Santa’s Sewing Sack

This year’s list of gift ideas for your fashion-sewing friends (or you!) is heavy on print.  Included are things to read and things to use, all with the goal of adding knowledge, inspiration and enjoyment to a sewing life.

First up is what I believe to be the definitive book on the golden years of Christian Dior.  Christian Dior:  History and Modernity, 1947-1957, by Alexandra Palmer, is both a fashion book and a dressmaker’s book.  Replete with line drawings of patterns for some of Dior’s most famous silhouettes, this book explores construction techniques as well as design preferences for the women who commissioned these haute couture garments.  I really should write an in-depth review of this book at some point, but trust me – if you or someone you know is interested in fashion history at this pivotal point of the 20th century – then this book is a necessity.

Published by the Royal Ontario Museum, 2018.

Of course, no list this year is complete without the newest book from Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr, A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing. Excellent for a sewing friend or anyone interested in dressing with classic style, this book is sure to please.  I wrote a complete review of this book earlier in the month should you still need convincing!

Another book which was new to me this year (but published in 2006) is one of those sweet go-to books whenever you are thinking of making a gift for a friend.  The Apron Book:  Making, Wearing, and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort, by EllynAnne Geisel documents aprons for every use, such as kitchen aprons, house aprons, “Daddy” aprons, holiday aprons, to mention just a few.  The bonus is a full size  pattern included  so you can make a basic bib apron, using inspiration from the history, pictures and diagrams included in the book.  Many thanks are due to my friend Jane for giving me this book earlier in the year.

Published by Andrews McMeel Publishibng, LLC, Kansas City, Missouri, 2006

A magazine which deserves your attention is Classic Sewing for Everyday and Special Occasions, published by Hoffman Media.  I was introduced to this magazine by Farmhouse Fabrics in South Carolina, where it is available for purchase quarterly.  Ostensibly a magazine devoted to sewing for children, it also provides endless inspiration for sewing for adults, and often includes patterns for adults.  Each issue has a separate full-size pattern included with it.  The Holiday 2019 issue features classic capes for children as well as a delicate, heirloom type blouse for adults.

If you have a young girl in your life who is very special to you, then you really should go to the Clara and Macy Etsy store and purchase this wrapping paper.  It will be like two gifts in one to present a package with this cute paper doll tag, including a complete holiday wardrobe printed and ready to cut out.

Well, no Christmas list of mine is complete without a notepad.  Another tried and true friend gave me this very appropriate notepad earlier in the year.  How can you not be inspired reading its catchy message!  Thank you, Nancy!

Finally there is one item on my list which deviates from the printed theme this year.  I treated myself to a pair of these Kai (7000 series) dressmaking shears when I needed to set up my sewing room in our new vacation home in Wyoming.   I was flabbergasted at how wonderful they are!  Somehow they grip the fabric as they cut, giving you incredible control and precision.  Smooth as silk, and tough as nails.  When I got back to my sewing room in Pennsylvania, I promptly ordered another pair.  I really don’t know how I ever sewed without them. Available from Susan Khalje and also from Amazon.

That completes my list for this year’s holiday gift-giving.  Of course the most coveted sewing gift I could recommend is MORE TIME TO SEW.  I’m still working on that one, although I am grateful every day for having this passion and so many lovely sewing friends worldwide with whom to share it.  Thank you to you, my readers, for all you give me every month of the year!

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Filed under Book reviews, Christian Dior, Gifts for Sewing, Uncategorized

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

A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing – Giveaway Winner!

It has been quite a week in the Fashion Sewing Community as Sarah Gunn‘s and Julie Starr’s newest book, A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing, has been the focus of a “tour” on blogs and on Instagram.  From the comments I received here at Fifty Dresses, it is obvious that enthusiasm for this subject is universal.

As all of you know, C&T Publishing is sponsoring the GIVEAWAY, and I am delighted to announce the lucky winner at Fifty Dresses, who is . . .

