A Christmas Cotton Set for the Mr. and Mrs.

No – I’m not talking about the Mr. and Mrs. Claus of Christmas, but making something for me and my hubby! It feels so good to finally see (and get to wear) something from my stash that was silently begging to be re-fashioned! It is nice, too, among the business of making (and finding) gifts for everyone else to make holiday gifts for a little “selfish” sewing for ourselves…

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I’m wearing my Burda “Wrap, Drape, and Tie” set from the previous post.

This story starts with a downer but ends well. One attempt at creating an elegant, ankle length, full circle cotton skirt for a Christmas about 12 years ago turned out to be a disappointing fail that I couldn’t wear. The skirt only looked tacky, overwhelming, and literally homemade. It was just one those bad ‘fabric-print-pattern’ combinations. However, I loved the print of mistletoe and holly, and the cotton was very soft, thick, and high quality so I always wanted to make something better of a ‘failure’ to redeem myself. Here is that re-fashion combo on Christmas day at family’s house – not-so-good picture and all! It is a man’s neck tie, 3 ½ inches wide from a 1971 pattern, for my hubby and a vintage inspired bias-skirted apron for myself.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton is the “Holly and Mistletoe” print, but the lining for the back of my apron (in a deep bright green) is a broadcloth which I suppose is mostly cotton, too, with some polyester perhaps.100_6606a-comp

NOTIONS:  I used whatever I had on hand for both the apron and the tie, which included thread (of course), interfacing, bias tape, and a blank clothing label.

PATTERNS:  The Tie: McCall’s #2971, year 1971; The Apron: the “Mango Tango” pattern from the book “A is for Apron” by Nathalie Mornu; The original skirt: Simplicity 4883, “Design by Karen Z”, year 2004, made in a size larger than what I needed so as to have an elastic waist.

Simplicity 4883, full & half circle skirts, yr 2004, with A is for Apron bookTHE INSIDES:  Both items could not be made any better even for being rather fast in completion. The apron has bias bound edges, both inside and on the edges, while the tie’s edges are not seen, 100% covered, tucked away inside itself. There is a “custom label” underneath just like store bought ties, too (picture below).100_6827a-comp

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I have a beef about the tie which I’ll address later, but it took me a total of 2 ½ hours to make. The apron took me maybe 4 or 5 hours, which is twice as long as my ‘normal’ time for aprons, a fact due in part to adding lining, doing some fitting, and much ironing.

TOTAL COST:  As this was a re-fashion of something bought and made from such a while back, made with what was on hand, I’m counting it as free. However, the tie only calls for 5/8 yard, and the apron pieces are rather small, so both could be made from scraps or at least very little fabric to make them low-cost creations.

100_6603a-compFor this duo of re-fashions, the absolute hardest part was at the pattern layout and cutting stage. It was hard to re-establish the grain line and selvedge direction on a garment that had already been made. My first step in the re-fashion was to cut off the waist panel which extended several inches down below the waist so that I could deal with just the bias circle skirt part – the only part I really wanted to use this time. I’ll save the skirt lining and the waistband for some other time. Now the only thing I knew was that the center front of both the front and the back skirt were on the straight grain, so I the rest I figured from there. Then finding the right grain for each of the pattern pieces for both patterns was the next challenge. It was kind of like a puzzle to fit the patterns in on the right grain and I can tell the bias might be just very slightly off in the tie and the apron skirt, but so close to right on that I shouldn’t be fretting. A successful re-fashion is always something great, especially when you can end up with two wearable projects out of one unwanted one!

100_6822a-compNotions and supplies given to me by my Grandmother came in handy for these two projects. Pre-Christmas time can be crazy enough the way it is, and the last thing I needed was an extra errand to the fabric store. Besides, I love to make my projects work as far as I can with what is on hand, although I do try to keep up a good supply so as to make this practice work more often than not. Anyway, I used two slightly different colored bright red single fold bias tapes (1/2 inch) for the apron, as well as a random cut of happy Christmas green. Going with a slightly shortened apron skirt, this green cotton lined the back of my apron and also a man’s utility apron I made as a gift for my sister-in-law’s husband, so it was enough for two actually. Hooray for stash busting with a good cause.

Oh goodness, the cover of the tie is so happily deceptive, for as nice as the tie turned out it 100_6655-compcertainly did not take me 45 minutes. In reality, it took me half of an hour to do both the cutting out and sewing out the pointed ends and two hours of hand sewing to finish the long inner center seam edges. (The two hours of hand sewing were actually quite productive, as I was multi-tasking listening to Ken Burns’ program on the history of “Prohibition”.) However, surely there must be a faster and easier pattern to use to make a tie so I probably will not be using this pattern again. Beyond some not-as-clear-as-they-could-be instructions, the pattern wasn’t really all that bad. After all, the tie did turn out quite nice, with clean finishes, and creative construction methods…it just didn’t live up to its façade of being ‘quick and easy’ as it makes you think. I do appreciate the fact that the tie pattern gave two size options: a 3 ½ inch wide or 4 ½ inch wide front bottom. Both of us decided unanimously for the 3 ½ inch option. He didn’t want to look too vintage, although he does look totally like a swing era gent in his picture.

