Category Archives: vintage buttons

The Last Pink (and Blue and White) of Summer

Sometimes the smallest thing can be the deciding factor in the trajectory of a sewing project.  In the case of this dress – my last dress of summer sewing – the buttons told me how to proceed.  There was some serendipity involved as well, which is often the case with my sewing, it seems.  

I purchased the very light and airy white and blue fabric from Britex Fabrics two or three years ago. When it arrived, I tucked it away to think about it.  Somewhere along the line, I purchased the buttons you see here, but not for this fabric.  (I rarely let deep pink vintage buttons get away from me if I can help it.)  Somehow the two – the buttons and the fabric – found each other and became best friends.  That was all well and good, except for the fact those six little buttons needed some help to bring out the fuchsia and orange dots sprinkled amongst the blue flowers on the white background.  Enter deep pink Petersham ribbon left over from holiday dresses I made for my granddaughters last Fall.  Somehow, although this ribbon was not a match to either the fuchsia or the orange, it worked!  I had my palette….

The interesting thing about the color of the pink ribbon is it seems to be the shade if one mixed the fuchsia and orange dots together. And yes, the buttons are very old!

I had decided to use this pattern again, but a longer version, with different sleeves.  

However – and doesn’t it seem there is always an “however” to muddle the plans – I only had six of those petite little buttons.  And theoretically I needed at least eight.  So – I had to get creative.  

I decided I could eliminate two buttons on the bodice if I reconfigured the front opening and collar.  Here is what I did:

  • I angled the front opening: starting at about 6 inches down from the neckline seam, I drew a line from the fold line to the center front line, ending at the neckline.   
  • This allowed me to shorten the collar stand (so it was flush with the front edge of the collar), thus eliminating the need for a button on it.  
  • I redrew the collar so that it would be most attractive either standing up or lying flat.
  • The original pattern had a self-facing for the bodice (as you can see below), so I had to make a separate, applied facing to accommodate the angle.  
  • The angled opening also allowed for the first button to be 6 inches down – meaning I could get away with two buttons on the bodice – if I used snaps at the waist (which isn’t a bad idea anyway.)
On the right above is my muslin pattern made from the original design. On the left is my reconfigured bodice pattern showing the angle detailed above. (My separate facing piece is not shown.)

Here is what the reconfigured collar and collar stand look like up close:

Two buttons on the bodice allowed me 4 buttons for the skirt, which was adequate.  I actually added a small snap 3+ inches below the lowermost button to hold the skirt together indiscreetly. 

Moving on with more changes:  the flowing nature of the fabric dictated a change in the tailored sleeves of the pattern.  I knew I wanted below elbow length with a little bit of fullness, but not too much. A narrow sleeve band seemed appropriate.  And then there was the decision where to apply the narrow Petersham ribbon on the sleeve bands.  Next to the seamline with the gathered line of the body of the sleeve looked best to my eye, so that’s what I did.  

I was fortunate enough to have enough of the narrow Petersham ribbon to put two rows of it at the lower part of the skirt.  These two rows of trim are absolutely essential for this dress to look balanced. 

Unfortunately I didn’t have my preferred blue shoes with me for these photos.

I should mention I underlined the entire dress, with the exception of the sleeves, with very lightweight cotton batiste.  I finished all the seams with Hug Snug seam binding.  

I like the bodice “angled” neckline and the reconfigured collar so much, I will probably use these alterations again sometime, even if I am not compromised by too few buttons!  

Without those little rosy-pink buttons – and without leftover trim from my granddaughters’ dresses – the white and blue flowered fabric would probably still be sitting in my fabric cupboard.  Instead, I was able to finish my summer sewing not only with more pink, but with a dress I really like!  

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Sleeves, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vogue patterns

Life Isn’t Perfect…

…but Your Outfit Can Be.  I took a picture last summer of this sign at a Western wear store in Pinedale, Wyoming (Cowboy Shop).   I loved the saying, but little did I know how often I would reflect on it this summer, which has had its difficulties.  

And even when my outfit, like Life, is far from perfect, which has been often, I know there is always Hope, and yes, that is hope with a capital H.  

*******

What a long hiatus it has been between my last musings about Trench coats and Dressmaker coats and pink gingham.  The final, finishing  stitch in my pink checked coat was in mid-June, and at this point I can hardly remember what I wanted to say about it.  

