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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
Hmmmm. One for Winter might become Two for Winter…
Sometimes the sewing stars align to ensure success (and sometimes they don’t.) But this story is a success story, although it played out differently than I originally planned.
Having only 1.25 yards of this vintage wool restricted my options to either a simple sheath dress or a skirt. I opted for the sheath, with all good intentions of using the princess-lined pattern I had recently used for a pink dress in vintage Linton wool. In fact, one of the reasons I made the pink dress was to see if I would be able to successfully match plaids when I started on the red/green wool. (The weave of the pink Linton has a plaid woven into it, which I knew would be helpful to me in determining the pattern’s useability for a multi-color plaid.) Only one problem – when I laid out the pattern pieces on the Forstmann wool, I didn’t have enough fabric. I should have realized that the 7-panel princess dress would take more fabric than I had – and this time there was no making it work.
SO – I had to find another pattern. I have, over the years, made several sheath dresses using a newer Butterick pattern, but I really wanted to use a vintage pattern for this wool. Now, I have a lot of vintage patterns in my collection – and I went through every single one looking for the right sheath dress. At first I didn’t realize this pattern had the look I wanted.
I had originally purchased this pattern for that gorgeous shawl collared coat. But – BINGO – when I took another look, there was the perfect sheath looking right at me.
Although the pattern was not dated, I knew it was from the early 1960s. But of course, I thought it would be wonderful to know the year it first appeared. A lengthy search through old Vogue Pattern Magazines proved to be successful – not only successful, but timely. This pattern was included in the December 1962/January 1963 issue, and was the featured pattern for a Special Capsule Catalog included in the issue. Not only that, the caption read: “110 IDEAS TO START THE NEW YEAR IN VOGUE.” Yes, I thought, that’s what I want to do!
Of course, starting with a pattern I had not before used meant I had to make a muslin (toile) and fit it. That little effort took two days. But then I got started in earnest, cutting out the silk organza underlining and positioning it right where it needed to be on the fabric.
There were two important considerations for placing my silk organza underlining “templates” on the plaid: 1) the orientation of the plaid vertically and 2) the correct placement of the hemline on the grid of theplaid and making this placement work with the position of the waistline and neckline.
I thought the wider, darker part of each woven “block” on the plaid should be oriented to the bottom of the dress, which I believe is apparent above.
I find, when working with plaid, it is very important to have the hemline determined before you cut out your fabric. Visually it is more appealing if the hem does not cut a block of the plaid directly in half or, especially with smaller plaids, end right at the edge of a block. I think it looks better if there is a bit of a “float” around the bottom of the dress to anchor the bottommost blocks. (Larger plaids have their own considerations. Look at the art on the pattern envelope above to observe this.)
One of the design features of this dress is the kick pleat, which has its origin in the back seam starting at the bottom of the zipper. I wasn’t sure how I was going to work the lining around this, but I also thought I could probably figure it out.
I loved that fact that this type of kick pleat made the perfect setting for a lapped zipper, shown below.
You will notice this dress has two shaping darts on either side of the front panel, in addition to the bust darts. The back has one shoulder dart and one shaping dart on either side.
All these darts make for such a lovely fit. In addition, I used a trick I have learned from Susan Khalje. Instead of sewing the bust dart into the side seam, I allowed it to float free, stitching the seam above and below the dart. I did this for both the fashion fabric and the lining. Using this method provides more ease to the bust.
I did lower the neckline by about ½ inch, and I cut the shoulders in by about an inch on either side. These changes just seemed to look better on me, as determined by my muslin (toile).
I lined the dress in black silk crepe de chine. (I find almost all my lining silk at Emma One Sock.) When it came to the kick pleat, I found that a slanted seam below the end of the zipper was necessary to divide the lining between the two sides of the kick pleat.
I have no idea how to explain what I did to finish the lining in this area. Just know that whatever I did – worked! I ended up with no lumps and no restriction on the functionality of the pleat.
This dress was such a fun project. I loved working with such a beautiful wool and such a beautiful pattern. There will be more such sheath dresses in my future.
So now, how about you? Have you started the new year in Vogue? I hope so!
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.
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:
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.
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?
Find me a beautiful vintage fabric, accompanied by its original label, and I will tell its story.
