Category Archives: hand-sewn zippers

An A-Line Cocktail Dress

The A-Line silhouette is certainly a very recognizable and common style.  Although there is nothing spectacular about it, it does have a rather interesting origin in modern fashion history.  I had lots of time to think about this style as I worked through my most recent project, and I was surprised with what I discovered.

This entry in Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion gives a succinct history:

“Apparel styled close and narrow at the shoulders or waist and flaring gently away from the body to the hem in a line resembling the letter A.  Introduced in 1955 by Paris couturier Christian Dior, the term is used as an adjective in describing a wide variety of apparel with this shape, including coats, dresses, jumpers, and skirts.” (The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyllis Tortora, Third edition, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New York, c2003, page 11)

A further entry adds “…Usually made with narrow shoulders, [and] a high neckline…” (Ibid, page 11)

Dior’s “A-Line” collection in the Spring of 1955 featured a “fingertip-length flared jacket worn over a dress with a very full, pleated skirt.” (“A-Line dress,” by Susan Ward; Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion, by Valerie Steele; Thomson Gale, Detroit, Michigan, pages 35-36) Fairchild’s Dictionary has a depiction of this very dress which was called “the most wanted silhouette in Paris.”

Obviously the A-Line shape then evolved into a less dramatic, and more ubiquitous style during the 1960s and ‘70s, much closer to  what we recognize today as A-Line.

When I was contemplating which pattern to use for my dress (I had purchased the fabric, 1½ yards, 54” wide,  from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in April of this year), I wanted a style which would showcase the fabric. Although I originally thought I would go with a sheath dress silhouette for this fabric, when I found this pattern, it struck a chord.

The line drawing for the shorter length shows more detail of its seaming and darts. The description on the pattern envelope reads: “Evening or street length, high shaped, slightly A-line dress has short sleeves and scoop neckline with or without slit at center front…”

I liked that center front seam with its notched neckline, even though I knew it might be a little tricky to match the embroidered vines and flowers.  However, I thought  the semi-attached appliqués would be lovely overlapping the seams.

The small slit in the center front neckline.

It took me a full week to finish my muslin.  The bust needed to be dropped so those princess-seamed darts needed a lot of adjustment.  In the shoulder area I had some gaping in the front, and I also needed to reshape the top of the shoulders.  Instead of easing the sleevecaps to fit the armscye, I decided to replace that ease with a shaping dart to the top of the sleeves.  I really liked the fluid look that gave to the shoulder line. I drafted three-quarter sleeves as I was contemplating that change to the original pattern.

It is difficult to see in this black fabric, but this is the top of the sleeve with its shaping dart.  If you look closely, you can see some loose edges of the larger appliqués.

Can you guess what is coming next?  As is often the case when I purchase fabric first and then choose a pattern, I created a challenge for myself.  It was almost immediately obvious to me that I would not be able to work on the lengthwise grain of fabric, as I could not begin to fit the pattern pieces onto the fabric and do any matching whatsoever. As luck would have it, I preferred the appearance of the meandering of the vines and flowers on the crossgrain, and I figured out how to stagger the pattern pieces to both fit the fabric, and match the seams.  But those three-quarter length sleeves?  No way were they going to happen!  I could just fit in the original short sleeves, so short they were going to be!

Here are the silk organza underlining (pattern) pieces laid out on my fabric. I had to stagger the four main pieces to fit it on the fabric. Fortunately I was still able to match the pattern of the vines and flowers. Whew! (I took pictures on my iPad to help with the matching.  You can see it in the upper right corner.)

I ended up basting by hand every single seam on this dress.  Even with great care, it was incredibly easy to catch corners of those loose appliqués by mistake, so it was much easier to make adjustments in basting rather than in the finished machine-sewn seams.  The basting also showed me I needed to take out a small bit of the width of the skirt from the waist down, about an inch total.  When is an inch more than an inch?  In this dress!  That one inch made a huge difference in its final appearance.

Because I was sewing this dress using couture techniques, the neck facing was eliminated, with the black crepe de chine lining fell-stitched to the edge of the neckline.  When I under-stitched the lining to secure it in place, I used an off-white silk buttonhole twist. It was so much easier to see light thread on the black lining, and also, I think it looks pretty.

