Tag Archives: polka dots

Wearing Dots

From this …


To this…


How did that happen?

After my purchase of that pattern a couple of years ago, I definitely had second thoughts.  While I loved it when it was first available back in the 1970s – and at that time I was of the age when I probably could have actually worn it – I immediately realized it would not be appropriate for a 60-something-year-old! I tucked it away in my pattern file where I knew I would come across it occasionally and indulge a long-ago dream.  Little did I know it would play a major roll in the realization of this polka-dotted dress.

It took almost eight years for me to come up with a plan for this polka dot silk fabric.  I kept envisioning a waisted, sleeveless dress with a “flowy” skirt, but I could not find a pattern I liked, either vintage or new.  I wanted to avoid darts as much as possible (that’s a story in itself for someday), which meant I needed a princess style bodice.  Many princess line bodices have side seams, but I wanted one without side seams, and with princess line seaming on the bodice back as well.  Pondering all this, I again came across my Belinda Bellville pattern above and thought maybe it would work, with a few changes. But then I noticed that the bodice was supposed to be cut on the bias. 

This pattern detailing from the instruction sheet shows the thee bodice pieces at the top of the picture. The bias is clearly marked.

After not having any success in finding any other suitable pattern, I gave it another look.  Why not cut it on the straight of goods?  It was at least worth a try in muslin, so that’s what I did.  The changes I made to it included; 1) lowering the bust line, 2) eliminating the short-waisted front of the dress and restoring it to waist level, 3) placing the front center part of the bodice on the fold, eliminating the center seam, 4) lowering the neckline just a little, 5) making the waist larger, and 6) adding some ease across the back and shoulders.  With all those changes, I had a bodice I really liked.

But then I needed to make a skirt to complement the bodice.  When I looked at the skirt pattern, I knew I needed to divide it in thirds (for one half of the width of the skirt) and match the seam lines to the seams in the bodice.  Here is what I came up with:

On the left is the one-piece tissue pattern for the skirt. Using the dart lines on that pattern helped me determine the angles I needed for my skirt.

It was about this time I got the idea to make this dress in a longer skirt rather than knee-length, which is where I usually wear my dresses.  The only question I had was – did I have enough fabric to do this?  My silk was 45” wide, and I only had two yards.  I spent at least an hour laying out and eyeballing my muslin pieces on the silk, on the floor, just to see if I could possibly accomplish this task.  I found one combination that would allow this, and took a photo so I could remember how to do it!

It literally took an entire week to work out the pattern and perfect the muslin, but then the sewing began!

As soon as I completed the construction of the bodice, including its silk organza underlining, its catch-stitched raw seam edges, with the seam allowances around the neckline and armholes appropriately tacked in place, I knew I had a bodice which was just what I had envisioned.

Somehow the skirt seams all matched up perfectly with the bodice seams and the center front inverted box pleat, which I added, looked wonderful, I thought.  I made the lining out of navy blue crepe de chine, purchased from Emma One Sock Fabrics.

When it came to under-stitching the neckline and armholes, I decided to do it in white.  It mimics the white polka dots in the fashion fabric and also was much easier to see while doing all that handwork.

Instead of a box pleat in the lining, I did two side pleats to reduce bulk in that critical tummy region!

Fortunately, for the belt, I had silk taffeta left over from two previous projects, which turned out to be a perfect match.  I did not want the belt to take away visually from the rest of the dress, so I made it a modest 1.5 inches wide.  I think it is enough to complete the look, but not overpower it. And OF COURSE I wanted to finish it off with a tailored bow.  (I am planning a post on making this tailored bow belt, so I will not go into the details of it right now.)

 

An oyster-colored clutch helps to complete the look.

This is a very comfortable dress to wear!

No attempt was made to match any dots, as the pattern was completely random. This is the hand-picked zipper. I love the fact that the navy thread shows up on the white and coral dots.

And should I need a dress coat, this one matches the belt!

While this dress was firmly in my queue for summer sewing, at the time I did my planning I was not making it for any special occasion.  However, as good fortune would have it, two unforeseen occasions are now approaching in late summer for which this dress will be perfect.  I am definitely looking forward to wearing these dots!

