Category Archives: Buttons – choosing the right ones

December Dresses and Delights

Before December bids us farewell (which is very, very soon), it seems only proper to share the “December Dresses” I made for my two little granddaughters.  Actually, I finished them in November, but the intent every year is to have them delivered either by hand or by post to their home in Massachusetts (USA) in time for them to wear them to various December events.

Every year I try to vary the look of the dresses.  While I like to surprise my daughter in addition to my granddaughters with what I make, this year I asked my daughter what she thought the girls would like.  Her response was immediate, telling me that they love the birthday sundresses I made for them last Spring so much, and could I perhaps get the same look in a winter dress?  So I went from this:

To this:

I did it by sizing up the patterns I used for last year’s December dress and substituting the ruffled collar which I adapted from the pattern for the birthday dresses.  Still with me at this point?  I had pattern pieces all over the place!

I found the lovely plaid cotton at Farmhouse Fabrics, as well as the lace and the buttons.  It took a full five yards of 58” wide fabric for the two dresses.  Once again, the dresses sort of evolved as I made them.  I originally was going to use picot edging for the collars, but it did not look right.  That’s when I switched to the lace, and just as a precaution, I ordered enough to edge the hems should I decide to do that.  As it turned out, the lace rimming the hem was the perfect finishing touch.  I had all of two inches of the lace remaining when the dresses were complete.  Whew!  That was cutting it close!

Thank goodness for the quick delivery of the lace from Farmhouse Fabrics!

I put the cuffs on the bias just to add some interest and to pick up on the bias binding at the neckline.

I lined the bodices with soft cotton batiste.

There is something magical about sashes and bows and a buttoned back on little girls’ dresses.

All the time I put into these dresses was well worth it when the girls were so excited to wear them to The Nutcracker, performed by The Pennsylvania Ballet at The Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA), on December 24th at noon.

Aida posing with one of the Sugarplum Fairies.

Carolina, Aida and Susanna during Intermission. We were all spellbound by the performance!

Thanks to my daughter, Susanna, for taking this cute picture!

What a wonderful day that was.  Here’s hoping your December was also filled with magical moments and ruffles and sashes.

And next up – my last make of the year – and of the decade…

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Filed under Bows as design feature, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Sewing for children, Uncategorized

Making a Parisian Jacket, Part 2 – and on to the Finish

Oh, lets’s just skip Part 2 and go right to the finish!  To be honest, a separate Part 2 was somehow lost in the midst of a flurry of sewing while I concentrated on “December Dresses” for my two granddaughters.  More on those another time.

When I returned to my Parisian Jacket, I was almost ready to tackle the gussets.  Sewing the bottom curved seam of the gussets was easy to do on the machine.  But when it came to the other two seams, working in such tight angles, I did not even try to sew them on my machine.  I went right to hand sewing them, using a small tight backstitch, and I ended up with good results.

Having the gussets finished meant that the basic body of the jacket was together.  Then it was on to the collar and the front facings.  Following Susan Khalje’s video instructions, I was able to get a very precise finish to the collar.

I had to be careful to match the weave of the fabric, up and down and across.

There are two bound buttonholes in the right front of the jacket, and this is where I deviated slightly from the order of construction that Susan was following.  Instead of partially sewing on the right front facing and then making the buttonholes, I did my buttonholes before I attached any part of the facing.  I felt like I had more control doing it this way.

The finish of the buttonhole on the ifacing.

The finish of the buttonhole on the facing. (Please pardon the cat fur!)

Whenever I have made a Classic French Jacket, I have added a slight curve to the back hem, and I find this to be very pleasing.  I decided to do the same with this jacket.  At the center back I marked the hemline at 5/8” below the marked hem, and then I gradually curved it up to the side point of the jacket.  It is quite subtle, but I think a nice addition.

I went round and round with buttons for this jacket.  Ideally I would have loved to find some pink ones, but the pink of this vintage Linton fabric is really not a clear pink.  It is a bit “dusty” and finding buttons to match proved too big a task.  So I opted for these vintage mother-of-pearl gray buttons, which happen to have pink overtones to them.

