Tag Archives: fashion sewing

CocoLand

When one writes a blog such as Fifty Dresses, it can be a dilemma deciding how many personal details to include in one’s narrative.  Because this is a fashion sewing blog, I try to limit going too far afield into other subjects or areas of my life.  But sometimes, it is unavoidable.  Because fashion/couture sewing is so time intensive, my projects and my sewing intentions will necessarily be sidetracked when my time is taken up with other things or family needs.  And then, in order to make sense of my absence or my wandering attention, I feel the need to tell you, my readers, what is going on in my day to day.

Oh, the sewing plans I had in early January!  I was cranking right along with my projects, and I was so excited to think about starting my pink coat.  I mentioned in an earlier post that the start on that coat was delayed because of unexpected, but fortuitous, circumstances.  Well, those circumstances continue to wreak havoc with my sewing, although I can feel a shift back to normalcy somewhat close at hand.

In early March, my husband and I finally, after looking for 4 years, found and purchased a “perfect for us” vacation house in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  It had been a dream for quite a while, but we had certain requirements regarding the size house we needed (not too big, not too small); the location of the house in relation to the town of Jackson, Wyoming; the property (a view of the Grand Teton mountains was a necessity); and of course, the asking price of the house and land.  Because this all happened very fast and very unexpectedly, life was topsy-turvy as we booked last minute flights, negotiated, signed papers and more papers, and then took on all the preparations for establishing a new “vacation/Summer” household.

We drove 2100 miles from our home in Pennsylvania to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, our car completely filled to its top. Our two cats were our traveling companions. It was very exciting when we crossed over into Wyoming!

Oh, yes, I forgot a very important detail.  The house has a sewing room.  Described in the listing as a “study,” I quickly set the record straight, declaring it perfect for my sewing room away from home, and fortunately, Mr. Fifty Dresses agreed!  With built-in cupboards, bright light and a knockout view of the mountains, it is a wonderful and inspiring place to sew.

This is the view out my sewing room window.

I am indebted to a former neighbor who very kindly gave me her mother’s 1951 Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine, the exact same model I use at my home in Pennsylvania. It is so wonderful to have a machine I can leave here in Wyoming.

Built-in cupboards are the perfect place to store fabrics and supplies I brought with me.

Although I have no dress form for my new sewing room, which could prove challenging, I have been gathering supplies and duplicates of many tools, to minimize the challenge of sewing “away from home.”   Which brings me to CocoLand.

At my home in Pennsylvania on the East Coast of the United States, I have a very spacious and beautiful second floor sewing room.  I keep an ironing board up all the time in it, as 1) it’s a necessity for sewing, and 2) being on the second floor, it is not in a highly visible part of the house (I like things to look tidy!).  My new sewing room is right off of our “great room,” making it much more visible.  I knew I needed an ironing surface handy, but I was not keen on having an ironing board set up all the time.  Somehow, I found out about TNT Quilt Boards, and I ordered a  “Studio Table.”  This padded and covered table measures 32” x 21.5” and is absolutely multi-functional, providing both a pressing surface and a working surface in its compact size. It can also be folded up and stored. The icing on the cake was that I had my pick of a wide variety of covers for the board.

And here is where another bit of personal information needs to be shared….  My granddaughters call me ‘Coco,” a name chosen by my daughter, which has proven to be one of the great pleasures of my life.  To hear them call me that cute name and tell others that I am their “Coco” (as if every grandchild has a grandmother named Coco!) is pure happiness to me.  So, when one of the fabric choices for the Studio Table was a cat print, with the description “CoCoLand” running through it – well – of course, that was what I chose.

Two of the cat figures look like sketches of our two wonderful, silly cats….

So here I am in CocoLand. I’ll be doing quite a bit of home decorator sewing (not my favorite thing to do) for our new house, but it seems only fitting that my first sewing accomplishment since we have arrived here is – a dress for each of my granddaughters.  They arrive soon and then I will share these cute confections.  Until then, thank you for reading about my topsy-turvy life.  I promise more fashion sewing to come – and for me it cannot come quickly enough!

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Update on The Pink Coat

When is a sewing project really, really, finally finished?  That was the question I was asking myself after I thought I had finished my Pink Coat, but then decided I had more to do.  Or, more precisely, I had things to undo and then redo.

After seeing the photos I posted on this blog, my eye went right to that crinkled hem.

I had not noticed how crinkled the hem appeared until I saw these photos.

I had purposely steamed the hem lightly, not wanting to make it a knife edge, but after seeing these crinkles, I went back and steamed it again.  I still had crinkles. My expectation at this point was that I would probably have to take the hem out and redo it.  This suspicion was confirmed when I sought advice from Susan Khalje.  She oh-so-gently agreed with me!  First she suggested  removing the silk organza from the bottom of the coat up to the fold line of the hem, and lightly catch-stitching it along the fold, which would not show.  I did this after taking out all the stitching along the lining, the facings, and the seam allowances, in order to undo the hem.

