Collegiate Style

Of course, our style and our clothes from the college years of our youth are not the same as what we wear in our adult, professional life, right?  If they are the same, you’re probably younger than I am or are at a different place in life, I suppose.  But I was thinking, especially after sewing this knit top and sweater re-fashion, perhaps they can be the same, only in a different way…

Starting from the outside in, I’ll tell you how I took a circa 1996 “Made in the USA” sweater that my husband no longer wanted and re-fashioned it into a fun cardigan for myself.  Luckily, it is from the 90’s when everything tended to fit on the baggy side for men, so I had a good amount of lovely sweater knit to work with!  I do love how cozy, comfy, and unpretentious this re-make turned out to be.  I feel it is not really overly defined by one era, it is not fancy yet it’s still nice, it is fun without being flashy.  It feels like this is me – deep down the real everyday me, someone who likes to be individually stylish yet conscious of the big picture with what I both wear and make, besides the side of me which likes to bring vintage styles into the modern day.  This is one of my best refashions from a very special perspective.  I mean it is my husband’s sweater after all, and I did not use a pattern!

I was inspired by several vintage sweater styles spanning a few decades when I was considering how to go about with my refashion.  I LOVE the open from cardigans that emerged in the early 1920s for women, most of them striped.  Also, I was inspired by the loose and casual 1950s college jacket styles, (yes, the rockabilly logo ones also known as Letterman sweaters or Varsity jackets) many of them with striping as well, especially on the sleeves.  So I went for a sort of combo of both.

First, I started my refashion by cutting off the sleeves and also the neckline (parallel to the chest striping).  Then, as there were no side seams (this was made in one continuous piece) I cut were there would have been side seams to the sweater.  Now the bottom hem could become the vertical center back side seam to my new cardigan.  What striping had been below the neckline would be the vertical front sides of my cardigan.  I used the sleeves unchanged but I did have to cut new armholes for the sleeves to go back in!  The neckline band was the back neckline.  What was left of the back shoulder panel became two strips of navy which were used as the band facing, covering up the raw edges of the left and right fronts to the cardigan.  Nothing but very tiny scraps were leftover, almost all of the original sweater were re-used and re-positioned.

See?!  Just because what you make is “inspired by” something vintage doesn’t mean it has to be a past style.  You can take what you see that gets those creative juices going and translate that into any era or fashion.  This is a lot of what is going on in modern fashion.  It cherry picks vintage features and melds it in with trends of today.  Sometimes even a direct vintage inspiration can be spotted but it is re-made in such a way that it looks so timeless and up-to-date for today.

The 90’s, which are soon enough going to be technically “vintage”, sadly seems to me to be the last era with relatively easy-to-come-by quality and more “made in the USA” garments.  It also was the last decade in which Vogue Pattern Company offered big name designer sewing patterns to the public.  Sorry, Vogue – it’s not that I don’t generally like the designer patterns you do have to offer and the designers themselves are a decently big deal.  It’s just that I wish we could still have access to Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Bill Blass, or Edith Head designs, but a modern Zac Posen, Miu Miu, or Versace design would do nicely, thank you, for only a few examples!  Oh well, I must admit that even though I thought this would not happen, the era of my childhood is something I am now learning to appreciate fashion-wise…although I’ll never like 90’s velour (yuck!) which is unfortunately back in the stores to buy again!

Make your style change with you…there’s a low probability that anyone else will like those awful 80s 90s or 2000 era fashions without a re-vamp (and I’m not talking about bringing them back as a revamp option!).  So why not renovate it yourself?  We can only buy then ditch, buy again then ditch so many times for so long before this dead-end circle finds the true answer to sustainable fashion for the masses.  This even isn’t taking into account so many other issues that need addressing – worker pay and working conditions, clothing quality, environmental impact, sheer unnecessary quantity, and customer satisfaction to name a few.  This week is “Fashion Revolution Week”, now in its 5th year.  This movement is in direct response to the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, killing over 1,000 and injuring 2,500 more in April 2013.  That year was sadly global fashion’s most profitable year to date.

That being said, my top underneath is a testament to this in the way that I salvaged it and realized how my approach at self-made clothes has changed for the better.  I estimate I began this project about 2002 to 2004 when I was just branching out into making dresses and tops rather than the mostly skirts I had been then sewing.  As this was started at least 14 years back now, this is why I no longer know what pattern I used!  The side seams and shoulder seams had been overlocked (Serging machine) together, as well as the some lovely braided neckline piping.  Luckily the cut out (but not sewn) sleeves were still kept with the top when I re-discovered it.  One side of the neckline as well as half of one of the shoulder seams were unpicked already, because I lamely sewed the piping (which doesn’t stretch) into a top made of a forgiving knit.  Wow…is all I can say to this!

