Simple, Slim, and Sexy – a 1930’s Basic Black Skirt

Just because a skirt is vintage and a “go-with-everything” piece, doesn’t mean it can’t be a little hot number.  This project proves that point!

What comes of my making some 1930’s tops recently is also the need for a basic skirt to go on the bottom half.  This basic black skirt is the first to fill in that gap towards attaining a 30’s wardrobe of separates which mix and match.  The great thing about my slim black 30’s skirt is it has a wonderful family connection for me, together with a look that is classic enough to pass as modern.  Slim fit doesn’t mean it’s also hard to move in – side box pleats make sure there plenty of secret room for action.  Nothing like sewing up an all-around winner!  Check it out.

Here above I’ve paired my black skirt with a resale store jacket, which is originally from Target, as well as the lacy top underneath.  The jacket, though modern, has a sort of nod to the 30’s in my opinion, with its Deco style fan shaped shell design.  My earrings are also fan shaped shells…carved mother of pearl to be exact.  I also wore my old vintage 1930’s era leather T-strap shoes (although you can’t see them in the above picture).  Enough ensemble clarifications, let’s get down to –


FABRIC:  My skirt’s fabric is a mystery content which has a textured look and feel of shantung.  I’m assuming it is a polyester, but I’m hoping there’s a small percent of rayon in the fabric.  It comes from a stash of fabric that was given to me from my Grandmother.  There was only a small cut of this fabric, and it wasn’t even a whole ‘selvedge-to-selvedge’ amount.

NOTIONS:  I had the thread, lace hem tape, hook and eyes, zipper, and grosgrain ribbon all on hand already.

PATTERN:  a Pictorial Review #7379, circa 1934.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This skirt was quick and easy only taking 6 to 8 hours from cutting to finish.  It was done on March 19, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  All the inside seams are covered in lace hem tape.  The hem is doubled under, while the waistband is neatly and easily finished.  See the above right picture of the inside of the box pleat.  I am proud of my fine looking insides for this skirt! 

The center fold is towards the bottom of the picture, the long straight seam.

TOTAL COST:   Nothing!  This is the best part!

The pattern for the skirt is so amazingly small and economical on space.  Basically two long, skinny rectangles with small extensions (for the box pleats) turns out into this 30’s skirt.  A few tucks shape the back waist.  Thus, it is perfect for making something amazing and extremely useful out of a piece of fabric that seems too small and worthless to keep.

Like I mentioned above, since this fabric is from my Grandmother, I wanted to make something special out of it, so I made sure to make things work.  It wasn’t hard to finagle the pattern to fit – It was hard to believe.  I guess this pattern is a true Depression era design, but making clothes out of scrap fabric pieces is a very smart practice in any era.

Unprinted patterns suddenly made complete sense to me as I was laying out the pieces for my Pictorial Review 7379.  It literally was one of those “ah ha” moments when I felt like I was blind doing the few unprinted patterns I had beforehand.  Although the Pictorial Review patterns were marketed as “printed”, the pattern I used to make my skirt still used the hole-punched method of making darts and such, just like unprinted ones.  Basic guides for construction are printed directly on the pattern (as a bonus to the simple instructions, I suppose). Punched out holes for seam markings eliminate the need for a tracing wheel that might ruin the tissue paper, you just take chalk and fill in the holes as you did on tests when you were in school. Punched out pattern hole markings also make it extremely easy to mark the spot with thread, if you choose that method instead.  Unprinted patterns are not hard – just a different (better, in my opinion) way to do the same things as on today’s patterns.  I especially enjoy the indented balance marks on vintage patterns such as this – there’s nothing to snip off by mistake.

Grading the pattern up just a tad was necessary for the skirt to fit me.  I spread out the amount I needed to add by placing the pattern 1/4 inch away (not directly on) the fold at the center back and front, plus making a wider seam allowance all the way along on the side seams.  This method of grading only works when adding small increments.  I must say, the skirt fits me very well – almost too well, to be exact.  It seemed like a very close call, in the way of fit, for this project.  I must say, from my experience, 1930’s patterns (and 20’s, too) do not account for curves in women’s proportions.  My being a fairly ‘normal’ size by vintage pattern charts, and finding it hard to get a whole lot of shaping in my 30’s makes, I can now completely understand how some people do not know how to wear 30’s styles.  Old catalogs show tightly shaping, slimming waist and hip girdles were worn to make the figure long and lean – without such items, vintage styles fit differently on a modern figure.  However, I highly recommend everyone having a try at making the slenderizing, complimentary designs of the 1930’s.  They possess a simple, classic character.

