Tag Archives: love of sewing

Sweet November

The trickery, which defined my October sewing, finally floated away with the leaves and the goblins, leaving sweet November with her welcome reward, a new dress for Autumn and Winter.

Sweet November

So what made vintage Vogue 1395 such a tricky dress to make? I documented my efforts to get a workable muslin (toile) in a post from early October. Once I had my adjusted muslin pattern, I transferred it onto black silk organza to use as my cutting guide. It was then I realized that, because the design on the fabric, a silk and wool blend, was printed on it, not woven into it, I needed to work from the right side of the fabric in order to match the horizontal “lines.” This meant that I had to flip every piece that I cut out and then exchange the organza with its opposing side. (I hope this makes sense.) It added a bit of uncertainty to the process and I was fanatical with flipping and checking to make sure I kept the design in line. Something told me I should delay cutting out the sleeves until I had the body of the dress together – my sewing godmother at work, I guess – and I am glad I did, as I’ll detail in a bit.

I had made the decision at the beginning of the project to cover the dress’s two buttons in the plain gray “wrong” side of the fabric. But once I “semi-made” a covered button, and tried it out, it was DULL. It added nothing to the dress. I went to my button box and all I could find was a small gray pearl that was close in color. But I loved the iridescence of it and determined that gray pearl buttons were what I needed. I seem to have such good luck with buttons from Britex – even though I am ordering online – and found 1” gray pearl buttons with a rhinestone in their centers. Although I am not a rhinestone-y type of person, something about them spoke to me. I remembered what Susan Khalje said in one of the classes I have taken with her – that couture often has a bit of “whimsy” to it. Well, I ordered those buttons as as fast as I could! I think they are just what was needed!

Sweet November

I had also made the decision to make the “dickey” part of the dress out of the side of the fabric with the printed design – so that the horizontal line would be uninterrupted across the bodice. Here is what it looked like once I had it done:

Sweet November

There was not enough definition between the dress and dickey to make it interesting.

I cut some scraps to see what it would look like with a play gray insert – and it was so much better!

Sweet November

So – I took the dickey all apart and flipped it over so it would be out of the plain gray “wrong side.” By now I was enjoying the versatility of this fabric (which I bought online from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics) and appreciating the serendipity of having this fabric for this pattern, giving me options.

However, the fabric posed another challenge when I got to the point of finishing the front opening in the bodice. This fabric frays enough that I was not comfortable following the directions given in the pattern instructions:

The instructions directed me to just turn back the seam allowance, but because of the ravel-ly nature of the fabric, I was certain it would pull out with wear.

The instructions directed me to just turn back the seam allowance, but because of the ravel-ly nature of the fabric, I was certain it would pull out with wear.

Instead, I opted to make a “facing” for the opening out of black organza. It is situations like this that make me feel so fortunate to have enough “sewing sense” to be able to recognize potential difficulties and then have the ability to work out creative solutions to them.

Sweet November

Silk organza pinned in place.

And here it is sewn in place.

And here it is sewn in place.

I took some pictures at this point to show the inside of the body of the dress:

Yes, those are pockets hanging on the front.

Yes, those are pockets hanging on the front.

This shows those darts with their slanted orientation.

This shows those bust darts with their slanted orientation.

The zipper is inserted by hand, as usual! Once I had it basted in place, I tried the dress on for fit and determined I had to take it in a bit at the waistline.

Then I tackled the sleeves. I had quite a time determining how to place the sleeve patterns on the remaining fabric. Some of those horizontal lines of “paintbrush strokes” change color across the fabric! And my adapted sleeve pattern has two elbow darts, which changed the horizontal line. I had to make a decision about where I wanted the best match to be, as I determined I could not match it across and up and down as I would normally want to do. I opted for a match across the shoulders – and I now believe that was the best decision.

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I also added a soft “cigarette” sleeve heading to each shoulder seam.

Next to the lining – and bless those vintage Vogue patterns – the lining for this dress included separate and distinct pattern pieces. I made the sizing and dart changes to the lining (in keeping with the dress) and it went together effortlessly. When I got to the point of inserting the lining by hand, I just could not resist adding silk piping to the inside neck edge. I know I am the only one who will ever see it, but it makes me happy!

Sweet November

I used a bias strip of lightweight silk for the piping.

I used a bias strip of lightweight silk for the piping.

How wonderful to have this dress completed!

Sweet November

The buttons really show in this picture.

The buttons really show in this picture.

Sweet November

Sweet November

Sweet November

There was one more aspect of serendipity to this project. Those of you who follow my blog know that part of my fascination with vintage Vogue patterns is making connections between the past and the present. I love to “place” a pattern in its correct year – and then wonder in amazement at how classic fashions are so enduring. It was my great good fortune to have this Vogue Pattern Fashion News from November 1964 in my collection of vintage fashion magazines:

Sweet November - flyer cover

Inside on page 3 is, yes, my dress!

