Category Archives: Scarves

Date Night

For a number of years now, Thursday evening has been “date night” for my husband and me.  That’s what we call it, but it really just means that we always go out for drinks and dinner.  It is always one of my favorite nights of the week.  Part of the fun of it is the “standing reservation” we have at a favorite local “drinkery/eatery”, where we are always met by friendly staff and a “kitchen” that knows our favorite choices.  Because we so often go to this same place, I like to mix up what I wear.  I doubt anybody actually notices, but it is just one of those things which is important to me!  Anyway, my new blouse is going to be a colorful, welcome addition to my Thursday night wardrobe.

Made from pink silk which i purchased in the 1980s.

Made from pink silk which I purchased in the 1980s.

As I stated in my last post (distanced from this one by a sojourn to California, from which I did not return empty-fabric-handed…!), I based this blouse on a RTW one I have worn for years.  I always remember the good advice given on page 86 in 101 Things I learned in Fashion School (by Alfedo Cabrera with Matthew Frederick.  Copyright 2010, Grand Central Publishing, New York, New York):  “When in doubt, look in your closet.  When unsure about how a garment you’ve designed should be constructed, look at your own wardrobe:  We all have at least one pair of fly-front pants and a garment that buttons down the front.  It doesn’t take much time or effort to pull it out and replicate or adapt what one sees.”

A little book filled with great information

A little book filled with great information

Of course, I wanted to start with a basic blouse pattern, which I could tweak to recreate my old favorite one.  At this point, you might ask, “How difficult can it be to find a basic, long-sleeved, banded collar blouse pattern?”  A lengthy search through my patterns produced exactly one with some of the lines I wanted.  Just looking at it kind of made me cringe.  But then I realized that, with certain changes, it would probably be just about perfect.  Copyright 1972, this Simplicity pattern looks about as dated as it is, but its “bones” are still good!

Date night Simplicity pattern Among the details I needed to change:

1) The collar band was much too wide, so I narrowed it by about 50%.

2) The collar was too big and too pointed, so I redrafted it to match the collar on my green blouse.

Changes to the collar band and the collar.

Changes to the collar band and the collar.

3) I eliminated the back yoke.

4) I made the front and back pieces a little straighter at the side seams, and then added two darts to the back to take in some of the fullness and make the blouse curve over the hips  a little more flatteringly.

Date Night

5) I loved the “sportshirt” sleeve plackets on my green blouse, so I went to my 1972 Vogue Sewing Book to find out how to add them to this blouse.  I narrowed the cuffs, too.

I practiced on muslin first!

I practiced on muslin first!

I am fairly happy with how these plackets turned out.  I can't ever remember making this type of placket before, so I guess it was a first for me!

I am fairly happy with how these plackets turned out. I can’t ever remember making this type of placket before, so I guess it was a first for me! 

6) I eliminated the front button band.

7) I added side slits and narrow topstitching to all the edges, just like on my green blouse.

This shows the sleeve heading, which I narrowly topstitched.  Click on the photo for a better look.

This shows the sleeve heading, which I narrowly topstitched. Click on the photo for a better look.

Here is the topstitching on the front edge.

Here is the topstitching on the front edge.

Oh, there is more, but you get the idea.  I made a permanent record of all these changes with a whole new set of pattern pieces.

When it came to choosing buttons, I hoped to find some vintage ones to compliment the bright pink.  I found this gray pearl set (picked up somewhere for 50 cents), and the iridescence in them shimmered a bit of pink.

The holes on two of the buttons were a little off center, but fortunately, I only needed 8 of them!

The holes on two of the buttons were a little off center, but fortunately, I only needed 8 of them!

The process of making this blouse was fun and low-stress: I interfaced the collar and cuffs with silk organza, of course, but other than that, there were no underlinings, no linings, no bound buttonholes to worry about!

Date night

Date night

With a cashmere blend scarf, for a dressier look.

With a cashmere blend scarf, for a dressier look.

A vintage scarf to go with this vintage fabric!

A vintage scarf to go with this vintage fabric!

I’m looking forward to wearing this blouse often, but especially for date night, which just so happens to make “date day” also fun and low stress: no dinner to plan and cook  –  which means more time in the sewing room!

