Category Archives: Polka dots

When Enthusiasm Meets Reality

Fashion sewing has it all. Even the making of a simple dress has some or all of these aspects inherent in its construction: color theory, proper fabric selection, proportion and fitting, pattern manipulation and engineering, technical know-how, style sense, intrigue. Intrigue? Yes – Intrigue. I have done it again. I have my heart set on a making a certain style in a certain fabric, and I don’t have very much of that fabric with which to work.

I found this piece of Moygashel linen earlier in the year. (It was sold to me as “probably Moygashel”, and how I determined for certain that is indeed that famous brand of Irish linen required some detective work, which I’ll cover in a future post.)

Enthusiasm meets reality

Freshly laundered, this linen looks and feels like new!

When I first saw it, I immediately thought it would make a cute pair of pants, even though I don’t wear a lot of brown. But I was really drawn to the little explosions of orange scattered throughout the yardage. Actually I should qualify that by saying “scant” yardage. This was only a piece of fabric 1 and 5/8 yards long, which sounds reasonable until the width of the fabric is figured into the equation. At 35” wide, this was not a lot of fabric.   Nevertheless, I certainly figured I could get a slim pair of simple pants out of it. That was my intent until I finished my polka-dotted sheath dress just recently. Cool linen dresses and Summer just seem to go together, and suddenly I decided I did not want a pair of pants – I wanted another sleeveless dress.

This was partly determined by the fact that I have a piece of new orange linen I picked up a couple of years ago from Britex Fabrics, and the thought of pairing this funky, stylized-dot fabric with an orange belt made out of that linen sealed the deal for me in my enthusiastic wardrobe dreams.

Enthusiasm meets reality

Then reality hit. How was I going to manage to squeak a sheath dress out of the amount of fabric in hand? After eyeballing the stretched out fabric, with my sheath dress pattern pieces arranged casually on top, it did not take long for me to know that, NO, this would not work. I would have to figure something else out, but I wasn’t giving up on the dress idea.

The only solution was to get more creative. I have always loved subtle “back” details on dresses, such as unusual closures, V-necklines above a back zippered opening, an embellishment of some sort, that type of thing. And I suddenly realized that if I could section the back pieces (only) of my sheath pattern so that I would have an upper back yoke, then I could probably fit everything on the fabric (knowing it would still be a squeeze, however).

Now I got really excited. One of my favorite patterns (from 1957) features a back- buttoned yoke, which is seamed right above the shaping darts in the back body of the dress. I figured this is exactly the spot where I would need to section the back of the dress to make it fit on my fabric.

The yoke on this dress is obviously part of the kimono sleeve section, but I like the idea of a three-buttoned yoke.

The yoke on this dress is obviously part of the kimono sleeve section, but I like the idea of a three-buttoned yoke.

And then – wheels turning in my head – I seemed to remember I had some orange buttons (vintage, no less!) in my button box.   These seem to me to be a perfect pairing with the linen fabric:

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.

I have spread out my current working sheath dress muslin a couple of times to determine the viability of my plan. I really think it will work. I am prepared to use narrower seam allowances than I usually like, and I may have to face the hem.

This is how I envision the back of my proposed dress.

This is how I envision the back of my proposed dress.

But – first things first. Initially I will be making a new muslin, with the altered and sectioned back pieces. I am sure my enthusiasm for this idea will keep me focused, and in this case, reality may have sewn the seeds for a much more creative outcome than I originally envisioned!










Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Linen, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, Uncategorized, vintage buttons

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.




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

Thoughts on Fabric

One theme I often see in New Year’s sewing resolutions is an emphasis on sewing from one’s “stash” rather than purchasing more new fabric.  I don’t know too many serious sewers who don’t harbor at least a little guilt about all the fabric they have squirreled away (the word “stash” actually does imply something put away, usually in a secretive place!).  I used to feel a lot more guilt about all my fabric than I do now, and here’s why.  First, I don’t consider my fabric a “stash” of anything.  I look at it as a collection, to be used, admired, and taken care of like any valuable thing.  And second, I believe having a selection/collection of beautiful and inspirational fabric adds to the creative process of sewing.

