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1960s

Simonetta Dress Vogue Coat

By on April 14, 2017

I had to go to a wedding last weekend and used it as an excuse to try out these two patterns – Simonetta Dress, and Vogue Coat.

I seem to always buy a-line empire line dress patterns as its a style I think suits me – and I have now decided that the Simonetta dress is the best ever – I think its the wider shoulder (it extends out but no shoulder pads), as it gives a flattering line (for the pear shaped).  The dress for the wedding I made in a gross grain, and I did run up a ‘wearable’ muslin from a curtain scrap (so I now have 2 nice dresses).  The cut of this dress is simple and very effective, the front seam has a curve in it, as do the darts.  The collar was tricky only in that I had never done one like this.  Its basically 2 strips of bias, folded, and steamed into a curved shape.

 

 

The coat is in a cotton.  I had wanted to make a casual summer coat so went with a neutral colour and casual fabric.  I did interline it as the fabric creased like linen (and looks like linen), but did not interline the sleeves (1, because its a summer coat and 2, because I didnt think the bias would hold creases).  I was rather cheap and interlined with light sew-in basting, I don’t interline a lot, but if I was able to locate it (I wasn’t), I would have preferred to have used hankerchief cotton or a voile.

 

The only really technical bit about the coat was the use of ‘pad stitching’ in the collar.  I had never done this before and so referred to the wonderful Allyne Bane book and it was all clear.  I only did a medium amount of pad stitching, and it serves well.  after the pad stitching, I did baste the collar roll line in place and left this stitching in until the final steam.  Even though its a casual coat, I think the sit of the collar is gorgeous – I notice it in the wearing  as it sits away from the neck and it really feels like the coat hangs from the shoulders…..I dont know if I am explaining this correctly, but it feels exactly what is perfect for an evening or summer coat, and I dont think I ever had a coat that sat like this, which is another fabulous reason to sew vintage/sew your own!

 

I do have a blog – upsew.ie  if anyone wants to see other projects, – but I have pretty much replicated the post here!

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1940s | Burlesque / Pinup | Dresses | Modern Patterns

#EasterSpringDress2017 – Sew Over It – Vintage Shirt Dress #2!

By on April 13, 2017

Hi pinups! I love a good sew along and I don’t need much tempting into sewing a new dress, especially when the theme is Spring. When I saw Akram’s Ideas and Judith Dee‘s Easter Spring Dress 2017 sewalong I couldn’t wait to get involved.

This was my second time sewing this pattern and I really do like it. It’s reasonably simple to follow with a flattering shape and a sweet rounded collar. This time around I made a smaller size. Whilst my first one certainly fits me, I wanted a more fitted waist. There was a point I didn’t think it was going to fit across my bust, but hurrah it does and I’m really happy with it. For once, I think I might have found my perfect fit for this pattern.

See this dress in action in my reveal video below or HERE:

You can read my full review of the Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress HERE.

See the full Easter Spring Dress post HERE.

Thanks for reading, pinups!

xo

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1950s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Weekly Star Farmer/Pattern Bureau 1950s 2207 – Foal Dress

By on April 11, 2017

I’m usually a very slow seamstress, but occasionally–very occasionally–I actually work well under pressure.

I had an event coming up and decided I really, really, wanted a new dress to wear.  A themed dress.  I’d had the fabric for awhile but hadn’t given myself permission to sew it (this is an ongoing problem for me: I feel obligated to burn through a bunch of boring utility projects before I let myself sew the high-investment ones.  But of course I have limited time so I never get to the high-investment ones).

The fabric was Moda Purebred Bluegrass Foals in coral red (not quite this bright in real life.  The foals are natural cotton color, not bright white, and the coral is slightly faded):

 

It’s a big print.  The foals are about three inches each.

My pattern requirements were specific: It had to be 1950’s (big skirt) and it had to have a skirt that was four panels or fewer, and couldn’t have a lot of design elements, because I wanted to preserve the foals as much as possible.

I went around and around on this but kept coming back to Weekly Star Farmer (probably Pattern Bureau) 2207, from the early 1950’s.  This design was also sold as Pattern Bureau 2911 and, later, as 2593.

I love the pockets.   How can you not love those pockets?

It needed a lot of adjustment, partly for personal fit (longer bodice, added upper back width, minor full-bust adjustment) but also for design reasons.  The illustration is kind of a lie: The skirt is actually conical, not bell-shaped, and the pockets are set two inches below where they’re shown.

The skirt pieces have straight sides.  Not kidding.  And no darts.

I knew this would need alteration, anyway, because I have big hips, but the test muslin, while better, still didn’t look good and wasn’t comfortable.  The final solution was to both curve the side and center back seams, and to add 3/4 inch width per side in the back, and then create waist darts.