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Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Scarves, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

Back to the Past

I am finally back in my sewing room, working on my emerald green silk suit.  The event to which I had hoped to wear this suit has come and gone (I wore something else that evening and the world somehow kept on spinning – amazing!), but this sewing project was and is on my Spring agenda and I am bound and determined to finish it.  Until I have made a bit more progress, with something to show for it, I thought I would indulge you with a book review of the 1956 Claire McCardell (1905-1958) book, What Shall I Wear, re-published in 2012 by The Rookery Press, in association with The Overlook Press, New York, New York.

Back to the Past

This book came to my attention by way of The Vintage Traveler blog (thanks, Lizzie!).  I purchased it on Amazon last Fall, and then, to my surprise, it was one of five books chosen by Christina Binkley of  The Wall Street Journal for her annual list of “Best Style Books”.

This annual feature on "style books" is always one of my favorites.

This annual feature on “style books” in The Wall Street Journal is always one of my favorites.  It appeared on December 20, 2012.

Here from Binkley’s review of the book: “This book is a gem.  …It manages to be modern more than 60 years later…  The designer created chic casual items that we take for granted today, such as trim ankle pants and full skirts that permit comfort and movement.  … She demonstrates an understanding of women’s lives. ‘Everyone should have a “pop-over” dress – a sheath that they can just pop over their head and go.’”

Here are some of Claire McCardell’s fashion tips and thoughts which struck a chord with me, especially in relation to sewing and dressmaking:

1)  The simple act of changing buttons (or in sewing, choosing the right ones) can make a dress fit your style.

2) When putting together your clothing (or pattern and fabric) budget, consider carefully where you want to put your money.  Make one major purchase a year, something classic and timeless is always a smart move.

3) Use color extensively and don’t be afraid to stretch from your normal palette.

4) Coats should be a large part of your wardrobe.  Indeed, she recommends compiling a “Coat Collection”.  That’s advice sweet to my ears!

5) Learn how to tie a scarf!  In her words:  “You miss all the fun if you can’t tie things.”  “If you really care about Fashion, sit down right now and learn to tie.  An ascot, a bandanna, a neckband, a bowknot.  This means knowing how to fold first, knowing how to loop next, knowing how to get the knot straight, knowing how to make the ends even – or uneven – on purpose.”

6)  Like all the great fashion designers and couturiers, she emphasizes the overwhelming importance of fit.  All those muslins/toiles we make are worth the time they take!

7) Accessorize your outfits with the appropriate jewelry, shoes, and bags.  Restraint is better than opulence.

8) She was a big fan (and proponent) of the “American Look”: meaning comfortable clothing with clean lines, displaying elegant simplicity.

The final chapter of the book is appropriately entitled:  Fashion has no last chapter.

You can read here for yourself her Essential Eleven.  Pay particular attention to #2!

As a preface to this list, McCardell states:  "There is a great deal in common between the woman who designs clothes and the woman who knows clothes."

As a preface to this list, McCardell states: “There is a great deal in common between the woman who designs clothes and the woman who knows clothes.”  (Click on the photo for a close-up).

Earlier in the book on page 103, she relates her first experience with dressmaking: “Miss Annie … came to the house to make clothes for mother and me.  The process fascinated me from the start – selecting the pictures of dresses in the Vogue Pattern Book, the fabrics to be bought at the dry-goods store, the cutting and basting and fitting, the pockets and buttons and buttonholes…”

Surely sewing and dressmaking have no last chapter either:  What will you wear?  What will you sew?

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Coats, Scarves, Uncategorized

New Life from an Old Dress

I’m sure I never would have entertained the thought of remaking/repurposing this dress  –

I made this maternity dress in the Fall of 1980 while pregnant with our first child.

I made this maternity dress in the Fall of 1980 while pregnant with our first child. The fabric is US-made Pendleton wool.

– had Emerald Green not emerged as THE color of 2013.  As it was, it seemed silly not to take advantage of this opportunity to make a skirt in a color I love, from a dress that would not be worn again, and which already carried sentimental memories.  So I told myself repeatedly, “Do this.”  And so I did it, but not without much mental anguish.

Before I did any ripping of seams or cutting of fabric, I needed to decide what kind of a skirt I could make, knowing that, even with a maternity tent-style dress, the usable expanse of fabric was limited.  It seemed fairly obvious that a pencil or A-line skirt was about the extent of the possibilities.  But I wanted some kind of a focal point on it, too.  I kept thinking about the fringed Pendleton wool skirt that I had remade, thinking that fringe on this green one would be quite nice as well.  I did a little testing on an inside seam of the dress and determined the wool was so tightly woven, that any “fringing” would have to be somewhat minimal.  It also seemed to be easier to unravel the threads working up and down rather than across.  I figured if I could wiggle out enough fabric to add one overlap (or pleat) at the side front, I could fringe that edge and get the focal point I wanted.

With this plan in mind, I now had to face cutting apart – and into – this dress, which I so clearly remembered making and wearing over 31 years ago.  Honestly, for a couple of days I really couldn’t face this.  My practical side finally triumphed when I decided I would first separate just the side seams on the dress.  If I chickened out at that point, I could always sew it back together, right?  Right!  And so I snipped and snipped and pretty soon I had two usable sections of wool.

The dress with the side seams separated.

The dress with the side seams separated.

Then –  somehow, miraculously, I was suddenly okay with the thought of cutting into this dress.  The back part of the skirt pattern fit perfectly on the back section of the dress – it was even already seamed for me.

My muslin pattern positioned on the back of the dress.

My muslin pattern positioned on the back of the dress.

The front part of the dress gave me enough room to make a new two-piece front, with a pleat on the left side.  I cut out the pieces and set about to fringing.  Re-runs of Downton Abbey helped tremendously with this – I pulled and picked and created fluffy little towers of green threads while totally absorbed in another time and place.

Then it was back to the sewing room to sew this baby (pardon the bad pun) together.  There was not enough fabric  to fashion a waistband on the straight of grain, so I opted to make an inside pieced-together facing instead.

The facing at the waistline.  I attached the 31-year-old Pendleton label in place after all these years!

The facing at the waistline. I attached the 31-year-old Pendleton label in place after all these years!

Then I made a button tab out of bias tape which I just happened to have on hand in emerald green.  What I could not find was a 7” zipper in emerald, nor lining fabric in emerald.  Guess the manufacturers of such items did not get the memo from Pantone about the color of the year!  So I ended up with a black zipper and dark gray Bemberg lining fabric.

The black zipper and gray lining are okay, I think...

The black zipper and gray lining are okay, I think…

I went round and round with a decision about buttons to hold the top part of the pleat in place.  I found several single buttons in my button box, which I really liked, but I really needed two or three.   A trip to Joann’s yielded some pale gray pearl buttons which would have been lovely, except that one broke after I got home when I was taking it off the card!  So I still have to resolve the button issue – as right now I  have exactly one button on the skirt, although I do like its diamond shape quite well…

The fringe detail on the pleat - and the single button.  Sure wish I had another one of these!

The fringe detail on the pleat – and the single button. Sure wish I had another one of these!

It's finished (except for the button issue, of course!).

It’s finished (except for the button issue, of course!).

green skirt

The back view.

The back view.

Thinking back on this project, I believe the signs were there, telling me to make this skirt.  Consider that I found these Stubbs and Wootton shoes – green and black Buffalo Check to go with my Pendleton wool:

How I love these comfy flats!

How I love these comfy flats!

And among my collection of silk scarves was this scarf, purchased in the 1980’s from the Museum of American Folk Art, featuring one of their quilts in predominant colors of pink and – yes, Emerald Green.

The green in this scarf could not be more perfect.

The green in this scarf could not be more perfect.

A detail of the scarf on top of the skirt.

A detail of the scarf on top of the skirt.

So – where do I envision wearing this skirt?  How about to a baby shower for my daughter, now expecting her own little one?  After all, she herself  was once sheltered by these warm woolen threads of green – and love.

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Filed under 1980's dress patterns, Buttons - choosing the right ones, hand-sewn zippers, Scarves, Uncategorized, woolens

Parlez vous français?

Unfortunately I do not – yet.

It is undeniable that French is the universal language of fine sewing.  I have found myself often going to my copy of The Vogue Sewing Book (copyright 1970 by Vogue Patterns, New York, New York) to check translations and pronunciations of certain French fashion terms in the list at the back of the book.

A few weeks ago I picked up a paperbound copy of this Vogue Sewing Book from 1963:

Notice the price on this paperback book: $1.00!