100_6604a-compHow and who came up with the method of transforming a ‘T’ shaped end into a self-faced triangle? So smart, I wish I’d done it, but whatever, it tickles my mind. Seriously, look at that pattern! There is definitely some backwards thinking ‘engineering-style’ needed in sewing, especially when it comes to designing patterns, in order to deconstruct how to manipulate fabric and get it to turn out a certain way. I think this tie pattern is a good example of what I love about sewing…it’s better than magic how something in paper that’s flat, odd-shaped, with no dimension can become a wearable work of art. Amazing!100_6654-comp

My hubby’s father has done all this before me – he makes ties out of worn out denim blue jeans, and he has made his own pattern for his projects. Not to give away any secrets but it has a simpler design of construction which fits appropriately with the heavy weight of the denim. My father-in-law’s ties and my own are both products of re-using and re-fashioning, a trait I am proud to share. I am the happy owner of a copy of his personal, special pattern and maybe I’ll have to try it in my quest for the perfect design.

My biggest fear was that the two ends would turn out looking wonky. What if one side of the point has a different angle? As it turned out, following the markings of the pattern and such did produce perfect angles for even looking tie ends. Yay! I’m proud at being able to successfully make a not-so-traditional item and try something new.

100_6738a-compA cotton tie might sound odd just because you don’t see them sold but ties haven’t always been what they are today. In the 1910’s and 1920’s men’s ties were more like scarves or square bottomed. In the 1930’s, 1940’s, and the 1970’s tie were often a little wider than what we’re used to, and throughout the last 70 or so years ties were made from different materials such as sweater knits or made with odd monograms, painted designs, and appliques. On the pattern I used, the envelope back lists every material under the sun (almost) as recommended fabrics.

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Love the quote on this page!

Interfacing was added down the inside center of hubby’s tie. I didn’t really know what to use as interfacing. Muslin cotton? Canvas? Regular modern interfacing? I went with the modern lightweight interfacing and merely ironed it down in very small patches at the two pointed ends (to create a sharp triangle), at the center seam for joining the two pieces, and once in between. I made sure to tack the interfacing down with the tie anyway when I hand-stitched the first center inside seam down through all the layers. It should stay in place if it needs a washing, which I can do ‘cause it’s only cotton, he he.

I have so many patterns and choices when it comes to apron making but for some reason this particular design from a book of mine “spoke” to me, just seeming to be the right fit for the Christmas cotton. I’ve already made my mistake when I made the skirt, and it a pattern naturally pairs up with a fabric I’m not resisting. I kind of wanted something classier for my apron, like ivory or soft green color highlights by using different bias tape than the bright red I did use, but Hubby was right when he said those colors would have been too muted. I do love the slightly vintage flair to it, the very fun and feminine bias flaring skirt, the unusual pocket (too small to be too useful, but still cute), and the neckline features. In other words, everything! Maybe I should re-name this apron into a twist on the pattern title – “Christmas Tango”?

Patterns from this book are in the back, needing enlargement of 400% to be true to size. I took the “easy” route for the patterns and used a photocopier service to do all the printing and figuring for me. Otherwise one could draft the patterns up to full size themselves.

100_6813a-compThe pattern was made “as-is” except for a slight fitting I made to the ties. The ties are an extension of the bodice and slanted at such a sharp angle down that on my smaller frame I would have ended up with a bow over my behind…not the best spot. So I added a pair of 100_6825-comp1/4 inch darts into the inner (upper) curve where the bodice section runs into the ties to make a sharper turn, keeping the ties around my waist where they should be. Keep in mind that this was done before I sewed on the bias trim. Notice, too, how I took the extra time to line the extension of the ties with the printed fabric so that there wouldn’t be a “wrong side” of green lining cotton showing behind me. I love to make such little touches that none but an expensive apron would have. It doesn’t take much extra effort on my part and gives the pleasure of having a de-luxe apron.

Perhaps the mistletoe on the print will prompt holiday smooches both ways – from him for the cook (me), and from me to the dapper man with the cotton tie (me). Being a coordinated twosome has never been so fun and tolerable as this. It’s not like making matching clothes. An apron and a tie are just something to add onto our clothes, that we can take off when we feel “too cute” together. What a better time to be together than the Christmas holiday, anyway!

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My special “Merry Christmas” pin is decorating the apron top!

For One at the Home Front: a Man’s 1943 Flannel Plaid Work Shirt

There are the honorable men who helped World War II to be fought…and then there are the men (for one reason or another) who had the often over-looked position of keeping the home front with the women, children, and politicians. Those at the home front did not win awards or medals, but helped keep the wheels running for the country the soldiers left behind, making sure their nation was there for them when they returned from active duty. This part of World War II was brought to my attention by making a vintage pattern, believe it or not. I made (as my title states) a 1943 flannel plaid work shirt for my husband, as authentically possible and practical for me the seamstress.