As with the selection and collection of any worthwhile genre, it’s usually best to buy the best you can afford.   There used to be much more stated emphasis on “quality” in fabric than there is now.   It is so interesting to me that fabric manufacturers used to advertise their products by name, obviously with great pride in their newest line of designs.  Some of the manufacturers were almost household names, with tag lines such as  “A fabric you can lean on – that’s Klopman”.  Woolens were known by their manufacturer’s name, such as Forstman and Anglo, to mention just two.  The same was true for cottons, linens, silks, and synthetics. So many of the full-page advertisements in Vogue Pattern Book Magazine in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s were from fabric manufacturers (whereas now there are virtually none).  Here is a quick look at some from each of those decades:

Moygashel Linen advertised heavily in VPB Magazine during that 30-year span of time.  Here is an ad from the inside front cover of the December/January 1953/54 issue:

Thoughts on Fabric - 54

“The first name in linen… The last word in quality”

Moygashel was also one of those fabric companies which supplied labels with purchases of their linens.  Here is a string of labels, which came with a recent purchase I made of vintage Moygashel:

Thoughts on Fabric - Moygashel w: tag

Many new synthetic fabrics were being developed in the post-war era, as evidenced by the many ads from manufacturers of these yard goods.  Here is an ad for acetate, made by the Celanese Corporation of America.  It appeared in the February/March 1957 issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

Thoughts on Fabric - 57

In the same issue was this full page ad for Wamsutta cotton prints.  Now known primarily for sheets, Wamsutta once had the tagline “it has to be WAMSUTTA!” which many a home sewer knew as a sign of quality.

Thoughts on Fabric - 57-2

European fabrics also found their place in VPB.  Here is an ad from February/March 1964 for Boussac screen-printed cottons.  “A collection of rich designer fabrics used by the haute couture of the world.”

Thoughts on Fabric - 64

I want to show you something else in that same issue.  Although there was not a dedicated ad for American Silk, Vogue pattern #6105 was sewn in American Silk, as stated in its accompanying caption.

How I would love to find a piece of this silk tucked away in some drawer!

How I would love to find a piece of this silk tucked away in some drawer!

Twelve years later, in 1976, I attended a fashion show featuring the various dress silks made by this company for the home sewing market, another example of the effort put into marketing by specific fabric manufacturers.

By 1972, the look of VPB Magazine was becoming more sophisticated, but those full-page fabric ads were still abundant.  Here is an ad in the October/November issue devoted to Qiana, a nylon made by DuPont:

Thoughts on Fabric - 72

And – Crompton is velvet appeared a few pages further in the same issue:

Thoughts on Fabric - 72-2

In September/October 1976, Diane von Furstenberg was featured on the cover, and Ernest Einiger had a full-page color ad for “The Great American Wools”.

Thoughts on Fabric - 76-3

In the same issue, Britex Fabrics in San Francisco offered a buy-by-mail offer for Ultrasuede, the “it” fabric of the decade!

Thoughts on Fabric - 76-2

I can really only think of a few current fabric lines that still retain the distinction of being “known” by their names: Liberty, Pendleton, and Linton Tweeds come to mind.  (Linton Direct advertises in the current VPB magazine, but it is a small column ad, not a full-page “look at me” type of statement.) Then, of course, there are designer fabrics, but the manufacturers of these “name” goods are generally not listed.  For the most part, unless you ask, when you are buying yard goods, the names of the manufacturers are virtually unknown.  It is really kind of a shame, as there are so many exquisite fabrics of the highest quality still being woven in certain parts of the world.  These fabrics (and others, some vintage) make it difficult to say “no” to the opportunity to add to one’s fabric collection.  Here are two such fabrics I could not resist:

This is a linen and cotton blend I purchased from Mood Fabrics a while ago.  It is patiently waiting to be cut and sewn . . .

This is a loosely woven linen and cotton blend I purchased from Mood Fabrics a while ago. It is patiently waiting to be cut and sewn . . .

This is a vintage linen, newly acquired by me.  Although there is nothing printedon the selvedge, I believe it is a Moygashel linen from the 1950s.

This is a vintage linen, newly acquired by me. Although there is nothing printed on the selvedge, I believe it is a Moygashel linen from the 1950s.  I plan to make a sheath dress from this fabric sometime during the Summer of 2014.

