Category Archives: Vintage Sewing

Project – Handwoven Belt

I hesitated before writing this post because I’m sure it’s going to give some of you the impression that I have too much time on my hands.  It is true that I no longer have to show up at a workplace at 7:55 every morning, but I find there are always interesting ways to spend one’s time.  And while a little weaving was fun, I don’t think I could take a steady diet of it.

I wisely chose to do a project that would be quick.  The actually weaving of the strip for the belt was accomplished over the course of an afternoon, interspersed with other tasks.  I just could not keep it up for longer than about five minutes or so.  Something has definitely been messing with my attention span.

I used a light blue cotton yarn for the warp and a darker blue wool yarn for the weft.  I haven’t quite gotten the knack of keeping each row of weft pressed down evenly, but I found that I could adjust the thin spots with my fingers after the weaving was finished.

I already had a nice leather and buckle piece that I’d saved from an old belt where the canvas was in poor shape.  I’m always picking up things like that when I run across them at the thrifts.  One never knows what will be useful!

My weaving would not be sturdy enough on its own, so I needed to interface and back it with another fabric.  I just happened to have a piece of Liberty Tana lawn that was the right size.  Another thing I always buy when I see them are Liberty neckties.  There is an amazing amount of fabric in a tie, well worth the fifty cents they usually cost in thrifts.

After cutting the interfacing to the right width (a couple of millimeters less than my woven piece) I wrapped the cotton fabric around it and pressed the cotton to fit.

I then stitched the backing to my woven piece.  I waxed the thread for a bit of body.

I trimmed the edges and secured the loose ends through all three layers.

There were already stitch holes in the leather where the original canvas was sewn on.  I used the very same holes for my stitches.  I used silk buttonhole twist, again waxed for strength and body.

When expert leather workers hand stitch, they use two needles and two strands of thread that go through the holes from opposite sides.  It makes for a strong stitch, but I did it the easy way, doing every other hole and them going back in the other direction.  Here I am half way and ready to reverse my path of stitches.

And here it is all finished.  It actually was a very quick project, with maybe two hours total in the making.

And here’s a photo showing how it looks when worn.

This may be my one and only weaving project, but I’m glad I did this one.  I like the belt, and I have a new appreciation for all the work that women used to have to put into the production of garments.

 

 

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Simplicity 4945 in Liberty Tana Lawn

I’ve been doing quite a bit of sewing lately, and have a new project to show off.   Back in the early spring when Waechter’s Fine Fabrics announced they were closing, I scurried over to take advantage of their sale and to stock up on some fine fabrics.  Among my purchases was this Tana lawn novelty print of London and the surrounding countryside.  I’d been looking at it lovingly ever since it arrived at the shop, and I knew this was my chance to buy it, and at 25% off.

My plan was to make a skirt, and I already had the pattern pieces out when it occurred to me that what I really needed was a light, cool, cotton blouse.  I went through my collection of patterns and came up with Simplicity 4954 which is from the early 1960s.  I’d made the top before out of seersucker, and it is a favorite – easy to wear, cool and comfortable.

The colors are much truer in this photo, as the top one was taken in low light with my cell phone camera.  The colors are nice and clear, with shades of blue on a white background.

Although the pattern calls for a button at the neckline, I haven’t used one.  It just seems less fussy without it.

I really love designs where the sleeve is cut with the bodice or, as in this case, with the yoke.  It’s a design element seen often in the early to mid 1960s.

From the time I decided to make this top to the minute I finished the hem was about three hours.  That is a very fast project for me, especially since I used French seams (and faux French seams) throughout.  I did save a lot of time by doing all the finishing on the machine.  And because I’d made the pattern before I did not need to do a muslin trial.

And here is the finished project, in a too dark photo.

This is my third garment that I’ve made using Liberty’s Tana lawn, and it is simply a dream to sew.  It’s tightly woven so even though I used French seams, this fabric also does well when simply finishing using pinking shears.

I’ve been trying to add a few prints into my wardrobe of solid blue, black, white and red.  My idea of a print is a nice mariner’s stripe, or for winter, a wool plaid.  Even though I love vintage novelty prints and actually collect them, I only have one example in my own closet.   Maybe it’s time to change that.

I wore it for the first time this weekend, and it performed beautifully.  It stayed crisp and cool and was perfect for a hot summer day.  My silly self-portrait makes me look as if I have a halo, but my friends and family can assure you that is a bit misleading!

Edited to show a better photo of me and the blouse.

