Sunday, 23 February 2020

The UseNine2020 challenge

Progress on Vogue 1277 is painfully slow, as I'm having to tidy up the poorly cut and marked pattern pieces (it's an unprinted pattern) as I go along. On the plus side, the bodice toile now fits really well, and the skirt toile is coming along nicely, but I've not got a lot new to show for the week.

Instead, I thought I'd post about what I'm going to sew after Vogue 1277. I'm trying to use the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month challenge to actually sew up part of my stash, so when I came across the UseNine2020 challenge, it seemed like a great way to firm up my commitment to stash sewing.

The challenge

I went through my list of projects for which I have both pattern and fabric, and gave some serious thought to which of these I could realistically expect to make this year. Then I threw in a few fabrics which I really like, but don't have any firm plans for.

The fabrics are mostly brighter than they appear in this picture - the weather has been so poor that it's been impossible to take a photograph in sunshine.

My nine fabrics

Because I now know what alterations I need to make to Butterick reissue patterns, courtesy of Butterick 5748, it's tempting to make nothing but Butterick reissues all year! I've only got one planned, however. The fabric in the top left is going to be Butterick 5880, hopefully with a contrast fabric lining the skirt drape.

Butterick 5880

I'm using another Butterick pattern, this time an original from 1943, for the pink floral Liberty lawn next to it. This was a remnant from my local fabric shop, so the sleeve length will be determined by what I can squeeze out of it.

Butterick 2535

The print at the top right seems to me to have a late 50s/early 60s feel, and is so directional that I wanted a pattern which would make use of this element of the design. View A of Vogue 5215, from 1961, fits the bill perfectly.

Vogue 5215

The printed crepe at the left of the middle row comes from Watson and Thornton in Shrewsbury - I really hope they haven't been affected by the recent floods. It's a very retro print, which looks distinctly 1940s to me. I found a buckle and some buttons which perfectly match the dark red, so undeterred by the disaster of the Dress of Frump I'm going to have another go at a dress with a bodice gathered onto a yoke. This time however I'm going truly period-accurate, with view A of this 1940s pattern.

Bestway 18928

The fabric in the centre is one for which I don't yet have a firm plan. It's cotton, and was quite stiff when I bought it, but softened a lot when I washed it. I have An Idea for it, but I'm not sure if it will work.

Next to it is another cotton. This was bought, an embarrassingly long time ago, specifically to make view A of Vogue 2903. I really don't know why I've not got round to making it yet. (Bonus - this pattern is a real fabric-hog, so finally making it up would produce a pleasing dent in the stash totals!)

Vogue 2903

Bottom left is another crepe which I want to make into a 1940s dress. The original plan was to use Advance 2229, but it's missing several pattern pieces. So it's either draft a new sleeve and collar, or find another pattern.

Advance 2229

I bought the striped seersucker in the middle a few years ago on one of my Goldhawk Road trips, but then decided that it wasn't really right for the pattern I'd had in mind for it. It has languished in my stash ever since, until I realised that it would be perfect for this pattern from 1951. I even have a suitable contrast fabric for the collar and sleeve edging.

Vogue 7422

Finally, another 'wildcard' fabric, and another cotton. It's a fair bit brighter than it appears in the photograph, and I want to make something 1970s from it. I may dip into my growing collection of 1970s Style patterns. Or it may, finally, be time to break out this!

Be Afraid

So all in all, I'm not short of ideas.

My nine fabrics - now with pattern details

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Vogue 1277 - making a start

Having completed my February entry for the Historical Sew Monthly, it's time to turn my attention to my other monthly challenge, the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month. For this I'm making the dress part of my graduation outfit, Vogue 1277.

Vogue 1277, 1954

Close-up of the dress

At some point I really need to do a full post on the fitting issues I've been having with my dressmaking recently, but for now I'll just say that I knew that at least one mock-up was going to be essential. Mostly for the fitting, but also to understand the construction.

The bodice pieces

The bodice front in particular has a lot going on.