William Blake notably said “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”  I must confess I never knew what that meant until I applied it, somewhat sheepishly,  to collecting fabrics.  It seems the more various and beautiful fabrics I can look at and choose from, the more I am able to determine the perfect pattern with which to pair them.  If I own the fabric already, so much the better!  Sometimes the fabric dictates the sort of garment I should make and sometimes I have a pattern which leads me to my (excessive?) fabric collection, where I can admire anew and oftentimes choose a long-before purchased length of the perfect silk, linen, cotton, or wool.  It is a back and forth process, one filled with visual and tactile components, demanding – and developing – sewing wisdom.  It is one of the reasons I love to sew.


Filed under Liberty cotton, Linen, Love of sewing, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, woolens

Happy New Sewing Year

“Dresses for breakfasts, and dinners, and balls;

Dresses to sit in, and stand in, and walk in;

Dresses to dance in, and flirt in, and talk in;

Dresses in which to do nothing at all;

Dresses for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall”

William Allen Butler (1825-1902) may have thought “Nothing to Wear”, from which these lines are taken, was a satirical poem, but he obviously did not know 21st century fashion sewers.  Isn’t January just the perfect time to plan for the creation of “dresses for Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall”?  Yes, thank you for agreeing with me.

Last year I took a rather theoretical approach to the new sewing year, but this year I am focusing on more specific plans.  Let me start with Winter.

I have three things that I want to complete while the snow is still flying (which gives me until the end of March, more or less):

1)  My Chanel-inspired classic French jacket is my current project, and I am happy to report that I am making slow but steady progress on it.

2) I won’t consider the jacket really complete until I have made the bow blouse that will match its lining.

3) I am excited to say that I am going to be joining one of Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing Classes in February, and my intended project is — ta-daa — this jacket which I have wanted to make ever since Vogue Patterns first issued it in the 1970s!

I will definitely be doing the color blocked version when I make this coat.

I will definitely be doing the color blocked version when I make this coat.

With any luck (or maybe lots of it will be needed), it may still be Winter when I start this project intended for an event in late April event:

I have an authentic Pucci silk from which to make the dress and line the jacket.

I have an authentic Pucci silk from which to make the dress and line the jacket.

In addition, Spring will not be complete for me until I make a dress for my granddaughter who will be 1-year-old in March.  I purchased this fabric last Fall when I was at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts.  You can imagine my excitement when I saw that the gift shop included yardage of soft, quality cotton featuring designs from his books.  I envision these little ducks embellished with yellow rick-rack.

Happy New Sewing Year - carle fabric Before Spring bids us adieu, I may divert from dresses to make another pair of slim pants in this vintage 1950s’ linen:

I only have 1 5/8 yards of this 35" wide fabric, so it remains to be seen if i can squeeze pants out of it.

I only have one and 5/8 yards of this 35″ wide fabric, so it remains to be seen if I can squeeze pants out of it.

If Summer of 2014 is as hot as last Summer (or even if it is not), I’ll be making at least two more cool, linen dresses, one sheath-style and one belted.  More on these linen fabric finds in a future post…

And a bathrobe!!  I am dying to make a swishy bathrobe!

Ah, and then comes Fall (already??), probably my favorite season of all.  I have two projects envisioned:

1) I found this stretch silk charmeuse at Mendel Goldberg Fabrics on a quick day trip to NYC in early Fall.

Another gorgeous Italian silk!

Another gorgeous Italian silk!

I bought it thinking I may use it for the lining for my No. 2 French jacket, but shortly after that I found this pattern on eBay and promptly decided it would be perfect made up in this dress (which requires a stretch fabric.  Well, it says “ knit fabrics only” but I say stretch fabric will do just fine).

This os one of the few patterns from the 1980s which I really like.  However, i will not be duplicating the hairstyle.

This is one of the few patterns from the 1980s which I really like. However, I will not be duplicating the hairstyle.

2) I’ve had this buttery soft cashmere wool for a couple of years now.  I originally thought I’d make a suit, but now I’m thinking long-sleeved dress instead.  I’m still sorting this one out in my head so I’m very glad I have until next Fall.

A subtle windowpane check in navy with deep red and ivory intersecting lines.

A subtle windowpane check in navy with deep red and ivory intersecting lines.

