Category Archives: 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

A Fabric and Its Label

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.  

This wool is 56″ wide and I have 1 1/3 yards, just enough for either a skirt or a simple dress.

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.

In the center of this photo is the center point of the wool, with half the width to one side and half to the outer side. Absolutely brilliant.
Here is a close-up, in which the lovely herringbone weave is also beautifully apparent.

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 love this ad for many reasons, but especially for the red coat. Isn’t it just so elegant?

I found no label pictured from 1955, but the cover from February/March features a suit made from Forstmann tweed:

This has to be one of my favorite magazine covers of the vintage Vogue Pattern Book Magazines I have.

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. 

This label is another variation, without the descriptive phrase “100% Virgin Wool.” Again, this ad has beautiful depictions of wool, with Vogue patterns chosen for each of them.

It seems that by the second half of 1960, Forstmann Woolens had entered into a partnership with Stevens’ Fabrics.  

This ad was prominently placed on the inside front cover of the October/November 1960 edition of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

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.  

From the August/September 1962 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

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 . . .

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Filed under fabric labels, Fashion history, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

A Pink Wool Dress

There seems to be a recurring theme in my acquisition of fabric.  I either have more than enough – or – just barely enough.  In the case of this vintage pink Linton wool, I had plenty for its original use.  

Sometimes when I have lots of fabric left over, I just move on and don’t try to put the remaining yardage to any purpose.  But then there are times when I think it would be a travesty not to use it.  And so – this pink princess A-line dress was born. 

I had purchased this vintage Vogue pattern last year. 

 I particularly liked the cut-in armholes, and the princess lines which also incorporate a small Dior dart.  (I have traditionally thought a princess-line dress or coat generally gets it shaping simply from the seam lines, not from darts. Fairchild’s Dictionary gives this description:  “ Fitted dress with flared skirt, frequently made like a coat-dress, styled without a waistline seam and cut in panels fitted from shoulders to hem.” Page 376. No mention of darts, so maybe it doesn’t matter!) I wasn’t so sure about that long center shaping dart in the front of the dress.  However, I knew a muslin/toile would determine its fate as far as I was concerned.  (I also like the jacket included in the pattern.  It has lovely lines and I really need to make it sometime.) 

The line drawings on the back of the envelope show the lovely seaming details on the jacket.

As I suspected, I was able to eliminate the long center dart, which seemed to add more emphasis to the bust than I cared to have.  When I make this pattern again, I think I will make a dead dart where the shaping dart is supposed to be, which should take in a little bit of excess bagginess. Or, if that doesn’t work, then I will take the front side seams in a little bit. I only noticed the bagginess after I had taken a few photos.  Always tweaking – it never seems to end!  

A little baggy….

One of the pleasures of sewing with a plaid – in this case the plaid is strictly in the weave – is the preciseness with which dress parts can be joined.   I underlined all with white silk organza, which gave this loose weave just the body it needed.  Then to make sure I had everything lined up, I hand basted every seam before sewing by machine.  

A close-up of the Dior dart, and the front side seam.

I eliminated the facings and used the couture method of lining to the edge, using back stitching to secure the lining to the underlining around the neck and armholes.  Then I used a hand-sewn lapped application for the zipper.  

I enjoyed making this dress, and I will use this pattern again – I am already envisioning a dress and jacket ensemble, featuring the jacket included with the dress.  And I know just the fabric I will use.  But I am getting ahead of myself – first here a few pictures of this dress and jacket duo.

Dress and jacket together…
I have said this before, but it bears repeating – I love a center-placed lapped zipper.
The weave in this wool is just so pleasing.

And how much of the Linton fabric did I have remaining after making this dress?  Well, enough to make a coat for an American Girl Doll which my oldest granddaughter is getting for Christmas.  Doesn’t every doll need a Linton Tweeds coat?  

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Filed under couture construction, Dior darts, Sheath dresses, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

Making a Parisian Jacket, Part 2 – and on to the Finish

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 ifacing.

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!

 

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Gussets, Linings, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, woolens

Making a Parisian Jacket, Part 1

Another title for this post could be “Sewing with Professional Instruction – the Parisian Jacket.”  One of the advantages of having a subscription to Susan Khalje’s online Couture Sewing Club is exclusive access to videos which take the viewer, step-by-step, through the process of making one of these jackets.  

