Sunday, 18 July 2021

New Look 6093 completed - and a new venture

My fourth 6093 is finished, and looks likely to meet the fate of the dress it replaced - being worn until it's worn out! I love it. The fabric is perfect for a self-confessed fan of all things blue, and I'm very happy with the fit.

The completed dress

After leaving the facing until the very end in case I needed to adjust the neckline, I discovered that it fitted fine as it was - no need for darts at the back. Most of the extra skirt length I'd added ended up in the hem, but this didn't feel like a waste of effort as I've had to make do with tiny hems on previous versions. The biggest win, however, was the bust alteration. It was only slight, but it subtly changes the dress from 'OK but snug' to 'just right'.

Look! I can move my arms!

Taking photos gave me a reason to wear my gorgeous new hair flowers from Pin Up Curl - thanks to Ms1940McCall for the recommendation. The necklace, meanwhile, qualifies as 'vintage'; that's to say I bought it new in 1980! I remember spotting it in the window of a gift shop in the town where I grew up and saving my pocket money for several weeks, all the while anxiously hoping that it wouldn't be bought by someone else in the meantime. I've not worn it for a while, so it's nice to have a dress with the right neckline and colours to show it off.

Showing off hair flowers and necklace

Completing this dress has also neutralised the fabric purchase on the Stashometer.

Back down to a 3.8m deficit

While I was taking the photos, I remembered this article I'd read on the (now sadly ended, but still available to read) Sewcialists blog. Although pattern envelope illustrations are becoming more diverse in terms of size, skin colour and age, models are almost exclusively able-bodied, and pictured standing up. As Michelle, the author of the article points out, this means that wheelchair users who sew have to guess whether or not the pattern might work for them.

The pattern envelope for New Look 6093 is fairly standard in this respect.

Standing model, and upright line drawings

This has been the accepted mode of illustration pretty much since pattern envelopes began featuring clothed bodies rather than just completed garments. I had a trawl through my collection of vintage patterns, and even those for blouses and tops mostly feature standing figures. When people are drawn sitting, they normally appear perched on the edge of something rather than fully seated.

Almost all the seated figures on my patterns for dresses are 'perchers'

Obviously, the point of a pattern illustration is to show the completed item(s), and the clearest way of doing this is on a standing figure. Very few patterns, however, only contain one version of one garment: there are usually variations included. Where these are for necklines and/or sleeves, there doesn't seem to be any reason why they can't be shown on a second, seated figure, as on this 1940s Style example.

The only vintage pattern I own with a fully seated figure!

Which brings me on to my new venture. From now on, I'm going to include seated photographs of me wearing what I've made, as well as standing ones. I wasn't quite sure how best to go about this but fortunately Michelle explained exactly what's required. "Draped poses are not helpful at all. I need straight-on, forward-facing seated poses because when you're in a wheelchair that's what you see."

So, no to this . . .

. . . but yes to this

I'm very aware that as I rarely use currently-available patterns (even New Look 6093 is now out of print) my seated images will be of limited use to other sewists. However by including them, both on this blog and social media, along with the hashtag #SewnShownSeated, I hope that can play a tiny part in making it more normal to see self-made clothes shown off in a seated position.

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Tweaking a 'TNT' pattern

Tried-and-trusted New Look 6093 is officially my most-used pattern. The version I'm currently working on is my fourth, nudging it just ahead of Simplicity 1777, which I've made three times. Plus, I used the sleeve for my New Look frankenpattern anemone dress.

My current project

Obviously, one big advantage of a TNT pattern is that you can just take the pieces out of the envelope and crack straight on. I'm actually making a few alterations this time however, both to the pattern pieces and the construction methods. I'm keeping the slightly raised neckline I tried out in version three, lengthening the skirt a little, and making the whole dress a fraction wider - those covid pounds are proving hard to shift. I'm also aware that, thanks to this change, the earlier versions are now very close-fitting around the bust. So, I'm attempting to (quite literally) accommodate this by altering the curve of the bodice piece.

My alteration for a fuller bust

I'm also completely ignoring the instructions - something which is easier to do with a pattern you know well. Much as I like the design, each version has required a few fitting tweaks in the skirt. To make these easier this time round, the very first things I did were sew the centre back seam and put in the zip. Then, I attached the skirt side panels to the front and back.

