Candy Stripe Blouse

dsc_0976-compwI don’t know about you, but we have plenty of candy leftover still from Christmas (and even a little from Halloween).  Among the candy, we had so many candy canes we actually were able to decorate the tree with them!  Now that the tree and Christmas are past and out of sight, we have to work on finishing those candy canes still around.  Well, how about instead taking care of some scraps of red and white candy striped fabric?  As one who’s not that crazy for sweets (I know, call me odd…), this ‘sewing option’ to finishing off some ‘candy’ is my kind of thing!

Hubby thinks of the hospital volunteer “Candy Stripers” when he sees this blouse.  I know the two share similar fun red and white stripe usage, but they technically wore pinafore-style jumpers and my garment is just a blouse.  Still, both a pinafore and my 1940 blouse are peasant themed, and a rather “cute” (yuck – hate that term) style which tends to make one seem younger than one’s actual age (I don’t need help there).  Both are from the same decade – my pattern dates to 1940 and Candy Stripers originated in 1944.

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However, my blouse has something extra to it that makes it uniquely special in its own way, apart from any history or style or whatever.  It is made from fabric given to me by my Grandmother.  This post is in memory of her, as she is now deceased as of this past weekend.  The fact that the fabric for my blouse was from her gave me some stress and self-inflicted pressure, at first.  I wanted to make the very best I could with what she gave me, but I realized when planning to make this blouse that she would want me to only enjoy and be creative with what she gave me, and nothing less.  I felt the fabric and the pattern were made for on another, so it must be the best re-use of her scraps – I am quite pleased with my blouse, and thankful for her always encouraging appreciation of my talents.  She was seamstress herself, as was her mother, too, so she had some awesome and useful sewing related items she was sweet enough to want to see what I would do with.  Grandma, this blouse is for you!

dsc_0974a-compwThe date of this design (as I mentioned above) is 1940 – thinking back, my Grandmother was 10 years old that year.  To make this blouse all the more poignantly related to Grandma, the family (myself included) suddenly realized, while looking at pictures of her long life over the weekend, how very similar her face and mine are to one another.  Goodness, we seemed to have more in common than I knew.  She was such a lovely woman, always with a kind word, a smile on her face, a thoughtful act, and a love of nature and of family, just to name a few qualities.  I just hope I can be more like her, not just in face, but in person, too.

THE FACTS:hollywood-1991-year-1940-envelope-front-compw

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton flannel scraps, from the stash given to me from my Grandmother; linings and facing are cotton broadcloth scraps from on hand in my stash

PATTERN:  Hollywood #1991, year 1940

NOTIONS:  The only notion I bought was the trio of front buttons; otherwise, everything else was from on hand – the thread, bias tape, and hook-and-eyes

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was relatively quick – 6 to 8 hours were spent to make this blouse and it was completed on February 4, 2016.

TOTAL COST:  Just the buttons were bought (modern & basic red half-ball type) , so only a few dollars in total

This was a fun, intriguing, yet challenging project all-in-one.  I had plenty of inspiration that I had found for late 30’s and early 40’s striped blouses (many of which can be found on this Pinterest board of mine) so it was just a matter of choosing a combo of directions 100_6728a-compwfor each section of my own blouse.  This part was quite the memory game, trying to remember which pattern piece was for which section of the blouse and trying to lay it out in the intended stripe placement, all the while remembering to match lines!  At first, it seemed I was quite limited as to what I could do because the fabric was a scrap piece, all cut up already in odd places.  But, some mind crunching and much switching around of pattern pieces (again, like a puzzle game) and I was able to get what I intended, with only the blouse bottom waistband being necessarily cobbled together from four individual parts to make a whole.  In all, this was another “close call” sort of project where you cut the pattern squeezed onto the fabric so much so that you barely have a few inch scraps leftover – so difficult but these kind make the most of every inch of fabric.

As was the case for other Hollywood patterns, this blouse again ran large.  I know it seems it is supposed to be quite poufy and generous by design anyway, but I accounted for it by slightly downgrading with bigger, more modern, seam allowances.  My only complaint to this top is that the button front neckline does not give me enough room for my head.  I am able to put the blouse on as you can see, but getting it on is like some sort of skin pulling, “second birth” experience (sorry ‘bout the mental picture) that leaves the tasks of fixing one’s hair and applying make-up to be something that comes after being dressed.100_6948-compw

The awesomely full and puffy 30’s style sleeves are my favorite part to this blouse, besides being proud of the matching I achieved in the arm pleats on the side (see right picture).  Also, this is the first Peter Pan collar that I really actually like on myself for some reason.  The controlled, even fullness of the bottom band is easy to wear – nothing to come un-tucked!  The flannel keeps me just warm enough on chilly days but the short sleeves prevent me from being overheated when being inside.  In all, this blouse is a great wear, so comfy with full movement, bold statement striping, and a vintage look that is a good kind of unusual.