MERY (M A FULLER)

Mery, I will be in touch by email to obtain your mailing address.  (I am quite certain you are a US resident, but correct me if this is not the case.)

Many thanks to all of you who wrote comments and entered the Giveaway.  I urge each and every one of you who were not fortunate to win this time to purchase the book for yourself or put it on your wish list.  And, finally, a HUGE thank you to Sarah and Julie who were inspired to write this book and asked me to be part of it.

Happy December to each and every one of you!

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“A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing” – Book Review and GIVEAWAY

Two of the most creative and stylish ladies I know in this global fashion sewing community, Sarah Gunn of Goodbye Valentino, and Julie Starr, have collaborated once again on a book dedicated to our craft.  Their first book, The Tunic Bible, published by C&T Publishing, met with acclaim and well-deserved enthusiasm, establishing itself as the go-to standard for creating one-of-a-kind, flattering tunics.  In A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing, Sarah and Julie broaden their focus to cover a range of styles, namely those that have stood the test of time and are considered “classics.”

I love the size of this book. At 9.5″ x 7.5″, it is easy to hold and use.

The book is very handily compartmentalized into 30 chosen styles, the “classics,” thoughtfully documented by Sarah and Julie.  I would have loved to be privy to their brainstorming sessions on what styles to include in this list.  There are the obvious ones, of course, such as the pencil skirt, the sheath dress, the shirtdress, and the French jacket.  But they also cleverly identified some styles not always necessarily thought of as “classic.”  But indeed, they are, and truly deserve their place in this book.  Think Halter dress or top, Palazzo Pants, Jeans-style Jacket, and Menswear Pajamas!  All these and more are included in this book.

Each chapter deals with one ”Classic” and its history and who, throughout the years, has worn it.  Also included are sewing tips, fabric suggestions, and styling guidelines for each classic.  Some of the chapters include a cautionary paragraph on how to avoid the “Frump Factor.”  Simple changes like altering the hem length or wearing the appropriate shoes can change one of these classics from frumpy to fabulous.  Pay attention to the authors’ suggestions because they know about what they are writing!

Here is just one example of tips and styling ideas included with each category.

Accompanying each chapter is also one of my favorite aspects of this book – a carefully chosen quote.  I thought I had come across just about every quote about fashion and sewing that was ever spoken or written.  But somehow, Sarah and Julie have discovered some real gems and placed them perfectly in the book.  Take for example this quote by Winston Churchill included in the chapter for the pencil skirt: “A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt:  long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

Or consider this one by Georgio Armani in the chapter on the Bateau Neckline: “Elegance is not standing out, but being remembered.”  As one who loves a bateau neckline precisely for its elegant appearance, I found this quote perfectly placed.

The center section of the book, nestled comfortably among the many chapters, is “the Classic Garment Gallery.”  I was very flattered to be asked to contribute to this section, which is a compilation of classic styles sewn by “members” of the worldwide sewing community.  Here you can see these classic styles modeled by the makers, and it is a marvel to take this all in.  Yes, this is a section to return to again and again to get inspiration.

And speaking of inspiration, the absolutely delightful illustrations by Beth Briggs will not only captivate you, they will also provide you with styling ideas and concepts.

At the back of the book is a carefully considered list of Resources.  Included are lists of Fabric Books; Fabric Vendors; Fabric Shopping Around the Globe; Trims, Tools, and Notions; Related Articles, Videos, and Online Classes; and Sewing Instruction and Alteration Books.  No beginning or advanced devotee of fashion sewing should be without this list of Resources.

Well, no fashion sewing book is complete without a pattern, and I am happy to report that included with A Stylish Guide to Classic Sewing is a multi-sized pattern for the Goodbye Valentino modern classic pencil skirt.  There is nothing quite like a pencil skirt for a basic wardrobe component.  This is a skirt to be made time and again, following the precise instructions included in the back of the book.