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Filed under Bows as design feature, Cocktail dresses, couture construction, Linings, Mid-Century style, Polka dots, sewing in silk, silk, Silk taffeta, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

“To the Most Imaginative Woman in the World”

“You see her leafing through pattern books – picking out a collar here, a cuff there, a new way of pleating a skirt . . . You see her fingering a tiny swatch of fabric, Yet she’s seeing it as a whole dress, or a blouse, or a jacket . . . Who is she – this lady with the limitless imagination? She’s the woman who sews. YOU . . .”

Most imaginative woman - Burlington-2

This is just one of many ads placed by manufacturers of fabric in the April-May 1950 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine. Ordinarily I would not have purchased this issue, as most Vogue patterns available before 1955 were not printed, and I rarely buy a vintage pattern which is not printed! My particular interest in these vintage magazines is the opportunity they provide to identify dates for patterns, fabrics and style trends, making the experience of sewing with vintage patterns (and fabrics) even more enjoyable.  However, when this issue was available in an Etsy store, I succumbed. I was born in May of 1950, and my curiosity just got the better of me.

I find the haughty expression on the cover model somewhat amusing.

An early haughty expression on a  model!

Looking at this issue made me realize how old I am… NO, NO, NO! Just kidding, I think. Actually, what really popped out at me was how exciting it must have been to be a home dressmaker at this point in time, with the home sewing business booming, post-war, and fine fashion – and the desire to look wonderful – such important aspects of a woman’s life.

And then, as I was leafing through the magazine, I found an unexpected surprise. Tucked in between two pages was Vogue Patterns April 15 Collection, an 8-page flyer, available at pattern counters and easily something that could be tossed away. I find it remarkable that this slim printed piece survived.

Most imaginative woman - flyer cover-5

The format is larger than what I am used to seeing in later Vogue pattern flyers from the 1960s and 1970s.  When one looks at the fashions and patterns detailed, it is easy to imagine the woman who picked this up, looking at it again and again.

This is one of the inside pages of the flyer.

This is one of the inside pages of the flyer.

Not only that, also tucked in with this flyer was this page from Harper’s Bazaar, March 1st, 1950.

Most imaginative woman - Harpers Bazaar

How many of you save pictures of dresses/blouses/coats you would like to copy? Pinterest, anyone? I certainly do!

Clearly she had in mind making the dress pictured on the back cover of the flyer:

"Consider them two by two - the pattern and the fabric, and you will always have a happy result." Timeless advice!

“Consider them two by two – the pattern and the fabric, and you will always have a happy result.” Timeless advice!

Some of my favorite pages in this, my “birthday” issue? I was delighted to find an ad for Moygashel linen, for which I have a particular passion:

Most imaginative woman - flyer cover-1

A lover of polka dots makes me partial to this gorgeous blouse:

Most imaginative woman - flyer cover-3

This blouse is very similar to one I made a few years ago.

And how can I resist this stunning “moulded sheath dress with a draped cascade”?

Most imaginative woman - cascade dress-4

I am so struck by the sophistication of the styling of the fashions and illustrations, the emphasis on Designer offerings, and the exciting abundance of piece goods being sold by manufacturer’s name to the home sewing population. Times and fashions change, but I believe we have much in common with these mid-century home dressmakers plotting their wardrobes with creativity and skill – pairing fabric and pattern. We are the women who sew – and are still the ones with the limitless imaginations!

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Filed under Messages from past owners of vintage patterns, Mid-Century style, Moygashel linen, Pattern Art, Polka dots, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

One Year at a Time

Let’s start with 2016. Although, truthfully, right now in January 2016, I could probably plan at least three years’ worth of sewing. That is how many patterns and fabrics I have tucked away, waiting for their turn. But it is time to concentrate on the year at hand and get on with it!

Some of the year is shaped by events that I know will be happening – such as weddings and fancy parties. Some of it will be devoted to little granddaughters who are already growing too fast for me to indulge all my sewing fantasies for them.   And some of it will be my own self-determined challenges – coats and dresses I want to make – that right now are looking like small Mt. Everests, waiting to be conquered!

I probably should be sewing right now for Spring and Summer, but I have wools that are too enticing to ignore during these current Winter months:

Wool challis on the left and vintage cashmere on the right.

Wool challis on the left and vintage cashmere on the right.