Sprinkled among these plans for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall will surely be more little dresses for granddaughter Aida.  I fully intend for her to have some of the cutest frocks in all of New England.

Finally, if 2013 taught me anything, it is that the unexpected is waiting around every corner.

Lots of corners lurking in this Liberty cotton!

Lots of corners lurking in this Liberty cotton!

Life can take sudden turns and twists that are not always sewing-friendly, so I plan to be kind to myself if that happens.  But wouldn’t it be nice for all of us to have the kind of year when we have the extra time to make a dress in which to do “nothing at all”?


Filed under 1980's dress patterns, Boucle for French style jackets, Chanel-type jackets, Coats, Liberty cotton, Linen, Polka dots, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns, woolens

A modern American translation: vintage Irish linen and 1966 French design

I’m never completely sure where pattern/fabric-pairing inspiration and decision- making comes from.  I kind of imagine all kinds of synapses going on in my brain, pulling information both stored and recently learned, which enable me to visualize a particular pattern made up in a particular fabric.  Somehow, most of us who sew  know what works – or doesn’t work – and then we can proceed, or not!  Well, my brain was telling me that this ca. 1965 Moygashel linen would look great made up in this 1966 Jacques Heim-designed dress:

Congratulations to those of you who picked this fabric in my Quiz #2!

I promise this will be the last time I show this pattern evelope!

Before I actually began work on the dress, I looked up Jacques Heim in one of my favorite reference books, The St. James Fashion Encyclopedia: A Survey of Style from 1945 to the Present. “Mr. Heim’s fashion house designed and made clothes of a modest style…” (p. 186) It appears he was not a great innovator, although he was interested in many styles, and his loyalty to a ladylike interpretation of those styles gave him staying power over his 45-year career.

Vogue Patterns started featuring his designs in the early ‘50s as part of their designer series.  It was interesting to go through some of my Vogue Pattern Book magazines and see the progression of his fashions.

In chronological order, here are four examples of his work:

This dress was featured in the June/July 1957 Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

This ladylike suit was pictured in the August/September 1958 issue of the Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

Here is a Jacques Heim evening coat from the August/September 1962 Vogue pattern Book magazine.

This ensemble was one of Mr. Heim’s February/March 1963 designs. The waist on the dress has a set-in chevron-peaked belt detail. Very lovely!

The pattern I chose was actually featured in one of the free “flyers” which were available in fine fabric stores in the ‘60s.  It is dated Fall 1966.  I just happened to find this copy on eBay – no one bid against me, so I guess I was meant to have it!

I felt very lucky to find this item on eBay!  Note the hair-do.

Mr. Heim died in early January 1967, so this particular pattern must have been one of the last ones which he designed or which was designed under his name before his death.  His fashion house then only lasted for 2 more years, closing operation in 1969 .

So – now on to construction of my dress.  I made a muslin of the bodice yoke  so I could check on the neckline and shoulder line, both of which seem to be an ongoing challenge for me with these vintage patterns.  Although the neck seemed to be okay, the shoulder line appeared to me to extend a little too far out over the shoulders.   So I re-cut the pattern piece, which meant that the facing had to be re-cut as well.

I had to extend the length of the armhole facing to accommodate my changes to the shoulder line.

The pattern called for the dress to be interlined, for which I chose a lightweight linen/cotton blend.  I basted all the pieces together by hand, kind of in a grid before machine basting them together just inside the seam lines.  I also basted all the dart lines, as indicated on the pattern instructions.

Here are the “bodice/yoke” pieces shown with their underlinings.

This shows my basting stitches on the dart lines.

As I got near to the end of the construction, I was very happy that I had re-cut the shoulders, but I began to sense that the neck was going to be a problem.  After I had the facings in the armholes, I tried the dress on, and yes, the neck was tighter than I wanted it to be.  I cut off the 5/8” seam allowance on the neckline and the matching part of the facing, which made it perfect!

Here is the finished dress.

Here is the back view.

A close-up of the top of the dress. I used vintage silk thread to do the topstitching. It’s very subtle, but effective, I think, particularly in person…

I had just enough of this yellow vintage seam tape to do the neck. It makes a nice flat finish. I sometimes do the understitching on the facings by hand. If you click on the photo, you can probably see this detail. It’s time-consuming, but makes a nice finish!

