Monthly Archives: July 2012

It’s a wrap!

What could be easier than this: a garment with no buttons and no buttonholes, secured by sashes which can be forgiving to your waistline and still be flattering?  Diane Von Furstenberg immortalized the “wrap dress” in the early 1970s; its many variations became available to home dressmakers through the Vogue Patterns Designer series, and those original patterns now command significant prices on eBay and Etsy.

This is the label which was provided to purchasers of Diane Von Furstenberg patterns.

But – what came before Von Furstenberg’s classic dress?  Many of us remember our “wraparound” skirts from the ‘60s and ‘70s – some were “reversible”, some were made of a lightweight sailcloth type of fabric and were kind of stiff, some were gathered, and some were A-line.  Towards the late ‘60s, according to The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion (3rd Edition, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, 2010), the term “wraparound” was shortened to just “wrap” – and that is the term we know and use today.  The illustration in this book surely is based on DVF’s classic wrap dress.

Who wouldn’t recognize this as a DVF dress?

One of Diane Von Furstenberg’s famous statements is “I design for the woman who loves being a woman.”  (Think dresses!)  In The Saint James Fashion Encyclopedia (Richard Martin, author; Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI, 1997), she is quoted:  “…I believe in marrying fashion and function – chic style and easy comfort, maximum impact and minimum fuss.”  It’s easy to see that she practiced what she preached (and still does…) when you look at this Vogue pattern:

A classic style by Diane Von Furstenberg.

About the time I purchased this pattern on Etsy, I saw this fabric on Mood Fabric’s website:

This is a cotton twill, but it’s stretchable!

The bright, happy design reminded me of some of the original DVF-designed fabric, although this fabric is actually by Oscar De La Renta.  No, it wasn’t a stretchable knit which the pattern stipulated, but it was a stretch fabric, so I took a gamble and ordered it with my DVF pattern in mind.

I actually liked the heavier weight of this fabric (I’ve never been a fan of sewing jersey knits), but I had to be extra diligent to minimize bulky seams on the interior of the dress.  Instead of self pockets, I made the pockets out of some leftover white silk lining fabric from my raincoat.

One of the pockets.

Instead of turning under edges on the facings, I double-stitched and pinked the edges, and used stretchable hem tape for the hem.  It all seemed to work and here is the finished dress:

This cheery fabric could brighten any day!

A bit of a back view.

I was thrilled to get that original label with my pattern – and here is the finishing touch for my DVF wrap dress:

My final stitches on this dress were to attach the label.

Feminine, timeless, versatile:  her dresses are more than fashion – they are enduring style.


Filed under Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns

Chance of Sprinkles

Whatever possessed me to decide to make a coat during this hot, hot Summer?

Actually, I have a (somewhat logical) answer to that question!  For starters, it’s a raincoat.   And how I came to sew a raincoat is a good example of what keeps the wheels in my head turning!

While perusing the website for Britex Fabrics last Summer, I came across its offerings of rainwear fabrics.  Just out of curiosity, I took a look at them, and I was immediately smitten with the “French Winter White Water-Resistant Rainwear Fabric”.

The woven “wave” design in this fabric really caught my attention.

I sent off for a swatch, which confirmed for me the graceful woven design and lovely creamy color inherent in this fabric.  A subsequent trip to California gave me the opportunity to see the fabric in person, and I decided it was time to “commit”!  I had frequently felt the need for a “dressy” raincoat, so I thought, “Why not make one?”  I also knew I had the perfect pattern  – this “swing” coat design from 1957.

I remember swing coats from my childhood – and now I have one!

I figured the kimono sleeves and the loose fit would be great for wearing over  dresses or suits, and the collar can be worn turned up or folded down, depending on the inclement conditions!  Well, it only took a year to get to it, which I decided was long enough.  Oh yes –  I had one more incentive to “get to it”. When my friend, Nancy C. opened up her family’s button box for me to pick out some treasures, I spied this beautiful single glass button:

I placed this button on a piece of black velvet so that the design would show up. It is a little more than an inch square in size.

The design in it reminded me of raindrops – perfect for a dressy raincoat, and, I thought, a perfect complement to the fabric, already in my possession.

Of course, every pattern and project seems to demand certain changes or adaptations, and the count for this one stands at four:

1)   I took a little fullness out of the front side panels.  When I made a muslin mock-up of the pattern, it just seemed a little too full for my frame.

2)   I added pockets to the side seams.  I can’t imagine any coat without pockets, but a lot of the vintage styles (dresses and coats) did not have them.

Here is one of the pockets under construction.

3)   Because I wanted to use the glass button, I decided to put in a bound buttonhole instead of using the buckle and band detail as shown on the pattern. (I did make and attach the back belt, however.)

Here is the bound buttonhole placed in the front right section – before the facing is attached.

Here you can see the button and finished buttonhole. Click on the photo to see it in detail.

4)   With just a single closure at the top of the coat, I thought I needed something lower on the coat as well, to keep it closed in windy, rainy conditions. However, I didn’t want to interfere with the look of the coat when I might be wearing it open.  Here’s what I came up with:

I made a “tab” with buttonholes on each end.

I made machine buttonholes in the tab.

I placed the buttons for it on the inside facings on either side of the coat, about halfway between my waist and  my hips.  It can easily be buttoned to secure the coat, and when I unbutton the left side, the button on the right side allows it to fall down, hidden from view, but easily accessible.

