Sunday, 23 February 2014


After last week's trauma, the fate of Vogue 2859 hung in the balance/over the bin for a couple of days, as I tried to decide whether a) my brain could be sufficiently un-fried to make sense of the pattern instructions, and b) the project was worth any more of my limited time.

In the end, curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to know just how those weirdly shaped pieces came together, and especially, how the twisted scarf section at the front neck was done.

As with the 1930s dress and peplum for the 'Green' challenge, tacking the different pattern markings; small circle, large circle, triangle and square, in different colours was a massive help when trying to join various bits together.

Most of the photographs I took along the way don't really make things any clearer, so here's the blouse front piece, and an explanation of the first few steps of the construction instead.

Piece for blouse front, sleeve and scarf

The centre front/scarf section is reinforced with a scrap of silk organza. To my mind the instructions for this are a bit sketchy, so I was relieved that it was a technique I used previously, on the sleeve gussets of the Vegas Night dress.

The 'shoulder seam' is actually a dart.

The pattern information describes the sleeves as 'kimono at front and raglan at back'. The back piece joins to the front along the top edge, and the back sections overlap each other.

There are a few tricky joins, and a lot of narrows hems sewn on bias edges. In the end I did the main seams by machine, but for anything complex went with what has become my mantra since starting the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenges: if in doubt, sew it by hand!

The scarf particularly intrigued me, so here it is, step by step.

On the right scarf, turn in the lower edge by 1.5cm / ⅝", baste and trim. Sew a narrow hem at the end.

Right scarf, showing organza reinforcement

On the left scarf, turn in the upper edge by 1.5cm / ⅝", baste and trim. Sew a narrow hem at the end.

Left scarf

Pin the unfinished edges together, right sides together, and stitch. Do not press the seam open. I did so initially, but then discovered that it did the finished look no favours whatsoever, so had to turn the finished scarf inside out to press the seam flat again.

Raw edges placed together

Slipstitch the basted edges together, wrong sides together.

Ready to slipstitch the basted edges, wrong side

The end result should be a twisted fabric tube.

The completed scarf, right side

The ties are attached to the ends of the back pieces. Because I had shortened the pattern along the alteration mark at the bottom of the front and back pieces, the tie was much wider than the piece it was to be sewn to, so I had to pleat it slightly. There is a fabric bound buttonhole near the side seam in the left back piece, through which the right tie passes.

So here is the completed blouse.

Front view

Side view

Close-up of shoulder, showing dart, back seam and scarf

Back view

What the flash photography doesn't show is that the fabric is thinner than I had realised, and so the blouse will need something underneath to keep it decent. The perfect excuse to make a 1930s camisole! And the 'Bodice' challenge is coming up!

Another problem is that I made my usual adjustment to a Vogue pattern, shortening it by 5cm / 2". However what I hadn't taken into account is that there is no skirt to add weight and pull the waistline down a bit. If I make this again, I will make it slightly longer.

On the plus side, I took the Dreamstress' advice about reissued vintage patterns, and made it up a size smaller than I would usually use. Apart from the length, the result is a perfect fit. Thanks Leimomi!

The small print:
The Challenge: Pink.
Fabric: Washed satin fabric of unknown but man-made composition (my local fabric shop isn't too good on labelling!)
Pattern: Vintage Vogue 2859.
Year: 1935
Notions: Thread
How historically accurate is it? The pattern is a re-issue of a Vogue 1930s design, construction is accurate for the period, and synthetic fabric was a possibility by that date, so about 80%.
Hours to complete: About 10 (way too much of which was spent trying to decipher the instructions).
First worn: Not yet. However I will have to wear it outdoors, and take pictures, so I can post some accurate images of the colour.
Total cost: Fabric £3.89, thread £1.60, pattern from stash, so £5.49.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Move along now please, nothing to see here

For the first time, I find myself blogging about the fact that I've got nothing to blog about!

The current Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge is Pink. This is the third challenge of the year, but the first one that I've attempted ('attempted' being the key word here). I've been very lax about posting links to the previous challenges: you can see the entries for Challenge 1, Make Do & Mend, here and here; while the entries for Challenge 2, Innovation, are here and here.

So, back to Pink. This is a challenge in itself, as pink is not a colour I wear very often. But after the fitting saga that was Vogue 8686 I wanted to make up another Vintage Vogue pattern, and try out The Dreamstress' suggestion of making it in a smaller size than normal. So, making the blouse from Vogue 2859 seemed like a quick project (ha!), and an easy (double ha!) way of easing myself back into HSF sewing.

Vogue 2859 blouse detail, front and back

I bought a fine washed satin in a pretty coral colour (it's nothing like the vibrant pink in the photograph below, blame the flash on my camera for that), shortened the pattern, and set to work. The first sign that all was not well came before I had even laid on a pattern piece. The fabric length was cut on the straight grain at one end, but cut very squint indeed on the other, so I tore it to get the straight grain at both ends. The piece I tore off is at folded at the bottom left of the picture below, so you can see just how squint it was.

When I folded the fabric in half, I discovered that one side was longer than other! The selvedges were a bit puckered, so I snipped into them to loosen any tightness in the weaving, but to no avail. Then I cut off selvedges altogether and removed any odd odd warp threads, so the piece was exactly straight on all four sides. Despite this, it was still 1.3m long on one side and 1.34m long on the other. Very odd.

Instead of taking this as an Awful Warning, I carried on. The pattern only has four pieces; front, back, two long rectangles for the tie belt and a small buttonhole facing. There are no other facings. As with Vogue 8686 however, there are some very strange shapes.

Blouse front (top), back (bottom right), and torn-off fabric

Well, I don't know if I'm having a particularly dense weekend, but this pattern seems to be entirely beyond me. The instructions don't make sense, and the pattern illustrations bear no resemblance to the part-made garment in front of me. So I'm putting down my scissors and stepping away from the worktable for a bit.

