Tuesday, 21 January 2020

January dress finished!

An extra post this week because I've finished Butterick 5748, my January dress for the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month challenge, and I've got something else to post on Sunday.

I finally finished all the hemming, and here is the end result. This is the dress without a petticoat, and just the stiffness of the cotton lining to hold the skirt out.

Demonstrating the added pocket!

The full lining did add to the sewing time, but as well as giving the dress some body it makes for a very neat interior.

In effect, it's two dresses sewn together

It makes the zip especially neat

One thing which I forgot to mention in earlier posts is that the dress back is lower than the front. I was worried that it might be too low on my short torso, so raised it by 2.5cm / 1", and was glad that I did. This is the end result.

Showing the scoop back

I do wish that I'd thought to pattern match the bodice back seam though!

And here is the dress worn with a belt, a net underskirt, my most 1960-ish shoes, and a matching cardigan.

The full look

The cardi was actually the start of this outfit. Because I am such a poor/super-slow knitter, I tend to get very excited when I come across knitwear specifically for petites. Hence I bought this cute bolero, and then realised that it went with absolutely nothing that I owned. So the obvious solution was to buy some suitable fabric - which then sat in my stash for a couple of years. However it finally all came together. It's not exactly a January outfit, but I can see it getting a lot of wear when the warmer weather comes.

Even though I went totally off-piste with the cutting layout, I didn't use any more fabric than the yardage given on the pattern envelope. Which brings me to. . . the Stashometer. Starting afresh felt like cheating, so I decided to carry over last year's deficit. Happily, all that lining means that the overall fabric use for this dress was quite high.

In credit!

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Slow going on my January dress

I had hoped to be posting about my completed January entry for the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month today, but it's not quite finished. For some reason, hemming a circle skirt of thin viscose is harder, and takes longer, than hemming a circle skirt of cotton. Also, the dress is fully lined, so once I've finished that I've got the lining to hem as well - although that will be done by machine.

My pattern choice for January

Part of the reason why this dress is taking so long is that I made life harder for myself by altering the cutting layout. Like many of Butterick's other full-skirted pattern reissues, 5748 has the skirt cut at right angles to the bodice - along the fabric rather than across it.

Cutting layouts for different views and fabric widths

This wasn't a problem when I made Butterick 6582. The bold floral print looked much the same both up-and-down and sideways.

This fabric hides everything

The stash fabric I'm using for 5748 however is strongly directional.

This fabric does not

I didn't want to have the black elements of the pattern running up and down on the bodice, and sideways on the skirt, so I used an approach which was common in the 1950s.

This Weldons pattern is a good example, as it also has a full skirt - in this case it's a semi-circle.

Weldons 1606

Because the completed skirt sections would be wider than most fabrics available at the time, they are split into two pieces; the skirt and the skirt gore.

Instructions showing the pattern pieces

These are stitched together, and then the completed pieces are sewn up to make the skirt.

The skirt construction

I folded my fabric in half lengthways, and cut out the skirt front and back on the fold. Before I unpinned the pattern from the fabric, I marked where the edge of the fabric was, making an allowance for the seam. Then I used the pattern piece to cut out the extension. Naturally, I had to pattern match the join - I couldn't bring myself not to! And then, I decided to alternate between black and light grey thread on the join, to make sure that the stitches don't show. Talk about a glutton for punishment!

Attaching one of the skirt gores

Because the viscose is so thin, I used a thicker cotton for the lining than I'd normally use, to give the dress some body. I also had to patch one of the bust darts with a lighter section of the fabric, to stop one of the back circles from showing through. The only other changes I made were my usual ones of swapping the zip to the right side and adding a pocket in the left side skirt seam.

This is the dress as it currently looks. I'll post some pictures of me wearing it when I finally finish the hems! I'm hemming it with the light grey thread, and going over the stitches in the black sections with a black permanent laundry marker pen. I did the same on the hand-picked zip.

On Nancy, awaiting hemming

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Making a modern hussif - part 2

Here are the rest of the construction details of my hussif. You can read part one here.

The finished article

The inner piece was also made on a base of plain white cotton. I started off by covering the curved end in one of the two light printed cottons I'd chosen, then added sections in alternating fabrics to form the pockets. Each piece formed the top on one pocket, and the underside of the next one. The raw edge at the top of each pocket was folded over to the right side of the fabric, and covered with cream satin ribbon.

Progress shot of the pockets

I made three rectangular pockets, and then added a little curved one at the end, made from the outer fabric for contrast.

The pockets end completed

Most of the other end was covered in the spotted fabric, with a gap in the middle and a gap at the end. These would become the needlebook and the pincushion respectively. I sewed on pockets for the scissors, seam ripper and tape measure, and added straps to hold the scissors and tape measure in place. These are fastened with small press studs (snaps).

