Tag Archives: couture construction

Life Isn’t Perfect…

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

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

*******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am quite happy with this pink lining!

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

I chose to do machine buttonholes on this silk coat.

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

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

A Very Pink Coat, Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Very Pink Coat, Part 2

The pattern for a very pink coat has many pieces.  

When I am getting ready to start a new project with a pattern new to me, I like to read through all the instructions just to get a feel for what is ahead.  That lets me know if I can mix things up a bit, deviate from the step-by-step instructions, prepare a component ahead of time (such as sleeves.  If I feel confident about the fit, I will often make the sleeves first and set them aside until I am ready for them).  During this initial study of the instruction sheet, all was straightforward except for one thing.  For the life of me, I could not figure out how the  concealed – or fly – opening on the front was constructed.  I have done this type of opening before (here and here), but this construction was different.  

Because I wanted to use my gray lining fabric for one layer of the buttonhole side of the opening (to reduce bulk) I needed to know if I could do that and be confident that the lining would not show.  So I REALLY needed to understand how this detail went together.  I decided I would have to do a trial run.  What better use of a well-marked muslin (toile) than to use it for this task?  Armed with pins, I proceeded to do a mock-up.  

Here are the two separate fly pieces, one attached to the facing and the other one attached to the right front coat piece.
Here are the attached fly pieces folded back from the front edge. This detail allowed me to use the lining fabric for one layer of the buttoned side.
Here the two sides are sandwiched together to show the concealed opening.

Instead of taking my mock-up apart, I decided to keep it for referral when I got to that point of the coat.  And I am so glad I did.  It helped me through many a confusing moment, giving me confidence that I was doing this correctly.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all of life gave one a trial run first before facing the real thing – and then stood by to offer reassurance?  Well, you will have to wait to see the finished opening in my next post, but it is all but complete.  And I must confess, I think it is going to be very lovely.

Now here is something to ponder.  A few days ago I walked into my sewing room and was startled to observe something that did not seem right on my up-to-that-point constructed coat.  I had it hanging on my dress form and almost had a panic attack when I looked at the to-be-buttoned tabs on the sleeves.  It certainly looked as though I had sewn them on backwards!  The buttonholes, and therefore the soon-to-be-attached buttons, were oriented toward the front of the sleeve, rather than the back.

Before completely losing it, I went to my pattern, and there, plain as day in the illustration, the tabs wrapped around to the front of the sleeve.  

I still could not quite believe it, so I went to the illustrations in the 1957 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine, shown in my last post.  Yep – the tabs were oriented the same way as mine.  Just to make sure, I checked the silk organza under-lining on the two-part sleeves to double check my markings which would tell me that the backs of the sleeves were truly in the back (although my common sense had already answered this question for me.  Of course, the sleeves would not have gone in as smoothly as they did if I had put them in incorrectly).  

After being reassured repeatedly that I had not made a BIG mistake, I started to question why the tabs were oriented that way.  I looked for other examples of buttoned sleeve tabs.  I found one or two in which the tab wraps around to the front, but most tabs were sewn into the inside seam, wrapped around the front and buttoned just past the center point of the sleeve (or seam, if there was a center seam as with my pattern), toward the back.  I wondered if this might one of those things which is distinctly feminine, such as the fact that buttonholes on womens’ apparel are on the right, whereas mens’ are on the left.  But no, I could not verify that.  

Here is one of the few examples I found showing the tab buttoning toward the front of the sleeves.
And here is an example of the more customary orientation of the buttoned tab. Both illustrations are from Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, ibid.

Now I am left with a decision to make.  Somehow, I think I would like the tabs on my coat to button toward the back.  I had faced the tabs with my gray lining fabric, again to reduce bulk.  I think that gray lining would better stay undercover should the tabs button in the back. I also think a backward orientation will reduce the incidence of “catching” the tab on things.  Both of those considerations obviously figure into my thinking.  Do I take out the bottom part of the finished sleeves, with their pretty catch-stitched seams, remove the tabs and reorient them?   

This photo of the interior seam of one of the sleeves shows the end of the tab catch-stitched in place along with the seams. The clips you see are where the hem turns back.

Or do I leave well-enough alone and stay true to my vintage pattern? I must decide before the lining goes in the coat. Which brings me to the realization I have just 4 pattern pieces remaining, all for the lining.  Part 3 of this saga is just around the corner.  

