Category Archives: kimono sleeves

“The Sweetest of All the Colors…”

“… Every woman should have something pink in her wardrobe.”   Christian Dior certainly had distinct thoughts about fashion, and with this statement I concur.  Everyone looks good in pink, especially pale pink (men definitely included), and I suspect pale pink was what Monsieur Dior was thinking when he wrote this in his Little Dictionary of Fashion (First published by Cassell & Co., Ltd., 1954; 2007 edition by Abrams; Copyright Catherine Dior and Jean-Pierre Teto, 2007).   Interestingly, the lining pages of his little book are pale pink, but the divider pages feature a deep, deep raspberry pink as in – – – my newly finished “ladylike” dress!

Here is the "section"page for E from Dior's Fashion Dictionary

Here is the “section”page for E from Dior’s Fashion Dictionary

Dated 1958, this is the pattern I used for my pink dress.

Dated 1958, this is the pattern I used for my pink dress.

The finished dress!

The finished dress!

As I mentioned in my last post, I made this dress using couture construction, which means a lot of hand-sewing.  The more I use this type of construction, the more I like it, but it doesn’t get any faster.

An interior view of some "couture" construction - silk organza underlining, catch-stitched seams, hand-picked zipper.

An interior view of some “couture” construction – silk organza underlining, catch-stitched seams, hand-picked zipper.

However, couture construction gives me a lot of flexibility in changing necklines, which I really appreciate.  That is one of the changes I made to this pattern – widening the neckline to a more flattering appearance for me.

The widened neckline.

The widened neckline.

I also changed the back of the skirt by removing the box pleats and substituting a darted back.

I substituted darted back panels for the "original" box pleats

I substituted darted back panels for the “original” box pleats

The original dress had pockets hidden in side box pleats, but when I narrowed the width of the skirt, I did away with those side pleats.  I still wanted pockets, so I added pocket extensions in order to still hide them in the side seams.  It worked!

A peek at the pocket inside which shows the raspberry silk lining I used for the dress.  I understitiched the pocket edges by hand, which took no time at all and looks so much nicer than machine stitching!

A peek at the pocket inside which also shows the raspberry silk lining I used for the dress. I understitiched the pocket edges by hand, which took no time at all and looks so much nicer than machine stitching!

I added a quarter-inch to the underneath seam on each sleeve, so that each sleeve would have one-half inch extra width to it.  Those ladies in the 1950s must have had skinny arms, as I find sleeve widths on these vintage patterns are often just not quite spacious enough.

I added to the underarm seam - an adjustment which I determined from  my muslin.

I added to the underarm seam – an adjustment which I determined from my muslin.

This was the first time I had made sleeves which are half set-in and half kimono.  This is a look and fit which I love!  In fact, the shoulder fits so well, that my original thought to add an interior sleeve heading was one I decided I did not need.

The one thing I’m not sure I like is the “purchased or novelty belt” as indicated on the pattern.  I think a self-belt, a little wider than the one I show, would be more attractive.  Please comment if you have an opinion.  (I have plenty of fabric left over to make one…)

I am thinking a 2" wide self belt might be more attractive???

I am thinking a 2″ wide self belt might be more attractive???

Before I move on to my next project (to be announced soon), I want to thank Dresses and me for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger award.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

So, in accordance with the “rules” –  I am supposed to share a few facts about myself and nominate some others for the same award, so here goes:

1 – I am told I have a slight Southern accent, surely a remnant of being born and raised in North Carolina.

2 – I do most of my machine sewing on a 1940s’ Singer Featherweight and on my mother’s 1956 “306K” portable Singer.

3 – Autumn is my favorite season.

4 – I can make a very good Pumpkin pie.

5 – I enjoy reading historical fiction.

6 – I can’t sing (as in carry a tune) except for a few simple lullabies and Christmas carols.

Now – to pass on this award:  So many fellow bloggers inspire me every day that it is difficult to single out just a few (especially as many have already received this award!), but here are some worthy recipients:

For always giving me a laugh:  A Dress A Day and The Blue Gardenia.