Finally, for anyone who’s interested, here’s the inside story!

I really like this dress – it’s cheery, comfortable and casually dressy – what more could one ask for?


Filed under Linen, Polka dots, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns

Quiz #2: Match the fabric to the pattern

Of all my sewing projects, which are either in the works or in the planning stages, two of them will be completed shortly. (At least I hope they will be.  Everything always seems to take longer than I anticipate…  Does anyone else find that to be true?)   However, I’m just not ready to report on either of these “almost-finished” endeavors yet.  . . . So I thought I would take this opportunity to expand a bit on my infatuation with Moygashel linen – and give you, my readers, some more beautiful vintage fabrics to see – and to allow you to imagine them all dressed up and ready to wear.

In the Vogue Pattern Book from Summer of 1957, one of the articles implores the reader to “consider the crispness of LINEN”.

This June/July issue is perfect to feature linen - it is a great fabric for Summer - cool, crisp, washable, and the perfect weight for dresses and suits.

Articles like this, and ads for linen fabrics, showcase the popularity of sewing with linen in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.  I shared a few Moygashel linen ads with you recently, and here are three more, which illustrate the range of designs and colors available to the mid-century home sewer.

This almost whimsical illustration depicts four designs of Moygashel linen. It appeared in the February/March 1958 issue of Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

This ad states: "Your precious handiwork can convert this Vogue Pattern into an heirloom, because you know that Moygashel Linen defies wear." Those words were certainly presentient! It appeared in the April/May 1953 Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

Here are four more Moygashel linens, featured in the February/March 1957 Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

I certainly decided to “consider” linen when I purchased this 1965 Vogue pattern a few months ago:

This pattern is for a paring of coat and dress, but the dress stands alone beautifully.

My intention was to make the dress only – a lovely sheath with some distinctive seaming and top-stitching.  So I went to my fabric closet to see what linens I could “consider” for a crisp Spring/Summer dress.  Here are the four that I decided to choose from:

#1 - Bright and sunny, this design is a subtle play on the polka dot theme.

#2 - The colors in this design are very 2012-current-and- fashionable!

#3 - Decorative topstitching on this solid pink linen would be quite attractive.

#4 - This geometric print is probably from the late '60s, so it would make up beautifully in a pattern from the '60s!

Which fabric would you choose for this dress pattern?  Which one do you think I chose to make into this dress?


Filed under Linen, Polka dots, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns

“When in doubt, wear red.”

Bill Blass, noted American designer (1922 – 2002), knew of what he spoke when he expressed this savvy advice.   Red, in all its various hues, is a color which commands attention, and therefore, it is no wonder that fashion sketches and dress patterns often feature red.  Red also figures distinctly in three months whose “colors” always include red:  December’s red and green; July’s red, white and blue; and, of course, February’s red, red, and red.

To celebrate February’s red, I have scoured my Vogue Pattern Book Magazines and my collection of vintage patterns to showcase some beautiful fabric and dress/suit/loungewear designs.  No doubt (pardon the pun), Mr. Blass would approve.

The February/March 1957 issue of  Vogue Pattern Book  magazine shows two pages of “Red – deep and rosy”.  While the red coat and two red dresses are obvious “fits” for the section, the mustard yellow suit (raw silk, according to the caption, which would be so elegant!) is completed with a red and green printed silk turban and red pumps.  (Hint for viewing:  click on the photos to see them larger and clearer.)

The middle suit looks to be a blue and red printed-silk surah, while the evening gown is to be made in a silk organdie.

This coat has a high waist and deep pleats. Wear this over the black dress for a stunning look!

That same year, the June/July issue showed this lovely choice in cherry-red pique for “sight-seeing.”  No blue jeans and tee shirts for this excursion.

The wide brim hat with red flowers completes the look.

In 1958 (or in 2012), a chic home sewer could make this suit in a red tweed with self or braid binding.

Notice the stylish shoes!

Here is a suit from 1960 with a matching, reversible cape. The cape has arm openings in the side seams and is collarless so that it fits perfectly under the collar on the suit jacket.

Who says "redheads" can't wear red?

Here is a close-up of the cape. The leopard-printed lining matches her hat.