The pins mark the fold line of the hem; as you can see, the silk organza underlining extends to the bottom edge of the coat.

I then pinned about a half inch above the hem line, so I was able to remove the silk organza right at the hem fold.  I then used a catch-stitch to secure the silk organza right along the fold line.

Doing this helped, but the hem was still not as soft as I thought it should be. Susan’s next suggestion was to add a bias strip of flannel to the interior of the hem, which I suspected was what I had needed to do from the start.  I went to my trusty Vogue Sewing Book from 1970 to get guidance and found this:

From: The Vogue Sewing Book, edited by Patricia Perry, Vogue Patterns, New York, New York, c1970, page 324.

I used all cotton white flannel, cut 2½ inches wide, the width of the hem.  I positioned it so that ⅝“ was below the fold line, with the remaining above.  I used a catch-stitch on the wider section of flannel, securing it to the silk organza.  Then I did a loose running stitch right on the fold line. After every step, I gently steamed the area.

Obviously I had to take out the catch-stitching along the lower portion of the center back seam, and then I was able to slip the flannel under the seam allowance.

Then I was ready to put the hem back in, and reattach the facings and lining.

None of this was difficult, but it was time-consuming. However, I am much happier with the appearance of the hem now.  It is soft and hangs with more grace.

A much smoother, softer hem!

Susan also suggested that I make an adjustment to the front edges of the collar.  Although I had under-stitiched it, I apparently did not coax the front-edge seams back away from the edge enough, allowing them to show more than they should.  So I took out a majority of the understitching and re–did it, too.

The collar lays flatter now, and I am really happy with it.

Needless to say, I was a bit discouraged that I was facing so much work to correct these problem areas, but I knew it needed to be done.  I considered waiting until next Fall to tackle these fixes, but I decided I would feel less like doing it then than now, so I dug in.  It became a good learning experience, and a good reminder that different fabrics behave in different ways. It is up to the dressmaker to seek out the best solution for a problem area and then do it, or in this case, re-do it.  Hooray, the Pink Coat is finally – really – finished.

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Filed under Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Hem facings, Hems, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

A Stripe is a Stripe is a Stripe

Or, is it? Fashion terminology tends to be very precise and descriptive, so I was not surprised when I discovered all the various stripes that can be described in specific terms.  What prompted my interest in stripes was my most recent addition to my casual blouse wardrobe.

There is something just so classic about navy blue and white, and a navy and white striped shirt is almost a necessity.   When I saw this Italian cotton shirt fabric on the website of Farmhouse Fabrics, I wasted no time in ordering it.

Farmhouse Fabrics has the most amazing selection of fine shirting cottons, and their service is superb!

I place stripes in the same category as checks and polka dots – timeless, varied and versatile. When I did a little exploring into the nomenclature of stripes, to confirm my thought that this was a “pencil stripe” on which I was working, I not only found this to be correct, I also was introduced to a whole descriptive world of stripes.  There are awning stripes, bayadere stripes, candy stripes, chalk stripes, hickory (or Liberty) stripes, ombre stripes, pinstripes, regimental stripes, ticking stripes, and the list goes on and on.  What designates a pencil stripe is that the background color (for example, white) between the stripes is wider than the stripes in the foreground color (navy blue), which can be as narrow as a pencil line, or bolder.

This is the fifth blouse I have made in the last year, using this simple pattern from 1972, and I would not be surprised to find myself making five more of this style.

The many alterations and refinements I have made to this pattern include 1) a shoulder adjustment to give more ease at the top of the sleeve, 2) an inverted pleat in the center back, mimicking a detail on a RTW which I particularly like, 3) fisheye darts in the back of the bodice to tame some of its fullness, 4) lengthening of the sleeve placket, making it easier to roll up the sleeves, and 5) re-cutting of the collar from pointed ends to a spread collar.

I particularly like the way this collar looks.

Every one of these blouses needs buttons, of course, and as long as I keep finding vintage buttons like these, I will keep using them.

Ultra Kraft made quality buttons. I feel so fortunate to have access to so many of their beautiful buttons on eBay and Etsy.

I tend to wear my sleeves rolled up, more often than down.

A very windy day, but the sun is shining!

How much summer sewing do I see on the horizon???

There is not much more which can be said about this blouse.  I expect to wear it casually all summer long, which is a lovely thought indeed.

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Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Uncategorized, vintage buttons

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 2

Sometimes it is the smallest little detail which can make or break a sewing project.  In the case of my pink coat, it was that single loop at the top front edge.

