Summertime Blues – A Knit Top with a Twist

What do you do with your leftovers?  Do you chuck ’em for fear of adding clutter and forgetting about what you have in the house?  Maybe your leftovers get thrown off to the side with a half-hearted wish to make them useful sometime soon.  Or perhaps you judiciously sort, file, or store any scraps for later use.

1613     Whichever category you fit in, and I’m sure there are more divisions to add, this post is meant to show what I did with some precious leftovers…of fabric, that is to say.  I seem to fall in the last ‘leftover’ category which I mentioned, and I often impress myself at how I can find a use for every inch of my scraps.  So, knowing how I save and use my scraps, you can imagine my excitement at creating something with the leftover pieces from my “Doris Day blouse” (winner of the “Butterick to the Big Screen” 150th Anniversary sewing contest).

I was a bit disappointed in this top, merely because there were high expectations for it coming off of a great project.  However, I do really like this top after wearing it, and find the construction and the vintage/modern details a winner!

100_1807THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  dusty light blue 100% cotton double knit, all scraps and pieces barely big enough for the bodice pattern pieces;  also, a super lightweight polyester knit in the color navy, to be used as the lining and for the facings under my top

NOTIONS:  none needed; I had all the thread and interfacing that I used

PATTERN:  Simplicity 1613, (picture above and at right) year 2013, view C, with added cap sleeves from View A of my much used year 1937 McCall 9170

1613-back envelopeMcCall 9170TIME TO COMPLETE:  this top was finished in July 2013, after about 20 hours of time to sew this together

FIRST WORN:  out to do errands (get my glasses fixed, stop at Walgreens, etc.); big deal!  I hope to wear it out to a few nicer occasions soon.

THE INSIDES:  Turned inside out, this top is has clean invisible seams, with a smooth on the skin and professional look – all thanks to the great pattern design.  See ‘inside out’ picture below.

100_1910TOTAL COST:  only $5.00 was spent on the navy lining fabric

     The most important, number one piece of advise I can share about this top is…FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS!  I can’t stress this enough, and, coming from me (who almost always changes or adapts patterns), this statement should be taken seriously.  Like I said before, the layout of the instruction sheet steps and the design of constructing the top are so very smart, giving the finished product an amazing finish to some amazing details.  Reading through the instruction steps, and picturing in one’s head what you will be doing with your machine and the fabric helps immensely towards eliminating any confusion when actually putting this top together.  Read the instructions again and again (like me),  if you have to – some of the steps are tricky, but not hard.  With a thorough knowledge of sewing skills and an unwillingness to be deterred, anyone should be able to sew up this showstopper top.  Simplicity 1613 is the only modern pattern (so far) which has impressed me to this degree on many levels.  I wish more patterns had Simplicity 1613’s good features, especially the year 1935 Vintage Vogue #2859, which –click here to see my version– has many similar neckline features to this blue blouse.  1930’s goes modern very well!

My only changes made to this twist neck top were minor, but nonetheless useful little points.  Firstly, where the twist flips over the round neckband right at the bottom of the throat, I covered the raw edges of the two twist sections with matching navy bias tape.  This way I could sew the ends of the bias tape to the back of the neck band without worrying about any raw edges fraying or showing or not laying down flat.  It might be hard to figure out what I’m saying here, but if you make this top, you’ll understand.  Also, in lieu of armhole facings, I made my own self-fabric bias bands to neatly cover the raw armhole seams.  Finally, my only other change to the pattern is merely a fitting fix.  After my top was done, it gaped a bit along the back of my neck, so I sewed three darts along the edge, in a decorative 30s “fan” shape to make them look more decorative than functional.  Many other reviews from ladies who have also made this top also had some gaping, like myself, along the back neck edge, but I like my dart decoration solution better than if I had fixed this problem earlier on the pattern.

100_1806a     One more point that I like on my twisted neck top is the lack of top stitching.  However, I sewed in plenty of edge stitching on the wrong (the lining) side, and this does its job well enough with a touch up of light ironing.  As I did for my “Water for Elephants” imitation dress and my 1935 Vintage Vogue #2859, the elimination of top stitching has a wonderful classy appearance for the neckline, which is the center of focus.  Contrast top stitching would, I think, look extremely good on the neckline if this top was made in a fun, modern print…maybe I’ll have to try this combo sometime.

The best part about sewing is top is the challenge which it provided me.  Now that I have done so much sewing, it is becoming slightly difficult to find something that really tries my sewing skills in a good way.  Exercising one’s sewing abilities does feel good!