Just some of the markings on the bodice front

Fortunately I'm used to the odd shapes and construction of vintage Vogue patterns from some of the reissues I've tried, especially 8686 and 2859. So I made what I hoped were the right alterations to the pattern, cut it out from cotton sheeting, and started sewing.

The main problem turned out to be not following the instructions, but seeing them! There is a single instruction sheet, size 40cm x 48cm / 15½" x 19", and one side of it is taken up with cutting layouts. All of the constuction details are crammed on the other side, with complex diagrams which are often little more than 2½cm / 1" wide. Fortunately I discovered that if I took lots of close-up photographs and transferred them to my laptop, the printing was sharp enough for a greatly enlarged version to be perfectly clear. This also reduces the amount I have to handle the original instruction sheet, which is a little fragile.

Teeny tiny, but well printed, instructions

It was interesting to see certain differences from current constuction techniques. For example, the bodice is clipped in two places (steps 5 and 7 above), but there is no attempt to reinforce the fabric first, as a modern pattern would suggest. I added the reinforcement anyway, but in a contrast thread so that I could check if it showed on the finished bodice.

Clip lines in green, reinforcement lines in red

Similarly, the sleeve head needs quite a lot of easing to fit it into the armscye. Normally I would expect the pattern to suggest running a line of basting stitches round it and pulling them up to fit, but these ones just say to ease the sleeve head as it is basted in place. This sounded very tricky, so again I went for the technique I'm familiar with.

Nowhere on the pattern, on the envelope or the instructions, is there any indication of what notions are required. There are zips and the back neck and at the side, but I had to work out their lengths from the pattern. More annoyingly, it turns out that there are three buttons on the dress. As I was only bought the six which were visible on the jacket, and can't get any more, I will have to give this some thought.

However, back to the toile. I only made the bodice for the first attempt. When I tried it on, I was pleasantly surprised (please excuse the dreadful photo).

I really need to clean that mirror, and position it in better light

The shoulders are far too wide, and the bodice is too short at the front (it's fine at the back). Both are related to my ongoing fitting issues, and easily fixed. Other than that, I was pretty pleased. I have reredrafted the pattern, also taking time to tidy up all the notches and markings which were out of place on the original, and am currently working on mockup number two - this time with a skirt. We'll gloss over the fact that initially I spread the 1" adjustment of the skirt piece across three places in amounts of ⅜", ½" and a further ⅜" - because everyone knows that there are ten eighths of an inch in one inch, right? This is what happens when you use metric and imperial measurements simultaneously!

I'll finish off with these pictures of the wonderful Lesley Manville in The Visit at the National Theatre. When I saw this photograph in a review, I was struck by just how much the silhouette of her costume matched my pattern.

Even the contrast collar looks familiar. Image © The National Theatre

I love the fact that she clearly rehearsed in a big net petticoat, to get used to the movement of the costume!

Image from BroadwayWorld

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Historical Sew Monthly - Basic

This month I've completed the May challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly; Basic. This is defined as "Make a garment that can be used for many occasions (like a shift . . .)". For this challenge I made the chemise of my 1874 costume, because what is more basic than a chemise/shift?

I used the same pattern that I used for my drawers, Laughing Moon pattern #100, Ladies' Victorian Underwear. I adapted the pattern to remove the opening on the front yoke, click here for the full details.

The completed chemise

I decided to sew the front and back together and then do the pintucks all the way round, whereas the instructions suggest doing the pintucks first on the separate pieces. Because the chemise will be worn under a corset, I also ignored the suggestion in the instructions to use ordinary or French seams, and instead used flat felled seams at the sides. I started with the chemise pieces wrong sides together, to keep the inside as smooth as possible. Happily, it appears that my pintucking skills have greatly improved since I made the drawers.

Once the chemise part was completed, I pinned it to the yoke, right sides together, and sewed most of the way round. The only part which I omitted was the straight section at the centre front -  it was just too difficult to manipulate the fabric. Instead I turned the yoke part under once I had pressed and graded the rest of the seam, and hand-sewed it down. Then I turned under the seam allowance of the yoke, and slip-stitched it in place.

