Sunday, 1 December 2019

Saying 'thank you' with sewing

Readers who have stuck with this blog through the long process of my Masters dissertation (thank you!) will have seen references to the Dissertation Police. These are the two friends who kept me going while I wrote it, using a judiciously applied mix of encouragement, nagging, mild threats, cups of tea, and occasional alcohol. Some time ago I promised that I would make something for each of them as a thank you once I had completed, and the first of these makes is now done.

F loves teddy bears, and has asked me to help her to make one herself, which is going to be a learning curve for both of us. However she is busy at work until Christmas, so this is a project for next year. D meanwhile asked for a dressing gown.

For the pattern I settled on Vogue 8964 - partly because I like Vogue patterns and have had good results with them, but also because the dressing gown is lined. D lives in a cold Victorian house which is even colder than my cold partly-Victorian house, so an extra layer seemed like a good idea. He also dislikes synthetic fabrics, so my plan was to make it up in some sort of thick cottons. However, it was only when I had actually arrived in the fabric shop that I realised that I had forgotten to ask him what colour he wanted! Proof of how rarely I sew for other people. The reply to my hastily-sent text was "claret". I found some cotton remnants which fitted the bill, plus a roll of plain thick cotton twill. The colour was listed as 'burgundy', but I decided that this was one occasion when I could safely mix my drinks!

The pattern and the fabrics

My plan was to use the twill as the main fabric, the more subdued remnant on the left as the lining, and the brightly coloured remnant for the cuffs, revers, and pocket tops. I did worry that D might think the second remnant was a bit much, but fortunately he loved it.

The dressing gown comes in two lengths. Vogue patterns are always too long on me, but D was happy to go with the longer length, to make the end result as warm as possible. I also thought that the sleeves might be a bit too long, but again D saw the idea of extra coverage as a bonus.

The thickness of the cotton twill provided certain challenges. Making the belt loops by sewing them right sides together and turning them through proved impossible, so I folded the raw edges in and in effect top-stitched them. Similarly folding the fabric twice for the hem was not going to work, so I turned it up once, and enclosed the raw edge in bias binding.

Belt loop


The twill also proved a nightmare to press. The slightest touch of an iron was enough to create a shiny patch, so I needed my press cloth at all times. Pressing the seams open also left a mark on the right side, so I improvised a seam stick from a length of dowel wrapped in a piece of cotton - the curved shape means that the iron only presses against the centre section.

The pattern was straightforward to put together, but when it came to attaching the facing/lining to the main garment I realized that there was no allowance made for turn of cloth. Vogue Patterns, I expected better of you (although to be fair, the pattern is intended for thinner fabrics). This was easy to improvise by pinning the facing slightly inside the main piece.

DIY turn of cloth

The pattern does however include instructions to attach the lining at the top and bottom of the sleeve seam with French tacks - a nice couture touch.

French tacks secure the lining to the main part of the garment

None of the issues encountered were really problematic though, and I was very pleased with the end result.

Showing the lining, and the fabric-conserving facing

It was only when I came to photograph it that I realised something. Vogue 8964 is a decidedly modern pattern.

The pattern envelope

However, with the choice of colours and the contrast sections, I had produced something more like view A of this pattern (albeit minus the breast pocket).

Vogue 8753, circa 1940

Spot the similarity

It's as if I just can't stop myself from sewing vintage styles!

But what of the recipient? D is bang between two of the sizes on the pattern, so I went for the larger one to be on the safe side. I think that the smaller one would have been fine though - he does look a bit overwhelmed with all that fabric. However toasty the end result may be, D was still strangely reluctant to stand in the yard on a cold winter day to be photographed, and even the offer of a mug of cocoa and a hot water bottle as props couldn't change his mind! So instead of the usual yellow wall background, here's an indoor shot.

The dressing gown in use

Because the dressing gown was finished earlier in the week it meant that I was, finally, able to participate in a Sewcialists theme month challenge, namely November's Giving Challenge. I've watched previous challenges come and go but been too busy to take part, so it was great to have both the time to do it and the perfect project.

Also on the giving theme, I decided that the Stashometer wasn't going to turn to the positive in the space of a month without help, so I had a destash. A bit of a cheat I know, but desperate times require desperate measures. Several lengths of fabric that I knew that I would never use except for mock-ups (which seemed a waste as they were perfectly good fabric, just no longer part of my sewing plans) were donated to charity. Hopefully they will be just what someone else wanted.

It's green - woohoo!


  1. Nice selfless sewing! I have the pattern but somehow sewing for my husband seems to sneak to the back of the queue. Somehow.

    How did it feel being back in the driver's seat?

    1. Thanks Lodi - it did feel so good to be doing some proper sewing again, I've done hardly anything all year.