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I would like to use the opportunity this creation presents to remember and address a subject of the men who stayed behind in WWII, and also the masculine fashion which prevailed in the mid-1940’s.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: a 100% cotton blue, navy, and white flannel plaid. A small amount of black cotton broadcloth from my stash was also used to line the back shoulder yoke inside.100_4745a-comp

NOTIONS: Hubby enjoyed rummaging through his Grandmother’s vintage button stash (which I now keep) to find 10 total matching white buttons which he liked for his shirt – sleeves, lapels, and front. The interfacing and white thread needed was on hand already.

PATTERN: Simplicity #1961, year 1943

TIME TO COMPLETE: The total time was about 25 hours or more. The shirt was finished on March 8, 2015.

THE INSIDES: Every raw edge that isn’t the hem or isn’t already covered by lining or the design of the shirt (such as the cuffs), is finished in French seams. If I’m going to make him a shirt, I want to make him a really good one…’cause I can and ’cause I care (high mushy factor but true).

100_5904a-compTOTAL COST: The flannel was bought at Hancock fabrics on a big discount at $2.25 a yard. Since everything else for the shirt was on hand, and as I bought all the under 2 yards of fabric on the bolt, I only spent a total of $4.50. I think this total makes hubby even happier about this project…wouldn’t you?

100_4954-compBoth the proportions and the cover drawing of this particular pattern that I own has led me to some interesting conclusions. Firstly, let’s look at what’s apparent. The cover drawing top half shows two men facing the viewer, comfortably middle aged perhaps, both with a “grown-up” moustache and the left one having slicked back hair streaked with grey while the right has a pipe. The other man not facing the viewer is, to my eyes, a young adult/grown boy, dapper healthy and cheerful looking. I see a discrepancy here – what is not drawn are the 20 to 30-something year olds who were the ones sent away to fight the battles and see the action. Secondly, the sizing of my pattern is a small and the given proportions are quite petite. My hubby has arms that need a 34in. length sleeve, and a neck that is comfortable with a collar which is a 14 ½ in to a 15 something inch. The neck, the chest girth, and the shoulders all fit him as is, but the pattern’s sleeves needed a whopping – inches added to the length. Now I know hubby’s finished shirt fits more snugly than a traditional 40’s shirt should, and I know men’s 40’s shirts seem run roomy (that was the ‘look’ of the times), which is why he got away with fitting into such a small size, although he is lean anyways. However, my patterns sleeve length tells me that the small size was catered to one not fully grown yet – a teenage boy who would have been home because he was under 18 years old, one of the two age groups I figured from the cover drawing.

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Here’s a family photo. My hubby’s Grandfather, who was in the war, is in the middle in his uniform, with hubby’s great-uncle, who was about 17, on his left in the flannel plaid shirt. This is year 1944.

Amid the flurry nowadays of learning (and amazing) at how people of the 40’s rationed, scrimped, saved, and “made-do” to help their soldiers, I’d like to point out that the needs of the men who stayed behind were thoughtfully not neglected by the pattern companies, apparently. I’m impressed. I know from learning first-hand about family history on both sides that men who were in their prime of life, and did not fit in the two “classic” categories shown on the cover of my pattern, did stay back from being sent overseas, too. According to page 6 of the American Population Reference Bureau report on the military, “The World War II armed forces represented about 12 percent of the population and included about 56 percent of the men eligible for military service on the basis of age, health, and mental aptitude.” This means about 44 percent of American men didn’t serve active military service. Thus, I am curious about the size proportions of the medium and large to my pattern – are the next two sizes up for adult men with dramatically longer sleeves than the small or are shorter arms something of the 1940’s or just of this pattern? I can see some sizing on the back of my envelope, but a full sleeve measurements would fully prove my thoughts. After all, this pattern reminds me of a true “working man’s shirt” in the “lumberjack” style, with lots of generous pockets to make it even more useful and practical. Men’s vintage duds just isn’t around still like women’s vintage clothes – men wore their stuff (especially the practical ones) until it couldn’t be worn anymore. I’m so happy to find patterns which help me fill in today for what is missing from back then.

100_4958-compSpeaking of fabric rationing and pockets from the paragraph above, I was working with some major discrepancy of flannel to make this 1943 shirt, leading to some slight adjustments to the pattern. Not too often do I come across an exact fabric match to a pattern envelope drawing, much less at a cheap not-to-be-missed price, and also have it be something hubby actually liked, as well – a very rare combo! It was almost painful to hear at the cutting counter that there was just under, yes…under, 2 yards for me to make a plaid-matching, long-sleeved shirt. Augh! I don’t know why this is a habit, but it seems as if the fabrics which get chosen for hubby’s shirts are so far always way too small of yardage. I have to make the gears in my brain smoke just to make things work out (see his 1953 shirt). Oh well – I mark it up to, “it keeps me creative” (I have to reason with myself). Anyway, I did squeeze in all the pieces with a few necessary compromises which hubby is happy have – chest pockets and their flap closures are smaller all around by 5/8 inch with the hem shorter and rounded up into a point at the side seams. The shoulder tops were taken in ½ inch to eliminate drooping sleeves and keep the seam at the true shoulder. No compromises whatsoever were made as to the grain line or matching up the plaid, and I am shamelessly proud at the results, especially working on such an impossibly short amount. I’d like to think the most hardcore 1940’s era rationer would be proud of me, too.