So – all the basic possibilities were there for assembly, but my quickie, still-learning approach left this difficult to save.  The serged-overlocked seams gave me no room for adjustments.  This top still fits my adult body pretty well, though more snug than I would like.  It was sized for a teenage me when it was cut.  Still, I see how I was just happy with my clothes being finished the same level as the clothes I had bought, made for the moment with no thought for what I had made lasting me any longer than the clothes from a store.  Now, I only finish in French, bias bound or raw and overcast finishings, leaving me a nice cushion of adjustability for tailoring and fitting preferences, thereby promising me many years of enjoyment.  This is one of the ideals of the “Fashion Revolution” – take good care and thought into what you wear and choose things made with quality that appeal to you so they will last you many years.  I get rid of clothes only in small batches, and even then it’s the ones that I did not make, one’s that are still in good condition to not require someone else to do mending.  My sewing is an investment in myself and if I am not happy with my creations I use my talents to change that, thus making what I have work for me for long term.

To finish off the neckline yet keep what I had, my solution was to have a shoulder button closing.  This turned out rather challenging and more bulky than I wanted, but I like it in the end.  It is different and unexpected, adding a little subtle splash of character to the otherwise plain front top.  I just have to remember not to hang my purse from that one shoulder!  Buttons there are not exactly friendly to over-the-shoulder purse straps.

The sleeves were cut wide and bell shaped, but I felt that such sleeves made the top look too retro, like something from the 1970s, and I wanted something more indistinguishably timeless.  Now, the gathered sleeve cuffs that I went for are a bit odd or dated too, in my mind.  They’re just better than what I started with.  I might yet tone the sleeves down in the future and make them skinny…or quarter length.  Whatever rocks my boat!  My style and my wardrobe are a perpetual work-in-progress.

I love the satisfaction that comes from taking such articles of clothing we loved in our high school and college years and re-inventing them for a new time in our lives.  It’s like keeping a part of us and letting it change with us.  Re-fashioning is so smart – besides being one of the best ways to combat today’s “fast fashion” beast and the evils it generates, this type of garment creating is such a fun challenge which is good for one’s sewing skills – even if it doesn’t work out.  Why refuse the perfectly good resources at our availability just because they are already made into something?  Once around doesn’t have to be the end of the line for garments.  Re-imaging what is already there can be difficult, and demands thinking outside the box.  That’s what we need more of in fashion today.  Individuals thinking creatively and seeing a bigger picture, and wanting to do their part towards it.  “Who made your clothes” is one of the rallying slogans for the “Fashion Revolution”.  If we can keep that in mind and feel comfortable about the answer, then we keep the ready-to-wear business accountable (by home sewing, by our purchase choices, or by voicing our opinion directly), we will be doing our part for the “Fashion Revolution”…because it should be something that carries over into more than just one week!

The skirt I am wearing is posted on my blog here…and even my necklace is me-made, too!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My husband’s sweater was a thick cotton-polyester blend, while the knit top of mine was made from a cotton spandex blend fabric.  Some navy cotton scraps were used for the facing of the sweater’s new neckline.

PATTERNS:  none for the sweater, and for the knit top…I have no idea anymore!

NOTIONS:  Nothing but some thread, buttons, and scraps from on hand were used

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The sweater refashion was made in one afternoon when my hubby was home so he could see his old garment transform!  It was finished November 2017 after 3 hours spent on it.  The top was finished up in the same month after 3 hours.

TOTAL COST:  Nothing!

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Star Wars, Pinball, and Year 1974 Cozy Layers

The title might seem like an odd combo, but bear with me here…it is all connected, at least to me with this newest outfit.  In this post, I’ll proudly reveal myself to be a big fan for the decade of the 70s and its amusements – something that many vintage bloggers as well as those who lived in that decade seem to generally not share in common with me.  As one who is at the age to have totally missed that era, I can feel a connection to the decade of disco music, pinball machines, bell-bottom pants with platform shoes, and Star Wars because all these things played a big part in my parents’ lives.  What they were “in to”, I saw in old pictures, records in the basement, and clothes or memorabilia in a forgotten closet – and all that was cool and interesting to me.  Parents are interesting anyway, right?  Reasons given, I’ll move onto what I actually made.