For always teaching me something I would not have known otherwise:  The Vintage Traveler, Pattern Vault, Two Nerdy History Girls, and the FIDM Museum blog.

For sharing their sewing knowledge, design sense, and beautiful workmanship:  Custom Style, Lilacs and Lace, So Sew Lovely, and Frabjous Couture.

So now – you are IN THE KNOW and  – I am IN THE PINK!


Filed under couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, kimono sleeves, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, woolens

Saying YES to a Ladylike Dress

What is it exactly that makes a particular dress elicit the description “ladylike”?  Is it primarily the fabric – or the color – or the style – or, as most would suggest, a combination of all these things?  And why, exactly, am I asking this question??

As one who generally is attracted to tailored, usually unfussy “frocks”, I had to answer this question for myself about this pattern, which, although still unfussy, with simple lines, just seems to be such a ladylike look:

Dated 1958, this pattern shows the influence of Christian Dior.

Dated 1958, this pattern shows the influence of Christian Dior.

This is what I’ve decided.  I definitely think you start with the style – or the pattern – and this one has it.  There are four elements which work together to make this a ladylike look: 1) a defined waist, here further delineated with a purchased belt (or, as the pattern calls it, a “novelty” belt); 2) a soft shoulder line, which in this pattern consists of a set-in sleeve on the front bodice, but kimono in the back – very clever; 3) a full skirt, this one with inverted box pleats which soften the fullness to a considerable degree (although not quite enough for me, as I will explain later); 4) three-quarter length sleeves, which are the most flattering for most women, and which provide the perfect foil for bracelets or gloves.

The middle sketch on the back of the envelope shows the kimono sleeve detail on the back of the dress.

The middle sketch on the back of the envelope shows the kimono sleeve detail on the back of the dress.

I’ve had this pattern for well over a year, but it took me a while to pair it with this fabric which I’ve had forever (well, not that long, but probably close to 10 years – which makes it seem like a baby compared to how long I’ve had some of my Moygashel linen!).

I'm not sure the fine twill weave of this fabric is visible here.

I’m not sure the fine twill weave of this fabric is visible here.

This fabric is a very beautiful wool/cotton blend, lightweight, but with a solid hand and very subtle fine twill weave to it.  It’s 60” wide and I bought three yards, so I obviously had plenty of fabric with which to work.  I’m in love with the color, a deep raspberry pink – I just cannot stay away from pinks of any shade.

Knowing that I would be making this dress in knee-length rather than mid-calf made me reconsider the fullness of the skirt.  In thinking about this, I remembered another pattern in my collection, which shows a full skirt in the front and a fitted, plain skirt in the back.

This is an unprinted pattern, which makes working with its pieces  difficult.

This is an unprinted pattern, which makes working with its pieces difficult.

So – I decided to see if I could combine the two patterns to create the same look, but with less fullness.  The second pattern has a three piece back, which obviously would not work with a center back zipper.

Here is the detail of the skirt back.

Here is the detail of the skirt back.

So I decided to combine the side back and center back pattern pieces, add two darts to achieve a similar fit, and add a center back seam to match the seaming in the first pattern.

This is how I fit the two back skirt pieces together to make one piece.  The "triangle" became two narrow darts, which seemed to work better than one wide one.

This is how I fit the two back skirt pieces together to make one piece. The “triangle” became two narrow darts, which seemed to work better than one wide one.

I took a little more fullness out of the front pattern pieces of the first dress and reconfigured the box pleats.  Then, of course, I made a muslin to see if this would all work.  It certainly seems like it will.  The width of the skirt, according to the pattern envelope, was originally supposed to be about 100”.  The width of my muslin skirt is 56” – which means I removed over a yard in the skirt width!  Sometimes things look and hang a bit differently in the fashion fabric as compared to the muslin, so I am proceeding with cautious optimism.

I am making the dress with couture techniques – and I’m ready to do some serious sewing now that I have silk organza hand-basted to all the pattern pieces.

My pile of basted pieces.