Red print fabrics have spun their own charm over the years.  Here are four, which seem to epitomize another statement from Bill Blass: “…fabric is an inspiration and a tool.” (See International Vogue Pattern Book  October/November 1971, page 27.)  I could definitely be inspired by these prints:

This wonderful giraffe print in red on white cotton, with stars, is shown in a skirt and blouse. There was no mention about the matching parasol. This design is in the April/May 1953 Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

This 1958 design features a daisy print silk lining in the coat.

The dress and coat are made in a slubbed silk barathea while the lining and hat are of silk surah, both by Couture, according to the February/March Vogue Pattern Book of that year.

This fabric is rightly referred to as "Square red of wonderful"!

This silk surah looks equally eye-catching in a slim or full skirt. I'll have one of each, thank you!

What I wouldn't do to be able to buy this printed silk! This pattern was featured in the February/March 1961 issue of Vogue Pattern Book magazine. According to the description, "this dress has a camisole top underneath its short-sleeved 'popover' top that buttons up the back." With lipstick and shoes to match, it makes a stunning ensemble.

And here are classic polka dots, white on red, in a 1957 blouse design.

A Peter Pan collar and polka dots - a winning combination!

Vogue Pattern Book’s editors often featured styles for college girls and little girls.  Velvet, gingham and candy-striped denim (yes, that’s correct, denim!), all in red, were featured for little girls in the issue for August/September 1960:

This little girl is all set to help "help Mommy cook" in a white pinafore.

These “coeds”, according to the editors of the August/September issue of 1958, were taking a 5-minute study break to model these dorm fashions!

The girl in the harlequin pedal-pusher pants and smock-top looks to me like she’s actually taking a break from her part-time job with the circus, while Miss Muu-Muu is  — chatting on the phone!   Some things never change, just like the timeless appeal of RED.


Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Coats, Polka dots, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

Buttons, blouses and bijoux*

One of the often minimalized components of making a garment is the selection of fasteners (ie., buttons).  It’s easy to put so much attention to pattern and fabric, that when it comes to deciding on buttons, it’s “Oh, well, these will do.”  However, the wrong buttons can, quite simply, ruin a blouse, dress, suit, jacket, or coat.  And, the right buttons can add just the perfect accent.  So – how do you know what kind of buttons to choose?  Here are my guidelines:

First, the obvious.  Just as you match pattern to fabric to suit its weight, weave, seasonality, and ambience (how dressy or non-dressy it is), so should you choose buttons accordingly.  This includes texture of the button (rough, smooth, ribbed, etc.), style (fancy, sporty, novelty, etc.), size (usually the more buttons a garment needs, the smaller they should be), and weight (light weight fabric needs more delicate buttons, for example).

Second, I believe color is hugely important.  To select the correct color, I try to visualize the finished garment with different color buttons.  If you do this, your brain will automatically sort out what will work and what won’t work.

Finally, I think about what jewelry* (bijoux is an Archaic French word meaning an elegant jewel!) and/or accessories I will be wearing with a garment, and I take that into consideration when choosing buttons.  This is one reason why those of us who make clothing for ourselves are so fortunate – we can coordinate the look we want from start to finish.

So – I’ll give you a peek at my just completed project, which incorporates these button guidelines.  But first, some background info.  Last July, I traveled to Massachusetts to spend a few fun-filled days with daughter Susanna, who lives in the Pioneer Valley.  We had an agenda (what women do not??), which included two trips to the Brimfield area.  Our first trip was to the Sturbridge Antique Textile and Vintage Clothing Extravaganza.  Susanna wrote about some of our purchases from this excursion on her blog, but here is a picture of a set of 12 black Bakelite buttons which I found at one of the vendors.

My set of 12 Bakelite buttons

Here is a close-up of some of the buttons. Can you see the rounded corners on some of the cubes? This detail makes them more interesting!

I bought them without knowing how or when I would use them, but they definitely had my name on them – and they came home to Pennsylvania with me!  What I would have loved to have also brought home with me was a black and yellow Bakelite bracelet, which caught my eye at another booth later in the day.  I resisted buying it as we had already done our part to support the economy…! What I did not know was that my sneaky daughter quickly purchased this bracelet while I went to the ladies’ room – and she, her husband Jon, and our son Nate surprised me with it for Christmas!  Here it is:

My Christmas surprise!

Here is the bracelet shown next to the buttons: obviously these were meant for each other!

Now fast forward to the completion of this silk blouse:

The finished blouse made from a vintage Vogue pattern, complete with vintage Bakelite buttons

Here is a closer view of the blouse

Yes, I decided those Bakelite buttons would be perfect for it, and here is why:

–  The fabric, both in design and color, makes a statement, so it needs buttons which are not wimpy.  The square-ish shape of the buttons helps them stand up to those demonstrative polka dots without distracting from them.

And an even closer view...

–  Black is the only color I could picture using with this fabric (gold, yellow, white pearl or gray pearl did not visualize well for me…).

–  I thought the French cuffs (which I love) on this pattern would show to more advantage with buttons which have some heft to them.

Here is a close-up of the French cuff

These buttons are just heavy enough for the weight of this fabric, and finally…

–  I knew I would be wearing my Bakelite bracelet with this blouse!

Well – I can’t end this post without showing you the shoulder shapes which I made fromVogue 7503, view F.

Here are the shoulder shapes before I positioned them in the blouse. The crosswise stitching makes them fit over the shoulder beautifully.

They turned out perfectly and are just the right thickness/softness/size for this blouse!


Filed under Bakelite buttons and/or jewelry, Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Polka dots, Shoulder shapes (shoulder pads), Vogue pattern 7503 for shoulder shapes, Vogue patterns

Who has time for Resolutions when there is so much to be sewn?

Since my last post (before Christmas), my sewing room has gone from being Santa’s Workshop, wrapping station extraordinaire, and gift hiding space … back to SEWING ROOM (the seriousness of the subject demands the capital letters!).  All those satiny ribbons, and empty boxes (where can be found the occasional prickly tree needle or left over tissue paper), and straggly ends of wrapping paper rolls are all properly stored away for Christmas 2012, and all my sewing projects just marched out from the closets, jumped up on my work tables and are demanding attention – which I am only so happy to give!

So – here’s what’s happening:

In a switch from dressmaking, I am in the middle of making bed hangings to go on a “flying tester” (what is this??? you may ask), which will go in the master bedroom.  It’s a complicated project, which I’ve been working on for a while, and which will take a good bit longer to complete.  Once it’s done (and hanging), I’ll do a complete post on it, but here is a teaser for right now:

I have all the fabric panels and valances cut and ready to sew.  To make the pattern for the valances (these hangings will be structured ones rather than the more informal ones with gathered valances), I traced the scalloped headboard of our bed.  I copied the design exactly for the valance for the foot of the bed and added two more “scallops” to make the side valances fit the longer length properly.

This photo shows the scalloped design copied from the headboard of our bed.

Each valance will be three layers thick – the decorative fabric (Brunschwig and Fils Bird and Thistle pattern), an interlining of drapery flannel, and the lining, which is a linen/cotton blend.  This should give them the correct “heft.”

Here are the three layers for each valance. From left to right, the decorative fabric, then the flannel interlining, and the linen/cotton lining

I have cut out yards and yards of bias tape in a lovely red linen blend and will be hand-applying this tape to the three finished sides of each valance.   I know it has to be hand-sewn to look right, so beware – I may be blogging from the funny farm before I get all this done.

Because I don’t enjoy making curtains, bed hangings, pillows and such, as much as I enjoy dressmaking and personal sewing, I fit these projects in, in smaller segments of time.  My most successful trick is setting my “chicken” timer (thank you, Barby R. for giving it to me!) for 45-60 minutes once every day or two and devoting that time to these projects.  It’s amazing how much I can get done this way and it’s never overwhelming or too boring.

Here is my trusty chicken timer sitting on her big project!

Now  – on to other things.  My first personal project for January is to make a long-sleeved blouse out of that yellow and black polka dotted silk I showed you back in November.  I found this pattern, which I bought with that fabric in mind:

I purchased this 1957 pattern, thinking that View A would make up well in the polka dotted silk fabric.

Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case with buying vintage patterns, I had to buy it in a size larger than I wear, and I was also a little concerned about the kimono – or dolman – sleeves, so I made it up in muslin first.  This was a good move, as I decided I wasn’t quite ready to make up such an expensive fabric in a pattern without as much “shape” to the body of the blouse as I had envisioned.  However, I love the shape of the convertible collar.  In the meantime, I came across this pattern on Etsy:

This pattern is also from 1957. I love the tucks in the pink version, but they would not be appropriate to use with a polka dotted design. View B is constructed without tucks - perfect!

It has set-in sleeves, which I like; very petite French cuffs, which I love; a few darts to make the fit a little tidier; and it was available in my size, which takes some of the guess-work out of it.  The only thing I don’t like as much is the collar, which has a longer point than I want.  To fix that, I overlaid the one collar pattern on the other one and drew a new collar.  Voila!  I am ready to cut it out.

And – Yes, I actually do have some Resolutions for 2012 (besides all the normal ones).  For one, I’m going to use my chicken timer to help me get my kitchen cupboards and pantry shelves all cleaned and reorganized.   Cluck, Cluck!


Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Polka dots, Uncategorized, Vogue patterns

Clothes for Christmas

Another part of the world of vintage patterns, which is now available thanks to the Internet, are old copies of the Vogue Pattern Book magazine.   Published 6 times a year by The Conde Nast Publications, Inc., this magazine featured current and up and coming Vogue patterns, articles on construction and notions, a “question and answer” section,  news on just about anything having to do with personal sewing, and wonderful ads for fabric and sewing machines.  (By the way, it’s still published 6 times a year!)  I’ve been able to purchase a few issues from varying months and years, and sometimes I find a pattern featured which I have already bought on eBay or Etsy.   The December 1957/January1958 issue, which I recently obtained, devotes 8 pages to “The Ladies Love Clothes for Christmas.”

Here is the cover of the December 1957/January 1958 issue.

It features patterns for young girls and for teenagers; there is a section on lingerie and sleepwear; and finally some suggestions for the lady who presumably will be doing all this sewing!  Here is a sampling:

Suggested dresses to make for your little girl and one for your young teen.

There were patterns like this to make slips - for yourself or as a gift!

This billowy peignoir and matching nightgown would turn anyone into a vision on Christmas morning! The pattern cost 75 cents.

Here is the empire nightgown. I hope you can see that this lovely lady, now sans peignoir, is standing under the mistletoe!

This bolero cover-up, lined in polka dots (no wonder I love this!), would be perfect on New Year's Eve.

Or - if you are really in a festive mood, they suggest you make this cape in "ruby-red velvet lined in white silk."

Here is my favorite suggestion, and I quote: "You might give this pattern and enough camel's hair wool to make this coat, to someone who loves to sew." The pattern was priced at $1.00

Here is another suggestion, next to a picture of its pattern envelope.

This robe is very easy to make! (I wonder what is in the long wrapped present she is holding behind her back? A rolling pin?)

This pattern makes up beautifully into an elegant robe! It has additional pattern pieces and instructions for lining it, as well.








Yes, I purchased this pattern last Spring and have already made it up in the “lower calf” length.  Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of it before it went to its new owner, but here is a shot of a small bit of the silk charmeuse left over from this project.

This silk is really more orange-ish than it appears here. I washed and dried it before I cut it out, so that the finished garment would be washable - much more practical for a bathrobe!

The reason I am showing you this, is that last week, Pantone, the color guru of the fashion world, declared a color very close to this as its Color of the Year for 2012.    Specifically, that color is called Tangerine Tango and its number is 17-1463-TCX.

Personally, I have come to appreciate various shades of orange a lot more than I once did. I particularly like to see orange (or coral or tangerine or whatever name you want to give it) paired with hyacinth blue or leaf green or charcoal gray.  Although I am not one to feel like I need to be dressed in the current “fad” color, if I get the opportunity to use it in my sewing this coming year, I definitely will.

Well, I am digressing from my Christmas theme here, so back to the robe in bright green polka dots.

This statement says it all!

If I could ever find such a fabric in a lovely silk suitable for a bathrobe, I would buy it in a minute and make myself this robe in the long version!  For Christmas morning I’d pair it with a long and flowing red silk sash…

Here’s to a fashionable, fun Merry Christmas for each and all – and warm wishes for a colorful New Year!


Filed under Coats, Polka dots, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, Vogue patterns