I expect to wear this jacket with gray quite a bit, so the gray buttons make sense to me.  I actually really like them now that they are on.

I chose a pink silk charmeuse from Emma One Sock Fabrics for my lining.  I would have loved to use a flowered silk, but the ‘see-through’ factor of the light pink wool prohibited that.  And actually the pink lining seems to add some vibrancy to the fashion fabric.  It makes a very pretty “inside”.

I sewed the lining in entirely by hand, which was an option. The front seams of the lining could also be machine stitched.

This was a very time-consuming project, even without making granddaughter dresses in the midst of it.  The video series is 13 parts long and Susan is extremely complete in her instructions.  I attribute my success with this jacket to three main facts:

  • I basted every seam before machine sewing them, even the seams in the lining.
  • Except for the bound buttonholes, I carefully followed Susan’s order of construction as she laid them out in her videos.
  • I viewed each lesson over and over to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

There were many couture tips shared by Susan during the making of this jacket, but these four are ones I will use again and again:

  • Sew the sides of the pocket bags in by hand with a small fell-stitch rather than sewing them by machine. What a great finish this made.
  • Catch-stitch the upper curve of the pocket bags to the underlining of the jacket. This keeps them in place and prevents sagging of the bag inside the garment.
  • Use straight-of-grain silk organza strips to stabilize the on-bias cuffs of the bias sleeves. This keeps the lower edge of the sleeve from “growing” as bias is wont to do.
  • To add a center back pleat to the lining, which is necessary of course, place the back jacket pattern piece on the fold of your lining silk, set back from the edge by about one inch. (You will not have a center back seam in your lining with this method.)  The extra inch makes a natural pleat which can be secured at the neckline and at the waist or slightly below.

It may be a little difficult to see the center back pleat, as everything is so pink, but it is in the center of the photo.

I am already looking forward to making this jacket again.  I can visualize it in a vintage Moygashel linen – it would be beautiful for Spring and Summer and Fall.  I think this jacket may become as addictive to sew as a Classic French Jacket!

 

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Gussets, Linings, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, woolens

Making a Parisian Jacket, Part 1

Another title for this post could be “Sewing with Professional Instruction – the Parisian Jacket.”  One of the advantages of having a subscription to Susan Khalje’s online Couture Sewing Club is exclusive access to videos which take the viewer, step-by-step, through the process of making one of these jackets.  

When this pattern was released a few months ago, I was immediately interested in making one.  There are several details in this jacket which I find especially appealing.  The first – and salient one – is the cut-on sleeve, also called an all-in-one sleeve. This is a design feature which was prevalent in the 1950s, but no longer often seen.   Usually sewn with an underarm gusset to enhance moveability, this sleeve forms its own crease lines below the shoulder at the front and back.  You can see that detail in the diagram on the pattern envelope above.  Take a look at this magazine cover from November 1956.  You can see both the crease line and the coat’s gusset.  

I suspect at least one of the reasons this particular type of sleeve fell out of favor is that the pattern pieces do take a sizeable amount of fabric to accommodate the width of the attached sleeve.  I also suspect sewing in those gussets demanded a certain expertise to be finished successfully, adding time to both home sewing and to ready-to-wear.  But I love the look of the cut-on sleeve.  It really is a classic style, and one which I am happy to have the opportunity to incorporate into my sewing.  It is worth mentioning here that this sleeve is similar to a “kimono” sleeve, but it is not cut as full under the arm.  (This seems like a good time to show the pattern piece for the jacket’s gusset.  Rather than diamond shaped, it is a triangle with a curved top edge.  Pretty clever!)

Another design feature of the jacket which appeals to me is the prominence of the buttons.  The jacket is shown with just two buttons, although certainly a third one could be added.  However, with two larger ones, it is really possible to use showcase buttons, if desired.  And if you follow my blog, you already know that vintage buttons – and unique new ones – are one of my weaknesses.  I am always looking for opportunities to use beautiful buttons.