My first step to construct this 30’s skirt was to sew on lace hem tape over the raw edges of the side seams.  Then the side seams get sewn together down to where the pattern indents out.  Next the outermost edges of the pleat indentation gets sewn together.  Now the pleat gets opened up and sewn down into a box pleat.  The left side seam was left open to insert a small zipper.  Originally, there were only two small darts, but I made four in the shape of a fan to bring in the waist at the back above the booty.  My Pictorial Review pattern recommended something simple for the waistband, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to use as it was vague.  I thought about wide bias tape, but that would not have provided support, and might stretch out of shape.  Thus, I used some wide 1 1/2 inch black grosgrain ribbon from my stash to finish the waistband.  The ribbon feels so smooth and comfy on my skin!  I left a longer extension of the ribbon on one side of the waistband to hand sew on a large sliding hook and eye to keep pressure off the top of the zipper, keeping my skirt closed.

The edges of the side box pleats were top stitched down at the very edge of the folds to keep things in place.  I’ve done this method before for the pin tucks of my 1937 blouse and it works great to save on loads of ironing time.

Our little dachshund was needy for attention and extra love during our photo shoot in our backyard of my 30’s black skirt.  My Flickr page Seam Racer has some successive pictures of our dachsie’s photo bombs, as well as some extra views of the skirt I made.  The afternoon was one of those perfect temperature days when being in the sun makes you just warm enough to get all sleepy and mellow.  However, as our dachsie has a thicker dark coat, he is heat sensitive, and was ducking into our nearby peony bush when he wasn’t receiving attention.  It sure made for some cute pet pictures!

I have a cut of cotton tri-colored striped shirting just waiting to be made up into a blouse using the same 1934 Pictorial Review #7279 that went towards my slim skirt.  Hopefully, I will get around to making it sooner than later, and blog about it here so you see the whole set from the pattern.  (Update – full blouse and skirt outfit finished and posted here!)  I already made a modern/authentic 30’s style knit tunic top (more pictures on my Flickr Seam Racer page, and posted on my site here) that wears well with my slim skirt.   Here’s to sewing a useful wardrobe that works for an everyday vintage way of dressing!

Three Piece 1940’s Pajama Set for My Hubby

Comfy cozy night wear and lounging attire are oftentimes, for one reason or another, neglected from the sewn projects of busy seamstresses like myself.  Sewing such items in vintage…especially for men…is a whole other unexplored area in the sewing world.  Speaking from my own previous ideas, night and lounging wear are over-looked too often because the final item doesn’t get worn out and about to be seen in public (unless you write a blog post about them!) and thus forgotten amidst so many other tantalizing patterns for dresses, suits, tops, and the like.  However, I have set myself to fill in this gap by sewing a set of tailored, personalized night wear for my hubby using an old vintage 1940’s pattern from my stash.  His pajama set consists of two pants, one matching and one matching/contrasting, and a button-down collared shirt.  Now he can get his rest in soft and vintage handmade style!

100_3735aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Since the pajama set was for him, I let him pick out what he wanted, and he chose a luxurious “M’Liss” brand 100% cotton from Hancock Fabric store.  The fabric design is part of her “Route 66” series, including the plaid.  No doubt the fact that we own a little dachshund of our own influenced his pick of fabric…M’Liss always has the cutest dachsie prints.  This  “Route 66” theme has a definite retro flair which even includes the Gateway Arch from our home town of St. Louis, Missouri!