I purchased the pink silk gingham from Farmhouse Fabrics several years ago.

It does seem appropriate to start with the changes I made to the pattern, of which there were two major ones.  The first change was to the size of the collar.  In the 1970s long pointed collars were a trend.  Although I like a pointed collar, one with a more petite profile seemed to be a little more flattering and classic.  To achieve this desired look, I shortened the collar’s points by about an inch on either side.  

For comparison purposes, here is a good look at the original collar.

When I made this coat in 1974, I remember being a bit disappointed with the volume of the back of the coat.  I was using a cotton twill, so it was a heavier fabric than the silk taffeta in my new version, making the volume seem even more pronounced.  But even so, I thought I would be happier with a less full back.  I experimented around with my muslin/toile until I got the desired girth.  It turned out I eliminated a total of three inches from the back pattern pieces, 1 ½” from each side back panel.

Again, the image of the 1974 pattern illustrates the volume of the gathering in the original design.

In addition to these alterations, I had a slight construction change.  The instructions for the  gathering of the lining at the back waistline called for using elastic thread.  First of all, I didn’t have any elastic thread, nor did I think it would give the look I wanted even though it would not be very apparent on a lining.  Instead, I had some elastic cord, and I attached it by hand, using embroidery floss in a criss-cross stitch enclosing it the width of the back.  Worked like a charm, and I like the effect it made.

This is the wrong side of the lining, showing the criss cross I achieved with embroidery floss.
And here is what it looks like on the right side of the lining. The lining gathers beautifully with this thread channel for the elastic cord, as is apparent in the image below.

Once I had the coat partially assembled, I decided I would have liked it to be a bit longer than I planned with the muslin.  I was very tight with fabric, so I really could not have cut it longer and still been able to get the coat out of the fabric I had.  So, to gain another inch and a half, I decided to face the hem right to the point where the lining would be attached.    It certainly took extra effort, but I’m glad I did it as I much prefer the slightly longer length.  

The one thing I would change should I ever make this coat again (which I doubt) would be to add about an inch or so to the diameter of the cuffs.  I would like to keep them buttoned and be able to slip my hands through them.  As they are, they are too tight to do that.  This was something I could have determined had I made a muslin/toile with completed sleeves, which I did not.  All I did was check the length.  A good reminder to me to be more thorough in situations like this.  

When I was planning this coat, I intended to use this vintage silk fabric for the lining.

However, even though I underlined the fashion fabric with white cotton batiste, I felt there was a slight “see-through” of the black details in the print of the intended fabric.  In the meantime, I had ordered a piece of polished cotton in “Paris Pink” from Emma One Sock Fabrics.  Although not an exact match, the two fabrics – the pink checked taffeta and the polished cotton – made a pretty pair so I changed course, and the rest is history.

I am quite happy with this pink lining!

No report on this coat would be complete without mention of the buttons. Again, I went with vintage mother-of-pearl buttons. These have a carved detail in them, which I thought would pair nicely with the gingham.

I chose to do machine buttonholes on this silk coat.

This was an involved, lengthy project.  I was rather in awe of my 24-year-old self for attempting it “back in the day.”  But making it again brought back hidden memories (good ones) and new appreciation for all that I have learned over the ensuing years.  Wearing my new version of this Trench-inspired coat will, I believe, fall into the “nearly perfect“ category.  

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Linings, Mid-Century style, Silk taffeta, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

A Very Pink Coat, Part 3

Added Value….  There is a significant little entry in 101 Things I learned in Fashion School (Alfredo Cabrera with Matthew Frederick, Grand Central Publishing, New York, New York, 2010, page 40).  Although aimed at Ready-To-Wear customers and the designers who cater to them, it certainly is meaningful to those of us who sew our own fashions:  “Fashion customers often need to be convinced to buy a new garment that, in effect, they already own.  …  Value added details [my emphasis] are those that are inherently necessary to a garment but are executed in a novel or interesting way…”  thus making them attractive to potential customers.  

Well, not that I really need convincing to make another coat for myself, but I will freely admit it is the unique little details in a pattern (and gorgeous fabric, of course) which convince me I MUST make THIS coat, even though I might not really NEED it.  Such was the case with my very pink coat, which is now finished.  

