Sunday, 19 September 2021

Vogue 2787 with a difference

I know I said last week that I needed to crack on with using up some more of my UseNine2021 fabrics but unfortunately, 'it' happened again. (Hint: small, tree-dwelling mammal, UK native species red, imported species grey, rhymes with "Wirral".)

It's safe to say that inspiration rarely strikes me while I'm ironing, but I was pressing my previous version of 2787 and it struck me that the design would lend itself to being made up in two colours, in true 1940s style.

The line drawing shows the dress pieces clearly

I must admit that when I first came across the 1943 Make Do and Mend booklet, I was very doubtful that anyone would have actually taken up the suggestion of making a new dress from two old ones.


But since then I've come to realise that in fact, the look predated clothes rationing. Several Vogue patterns from 1940 are shown with the option to be made up in two fabrics. Some just have a contrast at the front.

Vogue 8853

On some it extends to the back.

Vogue 8864 and 8882

And others have contrasting sleeves.

Vogue 8862 and 8849

And then, of course, I made up Vogue 9546 (from 1942) in two fabrics. So the idea isn't without precedent. Admittedly Vogue 2787 dates from 1948, by which time contrast sections were probably entirely out of fashion, but I wasn't going to let that stop me!

My initial idea was just to use a different fabric on the left front bodice, but I decided that this would look clumsy, and that it would be better if the contrast extended to the back as well. Once I'd got an idea of the yardages required, I headed out to Abakhan for fabric. On a previous visit I had spotted some brown patterned fabric with a slight ribbed weave that I liked, but wasn't sure what I wanted for the second fabric. Initially I looked for something in one of the colours of the print, but nothing seemed quite right. Then I found a remnant which was more a duck-egg blue than the pale blue in the print, but a similar tone.

My over-optimistic plans for #SewVintageSeptember

Plunging the Stashometer further into the red

Armed with the fabric colours, I then created a sheet of the front and back pattern drawings, so that I could experiment with different curves. Because I'm left-handed, I tend to put side zips in the right seam of dresses rather than the left, which made things easier. My first attempt was based on the dart placements, but I quickly realised that this was too thin and that the design needed more pronounced curves.

Trying out ideas

Once I had the basic idea, I put the previous version of the dress on Nancy, and used pattern design tape to create the shape I wanted. I needed to avoid crossing any of the darts, and of course the bottom of the curve had to join the front bodice piece. The overall shape just looked better if it slightly crossed over the centre back seam, and because I was planning to apply it to the completed back section anyway, this wasn't a problem.

The back shape, compared to the front

I had already copied the upper section of the dress back pattern piece onto tissue paper, so then it was a case of very carefully getting the dress off Nancy and laying it flat without dislodging the tape, laying the tissue sheet on top, and tracing off the line of the tape. Finally, I smoothed out the curve, and added a seam allowance.

Very bad photo of the pattern piece in progress

The front of the dress was constructed as normal, just using two fabrics instead of one. The remnant is not a full satin/crepe, but the right side is definitely smoother than the wrong. I decided to use it wrong side out, which involved checking, double-checking, and triple-checking that I had my pattern placement correct!

The two backs were sewn together, the seam pressed open, and the edges neatened. I cut out the contrast piece (nearly getting it the wrong way round, despite everything), turned under the seam allowance on the curve, snipping where necessary, and basted it down. Then I pinned it to the dress back along the raw edges, and placed pins vertically through the tailor-tack marks which were on both the back and the contrast. Finally, I pinned along the curve.

Not sure if I've used quite enough pins here!

The contrast section was top-stitched to the back, and once I was sure that everything was hanging together properly, I cut away the excess brown back fabric and neatened the seam allowance on the curve. Next step - joining the sides together, and hoping that they match!

Sunday, 12 September 2021

New Look 6594 completed

Well, that went better than expected. Way back when I was cutting this dress out, I was resigned to the end result being a semi-wearable toile, for at-home use only. In fact, I've got a wearable dress that I'm very happy with. (Admittedly, I'm not too happy with the photos, but the weather has been dismal here today - hence the washed-out look.)

Done at last!

Not that it was Happy Ever After once the cutting out was complete. The front sections didn't pattern match, probably because one of them was cut close to the selvedge, where the fabric had less stretch than the centre part. (I did take a photo, but then accidentally deleted it while writing this post - typical of the entire project!) Fortunately, I had enough spare fabric to cut a replacement, and made sure that the pattern would match all the way up before I took scissors to cloth .

I finished the sleeves with a narrow hand-sewn hem, to keep them as drapey as possible. Because the fabric frayed a bit, I actually did most of this before setting the sleeves in.

The completed view C sleeve

As ever, I hand-picked the zip. I find that this works particularly well for side zips, as it makes it easier to accommodate all the curves involved. I know that some reviewers of the pattern disliked the side zip but I had no problem with it, probably because I am used to them from using so many vintage patterns. I used a zip 5cm/2" longer than was recommended, because I already had one of that length and the right colour in my stash, and this makes the dress very easy to get on and off.

It's not immediately obvious from the illustration, but there is a deep pleat on the left side of the skirt front. The instructions are to sew this closed for part of the seam, but I left it open from the waistband.

Trying to show the pleat on the left

I'm not sure if the pleat is actually necessary - the skirt is quite full even without it - but by leaving it open the skirt does not bunch across your lap when you sit down.


It turns out that I could have made waist tighter, and I did consider adjusting the side seams to do so, but decided that a snugger waist would emphasize my hips more than I wanted.

I went for a mid-calf length, as anything shorter looked a bit shrunk-in-the-wash. I then allowed a 4cm/1½" hem, to add a bit of weight, so was glad that I'd made my skirt pieces longer than view C of the pattern. Even though it's a modern pattern, it has a distinctly retro look, and I'll certainly be using it again. In fact, it's sufficiently retro for me to consider it my first contribution to #sewvintageseptember.

It's also another length of fabric out of the stash, and therefore another win on the #fabrichoardchallenge . . .

Getting closer to stash-neutral

. . . and another of my UseNine2021 fabrics used (although given that it's only the second one, and it's now September, I need to get a move on with the others!).

Less than a third complete - action is needed

The completed dress has a few odd pulls, and slight asymmetry in places, due to the way I had to cut out the badly-printed fabric, but overall it turned out surprisingly well for a project which initially seemed to have 'disaster' written through it like a stick of rock. And for extra amusement, I decided that my fabric choice and shoes allowed me for once to #poselikethepatternmodel!

It had to be done!

Sunday, 5 September 2021

New Look 6594 - midriff section

I'm giving this topic its own blog post, rather than including it in a longer post about making the dress, in the hope that it will be easier to find for anyone else struggling with the pattern. Only one of the online reviews I could find for New Look 6594 mentioned having trouble with this section, and that was written by a self-confessed beginner. My guess is that all the other reviewers were, like me, experienced dressmakers and so, like me, had known what to do without reading the instructions. But when I did look at the instruction sheet, it seemed to me that part of the instructions for attaching the midriff sections to the bodice isn't very clear, and the illustration doesn't provide much help. I'm not surprised a beginner found it confusing.

There are two, identical, midriff sections for the dress, and these are the instructions for attaching them to the bodice.

New Look 6594 instuctions, steps 12 and 13

Step 12 states to pin one midriff section to the outside of the bodice, pull up the bodice gathering to fit, and then baste the two together. The two pieces should be pinned right sides together.

My dress, with step 12 completed

Step 13 is to pin the midriff facing to the midriff, right sides together, with the bodice in between the two midriff sections, and sew the three pieces together. However, you really have to look closely at the illustration to see both midriff sections in it, and it probably helps if you know what you're looking for.

The midriff facing is only just visible

At first glance, the illustration just looks like the same part of the dress as shown in step 12, shown right way out instead of inside out.

This is what the step 13 illustration looks like to me

My explanation of step 13 would be to lay the right side of the midriff facing onto the wrong side of the bodice pin the three layers together matching centres and notches, and stitch. I also think it would be better if the illustration of step 13 showed the wrong side of the bodice, not the right side, to make it clearer what step 13 achieves. I have tried to show it in the photograph below. Unfortunately, the right and wrong sides of my fabric are quite similar, so I have labelled each part.

What step 13 actually looks like, when pinned together

I always find it far easier to follow instructions if they include a picture of the end result, so I can see what I'm aiming for (especially useful when I'm trying to follow a recipe!). So, for anyone whose mind works the same way as mine, here are pictures of the completed bodice and midriff, from the outside and the inside. (Note: I only thought to take these photos after I had attached the sleeves - I use the commercial construction method of attaching the sleeves first, and then sewing the sleeve and side seams in a single step.)

Completed bodice and midriff - the outside

Completed bodice and midriff - the inside

I hope this is helpful to anyone puzzling over the pattern instructions. As ever, if you need any more information, please add a comment below and I will do my best to help.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Reissue, reuse, recycle

I've long been interested in how patterns reissued by the 'Big 4' use illustrations. It started off with a Simplicity reissue, which I wrote about here.

Original and reissue - spot the differences*

Then, when researching my dissertation, I looked at the other three companies**. At the time I was doing this McCall's had dispensed with original illustrations altogether, Butterick reproduced them unchanged, and Vogue took the same approach as Simplicity - using what appears to be an 'original' illustration but is actually slightly altered. Not necessarily for the better, either; personally I find the extreme thinning of the (already slim) limbs in this example unnecessary and distasteful.

Slightly different hair and poses - and, apparently, a crash diet

I had always thought that pattern reissues were a relatively modern development, but apparently not. When I was looking at the Autumn 1951 Vogue Pattern Book, this dress in particular caught my eye.

Vogue 7453

Thanks to the Vintage Patterns wiki, I was able to find the pattern, and also discover that it was reissued in 1956. In this case, the reason for the reissue seems to have been the arrival of printed patterns (or in this case, printed and perforated - something for everyone!) Completely new artwork was created, although long white gloves seem to have remained a theme throughout.

Vogue 7453 and 9059, images from the Vintage Patterns wiki

This pattern showed a completely different approach to reissuing, however.

Style 1541, 1960s

I have failed to get hold of this pattern on ebay not once, but twice! But I thought that I had struck lucky when I spotted this.

Style 1189, late 1950s?

At first glance I thought that it was exactly the same pattern, just with different heads. I assumed that, like Vogue 7453/9059, it had been reissued as a printed version, with a coloured envelope and contemporary hairstyles.

Side by side, for better comparison

But when I looked closely, and also compared the pattern backs, I discovered that there was more to it than bouffant hair and slightly shorter skirts.

1189 pattern pieces

1541 pattern pieces

The most obvious change is that the dress on the left is now sleeveless, giving three different styles instead of two. The belt/waistband piece has been removed, instead there is a waist seam, and the detail at the left of the dress waist is round rather than pointed. Plus, the sleeves have been simplified, removing the small pleats at the bottom.

In fact, this not-quite-reissue is the opposite of Vogue 7453/9059. Whereas those had different artwork for the same pattern pieces, the two Style patterns reuse artwork for a (partially) different design. The poses are almost identical, and the accessories, the fur, purse and magazine, are identical. Clearly Style was a very thrifty company! Now, of course, I'll be keeping an eye out for further examples.

* - In the colour illustration the figure on the right, in brown, has a different pose and handbag, is holding her gloves instead of wearing them, and has lost both her hat veil and her waist tie at the back.

** - My inherent interest/nerdiness was helped along immensely by Gillian Rose's Visual Methodologies, which explains, in a very readable manner, just what to look for in images.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

The Stashometer takes a hit

I wasn't expecting to write a post this week, as there has been no sewing done at all. But there has been some sewing-related activity, as the stash has grown a little.


A while ago I was idly browsing Style sewing patterns on ebay, as you do, and spotted this.


It wasn't just a pattern; someone had also bought the material to make it up, put the two together, and then abandoned the project. We've all been there. (Well, I have. More than once.) The chance to buy some vintage fabric in a colour scheme I loved, and a perfect print as well, was just too good to pass up.

Pattern . . .

. . . and fabric (with tape measure for scale)

Clearly the mystery would-be dressmaker was fully prepared, as the bag also contained a spool of Sylko thread (dark lilac, since you ask) and a zip. Most of the vintage zips I have acquired in mixed auction lots have metal teeth, and a chunkiness which you now only see on tent doors and the like, but this one is nylon and perfectly usable.

Everything you need to make a dress

Like the blue and white viscose currently on my cutting out table this fabric, a medium-weight cotton, is printed off grain - which might be why its previous owner abandoned the project. But I shall pre-wash it, see how it dries, and decide what to do from there. This is unlikely to happen this year, though, so it will marinate in the stash for a while first.

Another 3.9m added

When I was showing my acquisition to my mum, I noticed a detail on the bag which makes the whole thing extra special.

Ooh, again!

Jenners was the department store in Edinburgh, where I grew up. It opened in 1838, but was destroyed by a fire in 1892. The new (fireproof) building was opened in 1895.

Jenners, seen from Princes Street

Interior, 1895 (thanks to thevictoriangallery for the photo)

Known as the "Harrods of the North" it remained family-owned until 2005.

Aerial view, including the 1960s extension

Going to see the Jenners Christmas tree was, for me and probably every other child who lived in or near Edinburgh, an annual ritual. It filled the Great Hall, reaching up almost to the rafters. How they got the tree in there was always a mystery - I remember Dad trying to convince me that the glass roof slid back, and it was lowered in (I was very young at the time)! If you really want to know, and to see just how massive the tree was, this video explains all.

The Jenners tree

For Jenners, like so many department stores, Covid lockdowns were the final straw and it closed last year. The building's owners have announced a four-year plan to restore it to its full Victorian glory, and reopen it as a hotel and new store - and they have promised that the Christmas tree will definitely return. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to making up my own little piece of Jenners history.

Sunday, 15 August 2021


I feel that there hasn't been much actual sewing on this blog lately. I alluded to the reasons for this when I made my tie-on pockets, but this week seems like the time for more explanation. My father has been increasingly ill with heart failure for some months and on Monday he died, very peacefully, in his sleep and in his own bed. After several periods in hospital, with little or no visiting allowed due to Covid restrictions, he just wanted to be at home. Thanks to the wonderful support provided by Severn Hospice, Mum and I were able to achieve this.

Although my mum crops up quite often in my posts (usually as the provider of vital fitting information and fixes for sewing fails), Dad has rarely done so. But he's been a huge influence in my life. I owe my creative abilities to both my parents - Dad was a skilled railway modeller - and my left-handedness solely to him. Albeit more by accident than design, I followed his career path of a geography degree and a working life in I.T. Dad could also be relied upon for practical things such as making the template for my hexagons quilt, and teaching me how to wire a plug*. Even quite recently, he was advising me on how to design a database for some research I want to do. I shall miss him more than I can say.

Dad and me, August 1967

Sewing will definitely be taking a back seat for a while, as I support Mum and deal with all the admin. (So. Much. Admin.) But happily for me, Marie and Kerry are hosting #SewVintageSeptember again, so I'm hoping that will inspire me to pick up my needle once more next month.

* - When I was younger, electrical appliances were often sold without a plug, just with a length of cable sticking out. You bought the plug separately (usually from Woolworths, as I recall), and attached it yourself. In the summer before I went to university Dad sat me down and informed me that he was going to show me how to do this, and that I was going nowhere until I could demonstrate that I could safely attach a plug to any kettles, lamps etc. that I might be buying once I'd left home!

Sunday, 8 August 2021

Seven decades ago

I've had no time for any sewing at all this week, so instead, I'm looking at another of my old copies of Vogue Pattern Book. This one is the August/September 1951 issue, so is exactly 70 years old.

The change of seasons is the main theme of the issue, although there are a few other articles. The first, and longest, feature is titled "Summer into autumn", and features patterns for 'town clothes' in crêpe, satin, silk jersey, wool jersey, faille, and sheer silk. One of the suggestions for wool jersey, 7444, is also the cover image.

Vogue Pattern Book, August-September 1951

I must admit that one of the first things I noticed about the cover was the puckered crown of the hat (once a hatmaker, always a hatmaker). On the photograph inside the magazine, however, the puckers have mysteriously vanished. I wonder if the black and white version had been tinkered with a little, but it was too complicated to do the same with the colour image?

The miraculously improved hat

Amid the choices for silk jersey, 7228 is described as "For the older woman". Even though Mrs Exeter had been appearing in Vogue for a couple of years by 1951, it seems as though she hadn't yet made her way into the pattern book.

L to R - 7352, 7362, 7228

There are no references to older women in the four-page feature "Designed to be slimming", and nor are there any illustrations of figures which might need such help. 7443 is described as "particularly flattering to the not-very-slender", which prompted my mum to comment, "She looks pretty blooming slender to me already"!

L to R - 7443, S-4214

The 'Vogue's-eye view' of fashion is also apparent in a short piece on the 1951 National Sewing Contest. One section of this was won by Mrs Irene Basford of Birkdale, who made up a Vogue Paris Original Schiaparelli pattern, 1098.

1098, taken from Pinterest. Photographed in Paris, of course!

Either Mrs Basford was publicity-shy, or she was not considered Vogue material, as the photograph of her wearing her creation is severely cropped.

The mysterious Mrs Basford

Returning to the autumnal theme, "Now - and later" features clothes which can be worn with or without a coat, as the weather cools.

Colourful images for autumn . . .

. . . and a more restrained palette

These include S-4214 "specially designed on softer lines for the older woman" and 7414 which creates "an illusion of slimness for the not-so-slender".

L to R - 630, S-4214, 7414

The feature "Packing for an autumn holiday" offers suggestions for suits, separates, and dresses for sightseeing.

Holiday suits

The green dress in the centre of the right page looked familiar, although the fabric suggestion of shantung is far more formal than the seersucker I used for my version.

Holiday separates and dresses

Also on the side of formality, the final packing suggestion is an evening dress - something which I have never needed on any holiday, at any time of year!

Never part of my packing plans

Vogue Pattern Book readers seemed to attend a lot of cocktail parties, if the number of cocktail dresses and related clothes featured in the issue is anything to go by. Among others, 7155 is described as a jacket "for cocktails or evening wear", while 7208 and 7391 are cocktail dresses in faille and taffeta respectively. That all three appear in a section on maternity wear suggests that pregnancy, like a lot of other things, was very different 70 years ago!

For the cocktail-quaffing mother-to-be (don't try this at home!)