Category Archives: Vintage Sewing

Vintage Sewing – Vogue 6572 from the 1960s

I’ve seen thousands of vintage patterns in my time of collecting and sewing them, but sometimes I run across one that makes me stop and dream of being the woman in the illustration.  The cutting table I recently bought came with several hundred patterns, most of them not of interest.  But while flipping through them, I stopped at this one and pulled it out for the “make” pile.

The last thing I need is another dress.  I have enough to cover the occasions in life where I’ll need to wear one.  But I just loved this design so much and began to dream of fabrics.

After days of thinking about this pattern I began to realize that it was not the dress I loved, it was the neckline and upper bodice.  In the 1960s designers must have gotten tired of trying to redesign the plain sheath dress, and so they got busy cutting the bodice into pieces and reassembling them.  Look carefully at mid-1960s sewing patterns and you will see what I mean.

Or just look at this one great example.  From the princess seams that shape the bust, to the sleeve and upper bodice yoke, it’s the seaming that makes this otherwise plain design interesting.  Add a tie neckline and a keyhole and you have plenty of interest in the design.

Still, I did not need a dress.

But I can always use another white knit top.  While looking through my accumulated fabrics, I ran across a white cotton knit that I’d been meaning to use to make a tee shirt.  Instead I decided to up my knit shirt game a bit by making the bodice of my new favorite design.

The pattern was not designed for knits, especially not one this thick and stretchy, so the slash keyhole is a bit rounded.  I also decided not to press the binding of the neckline flat, as I liked it rounded, especially with the tubular ties.

This is the sleeve.  Just a tiny curve makes it lie flatter, and gives another interesting element to the design.

The back of the dress takes a zipper, but I knew I’d not need one with my knit.  I love how the yoke meets the bodice in a point.

And here is the full view of the back.

I’m sorry about the dressform photos.  I promised myself sometime ago that all sewing projects would be modeled by me.  But after battling a cold for over a week, I think the dressform looks a little less scary.

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Vintage Sewing – New Look 6838 and Vintage DVF Fabric

For most of my sewing projects I use vintage patterns, but I found this modern pattern, New Look 6838 when I was looking for one with which to make pajama pants.  I also loved the style of the top, which is designed for knits only, and I put cotton jersey on my fabric shopping list.

I knew that I did not need stripes, as I already have quite a few in this style.  Besides, though the drawing of the matching at the sleeves looks nice and tidy in the illustration, I know that would be easier drawn than sewn. So I started thinking about dots.  But then I got distracted cleaning and sorting my existing fabrics.  And in the middle of my “reds” bin, I pulled out this vintage fabric from designer Diane von Furstenberg.

I found the fabric in an antique store in one of the many little towns in the piedmont of North Carolina that for years survived off the making of cotton textiles.  These towns were a source of the best fabrics for a home sewer as well, as the factories often sent remnants and “seconds” to their factory outlet for sale to the public.  I suspect that is what happened with this fabric, as there was a small wrinkle in it that caused a bare spot in the print.

In 1976 Vogue Patterns magazine did a feature on Diane and her printed dresses.  As you can see, the patterns were by Vogue, and the fabrics were made by Cohama.

I never did finish my sorting job because I laid out the fabric piece and realized I had just enough of it to make the boat-necked top. I spent the rest of the afternoon sewing, and before long my new top was finished.  As the pattern envelope promises, it was easy.  There were only three pieces, the front, the back and the sleeves.  The back has a center seam, which I like because it makes for a smoother fit.

The neck was to be finished simply by turning under the seam allowance and topstitching, but I made a little facing using the selvage of the fabric.  I just could not see “wasting” that Diane von Furstenberg signature.

And here is the finished product.  It is perfect for the early fall weather we are having.

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1960s Chanel-Inspired Davidow Jacket, Part II

Earlier in the summer I posted about a great find I made, an early 1960s Davidow jacket that was clearly Chanel-inspired.  Unfortunately, there was no matching skirt, so instead of buying this jacket for my collection, I bought it to actually wear.

On the negative side was the condition of the lining.  As you can see, there were major issues in the underarm area.  I decided that the best thing to do was to send the piece off to the dry cleaners and then replace the lining.  The problem then became one of finding a nice silk fabric that would go with the tweed.  It’s times like this that I really miss Waechter’s.  I did try the remaining fabric store in the area that carries luxury fabrics, House of Fabrics, but they did not have a suitable match.