Sweet November - flyer illustration

Just imagine – 51 years ago this month, this dress made its debut. Happy Sweet November Everyone!

38 Comments

Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Day dresses, hand-sewn zippers, Love of sewing, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

A Fitting Finish to Summer Sewing

Summer slipped quietly away this week with nary a peep except for the sighs coming from my sewing room. No matter how hard I tried, I could not keep up with the calendar to finish my final Summer project.  However, a few days late on “delivery” doesn’t really upset me, as I can look forward to wearing my Madame Gres-designed coat next Spring.

Vogue Gres coat and dress

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I am not sure I can remember a sewing project which I have enjoyed more. The coat pattern is actually quite a simple design, imaginatively shaped with unusual darts and seams. Perhaps the fact that I made it from vintage Moygashel linen helped make the sewing of it enjoyable, as the linen is so stable. Darts and seams can be crisply sewn and ironed, the grain of the fabric is so easy to see, and the fabric drapes with a fluid sturdiness, if that makes sense.

This shows the side darts which shape the coat and the dart/seam at the front of the kimono sleeve.

This shows the side darts which shape the coat and the dart/seam at the front of the kimono sleeve.

I covered the changes I made to those front darts in an earlier post; those were the only alterations I made to the final design except for lengthening the sleeves by one inch and the length of the coat by 1½ inches. Besides those shaping darts, there is one other feature of this coat which defines it. Do you know what it is?   Yes, it is the bound buttonholes and their buttons. Seven of them, to be precise.

The pattern instruction sheets call for bound buttonholes, as shown here:

I love how these vintage Vogue patterns give such precise instructions; there are various ways to make bound buttonholes, but the method described here is my favorite.

I love how these vintage Vogue patterns give such precise instructions; there are various ways to make bound buttonholes, but the method described here is my favorite.

I have made a lot of bound buttonholes in my sewing life, but seven of them lined up as the focal point of the front of my coat is still a little intimidating. First of all, I had to find buttons that were “perfect.” I found some lavender buttons on the Britex website, and although they looked like a good match in color and appearance, ordering something like that online is always imprecise. However, when they arrived, they were, indeed, “perfect!” With buttons in hand, I made a sample buttonhole, as I always do.

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I think this photo shows the "monkey's knot" design in the buttons, which compliments the linen weave, I think.

This photo shows the “monkey’s knot” design in the buttons, which compliments the linen weave, I think.

Then it was on to a marathon buttonhole session one afternoon.

The most important ingredient in making successful bound buttonholes is precise marking.

The most important ingredient in making successful bound buttonholes is precise marking.

I finished the underside (on the facing) of the buttonholes using organza patches, which makes a beautiful, sturdy finish.

I finished the underside (on the facing) of the buttonholes using organza patches, which makes a beautiful, sturdy finish.

Here is the underside of the buttonholes before I finished the edges.

Here is the underside of the buttonholes before I finished the edges.

And here is the facing side, finished.

And here is the facing side, finished.

Another charm of this pattern is the coat collar, which is seamed in the center back on the bias, causing it to “turn” beautifully. I under-stitched the undercollar to help keep the perimeter seam properly in line (this is a trick I learned from one of Susan Khalje’s classes):

This is the undercover, showing center back seam and the under-stitching I used to secure the perimeter seam.

This is the undercollar, showing center back seam and the under-stitching I used to secure the perimeter seam.

When it came to the lining, I knew I wanted to use silk crepe de chine. I ordered some swatches from Emma One Sock fabrics:

A Fitting finish swatches

Fortunately my sister was visiting and so I could get her opinion on which one to order. I was a bit smitten with the idea of a bright pink lining, but she wisely asked if I hoped to wear this Spring coat with dresses other than the pink flowered one which had inspired it. Well, yes, I do want that flexibility! That made the decision easy – I chose the pale lavender silk, which is just about a perfect match. I added a bias, flat piped edge to the lining, which is now something I always do with coats and jackets I make. It is so easy and adds so much!

Fitting finish

Some of you may recall that I had to piece one of the facings because I was just a little short of the fabric I needed. Here is the seam on the left facing. I really don't think anyone will ever see it! (Except all of you, of course!)

Some of you may recall that I had to piece one of the facings because I was just a little short of  fabric. Here is the seam on the left facing. I really don’t think anyone will ever see it (except all of you, of course!)

DSC_0844

This is a good look at the bound buttonholes and what they add to the overall look of the coat. If you visualize machine made buttonholes in their place, you will get an idea of how vital the bound ones are to the design of the coat.

Another thing that will add to the total look of my 2016 Spring ensemble is this Kate Spade handbag which my grown children gave to me:

Fitting finish

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Fitting Finish

Fitting finish

Fitting finish

DSC_0837

Now all I need are lavender pumps…

43 Comments

Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Coats, couture construction, kimono sleeves, Linen, Love of sewing, Moygashel linen, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

Oh, The Things We Can Learn!