100_4959-compNow, I’m not called “Seam Racer” for nothing, however I really slowed my pace down while working on this project, enjoying all the fine details and getting things as perfect as I could make them. Attaining “perfection” is a hard goal to set, but I wanted hubby to have a really nice shirt – besides, I have a tendency (for better or worse) to make things hard for myself.
Let me define some of the details put into my hubby’s 1943 shirt so you can look for them in our pictures. There are rounded off sleeve cuffs, for a subtle dash of personality. There is an ultra-wide collar, more akin to what I also see in the decade of the 1970’s. The classic back shoulder panel is there, fully gathered across the lower piece below to complete the vintage look. I top-stitched everything in white for a contrast/utilitarian appearance, and made the shirt insides special for hubby in French seams not seen in ready-to-wear. He chose a medium weight interfacing for the cuffs, collar, and button-hole closure edge. I chose to use the “wrong” non-fuzzy side of the flannel as the right side out to keep his shirt looking a bit more crisp and less likely to “pill” up or look worn before it’s time. This “new” “vintage” shirt is meant to last a long time!

100_4952-compThe detail that was the source of the most thought, time, and stress for me was the duo of flap patch pockets on the chest. This was the first time I had done this kind of pocket, and I found it to be a tiresome, exact technique but very rewarding when finished. The placement in the front didn’t leave much room for error without becoming immediately obvious. This is why I left sewing on the pockets with its flaps and closures for the very last step after the rest of the shirt was done. Not meaning to complain, but matching the plaid of the pocket with the rest of the shirt and the flap closure section is one thing…however, there was the button and button-hole closure to center. I felt like these pieces were a bit fiddly and rather tiny to turn, sew, and generally work with, so I am quite impressed and amazed when I see flap closure patch pockets on our son’s child-size shirts. Hubby is happy with the pockets, even though I still doubt whether or not they’re centered, so if it’s good enough for him, I’m happy, too.

After hubby wore the shirt a few times, I went back to the few minute scraps leftover and added little triangular inserts to fill in the upper corners of the shirt-tail arch. These are intended to give him just a little extra ‘forgiveness’ in the length. Now, the shirt won’t show his undershirt as easily when it is pulled out from his pants or even left untucked. Each triangle fill-in piece is doubled up and lap-stitched under the existing hem of bias tape.

100_4960-compHubby has yet to own a pair of vintage 1940’s pants, so his shirt is often worn with classic jeans. The jeans give his 1940’s shirt a sort of quintessential look in my mind, making them not so obviously vintage. Jeans are not too far off in era-appropriateness, although, because they have been a staple in the world since the 1800’s when the Gold Rush happened, as the best wearing and longest lasting bottoms. As a daily-life, work-wear men’s garment, my hubby’s 1943 flannel shirt seems appropriate to be paired with jeans, besides the fact the combo of flannel and soft broken-in, quality jeans is quite cozy.

The Marvel television show “Agent Carter” has offered some enticing eye-candy of Agent Carter Cast with Stan Leehandsome menswear styles which I have seen recently. Some of the masculine characters wore authentic vintage pieces, while others wore well sourced and excellently tailored new replicas, but either way, I love the way “Agent Carter” presents the variety of styles available for men during the 40’s, a subject often overlooked in lieu of women’s fashion. Go to this “Hello Tailor” Blog interview with the designer of “Agent Carter” where she talks about sourcing and styling the men for the television show.

1943 mens fashion-magazine ad & Spunrayon shirtsFor a man of the decade, there was the classic mid-40’s relaxed look of lumberjack shirts and blazer jackets, and also “new” post-war casual look of sweater vests and pre-1950’s “University-style” sweaters, which did or did not need a tie and “braces” (suspenders). The dapper style was there for men, too, with endless opportunities for self-expression by choosing classic ties or art ties, old style-plaids or newer brighter colors, double-breasted or single-breasted suits, and multi-pleated or darted flat fronted pants (more fashion forward). Knitwear men’s shirts, precursor to the modern polo, were also being worn by men in the 40’s, as well as more artificial man-made fibers, just like for women of the 40’s. Nevertheless, there is some things that do not change about 1940’s men’s clothes – high/natural waist pants with boxy shirts with large collars. Knits and plaid, new and classic…it all stood side by side offering a man of the 1940’s more personality with his wardrobe than many people realize.