My pile of basted pieces.

In sewing, I am always reminded of this quote from Wilhela Cushman:  “Just around the corner in every woman’s mind – is a lovely dress, a wonderful suit, or an entire costume which will make an enchanting new creature of her.”  I do indeed hope this will turn out to be a lovely dress – with enchanting ladylike qualities!


Filed under couture construction, kimono sleeves, Uncategorized, Unprinted patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns

A Newly Defined ‘50s’ Frock

I have finished making a new dress from an old pattern, which isn’t anything too unusual for me.  What is unusual is the spell which this pattern cast over me from the time I first saw it last January, and then purchased it from an Etsy shop.

The length of this dress as shown on the envelope is very 1950's.  I'll be making it in knee-length.

The back of the envelope, showing the back yoke detail.  Don't you love the handbags that the artist included?

The back of the envelope, showing the back yoke detail. Don’t you love the handbags that the artist included?

Copyright 1957, this pattern has intrigued me for both how modern it looks, and how quintessentially “1950s” its various details are – such as:

1) Kimono sleeves in three-quarter length.  Cut in one with the bodice, kimono sleeves were common in the ‘50s, and now seem to be making a comeback.  Three quarter length is extremely flattering for most women, and was popular then and now.

2) Side zipper.  This dress goes over the head and needs that side zipper to accommodate the wiggle room needed to accomplish this method of dressing.  A back zipper would completely ruin the effect of the four-buttoned back yoke.

3) No pockets.  While pockets are lovely inventions, this dress would lose some of its slim and flattering line should pockets bulge out from the side seams.

4) Mid-calf length.  This length looks great in the pattern illustration, but not so much on me.  One of the beauties of these vintage patterns is adapting them for current wear – so I opted for knee-length instead.

5) Bound buttonholes.  Although this pattern is called “easy to make” on the back of the envelope, it still calls for bound buttonholes.  And, oh, they add such a nice detail.

Now to the specifics.  I found this black and white herringbone alpaca wool (made in the USA) on Britex Fabrics’ website, and purchased it on sale a few months ago, specifically for use with this pattern.

This is the swatch I ordered from Britex sometime over the Summer.

This is the swatch I ordered from Britex sometime over the Summer.

I wanted to make the dress using couture techniques (learned in the online Craftsy course The Couture Dress taught by Susan Khalje.)  This meant that I would 1) make a muslin for fitting and pattern tracing; 2) underline the entire dress with silk organza; 3) eliminate the separate neck facing; 4) finish all the interior seams by catch-stitching them to the underlining; and 5) line the entire dress, which I did using Bemberg instead of china silk (more on that in a bit).

There were a number of decisions/problems/successes involved in making this dress. First, the nature of the fabric is that there are slight imperfections in the weave, and it is quite loosely woven, making it quite susceptible to raveling.  When I laid it out to cut it, I wanted to avoid any obvious imperfections front and center.  Patterns with kimono sleeves demand large expanses of fabric and thus do not allow a lot of jiggling of their placement.  I can honestly say that I had JUST enough fabric and not an inch more than I needed!

One of the first problems I realized I was going to have concerned the buttonholes.  I quickly discovered that the loose weave of the fabric meant that I was not going to be able to make bound buttonholes using self-fabric for the “strips”.  I considered using a plain black wool for these strips, but I thought that would be too much of a contrast.  Well, now I know why I save all kinds of scraps from previous projects – you never know when one of those random pieces of fabric will come in handy.  I spied a scrap in my fabric closet and quickly decided that one part of the weave would be perfect to delineate those buttonholes:

I used the "gray"portion of this windowpane check for the buttonhole "strips".

I used the “gray” portion of this windowpane check for the buttonhole “strips”. Click on the photo to see this up close.

An inside look at the buttonholes in progress

An inside look at the buttonholes in progress

And an outside look...