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Inspired as I was to make things for Allie J’s “Cozy Layers” Social Sew #8, I might have went a bit over the top here.  Anyways, let me present my 1974 waterproof jacket, easy 1974 knit flared jeans, and a draped sweater vest.  Whoever says winter dressing is no fun hasn’t worn these kind of garments!  These pieces are so fun and warm…and handmade;)

THE FACTS:butterick-3914-late-1973-or-early-1974

FABRIC:  Pants – a cotton polyester blend brushed double knit in what looks like a denim finish; Jacket – a olive green snakeskin print vinyl with a knit backing, a poly micro suede and a basic polyester for the lining, and a fleece sandwiched in between; Vest – a poly cotton blend sweater knit for the draped front and the leftover poly micro suede for the back

mccalls-4052-yr-1974-cover-compwPATTERNS:  Pants – McCall’s #4052, year 1974 (love the whole play suit separates – lots of options here); Jacket – Butterick #3914, late 1973 to simplicity-1588-view-aearly 1974; Vest – Simplicity #1588, view A, year 2013

NOTIONS:  I only used what thread, interfacing, and other notions from on hand.  The pants button came from the stash of Hubby’s Grandmother so it might be vintage.  I only bought a metal jeans zipper for the pants.

THE INSIDES:  Most seams are bias bound on the vest, the pants edges are left raw, and the jacket seams are covered by the lining.dsc_0777-compw

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The vest was finished first on November 21 after only 3 or 4 hours, the knit jeans came second being finished on November 22 after 3 or 4 hours, and finally the jacket was done on November 28, 2016, after about 15 hours.

TOTAL COST:  The denim knit was something I bought about 5 years back so I don’t remember where it came from or how much I spent for it.  All of the rest of the material for this outfit was bought about 2 years back when there was a Hancock Fabrics store closing, so it was incredibly dirt cheap.  In all, not much fabric was used here – 2 yards of each fabric, except for ½ yard of the vest sweater knit, and voila!  Look what I came up with!

I won’t bore you too much detail in this post about sewing and construction details because not only are there three me-made garments here, but also one of them was tricky and complicated (the jacket) while the other two (vest and pants) were super easy.  I must say I am very pleased with all the patterns, especially the vest and pants.  The jacket is great, too, don’t get me wrong, and surprisingly warm for being a not-too-heavy of a weight.  My only reserve is that I am doubtful whether or not I paired the right fabric (the vinyl) and pattern together.  My hubby makes me feel better by saying that the material would have been hard to work with (and it was) no matter what pattern I’d have chosen, but this style is uniquely neat especially with the raglan sleeves.  The vest is more of a novelty item, but I am realizing it will go with more than what I first thought, mostly because I like it so much!  However, one can never beat an easy creation that looks so good and fits so great, so the jeans are the ultimate winner, especially for being so basic and versatile.

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dsc_0796a-compwI will go over each item briefly to comment of the fit and anything I changed.  First comes the vest.  I made a straight size small and found that I should have graded a size up for the hips the same way as I do for regular garments such as blouses and dresses.  The neckline of the draping were taken in by an extra inch to make for less of a droopy wrap, purely personal taste.  A facing of the micro suede used for the back was drafted from the pattern for the neckline edge.  I found the back of the vest to be quite long, ending at the bottom of my behind…not flattering.  So, to vent my frustration waiting for our Thanksgiving guests to arrive, I unpicked the bottom hem and re-sewed it 2 inches shorter in the back of the vest.

I love the texture and interest of this vest, besides the fact it is a wonderful weight to wear.  It keeps a chill out of my middle but yet the lack of sleeves keeps me from rey-in-the-force-awakenscropover-heating inside stores and homes.  I’ve always associated vests with the outdated 80’s things (like boxy front-halves of a weskit) that I wouldn’t be caught dead in, but now that I have a fashionable vest, I may have to re-think the value of this kind of garment for winter layering.  The funny thing is, this vest made in this desert sand khaki color, with its rough texture, and criss-cross design totally reminds me of the outfit for the lead character “Rey” in the 2015 Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens”.  I know it’s not exactly the same thing but I believe you can definitely tell where I see similarities.  This vest, though modern, also reminds of the creative and interesting, bold but relaxed style that see in 1970’s dressing.

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My idea to whip up the pants was spawned of all my ideas from and of the vest.  All of my previous pants have all been made of woven fabrics so I went for a thick denim knit sitting all lonely and forgotten in my stash for the last 5 years.  Now I’m glad I never sewed it up into a dress like I had originally planned because these 70’s pants are way hotter…oh, and comfy.  Everything I love about vintage 1940’s trousers is combined with my love for the 70’s here – full and wide legs, true waist, chic styling, and perfect fit.  Add on a body skimming booty and less excess fabric around the thighs and welcome to the disco era.  My favorite part is the lack of both the conventional waistband and the front placket here, replaced with a simple loop and button above the zipper.  It makes for a very clean look that’s so easy.  The instructions showed to sew in a ribbon waist, but I used some wide non-roll navy elastic instead and I think this turns out much better and is a better (and more forgiving) fit.  The best part?  These pants are a perfect fit for me without a hair’s breadth of change…go vintage patterns!