When this pattern was released a few months ago, I was immediately interested in making one.  There are several details in this jacket which I find especially appealing.  The first – and salient one – is the cut-on sleeve, also called an all-in-one sleeve. This is a design feature which was prevalent in the 1950s, but no longer often seen.   Usually sewn with an underarm gusset to enhance moveability, this sleeve forms its own crease lines below the shoulder at the front and back.  You can see that detail in the diagram on the pattern envelope above.  Take a look at this magazine cover from November 1956.  You can see both the crease line and the coat’s gusset.  

I suspect at least one of the reasons this particular type of sleeve fell out of favor is that the pattern pieces do take a sizeable amount of fabric to accommodate the width of the attached sleeve.  I also suspect sewing in those gussets demanded a certain expertise to be finished successfully, adding time to both home sewing and to ready-to-wear.  But I love the look of the cut-on sleeve.  It really is a classic style, and one which I am happy to have the opportunity to incorporate into my sewing.  It is worth mentioning here that this sleeve is similar to a “kimono” sleeve, but it is not cut as full under the arm.  (This seems like a good time to show the pattern piece for the jacket’s gusset.  Rather than diamond shaped, it is a triangle with a curved top edge.  Pretty clever!)

Another design feature of the jacket which appeals to me is the prominence of the buttons.  The jacket is shown with just two buttons, although certainly a third one could be added.  However, with two larger ones, it is really possible to use showcase buttons, if desired.  And if you follow my blog, you already know that vintage buttons – and unique new ones – are one of my weaknesses.  I am always looking for opportunities to use beautiful buttons.

A third construction detail I find appealing is the center back seam.  This allows the opportunity for lovely shaping and more precise fitting than if the back piece were cut without a seam. 

With all this in mind, I was anxious to get started on this project.  As I already had several lovely woolens waiting for their turn, I decided to use one of them rather than buy new fabric.  And my attention kept coming back to this vintage piece of Linton wool which I purchased from an Etsy shop about a year ago.  

It is entirely coincidental that the jacket Susan is making in her instructional videos is also pink!  Of course, I love pink.  I would describe this particular hue of pink as a “Winter pink.”  It has a bit of a dusty appearance to it, making it ideal for a November project.  The best thing is that I have enough fabric to make a matching sheath dress to go with my jacket.  (Although I feel sure that particular project will have to wait until after the new year.) 

Well, back to Susan’s video instruction…  She is very thorough in what she includes, so much so, that those of us who have taken classes from her already, are able to whiz through the early lessons for the most part.  However, one suggestion she made was to use pins rather than machine sewing to fit the muslin together.  Here is what I mean by that:

The seam lines are pinned together horizontally throughout, and then the muslin is ready to try on. No stabbing occurred during the process!

I found this method far superior to putting the muslin together by machine.  It was much easier to make changes and alterations, and I felt like the “seams” laid flatter, enabling me to ascertain the fit, on me, more precisely.  

Once I had my muslin perfected (as much as possible), I transferred all the markings onto white silk organza, to be used as my underlining and also as the pattern pieces from which to cut the fashion fabric.  I had to move to my dining room table to accommodate the expanse of the wool. 

It is easy to see here the amount of fabric needed for the cut-on sleeves. (I use my candlesticks as weights to keep the fabric from slipping.)

Once I started assembling some of the jacket pieces, I realized I had not perfectly matched the facings.  Although the wool is solid pink, there is that very distinct weave in it which needs to be matched.  Fortunately, because I had left such wide seam allowances, I did not need to cut a new facing.  I just needed to readjust the organza on the one facing which was a bit askew.  

You can see the organza adjusted on the righthand facing, before I had re-basted it.

I still have a long way to go on this jacket, but here are two “work-in-progress” shots, with the seams sewn but nothing trimmed, ironed or catch-stitched yet.  It is fun to see it taking shape, however.  

I have a pink button pinned onto the front to see how it looks, but I have already decided against it.

Two more things need to take shape very soon – namely Holiday dresses for my granddaughters.  Somehow, I think they will be finished before my jacket!  

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Sleeves, woolens

The Pink Coat Odyssey, The Finish!

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!

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Linings, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

The Pink Coat Odyssey, Part 1

Instruction sheets for patterns always intrigue me, and especially so, instruction sheets for vintage Vogue Designer patterns.  They so often include a quirky method of handling one aspect of construction. And often the construction details for an entire complicated dress or coat fit on one side of one sheet, completely at odds with the amount of time involved in the actual process from beginning to end. The beginning of my pink coat, however, commenced long before I started at “ number 1” in the Instructions.