Men’s vintage wear might be rather non-existent as far as surviving, but with knowledge, a 100_4957-comprealization, and respect of the past, us seamstresses can change this and bring back men’s ‘chic’ fashion from the past. Men deserve to have the same admirable classy personalization of individual fashion like what was available in the 1940’s. Here in this post, I feature a 1943 shirt for my hubby so relaxed it becomes a part of him but so classy and tailored I hope the vintage style and hand-made quality quietly stands out. I can’t wait to make him a different vintage project. If you sew and have special man in your life, what about honoring the past, catering to individual style, and expanding one’s talents by finding a pattern for you to create a “new” vintage garment with me and bring back a style and variety so lacking today?!

Men’s 1971 Skinny Stretch Jean Pants

Some decades of the 20th century have been more accommodating than others when it comes to skinny or not-so-skinny guys who want their clothes to fit closely. The decade of the 1970’s was one of those eras where clothes fitted more like a second skin, or at least showed off the shape of the body, for both men and women alike. Think of some of the stereotypical popular fads of the times – super short “short shorts” and “hot pants”, knitwear, and chest baring tunics. What I will feature here, is also popular in the 70’s but unfortunately not as well-known as bell bottoms – men’s skinny pants in the straight “broomstick” style.

100_5874-compMy hubby was in need of new jeans, and, being a seamstress, I understood this as an opportunity to take on a challenging project. Using an old Kwik-Sew pattern and some stretch denim, here is the happy success of my effort to fit my “thin man” with some pants that fit him better than anything a store can offer. These pants are full of “first times” for my sewing experience, but hubby is very happy with them and I do not feel like I could have done better.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A brown stretch denim, with a nice medium weight, smooth feel, and slight white “pebble” appearance from the weave underneath when you look at it closely. The fiber content is 60% cotton, 36% polyester, and 4% stretch. The inside bottom half of the pockets is made from a cotton/polyester broadcloth, in a dark brown color, which came from my stash on hand.

NOTIONS:  I used white thread to make a fashionable contrast, and I always make sure to have plenty of white thread on hand. I also used interfacing and a sliding “waistband style” hook-and-eye from on hand, too. The only notion I did buy was the metal “jean zipper” for the front fly.100_5726-comp

PATTERN:  Kwik-Sew #322, year 1971

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The jeans didn’t take me as long as I expected – a total of about 18 t0 20 hours. They were completed on July 16, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Left raw but evened up and stitched together cleanly. I didn’t want to overwhelm my machine with thick seams or my skills with too many new skills by doing lapped seams, like I would have liked. Each seam is double stitched, with the crouch seams triple stitched next to one another for stability.

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was bought from Hancock fabrics, and cost (on clearance) about $7 in total for the 2 yards needed. The zipper cost an added $2.

From looking at 1970’s catalog advertisements and patterns, I see that the “broomstick” skinny straight leg style seems to keep to earlier in the decade (the ads I see are primarily from 1971). According to the blog “DressThatMan” they were a product of the Glen Oaks Company from New York City and ran quite expensive figuring prices with inflation calculator – about $140 in today’s money. The pattern used for hubby’s pants is not truly a “broomstick pants”, but they keep with the style. Broomsticks, like the Kwik-Sew pants, had a slightly higher waist than most pants from the 1970’s, and this is what my hubby is looking for in fit…no droopy drawer’s teen fashion here please! Broomstick pants were advertisement from 1971 for Broomsticks Men's Slacks. Broomsticks Slacks were a product of Glen Oaks in New York Citystretchy, again like hubby’s new pants, except for the fact that his are from a stretch denim, and the Broomsticks were almost always a polyester thick ponte-style knit. Bell bottom trousers usually swept the floor as they were meant to be worn with platform shoes, but the broomstick pants were higher hemmed, meant to be worn with flat dress or casual shoes for “the cool stud who wants to look experienced”…as I sum it up looking at the attitude of the old Broomstick ad models. I’m assuming my hubby doesn’t necessarily want to fill in “the cool stud” summary, but he does want some pants with a normal hem.

So many of the ads for Broomsticks terribly (and awkwardly) portray their product in a very obvious “girl magnet” or “sex appeal” direction (see this page for more 70’s bad adverts). I suppose direction of selling line is on account of the close-fitting knit, but I really wonder, as these pants aren’t heard of much, if their method of advertising failed the Glen Oaks Company before it started (like I could have told them). It’s a shame. The 1970’s could have actually had a fairly normal trend with the Broomstick pants, because after all, did bell bottoms actually look good on anyone?!

1971 Men's Fashion Ad, Montgomery Ward, Knit Slacks&Hubby's pictureI love how hubby’s Kwik-Sew jean pants have subtle retro features that speak of attention to detail while remaining utilitarian. There is a long 9 inch front fly in the front for the closure, angular slant front pockets, a wide waistband, a duo of back welt pockets with darts above them under the waist. Vintage enough to be different, straightforward enough to still be in fashion, and stylish enough to make a great pair of pants on trend. As I see it, clothes that are personally sewn necessarily have to look good – when the person wearing it feels good in what they are wearing, confidence is like icing to a cake!