Navy and white houndstooth.

Navy and white houndstooth.

Some cute and classic cottons for little girls should be able to find themselves tucked in amongst my plans for Springtime.

The buzzy bee fabric is a vintage cotton. The blue gingham is new.

The buzzy bee fabric is a vintage cotton. The blue gingham is new.

Looking towards Spring weddings already on the calendar, I am excited for the opportunity to use this amazing printed silk for a dress and perhaps pairing it with the plain yellow silk taffeta left over from my fancy dress from last Summer.

One year at a time

I have so many vintage linens in my collection, that it is difficult to narrow down my focus, but here are four that just may see the sewing shears this year:

These are all vintage Moygashel linen.

These are all vintage Moygashel linen.

This vintage, authentic Diane von Furstenberg cotton blend knit has been calling my name for quite some time.

One year at a time = DvF

Hopefully this fabric and this pattern will finally find each other this year!

One year at a time - DvF pattern

The sewing year will no doubt end next Fall with a return to wool. The polka dotted wool is similar to the wool in a dress I made in Fall of 2015. It is from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in NYC.

As one who loves polka dots, I could not pass up this wool/silk blend fabric.

As one who loves polka dots, I could not pass up this wool/silk blend fabric.

When I purchased it, several swatches of boucle were in the package – and I was in a swoon over this blue and pink sample:

How wonderful that Pantone's two "colors of the year" - pink and blue - are the color way for this boucle.

How wonderful that Pantone’s two “colors of the year” – pink and blue – are the colorway for this boucle.

Lucky me to open a box on Christmas morning to find 2 yards of it (thank you to my dear children!) – enough for another Classic French Jacket.

2 full yards of this glorious boucle! What a wonderful gift!

Two full yards of this glorious boucle! What a wonderful gift!

Some of the patterns I might be using this year are all vintage ones that deserve attention. I tidied up the boxes where I keep my pattern collection and these just happened to be some which would NOT go back in silence, so here they are with all their wily temptations!

One of my big projects for this year is this coat.

One of my big projects for 2016 is this coat.

I have been wanting to make the dress on the right for quite a while - this may be the year it happens!

I have been wanting to make the dress on the right for quite a while – this may be the year it happens!

I really like this shirtwaist dress (a little shorter, of course) and I envision it made out of a lovely summer linen.

I really like this shirtwaist dress (a little shorter, of course) and I envision it made out of a lovely summer linen.

I think I could make either view of this dress over and over and not get tired of it.

I think I could make either view of this dress over and over and not get tired of it.

One thing I learned a long time ago is the importance of flexibility in planning my sewing year. Sometimes things happen that impede my sewing plans. Sometimes I change my mind. And always, always, I plan too much. And when (not if) that happens, there is always 2017 right around the corner.

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Diane von Furstenberg Vogue patterns, Linen, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, Sewing for children, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens, Wrap dresses

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

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

Happy New Sewing Year

“Dresses for breakfasts, and dinners, and balls;

Dresses to sit in, and stand in, and walk in;

Dresses to dance in, and flirt in, and talk in;

Dresses in which to do nothing at all;

Dresses for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall”

William Allen Butler (1825-1902) may have thought “Nothing to Wear”, from which these lines are taken, was a satirical poem, but he obviously did not know 21st century fashion sewers.  Isn’t January just the perfect time to plan for the creation of “dresses for Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall”?  Yes, thank you for agreeing with me.

Last year I took a rather theoretical approach to the new sewing year, but this year I am focusing on more specific plans.  Let me start with Winter.

I have three things that I want to complete while the snow is still flying (which gives me until the end of March, more or less):

1)  My Chanel-inspired classic French jacket is my current project, and I am happy to report that I am making slow but steady progress on it.

2) I won’t consider the jacket really complete until I have made the bow blouse that will match its lining.

3) I am excited to say that I am going to be joining one of Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing Classes in February, and my intended project is — ta-daa — this jacket which I have wanted to make ever since Vogue Patterns first issued it in the 1970s!

I will definitely be doing the color blocked version when I make this coat.

I will definitely be doing the color blocked version when I make this coat.

With any luck (or maybe lots of it will be needed), it may still be Winter when I start this project intended for an event in late April event:

I have an authentic Pucci silk from which to make the dress and line the jacket.