Those details included 1) the three welt pockets with flaps, 2) the concealed front closure, 3) the  arrowhead detail accompanying the minimal top-stitching, 4) the sleeve tabs (okay, not really a necessary detail, but a very nice one!), and 5) the opportunity to add a little flash to the lining with edge-piping.

I’ll cover the sleeve tabs first since they were the detail in question in my last post. 

 As you can observe, I decided to leave them with the buttons facing forward.  Several comments left by readers (thank you – you know who you are and I am very appreciative!) got me thinking anew about the orientation of the tabs.  Then I had an aha moment when I realized that the one button which is visible on the front of the coat, at the neckline, might look a bit disconnected without its counterparts showing on the sleeves.  Decision made, with confidence!  However, I doubt I will ever look at a sleeve tab in quite the same way again. 

The three welt pockets with flaps are quite likely my favorite detail on this coat.  First of all, I like making them.  There is a certain feeling of empowerment, although slightly nerve-wracking, to cut those big slashes into the front of the coat and be confident it will all be okay. And this type of pocket is just so pretty when they are done.  In addition, while they are utilitarian, they also suggest refinement, elevating a simple car coat to a coat with some sophistication and flair. 

Here is the underside of one of those pockets, with the slash” clearly visible.
As you can see, I used lining fabric (Bemberg from Emma One Sock Fabrics) for the facing on the flaps. And here’s a fun fact – that small pocket on the right side is called a “ticket pocket,” small and shallow, perfect for a printed ticket. As printed tickets go the way of the dinosaurs, this little pocket may become obsolete – but I sincerely hope not. It adds so much to the visual pleasure of this coat and other similar garments.
A good view of the small “ticket pocket.”

I must have a certain penchant for concealed coat fronts.  This is the third one I have made and I can let you know there may be more to come (but not soon.)   As I mentioned in my last post, I was able to reduce the bulk of the closure by using my lining fabric for one layer of the buttonhole side of the front flap.  

I made three machine buttonholes for this part of the flap, which made everything lay flat and neat. 

The gray buttons – 6 of them, which is what I needed – were in my collection, so that was a happy find. They are 1950s’ vintage gray pearl, very appropriate indeed for this 1957 pattern.

Although this coat pattern called for some topstitching, it was minimal.  Just the sleeve tabs, the pocket flaps and the collar, plus the front detail on the right side.  I was unhappy with the machine topstitching I did at the front closure.  There was enough bulk from the wool and the facing and the fly front, that it interfered with the smoothness of the topstitching.  So I took it out.  Initially I was going to do without topstitching and the arrowhead detail, but it looked a bit plain and unfinished.  So I did my fallback to what I know works – topstitching by hand.  Because of the hand-worked arrowhead detail, I felt hand topstitching would not look out of place.  Of course, I had never done an embroidery arrowhead before, so I had to practice, practice practice  so it hopefully does not look amateurish.  

I purchased matching embroidery floss for the arrowhead detail and the hand top-stitching.

Finally, coat linings lend themselves so beautifully to that extra little treatment – a narrow edge piping.

  I deviated from my Vogue pattern to add this dressmaker detail, but I am sure they would have approved.  My Avoca wool scarf which is such a perfect complement to this coat inspired me to choose checked piping.  I “robbed” a small corner from some pink silk gingham (intended for a Spring coat, as mentioned previously here) to make my flat piping.  

I purchased the pink cashmere wool for this coat from Farmhouse Fabrics.

Well, there you have it.  My first major project of 2022 finished.  I am happy I chose pink for my theme this year as it has brightened up many a dark day in this troubled world of ours. 

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, car coats, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker details, Mid-Century style, piping, Scarves, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, woolens

Tuesday is for Ironing

One might get the idea I love to iron should they take stock of how many cotton blouses I have made over the past few years. Now I do love a crisp cotton blouse, and I find them to be imminently wearable, neat and tidy, and versatile.  So I keep making them.  But do I love to iron?  Not really, although it is not my most dreaded household chore.  (I think that might be grocery shopping – or more precisely, lugging everything home and putting it all away.  I don’t like that.)  

Even wearing a pretty blouse, like this – my most recent make, to the grocery store doesn’t make that chore more bearable!

One advantage to having lots and lots of cotton blouses is that the ironing can pile up, yet I will still have blouses to go to in my closet, so there’s that.  I think – no, I know – another reason I keep making casual cotton blouses is that I love to sew with beautiful quality cotton (of course Liberty comes to mind!) The selection of quality cotton prints, checks, plaids, stripes, and solids available online is astoundingly diverse, making the temptation great to make “just one more blouse.”