I was intrigued by the teasers on the front, such as “High Fashion Sewing with Professional Skill”, “Profiles of Europe’s Great Designers” and especially by “How to Become America’s Best-Dressed Woman.” (I figured that was one tutorial I did not want to miss!)  What I didn’t know was that the final page of this book is a “Glossary of French Fashion and Sewing Terms.”

One page – full of information…

I just assumed that this list would be the same as the one in the hardbound book I already owned.  Not so!  While there is certainly some crossover of terms (such as the common ones:  au courant, boutique, couturier and couturiere, chic, haute couture, vendeuse, volant, etc.), other terms appear on only one list, such as amincir (1963 book, meaning “to make thin, look slender”), gens du monde (1963 book, meaning “people of fashionable society”), and chemise (1970 book, meaning “blouse or style with manshirt details”).  At least one term is two variations on the same meaning – and very much in our vocabulary today:  confectionne (1963 book, meaning “ready-to-wear”) and prêt a porter (1970 book, meaning “ready to wear”, but with this addition: “more current than ‘confection’”).

I like to think that I began my “French lessons” last summer, when I purchased this silk neck scarf from a vendor at The Vintage Fashion and Textile Show in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.  (I blogged about this fun day with my daughter back in January):

French for beginners!

Of course, this scarf has its own share of fashion and sewing terms featured on it:

It’s quite appropriate that the needle and the hand are side by side.

A stylish green dress.

A diamond and a fan to complete your outfit!

I guess I must be attracted to alphabet-related textiles –  like this one, which I purchased online from Britex last Fall:

A lustrous crepe de chine.

The tell-tale selvedge edge.

A design by the house (“chez” in French!) of Marcel Guillemin, Paris, it very subtly spells out that name in the letters.  I have two yards of this beautiful fabric, and I keep seeing it as the lining in a Chanel-type jacket…

It is plans like this and some of those beautiful French fashion/sewing terms that help to inspire me to become a better dressmaker.  Something else, too, is inspiring me to dare to think of myself as being my own “couturiere”: my enrollment and active participation in The Couture Dress, on online Craftsy course taught by Susan Khalje.   I am currently working on my muslin (also known as “toile”) for my version of the class-suggested “fourreau” (fitted or semi-fitted, sheath-like dress).   I may not be thinking in French yet, but I am definitely dreaming in it!

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Filed under Scarves, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

Seeing stars? No…dots!!

Polka dots, to be precise!  My love of polka dots must have started when I was about 6 or 7, when I received my Toni Fashion doll for Christmas.  She was dressed in a red and white polka dotted dress, with a lovely tan coat, red hat, and high heels.  Here she is, over five decades later: 

This dress could easily have been featured in Vogue Pattern Book for February/March of 1957!

Christian Dior, who died in 1957, was a big fan of polka dots.  Here’s what he said about them in his Little Dictionary of Fashion (first published in 1954 and now available on Amazon, published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2007):

“…They are lovely, elegant, easy, and always in fashion.   …According to their color, they can be versatile…  Black and white for elegance; soft pinks and blues for prettiness; emerald, scarlet, and yellow for gaiety; beige and gray for dignity.”

For my “going away” outfit when I was married in 1973, I made a beige silk suit with a red and beige polka dotted blouse.  Sadly I no longer have either the suit or the blouse, but… never one to throw away any scrap of fabric that can be used for something, I found a piece of the silk blouse fabric in one of my “fabric” drawers.  It was an odd shape, but the more I looked at it, the more it became apparent that I could actually make a scarf out of it.  Here’s what I did:

I cut the silk into two pieces, each with a true-bias end. I marked it with chalk to get a precise cutting line.

I joined the two pieces together with a flat felled seam and hand-hemmed around all four sides.

Here it is finished and ready to wear.


   

Last summer when my husband, Tom, and I were in California to see our son, Nate, I made a memorable trip to Britex Fabrics on Geary Street in San Francisco.  I knew when I saw this fabric, I wouldn’t be able to leave the store without it:  pure silk charmeuse  – by Dolce and Gabbana, no less!

Here it is propped over two pegs.

They also carried the matching silk chiffon.  I have been looking for the right pattern to make a blouse out of the charmeuse, and the chiffon is now this scarf, which gets comments whenever I wear it!

In my opinion, dots are stars!

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Filed under Polka dots, Scarves