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Sewing Project – Simplicity 7499

I was sent the link (Thanks Mary!) to a very interesting interview with Linda Przybyszewski, the author of a new book, The Lost Art of Dress who says that people need to dress for the life they lead.  I think that is something that women do struggle with, as so often the pretty things in the store are for a more glamorous life than most of us lead.  

It took me years to weed out the clothes in my closet that do not match the life I lead, but now I’ve become very careful in choosing.  Because I’m trying to sew the majority of my clothes, I certainly do not want to spend the time on something I’m not going to wear.  My life is very casual, so sportswear separates fit best into my lifestyle.

Last year I fell in love with the tee shirt in the photo after seeing it in Vogue as the “Steal of the Month.”  After choking over the fact that the people at Vogue think a $300+ tee shirt is a steal, I decided that the best option was to make my own.  The problem was finding the right fabric.  Then, as if a miracle, I pulled this great vintage knit out of the Goodwill bins.

Even though I have a recent tee shirt pattern, I went with a vintage one from the 1970s.  I’d made this pattern before and knew it had the correct fit.

A word or two about the fit of tee shirts:  Nothing looks frumpier or sloppier than a tee shirt that is too big, and nothing looks cheaper than one that is too small.  A tee shirt is not a one-size-fits-all garment.  It needs to fit.

I made a few changes to the pattern to better imitate my inspiration.  I widened the neck into a bateau.  I cut the sleeve a tiny bit shorter and angled the sleeve upward.  I made the front slightly shorter than the back and curved the hem.

The only hard thing about making this shirt was the fringe.  I’d never attempted a fringed look with a knit, and it did turned out to be time intensive.   I cut one-inch strips and unraveled one long side using a seam ripper.  I tuned the edged of the tee shirt under and applied the fringed strips over them, encasing the raw edges.  It worked!

This shows the curvature of the hem.

I wore the tee shirt on my recent trip to Greensboro and the Liberty Show and it performed wonderfully.  Here I am in the 1927 Southern Railway Station in Greensboro, a magnificent structure.

Has anyone read the  Przybyszewski book?  I’m tempted to buy it.

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Flock-o-Fun Birds Apron Kit, 1969

I’ve been aware of this funny little bird print for some time now.   When I first saw it, I thought it was so adorable, and so I put it on my list of things to search for.  I kept running across the print  (at a price I wasn’t willing to pay) and I began to see that it was always made into an apron and it always had the same green ties.  This was in spite of the fact that most of the examples I saw were definitely home sewn.

After years of having this in the back of my mind, I ran across the apron last weekend.  It was simply too cute to pass up, so it came home with me.  An examination of the piece led me to believe that this one was also home sewn.  So why was it that this print was always in the form of an apron, always had green ties, and was always home sewn?

I went searching for more examples, and quickly found some on eBay and Etsy.  I also found something else: several kits that included the fabrics and the instructions to make an apron.  That explained a lot.  The kit was produced by the National Handicraft Institute of Des Moines and was marketed under the name Flock-o-Fun.

Included in the kit was this letter, which explains that there are matching placemats and napkins, and that there is a pot holder kit.  It is signed by the “Club Secretary”, as this is part of the Fad of the Month Club.  A search of Fad of the Month Club and for National Handicraft Institute  found quite a few handicraft kits, and some magazine ads dating back to the 1950s.  According to one eBay ad, the company existed from 1947 until 1981.

It’s my guess that the fabric was printed specifically for the National Handicraft Institute.  That would explain why it’s not seen elsewhere.

This card came with the kit, and shows the placemats and napkins.   The photos of the kit came from eBay seller GypsyGirl6923, who currently has one of the kits for sale.  Since I first started looking for this print, the price for it has come down, and most examples that I found are very reasonably priced.

This would be a great first project for someone who is wanting to take up sewing, but is afraid to tackle a more involved garment.  And I can think of lots of different uses for the fabric.  Two or three of the panels would make an adorable full skirt, and it would make a sweet dress for a little girl.  Someone has an handbag she made from the fabric on Etsy.  Search for “bird apron” in the vintage category.

Many thanks to GypsyGirl6923 for the use of her photos.

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Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints, Vintage Sewing

Vogue 7092, Beach Cover Up

Ever since I found the vintage nautical print terry cloth seen above, I knew it was destined to become a swimsuit cover up.  I had several patterns from which to choose, but I was favoring Vogue 7092, which is dated 1950.  I liked it because it is not a jacket, it is a stole with the sides open.  My plan was to use the terry on the inside and to use a solid white on the outside.

When I found that $2 bolt of vintage white pique, I knew I’d found my other fabric.

The pattern was listed as “one size” which meant I needed to make a few adjustments, especially for length.  I shortened the front and the back, but I also decided to take out some of the fullness in the back, mainly because I was using such a bulky fabric for the lining.

I had finished the stole except for attaching the belt when I showed it off to my husband.  He said he didn’t think I ought to hide the print on the inside as it was so nice.  And while I wanted it for the inside because of the absorbency, I could see his point.  So instead of attaching the belt to the back, I made belt loops (not seen in photos) so I could wear it either way.  I do love a reversible garment.

I love this vintage terry, which I found at the Goodwill outlet.  So with the amount of pique and the cost of the pattern and the terry, I have about $3 invested in this project.   I’ll probably use the money I saved to buy more fabric.

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Vintage Sewing – McCall’s 8348, Givenchy

In 1966 McCall’s patterns released four patterns of designs by Givenchy that he made for Audrey Hepburn to wear in How to Steal a Million.  I’ve written about these patterns in the past, and if you want to see all four of the designs you can follow the link.

I’ve been needing a few basic skirts, so I went in search of fabric.  At The House of Fabrics in Asheville I found a beautiful Donna Karan wool doublecloth, navy on one side and grey on the reverse.  It was just the thing to made a reversible wrap skirt.

If you are not familiar with the term doublecloth, it is a type of fabric in which two different sides are woven with a few threads that hold the entire thing together.  In my photo above you can see how if you pull the two fabrics apart, they are held together with some threads that are woven through both sides.

I did not have a pattern, but after looking through my collection of vintage patterns I knew I could easily adapt the Givenchy skirt into a wrap style.  I merely cut an extra front piece and left the front open.

Constructing the skirt was the easy part; concealing the seams and edges not so much so.  Actually, it was more time-consuming than hard, as I elected to do it all by hand.  There is a technique of doing this on the machine.  Ralph Rucci uses it, and it was illustrated in an old issue of Threads magazine.  But I wanted more control, and I knew that perfecting the machine technique would take practice.  Besides, I enjoy hand sewing.

Here you can see a close-up of a seam and the hem.  I’ve considered going back and top-stitching, and may still do so.

I’ve bought these buttons new in 1978.  I used them on a jacket that long ago went to the used clothing store, but I just could not let these buttons go.  Because the skirt is reversible, I used clips to secure the buttons so that they can easily be removed to reverse to the other side.

On one front piece I did hand worked buttonholes, and on the other I made eyelet holes for the button shank.

I’ve already gotten a lot of wear from this skirt.  It is a great layering piece, and is very comfortable, as it fits loosely around the waist and the fabric is quite soft.

 

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Filed under Designers, Vintage Sewing

Vintage Sewing, Anne Adams 4926, Hat

After two projects that involved a lot of hand sewing, I was ready for something quick and easy.  I’d had the idea of hats on the back burner, and I had even bought a few patterns and made toiles.  But nothing really fit what I needed, which was a few winter hats to wear on winter walks.

I bought this pattern, Anne Adams 4926, back in the fall and while it was close to what I needed, it was not exact.  So I set about making the changes I wanted.  First, the crown was too high, so I shortened it and rounded the top a bit.  I also tapered the brim so that it was shorter in the back than in the front.

From the side you can see how I shortened the back brim a bit.  You can also see the brim seam, which should be in the back.  Since I was using more of the Harris Tweed that I used on my tweed/cashmere combination, I had to piece it, so both sides have seams.

This back view actually gives a better idea of the shape of the hat.  For some reason my front view makes it look like it sits flatter on the head.

I had the hat all cut out and ready to sew when I went to my fabric collection to find a lining fabric.  I wanted something soft and warm, and it occurred to me that this would be a good project for a lower quality cashmere sweater which had developed holes.  I didn’t have such a sweater, but I did find a cute cotton knit from the 1970s.

Okay, I know the Snoopy fabric is a bit unexpected, but I’d had this scrap forever, and was ready to use it.

The inside band is from a roll of  petersham I found a while back.

Overall it was a quick and easy project.  From start to finish, I guess I had two hours invested, and much of it was doing the stitching on the brim.

I’ve gotten two good projects from one ratty old jacket, and there is still enough to make something else.  So, should I make slippers?  How about mittens?

 

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