And then there are the buttons. If you follow my sewing life through this blog, you know my fascination with and pursuit of vintage buttons to use on my blouses and other projects.  Yes, a white plastic button can perform the same function, but a beautiful pearl button adds a touch of class to a simple blouse like no other detail can.  

A simple pearl button, circa 1960, BGE Originals, “First in Fashions”

It also helps that I have a set of blouse patterns which fit well due to many alterations and tweaking over several years’ use.  It is a lovely feeling to start a new project, knowing I don’t have to fit the pattern and make a muslin before I can get started on the fashion fabric.  

Three of my favorite blouse patterns, for which I have fitted muslins.
And one which I feel sure will become a favorite once I make and fit a muslin for it! View A is a classic look and the sleeves are so elegant.

I had been eyeing this Liberty cotton lawn on the Farmhouse Fabrics website for quite a while when I decided last Spring to go ahead and indulge.  Having a floral among my blouse selections is something just a bit different for me, as I already have numerous ginghams, plaids, and stripes.  

Liberty Lawn is lovely to sew and lovely to wear.
These colors make me happy.

So – is Tuesday really for ironing?  There used to be a proscribed schedule for all those household chores – and it went like this:

Monday: Wash Day

Tuesday:  Ironing Day 

Wednesday:  Sewing Day

Thursday:  Market Day

Friday:  Cleaning Day

Saturday:  Baking Day

Sunday:  Day of Rest

Well, times have changed. Now, every day is Sewing Day.

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Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Liberty cotton, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns

A White Eyelet Blouse

Eyelet is one of those fabrics which can conjure up memories from one’s life.  So often associated with pinafores, eyelet is lovely for little girls’ dresses – and petticoats.  It is often used for lingerie or sleepwear for all ages, as well as dresses and blouses.  It is a summer fabric, with its “built-in” air conditioning – ie. all those little holes surrounded by embroidery.    Often eyelet trim – and sometimes eyelet yard goods – have one or two finished borders.  Such was the case with the eyelet I found earlier this year for the ruffled collars for sundresses for my granddaughters.  

This lace was a 14″ wide double scallop-edged panel, which I cut down the middle to use for the two collars.

It was working on those collars which convinced me I needed to make an eyelet bouse for myself.  I went back to Farmhouse Fabrics, from which I had purchased the double-sided eyelet panel for those collars, to find a suitable eyelet for a blouse.  Farmhouse Fabrics has quite an inventory of lovely eyelets, so it was difficult to decide.  But decide I did, and purchased this all-cotton eyelet made in Spain.  

I liked the meandering motif in this design.

For a pattern I used this vintage Vogue pattern from 1957.

I liked the convertible collar of this pattern, as shown in View B. A convertible collar is one which can be worn open or closed. The collar is sewn directly to the neckline.  I did, however, shorten the sleeves to below elbow-length.  I also chose to make plain, buttoned cuffs without the extra turn-back detail.  

Although the blouse is described on the pattern envelope as “tuck-in,” I liked the gently curved and split hem which would also allow me to wear the blouse as an over-blouse.  The thumbnail detail from the pattern envelope shows the curved hem.  

I lined the main body of the blouse with white cotton batiste, leaving the sleeves unlined.  To reduce bulk, I made the undercollar and the cuff facings from the white batiste.

Buttons are always a favorite component of a blouse for me.  I had a card of vintage Lady Washington Pearls which seemed a lovely complement to the scale of the fabric embroidery.  

One button remaining!

I first wore this blouse on a very warm evening to attend an outdoor concert.  I was amazed at how cool the blouse was. The little breeze there was, did indeed feel like air-conditioning as it wafted through all those embroidered holes!

In my case, this collar is not “convertible” as I did not put a button and buttonhole at the neckline!
I made the cuffs with a bit more width than needed so I can push the sleeves up further if I want.
After I finished the blouse I went back and added two narrow fisheye darts to the back to make the fit a bit more streamlined.
I think this blouse might be a good pairing for the Liberty cotton skirt featured in my last post.

Finding beautiful eyelet fabric is now on my sewing radar.   I would like to make more with this timeless, feminine and versatile type of lace. 