I'm making view A - again

Next, I added the bodice pieces (discovering in the process that I hadn't thought to check how I’d positioned the pattern piece on the fabric, and as a result I have perfectly positioned boob flowers - oops!).

The real reason why you should 'avoid large florals'!

The shoulder seams came next, then adding the sleeves. Now I can just pin up the side seams, and use the zip to try the dress on for fitting.

I have deliberately left the neck facing off so far, in fact, I haven't even cut out the back facing yet. New Look patterns do sometimes gape around the neck on me, so I want to get the fit right before making and attaching the facing. I might need to add neck darts, a fit detail which appears quite often in my vintage patterns but seems to have been abandoned now.

Naturally, all of this has been noted in my project notebook, in case I ever need it for version number five!

Monday, 5 July 2021

'Follow by email' is no more

So long, farewell, etc. etc.

As readers who have their own blogs on Blogger will know, the 'FollowBy Email' option is being removed shortly. This means that if you have signed up to automatically receive new Black Tulip posts in your inbox, they will stop arriving some time this month. I will still be posting every Sunday, but the posts will only appear on the blog itself. So far, I've not been able to find anything in the blogosphere which would provide an alternative email service. If and when something comes up, I'll announce it here. And if you're a fellow Blogger user and have found an alternative, please let me know.

Sadly however, it looks as though this is yet another element of the general move away from blogs and the written word towards more image-based platforms - just don't expect to find me on TikTok any time soon (and by 'soon', I mean 'ever')!

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Vogue Pattern Book, November 1940

There has been almost no sewing this week, so for today's post I'm looking at one of my older copies of Vogue Pattern Book.

Excellent pattern matching on the skirt!

It was originally sold with the November 1940 issue of Vogue. The magazine itself (which I don't have) probably covered the subject more but looking through the pattern book, you would barely know that the country had been at war for more than a year. There are statements throughout that prices may be subject to purchase tax, but I could only find a couple of specific references to the reason why this new tax was necessary.

On the final page, below the details of patterns featured, there is a warning that fewer copies of each issue are now available.

"Every issue since the war has been sold out"

The advertisement for Vogue's knitting books on the back cover mentions the war in a couple of ways.

The back cover

Do knit for war workers

But don't waste wool

The only impact that the war appears to be having on Vogue Patterns, however, is in the "Dressing for winter" feature. This showcases "five of the newest patterns specially chosen for their up-to-the-minute fashion news and because they are all in step with our lives this winter".

Five patterns for winter

Alongside a coat, a suit, and dresses for day and afternoon is pattern 8852, a shelter suit.

For taking refuge during air raids

Other than the oblique reference to the magazine's reduced print run (this, and the move to being a monthly publication are covered in more detail in this book), there's nothing to suggest any difficulties or restrictions with printing. In terms of use of colour, the magazine is fairly similar to the 1934 issue which I wrote about here. There are some page spreads in black and white, some in a single colour, and some in multiple colours. The insides of the front and back covers both feature photography.

Black and white

Blue only

Multiple colours

Photographs on the inside back cover

The feature on "23 new designs on sale early in November" starts with pattern number 8843. This suggests that the Vogue Patterns leaflet which I wrote about here, and which has a highest pattern number of 8728, was issued several months earlier.

Brand new designs

Other than the shelter suit, the patterns featured in this pattern book suggest life carrying on very much as normal. There are couturier designs, patterns featuring the 'new slim lines', furs a-plenty, and evening gowns. The dinner gown which appears on the inside front cover takes a whopping 8¾ yards of 35” wide satin to make. I wonder if anyone who bought this pattern had any idea that in just a few months' time clothes rationing would be introduced, and would last until well after the war had ended?

Couturier designs 349, 348, 352, 347, 350 and 355

The suit on the right (8783) has a detachable fur collar

Pattern 8796, and another fur

Plenty of evening gowns to choose from

Pattern 8825 (and lots of satin)

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Swings and roundabouts

I was originally going to call this post "Triumph and disaster", but that did seem slightly overdramatic!

