Hubby’s Holiday Ration

Every year when December comes around is the time for me to figure out what I will make as a gift to give my husband for St. Nicholas Day/Christmas.  This has pretty much been our tradition for the last several years – he gets some article of clothing handmade by me for the holidays and then one other garment for his birthday/Father’s Day.  So, his “ration” of articles from my hands is about two a year.  I love to see his tickled and happy reaction every time I make something for him…it makes it so worth it!

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Anyway, this year’s gift for him is more than just his ‘allowance’.  It really is a garment from a time of real, restrictive, and penny-pinching rationing due to then current world history – a “Manufactured in England” year 1945 McCall’s pattern for a men’s dress shirt.  This is his ration on the ration but you’d never guess, would you?!  This is the dressiest shirt I’ve made to date, the first English pattern I’ve used, as well as the first long sleeve nice shirt that I’ve made for my man.  Come to think of it, up until now I’ve always made him short sleeve and/or sports shirts.  To make it even easier for him to wear his new shirt immediately (which he wanted to anyway), this new shirt a Christmas appropriate color!  It turned out so well and he does look quite spiffy in it, if I must say so myself.

THE FACTS:                                                                                                                 

FABRIC:  100% linen mccall-5864-year-1945-cover-compw

PATTERN:  McCall #5864, Printed and manufactured in England, circa year 1944 or 1945.  I’ve seen colorized envelope American versions of this pattern dated 1944 and also 1945, so I’m guessing this design was printed throughout both years.  However, the way my pattern’s insert mentions McCall #6044, from 1945, (more about that below) my version of #5864 is probably also 1945.  By the way, is it just me or does the top left guy’s face look like the actor Robert Young?!

NOTIONS:  I used everything from on hand in true 40’s outlook, but I only needed thread and some interfacing.  The buttons are probably close to authentic 40’s vintage as well, as they are a set from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash with obvious cut marks on the back (meaning she saved them off of an existing worn garment).

TIME TO COMPLETE:  His shirt was finished on December 9, 2016, after just over 20 hours.

dsc_0875a-compwTHE INSIDES:  I feel like because the insides are so nice in French seams, with the shoulder panel lining covering the rest, Hubby thinks I played a trick on him (…not me).  He literally has a hard time telling right from wrong side with this shirt!  Score!

TOTAL COST:  This linen was bought on deep discount when the now defunct Hancock Fabrics was closing earlier this year.  I spent probably only $6 on this shirt for him.  When hubby reads this I’ll sound cheap for his gift, but it’s the thought, fit, and quality that counts!

The pattern sadly manifests the effects of WWII compared to all the other USA sourced McCall patterns I have used before.  First of all, the cover of the envelope drawing is in black and white, the same as Australian patterns of WWII times.  Secondly, the pattern is unprinted, reverting instead to the hole-punched code system on plain paper like other companies.  This is a major step in rationing because being the very first to offer printed patterns continuously was always (and still is) part of the bragging rights of McCall’s, and I have never read that they departed from that.

mccall-5864-year-1945-instructions-compwThere are a few small “reminder” sheets inside with a half size instruction sheet…seeing how to make the shirt was like reading ant-size print, no kidding!  The one other “reminder” sheet states (in all red letters) that now the 5/8 inch seam is the baseline for their patterns, and the other sheet gives a guide of how to read their non-printed hole-punch system.  At the top of the guide for reading the hole-punch method is an interesting apology for it, “As a result of the present conditions…”  Everyone knew what those were, I guess not clearly saying “W-A-R” helped make those circumstances slightly better.  Below the apology is the confusing “notice” that their patterns have a ½ inch seam allowance up until number #6044.  What?  Didn’t McCall go out of their way to print a small added notice of 5/8 inch seam allowance, only to also say it’s ½ inch too?  I see all of this pointing to the company awkwardly, hurriedly adjusting and adapting to the (then) “present conditions”, trying to do their part in the ration effort the longer the war went on while still offering home sewers no less awesome designs.  One last thing – notice the envelope was stamped “TAX FREE”!

The quality of the pattern did not seem all that affected beyond the fact that it is an unprinted pattern.  As I every so often find with the punched hole patterns, there were some slight inconsistencies or mismatching with its making – something only I woulddsc_0832a-compw notice.  The front hem of one side to the front was about ½ longer than the other (which I trimmed), the left shoulder panel was a bit wider than the other (again trimmed), and the two collars were not shaped exactly equal.  Most of the times this doesn’t even happen because most patterns have pieces such as these cut on a fold, so both side are guaranteed equal.  However, this pattern is unusual in that it only had the back bodice of the shirt cut on the fold while all else was a full piece, with both right and left sides, and cut out on a single layer of fabric.  This together with the fact that most all the pieces were skinny and small, made for a very efficient pattern that left with plenty leftover to go for another project.  Yay for fabric thrifty 40’s patterns!

