Sunday, 27 May 2018

The hand-cranked hybrid

It's only taken me 14 months (about par for the course, unfortunately), but I've finally got round to making up Simplicity reissue pattern 1777 in the style of the original, 4463. I used the modern pattern because I've already done all the necessary fitting alterations on it, but as much as possible applied the 1943 construction techniques. You can read about how the patterns compare here.

Simplicity 1777, made the 1940s way

Last time I made this pattern up I used a drapey rayon fabric. This time I made it up in a 100% cotton fabric from Til the Sun Goes Down.

The background is actually a very dark red

To be honest, the fabric is probably a bit too crisp for the style - I'm very bad at choosing correct fabrics; I just get distracted by the pretty - but hopefully it will soften up a bit over time.

All these pleats and gathers really need something a bit softer

The only pattern piece I redrafted was the bodice centre front section; I made it slightly wider at the top, to compensate for the seam allowances of the front opening. The buttons are sewn right onto the edge of the opening on one side, with buttonhole stitch loops the other side for fastening. The buttons are modern, but have a slight Art Deco feel to the design.

The buttons are also dark red, and a perfect match

The bodice and skirt backs were cut on the fold, minus the seam allowance. Instead of a centre back zip I put in a side placket with press studs, and a hook and bar at the waist. As ever I added an in-seam pocket on the other side, even though neither the original pattern nor the reissue has one. When I made up 1777, I attached the bodice to the skirt using the period method of turning under the seam allowance on the bodice, laying it over the skirt, and sewing through three layers of fabric. In fact the original instructions only use this method for the dress front. The bodice and skirt backs are joined by placing them right sides together and sewing the seam as normal.

The placket and the waist seams; back on the left, front on the right

The other big change was the addition of the tie belt. This was stitched into the side seams, in front of the placket and pocket openings. Unsurprisingly, it makes a big difference to the fit of the dress. (Some people have commented online that the dress made as per the reissue instructions is a bit baggy, and I had to pull in the sides of my first version quite a lot to get it to fit.)

Back view showing the tie belt

Side view - the tie improves the fit no end
So that's the hybrid element, what about the hank-crank? Well, I neatened all my seam allowances using my overlocker, but the dress construction was done on my 'new' sewing machine, my 1917 Singer. It has been cleaned, polished and oiled, and various lumps of compacted fluff have been removed from its innards. So of course I wanted to make something with it, and a 1943 pattern fitted the bill nicely.

My beloved 1986 Jones won't be supplanted any time soon, but nor was this a one-off experiment. There's something oddly soothing about using a hank-cranked machine, once you get used to only having one hand to manipulate the fabric (and stop trying to press a non-existent foot control!) Plus, accidentally hitting pins because you didn't stop in time becomes a thing of the past. The only thing I missed was having the distance from the needle marked on the bobbin plate, but handily one of the oiling holes is ⅝" from the needle, so I used that as a gauge.

It's clearly a machine which has had a lot of use. The decals are completely rubbed off in places, and there are a few small pits in the enamel, but for me this just adds to its charm. Judging from the newspaper inside the wooden base (presumably to catch drips) it was last oiled in 1968! But once I'd got the tension set correctly, it works beautifully, and it is very satisfying to think that I am the latest in a long line of people who have used this machine to create something.

My first (but doubtless not last) hand-cranked creation


  1. I actually think it looks pretty great in this cotton fabric. It is just a different look from rayon (which frankly, doesn't always hold its shape well for things). I love the pattern and the dress is just lovely on you. Well done!

  2. Oh wow, I'm impressed! I love my hand crank but I'm not sure I could make an entire dress on it. Yours turned out lovely and the fabric is just gorgeous, but then I wouldn't expect anything less from Til The Sun Goes Down. The buttons match so well, I bet you were overjoyed with that. xx

    1. Thank you Cate. I get an unreasonable amount of joy from finding the perfect buttons! I'd tried brown ones to match the flowers, and blue ones to match the foliage, but nothing seemed quite right. So when I finally found these ones, I was thrilled. xx