The tie-on pockets are completed; all I had to do was finish off the binding and then add the waist tie. This was simply a long piece of white cotton tape, folded in half lengthways and sewn together. The pockets were attached within the fold, which covered the raw edges at the top. I'm really pleased with the end result, and have used them several times already.

Front view of the pockets

And the back view, with a 'secret bird'

So that was the triumph, what about the disaster? Well, during the week I went to launder my favourite dress - and discovered that it had actually worn into holes in a couple of places! It's the dress on which I had replaced the zip last year, and it's had a lot of use in the six years since I made it, but I was still really sad to lose it.


I had actually managed to start a new project, trying to catch up on my sadly neglected UseNine2021 challenge. The plan was to make view C of New Look 6594 in this pale blue viscose, and I had got as far as cutting out a first toile.

All ready to go . . .

I suspect that the two-part bodice will need a couple of mock-ups to get right, and as things currently stand this feels like a lot of work. I just want an easy, drama-free, project right now so making up another New Look 6093, a real tried-and-trusted pattern, was an obvious choice. And I found a printed blue floral (!) cotton in the dress-weight remnants bin at my local fabric shop which was an idea replacement for my worn-out dress.

. . . but set aside for this

Obviously, the Stashometer has taken a hit as a result, but as the dress is cut out already, I hope it won't be long before there's a matching entry in the 'used' column.

Going in the wrong direction

Sunday, 20 June 2021

New problem, old solution

I don't feel as though I've done a lot of sewing in the first half of the year, and this is unlikely to change in the second half. I've been dealing with family illness on and off since before Christmas, and even when I haven't actually been busy with that, I've often not felt like sewing. However, this has now prompted me to start a new project.

While some people simply cannot be without their phones, I am the complete opposite. Most of the time it is not even in the same room as I am, and I rarely remember to check it more than a couple of times a day. Usually this isn't a problem - my friends are used to me replying to texts hours later - but now that I need to be contactable by carers, social workers, physiotherapists etc, I need to make sure that my phone is always with me. Not all my clothes have pockets (I dislike patch pockets, so it's in-seam or nothing, and not everything lends itself to in-seam pockets), so my solution is to make myself some tie-on pockets.

For readers not familiar with historical costume, tie-on pockets were an integral part of women's clothing in the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth. They could be worn over the skirt for ease of access, or underneath for greater security. In the latter case, they were reached through a slit in the side of the skirt. This book, co-written by Barbara Burman, is a fascinating and detailed look at the history of pockets and the important role they played in women's lives.

The woman on the right wears a (patched) external pocket

This is actually a project I've had in mind for some time, and I immediately knew what fabric I wanted to use. I bought this remnant years ago at an Adamley sale, but it is a furnishing-weight cotton twill, not silk. The design is not at all period accurate, it is far too large for a start, but is perfect for a set of anachronistic pockets!

The colours are almost right, but I suspect that is all

I decided to bind the outer edges rather than do French seams, as these would be bulky in such a sturdy fabric. The initial plan was to use some dark red cotton for the binding, but then I remembered that it had been banished to the 'toiles fabric' box because the colour bled relentlessly. I didn’t want to risk it rubbing off onto my clothes, so instead I used some leftover sashing scraps from the University Centre Shrewsbury banner.

The pattern is taken from the pocket in volume one of Patterns of Fashion. It is 16" long, and 10" wide at the bottom, tapering to 4" at the top.

My source material

I made the binding ¾" wide, and hand sewed it round the opening slit on the pocket front. Then the front and back were machine sewn together, for strength, with the wrong sides facing.

The bound opening, and machine sewing

The binding was then hand sewn over the raw edges. I had thought that this would be a quick project and that I would have finished pockets to show in this post, but I seriously underestimated the time and effort involved in sewing through four layers of binding fabric and two layers of furnishing cotton!

Outer binding complete on the other pocket

I think that the end result will be really useful, not just for my phone but for other things which I'm always mislaying, such as my glasses. Tie-on pockets are definitely long overdue a comeback!

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Blasts from the past

The skirt I was making is now on pause. The front looks fine, but the fit at the back is truly dreadful. As it's not the weather for a wool blend skirt, and I'm trying to lose some covid pounds anyway, which will affect the fit, it has been banished to the naughty corner in the back of the wardrobe for a couple of months. It's galling, and I must admit that I've put off starting a new project while I nurse my damaged pride for a bit. But at the same time, it's a useful reminder that - whatever stories of relentless success we may see or choose to portray on social media - we can all have sewing failures, even with years of experience to draw on.

In my case those years of experience number over 40, and this latest debacle prompted me to think about some of the things I've made in that time. The very first one was, unsurprisingly, from a Style pattern. I made view 3. The pattern dates from 1975, when I was 11, but I think that I made it a couple of years later than that. I have a memory of hearing Baker Street on the radio for the first time while I was cutting it out, which would place it in 1978, which seems right. That said, I have no idea why I was making a short-sleeved top in Scotland in February!

Not the obvious choice for a Scottish winter

The pattern is long gone from my collection, but when I found it online recently, I couldn't resist buying it. I could remember the fabric I'd used (both Mum and I suffer from the affliction that we can't remember what we went upstairs for, but have an encyclopedic memory of every item of clothing we've ever made), but have no photos of me wearing the top. Then remembered that I might have some of the fabric. . .

Some time in the mid-1970s I saw an article about English (paper piecing) patchwork in a magazine, and promptly decided to make a quilt - starting with something small and working up from there has never been my strong point! At that time, in Britain at least, patchwork was still very much about using up scraps of old fabric rather than buying new specifically for a project. It was perfect for someone like me, who enjoyed sewing but didn't have much cash. Dad made me a template for the fabric and paper hexagons, out of very thick plastic. He also provided a steady supply of thin card, in the form of old punched cards from the I.T. department where he worked. If you look closely at the photo below, you can just see where some of the numbers have been punched out.

The card pieces are still in place round the edges

I decided on a colour scheme of browns and other earth tones - hello, 1970s! A lot of the fabric was from old dresses, and there are some atrocious colour combinations in there as I had to work with what I could get. I bought the cream and terracotta fabrics as and when required; unfortunately, this meant that overall size of the quilt was determined by John Lewis suddenly stopping selling the terracotta! I never actually got round to backing the quilt top, which makes this by some margin my longest ever unfinished project.

The 'completed' quilt top

Initially, I didn't realise that I should sew the hexagons together with the right sides innermost, so there are a couple of motifs with very visible stitching.

Oops! I also used cream thread throughout

As time went on, and I ran out of old dresses, I haunted my local fabric shop for small remnants such as this brown striped cotton.

Almost pattern matched all round

The leftovers from new dressmaking projects were added to the mix, too. This was the fabric I had used for Style 1144.

The centre is a scrap of curtain lining!

Style 2580 is from 1979. It used an absurd amount of fabric, and the leftovers made it into the quilt.

I made view 1. So. Much. Fabric.

And this (the green) is the fabric I used

The next year, I acquired Simplicity 9773. This was a favourite pattern, which I made up several times - possibly because the end result took far less ironing than the Style 2580 blouse! One version was in this green check.

A very 1980 illustration

Apparently I liked green blouses?

It's nice to have the memory of these clothes preserved in the quilt, as I have no pictures of me wearing either of these blouses - a reminder of how few photos we took in the pre-digital age*. I lost a lot of photo albums in a house move years ago, but given some of the hairstyles I sported in the past, I had concluded that this was probably a blessing in disguise. Then last week my mum unearthed some old photos of me (erm, thanks Mum), including this one.

June 1984

I have no recollection of this picture being taken, but I remembered that I'd made the top I'm wearing in it, so of course I had to look the pattern up. And, courtesy of the wonder that is CoPA, I found it.

Simplicity 6277, 1983

It's a total change from the fitted blouse of 3 years earlier. I made views 2 and 3, and the neckline was so wide that I was able to just sew the buttons through both fronts and save myself hassle of sewing buttonholes. For old times' sake, a copy of this pattern is now winging its way to me from Canada. I very much doubt if I'll make it again, but at least I wouldn't have any fit issues with it if I did!

* - Recently, the Gentleman Caller and I were discussing things from our childhood which would seem incomprehensible to Young Persons Today. Not being able to see a photograph until you had taken 23, or even 35, more and sent them off to be developed was high on our list!