The tweed is so wonderful.  It really looks a lot like the tweeds that Bonnie Cashin used in her beautiful coats. But the two shades of blue were proving to be a color challenge.  Then while sorting through some damaged scarves, I happened on a nice old Vera polka dot.   It was not large enough for the entire job, but I also had an oblong scarf in ombre blues that could be used for the sleeves.

This is the point where I make the cutting up old stuff disclaimer.  If you are a vintage clothing shopper then you are well aware that much of what is on the market is not in its original form.  If someone were to run across my bell bottoms from 1973 they would wonder why would anyone mutilate a pair of pants like that.  Well, I cut them off because I am very short.  I also chopped off my skirts and dresses.  My cutting was part of the history of the garments, but it would tend to make them less attractive to a collector today.

Unfortunately there are sellers who are still cutting old clothing up in order to make it marketable to a certain market.  I’m not saying that it is always a bad idea to cut up old clothing; I’m saying it needs to be done thoughtfully, keeping in mind several factors.  You would like to think that anyone would know not to cut into a Charles James, but not everyone who loves old stuff is concerned with designer names.  My big fear in condoning “up-cycling” is that important pieces are being lost. Condition also plays a role, but even a very damaged Charles James is a valuable treasure.

The truth is that most clothing does not end its life as it began it.  I can be very much against remodeling vintage clothes, but then I do have to fact the fact that the mere act of wearing a garment shortens its life.  It is possible to love a garment to death, as you probably know from experience.

So what if you have a common item that is damaged, like my Vera scarf?  I feel I can cut into it with a clear conscience.  (Be aware that while Vera scarves were made by the thousands, some designs are quite rare and valuable.  Research before cutting.)  The jacket, while lovely and very wearable, is less collectible minus the skirt.  I’ll be wearing it, hopefully for a very long time.  It is quite possible that I will love it to death.

I carefully removed the old lining and removed the seams so I could use the pieces as a pattern.  The sleeve is made from two pieces, and I had just enough silk to make the pieces.  I attached them by hand, using the fringe of the scarf at the cuff.

When that was finished I cut out the bodice, using the border of the Vera scarf as part of the design. Here you can see that there was no underlining in the jacket.  The seams were in good condition.  I attached each piece to the jacket separately.

Because there was a pattern to the dotted design, I cut the back from the very middle of the scarf so that the density design would be retained.  The last pieces that I attached were the sides of the bodice.

When doing something like this, lots of basting is essential.  The silk is slippery, and the more control you have, the better.

The last step, one that I’m still working on, is the quilting.  I decided to let the dots determine the quilting design.  I’m not going to quilt every dot.  I’m already seeing spots in front of my eyes from working with it.

I’ll be changing the buttons as well.  I thought I’d found the perfect buttons, some that I’d salvaged from a destroyed sweater, but they are not the quality I was wanting, so they will probably be temporary until I can locate exactly what I need.

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Vintage Sewing – Butterick 9612

I recently sewed another of the fabrics I bought when Waechter’s went out of business.  This one is an Italian linen, light blue and white tiny gingham check.  My idea was to make a tunic to wear over a bathing suit and shorts in order to be “dressed” for lunch or cocktails.

I had several patterns from which to choose but ended up using this one for a man’s  beach shirt.  I think I was seduced by the stripes.  Actually, there were a lot of things I liked about this one, from the straight collar to the side vents at the hem.

I also loved the pockets and how they sat right on the hem.  In the directions the pockets were attached as they were top-stitched, but I geve them a second line of stitching at the edge.

The side vents were a bit tricky, though they turned out well.  Actually they overlap incorrectly, but I really don’t think anyone will care that the front laps over the back.

I’m blaming the instructions.   They show the vent in the process of being sewn, and it says to finish the same as View A.  The problem is that View A did not have the vents!  So I just worked through it, and they look fine.

Inside, all the seams are flat felled.  The fabric was just too ravelly to leave unfinished.

Since I planned on only wearing this tunic over another garment, I was not too concerned with the length of the front opening.  If I had it to do over, I’d have made the opening several inches shorter.  On one recent chilly evening I grabbed this tunic to wear on a walk and realized that I loved the way it looked and felt.  I’ve since closed the opening a bit so as not to be over-exposed!

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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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