With my adjusted and fitted muslin (toile) completed, and with its pieces disassembled again, I transferred it onto white silk organza to be used as both the pattern for the fashion fabric and as its underlining.  This was the point about which I was both equally excited and terrified! There is a real thrill involved in laying out the pattern on your fashion fabric, but my pink coating wool is no normal fashion fabric.  A rare survivor, this French Lesur wool from the mid 1960s, needed some special attention before I could begin to lay out my organza pieces on it.

Often vintage wool displays a crease down its center point where it has been folded for decades. Fortunately, this Lesur wool was folded with the right side in.  There was a definite crease line, and it looked a bit soiled as well.

In the left half of this photo, you can see a line of light soil along the crease.  This is the wrong side of the fabric.

I used a Woolite spot remover pad and worked gently along the fold line to reduce the minor discoloration.  Then I put the entire length of wool in the dryer with a Woolite dry cleaning cloth to freshen it.  When it came out, the crease line was practically gone, but I noticed that the wool appeared just a bit thinner along that line.  I knew I would have to work around this when I laid out my pattern pieces.

It is barely visible, but there is a line of thinner wool close to the center of the photo.

Working single layer, as is customary with couture construction, I spread out the wool on my dining room table.  The “coat front and lower back” piece is quite wide, and extended across the center point line of my wool.

You can see how wide the Coat Front and Lower Back pattern piece (#3) is, on the lower left.

Because the longest straight edge of the piece is the front facing, I knew I had to make sure that line of “thinner” wool  was on the facing and not on the main body of the coat.  Fortunately the wool had no nap, so I was able to stagger those two very large pattern pieces with different vertical orientations, which saved the day!

A number of pieces were on the bias which always seems to use more fabric.

All in all, it was tight fit to get all the pattern pieces on.  I let it all sit overnight so I could doublecheck myself with fresh eyes before I actually started to cut.  Knowing how special this wool is made taking that first cut with scissors extremely nerve-wracking.  However, I figured it was now or never, and so I cut!  One by one, the pieces piled up and when I was finished , all I had left was this small mound of scraps!

I have just enough left to make a half belt, should I choose to do so.

Next up was a part I always enjoy for some strange reason: basting the silk organza underlining and the fashion fabric together.  And then to the Instruction Sheet, only to remember that the first thing to do was the pockets!  I like detail work, but whenever I have to make a slash in the main body of anything, I get anxious.  Fashion Sewing is not for sissies!

Here is one of the pockets slashed and ready to turn.

With lots of basting, lots of double-checking, lots of talking to myself, I finished with two flapped pockets that look they way they should, thank goodness!

I basted the pockets closed to protect them while I finish the rest of the coat.

And then, no rest for the weary, the next item on the sheet was the fly for the concealed front. Actually these are not difficult, although this one was done a bit differently than the one I put on another coat I made several years ago.

The buttonholes on a fly front need to be as flat as possible, so even though I was working in wool, which would normally dictate bound buttonholes, I made these five buttonholes by machine.  Obviously they do not show, being within a concealed opening, so this was the way to go.

Here is the front of the coat with the concealed placket underneath. Top-stitching will be added later.

Remember what I said about quirky construction?   I had already looked ahead (of course…) to see what next important step I was facing, and indeed, it was a facing!  That looped button which is a design feature on the coat, turns out to be anything but normal. I will cover this interesting – and quirky – application in my next post, as the Pink Coat Odyssey continues.

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

A Navy and Red Plaid Skirt

The almost-finished Classic French Jacket hanging on my dress form must be getting a bit impatient with me at this point.  I switched gears and decided to give the Jacket (and me) a rest while I took on a “small” project.  I had purchased this merino wool from Promenade Fabrics last Fall.  It was a “remnant,” but one I knew would be ample enough for me to make a straight skirt.

What better month to have a red and navy plaid wool skirt than February, with its heart-colored hues and chilly temperatures?  And after the nubbiness of the French jacket boucle, I was ready for some soft, finely woven merino wool.  What is it about merino wool that makes it so lovely?  The description in Fairchild’s Dictionary reads: “High-quality wool yarn made from fleece of merino sheep, which has short, fine, strong, resilient fibers, and takes dyes well.”  ((Page 326, The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyllis Tortora, Third Edition,  New York, New York, 2010.)  Made in England by Butterworth and Roberts, this fabric has all those attributes and more.

