1940s | Dresses | Made from Curtains

Bright red violets

By on July 19, 2012
Vintage floral print cotton fabric with bright red, lemon yellow and pale blue violets on a dark blue background.
Vintage floral print cotton fabric with bright red, lemon yellow and pale blue violets on a dark blue background.
Vintage floral print cotton fabric, vintage glass buttons and cotton sateen for interfacing.

Far too long since I posted here. Sorry about that. Anyway; I’ve had this vintage floral cotton lying around for many years, 4 x 0,75 m all in all, and now I’m turning it into a dress. I have no idea how old the fabric is, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cotton woven this narrow. Probably pretty old? I got it from a friend who got it from her mother. Its last incarnation was as a curtain, but I think this fabric has been through more than that – when I unpicked the seams I also unpicked a lot of handmade knots and loose stitches in a fairly thick silk thread with tiny bits of cotton wool or wadding of some sort attached to them from the body of the fabric, and it has some wear and tear that simply hanging in front of a window can’t quite account for. A pillow, upholstery? Seems weird for such a thin, flimsy fabric, but who knows?

Skirt of the dress half finished, with interfacing and basting showing.
Dress skirt half finished.

I like it, bright colours and all, and I also have eight vintage lemon yellow glass buttons with butterflies on them, as well as a lipstick that perfectly matches the red violets in the fabric – MAC Lady Danger! – and who doesn’t need more floral cotton summer dresses? So I got hold of a piece of reasonably matchy blue cotton sateen to flatline it with – it’s worn and a bit fragile, so it really needs lining for strength and stability – and drafted a pattern for a vaguely late 30’s-early 40’s-inspired, front-buttoned dress with a simple shawl collar in one piece with the bodice, slightly gathered bust (the lining has darts instead) and puffed sleeves. The print feels appropriate for that period; it’s too fussy and old-fashioned for a 50’s kind of dress, and I’ve been making simple shirtwaist cotton dresses with shirt collars like nobody’s business the last couple of years, so I need something else.

Next project lined up: in theory, I should make a practical, sturdy pair of knickerbockers, in practice I will probably end up making another fictive uniform for the Pride parade – if there is time. I’m beginning to doubt it.

Dress bodice cut, basted, darted and gathered.
Bodice front and back, before I added the collar facing.

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Made from Curtains | Vintage Sewing

Portobello Curtains Blouse

By on May 8, 2012

Good afternoon.  Just wanted to stop by and show off my new blouse made from a pair of vintage curtains.  I bought the curtains from Portobello Road Market in London, along with the vintage buttons which are a perfect match.  The pattern is a modern one (Megan Nielsen’s Banksia blouse) but definitely has a vintage look to it.

The fit could be better, but that’s my own fault for not making a muslin first.  For a first attempt at this pattern, I’m more than happy.  It’s not a particularly fitted style, so on me  it looks best tucked in.  It seems to look good with a high waisted skirt and I’m planning to wear it with some 1940’s high waisted trousers soon too.  Not a bad result from a a pair of old curtains!

More photos and construction details can be found on my blog, Handmade Jane.  Thanks for reading! x

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1950s | Jumpers / Pinafores | Made from Curtains

1951 Fashion Bureau

By on January 7, 2012

I’ve been lurking on Sew Retro for a while now – being inspired by everyone’s creations. I thought it was time to add one of my own.

Fashion Bureau 2559

I made this back around Easter of 2011. The pattern called it a “jumper-dress” – what I would call a pinafore. It came in an envelope labeled The Philadelphia Enquirer Fashion Bureau and has a postmark on it from September 1951. I assume it was a mail-order pattern from the newspaper.

Fashion Bureau 2559 cover

Fashion Bureau 2559 envelope

It was made from an old curtain which I got from ebay (about £10 for a pair I think – and I only used one of them).

It was my first time working with unmarked pattern pieces – just highlighted using holes in the very delicate tissue. I traced all the pieces onto modern paper. I guess you aren’t told every detail like you are in modern patterns – but it came out pretty well. I always get people asking about it when I wear it.


Here’s a better view of the front bodice detail.

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