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!

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Geometric Lines of the Times – My 20’s Inspired Tunic

Here is one project that couldn’t help the way it turned out!  It was one of those special garments that kind of makes itself…and in this case, that is a VERY good thing.  I merely knew what era I wanted (the 20’s), knew what color (mustard yellow) and fabric (linen blend) I wanted to be working on, then, with plenty of fashion research, did whatever seemed right.  I can’t lay claim to any one specific pattern or garment as an inspiration.  The finished tunic is simply my best expression of the Art Deco styling I love about the 20’s.  There is a one-of-a-kind historical accuracy about this tunic that seems so perfect for our modern times just as well as 90 years ago.

100_2199a     This is the second 20’s inspired tunic top I have made.  My first one can be seen here.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  I used 3 1/2 yards of a 62% linen/38%rayon blend fabric.  It has a loose weave, almost like lightweight burlap (perhaps you will notice this in some close-up shots), and has a slightly scratchy, natural feel to it.  The color is a unique mustard yellow that has a bit of green undertones in the shade. 

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread, so, with such an odd color, I did buy one matching spool of Dual Duty thread.   I also bought a pack of golden yellow pearlescent square buttons for the back closure.

B6140Butterick 4230PATTERN:  I used a modern out-of-print pattern to make my tunic, on account of its similar fit to 20’s style clothes.  It is a Butterick 6140, year 1999, view F, shortened and without the pockets.  I also used one of my favorite patterns, a Butterick 4230, year 2004, for the long bell sleeves.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This top was unbelievably quick and fun!  It was done in a total of 10 hours, and it could’ve been less but I took my time enjoying this project.  My 20’s tunic was done on December 3, 2013.

THE INSIDES:  The neckline is self-encased by the second layer of fabric (the tunic’s main body is double layered).  The side seams and sleeves are French seams, the back center is a clean finished (turned under), my shoulder/sleeve seams are raw zig zagged edges, and the bottom hem is covered by brown lace hem tape (see right picture). 100_2589

TOTAL COST:  somewhere around $15.00

HISTORICAL ACCURACY: Relatively accurate; I built upon ideas from old original posters.  (The posters below are “Australian Home Journal, March 1, 1930” and “L’Echo de Paris” newspaper fashion page from the 20’s)  I believe I only used sewing methods and fabrics that would have been available for the 20’s/maybe early 30’s.  I also opted for a simple self-fabric loop and button closure since zippers (or technically slide fastener) were not widely accepted yet in the 20’s. 

100_2592    The basic tunic, like I mentioned above, went together in such a flash you could’ve blinked and missed it.  I made some slight changes to the construction to suit my needs, such as doubling up the main body of the tunic and shortening the dress pattern to a hip skimming length. Double layering the body helps my 20’s tunic hang better and it guarantees no see through.  Besides those reasons, I was able to easily make a cleanly finished neckline without facings.  How?  I sewed the four shoulder seams (two on the ‘lining’ top and two on the ‘good side out’ top) first, then sew the entire neckline and back button placket with the right sides together, and wrong sides out.  When the right sides get turned out, the neckline merely needs a top stitching to cleanly set everything  in place, and the rest of the tunic (side and back seams, hem, and sleeves) goes together as normal.  I have done this “doubled-up” method to other projects (link here and here) so as to simplify an already easy project.  I love anything that helps me make the most of my time!

My Butterick 6140 had never been made up yet, and I’m surprised that such a gem in my pattern cabinet never got noticed before.  Such a basic pattern has great potential in my eyes, especially knowing now that it fits me “to a T”, needing no adjustments to be my instant perfect size.  There is just enough ease in this dress pattern to really be a pullover (perfect for the relaxed 20’s styles) without any difficult wiggling to  get into it, either.  You bet I’ve got a few knockout 20’s dresses in mind to make using some spruced up reincarnations of the dresses from Butterick 6140.Home Journal 1920'sParis 20's drop waist dress poster

At first I had planned on adding a bow and/or a collar once my basic tunic was sewn together, like the three poster ladies in yellow above.  But once my tunic was together, a bow at the neck just didn’t seem like it would work well, and I began tending towards taking a different style, a simple Art Deco.  I loved the vertical stripes on the dress of the lady in yellow (from the “L’Echo de Paris” poster).  I still wanted the brown/yellow day suit combination on the left half of the “Home Journal” poster.  Over the course of a few non-sewing days, I did some passive brain crunching to figure out a simple, decorative way to add a Deco design.  Self-fabric tubing and ribbon were some of my first ideas of what to add to my tunic, but I was wanting something more simplistic.  Using tiny pin tucks to jazz up my tunic gives me the perfect answer to my design desire.  The pin tucks also give me a combo of both inspiration poster pictures – I get to be truly authentic while also true to my personal taste.