When is a pattern envelope not just a place to keep a tissue pattern? When it is a mini lesson in sewing, style, history, elegance, and story-telling. Of course, I am thinking primarily of vintage pattern envelopes – and because I primarily sew from Vogue patterns, those are the focus of my thoughts.

I am also limiting my short exploration of these topics to the course of about ten years, from approximately 1956 until 1966. Most of the pattern art from this time period was in illustration form rather than photography. There were exceptions, such as this classic polka-dotted dress and coat ensemble from 1959:

The reverse of this envelope has very precise sketches of the fronts and backs of the dress and coat. This is one of the few envelopes from this period - 1958 - that I have seen that features photography rather than illustration art.

The reverse of this envelope has very precise sketches of the fronts and backs of the dress and coat. This is one of the few envelopes from this period – 1958 – that I have seen that features photography rather than illustration art.

It was up to the fashion illustrators and artists to represent the pattern accurately. Darts, seams, buttons, belts, pockets, etc. all had to be clearly indicated in the illustrations on the fronts of the envelopes and in the thumbnail sketches on the back of the envelopes. Home dressmakers wanted to know these things about a pattern before purchasing it – we still do! Here is a great example of the clarity of these pattern illustrations in regard to these items:

The darts, seams, and buttons are clearly delineated in this artwork.

The darts, seams, and buttons are clearly delineated in this artwork.

The back of this pattern also gives lots of additional sewing information. The thumbnail sketches clearly show that there is no back zipper. Among the details listed is a 12” zipper. That can only mean that a side zipper is used – which makes sense as it is paired with the front-buttoned bodice.

Oh the things we can learn, no 2

Further scrutiny of the pattern layout shows a gusset, obviously for use under the arm. If you, as a dressmaker, were uncomfortable with putting in a gusset, then maybe you would want to avoid this particular pattern!

It is such an advantage to be able to see the shapes of the pattern pieces in these layouts.

It is such an advantage to be able to see the shapes of the pattern pieces in these layouts.

It was also up to the fashion illustrator to make the pattern look relevant to one’s life. Different views were often shown in varying colors, widening the visual appeal. They were also shown in dressier or more casual renditions, making the pattern attractive to different lifestyles and age groups. These two patterns clearly show this endeavor:

Oh the things we can learn, no 4

The inclusion of accessories in the pattern illustration from this time period shows just how much Vogue and other pattern companies were selling a complete look. They were saying “Start with this pattern, add gloves, a bangle bracelet or two, sunglasses or a hat, maybe a scarf, earrings, high heels, and a handbag, and you, too, can walk out looking like a million dollars!” The great desire in looking well-dressed and chic during this time period is so beautifully reflected in these pattern envelopes.

Gloves, gloves and more gloves! And look at those glasses!

Gloves, gloves and hats and scarves…   And look at those glasses!

This has got to be one of my favorite examples of pattern art: the model in white holding the scarf so casually, the stylish shoes, and the large clutch handbag on the model on the left - lovely and evocative!

This has got to be one of my favorite examples of pattern art: the model in white holding the scarf so casually, the stylish shoes, and the large clutch handbag on the model on the left – lovely and evocative!

One way of dating pattern envelopes is by looking at the hairstyles of the illustrated “models.” After about 1960, Vogue stopped including the copyright date on their envelopes. But it’s fairly clear by the bouffant and flipped hairstyles on the pattern on the left that we are looking at one from the early to mid-‘60s.  The one on the right is a few years later, based on the hairstyles alone.

Note, too, how the Vogue masthead changed during this short time period.

Note, too, how the Vogue masthead changed during this short time period.

Finally, I am delightfully intrigued by the almost universal depiction of “elegance” on the pattern envelopes from this period. From the leopard print hat and lined cape on this suit from 1959:

Oh the things we can learn, no 8

to this reversible car coat from the early ‘60s:

The model in the red version of the coat strikes a chic and elegant pose with her hair tucked under a scarf, her arms casually folded, and with her stylish handbag...

The model in the red version of the coat strikes a chic and elegant pose with her hair tucked under a scarf, her arms casually folded, her stylish handbag looped over one arm …

to this cocktail dress and coat ensemble from the mid ‘60s:

Oh the things we can learn, no 10

the message seemed to be: “These beautiful clothes which you can create are ladylike and elegant (even the casual ones), and you will be, too, when you wear them!” Perhaps Virginia Woolf said it best: “There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they would mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.”

And therein lies the intrigue of it all. The story, which begins on the outside of the pattern envelope by way of the artist’s hand, becomes our own to finish when we are creators of our own clothing. How much fun is that?