Originally the seam ripper was just going to be in a pocket, but I realised that it could slide out easily, so I added a flap to the top. This fastens with a button and elastic loop, because I was worried that the pressure of closing a press stud might crack the seam ripper. The button was an orphan in my button box, and the elastic came from the swing tag of something I'd bought - I was just about to throw it out when I realised that it was the perfect thickness!

With all the securing straps and flaps open

The far end was made into a pincushion - with a difference. My thimble was a lucky find in a workbox which I bought at auction along with a stack of vintage patterns (it was the patterns that I wanted). Initially I thought that it was a cheap metal, but when I polished it, it came up shiny and with hallmarks! These showed that it was made in 1905 by Charles Horner, and hallmarked in Chester. It's a perfect fit. As I don't want to dent or lose it, I made a pocket for it inside the pincushion.

I made the pocket out of a tube of stiffened fabric, gathered at one end and capped with a scrap of fabric. On the pincushion fabric I sewed a circle of tiny double running stich, the same size as the pocket tube. I cut the circle into eighths, being very careful not to snip through the stitching, pushed the pocket through, and overcast round the edge of the pocket and the hole.

The thimble pocket attached to the fabric for the pincushion, shown from the wrong side

Sewing the pocket in place, shown from the right side

The pincushion was then made up and stuffed, and attached to the hussif. To keep the thimble extra secure, I made a flap for the pocket, using the dark outer fabric to tie it in with the little pocket at the opposite end of the hussif.

The thimble secure in its pocket

Finally in the middle of the hussif I made a needlebook from leaves of felt, in colours to match the fabric. The bottom, blue, layer contains pins.

The tools end completed

I slip-stitched the inner and outer layers together from the pincushion end, and added the ribbon ties at the curved end. Initially I wasn't sure whether to use dark or light ribbon.

Ribbon choices

I did try sewing the two together, but the end result was too thick and stiff. In the end I chose the light ribbon.

I'm really pleased with the end result. Rolled up, it's just a nice size to carry in my hand, and it's perfect if I want to go away and take some sewing with me (and I always take sewing with me if I go away!).

End-on view of the rolled-up hussif

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Sewing goals for 2020

I may not have managed to do much sewing in 2019, but I'm hoping to make up for it in 2020.

Warning: this is going to be a long post, as I've got lots of goals to write about.

Possibly the most important one (certainly the one with an immovable completion date) is making an outfit for my graduation in March. After all, having spent three years studying and writing about vintage home dressmaking, I can't really turn up to the ceremony in something modern and shop-bought! Of course it needs to be made from a vintage pattern, and something fancier than my usual cotton print dresses.

I've chosen this 1954 Patou Vogue Paris Original pattern, which is from a large lot of patterns which I bought at auction some years ago. I never got around to blogging about the collection as a whole, but it really boosted my interest in vintage patterns.

Goal number one - Vogue 1277

This was the reason for the 9.5 metre addition to the stash on last month's London trip. Cate, who blogs as Vintage Gal, makes wonderful 1930s clothes, and does amazing tailoring, had told me about Crescent Trading near Spitalfields, so I paid them a visit. It is fabric-lover's dream shop, stacked to the rafters with wools, silks, and all sorts of other goodies besides. After a lot of deliberation I bought some beautiful superfine merino suiting in blue with a slight black speckle, which gives it depth. I also bought some fine silk twill for the lining. The jacket collar can be made from fur, which was not going to happen, or velvet. Philip Pittack at Crescent Trading told me that they didn't carry much velvet, but it turned out that what he meant was not much by their standards, so only a dozen or so colours. Happily this included a dark blue which was perfect. Then at Barnett Lawson I found some braid and velvet buttons which were an exact match. They only had six left and weren't getting any more in, but luckily six was what I needed.

Clockwise from left: suiting, buttons, velvet, silk lining

It's a very long time since I've done any tailoring, so this will be a chance to really bump up my skills.

The dress will double-up as my February entry to my second goal for 2020, taking part in the vintage dress-a-month-along organised by Renae Brock Fitzgibbon and Lizzie Violet.

Goal number two

As soon as I heard about this challenge, I thought that it would be perfect for making me actually get on with some sewing. However I didn't want it to become an excuse for buying yet more fabric. So, my plan is to use the sew-along to actually get through some of my stashes of fabric and vintage patterns - both actual vintage and reissues. I am not short of any of these items: these photos show just a selection of what I can use for inspiration!

A worryingly small section of my stash

Some possible reissue choices

Some possible vintage choices

Fortunately, I do have somewhere to start. I found that I was frequently buying fabric because I thought it would be perfect for a pattern, or vice versa, but because I didn't start the project straight away, I would forget what I’d bought it for! So when my friend F gave me this Fashion Timeline Journal last year, I used it to record all the pattern/fabric combinations I had thought of.

1930s ideas

For January I am making up Butterick 5748 in a fine viscose. It's hardly the time of year for a sleeveless dress, but I'm using it as 'pre-work' for February's challenge, trying to sort out some fit and alteration issues. More details to come when I post about the dress.

January's pattern and fabric

However, this isn't the only challenge I’m taking part in this year. When people asked what I was planning to do once I had finished my dissertation, I always replied that I wanted to get back into historical sewing. Time constraints meant that I gave it up while I was studying, and I missed it. The Wedding Gown in a Weekend event just reminded me how much I missed it. So this year I am joining the Historical Sew Monthly again, and am really excited to be doing so.

Goal number three

One problem with my previous historical sewing was that what I made was a bit random: the only complete outfits I produced were my Ottoman dance costume, my 'Fortuny' dress and shoes, and my Wiener Werkst├Ątte ensemble. However, this year the format of the Historical Sew Monthly has changed slightly. All the monthly challenges were opened at the start of the year, and can be completed in any order you choose. This is perfect for me, because while I will use some of the challenges for mending/fixing fit issues on stuff I already have, my main plan is to use them to make a complete 1874 outfit. I have nothing at all for this period, so intend to make everything, from the chemise outwards. The idea is to start with simple things which don't take much time, until my graduation outfit is done.

I chose 1874 because I own an actual pattern from that date (co-incidentally it was in the same auction lot as the 1954 Patou pattern), I blogged about it here. Though in-depth research/endless Pinterest scrolling, I managed to find the back view (thank you to Isabella of All the Pretty Dresses for posting it), so now have some idea of how the pieces fit together.

'Casaque du Printemps' - the illustration on the pattern

The jacket/casaque will be the last part of the outfit that I make, and my hope is that by the time I reach that stage my skills will have improved enough for me to tackle it, as there is only a brief description on the pattern.

So all in all, it's a very ambitious plan for the year. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

One final reduction

I managed to sneak a final make into 2019 - I finished my hussif this evening. Talk about cutting it fine. (In my excitement I forgot to photograph it with a ruler, so had to add the size details to the photograph.)


More details coming in a future post, but taking into account the outer and inner fabrics, interlinings, pockets etc. I estimate this as using half a metre of fabric overall. So the final stashometer figures look like this.

Totals for the year - under four metres

It's not great, and it would have been much, much worse without the destash, but I'm hoping for better things next year. Details to come in my 'Goals for 2020' post on Sunday.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Sewing Top 5 of 2019

It's time for a round-up of 2019, and this year I'm using the Sewcialists SewingTop5 for the format of my post.

For this post I'm sticking to hits, misses, highlights and reflections, with goals coming next Sunday. So without any further ado . . .

Top 5 Hits
Sadly, this didn't require a lot of thought, or an agonising selection process, because I've only made five garments this year! Completing my Masters dissertation (it was a research Masters, so the 28,000-word dissertation was the main part of it) took up a lot of the year. On top of that, I spent six weeks living at my parents' house when my mum fell and broke her hip. She is my dad's carer, and looking after both of them left me with very little sewing time. (Any carers reading this, feel free to laugh/roll your eyes at the fact that this was a shock discovery for me!)

The grand total of this year's makes

Left to right: Wardrobe by Me Grace dress, hat made by taking a pattern from a bought hat I already owned, Butterick 5997, Vogue 8964, the frankenpatterned New Look 'anemone' dress.

The hat has probably been the biggest success - I wear it a lot. The anemone dress is only recently completed and is a summer dress so hasn't been worn yet, but I'm just super-pleased to have finally used some fabric which has been lurking in my stash for almost three decades!!

Which brings me on to . . .

Top 5 Misses
The biggest of these has been the failure of my latest plan to reduce my stash. I'm hoping to make a further reduction before 2020 begins, but it will only be tiny and won't budge the Stashometer out of the red.

The sorry tale

I did have a pattern lined up for the 'retro cotton from Wells', but both this and completing the curtains were shelved when I went to stay with Mum and Dad.

Obviously the plan to complete the anemone dress for the #sewbravesewcialists challenge in, ahem, May was an epic fail as well! Still, better late than never.

Butterick 5997 has sat on my alterations pile since it was completed, as the neckline is just too low for me. I've not come up with a fix that I like enough to spend the time doing it, and as I'm not happy with the massive overlap on the cuffs either, I can see this being donated to a charity shop in the near future.

My main 'miss' of 2019 though has been missing sewing. I've been making at least some of my own clothes for over four decades, and have been sewing in some form for closer to five, so simply not having the time to make things felt uncomfortable, to say the least.

Top 5 Highlights
This will have to be a 'Top 3', as it's been a quiet year. Top of the list of course is submitting my dissertation and completing my Masters. A combination of natural reticence and very old-fashioned Scottish schooling means that I'm really not comfortable blowing my own trumpet, but I know that some of you have been following my 'progress' since I first mentioned my Masters on this blog (thank you), so it seems only right to let you know that I got a Distinction. Also, I must add special thank yous to the following people: Lynn of American Age Fashion for your research on Mrs Exeter - I cited your Clothing Cultures paper; and Lauren Stowell and Abby Cox of American Duchess and Rebecca Olds of Timesmith Dressmaking for your information about the work of women in the past as professional dressmakers.

Mantua-makers hard at work

Talking of which, the Wedding Gown in a Weekend event at the National Museum of Scotland was defintely another highlight. Watching an entirely hand-sewn, made-to-measure dress come together as it would have been made in the eighteenth-century, over the course of two days, was just fascinating, and I learned so much.

At the end of the weekend

Finally, putting together the University Centre Shrewsbury banner was hard work but a real joy. The commitment of the individual block-makers to the project just shone through, and it was a privilege to be involved.

The banner

Top 5 Reflections
Again, I haven't got five things to list here, in fact this section is really just thoughts on one reflection; that sewing is a huge part of who I am, especially now that I make most of my own clothes. Home dressmaking provided the topic for my dissertation, and clothing exhibitions and events have frequently been the catalyst for holidays and trips away when I've been at a loss for something to do as a break. Having so little time to sew for much of the year did, at times, feel as though part of me was missing.

Over the last couple of weeks I have seen lots of articles reviewing the decade which is coming to an end, and it suddenly struck me that I have been a widow for over half of it. In the early days after Mr Tulip's death, sewing was a familiar and absorbing activity in which I could lose myself - for a little while at least. Judging from the stories shared in the Sewcialists' Who We Are - Sewing Through Grief series this year, I am not alone in this. The first garment I made which Mr Tulip never saw or heard about is getting a little shabby now, but I suspect that it will stay in my wardrobe for a long time because it is so much more than just another dress.

The first version of the CC41 dress

All things change over time, and that includes me - both mentally and physically. Over this last year I've become aware that the pattern alterations I have made as standard for years are no longer quite right, and I need to spend some time working out why. With sewing as a hobby, I am never short of something to do!

Sunday, 22 December 2019

28 (and a half) years later

It's done! I have finally made a dress from the fabric I bought in May 1991!


When it last featured on this blog, all was not well with the anemone dress. Quite simply, I didn't like it. Somehow it had a distinct 1980s/1990s bridesmaid feeling to it, which was really not the vibe I was originally going for. It has languished on the UFO pile since then, but I decided that I really wanted to get it completed before the end of the year.

When I tried it on, it still had that just-stepped-out-of-an-early-Richard-Curtis-romcom look, plus the neckline gaped oddly at the front (possibly an unintended consequence of my alterations to stop it from gaping at the back). Happily my attempts to un-bridesmaid it with accessories worked, namely wearing both of my net underskirts beneath it, and adding a belt and 1950s jewellery from Splendette. The neckline I fixed purely by accident -  I pinched the fabric together at the front, and discovered that this did the trick. I have sewn tiny pleats at the bust, something which is a feature on some of my vintage patterns, but I think I may change it to gathers to tie in with the ruching on the sleeves.

Bodice pleat detail

Then all I needed to do was sew in the shoulder pads (pinned in place since July) and hem the skirt. Admittedly this was quite an undertaking, as with the godets it is in effect a full circle skirt.

Demonstrating the full skirt

It does make for a very pleasantly swishy effect with the net underskirts.

Attempting to demonstrate the swishiness of the skirt

The end result is very much a 'vintage-y' dress, not of a specific era, but I'm OK with that. It's eminently wearable, and I'm just happy to have finally, successfully, used the fabric.

Mostly 1950s, with some 1940s details

I'm not really one for resolutions, but looking at these pictures I've decided that I do want to learn how to do my hair properly in 2020. My current method of putting it in randomly directional pin curls and hoping for the best leaves a lot to be desired. The wild mess you see here is actually the brushed out and vaguely styled version. On the plus side though, if I ever want to do 18th century 'hedgehog' hair, I'm sorted!

In theory, this completed dress should put the stashometer even further into credit. In theory.

However . . .

Alas, no. Fabric Was Bought during my London trip. But that's a story for another post.

Instead I'll finish with something you can just see in some of the photos above, my 'sewist' Christmas tree. When I was in London I found these cute felt tree decorations of buttons, cotton reels, scissors and a measuring tape in the V&A shop, and I just had to get some. In fact, I may make some more myself next year. Plus there was also this really sweet sewing bear with his own scissors and cotton, and a tape measure scarf, who makes a perfect 'fairy' for the top of the tree.

Merry Christmas from Black Tulip