1960s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Grey dress from a 1960s Burda pattern

By on December 7, 2016

In summer I stumbled upon a beautiful and simple pattern for a dress in a 1962 wedding edition of Burda and immediatelly made a few versions of it, including one for a client who loved it as much as I did.

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The pattern proved very versatile and looks great with a variety of fabrics –no wonder, because it’s just such a simple and staple piece. I really love the short sleeves, they add elegance to an otherwise simple design. I made it with different skirts. I usually freehand them, pinning tucks as I go but I also made one version with a circle skirt that I need to photograph.

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This is one of my iterations of the pattern: I added a collar with a bow to it. For a moment there I was afraid it looked too much like a hotel personnel outfit! But I guess the bow helps distract the mind from this easy association ;). It’s fully interlined but with no lining. I’m having second thoughts about interlining this one… turned out quite stiff, even though the outer fabric was quite thin. I finished the skirt with a blind hem stich by hand.

Check out the original blog post for more photos.

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1960s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Butterick 2137 the wriggle dress that almost wasn’t

By on November 18, 2015

Butterick 2137…this project sat in my ‘to-sew-to-fix-can’t-deal-with-it’ pile for a long time. I finished it early last summer, loved it. Wore it. But didn’t get around to taking good photos to blog it.

Butterick 2137 neckline2

This neck line is the reason I couldn’t face it. I cut this out of my fabric, which was not really enough for a dress, but I had to make into something wearable as it’s just sew lovely, and was from my nana’s stash. A bit special.

Butterick 2137 neckline

When I cut this out, I was short of fabric for all the facings, and needed to add a false hem, so really short on fabric, but it Would Work. What I was not that prepared for was that when I cut it out, I needed to make a hollow bust/chest adjustment (which is now even more apparent as I am no longer a breastfeeding sewing mama). So I had to deal a bit, with body not working or pattern not working…happily I persevered, I sewed the bias on three times, first attempt the print showed through the white tape (oh no!) so figured I’ll skip the white detail at the neck and make it a bias facing…but then I was not happy with that. So, unpicked the facing, realised that all that sewing, unpicking and fiddling around had stretched the neckline even more. Major neckline gaping…Urgh.

So then, I put it away, despairing a bit, also needed to improve my attitude, and my skills?

In the end I just decided to make two pleats to reduce the gape and add a, um, ‘design feature’….I used two thickness of bias binding to finish, and viola! Happiness.

Butterick 2137 tall again

I had been looking at heaps of lovely patterns, and some really sweet details like gathered bodices, around the bust darts, and some of those really simple pleats or details that are so typical of beautiful vintage sewing patterns. So, lots of inspiration, and a bit more confidence to make the dress work.

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I love the print, and the dress is perfect for summer.

Butterick 2137 tall

I’m also wearing my other nana’s earrings!

Butterick 2137 check out my earrings

Here’s the original pattern for those who enjoy them as much as I do…

BUtterick-2137

More on my blog, of course, Mermaid’s Purse, Butterick 2137.

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1960s

Using vintage patterns and upcycled vintage fabrics

By on September 4, 2014

I have sewn and made things all my life. I have also always been a terrible hoarder. Along with vintage clothing, I have been collecting pieces of vintage fabric since my teens, mostly attracted by the prints and colours of the early 1960s.

A few years ago, I started making children’s clothes from pieces too small for anything else. I found two vintage children’s patterns that would just squeeze a dress out of a piece of fabric barely bigger than a cushion cover. My favourite arty, abstract prints of the late ‘50s and very early ‘60s made for something quite different from the small, cute prints usually associated with childrenswear.

Infant dress made from upcycled vintage curtain fabric.
Infant dress made from upcycled vintage curtain fabric.

Having used up most of my stock of just-about-big-enough pieces of fabric, I allowed myself to start buying fabric again. I have a real fondness for the large scale prints of mid-century furnishing fabrics and if I can find a curtain (I never cut up a pair) with enough usable fabric left after the sun damage to the edges and any paint has been cut off (old curtains were often used as dust sheets for decorating), this can make an adult-sized dress.