26 Comments

Filed under Mid-Century style, Pattern Art, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

Fifty Little Dresses – Part 2

Two years ago I was absent from my blog for a few weeks as I helped our daughter and her husband after the arrival of their first child, a beautiful little girl. I have just returned home after another absence, this time to welcome another beautiful little girl!

The snow is gone, and even the mailbox, battered by the snow plows, looks happy.

The snow is gone, and even the mailbox, battered by the snow plows though it be, looks happy.

For almost three weeks, I cooked, I cleaned, I ironed, I shopped for groceries, I did laundry, I baked, I drove hither and yon as chauffeur, I spent untold fun and busy hours with granddaughter number one, and then I started it all over again – and again – and again!

Just as with their first child, our daughter and her husband chose not to learn the sex of their baby ahead of time, so the arrival of this baby girl was another delightful surprise. Now I wonder if I had a premonition that I would have two granddaughters? In the past two years I have come across a couple of lengths of vintage cottons which appealed to me for their possibilities of being turned into little girls’ dresses.

A strawberry print cotton for two little Spring sisters?

A strawberry print cotton for two little Spring sisters?

With navy blue sailor collars and red ties?

With navy blue sailor collars and red ties?

The plentiful yardage of both fabrics will be perfect for matching sister dresses, although it will be a couple of years until Aida and Carolina are ready for that. But still, I can start to plan . . .

Sewing, of course, was not on the agenda while I was on grandmother duty. But sewing is a patient endeavor, and sometimes a forced break can be good. When I left home I was one day away from finishing my complete cashmere suit dress ensemble. I will admit I was a little worn out from it, and when I realized I was not going to be able to finish it before I left home, I was definitely feeling discouraged. I saw every perceived flaw in it, and I knew it would no longer be seasonable when I returned. I would be finishing a dress and jacket that I could no longer wear this year.

But when I walked into my sewing room after my long absence and saw the (as yet, unlined) dress and completed jacket on my dress form, I suddenly felt totally energized again. Hey, I thought, it looks pretty good after all! Some things, like new babies, are worth waiting for, aren’t they?

Welcome to the world, dear little Carolina!

Welcome to the world, dear little Carolina!

31 Comments

Filed under Love of sewing, Sewing for children, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric

Are You a Hopeless – or Hopeful – Dressmaker?

The other day I was rushing around getting ready to go to a meeting. I pulled some heels out of my closet and by the time I had arrived downstairs, ready to put them on, I realized I had picked up an errant white sewing thread, hanging tight onto my stockings. The first word into my mind was “Hopeless!” I really can’t go anywhere in my house without dragging little snippets of thread and fabric with me. This made me start to think about how pervasive dressmaking and sewing are in my day-to-day life. So, of course, I had to make a top-ten list…

You know you are a hopeless dressmaker when …

1) you arrive at your destination, only to find that aforementioned sewing thread clinging to your skirt , or you find a straight pin still holding tight to a finished garment.

2) a sale on Gutermann thread makes your heart go a-flutter.

3) you receive a bar of soap in the shape of a dress form in your Christmas stocking!

Wrapped in pale pink paper, this scented soap might be too pretty to use...

Wrapped in pale pink paper, this scented soap might be too pretty to use…

4) you instinctively check plaid lines and design placement in the clothes of everyone you meet to see if they match.

5) a new issue of Threads Magazine or Vogue Pattern Book Magazine (or Burda Style, etc.) arrives and it becomes your nightly reading until you have gone cover to cover.

6) you look for greeting cards with a sewing and/or fashion theme (sometimes just to keep for yourself!)

A birthday card for a fashionable friend!

A birthday card for a fashionable friend!

7) you can’t wait to study the instruction sheets in new patterns (in my case, new-to-me vintage patterns).

8) one of your favorite cookie cutters is a Little Black Dress.

Hopeless Dressmaker 9) you maintain a steady supply of muslin and silk organza underlining, because you never want to be without these building blocks of couture sewing.

10) your pets wander into your sewing room asking forlornly for their supper, as you have lost complete track of time.

So then – how do you know you are a hopeful dressmaker?

A friend or acquaintance who doesn’t know that you sew, said to you when last you met, “I want your wardrobe!”

It doesn’t get much better than that! Well . . .  in an effort to share a bit of my hopeful hopelessness and have some fun, I’m having a giveaway of duplicates of 1) the dress form soap, 2) the Little Black Dress cookie cutter, and 3) the Little Black Dress birthday card.

To be entered to win these three items, please leave a comment by Saturday, February 14th; I will draw the winner on February 15th

Heart lace

Happy Valentine’s Day to each and every one of you!

48 Comments

Filed under Dressmaker forms, Little Black Dress, Love of sewing

Good Bones

Can a pattern have good bones? I think so. When I purchased this blouse pattern a while ago, I did so knowing that I would not be making a blouse that looked exactly like any of the three illustrated on the pattern envelope.

Blouse pattern - PP collar

I have always liked a feminine-looking blouse that opens in the back, and I have always liked Peter Pan collars (which seem to come in and out of fashion). I also like a blouse that is fitted with darts through the body of the blouse. You can easily see the darts illustrated above. The thumbnail views of the blouses also show the darted fitting in the backs of the blouses.

Blouse pattern - PP collar - rear views I found it interesting that these blouses are constructed with zippers in the backs. I am not fond of blouses that are zippered up the back, but I knew that I could easily make the back into a buttoned closure.

January Jumper blouse Interestingly, this pattern is from a narrow period of time when Vogue initiated their “new” sizing, which added a half-inch to sizes 8 and 10 in the bust and in the hip. I believe this new sizing was only in effect from about 1968 through about 1972 or ’73. In any event, it helps to date this particular pattern.  When I decided to make my blanket dress into a jumper, with a blouse matching the yellow lining, I went to this pattern for its good bones: darted fit, back opening, and pretty sleeves.

I re-cut the neckline so that it was wider, following the neckline on my completed jumper. The Peter Pan collar was too wide to my thinking, so I narrowed it by about an inch. Instead of using facings, I bound the raw neck edge with self bias binding. The hand-stitching on that is hidden beneath the collar.

January Jumper blouse

You can see the wider cut of the neckline of the blouse in this photo.

You can see the wider cut of the neckline of the blouse in this photo.

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I added two inches to each of the the back seam lines so that I could button , rather than zip, the back, and I took a bit of the width out of the sleeves so they would be a bit less flow-y (is that a word?)

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The slightly fitted bodice helps it to lay without bulkiness underneath the jumper. I found vintage mother-of-pearl buttons in my button box, two smaller ones for each sleeve and five slightly larger ones for the back. Why it always give me satisfaction to use buttons I have on hand, I don’t know, but I was feeling quite delighted with my finds!

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Unfortunately, I am having problems with the main lens I use for my camera, so I had to resort to my old “point and shoot” for these photos, which makes them adequate, but that’s about all. Also, I’ll have to add photos of me actually wearing my new jumper and blouse at a later date, due to this inconvenience. My apologies…

January Jumper and blouse

Less than a month ago, when I was “planning” out 2015’s sewing, I did not envision that January would also produce a blouse to wear with my blanket dress. But that is one of the charms of fashion sewing – the spontaneity of a project that says “Me, Me, choose Me!” And so I did, and I am not only happy with the result, but delighted to have a tried and true “good bones” blouse pattern to use again and again, whether in the plan or not.

18 Comments

Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Love of sewing, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

The Year of Magical Sewing

“Just around the corner in every woman’s mind – is a lovely dress, a wonderful suit, or entire costume which will make an enchanting new creature of her.”                                                               —  Wilhela Cushman

For those of us who sew, this statement takes on extra meaning, as it is in our power to create that lovely dress, wonderful suit or entire costume. But have you ever thought about the process of sewing – and how magical it is?   Magical in the sense of being “mysteriously skillful, effective, and enchanting” (as Webster defines one meaning of magic).   I love that I can start with a piece of fabric – or a pattern – or an idea spawned by something I have seen and admired – and, using skills I have learned, proceed to actually make my own interpretation. It’s a remarkable process, when you really take the time to think about it. So I am dubbing this year, 2015, for me, as The Year of Magical Sewing, with emphasis on the transformational qualities and joys inherent in fashion sewing.

So what do I have planned for my year of magical sewing? I am beginning the year with several new vintage patterns in my collection, which are inspiring me no end. Add to that some amazing fabric selections, both vintage and new, and I am already certain I’ll never complete every thing I’d like to!  So – here is a general outline for 2015:

It is always easiest for me to segment the year into its seasons as I think about what I’d like to sew. Starting with Winter, I have two wool projects which will take me into March, I am sure: One is my fringed “blanket” dress, currently underway in my Sewing Room. After that I will be sewing with a piece of navy blue cashmere, from which I hope to squeak out a dress and jacket. (Valentine’s Day will find me interrupting my wool projects to make a sweet treat or two for granddaughter Aida.)

With any luck, I'll soon be wearing my blanket dress.

With any luck, I’ll soon be wearing my blanket dress.

Spring is especially enticing to consider. Somehow I have become obsessed with dress and coat ensembles. Here are two patterns which would make up into “Spring” coats and coordinating dresses. I definitely will be using vintage linen for one of these two-part looks.

I love the knee length coat, although I may substitute another pattern for the coordinating dress.

I love the knee length coat, although I may substitute another pattern for the coordinating dress.

Or I may decide to use this Madame Gres design fopr a coat and dress.  The coat has very unusual darts along the side, which you may be able to see here.

Or I may decide to use this Madame Gres design for a coat and dress. The coat has very unusual darts along the side, which you may be able to see here.

Another Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress is also on my agenda for late Spring/early Summer. Thanks to one of my readers, I was able to purchase some authentic Cohama DvF fabric, so I am excited to contemplate the beginning of this dress.

Circa 1976, this fabric is still soft and lovely.

Circa 1976, this fabric is still soft and lovely.

Summer will find us traveling quite a bit, so I am trying to be realistic about the time I’ll have to sew. If I can get one “fancy/formal” dress made, I’ll consider it a success. I might be using this By Hand London “Flora” pattern with this fabric, unless, of course, I change my mind.

Aspects of this pattern remind me of classic Balenciaga.  I'll have to make the skirt longer, however...

Aspects of this pattern remind me of classic Balenciaga. I’ll have to make the skirt longer, however…

I watched this fabric on the website of Britex Fabrics for months, and finally decided I had to have it.  It is silk charmeuse, very soft with the abstract design woven in.

I watched this fabric on the website of Britex Fabrics for months, and finally decided I had to have it. It is silk charmeuse, very soft, with the abstract design woven in.

Fall will once again find me thinking coats and dresses. One of these two patterns will probably get the nod for a Fall/Winter ensemble:

I love both the coat and the dress (with two variations) featured in this pattern.

I love both the coat and the dress (with two variations) featured in this pattern.

This Jacques Heim design has very unusual seaming in the skirt.  And the short jacket looks like it would be very flattering.  However, this pattern needs just the perfect fabric to showcase the design.

This Jacques Heim design has very clever seaming in the skirt. And the short jacket looks like it would be very flattering. However, this pattern needs just the perfect fabric to showcase the design.

And I am still looking for the perfect fabric with which to make the coordinating coat for this dress which I completed last Fall:

The Year of Magical Sewing

And here is the Mattli pattern showing the coat...

And here is the Mattli pattern showing the coat.

And then there is that baby quilt I want to make for “number 2” grandchild…   And more little dresses to make…

Perhaps the real magic of the year will be in completing even half of all I’d like to sew?  Here’s hoping that what is just around the corner for you, my readers, in 2015, holds its own magic and enchantment!

 

23 Comments

Filed under Coats, Love of sewing, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Wrap dresses

Sewing a Circle

December would not be December without a sewing project intended for gift-giving. Last year found me working furiously on a quilt for granddaughter Aida. This December I finished a dress for her the Saturday before Christmas, just a day before she and her parents arrived for the holiday. Just a few days before, I had finished a corduroy jumper for her.

This jumper turned out to be a little too big for our petite little girl, so she will have to wait a bit to wear it.

This jumper turned out to be a little too big for our petite little girl, so she will have to wait a bit to wear it.

Rick rack and primary colors – a favorite combination!

I knew this was the year I had to make this flannel “Black-watch” plaid dress.

Sewing a circle

I had limited fabric, enough to fit a 21-month-old, but only enough.   The fabric was left over from a dress I had made for her mother (my daughter) twenty-some years ago. The pattern I used actually was designed to be smocked below the front yoke, but I had neither the time nor enough fabric to manage that little trick. So I took out some of the width of the skirted section of the dress, machine-gathered along the smocking lines and placed rick-rack on top of the gathering lines. Another line of rick-rack along the lower edge of the dress tied the whole thing together.

With plaids to match, I was really tight on fabric.  I faced the hem to stretch it out a bit, but the dress ended up fitting Aida perfectly!

With plaids to match, I was really tight on fabric. I faced the hem to stretch it out a bit, but the dress ended up fitting Aida perfectly!

It's difficult to pose for a picture when there is cooking to be done with Aida's new kitchen!

It’s difficult to pose for a picture when there is cooking to be done with my new kitchen!

What does everyone want  for Christmas dinner?

What does everyone want for Christmas dinner?

Next year, I think I had better start earlier, as next year I will be making another baby quilt (now that I have set a precedent!), this time for Aida’s brother or sister, due in April. And, of course, Aida will have something handmade by me as well. This is what we, as sewers, do. We give a bit of ourselves even when it means late nights, and fitting sewing time in between a million other things.

Did someone say sewing?  I prefer taking it easy!

Did someone say sewing?

And then, in what seemed to be a time-defying split second, it was the end of the year – and the final chapter in one life. My 90-year-old mother died on December 31, a much-needed peaceful end to a life increasingly compromised by illness. My mother sewed for me when I was young. And I am sure she, too, spent hours making Christmas gifts and dresses for my sister and me.

My mother taught me to sew, and that has made all the difference.

The beginning of a new year now brings with it the anticipation of newborn life and the continued wonder and joy of our little granddaughter. The never-ending circle of life has never been in clearer focus for me: it is scattered with fabric and buttons and pins and thread, just the way it should be.

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Filed under Sewing for children, Uncategorized

“This is your mission, should you choose to accept it.”

