Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Slinky Satin

I have to say I was disappointed with the new Vogue Pattern offerings.  And I would say a large part of that is because it does not contain any new vintage reproductions, but that seems to be standard for this time of year.  Then again, I do own/like a number of their contemporary designs.

Vogue 1207 is one of those.  Although now that I think about it, this was one of those patterns that I picked up after seeing a bunch of lovely versions online.  So perhaps my opinion will change . . .but I doubt it.

This project had a few false starts.  I had another fabric picked out, but the shrinkage was much more extensive than I anticipated (what is it about stretch wovens?!).  There were other remnant possibilities, but not all of the pieces would fit, not matter how creative my cutting layouts were.  And then I remembered this lovely green rayon satin that I grabbed years ago from a Bella Notte warehouse sale.

The back of this design is not very bra-friendly.  And while I am not against that, I thought this particular dress would be much more wearable if I extended the back bodice pieces.  The length was a bit short for my taste, so that was altered as well.

The last issue was making this thing stay on my shoulders.  I used some ribbon and snaps to make my own lingerie guards.  And they work perfectly!

And I finally had a chance to wear my “new” necklace!

Dress:  Made by me, Vogue 1207
Necklace:  Altered by me
Shoes:  Franco Sarto

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Classic Navy

Here is my latest Britex project!  This time around I had the opportunity to work with a lovely lightweight wool tricotine.

I will admit that about halfway through this project I was convinced that this was going to be a dud.  Suddenly I was working on the most boring dress in the world.

Thankfully, my case of the grumps departed, and I decided to stick with the project, because now I have a classic dress in a classic color.  And all of those hand rolled hems on the peplum edges were not a total waste!

I did manage to kill one of those Maxant buckle kits; the double layer of wool was just too much for the thin metal.  But Peter saved me. Along with a bunch of patterns he sent me last year, he included a vintage buckle kit.  I had some hesitation using it because the packaging is so darn cute - but I was desperate!

Once again, vintage is best!  The buckle has those little teeth that grab the fabric and a back which snaps into place (much like my favorite covered button kits).  I really wish they still made these! 

Navy goes with just about every color – especially jewel tones (which happen to be some of my favorite hues!).  I believe I am going to have to add more of this color to my wardrobe.  Suddenly I feel the need for a navy pencil skirt, and a navy blouse . . .

Dress:  Made by me, New Style 2259
Tilt Hat:  Made by me, Vogue 7657
Shoes:  Colin Stuart
Earrings:  Made by me (with buttons from Britex)
Brooch:  Vintage
Gloves:  Vintage
Purse:  Banana Republic

[The fabric for this project was received in exchange for my contributions as a Britex Guest Blogger.]

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tips & Tricks: Vintage Pattern Primer

It is probably obvious that I love my vintage patterns!  I adore reproductions, too, which are generally a little more forgiving because of the added markings and updated instructions, free of rips and strange smells.  But there is something wonderful about working with a vintage pattern that is sixty or seventy years old.  Some envelopes have written notes or postmarks, and many contain newspaper clippings, or facing pieces cut out of newsprint.  I love to imagine what the original purchaser had in mind when she picked out her pattern!

If the idea of working with a vintage pattern intimidates you, here are a few hints.

Pattern envelopes and instruction sheets are often in worse shape than the actual pattern tissue, so don’t let the outside condition dissuade you.

Check your sizes!  If you have been using a size 12 with contemporary Vogue patterns for as long as you can remember, do not expect that a vintage size 12 will fit.  Have you every heard the rumor that Marilyn Monroe was a size 16?  Well, in the 40s and 50s, a size 16 had an upper bust measurement of 34” or 32”, depending on the manufacturer.

Another thing to watch out for is seam allowances.  Do not assume that a standard 5/8” will be included with your pattern tissue.  I have come across many ½” allowance, and even a 3/8” with one pattern.  There is also a chance that side seams will have a larger allowance given for fitting adjustments.

Many vintage patterns are not printed with the familiar markings associated with contemporary patterns.  This means that you are working with a single sized pattern that has a bunch of holes or perforations scattered throughout the piece.  A quick peek at the instruction sheet will verify what is what.  

Grainline perforations are generally larger in size, sometimes two or three right next to each other.

Pieces that are to be cut on the fold are indicated by perforations as well, sometimes three in the shape of a triangle.

Square perforations that line up with an opening edge mark the placement of buttonholes.  A sleeve can also have perforations to indicate where to cut for a shorter version.

The perforations are also used to label each piece, generally with numbers, which correspond back to the instruction sheet.

I believe perforations went out of style, at least in part, because they become the weakest part of the pattern, and can tear easily (as do the triangular cutouts at the edges).  And once multi-sized pattern became popular, they were finished.  However, if you are a fan of the thread tack, they certainly make things easier!

Instructions are generally a single sheet of paper, one side with general information and cutting layouts; the other with instructions specific to construction of the garment.  And do not expect step by step diagrams – most images will include multiple steps that are numbered to indicate the order in which the pieces are put together.  But do not be discouraged - just plan on reading twice (or thrice!) and stitching once.

If the idea of working with blank tissue paper does not agree with you, there are plenty of vintage patterns that are printed.  

They are single sized, but look almost identical to contemporary patterns.

Vintage patterns assume a basic or perhaps intermediate knowledge of garment construction.  If the purchaser of the pattern did not know much about sewing basics, certainly a family member or friend would be able to help.  Today we have the internet, full of tutorials and helpful people a click away, so even if you cannot find a local sewing class, you can find answers to your questions!

Some terminology has changed.  For instance, “slide fastener” refers to the humble zipper, and “press studs” are snaps.  Many vintage side closures use those press studs in place of the now standard zipper.  Of course, substituting one for the other is easy enough!

Facings are often left off entirely, and neck and armhole edges are to be finished with bias pieces of fabric for which no pattern piece is given.

Pattern envelopes will include yardage requirements, but fabric layouts are generally multi-directional.  I prefer to cut all of my pieces in the same direction, which uses a bit more yardage.

One thing I have learned from working with old patterns is that cellophane tape and pins are the enemy.  Pins rust and create tears in pattern pieces and envelopes.  And cellophane tape becomes a sticky mess that transfers from one tissue piece to another, sometimes making it impossible to separate the pieces.  Cellophane tape is and always will be banished from my sewing room!

My personal bias aside, there is a wonderful assortment of vintage pattern goodies to be found.  Even if you do not want to look “vintage,” so many of the designs are timeless.  I hope you take a chance on some old gems and rescue them from the trash bin!

[The fabric for this project was received in exchange for my contributions as a Britex Guest Blogger.]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


For the past week, I have been cat sitting.  I grew up with cats, and while I adore my little Chihuahua, he does not purr, and I miss that.  I used to drape my cat, Buddy, over my shoulder and rest my head next to his – I could actually feel the vibration.  So comforting.  Just don’t tell Tino I said so!

Stitch counter in right hand . . .

Lucy seems to purr twenty four hours a day.  She is always waiting for me at the door, motor going strong, and will continue until I leave.  She is not a lap cat (at least with me) but will sit quietly next to me  . . . until the knitting needles come out.

Stitch counter in left hand . . .

Suddenly the kitty with the ball of yarn stereotype makes complete sense.  Because she is obsessed with the length of yarn coming out of the bag!  Not to mention the repetitive movement of the needles and the sound of the stitch counter.  My needles now have a couple of kitty teeth marks.

Ready to pounce!

And this is what Tino thinks of the whole thing . . .


Very little sewing has been done, but this sweater is coming along very nicely with a little help from Lucy!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Losing the Light

I have been working away on my latest Britex project. 

If the idea of working with this mess intimidates you, check out my latest guest post on working with vintage patterns.  My pattern choice was this New Style mail order pattern from the late 1940s.

The fabric is a wonderful light-weight navy wool tricotine.  Solid color fabrics are difficult for me, but this one has a lovely herringbone texture.  It is hard to notice unless you look very carefully, but it keeps a garment from looking flat.

I did not bother making a muslin of the entire dress for this pattern.  After measuring, it was clear that the skirt would fit. 

There was one issue, however.  The bodice back tissue was torn along the armscye.  There was a bit of guesswork to figure out what the original curve looked like with an unprinted pattern.  And I wanted to make sure that my sleeve would fit properly, so a test run was necessary.

It is a good thing I did, because the outer edge of the short sleeve was ridiculously wide.  With my lightweight material, it was going to look droopy and pathetic, just like it did in the cotton.  But the set-in sleeve went in perfectly!  I pleated the extra width out of the sleeve, keeping the sleeve head as-is.

What originally drew me to this design was the double peplum with the side draping.  Classic 1940s! 

This project has made it quite clear that I am going to have to do something about the lighting in my apartment.  Working with a fabric that is almost black was challenging!

[The fabric for this dress was received in exchange for my contributions as a Britex Guest Blogger.]

Monday, July 22, 2013

Craft Time

I found this lovely necklace at a farmers market years ago.  It was an amazing deal, and made of semi-precious stones.  I just love the braided torsade, but not the closure.

The glittery beads at the back of the necklace did not match, in my opinion – but I could still wear the necklace with my hair down.  However, those pesky beads caught in my hair and scratched the skin on my neck.

The hook and jump rings were oversized but incredibly difficult to open.  My nails are far from beautiful, but I do not enjoy tearing them to get a necklace on and off, which was happening with the clasp.  So the necklace was buried in my jewelry box for years.

Time for some crafting!  I have boxes full of beads and wires and findings, but rarely use them these days.

There was a distinct possibility that the whole thing was going to come apart as soon as I used the wire cutter to remove the clasp.  It looked like there were some crimp beads holding the torsade, and thankfully, they held everything in place!

With only an inch left of the jewelry wire to work with, I reattached the decorative cap, along with a new length of wire extending through that cap.

My first thought was to use some fluorite beads to extend the length of the piece and add a toggle closure.  But in the end, I was not happy with the way the beads I had on hand looked.

I decided ribbon was the best way to go – but, once again, had nothing that would work.  Time to make some ribbon! 

I am working on a dress from some lovely rayon satin, and realized that the fabric would work beautifully with the necklace (the dress is actually what reminded me of the necklace!). 

A width between ¾” and 1” seemed like a good size.  The fabric was folded, stitched, and turned right side out.  After a good press with the iron, my ribbon was ready.

To test out length, I grabbed a couple of ribbons and tied them to the end of the necklace.  After tying a bow, I placed a pin where I wanted the hanging ribbons to end.  When the ribbons were untied I knew just where to cut my handmade ribbon.

But now I had the problem of how to attach the ribbon.  A jump ring was not the look that I wanted.  But a loop was the only thing I could think of to attach a length of ribbon in a secure manner.

In the end, I looped my wire through a crimp bead.


My cut satin ribbons were threaded through my newly create wire loop, the raw edges tucked inside, and the ribbon wrapped around and stitched over my created loop.

The last step was to finish the other end of my created ribbon.

Now I have a necklace that I will wear and to top it off, the length is adjustable depending on the neckline of whatever I choose to wear!