For the winter trees print dress shown below, I particularly enjoyed playing with the contrast of skeletal winter trees with a sleeveless summer dress. But there was also the fact that there was so much damaged fabric there was not enough left for the sleeves!

Dress made from an upcycled curtain.
Dress made from an upcycled curtain.

I started collecting vintage patterns purely for the illustrations on the envelopes. I used to display these in frames, but luckily I saved all the pattern pieces. It’s not only patterns – I sew on my Nanna’s old sewing machine, a “Diplomat“ from 1963 (even though I have a brand new machine, still in its box, unopened, under my bed…)

Jersey Dress Pattern

I am finding that as my friends’ parents get older, boxes of fabric from hoarding mothers and grandmothers are coming my way. One of my friends has given me several large boxes of clothes her mother never got around to mending and garments she cut out and never made. In one box alone there were five red and white gingham school dresses to fit a girl of approximately 7 years old – and my friend is now 50!

The huge advantage of using deadstock (old but unused) fabric over salvaged fabric is that it will almost always have been stored away from the light, so there is no fading or wastage. Lots of these fabrics are of much better quality than you would easily find nowadays, particularly the linens and wools. The downside is that, if you make to order, you can’t always have exactly what you’re looking for – you have to wait until the right thing comes along and some colours are not as common as they are nowadays. However, if you like the typical colours of a particular period, dyes are different now and the shades are quite unlike the ones in modern fabrics.

 

It’s not only the patterns and fabric I’m giving a new lease of life to – as well as using my Diplomat when I secretly have a modern sewing machine stored under the bed, never having taken it out of its box – I also use vintage threads, zips and buttons. I often see free-standing wooden sewing boxes at fleamarkets and boot fairs. Nine times out of ten these are still full of threads, notions and equipment. I started buying bagfuls of this stuff when I was making the children’s dresses and getting through a very large amount of bias binding and I’m still working my way though all the threads, hooks and eyes and zips.

My nanna's sewing machin – a pleasure to use.
My nanna’s sewing machine – a pleasure to use.

My real weakness is buttons: I have jar after jar of sorted, colour-coded vintage buttons and have to try and stop myself buying more whenever I see them. Recently I bought a very large tin with an enamelled design of a Chinese dragon and when I got it home found that it was full to the brim with sets of beautiful buttons already sorted and bundled.

Seven carrier bags of fabric arrived from somebody’s mother’s hoard a couple of weeks ago, so I had plenty of fabric to choose from! This wool jersey was great for an early 1960s column dress, but the fabric was too bulky for the bow that trims the “empire band” across the bust in the pattern.

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I was very lucky to find a deadstock bolt of this leaf print crisp linen in a junk shop – I just have to remember not to sit on the chair (salvaged, naturally!) I upholstered with the same fabric when I wear it!

Dress made using a late 1960s patterns and leftover deadstock curtain fabric.
Dress made using a late 1960s patterns and leftover deadstock curtain fabric.

 

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1960s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

My first vintage pattern…

By on December 1, 2013

Hello, it’s my first post here, and my first try of using vintage pattern too..

Where to start? I needed a dress for a rather formal event.. After a lot of pondering and wasting time researching on pinterest and such, I thought I rather fancied this vintage Vogue Couturier Belinda Bellville dress:

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The problem was I couldn’t find it (by that I mean couldn’t buy it for a reasonable price, the cheapest I found was £50+, and it’s not what I’m prepared to pay for a pattern.. )

To recreate this vintage pattern, I found another pattern from the same era, very similar Simplicity 8498:

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As you can see the front looks absolutely identical. The view 1 even has a self fabric belt  buttoned in back that is very similar to a band with a bow in Vogue Couturier 2112. And it’s  much cheaper!

I was very excited to try a vintage pattern for the first time… but I’m afraid it was the case that on PatternReview website described as “pattern ok, but didn’t work for me”.  Well, it was a nightmare!

