Leaf Piling in Plaid

Leaves can be the curse or the joy of the season of fall.  So also, plaid prints can be the bane or the delight of those who sew and work with fabric.  Either way, if you want to move on to other things, both have to dealt with at some point.  So why not enjoy leaves and plaid at the same time?

I chose a simple shaped year 1928 Past Patterns reprint to make an earth-toned plaid dress perfect for fall’s transitional weather.  The straight lines and simple shaping of a late 20’s dress was also perfect to take the stress out of plaid matching.  A giant sycamore tree supplied the leaves to enjoy and an old Art Deco vitrolite decorated building provided the time-rewind backdrop.

100_4117THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My plaid dress fabric is an incredibly lightweight, semi-sheer 100% cotton.  The plaid pattern is woven as part of the fabric, which I suppose, combined with the natural cotton content, technically makes it a textile and therefore quite historical.  Then, I go and ruin the historical bragging rights of my dress by lining my plaid fabric in a modern 100% cotton broadcloth (although broadcloth isn’t too UN-historical).  As you can see, the brown cotton broadcloth also went towards making the side godet/gusset inserts and the necktie.  Both fabrics were bought from Hancock Fabrics store.  100_4129

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread, but later on, when I also needed a zipper, that was in my stash too.

PATTERN:  A Past Patterns reprint #2792, Ladies’ and Misses Dress with Kimono Sleeves: Circa 1928-1929″.  Simplicity 4365, year 2005, was used for the godets added into the side seams.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was completed on October 13, 2014.  I spent maybe 15 hours to finish this project, not too fast but not over long of a time either.

TOTAL COST:  The plaid cotton was super cheap on their ‘spot the bolt’ discount – I got everything on the bolt (only 1 yard and 28 inches) at only $2.00 a yard.  The brown broadcloth was on sale for $1.99 a yard.  Altogether, my total for everything comes to about $10 or less.

The sizing for this pattern showed measurement which were way too large for my size.  Naturally, I thought, “o.k, it needs to be graded down”.  I was technically right, but boy was I wrong.  However, this dress is another happy case of a mistake turning into a ‘design opportunity’, making my project even better than originally imagined.

100_4125     It seems that 20’s patterns have their own funny way of fitting…like, not at all!  No, really, they are based on straight rectangles, with no accounting for the reality of womanly bust/waist curves.  This fitting coincides with the ideal shape for the 20’s: a flattened bust and an elongated waist-less silhouette which focuses only on the hips.  Fitting was tailored in a unusual, unique, and subtle way that I myself have a hard time attaining in my 20’s projects, especially for my tango knickers.  From my experience, a 20’s pattern technically needs to be a size or two too large for you to fit…I am not joking.  I have a few late 20’s original McCall patterns, and they fit the same way – if you make sure the bust fits, then the rest of the dress (outfit) won’t fit, and it’s not just because of my hips.  Women are naturally hip dominant.  That being said, 1920’s patterns run tight in the hips, large in the bust, so you naturally have to go up in the era’s sizing.  Then, it might just lay on the body the way it should for the era, as long as you provide the proper 20’s shape underneath.  For example, the bust of my finished dress originally did not fit (it was too tight) when worn with a modern brassiere.  You have to wear something that flattens or at least offers low support to get the proper 20’s look and fit when you’re lacking period authentic foundation garments.

100_4019     Even though it was not completely the right move, I am proud at how well I figured the down grading of this 20’s pattern.  I divided the amount to take out in two (actually four) increments vertically between the aches of the dropped waist.  My picture shows grading for one of the bodice pieces.  Look how perfectly rectangular the piece is shaped, like I mentioned above.  Actually, grading down gave me just enough room to squeeze in all four pattern pieces into my small cut of plaid fabric.  Remember…I was only working with 1 yard and 28 inches of a 45 inch width fabric – yikes!  I folded the selvedge edges into the center and was thus able to place all four pieces (a front and back bodice, a front and back skirt) on a fold edge.  I would never have thought something like my finished dress could be made from so little fabric.