And an outside look…

When it came to deciding on buttons, I could not find any I liked.  But I remembered some buttons I had sewn onto a RTW jacket several years ago (to replace the ones that came on it.)  They have a “herringbone” look to them – it’s very subtle, but effective.  The jacket is one I haven’t worn in a couple of years, so I just robbed the cuffs of their buttons and used them on my dress.  (Now I guess I know for sure I won’t be wearing that jacket again!)  But – the buttons are perfect for this dress.

My buttons of choice!

My buttons of choice!

Choosing to use couture techniques was a “dress-saver”.  The larger seam allowances took away the panic I might have felt, once I realized the fabric frayed so easily.  And finishing off each interior seam with catch-stitching controlled the fraying and helped the seams to lay perfectly flat.

Eliminating the separate neck facing was also a bonus to ease construction.  First of all, I wanted to widen the neckline, which I worked out in my muslin.  Using the seam allowance and hand-applied, under-stitched lining for the neck facing made it lay flat, and of course, it’s not itchy either!

The "couture-constructed" neckline, before the lining is attached.

The “couture-constructed” neckline, before the lining is attached.

Even though I did not have “plaids” to match, I needed to pay close attention to the rows in the herringbone weave, so that none of them were crooked.  This is where Clover two-pronged pins (recommended by Susan Khalje in The Couture Dress class) came in handy and helped me keep those rows lined up evenly.

Clover "fork" pins

Clover “fork” pins

Finally, I decided to use Bemberg lining fabric instead of China silk because I thought it might be a bit more substantial for this somewhat heavy weight wool.  When I was deciding what color to make the lining, I considered ivory, black, and even a bright color, such as red.  But I settled on deep gray, and it seems just right.

In fact, everything about this dress seems just right.  It is delightfully rewarding when a pattern does not disappoint – and when it turns out to be a complete winner, well, that is reason to make it again (which I will)!

I can wear this dress as a sheath, unbelted, but I love it with this Coach black belt.

I can wear this dress as a sheath, unbelted, but I love it with this Coach black belt.

The back view

With a touch of emerald green for the holiday season

With a touch of emerald green for the holiday season.

With green gloves for a '50s' look!

With green gloves for a ’50s’ look!

And another back view.

And another back view. Alpaca is a very warm wool – so this dress is very cozy.

For now, however, my sewing room is “gift-wrap central”.  The colorful ribbons, paper and tags are cheerful tokens of a season of blessings and family and home.  To all of you celebrating the season, may it be a time of great peace and love for you and yours. And, as I  take a couple of weeks “off”, I send a heartfelt Merry Christmas from me to you…


Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, kimono sleeves, side-placed zippers, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, woolens

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

Can you zip me up, please?

This is a completely unscientific observation, but it seems to me that the zipper has made a fairly substantial migration over the years – from the side of the dress – to the back of the dress.  If that sounds confusing, let me explain a bit more, by showing you some of my dress patterns which date from the 1950s.  All of these dresses feature a side zipper, placed a few inches under the left arm and extending a few inches below the waist (or, in other words, these zippers open within a garment seam.).

I love the clean lines of this dress from 1957, with the "yoke" effect which extends into the kimono sleeves. The back of the envelope shows more detail.

You can see from this back view that, although the top back yoke buttons, a side zipper is still necessary to get the dress on!

The front on this dress only opens to the waist, so a side zipper enables one to step into it. This pattern is dated 1957.

The back detail on this evening gown from 1958 would have been interrupted by a center back zipper, but a side zipper preserves the designer's intent.

I love this dress design from 1957, which simply would not work using a center back zipper.

Patterns from the last half of the 1960s start to feature more and more zippers which are placed in the center back of the dress, and by the 1970s, it seems, almost all zippers were center back ones.

This design from the early '60s would work with either a side or center back zipper, but the pattern calls for a center back one, thus showing the start of the transition.

The dress on this pattern is actually my next project! It is a design by Jacques Heim from the 1970s. I'll be inserting a 22" neckline zipper in the back of this dress.

A casual look at vintage clothes from this time period also seems to support this observation (with the occasional exception to the rule, of course.  I actually saw a side-zippered dress at J.Crew one day this week, but it’s not the same, really, as the dress is sleeveless and the zipper parts at the top, under the arm.)