I hand picked the zipper, which virtually disappears in this dark jacquard embroidered fabric.

I was able to arrange the hem of the skirt so the larger of the semi-attached appliqués would hang just beneath the fold-line.

This shows two of the appliqués at the hemline.

I love the graceful flow of this dress.

The simple look of this dress belies the hours and hours I spent on it!

And I am so pleased that I was unable to make three-quarter length sleeves. These short sleeves are just perfect!

I am quite happy with the way this dress turned out.  I do think its simple lines show off the fabric well – no need for anything too fussy when the fabric is so incredibly lovely!  I love that I can wear this 1960’s A-Line style and somehow feel – and hopefully look – very current.

 

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Filed under Cocktail dresses, couture construction, Fashion history, Formal or fancy dresses, hand-sewn zippers, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

Linen for Fall

Although Fall is undoubtedly my favorite season, I find it the most difficult one for which to dress. Bright Summer colors look out of place, it’s not chilly enough for wool yet, and the days can be very variable. And although linen is usually thought of as a Summer fabric, I believe there are some linens which lend themselves beautifully to this time of year. These are, of course, not lightweight, or handkerchief linens. These are linens with some heft to them, which can be cool to the skin if needed and add some warmth as the sun goes down (sweaters help, too!).

I was fortunate to find a length of Moygashel linen on eBay several years ago, which seemed to fit this bill, especially in its color combination. What could be more Fall-ish than burnt orange, chestnut brown and deep navy, all set on an ecru background?

Moygashel dress linen was produced in a few different weights. The pink dress I made in early Summer was fairly lightweight; this linen is heavier, but still dress-weight.   It was 35” wide, which tells me it was produced not any later than about 1962 or 1963. (About that time, Moygashel seems to have switched to wider looms, thereafter producing 45” wide yard goods.) That “daisy” design also is a clue to its age of production, although it certainly does not scream 1960s. I had 2¼ yards so I had to find a pattern that would accommodate narrow fabric width and limited yardage. That pretty much eliminated the idea of sleeves! However, knowing how warm some of these Fall days can be, I was fine with a sleeveless dress. And I am an avid cardigan sweater-wearer, so I knew this fabric would lend itself to a pairing with a deep navy sweater.

With that in mind, I went searching through my pattern collection for a sheath dress with something more to it – and here is the winner:

This pattern is also from the early 1960s.

I really liked the half-belt, and the seaming detail of the bodice.

So I was off and running after making quite a few adjustments to the pattern for fit. I prefer to work with a 32” bust/34” hip pattern, but this was what I had. (I think if I make this pattern again, I will take it in just a bit more, especially in the bust.)

I considered adding some self-piping to the front seaming detail and around the perimeter of the belt, but I decided against it as I felt that would add too much bulk. So instead, I decided to top-stitch those areas.

Here is the front center seam detail. I used a light brown thread for the top-stitching.

I had this one lovely pearl button which seemed perfect for the belt with its concentric circle design.  I did a bound buttonhole, just what the pattern instructions called for!

The belt follow the lines of the front bodice.

I did a lapped, hand-picked zipper, and I also lowered the neckline just a bit in the front.

And note those neat shoulder darts. Why don’t new patterns have such necessary details?

I lined the dress with a very lightweight linen/cotton blend. I eliminated the facings and brought the lining up to the neck and armscye edges, as in customary couture sewing. Although I did not underline this dress (I have found that linen usually does not benefit from underlining in silk organza. Also, machine washing is easier without an underlining), it is still possible to tack the lining around those areas to insure the edges stay put!

I know I am always going on and on about Moygashel linen (which is no longer being produced), but it really is such a delight to sew – and to wear!

Nice with a sweater…

So there you have it – my first dress made specifically for Fall! However the story does not end here. With any luck this dress will have a starring role in a more complete outfit, which is going to have to wait until next Fall before I can get to it. Do you have any idea what I might be planning?

 

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, Linen, Linings, Mid-Century style, Moygashel linen, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

Sweet November

The trickery, which defined my October sewing, finally floated away with the leaves and the goblins, leaving sweet November with her welcome reward, a new dress for Autumn and Winter.