NOTIONS:  I had all the supplies I needed on hand, except for one extra length of elastic for the second pair of pants.  Being pajamas, it is no wonder they have few requirements and need nothing special to be made.  The shirt’s green buttons came from my stash, the interfacing was here already, as well as the thread, bias tapes and elastic.   100_2821

PATTERN:  Simplicity #1635, dating (from the research I have done) to the year 1946.  It a half and half printed/unprinted pattern, meaning it has the punched out dots to mark seam allowances, dart, and fold lines, but it also has printed numbers and assembly instructions directly on the pattern pieces.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Each of the lounging pants took only 3 hours from cutting to finish – great, right!?  The shirt, or “front-buttoning pajama coat” as the pattern calls it, took a total of 8 hours.  The coat was finished on September 8, 2014; the plaid pair of pants were done on March 8, 2014; and the first pair of pants (not pictured) which match the shirt were made on December 6, 2013, as a St. Nicholas day present for hubby.

THE INSIDES:  The bottom hems on all pieces are finished off with single fold bias tape, but all other seams are either self-covered or double stitched along the raw edge, for a traditional 1940’s finish.  As long as he’s happy with it (and he is), I am!

TOTAL COST:  Let me think…each pair of pants needs just a tad over 2 yards, and the shirt needed just under 2 yards, thus with one yard of fabric on sale at $4.50, the total cost for his sleeping ensemble comes to a total of about $27.00.

The pattern has simplistic instructions but I am very happy with its wonderful design and fit.  It took just a tad bit of fitting time to get his pajama pieces fitting his tall and skinny body type.  I have found that (so far) men’s vintage patterns seem to run generous, so I sort of assembled the pattern pieces around him body and figured out ahead of time where to adjust and take in extra space.  Doing this step of adjusting and fitting the pattern was very enjoyable for me.  I feel that the ability to do this step is the big advantage of sewing for others, with the best part being the pleasure of seeing how well your creation looks on someone else.

100_3813     I used the tiny ‘satin’ pins to fold in the fitting darts on the pants pattern.  There is no side seam to the pants (as you see in the bottom left corner of the pattern back, at left) and just two pieces to make the pants, so there is one giant pattern piece which needs fitting.  This giant pants piece ends up fitting smaller than you’d think.  Even still, I took out a vertical dart of about 3 inches, starting at the waist and tapered down to nothing and the pants leg bottom.  Next, I had to take a few inches out of the hip horizontally – the pants had a very high waist.  Hubby needed a few extra inches on the pants leg bottom, otherwise they would have been high-water.  Just be careful with the layout when working with directional prints.  For the first pair of pants, I made the mistake of merely folding over my entire length of fabric, and I ended up with one leg’s print going up, and the other going down -so embarrassing but, luckily, taking nothing away from their wearablity.  For the shirt, I left the girth and length alone, and so I didn’t need to do any pinning in of darts.  The only adjustment here was to slant in the shoulder length 1 inch, thus avoiding what would have been some very droopy sleeves.  I did this similar shoulder/sleeve adjustment in this dress project for myself.  Two inches were added to the hem length of the sleeves to accommodate hubby’s taste and style.

To make the pants, you first sew together the two pants pieces by connecting them at the small, two inch section which is under the front fly opening.  Then you sew together the back crouch before you next join the inner leg seam.  Voila!  This entire step takes me a whole of only 10 or 15 minutes.  Now, the rectangular fly facing piece gets sewn onto the right side of the pant’s fly extension, while the left side gets hemmed and turned in as a sort of self-facing.  The right side fly facing gets turned wrong sides in, top stitched around, and lapped over the left facing.  Both fly facings are tacked down together for 1 1/2 inches from the bottom and 3 inches down from the top waist is you’re doing an elastic finish (which is what my hubby picked out), but the drawstring version calls for an open waistband.  On the first pair of pajama pants which I made for him, I happened to get the proper fly flap closure mixed up, and mistakenly did it opposite sides.  The pants still turned out perfectly wearable, but it made me remember my mistake and realize the layout for next time.  I guess I’m so used to the ladies’ way of right-over-left, instead of a man’s left-over-right!  Between messing up on the fly flap and the direction of the print for pants #1, I made extra sure to get everything just perfect for pants #2.  Look carefully and notice how well the plaid is aligned (see picture).  Now can understand why I never had the heart to take any pictures of pants #1.

