Looking for something to read on the bus? Check out these free vintage dressmaking books, including a pattern drafting system from the 1950s that looks rather nifty.
If you’re not familiar with how the pattern drafting systems work, it’s like having small pattern guides (think of the pattern piece schematics on the back of your sewing pattern envelope) that you scale up to your individual measurements using a specially marked ruler or measuring tape. In the Dressmaking at Home book here, you’ll find the details for the ruler on page 7.
Edit: these might look a little quirky on mobile. If you’re having trouble, jump on an actual computer.
Dressmaking at Home (pattern drafting system from the 1950s)
The New Dressmaker by Butterick Patterns (1921)
The American System of Dressmaking (early 1900s)
Home Dressmaking and the Art of Good Dressing
Vintage organza print with silk/linen blend underlining.
I love to sew vintage and nothing inspires me more than a fantastic, bold and beautiful print. When I was visiting my favorite vintage fabric source, Upcycle Exchange in St. Louis, I came across this print that just screamed BUY ME! It was an amazing vintage organza. It was perfect and I decided it would make for the most perfect valentines day dress. I knew exactly which pattern to use – the zip front day dress form Gertie Sews Vintage. It has been a favorite patter as of late. It has just the right flare to feel vintage but not so much that I feel like I am in a costume. The collar is just lovely and I like the ease in just zipping it up and out you go!
The amazing floral print organza needed something underneath, so I decided to underline the dress with this amazing silk/linen blend I had in my stash. It has been so long since I worked with linen and it really threw me on the cutting. After some very slow cutting, I decided to use fusible tricot cut on the bias to re-enforce all of the edges. Assembly was a bit slow too as I had to hand-baste all of the layers together on the bodice. After some time in assembly, I put it on the dress form to hang. Wow did that bias really stretch on the silk/linen! I am super happy with the final result!
This bright orange stuff has been in my stash for over a year. It looks a lot like wool but the seller was certain it’s cotton. It did shrink like cotton when I washed it and it doesn’t smell like wool when I iron it, so I guess he was right.
For a while, I’ve wanted to make a pencil skirt from this stuff, and now I finally did. I re-worked my skirt sloper to get rid of a small fitting issue which has started to annoy me now that I’m even more critical than before.
Because this fabric is rather thick, I didn’t want to make a vent or a kick pleat. Instead, I took inspiration from my vintage skirt patterns: In the vast majority of those, the sleek pencil skirts are actually slight A-lines. Which makes sense, of course. It would help keep the skirt from riding up when you walk and it would make it fall back into place neatly when you stand up. Usually, the A-line effect is just a little bit and the skirt still gets a pleat to give it enough leg room.
In this case, I thought I had made it just wide enough to go without a pleat and yet still narrow enough to look like a pencil skirt. It turns out I could have done with a little bit more width at the hem, but I suppose that will teach me to walk like a lady
The skirt is fully lined and has patch pockets without topstitching (set in from the side seam. I made a tutorial for it) at the front.
The bolero is a very simple pattern I drafted a couple of years ago: One pattern piece, cuffs and a binding along the edge. Very quick and easy to make but I really like the look with a skirt like this.
More about it on my blog!
Hollywood 1413 is the quintessential 1940’s dress in my book. I was over the moon when I bagged a copy on ebay a few months ago. This is my first make with it using pre WWII silk crepe kimono fabric. The pattern as-is is technically 2 sizes too small but by cutting out with larger side seam allowances and counting on the generous ease in the pattern it went from the stated body measurements of 32″/27″/ 35″ to a more comfortable 36″/29″/38″ still with ease. The only other alteration I made to the pattern was shortening the back bodice length via a 3/4″ horizontal pleat below the armhole and adding in a second bust dart to make the front side seam match the new shorter back side seam… the same alteration I make on virtually every dress I make for myself since compared to most patterns I have a shorter than average back waist length and a ‘prominent bust’. Anyway the pattern went together perfectly and looked like the picture. The dress is unlined, seams are simply pinked and the neckline is finished with a facing. I did make the drape double. It was suggested as a single layer with rolled edges but the reverse of the fabric didn’t look that good. Zip and hems all hand sewn. It is a very light and fluid dress and I wear it over a slip.
Will I make this pattern again? I definitely intend to. This dress was my favorite of the trio of vintage patterns I made up from vintage kimono written about in a longer blog post.
The shoulder pads for the dress are made from 7″ circles of fabric, cotton quilt batting and stuffed with some slightly shredded poly wadding It’s how the pattern instructions suggested making them. Usually I use modern pads and cut-up/reconstruct them to suit but I though I’d try this method out and liked the results. They did make me think of making Cornish Pasties.
I had a big year of sewing, and have not been so good at updating WSR with my projects!
Here is one of my favourites from 2014. Here’s the original pattern illustration:
I made a toile of the bodice for this dress, as it is a fraction small, and I was using a rather special piece of vintage fabric.
I am so very happy with it! I love the shape of the skirt it has good body without a petticoat. You can read more about it on my blog of course.
This is a dress I made as part of my travel wardrobe last summer! I love the red poppy print.
The bodice was made from a modern pattern (Simplicity 1803, from their “Project Runway” line), but I think the dress still has a very vintage feel. I got the fabric on a trip to France a couple years ago, and used it to make a dress in time for our next trip to France!
More pics of the dress, inside and out, on my blog here.