My correct surmise was that starting with a pattern from a decade and a style that caters to a close fit for skinny guys would give him the custom fit he and I like to see. Thus, I really did not make any tailoring changes to the pattern before cutting. Fitting the pattern around him beforehand seemed to indicate they would be his size exactly as they were with no adaptation…and that turned out completely correct! I did measure the pattern waistband piece to figure out what would be the finished size so that the correct size could be chosen for my man. I really didn’t want my efforts to end in a fail or require too much adjusting. My measuring revealed that the finished waistband ended up about 1 inch below the size chosen. For example, the size 32 (which I made for him) finished up as a measurement of 31 ¼ inches. This size verses finished measurement difference is probably because the pattern is designed for stretch fabrics but also achieves that ‘snug and skinny’ 1970’s look.

100_5871a-compI really could not be happier with the pattern. This is the first Kwik-Sew pattern I’ve used, so I have no idea if the modern ones are different or the same, but this one was wonderful. The construction methods were ingenious and great, working out very well for a nice final product. There wasn’t a fabric layout on the instruction sheet, which was mystifying, but not exactly needed, but I did have to think clearly as to what grain and quantity were directed on the pattern pieces. I also felt like they did not make things any harder than they had to be when doing things as tricky as the zipper fly and welt pockets. But they were very clear and thorough nonetheless. Using the pattern was different, but that’s not a bad thing. 100_5733a-comp

A whole page of the instruction leaflet was dedicated to how to sew with knits, as in “what presser feet to use” and “what seams to use”. I never seen a “roller presser foot” like to one recommended and shown, nor have I seen one such thing shown in a pattern’s instructions before now. Do any of you my readers know about such a thing or happen to have and use one, so that you can tell me how well it works and if it would be worth my investment to buy such a sewing aid? I’d like to know if it is good for gripping fabric or is it good for going over thick seams…maybe both.

Sewing the front zipper fly and the welt pockets was an interesting experience. The way of constructing both amazes me. In my head, I can’t help but think, “Who came up with this intelligent design?!” I can say now that I definitely want to do a zipper fly again, and can also feel confident, too, as to how it will turn out after having the good luck to get it right the first time. As for the welt pockets, I have no inclination to do these again as I found them tiring, but I will sew them in a jacket or bottoms if called for because they did turn out in the end. Fold in, sew down, fold up, pull down is a short incomplete summary of the silliness to welt pockets. There was a lot of self-induced pressure on myself to get everything right on this project, which I didn’t need, but it gave me the drive to sit down and to both the zipper fly and the welt pocket duo each in their own solid cut of solid, focused time of clear-headed thinking. I spent a two hour slot of just working on the zipper fly, and on the next day, another two hours solid were spent on the welt pockets.

100_5883c-compOne of my friends at the local Hancock Fabric store once encouraged me to try a zipper fly, telling me it’s really not as hard as it seems. She was definitely right. It might seem convoluted and non-sensical the way the zipper goes in, but if I thought long and hard enough it kind of did make some sense enough to follow instructions according to the letter…and you know, it did work out! I had read through other directions for zipper fly insertion, but for some reason, even though Kwik-Sew’s flyer wasn’t picture heavy, I understood it this time. I will refer back to this pants pattern’s instruction sheet for the next zipper fly I sew.

100_5729a-comp-comboCrouch inseam construction for hubby’s pants was different, as well. Each of the four sections was sewn separately. I can see that this would make it easy to adjust the fit, however adjusting was not needed for my guy fit in them as they were.
These pants were made really long – and I mean that in the extreme! Hubby is on the taller side of the norm, and, as it was I folded out 3 inches from the height at the pattern stage, with another 3 inches hemmed up after the pants were done. Anyone with a height that tall and a waist as skinny as the pattern’s proportion is not the norm, I believe. The un-altered pants leg length is the one curious part of the pattern.

100_5872a-compJust like for the perfect knit wrap dress, keeping certain parts stable and preventing them from stretching was necessary for these 1971 pants. Firstly, I added stay tape netting strips into the seams around all the pockets. These spots are the primary place for the chance of being pulled out of shape from much use, but the last place you want that to happen. The stay tape didn’t add any bulk either.

The pattern called for interfacing the waistband, which leads me to talk about how these pants were made to accommodate his personal taste. I let hubby pick which weight he wanted, and he chose the lightweight over the medium. These pants needed a stable waist for them to stay up in place. Men don’t have hips like women, remember. Belts or braces (that is suspenders) seem to help them keep their pants from drooping. I might be the one doing the sewing, but I realize how things are different when sewing for someone else – my taste might not make someone else happy to wear as much as catering to the preferences of the wearer. Everyone has their own personal style that needs to be respected – what the ready-to-wear stores have to offer you doesn’t honor individuality.

100_5876-compThus, as much as I loved the clean and bold plain waistband on him, he really wanted to wear a belt on the trousers. Even an interfaced waistband wasn’t enough to keep them up…the bane of skinny men is droopy drawers, I suppose. To start, I made small ½ inch piping tubes, and stitching them flat (this was hard working with the denim, actually). Belt loops were sewn down in four places, at the two spots in the back where the darts (above the welt pockets) join into the waistband and at the two spots in the front where the pocket joins up to the waistband. So that the loops wouldn’t jar with the appearance of the waistband they were sewn down with the stitching flush horizontally with the stitching on the waistband. If he has to have belt loops, these aren’t too bad in my opinion – but he’s quite happy with them. That’s good.

Now that I’ve mastered pants for myself (see here and here), and now for my man, you might think I might rest with that…but no…I thrive on a challenge. I have a vintage corduroy and an old 1940’s pattern for some overall pants to make for our 3 year old son. Growing boys are their own sort of challenge! Look for his bottoms coming this winter. Pants sewn by me for the whole family!

Quintessential Classics – Bowling and a 1953 Men’s Shirt

Going “retro” can’t be any more “classic” than combining the early 50’s and the sport of bowling. What could be more fun than going “retro” as a couple to play one of the top past times of the era?! Vintage men’s wear certainly does not get made as often as women’s pretty dresses. So far I’ve made hubby some vintage pajamas, but if I can go out in 50’s get-up, he just as well deserves to share in my handmade vintage made for public wearing. Thus, I am happy to announce I have made my hubby a summer shirt, using a 1953 pattern, to see its debut at a local bowling alley – for some good “new” memories made together in “past-timey” style.

100_3360aTHE FACTS:
FABRIC:  The plaid fabric is a super soft, and nicely lightweight poly/cotton blend, so it might be vintage but no older than the 50’s. For lining the back shoulder panel and making the collar, a basic cotton/poly broadcloth was used in basic bright white.Simplicity 4452 mens 1953 shirts
NOTIONS:  Everything I needed to make the shirt was on hand – the white thread, the bias tape, the interfacing. The buttons are vintage, coming from the stash of hubby’s Grandmother.
PATTERN:  Simplicity 4452, year 1953, “Men’s Sport Shirt”
THE INSIDES:  So nice! The sleeve hems and bottom hem are covered in single fold bias tape, and the collar and the back shoulder panel are enclosed and hidden by lining. All other seams (the sides and the sleeves) are done in French seams. I wanted hubby’s shirt to be finished better than anything else in his closet!

100_3635TIME TO COMPLETE:  It was finished on July 8, 2014, after 8 to 10 hours of time.  This shirt was so easy, I hope to make more.
TOTAL COST:  The plaid fabric only cost $3.00, and the cotton cost about $1.50…thus, with everything else coming from on hand, my hubby’s shirt cost a total of less than $5.00. Neat, huh?!

In my opinion and from my experience, sewing men’s shirts are relatively easy and low stress. There are no darts, no shapely side seams, and no zippers, like on women’s clothes. To me, the fitting necessities for sewing up menswear consists of four main points to pay the most attention to: 1.) the proper shoulder width across the upper back panel, 2.) proper sleeve length, 3.) an agreeable collar measurement, and 4.) comfortable girth of ease around the torso. (Just like in women’s clothes where you try to find a pattern close to your bust size, I try to go by neck, or collar size, when it comes to picking out a men’s pattern.)  Maybe those four points are actually hard and I just don’t realize it because making menswear is fun, different, and challenging. Being a pullover shirt, it needed to be loose enough for him to get it on himself, but I still fitted the pattern around him first. As the pattern is a smaller size, with a good collar measurement already, I only barely raised the shoulders and slightly brought in the girth. Overall, the pattern didn’t need much tweaking for a better fit over than the changes which had to be done from fabric shortage.

100_3367When it came to making something for hubby, it was totally up to him to choose the fabric, buttons, and styling for his 50’s shirt, and boy did he take it seriously! I wanted to make his shirt earlier than I did, but I waited until he happened to finally find the right fabric at a vintage market. This one booth was chock full vintage fabric and feedsack muslins, in various sized cuts all rolled up in tied bundles. Hubby’s fabric pick of course happened to be a small amount, less than 2 yards. To make matters worse, the fabric had several squares of blank spaces where some scraps had been cut off, making even less of a total amount than I thought. The fabric is wonderful in feel, and weight, and plaid color tone for a perfect retro summer shirt, so these features were the saving grace to convince me to make things work.

Talk about cutting things close trying to make things work! I spent more time trying to correctly figuring on the combo of pattern pieces’ layout and plaid matching than the time it took to sew the shirt itself. With the fabric laid on the floor, I would think, look, contemplate on the layout and then rearrange everything. I had to shorten the sleeves, shorten the shirt hem, and round up the shirt tails out of necessity to make all the pieces fit. This is THE closest call I have yet done in my sewing…I do not recommend anyone else imitating me here. However, I did make it work with a whole lot of forethought, a clear head, and the time to take my time – I’m so proud and amazed at myself. Sometimes the step of pattern layout is the hardest kind of puzzle to be found.