However, as one picture of garish pink fabric does not a decent blog post make, here are some pictures of various dresses (well, mostly dresses) in various shades of pink that I have seen in my travels.

1830s cotton dress, Snibston Discovery Museum

Unfinished 1860s day dress, Fashion Museum, Bath

!908 silk day dress, Macclesfield Silk Museum

1920s dress, Alexandre Vassiliev Collection

1920s dress (detail), Alexandre Vassiliev Collection

1920s dress, Fashion Museum, Bath

1937 Schiaparelli evening coat (detail), Victoria and Albert Museum

1942 dress, Snibston Discovery Museum

1950s evening dress, Fashion Museum, Bath

Mid 1950s Horrockses cotton dress

Horrockses housecoats

Late 1940s Horrockses cotton sunsuit

Late 1940s Horrockses cotton sunsuit

1960s Fortnum and Mason evening dress, Fashion Museum, Bath

1960s Hardy Amies evening dress, Fashion Museum, Bath

Shoes, Fashion Museum, Bath

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Granny's collar

Granny T, my mum’s mum, died when I was very young, and so I never really knew her. Granddad T died when I was ten, and when we were clearing the house we found a drawer full of Granny T’s sewing stuff at the bottom of a wardrobe. In there was a partly-made collar of bias tape and ric-rac, tacked onto a sheet of brown paper. Some of the pieces had been sewn together, and clearly the idea was that once all the strips had been attached to each other, the tacking could be removed.

I was fascinated by this, and kept it for a while. I never stitched any more of it however, and it must have been thrown away in a clear-out. I always remembered the idea though, and recently decided to give it another try.

For the dress I stuck with tried and trusted New Look 6000. The look was to be all about the collar, not the dress, so I wanted something simple. For the fabric I turned to my hefty stash of dress weight cotton remnants.

The fabric - duck-egg blue with cream, gold, brown and grey motifs

The collarless neckline of the pattern was slightly wider than I wanted, so I redrafted it.

New Look 6000, view E

Then I laid the front over the back at the shoulder seam to get the full neckline curve from centre front to centre back, and drafted a collar shape.

The collar pattern

Next I cut the collar out in thin card.

Made into a template

And drew round it onto a piece of brown paper, taking care to mark the front and back.

The collar base

I bought ric-rac and satin bias binding in colours as close as I could find to the colours in the fabric, plus some beige lace to put over the cream binding. Then I tacked alternating strips of the binding folded in half and the ric-rac onto the brown paper. The ends overlapped what would become the top edge of the collar. I worked on both sides of the collar at the same time, rather than make one complete side and then the other. If you don't work this way, then the second side always looks much better than the first. (Trust me, I learned this the hard way on a much earlier project!)

The first rows of binding and ric-rac

Once everything was tacked on, starting from the outer edge, I sewed the ric-rac to the binding where the edges met, and also overcast the folded edges of the binding together.

The full set, first attempt

It was only when I came to the innermost row of cream binding that I realised I had a problem. The collar was deeper than the rows of ric-rac and binding, so the inner edge of the binding did not meet the inner edge of the collar.

The gap between the collar inner edge and the binding

I took out that row of binding, and marked the inner edge of the collar with pin holes.

The inner edge marked with pin holes

Then I pressed a new piece of satin binding first flat, and then in half. I pinned the binding in place against the ric-rac, and then tacked along the pin holes marking the inner edge.

The replacement binding tacked down (sorry it's so hard to see)

Then I attached the beige lace along the tacking line.

The completed collar, still on the paper

Once all the strips were sewn together, I took a deep breath, unpicked the tacking, and removed the collar from the paper. It all stayed together! Then I pinned the collar onto the dress, and attached the facing along the inner edge of the lace.

Dress, front view

Collar close up

Dress, back view

I wasn't sure how well (or even, if) this was going to work when I started, but I'm really pleased with the end result. I've no idea where Granny T got the idea from, but I'm glad that she tried it, and kept the unfinished result.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Spot the difference



I’ve been meaning to do this for ages. Every time I posted a photograph of something on the dress form, I winced slightly at the messy, door-infested backdrop. So, a few weeks ago I got a pole put up, and now have a curtain to provide a suitable neutral background to my creations.

Normally when I make curtains, I make them far fuller than this. However because the main purpose of this one is as a backdrop, I didn’t want it heavily pleated. Plus, most of the time it will be pulled back while I’m working, and I didn’t want a bulky curtain taking up a lot of space.

I did add a lining however, I just couldn’t bring myself to omit it! I used a thin cotton instead of normal curtain lining, so it looks neat on the back and adds a bit of body, but not too much.

The curtain opened, it tucks away nicely

Backdrop curtain done, I turned my attention to the rest of the room. The chair I use for my overlocker table had a red/pink seat which was totally out of synch with the colour scheme of the rest of the room.

The original chair

This chair is one I acquired when my parents replaced their old dining suite. When I unscrewed the seat and turned it over, I discovered that Mum had already recovered the seat at least once, because I recognized the black fabric covering the raw edges. It was cut from a dress that I had made in the 1980s; a Vogue pattern with two deep inverted pleats down the front, a tie belt, and a large, square collar - Mum always referred to it as my "gymslip dress"!

Fabric blast from the past!

I had found the perfect remnant in my local fabric shop, and prepared to get busy with the staple gun. I had to be careful with the initial positioning, to get the stripes running straight front to back, but after that it was straightforward.

The transformed chair

The chair is just a little too low, so is padded out with a couple of cushions, also red/pink. I had hoped to make new covers for them as well this weekend, but ran out of time.

Cushions - a future project