What started off as a simple eBay purchase evolved into something quite unexpected, with secrets and history to reveal. It is all about this piece of vintage Forstmann wool, purchased within the last two years.
I was drawn to its vibrant plaid combination of red and green and black and white. An extra bonus was its attached label and famous brand name. I was familiar with Forstmann woolens from the time I was a child in the 1950s, and I was aware of its renowned quality. But I was quite unprepared for the reality of my purchase.
Immediately upon opening the package, I was struck with two things: the saturation of the colors and the buttery softness and easy hand of the wool. I was thrilled with my purchase, and carefully placed it away in my fabric closet, intending to think about it until I had a plan in place. I would occasionally get it out to admire it, so I felt I was quite familiar with it. However, it was not until this past Spring when I suddenly realized it was an uneven plaid. Having just agonized over a dress made from an uneven Linton tweed plaid, and having by this time determined that I wanted to make a sheath dress from this wool, I had one of those dreaded “uh-oh” moments. My plan seemed to be self-destructing. An uneven plaid would not do for such a dress.
And then I did something I had yet to do – I opened out the full expanse of the yardage. That was when I realized the brilliance of the woolen manufacturer. The wool was loomed with a right and left side, with a center “panel,“ making it possible to have an even orientation of the plaid. Thus, I would be able to balance the plaid on the front and also on the back of the dress I hoped to make.
With this exciting discovery, I then wanted to know more about when this fabric was manufactured. I knew that Forstmann Woolen Company had advertised in Vogue Pattern Book Magazine in the 1950s and ‘60s, and I also knew Forstmann woolens were often the fabrics of choice for fashions displayed in the magazine. A little bit of perusing and detective work helped me narrow down an approximate span of years for the production of my wool.
This full-page advertisement from the October/November 1953 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine features the label current at that time. It is probably a precursor to the label I received with my wool.
I found no label pictured from 1955, but the cover from February/March features a suit made from Forstmann tweed:
The inside front cover from October/November 1959 is once again a full-page ad for Forstmann. The label shown is similar to mine, but not exact.
It seems that by the second half of 1960, Forstmann Woolens had entered into a partnership with Stevens’ Fabrics.
Proof of this partnership was quite apparent by the second half of 1962. The label featured in this ad actually has Stevens Fabrics woven into the logo.
My best guess, from the above references, is that my piece of fabric was manufactured in the second half of the decade of the 1950s. I have always considered that span of years as the golden age of American fashion. My fortunate purchase reinforces the knowledge for me of the excellence of design, quality and craftsmanship available to the home sewing industry at that time. Now – it is up to me to do justice to this piece of Forstmann wool. Amazingly, and with good fortune, the story of this fabric continues some 65 years after its manufacture.
And here’s to a new year – 2021 – with its own secrets and stories to reveal. May they all be happy ones, waiting to be discovered and shared . . .
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 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!
What? It is almost September and time to assess just exactly what I accomplished the last three months. I have a friend whose late mother always said, “A flurry of activity at the end of the day does not make up for earlier unfocused, unproductive hours.” I guess the same could be said for the waning days of a month or a season. However, despite my nagging feeling that I have not accomplished much this summer, I have actually made some progress on my never-ending list.
For one thing, I tackled the alterations on my silk floral dress about which I wrote earlier in the summer. I took out the hand-picked, lapped zipper to see if resetting it would give me enough ease over the tight bust and uncomfortable back. There was much to take out and then put back in: the lining, part of the neck ruffle, the understitching of the neck facing, and of course the entire zipper, in addition to reattaching the silk organza underlining back to the fashion fabric. Thank goodness for the ample seam allowances which, in true couture fashion, enabled me to add just enough extra across the back. Yes, it worked, and I am so much happier with the fit and the look of the dress. Now I can wear it or hope to wear it! (Someday?) I still think I will tweak the neckline a bit if I make this pattern again, but I do feel I salvaged this dress.
Well, these are not the shoes I intend to wear with this dress. They happen to be the only heels I have with me this summer.
This dress fits so much better… I’m so happy I did not put off “fixing” this dress until … who knows when!
