Sunday, 19 February 2017

Pinafore progress

Despite my misgivings I have decided to carry on with trying to make my self-drafted 1950s pinafore (jumper) dress. However I’ve been on another excellent course at Hat Works this weekend (making a Gatsby cloche - more details to come soon), so haven’t got a lot of progress to show this week.

Despite checking, double-checking and triple-checking, I wasn't convinced that I'd got the bodice and skirt darts to line up properly. So I decided that as it would be far easier to move the skirt darts than bodice ones, I'd make up the bodice and than match the skirt pieces to it.

Then I completely forgot to take any work-in-progress photos - sorry.

I've decided to have a side zip; it's period appropriate, and meant that I could cut the bodice back as a single piece. As usual for anything tricky, I cut all the pieces out from a single layer of fabric. It takes a bit longer, but it ensures that the the pattern is properly centred and that the skirt and bodice stripes match at the centre front and back.

Skirt front, with symmetrical stripes and darts

I wanted to line the bodice (I haven't decided yet whether to line the skirt), and used the same technique as for Butterick 6582. This involves making the front and back up separately, sewing the lining and main fabric together round the neckline and most of the armscye. Then turning the piece right side out, and sewing front and back together along the shoulder seams. Finally the remaining section of the armscye lining is slip-stitched closed.

The completed bodice

As the above photo shows, I didn't want to have facings as I thought they would be too bulky. Instead I cut out the lining from the same pattern pieces as the main fabric, and then trimmed off a scant ⅛" round the neckline and armscye. This made the lining fractionally smaller than the outer piece. I sewed the two together, matching the raw edges. When the bodice is turned right side out and the lining is pinned to the main fabric along the lower edge, this pulls the main fabric slightly in on itself, so the lining won't show from the outside.

Showing a tiny sliver of fabric round the neckline and armscye

I eventually calculated the 12 pleats for the bust, marked the fold lines with tailor tacks, then basted the pleats in place. I may have gone slightly overboard with this.

That's a lot of basting thread!

The next step is the skirt.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Vogue Pattern Book, 1955

She's done it again! I've posted before about my friend F, who volunteers at a charity bookshop in town, and frequently alerts me to things I 'might be interested in' when they come into the shop. Well this time she's excelled herself. She texted me to say that they had four 1950s issues of the Vogue Pattern Book, and did I want to have a look? Naturally I replied with the enthusiasm I normally reserve for the question, "Would you like a cup of tea?", and am now the very happy owner of one issue from 1955, and three from 1957.

Suits for you and your mini-me, 1955

For this post I'm just looking at the 1955 issue, which is for August-September (the magazine was published six times a year). Although only 66 pages and a cover, the magazine is quite thick. It is also stapled through all the pages rather than just at the centre. This made it quite hard to lay open to photograph, so some of the images include my pattern weights to hold the pages down.

Inside front cover and page 1, showing the two staples

As with a modern magazine, there are a lot of advertisements at the front. Jacqmar have a full-colour image on the right, and a smaller section listing stockists on the left.

Jacqmar, Coats threads and Aero 'zipp' fasteners

Naturally it's mostly sewing-related adverts, plus one for Vogue magazine, and one for children's underwear.

Another ICI company (see Ardil Fabrics above)

More child-related advertising, plus Vilene.

I find this sock-wearing caterpillar quite disconcerting

It is page 11 before any editorial content appears.

The dress is made from a Vogue pattern

This edition features designs for 'children and teen-agers'. The very childish dolls in the swatch photograph form an interesting contrast to the very formal clothes on the opposite page.

A suit for 'going visiting', and an 'all round' coat

This red suit is described as "A suit to "go places in", be it college, town or country". I must admit that I never go to college dressed like this.

Clearly I need to up my game!

We are so used to magazines now being all photographs, that it's interesting to see the quantity of drawing in this one.

"Drawings by Maclean" is just visible at the spine

A different style of drawing, by "Freeman"

One of the magazine's publicity staff got married in July 1955 (the same month as my parents!), and this article is about her wedding dress and trousseau - all made from Vogue patterns, of course. The photograph is the bride herself, in her going-away outfit.

The wedding dress is the main drawing

As with current sewing magazines, there are 'how-to' articles, such as this one on lining a winter coat.

Lining a coat, and that start of the 'Paris Originals' spread

This is followed by a section on Vogue Paris Originals patterns, including one which I own.

The Patou pattern is at the top right

Clearly the magazine didn't just reuse the line art from the pattern envelope

Then there's a 10-page spread on this season's colour, marigold, with a bold use of coloured backgrounds.

Bright marigolds

Pale marigolds

The instruction sheets of all my vintage Vogue patterns stress the importance of wearing the correct foundation garment when you are fitting whatever you're making, so it's not really surprising that underwear also features in the magazine.

Scary undies!

More line drawings, this time very plain. The artist is still named however.

'Drawings by Longden'

Towards the back of the magazine there is general information, and more advertisements.

'Darling' sewing machines - no, me neither

More undies, and different stockings for day and evening

Knitting and small ads

Impossible to imagine an advert like this today

The back cover - for those times when you want your dress to match your lampshade

Next time - 1957.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Knowing right from wrong

For all sorts of reasons, it's been a difficult and stressful few weeks here at Tulip Mansions, and I've really not been feeling at my best. So as I had a more or less free weekend, I thought I'd cheer myself up a bit by doing some dressmaking. Although I've not actually got as far as any sewing yet.

One of the first things we covered when I started my course was the no-no that is plagiarism - passing someone else's ideas off as your own. So with that in mind I'll state straight away that the idea for this project came from Tasha of By Gum, By Golly. She made a stunning sheath jumper dress (what I'd call a pinafore dress) in turquoise corduroy, which you can see here. I loved it so much that even though I'd never felt the slightest desire to make a pinafore dress for about 30 years, I immediately decided that I wanted one.

Looking online for patterns for inspiration, I found lots of examples with full skirts, but far fewer with straight skirts. Eventually I came across this, which is made in one piece, without a waist seam.

1959 jumper dress, with optional pockets

And this, which has full or straight skirt options.

1958, with raised waist

I really liked the raised waist with the 'belt' detail. Simplicity had reissued a similar pattern to this one, but it's now out of print.

Simplicity 3673

So the only option was to draft my own. Now this may not be most people's idea of how to have a relaxing weekend, but I do enjoy pattern drafting. Weird, I know!

Because I'm short-waisted, my version of New Look 6070 has the waistband section coming up to just below the bust, so I used that as a starting point for the bodice section.

The basis for a lot of alterations

I lowered the armscye and neckline, and changed the deep, diagonal pleats to more, smaller, vertical ones. There is something about calculating pleats which just turns my brain into mush, so this took some doing! I then made a toile of the bodice, and it fitted almost perfectly; I only needed to pinch out a little of the front neckline.

For the skirt I took my standard self-drafted skirt pattern, and raised the waist by the width of the New Look 6070 waistband. And that is as far as I got over the weekend.

I'd bought the fabric a couple of weeks ago, when I first decided that I wanted to make a pinafore. It's a wool-mix remnant, and is a perfect example of just how scrambled my brain has been recently.

Much as I love the check fabric examples on the pattern envelopes above, I know that checks don't love me. But, I didn't really want a plain fabric, so I was thrilled when I found this black and white weave with a blue stripe across it.

Blue stripes on a chevron weave

The stripes have a slightly odd, broken effect, and they go across the fabric. Horizontal stripes do me even fewer favours than checked fabrics, but as the fabric is 150cm / 54" wide, I figured that I could just cut the dress out sideways.

If by this time you are shaking your head at your screen and yelling, "Oh for the love of Pete, woman! What were you thinking?", I can only say that I honestly didn't realize. It was only when I washed the remnant and hung it up to dry that the truth finally dawned.

This is the wrong side of the fabric.

It actually looks like this.

Blue flecks on a chevron weave


This does not suggest that an ambitious, draft-your-own project is going to be a roaring success, but we'll see.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Dressmaking 60 years ago

Gah! I finished my course work on time, but then I managed to leave my camera at the university on Friday and can't collect it until Tuesday, so couldn't take any pictures of my sewing. (Much to the amusement of all my friends, I have a very, very basic phone, which doesn't take photographs.)

This meant a rethink of what to write about, as it had to be something which I could scan. So today's post is all about another of my old magazines, a copy of Woman and Home from 1957 (which handily has pages slightly smaller than A4 size).

The cover features knitting, embroidery and toy making

By 1957 Woman and Home seems to have incorporated Good Needlework magazine (I wrote about the Good Needlework Gift Book here). There are lots of sewing, embroidery and knitting references in it, and plenty of advertisements for knitting wool, but I'm concentrating on the dressmaking-related items.

Page three is a full-page advert for Singer sewing machines.

Obviously buying your own machine wasn't considered an option!

Further on there is a smaller advert for Pfaff. Unlike Singer, this includes a price (and how to pronounce the name). Although it looks similar to my mum's 1953 Singer, it's a lot more expensive.

This is £979 / $1232 in today's money

But it is electric

There are four pages devoted to dressmaking patterns, all of which can be bought from the magazine. Because it is the September issue, they are all for autumn fashions. This is the first of the double-page spreads.

Full skirts for a suit and a dress

Straighter skirts, and a full-length but unfastened coat

Of the 92 pages (excluding the covers), only 12 are colour printed. Eight of these are advertisements; although strangely one of the adverts is in black and white. One of the colour editorial pages is part of the other double-page dressmaking spread.

Bright colours for a winter jacket

Supplementing the pattern instructions

Of course dressmaking requires fabric. There are two separate adverts for Viyella.

Full page colour

Close up - includes suggested patterns

Smaller, and black and white

Fabric for £6.68 a yard!

But the advert which really intrigued me was this little one, tucked away at the bottom of a page.

No, not the facial hairs one

This one

I'd love to know more about this. I wonder how much was in a parcel, and what sort of lengths. Unless you were making clothes for children, a selection of 36" wide, 2 yard lengths of different coloured fabrics would require some ingenuity to use.Sadly although there is still a business called Celic in Bedford, it now sells beds, so I've not been able to find out any more.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Normal service will be resumed . . soon

My next piece of course work for my Masters has to be completed for Tuesday, so life is like this at present:

Collecting books, 1964 (© British Library of Political and Economic Science)

So not only am I not blogging, I've not been doing any sewing to blog about, either. Hopefully this state of affairs will be fixed by next week. In the meantime here's a link to the fabulous article where I found the image above. It contains some excellent outfits - and hair!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Simplicity 4896, progress and anti-progress

I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted about this - nine months!

I have made some progress since then. Having luckily realized that the fabric had a directional weave before I started cutting out, I ignored the cutting layout and cut everything from a single layer. I was so successful in fitting all the pieces together with minimal waste that I actually ended up with 30cm / 12" fabric left over! Very make-do-and-mend.

I had assumed that the neckline would be very similar to the later Butterick 5716 (now out of print), but in fact it's got three little darts on each side of the undercollar, to give it some shape. It's a really interesting, and unseen, detail - exactly what I love about using vintage patterns.

Shaping the collar

What I don't love so much is the instructions. I think that I may have made welt pockets before, but if so it was over 20 years ago - and I don't remember anything about how to do it. The relevant section of the instruction sheet measures 7½ cm by 9½ cm / 3" by 3¾", and even when I could I see it (I needed a magnifying glass), it made very little sense.

The poor printing didn't help

Eventually I decided just to follow the steps, mystifying though they were. After all, until I reached the point where I had to cut the actual coat front, I could always unpick it.

Basting on the welt

Amazingly the pockets turned out fine, with only minor wrinkles.

The pocket bag on the inside

The finished pocket on the outside

So that was the progress, what about the 'anti-progress'?

I didn't want to use the type of modern lining fabric I use to line skirts, so instead chose a mocha-coloured satin - it's what I also used for the pocket bag above. I wasn't really happy with it though, as it didn't have enough structure.

Then when we went to Shrewsbury for the Story of Wool study day (last May!), it seemed only right to take my sewing friends to visit Watson and Thornton fabric shop. Among other things they stock a good selection of proper, old-fashioned, self-patterned coat lining. So I bought some and abandoned the satin lining, which was made up but not sewn into the coat - and then ground to a halt.

Time to get started again.