I have an authentic Pucci silk from which to make the dress and line the jacket.

In addition, Spring will not be complete for me until I make a dress for my granddaughter who will be 1-year-old in March.  I purchased this fabric last Fall when I was at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts.  You can imagine my excitement when I saw that the gift shop included yardage of soft, quality cotton featuring designs from his books.  I envision these little ducks embellished with yellow rick-rack.

Happy New Sewing Year - carle fabric Before Spring bids us adieu, I may divert from dresses to make another pair of slim pants in this vintage 1950s’ linen:

I only have 1 5/8 yards of this 35" wide fabric, so it remains to be seen if i can squeeze pants out of it.

I only have one and 5/8 yards of this 35″ wide fabric, so it remains to be seen if I can squeeze pants out of it.

If Summer of 2014 is as hot as last Summer (or even if it is not), I’ll be making at least two more cool, linen dresses, one sheath-style and one belted.  More on these linen fabric finds in a future post…

And a bathrobe!!  I am dying to make a swishy bathrobe!

Ah, and then comes Fall (already??), probably my favorite season of all.  I have two projects envisioned:

1) I found this stretch silk charmeuse at Mendel Goldberg Fabrics on a quick day trip to NYC in early Fall.

Another gorgeous Italian silk!

Another gorgeous Italian silk!

I bought it thinking I may use it for the lining for my No. 2 French jacket, but shortly after that I found this pattern on eBay and promptly decided it would be perfect made up in this dress (which requires a stretch fabric.  Well, it says “ knit fabrics only” but I say stretch fabric will do just fine).

This os one of the few patterns from the 1980s which I really like.  However, i will not be duplicating the hairstyle.

This is one of the few patterns from the 1980s which I really like. However, I will not be duplicating the hairstyle.

2) I’ve had this buttery soft cashmere wool for a couple of years now.  I originally thought I’d make a suit, but now I’m thinking long-sleeved dress instead.  I’m still sorting this one out in my head so I’m very glad I have until next Fall.

A subtle windowpane check in navy with deep red and ivory intersecting lines.

A subtle windowpane check in navy with deep red and ivory intersecting lines.

Sprinkled among these plans for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall will surely be more little dresses for granddaughter Aida.  I fully intend for her to have some of the cutest frocks in all of New England.

Finally, if 2013 taught me anything, it is that the unexpected is waiting around every corner.

Lots of corners lurking in this Liberty cotton!

Lots of corners lurking in this Liberty cotton!

Life can take sudden turns and twists that are not always sewing-friendly, so I plan to be kind to myself if that happens.  But wouldn’t it be nice for all of us to have the kind of year when we have the extra time to make a dress in which to do “nothing at all”?

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Filed under 1980's dress patterns, Boucle for French style jackets, Chanel-type jackets, Coats, Liberty cotton, Linen, Polka dots, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns, woolens

A modern American translation: vintage Irish linen and 1966 French design

I’m never completely sure where pattern/fabric-pairing inspiration and decision- making comes from.  I kind of imagine all kinds of synapses going on in my brain, pulling information both stored and recently learned, which enable me to visualize a particular pattern made up in a particular fabric.  Somehow, most of us who sew  know what works – or doesn’t work – and then we can proceed, or not!  Well, my brain was telling me that this ca. 1965 Moygashel linen would look great made up in this 1966 Jacques Heim-designed dress:

Congratulations to those of you who picked this fabric in my Quiz #2!

I promise this will be the last time I show this pattern evelope!

Before I actually began work on the dress, I looked up Jacques Heim in one of my favorite reference books, The St. James Fashion Encyclopedia: A Survey of Style from 1945 to the Present. “Mr. Heim’s fashion house designed and made clothes of a modest style…” (p. 186) It appears he was not a great innovator, although he was interested in many styles, and his loyalty to a ladylike interpretation of those styles gave him staying power over his 45-year career.

Vogue Patterns started featuring his designs in the early ‘50s as part of their designer series.  It was interesting to go through some of my Vogue Pattern Book magazines and see the progression of his fashions.

