Bright Sewing

This simple little blouse has everything going for it!  It is a small wonder project, literally, in colors that make me smile from the inside.  It is a little remnant of happiness and I need every ounce of that I can get at the moment.  The radio silence here has been because I have seriously been knocked down by sickness for two very long weeks.  Now that I’m slowly crawling back into humanity, it’s good to post something that is yet another amazingly simple design which calls for very little to make something so fun and creative.

All of us who sew probably possess or have found leftovers in an amazing fabric that are substantial enough to save yet small enough to stump creative expression.  Or perhaps you have seen or own a vintage or modern scarf that you love but have no use for.  Not only is this post’s simple top the perfect answer to such dilemmas, but it also only took 2 hours to come together…aaand there is more than one way to wear it.  Plus, my version is in my favorite colors of pink, purple, and turquoise.  I’m in heaven!

My trousers are an older make, see their blog post here.  They were made of a colored denim and an early 40’s vintage original pattern.  My earrings are old originals from my Grandma.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% rayon challis, in a Kathy Davis Designer brand print

PATTERN:  Vogue #5524, circa year 1945 (check out the original garment label that was hiding in the factory folds!!)

NOTIONS:  …nothin’ but thread…and a quarter in monetary change!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  under 3 hours, closer to two.  It was made in one afternoon on July 16, 2019..

THE INSIDES:  cleanly French seamed

TOTAL COST:  about $7

This pattern is so much smarter than is looks at first glance.  A one yard project is always great, but this top design calls for a square 36” scarf as an optional material source.  How awesome is that?!  There are so many absolutely lovely vintage scarves that would be stunning made up into this blouse.  As the envelope cover illustration shows, a scarf with an all-sides border would give such a unique look.  But wait – that’s not all (cue the selling point)!  There is no designated front or back either, and this is reversible!  The draped neck can be worn in the front (which I prefer) yet will also work worn in the back.  There is no zipper or buttons, no facings, and very few seams for an easy, simple, fun project!  I am thoroughly tempted to whip up a dozen of these in all different fabrics and colors, trying out drafting a long sleeve adaption, too!  There is so much potential here.  It is the epitome of smart 1940s wartime rationing that did not cut corners with style at the same time…truly a smart design.

The way this top works being reversible, with no closures needed, relies on the cut of the bias grain.  Each bodice piece is tucked into a corner of the one yard (or scarf) which is laid out flat, single layer, not folded.  This is why this pattern would work so well with a square scarf.  There is one small and odd-shaped sleeve piece that needs to be cut twice, and I also squeezed out a belt as well, but that is all.  The pieces just make it.  What an efficient little number this pattern is!  So many sewists have a hard time understanding or even working with the bias grain, and this pattern would be great place to start

To enhance the drape of the cowl neckline, the pattern instructs you to choose a moderately hefty button and attach it to the inside point with a thread chain.  I like to keep my buttons for being seen (most of mine are treasured vintage pieces from Grandmothers on both sides of the family) and I pictured that danging button as perfect for being caught up and snagged in the wash machine.  Instead, I made a tiny square pocket, just the size of a quarter in change.  Only one side of the pocket opening was stitched down to the inner drape point.  This way I can remove the weight easily before washing and even control how much drape I want – sometimes I go for two quarters or a lighter weight dime in the tiny pocket.  Versatility is everything to me when it comes to my own sewn wardrobe!

I didn’t change a thing to the pattern.  Its sizing is broad – merely a range bulked into a small, medium, large rather than the traditional numbers.  Even though this looked like possibly a size too big for me, I went with it because I figured a pop-over top never hurts to have some extra room.  I like the loose and flowing fit, but for a different fabric I might size down next time.  I left the blouse length as-is and it is almost too short to stay tucked in easily, yet I must say it is a good length to be just as nice untucked.  Of course, I did leave out the directed adding of shoulder pads.

I realize that I have been posting a lot of one yard or less and remnant projects, and I will take a break.  However, they are really as good as I tout, and really necessary to counter the fast fashion of today.  I have an inkling that it might be an unrealized, underlying mission to find and use as many of these one yard projects in my lifetime as possible.  Such economical projects are not as well advertised (or as easy to find in modern patterns) as I think they should be.  This one is the cream of the crop in my opinion, which is why I am considering offering copies of my Vogue #5524 pattern (at a minimal price) for your own enjoyment.  I have not decided how or through what method I would offer the patterns because it would depend on the interest.  Please, just let me know if you would be interested in a copy by commenting to this post or send me a message.  I will keep all of you posted!