Simplicity 4452 mens 1953 shirts - envelope backThe plaid couldn’t really match any better than if I did have extra fabric yardage to spare. Having “elbow room” of yardage to spare, is generally a good idea, much like it’s a security backup to have a spare tire in your car, although it might never be used. Sometimes when I am forced to butt pattern pieces up against one another when squeezing in a project on an unsuitable small cut (as for hubby’s shirt and for this dress, too), things necessarily match up. They’re right next to each other, as in “the cutting line of one piece is the same cutting line of another piece”!

The plaid itself actually is laid out in what is categorized as a “Tattersall” design. “Tattersall” is defined on “eHow.com”, in an article on “Types of Plaids” as, “Tattersall” is a plaid pattern that features thin vertical and horizontal stripes that are spaced evenly to create subtle checks. It is similar to tartan plaid, but “Tattersall” usually features a light background with colored stripes forming the grid pattern. The color scheme can feature just two colors or as many as four. Tattersall is often used for men’s button-down shirts, but some vests also feature the pattern.” Perfect in use of purpose and definition of stripe placement! Another definition of “Tattersall” can be found here along with all the other plaids. The fabric is a combo of four colors: purple, deep aqua, cranberry, and a very small bit of light pink, against a background of white.

100_3632He became interested in the process of his shirt’s construction, enough to be part of all the decisions which went into making it. I did convince hubby to let me construct the shirt with button and loop closures for the front neck opening. It is an option to the actual pattern, one which I wanted to make for more reasons than one – there wasn’t enough fabric, I didn’t feel up to experimenting with making a placket, and (lastly) a button/loop front is unique. Partly out of personal taste and (again) partly from lack of fabric, hubby wanted a contrast collar, one which brightens up and tones down the plaid. He had no problem with me using fine finishing techniques, nor did he mind the fact I kept the fit boxy and a bit generous to be more authentic (and comfortable). I think it looks pretty good…I believe he does too!

The back top of the shoulder piece, which stretches across horizontally, was adapted to add more interest and again accommodate the shortage of fabric. Instead of one solid piece laid out along the straight grain of the selvedge, I cut the shoulder yoke on the bias, with a center seam. The corresponding seam allowance was added. This could have been a risky (or flat out bad) move to cut this piece on the bias if it hadn’t had the second lining piece cut properly to keep the correct shape and needed strength across a high stress area of the shirt. I think my decision to cut the back shoulder yoke on the bias was worth the “risk” of disregarding directions – it adds so much more interest by having fun mitering the stripes into a downward chevron- style of design. So many times in my sewing a problem or mistake I encounter only challenges me to think outside the box and come up with a more unique and creative way to do something than before. This 50’s shirt is one big example of how to make lemonade from lemons. I think I will be very much temped to cut out another back shoulder yoke in this same bias/chevron-striped manner on another shirt, whether it’s one for him or one for me. We’ll see. 100_3364a

Sewing clothes for someone else bestows a very satisfying, accomplished feeling of pride to me, especially when it’s someone as special as my hubby. Sure, I’ve made him clothes already, but they were the kind that never really gets to be seen out and about – pajamas. Those 1940’s pajamas certainly get tons of wear on a regular basis, more than the 50’s shirt will, no doubt. However, for this garment – his shirt – he can wear this in public, advertise my capabilities, and brag about who made it for him all at the same time! Besides these base egotistical benefits, it seems to make him feel loved and quite special, two feelings I notice appear in other family and friends who receive my work. Those feelings bounce back to me, and make sharing my talent pay me back in something better than money can buy!

Also worth more than money is the good family time to be had playing a game of bowling. 100_3358aThe sport of bowling was never more popular than in the decade of the 1950’s, as I alluded to at the top of this post. This was no doubt partially due to the year 1952 introduction of the AMF automatic pin-spotter, the mechanical method of setting up pins and returning balls. This invention of modern technology, combined with the social, economic, and family situations of the time gave men, women, and children an easy and fun way spend free time and get exercise with little expense. The 1950’s were so adamant about promoting bowling, the ‘Bowling Proprietors Association of America’ released an informative and curious instructional video in ‘55, which can be watched in full by clicking here. The actual history of bowling as a sport and/or past time goes back much farther back than the 50’s, (see this page for more) and plenty to do with my own hometown, too, which explains why we’re lucky to have so many cool retro alleys to knock pins down in this city. Even though my actual skills at knocking over the pins are not the best I feel happy just to try! At this visit to Shrewsbury Lanes, my dad beat us all in points, while hubby put plenty of gumption in his throws (testing out the comfort of his shirt, no doubt), I made a few good points (wearing my ‘Gracie Allen’ ’52 skirt), and even my little guy had the chance to roll his very first ball.

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This 1953 shirt is hopefully the first of more to come in the way of sewing for my hubby. Now I have another new aim or goal to reach – making at least one man’s shirt for the decades between the 20’s to 70’s. This way, he too could easily match me in every decade of fashion. Am I making things hard for myself? Maybe, but I like a challenge, and I like to see my husband’s smile in the clothes I make for him. Look for more handmade vintage men’s wear to come in the future!