I really love all the finely classy and subtle vintage features.  All the 40’s shirts I see for men have gathers in some form or fashion, so the light, barely-there gathers at the cuffs and back panel are a nice departure from the norm.  Making/sewing the collar stand was quite challenging, small work, but compared to the turnover style (where the collar merely folds on itself) or the all-in-one style (where the stand is the same piece as the collar) this style is the best for dress shirts, in my opinion.  I already had practice with making button sleeve plackets when I did my own 1946 flannel shirt, so I really feel that I did the ones on hubby’s shirt very well this time.  The front left button overlap was fun and so easy to make as well as another classy touch.  Sewing something for my man has given me the opportunity to try new techniques I wouldn’t do otherwise.

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Once again, because he is skinny I choose a pattern that has his collar size (14 ½ inch).  Unlike women, neck size is priority, too, together with the chest when making a pattern for a guy…not so much hips or waist! However, just like the last 40’s shirt pattern in this size the sleeves ran really short, as if for a teenager.  I’m not talking about adding a little – I had to add 1 ¾ to the sleeve length for my man!  Granted, in modern shirts he does look for the longer length sleeves.  I don’t know how many of my readers use vintage men’s patterns but if you do and you also notice super short long sleeves as a trend for the small sizes, let me know if you see what I see!

The linen for this shirt was an absolute dream to work with – so soft and easy to sew!  People who only work with polyester need to try this kind of fabric, and they should be amazed at what they’ve been missing. To keep the linen in the right shape, the interfacing weights were switched up with the mid weight stuff in the collar cuffs while the lightweight was in the collar stand and button overlap.  Hubby’s linen shirt is the same cross-dyed, semi-sheer linen used for my 1933 skirt, just a different color tone.  Cross-dyed colors do make for such a lovely option to plain solids.

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Christmas is a time to sing, hope, and pray for “peace on earth” and “goodwill towards all”, so I find it rather funny in an ironic way how my shirt for hubby brings the Allies of World War II together.  I made this living in my country of America, the pattern I used is from the United Kingdom, the inside seaming to the shirt is French, and the material for it is similar to a fine Irish linen.  (Ireland was officially nonpartisan during WWII, but they had many contraventions helping the Allies and being aided by them in exchange.)  Perhaps a shirt for the peaceful time of Christmas can assuage the facts of the circumstances around this war time pattern, and provide a nice way to “wrap up” memories brought up by the recent celebration of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  Green is symbolic of many things, but also of balance…perhaps I should have called my post title “Holiday Harmony”.  We all need a taste of that!

I’m hoping everyone had a restfully happy and beautiful holiday season of Christmastide!  I also hope you were told compliments on all your handmade garments and received some lovely sewing related and creative-inspiring gifts!

Simple, Slim, and Sexy – a 1930’s Basic Black Skirt

Just because a skirt is vintage and a “go-with-everything” piece, doesn’t mean it can’t be a little hot number.  This project proves that point!

What comes of my making some 1930’s tops recently is also the need for a basic skirt to go on the bottom half.  This basic black skirt is the first to fill in that gap towards attaining a 30’s wardrobe of separates which mix and match.  The great thing about my slim black 30’s skirt is it has a wonderful family connection for me, together with a look that is classic enough to pass as modern.  Slim fit doesn’t mean it’s also hard to move in – side box pleats make sure there plenty of secret room for action.  Nothing like sewing up an all-around winner!  Check it out.

Here above I’ve paired my black skirt with a resale store jacket, which is originally from Target, as well as the lacy top underneath.  The jacket, though modern, has a sort of nod to the 30’s in my opinion, with its Deco style fan shaped shell design.  My earrings are also fan shaped shells…carved mother of pearl to be exact.  I also wore my old vintage 1930’s era leather T-strap shoes (although you can’t see them in the above picture).  Enough ensemble clarifications, let’s get down to –

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My skirt’s fabric is a mystery content which has a textured look and feel of shantung.  I’m assuming it is a polyester, but I’m hoping there’s a small percent of rayon in the fabric.  It comes from a stash of fabric that was given to me from my Grandmother.  There was only a small cut of this fabric, and it wasn’t even a whole ‘selvedge-to-selvedge’ amount.

NOTIONS:  I had the thread, lace hem tape, hook and eyes, zipper, and grosgrain ribbon all on hand already.

PATTERN:  a Pictorial Review #7379, circa 1934.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This skirt was quick and easy only taking 6 to 8 hours from cutting to finish.  It was done on March 19, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  All the inside seams are covered in lace hem tape.  The hem is doubled under, while the waistband is neatly and easily finished.  See the above right picture of the inside of the box pleat.  I am proud of my fine looking insides for this skirt! 