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Filed under car coats, Coats, couture construction, Mid-Century style, Sleeves, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, woolens

A Return to Sewing

Did you think I had abandoned my cape?  After an unexpectedly long hiatus from sewing – due to busy holidays, travel, and things out of my control – I finally returned to my sewing room last week.  And although PINK is supposed to feature large in my 2022 sewing agenda, I first had “anything but pink” unfinished business from 2021.  Yes, that cape which I thought would be such an easy make…  I put the final stitches in it last week, only about 6 weeks after I imagined that would happen.

Hah… Those buttons are much more of a deep olive green in reality!
Can you tell it was freezing when I took these photos? This duo will be a good Fall ensemble, but it is not quite warm enough for the middle of Winter!

In all fairness, I should say whenever I must stop a project and then return to it weeks later, I always imagine that it has taken me much longer than it should have.  There is a “reacquaintance” factor in the time involved.  “Now, just where am I in this?  What’s the next step?  What did I do with the undercollar?  Is the lining already cut out?  If so, where is it?”  and on and on. Believe it or not, I tend to be rather organized about my sewing, leaving notes for myself – that sort of thing.  But still – the momentum needs to be rebooted, both for the project and for myself!

Enough of this babble. On to the cape – what worked, what didn’t, and what will I do differently, should I make this pattern again.  Regardless – the cape is ready to wear, and I am very pleased with how it turned out.  

I had to pay extensive attention to laying out the pattern and matching plaids as best I could, knowing that this uneven plaid was going to play some tricks on me.  For the most part, I think I was fairly successful; at least there aren’t any glaring mismatches.  

I must have sewn, torn out and resewn the collar at least five times until I realized those stripes were never going to perfectly align.
I chose an olive green silk charmeuse from Emma One Sock Fabrics for the lining.

The arm slits are just lovely, both outside and inside:

The welts are continuous with the front princess seam.
The lining is brought right up to the inner edge of the welt and slip-stitched in place.

I was a bit concerned about the size of the collar.  This is a pattern from the 1970s, when collars tended to be a bit oversized.  I certainly did not want this cape to scream 1970s, so I was ready to pare down those collar points if necessary.  But I think the collar is perfect just the way it is.

I under-stitched the collar to control the edges.
I think the size of this collar is just right.
I also under-stitched the front edges of the lining. The entire cape is underlined with silk organza, which gave me the perfect anchor upon which to attach those stitches invisibly.

The one component of this pattern I did have trouble with was the separate closing tab.  The pattern, surprisingly, did not specify bound buttonholes.  Rather it called for machine or hand-stitched buttonholes.  I usually like to make bound buttonholes on wool fabric (there are exceptions, of course, but I did not look at this as one of those).  So I dutifully went at it.  But the narrow width of the tab made turning it, with bound buttonholes applied, nearly impossible.  No, make that totally impossible.  It was lumpy, uneven, and unacceptable.  But I was not going to give up on my bound buttonholes.  I decided to redraw the tab, using “squared-off ends” rather than rounded ends.  I knew that would give me more space to manipulate all the interior buttonhole bulk.  I also oriented the buttonholes horizontally instead of on an angle as shown in the lower pattern piece below.

The lower figure is the original tab as taken from the pattern. The upper figure is my redrawn tab.

Voila!  It worked, and I think it might even be a better look than the tab with the rounded ends.  

Not sure why my olive green enameled buttons look almost mint green in these photos.

So – what would I change next time?  I think I might add an inch or two in length.  I think the cape pictured on the pattern envelope looks longer than the reality of it.  

I also think I would taper the back hem of the cape to a gentle extended curve so that the back of the cape is about one to one-and-a-half inches longer than the front.  When I visualize that, I like what I “see.”  

Making this cape has reinforced my opinions about this type of outer covering – it is graceful and quietly elegant in this unfussy form, even in plaid.  Finishing up this project was necessary, but also, as it turned out, a successful start to the new sewing year.  

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Capes, couture construction, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns, woolens

Wool Slacks

Or do you call them pants?  For some reason, I tend to think there are slight differences between pants and slacks.  But not so, according to Fairchild’s Dictionary.  Slacks are listed as “Synonym for pants. Term is usually applied to loose-cut casual pants, not part of a suit.  In the 1930s when women first began wearing pants for leisure activities, these garments were generally called slacks rather than pants.” (The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyliss  Tortora, Third Edition, Fairchild Publications, Inc, New York, New York, 2003, p. 359-360).  I find this interesting, and a little confusing. I have always thought of slacks as a bit more refined than just pants.  “Slacks and a sweater” conjures up a town-and-country-state of mind for me – rich wool, cable-knit sweater and a string of pearls or simple gold necklace.  Perfect for being comfortable but stylish.  Although it doesn’t really matter what one calls them – pants or slacks – I prefer “slacks” – especially when they are finished!  

