for this skirt. I have been putting twill tape in all of my waistbands though so they don’t stretch out on me after the first wearing. There is nothing more annoying than having a waistband suddenly grow a few inches out of nowhere as it isn’t a fun repair to make!

For more photos of this outfit visit me over on The Closet Historian. Happy Halloween everyone!

 

 

 

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1930s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Red Linen Wrap Dress

By on September 3, 2016

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Seeing as vintage can sometimes seem a little bit prim and higher maintenance, it can feel great to just toss on a wrap dress and be extra comfy. No petticoats or under structure, just a linen rayon blend and an adjustable waist tie!

I’ve made a 1930’s inspired wrap dress before, and I used the same pattern once again, a self drafted number cobbled together from my usual kimono sleeved dress bodice pattern and an A-line skirt pattern. I did change the sleeve shape just a bit to be a bit more square and actually kimono like, as I knew I wanted to take photos of the finished dress in a Japanese garden. The red linen/rayon blend is from Joanns, and they carry this same fabric in several colors in their linen section. I like the addition of rayon, it means the fabric wrinkles a bit less ferociously than a linen would on its own. This fabric also has a nice weight to it and holds a crisp edge well when ironed.

Here is a 1930s pattern image that shows a similar dress, though I think these 30’s numbers are meant to be more casual house dresses and I made mine more formal for wearing out and about.

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The most tedious thing about making this dress was making, ironing, and stitching on the self fabric bias binding along the edges. The dress is unlined, and has no facings, so the bias binding encloses all of the raw edges including the hem. I sewed the bias along the outer edge by machine (that was a lot of pins!) and then after folding it over to the backside stitched the entire length down with invisible hand stitches on the back. Time consuming indeed, but worth it in the end for a nice finish!

 

 

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I am so pleased with how the dress came together in the end and I already want to make another version in the black colorway of this same fabric! Perhaps that will be a project for next year 🙂 For more photos of this dress and my day at the Denver Botanical Gardens visit me over on The Closet Historian!

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1950s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

A Gaggle of Gingham

By on August 9, 2016

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Goodness it has been a while since I last posted some of my retro sewing over here! The summer offers so many distractions, and my sewing has been thoroughly distracted by my love for gingham textiles this year! I recently put the rest of my stash busting projects on hold to turn out not one but two new gingham frocks, of which this full skirted 50’s number is the first!

Having discovered the wonder of Malco Modes petticoats I knew I wanted another full circle skirted dress to wear with either my ivory or black petticoats. The dress pattern was self drafted, with the bodice in a kimono sleeve style with a v-neckline and the skirt as a full 27″ long circle skirt. The full circle skirts on 45″ wide fabric do eat up a bunch of yardage, but with lots of Joanns coupons they are still doable. I always hem mine with coordinating cotton bias tape, usually just the packaged kind you can get at Joanns, and it takes at least two packages (at 3 yards a package!) to go around the skirt hem! I actually hemmed two circle skirts in one day a while back for a total of over 12 feet of hem hand stitched that day!

I tend to make simpler designs since I draft most everything myself and haven’t branched out into more intricate styles just yet. Still, I wanted to fancy this dress up a little bit so I added crisp white cotton sleeve cuffs and trim at the neckline. To do so I simply cut strips of fabric on the bias and ironed it into self-made bias tape to edge the sleeves and neckline, easy but effective! 🙂

For more photos of this outfit, visit me over on my blog The Closet Historian!

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1940s | Dresses | Pattern Drafting | Vintage Sewing

Wrestling With Rayon

By on June 11, 2016

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Everyone loves a good LBD right? I recently began a quest to create one for each of the eras I wear the most often (20s-50’s) and found some amazing quality black rayon to use for a forties dress! The only problem was I had to fight the silky stuff to do my bidding! A lot of rayon seam binding was involved with the creation of this dress!

I took my usual bodice pattern and modified it so that the sweetheart neckline was higher so I could wear dress clips at the neckline. I also used a puffy sleeve pattern with 1/4 inch shoulder pads sicking out just over the shoulder line into the sleeve puff for a stronger structured 40’s shoulder. I think most late 30’s and 40’s dresses look just a little bit more vintage with shoulder pads inside, don’t fear the shoulder pad! The most time consuming part of making this dress was simply spent focusing on not screwing up at any point and binding all of the interior seams since rayon likes to fray. I am not the most patient so working on this dress over several weeks seemed like an eternity to me!

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Now that my new 40’s LBD is finished, I am so happy with how everything came together and I can’t wait to wear it again and again with different hats and accessories. For more photos of this dress visit me at The Closet Historian!

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1940s | Blouses | Shirts | Vintage Sewing

A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far Far Away…

By on May 8, 2016

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Hello everyone! Long time no post 🙂 I thought I’d pop over here to admire what everyone else has been working on, and to share one of my own recently finished projects. There was an awesome Star Wars themed event at the local aviation museum last weekend and I knew I wanted to combine my love of the 1940’s with the Star Wars theme. Enter some truly great black and gold cotton from Joanns and an idea was born!

I used my favorite (self drafted last spring) kimono sleeve basic blouse pattern and got to work. The blouse buttons up the back and is fitted almost like a dress bodice with 4 darts in the front and two in the back. The edges of the sleeves are simply serged and them turned over with a hand stitched hem and the neckline is finished with a self fabric facing. The blouse only took me half a day to complete, which was good as I made it the night before the event!

 

 

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For more photos from the event, check out the full outfit post over on The Closet Historian! Thanks for reading 🙂

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