Here is a pattern which practically had no thorough assembly clarification as do modern instruction sheets.  There is merely a short paragraph and a picture or two to guide you, even less than the little that was given for my last Past Pattern, my 1931 dress.  As long as you know sewing and construction methods comfortably well, Past Patterns’ 1928 dress pattern should be rather self-explanatory coming together.  My method was to prepare both the skirt front and skirt back, as well as the bodice front and bodice back.  Next the bodice front was lapped seamed on the skirt front, and the same for the back sections.  Next the full front and full back were joined at the shoulder seams so I could do the neckline facing slash and necktie.  Finally the side seams were completed last…this was when I tried the dress on myself and realized (oh no) it was way too snug of a fit to be a proper 20’s silhouette.

100_4122100_3997     Ah ha!  No sweat – I had the ideal happy solution for the snug fit in my head!  Many skirts and dresses between the years 1910 to 1930 used godet inserts, a triangular piece of fabric usually set vertically into the hem of a garment to add fullness.  Their use faded somewhat in the 40’s and 50’s, and were mostly forgotten thereafter.  See the 1910 ladies walking skirt, this “Stylish Woman of 1928 in Day Dress”, or Eva Dress’ 1930 Dinner Gown, and also my own “The Artist” movie look-alike dress to see uses of godets through the 1910’s to 1930’s.  Thus, a godet was the perfect solution in more ways than one to fix the fitting issues of this 1928 dress of mine.  The use of the side godets being in the contrast on my dress also lends my dress a sort of “tabard” appearance, another fashion style used intermittently all the way from the Middle Ages into the 50’s and 60’s.  (See this 20’s style tabard dress and this 1963 dress for two examples)  Beyond all my historical proof, I love the way the brown godets were the model fix for a perfect fit, giving me a graded amount of extra room.  I personally think my dress looks better with the contrast godets than if it was without.  Between you and I, however, I did opt to add a zipper in the left side for ease of dressing.  The zipper is pretty invisible (I think) sandwiched in between the dress and the godet fabric under my arm.

I want to make a point that I found the dress length to be very, very long.  I had to make a 5 inch hem to bring it up to a decent 20’s style length.  The arched hip/skirt seam seems to fall in the right spot on my body so I really don’t think the dress needs to be shortened from out of the bodice area, just from out of the skirt section itself.  There is a blind hem done at the bottom of the skirt to make the large 5 inch turn up invisible.

100_4109     Using plaid for this Past Pattern makes sewing the dress extremely fun and easy.  Folding in the box pleats was merely a matter of matching up lines of the plaid.  This minimized the necessity of full chalk markings, which, in the end, saved some time.  Now you can see how the dress was quite easy and not too challenging to make, but a tad time consuming at the same time. 1926 vertical jabot dress pattern ad-cropped

My plaid 1928 dress is ridiculously fun and extremely comfy to wear – totally an easy play, shop, work, and general do-it-all in vintage style type of garment.  The only thing that stumps me is the decision to tie or not to tie the long neckband.  It looks so cute both ways!  According to this vintage 1926 magazine ad for a pattern, it looks like ladies wore it both ways.  Which way do you like?

There are plenty more pictures, especially some extra detail shots, on my Flickr Seam Racer page.  Also, if you’re interested (like me) in some amazing history tidbits, pop on over to ‘History Orb.com’ (link here) to get some ‘wow’ moments as you run through the info.


One “Smartt” 1940’s Outfit: my Bow-Neck Satin Dance Dress

Fun and flirty, fancy and feminine, my new vintage 40’s dress is made using Simplicity’s new Fall 2013 pattern release (#1587), and it turned out to be wonderful in all its satin beauty. I had the perfect reason to get to making this dress sooner than later, for hubby and I had a 40’s dance to attend.  I (well, both of us) received many compliments on our outfits. I could proudly say, “Thanks, I made my dress myself!”  Thank you Simplicity for another great vintage pattern!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA     Aren’t we cute together?  The hangar dance was held at the historic St. Charles County Smartt Airfield, which began seeing use in January 1941 as a Navy student pilot base for WWII.  This was the perfect opportunity for hubby to wear a Navy uniform from my dad’s stash of historic clothes.  My dress was specifically made to be a complimenting contrast to my husband’s Navy uniform while sticking as close as possible to the pattern envelope.