A third construction detail I find appealing is the center back seam.  This allows the opportunity for lovely shaping and more precise fitting than if the back piece were cut without a seam. 

With all this in mind, I was anxious to get started on this project.  As I already had several lovely woolens waiting for their turn, I decided to use one of them rather than buy new fabric.  And my attention kept coming back to this vintage piece of Linton wool which I purchased from an Etsy shop about a year ago.  

It is entirely coincidental that the jacket Susan is making in her instructional videos is also pink!  Of course, I love pink.  I would describe this particular hue of pink as a “Winter pink.”  It has a bit of a dusty appearance to it, making it ideal for a November project.  The best thing is that I have enough fabric to make a matching sheath dress to go with my jacket.  (Although I feel sure that particular project will have to wait until after the new year.) 

Well, back to Susan’s video instruction…  She is very thorough in what she includes, so much so, that those of us who have taken classes from her already, are able to whiz through the early lessons for the most part.  However, one suggestion she made was to use pins rather than machine sewing to fit the muslin together.  Here is what I mean by that:

The seam lines are pinned together horizontally throughout, and then the muslin is ready to try on. No stabbing occurred during the process!

I found this method far superior to putting the muslin together by machine.  It was much easier to make changes and alterations, and I felt like the “seams” laid flatter, enabling me to ascertain the fit, on me, more precisely.  

Once I had my muslin perfected (as much as possible), I transferred all the markings onto white silk organza, to be used as my underlining and also as the pattern pieces from which to cut the fashion fabric.  I had to move to my dining room table to accommodate the expanse of the wool. 

It is easy to see here the amount of fabric needed for the cut-on sleeves. (I use my candlesticks as weights to keep the fabric from slipping.)

Once I started assembling some of the jacket pieces, I realized I had not perfectly matched the facings.  Although the wool is solid pink, there is that very distinct weave in it which needs to be matched.  Fortunately, because I had left such wide seam allowances, I did not need to cut a new facing.  I just needed to readjust the organza on the one facing which was a bit askew.  

You can see the organza adjusted on the righthand facing, before I had re-basted it.

I still have a long way to go on this jacket, but here are two “work-in-progress” shots, with the seams sewn but nothing trimmed, ironed or catch-stitched yet.  It is fun to see it taking shape, however.  

I have a pink button pinned onto the front to see how it looks, but I have already decided against it.

Two more things need to take shape very soon – namely Holiday dresses for my granddaughters.  Somehow, I think they will be finished before my jacket!  

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Sleeves, woolens

Odds and Ends and One Thing You Mustn’t Miss

Sewing has been, well, challenging this summer.  In reality, I think I have been able to accomplish just about all I could have hoped for – so far, at least – but it certainly doesn’t seem like very much.

When I packed fabric to bring along to our new vacation home in Wyoming, I tried to think ahead and determine exactly what I would need.  For instance, I brought two decorator fabrics which I had picked out for two of our “new” bedrooms, with plans for making decorative pillows and at least one bed skirt.  I also brought two fabrics with which to make dresses for our two little granddaughters who were arriving, along with the rest of our immediate family, in late July.  I also brought some vintage Moygashel linen, many pieces of shirting and dress cottons, skirt fabric, and a piece of Viyella cotton/wool blend.  What was I thinking?!!  Certainly no one could accuse me of being under-ambitious!

I totally misjudged how much of my time would be taken up with organizing and setting up a new household.  So – what have I been able to sew?  A number of decorative pillows, for one thing. I find them – and all that self-bias tape I had to construct – utterly boring to make, but satisfying once they are completed.    The bed skirts have been moved to the “still to do” list.

was able to make dresses for my granddaughters.  My original intent was to make each dress out of a different fabric, but when I stretched out my ladybug embroidered, striped fabric from Emma One Sock, I realized I had more than I needed for one dress.  With one minor compromise, I knew I could get two dresses from my existing yardage.  So I changed plans and made matching dresses.