100_1797a    The deep V of the inner neckline is a bit close to being low-cut on my chest, but not bad enough to stop me from wearing my new top.  Besides, my creative juices have figured out the perfect fix if I want the neckline to be a bit more covered up.  A vintage silk scarf of mine looks great tucked under the neckline (see picture).  I have also found that my navy tank top underneath creates a neat presentation, with the added bonus of keeping me warmer when I want to wear my twist neck top on cooler days.

Unfortunately this top might not get much wear this year, as the cooler temps are moving in quickly and summer is quite gone.  Boo hoo!  Even though I often get eaten alive by mosquitoes or sweat like a horse in our town’s stuffy humidity, I am always sad to see summer leave – it’s just me.  I am a warm weather girl, and posting about my twist neck top kind of reminded me of this fact.  As enjoyable as fall can be, I always get the summertime blues.  Dressing in layers just to stay warm…yuck!  No wonder I love to listen to Lana Del Rey’s new song, “Summertime Sadness”.

Worn now or next year, I now have a neat top that’s as casual as a tee, but dressier, with some great 1930’s details.

P.S. Gracie Burns (yes, from the Burns and Allen TV show) did a very humorous skit about “leftovers”.  Blanche, her neighbor, asked Gracie if she needed anything since she was making a trip to the grocery store.  Gracie wanted a few basic items along with asking for “leftovers”, saying that so many recipes call for them but the butchers never seem to know about those kinds of cuts.  Quirky, I know, but it’s so much funnier watching this for yourself.  I couldn’t help but think of this.  Burns and Allen know how to make me laugh and smile!

An Urban Chic Refashioned Sundress

Once upon a time, there was a young lady (ahem, myself) who walked in a Goodwill store with the desire to find something to refashion.  Then, she found a neglected strapless sundress, having seen little wear as of yet, that caught her eye amongst the discount rack.  The sundress received the best makeover treatment in its lifetime and made the young lady both very happy and looking great as well.  A happy ending is enjoyed by all…

100_1259THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton strapless sundress, bought at Goodwill for $4;  also, 1/2 yard of think ponte knit (limited stretch) in black for the top refashioning, bought for about $2.50

NOTIONS:  none needed, I only used black thread, which is always on hand

PATTERN:  none really; I drew my own pattern for the top attachment based on a cocktail of my 1937 McCall 9170 for sleeves and Simplicity 2362, year 2010, for bodice and neckline shaping.  Both patterns have been made already, my peacock pin-tucked blouse and my navy sundress.  See – these two patterns below at right were changed/adapted into what you see I’m doing in the full picture.100_0677

McCall 9170Simplicity2362TIME TO COMPLETE:  my dress was finished on October 10, 2012, after only 4 hours or less of time

At first I thought of refashioning this sundress into a “Macaron” style dress (by Colette Patterns, see picture below right).  I even had a matching turquoise blue top which I pinned to the toColette Macaron patternp of the sundress, with the front shaped into somewhat like the front of a Macaron dress.  However, I waited a day or two before making this refashion permanent, and, as you can see, I ended up taking everything from my first attempt apart.  I really wanted something more unique and original, as there seems to be a multitude of versions of the Macaron dress, so that’s why my add-on top is self drawn.

The thick ponte knit I used for the add-on top to my sundress really went a long way for only buying a half a yard.  Not only did the knit get utilized enough to cut FOUR pieces of my top add-on (two were the facings with the front and back being the same), but I also used the two very small rectangles that were leftover to refashion another dress as well, my ‘modern art’ red dress.  I’m so proud of how I can find a way to use up every inch of so many of my scraps of fabric!

There’s not much to say about how I put the bodice together for the top of my sundress.  It was fun and simple.  Like I said, I cut out four bodice pieces (cut on the fold, by the way), sewed the shoulder seams together along with the sides, then sewed the top to its facings, right sides together, all along the neckline.  I made sure to pivot at the corners to retain the unique shape of the neckline and clipped at the corners before the bodice was turned right sides out and top stitched down.  Hubby was an immense help by holding the top of the sundress and my add-on top stretched out together so I could pin everything in place.  My stitching to attach the top to the sundress is rather invisible – I followed along the rows of stitching already on the elasticized  bust area.  The picture below might show the true colors better and also show a detailed look at how I did the neckline.100_1266

After the add-on top was done, I tried on my dress and something was missing to spice up my refashion.  The overall length was also still a bit too long for me, and the bottom hem swept the ground even with heels or wedge shoes on myself.  An inch or two was measured off the bottom hem and that was used as a trim for the neckline edge of my bodice, with the inner corners shaped by hand sewing in triangular seams.  I think this adds just the right touch to my dress; the neckline edging connects my addition with the rest of the dress while drawing attention to the shape of my bodice.  Besides, the hem needed to be shortened anyway, so I might as well make something useful out of it!  I have had a few people question me about how I got the neckline to match the dress, and everyone is surprised when I tell them something I made it from the hem.  It’s more simple than it looks.