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In order to avoid a side zipper being too stiff for the side closure, I buried my intolerance for hand stitching and sewed in snaps.  The snaps keep the bottom blouse poufing out like it should above the bottom band.  A strong waistband hook-and-eye holds the waist 100_6946-compwtogether.  Sometimes I tuck the waistband into my bottoms (as when I wore my 40’s style denim skirt) and sometimes I leave the blouse band out (as when I wore it with my 40’s jeans), and I can’t decide what I like better.  The blouse appears more like an Eisenhower-style jacket when untucked and closer to a blouse when tucked.  Either way, I guess I do need to find more than just navy and denim bottoms to match with my blouse, at some point.

This last mention is no big deal, but I wish I had thought about “setting” the colors before100_6949a-compw I washed the blouse fabric.  It was a crisp red and white originally with a generally smooth feel, but after washing the flannel its brushed finish fluffed out more than expected and the red leaked slightly into the white turning some stripes into a faded pink tone.  The color problem is not something obvious enough to really show in our pictures, however I wish I had thought of it beforehand and am keeping this lesson in mind for the next bold two-tone fabrics that have to make their way to the washer.  Any suggestions on how to do this “setting” of dyes that leach?  I have seen salt water soaks being recommended, but does anyone have first-hand tips to share?

I attempted to channel to quaint hairstyle on the cover of the pattern envelope with a simple ribbon headband.  In the one set of pictures I even tucked my hair up to have more of a late 1930’s look, then the other pictures have my hair left down long for more of the ‘40’s young lady’ look.  It was after the pictures for this post were taken that I saw these old photo booth shots of my Grandmother in 1940 when she was 10 (center) and some others as a teen in post WWII times.  In the 1940 pictures, she had her hair short and curled, wearing the same ribbon-headband-with-a-little-bow just like me, but the teen pictures are pretty alike, too!  These old photo booth pictures make me see similarities between us all to well…

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There are many ways to remember the past, but remembering it through fabric is kind of special.  You get to wear it, do creative things with it, and it can be seen in pictures for a long time after.  Admittedly, there is nothing that can beat a memory but clothing certainly can add to that recollection or bring it back.  This might not be the best garment I’ve made but the special background to it makes it pretty great to me.  Now that the time for stories coming directly from my Grandma is past (sadly), I’ll keep paying attention to my her pictures and maybe I’ll see a glimpse of what she made with the other part of the fabric I used to make the blouse in my post.

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What’s Red and Black and Ruffled All Over?

Why my new “Parisian Dachshund” apron, of course! I’ll bet you would have never guessed that one coming, he he 😉

100_4760a-compNo really, with all its miss-matching of cultures and objects, this apron has a rocking vintage flair, fun prints, and feminine attitude. I can never get enough of aprons, but this newest one tempts me the most to wear it out for more than just cooking or entertaining. Should I wear this one as a fashion statement, what do you think? I personally think the apron looks best going overboard in matching and accessorizing in the spirit of fun, like I did in my photos…flowers, feathers, large bright earrings, tight black knit-wear underneath, deep red heels, and a big hairstyle! This wild combination shows the outgoing fearless side of me.

Just like for my “Tea for Two” aprons, my “Parisian Dachshund” apron was made into a carbon copy duo: one for me and one for a gift for a family member. I had small doses of both my fabrics and used my high efficiency cutting practices to make two of these highly dramatic frilly versions of a kitchen clothing cover.

As is normal for me, my best aprons are created when I don’t use a pattern. The starting ‘blank’ for this “Parisian Dachshund” apron was to outline an existing rectangular “cobbler’s” style apron which I own already. Then my supplemental fabric, the one with the layers of Fleur-de-lis, roses, dachshund silhouettes, and scroll work, was cut into long wide strips, to be ruffled. All four of the edges were finished on the strips before I ran two rows of loose straight stitches to gather the top about ¼ inch away from the edge.

