Sunday, 21 August 2016

#vintagepledge - Butterick 6582 completed

Butterick 6582 done!

One thing which I forgot to mention in my post about making the bodice was the fitting alterations. I had read somewhere that the Butterick sloper (the basic shape from which all the patterns are made) is the same as the Vogue one apart from the sleeve length, so I took a chance and just applied the changes I'd make to a Vogue pattern - and this worked out fine.

The skirt was perfectly straightforward; just back and side seams, gather, and attach. The only unusual thing is that the centre front section isn't gathered, which gives the skirt a less bouffant look than something like Vogue 8789. Naturally, I added pockets in the side seams.

The centre front of the skirt isn't gathered

The only other alteration I made was to raise the V neck at the back, unnecessarily as it turned out, because I was worried that it would be too low. This then meant that I needed a longer zip.

Ah, the zip. It ages since I've made a dress with a standard, centre-back zip; either I've used an invisible zip or it's been a vintage pattern with a side opening. So to make it less obvious, I decided to hand-pick the zip. Then I had the genius idea of matching the thread to the fabric, so used brown, blue, orange and white threads. Halfway up the first side this idea was beginning to feel a lot less genius-like, but I persevered, and I think the end result was worth it.

Hand-picked zip and hand-sewn belt loops (and slightly off-centre front V!)

Then, because I just couldn't bring myself not to, I hemmed that enormously full skirt in four colours as well! Obsessive? Me?

The pattern includes instructions for a belt (without a prong or eyelets), and I decided to use one of my vintage buckles. I had quite a few of suitable colours to choose from.

Brown and blue buckles

I chose the one on the bottom right, because I liked the size and the shape.

The belt is made out of what my local fabric shop sells as 'buckram'. This isn't the same as the buckram I use for hatmaking; instead it's a tightly woven fabric, coated with stiffener/heat-activated adhesive.

Roll of belt buckram, and hat base of millinery buckram

I used the professionally made belt of the Rosalind dress to get an idea of how stiff a belt should be. In true Goldilocks fashion, one layer of buckram seemed too flimsy, while three fused together was too stiff once it had cooled (it's deceptively pliable immediately after it's been ironed), but two layers was just right. Because the buckram has adhesive on both sides it was impossible to iron the pieces together without also attaching the iron and ironing board, so I tightly wrapped the strips in a length of white cotton, and trimmed off the excess. Then I cut the end to a point and covered the belt with dress fabric, sewing it onto the cotton base along the centre back.

The belt covered in white cotton and then in dress fabric

And there you have it. Another Vintage Pledge make, and my first Vintage Sew-Along contribution (there's another one planned). I have Brocade Goddess at The Modern Mantua-Maker to thank for the neat interior; her dresses are always so beautifully finished that it's really encouraged me to up my own game.

Interior shot

To photograph the finished dress I paired it with my white net petticoat to give the skirt maximum pouf.

Big skirt, shades, and non-period-appropriate shoes

I suspect that the days for wearing sleeveless summer dresses are numbered, so my next project is more suited to autumn wear. But first I'll have to work out what fit alterations I need to make to Simplicity patterns.

Back to the 1940s with Simplicity 1777

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Making Do, and a mystery project

My friend F (of whom more in a future post) volunteers in a charity bookshop in town on Friday mornings, and if I'm around I usually pop in to see her. This must be doing wonders for Oxfam's coffers, as she has developed a sneaky habit of mentioning books she has found in new stock which I just 'might' be interested in (and she's usually right).

This is a recent example of her killer sales technique.

"I saw this, and thought of you" - gets me every time!

This was reissued as a small book by the Imperial War Museum some years ago, but I had never seen an original before. It is a 32-page booklet, with a soft cover of thicker paper. Although the paper is thin, it's far better quality than the paper used for the instruction sheets in some of my 1940s patterns.

The drawing on the next page is just visible at the top

The Make Do and Mend campaign started in 1942, and the booklet was first published the next year. Clearly although the intention was to encourage the public to get as much wear as possible out of their clothes, the information wasn't free; the 3d cover price is 53p / 68 cents in today's money.

Clothing care, mending, laundry, re-use and knitting are all covered

I'm not sure how useful some of the renovation hints actually were. There are a couple of suggestions for re-using garments which are 'worn in front', which in my experience isn't an area which actually gets worn out. In fact, one of the tips for remodelling blouses confirms this.

When the front is the only unworn part

Nowadays there is often an assumption that all women in the past could sew as a matter of course, but the fact that the booklet was published at all suggests that this wasn't the case. Similarly, the fact that the chapter on washing and ironing hints has to include the advice, 'Never iron stockings', suggests that some women were a little vague on laundry matters; perhaps they had lost their domestic help to munitions work.

The owner of this booklet seems to have taken its instructions to heart, though. When I'm sewing I often jot down measurements or alterations notes on whatever scrap of paper comes to hand (and then, all too often, lose it), and clearly I'm not alone in this habit. The back cover has been used for planning out some sort of skirt-related project, but sadly I've not been able to work out exactly what. Any ideas?