Sweet November

So what made vintage Vogue 1395 such a tricky dress to make? I documented my efforts to get a workable muslin (toile) in a post from early October. Once I had my adjusted muslin pattern, I transferred it onto black silk organza to use as my cutting guide. It was then I realized that, because the design on the fabric, a silk and wool blend, was printed on it, not woven into it, I needed to work from the right side of the fabric in order to match the horizontal “lines.” This meant that I had to flip every piece that I cut out and then exchange the organza with its opposing side. (I hope this makes sense.) It added a bit of uncertainty to the process and I was fanatical with flipping and checking to make sure I kept the design in line. Something told me I should delay cutting out the sleeves until I had the body of the dress together – my sewing godmother at work, I guess – and I am glad I did, as I’ll detail in a bit.

I had made the decision at the beginning of the project to cover the dress’s two buttons in the plain gray “wrong” side of the fabric. But once I “semi-made” a covered button, and tried it out, it was DULL. It added nothing to the dress. I went to my button box and all I could find was a small gray pearl that was close in color. But I loved the iridescence of it and determined that gray pearl buttons were what I needed. I seem to have such good luck with buttons from Britex – even though I am ordering online – and found 1” gray pearl buttons with a rhinestone in their centers. Although I am not a rhinestone-y type of person, something about them spoke to me. I remembered what Susan Khalje said in one of the classes I have taken with her – that couture often has a bit of “whimsy” to it. Well, I ordered those buttons as as fast as I could! I think they are just what was needed!

Sweet November

I had also made the decision to make the “dickey” part of the dress out of the side of the fabric with the printed design – so that the horizontal line would be uninterrupted across the bodice. Here is what it looked like once I had it done:

Sweet November

There was not enough definition between the dress and dickey to make it interesting.

I cut some scraps to see what it would look like with a play gray insert – and it was so much better!

Sweet November

So – I took the dickey all apart and flipped it over so it would be out of the plain gray “wrong side.” By now I was enjoying the versatility of this fabric (which I bought online from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics) and appreciating the serendipity of having this fabric for this pattern, giving me options.

However, the fabric posed another challenge when I got to the point of finishing the front opening in the bodice. This fabric frays enough that I was not comfortable following the directions given in the pattern instructions:

The instructions directed me to just turn back the seam allowance, but because of the ravel-ly nature of the fabric, I was certain it would pull out with wear.

The instructions directed me to just turn back the seam allowance, but because of the ravel-ly nature of the fabric, I was certain it would pull out with wear.

Instead, I opted to make a “facing” for the opening out of black organza. It is situations like this that make me feel so fortunate to have enough “sewing sense” to be able to recognize potential difficulties and then have the ability to work out creative solutions to them.

Sweet November

Silk organza pinned in place.

And here it is sewn in place.

And here it is sewn in place.

I took some pictures at this point to show the inside of the body of the dress:

Yes, those are pockets hanging on the front.

Yes, those are pockets hanging on the front.

This shows those darts with their slanted orientation.

This shows those bust darts with their slanted orientation.

The zipper is inserted by hand, as usual! Once I had it basted in place, I tried the dress on for fit and determined I had to take it in a bit at the waistline.

Then I tackled the sleeves. I had quite a time determining how to place the sleeve patterns on the remaining fabric. Some of those horizontal lines of “paintbrush strokes” change color across the fabric! And my adapted sleeve pattern has two elbow darts, which changed the horizontal line. I had to make a decision about where I wanted the best match to be, as I determined I could not match it across and up and down as I would normally want to do. I opted for a match across the shoulders – and I now believe that was the best decision.

DSC_0924

I also added a soft “cigarette” sleeve heading to each shoulder seam.

Next to the lining – and bless those vintage Vogue patterns – the lining for this dress included separate and distinct pattern pieces. I made the sizing and dart changes to the lining (in keeping with the dress) and it went together effortlessly. When I got to the point of inserting the lining by hand, I just could not resist adding silk piping to the inside neck edge. I know I am the only one who will ever see it, but it makes me happy!

Sweet November

I used a bias strip of lightweight silk for the piping.

I used a bias strip of lightweight silk for the piping.

How wonderful to have this dress completed!

Sweet November

The buttons really show in this picture.

The buttons really show in this picture.