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Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Eyelet, Lace, Mid-Century style, Sleeves, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

Too Late – or Too Early?

This sewing out of season is perplexing.  On the one hand, I am happy to have been able to complete this dress.  But on the other hand, the timing of its completion means it is too late in the season to even think about wearing it – or much too early.  Not that it will matter six months from now. 

After my successful use of a new sheath dress pattern earlier this winter, I was anxious to use it again.  And I just happened to have a piece of cashmere herringbone wool tucked away for such an occasion.  I had been on the hunt for a wool to coordinate with the Classic French Jacket shown, and I was quite excited when I found this selection at Farmhouse Fabrics.  The bonus was the fact that it is cashmere, and oh, so soft.  

Wool is quite possibly my favorite fabric on which to sew.  Christian Dior certainly had kind words to say about wool in his Little Dictionary of Fashion.  “Wool shares with silk the kingdom of textiles…  And like silk it has wonderful natural qualities.  Always before you cut woolen material it has to be shrunk to avoid disappointment afterward.” [I always steam wool fabric heavily before I cut into it for just this reason].  Dior continues, “Wool has the great advantage over all other materials in that it can be worked with a hot iron and molded.” (The Little Dictionary of Fashion, by Christian Dior, Abrams, New York, New York, c2007, Page 122.)  

Additionally, I have always loved the herringbone weave.  The chevron pattern in this particular fabric is achieved by the use of two contrasting colors, yellow and pumpkin, which produces the lovely and soft deep persimmon color.  

The two contrasting colors are apparent in this photo.

Making this sheath dress was very straightforward, its details identical to the sheath dress which preceded it:  lapped zipper, underlined with silk organza and lined with crepe de chine, under-stitched neckline and armscyes, and a real kick pleat.  

I chose this delicate crepe de chine for the lining. I purchased it from Emma One Sock, which has a beautiful assortment of silks suitable for linings.
Oh, how I love this kick pleat.

This jacket and skirt will be perfect for Fall – and I am delighted to have a dress to wear with my jacket which I completed two years ago.  

And now for those of you who like to see the sewing I do for my granddaughters, here are two more dresses which were definitely too early (although on time for Spring birthdays.)  Unseasonably cold Spring weather kept these dresses on their hangers apparently, but I do have pictures of them before they went on their journey across many, many miles to their final destination.

I found the fabric at Emma One Sock last Fall.  It looks and feels like Liberty Lawn but is not.  The bordered eyelet which I used for the collars is from Farmhouse Fabrics, as is the pattern, which I have used before.  (This is the last year for this pattern for my girls, as I used the [largest] size 12 for my very tall and slender eight-year-old!) 

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

The buttons are vintage Lady Washington Pearls.  The pale pink rickrack is also vintage – and 100% cotton – which makes it lay beautifully flat, molding itself with the cotton fabric.   

 

Beautiful vintage buttons like these are a good match for this timeless pattern.
Such lovely eyelet and just the perfect weight for gathering into a collar.

So quickly these weeks turn into months and then into seasons! Whatever the season from whence you are reading this, I wish you dresses which are just right!  One of these days, mine will be, too.

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, Christian Dior, classic French jacket, couture construction, Eyelet, Sewing for children, Sheath dresses, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

One for Winter

And Winter it has been!  BRRRR….  Seriously cold weather calls for some seriously warm fabric, and I had just the right piece waiting for such an occasion.  

When I found and purchased this vintage piece of Viyella several years ago, I thought the plaid was of a larger format.  I’m not quite sure what I thought I might make with it, but I tucked it away for another day.  After making so many casual cotton blouses over the past few years, last Fall I had one of those “Aha” moments, and decided this Winter would be good time to make one for cold weather – and what better fabric to use than this small-scaled plaid Viyella?  

It is always reassuring when there is documentation attached to a piece of vintage fabric. Two of these paper labels were attached to the fabric when I purchased it.

I have had direct experience with the warmth that Viyella provides, having made two bathrobes out of this storied fabric.  And unlike some wool (Viyella is a wool/cotton blend), this fabric does not itch against bare skin.  I made the robes pictured below in 2017 and 2019, respectively. I expected the Viyella which is the subject of this post to be of the same scale as these two plaids. Yes, purchasing vintage fabric online can have its surprises!