FABRIC:  I bought a 100% polyester silky print at JoAnn’s Fabric store.  The fabric was on a super discount for their Anniversary Sale – I’m talking about a few dollars a yard- and I was excited to find a print so close to Simplicity’s version of this dress.   A black peach skin ponge lining was bought at Hancock Fabrics for lining the body of the dress

PATTERN:  Simplicity 1587  (see pic at right)Simplicity1587

NOTIONS:  I always have interfacing and black thread on hand, so the only notion I needed to buy was the side zipper, 1/4 inch black elastic, some extra bias tape and some hem tape.  The button I used for the back closure is a vintage oldie, coming from my family’s stash, and is a pretty, frosted, clear ball type.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  It took me 22 to 25 hours of sewing time, spread out over 5 days, with a few added hours for cutting, to complete my satin 40’s dress.  I finished it on September 20, 2013.

THE INSIDES:  All the seams are finished in black bias binding, and the hem is covered with hem tape.  The armhole sleeves are the only “unfinished” part (with a zig zag edge finish) on account of the small 3/8 in. seam and not wanting to restrict the satin’s give.

TOTAL COST:  around $10

It’s a shame how the finished dress hides all the cool details, and time consuming work put into doing such fine points.  The envelope’s line drawing, however, offers some easy clarity: this 40’s dress has a front bodice with pleated (gathered) yoke, a bow at the neckline or just a decorated loop, a back button and loop closure, a wide skirt yoke that comes to an inverted point, gathers on the sleeves and also at the skirt center.

Simp1587 envelope drawing   According to the “finished garment” measurements, the ease did not seem too overly generous, but, just to make sure this dress wasn’t going to be as loose as my “Lake Girl” 40’s blouse, I did some graduated sizing for every different area (similar to the sizing for my 1936 Puff-sleeve blouse).  My Simplicity 1587 dress has a size 8 bodice front, size 10 bodice back, the skirt yokes graduate from a 10 to a 12, the skirt is a 12, and the sleeves are 10.  Altogether, I think my satin 40’s dress fits well, but even doing my right sizes, the skirt yokes turned out quite snug (but it’s probably supposed to…it would look funny baggy).  The finished sleeves were also snug and a bit confining across the front and back of the bodice (not at the top shoulder seam), but I took out the 5/8 seam and re-sewed a smaller 3/8 inch seam to make a satisfying fix.  For someone who often needs sleeve room, a large upper arm adjustment might be a good idea to do to the sleeve pattern piece.

100_1993     There were several tricky points to making this Simplicity 40’s dress, and the instruction sheets did not really help that well nor clear up some confusion, so I will list them here to help sewing this dress easier for anyone else.

1.)  The front bodice yoke (neckline) gathers are actually pleats.  I found out the hard way by trial and error that there is only one way to sew the neckline pleats as instructed: you have to start with the bottom pleat closest to the center front and work up.  The middle pleat gets its bottom corner folded over to form the pleat next to the center front seam, so, for this to work,  you have to sew in this direction.  I wish the instructions had clarified this point.

I did hand stitch the facings down to the lining, but, just a word of warning, it doesn’t really work if you tack the front facings down any more than an inch or two below the shoulder seams.  The neckline pleats need freedom.

100_20072.)  The pattern piece for the back closure loop really could have been made longer lengthwise.  I made mine according to the pattern (no changes).  It was SO small it was hard to sew and work with, also too small as a loop once it is sewn in to the dress.  Loops that are too small make it hard to close on yourself behind your neck, and even harder to find a good button to match or fit.

3.)  The yoke sections for both the skirt and the bodice were a sort of fine work to get finished nicely, but there was a better way that the instructions could have mentioned.  For example, the front skirt yoke comes up into an inverted V over the stomach and the skirt gets gathered in under that V.  Now, deep curves like that can be tricky, not to mention adding the gathers and a sharp corner to the equation.  My gut told me I should ditch the instructions…I would have had an easier time had I listened.  I am convinced, the absolute best way to do the front yoke /skirt inverted V section is to do a lapped seam method.  Any other way is just frustration, believe me!  I did succeed in doing those tricky spot quite well (unintentional bragging).  Ironing and lightly steaming my satin down helped immensely towards making the yokes and gathers look good, lie flat, and not pouf out.