Sweet November

Sweet November

Sweet November

There was one more aspect of serendipity to this project. Those of you who follow my blog know that part of my fascination with vintage Vogue patterns is making connections between the past and the present. I love to “place” a pattern in its correct year – and then wonder in amazement at how classic fashions are so enduring. It was my great good fortune to have this Vogue Pattern Fashion News from November 1964 in my collection of vintage fashion magazines:

Sweet November - flyer cover

Inside on page 3 is, yes, my dress!

Sweet November - flyer illustration

Just imagine – 51 years ago this month, this dress made its debut. Happy Sweet November Everyone!

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Day dresses, hand-sewn zippers, Love of sewing, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

“Cheers!”

Cocktails in our home – and in our family – are always preceded by a toast of some sort. Usually a simple “Cheers!” will suffice, but sometimes the occasion calls for something more meaningful. One of the most memorable cocktail toasts I have ever heard was standard fare for one of my late mother-in-law’s good friends. By the time I met her, she was a little shaky, which made the toast even more charming. She would raise her trembly glass with great ceremony and declare “To our noble selves!”

As I was working on my latest project – yes, a cocktail dress – I thought about all the possible declarations we, as sewers, could add to the vocabulary of toasts. More about those thoughts later… First up is something to wear to that cocktail/dressy party!

This Vogue Designer pattern is from the early 1960s.

This Vogue Designer pattern is from the early 1960s.

The lengthy process of perfecting the muslin (toile) for my blue cocktail dress revealed a few minor changes I needed to make – four of them, to be exact.   You might be able to see on the pattern envelope, that the “overblouse” in the front actually hits about an inch above the waistline. This just did not look good on me, so I extended the length of those two over-lapping fronts an inch so that they would lay directly at my waist. Second, the under-dress, the top of which is not seen when being worn is cut low so that it does not show beneath the “V” of the overblouse. However, it was cut much lower than I needed, so I raised it a bit.

I thought the shoulders of the overblouse extended a little bit too wide, so I cut the top of the armscye in about ¾ of an inch, graduating it down to join the lower part of the armscye. And fourth – I added a slit at the lower back center seam to make walking easier. I seem to do this frequently with vintage patterns.

The pattern called for the fashion fabric to be underlined, but not lined.   I wanted to line the dress – and actually felt it was a necessity with the fabric I was using. Because of the unusual construction of the dress, I knew that this was going to be interesting – and that I was going to have to make it up as I went. To see what I mean about the unusual construction, take a look at the pattern instructions. The front of the “underdress” is sewn to the back of the dress at the side seams only to the waistline. The bodice part of the front “underdress” hangs loose while the two sections of the overblouse are first sewn to the dress back. Then that bodice is hand sewn in place.

To our sewing selves - pattern diagram

To line the dress, I first sewed the lining to the front underdress at the neck and the armscyes by machine. I under stitched these sections by hand, leaving about an inch free on either end.

Cheers

Next I lined the two front overblouse sections, stitching only the front armscyes by machine; I attached the rest of these linings by hand, using fell stitches.  Then I joined the overblouse sections to the (unlined at this point) dress back.

The front overblouse sections are attached to the side seams, but the front underdress is hanging loose, which does not show in this photo.

The front overblouse sections are attached to the side seams, but the front underdress is hanging loose, visible at the lower left.

I had pieces of dress and overblouse and lining hanging every which way! Any of you who have made a “Chanel” type jacket know how unruly the process is before the lining is seamed in place by hand. This reminded me of that. Somehow I would have to make order out of chaos!

To line the back dress section, I pinned the lining to the armscyes and neck and fell stitched in place by hand. Then I was able to sew each side seam on the machine. The shoulder seams were the final ones to finish, which I did by hand. Then it was only a matter of fell stitching the lining to the hand-picked zipper and understitching the neck and arm sections.

The shoulder seam encloses two finished layers in front.

The shoulder seam encloses two finished layers in front.

It worked! The lining fit perfectly and made for a pretty “insides”!

An inside look at the underdress and the overblouse.

An inside look at the underdress and the overblouse.

The pattern called for tacking the front overblouse sections to the underdress, but I decided to use snaps instead. Ironing this dress will be so much easier with the overblouse sections opened up. However, I did permanently tack the looped tie in place, as indicated in the pattern directions. There was much more hand sewing involved in this dress because of the added lining, but the process was so rewarding in the end.