100_2822     There is a slightly difficult corner to deal with inside the pants where the crouch seam and the fly front meet.  I found it necessary to clip as extremely close to the stitching as possible, then stabilize the spot with a small strip of bias tape.  “A stitch in time saves nine”, so I wanted to do things well now to possibly avoid spending time repairing a ripped crouch seam later.

The shirt has a very basic and easy assembly.  I doesn’t even have the customary back shoulder panel.  However, I did find that the sleeves, and especially the collar and its facings, matched up beautifully.  Not all of the collars I have done fit so well – sometimes (like on this blouse) I have to stretch the collar, shirt, and facings for dear life just to get all the layers to match.  Besides the balance marks matching, I also matched the print for the collars so the two pet driven cars would be lined up on either side.  Another difference with this shirt is the way the sleeves were set into the body.  The instructions had showed to sew in the sleeve before doing the side seam.  I have seen this before on a few other patterns of mine, but never tried it until now, and it was fun to do something different.  Hubby didn’t want, or really didn’t need the pockets (they would just mean more places to check before doing the laundry), so they were left out.  I also eliminated the cuff bands for the sleeves in lieu of a regular hem.  It was strange to see pajamas with sleeve cuff facing pieces…this is usually reserved for suit jackets or clothing which gets lined.  Anyone have any good reasons for sleeve cuffs on pj’s?

100_3750       Last, but not least came time for doing the five buttonholes down the shirt front, and, for once, I was really excited to do this step.  Usually for me, making buttonholes is a dreaded event, and they never have turned out that great using a machine which has the A, B, C, D step method.  Not anymore!   A birthday gift from my parents of a pristine late 1930’s Kenmore sewing machine has changed all of my perceptions about buttonholes.  This is because my Kenmore came with a buttonholer machine, an automated attachment that moves the fabric for you – so easy!   All you have to figure out is what size cam you need (such as 3/8, 5/8, or 1 inch) to match your buttons, and drop the right cam in the bottom of the buttonholer.  The feed dogs get covered by a face plate so the buttonholer can clamp the fabric, and, once the foot and needle are taken off, the attachment itself affixes to the machine presser bar.  Then the magic begins.  In 60 seconds or less I was able to have perfect, uniformly sized buttonholes in exactly where I wanted them to be made.  Unless you have used a buttonholer, you might think I am a bit over-talking this attachment, but it really is “the 7th wonder” of the sewing world for those using older non-electronic sewing machines.  All sorts of opportunities for patterns with button features now can easily be made by me with no stress, little work time, and loads of fun!  Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed that hubby’s pajama shirt only need five button holes for his five bright green buttons.  Oh well!  I am chomping at the bit to dive right into some more great blouses, dresses and more needing plenty of buttonholes.  Look for these projects soon.

100_3731     Hubby’s pajama set is yet another 1946 project.  This makes a total of 4 makes from patterns of the year 1946.  I suspect that there was a post-WWII boom of both sewing pattern releases and new design ideas.  However, this men’s nightwear pattern is not that unusual, even if it wasn’t from the year 1946.  Vintage/retro men’s nightwear patterns are out there to find if you look for them without spending too much effort.  You don’t even have to spend too much in money, either, because there doesn’t seem to be much of a demand or market for men’s vintage/retro patterns.  Therefore the prices stay (so far, knock on wood) reasonable, unless I happen to start a new trend here!

Sewing Projects Worthy of Giving Thanks

Even though it is a bit too late (holiday speaking) to be posting something from Thanksgiving, it’s never a bad thing to give thanks.  Appreciating one’s blessings is good for any time and season!

Personal illness and time constraints have delayed my revealing of these in-house projects. So now I am finally getting around to posting two items that help our home become more ready for the fall/winter season : a dachshund themed Thanksgiving tablecloth for our dining room, and a fleece lined snuggle sack for our own live hot doggie.



FABRIC:  For the Tablecloth- a 100% cotton, M’Liss  designed “My Pumpkin Patch II”  fabric.  Even tough it looks like a patchwork quilt, the fabric is actually just printed seamless fabric.  It is trimmed with a 100% cotton ecru colored lace.  For our Dachsie’s Snuggle Sack- a thrift store pillow case for the outside, and a little over a yard of fleece for the inside.