Waist and hip measurements, and something to do with diagonal folds

Some sort of skirt diagram

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Butterick 6582, the bodice

The perfect fabric for a 1960 pattern

I saw this fabric in a shop in Goldhawk Road, and knew straight away that it would be perfect for a late fifties/early sixties dress like the full-skirted version of Butterick 6582. Unfortunately I had no idea how much fabric the pattern needed, so I bought three metres, and hoped for the best.

My size actually requires 3.5 metres, but I was confident that with careful cutting out from a single layer of cloth - more work, but always an impressive fabric-saver - I could make it work.

Then I discovered that the fabric was actually 103cm / 40½" wide, not the usual 115cm / 45". Very strange (not quite the words I used when I made this discovery).

There was no way I could eke this out to cut the entire dress. Also, it's another very fine cotton, and I was worried that facings would show through. So I decided to miss out the facings altogether and line the bodice in white voile. As with the Blackbird Dress I wanted to make sure that the white wouldn't show at the edges. Unlike the Blackbird Dress, I didn't have enough fabric to cut even super-narrow facings, so I used bias strips instead.

Unusually, the skirt is cut side out sideways rather than lengthways. Fortunately the rose design is busy enough that this won't be obvious.

Cutting layout. Note the word 'sew-in' interfacing

I made the skirt a little narrower, and managed to cut out everything I needed. There was even enough spare for two pocket backs.

Showing the bodice shape

The bodice construction is unlike anything I've come across before. First, you make up the left front section. The shoulder is gathered, and the front is sewn to the facing along the full length of the front, and the bottom part of the armhole. Then the piece is turned right way out.

The armhole is stitched up to the green arrow

The left front is then basted onto the main front.

Ready to baste together

The facing is attached next, which should encase the raw edge of the seam across the front. The facing is much shorter than the bodice front, and narrower at the right shoulder because it isn't gathered. I had to frankenpattern my front lining out of the the facing and bodice front pieces. I then decided that iron-on interfacing would work much better than sew-in with the full length lining. I also spent ages carefully shaping the bias strips around the neckline and armhole, and basting them into place.

Can you tell what has gone wrong here?

This was when I discovered that, it being August, my brain had decided to go on holiday without me. I had diligently constructed the lining the wrong way round, and because I had used iron-on interfacing I couldn't simply unpick it. Gah.

So, I made lining number two. Turns out that my frankenpatterning was a bit off, and it's a slightly too short in the centre. Fortunately I just happen to have a spare lining piece, so I can add a strip from that to pad it out!

Close, but not quite right

The completed front section

The backs are made the same way, and because they are symmetrical, even with my brain away sunning itself on a beach somewhere I couldn't go wrong.

Back section, front and lining

Now comes the clever bit. You open out the shoulder section of the front and back, and sew them together. Right across the main dress and the lining.

Shoulder seam sewn together

Then you fold in the raw edges, and slip stitch the remaining section of the armhole.

With the armhole finished

Sew up the side seams, again sewing the dress and the lining in one continuous line of stitching. And then you have a beautifully neat bodice.

Bodice complete

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The University Chapel Project - July 2016 update

Oops! Amid all the excitement around getting my Vintage Pledge entry done, and then trying to make a summer dress while it was still "summer" (calendar-wise, if not temperature-wise), I nearly forgot to post this.

At the dedication service, image © University of Chester

The latest meeting of the Chapel Stitchers was on 8 July. After the push to get the altar frontal finished, this was a chance to review other progress so far, and work out what still needs to be done. All four of the burses are complete, apart from adding some details to the cream one to make the cross stand out from the background. The top cloths for the altar are also made up. Kath has finished the green chalice veil and will do the remaining three (red, cream and purple), while I will make the green stole.

Because we are now making both a pulpit and a lectern fall for each communion set, we need three more pairs of hands. Sharon and Barbara are currently working on this (I was going to say 'have it in hand', but decided against it!).

Obviously we hope that the frontal will be part of Chapel for a long time to come, so it was agreed that our names should be recorded on it. Kath gave out pieces of fabric for us to embroider with our signatures (or name, if your signature is illegible!), and these will then be attached to the back of the frontal. Christine is also going to embroider the phrases which inspired her design.

The kneelers are coming on apace, and we agreed on the cross design which will appear on the sides.

The next meeting will be at noon on Friday 16 September, in the usual room.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Hello Blackbird

(Of course it should be, Bye Bye Blackbird, but that doesn't really work as a post title!)

New Look 6723, aka the Blackbird dress, is finished.

Finished at last!

Once I'd finished wrangling the zip, it was pretty straightforward. Because I couldn't find any lining remotely the same colour as the fabric, I'd just used white. But then I worried that it would show at the edges, so added narrow facings around the neck and armholes. This was more work in terms of sewing down the edges, which I did by hand, but it gave a neat finish.

All neat and tidy at the front

Slight mismatch at the back, but I can live with it

I also added in-seam pockets because, well, pockets. I used the pattern in Vogue Sewing, and went for the version which is sewn into the waistband rather than just hanging loose.

The joy of pockets

I decided that the dress would hang better with a belt, but couldn't find a suitable buckle, so just made a tie belt the width of one row of trees.