Art Deco designs are characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes, and anGatsby line preview embrace of technology, as seen in many architectural designs.  For a recent reference, see the line designs of the opening credits (see left small picture) in last year’s “The Great Gatsby” movie.  With this in mind, and with my adoration for the mathematician/designer Vionnet, I made the measurements and lined pin tucks on my tunic very precise, symmetrical, and exact. My sleeve hems end at 1/2 inch above the tunic hem, to compliment the tunic and create a square look.  Remember, my back neck closure is also a square button.  The ‘V’ neckline adds another geometric shape.  The two rows of pin tucks are on my left side, and 1 1/2 inches apart from each other.  The first row starts 1 1/2 inches away from the center of the tunic.  What number do you get with 1 1/2 inches times two?  That’s right, the horizontal pin tucks start at 3 inches up from the bottom hem.  How’s that for someone (like me) for whom math isn’t a strong point.    100_2190

I did the lines of tucks on the front only, at first, then, after talking it out with my hubby, decided to extend the lines around and back up again.  My left sleeve also was bestowed pin tucks when I discovered it was slightly longer than my right one.  I guess I had done a slightly imperfect hemming job but it was turned to my advantage because the tucks made the sleeves equal in arm length and matching with the design on that side.  I measured and double checked to get the sleeve tucks perfect and I’m proud of how cool it turned out.  The horizontal pin tucks on the left sleeve lines up exactly with the ones on the left tunic side, creating the illusion of a continuous line when my arm hangs down (which you can see in the 100_2585apicture, if you look closely).  A corner turner was a necessary staple to keep the two layers of fabric together to make all these pin tucks at only 1/8 inch big.  The tucks are also tapered to end at the neckline as well as on each side of the side seam because these spots were too thick to go through (see small picture).

100_2201     Modern RTW items helped my tunic turn into an outfit.  A staple in my closet – an Old Navy brand skirt – became an era appropriate match for my tunic.  With the skirt’s “high-low” hemline, bias cut, and knit fabric I suppose this outfit I put together would be a late 1920’s style.  Check out my shoes!  They are “Maxin” by Chelsea Crew, found at ModCloth or DSW, to name a few providers.  Bought at a good price, my shoes are so comfy!  I think they are THE piece that ties my outfit together with my tunic, both era wise (having the 20’s t-straps) and color wise (very rarely do my shoes exactly match when it comes to such an odd color).

Our photo shoot location was at two 20’s/30’s era buildings a few blocks away from our home.  It’s so fun to try to match my outfits I make with era appropriate locations around our town; it gets us out to explore and pay attention to what’s in our own town!  Several passerby’s who saw our photo shoot really seemed to enjoy watching our photo shoot and I hope I brought to life a past era for them.

I certainly enjoy imagining myself back 80 or 90 years ago, when these buildings were new…I’m hoping I would fit in wearing my handmade tunic.  The thought of “would I fit in if I were in year -” is my true historical test for my creations.  I happily feel that my geometric pin tucked tunic passes this test.

100_2183      The picture above is showcasing a very decorative doorway lintel, dating from the 20’s/30’s.  This is the second photo shoot taken under a Deco doorway lintel found in our neighborhood – the first pictures are at my “It’s De-Lovely” blog post.

In this second picture, I’m posing in front of a different building, dating to the 20’s, carrying an old original sign, “Frank Hardt Memorial Medical Building”.  It is our photo shoot’s second building (and also in our neighborhood), still serving to fulfill medical purposes as a family owned pharmacy which has proudly been around for 80 years.

100_2210    What’s cool is how it’s actually hard to tell the two buildings apart, other than these two last pictures.  Both buildings share the same builder, even though they’re a half mile apart!  You just can’t get a better example of Art Deco architectural art in the area where we live, than the two buildings which we included in our photos.

