Simple Luxury – a Fleece 1943 House Coat

Some house coats are fancy, some are like wraps.  Some have coat-like lapel flaps.  Mine is of fleece and quite fine, perfect for lounging after I dine.  With fabric on hand so counted as free, what better way to sew for me!

Ooops, didn’t mean to write poetry here – this just came to me and I didn’t have the heart to delete it.  But anyway…yes, this post’s house coat is a true WWII time fashion, with outdoor coat-like features.  To keep things simple to make, easy to care for, and quite warm, I used an embroidered fleece (bought about 10 years back) for the best of both modern and vintage in one quick and nicely practical project.  This is perfect chill buster that’s almost as lofty and insulating as a real coat.  That’s why I went for the short sleeves so as to not be too toasty!

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I really needed a housecoat so this was one of the few actually necessary sewing projects.  I use this so frequently it’s darn awesome.  Practical sewing is so often neglected but the reward is the frequent consciousness and subsequent pride in having something you use on a daily basis be an item you made with your own hands.  With many practical items which are used on a regular basis taking only a handful of hours to make (my underwear, my denim skirt, my 40s jeans, hubby’s pajamas, this housecoat), the only roadblock is just dedicating a tad more time to sew these in my queue of projects.

This is part two of my Simple Luxury posts of my sewn vintage nightwear.  Part one was my year 1940 bias nightgown (post before) which you can see under my housecoat.

THE FACTS:100_4675a-compw

FABRIC:  2 and ¼ yards of 100% polyester, lofty and thick periwinkle fleece which has floral vine stitching across it

PATTERN:  Simplicity #4759, year 1943

NOTIONS:  All that I needed was on hand – the bias tape, the thread, the notions.  The buttons are vintage (they have a very unique feel to them) from the stash of hubby’s Grandmother.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  In all, from cutting to wearing, this took me about 3 hours in total.  The housecoat was finished on February 27, 2015.

TOTAL COST:  When something is in my stash for about 10 years, well, I’m counting it as free.

I went bare bones for the construction thanks to the fleece – no facings, no lining, no edge finishing needed.  What helped is following the guide for how to make the night gown with quilting (which I definitely want to try).  Most vintage original 1940’s nightgowns I see for sale are quilted, but a few yards of that kind of material can break a gal’s budget in one pop!  So if I ever find some cheap enough I’ll make my own 40’s style quilted housecoat but ’til then, this fleece version is plenty good!

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The size of the pattern was already big for me, but I didn’t grade down because I figured a roomy fit would be comfy.  I was correct!  I know patterns for jackets, coats, and such outerwear account for the finished garment being worn over other clothes, but I like the bigger fit.  My fleece is lofty enough to fill in for some of the excess ease.  Besides – the slight slop-room in the shoulders together with the trio of darts at the sleeve caps makes this housecoat have a very strong WWII look about it!

I find it interesting how the front is smooth and streamlined with darts while the back has the traditional 40’s bodice pouf at the waistline (courtesy of box pleats).  I love the enormous pocket!

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My housecoat’s length is in between the short and the long options – it was whatever I had room for with what fabric I had to work with (just over 2 yards).  The bias tape around the outer edges of the collar, sleeve hems, and closing edges serves the dual purpose of slightly stiffening and supporting, besides being just for decoration and using up a remnant on hand!  Perhaps the bias tape around the edges is a pitiful half-hearted attempt at a fully nice finish, but with the nightgown taking only 3 hours, the bias tape is my easy last step to adding something extra to a very easy project!

100_6248a-compwI adapted in many ways to “make-do” like a 40’s war-time seamstress.  The tie closure inside is two of those free ribbons soaked in fragrance that employees of the perfume counters hand out to you as you walk through department stores.  I’ll bet you they would never think that what (to them) is only an advertising attempt to sell expensive brand perfume would became a thrifty seamstress’s answer to a project need!  The ribbon for the button loops is something that came off of a package, for even more “re-use and re-cycle”.  I choose ribbon loops as I was loathe to attempt buttonholes in the fleece, not knowing how or if they would turn out.  Using loops gave me an opportunity to use smaller buttons anyway so I could add on these amazing vintage ones in an odd-ball set of three.

Please treat yourself and possibly make your own sleepwear.  It is easier than you think, and though the general public might not see it (unless you blog about it like me), YOU are worth it!  Now don’t get me wrong, others are worth it, too…speaking of, I did promise my 4 year old son a fleece house coat coming soon.  So here’s to those easy but practical projects that might not be high on the “looking awesome” list but get the most love!  Have you made yourself any night time clothes or lounge wear?

Next, will be part three for a full regimen of nighttime for a 40’s gal.  I’m trying to decide how to do my hair tutorial.  Do I attempt a video, or just present a series of pictures that we’ve already taken?  I did spend some time as radio announcer, but that still means I’ve never really liked hearing my own voice.  We’ll see.  What is best for everyone to understand?  What are your preferences?

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‘Gene Tierney’-esqe 1940’s Lumberjack Shirt and Trousers

It’s way too fun to let myself give in to my strong tendency to do pretty dresses.  With the weather turning chilly, I could use something different that isn’t quite so dressed up to keep me cozy.  So, now that I’ve been recently realizing the beauty of 1940s casual wear, through the inspiration of actresses Gene Tierney,  Ava Gardner, and Hayley Atwell (a.k.a. Agent Peggy Carter), I took two mid-40’s vintage original patterns from my stash to make my own downtime wear from the past.  There is something a bit timeless, tasteful, and special about a set of “down-time” clothes made in vintage style that modern ready-to-wear cannot have.  The 1940s can make wearing a man’s style look so ladylike!

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1946 is the magic year for my blouse.  Not only is it the year for the pattern of my blouse, but it is also the year of my inspiration.  Gene Tierney wears a lovely flannel shirt in her Noir movie “Leave Her to Heaven”.  Once I’d seen this movie, it has tendency to gene-tierney-leave-her-to-heaven-year-1946-see-classiq-me-style-in-filmcropuncomfortably stay in back of my mind and the fashions are equally memorable in a better way.  Luckily this movie was specially made in color (a rather special practice for the times) and I was so happy to find a plaid in a shockingly close color scheme.  Ava Gardner also wore a nice flannel blouse in her gritty part in another 1946 movie “The Killers”, as also did Paulette Goddard in the 1948 movie “Hazard”, though as both films are in black and white I don’t know the true colors.  You can visit my Pinterest page for “Ladies Lumberjack Blouses in the 1940’s” to see pictures of all movie inspiration mentioned for this blouse, as well as others, too.

peggy-and-sousa-promotional-imagecompBoth actresses Tierney and Atwell wore perfectly fitting bifurcated bottoms in colors, as did Marvel’s television heroine Peggy Carter.  They all put the “class” into “classic”.  Peggy wears such wonderful trousers during the exercising of her duties on the job, and although the inspiration garment came from her Season Two (year 1947), she is often stuck in the past.  Thus I feel using a pattern from an earlier date (1943) suits appropriately.  My spin on feminine menswear from the 40’s is completed with nail polish (Cover Girl XL nail gel in “rotund raspberry”), red lipstick (Cover Girl Continuous Color in “vintage wine”), my sole Bakelite bracelet, and a simple ponytail!

THE FACTS:mccall-6709-year-1946-ladies-lumberjack-shirt-compw

FABRIC:  BLOUSE – 100% cotton flannel, with cotton batiste scraps for lining the shoulder placket; PANTS – a mid-weight denim, 60% cotton, 36% polyester, and 4% stretch.

NOTIONS:  I relied on what was on hand and actually had everything I needed – the thread, interfacing, bias simplicity-4528-ca-year-1943-compwtape, zipper, waistband hooks, shoulder pads, and buttons (which came from hubby’s grandmother’s stash).   

PATTERNS:  McCall #6709, year 1946, for the shirt (view B belt looks like the modern Vogue #9222) and Simplicity #4528, year 1943 for the pants

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The pants took me about 5 hours in all from start (cutting) to finish, which was on March 4, 2016.  I spend maybe 30 or more hours to make the flannel shirt, and it was done on April 27, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  The denim of the pants was too thick to add more bulk with edge finishing, so they are left raw.  The shirt is nicely finished in either French seams or bias bindings.

TOTAL COST:  The denim was on clearance when the now defunct Hancock Fabrics was closing, so it cost maybe $6 for only 2 yards.  The flannel came from Wal-Mart and cost $7.50 for 2 ½ yards.  So my outfit cost less than $15 – good deal, huh?!

The shirt was a bit of a time consuming trouble to do all the details while the pants were so easy and quick.  Both the patterns fit me right out of the envelope no changes and no real fitting needed…it’s so nice when that happens!  A decent number of the 40’s patterns run small for me so I went up in size for the trousers to have a good comfy fit, especially as I was planning on tucking my thick flannel shirt in the waist.  Lumberjack shirts are often roomy, so I actually went smaller by finding a pattern in my exact sizing and making wider seam allowances.  Both steps were good ideas though the pants are a tad baggy when worn with lighter weight blouses.

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My flannel blouse served as an experimental piece on which to attempt two techniques for the first time before doing them on some upcoming projects.  As the back has a separate shoulder placket, and I did not have enough fabric to do something special (like mitering the plaid into V), I made my very own corded piping using self-fabric to make sure that dsc_0236a-compwseam has a special touch.  Making my own piping was not hard – it was fun actually!  All it took was a little extra time but is so worth it in the finished appearance.  I even cut the strip of fabric for the piping on the bias for more contrast.  See – the plaid is cross-grain.  Also, I found out how to do sleeve openings with a pointed over-and-underlapped placket.  They turned out great, but now I know what to do better next time.  Making these plackets became challenging with the flannel becoming so thick with multiple layers in one small spot, and they were barely all my machine could handle to sew.  I really do love the look of this kind of placket – so professional and finished looking, and special, too, as it was also cut on the cross-grain!  I can’t wait to try out these two techniques again.

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Most of the other skills that were needed to make my flannel blouse had already been done for my hubby’s 1943 flannel shirt as well as my “Saddle and Lace” Western-style tunic. This shirt has the collar stand all-in-one with the collar (like the tunic), a favorite feature of mine.  This makes for a smooth and unfussy neckline besides making it a bit less extra seaming to make.  My hem is arched into the side seams, shirt-tail style, though it is lacking a small patch at the inner arch, like what hubby’s shirt has.  On my shirt, the patch pocket (yes, just one) with the flap closure was every bit as stressfully detailed to match as last time I made them on my hubby’s shirt.  Just because I’ve done some techniques before doesn’t mean I like doing all of them any better for sewing them again 😉

dsc_0423-compcombowThe buttons on my shirt are vintage, as I said they come from the stash given to us of hubby’s Grandmother, but what era I’m not sure.  These buttons came in the number I needed, but they are also tiny and feminine, which is exactly what I wanted for the shirt, although they do kind of make it hard to button through the thick flannel.  The buttons had been coated with an imitation pearl stuff, but as most of it was coming off anyway, I used a pocket knife to take all of the coating off to have the buttons be a creamy white as you see them.  They are all kind bumpy on top with three small hills on each.  Does anyone have any idea what era these are from?

The shoulders are a bit droopy and I think they are meant to be like that but I did try todsc_0430a-compw prevent an extreme case.  I sewed the top shoulder seam in a ¾ inch seam allowance but as the sleeve was still over-long for my arm, I also made the cuffs in half the width they were meant to be.  Thin cuffs do look a bit different but I think this is a good save versus having the sleeves end up looking way too big for me.  I also added thick ½ inch shoulder pads inside the shirt to further structure the blouse’s silhouette, because the droopy sleeves fit better with them and also…this is the 1940’s after all!  Out of everything else on the shirt, it’s the shoulder pads that make me feel like this shirt is more like some sort of loose, unlined jacket.  I find it so funny how ginormous thick shoulder pads fit in so well with 1940’s fashion, they actually look good, and fit in to the garment’s style so well.  You’d never have guessed huge shoulder pads were in there, would you?

My trousers are so freaking awesome, I can’t praise true 1940’s high-waisted pants enough.  My last attempts were done using reprints of old patterns from Simplicity, and although they turned out decently enough, they seem modern and pale in comparison to the real vintage thing.  The reprints (especially Simplicity 3688) don’t have a proper vintage high waist, good crouch depth, and proper hip room that this old trousers pattern has to it.  The envelope back calls the set “pajamas” but I technically think that this set of tunic blouse and trousers is actually like a house outfit, probably worn as an option to the house dress.  Regular ‘blouse and slacks’ vintage original patterns for women seem to sell for more than I can reasonably spend, so this pattern is my affordable substitute.  The design is probably a bit more simplistic than an-outside-the-house pair of slacks, but they fit me better than I could have ever hoped for so that’s reason enough for them to deserve to be worn to be seen!

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The only small thing I did change was to transform a full dart out of the pattern’s prescribed knife pleat.  Just to be on the safe side, I added about 2 inches to the hem of the pants, but as they turned out, I didn’t need that extra length, so they have a very wide hem – no so 1943 at all when excess fabric like this would have been a waste not allowed by the war rations.  Next pair (yes, I am definitely making another) will not have the added length and wide hem – the pattern is just fine for me the way it is.  I have found a body match in this 1943 pants pattern.dsc_0306-compw

My trousers have seen so much use since I finished them, but here’s a different perspective yet.  I think they looked best the way I styled them to wear to our town annual WWII re-enactment weekend several months back.  I wore my white scalloped front blouse with the trousers, a leather belt which matched my studded wedge leather sandals, pearls, clip-on earrings, and a netted snood I my hair.  A re-enactor told me he thought I looked like I was dressed up like I was a French civilian.  My hubby can be seen in his recent lucky find of a never worn, Eisenhower-style, military suit set (just need to hem his pants…).  These service suits were being worn on limited personnel in 1943, but became standard issue after November 1944, so he and I are not too far off in time frame.  If I am re-enacting a French civilian, maybe I can play the part of the bride that he met while serving the European front of the war.

Do you, too, have some “inspiration icons”?  Do you sew your own casual wear, weather vintage or modern?  Have you, like me, happened to find a magic pattern that seems as if it was meant for your body?

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  Here’s to best wishes for good eats, good times, and good memories!

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1943 Overalls for My Little Man

Our son is now old enough to really understand exactly what mommy does in front of those stitching machines, so with a vintage pattern on hand he now can also share in my handmade goodness.  The overalls were quite easy and fun to make and I think (so does he) that they turned out so well!  Besides, I’m quite pleased to make something out of the ordinary, yet vintage, and supremely useful, all at the same time.

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My best reward ever is how he is so proud and happy to wear them!  “Mommy made them!” he loves to announce of his own accord to anyone he meets while wearing them.  He even asks to wear them, which will not be all that much longer because he’s growing tall and fast – cuffs to the pants’ hem might be in order at some point to extend their wearing.  It looks like, at this rate, he will probably be receiving another pair for summer made in denim from me…I don’t think he’ll mind at all and neither will I 😉

THE FACTS:  butterick-2744-year-1943-envelope-front-comp-w

FABRIC:  small wale 100% cotton corduroy in a dark, dusty forest green color and a 100% cotton tan printed corduroy

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread, snaps, buttons, and hook and eyes – all of which I had on hand.

PATTERN:  Butterick #2744, year 1943

TIME TO COMPLETE:  These only took me about 6 hours to make – easy peasy. They were finished on March 2, 2016.

dsc_0120-comp-wTHE INSIDES:  all bias bound

TOTAL COST:  Zero!  I’ll explain.

Different vintage corduroys went into our son’s overalls.  Firstly, my Grandmother as given me her generous stash of corduroy in many solid colors.  I am almost certain she said it was originally intended for my dad and his sister when they were little.  Now some of that corduroy has went towards making something for her great-grandson.  That is where the solid green of the overalls is from.  The plane print corduroy is something hubby and I bought at a vintage market.  Our son is a huge fan of anything that goes (planes, trains, and automobiles) so we knew this was perfect for him even though it was only a small remnant piece, not a whole cut.  Thus, I incorporated a definite “boy” touch to his overalls, adding vintage to vintage, and accommodated our little man’s likes at the same time.  Whew.

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I must admit I was dubious going into this project because 1.)  I was using an original Butterick pattern which tends to have an unusual fit (normally generous sizing), and 2.)  the smaller the scale of clothes, often the harder and more fiddly they become (think of doll clothes).  As it turned out, the overalls weren’t as awkwardly small to make as expected since there weren’t any too small spots save for the straps over the shoulders.  It’s hard (hell actually) turning corduroy tubes inside out…it naturally wants to stick to itself like glue.  I also did experiment with the legs of this pattern to make my little guy his Halloween costume (posted here) and found out the width and length of the size then, and what I needed to change.  Muslins (also known as mock-ups) are something I hardly ever do, but between the pattern and sewing for someone new, I glad I knew how to make good fitting overalls for my boy’s final garment.

The sizing went by chest and age, but I thought height would be more important.  As our son is rather tall and skinny for his age, and the pattern seems to run short and wide so I added several inches to the bottom hem of the pants legs and a bit extra on the ends of the shoulder straps.  For the next pair of overalls, I will also add a bit more to widen the bib front, too.

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Our son cannot live without pockets, so luckily there are two patch pockets over the behind, however they take some getting used to on his part.  He sort of naturally expects the side placket closures to be pockets because that’s where modern pants normally have them.  I can’t help but laugh when he takes a money coin or toy or whatever he intends for his pocket and slips it in the side placket thinking it’s a pocket…the item falls right down his pants leg right to the ground with him completely mystified!  He also does seem to find the fake front pocket flaps a bit annoying.  I had to stitch those flaps down to avoid frustration because he kept playing with them, pulling at them, and generally expecting to find a pocket under them.  Sorry, dude, next time I’ll leave them off or make them really working pockets.  He is such a perfectionist just like myself sometimes.  I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as the saying goes.

dsc_0108-comp-wFor the closures, I don’t see how a potty trained child could deal with button closures all over as the pattern originally calls to make.  Buttons on the side, buttons on the bib/strap ends – really?!  I sewed large heavy duty snaps to attach the shoulder straps to the bib front with two fake non-working buttons sewn down for decoration.  Large sliding waistband-style hook-and-eyes close up the sides of the waist.  My little man completely understands how to work both hook-and-eyes and snaps on his own without assistance making life easier for me and giving him confidence in dressing himself.  I wonder how button closing worked for any mom who made this pattern and feel sorry for the mom and child who dealt with this…why buttons.  Would not hooks and snaps been used in the 40’s?  Anyway, a bit of hidden modern practicality is a great touch to updating some vintage garments.

All of us appreciate the fact that these overalls end the skinny man’s perennial problem of drooping drawers.  We as his parents like the absence of “plumber’s crack” our little guy sometimes has, and he himself likes not having to pull up his pants on a regular basis or hold up his drawers when he runs.  It’s not that we don’t buy him the right clothes…I’ve taken in the waist of many of his store bought pants.  When you’ve got no booty and no hips to hold your clothes on yourself…well, gravity takes its toll.  Overalls are the wonder solution.  Now I know why they are so widely seen in vintage, especially for children.  Overalls let them be free to do what they do best – run, move, play, and have a good time.

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Now that I’ve made these overalls, I feel like I have noticed a few thing about vintage 40’s children’s wear as a result of this project.  The pants are hilariously wide and baggy but they do make the overalls cute, not to mention easy to play in and so classic of the 1940’s.  I know crouch depths were low, waists were high, and leg widths were roomy for both men and women’s trousers of the 1940’s, but I guess a “mini-me” ideal carried the same trends into children’s wear, too.  I also find it interesting that the pattern is specifically co-ed – meant for both girls and boys.  I see this non-gender specific aim in clothing patterns primarily from both the 1940’s and early to mid-1950 era, mostly for designs which offer pants, jackets, shirts, hats, sleepwear, and overalls for those 5 and under.

This raises questions I’d never thought of before.  Was this merely a result of rationing – on the pattern company’s end and for the purchaser?  Why not the patterns from the 20s, 30s, or late 60’s and on (in these eras I see mostly only housecoat patterns being co-ed)?  I think it may have to do with the outlook of society at the time.  From a purely practical standpoint, boys and girls really don’t have much shaping differences to take into account under 5 years old…no more different than one child from another.  Choosing different fabric can totally customize the pattern but then again a young mom of 1943 would probably like to make a garment that would give her the most bang for the buck and time spent to make, something more than one child (if that was the case) could wear equally.  Interesting stuff to figure out!

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1943 “Polka-Stars” Satin Dress and Netted Tilt Hat

This post has been long in coming but is now ironic because McCall Company just re-issued the pattern I used (as McCall #7433), albeit with dramatic changes.  Hopefully this post will show the beauty of this specific dress design and how the re-issue has been altered from the original.  Now, if you buy the reprint, you know how to make it more authentic.

A yearly World War II re-enactment weekend always gives me an excuse to whip up a new 40’s dance dress.  Therefore, I cranked out this pink and black satin year 1943 dress, together with a self-drafted fancy tilt hat!

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I confess, this was one of those stupid/silly sudden-last-minute decisions where a few days ‘til the re-enactment I decided year before’s outfit would not do.  The tiny stars in the fabric made me feel patriotic at the re-enactment dance, without being too much, while the black tempered the sweetness of the pink and the black made me feel dressed up without being too overwhelming (see this article from “Chronically Vintage”).  The tilt hat was directly inspired by the headgear spotted at the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton in 2011 as well as coming from my newest interest in millinery.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A thin 100% polyester, buff-finish satin, in a rich but light pink with tiny black stars like polka-dots.  The contrast black satin is semi-thick, but also polyester, and was used for the hat as well.

PATTERN:  McCall #5295, year 1943 (this was a lucky find at only $3); the hat was self-drafted

McCall 5295, year 1943, combo of front n back-MNOTIONS:  I had on hand what I needed – the thread, bias tape, interfacing, and zipper for the dress; tarlatan, elastic, hair combs, and netting for the hat.  The buttons down the front of my dress came from the stash of Hubby’s Grandmother.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I raced through sewing the dress in about 8 to 10 hours.  It was finished on April 24, 2015.  The hat was made in two hours on September 25, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  I had only a few days to make this dress so unfortunately the insides are all raw and terribly fraying.  I was also afraid adding on some sort of bias tape would stiffen the flowing fabric too much and didn’t have time for what I wanted…French seams. After the dance, I came back to clean up the insides, trimming the seams and covering them in fray check liquid. 

TOTAL COST:  This was bought on clearance at Hancock Fabrics as a store was closing so I bought this fabric at about $3 a yard, and this dress only used just under two yards.  The solid black satin was only a ½ yard cut, and went towards both hat and dress contrast, so this cost very little.  The black hat netting was originally expensive, but was a lucky find on clearance at 50 cents for each yard.  So, I suppose my outfit is about $8 in total. 

100_6256a-compMcCall #5295 was just challenging enough to be satisfying and ingeniously designed.  This is also the first vintage 40’s McCall pattern that seems to run very small.  The pattern size I had was technically a tad too big for me but it ended up fitting a bit snug (nothing some smaller seam allowances couldn’t fix).  After making my 1943 dress I had enough leftovers to make these double layered tops, thanks in part to Wartime rationing and economical pattern pieces.

The whole dress is lovely and interesting, but the bodice definitely takes center stage with the neckline.  The dress bodice is constructed in an unusual two-part creative manner for a dramatic style.  The lower front bodice comes first by facing the entire edge and making three rows of shirring from the shoulder to the end of the neckline notch.  Then the four back bodice waistline tucks are sewn and the shoulder is attached to the upper bodice front so this entire neckline can be faced and finished off as well.  Finally, the bodice’s upper front gets overlapped with the lower portion and both are top stitched together along a line of shirring next to the neckline notch.  I was tempted to not add the contrast insert underneath at this point, but I’ll save this idea for next version of the pattern (which will be a winter dress in long sleeves).  The new re-issued version of this pattern sadly leaves out the shirring next to the front neck notch as well as weirdly turning the back into a shirt-look, with its shoulder yoke and tucks.  I can’t wait to see if the new version also faces and constructs the neckline in the same manner.

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Now the contrast under the neckline is such a simple little piece to make such a difference…more or less an odd shaped rectangle folded over with interfacing inside.  The contrast piece only extends from the end of the back neckline to flush with the edge of the button front.  The new re-issue seems to have the contrast wrap all around the neckline and plummet to nothing before the edge of the button front.  Adding in the contrast does nicely support and shape the neckline as well as making it pop on account of both the extra top-stitching involved and the contrast color.

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You will never guess what interesting little tidbit is lurking about this dress in regards to the top front buttonhole.  In order to be authentic, I used my late 30’s/early 40’s Kenmore sewing machine for some of the construction of the dress, especially the buttonholes.  I followed the instructions on the pattern where it said to put in the trio of buttonholes in the dress before adding on the contrast.  O.k., did that, but the end of the contrast piece also receives its own single buttonhole before getting sewn under.  You know what?  The double 100_6293-compbuttonholes align up perfectly together and work as good as a single buttonhole.  On a basic level, I’m supposing the instructions said to do it this way because 4 layers of fabric with interfacing is too thick and bulky, but think about it.  Having separate buttonholes for both the contrast piece and the dress a very smart move and so very “1940’s versatile”.  Depending on the color and print of the dress you could make more than one contrast piece or even leave it off to change up the appearance of your dress!  I’m telling you, vintage patterns do things right.  I hope the new re-issue sticks to this same ingenuity with the contrast piece but my hopes are not high.

The short sleeves were a bit of a surprise to me – what…no gathered, puffed top caps!?  No, the sleeve caps are instructed to be smoothly eased in without any gathers, darts, and such normally found on forties women’s fashion.  They are still quite easy to move in due in part (no doubt) to the fact I cut them on the bias grain just to be on the safe side.  The contrast piece for the sleeves is not a cuff, but something which gets placed under an already finished hem and top-stitched down, similar to the neckline.  The sleeve hem contrast is only offered to match with the short view in the old pattern, but if I was going to make the three-fourths version I was planning on adapting a piece for the end as well, and the long sleeve plackets could be in contrast, too (though not removable).  The new reissue seems to offer similar short and long sleeves, only without the ¾ darted sleeve option.  The long sleeve cuffs on the original are not buttoned, only turned back and buttoned on the overlap, which I don’t see on the re-print, though they seem to have added basic notched cuffs, instead.

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My dress’s skirt makes this so perfect for swing dancing.  I’m so glad I made it for the event (it has seen other wearings since then, too)!  In the original pattern, there is the “traditional 40’s” three paneled back to the skirt, but the front has two side panels with four skinny center panels which dramatically flare out. (See also McCall #5302 from ’43.)  This way, with just the fullness controlled in the front center of the skirt (from the hips down, mostly), the skirt still keeps that slender A-line silhouette, but has extra beauty, fun, and ease of movement.  I love it!  I believe the re-issue to have ‘miss-read’ the intent of those four flared front panels on the original and added in an all-around pleated skirt instead for some uber-fullness that is not as 40’s a silhouette.  Swing dancing in a skirt like what the re-print has might call for some tap panties.

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Here is the reason of the distaste (more like a love/hate relationship) that I have for many modern reprints, especially Butterick and Simplicity.  If you please, let me vent.  They are re-issuing past patterns just well enough to make them tantalizing but at same action frustratingly altering them.  It is wonderful to make these old, hard-to-find, and not-easily-available patterns available to everyone again, yet they have to instead “taint” (in my mind) rather than preserve the past.  Modern is not the past, and modern will change as quickly as one can keep up with.  Thus, sticking to the past should be a bit of a better “tried-and-true” benchmark, I would think.  They could make sure patterns don’t disappear forever by faithfully re-printing them.  However, by changing them, these old patterns are partially “lost” to me.  Leave these vintage patterns  complete with all the individuality that makes a 40’s pattern from the forties, and so on for each decade, giving people a chance to learn and discover.  But they don’t, and so many will miss out on the awesome things that sewing true vintage will teach to one who makes it.  Shame on McCall’s Company…don’t mess with what’s already great.  A modern tweaking won’t make it better for me and many others, I am sure.  McCall’s, if you want the original of a pattern reach out better to us bloggers and sewists and collectors.  If you want to offer a modern version of vintage, don’t call it an archive pattern.  Vintage is awesome and authentic…leave it that way, that’s why we want it.  Let those of us that sew put our own tweaks, touches, and changes into our clothes if we so please, thank you…that’s what makes sewing beautifully individual.  Please join with me in the discussion – input and conversation is welcomed on this topic so I’m not just “getting on my high horse”.

In the next few days I will go into a short but further detailed post on the hat I made.  Stay tuned!

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Gift Sewing: a 1943 Flannel Bed Jacket for My Mom

When it came to coming up with something to give my mother for this past Mother’s Day (2015), I couldn’t think of anything which would be more of a treat than a de-luxe handmade item from off of my sewing table. The gift of one’s talents and time is a special gift to give, especially when my mom appreciates my sewing skills…now it’s her turn to enjoy some of it! I made her cozy vintage bed jacket, one which will make her feel feminine, fancy, and special wearing it, all the while accommodating to her physical needs as one living with Rheumatoid arthritis. Meeting all of this was a fun challenge.

Throughout this post I will be the one modelling her bed jacket to save her from the public eye.

100_5052-compNow don’t get me wrong – it’s not that my mom really wasn’t picky or demanding or anything when I offered to make her something. All she asked for was something not challenging for her to close and something in a color easily washable (not something bright or odd which would need to be washed separately). I couldn’t help but choose my favorite color – a shade of purple…the softest pastel lavender in various shades for the buttons, flannel, and floral decorations.

To further the special touch to this bed jacket, I used a pattern which was given to me from my mother-in-law. The pattern is from 1943 and it belonged to her mother, my hubby’s Grandmother. I think that using this vintage family pattern makes for a special connection all-around linking all the mothers on both sides of my family by marriage, linked together by me! When using the pattern for the bed jacket, I could tell that hubby’s Grandma had definitely used it. This is interesting because she was a very straightforward woman, but at the same time she did put a lot of work into making her home life beautiful (I can tell when I see her hand embroidered pillowcase and tablecloths). I can’t help but hope she’d be smiling if she knew I’ve used her pattern and I wonder what her bed jacket version looked like.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton brushed flannel

Grandma's bed jacket pattern-compNOTIONS:  I bought everything needed for this bed jacket: fabric flowers, bias tape, buttons, thread, and nylon flower decorations. I wanted it to turn out a certain way and didn’t want to cobble it together at all by relying on what I have on hand.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #4756, year 1943 (look at those darling house slippers to make!!!)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Not long at all, maybe 4 hours. It was finished on May 1, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Clean bias bound seams are all around inside for a nice finish inside.

TOTAL COST:  …let’s not mention it (reasonable enough to think I should be spending more on such a special woman)

There are so many options to choose on this pattern! It’s so versatile. Between differing sleeves, collars, necklines, ruffles and such, it has a little of everything with no need to have a project look the same despite coming from the same pattern. My mom chose the ¾ sleeve so long sleeves wouldn’t be in her way, and plain front high neck to keep her cozy but not too toasty. She is very similar to myself in the way she gets chilly easily all year ‘round, because even in the warm weather air-conditioning blows chilly air, then in cold weather any draft seem to be all too noticeable. Sweaters and bed jackets are year ‘round needs – they keep our upper half just warm enough to combat a chill.

100_5055-compMy mom is smaller than me (an aftereffect of her illness) so what fit me was in all probability would fit her. I was right…sorry, but I love saying that! The pattern I had was a very small sized small but I laid the pattern against my mom and it seemed more generous than expected. If I was making a full closure front I would’ve graded up but with the open front of the version I was making, “as is” worked just fine here.

The closures are simple, just over-sized loops and buttons. Using the same flannel I made skinny bias tubes for the loops. This makes it easy for her hands, many times stiff and achy, to close on herself rather than ties as shown on the pattern as she can’t visually see what she’s doing that high up under her neck. The idea is to make this bed jacket relaxing and easy to wear not a frustration because of its closure. This is the nice thing about sewing for someone – you can customize according to their needs and tastes, giving them exactly what is “up their alley” for the perfect treat.

100_5056-compI had to give the bed jacket a little extra fancy touch. I looked for an applique or transfer I liked but ended up choosing these little detailed nylon flowers, sewing them down in a tiny bunch on the chest side and one on a pocket, too. I’m not sure exactly what the flowers are meant for (meaning sewing, crafting, or scrap booking), but they seem 100% washable and stable, and besides, the way I sewed them on they aren’t going anywhere. There is a small square of interfacing behind the flowers on the inside of the jacket just to support and stabilize that spot for the decoration.

This new bed jacket is such a far cry from her old one – all worn, over-sized, pilled-up, and stained. As easy as this was to make, I’ll have to get around to making one for myself, too.

The nightgown you see under the gift bed jacket is another night time vintage creation made for myself which will be posted soon here on my blog. Just like the bed jacket made for my mother, my nightgown is also so very elegant, comfy, and was incredibly easy to make. Making home loungewear is worthwhile and so much more effortless than thought. Nightwear is truly a joy to sew – it is low pressure, not being made to impress anyone but the wearer. I think handmade loungewear is the most enjoyed since it is on during “personal” down time. So far most of the night wear I’ve made all relies on small cuts of fabric, too. Treat yourself to fun, different, and simple project and at the same time end up with a special garment for you or someone else to enjoy!