DSC_1374

Cheers

I anticipate this dress being perfect for not only cocktails, but also weddings and other dressy occasions (particularly if I get the coat made, too!).

Cheers

DSC_1369

 

DSC_1362

Although I doubt I’ll be clinking my cocktail glass with many other dressmakers, I like the thought of a “virtual” toast with my fellow sewing enthusiasts. Some possibilities I have come up with are “To needle and thread” – or “To weft and to warp” – or “To scissors and seams” – or the one I think I prefer, with thanks to a lady from the past – “To our sew-able selves!”

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Filed under Cocktail dresses, couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

Sometimes It’s All About the Shoes

Well, maybe it’s not entirely about the shoes, although they do promise to share a starring role with my just-completed yellow and blue linen dress.

All about the shoes

I first spied these lovelies on the Simply Soles website last winter, as part of the offerings for Spring/Summer shoes. Although I loved everything about them (the combination of colors, the fabric, the asymmetrical bow, the kitten heel, the brand – knowing from experience that Butter shoes are extremely comfortable), I decided not to purchase them. At that point in time, I had not yet bought the bittersweet yellow linen, so I had no reason to buy shoes with such a limited color palette. By the time I had a good reason to buy them, they were no longer available in my size.

All about the shoes However, the Simply Soles website allows one to request an email advice should the correctly sized shoe become available. Weeks went by, Summer arrived, and by then I had paired the recently purchased deep yellow linen with the pottery blue linen. Goodness, I could not stop thinking about those shoes and how perfect they would be with my envisioned dress. And then – they were suddenly available – in my size – and on sale!

All about the shoes

By this time I was already immersed in making my second linen dress of the Summer, so I planned for the blue and yellow linen to be number “3”. In the meantime, I happened upon more documentation of Moygashel linen, this one for the “yellow” piece. Those of you who follow this blog know how much I love to make these connections!

"... pure enchantment for sun places ... a forsythia linen dress ..."  and the source information in the back of this Vogue Pattern Book Magazine from February/March, 1968 credits Moygashel as the brand of linen.

“… pure enchantment for sun places … a forsythia linen dress …” and the source information in the back of this Vogue Pattern Book Magazine from February/March, 1968 credits Moygashel as the brand of linen.

Seeing an entire dress made out of the forsythia linen helped me to feel confident about having such a bright color as the bodice part of my planned dress.  As I stated in my last post, I decided to use the bodice from this early ‘60s’ Vogue pattern, pairing it with a slim skirt and a belt.

The neckline dips down to a slightly curved V, with a center seam.

The neckline dips down to a slightly curved V, with a center seam.

As this would be a dressier type of frock, and because I know how foolproof couture construction is (with silk organza underlining and crepe de chine lining), I proceeded using those techniques. The facings on the V-shape of the bodice front and back were cut as part of the pattern, instead of being separate pieces. I followed the instructions to reinforce the edges of the fold with ¼” twill tape.

I basted the twill tape just to the outside of the fold line on the "all-in-one" facing.

I basted the twill tape just to the outside of the fold line on the “all-in-one” facing.  This is the back bodice.

And this is the front bodice, showing the deep V and the center seam.

And this is the front bodice, showing the deep V and the center seam.

Normally, couture construction does not use facings, but in this application, they were indispensible. Then the rest of the dress proceeded without a hitch.

Here is the dress turned inside out.  I used a forsythia-yellow zipper as i thought it more important to match the bodice than the skirt of the dress.

Here is the dress turned inside out. I used a forsythia-yellow zipper as I thought it more important to match the bodice than the skirt of the dress.

Here is the shoulder with the crepe de chine fell-stitched and understitched in place around the shouilder.  Note the lingerie stay made with a folded piece of Hug Snug Rayon woven tape.

Here is an inside look at the crepe de chine fell-stitched and understitched in place around the shouilder. Note the lingerie stay made with a folded piece of Hug Snug rayon woven tape.

About halfway through the construction of the dress, I got the idea to have decorative buttons made – to compliment the front V of the neckline.

I sent scraps of my fabric off to Pat Mahoney in California to have these buttons made.  Sadly, Pat is retiring from her business at the end of August...