If you look at the close-up full view shots, you may also notice my ‘belt’ matches the dress fabric as well.  My ‘belt’ is merely what used to be a tie.  The ‘belt’ strip went around a wooden circle at the front center of the original sundress, to be tied at the back of the neck so the dress would stay up.  One of the first things I did to my Goodwill purchase was to take that wood circle and its tie off of the dress, but I’m still using it to define my waist as a belt.  No, I didn’t forget to take a picture of the original sundress, and the top which I tried for my first refashion of the bodice is included in the picture also.100_0544a

We had hardest time getting my refashioned dress’ colors to come out true to life in our pictures.  In reality the colors are more of a steel grey, white, and a peacock-type of blue-green turquoise.

Whatever the colors look like, I am a big fan of the design (print) of my dress – the long rows and the slim shape tend to make me seem much taller.  Hubby gets intimidated when I begin to creep up to his height…that’s why this dress makes him smile, along with the fact that it’s one of his favorite of my refashions.

I wear this dress very often, spring into the fall – its so comfortable, so easy to match with accessories and sweaters, scarves, and the like.

100_1263     It’s funny how I remember all the details about this photo shoot.  We were out getting some last minute necessities in the afternoon on Holy Saturday of this year, and it was pouring down buckets of rain when we were done.  Luckily we had parked in the parking garage but at the same time we were really not going to leave until the rain let up a bit.  So we ended up goofing around, killing time but enjoying it.  We had the camera with us as well, so that was how we did our photo shoot.  I think the parking lot stripes and the modern city look turned out to be a fine compliment for my refashioned dress.


“It’s De-Lovely” – My 1936 Puff Sleeve Polka Dot Blouse

The year 1936 is very interesting to me.  Americans of that year seemed to have had a new-found, hopeful, upbeat outlook due in large part to the Presidency of Roosevelt and the second round of the New Deal programs  (enacted 1935 to 1938).  The Civil Works Administration was providing people with some money, Prohibition was now a thing of the past, and a brand new era of swing music was cranking out a string of hits.

Among this meditation of mine on historical happenings, I have made a blouse that brings me back to those middle 30’s.  My blouse turned out so much better than I hoped, I am truly very happy when I wear it!  The 40’s style is hinted at in my blouse while still staying true to the 30’s, especially by the fact of the bodice pieces being cut on the bias for a complimentary fit.  Comfort is not neglected either…the grading I did between the sizes was tricky (read about it down below) but gave me a great custom fit feel.

100_1713    Like a thrifty housewife of any era, my inspiration for this blouse came from sighting a pattern that I absolutely loved, but wasn’t willing to spend the money, and made do just as well -if not better- with what was on hand.  Now, with that proud explanation I will give you…


FABRIC:  a polyester silky print with a soft matte finish and peachskin feel, bought at Hancock Fabrics just this spring for only a few dollars a yard;  lined in ivory poly cling-free lining from my stash downstairsMcCall 9170

NOTIONS:  none needed;  I had thread, interfacing, satin covered buttons, and hem tape (only a few inches more than what was necessary) all on hand

PATTERN:  Simplicity 2614, year 2009, for the whole top;  my 1937 original, McCall 9170 (used before here), for the sleeves and ties;  Eva Dress pattern 7482 (click here for link) for my inspiration pattern


TIME TO COMPLETE:  finished on July 22, 2013, after about 8 hours of time to complete this blouse

THE INSIDES: The hem of the sleeves and the bottom are covered in beige hem tape.  Besides those places, all other seams (even the shoulders) are finished in French seams.  I did a good deal of  hand stitching to tack the facing down to the lining and also along the neckline edge – see picture below.  All that hand stitching makes for an invisible and special non-conventional look…time consuming but totally worth it!100_1754

I must say I really LOVE the Simplicity 2614.  There are many things that are great about it, from the fit to the styling.  There isn’t a zipper or any closure needed here, as the back and bottom front stretch (and drape along the torso) beautifully, owing to being cut on the bias.  I loved the fact how Simplicity 2614 had custom cup sizes A,B,C, and D for you to get the best fit possible.  Beyond fit, this pattern has a sophistication that lets your choice of fabric shine while keeping a feminine style with vintage yet modern flair.  Bonus time!  Minimal seams make this blouse a cinch to whip up – even with my vintage additions.