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These pants make me feel very tall, skinny, and all legs.  This was the 70s ideal body type anyway, and I like the feeling because in reality I normally think of myself as short, not skinny enough, and definitely not very leggy.  I kept a very long hem on my pants so as to wear my new 4 inch platform strappy heels.

After making year 1974 pants, I remembered a project waiting in the wings downstairs for the last several years.  This, together with the thought of another cozy layer to add to the 70s gloriousness, and I reached for the jacket project.  This was rather an exhausting project that I don’t know I was ready for, but it should see much use in the next few months, starting immediately.  There are some things I wish I could have made to work out better, but I am just proud at my first official coat and my first sewing with this kind of vinyl.  I do love the slightly golden sheen to the snakeskin print and the waterproof protection without looking (and sounding) like a plastic raincoat.

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The most stressful part of sewing this coat was the thought that I only had one shot to get things right…unpicking and re-stitching wasn’t really possible here because once a hole is made, it’s permanently going to be there.  Also, the vinyl was sticking to all the metal parts of my machine so I had to sandwich a layer of wax paper around the coat’s seams at almost every stitch so it would glide under the presser foot.  This wax paper method worked like a charm, and was easy to take off, it just was something else to add to the difficulty level.  So, in total not only did my stitching have to be accurate, and I was limited to my use of pins for seams (reverting to clothes pins), but I had to sew between wax paper.  This coat must have given me at least one grey hair.  My only change was that in lieu of gathers under both the front and the back yokes, I made my own pleats – two ½ inch ones on each front and one giant box pleat down the center back.dsc_0776a-compw

My two giant pockets are lined in a remnant of a 1970’s curtain which I had on hand from a buying someone’s small fabric stash at re-sale store.  It was so bold and fun, I also added bright green bias tape to finish in inner edge.  No one will ever really know it’s there, but I like how the print makes me smile whenever I see the funky brightness inside my pockets.

I still don’t know how to close the coat – any suggestions?  I don’t like it belted and it is warm enough that a little air actually feels good.  I’m beginning to think I should just leave it open and casual.

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1974 is an interesting year for me to channel.  My dad graduated that year from high school and (among other things that happened) he became a lover of the pinball machine.  Every chance we could as I was growing up, my dad and I would hover over and eye up every pinball machine, with the occasional dropping of a quarter to do a real play.  I always saw my dad as a champ at the game and he still enjoys playing when he can.  Luckily there are some game lounges around in our town nowadays that are much more respectable than those of the pinball culture 40 years back.  1974 was also the year the California Supreme Court ruled that pinball was more a game of skill than one of chance and overturned its long prohibition, opening the way for general acceptance of this form of amusement nationwide (info from here).

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So much of this outfit is due to the influence of my dad.  He still has some of his 70’s bell bottoms, though he got rid of his platform shoes, trench jacket, and elephant pants years back.  Now his daughter has her own version of what he used to wear, sorry dad!  He loved Star Wars and bought me many of the toys and even watched the movies from the roof of their house on the drive-in screen which had been up the street.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree I guess.  Star Wars is still around on screen, and the 70’s style is coming back today, and retro amusements are just as fun, so it’s hard to resist re-visiting my dad’s past with my own handmade twist.  This one’s for you, dad, hope you don’t shake your head at this…just smile.

And now for some Star Wars light saber fun with my own son before bed time…

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The “My Husband’s Sweaters” Re-fashioned Dress

I guess the name for this creation of mine is rather self-explanatory. I used two of my hubby’s unwanted, gi-normous size sweaters to make myself a new cozy sweater dress. The completion of this project is a personal achievement because I didn’t use a pattern, even though this posting is way overdue as it is a project made 3 years back from now. I just made everything up as I went along, knowing by now how patterns tend to go, and tried my dress on a million times in between in order to get things to fit right.100_1019-comp

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: Two of my husband’s outdated, out-of-shape 100% cotton pullover sweaters; one striped and one waffle/cross-hatched knit, but both had similar colors. The labels on the sweaters carried the name of a privately named “design group”, below which it said that they were “Made in the USA”.  See pictures lower down.

NOTIONS: none were bought, as I already had the thread and clear elastic that I needed.

PATTERN: none – a big fat zero!

THE INSIDES: The inner raw edges are merely together with a double stitched zig zag finish, same as for the seams themselves. This is not my preferred finish for the edges, for they still ravel constantly, but the sweater knit is so very thick, a zig zag finish is all my machine would nicely handle.

TIME TO COMPLETE: Over the course of a week, I worked off and on for an hour here, two hours there, and was finished on January 19, 2013.

TOTAL COST: Nothing!!!

FIRST WORN: to our town’s yearly “Auto Show” convention.