I’m not sure any single garment I have made has been worn and appreciated more than this robe.
I made my second Viyella robe to keep in our vacation home in Wyoming.

The background of this current fabric “reads” blue, but it turns out gray thread and gray buttons seemed to be the best complement to it.  

Always on the hunt for vintage pearl buttons, I found these gray ones to use for this blouse.

This is the time-tested and altered Simplicity pattern I have used repeatedly – with its yoked back – and shirttail hem.  

Every time I make this pattern, I have to go to the instruction sheet for the yoke construction details, and EVERY time I get confused!  

This may be the first time I have actually made this pattern without having to take out at least one seam in the process of joining the yoke to the back and fronts. 

How difficult can it be to attach a yoke? Somehow I make it difficult every time!

There is really not too much more to say about this blouse, except perhaps to wonder why it took me so long to decide to make it. 

 

I have a number of Viyella labels in reserve, so I was happy to use one for this blouse.
Staying warm!

Hmmmm.  One for Winter might become Two for Winter… 

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Filed under Bathrobes, Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, fabric labels, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, woolens

Visionary or Illusionary? Sewing in 2021

Every January I take some time to think about my sewing plans for the year ahead.  I make my “project” list, which usually includes at least one or more items which never made it to the cutting table in the previous 12 months and simply transfer from last year to this year.  My list includes those things which are “traditions” such as Christmas dresses and birthday dresses for my two granddaughters.   It includes any home decorator sewing I’d like to accomplish, and it usually includes at least one project that is “just for the fun of it,” meaning I have no occasion in sight for it or no need for it, but I just want to make it.  The rest of the things on my list are pieces I know I will wear and which will be good additions to my wardrobe.    So, I guess one could call this list my sewing vision for the year.  

What has me tripped up this year is the fact that several of the dresses I made during 2020 sadly have yet to be worn.  When there is no occasion to dress up, it is difficult to justify making more such dresses.  I would like to think 2021 will become a year of parties, and dinner parties and cocktail parties, but this may be illusionary thinking.  Because everything still seems to be in limbo, I have resorted to the tried and true for much on my list.

These include: 

  • At least six blouses!  I know I posted last summer about “too many blouses,” but the fact is that I love to wear blouses, and as long as I keep finding blouse fabric I love, I will keep making blouses, as boring as that may seem.
  • Dresses for my granddaughters.  Although 2020’s Holiday/Christmas dresses were “scrubbed,” as they had no place to wear them, I already have fabric selected for these 2021 dresses.  I did, however, sew Christmas gifts for my girls in 2020, making American Girl doll clothes for one and this dress for the younger one:
I have to say my granddaughter looks adorable in this dress!
I found this finely woven cotton fabric at Britex Fabrics several years ago, and I was saving it for a special reason. The pink rick rack is vintage, all cotton, and the buttons are also vintage. The collar and cuffs are in a linen cotton blend.
  • Linen pants???  I rarely make pants, but I think I will attempt a pair this summer.
  • A skirt out of Liberty Lawn, to wear with a white blouse.
  • Two wool sheath dresses, about as fancy as I dare to get this year, with the hope that I’ll find a reason to wear them.
  • Two … aprons!  Why not?  They are fun to make and certainly useful. And I can use some excess fabric left over from past projects for these.
  • Whatever else strikes my fancy, which leaves a lot of options.  
From left to right: pink cotton for a blouse, Liberty Lawn for a skirt, Liberty Lawn for a blouse
From left to right: Boucle for I’m not sure what yet, Herringbone weave wool cashmere for a sheath dress, vintage Forstmann wool also for a sheath, vintage Viyella for a winter blouse, checked flannel, also for a winter blouse.

As always, I am planning to restrain from purchasing too many new fabrics, hoping instead to use  fabrics from my stored collection. (Wish me luck on that!)  Indeed, my first make, a “Jaron Shirt” made in support of fellow dressmaker, Andrea Birkan, who tragically lost her son last year, is constructed with two fabrics several years in my fabric closet.  Details on this shirt can be found on my Instagram page @fiftydresses.  

I will end this post with a postscript to my last post on a piece of vintage Forstmann wool (which, as noted above, will be one of my two sheath dresses in 2021.)  The story continues, as identical examples of the label accompanying my fabric have surfaced, all with a date from the late 1940s.  When I look at my wool, I have a difficult time envisioning it as being as early as the late ‘40s.  Although I have no reason to believe the label does not belong to the piece of wool I have, this discovery has initiated more questions than answers.  That is not unlike my expectations for 2021 sewing – it is a mystery whose ending has yet to be written. Whoever knew sewing could be so full of intrigue? 