I achieved a great fit with, as I mentioned earlier  above, some unusual grading.  Here I would like to tip my hat and extend a thanks to Kathrin at her blog, “Sew long, cowgirl” (click here for the link) where she makes 3 different versions of Simplicity 2614 and did an excellent review that I found VERY helpful.

100_1711     Being a small person who is more comfortable with room across the back of my shoulders like Kathrin, I cut the back pattern piece a size up from the size which I cut for the front.  This is how she made this pattern.  Since I couldn’t decide which size to go with I cut in between sizes as well.  So, to fully explain, the bust piece I cut as a 8/10, the bottom front I graded to a 10/12, and the back piece was cut as a 12/14.  Technically I think I hung closer to a size 8 for the front shoulders and neckline seams, because the size 8 facings for the neck fit fine.  I surprised myself how all the pieces fit so well together after being cut in all those different sizes.

100_1755      Each and every piece was cut separately because I wanted a perfect match of the polka-dots, so I laid out my fabric (and pattern) in a single layer.  It didn’t seem that important to worry about matching the side seams as much as the sleeves and bust pieces.  The front center seam matched pretty well in between my non-working buttons.

I wasn’t sure if the poufy sleeves were going to pouf on their own or if I was going to stuff them just to get the right look.  As it turns out,  the bottom of the sleeves are just snug enough, while there’s so much gathering at the top of the shoulders that together I get the same look as on the front of the envelope.  What a happy surprise I had when all the markings and darts matched up perfectly together, like the modern pattern and the one from over 70 years ago were made for one another.

100_1714     My “ties” are simply 2 pieces cut out using the belt pattern from the same vintage McCall’s I used for the sleeves.  I sewed the ties onto the side seams at a slight angle downwards, just where the bust/lower bodice come together, so that they slope to where I want them to be tied – at the waist.

It’s so fun to achieve the vintage look I was hoping for, and more so to have it work for me well enough to love it on myself, too.  I can understand and appreciate people of a past era better when I can dress in their clothes, read about what they lived through, and listen to their music.

100_1709     Speaking of music, it’s amazing how well the music of the 30’s speaks so loudly about what the attitude and outlook was for each year.  Who would’ve thought the song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”, from 1931, would by 1936 eventually give way to songs with the titles of “I’m Shootin’ High”, or even “With Plenty of Money and You” (Dick Powell and Victor Young’s Orchestra).  I can see myself putting on this outfit in 1936 and wanting to go out, spend a little money and have a good time, maybe even do some dancing.

Even though “Marie” by Tommy Dorsey is hands down my favorite song of the year 1936, I had to name my post after Cole Porter’s classic “It’s De-Lovely” – it was Porter’s year of a line of hit songs.  Please take a gander and click on these links to a few more of my favorite songs from 1936: “Goody Goody” , “Stompin’ at the Savoy” ,  and finally “I’m an Old Cowhand”  by Johnny Mercer, from the movie Rhythm on the Range.

Our pictures were taken at an amazing 1930 era building, only a stone’s throw from the house.  The building is at a busy corner, in a very distinctive Deco style, and is well maintained as well, which is good for the neighborhood and for us, too!  The side entrance has a decorative lintel above that perfectly frames and appropriately dates my 1936 outfit.

100_1708     I even wore my antique jewelry to further complete the vintag100_1719e feel.

My necklace is ‘1928’ modern vintage brand, but it matches perfectly with my 1930’s old original screw-back earrings.  The earrings were a lucky antique store find (on me at left).

Be it antique earrings or clothing fashions, the attention to detail and timeless styling of things from the 30’s never cease to amaze me.

Strutin’ My Feathers – A 1937 Pin-Tucked Satin Blouse

The peacock and his feathers have long been very symbolical, and its popularity seems as immortal as its typology.  However, in the 1920’s, the peacock began a new emergence of popularity.  Suddenly it’s fan shape and distinctive eye feathers were reproduced everywhere – in fashion, as decorative building motifs, and even as bouquets.

Peacocks have a very personal connection for me and my family.  My mom was once chased down by a peacock, and my dad can do a peacock call all too well.  When I was little, my mom also hand made a very elaborate peacock costume for me one Halloween. (She sewed me a train with more than a dozen long peacock feathers that I could lift up by my wrist bands…so creative!)  Therefore, it was a no-brainer when I saw a peacock printed fabric – I had to buy it.

I bought that peacock fabric and transformed it into something from an era suited to the peacock’s popularity.  Using my favorite (and only) original 30’s pattern, I now have a wardrobe go-to favorite.  I believe my 1937 blouse puts together a smashing vintage look as well as offering the best fit and comfort ever!

