Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dress of the Century: 1920-1929

As worn by the everyday woman as illustrated in Sears catalogs:











Monday, July 21, 2014

The Ease Problem

I have only been sewing since 2008 and I am by no means advanced, or an expert, or anything like that. I'd say I'm low intermediate. I only really sew cute little frocks from common apparel fabric -- nothing too extravagant. That said, it took me all those years (and still learning) to figure out what fits me with zero alterations.

I am lucky -- my measurements are perfect stock sizes! 39-31-41. And I never got the hang of refitting. I can go one size up, but more than one size up and I make a mess! LOL. Going down a size I could never do right, but beginning to learn (just ONE size down, though!) Then there is the issue of EASE. I candidly put my measurements out there: 39-31-41. Through trial and error, I've found that these sizes for these eras and brands fit me perfectly:

Hollywood Patterns, late 30s/early 40s, Size 20:

Simplicity Patterns, late 30s/early 40s, Size 18:

Simplicity Patterns, late 60s/early 70s, Size 14:

All modern patterns, Size 14:

These just so happen to be my preferred eras to make, so this is why I have it all figured out. I don't have any original 1920s patterns. I have original and modern repro patterns spanning 1945-1965, but I just don't like that era of fashion very much so I have no clue what size I would wear in the vintage originals. Modern repro is always a size 14 so I usually make those if I get a hankering for a 1950s circle dress ;)

Vintage pattern from the 30s and early 40s are almost ALWAYS the size they say they are on the envelope. Hollywood patterns are pretty exact to my measurements whereas Simplicity has a bit of room to play -- not excessively like modern patterns, but just enough for a snug, nice fit (like I like!) I don't know when 4 inches of ease came in, but modern patterns have just that -- 4 inches of ease is usually the standard. My bust fluctuates between 39 and 40 inches depending on hormones and water weight and all that fun girl stuff.

This is a size chart on a brand new 2014 pattern. Going by this, I should be wearing a size 18 because I have a 40 inch bust. Nope. I have to cut and make a size 14. Here's why:

There will be three areas on the patterns with this little circle and a cross symbol. These are the finished garment measurements for the bust, waist, and hip. As you can see, even though it says size 18 is a 40" bust on the envelope, when the garment is all made up you end up with a 43.5 inch bust line. Look at size 14 -- 39.5 finished garment bust line. Perfect for me! Even though the envelope says size 14 is a 36" bust, it's really a 39.5" bust. Three and a half inches of ease is HUGE. This is why a lot of new sewers get disappointed that their finished garments are so big. I've been there! I had no idea there was a "Finished Garment" measurement on the actual pattern until recently! Most often, size 14 is a 39.5" bust, 31" waist, and 41" hips. Could be an inch bigger sometimes, but when I have shaping garments underneath a size 14 ALWAYS fits perfectly.

So, with this, I hope I've saved someone out there the agony of having your first sewing project turn out TOO BIG. And it will if you go by the measurements on the back of the envelope.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dress #23 -- Simplicity 4019 (1942), 2014 & 2009 versions!

I'm on it! My next creation is from 1942:

Yea, that's me modeling it! Ha! This was a very simple-to-make WW2-era day dress pattern that went together fast -- much like almost every other pattern from this era. The most time consuming part was the pockets. You have to hand-fold them, iron them, make sure they are pinned on evenly...all that fun stuff. I also decided to make use of the fancy stitches on my machine:

You can also see a closeup of the fabric that is called "Butterfly Spice." It's made for Jo-Ann, but I couldn't find it anywhere online. I bought it in a physical store because it reminded me of a feedsack from that era. As for the construction -- everything fit together like a perfect puzzle and the size on the envelope is the SIZE IT IS (no 4 inches of ease!) And how do I know it's from 1942? I found this stamp on the back:

Simplicity 4019 was very easy to make. So easy, I didn't even really use the instructions. But I've had this pattern for a long time and I made this dress once before in 2009 -- my first year of sewing.

It looks ok from here, but I had used a zipper that was way too short, causing the front facing to stick out and the zipper being way too low (there's a safety pin in there!). I cut the skirt straight instead of on the bias like the pattern calls for -- and I always wondered why the skirt flopped inward and hung awkwardly. Heh! The inside facing is terrible! I had NO IDEA how to sew in facings at this time and I noticed I skipped them all together on a lot of my early creations. I either folded the raw edge over or used bias tape! The rest of the dress, pretty good. I love the fabric I used, too. Kinda gothy!

Here's one last look at the 2014 version on my dress form:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When People Find Out You Can Sew....

...they think you can sew EVERYTHING. Lol. NOPE! I've had offers to repair car seats, make a wedding dress, and custom-fit dresses from my pattern collection for strangers. I can't do any of this. Upholstery is something completely different from sewing little cotton I have no interest in it. There's also those who think my little plastic sewing machine can handle heavy-duty fabrics/upholsteries. NOPE. You would bend and break everything on my machine.