The other major issue was the collar.  The original collar was two pieces that, I guess, met in the back?  I didn’t like the way this looked and also thought it seemed structurally weak:

So I reshaped it to meet in the back as a contiguous collar.  But the test collar was enormous.  I am not kidding–it was as wide as the shoulder points on the dress, and it looked nothing at all like the illustration.  It was like wearing an open jacket flapping around all the time, except it was attached.  I narrowed it by two and a half inches (you read that correctly) and lowered the point in the front by an inch and a half.  It’s still plenty big but at least I’m not in danger in a stiff wind.

I mounted the pockets two inches higher than the pattern called for.  For the record: I’m a little over 5’7″, so I have no idea for whom the original pockets were intended.  Chimpanzees, perhaps?  I don’t know how a shorter woman would have reached them.  (They’re not crooked.  I’m slouching because the show lasted 15 hours.)

Still plenty of collar!  I think I could narrow that by another inch and it would still look good.

I sort of want to make this again . . . ideally in a large blue-on-blue gingham with solid trim.

And in case you’re wondering why I needed a dress with horses all over it . . . Lemmonade Live Model Horse Show 2017.

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Dress Forms

Should I buy a dress form?

By on March 31, 2017

Want to try an experiment? Grab a cup of tea, pull up your laptop, and spend an hour perusing all the sewing groups on Facebook. Doesn’t matter where you go – I guarantee someone will ask about dress forms. It comes up time and time again because a dress form represents that perfect storm of “seems like it would be super useful” and “whoah, that is not cheap.”

Without fail, someone pops up every week in our own (completely awesome, btw) facebook group to ask “Where can I find the best adjustable dress form?” or “Do you have to pad up a dress form?” or “How do I make my own dress form?” so in spirit of being able to say “here, this is everything we know about dress forms”, here, this is everything we know about dress forms:

Where can I find a dress form?

You’ve probably seen dress forms at Joann but with the exception of 99c pattern sale days, Joann is not exactly bargain central. If you have Amazon Prime (and therefore don’t have to pay shipping), you’re probably going to find a find a better deal on amazon and without worrying about how to wrestle your new doppelgänger home in a Mini Cooper or on the subway.

That said, I’m a big fan of buying large niche sewing objects secondhand. Don’t write off garage sales, flea markets and everyone’s favorite way to date a serial killer: craigslist. For example, I  pulled up my local craigslist, typed in “dress form” and there’s eleven dress forms within reasonable distance. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s ten more dress forms than I actually need.

Those prices look a little high to me and I expect you could offer significantly less with reasonable success because people who have a dress form for sale on craigslist are either

  1. not sewing people but they stumbled into a dress form, don’t know much about it and will shoot for the moon on price until someone who knows about sewing comes along to explain what it’s worth, or…
  2. sewing people who have already got a better one or need to downsize and now this huge thing is taking up space in their garage. They know how much they paid for it new and therefore don’t want to let it go for peanuts but still there it sits, taking up space, taunting them…

It’s like sewing pattern cabinets – priceless to the pattern hoarders but a nuisance to 90% of humanity.

The secret to shopping second hand for something like a dress form is to set up an email alert for yourself. To do this on craigslist, just perform your search and then hit ‘save search’ on the results page:

The main reason to do this is because they’re not going to be posted frequently enough to make it worth your sweet time to keep checking manually and if you don’t respond quickly when one does come up you might find yourself fighting another local sewing enthusiast for it. Imagine the rumble from West Side Story but with seam rippers…

If you find a secondhand dress form for an absolute steal, don’t automatically reject it if it’s not the right size for you. In this case, too small is easier to work with than too big – you can and should pad it to more closely resemble your own shape.

How do I find a dress form that matches my body?

If you have an existing dress form and just need to make it look a bit more like you, you can pad it. Is it lacking in the boob department? Put one of your bras on it and stuff it to fit. If you’ve been inexplicably hoarding lentils (stay with me here), Threads magazine explains in detail  how to turn your stash of legumes into bellies and butts in their article here. If you’re feeling a little giggly today, brace yourself before glancing at the below photo:

It’s like MacGyver made an adult diaper while high on Percocet. Don’t let non-sewing people see this in your basement because it is just a tiny bit crazy, but hey your clothes will fit great so those people can shut up.

[Edited to add: I’m sat here watching a Craftsy class (Patternmaking Basics: The Bodice Sloper) and Suzy Furrer just mentioned that an industry dress form is generally about 1/2″ to 1″ wider in the shoulder than most women and also 1″ to 2″ smaller in the waist than most women. She recommends padding a dress form with cotton batting or elastic bandages from 3″ above the waist to 3″ below the waist in order to compensate for this. I also notice there is a Craftsy class specifically geared to customizing a dress form here – I haven’t taken it but there are customer reviews on the class page. ]

If you’d rather see the process in action (with not a lentil in sight), here’s sewing legend Connie Crawford giving a demonstration:

Another method you can use is to make a cover for your dress form (like a fitting shell – a muslin bodice that fits you tightly) and then pop it on your form and pad out the spaces between the form and the cover. Laura of Sew Chic Patterns gives a well documented step-by-step of this method in three parts here: Part 1: Preparing the cover | Part 2: Fitting the pattern | Part 3: Padding the mannequin

Similar to this approach, you can purchase a Uniquely You dress form which is a squishy foam torso (with Madonna-esque boobs that you get to shave down…) and a cover that you fit to your exact shape following the instructions provided. Once you’ve got your cover customized, you jam the foam torso up in there and the squishy foam conforms to it. One advantage of this style of dress form is that because they’re not hard like layer-upon-layer of duct tape, you can jab pins directly into it. Here’s Shona with a demonstration of the Uniquely You dress form system (plus you get to see her cut off an arm with a breadknife)…

Is an adjustable dress form worth the money?