Simple tie belt

The hem was done by my usual method; overlock the edge, then turn it up once and hand sew into place.

I really like the neckline on this dress - unfortunately I didn't think to put my hair up, so it's not all that clear. This is definitely a 'make again' pattern.

I can see this getting worn a lot

Next it's back to vintage, and my first go at a pattern featured in the Vintage Sew-Along; Butterick 6582.

Coming soon (I hope)

Sunday, 17 July 2016

It's been that kind of week

You know, THAT kind

So there I was, trying to get the blackbird dress finished for a friend's birthday party. The bodice is lined, with the sort of lining which you sew on round the neckline and armholes and then pull through, so that all the edges are neatly finished. I'd never tried this before, but was pleased with the end result.

The zip should be put in towards the end, but because I was using an invisible zip I decided to do this step earlier. So I attached the skirt backs with about 2.5cm / 1"of stitching, and put in the zip. Then I laid the dress out flat.

All was not well (see top left)

There was a twist in the left shoulder of the bodice. I thought that I'd just zipped it up wrongly, so undid the zip and turned the left back though, so that the shoulder was flat. And got this.

All was even less well

I'd managed to twist the zip while in the process of setting it in, and the only solution was to unpick one side completely and start again. While on a very tight deadline.

And the really annoying thing? I've got form in this area. I've made exactly the same mistake before, with the Vegas Night dress back in 2012. Which coincidentally I was making to go on a night out with the same group of friends. On an even tighter deadline.

Lesson learned - if going out with these friends, do not try to make a new dress! I wore New Look 6070 instead.

On the plus side, I can now reveal the Secret Sewing Project. Earlier in the year I was thrilled to be asked if I'd contribute something to this year's Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge 2016. The result was the 'Rosalind dress'; Butterick 6877 in a fabulous double-helix print cotton.

The secret's out!

The full details are on Marie's A Stitching Odyssey blog here. It had its moments, many of them involving pattern matching, but I'm really pleased with the end result. A huge thank you to Marie and Kerry for the invitation.

The Rosalind dress

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Pattern possibilities

When I was telling my friend A about my upcoming studies, she asked if there was going to be a practical element; would I be making up some vintage patterns as part of my Masters? That's not part of my current plan, but when I was working on the Secret Sewing Project (details coming soon) I was aware that some of the pattern instructions were very different from what I'd expect from a modern, Big-4 pattern. This got me thinking that it might be interesting to make up a selection of patterns from different periods in the twentieth century and see what, if anything, has changed over the years.

So more as eye candy for now than a definite project, here are some possibilities.

The choice wasn't hard to narrow down here, as I currently only own two 1920s patterns. There is no date on them (a common theme throughout my vintage pattern collection), but they both make reference to a 1923 patent, so must be later than that.

Sensible separates . .

. . . and a luxurious evening coat

I've got a bit more choice here.

The 1930s was probably the high point of unrealistic pattern envelope illustration, so these drawings need to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

No-one is that shape

I can't imagine ever wearing this outside the privacy of my own back garden, but it would be fun to make!

The onesie, Art Deco style!

Until recently I'd never come across Du Barry patterns, but all of the ones I've seen so far I've really liked. This would involve a lot of redrafting to make it my size, but I think would be worth the effort.

The frilled edge is too apron-y for me, but I like the plain version

I know there was a war on, but this is a truly minimalist pattern, lacking even facings. I'm intrigued as to how it would actually make up.

Just four pattern pieces?


From no facings to what are very probably the Facings From Hell. One day, when I am feeling supremely calm, I want to have a go at this.

Looks like an ordinary blouse, but wait . . .

Just look at those pattern pieces.

Yes, I am slightly insane. Why do you ask?

I cannot lie, I'm a sucker for 1950s sheath dresses. The way the curve of the bodice edge carries on into the left pocket really makes this dress for me.

The perfect curve

Also Vogue, but far simpler. I'm not keen on the stripes, but I love the black and white version.

Sunglasses practically a requirement

Equally simple-looking is this archetypal 1960s dress with interesting back detail.

Realistically, I'm not sure if this shape would do me any favours

And we're into what are for me the 'Style Years'. The latter part of the 1970s was when I started making my own clothes. Style patterns were far and away my favourites, and I used them a lot. And then I threw most of them out in a clearout - sigh.

Wraparound skirt in three lengths

Late 1970s does 1940s revival

There is a whole separate post to be written about my enduring, if slightly guilty, love of some 1980s fashions (please note the word 'some').

This pattern is undated, but various online vendors are selling it as a 1980s pattern. I bought it from George Henry Lee (now sadly renamed John Lewis) in Liverpool, but never made it up.

Better late than never

I cannot be clear enough on this point. I may have worn dresses like this in the 1980s but I never, ever had hair like this! I'm not even sure if it's physically possible without poking your finger in a socket.

Nice dress, shame about the hair

I only own one pattern from the 1990s. Having just Googled '1990s dress patterns', I think I know why. I absolutely loved the dress I made from this pattern, though, and it's a strong favourite to make again.

One of my favourite makes ever