This is the pattern I used for the slacks. Notice they are called slacks in the description! There are 8 shaping darts – four in the front and four in the back, and no pockets.

It took so many fittings during the process of making these slacks, and so many minor tweaks, so that when I finally took the last stitch, I was so relieved!  A lot of thought went into them which I will share here.

First of all, the vintage wool I was using (and from which my matching cape is being constructed) is – you guessed it – an uneven plaid.  Fortunately, the dominant colors in the plaid allowed me to “ignore” the uneven aspect and concentrate on what WAS even, if that makes sense.  

This photo from my last post shows the uneven aspect of the plaid. I planned the layout according the the brighter lavender stripe.

Then I had to determine where I wanted those lavender lines to hit my hips, and where I wanted them to run up and down the legs.  These considerations needed to accommodate where I wanted the pants-leg hems to fall in relation to the larger blocks of the plaid.  I generally like to have a hem fall somewhere mid-way between dominant horizontal lines.  I never want a dominant horizontal line to be right at the edge of a hem if I can avoid it. 

Here is the hem on one of the legs, to show where I wanted the lower edge to fall in relation to the plaid.
And here you can see how I placed the vertical stripes on the legs.

I underlined these slacks with silk organza, I lined them with silk crepe de chine (from Emma One Sock Fabrics).  I am lining the cape with matching color silk charmeuse, but I wanted a lighter weight lining for the slacks.  The only exception to this is the facing on the waistband, for which I used silk charmeuse.  The interior of the waistband may occasionally be against my bare skin, and silk charmeuse is just a bit more comfortable in areas which call for a snugger fit. 

I faced the waistband with silk charmeuse.

It was serendipitous that I had a wool sweater, purchased many years ago, which is a perfect complement to the darker purple/eggplant color in the plaid. 

It was quite chilly when I took these photos! Where’s my cape?

 Now I’m excited to make more progress on that cape, which has taken a backseat to holiday sewing and shopping.  It may, indeed, be after Christmas until the cape gets its debut, but life has its priorities, doesn’t it? 

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Filed under Fashion history, Hems, Linings, Slacks, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

A Summer Dress

Summer is quickly slipping away, but before it does, I will share one quintessentially summer dress which I made back in July.  It ticks off a number of features which make it “Summer Seasonal”:  it is sleeveless, it is a bright color, and it is linen.  

I found this vintage piece of Moygashel linen a few years ago on eBay. Always a pushover for vintage Moygashel, I purchased it, not quite knowing what shade of green it would be. I was expecting a lime green, but when it arrived it was “lime green meets mint,” a color reminiscent of the early 1960s.  Actually, not just reminiscent – an actual survivor from that period of time.  The width of the fabric was only 35” which was a dead giveaway that this fabric is from the early part of that decade.  Shortly thereafter, Moygashel began to be woven in 45” widths.  Fortunately I had three yards, which compensated for the dearth of width.   

To keep with the early ‘60’s vibe, I decided to line it in pink.  Although I usually line linen with a cotton batiste or cotton/linen lightweight blend, I decided to treat this dress a little bit differently.  I do not often use Bemberg for lining, usually preferring silk, but this lovely, time-tested 100% rayon lining just seemed to be the right choice. (Why?  I knew the seam allowances of the bright green  linen would not show through the tightly woven Bemberg lining, AND it would be a comfortable, lightweight and slinky fabric with which to line a summer dress.)  I ordered what I thought would be a medium pink, but when it arrived, it was more of a very deep rose.  What to do?  I hemmed and hawed, I thought about ordering a different hue of pink, I even thought about abandoning the pink idea and just using a white crepe de chine I had on hand.  Why I was agonizing so much over the color of the lining had to do with my thought if the dress turned out well, I would enter it in the County Fair. I knew not everyone would “understand” such a deeply contrasted lining.  But not wanting to waste money and fabric – and time! – I finally decided just to go with the dark pink, shown a few pictures below.  

I used this sheath dress pattern again, as I am so fond of the double shaping darts in the bodice front and the real kick-pleat.  

The sheath dress pattern I like is the one on the right, underneath its matching plaid coat.
Not just a slit, but a real kick-pleat!
Here is the kick-pleat on the inside of the dress.

