Sunday, 28 February 2021

Vogue 9546 completed

Well, it didn't end up in the bin! Despite last week's traumas with the midsection, I now have a completed dress that I'm very happy with.

Anyone who remembers my #UseNine2021 choices from January will have twigged that this wasn't a planned project for the year. It all started with this year's #vintagevalentinechallenge and the prompt 'Accessories'. I posted a picture of my straw bag, along with the lament that I don't use it much because it doesn't go with anything I own. Then remembered this fabric in my stash, which I thought might have similar colours. It does, as the colour dots on the selvedge show, and the leaf shape is a good match too.

Perfect pairing!

It's a fine cotton which I bought years ago on a whim because I really liked the colours and design. Initially I had no idea what to do with it, but then I found a thin, silky, satin in exactly the same shade of red, and had the idea to make the two-tone version of Vogue 9546. My UK pattern has a black and white envelope, and as a result it's not obvious that this is an option (although the yardage requirements section does mention it). It's far clearer on the US version of the illustration.

British and American pattern envelopes

I made the original dress back in 2015, and while it still fits, it could do with some minor alterations – not least to fix the ungraded sleeves!

Version 1

I discovered a novel problem when cutting out the blouse section. Regular readers (thank you!) will know that I am normally trying to coax a three-metre dress out of two metres of fabric. This time I had plenty of yardage to play with, but the issue was placement of the pattern pieces. I wanted the point at the bottom of the blouse to be as much green as possible, to contrast with the red of the skirt. The best way of doing this left the blouse front consisting almost entirely of red leaves and green background, but I wanted a reasonable quantity of the floral sections to appear. At the same time, however, there was also the need to avoid 'boob flowers'!

So much fabric!

In the end, I was very pleased with the way that the pattern flows across the blouse front.

The completed blouse

Satin didn't feel right for a day dress, so I used the fabric wrong side out. As the pattern dates from 1942, my 'story' for this dress was that it was made when clothes rationing was in full swing, and its owner had Made Do and Mended by creating something from the less worn parts of a cotton dress, and an old 1930s evening gown such as this one from National Museums Liverpool's Putting on the Glitz exhibition.

Silk satin evening dress, 1932-5

I was resigned to having to make a placket opening and sew on a lot of press studs, not my favourite job. Then, miraculously, I discovered that I actually had a zip of the right length and colour in my zip collection – possibly the first time this has ever happened!

The instructions for the tie at the front were still beyond me, so instead I snipped some of the covered buttons off my fictional 1930s dress and used these for decoration. Although it was impossible to photograph, the satin makes a good contrast with the rest of the dress.

Satin buttons against a matte background

I talked the Gentleman Caller into acting as photographer again (I had warned him last time that he would come to regret making such a good job of the role!) but unfortunately, the day we chose turned out to be the one dull day in a sunny spell. On top of that, my hair steadfastly refused to play ball with whatever styles I tried to get it into, so regrettably it looks very non-period (although a passer-by did make my day by saying "Ooh, very 1940s" as she walked past us).

The completed dress, with the bag

On the plus side, my American Duchess oxblood 'Marilyns' had arrived that morning, and were a perfect match for the dress in both style and colour.

New shoes!

So I've now got a dress which goes with my bag, and it's chipped away at a bit more of the stash. I've also decided to join in with the #fabrichoardchallenge hosted by @jabbadal, and this is my first contribution; hopefully the first of many.

Six metres used so far

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Stuck in the middle

Sometimes, a project just fights you every inch of the way. The other day the Gentleman Caller asked how I was getting on with, "The dress you've got to finish by the end of March", i.e. the first of the Sew A Vintage Style Dress Community quarterly challenges. I had to shamefacedly admit that I haven't even started it yet, because I'm bogged down in something else.

This was meant to be a 'quick and easy' make - when will I ever learn that this assumption is a recipe for disaster? I've made up the pattern, Vogue 9546, before. It just needed a few alterations to fix a couple of fit issues and then, in theory, I'd have it made in no time.