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread and I always have that on hand


TIME TO COMPLETE:  It only took me about 1 hour to make our dachsie’s pillow cover and our tablecloth was finished in about one afternoon.  Both projects were completed in November 2012.

TOTAL COST:  The tablecloth cost about $15, but the doggy snuggle sack only cost $3 (a 25 cent pillow case and a yard of ugly clearance fleece makes for one happy puppy!) 


For the dog’s project, I simply measured the width and length of the pillowcase and  sewed the fleece together at 1/4 smaller sizing than my measurements.  Then, the fleece pocket was slipped inside (seams facing the pillowcase) and the edges of the open end were turned inside to cover the raw fleece edge.  I took the time to do some hand stitching along the pockets inner corners and tack the two layers together.  I just wanted to make sure any of our dachshund’s “tunnel-digging”, done in his bed, doesn’t turn his pocket inside out.

This is such an easy project and the very best thing imaginable for any pet that likes to stay warm and snuggly.  The warmth inside sure does build up when he crawls out in the mornings!  Blankets just don’t do the job as well as this fleece pocket does at making a bed that our pet is more than happy to retreat into. 100_0774-comp,w

As for our tablecloth, this took a bit more mathematical figuring.  The cotton was a 45 inch print and our table fits table covers 80 by 60 inches.  Thus, I took the extra length which I added on when I got my fabric cut, and put it towards making 6 strips to even out the rectangle shape.  Two of my 6 stripes were added onto the two short ends, while the remaining 4 strips were joined together, two as one, making long strips for both longer sides of the table.  I ended up with a “border” look that was sewn to the solid cut just along the edge of the table…so perfect!  I wish I could show you my piece of paper with all my mathematical equations (I was so proud of myself!) to come to this finished product, but I’ve lost it, unfortunately.

I am also very proud of how well I sewed sharp corners into the lace edging (see picture at right).  I also precisely figured out how much lace to buy doing my loose ‘eyeball’ type of measurement in the fabric store (the kind of figuring where I just hold up the lace and measure with my arms).  I actually had only 7 inches to spare at the end of it all!  That 7 inches of lace went towards this lovely 1920’s project.

There are 4 small squares of scrap fabric leftover from making the tablecloth.  I have started to make these 4 scraps into coasters using ruffled cotton, lace, batting, and possibly plastic vinyl to prevent stains.  I don’t have an exact idea in mind right now so the coasters might actually be made for our next Thanksgiving.  So is life.

100_0698-comp,wBoth projects make me smile – inside and out.  The table cover is so bright and cheery, with the dachshund theme being such a personal favorite of our whole family.  Little furry guy’s snuggle sack makes me so happy, because to see someone (or something) else enjoy what I have made is a real treat!  Now I’ll have to make more things for the humans in our household (hubby and kiddo)!

Just look at his cute “the nose” picture at left…see how happy his ears are, also.

Enjoy all your holidays, everyone!


Western Inspiration: My Denim and Plaid Dress

This dress is about 2/3 refashioned, 1/3 regular fabric store remnant, and 100% creativity between myself and my husband. What is so cool about this dress is that it’s not “in-your-face-western”, but subtle enough to suggest a feminine twist on the days when plaid was a staple for cowboys and denim was the next toughest thing to rawhide 🙂 Never intended this…it’s just how it came together…but y’all know that I love a refashion project!

I don’t technically know how this project started. I had a yard of denim floating around the basement and a lingering pattern idea which I was determined to make work. This dress was made from McCalls 6324. Now, I knew I wanted the short sleeves of view C, with the contrast bodice of view B, and the ‘no-contrast’ bottom hem of view A. Ah, the wonders of a designer’s inspiration! I love mix and match features on patterns.


THE FABRIC: 1 yard of dark wash denim from stash, my pair of dark & gently used jeans, my  husband’s cotton off-white & navy plaid shirt, and white cotton scraps for lining –all practically FREE

NOTIONS:  I had everything already but the exposed zipper – only a couple $$ – and the neckline lace

PATTERN: McCall’s 6324, year 2011, view A, B, and C combined

FIRST WORN: to see a movie (“Pirates” in Clay-mation) with hubby at the same place where we had our first date.  This is a wardrobe staple kind of dress, though!