In chronological order, here are four examples of his work:

This dress was featured in the June/July 1957 Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

This ladylike suit was pictured in the August/September 1958 issue of the Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

Here is a Jacques Heim evening coat from the August/September 1962 Vogue pattern Book magazine.

This ensemble was one of Mr. Heim’s February/March 1963 designs. The waist on the dress has a set-in chevron-peaked belt detail. Very lovely!

The pattern I chose was actually featured in one of the free “flyers” which were available in fine fabric stores in the ‘60s.  It is dated Fall 1966.  I just happened to find this copy on eBay – no one bid against me, so I guess I was meant to have it!

I felt very lucky to find this item on eBay!  Note the hair-do.

Mr. Heim died in early January 1967, so this particular pattern must have been one of the last ones which he designed or which was designed under his name before his death.  His fashion house then only lasted for 2 more years, closing operation in 1969 .

So – now on to construction of my dress.  I made a muslin of the bodice yoke  so I could check on the neckline and shoulder line, both of which seem to be an ongoing challenge for me with these vintage patterns.  Although the neck seemed to be okay, the shoulder line appeared to me to extend a little too far out over the shoulders.   So I re-cut the pattern piece, which meant that the facing had to be re-cut as well.

I had to extend the length of the armhole facing to accommodate my changes to the shoulder line.

The pattern called for the dress to be interlined, for which I chose a lightweight linen/cotton blend.  I basted all the pieces together by hand, kind of in a grid before machine basting them together just inside the seam lines.  I also basted all the dart lines, as indicated on the pattern instructions.

Here are the “bodice/yoke” pieces shown with their underlinings.

This shows my basting stitches on the dart lines.

As I got near to the end of the construction, I was very happy that I had re-cut the shoulders, but I began to sense that the neck was going to be a problem.  After I had the facings in the armholes, I tried the dress on, and yes, the neck was tighter than I wanted it to be.  I cut off the 5/8” seam allowance on the neckline and the matching part of the facing, which made it perfect!

Here is the finished dress.

Here is the back view.

A close-up of the top of the dress. I used vintage silk thread to do the topstitching. It’s very subtle, but effective, I think, particularly in person…

I had just enough of this yellow vintage seam tape to do the neck. It makes a nice flat finish. I sometimes do the understitching on the facings by hand. If you click on the photo, you can probably see this detail. It’s time-consuming, but makes a nice finish!

Finally, for anyone who’s interested, here’s the inside story!

I really like this dress – it’s cheery, comfortable and casually dressy – what more could one ask for?

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Filed under Linen, Polka dots, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns

Quiz #2: Match the fabric to the pattern

Of all my sewing projects, which are either in the works or in the planning stages, two of them will be completed shortly. (At least I hope they will be.  Everything always seems to take longer than I anticipate…  Does anyone else find that to be true?)   However, I’m just not ready to report on either of these “almost-finished” endeavors yet.  . . . So I thought I would take this opportunity to expand a bit on my infatuation with Moygashel linen – and give you, my readers, some more beautiful vintage fabrics to see – and to allow you to imagine them all dressed up and ready to wear.

In the Vogue Pattern Book from Summer of 1957, one of the articles implores the reader to “consider the crispness of LINEN”.

This June/July issue is perfect to feature linen - it is a great fabric for Summer - cool, crisp, washable, and the perfect weight for dresses and suits.

Articles like this, and ads for linen fabrics, showcase the popularity of sewing with linen in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.  I shared a few Moygashel linen ads with you recently, and here are three more, which illustrate the range of designs and colors available to the mid-century home sewer.

This almost whimsical illustration depicts four designs of Moygashel linen. It appeared in the February/March 1958 issue of Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

This ad states: "Your precious handiwork can convert this Vogue Pattern into an heirloom, because you know that Moygashel Linen defies wear." Those words were certainly presentient! It appeared in the April/May 1953 Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

Here are four more Moygashel linens, featured in the February/March 1957 Vogue Pattern Book magazine.

I certainly decided to “consider” linen when I purchased this 1965 Vogue pattern a few months ago:

This pattern is for a paring of coat and dress, but the dress stands alone beautifully.

My intention was to make the dress only – a lovely sheath with some distinctive seaming and top-stitching.  So I went to my fabric closet to see what linens I could “consider” for a crisp Spring/Summer dress.  Here are the four that I decided to choose from:

#1 - Bright and sunny, this design is a subtle play on the polka dot theme.