Several weeks of the summer were devoted to home decorative sewing, including pillows, cushions, and a tailored bed skirt. I won’t bore you with that! But it was all very time-consuming, as those things tend to be. More weeks were spent, happily, with welcoming family for visits and extended stays and even some sewing for my granddaughters. I have never known two little girls who enjoy “playing dress-up” more than my two. In a weak moment a couple of years ago I purchased this amazing vintage pattern of the Chiquita Banana Señorita’s dress in girls’ size 6-8.
The Chiquita Banana copyright for this costume is from 1947. The pattern is undated, but it is undoubtably from the 1950s.
I knew this was the summer to make these dresses, so I was off to the races on them. I opted for rick rack rather than bias tape as the decorative trim. I ordered the fabric from Farmhouse Fabrics – a cotton/poly blend which was lovely, and in equally lovely colors. As the dresses got heavier and heavier as I worked on them, I decided to eliminate the third row of ruffles. As it turned out, the dresses were amply sized. My 5-year-old granddaughter reassured me that it was so good to have dresses with room to grow. And so, these fiesta dresses will serve them for at least a couple of years.
I wanted the girls to have different colored dresses, and I got creative with the colors, as I really think of these as “fiesta” dresses rather than Chiquita Banana. Lots of twirling ensued!
And then last week – yes the last full week of the month – I was finally able to focus on what will be my last make of Summer. Here is the pattern:
This pattern is dated 1957.
And here is the fabric:
I was fortunate to find this vintage piece of Moygashel linen several years ago. It is also from the 1950s.
And so my last minute flurry of sewing activity is well underway. Happy September!
It was not planned this way. Not much so far this year has been planned in the way it is going, truth be told. Which makes my most recent make both tinged with nostalgia and hopeful. Mostly hopeful, I think.
For over thirty years I have had this length of Liberty Lawn surface time and again from its storage basket in my fabric closet. I never had the right pattern for it, not when I purchased it on the island of Bermuda back in the 1980s, nor over the ensuing years – that is, until this year. After making my wool challis shirtdress earlier in the year, I realized that same pattern was how I had subconsciously – for years – envisioned this fabric being used.
It has been satisfying to use this fabric, finally, as it deserves to be used. Liberty is one of the world’s famous manufacturers of cotton. Did you know it has its own entry in Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion? Actually two entries – one under Liberty and another under Liberty Print. Here is the latter entry: “Trademark of Liberty, London, for wide range of printed fabrics. The best known are small multicolored floral designs.” (The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyllis Tortora, Third Edition, Fairchild Publications, Inc, New York, New York, c2003.) I wrote about Liberty cotton way back in 2012 when I was still pondering the use of this red and green floral print. But voila! Now I have used it!
Enough of the blah, blah, blah, here are the details: I underlined the fabric with a very lightweight white cotton batiste, purchased from Farmhouse Fabrics. Then I finished the raw edges of the seams with Hug Snug rayon seam binding. I love this finish for garments which are underlined, but not lined.
Here is a detail of the cuff. I did not underline the sleeves.
As I mentioned in my post on the wool challis shirtdress, I added shoulder darts to the back of the bodice, and instead of using an eased-in sleeve, I converted the necessary fullness into a dart at the very top of the sleeve. The button placement guide for this pattern indicates using 8 buttons. I think next time I make this pattern (and I’m sure there will be a next time), I am going to increase that number to nine. I think the distance between buttons on the bodice is just a bit too much, now that I have it finished.
Speaking of buttons, I found white pearl, metal shank buttons in my collection, and they seemed just perfect for this fabric, which has such a fresh appearance. The only substitution I made was the button on the collar band, where I used a button which was 3/8” rather than 1/2”. Fortunately I had a card of 4 buttons in this size which mimics the appearance of the other buttons.
A detail of one button on the bodice.
For the belt/sash, I got my inspiration from RTW which I detailed back in January. My first thought was to use a red grosgrain ribbon sash. But it just didn’t look right. Fortuitously, in looking in Promenade Fabrics Etsy store for ribbons that might work, I came across a white Seersucker-look 2 ½” wide light weight ribbon which I thought looked wonderful. I ordered three yards, and it was just as wonderful as it looked online. However, in holding it up to my fabric, there was enough “show-through” to be problematic.
The ribbon was not opaque enough to cover sufficiently the print of the fashion fabric.