100_2005a     This satin 40’s dress has some details (see picture above) that are firsts for both my wardrobe and my sewing skills.  Sewing in a small piece of elastic while stretching it out onto the sleeves was fun to do and makes a very cute and unusual detail.  I love it – but not as much as I love the bow neck front.  The bow at the neckline was the very last thing I added to my finished dress because, at first, I wasn’t sure if I would like it.  However, I think the bow really makes this dress, and puts it together nicely.  Plus…it’s just plain fun!

Even if the rest of my recommendations for sewing up this dress are disregarded, the best single piece of advice I will say is to please do all the markings as the pattern directs, and your version of Simplicity 1587 will go together fine.  This vintage pattern reprint might be a little tricky in some parts and take a bit extra time, but it is seriously worth it in the end – believe me!  As dressy as my 40’s bow-neck dress looks, it is very comfy.  The skirt has some great swing in it for dancing, too.100_2003a

The dance we attended was held in the hangar which houses two old planes (a B-25 Mitchell and a TBM Avenger) so it was dark in there and I ended up accessorizing my dress with the longer length, shiny red gloves you see in the picture at right.  I wish I would have remembered to get it in a picture, but I even used a makeup pencil to draw a faux stocking line up the back of my legs.  Yeah, I went pretty authentic that night.

This last picture was taken in the Smartt airport museum.  It is added just for the fun of it…I hope it gets a laugh.  This dress is da bomb!

Visit my Flickr ‘Seam Racer’ page for more pictures (especially a view of my hair-do – a half “toilet bowl” style).


“1-2-3-4” …Things I Love in the Hue of Red

More often than not, St. Valentine’s Day has the tendency to be overdone commercially, but there is one thing right about it – love can come in the color red.  Just to show you this fact, I’d like to show you 4 of my favorite reds; 1) a tie neck knit dress, 2) a heart mini apron, 3) a re-fashioned dress, and 4) my streamlined beauty of a car, a Ford Probe.

100_1066a      This tie neck knit dress was the easiest sewing project I have done in quite awhile, and I really feel so comfortable and dressy in it.  I covered my behind (to use a phrase) before starting this pattern, Butterick 5794, by checking PatternReview.com, finding most comments saying view C and D run quite big.  Pattern review was the only guide I had to go by, since the pattern pieces were completely devoid of any finished measurements, any ease info, or anything to let someone know ahead of time how it would fit.  Very strange, indeed!  However, I merely cut a half size smaller than I normally wear and made big seam allowances (about 1 in.) and I had, for once, a dress that fit as finished, with no lengthy adjustments or alterations.butterick5794

There were only some minor changes I made to this pattern for my dress.  The tie neckline goes together very well, but there is a gap of a few inches that ends up between the ties in the center front of the neckline.  Being small chested and considering the neckline to already be generous,  I sewed a very cute, but small, inverted pleat out of those front inches between the ties.  This brought the ties together in front (making them easier to form a bow) and prevents the neck from gaping open.  Also, I did not like the pattern’s self casing idea for the bottom of B5794-drawingthe sleeves.  Folding the sleeve ends under to make a casing for elastic doesn’t give the sleeve extra room to ‘bubble’ out like the drawing shows.  To fix this, I merely cut 2 rectangles, sewed them on as separate 5/8 in sleeve casings, running 1/2 in. elastic through, and hand sewing them closed.  Doing the sleeve casings works out much better for achieving the cover drawing’s look.

The back gathering detail of this dress really makes this dress look neat and special even from behind.  Otherwise most of the details would be concentrated in the front view.  Front and back together make this a very flattering dress.

100_1073     Maybe in my close-up at left you can now see the red in the print.  The fabric’s design also includes a dusty blue, and some white, but, besides the black and red background, the scroll work is scattered everywhere.