I made white piping for the pockets and collars out of kitchen string and white batiste.  The ladybug embroidered fabric is really so cute!

The compromise I had to make involved the sashes, as I did not have enough fabric to cut sashes for two dresses. Fortunately I had enough of the coordinating red fabric to make the sashes. Now I’m glad it worked out that way, as I think it makes the dresses cuter.

I had pre-purchased red decorative buttons, thinking I would need them for just one dress. Normally I would put three in a row centered beneath the collar, but with four buttons, and two dresses … Well, you do the math!  Two on each dress it is!

Having spent many summer days and nights in Wyoming before this year, I knew  from experience how chilly the mornings – and nights – can be throughout the summer.  (The days are warm and glorious, however.)  Warm cozy slippers and a winter-weight bathrobe are necessities. And that is why I brought along the afore-mentioned Viyella fabric.  Although I packed a winter-weight robe which I made a few years ago, I wanted to make a new robe which I can leave here, therefore eliminating one bulky item from future suitcases.

How lovely to have the opportunity to use this vintage Vogue pattern once again.

This robe takes a lot of fabric, and it was a tight squeeze fitting all the pattern pieces on it and matching the plaid as well.  I had to make the sash out of two pieces of fabric, seaming it in the back. Additionally, I had enough fabric for only one pocket (I prefer two.) But, I am happy with the outcome, and very pleased to have used one more piece of fabric from my sizeable collection!

Viyella is the perfect fabric for a lightweight, but warm bathrobe. It is machine washable, and gets softer with age.

While the bathrobe, and the little dresses, were enjoyable to make, neither were challenging in the “couture” sense.  So I did my  “couture” dreaming vicariously through the Susan Khalje  Couture Sewing Club, where inspiration abounds in many forms.  Earlier in the month, Susan was interviewed for the “Love to Sew” podcast.  Treat yourself and spend a lovely hour-plus listening to it, if you haven’t already done so.  The interview, Episode 106, dated August 12th, can be found here:

www.lovetosewpodcast.com.

Among Susan’s new pattern offerings is this jacket:

When I arrive back home in Pennsylvania, I will be searching through my fabric closet for the perfect pairing for this pattern.  I am just itching to challenge myself with such a project.  No more pillows, at least for now!

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Filed under Bathrobes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Fashion commentary, Sewing for children, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

A Stripe is a Stripe is a Stripe

Or, is it? Fashion terminology tends to be very precise and descriptive, so I was not surprised when I discovered all the various stripes that can be described in specific terms.  What prompted my interest in stripes was my most recent addition to my casual blouse wardrobe.

There is something just so classic about navy blue and white, and a navy and white striped shirt is almost a necessity.   When I saw this Italian cotton shirt fabric on the website of Farmhouse Fabrics, I wasted no time in ordering it.

Farmhouse Fabrics has the most amazing selection of fine shirting cottons, and their service is superb!

I place stripes in the same category as checks and polka dots – timeless, varied and versatile. When I did a little exploring into the nomenclature of stripes, to confirm my thought that this was a “pencil stripe” on which I was working, I not only found this to be correct, I also was introduced to a whole descriptive world of stripes.  There are awning stripes, bayadere stripes, candy stripes, chalk stripes, hickory (or Liberty) stripes, ombre stripes, pinstripes, regimental stripes, ticking stripes, and the list goes on and on.  What designates a pencil stripe is that the background color (for example, white) between the stripes is wider than the stripes in the foreground color (navy blue), which can be as narrow as a pencil line, or bolder.

This is the fifth blouse I have made in the last year, using this simple pattern from 1972, and I would not be surprised to find myself making five more of this style.

The many alterations and refinements I have made to this pattern include 1) a shoulder adjustment to give more ease at the top of the sleeve, 2) an inverted pleat in the center back, mimicking a detail on a RTW which I particularly like, 3) fisheye darts in the back of the bodice to tame some of its fullness, 4) lengthening of the sleeve placket, making it easier to roll up the sleeves, and 5) re-cutting of the collar from pointed ends to a spread collar.