Now, according to my bust measurements, I’m between size 14 and 16. I bought size 16 to be on safer side.. but when I made a muslin for the bodice, there was no room in it for my bust! I couldn’t believe how small it was! (I mean the bodice, not the bust..)

I’m very glad that I made a muslin! I spent 3 days fiddling with it, and in the end there was no line or curve of the pattern that had been left unchanged!

You can read the whole saga of my troubles on my blog, here I will show only the result  🙂

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The back was a challenge.. Center back opening from Vogue 2112 just didn’t look good.. I ended up making a V-cut instead..

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The fabric is lovely Duchess satin that I bought on Goldhawk road in London. When I was buying it I spotted discounted muslin, and I bought about 3 metres of muslin for making, well, muslin 🙂

It was the first time I made a proper muslin, and, as I said, it was the right decision. I couldn’t believe it, but it really speeds up the process! After all alterations were made on the muslin, it was so nice and easy to sew with actual intended fabric!

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My thoughts on the pattern.

As I said, it didn’t work for me.. Maybe my shape is wrong for this particular pattern, or because it’s vintage. I don’t know.. Besides, I’m not sure about those french darts.  Next photo shows: the pointy problem with french darts; the second dart on the bodice that was not intended by the pattern; and that I could’ve done better ironing..

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Thanks for looking at my first contribution to this wonderful community (not sure whether there will be more, as this painful experience kind of put me off vintage patterns..)

You can see more photos and info on my blog.

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1960s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Collars’n’cuffs

By on October 27, 2013
How nice it is to finish projects – especially those which are so simple and leave you feeling like an expert! 

This sewing project was an aim to get back to the simpleness of sewing and 60s design. A shift dress with contrasting collar and cuffs. No fussy bows or ruffles, just plain, simple and easy. 

Something reminiscent of the mid-60s. A simple silhouette which suited many, and which was so different to the dresses of the previous years. A Peter Pan collar to recall the clothing of their childhood and cuffs to balance.
After recent stressful occurrences in my life, doing something so basic is refreshing. Being able to be in control of something and knowing exactly how it will look in the end is awesome! 

Especially when sewing with Double knit, oh double knit, how I love thee! Let me count the ways! Its comfy to wear, forgives small mistakes and has a nice amount of stretch. (unlike the now un-trust worthy Lurex…)
  
However – there cannot be blue sky without rain. Everything was going along swimmingly until the hem where my machine kept skipping stitches, I’m not sure why that was. I changed the needle, checked the tension, re-threaded the machine and yet it still skipped. When I made a test on some cotton fabric it was fine. I’ll most likely unpick the machine stitches and hand-hem it later on.

Why must you forsake me machine!!!
The pattern I used was Butterick 4772 – I drafted the collar and cuffs, though now that I look at it, I should have tried to balance the width of the collar and cuffs a bit better.

The cuffs are fairly simple, though I didn’t put them on the way I should have. Why not you might ask, well it may be because I’d had a few wines before leaving work that day….

Here’s a tip – sewing while drunk/tipsy is not a good idea. It makes you lazy

They look okay though! 
I’m going to have many a fun times wearing this dress I think. Sensible enough for work and dressy enough for a night out. 
Cat xo

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1960s | Dresses | Vintage Sewing

Simplicity 3107 in blue Crimplene… Complete!

By on September 18, 2013

Some belated photos of a dress I finished last year…

Simplicity 3107 in Crimplene, I had to wear it today, so better grab a moment for a quick few photos before Rob was off on his bike.

My first project working with crimplene, in this pretty pale blue that came from my Nana’s stash.  You can read a bit more about it in an earlier post, here.  Here’s the original pattern envelope, I have also made another variation in red synthetic satin.

I have all these unresolved issues with this dress, the crimplene doesn’t sit quite so well, so maybe not the best fabric choice, and the raglan sleeves… I love them, I’m not used to them.  I would like to make it again, but will need to delve deeper into my fabric stash….

You can read more over at my blog, Mermaid’s Purse.

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