To remedy this, I used a fusible interfacing for the middle section of the sash which would be the initial circling of my waist. (I rarely use fusible interfacings, although I keep some on hand for some of the sewing I do for my granddaughters, but this time it came in handy.) This did the trick and also added just a bit of stiffness to that section of the sash. Then the un-faced end sections of the sash are still soft and flowing.
This shows the sash with fusible interfacing applied to the mid-section of the length of the sash, but not to the top layer nor bow. It adds just enough coverage to minimize the appearance of the fashion fabric beneath it.
After I took photos, I got the idea to fold the interfaced part of the sash in half lengthwise to make it narrower and maybe a bit more flattering. Here it is on my dress form:
One of our few warm, sunny days allowed me to get these following photos.
While I was making this dress, I could not help but remember the fun trip my husband and I took to Bermuda when I purchased this Liberty cotton. I still remember trying to decide which piece of Liberty print to purchase (so many from which to choose), how many yards to get (it was still manufactured in 35” width at that point), and being delighted to get a label with it. Those were the times when one dressed for dinner, had breakfast served in one’s room , and tea in the afternoon. Yes, I could not help but be nostalgic. But then I had so much fun bringing this fabric to life, I could not help but feel hopeful. It was a lovely way to spend the hours in my sewing room. And how fitting to sew with fabric which perfectly expresses my sentiments right now. Please, give me Liberty!
Oh, lets’s just skip Part 2 and go right to the finish! To be honest, a separate Part 2 was somehow lost in the midst of a flurry of sewing while I concentrated on “December Dresses” for my two granddaughters. More on those another time.
When I returned to my Parisian Jacket, I was almost ready to tackle the gussets. Sewing the bottom curved seam of the gussets was easy to do on the machine. But when it came to the other two seams, working in such tight angles, I did not even try to sew them on my machine. I went right to hand sewing them, using a small tight backstitch, and I ended up with good results.
Having the gussets finished meant that the basic body of the jacket was together. Then it was on to the collar and the front facings. Following Susan Khalje’s video instructions, I was able to get a very precise finish to the collar.
I had to be careful to match the weave of the fabric, up and down and across.
There are two bound buttonholes in the right front of the jacket, and this is where I deviated slightly from the order of construction that Susan was following. Instead of partially sewing on the right front facing and then making the buttonholes, I did my buttonholes before I attached any part of the facing. I felt like I had more control doing it this way.
The finish of the buttonhole on the facing. (Please pardon the cat fur!)
Whenever I have made a Classic French Jacket, I have added a slight curve to the back hem, and I find this to be very pleasing. I decided to do the same with this jacket. At the center back I marked the hemline at 5/8” below the marked hem, and then I gradually curved it up to the side point of the jacket. It is quite subtle, but I think a nice addition.
I went round and round with buttons for this jacket. Ideally I would have loved to find some pink ones, but the pink of this vintage Linton fabric is really not a clear pink. It is a bit “dusty” and finding buttons to match proved too big a task. So I opted for these vintage mother-of-pearl gray buttons, which happen to have pink overtones to them.
I expect to wear this jacket with gray quite a bit, so the gray buttons make sense to me. I actually really like them now that they are on.
I chose a pink silk charmeuse from Emma One Sock Fabrics for my lining. I would have loved to use a flowered silk, but the ‘see-through’ factor of the light pink wool prohibited that. And actually the pink lining seems to add some vibrancy to the fashion fabric. It makes a very pretty “inside”.
I sewed the lining in entirely by hand, which was an option. The front seams of the lining could also be machine stitched.
This was a very time-consuming project, even without making granddaughter dresses in the midst of it. The video series is 13 parts long and Susan is extremely complete in her instructions. I attribute my success with this jacket to three main facts:
I basted every seam before machine sewing them, even the seams in the lining.
Except for the bound buttonholes, I carefully followed Susan’s order of construction as she laid them out in her videos.
I viewed each lesson over and over to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.
There were many couture tips shared by Susan during the making of this jacket, but these four are ones I will use again and again:
Sew the sides of the pocket bags in by hand with a small fell-stitch rather than sewing them by machine. What a great finish this made.
Catch-stitch the upper curve of the pocket bags to the underlining of the jacket. This keeps them in place and prevents sagging of the bag inside the garment.
Use straight-of-grain silk organza strips to stabilize the on-bias cuffs of the bias sleeves. This keeps the lower edge of the sleeve from “growing” as bias is wont to do.
To add a center back pleat to the lining, which is necessary of course, place the back jacket pattern piece on the fold of your lining silk, set back from the edge by about one inch. (You will not have a center back seam in your lining with this method.) The extra inch makes a natural pleat which can be secured at the neckline and at the waist or slightly below.
It may be a little difficult to see the center back pleat, as everything is so pink, but it is in the center of the photo.
I am already looking forward to making this jacket again. I can visualize it in a vintage Moygashel linen – it would be beautiful for Spring and Summer and Fall. I think this jacket may become as addictive to sew as a Classic French Jacket!
Sewing has been, well, challenging this summer. In reality, I think I have been able to accomplish just about all I could have hoped for – so far, at least – but it certainly doesn’t seem like very much.
When I packed fabric to bring along to our new vacation home in Wyoming, I tried to think ahead and determine exactly what I would need. For instance, I brought two decorator fabrics which I had picked out for two of our “new” bedrooms, with plans for making decorative pillows and at least one bed skirt. I also brought two fabrics with which to make dresses for our two little granddaughters who were arriving, along with the rest of our immediate family, in late July. I also brought some vintage Moygashel linen, many pieces of shirting and dress cottons, skirt fabric, and a piece of Viyella cotton/wool blend. What was I thinking?!! Certainly no one could accuse me of being under-ambitious!
I totally misjudged how much of my time would be taken up with organizing and setting up a new household. So – what have I been able to sew? A number of decorative pillows, for one thing. I find them – and all that self-bias tape I had to construct – utterly boring to make, but satisfying once they are completed. The bed skirts have been moved to the “still to do” list.
I was able to make dresses for my granddaughters. My original intent was to make each dress out of a different fabric, but when I stretched out my ladybug embroidered, striped fabric from Emma One Sock, I realized I had more than I needed for one dress. With one minor compromise, I knew I could get two dresses from my existing yardage. So I changed plans and made matching dresses.
I made white piping for the pockets and collars out of kitchen string and white batiste. The ladybug embroidered fabric is really so cute!
The compromise I had to make involved the sashes, as I did not have enough fabric to cut sashes for two dresses. Fortunately I had enough of the coordinating red fabric to make the sashes. Now I’m glad it worked out that way, as I think it makes the dresses cuter.
I had pre-purchased red decorative buttons, thinking I would need them for just one dress. Normally I would put three in a row centered beneath the collar, but with four buttons, and two dresses … Well, you do the math! Two on each dress it is!
Having spent many summer days and nights in Wyoming before this year, I knew from experience how chilly the mornings – and nights – can be throughout the summer. (The days are warm and glorious, however.) Warm cozy slippers and a winter-weight bathrobe are necessities. And that is why I brought along the afore-mentioned Viyella fabric. Although I packed a winter-weight robe which I made a few years ago, I wanted to make a new robe which I can leave here, therefore eliminating one bulky item from future suitcases.
How lovely to have the opportunity to use this vintage Vogue pattern once again.
This robe takes a lot of fabric, and it was a tight squeeze fitting all the pattern pieces on it and matching the plaid as well. I had to make the sash out of two pieces of fabric, seaming it in the back. Additionally, I had enough fabric for only one pocket (I prefer two.) But, I am happy with the outcome, and very pleased to have used one more piece of fabric from my sizeable collection!
Viyella is the perfect fabric for a lightweight, but warm bathrobe. It is machine washable, and gets softer with age.
While the bathrobe, and the little dresses, were enjoyable to make, neither were challenging in the “couture” sense. So I did my “couture” dreaming vicariously through the Susan Khalje Couture Sewing Club, where inspiration abounds in many forms. Earlier in the month, Susan was interviewed for the “Love to Sew” podcast. Treat yourself and spend a lovely hour-plus listening to it, if you haven’t already done so. The interview, Episode 106, dated August 12th, can be found here:
Among Susan’s new pattern offerings is this jacket:
When I arrive back home in Pennsylvania, I will be searching through my fabric closet for the perfect pairing for this pattern. I am just itching to challenge myself with such a project. No more pillows, at least for now!