This is a sewing book, and as such, targets those of us whose passion is sewing our own fashions.  However, there is much in this book which would be of value to anyone wishing to enhance or perfect her own style.  Likewise, it should be inspirational to those just beginning to sew for themselves as well as those who just aspire to it!  How perfect is this quote from Audrey Hepburn (page 161): “The most attractive accessory a woman has is confidence.”  With this book in hand, you will both sew and dress with confidence and style.

And now, it is with great excitement that I am able to offer my readers a chance to win a copy of this book, compliments of C&T Publishing. Should the winner be a resident of the United States, he or she will receive a print copy of the book;  an international winner will receive a digital copy of the book.   For a chance to win, please leave a comment with this blog post no later than  Sunday, December 8th at 12 noon, Eastern Standard Time.  I will draw the winner late afternoon on Sunday, December 8th.

To read more reviews, and for more inspiration, please visit the following sites (dates indicate the day of review):

Dec 2  Lori VanMaanen

Blog – girlsinthegarden.com

Instagram -@girlsinthegarden

 

Dec 3 Andrea Birkan

Instagram – @andreabirkan

 

Dec 4 Anita Morris

Blog – anitabydesign.com

Instagram – @anitabydesign

 

Dec 6 Alex Florea

Blog – sewrendipity.com

Instagram – @sewrendipity

 

Dec 7 Lucy VanDoorn

Blog – myloveaffairwithsewing.com

Instagram – @myloveaffairwithsewing

 

Dec 7 Cennetta Burwell

Blog – themagonanystylist@blogspot.com

Instagram – @cennetta_burwell

 

Dec 8 Manju Nittala

Blog – sewmanju.com

Instagram – @sewmanju

 

Dec 8 Dorcas Ross

Instagram – @lonestarcouture

 

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Filed under Book reviews, Fashion commentary, Fashion history, Uncategorized

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

Completing the Pink Coat Ensemble

Although I hope to wear my pink wool coat (completed Spring of 2019) with various dresses and skirts, I particularly wanted to make a skirt which would coordinate with it.  That way I would have a “planned” ensemble.  I envisioned a petite pink-and-gray houndstooth wool, or a mini-checked pink-and-gray wool.  After a wide search and coming up empty-handed, I was just about convinced I was not going to find either of those two fabrics, at least not in the time frame I planned.  And then I found a lightweight wool and silk blend on the website of Farmhouse Fabrics.  It was a variegated gray and oyster-white plaid with a pink pinstripe running through it on the cross-grain.  Although it looked lovely on my computer screen, I wasn’t sure it would fit my needs, so I ordered a swatch.  From the swatch I could see its beautiful quality – and its perfect colors – so my search was over.

I am so accustomed to using silk organza as my underlining, but the incredible softness and delicacy of this fabric made me think twice.  I thought silk organza would undermine the fluidity of the wool/silk blend, so I decided to use a very lightweight cotton batiste instead. Using the Susan Khalje pattern for which I already had a toile (yay!), I made a very simple straight skirt.  Just for fun I decided to line it in pink silk charmeuse.  I had some in stock as I had used it for the pocket linings in my pink coat.  I also lined the waistband, which I like to do when sewing with wool.

The pink charmeuse lining is my unseen homage to this color which I love so much.

I inserted a lapped zipper by hand in the center back seam.

I angled the center back vent toward the center back seam so that it will hang evenly when I am wearing the skirt.

It is easy to see the angle on the vent with this particular fabric.

One side of the vent folded back.

When I cut out the lining for the coat, I maneuvered the pattern pieces to give me a long narrow length of the silk, which I made into a scarf.

Paired with a V-neck gray sweater, it proves to be the perfect accessory.  As Christian Dior said in The Little Dictionary of Fashion, “In many cases, a scarf gives a final touch to a dress.”

It’s a nice combination of colors!

The scarf is a pretty addition to the coat, I think.