The printed cotton knit of my dress is lined in a black jersey knit both for substance and also to hide its white underside.  The print and the finished weight of this dress makes it a perfect multi-season clothing item.  I wore it for these pictures with a tank under for warmth, but worn alone and with the sleeves pulled up, I expect to get more use out of my tie neck dress in the warmer spring and fall days.

100_1074a     Posing with my red Probe for these pictures was supposed to bring out the red in my dress, but whether it worked or not, my car always brings a smile to my face…and that’s always a good thing, right!?!  My ‘Mustang wanna-be’ car is such a minimalist when it comes to causing problems, it always is great, much like how my tie neck dress was to sew and put together.  But, unlike my dress, my Probe frequently brings out the Speed Racer in me, the way she jumps forward in a burst a power when I shift up gears and let go of the clutch.  I thought about doing a “Back to the Future” pose just for fun, but as much as I’d LOVE to talk about my car (having only 60K miles for being a ’93, handling turns so well, etc.) I will keep to sewing for now.  Then I will pop up my Probe’s eye lights and go flying along a lonesome curvy highway somewhere!100_0472a

Now I will show you my #2 red item…my patriotic/Valentines mini apron.  It is view C of my much used Simplicity 2748 pattern, with different styles made for this post and this post.  Even though it is pretty basic with just the front, the pocket, and the four ties to make, it was time consuming on account of the rick-rack and the pocket being sewn solely by hand stitching.

This is my only mini apron that was not made from scraps of previous projects.  I really do not feel guilty though because I bought the quilting quarter at a cheap price, and plan on using the leftovers for a purse.  I don’t know if you can see it, but I picked out this fabric all on account of the tiny Fleur-di-lis in white across the red.  Anything with Fleur-di-lis is hard for me to pass up!

Now to #3, my refashioned modern dress.  The way we figured it, a modern dress needed modern art.

100_1113     I picked out this red knit number at a local upscale resale shop a few months before baby came as a ‘goal’,  something to fit back into.  The whole dress fits very well, but the original bottom of it was this silly tight band with the bottom gathered around it to make a ‘bubble’ look which was plain weird.

100_0543I cut the tight band off the bottom, undid the gathers, and made a plain band instead. I really was hoping to lengthen the dress a bit and add some interest so I made strips of black ponte knit, leftover from this refashion, to sew between the dress hem and bottom band.  Not too big of a refashion, but I think what I did was a good save, and I really like wearing the results.  At left is a pic of the original ‘before’ dress.

Just a few FYI tidbits before I end this post with my The Facts. 100_1108

The modern painting in the picture with my back to the camera is “Bucolic Landscape”, 1913, painted by Heinrich Campendonk, while the second painting is a self-portrait of Max Beckmann, painted 1950.  Pretty neat, right?

I owe the title of my post to the music the CD “Big, Bad World” by the Plain White T’s.  I listened to their music while doing my tie-neck dress, with the “1-2-3-4, I Love You” song as my and My husband’s favorite.  Please click here to watch the Plain White T’s perform the song live on Jay Leno’s show.  “1-2-3-4” is so relaxing, happy, and the lyrics are very sweet and loving.


FABRIC:  for #1 dress-cotton printed knit with poly/cotton jersey knit for lining;  for #2 mini apron- one 70 cent cotton quilting quarter;  for #3 dress-scraps of thick ponte knitSimplicity2748 cover

NOTIONS:  had everything I needed, which was mostly thread

PATTERNS:  for #1 dress- Butterick 5794;  for mini apron- Simplicity 2748;  for #3- none

TIME TO COMPLETE:  for #1 dress- spent about 6 hours, finished Jan. 28, 2013;  for #2 mini apron- maybe 5 hours or less, finished in Aug. 2012;  for #3 dress- 2 1/2 hours of work, finished in early Nov. 2012

THE INSIDES:  As you can see below, I am proud of my french seams, done from the waist down, in dress #1.  The bodice part of dress #1 has zig-zag seams, which are still nice.  This mini apron has neatly covered or enclosed seams (which I can’t say for some of the other mini’s).  Dress #3 is made of a tight knit that doesn’t ravel, so seams actually look nice unfinished (see pic below)