The center fold is towards the bottom of the picture, the long straight seam.

TOTAL COST:   Nothing!  This is the best part!

The pattern for the skirt is so amazingly small and economical on space.  Basically two long, skinny rectangles with small extensions (for the box pleats) turns out into this 30’s skirt.  A few tucks shape the back waist.  Thus, it is perfect for making something amazing and extremely useful out of a piece of fabric that seems too small and worthless to keep.

Like I mentioned above, since this fabric is from my Grandmother, I wanted to make something special out of it, so I made sure to make things work.  It wasn’t hard to finagle the pattern to fit – It was hard to believe.  I guess this pattern is a true Depression era design, but making clothes out of scrap fabric pieces is a very smart practice in any era.

Unprinted patterns suddenly made complete sense to me as I was laying out the pieces for my Pictorial Review 7379.  It literally was one of those “ah ha” moments when I felt like I was blind doing the few unprinted patterns I had beforehand.  Although the Pictorial Review patterns were marketed as “printed”, the pattern I used to make my skirt still used the hole-punched method of making darts and such, just like unprinted ones.  Basic guides for construction are printed directly on the pattern (as a bonus to the simple instructions, I suppose). Punched out holes for seam markings eliminate the need for a tracing wheel that might ruin the tissue paper, you just take chalk and fill in the holes as you did on tests when you were in school. Punched out pattern hole markings also make it extremely easy to mark the spot with thread, if you choose that method instead.  Unprinted patterns are not hard – just a different (better, in my opinion) way to do the same things as on today’s patterns.  I especially enjoy the indented balance marks on vintage patterns such as this – there’s nothing to snip off by mistake.

Grading the pattern up just a tad was necessary for the skirt to fit me.  I spread out the amount I needed to add by placing the pattern 1/4 inch away (not directly on) the fold at the center back and front, plus making a wider seam allowance all the way along on the side seams.  This method of grading only works when adding small increments.  I must say, the skirt fits me very well – almost too well, to be exact.  It seemed like a very close call, in the way of fit, for this project.  I must say, from my experience, 1930’s patterns (and 20’s, too) do not account for curves in women’s proportions.  My being a fairly ‘normal’ size by vintage pattern charts, and finding it hard to get a whole lot of shaping in my 30’s makes, I can now completely understand how some people do not know how to wear 30’s styles.  Old catalogs show tightly shaping, slimming waist and hip girdles were worn to make the figure long and lean – without such items, vintage styles fit differently on a modern figure.  However, I highly recommend everyone having a try at making the slenderizing, complimentary designs of the 1930’s.  They possess a simple, classic character.

My first step to construct this 30’s skirt was to sew on lace hem tape over the raw edges of the side seams.  Then the side seams get sewn together down to where the pattern indents out.  Next the outermost edges of the pleat indentation gets sewn together.  Now the pleat gets opened up and sewn down into a box pleat.  The left side seam was left open to insert a small zipper.  Originally, there were only two small darts, but I made four in the shape of a fan to bring in the waist at the back above the booty.  My Pictorial Review pattern recommended something simple for the waistband, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to use as it was vague.  I thought about wide bias tape, but that would not have provided support, and might stretch out of shape.  Thus, I used some wide 1 1/2 inch black grosgrain ribbon from my stash to finish the waistband.  The ribbon feels so smooth and comfy on my skin!  I left a longer extension of the ribbon on one side of the waistband to hand sew on a large sliding hook and eye to keep pressure off the top of the zipper, keeping my skirt closed.

The edges of the side box pleats were top stitched down at the very edge of the folds to keep things in place.  I’ve done this method before for the pin tucks of my 1937 blouse and it works great to save on loads of ironing time.

Our little dachshund was needy for attention and extra love during our photo shoot in our backyard of my 30’s black skirt.  My Flickr page Seam Racer has some successive pictures of our dachsie’s photo bombs, as well as some extra views of the skirt I made.  The afternoon was one of those perfect temperature days when being in the sun makes you just warm enough to get all sleepy and mellow.  However, as our dachsie has a thicker dark coat, he is heat sensitive, and was ducking into our nearby peony bush when he wasn’t receiving attention.  It sure made for some cute pet pictures!

I have a cut of cotton tri-colored striped shirting just waiting to be made up into a blouse using the same 1934 Pictorial Review #7279 that went towards my slim skirt.  Hopefully, I will get around to making it sooner than later, and blog about it here so you see the whole set from the pattern.  (Update – full blouse and skirt outfit finished and posted here!)  I already made a modern/authentic 30’s style knit tunic top (more pictures on my Flickr Seam Racer page, and posted on my site here) that wears well with my slim skirt.   Here’s to sewing a useful wardrobe that works for an everyday vintage way of dressing!