“A” Is For “A-Line Dress” and “B” Is For “Bouffant Hairstyle”

This sewing project is my sun-shiny ‘never-give-up’ dress.  I persisted in finishing my yellow retro/modern dress when some unexpected, time consuming correction measures were needed on it.  Now I have a very cool and classic style to get me through the summer.  With the right hairstyle, I can definitely rock the 60’s era in my dress!

100_1391a     There was some great teamwork with my husband in order to repair my dress’ original sizing problems, maybe that’s also part of the reason why wearing it makes me happy.

Really, though, things just fell into place last year when I whipped up my dress.  The week before Sew Weekly had “Yellow Inspiration” my dad “happened” to find this 2 yd. cut of yellow, and I had a newly bought pattern perfect to fit my idea.

I literally cut it close (which I do too much) to make my chosen pattern work for the fabric.  With hardly any scraps leftover I had to cut correctly.  All the finished garment sizes led me to cut my first non-graded pattern, straight bust size only here.  Little did I suspect, there was a mistake waiting to happen.  After all, there are no real mistakes in sewing, merely design opportunities…right?!

So you, the reader can understand what’s going on, I will give you, without further adieu-

Simplicty1878THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  light yellow rayon ‘linen-look’ blend, in a 2 yd. cut (rayon ‘linen-look’ shreds like CRAZY when you sew or cut it, just an F.Y.I. even though it’s carefree to wash and wear)

NOTIONS:  had thread and interfacing; merely bought a zipper and 2 packs of bias tape

PATTERN:   Simplicity 1878, designed by Lisette, year 2012

TIME TO COMPLETE:  finished on August 5, 2012, after at least 8 hours of sewing;  then some more fitting sewing was done this April, 2013

FIRST WORN:  to the license office, to get my official picture taken for the renewal of my driver’s license

Lisette’s pattern is easy to put together and effortless to wear.  I would definitely recommend this pattern, just be ready to do some fitting on it perhaps.  It would probably also look great in a big bold print as the fabric.  I’ll list some of Simplicity 1878’s strong points:

1) The notched neckline adds such charming character to design of the dress.  It wasn’t that hard to do either.  I obsessed a little when I was sewing the front, worried about getting the two notches even with one another and the points sharp, but I am content with how well I met my own strict expectations.

2)  The top stitching detail over the front seams is fun and I think emphasizes the A-line shape.  Besides, it shows off all the extra stitching and seam lines.

Some of the front details can be seen in our close-up.

100_13943)  The sleeves are comfortable, not baggy bell shape nor a tight cap.  The longer sleeve version turned out an awkward bracelet length on me, so I just shortened them to above my elbows.  The sleeves also were a bit snug at first in my armpit and by my back shoulder blade, but sewing a smaller 3/8 seam gave me just enough room to move my arms comfortably.100_1386

4)  It’s so smart to have the dress shaped by two long darts in the back of the dress.  Those darts work better than ties and leave the front looking great with nothing to take away from the design.  Please pardon the wrinkles along the back – I hadn’t given my dress an ironing job across the darts.

Once the dress was done, I tried it on and – Oh no! – from the bottom of my bust-line down to below my hips it fit me like a tight bodysuit.  My punishment for not grading was all the extra seam ripping and re-sewing I had to do to my yellow dress.  I was so ready to bury it in my UFO pile but I actually felt badly doing that, and besides my husband came up with a great idea to extend the sides.

I unpicked both side seams of the dress up to 2 inches below the armhole seam (left that intact), then sewed tan single fold 1 in. bias tape down the whole length of the side seams.  The bias tape is about 3/8 over the dress’ side seams, then I sewed a second strip of bias tape inside so the raw edges aren’t showing and the side seams will be strong.  I hope what I said makes sense.  Either way, hubby’s idea was the perfect fix.  Now I have just enough room together with a not-too-eye-catching but still retro appearance.

Megan's Mad Men yellow dressYellow is a color I have never really liked on myself, however now I’m a convert.  I know many Sew Weekly participants felt the same way (a slight aversion) about yellow.  Personally I love the deep mustard yellow that Megan wears (see left picture) in the 100_1402TV series “Mad Men”.  I have yet to make a peplum skirt, top, or dress, but this project is on my wish list for future projects, as long as I make it out of a golden, mustard yellow fabric (preferably real linen, too).

I will say “see you later” with my favorite photo of my best 60’s look pose and a shot of my bouffant, which, while not my best, I’m proud of how close it is to Joan’s amazing pouf of hair (aka. “Mad Men”).

100_1395a