I particularly like the way this collar looks.

Every one of these blouses needs buttons, of course, and as long as I keep finding vintage buttons like these, I will keep using them.

Ultra Kraft made quality buttons. I feel so fortunate to have access to so many of their beautiful buttons on eBay and Etsy.

I tend to wear my sleeves rolled up, more often than down.

A very windy day, but the sun is shining!

How much summer sewing do I see on the horizon???

There is not much more which can be said about this blouse.  I expect to wear it casually all summer long, which is a lovely thought indeed.

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Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Uncategorized, vintage buttons

The Pink Coat Odyssey, The Finish!

Is it possible to fall in love with a coat?  If so, then that is what has happened with my pink coat.  It was a relationship which grew over several years.

First, I found the pattern, this Vogue Paris Original Designer Pattern from 1965.  It was an eBay purchase made several years ago, with a promise to myself that one day, when I found the right fabric, I would make it.

Next I found this silk charmeuse couture fabric on the website of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics. It was an end cut, 2.25 yards, and when I purchased it, I envisioned another wrap dress, not the lining of a coat.  Luckily I had no urgent plans to use it, and thus it eventually found its way inside the pink coat.

I am showing the lining silk here along with the pink wool to show how well they complement each other.

And then – I found the pink wool.  Also an eBay purchase, this wool was not inexpensively priced, but I recognized its rarity and its “presence” in the posted pictures.  Then I hoped it would live up to its promise once I received it and saw it in person.  Over the years I have found some amazing things on eBay, but this wool is one of the real treasures.

Because I have already posted quite a bit about the coat’s muslin/toile and certain salient details, I will not go into too much more description about the coat’s construction.  But I do want to point out some of this pattern’s engineering charms.

1) On the photo on the pattern envelope, I believe the soft shoulder of the coat is evident.  I used a “cigarette-type” sleeve heading in each shoulder to enhance the smooth transition from the shoulder to the top of the sleeve.  Not so evident on the pattern illustration is the drape of the back of the coat from the shoulder line.  I realized this drape works so well because of the two neckline darts.  They are in the neckline, not the shoulder seam; they add necessary shaping without disturbing the drape.

Can you see how the dart comes off from the neckline, not the shoulder seam?

2) The collar is an engineering marvel in my mind.  The under-collar  is constructed from four pieces, two main sections cut on the bias, and a 2-piece collar band, seamed at the center back.  The band helps the collar to turn beautifully.

This photo clearly shows the components of the under-collar. You can also see the under-stitching I did in silk buttonhole twist.

3) When I made the toile, I was concerned about the fullness of the back of the coat.  It seemed a bit much, and I have already written about my intention to add a half belt to draw in the fullness, if needed. Nope!   I am so happy with the finished look – it has that 1960s’ vibe without being overwhelming.  I did move the vertical back seam line up 1.25” to rest at my natural waistline, rather than below it.  For me, this was the correct alteration.  It may not be on someone else who has more height than I do.  Another consideration was that a half belt would have concealed the seam detailing which is so lovely on the back of the coat.

An inside look at the back of the coat, showing its drape from the shoulder seams.

The other significant alteration I made was to remove 1.5″ of width from each sleeve.  I possibly could have taken out even more, but I will be wearing this coat over sweaters and perhaps even a jacket, so the sleeves as I cut them will still accommodate that bulk.  But I would not want them any fuller!

Although the pattern did not call for it, I added flat piping to the edge of the lining.  I chose white silk crepe de chine for this contrast detail.  I felt any other color would have been too demonstrative.

The coat kind of looks like a sack of potatoes in this photo of its front edge!

The finished look of the lining edge.