In the meantime, I will follow up this post with something different, but connected to this post – a smorgasbord of inspiration about ways, both vintage and modern, to wear and use scarves.  Curious after finding this pattern, I ended up coming across too much more scarf inspiration not to share.  Get your one yard squares ready!

Having a Monochromatic Summer

My go-to sundress of 2019 actually is a carryover of a favorite make from the end of last year’s summer. I had been putting my idea off for a few years because I was not sure it would work. It is so different from the rest of my summer wardrobe! It is not bright and bold, flowery or frilly, like most of my other sundresses but the color scheme and the effortless wearing ease of the style and its material cools me down in thought and body. I’m having a monochromatic summer moment in my favorite vintage 1940s style!

This is such a sneaky vintage dress – it certainly doesn’t strike me as coming from 1949! Although dating from the fabulous post-WWII era, the pattern is one of the more popular modern Vintage Vogue line of reprints. It has such simple lines, and such a body complimentary design that this is a great example of the classic timelessness for which I love to make and wear vintage fashion. Whatever the era the dress shows, it proves I am still not over my recent fascination with the late 40’s, apparently!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: a cotton denim with a touch of spandex, lined in an interlock knit

PATTERN: Vintage Vogue #8974, year 1949

NOTIONS: I only needed basic, simple stuff – some interfacing, lots of thread, and a zipper. After it was finished, I also used an old bra…but more on that later!

TIME TO COMPLETE: This was finished on September 21, 2018, and took me about 10 hours to make.

THE INSIDES: All cleanly bias bound while the bodice is fully lined.

TOTAL COST: I vaguely remember picking this fabric out at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics years and years back. So, as it has been in my stash this long and well deserved to ‘break free’ of the fabric stash, I’m counting it as free!

It’s funny how things come full circle. It’s always so poignant when you realize that after the fact! You see, a year 1949 dress was actually the very first piece of vintage reproduction me-made (see it here from an old 2012 post). It was also in brown! Apparently, my go-to color is a pretty variation of dirt. The classic “little black dress” doesn’t get as far as a brown one. I personally love how brown tones work for so many seasons and are a good base for brighter colors and pastels without being as heavy as a navy or black, for example. To me, a good brown color is cool tone, very calming. Monochrome palettes (referring to a color scheme comprised of variations of one color) are themselves supposed to be soothing and create a good mood. Maybe the khaki, dark brown, rust, cream, and ivory tones in the subtle striping to my dress’ fabric was an instinctual choice for me to choose for yet another project on the verge of the 1950s.

Of course, the pattern showcases stripes to show off the grain line ingenuity and I followed along happily. I’m just trailing on the heels of my last striped sundress by posting this, anyway. My fabric’s striping is so small I did a general matching effort – nothing too meticulous because I was really pushing the limit anyway to make this work out of only 2 yards of material – and it turned out great. After all, this was a simple project to sew and I wanted it to stay as effortless to make as it is to wear. I think the mitered stripes do a lot for the slimming and trim appearance of this but it is so cute and attractive in any print, from what I’ve seen of all the awesome versions other seamstresses have made. It’s weird but this dress reminds me very much of my plaid 1940 sundress (posted a while back here) even though I know it is different and the styles are 9 years apart.

I have learned from years of summer sundress sewing that wearing them is so much more fun and easy if the lingerie situation doesn’t call for any extra thought. Thus I am a big fan of adding decent lining or even lingerie directly into the sundress to make it an-all-in-one garment that supports my “girls” in one easy step as I dress. I used a no-longer-worn bra from on hand – there are some whose clasps and straps bother me so I only keep them because the cups are still in good condition and fit. This was sewn directly into the dress at the proper place making this so comfy to wear, with all the good shaping I want yet not compromising on the breezy skin-baring qualities of my favorite sundresses.

I know the support should have been sewn in between the lining and the dress fabric to be ‘properly’ done, but I like the easy access of it if I ever want to adjust or change. Besides, my favorite part of having the bra visible to the interior of the dress is the linear symmetry it adds when it is laid out. Anyone who has followed me for a length of time should realize I am big into the mathematical perfection of sewing, and love to visibly play upon that with what I make. Besides, creative design lines, stripes (and plaids) offer great opportunities for such calculating. This dress gave me another taste that!