100_4768a-compI’ve always wanted a supper frilly, ruffle apron in forever. I was totally tempted to add two layers of ruffles to my “Parisian Dachshund” aprons, and I cut out two rectangles for a gathered duo, whether I used them or not. After sewing on one layer to the apron ‘blank’ bottom half, two ruffled layers seemed to make it way over the top. Thus, for each apron, I ended up with an extra not-yet-gathered rectangle, and it went towards making the back ties. I made sure to be precise and center two layers of print for the width of each tie. See how nicely the layers of dachshunds, Fleur-de-lis, and roses can be seen so much better on the ties than on the ruffle? By the way, I hate doing ties…but somehow or another I always seem to suck up my disgust and make them well 🙂

Cutting out the two apron ‘blanks’ out of only one yard left me with nothing more than a small triangle of scrap fabric left. This small triangle was slightly adapted and cut into more of a crescent shape and made into a neck band for my version of the apron set. I really enjoy the way that this crescent shape fits nicely around my neck. The two skinny ends come to join into the apron top corners, while the flared middle lays over the back of my neck like a collar. For the gift apron, I used two leftover ties of the ruffle fabric to make ties for neckline to make it easier to get around and over the head and face of the recipient.

100_4773a-compPockets are a must in my book for an apron! I took a liking to a decent sized scrap of black denim, and used it to make pockets for the aprons. Inspired by the interestingly placed decorative, but useful, pockets on many vintage patterns and garment originals, I added a “mother and daughter” type of pocket style to the “Parisian Dachshund” aprons. There is a normal hand sized pocket, monogrammed for a special touch with the wearer’s initial (a “K” for me, and a “B” for the gift apron) in bright red thread. There is a mini, but still useable (for change maybe), pocket hanging over the edge of the bigger one and slightly a step off and above. Both pockets are top stitched down in two rows of the same bright red contrast thread. I love to add little details and fine work to my projects!

100_4764-compThis apron is perfectly blended with everything that I love and enjoy: dachshunds, anything French themed, Fleur-de-lis, and aprons. My mom’s side of the family has always had a 100_4774a-compdachshund in the household – my Grandparents had several, as well as my dad and mom, her sisters (my Aunts), and myself and my family currently own one. These long and short dogs are sweetest companions I know. Our own dachsie is good to everyone, but he is especially close to me, his dog-mommy. Anything French is hard to resist for me, after the wonderful time I had in that country years ago. I can never get enough Fleur-de-lis stuff because it is very symbolic to me in many ways, but especially since it is the symbol of our town’s patron, King Saint Louis IX.

Aprons are very meaningful and special to me, as well as easy but an incredible amount of enjoyment to create. I try to make each apron different and uniquely individual, especially when it comes to giving them as presents, which is my favorite thing to do with aprons! My aprons are not at all something to ‘save’ in fear of ruining them – they get displayed by being worn on a daily basis and getting loved by enjoying using them. The neatest old vintage aprons are always the ones that are stained and torn or threadbare because I can’t help but think of the times they saw and the work they helped out with – in other words an apron can be a tangible memory! Besides, I seem to think of aprons as the best friend of someone who sews or works with fabric – an aprons protects garments while decorating your style for the day, all the while expressing your personality. What an odd but special combination!

100_4763THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Both fabrics are 100% cotton “M’Liss” brand prints, from the “In Paris” line of designs sold at Hancock Fabrics. I only had 1 yard of the red and black scroll fabric used to make the basic apron ‘blank’. The “layered with lines of designs” fabric was used for the ruffles and ties – and I only had ½ yard of it! Scraps from on hand went towards the apron pockets.

NOTIONS:  Thread was the only notion needed and that was on hand in plenty.

PATTERN:  None – I just winged it!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Quick and wonderful – each apron took about 2 1/2 hours each, and both were done on December 10, 2014.

TOTAL COST:  Should I really address price when it comes to a gift? Anyway, with such a small amount of fabric used to make the two aprons and scraps for the pockets, the price was a very reasonable total.

“Down to Earth” – my Early 1940’s Separates

Where else but in vintage wear can you look all prim and classy while also feeling as comfy and easy to move in as if in casual clothes?  The 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s had mastered the use of pleats, godets, bias cuts, and the like to make clothes styled well and also move nicely, keeping up with a modern woman’s busy life.  Here I’m getting down to deep, rich earth tones in a “down to earth” outfit of easy to make, effortless to wear early 40’s pieces.Agent Carter badge.80

This is the first post which is officially part of my “Agent Carter” Sew Along.

100_4387     I feel this is a perfect “Agent Carter” inspired clothing set.  It is a mix of two of her style tendencies.  She often wears wonderfully tailored blouses in deep colors, with collars so beautiful I always sigh when I see them.  Although she is not afraid to stand out, she is also leading a secret life as an SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve) agent, so she also tends towards nondescript, often neutral separates.  Let’s think of charcoal grey with lavender or dark brown with pink.  However, working in a man’s world, she needs a feminine touch.  Finding that perfect blend of both can be challenging and fun, but I think if it can be actualized for your wearing, it is generally flattering and also classic of the 40’s era.

2051104_CA_Agent_Carter_KDM_     Before I go on, here are THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  For my skirt, I used a very fine, medium weight, 100% wool twill.  It is a tan/brown color that is slightly heathered in bits of grey and cream.  The blouse is made out of a lightweight 100% cotton broadcloth which just seems to get softer at each washing.

NOTIONS:  None were needed to buy – everything was on hand, which is very convenient (and practical).  The buttons for both pieces are vintage and come from my hubby’s Grandmother’s stash.  I used regular lightweight iron-on interfacing for the collar and cuffs on the blouse, but I used tarlatan, a a thin, stiffened, open-mesh cotton fabric, to support the waistband of the skirt.  (Teaser…I’ll soon be posting more about tarlatan and a neat, new project I made using it!)

PATTERNS:  Simplicity #3961 was used for the wool skirt.  #3961 is a year 1941 suit and skirt set with the option of two different top halves – either a jacket or a blouse.  I used Simplicity #4602 from the year 1943 for the cranberry cotton blouse.

Simplicity 4602 cover drawing100_2851 yr 1941 suit set

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My blouse was completed in 6 to 8 hours and was finished on January 18, 2015.  The skirt was made in 5 or 6 hours (start to finish), and was done on January 26, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Every seam of both the blouse and the skirt, excepting the hems of course and the blouse’s shoulder seams, is done in French seams for a clean and couture finished look inside and out.

100_4405TOTAL COST:  The fabrics for this outfit were bought at Hancock Fabrics on a deep discount.  The total cost for the 2 yards I needed for the skirt came to $4.60, while the total cost for the blouse was about $4.00.  I did buy a zipper for the skirt side closure, but it was purchased maybe half a year ago and I normally pay under $1, so I’m not really counting this as well.  In other words, I suppose total for the set is just under $9.00.

There’s not too much to say about my blouse except that I absolutely love everything about it.  This is the second time I have made this blouse (you can see my first version here and here), and this time I made sure to take the time to have this pattern last for many more years so it can become my standby 40’s blouse pattern.  The pattern itself is on unprinted tissue, and has slight water damage, making it fragile and brittle.  I was able to use it “as is” for my first blouse, adding on the fitting adjustments where needed and making thorough notes so as to repeat what I had done for a perfect fit.  However, some slight tears in the paper were inevitable, so…this time I traced out a brand new paper copy of the blouse with all markings transferred and my personal fitting needs added on to become part of the pattern.  I love the fact that this blouse has the collar in-one with the blouse and facing (there isn’t a separate piece to sew on) because this always seems to make this blouse very quick, easy, and fun to whip up.  Now that I have a custom paper copy, creating Simplicity 4602’s blouse should be easier than ever.

100_4395     As I mentioned above, one of the features of my blouse is the “all-in-one” collar that’s part of the blouse, but there are plenty of other redeeming and classic 40’s features to this blouse.  First of all, I love the fact that this pattern only needs three buttons – how easy is that!  Personally, I find quite a number of really cool vintage buttons in a count of three.  I suppose it is an odd number that is not needed in too many patterns.  Besides this point, it is always easier to find special vintage buttons in small numbers than it is in large amounts, like a dozen or more. For my own blouse, I wanted to avoid buying anything, but Hubby’s Grandmother’s stash doesn’t have many buttons in red, so I chose a single interesting odd-ball button for the top, first closure, and two matching/contrasting buttons for the rest of the blouse.  All the buttons are vintage and have a the same type of fiber optic style glow, but the top one is definitely older (more possibility of being 40’s era with its center carving) than the other two.  After all, the 40’s were all about “making do” with what was on hand!  Pardon the raindrops speckling my top…

100_4400     Secondly, the blouse has the very flattering and very classic forward shoulder seam, with gathers where the front panels meet to create soft gathers for subtle bust shaping.  The darts to shape the hips and waist are curved in such a way that they make the blouse have almost a peplum look when it’s not tucked in, and also minimizes too much excess blouse to tuck in like some other blouses.  (Don’t you hate when there’s too much bottom fabric to a blouse to tuck in a snug fitting skirt and it looks funny?  I do.)  As is usual for my blouses, I finished the cuffs of my cranberry cotton top in two pairs of 5/8 inch button holes, so I can close the cuffs using cufflinks.

