Summertime Blues – A Knit Top with a Twist

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

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

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

100_1807THE FACTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Pretty In Pink” – Twist Neck 1935 Blouse

Re-releasing vintage pattern 2859 was one of Vogue Company’s best moves, in my humble opinion, and I really enjoy the finished results.  My version of the blouse/top from V2859 embodies three of the most popular, most distinctive fashion trends for women in the 1930’s, not to mention the fact my top pays homage to two of that era’s top rival designers, Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.

100_1214THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  stable cotton jersey knit in a dusty pink color

NOTIONS:  already had the thread I needed and just enough 1/4 pink bias tape, leftover from sewing this mini apron.

V2859PATTERN:  Vintage Vogue 2859, year 1935, reprinted in 2005.  I would like to make the dress, one to use as a slip perhaps or even a satin floral one to wear under my top.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  finished on Feb. 18, 2013, after about 15 hours of time.  Making this took longer than I thought from looking over the assembly, being my first ‘Advanced’ Vogue pattern (the label is really there for a reason).

THE INSIDES:  Unfinished! The knit I used doesn’t ravel and the top was complicated enough, so…it’s not messy, just not perfect inside.

TOTAL COST:  Free…the best benefit of using a fabric from one’s stash!

I will now show you the 30’s fashion trends of my blouse.

1.)  Knits were the trend in an array of solid colors, thanks to the practical luxury of Coco Chanel, who first designed knit suits in 1916, even though Schiaparelli popularized the new fabric.  Jersey knits gave 30’s women the chance to be more flexible in their day-wear fashions.  A knit suit was much more comfy and easy to move in than a stiff, business wool suit, and 30’s knits tended to be in a brighter palette for new options.  Besides, the 30’s ideal was for fabric to “flow” over and “hug” women’s bodies (think of the bias dresses and use of silk), so knits continued the body clinging style further.

2.)  Before Elsa Schiaparelli, pink had really not been integrated into feminine fashion quite like it was in the 30’s.  Elsa’s distinctive pink color was, back then, labeled as “shocking pink” and was released in 1936 as the shade of her personal perfume box.  Let’s say my Vogue top, being a ’35 pattern, could have been made in ’36, out of a more toned down pink, so I would be (historically speaking) quite fashionable.

100_12203.)  Low back or V-back tops and dresses were popular on account of sunning/tanning becoming the new look of beauty, instead of a marker of lower social status like previous years.  There was now more of a reason to show off a girl’s back, sometimes also the shoulders too!  See my “New Year’s Evening Gown” for a deep V-back 30’s garment I’ve made already.  Designers of the 30’s were obviously pushing the limits in a different way, a more Greco/Roman way, than in the 20’s.  This style is smart in another manner because in a low or V-back clothes you have a visual interest from behind, not just in front, that is eye-catching and fashionable in all eras!

100_1233    The construction of V2859 – as an “Advanced”- was not really hard for me, just time consuming and challenging to the point of actually being enjoyable.  I found it quite complimentary for the pattern instructions to take it for granted that I can figure out what I need to do, instead of (like Simplicity) going into a tiresome, exacting, and windy explanation of how to do every step.  I feel as if I get to use my sewing skills and knowledge this way.  There is no cut intended towards sewers who need thorough instructions.  If it wasn’t for the assembly sheet, we, myself included, wouldn’t make half of what we do sew.  However, I’m just saying this for other seamstresses who are where I am at with my sewing skills.  Beginners would definitely find this pattern confusing, no doubt.

This top is the third 1930’s clothes item I have sewn, and now find myself more impressed than ever with the styling and construction details of the era’s patterns. My twist-neck top is a beautiful compliment to the waistline with an emphasis on the hourglass shape.  Take note, the sleeves change style if you look at the envelope back: from the front they are kimono sleeves, while from the back they are raglan sleeves.  The points where the sleeve seams meet (at the bottom of my neck on each side) was VERY tricky, but it turned out O.K. for me.100_1222a

There were a number of changes I made to this blouse pattern which seem to generally be a good idea as these little points  help its fit and appearance.

Firstly, making this twist-neck wrap top out of a knit, I went down two sizes…this trick works well for vintage patterns not specifically listing a knit on the envelope back under ‘suggested fabrics’.  Secondly, I added a 2 inch band (5 in when I cut it out) to the bottom so that the hem ends at or just below my waistline now.  Even if someone DID wear this top over another dress, I still think this blouse ends too high above the waist to look good.  By adding an extension, it can now be worn alone as a top with my skirts as well as over a skimpy dress!  Then, at the side opening for the tie, I sewed an extra square of fabric onto the inside -with one side open (of course).  That way no skin can show from underneath. The two pictures to the left and right show both sides of the bottom half of V2859, letting you see both the details of how it wraps and my finishing touches.

100_1243a    Another important change I made was to the front seam and front neckline.  The front center seam had to be sewn in several inches from the neckline down to where the darts start.  I’m petite and there was too much extra fabric in the bust; bringing the center from seam in made my top fit better with minimal drooping.  Later, I also make a skinny strip of bias tubing to stretch behind my neck from shoulder seam to shoulder seam.

100_1238a     Finally, I added a bias neckband because the way the instructions said to finish off the small V-neckline were difficult and tacky.  Over the rest of the top the stitching is unseen.  I think exposed stitching in an obvious spot makes this top look casual instead of dressy. My idea of sewing on a bias neck binding is (I think) much more polished, besides the fact it is so much easier to sew on than achieving a tiny hem.  I hand stitched the neckline band on to make sure it was done invisibly.100_1206

Just one last note: my skirt in the photos is several years old, from J. C. Penny’s, and my shoes are from a resale store.  Nevertheless, my outfit is true to the 30’s, since my skirt is long and bias cut, while my shoes are T-straps with a deco design and a Spanish heel. My fake 30’s bob turned out well…you can’t tell how much hair I tucked and pinned underneath.  My outfit made me want to go dancing!

220px-Doris_Day_-_Romance_on_the_High_Seas     Have you ever seen the lovely Doris Day’s first movie, “Romance on the High Seas”?  (If you haven’t seen it, you really should!)  It was released in 1948, and for her first song in the movie she is wearing a strikingly similar version of my pink 30’s top – see the pictures.

Her top looks like it’s a light blue satin with a wrap bottom romance-on-high-seas10waistband as well, except it has the classic 40’s sleeves…skinny, close-fitting with wide and puffy shoulders.  This tells me A LOT about the popularity of this V2859 blouse design.  For it to be worn in Hollywood over a decade later, reinvented for the current era, and worn for the debut of a rising star, already popular for her singing, means to me that this blouse design is more than just a cool pattern – it’s a fashion winner.  Besides, it’s never a bad thing to feel that one has a little portion of classic Hollywood glamor in one’s wardrobe, right?