100_1892THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a matte peachskin silky print, 100% polyester, bought from JoAnn’s

NOTIONS:  I had the cranberry thread, clear snaps, and bias tape; I only bought 2 packs of see-through orange ball buttons, a cranberry colored zipper for the left side opening, and brown roping

PANTONE CHALLENGE COLORS:  Emerald green, Mykonos blue, and Koi (orange) all in small, but frequent patches throughout the fabric print

PATTERN:  McCall 9170, with the date of January 1937 stamped on the envelope flapMcCall 9170

TIME TO COMPLETE: 8 or 9 hours stretched out over the course of a week; it was finished on March 20, 2013

THE INSIDES:  French seams on every seam, except for the bottom hem and the sleeves, which are covered in Koi colored bias tape 


FIRST WORN:  to church on Palm Sunday, with the green, bias cut wool skirt seen in my pictures (we had a heavy snowfall earlier that morning)


TOTAL COST:  $20 or under

I really have almost no Fall/Winter/Spring blouses in my wardrobe.  That’s what helped cinch the decision to just make the top, actually the long sleeve version, with out the whole big project of the rest of dress to sew with it.  Besides, I wasn’t quite sure how this pattern would run -big or small – and I didn’t want to fiddle with it enough to find out ahead of time.  In the end, my peacock satin blouse did run small, but just small enough to still get a perfect fit.  This was one of only a handful of projects which did not need a single touch of adjustment…made just for me!

100_1887     The construction details and the sewing method of putting this blouse together greatly impressed me.  This McCall’s is an ingenious pattern, much better than modern patterns, with an assembly that teaches some excellent new and not as commonly used techniques.

First and foremost, I enjoyed doing the old-fashioned way of sewing the sleeve placket.  The finished look is smooth and unique.  It totally makes up for the extra time spent.  In the pictures below I am showing you how I did the sleeve openings.


In the left picture, I have the small facing square, right sides together, with the tabs at the end of the sleeve matching.  I have stitched in the shape of a long and skinny U, then sewed a line down the middle of that U.  In the right picture, I have cut out closely around the middle stitch from between the U stitching.  Next, I turned the facing square wrong sides together, top stitched around the opening, and stitched down the turned under edges of the facing.  See the picture below right.100_1130

Both sleeve ends get gathered into cuffs that are designed to look more like cufflinks.  The instruction sheet said nothing about adding interfacing to the cuffs, and they are fine without it, but I will add it if (or when) I make this again.  In lieu of button holes I sewed on clear snaps, under where the button is sewn on,  to keep my ‘cuff links’ together.  If I ever find some cool vintage cuff links I might end up adding button holes, but snaps work just fine for now.

100_1897     The collar placket was the most time consuming and challenging part of the satin blouse. It required lots and lots of hand stitching with some intermittent hand picking of seams.  The whole thing was so twisty I had to do much stretching and clipping of curves just to achieve the lapped seams needed to tack the collar to the bodice.  Then, I had to sew on self-fabric facings to the entire collar!

100_1894    I took my time to get my corners just right on this ’37 blouse.  My picture at left does show off my gathered pouf sleeve caps, but the picture below especially captures the most tricky corner of all – the one where the front and back plackets meet, around the bottom of my neck.

I saved the loop closures for the buttons for last, wanting them to be more a decoration and not just purposeful.  My knowledge of tying ship’s knots was utilized for the loop closures.  I finished off the ends with Fray-Check and securely sewed them down.  I love how the fancy loops bring attention to the button placket in a good way, showing off my skills and hard work.100_1895a

Did you notice all the small pin-tucks, front and back?  There are 4 down the front (two on each side) and the two down the back meet each other and open up in the middle so I can move my shoulders freely.  The far front bodice tucks actually conceal a cleverly placed hidden dart.  There  is a bust shaping dart sewn first, starting from the top where the placket gets sewn on and ending at the bust point.  Only then do I sew the pin-tucks down.  How very clever!  The bust gets shaped from the chest area so as to take nothing away from the trim, but slightly blousy shape of the rest of the top.

We have a large but beautiful building used as a telephone company switchboard hub, just a block or two away from where we live, with numerous Art Deco details all over the window moldings and especially the railings. This is where we took these pictures.  Looking at our pictures when we came home from this photo shoot, we realized the railings match the feathers in the fabric of my blouse.  The same brushed, feathery shaping is shared in both.  What a happy coincidence!

100_1885     I like to show you some bonus pictures of my 1937 blouse, just for fun.  Hopefully our pictures convey how well fitted, smartly designed, and extremely comfortable my blouse is for me to wear.  My blouse is one of those projects that reminds me of something –  I’m so blessed to be able to sew my own clothes.