I sent scraps of my fabric off to Pat Mahoney in California to have these buttons made. Sadly, Pat is retiring from her business at the end of August…

I actually was not sure I was going to use them until I had finished the dress, but I think they add just the right amount of detail.

Here is the dress without the buttons . . .

Here is the dress without the buttons . . .

. . . and here is the dress with the buttons.  What do you think?  With or without?

. . . and here is the dress with the buttons. What do you think? With or without?

Another detail I was happy to add was the Moygashel linen label which had been attached to the forsythia yellow linen yardgoods.

I attached the label inside the back neckline.

I attached the label inside the back neckline.

The belt is also a Pat Mahoney product, made from a silk dupioni.

The belt is also a Pat Mahoney product, made from a silk dupioni.

All about the shoes

All about the shoes

I like the V-ed back!

I like the V-ed back!

Love those shoes!

Love those shoes!

To me, this dress is reminiscent of a 1950s’ “wiggle dress” – although I added a back slit so that I can walk easily, which I guess would have been “cheating” in the 1950s! I was delighted to make another 1950s’ connection when I saw this pair of Roger Vivier shoes for Christian Dior on Pinterest:

All about the shoes - Pinterest pin

The similarities with my shoes are remarkable! Now that I have one dress perfectly suited for my Christian Dior-inspired shoes, I will be looking for other “perfect pairings”. Who knows what fabric treasures will present themselves next Spring or Summer for just such an undertaking?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, Linen, Moygashel linen, Shoes to make an outfit complete, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, underlinings, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

The Long and Mysterious Journey of Sandhurst 121

When the piece of linen I had purchased arrived in the mail, I was not sure what to expect. I had bought it with the hope that it was, indeed, a piece of Moygashel linen, but I had nothing to go on except an educated hunch. I knew it was an early piece of fabric, as its width was 35”, a common width for pre-1960’s dress-goods. I liked the design in the photo from which I made my decision, although it was not a colorway to which I normally gravitate. Upon opening the package, I found the only identifying mark on the fabric to be this tag:

Gottshalk's in Fresno, California obviously sold fine fabrics.

Gottschalk’s in Fresno, California obviously sold fine fabrics.

This short length of fabric had been on the remnant table, and, being too good of a bargain to pass by, some home dressmaker in California (USA) scooped it up with all good intentions of making something out of it someday. It must have lived in a dark drawer somewhere, carefully buffered from stains and yellowing. It didn’t even have much of a crease in it. And so, after many years in dormancy, it arrived at my home in Pennsylvania. I knew immediately that it was a Moygashel linen. I could tell by the hand of the fabric, the unique, slightly funky design, and by its amazing survival virtually wrinkle-free.

Sandhurst 121

As I mentioned in a former post, my only dilemma was the scant yardage, combined with the narrow width. So, I stuck it in my fabric closet, to think about another day. One thing nagged at me, however. I really, really wanted to know what year it was from.

Over the past three years or so, I have had some luck in finding copies of old and older (1950-1980) Vogue Pattern Book Magazines. They are fascinating, and treasure troves of mid-century fashion as it relates to home sewing. I have tried to get a good cross-section of magazines from those three decades. One issue, which I tried a couple of times to get – and did not (on eBay) – finally became available to me. I loved the suit on the cover, and those mid-fifties styles are just so chic, even though most Vogue patterns from that time period were unprinted, and therefore, very difficult to use. (By 1957, Vogue was starting to produce many of their patterns in printed and perforated format.)

This is the February/March 1955 issue.

This is the February/March 1955 issue.

Perhaps you can see where I am going with this? I was looking through this particular issue once again in May of this year, and low and behold, a full-page ad for Moygashel linen clearly pictured “my” linen as one of their “new crop”. The colorway was different, but Moygashel was known for producing their fabrics “all in many colors or color combinations.” Maybe a lot of people wouldn’t get so excited about such a discovery, but I was ecstatic! Now I knew, for certain, that the linen I had purchased made its debut in early 1955. (I would be turning 5 years old a little later that year!) I even had a name for it now – Sandhurst 121. I suddenly very much wanted to sew this linen, this Summer!

There is my linen in the upper left hand corner of the full-page advertisement.