Vogue 9546, from 1942

The dress consists of three parts: a blouse, a skirt, and a midsection. Each is constructed separately, and then the midsection is laid over the other two and secured with lapped seams. There is a side opening for either a zip or a placket fastening.

The diagram shows the midsection clearly

It is the midsection which is causing all the problems. Not for the first time, the issue comes down to my fabric choices. I quickly realized that the silky red fabric I wanted to use, while perfectly fine for the skirt, was far too flimsy to work for the midsection on its own. The solution was to flat line it. Fortunately, I still had some of the cotton I'd used to line Vogue 5215 left over, and it was ideal for this as well. (Once we can travel again, a day trip to Shrewsbury is needed, to get some more of this excellent fabric from Watson and Thornton.)

Usually flat lining involves cutting out pieces exactly the same shape as the sections to be lined. However, if I did this, it would mean that there would be at least five layers of fabric (two cotton, two outer fabric, one of blouse/skirt) in the lapped seams, and many more in the front points. I worried that this would be too bulky, so decided to omit the top and bottom seam allowances.

Flat lining the seams, but not the top and bottom edges

I sewed the midsection fronts together, the backs together, and the left side seam (I always put the opening in the right side seam, because I'm left-handed). Then I folded the outer fabric over the top and bottom edges, and tacked it in place.

The completed midsection, from the back

Next I sewed the midsection onto the blouse. The lovely Ms 1940 McCall, who (unsurprisingly) makes a lot of 1940s patterns, has recently posted a video about using an open toe foot as a guide for sewing lapped seams straight. I followed this fabulous piece of advice, and it worked like a charm – thanks Debi!

The blouse attached - it was all going so well at this point!

Unfortunately, sewing the midsection to the skirt didn't go so smoothly. I don’t know what the problem was; if it was the convex rather than the concave curve, or the fact that I had tacked this edge last and didn't want to pull the outer fabric too tight, but the lapped seam failed to catch the cotton lining most of the way round. When I held the dress up, this quickly demonstrated exactly why the midsection needed flat lining to provide the strength and stability to support the skirt!

I spent some time considering how to fix this. I also spent some time considering the possibility that this dress just didn't want to be made, and I should cut my losses and bin it. In the end, I decided to try adding a second row of stitching to the bottom seam. My machine has an option to sew with the needle pushed to the left, and for the first row I had done this with the fold resting against the left 'prong' of the foot. After some experiments on scraps, I opted for the same arrangement, but with the fold resting against the right 'prong' for the second row. Then, of course, I had to repeat the process on the top seam with the blouse section.

Sewing the second row

The end result would not have looked remotely so neat if I had tried to do it freehand, indeed I'm pretty sure that it would have ended up in the bin!

Impressively parallel rows of stitching

After all of this work and changes of plan, I’m currently not exactly feeling the love for this project. However, I think (hope) that I'm on the home stretch now, and with any luck there will be a completed dress to show next week.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Lockdown shopping

I've come across a few articles recently about people increasingly buying things online just to alleviate the boredom of lockdown. Popular items appear to include clothes, and fitness equipment. Obviously I don't need to buy clothes, and I have no intention of acquiring fitness equipment, but that hasn't stopped me from doing some lockdown shopping of my own.

Mystery parcel - it's about 92cm/36" long

A bit more of a clue

Here it is!

This is 'dot and cross' paper, used for drafting patterns. The dots and crosses enable you to keep the horizontal and vertical lines exactly at right angles, which is vital when you are drafting the basic pattern shapes known as blocks.

Basic bodice block, from 'Metric Pattern Cutting'

I made a basic bodice block on a course years ago, but really need to redraft it as I have changed shape since then. Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich was the book recommended on the course. Once you have your basic bodice, sleeve and skirt blocks, you can manipulate them to create patterns for different styles.

From 1975, but still in print today

The dots and crosses on the paper are spaced one inch apart, so not ideal for drafting a pattern to metric measurements. However, this isn't really a problem for me. Given both my dress sense and my love of second-hand bookshops, it should surprise precisely no-one to know that most of my pattern-drafting books pre-date the move from inches to centimetres!

This is one of the oldest ones. It has a very basic bodice block, with only a single dart.

Edited by Catherine Franks

Back and front pieces are separate

There is no date in it, but the styles are very much from the period of the 1930s before hemlines started to rise - I'm guessing 1936-7.

Very 1930s dress

Very, very 1930s cape-sleeve detail

The next book doesn't have a date either, but I have seen it listed online as 1948, which seems about right.

Written by Lynn Hillson

There are no darts at all in the basic bodice block, but plenty of options for how to add them.

Back and front drawn almost as one

Different dart options

My collection then skips a decade, the next book I have was published in 1961.

A second volume was published in 1964

The bodice block is more complex than its predecessors.

More darts and shaping

In keeping with the book's title, there are lots of different options given for altering the basic block.

A few of the variations available

I have long wanted to draft the bodice block from each of these books, using the same measurements for each one, and see how they compare. Sadly, having the proper drafting paper won't magically give me more hours in which to do this, but it should make the job easier when I do finally find the time to try it.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Another slip

(I did consider calling this post "Second slip", but I thought it might confuse any cricket fans out there!)

My lingerie-making continues, and I have finished the slip which I cut out a couple of weeks ago. This one is from a Maudella pattern, which I'm guessing dates from the late 1940s/early 1950s. I should start off by saying that the photos don't really do the end result justice; it looks far better on me than it does laid flat or on Nancy.

Maudella 4267, undated

As ever with Maudella patterns, the instructions are brief!

Cutting layout, instructions, and a large Sylko advert squeezed on the back

As an aside, I must add that knickers with a button fasten at the back seems like the last word in impracticality to me!

Tricky for bathroom visits, surely?

The pattern uses gathering to shape the bust cups, rather than darts, and the front and back are each just a single piece. I made it from the same fabric as the Style slip, and again used some modern construction techniques such as stay-stitching the edges of pieces to prevent stretching, and overlocking the seams.

I definitely prefer the darted cups; getting the gathers even on such a flimsy and slippery fabric was quite a challenge. I like the way that the cups join the front section, however. The instructions are for a lapped seam here, but I chose to do a simple right-sides-together join instead.

Gathered bust detail

I do think that for me, a design with centre back and front seams gives a better fit. I have a sway back, and the way that the Style pattern flares out a little on the centre back seam below the waist accommodates it well. Having the back section in a single piece and cut on the straight grain creates a shape which doesn't hang so neatly on me - this back view illustrates the problem, albeit in a slightly exaggerated way.

Not a perfect drape

I still have some of the fabric left, and I'm tempted to draft a hybrid pattern using my favourite parts of both designs - a single front piece, two back pieces, and the cups shaped with a series of small pleats rather than gathers.

One thing which I don't seem able to do is make a plain slip. I trimmed the neckline and the hem again, this time with some pink lace from my stash. The lace is only finished along one side, so I bound the raw edges with bias binding made from the leftovers of my 1930s camisole from long, long ago.

Lace and binding at the hem

The completed slip

One thing I noticed with both this and the Style slip is that the shoulder straps are positioned closer together at the front than I would like, and certainly closer together than the straps of any of my bras. To try to compensate for this, I bound the back and sides of the top edge with one length of binding, then bound the front separately and extended the binding to make the shoulder straps. I did worry that bias shoulder straps might stretch over time with the weight of the slip, so they have stays of narrow cotton tape sewn inside to stabilize them.

Angling the straps to make them wider

The slightly fuller shape and the binding meant that this slip used slightly more fabric than the previous one.

Still some way to go to break even