I underlined the dress in silk organza so that I could eliminate facings and have an invisible application of the lining.  (The silk organza underlining gives one a base upon which to tack and secure stitches which do not show on the fashion fabric.)

The neck and armhole edges are stay stitched by machine close to the seam line, then clipped and tacked in place by hand to the silk organza underlining.
Here is one of the side seams, clipped and then also tacked in place by catch-stitches.
A beautiful lining hides all those interior stitches and seams.

I surprisingly found a zipper which was almost a perfect match to the green linen, and I did a hand-picked lapped application.  

Once I had the lining fell-stitched in place around the neckline and the armholes, I under-stitched those areas in waxed and ironed white thread.  (I used white to quiet down the deep pink!) Using this technique keeps the lining in place.  The under-stitching is attached to the silk organza underlining only, not the fashion fabric, as explained above.

I used Hug Snug rayon tape to construct the strap holders.

To complete the early 1960s’ essence of this dress, I can pair it with a vintage ‘60s’ Guillemin scarf, also found on eBay.  The pink in the scarf doesn’t match the pink lining, but since the lining does not show, it only matters to me (and now all of you also know this little fact!)  

So how did I do with this dress as an entry in the County Fair?  It was awarded a Red Ribbon in the Adult Division, which was lovely.  The day was “saved” however, when dresses I made for my granddaughters each won Blue Ribbons (and one of them won Best of Division).

(Those of you who follow me on Instagram @fiftydresses have seen this picture already…)

Good Summer memories, all of them.    

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Filed under couture construction, Linen, Linings, Mid-Century style, Moygashel linen, Scarves, Sheath dresses, Uncategorized, underlinings, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

Unfinished Business

What happens when an unavoidable interruption takes you away from the depths of a sewing project for more than a couple weeks of time?  Well, if you are me, you forget exactly where you were in the process.  And, when you finally get back to work on it, you assume, incorrectly, certain fitting steps have already happened.  Recipe for disaster?  Well, not quite that bad, because this dress can be saved.  It is just going to take some time.

The dress in question is the one for which I used this colorful floral silk.

Although I was so certain in May I would finish this dress before we departed our home on the East Coast (USA) for our Summer home in Wyoming, it did not happen.  So I brought it with me to finish.  When I finally picked it up again, I needed to reacquaint myself with all the steps yet to be completed.  I had the hand-picked lapped zipper sewn and the sleeves inserted.

I love a hand-picked lapped zipper…

I was working on the narrow ruffle I had decided to add to the V-neck edge.  I consider this to be the focal point of the dress (in addition to the fabric).

I used the same vintage pattern for this dress as I did for a blue silk dress late in 2019. This fabric, to me, was begging for a narrow neck ruffle.

As luck would have it, the most recent issue of Threads Magazine included an article by Susan Khalje on Couture Gathering.  Now, I have done a lot of gathering of fabric in my life, but this article is illuminating in all the tips it offers for an excellent result.  It could not have been more timely.  As it turns out, there is lot more to gathering than I ever considered.

Among the concepts covered in the article are:  gathering ratio, fabric grain, underlining, stitch length, preparation of the piece to be ruffled, forming the gathers and attaching the gathered fabric to the body of the item.  As with so much of couture sewing, each step builds on the one before it.

Three of the tips in the article, so helpful to me in completing this detail, were:  1) cutting the piece to be gathered much wider than I would have thought was necessary.  This gives one much more control than with a narrower strip.  2) using three lines of gathering rather than the customary two, and 3) once the gathers are formed, using an iron to set them in place, stopping just short of pressing the ruffle.

I decided on a 5/8″ wide ruffle. I cut my piece to be gathered 5″ wide, folded to 2.5″. I used three rows of gathering stitches.

For those of you with subscriptions to Threads Magazine, I highly recommend this Essential Techniques article.  It has forever changed the way I will do gathering/ruffles.  And although not all features in Threads are as useful, it is offerings like this which make me a fan of this sewing magazine.  (These are my opinions;  I have no relationship with Threads.)

Well, back to where I left off.  After picking up work on this dress again, I proceeded to go through all the steps necessary to complete it.  When I thought this dress was finally finished, I put it on to take pictures, and to my surprise, it did not fit correctly.  It pulls across the bust and forms drag lines on the V-neck.  Ugh.

The pulling across the bust and at the V-neck is clearly noticeable in this photo.

I can only guess I thought I had tried it on for fit after the zipper was basted, but I must not have done that.  Unknowingly, I proceeded with the finishing of the interior – the facing of the V-neck, the hem, and the insertion of a green crepe de chine lining.