This project so nearly became a UFO at several intervals between starting from scratch and achieving a nicely finished dress. It was one of those things where I throw it in a huff, at my wit’s end, out of ideas, and disgusted with the garment as I saw it at the time. Only an interval of time would give me the time to cool down and come up with a new idea of how to make things better. Then the knitted beast would get brought back out from the spot where I “buried” it and get tweaked again. I’m normally a very patient seamstress, it’s just UFOs and re-fashions can be difficult and challenging…they’re like pioneering out on one’s own, not knowing how things will go and where they’ll end up. Nevertheless, that’s the fun and the pride of the whole thing, especially when it’s finished satisfactorily. It’s always going to be hard to make something lively and spiffy out of something very unexciting and unwanted – silver linings can be quite clouded.100_0928-combo-comp

The two sweaters matched so well together and I do love a challenge, so I took this project up. My skills have come a long way since making this sweater re-fashion, but I really don’t look down on this. I absolutely love the design I made and the fit is great. My only beef with this dress is the stitching I did, which is loose in several rows of zig-zag stitching, and the messy looking insides. However, every time I think of my dual reservations, I really can’t think of a way I could have done it better now, so I fault the fabric.

Really the fabric was highly resistant to being sewn on like a temperamental child. I tried several different needles – knit, woven, and heavy-duty – and none of them easily went through the knit. All the needles would land heavily on a strand of knit and not go through…augh! This is the major reason I couldn’t get a tighter stitching to work. The stitching is tight enough to keep it together but loose enough to still stretch with the knit. I did do something which I see on RTW garments – clear elastic sewn into the seams. Added into the shoulder and side seams, the elastic gives me peace of mind that my dress will keep some sort of decent shape, at least the shape I intended for it when I re-fashioned it. After all, if the two sweaters stretched out for my hubby before their re-fashion after years of washing and wearing, I expect this difficult sweater knit to possibly continue to give me the same trouble. Even if it does eventually get wonky on me it was great while it lasted for its second life.

Happily most all of the sweaters were used in my re-fashion. The main body of my dress came primarily from the one striped sweater, its torso being turned into my skirt and its sleeves (opened up and sewn together) going to my upper bodice. The neckline from the solid sweater
was re-used as my neckline, as well as the sleeves, granted that they were re-cut into a new shape, with the wrist cuff as the new “end” the my short sleeve. My dress’ waistband is actually the bottom band of the solid sweater, too. Wide strips from out the main body of the solid sweater were hemmed and gathered as best they could to form the bottom ruffle.  Darts were sewn in all across the waistline both in the bodice and skirt portions to smoothly shape this dress.

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Sorry for low picture quality here. It was a late night pic.

“How do I make some chunky drab sweaters look fashionable and appealing?” This was my dilemma at the outset. My original idea was something very similar to what my final dress is like, which was inspired by perusing internet images of patterns (especially Colette’s “Macaron”) and dresses involving two complimenting fabrics. It’s only when I started sewing that I strayed a bit and came full circle. As I was making the dress, I even had the wild idea to keep it strapless, or almost so with skinny straps, and use the solid sweater to make a little bolero waist-length cover-up, or at least a top to go over the dress. Though the idea sounded fun, this re-fashion was challenging enough and I didn’t want to try too hard on something complicated that might not work and end up wasting the fabric. So I stuck with something easy, one piece, and semi-predictable – like a dress. I’m happy I stuck with my gut instinct.

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I love the mix of textures and patterns and features to my re-fashioned sweater dress – cross-hatched knit, waffle knit, stripes, ruffles and such! The bottom ruffle was the last thing I added, but I love how it saves the dress from being what I thought was slightly boring otherwise, with just the right hint of fun girly flair. The ruffle also complete the color pattern – solid at the top, solid in the middle, solid at the bottom, albeit different forms of the same color at each spot. The waist being made from the sweater’s bottom band makes it a bit more supportive, and decorative, than if I would have used a section from the rest of the sweater. And just because I can, I kept the three button neckline closure on the striped sweater and placed it as a sort of ‘fly’ below the front waist of my dress’ skirt. I love to make my garment special and unique, but this one has a quirky personality.

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Trying out a monster motorcycle!

My “husband’s sweaters” dress is the perfect garment for just plain wearing of course, but more specifically, 1.) when I want to feel very warm and cozy, 2.) when at an occasion where I’m going in and out of stores, where it’s warm inside, between walking around for some distance outside, where it’s very cold. The second specific reason is the case at many “holiday walks” in December at some of the old sections of town or out-of-town. It was also the case for the car show – we had to park a long walk away, so I needed to be warm, but be comfy inside too. I am the type of person that detests the cold, especially bitter temperatures, and loves warm climates. That being said, I also cannot stand being overheated in some bulky winter clothes – I feel as will melt…in my mind if I’m going to be hot give me warm weather and a sundress! The short sleeves, loose knit, and cotton content makes this sweater dress perfect for me…one of the reasons I re-fashioned it!

Clothes can be utilitarian because they are a basic necessity – matter-of -fact truth. They also can be a work of art. They can be a morale booster. They can be a source of satisfying a desire to create or an enjoyable hobby. Yes, they can also be a bad tendency or a drain or an income, too. Either way, I think there is too much out there to buy on the cheap which is not really “you” and easily forgotten. Most RTW is of low quality, not doing good any way you look at them – whether for the workers that make them, the environment, and especially for the wearers. Sewing your own garments the way you want them and exactly for your body ends this current fast fashion habit, and helps minimize the vicious circle going on unheeded, and really does so much more good all around – particularly for YOU!

Do you re-fashion garments for yourself or do you find it something alien to not sew from scratch? How do you feel the most strongly about your sewing?

Yellow and the “Spring Promise” Top

100_4830-compGenerally, we tend to think of the color green and the unspoken symbol of “Go!”, but I see the color of yellow as the shade which signals “go” – the start of the season of spring. Where I live in the middle of America, the jonquils, daffodils, forsythia bushes, crocuses and other first spring buds which pioneer open almost always wear a shade of yellow. There must be something good there. However, for being such a bright and cheery color worn by the promise of nice weather to come, we as humans seem to often shy away from yellow, leaving it to nature to show it off. Not too many people in my experience seem excited to wear tawny tones, and I would like to change that perception, at least a little bit, with this post of my new 1940’s draped neck knit sweater top. Why just let the flowers show off this spring?! Find your own shade of yellow to like (or at least tolerate), pick an awesome pattern, and you can’t go wrong “showing off” with the blossoms!

100_4823a-compThis post is part of my “Agent Carter” sew along.badge.80

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The yellow knit is 100% rayon, backed with a 96% rayon/4% spandex white knit. I backed the rayon knit with the white blended knit because the yellow fabric was extremely “tissue” thin (see through) and the small percent of spandex helps the overall drape.

100_4601a-compNOTIONS:  I had all the thread, interfacing, and bias tape needed on hand in my stash already. The buttons are vintage from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash.

PATTERN:  McCall #6690, year 1946

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This top was quicker to make than I originally expected from merely looking at the pattern. However, I did take a bit longer on its construction as I wanted this top to have very fine finishing. From start to finish my blouse took 8 hours or less, and was finished on February 20, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  All seams are in French seams, except for the hems, of course – time consuming but so worth it. The long seam which runs down my shoulder is finished inside by being covered in bias tape so that it doesn’t stretch out of shape.

100_4842-compTOTAL COST:  This is a hard one to figure. I bought a large 3 ½ cut of this yellow rayon knit from Fashion Fabrics Club, but only used about 1 ½ yards to make this 1946 blouse (the rest is going towards two other projects). The white ‘lining’ knit was bought from JoAnn’s store, in the same amount as the yellow knit. Both fabrics were about $9.00 a yard. So, I suppose my blouse has a total cost of about $30. Yikes! This is more than what I normally like for a total cost, but I’d rather spend more to have quality. Oh well.

I’ll admit straight up that I can’t knit and crochet, or at least don’t currently. (Not that I wouldn’t like to re-learn in the future everything my mom taught me about it.) Thus, in lieu of having a classic knitted 40’s sweater top, I went for a loose, ultra drape-worthy rayon knit with all the cozy and fashionable feelings of what I imagine a sweater top to be. Several of the hard working, down to earth, regular female characters in the television series “Agent Carter” wore some amazing sweater knits. All you needed was your skills, some yarn, a pair of needles, and a pattern to guide you…how reasonable could you get?!! The sweater tops I saw in “Agent Carter” had interesting designs as part of their construction, and were in rich, beautiful colors which could match with many basic skirts – neat! (See the character Angie in the pretty sweater top, crying to Agent Sousa.) I have to make my own version of one of these tops yet.

Angie crying to SousaEven though my top is not as form fitting, with the classic pouf sleeves and banded bottom of hand knitted 40’s sweater tops, my top does have some the best that the 30’s and 40’s blouses have to offer. It has beautiful features (if I must say so myself), is easy to match with my other separates, has a snuggly comfort, and makes the most out of the features of my chosen pattern. The draping makes me think of elegance, it’s no wonder this design of blouse was used for two decades. Here’s easy proof…1.) the movie “Gold Diggers of Vogue8158 late 30s combo1937” has one of the four major leading ladies, Irene Ware, at left, wearing a 100_4942a-comptop exactly the same as my 40’s yellow one, and 2.) a duo of late 30’s/early 40’s patterns, at right: the same high drape across the front of the neck and slimming silhouette.

Several rows of runching are used to gather the fabric at the front of my yellow blouse’s top shoulder seam, creating the gathers which drape down the top and around the body. The short sleeves of my blouse are a kimono sleeve (very common for the mid-1940’s). However, adding on the quarter length sleeves turns them into a wide, dramatic dolman style, with a button and loop closure bringing in the ends to hug the elbow and taper in the end. There are four of the conventional tucks in the lower body of the top, too, from the waistline down, and one tuck on each side of the neck front to add shaping/draping. With all the interest and details at the blouse’s front half, the back button closure adds a touch of unexpected interest and beauty. I guess you can tell I love 1940’s tops – each one is like an individual, having its own subtle beauty and quiet, underrated personality.

100_4829a-compThis blouse might appear hard or complicated, but it is really simple and easy actually. Glance at the pattern envelope back and you can see that there is one big piece which is mccall_6690-draped neck 40s blouse2the entire front with one piece (cut twice) making up the back. There is really only one facing piece (cut twice) for the back neck because the front neck and the back buttoned edges are self-faced. The optional ¾ sleeve is one big piece, and there are short sleeve hem facings. It actually took more time to do the blouse’s markings than it took to do the cutting and preliminary sewing of the darts.

Just like for a perfect wrap (or fake wrap) knit dress you still need certain parts stable, I used interfacing and bias tape to keep a few spots on my yellow ’46 top from stretching or draping like the rest of the garment. I learned a thing or two about stabilizing knit garments before making my modern water colored knit dress (see post here) from reading a Threads magazine article in their September 2013 issue. I applied these pointers to making this top, as well, by adding interfacing to the length of the back button self-facing. The interfacing is lightweight, and its width goes from the self-facing edge to the fold line. Doing this helped me attain a crisp folded edge to the bouncy fabric and it kind of made the back a bit heavy, which is good, actually, because it keeps the front drape against my neck. The buttonholes on one side and the buttons on the other keep the facing in place, and hand-stitching the facing edge to the white knit lining kept the rest of it down. As I said in “The Facts” above, bias tape runs along the kimono sleeve shoulder seam from the neck to the where the ¾ sleeve comes on. The bias tape is not 100% stable, but it does keep that seam from stretching unless I physically pull it.

100_4824a-compHappily, hubby’s Grandmother’s collection of buttons provided an amazing set to go down the back of my top. There was the exact amount I needed (five for the back, two for the sleeves), and are handmade out of button blanks with a loosely woven dark yellow tapestry. One of the set is missing the backing piece which gets snapped on, but that’s o.k. – the raw edge underneath had already been hand stitched to keep the button covered. There’s a part in the back of my head that tells me these yellow buttons must have come off of a suit coat or even off of a piece of furniture. I’ve already had someone ask me, “Where’d you get those buttons?!” That’s the big, happy advantage to using vintage notions – they quietly standout.

100_4831a-compI’ve never had sleeves end like the ones on this yellow ’46 top and I like it! I used small strips of bias tape to make loops which were sewn into the sleeve seam bottom. Then, I tried on the sleeves for fitting and put a little square of interfacing under the spot where I chose to sew the button. The sleeves actually do stay up just under my elbow without bothering me at all.

For a woman in 1946, I’m guessing that this pattern would probably have been made out of a satin, some sort of silk, or even a rayon crepe or challis. Knit jersey fabrics had been around since the late 20’s or 30’s, so my using it isn’t far off historically, except for the artificial spandex in the white lining. I think using a knit is a nice twist – it clings in a very complimentary way without being too racy. I don’t think I could have attained this with a chiffon or other light weight fabric, although I would like to try one of these fabrics to make this blouse again in the short sleeve version for warm weather wear.

100_4832a-compThe decade of 1940’s used all sorts of unexpected materials, colors, and patterns in the things they wore. How about trying to experiment with some for yourself. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new favorite. For myself, I know like yellow more than I would have imagined previously. (Here are my first, second, and third yellow creations.) Now I just need to work on liking pink, another color of spring!

Have You Ever Seen a Purple Snake?

Your answer will be negative, no doubt, because…neither have I, and there really doesn’t seem to be such a creature.  Somehow or another, nevertheless, there is a sweater knit fabric of a silver speckled purple snakeskin tunic dress in my closet.  Weird, right?  O.K., I might have introduced this dress on the wrong ‘foot’ (ha ha, snakes don’t have feet…), but my garment really isn’t all that bad.

The snakeskin dress was completed 3 years ago when my adventures in blogging first began.  Why it was made, I still don’t exactly know, nor can a final decision be made whether or not I like it on myself (…that’s still in limbo).  My consciousness has a strong suspicion I only picked out: 1) the fabric because it is purple (I cannot resist that color and would live in it if I could) and, 2) the pattern because it looks modern, fun, easy, and comfy.  Simply on account of the fact that I do wear my purple snakeskin dress, I did make it, and as it is awfully warm and cozy, I will finally get around to blogging about it.

100_2645aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A polyester/acyclic knit blend.  It is a lofty, but lightweight sweater knit, with a silver speckled pebble finish over the snakeskin.  The snakeskin knit is lined in a lightweight black polyester “active” knit to amp up the warmth factor and eliminate any see through issues.100_0832

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and interfacing/hem tape that was needed.

PATTERN:  Butterick 5388, year 2009, view D

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I don’t remember anymore – maybe one or two night’s worth of a few hours.  It was finished on December 7, 2012.

TOTAL COST:  I don’t remember that either.  All I know is that the fabric was bought from JoAnn’s Fabric store, and I probably spent no more than $15, but in all likelihood, less than $10.

As you can see, the pattern I used is supposed to be a tunic, but I lengthened the bottom hem by about 8 inches to turn it into a dress as you see it.  (I’ve done a tunic/top into dress change before; see this post)  I am not really sure if I like this snakeskin knit as a dress, but at the same time I don’t know if I would like it (or wear it) as a tunic, either.  Besides lengthening, the only other changes I made to the pattern are the additions of a few tucks to bring in the tunic at the waistline.  There are three of these waistline tucks – a big one at the center back, and two off the center of the front.  Anything to provide shaping and avoid making me fat!  If you can’t see those tucks in our pictures, it’s because they get hidden under my belt.  Actually, the tucks I added don’t look bad on the dress if a belt is not worn, and they can be very easily unpicked if I so decide.  Besides the changes listed, nothing else was done to vary from the original pattern.

100_2658a     I did find the sizing to run very generously…by that I mean very large!  Technically I could have went down a size, or two even.  It is always easier to take in a garment than it is to fit one that turns out too small, so I’m not really complaining about this pattern, just forewarning others.  I don’t remember exactly, but I think I had to take in several inches, on each side, out of the dress all the way down the entire side seam, from the bottom hem up through the hem of the sleeves.  I have a feeling that with a lightweight fabric like challis, the generous fit would be appropriate and look good with the design.  For the first winter I made this dress, I just left on the excess fabric in the side seam – why, I think ‘just in case’ I wanted to take the seam out.  But, in winter #2 for my dress that excess was indeed cut off and cleaned up, trimming down on the dress’ bulk considerably.

For being a knit pullover tunic dress, you do need to stabilize the neckline to support100_2657 keep the large scoop neck from losing its shape and, in my case, support the rest of the dress.  I guess I could have omitted interfacing the facing since I also sewed in, well, I hate to admit it…hem tape…into the neckline to stabilize it.  Talk about overkill!  As I said earlier, I had made this dress when I was just getting back into sewing full swing, and as of yet, did not have a whole lot of experience with knits nor did I know in entirety what was available at the fabric stores.  I should have sewn in seam stay tape into the neckline.  The hem tape did do the job just fine, beyond adding a bit more bulk than was needed (and it was significantly thick already from the two fabrics and the neckline pleats).   Bad girl, I didn’t even sew this dress together in a proper knit manner.  I used loose straight stitches, which still work decently, instead of zig-zag stitches which ‘give’ with the knit.  One tremendously good thing about this dress is the fact that it makes me realize that my sewing skills have significantly improved.

100_0855     My snakeskin tunic dress was an easy and quick gratifying project to learn off of and also wear when the mood strikes me.  This is a very warm item to have on when the temperatures drop, even despite its open scoop neck.  A thick and chunky scarf can fix the open neck ‘problem’.  As much as I like the cowl/loose turtle neck option on the pattern’s other views (see picture earlier), I like the open neck.  I think it helps keep this dress from looking too overpowering, and besides, it keeps me being too confined and overheated in a dress this cozy.

To make my outfit more complete, I like to wear my dress with a grey snakeskin belt which was bought from my favorite (now closed) resale store.  As a disclaimer, my belt is printed vinyl, not the real reptile product, but it sure looks more like the real thing than my dress’ fabric does – purple, silver speckled snakeskin, really!  Kim at the blog “Kopy Kat Kim” made a wonderful version of this same pattern in a red snakeskin.  (Her tunic is indeed styled beautifully and looks amazing!)  Furthermore, I found an interesting page which briefly runs through snakeskin fabric in fashion history.  That page can be found here.

On the humorous line, when I say or think the two words, “purple snakeskin”, I can’t help but think of a silly song that always made me laugh as a little girl:  “One Eyed, One Horned Flying Purple People Eater”, dating to 1958, believe it or not.  Having something so scary be a funny color lightens things up, making them funny instead of fearful.  Maybe there is a purple snake that is a distant relative of the “one eyed, one horned flying purple people eater”?  Silly me!

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