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Filed under Liberty cotton, Sewing for children, Sheath dresses, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, woolens

Red Letter Day-Dress

Red Letter Day:  “A day that is pleasantly noteworthy or memorable.”  (Cambridge Languages)

Day Dress: “The perfect all-in-one outfit, a day dress is a versatile and fashionable way to look chic and stay comfortable at the same time.”  

Any day I finish a lengthy project (successfully) is definitely a “red letter day.”  This dress just happens to be red, adorned with letters, and “back in the day,” as they say, it would have been considered a “day-dress,” although the apt description above is actually from a current website. (DavidJones.com)  

I found this silk at Britex Fabrics in San francisco.
I used this blouse pattern from 1957 as the basis for the dress, opting for long sleeves and the lower bow. I did not have enough buttons to make French cuffs, so I did plain cuffs.

I go into a little bit of how this dress evolved in my last post.  But of course there were many more decisions to be made along the way.  I had to decide: 

  • Do I underline this crepe de chine? 
  • If I underline it, what do I use for my underlining fabric?
  • Do I also line this dress?
  • If I line it, do I also line the sleeves?
  • The blouse pattern has floating, released darts at the waist.  Do I use that technique for this pattern transformed into a dress?
  • What color and type of buttons will most enhance the fabric?
  • Do I make bound buttonholes or machine-stitched ones?

So, let’s start at the beginning.  Because this was a very soft, fluid, lightweight crepe de chine, I thought it best to underline it.  My normal go-to for underlining – silk organza – would have reduced the fluidity of the silk, so I ruled that out.  Cotton batiste just did not seem the way to go.  When I found a silk batiste on the website for Farmhouse Fabrics, I knew I had my solution.

I believe you can, in this photo, see how lightweight and lovely this silk batiste is.

However, even with the ethereal nature of the silk batiste, I decided not to underline (or line) the sleeves.  I wanted them to retain their uninhibited flow.

I clipped the armscye seam carefully and pressed it to the interior of the dress. Then I fell-stitched the lining to the interior edge.

Once I had the underlining basted to the fashion fabric, I weighed whether or not to line the body of the dress.  I went with my gut feeling about this and decided to line it with a soft and lightweight red silk crepe de chine – almost a perfect match in color, as is evident in the above picture – which I purchased from Emma One Sock Fabrics.  

In doing so, I eliminated the front and neck facings which were replaced with the solid red lining. 

I eliminated the facings and used the red crepe de chine lining fabric to finish the interior of the body of the dress. Here is the right front edge.

I had worked out the floating dart question in my muslin/toile and decided to use them for the dress.  This left above the waist “blousy” and made it more fitted below the waist.  

This shows the released darts on the back of the dress.
Here is a side released dart on the front of the dress.
The released dart on one side of the dress front.

Buttons are always one of my favorite parts of a project.  I simply love looking for buttons – and I really love finding the perfect ones.  In this case, I knew I needed a large quantity – at least 10, depending on the size I found.  I did not think red buttons would do anything to enhance the dress, and I thought white pearl buttons would be too much of a contrast.  But then I found these buttons on eBay:

They are probably from the 1940s, cut glass, made in Czechoslovakia.  The card held 12 buttons, a good quantity for my purpose.  I think of these buttons as “small, but mighty.”  They provide the right contrast, and the faceted surface picks up the shimmer from the slight jacquard weave in the fabric.  I think they are perfect!

I used ten buttons for the front of the dress. These buttons are small so I was able to space them closely together to get the effect I wanted. I always know I have found the right buttons when they look like they “belong” – they do not steal the show nor are they too weak.
The right top neck edge, with a snap to keep things tidy under the tied bow.
The lone button on the sleeve, showing a bit of shimmer to match the shimmer in the fashion fabric.
The importance of the buttons shows off well in this photo, I think.

And finally, bound or machine-made buttonholes?  I did a sample of each.  I have recently started using my automatic buttonholer for my 1951 Singer Featherweight, and I must say, it is an engineering marvel.  It makes such amazing, precise buttonholes.  And although I do love bound buttonholes, I decided in this instance I would be happier with machine-made ones.  