There is my linen in the upper left hand corner of the full-page advertisement.

By now, many of you know that I determined to make a sheath dress out of this scant yardage of fabric, and in order to do so, I had to reconfigure my sheath dress pattern to include a back yoke. Here’s the fabric layout, which hopefully will show how sectioning the back enabled me to fit the pattern on the available fabric:

The fabric is shown 35" flat on my cutting table.  The muslin pattern piece for the front of the dress is on the right, and the two shortened back pieces are lined up smack against each other on the left.  The yoke pieces then fit above the dress front.  I did not need facings, as I lined the entire dress in a light weight linen/cotton blend, and finished the neck and armholes all by hand.

The fabric is shown 35″ flat on my cutting table. The muslin pattern piece for the front of the dress is on the right, and the two shortened back pieces are lined up smack against each other on the left. The yoke pieces then fit on the fabric  above the dress front. I did not need facings, as I lined the entire dress in a light weight linen/cotton blend, and finished the neck and armholes all by hand.  I had to face the hem as I did not have enough fabric to do a self hem!

Many of you also know that fortune shone her happy face again on this project when I found three orange vintage buttons, which I knew would help make a back yoke far more interesting. I relied on a Vogue pattern from 1957, which has a back yoke to help me with this reconfigure.

This card of buttons cost 2 cents originally!  They seem to mimic the small orange explosions on the dress fabric.

This card of buttons cost 2 cents originally! They seem to mimic the small orange explosions on the dress fabric.  They may actually be even earlier than the fabric.

The yoke on this dress uses 4 buttons.  I only had three, but their large size still makes the proportions work well.

The yoke on this dress uses 4 buttons. I only had three, but their large size still makes the proportions work well.

A close-up of the back of the dress.

A close-up of the back of the dress.  I made bound buttonholes – very 1950-ish!

And then, another classic 1950s’ design detail worked right into this dress: I would need to move the zipper to the side in order for the back yoke to look correct. Now I will be the first to tell you that a side zipper is not as convenient as a back zipper, but it is a small sacrifice when everything else is enhanced by this placement.   After these obeisances to ‘50s’ style, I slipped right into 2014 with a bright orange, newly made belt, a widened jewel neckline, slightly cut-in shoulders, and a back slit to enhance comfort. I like to choose the best from the ‘50s, but I really don’t want to look like the 1950s.

I sent new orange linen to Pat Mahoney of Pat's Custom Belts and Buttons  and this lovely belt came back to me in the mail.

I sent new orange linen to Pat Mahoney of Pat’s Custom Belts and Buttons and this lovely belt came back to me in the mail.

Cool and summery-looking, don't you think?

Cool and summery-looking, don’t you think?

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Not every dress can have a story, nor should it. But this fabric, which began its life in Ireland, no doubt entered this country through New York City, ordered by a store in Fresno, California, purchased and squirreled away for decades by persons unknown – has now found a starring role in my wardrobe almost 60 years later. Sewing is just so much fun!

 

 

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, hand-sewn zippers, Linen, Love of sewing, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, side-placed zippers, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, Unprinted patterns from the 1950s, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

Sometimes It’s All About the Fabric

Great fabric – just like great art – can (and probably should) elicit an emotional response from an engaged viewer and/or potential purchaser. It’s a very individual preference, of course, influenced by sewing knowledge, intended purpose, wear-ability, one’s fashion style, and nostalgia.

I freely admit to being nostalgic about polka dots. I have always loved them. And I have always been drawn to fabrics and fashions featuring dots, whether they be large, jumbo, small, tiny, or medium. In my fashion lexicon, they are never out of style, but it is always particularly rewarding to see dots featured as “fashion forward” – as in the July 2014 Harpers Bazaar.

Linen dotted dress - HB magazine

The dots I have been focusing on the last week or so, however, could tell those new dots a thing or two about fashion trends and durability. My beloved dots are probably celebrating their half-century mark, without a wrinkle to show for it!

Linen dotted fabric

Linen dotted fabric

Each dot is individually embroidered onto the base linen fabric.