TIME TO COMPLETE: about 10 hours

Our little dachshund (my little shadow and constant companion) is in this picture!

However, when I laid the pattern pieces out, I realized I only had enough fabric for 4 of the dress panels. I did laugh at myself at this point for completely disregarding the amount the pattern said was needed. The dress is put together with 6 panels front, and 6 panels back, and I really didn’t feel like running all over to our fabric stores for something matching. I did happen to remember I had an old pair of flare leg jeans (never really worn) that never fit quite right. I planned on giving to Goodwill. Luckily for me, I hadn’t donated them yet and was able to find them again without too much digging.

The denim of my jeans was a perfect match-just close enough to work and besides, I felt good about up-cycling into something more useful and fashionable. These jeans weren’t an easy answer though. We were going to have to use a lot more inventiveness. Above is the pants turning into my dress.

The dress panel pieces were a little too long, so I used my seam ripper to take apart the pants’ hem, pockets, and side seams from knees down. For best look, I figured on using my jeans for the 2 middle front and the 2 middle back panels. I threw my own and my husband’s caution to the wind and go for a wild idea. The undone hem of the front pant leg panels was used along the bodice seam for the 2 center back panels, while the back jean legs were used for the 2 front dress panels with the darker marking from the missing pockets along the bodice seam also. Here are close ups of what I did. The right is the front of my dress, while the left is the back.

My husband practically gave me the bodice idea. I was digging through my fabric stash for a good contrast fabric, when he mentioned ‘plaid’ (which he loves) and I went to a bin where we keep all his old ‘rag shirts’, which normally have a stain or a hole in an obvious place.  I could cut around something stained, so I thought.

Then my husband pointed out an old Eddie Bauer shirt he wasn’t going to wear anymore. He’d had this shirt since late high school, and his mom had already shortened the sleeves a long time ago. By the way, this shirt was a generous fit – it is from a time when he was, let’s say, a lot more optimistic about his future body size. He is – and always has been – a skinny guy!

I used the bottom front and the bottom back (with careful matching) for my bodice, and I used the shirt sleeves to cut out my new sleeves. Then I lined the whole bodice in a soft white 100% cotton scraps in my stash. I’m quite proud of how nicely the bodice is lined and how well I matched up the plaid across the front. Hubby’s plaid made my dress’ ‘look’ seem a bit tough, so I went and bought small cotton lace for the neckline without having the dress on hand with me. I eye-balled how much I needed and I was only 7 inches extra!  Hot dog!

The exposed zipper was so easy and fun to put in the dress. For an added touch, I even added a small panel to cover the inside bottom of the zip.

McCall’s 6324 is an easy and very slimming pattern, but there are a number of things to change on this pattern. #1) THE NECKLINE- I added 2 1/2 inches along the neckline to make it higher. It would have been quite revealing otherwise. This includes the back, too. #2) THE SLEEVES- In my opinion, they need to be wider and fuller. The sleeves are awfully small and tight. The sleeves are the one bother to this dress and I will get around to fixing them (making them fuller) one day yet…

I feel my 2nd refashion was another unique success, and my husband loves to tell others about this project, as it was partly his in it’s own right. I’m also glad I saved two items from floating around Goodwill.

UPDATE!!! _________________________________________________________________________

As of May 2014, I have made those changes and additions I considered above!

First, I had to give myself more room in the arms.  Thus, I dug back through my scrap pile and found some more bits of the plaid.  Sadly, I did not have enough for newly cut full sleeves.  I had to adapt what I had on my dress already.  Perhaps I should have done underarm gussets, but I do not as yet feel experienced enough to do such a detail..

My first step was to cut though the center top of the sleeve from the hem to almost the shoulder top.  Then I filled it in with a godet-style piece.  I had to line those sleeve godets in plain cotton, just like the rest of the insides, to make my change clean and not messy.  This might not have been the smoothest means to give myself reach room, and it does mar the plaid, but I did match up as best I could!  My dress is so much more easy to move in, so I’m counting this as a win!

Then, because a garment is always better with pockets, I also found the leftovers from the jeans I used for the body of the dress and added the one of the former booty pockets to the side front of my dress – perfectly hand handy now!