The sizing was pretty much spot on for this pattern, maybe even a tad on the roomy side along the top bodice edge, but I don’t mind. The dress also ran really long, and would have been to my ankles if I had cut according to the pattern. I left it a mid-calf (midi) length because I think it makes the dress look more elegant as well as hang well. A longer length is very circa 1949-ish, anyway! Finally, I raised the dip of the front neckline V so it wouldn’t be so revealing but that is the last of the tweaks I made. This was a pretty quick and satisfying make! I do want to come back to this pattern and make the killer cute cropped swing jacket that comes with the dress. It will definitely have to be a different fabric, though, as I have nothing but a few measly scraps leftover. So many projects on my mind and so many sewing decisions to make!

The earth monotones matched perfectly with my favorite comfort sandals from Hotter brand shoes as well as my “Cinnamon Spice” brownish undertone lipstick from the brand “Wet n’ Wild”. Too bad I don’t have more of a bronze glow on my skin to match, as well. A simple walk through our neighborhood was the casual backdrop to our pictures.

This is my 1940s installment in my “Indian Summer of the Sundress” post series which began with the making of this sundress when we had an extended time of unusual warmth. This just about wraps it up, unless I happen to crank out a 1970s sundress! I had to basically end it with my first sundress, the one that started it all anyway! Kind of like that other 1949 brown dress that started all my vintage sewing…

Late 30’s Dress Sports Halter and Bolero

Our trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to see the exhibit “Stitching History from the Holocaust” (see this post for an entire report about it) gave me a goal of sewing a new, era-matching outfit to wear for the occasion!  I love sewing especially when it comes to making something for a trip – to me, it’s the epitome of a special occasion and lets my outfits get a real purpose outside of the norm.  I also wanted to continue my respect for the story of Hedy Strnad with what I wore for our visit.

The woman drawn in each of Hedy’s designs of “Stitching History from the Holocaust” were the classic ideal for the late 30s.  She exudes assertiveness as she goes out into the world participating in a fully modern life of enjoying leisure time, shopping, making her own money, and taking care of her well-being.  Overall, a woman of the late 30s showed she is an equal part of society with fashions that displayed her unique personality and spunk with a combination of simplicity and complexity.  Even though the women on the cover of my outfit’s pattern are demurely looking downward, I do feel that my sports halter dress and bolero is part of that sort of womanly ideal!

This is a fun and comfy set which was perfect for the slightly cool weather of Milwaukee in the summer, with its northern breezes coming off of Lake Michigan, which you see behind me in our pictures.  It is vintage a la New York style circa 1938 or 1940, but to me it looks timeless.  I was so put together but still casual…an unusual combination that is so awesome to come upon.  I never like to look sloppy on our trips – I like the old-school way of going abroad in style.  There never is any need to be otherwise when the outfits I make feel as good as wearing a nightgown but visually are quite different!  Besides, how often do you see orange for summertime?  It’s quite cheerful when not just reserved for Halloween. My outfit is so easy to move in – I mean look at my full bias skirt – and the denim chambray of my dress and linen of my bolero are wonderful fabrics to feel against the skin.

Most importantly, though, our trip to Milwaukee gave me a good prod to finally get this outfit done in the first place.  I’ve only wanted to sew up this set together for the last several years!  So many sewing ideas and too little amount of time means there are many that get pushed back in my queue.  It is quite satisfying to get to these backburner projects!  I now wonder the reason why I always let this particular outfit project slide for so long, because I heartily enjoy wearing this set…but especially the very useful bolero!  I suppose this outfit was merely waiting for the right occasion…

This post is the first installment in my new ongoing series of an “Indian Summer of the Sundress”

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  DRESS – an all-cotton lightweight denim chambray (same as what I used for these pants but in a darker wash) together with a fat quarter of printed quilting cotton for the orange contrast; BOLERO – a dense, soft finish, loose-weave linen (leftover from making this dress) for the exterior and a sheer cotton handkerchief cotton as lining

PATTERN:  an unprinted New York #273 pattern, circa 1938, for the dress and (at left) Vintage Vogue #8812, a 2012 reprint of a year 1940 pattern, for the bolero jacket

NOTIONS:  What I used from on hand was thread, bias tape, snaps, bra cup liner, and bits of interfacing.  I bought a specialty Tim Holtz brand orange buffed metal exposed zipper for the back closure and some bright orange flower clearance buttons close up the back neck.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This set was finished in early August 2018 after about 30 hours spent to make both items.  The bolero took only 4 or 5 hours to complete out of the 30 total!