Plaids are always interesting to sew.  Obviously the plaid has to be matched, but as important is determining the placement of the plaid, both on your body and on the pattern.   Most plaids have a dominant color or block, and this is a good starting point.  With this particular piece of wool, I wanted to emphasize the navy rather than the red (even though the red is dominant).  I first thought the best way to do this was to place a navy block/stripe down the front middle of the skirt.  I quickly discovered this actually emphasized the red instead of the navy.  When I placed a red block/stripe in the center, the red receded, and I had the look I wanted.

I also wanted the reveal of the plaid on the front center of the skirt to match the reveal of the back center seam.  This enabled navy to predominate the side seams of the skirt, framing the front and back.  Perfect!

This shows the back vent folded back, but you can see the back seam is sewn so that the front center block and the back center block match.

One of the side seams.

I used Susan Khalje’s straight skirt pattern which I had already used last Fall, and which needed no alterations in my existing muslin. (YAY!)  While laying out the muslin pattern, I realized if I was careful, I would be able to save enough fabric to make a matching scarf.  That would also mean that practically none of this beautiful wool would be unused.

The scarf is 60″ long and 9″ wide. I fringed the short edges, to make a nice finish.

Here are a few tips I used for sewing this plaid skirt:

1) In sewing the seams together, in order to match the lines of the plaid exactly, I used my walking foot.  This helped to keep everything perfectly lined up and eliminated slippage of the fabric as I sewed.  (Forked pins are useful in this application, too, but I found the walking foot to be just about foolproof.)

2) Even though the front center of the skirt was easily discernable because of the placement of the plaid, I still marked that line with a running stitch.  I find that helps to eliminate mistakes!  That was the final bit of basting thread which I removed from the skirt when it was finished.

Here is that front center line, marked with a running stitch. You can also see the Petersham ribbon I used to stabilize the waistband.

3)  I angled the back vent out about 1/4 inch on each side to help it hang straight while being worn.

4)  I faced the waistband with the lining silk, which makes it comfortable to wear.

With much of Winter still to come, I suspect I will have numerous occasions to wear this wool skirt.  And now I can get back to that French Jacket with at least one thing to show for the year so far!

 

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Filed under couture construction, Straight skirts, Uncategorized, woolens

Another Rosy Outlook for the New Year

There is a fine art to planning ahead, and nowhere is this more obvious than in planning a new sewing year.  No matter how carefully I think it through, I still end up with some fabrics that never make it out of storage and some newly-purchased fabrics that quickly get moved to the head of the queue.  But no matter!  I still find it useful to make a list of intended projects, while at the same time reminding myself that being flexible and realistic about my intentions is what is really necessary.  (There are, after all, those unexpected special events which can’t be planned for, but which take top priority when the “save the date” card arrives in the mail.)

When I look back at what I accomplished in 2018, I happily find that about half my projects used fabrics which I had purchased at least a few years prior.  Some had actually been in my collection for more than a few years! Last year’s list was replete with rosy hues and rosy prints, and this year is not too different, especially considering three of my most favorite fabrics from last year are being forwarded onto my plans for 2019. Will this be the year that I finally get this vintage piece of Moygashel linen made into a dress?  I’ve only been trying to do this for at least three years now!

A very early 1950s’ linen, petite black flower silhouettes on a pale ecru background.

But for starters, and as with last year, I am first finishing up a project which I began, but did not have time to finish before the holidays took over my sewing room – and my life!

I am bound and determined to finish the Classic French Jacket I started in late 2018. While I am currently working on the body of the jacket, having completed its quilting, I am still undecided about trim.  I am auditioning different options, but have yet to find the perfect one.

However, I am anxious to get on with it, as the rest of my list includes:

1)  a wool coat

2)  3 cotton shirtwaist blouses

3)  1 boat-neck blouse (silk, maybe, or still undecided)

I love this French blouse-weight silk, so it is a heavy favorite for a boat-neck blouse to be made along with fellow dressmakers enrolled in Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing Club.

4)  1 linen skirt

5)  2 wool skirts

6)  1 wool, two-piece dress

7)  1 cotton dress

I found this amazing cotton at Mulberry Silks in North Carolina when I was looking for fabric for the Christmas dresses for my granddaughters.