An intricate wedding dress is way beyond my skill level and so is refitting patterns. Frankly, I have no desire to learn to refit patterns for anyone other than myself. I have zero desire to sew for profit, since I know that would take all the fun out of it. For me, sewing is one of my all-time anxiety relievers. I love seeing a flat, 70-year-old piece of paper turn into something with life in it! Sewing for other people would just crush that. I'm quite happy making my little cotton frocks that range from easy peasy to kinda challenging. I am not a perfect sewist and will never claim to be -- but I know how to hide my mistakes ;)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dress #22 -- Butterick 6055 (1950 reprint) "Honey Nielsen"

Hola! I have completed a dress!

I had a little bit of inspiration with this one. Back in 1991-1992 there was a short-lived sitcom on Nick at Nite called Hi Honey, I'm Home. The basis was a wholesome, naive 1950s sitcom family gets cancelled and they are relocated to modern-day (1991) New Jersey. The comedy comes from the clash of the time periods. I recently re-watched it on YouTube and I fell in love with the dress worn by the 1950s mother, "Honey Neilsen" (played by actress Charlotte Booker):

I knew I HAD to have a pink dress with white polka dots and black trimmings! I do love the combo and my dress turned out pretty sweet, but there are a few things I don't like about the pattern Butterick 6055. I HATE the sleeves. HATE THEM. They make the dress look "nautical" (to my eyes) and that's not the look I want. I cut the sleeves off the first rendition of this dress. I really liked the way it looked and it really brought out that "Jane Jetson" collar! But I wanted those little black sleeve embellishments like on Honey's dress so I re-did the bodice, sleeves and all. My sewing skills aren't advanced enough to change the sleeves completely. How it looked sleeveless:

I made the sleeve embellishments from scratch. At first I carefully measured them out and I couldn't get them even so I just said FUCK IT and cut all four out free hand! Came out nearly perfect. I ironed under 1/4" of a seam allowance all the way around, placed them by eyesight, and topstitched them on:

Not bad for just DOING IT (no measuring, no fuss!) Now, onto the good things about Butterick 6055. I LOVE those pockets! They were so easy to do. I topstitched them on, but they are a little tricky around the side seams. I sewed the pockets on first, but the left the side against the side seam open. I then sewed up the side seams and then completed the topstitching. I used all black so you can't really see my

So there it is. I've been fantasizing about making this dress for a few weeks. I LOVE the pink/white/black combo and I have enough fabric to make another (using a different pattern, though!) And check out Honey Nielsen's dress in action in this clip from Hi Honey, I'm Home!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

McCall's Archive Collection, Fall 2014

Hey all. Some of you may already know, but McCall's patterns announced they were going to start reissuing their back catalog, much like Simplicity, Butterick, and Vintage Vogue have been doing for years. The patterns were released last week and I have to say I wasn't too terribly thrilled.

The skirt

Let me start by saying I LOVE THIS SKIRT!!!! I would have bought it even if it wasn't marketed as vintage. This photo is the actual pattern I received in the mail today. I love it so much it's a HIGH PRIORITY on my "to sew" list. You can't see the details on the photo, but the skirt has some awesome seam work!

There is nothing about this skirt I don't love! I will add that I'm fully aware this pattern is more "vintage inspired" than I think it's an actual reproduction of a 1933 pattern. The first giveaway is that there is no photo of the original pattern artwork (like the other pattern brands always include!) The second giveaway is that these lines are no more "1933" than my Lucky 13 Roller Derby t-shirts! Ok, maybe that's a stretch (lol), but the lines, to me, seem like a generic, modernized vintage-inspired style. Again, NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT (as I LOVE the skirt regardless) -- but it should be marketed as such. Still, I LOVE THAT SKIRT!

The jacket

Ok, here's the weird part. The skirt and jacket (which are shown as a complete outfit) are SEPARATE PATTERNS. Why are they not together like the other patterns? I have no idea. My only guess is to make more money. Luckily, I don't wear jackets like this so I skipped this pattern. It would have been nice to have it all in one envelope, but I guess it's less wasted pattern I'll never make...haha. I can't comment on the jacket because I don't care much for it and I don't plan on buying it.

Overall, View A saves the skirt pattern from becoming completely underwhelming. View B looks more late 40s to me (generic vintage -inspired!). The separate jacket pattern is really weird. And completely underwhelming. The lack of original art is weird, too. Skirt "A", though! I do love it!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dress #21 -- Simplicity 7355 (1967)

Hey there. I made this quickie dress in a matter of a few hours:

Copyrighted 1967. This dress was EASY to put together and it was drafted beautifully! Everything matched up perfectly. Dress #20 had a few drafting errors where pieces didn't line up as well as they should have. This is why I love vintage patterns best -- they go together perfectly!

But enough about that. The pattern envelope makes this dress out to be a bit dressy, but I saw some "youth quake" potential and had a go at it. First, my fabric choice was spot-on. It's kind of ugly-ish and garish! Not uncommon in the late 1960s! I then made the sleeves wider at the end and shortened the skirt to a less matronly length. As I said on a previous post, sometimes shift dresses can teeter on the edge of being too "Thelma Harper" if I don't execute them right. Simplicity 7533 is the most 60s dress I have ever made. It's more 60s than some of my real 60s dresses!

Dress #5 -- Simplicity 8485 (1969)