I haven’t even mentioned the belt! I wanted a self belt, so I knew I would have to make it myself. I found a belt-making kit from the 1960s on eBay and used it for the buckle and the belt canvas.

So that about sums it up.  I had just barely enough fabric to eke out this dress (which seems to be a theme with me!), so I think it was meant to be.  Here’s to Red Letter Days – and the dresses which make them happy.  

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Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Bows as design feature, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Day dresses, Linings, silk, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

The Last Dress of Summer

Or is it the first dress of Fall?  It depends on your point of view, apparently.  The Autumnal Equinox, here in the Northern Hemisphere, is September 22nd, officially the first day of (Astronomical) Fall.  Meteorological Fall began on September 1st, marking the point in the year when the temperatures begin to fall (pardon the pun.)  Either way one looks at it, I now have a finished dress which is either late for Summer or just under the wire.  I’m honestly just delighted to have it finished!

Although linen is traditionally thought to be a summertime fabric, I have long thought it is also the perfect fabric for early Fall.  Moygashel linen is especially well suited for this time of year.  Its natural fibers keep it cool for those days which continue to warm up, but its sturdy weave and heft give it a substantial enough look for these days of transition.

I purchased this piece of vintage linen from an Etsy shop years ago.

This particular piece of Moygashel, undoubtably a survivor from the mid-1950s, presented me with a couple of challenges.  First, it was only 35” wide.  And I only had 2½ yards.  Laying out pattern pieces on a single layer of fabric always allows me to maximize their placement, improving my ability to do the impossible – get a dress out of too little fabric.  (Here is another Moygashel linen dress which I was able to squeak out of 1 5/8 yards of 35” fabric.)

This vintage Vogue pattern gave me two sleeve options.  If I had opted for the very short sleeves, I would have had ample yardage.  But, for the seasonal reasons mentioned above, I particularly wanted to make this dress with the below-elbow-length sleeves.  So, I fiddled and figured and made it work by utilizing both the straight of grain and the cross grain for the bodice/sleeve pieces.  I was able to do this because of the allover floral design – ie., no directional limitations.

This pattern is dated 1957.

Interestingly enough, this dress with its cut-on sleeves does not have gussets.  Rather, the underarm seams of the dress sections are curved to add moveability.

This shows where the seams join under the arm close to the top of the side zipper.

I underlined this dress with white cotton batiste (from Farmhouse Fabrics) and I finished the seams with Hug Snug Rayon seam binding.

The buttoned upper back bodice is a real focal point of this pattern.  Being 1957, the pattern calls for “fabric buttonholes” – or bound buttonholes.  So that’s what I did.

When it came to buttons, I wanted to use some sort of faceted black buttons.  After searching online and coming up empty-handed for buttons of the correct size and look, I settled on these carved pearl buttons already in my button collection.

I love these buttons, but I still think black ones would be better …  so I will keep searching and switch them when I’m successful.  That will also allow me to use the “leaf” buttons (I have 6 of them) for something which will show them off to better advantage.

The final construction detail of note is the 10” side zipper.  I used a lapped, hand-picked application which lays inconspicuously below the left sleeve.

It is so inconspicuous, you can barely see it here!

I did not leave an opening on either side at the waist for a belt to slip through.  In fact, I did not have enough fabric to make a self-belt!  However, my intention was always to use a contrasting belt.  I think this fabric will lend itself to using belts of varying colors (red or yellow or pink?) as long as I can coordinate with shoes, handbags and/or jewelry.  That will have to wait until I am home from our Summer location.  Maybe I’ll even find black buttons back home!

I could wear this dress without a belt as well. (But I’m not sure I will…)

One final note about this pattern and dress:  it has to go over the head.  It was much more common for dresses from the 1950s and ‘60s to have side zippers and “over the head access”  only.  This can wreak havoc on hair (and make-up)!  So a little pre-planning is necessary – I will need to finish my primping after I have put on the dress.

And everytime I put this dress on, I shall see the original Moygashel linen label which came with the fabric.

I suspect this dress will go right into the cedar closet for the months to come, as I switch out the wool skirts and dresses and coats and sweaters.  But hopefully, in March, at the Spring Equinox, it will creep out from its dark and quiet spot and maybe even actually be worn!

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Day dresses, Moygashel linen, side-placed zippers, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns