Tag Archives: Moygashel linen

“Do What You Can…”

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Teddy Roosevelt

I had never seen nor read this quote before three weeks ago, seeing it for first time carved into the slats of this rustic bench:

DSC_0652

There is a lot of wisdom in those few words, especially meaningful to many people in many different walks of life, I am sure, but especially pertinent to those of us who sew. Why so, do you ask?

Do you, as I do, plan sewing projects which are transportable when you travel? Can you quite imagine being without needle and thread – or at the least, a book or magazine on sewing or fashion? What do you do when you can’t (gasp!) bring along your sewing machine when traveling far from home? Well, you do what you can, with what you have, where you are….

What I knew I could do before we left our home in Pennsylvania three weeks ago for a month in Wyoming – was plan to do hand-sewing on two or three projects. What I had for a “first-project-to-finish” before I departed home (sans sewing machine) – was the unfinished pink-flowered linen dress, started what seems like a lifetime ago.

Big, bright daisies with lavender centers.

Big, bright daisies with lavender centers.

And where I was going to be – had possibility and promise and “best plans” written all over it. The possibility and promise have come in bucketfuls, with days and weeks of family fun: hiking; wildlife-sightings; story times with little granddaughters; diaper changing and laundry; shopping a la Western style; cocktail hour every evening; magnificent mountain peaks, valleys, lakes and rivers; grocery shopping and more grocery shopping; and the list goes on and on. I realized a week into our stay that all my planning for some strategic hand-sewing tucked into these busy days was, well, quite simply, not going to happen – at least not while grown children and little grandchildren took loving precedence!

And then suddenly, all too soon, the house was much too quiet, the toys were put away, and while hiking and wildlife sightings are happily still commonplace, my sewing – and my pink linen “not-quite-a-dress-yet” dress – came out to give me a different type of focus.

I was scrambling before I left home to get it to the point where I had only the hand-sewn finishing to complete. The first challenge I had was with the layout of the sheath dress pattern on that large floral print. The linen is a piece of vintage Moygashel, dating to the late 1960s. By this date, Moygashel was being produced in 45” width, rather than 35”. I have found that it is not uncommon to find center crease lines in the linen from this era, where decades of storage have caused the fabric dye to rub off enough to leave a faint pale line.

The fold line - and subsequent faint white line showing dye loss is visible in this photograph.

The fold line – and subsequent faint white line showing dye loss is visible in this photograph.

This left me with only one option: I had to place the dress front and the two side backs on either side of the center line of fabric, to avoid that pale line. But I also had to think about the placement of those large daisies. I wanted to try to match the fabric design as much as possible along the center back seam. To accomplish both these goals, I had to line up the front of the dress and one of the side backs, one above the other. (I forgot to take a photo.)  It turned out I was a couple of inches short of the length I needed to do this. So – I knew I would need to face the hem.

I was fairly successful in matching the flower design along the back seam . . .

I was fairly successful in matching the flower design along the back seam . . .

Then on to the machine sewing of darts, seams, seam finishings. With those completed, I turned my attention to the lavender piping I wanted to put around the neck edge. I used the same cotton kitchen string I had used on my “ghost dress” to use as the filler for the piping. The heavier weight of the linen made the piping more substantial, which is exactly what I wanted.

I added piping only to the neck edge.

I added piping only to the neck edge.

With the piping sewn in place, I could proceed to the zipper. Even though I would be hand-picking the zipper, I wanted to complete it, to double-check the fit before I left on our journey. Then I realized that I had purchased the wrong length zipper! I had picked up a 20” zipper, forgetting that I was adding a V to the back neck. I needed a 16” zipper and had no time to make the trip to JoAnn’s to get a new one. In desperation I searched through my notions drawers and found every color and length of zipper under the sun except a 16” white one. (I’m exaggerating, of course.) Then I looked through a bag of zippers I had gotten from my mother, and lo and behold, there was a 16” white metal zipper, still in its original wrapper. Well, why not? A vintage metal zipper would be perfect for vintage linen. Crisis averted.

As it turns out, I found this ad for metal versus nylon coil zippers in a 1964 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine. If you read the copy, they recommend using metal zippers for fabrics like cotton and linen which require a hot iron. The quality of nylon coil zippers is now such that they can be used for these fabrics without a worry.

As it turns out, I found this ad for metal versus nylon coil zippers in a 1964 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine. If you read the copy (click on the photo for easier reading), they recommend using metal zippers for fabrics like cotton and linen which require a hot iron. The quality of nylon coil zippers is now such that they can be used for these fabrics without a worry.

Before I turned my attention to making the lining for the dress, I wanted to address that faced hem. With no time to think about making a facing from the lining fabric, I went back to my notions drawer. Once again, sewing hand-me-downs from my mother came to the rescue! I found this package of white cotton hem facing, which would be perfect for my needs.

Look at the price on this! Also, now I am quite sure the hem facing would be a cotton blend rather than 100% cotton.

Look at the price on this! Also, now I am quite sure purchased hem facing would be a cotton blend rather than 100% cotton.

The faced hem, plus a view of the seams which I finished with Hug Snug seam binding.

The faced hem, plus a view of the seams which I finished with Hug Snug seam binding.

Once the lining was sewn, I gathered all the tools and notions I would need to finish the dress by hand. Off it all flew to Wyoming, where finally I finished this flower-powered dress under the expansive Western skies.

The front of the dress. No time to get photos of me in it yet, unfortunately!

The front of the dress. No time to get photos of me in it yet, unfortunately!

This full photo of the back of the dress shows some more of the pattern matching.

This full photo of the back of the dress shows some more of the pattern matching.

I did what I could, with what I had, where I was.

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Filed under Linen, Moygashel linen, piping, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric

The Domino Effect

Being totally smitten with this bold floral linen, purchased within the past year, I have had my heart set on making it into a day dress this Summer.

Big, bright daisies with lavender centers.

Big, bright daisies with lavender centers.

Not long after I purchased it, this small article on “Signs of Spring 2015 On New York Runways” appeared in the September 10, 2014 Wall Street Journal.

"Memorable moments included bold floral daytime dresses from Carolina Herrara..."

“Memorable moments included bold floral daytime dresses from Carolina Herrera…”

And then in November of 2014, more of Carolina Herrera’s Spring/Resort collection for 2015 was featured in Town & Country magazine.

Perennial daises on two lovely Carolina Herrera dresses.

Perennial daises on two lovely Carolina Herrera dresses.

It seems this vintage Moygashel linen from the late 1960s, with its bold daisy design is very much in vogue currently, both for its size and its floral motif. (The bodice of my recent fancy dress also featured a “daisy” motif in the silk embroidered organza):

The Allure of silk, pt 1

Although I am of the mind that daisies are always in vogue, nevertheless, this seems like the perfect year to fashion a dress from this linen. Such a demonstrative print begs for a simply-styled dress, such as – you guessed it – a sheath dress.   The fabric will make this dress, not the pattern. How could I, I wondered, do something a little different and still keep it simple? The answer to that question began to take shape when I found a length of pale lavender Moygashel linen this past Spring. Suddenly I envisioned a V-back to a sheath dress with a rounded neck, detailed with piping made from this lavender linen.

Then it began to get complicated. With just a few inches over 3 yards of the 35” wide lavender fabric, I knew I would have to calculate carefully when I cut bias strips for the piping, if I wanted to fashion another garment out of the lavender. And of course, I do! Actually, when I looked at the lavender fabric, and paired it with any number of my other fabrics and/or dresses, it seemed the only thing to use it for was a “Spring” coat. But would I have enough fabric for both a coat and bias strips for piping?

Obviously, I would have to find a coat pattern and lay it out leaving enough space for bias strips, to see if I could manage this minor miracle. Of all my coat patterns, this Madame Gres design is the one I decided had the best chance of working, both for my limited yardage and for the pattern’s simple, uncluttered lines:

The short version of the coat is on the left.

The short version of the coat is on the left.

The fact that it is featured with below elbow length sleeves and in a shorter version – perfect for pairing with coordinating dresses – worked in my favor. The entire coat has only 5 pattern pieces: front, back, collar, undercollar, and front facing. First I positioned the tissue pattern pieces on my fabric, strewn out on the floor selvedge to selvedge. I was heartened enough by this exercise to go ahead and make a muslin, so I could have a “real” pattern to work from. All this time, the pink flowered daisy linen lay folded, awaiting her turn.

One of the most unusual features of the coat design is the front dart, which serves both as a bust dart and as a side-shaping dart. As is so often the case with these vintage patterns, the dart sewn as indicated on the pattern was too high for me. In addition, it pulled and stretched the kimono shoulder in all the wrong ways. I lowered the apex of the dart and re-sewed it, trying to preserve its curve, and suddenly it fit like a charm.

The newly drawn dart is in orange, while its original position is in red.

The newly drawn dart is in orange, while its original position is in red.

Now that I had a workable pattern, I knew I could just eke out the coat if I “pieced” the left front facing. I could live with that! And, just as important, I would have enough of the fabric to cut bias strips for piping for my daisy sheath. Whew!

This see-through ruler helped me find a corner from which to cut the bias strips for the piping.

This see-through ruler helped me find a corner from which to cut the bias strips for the piping.

So now, the pieces for the coat, with their silk organza underlinings pinned in place, are taking their turn waiting for further attention. One project started another and now both are lined up like a circle of dominoes, ready to go down in an orderly fashion, albeit in slo-o-o-w motion.

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Filed under kimono sleeves, Linen, Moygashel linen, piping, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns

A Noisy Spring

The chatter is endless and getting louder. Whenever I walk into my sewing room, I hear it, and there is no avoiding it. All those lengths of linen, most of it vintage Moygashel, are vying for my attention, hoping they might be selected for a starring role in my sewing agenda for Spring and (now, mostly ) Summer of 2015. Is there any fabric I love more? Probably not, although of course I love woolens, silks and cottons, too. However, there is something about linen, with its crispness, its durability, its versatility, and its ability to evoke a summer day in the midst of winter that totally captivates me.

There is linen that looks serene:

Lovely pale blue

Lovely pale blue

And quiet pale yellow

And quiet pale yellow

There is linen that looks a bit wild and crazy:

This piece is actually a linen/rayon blend, which has lovely hand to it.

This piece is actually a linen/rayon blend, which has a lovely hand to it.

Big, bright daisies!

Big, bright daisies!

There is linen that says “Look at me!”:

Walking in a field of flowers!

Walking in a field of flowers!

There is linen that is demure:

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

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

There is linen that is happy:

Navy, rust and brown - perfect for early Fall.

Navy, rust and brown – perfect for early Fall.

There is a lot of linen in my fabric collection! Last year I was able to complete three linen dresses (1; 2; 3)during the warmer months. This year I will not be so productive, for a number of reasons, although I haven’t given up hope of making a linen coat and a coordinating dress. The question then becomes, which piece (or pieces) of linen do I choose for such an undertaking?

While contemplating the answer to that question, I am starting another project out of necessity: a dress to wear to a “black tie” event in early July. It’s an exciting project for me as it is my focus while I spend another week in Baltimore, Maryland with Susan Khalje and other dedicated dressmakers. The start of our week also began with lots of “chatter”: Alice Wildes of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics arrived on Sunday (the day before the official start of our class) with bolts and bolts of gorgeous and glorious fabrics. Did I succumb to any of these delights? What do you think?

A Noisy Spring

A Noisy Spring

An amazing silk charmeuse . . .

An amazing silk charmeuse . . .

. . . with all the inspiration one would need!

. . . with all the inspiration one would need!

Among the projects being started in our class are: a wedding gown for a daughter; a fancy dress for a grown daughter; a dress reminiscent of something Myrna Loy would have worn mid-century; a suit; shift dresses and “day” dresses; cocktail dresses; a dress and jacket; and, of course, my own dress, to be made from silk taffeta and embroidered silk organza.

A Noisy Spring

Those aforementioned noisy linens will just have to wait a little longer – and share some of their space in my fabric closet with newly acquired silks and wools. There is always room for fabric!

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Filed under Linen, Moygashel linen, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric

Sometimes It’s All About the Shoes

Well, maybe it’s not entirely about the shoes, although they do promise to share a starring role with my just-completed yellow and blue linen dress.

All about the shoes

I first spied these lovelies on the Simply Soles website last winter, as part of the offerings for Spring/Summer shoes. Although I loved everything about them (the combination of colors, the fabric, the asymmetrical bow, the kitten heel, the brand – knowing from experience that Butter shoes are extremely comfortable), I decided not to purchase them. At that point in time, I had not yet bought the bittersweet yellow linen, so I had no reason to buy shoes with such a limited color palette. By the time I had a good reason to buy them, they were no longer available in my size.

All about the shoes However, the Simply Soles website allows one to request an email advice should the correctly sized shoe become available. Weeks went by, Summer arrived, and by then I had paired the recently purchased deep yellow linen with the pottery blue linen. Goodness, I could not stop thinking about those shoes and how perfect they would be with my envisioned dress. And then – they were suddenly available – in my size – and on sale!

All about the shoes

By this time I was already immersed in making my second linen dress of the Summer, so I planned for the blue and yellow linen to be number “3”. In the meantime, I happened upon more documentation of Moygashel linen, this one for the “yellow” piece. Those of you who follow this blog know how much I love to make these connections!

"... pure enchantment for sun places ... a forsythia linen dress ..."  and the source information in the back of this Vogue Pattern Book Magazine from February/March, 1968 credits Moygashel as the brand of linen.

“… pure enchantment for sun places … a forsythia linen dress …” and the source information in the back of this Vogue Pattern Book Magazine from February/March, 1968 credits Moygashel as the brand of linen.

Seeing an entire dress made out of the forsythia linen helped me to feel confident about having such a bright color as the bodice part of my planned dress.  As I stated in my last post, I decided to use the bodice from this early ‘60s’ Vogue pattern, pairing it with a slim skirt and a belt.

The neckline dips down to a slightly curved V, with a center seam.

The neckline dips down to a slightly curved V, with a center seam.

As this would be a dressier type of frock, and because I know how foolproof couture construction is (with silk organza underlining and crepe de chine lining), I proceeded using those techniques. The facings on the V-shape of the bodice front and back were cut as part of the pattern, instead of being separate pieces. I followed the instructions to reinforce the edges of the fold with ¼” twill tape.

I basted the twill tape just to the outside of the fold line on the "all-in-one" facing.

I basted the twill tape just to the outside of the fold line on the “all-in-one” facing.  This is the back bodice.

And this is the front bodice, showing the deep V and the center seam.

And this is the front bodice, showing the deep V and the center seam.

Normally, couture construction does not use facings, but in this application, they were indispensible. Then the rest of the dress proceeded without a hitch.

Here is the dress turned inside out.  I used a forsythia-yellow zipper as i thought it more important to match the bodice than the skirt of the dress.

Here is the dress turned inside out. I used a forsythia-yellow zipper as I thought it more important to match the bodice than the skirt of the dress.

Here is the shoulder with the crepe de chine fell-stitched and understitched in place around the shouilder.  Note the lingerie stay made with a folded piece of Hug Snug Rayon woven tape.

Here is an inside look at the crepe de chine fell-stitched and understitched in place around the shouilder. Note the lingerie stay made with a folded piece of Hug Snug rayon woven tape.

About halfway through the construction of the dress, I got the idea to have decorative buttons made – to compliment the front V of the neckline.

I sent scraps of my fabric off to Pat Mahoney in California to have these buttons made.  Sadly, Pat is retiring from her business at the end of August...

I sent scraps of my fabric off to Pat Mahoney in California to have these buttons made. Sadly, Pat is retiring from her business at the end of August…

I actually was not sure I was going to use them until I had finished the dress, but I think they add just the right amount of detail.

Here is the dress without the buttons . . .

Here is the dress without the buttons . . .

. . . and here is the dress with the buttons.  What do you think?  With or without?

. . . and here is the dress with the buttons. What do you think? With or without?

Another detail I was happy to add was the Moygashel linen label which had been attached to the forsythia yellow linen yardgoods.

I attached the label inside the back neckline.

I attached the label inside the back neckline.

The belt is also a Pat Mahoney product, made from a silk dupioni.

The belt is also a Pat Mahoney product, made from a silk dupioni.

All about the shoes

All about the shoes

I like the V-ed back!

I like the V-ed back!

Love those shoes!

Love those shoes!

To me, this dress is reminiscent of a 1950s’ “wiggle dress” – although I added a back slit so that I can walk easily, which I guess would have been “cheating” in the 1950s! I was delighted to make another 1950s’ connection when I saw this pair of Roger Vivier shoes for Christian Dior on Pinterest:

All about the shoes - Pinterest pin

The similarities with my shoes are remarkable! Now that I have one dress perfectly suited for my Christian Dior-inspired shoes, I will be looking for other “perfect pairings”. Who knows what fabric treasures will present themselves next Spring or Summer for just such an undertaking?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, Linen, Moygashel linen, Shoes to make an outfit complete, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, underlinings, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

“Good Wearing-Relationships”

This is a pattern I have long admired:

Good wearing-relationships - Forquet pattern

It is one of those patterns which is always in my mind when I am looking at or for fabric. Twice I have opened it up to survey its pieces and construction, and twice I have decided against it. To be fair, both times of rejection have been because of “not enough fabric”, but other factors have weighed in as well: 1) the collar is too “’70s-looking” and would have to be recut; 2) the skirt is A-line, a look I am just not excited about right now; and 3) the top part of the dress is “bloused” instead of darted, which adds more bulk to the waist than I can handle at this stage of my life.  However, with that said, I still love the look.   I love the strong contrasts of color, divided and punctuated with the wide white belt. I love the styling with the shoes matching the red bodice, the tidy neck scarf, the big ball earrings, and the classy bracelet. It is a memorable look. And – it served as inspiration for me as I recently paired two vintage pieces of contrasting Moygashel linen.

GGood wearing-relationships

When I purchased these fabrics – at different times – I had no intention of using them together.   But then, one day I put them together and liked what I saw. I knew from Vogue 2708 (above), that a white belt would add the necessary foil to those two strong colors. Further encouragement came happily from a two-piece dress in the June/July 1962 issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine using similar Moygashel linens:

"They're naturals - and we're not just talking about the cotton and linen fibers in the clothes on these pages , but the good wearing-relationships we have with them.  We like them; they like us - our 1962 shapes, science-bred colors, the places we go, our washing machines..."  The two-piece dress featured here was made from Moygashel linen,

From the description:  “They’re naturals – and we’re not just talking about the cotton and [Moygashel] linen fibers in the clothes on these pages , but the good wearing-relationships we have with them. We like them; they like us – our 1962 shapes, science-bred colors, the places we go, our washing machines…”

Now all I had to do was decide upon a pattern which would work with the one yard I had of the “bittersweet” yellow linen for the bodice and the one-and-one-quarter yards I had of the “pottery” blue linen for the skirt. (Fortunately, these linens are 45”wide, meaning that they were manufactured after the early-1960s.)

Initially I thought I would just go with View D of this current Vogue pattern:

Good wearing-relationships - new vogue pattern

But after having recently read Linda Przybyszewski‘s The Lost Art of Dress and being influenced by the discussion therein of the importance of fashion emphasizing one’s face, I thought I wanted a more interesting neckline. Off to my collection of vintage patterns I went, emerging with this one:

The neckline dips down to a slightly curved V, with a center seam.

The neckline dips down to a slightly curved V, with a center seam.

And the back is equally as pretty!

And the back is equally as pretty!

Now I had a plan. I would use the narrow skirt from the current Vogue pattern and the bodice from the vintage Vogue pattern, except that I would make it sleeveless. I had to work to line up the darts on the bodice and the skirt, moving them hither and yon several times. And then I had to deal with the positioning of the bust darts, always an issue for me with vintage patterns. The apices of the darts are always too high for me. (I’m sure it has much to do with the foundation garments which women wore in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s.) Simply moving the apices lower does not always work, as then I seem to have too much fullness above the bust and across the shoulders.   Of course, this is where making a muslin (toile) comes to the rescue. In this case, my first muslin had so many changes to it, that I had to transfer all my final markings to a new muslin. I also decided to underline the linen with silk organza and use true couture techniques to complete this dress.

Here is one side of the front from my first muslin.  I still had to make changes on the second muslin, but better on muslin than on the fashion fabric!

Here is one side of the front from my first muslin. I still had to make changes on the second muslin, but better on muslin than on the fashion fabric!

As I work on this dress I am in concurrence with further commentary from the 1962 VPB: speaking of “Naturals for our Time” (linens and cottons), the editors say, “Most of all, we want the real-life way they look – effortless, inspired by structure rather than detail [my emphasis], and naturally appealing now.” Actually, there is one important detail which will add to the “good wearing-relationship” I will have with this dress – but I’ll save that for my next post…

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Filed under couture construction, Linen, Moygashel linen, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, underlinings, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns

The Long and Mysterious Journey of Sandhurst 121

When the piece of linen I had purchased arrived in the mail, I was not sure what to expect. I had bought it with the hope that it was, indeed, a piece of Moygashel linen, but I had nothing to go on except an educated hunch. I knew it was an early piece of fabric, as its width was 35”, a common width for pre-1960’s dress-goods. I liked the design in the photo from which I made my decision, although it was not a colorway to which I normally gravitate. Upon opening the package, I found the only identifying mark on the fabric to be this tag:

Gottshalk's in Fresno, California obviously sold fine fabrics.

Gottschalk’s in Fresno, California obviously sold fine fabrics.

This short length of fabric had been on the remnant table, and, being too good of a bargain to pass by, some home dressmaker in California (USA) scooped it up with all good intentions of making something out of it someday. It must have lived in a dark drawer somewhere, carefully buffered from stains and yellowing. It didn’t even have much of a crease in it. And so, after many years in dormancy, it arrived at my home in Pennsylvania. I knew immediately that it was a Moygashel linen. I could tell by the hand of the fabric, the unique, slightly funky design, and by its amazing survival virtually wrinkle-free.

Sandhurst 121

As I mentioned in a former post, my only dilemma was the scant yardage, combined with the narrow width. So, I stuck it in my fabric closet, to think about another day. One thing nagged at me, however. I really, really wanted to know what year it was from.

Over the past three years or so, I have had some luck in finding copies of old and older (1950-1980) Vogue Pattern Book Magazines. They are fascinating, and treasure troves of mid-century fashion as it relates to home sewing. I have tried to get a good cross-section of magazines from those three decades. One issue, which I tried a couple of times to get – and did not (on eBay) – finally became available to me. I loved the suit on the cover, and those mid-fifties styles are just so chic, even though most Vogue patterns from that time period were unprinted, and therefore, very difficult to use. (By 1957, Vogue was starting to produce many of their patterns in printed and perforated format.)

This is the February/March 1955 issue.

This is the February/March 1955 issue.

Perhaps you can see where I am going with this? I was looking through this particular issue once again in May of this year, and low and behold, a full-page ad for Moygashel linen clearly pictured “my” linen as one of their “new crop”. The colorway was different, but Moygashel was known for producing their fabrics “all in many colors or color combinations.” Maybe a lot of people wouldn’t get so excited about such a discovery, but I was ecstatic! Now I knew, for certain, that the linen I had purchased made its debut in early 1955. (I would be turning 5 years old a little later that year!) I even had a name for it now – Sandhurst 121. I suddenly very much wanted to sew this linen, this Summer!

There is my linen in the upper left hand corner of the full-page advertisement.

There is my linen in the upper left hand corner of the full-page advertisement.

By now, many of you know that I determined to make a sheath dress out of this scant yardage of fabric, and in order to do so, I had to reconfigure my sheath dress pattern to include a back yoke. Here’s the fabric layout, which hopefully will show how sectioning the back enabled me to fit the pattern on the available fabric:

The fabric is shown 35" flat on my cutting table.  The muslin pattern piece for the front of the dress is on the right, and the two shortened back pieces are lined up smack against each other on the left.  The yoke pieces then fit above the dress front.  I did not need facings, as I lined the entire dress in a light weight linen/cotton blend, and finished the neck and armholes all by hand.

The fabric is shown 35″ flat on my cutting table. The muslin pattern piece for the front of the dress is on the right, and the two shortened back pieces are lined up smack against each other on the left. The yoke pieces then fit on the fabric  above the dress front. I did not need facings, as I lined the entire dress in a light weight linen/cotton blend, and finished the neck and armholes all by hand.  I had to face the hem as I did not have enough fabric to do a self hem!

Many of you also know that fortune shone her happy face again on this project when I found three orange vintage buttons, which I knew would help make a back yoke far more interesting. I relied on a Vogue pattern from 1957, which has a back yoke to help me with this reconfigure.

This card of buttons cost 2 cents originally!  They seem to mimic the small orange explosions on the dress fabric.

This card of buttons cost 2 cents originally! They seem to mimic the small orange explosions on the dress fabric.  They may actually be even earlier than the fabric.

The yoke on this dress uses 4 buttons.  I only had three, but their large size still makes the proportions work well.

The yoke on this dress uses 4 buttons. I only had three, but their large size still makes the proportions work well.

A close-up of the back of the dress.

A close-up of the back of the dress.  I made bound buttonholes – very 1950-ish!

And then, another classic 1950s’ design detail worked right into this dress: I would need to move the zipper to the side in order for the back yoke to look correct. Now I will be the first to tell you that a side zipper is not as convenient as a back zipper, but it is a small sacrifice when everything else is enhanced by this placement.   After these obeisances to ‘50s’ style, I slipped right into 2014 with a bright orange, newly made belt, a widened jewel neckline, slightly cut-in shoulders, and a back slit to enhance comfort. I like to choose the best from the ‘50s, but I really don’t want to look like the 1950s.

I sent new orange linen to Pat Mahoney of Pat's Custom Belts and Buttons  and this lovely belt came back to me in the mail.

I sent new orange linen to Pat Mahoney of Pat’s Custom Belts and Buttons and this lovely belt came back to me in the mail.

Cool and summery-looking, don't you think?

Cool and summery-looking, don’t you think?

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Not every dress can have a story, nor should it. But this fabric, which began its life in Ireland, no doubt entered this country through New York City, ordered by a store in Fresno, California, purchased and squirreled away for decades by persons unknown – has now found a starring role in my wardrobe almost 60 years later. Sewing is just so much fun!

 

 

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, hand-sewn zippers, Linen, Love of sewing, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, side-placed zippers, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, Unprinted patterns from the 1950s, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

When Enthusiasm Meets Reality

Fashion sewing has it all. Even the making of a simple dress has some or all of these aspects inherent in its construction: color theory, proper fabric selection, proportion and fitting, pattern manipulation and engineering, technical know-how, style sense, intrigue. Intrigue? Yes – Intrigue. I have done it again. I have my heart set on a making a certain style in a certain fabric, and I don’t have very much of that fabric with which to work.

I found this piece of Moygashel linen earlier in the year. (It was sold to me as “probably Moygashel”, and how I determined for certain that is indeed that famous brand of Irish linen required some detective work, which I’ll cover in a future post.)

Enthusiasm meets reality

Freshly laundered, this linen looks and feels like new!

When I first saw it, I immediately thought it would make a cute pair of pants, even though I don’t wear a lot of brown. But I was really drawn to the little explosions of orange scattered throughout the yardage. Actually I should qualify that by saying “scant” yardage. This was only a piece of fabric 1 and 5/8 yards long, which sounds reasonable until the width of the fabric is figured into the equation. At 35” wide, this was not a lot of fabric.   Nevertheless, I certainly figured I could get a slim pair of simple pants out of it. That was my intent until I finished my polka-dotted sheath dress just recently. Cool linen dresses and Summer just seem to go together, and suddenly I decided I did not want a pair of pants – I wanted another sleeveless dress.

This was partly determined by the fact that I have a piece of new orange linen I picked up a couple of years ago from Britex Fabrics, and the thought of pairing this funky, stylized-dot fabric with an orange belt made out of that linen sealed the deal for me in my enthusiastic wardrobe dreams.

Enthusiasm meets reality

Then reality hit. How was I going to manage to squeak a sheath dress out of the amount of fabric in hand? After eyeballing the stretched out fabric, with my sheath dress pattern pieces arranged casually on top, it did not take long for me to know that, NO, this would not work. I would have to figure something else out, but I wasn’t giving up on the dress idea.

The only solution was to get more creative. I have always loved subtle “back” details on dresses, such as unusual closures, V-necklines above a back zippered opening, an embellishment of some sort, that type of thing. And I suddenly realized that if I could section the back pieces (only) of my sheath pattern so that I would have an upper back yoke, then I could probably fit everything on the fabric (knowing it would still be a squeeze, however).

Now I got really excited. One of my favorite patterns (from 1957) features a back- buttoned yoke, which is seamed right above the shaping darts in the back body of the dress. I figured this is exactly the spot where I would need to section the back of the dress to make it fit on my fabric.

The yoke on this dress is obviously part of the kimono sleeve section, but I like the idea of a three-buttoned yoke.

The yoke on this dress is obviously part of the kimono sleeve section, but I like the idea of a three-buttoned yoke.

And then – wheels turning in my head – I seemed to remember I had some orange buttons (vintage, no less!) in my button box.   These seem to me to be a perfect pairing with the linen fabric:

This card of buttons cost 2 cents originally!  They seem to mimic the small orange explosions on the dress fabric.

This card of buttons cost 2 cents originally! They seem to mimic the small orange explosions on the dress fabric.

I have spread out my current working sheath dress muslin a couple of times to determine the viability of my plan. I really think it will work. I am prepared to use narrower seam allowances than I usually like, and I may have to face the hem.

This is how I envision the back of my proposed dress.

This is how I envision the back of my proposed dress.

But – first things first. Initially I will be making a new muslin, with the altered and sectioned back pieces. I am sure my enthusiasm for this idea will keep me focused, and in this case, reality may have sewn the seeds for a much more creative outcome than I originally envisioned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Linen, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, Uncategorized, vintage buttons

Sometimes It’s All About the Fabric

Great fabric – just like great art – can (and probably should) elicit an emotional response from an engaged viewer and/or potential purchaser. It’s a very individual preference, of course, influenced by sewing knowledge, intended purpose, wear-ability, one’s fashion style, and nostalgia.

I freely admit to being nostalgic about polka dots. I have always loved them. And I have always been drawn to fabrics and fashions featuring dots, whether they be large, jumbo, small, tiny, or medium. In my fashion lexicon, they are never out of style, but it is always particularly rewarding to see dots featured as “fashion forward” – as in the July 2014 Harpers Bazaar.

Linen dotted dress - HB magazine

The dots I have been focusing on the last week or so, however, could tell those new dots a thing or two about fashion trends and durability. My beloved dots are probably celebrating their half-century mark, without a wrinkle to show for it!

Linen dotted fabric

Linen dotted fabric

Each dot is individually embroidered onto the base linen fabric.

When I purchased this vintage linen fabric online, all I had was a photo or two. There was no selvedge marking, no attached label, no sales receipt to give any clue to its origin. However, the photos were clear, the weave of the fabric was visible enough, that I felt fairly confident that I was looking at a mid-century Moygashel linen. At 36” wide, I knew from experience it was prior to 1960. I also knew that Moygashel produced many embroidered dress linens in the 1950s. Here are two Moygashel linen ads which show both printed and embroidered linens:

This ad was on the inside front cover of Vogue Pattern Book magazine from December/January 1953-54.

This ad was on the inside front cover of Vogue Pattern Book magazine from December/January 1953-54.

And this ad was on the inside front cover of Vogue pattern Book Magazine from December/January 1957-58.

And this ad was on the inside front cover of Vogue Pattern Book magazine from December/January 1957-58.

I knew the real “proof of the pudding” – to authenticate the linen as Moygashel – would be in how it laundered.  Moygashel linen was known for its resistance to wrinkling! Months went by after the fabric arrived in the mail, but a couple of weeks ago, I retrieved it from my fabric closet, put it in a gentle wash cycle (with Woolite detergent), tumble dried it on medium heat, and out it came, as I had hoped, crisp, clean, and looking like new. All it needed was just a quick ironing on high heat to make sure the fabric would lay flat for marking and cutting.

Yes, I knew I had an authentic Moygashel linen in hand, and I wanted to make a dress that would be all about the fabric. I envisioned a simple sheath, whose look could be changed so easily with different color accessories. Knowing I already had a sheath dress pattern that fit me well, I made my sewing life simple (for a change!) and went with it.

One can't get much simpler than this classic sheath design!

One can’t get much simpler than this classic sheath design!

First, a few details and precautions about sewing with embroidered linen:

1) All ironing must be done on the wrong side of the fabric, in order not to squash the embroidered details.

2) All ironing must be done on top of a towel, also for the same reason.

3) It’s best to sandwich paper under seam allowances before pressing to prevent “impressions” from going through to the right side of your fabric.

4) Because cut embroidery details have a tendency to fray along the edges of seam allowances, it is best to finish them with either a Hong Kong finish or with rayon (Snug Hug) hem tape. I used Snug Hug as it did not add any extra bulk to the inside of my garment.

Side seams finished with Snug Hug.

Side seams finished with Snug Hug.

I did not want to underline my dress (as in silk organza), as I wanted to preserve the lovely breathability of the linen fabric. However, I did want to line it, so I used a very light, almost gauzy, cotton/linen blend.

I actually catch-stitched all the seams and dart edges on the lining, to help it mold as nicely as possible with the interior of the dress.

I actually catch-stitched all the seams and dart edges on the lining, to help it mold as nicely as possible with the interior of the dress.

I decided to make the lining entirely separate and then attach it to the dress at the neck, armholes, zipper and back hem slit using a fell stitch. However, once I had my seam allowance folded back at the neck and armholes, I noticed a little bit of “shadowing through” of some of the colored dots along those edges.

Perhaps you can see the shadowing of the dots underneath the crossed pins?

Perhaps you can see the shadowing of the dots underneath the crossed pins?

To remedy this, I cut 5/8” wide strips of bias lining fabric and basted them onto the seam allowances in those areas. That was just enough to take care of that problem.

This narrow strip of lining fabric prevents the color of those dots from showing through.

This narrow strip of lining fabric prevents the color of those dots from showing through.  This is the wrong side of the fabric.

Once the dress and lining were attached, I under-stitched the neck and armhole edges by hand. It really makes a lovely interior!

Linen dot dress

A close-up of the bodice.

A close-up of the bodice.

The back of the dress, with its hand-picked zipper.

The back of the dress, with its hand-picked zipper.

And one more view of the full dress.

And one more view of the full dress.

I finally (as of July 1, 2014) got some pictures taken!

I finally (as of July 1, 2014) got some pictures taken!

Polka dotted linen sheath

Polka dotted linen sheath

I love this dress!

I love this dress!

Moygashel linen is, sadly, no longer manufactured, about which I have written previously. One of its tag lines was “The first name in linen – The last word in quality”. I might change that to read “… The lasting word in quality.” Of course, there are some beautiful linens being manufactured today, but none will ever command a dressmaker’s imagination in quite the same way that Moygashel linen did for decade after fashionable decade.

 

 

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Filed under hand-sewn zippers, Linen, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, Uncategorized

Thoughts on Fabric

One theme I often see in New Year’s sewing resolutions is an emphasis on sewing from one’s “stash” rather than purchasing more new fabric.  I don’t know too many serious sewers who don’t harbor at least a little guilt about all the fabric they have squirreled away (the word “stash” actually does imply something put away, usually in a secretive place!).  I used to feel a lot more guilt about all my fabric than I do now, and here’s why.  First, I don’t consider my fabric a “stash” of anything.  I look at it as a collection, to be used, admired, and taken care of like any valuable thing.  And second, I believe having a selection/collection of beautiful and inspirational fabric adds to the creative process of sewing.

As with the selection and collection of any worthwhile genre, it’s usually best to buy the best you can afford.   There used to be much more stated emphasis on “quality” in fabric than there is now.   It is so interesting to me that fabric manufacturers used to advertise their products by name, obviously with great pride in their newest line of designs.  Some of the manufacturers were almost household names, with tag lines such as  “A fabric you can lean on – that’s Klopman”.  Woolens were known by their manufacturer’s name, such as Forstman and Anglo, to mention just two.  The same was true for cottons, linens, silks, and synthetics. So many of the full-page advertisements in Vogue Pattern Book Magazine in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s were from fabric manufacturers (whereas now there are virtually none).  Here is a quick look at some from each of those decades:

Moygashel Linen advertised heavily in VPB Magazine during that 30-year span of time.  Here is an ad from the inside front cover of the December/January 1953/54 issue:

Thoughts on Fabric - 54

“The first name in linen… The last word in quality”

Moygashel was also one of those fabric companies which supplied labels with purchases of their linens.  Here is a string of labels, which came with a recent purchase I made of vintage Moygashel:

Thoughts on Fabric - Moygashel w: tag

Many new synthetic fabrics were being developed in the post-war era, as evidenced by the many ads from manufacturers of these yard goods.  Here is an ad for acetate, made by the Celanese Corporation of America.  It appeared in the February/March 1957 issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

Thoughts on Fabric - 57

In the same issue was this full page ad for Wamsutta cotton prints.  Now known primarily for sheets, Wamsutta once had the tagline “it has to be WAMSUTTA!” which many a home sewer knew as a sign of quality.

Thoughts on Fabric - 57-2

European fabrics also found their place in VPB.  Here is an ad from February/March 1964 for Boussac screen-printed cottons.  “A collection of rich designer fabrics used by the haute couture of the world.”

Thoughts on Fabric - 64

I want to show you something else in that same issue.  Although there was not a dedicated ad for American Silk, Vogue pattern #6105 was sewn in American Silk, as stated in its accompanying caption.

How I would love to find a piece of this silk tucked away in some drawer!

How I would love to find a piece of this silk tucked away in some drawer!

Twelve years later, in 1976, I attended a fashion show featuring the various dress silks made by this company for the home sewing market, another example of the effort put into marketing by specific fabric manufacturers.

By 1972, the look of VPB Magazine was becoming more sophisticated, but those full-page fabric ads were still abundant.  Here is an ad in the October/November issue devoted to Qiana, a nylon made by DuPont:

Thoughts on Fabric - 72

And – Crompton is velvet appeared a few pages further in the same issue:

Thoughts on Fabric - 72-2

In September/October 1976, Diane von Furstenberg was featured on the cover, and Ernest Einiger had a full-page color ad for “The Great American Wools”.

Thoughts on Fabric - 76-3

In the same issue, Britex Fabrics in San Francisco offered a buy-by-mail offer for Ultrasuede, the “it” fabric of the decade!

Thoughts on Fabric - 76-2

I can really only think of a few current fabric lines that still retain the distinction of being “known” by their names: Liberty, Pendleton, and Linton Tweeds come to mind.  (Linton Direct advertises in the current VPB magazine, but it is a small column ad, not a full-page “look at me” type of statement.) Then, of course, there are designer fabrics, but the manufacturers of these “name” goods are generally not listed.  For the most part, unless you ask, when you are buying yard goods, the names of the manufacturers are virtually unknown.  It is really kind of a shame, as there are so many exquisite fabrics of the highest quality still being woven in certain parts of the world.  These fabrics (and others, some vintage) make it difficult to say “no” to the opportunity to add to one’s fabric collection.  Here are two such fabrics I could not resist:

This is a linen and cotton blend I purchased from Mood Fabrics a while ago.  It is patiently waiting to be cut and sewn . . .

This is a loosely woven linen and cotton blend I purchased from Mood Fabrics a while ago. It is patiently waiting to be cut and sewn . . .

This is a vintage linen, newly acquired by me.  Although there is nothing printedon the selvedge, I believe it is a Moygashel linen from the 1950s.

This is a vintage linen, newly acquired by me. Although there is nothing printed on the selvedge, I believe it is a Moygashel linen from the 1950s.  I plan to make a sheath dress from this fabric sometime during the Summer of 2014.

William Blake notably said “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”  I must confess I never knew what that meant until I applied it, somewhat sheepishly,  to collecting fabrics.  It seems the more various and beautiful fabrics I can look at and choose from, the more I am able to determine the perfect pattern with which to pair them.  If I own the fabric already, so much the better!  Sometimes the fabric dictates the sort of garment I should make and sometimes I have a pattern which leads me to my (excessive?) fabric collection, where I can admire anew and oftentimes choose a long-before purchased length of the perfect silk, linen, cotton, or wool.  It is a back and forth process, one filled with visual and tactile components, demanding – and developing – sewing wisdom.  It is one of the reasons I love to sew.

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Filed under Liberty cotton, Linen, Love of sewing, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, woolens

Inspiration and Adaptation

Sometimes in life – and in sewing – you have to alter your plans to accommodate the situation at hand.

This is the situation I found myself in:  I had my heart set on pairing a favorite vintage Vogue Designer pattern with a piece of vintage Moygashel linen I had found in an Etsy shop.  They are both likely from the early 1970s and seemed destined to be together.

Molyneux has always been a favorite designer of mine.  My thought was to make the dress with short sleeves, but belt it as shown in View B.

Molyneux has always been one of my favorite designers. My thought was to make the dress with short sleeves, but with a belt as shown in View B.

My best guess is that this Moygashel linen is from the very early '70s.

My best guess is that this Moygashel linen is from the very early ’70s.

To make this pairing of fabric and pattern even more enticing, I was given this amazing pearl button by my dear friend Nancy C.  (Thanks, Nancy!)

I love this unique button!

I love this unique button!

The square shape of the button – and its largeness (1 3/16” square) – and the fact that I had exactly one of these beauties – made it seem custom made for the design of the fabric and the tab featured on the pattern.

I couldn’t wait to get started!  I pulled out all the pattern pieces, ironed them flat, ready to make a muslin – and then the “uh-oh” moment struck.  The “straight of grains” on the pattern pieces could not have signaled more trouble if they had been flashing in bright red.   I grabbed the pattern envelope – and right there in plain English was stated:  “Not suitable for obvious plaids.”  (Why won’t I learn to read those envelopes more closely???)  While this fabric is not a plaid, it reads like a plaid.  My heart sank – as I realized very quickly that I absolutely could not use this pattern for this fabric.  It just would not work.  End of discussion.

If you look carefully at these line drawings, it's obvious that "plaids" would not work.

If you look carefully at these line drawings, it’s obvious that “plaids” will not work.

I took a few deep breaths – and went back to my vintage pattern file.  None of my other vintage patterns would do.  I had my vision for this fabric and no pattern came even remotely close.   It was then I decided I would have to adapt a new pattern to achieve the look I wanted.  Once I made this decision (Plan B, as in “it BETTER work!”), I began to see the advantages, and the possibilities for an even better look than I originally thought.

The first thing that went right was having this pattern in my “new pattern” file:

I picked up this pattern a few months ago as i thought it looked very versatile!

I picked up this pattern a few months ago as I thought it looked very versatile.

I figured if I used View B, I could alter the neck band to incorporate a center tab.  I wanted to belt it, but I happily thought the tapered darts at the mid-section, front and back, would help create less bulk at the waist (and that’s always welcome).  I liked the shape of the neck (and had actually planned to widen and lower the neckline on the vintage Vogue….).  I would have to lengthen it, but I had plenty of fabric.  I also like the banded sleeves.  To envision the look, I did a quick sketch:

More about the belt later - it was ready before the dress was even cut out.

More about the belt later – it was ready before the dress was even cut out.

Then I set about adding the 1970’s tab to the neckband.  I actually used the pattern piece for the original tab facing so that I could get the correct size and look.

I placed the old pattern piece onto the new neckband.

I placed the old pattern piece onto the new neckband.

Then I made a new pattern piece.

Then I made a new pattern piece.

I made my muslin and then proceeded to use some couture techniques, but not all I normally would.  For one thing, I did not want to underline this linen fabric with silk organza (to preserve the breathability of the linen and keep it as light as possible).  The pattern called for the dress (but not the sleeves) to be lined.  I used a very lightweight cotton/linen blend for this which worked beautifully.  I also decided to use the facings included in the pattern (usually eliminated with couture sewing), and I’m really happy with that decision.

This photo shows the neck facing and the off-white lining I used for the body of the dress.

This photo shows the neck facing and the off-white lining I used for the body of the dress.

I hand-picked the zipper, understitched the facings by hand, and sewed the hem oh-so-carefully so that my stitches would not show (one of the disadvantages of not using an underlining is that there is no layer to sew the hem to, except for the actual fashion fabric). I made a bound buttonhole for that big lovely button (the original Vogue pattern calls for a bound buttonhole).

Here's the buttonhole, with the button peeking through!

Here’s the buttonhole, with the button peeking through!

The underside of the tab.

The underside of the tab.

I also added a slit to the back seam as once I lengthened the dress, I thought I might need the extra wiggle room.

a quick look at the slit I added to the back center seam.

A quick look at the slit I added to the back center seam.

I had the belt made by Pat Mahoney of Pat’s Custom Belts and Buckles.  What a great decision!  I could never make as neat a belt and buckle as she does.

Pat Mahoney does nt have a website, but she can be contacted at: 209-369-5410; 537 York Street, P.O. Box 335, Lodi, California 95241, USA.

Pat Mahoney does not have a website, but she can be contacted at: 209-369-5410; 537 York Street, P.O. Box 335, Lodi, California 95241, USA.

Here is the finished dress.

linen tab dress

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I am bound and determined to make a summer dress using that vintage Vogue pattern.  But – now I know I’ll have to use a plain fabric for best results (maybe a solid linen…).  It will, however,  have to wait for another Summer, as  I have other projects in mind!

Making this dress has reminded me that sometimes Plan B turns out to be the BEST plan of all.

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Linen, Moygashel linen, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns