Big Vintage Sewalong: Retro Butterick 5813

Big Vintage Sewalong dress

Back in March I announced I was taking part in the McCalls Big Vintage Sewalong. My scheduled date to blog seemed an awful long way off then, but all of a sudden today came shooting along like an express train and of course I’d left everything till the last minute!

My pattern of choice was the 1950s Retro Butterick 5813 – Nail on the head, Alana from Flying Purple Hippos.com! – but it wasn’t without a dither. I loved each of the three 1940s patterns on offer too!

retro butterick 5813

As soon as that pattern was in hand and I’d decided on version A, I headed straight down to Goldhawk Road and to the relatively new store, Goldbrick Fabrics, to snap up some gorgeous Italian brocade. I’ve been quite literally ‘stitched up’ (or rather unstitched) by brocade, once before (yes looking at you BHL Georgia!) and I knew as a rule, it has massive ‘give’ issues but this particular brocade is beautifully soft and luxurious with just the right amount of body at the same time and subsequently a little more forgiving.

retro butterick 5813

big vintage sewalong dress

And because the fabric was so special I wasn’t about to employ any gung ho scissor action. So I made a toile like the good girl I am. Fortunately I only had to make a few minor adjustments. Firstly I needed to remove some excess bagginess from the back bodice. I often come up against this issue but this style commanded some serious ease for practical reasons of movement I guess.

Big Vintage Sewalong Butterick 5813

Secondly, I needed to gain a little more girth. My go to adjustment for this is always to add a bit at the side seams but that often results in a loss of shape and a sausagey silhouette, so I thought I’d try a different way by sewing narrower darts and I do believe the result was way better, though, looking at the back view shot I should also have shortened the bodice a tad.

retro butterick 5813

Thirdly, I lobbed a fair bit off the length. I ummed and arred between below the knee or to the knee but I think after seeing these photos, an inch longer may have added a bit more drama. What do you think? I sewed a substantial hem so I could take it down a little I guess.

I wouldn’t recommend this dress to an absolute beginner. There are potentially, lots of hissy-fit inducing features like darts – lots of them, some underbust gathering (which admittedly would probably have been easier in a more manageable fabric) oh and inset panels! Luckily I’ve had some former training with insetting sections of my quilt panels – for example the Whirligig block –which made the instructions and the construction a near enough breeze!

Another thing to be mindful of is the precision of facing the front opening – sewing perfectly symmetrical seams to meet at a single point before turning through. I think the collar is such a lovely feature of this dress. There were no complications in adding it and it has a real neat finish that encloses the lining around the neck edge.

Big Vintage Sewalong dress

It’s fully lined too which means sleeves an’ all! I’ve only ever done this twice to my ever failing knowledge: My vintage plaid dress (which annoyingly seems to have disappeared from my blog) and more recently my Sew Over It Joan Dress. And I must say it feels like a bit of a rip off to have to basically construct the dress all over again in lining, no cutting of corners, darts, gatherings, inset panels the lot! And that means even more seams to overlock too!

retro butterick 5813

But of course it was all worth the effort and it’s so lovely and weighty. Proper quality, like!

I’m not sure whether I cut or sewed the wrist end of the sleeve incorrectly but in any case I opened the seam a little to avoid the puckering that was about to happen. And yes those are 3 little darts for shaping the sleeve. On the fashion fabric and the lining. That’s proper vintage detail!

retro butterick 5813

I chose an invisible zip over a more-authentic lapped one, only because I had one to hand but I’m really pleased with the outcome. It just looks like another side seam. I achieved such invisibility by taking my time for once, pinning and then tacking in position before using a regular zipper foot and then sewing a second time with the invisible zipper foot.

retro butterick 5813

One thing that surprised me was the vent. It’s just a slit with facings either side and the lining is stitched to the facings like a little bridge around the outside. Much simpler than the usual lined vents or kick pleats of most vintage dresses I’ve sewn but it does feel like a bit of a cop out after all the attention to detail elsewhere.

Overall I totally love this dress. It was such a pleasure to indulge in some vintage sewing again. Very long overdue and I’d love an excuse (and some more hours in the day) to make another. But I’d make a few more adjustments next time, namely taking a bit off the shoulders, shortening the bodice a fraction and adding a little more to the waist.

retro butterick 5813

It got some lovely comments as we strutted around Portobello Road and around Notting Hill. Not least of all from the lady who managed to sell me 2 new pairs of sunglasses. Flattery gets you everywhere, see!

retro butterick 5813

retro butterick 5813

retro butterick 5813

Many thanks to The Foldline for the encouragement, for McCalls Pattern Company UK for providing the pattern and fabric. I sincerely hope that lots of people get inspired to buy these gorgeous vintage patterns and that lots of wonga is raised for The Eve Appeal in the meantime.

retro butterick 5813

Special thanks also to Dan for dutifully shooting these amazing photos. We always have such fun. London is so full of amazing places and we’re lucky that most of them are just a short tube ride away. It’s always a hoot when we’re oot and aboot!

Marie from A Stitching Odyssey is next up. Can’t wait to see what she makes.

The Big Vintage Sewalong

BVS blogger tour

Have you heard about the Big Vintage Sewalong hosted by Butterick, yet?

It was launched just last week as a fun way to raise some awareness and some funds for a worthwhile cause – The Eve Appeal Charity: to date, the only cancer research charity focussed on improving detection, risk prediciton and prevention of all five gynaecological cancers.

From March to October this year, sewists from across the UK will be encouraged to sew one of the featured vintage dressmaking patterns, ranging from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. Money raised from the sale of each pattern will go to the The Eve Appeal Charity. The selection is amazing, but then I’m hugely biased – I’m a sucker for a vintage pattern! You can browse and purchase yours by clicking on the images below or from the official website: www.vintagesewalong.co.uk

And there will be plenty of opportunity to share your finished garments and follow others using hashtag #bvsewalong and copying in @McCallpatternUK on Twitter or @McCallpatternUK on Instagram.

1930s

1930s dress 1930s skirt 1930s blouse 1930s dress

1940s

1940s dress and jacket 1940s dress 1940s dress

1950s

1950s dress 1950s dress 1950s dress 1950s dress
1950s coat 1950s dress 1950s dress

1960s

1960s dress 1960s dress 1960s 1960s dress and jacket

To support the campaign there’ll be vintage workshops, events in store, a vintage tea party, a special supplement in Love Sewing Magazine and a blogger tour. That’s where I come in – scheduled for June 24th, to reveal my chosen vintage garment from the selection above. Can’t let the cat out of the bag just yet but I can reveal that it will come hand in hand with a giveaway of the self same pattern so be sure to keep tuned for details, because it’s a goodie!!

And here’s the schedule for the blog tour:

11/03/16   Katie at What Katie Sews
25/03/16   Portia at Makery
08/04/16   Kate at The Fold Line
15/04/16   Amy at Almond Rock
29/04/16   Elisalex at By Hand London
13/05/16   Jane at Handmade Jane
27/05/16   Jennifer at The Gingerthread Girl
10/06/16   Lisa at the You Tube Sew Over It
24/06/16   Janene at ooobop
08/07/16   Marie at A Stitching Odyssey
15/07/16   Kerry at Kestrel Makes
22/07/16   Fiona at Diary of a Chainstitcher
29/07/16   Karen at Did You Make That?
05/08/16   Laura at Sew for Victory
12/08/16   Nina at ThumbleNina
19/08/16   Charlotte at English Girl at Home
26/08/16   Gabby at Living on a Shoestring
02/09/16   Rachel at House of Pinheiro
09/09/16   Elena at Randomly Happy
16/09/16   Wendy at Butterick
23/09/16   Winnie at Scruffy Badger Time
30/09/16   Rachel at The Fold Line

The Foldline have posted about it here and to keep up to date with all things Big Vintage Sewalong be sure to visit the official website at: www.vintagesewalong.co.uk

Let me know what ones tickle your fancy and if you have an inkling what my chosen pattern might be!

 

#Blazer of 2016: Potential Patterns

blazer of 2016

Thank you so much to everyone for your lovely words of support for #Blazerof2016 and especially to those who have signed up. And for anyone who’s teetering on the edge of joining in there’s still bags of time!

Typically my working-week has been busier than expected and there’s been no room for sewing but I did manage a little recce of potential sewing patterns that I’d like to share with you. Don’t hold your breath though. It won’t take long!

This little scout round the web – and to be fair, it was a little scout – has had some surprising results. When MaleDevonSewing suggested that menswear only represented 6% of sewing patterns, he wasn’t exaggerating!

Searching through the contemporary and classics of the Big 4‘s, this is all I came up with:

 

Burda 6813
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 6872
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 7194 Mans jacket
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 7046 Mans blazer
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 6993 mans jacket
Source: Jaycotts
Kwik Sew 3485
Source: Jaycotts

 

Vogue 8719 mans jacket
Source: John Lewis

 

Vogue 8988 jacket
Source: John Lewis

Of course there are only so many variations a man’s jacket might display, for example: the pockets, the lapel shape, the vent, if any, button cuffs or not, lined or not etc. No Westwood meeting McQueen with crazy shoulder shapes and asymmetric cross body lapels but that’s ok. We’ll make it interesting in our own way, right?!

So Burda gets the prize not just for the most patterns found but also for their jacket patterns featured in this month’s Burda Style magazine. What were the chances of that?

 

Patterns found in Burdastyle 2/2016
Patterns found in Burdastyle 2/2016

 

How are you getting on with your pattern searching? Have you found any designs by independent sewing pattern companies or have you gone vintage? There certainly seems to be more of those floating around. However, Mr O has a broader chest than most of those 50’s men it seems, hence my Big4 search. But to be fair, to find anything larger than a 44 chest in a modern day pattern is pretty rare too, it seems. Unfairly represented in more ways than one, then!

I think I’ll be going with the pattern on the left hand page of Burda Style magazine. I’m a bit nervous of the minimal instructions but I’ll be calling Jamie to the rescue if I get stuck! So calico at the ready I hope to be tracing and toiling sometime soon.

 

BHL Zena dress tested

bhl zeena dress front

So here is my version of the newly released Zeena dress pattern by the By Hand London girls!

It’s had so many wears since I sewed it I’m sure most of you have seen it already but it wasn’t quite right to post deets until the official launch date, which is today, hooray!

This dress is a seriously easy sew. There are no sleeves to inset, It is not lined, having just a neck facing, and you could even skip the pockets if you wanted to make it faster. Though I kept them in as a useful device for holding the skirt down on a blustery day!

The fabric I’ve used is very lightweight and drapey. A lovely donation from Handmade Jane. Hot orange with metallic gold spots. And why not?!

I foresaw issues with the sleeves and the tucks on the bodice if I were to use anything firmer. The skirt would probably be great though. Perhaps another option is to have lightweight bodice and midweight skirt. Those pleats would certainly stand to attention then!

bhl zeena dress back viewBut the more casual nature of this dress is what sold it to me. Especially on balmy days like today. Whilst I do love the fitted princess-seamed bodice of the Elisalex dress, (For the Love of Lawn, The Dress that Nearly Wasn’t, Speed Sewing for Sumer ) It feels more relaxed and cooler when the fabric isn’t so close to ones bod.

There’s lots of fabric going on in that skirt but the classy box-pleats take away that awful poof at the belly as is sometimes caused by gathering. I didn’t take a closer side view shot but I can tell you that the in-seam pockets sit hidden, perfectly inside those pleats. I don’t usually get the whole love affair with pockets but it does seem right somehow for a Zeena. I’ve only ever sewn them in one other dress I think, my Burda Maxi. But that was all together for more practical reasons!

bhl zeena dress side front view

It’s a bit shorter than I’d usually go for but I quite like that. I’ll like it better still once my pins have got some colour on them. They don’t get out very often these days! But there is a longer skirt option included in the pattern if you are after something a little more demur, along with three-quarter sleeves as a choice too.

I can’t guarantee what changes were made to the pattern once I’d tested it but I can say that I had no major issues with this one as I tested it. When I make it again I’m going to go crazy with French seams. Which I should have actually have done this time to save on the finishing!

One tip for those pleats though. Make sure you baste them along the top and down the pleat a bit to properly hold them in position before you sew skirt to bodice. I was a bit lazy with the basting and the pleats separated a little bit. Other than that it was a breeze. And I totally recommend it.

Here’s a link to the By Hand London Page where you can buy the Zeena Dress pdf download if you fancy one yourself. Happy sewing!

Photography by Daniel James Photographic

ooobop review: Burda Style March 2015

Burda Style March 2015 cover

Can you feel that spring sunshine, desperately trying to squeeze though your bedroom window in the morning? Well if that isn’t happening, the March 2015 issue of Burda Style magazine will do it’s best to brighten your days.

There’s some lively goings-on this month, with all sorts of asymmetric, geometrical, hankerchief-hemmed and draped goodness!

Beach Pearls sets some scenes for a summer wardrobe: I just love that maxi dress (A). It’s not dissimilar to the viscose jersey one I made here, but the bust detail is right on the money! A lot more support I would think and what a flattering silhouette!.

beach pearls burda march 2015

It also translates into a lovely strappy top (B).

Now I like where the asymmetrical skirt (C) is coming from but not quite where it landed up! Way too much like a sack tied round the middle for me. Further on it is redeemed with some better styling, I can assure you.

Nice Jumpsuit (C), btw. If jumpsuits are your thing. You might want to add some ‘fashion tape’ to the list of required notions, though. Click here: Hollywood Fashion Tape if you’re interested in buying any from Amazon!

Flared trouser suits (E)? mmm…and bat wing empire-lines (F)? double mmm… Lets move on to the shirtwaist dress with ‘maxitail in the right seam’ (G). I do like that. And I love the biker-meets-Mao jacket too (H)!

Uh oh. There’s that batwing-empire-line again (I). Swiftly moving on to the Flowers and Stripes section!

Flowers and stripes burda style march 2015

I’ve never made or owned a pair of culottes (A). But I bet they’re a far safer than a full skirt on a windy day. And looks lovely in a largish print. If you like that sort of thing.

And there’s that shirt-waist dress (B) again with ‘cut-on-dipped hem’ like last time! It would be better to use a fabric that has a reverse as good as the good side, I would have thought.

Look how that lovely maxi translates to a cute beach dress too (C).

This month features a chic wrap dress (D). There is some assurance of a button at the side and concealed snap fasteners to keep the wrap in place. Potential for a Bucks Fizz moment there!

The peasant top addict in me (see two of them here and here) is quite drawn to this ‘relaxed tunic’ (E)! Would need a fine drapey jersey to pull off with any sophistication I would have thought.

And there’s some more geometric delight in the shape of a simple v-neck dress with symmetrical ‘cut-on tails’ (F)!

Any weddings occurring this year? Loving both these bridal party dresses (A) in The Big Day section.

The Big Day Burda March 2015

The bride’s dress (B) is the same as (A) with a flowy underskirt of crêpe chiffon. That’s if you haven’t been put off by the chiffon adventures in The Great British Sewing Bee recent episode.

Can’t help thinking this dress (C) is a bit cake-like with all the tiers an’ all.

And although I usually embrace a bit of invention, I still wouldn’t want to look like I’d been dragged behind the wedding car, en-route in this dress (D)!

This fairytale dress (E) is far simpler and much more sophisticated though. Just get rid of the batwing-empire-maid who’s ruining the photo!

Oh this is much better (F). Lovely wide-dipped hem again. Bust darts for shape. Cotton lace overlay, crepe satin underlay. I’d wear it with cowboy boots. Or even DM’s. Or is that just the hippy in me?!

Now there’s that asymmetric skirt again (centre, G), styled much more favourably with a gorgeous jacket: standing collar and 50s style winged lapels. See, it does have potential to work. Nice suit on the right too!

I’ve picked out the following three from the Reader Favourites section:

reader favourites burda march 2015

Jumpsuit (A) made short for all you lovely long-legged people!

Lovely floor-length dress (B) in striped jersey with side slits and a ‘hankerchief hem’. I can definitely feel some more maxi’s coming on this year.

And a cute little dress (C) based on the short lace wedding party dress design. Not my cuppa tea fabric-wise, but I’m always sold on a midriff piece!

Not overly inspired by the plus section this month I’m afraid, though the trench coat is rather amazing, I must say.

plus size trench coat burda march 2015

But, there is cuteness for small people at the back.

Childrens section burda style march 2015

The best design and the garment most fitting to the Colour Splash section by far, is the paint-spattered dress (A) with tying bands that resemble the sleeves of another garment. Hands up who wants an adult version? Genius!

Pattern testing: BHL Sophia

BHL Sophia dress

If you heard a rumour that there was a new BHL girl on the block, you heard right. And I can assure you that Sophia lives up to that By Hand London reputation of gorgeousness.

Victoria contacted me with an emergency test request. And despite my ongoing mega work load I couldn’t turn this one down.

By the drawings alone I knew I wanted this dress. I mean, check out those darts and oh that 50s style collar. Totally up my street with a little nod to vintage.
bhl_drawing_sophiaI chose the pencil skirt version as my vision involved ‘old man Prince of Wales check’ fabric! I was after a bit of structure backed up with office chic stylin’!

And so here is my first testing of the test pattern itself!

back_detail_front_full

And yes, call me crazy, but I did opt for checked fabric to test a pattern, and not for the first time. My thinking is that if it does turn out good then I haven’t wasted time. It happens… occasionally!

Truth is, not accounting for any amendments to the pattern that might be made by BHL in the meantime, I do need to make a few tweaks, including a small fba and to taper the skirt a bit. But that’s just personal preference.

bhl sophia collar detail

The fabric was from Dave the Drapers in Goldhawk Road. One of my faves. But lesson learned with cheap fabric: Even though the quality isn’t bad (its a wool mix) the grain is slightly off and that matters one helluva lot with checks! Well that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

I love the way the darts radiate from the central front and back seams. I’ve seen this approach in vintage design books but not on a pattern I own, vintage or modern. So it was a real treat to get to test how this works. I just have to figure out how to do an fba with this kind of dart. Presuming I swing to the side seam and proceed as normal but very open to suggestions if anyone knows of another way.

Sophia should be making her appearance in the BHL pattern shop soon So keep eyes peeled. Shes a good’un!

 

Using Evernote to catalogue patterns & fabric stash

vintage sewing patterns

In my head, I’m a very organised and methodical person. In reality I’m not!

Actually, that’s not entirely fair. I do put things in piles labelled ‘to action’, ‘to file’, ‘to put away’ and I have even been known to put things in boxes but there remains an ongoing issue with finding things!

My precious sewing patterns, new and old, are safely filed put away in boxes. I love to get them out and look through them every now and then, just for that warm fuzzy feeling. And sometimes I even put them to work. But with the ever growing tower of pattern boxes it is true to say that I often forget what I’ve got.

But last week I discovered Evernote! I cannot claim to be the authority on this app because, by all accounts, it does so much. However, I can tell you how it has revolutionised the organisation of my sewing pattern collection.

How Evernote works for me

  • Firstly, it’s on my phone which means when I find myself in a fabric shop, I can instantly find out how much fabric/what notions I need, or if a particular fabric is suitable for the job just by scrolling through my instantly available files.
Evernote screenshot
How my sewing pattern list appears on my phone screen
  • Equally if I’m in a charity shop and there’s an amazing remnant of fabric shouting out I can see if it matches up to the requirements.
  • I can instantly check to see if I already own the pattern or not – Despite my tower of patterns equalling my own height, I still get a little buzz from an Ebay bargain!
  • You can share your ‘notes’ on social networks or via message or Email which will be a handy way of me creating a new pinboard on Pinterest or consulting fellow sewists via Twitter or Facebook.
  • You can also print straight from your device. Assuming you’d need a wireless system for that though.
  • You can tag the patterns making for a brilliant search system. I generally tag mine with: size, bust-size, era, garment style, pattern name/number and exact date of publication if I can find it.
  • You can also stack notebooks. So for instance:
    1 ‘note’ effectively consists of front and back of pattern envelope plus any notes I’ve made from previous experience.
    ‘Notes’ are grouped together to form a ‘notebook’, for instance one ‘notebook’ could be titled Vintage another could be Modern.
    ‘Notebooks’ can then be stacked under a title of Sewing patterns.
    I am currently just putting all ‘notes’ (individual patterns) in one ‘notebook’ called Sewing patterns and tagging them for easy searching. I like being able to scroll down a long list.
  • You can view each pattern as a thumbnail with it’s title alongside. It’s a little bit diddy, even on a larger than average phone screen but it syncs perfectly online and I find this is an easier way of viewing and editing from the comfort of a desk and the luxury of a larger screen.

Evernote online

And the best thing about Evernote?

  • It’s absolutely FREE! I haven’t felt the need to upgrade to a premium version yet. The benefits of which include: more space allocation, an offline editing option, multiple author permission, and pdf search facility. But even if and when I feel I’m ready to upgrade, its only about £35 per year!

Evernote is so easy to use

To upload a pattern I simply take a photo of the cover using the inbuilt camera and then take a ‘document’ shot of the back cover text. This text can be enlarged for perfect readability even on a tiny screen. I then give it a title: The pattern company and number reference. And then I tag it so It can be searched for. I currently only have the one notebook titled, Sewing Patterns and I make sure they live in there but if you had other notebooks you’d just have to check it’s in the right place.

Evernote phone screenshot
This is what the pattern cover image looks like within a ‘note’

 

Evernote screen shot scroll down
This is what the screen looks like when I scroll down for further info
Evernote zoomed in
This is what the back cover info looks like, zoomed-in on my phone

Teething problems with Evernote

I have only come up against a couple of teething problems. No biggies but worth bearing in mind to save you from pulling out your hair!

I did get excited when I saw the ‘Location’ entry box. But longitude and latitude won’t help me to find where the actual pattern is so I guess I will have to add the location to the file name (ie box 1 etc)

For a short while I didn’t understand how Evernote randomly selected an image to use as the cover thumbnail. It doesn’t select them according to first in the list, moreover the largest image.
So just make sure that the cover image is larger than the back cover document image. I do this by taking a close up of the pictorial cover and holding the camera a bit further away when I shoot the back cover. When using the document shooting facility it will naturally crop into the document text area and automatically exclude external background content, which keeps it smaller.

Using Evernote to catalogue fabric mountain

Once I’ve finished cataloguing my sewing patterns, I’m thinking of filing my fabric stash too. By taking a photo of the fabric and adding some notes and searchable tags relating to size, fabric content and potential usage. But one thing at a time, hey?!

Has anybody else tried Evernote? Are there any features I’ve missed? Or do you use another filing system?

For anyone interested in getting this app, you can either download it from the App Store or let me know, and I’ll Email you a link. Another great feature is that if you recommend a friend you earn points to upgrade for free! So once you are signed up for the free app don’t forget to recommend Evernote to your friends too.

Footnote: This is not a sponsored post, despite my enthusiasm. It is an honest review of a product that works very well for me and my purposes.

Vintage wrap-blouse

vintage wrap blouse

In the olden days I used to worry that I wouldn’t have enough to blog about but now it seems I’m capable of even forgetting that I’ve made stuff to blog about!

This lovely pattern was generously gifted to me by Anne of Mercury Handmade. Not only did she post me a much-wanted, missing copy of Burda Style magazine back in August but she also enclosed two surprise gorgeous vintage patterns. This being one of them. If you’ve not caught up with Anne yet, I seriously advise you to pop over to her blog for all the inspiring and perfectly made clothes she makes for herself and her two lucky daughters

Bestway D.3,109 blouse pattern

The pattern is Bestway D.3,109. One of those mail order sorts, by the looks of it. And I’m thinking early 1950s.

I love the flattering neckline and the extended sleeves. The back is just one piece which incorporates the sleeves and there are interesting yoke pieces which incorporate them on the front. The ‘collar’ lays flat, sitting on the collar bone to create that lovely opening. And its beautifully shaped to nip in at the waist.

It’s held closed with just two vintage buttons. The third is for decorational purposes but at some point I would add an internal button or snap to keep the under-wrap in position. For the time being I generally tuck it into my pants!

lighthouse blouse buttons

I used a nice crisp cotton from the goldhawk road. It’s printed with lighthouses which seemed a perfect choice for this blouse.

vintage lighthouse blouse

I love wearing vintage style blouses. There’s always something a little bit quirky about them. And they are so easily paired up with a circle or pencil skirt. I’m slowly getting away from the easy-to-wear jersey tops that I used to wear all the time. Just need to make a couple more so I can ditch the rest of my tatty go-tos!

vintage lighthouse blouseAnd in case any of you are wondering. I wouldn’t ordinarily be out in December without a coat. It is winter as I post this and it is very, very nippy out! We just ran across the road while the sun was out to take these shots and ran back in before the goosebumps set in!!

I’m now about to add about 10 more layers and head out into the wild and crazy world of Christmas shoppers! I’ve not even scratched the surface yet. Please don’t tell me you’ve all done yours!

 

 

1939 Vintage Simplicity Dress

vintage 1939 dress

It’s been a while since I sewed a proper vintage dress and when I spied 5 gorgeous yards of pretty blue and white print fabric in a charity shop for a fiver, it was a sure sign to unwrap one of my favourite patterns. I bought the fabric thinking that if I screwed up, a fiver was worth the risk. But actually I loved the fabric so much I used some other polycotton, from stash mountain, to rehearse a toile for the bodice first.

Very few alterations were needed. I did a slight FBA to add a bit of shape and added an extra inch to the waistline. I think it fair to say that I manage to pack away a few more calories than those svelte 30s women!

simplicity 3302 pattern pieces

The pattern is a vintage original from 1939: Simplicity 3302. And the condition of the pieces was impeccable. Factory folded and clean. Such an honour to be working with such precious pieces that are 75 years old!

The most surprising thing about this dress is that it takes 5 yards of fabric. At 35 inches wide that is. But it really doesn’t look that extravagant. I’m used to 50s style dresses taking up miles of fabric but the skirt section of this one isn’t even a full circle!

vintage dress simplicity 3302

I kept to the instructions, like the good GTS I am, and I created a neck facing instead of lining. I also decided against overlocking the seams. It somehow seemed wrong! The fabric behaved beautifully and frayed very little so I opted for a spot of pinking! Feels far more authentic and it pressed beautifully flat.

I’m not totally sure what the fabric content is. But on doing a burn test, I was left with a very silky white dust. So the consensus is that it is 100% natural fibre and top notch quality I reckon! It has quite a good drape going on and doesn’t crease too much either which makes me wonder if it is cotton or not. I made a decision not to line it. Mostly because of the gorgeously warm weather we’ve been experiencing but also because it always seems a bit mad to line a natural fabric with a synthetic lining. And I wasn’t about to splash out on silk!

sitting pretty in vintage dress

Having said that. I did use a silk organza for the sleeve stiffeners. You didn’t think those puffs stick out like that, unaided did you?! Quite a clever little trick that involves a circular piece of fabric like tafetta or flannel or organza, folded in half and sewn to the sleeve head before the gathering is done.

silk organza sleeve stiffener

vintage_1939_dress_sleeve_headIt looks a bit comical until you press the seam onto the sleeve and not onto the bodice which I did at first. Didn’t get a shot of that but the look on Dan’s face was priceless!

There is also an inverted pleat that is topstitched at the hem of the sleeve. So neat.

pleat on sleeve

I’d like to say it all went swimmingly but I made quite a big boo boo when I inadvertently cut the back as two pieces and not on the fold. Very easily done when patterns of that era are unprinted, but, regardless, I needed a quick solution as it would have come up too small once I’d seamed it and also, I didn’t have a large enough leftover piece to cut another back piece. Quite a big issue when you get your hands on a unique piece of fabric from a charity shop. It’s not like you can go back and bag another metre!

So… This is a bit bodgie… I made an inch wide length of bias tape from a 2 inch strip that I’d rescued from the selvedge, using my trusty Simplicity Bias Tape Maker Machine. And with half inch seam allowance I sewed it on each centre seam of the back. That effectively joined the back pieces together where they would have sat had there had been a fold!

Luckily the seams are disguised by the busy print so I think I got away with it!

back of vintage 1939 dress

I know my hair do isn’t strictly 1930s and the shoes are far from authentic but it needed a little bit of vintage styling to pull it off. Especially as youngest dort decided it was ‘lovely but very 80s!!’

vintage simplicity 3302 dress

I love the sweetheart neckline. So discreet and so pretty. It doesn’t have any added interfacing so I’m surprised it holds so well. I did clip into those curves good and proper though!

vintage sweetheart necklineI wrestled a bit with the zip. I knew I didn’t want an invisible zip. That seemed a bit wrong too so I opted for a lapped style zip insert. But could I get my head around it… No I bloomin’ couldn’t! I can do it with my eyes closed in the back of a pencil skirt but for some reason I just couldn’t pull it off. So I went for a straightforward zip insertion whereby I basted the seam shut, centred the zip and sewed to seam allowance. I did however prick stitch close to the teeth on the right side.

side zipper

I reluctantly wore my new dress a to a party on Sunday. I didn’t know any of the guests and was a bit worried I’d stick out like a sore thumb (in my 80s dress…. thanks dort!). But my assumptions were way off. Such wonderful food and great music and the most amazing people. My ‘wallflower status’ was upheld!

candy from Black Dwarf Designs
With Candy from Black Dwarf Designs

Oh and hats off to my wonderful fella, Daniel Selway who took the photos and who now finally has a site to host his pictures. Right here, in fact!

 

Nikita’s Prom Dress

Nikita prom dress title pic

I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat and welling up with pride as I sit poised to write this post. Meet Nikita, the sister of Jessica who was the lovely recipient of my first ever hand-made prom dress.

I knew there was another one on order, a year ago. After all you can’t make for one without the other can you?!

But what joy. What an absolutely pleasure to have another opportunity to make such a special dress. I’ve learned one hellofalot in this last year. Fitting mostly. This little beauty only took two fittings. I quite forget how many Jessica’s one took! I’ve learned not to be scared of cutting into the fabric. Learned how to be honest with measurements, how to be brave with fabric choices and mostly that I CAN make a dress befitting of a princess!

Nik modelling dress by the wooden door

Up until a few weeks ago, all Nikita’s dreams of her school leavers prom were wiped out when her school declared no funds for such frivolities, after all, this year. Everyone was gutted for her. Especially knowing how hard Nik has worked throughout her last school years… despite being asleep for most of them! Normal teenage behaviour you might assume but no, unfortunately for Nikita she suffers with narcolepsy. An awful condition which means she has to take very strong medication to keep awake. Lots of things trigger a collapse. Not least of all a fit of the giggles.

I reprimanded her dad recently, for his insistence on telling jokes one after the other but Nikita assured me it was fine because his jokes were so rubbish! She has the best S.O.H. ever!

It was such a relief when her school confirmed the prom would actually go ahead. But then a little panic set in when I realised I had a couple of weeks to pull off the dress.

Nikita wearing prom dress at Fulham PalaceI think by now you have the right to safely assume that Mr Ooobop, AKA the lovely Daniel Selway has been behind the creation of these blinding photos!

Helped by a scorching summer’s day and the beautiful setting of Fulham Palace, he has blown me away once again with his amazing self-taught skills.

Nikita wears ooobop prom dress at Fulham PalaceThe dress itself is fashioned from the same materials as Jessica’s, only in stronger colours. Red Duchesse Satin and Black polka dot tulle.

The halterneck bodice section is Simplicity 3825. Inspired by Nikita’s leaning towards a Marilyn-esque dress.

simplicity 3823 sewing pattern

I’ve had this pattern in my collection for some time and I’m so glad it came into good use.

I basted a layer of the dotted tulle over the bodice pieces and treated them as one for the outer pieces. Inside the bodice is self lined with the red satin. Its a good medium weight and gave the dress some necessary structure whilst not losing out to optimum swishy drape for the skirt.

Oh just look how divine her smile is!

By the fountain at Fulham Palace

The skirt is a full circle, of course. One can’t pose over street vents if the skirt doesn’t rise above one’s head! But actually a more demure pose was to be found next to a water fountain in the grounds of Fulham Palace!

Nikita sitting by the fountain in her prom dress

And lest I forget! There are the now signatory and obligatory 10 metres of soft-as-you-like dotted tulle that adorn said circle skirt. And no tears this time. I knew what to expect. I knew to pin section by section and I knew to baste… and to breathe!

walking barefoot in Fulham Palace gardens

walking away, barefoot

The back of the dress is genius in design. It has a wonderful elasticated panel which keeps the bodice fitted nice and snug with no gapes. I just love the effect that is created with the gathered netting over the liquid shiny satin.

back of prom dress bodice

 

ooobop prom dress in the parkI can honestly say that this dress is testament to everything I love about sewing. Not only about what I get out of the whole deal but what everyone else gets too. Nikita loved her dress and I feel so honoured to have made an original number for her. Mummy Tina was delighted to see her daughter have the best time in her new dress, Daddy Tim was very happy that I’d fulfilled the brief of a ‘modest’ dress and we are all so happy with Daniel’s outstanding photos.

Nikita will do well with whatever she choses to do. Of that I am sure. Nothing is going to hold this little lady back!

prom dress front

In the apple orchardAnd the talents didn’t stop there, oh no. Nikita’s lovely sister Jessica did such an amazing job of her make up for the prom and also today before the shoot. I’m so miffed I missed out on todays events. Slogging away in an icy office when I could have been out on location with the dream team in Fulham Palace!

Jessica doing Niks make up

So thank you girlies, for making a crazy sewing lady so happy and thank you Daniel for making my blog so pretty and thank you lovely readers for making it all worth it.

Portrait of Nikita