#2 - The colors in this design are very 2012-current-and- fashionable!

#3 - Decorative topstitching on this solid pink linen would be quite attractive.

#4 - This geometric print is probably from the late '60s, so it would make up beautifully in a pattern from the '60s!

Which fabric would you choose for this dress pattern?  Which one do you think I chose to make into this dress?

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Filed under Linen, Polka dots, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns

Who has time for Resolutions when there is so much to be sewn?

Since my last post (before Christmas), my sewing room has gone from being Santa’s Workshop, wrapping station extraordinaire, and gift hiding space … back to SEWING ROOM (the seriousness of the subject demands the capital letters!).  All those satiny ribbons, and empty boxes (where can be found the occasional prickly tree needle or left over tissue paper), and straggly ends of wrapping paper rolls are all properly stored away for Christmas 2012, and all my sewing projects just marched out from the closets, jumped up on my work tables and are demanding attention – which I am only so happy to give!

So – here’s what’s happening:

In a switch from dressmaking, I am in the middle of making bed hangings to go on a “flying tester” (what is this??? you may ask), which will go in the master bedroom.  It’s a complicated project, which I’ve been working on for a while, and which will take a good bit longer to complete.  Once it’s done (and hanging), I’ll do a complete post on it, but here is a teaser for right now:

I have all the fabric panels and valances cut and ready to sew.  To make the pattern for the valances (these hangings will be structured ones rather than the more informal ones with gathered valances), I traced the scalloped headboard of our bed.  I copied the design exactly for the valance for the foot of the bed and added two more “scallops” to make the side valances fit the longer length properly.

This photo shows the scalloped design copied from the headboard of our bed.

Each valance will be three layers thick – the decorative fabric (Brunschwig and Fils Bird and Thistle pattern), an interlining of drapery flannel, and the lining, which is a linen/cotton blend.  This should give them the correct “heft.”

Here are the three layers for each valance. From left to right, the decorative fabric, then the flannel interlining, and the linen/cotton lining

I have cut out yards and yards of bias tape in a lovely red linen blend and will be hand-applying this tape to the three finished sides of each valance.   I know it has to be hand-sewn to look right, so beware – I may be blogging from the funny farm before I get all this done.

Because I don’t enjoy making curtains, bed hangings, pillows and such, as much as I enjoy dressmaking and personal sewing, I fit these projects in, in smaller segments of time.  My most successful trick is setting my “chicken” timer (thank you, Barby R. for giving it to me!) for 45-60 minutes once every day or two and devoting that time to these projects.  It’s amazing how much I can get done this way and it’s never overwhelming or too boring.

Here is my trusty chicken timer sitting on her big project!

Now  – on to other things.  My first personal project for January is to make a long-sleeved blouse out of that yellow and black polka dotted silk I showed you back in November.  I found this pattern, which I bought with that fabric in mind:

I purchased this 1957 pattern, thinking that View A would make up well in the polka dotted silk fabric.

Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case with buying vintage patterns, I had to buy it in a size larger than I wear, and I was also a little concerned about the kimono – or dolman – sleeves, so I made it up in muslin first.  This was a good move, as I decided I wasn’t quite ready to make up such an expensive fabric in a pattern without as much “shape” to the body of the blouse as I had envisioned.  However, I love the shape of the convertible collar.  In the meantime, I came across this pattern on Etsy:

This pattern is also from 1957. I love the tucks in the pink version, but they would not be appropriate to use with a polka dotted design. View B is constructed without tucks - perfect!

It has set-in sleeves, which I like; very petite French cuffs, which I love; a few darts to make the fit a little tidier; and it was available in my size, which takes some of the guess-work out of it.  The only thing I don’t like as much is the collar, which has a longer point than I want.  To fix that, I overlaid the one collar pattern on the other one and drew a new collar.  Voila!  I am ready to cut it out.

And – Yes, I actually do have some Resolutions for 2012 (besides all the normal ones).  For one, I’m going to use my chicken timer to help me get my kitchen cupboards and pantry shelves all cleaned and reorganized.   Cluck, Cluck!

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Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Polka dots, Uncategorized, Vogue patterns