THE INSIDES:  Both are cleanly bias bound on all edges

TOTAL COST:  $20 or under

From seeing full-skirted, halter-style garments paired with a separate cover-up pop up again and again in between 1936 and 1940 respectively, this is seems to be a short-lived (but popular) sports and leisure set.  I’ve been saving pictures like nobody’s business of these types of sets, entranced by the style they exude even when doing things that are meant for fun, health, and relaxation.  I admire how the 1930s brought fashion into all aspects of life, and I mean fashion that is just as spot-on and put together as dressy wear.  Women were heartily encouraged to be active, healthy, and powerfully self-assured with themselves, and it showed in what they wore.  Thus the popularity for halter bodices which display a confidence in baring strong shoulders and arms!

Very bare backs and free shoulders were so popular in the 30’s.  They had a different air when coming from an evening gown design, but for these halter-neck garments it left full movement for tennis and golf, two of the sports women are mostly shown enjoying in such outfits.  A bolero makes such a skin-baring garment more presentable for a greater variety of occasions, as the 1930s – for all its high fashion – still made things so smart and useful.  I find my little bolero perfect for going indoors where air conditioning is almost always blasting too cold and it makes my dress fit to be seen as respectful in a church!

Both pieces were pretty easy to make – the bolero more so (obviously).  Both the dress and jacket, however, received much hand stitching so they were more time-consuming than could be expected using only my machine.  I wanted them to turn out well!  The bolero is something I want to last me many years, especially since it matches with almost everything in my summer wardrobe, so I needed to do the hemming and edging by hand.  The sundress’ denim makes any thread color very obvious, which would be okay on jeans or something meant to be a lot more casual than this, in my opinion.  No visible stitching elevates it from a mere handmade to something nicer, I think, and aligns with the quality and time-honored construction methods used on garments of the 30s.

Both patterns came together without a fitting hitch.  The bolero was rather a no brainer-type of make because I had used the pattern once already to make the matching sundress (see the dress’ post here) and I felt assured (rightly so, it turns out) of its success as it is so simple.  The dress somewhat made me nervous because New York patterns from the 30’s and 40’s seem to have funky sizing and proportions, in my experience.  They seem to have small shoulders, long hems and very small hips and waist.  Again, I was right with my sizing estimate and besides a small, extra ¼ dart I had to add to the side bust of the halter bodice, my dress turned out fitting me perfectly.

I did not have to worry about this New York pattern’s shoulders (as they are open), but the dress did come down to ankle length unhemmed.  Three inches were cut from the bottom and I gave the dress a deep 4 inch hem, which ends up nicely weighing the skirt down ever so gently.  It is now closer to a late 1930s midi length…perfect for keeping my knees covered when running or sporting or climbing in and out of public transportation vehicles!

I simplified the one pattern and had to fill in for the other.  Old patterns do not generally give you all those fussy tricky facing pieces or edge finishing guides that you get in new patterns.  In many cases, even the reprints or re-issues such as Vintage Vogue have drafted those pieces for the patterns sold today.  I normally do not like those facing pieces and much prefer a full lining, but sometimes they are needed.  For the dress, I used the edge facing pieces to cut out the interfacing and ironed that to the lining.  Then the entire “second bolero” in the form of the sheer cotton lining was put inside and stitched along the edges.  Bias tape used to turn under the raw edges.  The dress tissue had no pieces for anything besides the dress itself, and the instructions call for bias finishing, which I did.  The back neck closure needed something much more stable then edge finishing so I used the last 5 inches of the halter strap pattern to trace out a double.  Then I interfaced it, sewed it down (right sides together), and turned it under for a full facing that is clean and fully covered right or wrong side!  Old patterns trust you to either know what you’re doing or to figure out what needs to be done, and I find this confidence in the user is great for advancing or keeping up one’s sewing skills.  Just don’t let this feature of old patterns turn you off, please!

Yes, I did quite change up the back of the dress…but who would really want all those buttons to close blindly reaching behind or poking uncomfortably over your backside?!  Also, too, with a zipper – and a modern exposed one at that – I can both get the dress to fit me more snugly and update it to seem current.  I merely sewed up the back along the center front line which ran through the buttons and button holes.  Along the same thought, I made the back neckline of the halter close with two heavy-duty, large snaps.  Two buttons over the top of them create a deception.  The front bottom half of the dress was changed for the better, too, because I left out the center front seam to the skirt, lining up that former seam line with the fabric’s fold to end up with a beautiful bias half circle.  The motion to this skirt as one piece with no seam and the way it flows with me to keep me covered as I stay active is fantastic – the very reason this is a sporty dress.