This shows the inside of the coat, with the tab buttoned.

And this shows the tab unbuttoned on one side and hanging down, out of sight – inside the coat.

A few more details about construction:  The rainwear fabric is an acetate/rayon blend which I underlined with rayon voile.

Here is the coat, showing the underlining, before I attached the lining by hand.

I lined it with a pure silk lightweight twill in white.  I would have loved to have lined it with a neat polka dot silk, but I didn’t want any “shadows” of a printed lining to show through.  Guess I’ll just have to dress it up with polka dot scarves instead!  The rainwear fabric was very easy to work with – surprisingly easy, actually.  It drapes beautifully for a pattern like this.  Speaking of patterns, this one was so precise and cleverly engineered (especially the collar), turning it into a really fun project!

Here are some finished views of my new dressy raincoat:

More of the same…

Hopefully you can see the “belted” back in this view.

Making a garment like this during the Summer months means that I had to be prepared for “delayed gratification” as I probably won’t have a chance to wear my new raincoat for at least a couple of months.  However, when a future Fall or Winter forecast is for “Chance of Sprinkles” – or even full-force rain – I’ll be ready!


Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Coats, Dressmaker details, kimono sleeves, sewing raincoats, swing coats, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns

Decisions, Decisions.

For several years my mother-in-law had a sign on her refrigerator stating “So many men… So little time”.  As a wife and a mother of three sons, I guess she was either telling the truth – or maybe doing a little daydreaming.  I don’t post things on my fridge, but if I did, it might read, “So many patterns… So many decisions”.  And that, too, would be a combination – of the truth – and quite a bit of daydreaming!

Usually as I am working on an item, I am already thinking about the next one – and I often know what pattern I’ll be using next.  However, I finished my silk tunic not quite decided yet.  I figured I was ready to tackle something a little more complicated, after the easy construction of the tunic (and a few days off doing other things!)  So what was it going to be?  I had it narrowed down to these five patterns/projects:

1) View B of this dress (for summer), made up in a Moygashel linen, with a contrasting belt.  This pattern has persistently been popping in my pattern box ever since I purchased it on Etsy  in early January.

The length of this dress as shown on the envelope is very 195os. I’ll be making it in knee-length.

2) No, this pattern is NOT vintage.  I signed up for The Couture Dress class taught by Susan Khalje on Craftsy, and this is the dress pattern which is sent with class enrollment.  Actually, views A and C both have a 1960’s feel to them – classic and chic!

So – what will it be? Sleeveless or short sleeves? It will definitely be the straight-skirt version. And I love the square neckline.

3) Ah, Molyneux!  Another short-sleeved dress to be made in linen.  The seaming detail is so lovely on this design.  I will have to practice my “pouty” look, however, if I hope to look an inch as good as the model on the envelope.

The kimono sleeves have gussets, which will make this dress comfortable to wear.

4) After missing out on several Diane von Furstenberg-designed patterns on eBay, I was very excited to find this one in my size on Etsy in mid-May.  What is it about D von F’s dresses that makes them so timeless?

I owned this pattern in the ’70s, when I bought it for $1.50 at my local fabric store. Sadly I didn’t save it or the dress I made from it, so I had to buy it again! I originally made it up with short sleeves, but now I prefer the sleeveless version.

5) I featured this pattern in a post shortly after I started my blog.  Whether you call this a “swing” coat or a “clutch” coat –  it’s 1950’s style has been in my mind for months!

I love this coat with the sleeves pushed up, as shown in blue.

The truth of the matter is that I will eventually be making dresses or a coat from all these patterns, but as I usually work on only one project at a time, I had to choose just one.  Which one?  It is underway as the thread- and scrap-covered floor of my sewing room will attest!  I made my decision . . . but I have many stitches to go – and many stitches to go – before I can post it.


Filed under Coats, kimono sleeves, Linen, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns

Sewing America

Much has been made of the legend of Betsy Ross and the making of the first American flag.  Although the facts of the legend can be disputed, Betsy was, above all, a talented craftswoman, a wife, mother, grandmother, and patriot.  The definitive biography of Betsy Ross, Betsy Ross and the Making of America, was written by Marla R. Miller (member of the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts) following years of research, and published in 2010. Although I read it almost two years ago, I still reflect on the fascinating facts I learned from it and the captivating story it told me.

The book jacket of this excellent biography.

In it, the reader is introduced to an amazing woman, who was married and widowed three times, had seven daughters, helped raise several nieces in addition to her own children, and who eventually was grandmother to over 24 children.  And – throughout her life, she sewed for a living, doing upholstery, drapery and mattress making, and of course, flag-making.  Marla Miller’s biography reads almost like a novel, and by the time I finished it, I was in wonder at how much Elizabeth Griscom Ross Ashburn Claypoole accomplished in her 84 years.  For anyone who sews, or enjoys history, or simply wants to know what life was like before, during and after the American Revolution, I cannot recommend this book highly enough!  It’s a great read.

So – here’s to the memory of Betsy Ross, talented and gentle American artisan, on this Independence Day 2012.  May all of us who love to sew strive to leave such a legacy with our own needle and thread.

A very small basket, signed Asheville, NC 1904, filled with my three “patriotic” woolen strawberries.


Filed under Uncategorized