I hate to be a bore or seem too predictable, but look for yet more versions of this blouse to come.  I’m contemplating adding an interesting pocket to the front of my next Simplicity 4602 blouse.  It really can’t get any better once you find that perfect vintage top pattern which gives you all the comfort of modern “play” clothes in classy past style.  No kidding, I totally have room to do anything in this set – swing at the playground with my little one, look nice at a restaurant, or even do some Peggy Carter’s athletic “good-girl-taking-out-the-bad-guys” type of moves.  You see my feeble attempt at re-creating “the tiger”…I suppose it shows how much I like watching ‘karate/kung fu’ movies.

100_4404a     The skirt was easy but slightly hard for me at the same time.  Confused?  Well, I am a very precise type of person, to the point of making things hard on myself.  This skirt put my precise skills to the test.  Even though it looks easy on the pattern envelope back (hey, there’s only two tissue pieces, as you cut two of the back and two of the back), I was very exact with marking the dots of where to fold the pleats.  The front has a center box pleat and a regular pleat on each side while the back has a simple center box pleat.  You fold the box pleats in so as to meet at the center seams of the back and front for relatively easy matching.  I did not sew down the edges of the folds, like for this basic black 30’s skirt, but I did obsess over making the pleats permanent and even all the way down to the hem when I did my final ironing.

100_4396     For some strange reason, I have found in my sewing experience to notice that many 1940’s pants and skirts seem to run slightly smaller than the size shown.  Thus, I often forget but need to remember to give myself and extra inch above what seems necessary to reach a comfortable fit.  The 1941 suit pattern I used for my skirt is actually too big for my sizing but turned out fitting just right for me.

100_4410     Many vintage patterns also call for deep hems, as well, although the widest hems I’ve seen come from 1920’s patterns (see my 1928 dress – it has a 5 inch hem).  This skirt pattern called for a 2 inch hem, but to fall at the proper length on my body, I needed to make a wide 3 1/2 inch hem.  I hand-stitched down the hem, after measuring and ironing the hem in place, to have an invisible finish.  Wide hems can be quite nice, almost like weighing down the whole garment slightly in a way that keeps it in its place.

100_4392     Hey, hey, look in the above picture – I pulled out my favorite “made in Italy” vintage seamed stockings for this outfit.

Waistband closure ends are often quite thick and bulky, so most of times I do not attempt a button hole.  I like to use large, sliding-style, waistband hook-and-eyes most of the time, but for this skirt I chose to add on a loop and button closure method.  Maybe I like to add loops merely because I enjoy making those tiny bias loops.  Anyway, the waistband button is neat, unique, and highly detailed, also from Grandmother’s stash of notions.  I hope you can see the tiny grooves and swirling design, like veins, and the two different brown/tan tones of the material.

100_4415     Both my blouse and my skirt are an unintended outfit.  Both my blouse and my skirt were actually made to go with other pieces.  My wool skirt is the bottom half of the full suit.  I am in the middle of making the suit blouse from the Simplicity 3961 pattern, using a rich forest green wool crepe.  The cranberry blouse is meant to match with a wool tweed, in a grey and white, green and cranberry plaid, to be made into a war-time jumper from a mail-order pattern.  However, a 40’s gal would not have made clothing pieces that did not completely integrate into the rest of their wardrobe, so I suppose I did things the right way with my separates.

I still have several yards’ worth of my skirt’s wool twill to make a man’s 1939 coat/large pocket shirt pattern, so my hubby can have more handmade vintage wear, too!

Do you have any earth toned 1940’s creations?  Have you done (or are inspired to do) any sewing in my outfit’s similar colors or fabrics, maybe even something in wool-look alike fabric, or in a blend of the feminine and masculine touch, like Peggy?  Are you envious like me of Miss Carter’s amazing agility?

Decked Out In Red, 1946 Style

This Christmas, I celebrated the season in style – handmade vintage style to be exact.  My finished dress in one of my #1 best made project, taking into account the high quality fabrics, thread, and details which are involved.

My best 1940’s hat, complete with feathers, rhinestones, and netting, was worn to suit posing in my new fancy dress.

100_2335THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The dress is made using a 100% wool medium weight gabardine, with an excellent soft drape.  It is in a deep, royal red color.  I believe I bought it at a JoAnn’s store, back in 2011.  Wool gabardine is a very rare find in the stores of this town, so when I saw this fabric (the only bolt of its kind, all sad and lonely) I picked up over 3 yards of such a prized find.  After my dress, I still have a nice 3/4 yard chunk of this fabric leftover to go towards a future project.  The lining for my dress is a basic red cling-free poly lining, bought just before making the dress.

NOTIONS:  I had to buy most all of the notions for this dress because I wanted to be very specific with the finished look.  I bought matching thread (Mettler Metrosheen and a Dual duty), a side zipper, and buttons for the wrist closures which matched the big buttons I already had for the bodice closure.B5281

PATTERN:  “Retro” Butterick #5281, a 1946 reprint.  Even though Butterick released this pattern back in 2008, it’s still in circulation. 

 TIME TO COMPLETE:  Oh my!  Too long for my taste.  I probably spent more than 30 hours to make this dress over the course of 2 weeks.  It was finally finished on December 19, 2013.  There is a debate in my mind as to whether or not I should unpick the spots I would like to perfect and rework it, but, “done is beautiful” in this case! 

 FIRST WORN:  to my maternal side of the family get-together, the Sunday before Christmas.  It is held at a historic German building, now a restaurant, and I think my bright red dress matched the festive, old-world style decorations inside.  Boo hoo, it was too dark inside for any pictures.

TOTAL COST:  I’m not that sure, but it probably is a bit over $30.  That is more than my normal cost, but worth it in the end.  Don’t forget, the total cost was mostly spent 3 years ago anyway.

B5281-drawing      As I usually do, I checked plenty of reviews from other seamstresses who have made this same reprint, and I ended up just getting all around confused.  So many others have made this dress and none of them were really consistent with any one B5281 modelproblem, but more than one mention of tight sleeves, generous bust ease, and difficult neckline pleats perked my attention.  Looking ahead for these traits, I covered my behind (ahem…) by adapting some of the construction while slightly changing just a few of this dress’ details.  I wanted my dress to be quite close to the original, and similar to the model on the Butterick web page (at left).  I’m hoping my variations to B5281 make it so much more elegant and practical.

I tried to fit this dress better when it was still at the cutting stage by doing my now normal wild grading technique. My front bodice is an 8 graded at waist to a 10, my back bodice is a 10 graded to a 12 at waist, the skirt half is a solid 12, while the sleeves are a 10.  Crazy isn’t it…but, hey, it has always worked great so far.

100_2320     The first big change to the construction process was to sew the lining and the dress together as one.  This way if any fitting adjustments are needed, such as to the shoulders or sleeves or darts, I can fix issues without a headache of unpicking.  The bodice front, with its lining having a separate fit with darts, and the skirt portion, which is hanging free from the waist down, are the only exceptions.  To have the lining fit over the inside of this dress like a separate 2nd glove sounds nice, but I’ve done dresses like that before, and had my share of grief from that design, so I wasn’t ready for that with this dress.  Besides, I have my own favorite way of making my handmade clothes look professional – French seams!  Every seam is French seams, except for the bottom hem and flat felled seams inside the sleeves.  See ‘inside out’ picture at right.100_2475a

I didn’t have any problems with the side neckline pleats, but I completely understand how easy it could be to totally mess up. Those three little neckline details are awfully close to some seams and are a bit slanted, too.  The neckline shape of my dress happily turned into an inverted rectangular shape according to the pattern – a few bloggers complained their versions of B5281 became an exact square neckline, for some reason.  Just make sure not to let the gathers at the end of the pleats get bunched into or pull at the neckline seam.  I even added seam tape into the whole neckline and shoulders to make sure everything keeps a perfect shape.  My very best, red letter recommendation is to PLEASE do all the markings, transfer them precisely, and sew directly on them without any cutting of ANY corners until you’ve made sure it’s alright.  Taking your time and being as precise as you can be will basically assure those details turn out the same as the pattern.  Be warned, though, the bodice alone did take up about half of my whole working time on this dress.

100_2315a      Now, not that I am against pure decorative purposed items, but why add buttons across the side bodice closure and have them do nothing?!  I couldn’t do that.  So I cut some bias strips to sew my own tiny tubing to use as loop closure, and added them into the front seam at exactly 1 1/2 inches away from the side seams.  Voila!  Only one heavy duty snap was needed to be hand sewn to the inside near the neckline to help hold up its shape.  Utility and decoration are now married with this configuration, showcasing my prized “La Mode” Vintage line of buttons.  I had been keeping these two buttons with my B5281 pattern, since the button card says they’re circa 1920 to 1940.  Quite the statement pieces needed here, I think.100_2309

On that “purely decorative” vein, I took the next step and made loop plackets at the wrist of my sleeves to match the neckline.  The pattern called for two small zippers and I want to do this feature to a dress or top at some po100_2282aint, but not on this project.  Matching my neckline buttons made finding some smaller wrist closure buttons a slight challenge which hubby and I conquered together.  My wrist closure was sewn in a manner I learned from doing the sleeves of this project, and its something I’m quite proud of how it looks and turned out.  You simply do a small hem along the sleeve end and turn the hem up, right sides together, so it’s aligned with the opening.  Then, I slipped my loops in the seam of one side and sewed both corners together.  Trim seams and turn them right sides out and just like magic I had a perfectly finished hem cuff.  I hope my picture reveals some light on my technique.

100_2316a    The zipper here is probably one of my best installations, even with the tricky gathers along the side.  Those side gathers are such a small detail, but they perfectly compliment the rest of the dress. (see picture at left)

To be honest, at first I really didn’t like the dress on myself that much.  I thought it looks more obviously vintage than many of my other past era patterns.  However, in this deep red color and expensive fabric, it does have a very classic, professional, suit-type of aura unlike anything in my closet.  Once I wore my new dress, I absolutely loved it.  The skirt portion hangs beautifully and the L-panel which goes across the tummy and hangs down is the best compliment ever for a woman’s waistline.  The sleeves are on the edge of needing some extra ease to allow for some “reach room”, but as I don’t think I’ll be hanging from a jungle gym in this dress (just going out and sittin’ pretty), this is a minor complaint.  One day I might have the gumption to add a professional sleeve gusset, but, until then, I am going to enjoy wearing my 3rd dress from 1946 ( #1 dress here, and #2 dress here).  Hmmm…maybe 1946 is a good year to pick patterns from for more upcoming vintage projects.

When I tell people about this 1946 dress, everyone replies that they can’t wear wool because its too itchy of a fabric.  Goodness!  It’s a shame the general populace has NO idea what quality wool, or wool blends really feel like – otherwise I would not get those sort of replies.  I do have sensitive skin and this fine wool gabardine used for my dress is not obviously itchy, just soft and smooth.  A recent purchase of a wool/silk blend fabric from Mood N.Y. has further impressed me with the softness wool fabrics can present.  My hope is to convince people, when I wear my 1946 red wool dress, to see what they are missing as a consumer by realizing the nice quality fabrics that RTW store clothes are cheating them from enjoying. 100_2313

P.S. Did you notice in the pictures that I went all out vintage wearing my new Hue brand back seam stockings?  See!100_2291

Hats Off to a Star-Spangled Red (White) and Blue Dress

It’s that time of year to see all sorts of things proudly showing off our country’s colors, and I will be no exception.

A new dress can’t get any more fun than going all out  in a full circle skirt, contrast lining to highlight my “burnout” designed knit, and bold red color to boot.

100_1599 THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  1 1/2 yards of lightweight 100% cotton knit with a allover “burnout” (see through) design of different sized stars, bought on clearance for around $5 (more or less) when we had a local craft store close;  navy blue polyester knit to go under the red knit, bought for around the same $ as the red knit

NOTIONS:  none bought;  I had all the thread that was needed  and just enough V8766hem tape

PATTERN:  Vogue “Easy Options” 8766

THE INSIDES:  all seams, excepting the armhole seams and bottom hem, are finished in French seams.  The French seams got a little bulky, especially around the waist seam, but some top stitching (done sparingly) helped matters.  Hem tape was used on the back half of the bottom hem, merely because I cut that piece an inch shorter from the front…I always find a way to fix any of my boo-boos!  In the picture below you can see my hem tape/normal hem.  My skirt is so full, hopefully my hem is all that I’m showing off!

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TIME TO COMPLETE:  I finished this dress on June 5, 2013, after an estimated 6 hours of sewing.  I first wore my dress out to a beauty salon for a haircut and style, and really felt GOOD that evening all spiffed up!

I definitely thought outside the box for making this project, but my mind seems to naturally think of ways to stretch boundaries.  Vogue 8766’s recommended fabrics only mention lace and everything else I consider “nice wear”.  Not that I don’t like fancy fabrics – I really love them, but wanted to enjoy this pattern’s designs out at a barbecue or casual affair as well.  Why shouldn’t I be able to accommodate for a knit using V8766, by going down a size?  My idea was correct, as it has been before for other patterns, such as my Vintage Vogue 2859.

I was set on using this pattern for my red fabric because the star print is so busy I wanted it to ‘shine’ by having styling that would be both simple and beautifully fun.  Besides, after all the sewing I have done I was dying for my first full, mega twirl circle skirt dress.  Looking at the envelope back compared to the amount of fabric I had showed a100_1513n intimidating discrepancy.  I am proud to say my stubbornness paid off here and, after shortening the skirt pieces and the sleeves, I squeezed in every pattern piece without skimping on grain line or sizes.  There were literally four or so small 3 inch pieces left over as scrap.  I know MY limits, but don’t recommend this ‘tight squeeze’ practice for anyone.

The red burnout knit is lined in the lightest weight knit I could find.  I think it is actually an “sport/active wear” knit with little perforations in the one side.  I bought several extra yards for lining a sweater knit dress I hope to make in winter.

I love my neckline alteration of sewing on a smooth bias band to cover and finish off the entire neckline.  The pattern’s way of doing the neckline was just as fine but I find myself really prefering the invisible stitches of my own self-fabric bias facing.

Another major change to the construction of the dress was eliminating the zipper.  Using a knit really made a zipper unnecessary, so I sewed up all the center back seams.  Just in case I should have any trouble getting the dress on, I was planning on leaving the top of the seam open about 6 inches and merely doing a button & loop closure to add utility as well as visual interest.

100_1604      Hubby improved upon my button opening idea when he saw me try on the finished dress (I saved sewing the buttons for last).  The back looked like it does in the picture above of me making some of my home cooking.  “I like it just like that…leave it as it is” he told me.  Looking at the back from a different point of view, I liked it too, and tacked the corners down.  I have received the most comments and compliments regarding the open back of my dress.v2241

The lay-open collar style back feature I added to my red dress actually reminds me of a style trend from the early 1930’s.  As seen in the Vintage Vogue at left, which I sadly do not have in my own pattern stash, the 1931 evening gown has the exact same open collar back, and it’s in red too!  My gut reaction says that I am linking a 30’s design feature to my modern dress because of how I love sewing so much vintage items.  However, I also love noting the history of fashion and design, so I enjoy helping people see that vintage never really goes out of style.  All past ideas are built upon and re-used to create the fashion we have today.  Look around in a RTW store and you are probably seeing some design features, however small, ranging from the past 90 years.

In honor of my 30’s open-collared back, I wore a 20’s/30’s “lariat/lasso” style gold necklace.  I even made my own earrings to match the stars in my dress – there had been two gold jewel studded star charms I found in my beading/jewelry containers.  I hope you can see my accessories in the picture below.

100_1615     For some reason, I just did not like the look of the plain short sleeves, but I knew sleeveless would not look good either.  Luckily my small leftover scraps were still big enough to cut out and made two cords for pulling up the short sleeves.  There is a fancy swirled button at the top were the cords were sewn down.

As the final touch, I picked one of the stars on the left side of my upper chest and outlined it by sewing navy thread around it.  If you look hard in the picture, you might be able to see it.

My star-spangled red dress was the easiest sewing I have done in a while, and that was a welcome treat and pick-me-up that I needed at the time.  Everything about my red dress came together effortlessly while fitting well.  If this dress was any easier it would make itself (not really, but almost).  I will definitely be making this again, in lace or a brocade.  Both my dress and its pattern are easy favorites for a gal’s wardrobe.

I have to show a twirling photo – it’s a fun necessity here!  The one side is my ‘regular’ look, skirt at rest (and a root beer in hand).  The other side is my ‘in action’ look, in full twirl, maybe with music rolling in my head.  Taylor Swift’s song “Red” might be appropriate.

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     Enjoy your summer sewing!