The collar points were made according the pattern and turned out atrociously long and out-of-place.  They hung out over the edge of the dress and onto the front of my upper arm.  That would not do!  As I had no more scraps to cut recovery pieces, nor did I even consider the laborious task of total unpicking, I took the imperfect shortcut of folding the collar in half into a better (smaller) shape and stitching it down by hand to the underside.  The perfectionist inside me cringes that I even did this, buy hey – it really does look fine and turned out nice, especially compared to how it was (bad enough that I didn’t take a ‘before’ picture).  This ‘fix’ caused so much extra hand-stitching, but it was still better than unpicking and starting over.  I wouldn’t have had my dress done in time for the trip if I had done the proper way of fixing the collar.  It’s always better to have something you are happy to be wearing – perfect or not – than put yourself through a misery doing things “right” in sewing to the point you are no longer interested in finishing your project!  At some time in the future, I might come back to this dress and do things right, as I do for some of my projects.  When I feel up to replacing that sleeve, adding a pocket, cleaning up a seam, or correcting something done not “just-so” is better than forcing it.

To keep things simple and modest for wearing this halter, especially since the denim is so lightweight, I sewed mesh brassiere cups into the dress for an all-in-one garment.  I think I’ve only done such a thing once before.  However, as this outfit was to see its first use on a trip, and I like to be the type of person that travels with one suitcase (NOT a “bring the kitchen sink” type of person), a bra sewn in the dress was a wonderful detail which made my life easier…and more comfortable!  Now that the trip is past, I find myself reaching for this dress again and again because of how nice it is with the bra cups attached inside.  The middle netting between the cups was stitched to the center seam of the bodice, tacked at the bust darts, and the side elastic was stretched and stitched to the side seams.  You really don’t want to tack down bra cups at too many places for a lightweight, unlined dress like this otherwise they will pull at the garment and become terribly obvious.

I already have a weak spot for the late 30’s fashion, and this outfit now makes my addition all the worse.  I don’t know if it’s just because I know the culture’s ideals for back then, but I think that 1930s clothes do still lend a wonderful feeling of empowerment when they’re worn.  They give women a chance to unabashedly embrace their body figure with shapely fashions and offer great opportunity to enjoy playing with color and accessories combinations.  They provide a means to exercise and relax in something just as comfy as modern athletic wear but which is so much more colorful, unique, and feminine.  They are often bold and unusual, but that is generally what is attractive about clothes from this era.  By the compliments I receive on my me-made clothes and the discussions I have with others who don’t sew, I realize people are dying for clothes that are fun, that they can enjoy, and that make them feel like themselves.  The late 1930s does that for me in a special way different from all the other eras I wear.  I hope you’re ready for more fashions from the late 30’s because I have plenty more to come!

Indian Summer of the Sundress

Here it is – the first of October – and were we live the weather should be (and normally does) feel like fall.  Sure, we have an occasional cool day with a clear and earthy smell in the air as a promise that the next season is still to come…sometime.  Instead of fall, we are still melting in what we call an “Indian Summer” – a hot spell coming after the autumn equinox (also known as a “badger summer” in Sweden, “old woman’s summer” in Slavic countries, or “second summer” in Britain’s old English just to name a few).  My country’s term for this weather is a phase that may best be described as pejorative.  It has been in use here since circa 1790s and its origins are quite hazy and unclear, though.  In his extremely thorough research, though, Albert Matthews, a Bostonian who spent 12 years in the late 19th century gathering together dozens of the earliest uses of the phrase, never discovered a convincing explanation for what the expression meant. It is a lovely time of the year that doesn’t come annually, and it was traditionally used to fully finish one’s winter preparations.

Nevertheless, I love warm temperatures, so although completely out-of-season, I’m not complaining…only happy that my sundresses and sandals are seeing some good use!  Not content with that and contrary to it’s tradition, I find this weather as a reason to keep sewing the sundresses I have been wanting to make for a long time.  I want to soak up every minute of sundress weather while I still can before I have to wait 8 or so months for it to come back!!

Thus, I will be having a small on-going series over the next few months of my sundress makes from this late summer spell of warmth we are experiencing.  It is because I love my new sundresses and want to brighten up the season of chilly weather we will be having soon with what I am posting, but also because I realize that all my readers are not in my same zone and might be transitioning into spring and early summer coming up, so a warm weather garment might be good for ideas.

Now, what is a sundress?  To summarize it (as it does have a loose meaning) it is a sleeveless, informal dress in made of lighter weight fabrics to be worn in warm weather.  Post 1960s to modern times, a sundress is a bit different than what the past decades, especially the 1920s and 1930s, understood as a sundress.  I will explore some of this by showing the variety of sundresses I have made – from which is one 1920s inspired, to one from each of the next four decades after that.