It is rewarding to see my vision become reality!

So, now the big question, one which I have been asking myself frequently as of late, “When and where will I be wearing this lovely ensemble?”  It seems life is just so despairingly casual now, affording few opportunities to wear pretty dresses and skirts and specialty coats.  I try to buck the trend when I have the place and time to do so – and I have yet to feel like I have been overdressed.  Of course, Christian Dior had something to say about this, too. “Generally it is very bad to be overdressed, but I think that in certain circumstances it is very impolite and wrong to be underdressed.” I could not agree more and personally prefer to be slightly overdressed than underdressed.  How about you?  I do hope my pink coat, paired with this gray skirt, will prove to be the perfect dressing for many occasions.  I am certain I will enjoy wearing them.

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Fashion commentary, hand-sewn zippers, Linings, Scarves, Straight skirts, Uncategorized, underlinings

Fashion and Friendship

There is no dearth of books about fashion available for reading or just perusing.  Most of those, however, are books intended for an adult audience, so I am always delighted to find a “fashion book” written and illustrated for children.  I have always found that these books written for children are of equal delight for adults, and especially so when said adult can share them with an interested child or grandchild.

For Audrey with love:  Audrey Hepburn and Givenchy, by Philip Hopman is just such a book.

Copyright text and illustrations 2016; English translation copyright 2018 by NorthSouth Books, Inc., New York. Available in bookstores and on Amazon.

Written originally in Dutch and published in the Netherlands in 2016, this book was translated into English and published in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in 2018.  Philip Hopman is not only the author, he is also the illustrator. His whimsical drawings are captivating both for their fashion sense and for their charming renditions of Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy.

This is truly a story of friendship, but of friendship born out of a shared appreciation of beautiful clothing, Givenchy being, of course, the designer of those stunning clothes, and Audrey Hepburn being the client.  She was the one who could wear his designs like no other!

By the time they met, Givenchy was already a sought after designer, with an impressive roster of clients.  Among those clients were Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, Wallis Simpson, and many others.

(Should you purchase this book for a child in your life, I recommend reading it through once or twice by yourself. Some of the text needs to be read across from the left to the right page, top to bottom, for the story line to be most meaningful, especially for a non-reader. This is a minor detail, but an important one for the enjoyment of its storyline.)

He initially claimed that he had no time to design for the rising movie star, but once she tried on a few of his clothes, he realized she was the perfect fit for his designs, both in style and in essence.   They became best friends, with a lasting connection and concern for each other that transcended the clothes.   Audrey was known to have said “When I wear his [Givenchy’s] clothes, I feel safe.  I’m not afraid of anything.”

This is a sweet book, but the success of such a children’s book is how it is received by this younger audience.  Does it engage them? Does it tell a story that is meaningful to them?  Does it start a conversation?  Does it spark imagination?  Is it a book that can be read over and over and still be enjoyed?

I purchased this book specifically for my two granddaughters’ visit with us this summer.  These are two little girls (currently six and four years of age) who like clothes and like dresses, so I felt fairly certain they would like this book.  What I wasn’t prepared for was how well it captured their imagination.  Before we even got to the title page, they were immersed in the lining pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They looked at the silhouette of each dress, loved the wide-brimmed hat with the white streamers, and decided the red dress was the one they liked the best.

Each page brought new delights for them, and they picked out their favorite designs as we read through the text.  We talked about how sometimes dreams don’t come true (when young, Audrey wanted to be a ballet dancer, but was told she was too tall, and her feet were too big!)  But we decided when one dream is crushed, there are other ones to pursue.  We talked about friendship, and we talked about how important it is to care for other people, no matter how busy and famous one might be.

But mostly, we talked about the clothes!  And that red dress?  Little four-year-old Carolina asked me if I will make that dress for her some day.  How can I refuse such a request?  Of course, I said YES.

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Filed under Book reviews, Fashion history, Uncategorized