To try to understand some of the dynamics of this zipper conundrum, I went to my 101 Things I Learned in Fashion School book (by Alfredo Cabrera with Matthew Frederick) to see if I could find any entry on zippers.  Here is what I found on page 64:

“Center back zippers are like fine crystal:  best reserved for special occasions.  When a student designs an interesting garment and is asked how the wearer gets into it, the common answer is, ‘center back zipper.’  This solution is favored by inexperienced designers because it doesn’t require an invasive change to a garment.  But a back closure is rarely a satisfactory solution; it’s a fussy, frustrating concern when one has only fifteen minutes to dress for work.

“Back closures are a remnant from an era when women wore corsets and hoopskirts and had maids to truss them up in back.  Today they are more appropriate in association with major events.  On her wedding day or Oscar night, after a woman has spent a lot of time and money on her hair and makeup, she is more likely to want to step into her dress than pull it over her head.  A center back zipper implies a fitting sense of occasion.” [my emphasis]

Side-placed zippers are different from center-back zippers both in name and detail:  side zippers are called “dress” zippers and have bottom and top “stops”, while zippers for the center back (or skirts, pants, shorts) are called “neckline” or “skirt” zippers and, of course, open at the top with a stop just at the bottom.  (Skirt and neck zippers can easily be made into dress zippers by putting a few tacking stitches to anchor the two sides together right above the pull.)  Back in their hay-day, dress zippers were available in lengths from 10” to 14”. Skirt and neckline zippers are still available in lengths ranging from 6” to 24”, but they are now called “all-purpose” zippers.

So why, since the ‘70s, have most side dress zippers been replaced by neckline zippers placed center back?  I guess there are several potential answers to that question, including:

1) a lot of us would rather step into our dresses than pull them over our heads even if we are not dressing for a special occasion.

2) laziness or ignorance  (both kind of strong words, for which I apologize to anyone offended!) or practicality on the part of designers.

3) it’s just become the accepted way of closing a dress.

4) the invisible zipper made application of the zipper easier and the finished look more streamlined.

5) Huh? What’s a side zipper?

I’m sure there are lots of other explanations but my favorite one is a bit more romantic…   James H. Boren put it succinctly thus:  “A dress that zips up the back will bring a husband and wife together.”   I’d say that is a “fitting sense of occasion”!

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Filed under kimono sleeves, side-placed zippers, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns

Project complete! Well, kind of…

One day this week I sewed the final stitches on my wool suit.  Yes, doing the skirt hem finished it off, and now it is ready to wear.  For those of you who read my last post and ventured a guess on which pattern I used, you were correct if you chose number three.  As a reminder, here it is.

I made a few small alternations to this pattern, including shortening the skirt to just below the knee.

However, I did not choose it for the reasons you might think.  Here is how I made my decision:

1)   With such a bold plaid fabric, I thought a shorter jacket would be a better look.

2)   I thought the square tabs on the front of the jacket would compliment the windowpane check.

3)   The kimono sleeves are such a classic mid-century look that I couldn’t resist trying them.

4)   And, I love a challenge!  Even though the sleeves are “kimono” type sleeves, which means while there is no sleeve cap to match plaids, they do have seams down the middle of them cut on an angle.  Plus the jacket has side, front and underarm seams, a rounded collar which puts the plaid on a curve, and, finally, the skirt has six seams.  And, I needed to make sure that the check also matched, up and down and side to side, from jacket to skirt.  So, that’s a lot of matching.

The first thing I did was make up the jacket in muslin.  From that I determined that I needed to add a couple inches to its length, and I decided to make the sleeves ¾ rather than below elbow length.  Then I got nervous about the windowpane check looking good in kimono sleeves, so I got out my magic marker and “drew” the check onto the muslin, so I could visualize it.  Okay, I liked it!

Here is my muslin - can you see the magic marker lines I drew on it? I sew my muslins using up bobbin thread that's left over from other projects - and I always baste in leftover contrasting thread.

