Generally, 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!
This post is part of my “Agent Carter” sew along.
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.
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.
TOTAL 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.
Even 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 1937” has one of the four major leading ladies, Irene Ware, at left, wearing a top 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.
This 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 the 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.
Happily, 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.
I’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.
The 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!