First, who are you sewing for? If you’re regularly called upon to act as the neighborhood fashion designer for Aunt Maud, your coworker’s wife and your best friend’s sister’s cousin’s fiancee, then you probably do need something that can handle a range of sizes. But if you are the only wondrous creature wearing your creations and your weight stays fairly stable, how much adjustment do you really need?

That said, if you deviate from an average size/shape (and don’t we all, somehow…) then adjustable dress forms allow you to lengthen the torso or squinch in the hips to better match your own proportions. non-adjustable forms are going to be more standardized in shape, unless you make your own.

How do you make a dress form?

If you want to build your own dress form from scratch, you’re going to need a free afternoon and an understanding friend. Also wine, but that goes without saying.

The essential concept is this: put on a thin, form fitting t-shirt/dress that you hate and then place strips of duct tape over it as though you were doing papier mache on a balloon. A sexy balloon, if you don’t like the comparison. Don’t start this process if you’re feeling unwell as it’s liable to get hot and annoying, at least until your understanding friend can cut up the back to release you from the duct tape version of yourself. To give some structure to what is basically a duct tape skin, you can use a can of expanding foam but as Deby explains in her demonstration here: go easy on the foam lest you overfill yourself.


 

Phew! Intense, right? Whichever method or product you choose, you’re going to have to put a bit of work in to get a personalized fit. Here’s a soothing edition of How It’s Made so you can prop your feet up and watch the professionals make one…

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Vintage Sewing

Tips for Facebook Sewing Groups

By on March 30, 2017

We have a facebook group called the WeSewRetro Sew & Tell for sharing our vintage makes and want to offer a few tips for getting the most out of the sewing communities on facebook.

Tip 1: Search the group before asking a question

If I had a penny for every time someone had joined the Sew & Tell and waded straight in with “Has anyone made any patterns by Gertie?” then I would have enough to get Starbucks to serve me a literal bathtub of cappuccino.

Any group that has been around for a while is going to have a ton of information in it, so you’re really shortchanging yourself by not digging around to see what already exists before hoping the person who can answer your question is online and looking at the same moment you are.

It’s not always obvious how to search in facebook group, so read on to see some examples.

On a desktop, you can scroll up to the top of the group and look for a box marked ‘Search this group’, like so:

 

 

If you’re on facebook on mobile, it might look more like this:

 

 

And, super confusingly, if you use the Facebook Groups app on mobile, you’ve got to hunt for the search magnifying glass symbol up at the top of the group banner. Thanks, Facebook… 😐

How to search is as important as where to search. It usually makes sense to start off using a fairly vague search term and then get more specific if there are too many results. For example, I might search the Sew & Tell for “gertie” rather than the more specific “patterns by gertie”. If you’re looking for a particular modern pattern, say Butterick 5813, consider the different ways people might refer to it. For example, they might say “5813” or “B5813” so try both if you’re not finding what you’re looking for.

 

Tip 2: Know how to follow a discussion without “Following!!”

If you spend any time at all on a reasonably sized facebook group, you’ll see someone comment on a post with “Following!” or something similar. What’s the point of this? Well, when you comment on a post, facebook notifies you of any subsequent comments on that post, so the person typing “Following!” is trying to keep an eye on the discussion despite not having anything they want to add to it at the moment.

You might not realize there’s actually a better way to achieve the same end. On whatever post you want to keep an eye on, look at the top right hand corner of the post for a little arrow pointing down. Click/tap it and select ‘turn on notifications for this post’

Voila! Now anytime someone comments on it, you’ll get a notification. When you’re done following or if the notifications are becoming intensely annoying, go back to the same place but this time select ‘Turn off notifications for this post’.

Another occasion when this is useful: maybe you commented on a post but the ensuing discussion is now massive and very active and so you’re constantly getting pinged with ‘So and so commented on a post you’re following’ notifications. Just go to the post, hit the little arrow and ‘turn off notifications for this post’

Tip 3: Save stuff you want to find again

Don’t want to get pinged every time someone comments but want to be able to find the post again? Save it! You can find saved posts in the sidebar and facebook will periodically remind you about them in your feed.

To save a post, click/tap the arrow at the top right of the post and select ‘Save post’

 

So there it is. Three tips for getting the most out of facebook sewing groups. Do you have any tips to add to the list?

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