Normally loops are very straightforward, but with this pattern, that was not the case. When I looked ahead at the pattern instructions, this is what I found:

Because the front facing is not a separate piece, but rather folded back from the front edge, there was no seam within which to secure that loop.  The instructions directed me to “slash” the yoke front facing through the center of the “squares,” shown here in basting:

The basted “squares” indicating where the “slashes” should be are in white just to the right of the center fold line in the photo.

 

And this was supposed to be done after the collar was already on and the facing properly secured in place.  Well, I knew I wasn’t going to be slashing anything without getting a second opinion, and furthermore, I knew I would need to do the installation of the loop before the collar was on and the facing turned.  I did not know how I could ever secure the loop without access to the inside of the facing.

I went online to Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing Club which is by subscription on Facebook.  Once I posed the question about the best way to accomplish this task, Mary Funt of the blog Cloning Couture suggested I use an awl to work holes where those squares were, separating the wool threads and enlarging the openings to the size I needed.  Then I could whip the edges with silk buttonhole twist to secure them.  Mary also suggested I use a medical clamp (hemostat, which I highly recommend as a vital sewing tool! I have had mine for years and use it frequently), to help flatten the raw ends of the loop.

This shows the awl, the hemostat, and my spool of vintage pink silk buttonhole twist, along with a sample “insertion” of the loop.

First I practiced! Here are my practice holes:

Practice holes helped me determine how large the hole needed to be to accommodate the loop.

The hemostat was also helpful in pulling the end of the loop through the holes I made.  Susan Khalje further suggested that the loop would need to be very securely fastened inside, and she suggested I under-stitch that part of the facing, catching the loop in the stitching.

The completed holes, bound with silk twist.

The loop inserted into the facing.

This shows the secured ends of the loop inside the facing.

The under-stitched facing, in which I further secured the loop.

Oh my goodness! Thank you Mary Funt and Susan Khalje!  Using this method produced exactly the results I wanted.

The finished loop.

After the mystery of the loop was solved successfully, it was on to the collar, and ultimately on to the final steps before attaching the lining.  The completion of this coat is in sight, after all this time. I can’t wait!

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Loops for buttons, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

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

Seeing Double – No, Triple!

When I saw this dress pictured on the website of Farmhouse Fabrics, I knew I wanted to use this pattern and this fabric for my granddaughters’ birthday dresses.

Fortunately, the pattern was included in the  Summer 2018 issue of Classic Sewing Magazine, available from Farmhouse Fabrics, as were the fabric and all the trimmings.

This pattern allows for many variations; here is one page from the featured article on this dress in Classic Sewing Magazine.

With birthdays three weeks apart from each other, one in March and one in April, my granddaughters bridge that small gap between Winter and Spring.  Presenting them each with a special Springtime birthday dress has become a real focus for me in planning my annual sewing.  What amazes me is how quickly the time for this particular sewing comes up in the new year.  But somehow I always get them finished in time for the birthday celebrations.

 

I decided to forego the white eyelet collar shown in the example and make the collars out of the dress fabric.  My thought was this change made the dresses more “everyday,” albeit fancy, nice everyday!  Because Farmhouse Fabrics carried this wonderful bias, picot-embellished edging, I chose to trim the collars with it.

In the back of my mind, I had the thought of also embellishing the dresses with rick rack (when do I not have the notion to embellish with rick rack?).  However, I did not want to overdo it, leaving the lovely fabric to carry most of the impact of the dresses.  When I found pale pink jumbo rick rack, I thought it might be the perfect anchor to the skirts, pickling up the zigzag motif on the picot collar edging.

Here is one of the dresses before the rick rack was applied.

I think the rick rack is a very nice addition.

I determined that a single row of rickrack was all I needed.  Of course, to be done correctly, it had to be hand-sewn in place, which took a bit of time.

The final finishing touch was the placement of two pink buttons at the back opening.

I self-lined the bodices.

Another close-up.

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

The backs of these dresses are so pretty!

So, two dresses done – and two+ yards of fabric left over!  What would you do?  Silky soft cotton, beautiful Spring colors, an even plaid.  How could I not use it for something?

What do you think of a blouse?  A casual, everyday type of blouse, hopefully perfect for the upcoming casual Summer?  Yep – that’s what I did!

I have already altered, “perfected,” and made this vintage Simplicity pattern from the early 1970s several times, and I must say, I never get tired of making it.

The pattern art here is so dated!

About halfway through the construction of this blouse, I had a moment of questioning my choice.  Was this blouse going to look just a little too “country with a piece of straw in my mouth?”  Or was it just going to look fresh and bright?  But at that point there was no turning back.

I combined two sets of buttons remaining from two previous blouses for the eight buttons I needed here.

Identical size and same look made combining these two sets of buttons an easy decision.

Now that the blouse is finished, I really like it.  We’ll see what my granddaughters think when they see me in it!

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Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Sewing for children, Uncategorized