Those of you who are sewing bloggers and/or readers of sewing blogs are probably aware of a “survey” of sorts which is quietly and slowing making the rounds of those of us who share this interest. The survey is a simple list of questions which explores the relationship between sewing and one’s blog. I have been enjoying reading other bloggers’ thoughts on this relationship, most recently those of Mel of Poppykettle. Mel is surely world famous by now for her exquisite wedding gown which, of course, she made, as well as the gowns for her attendants. Now, I have never met Mel (although I hope to someday!), but I can tell she is just as charming and fun and genuine as the delightful blog which she writes. Knowing this made it even more flattering for me that she nominated me to expound on these same questions. So, I “accepted” the mission and here goes…

What am I working on?

As the sun-filled days steadily get shorter and shorter here in the northeastern part of the United States, and the morning and evening air begins to shiver a bit, I have mentally packed away my Summer sewing and am switching over to my favorite season of all – Autumn. As much as I love this time of year, I find that my wardrobe generally is sparse for Fall apparel. Last year, I made a Diane von Furstenberg knock-off wrap dress that was – and still is, of course – perfect for Fall.

DSC_1022 So it should come to no one’s surprise that I want to add one or two more Fall-appropriate dresses this year. I have just begun work on the muslin for a silk dress, using a Vogue pattern from the 1980s (which is somewhat of a shock, since I consider that decade, for the most part, a vast fashion desert!) The silk is Italian, purchased from Mendel Goldberg in New York City. This dress should be ideal for Autumn, assuming I finish it before we’ve moved into Winter!

Fabric for my current project.

Fabric for my current project.

Why do I write?

Now that is a good question! Unfortunately for you, my readers, the answer to that has multiple parts, and I hope I won’t bore you! First and foremost, I really, really love to write. I like to put words together. I like to try to make sentences clear but colorful and evocative. (I am not nearly as good at “explaining” procedures or techniques, although I know I need to do so occasionally.)

Second, I love to tell a story. I’m not sure how it happens, but it often seems that my sewing projects have inherent stories to them. Sometimes it’s about the pattern, sometimes it’s about the fabric, sometimes it’s about a long-fulfilled sewing dream of mine (left over from the ‘50s, ‘60s or ‘70s!), sometimes it’s about the accessories, and sometimes it’s a combination of all of these things. Writing and telling stories about my sewing helps to give it another layer of meaning.

Third, writing and sewing are very, very similar. Both involve great expanses of solitary endeavor, engineering (of words or patterns and cloth), creativity, sense of style, striving for excellence of technique, and tenacity. However, both have a friendly and supportive communal aspect to them as well, when shared with others of the same interest. And – both sewing and writing are goal-oriented pursuits, perfect for my personality type!

Finally, I must give credit to my daughter, Susanna, who gave me the inspiration to start a sewing blog. An exceptional writer, Susanna had her own blog for a while, and her encouragement to me made all the difference.

How does my blog differ from others of its genre?

Answering this question reminds me of the beginning sentence of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Except that there is nothing unhappy about sewing blogs! I think my interest in the fashions and vintage patterns of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s helps to differentiate my blog from many others. I really enjoy making connections between mid-century fashions and the fashions of today. The fact that I can make a dress using a 50-year-old pattern (or 50-year-old fabric!) and have it look totally current continues to amaze me – and sharing this excitement hopefully makes my blog just a little bit unique.

How does my writing process work?

I wish I had a magic formula to share! Fortunately, sewing is a slow process, at least for me, so I have lots of time to think about writing while I stitch away. I sometimes make notes to myself (and take photos, of course) while sewing and sometimes I wish I had made notes and taken more photos! I usually try to do a little research on the pattern (or fabric) I am using, to help “tell the story”. I actually often start with a title for my post, which can sometimes take a lot of thought and time. That small detail usually sets the narrative for me, so that I am able to proceed with the story. One thing I try to do is keep my posts to a reasonable length (a guideline I am not following right now…). Because of this, I do a lot of editing during and after the writing process.

Nominate!

Now comes the fun part – and difficult part, too. Fun because I can nominate two fellow sewing bloggers to participate in this same survey, and difficult because there are so many interesting and talented bloggers about whom I would love to learn more. However, two talented dressmakers whose blog posts I never want to miss are my nominees: Janene of ooobop and Brooke of Custom Style. Of course, you, Janene and Brooke, are under no obligation to participate, but I do hope you will accept the “mission”!

 

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Filed under Love of sewing, Uncategorized

Fashion Past, Fashion Present

Many reviews of Linda Przbyszewski’s book The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish have been written. Two of the most recent ones are by Stephani Miller of Threads Magazine, and by Joy Landeira in the quarterly newsletter (Summer 2014) of the American Sewing Guild, Notions (available to members only). Both of these, plus many others give an excellent overview of the subject of the book. For those of you abroad and others who may not have been exposed to this book, here in a nutshell is the narrative: From 1900 – 1960, American women’s interest in fashion was shaped to a great degree by many professionals in the fields of Home Economics, Retailing, and Art. Following certain concepts espoused by these “Dress Doctors”, as the author calls them, average American women embraced style, grace, appropriateness, and practicality in their dress, making them paragons of American fashion.