Normally with couture sewing, neck facings are eliminated and the lining is brought right up to the neck edge and then understitched to secure it. However, with a V-neck, a facing is necessary. I then cut the lining about 3/4″ below the neck edge and fell-stitched it into place.

I believe removing the zipper and taking some of the center back seam allowance to add to the width of the back will correct this glaring mis-fit. This is not a dress which I will have occasion to wear  this summer – so do I dig in and make the corrections now, or do I wait?  I have quite a bit in my summer sewing queue, and perhaps a tried and true project like a blouse will put me in a better frame of mind.  Regardless, this “unfinished business” will one day be finished, hopefully successfully.

 

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Filed under couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, Linings, Ruffles, Sheath dresses, silk, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

The Last Dress of the Year Past

Little did I know when I found this “end-cut” earlier in the year at Mendel Goldberg Fabrics that “classic blue” would be chosen as Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2020.  But so it was, which makes my last dress of 2019 the perfect transition into the new year and the new decade.

This an Italian silk charmeuse, in a dotted and printed jacquard.

I am one of those people who rarely goes looking for a particular fabric.  I think fabrics find me and when this fabric found me, I really had no plan for what I would make out of it.  But as soon as it arrived, I knew immediately I wanted a sheath dress with three-quarter length sleeves and a V-neck.  I tucked it away, happy with the thought of making this dress, and knowing I had the perfect pattern to make it a reality.

View C, of course! And look at those lovely shaping darts.

This Vogue pattern is from the early 1960s, a little tattered and worn, but very versatile and beautifully engineered.

After finishing my granddaughters’ December dresses, and then my pink Parisian Jacket, and then some cute little flannel blouses for gifts for my little girls, I envisioned finishing this dress to wear to holiday parties.  What was I thinking?  First of all, after tweaking the pattern one last time (I had had the pattern fitted a couple of years ago while in a class with Susan Khalje), it took two full days – yes, TWO – to figure out how in the world to lay out my pattern pieces.  Truth be told, I really did not have enough fabric.  I should have reconsidered, but I am stubborn and tenacious when it comes to my sewing “visions.”  I finally decided that I could exactly match the print on the back center seam and make it sleeveless – OR I could have sleeves and not match the back.  I really, really wanted sleeves.  It had to have sleeves.  So I did the best I could with making the back seam look okay, and I got my sleeves.

Fortunately the all-over placement of the floral motifs lent itself to imprecise matching better than many fabrics would.

And what lovely sleeves they are!  When Susan fitted the pattern, she elongated the top curve of the sleeve to accommodate my prominent shoulders.  She also added a dart at the shoulder of the sleeve (actually slightly forward from the marked shoulder of the pattern to accommodate the roll of my shoulders).  I added a slight amount to the width of the sleeve, about 3/8”.  I have found these vintage patterns are often narrow in the sleeves.

The purple lines are the changes to the muslin.

The double elbow darts in the sleeves make a lovely fit and are placed precisely where they should be.

It’s a little difficult to see the double darts, but they are there!

When it came to the V-neck, I knew I would need to use a facing of some sort, but I did not have enough fabric to cut a full facing.  So – I cut a partial facing instead, just enough to be able to turn the V and have it stable.  (The first thing I did when I started sewing the dress, was to reinforce that neckline with a strip of silk organza selvedge.)  Well, this worked like a charm, much to my delight.

The partial facing extends up from the bottom of the V about 2.5 inches, and then the turned- back seam allowance takes over.

Then I brought the lining fabric right to the edge of the neckline and understitched it to secure it in place, just as you would expect a couture dress to be finished.

I chose a “mushroom” colored crepe de chine for my lining. Blues are very difficult to match as you know, so I decided a contrast color would be best. The lining fabric is from Emma One Sock Fabrics.

I used blue thread for the under stitching.

I used a lapped application for the hand-picked zipper.  The more I use the lapped insertion for zippers, the more I like it.  And I especially like it in a center back seam.

I’m feeling quite pleased with this dress!

There is not much more to say about this blue floral dress, except that it was not finished in time to wear to any holiday event.  Which was fine!  Once I realized this would be the case, I was able to really enjoy the process of making it.  It was a delightful way to end the year – and the decade, which has had such a profound effect on my sewing.

 

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Filed under couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, Linings, Mid-Century style, Pantone Color of the Year, Polka dots, sewing in silk, Sheath dresses, Sleeves, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

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