Is it possible to fall in love with a coat? If so, then that is what has happened with my pink coat. It was a relationship which grew over several years.
First, I found the pattern, this Vogue Paris Original Designer Pattern from 1965. It was an eBay purchase made several years ago, with a promise to myself that one day, when I found the right fabric, I would make it.
Next I found this silk charmeuse couture fabric on the website of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics. It was an end cut, 2.25 yards, and when I purchased it, I envisioned another wrap dress, not the lining of a coat. Luckily I had no urgent plans to use it, and thus it eventually found its way inside the pink coat.
I am showing the lining silk here along with the pink wool to show how well they complement each other.
And then – I found the pink wool. Also an eBay purchase, this wool was not inexpensively priced, but I recognized its rarity and its “presence” in the posted pictures. Then I hoped it would live up to its promise once I received it and saw it in person. Over the years I have found some amazing things on eBay, but this wool is one of the real treasures.
Because I have already posted quite a bit about the coat’s muslin/toile and certain salient details, I will not go into too much more description about the coat’s construction. But I do want to point out some of this pattern’s engineering charms.
1) On the photo on the pattern envelope, I believe the soft shoulder of the coat is evident. I used a “cigarette-type” sleeve heading in each shoulder to enhance the smooth transition from the shoulder to the top of the sleeve. Not so evident on the pattern illustration is the drape of the back of the coat from the shoulder line. I realized this drape works so well because of the two neckline darts. They are in the neckline, not the shoulder seam; they add necessary shaping without disturbing the drape.
Can you see how the dart comes off from the neckline, not the shoulder seam?
2) The collar is an engineering marvel in my mind. The under-collar is constructed from four pieces, two main sections cut on the bias, and a 2-piece collar band, seamed at the center back. The band helps the collar to turn beautifully.
This photo clearly shows the components of the under-collar. You can also see the under-stitching I did in silk buttonhole twist.
3) When I made the toile, I was concerned about the fullness of the back of the coat. It seemed a bit much, and I have already written about my intention to add a half belt to draw in the fullness, if needed. Nope! I am so happy with the finished look – it has that 1960s’ vibe without being overwhelming. I did move the vertical back seam line up 1.25” to rest at my natural waistline, rather than below it. For me, this was the correct alteration. It may not be on someone else who has more height than I do. Another consideration was that a half belt would have concealed the seam detailing which is so lovely on the back of the coat.
An inside look at the back of the coat, showing its drape from the shoulder seams.
The other significant alteration I made was to remove 1.5″ of width from each sleeve. I possibly could have taken out even more, but I will be wearing this coat over sweaters and perhaps even a jacket, so the sleeves as I cut them will still accommodate that bulk. But I would not want them any fuller!
Although the pattern did not call for it, I added flat piping to the edge of the lining. I chose white silk crepe de chine for this contrast detail. I felt any other color would have been too demonstrative.
The coat kind of looks like a sack of potatoes in this photo of its front edge!
The finished look of the lining edge.
I had some difficulty finding pink buttons. I ended up with two varieties found in two Etsy shops. I used a larger pink-swirly one for the looped closure, and smaller pink pearl-y ones for the concealed opening. If I ever find ones I like better, that’s a easy switch. But the more I see these, the more I like this combination.
Basting threads are still evident in this photo.
Alas, it is much too warm for wearing wool coats now, but it is ready for next Fall’s cooler days. By then I hope to have a windowpane checked skirt, in delicate gray, white and pink wool, specially made to wear with this coat.
It is always interesting what photos reveal. I am thinking I may need to redo the hem to get a softer look to it. It looks like it has crinkles in it!
I will take any excuse to show the inside of this coat!
I cut a piece of the selvedge with the Lesur name on it and attached it to the right front facing of the coat right below the placket. I think this is an important part of the story of this project.
There is a very slight bow to the back of the coat, again reminiscent of the ’60s.
This coat is almost making me anxious for next Fall!
As I worked on this coat, I came to realize how perfectly suited the pattern and the wool were for each other. It was such a privilege to spend so many hours with such quality. No wonder I fell in love!