Lost Art of Dress - cover

I found the book completely fascinating to read, learning much about the cultural and social history of this country during those six decades. Although the book is scholarly in its research, documentation, and overview, Linda is an engaging writer, infusing humor frequently, adding pointed commentary throughout, and, finally, extrapolating meaning from the “lessons” taught by the Dress Doctors for present seekers of style. As a dressmaker and frequent user of vintage patterns, I read the book looking for specific references, which would apply to my sewing and fashion sense, and to help me answer the question “Just exactly why do I find the fashions from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s so captivating?” To say that I found much to savor is, indeed, an understatement.  However, certain “Aha” moments stood out for me, so that is what I will try to cover in my remarks here.

1) To be successful and enduring, fashion should emphasize one’s face. When I look at vintage patterns, so many of them have details at the neckline, or unusual and flattering collars, or necklines cut gracefully to frame the face. This seems like common sense, doesn’t it? Fashion should bring attention to one’s face – and therefore, one’s person – so that YOU are remembered rather than your attire (although the proper fashions can help you be remembered at your best). Jewelry is one way to help emphasize a face, but, of course, it should not overpower your countenance. Prior to 1965, wearing hats was commonplace, adding another point of emphasis to the face. Now we are not so lucky, save for some very special occasions.

2) Black is fine to wear for evening, but think again for day-time wear. While I am not naïve enough to think that black is going to leave the wardrobes of American women (after all, what is more classic than the Little Black Dress for after-five?), most of us would do well to consider adding more color to our fashion sewing and wearing. Color is a powerful enhancer to complexions (of all hues) and moods.

3) Older women were once considered at the apex of elegance and style. Women and girls younger than 30 were expected to dress in a more youthful manner that mimicked their elders, rather than the other way around! (Isn’t it interesting that 30 was considered the age at which women were expected to assume a more polished appearance?)   Vogue Pattern Book Magazine contained the occasional feature on young girls and college girls, and Vogue even had a pattern series called Young Fashionables. But the majority of their patterns were for the 30 – and – older crowd, showcasing models and fashions which were demure but elegant, feminine but refined.

Here is one "Young Fashionable" pattern, to illustrate the type of style designed for the younger than thirty age group.

Here is one “Young Fashionable” pattern, to illustrate the type of style designed for the younger-than-30 age group.

This page from the October/November 1955 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine shows many of the ingredients of a polished look, the norm among American women at that time.

This page from the October/November 1955 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine shows many of the ingredients of a polished look, the norm among American women at that time.

Even fashion illustration included all the elements of a polished look.  (From the same VPB magazine as above.)

Even fashion illustration included all the elements of a polished look. (From the same VPB magazine as above.)

4) The Dress Doctors were not only concerned with fashion, but also with how fashion could influence the rest of one’s life. First and foremost, one should buy, or sew one’s own attire, which is appropriate for the life one leads. Buying on impulse is rarely a good idea if the item you are buying has no use in your weekly or monthly calendar. Further, if you find a style or look which works for you, repeat it – easily accomplished by those of us who sew. And those of us who sew know that tweaking a pattern, adding or subtracting a detail, and choosing diverse fabrics can make any pattern look new. Hooray for us!

5) A final point – and it is about many women’s favorite fashion accessory — shoes. According to Linda Przbyszewski, shoes have taken on much more significance than they once did – and should. Shoes should never be the focal point of one’s outfit. They should be chosen to enhance the overall look and to be functional for the occasion for which you are dressing. Shoes used to be just one of the accessories adding to the complete outfit, along with gloves, hats, scarves, handbags, jewelry, and coats. As gloves and hats and coat “wardrobes” have receded from the recipe for a “fashionable look”, shoes have filled that gap for many of us.

The last chapter of the book is devoted to the “demise” of the Dress Doctors in the 1960s and ‘70s. The emphasis on “youth”, starting in the ‘60s, and the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s changed mainstream fashion dramatically. Not addressed in the book is the continuance of some of the standards, established by the Dress Doctors, by the pattern companies in these two decades. Although my experience is mostly with Vogue patterns, I continue to be inspired by many of the fashions, Designer and otherwise, featured in patterns during these two decades. Once again home dressmakers were at an advantage – and continue to be.

The author leaves the reader on a positive note, stressing lessons for all of us to be learned from the wisdom of the Dress Doctors, and crediting the home sewing movement NOW for the beginning of a return to standards and style in the art of dress. I look at this  as a responsibility.  How about you?

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Filed under Book reviews, Little Black Dress, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns