As I just had my WordPress blog’s anniversary, I’ve become nostalgic for the good old days of blogging a decade ago. Even without being reminiscent, at the beginning of every year I think of the sewing challenge “Jungle January” that the blog “Pretty Grievences” began in 2013 and hosted for several years afterwards. This year, for some reason, I especially miss it. Thus, I’ve sort of been doing my own little adherence to that theme anyway this 2022. I always seem to have animal prints on hand, and even though it is no longer January I would like to share something I made last month in the spirit of the challenge. I previously posted my son’s tiger printed pants so it is my turn back in the spotlight with my variation on the theme!
On a whim, for a last-minute getaway we had a few weekends back, I whipped a new top together out of a one yard knit remnant and a “quick ‘n easy” vintage pattern which has been on my radar recently. This simple little project was everything I hoped for to take with me for the getaway – it was cozy warm, cute but classy, comfortable yet fitted, and sewn in a few hours…what could be any better? It has a fantastic, artistic array of animal spots in a soft, feminine color combination!
FABRIC: a thick brushed finish knit which is 90% polyester and 10% spandex
PATTERN: Butterick #7640, from spring of year 1956, original vintage pattern from my personal stash
NOTIONS NEEDED: I just needed thread, some bias tape (which I made myself of a pink satin fabric remnant from on hand) and two buttons (salvaged off of a pair of my son’s worn out school pants before they were thrown away)
TIME TO COMPLETE: This took me 6 hours in one afternoon and evening on January 8, 2021
THE INSIDES: left raw
TOTAL COST: This was a discounted one yard remnant for JoAnn Fabrics, bought for $8.25
I always itch for something new – no matter how small – to bring with me to wear for every trip we take. I do not buy ready-to-wear, so I sew for this desire just as I do normally and almost always use what is on hand. I’m awfully practical, even when I splurge. Honestly, I do not want to add to my existing fabric stash at this time, yet sometimes a little something new and fresh from what is on hand can be just what I need for inspiration. We’ve hardly been anywhere since early 2020, thus I especially wanted something new even though we only had a little more than a week’s advance notice for the short trip we were to take. Having spent $8 on a remnant roll makes my sensible side happy. The way my top is an easy to make and easy to wear vintage design while still looking very modernly chic makes the rest of me happy. This was a new fabric indulgence I discerned what to do with immediately so it never went to my stash and is being enjoyed in my wardrobe right away.
The easy-to-make vintage pattern I used was even more simplified by using a knit. However, there was only one way that using such a stretchy material worked out here rather than the called-for woven crepe, taffeta, faille, or chambray. My pattern was a size too small for my measurements and I didn’t feel like grading it up! Nevertheless, as a knit needs negative ease to account for stretch, the small size worked out in my favor here. I found a perfect fit in the end after all! What is still not accounted for is the fact that the envelope back calls for 1 5/8 yard of material and I was able to easily squeeze a long sleeved wrap top with a peplum out of .97 worth of fabric – less than a yard! All the details I listed to the top are fabric hogs, but by flipping some pieces wrong side up I easily made it work with no compromise to the grain line or pattern layout.
I did not have enough scraps leftover to tie end closures so I adapted by having both ends close with a button and thread loops. In lieu of facings, some bias cut pink satin scraps on hand were folded in and used instead as a pretty way to keep the neckline stable yet still use up something on hand. When I said I simplified this pattern, I really meant that in an extreme sense. However, I find any 1950s dolman sleeved bodice (where the sleeve is cut as one piece with the main body and tapered in at the wrist) like this one is always easier to be more efficient for both layout and fabric amount. They are also comfortable sleeve drama that was popular in the 1950s, which I may have something to do with the fact there are so many 1 yard or less projects from this era. Everything about this project working out on one yard was only possible because the selvedge width was 54” wide and I was using a smaller size pattern. Anything narrower in width and I would have at least been forced to go with ¾ sleeves or cull the peplum.
I had no real choice but to abridge the pattern to a point because almost everything was missing from the envelope. I believe this was one of the many patterns in my life which have been handed off to me by others looking to downsize their own stash as I do not remember buying it. Either way – there was nothing but the main body front, main body back, and one waistline tie end present. The long sleeves had been cut off the main body at the short sleeve lines, and I felt very lucky indeed to have them still included since everything else was missing. I had to draft my own peplum pieces basing my design off of both the garment measurements and the drawings on the envelope back. I would like to revisit this pattern again in the future (with a lovely vintage striped cotton in my stash) and give myself a reason to draft the rest of the pieces – the collar, neckline facings, sleeve cuff, and second tie end.
For such a cheap, quick project I wanted to spruce it up a bit with something extra handmade. I had picked up 3 strands of turquoise dyed Wagnerite (a natural mineral) over the Black Friday JoAnn sale last year at $2 a pop. In an hour, I finally turned those pebbles into a double strand necklace to bring out the beautiful aqua undertone in the print as well as match the handcrafted earrings bought from a gem, mineral, and fossil show. I love crafting my own jewelry for outfits. It showcases just another of the many aspects to my maker’s talents. It is also an unexpected way to continue my self-made closet besides personally curating my individual style.
I paired my blouse with a ready-to-wear wool tweed bias cut skirt that I have enjoyed in my closet for the last 20 years. It mimics the figure hugging skirts styles that were a not so well-known fad of the 1950s. French fashion of the era in particular, but in general the higher end fashion scene worldwide, revived the curve baring, slim fitting, bias cut skirts of the previous 1930s decade for an elegant variation on the more widely known “wiggle” look. I felt my top’s peplum would complement my hourglass body type in such a skirt. Along this vein, I am wearing my 1930s inspired ankle boots from Hotter shoe company because the weather that day was cold, rainy, and messy for traveling.
I will not be straying too long from the jungle, so if you love this top’s print as much as me you will not be left hanging. I love animal prints too much to not come back to it soon enough. I have an amazing rayon knit border print that has an animal theme and I intend to finally sew a summer dress using it this year. If nothing else, I hope I have given you yet another idea of what to make with those smaller sized vintage patterns that seem to be so plentiful on the market…sew them up in a stretchy knit and take advantage of the forgiveness the material bestows! This is an especially great way to use one yard cuts (my favorite challenge to conquer) as those smaller sized patterns use even less fabric…every little bit counts!
Next up on my blog, I will feature the opposite of this simple knit top while still using one precious yard, though. For a full teaser drop, it is a very complex blouse design made using a fine silk with the upcoming Valentine’s Day as its subtle theme. Until then, have a great February 14th!