When I purchased this vintage linen fabric online, all I had was a photo or two. There was no selvedge marking, no attached label, no sales receipt to give any clue to its origin. However, the photos were clear, the weave of the fabric was visible enough, that I felt fairly confident that I was looking at a mid-century Moygashel linen. At 36” wide, I knew from experience it was prior to 1960. I also knew that Moygashel produced many embroidered dress linens in the 1950s. Here are two Moygashel linen ads which show both printed and embroidered linens:

This ad was on the inside front cover of Vogue Pattern Book magazine from December/January 1953-54.

This ad was on the inside front cover of Vogue Pattern Book magazine from December/January 1953-54.

And this ad was on the inside front cover of Vogue pattern Book Magazine from December/January 1957-58.

And this ad was on the inside front cover of Vogue Pattern Book magazine from December/January 1957-58.

I knew the real “proof of the pudding” – to authenticate the linen as Moygashel – would be in how it laundered.  Moygashel linen was known for its resistance to wrinkling! Months went by after the fabric arrived in the mail, but a couple of weeks ago, I retrieved it from my fabric closet, put it in a gentle wash cycle (with Woolite detergent), tumble dried it on medium heat, and out it came, as I had hoped, crisp, clean, and looking like new. All it needed was just a quick ironing on high heat to make sure the fabric would lay flat for marking and cutting.

Yes, I knew I had an authentic Moygashel linen in hand, and I wanted to make a dress that would be all about the fabric. I envisioned a simple sheath, whose look could be changed so easily with different color accessories. Knowing I already had a sheath dress pattern that fit me well, I made my sewing life simple (for a change!) and went with it.

One can't get much simpler than this classic sheath design!

One can’t get much simpler than this classic sheath design!

First, a few details and precautions about sewing with embroidered linen:

1) All ironing must be done on the wrong side of the fabric, in order not to squash the embroidered details.

2) All ironing must be done on top of a towel, also for the same reason.

3) It’s best to sandwich paper under seam allowances before pressing to prevent “impressions” from going through to the right side of your fabric.

4) Because cut embroidery details have a tendency to fray along the edges of seam allowances, it is best to finish them with either a Hong Kong finish or with rayon (Snug Hug) hem tape. I used Snug Hug as it did not add any extra bulk to the inside of my garment.

Side seams finished with Snug Hug.

Side seams finished with Snug Hug.

I did not want to underline my dress (as in silk organza), as I wanted to preserve the lovely breathability of the linen fabric. However, I did want to line it, so I used a very light, almost gauzy, cotton/linen blend.

I actually catch-stitched all the seams and dart edges on the lining, to help it mold as nicely as possible with the interior of the dress.

I actually catch-stitched all the seams and dart edges on the lining, to help it mold as nicely as possible with the interior of the dress.

I decided to make the lining entirely separate and then attach it to the dress at the neck, armholes, zipper and back hem slit using a fell stitch. However, once I had my seam allowance folded back at the neck and armholes, I noticed a little bit of “shadowing through” of some of the colored dots along those edges.

Perhaps you can see the shadowing of the dots underneath the crossed pins?

Perhaps you can see the shadowing of the dots underneath the crossed pins?

To remedy this, I cut 5/8” wide strips of bias lining fabric and basted them onto the seam allowances in those areas. That was just enough to take care of that problem.

This narrow strip of lining fabric prevents the color of those dots from showing through.

This narrow strip of lining fabric prevents the color of those dots from showing through.  This is the wrong side of the fabric.

Once the dress and lining were attached, I under-stitched the neck and armhole edges by hand. It really makes a lovely interior!

Linen dot dress

A close-up of the bodice.

A close-up of the bodice.

The back of the dress, with its hand-picked zipper.

The back of the dress, with its hand-picked zipper.

And one more view of the full dress.

And one more view of the full dress.

I finally (as of July 1, 2014) got some pictures taken!

I finally (as of July 1, 2014) got some pictures taken!

Polka dotted linen sheath

Polka dotted linen sheath

I love this dress!

I love this dress!

Moygashel linen is, sadly, no longer manufactured, about which I have written previously. One of its tag lines was “The first name in linen – The last word in quality”. I might change that to read “… The lasting word in quality.” Of course, there are some beautiful linens being manufactured today, but none will ever command a dressmaker’s imagination in quite the same way that Moygashel linen did for decade after fashionable decade.

 

 

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Filed under hand-sewn zippers, Linen, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, Uncategorized