The hand-sewn portion of attaching the yoke

The photograph above also shows the embroidery I did on the chemise yoke. Although embroidery appears on earlier chemises, from the examples I found online it appeared that by the 1870s it had largely been replaced by insertions, but I didn't have any suitable trim to do this. Then I found this illustration of late 1870s combinations in Nancy Bradfield's Costume in Detail (page 250 of my 1997 paperback edition), which appeared to show an embroidered yoke.

Embroidery inspiration . . .

. . . and my sketch based on this

Despite the embroidery, the completed chemise looked a little austere. I wanted to add some lace trim, but everything I could find, either for sale or in my stash, was too wide and/or too synthetic. Then in a separate box in deep, deep stash I found some narrow cotton lace! It is a little darker than I would have liked, and now I wish I had done the embroidery in off-white to go with it, but no matter. It's not as if it will be on show!

Another two metres out of the fabric stash!

The small print:
The Challenge: May, Basic
What the item is: A chemise
How it fits the challenge: A shift or chemise is probably the most basic part of any ensemble
Fabric: Cotton, possibly voile
Pattern: Laughing Moon #100, Ladies' Victorian Underwear
Year: 1870s-1880s
Notions: lace for trimming, embroidery floss
How historically accurate is it? The straight seams are sewn by machine, which would have been possible at this time, and the rest is handsewn, so I would say 80%
Hours to complete:This project has really demonstrated just how slowly I sew. The embroidery and lace trimming took me a fair while, and the total was around 24 hours
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: The fabric and lace are from stash; I'm estimating £14 for the fabric and £3 for the lace. The embroidery floss was £1, so £18 in total

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Laughing Moon #100 - making the chemise without a placket

Laughing Moon pattern 100, Ladies' Victorian Underwear, contains patterns for two different corsets, drawers, and a chemise. The chemise has front yoke consisting of two overlapping parts, which can be either fastened together with buttons or left to lie flat. The pattern details suggest that the front yoke can be made in a single piece with no placket if preferred (the neckline is wide enough to be pulled over the head without the need for the placket), but there are no instructions on how to do this, and part of the construction method given will not work with a single-piece yoke front.

I wanted to make the chemise without the placket, and I these are my notes on how I made the yoke.

Pattern illustration (top) and my single piece version (below)

Note: I cannot vouch for the historical accuracy of this construction method - indeed I suspect that it is not very accurate at all, as it is a technique used in modern dressmaking - but it does provide a neat finish.

My completed yoke

The first thing to consider is the cutting out. Pattern piece 24, the front yoke, allows for both overlap of the pieces and a seam allowance. For a single-piece yoke, the piece needs to be cut from folded fabric, with the 'centre front' line placed on the fold. To avoid any confusion, I traced off a new pattern piece. This also means that I still have the original piece, if I want to make a chemise with a placket in the future.

Place this line on the fold of the fabric when cutting out

Cut two of the new piece 24.

The instructions state to sew the yoke fronts to the back at the shoulders, and then repeat this with the facing pieces. Yoke and facing are then sewn together around the neckline and armholes, and the completed yoke turned right side out. However if the front yoke is a single piece, it is impossible to do this, as the yoke cannot be turned through.

This cannot be done with a closed front yoke

Instead, stay stitch all the curved edges of all the yoke pieces, then pin the yoke front to the yoke front facing, right sides together. Sew right round the neckline. Sew each armhole from the bottom to about three quarters of the way up. In the picture below, the pins mark the section to be stitched.

Sew the section between the red pins

Trim, grade and snip the seams (do not trim the unsewn sections of the armholes yet), then turn the yoke front right side out and press. Repeat the process with the yoke back.

Open out the shoulders of the yoke pieces, and with right sides together pin the yoke front to the yoke back.

Yoke front and back pinned together

Sew the shoulder seam of both yoke and facing in one continuous row of stitching. Press the seams open, and trim off the excess.

Press under the seam allowance of the remaining section of the armhole on both yoke and facing, you may need to snip the curves. Once you are happy that the edges of the yoke and facing match, trim off the excess fabric from the seam allowance. Sew yoke and facing together using either ladder stitch or overcasting, as preferred. I used ladder stitch, with a couple of overcast stitches at the shoulder seam to hold everything in place.

Sewing up the armhole

At this point you have a choice. The pattern instructions suggest you attach the chemise front to the front yoke and the back to the back yoke, then sew the entire side seam from hem to armhole. However to me this seemed likely to create a lot of bulk at the bottom of the armhole. I preferred to complete the yoke as a separate piece.

The way this is done is very similar to the shoulder seams. Open out the front and back yokes, pin the side seams right sides together, and sew in one continous line. Press the seam open, and trim off the excess.

The side seam pinned together

The result is a yoke with smooth seams.

My completed yoke on my dressform

I will cover making and attaching the chemise, and a bit about the embroidery, in my next post.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Historical Sew Monthly - No-Buy

My first completed challenge for the 2020 Historical Sew Monthly isn't very exciting, but it's a start. As I mentioned here, this year the challenges can be done in any order. So I started with July; No-Buy. This is defined simply as "Make something without buying anything." I made a pair of drawers for my planned 1874 outfit, using stashed fabric and a pattern I already own.

As I said, unexciting

Some time ago I read a piece (which of course I can't now find, but I think it was by Jennifer Rosburgh of the excellent Historical Sewing) which mentioned that a common mistake for historical costuming newbies is to use fabric which is too stiff and heavy. This was certainly the case with the cotton I used for my Edwardian chemise and drawers. The fabric seemed light enough when I was cutting out, but the end result is definitely crisper than I would like for underwear. The 1909 slip which I made a year later from a cotton/linen blend has a lovely soft hand, and this really highlighted the issues with my first choice.

The Historical Sew Monthly is all about learning and improving, and this was definitely a lesson learned. Unfortunately most of the cotton on sale locally is craft/quilting weight, so on the rare occasions when I find anything lightweight, I snap up a few metres and stash them. I'm not sure where this fabric came from, but it is beautifully soft, and there's enough left for a matching chemise.

The pattern is Laughing Moon Mercantile number 100 - Ladies' Victorian Underwear. I bought it years ago, when I was trying to work out how to finish the Satin Corset From Hell.

The pattern

Although the pattern claims to be suitable for 1837-1899, the chemise and drawers patterns are actually from the 1880s. However after checking various of my costume books I decided that any differences from 1874 were not great enough to justify buying a new pattern.

Due to time constraints, I sewed the drawers by machine. I'm not sure how historically accurate this is for 1874, although something I read for my course* suggested that in Britain at least, sewing machines were widely used by outworkers by that date, so I don't think it's entirely improbable.

What would be improbable however is that my pintucks would ever have passed muster if I were an outworker. They didn't look too bad when I was sewing them, but once pressed, it became obvious that they are all over the place. I may tidy them up as part of one of the other challenges. Although the pattern suggests ordinary or French seams, I flat-felled the leg seams to give a smoother finish.

Very wonky pintucks

My friend F came round when I was working on these, and she was amazed by the open crotch design: basically the drawers consist of two separate legs sewn onto a waistband. I explained that this was a necessary design feature of undies worn with a corset laced over the top, and once she saw the illustration on the pattern envelope, it all became clear.

Showing the separate legs

Of course, the 'no-buy' element is reflected on the Stashometer.

Further in credit

The small print:
The Challenge: July, No-Buy
What the item is: A pair of drawers
How it fits the challenge: The fabric and notions are from my stash, and I already had the pattern
Fabric: Cotton, possibly voile
Pattern: Laughing Moon #100, Ladies' Victorian Underwear
Year:1870s-1880s
Notions: Cord for waist tie
How historically accurate is it? Given my uncertainty about the date of the pattern and machine sewing, and the unacceptably poor pintucks, I would say 75%
Hours to complete: 8
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: All from stash, but I'm estimating £7/metre for the fabric and 50p for the cord, so £14.50


* - Godley, A. (1999). Homeworking and the sewing machine in the British clothing industry 1850-1905. In Burman, B. (Ed.), The culture of sewing: Gender, consumption and home dressmaking

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