I had some difficulty finding pink buttons.  I ended up with two varieties found in two Etsy shops.  I used a larger pink-swirly one for the looped closure, and smaller pink pearl-y ones for the concealed opening.  If I ever find ones I like better, that’s a easy switch.  But the more I see these, the more I like this combination.

Basting threads are still evident in this photo.

Alas, it is much too warm for wearing wool coats now, but it is ready for next Fall’s cooler days.  By then I hope to have a  windowpane checked skirt, in delicate gray, white and pink wool, specially made to wear with this coat.

It is always interesting what photos reveal. I am thinking I may need to redo the hem to get a softer look to it. It looks like it has crinkles in it!

I will take any excuse to show the inside of this coat!

I cut a piece of the selvedge with the Lesur name on it and attached it to the right front facing of the coat right below the placket.  I think this is an important part of the story of this project.

There is a very slight bow to the back of the coat, again reminiscent of the ’60s.

This coat is almost making me anxious for next Fall!

As I worked on this coat, I came to realize how perfectly suited the pattern and the wool were for each other.   It was such a privilege to spend so many hours with such quality.  No wonder I fell in love!

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Linings, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

Seeing Double – No, Triple!

When I saw this dress pictured on the website of Farmhouse Fabrics, I knew I wanted to use this pattern and this fabric for my granddaughters’ birthday dresses.

Fortunately, the pattern was included in the  Summer 2018 issue of Classic Sewing Magazine, available from Farmhouse Fabrics, as were the fabric and all the trimmings.

This pattern allows for many variations; here is one page from the featured article on this dress in Classic Sewing Magazine.

With birthdays three weeks apart from each other, one in March and one in April, my granddaughters bridge that small gap between Winter and Spring.  Presenting them each with a special Springtime birthday dress has become a real focus for me in planning my annual sewing.  What amazes me is how quickly the time for this particular sewing comes up in the new year.  But somehow I always get them finished in time for the birthday celebrations.

 

I decided to forego the white eyelet collar shown in the example and make the collars out of the dress fabric.  My thought was this change made the dresses more “everyday,” albeit fancy, nice everyday!  Because Farmhouse Fabrics carried this wonderful bias, picot-embellished edging, I chose to trim the collars with it.

In the back of my mind, I had the thought of also embellishing the dresses with rick rack (when do I not have the notion to embellish with rick rack?).  However, I did not want to overdo it, leaving the lovely fabric to carry most of the impact of the dresses.  When I found pale pink jumbo rick rack, I thought it might be the perfect anchor to the skirts, pickling up the zigzag motif on the picot collar edging.

Here is one of the dresses before the rick rack was applied.

I think the rick rack is a very nice addition.

I determined that a single row of rickrack was all I needed.  Of course, to be done correctly, it had to be hand-sewn in place, which took a bit of time.

The final finishing touch was the placement of two pink buttons at the back opening.

I self-lined the bodices.

Another close-up.

This diagram helps to show the details of the pattern. Notice the narrow darts in the bodice, which gives such a nice degree of shaping. This is the type of detail found on well-engineered patterns.

The backs of these dresses are so pretty!

So, two dresses done – and two+ yards of fabric left over!  What would you do?  Silky soft cotton, beautiful Spring colors, an even plaid.  How could I not use it for something?

What do you think of a blouse?  A casual, everyday type of blouse, hopefully perfect for the upcoming casual Summer?  Yep – that’s what I did!

I have already altered, “perfected,” and made this vintage Simplicity pattern from the early 1970s several times, and I must say, I never get tired of making it.

The pattern art here is so dated!

About halfway through the construction of this blouse, I had a moment of questioning my choice.  Was this blouse going to look just a little too “country with a piece of straw in my mouth?”  Or was it just going to look fresh and bright?  But at that point there was no turning back.

I combined two sets of buttons remaining from two previous blouses for the eight buttons I needed here.

Identical size and same look made combining these two sets of buttons an easy decision.

Now that the blouse is finished, I really like it.  We’ll see what my granddaughters think when they see me in it!

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Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Sewing for children, Uncategorized