8)  1 linen dress – referenced above

9)  1 silk dress

10) birthday dresses for my two little granddaughters

11) play dresses for granddaughters

12) holiday/Christmas sewing for those same two little girls

and finally

13) some necessary home decorator sewing, which is not my favorite thing to do, until I see it finished and can enjoy living with it!

The wool coat will be my first major project in 2019 once the French jacket is finished.  I can’t wait to get started on this vintage Lesur wool from Paris, lined in a pink, gray and white silk purchased from Mendel Goldberg a few years ago.

I will probably make a simple wool skirt before starting the coat, as I know it will be a relatively quick project nestled between the jacket and the coat.  I found this wool when Promenade Fabrics was closing their Etsy shop a few months ago.  How I love a red and navy tartan.  I could not resist it, and I am glad I didn’t.

The hand of this wool is so lovely. I think it will make a beautiful skirt. And I have just the shoes to wear with it!

Life is, of course, filled with all kinds of non-sewing duties, and I have plenty on that list, too.  It will be a tricky balancing act to make significant progress in both realms, but my guess is that sewing wins out over cleaning out the attic.

Welcome, 2019, with all your grand opportunities!

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Filed under classic French jacket, Coats, Linen, Moygashel linen, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, woolens

A Simple Straight Skirt

Sounds super simple, doesn’t it?  Well, yes, but simple does not necessarily equate with speedy.  The skirt in question is this one which I fit into my sewing queue as part of a group project in Susan Khalje’s new subscription sewing club.

Susan provided the pattern to all the members, and the choice of which view to use (if one chose to participate; no pressure in this club, only support!) was entirely up to each individual.

I used View A for my skirt. Although this looks like a simple straight skirt, there are subtle details which make it a step above ordinary. For example, the side seams are set slightly back from the front. There is slight fullness built in at the hip; not enough to be noticeable, but enough to make it more comfortable for wearing. This pattern is available on Susan’s website.

I chose the view with the waistband sitting right at the waist (View A), and decided to use a lovely, soft piece of vintage wool I found recently.  As Susan provided video support for each step of the skirt, and answered questions online, I slowly worked through each component while working on my other projects at the same time.

Some of the members in the group have gotten very creative with their renderings of the skirt, but I chose just to keep it simple.  I had already used this pattern once when I made my guipure lace skirt last year, but I tweaked the fit again and am now much happier with it.  (And now I have a go-to skirt pattern.)  One fitting tip that Susan shared was to make sure those side seams are exactly perpendicular to the floor.  If they sway to the front or back, then adjustments need to be made.

The wool I used for my skirt was very lightweight, enough so that I determined the lining fabric should be as close in color as possible.  Luckily I had a piece of silk crepe de chine in my “linings” box which matched perfectly.  (I love it when things like this happen!)

I hand-picked a lapped zipper into the center back seam, and this small detail adds just a touch of class, in my opinion.

Here my center back seams are clearly marked, necessary for any zipper application, but especially so with a lapped zipper.

Here the zipper is in, and the center back lines match, showing the offset of the zipper on the left.

More of the same!

And here is what the zipper looks like when completed.

Even though my wool’s lightweight quality would have lent itself to a simple “all-in-one” waistband, I prefer not to have wool up against my bare middle, or my middle, clothed with just a layer of camisole silk between it and the waistband.  So – I made a two-piece waistband with a facing out of the lining silk.  Inserted into the band is a piece of Petersham ribbon, giving it support and shape.

The lining has been attached (see how good the match is to the wool?), and the Petersham ribbon is ready to be encased inside the waistband.

The waistband facing is ready to be attached to the lining/waistline seam.

The back slit of the skirt is angled in about a quarter inch on both sides, so that it hangs and wears with less of a separation.

The white basting stitches show the center back. I angled the edges towards the center before finishing the hem.

The finished slit and hem.

Not too much else to say about this simple skirt, except that it was a very satisfying little project.

Notice how the back slit hangs together?

Actually there is one more thing to say – about straight skirts in general.  They take very little fabric for most people – often a scant yard in a wide-width wool will suffice.  Will there be more straight skirts in my future?  Oh, yes.  In fact, I already have a wool tartan remnant waiting for early 2019.  But there is much to sew before then… not all of it so simple as this!

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Filed under couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, Straight skirts, Uncategorized, woolens