Then I laid out the pattern pieces, and oh my gosh, what a puzzle of matching notches and checks.  I knew I couldn’t make a mistake, so after I laid it out, I let it sit overnight.  The next day, after cogitating on it overnight, I realized I had not properly matched up the check on the shoulder seams.  I made the adjustment, double and triple checked (pardon the pun), made sure I would have the same reveal at the hem of the jacket as on the skirt, and confidently (actually about 92% confidently) cut it – and the lining –  out.

First, I made the skirt (except for the hem).  I like to put my zippers in by hand, as I just think it makes a nicer look.

Here is the zipper, set in using small back stitches.

And here is how I finished the waistband inside:

I bind the raw edge with a soft seam tape and then catch-stitch underneath to the waistband seam. This makes a nice, unbulky finish.

By the way, have you noticed how it is now almost impossible to find a ready-made skirt or pants with a waistband?  Another reason to sew!

The jacket called for five bound buttonholes: one at the neck, on the two tabs on the front of the jacket, and in the sleeve plackets.  (This, of course, meant that I had to find buttons first.  A trip to the local fabric/craft store produced some, which I immediately recognized as “perfect.”  They are made by La Mode, an old button company still going strong after 125 years.)  Whenever I am making bound buttonholes, I like to make a couple of “practice” ones.  Every fabric handles differently, and with this fabric, I also needed to decide what part of the fabric I would use for the “bands”.  Here is my practice piece, which will help to explain what I mean.

Here were two of the three "trial" buttonholes I made. I decided to use all black bands where the buttonhole would be on a light part and light bands on all black. These trial runs helped me make my decision.

It always strikes me as being “out of sequence” when practically the first thing I have to do is make the buttonholes, but so it is with these bound beauties!

Of course, before the buttonholes comes the interfacing. I cut a small square out of the interfacing on the right side in order to accommodate the bound buttonhole.

Here is the start of the buttonhole on one of the "tabs". The yellow fuzzies are tailor tacks.

Here is the buttonhole at the neckline.

Here is the finished buttonhole on one of the tabs, sporting buttons which I think are perfect for this suit and fabric.

And here is one of the sleeve plackets, all finished!

The rest of sewing the jacket was fairly straightforward, just time-consuming!  The collar was a dream to do because there was a separate pattern piece for the two-piece, bias undercollar.  A bias undercollar makes the top part of the collar finish up with a smooth and neat turn.  Vogue Patterns – I love you!

I lined both the skirt and the jacket in a silk crepe de chine which I ordered online from Fabrics Network.  This company, in Spokane, Washington, carries beautiful solid silks and other fabrics.  I got swatch/color cards from them last year and have purchased several pieces of fabric from them, all of them lovely, excellent quality goods, quickly delivered.

So here are some shots of my finished suit:

My suit, laid out on my sewing room floor - definitely prostrate from being worked on for so long!

Here is a close-up of the jacket.

Here is an example of the puzzle of matching the check up and down and side to side. When I am wearing the jacket, I want the collar to match up to the back of the jacket. I think I was fairly successful with my calculations!

And here is a view of the one area which could not be matched, as that seam serves as a dart for the bust. But somehow, it looks okay, I think...

Finally here is a view of inside the neck, showing the lining and just a bit of the collar.

So – why did I say this project was “kind of” complete?   Well, wouldn’t a simple  blouse in that same lining silk be lovely?  I just happen to have enough fabric to make one (!) – and I’m thinking about using this pattern:

I think this simple shell would make up beautifully in that beige silk. What do you think? (I would wear it tucked in.)

Also, when I purchased the wool, I bought plenty to allow for matching those checks, and the wonderful salesperson at Britex cut the piece generously for me as well – many thanks, dear lady! So – I have enough left to make a simple lined  overblouse, which could be worn just with the skirt for a variation on a two-piece “little black dress.”  Memo to self:  move this idea to the top of my “sewing to do” list for next Fall!


Filed under bound buttonholes, kimono sleeves, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns